Thursday, April 17, 2014

(Un) Mayor Mike's Millionaire Mission

Michael Bloomberg: committed to change
Mike Bloomberg may no longer be mayor of New York City, but his influence is only growing. Yesterday he threw his abundant political and financial capital into one of his greatest concerns –  gun violence in this country.
At 72, he is fueling a ground war to save lives, turning – as conservative groups have done on all kinds of issues – to local and state initiatives, rather than national ones, to promote his cause. Namely, background checks for gun buyers.
“Thirty-one thousand Americans either get murdered or commit suicide with illegal guns,” he said, in making his announcement.
Bloomberg donated $50 million to this cause, through a new non-profit “Everytown for Gun Safety.”
That's more than double the $20 million that the pro-gun rights NRA spent in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
If money can buy elections, perhaps Bloomberg can make inroads into one of the nation’s most contentious, costly, and catastrophic issues.  He hopes to attract more members than the 5 million claimed by the NRA. You can sign up at the site:
That's just a fraction of what Bloomberg is trying to do. 
Check out, and you can see that the unretiring Mayor Mike is putting the muscle of his millions – actually billions – behind issues deeply rooted in his past and psyche.
As he puts it in the section of his website labeled “philanthropy”:

"Mike Bloomberg has always believed in the power of philanthropy to change people's lives for the better. His commitment to giving back -- as a way to improve lives and catalyze societal change -- grew out of the values he learned from his parents and from his experience as an Eagle Scout. Mike Bloomberg has pledged to give away the majority of his wealth to charitable causes he believes in."

How much is that? He’s worth about $31 billion, according to Forbes. So far he’s given away about $3.25 billion.
Recently, in the annual letter of his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, he focused on preventable problems.  "We don't shy away from controversy if we can make a difference." 
In the global arena, the foundation is giving $10 million to prevent drownings in Bangladesh, where 12,000 children a year die falling into shallow pools, often unsupervised. The money will go to funding playpens for 80,000 children ages 1-4.
In January, the foundation made a five-year, $53 million grant to improve fishing practices in Brazil, Chile and the Philippines, thereby boosting the ocean’s health and promoting the supply of fish.
It’s giving $12 million to support medical clinics and midwives in Tanzania to reduce maternal deaths –among the highest in the world – and the resulting catastrophic implications for surviving children.
He’s also joining other foundations and companies funding an initiative of President Obama --  My Brother's Keeper, which supports young minority men.
Other areas targeted by Bloomberg:
--Eradicating polio: $100 million through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, in partnership with the Gates Foundation.   
--Reducing carbon emissions with Sierra Club and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, made up of the world's largest cities seeking ways to reduce global warming;
-- Countering obesity in Mexico, which has one of the highest rates in the world --through support of new junk food taxes in Mexico;
--Cutting tobacco use in low-and middle-income countries --$600 million since 2007, through initiatives to raise taxes, increase warnings, and create smoke-free place;
--Promoting better educational practices, through fellowships for educators and by supporting local candidates, for instance in Louisiana, who endorse reforms.

The efforts go on and on. (The website is like a Russian matryoshka doll, with layers upon layers of initiatives for each topic.)

Yay, Mayor Mike! Never, never retire.

A PS on polio: Last month, the World Health Organization declared polio finally eradicated in India, which had been a major reservoir of the disease. Back in 1999, in a series I edited, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Huntly Collins reported on efforts to eradicate polio in India, a moment in time when we and the WHO thought the disease was about to vanish from the planet, though that goal has been thwarted in war-torn regions. Sadly, the fabulous photos by Peter Tobia are no longer on the Inquirer website, though you can see some here.
Huntly's series in words:


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Snatching Grandchildren -- One at a Time

When my husband and I had young children and were desperate for a break, we could never turn to my parents to babysit.  True, they lived two hours away so it wasn't as if they could just pop on over. But that was about their only excuse.  They had the time and the energy. But babysitting was not their thing.
Much as we yearned for their help from time to time, in one major way,  they made up for it.  When each of their grandchildren turned 10, they took them on a ski trip for a week. The child  would miss a week of school, since their spring break  never landed in  mid march, when the snow was still good and the weather mild.  That's when my parents liked to ski.
More important than the good table manners they learned, more important than the excitement of seeing new places,. More important than nailing ski techniques that would endure a lifetime,  the experience created an indelible bond between each child and Grandma Connie and Grandpa George.
And so, my husband and I decided we would keep the tradition.

We are in the midst  of a ski week with our eldest grandchild, even sharing a hotel room with little privacy. And it is everything we had imagined: a curious, exuberant child, enjoying adventure and happy to be sharing it with us.
Missing is the parental dynamic, one reason George and Connie took the grandchildren -- without us, the parents.
Add in the absence of sibling rivalry -- because there is no sibling there --and you have the makings of a really wonderful vacation.  He wants an extra dessert? Fine with us.  Doesn't want to write in a journal -- his homework --  Oh, well!  We can bend rules in ways that parents can't.
Also, we can foster independence. He's not tied to our umbilical cord. So he's got his own room key.  And if he doesn't eat much breakfast, that will be his problem, not ours.
Such are the joys of grandparenting!  My parents had it all worked out.
A week, of course, will be enough.