Altruism Today

Is OxyContin For Kids Safe? Top 7 Concerns Addressed After FDA Decision

September 21st, 2016  |  Source:

In August 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made public its decision to approve OxyContin prescriptions for certain children between the ages of 11 and 16.

Naturally, there were parents and consumers who perceived this to be a bizarre verdict, one that could open up a world of trouble for a particularly vulnerable population. While critics like Hillary Clinton called the decision “absolutely incomprehensible,” top FDA officials stand by the controversial statement, as do many parents of children who suffer from cancer and other pain-inducing conditions.

According to NBC News, OxyContin is “a long-release version of oxycodone, an opioid that acts on the brain like heroin and is intended for only the most severe and chronic pain cases.”

OxyContin has had a bit of a sketchy history. Some may remember back in 2007 when executives of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company Purdue Pharma had to pay $600 million in fines for “[misleading] regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential to be abused.”

In the late 1990s, Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures and markets OxyContin, began promoting the drug as being safer and less addictive than Percocet and Vicodin. Since OyxContin is a slow-release or “long-acting” narcotic, relieving pain for up to 12 hours, Purdue Pharma was able to mislead consumers on exactly how safe the medication is.

On this false premise, Purdue Pharma marketed the drug aggressively and was able to push it to more than $1 billion in annual sales after just a few short years.

Will OxyContin Now Be Available To Just Any Kid?

Supporters of the FDA’s recent decision on OxyContin aren’t in any way proposing an opioid free-for-all among your pre-teens and teens. The agency is simply saying that under the right circumstances, to the right young patients, and for the right reasons, OxyContin can be a viable and safe option for pain relief.

Dr. Kathleen A. Neville, a pediatric oncologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, told The New York Times, “Just because OxyContin has been abused or prescribed inappropriately doesn’t mean we should deprive the children who need the drug.”

She added, “[It is] our obligation to have the best level of evidence for its use in children.”

Addressing 7 Concerns About OxyContin For Kids

Read on here:

The Small Things

September 19th, 2016  |  Source:

The Small Things, Inc. (, an organization which supports orphaned and vulnerable children and families in the Arusha District of Tanzania. The group recently announced the opening of a new community center in Nkoaranga to provide holistic services to local residents. A full press release is below with more details.

The center is the latest part of the organization’s ongoing Family Preservation Program, which serves more than 80 children who have been kept in, or reunited with their families. The organization also cares for more than 50 orphaned children full-time at Nkoaranga orphanage and Happy Family Children's Village.

Along with housing a large library, which will host everything from after-school tutoring to adult educational programs, the new facility will be the first daycare provider in the area. With such a lack of daycare options, single parents and extended families are often forced into making a heart-wrenching choice between keeping small children, or surrendering them to the orphanage so they can work. Now, they will no longer have to make that choice.

Pair of 18 yr olds cycle 10,000km: Beijing to Tehran to raise funds for children in Africa

September 13th, 2016  |  Source:

Charles Stevens and Will Hsu - both 18 - are two of the youngest people to ever to attempt the feat. They cycled the Silk Road starting in May 2016 in support of A Child Unheard, with 100-percent of all funds donated going directly to the charity.  Donations are being collected via the official JustGiving page, with nearly £25,000 already raised:

At over 10,000 kilometers, passing through nine countries with temperatures ranging from minus 10-degrees Celsius to above 45 centigrade, this has been a test at all extremities - with some impressive landscape photographs captured by the pair during their trip.

The goal of the boys’ trek has been to raise £25,000 in support of A Child Unheard, a charity working to improve the lives of children in Africa through education, sports and arts. Both Will and Charles’ have been saving up money from their part-time jobs to fund the trip themselves, ensuring that all donations will go directly to A Child Unheard via the boys’ JustGiving charity page. 

The 10,000 kilometers covered nine countries and took Will and Charles four months to complete, from May to September of this year, and over the 120 days the boys have climbed to over 4,000 meters while descending below sea level. Supporters have been able to keep in touch with the Beijing-to-Tehran duo and monitor their progress via their blog on, where they have also been sharing amazing photos and stories during their journey.

