Must American Businesses Be Uncivilized?

Must American Businesses Be Uncivilized?

At the White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama made this distinction:


“Family leave, childcare, flexibility and a decent wage aren't frills. They're basic needs. They shouldn't be bonuses -- they should be the bottom line.”

Despite research indicating that flexibility increases worker satisfaction and leads to more productivity, companies in the U.S. are largely dragging their feet when it comes to treating employees with dignity and respect. 

Some states are getting on board. California, Rhode Island and New Jersey allow workers paid family leave. Connecticut requires paid sick days; so does New York City. And 13 states have taken their own steps to raise the minimum wage.

So what’s the hold up, America?  Why is the United States the only developed country on earth that doesn’t have paid maternity leave?  How did we find ourselves on par with Oman and Papua New Guinea?

One reason is how we reason with people who could change this. The term “family friendly” puts them to sleep. It contains two words that together many senior executives consider feminine and soft – the antithesis of what they view as true leadership.

Words matter both connotatively and denotatively.  To influence the hard-hearted or misguided, you need to know and use their language.  Unfortunately, “family friendly” goes against the grain for those who associate the term with soppiness and a lack of task focus typically perpetuated by whiners.  What we need is a term that doesn’t give these people the heebie-jeebies.  

How about “civilized?”  After all, that’s what we’re talking about here, isn’t it?  What company doesn’t want to be civilized?  Moreover, the term doesn’t carry the baggage of “family friendly.”  To boot, it’s more accurate because it isn’t just families who benefit from civilized workplaces, but every individual and companies as well.

Women and men who believe in equal pay for equal work have grappled for decades with the negative connotations of the term “feminist,” often used as an insult and a weapon of derision, along with such perverted derivations as “feminazis.”  We don’t need to dispose of the word, but, like all words, one needs to know when they serve their purpose – and when they detract from it.

Let’s start talking more about civilized organizations. Let’s see how much backward-thinking businesses like being considered run by “ignorant, uncouth, knuckle-dragging standpatists.” 

Let’s see if we can’t get a little more recognition of leadership as a humane, gutsy endeavor (and not just the all-too-common bean-counter brand of “gutsy”), that in the end will bring greater rewards for those leaders who are forward-thinking enough to see it as such. 

photo: docstockmedia/shutterstock.com

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

What is the rarest blood type?

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
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China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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