New nonprofit uses Web to pressure Chevron
2009-11-16, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Retired retail executive Richard Goldman was astonished when he heard about the $27 billion pollution lawsuit against Chevron Corp. in Ecuador. Astonished at the soil and water contamination surrounding Ecuador's oil fields. And astonished that he'd never heard of it before. So Goldman, one of the founders of the Men's Wearhouse clothing chain, has created a nonprofit group that will use social-networking tools to spread word of the case and put pressure on Chevron. The group, Ethos Alliance, will ask visitors to its Web site to tell others about the issue, hoping that viral communication via the Internet will reach people that news stories about the suit haven't. The site will raise money for humanitarian relief projects in Ecuador's oil patch, encouraging visitors to donate $5 apiece to build a water treatment plant and buy medicine for a health clinic. The Web site, www.ethosalliance.org, goes online today. Ethos also will urge Chevron to settle the long-running lawsuit, something the San Ramon company has vowed not to do. Ethos plans to tackle other issues of corporate responsibility in the future, uniting the alliance's online members with businesses willing to join the cause. Ethos is the latest example of social or political causes using social networking to increase their reach. Earlier this year, a one-day fundraising effort organized via Twitter collected $250,000 for drinking water projects in the developing world.
Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals
2009-05-20, NRC International (One of the Netherlands' leading newspapers)
The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty. During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees. Deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak announced on Tuesday that eight prisons will be closed. The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry's research department expects to continue for some time.
Note: Isn't it interesting that this country, which is one of the very few to have legalized marijuana and prostitution, has a shortage of criminals?
Osteogenesis imperfecta: Motivational speaker Sean Stephenson uses his disorder to inspire others
2009-05-05, Chicago Tribune
Born with a disorder that would leave him 3 feet tall and so brittle that coughing could fracture a rib, Sean Stephenson could not walk as a child. He was racked with pain. People stared at him all the time. Except on Halloween. On Halloween, everyone looked different. His distinct physical appearance, the consequence of osteogenesis imperfecta, helped him blend in, and he loved that. But on Halloween morning 1988, he broke his leg after catching it on a door frame. His favorite day became an agonizing one. He was hysterical until his mother asked him the question that would change his life: "Is this going to be a gift or a burden?" Two decades later, the man who at birth was supposed to survive only 24 hours is doing his best to convert what would seem to be an insurmountable challenge into a gift -- to himself and others. Stephenson, who turns 30 on Tuesday, is a psychotherapist and inspirational speaker. His self-help book, Get Off Your 'But' was [just published], and on April 25 he finished filming a TV documentary pilot for A&E. A college graduate pursuing a PhD in clinical hypnosis, he's toying with the idea of running for Congress, after he opens orphanages for kids with disabilities and a summer camp aimed at eliminating "self-sabotage" in children. "I embrace my life," he said one morning from his 17th-floor office in the Oakbrook Terrace Tower. "I've lived the life of a rock star." He ... stresses that "connecting," which he defines as "an exchange of our humanity," is vastly different from communicating, the simple exchange of information. Understanding that difference can be one of the most powerful tools in changing people's lives, Stephenson maintains. "Being 3 feet tall and in a wheelchair is about 2 percent of who I am. I'm more than able. I'm playing large."
Birds can 'dance' to music, researchers say
2009-05-01, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
After studying a cockatoo that grooves to the Backstreet Boys and about 1,000 YouTube videos, scientists say they've documented for the first time that some animals "dance" to a musical beat. The results support a theory for why the human brain is wired for dancing. In lab studies of two parrots and close review of the YouTube videos, scientists looked for signs that animals were actually feeling the beat of music they heard. The verdict: Some parrots did, and maybe an occasional elephant. But researchers found no evidence of that for dogs and cats, despite long exposure to people and music, nor for chimps, our closest living relatives. Why? The truly boppin' animals shared with people some ability to mimic sounds they hear, the researchers say. The brain circuitry for that ability lets people learn to talk, and evidently also to dance or tap their toes to music, suggests Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. He proposed the music connection in 2006.
