Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seed Savers Exchange Catalog Available for Spring Planting

Founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is now the largest non-governmental seed bank of its kind in the United States. With over 13,000 members, SSE conserves and maintains heirloom seeds for thousands of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Its mission is:
. . . to save North America's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.
Located on the 890-acre Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, SSE is open to visitors from April to October, and sponsors special events such as seed starting, grafting, and gardening workshops. It also hosts an annual conference and campout, which this year will take place July 15-17, 2011 and feature as its keynote speaker, Dr. Vandana Shiva, an internationally renowned scientist, author, and advocate of biodiversity and organic farming.

To learn more about Seed Savers Exchange, visit its website, and download its mesmerizing 2011 Catalog for this year's gardening.

Monday, March 21, 2011

World Poetry Day 2011

Every year on March 21st, UNESCO celebrates World Poetry Day (WPD). The decision to commemorate WPD was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999. On the occasion of this year's WPD, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, stated in her annual message:
Poets convey a timeless message. They are often key witness to history’s great political and social changes. Their writings inspire us to build lasting peace in our minds, to rethink relations between man and nature and to establish humanism founded on the uniqueness and diversity of peoples. This is a difficult task, requiring the participation of all, whether in schools, libraries or cultural institutions. To quote the poet Tagore, the 150th anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated this year, "I have spent my days in stringing and unstringing my instrument. [read more].
Writing a few years before Tagore's birth, the great American poet, Walt Whitman, starts the final section of "Song of Myself," published in Leaves of Grass [1855], as follows:
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me . . . . he
complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed . . . . I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
And concludes with these lines:
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Fail to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you
Note: The Library of Congress has the largest Whitman archives in the world; for further information consult its guide to online resources.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunshine Week 2011

Today brings to a conclusion Sunshine Week for 2011, an annual event which serves to raise awareness of the need for transparent and open government at all levels. Also observed this week was National Freedom of Information Day, which coincides with James Madison's birthday. In 1822, Madison stated:
A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.
Such sunshine laws as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and open meetings laws provide essential legal rights and remedies for citizen access to government records and information. FOIA, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect one year later, created a "right to know" as the basis for access whereas previously citizens needed to demonstrate a "need to know." As Johnson observed at the time:
This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.
Upon entering office on January 21, 2009, President Obama's first executive action was to issue an Open Government Memorandum, which asserted that government should be transparent, participatory, and collaborative. One result of this emphasis on openness was the beginning of the operations of the Office of Government Information Services, which was charged with improving "the Freedom of Information Act process and resolv[ing] disputes between Federal agencies and FOIA requesters." Its latest reports are available online.

Other initiatives include the White House's new Good Government web site and the Department of Justice's FOIA web site, where one can learn more about how to file an FOIA request. Although such activities represent positive steps, the recently released 2011 Knight Open Government Survey finds that only 49 of 90 federal agencies are now complying with FOIA requirements. This is an improvement over the 13 found to be in compliance during the previous year's survey, but still far from acceptable.

For further information, the following resources may be of interest: The National Freedom of Information Coalition; The National Security Archive; The OMB Watch; The American Civil Liberties Union; The Electronic Frontier Foundation; and, for news of international freedom of information advocacy,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kiva Surpasses $200 Million in Microloans

Founded in 2005 as a non-profit organization to alleviate poverty through microloans to small entrepreneurs worldwide, Kiva has just surpassed $200,000,000 in total funds lent to over one-half-million entrepreneurs in 58 countries. Having established a global network of microfinance field partners, Kiva currently has an outstanding repayment rate of 98.63% across all loans. The following is a statistical snapshot as of March 18, 2011:
:: Total value of all loans made through Kiva: $200,366,950
:: Number of Kiva Users: 897,447
:: Number of Kiva Users who have funded a loan: 565,662
:: Number of countries represented by Kiva Lenders: 210
:: Number of entrepreneurs that have received a loan through Kiva: 518,878
:: Number of loans that have been funded through Kiva: 269,141
:: Percentage of Kiva loans which have been made to women entrepreneurs: 81.45%
:: Number of Kiva Field Partners (microfinance institutions Kiva partners with): 126
:: Number of countries Kiva Field Partners are located in: 58
:: Current repayment rate (all partners): 98.63%
:: Average loan size (This is the average amount loaned to an individual Kiva Entrepreneur. Some loans - group loans - are divided between a group of borrowers.): $381.65
:: Average total amount loaned per Kiva Lender (includes reloaned funds): $223.14
:: Average number of loans per Kiva Lender: 6.65
To learn more about how Kiva works and its history, visit its website and consider joining the effort to fund entrepreneurs around the world. The Common Curator has made a number of microloans for projects on several continents.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WFMU Marathon 2011 a Great Success!

Congratulations to WFMU--Freeform Station of the Nation--on its record-breaking fundraising Marathon 2011! Although not quite reaching its goal, it nonetheless brought in over $1.15 million during its annual two-week interval of non-stop audio mirth and mayhem, which will go far in supporting operations for the coming year. More on the station can be found at the WFMU website and in a previous Common Curator post.

Note: The logo shown above was designed by Aaron Taylor-Waldman, and is available as one of the premiums for the Marathon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Centennial of International Women's Day

March 8, 2011
marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day (IWD). First celebrated on March 19, 1911 by more than one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland after a proposal by Clara Zetkin [1857-1933] in 1910 at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, IWD is now observed in many nations throughout the world.

The United Nations first began celebrating March 8 as IWD during International Women's Year in 1975, and in 1977 approved a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace for member states. 2011 will also be the first IWD for UN Women, a new UN entity established in 2010 for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Featured in the video above is Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women. The UN's theme for IWD 2011 is "Equal Access to Education, Training, and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women."