Monthly Archives: January 2012

Why We The Sheeple Will Lose Our Rights

WARNING:  this is a political post.  And it’s one in which I fear some of my anger may just boil over at the thought of  elected officials who are aggressively and deliberately creating and passing legislation that will remove our rights as citizens.

The election is near.  PLEASE, please, read, think, make an informed decision and go to the polls to exercise our singular right to vote.  If you don’t, there is only one person you can blame if your candidate for any office does NOT get elected…that’s you.  I am reposting this in the vain hope that some of you will read it, do your research and go to the polls.

Two points of interest before I begin:

  1. This post is based on a document entitled, “The Dirty Thirty – The GOP’s Rights Killing Agenda“.    I’d thank the people who did the research and put this together but I am way to upset right now to even be civil.
  2. THIS DOCUMENT WAS NOT PUBLISHED BY A POLITICAL PARTY masquerading as independent thinkers or analysts.  The people behind this post are all seasoned political reporters, analysts or scholars.  The information in their article is researched and documented and if you doubt it, you can check the legislation, yourself.

The “dirty 30” is a list of bills and legislation on the table in states all across our country.  Among the proposals are acts designed to damage everything from our right to unionize and use collective bargaining to getting rid of the current Child Labor Laws.

If demolishing human rights doesn’t really upset you, think about what’s going to happen to your wallet if bills introduced in Georgia, Michigan and Minnesota are passed.  Here’s a sampling of what the bills, which are aimed solely at undermining the middle class in this country, would do:

  1. Raise taxes on things like Girl Scout Cookies, groceries and gasoline but lower tax rates on corporate income, from 6 percent this year to just 4 percent in 2014
  2. Cut business taxes by 86 percent from an estimated $2.1 billion in FY 2011 to $292.7 million in FY 2013 while raising taxes on individuals  by $1.7 billion or nearly 31 percent.  Do the math – if you live in Michigan, you’re paying for the business tax cut.
  3. Cut the tax rate for the richest individuals and corporations to 25 percent to help spur job growth. This legislation is designed to help rich industrialists like the Koch Brotherswho increased their wealth by $9 billion last year but kept laying off employees, anyway.

Not worried about giving more to the rich and robbing the middle class to do it?  Try this on for size.  Two states have already passed legislation disenfranchising millions and millions of voters; 20 more states are preparing legislation to do the same.

In fact, 6 states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures are requiring voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and that number is even higher among young voters (18%) and African-Americans (25%).  That’s a lot of people who will lose their right to vote entirely.

There’s more but my head and my heart cannot take it so if you’re of legal voting age, I’m going to ask you to do a few things, yourself:

  1. DON’T read this post and make up your mind – no matter what side you fall on.  Read more.  Read mainstream and alternative press.  Read Mother Jones News and Nation magazines.
  2. DON’T listen to what politicians say; watch what they do.
  3. Think about everything you read and hear and then…
  4. Start thinking about who you want controlling your life from the vast distance of the State House or Capitol Hill.
  5. And make up your own mind.  Don’t vote like Daddy did or because your friends say you should.

This is your country, too.  Those of us who fought to win the very rights you enjoy today are fading from the front lines.  You need to step up and own the outcomes of living in a democratic society — a country where your vote should count and your rights should be protected.

If you don’t act, this nation of “sheeple” will get exactly what and who you vote for.


Filed under Education, Politics

Project 365 – Square Foot Gardening For Food

Anyone who has ever gardened has heard the expression, “square foot gardening.”

It’s a modified version of “raised-bed intensive,” an old technique that is supposed to create a highly controlled space where dense planting produces greater yields.

Some of us (me included) have employed some of the methods to get the greatest amount of food out of the smallest patch of dirt.  And some, like the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, have taken the concept of maximum yield from small space to the nth degree.

They’re good at it too and should be.  The founder of this organization is Mel Bartholomew — PBS host, author and gardener himself.

Bartholomew has been nominated twice for inclusion Cambridge Who’s Who for this gardening method.  He simplified this gardening technique and made it easy for total beginners and seasoned gardeners to use successfully.  And his books and videos made this method of gardening readily available to anyone, anywhere.

Bartholomew could have stopped with fame and international accolades but he didn’t.  That’s why I’m writing about him.  He took his interest in  big yields from small patches and created The Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

The foundation’s purpose?  To end world hunger.

