Stories of life, death and faith: 'To Heaven and Back' - Anita Moorjani
On February 2, 2006, Anita Moorjani was in a coma. With her body riddled with cancer, doctors told her husband that her organs were shutting down and she likely would not make it beyond the next 36 hours. "I was just so tired of fighting to try to stay alive," she said. So she said she let go. The next morning, she didn't wake up. Her husband rushed her to the hospital, where the family was told the bad news: Moorjani was in a coma and not expected to wake again. Moorjani can't put her finger on the exact minute that she says she left her body. She saw her husband standing next to her hospital bed. Moorjani could also hear conversations that took place between her husband and her doctors, far from her hospital room. She heard them, she said, discuss her pending death. "Your wife's heart might be beating, but she's not really in there," a doctor told her husband -- a conversation, she said, he would later confirm to her after she asked. Hovering between life and death, she said she was surrounded by people who loved her. Her [deceased] best friend, Soni, was there. So was her father, who had died years earlier from heart failure. There were others there, too. She knew they loved her and cared for her. It was a feeling unlike anything she says she had ever felt. "At first, I did not want to come back. Why would I want to come back into this sick body?" she said. About 30 hours after being hospitalized, Moorjani awoke.
Within days, she said, her organs began to function again. Within weeks, doctors could find no evidence of cancer in her body, she said.
Note: For more on Anita's incredible journey through death, click here. For a treasure trove of inspiring news articles on near-death experiences, click here.
A Murmuration of Starlings
2011-11-03, The Atlantic
This is your moment of zen today. Two adventurers set out in a canoe and happened upon a [flock of] starlings (collectively known as a murmuration) doing their amazing collective dance in the sky. Watch the video. Just take it in. The starlings' coordinated movements do not seem possible, but then, there they are, doing it. Scientists have been similarly fascinated by starling movement. Those synchronized dips and waves seem to hold secrets about perception and group dynamics. Last year, Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi took on the challenge of explaining the [phenomenon]. What he found ... is that the math equations that best describe starling movement are borrowed "from the literature of 'criticality,' of crystal formation and avalanches -- systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation." They call it "scale-free correlation," and it means that no matter how big the flock, "If any one bird turned and changed speed, so would all the others." It's a beautiful phenomenon to behold. And neither biologists nor anyone else can yet explain how starlings seem to process information and act on it so quickly. It's precisely the lack of lag between the birds' movements that make the flocks so astonishing.
Note: Don't miss the hauntingly beautiful video at the link above. For more, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Whiz kid from Sierra Leone built own battery, radio transmitter
2012-11-20, NBC News
Kelvin Doe’s neighborhood in Sierra Leone has power lines, but they seldom deliver electricity. So, the 16-year-old whiz kid built his own battery out of acid, soda, and metal parts scavenged from trash bins that he now uses to light up area homes and help him work on his own inventions. Among other gadgets to his credit are a homemade radio transmitter, plus a generator to power it, that he uses to run his own community radio station under the handle DJ Focus. “People normally call me DJ Focus in my community because I believe if you focus you can do invention perfectly,” he said in a video. Doe’s engineering prowess was noticed by David Monina Sengeh, a graduate student MIT Media Lab, during a summer innovation camp called Innovate Salone that he runs in Sierra Leone. Sengeh arranged for Doe to visit the top-flight engineering school this fall. “It’s an opportunity for him to create the future that he wants to live in,” Sengeh said in the video. Check it out below to learn more about Doe’s inspirational story and his inventions.
