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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

10 Japanese Customs You Must Know Before a Trip to Japan


Feature photo by kalandrakas. Photo above by kalandrakas

If you know these key Japanese customs, you’ll get closer to the locals and see beneath the surface of Japan.
1. Addressing Someone, Respect

Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children’s heads from the moment they enter school. For tourists, a simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist will usually suffice.

The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing.

The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing. For example, a friend might get a lightning-fast 30-degree bow; an office superior might get a slow, extended, 70-degree bow. It’s all about position and circumstance.

In addition to bowing, addressing someone properly is key. Just as a “Dr. Smith” might feel a little insulted if you were to refer to him as “Smith”, so would a Japanese if you do not attach the suffix “san” to their last name, or “sama” if you are trying to be particularly respectful.

Usually children are content with just their first names, but you can add the suffix “chan” for girls and “kun” for boys if you like.

2. Table Manners

Some simple bullet points here:

- If you’re with a dinner party and receive drinks, wait before raising the glass to your lips. Everyone will be served, and someone will take the lead, make a speech, raise his drink, and yell “kampai!” (cheers).

- You will receive a small wet cloth at most Japanese restaurants. Use this to wash your hands before eating, then carefully fold it and set it aside on the table. Do not use it as a napkin, or to touch any part of your face.

- Slurping noodles or making loud noises while eating is OK! In fact, slurping hot food like ramen is polite, to show you are enjoying it.

- You may raise bowls to your mouth to make it easier to eat with chopsticks, especially bowls of rice.

- Just before digging in, whether it be a seven-course dinner or a sample at a supermarket, it’s polite to say “itadakimasu” (I will receive).

3. No Tipping

There is no tipping in any situation in Japan – cabs, restaurants, personal care. To tip someone is actually a little insulting; the services you’ve asked for are covered by the price given, so why pay more?

If you are in a large area like Tokyo and can’t speak any Japanese, a waiter or waitress might take the extra money you happen to leave rather than force themselves to deal with the awkward situation of explaining the concept of no tipping in broken English.

Just remind yourself: a price is a price.

Photo by tavallai

4. Chopsticks

Depending on the restaurant you decide upon for that evening, you may be required to use chopsticks.

If for some reason you aren’t too adept with chopsticks, try to learn before passing through immigration. It’s really not that hard.

One false assumption among many Japanese that’s slowly being dispelled by time is the “uniqueness” of Japan. Japan is an island nation; Japan is the only country that has four seasons; foreigners can’t understand Japan; only Japanese can use chopsticks properly.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told I use Japanese chopsticks with skill and grace, despite the fact I’ve seen three-year-olds managing just as well.

If you’re dining with a Japanese, don’t be surprised if you receive a look of amazement at your ability to eat like a Japanese.

5. Thresholds

Take off your shoes at the entrance to all homes, and most businesses and hotels. Usually a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby; many Japanese bring a pair of indoor slippers just in case, though.

Never wear slippers when you need to step onto a tatami mat (used in most Japanese homes and hotels; the standard unit of measurement for area even today), and be careful to remove the toilet slippers waiting for you in the bathroom.

It is extremely bad form, for example, to reenter the main room of a house wearing slippers that have been running across dirty linoleum.

6. Masks

Photo by toestubber

SARS is long gone, though I did happen to see a “SARS Preparation Kit” during my brief stay in a Japanese hospital.

Nevertheless, sterilized masks, like the ones you’d see in the emergency room, are commonly used by salarymen, office ladies, and municipal workers to protect other people from their germs.

Rather sensible when you think about it, as masks do not protect the wearer so much as the ones around him. The reason could be anything from a slight cold to simply being worried about exposing other people; don’t let it concern you on your Japanese vacation.

7. Conformity

When groups of high school students in Japan were asked to identify the dangers facing children today, the majority agreed on the number one threat: individualism.

Japanese society is focused on the group. Western cultures are focused on the individual.

Does this mean that the Japanese are nothing more that worker bees in a vast hive of steel and concrete? Certainly not, but their presentation of such individual qualities are carefully calculated and given in doses.

Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses.

The main problem with this is that foreigners simply can’t avoid standing out; we stick out like sore thumbs no matter how long we’ve been here, or how much we know about Japanese culture and society.

As a result, being in Japan gives foreigners the status of D-level celebrities: you’ll get glances, shouts for attention, calls to have pictures taken with people, requests for autographs (happened once to me on a southern island), and overall just more awareness of being a “stake that sticks out”.

8. Bathing

Photo by meganscheminske

Public bathhouses are alive and well in Japan.

Sento, or neighborhood bathhouses, can be found from the largest area in Shinjuku to a small town on the island of Shikoku.

Onsen, or hot springs, are very popular as weekend excursion resorts.

Unlike in western cultures, the Japanese bath is used after you have washed and rinsed, and feel like soaking in extra-hot water for 10, 20, 30 minutes. It’s an acquired taste to be sure, but can be very relaxing.

If you happen to be invited into a Japanese household, you will be given the honor of using the bath first, usually before dinner. Be extra careful so as to not dirty the water in any way; the sanctity of the ofuro (bath) is of utmost importance.

Take the time to visit a sento if you have the opportunity. These are places without barriers, without regard to skin color, age, or language… well, they are separated by sex with the exception of some mixed-bathing areas.

Lying in the hot water and slowly listening to my heart beat slow down is a time when I feel most attuned to Japanese culture.

9. Speaking English
Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise.

Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise. Even during a short visit, you’ll see:

-A group of schoolchildren in neatly pressed Prussian uniforms walking across the intersection, shouting “Hello! Hello! Herro!” as they assess your foreign features

-A random person just walking up to you and asking “Where are you from?”

Friendly? Certainly. But I can see how constant celebrity status might get confusing or frustrating for travelers who don’t speak English.

Although you may speak some or fluent Japanese, the default language of choice is English. Many Japanese will insist on using their own English language ability, however limited, to converse with foreigners, in spite of the fact that the person on the opposing end may have more knowledge of the local tongue.

10. Safety

Every Japanese person I have met warns me to be safe in my travels, to take care of my belongings. Every foreigner tells me not to worry, nothing can go wrong, nothing will be stolen. This may be based on individual experience, but there are other issues:

- The fear of crime in Japan is high, especially among Japanese citizens.

- Murders happen. I repeat, murders happen. People are attacked, robbed, assaulted, raped, beaten, and swindled

However, Japan’s low crime rate is evident when you see businessmen who have missed the last train sleeping outside on a park bench, or a group of 5-year-old boys walking by themselves for over a kilometer to make the starting bell at school.

Original here

World's Biggest Airport Opens in Beijing

The world's biggest airport is now finished and ready for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The $3.5 billion gigantic dragon terminal, which is the centerpiece of the 501-square-mile complex capable of allowing 50 million passengers per year, looks even more impressive in the amazing, almost unreal photos.


The new Terminal 3 has been designed to be energy efficient, allowing for natural lightning—whenever it is possible and the city smog allows, I guess—and packing all the facilities into a single structure, rather than fragmenting them in separate buildings, the building is 17% bigger than London Heathrow T1, T2, T3, T4 and the new T5 put together.

