FOOD FIGHT! – Hip Hop Video Teaches Dangers of Processed Foods

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In FOOD FIGHT!, a video released early this morning by filmmaker Ben Zolno (New Message Media), a boy runs for his life after witnessing a murder in a convenience store. This murder, however, isn’t done with conventional weapons but with junk food.

What ensues is a life-and-death struggle as citizens of the boy’s community come together to fight against the snack foods that fill store shelves by brandishing real food. It’s a comedic musical, but the message is far from funny: We are dying from the foods we eat while the corporations that manufacture, market, and sell them to us get rich at our expense.

Odd as the story setup is, the battle between healthy and disease-inducing foods is a reality; with every bite and sip we take, we determine how long we will live and how healthy we will be.

I can almost hear readers saying, “Well, that’s obvious.” If it’s so obvious, why is the U.S. (and much of the world) in a health crisis of obesity? Is it just that we have no self-control? Or does much of the problem lie in the “foods” themselves? …

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Branded for Animal Rights

February 12, 2013 by  
Filed under 2013, Blog, Front Page, Slideshow, Social Action

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The moment the brand hits my skin, I can’t help but think of them. Him cramped in a metal cell, absolutely terrified, the barrel of a gun to his temple. Her crying out as her child is ripped away from her moments after his birth, the third child of hers taken from her this way. And here I lie, face down on the cold earth, my head freshly shorn of its mid-back-length hair, my side literally on fire as the brand melts through layers of my flesh.

I’ve gotten off easy.

Unlike me, they weren’t so lucky. Unlike me, they lost their lives.

In the United States alone, 8.3 billion animals were killed for food in 2012, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture’s Statistics Service. Given this data does not include fish, marine animals, crustaceans, rabbits, other farmed animals, or animals killed for their fur or other “by-products,” this figure is a gross underestimation.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jewish Author and Nobel Laureate wrote that “in relation to them [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.” Theodor Adorno, German Jewish philosopher, sociologist, and musicologist, stated, “Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they are only animals.” …

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Diversely Sustainable Cities: Naples and SongDo

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Sustainability may not be a new global trend, but it’s certainly growing. Long-standing environmental heroes, like Curitiba, Brazil; San Francisco, California; and Oslo, Norway, have inspired citizens across the globe to begin sustainability projects in their own cities.
Though “green” cities all far surpass environmental performance goals, they each have unique approaches and innovations, demonstrating that a collective commitment to the environment, paired with creativity, really can change the world.

Today, we’ll look at two diverse cities that are making huge environmental strides: Naples, Italy, and SongDo, South Korea….

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Together, We Change the World

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This past February, Blue Planet Green Living published a post by Dipak Singh, a writer from India who advocates for safer conditions for the people of his country. His post, Notes from India: We Are Poisoning Our Planet, described the horrific effects of spraying the chemical Endosulfan on crops in India and other nations. He wrote, in part:

“The grapes you and I eat could be from a vine that was sprayed 30 times in a single year with pesticides such as Endosulfan. That makes 300 sprayings in a decade. This chemical has nowhere to go, so it just gets washed into the groundwater.

“Endosulfan has a half-life of up to 20 days in water and 60 to 800 days in soil. So, think of the accumulation of this pesticide in crop-growing villages. In the Indian state of Kerala, Endosulphan has been linked to the birth of malformed children. . . .”

Three months after we posted his editorial, Dipak sent me a Facebook message with the following comment:

“Hello, this is just to tell you that yesterday the Indian Supreme Court put an interim ban on Endosulfan, despite the lobbyist asking for an eleven year time frame. This is one of the sentences from the judgement: ‘When a certain something affected right to life, then every other right, even the fundamental right to business, took a backseat.’ ” …

Dipak followed by thanking me for making a difference in the fight against Endosulfan. Me? All I had done was post his editorial. How could I accept any credit?

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Breaking the Silence

October 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Family, Front Page, Slideshow, Social Action, Women

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While brokenness is all around us, and much of it is quite apparent, there’s one form still hidden in darkness—a darkness I have known.

News stories break, from time to time, reminding us that this netherworld exists. In November 1987, Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum were arrested for the murder of their young daughter, Lisa. We sat glued to our televisions during that trial and eventually learned that both Lisa, and Hedda, had been violently abused by Mr. Steinberg. In June 1994, the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson sparked the sensational trial of her ex-husband, O.J., and again we sat glued to our television sets.

But beyond these, and other headlines that hit the news, lie countless untold stories—hidden even from the families and friends of those who suffer. This is the paradox of domestic violence. A feeling of shame, along with other factors, causes victims to stay silent. They guard the secret along with their batterer….

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My Night in Jail (Occupy Iowa)

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Dear Friends,

Last night, I was one of over thirty protesters arrested at “People’s Park” on the Iowa State Capitol grounds. Honestly, I was surprised by the hostile response of the State Patrol. We were on public property and obstructing neither vehicular nor pedestrian traffic. We were peaceful. We were exercising our right to freedom of speech and to petition our government. The demeanor of many of the troopers made no sense to me, especially coming from a division of State Government that I respect and worked well with when I was a state lawmaker.

