Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiration
In a new study, researchers found that breast-cancer patients who had high levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to survive [as] women with low levels. They reviewed five studies that observed more than 4,440 women. “The study has implications for including vitamin D as an adjuvant to conventional breast cancer therapy,” study co-author Dr. Heather Hofflich, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego, said in a press release. The researchers recommend that vitamin D should be added to the various treatments given to women fighting breast cancer. The body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but milk, fatty fish and other foods can also boost production. Patients could also take vitamin D supplements.
Note: This is huge news! Why isn't this exciting development getting more press coverage? Read numerous major media articles revealing potential cancer cures which have received little attention. And see an excellent article with more on the Vitamin D connection.
When Canadian journalist ... Frank Koller published his book Spark: How Old-Fashioned Values Drive a Twenty-First-Century Corporation: Lessons from Lincoln Electric's U, about the profit-sharing model pioneered at Cleveland’s Lincoln Electric, it encouraged Making Sense to return to the manufacturer after first reporting on them back in 1992. Two years later, Koller now updates us on yet another profitable year for Lincoln. Frank Koller: Here are the latest numbers for the Ohio-based multinational welding manufacturer, now 118 years old. 80: uninterrupted years of paying an employee bonus (i.e. profitable every year since 1934). $33,029: average 2013 bonus per U.S. employee (roughly 3,000 employees). $81,366: average 2013 total earnings per U.S. employee (wages or salary + bonus). $100.7 million: total pre-tax profit shared with employees, Lincoln’s largest bonus pool ever. 0: number of layoffs in 2013 (that makes 65 years without any layoffs) #1: Lincoln Electric remains number one in the global marketplace in its industry. These figures once again provide convincing and reassuring evidence that with an unwavering commitment to respecting employees by offering the opportunity to significantly share in the profits of the firm, while demanding their very best, it is possible to run a very profitable, very large, technologically superior multinational business based in North America while also honoring a firm’s obligations to its customers, investors and society at large.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Charlotte and Chase were born October 18, 2006. They were healthy. Everything was normal. The twins were 3 months old when the Figis' lives changed forever. [Charlotte had a] seizure [which] lasted about 30 minutes. Her parents rushed her to the hospital. They did a million-dollar work-up ... and found nothing. A week later, Charlotte had another seizure. Over the next few months, Charlotte ... had frequent seizures lasting two to four hours, and she was hospitalized repeatedly. She was [put] on seven drugs -- some of them heavy-duty, addictive ones such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines. They'd work for a while, but the seizures always came back with a vengeance. At 2, she really started to decline cognitively. In November 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which required the state to set up a medical marijuana registry program. [Then Charlotte's father Matt] found a video online of a California boy whose [seizures were] being successfully treated with cannabis. [Her parents started] Charlotte out on a small dose. By then Charlotte had lost the ability to walk, talk and eat. She was having 300 grand mal seizures a week. The results were stunning. The seizures stopped for ... seven days. [Now] Charlotte gets a dose of the cannabis oil twice a day. [It has] stopped the seizures. Today, Charlotte, 6, is thriving. Not only is she walking, she can ride her bicycle.
Note: There have been plentiful stories of miraculous healing from marijuana, but this may be the first time the major media is reporting it (see links at the bottom of this article for more). That's exciting! We may be seeing a major change here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
They escape from aquarium tanks. They locate underwater mines. Now, a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science claims that dolphins recognized their own name when called. Vincent Janik, one of the authors of the study and a biology researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said that the name is actually a specific type of dolphin vocalization that the animals respond to. "They're these high pitched whistles that have a little bit of a melody," he told ABC News. These sounds are referred to as "signature whistles." Janik and his colleague, Stephanie King, cruised along the east coast of Scotland looking for bottlenose dolphins. After spotting and identifying a dolphin in the wild, the researchers would play one of three different sounds: a modified sound clip of that dolphin's signature whistle, a signature whistle of one of its podmates, or the signature whistle of a completely foreign dolphin. They played the dolphin's own signature whistle and the animal would come up and approach the boat and whistle back. However, the dolphin didn't respond to the other two types of whistles and mostly kept about its business. It may seem odd that the dolphins don't react much to the whistles of their fellow herdmates, but Janik says that copying a dolphin's signature whistle just right is part of their social group. "This copying only occurs between closely associated animals, like between mothers and their calves," he said. Dolphins only need to respond to their own signature whistles, since any socially relevant animal will have learned how to copy it. "It says to them, 'I know that this [whistle] is a friend.'"
