Green MBA degrees sprout up on campuses
2010-04-21, San Francisco Chronicle
"Green" no longer just symbolizes money at business schools. So-called green MBAs - master of business administration programs that focus on sustainability - are a fast-growing part of the academic landscape, incorporating sustainability into all coursework.
The [San Francisco] Bay Area is home to two pioneering programs that grant green MBAs - the Presidio Graduate School (www.presidioedu.org) with a campus in San Francisco's Presidio, and the Green MBA program (www.greenmba.com) at Dominican University in San Rafael. Other local MBA programs increasingly are going green, too. Stanford ranks No. 4, and UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business No. 6 in "Beyond Grey Pinstripes," a biannual ranking that spotlights MBA programs that integrate social, environmental and ethical issues. Green MBA programs say they teach students to pay attention to the triple bottom line - people, profits and planet. Graduates of local green MBA programs [are] trying to use their degrees as a force for positive change.
Note: Click on the Chronicle link above to read the interviews with successful "Green MBAs".
Meet the girl with half a brain
For three years, little Cameron Mott’s life was a nightmarish succession of violent seizures that consumed her days and threatened her life. Finally, doctors told her parents there was a way to stop them: All they had to do was remove half of Cameron’s brain. “It was very scary, because you just can’t imagine what your child will be like after such a dramatic brain surgery,” Shelly Mott, [Cameron's mother, said.] Doctors put a name on [Cameron's] condition: Rasmussen’s syndrome, a condition that causes the destruction of one side of the brain. The solution was radical. It’s called a hemispherectomy, which means the removal of half of the brain. Since the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain, doctors knew that Cameron would be paralyzed on her left side when she awoke. But they also knew that the brains of children have amazing abilities to rewire themselves. Cameron was immobilized for the first two days after the surgery to allow her brain to stabilize. Then she went into an intensive physical therapy program. Four weeks after the surgery, she walked out of the hospital. The agonizing decision the Motts had had to make turned out to be right. Cameron was able to return to school, where she is now in the second grade and a good student. Her physical therapy sessions have just recently ended, and she can run and play. “I want to be a ballerina when I grow up,” Cameron said.
Owner of Multi-Million Dollar Company Hands Over Business to Employees
2010-02-18, ABC News
Before the words "whole grain" and "organic" became part of Americans' everyday vocabulary, Bob Moore knew the importance of healthful eating. In 1978, he started Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, as a small family-run business in Oregon selling stone mill-ground whole grains. The company has since grown into a multi-million dollar business that sells more than 400 whole grain products including flours, hot cereals, and organic and gluten-free products. Moore's work is a way of life and his employees are a second family, which is why he announced this week that he's handing over the keys to his 209 employees. Moore said he's gotten countless buy-out offers over the years, but he couldn't envision selling the business to a stranger. "It's the only business decision that I could make," he said. "I don't think there's anybody worthy to run this company but the people who built it. I have employees with me right now that have been with me for 30 years. They just were committed to staying with me now and they're going to own the company." The company will now be run by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) -- the idea being that a company's stock is put in a retirement plan for its employees, but the stock is never held or bought directly by individuals. When a vested employee retires, he can pull out money from the trust.
Will You Be E-Mailing This Column? It’s Awesome
2010-02-09, New York Times
Do people prefer to spread good news or bad news? Would we rather scandalize or enlighten? Which stories do social creatures want to share, and why? Now some answers are emerging thanks to a rich new source of data: you, Dear Reader. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page. According to the Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman, people preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics. Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. “Science kept doing better than we expected,” said Dr. Berger, a social psychologist and a professor of marketing at Penn’s Wharton School. “We anticipated that people would share articles with practical information about health or gadgets, and they did, but they also sent articles about paleontology and cosmology."
Is There Such a Thing as Life After Death?
