Tribute: Wangari Maathai, First African Woman to Win Nobel Peace Prize (1940-2011)

Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, died of cancer at the age of 71. Tributes from leaders around the world in the press praise her as one of the most widely respected women on the continent.

She founded a movement in 1977 to plant trees across Kenya that would fight erosion while creating firewood for fuel and jobs for women. Her Green Belt Movement spread across the continent planting more than 30 million trees and helping nearly 900,000 women.

She won the Peace Prize in 2004 for what the Nobel committee called “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” It was a moment of immense pride in Kenya and across Africa.

Her ideas for promoting sustainability and community-building inspired similar environmental efforts in other countries.

Full story in the New York Times


Photo of the Day: Kermode Bear in Tree, British Columbia

Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

A mother of two cubs climbs a Pacific crab apple tree to grab its tart and tiny fruit. In years when autumn salmon numbers are low, the bears must find other food, such as wild berries, lupine roots and mussels.

See more pictures from the August 2011 feature story “Spirit Bear.”

Young Wrangler Charges Grizzly to Save Boy

Wrangler Erin Bolster and Tonk, a Percheron mix.

Wrangler Erin Bolster and Tonk, a Percheron mix.

A 25-year-old wrangler likely saved an 8-year-old boy’s life . On July 30, Erin Bolster of Swan Mountain Outfitters was guiding eight clients on a horse ride on the Flathead National Forest between West Glacier and Hungry Horse. “It’s the shortest ride we offer,” she said recently, recalling the incident. “We’d already led two trips that morning. It’s always been a very routine hour-long loop, until that day.”

The group included a family of six plus a vacationing Illinois man, who’d booked the trip for his 8-year-old son’s first horse-riding experience. The young boy was riding Scout, a steady obedient mount, following directly behind Bolster, who was leading the group on Tonk, a burly 10-year-old white horse. “He’s a very large horse – 18 hands high. That intimidates a lot of riders. But I’ve always loved big horses. He’s kind of high-strung and spooky, the largest of our wrangling horses. I like a horse with a lot of spirit, and I was really glad to be on him that day.”

Bolster has accumulated a wealth of experience on and around horses of national and even world class. She started riding at 4 years old, became a professional trainer at 15, graduated from high school at 16 in Roanoke, VA, and ran a riding academy for several years. Seeking a more laid-back lifestyle, she wrangled in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic before moving to Whitefish three years ago.

Because they guide around Glacier Park, bear awareness is part of the preparation wranglers get when hired by Swan Mountain Outfitters. “We go over a lot of wildlife scenarios in our training,” Bolster said. “We learn to watch our horses for signals of possible trouble so we can steer clear. It was a pleasant ride until we came around a corner on the trail and my horse stopped firm and wouldn’t move,” Bolster said. “He never refuses to go, so that caught my attention quick.” But not fast enough to avoid the spike white-tailed deer that burst out of the brush and glanced off Tonk’s left front shoulder. As Tonk spun from the impact, Bolster saw a huge grizzly bear crashing through the forest right at the group in pursuit of the deer. Horses panicked and guests grabbed saddle horns for the ride of their lives.

“No amount of training could keep a horse from running from a 700-pound charging bear,” she said. Seven of the horses sensed the danger, peeled out and galloped back on the trail toward the barn. But Scout bolted perpendicular to the trail into the timber, packing the 8-year-old boy. “The deer peeled off and joined the horses sprinting down the trail,” Bolster said. “So the bear just continued running right past me. I’m not sure the bear even knew the roles had changed, but now it was chasing a horse instead of a deer.”

The grizzly was zeroed in on Scout and the boy – the isolated prey in the woods. Adding to the drama, the boy’s father, an experienced rider, could not convince his horse that it was a good plan to ride to his son’s rescue. “The last thing he saw over his shoulder as his horse ran away was the grizzly chasing his boy,” Bolster said.

With the bear on Scout’s heels, Tonk’s instinct was to flee with the group of horses. But Tonk responded to Bolster’s heels in his ribs as she spun the horse around. They bolted into the trees to wedge between the predator and the prey. “I bent down, screamed and yelled, but the bear was growling and snarling and staying very focused on Scout. As it tried to circle back toward Scout, I realized I had to get Tonk to square off and face the bear. We had to get the bear to acknowledge us. We did. We got its attention – and the bear charged. So I charged at the bear. I had no hesitation, honestly,” Bolster said. “Nothing in my body was going to let that little boy get hurt by that bear. That wasn’t an option.” Tonk was on the same page. And the bear got the point. Bolster then gathered the boy up with her on Tonk, grabbed Scout’s lead and left the scene. It wasn’t until Bolster reunited with her riders and found everyone ok and rounded up, that she started to shake. “I looked at Tonk, and he was wet with sweat and shaking, too,” she said.