Sixteen-year-old Jack Andraka's innovative mind led him to create a new way to detect pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. "I created a new way to detect pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer that costs three cents and takes five minutes to run," he said. After a close friend died from pancreatic cancer, this 16-year-old from Crownsville, Maryland, unleashed his hyper-drive intellect on preventing more cancer deaths. "It's 168 times faster, over 26,000 times less expensive, and over 400 times more sensitive than our current methods of diagnosis," he said. Tinkering in his room and using information readily available online, he came up with a new way to detect cancer. "85 percent of all pancreatic cancers are diagnosed late, when someone has less than a two percent chance of survival. And our current test costs $800 per test and misses 30 percent of all pancreatic cancers," he said. He won last year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The sweet validation came with $100,000 in scholarships, but Jack Andraka's got his eye on even bigger things. "The name of the competition is called the Tricorder XPRIZE," he said. "It's a $10 million prize. Essentially what you have to do is develop something the size of a smartphone that you scan over your skin and it will diagnose any disease instantly." Jack is fielding a team of other high-schoolers to compete against 300 teams of adult scientists and corporations in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition. He says youth is an advantage -- that new eyes are more likely to solve old problems.
Note: Let's hope this invention gets fast tracked and makes it to market. Notice how little attention this exciting development received. To read about many potential cancer cures reported in major media which have not made it to market for financial reasons, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Some world leaders live in palaces. Some enjoy perks like having a discreet butler, a fleet of yachts or a wine cellar with vintage Champagnes. Then there is José Mujica, the former guerrilla who is Uruguay’s president. He lives in a run-down house on Montevideo’s outskirts with no servants at all. His security detail: two plainclothes officers parked on a dirt road. In a deliberate statement to this cattle-exporting nation of 3.3 million people, Mr. Mujica, 77, shunned the opulent Suárez y Reyes presidential mansion, with its staff of 42, remaining instead in the home where he and his wife have lived for years, on a plot of land where they grow chrysanthemums for sale in local markets. His net worth upon taking office in 2010 amounted to about $1,800 — the value of the 1987 Volkswagen Beetle parked in his garage. He never wears a tie and donates about 90 percent of his salary, largely to a program for expanding housing for the poor. His current brand of low-key radicalism ... exemplifies Uruguay’s emergence as arguably Latin America’s most socially liberal country. Under Mr. Mujica, who took office in 2010, Uruguay has drawn attention for seeking to legalize marijuana and same-sex marriage, while also enacting one of the region’s most sweeping abortion rights laws and sharply boosting the use of renewable energy sources like wind and biomass. For democracy to function properly, [Mujica] argues, elected leaders should be taken down a notch. “We have done everything possible to make the presidency less venerated,” Mr. Mujica said in an interview one recent morning, after preparing a serving in his kitchen of mate.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death. I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain. For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states. What I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. Without using any words, she spoke to me. The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true. I knew so in the same way that I knew that the world around us was real—was not some fantasy, passing and insubstantial. “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.”
Note: The author of this stirring account, Dr. Eben Alexander, was a neurosurgeon for 25 years. His engaging book on this life-changing experience is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. For video interviews and other information on Dr. Alexander, see this webpage. And explore other highly inspiring resources and stories related to near-death experiences.
A battle between a class of fourth graders and a major movie studio would seem an unequal fight. So it proved to be: the studio buckled. And therein lies a story of how new Internet tools are allowing very ordinary people to defeat some of the most powerful corporate and political interests around — by threatening the titans with the online equivalent of a tarring and feathering. Take Ted Wells’s fourth-grade class in Brookline, Mass. The kids read the Dr. Seuss story “The Lorax” and admired its emphasis on protecting nature, so they were delighted to hear that Universal Studios would be releasing a movie version in March. But when the kids went to the movie’s Web site, they were crushed that the site seemed to ignore the environmental themes. So last month they started a petition on Change.org, the go-to site for Web uprisings. They demanded that Universal Studios “let the Lorax speak for the trees.” The petition went viral, quickly gathering more than 57,000 signatures, and the studio updated the movie site with the environmental message that the kids had dictated. “It was exactly what the kids asked for — the kids were through the roof,” Wells [said], recalling the celebratory party that the children held during their snack break. “These kids are really feeling the glow of making the world a better place. They’re feeling that power.” Change.org has grown from 20 employees a year ago to 100 now, in offices on four continents.
Note: Never doubt that a small group of committed people can make a big difference. For lots more inspiring new articles like this, click here.
Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator and author, [said that in] his country, ... teachers typically spend about four hours a day in the classroom, and are paid to spend two hours a week on professional development. At the University of Helsinki, where he teaches, 2,400 people competed last year for 120 slots in the (fully subsidized) master’s program for schoolteachers. “It’s more difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine,” he said. Dr. Sahlberg puts high-quality teachers at the heart of Finland’s education success story. Ever since Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million that does not start formal education until age 7 and scorns homework and testing until well into the teenage years, scored at the top of a well-respected international test in 2001 in math, science and reading, it has been an object of fascination among American educators and policy makers. Finlandophilia only picked up when the nation placed close to the top again in 2009, while the United States ranked 15th in reading, 19th in math and 27th in science. In Helsinki, the Education Ministry has had 100 official delegations from 40 to 45 countries visit each year since 2005. Dr. Sahlberg said a turning point was a government decision in the 1970s to require all teachers to have master’s degrees — and to pay for their acquisition. Finland scorns almost all standardized testing before age 16 and discourages homework, and it is seen as a violation of children’s right to be children for them to start school any sooner than 7, Dr. Sahlberg said.
Note: The US continues to push for more testing, while Finland shows that less testing and homework gives better results. For an excellent article on this in the Washington Post, click here. For more astounding facts on Finland's education success, click here.
The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year, to what appeared to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years, a development that was considered puzzling partly because it ran counter to the prevailing expectation that crime would increase during a recession. In all regions, the country appears to be safer. The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States. Small towns, especially, are seeing far fewer murders: In cities with populations under 10,000, the number plunged by more than 25 percent last year. Criminology experts said they were surprised and impressed by the national numbers, issued ... by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and based on data from more than 13,000 law-enforcement agencies. There was no immediate consensus to explain the drop. But some experts said the figures collided with theories about correlations between crime, unemployment and the number of people in prison. Take robbery: The nation has endured a devastating economic crisis, but robberies fell 9.5 percent last year, after dropping 8 percent the year before.
Note: See the U.S. Department of Justice statistics at this link for verification. Why isn't this exciting news making front page headlines? Could it be that the media and powers that be want us to be afraid?
Stoop-shouldered and white-haired at 83, [Gene Sharp] grows orchids, has yet to master the Internet and hardly seems like a dangerous man. But for the world’s despots, his ideas can be fatal. For decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt. When Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement was struggling ... its leaders tossed around “crazy ideas” about bringing down the government. They stumbled on Mr. Sharp. When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago ... among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to “protest disrobing.” Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop ... said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp’s work into Arabic, and that his message of “attacking weaknesses of dictators” stuck with them. He has concluded that advancing freedom takes careful strategy and meticulous planning, advice that ... resonated among youth leaders in Egypt. Peaceful protest is best, he says — not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. “If you fight with violence,” Mr. Sharp said, “you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.” He was struck by the Egyptian protesters’ discipline in remaining peaceful, and especially by their lack of fear. “If people are not afraid of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in big trouble.”
Note: For powerful and inspiring information on the military/industrial complex and what we can do to make a difference, click here.
On Bastoy, an island 46 miles south of Oslo,  residents live in brightly colored wooden chalets, spread over one square mile of forest and gently sloping hills. They go horseback riding and throw barbecues, and have access to a movie theater, tanning bed and, during winter, two ski jumps. Despite all its trappings, Bastoy island isn't an exclusive resort: it's a prison. Bastoy's governor ... describes it as the world's first human-ecological prison — a place where inmates learn to take responsibility for their actions by caring for the environment. Prisoners grow their own organic vegetables, turn their garbage into compost and tend to chickens, cows, horses and sheep. The prison generally emphasizes trust and self-regulation: Bastoy has no fences, the windows have no bars, and only five guards remain on the island after 3 p.m. In an age when countries from Britain to the U.S. cope with exploding prison populations by building ever larger — and, many would say, ever harsher — prisons, Bastoy seems like an unorthodox, even bizarre, departure. But Norwegians see the island as the embodiment of their country's long-standing penal philosophy: that traditional, repressive prisons do not work, and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. Norway's system produces overwhelmingly positive results. Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%. Of course, Norway's ... prison roll lists a mere 3,300 inmates, a rate of 70 per 100,000 people, compared with 2.3 million in the U.S., or 753 per 100,000 — the highest rate in the world.
Note: Why aren't other countries taking heed of Norway's excellent example? Part of the reason is that some companies make massive profits from the prison system. For more on this, click here.
