Saturday, November 28, 2009

Aiming for the top, from rock-bottom

I had to post this article from CNN today, after watching a related piece on the evening news. It's a great story, of Kenneth Chancey, a Los Angeles teen, and the NFL star - Nnamdi Asomugha - who hopes to help Kenneth on his way to university. Not that Kenneth needs much help... He's a straight A student, class president, and a running back on his school's football team, with his eyes on Harvard or another top school - and he's managed all that whilst living in a shelter on LA's notorious Skid Row. Asomugha runs a foundation that helps get disadvantaged kids into college and went to meet Kenneth after seeing a CNN report about him earlier this year. Asomugha's now invited Kenneth on his foundation's tour to Washington DC, during which - all going well - a trip to meet President Obama may be on the cards. Let's hope that comes off! Either way, though, you get the sense that Kenneth is going to achieve great things. After all, he's already inspired many people - including Asomugha – by overcoming adversity and striving for excellence. Amazing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Walking for hope and hospice

Thanks go to RTBH reader Karn for this article, from the Bemidji Pioneer, which reminds me a lot of my previous post (about Jonathon Prince running across America). Colin Skinner walked across the UK, Canada and the US - more than 6000 miles - in 1988 to raise money for hospice care. And now, two decades on, he's doing it again. This time, he was inspired by his own mother's death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 59. On his travels, he's met many cancer sufferers, AIDS patients and others receiving hospice care. He has seen how good hospices can improve the quality of patient's lives, and he walks to raise others' awareness of this as well as to raise funds. His current trek has seen him covering the UK in 2007, and he's now walking from New York to North Dakota, with plans to continue from North Dakota to California in 2010. To quote a nice segment from the article: "The question he poses to other is: If I can walk 12,000 miles to help hospices, what can you do to help? 'There is something everyone can do,' he said. 'It’s just finding that right thing.' "

You can visit Colin Skinner's website to find out more about his walks, his book (Beyond the Setting Sun) and his fundraising efforts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hope - and change - start with you

I discovered this fascinating case study of the power of hope today. In case you haven't heard of him already, let me introduce you to Jonathon Prince. Jonathon has already run across America twice - that's right! about 5000 miles in total, apparently - once to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and then again on the hurricane's anniversary. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his chosen cause. He now calls himself an 'athlivist' - an athlete-activist hybrid, using his sporting abilities to effect positive change in the world. And he's just launched his third cross-country effort! This time, he's running from community to community, hoping to help out in some way in each one, whilst also raising money for 6 charities. It's all pretty inspiring, I must say - which is exactly Jonathon's intention. His main aim, he says, is "to inspire others to make whatever change may be desperately needed to give their own lives more meaning. It’s that ‘Hope Factor’ that can move mountains!" I'm sure all RTBH readers would agree with that...

You can link to Jonathon's 'hope or die' website from the post title above, where you'll find his bio, news reports and other information about his quest. You can also donate to any of the charities involved, or follow his blog / tweets.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saving energy the Danish way

As promised, a video! I discovered an online news channel called WorldFocus, which was set up by several ex-mainstream journalists who wanted to counterbalance the dearth of international news carried by major networks. The result is well worth a look. Linked from the post title above is a video report from Denmark, which shows how the country has maintained high growth rates over recent decades, whilst keeping its energy use constant and providing lots of 'green jobs' for Danish workers. Renewable energy sources, taxes on energy consumption and an educated and frugal public seem to be the keys to Denmark's success. It's a recipe we could all seek to replicate with a little effort - and some sound public policy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

First Olympic skier for Ghana

Well, it's been a while... I definitely owe RTBH a post! First, I should say that I am planning to expand the range of things I share on RTBH, moving beyond news articles to include the occasional video, advocacy campaign, inspiring website, competition etc. I'm hoping that will make for a more exciting read - but please let me know your thoughts.

