Altruism Today

The Vietnam Veterans Proving They Should Receive Agent Orange Benefits

March 14th, 2016  |  Source: PS Magazine

Neither the Navy nor the Department of Veterans Affairs has a comprehensive list of which ships went where during the Vietnam War. As a result, veterans themselves often have to prove their ships served in areas where Agent Orange was sprayed.

During the Vietnam War, hundreds of United States Navy ships crossed into Vietnam's rivers or sent crew members ashore, possibly exposing their sailors to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. But more than 40 years after the war's end, the U.S. government doesn’t have a full accounting of which ships traveled where, adding hurdles and delays for sick Navy veterans seeking compensation.

The Navy could find out where each of its ships operated during the war, but it hasn't. The Department of Veteran's Affairs says it won't either, instead choosing to research ship locations on a case-by-case basis, an extra step that veterans say can add months—even years—to an already cumbersome claims process. Bills that would have forced the Navy to create a comprehensive list have failed in Congress.

As a result, many ailing vets, in a frustrating race against time as they battle cancer or other life-threatening diseases, have taken it upon themselves to prove their ships served in areas where Agent Orange was sprayed. That often means locating and sifting through stacks of deck logs, finding former shipmates who can attest to their movements, or tracking down a ship's command history from the Navy’s historical archive.

"It's hell," said Ed Marciniak, of Pensacola, Florida, who served aboard the USS Jamestown during the war. "The Navy should be going to the VA and telling them, 'This is how people got aboard the ship, this is where they got off, this is how they operated.' Instead, they put that burden on old, sick, dying veterans, or worse—their widows."

Some 2.6 million Vietnam veterans are thought to have been exposed to—and possibly harmed by—Agent Orange, which the U.S. military used to defoliate dense forests, making it easier to spot enemy troops. But vets are only eligible for VA compensation if they went on land—earning a status called "boots on the ground"—or if their ships entered Vietnam's rivers, however briefly.

The VA says veterans aren't required to prove where their ships patrolled: "Veterans simply need to state approximately when and where they were in Vietnam waterways or went ashore, and the name of the vessel they were aboard, and VA will obtain the official Navy records necessary to substantiate the claimed service," VA spokesman Randal Noller wrote in an email.

But because the historical records are sometimes missing or incomplete, veterans groups say the fastest and surest way to obtain benefits is for vets to gather records themselves and submit them as part of their initial claims.

More than 700 Navy ships deployed to Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. Veterans have produced records to get about half of them onto the VA's working list, with new ships being added every year. Still, veterans advocacy groups estimate about 90,000 Navy vets are not eligible to receive benefits related to Agent Orange exposure, either because their ships never entered inland waters, or because they have yet to prove they did.

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R.I.P. Architecture for Humanity—Long Live Open Architecture Collaborative

March 11th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

In the most recent print edition of the Nonprofit Quarterly, we published a case study on the demise of Architecture for Humanity and its reincarnation as an (at that time) nameless network run by committed volunteers. Already anchored in an international network, that was the element of organizational design that remained even as the central organization went bankrupt last year.

Now, they have a new name. Garrett Jacobs, the new nonprofit’s executive director, says that at first they went a fairly traditional route, working with nonprofit branding specialists, surveys, and market research to produce two options for names.

“As soon as we put those names out, it became very clear than neither was going to work,” Jacobs said, laughing. “There was an email chain that was about 100 emails long, from all the chapters around the world, and the dialogue got really heated.”

So they stepped way back to really embrace the new ethos of the organization, asking each location to suggest a name and vote on the results. The 150 involved came to a consensus: More than half chose the name “Open Architecture Collaborative,” a name that will be modified for use in each location, as in “Open Architecture Chicago” and “Open Architecture Tokyo.” Only together are they the “collaborative.”

Fast Company writes that some would say such openness is the path to madness and chaos, but Jacobs says that it enlivened local chapters. “You have to create ownership. And participation leads to ownership,” he says. “There are hundreds of people who are already printing banners and T-shirts and are stoked about this whole organization because they participated in it.”

“As designers, we have the ability to listen and empathize. And sometimes we really just need to show up and shut up. That’s one of the strongest messages that we can send with the way the world is evolving right now.”

On-demand priests via scooters

March 9th, 2016  |  Source:

Scooterino Amen enables users in Rome to order a blessing or confession on-demand, and have a priest delivered to them by scooter


Residents of Rome in need of a blessing no longer need to go all the way to church. Instead, they can order a service from a priest via Scooterino Amen, and the ridesharing app will bring a clergyman to them on a scooter. Visitors to the holy city can also participate and receive a blessing or give confession. The scheme, which is obviously a marketing stunt, is being launched to coincide with the Catholic Church’s year-long Jubilee of Mercy, which is expected to attract 10 million extra tourists to Rome. To take part, Catholics simply download the Scooterino app and request a priest in the same way they would an Uber. Then, a scooter driver picks up a nearby priest and drives them to the location. Upon arrival the priest will perform a blessing, confession or interview with the customer free of charge. After the meet, the user can even rate their priest out of five angels.