Note: Don't miss the awesome video of Kelvin at this link. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Google searching for new ways to give back
2013-10-07, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, made giving back a company priority from the beginning. Their hope was that "someday this institution (under the rubric of 'Google.org') may eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems." Google has firmly established itself as a powerful and innovative player on the corporate philanthropy scene. Google's philanthropic entity was initially formed with a pledge of 3 million shares to make grants in several broad areas, including global poverty, disease and renewable energy. In 2009, Google announced a major strategic shift: to not only fund traditional nonprofits through cash grants, but also to concentrate on using Google's strengths in data-driven technologies and information aggregation to address the world's problems - to, in effect, engineer for social benefit. Google gave away $105 million in grants during 2012, plus $1 billion more in product donations, principally productivity apps and advertising grants for nonprofits. The company was the 12th-largest U.S. corporate cash donor in 2011 and 2012, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Between $45 million and $50 million of that 2012 total [was] directed toward disaster relief, university research and community organizations in Silicon Valley - with $23 million dedicated to Google's Global Impact Awards. Last year's Impact Awardees include Charity: Water, which Google granted $5 million to install remote sensors at 4,000 water points across Africa by 2015. The low-cost sensors will monitor and record actual water flow rate to ensure better maintenance of and access to clean water for more than 1 million people.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
A Philadelphia School's Big Bet on Nonviolence
2013-07-18, The Atlantic
Last year when American Paradigm Schools took over Philadelphia's infamous, failing John Paul Jones Middle School, they did something a lot of people would find inconceivable. The school was known as "Jones Jail" for its reputation of violence and disorder, and because the building physically resembled a youth correctional facility. Situated in the Kensington section of the city, it drew students from the heart of a desperately poor hub of injection drug users and street level prostitution where gun violence rates are off the charts. But rather than beef up the already heavy security to ensure safety and restore order, American Paradigm stripped it away. During renovations, they removed the metal detectors and barred windows. The police predicted chaos. But instead, new numbers seem to show that in a single year, the number of serious incidents fell by 90%. The school says it wasn't just the humanizing physical makeover of the facility that helped. Memphis Street Academy also credits the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), a noncoercive, nonviolent conflict resolution regimen originally used in prison settings that was later adapted to violent schools. AVP, when tailored to school settings, emphasizes student empowerment, relationship building and anger management over institutional control and surveillance. There are no aggressive security guards in schools using the AVP model; instead they have engagement coaches, who provide support, encouragement, and a sense of safety.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Project Unbreakable: from victim to victor
2012-03-13, Sydney Morning Herald (One of Australia's leading newspapers)
Grace Brown was sick of hearing about sexual assault. Having spoken with so many survivors over the years, she grew increasingly frustrated by her inability to help. Then, one night last October, another friend confessed that she too had been abused and it turned out to be the final straw. Brown went to bed determined to act and in the morning Project Unbreakable was born. The project uses photography to help survivors of sexual assault take back the power of the words used against them by their attacker/s and aid in the healing process. Participants write these phrases on a piece of cardboard and Brown, a 19-year-old freshman at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, takes their picture and uploads it on the project's website. Just as powerful are the images she creates. Amassing a tremendous amount of followers from around the world in just five short months, women and men as far as Australia, Europe and the Middle East have submitted their own photos to the site. What's especially striking is the number of people willing to show their faces, essentially outing themselves as survivors of sexual assault. "In the beginning most people didn't show their faces. It wasn't until maybe a month in. People are getting braver and it's been really amazing to watch it grow." Taking part in the project doesn't resolve the problem but it enables the healing to begin. For some, knowing they're not alone or confiding in someone can help kick-start the process and exposing the words used against you can release the hold that they have.
Note: To see powerful photos from Project Unbreakable, click here and here. For the moving website of Project Unbreakable, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Malala Yousafzai: The Bravest Girl in the World
2013-10-05, Parade Magazine
In this exclusive excerpt from her autobiography, I Am Malala, young activist Malala Yousafzai recounts the day she was shot by the Taliban. "Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, wasn’t the best of days to start with, as it was the middle of exams. We had been getting threats all year. Some were in the newspapers, and some were messages passed on by people. I was more concerned the Taliban would target my father, as he was always speaking out against them. His friend and fellow campaigner Zahid Khan had been shot in the face in August on his way to prayers. When our bus was called, we ran down the school steps. Inside the bus it was hot and sticky. Then we suddenly stopped. A young bearded man had stepped into the road. The man was wearing a peaked cap and had a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. Then he swung himself onto the tailboard and leaned in over us. “Who is Malala?” he demanded. No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face uncovered. That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. My friends say he fired three shots. The first went through my left eye socket and out under my left shoulder. I slumped forward, blood coming from my left ear, so the other two bullets hit the girls next to me." Malala has undergone a recovery that is nothing short of miraculous. The bullet narrowly missed her brain [and she] suffered no major permanent neurological damage. The ordeal did, however, solidify her will: “It feels like this life is not my life. It’s a second life. People have prayed to God to spare me and I was spared for a reason—to use my life for helping people.”
