Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates
2010-01-12, BBC News
Why would a former Guantanamo Bay prison guard track down two of his former captives - two British men - and agree to fly to London to meet them? The last time Ruhal Ahmed met Brandon Neely, he was "behind bars, behind a cage and [Brandon] was on the other side". The location had been Camp X-Ray - the high-security detention camp run by the US in Guantanamo Bay. Mr Ahmed, originally from Tipton in the West Midlands, was among several hundred foreign terror suspects held at the centre. Mr Neely was one of his guards. The scene of this current exchange of pleasantries couldn't be more different from where they last met - a television studio in London. Also here is Shafiq Rasul, a fellow ex-Guantanamo prisoner, without whose Facebook page the reunion would never have happened. Mr Neely, 29, ... left the US military in 2005 to become a police officer and was still struggling to come to terms with his time as a guard at Guantanamo. He felt anger at a number of incidents of abuse he says he witnessed, and guilt over one in particular. "The news would always try to make Guantanamo into this great place," he says, "like 'they [prisoners] were treated so great'. No it wasn't. You know here I was basically just putting innocent people in cages."
Note: The video of this reunion at the BBC link above is quite extraordinary for what it represents. How did these innocent men end up suffering so much? For a possible answer and wake-up call, click here.
Triumph of a Dreamer
2009-11-15, New York Times
Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you're discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent. Of all the people earning university degrees this year, perhaps the most remarkable story belongs to Tererai, a middle-aged woman. When you hear that foreign-aid groups just squander money or build dependency, remember [her story].
Tererai was born in a village in rural Zimbabwe, probably sometime in 1965, and attended elementary school for less than one year. Her father married her off when she was about 11 to a man who beat her regularly. A dozen years passed. Jo Luck, the head of an aid group called Heifer International, passed through the village and told the women there that they should stand up, nurture dreams, change their lives.
Inspired, Tererai ... wrote that she wanted to study abroad, and to earn a B.A., a master's and a doctorate. In 1998 she was accepted to Oklahoma State University. Heifer helped with the plane tickets, Tererai's mother sold a cow, and neighbors sold goats to help raise money. With $4,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking and tied around her waist, Tererai set off for Oklahoma. At one point the university tried to expel Tererai for falling behind on tuition payments. A university official, Ron Beer, intervened on her behalf and rallied the faculty and community behind her with donations and support. "I saw that she had enormous talent," Dr. Beer said. Tererai excelled at school, pursuing a Ph.D at Western Michigan University and writing a dissertation on AIDS prevention in Africa even as she began working for Heifer as a program evaluator.
FBI: Murder, Violent Crime Dropped in 2008
2009-09-14, New York Times/Associated Press
Murder and manslaughter dropped almost 4 percent last year, as reported crime overall fell around the country, according to new data released ... by the FBI. The 3.9 percent decline in killings reported to police was part of a nationwide drop in violent crime of 1.9 percent from 2007 to 2008. Rapes declined 1.6 percent, to the lowest national number in 20 years -- about 89,000. The statistics are based on crimes reported to police, who then forward the information to the FBI. There were 14,180 murder victims in the United States last year. ''What has been impressive has been how flat all the violent crime rates have been since 2000. To a large degree that's still the case, but the striking change this year has been murder,'' said Alfred Blumstein, a professor of criminal justice at Carnegie-Mellon University. The figures show that crime has come way down since its peak in the early 1990's. ''These are rates we haven't seen since the 1960's, even though the change from year to year has been rather small,'' said Blumstein. Property crimes declined overall, by 0.8 percent, but that was driven mostly by a 12.7 percent drop in car thefts. The other major categories of property crime -- burglaries and larceny-thefts -- both rose. Typically, crime is expected to rise during economic hard times, but Blumstein said last year's data was too early in the economic cycle to reflect that, because the most serious economic impacts came toward the end of 2008, and may not have affected teenagers -- the group most likely to turn to crime as their job prospects dwindle.
Note: What this report completely fails to report is that violent crime is down over 50% since 1994! Why does the major media consistently fail to report this awesome news? For verifiable information on this, click here.
The City that Ended Hunger
2009-03-20, Yes! Magazine
A city in Brazil recruited local farmers to help do something U.S. cities have yet to do: end hunger. More than 10 years ago, Brazil’s fourth-largest city, Belo Horizonte, declared that food was a right of citizenship and started working to make good food available to all. One of its programs puts local farm produce into school meals. This and other projects cost the city less than 2 percent of its budget. Belo, a city of 2.5 million people, once had 11 percent of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The new mayor, Patrus Ananias—now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort—began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources—the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. During the first six years of Belo’s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city’s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000. The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers.
