Extreme do-gooders – what makes them tick?
2009-09-07, Christian Science Monitor
Most people in the world, it's fair to say, want to do a little good. At the very least, we try to follow a kind of secular golden rule: Try to do no harm. But in our communities and around the world, there's a kind of person who takes all this further – to an extreme, even. They're called, most often, "social entrepreneurs," and some of them have become famous, at least in certain circles: Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is revered in do-good financial circles for pioneering microfinance, a lending system for the very poor. From protecting our natural environment to improving our children's education to combating global poverty and disease, we've come to rely on extreme do-gooders to tackle the world's toughest problems. And they're happy to do so, even though their dedication will cost them in the long run. What makes these people tick, and how do they sustain a lifetime of commitment to a change that might take generations to see? Social entrepreneurs seem to think in terms of everything except sacrifice. "I've interviewed several hundred social entrepreneurs over the last 15 years," says David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, "and the thing that struck me is how little they think about sacrifice, ... and how much their lives are about really doing something that gives them extraordinary joy and satisfaction when they're successful."
'Barefoot' grandmothers electrify rural communities
Turning grandmothers into solar engineers is one of Sanjit "Bunker" Roy's favorite jobs.
Roy is the social entrepreneur and founder of the Barefoot College and has been championing a bottom-up approach to education and empowering rural poor since 1972. It is now a global enterprise with roots in India. Roy recruits women from around the world to install and maintain solar lighting and power in their home villages. The United Nations estimates that around 1.5 billion people still live without electricity. "The way to go about this is not a centralized grid system, which brings in power from hundreds of miles away," he says. "It is to bring in basic light right down to the level of basic household wherein they take ownership and control over that technology." Women are the focus for the solar power projects that the Barefoot College runs because men "were very untrainable," says Roy. "(Men) were restless, compulsively mobile, and they all want a certificate and the moment you give them a certificate they leave the village and go to the cities looking for jobs. So why not invest in women, older women, mature women, gutsy women who have roots in the village and train them." Coming from countries across the world, the women are trained for six months before returning home. Many of the women have previously never left their villages before.
Can you imagine cancer away?
2011-03-03, CNN News
By now, you likely know David Seidler, who won an Oscar on Sunday for best original screenplay for "The King's Speech," was a stutterer just like King George VI, whose battle with the speech disorder is portrayed in the film. What you might not know is that Seidler, 73, suffered from cancer, just like the king did. But unlike his majesty, Seidler survived the cancer, and he says he did so because he used the same vivid imagination he employed to write his award-winning script. Seidler says he visualized his cancer away. "I know it sounds awfully Southern California and woo-woo," he admits when he describes the visualization techniques he used when his bladder cancer was diagnosed nearly six years ago. "But that's what happened." Seidler says when he found out his cancer had returned, he visualized a "lovely, clean healthy bladder" for two weeks, and the cancer disappeared. He's been cancer-free for more than five years. Whether you can imagine away cancer, or any other disease, has been hotly debated for years. One camp of doctors will tell you that they've seen patients do it, and that a whole host of studies supports the mind-body connection. Other doctors, just as well-respected, will tell you the notion is preposterous, and there's not a single study to prove it really works. Seidler isn't concerned about studies. He says all he knows is that for him, visualization worked.
Note: The article goes on to quote a couple doctors who explain how chemically hope and visualization can cause the changes in the body's chemistry which could lead to spontaneous remission in cancer. For other fascinating major media articles listing potential cancer cures, click here.
Meditation class helps lower violence at Ala. prison
2011-02-02, MSNBC/Associated Press
The noise never really ends; peace is at a premium in Alabama's toughest lockup. Despite a history of violence at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility ... the prison outside Birmingham [Alabama] has become the model for a meditation program that officials say helps inmates learn the self control and social skills they never got in the outside world. Warden Gary Hetzel doesn't fully understand how the program called Vipassana ... can transform violent inmates into calm men using contemplative Buddhist practices. But Hetzel knows one thing. "It works. We see a difference in the men and in the prison. It's calmer," he said of the course that about 10 percent of the prison's inmates have completed. The word Vipassana means "to see things as they really are," which is also the goal of the intense 10-day program using the meditative technique that dates back 2,500 years. Vipassana courses are held four times a year in a prison gymnasium, where as many as 40 inmates meditate 10 hours a day. Convicted murderer Grady Bankhead said the hours of meditation forced him to accept responsibility for his crime and helped him find inner peace. Bankhead, who's serving life without parole, radiates calm. "I've been here for 25 years and this statement is going to sound crazy, but I consider myself the luckiest man in the world," Bankhead, 60, said last month after the latest course at Donaldson.