In the meantime, I found this wonderful video on the BBC website today - it's an interview with Ghana's first ever Olympic skier, who will be competing at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February 2010. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, also known as the 'snow leopard', started ski-ing when he arrived in the UK in 2000 and landed a job in an indoor ski centre. Since then, he's progressed rapidly and has already skied at the World Championships. His aim is to close the gap between his own performance and that of the medal winners - and overall, not to come last in Vancouver. Most Ghanaians think he's 'crazy', he says, but I'm pretty sure they and many other people across the world will be cheering Kwame on in 2010.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Passing it forward

Every now and then, I read a news report that really stuns me - and this story from the BBC is one of those. It's part of a series the BBC is running at the moment, called 'Hunger to Learn'. At just 16 years old, Babar Ali has set up a school in his parents' yard that now serves around 800 pupils. Each day, he goes to school himself, and then he returns home to transmit the day's lessons to others. Though he started by teaching a handful of friends when he was 9, other student-teachers have now joined him and together they give lessons in a range of subjects to children aged 5 to 14. For many children from poor families, this free school is the only chance they have to escape illiteracy. Most work themselves - as laborers, farmers or domestic workers - in the morning before attending Babar's school in the afternoon. The commitment of these children to better themselves is as inspiring and humbling as Babar's desire to pass on his own knowledge. There's a lesson for all of us there...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Creating a local vision of a better world

Thanks to RTBH reader Jacqueline for drawing my attention to this local newspaper article about a hopeful initiative in New Jersey, USA. The article from the Star-Ledger highlights an event, to be held tomorrow, entitled 'Visions of a Better World'. The conference-style event is the brainchild of one woman, Barbara Velazquez of Maplewood, whose objective is to foster a "modern renaissance". In other words, it's a chance to get people thinking and exploring how each of us can play our part in creating a more caring, compassionate world... And it's heartening to see modest, local efforts pushing for positive change, even against the backdrop of economic uncertainty and today's (ironic) hullaballoo over the Nobel Peace Prize!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Man's skull regenerates after 50 years

The BBC reported a fascinating story from the UK today. Gordon Moore suffered severe damage to his skull 50 years ago and has worn a metal plate ever since. However, when surgeons removed the plate recently to treat an infection Gordon had, they found his skull had grown back beneath the plate. This is, apparently, extremely rare in adults - though less so in children whose bones are still growing. Now Gordon has had the plate removed and is, he says, very pleased he won't trigger airport metal detectors any longer.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

HIV vaccine promise

My uncle once joked that this blog should be called 'reasons to be cautiously optimistic'! Well, that moniker could well apply to today's linked article from the Bangkok Post. The world's largest and longest HIV vaccine trial - conducted in Thailand - has just released some promising outcomes, showing that trial participants who received the experimental vaccine were 31% less likely to be infected with HIV over the 6 year trial period than those who received a placebo. So, not good enough to use more widely - but the kind of modest success that could yield significant clues as to what might work better. And with more focused research we may just get an HIV vaccine that bit quicker. Definitely a reason to be cautiously optimistic...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Planting the seeds of hope

What a wonderful story this is from the BBC! It's about an Indian civil servant, SM Raju, who just led an effort to break the world record for the number of trees planted in one day - but that's really the least of his achievements. He took advantage of an Indian government commitment to guarantee families living below the poverty line 100 days of work a year, and used monies from this program to employ villagers to plant and protect trees. In his state, Bihar, almost half the population is below the poverty line, and on 30 August alone 300,000 of them planted trees that they will tend over the coming years in return for a living wage. SM Raju's initiative not only has environmental and economic benefits, it brings hope to communities that had been hopeless. As a result, fewer people are moving away from the area. And with his success story attracting more attention to the government policy that made it possible, it's quite likely others across the country will seek to replicate it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Go, tennis mother!

