May 7, 2010 § Leave a Comment
In honor of all women, and mothers in particular, there’s a campaign you need to know about. Women ONE2ONE.
Created by the inspiring people at ONE.org, the campaign is “aimed at saving the lives and increasing the opportunity of women who live in extreme poverty. As mediators, connectors and advocates we believe in the power of women to make this change.”
On the Mother’s Day, to raise awareness and help reach their goal of having 1 million women join the effort to combat extreme poverty and preventable disease, ONE.org has partnered with SMITH Magazine to launch an initiative encouraging women to write brief but meaningful messages for their mothers. It’s called “Six Words on Why Moms Matter.”
Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a novel in six words. His offering — “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” — is the inspiration for the wildly popular SIX-WORD MEMOIR™ project from SMITH Magazine.
ONE has partnered with SMITH Magazine to launch Women ONE2ONE’s Six Words on Why Moms Matter campaign in honor of your mother and moms around the globe and to help raise awareness of the importance of mothers and the struggles many are facing every day.
Go ahead. Join the over 7,000 women who’ve already done so. Write your six words. Then send them to your mother. It will make her day. In fact, it will make your day too.
April 4, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Thomas Friedman delivers again. In today’s New York Times Op-Ed column, Start-Ups, Not Bailouts, Mr. Friedman lays out the facts when it comes to job creation in America. He reports on a recent Kauffman Foundation Study showing that, in the 25-year period from 1980 to 2005, almost all net new jobs were created “by firms that were five years old or less.” His position? What’s needed is innovation. What’s needed is a surge in new, cutting-edge businesses. In his words:
Message: If we want to bring down unemployment in a sustainable way, neither rescuing General Motors nor funding more road construction will do it. We need to create a big bushel of new companies — fast. … But you cannot say this often enough: Good-paying jobs don’t come from bailouts. They come from start-ups. And where do start-ups come from? They come from smart, creative, inspired risk-takers.
And to get more “smart, creative, inspired risk-takers,” we need to revamp our schools to graduate more of them and we need to recruit talented immigrants. Mr. Friedman suggests that the former will take some time (it’s hard to argue with that), but that the latter can be more readily addressed with modest changes to immigration policy. He cites Craig Mundie, Microsoft chief research and strategy, and his assertion that the force behind the incredible prosperity in the U.S. has been immigration: “we as a country accumulated a disproportionate share of the world’s high-I.Q. risk-takers.” As Thomas Friedman rightly points out, “immigrants are by definition high-aspiring risk-takers, ready to leave their native lands in search of greater opportunities.”
Arianna Huffington, my common sense woman of the day, as well as co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, concurs. In her recent post, When It Comes to Innnovation, Is America Becoming a Third World Country?” she recounts her experience as participant in a panel addressing this very issue as part of The Economist’s “Innovation: Fresh Thinking for the Idea Economy.” Like Mr. Friedman, Ms. Huffington has a firm grasp of the subject and equal passion for the possibilities. She details a disturbing list of reasons for the decline of innovation in this country, including disappointingly low student math and science scores, reduced government funding, and the current economic crisis.
She suggests a three-pronged approach to the issue. As I mentioned, she agrees with Thomas Friedman that immigration reform is necessary, and lauds The Start-Up Visa Act currently co-sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar. In addition, Ms. Huffington believes that a dramatic increase in the availability of high speed internet access is critcial to our economic success and national security. While a proponent of President Obama’s propsed National Broadband plan, she does not think that the timeline, 2020, is nearly aggressive enough. Lastly, as with Mr. Friedman, Ms. Huffington is an advocate of “innovation in the green economy. One proposal that would jumpstart the green economy is the creation of a Green Bank … Such a bank would also help loosen the available credit for small businesses, and establish the reliable source of funding entrepreneurs need to know will be there if they devote themselves to green technologies and start ups.” This concept is being pushed through Congress by Congressman Reed Hundt, who is currently joining Congressman Ed Markey in trying to make the Green Bank proposal part of the next jobs bill. Which makes sense, since, according to Hundt’s group, a Green Bank would create about four million jobs by 2012.”
