Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Creates $2 Billion Fund to Aid Children and Homeless Families

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iStock

Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, announced today that he will put $2 billion toward efforts to aid homeless families as well as children in low-income areas, Bloomberg reports. The Amazon founder and CEO outlined his plan for the "Bezos Day One Fund" in a blog post that he took screenshots of and tweeted out to his followers.

In the message, Bezos said the fund will address two key areas. First, it will provide funding to non-profit organizations that already exist and are currently helping homeless families. Second, it will be used to create a network of non-profit preschools in low-income areas, as well as an organization to operate those schools. These institutions will be "full-scholarship" schools and will be based on the Montessori teaching method.

"We'll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon," he wrote. "Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer."

Bezos, whose personal fortune totals $163.8 billion, has previously invested in space infrastructure and news media (through his purchase of The Washington Post), and has provided funding to cancer research and college scholarships for immigrant students.

It's worth noting, though, that not everyone is praising Bezos's philanthropy. This announcement comes amid sharp criticism of Amazon's recent efforts to kill a Seattle business tax that would benefit the homeless community, as well as criticism of the company's treatment of employees. In August, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders launched a petition calling for Bezos to raise wages and improve working conditions, Vox reports, and just last week, Sanders introduced a "Stop BEZOS Act" bill (the not-remotely-subtle dig stands for Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act—essentially, it proposes heavily taxing wealthy corporations whose low-wage employees have to rely on government aid to get by). In response, Amazon called the criticism "inaccurate and misleading."

[h/t Bloomberg]

How the Los Angeles Zoo Protects Its Animals During Wildfires and Other Emergencies

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iStock.com/Kirkikis

It’s hard enough to evacuate a family of three when disaster strikes, let alone large groups of frightened animals. However, many zoos have detailed emergency plans in place, and the Los Angeles Zoo—home to more than 1400 animals—is no exception. As Smithsonian reports, the zoo had to evacuate some of its birds and smaller primates last week when nearby Griffith Park caught fire, all while other wildfires continued to destroy large swathes of land around the state of California.

Firefighters spent over seven hours working to extinguish the blaze, which ignited in a hard-to-reach area of the park. Meanwhile, zoo staff herded lemurs and show birds into cages with other small animals in order to evacuate them. According to statements made by the zoo on social media, no animals were harmed by the smoke, and those animals have since returned to their regular habitats.

Fortunately, this incident was contained and no fire ever entered zoo grounds, but staff are prepared for worst-case scenarios. LA Zoo employees know which animals to evacuate and which ones to shelter in place during emergencies.

“Smaller, non-venomous reptiles and mammals that can be easily handled may be packed up for relocation,” a zoo spokesperson told Smithsonian. “Larger animals will be sheltered in place in their night quarters for a variety of reasons that ultimately depend on the specific animal and the situation.”

The Santa Barbara Zoo also has species-specific emergency plans in place. According to an NPR article from 2017, when a nearby wildfire raised alarm and prompted small-scale evacuations, the zoo reviewed its plans for protecting 500 animals from disaster. Zoo staff members said some animals—like two elderly elephants, 50 “fragile” flamingos, and giraffes that were too tall to fit under highway underpasses—would have to stay put. Other animals would be trapped, placed in crates, and transported to safer locations. Big cats would need to be tranquilized (by hand, not by dart gun) before being moved into steel evacuation crates.

A few animals were evacuated at the time, including two reindeer, a baby anteater, and hard-to-catch condors. Some animals are harder to trap than others, and Chinese alligators are surprisingly easy to round up. "They usually just throw a towel over her head so she can't see them and they just jump on her," Dr. Julie Barnes, director of Animal Care and Health at the Santa Barbara Zoo, told NPR last year.

In addition to these plans, zoos also have extinguishers and fire breaks placed strategically throughout the grounds, and many staff are trained in proper evacuation procedures.

[h/t Smithsonian]

10 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Travel

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iStock.com/grinvalds

Anyone who has traveled during the holidays knows how taxing it can be. Traffic is slow, airport security lines seem to move even slower, and your fellow travelers aren’t always patient. While we can’t promise that your journey to grandma’s house this November and December will be enjoyable, we know of a few travel tips to make it less stressful.

1. TRY TO TRAVEL ON THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY.

The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year for holiday travel by air, and this year is expected to be especially bad. Drivers will face a similar situation if they head out on Wednesday, if Google’s analysis of road conditions last Thanksgiving are anything to go by. For these reasons, it’s always wise to travel several days before the holiday or on the holiday itself when possible. Sure, the latter scenario is less than ideal, but the flights are cheaper and the crowds smaller. And since Thanksgiving is such an unpopular day to start your journey, you might even be upgraded to first class.

