Gore Vidal, 1925-2012: Prolific, Elegant, Acerbic Writer
2012-08-01, New York Times
Gore Vidal, the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization, died on [July 31]. He was 86. The cause was complications of pneumonia, his nephew Burr Steers said. Few American writers have been more versatile or gotten more mileage from their talent. He published some 25 novels, two memoirs and several volumes of stylish, magisterial essays. He also wrote plays, television dramas and screenplays. For a while he was even a contract writer at MGM. And he could always be counted on for a spur-of-the-moment aphorism, putdown or sharply worded critique of American foreign policy. Perhaps more than any other American writer except Norman Mailer or Truman Capote, Mr. Vidal took great pleasure in being a public figure. He twice ran for office — in 1960, when he was the Democratic Congressional candidate for the 29th District in upstate New York, and in 1982, when he campaigned in California for a seat in the Senate. Some of his political positions were ... provocative. Mr. Vidal was an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he wrote an essay for Vanity Fair arguing that America had brought the attacks upon itself by maintaining imperialist foreign policies. In another essay, for The Independent, he compared the [9/11] attacks to the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, arguing that both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush knew of them in advance and exploited them to advance their agendas.
Note: Gore Vidal was very outspoken on his belief that 9/11 was an inside job, yet the media give this very light coverage in discussing his career. For a video clip of Vidal recommending The New Pearl Harbor by David Ray Griffin, which reveals a major 9/11 cover-up, click here.
Music Therapy May Help Ease Pain
Approaching death can be a long descent into pain and fear. [For some,] the misery is so profound that little helps. Alternative medicine is increasingly accepted as part of palliative care and some studies show music is one method to ease pain and stress at the end of life. One of these methods includes live harp music, played at the bedside by a certified music practitioner. Carol Joy Loeb, a former opera singer, is a certified music practitioner and registered nurse. When she arrives at a patient's bedside, she's prepared to alleviate misery. "I use the music to bring a calmness to them," Loeb says. "It helps with pain and agitation. And in the case of those who are actively dying, it helps them to go peacefully." She even uses the music to open communication between family members at the end of a person's life. Last year, she worked with a dying woman on Hospice care. "This was a woman in congestive heart failure, she was in acute distress," Loeb says. Just before she arrived, the patient had received a dose of morphine but didn't get the necessary relief. When Loeb started playing, the dying woman began to relax. "Within 10 minutes her respirations were almost not there," Loeb recalls. "Her daughter was in the kitchen with the Hospice chaplain. And she came in and took her mother's hand and she said, 'Mama, it's okay to go, go to God. Take the hand of God and go to God.' And within one minute, she was gone."
Utah environmental activist appealing conviction
2012-05-10, San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press
An environmental activist who disrupted an oil and gas auction for land near Utah's national parks did so in protest, bringing attention to parcels that shouldn't have been for sale, his lawyers argued Thursday. Tim DeChristopher's conviction in the case should be overturned because his move was a form of civil disobedience intended to protect the environment from an auction he believed to be illegal, Ron Yengich said in federal appeals court. Yengich said that many of the 113 parcels up for sale were suspended from future bidding by the federal government because of attention drawn by DeChristopher's actions. DeChristopher is asking the court to overturn his conviction. He is now serving two years in a federal prison in California after a conviction last summer in Salt Lake City. DeChristopher contended during trial that the Bush administration rushed the auction without properly reviewing the parcels. Many of the parcels up for auction were later suspended soon after by President Barack Obama's Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2009. His lawyers say he was singled out for prosecution because of his honesty, and that the government never took action against bidders at other auctions who failed to pay or bounced checks for their parcels. DeChristopher is considered a folk hero in the environmental community for sabotaging the auction. He says he plans to continue a life of social activism after prison.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on government corruption, click here.