He also led a study of Snowball that was published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology. A separate YouTube study, also published Thursday by the journal, was led by Adena Schachner, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard University. In sum, the new research "definitely gives us a bit of insight into why and how humans became able to dance," Schachner said. A video of Snowball bobbing his head and kicking like a little Rockette to music has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube since it was posted in 2007. Snowball's movements followed the beat of his favorite Backstreet Boys song ... even when researchers sped up the tune and slowed it down.
Note: To watch videos of Snowball dancing to the Backstreet Boys and Huey Lewis, click here.
A restaurant with no checks
2007-10-25, Christian Science Monitor
Patrons of Karma Kitchen don't need to fight for the check at the end of a meal. There isn't one. Instead, the "guests" of this restaurant are handed a gold envelope with a handwritten note on the outside that says, "Have a lovely evening." Inside a bookmark-sized card states: "In the spirit of generosity, someone who came before you made a gift of this meal. We hope you will continue the circle of giving in your own way!" The sound bite for this restaurant is that meals cost whatever you want to pay, starting at zero. But the real idea beneath it runs deeper than the cost of a dinner. "This is about creating a shift in perspective," says Mehta. "It's a very simple shift but the shift is fundamental. It is a shift from transaction to trust. From a contract to a compact. From being separate to creating community." While too puny to regard as any serious challenge to Western economics, this restaurant fits loosely into a smattering of activities across the country and abroad that operate under the principles of the "gift economy." The common principles are volunteerism, no pleas for funds, and a view that these activities are not about changing the world. The ethos behind "gift economy" activities is to offer goods in the spirit of service with the conviction that the act, if genuine and without strings, will be self-sustaining. Put simply, a service or product is offered with the assumption that the act of giving is its own reward, and that it is likely to generate more giving in an ever-enriching circle.
It's a Small, Small World
2007-08-06, ABC News
Willard Wigan's artwork is so tiny a microscope is needed to view it. The Birmingham, England, native is known as the creator of the world's smallest sculptures. He makes small worlds of their own that are almost invisible to the naked eye -- such as a $300,000 sculpture that sits on a pinhead. Under a microscope, you see an elephant carved from a fragment of a single grain of sand. "The tail is made from a floating particle of dust out of the air that you see floating," Wigan explained. How does he do it? Wigan uses tiny, homemade tools to carve his sculptures out of grains of rice or sugar, and paints them with a hair plucked from a housefly's back. He said he's able to slow his heart down to work between the beats to avoid hand tremors. "Underneath a microscope, those tremors become an earthquake," he said. According to Wigan, his obsession with tiny objects began when he was a lonely 5-year-old. "I have learning difficulties. You know, I can't read or write. But I had to find a way of expressing myself. The teachers at school made me feel small, so they made me feel like nothing. So I had to show them something." He started by making houses for ants as a child, and now he creates entire, tiny worlds. Wigan has something to prove, which makes the misery worthwhile. "I'm trying to prove to the world that nothing doesn't exist. It doesn't matter how big a building is, it's made up of molecules. We ignore the world that we can't see."
Note: Don't miss the amazing three-minute video clip of this work available here.
Heaven for the Godless?
2008-12-27, New York Times
In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life. This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that. The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they? So in August, Pew asked the question again. Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them. And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go. What on earth does this mean? One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. We meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.
Dutchman aims to break record in freezing bath
2008-12-09, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
A Dutchman who is able to withstand freezing temperatures that would kill most people will submerge himself in icy water for almost two hours in a world record bid. Wim Hof, known as "The Ice Man", has spent the last 20 years testing his talent in the most extreme conditions from scaling mountain tops wearing nothing but a pair of shorts to swimming under sheets of ice [at] the north pole. Now he is set to break his own world record by submerging himself in a Plexiglas container filled with ice at temperatures as low as -20 degrees for more than 1 hour 45 minutes. Mr Hof discovered his unusual talent over 20 years ago during a stroll in the park in his native Holland. "I was really attracted to it. I went in, got rid of my clothes. Thirty seconds I was in and a tremendous good feeling when I came out and since then, I repeated it every day." It was the moment that Mr Hof knew that his body was different somehow: he was able to withstand fatally freezing temperatures. Mr Hof began a lifelong quest to see just how far his abilities would take him. In 2000, dressed only in a swimsuit, he dove under the ice at the North Pole and earned a Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time swimming under the ice. Whilst many scientists around the world find Mr Hof's ability an anomaly, Mr Hof says it is merely a case of mind over matter. Practising an ancient Himalayan meditation called "Tummo," or Inner Fire, Mr Hof says he can generate his own heat. Mr Hof now travels the world teaching the technique through his record attempts, lectures and talks.