I can't help but rave about Kim Clijsters - along with the article linked above from the New York Times! What a woman! After retiring from her tennis career, having a baby girl and raising her through her first 18 months of life, Kim returned to tennis this summer and today won the US Open women's singles title. On the way, she claimed victory over both the Williams sisters (quite a feat in itself) and several other top-seeded players, though she was at the tournament on a wildcard. She really is an inspiration - such character, dedication and grace. In a tournament that has seen a few tantrums on court, there were none today - from either Clijsters or her toddler daughter. Just some good tennis, and a great comeback story.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Improving health and cutting crime

Poor RTBH has been neglected of late. Sorry about that! I've found recently that my creative, intellectual and emotional energy has been sucked into a range of other things - but I have to say that I've also struggled to find compelling, positive news. The continued anxiety around the world's financial and economic situation seems to have infected reporting on other issues. Perhaps the mood will lift a little now that a few big economies seem to be pulling themselves out of recession? Or perhaps reporters and readers alike will grow weary of the gloom and push towards optimism and hope... Who knows.

Anyway - I did find this interesting story today, in Newsweek (linked from the title above). It's a tantalizing piece on the ways in which some aspects of US healthcare reform may have knock-on social benefits. Specifically, there is evidence from pilot programs that home visits by nurses to support disadvantaged and teenage mothers have helped to cut crime. How? Well, it seems that the assistance given to mothers helped them stay healthy and happy and also reduced substance dependence. This translated into kids that were less likely to commit crime, being arrested half as often and convicted 80% less than similar children whose mothers weren't supported. It's a very interesting approach - and it's in the current draft US healthcare bill... though only time will tell if it'll stay there. Definitely one to watch.


RTBH reader Karn just sent me something very cool. It's a film about how thousands of Estonian volunteers cleared their nation of garbage in just a day last year. It's 5 minutes long and well worth a watch - very inspirational and translatable to many other contexts. In fact, Karn tells me that Portugal is planning a similar event in March 2010. Hopeful happenings are infectious, it seems! Thanks, Karn!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

East Africa gets bandwidth

Long-time RTBH readers may recall post 311 from August last year, which referred to the new undersea cable gradually being laid along the East African coastline. It's all part of a grand plan to get Africa connected to high-speed internet services, with all that means in terms of tapping into knowledge and market opportunities. Well, now it's finished. According to the BBC article linked from the post title above, launch ceremonies were held in Kenya and Tanzania this week, and some large companies have already started exploiting the new bandwidth. Bit by bit, governments in the region - Kenya's, for example - are laying fibre-optic cable to connect towns to the network, in the hope that schools will be able to access an expanded range of educational materials. The question, as the article points out, is when smaller towns and villages will benefit. Surely something worth funding by international donors and local governments alike?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More than good enough

I found this a bit late (it's from last weekend) but it's an extremely interesting piece - sad in some respects, but ultimately hopeful - from the UK's Guardian newspaper. It's about Alex Goodenough, a teenager from the UK with Asperger's syndrome, who has struggled to navigate his way through the UK educational system even with his mother battling on his behalf. Despite being let down along the way, Alex has emerged from school with a raft of A grades at GCSE, several more at AS and A level, and a place to study engineering at Cambridge later this year. It's an amazing story, of one woman's determination to get the best education for her son, and of a young man's eagerness to acquire knowledge - but to do that his own way. Alex seems happy in his own skin, whatever labels are applied to him by others. And so he should! His educational achievements thus far should make him, and his mother, proud, as well as offering hope to other children with Asperger's.

Friday, June 26, 2009

An entrepreneurial stimulus

Over recent months, I've been boring my economist husband with views on what governments ought to be doing in response to the financial crisis, beyond bank bailouts - i.e. extending bridging funds to small businesses and putting in place more effective safety nets for individuals and families in trouble. Well, today I found a great article on CNN about an Ethiopian woman who is working to support communities in New Jersey in exactly this way. Alfa Demmellash watched her mother struggle to thrive economically, first in Ethiopia and then in the US. This inspired her to develop ways to support underserved entrepreneurs - especially women - to develop their business management skills in order to increase their prosperity. She founded the non-profit Rising Tide Capital, with her now husband, which has so far provided training and other support to more than 250 small businesses. 70% of those helped are single mothers. The CNN article includes several quotes from business owners who have increased their profits significantly whilst working with Alfa and her colleagues, which is amazing in the current economic context. If initiatives like these were taken to scale, it might be possible to stimulate the economy from the bottom up - possibly more effective than hoping bank bailouts will somehow trickle down...