“Some of the horses I’ve ridden would have absolutely refused to do what Tonk did; others would have thrown me off in the process. Some horses can never overcome their flight-animal instinct to run away.” Tonk’s mettle moved Bolster. She wasn’t about to send him back to Wyoming with the other leased horses. “Two weeks ago, I closed the deal and bought him,” Bolster said as she was wrapping up her 2011 wrangling season. “After what he did that day, he had to be mine.”

Source: www.

Violent Crime Fell 6% Last Year in US, Boosting 4-Year Decline

Despite economic turmoil in the country, violent crime in the United States declined 6.5% last year, according to statistics released by the FBI today.

The 2010 figures showed a continued decline in violence that began decades ago and has been uninterrupted since 2006. Figures in 2009 showed a drop of 5.3% in total violent crime from the previous year. From 1997 to 2006, violent crime dropped a total of 13%.

Experts can only speculate on why the crime rate continues a steep decline. Possibilities include stepped-up community policing, government programs targeted at youth and programs aimed to reduce recidivism in newly released prison inmates.


Men’s Morning Patrols Aimed at Giving Kids ‘Safe Passage’ to School

Curtis Watkins has a simple plan: Make sure that children who live in the troubled communities east of the Anacostia River see welcoming male faces on their way to school in the mornings. Four times a week, at the crack of dawn, he and a small group of men walk the streets of Marshall Heights and Lincoln Heights in Ward 7, greeting students. Their opening line is often: “Good morning, young brother! Good morning, young sister!” “Most of these kids don’t see positive male role models, brothers who are just out and about looking out for their well-being,” Watkins said. “It’s just about having a presence in the community.”

The walk-around is known as “Safe Passage,” and it’s meant as a building block in developing long-term relationships between kids and their elders in the neighborhoods. Many of the men who walk the streets are ex-offenders searching for opportunities to give back to the communities they once committed crimes in. “Just being out here is part of giving back to a community where I was part of the problem,” said Bryant, 52, a District native who was released from prison several years ago. “But what’s most important to me is talking with these young folks and letting them know they can make different decisions, trying to plant seeds that get them thinking differently.”

The morning walks — usually about six men show up rain or shine — is an effort to address a persistent problem: groups of kids from different neighborhoods fighting over turf and bullying each other as they go to and from school. Watkins, 55, first started his version of the Safe Passage program 10 years ago in Ward 8. Children he knew from several middle schools would tip him off to after-school fights. As the director of a social service agency, he would often round up staff members and intervene before any violence occurred. “The kids came to us because they knew they didn’t want to fight and they felt they could trust us not to tell anyone who tipped us off . . . and they knew we could stop stuff from going down,” Watkins said.

Parents in the Glencrest community said the presence of the Safe Passage volunteers is a start toward fostering a community where neighbors look after one another. “It’s very hectic around here, but it’s important to have a presence of folks who are looking out for our kids,” said Donna Crews, 42, a single mother of six children ranging in age from 11 to 19.

Cmdr. Robert Contee, head of the Metropolitan Police Department’s 6th District, said that the volunteers’ work is an extension of the supervising of children’s routes to school that officers have done over the years in troubled neighborhoods. He added that last year’s violence in Lincoln Heights pushed them to look at expanding the role of morning monitors to Watkins’s group. “We can’t be everywhere and unfortunately we can’t do it all,” he said in an interview. “We never know what we’re not preventing, but it’s important to have the Homecomers involved in these neighborhoods.” In addition to public safety, Watkins said, it’s a chance for adults to be present in the children’s lives — in an old-school way. The interactions of the men can be casual at first — a high-five here and a playful conversation there — but as the volunteers get to know the youngsters, they feel at liberty to challenge the students on grades and behavior. “We want these kids to feel warm,” said William Lawson, 55, another of the walkers. “Who knows, maybe just our presence one morning will make one of these kids’ day.”


