Altruism Today

Help End Senior Hunger With a Single Mouse Click and Get a Free Celebrity Cookbook

October 7th, 2010  |  Source: Meals on Wheels


Just one click of a computer mouse turns into one dollar to help the Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) fight senior hunger – but time is running out. Until only October 15, every time a visitor at affirms their belief in meaningful meals with their family at the dinner table, popular Italian food maker Barilla will donate $1 to MOWAA, up to $150,000, and visitors get a special gift.

Barilla is offering a free star-studded cookbook available for download after clicking to support the Share the Table project. Mario Batali and Julianne Moore have teamed up with 10 notable celebrities to create the limited edition Celebrity Pasta Lovers' Cookbook. The book is packed with family meal-sharing tips and exclusive Mario Batali recipes inspired by favorite pasta dishes from celebrities including Meryl Streep, Kristin Chenoweth and Jimmy Fallon.

“Families often take for granted the companionship offered at the dinner table that so many of our seniors live without,” said MOWAA President and CEO Enid Borden. “Barilla’s generosity means more of America’s homebound seniors will have the human contact and nutrition they need to survive. Barilla is a powerful partner in our mission to end senior hunger in America by the year 2020.”

At, people will find more than 100 tips to create a family dinner filled with robust conversation, meaningful interactions and flavorful food. "Eating together has enriched my family's life," said Oscar®-nominated actress Julianne Moore. "Through Barilla's 'Share the Table,' I want to share with others how easy it can be to create meaningful family meals at home and how rewarding it can be."

Approximately six millions seniors in America - one in nine - face the threat of hunger, according to MOWAA-sponsored research. The findings indicate that about 700,000 more seniors faced that risk in 2007 than did in 2001. Meals On Wheels programs deliver more than one million meals every day to America's seniors.

We are Meals On Wheels...

so no senior goes hungry®

Psych Meds In Jails

October 6th, 2010  |  Source: Youth Today


A ground-breaking, year-long investigation by Youth Today has uncovered ample evidence that many youths incarcerated in American juvenile facilities are getting potent anti-psychotic drugs intended for bipolar or schizophrenic patients, even when they have not been diagnosed with either disorder.

The findings are derived from records of state juvenile systems that provided sufficiently detailed information on their use of these anti-psychotics – called “atypicals.” Only 16 states responded to a nationwide survey by Youth Today, meaning that a majority of states either would not or could not demonstrate that they were even monitoring the use of these medications on incarcerated juveniles.

The atypical anti-psychotics were being used to treat a wide variety of diagnoses, including intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and even the more common attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

Critics believe most of these diagnoses are simply a cover for the fact that prisons now use drugs as a substitute for banned physical restraints that once were used on juveniles who aggressively acted out.

“Fifty years ago, we were tying kids up with leather straps, but now that offends people, so instead we drug them,” says Robert Jacobs, a former Florida psychologist and lawyer who now practices psychology in Australia. “We cover it up with some justification that there is some medical reason, which there is not.”

Supporters of prescribing the atypicals believe using the drugs as sedation isn’t necessarily bad.

“It prepares youth so they can respond to treatment,” says LeAdelle Phelps, a former juvenile facility director and adolescent psychologist. “By reducing aggression and by having calming, soothing effects,” the anti-psychotic makes residents “more malleable.”

Others disagree, arguing that the drugs may interfere with attempts at meaningful therapy.

But there have been no studies on widespread use of the atypicals on juvenile offenders. The Government Accountability Office is investigating various state policies for placing foster children on atypicals, which in those cases are paid for by federally matched Medicaid.  

But federal Medicaid money, by statute, cannot fund care for anyone incarcerated for a crime – adult or juvenile. That means funds for medications issued to juvenile inmates come from state sources. 

For more than a year, Youth Today has been working to find out how much states have been spending on anti-psychotic drugs for incarcerated juveniles, and why. 

Atypicals and youth: a primer

Nobody fully knows how anti-psychotic medications do their job, but the consensus is that the drugs can quell psychotic episodes by interacting with neurotransmitters in the brain called Dopamine receptors.