Monday, June 22, 2009

A river runs cleanly through it

I've been out of action for a while - my laptop expired! :-( But I got back online today, just in time to find this great story on NPR. It documents the progress made in cleaning up the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, USA, over the last 40 years. Amazingly, this river was so polluted in the 1960s and 70s it caught fire (more than once). Most fish couldn't survive in the water, and it would certainly have been foolish to swim in it. But media coverage led to environmental activism, which in turn spawned regulation and ultimately the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency - and the Cuyahoga got cleaned up. Now, people kayak up and down the river, which is filled with all kinds of fish. As the NPR article points out, the waters aren't pristine, but they are much healthier. It seems the public spotlight is quite an effective bleaching agent!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Environmental justice comes to those who wait

A very positive milestone has been reached in the name of environmental justice, as reported in Nigerian newspaper This Day. For more than a decade, the Ogoni tribe in the Niger Delta has struggled to protect their land and their people from the damage done by local oil exploration and extraction. In the 1980s and 1990s, local protesters - many of them targeting their ire at Shell as the major corporation operating in the region - had some success in attracting international attention, but were then suppressed by Colonel Sani Abacha's military regime. Ultimately, several protesters - including local leader Ken Saro-Wiwa - were tried and hanged, all as Shell turned a blind eye. Indeed, many have postulated that Shell gave a helping hand to the Nigerian authorities... We may never know the details. However, the families of the protesters have now secured something of a victory, following a 13-year attempt to take Shell to court under an ancient US federal law, now winning an out-of-court settlement of $15.5m. Saro-Wiwa's son and other plaintiffs will use some of the funds to establish a community trust for the Ogoni, which will support projects in areas such as education, agriculture and small enterprise development. It's not a huge amount of money, but it will help. Perhaps more important are the ramifications of this case across Nigeria and globally, as the concept of corporate social responsibility is reinforced and multinationals are shown not to be above the law. This is Saro-Wiwa's legacy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ghana going green

I often feature stories about the pace of positive change and the rapid adoption of technology in low-income countries, and here's another story in that vein, from the Ghanaian Chronicle. According to the article linked above (from the post title), Ghana's environment minister has announced plans to revolutionize waste management across the country through widespread recycling. The minister made her commitment as she inaugurated a non-profit plastic recycling enterprise. The Cyclus Elmina Recycling Plant will employ local people to collect waste from communities for recycling and aims specifically to create jobs for young people in the surrounding district. The initiative couldn't be more timely, as wealthier Ghanaians are increasingly opting to buy water in plastic bottles and sachets (as tap water is not yet properly treated), and the use of other packaging materials is also on the rise. Unlike many high-income countries, however, Ghana is investing in recycling from the outset, hopefully leading to a more sustainable growth model and a cleaner environment.


Just to let you know - I am now using Twitter. (I resisted for some time, but eventually caved!) I am posting positive news and other morcels there on a regular basis, so if you need a more frequent dose of good news and other mind-stimulating stuff than you get through RTBH alone, please follow me on Twitter.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Virtual reunion

Social networking, email and other 'new' technologies are often cited as barriers to forming genuine and meaningful human relationships. So I was interested to find this story on BBC today, about a woman who found her long-lost son through Facebook. Avril Grube from Poole in the UK had not seen her son, Gavin, since he disappeared with his father in 1982. Her former husband had taken the boy to his native Hungary. She and her sister had been searching for Gavin ever since, and her sister finally found his Facebook profile through an internet search engine. Eventually, direct contact was made, and Avril and Gavin were reunited. Now, apparently, they are happily catching up - face-to-face, at last.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Drillbit doctor

