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  • Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls

    Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee has two powerful stories to tell — of her own life’s transformation, and of the untapped potential of girls around the world. Can we transform the world by unlocking the greatness of girls? Leymah Gbowee is a peace activist in Liberia. She led a women’s movement that was pivotal in ending the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, and now speaks on behalf of women and girls around the world. Why you should listen to her: Liberia’s second civil war, 1999-2003, brought an unimaginable level of violence to a country still recovering from its first civil war (1989-96). And much of that violence was directed at women: Systematic rape and brutality used women’s bodies as fields for war. Leymah Gbowee, who’d become a social worker during the first war, helped organize an interreligious coalition of Christian and Muslim women called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement. Dressed in white, these thousands of women staged pray-ins and nonviolent protests demanding reconciliation and the resuscitation of high-level peace talks. The pressure pushed Charles Taylor into exile, and smoothed the path for the election of Africa’s first female head of state, Leymah’s fellow 2011 Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Gbowee is the co-founder of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa) to promote cross-national peace-building efforts.  

     
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  • Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change

    Thelma Golden, curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, talks through three recent shows that explore how art examines and redefines culture. The “post-black” artists she works with are using their art to provoke a new dialogue about race and culture — and about the meaning of art itself. Opening minds and showcasing new voices — it’s all part of the job description for Studio Museum in Harlem executive director Thelma Golden. Why you should listen to her: Culling an interest in art history from a childhood board game, Thelma Golden knew her dream job even before she knew what to call it. She stumbled upon the title and role she was looking for — curator — at the age of 12, and started up the ladder early, landing at the Whitney Museum in 1991, four years out of college. She was a co-curator of the 1993 Whitney Biennial, a landmark show, hotly debated at the time, that showcased overtly political art made by a significant percentage of nonwhite nonmales. Golden first burst into the limelight as a solo curator with “The Black Male” at the Whitney in 1994. Brilliantly imagined and carefully envisioned (and provoking controversy from a few corners), the show cemented her reputation as a formidable and fearless curator. In 2005, Golden became executive director for the Studio Museum in Harlem, re-dedicating the institution to forward-facing art from all corners of the African Diaspora. She keeps an eye on young and developing artists, while using the Studio Museum to write the history of collecting and art-making in Harlem and around the world. “As a black woman curator in an overwhelming white male art world, Golden has long fostered art that burns with racial and gender issues.”  Joyce Corrigan, Artnet  

     
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  • Krista Tippett: Reconnecting with compassion

    The term “compassion” — typically reserved for the saintly or the sappy — has fallen out of touch with reality. Journalist Krista Tippett deconstructs the meaning of compassion through several moving stories, and proposes a new, more attainable definition for the word. Krista Tippett hosts the national public radio program “On Being” (formerly “Speaking of Faith“), which takes up the great animating questions of human life: What does it mean to be human? And how do we want to live? Why you should listen to her: Krista Tippett grew up in Oklahoma, the granddaughter of a Southern Baptist preacher. She studied history at Brown University and went to Bonn, West Germany in 1983 on a Fulbright Scholarship to study politics in Cold War Europe. In her 20s, she ended up in divided Berlin for most of the 1980s, first as The New York Times stringer and a freelance correspondent for Newsweek, The International Herald Tribune, the BBC, and Die Zeit. She later became a special assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to West Germany. When Tippett graduated with a M.Div. from Yale, she saw a black hole where intelligent coverage of religion should be. As she conducted a far-flung oral history project for the Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey, she began to imagine radio conversations about the spiritual and intellectual content of faith that could open minds and enrich public life. These imagined conversations became reality when she created “Speaking of Faith” (now “On Being”), which is broadcast on over 200 US pubic radio stations and globally by NPR. From ecology to autism to torture, Tippett and her guests reach beyond the headlines to explore meaning, faith and ethics amidst the political, economic, cultural and technological shifts that define 21st century life. Tippett is the author of “Speaking of Faith” and “Einstein’s God.” “In a day where religion — or, rather arguments over religion — divide us into ever more entrenched and frustrated camps, Krista Tippett is exactly the measured, balanced commentator we need. Her intelligence is like a salve for all thinking people who have felt wounded or marginalized by The God Wars.”  Elizabeth Gilbert  