With a total of five floors—two underground— the dragon terminal is divided into three parts: the 3C is the domestic hall, and the main passenger terminal, 3D is the Olympics hall, used for charter flights during the celebrations, and 3E is the international hall.

Original here

Cheap Sunglasses Cause Cancer

Image from I love joseph

Every summer it seems, I find myself unable to root out the sunglasses I purchased for an arm and a leg the year prior; a ritual that has over time, moved my style from $120 Ray-Bans to $10 gas station glasses. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was probably going to kill me, and that nobody was doing anything about it.

As it happens, there are no federal regulations in the U.S. on the amount of UV light that sunglasses have to block, and while many cheap pairs do just fine, many don’t, and exploit the lack of sanctions to lie about it.

If a producer of sunglasses is found to be producing a product that they claim blocks 100% of UV rays and it’s not, their punishment will be a nasty letter from the FDA. If they wish to avoid even that unpleasantness, they can simply label the accessory as “blocks most UV rays” and it will be subject to no regulation at all.

This is bad for obvious reasons, but also because putting on sunglasses causes your eyes to dilate, letting more light in and in the case of sunglasses not offering UV protection, more UV rays as well.

UV rays cause exactly the same type of damage to your eyes as your skin, causing burns, blindness, and yes, an elevated cancer risk. Australia, home of the highest skin cancer rates in the world and whose massive population lives next to the ozone hole, has strict standards for sunglasses; as does the European Union. Why won’t America come along?

Original here

Molecular Fingerprint Of Cocaine Addiction Revealed

The first large-scale analysis of proteins in the brains of monkeys addicted to cocaine reveals new information on how long-term cocaine use changes the amount and activity of various proteins affecting brain function.

The identified changes are more numerous and long-lasting than previously thought, which may provide a biological explanation for why cocaine addiction is so difficult to overcome, according to Scott E. Hemby, Ph.D. of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, senior author of the study.

Results from the study are reported online May 27 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and detail the effect of long-term cocaine intake on the amount and activity of thousands of proteins in monkeys. Monkeys are an ideal animal for studying addiction because they share considerable behavioral, anatomical and biochemical similarities with humans. About 2.4 million Americans currently use cocaine, according to estimates.

The researchers used state-of-the-art "proteomic" technology, which enables the simultaneous analysis of thousands of proteins, to compare the "proteome" (all proteins expressed at a given time) between a group of monkeys that self-administered cocaine and a group that did not receive the drug. Leonard Howell, Ph.D., with Emory University School of Medicine, who conducted the monkey studies, was a co-researcher. The study provides a comprehensive assessment of biochemical changes occurring in the cocaine addicted brain, Hemby said.

"The changes we identified are profound and affect the structure, metabolism and signaling of neurons," said lead author Nilesh Tannu, M.D. "It is unlikely that these types of changes are easily reversible after drug use is discontinued, which may explain why relapse occurs."

Hemby said that the development of medications to treat addictive disorders is guided in large part by our understanding of the brain mechanisms that produce the euphoric effects of the drugs. It is equally important to understand the damage that long-term drug use causes to brain cells so medications can be developed to reverse those effects and restore normal cell function in the brain.

The changes identified in the current study point to significant and likely long-lasting damage to brain cells as a result of cocaine abuse. "The duration of use and the amount of drug consumed that lead to such damage is currently not known, but is critical for understanding the long-term health consequences of cocaine abuse and determining the necessary modes of treatment," said Hemby. "We hope that the information generated from the study will also serve an educational purpose as a deterrent to cocaine use."

Original here

Energy drinks linked to risky behavior among teenagers

Health researchers have identified a surprising new predictor for risky behavior among teenagers and young adults: the energy drink.

Super-caffeinated energy drinks, with names like Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and Amp, have surged in popularity in the past decade. About a third of 12- to 24-year-olds say they regularly down energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States.

The trend has been the source of growing concern among health researchers and school officials. Around the country, the drinks have been linked with reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and emergency room visits.

In Colorado Springs, several high school students last year became ill after drinking Spike Shooter, a high caffeine drink, prompting the principal to ban the beverages. In March, four middle school students in Broward County, Fla., went to the emergency room with heart palpitations and sweating after drinking the energy beverage Redline. In Tigard, Ore., teachers this month sent parents an e-mail message alerting them that students who brought energy drinks to school were "literally drunk on a caffeine buzz or falling off a caffeine crash."

New research suggests the drinks are associated with a health issue far more worrisome than the jittery effects of caffeine — risk taking.

In March, The Journal of American College Health published a report on the link between energy drinks, athletics and risky behavior. The study's author, Kathleen Miller, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, says it suggests that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with "toxic jock" behavior, a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.

The finding doesn't mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data suggest that regular consumption of energy drinks may be a red flag for parents that their children are more likely to take risks with their health and safety. "It appears the kids who are heavily into drinking energy drinks are more likely to be the ones who are inclined toward taking risks," Miller said.

The American Beverage Association says its members don't market energy drinks to teenagers. "The intended audience is adults," said Craig Stevens, a spokesman. He says the marketing is meant for "people who can actually afford the two or three bucks to buy the products."

The drinks include a variety of ingredients in different combinations: plant-based stimulants like guarana, herbs like ginkgo and ginseng, sugar, amino acids including taurine as well as vitamins. But the main active ingredient is caffeine.

Caffeine content varies. A 12-ounce serving of Amp contains 107 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 34 to 38 milligrams for the same amount of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Monster has 120 milligrams and Red Bull has 116. Higher on the spectrum, Spike Shooter contains 428 milligrams of caffeine in 12 ounces, and Wired X344 contains 258.

Stevens points out that "mainstream" energy drinks often have less caffeine than a cup of coffee. At Starbucks, the caffeine content varies depending on the drink, from 75 milligrams in a 12-ounce cappuccino or latte to as much as 250 milligrams in a 12-ounce brewed coffee.

One concern about the drinks is that because they are served cold, they may be consumed in larger amounts and more quickly than hot coffee drinks, which are sipped. Another worry is the increasing popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The addition of caffeine can make alcohol users feel less drunk, but motor coordination and visual reaction time are just as impaired as when they drink alcohol by itself, according to an April 2006 study in the medical journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

"You're every bit as drunk, you're just an awake drunk," said Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien, associate professor in the departments of emergency medicine and public health services at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

O'Brien surveyed energy drink and alcohol use among college students at 10 universities in North Carolina. The study, published this month in Academic Emergency Medicine, showed that students who mixed energy drinks with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who consumed alcohol by itself and were far more likely to be injured or require medical treatment while drinking. Energy drink mixers were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of aggressive sexual behavior. The effect remained even after researchers controlled for the amount of alcohol consumed.

Energy drink marketers say they don't encourage consumers to mix the drinks with alcohol. Michelle Naughton, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, which markets Amp, said, "We expect consumers to enjoy our products responsibly."