Bystanders Lift Burning Car to Save Trapped Biker (Video)

One of the heroes of Monday’s (9/14/2011) dramatic rescue of college student Brandon Wright from beneath a burning car in Logan, Utah, told TODAY Wednesday that he believed he was only recovering a body for burial. “The truth is, I thought we were just removing the car from a body,” construction worker Mike Johnson told Savannah Guthrie live from Utah Wednesday. “I just didn’t think the body should burn with the car. Then (a) lady got down on her belly and stared under there, right into the flames. She yelled out that ‘he’s alive,’ and after she said that, everyone just converged on the car and lifted. I don’t know who she was, but that lady did a great service.”

The saving of 21-year-old Wright has become a national feel-good story, fueled by dramatically clear video of the rescue captured by an office worker in a nearby building. As the video shows, just seconds after Wright grounded his motorcycle to avoid a collision with a black BMW and slid under the burning vehicle, an ad hoc rescue team assembled to lift the car out from on top of him. Wright’s accident occurred just 50 yards from the construction crew working on the bustling Utah State University campus. Seemingly out of nowhere, students, businessman and passersby joined the workers in an on-the-spot rescue team that likely saved Wright’s life.

Johnson initially tried to lift the 2-ton car on his own, but even after five others joined him, they were unable to do it. But a split-second after the mystery woman determined Wright was still alive, others arrived to pitch in. All told, about a dozen people put their muscle into lifting the car on its right side, enabling a construction worker to drag Wright out from under. All the while, the citizen rescuers were not only dealing with flames blazing out from the car, but also from Wright’s motorcycle, which was nearly engulfed in fire.

Wright was airlifted to Intermountain Medical Center, and while he is dealing with broken bones, he is expected to make a full recovery. “I’m just very thankful for everyone that helped me out,” Wright told The Associated Press by telephone from his hospital bed. “They saved my life.”

Source: www.

Runnin’ Down a Dream

Meet Sam Fox.

Who is he?  Sam is a 23-year-old in the midst of an unbelievable, treacherous, and inspiring challenge: to run the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail in less than 65 days. If he completes this challenge, he’ll break the current speed record, but that entails running an average of 40 miles a day for two months.

Did you hear that? 40 miles a day for two months! That’s nuts! But Sam has trained all year for this—and he’s determined to complete the challenge which started on August 25th.

Why is he doing this? His run is a charitable endeavor organized by his foundation, Run While You Can, to raise awareness and money for Parkinson’s disease research. Sam’s mom, Lucy, was diagnosed with the disease more than a decade ago—and Sam started his foundation in her honor. The runner’s goal is to raise $250,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation

Where is he? Right now Sam is trekking through California, making his way south over tricky terrain. Sam’s run, which will take him over 60 major mountain passes and past more than 1,000 lakes will be daunting and sometimes impossible, not to mention filled with blisters, strained muscles and constant exhaustion.’s blog is chronicling Sam’s adventure: the good, the bad and everything in between. Besides amazing photos and very witty commentary, you get an unfiltered look at the athlete and the challenge. The blog is incredibly inspiring.

What can you do? Donate at Volunteer or even run a section of the trail with him if you are in the area. Follow his blog, cheer him on from afar, and watch him make his dream come true.


Inspiring 9/11 Story: A Massai Warrior’s Unexpected Gift to America

In the days following 9/11, many Americans probably were unaware that others around the world made extraordinary gestures toward the U.S. One of the most touching reactions of all was the story of how a destitute Kenyan boy-turned-Stanford-student rallied his Masai tribe to offer its most precious gift to America in its time of need.

It all starts with Kimeli Naiyomah.  Kimeli, a member of a Masai tribe, grew up in a small rural town called Enoosaen near the Masai Mara National Reserve.  The town had no water, no electricity, no phones and no roads. After accompanying his ailing mother to the hospital as a young boy, Kimeli says he knew he wanted to grow up to heal others like her.  He didn’t know such people were called doctors – he just knew he wanted to be one.

Dreaming of being a doctor is ambitious even in America.  But in Kimeli’s part of Africa, one could have easily dismissed that dream as impossible. This was especially true in Kimeli’s particular situation.  He says he had no father.  His grandmother had been murdered.  And his mother – his only remaining caretaker – was battling alcoholism. Moreover, nobody that Kimeli knew from his tribe had gone to high school, let alone college or medical school.