Note: Why not take this movement to each of our states and provinces? Are you willing to make a difference? To contact your local and national media and political representatives, click here.
Video star can't stop dancing
2008-06-29, Chicago Tribune
The new Web video from Matt Harding, accidental professional dancer, is up, and it is spectacular, a cry of life and brotherhood and joy. As Harding toured the world ... filming the third installment in his "Where the Hell Is Matt?" video series, you might have thought that the trick would have played itself out. An ordinary guy doing a kind of running-in-place dance at 69 earthly locales with an ethereal song as soundtrack shouldn't be endlessly endearing and deeply inspiring. But this music-video-length wonder works in surprising ways, especially amid the predominantly crass environment of YouTube. Part of the charm of the video (also at Harding's own wherethehellismatt.com) is his new twist for it. At each stop on his latest set of travels, Harding invited locals to come dance with him. In Chicago, that meant more than 100 people bobbed up and down in front of The Bean sculpture. In Poria, Papua New Guinea, it was a handful of people in full tribal garb accompanying Harding. The collection of disparate peoples doing essentially the same pointless yet joyful thing is a reminder of what's universal in humankind. The teasing glimpse of so many gorgeous spots is a goad to renew your own passport and get moving. Part of the charm comes from the unadorned simplicity of Harding himself—he just looks damned happy to be wherever he is—and the delight that is his story. A video game designer disaffected by the industry's trend toward violence, he quit his job in early 2003 and began traveling. At the suggestion of a friend, he used the video function of a point-and-shoot digital camera and taped himself dancing at all his stops.
Note: Don't miss Matt's inspiring five-minute video available here. For a New York Times article on this fun piece, click here.
Superfast internet may replace world wide web
2008-04-09, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The internet could soon be made obsolete by a new "grid" system which is 10,000 times faster than broadband connections. Scientists in Switzerland have developed a lightning-fast replacement to the internet that would allow feature films and music catalogues to be downloaded within seconds. The latest spin-off from CERN, the particle physics centre that created the internet, the grid could also provide the power needed to send sophisticated images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call. David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technology could change society. He said: "With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine." The power of the grid will be unlocked this summer with the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a new particle accelerator designed to investigate how the universe began. The grid will be turned on at the same time to store the information it generates, after scientists at CERN, based near Geneva, realised the internet would not have the capacity to capture such huge volumes of data. The grid has been built with fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data, unlike the internet. There are 55,000 grid servers already installed, a figure which is expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years. Britain has 8,000 servers on the grid system, meaning access could be available to universities as early as this autumn.
The Language of Autism
2008-02-28, New York Times
Are people with autism trapped in their own world? Or are the rest of us just trapped in ours? After seeing 27-year-old Amanda Baggs ... you may rethink your views of the so-called "normal" world. Ms. Baggs, who lives in Burlington, Vt., is autistic and doesn’t speak. But she has become an Internet sensation as a result of an unusual video she created called "In My Language." For the first three minutes of the video, she rocks, flaps her hands, waves a piece of paper, buries her face in a book and runs her fingers repeatedly across a computer keyboard, all while humming a haunting two-note tune. Then, the words "A Translation" appear on the screen. Although Ms. Baggs doesn’t speak, she types 120 words a minute. Using a synthesized voice generated by a software application, Ms. Baggs types out what is going on inside her head. The movement, the noise, the repetitive behaviors are all part of Ms. Baggs’ own "native" language, she says via her computerized voice. It’s a language that allows her to have a "constant conversation" with her surroundings. "My language is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment, reacting physically to all parts of my surroundings. Far from being purposeless, the way that I move is an ongoing response to what is around me. The way I naturally think and respond to things looks and feels so different from standard concepts or even visualization that some people do not consider it thought at all. But it is a way of thinking in its own right." [Ms. Baggs'] video is a clarion call on behalf of people with cognitive disabilities whose way of communicating isn’t understood by the rest of the world.
Note: If you want to expand your understanding of people and our world, don't miss the most amazing eight-minute video clip at the link above, or click here to view it now.
Eighth wonder of the world?
2007-11-22, Daily Mail (Britain's second largest circulation daily newspaper)
Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy ... lies the valley of Valchiusella. Weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.