Research shows generosity repaid on many levels
2010-12-24, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Studies at UC Berkeley show that ... generosity for many is driven by a sincere desire to benefit others, said Robb Willer, a UC Berkeley sociologist who researches the ways individuals overcome selfishness to contribute to the social good. He has found that people have varying levels of altruism, depending on such things as their personality, parental influences and experience. "Volunteering your time and giving money to charity tends to make people happier than spending money on themselves," Willer said. But for others, generosity pays. "It makes sense to be generous from a self-interested perspective," said Willer, who studies how people behave in groups. "If you're generous, you receive more respect, you have more influence and people cooperate with you more." Experiments Willer has conducted in five countries show that giving can be contagious. One of Willer's studies focused on users of the website freecycle.org, an online gift-giving community. Freecycle began in 2003 as an e-mail group in Tucson committed to reusing materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. Its only rule was that items be given without reciprocity or compensation. Freecycle has since grown to have more than 7 million members in 85 countries. The feeling of gratitude has driven the success of Freecycle, Willer found. "Giving in this community follows a pattern of contagious generosity, where if you received a gift from somebody else in the world, then you become more likely to give to somebody else in turn," he said.
Beer vendor doubles as philanthropist
2009-09-21, WLS-TV (Chicago ABC affiliate)
To thirsty baseball fans at Wrigley Field and the Cell, Adam Carter is the beer guy. But Carter's passion extends way beyond beer and baseball. He is a Fulbright scholar with a Master's degree in international development. But around the ball park he is simply known as beer guy. Adam Carter spends his summers hauling beer cans through the stands at baseball games. It's how he makes his living. But also how he supports his passion: helping others. During baseball's offseason, he travels the remote corners of the world providing food to malnourished kids in Brazil or wheelchairs in Mali. Or mosquito nets in Senegal. He calls what he does micro-philanthropy. Last year he distributed about ten thousand dollars worth of aid in developing countries. But he saw how every dollar was being spent and is convinced he is making a difference one life at a time. Many of his regular customers know about his charity work and contribute generous tips to the cause. Some get a special baseball card that lists some of his accomplishments on the back.
Note: Watch the inspiring two-minute video of Adam at the link above. For more on Adam and the many he has inspired, click here.
Canadian couple give away millions in lottery winnings
A Canadian couple who won $10.9m (£6.7m) in lottery winnings in July say they have given away $10.2m of the prize to groups in their community. Allen and Violet Large said they were plain country folks who needed no more than "what we've got". The two said they had donated about 98% of the cash after helping their family. The elderly pair gave the money to churches, fire departments, cemeteries, the Red Cross and hospitals, where Ms Large has undergone cancer treatment. "We haven't bought one thing. That's because there is nothing that we need," Mr Large, 75, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Mr Large, a retired welder from Canada's Nova Scotia province, added that he and his wife were quite content with their 147-year-old home and everything else they already owned. "You can't buy happiness," he said.
Note: Considering that the vast majority of people believe they don't have enough money, if you feel you have enough, you can consider yourself one of the richest people in the world, no matter how much is in your bank account. Think about this, and ask yourself how much is enough?
70 years without eating? 'Starving yogi' says it's true
Prahlad Jani, an 82-year-old Indian yogi, is making headlines by claims that for the past 70 years he has had nothing -- not one calorie -- to eat and not one drop of liquid to drink. To test his claims, Indian military doctors put him under round-the-clock observation during a two-week hospital stay that ended last week, news reports say. During that time he didn't ingest any food or water – and remained perfectly healthy, the researchers said. But that's simply impossible, said Dr. Michael Van Rooyen, ... the director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative – which focuses on aid to displaced populations who lack food and water. Van Rooyen said he's clearly getting fluid somehow. Jani, dubbed "the starving yogi" by some, did have limited contact with water while gargling and periodically bathing, reported the news wire service AFP.
Note: Military doctors had this man under 24-hour observation for two weeks, yet doctors not involved with the investigation claim it's impossible. How sad that many scientists can't accept the possibility of miracles.