Original here

Health Notes

Health is wealth, goes the old adage and it fits well with any generation. In the recent times we have a lot of engagements that make taking care of ourselves difficult to manage. As a result of which, while jet setting in different zones at work and at play, we take our health for granted. Most people equate health with eating regular meals and feasting on junk food. Even when cough and fever catch up on people, they think it is a part and parcel of their daily life. Most of them avoid doctors or a thorough investigation. Cold, Cough, Blood Pressure or an upset stomach and other such physical discrepancies are nothing but an indication that some thing has gone amiss in your body. If you are lucky then the body mechanisms will take care of their own, by balancing such discrepancies with little help from you- if you care to take some medicines, that is. This attribute of the body to balance the imbalances within is subject to age and the wear and tear of the body. So when you are younger, you will realize that being fit was never a rigorous task. But once age catches up, you will have to take small measures to keep your body’s wear and tear and defense mechanisms in a good condition at all times. That is the reason why doctors advise older people to have less spicy and oily food (risk of cholesterol) as the digestive tract is not strong enoughHealth is wealth to sustain such heavy food.

But the true threat lies in the fact that even the younger generations face the risk of high anxiety thereby leading to high blood pressure, stress, fatigue, and tiredness. The fast track generation is exposed to great risk. This can lead to a decline in the average life expectancy too. It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that people below the age of 30 become victims of heart attack. In order to have a good and a healthy life, one needs to understand that health implies the well being of both physical and mental conditions of one’s body. One needs to keep his mental health in a great shape as well. Yoga, meditation and practicing the ancient Mudras has gained popularity in the recent age, as they ensure the well being of the mind as well as the body.

Merely going to the gym and having a perfect 10 body is not the answer to a healthy life. One needs to have good levels of resistance and body mechanisms in order to ensure that one’s life is long and healthy. Living a life that embodies virtues like patience, tolerance, good will and a good behavior towards people at large makes sure that one’s life is pleasant. When the mind is at peace, you realize that you have suddenly started living. For good physical health, it is important to understand your body and not to stress or cause any harm to it by smoking, or drinking. Eat well, and avoid anything that could cause harm to your body in the long run. Remember that health is wealth, and the secret to a happy and healthy long life is the well being of the mind and the body.

Original here

8 Medical Terms Your Doctor Uses to Insult You


Who do you think are the most cynical people in the world? Cops? Executioners? Or maybe prostitutes? Clowns?

We're thinking it's doctors. If you want proof, check out some of the horrifying-yet-hilarious slang they use around the office. Yes, these are real.

#8.
PRATFO

What It Means: Patient Reassured And Told to Fuck Off.

When It's Used:
When a patient comes into the ER more hysterical than ill, the doctor reassures the patient and asks them to leave. However, this acronym has gotten at least one doctor into trouble when he scribbled it in a patient's chart and then later was asked to explain it in court.

We're not saying you should ever lie in court, but in that situation you should at least consider it.

#7.
AMYOYO Syndrome

What It Means: Alright, Motherfucker, You're On Your Own.

When It's Used:
If television is to be believed, any condition, no matter how egregious or how slim the chances of survival, can be surmounted with the intervention of a charismatic, slightly eccentric doctor or the introduction of a particularly salient plot point.

Well, television is not to be believed. If a patient split from crotch to neck, sustained a shotgun wound to the chest, or fell twenty stories onto the pavement, then a great deal's up to a God. Assuming he exists, or cares. Thus we get the AMYOYO Syndrome diagnosis, with the variations SOLOMFYOYO (So long, Motherfucker, You're On Your Own) and GPO (Good for Parts Only).

#6.
Faecal Encephalopathy

What It Means: Shit-for-Brains.

When It's Used:
If you wind up in the emergency room because, say, you were trying to launch bottle rockets out of your anus, you can expect to hear this term thrown around. Latin, or pseudo-latin, is often used to convey unflattering terms and make it sound grandiloquent to the uninformed (or faecal-encephalopathic) ear.

Variations include Cranio-Rectal Syndrome and Cranial Rectosis, presumably for when the patient doesn't have shit for brains but merely has his head up his ass.

#5.
Cut and Paste

What It Means:
Also called an "Open and Close" or a "Peek and Shriek," this is when a surgeon opens up a patient for surgery, discovers nothing can be done to avert the inevitable, and sews them back up immediately. Or, if they feel like it, practice surgical technique for a while.

When It's Used:
Generally, this is encoded as "C&P," "CNP" or something similar, so that the head of the department knows what happened but the to-be-aggrieved family doesn't. Typically this happens with very old people, those with suddenly aggravated chronic health problems, or people with inoperable cancer, soon resulting in a "healthy tumor" (a dead patient).

#4.
SBI

What It Means: Something Bad Inside.

When It's Used:
When the medical staff encounters a strange complaint that doesn't meet any known diagnostic criteria. As much as you don't want to hear SBI as your diagnosis, it's still better than the alternate SVBI (Something Very Bad Inside) which means whatever it is appears to be killing you.

Either may be followed up with a "SWAG" (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess).

#3.
CTF

What It Means:
Cletus the Fetus. Used to describe infants born at 23 weeks or earlier, where their survival rate is less than 1%. There are no confirmed cases of babies surviving at 22 weeks or earlier, which means that children born then are less likely to live than someone who just jumped off the Empire State Building.

When It's Used:
New parents have a tendency to not hear anything that doesn't fit the "Our child will survive because he is special, we are special, and we love him" paradigm. No. Little Cletus will make it no matter what those mean old overpaid white coats tell Mommy and Daddy. Because life works like Lifetime home movies.

It's at this point you should realize that when you're surrounded by the sick and dying every day, no subject is too dark for comedy.

#2.
Slow Code to China

What It Means:
Hospitals use a series of emergency codes (Code Blue, for instance, means the patient is dying and needs immediate resuscitation). Not listed among the official codes is the Slow Code, meaning the patient is dying, and not to worry too much about it.

When It's Used:
Sometimes, a very ill, very elderly, or very hopeless patient wants the doctors to do everything they can to keep them alive. And sometimes, doctors don't want to do that: it's too much work, the patient will die anyway, or the person just isn't worth preserving.

#1.
CBT

What It Means: Chronic Biscuit Toxicity. Patient is really fat.

When It's Used:
Doctors seem to be inventing more and more of these unflattering terms as obesity becomes more chronic in the western world. You may also hear Polydipose Dysfunction, BW (beached whale) and others, all of which are sure to see plenty of usage until some enlightened future when a doctor can just say the phrase "lard ass" to a patient's face.

Here are some other, rather self-explanatory terms you probably don't want to hear in the halls outside your hospital room:

Cunts and Runts

The gynecology/obstetrics department.

BFH

Big Fucking Head. As in, the patient has one.

Brothel Sprouts

Genital warts.

COPS

Chronic Old Person's Disease.

Donorcycle

Motorcycle. As in, a frequent source of organ donors.

CTD

Circling The Drain. Just picture the world of the living as a bath tub.

If you enjoy thinking your doctors are horrible people and want to think it more, this site has an enormous list of these terms that pretty much redefine cynicism.

Original here

Study: Public Schools Just As Good as Private Schools

Students in public schools have math scores that are just as good if not better than those of students in private schools, according to a new national study.