Two incredibly smart, creative, innovative people suggesting that government doing its part to ease the way for the private sector to do theirs.
Seems like common sense to me.
March 12, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit is streaming live video from the Hudson Theater. The event begins at 5:00 p.m. eastern today.
March 10, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The Daily Beast’s landing page for their Women in the World Summit is officially up.
You’ll find the complete schedule for the 3-day event, the list of speakers and performers, with bios, and articles discussing the issues, including Tom Watson’s review of Cherie Blair’s and MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski’s efforts in “Technologies That Empower Women,” and Queen Rania Al Abdullah’s plea to, “Stop Ignoring the Girls!”
The event kicks off this Friday, March 12th at 5:00 p.m. There are bound to be frequent updates so check back to the landing page often.
March 5, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The Daily Beast continues its lead up to the first Women in the World summit taking place in New York March 12-14 with Michelle Goldberg’s profile of sex-slave rescuer Sunitha Krishnan who is scheduled to speak.
There is one word for this woman: fearless. Ms. Krishnan is the founder of anti-trafficking organization Prajwala. In the last 14 years Prajwala has educated the children of sex workers, rescued over 4,00o women and children from slavery, rehabilitated the vast majority returning them to near-normal lives, and created an ambitious job training program.
The statistics for sexual trafficking and slavery in India are daunting. As Goldberg points out, “Sex trafficking and forced prostitution are massive industries in India. Precise numbers are hard to come by, but the Indian government estimates that the country has almost 3 million sex workers, more than a third of whom started as children. (Some NGOs say the proportion is even higher.)”
What Sunitha Krishnan has accomplished is nothing short a marvel. And her tireless work continues. There is no doubt that she’ll inspire summit with her talk.
February 18, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Tina Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, has just announced a three-day summit, “Women in the World: Stories and Solutions.”
The event will focus “in depth on powerful human stories about women. We will showcase leaders on the frontlines working on innovative solutions to challenges ranging from sex slavery to girls’ education in the developing world to women caught in the violence of war zones.”
The list of attendees reads like a who’s-who of government, business, philanthropy, the media, and Hollywood: Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, Madeleine Albright, Christiane Amanpour, Thomas Friedman, Katie Couric, Meryl Streep, Jacqueline Novogratz, and Cherie Blair (to truly name only a few).
Scheduled for March 12 – 14, 2010 at the Hudson Theater in New York, The Daily Beast will cover the event “with live reporting and video highlights from the summit. And through interactive tools here on the site.” Participant profiles will be posted soon.
Flexibility + Initiative + Power = Change … Brilliant.
** A “Women in the World” Summit Update: The Daily Beast has just announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “will introduce an ensemble reading of SEVEN, a documentary play that honors courageous women activists from seven countries. The play was created by a collaboration of seven women playwrights, and will feature Meryl Streep, Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River), Shohreh Aghdashloo (The House of Sand and Fog), Tony-nominated Julyana Soelistyo (Golden Child), Lauren Vélez (Dexter), and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife).” Read more about Mrs. Clinton’s support for women’s issues and the summit.
February 15, 2010 § Leave a Comment
In a previous post, “Two Web Sites Sharing Big, Bold, Innovative Ideas,” I discussed TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. As I type this, the TED2010 Conference is taking place in California where it has been announced that chef Jamie Oliver is this year’s TEDPrize Winner. As the winner, he receives $100,000 and gets to make “One Wish to Change the World,” which the TED community then works together to support and help make come true. Jamie Oliver’s wish: “I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” TED has already posted the video of Jamie Oliver’s compelling talk in which he “makes the case for an all-out assault on our ignorance of food.” Watch it.