They are linked by hundreds of metres of richly decorated tunnels. The 'Temples of Damanhur' are ... the work of ... 57-year-old [Oberto Airaudi] who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples. Around these he [saw] there lived a highly evolved community who enjoyed an idyllic existence in which all the people worked for the common good. Oberto appeared to have ... the gift of "remote viewing" - the ability to travel in his mind's eye. Oberto - who prefers to use the name 'Falco' ... selected a remote hillside where he felt the hard rock would sustain the structures he had in mind. A house was built on the hillside and Falco moved in with several friends who shared his vision. Using hammers and picks, they began their dig to create the temples of Damanhur ... in August 1978. Volunteers, who flocked from around the world, worked ... for the next 16 years with no formal plans other than Falco's sketches and visions. By 1991, several of the nine chambers were almost complete with stunning murals, mosaics, statues, secret doors and stained glass windows. Esperide Ananas ... has written a new book called Damanhur, Temples Of Humankind. Today the 'Damanhurians' even have their own university, schools, organic supermarkets, vineyards, farms, bakeries and award-winning eco homes. They do not worship a spiritual leader, though their temples have become the focus for group meditation. 'They are to remind people that we are all capable of much more than we realise and that hidden treasures can be found within every one of us once you know how to access them,' says Falco.
Note: Click on the article link above to see many exquisite color photos of the amazing interiors of the Damanhur temples.
Blind To Failure
2001-06-18, Time Magazine (Cover story)
Scaling Everest requires the enthusiasm and boosterism of a physical-education teacher combined with the survival instinct of a Green Beret. You have to want that summit. Erik Weihenmayer, 33, wasn't just another yuppie trekker. Blind since he was 13 ... he began attacking mountains in his early 20s. For Erik ... excelling as an athlete was the result of accepting his disability rather than denying it." Climbing with Erik isn't that different from climbing with a sighted mountaineer. You wear a bell on your pack, and he follows the sound ... using his custom-made climbing poles to feel his way along the trail. His climbing partners shout out helpful descriptions: "Death fall 2 ft. to your right!" Almost 90% of Everest climbers fail to reach the summit. Many--at least 165 since 1953--never come home at all. When Erik and the team began the final ascent from Camp 4 ... they had been on the mountain for two months ... getting used to the altitude and socking away enough equipment [before they made the final, successful] summit push. "He was the heart and soul of our team," says Eric Alexander. "The guy's spirit won't let you quit." It could be called the most successful Everest expedition ever, and not just because of Erik's participation. A record 19 climbers from the N.F.B. team summited, including the oldest man ever to climb Everest--64-year-old Sherman Bull. Perhaps the point is really that there is no way to put what Erik has done in perspective because no one has ever done anything like it. It is a unique achievement, one that in the truest sense pushes the limits of what man is capable of.
Note: Don't miss the entire inspiring story at the link above. For an inspiring video of Erik in Peru, click here.
Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half
2007-02-18, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half. Anil Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom, says he looks forward to the day - not so far off - when entire cities in America and Europe generate their heating, lighting and air-conditioning needs from solar films on buildings with enough left over to feed a surplus back into the grid. The secret? A piece of dark polymer foil, as thin a sheet of paper. It is so light it can be stuck to the sides of buildings. It can be mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging - in any colour. The "tipping point" will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 (51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. The best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down from $100 in the late 1970s. Mr Sethi believes his product will cut the cost to 80 cents per watt within five years, and 50 cents in a decade. "We don't need subsidies, we just need governments to get out of the way and do no harm," he said. Solar use [has] increased dramatically in Japan and above all Germany, where Berlin's green energy law passed in 2004 forces the grid to buy surplus electricity from households at a fat premium. The tipping point in Germany and Japan came once households [understood] that they could undercut their unloved utilities. Credit Lyonnais believes the rest of the world will soon join the stampede. Needless to say, electricity utilities are watching the solar revolution with horror.
Note: Why is this inspiring, important news getting so little press coverage? And why not more solar subsidies? For a possible answer, click here. And for an amazing new energy source not yet reported in the major media which could make even solar energy obsolete, click here.
