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A Heartwarming Work of Edifying Genius

Valentino Deng, the central figure in Dave Eggers's What Is the What, is turning the dream of education into a reality for Sudanese...

Valentino Deng, the central figure in Dave Eggers's What Is the What, is turning the dream of education into a reality for Sudanese youth.

In What Is the What, Dave Eggers chronicled the Job-like trials of one of the "lost boys of Sudan," a young man named Valentino Deng. Deng escaped the Sudan and made it to the United States, where he met Eggers, who turned his story into the award-winning book. With the funds from the book's successful run, Deng and Eggers started the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation. Deng has since returned to the Sudan to lead the foundation's first project, the building of a school in Deng's village of Marial Bai in southern Sudan, the first secondary school in the region. Deng returned a trip to the United States last month, in an attempt to raise money to pay for the construction of more buildings at the school, including a girl's dormitory.GOOD: So, is the second phase of construction done?VALENTINO DENG: It is an ongoing effort. But we have just finished quite a good number of buildings. We opened the school in May. We have nearly 100 students enrolled and taking classes. We have four teachers. We brought in volunteer teachers from the U.S., Canada, and New Zeland during the summer, and then we are continuing with our construction.G: What classes do you offer?VD: It's everything: math, chemistry, physics, agriculture, history, and English grammar and composition.G: What is the ratio of male to female students? I imagine enrolling girls isn't easy.VD: It's one of our most challenging tasks. I wanted to admit 50 percent girls to our school. But I am faced with challenges. Most of these young females work so hard in their communities. They are the ones who fetch water for their families. They have to go to the well and carry water on their heads. You can imagine how much work that is to fetch water for showers and for cooking and for washing utensils. After school, the girls have to pound grain and cook for the family. These girls have to go to the forest to collect firewood. They have to look after their younger siblings. They have to do homework. Many families are not willing to send girls to school. And many of these girls are faced with the cultural practice of being married off before they finish primary school. So to protect them, we are building a girl's dormitory for them, to give them a more conducive learning environment. They only go back to their families during the holidays. And then on campus we will have academic programs for them so they can focus on their studies. That's challenging. With the current economy, I'm not able to raise funds to do that. That building isn't even started. That's why I'm on this tour, to raise money.G: So that's your big priority?VD: It's my big priority. These young women have to be given access to education, they have to be protected. Maybe after high school they will have grown to be responsible young women. Now they are still so fragile and innocent.G: When you were thinking about how to go back and help your village, what made you pick a school?VD: Southern Sudan is coming out from war. Many people were denied access to education. It's been difficult for the government to explain its policies to the people because the literacy rate is so low. If I educate young people, we will have opened their minds and they can in return realize their potential talent. I want to be engaged in something that can bring about a better future for the country. We hope our students can continue to universities. We will educate doctors, teachers, nurses, businessmen. Education is one of the methods of maintaining peace. Another reason is that the government of Southern Sudan and multilaterals that are investing in education have established thousands of primary schools, but little was being done about secondary school education. And we have to do something about that. I could not wait until I had the resources and the connections to do that.G: Are you seeing effects already? Is it improving the community?VD: It is. The money we invested in construction went to the local market. I am already seeing tea shops and more supplies in the market. We are the largest employer in the area. I see some shops started by the school, [where] the students buy tea and breakfast, supporting the community. And then I told you about people resigning to government to go back to school. That is how much people value education. I see students running and smiling, happy to be in school.G: When you finish this next round of construction, what's next?VD: I want to replicate this project. If you give me millions of dollars, I will build you 10 of these schools. We have 10 states. We can build 10 in each state. But I am patient, but I know that it takes time. This school will help us learn a lot, and then we can go on to build schools in other locations.


Articles

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Politics

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health