If traveling day-of isn’t an option, here are a few more travel tips: Try to book a flight early in the morning or late in the evening. Morning fliers tend to enjoy fewer delays, but you’ll beat the crowds if you wait until the evening to fly out.

2. PACK LIGHT FOR HOLIDAY TRAVEL ...

A suitcase with men's clothing inside
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If you’ll only be out of town for a few days, there’s no reason to lug around a 60-pound suitcase. The lighter your suitcase, the better you’ll feel—and you won’t have to worry about excess baggage fees, either. We understand that packing light can be challenging, though. If you’re struggling to zip your suitcase shut, try layering up before you head to the airport. Remove the heaviest and bulkiest clothing items from your bag (think boots, winter coats, and big sweaters) and wear them instead. You can always remove them once you get through airport security and store them in the plane's overhead bin.

3. ... AND PACK YOUR LAPTOP LAST.

One more travel tip for packing: If you’re traveling with a laptop, pack it in your carry-on last, along with your liquids. That way, when you head through the dreaded airport security line, you can remove them quickly without having to rummage around.

4. DON'T CARRY WRAPPED GIFTS.

Wrapping gifts in advance and stowing them in your suitcase might seem like good planning on your part, but you might end up creating more work for yourself. According to the TSA, wrapped presents are permitted, but security officers might need to unwrap them if something requires closer inspection. “We recommend passengers to place presents in gift bags or wrap gifts after arriving to avoid the possibility of having to unwrap them during the screening process,” the TSA wrote on its website. “Another good option is to ship them ahead.”

5. RESERVE AIRPORT PARKING IN ADVANCE.

Airport parking lots can fill up pretty fast around the holidays. To avoid having to loop around the lot for 45 minutes, log onto your local airport’s website to see if you can secure a parking spot in advance. Booking online might even save you some money, and you can also check out ParkRideFly’s website for discounted parking rates.

6. CARRY AN EMPTY WATER BOTTLE.

A man holds a water bottle at the airport
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It’s important to stay hydrated if you have a long flight ahead, since drinking plenty of fluids can help stave off jet lag. But why pay $4 for a bottle of water at the airport when you can bring your own reusable bottle and fill it up for free at a water fountain near your gate? Just make sure it starts out empty until you get through airport security—you wouldn’t want to hold up the line and get side-eye from your fellow passengers.

A few other travel tips for packing your purse or carry-on: Bring a phone charger, toothbrush, other must-have toiletries, glasses and contacts, medications, an extra pair of underwear, headphones or earplugs, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes (after all, those airport security bins are germ-infested cesspools).

7. TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR SUITCASE.

If you need to check a bag, snap a photo of your suitcase before you hand it over to the airline. That way, if it gets lost, you won’t have to rack your brain trying to remember whether it’s black or navy blue while describing its appearance to airline staff. If your suitcase is rather nondescript, consider tying a colorful ribbon around the handle to set it apart. This will come in handy when you go to retrieve your bag from the luggage carousel.

8. SWAP BELONGINGS WITH A COMPANION.

You and another traveler in your group—be it a spouse or a sibling—may want to swap a few belongings while you're packing. If you put a few essential items in their bag, and let them put a few must-haves in yours, you won’t feel so helpless if one of your bags gets delayed or lost.

9. USE APPS TO FIGURE OUT WHEN TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE.

Domestic travelers are generally advised to arrive at the airport two hours before their flight. However, if you’re traveling close to a major holiday, you’ll want to factor traffic and long airport lines into the equation. So when should you leave the house? Google Maps can help you figure it out. After plugging in the airport address, you can select the Traffic feature (on both the desktop version and within the app) to see a color-coded map of the fastest and slowest routes. The app can even remind you to leave at a certain time depending on when you want to arrive. Waze is another useful app for travelers to have on hand. It provides updated traffic information in real-time and relies on user-submitted data about traffic jams and accidents.

10. TRY TO AVOID AIRLINE COUNTERS.

Curbside check-in at an airport
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The ability to check into a flight online is one of the greatest gifts given to travelers. Take advantage of that by printing out your boarding pass at home, having it sent to you in an email, or saving it to your smartphone’s Apple Wallet or Google Pay app. If you don’t have to check any luggage, you can head straight to your airport's security checkpoint and save yourself a lot of time. Plus, you might end up in an earlier boarding group or get better seats, according to Smarter Travel. If you do have to drop off a bag, that’s no problem either. Curbside check-in tends to be faster than the airline counters inside most airports. If that isn’t available, some airlines also have an expedited “bag drop” line you can hop into if you’ve already checked in.

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