Unleashing the power of real girls
2012-07-17, Washington Post
A 14-year-old Maine girl named Julia Bluhm [has] mobilized more than 80,000 supporters to lobby Seventeen [magazine] to commit to [a] modest goal: printing one photo spread per issue without an unaltered image. Bluhm’s efforts are part of Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge or SPARK, a girl-fueled activist movement that is demanding an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media. In the magazine’s August issue, Seventeen editor Ann Shoket responded to the campaign with a carefully worded statement that vowed that the magazine will “never change girls’ body or face shapes” and will publish only images of “real girls and models who are healthy.” [This] represents a meaningful victory for young women seeking reality-based images in a seemingly unwinnable war against big publishing, big advertising and big fashion. Images of blemish-free cover models displaying skeletal arms, enhanced chests and disappearing waistlines are a time-honored magazine tradition. The breakthrough success of Bluhm’s campaign represents ... the beginning of a new era of female empowerment. Bluhm started her movement on the online organizing site Change.org, which allows users to share electronic petitions with their social networks. When petitions like Bluhm’s rally significant support, the site offers the additional assistance of its expert organizing staff and broad activist network. Now, with the momentum of a successful campaign, Bluhm and her peers have turned their attention to transforming the policies of other magazines, including Teen Vogue and Cosmo Girl.
Note: For a treasure trove of inspirational reports from major media sources, click here.
One Random Act of Kindness Turned $93 Into $100,000!
2010-08-27, Yahoo! News
Let's say you were at Trader Joe's Menlo Park, Calif., and you saw a woman standing at the checkout counter who couldn't find her wallet. Would you pick up the tab? Well, that's what Carolee Hazard did last summer. When she saw that Jenni Ware wasn't able to pay the bill because her wallet was missing, a knee-jerk reaction inspired her to hand over $207, the exact amount Ware needed for her groceries. The next day, Hazard received a check for $300 in the mail and a thank you card from Ware suggesting that she use the extra $93 dollars to get a massage. Uncomfortable with keeping the money, Hazard asked her Facebook friends what they'd do. Several suggested giving it to charity, which Carolee liked a lot, and she decided to match the money with $93 of her own. Again, she turned to her Facebook friends asking to whom should she donate the $186. Given the food connection, she decided to donate the money to her local Second Harvest Food Bank. To her great surprise, a friend added another $93. So did another and another and another! Soon the story was being posted and reposted on Facebook, inspiring others to donated as well. Thus was born the 93 Dollar Club. In just one year, the 93 Dollar Club has raised a whopping $100,000 for Second Harvest.
Note: For lots more highly inspiring articles from the major media, click here.
India to give free generic drugs to hundreds of millions
2012-07-05, Fox News
India has put in place a $5.4 billion policy to provide free medicine to its people, a decision that could change the lives of hundreds of millions, but a ban on branded drugs stands to cut Big Pharma out of the windfall. From city hospitals to tiny rural clinics, India's public doctors will soon be able to prescribe free generic drugs to all comers, vastly expanding access to medicine in a country where public spending on health was just $4.50 per person last year. Under the plan, doctors will be limited to a generics-only drug list and face punishment for prescribing branded medicines, a major disadvantage for pharmaceutical giants in one of the world's fastest-growing drug markets. The initiative would overhaul a system where healthcare is often a luxury and private clinics account for four times as much spending as state hospitals, despite 40 percent of the people living below the poverty line, or $1.25 a day or less. Within five years, up to half of India's 1.2 billion people are likely to take advantage of the scheme, the government says. "The policy of the government is to promote greater and rational use of generic medicines that are of standard quality," said L.C. Goyal, additional secretary at India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and a key proponent of the policy. "They are much, much cheaper than the branded ones."
Plum Organics offers healthy food for kids
2012-07-02, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Some might call Neil Grimmer and his wife Tana Johnson picky eaters. For more than a decade, Grimmer, a triathlete, didn't eat meat or dairy while Johnson followed a macrobiotic diet, made up mostly of whole grains and vegetables. So when the couple became parents about nine years ago, they sought to feed their children healthy foods. Trouble was, they couldn't find snacks that were healthy, yet easy to pack and appealing to their kids. That's how the Nest Collective, now known as Plum Organics, was born. [The] startup makes baby food and toddler and kids' snacks such as pouches of pureed blueberry oats and quinoa for babies and squeezable oatmeal for older children. Plum Organics is also addressing increasing concerns about childhood obesity and parents looking for alternative, easy-to-pack snacks. In what turned out to be a momentous decision, the company moved away from the traditional plastic or glass jar and began offering baby food in the form of the squeezable pouch already popular with older children. The company took off from there. The benefit of the pouch is that it allows the food to be cooked more gently so that the flavors are richer, said Grimmer. The packaging also takes up less space in landfills and is easier to transport.