Crime rates down for third year, despite recession
2010-05-24, MSNBC/Associated Press
Crime in the United States dropped dramatically in 2009, bucking a historical trend that links rising crime rates to economic woes. Property crimes and violent offenses each declined about 5 percent, the FBI said. It was the third straight year of declines, and this year's drops were even steeper than those of 2007 and 2008, despite the recession. Last year's decline was 5.5 percent for violent crime, including 7.2 percent for murders. The rate for property crime was down 4.9 percent, the seventh consecutive drop for that category. The declines had been a more modest 1.9 percent for violent crime and 0.8 percent for property crime in 2008 and 0.7 percent and 1.4 percent respectively the previous year.
Note: What this report completely fails to mention is that government statistic show that violent crime is down over 50% since 1994! Why do the major media consistently fail to report this awesome news? For reliable, verifiable on this, click here.
Croatian teenager wakes from coma speaking fluent German
2010-04-12, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
A 13-year-old Croatian girl who fell into a coma woke up speaking fluent German. The girl, from the southern town of Knin, had only just started studying German at school and had been reading German books and watching German TV to become better, but was by no means fluent, according to her parents. Since waking up from her 24-hour coma however, she has been unable to speak Croatian, but is able to communicate perfectly in German. Doctors at Split's KB Hospital claim that the case is so unusual, various experts have examined the girl as they try to find out what triggered the change. Hospital director Dujomir Marasovic said: "You never know when recovering from such a trauma how the brain will react." Psychiatric expert Dr Mijo Milas added: "In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle, we prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation – its just that we haven't found it yet. There are references to cases where people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages – sometimes even the Biblical languages such as that spoken in old Babylon or Egypt – at the moment though any speculation would remain just that – speculation – so it's better to continue tests until we actually know something."
Math Wiz Adds Web Tools to Take Education to New Limits
2010-02-22, PBS Newshour
Thirty-three-year-old Salman Khan recently quit his job as a hedge fund analyst to devote himself to an unpaid job teaching math on the Internet. He has posted 1,200 lessons on YouTube, which appear on an electronic blackboard, and range in subject from basic addition and advanced calculus to science and finance. And they are free. Khan lives in California's Silicon Valley with his wife, a rheumatologist in training at Stanford, and their new baby. He got the idea for Khan Academy four years ago, when he taught a young cousin how to convert kilograms to grams. Many American students have trouble with math, and studies show they lag behind their counterparts in Asia and Europe in both math and science. With Khan's help, his cousin got good at math, and he eventually had a new career tapping into anxieties around the world. Now he records his lessons from a converted closet in the back of his bedroom. Internet instruction, be it the Khan Academy or taped university lectures, could revolutionize education in remote Third World locations, where access to high-quality instruction is frequently unavailable.
Note: To visit the Khan Academy website, click here.
Millionaire gives away fortune that made him miserable
2010-02-08, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Austrian millionaire Karl Rabeder is giving away every penny of his £3 million fortune after realising his riches were making him unhappy. Mr Rabeder, 47, a businessman from Telfs is in the process of selling his luxury 3,455 sq ft villa with lake, sauna and spectacular mountain views over the Alps, valued at £1.4 million. Also for sale is his beautiful old stone farmhouse in Provence with its 17 hectares overlooking the arrière-pays. Mr Rabeder has also sold the interior furnishings and accessories business – from vases to artificial flowers – that made his fortune. His entire proceeds are going to charities he set up in Central and Latin America, but he will not even take a salary from these. "More and more I heard the words: 'Stop what you are doing now – all this luxury and consumerism – and start your real life'," he said. "I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need. I have the feeling that there are lot of people doing the same thing." All the money will go into his microcredit charity, which offers small loans to Latin America and builds development aid strategies to self-employed people in El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile. Since selling his belongings, Mr Rabeder said he felt "free, the opposite of heavy".
Having sex twice a week 'reduces chance of heart attack by half'
2010-01-08, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Men who have sex at least twice a week can almost halve their risk of heart disease, according to new research. It shows men who indulge in regular lovemaking are up to 45 per cent less likely to develop life-threatening heart conditions than men who have sex once a month or less. The study, of over 1,000 men, shows sex appears to have a protective effect on the male heart but did not examine whether women benefit too. Now the American researchers who carried out the investigation are calling for doctors to screen men for sexual activity when assessing their risk of heart disease. Although sex has long been regarded as good for physical and mental health, there has been little scientific evidence to show the full benefits that frequent intercourse can have on major illnesses such as heart disease. An earlier study at the National Cancer Institute in the US showed men who ejaculated through sex or masturbation at least five times a week were much less likely to get prostate cancer.
