Friday, April 29, 2005

Be a whistleblower.

As a very young child, I was intrigued by whistleblowers. It seemed an odd job: blowing a whistle all day. And I couldn't figure out how blowing a whistle could get you on the evening news. What I didn't know then was that the whistle being blown was a metaphorical one. And it's not a job, but an important responsibility. If you witness wrongdoing on your job, you have a choice: remain silent and allow the wrongdoing to continue, or bear witness, speak out, and do your part to end the wrongdoing.

The False Claims Act can be used to expose government and other types of fraud. Thankfully the 1986 anti-retaliation language of the False Claims Act offers some protection to people who tell the truth about government fraud. The whistleblower is entitled to reinstatement with seniority, double back pay, interest, attorneys fees and costs, and special damages, sustained as a result of discriminatory treatment resulting from the whistleblowing. In addition, if the government collects from the fraudulent contractor, it permits the whistleblower to share in the proceeds. Need more information?

* The National Whistleblower Center, in operation since 1988, "is a nonprofit, tax exempt, educational and advocacy organization dedicated to helping whistleblowers."

* The Government Accountability Project "is a 28-year-old non-profit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists.  We pursue this mission through our nuclear safety, international, corporate accountability, food safety, and federal employee/national security programs.  Our activities include litigation, advocacy, media work and legislative affairs."

* Ask yourself these three questions to find out if you should blow the whistle on wrongdoing. If so, follow these twelve survival strategies to blowing the whistle wisely.

* Learn more about legal protection of whistleblowers.

Need some concrete examples of the good whistleblowers do? They are responsible for the removal of the unsafe drug Vioxx from the shelves. They forced disuse of ineffective bullet-proof vests, and they initiated investigations into Halliburton. The actions of whistleblowers have improved environmental protection, nuclear safety, and government and corporate accountability, and saved countless lives and dollars. It's your choice. Get the information you need so you can speak out about wrong to strengthen the good.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Take action against genocide.

It looks like most everyone is in agreement: there is a genocide occurring in Sudan. Right now, as you read this, people are being killed. Thankfully, there is much we can do to stop it and save lives. I'll have more on this in the coming weeks, but for now, read an excerpt from this week's Coalition for Darfur post. It focuses on Eric Reeves, a literature professor who has been largely responsible for publicizing the crisis in Sudan. He's done an incredible amount of work, particularly considering that he is also battling leukemia.:
On February 24, 2004, an op-ed entitled "The Unnoticed Genocide" appeared in the pages of the Washington Post warning that without humanitarian intervention in Darfur "tens of thousands of civilians [would] die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction."

Written by Eric Reeves, a literature professor from Smith College, this op-ed was the catalyst that compelled many of us to start learning more about crisis in Darfur which, in turn, led directly to the creation of the Coalition for Darfur.

For over two years, Eric Reeves has been the driving force behind efforts to call attention to the genocide in Darfur by writing weekly updates and providing on-going analysis of the situation on the ground. As early as 2003, Reeves was calling the situation in Darfur a genocide, nine months before former Secretary of State Colin Powell made a similar declaration. In January of 2005, Reeves lashed out against "shamefully irresponsible" journalists who "contented themselves with a shockingly distorting mortality figure for Darfur's ongoing genocide." Reeves' analysis led to a series of news articles highlighting the limitations of the widely cited figure of 70,000 deaths and culminated in a recent Coalition for International Justice survey that concluded that death toll was nearly 400,000; an figure nearly identical to the one Reeves had calculated on his own.

Click here to read the entire post. Then take action: spread the word, divest, write a letter to your elected officials, support relief efforts, and do all you can to stop the killing.

"Stamp" out our problems.

Even with today's technology, the humble postal stamp still has a place in our society. Many of us use them to mail bills, letters or greeting cards. Some of us collect them. I like to keep an assortment of stamps so that I can match the stamp to the 'spirit' of the mail I'm sending. For example, I used AIDS awareness stamps for my grad school applications and EE Just stamps for my graduation announcements.