Participants can register now and will be sent an offer code to use later in the year when Scooterino Amen launches. Could any other authority figures be ordered through Uber-style apps?


What ever happened to all that money Trump raised for the veterans?

March 9th, 2016  |  Source: Washington Post

In January, Donald Trump skipped a televised Republican debate in Iowa and held his own event instead — a rally to raise money for veterans. Trump said it was a huge success.

“One hour. Six million dollars,” Trump told a campaign rally in Iowa a few days later, boasting about the total raised. He listed more than 20 groups that would receive money. “These people that get these checks are amazing people, amazing people.”

More than a month later, about half of the money, roughly $3 million, has been donated to veterans’ charities, according to a summary released Thursday by the Trump campaign in response to inquiries from The Washington Post.

In recent days, after the campaign initially did not provide details of where the money had gone, The Post had undertaken its own accounting. After contacting each of the 24 charities that Trump had previously listed as his beneficiaries, The Post had accounted for less than half of the $6 million.

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, said Trump still intended to give the rest of the money away to veterans groups. She also criticized the news media for repeated inquiries into what became of the funds.

“If the media spent half as much time highlighting the work of these groups and how our veterans have been so mistreated, rather than trying to disparage Mr. Trump’s generosity for a totally unsolicited gesture for which he had no obligation, we would all be better for it,” Hicks wrote in an email.

Trump’s fundraiser highlighted the billionaire presidential candidate’s remarkable ability to draw people, attention and money to any cause he chooses. Trump enticed enormous gifts from wealthy friends, including Stewart Rahr, a colorful New York philanthropist who calls himself “Stewie Rah Rah, the Number One King of All Fun.” Their money became life-altering gifts for some small charities, which received $50,000 or $100,000 each.

But the aftermath of that event showed another side of Trump’s campaign: its tendency to focus on front-end spectacle over back-end details. The rollout of contributions has raised questions about how long Trump would keep donated funds within the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a personal charity whose gifts can boost his political brand.

“Where’s the rest of the money going?” said Keith David at the Task Force Dagger Foundation, which offers support to Special Operations personnel and their families.

David’s group typifies the confusion over Trump’s money. It was listed by Trump as a group that would benefit from his fundraising. And soon after the Iowa fundraising event, the group got a check for $50,000. It came from Rahr’s foundation, with a note that mentioned Trump.

But was that it? The group’s board — noting the huge amount of money that Trump raised and the lesser amount of money Trump seemed to have given out — decided it could not be.

“There’s a large chunk missing. I’m just kind of curious as to where that money went,” David said. “I’d like to see some of it come to us, because we are on the list.”

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Nancy Reagan's Role in the Disastrous War on Drugs

March 8th, 2016  |  Source: HuffPo

Nancy Reagan, the former first lady and widow of President Ronald Reagan died on Sunday in California at age 94. Front pages around the world are remembering her life. The stories all talk about the powerful love between Nancy and Ronald and her impactful role as first lady. When highlighting her advocacy, one of the first things that often pops up is her starring role in President Reagan's embrace and amplification of the war on drugs. Nancy's "Just Say No" campaign became her signature issue and a defining legacy for both her and her husband.

Having spent the last 16 years working at the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that believes the war on drugs is a failure and drug use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue, Nancy and Ronald Reagan bring up a lot of emotions for me. While the press often talk about their strength, love and optimism, I see two people who are most responsible for our country's mass incarceration and destruction of millions of people's lives.

Richard Nixon officially launched the drug war in 1971, but his war was modest compared to Reagan's war. Reagan's presidency marked the start of a long period of skyrocketing rates of incarceration, largely thanks to his unprecedented expansion of the drug war. The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law violations increased from 50,000 in 1980 to more than 400,000 by 1997.

Who can forget Nancy Reagan sitting in classrooms and all over our television sets with her simplistic "Just Say No" campaign? It was during this time that the DARE programs were implemented in schools across the country, despite their lack of effectiveness. Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, who believed that "casual drug users should be taken out and shot," founded the DARE program, which was quickly adopted nationwide.

The Reagans' "war at home" was not only ineffective, it was disastrous. Upon taking office in 1981, Reagan shifted drug control resources from health agencies to the Department of Justice. It was under Reagan's guidance in 1986 that the worst of the federal mandatory minimum drug laws were passed into law. These laws included the crack sentencing guidelines that meant that someone possessing just 5 grams (two sugar packets) worth of crack received an automatic 5 years in prison. These laws filled our prisons for decades with low-level drug users.