The drug binds with the receptors, which limits the amoung of dopamine that is transmitted. That can quell the hallucinations and voices heard by people suffering from schizophrenia or who have psychotic episodes brought on by bipolar disorder.

But because many of the drugs may also bind with and limit other receptors – such as serotonin and oxytocin – they can numb the overall impulses and actions of most people who take them, whether they have a psychotic disorder or not.

Anti-psychotic drugs have been a part of the psychiatric medical arsenal since the 1950s. The first iteration, haloperidol, often prescribed under the brand name Haldol, has long been used in this country either to treat or sedate institutionalized people. It poses serious downsides pertaining to motor control; Haldol has been known to cause tremors, muscle stiffness and twitching in patients.

The second generation of anti-psychotic drugs – the atypicals – emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The five most frequently used are Abilify (aripiprazole), Geodon (ziprasidone), Seroquel (quetiapine), Risperdal (risperidone) and Zyprexa (olanzapine).

The drugs show significantly lower rates of haloperidol’s motor control side effects. But they have their own set of potential side effects in addition to sedation, including significant weight gain and early onset of diabetes.

Those side effects are magnified for adolescents, says Mark Olfson, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.

“There is a reasonable body of evidence that adolescents are more sensitive to the metabolic side effects,” Olfson says.

Those risks are augmented further in some juvenile facilities by a lack of time devoted to physical activity.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Abilify for use in adolescent patients with schizophrenia or bipolar mania in 2007. Since then, similar approval has been given for Seroquel, Risperdal and Zyprexa. Geodon has not been approved for treatment of youth. 

But doctors need not wait for FDA approval to prescribe a drug off-label, and when it came to poor children, they certainly did not wait for the FDA to approve atypical anti-psychotics. Ken Kramer, a researcher with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida, obtained detailed annual Medicaid expenditures for the five most prescribed atypicals in 30 states.

Robert Redford: The Force That Fights Deep-Pocketed Polluters and Wins

October 5th, 2010  |  Source: Huffington Post


Recently, the OpenSecrets blog revealed that the oil and gas industry poured $174 million into the political system in 2009. We don't have numbers for 2010 yet, but we do know that oil companies have put up most of the $8.2 billion raised to block California's clean energy law-- a law that passed with bipartisan support and was signed by a Republican governor.

When one dirty industry can purchase that much influence, who will step into the ring for average Americans? Who will say that public health and public interest matter more than private industries' desire to pollute?

I am a firm believer in the ability of citizens to stand up for themselves and fight against the tide of corporate pressure. But sometimes, we need an expert to help carry our voices into the courtroom and into Congress.

For four decades, John Adams has been one of those voices. Since he helped launch NRDC in 1970, Adams has been the toughest, most tenacious champion of the notion that Americans should be able to drink safe water, breathe clean air, buy products free of toxic chemicals, and protect our natural heritage.

In a new book called A Force for Nature, Adams and his wife Patricia explain how they helped build the modern environmental movement. Their account of how NRDC wrote the laws and won the battles that cleaned up the environment is galvanizing -- a bracing reminder of how much can be accomplished by dedicated individuals.

I have known Adams since 1973. Back then, lots of environmental organizations were springing up, and I worked with many of them. But when I met Adams, it was clear that NRDC had a unique power: They could go to court.

You have to remember that holding polluters accountable in court was a new idea in 1970. There were only a few environmental laws on the book back then, and only a handful of attorneys in the country viewed themselves as environmental lawyers. Adams hired most of them.

By the time I got involved with NRDC, it had already begun to prove it could defeat the worst corporate polluters. At the same time, it was infinitely pragmatic: The message was, work with us to design solutions, and we'll do all we can to find common ground. Oppose us and we will see you in court -- and more often than not we will win.

But Adams didn't fight only in the courtroom. He went wherever the battle took him. I remember that as soon as President Reagan's Interior Secretary Hodel set his sights on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, NRDC kicked into gear.