But did you know that stamps are also used to raise money for certain social causes? These so-called semipostal stamps cost $.45 and additional money over the regular first class rate goes to support various organizations. Currently there are three semipostal stamps available:

* The Stop Family Violence stamp is used to raise money for domestic violence programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

* The Breast Cancer stamp has raised more than $37 million for breast cancer research. 70 percent of the net amount raised is given to the National Institutes of Health and 30 percent is given to the Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense.

* The Heroes of 2001 stamp raises funds to provide assistance to families of emergency relief personnel killed or permanently disabled in connection with the US terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

So visit your local post office or, or call 1-800-STAMP24 (1-800- 782-6724) to get these stamps. You'll be supporting a worthy cause and spreading the word so that others can do the same.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Seek opportunities to learn.

A few weeks ago, I got at email from Sandra who had seen Hotel Rwanda and was inspired to learn more about the genocide in Rwanda and about Africa in general. She writes:
I did the research online, and now it's been such an eye opening experience, I plan to take a new country and research its history, present and past, in order to become more aware of my history.
So I'd like to recommend this as something people can do: commit themselves to looking at documentaries and nonfiction movies and then following up on it studying about the issues, the people of that country. Then when some charity or organization needs help, people will be more aware of what they're giving to and why.

Thanks for the wonderful suggestion, Sandra! I saw Hotel Rwanda last night, and I understand your inspiration to learn more. It is truly an excellent film.

So next time you see an interesting film, or read a good book, or hear some engaging music, take the next step and learn more about the situations presented. For example,

* If you see Hotel Rwanda, learn more about the Crisis in Sudan and prevent another genocide and help those who are suffering now.

* If you see Ray, learn more about how artists like Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis contributed to the Civil Rights Movement in the US. These folks are wonderful reminders that we all can serve.

* If you see Million Dollar Baby, learn more about end of life planning and care, including living wills, advance directives, hospice, and palliative care. This is important for you and for those you love.

Art can be a wonderful guide to educating yourself about the things that interest you. Happy learning!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Treasure our Earth.

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. As you may know, this site is filled with ways to assume environmental responsibility. You can:

* Insist on environmental justice.
* Value water.
* Try biodiesel.
* Just click.
* Clean the air with plants.
* Drive a hybrid vehicle.
* Buy locally produced items.
* Support sustainable development.
* Recycle e-waste.

If you have ideas for ways to treasure our Earth, please list them in the comments. And if you want to learn more, check out the Environmental News Network ( - thanks, Kathy!). And remember, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, RESTORE (in that order).

Celebrate Earth Day. Treasure our Earth. It's the only one we've got.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Turn off the TV.

April 25-May 1 is National TV Turnoff Week. You may wonder why we need a screen-free week. Here's why:

> On average, US children spend more time in front of the television (1,023 hours) than in school (900 hours).
> On average, parents spend only 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.
> 91 percent of children feel 'upset' or 'scared' by the violence they see on TV.
> Watching 21 hours or more of TV each week doubles your risk of type 2 diabetes.
> Only 36 percent of 4-6 year olds in homes where the TV is always or usually on can read. 56 percent of other 4-6 year olds can read.

Get more facts here. If you are one of the 49 percent of Americans who say they watch too much TV, prepare to enjoy a TV free week. You can:

* Read.
* Teach someone else to read.
* Call or visit a grandparent or elderly person.
* Go hiking.
* Volunteer.
* Garden.
* Write a letter.
* Study a foreign language.
* Give blood.

Here are a few more ideas about what to do with your screen-free time. Feel free to list your suggestions in the comments. For more ways to control your TV, check out the January 13th post. Have a great TV-free week!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Stop sexual assault.

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month. You probably already know that sexual assault is a nationwide problem that affects all people, regardless of gender, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or other factors. But did you know these facts?

