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Beating the Odds profiles people who despite their physical and health challenges, have pushed on to pursue their dreams and accomplish some incredible things.
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, otherwise known as ALS, when she was 14 years old.
But the initials describing her condition are not how she describes herself. Instead, she uses adjectives like “authentic,” “fearless,” “passionate” and “appreciative.”
“I had made the decision a long time ago to not let my disability overcome anything that I’ve ever wanted to do or pursue in my life,” Spencer told In The Know.
And she’s stuck to that decision. Spencer is now a model, actress, style influencer and public speaker who sees her disability as an honor, not a hindrance.
“I figure if the good Lord put it on your life to have a disability, then that means he knows you can handle it and you can thrive,” Spencer told In The Know.
Spencer is definitely thriving. She’s appeared in award-winning films, developed a major social media following and even attended New York Fashion Week. Now, she’s focused on making sure people see her for what she’s done, not the disability she was diagnosed with.
“Are people gonna accept that I am a talent with a disability, and [that I] will be treated as just talent?” Spencer asked In The Know. “Because that is the goal — to see people with disabilities as people first.”
4 feel-good movies to stream while social distancing
If you liked this story, check out this previous episode of “Beating The Odds,” with ultramarathoner Amy Palmiero-Winters.
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As we reported last month, Adobe has recently launched a series of live shows from the UK – “a daily dose of creativity” – as part of its Adobe Live service. But while that’s exciting enough, turns out that was just the start.
This summer there’ll be even more inspiration for creatives to enjoy, as Adobe teams up with D&AD, the global association for creative advertising and design. As a result of the new partnership with this global organisation, Adobe Live’s livestreams will now also include the D&AD Awards 2020 and the D&AD Festival keynotes.
We’re not just talking about awards announcements either. Adobe Presents: D&AD Awards will feature a series of in-depth panel discussions and live Q&A interviews with the D&AD judges, as well as behind-the-work live talks with winners, to explore the components of creative brilliance, uncover why the winning work was awarded, and reveal how it was made.
In addition, ‘Adobe Presents: D&AD Imagine Everything’ will see creative innovators take to Adobe Live to present their D&AD Festival keynotes, including speakers from NASA, Headspace and MoMA. This means everyone at home will be able to enjoy this inspirational series of talks, aimed at driving forward creative thinking, for free.
Want to be the first to know when the livestreams will launch? Subscribe to Adobe Live for free now. You’ll also be able to catch on-demand recordings of every session and keep up to date with all the latest Adobe programmes on the horizon, including its popular ‘Live from the Sofa’ series.
Adobe’s focus on online events to support its communities and customers follows the recent announcement that Adobe MAX, the world’s largest creativity conference, will for the first time be a fully digital experience, available to everyone for free.
The recent success of Adobe’s virtual Summit and its digital content activity, which attracted more than 450,000 attendees across the world, has underlined the strong demand for this kind of high-quality, digital content.
“At Adobe, we’re passionate about enabling creativity for all, and through our partnership with D&AD, are delighted to celebrate some of today’s best creative minds,” says Simon Morris, senior director of marketing at Adobe. “Times like these show us the power of creativity, its impact on the way we think and live. We’re incredibly proud to have a hugely active creative community on Adobe Live, and can’t wait to use this platform to inspire and engage them even further.”
Tim Linsday, D&AD Chairman, commented: “Each year, the foremost thinkers and practitioners from across the global creative industries submit outstanding work to D&AD Awards. 2020 is no exception, despite the extremely difficult situation the world is facing. Our exciting lineup of insight sessions, Q&As and ‘Behind the Work’ series will continue to give exceptional creative thinking the platform it deserves.”
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That museums are taking art therapy more seriously than ever is due in large part to a program at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that allows physicians to prescribe free access to its galleries. The museum was also one of the first in North America to hire a full-time art therapist in 2017.
Stephen Legari, who took the job, normally sees about 1,200 participants each year, but demands for his services have increased as Montreal — the epicenter of Canada’s coronavirus outbreak — reopens. “In quarantine, you’re looking at the same things in your apartment every day,” he explained. “The repetition is grinding down your capacity to concentrate. By contrast, museums are places for wonderment, beauty and awe.”
Katerine Caron joined the art therapy program about three years ago. For much of her life, the 52-year-old writer has dealt with neurological damage and severe trauma after being hit by a speeding car while walking her children across the street. She eagerly awaits Wednesday group sessions. “I hadn’t created art since I was a child,” Ms. Caron said, “but art therapy has helped me externalize what I’m feeling and express my gratitude for life.”
For her, the therapy has created a space outside the pandemic for her to process difficult emotions. “I’m less anxious and agitated,” she said, adding, “When I see the works of other artists, I know that I’m not alone.”
When sorting through the museum’s collection for inspiration recently, Mr. Legari has shied away from contemporary works. Instead, he is drawn to images of natural beauty rendered by the Romantics and Impressionists. He also likes to incorporate more abstract works by artists like Henri Matisse and Georges Braque into his sessions.
Looking at what Montreal has accomplished, Sally Tallant, executive director of the Queens Museum, hopes that her institution can replicate that same sense of refuge for people. In the meantime, the museum’s educators are testing out a variety of initiatives. There are weekly conversations with homebound seniors about the institution’s collection, a program for caregivers to learn about art, and several live-video artmaking sessions for recent immigrants who don’t speak English, which are also offered in Mandarin.
“This is a time to consider museums as places of care,” Ms. Tallant said. “There is a need to develop porous cultural institutions that are open, inclusive and empathetic as we recover from living through a prolonged period of isolation and loss.”
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As New York and Connecticut reopen for business and companies prepare for a return to the workplace, many residents are taking a fresh look at their “home” offices and weighing their options for living in a post-pandemic world.