Two 'mad scientists' create sleep mask that lets people control their dreams
2012-05-20, Daily Mail
A duo of developers from Brooklyn, New York, have built a sleeping mask designed to allow people to have lucid dreams that they can control. While it may look like a standard sleeping mask, Remee has been billed as a special REM (Rapid Eye Movement) enhancing device that is supposed to help steer the sleeper into lucid dreaming by making the brain aware that it is dreaming. The goal of the product is to allow people to have the dreams of their choice, from driving a race car to flying to having lunch with Abraham Lincoln. The inside of the sleeping mask features a series of six red LED lights that are too faint to wake the sleeper up, but visible enough for the brain to register them. The lights can be programed to produce a sequence designed by the user. Sleep stages are divided into two main categories: non-REM and REM. People go back and forth between these stages throughout the night, with REM stages, where most dreaming occurs, lasting the longest towards morning. Remee apparently notices these longer REM stages and ‘enters’ the dream via the flashing lights. The device will wait for four to five hours for the sleeper to get into the heavy REM stages before the red lights turn on. The idea is simple: you are playing a perfect round of golf in a dream, and you see a pattern of red lights flashing in the distance. Because the pattern is in a particular sequence, it would signal to you that you are dreaming. Once you realize you are in a dream, you can then decide what happens next, whether it be a quick trip to Antarctica or time travel.
Note: For more on this most intriguing invention, see the inventors' website at this link.
Paralyzed Woman Moves Robotic Arm With Her Mind
2012-05-16, ABC News
A 58-year-old woman paralyzed by a stroke was all smiles after sipping her cinnamon latte with the help of a mind-controlled robotic arm. Cathy Hutchinson is one of two tetraplegic patients able to reach and grasp with a robotic limb linked to [a] tiny sensor in her brain, according to a study published today in the journal Nature. The device, called BrainGate, bypasses the nerve circuits broken by the brainstem stroke and replaces them with wires that run outside Hutchinson's body. The implanted sensor is about the size of a baby aspirin. "You can go from the brain ... directly to a device like a computer or a robotic arm," said BrainGate developer John Donoghue, director of the Institute for Brain Science at Brown University in Providence, R.I. "This can help restore independence to a person who was completely reliant on other people for every activity, whether it's brushing their teeth, eating their dinner or taking a drink." Hutchinson, who has been unable to move or speak for 15 years, had the 96-channel sensor implanted in her brain's motor cortex in 2005. Since then, the BrainGate team has been fine-tuning the system to give her back some of the control she lost. With its hair-like electrodes, the BrainGate sensor taps into the flurry of brain activity, recording electrical signals that can be translated into movement commands. "It's like learning a language," Donoghue said of the translation process, a series of mathematical calculations that copy the brain's processing ability.
Note: Remember that the world of classified and secret research is generally at least 10 years in advance of whatever is available to the public. The above link contains videos of this event. Another very good video on this new breakthrough is available at this link. For a video of a new device which will likely soon replace wheelchairs and empower paraplegics, click here. And for an inspiring five-minute video of a disabled vet who learned to walk on his own again because someone believed in him, click here.
'Wired To Run': Runner's High May Have Been Evolutionary Advantage
Endurance athletes sometimes say they're "addicted" to exercise. In fact, scientists have shown that rhythmic, continuous exercise — aerobic exercise — can in fact produce narcoticlike chemicals in the body. Now researchers suggest that those chemicals may have helped turn humans, as well as other animals, into long-distance runners. The man behind the research is University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen, a runner himself. He thinks humans are "Wired to run, meaning that our brains ... have been sort of rewired ... to encourage these running and high aerobic-activity behaviors." Many anthropologists think early humans learned to run long distances to chase down and exhaust prey, like antelopes. Meat is one payoff for runners. But Raichlen thinks there may have been another reward: a runner's high. He designed an experiment to test this idea. When people exercise aerobically, their bodies can actually make drugs — cannabinoids, the same kind of chemicals in marijuana. Raichlen wondered if other distance-running animals also produced those drugs. If so, maybe runner's high is not some peculiar thing with humans. So he put dogs — also distance runners — on a treadmill. Also ferrets, but ferrets are not long-distance runners. The dogs produced the drug, but the ferrets did not. Says Raichlen: "It suggests some level of aerobic exercise was encouraged by natural selection, and it may be fairly deep in our evolutionary roots."
