Michael Specter: Science, progress, and fear

In another thought provoking 16 minute TED talk, Michael Specter, author of Denialism, discusses science, progress and fear.

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More on Vision: Father, Researcher, and Humanitarian Pawan Sinha

Visual neuroscientist Pawan Sinha researches how our brains interpret what our eyes see — and uses that research to give blind children the gift of sight with Project Prakash.  This talk at TED is touching, inspiring, and absolutely fascinating.

The Goodfight 10,000: Buy a Record, Save a Life!

The Goodfight, a band from Atlanta, GA, announced that they would give away 100% of the revenue generated by their new record “Good & Evil” towards providing people with access to clean water through the work of charity: water.   Charity:water is involved in building wells and training nationals to maintain those wells on 5 continents, in some of the most desperate places on earth. Find out how they are fixing the problem at charitywater.

Mad as Hell Doctors

I have no horse in this race, but these doctors from the US inspire me greatly:

Mad As Hell Doctors

Mad As Hell Doctors

This request letter was sent to President Obama’s office on 8.21.09

Dear Mr. President:

This September, as the healthcare debate rages in Congress, our core group of six doctors from Oregon will be embarking on an historic road trip across America. We will be conducting town halls in twenty-six cities as we make our way to Washington, D.C. Our mission is to educate our fellow citizens as to why a single payer health care system is the only means to lasting, substantive health care reform for this country.

All told, our group has 191 years of combined, real-world medical experience, much of it spent working in a system that serves neither patients nor their doctors. As physicians who have sworn an oath to behave in accord with the highest possible ethical, medical standards, we have all reached the same conclusion: it is our professional obligation to speak out against a for-profit system of health care that is fatally compromising the health and well being of our patients, their families and our nation.

We will be in Washington D.C. on the morning of Oct. 1 and it would be a distinct honor if you would meet with our modest delegation to discuss the future of health care as well as the moral, social and fiscal imperative of a enacting a single-payer system for America at this moment in our history.

Dr. Paul Hochfeld Emergency Room Physician -Corvallis, OR
Dr. Eugene Uphoff FamilyPhysician-Portland, Oregon
Dr. Samuel Metz Anesthesiologist-Portland,Oregon
Dr. Michael Huntington RadiationOncologist-Corvallis,Oregon
Dr. Joseph Eusterman Internal Medicine-Portland, Oregon – Retired
Dr. Robert Seward InternalMedicine-Portland, Oregon

These doctors are organising a cross-country “tour” through the US to speak out, share information, and gather support(ers) — they do not see it as a campaign, but as a “movement”.

Beads of Courage

Created and operated by fellow artists, and making a difference in the lives of critically ill children, is Beads of Courage:

June 2, 2010: You can vote for “Beads of Courage” to receive  $25,00 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project by going here.  A breakdown of how the funds would be used is included on this page.

Kiva – Microfinance

Kiva is one of my favourite organisations.  Kieran Ball created this video to explain what happens to a Lender’s $25 loan from start, to disbursement, to repayment.

PBS has also done a news spot about Kiva which is well worth watching:

Here’s some press about Kiva!

Heroes and Saints

Can we each be a hero or a saint, even in some small way, however briefly, however “small scale”?   I believe that we can.   No matter what scale they occur at, our efforts are important.

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“The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.”
~ Felix Adler

Dr. James Orbinski

Dr. Orbinski

I am currently reading James Orbinski’s “An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century” and am having trouble putting it down. Orbinski is one of the founders of the Canadian branch of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders/MSF); in 1994 he served as Chef de Mission for MSF in Kigali, Rwanda during the horrific civil war and genocide.   As president of MSF, the doctor and humanitarian accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on their behalf in 1999; his remarkable Nobel Lecture is available here.

One can do a search at iTunes for “James Orbinski” and listen to Dr. Orbinski “In Conversation with Alan Gregg” about “An Imperfect Offering”  — there is a choice of audio or video.

CBC’s “Sunday” interviewed Dr. Orbinski about his new book; watch it here. (sorry, CBC has removed this wonderful interview, and the “Sunday” site)

This link will take you to a radio interview with James Orbinski on CBC’s “Sounds Like Canada”. (apologies: sadly , it seems that CBC has removed the “Sounds Like Canada” web page and its interviews, as well as the podcasts available at iTunes).

CBC’s documentary, “Evil Revisited”, was awarded the 2005 Canadian Radio Television News Directors Association Award. Dr. Orbinski returns to Rwanda with CBC journalist Sasa Petricic in this incredibly moving piece.  (note:  CBC has also removed this excellent documentary about one of Canada’s most remarkable citizens; thank you to the kind commenter — Mr. Petricic? —  who provided the Vimeo link for “Evil Revisited”!)

George Stroumboulopoulos interviewed Dr. Orbinski on CBC’s “The Hour”; watch it here. (believe it or not, CBC has removed this as well!)