Born Without Limbs, Refusing Limitations
2008-03-27, ABC News
The crowds that 25-year-old Nick Vujicic draws as an evangelist would have been unimaginable only a few years ago, and impossible had he been born under other circumstances. "In some third world countries ... I would be seen as cursed, a shame to the family," said Vujicic (pronounced VOY-chich). "The possibilities of me being killed at my birth would have been quite high." But Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs, does have one of the most powerful of all human attributes: a voice. Through the ministry he calls Life Without Limbs and a motivational program titled "Attitude is Altitude," Vujicic said he has made 1,600 speaking appearances in 12 nations.
"No matter who you are, no matter what you're going through, God knows it," he said. "He is with you. He is going to pull you through." Like all skilled evangelists, he can imagine the deepest vulnerabilities of his listeners, especially among teenage audiences. "I used to think that I needed my circumstance to change before I had any hope," he said. "I wanted to know that there was someone else out there in my position, to know that there is hope, that there is more than just the little box that I see in my life." He cannot avoid the reasons why people are fascinated by his physical condition, and he uses it to his advantage in his speeches, often delivered from a tabletop in front of the audience. He says it lends credibility "to know that somebody has been through something, that they've learned something that you know you need to apply in your own life."
Note: For an amazing five-minute video this man who has overcome challenges that are almost guaranteed to make your problems seem like nothing, click here.
What Happens When We Die?
2008-09-18, Time magazine
A fellow at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world's leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind "out-of-body" experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. TIME spoke with Parnia about the project's origins, its skeptics and the difference between the mind and the brain. What sort of methods will this project use to try and verify people's claims of "near-death" experience? When your heart stops beating, there is no blood getting to your brain. And so what happens is that within about 10 sec., brain activity ceases — as you would imagine. Yet paradoxically, 10% or 20% of people who are then brought back to life from that period, which may be a few minutes or over an hour, will report having consciousness. So the key thing here is, Are these real, or is it some sort of illusion? In my book What Happens When We Die? ... I wanted people to get both angles — not just the patients' side but also the doctors' side — and see how it feels for the doctors to have a patient come back and tell them what was going on. There was a cardiologist that I spoke with who said he hasn't told anyone else about it because he has no explanation for how this patient could have been able to describe in detail what he had said and done. He was so freaked out by it that he just decided not to think about it anymore.
Note: How interesting that when something amazing happened that this cardiologist could not explain, he chose not to think about it rather than consider that there might be some deeper explanation. For an excellent analysis of how this kind of thinking stops scientific progress, see our essay on fluid intellignece available here.
In Faith's Pawprints, an Abiding Hope
2008-03-29, Washington Post
Faith was curled up on the carpet beside her agent, Mike Maguire, who kept reaching down to hand her pieces of his chicken sandwich, when their waitress gave him an easy one. "What kind of dog is that?" asked Alicia Weedon, 16. With a flair honed in scores of such encounters, Maguire, a sports agent from Fairfax County, said simply, "A two-legged dog." The chow mix jumped up, her haunches tight and six-pack abs working, and began to walk. She's been on Oprah and Montel. She's been on Japanese and Korean TV and is scheduled to fly to Istanbul next month. Faith has that kind of effect on people. The 5-year-old was born with a shriveled left leg that flopped behind her and had to be removed and a legless, partial right paw with two nails she still hates getting clipped. There is an industry of rolling aids for disabled pets. But peanut butter on the end of spoon and tossed gummy bears got Faith up off her chest. Faith's owner, Jude Stringfellow, 46, said she gave up her job as a teacher in Oklahoma to take Faith on the road. Her son found Faith as a puppy, and the dog has grown into a calling and a job, Stringfellow said. She's considered starting a charity, but the idea has stalled, she said. She said that she does not keep records but that the money has been minimal and that she has passed it on to other charities. Her focus, she said, is spreading Faith's message. "I want people to understand that you can be imperfect physically and still be perfect through your soul, through your spirit," she said.
Note: For an inspiring five minute video of this amazing pup, click here.