He knew he had to change his situation, so he ran away – to another village where he had heard that there was a school that was taught under a tree.  It was a church school and it became his grade school and his home. When he grew beyond this school-under-a-tree,  Kimeli found the nearest high school, which was 9 hours away.  So he walked there and told the principal that he had no money, no uniform, no books, no shoes and no family, but he wanted to attend school.  And, as Kimeli tells the story, the principal was so amazed by Kimeli’s gumption that he welcomed him to the school.

Kimeli soon realized he probably couldn’t achieve his dream of becoming a doctor if he remained in Kenya.  So he started applying for universities in America.  He says, “My elders got together to try to raise money to help me achieve my goals.” They raised $5,000 for him. A Washington Post reporter then caught wind of the story and came to Enoosaen to write a story about Kimeli’s doctoral dreams.  That story ended up on the front page of the paper. The article inspired an outpouring of support, including a scholarship offer from the University of Oregon, a plane ticket from a businessman in Florida and clothes and other materials he needed to survive in America paid for by another total stranger. “You can imagine how I felt,” Kimeli says, “when I received a letter offering me a scholarship in America.  It’s like getting a letter from God when you know you’re not qualified for heaven.”

Kimeli enrolled at the University of Oregon in 1996.  A few years later, Kimeli heard about Stanford University (after Chelsea Clinton enrolled there) and decided after seeing the school that that was where he belonged.  He says, “It looked like a village to me”.  And once again, Kimeli made his own luck, getting accepted at Stanford after getting his grades up in Oregon.

Kimeli had become a celebrity of sorts back home.  In September of 2001, the President of Kenya was scheduled to be in New York and Kimeli says he was invited to meet with him.  And that’s how Kimeli – now officially a full Masai warrior back home – found himself in New York City on September 11, 2001.

As a warrior, Kimeli is trained to rush to the scene of crisis.  “You run to the battleground,” he says, “I don’t run away from tragedy, I run to tragedy.  But I was realistic enough to know I couldn’t help [at Ground Zero].” Kimeli says he is also a very emotional warrior.  9/11 touched him deeply. The country that had given him so much had been brutally attacked.  He had to figure out a way to help.  He had to do something.

So, on a trip back home in May of 2002, he asked to meet with the elders of his tribe. First, Kimeli told them of the horrors he had witnessed in New York.  Many of Kimeli’s people had never even heard of 9/11.  They couldn’t even fathom buildings that tall and most people in the village had never seen a plane except way high up in the sky.

Then, Kimeli told them of his plan.  He wanted to buy a cow (something this formerly homeless boy had never been able to do) and turn right around and give that cow to America. In Kimeli’s tradition, a cow is the most precious property one can own.  And it is believed to bring great comfort to its owner.  As one elder told a reporter, a cow is a “handkerchief to wipe away tears.” He wanted his elders’ blessing for his plan. But, unexpectedly, one-by-one the elders stood up and said they were so inspired by his plan they wanted to do the same.  In the end there were 14 cows that had been pledged to the American people to help bring them peace.

On June 3rd, 2002, U.S. charges d’affairs William Brencick travelled to Enoosaen to formally accept the cows.  He says it took him more than half-a-day to get there – a flight and then a long drive over treacherous terrain.  But after he heard Kimeli’s story, he wanted to go. Brencick expected to be greeted by a handful of people, but when he arrived, he found a large crowd. Kimeli says more than a thousand people were in attendance.  Kimeli had brought American flags with him.  The “Star Spangled Banner” played on a loudspeaker.  Some in the crowd held up banners that said: “To the people of America,” “We are touched by your loss” and “We give these cows to help you.”  Brencick says it was “overwhelmingly emotional” and he couldn’t help but tear up.

But there was a hitch. Logistical and monetary problems prevented the U.S. from taking possession of the cattle.  The herd was worth much less than the considerable amount it would cost to ship it 7,250 miles to New York City.  And there were health hurdles: African cows weren’t allowed in America.  In addition, there was concern that the cows might not survive the voyage anyway.

Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley heard what was going on and wondered how the U.S. could get 80,000 troops into Afghanistan, but couldn’t get 14 head of cattle out of Africa.  As for the Masai, they couldn’t quite understand why this American came to accept the cows, but then didn’t take them home with him.  Some wondered why he didn’t just load the cattle on a truck and drive them to America.