Note: For a treasure trove of key reports on important health issues, click here.
Government data from around the world. Welcome to our single gateway
2010-01-07, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Data, data, data. There's loads of it out there and more coming your way as governments open their statistics vaults around the world. First the US with data.gov, then Australia and New Zealand followed suit. Now it's the UK's turn with data.gov.uk. And that's in addition to the cities and US states that have made government data available too: London launched very recently - you can get the full set of links for government data sites around the world here. You now have tens of sites around the world providing you access, but how do you find them? Well, this is now the place. To coincide with the launch of data.gov.uk, we have created the ultimate gateway to world government data. At World Government Data you can: • Search government data sites from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and London ... in one place and download the data • Help us find the best dataset by ranking them • Collect similar datasets together from around the world • Browse all datasets by each country.
Thriving Norway Provides an Economics Lesson
2009-05-14, New York Times
When capitalism seemed on the verge of collapse last fall, Kristin Halvorsen, Norway’s Socialist finance minister and a longtime free market skeptic, did more than crow. As investors the world over sold in a panic, she bucked the tide, authorizing Norway’s $300 billion sovereign wealth fund to ramp up its stock buying program by $60 billion — or about 23 percent of Norway's economic output. "The timing was not that bad," Ms. Halvorsen said, smiling with satisfaction over the broad worldwide market rally that began in early March. The global financial crisis has brought low the economies of just about every country on earth. But not Norway. With a quirky contrariness as deeply etched in the national character as the fjords carved into its rugged landscape, Norway has thrived by going its own way. When others splurged, it saved. When others sought to limit the role of government, Norway strengthened its cradle-to-grave welfare state. And in the midst of the worst global downturn since the Depression, Norway’s economy grew last year by just under 3 percent. The government enjoys a budget surplus of 11 percent. Norway is a relatively small country with a ... population of 4.6 million and the advantages of being a major oil exporter. Even though prices have sharply declined, the government is not particularly worried. That is because Norway avoided the usual trap that plagues many energy-rich countries. Instead of spending its riches lavishly, it passed legislation ensuring that oil revenue went straight into its sovereign wealth fund, state money that is used to make investments around the world. Now its sovereign wealth fund is close to being the largest in the world.
Note: For lots more on the global economic and financial crisis from reliable sources, click here.
Cafe owner thrives with no-pricing policy
Cafe owner Sam Lippert has come up with an innovative way to cope with the recession: He's done away with pricing and simply asks customers to pay what they want. Lippert says sales and customer count has increased markedly since the change, and he's looking at adding more staff. John Roberts: So you run the Java Street Cafe. You actually own the Java Street Cafe there in Kettering, Ohio. And you've got a menu that's got no prices on it. People pay what they think the food is worth. How did you come up with that idea?
Sam Lippert: Well, actually, that was thanks to my girlfriend. She is from Bulgaria, and she says it's a common practice in certain cafes in Europe to allow the patrons to decide how much to pay for their meal. Roberts: So, in terms of paying for something, if somebody gets a sandwich or maybe a bowl of soup or something like that, typically how close to the old menu price would they get in what they pay?
Lippert: Well, sometimes people shoot a few dollars over, and sometimes it's a few dollars under. And, you know, at the end of the day, it works out for me. ... It works out even. Roberts: Yes, so, does anybody try to game the system? You know, they'll get a big meal that would be worth $10, $12 and then give you 50 cents for it? Lippert: Well, you know, they have to look me in the eye and say that that's what they think is fair. And, you know, that's a big incentive. When someone's at the counter and you say, you get to pay what you think is fair, very few people are going to take advantage of that situation.
Last survivor of 'Christmas truce' tells of his sorrow
2004-12-19, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The words drifted across the frozen battlefield: 'Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht'. To the ears of the British troops peering over their trench, the lyrics may have been unfamiliar but the haunting tune was unmistakable. After the last note a lone German infantryman appeared holding a small tree glowing with light. 'Merry Christmas. We not shoot, you not shoot.' It was just after dawn on a bitingly cold Christmas Day in 1914, ... and one of the most extraordinary incidents of the Great War was about to unfold. Weary men climbed hesitantly at first out of trenches and stumbled into no man's land. They shook hands, sang carols, lit each other's cigarettes, swapped tunic buttons and addresses and, most famously, played football. The unauthorised Christmas truce spread across much of the 500-mile Western Front where more than a million men were encamped. There is only one man in the world still alive who spent 25 December 1914 serving in a conflict that left 31 million people dead, wounded or missing. Alfred Anderson was 18 at the time. 'I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,' he said. 'Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted "Merry Christmas", even though nobody felt merry.' In some parts of the front, the ceasefire lasted several weeks. 'I'll give Christmas Day 1914 a brief thought, as I do every year. And I'll think about all my friends who never made it home. But it's too sad to think too much about it. Far too sad,' he said, his head bowed and his eyes filled with tears.