When proponents of drilling said it would lesson our dependence on foreign oil, NRDC got the geological data, ran the numbers and found that it would barely make any difference. And when oil companies up in Prudhoe Bay claimed their new extraction technology would prevent environmental damage, NRDC presented a report to Congress showing that between 400 and 600 hundred oil spills occurred every year on the North Slope and along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

This is the kind of expert knowledge we need to fight polluters' PR machines. Plenty of Americans want to keep the Arctic Refuge pristine and wild, but we don't always have access to information about what drilling would do to the landscape. It takes someone from NRDC to actually go to Prudhoe Bay, study it, and explain that "it is like flying over Gary, Indiana, for a hundred miles." That's not what we want to happen to the refuge.

NRDC is providing the same kind on information in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. In the face of BP's efforts to downplay the catastrophe, we need groups like NRDC to do independent analysisand identify the kind of clean-energy solutions that will prevent this kind of disaster from happening again.

The fact that America has witnessed a devastating offshore drilling accident more than 40 years after a massive spill occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara is a testament to why we still need people like Adams. It's why he built an organization that can fight for the long haul. There will be endless battles and frequent reversals of fortune. But in the end, you can outfight and outlast your enemies, and you can win.

So I say to my friend, John Adams, here's to the next forty years.

Asperger's in the Workplace

October 4th, 2010  |  Source: Baseline Magazine



It's time for organizations to embrace employees diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.


A very mild form of autism, Asperger's is found in IT departments nationwide; the Silicon Valley area has seen a significantly greater upsurge in autism cases than other parts of the U.S. People with Asperger’s often are capable of contributing to projects with a higher capacity for production and quality than their “normal” counterparts – one fictional example being Chloe from the TV show “24.”


A new book, Asperger's On The Job, by Rudy Simone (Future Horizons/Available now), a business consultant with Asperger's, contends that too many managers and co-workers try to force those with the syndrome to conform to office environments and routines. Instead, they need to find ways to adapt procedures, interactions and the overall environment to the needs of these employees – allowing valuable source of unique talents to be discovered. For more information about the book and getting the most out of workers with Asperger’s,


 click here.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation holds first Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit

October 4th, 2010  |  Source: The White House


I am in Japan today, where we have just concluded the first-ever Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit.

Government officials, business leaders, academics and journalists from the 21 APEC member economies met in Gifu, Japan on October 1, 2010 to discuss the critical importance of women entrepreneurs to the growth and prosperity of our economies and to share policies, strategies and best-practices to promote women entrepreneurship.


The summit was hosted by the governments of Japan and the United States, who are the chairs of APEC in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer led the United States' effort here, which also included representatives from the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the United States Trade Representative, and myself representing the White House Council on Women and Girls. Ambassador John Roos, our United States ambassador to Japan, was an active participant, giving the summit special insight into the importance of innovation and entrepreneurial development based his prior experience in Silicon Valley.


Please visit the APEC Women's Entrepreneurship Summit Website at for more information on the Summit.

Tina Tchen is Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an important attempt to get the American public behind education reform

October 1st, 2010  |  Source: The Economist


FOR America’s children the education system is often literally a lottery. That is the main message of a new documentary about America’s schools, “Waiting for ‘Superman’.” Made by the team that gave us “An Inconvenient Truth”, and supported with the sort of marketing budget that other documentary makers can only dream of, it is intended to create a surge in public support for education reform at least as great as the clamour to do something about climate change generated (for a while) by Al Gore’s eco-disaster flick.


The timing could hardly be better. The “jobless recovery” is finally bringing home to Americans the fact that too many of those who go through its schools are incapable of earning a decent living in an increasingly competitive global economy. The number of jobs advertised but not being filled is increasing even as the unemployment rate stays resolutely high. And despite its depressing enumeration of the failure of so many schools, particularly in poorer urban areas, its miserable ending, and the bleakness of its title, the movie also has a message of hope: there are good schools and teachers in America, whose methods could make its education system as good as any in the world if only they were allowed to.

