Ring’s return brings new life for Kansas City homeless man

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Billy Ray Harris returns the diamond engagement ring to owner Sarah Darling. (image: KCTV5)

Billy Ray Harris returns the diamond engagement ring to owner Sarah Darling. (image: KCTV5)

A homeless man who returned a diamond engagement ring to a woman who mistakenly dropped it into his donation cup when she was giving him some spare change now stands to be handsomely rewarded for his selfless act.

A fund set up on GiveForward.com for Billy Ray Harris, the man who was panhandling on the streets of Kansas City, Mo., earlier this month when he received the valuable donation in error, had gotten more than $146,000 in donations as of Monday evening.

“It is good to know honesty still exists despite one’s circumstances which Mr. Harris exemplifies!” wrote one poster, who donated $25. Another who gave $100 added: “People from all over the world salute.”

The donations – more than 6,000 of them in varying amounts – have come in from all over the United States, as well as from Germany, Sweden, Australia, Ireland and other countries. In addition to the congratulations and good wishes that they offered, some donors also urged that Harris receive help to manage the money that was earmarked for him.

Harris himself seemed to be bemused by the outpouring.

“What I actually feel like is, what has the world come to when a person returns something that don’t belong to them and all of this happens?” he said last week in an interview with KTNV-TV, an ABC News affiliate in Las Vegas.

When Harris saw the unintentional donation in his cup on Feb. 8, he kept it safe until its owner, Sarah Darling, returned to ask about it. Her wedding and engagement rings had reportedly been bothering her, so she removed them and put them into her purse, and that’s how they ended up in Harris’ cup, KCTV reported.

News of Harris’ act – and Darling’s gratitude – have spread. KTNV-TV reported that complete strangers have sought Harris out to congratulate him and give him food.

The fund was started 10 days ago by Darling’s husband, Bill Krejci. It will close in 80 days, at which time the money will be given directly to Harris, according to a note on the fund’s web page.

In a note that Krejci posted on the website on Feb. 23, he wrote that he had met with Harris and they had chatted.

This is the ring Sarah accidentally dropped into the coin cup. (image: news.com.au)

This is the ring Sarah accidentally dropped into the coin cup. (image: news.com.au)

“We talked about a lot of things related to my family’s ring and the many donations. We talked about one day in the future the ring may one day be passed down to my daughter. We talked about how insanely positive all this has been. We talked about what he’s planning to do with the donations. The details would be better left for later but know that he has a very solid plan and a very solid way of making it happen,” Krejci wrote.

Another bit of good has apparently come out of Harris’ sudden fame. He and his sister have reconnected after having lost touch more than 20 years ago. She lives in Texas and has reportedly offered him a place to stay with her, KTVN reported. Harris is considering the offer.

[source : http://gma.yahoo.com/homeless-man-returns-diamond-ring-and-wins-big-180658337.html]
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Midway: Message from the Gyre

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Chris Jordan's photographs of bird carcass with stomach full of plastic.

Chris Jordan’s photographs of bird carcass with stomach full of plastic.

Sharing a heart wrenching video I saw from the net. People need to realize what we do to our environment and take the appropriate steps to keep it clean, and in our current situation clean it up.

Do our beautiful earth a favor, start with each self by producing less garbage and manage our waste better. 

The MIDWAY film project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.

We frame our story in the vividly gorgeous language of state-of-the-art high-definition digital cinematography, surrounded by millions of live birds in one of the world’s most beautiful natural sanctuaries. The viewer will experience stunning juxtapositions of beauty and horror, destruction and renewal, grief and joy, birth and death, coming out the other side with their heart broken open and their worldview shifted. Stepping outside the stylistic templates of traditional environmental or documentary films, MIDWAY will take viewers on a guided tour into the depths of their own spirits, delivering a profound message of reverence and love that is already reaching an audience of tens of millions of people around the world.

Production of the feature film “MIDWAY” continues through 2013.
Please go to midwayfilm.com for more information.

For more information:

To donate:

Midway Project blog, team details, production diary videos:

Facebook – behind the scenes photos, latest updates



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Alice Pyne has taught us all how to live

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Alice Pyne (facebook photo)

Alice Pyne (facebook photo)

We can learn a great deal from the all too short life of Cumbria’s exceptional Alice Pyne.