2010-01-22, Time magazine
Is there life after death? Radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long says if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes. He makes the case for that controversial conclusion in a new book, Evidence of the Afterlife. He talked to TIME about the nature of near-death experience. [TIME:] How do you respond to skeptics who say there must be some biological or physiological basis for that kind of experience, which you say in the book is medically inexplicable? [Dr. Long:] There have been over 20 alternative, skeptical "explanations" for near-death experience. The reason is very clear: no one or several skeptical explanations make sense, even to the skeptics themselves. Or [else] there wouldn't be so many. [TIME:] You say this research has affected you a lot on a personal level. How? [Dr. Long:] I'm a physician who fights cancer. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I've ever faced it with before. I can be a better physician for my patients.
Note: For a deeply inspiring online lesson presenting incredibly powerful near-death experiences, click here.
Coral Castle: Mysterious Monument to Lost Love
2008-02-01, ABC News
Like the ancient wonders of Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids of Egypt, there is an incredible and mysterious creation right here in the United States. Coral Castle, in Homestead, Fla., just south of Miami, is an intricate rock garden made of enormous pieces of coral, many of them weighing several tons. But more amazingly, Coral Castle was built entirely by one man -- Latvian immigrant Ed Leedskalnin, who stood just 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds. To this day, no one knows how he did it. The castle is an extraordinary feat of engineering, and experts have puzzled over how Leedskalnin, who only had a fourth-grade education, constructed Coral Castle by himself. For example, how did this little man build a 9-ton coral gate constructed so precisely that you can push it open using one finger? There are many theories on how Leedskalnin accomplished this amazing feat. Some say he had help from extraterrestrials, others believe he discovered the secrets behind anti-gravity and levitation. Leedskalnin was a self-taught expert on magnetic currents, and one theory holds that he positioned the site to be perfectly aligned with Earth's poles to eliminate the forces of gravity, allowing him to move stones weighing several tons each. Even Albert Einstein couldn't figure it out.
Note: For a good video of this wonder, click here. For more information on this most intriguing phenomenon, click here. The unusual builder of this site claimed to know the secrets of the pyramids and even Einstein could not imagine how he did it.
Mystery pair at diner spark cascade of giving
2009-12-14, MSNBC News
It played like a scene from a holiday movie – a mystery couple, who didn’t leave their names or numbers, walked into a restaurant, finished their meal and then set off a chain reaction of generosity that lasted for hours. That’s just what employees at the Aramingo Diner in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia said a man and a woman did during their breakfast shift Saturday morning. “It was magical. I had tears in my eyes because it never happened before. I’ve been here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Lynn Willard, a waitress. “I could not believe it. And it continued and continued,” said Willard. “They asked us not to say anything until they left, [and only then to] say, ‘Merry Christmas, that person picked up your check.’” For the next five hours, dozens of patrons got into that same holiday spirit and paid the favor forward. The diner’s manager said not one person was concerned about price of the check – which ran between $12 and $30. “It was a surprise to all of us,” said the diner's manager. “Those who took the check also tipped the waitress. So nobody had to do anything other than pass it on, and that’s what they did. They just passed it forward.” It’s a true holiday story that proves how a small gesture of kindness can create some magic.
Feeding hungry is job one at Same Cafe
2009-12-13, MSNBC News
In many ways, nothing has changed at the SAME Café in mid-town Denver. A week ago, we brought in the NBC News camera and recorded a typical Friday lunch rush. We were there because a viewer had e-mailed Brian Williams [about] the couple who run the café. Brad and Libby Birky serve great food, but accept in return only what the customer can afford. Some pay nothing, while others, who still have jobs and paychecks pay something, sometimes double or even triple what the meal would cost anywhere else in town. A week after we visited the SAME Café, some things have changed. Within 24 hours, the café's web-site -- www.soallmayeat.org -- was hit with over 4000 e-mails. The messages came from Maine, Alaska, California, and all points in between. They were overwhelmingly warm and supportive. Contributions poured in. So far, the figure is about $13,000. The money is coming in small amounts, primarily from people who will never taste the pizza at the SAME cafe. Brad says they are "flooded" with offers from people from the Denver area to help prepare, cook, and clean up the café. More volunteers than could fit in the café. Brad isn’t turning anyone away, "We'll just schedule them in a few weeks down the road, when the rush is over."