Today, as I dialogue with some of the 500 people who participated in yesterday’s “occupy” events, it appears the arrests have only further fueled people’s commitment to push the movement forward….

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In Memory of 9/11: Let Us Wage Peace

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We all speak today of healing, understanding, and peacemaking.

The images of September 11, 2001 are etched in our minds. But we need to be more concerned with what we have done with 9/11 than with 9/11 itself.

Yes, we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims. We laud the heroism of the firefighters and so many others. And we will always be outraged at the inhumanity of the attackers. But I don’t think that the 2,977 victims on 9/11 died to usher in a period of perpetual war….

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Tab for a Cause — An Easy Way to Raise Funds for Charity

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If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

My answer to this question is always the same: Pay my tuition. Most college students don’t have money to spare, and if you manage to earn a few bucks, it goes towards books or school supplies. So, when someone asks you to donate to charity, it’s hard to contribute.

Four college students – Kevin Jennison, Alex Groth, Joel Detweiler, and Sam Ward-Packard tackled this problem. On August 4th they launched Tab for a Cause (TFAC), a browser extension that allows the user to donate to charity simply by opening a new tab….

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Summer of Solutions Offers Opportunities to Youth Leaders

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Most students use their summer vacations to sleep in, catch up on TV, and relax. For Summer of Solutions project leaders like Jennifer Roach, summer is just another opportunity to create solutions for the problems in their communities.

Roach, along with co-leaders Claudine Constant and Pablo Baeza, is leading a project to start gardens in Hartford, Connecticut’s Frog Hollow neighborhood, one of 15 Summer of Solutions (SoS) projects across the country….

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Teaching Tolerance Promotes Civil Rights for ALL

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The Southern Poverty Law (SPLC) is well known for its successes in fighting hate crimes and discrimination and for shining a spotlight on hate groups around the nation. But it also works to prevent the spread of bigotry and intolerance by reaching students and teachers with a message of understanding and inclusion.

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program provides materials and professional development to help teachers “prepare a new generation to live in a diverse world.”

Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, spoke with me about how the SPLC’s program addresses pressing issues of fairness and equality with students and school personnel. A former classroom teacher and educational publishing professional, Costello cares deeply about the SPLC’s threefold mission and about her role in integrating the work of the Center’s other divisions with classroom instruction….

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The Devil You Know

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It is a sad fact
that many of the women
in domestic violence shelters,
at any point in time,
will go back to their abusers.
(yes, it is true)

In fact, a large percentage will go back.
and many will go back more than once.
that means, of course,
that they leave and go back and then
find it necessary to leave again
and go back again
and leave again…

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“I Can’t Walk Away and Leave Malnourished Children Standing There”

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My cousin, David Wasson, knows about childhood nutrition better than most. David is an award-winning chef who spent his career preparing meals for wealthy people and teaching their children to cook. He also taught cooking at a community college in the United States. As he approached retirement, David embarked on a completely new venture that would profoundly change his life. Today, as the Chef and Child Foundation Ambassador to the Philippines, David cooks for children who are as familiar with hunger as most people reading this post are familiar with a full belly.

His work is urgent. With every meal he cooks, he fights to save children’s lives and the health of their brains and bodies….

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Fox Elipsus Shares Music, Fun, and Serious Messages on Free US Concert Tour

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In many ways, Fox Elipsus reminds me of a wandering minstrel from the days of yore. He travels alone from town to town, singing and playing his music to delight the local folk. He is also a messenger, sharing serious thoughts about the environment, peace, education, and so much more, mixed in with light-hearted fun, engaging banter, and an awesome musical performance. And he does it all for free.

Joe and I were privileged Monday night to attend one of Fox’s 250 concerts on his 2010 Momentum tour — his third annual tour, with many more to come. His shows are all held in coffeehouses, bookstores (we saw him at Borders in Davenport, Iowa), and other congenial meeting places that allow him to set up and play without charging him for the space.

Born and raised in Oxford, England, 29-year-old Fox Elipsus (born Fox Salehi [SAL-uh-hee]) was caught by two fevers as a very young boy — music and the state of the planet.

“When I was about three or four,” he told me in a phone interview on his way to his next gig today, “I was extremely concerned with what is going on in the world. And I was crazy about a musician who concentrated on environmental themes. So I started writing my little four-year-old songs about the environment. I was also really into the Live Aid Concert for Africa.

“Throughout my education, I was motivated to try to fix the world. I found so much that was depressing, and I wanted to do something about it. As long as I can remember, it has been an innate need. And, now, I want to inspire other people to help, too, through my music.” …

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Notes from Canada: Giving Back to Uganda with Love

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I was born a white child in Uganda, East Africa to missionary parents, Velma and David Freeman. When I was 8 years old, our time in Africa came to a sudden and frightening end.

Just three months earlier, my dad had witnessed the brutal killing of our town mayor in Masaka. The mayor had been dragged through the town on the back of a pickup truck, and then a major in the army openly slit his throat as a warning to anyone who might stand against the regime of the ruthless and unpredictable dictator, President Idi Amin. My father was the only white man he could see, along with a few Asians in the crowd.