     
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  • Elizabeth Lindsey: Curating humanity’s heritage

    It’s been said that when an elder dies, it’s as if a library is burned. Anthropologist Elizabeth Lindsey, a National Geographic Fellow, collects the deep cultural knowledge passed down as stories and lore. Elizabeth Lindsey is a fellow of the National Geographic Society. Her mission: to keep ancestral voices alive by recording indigenous wisdom and traditions. Why you should listen to her: Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey wants the world to remember the people who came before us. The actor-turned-anthropologist has made it her mission to find, preserve and share the knowledge and traditions of indigenous populations before they disappear. She’s working with Google to create a geospatial Map of the Human Story, using the indigenous science of wayfinding to chart tales at risk of being lost. In 2011, Lindsey, who’s the first female fellow and first Polynesian explorer at the National Geographic Society, will set out on a 186-day global expedition to document what she calls “teachings critical to navigating the complexity of our times.” Lindsey’s 1996 documentary Then There Were None, which chronicled the near-extinction of native Hawaiians, has become a must-see in many history classrooms. She was named Hawaii’s Woman of the Year in 2004. “To have a Native person research indigenous knowledge and practices marks a new era for National Geographic. The society is trying to get away from the image of the white explorer ‘sticking a flag on something.’”  current.org  

     
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  • Marco Tempest: The electric rise and fall of Nikola Tesla

    Combining projection mapping and a pop-up book, Marco Tempest tells the visually arresting story of Nikola Tesla — called “the greatest geek who ever lived” — from his triumphant invention of alternating current to his penniless last days. A magician and illusionist for the 21st century, Marco Tempest blends cutting-edge technology with the flair and showmanship of Houdini. Why you should listen to him: Marco Tempest’s imaginative combination of computer-generated imagery, quick-cut video and enthusiastic stage presence has earned him a place in the pantheon of great illusionists. At 22, the Swiss magician won the New York World Cup of Magic, launching him into international prominence. Tempest’s award-winning television series “The Virtual Magician” airs in dozens of countries worldwide, while his lively phonecam postings on YouTube, done without post-production and video-editing tricks to astonished people on the street, get millions of views (search on “virtualmagician”). His Vimeo channel showcases his artistic side–like his recent hypnotic series “levitation,” using a high-speed camera.  

     
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  • Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion

    Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion We each want to live a life of purpose, but where to start? In this luminous, wide-ranging talk, Jacqueline Novogratz introduces us to people she’s met in her work in “patient capital” — people who have immersed themselves in a cause, a community, a passion for justice. These human stories carry powerful moments of inspiration.   Jacqueline Novogratz founded and leads Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that takes a businesslike approach to improving the lives of the poor. In her new book, The Blue Sweater, she tells stories from the new philanthropy, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aid.   Why you should listen to her:   One of the most innovative players shaping philanthropy today, Jacqueline Novogratz is redefining the way problems of poverty can be solved around the world. Drawing on her past experience in banking, microfinance and traditional philanthropy, Novogratz has become a leading proponent for financing entrepreneurs and enterprises that can bring affordable clean water, housing and healthcare to poor people so that they no longer have to depend on the disappointing results and lack of accountability seen in traditional charity and old-fashioned aid.   The Acumen Fund, which she founded in 2001, has an ambitious plan: to create a blueprint for alleviating poverty using market-oriented approaches. Indeed, Acumen has more in common with a venture capital fund than a typical nonprofit. Rather than handing out grants, Acumen invests in fledgling companies and organizations that bring critical — often life-altering — products and services to the world’s poor. Like VCs, Acumen offers not just money, but also infrastructure and management expertise. From drip-irrigation systems in India to malaria-preventing bed nets in Tanzania to a low-cost mortgage program in Pakistan, Acumen’s portfolio offers important case studies for entrepreneurial efforts aimed at the vastly underserved market of those making less than $4/day.   It’s a fascinating model that’s shaken up philanthropy and investment communities alike. Acumen Fund manages more than $20 million in investments aimed at serving the poor. And most of their projects deliver stunning, inspiring results. Their success can be traced back to Novogratz herself, who possesses that rarest combination of business savvy and cultural sensitivity. In addition to seeking out sound business models, she places great importance on identifying solutions from within communities rather than imposing them from the outside. “People don’t want handouts,” Novogratz said at TEDGlobal 2005. “They want to make their own decisions, to solve their own problems.”   In her new book, The Blue Sweater, she tells stories from the new philanthropy, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aid.   “Acumen Fund is a not-for-profit group (but not a charity) that is supported by investors (not donors) who want a good “social return” on their capital.” Fortune

     
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  • Raghava KK: What’s your 200-year plan?