Square foot gardening is the method this group of dedicated people use to teach families how to grow healthy food and improve their diets.  The foundation also teaches classes and supports local community gardens. And it trains certified teachers who then support NGO (non-governmental) projects overseas.

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation is teaching folks to grow their own food all around the world. That’s why they are on the list of 365 organizations and the people behind them who are helping to save the world.

My thanks to Michele McCarty for suggesting this group.  Michele, who is a member of the Linked In group, Grow Girls Grow Organic,  is also training with Square Foot Gardening Foundation to become a certified teacher and she is the owner/President of Wonder Wormin Vermicomposting Systems.

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Filed under Gardening, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, Saving Money, World Changing Ideas

Project 365 – Saving Animals & Saving Ourselves

Let me start this post by saying, I am not a vegetarian or vegan.   I eat beef, chicken and pork.

But I don’t buy any meat at the supermarket.  All of our meat comes from two local farmers whose animals I see grazing in the fields and lazing in the sun.  Why not just swing by the store and grab that plastic wrapped pork loin or t-bone steak?

Because I know where the meat in the store came from, how the animals were raised and I cannot enjoy my meals.  Restaurants and supermarkets rely on factory farms for their meat and poultry.

You’ve probably heard the term “factory farming” before but may not  really know what it means.  Let’s just look at chickens to help give you a glimpse inside factory farming.

Try to imagine thousands and thousands of chickens crowded into one small place, each chicken getting a 6 inch by 6 inch square to live in. Shortly after hatching, chicks have the ends of their beaks cut off.  Performed without anesthesia, large scale growers say it’s to reduce injuries that result when stressed birds are driven to fighting — for space, for food, for their very lives.

A commonly-held justification for keeping and killing chickens this way is that chickens aren’t smart.  Maybe…but what about pigs?

A baby piglet settles in with his friend. (Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

Recent research has shown that pigs are among the quickest  animals to learn new routines including herding sheep, opening and closing cages and playing video games with joysticks.

In fact, they are perhaps the smartest, cleanest domestic animals known – more so than cats and dogs.  And they learn as fast as chimpanzees — the animal whose genome is 98% identical to ours.

More than 100 million of these smart animals are raised in factory farms every year, confined from birth to death and subjected to intense overcrowding in every stage of their short lives, until they reach a slaughter weight of 250 pounds at 6 months old.

Animals on factory farms never get to see the sun, never graze and some, like pigs, never even get to lie down.   The “farmers” say it’s a business; people who know better say it’s abuse.  And it’s this type of abuse that Farm Sanctuary has fought against for more than 25 years.

What started in 1986 as a group of dedicated volunteers has grown to the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization but its mission has not changed.  Farm Sanctuary is committed to, “… ending cruelty to farm animals.”  This group also brings its now considerable resources to education and advocacy.

These are two tools Farm Sanctuary uses to take its message to millions of people who had no idea how cruel life for animals is on today’s industrialized farms.  Farm Sanctuary also pushes for laws and policies to prevent the unspeakable conditions these thinking, feeling animals are currently forced to endure.

How can we help?

Start by understanding the real price that cows, pigs and chickens pay on factory farms.  Stop buying meat in stores.  Find and support a local farmer, instead.  Vote with your dollars  and tell factory farmers it’s time to clean up their act.  And you’ll be helping Farm Sanctuary change the world, making it a better place for our fellow inhabitants — farm animals.


Filed under Education, Gardening, Healthcare, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, World Changing Ideas

Project 365 – How Worms Can Change The World

What do red worms have to do with changing the world?

Okay, they can’t stop nuclear waste, stupid politics or animal abuse.  They’re not going to march on Washington and demand a balanced budget or an end to the war in Afghanistan.

But like you and me, when they do their jobs, they make a difference in whatever little corner of the world they are set up in.  How?

Set these little wrigglers loose on household waste and stand back.  They turn into freight trains.  Just one bin and one pound of worms will turn everything from paper to food waste (no meat, dairy or fried/oily foods or glossy print papers, please) into some of the richest fertilizer around.

Now that may not sound like a big deal or a big job unless you know these numbers.

The waste created by the average American household is made up of 33% paper and almost 13% food waste.  With a simple worm bin and a pound of worms, you can turn most of that into a natural supplement for your garden, shrubs and houseplants.

Michelle McCarty is the owner and CEO of Wonder Wormin’ Vermicomposting Systems.  She says vermicomposting can transform almost half of a household’s waste and keep it out of landfills.