Do Plants Think?
2012-06-05, Scientific American
How aware are plants? This is the central question behind a fascinating new book, What a Plant Knows, by Daniel Chamovitz, director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University. Chamovitz unveils the surprising world of plants that see, feel, smell—and remember. Just because we don’t see plants moving doesn’t mean that there’s not a very rich and dynamic world going on inside the plant. People have to realize that plants are complex organisms that live rich, sensual lives. Plants had to develop incredibly sensitive and complex sensory mechanisms that would let them survive in ever changing environments. [A plant] can mount a defense when under siege, and warn its neighbors of trouble on the way. A plant can even be said to have a memory. If a maple tree is attacked by bugs, it releases a pheromone into the air that is picked up by the neighboring trees. This induces the receiving trees to start making chemicals that will help it fight off the impending bug attack. So on the face of it, this is definitely communication.
Note: This article only touches the surface of a rich world of research suggesting that plant life is much more complex and miraculous than we might imagine. For more, explore the landmark book The Secret Life of Plants or the work of researcher Cleve Backster.
Suu Kyi says Nobel Peace Prize shattered her isolation, ensured Burmese would not be forgotten
2012-06-16, Washington Post/Associated Press
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared Saturday that the Nobel Peace Prize she won while under house arrest 21 years ago helped to shatter her sense of isolation and ensured that the world would demand democracy in her military-controlled homeland.
Suu Kyi received two standing ovations inside Oslo’s city hall as she gave her long-delayed acceptance speech to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The 66-year-old champion of political freedom praised the power of her 1991 Nobel honor both for saving her from the depths of personal despair and shining an enduring spotlight on injustices in distant Myanmar. “Often during my days of house arrest, it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world,” she said. “What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings, outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. ... And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma." Suu Kyi, who since winning freedom in 2010 has led her National League for Democracy party into opposition in Myanmar’s parliament, offered cautious support for the first tentative steps toward democratic reform in her country. But she said progress depended on continued foreign pressure on the army-backed government.
Note: It is inspiring to see the positive effect that the Nobel Peace Prize may have on the state of the world. Unfortunately it does not always do so, as is evident with the prizes given to strategists of global war such as Henry Kissinger.
Champion Gymnast's Hidden Life: Dominique Moceanu on Secret Sister
2012-06-08, ABC News
Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the celebrated "Magnificent 7" gymnasts who won team gold at the 1996 Olympic Games. But behind the broad smile and shining medals she hid heartache and pain inflicted by some of the people she trusted the most. Moceanu would ultimately file for emancipation from her parents when she was 17, and got a restraining order against her father. After an injury quashed her bid for the 2000 Olympics, she went to college and was married in 2006 to a fellow gymnast named Mike Canales. She became pregnant with her first child soon after her marriage to Canales. But two weeks before giving birth, Moceanu learned some shocking news. She received a package containing a letter and photos of a young woman who looked surprisingly similar to her younger sister Christina. Reading the letter, she learned that the 20-year-old woman, named Jen Bricker, had been adopted and had recently learned that her birth name was Moceanu. "It was the biggest bombshell of my life," Dominique Moceanu remembered. "I had this sister that was born who was given up for adoption, and I never knew it." When Moceanu reached out to her new sister, Bricker [told her] "Oh by the way. I have no legs. But people forget that within minutes of meeting me." Five years later, they have met many times and have developed a friendship and bond that only sisters could have. They're athletic, do gymnastics -- Bricker even competed in the Junior Olympics -- and have discovered other striking similarities.
Note: For a touching video on this showing the amazing gymnastic abilities and inspiring can-do attitude of this woman with no legs, click here.
We expand their village to include the entire world
Amy Stokes uses the internet to connect South African teens affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty with volunteer mentors from around the world. Stokes is the founder of Infinite Family and spoke with CNN about the importance of her group's efforts in South Africa -- where nearly two million children have been orphaned by AIDS. CNN: How does HIV/AIDS affect a South African child? Amy Stokes: They will talk about being very happy as children and growing up with two parents until they were grade school level. And then they'll lose one of their parents. They will move where they can be in a community that helps support them and then they'll lose the other parent. Then they're moved into a home where it's an auntie running the house -- and they'll lose that aunt. And then they go to live with the gogo -- or a grandmother -- and before long, they're living with 10 other children in the same 20 square foot space. That gogo is spending all of her time just trying to feed everybody, much less being able to help them prepare for their future. CNN: How widespread is the problem? Stokes: Many of these communities have lost up to 40 percent of the young adults [from HIV/AIDS]. So the children ... are losing, not only love and nurturing, but ... the education of having a parent attend to them. They lack access to everything that would teach them what is needed to be successful. However, they are the most hopeful children you will ever meet. They are resilient, resourceful; they are joyful; they are very ambitious.