“People are starting to consider their homes as multi-functional spaces,” said Denise Balassi, owner of Spaces of Distinction, an award-winning interior design firm in South Salem. “Can the spare bedroom second as a gym? Can the dining room double as a home office? Can the kitchen be transformed into more of classroom for the kids?”
This “multi-living” style also involves a new perspective on the uses of outdoor space – think Zooming on your veranda – as well as incorporating new safety modes into home designs. “We just received a request for mudrooms that allow people to sanitize themselves,” said Balassi, whose firm is celebrating its 25th year in business. “The pandemic has really prompted people to rethink their homes.”
It also has prompted New York City dwellers to consider heading north and as many people flee Manhattan for more open space in the suburbs, they are going to either buy, build or renovate – and they are going to need local talent. This presents opportunities for designers to be even more creative and fits in perfectly with Spaces of Distinction’s unique approach. “Interior design is about people, lifestyle and the functionality of living space,” Balassi said.
The iconic design firm, formerly Interior Consultants, recently unveiled a new name – Spaces of Distinction by Denise Balassi – to reflect its evolution into a new breed of interior designers. The firm, which specializes in luxury homes, boutique hotels and vacation properties for clients locally and nationwide, is marking its 25th anniversary milestone with its own redesign.
Established in 1995, the firm takes an integrated approach to meet clients’ goals and visions of their ultimate “dream home.” Technological advancements, new tools and techniques, easier access to information and changes in consumer mindsets all have contributed to an evolution of interior design. Sophisticated clients know what they want, and Spaces of Distinction knows how best to fulfill the demand. The tech-savvy team uses the latest CAD and 3D modeling software and is exceptionally skilled at space planning, architectural detailing and interior design, from creating initial floor plans to placing the last decorative detail. Using a team-centric method that includes the homeowner, designer, builder and architect, Spaces of Distinction provides efficient and cost-effective results. This comprehensive design technique offers a precise course of action, guiding clients through a seamless process from design concept to project completion.
“We are thrilled with our reinvention,” said Balassi. “We selected this brand to capture the essence of what we do. We are more than consultants and decorators – we are designers and creators, who offer our clients a timeless home environment.”
About Spaces of Distinction by Denise BalassiSouth Salem-N.Y.-based Spaces of Distinction is a multifaceted design firm specializing in high-end, luxury residential and hospitality design. The firm serves clients throughout the tri-state region and also nationwide.
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Last Sunday, the Trump administration delivered its COVID-19 testing strategy to Congress. The policy, which delegates most responsibility to the states, claims that “existing testing capacity, if properly targeted, is sufficient to contain the outbreak.”
Various experts disagree. Last month, for example, a study released by Harvard University pegged the daily testing need at ten times what the administration recommends — a conclusion that differs by a startling order of magnitude.
So, to whom should Congress listen? Or at the very least, what questions should Congress ask to evaluate such significantly different claims?
In 1995, Congress defunded its Office of Technology Assessment: an internal team of science and technology experts that aided members and their staff in moments precisely like these. Exclusively in service of Congress, OTA helped the institution to navigate technically complex domains, from nuclear power and bioterrorism to, as it happens, influenza pandemics. OTA gave Congress its own source of internal expertise, helping it to sort through the many competing claims made by industry, academia and the executive branch — and to push back when appropriate.
When the Carter administration proposed a novel basing scheme for nuclear missiles, Congress turned to OTA, which found significant risks and uncertainties with the plan. When the Reagan administration declared AIDS its top health priority, OTA found that it was behaving much to the contrary, neglecting to use funds appropriated for public health emergencies. OTA, free of executive influence and captive only to Congress, equipped lawmakers with smart analysis to question executive branch policies. The result was more informed congressional debate and a check on executive power.
Perhaps now more than ever, Congress requires its own experts.
At a high-profile Senate health committee hearing this May, Congress heard exclusively from a panel of executive branch officials on issues urgent to its lawmaking, from economic recovery to vaccine development; both Democratic and Republican senators voiced frustration with potentially misleading witness claims. Tightening access to information, the White House notified Congress that all members of its Coronavirus Task Force would be barred from testifying absent permission from the president’s chief of staff. Now, with historically low staff capacity, Congress will be responsible for wading through the administration’s latest report, making sense of dizzying epidemiological models on its own.
Each administration, regardless of party, has a habit of fitting science to its priorities. Overreliance on any executive, then, weakens Congress’s policymaking capabilities. Congress should be equipped to do its own math. Momentum has long been building for lawmakers to bring in the nerds, as one group put it, and various options exist for designing a modernized OTA. No matter the new form, any body of experts in exclusive service to Congress will mark needed progress in rebalancing our titled branches.
Congress has been at this crossroads before. As the executive branch ballooned in the postwar period, it amassed an army of experts. Congress, meanwhile, did not. This left the legislature–an ostensibly co-equal branch–at the mercy of executive claims. By the 1960s, the executive was negotiating complex arms control treaties with the Soviet Union; promoting controversial supersonic transport investments; and developing novel regulations in response to pollution.
In 1972, Rep. Charles Mosher (R-Ohio) complained that Congress was “flying blind… constantly outmanned and outgunned by the expertise of the executive agencies,” and called for experts “entirely responsible to us.” Soon after, Congress authorized an Office of Technology Assessment.
Congress is once again outmanned and outgunned. But it has rearmed itself before, and it can do it again.
Grant Tudor, a Policy Advocate at Protect Democracy, and Justin Warner, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Federal Reserve Board, are the authors of “The Congressional Futures Office: A Modern Model for Science & Technology Expertise in Congress,” a report from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.
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