Dr Orbinski is one of the founders of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a not-for-profit pharmaceutical research and development entity focused on the diseases of the South. He recently co-founded Dignitas, an organization focused on community based treatment, care and prevention of HIV in the developing world.


“An Imperfect Offering”, and this man speak to me on a very deep level. Each of us is responsible for each other, and each of us needs to act. As Vikram Seth so eloquently puts it in his book, “Two Lives: a Memoir”:

“May we see that we could have been born as each other.”

Update: CTV’s “W5” aired “To Hell and Back: helping the world’s most desperate/Charity’s Not Enough”, on Saturday, April 3, 2010.  This interview with Dr. Orbinski, as well as a written article is available at the W5 web site.  Dr. Orbinski talks about his experiences, and drives home the idea that charity must only be a starting point — that it is not a substitute for public policy in making necessary change in our world.

Update: October 2010, CTV’s Canada AM has a feature clip/interview with Dr. Orbinski in its “Transformational Canadians” series, produced in conjunction with the Globe and Mail and La Presse.


Religious Harmony?

The documentary film “The Imam & the Pastor” from FLT Films is well worth watching.  A trailer of the film, as well as information is available here.

Here’s part of an excellent review from the web site Initiatives of Change:

“At a time when many in the world are wondering whether friendly relations are possible between those of Muslim and Christian background, the Nigerian protagonists of this film emphatically assert that they are.

In recent years, Nigeria has been rocked by ethnic and religious conflicts, with tens of thousands killed and whole communities devastated.

In the 1990s, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa led opposing, armed militias, dedicated to defending their respective communities as violence broke out in Kaduna, northern Nigeria. In pitched battles, Pastor James lost his hand and Imam Ashafa’s spiritual mentor and two close relatives were killed.

Now the two men are co-directors of the Muslim-Christian Interfaith Mediation Centre in their city, leading task-forces to resolve conflicts across Nigeria.

The Imam and the Pastor tells how they made this remarkable transition. It is both a moving story of forgiveness and a case-study of a successful grass-roots initiative to rebuild communities torn apart by conflict.”

Barack Obama: Yes We Can

Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas was inspired to put Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech to his music and produce this inspiring video. You also can view the video here, and also read his thoughts about being inspired to create it.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and
pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the
ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King
who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality.

Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.

Yes we can heal this nation.

Yes we can repair this world.

Yes we can.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a
reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this
nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon
are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA;
we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we
are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we
are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in
the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast;
from sea to shining sea —

Yes. We. Can.

A Gem From Paul Rogat Loeb’s “The Impossible Will Take a Little While”:

From “THE CURE AT TROY”

 

by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,

They torture one another,

They get hurt and get hard.

No poem or play or song

Can fully right a wrong

Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols

Beat on their bars together.

A hunger-striker’s father

Stands in the graveyard dumb.

The police widow in veils

Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t Hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that a further shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracles

And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:

The utter, self-revealing

Double-take of feeling.

If there’s fire on the mountain

Or lightning and storm

And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing

The outcry and the birth-cry

Of new life at its term…

[excerpted from Seamus Heaney, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’s Philocetes(Noonday Press, 1991)]

My kids and Nickelback…

(the video has been removed from Youtube…sorry!)

I like that they can hear a song, enjoy it, yet at the same time think about important social activists — regular people — and be gently reminded to think about what they can do to make the world better.

The video ends with one of our favourite quotations:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead

Give a Day – Jane Philpott

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On her web site “Give a Day”, Canadian physician Jane Philpott answers a common question:

Q: Isn’t the situation of AIDS in Africa rather hopeless? What difference can we really hope to make?

Dr. Philpott’s Answer: There is a West African proverb which says: “The river may be wide, but it can be crossed.” There have been many situations in history when one might be tempted to despair that things would ever change. But in recent years we have witnessed the end of apartheid government in South Africa; the collapse of the Berlin wall; and peace accords in other long-standing conflicts. Yes, the crisis of AIDS in Africa is an exceptional one. Thus the response all over the world must also be exceptional. You can be a part of this worldwide response. Make a difference in your world. Give a day!

Please visit this dedicated woman’s site to learn more about her creative and progressive ideas. Listen to an interview of Dr. Philpott by Shelagh Rogers on CBC’s Sounds Like Canada.

Paying it forward

hands3.gif There are so many ways that each of us can help make the lives of others better, or happier. The “Pay it Forward Challenge” asks each of us to raise our awareness of others, and do something to spread kindness. Many people have come up with creative ideas in response…there are too many to list here, so just click on the link to watch and read about them! At this URL, you’ll find ideas on how you can make a difference to the lives of others. (sorry, the links have been removed by the site)

Just a thought to keep:

~ Buddhist wisdom ~

When someone is wronged,
he must put aside
all resentment and say,
“My mind shall not be disturbed;
no angry word shall escape my lips;
I will remain kind and friendly,
with loving thoughts
and no secret spite”