This California girl does workshops teaching Vermicomposting. She raises Red Wigglers and builds worm bins.  She sells them as kits to people who want to start their own worm farms at home.  And Michelle also sells worm castings (vermicast) and worm tea that she produces herself.

McCarty makes money by selling worms and bins but her business is really a labor of love.  She is a teacher.  She shares information, advice and articles to help people learn about going green and leaving a smaller footprint on our planet.

And that’s why I added her to my list of 365 people and businesses helping to change the world.

Know any other people in your town or city who are helping others?  Send me the name of the group and any info you want to share and I will do the rest.


Filed under Gardening, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, World Changing Ideas

Project 365 – Growing Is Good For The Soul

As an organic gardener, it’s tough for me to separate myself from the deep emotions that working with soil, in the early morning sun brings to my small corner of this vast planet.  If I were a betting woman (never started because my Dad said if you can’t afford to lose it; don’t), I would say that every gardener feels the same way.

Gardeners know that growing plants is therapeutic whether you’re growing vegetables, flowers or herbs.  At the end of a long winter, warm soil, warm sun and the wonderful, rich aroma of earth just waiting for seeds or seedlings can lift the spirits of many.

Growing is good for the soul.

What makes growing even more fulfilling is when it’s coupled with programs that bring the joy, the peace and the satisfaction of bringing seeds to life — programs like The Growing Center in Frederick, Pennsylvania.

The Growing Center offers horticultural therapy programs that  focus on youth at risk, the physically and mentally challenged and senior citizens.  Using gardening as a healing element, the Center also helps people whose lived have been disrupted by illness or injury.

Programs are designed to improve participants’ abilities to do tasks and help them cope with the changes that have occurred sometimes unexpectedly in their lives.  The Growing Center also offers horticultural stress relief workshops once a month for people who just need a break.  And what better place to get it.

The Healing Garden at the Growing Center, a four-acre bit of heaven adjacent to the greenhouses, is a riot of color and scent from spring to fall.  The gazebo offers a peaceful spot for just closing your eyes and relaxing.  The pond, benches and shaded areas add to the pleasure and peace that people who come to the Center can enjoy.

Aside from its horticultural therapy programs and The Healing Garden, The Growing Center has also developed ten acres of its land  into community gardening plots offered to anyone in the community who would like to grow vegetables for themselves.  There is only one requirement – gardeners must give any surplus to a local food bank or others in need.

No fees are charged for the horticultural therapy sessions.  Most of the funding comes from donations and from membership fees.  And the Growing Center is a mostly volunteer organization.  It grew out of the life experience of its founder and current Executive Directory, Linda M. Boyer, and her husband David who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1992.

Surgery left him in a wheel chair, one side of his body paralyzed.  Costs for his care drained the Boyer’s bank accounts and almost led to the loss of their farm.  Neighbors helped raise funds, saving the farm from foreclosure and their generosity led the Boyers to start this non-profit organization.  Once they started, they never slowed down or looked back.

The Boyers and their neighbors are another example of people working  every single day to help change the lives of others.



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Filed under Gardening, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, Religion, World Changing Ideas

Project 365 – Mosquitoes In January

It’s way too cold out right now to be thinking about mosquitoes.  Well, at least it’s too cold for most of us to even consider this summer pest.

But not for Ray Chambers.

Chambers is the co-founder of Malaria No More, a non-profit with one mission – eradicate malaria by 2015.

That’s a pretty big task especially considering that every 45 seconds, a child in Africa dies from malaria. But Chambers, who has devoted his life to this cause is working tirelessly to rid the world of this preventable and treatable disease.

If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that it won’t be easy.  Every year:

  1. 247 million people contract malaria.
  2. Close to a million of those who contract malaria die.
  3. 91% of the cases are in Africa.
  4. 85% of them are children under the age of 5.

Surprisingly, there are a number of new cases of malaria in the United States every year, virtually all of which were acquired outside of the US.  A lower risk stateside but a much higher risk for anyone traveling to countries where malaria is experiencing a resurgence.  The growing resistance to anti-malarial drugs is also a cause for concern.

Ending deaths from malaria requires an investment in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  The arsenal of weapons used in this battle include bed nets, spraying, diagnostic tests and medicines. A vaccine is now in development to prevent malaria in the future.  All of these require financial support.

To get enough support to eradicate malaria, this modern-day plague also requires visibility.

And visibility is something Chambers is pretty good at.  He is currently the  global ambassador for Population Services International (PSI), the world’s largest distributor of anti malaria mosquito nets.

