Japan pensioners volunteer to tackle nuclear crisis
2011-05-31, BBC News
A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station. The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60. They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young. It was while watching the television news that Yasuteru Yamada decided it was time for his generation to stand up. No longer could he be just an observer of the struggle to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant. The retired engineer is reporting back for duty at the age of 72, and he is organising a team of pensioners to go with him. For weeks now Mr Yamada has been getting back in touch with old friends, sending out e-mails and even messages on Twitter. Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical. "I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live," he says. "Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer." Mr Yamada is lobbying the government hard for his volunteers to be allowed into the power station. The government has expressed gratitude for the offer but is cautious.
Lighten your footprint by sharing
2009-12-20, Seattle Times
David Docter and his neighbor on Capitol Hill share a lawn mower and a pressure washer. "Why should we have two pressure washers when I use it twice a year and he uses it twice a year?" asks Docter, who applies similar logic to the mower and to an Oregon Coast cabin he and his wife, Alicia, share with a dozen other families. Two decades ago, when they bought into the cabin, it would have been tough to afford alone. Now, each family gets to use it several weeks a year for minimal expense. These sharing arrangements are small steps. But through them, each family has lightened its footprint, freed up cash and fix-it time, and found confidence in cooperation. Which leads to a logical question: If sharing stuff is so environmentally and economically sensible, why don't more people do it? Why do so many of us have hedge trimmers languishing and taking up space in our garages? Why are huge RVs parked in driveways and boats sitting in slips for 50 weeks at a time?
Because sharing is scary. Ask anybody. There's a reason why Nolo Press' recent book, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community, includes "agreements and forms." Long chapters discuss such issues as responsibilities and conflict resolution.
Can Exercise Keep You Young?
2011-03-02, New York Times blog
We all know that physical activity is beneficial in countless ways, but even so, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was startled to discover that exercise kept a strain of mice from becoming gray prematurely. In heartening new research published last week ... exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace. The mice that Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lacked the primary mitochondrial repair mechanism, so they developed malfunctioning mitochondria early in their lives, as early as 3 months of age, the human equivalent of age 20. By the time they reached 8 months, or their early 60s in human terms, the animals were extremely frail and decrepit, with spindly muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy, graying fur. All were dead before reaching a year of age. Except the mice that exercised. At 8 months, when their sedentary lab mates were bald, frail and dying, the running rats remained youthful. They had full pelts of dark fur, no salt-and-pepper shadings. They also had maintained almost all of their muscle mass and brain volume. At 1 year, none of the exercising mice had died. The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the impact that exercise had on the animals’ aging process. They had not expected that it would affect every tissue and bodily system studied. Dr. Tarnopolsky’s students were impressed. “I think they all exercise now,” he said.
Note: For a treasure trove of other inspiring articles published in the major media, click here.
Why the Kings of Bhutan Ride Bicycles
2011-01-14, Yes! Magazine
Bhutan has pioneered the use of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of progress, instead of the more commonly used GNP. GNH measures not only economic activity, but also cultural, ecological, and spiritual well-being. In September 2010, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley visited the United States to promote GNH education and economic theory. Prakash: What difference has it made to have GNH as your yardstick rather than gross domestic product? Thinley: First, we are promoting sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development which can be measured to a larger extent through conventional metrics. Second is the conservation of a fragile ecology, [using] indicators of achievement, [such] as the way the [vegetation] cover in my country has expanded over the last 25 years from below 60 to over 72 percent. The third strategy is promotion of culture, which includes preservation of the various aspects of our culture that continue to be relevant and supportive of Bhutan’s purpose as a human civilization. No Bhutanese should suffer a sense of insecurity arising from loss of their cultural identity, language, and so on, under the onslaught of modernization. Then there is the fourth strategy—good governance—on which the other three strategies or indicators depend. We know that democracy is the best form of governance.