The Power of Positive Thinking
2006-11-16, CNN Larry King Live
Want to find true love, make more money, have the life of your dreams? Then think about it. The power of your thoughts can improve your life. [JAMES] RAY: Science tells us that every single thing that appears to be solid is actually energy. You put it under a high-powered microscope [and] it's nothing more than a field of energy and a rate of vibration. Like vibrations are attracted to each other and dissimilar vibrations repel. JOE VITALE: Whatever you focus on you get more of. If you're focusing on lack, you're going to get more lack. If you focus on abundance, you ... get more abundance. RAY: If you want to create [something], your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions all need to be firing simultaneously. VITALE: You see yourself experiencing it as if it's right now. You feel it. You live it. When you do that you accelerate the manifestation process. RAY: The whole concept of soul mate is often inherently flawed because it says that your completion or your better half resides outside yourself. Intellectually we know better than that. Your completion resides inside yourself. KING: Why ... is maintaining a happy relationship [so hard]? [JACK] CANFIELD: Because we tend to project ... the unaccepted parts of ourself out onto the other person. We keep trying to get them to change so that we'll be happy. RAY: How can you ever expect anyone else to enjoy your company if you don't enjoy your own? Most people are in love with their misery. They're attending to it all the time. It's like a roaring bonfire and they're throwing another log on it every day. VITALE: Find things to be grateful for right now. Out of that gratitude you will find more things to be grateful for. And out of that gratitude you will find happiness right now.
Note: To watch this highly inspiring, 45-minute program online, click here and scroll down to "Beyond the Power of Positive Thinking 2" on the right side. Read the entire transcript at the link above and you may very well find tools to make your life richer and fuller all the time. For empowering ideas and suggestions on how to find and develop your life purpose, click here.
Nobel Winner Urges Defeat Of Poverty
2006-12-10, CBS News/Associated Press
Economist Muhammad Yunus ... received the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday for his efforts to relieve poverty as a cornerstone for building peace. Yunus, 66, often called the banker to the poor, shared the coveted award with his creation, Grameen Bank, for helping people, even beggars, rise above poverty by giving them microcredit — small, usually unsecured loans. The Bangladeshi economist is the developer and founder of the concept of microcredit. In his Nobel lecture Yunus said the world must overcome poverty if it ever wants to achieve peace. "We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come. I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns," he said. Grameen Bank, set up in 1983, was the first lender to provide microcredit, giving very small loans to poor Bangladeshis who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed, and repayment is based on an honour system, with nearly a 100 percent repayment rate. Yunus said the idea has spread around the world, with similar programmes in almost every country. "Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly seven million poor people, 97 per cent of them are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh," said Yunus. Villagers, many of whom have benefited from Grameen Bank's small-loan programs [watched the Nobel ceremony] in groups at local shops. "We are so happy, wish we could all have gone there," said Samida Begum, talking by telephone from Kelia village. Begum runs a phone call shop started with a Grameen Bank loan almost 18 years ago. Her family also owns a poultry shop started with a loan from Grameen.
Note: If you are interested in a wonderful, empowering, secure vehicle in which to place your investments that helps to directly pull families out of poverty in a big way through microcredit and microloans, click here.
Vitamin C: Cancer cure?
2006-06-18, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia's leading newspaper)
Government nutrition researcher [Dr. Mark Levine] has published new evidence that suggests vitamin C can work like chemotherapy - only better. But so far, he hasn't been able to interest cancer experts in conducting the kind of conclusive studies that, one way or the other, would advance treatment. "If vitamin C is useful in cancer treatment, that's wonderful. If it's not, or if it's harmful, that's fine, too," said Levine, a Harvard-educated physician at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The distinction between oral and intravenous is crucial. The body automatically gets rid of extra C through urine. Levine's lab has shown that, at high concentrations, the vitamin is toxic to many types of cancer cells in lab dishes. But to get that much C into the body before it's eliminated, it must be put directly into the blood. Five out of nine types of cancer cells that were put in simulated body-cavity fluid died when concentrated ascorbate or peroxide was added to the dish. And the best part: This same lethal marinade had no effect on healthy cells. "Interest is definitely growing," said Kenneth Bock, physician and president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, an alternative-medicine society that teaches ascorbate infusion protocols. The American Cancer Society and the American Association of Clinical Oncologists warn patients against high-dose C, as do leading cancer centers such as the University of Pennsylvania's and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
Note: If the above link does not work, the article is also available on the website of the San Diego Union-Tribune. For why this is not making major headlines in the news, click here and here.
Are They Here to Save the World?