Note: For more on this amazing moment in history, including a powerfully moving song, click here.
Surgeon trades riches for a wealth of smiles
2008-11-27, Orlando Sentinel/Associated Press
As a plastic surgeon, [Geoff] Williams could live in a sprawling house, cruise in a snazzy sports car and wear custom-made shoes instead of the $5 pair he snagged at the thrift store a few years back. Instead he spends his money on hundreds of strangers, half a world away. Grown men with rope-like tumors engulfing their eyes, nose, lips. Teenage girls with heads cocked permanently to one side because of burn-tightened skin. But mostly children — with faces split up the middle like a half-open zipper. Williams invests in faces. As he worked and taught in wealthy hospitals, his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of the hundreds of desperate mothers in Vietnam who had swarmed him during a volunteer training trip, thrusting their deformed babies at him and begging for help. Only 20 babies were treated that trip; about 180 were sent away. "Leaving, looking down at those lights, I knew these mothers were going home with total disappointment," Williams recalls. "I remember making a promise to myself then, to those mothers: I may not be able to find you, but I'll find someone like you. I'll come back. I'll do more." Several months later, he took another volunteer trip, this time to India.
"I thought I'd do it a couple of times and get it out of my system. After about a year, it just hit me — it would not be easy to stop doing it." He took a leave of absence from the University of Texas in 2003 to immerse himself in treating the forgotten patients in developing countries. He never went back.
Man helps coffee farmers blossom
2008-11-20, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Paul Rice stands at the edge of a dirt road, overlooking the volcanic peaks and adobe homes of this small Nicaraguan town near the border with Honduras. On a visit to the coffee-growing hills above San Lucas, Rice cultivated what would later become the American fair trade movement. Founded in 1998 in a converted warehouse in downtown Oakland, TransFair USA began as a bare-bones operation with an unusual premise - put more money in the pockets of farmers in the developing world by persuading consumers thousands of miles away to pay a premium in the name of social justice. Modeled after organic produce and dolphin-safe tuna, Rice started the organization with the stark black and white label that told shoppers their coffee came from farmers who received a "fair price." Ten years later, Rice and his family spend every July in Nicaragua, visiting family and friends and working on fair trade issues. In San Lucas, Rice huddled with Santiago Rivera, a 67-year-old cooperative coffee farmer he calls "the real Juan Valdez." Until the Sandinista Revolution in 1979, Rivera worked on a private coffee plantation making less than 50 cents a day. When the new government acquired the farm, Rivera and some 20 other farmers were given the land to work collectively. TransFair says it has generated some $110 million in extra income for small coffee farmers like Rivera. "The great thing about fair trade is that when the market price would fall, we'd have the guarantee of a decent price," Rivera said. "When it'd go up, we'd get more. The great thing is the stability."
Note: For those who are not aware of the paradigm-busting fair trade movement, consider educating yourself on this wonderful new way of doing business by clicking here.
Line between good, evil is not easily drawn
2008-07-04, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The great watershed event of this present chapter in American life has been the 9/11 attacks and all that has ensued in response, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as here at home. The terms in which the attacks were understood and the framework in which the U.S. would respond were laid out very quickly after 9/11 by the president. It was a battle of good against evil, "us" vs. "them." We Americans were encouraged to think of ourselves as "good and compassionate," terms in which the president frequently described us, while those who opposed us were evil people who "hated our freedom." I can go along with this a little ways. The attacks of 9/11 were an appalling evil. Where the line is drawn between good and evil is another matter. The Soviet dissident and author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." Lincoln resisted the temptation that comes in every time of conflict and fear, in every polarized situation, to draw the line between good and evil between the two sides. Lincoln famously wrote, "In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party." That is not to say that Lincoln doubted that slavery was evil. He did not. But he refused to claim his own side as God's or to depict, as Bush does, any who opposed him as the embodiment of evil.