Bishop William Swing wants a U.N. for religions
2010-12-26, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
William Swing, head of the Episcopal Church in California for 27 years - he retired in 2006 - is hardly letting up. His latest endeavor is nothing less than uniting the religions of the world. "For this, I have been called the Antichrist, New Age, nuts and an apostate," Swing said with a smile in his office in the Presidio of San Francisco. United Religions Initiative, marking its 10th anniversary this year, is in 78 countries, bringing together Christians and Jews, Hindus and Muslims, missionaries and animists, and Mormons and Mennonites. The organization has taken orphans off the streets of Pakistan, brokered peace talks in northern Uganda and integrated child soldiers back into their villages, and drawn Palestinian and Jewish women together in the Middle East. The idea for United Religions Initiative came about in 1993, when Swing was asked to host at Grace Cathedral the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. "I said, 'Sure,' and went to bed that night thinking the nations of the world have met every day for 50 years, yet the religions of the world have not spoken. So I figured if there is a United Nations, there has to be a United Religions." He and his wife set out in 1996 on a global tour to meet religious leaders of the world, including the Dalai Lama at his palace in India. It took an additional four years of planning, debating and writing the organization's charter for United Religions to be founded.
Lending Club, Prosper.com make peer-to-peer loans
2010-12-03, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Before Alex Taguchi proposed to high school flame Jenny Lee, the 26-year-old decided to liquidate about $11,000 in credit card debt, provided he could find a payment plan affordable on his salary as a software support specialist. His bank offered him a debt consolidation loan at 16.5 percent, but the Mountain View man decided to get a quote from a new online financial service that matches borrowers with lenders to give each better deals than are otherwise generally available. Today Taguchi is paying $380 a month on a three-year, 13.88 percent note issued through Lending Club.com, one of two Bay Area firms pioneering a new industry called peer-to-peer lending. The other is Prosper.com. Lending Club of Redwood City and Prosper of San Francisco have figured out how to perform [the] two-fisted function, of taking money in the one hand and lending it with the other, in a way that allows aspiring borrowers to specify how much they want, and for what purpose, and also gives them an overall risk profile - comparable, say, to a search engine ranking. These two online lending rivals then give potential investors the option to fund some of these loans at fixed rates and fixed terms - and interest levels designed to compete with bonds, stocks and other financial instruments.
Note: This exciting development may eventually change the face of banking, allowing us to lend to and borrow from each other directly without the need of intermediary bankers.
The Final Days
2007-07-01, New York Times
“Coast to Coast AM” is an overnight radio show devoted to what its weekday host, George Noory, calls “the unusual mysteries of the world and the universe.” “Coast to Coast AM” is by far the highest-rated radio program in the country once the lights go out. “My motto tonight,” Noory intoned at the beginning of [a] program, “is be prepared, not scared.” What followed was a graphic recitation of disaster scenarios for 2012, including hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused by solar storms, ... and mass extinctions brought on by nuclear winter. For Christians awaiting rapture or Shiites counting the days until the Twelfth Imam appears, the trials and injustices of the known world are a prelude for the paradise that we can imagine but can’t yet achieve. Judging by the sheer number of predicted end dates that have come and gone without the trumpets blowing and angels rushing in, we are a people impatient to see our world redeemed through catastrophe. Gnostics predicted the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom as early as the first century; Christians in Europe [were prepared] for the end of the world at the first millennium; the Shakers believed the world would end in 1792. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been especially prodigious with prophetic end dates: 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994. End dates are not the stuff of fantasy, after all; each and every one of us has a terminal appointment inscribed in our calendars. Perhaps that is why we need to imagine a supernatural force with one eye on a ticking clock, waiting to make everything new again.
Note: Could the desire for apocalypse represent a deep dissatisfaction with both ourselves and the world around us? Don't be surprised if after 2012 a new date of apocalypse eventually comes in vogue again. Could it be that when we open to accepting things as they are, we begin to experience more of paradise in our lives here and now? Coast to Coast tends to focus on the sensational, yet it is one of the few programs reporting deep cover-ups that no other media will touch.