* 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the United States has experienced an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives. That means you or someone you know.

* In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knew the perpetrator.

* Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experienced completed or attempted rape during their college years.

* 84% of women did not report their rapes to police.

"So what can I do?"

* If you are a survivor of sexual assault and need help, call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673). You can call from anywhere in the US, and free and confidential counseling is available 24 hours a day.

* Do the personal work of examining your own belief systems and behavior to learn how you may contribute to social and institutional practices that condone sexual violence. Consider the words you use, the music you listen to, the 'jokes' you laugh at. If you are uncomfortable with the the answers you find, GET HELP.

* Donate supplies, money, or time to your local or national rape crisis center. Visit RAINN to find a center near you.

* Learn more about and find ways to end domestic violence.

* Get more information from these resources.

There is so much that we all can do to end sexual assault. How will you help?

Donate your timeshare.

Vacation timeshares usually sound like a good deal in the beginning, but often the shine wears off after a while. They can be costly, with maintenance fees, taxes, and the like, and if you want to try a different timeshare or week, it can be difficult to switch with someone else. Adding insult to injury, once you decide to sell, you may find the process expensive and time-consuming. If any of this sounds familiar, you may want to donate your timeshare to your favorite charity. will sell your timeshare and donate the profits to your favorite charity. It costs nothing for the charity, and you get a simple, fast, and socially-responsible way to get rid of your timeshare. You may be surprised to learn that often, donation makes the most financial sense.

So if your timeshare is more trouble than it's worth, consider donating it to your favorite charitable cause. You'll support work that you admire and get a tax write-off to boot!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Donate life.

Just today, seventeen people in the US died waiting on an organ transplant. Right now there are 87,000 people waiting for the gift of life. But you can help. April is National Donate Life Month. Won't you consider organ or tissue donation?

* Donate blood or platelets. Every two seconds, someone needs blood, and just one pint can save up to three lives. You can donate blood every 56 days (my next donation is Monday). Platelet donations can be made every three days. Visit online or call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543) to make an appointment at a donor center or to find a blood drive near you. Learn more in the October 23rd post.

* Donate marrow. Certain diseases, including leukemia and sickle cell anemia can be cured by a bone marrow transplant. You can join the National Marrow Registry if you are interested in donating. There is no obligation. Learn more in the October 26th post.

* Donate organs. After your death, your organs and tissues can save and improve the lives of over 80 people! Think what a legacy that will be. And remember, some organs (e.g. kidney) can be given by a living donor. Learn more in the November 1st post.

* Donate umbilical cord blood. It is rich in blood stem cells which can be used to treat many life-threatening diseases, including sickle cell anemia, leukemia, and lymphoma. After birth, neither you nor your baby can use the umbilical cord. So why not give it to someone who desperately needs it?

Think it over. Pray about it. Talk to your family. Organ and tissue donation is a great way to make a tangible difference in someone's life. They (and their family) will forever be grateful.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Get news from Africa.

Here is this week's update on the crisis in Sudan from the Coalition for Darfur. Learn more about the goings-on in Sudan and the other countries in Africa by visiting They get their news from over 125 media outlets reporting from all over the Continent.

Most often we have to learn before we can act effectively. It's especially important to get news from sources other than the American corporate media. Here's a great way to get started.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Nurture children: UNICEF.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, does more than sell pretty cards at Christmastime. They are the world's largest children's organization, providing health, educational and other protective and life-enhancing services to children in 158 countries around the world. Here are several ways you can get involved:

* Learn more by visiting the website. You'll find videos, success stories, and more.

* Volunteer with UNICEF in your hometown.

* Donate money or stocks or securities directly to UNICEF.

* Buy or sell items on Ebay.

* Send foreign currency to UNICEF's Change for Good Program.

* Buy items from various retailers who promise to donate a portion of the purchase price to UNICEF.

* Make a donation in honor of your wedding guests.