After more than two years running the café, Brad knows "the rush" will slow down.
Note: Founded in October 2006, this incredibly inspiring cafe has not gotten nearly the press coverage that it deserves, though you can find a couple major media articles at this link and this one. For a great, five-minute video on this most inspiring cafe, click here.
Up, up and away! Scientists levitate mice
2009-09-09, MSNBC/Live Science
Scientists have now levitated mice using magnetic fields. Scientists working on behalf of NASA built a device to simulate variable levels of gravity. It consists of a superconducting magnet that generates a field powerful enough to levitate the water inside living animals, with a space inside warm enough at room temperature and large enough at 2.6 inches wide (6.6 cm) for tiny creatures to float comfortably in during experiments. Repeated levitation tests showed the mice, even when not sedated, could quickly acclimate to levitation inside the cage. The strong magnetic fields did not seem to have any negative impacts on the mice in the short term, and past studies have shown that rats did not suffer from adverse effects after 10 weeks of strong, non-levitating magnetic fields. The researchers also levitated water drops up to 2 inches wide (5 cm). This suggests the variable gravity simulator could be used to study how liquids behave under reduced gravity, such as how heat is transferred or how bubbles behave.
Note: Remember that secret government research projects are generally at least 10 years ahead of any public research.
Robber Returns Money to Store Clerk 6 Months Later
2009-12-04, KTLA-TV Los Angeles
A grateful shoplifter has returned the favor to a New York convenience store owner who showed him compassion during an attempted robbery earlier this year. It all started in May when Mohammad Sohail was closing his Shirley Express convenience store, about 65 miles east of New York City. A man wielding a baseball bat came barging into the store and demanded money. Sohail had a rifle and quickly pointed it at the robber's face, forcing the man to drop the bat and fall to the ground. What the robber didn't know is that the gun was not loaded. Sohail says the man started to plead with him tearfully saying, "I'm sorry, I have no food. I have no money. My whole family is hungry. Don't call the police. Don't shoot me." The store owner felt bad for the man and gave him $40 and a loaf of bread. He went to get the man some milk but when he returned, Sohail says, the would-be-robber had already fled with the money and food. On Wednesday, the shoplifter made amends with a $50 bill and a thank you letter for saving him from a life of crime. In the letter, the man apologizes for his actions in May and said it was out of desperation to provide for his family. The man, whose identity remains unknown, also said his life has changed drastically and that Sohail's acts inspired him to become a "True Muslim."
Note: To watch a video of this most unusual act of compassion, click here.
Moving towards a united Christianity
2009-12-02, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
In the past two months, relations between the three main Christian churches have moved in more promising directions than perhaps during the past 50 years of uninspiring liberal dialogue. By opening a new chapter of theological engagement and concrete co-operation with Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, Pope Benedict XVI is changing the terms of debate about church reunification. In time, we might witness the end of the Great Schism between east and west and a union of the main episcopally-based churches. Indeed, when Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005, one of his first acts was to drop the title of patriarch of the west. Closer church ties will be greatly helped by concrete co-operation. Last week's Rome visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury has advanced Catholic-Anglican relations. Benedict emphasised the importance of Anglicanism in promoting the unity of all episcopally-based Christian churches. Significant was the fact both the pope and the archbishop spoke in favour of a different model of socio-economic development that does not rely exclusively on the state or the market. Rather, it accentuates mutualist principles of reciprocity and gift-exchange and the absolute sanctity of human and natural life which is relational, not individualist or collectivist. This shared social teaching is key in further developing concrete links and bonds of trust among Christians of different traditions. Moves towards church reunification are signs of a revivified Christian Europe, one which can use its shared faith to transform the continent and the whole world.