Note: Want to get involved in this life-changing program? Check out the Infinite Family website at http://www.infinitefamily.org and see how to help.
US firms put social values before big profits
2012-05-20, BBC News
In the next few weeks, half a dozen US states are expected to pass legislation that will for the first time protect companies which value their social impact as much as the bottom line. Whether it's buying locally, protecting the environment or launching community projects, the new "benefit corporations" have a common mission - to do well by doing good. "It's becoming a national movement," says Penny Jones-Napier, owner of the Big Bad Woof pet store in Hyattsville, Maryland, the first business in the US to adopt the new benefit corporation designation. "What started with small businesses is moving into the mainstream." As a benefit corporation, Big Bad Woof is protected from legal action if it makes decisions that aren't in the financial interests of its shareholders. The company can support local suppliers for instance, even though that might not be the cheapest option and could reduce the profit margin. Seven states, including New York and California, have already adopted the new business class. These seven states combined produce a third of America's annual economic output, which makes their support for benefit corporations significant.
Note: Many are not aware that corporations legally are not allowed to do make socially responsible choices if those choices don't benefit shareholders. Isn't it time to put more pressure on companies to make socially responsible choices more important than big profits?
The honeymoon effect
2012-05-16, Ode Magazine
"I want people to understand that we are creating this world. That we are creating our own lives. That our realities and experiences are not accidents.” At the end of a long conversation about cell membranes, evolution and (sub)consciousness, I ask Bruce Lipton what his most important message is. Bruce Lipton is a stem-cell biologist who ... performed pioneering research at Stanford University before writing his bestselling book, The Biology of Belief, in 2005. His message does not come from quick pop interpretations of quantum mechanics but from work with cell cultures in a lab. These experiments showed that environments and circumstances, not genetic makeup, dictate how cells behave. Despite all the pharmaceutical claims of individually based genetic medicine, genetic determinism may have had its day. Lipton’s research shows a different perspective. Identical cells developed in different directions when the environment was changed. Different information led genes to evolve in different ways. So genes don’t control life; they respond to information. “It’s the environment, stupid.” Lipton’s discoveries are part of an emerging new biological paradigm that presents a radically different view of the evolution of life: epigenetics. The implications are profound. Change your environment, and you can change how you think. “We are not locked into our fate, because we have the freedom to change the way we respond to the world,” he explains.
Highway deaths per mile fall to record low
2012-05-07, Boston Globe/Associated Press
Highway deaths declined again last year, reaching their lowest rate when compared to miles driven since such record-keeping began in 1921. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's early estimate of 2011 traffic fatalities ... said there were 32,310 deaths in motor vehicle crashes last year, a drop of 1.7 percent from the previous year. That's the lowest number of deaths in more than 60 years. Safety experts have attributed the historic decline to a variety of factors, including less driving due to a weak economy, more people wearing seat belts, better safety equipment in cars and efforts to curb drunken driving. The number of miles driven on America's roadways declined last year by 35.7 billion miles, or 1.2 percent, the safety administration said. There were 1.09 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, down slightly from 1.11 deaths in 2010. That's the lowest rate on record, NHTSA says. Overall, traffic fatalities have plummeted 26 percent since 2005. There were significant regional differences in the fatality reductions last year, with the sharpest drop -- 7.2 percent -- in the six New England states.
Doctors consider using street drugs to ease suffering of dying patients
2012-04-24, Fox News
Recent studies at Harvard, U.C.L.A. [and] John Hopkins have now made it plain that doctors should [soon] be free to offer illicit drugs to patients who are terminally ill, in order to ease their emotional suffering. At Harvard, Dr. John Halpern ... tested MDMA (the street drug Ecstasy) to determine if it would ease the anxieties in two patients with terminal cancer. At U.C.L.A. and Hopkins, Drs. Charles Grob and Roland Griffiths used psilocybin (the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms) to help cancer patients past their paralyzing, debilitating fears. The results are reportedly consistently good. In many cases, patients are able to cope with their physical pain and psychological turmoil better than before. Some, no doubt, feel the drugs opened doors of perception previously closed to them, allowing them to make peace with their lives and the impending end of their lives. Recent data also show that low doses of the street drug Special K (ketamine), when slowly infused via IV, can instantly [relieve] major depression ... in many patients. And opiates like oxycodone ... are also extremely useful for those patients who ... suffer with unwieldy anxiety that cannot be addressed ... in any other way.