Another $7B for Needy Harvard—Fundraising Campaign Well Ahead of Schedule

September 8th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; Harvard Magazine

Anyone who hangs around Harvard Square knows that the rate of construction on the Harvard campus is unusual. And no wonder—despite all of Harvard’s turmoil at its endowment operation (see recent NPQ newswire coverage here and here), it seems to be holding its own in the fundraising department. Three years ago, it set a $6.5 billion goal; as of June 30th, it had in hand $7 billion in gifts and commitments, the most that has ever been raised in a higher-education capital campaign. The drive is not due to end until June 2018, and its proceeds will be used for a variety of projects, including a lot of building.

“I am deeply grateful to everyone who has participated in this outstanding effort so far,” said President Drew Faust in a statement:

Our aspirations speak to our larger hopes not only for a better Harvard, but also for a better world—a world changed by the students we educate, the knowledge we pursue, and the discoveries and innovations we generate every day on our campus. The support we’ve received thus far resounds with confidence in the enduring value of this work and the essential role that Harvard—and all of higher education—plays in society.

Harvard Magazine reports, “Harvard has been able to maintain gifts and pledges at an annual rate of about $1 billion.” It projects that total campaign proceeds will be $9 billion or more. And yet, Harvard University is still, this year, refusing to pay the full amount requested by the City of Boston as a payment in lieu of taxes.

Judge Halts Dakota Pipeline after Attacks on Protesters

September 7th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; Minnesota Public Radio

When, on Saturday, the company working on the Dakota Access Pipeline unexpectedly began clearing a site identified last Friday in a court filing by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as a sacred burial ground, hundreds of Native American protestors rushed the site, attempting to stop the bulldozers. Security personnel working for the company then responded with dogs and pepper spray. In response, a judge, hearing a suit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, ruled that construction must stop temporarily between North Dakota’s State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe.

The tribe’s attorney, Jan Hasselman, a staff attorney with EarthJustice who represented the tribe in federal court, describes the incident as an act of provocation undertaken within hours of when a legal resolution was expected.

“Energy Transfer said to the court that we hadn’t proven that there were sacred sites or important sites in the pipeline route,” explained Hasselman to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, “and they claimed to have looked with their private consultants. So, we went and provided exactly the evidence that they said that we needed to provide. And 12 hours later, the bulldozers were out” on the very site identified in the Tribe’s filing.

It turns out that the landowner invited the tribe’s expert to conduct a formal archaeological survey observing state and federal protocols. “He went out, and he built maps of these very unique and important archaeological sites and the locations of these burials, that were right in the pipeline’s way. And that’s the information we put together and put in front of the court on Friday.”

The tribe’s lawsuit seeks to halt construction of the entire pipeline because, they allege, its completion would violate the National Historic Preservation Act, harm the water quality on the reservation and downstream, and disturb sacred sites.

Deinstitutionalization: Massachusetts Mental Health Crisis Deepens

September 6th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source Boston Globe

With the enactment of Medicaid in 1965, states were strongly encouraged to move mentally ill individuals out of state mental institutions and either back into the community or into nursing homes. This was due in part to ethical reasons: Around that time, it was becoming clear that institutions were not treating patients humanely. There was monetary encouragement as well, since both community options and nursing home placement are reimbursable services and institutions are not. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that persons with mental illness could not be institutionalized if it could be demonstrated they did not pose a danger to themselves or others and could live in society, either independently or with the support of friends and family.

In many cases, deinstitutionalization helped individuals who could function in the community be reunited with family and become contributing members of society. Unfortunately the severely mentally ill were left in a worse-off situation as these individuals and their families, if they had any, had to figure out how to navigate a fragmented health system with little support. People whose ability to be successful in society is dependent on adherence to regular medication are especially vulnerable. Often, these individuals ended up making frequent emergency room trips or becoming incarcerated. This is particularly true in states that were ill prepared for deinstitutionalization and did not have readily available community based mental health services.

Although Massachusetts was once a leader in mental health care, over the last five decades numerous administrations have cut funding for services, leading to a steady decline in services available for mentally ill individuals. Recently, the closure of many mental health practices in Massachusetts has left thousands without access to treatment, endangering the patients as well as the public. The Boston Globe Spotlight team reports that about one third of the mental health providers in Massachusetts closed their doors between 2013 and 2015, with that pattern continuing into the current year. With reimbursement rates so low that providers lose money on each client, it’s no wonder that practices cannot stay afloat.