When Jasmine the abandoned greyhound arrived at a wildlife sanctuary shivering and desperate for food, she needed all the love in the world to nurse her back to full health. Now it appears the kindness and patience shown to her has rubbed off – for the ... dog has become a surrogate mother for the 50th time. Seven-year-old Jasmine is currently caring for tiny Bramble, an 11-week-old roe deer fawn found semi-conscious in a nearby field. She cuddles up to her to keep her warm, showers her with affection and makes sure nothing is matted in her fur. She has had plenty of practice, having cared for five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and even 15 rabbits. Jasmine was brought to the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary by the police in 2003, having been found dumped in a garden shed. She was cold, filthy and malnourished. It took a few weeks for her to fully trust staff at the centre but with tender loving care she was nursed back to full fitness. Five years on, Jasmine is now the one looking after stray waifs. Geoff Grewcock, who runs the sanctuary, said: "She simply dotes on the animals as if they were her own, it's incredible to see. She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings. As soon as an animal is brought in, she walks over takes a sniff or two and then licks and cuddles them. It is quite amazing."
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Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity. From there, you can picture roof shingles with solar cells built inside and window coatings that seem to suck power from the air. Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal. That’s the promise of thin-film solar cells: solar power that’s ubiquitous because it’s cheap. The basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, Silicon Valley–based Nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality. The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. Nanosolar’s first commercial cells rolled off the presses this year. Cost has always been one of solar’s biggest problems. Traditional solar cells require silicon, and silicon is an expensive commodity. That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt. Nanosolar’s cells use no silicon, and the company’s manufacturing process allows it to create cells that are as efficient as most commercial cells for as little as 30 cents a watt. "It really is quite a big deal in terms of altering the way we think about solar and in inherently altering the economics of solar," says Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.
Note: For exciting reports of other new energy technologies, click here.
Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans — microcredit — to lift millions out of poverty. "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the Nobel Committee said in its citation. "Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights." Grameen Bank was the first lender to hand out microcredit, giving very small loans to poor Bangladeshis who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed and repayment is based on an honor system. Anyone can qualify for a loan — the average is about $200 — but recipients are put in groups of five. Once two members of the group have borrowed money, the other three must wait for the funds to be repaid before they get a loan. The method encourages social responsibility. The results are hard to argue with — the bank says it has a 99% repayment rate. Since Yunus gave out his first loans in 1974, microcredit schemes have spread throughout the developing world and are now considered a key to alleviating poverty and spurring development. Worldwide, microcredit financing is estimated to have helped some 17 million people. "Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development," the Nobel citation said. Today, the bank claims to have 6.6 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women, and provides services in more than 70,000 villages in Bangladesh. Its model of micro-financing has inspired similar efforts around the world.
Note: Why not reduce involvement in the stock market and invest instead in ending poverty? You still get a return on your investment while knowing that your money is helping to pull entire families out of poverty. To make a real difference in helping to reduce poverty in a dramatic way, see our empowering microcredit summary, which describes how you can easily participate this inspiring worldwide movement.
White blood cells from mice that are naturally immune to cancer cured tumors in other mice and provided them with lifelong immunity to the disease, researchers reported Monday. The finding indicates the existence of a biological pathway previously unsuspected in any species. A small team of researchers is working to understand the genetic and immunological basis of the surprising phenomenon. Preliminary studies hint at the existence of a similar resistance in humans. Researchers hope that harnessing the biological process could lead to a new approach to treating cancer. But Dr. Zhen Cui of Wake Forest, whose team published the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, said he expected rapid replication of the results because the findings were so clear-cut and easily observed. "This is a truly remarkable phenomenon -- and it really needs confirmation from other institutions," he said. The team took white blood cells from the immune mice ... and injected them into mice already carrying a variety of tumors, some of which were extremely aggressive. In every case, the cancers were destroyed, even if the cells were injected at a point distant from the tumor. Healthy tissues were not affected. The mice that received the cells, furthermore, were protected from new tumors for the rest of their lives. The researchers have no idea how the immunity continues.
Note: Why was this not in the headlines and not given a title like "Cancer Cure Found for Mice"? Most major papers didn't even report the story, and an article in the New York Times was titled simply "A Strain of Mice Appears Able to Resist Cancer Cells." Could it be that the power brokers in the medical industry know that a cancer cure would cause huge financial losses for them? For what happened to an incredible scientist in the past who discovered a cancer cure for humans, click here.