Thanks very much to RTBH reader Robert for sending me this story from the BBC today. (I'd spotted it there myself earlier, in fact, and was already resolved to post it - it's such an amazing little tale!) According to the article - and accompanying video clip - an Australian boy's life was saved recently thanks to a household drill. Nicholas Rossi's parents took him to hospital after he fell off his bike and suffered a head injury. The hospital doctor, Rob Carson, believed Nicholas had bleeding between his skull and his brain, which had to be drained – but as the hospital didn't have any specialist staff or equipment Dr Carson had to use a household drill under instruction from a neurosurgeon via telephone. Fortunately, the procedure worked, and Nicholas was stabilized and transferred to a bigger hospital. He recovered in time to go home on his 13th birthday!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Changing the world 2.0

I thought I'd share this article from Treehugger today. It's a great list of some of the things you can do to change the world for the better, using social media. The list includes actions like rating a company online, using Twitter to raise funds for charity or to stimulate activism, and working as an online citizen journalist when you travel - and the article provides all kinds of links to help you get started. Definitely some options worth investigating, I'd say. And you don't even have to leave your couch...


Check out my cousin Maps' new single, which was released yesterday. It's called 'Let Go of the Fear' - the perfect RTBH anthem! Turn it up loud, put YouTube on full screen - and enjoy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Marathon effort

What an inspirational tale from the UK's Times newspaper today! It tells of an army major, Phil Packer, who just finished the London Marathon - 13 days after it started. Packer was injured on duty in Iraq and was told he'd never walk again. But he managed to complete the marathon's 26 mile course on crutches, at a rate of 2 miles a day (the most his doctor would allow). In doing so, he was attempting to raise £1m (about $1.5m) for a charity called Help for Heroes, which supports soldiers injured in action. As part of the same fundraising campaign, he's already rowed the English Channel and completed a sky-dive. Next he's planning to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California, USA. A truly amazing effort.


You can visit Phil Packer's website to find out more about his fundraising efforts and to contribute.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

When soccer feels like home

This is a great article from today's New York Times. It focuses on the ups and downs of New York's Street Soccer team, one of 19 US soccer teams for the homeless. Street Soccer NY is made up of players from a homeless shelter on Ward's Island, who now play in a men's soccer league at Chelsea Piers (one of the city's premier sports-entertainment complexes). The team started shakily, as the players didn't know each other's names, let alone trust each other - and some turned up drunk... But with regular practice, donated shoes and other equipment, and a burgeoning team spirit, the team has improved. They won for the first time this week. But it's not just the winning that's important. As some of the players have testified, it's a way to feel normal, interact with others and get fit again - all of which heightens the players' ability to cope with their tough circumstances. One thing's for sure - they'll have lots of people rooting for them now! (PS - there's a nice little video on the NYT website if you go to the article there.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some good news for planet Earth

Thanks very much to RTBH reader Emily for sending in this article from the Good News Network, which highlights seven positive steps taken in recent years that will benefit the environment. GNN surveyed a range of leaders from NGOs and public bodies to identify the list, which ranges from the emerging consensus on and response to climate change, and the growing competitiveness - and attractiveness - of renewable energy, through to the importance of the internet in mobilizing social change. All this does give some cause for optimism that we are at least moving in the right direction, even if we are not yet "at one" with our planet. Let's hope that we have even more than seven good stories to tell when we look back again in 10 years time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nature rebounds

Thanks to RTBH reader Paul for sending me this article today, which comes from the UK's Guardian newspaper. It's perfect for Earth Day! And, funnily enough, it echoes something I posted about this time last year - post 187 on April 15th 2008 - about the amazing recovery of destroyed coral reefs. In that case, the reefs concerned had been damaged by underwater testing of nuclear warheads. Today's article considers the Great Barrier Reef near Australia, part of which was bleached a few years ago due to warm seas and a suffocating seaweed that covered it. However, the reef has grown back, in very little time, amazing scientists with its resilience. The case is significant as it shows damaged reefs can recover swiftly if presented with the right conditions - previously, it was thought they needed to reproduce over many years. There's no room for complacency, though. Many of the world's reefs have died off in recent years. They'll recover if left to their own devices, it seems - provided we keep the seas around them healthy. A 'natural compact', if you like...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hidden talent has opportunity to shine