Note: Malala was only 11 when she took on the Taliban, demanding that girls be given full access to school. Her campaign led to a blog for the BBC, a New York Times documentary, and a Pakistani peace prize. But all that was only a prelude to even more extraordinary events, the Taliban's assassination attempt and her miraculous recovery. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Is Trying To Go Broke
Chuck Feeney is the James Bond of philanthropy. Over the last 30 years he’s crisscrossed the globe conducting a clandestine operation to give away a $7.5 billion fortune derived from hawking cognac, perfume and cigarettes in his empire of duty-free shops. His foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, has funneled $6.2 billion into education, science, health care, aging and civil rights in the U.S., Australia, Vietnam, Bermuda, South Africa and Ireland. Few living people have given away more, and no one at his wealth level has ever given their fortune away so completely during their lifetime. The remaining $1.3 billion will be spent by 2016, and the foundation will be shuttered in 2020. While the business world’s titans obsess over piling up as many riches as possible, Feeney is working double time to die broke. Feeney embarked on this mission in 1984, in the middle of a decade marked by wealth creation–and conspicuous consumption–when he slyly transferred his entire 38.75% ownership stake in Duty Free Shoppers to what became the Atlantic Philanthropies. “I concluded that if you hung on to a piece of the action for yourself you’d always be worrying about that piece,” says Feeney, who estimates his current net worth at $2 million (with an “m”). “People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I’m happy when what I’m doing is helping people and unhappy when what I’m doing isn’t helping people.” He’s not waiting to grant gifts after he’s gone nor to set up a legacy fund that annually tosses pennies at a $10 problem. He hunts for causes where he can have dramatic impact and goes all-in.
Note: For lots more on this great philanthropist, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Urban Homesteading Video: Growing What You Eat
2013-01-21, Urban Gardening Digest
Urban homesteading differs from urban gardening in that it is a way of living that endeavors to be as self reliant as is possible in our modern age. The video [available at the above link] shows one family’s commitment to urban homesteading and how they have freed themselves from the urban rat race, grow their own food, and much, much more. In Pasadena, California, is a 4,000 sq. ft. urban homestead, owned by the Dervaes family. This homestead feeds a family of four, producing about 6,000 lbs. of food annually, on just 1/10th acre [1/25th hectare]. 63 year old Jules Dervaes, started this backyard urban farm 10 years ago. It is a deliberate throw back to the story days of self reliant rural America. Jules and his children grow almost all of the food they need and everyone pitches in. At the time of this video, they were also raising eight chickens, four ducks, and two goats. The ducks and chickens lay thousands of eggs a year and keep the bugs in check. Over 400 varieties of vegetables, fruits, and edible flowers are grown in this compact space. Enough [is grown] to feed themselves with plenty left over for local chefs looking for organic, pesticide-free produce. Front porch sales net the family about $20,000 a year, which they use to purchase things that they can not grow on their urban homestead, such as wheat, rice, and oats. In addition to growing their own food, Dervaes family has gone off the grid. Their ‘gizmos’ are all hand powered. What little electricity that they do use is generated by solar panels.
Note: Watch the full, nine-minute video at the link above to get a closer look at this urban homesteading lifestyle. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
The world is a better place than you think
2013-06-06, The Intelligent Optimist (Formerly Ode Magazine)
Since the end of the Cold War, the number of armed conflicts in the world has fallen by 40 percent, according to Simon Fraser University’s Human Security Report. And those conflicts have resulted in strikingly low numbers of fatalities. While that statement may sound odd ... the numbers are nonetheless telling. Since 1988, the number of wars killing more than 1,000 people a year has gone down by 78 percent. What explains this spectacular reduction in violence? In The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Harvard professor Steven Pinker cites a number of reasons. Nation-forming curbed people’s inclination to steal their neighbors’ land and reduced the threat of enemy invasion, allowing geopolitical stability to take root. The emergence of democracy curbed tyrannical government excesses. International trade turned countries into business partners, and peace became economically attractive. A general process of civilization brought about more and more self-control. Not every indicator shows a steadily falling line, but enough measurements do register a continuous drop in brutality. It’s human to remember grisly periods like world wars and senseless outbreaks of savagery and forget how many people died violently in past centuries. It’s a fact, though, that we experience considerably less violence today than our forebears did. You’re more likely to drown in a swimming pool than to die a brutal death. That’s a luxury no one knew in generations past. We do, indeed, live in history’s most peaceful era.