Solar energy making a return to White House
2010-10-06, Washington Post
The White House is going solar after all - a home improvement that carries modest energy benefits but much larger symbolic importance. It isn't the first time the White House has used solar energy. President Jimmy Carter put 32 solar panels on the roof in the late 1970s, but President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986. Two grass-roots campaigns have recently been lobbying President Obama to restore them as a sign of his commitment to renewable energy. The roof of the White House residence will get solar panels and a solar water heater, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the White House Council on Environmental Quality's chair, Nancy Sutley. A campaign launched by Oakland, Calif.-based Sungevity called Solar on the White House and another by 350.org founder Bill McKibben tried to get Obama to reinstall solar panels. "The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: They listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future," McKibben said in a statement. "If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world," he said.
Crime rate decline puzzles theorists
2010-09-14, Boston Globe/Associated Press
Violent crime declined 5.3 percent last year, the third straight annual fall, the FBI reported [on September 13]. The drop was accompanied by a 4.6 percent drop in property crime, marking the seventh consecutive year that nonviolent crime has dropped. The figures challenge theories among some criminal analysts that crime tends to rise in times of uncertain economies. In the 1970s and early 1980s, when the economy went south, crime rates went up. Inflation was high then, which could account for the different reaction. James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said that although the downward trend is encouraging, the economy “could come back to haunt us’’ because of a nearly 10 percent drop per capita in police budgets in the past few years. “There is a connection between the economy and crime rates, but it’s not that when the economy is bad, people go out and commit crime,’’ said Fox. “When the economy is bad,’’ he said, “there are budget cuts. Less is spent on youth crime prevention and crime control on the street.’’
Note: Robbery and violent crime rates have dropped over 50% since 1994. Take a look at the graphs on the US Department of Justice website available here. Why isn't this highly inspiring news given top headlines?
Mom's Touch Brings Baby to Life
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a heart-broken couple in Australia cradles the body of their newborn baby. The doctor declared the little boy dead saying that he had no vital signs. But then something remarkable happened: a twitch, a blink and what some people are now calling a miracle. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) This is Jamie Ogg, a tiny little boy born at just 27 weeks, weighing just one kilo; a little boy who has defied all medical odds, whose survival can only be described as miracle. He should be dead. In fact, the doctor who delivered him pronounced him dead. Overwhelmed with grief, Kate and David were given Jamie for a cuddle; to hold and say good-bye to the son they believed it was dead. It's normal practice, but what happened was far, far from normal. Although Jamie had no visible signs of life, he was occasionally gasping for air, a reflex the doctor had told the new parents to suspect. The couple did everything they could to soothe Jamie in his last minutes. This video taken by a midwife clearly shows Jamie's movements, but, still, there were doubts. So in one last ditch attempt, Kate gave Baby Jamie some breast milk on her finger. To her amazement, he took it.
Note: To watch a video of this highly inspiring story, click here.
The Muslims in the Middle
2010-08-17, New York Times
Many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. Such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West. The great Sufi saints like the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi held that all existence and all religions were one, all manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque, church, synagogue or temple, but the striving to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart: that we all can find paradise within us, if we know where to look. In some ways Sufism, with its emphasis on love rather than judgment, represents the New Testament of Islam.
Crocodile crazy: The man who enjoys giving his dangerous 'companion' kisses and cuddles
2009-08-17, Daily Mail (One of the UK's largest-circulation newspapers)
Known as the 'Crocodile Man', Costa Rican animal lover Chito swims, plays and even feeds Pocho the giant crocodile in what is one of the world's most unlikely friendships. 'This is a very dangerous routine but Pocho is my friend and we have a good relationship,' says 52-year-old Chito. 'He will look me in the eye and he does not attack me. It is too dangerous for anyone else to come in the water. It is only ever the two of us.' The bizarre friendship began nearly 20 years ago when Chito rescued the 980-pound crocodile after finding him close to death ... shot in the left eye by a cattle farmer after preying on a herd of cows. Chito enlisted the help of several friends to load the massive reptile into his boat. Naming him 'Pocho' (meaning strength), the fisherman says he healed the reptile with medicine, food, and, more importantly, lots of care and attention. 'When I found him in the river after he was dying so I put him in my boat and I brought him into my house,' recalls Chito. 'He was very skinny, weighing only around 150 pounds, so I gave him chicken and fish and medicine for six months to help him recover.' During the recovery process, Chito stayed by Pocho's side, even sleeping with him at night. 'I just wanted him to feel that someone loved him, that not all humans are bad,' Chito says.
