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.
Child Abuse Drops for Fifth Straight Year
2012-12-12, ABC News/Associated Press
Reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped nationwide for the fifth consecutive year, and abuse-related child fatalities also are at a five-year low. The latest annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, released [on December 12], estimates that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year. That's down from 695,000 in 2010 and from 723,000 in 2007. The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 — down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About four fifths of those killed were younger than 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly four fifths of the deaths. Regarding types of maltreatment, 78.5 percent of the victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.1 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 61,472 children who were sexually abused in 2011 — down dramatically from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992. The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, says he finds the annual reports frustrating because of the lack of analysis of the trends. "But at the same time, it does appear remarkable that overall child maltreatment has declined given that unemployment has been so high, the housing and mortgage crisis has continued, and state and local budgets for family and child services have been cut," he wrote.
Note: For more details on this inspiring news, see a government article at this link. Just 50 years ago, child sexual abuse was virtually a taboo topic. There was nowhere to report such things. Now that there is a protective net and awareness has skyrocketed, far fewer children are being abused. This has powerful, positive implications as more children grow up healthy and knowing that they are protected. For many other great reasons for hope and optimism in these uncertain times, click here.
A worldwide mission of kids helping kids
2012-11-25, CBS News 60 Minutes
Craig Kielburger ... was in seventh grade when the death of a boy changed his life. It was a change so profound that, through Kielburger, it has now saved and transformed lives around the globe. He read about the murder of a boy his age in Pakistan. Iqbal Masih was a slave in a carpet factory. Masih escaped to lead a campaign against servitude. But within two years he was silenced. Kielburger ... made Iqbal Masih's fight his own. He talked to classmates, to Congress, to Parliament. Kielburger wanted to free children from slavery. So he went to Asia recruiting activists and government authorities to bust child sweatshops and sex traffickers. There were early successes, [but] kids he freed were being pulled back into servitude, years later, by centuries old culture and traditions shaped by poverty and illiteracy. Today, Free The Children is in 45 countries. A $30 million a year charity building schools, providing clean water, and connecting local craftsmen to world markets where their traditions bring in good money. There are two million volunteers nearly all of them under the age of 18. Free the Children today is the world's largest network of children helping children. "What that means in practice is we inspire kids. Then we give them all the tools they need to learn about these issues: speaking tours, summer leadership camps, curriculum every week. Our bet that we're making is if you give kids the inspiration and the tools to change the world, it'll change their own lives also in the process," [Kielburger said].
Note: This is a powerful example of how the younger generation is making a big difference in our world. Kielburger's charity is now in 45 countries and takes in $30 million per year. It's the largest organization of children helping children in the world. For the highly inspiring, 12-minute video of this segment, click here.
Geriatric gymnast impresses crowd at German competition
2012-03-30, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Johanna Quaas performed an impressive parallel bar and floor demonstration after finals concluded at Germany's Cottbus Challenger Cup. Displaying balance, strength and flexibility that would be the envy of someone a quarter her age, Quaas's floor routine included a handstand forward roll, cartwheel, backward roll and headstand while on the bars she performed a full planche, holding her body taught and parallel to the ground. A multiple time senior champion of artistic gymnastics in Germany, Quaas, from Halle in Saxony only took up gymnastics when she was 30, putting paid to the belief that the sport is the preserve of the young.
Note: Don't miss the amazing video of this highly inspiring woman at the link above.
Pot compound seen as tool against cancer
2012-09-18, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
Marijuana, already shown to reduce pain and nausea in cancer patients, may be promising as a cancer-fighting agent against some of the most aggressive forms of the disease. A growing body of early research shows a compound found in marijuana - one that does not produce the plant's psychotropic high - seems to have the ability to "turn off" the activity of a gene responsible for metastasis in breast and other types of cancers. Two scientists at San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute first released data five years ago that showed how this compound - called cannabidiol - reduced the aggressiveness of human breast cancer cells in the lab. "The preclinical trial data is very strong, and there's no toxicity. There's really a lot of research to move ahead with and to get people excited," said Sean McAllister, who along with scientist Pierre Desprez, has been studying the active molecules in marijuana - called cannabinoids - as potent inhibitors of metastatic disease for the past decade. Martin Lee, director of Project CBD, [a] group that works to raise awareness of the scientific promise of the compound, described the cannabidiol research as potent both as a medicine and a myth buster. "It debunks the idea that medicinal marijuana is really about people wanting to get stoned," said Lee, author of Smoke Signals, a book published last month about the medical and social history of marijuana. "Why do they want it when it doesn't even get them high?"
Note: For an educational, 45-minute documentary on this topic titled "What if Cannabis Cured Cancer?," click here. For an informative 15-minute documentary on the health benefits of juicing raw cannabis, click here. For deeply inspiring reports from reliable sources, click here.
