Good Reads: From overlooked US cities, to viral philanthropy, to the power of satire

This week's round-up of Good Reads includes overlooked US cities with the most job openings, philanthropy on the Internet, entrepreneurial efforts in Haiti, satirizing world leaders, and an Arab cartoon hero that empowers women.

By , Staff writer

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    Pittsburgh ranks high for job opportunities for recent college graduates.
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Where Millennials should look for work

Much ink has been spilled on the burgeoning ranks of debt-saddled job-seeking Millennials. So where are the best places for recent grads to seek work? Richard Florida has compiled an online list for The Atlantic.

Logically, the nation’s largest metro areas (like New York and Los Angeles) have the most job openings in high-growth fields that require postsecondary education. But the number of job openings doesn’t necessarily equal job prospects, so Mr. Florida compared these figures with national averages.

High-tech regions like Silicon Valley shot to the top of the list. Known innovation hubs like Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle were joined by Austin, Texas; and Raleigh, N.C. More notable is that Hartford, Conn.; Detroit; and Baltimore all made the Top 10. “Rust Belt metros” like Pittsburgh and Cleveland also fare well.

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Florida says these metros “have a lot to offer highly educated recent grads: affordable housing, a low cost of living, authentic neighborhoods, and revitalizing cores” as well as jobs. Though largely written-off by educated 20-somethings, they “deserve a closer look.”

How the Internet flexes its heart

The Internet has (unsurprisingly) given a boost to philanthropy. Worth looking at, however, is the way in which causes go viral. Matt Petronzio of Mashable.com has distilled some of that analysis by highlighting an infographic from eBay Deals and eBay Giving Works that lists “16 ways the Internet has proved it has a heart.”

In each example, a cause gained buzz through social media sites like Facebook, Reddit, and Tumblr and then linked to campaigns on crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo, Fundly, and GoFundMe. Mr. Petronzio mentioned a few standouts: the video of bullied bus monitor Karen Huff Klein posted on Reddit that inspired donations in excess of $500,000; the “Humans of New York” collaboration with Tumblr that raised more than $300,000 for hurricane Sandy relief; and numerous campaigns to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Also included on the infographic are initiatives for cancer patients, a homeless man, and a World War II veteran, as well as those affected by the 2013 tornado that struck Moore, Okla., and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

A business success story in Haiti

Haiti’s troubled recovery from that earthquake – and the failures of international aid – have been well chronicled. Breaking from that pattern, Erik Heinrich in Fortune magazine recently reported on the success of wireless provider Digicel on the island. The company’s impressive growth isn’t simply a how-to guide for turning a profit in developing markets; it’s also a story of “doing good” while doing well.

The US Agency for International Development and other groups view Digicel’s mobile financial services, especially its mobile wallet platform “TchoTcho,” as “a game-changer that is accelerating economic development” and has even improved aid distribution. Now, 75 percent of Haitians own mobile phones. And they are “saving for the first time,” says David Sharpe, an executive with Digicel in Haiti. To increase this access (and his customer base), Mr. Sharpe is aggressively building out his network of agents and providers (mainly gas stations and grocery stores). Obstacles remain, but Sharpe is optimistic about the company’s growth – and Haiti’s progress.

The democracy of laughter

The Economist observes that political satire is also on the rise. Historically, it was “the preserve of” a few notable writers and artists. In more recent decades, political cartoonists and commentators had a corner on the market. But “modern technology and a changing political climate” have democratized and proliferated these jokes, giving them new significance. Tellingly, The Onion’s Web traffic has increased 70 percent in the past year. And Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” has offshoots in the Arab world.

“Social media have helped political sideswipes to spread as contagiously as laughter,” the magazine notes, “and have fostered a ‘remix culture’ in which internet-users share memes and post spoofs with abandon.” For those living under authoritarian rule, satire has become a vehicle for dissidence, one that allows for anonymity, is not easily censored, and spreads rapidly – fueled by the global shift toward democracy.

Empowering women’s voices

Comics can also be a powerful vehicle for commentary. A new comic series from Egyptian artist Deena gained attention recently from Ursula Lindsey at Arabist.net and Sara Yasin at PolicyMic.com. The Tumblr-based series features Qahera, a hijab-wearing Muslim superheroine who patrols Egypt’s public places fighting violent mobs and sexual harassers, and empowering women.

Qahera may be fictional, but her cause is real. As Ms. Yasin notes, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have reported being sexually harassed, with 91.5 percent reporting unwanted physical harassment. Since the 2011 revolution, sexual assaults have risen as well. Qahera joins the ranks of other “brave and creative initiatives aimed at challenging” that harassment. For Ms. Lindsey the comic “captures perfectly the social dynamics surrounding harassment,” which include victim blame and societal acceptance.

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