The research focused across several years on 9,791 kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

"These data provide strong, longitudinal evidence that public schools are at least as effective as private schools in boosting student achievement," said researcher Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois.

Combined with other, yet-unpublished studies of the same data, which produced similar findings, "we think this effectively ends the debate about whether private schools are more effective than publics," said Lubienski, whose research has dealt with all aspects of alternative education.

This is important, he said, because many current reforms, such as No Child Left Behind, charter schools and vouchers for private schools, are based on the assumption that private schools offer better education than public schools.

The new study, detailed in May issue of the education journal Phi Delta Kappan, also involved doctoral student Corinna Crane and education professor Sarah Theule Lubienski, both of the University of Illinois.

Unlike literacy, math is viewed as being less dependent on a student's home environment and more an indication of a school's effectiveness, Sarah Lubienski said.

A previous study by the Lubienskis heated up controversy over the quality of private school education. It showed that students' math scores are better at public schools than at private schools, when controlling for socioeconomic status, but some critics said that study failed to show the possible effect over time of different types of schooling.

The data for the new study addresses the criticism with data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (or ECLS-K), administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education.

The ECLS-K database includes student achievement and background information drawn from a nationally representative sample of more than 21,000 students, starting with their entry into kindergarten in the fall of 1998.

The most recent data available for the University of Illinois study was gathered in 2004, in the spring of the students' fifth-grade year. The sample used for the study included students in 1,531 schools (1,273 public, 140 Catholic and 118 other private schools).

After controlling for demographic differences among students and schools, the researchers found that public school students began kindergarten with math scores roughly equal to those of their Catholic school peers. By fifth grade, however, they had made significantly greater gains, equal to almost an extra half year of schooling, Sarah Lubienski said.

Part of the explanation, she said, might lie in the fact that Catholic schools have fewer certified teachers and employ fewer reform-oriented mathematics teaching practices.

Public school students also "rivaled the performance of students in other (non-Catholic) private schools," the researchers wrote. After adjusting for demographics and initial kindergarten scores, they found that achievement gains between kindergarten and fifth grade were roughly equal.

"School type alone doesn’t explain very much of why these scores vary ... in truth, whether the school is public or private doesn’t seem to make that much difference," Sarah Lubienski said.

The researchers go on to write that they "personally see private schools as an integral part of the American system of education" and "there are many valid reasons why parents choose private schools and why policymakers may push for school choice."

Academic achievement, however, may no longer be one of those reasons, they write. "Claims that simply switching students from one type of school to another will result in higher scores appear to be unfounded," they write.

Original here

Financial Literacy, Silver Rights and America’s Drop-Out Generation, by John Hope Bryant

Chairman of Operation Hope offers his suggestions for solving the drop out crisis.

Written Exclusively for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Where I grew up young people regularly dropped out of high school prior to graduation. The reasons vary, from a lack of parental involvement and aspirational encouragement (parents who also many times did not complete high school themselves, yet alone college), to a powerful combination of low-self esteem and a sad lack of role models, all sending one very powerful message – why bother.

Or was it the local drug dealer who seemed to send the message that a young person did not need to stay in school, graduate, or go on to college in order for kids from the neighborhood to do well?

Or worse, the message that you were somehow a sap if you stayed in school and did well, while everyone else with smarts was “getting paid,” now. Of course no one mentioned that getting paid in this way often also involved what I called the “3 P’s”; prison, probation and parole, or worse if you were unlucky. Unlucky like my best friend George when I was growing up in Compton, Calif. George, a straight A student, was murdered before he was 18 years old, because he wanted to look “cool” like the so called “big ballers” standing on local street corners. Brilliance, wasted.

Sometimes it was as simple as a kid feeling that they needed to help out mom and dad by actively contributing to their family’s meager but consequential monthly household’s income. Dignity.

In all of these cases, even the remotely honorable ones, the perception, and ultimately the result was all the same.

Perception: school is not cool, or simply not important, or worse, that it will not get you anywhere. It is not tied to your aspirations in life, and it will not help you get rich.

Reality: according to The Silent Epidemic report written by Civic Enterprises that shared the perspectives of high school dropouts, approximately one-third of all children, and 50 percent of minorities, in public high school drop out of high school nationwide. In many of the nation’s “dropout factories,” the percentage of dropouts far outpaces the percentage of graduates.

This is not good for 21st century America, and it is an economic death sentence if not changed for black, brown and low-wealth communities nationwide, or almost 100 million Americans. Can we afford to write-off almost 100 million Americans, or approximately a third of our nation’s population? Who is going to fund our Social Security fund in retirement if we do? Hello.

My experience, growing up in an inner city neighborhood is that these are not dumb kids. These are simply misdirected kids. Kids who have somehow lost their way, are low on hope and self-esteem, and unfortunately, kids who also don’t believe that education is relevant to their futures. Well, in the neighborhoods where I grew up the main messages as well as the messaging was clear – “how do I get rich, or at least do well in life?” Isn’t that what the American dream is all about? An aspiration for every American to do well, or at least to be able to succeed or fail on his or her own steam; and to be able to take care of their respective families and responsibilities.

I believe that one way to show kids the relevancy of education is to teach them the language of money at an early age. To link education with aspirations, and to show kids how they can get rich, legally. That’s the power of financial literacy, or what I see as the first step in our growing “silver rights” movement, and the power of education too.

Without question, education is the ultimate poverty eradication tool, for when you know better you tend to do better. But financial literacy is the means by which one moves from simply avoiding the poverty trap to embracing a true prosperity agenda; for themselves, their families and their communities.

Prosperity as the Partner to Peace

“Middle class folks don’t want war …they want to shop, contribute their fair share, and (to) spend time with their families.” What’s wrong with that vision for America? Absolutely nothing. And that’s not a black middle class dream, or a white middle class dream, or a Latino, Asian or Indian middle class dream. That is simply the American middle class dream. Maybe it’s a middle class aspiration the world over too.

In any event, with respect to our kids, we all need to make “smart sexy again,” because we have sure succeeded at making dumb sexy over the past 20 years or so. My friend Quincy Jones told me recently that it takes 20 years to create a culture. What kind of culture have we created amongst our young people over the past 20 years? Are we proud of that? Really?

I remember the Bank of America banker who came into my school classroom when I was 9 years old back in Compton. I remember him as much for the starch white shirt, red tie, and crisp black suit that he wore in my class as for anything he said about banking and money, although obviously the money and banking piece had a long term impact on me too (smile). Oddly enough, I don’t remember what race he was. My point is, I had never seen a man with a suit on before, at least not one talking to me. How many kids today, particularly in low wealth communities, see a woman with a dress or business suit on, or a man with a suit on? Answer: very few.

The book “The Tipping Point” speaks to the fact that communities that are relatively stable have 5 percent or more of role models within them; from doctors, to lawyers, to accountants, bankers and such. And so, from say the 50 percent role model level all the way down to a mere 5 percent, a community is stable. That’s inspiring to me. As little as 5 percent. But, at 3.7 percent role models in a community, irrespective of race, everything negative explodes; from teen pregnancies to crime, to yes, high school dropout rates.