The question is, of course… will we?

A young girl, given dreadful diagnosis of a cancer that would almost certainly claim her life, had every right – at the age of 12 – to retreat into self-pity and dark gloom.

But she did precisely the opposite. Alice moved up a gear in the business of living, kept a smile on her face, vowed to relish every minute and worked to give strength to others similarly blighted by life-threatening conditions.

She listed all the fun experiences she wanted under her belt before death claimed her – ticked them off her bucket list happily, raised £100,000 for charity into the bargain and humbled the powerful, famous and influential with her instinctive, sunny kindness.

Alice was 17 when she died at the weekend. Her mum Vicky described her as having gained her angel wings. She had certainly earned them – probably without realising how richly she’d deserved them.

Thousands of tributes were paid to this youngster on her passing. People she had never known or met felt her loss and knew she had left behind an empty space few others could ever hope to fill.

And there is one of the lessons we, who grumble and complain so routinely and regularly we embrace pessimism as second nature, should be learning from Alice.

This special girl knew the true value of a smile. She accepted optimism as the friend that would see her cheerfully through life – however short – and death.

She has taught that it is not the length of days that matter but what we make of our days that counts.

For those of us who have been at a distance from Alice, watching in amazed admiration as she inspired quietly and intuitively to be better than we are, it’s hard to shed tears for the passing she knew she would face.

Her loss will be deeply painful for her family and friends, of course. But they must know they have been privileged to have been close to an exceptional young woman, gifted with immense wisdom.

For our part, if memory of Alice Pyne’s uncompromising philosophy of eternal sunshine can hold us back from carping and sniping, criticising others – falsely believing it makes us seem clever – we will have learned something life-changing from her short but enlightening time with us.

[source: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/opinion/anne-pickles/alice-pyne-has-taught-us-all-how-to-live-1.1027563?referrerPath=learning_may_2_5657]
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Cassandra Lin – one part cooking oil, one part love

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The unexpected hero, Cassandra Lin (image from www.theday.com)

The unexpected hero, Cassandra Lin (image from www.theday.com)

Twelve-year old Cassandra Lin admires “the unexpected hero.” She loves the YouTube story about a young boy from Malawi who created windmills out of bicycle parts to generate electricity for his village.

“I think that was great,” Cassandra says. “Even though he never finished school, he built windmills. He learned on his own. Nobody expected a Malawian kid to generate electricity.”

And nobody expected a kid from Westerly, RI, to create an award-winning recycling program that generates fuel for the needy in her community. But that’s exactly what this sparkly, no-nonsense seventh grader has done.

To Cassandra, it’s all no big deal. It’s what she does with her friends after school.

The recycling program, called Project T.G.I.F. (Turn Grease into Fuel), encourages residents to bring their used cooking oil to the town transfer station to be recycled. There, a contractor picks it up, along with other grease from local restaurants that also donate oil to the program. A biodiesel company then processes it into biodiesel fuel. All of the team’s proceeds are donated to help heat the homes of needy people in Westerly. To make it work, Cassandra and a team of classmates educated themselves about the biodiesel refining process, made their own biodiesel by mixing cooking oil with methanol and lye with proper protection (“It was very safe, don’t worry,” she notes reassuringly), won two separate youth seed grants and convinced an array of community leaders to come on board with the project.

T.G.I.F. is an outgrowth of the Westerly Innovations Network (WIN), a student community service organization started by her father, Jason Lin, in 2002. And Cassandra is quick to credit her older brother, Alex, as a mentor in the project. Alex is a senior member of WIN and serves as the assistant coach to the group’s junior team. Like his sister, he has earned numerous accolades for his own service initiatives.

Cassandra explains, very carefully, how Alex motivates her: “I don’t want to just follow in my brother’s footsteps, but put my footsteps over his. I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, you’re Alex’s sister.’ I want to make an impact. I want to be better than him, but in a different way.”

As it turns out, a little sibling rivalry has been good for Westerly.

