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Archive for March, 2013

Civic for Kids

Civic for Kids

Being together in the same room makes a big difference for Israeli and Palestinian teens trying to build bridges through culture.


Fish Stew with Garlic Toast

From BBC Good Food website: 


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion , sliced
  • garlic cloves , sliced
  • 1 red chilli , finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1kg tomatoes , roughly chopped
  • 200ml white wine
  • 350ml fish stock
  • 3 strips orange zest
  • 1kg skinless halibut fillets, cut into large chunks
  • 500g clams
  • 400g large raw prawns
  • handful flat-leaf parsley , chopped

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A new kind of terrorism: State backed cyber attacks

How willing are people to help each other?

By Nancy Fowler, Beacon arts reporter

12:05 am on Wed, 03.27.13

Winter weather has stretched this year’s chili-eating season into spring. But even after temperatures warm up, chili will continue as a good choice for philanthropists, and those struggling to find enough to eat.

Beginning today, Panera Bread offers its turkey chili in a sourdough bread bowl as a pay-what-you-will item in each of its 48 St. Louis-area stores, including those in the Metro East. The suggested price is $5.89, including tax. Those with financial difficulties can pay less, or even get a free serving — no questions asked.

Those who are able to pay more than the suggested price are encouraged to do so. Even if you order a different menu item altogether, you can donate to the program, called Panera’s Meal of Shared Responsibility. Any money exceeding Panera’s costs will go toOperation Food Search, a local organization dedicated to feeding the hungry.

In 2010, the company debuted its first nonprofit Panera Cares cafe in Clayton. All of its menu items from pastries to paninis are pay-what-you-will. For nearly three years the cafe has been self-sustaining, with any excess money funding a job-training effort for at-risk youth.

Panera subsequently opened four more nonprofits in Detroit, Portland, Chicago and Boston. If the new Shared Responsibility turkey chili program goes well in St. Louis, its expansion into other markets is also possible.

The turkey chili is a nutrient-rich new menu item, according to Panera. It provides 56 percent of the fiber and 34 percent of the protein needed to fulfill the daily minimum requirement for a 2,000-calorie diet. There’s no vegetarian alternative because that would make it difficult to chart the program’s results, according to Kate Antonacci, Panera’s director of societal impact initiatives.

“If we were to substitute it out for anything and everything on the menu, it wouldn’t give us an accurate reading,” Antonacci said.

Panera does not expect to have any issues with large numbers of people who can’t pay, overwhelming its stores in search of a free or low-cost meal.

Food insecurity, defined as a lack of certainty about consistent food sources, is not a constant state for many people, Antonacci explained. In the St. Louis area, more than 45,000 people struggle with hunger at a given time, according to Panera’s figures. This population includes the homeless but it’s also a much wider group, whose needs fluctuate. Many are homeowners with college degrees who are struggling with unemployment.

“If you lose that job, your rent doesn’t go away, your electric bill doesn’t go away,” Antonacci said. “Food is one of the first things to fall off.”

The new program is designed not only to feed the hungry but to start a conversation, perhaps a movement.

“How willing are people in St. Louis to help each other?” Antonacci asked.

What a novel idea!

What a novel idea!

By Mitchell Parker/photo courtesy:

Todd Bol has a background in international business development. More specifically: He used to help developing countries institute social change. He’d always been known to think big and globally. But this man of social generosity couldn’t have expected that, while messing around and building things on his deck one day, a dollhouse-size structure he turned into a free community library would have the global impact it does today. 

Bol’s prototype spawned Little Free Library, a nonprofit that seeks to place small, accessible book exchange boxes in neighborhoods around the world. Users can purchase the boxes directly from LFL’s website, download plans to build their own or completely wing it.

Little Free Library

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The concept is simple: A house-shaped box in a neighborhood holds a few dozen books. Little Free Library community members are invited to share a book, leave a book or both.

The LFL almost always uses recycled materials for the custom libraries it sells online, for an average cost of $250 to $500, but it also offers plans for making your own.

Little Free Library

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Little Free Library

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The idea has taken off, growing from 100 libraries in 2011 to 6,000 libraries in 2013, with 2 million books shared. “By that account, we’ll have 25,000 libraries by the end of the year,” says Bol. 
Little Free Library

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A homeowner or another local steward, like the one shown here, takes ownership of the library, making sure it’s in good shape and that book materials are appropriate for the neighborhood.
Little Free Library

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Little Free Library owners may purchase a charter for $35 that puts their library in the organization’s database and affords them discounts and information about keeping, maintaining and promoting their libraries.

Bol is most proud of the way Little Free Library is bringing communities together. “It’s started a neighborhood exchange. It gets people talking and more comfortable with their neighbors,” he says. “This leads to them helping each other.”