That truth, recognised by anyone who has spent even a few hours in, say, a KIPP charter school, is an inconvenient one to the teachers’ unions, which the film rightly identifies as a big chunk of kryptonite standing in the way of a dramatic rescue for the children of America. For example, the film features efforts to reform the school system in Washington, DC, led by Adrian Fenty, the mayor, and Michelle Rhee, his combative schools chief, including a scene where Ms Rhee’s offer to double salaries for teachers in exchange for them giving up tenure and accepting “merit pay” (performance-related wages) is rejected by the unions. Right on cue for the launch of the film, Mr Fenty has just lost his local Democratic Party primary to a more union-friendly rival, so Ms Rhee may well be leaving. The $1m spent during the campaign by the American Federation of Teachers played a crucial role in Mr Fenty’s defeat.

The teachers’ unions have resolutely opposed efforts to pay good teachers more than mediocre ones, to fire the worst performers, and to shut down schools that consistently fail to deliver a decent education. This, coupled with underfunding in poor areas, has resulted in a shortage of good schools; so the few that are worth getting into are hugely oversubscribed, with places allocated by the public lotteries which provide the grim climax to the movie. Ms Rhee upset the unions by refusing to accept all this, closing dozens of schools and firing 1,000 teachers, including the head of her own children’s school.

Hey, teachers! Leave them kids alone

Perhaps the most important thing about “Waiting for Superman” is that it is liberal, Al Gore-friendly types who are highlighting the fact that the teachers’ unions are putting their worst-performing members before the interests of America’s children. Class(room) war may be about to break out within the Democrats. Teachers’ union members are a vocal group within the party; but its rising stars—such as Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, who has just persuaded Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, to donate $100m to improve the city’s schools—are making school reform a priority.

To be fair, the unions are not all bad. As Bill Gates has pointed out, they are taking part in an initiative funded by his foundation to develop new measures of teacher performance, which could be the basis for a form of merit pay. Moreover, he notes, reform cannot succeed without the support of the majority of teachers. Even so, the fact is that the teachers’ unions are the primary obstacle to reform—which presents leading Democrats, and above all, Barack Obama, with a crucial test: will they be willing to confront a core part of their membership in the interests of America’s children? Mr Obama has gone further than many expected in pushing school reform, not least by setting up the Race to the Top competition for additional money. If he has any doubt as to which side he ought to be on, he need only ask that bellwether of public opinion, his old friend Oprah Winfrey. She recently invited Ms Rhee onto her show, where the audience gave her a standing ovation.

Prevent Breast Cancer One Woman at a Time

September 30th, 2010  |  Source:


Evelyn Lauder and Elizabeth Hurley

Elizabeth Hurley and I travel the world together each October and share the message that, as Elizabeth puts so well:

"There is a great deal of misinformation out there about breast cancer. We need to connect with every woman we know -- whether it be a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter or friend. We cannot underestimate the importance of communicating to women everywhere that they need to see their doctors regularly and get a mammogram annually if they are over the age of 40. It's important. Don't leave it for an extra year."


In 1992, I co-created the Pink Ribbon with Alexandra Penney, then editor-in-chief of SELF magazine, and in turn started The Estée Lauder Companies' Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. Today, the Pink Ribbon has become the ubiquitous symbol of breast health, and I'm thrilled to share that, to date, The Estée Lauder Companies has distributed more than 110 million Pink Ribbons worldwide. The 2010 Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign theme is: "Connect. Communicate. Conquer. Prevent Breast Cancer One Woman At A Time. The Pink Ribbon. Wear It. Share It." The Campaign drew its inspiration from The Estée Lauder Companies' heritage, which dates back to 1946, when we reached our consumers through a "High-Touch" method of communication: "Telephone, Telegraph, Tell-A-Woman," and also demonstrates how communication today has evolved and is much more fast-paced. The Campaign visual of a woman's hand over her breast represents how women can take control of their breast health and how we can conquer this disease one woman at a time.

National Literacy Day

September 16th, 2010  |  Source: National Literacy Day

Volunteer USA joins schools and other nonprofits to observe National Literacy Day in September. So what better way to celebrate literacy and learning then by giving away free books!

Thanks to a donation from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, we’ve created a contest for schools, classrooms, libraries and other nonprofit groups to each win FREE books.