Note: One of the most under-reported positive stories is that global violent crime has dropped dramatically in the last two decades. For FBI statistics showing violent crime in the U.S. dropped to 1/3 the rate of 1993, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
A Hospital Network With a Vision
2013-01-16, New York Times blog
In 1976, Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy — known as Dr. V — retired. He decided to devote his remaining years to eliminating needless blindness among India’s poor. Twelve million people are blind in India, the vast majority of them from cataracts, which tend to strike people in India before 60. Blindness robs a poor person of his livelihood and with it, his sense of self-worth; it is often a fatal disease. Dr. V started by establishing an 11-bed hospital with six beds reserved for patients who could not pay and five for those who would pay modest rates. He persuaded his siblings to join him in mortgaging their houses, pooling their savings and pawning their jewels to build it. Today, the Aravind Eye Care System is a network of hospitals, clinics, community outreach efforts, factories, and research and training institutes in south India that has treated more than 32 million patients and has performed 4 million surgeries. Aravind’s story is well-told in depth in a new book, Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World's Greatest Business Case for Compassion. Aravind is not just a health success, it is a financial success. Aravind’s core services are sustainable: patient care and the construction of new hospitals are funded by fees from paying patients. And at Aravind, patients pay only if they want to. The majority of Aravind’s patients pay only a symbolic amount, or nothing at all. Dr V was guided by the teachings of the radical Indian nationalist[, philosopher] and mystic Sri Aurobindo ... who located man’s search for his divine nature not in turning away from the world, but by engaging with it.
Note: For lots more on this most inspiring business model, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Look for more cooperation as Millennials gain power
2013-05-20, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
Baby Boomers - the protest-loving generation that didn't trust anyone over 30 - are approaching retirement by the millions, an evolution that many say could be the last best hope for a hopelessly gridlocked Washington. Replacing the Boomers are the Millennials, a get-it-done group born roughly between the early 1980s and 2000s, who make up the largest and most diverse generation in history. It's a generation that proudly rises above party loyalty and is driving the surge in the number of decline-to-state voters, who now make up 1 in 5 Californians, experts say. They are less divided, and they have a much greater "unity of belief" on social issues such as same-sex marriage, which 70 percent of them support, said author Morley Winograd, a former White House policy adviser under President Bill Clinton and a demographics expert. Their political mind-set ... is: "We want to change the world - what can we do together?" The legacy they are beginning to inherit, and fundamentally change, is a political culture that is rabidly partisan and all but frozen in animosity. The politics of an unpopular Congress suggest that lasting solutions will come not from the once-influential Boomers, but instead from their kids. "American politics will never be the same - because it is the end of the Boomer-dominated era," said Winograd. Winograd, co-author of a new book with Michael Hais called Millennial Majority: How a New Coalition Is Remaking American Politics, said, "The new Millennial-driven majority coalition in the United States will change almost everything."
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
The Soul of Teamwork
2013-05-13, Daily Good
Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson—by percentage (.738) the winningest coach in NBA history—is renowned for his ability to turn megastars into team players. And his secret is spiritual. “The most effective way to forge a winning team,” he writes in Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, “is to call on the players' need to connect with something larger than themselves.” Before Jackson arrived, both the Bulls and the Lakers were teams that, despite the presence of breathtaking talent, had failed to achieve the harmony needed to win championships. Yet under his guidance, schooled in his characteristically unselfish, team-oriented style, they went on to record-breaking success. So what does this remarkable head coach have to say about the heightened group consciousness that can awaken when teams come together beyond the divisive forces of the ego? [Q.] In Sacred Hoops you write about “the energy that's unleashed when players put their egos aside and work toward a common goal.” You also refer to “a powerful group intelligence [that] emerges that is greater than the coach's ideas or those of any individual on the team.” What is that powerful energy and intelligence that emerges in a collective when the ego is set aside? PHIL JACKSON: When a player surrenders his self-interest for the greater good, his fullest gifts as an athlete are manifested. It's funny—by playing within his natural abilities, he activates a higher potential beyond his abilities, a higher potential for the team. It changes things for everybody.
Note: DailyGood is an inspiring website that also offers a daily inspiration email. To learn more and subscribe, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Evian's dancing babies are back!