Note: In other inspiring religious news, a Protestant church in New York City held a "healing ceremony" with Native Americans to apologize for their decimation and dislocation centuries ago. For a USA Today story on this landmark news, click here.
Club members who give half their money away
2009-07-16, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Berkeley's Mike Hannigan gives most of his money away. It started in 1991. He had about $20,000 in his bank account and thought about all the good it could do in the world. With partner Sean Marx, he started Give Something Back Inc., an office supply firm that now gives away up to 80 percent of its profit. The company has given away about $4 million to community charities over the last 18 years. That puts Hannigan in a small circle of individuals who are recognized for giving away at least half their income, profit or personal wealth. This so-called "50 percent league" is the brainchild of a national nonprofit organization called Bolder Giving, which has highlighted these givers since its inception in 2007 in the hope that others will take a closer look at how much they give and how much more they could afford to contribute. Every year, the average U.S. household donates about 3 percent of its income. Yet deep in the heart of this recession there is a growing group giving away at least half of what they've got. Currently, 125 individuals or families are on the 50 percent club list and Bolder Giving, based in Arlington, Mass., is looking for more members. At Hannigan's Oakland-based company, the vast majority of the profits go to charities selected by customers and employees. Food banks and education-related organizations are among the most frequent recipients, Hannigan said. It's a way "to use the business as a mechanism to circulate wealth throughout the community," he said. The 59-year-old businessman doesn't consider himself a philanthropist, but an activist who lives a comfortable life.
Finding inspiration -- in reality TV
2009-04-16, USA Today
Religion and spirituality blogs today are buzzing about the "inspirational" performance of Susan Boyle, an ordinary-looking 47-year-old Scottish woman whose anything-but-ordinary voice stopped would-be snarky commenters in their tracks on the reality TV show Britain's Got Talent. In Beliefnet's religion and pop culture blog, Douglas Howe comments on the transformation of the skeptical audience the moment Boyle opened her mouth and began to sing: They loved her! They were touched by her raw talent, her beautiful voice. The part about each of us that is quick to judge is also quick to respond to excellence and beauty. We should be quicker to look for the beauty in people, and I'm not sure our media-driven culture trains us to do that. Rev. James Martin in America magazine's blog In All Things finds a homily here: The world generally looks askance at people like Susan Boyle, if it sees them at all. Without classic good looks, without work, without a spouse, living in a small town, people like Susan Boyle may not seem particularly "important." But God sees the real person, and understands the value of each individual's gifts: rich or poor, young or old, single or married, matron or movie star, lucky or unlucky in life. God knows us. And loves us.
Note: For an engaging article with the highly inspiring performance of Susan Boyle, click here.
Communities print their own currency to keep cash flowing
2009-04-05, USA Today
A small but growing number of cash-strapped communities are printing their own money. Borrowing from a Depression-era idea, they are aiming to help consumers make ends meet and support struggling local businesses. The systems generally work like this: Businesses and individuals form a network to print currency. Shoppers buy it at a discount — say, 95 cents for $1 value — and spend the full value at stores that accept the currency. Ed Collom, a University of Southern Maine sociologist who has studied local currencies, says they encourage people to buy locally. Merchants, hurting because customers have cut back on spending, benefit as consumers spend the local cash. "We wanted to make new options available," says Jackie Smith of South Bend, Ind., who is working to launch a local currency. "It reinforces the message that having more control of the economy in local hands can help you cushion yourself from the blows of the marketplace." About a dozen communities have local currencies, says Susan Witt, founder of BerkShares in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts. She expects more to do it. Under the BerkShares system, a buyer goes to one of 12 banks and pays $95 for $100 worth of BerkShares, which can be spent in 370 local businesses. Since its start in 2006, the system, the largest of its kind in the country, has circulated $2.3 million worth of BerkShares. During the Depression, local governments, businesses and individuals issued currency, known as scrip, to keep commerce flowing when bank closings led to a cash shortage."