Ernestine Shepherd: The 75-year-old bodybuilding grandma
2012-06-10, BBC News
The world's oldest female bodybuilder wakes up every day at 02:30 to fit in a 10 mile (16km) run before hitting the gym. But 75-year-old Ernestine Shepherd insists that "age is nothing but a number". "Miss Ernie", as she is known in the world of competitive bodybuilding, began training at the tender age of 71. She says her true calling in life, however, is helping others to follow a more healthy lifestyle. The BBC caught up with her at an exercise class at her church in the US city of Baltimore, Maryland, to find out why she started bodybuilding.
Note: Click on the link above to watch an amazing three-minute video with this inspiring grandmother.
The women of India's Barefoot College bring light to remote villages
2011-06-24, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Santosh Devi is [a] 19-year-old, semi-literate woman from the backwaters of Rajasthan [who] has broken through India's rigid caste system to become the country's first Dalit solar engineer. While differences of caste have begun to blur in the cities, in rural India Dalits – also known as "untouchables" – are still impoverished and widely discriminated against. Santosh trained to be a solar engineer at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, 100km from Jaipur. The college was set up in 1972 by Sanjit "Bunker" Roy to teach rural people skills with which they could transform their villages, regardless of gender, caste, ethnicity, age or schooling. The college claims to have trained 15,000 women in skills including solar engineering, healthcare and water testing. Roy, 65, says his approach – low cost, decentralised and community driven – works by "capitalising on the resources already present in the villages". The college, spread over eight acres, runs entirely on solar energy, maintained by the Barefoot solar engineers. Since the solar course was launched in 2005, more than 300 Barefoot engineers have brought power to more than 13,000 homes across India. A further 6,000 households, in more than 120 villages in 24 countries from Afghanistan to Uganda, have been powered on the same model. Only villages that are inaccessible, remote and non-electrified are considered for solar power. A drop in the ocean, perhaps – 44% of rural households in India have no electricity – but these women are making an important contribution to the nation's power needs.
Note: For a very inspiring TED talk filled with great stories by the founder of this college, click here.
Looking For 10% Yields? Go Online For Peer To Peer Lending
2012-06-06, Forbes Magazine
Today a tidal wave of aging boomers want income, but traditional sources are lacking. But there’s [a] source of high yield that relatively few consider. Peer-to-peer lending, or making personal loans via the Internet using websites like LendingClub.com and Prosper.com. After six years of experience and some bumps, including a financial crisis and ensuing recession, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending has finally earned its place on an income investor’s menu. The basic premise of these bank disintermediaries is that they harness the networking power of the Web to match people who have excess cash with people in need of it or those who simply want to refinance credit card debt. The key to its success has been how the sites have managed the inherent riskiness of unsecured personal loans. Believe it or not, it is now possible to earn yields of 6% or more, making relatively safe loans to complete strangers. San Francisco’s Lending Club is the largest P2P lender, followed by its crosstown rival Prosper. Lending Club and Prosper have loaned a total of more than $1 billion since inception, in 112,000 loans. Lending Club currently issues about $45 million in loans a month versus Prosper’s $13 million per month. Of course defaults happen. Lending Club’s top-rated three-year loans expect a default rate of around 1.4%, and the riskiest loans, offering rates as high as 25%, have a 9.8% default rate.
Note: A 1.4 default rate is much lower than that of the average bank. For those who want to borrow or loan money free of the banks with excellent rates, check out www.lendingclub.com and www.prosper.com.
Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism: Mondragon shows the way
2012-06-24, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Capitalism's recurring tendencies toward extreme and deepening inequalities of income, wealth, and political and cultural power require resignation and acceptance. [It] entails and reproduces a highly undemocratic organization of production inside enterprises. Believers insist that no alternatives to ... capitalist organizations of production exist or could work nearly so well. Of course, alternatives exist. The city of Arrasate-Mondragon, in the Basque region of Spain ... is the headquarters of the Mondragon Corporation (MC). MC is composed of many co-operative enterprises grouped into four areas: industry, finance, retail and knowledge. In each enterprise, the co-op members (averaging 80-85% of all workers per enterprise) collectively own and direct the enterprise. The largest corporation in the Basque region, MC is also one of Spain's top ten biggest corporations (in terms of sales or employment). And MC has expanded internationally, now operating over 77 businesses outside Spain. MC has proven itself able to grow and prosper as an alternative to – and competitor of – capitalist organizations of enterprise. MC worker-members collectively choose, hire and fire the directors, whereas in capitalist enterprises the reverse occurs. One of the co-operatively and democratically adopted rules governing the MC limits top-paid worker/members to earning 6.5 times the lowest-paid workers. In US corporations, CEOs can expect to be paid 400 times an average worker's salary – a rate that has increased 20-fold since 1965.