2013-04-24, USA Today
Remember the Roller Babies craze in 2009? That Evian video has been viewed more than 65 million times. Now, Evian Natural Spring Water has just launched a follow-up video, Baby & Me, and it's already got nearly 30 million views on YouTube. The new video, which features adults walking on a busy street when they suddenly see their "inner babies" in a storefront window reflection, launched simultaneously in 14 countries on Friday. The adult characters interact with their baby selves, mostly through dance. "You can't not smile watching this," said GMA anchor Lara Spencer this morning during a piece on the video. "This type of commercial is about happiness and energy," the ad's director, Remi Babinet, told GMA. Produced by creative agency BETC, and directed by We are from LA, the Baby & Me video is remixed by electronic music producer, Yuksek, notes Evian in a release about the ad. And the music? The '90s dance hit Here comes the Hotstepper serves as the soundtrack.
Note: Click on the link above to watch the video. For a video diving deeper into this by ABC, click here.
For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Waste picker wins Goldman prize
2013-04-15, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
Fourteen years ago, Blanca Cecilia Lopez began combing the streets of [Bogota, Colombia] in search of sellable articles to feed her family. She typically earned only a few dollars a day scavenging bottles, cans, paper and any other reusable items that she could find. Two years ago, however, her life changed dramatically thanks to a grassroots organization that found her a position at a city recycling center with a monthly salary and health benefits. The 50-year-old mother of seven owes her new life to Nohra Padilla, who began organizing waste pickers like Lopez in 1990 into the Bogota Recyclers' Association. For her work, Padilla is one of six recipients of the  Goldman Environmental Prize. Over the years, the association, which has 2,000 members, has battled city officials and private sanitation companies vying to monopolize trash collection from Bogota's 8 million inhabitants. In the 1980s and 1990s, Padilla and other organizers were threatened by right-wing paramilitaries who regarded organizing the poor as subversive. Several waste pickers were murdered in what the militias called "social cleansing." A talent for organizing and motivating others emerged, turning Padilla into a leader of an estimated 17,000 waste pickers who are a common sight on Bogota streets pushing hand carts or riding on horse carts piled high with scavenged trash. "If she (Padilla) weren't around, the recyclers would have to compete with the big trash companies," said Federico Parra, regional coordinator for a global nonprofit that helps improve conditions for the working poor.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
10 things you might not know about love
In writing the book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, here are 10 lessons I have learned: 1. It can be hard to talk about love in scientific terms because people have strong pre-existing ideas about it. Love, as your body experiences it, is a micro-moment of connection shared with another. 2. Love is not exclusive. In reality, you can experience micro-moments of connection with anyone -- whether your soul mate or a stranger. 3. Love doesn't belong to one person. Love is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once. 4. Making eye contact is a key gateway for love. Meeting eyes is a key gatekeeper to neural synchrony. 5. Love fortifies the connection between your brain and your heart, making you healthier. When we ... learn ways to create more micro-moments of love in daily life, we lastingly improve the function of the vagus nerve, a key conduit that connects your brain to your heart. 6. Your immune cells reflect your past experiences of love. People who build more micro-moments of love in daily life also build healthier immune cells. 7. Small emotional moments can have disproportionately large biological effects. Little by little, love begets love by improving your health. 8. Don't take a loving marriage for granted. Love is something we should re-cultivate every single day. 9. Love and compassion can be one and the same. Compassion is the form love takes when suffering occurs. 10. Simply upgrading your view of love changes your capacity for it. When people take just a minute or so each day to think about whether they felt connected and attuned to others, they initiate a cascade of benefits.
Note: Barbara Fredrickson is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Global Campaign ONE BILLION RISING To Stop Violence Against Women and Girls
2013-01-07, 11alive.com (Atlanta's NBC affiliate)
On February 14, 2013 ... activists around the world [will join] ONE BILLION RISING, the largest day of action in the history of V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Valentine's Day 2013 will be an official ONE BILLION RISING DAY OF ACTION for the City of Atlanta, declaring Atlanta a Rape and Violence Free Zone. ONE BILLION RISING began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls. V-Day Atlanta will bring together a coalition of organizations, businesses, schools, entertainers, and elected representatives to work to end violence and empower women. At 12:00 noon, thousands of Atlantans will dance down Peachtree Street in a flash mob choreographed by the legendary Debbie Allen to the One Billion Rising anthem "Break the Chain." V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler's award winning play The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $90 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, reopened shelters, and funded over 14,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq.
Note: For a powerful three-minute video on women breaking free, click here. To join the "One Billion Rising" movement, see their inspiring website here. Another article on this in the UK's Guardian is available here.