PSI credits the support of groups like Malaria No More for providing the resources needed to send out 120 million nets, nets that have saved  more than a million lives and prevented 100 million malaria cases.

Chambers is also the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, another avenue for visibility. And his organization, Malaria No More, is part of the global Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

Co-founded by the World Health Organization, the Roll Back Malaria partnership offers a  global framework to implement coordinated action against malaria.

Ray Chambers is part of a partnership that’s fighting to wipe malaria off the face of our planet; he is also a man on a mission to do just that.  That’s why he is on my list of 365 people and organizations that are changing the world.


Filed under Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, Religion, World Changing Ideas

Project 365 – Teach A Person To FIsh

What is that old saying, “Give  a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.”

I think that’s why I find what Heifer International does every day, across the globe, to be world changing.  And yes, I have written about this organization before but when there are so many lives changed, so many communities lifted out of poverty, I cannot ignore them.

Heifer International deserves all the attention it gets.  Why?

You can read all about the organization.  Or, if you’re into short stories, watch this brief video clip to find out.  (Heifer has been doing this so long and so well, it can explain how it works in exactly 1 minute.)

So, this organization doesn’t arrive with boxes of food and measuring cups.  They arrive with livestock – goats, cattle, water buffalo, chickens, ducks, even bees.  And they don’t just drop the animals off and drive away.

Heifer works with the community, creating a development plan, choosing recipients carefully and providing all the training needed including animal husbandry, water quality and ecologically sound agricultural practices.

People who receive livestock are also expected to raise crops needed to feed their animals, to become self-supporting. And all recipients become donors – passing on offspring to other members in the community or village. The objective is  to help feed hungry people but also, to create sustainable growth.  (They’ve got a short video about this, too.)

Heifer is truly teaching men and women to fish.

Started in 1939 by a relief worker named Dan West, Heifer International has helped more than 12 million families and a total of 62 million men, women and children.  One man’s simple idea –giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief — hasn’t changed since he took the first shipment of cattle to Puerto Rico in 1944.  It is alive and helping people in 128 countries around the world including the United States.

That’s why I love this organization, I support them instead of typical relief organizations and, yes, I write about them.  But they are literally changing the world.  For as little as $20.00 you can buy a flock of chicks or ducklings and start changing the world, too.

If you know any  other people in your town or city who are helping others, please send me the name of the group and any info you want to share and I will do the rest.

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Filed under Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, World Changing Ideas

Project 365 – Neighbors Helping Neighbors

In the heart of Oxford, Pennsylvania there is a place that offers a lifeline to people in need.

Neighborhood Services Center (NSC) is a small operation with a small staff but the service that it provides is big, especially to people living and working in this rural area and especially in the current economic times.

Founded in 1971, NSC doesn’t have counselors on staff; it doesn’t offer typical social service programs.  What NSC offers is far more valuable.  It offers connections – links between people who need services and people who provide them.

According to its website, this privately run, non-profit is still focused on its original goal of assisting people to achieve health, wholeness and stability in their lives by:

  • Establishing a link between people who want to reach out to help others.
  • Offering people with questions, problems or emergency needs a place to explore options and/or find answers.
  • Providing space for county agencies and community programs to deliver services directly to people.

People who come to NSC for help can also receive emergency assistance services like food, clothing, rent and utility assistance.

NSC relies on funding from 4 other regional agencies — United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County’s Department of Human Services, the Health and Welfare Foundation of Southern Chester County and the Oxford Area Civic Association.  It also relies heavily on volunteers who put in thousands of hours a year to ensure help is available when and where it’s needed.

NSC is not sexy.  It’s not going to make headlines nor is it going to be featured on national television.  But it is going to continue its 40 year tradition of providing help, advice and resources to the people who live in and near its office.

From my chair, this agency and the people behind it belong on the list of 365 people who are helping to change the world.

Know any other people in your town or city who are helping others?  Send me the name of the group and any info you want to share and I will do the rest.

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Filed under Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, World Changing Ideas

Project 365: Education At The Frontlines

Sticking with education because it is so important to our children, to our lives and to our future, there are a man and a project in Harlem that deserve to join the ranks of those who are changing the world.

Like Sal KahnGeoffrey Canada believes in the power of education so much that he has given his life to it.  Unlike Kahn, who uses the internet to reach as many people as possible, Canada’s quest is more focused and more personal.

Canada is the man behind The Harlem Children’s Zone Project (HCZ).