If you haven't yet heard of Susan Boyle, then you're not spending enough time on the internet! ;-) The 47-year-old singer from the small community of Blackburn, West Lothian (Scotland) wowed the world with her stunningly beautiful voice recently, when she appeared on the UK TV show "Britain's Got Talent" - a performance that has since been watched over 5 million times on YouTube by viewers around the world. An interesting opinion piece on Susan's performance, and the studio audience reaction, is linked from the post title above. It's from the Scottish newspaper The Herald; another article, this time from MSNBC is linked here. But to be honest, you just have to witness her performance. She's going to go a long way, and thrill so many more people, with her gorgeous voice - that's for sure. (Photo from MSNBC.)

And, as if that wasn't enough talent, check out another act from the same show here. Hilariously funny, this duo - a British man of Greek Cypriot heritage and his 12-year-old son - had the TV audience and me in tears of laughter. I pretty much guarantee they'll cheer you up too.

But, there's more to this story. First, it says wonderful things about Britain - its rich diversity, its 'have a go' mentality, and the ability so many British people have to keep their feet on the ground and not take themselves too seriously while at the same time celebrating their talents. Some of the many things I like about my birth nation! Second, it just makes you think about how much more talent is surely out there, not just in Britain but around the world. Great minds, great voices, stunning abilities in all walks of life... What if all that richness of humanity were exposed and had an opportunity to shine? To delight all those who witnessed it? That really would make the world a brighter place. I hope fervently that we see that kind of equality of opportunity in my lifetime. "Britain's Got Talent" is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's a dog's life

Many thanks must go to RTBH readers Ol and Liz for spotting this story today and sending it in. (They saved my blushes, in fact, as RTBH has been a tad neglected recently - I was ill for a bit, then on vacation recovering!) But it's a lovely tale, from the UK"s Telegraph newspaper, about a very tough and clever dog. Sophie Tucker (yes, that's the dog's name) was on a boat with her owners off Australia's Queensland coast when she fell overboard. Her owners searched for hours, but they'd missed her. She swam five nautical miles to an island inhabited only by other animals - including baby goats, which she eventually feasted on to survive. Human rangers appeared on the island and they spotted her looking out of place. Fortunately, her owners were still searching for her and they were soon reunited. Everyone reckons it was a miracle she survived, what with the sharks and all... I'd have to agree. I don't think I'd have made it - and as a vegetarian I wouldn't have been eating many goats either... (Photo AFP from the Telegraph.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Schoolboy rescued by superhero

Thank you to RTBH reader Robert for sending in this lovely story from Thailand, as reported on Yahoo news. Apparently, a young autistic boy at a school in Bangkok escaped his frightening first day at school by going to sit on a quiet ledge - the only problem being that the ledge was outside a third floor window. Firemen and teachers tried to coax him back inside to no avail. When his mother revealed his love of cartoon superheroes, however, quick-thinking fireman Somchai Yoosabai saw an opportunity. He rushed back to the firehouse and changed into a Spider-Man suit he uses for school fire-drills, then returned to rescue the schoolboy from the ledge. This time, the boy was easily persuaded back indoors. All in a day's work, as they say!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A very direct fiscal stimulus

Many thanks to RTBH reader Caroline, who sent this great story from The Charlotte Observer (by one of their columnists, who uses Blogger as a platform, which I thought was quite funny)... It's about an - as yet unidentified - individual who has taken it upon themselves to stimulate the local economy. Their unorthodox method entails putting $10 bills through people's letterboxes in plain white envelopes, with instructions to spend the money locally and wisely. As you can imagine, this act has stimulated a lot of chatter, as well as expenditure - witness the (sometimes hilarious) comments at the end of the story. Wonderful.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Banking on generosity