Further, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, Massachusetts spends less per capita on mental health care than other states of comparable means. Over the last twenty years, the state has cut spending on in-patient mental health services by half, but outpatient funding remained stagnant.

While the state cut funding for mental health programs to close its budget, it is the public who has paid the ultimate price. The Spotlight team uncovered multiple stories of severely mentally ill individuals falling through cracks in the system and hurting either themselves or others. While the vast majority of individuals with mental health issues will never become violent, the few that have that potential need treatment and close monitoring—neither of which is guaranteed with Massachusetts’ fragmented system.

After five decades of a system that has failed patients, their families, and the public at large, Massachusetts must start fixing this broken system. Barbara Rhuda of the Massachusetts branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness perhaps explained it best: “The state did not want to put the kind of money in that needed to be done to make a viable system. I think it’s come back to kick them all in the you-know-what.”

Long Nights With Little Sleep for Homeless Families Seeking Shelter

August 31st, 2016  |  Source:

Wednesday, New York City hit a record 59,373 people in shelters overseen by the Department of Homeless Services.

There is no clearer indicator of the homelessness crisis than in the Bronx at the intake center for families with children, where on a recent Saturday morning at 7:30, Larissa Galindo had just gotten off the bus from a temporary shelter.

“We’re tired,” Ms. Galindo, 19, said, burying her face in her hands and trying to wipe the sleep and frustration from her eyes. Unique, her 1-year-old daughter, looked up from a stroller. They had left the center, known as PATH, short for Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing, four hours earlier.

“I want to go to sleep,” Ms. Galindo said.

In a cascade of good intentions and unintended consequences, homeless parents and their children are facing dayslong waits and sleepless nights as they flood the city’s already overwhelmed homeless services.

Under a 1999 law that was supposed to give homeless families dignity and relief, parents and children seeking shelter are not allowed to sleep at the center. Instead, those still in the process of applying for housing at 10 p.m. must be given beds for the night. The city must also transport them to and from wherever they sleep so families can continue the application process the next morning.

But with 12,913 families in homeless shelters, which is also a record, and the city trying to avoid giving them “overnights” twice in a row, New York has created a bureaucracy of sleep that, paradoxically, keeps many families from getting any rest. Some yellow school buses transporting them to shelters leave the PATH center as late as 4 a.m. People who are loaded onto them then are bused back two hours later so they can be seen by 11 a.m., before a new wave of families arrives.

Read on here:

"Our Revolution" Bernie Sanders' new nonprofit

August 30th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Former presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his supporters launched the promised post-primary initiative called Our Revolution last Wednesday. The 501(c)(4) social welfare organization is intended to empower millions to continue their fight for progressive change. The live stream of the launch reached more than 2,600 watch parties in homes and meeting places across the country. Sanders’s new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, will be on sale November 15th, a few days following the general election.

Our Revolution vows to set out with three main goals: to revitalize American democracy by bringing millions of both working and young individuals into the political system; empower the next generation of progressive leaders; and elevate political consciousness by educating the public about issues confronting the country.

By staying in the race as long as he did and by staying engaged through the primary, Sanders laid the groundwork for Our Revolution by pushing the Democratic Party to pass the most progressive platform in its history. The Our Revolution “movement” will carry on that work initially by supporting seven ballot initiatives and more than 100 candidates this year.

On August 23rdPolitico reported that the “the revolution is already tearing itself apart.” The board, chaired by Sanders’s wife Jane, was troubled about how the group might handle “dark money” issues from anonymous groups. The 501(c)(4) social welfare organization structure contradicts the pride the campaign took in its average contribution of $27 during the primary. Our Revolution is permitted by law to collect unlimited amounts of anonymous money. Such organizations may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity. Organizing for Action is a similar organization that arose following President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.

Underlying all this, though, are deep, still-raw tensions left over from the presidential campaign which by the end had become a war between the older aides who felt that their experience and planning explained Sanders’ ability to translate his message into votes, and younger aides who felt dismissed by older aides whom they felt didn’t appreciate how much of what Sanders achieved was because of their digital and organizing prowess, which turned the senator into a sensation.