* Buy all occasion cards and other gifts (stuffed animals, games, candles, and more) from UNICEF. Proceeds support their work with children.

UNICEF works in five major areas: education, emergencies, HIV/AIDS, immunization, and malnutrition. Won't you help in their admirable mission?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Support the soldiers.

If you know people who have been in war, then you know that the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan can use your support, regardless of how you feel about the our being at war. Here's are three ways to let them know you care:

* Send Dunkin Donuts coffee. Each month, 50 United States military members are randomly selected from entries received to have a case of coffee. Enter your friend or family member today.

* Send a phonecard from Operation Uplink. They'll send a free card to hospitalized veterans or deployed military personnel. Help a soldier you love stay in touch with the ones they love.

* Send books and other media through A care package for the mind will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks to Jennifer for letting me know about these sites!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Participate in the Global Week of Action.

April 10-16, 2005 has been declared the Global Week of Action to campaign for trade justice. Endorsed by over 100 organizations around the world, the goals of the week are to:

* Challenge the free trade myth. The myth, perpetuated by the rich and powerful states that free trade and privatisation is the only answer to global poverty. Governments and key decision-makers across the world have swallowed this myth. Poor countries everywhere are being forced to open their markets to foreign companies and cheap, often subsidised imports; to stop helping vulnerable producers and to privatise essential services. The results are devastating. The myth needs to be exploded once and for all.

* Challenge and influence the agendas of the G8, IMF, WTO, World Bank and governments of North and South. Tell them that we reject their trade policies which harm the poor.

* Propose alternatives to the current system. We need a radical change in direction if there is to be any hope of ending poverty. Poor countries must be able to choose their own economic policies, including trade policies, that work to reduce poverty.

* Show the scale of the global movement. Demonstrate our solidarity and internationalism and to show the strength of the peoples’ resistance and rejection of enforced liberalisation and privatisation.

* Build the movement through co-ordinated campaigning. Support, strengthen and build national trade campaigns and movements.

Visit the Global Week of Action website to find our about events in your area. Also you can support this important work in these ways:

* Take small steps toward economic justice.
* Support sustainable development.
* Fund microloans.
* Eat free trade coffee, tea, and chocolate. Yum!
* Wear free trade clothing and shoes. Stylin'!

We can all do our part. And the Global Week of Action is a great time to get started!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Learn about the crisis in Sudan.

Long time readers may remember that my second post was on the Crisis in Sudan. The situation continues and I am learning more about the causes of and possible solutions to the political and other problems in Sudan. To that end, I recently joined the Coalition for Darfur, a group of bloggers that use their sites to publicize the situation in Sudan and garner support for positive change there. The editors of the Coalition blog send us information once a week which I will post or link to here. This week's post focuses on the lack of US media coverage of the Sudan crisis.

I'll have more from the Coalition each week. I hope you and the Sudanese will benefit from learning more about the situation there. Perhaps you'll be motivated to support some of the organizations, like CARE, that do excellent work there.

Run or walk with a purpose.

This Saturday, I am participating in the 26th Annual Sickle Cell Road Race and Walk. This is an annual fundraiser for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia and is a wonderful race on a beautiful course. This will be my third year running it (or is it my fourth?) and it's always a fun and useful way to spend a Saturday morning. Not only do I get exercise which improves my health, but my registration fee funds services that improve the health of the thousands of people in Georgia with sickle cell anemia.

Consider participating in a run or walk for a health oriented charity. Here are some ways to find an event in your area:

* There are over 75 AIDS Walks held all over the country. These walks benefit HIV/AIDS service organizations in the local area. See if there's an AIDS walk near you!

* Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training "is the world's largest endurance sports training program. The program provides training to run or walk a whole or half marathon or participate in a triathlon or century (100-mile) bike ride." These events raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You may be surprised to learn that many of the volunteers have never participated in an endurance race before. Maybe you'll be next!

