Altruism Today

It’s Chemistry not Character

March 21st, 2016  |  Source: It’s Chemistry not Character

It’s Chemistry not Character, (, (#itschemnotchar), has launched a national campaign to change the conversation about opioid addiction and the stigma attached to it.  According to leading medical authorities in this country, opioid dependence is a predisposed genetic disease not a moral failing.  The CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), has labeled the opioid crisis an epidemic.  This opioid epidemic kills nearly 80 Americans each day, more than 85% of people in recovery relapse, and more than 2,500 12-17 year old adolescents in America try an opioid for the first time every day.

Since we launched our campaign, thousands of opioid stories have been published by hundreds of local, state, regional and national media outlets.  They include CNN, CBS "60 Minutes", HBO, ABC News "20-20", NBC Nightly News, and more.  Our message is about changing the conversation and ending the stigma attached to opioid addiction.  We share this message through daily postings and shares on all of our social media networks including our official blogFacebook pageTwitter feed,Instagram, and Pinterest accounts, and YouTube Channel

Our videos tell the story most effectively and appear on digital press releases, our official website and  YouTube Channel. And while our videos have received more than 140,000 views since early February we need your help to reach the millions of people in this country affected by this disease.  This is the first video in a series being released over the next year.  The people featured in the film are:

·        Kelly Clark, President Emeritus, The American Society of Addiction Medicine

·        Patrick Kennedy, Former US State Representative, (D-RI), Co-Author, “A Common Struggle”

·        Gary Mendell, CEO and Founder Shatterproof

·        Steven E. Chavoustie, MD

·        Andrea Barthwell, MD, Former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Addiction Specialist

·        Matthew A. Torrington, MD, Addiction Medicine Specialist

·        Bobbi Cattanese, Founder and CE Links Advocate and Resources Center

It’s Chemistry Not Character is a community of people with opioid dependence and those who care about them – including family, friends and doctors. Join us here to change the conversation that currently takes place in society on opioid addiction so we can intelligently change the approach to fighting this national epidemic.

It's time for charities to stop wasting money on social media

March 18th, 2016  |  Source: The Guardian

Social media has changed the world. It has changed how we access information, communicate with our friends and it has changed how charities raise awareness and fundraise. In fact, most charities now spend countless hours and money investing in their social media channels and it is time to stop.

A recent report found that entrepreneurs say social media is a waste of time, with no discernible impact on their sales, and I believe the same could be said for charities.
In theory, social media connects you to over a billion people who are active on Facebook or 320 million on Twitter. But in reality it’s far fewer than that.
Hardly anyone sees what people are posting
Facebook’s newsfeed now only shows the posts it thinks are most relevant to its users, so messages may only reach 2.6% of a charity’s audience. On average, a tweet only reaches around 10% of followers, and the average click-through rate for a link on Twitter is around 1.6%. So it is likely that just a small fraction of the public will see the posts or make it to the charity’s website.

If that tiny audience is more likely to do the things that truly matter to the charity in question, then maybe this small reach is OK, but the problem is they often don’t. Social media traffic has a high bounce rate, which means that even if people do click through on a post or tweet most are going to leave the charity’s website immediately.

I’m not suggesting charities should immediately shut down their social media accounts, especially if they have checked the data and confirmed it works for them. Instead, they need to think carefully about how resources are allocated. What if they reallocated the same people, money and effort into places that are proven to reach the audience who need the charity most?
Get to grips with Google

One way to improve might be to dedicate resources to search engine optimisation (SEO). The public turn to Google rather than social media when they want information, including giving and receiving help. This is evident from the 3.5bn Google searches that happen every day, searches that now include Twitter content in the results.
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SeaWorld End Captive Breeding of Orca Whales

March 17th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Sea World announced yesterday that it would end “all orca breeding” immediately, which means the whales in its care “will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld.” As readers will remember, the theme park has been under fire for yearsfor what animal rights activists, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), describe as inhumane treatment of the animals.

“Why the big news?” the company said in a statement. “SeaWorld has been listening and we’re changing. Society is changing and we’re changing with it. SeaWorld is finding new ways to continue to deliver on our purpose to inspire all our guest to take action to protect wild animals and wild places.”