Sanders’s decision to hire his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, to lead the new organization caused eight of his key staffers (more than half his staff) to resign in a dispute over the group’s leadership and legal structure.

NPR provides Weaver’s justification for the structure of Our Revolution.

But Weaver says there is a difference between a presidential campaign and a group like Our Revolution. In a presidential race, he said, “You don’t want somebody elected, who is beholden to wealthy individuals or interests.” But in the case of a nonprofit like Our Revolution, Weaver added, “I have nothing to offer people in return for their support” other than pushing forward the progressive goals and agenda that those who supported Sanders share.

Not everyone agrees—namely, the staff that abruptly left the organization and likely many of the organization’s would-be supporters. Sanders will not have a leadership role in Our Revolution because, as a U.S. senator, he is constrained by limitations onfundraising for other candidates. As for Weaver, Sanders and he go back to 1986, when Sanders recruited him to run his gubernatorial campaign in Vermont. About Weaver, Sanders said this at the launch of Our Revolution: “He had just been expelled from Boston University for protesting the racist apartheid policies that then existed in South Africa. I thought those were pretty good qualifications for the job.” Weaver is staying.

Turmoil is, of course, not foreign to the internal dynamics of movements, but it always needs to be honestly interrogated for the truths it encompasses. Our Revolution, off to a bit of a rocky start, will have a lot to prove

Use of local foundation allowed Baltimore police surveillance project to remain secret

August 26th, 2016  |  Source: Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Police Department was able to keep secret the funding for a surveillance plane that monitored wide swaths of the city by routing project funds through a private foundation — whose director says he was not aware of the purpose of the spending.

A Texas-based private donor supplied $120,000 intended for the city surveillance project but delivered to the nonprofit Baltimore Community Foundation, which manages at least two charitable funds for police.

Thomas E. Wilcox, president of the Baltimore Community Foundation, said in an interview Wednesday that foundation officials did not know what the money was for.

"We did not know anything about a surveillance program," Wilcox said. "We do 3,000 grants a year. Someone asks us to give a grant to an organization, whether it's Wounded Warrior or the YMCA, we make the grant."

Duke University Sues Donor’s Estate for $10 million

August 25th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Aubrey McClendon was a major benefactor to the North Carolina school his wife, his children and he attended. Over $20 million in gifts supported everything from building construction to restoring the pipe organ in the university’s chapel. Mr. McClendon died in a car accident last March, leaving $9.94 million in pledges unpaid. Duke has gift agreements and related documents to substantiate the pledges, and there is no dispute from the estate that the pledges were made.

So why did Duke choose to sue the major donor’s estate? Simply put, to preserve Duke’s place at the table among many secured and unsecured creditors while a complex and uncertain estate is settled. McClendon’s fortune was tied significantly to the shale oil business in the U.S., which boomed in the last decade and then busted as crude oil prices plummeted a couple of years ago. At one time, McClendon was reportedly worth more than a billion dollars, but his expensive ouster from the company he cofounded, Chesapeake Energy, spurred him to borrow heavily against his assets to attempt a comeback.

It will take some time for the estate’s administrators to come to terms with the almost 200 companies in which McClendon held investment interests and the network of creditors holding close to $500 million in loans against those investments. Some have speculated that the estate is, in fact, insolvent, but the estate’s administrators dispute that. However, the estate’s value is heavily dependent on commodity prices, so estimated values may change frequently.

Duke has been quick to emphasize that the legal action is not punitive and not intended to cast aspersions on McClendon’s reputation. In a statement, the university expressed its position that McClendon was “one of Duke’s most passionate and generous alumni. […] This is a routine transaction that in no way diminishes Duke’s respect for the McClendon family and our gratitude for their relationship to Duke.”

The importance of Duke’s communicating its action and motivation cannot be overstated, as other donors will no doubt be watching what happens. When the word “lawsuit” is used in media stories, it’s easy to assume a hostile and adversarial situation is unfolding, but this is not the case here. If anything, Duke’s “adversaries” are the other creditors, not the estate and the family.

Duke’s leaders share the fiduciary duty to protect and pursue their university’s legitimate interest in the estate while not appearing predatory or greedy. Doug White, former director of the nonprofit management program at Columbia University, said, “How positive is it to see a university sue a donor? If it were up to me, I wouldn’t push it that hard.”

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