Bestselling Author and Pioneering Scholar of Near Death Experiences, Raymond Moody, Shares His Own Story in a New Memoir, Paranormal
2012-02-07, San Francisco Chronicle/PRWeb
The concept of the near-death experience – one's life flashing before one's eyes, seeing a white light at the end of a tunnel, encountering loved ones waiting on the other side – is familiar to most of us. But many don't know that Raymond Moody is the man responsible for introducing this phenomenon to the mainstream, and in the process, completely changing our views on death and dying. In Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife ... the pioneering researcher reveals how he became the first doctor to extensively study and eventually unveil this previously unknown experience of the near-death experience to the general public. From his childhood curiosity about the soul to his academic exploration of philosophy, from his early research into the afterlife to the publication of the bestselling book Life After Life, Moody's entire life has been devoted to a deeper understanding of what comes next – and to exploring better ways for the living to encounter the dead. In this fascinating account, readers will discover the surprisingly thin line between the living and the deceased – and why Moody's lifetime of scholarship shows that we have evidence for our deepest hopes: that our existence continues beyond this life. Raymond Moody, M.D.'s seminal work, Life After Life, has sold over ten million copies and completely changed the way in which we view death and dying. He is widely acknowledged as the world's leading expert in the field of near-death experience.
Note: For many other inspiring media articles on near-death experiences, click here. For our special section on NDEs, click here.
Ways to help: Making a difference
2012-02-23, CNN blog
The most valuable weapon in the fight against human trafficking may be you. People from West Africa, South America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, have all joined the fight. Watch the "Taking a Stand, Making a Difference" show [at the link above] in three parts. In the first segment, viewers horrified by our expose of working conditions for people [farming cocoa] in West Africa campaign for more Fair Trade products. Natalie, in Romania, was moved to stop eating chocolate until Fair Trade cocoa is on sale in local shops. Gerry, in New Zealand, tried to make a regionally-inspired dish using only Fair Trade products. Meanwhile, young Christians at a U.S. convention built a statue symbolizing the extent of slavery [and] raised $3 million for related charities. Their stories also offer practical ideas and information to others who want to get involved in helping the victims of modern-day slavery. In part two, the idea that people are not for sale is spreading across Ukraine, and one South Korean school is now campaigning to abolish the modern-day scourge. In part three, one woman beat her fashion bug to help women rescued from human trafficking. Amy Seiffert wore the same dress for six months and donated the money she would have spent on clothes to a local organization building a shelter for rescued women in Ohio. She says it was a small thing that reinforced the message that her ability to choose is [a] privilege denied to many. Along the way she inspired others, and the Daughter Project’s shelter is now a reality.
Note: The CNN videos included in this message are quite inspiring. Things are changing. Yea!!! For lots more inspiring news, click here.
Three women jointly receive Nobel Peace Prize
Women's rights took center stage Saturday at the Nobel ceremonies as three women recognized for their struggles against the backdrops of the Arab Spring and democratic progress in Africa accepted this year's peace prize. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Leymah Gbowee, a social worker and peace campaigner from the same country, shared the prize with Tawakkul Karman, an activist and journalist who this year played a key opposition role in Yemen. The three were chosen for their non-violent struggle against injustice, sexual violence and repression. All three women dedicated their remarks to women struggling for equal rights around the world. Crediting women with ending the conflict and challenging the dictatorship of former President Charles Taylor, [Sirleaf] declared a zero-tolerance policy against corruption and made education compulsory and free for all primary-age children. Gbowee, 39, led a women's movement that protested the use of rape and child soldiers in Liberia's civil war. She mobilized hundreds of women to force delegates at 2003 peace talks to sign a treaty -- at one point calling for a "sex strike" until demands were met. Karman, 32, ... founded the rights group Women Journalists without Chains, and emerged as a key figure in protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime.