This is serious business. The TEDPrize is awarded to an “exceptional individual” who stands out among hundreds of other exceptional individuals and who has a wish that’s “big enough to change the world.” That this year’s prize has gone to an individual who is passionately fighting to bring our attention to what we’re eating and what we’re feeding our children, and who is taking concrete action to change our habits, well it says something. It says we’ve got a problem, and if we don’t do something about it, soon, it will only get much worse. We have an obesity rate and incidence of diabetes at historical highs, both of which have far-reaching consequences. As Jamie Oliver explains in his TED talk: today’s children are destined to have a shorter life span than their parents; the majority of the people in this country will die of diet-related diseases; and the costs of these diseases amount to 10% of America’s annual health care bill ($150 billion), a number which is set to double in ten years. And it’s not just America. Jamie Oliver’s food crusade began in England and he acknowledges that many other countries are not far behind. Cleverly, he suggests that if America takes the lead to address the problem, these other countries will follow.
Let me start by saying that I am most certainly not the world’s greatest cook. My brother is a better cook than me (of which I am both proud and mildly embarrassed). I cook a few things well. And I cook slowly, much to the chagrin of one ex-boyfriend. But when I do cook, I enjoy it (you can’t eat out or take in every night). I love food. I love good food. I’ve gotta cook.
I grew up in a house where cooking was a daily activity, with the exception of Friday, which was “pizza night,” and Monday, which was “stew night.” I still do not consider stew “cooking” or edible, but that’s my issue. Sunday’s roast, however, well that was another story … I loved that.
It never dawned on me that people, a large number of people, simply do not know how to do it. Do not know how to scramble an egg or cook some pasta and top it with some tomato sauce (even out of a jar) or broil a pork chop and steam some carrots. This is in no way meant as a criticism. I find it confounding because to me cooking is a basic life skill that every adult would naturally possess, like knowing how to swim. How could you not?
And that is the question … how can one survive and not know how to cook? Of course the answer is that it’s all too easy in a world full of fast food restaurants (McDonald’s should be the exception not the rule) and prepared food (if you don’t recognize the ingredients, as Michael Pollan says, it’s probably not food).
What I’ve not known how to cook, I know my mother does, or my friend Mary. So I pick up the telephone in some emergency state or another (my sauce isn’t thickening or my pie crust is crumbling, what do I do?) and get an answer. Today, the Internet is almost as good – do you know how many recipes are out there, for free? What I find hard to grasp is not knowing to even ask the question. For all of the information that’s available, the message doesn’t seem to have gotten through.
Almost as important as the food we eat is manner in which we eat it. I believe something is lacking in our culture in which food has become cheap, fast, disposable. The sensual nature of food, the rituals created around the preparation and eating of food, are disappearing. I find that to be a sad thing.
So here’s something radical. Maybe it’s time to bring back the old high school course, Home Economics, and not just for teenage girls … guys need to eat too. When I attended high school, it was deemed an easy course – one to take to balance the rigors of Algebra and History – but that was because so many of us already knew how to boil and mash the potatoes, cook the broccoli, and bake chocolate chip cookies “from scratch,” not to mention sew a straight seam on a sewing machine and crochet a hat or two. You could get through the class “with your eyes closed.” And not only bring it back, but change the perception of it to something of real value. Teach the basics of nutrition (the fruit and vegetable aisle is a good thing, you’ll like it) and how to read food labels (any bad stuff in the top four, put it back on the shelf). Teach the pleasure of cooking and eating real food. Make it mandatory. That would do it. It wouldn’t solve all of our problems when it comes to food and weight, but it would be a start. As Jamie Oliver said towards the end of his talk:
Under the circumstances, it’s profoundly important that every single American child leaves school knowing how to cook 10 recipes that will save their lives … life skills.
February 13, 2010 § 4 Comments
At the end of January I wrote a post describing Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and now full-time philanthropist, as a Renaissance Man. No doubt his wife, Melinda, has had a little something to do with that.