* The Komen Foundation hosts a large series of events that raise money for breast cancer research and prevention. They include 112 5K (3.1 miles) races/walks and several 60 mile 3-Day walks.

* Click here to find a list of races and walks in your area. Many of these are held to benefit health-related or other charities.

Check out the February 3rd post for some more ways to walk with a purpose. Also, local hospitals and other organizations may also host walks or runs you can participate in. They're a great way to get the exercise you need and help someone else at the same time. Have fun! And Nana, Eron, Temika, Dorian, and Kwadjo, I'll see y'all at the race!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Give hope to a child.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and April 6, 2005 has been declared National Day of Hope. Consider these statistics from Childhelp USA:

* "More than three children die each day as a result of abuse in the home."
* "In the United States, approximately three million child abuse reports are made each year—on average, one report every ten seconds."
* "The actual incidence of abuse and neglect is estimated to be three times greater than the number reported to authorities."

Outraged? You should be. There are lots of ways you can prevent child abuse:

* If you need help or suspect abuse, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Professional counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in 140 languages. Spread the word about this number. It may be someone's lifeline in a time of trouble.

* If your behavior toward your child worries you, GET HELP. Learn how to prevent child abuse and neglect. Information and resource packets on promoting safe children and healthy families are available in Spanish and English.

* Learn more about child abuse from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services.

* SPEAK UP! If you are with people who are discussing and approving of abusive behavior (their own, or someone else's), present an alternative way to interact with children. You can do it in a way that is nonjudgmental and nonthreatening, but suggests that such behavior is hurtful and unacceptable. Make sure your words and behavior reflect what you believe. If a story is mean, and not funny, don't laugh. For ideas on how to do this click here or call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

* Donate time, money, or resources to national and local agencies that work to prevent child abuse through hotlines, education, counseling, training, treatment and more. Consider Childhelp USA which sponsors the 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) hotline and many other services. They can direct you to local resources as well.

* Consider being a foster parent so you can provide a loving, caring, safe home for a child. May is National Foster Care Month. (If you are interested in adoption, consult the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.)

Think of the eighteen children who were abused while you read this post. Think of the three children who will die today as a result of abuse in the home. Are you ready to act?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Say no to plastic grocery bags.

For several months this fall and winter, a tall pine tree in my yard was plagued with a plastic grocery store bag that was tangled in its topmost branches. It was quite unsightly. But my 8 foot ladder wouldn't help me get it down and for those many weeks, the wind and rain didn't help either. I asked one the rogue yard squirrels to climb the tree and bring it down but it wouldn't comply. Finally, about two weeks ago, I noticed it was gone. Perhaps the wind finally worked its magic and the bag is off to 'decorate' someone else's tree.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is bothered by the excess of plastic bags that take up space in landfills, and escape proper storage to clutter up the landscape. Consider this:

* There's an entire blog dedicated to eliminating the excessive use of plastic bags. Check it out!

* Plastic bags can an entangle and harm marine life and other animals. According to the World Wildlife Fund, "more than 100,000 whales, seals, turtles, and birds die every year as a result of plastic bags." The Australian government reports that "on 24 August 2000, a Bryde's whale died in Trinity Bay, 2 km from central Cairns. An autopsy found that the whale's stomach was tightly packed with plastic, including supermarket bags, food packages, bait bags, three large sheets of plastic, and fragments of garbage bags. There was no food in its stomach."

* San Francisco government is reviewing a proposed law that would levy a 17 cent tax on each grocery store plastic bag. Many countries including Malta, Papua New Guinea and other are taking similar measures. They're serious about getting rid of these bags!

* The small state of Rhode Island spends about one million dollars each year to pick up "these bags that blow all over the place from trash being delivered to the Central Landfill." Imagine how much larger states must spend. And if they don't, their landscapes must be a mess. It seems a shame to have to spend all that money just to pick up plastic bags.