    Raghava KK: What’s your 200-year plan? You might have a 5-year plan, but what about a 200-year plan? Artist Raghava KK has set his eyes on an ultra-long-term horizon; he shows how it helps guide today’s choices and tomorrow’s goals — and encourages you to make your own 200-year plan too. Raghava KK’s paintings and drawings use cartoonish shapes and colors to examine the body, society, our world. Why you should listen to him: Raghava KK began his career in art as a newspaper cartoonist, and the cartoonist’s bold line — and dead-on eye for truth — still powers his art. His work spans painting, sculpture, installation, film and iPad art, always linked by his challenging opinions on identity, conformity, gender, celebrity, ceremony. (He even views his lavish Indian wedding as a piece of performance art.) His early work as a painter made a complete break with his cartoon career — he painted watercolors on canvas using only his hands and feet. Since then, his work has grown to knit together aesthetics from both worlds, as collage and complication play against flat color and precise lines. He shows in galleries and performance spaces around the world and often collaborates with other artists, most recently with musicians Paul Simon and Erykah Badu.  In 2011, he launched his children’s iPad book, Pop-it, shaking up the concept  of an ideal family. He is currently working on a project that promises to shake up everything! From news to education.

     
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  • Benjamin Wallace: The price of happiness

    Benjamin Wallace: The price of happiness

    Benjamin Wallace: The price of happiness   Can happiness be bought? To find out, author Benjamin Wallace sampled the world’s most expensive products, including a bottle of 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc, 8 ounces of Kobe beef and the fabled (notorious) Kopi Luwak coffee. His critique may surprise you.   Benjamin Wallace is a journalist and author of The Billionaire’s Vinegar, the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of (possibly phony?) wine. He’s been a contributor to GQ, Details, Salon and The Washington Post.   Why you should listen to him:   A Washington D.C. native and a current Brooklynite, Benjamin Wallace is fast establishing himself a master of the brainy nonfiction thriller, rooting up feuds and controversies in pop and less-than-pop culture while buddying up with their embattled and larger-than-life personalities (whom he sometimes meets on their way down). He profiled conserative mouthpiece Glenn Beck for GQ in 2007 shortly after the pundit landed a controversial slot on CNN, and in 2002 looked at chef Georges Perrier of Philidelphia’s then-five-star restaurant, Le Bec-Fin.   Wallace’s orderly, deadpan writing style hints at one of his secrets: his love (and talent) for playing the straight man to the once-mighty in downfall, right as they go aflame in tragicomic hubris. (The Billionaire’s Vinegar is simply a pleasure, not least to schadenfreude junkies.) It’s easy to imagine him, the bespectacled wallflower, watching as brouhaha over a wine bottle once valued at $165,000 — the highest price fetched for a bottle, ever — culimates in a court trial that reveals at least two of its main characters, a wine collector and a wine expert, to be frauds. Or at least emperors with no clothes.   “Ben Wallace has told a splendid story just wonderfully, his touch light and deft, his instinct pitch-perfect.”  Simon Winchester, author, The Professor and the Madman     “Part detective story, part wine history, this is one juicy tale, even for those with no interest in the fruit of the vine. . . . As delicious as a true vintage Lafite.” —BusinessWeek     The Billionaire’s Vinegar tells the true story of a 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux—supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson—that sold for $156,000 at auction and of the eccentrics whose lives intersected with it. Was it truly entombed in a Paris cellar for two hundred years? Or did it come from a secret Nazi bunker? Or from the moldy basement of a devilishly brilliant con artist? As Benjamin Wallace unravels the mystery, we meet a gallery of intriguing players—from the bicycle-riding British auctioneer who speaks of wines as if they are women to the obsessive wine collector who discovered the bottle. Suspenseful and thrillingly strange, this is the vintage tale of what could be the most elaborate con since the Hitler diaries. Updated for paperback with a new epilogue.  

     
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