Homeless man's decision to return $3,300 changed his life
2011-11-30, USA Today
About a year ago, a homeless man in Arizona found a bag full of cash and made a fateful decision: He returned it. 49-year-old Dave Tally of Tempe ... was in debt, unemployed and had lost his driver's license for DUI violations. Homeless, he was sleeping on a mat in a church-based homeless shelter when he found $3,300 in a backpack at a local light-rail station. That could have gotten Tally out of his hole, but he decided that was the wrong thing to do. Instead, he tracked down the owner of the cash, a college kid named Bryan Berlanger who had planned to use the money to buy a car to replace one he'd lost in an accident. When word got out that Tally had turned in the cash instead of keeping it, the national media came looking for him. Donations poured in, and Tally suddenly found himself with $10,000. But he was determined not to fritter it away. He began paying off his bills, clearing up his driving record, and taking the long road back. He even moved into a no-frills apartment across from the shelter as "a reminder of where I've been and where I'm not going back again." One year later, Tally has landed his "dream job," managing a community garden. Recently ... Tally started overseeing an internship program that allows people who are homeless to volunteer in the garden. But he doesn't preach to anyone. "I let them know that when they're ready to make changes, it's possible," he says.
The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities
2011-10-03, The Nation
As food growers, sellers and eaters, we’re moving in two directions at once. The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held, and farmland in the global South is being snatched away from indigenous people by speculators set to profit on climbing food prices. Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years. Hunger has grown 43 percent in five years in the United States. More hungry people live in India than in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Hunger is caused by an economic system that is driven by the rule: highest return to existing wealth. Because of this system, economic inequality is worsening in most of the world. There is, however, another current, which is democratizing power and aligning farming with nature’s genius. Many call it simply “the global food movement.” In the United States it’s building on the courage of truth tellers from Upton Sinclair to Rachel Carson, and worldwide it has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades. It is at heart revolutionary, with some of the world’s poorest people in the lead, from Florida farmworkers to Indian villagers. It has the potential to transform not just the way we eat but the way we understand our world, including ourselves. And that vast power is just beginning to erupt.
Slow Money brings slow food values to investing
2011-09-25, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Arno Hesse receives a check each month paying down the principal of a $5,000 loan he made to Soul Food Farm, an organic chicken farm in Vacaville. For the interest? He gets two dozen eggs. Hesse ... is part of a new national organization called Slow Money - an attempt to bring the values of the slow food, sustainable farming movement to the dollar-driven world of investment. Slow Money will hold its third annual conference next month at Fort Mason in San Francisco, where potential investors will hear from a host of environmental speakers and 27 entrepreneurs seeking funding. They'll be looking for equity or loans for [humble] projects, like a slaughterhouse for grass-fed beef or a compost business that describes itself as "purveyors of premium poop." The audience will include ... rank-and-file slow food advocates with as little as $100 or $1,000 to invest. And projects will be funded ... for their commitment to a new, local, community-based model of agriculture and food delivery. "We want to bring money down to earth," said Hesse, who is one of the coordinators of Slow Money's Northern California chapter. "In assessing our investments, we look not just at financial returns but at improving our community and producing better food."
