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20 posts from April 2008

Quote of the Day (April 4, 2008)

April 04, 2008


"I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.

"Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.

"In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization -- black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

"Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

"For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

"My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: 'In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'

"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

"So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love -- a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

"We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

"But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

"Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

"Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people."

-- Robert F. Kennedy, Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968

Gates Foundation Accepting Proposals for Grand Challenges Explorations

April 03, 2008

Gcgh_frontpageYes, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the biggest philanthropy -- by far -- in the world. But it's also one of the most innovative.

Earlier this week, the foundation announced that it's accepting proposals for the first round of Grand Challenges Explorations, a $100 million initiative designed to encourage bold and unconventional solutions to global health challenges.

According to the foundation, one of the primary objectives of the initiative is "to involve scientists around the world who don't typically work in global health -- [including] innovators in Africa, Asia, and other parts of the developing world; those from complementary disciplines and in the private sector; and young investigators."

The first four topic areas for which proposals will be accepted are:

  • Creating new ways to protect against infectious diseases, including alternatives to traditional vaccination.
  • Creating new drugs and delivery systems to limit the emergence of resistance from developing in the disease-causing agent.
  • Creating new ways to prevent or cure HIV infection that fall outside current research on vaccines, antiretroviral drugs, and other biomedical and behavior-change strategies.
  • Exploring the basis for latency in TB, with the goal of discovering new ways to identify and eliminate latent infection and break the cycle of TB transmission.

Initial grants will be in the amount of $100,000, and projects showing success will be eligible to receive funding of $1 million or more.

Proposals will be accepted through the Grand Challenges Explorations Web site through May 30, 2008; applicants must register their intent to submit a proposal by May 15.

Quote of the Day (April 3, 2008)


"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968

If a Tree Falls...?

April 02, 2008

Antartica_desprendimientoThe extraordinary image to the right shows the fractured edge of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, which abuts the southwestern part of the Antarctic Peninsula (the tail-like feature of the continent that juts northward toward Cape Horn and South America).

(Image courtesy National Snow and Ice Data Center.)

The shelf, a rectangular sheet of ice covering roughly 5,000 square miles (about the size of Connecticut), began to collapse in late February and by last week had lost 160 square miles of ice, or about 3 percent of its mass.

"Block after block of ice is just tumbling and crumbling into the ocean," said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, and the man who first noticed something unusual was happening. "The shelf is not just cracking off and a piece goes drifting away, but totally shattering. These kinds of events, we don't see them very often. But we want to understand them better because these are the things that lead to a complete loss of the ice shelf."

The collapse of the Wilkins shelf had been predicted as early as 1993 by the British Antarctic Survey. "In 1993, we predicted that this was going to be a vulnerable ice shelf," the survey's David Vaughan told the Christian Science Monitor. "But we got the times scales completely wrong. We were saying thirty years at the time, and now it's happened within fifteen."

Indeed, according to the Monitor, two of the ten ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have vanished within the past thirty years, and another five have lost between 60 percent and 92 percent of their original extent. Because the ice shelves are already floating on water, their disintegration is not expected to cause a rise in sea levels. But most scientists attribute the accelerating loss of shelf ice in Antarctica to warmer air and ocean temperatures caused by climate warming.

Meanwhile, the deafening silence from Congress in response to mounting evidence of dramatic, long-term climate change has prompted the Alliance for Climate Protection, which is chaired by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore, to launch a three-year, $300 million campaign aimed at mobilizing Americans to push for aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Said to be one of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history, the "We Can Solve It" (or "We," for short) campaign will combine online mobilization efforts with nationwide television, print, radio, and online advertising; the ultimate goal is to engage ten million supporters in a collective call for action against global warming. Many of you probably saw the segment on 60 Minutes a few days ago in which a relaxed but serious Gore (who is said to be contributing millions of dollars of his own money to the campaign) and wife Tipper explained why this kind of effort at this particular moment was the right way to go. And while my own view is that $300 million is just a drop in the bucket of what is needed to seriously address the climate change problem, it's a start.

Which doesn't mean everyone is dancing in the streets. In a post on her blog, Alison Fine complained about the slick, glossy quality of the "We" Web site. But what really made her cranky was what, for lack of a better word, one might call the smugness of the campaign, at least in its initial phase. "In a truly disempowering sense," wrote Fine

the We campaign already has it all figured out — and all we, the robotic consumer people who don’t look as attractive as the “presenters” have to do is click here, buy this, give them our name and email address and the names and email addresses of our nearest and dearest and the problem will be solved! Hey, ad exec. people making millions of dollars, we regular people may have some ideas of what to do, who to talk to, how to organize ourselves that hasn’t been focused grouped and put into pale colors yet!

Now, that's a legitimate criticism -- especially coming from someone who has labored long and hard in the advocacy and social media trenches. But I say, let's cut Al and his team a little slack. Climate change is a problem of, well...global proportions, and it's going to take millions of people and billions (if not trillions) of dollars and many, many approaches to solve. If Gore is willing to contribute $2.7 million out of his own pocket (or whatever the figure is) to get a real conversation started, more power to him.

What do you think? Is the We campaign a good use of private dollars in the fight against global warming, or is it already a day late and a dollar short? And what about global warming? Is it a crisis -- or just another over-hyped "problem" conjured up by a sensation-addicted media? We're running a poll on that very question over at PND. To vote, visit: http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/.

-- Mitch Nauffts

PND Poll (March 25 - April 1, 2008) -- Results

April 01, 2008

Here are the rather interesting results of last week's (admittedly unscientific) poll:

Should foundations step up their grantmaking for basic needs during economic downturns?

  • Yes (205) -- 86%
  • No (18)  -- 8%
  • Not sure (15) -- 6%


Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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