Land-auction meddler has a new plan
2009-01-02, Salt Lake Tribune
The University of Utah student who foiled a federal oil and gas lease auction the Friday before Christmas hopes he can buy time for Utah's scenic redrock desert - and himself - until the Bush administration is out the door. Tim DeChristopher announced Wednesday afternoon that he would pay the U.S. Bureau of Land Management $45,000 to hold the 13 lease parcels he won in a Dec. 19 sale. The 27-year-old economics major faces possible federal felony charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on 13 lease parcels that he admitted he had neither the intention nor the money to pay for. But since committing what he called an act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher has heard from hundreds of individuals around the country willing to chip in to keep drill rigs off the land and DeChristopher out of prison. So far, would-be benefactors have pledged $14,000, he said. The amount is based on a percentage of the $1.8 million; the agency requires such payments of all bidders to hold their parcels. Three Web sites have been set up to take pledges: www.wateradvocacy.org, www.oneutah.org, [and] www.bidder70.org. The 13 bids [DeChristopher] won by raising his auction paddle were on 22,000 acres of land near Arches and Canyonlands national parks. [He] admitted he ran up other bids by about $500,000 and said he would be willing to go to jail to defend his generation's prospects in light of global climate disruption and other environmental threats.
Turning Around the Idea of Student Loans
2008-12-01, New York Times
Over sandwiches and pizza, a group of high school students here debated the pros and cons of combating poverty in five desperate nations. They scrolled through Web sites, analyzed statistics and considered how much they knew about the economy, language and culture of each country. This was no mere academic exercise. The students, at the Meadows School, have real decisions to make and, they hope, real people to rescue. By the time they scattered after their lunch period, the group had deferred until next month the decision on where to spend the $25,000 they had raised, but seemed to be leaning toward Peru. That may seem like a lot of money for a student group, but it was the entry fee for the school to become investors in Pro Mujer, a nonprofit lending institution based in New York that issues small loans to poor women in foreign countries to use for buying tools to start or expand small businesses. In raising the money and investing it with Pro Mujer, the Meadows School is by all accounts the first high school to operate a microbank. The founder of the Meadows Microcredit Action Group, Justin Blau, 17, and its faculty adviser, Kirk Knutsen, have bigger plans for their endeavor. Pro Mujer will mete out the $25,000 to recipients in the country the students select and return to the school both regular status reports as well as a modest amount of earned interest. The group plans to use that interest and other money raised locally to invest in smaller, more specific projects through Kiva, another microfinance lender, with no minimum entry requirement.
Note: For lots more on the exciting, amazingly successful microlending movement, click here.
Obama: I have a deep faith
2004-04-05, Chicago Sun-Times
Barack Obama is alone on this Saturday afternoon in the city, his press secretary nowhere in sight. He's not carrying anything with him. Not even notes. Yet he appears confident as he answers questions about his spiritual life, a subject that would make many politicians -- on or off the campaign trail -- more skittish than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. If an hourlong conversation about his faith unnerves him, Obama's not letting on. The first question he fields without hesitation: What does he believe? "I am a Christian," the 42-year-old ... says. "So, I have a deep faith," Obama continues. "I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.
That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived." It's perhaps an unlikely theological position for someone who places his faith squarely at the feet of Jesus to take, saying essentially that all people of faith -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone -- know the same God. That depends, Obama says, on how a particular verse from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me," is heard. "Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion," he says. "I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure."
Note: For those who want to understand the spiritual beliefs of Barack Obama, the full article at the link above is highly recommended. Even better, for the powerful transcript of this interview between the religion columnist of the Sun-Times and Obama, click here.