The irony is that Ronald Reagan's own daughter developed a cocaine problem, but I don't imagine the Reagans pushed for her to serve 5 years in a cage for her addiction. No, it was African Americans, who despite using drugs at similar rates as whites, were targeted by law enforcement and incarcerated at grossly disproportionate rates.

Ronald Reagan's harsh drug policies not only led to exploding prisons, they blocked expansion of syringe exchange programs and other harm reduction policies that could have prevented hundreds of thousands of people from contracting HIV and dying from AIDS.

While Ronald and Nancy Reagan were demonizing people who use drugs at home, their foreign policy objectives included funding the Contras in Nicaragua who played a role in flooding Los Angeles and other cities in the United States with crack cocaine.

While the press attention being given to Nancy's passing obviously mentions Nancy's passion around young people and drugs, the coverage often doesn't do enough to contextualize the Reagans' radical escalation of the drug war. We don't hear enough about the exploding prison populations that continue today to bankrupt our state budgets. We don't hear enough about the war on science and public health that led to so many people contracting HIV - even though the evidence was and still is clear that providing access to syringes does not increase drug use and helps save lives. And we don't hear enough about the militarization of our country, from cops in the schools to SWAT teams routinely breaking down doors.

While Nancy and Ronald Reagan are no longer with us physically, the public hysteria that they whipped up and the draconian, zero-tolerance drug policies that were implemented in the 1980s, are still alive and kicking today.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (

Wages and Culture: LinkedIn CEO Donates $14 Million to Employees

March 7th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

When LinkedIn’s compensation committee recently presented Jeff Weiner with his annual stock package valued at $14M, he refused it; asking them to put it back into the stock pool for employees. Weiner’s move is likely designed to communicate fairness and boost morale among LinkedIn employees who have felt the impact of the company’s stock price plunge last month, which eliminated $11 billion in market value.

“We are the same company we were the day before our earnings announcement,” Weiner said during a speech after the plunge. “I’m the same CEO I was the day before our earnings announcement. You’re the same team you were the day before our earnings announcement.”

This gesture echoes that of Jack Dorsey, CEO of fellow tech giant Twitter, who donated $200 million in stock to his employees after a round of massive layoffs at the company. At Gravity Payments, CEO Dan Price opted to reduce his own salary from $1 million to $70,000, vowing to pay no employee less than that.

The premise behind such actions is to motivate through setting an environment that shares both risk and reward, and it is generally accompanies by more transparency. The hoped-for outcome of sharing of information and profits is a more engaged and committed workforce.

Weiner and Dorsey mark new action by CEOs who are taking the issue of executive compensation and pay ratios into their own hands. While executive pay has been in the spotlight since the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2010, it was just last year that the SEC passed a rule enforcing one of Dodd-Frank’s key provisions, requiring public corporations to reveal the ratio of CEO pay to that of the median worker.

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Major Donor Demands CEO Resignation at Wounded Warriors

March 4th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source: CBS News  

Fred and Dianne Kane have been dubbed “VIP donors” to the Wounded Warrior Project. They run a charity effort called Tee-Off-for-a Cause, which has raised $325,000 for WWP through golf tournaments. In their outrage at recent reports of wasteful spending at the nonprofit, they have dedicated themselves to a new cause: demanding reform at the organization.

In 2014, for instance, the group’s spending on conferences and staff meetings was at $26 million, a startling increase from less than $2 million in 2010. “Hearing that there was this waste of money, donor dollars that should have been going to servicemen and women that were injured, and that it was spent on their having a good time—it’s a real disappointment,” Dianne Kane told CBS News.

So Fred called the organization, demanding that the CEO, Steve Nardizzi, be fired. (According to CBS News, he is not the only large donor to do so.) But since sources close to the organization say the board signs off on all major spending decisions and also stays at five-star hotels on the organization’s dime, the Kanes may want to think about demanding some changes at that level as well.

The couple also cancelled this year’s charity event and started a petition on, which reads:

I started a charity in 2009 to support Wounded Warrior Project. Having raised $325,000 for Wounded Warrior Project since 2009, the organization has allegedly misspent donated funds. I call for an open and public, independent audit and full accountability to answer allegations brought forward by the media following investigations and news reports. The WWP has done fantastic work, but I feel they have lost focus and responsibility to donors. Most of the individual donations come from those over 65 years of age. CEO Steve Nardizzi, to this date, has not faced investigative reporters nor appeared in public to answer any of the allegations. WWP claims full transparency and since they operate as a nonprofit, they owe a full, clear and honest accounting to the American public.

I believe in the great work WWP does, but feel that there may be serious governance issues and a lack of control in spending on non-veteran related programs, including, but not limited to: lobbying groups, travel, entertainment and employee “perks.”