Many thanks to RTBH reader Karn for sending in today's hopeful tale from MSN Money. It's a rather unusual story about a banker, Leonard Abess Jr, who saw fit to reward his employees handsomely even in the current financial climate. Having steered Florida's City National Bank through market turmoil, Abess sold a large stake of the business to a Spanish bank for $927m. Rather than passing this windfall to senior executives and board members, though, he decided all his employees and retirees deserved a share, regardless of seniority. So all received cheques in the mail averaging $127k each! In total, Abess handed out $60m to his staff saying "those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity, I always thought someday I'm going to surprise them." And what a nice surprise it was - particularly when set against the greed and excess sadly symbolised by so much of the banking industry today...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Planning to keep hope alive

His heroics have inspired us already. Now, Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III - the pilot of the US Airways flight that landed, ultimately safely, in the Hudson River (see earlier post) - is sharing some of his reflections, including through this article in Newsweek. I won't seek to paraphrase, but this passage in particular jumped out at me: "We never gave up. Having a plan enabled us to keep our hope alive. Perhaps in a similar fashion, people who are in their own personal crises—a pink slip, a foreclosure—can be reminded that no matter how dire the circumstance, or how little time you have to deal with it, further action is always possible. There's always a way out of even the tightest spot. You can survive." Good advice - planning can help with many things, including working your way out of a crisis. That's something many people need to hear right now. And Sullenberger is, I guess, the living proof. (Photo from Newsweek.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy investments

This is a nice little piece from the Economist, which suggests that if you want to make sound investments you should put your money into happy companies. Apparently, recent research by the Wharton business school indicates that Fortune Magazine's '100 best companies to work for' have routinely outperformed their less happy competitors on the stock exchange. It could be that strong and effective leadership is the key to both profitability and employee satisfaction, of course. Either way, it's good news!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cambodia's truth will out

Some long-awaiting good news from Cambodia's Phnom Penh Post today, as the trial of Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav - known as 'Duch' - finally got under way. Duch is the first of several Khmer Rouge officials expected to go before the UN-backed trial, but as he has actually confessed his crimes (which include running the notorious Tuol Sleng detention centre) it's thought his testimony will reveal much about the inner workings of Pol Pot's brutal regime. Substantive hearings should begin in about a month – but even for today's procedural hearing there was, apparently, a huge media presence. It seems likely that Duch's revelations will echo right around the world. (Photo from Phnom Penh Post.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yes, you heard right...

Well, the hope and expectation that some financial bosses would apologize for their part in fueling the economic crisis (see post from 27 January) were not, it seems, misplaced. According to this article from the BBC, two former heads of UK banks said "sorry" today, before the UK Parliament's Treasury Committee. More importantly, perhaps, they also identified specific mistakes they made that led to the collapse of their banks and highlighted changes that must be made across the banking sector if risks are to be reduced in future, including changes to staff bonus schemes that "do not reward the right kind of behaviour". Now we need a bigger discussion about the kind of behaviour we do want to see across the financial sector (and there's been precious little on this line of enquiry from the US administration so far). Behaviour that's more ethical, more socially responsible, with less emphasis on rent extraction... perhaps?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First woman to swim the Atlantic

Every now and again you witness a feat by a fellow human being that is truly astounding. This story, from Canada's CBC News, documents just such a feat. Earlier today, 56-year-old Jennifer Figge arrived on a small island off the coast of Trinidad. It was the first time she'd set foot on dry land for 24 days, since she left Cape Verde to swim across the Atlantic. In doing so, she became the first woman to swim across the ocean. The first man did so about a decade ago. Apparently, Figge swam in a large cage to ensure she wasn't attacked by sharks! Marine life aside, I'm just amazed she managed to keep warm enough. Rather her than me... I'm seriously impressed! (Photo from AP/CBC News.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where this economic wake-up call might take us

Following up on yesterday's theme, trying to find some silver linings in current economic news, I stumbled across this piece on the Huffington Post website. It's an opinion piece, on the theme of America's "awakening". But it's not just America, of course. Many in the West, and beyond, are waking up - to what they've spent, what they owe and what they've lost in the process. The latter is an interesting theme - one that the author of the Huffington Post column says she's going to pursue in the weeks to come. The big question of course is whether and how we can recover what we've lost, find meaning beyond consumerism and achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. At the end of the day, we each have to answer that for ourselves...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What the WEF? Is that an apology?