Interest escalates in doctor's African mission
2008-06-01, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Dr. Frank Artress, the former Modesto cardiac anesthesiologist turned African bush doctor, has found little time to eat since his story went around the world a month ago. Artress nearly died from high-altitude pulmonary edema while on a 2002 trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, prompting him and his wife, Susan Gustafson, to make a 180-degree life change. They sold everything they owned and moved from Modesto to Tanzania to administer health care in one of the poorest nations in the world. They wanted to give back to the people who ran Artress down the mountain on a stretcher while singing Swahili prayer songs. Every year since, the couple have spent one month in the United States, fundraising at house parties and collecting checks from friends and family. The donations helped them open a small clinic last month in Karatu, where they have already treated patients with broken bones and chronic seizures. In recent weeks, interest in their work has multiplied as Artress' story, about the social power of the individual, has spread on the Internet. The outpouring comes as philanthropy is becoming more personal, through microloans or community service projects in public schools. With technology exposing the plight of the world's poor, volunteerism is on the rise and the Bay Area tops the list of the most-generous regions. Two decades ago, bookstores were filled with best-sellers about how to make a million. Today, books such as Three Cups of Tea and Mountains Beyond Mountains are best-sellers that inspire humanitarian activism and are helping raise millions of dollars for charity.
Mater Dei team gets 2,843 miles to the gallon
2008-04-13, WFIE TV (NBC affiliate in Evansville, IN)
Mater Dei High School finished first and third out of 33 high school and college student teams from North and South America, shattering the miles per gallon record set last year by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Mater Dei's "6th Gen" car won the traditional fuel combustion category in the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas with [a] run of 2,843.4 miles per gallon. Mater Dei's other car in competition, "5th Gen" finished third with a Friday run of 2,383.8 miles per gallon. Mater Dei wins $10,000 for first prize, along with an additional $2,400 for internal combustion engine awards. The Eco-Marathon Americas, which began in 2007, is a gathering of college and high school student teams trying to drive the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel.
Collectively, it's an effort to change the way the world uses energy. Each team uses a hand-built, high-mileage prototype vehicle at the California Speedway from vehicle design to management to financing, the student teams managed their vehicles from start to finish. In addition to being eco-friendly, the competition is also about giving the students an opportunity to gain practical experience in science, math, business and design.
Note: Why wasn't this remarkable news covered by any major media other than this NBC affiliate? For another astonishing, yet little-known engine invention by high school students, click here. For more on the repression of new energy inventions, click here.
Life In a Jar?
Ninety-seven-year-old Irena Sendler, just four foot eleven, saved twenty-five hundred children from Nazi death camps. Few knew. Mrs. Sendler seldom spoke of what she did. Considering all the remarkable stories from the Holocaust that have surfaced over the years, it's hard to believe this one lay mostly unnoticed for sixty years, until four high school girls from Uniontown, Kansas, uncovered it. Thanks to those teenagers, Mrs. Sendler has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. That tiny Catholic nurse not only saved all those children, she managed to sneak a Jewish man out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Right past the Nazi guards. She later married him and had two children of her own. Television is at its best when it shows the incredible things of which we are capable. People who see things that need to be done and do them without regrets or apologies; without sending out a press release. I like to reflect on such unassuming people like ... Irena Sendler. Perhaps they are put in a reporter's path to remind us never to get so caught up in the "Big Stories" that we overlook everyday people working in the woods. Their lives mattered and did make a difference.
Note: For an MSN video clip depicting the inspiring story of this woman and the teenagers who rediscovered her, click here. For the wonderful website dedicated to her, click here.
Iceman on Everest: 'It Was Easy'
2008-03-07, ABC News
Wim Hof [is] known as 'The Ice Man." Scientists can't really explain it, but the 48-year-old Dutchman is able to withstand, and even thrive, in temperatures that could be fatal to the average person. It's an ability he discovered in himself as a young man 20 years ago. "I had a stroll like this in the park with somebody and I saw the ice and I thought, what would happen if I go in there. I was really attracted to it. I went in, got rid of my clothes. Thirty seconds I was in," Hof said. "Tremendous good feeling when I came out and since then, I repeated it every day." It was the moment that Hof knew that his body was different somehow: He was able to withstand fatally freezing temperatures. Hof began a lifelong quest to see just how far his abilities would take him. In January of 1999 he traveled 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle to run a half-marathon in his bare feet. Three years later, dressed only in a swimsuit, he dove under the ice at the North Pole and earned a Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time swimming under the ice: 80 meters, almost twice the length of an Olympic-sized pool. When he didn't experience frostbite or hypothermia, the body's usual reactions to extreme cold, his extraordinary ability started to get the attention of doctors who specialize in extreme medicine.