Our deportation was ordered shortly thereafter. Idi Amin’s soldiers picked up my father late one night and took him to jail. We had 48 hours to leave. Little did I realize at that young age that everything I knew as normal would change forever….

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Where Not to Take Your Family – A Dolphin Show

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Recently, I saw a video of a dolphin that had thrown itself out of the pool in which it was held captive. This dolphin was trained to do tricks for the pleasure of human visitors. It was held captive, along with several other dolphins, in a small pool….

Dolphins are intelligent animals. Why would one deliberately try — twice — to hurl its body out of the water and over a high wall? Was it searching for food? Was it trying to harm the human on the other side of the wall? Or did it simply want to end its captivity, even if that meant death? I have no idea, but the dolphin did. This was no random accident.

In the video, did you notice how several other dolphins gathered around and watched through the glass as the humans tended to their companion? Did they understand that their fellow dolphin was in mortal danger? I think they did.

Since I was a young girl, I’ve been fascinated by stories of dolphins who have saved humans from certain death. The stories included dolphins protecting swimmers from a shark by forming a barrier between predator and potential prey, rescuing drowning humans by pushing them up to the surface so they could breathe, guiding lost boaters to land, and more. These are intentional acts arising out of what appears to me to be empathy. They are acts of reasoning creatures who understood the dangers awaiting the humans they saved.

So why would a reasoning sea creature deliberately jump out of its tank?…

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Volunteering Made Easy – Action Now + Network

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If you’re like pretty much everyone else I know, you want to do “something” to help causes that are important to you. But your time is limited, and your demands are already huge. How do you find out what organizations support the issues that concern you and where you should expend your limited energy? Action Now + Network is a resource that will help you sort through the options available and choose one (or more) that is right for you.

Launched just two months ago, Action Now + Network is a new website that focuses on organizations that are doing real good for the world. Here’s how founder Sheila Wasserman described Action Now + Network to Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) in an interview from her California office….

WASSERMAN: In this age of Facebook, Twitter, and instant RSS feeds, it’s really impossible to claim ignorance of the world around us. We are all constantly bombarded at warp speed with information on the life-threatening issues we face every day — perilous geopolitical tensions, global warming, and the destruction of our environment, flagrant and egregious acts of cruelty inflicted by humans upon both humans and animals, not to mention hunger, poverty, homelessness, absent or woefully inadequate health care — it’s hard to know where to stop. For most of us, it is mind-numbing to think of what needs to be done to make even a small impact, let alone to solve the overwhelming problems of the world….

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Jon Hutson Says, “Enough!” to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

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Jonathan Hutson serves as the director of communications for the Enough Project in Washington, D.C. Enough is a part of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. Not long ago, a director of communications would have been confined to print, television, and radio to spread an organization’s message. Today, it’s a whole new game, with social media gaining in prominence as the medium of choice.

Fittingly, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) first became aware of Hutson through Twitter, where WeFollow.com ranks Hutson (@JonHutson) as among the most influential Tweeters on human rights and justice. We asked Hutson to tell us about the Enough Project and how they use social media to further the organization’s critically important international work….

HUTSON: The Enough Project was launched three years ago, and is helping to build a permanent constituency to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. We are calling the U.S. and the international community to action — to witness horrible human rights violations and to take measurable, meaningful action that stops ongoing atrocities and prevents their recurrence.

Here’s the latest example of our work: a witty video by actor/director Brooke Smith and cinematographer Steven Lubensky, called “I’m a Mac… and I’ve Got a Dirty Secret.” It’s about Congo conflict minerals; it spoofs an iconic Apple ad. Since Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof launched the video in a column called “Death by Gadget” in the Sunday, June 27, 2010 edition of The New York Times, this video has gone viral. It’s been covered by Gizmodo, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, ComputerWorld, Planet Green, Elephant Journal, TreeHugger, and CNN International. Please take a look and share it with friends….

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From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

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There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap.

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities….

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Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

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Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the United States. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s been built to date. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront home in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap….

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Beauty Night Heals Mind, Body, and Spirit for Marginalized Women

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Survival sex-workers, drug addicts, and homeless women rarely have an opportunity to feel that someone truly cares about them or to experience human touch in a healthy way. But the volunteers at Beauty Night Society in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) are striving to change that.

Caroline MacGillivray is the National Executive Director and Founder of Beauty Night Society. A 1995 graduate of Gastown Actors Studio in Vancouver, her interest in helping marginalized women arose while volunteering at WISH (Women Information Safe House) to conduct research for an upcoming role.

She explains, “My best friend from theater school married a gentleman who was going to school to become a preacher. They were ‘house parents’ at a transition home for sex workers who were trying to get off the street.

“When she would tell what she did, people sometimes seemed judgmental. She’d get questions like, ‘Why are you helping sex workers?’ ‘Why are you helping people with addiction issues? They have no discipline; they have no control,’ and those types of things….

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