What’s the magic of 3.7 percent you ask? My guess is that at 3.7 percent the most hopeful young person cannot remember, reflect upon, understand or even appreciate meaningfully what a real role model looks like, and so no wonder every urban, inner city young person I meet these days wants to be a rap star, an athlete, or God forbid a drug dealer. It makes sense, actually. These are not dumb kids. They are modeling precisely what they see. For them, these narrow routes seem to them the broadest available routes out of poverty and despair in their communities.

No, we are not talking about dumb kids. These kids are very smart. Example:

I think drug dealing is one of the most morally offensive and disgusting “businesses” ever imagined, and when caught the perpetrators should go straight to jail. Period. Now, this said, you cannot be a dumb successful drug dealer. Yes, I said it.

If you pursue this immoral trade (of drug dealing), and you are somehow good at it, you are not dumb. You are wrong as two left shoes, but you are not dumb. You understand finance, marketing, distribution, customer service, market penetration, territory, pricing, wholesale, retail, profit margins, and maybe import and export too. No, these kids are not dumb nor stupid, but simply misdirected, and in need of hope and a practical sense of opportunity in their lives. What they need are the role models and mentors I had growing up in inner city Compton and South Central Los Angeles, which started with my amazing mom and dad.

As a result of the bad choices that many of these immensely bright kids have made in their lives, most of them will probably never be able to secure a meaningful job at a major Fortune 500 company (which conducts background checks), but they can become an entrepreneur. Heck, they are already entrepreneurs.

What if we unleashed upon America, and the world, a new vision for the 21st century? An aspirational generation of role model inspired, positive and contributing young entrepreneurs, self-employment projects and “doers” over the next 20 years? I’ll tell you what would happen, America would get a genuine second shot at keeping this party called American prosperity going over the next 100 years, because you cannot keep a third of the American population on the economic and aspirational sidelines and otherwise expect that it will.

This sort of positive vision would be good for America, and good for (once) poor people too. Now that’s aspirations in action. We need to make smart sexy again.

The 5 Percent Challenge

What if we all came together and tackled the 5% problem of role models, or the lack thereof, in America’s low wealth, urban and rural under-served communities?

What if you, yes you, decided to give Operation HOPE, or Junior Achievement, or Boys & Girls Clubs, or the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts, or any number of other credible organizations or groups serving others one hour of your time per month?

Just one hour.

Let me make it even easier.

Why don’t you give me that one hour on your way to work, or your way home from work, one day per month, and use it to “tell your story” (at HOPE and Global Dignity we call it “A Course in Dignity” and you don’t have be financially literate to teach it), at a local school, or community organization that you have some personal connection to. Or maybe it is simply near you.

What if you and 25,000 other Americans did this once a month, for just one hour, for 12 months? I tell you “what,” we could change America for the better, “that’s what.”

Yes, I remember to this very day that banker giving their time and coming into my classroom in Compton, just like the kids served today by Operation HOPE’s “Banking on Our Future” financial literacy program remember our proud and committed HOPE Corp volunteers, who go daily into inner city classrooms all across this country. And they don’t just remember or learn that “ATM” doesn’t mean “All The Money” either. After just one hour of having one of our HOPE Corps volunteers in that classroom (it actually takes a minimum of 4 consecutive hours to complete a “Banking on Our Future” program set), something magical happens. Young Ms. I-Want-to-be-Popular Sanchez in the second row, or young Mr. Trying-to-be-Cool Jones in the back row, is saying to themselves --- “….I can be YOU.” And that is how you break the back of poverty in America.

There is a difference between being broke and being poor.

As I often say, “being broke is a temporary economic condition, but being poor is a disabling frame of mind and a depressed condition of one’s spirit, and we must vow to never, ever be poor again.”

At Operation HOPE we have launched a 5 million kid, 5 percent role model (25,000 new HOPE Corps volunteers recruited), 5 year initiative. Call it 5 by 5.

We have vowed that between now and 2012, we will reach and teach 5 million young people, with the help of 25,000 recruited HOPE Corps volunteers, and we will teach them the basics of a checking account, a savings account, and the importance of credit and investment in their young lives. We will teach them the language of money, we will give them a course in “dignity,” and in South Africa we even teach a course in entrepreneurship because there are not enough jobs to go around, and so we must then create self employment projects and a generation of entrepreneurs.

This We Can Do

We must make smart sexy again, and we most begin to better show the aspirational relevancy of education to our young people, if we ever expect to meaningfully kick the high school dropout craze.

Here is my prescription for America, and the dropout generation too:

  • Funding for financial literacy: Congress should seriously consider providing funding for financial literacy education and empowerment, for young people and adults alike.
  • Financial literacy for every child: Financial literacy should be mandatory for every child in America, but particularly low-wealth young people who may lack proper role models. You cannot live in the largest economy in the world and not teach young people the basic language of money, let alone the rules of capitalism and free enterprise.
  • A bank account for every American: We should begin giving a child a bank account for their birthday, instead of a toy or game they will break, or worse forget about in 3 days flat. Civil rights icon and my personal hero Ambassador Andrew Young and I have called for a “Silver Rights Bill,” which would make an electronic debit card accessed, FDIC insured bank account a legal human right for every American. More Americans don’t have a bank account today (easily more than 30 million) than didn’t have the right to vote during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
  • The 5 percent movement: with 25,000 or more Americans volunteering and committing just one hour a month, 12 months a year, teaching “Banking on Our Future” or some other worthy program, and being “present” in communities, we can stabilize the necessary baseline of 5 percent role models needed in under-served and low-wealth communities across America. This is something that every non-profit, every house of faith, government office, government office holder, and every employer can do. Encourage volunteerism and mentorship. Log onto www.operationhope.org to help us, or www.volunteer.gov to help anyone, anywhere in America, with the new White House Financial Literacy Volunteer Initiative, or what I call the Financial Literacy Corps. The Financial Literacy Corps is an initiative of the White House USA Freedom Corps and soon, the U.S. President’s Council on Financial Literacy.
  • EITC for every low wealth household: if you are working and you make $40,000 or less, and particularly if you have children, which is a good portion of America, you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). A bi-partisan initiative, supported by every U.S. President since President Ford, and including President Clinton and President Bush too, EITC is dignity in action, and essentially a raise or “poor man’s bonus” for working families. 1 out of 4 Americans who qualify for EITC never even requested it last year, sending $9 billion back to the federal Treasury. And if you have not filed once, you have probably not filed ever, and it is retroactive for three years. At $4,000 for the top refund recipient, that’s $12,000 in poor people’s pockets, or enough to pay off your consumer debt, cure a mortgage, send a kid to college, put a down payment on a starter home or start a new small business. This is working poor people’s money, and financial literacy helps them understand how to claim it for themselves and their families.

America, let’s kick the dropout craze.

Let’s build a new, inspiring culture for our kids in the next 20 years.

Let’s make smart sexy again.

Let’s do something.

Give.