Dr. Ken Kamler, author of Surviving the Extremes, has treated dozens of people who tried to climb Mount Everest, and instead nearly died from the frigid temperatures. He couldn't believe it when he got word of a Dutchman making the ascent with no protection other than a pair of shorts. "People are always looking for new firsts on Everest. It's been climbed so many times now, people climb it without oxygen, they climb it with all different kinds of handicaps. But no one has come close to climbing Everest in those kinds of conditions," Dr. Kamler said. "It's almost inconceivable."
Note: Wim Hof's charity foundation, Happy People of the World, is based in the Netherlands. Visit the Web site by clicking here.
Oprah effect brings microlending to Main Street
2008-01-07, ABC News
The credit crisis may be fouling up billion-dollar takeover deals, but if you're a poor African seamstress who needs a loan for a new sewing machine, you could not ask for a better borrowing market to expand your business. Anyone with $25 to spare and an Internet connection can now become an international microfinancier through Kiva, an organization that matches individual lenders with impoverished entrepreneurs in the developing world. Steve Thomas, 50, a property tax consultant in Chicago, got started by lending $50 to a man in Togo who makes a living refurbishing used sneakers for resale. The loan was repaid in full and Thomas has gone on to fund 83 other ventures ranging from a cyber cafe in Ecuador to a mushroom-growing enterprise in Moldova. Microlending has been in use for decades. Muhammad Yunus shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank, the lender he founded in the early 1980s to help empower Bangladesh's rural poor. Several other institutions have developed since then, but Kiva is the first to open direct microlending opportunities to the general public with an online platform. Kiva hit the publicity jackpot in September when Oprah Winfrey featured the organization on her daytime television program, attracting a tidal wave of interest from Middle America. Demand was so high the day the episode aired, every loan on the site was fulfilled. Since then, Kiva has limited lenders to a $25-portion of each loan, the average of which is about $600. Even with the $25 cap, Kiva's lenders manage to fully fund each loan in 0.97 days, on average. The recent holiday season brought a fresh crop of lenders -- Kiva sold $2.2 million in gift certificates, which the givers were able to print out from their own computers.
Note: For a treasure trove of stories about the amazing successes of microlending in raising some of the poorest out of destitution, click here.
Radical banking: You shop locally -- why not bank locally too?
2007-09-04, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Jessica ... lives what some might consider the perfect alternative lifestyle. She makes enough money to pay for rent and food (from the farmer's market) by teaching classes at the Solar Living Institute and selling her self-published zine about alternative fuel. She grows much of her own food and raises chickens and bees in her backyard. As a child, her family life centered around growing food and cooking meals together. Her parents never emphasized money. She hasn't strayed far from her upbringing. When asked about her views on money, she said: "It's better to be happy than to worry about your credit card bill or working a lot." One of the key points of being happy, for Jessica, is to bank at Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union. Jessica's made it a point to convert her friends to using credit unions, which are nonprofit banks. "I say to people: So you shop at a farmer's market. You use alternative fuel or bike or take public transportation. But you still bank at Bank of America?" She laughed at the paradox of the small-is-beautiful crowd supporting a global corporation. "With banks, it's a business and all your money goes to make someone you don't know rich -- but with credit unions, all the money goes back into the community," Jessica explained. "It's people banding together to share the abundance." Credit unions -- also called cooperative banks or people's banks -- have origins in Europe. They were first started by German farmers in the 1860s who felt private banks were charging unfair fees. These rural people pooled money together in order to make loans within their tight-knit community. In North America, the idea of credit unions was first embraced by Canadians. These days in the United States, there are over 8,000 credit unions; 536 of them are in California.
Note: To locate a credit union near you (in the United States), click here.
Water into fuel?