Malala Fund launched to help girls go to school
2012-12-10, KGO-TV Channel 7 (San Francisco ABC affiliate)
A plan to motivate girls around the world to enroll in school was launched ... by the United Nations and Pakistan. The fund is named for Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban. One of Malala's quotes is, "Education is our basic right." The Pakistani Government donated $10 million to the Malala Fund for girls' right to education. That will help the UN with its goal, to ensure that all girls have access to schools by the end of 2015. "The idea that a girl, simply for going to school or wanting to go to school, was shot by the Taliban is just so unspeakable," said Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education. Her cause to educate all girls got the attention of Washington-based Vital Voices, which promotes extraordinary women and girls around the world. An estimated 32 million girls around the world don't have access to an education. Malala has certainly inspired many young people. "I have a right to sing, I have the right to talk, I have the right to go to market, I have the right to speak," said Malala. The song "Richochet" was written by 12-year-old Lafayette resident Samantha Martin in honor of Malala. Two days ago Malala's father emailed Samantha saying, "I and Malala watched the song and I could not control my tears."
Note: Samantha Martin emailed WantToKnow.info with her truly amazing song, which you can listen to at this link. To sign the petition supporting Malala, click here. For more on the Malala fund, click here. For an inspiring 30-minute New York Times documentary on Malala, click here.
Lessons from the 'World's Ugliest Woman': 'Stop Staring and Start Learning'
When she was in high school, Lizzie Velasquez was dubbed "The World's Ugliest Woman" in an 8-second-long YouTube video. Born with a medical condition so rare that just two other people in the world are thought to have it, Velasquez has no adipose tissue and cannot create muscle, store energy, or gain weight. She has zero percent body fat and weighs just 60 pounds. In the comments on YouTube, viewers called her "it" and "monster" and encouraged her to kill herself. Instead, Velasquez set four goals: To become a motivational speaker, to publish a book, to graduate college, and to build a family and a career for herself. Now 23 years old, she's been a motivational speaker for seven years and has given more than 200 workshops on embracing uniqueness, dealing with bullies, and overcoming obstacles. She's a senior majoring in Communications at Texas State University in San Marcos, where she lives with her best friend. Her first book, Lizzie Beautiful, came out in 2010 and her second, Be Beautiful, Be You, was published earlier this month. She's even reclaimed YouTube, video blogging about everything from bullying to hair-styling tips to staying positive. Of course, the horrible comments left on that old YouTube video stung. "I'm human, and of course these things are going to hurt," she said. "Their judgments of me isn't who I am, and I'm not going to let these things define me. I didn't sink down to their level," she said in a follow-up video on YouTube last year. "Instead, I got my revenge through my accomplishments and determination. In the battle between the 'World's Ugliest Woman' video vs. me, I think I won."
Note: Though looking at this woman can be disturbing for some, consider that you can see beneath the surface to the beauty within. Watch Lizzie share some of her wisdom in a three-minute video at this link.
414 Homicides in ’12 Is a Record Low for New York City
2012-12-29, New York Times
Murders in New York have dropped to their lowest level in over 40 years, city officials announced on [December 28]. There were 414 recorded homicides so far in 2012, compared with 515 for the same period in 2011, city officials said. That is a striking decline from murder totals in the low-2,000s that were common in the early 1990s, and is also below the record low: 471, set in 2009. Shootings are also down for the year so far. The number of murders is the lowest since 1963, when improvements in the recording of data were made. In the last two decades, trumpeting declines in crime trends has become an annual end-of-the-year event, even when the numbers inched up. There were also several anomalies in the 2012 homicide tally, including a serial killer who murdered three shopkeepers in Brooklyn. But overall killings have dropped to such a low level that more New Yorkers now commit suicide than are the victims of homicides. About 475 New Yorkers kill themselves each year, according to the city’s health department. Nearly 70 percent of the victims had prior criminal arrests, the police said. Domestic-related homicides dropped to 68, from 94 in 2011. The likelihood of being killed by a stranger was slight. The vast majority of the homicides ... grew out of “disputes” between a victim and killer who knew each other.
Note: Though most American believe murder and violent crime rates are increasing, these rates in fact have decreased dramatically in the last 20 years, by over 2/3 in many cases. For more great information on this trend, click here. For other inspiring reasons for hope and optimism in the new year, click here.