John Hope Bryant is chairman and founder of Operation HOPE. He also serves as the vice chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy and as chairman of its Committee on the Under-Served.

Original here

106 Organizations That Are Changing the World - Are you helping?

Because of a suggestion on Digg, I’ve re-done the list and grouped the organizations according to topic. Many of the organizations could fit into multiple categories but I chose the one that seemed to be their primary focus.

NOTE: the organizations I am currently working with or have worked with in the past are in bold. The others are either ones I’ve heard of or which I found online so I cannot vouch for them personally. I fully admit that this list tilts towards my personal interests so please feel free to recommend additional groups in the comments section and I’ll add them to the list.

Children

  1. Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) is an internet-based children’s rights organization with a particular focus on civil rights. We support equality, choice, respect and privacy for all children and young people.
  2. Child Advocacy 360 is an independent, nonprofit service that brings to people’s desktops, mailboxes and conversations the latest news and insights on children’s welfare and rights, with a particular focus on the struggle to conquer abuse and neglect of children in our society
  3. Child Workers in Asia supports the emergence of local actions for working children and for the promotion of children’s rights.
  4. Children’s Rights is a national watchdog organization advocating on behalf of abused and neglected children in the U.S.
  5. Childwatch International is a nonprofit, nongovernmental network of institutions engaged in research for children. The Network seeks to strengthen child-centered research to contribute towards real improvement in children’s well-being.
  6. Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers works to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilization and facilitate rehabilitation and reintegration.
  7. Defense for Children International is dedicated to ensuring on-going, practical, systematic and concerted international action directed towards promoting and protecting the rights of the child.
  8. Fight4Kids was designed to provide parents throughout the United States with the convenience of internet based information and support. They offer online parenting classes, small group information, babysitter & therapist listings and much more
  9. First Focus works to create a lasting legacy for children and their families by encouraging bipartisan federal policy advancements and investments in children.
  10. Free The Children helps young people engage in social issues and realize that they can make a real contribution to the world.
  11. Global Fund for Children (GFC) is a nonprofit organization located in Washington, DC. They give small grants of $5,000-$20,000 to grassroots NGOs in the developing world that work with vulnerable children and youth.
  12. Global March Against Child Labor is a movement to mobilize worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially the right to receive a free, meaningful education and to be free from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be harmful to the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
  13. KidsRights Foundation is an international children’s aid and advocacy organization which raises funds for independent local aid projects in a number of countries around the world.
  14. National Safe Place is intended to provide nationwide support with a “safe haven” to children and adolescents who are “at risk” or in crisis situations. The purpose is to both defuse a potential crisis situation, as well as provide immediate counsel and support so that the child in crisis may be directed to an appropriate shelter or accredited care facility.
  15. Net4kids wants to provide sustainable aid to underprivileged children in order to offer them a better future.
  16. Stop Child Executions is a non-profit organization aims at putting an end to executions of minors in Iran.
  17. The International Save the Children Alliance is a worldwide non-profit organization which aims to improve the lives of children. It operates in over 115 countries, including the United States, Mexico and Canada. There are 27 Save the Children member organizations around the world.
  18. The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict strives to end violations against children in armed conflicts and to guarantee their rights.
  19. UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.
  20. War Child International is a network of independent organizations, working across the world to help children affected by war.

Civil Rights

  1. American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
  2. Anti-Defamation League fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.
  3. Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) members across the country are working to: raise the minimum wage or enact living wage policies; eliminate predatory financial practices by mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and tax preparation companies; win the development of affordable housing through inclusionary zoning policies and community benefits agreements; improve the quality of and funding for urban public schools; organize displaced New Orleans residents and fight for the equitable rebuilding of that city; and pass a federal and state ACORN Working Families Agenda including paid sick leave for all full time workers.
  4. Center for Community Change (CCC) Its purpose has been “to help establish and develop community organizations across the country, ‘bring attention to major national issues related to poverty,’ and ‘help insure that government programs are responsive to community needs.’”
  5. Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights is a bipartisan organization which monitors the civil rights policies and practices of the federal government. Its work is grounded in the belief that the civil rights agenda benefits the entire country, not just particular interest groups.
  6. International Action Center is committed to the building broad-based grassroots coalitions to oppose to U.S. wars abroad while fighting against racism and economic exploitation of workers here at home.

Disabilities

  1. ADAPT is a grass roots disability rights organization.
  2. Alliance for Full Participation (AFP) - a formal partnership of leading organizations serving the developmental disabilities field which share a commitment to the successful inclusion of people with developmental disabilities into the mainstream of American life.
  3. National Disability Rights Network works to create a society in which people with disabilities are afforded equality of opportunity and are able to fully participate by exercising choice and self-determination.
  4. Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) - To ensure that people with disabilities are treated as equals and that they are given the same decisions, choices, rights, responsibilities, and chances to speak up to empower themselves; opportunities to make new friends; and to learn from their mistakes.
  5. World Institute on Disability (WID) is an international public policy center that advocates for the civil rights of people with disabilities and pushes for public policies that promote full inclusion of people with disabilities in society.