2007-05-22, WKYC (NBC affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio)
Retired TV station owner and broadcast engineer, John Kanzius, wasn't looking for an answer to the energy crisis. He was looking for a cure for cancer. Four years ago, inspiration struck in the middle of the night. Kanzius decided to try using radio waves to kill the cancer cells. His wife Marianne heard the noise and found her husband inventing a radio frequency generator with her pie pans. "I got up immediately, and thought he had lost it." Here are the basics of John's idea: Radio-waves will heat certain metals. Tiny bits of certain metal are injected into a cancer patient. Those nano-particals are attracted to the abnormalities of the cancer cells and ignore the healthy cells. The patient is then exposed to radio waves and only the bad cells heat up and die. But John also came across yet another extrordinary breakthrough. His machine could actually make saltwater burn. John Kanzius discovered that his radio frequency generator could release the oxygen and hydrogen from saltwater and create an incredibly intense flame. "If that was in a car cylinder you could see the amount of fire that would be in the cylinder." The APV Company Laboratory in Akron has checked out John's ... invention. They were amazed. "That could be a steam engine, a steam turbine. That could be a car engine if you wanted it to be." Imagine the possibilities. Saltwater as the ultimate clean fuel. A happy byproduct of one man searching for the cure for cancer.
Note: Though this exciting breakthrough was reported in dozens of local media, not one major news outlet found it worthy of mention. To verify this yourself, click here.
Can Rumi save us now?
2007-04-01, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The Persian poet Rumi was surrounded by news of terrorism. Mass murders from war -- what today would be called genocide and ethnic cleansing -- were a routine part of Rumi's 13th-century world. So, where's the bloodshed in Rumi's writing? Rumi, a man so advanced in Islamic training that he could issue fatwas, divorced himself from talk of revenge, retribution and eye-for-an-eye killings. Like Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Rumi insisted violence was an unsatisfying way of resolving issues. Sentiments like that have turned Rumi into one of America's best-selling poets -- someone whose thoughts on love and other matters are revered by hundreds of thousands of readers. Interest in the mystic from Persia (now Iran) -- in his all-inclusive message that the faithful of all religions have a common humanity -- has mushroomed in the past six years. Go to Borders, Barnes & Noble or any neighborhood bookstore, and you're likely to find many more Rumi titles than books by Robert Frost or Walt Whitman. So, who is Rumi? He was a mystic and a scholar. He was an adherent of religious Islam ... who, in the later part of his life, famously said, "I am not a Jew nor a Christian, not a Zoroastrian nor a Moslem." The love and longing that Rumi felt was everywhere, including his soul. "Keep in mind that the holy Quran states there is no force in religion," says Naini, a Rumi expert who has lectured on the poet at the United Nations. "Rumi wants to remind us that we are all children and the creation of God, regardless of religion, race, color, nationality, etc." In the current climate of war and warmongering ... Rumi's biggest gift to readers today may be his emphasis on the power of love and tolerance.
He gave up the fast track that led to jail and now helps youths
2007-03-12, San Francisco Chronicle
When other kids were doing homework and navigating the jangly uptake of adolescent hormones, [Derrick] Bedford was dealing pot in East Oakland.. It was the early '90s, when Oakland's crack entrepreneurs became folk heroes to kids on the street. For the next decade he was in and out of juvenile hall. He never went beyond seventh grade. He spent five and a half months in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. "From 12 to 23, it seemed like I was just a magnet to the police." Today, Bedford is a role model -- an exemplar of reinvention and a life transformed. Arrest-free for 11 years, he's a husband, a father of two and owns his own home. He loves his career. Bedford is on the opposite side of the law today. A juvenile institutional officer, ... he works with kids under house arrest. "No matter what these kids are going through," he says, "I have some experience and some testimony to help them through their situation." Bedford fell naturally into the work: He spoke the same language, knew the scams and could recognize the lies because he'd told them all. He brought credibility, and found that he loved the work and thrived on it. He won the Spirit of Youth Award, given by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in Washington, D.C. "When I look back at my life," Bedford says, "there is definitely a lot of bad that I have done ... but I think it was all priming me to deal with the war we have going on with young African American men." Some days, he says, when he's walking through juvenile hall, "I'm just daydreaming. To grow up and be employed by the same county where I once was an offender ... is just unreal."