Recently, Melinda Gates traveled to the African countries of Benin and Malawi with French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Their purpose? To see the results of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “efforts to prevent mother-child HIV transmission, increase the safety of childbirth, and ensure access to contraceptives,” which Ms. Gates describes in her photo essay, “The Fight for African Women’s Lives,” published on The Daily Beast. And the results look promising: a decrease in child deaths in Malawi “by ensuring that women got to health-care facilities to deliver their babies;” an increase in newborn survival rates there by teaching women about “kangaroo care” which keeps babies warm and helps them gain weight; and more HIV-positive Benini women on antiretroviral drugs to save the lives of the women and prevent transmission of the disease to their babies.
These solutions are simple and complex at the same time: not “rocket-science” in their conception, but infinitely challenging in their execution. It is encouraging to see substantive changes being made and lives being saved, and this positive message needs to get out. Given the Foundation’s commitment to publish the outcome of each initiative, be it a success or failure, I believe what I’m reading. And, when Melinda Gates says, “As a mom, I am deeply committed to helping save the lives of woman and children,” I believe that too.
At times, the problems facing developing countries seem so daunting that it’s tempting to throw in the towel. What I admire about Melinda Gates, and her husband, is that they simply refuse to see this as an option.
February 12, 2010 § Leave a Comment
There is a saying in Italian, “Meglio spendere soldi dal macellaio che dal farmacista,” which means that it’s better to spend money at the butcher than the pharmacist. In other words, eat well.
The Italian saying is found on front flap of Douglas Gayeton’s fabulous book, Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town, published late last year. Which also happens to be when I came across it, browsing the bookstore as I have a tendency to do much too often. It’s large, and it stuck out from the shelf, or at least it stuck out to me. If you’ve read other posts on this blog you’ll know that’s probably not all that surprising given my love of food, and Italian food in particular (although I do have a French bistro fetish, but that is another post altogether).
Douglas Gayeton is a filmmaker, photographer, writer, and now organic farmer in Petaluma, California, who was sent to Italy by PBS to make a documentary. The film never did get made, but the photos he took were arresting, and PBS posted them on its web site. Gayeton’s genius was the concept of a “flat film” image created by combining multiple photographs captured over a period of time into one photo which portrays a meaningful representation of the event, and then layering each with “handwritten notes, anecdotes, recipes, quotes, and historical facts and that cleverly bring context and color to the subject of each sepia-toned image and draw us deeper into this romantic, rewarding, and progressively rare way of life.” He describes the process, which he discovered one afternoon during a long family lunch, in a short video.
As you page through the book, a narrative unfolds, slowly. Just as it should. Each photo tells a story. You’ll have to turn the book around to read many of the quotes and sayings. You’ll want to meet Marino who makes marble funeral stones with his two sons, Fiziano and Luca, and Guiseppina, the egg lady who knows her chickens (Conosco i miei polli – I know my chickens). You’ll want to learn a few new Italian words, like una scampagnata (an outing) and i funghi (mushrooms) and la moglie (the wife). You’ll want to eat, well. This gem of a book is an homage to a way of life that, even in Italy, is disappearing.
There’s a reason so many of us flock to Italy. Almost anyone I know, after returning from a trip, says it’s the food, it’s the quality of life. It’s about the pleasure of carefully choosing, preparing, and eating real food, and taking the time to appreciate it and those with whom we’re eating. In America, this is known as “Slow Food.”
If we choose, we can incorporate elements of “Slow” into our lives here. We can make an effort to know where our food comes from, and, whenever possible, opt for produce grown close to home or meat from animals raised in humane environments on small, local farms (more on this in an upcoming post). We can cook and teach our children to cook. We can sit down at the table, together, and enjoy a meal (A tavola!). Douglas Gayeton reminds us of this, and that sometimes:
“Il troppo stroppia”
More than enough is too much.