AYM ’09: Getting Cuba Connected

Interviews from the Alliance of Youth Movements summit: Roots of Hope. From Obama's campaign fundraising to...

Interviews from the Alliance of Youth Movements summit: Roots of Hope.

From Obama's campaign fundraising to the election protests in Iran, we've all heard that Twitter and Facebook are rewriting the rules of public engagement. Guest blogger Erin Mazursky talked to participants at the Alliance of Youth Movements summit in Mexico City to find out how the nonprofit leaders of tomorrow are using technology.Verónica Nur Valdéz and Felice Gorordo, ages 25 and 26 respectively, are the co-founders of Raices de Esperanza, or Roots of Hope, a U.S.-based organization that works to empower Cuban youth. Here, they tell Mazursky talked about new uses for old cell phones, Cuban bloggers, and the value of face-to-face communication.ERIN MAZURSKY: What does Roots of Hope do?ROOTS OF HOPE: We work to empower Cuban youth. We are not a political organization. Rather, we promote academic and cultural exchanges between youth in the United States and Cuban youth living in Cuba.EM: What specific projects are you working on now?RoH: We have two main flagships to our organization right now. Our Cell Phones for Cuba campaign collects used cell phones from the U.S. and sends them to Cuba. Per capita cell phone use in Cuba is on par with sub-Saharan Africa. For young people on the island, cell phones are tools. Increased communication and interconnectivity are good for everyone, so we are helping to find ways to make these connections. We also have a publication called Ex(CHANGE) Guide that outlines a number of different ways to connect with Cuban youth-everything from traveling to Cuba legally to using the internet and new media.EM: Cuba is one of the most closed societies in the world with the most restrictions on media and internet usage. How do you create more communication in the face of these restrictions?RoH: Cuba has an intranet with a very effective firewall, but only two percent of the population even has access to this. The internet is only accessible to very high ranking officials, who have government jobs. Oftentimes they will "rent out" their username and password to their friends after work, who pay them to access the outside world. This is how, little by little, young people are connecting to their counterparts in other parts of the world.Roots of Hope works to get youth connected to the internet. This is the first way many Cuban youth are able to connect with the outside world. Bloggers are also becoming more vocal and finding ways to circumvent the system, which is incredibly important in creating outlets for Cuban youth in realizing their voice.EM: What role has technology played in helping you to build a movement behind your work?RoH: Technology has, without a doubt, helped us to reach a much broader span of people. When we started, we were simply making phone calls to people that we knew, and relying on them to spread the word. Now, through social networks, we can spread the word through many different outlets.EM: What are some of the biggest challenges your group faces?RoH: We are a completely 100 percent volunteer organization, so the internet is our office space. This can be really helpful, but interacting with people virtually leads to things being lost in translation. We have to find ways to bring people together face-to-face in order to be as effective as possible. As great as online coordination can be, nothing replaces face-to-face interaction.EM: How do you like Mexico City?RoH: We have been here many times, but the summit is great. We are fortunate and humbled to meet these dynamic young leaders. This is a network unto itself that is being created that helps to reinforce all of our causes.Erin is a proud member of the Millennial generation, an independent nonprofit and political consultant, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, and a contributor to the GOOD column Canapés and Kalashnikovs.

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.

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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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.