* Plastic takes an extremely long time to degrade. We can burn it, but that pollutes the air. Getting rid of plastic is a no win situation. We need some plastics, but should monitor how much we use since it's so costly to dispose of.

"So what can I do?"

* Most everyone I know has a drawer or shelf full of plastic grocery store bags. If you are not using them, recycle them. Publix and Wal-Mart both have plastic bag recycling centers outside their stores. Please leave a comment if you know of other stores that offer plastic bag recycling.

* Ask the person who bags your groceries to use just one bag instead of two for lighter items. I always compliment the baggers that single bag my groceries, and some of them are beginning to know that I don't need "all those extra bags."

* Bring your own reusable cloth bags to the store to carry home your groceries. If you're like me, you have lots of cloth bags at home that mostly sit around unused.

* Buy a few cloth bags for grocery shopping. Try or

So get yourself some handy cloth bags, and next time someone asks you, "Paper or plastic?" you can answer, "Neither!"

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Close the 10/90 gap.

Some suggest that ninety percent of the global disease burden affects developing countries while just ten percent of global research and development funds are used to development of treatments and vaccines for those diseases. This has been called 'the 10/90 gap,' and thankfully, there are lots of folks working to close it.

* The Initiative on Public-Private Partnerships for Health operates under the Global Forum for Health Research and supports alliances to fight neglected diseases. They maintain a list of 92 such partnerships.

* The Global Forum on Health Research is working to correct 'the 10/90 gap.' Visit the site to sign up for newsletters and learn more.

* The Medicines for Malaria Venture is a "nonprofit organization created to discover, develop and deliver new affordable antimalarial drugs through effective public-private partnerships."

* The Sustainable Science Institute is "a non-profit organization dedicated to improving public health worldwide, by helping scientists in developing countries gain access to the resources needed to address local problems related to infectious diseases." They offer training and consulting services, low-cost diagnostics developments and policy research.

* One World Health is a nonprofit pharmaceutical company. (What a wonderful concept!) Interested people can donate research or intellectual property, or can volunteer their time, and expertise in bench research, bioethics, epidemiology, manufacturing, etc.

These organizations provide excellent ways for scientists, bioethicists, and others to help ease the global disease burden. For more information on science-based development initiatives, see the November 9th post.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Support the commentathon (today only).

The blog is hosting a commentathon today to support the work of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which provides education and low-cost or free mammograms for low-income women. Donors have made pledges to NBCF based on how many comments are received on the April 1st post. At the time of this writing, there are 142 comments. They need at least 1500 comments to receive all of the $6000 that is pledged. Please stop by, offer a comment and support this good work.

Stop junk mail.

Consider these statistics from

* Each year, junk mail destroys 80 million trees and wastes 28 billion gallons of water.
* That amount of junk mail averages out to 34 pounds a year for each woman, man and child in the US.
* We spend an average of 8 months of our lives dealing with junk mail.

Had enough? Put a stop to junk mail by following the seven suggestions for junk mail reduction. You'll need to visit the for complete instructions, but here are some highlights:

* Whenever you request to be added or deleted from a mailing list, add these words "Please do not rent, sell or trade my name or address."

* Use Form 1500 (PDF) from the US Postal Service to stop unwanted mail. According to ecocycle, "this form was originally intended to block unwanted pornographic mail, but in 1970 the Supreme Court extended its purpose. The form can now be used to stop any unwanted mail."

* Call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5OPT-OUT) to end credit card solicitations. You can ask for a special form to ensure permanent removal.

* Contact the Direct Marketers Association at

Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Tel: 1- 212-768-7277

They are the largest list broker in the US, and they sell your name and address to those wanting to target you for their product. Ask them to remove your name from their lists. Be sure to include all variations of your name.

* Ask to receive notices by email instead of by postal mail. This reduces paper waste and saves everyone money (except perhaps the USPS).

Don't waste your time, and our energy, money and resources on mail you don't read, don't want, and don't need.