A California institute demonstrates how people can actually make their heart beat in a healthier way. HeartMath’s research shows that emotions work much faster, and are more powerful, than thoughts. And that—when it comes to the human body—the heart is much more important than the brain to overall health and well-being. Briefly re-experiencing a cherished memory creates synchronization in your heart rhythm in mere seconds. Using a simple prescription that consists of a number of exercises that anyone can do anywhere in a few minutes ... HeartMath is successfully battling the greatest threat to health, happiness and peace in this world: stress. A successful anti-stress strategy provides results precisely at the moment the stress is experienced. This is what HeartMath does, which is why its client list now includes such leading companies as Hewlett Packard, Shell, Unilever, Cisco Systems, and Boeing. HeartMath ... has published a large body of scientific research in established and respected publications such as the Harvard Business Review and the American Journal of Cardiology. You can learn the techniques in five minutes and get positive results if you do them a few times a day for 30 seconds. Feelings of compassion, love, care and appreciation produce a smoothly rolling ... heart rhythm, while feelings of anger, frustration, fear and danger emit a jagged ... image. When people experience love, they not only feel happy and joyful, but they also produce ... the hormone that prevents aging and gives us feelings of youthful vitality. HeartMath’s slogan – a change of heart changes everything – pretty much sums it up. We can change the world, starting with ourselves.
Note: To visit the inspiring website of the Institute of HeartMath, see http://www.heartmath.org.
Antanas Mockus had just resigned from the top job of Colombian National University. A mathematician and philosopher, Mockus looked around for another big challenge. Mockus, who had no political experience, ran for mayor of Bogotá. Mockus turned Bogotá into a social experiment just as the city was choked with violence, lawless traffic, [and] corruption. People were desperate for a change. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called "Supercitizen." People laughed at Mockus' antics, but the laughter began to break the ice. Mockus ... finished his second term as mayor this past January. The fact that he was seen as an unusual leader gave the new mayor the opportunity to try extraordinary things, such as hiring 420 mimes to control traffic in Bogotá's chaotic and dangerous streets. He launched a "Night for Women" and asked the city's men to stay home in the evening and care for the children; 700,000 women went out on the first of three nights. Mockus sees the reduction of homicides from 80 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1993 to 22 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2003 as a major achievement. Yet Mockus doesn't like to be called a leader. "To me, it is important to develop collective leadership." Most important to Mockus was his campaign about the importance and sacredness of life. "In a society where human life has lost value," he said, "there cannot be a higher priority than re-establishing respect for life as the main right and duty of citizens."
Note: Don't miss the entire, highly inspiring story of political transformation with great photos at the link above, or for a shorter version, click here.
Semco, Brazil's most famous company ... made its name by standing the conventional corporate rulebook on its head. Semco doesn't have a mission statement, its own rulebook or any written policies. It doesn't have an organisation chart, a human resources department or even, these days, a headquarters. Subordinates choose their managers, decide how much they are paid and when they work. Meetings are voluntary, and two seats at board meetings are open to the first employees who turn up. Salaries are made public, and so is all the company's financial information. Six months is the farthest ahead the group ever looks. Its units each half-year decide how many people they require for the next period. Naturally it doesn't plan which businesses to enter. Instead it 'rambles' into new areas by trial, error and argument. Its current portfolio is an odd mixture of machinery, property, professional services and fledgling hi-tech spin-offs. That's right, Semco is the epitome of managerial incorrectness. Sounds like a recipe for chaos, eh? Yet Semco has surfed Brazil's rough economic and political currents with panache, often growing at between 30 and 40 per cent a year. It turns over $160 million, up from $4m when [company founder Ricardo] Semler joined the family business two decades ago, and it employs 3,000 [people]. $100,000 invested in this barmy firm 20 years ago would now be worth $5m. But conventional control attitudes are deeply programmed. Even now, laments Semler, 'we're only 50 or 60 per cent where we'd like to be'.
Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard, has been known to take provocative positions. He has argued that women are intrinsically different from men, that we are more driven by our genes than academics like to acknowledge, and that society is getting less violent over time — despite the mass shootings and other atrocities we hear about daily. The thesis of his latest book, “Enlightenment Now,” is that life on Earth is improving. By every major measure of human well-being, from personal safety to longevity to economic security to happiness, people everywhere are far better off today than they were before the start of the Enlightenment in the 17th century. "I stumbled across data showing that violence had declined over the course of history. The homicide rate in England was 50 times higher in the 14th century than it is today," [said Pinker]. "Like any other news reader, I just assumed that there was as much mayhem as ever. It’s only when you plot it over time ... that you can see the trends. It’s not just in violence that one sees progress, but in poverty, in illiteracy, in access to small luxuries. The percentage of the world getting an education, in gender parity in education - girls are going to school all over the world. Even in ... the world’s most retrograde countries, the rate of female education has increased. It was an epiphany from seeing graphs of human improvement that changed my view of the overall course of history: that progress is a demonstrable fact.
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