Girl takes Ethiopian kids' 1st photos
2011-09-27, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Sammy Novick has a soccer picture and a class picture for every year since kindergarten, and that's not counting 10 or 15 albums of family photos or the online archive. So she was shocked to learn that that there are places where kids have no soccer picture or class picture or any other kind of picture. Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia, is one of those places. So Novick, [a 17-year-old high school senior,] appointed herself photographer, yearbook editor and oral historian for a school in this coffee bean region. Then she spent five weeks this summer living in a bamboo hut with a straw floor during the African rainy season in order to get the job done. She has two adopted siblings, Batri Novick and Eyasue Novick, who are Ethiopian and arrived with one picture taken of them together at the orphanage. Her parents, John and Tracy Novick, are both active with Common River, a humanitarian organization that built the primary school in "Wondo" as they call it. Months after her trip, she still talks about it everyday with her friends, and when she's not talking about it, she is texting about it. She may forget about her own schoolwork, but she won't forget to finish that yearbook that she promised to deliver to the school in Wondo.
Justice Goes Global
2011-06-16, New York Times
You probably missed the recent special issue of China Newsweek, so let me bring you up to date. Who do you think was on the cover — named the “most influential foreign figure” of the year in China? Barack Obama? No. Bill Gates? No. Warren Buffett? No. O.K., I’ll give you a hint: He’s a rock star in Asia, and people in China, Japan and South Korea scalp tickets to hear him. Give up? It was Michael J. Sandel, the Harvard University political philosopher. This news will not come as a surprise to Harvard students, some 15,000 of whom have taken Sandel’s legendary “Justice” class. What makes the class so compelling is the way Sandel uses real-life examples to illustrate the philosophies of the likes of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. Sandel is touching something deep in both Boston and Beijing. “Students everywhere are hungry for discussion of the big ethical questions we confront in our everyday lives,” Sandel argues. “In recent years, seemingly technical economic questions have crowded out questions of justice and the common good. I think there is a growing sense, in many societies, that G.D.P. and market values do not by themselves produce happiness, or a good society. My dream is to create a video-linked global classroom, connecting students across cultures and national boundaries — to think through these hard moral questions together, to see what we can learn from one another.”
Homeless students find hope in their principal
2011-06-09, CBS News
Inside Whitney Elementary School in East Las Vegas, nearly 85 percent of the children are homeless. That's 518 kids out of 610. Principal Sherrie Gahn says, "I thought that I saw the ultimate poverty when I got here eight years ago and every year it has gotten worse and the recession made it ten times worse." Gahn knew she had a problem that a traditional public school could not fix. "When I saw the children eating ketchup for lunch, and wanting to take it home," she says, "it just crushed me." So Gahn came up with a plan involving the kids, their parents and the community. "I told the parents that I would give them whatever they need," Gahn says. "All I need them to do is give me their children and let me teach them. In turn I will give you food and clothes and we will take them to the eye doctor. I will pay your rent, pay your utilities, but keep your child here." The children get free clothes, free bread to bring home and even free haircuts. Almost all of it given by 500 donors and local businesses who drop off donations daily. Principal Gahn has a bold dream. "I tell every 5th grade class if you make it through junior high you make it through high school and you can't afford to go to college come see me and I will make sure that you go to college," Gahn says. "We have a small trust fund that we started."
Business model needed to promote social enterprise
2011-05-31, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
[In] California ... job growth remains stagnant, public coffers are low and much-needed government services are reduced. Yet maverick companies are stepping forward, inventing business models that create public benefit and deliver economic returns. Such "social enterprises" have gained traction in the marketplace. For example, New Leaf Paper has led the paper industry with its more sustainable operating practices and 100 percent recycled products while generating strong profits. And there are others: Revolution Foods, Give Something Back, Cleanfish and SaveUp, to name a few. New legislative proposals could sweep in a wave of such firms. Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, introduced a bill in the state Senate to support the creation of "flexible purpose corporations" that seek profits and at least one broader social or environmental goal. A bill introduced by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael ... would allow entrepreneurs to incorporate their businesses as "for-benefit" or "B corporations." Seeking social impact would become part of the fiduciary responsibility of directors and executives of these firms rather than a distracting pursuit that diminishes financial return.