Note: Don't miss the great photos at the article link above.
Global Death Rates Drop for Children 5 or Younger
2010-05-24, New York Times
Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at a surprisingly fast pace, according to a new report based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010.
Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year — still an enormous number, but a vast improvement over the 1990 figure of 11.9 million. On average, death rates have dropped by about 2 percent a year from 1990 to 2010, and in many regions, even some of the poorest in Africa, the declines have started to accelerate, according to the report [in] The Lancet, a medical journal. Some parts of Latin America, north Africa and the Middle East have had declines as steep as 6 percent a year. Health experts say the figures mean that global efforts to save children’s lives have started working, better and faster than expected.
Vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and more education for women are among the factors that have helped lower death rates, said Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, an author of the report [from] the University of Washington, in Seattle.
Green MBA degrees sprout up on campuses
2010-04-21, San Francisco Chronicle
"Green" no longer just symbolizes money at business schools. So-called green MBAs - master of business administration programs that focus on sustainability - are a fast-growing part of the academic landscape, incorporating sustainability into all coursework.
The [San Francisco] Bay Area is home to two pioneering programs that grant green MBAs - the Presidio Graduate School (www.presidioedu.org) with a campus in San Francisco's Presidio, and the Green MBA program (www.greenmba.com) at Dominican University in San Rafael. Other local MBA programs increasingly are going green, too. Stanford ranks No. 4, and UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business No. 6 in "Beyond Grey Pinstripes," a biannual ranking that spotlights MBA programs that integrate social, environmental and ethical issues. Green MBA programs say they teach students to pay attention to the triple bottom line - people, profits and planet. Graduates of local green MBA programs [are] trying to use their degrees as a force for positive change.
Note: Click on the Chronicle link above to read the interviews with successful "Green MBAs".
Meet the girl with half a brain
For three years, little Cameron Mott’s life was a nightmarish succession of violent seizures that consumed her days and threatened her life. Finally, doctors told her parents there was a way to stop them: All they had to do was remove half of Cameron’s brain. “It was very scary, because you just can’t imagine what your child will be like after such a dramatic brain surgery,” Shelly Mott, [Cameron's mother, said.] Doctors put a name on [Cameron's] condition: Rasmussen’s syndrome, a condition that causes the destruction of one side of the brain. The solution was radical. It’s called a hemispherectomy, which means the removal of half of the brain. Since the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain, doctors knew that Cameron would be paralyzed on her left side when she awoke. But they also knew that the brains of children have amazing abilities to rewire themselves. Cameron was immobilized for the first two days after the surgery to allow her brain to stabilize. Then she went into an intensive physical therapy program. Four weeks after the surgery, she walked out of the hospital. The agonizing decision the Motts had had to make turned out to be right. Cameron was able to return to school, where she is now in the second grade and a good student. Her physical therapy sessions have just recently ended, and she can run and play. “I want to be a ballerina when I grow up,” Cameron said.
Owner of Multi-Million Dollar Company Hands Over Business to Employees
2010-02-18, ABC News
Before the words "whole grain" and "organic" became part of Americans' everyday vocabulary, Bob Moore knew the importance of healthful eating. In 1978, he started Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, as a small family-run business in Oregon selling stone mill-ground whole grains. The company has since grown into a multi-million dollar business that sells more than 400 whole grain products including flours, hot cereals, and organic and gluten-free products. Moore's work is a way of life and his employees are a second family, which is why he announced this week that he's handing over the keys to his 209 employees. Moore said he's gotten countless buy-out offers over the years, but he couldn't envision selling the business to a stranger. "It's the only business decision that I could make," he said. "I don't think there's anybody worthy to run this company but the people who built it. I have employees with me right now that have been with me for 30 years. They just were committed to staying with me now and they're going to own the company." The company will now be run by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) -- the idea being that a company's stock is put in a retirement plan for its employees, but the stock is never held or bought directly by individuals. When a vested employee retires, he can pull out money from the trust.