Human Rights

  1. Amnesty International defines its mission as “to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.”
  2. Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) offers legal advice on criminalizing torture, provides training on visiting places of detention; gives advice on the establishment and functioning of national prevention mechanisms; and advocates for legislative reform, ratification and implementation of relevant international treaties.
  3. Ella Baker Center for Human Rights works primarily through four initiatives to break the cycle of urban violence and reinvest in urban centers.
  4. Free Tibet Campaign stands for an end to the occupation of Tibet and for fundamental rights of the Tibetan people.
  5. Global Human Rights Defense (GHRD) is an international human rights Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) working with and for minorities. GHRD specifically addresses those areas and populations of the world where severe and extensive human rights violations of certain ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities have taken place for long periods, and where structural help and global attention of the international media have proven to be absent or insufficient.
  6. Global Rights is a human rights advocacy group that partners with local activists to challenge injustice and amplify new voices within the global discourse.
  7. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.
  8. Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice.
  9. International Association of Human Values (IAHV) develops and promotes programs of personal development to encourage the practice of human values in everyday life. It also has programs of community education that foster greater awareness of the shared values among the diverse cultures.
  10. International Campaign for Tibet Strives to mobilize international goodwill in support of the Tibetan people. Our focus today is centered on working with governments to demonstrate meaningful support for Tibet, reaching out to Chinese all over the world, and monitoring conditions inside Tibet.
  11. International Campaign to Ban Landmines calls for: A worldwide ban on antipersonnel landmines, Universal membership of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, Support of the needs and rights of landmine survivors, demining and risk education to safeguard lives and livelihoods.
  12. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) aims at obtaining effective improvements in the protection of victims, the prevention of Human Rights violations and the sanction of their perpetrators.
  13. International Justice Mission is a U.S.-based Christian non-profit human rights organization that operates in countries all over the world to rescue victims of individual human rights abuse, working to combat human trafficking, forced labor slavery, illegal detention, unprosecuted rape, police brutality and illegal land seizure.
  14. International Rescue Committee has been a leader in humanitarian relief. We mobilize quickly, bringing sustained support to regions torn apart by violence and deprivation. We provide a fresh start in the U.S. for refugees. And we advocate tirelessly on behalf of the displaced, addressing the root causes of violence and standing up for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
  15. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) is an independent and non-profit international human rights-based membership organization, whose central charter is to endorse and promote the collective rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.
  16. Just International strives to raise global consciousness on the crucial importance of fostering attitudes, values and ideals at both the personal and community level, which will help, attain and sustain a just world.
  17. JustOne is a collective voice for the victims of social injustice––the one(s) living in geographical and situational poverty; the one(s) orphaned through death, disease and desertion; the one(s) trafficked into slavery throughout the world.
  18. Landmine Survivors Network is an advocacy organization to help the survivor community become an effective force in the campaign to eliminate anti-personnel landmines.
  19. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is an organization founded in 1965 with the objective of promoting human rights and increasing awareness of minority issues
  20. National Human Rights Institutions Forum is an international forum for researchers and practitioners in the field of national human rights institutions.
  21. National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) implements the international human rights charters signed by Saudi Arabia, and it also includes a special panel to monitor violations of women’s rights.
  22. Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is a nonpartisan unarmed peacekeeping force composed of trained civilians from around the world. In partnership with local groups, Nonviolent Peaceforce members apply proven nonviolent strategies to protect human rights, deter violence, and help create space for local peacemakers to carry out their work.
  23. One People’s Project is a grassroots movement to stop racism and discrimination.
  24. OneWorld is a global information network developed to support communication media of the people, by the people and for the people — everywhere. Its goal is to help build a more just, global society, through its partnership community.
  25. Peace Brigades International (PBI) promotes nonviolence and protected human rights. We send international volunteers to areas of conflict, providing protective accompaniment to human rights defenders threatened by political violence. We also facilitate other peace-building initiatives.
  26. Plan provides children, families and communities with immediate relief during times of disaster, and the long-term interventions needed to rebuild lives.
  27. Seva Foundation serves people around the world who are struggling for health, cultural survival and sustainable communities.
  28. Sweatshop Watch serves low-wage workers nationally and globally, with a focus on eliminating sweatshop exploitation in California’s garment industry. We believe that workers should earn a living wage in a safe, decent work environment, and that those responsible for the exploitation of sweatshop workers must be held accountable.
  29. Terre des Hommes International Federation is a network of eleven national organizations working for the rights of children and to promote equitable development without racial, religious, political, cultural or gender-based discrimination.
  30. The Advocacy Project seeks to help community-based advocates produce, disseminate and use information, and so become more effective advocates for human rights and social justice.
  31. The Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism.
  32. The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) is the only organization founded by and for torture survivors. The mission of TASSC is to end the practice of torture wherever it occurs and to empower survivors, their families and communities wherever they are.
  33. Tostan has a mission “to empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights.” It works in mostly rural regions to promote literacy and increase community engagement in projects to promote health and hygiene, child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, and economic development.
  34. Universal Rights Network – a meeting place for peoples of the world to share their stories of the importance of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to us all.
  35. Witness uses video and online technologies to expose human rights violations.
  36. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) is the main coalition of international non-governmental organizations (NGO) fighting against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Human Trafficking

  1. Anti-Slavery International is the world’s oldest international human rights organization and the only charity in the United Kingdom to work exclusively against slavery and related abuses.
  2. Coalition to Fight Against Child Exploitation (FACE) is networking with government and non-government agencies and officers in other countries to coordinate the arrest, prosecution and conviction of child sex offenders and traffickers.
  3. End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) works to make a reality of the Stockholm Agenda for Action against the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).
  4. Free the Slaves works on the ground with liberators around the world. We do what it takes to free men, women and children and help them stay free.
  5. Not For Sale Campaign Our collective challenge is simple, stand with those who are enslaved, work together to free them, and empower them in their freedom to break the cycle of vulnerability.
  6. Polaris Project’s vision is for a world without slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves towards freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project has been providing a comprehensive and community-based approach to combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery since 2002.
  7. Project to End Human Trafficking (PEHT) engages in anti-trafficking coalition building, educational outreach, direct service to victims, and collaboration with other national and international organizations in the global fight against human trafficking.
  8. Redlight Children Campaign is a worldwide grassroots initiative whose mission is to reduce the number of children sold to the sex industry and exploited on the internet.
  9. Resist Exploitation Embrace Dignity (REED) stands against trafficking and sexual exploitation through outreach, advocacy and public education.
  10. Shared Hope Internationals prevention programs examine the conditions that allow women and children to be bought and sold and document the marketplaces of victimization around the world. We work to enhance awareness of modern day sexual slavery and we build international alliances to combat sex trafficking.
  11. Stop the Traffik aims to put an end to human trafficking. The organization aims to achieve its goal through the three-pronged approach of advocacy, education and fundraising. Over 800 organizations from 51 countries collaborate in Stop the Traffik. Stop The Traffik is a global coalition working to bring freedom and justice to all victims of people trafficking, and to demonstrate how the public can get involved.
  12. The American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) is a nonprofit organization that works with former victims of human trafficking to abolish modern-day slavery, focusing primarily on systems of chattel slavery in Sudan and Mauritania.

GLBTQ

  1. Family Equality Council is a national advocacy organization committed to securing family equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer parents, guardians and allies.
  2. Freedom to Marry is a national non-profit organization whose stated mission is “working to win marriage equality nationwide.” It works through litigation, legislation, and community education
  3. Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is a non-profit organization of LGBT activism that is “dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation”.
  4. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lobbying group and political action committee in the United States. The HRC mission statement is “HRC envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights; and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.”
  5. International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is an international organization addressing human rights violations against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS.
  6. Marriage Equality USA is a national organization fighting to secure the legal recognition of same-sex marriage through education and outreach in the U.S.
  7. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is a group of family members and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The organization “promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.”

Women

  1. Code Pink: Women for Peace is an anti-war group that started in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. They describe themselves as a “grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into health care, education and other life-affirming activities.”
  2. Equality Now works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world through the mobilization of public pressure. Issues of concern to Equality Now include: rape, domestic violence, reproductive rights, trafficking, female genital mutilation, political participation, gender discrimination.
  3. Global Fund for Women is a non-profit foundation that gives grants to organizations worldwide that focus on women’s human rights.
  4. International Alliance of Women (IAW) is a non-governmental, feminist organization, which embraces both women’s groups and individuals. The basic principle of the IAW is that the full and equal enjoyment of human rights is due to all women and girls.
  5. League of Women Voters has fought since 1920 to improve our systems of government and impact public policies through citizen education and advocacy.
  6. National Alliance of Women’s Organizations NAWO’s vision is for a world where all women are able to participate in and influence the decisions that impact on their lives (Europe based)
  7. Peace X Peace (pronounced Peace by Peace) is an international women’s organization which connects groups of women in the US with groups of women in Muslim majority regions to foster international communication, education and understanding.
  8. Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health and maternal and child health services.
  9. Project Rescue provides shelters where sex workers’ young daughters find compassion, transformation, and a new meaning in life. Through these shelters and other efforts, our multi-dimensional rescue ministry has brought freedom to over 1,000 young women and girls in India and Nepal.
  10. The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) develops and facilitates women’s leadership for women’s human rights and social justice worldwide.
  11. The International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) the primary international nongovernmental organization that facilitates use of international human rights treaties to promote women’s human rights and rights within families.
  12. Vital Voices Global Partnership promotes and advocates the participation of women in leadership roles in the political processes of their societies and countries.
  13. Women for Women International has empowered over 153,000 women survivors of war to move toward economic self-sufficiency with our year-long program of direct aid, rights education, job skills training and small business development.