Note: For more news articles from reliable sources on mind-altering drugs, click here.
Q&A with Fair Trade USA founder Paul Rice
2012-04-15, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Paul Rice spent more than a decade in Nicaragua before returning to the United States to start Fair Trade USA in late 1998. Then known as TransFair, the Oakland nonprofit began to push businesses to practice fair trade. Today, the group works with more than 800 brands, including Peet's Coffee & Tea, Numi Tea and Ben & Jerry's, which have adopted fair-trade practices and carry its fair-trade label on certain products. [Rice:] The way it works is farmers organize themselves into marketing cooperatives and sell direct. When they sell direct to Starbucks, Peet's, Ben and Jerry's, or any number of the 800 brands we work with today, they're able to get a much higher price for their harvest. It's like a farmers' market gone global. Fair Trade USA plays three critical roles in the fair-trade movement. The first role - and defining function - is to certify fair-trade products. We certify 90 percent of fair-trade products in the U.S. That label gives consumers the assurance that the product came from a sustainable farm and farmers received a fair price for their products. We have auditors around the world that audit and inspect farms. We also have a supply-chain audit. It tracks the product from the farm to the grocery store shelves. We also have two other functions, consumer education and farmer support. With consumer education, our goal is to develop programs that raise awareness among consumers in the U.S. We (also) run training programs for farmers all over the world, to help them improve the quality of their products, develop strong business skills and to help them get access to capital.
Top five regrets of the dying
2012-02-01, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'. Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again." Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware: 1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. "All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence." 3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. 4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Note: For inspiring articles from major media sources on at-death and near-death experiences, click here.
Small houses challenge our notions of need as well as minimum-size standards
2007-04-27, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
This dream house is the love child of artist-builder Jay Shafer, who lovingly hand-crafted it. The stainless-steel kitchen, gleaming next to the natural wood interior, is outfitted with customized storage and built-ins. But in an era when bigger is taken as a synonym for better, calling Shafer's home a dream house might strike some as an oxymoron. Why? The entire house, including sleeping loft, measures only 96 square feet -- smaller than many people's bathrooms. Shafer ... began his love affair with diminutive dwellings about 10 years ago. "I was living in an average-sized apartment and I realized I just didn't need so much space," he said. After a friend asked him to build a house for him to live in, Shafer launched Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. in 2000. The friend went on to become the president of the Small House Society -- and thus was written one more episode of the small-is-beautiful movement. Shafer began building and designing little houses for people who wanted them as backyard retreats, second homes or primary residences. Over the years, he has built and sold 10 homes and dozens of house plans, which cost about $1,000. But the real story is that he's become a poster boy for simple living, with interviews or mentions in ... the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and, last February, even on "Oprah." "Our society's been based on excess for so long, it's still a somewhat novel idea to live simply," he said. His next dream is to create a little community of small houses, with a half-dozen or more connected by walking paths on a small piece of land.
Note: For lots more on the fascinating tiny house movement, click here. For an abundance of other inspiring major media articles, click here.
Can three minutes of exercise a week help make you fit?
2012-02-27, BBC News
A few relatively short bursts of intense exercise, amounting to only a few minutes a week, can deliver many of the health and fitness benefits of hours of conventional exercise, according to new research. This apparently outrageous claim is supported by many years of research done in a number of different countries. [Welcome to] the world of High Intensity Training (HIT). By doing just three minutes of HIT a week for four weeks, [you can] expect to see significant changes in a number of important health indices. But how much benefit you get ... may well depend on your genes. The fact is that people respond to exercise in very different ways. In one international study 1,000 people were asked to exercise four hours a week for 20 weeks. The results were striking. Although 15% of people made huge strides ... 20% showed no real improvement at all. The exercise they were doing was not making them any aerobically fitter. [HIT is] actually very simple. You get on an exercise bike, warm up by doing gentle cycling for a couple of minutes, then go flat out for 20 seconds. A couple of minutes to catch your breath, then another 20 seconds at full throttle. Another couple of minutes gentle cycling, then a final 20 seconds going hell for leather. And that's it. Active exercise ... seems to be needed to break down the body's stores of glucose, deposited in your muscles as a substance called glycogen. Smash up these glycogen stores and you create room for more glucose to be sucked out of the blood and stored. Like any new exercise regime if you have a pre-existing medical condition you should consult your doctor before trying it.