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Almost every library is unique. This one in Northern California was built out of a used wine crate.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

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The libraries work best in neighborhoods where stewards can better maintain the box. “In parks you’ll get a box full of discounts for haircuts and hamburgers,” Bol notes.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

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Little Free Libraries does custom paint and build some of the boxes, even creating memorial libraries for loved ones, like this one in Houston honoring Donald F. Markgraf.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

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And there’s no limit to the possibilities. For this library, also in Houston, the owner added tiny stairs, a drawer handle and colorful Mardi Gras beads.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

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In Pasadena, California, a brightly colored library has major curb appeal.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

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Steak with potatoes and blue cheese

From Kate Merker:

Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 15m| Total Time: 30m



  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 14 to 16 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and using a fork or your fingers, break the potatoes in half.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steaks with 1 teaspoon salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper.
  4. Cook steaks to the desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the blue cheese, vinegar, remaining ¼ cup oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  6. Add the potatoes and lettuce and toss to coat. Serve with the steaks.

By Kate Merker , March, 2010

See Nutritional Information for this recipe »
The Mom Vivant / The Birds by Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

The Mom Vivant / The Birds by Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

By Debbie Baldwin

So last week my family and I were spending an uncharacteristically quiet evening at home. Homework was finished, and Cranky Whiny and Punch inexplicably were not bickering (I wondered idly if they had run out of ideas). Anyway, we were lolling around the family room, watching some vaguely inappropriate crime show when Pebbles, our puggle, hopped onto my lap and settled in. Wow, how Norman Rockwell! I guess every family deserves one night like this…and then I heard the noise.

You see, I had made lamb chops for dinner that night, and after consulting everything from Wikipedia to Google, I came to the controversial conclusion that dogs should not be given lamb bones. That apparently is not an opinion dogs themselves share. So there I sat, dog on lap, clearly aware that she was munching on a bone that she shouldn’t be. I also was aware of the fact that I should probably take this bone away from her. The puppy, however, does not share this sentiment. I weigh my options, and a content dog and quiet family win out. I scratched the puppy behind her ears, and smiled as the kids tried to figure out who the killer on the TV show was—it was almost serene. And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

My husband came home from the office and shattered our familial bliss with one simple horrifying comment: What are all these feathers doing all over the floor? I still. Pebbles—almost sensing the firestorm—hops off my lap and scuttles under the couch. The realization dawns: I have nestled this dog gently on my lap while she quietly lay there and ate a bird.

My long and sordid history—a.k.a. phobia—with birds goes back decades. I think it started when, as a child, I found a colorful bird feather in our yard. My mother smacked it out of my hand, cautioning me that bird feathers are filthy and spread disease.

When I lived in New York City, I was getting ready to go for a run around Central Park one day when a bookishly handsome man wearing a Harvard Medical School sweatshirt started stretching next to me. I was just about to give him the smile/hair toss combo when a pigeon—shall we say—relieved himself on my head. Although in retrospect the pigeon was probably saving me from myself—that guy was way out of my league.

Then, there was the goose incident. Walking into work one spring day at a renowned local performance improvement company, I apparently wandered too close to a nest of hatchlings. I won’t sugar-coat it. I was attacked. The mother goose—quite unlike the sweet lady from the nursery rhymes—chased me across a lawn and into a parking lot biting me soundly on my backside until I beat a hasty retreat to my Honda Accord.

I won’t get into the bird nest in the chimney story—I’m still in therapy. I also did get a very nasty look from a peacock while touring Monticello while in graduate school. He didn’t try anything, but he was thinking about it.

So there I stood in my living room, my dog cowering, my children convulsing with laughter and my husband quickly gathering up the carnage. I rolled my eyes and realized something: I do not like birds; and apparently, they are not too crazy about me, either.

How do children turn out who are raised by Gay parents?

Sandhya Somashekhar has an interesting article in the New York Times that talks about the impact being raised by two parents of the same gender can have on kids.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is widely considered the swing vote, called the topic “uncharted waters.” Conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wryly asked, “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on Proposition 8, the law voters passed in 2008 banning same-sex marriage in California. Listen to the complete arguments in the case known as Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Indeed, gay marriage is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. It has been legal only since 2004, when Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Eight more states and the District have legalized same-sex nuptials since, but it has been banned in 35 states.

Researchers have been delving into the effects of same-sex parenting only since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the studies involve relatively small samples because of the rarity of such families.

Still, there is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents is not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development. What matters more, researchers found, is the quality of parenting and the family’s economic well-being.

“I can tell you we’re never going to get the perfect science, but what you have right now is good-enough science,” said Benjamin Siegel, a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “The data we have right now are good enough to know what’s good for kids.”