Founded 20 years ago as a program to address problems that poor families in this drug-riddled neighborhood were facing —  crumbling apartments, failing schools, violent crime and chronic health problems, HCZ grew into a life-changing force.

At the outset, the project centered on classroom education but Geoffrey Canada recognized early that this approach was not working. What they were teaching children inside classrooms just couldn’t counter what those same children learned about in the street, every day — drugs, shooting deaths, dire poverty.

That realization led Canada to look at the whole picture, the child within the community. It also led to expanded efforts to include after school services to kids as well as programs on parenting, early-childhood development, mental health counseling and drug and alcohol counseling for parents and care givers.

Understanding that education alone would not save these children from repeating their parents’ history, one of the  primary objectives of the overall project became “…to create a critical mass of adults around them who understand what it takes to help children succeed.”

Dubbed, “…one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time” by the New York Times, The Harlem Children’s Zone Project started with one block in that city; today it covers 100 city blocks and touches the lives of 8,000 children and 6,000 parents.

Based on HCZ’s data that show that it’s  impossible to separate education in the classroom from education in the streets, Harlem Children’s Project has also become the template for President Obama’s Promise Neighborhoods program.

Geoffrey Canada is definitely changing the world, one child at a time.

On a personal note, as someone who pays an enormous amount of school taxes, as a person who is in the process of being disenfranchised by the autonomous school board in our district, I will say here, now, that I would gladly pay my school taxes to help support a Promise Neighborhood program.

I would even pay them to support HCZ because I know that the dollars going into these programs help teach children and adults how to live better, healthier lives.  The dollars in our district seem to go to larger administration buildings and bigger salaries for the people who work in them.

By they way, if you know a group or an individual that is helping to change our world for the better, please share their story with me so I can share it with my readers.



Filed under Education, Gifts, Inspiring People, Project 365, World Changing Ideas

Project 365: The Man Who Is Teaching The World

You gotta love this guy.  He’s literally a genius at math and science.  But he’s also a man who reached out to help his own cousin navigate these terrifying subjects.  Now, Salman Khan helps millions and millions of people learn, online at Kahn Academy.

And the topic list is amazing, ranging from Algebra (pretty much the subject that started the whole thing) to Venture Capitalism.  In between, users can learn about art, history, economics, information technology and health and wellness.  In fact, Kahn Academy now boasts more than 2700 video lessons that are offered free of charge to anyone who wants to watch and learn from them.

How did this happen?

As I mentioned, Khan started tutoring a young cousin remotely in 2004 after learning that she was struggling with math. They lived pretty far away from each other so Kahn decided to use the Internet and create some videos to help her.  Soon other relatives were asking him for help.  When he posted a series of lessons on YouTube, they went viral, and donors like Bill Gates offered to help him expand his efforts.

And Khan did just that!

Today, the academy has more than 250,000 YouTube subscribers and his videos have a total of 108, 697,000 upload views.  Khan Academy is the second most subscribed to non profit organization on YouTube.

This former hedge fund analyst quit his day job a few years ago to focus on teaching.  Now, he posts short video lessons to his site,—where kids in dozens of countries learn about everything from Hubble’s Law to the French Revolution and get a chance to reinforce what they’ve seen with practice exercises designed for every level.

And Khan Academy isn’t just for kids.  Coaches and teachers who use this tool can access all of their students’ data. Summary data for the whole class is online as is data that allows teachers to dive into a particular student’s profile to figure out exactly which topics are problematic.  Again, it’s all free.

Running this enterprise is a lot of work and up until 2010, Khan was dipping into his own savings to help foot the bill.  Why do it?  Khan says he wants to provide extra help that kids  may not be getting at public schools like the ones he attended near New Orleans.  But he also wants to reach kids who don’t have access to schools, at all.

With $2 million from Google, Khan, who now has a small team (check out Ben Kamens who leads interns at Khan Academy) is translating his videos into languages like Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish, broadening the base and extending the reach of his organization beyond the limitations of the English language.

For a  lifelong learner like me, Khan Academy is a bit like a candy shop – full of lovely things to learn and all of them free for the asking.  And I am not alone.  A whole lot of people are watching and learning using a teaching tool developed by one man to help one young girl.

Sal Kahn is helping millions of children and he is changing the world.  If you want to learn more about Sal and his mission, check out these FAQ’s or see what Oprah had to say about him in the October issue of her magazine.


Filed under Education, Inspiring People, Project 365, Uncategorized