The science of happiness
2008-09-08, Los Angeles Times
If recent scientific research on happiness -- and there has been quite a bit -- has proved anything, it's that happiness is not a goal. It's a process. Although our tendency to be happy or not is partly inborn, it's also partly within our control. And, perhaps more surprising, happiness brings success, not the other way around. Though many people think happiness is elusive, scientists have actually pinned it down and know how to get it. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UC Riverside and author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want… led controlled studies to determine what behaviors positively affect happiness, and has come up with at least 12 strategies that measurably increase levels. For instance, one strategy she's tested is the practice of gratitude. In her gratitude study, she had a group of 57 subjects express gratitude once a week in a journal. A second group of 58 expressed gratitude in a journal three times a week. And a control group of 32 did nothing. At the end of six weeks, she retested all three groups and found a significant increase in happiness in the first one. She and other researchers also recommend practicing forgiveness, savoring positive moments and becoming more involved in your church, synagogue or religious organization. "Not every strategy fits everyone," she says. "People need to try a few to find which ones work." Although Lyubomirsky likes to let people define happiness for themselves, clinically, she describes it as "a combination of frequent positive emotions, plus the sense that your life is good."
Randy Pausch, 'Last Lecture' Professor Dies
2008-07-25, ABC News
Randy Pausch, the charismatic young college professor who chronicled his battle with pancreatic cancer in a remarkable speech widely-known as the "Last Lecture," has died at the age of 47. Pausch's lecture and subsequent interview was one of the most powerful accounts of hope, grace and optimistism ABC News has ever featured, and drew a worldwide response. "I'd like to thank the millions of people who have offered their love, prayers and support," [his wife] Jai Pausch said in a statement. "Randy was so happy and proud that the lecture and book inspired parents to revisit their priorities, particularly their relationships with their children. The outpouring of cards and emails really sustained him." It all began with one, age-old question: What would you say if you knew you were going to die and had a chance to sum up everything that was most important to you? That question had been posed to the annual speaker of a lecture series at Carnegie Mellon University, where Pausch was a computer sciences professor. For Pausch, though, the question wasn't hypothetical. Pausch, a father of three small children with his wife Jai, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer -- and given six months to live. Friends and colleagues flew in from all around the country to attend his last lecture. And -- almost as an afterthought -- the lecture was videotaped and put on the Internet for the few people who couldn't get there that day. The lecture was so uplifting, so funny, so inspirational that it went viral. So far, 10 million people have downloaded it. And thousands have written in to say that his lecture changed their lives.
Note: For an inspiring 12-minute video by Prof. Randy Pausch about his impending death and gratitude for life, click here. For the entire, amazing 1 hour and 15 minute lecture, click here.
How Christian the lion became a YouTube sensation
The decades-old footage of a full-grown lion joyously embracing two young men like an affectionate house cat has made myriad eyes misty since it recently landed on YouTube. What is it about the old, grainy images that has attracted millions of clicks around the globe? Is it simply that a lion, whimsically named Christian, remembered the two men who raised it and then released it into the wild? It may be something more: the indelible image of a creature that could kill a man in seconds behaving like a pussycat with two men it obviously loves, smack in the middle of the African bush. The video is the work of Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall, two Australians who in 1969 were living in ... London. Nearly 40 years later, Rendall expressed astonishment that one video of his reunion with his former pet had drawn more than six million hits as of this writing. “Oh, my God,” Rendall exclaimed from Australia when told how popular the video has become. “If it’s made people more aware and more interested in conservation and the protection of the environment, we’re very pleased.” Back in ’69, Rendall was living on King’s Road, in the Chelsea section of London. The center of London’s counterculture at the time, King’s Road seethed with creativity and fashion. When a friend came back from a trip to Harrods, London’s famous department store, and told a story about her trip to the pet department, Rendall was understandably fascinated. “Harrods has always claimed that they could find anything,” he explained. “Anything you’d want, Harrods could get for you. ... There were these beautiful lion cubs.”
Note: To watch this highly inspiring three-minute clip, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adYbFQFXG0U.