Under Siege in War-Torn Somalia, a Doctor Holds Her Ground
2011-01-08, New York Times
Somalia has been at war with itself for 20 years. The health care system, like much of the country, has been demolished. There are very few functioning hospitals left. But for decades — as the government imploded, warlords took over, more warlords came and an Islamist insurgency swept across Somalia — Dr. [Hawa] Abdi has persevered, offering a refuge for thousands of families driven from their homes by relentless street battles. In a nation where the government controls only a few blocks in this war-torn capital, Dr. Abdi and her daughters, who are also doctors, are essentially running a small, desperate city on their own. But that is not enough, in her estimation. So, on separate patches of land she owns, she is organizing families to run farms and has bought a small fleet of fishing boats to help feed the camp. Her stubborn commitment has earned her recognition worldwide. Eliza Griswold, who wrote about the compound in her book The Tenth Parallel, said, “Mostly out of sheer moxie, Dr. Hawa and her daughters have built a city of healing within the war’s brutal chaos.” Dr. Abdi’s daughter Amina, who first learned to practice medicine trudging behind her mother during visits to the bush, said her mother needed to rest. “But she has never rested in 20 years,” Amina laughed.
U.S. Bicycle Route System In The Works
2008-12-11, CBS News
State officials and bicycle enthusiasts are stitching together more than 50,000 miles of pedal-friendly pavement to form a vast network of bicycle routes connecting byways, cities and offroad trails in a system like the one created for cars and trucks over half a century ago. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, working with the Adventure Cycling Association and other groups, recently approved a plan, four years in the making, that lays the foundation for the network. Now it's up to each state to create the routes and put up signs. "It's a big turning point," said Jim Sayer, executive director of the Adventure Cycling group, the authority on transcontinental bike travel. The effort relies on cartography instead of construction, signposts instead of earth-movers. Working from a bewildering tangle of existing roads, planners mapped a web of corridors where the national bicycle system should go. They considered traffic volume, terrain, amenities and ways to link together lightly traveled byways, secondary roads, urban trails and already established transcontinental bicycle routes.
Note: For a more recent article on this inspiring development, click here.
For first time, more women than men earn PhD
2010-09-15, USA Today
With female enrollments growing at all levels of higher education, doctoral degrees have been one area where men have continued to dominate. No more. New data being released today show that in 2008-09, for the first time, women earned a majority of the doctoral degrees awarded in the USA. The data are part of an analysis of graduate enrollments and degrees from the Council of Graduate Schools. The majority for women in doctoral degrees is slight, 50.4%. But the shift has been steady and significant. As recently as 2000, women were earning only 44% of doctoral degrees. In master's degrees, where women have already accounted for a majority of degrees, their share now stands at 60%. Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis for the Council of Graduate Schools, said that the female majority for doctoral recipients was "a natural progression of what we have been seeing" in the rest of higher education. Given that female enrollments have overtaken male enrollments in associate, bachelor's and master's programs, he said, "the pipeline is increasingly female." In fact, he said that the only reason that women did not become a majority of doctoral recipients earlier is that a greater share of doctoral degrees are awarded in fields like engineering that remain disproportionately male than is the case at the undergraduate level.
Number of volunteers has grown despite recession, study says
2010-06-15, Washington Post
The number of volunteers increased last year despite the recession, the biggest one-year jump since 2003. The volunteer rate has been rising nationally for years, ... but the increase in the midst of a punishing recession surprised some experts. More than 63 million Americans volunteered last year, a bump of 1.6 million, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service, an independent federal agency that runs AmeriCorps and other programs. That's nearly 27 percent of all residents. Americans donated more than 8 billion hours of service in 2009, worth an estimated $169 billion to the economy. "Folks throughout the country are looking around their communities, seeing people in pain and turning toward the problems, not away from them," said Patrick Corvington, chief executive of CNCS. "It's an important shift: Folks want to get engaged, want to make a difference." At the same time, charitable giving dropped nearly 4 percent last year, to about $304 billion, according to a study by Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Many experts had predicted a greater drop because of the economy.