Four years later, on the 5th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, all was made right.  Then-U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger traveled to Enoosaen to cement a deal for Kimeli’s tribe to take care of “America’s” herd in perpetuity.  And, as a way of saying thanks, the Ambassador announced the establishment of a scholarship for 14 boys and girls in the village to go to local schools.  Those scholarships continue to this day. 
And today the herd continues to grow.  As of right now, 35 “American” cattle roam the plains near Enoosaen, tended lovingly by one of the elders in Kimeli’s tribe. As for Kimeli, he’s decided he can do more for the world as a diplomat than a doctor.  Next fall, Kimeli hopes to become a Rotary International World Peace fellow at Duke University.

If you’re interested in reading more. Kimeli’s story is featured in a children’s book 14 Cows for America.


Ex-Terrorist Bomber Turned Comic Book Hero and Friend to Police

Students read a comic book with an anti-extremist theme at a primary school Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The real life adventures of former al-Qaida-linked terrorist Nasir Abas have become a new comic book in Indonesia, chronicling his transformation from militant to invaluable ally in the fight against terrorism. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Students read a comic book with an anti-extremist theme at a primary school Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The real life adventures of former al-Qaida-linked terrorist Nasir Abas have become a new comic book in Indonesia, chronicling his transformation from militant to invaluable ally in the fight against terrorism. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

The real life adventures of former al-Qaida-linked militant Nasir Abas have become a new comic book in Indonesia, chronicling his transformation from foe to invaluable ally in the fight against terrorism. The story of the soft-spoken, seemingly mild-mannered 42-year-old — recognized by strangers on the streets and even asked for the occasional autograph — is well-known in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

Abas went from helping train Muslim extremists who carried out some of Southeast Asia’s deadliest attacks to informing police about the inner-workings of the Jemaah Islamiyah network. He’s also joined a government program to convince convicted terrorists that killing unarmed civilians in the name of their faith is wrong.

“I want children to learn from my experience,” Abas said of the colorful 137-page comic book I Found the Meaning of Jihad, which will appear in bookstores and be handed out at some schools and libraries. “I don’t want them to make the same mistakes.”

Indonesia, hit by a string of suicide bombings that has killed more than 260 people since Sept. 11, 2001, has been widely praised for its anti-terror fight. The government, partly through the use of paid informants and former militants working to persuade hard-liners to change sides, has rounded 680 suspects, trying and convicting many of them in open courts. Abas, a Malaysian national who now lives in Jakarta with his family, has been one of its biggest success stories.

Kids at an elementary school squealed when shown a copy of the book by nonprofit publisher Lazuardi Birru and called out to their friends, who eagerly huddled around and flipped through the lively, glossy pages. More than 10,000 copies have been printed so far. The comic traces Abas’ early days at an Islamic boarding school to his recruitment as a fighter against Western oppression in Afghanistan in the late 1980s.

Security experts say it’s good to find creative ways to battle hateful ideologies spread by al-Qaida and other extremist groups, as long as it’s part of a comprehensive counter-radicalization strategy. “We know young people are often targeted for recruitment by jihadist groups,” said Kumar Ramakrishna, a terrorism expert in Singapore. “So reaching out in innovative ways, such as through pop music and comics … is certainly a very good idea in my view.”


End Malaria Day is Here

In the time it takes you to read this post, a child will have been killed by malaria. But by the end of this post, you will learn how to save another child from dying.

$20 from the sale of every book End Malaria (100% of the Kindle price and 80% of the hardcover price) will be donated to Malaria No More, whose mission it is to end malaria deaths in Africa by the year 2015. Your $20 sends a mosquito net to a family in need to support the fight against malaria.

The page-turner features 62 essays written by America’s most treasured business authors, on the topic of great work and how to do more of the stuff that truly matters in life. Divided into three sections: Focus, Courage and Resilience, in which luminaries inspire you to seek answers to everyday dilemmas from within, motivating you to bring your desires to fruition, the compilation will change your life as well.

The hope is that this book smart campaign results in unprecedented ‘net’ profits.

 To learn more about Malaria or to get involved in other ways, visit


Funny Harvard Professor Shows Happiness Comes BEFORE Success

“The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance”
TEDxBloomington – Shawn Achor 

Love this video and love the message!

Photo & Thought of the Day

“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” – Henry Van Dyke

(National Geographic)