Will You Be E-Mailing This Column? It’s Awesome
2010-02-09, New York Times
Do people prefer to spread good news or bad news? Would we rather scandalize or enlighten? Which stories do social creatures want to share, and why? Now some answers are emerging thanks to a rich new source of data: you, Dear Reader. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page. According to the Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman, people preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics. Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. “Science kept doing better than we expected,” said Dr. Berger, a social psychologist and a professor of marketing at Penn’s Wharton School. “We anticipated that people would share articles with practical information about health or gadgets, and they did, but they also sent articles about paleontology and cosmology."
Is There Such a Thing as Life After Death?
2010-01-22, Time magazine
Is there life after death? Radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long says if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes. He makes the case for that controversial conclusion in a new book, Evidence of the Afterlife. He talked to TIME about the nature of near-death experience. [TIME:] How do you respond to skeptics who say there must be some biological or physiological basis for that kind of experience, which you say in the book is medically inexplicable? [Dr. Long:] There have been over 20 alternative, skeptical "explanations" for near-death experience. The reason is very clear: no one or several skeptical explanations make sense, even to the skeptics themselves. Or [else] there wouldn't be so many. [TIME:] You say this research has affected you a lot on a personal level. How? [Dr. Long:] I'm a physician who fights cancer. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I've ever faced it with before. I can be a better physician for my patients.
Note: For a deeply inspiring online lesson presenting incredibly powerful near-death experiences, click here.
Coral Castle: Mysterious Monument to Lost Love
2008-02-01, ABC News
Like the ancient wonders of Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids of Egypt, there is an incredible and mysterious creation right here in the United States. Coral Castle, in Homestead, Fla., just south of Miami, is an intricate rock garden made of enormous pieces of coral, many of them weighing several tons. But more amazingly, Coral Castle was built entirely by one man -- Latvian immigrant Ed Leedskalnin, who stood just 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds. To this day, no one knows how he did it. The castle is an extraordinary feat of engineering, and experts have puzzled over how Leedskalnin, who only had a fourth-grade education, constructed Coral Castle by himself. For example, how did this little man build a 9-ton coral gate constructed so precisely that you can push it open using one finger? There are many theories on how Leedskalnin accomplished this amazing feat. Some say he had help from extraterrestrials, others believe he discovered the secrets behind anti-gravity and levitation. Leedskalnin was a self-taught expert on magnetic currents, and one theory holds that he positioned the site to be perfectly aligned with Earth's poles to eliminate the forces of gravity, allowing him to move stones weighing several tons each. Even Albert Einstein couldn't figure it out.
Note: For a good video of this wonder, click here. For more information on this most intriguing phenomenon, click here. The unusual builder of this site claimed to know the secrets of the pyramids and even Einstein could not imagine how he did it.
Mystery pair at diner spark cascade of giving
2009-12-14, MSNBC News
It played like a scene from a holiday movie – a mystery couple, who didn’t leave their names or numbers, walked into a restaurant, finished their meal and then set off a chain reaction of generosity that lasted for hours. That’s just what employees at the Aramingo Diner in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia said a man and a woman did during their breakfast shift Saturday morning. “It was magical. I had tears in my eyes because it never happened before. I’ve been here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Lynn Willard, a waitress. “I could not believe it. And it continued and continued,” said Willard. “They asked us not to say anything until they left, [and only then to] say, ‘Merry Christmas, that person picked up your check.’” For the next five hours, dozens of patrons got into that same holiday spirit and paid the favor forward. The diner’s manager said not one person was concerned about price of the check – which ran between $12 and $30. “It was a surprise to all of us,” said the diner's manager. “Those who took the check also tipped the waitress. So nobody had to do anything other than pass it on, and that’s what they did. They just passed it forward.” It’s a true holiday story that proves how a small gesture of kindness can create some magic.