General

  1. American Coalition of Fathers and Children (ACFC) is an organization that promotes the reform of family law to increase fathers’ rights.
  2. Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism seeks to unite people around collective efforts that negate the undesirable effects of modern tourism and in its place substitute socially responsible and ethically oriented tourism
  3. Foundation for Religious Freedom is educating the public as to religious rights, freedoms and responsibilities.
  4. Freedom Corps - (USAFC) is charged with building a culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility in America. USAFC promotes and expands volunteer service in America by partnering with national service programs, working to strengthen the non-profit sector, recognizing volunteers, and helping to connect individuals with volunteer opportunities.
  5. Habitat For Humanity International is devoted to building “simple, decent, and affordable” housing.
  6. Irrepressible.info - Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It is one of the most precious of all rights. We should fight to protect it.
  7. Save the Internet is a coalition of individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations led by Free Press working for the preservation of network neutrality.


To see the organizations that readers recommended, please click below



The following organizations were recommended by readers. I have not done anything to evaluate these organizations besides just verifying that they aren’t evil (to me). They are listed in the order in which they were received.

  • Goodwill Industries International (Goodwill) claims to be one of the world’s largest nonprofit providers of education, training, and career services for people with disadvantages, such as welfare dependency, homelessness, and lack of education or work experience, as well as those with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.
  • Teach For America recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in schools in low-income communities throughout the United States. The goal of TFA is for its corps members not only to make a short-term impact on their students, but also to become lifelong leaders in pursuing educational equality.
  • Kiva Provides funding to entrepreneurs in developing countries in an effort to relieve poverty. Works by “microloans” from anybody willing and able to give money that are paid back like a standard loan once the person’s business is up and running. (Recommended by 2 people)
  • Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) is the most socially active college student comprised organization in the world. Their projects are incredible and life changing.
  • Christian Children’s Fund provides services to children, most funded by individual contributors, in the form of monthly child sponsorships. In addition, CCF says it receives grants and donations that support vocational training, literacy training, food distribution, educational programs, early childhood development, health and immunization programs, nutritional programs, water and sanitation development, and emergency relief in both man-made and natural disasters.
  • The Geek Group Science and Technology labs, teaching, and demonstrations for everyone, particularly aimed at school students, with the ultimate goal of being something of an open source MIT. No rules, just come in and work on your next greatest invention or project.
  • Feed Just One has a mission to feed 1 million families before the end of the summer, it’s a start, based in Fayetteville, AR (who would have known), $1 will feed just one, do it.
  • THON, also known as Penn State Dance Marathon is the largest student run philanthropy organization in the world. All of our proceeds go directly to the Four Diamonds Fund, set up in honor of Chris Millard, who dies of pediatric cancer at the age of 14. We have raised most recently 6.6 million dollars in 2008 and more than 20 million dollars in the last 4 years. The four diamonds fund ensures that any family who needs help financially is provided with everything they need to assist in the treatment process. Please check out thon.org and the four diamonds fund website http://www.hmc.psu.edu/fourdiamonds/ to learn about a great cause and group of kids who really do care at Penn State.
  • DEKA That is Dean Kamen’s resarch division, but the ones making that water purification system, as seen on the Colbert Report. He also is a chief person involved in FIRST Robotics, which gets youth across the world excited about not only science and technology, but the ability to work together with people who you may have seen as an enemy. The best example Ive heard is a team in Israel that has Jews and Arabs working together to build one robot in 6 weeks.
  • Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) is a non-profit organization founded in 2000 to develop safe artificial intelligence software, and to raise awareness of both the dangers and potential benefits it believes AI presents.
  • AIESEC describes itself as “The international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential so as to have a positive impact on society”.
  • Crossroads is a great, non-religious, Hong Kong-based organization working in distribution of used, quality goods as well as education of important social issues.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundations (EFF) stated main goal is to educate the press, policymakers and the general public about civil liberties issues related to technology; and to act as a defender of those liberties.
  • Working Assets (CREDO) was created in 1985 on a strong foundation of beliefs, a credo. Supporting peace, equality, human rights and the environment is the reason we exist. That is why each time one of our customers uses our mobile, credit card or long distance services, we donate a portion of their charges to these causes.
  • Friends of Falun Gong USA (FoFG USA) is a U.S.-based, nonprofit human rights organization whose mission is to support the freedom of belief of persons who practice Falun Gong, to stop the persecution, and to bring to justice those who have perpetrated human rights crimes targeting Falun Gong practitioners.
  • Direct Democracy Foundation wants to achieve our vision, we will promote direct deliberative democracy throughout the world by encouraging open and equal participation in government, creating a community of dialogue and debate in order to facilitate public knowledge and awareness, encouraging and promoting collective action, and developing a platform and forum by which individuals may openly and freely debate issues, share their ideas, propose solutions, and vote for and by consensus in order to bring about social and political change.
  • SOS Children’s Villages work focuses on abandoned, destitute and orphaned children requiring family-based child care.
  • Invisible Children Inc. wants to create awareness regarding the plight of the people of Northern Uganda, caught in the midst of a civil war between the government and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that makes extensive use of kidnapping children and making child soldiers.
  • Summit Assistance Dogs is a nonprofit organization, located in Anacortes, Washington, that provides highly-skilled mobility, hearing and therapy dogs for people with disabilities.
  • UNDP provides expert advice, training, and grant support to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed countries. To accomplish the MDGs and encourage global development, UNDP focuses on poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, democratic governance, energy and environment, and crisis prevention and recovery. UNDP also encourages the protection of human rights and the empowerment of women in all of its programs.
  • International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement whose stated mission is to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for the human being, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering, without any discrimination based on nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.
  • ONE Campaign is a U.S.-based, nonpartisan, non-profit organization which aims to increase United States government funding for and effectiveness of international aid programs.
  • Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is a secular humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic disease.
  • Compassion International is a Christian child sponsorship organization dedicated to the long-term development of children living in poverty around the world.
  • Gobena sells Fair Trade Organic Coffee at fair retail prices and donates 100% (All overhead time and work is donated) to charities, specifically to orphanages in the countries where the coffee is grown.
  • The aim of Knowmore.org is to raise awareness of corporate abuse, and to serve as a catalyst for direct action against corporate power.
  • WiserEarth serves the people who are transforming the world. It is a community directory and networking forum that maps and connects non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals addressing the central issues of our day: climate change, poverty, the environment, peace, water, hunger, social justice, conservation, human rights and more. Content is created and edited by people like you.
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