Siegel co-wrote a report issued by theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics last week when it came out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The group looked at more than 80 studies, books and articles conducted over 30 years and concluded that legalizing same-sex marriage would strengthen families and benefit children.

The best study, Siegel said, is the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, which began in 1986 with 154 lesbian mothers who conceived children through artificial insemination. A recent look at 78 offspring found that the children did fine — better, even, than children in a similar study involving more diverse families.

Many opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the academy’s conclusions are premature. They point to some recent studies, including one from Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor from the University of Texas at Austin. Regnerus, who could not be reached for this article, found that adults who reported being raised by a person who had a homosexual experience were more likely to be on welfare or experience sexual abuse.

Regnerus has been the subject of intense criticism from mainstream researchers and pro-gay-marriage activists. But opponents of same-sex marriage say his work should provide a note of caution on an issue that has yet to be studied in adequate depth.

“What the social science makes clear, and it has for several decades, is that children tend to do best when they’re raised by their married biological parents,” said Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies for the conservative Heritage Foundation. “In the case of same-sex households, there is not yet evidence that [children] are going to be the same. There’s every reason to believe that different family structures will have different outcomes.”

Susan Brown, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who studies family structures, said it is true that decades of research show that children turn out slightly better when they are raised by their biological parents, compared with those reared by single parents, or in “step” households.

But children raised in committed, same-sex couple-led households do not appear to do statistically worse, she said.

“One thing we’re finding that’s very important for children is stability in their family life,” Brown said. “To the extent that marriage is a vehicle through which children can achieve stability, it only follows that marriage is something that would be beneficial to children.”



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We may not get an assault weapons ban but we may see improved background checks 

Polls show a majority of Americans support Gay Marriage

Polls Show Consistent Gains in Support for Same-Sex Marriage


With the Supreme Court hearing arguments on Tuesday about the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ban on same-sex marriage, a number of recent polls show that a majority of Americans support legalizing it.

A CBS News poll released Tuesday showed that 53 percent of Americans say it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, up from 46 percent in a New York Times/CBS News poll last July.

The poll found that a third of Americans who support legal marriages for same-sex couples said they did not always feel that way and had changed their thinking for a variety of reasons. Among those who changed their minds, one in five said that personally knowing someone who is gay or lesbian influenced them. Other reasons volunteered by respondents included increased tolerance (17 percent) or education (17 percent) and that support for same-sex marriage is the modern way of thinking about the issue (12 percent).

More Americans now report having a friend, family member or work colleague who is gay or lesbian, with 61 percent saying so, up from 44 percent in 2003. Among those with a close relationship to someone who is gay or lesbian, two-thirds support legalizing same-sex marriage; among those who do not know someone close who is gay or lesbian, 56 percent say gay marriage should not be legal.

Support for legalizing same-sex marriage is higher among Democrats (63 percent) and independents (56 percent) than Republicans (37 percent). Among younger Americans support is higher, with nearly three-quarters of those under 30 in support, compared with slightly more than half of those over 65 who say it should not be legal.

The CBS News poll was conducted by telephone from Wednesday through Sunday among 1,181 adults nationwide, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

A Pew Research Center report released last week described the increase in support for same-sex marriage over the last 10 years as among the largest shifts in American public opinion on any policy issue. In 2003, nearly 6 in 10 Americans opposed same-sex marriage, while about a third favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Pew’s recent survey found Americans have shifted substantially on the issue, with 49 percent supporting and 44 percent opposing same-sex marriage.

Other recent surveys have found similar trends, although variations in question wording produce slightly different levels of support among the polls. A CNN/ORC poll conducted March 15 to 17 found 53 percent of Americans said that marriages between gay and lesbian couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages, and 44 percent said they should not – numbers that flipped from 2008, when 44 percent said the law should recognize these marriages as valid.

poll conducted the first week of March by ABC News/Washington Post showed 58 percent of Americans saying same-sex marriage should be legal, and 36 percent saying it should be illegal. Support for same-sex marriage has steadily tracked upward in ABC/Post polls, from 37 percent in favor a decade ago, to a narrow majority supporting legalizing it in 2011.

Fox News poll conducted March 17 to 19 showed 49 percent of voters in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, up from 42 percent last year.

And a Gallup poll found that a slim majority of Americans said they would vote for a hypothetical law giving marriage benefits to gay federal government workers who are legally married. Fifty-four percent of Americans said they would vote for a law providing marriage benefits, including insurance, tax benefits and Social Security to same-sex partners of federal employees, while 39 percent said they would vote against such a law. The poll was conducted March 11 and 12.

All polls were conducted by live interviewers nationwide using landlines and cellphones, with margins of sampling error ranging between three and four percentage points.