Girl in action: Cassandra Lin - one part cooking oil, one part love (image from www.teenvoices.com)

Girl in action: Cassandra Lin – one part cooking oil, one part love (image from www.teenvoices.com)

The genesis of the T.G.I.F. project is a case study in creative pragmatism, as Cassandra explains it: “We looked at an array of problems to see what we could solve in our own community.” A few important strands came together: she learned about turning cooking oil into biodiesel when she attended the Rhode Island Green Expo in 2008; she knew her local community had a non-sustainable program to provide emergency heating for the needy; and, she heard that local restaurants and residents were pouring fats, oils and grease (FOG) down their drains and clogging up town sewage pipes.

Cassandra and her team puzzled over how to combine these problems to devise a solution. An article she found on Google about SF Greasecycle, a municipal effort in San Francisco to collect and recycle cooking oil, clinched the deal. “All of our problems kind of snowballed together,” she says.

That snowballing is no accident. The different pieces that coalesced to form T.G.I.F. were gathered in by a rare combination of forces: clear-sightedness, logic, and a splash of ingenuity.

Cassandra’s fearlessness lies at the center of these forces. Her mind is eager to apply itself to the world, and she does so with a cheerful, scintillating energy that would motivate the most confirmed nay-sayer.

Innovative people need to be encouraged, she says: “Their family should support them and not inhibit their imagination so that they can be as much as they can be.”

Not surprisingly, Cassandra says her parents have created a nurturing space for her by “cheering from the sidelines, giving good advice, pushing me farther.” She adds, “They also expose me to a lot of things. They always want me to learn something new. My dad gives me articles from Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal to read. We also travel a lot, so our eyes have been open to the world from a young age.”

Cassandra is also aware that her parents have placed limits on certain things, although the reasons are fuzzy.

“I don’t have a Facebook,” she says. “I want one, but my parents won’t let me. And we don’t have cable because my parents think that—. ” She considers for a moment. “I don’t know what they think. They just don’t think that cable is a good thing.”

The mysterious ban on television in the Lin household thankfully doesn’t extend to the Internet, where Cassandra says she gathers important ideas, such as how to make biodiesel.

“It’s really hard to believe that YouTube only started in 2005,” she reminisces. “I was seven. I never really used YouTube until I was like nine or ten.”

Reminded that she herself is on YouTube, speaking as a delegate to the Tunza International Youth Conference held in South Korea last year, she responds like the unexpected hero:

“Am I?”

[source : http://www.businessinnovationfactory.com/iss/innovators/cassandra-lin]
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Caging and abuse allegedly increasing in kopi luwak production

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The civets are almost exclusively fed coffee berries, which they then excrete. This image was taken on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia. (Photograph: guardian.co.uk)

The civets are almost exclusively fed coffee berries, which they then excrete. This image was taken on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia. (Photograph: guardian.co.uk)

Producers of kopi luwak coffee, the $150-plus-per-pound Indonesian coffee harvested from the excretions of cat-like palm civets, are now in the sights of animal rights groups that are alleging abuse.

A report from the UK’s Guardian says representatives of the magazine recently visited a coffee shop in Sumatra in which an adult female civet was kept in a small back-room cage and separated from her two young offspring, while many other cages with unknown contents were kept behind the building.

Here’s more from the Guardian:

Animal welfare groups contend that growing numbers of such civet “farms” are emerging across south-east Asia, confining tens of thousands of animals to live in tiny cages and force-fed a debilitating diet. The Asian palm civet is common, but conservationists claim that related species are sometimes used which are under threat of extinction. The binturong, another cat-like species that is sometimes used to produce Kopi Luwak, is classed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list as “vulnerable”.

Animal rights issues aside, the increase in caged civets for coffee production could also be having a negative impact on Indonesia’s place in the specialty coffee market. According to a recent Jakarta Post report, the surge in worldwide demand for kopi luwak has resulted in an increase in “farmed” beans, with more than 60 percent of the 40 to 50 tons of the coffee produced annually coming from caged animals rather than wild animals.

“The condition of the luwak affects the taste and quality of the coffee. The caged luwak are often left starving and forced to digest both the unripe green berries and the finest ripe red ones,” Wirawan Tjahjadi, owner of the Bhineka Jaya coffee company in Indonesia, recently told the paper.

[source : http://dailycoffeenews.com/2012/11/26/caging-and-abuse-allegedly-increasing-in-kopi-luwak-production/]
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