The books are great for children between the ages of 4 -8. The five titles include “Monkey and Me,” “Diego’s Wolf Pup Rescue,” “Duck for President,” “When Dinosaurs Came with Everything” and “Romeo and Lou Blast Off.”

Contest Details: On our Facebook page, we want to hear why your school library, classroom or nonprofit really needs the books, what makes you stand out above the rest? Post your idea on our wall by September 30. The first 100 nonprofit folks to post will win 10 free books to add to their libraries.

How Feeding America is Using Social Media in its Virtual Canned Food Drive

September 14th, 2010  |  Source: JustMeans

Instead of opting for a traditional outreach program, Feeding America is taking a different approach in one of its more recent campaigns and is using the power of social media to host a virtual canned food drive. Call it a new spin on an old idea. The goal is simple: help fight hunger by donating to Feeding America, a non profit organization that provides food to 37 million low income Americans every year. To participate one can start a virtual food drive of their own or support someone they know. It's a great way of building a community around an important mission. As an added incentive, Libby's Fruits and Vegetables will match dollar for dollar the amount of donations that are received totaling up to $40,000.

Creating a virtual drive is as easy as clicking over to the Feeding America site and navigating to the start tab. To get started simply choose how much you want to set the donation goal at and register a user name. Anyone who can raise $1500 will receive a years supply of canned goods, however it's up to the food drive creator to set their donation goal as high or as low as they want. Once a virtual drive is created there are options to customize the donation page and send personal email notifications. Every donation page measures how much further it takes to reach the set goal and pays recognition to those who've donated.

Feeding America supports 200 food banks in the United States and distributes more than 2.5 million pounds of food annually. Donating just $15 helps provide 210 meals to needy families and $1 is equal to 9 about pounds of food. In a report produced earlier this year, Feeding America found some surprising statistics:

  • 1 in 8 Americans rely on Feeding America for food
  • 1 in 6 Americans faces issues with hunger
  • Over 16 million children live in households without enough food
  • More than 1/3 of households reported have to choose between food and necessities such as rent and medical care
  • 36% of the households have at least one person in the family working
  • The average monthly income of those surveyed was $940
  • 10% of households were homeless

The need for donations is prevalent. By using social media and having a virtual drive, supporters are encouraged to spread the word via traditional methods and social networks. Feeding America itself is heavily active on Twitter, Facebook, and updates a blog regularly. This month the organization has declared September as Hunger Action Month and challenges followers to look at hunger in a different way every day of the month in September.

I was first informed about Feeding Americas via a tweet from author Christopher Burgess. Click here to help support his virtual food driveThe campaign runs from now until December 13th

The Hasbro Children’s Fund is corporate philanthropy in action

September 9th, 2010  |  Source: Laurance Allen

Hasbro has a long charitable history and has become a leader in corporate philanthropy. 

Here is a sampling of some of the initiatives that Hasbro has conducted in the U.S. and around the world to help children in need through the Hasbro Children’s Fund.

  • Boundless Playgrounds: Hasbro has partnered with Boundless Playgrounds to help communities build playgrounds for children of all abilities. 
    • McCullough Elementary School Boundless Playground
    • Matthew’s Boundless Playground at Give Kids The World
    • HELP Group Boundless Playground (opening late October, 2010)
  • GenerationOn: Hasbro partnered with Points of Light Institute and committed to donating $5 million over the next five years to support generationOn, which focuses on inspiring young people to make a difference through volunteering.
  • Birthday Wishes: Hasbro has brought together Birthday Wishes and Volunteers of America to bring birthday parties to thousands of children living in transitional and homeless shelters.
  • PROJECT ZAMBI: Hasbro launched PROJECT ZAMBI, a global cause initiative dedicated to raising awareness and supporting programs caring for children orphaned by AIDS in Africa.
  • PLAYATHON for Haiti: Hasbro partnered with Youth HandsOn Network to create a nationwide fundraising initiative for kids, which benefited SOS Children’s Villages in purchasing “pop-up” shelters for the orphaned and vulnerable children of Haiti.
  • Additional partnerships include, US Marine Corps Toys for Tots, Operation Smile and Hole in the Wall Camps.

For more see:  Hasbro Children's Fund  at  

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