2005-01-12, New York Times
If you have not been in an alternative bookstore lately, it is possible that you have missed the news about indigo children. They represent "perhaps the most exciting, albeit odd, change in basic human nature that has ever been observed and documented," Lee Carroll and Jan Tober write in "The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived." The book has sold 250,000 copies since 1999 and has spawned a cottage industry of books about indigo children. In "The Indigo Children," Mr. Carroll and Ms. Tober define the phenomenon. Indigos, they write, share traits like high I.Q., acute intuition, self-confidence, resistance to authority and disruptive tendencies, which are often diagnosed as attention-deficit disorder, known as A.D.D., or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D. "These children are the answers to the prayers we all have for peace," said Doreen Virtue, a former psychotherapist for adolescents who now writes books and lectures on indigo children. She calls the indigos a leap in human evolution. "They're vigilant about cleaning the earth of social ills and corruption, and increasing integrity." Marjorie Jackson, a tai chi and yoga teacher....said that schools should treat children more like adults, rather than placing them in "fear-based, constrictive, no-choice environments, where they explode."
Note: ABC has a six-minute news clip on these special children available here. For another amazingly inspiring video clip of one of these unusual children, click here. For a website dedicated to indigo children, click here
Discipline With Dignity: Oakland Classrooms Try Healing Instead of Punishment
2014-02-19, Yes! Magazine
Tommy, an agitated 14-year-old high school student in Oakland, Calif., was in the hallway cursing out his teacher at the top of his lungs. A few minutes earlier, in the classroom, he’d called her a “b___” after she twice told him to lift his head from the desk. Eric Butler, the school coordinator for Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) heard the ruckus and rushed to the scene. They walked together to the restorative justice room. Slowly, the boy began to open up and share what was weighing on him. His mom, who had been successfully doing drug rehabilitation, had relapsed. She’d been out for three days. The 14-year-old was going home every night to a motherless household and two younger siblings. He had been holding it together as best he could, even getting his brother and sister breakfast and getting them off to school. He had his head down on the desk in class that day because he was exhausted from sleepless nights and worry. Eric ... facilitated a restorative justice circle with [Tommy's mom], Tommy, the teacher, and the principal. Punitive justice asks only what rule of law was broken, who did it, and how they should be punished. It responds to the original harm with more harm. Restorative justice asks who was harmed, what are the needs and obligations of all affected, and how does everyone affected figure out how to heal the harm. Tommy ... told his story. On the day of the incident, he had not slept, and he was hungry and scared. He felt the teacher was nagging him. He’d lost it. Tommy apologized.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Learning is something we do together
2013-11-01, The Intelligent Optimist Magazine
Guest teacher Toshiro Kanamori captivates the students at the Amstelveen College high school in the Netherlands. Though he is almost a head shorter than most of the students, he holds their attention as he speaks passionately with the help of a translator. But that's almost unnecessary; as someone says later, with his hand gestures, you could almost understand him without the translator. Kanamori speaks with his face, his hands, his whole body. Kanamori is no ordinary teacher. In his vision of education, school is not so much a preparation for life; he believes children should be participating in life. Life itself forms the foundation for learning. Thanks to the heartwarming documentary "Children Full of Life", Kanamori, 67, is known all over Japan and the world. The documentary follows Kanamori and an elementary school class for a year as he teaches his students how to talk about feelings, be compassionate and be happy. That last lesson, according to Kanamori, should be the reason kids go to school. Kanamori teaches elementary school children at the Hokuriku Gaikun University in the Japanese city of Kanazawa, and in the 38 years he's been -- as he puts it -- in, not in front of, the class, he's brought the outside world into the curriculum. For instance, for a sex education lesson, he invited a pregnant woman to class and let the kids ask any questions they might have. He also brought in a terminal cancer patient to talk about her feelings about dying and death. Lessons about death? According to Kanamori, death is not too heavy a subject for kids around ages 9 and 10.
Note: For a profoundly moving video of Mr. Kanamori working his magic with a group of Japanese children, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Doctor's street medicine helps cure homelessness
2011-10-21, CBS News
Dr. Jim Withers has been caring exclusively for [Pittsburgh, PA's] homeless since 1992. Night after night, he and his team make their rounds at homeless camps. They treat everything, head to toe -- from mental illness to frostbitten feet. What little money Withers makes comes mostly from grants and teaching at a medical school. But he doesn't think about money. In fact, he doesn't think at all like a typical doctor. "The essence of healthcare is going to where people are. Either physically or even more importantly spiritually, emotionally," he said. "When they're shown that they matter," Withers said, ... "then hope grows. And amazing things happen. That's why we've been able to house well over 700 people. You know, if I could I'd write a prescription for a house for all the street people because it is immensely important for health." Jim Ellis, 49, was on the streets for eight years until he met Withers, who first treated his back pain and then helped cure his homelessness. Through a non-profit Withers started called Operation Safety Net, he and his staff have been remarkably successful at finding apartments for people like Jim. Over the years, Operation Safety Net has been able to help so many that today homelessness in Pittsburgh is literally half the problem it used to be - half as many people on the streets. About a dozen cites in America are now trying to copy the program, in firm belief that this doctor definitely knows best.