I'm not going to lie to you, folks. There really isn't much good news to be found when it comes to the global economy. But this article, from the UK's Guardian newspaper, does suggest we may have reached some kind of turning point. Apparently, the organizer of the annual World Economic Forum - which kicks off tomorrow in Davos - thinks the world's economic and financial sector leaders should feel and demonstrate remorse, and that some at least should publicly apologize. Who knows whether that will happen, but it does sound as if belts will be tightened at this year's WEF - fewer parties are planned, fewer celebs are expected and some business leaders are staying away. (Maybe they're not ready to say sorry?!) Let's hope the 2600 participants, who will be dominated by the world's political leaders, will seize the opportunity before them. It's time to get serious, take responsibility and address the weaknesses of the global economic system. If that doesn't happen this week, we'll need a lot more than an apology...


Want to focus on the long-term? Come and join Vision 2100 - and share your hopes, fears and expectations about the future of our planet and your community. It'd be great to see you there... :-)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dancing for hope in Kenya

People dancing, singing, waving posters of Barack Obama... no, not in Washington DC (though there's definitely a party atmosphere there tonight) but in the Kenyan village of Kogelo, the hometown of Obama's father. According to today's linked article from the BBC, residents of the village have already gained from Obama's election win - with the eyes of the world upon them, local authorities have now installed electricity to the village. Tourists are starting to drop by. But, more importantly, people feel more hopeful for the future, buoyed by a strong sense of what is possible through hard work and opportunities handed from one generation to the next. May that hope be kept alive - and realized - for many years to come... (Beautiful photo from BBC online.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A pretty neat plane crash

Today saw one of the happiest news stories of the year so far (though we are, of course, only 15 days into 2009!), as reported here by MSNBC. As birds hit a plane in New York and brought it down, the plane's crew avoided catastrophe by landing skillfully on the Hudson River and then rapidly evacuating all passengers with the help of local emergency services. Some good luck, for sure, but a whole lot of judgement too - and proof that practice does indeed make perfect, as the pilot's training and experience, in particular, paid off handsomely. Could it be that the best way to foster and reward hope is through old-fashioned preparation? (Photo from MSNBC.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Nepalese children won over by computers

This is a really touching - and truly hopeful - piece from the BBC. It's about a project in Nepal that's trying to establish an e-library in every district in the country. So far only six districts have one of the e-libraries, but the aim of the Help Nepal Network is to reach all 75 districts eventually, serving communities with computing facilities, scanned books and other educational resources - including materials developed by Save the Children on issues such as children's rights. The health manual 'Where There is no Doctor' has also proved popular! The early reaction to the centers has been positive - though some children were fearful initially, thinking the computers might harm them in some way. Now, it looks as if the main challenge will be keeping pace with demand for the facilities. Let's hope the project gets the investment it needs to expand soon, as the existing e-libraries sound likely to become the hub of the communities they serve. (Photo from BBC online.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Grape potential

The antioxidant powers of grapes - particularly red or black grapes - have long been mooted. But today's linked article from the UK's Independent newspaper documents scientific research confirming this potential. Recent studies conducted by scientists from the University of Kentucky found that 76% of leukemia cells exposed to grape seed extract destroyed themselves within 24 hours. Significantly, healthy human cells were left unharmed. It's early days in this line of research, but these striking results suggest grape seed extract may have a role to play in treating leukemia and other cancers. Meanwhile, keep drinking the grape juice (and red wine - in moderation, of course)...


HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope 2009 is a great year for all RTBH readers! And, as we all focus our minds on the year ahead, I thought it a good time to draw your attention to a new project I'm involved with - Vision 2100. Vision 2100 aims to bring people from across the world together, to share their vision of the world in the year 2100. In part, it's a bit of good fun. But it could also be a fascinating demonstration of the 'wisdom of crowds' - can we collectively build a vision of the future that we can work towards, across borders, and across cultures? Let's find out! Come and join Vision 2100 today!