This is an excellent example of stakeholder organizing; the petition already has 550 signatures.

“Where is this guy? You lead from the front, good or bad, you don’t hide,” Fred Kane said. “I don’t understand how an organization that has many veterans who value honor and service and chain of command can be led by a guy like that.”

“I feel like I am representing all these people who have donated over the years, all these seniors over 65 sending $19 a month, all these people on fixed incomes,” said Mr. Kane. “If no one is going to talk about this right now and it has to be me, then it has to be me.”

Treating cancer with cannabis? Here is what the experts say.

March 3rd, 2016  |  Source:

Does cannabis kill cancer cells? A lot of people refuse to believe it; others have seen it happen.

And even the people who have experienced it, couldn’t believe their eyes at first.

“Honestly, right in the beginning, it seemed too good to be true,” says Constance Finley, who first started working with an oncologist in 2012 to treat stage-4 cancer patients with Constance Therapeutics cannabis oil.

“I could not believe that [the successful results] we saw were caused from cannabis oil,” Finley says of the cancer patients she first worked with. “I remember thinking why haven’t we been turning to this plant all this time?”

Finley’s question is exactly right, especially since cancer has been so burdensome in the United States. Statistics show that over 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year, while almost 600,000 will lose their lives to the disease.

And here’s a real eye-opener: almost 40 percent of us will likely be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetimes.

So why has cannabis been continuously buried as a treatment option for cancer?

The question is especially hurtful once you realize that studies pointing to cannabis as a legitimate treatment for cancer go all the way back to the 1970s.

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How Can I Teach When My Students Are Packing Guns?

March 2nd, 2016  |  Source: PS Magazine

Texas' new concealed-carry campus law will create an atmosphere of classroom standoff—and make it impossible to have certain conversations.

It is difficult and painful to imagine how the learning environment in my course will change in the fall, when students at the University of Texas–Austin will have the right to attend class with a concealed gun. That these students must meet certain criteria, including an age restriction (21) and state permitting, offers little comfort or security.

Many in the university faculty, like me, harbor serious anxieties over what is known as the "campus carry" law—and its implications for teaching, learning, and personal safety in the classroom.

Just imagine this scenario: It is the first day of class and I, the professor, walk into the classroom, throw my bag on the table; the bag sags open, showing the glimmer of a concealed, holstered gun. How will this make my students feel as I pass out my syllabus and begin discussing my expectations for the course? Will students feel that this is a space designated for learning? Will they feel intimidated? Will they find it a space for open dialogue and discussion? Will students feel welcome and eager to establish a relationship with me? Will they worry about what might happen in the classroom?

In my teacher-training classes, we spend time in the beginning of every semester discussing rules for engagement. We talk about what is necessary for students to feel comfortable talking openly and critically about difficult topics. The most frequently expressed concern among students is their need to feel "safe" to share their ideas freely without feeling judged or intimidated by other students, or by the instructor.

Of this I have no doubt: Campus carry legislation will severely limit my ability to create an optimal learning environment for my students.

Students also want to know these respectfully shared views will not lead to retaliation. As a black female instructor, I know that when a student can bring a gun into class, it creates a barrier to personal safety that no classroom rules for engagement can negotiate. This makes me feel unsafe from the onset. I imagine that for most of my students this will also be the case.

Of course, questions of fear for emotional or physical safety are not what I want on my students' minds while they're taking the course. These fears are certainly not what I want to be thinking about when I'm teaching. Our energies would be better spent discussing what it means to teach, and to teach well.

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Nonprofit Cybersecurity: Hospital Pays Ransom to Hackers

February 23rd, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Headlines this month of the 434-bed Los Angeles hospital whose operations were compromised by hackers should grab our attention. For ten days, the for-profit Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California lost control of its computer system to a specialized kind of viral attack known as ransomware, which can lock up a computer’s hardware or encrypt files in order to hold a victim hostage. A ransom is then demanded in exchange for release of the system, giving the attack its name.

Allen Stefanek, President and CEO of Hollywood Presbyterian, told the story in a statement.

On the evening of February 5th, our staff noticed issues accessing the hospital’s computer network. Our IT department began an immediate investigation and determined we had been subject to a malware attack. The malware locked access to certain computer systems and prevented us from sharing communications electronically. Law enforcement was immediately notified. Computer experts immediately began assisting us in determining the outside source of the issue and bringing our systems back online.

Administrators were faced with determining the most effective way to continue major operations while negotiating with criminals demanding a payoff of 40 bitcoins—about $17,000 U.S. dollars at the time—to give their system back. While stories differ, it appears that Hollywood Presbyterian paid off hackers prior to calling authorities because they believed it was the “quickest and most efficient way to restore [hospital] systems.”

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