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.
Doctor finds higher calling when death knocks
2008-05-04, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Dr. Frank Artress looked down at his fingers. His nail beds were turning blue. He was running out of oxygen near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. A cardiac anesthesiologist, Artress knew the signs of high altitude pulmonary edema. He knew there was a 75 percent chance that he would perish on Africa's highest peak. Artress led his wife to a rock, and they sat together above the clouds. Then it hit him. He wasn't afraid to die; he was ashamed. He had lived only for himself - practicing medicine in a Modesto hospital, traveling with his wife, purchasing luxury vacation homes and collecting art. He felt as if he had nothing to show for his 50 years. He felt as if his life had been a waste. In that moment, Artress and his wife realized they were living for the wrong reasons. In that moment, everything changed. Some people dream of giving up the trappings of success and starting life anew, with a purpose, with a social conscience. For Artress and his wife, the idea suddenly seemed real. That day on Mount Kilimanjaro would lead the Modesto doctor and his wife to leave their comfortable life in California to become bush doctors, dedicated to easing the heartbreak of Africa. They knew their decision was the right one when they returned to their creekside ranch home in Modesto. The things they normally missed when they were away - the matching silver sports cars, the signed Mirós and Picassos, the full-throttle espresso machine and the swimming pool - no longer had any charm. That week, Artress quit his job at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto and Gustafson gave notice as an educational psychologist for the public schools. Then they sold everything ... and made plans to return to the foot of Kilimanjaro to administer medical care as a way of repaying the community that saved Artress' life.
Note: This inspiring story should be read in its entirety.
A Victim Treats His Mugger Right
Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner. But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife. "He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says. As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, "Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm." The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, "like what's going on here?" Diaz says. "He asked me, 'Why are you doing this?'" Diaz replied: " ' If you're willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you ... want to join me ... hey, you're more than welcome.' You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help," Diaz says. Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth. Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. "He just had ... a sad face," Diaz says. The teen couldn't answer Diaz — or he didn't want to. When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, "Look, I guess you're going to have to pay for this bill 'cause you have my money and I can't pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you." The teen "didn't even think about it" and returned the wallet, Diaz says. "I gave him $20 ... I figure maybe it'll help him. I don't know." Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen's knife — "and he gave it to me."
Note: For many powerful inspirational stories from major media sources, click here.
Fight Violence with Nonviolence
2008-03-27, Christian Science Monitor
Over the past 25 years nonviolent peacekeepers have been going into zones of sometimes intense conflict with the aim of bringing a measure of peace, protection, and sanity to life there. Rather than use threat or force, unarmed peacekeepers deploy strategies of protective accompaniment, moral and/or witnessing "presence," monitoring election campaigns, creating neutral safe spaces, and in extreme cases putting themselves physically between hostile parties. Civilian unarmed peacekeeping has had dramatic, small-scale, quiet, and unglamorous successes: rescuing child soldiers, protecting the lives of key human rights workers and of whole villages, averting potentially explosive violence, and generally raising the level of security felt by citizens in many a tense community. Recently a village on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines was under threat by two armed groups who had come within 200 meters of each other. The village elders called for help from the Nonviolent Peaceforce stationed there, who intervened and by communicating with all sides persuaded the armed group to back away. Thanks to mediation, no violence erupted, no lives were lost. Why haven't you heard about this exciting work? Because it is terribly underfunded, for one thing. There is also a prevailing prejudice that only governments or armed forces – including those of the United Nations – have the responsibility or means to contain conflict. But the biggest obstacle by far is the widespread – and rarely examined – belief that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. It is the belief that there is only one kind of power; threat power, which in the end can be relied upon to get others to change their minds or, failing that, at least their actions.
That may change. The new global norm of "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) should inspire the use of civil society and nonviolent means.
'Eco-Patent Commons' hopes to improve environmental innovation
2008-01-14, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
IBM Corp., Nokia, Sony and Pitney Bowes are expected to announce Monday that they have put 31 inventions into an "Eco-Patent Commons" designed to make these Earth-friendly manufacturing and waste-reduction processes more widely available. "This is an open source effort along the lines of the Creative Commons," said IBM assistant general counsel David Kappos, who is responsible for the company's intellectual property. The open source movement, symbolized by the free Linux operating system, believes that innovation occurs more quickly when new ideas and processes are open to the public for anyone to troubleshoot and improve. The Eco-Patent Commons adopts this activist tactic in certain fields - like waste reduction - where the participating firms have decided that the societal benefit of having every willing manufacturer adopt these cleaner processes outweighs any potential advantage they might gain by keeping the idea close to the vest. One of the newly freed eco-patents is an IBM invention for using a specially folded piece of corrugated cardboard to cushion electronic components against shock during shipping - replacing the Styrofoam products that can easily become an environmental headache. Likewise, Nokia is giving away a patent designed to help safely dispose of mobile phones by reusing their components in other gadgets such as digital cameras. Kappos said the Eco-Patent Commons would be run by an independent, nonprofit group, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and expressed hope that other companies would follow the lead and add real clout to what is more a symbolic than substantive effort to make global business a little greener.