One might think from this statement that it has been a natural and gentle evolution, but perhaps not! Pressure has only intensified since the airing of a 2013 documentary, Blackfish. Revenue and attendance had been in steady decline for months when and the company’s CEO resigned in December 2014 and 300 workers were laid off, and then, in 2015, its killer whale shows in San Diego were discontinued. In California, the Coastal Commission decided that at least in that state, SeaWorld was disallowed from breeding the animals in captivity, though at the same time it approved an expansion of the tanks used to hold them. Sea World protested and filed suit in response to the decision about breeding.

Then, last month, SeaWorld admitted that it infiltrated PETA for “security purposes,” declaring on its website:

Following the completion of an investigation conducted by independent outside counsel, the board has directed that the company’s management team end a practice in which certain employees posed as animal rights activists in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of company employees, customers, and animals in the face of credible threats that the company had received.

One covert operations SeaWorld employee was alleged to have been inciting aggressive action by PETA.

“SeaWorld knows that the public is rejecting its cruel orca prisons and is so desperate that it created a corporate espionage campaign,” wrote PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange in a statement. “Instead of creating a dirty tricks department, SeaWorld should put its resources into releasing the orcas into coastal sanctuaries.”

Meanwhile, the company reported a fourth-quarter loss of $11 million.

Still, the company would have you believe that they have simply evolved from where they were last month. “This announcement reaffirms our commitment to not collect marine mammals from the wild,” the company said. “After all, we haven’t collected an orca from the wild in almost 40 years, and the orcas at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent almost their entire lives in human care.”

What Is A Charter School? Confusion on the Campaign Trail

March 16th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

At a recent Democratic Town Hall hosted by CNN, Bernie Sanders said, “I believe in public education and I believe in public charter schools. I do not believe in privately controlled charter schools.” The difficulty with that statement, according to National Public Radio (NPR), is that all charter schools are public, with varying levels of private control.

At the most basic level, it should be no surprise that charter schools are public. If they weren’t public, they would be private schools just like the many parochial and private schools present in the U.S. for centuries.

Charter schools were developed as a way to provide educational alternatives within the public school system. The design goals included involving parents and teachers more meaningfully in their schools and allowing those schools to adapt to the unique learning and cultural needs of their students. Many public school districts offered their charter schools waivers from some rules and policies believed to increase educational costs and interfere with effective learning.

The educational alternatives provided by charter schools look different from community to community and state to state, with varying levels of autonomy and site-based governance authority. In addition, there are for-profit companies with a business model to organize and manage a small percentage of charter schools for public school districts. One key trend is the slowing growth of new “independent” charter schools and the growth of large nonprofit charter management organizations (CMOs) and education management organizations (EMOs). 

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Faith-based investing is about more than avoiding sin stocks

March 15th, 2016  |  Source: Globe & Mail

While talking investing, Sameer Azam brings up the subject of halal meat. Islamic rules known as halal specify the procedures for slaughtering an animal, and they vary among the Muslim traditions.

Faith-based investing is similar, says Mr. Azam, senior wealth manager at Absolute Wealth Management in Mississauga. Basic tenets apply, but they’re open to interpretation and degrees of strictness. For instance, halal investing screens out companies that sell tobacco, alcohol and other obvious vices. Also excluded are companies making money by charging interest. So no bank stocks.

Yet halal isn’t Mr. Azam’s only criteria. Although his approach is halal-friendly, he also looks at larger environmental, social and corporate-governance issues. He advises clients both Muslim and not. And as the market for socially responsible investing grows, the faith-based variety is increasingly joining and selling itself as part of the larger socially responsible movement.

“I am Muslim, but a lot of my clients are non-Muslim. So why exclude them?” Mr. Azam said. “We call ourselves sustainable investors, not ethical investors, because [with] ethics, everybody has a different belief.”

Canadian investments adhering to some form of environmental, social and corporate-governance criteria grew to $1.011-billion in 2013, according to the latest numbers from the Toronto-based Responsible Investment Association. This was up from $601-million in 2011. Pension funds have led the charge, but everyday investors are also increasingly joining the movement.

To Mr. Azam, a healthy, sustainability-minded company means a stock with few sustainability problems, therefore less risk.

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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 (

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