Category: International News

A Village in Thailand Copes with Rising Tides – The Latest Dispatch from the Witness Tree Project

Photographer Carolyn Monastra, a good friend from Brooklyn, recently posted her latest

adventures in recording climate change around the world.  I wrote about her project, The Witness Tree, last year when she

first began her journey – and I wanted to share an update now that she is half-way through her travels.

If you want a riveting first-hand account of how a village in Thailand is forced to keep retreating from rising sea tides,

take a moment to read Carolyn’s latest blog at


The blog includes background information about the artist and how you can support her amazing project.


Tragedy and Friendship – Strengthening the Bonds with Japan

The world is focused on Japan this  month, following the devastating  earthquake, tsunami and on-going nuclear crisis.  My friend Hiroko Tatebe, the founder of an international non-profit,  was in a  hotel in Tokyo when the  earthquake hit, causing damage to a hall in the same building that resulted in injuries and two  deaths. Hiroko is now back in Los Angeles, but she told me in an e-mail that her heart is breaking for the victims and survivors in her homeland.

I met Hiroko when we served on a Board  together for the Los Angeles chapter of a state-wide organization called Women in Business. At the time, she was an executive in the LA office of Dai-Ichi Kangyo, a Japanese Bank, and I was a partner in a woman-owned business that  specialized in public relations for community based businesses and non-profits.  Hiroko was a very dedicated volunteer. We enjoyed sharing storiesabout our families.  She was the youngest of six daughters.  I was also the youngest, with two older brothers – while  my parents were from large farm families where my mother was one of six children and my father one offifteen. I know what it is like to have a large extended family.

Hiroko was eventually promoted to her bank’s Board of Directors, becoming the first woman to attain that level at a Japanese Bank.  Yet Hiroko was very self-effacing about her achievements.  Above all, she wanted to encourage more of her countrywomen to aspire to leadership roles.  She eventually left the bank to start a pan-Pacific non-profit called GOLD –Global Organization for Leadership and Diversity (  GOLD is an organization dedicated  to developing global women leaders and building bridges across the Pacific. She has received many honors for her international efforts.

As  the world’s eyes focus  on Japan in its hour of tragedy, I hope we will remember our commonalities and use this time to strengthen our bonds of friendship.  Hiroko is leading the way.

Lessons on Laughter from Chile

I’m a big believer in laughter as a stress reliever, but I was absolutely  riveted bythe CBS newscast on the heroic rescue of the Chilean miners last weekend when one of the miners credited a combination of faith and pranks for keeping them alive.  Yes, playing jokes on each other as they awaited rescue was one of the ways he said they fought off fear and despair.  The news reporter  also noted that the miners said they made a pact of solidarity that bonded them together through the ordeal.

Most of us will never face as long and frightening an experience as those trapped miners in South America, but few people would deny that we live in crisis-filled times with seemingly little to laugh about.  I started my career in journalism and I remember  one reason that I loved so many of my comrades, starting in journalism school, was because we seemed to find laughter a necessary tool of the trade.   Nowadays corporations and hospitals are recognizing the importance of laughter in relieving stress, and are hiring experts to teach their employees techniques for lightening up.  There are even laughter clubs springing up world- wide and a World Laughter Day in May.

In that spirit, I’m sharing a link to join the free Laughing Buddhas Network, where the goal of my friend, meditation expert Pragito Dove, is to create an epidemic of laughter meditation worldwide! I’m a member and I sure could use more “comrades in mirth” to survive these troubled times! Go to

Young Iranian Vs American Realities in the Headlines

As Iranian youths joined in massive anti-government protests and the martyrdom of a young woman dominated the headlines, this awakening of young voices in the Middle East contrasted with headline stories about American youth on the same day in June.

The New York Times on June 23rd had two front page headlines involving youth acting out against authority and a third on American teenagers taking on reality TV on the Arts page:

Front page: In a Death Seen Around the World, a Symbol of Iranian Protests

Front page: Drug Cartels in Mexico Lure American Teenagers as Killers

Arts Section: Rich Kids, Don’t Look Now, but Your Teenage angst is Showing

The Iranian martyr was a young 26 year old woman whose family said she was not political but whose slow and bloody death was captured on videotape and soon appeared all over the web.  She studied philosophy and took underground singing lessons and was trying to return home with a singing instructor when they decided to leave their car after getting caught in a clash with club wielding forces in central Tehran. She was hit by a shot from the rooftop of a private house, possibly a sniper. Her fiancé said she never supported any particular presidential candidate but wanted “freedom, feedom for everybody.”

Rosalia Reta 19 is a cold blooded killer now serving a 70 year sentence in a U.S. prison.  He is only one of a growing number of impoverished American teenagers recruited by Mexican drug cartels from border towns and trained to kill in the drug wars. Reta was only 13 when he was lured across the Rio Grande from a Laredo, Texas discotheque with promises of fists full of money, fast cars, and sexy women.  Another assassin serving what amounts to a life sentence is Reta’s boyhood friend Gabriel Cardona, 22.  Cardona’s mother said he did well in school and wanted to be a lawyer until his alcoholic father abandoned the family and the teen started hanging out with drug users. If Cardona eventually became the brains of the American recruits, Reta was the most eager to become an assassin.  And yes, he told police, he loved to kill.

Finally, a new reality show called “NYC Prep” highlights what New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley calls “six swaggering rich kids” on the Upper East Side.  She quotes one of the two young men as saying “Everything in New York City is about pulling connections.  It’s who you know, and how much money you have.  And it’s really sad?  And I’m not saying I’m like that?  But that’s what New York is: money is power.”

As Americans watch the protests in Iran and marvel at the brutality of a totalitarian state and the courage of young Iranians speaking up against corruption, they might want to look closer at why some of their richest youngsters are not asking for more meaning than status offers them and why some of their poorest are eagerly telling drug cartels “give me the money” at any cost.