Note: For lots more on this, see the excellent article on mercola.com at this link. And for two amazing one-minute videos of a highly inspiring gymnast who is 86-years-old doing her routines, click here.
The Biggest Public Food Forest in the Country
2012-02-16, Seattle Weekly blog
Seven sloping acres at the southwest edge of Jefferson Park [are] being transformed into an edible landscape and community park that will be known [as] the Beacon Food Forest, the largest of its kind in the nation. One full acre will be devoted to large chestnuts and walnuts in the overstory. There'll be full-sized fruit trees in the understory, and berry shrubs, climbing vines, herbaceous plants, and vegetables closer to the ground. The entire project will be built around the concept of permaculture -- an ecological design system, philosophy, and set of ethics and principles used to create perennial, self-sustaining landscapes. Friends of the Food Forest undertook heroic outreach efforts to secure neighborhood support. The team mailed over 6,000 postcards in five different languages, tabled at events and fairs, and posted fliers. And Seattle residents responded. The first meeting, especially, drew permaculturalists and other intrigued parties from all around the city. More than 70 people, mostly from Beacon Hill, attended the second meeting in mid-July, where proposed designs were laid out on giant sheets paper with markers strewn about so the community could scribble their ideas and feedback directly onto the plans.
Boulder Votes for Municipal Utility
2011-11-03, Wall Street Journal
Voters in Boulder, Colo., narrowly backed the creation of a municipal power authority to replace Xcel Energy Inc., the biggest electricity provider in Colorado. The city can't cut all ties with Xcel right away. The shift to a municipal utility will take at least three years and could be derailed over issues such as how much Boulder will pay Xcel for its infrastructure. Supporters of the move argue that a public utility would allow Boulder, a liberal college town, to embrace renewable energy and sharply reduce carbon emissions. Xcel relies heavily on coal-fired plants. Xcel spent nearly $1 million to try to defeat the Boulder ballot measures, outspending supporters about 10 to 1. "People like a David-and-Goliath story, and that's absolutely what this is," said Ken Regelson, who led a community group supporting a public utility. Nationwide, 16 new public power authorities have been formed in the last decade, including 13 that have taken over from private utilities. Nearly all serve communities of less than 10,000, said Ursula Schryver, a vice president of the American Public Power Association, a trade group. Boulder's population is nearly 100,000. The last large-scale municipalization took place in 1998, on New York's Long Island.
Note: This is significant positive news as the largest city yet in the U.S. has voted to take control of their energy and make it greener. For a more optimistic and detailed description of this major victory, click here.
Homicide Drops off US List of Top Causes of Death
2012-01-11, ABC News/Associated Press
For the first time in almost half a century, homicide has fallen off the list of the nation's top 15 causes of death. The 2010 list, released by the government [on January 11], reflects at least two major trends: Murders are down, and deaths from certain diseases are on the rise as the population ages, health authorities said. This is the first time since 1965 that homicide failed to make the list, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The government has been keeping a list of the top causes of death since 1949. Homicide has historically ranked fairly low. It was as high as 10th in 1989 and in 1991 through 1993, when the nation saw a surge in youth homicides related to the crack epidemic. In the past decade, homicide's highest ranking was 13th. That was in 2001 and was due in part to the 9/11 attacks. Murders have been declining nationally since 2006, according to FBI statistics. Criminologists have debated the reasons but believe several factors may be at work. Among them: Abusive relationships don't end in murder as often as they once did, thanks to increased incarcerations and better, earlier support for victims. "We've taken the home out of homicide," said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminologist who studies murder data.
Note: For lots more inspiring, yet little-reported news on the major drop in violent crimes (over 60%) in the last two decades, click here.
Travelwise: Bike sharing around the world
Bike sharing is on the verge of becoming an integral part of public transportation in cities across the globe. This system of impromptu bike renting is helping urban areas reduce automotive traffic and pollution while providing locals and tourists with a convenient, cheap and healthy means of transport. Currently, there are nearly 300 organized bike sharing programs worldwide. That number is growing – and not just in the West. In India, for example, the Ministry of Urban Development is preparing to launch a 10-city public bike scheme as part of its “Mission for Sustainable Habitat”. So how does bike sharing work? In most cities, visitors can purchase short-term subscriptions at bike stations themselves. Just walk up to a station’s electronic kiosk, choose the duration for which you need access to the service, and swipe your credit card. With more than 50,000 bikes and 2,050 bike stations, the Chinese city of Hangzhou is home to the world’s largest bike sharing program. Bike sharing is well integrated with other forms of public transport, with bike stations available near bus and water taxi stops.
Note: For more on this encouraging development, click here.