Exclusive Club Has One Rule: Just Give
2007-12-23, ABC News
Americans set a new record for generosity last year. We gave a total of nearly $300 billion. But few of us could match the generosity of Richard Semmler. Semmler is a 61-year-old math professor at Northern Virginia Community College. He's also a maintenance man, and a book editor. His hard work earns him more than $100,000 per year, but he lives very modestly. Even with three jobs, Semmler lives in a tiny apartment. He's not working so hard to get more -- he's working to give more. Semmler has donated nearly $1 million -- between 50 percent and 60 percent of his income each year -- to six charities, and his money helps to feed the homeless and build houses for families in need. Semmler's not just writing checks -- he's getting his hands dirty, building those homes with Habitat for Humanity, and handing out food in soup kitchens. "I prefer to live in a small apartment. I prefer to drive an old car," he said. "I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I get a chance to see my dollars at work. For me, it's a personal satisfaction in seeing the house built, but more important, it's personal satisfaction in seeing a family that truly needs this," said Semmler. [He] belongs to a very exclusive club that anyone can join. It's called the Fifty Percent League. Members give away at least half their income to charity. Not all of the donors have big incomes. One woman earned just $16,000 dollars last year, and gave half of it away to help newly arrived immigrants. The group is made up of about 100 people and growing. Collectively, they have given away more than $1 billion over the past decade. Millionaire David Ludlow is a fifty-percenter, who funds an after-school program in Boston's inner city. "This has made me a truly happy man, being able to do this. It's been magnificent. It's totally turned my life around," Ludlow said.
Note: One of the wonderful people featured in this article, David Ludlow, is a major supporter of our work in the form of a large monthly donation (http://www.peerservice.org/donations#monthly). This is a powerful example of how one inspired individual can make a big difference in the world. Let us all do our best to use our money in support of personal and global transformation to the best of our ability. We invite you also to make a difference by donating to support our empowering work at http://www.peerservice.org/donations. For two inspiring media clips of David and this great organization, click here and here.
Internet Access Is Only Prerequisite For College Classes
2007-12-31, Washington Post
Berkeley's on YouTube. American University's hoping to get on iTunes. George Mason professors have created an online research tool, a virtual filing cabinet for scholars. And with a few clicks on Yale's Web site, anyone can watch one of the school's most popular philosophy professors sitting cross-legged on his desk, talking about death. Studying on YouTube won't get you a college degree, but many universities are using technology to offer online classes and open up archives. Sure, some schools have been charging for distance-learning classes for a long time, but this is different: These classes are free. At a time when many top schools are expensive and difficult to get into, some say it's a return to the broader mission of higher education: to offer knowledge to everyone. And tens of millions are reaching for it. For schools, the courses can bring benefits, luring applicants, spreading the university's name, impressing donors, keeping alumni engaged. As the technology evolves, the classes are becoming far more engaging to a broader public. With better, faster technology such as video, what once was bare-bones and hard-core -- lecture notes aimed at grad students and colleagues -- is now more ambitious and far more accessible. Some professors try this on their own, on a small scale. Schools are feeling their way, experimenting with different technologies; some use Utah State University's eduCommons on the Web; some post to free sites such as YouTube and the Apple university site iTunes U. Other schools have plunged right in: MIT has 1,800 classes online, virtually the entire curriculum free and open to all. "The idea was to have a broad impact on education worldwide and make a statement at a time when many schools were launching for-profit distance-learning ventures," Steve Carson of MIT OpenCourseWare said, "trying to redefine the role of the institution in the digital age."
Secret Santa's Legacy Lives On
2007-12-21, CBS News/Associated Press
Susan Dahl had spent four months homeless in Colorado and just been on a harrowing 10-hour bus trip through sleet and snow. Hungry and broke, all she wanted to do was get back to family in Minnesota. That's when a tall man in a red coat and red hat sat next to her at the downtown bus station, talked to her quietly and then slipped her $100 on that recent December afternoon. The man was doing the work of Larry Stewart, Kansas City's original Secret Santa who anonymously wandered city streets doling out $100 bills to anyone who looked like they needed it. Stewart died of cancer at age 58 earlier this year, but his legacy lives on. "He said 'Here's a $100 bill ... and this is in memory of Larry Stewart,'" said Dahl, 56. During about a quarter century, Stewart quietly gave out more than $1.3 million to people in laundromats, diners, bus stations, shelters and thrift stores, saying it was his way of giving back at Christmas for all the wealth and generosity he had received in his lifetime. For years, Stewart did not want his name known or want thanks or applause, but last December he acknowledged who he was and used his last few months while battling cancer to press his message of kindness toward others. He even trained some friends in the ways of Secret Santa. This Christmas, a friend who told Stewart in the hospital that he would carry on for him is out on the streets, handing out $100 bills, each one stamped with "Larry Stewart, Secret Santa." Between Kansas City and several other cities this Christmas, the new Secret Santa will give away $75,000 of his own money, mostly in $100 bills. "I didn't want to be a Secret Santa," said the man, a business consultant who lives in the Kansas City area. "I wanted to give Larry money. But last year, he said I had to hand it out myself. So I did, and I got hooked. Anyone can be a Secret Santa," he says. "You don't have to give away $100. You can give away kindness. Help someone."