Note: For a great video on this man and his inspiring work, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Modern Pied Piper Cheats Death
2009-05-01, CBS News
Every time 70-year-old Andy Mackie draws a breath, it's music to his ears - whether there's a harmonica there or not. Mackie's just glad to be alive. Mackie jokes, "I guess they don't need a harmonica player in heaven yet." Mackie, a Scottish-born retired horse trainer, lives in a camper in northwest Washington state - he lives there, even though technically -- medically -- he should have died long ago. After his ninth heart surgery, Mackie's doctors had him on 15 different medicines. But the side effects made life miserable. So one day he quit taking all 15 and decided to spend his final days doing something he always wanted to do. He used the money he would have spent on the prescriptions to give away 300 harmonicas, with lessons included. "I really thought it was the last thing I could ever do," he says. And when he didn't die the next month, he bought a few hundred more. Harmonicas in hand, he explains, "I just started going from school to school." It's now 11 years and 13,000 harmonicas later. Today there's nary a kid in the county who hasn't gotten a free harmonica from Mackie, or played one of his strum sticks. To keep the kids interested in music as they get older, Mackie now spends the bulk of his Social Security check making them beginner string instruments. He also buys store-made instruments for kids that show a special interest. He provides free lessons to everyone by getting the older kids to teach the younger kids. Mackie says, "I tell them music is a gift, you give it away - you give it away and you get to keep it forever." The end result is something truly unique to his corner of Washington. It seems everywhere you look, everyplace you go, every kid you meet has the same genuine passion for fiddle music.
Note: Don't miss the inspiring video of this story at the link above. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Prison Gardens Grow New Lives for Inmates
2013-10-23, ABC News blog
From Enfield, Conn., to New York City and the San Francisco Bay, lush gardens filled with ripe fruits, vegetables and flowers are growing in unexpected places — prison yards. Prisons use them to rehabilitate inmates and to teach them basic landscaping skills that they can use to get jobs. For the last three years, all 18 state prisons in Connecticut have had garden programs. None cost taxpayers money.
Last year, Connecticut prisons produced more than 35,000 pounds of produce – saving taxpayers $20,000 a year by putting produce back into the prison system. “We believe that everybody has a heart and everybody has a chance for transformation,” said Beth Waitkus, the director of the Insight Garden Program that started 10 years ago at San Quentin prison. “What happens with gardening is … they reconnect to themselves. They reconnect to their feelings. They reconnect to each other as a community, a small community in the prison, and they really reconnect to nature. And, I think that offers a huge opportunity for transformation when we reconnect to ourselves and to the natural world.” While Waitkus spends her time in San Quentin teaching inmates how to plant flowers, take care of soil and prune plants, she also keeps the connection strong once they leave prison. Nationally, the recidivism rate is more than 60 percent, according to the 2011 Annual Recidivism Report. For garden prisoners at San Quentin, Waitkus said the return rate is less than 10 percent, and most other prison gardens report return rates in the single digits. In Connecticut, officials say not one of the garden graduates has returned.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Microlending: Do Good, Make Money?
2009-02-17, CBS News
I've long been a fan of microfinance or microlending where a small loan can make a big difference. To date, I've made several small investments via both Microplace.com and Kiva.org. And, in addition to doing good, I'm doing well. The money is loaned to poor people--mostly women--in various parts of the world. Microlending, like other uninsured investments, is subject to all sorts of risks. But, based on past performance, the odds of seeing your money again are pretty high. Historically, 97 percent of low-income borrowers have paid back their microfinance loans. Kiva.org is a not-for-profit organization. From a user perspective, one of the big differences between the two organizations is that Kiva doesn't pay interest. Also, Kiva is a bit more "peer to peer" in that its Web site shows you information about the specific entrepreneur who will be receiving your loan. One feature I like about Kiva is that you can purchase gift certificates for as little as $25. That's what I'm now doing for the children in my life. By giving them a Kiva gift certificate they and their parents get to chose who to loan it to and, eventually, the child gets the $25 back. It's a good long-term investment in social consciousness. And, yes, I've put my money where my words are. After a couple of years investing in both Kiva and Microplace, I have nothing but happy (albeit small) returns.
Note: For lots more on microlending, click here and here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.