From the Alzheimer’s section of the Toronto Star, Thursday, January 10, 2008, page U3, part of an article about the warning signs of Alzheimer’s and how to keep your mind healthy:


Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disease. People may think the symptoms are part of normal aging but they aren’t.

Here are some warning signs:

*  Problems with language:

Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s may forget simple words or substitute words, making sentences difficult to understand.

*  Disorientation of time and place:

It’s normal to forget the day of the week or your destination – for a moment. But people with Alzheimer’s can become lost on their own street now knowing how they got there or how to get home.

*  Problems with abstract thinking:

People may have difficulty from time to time with tasks that require abstract thinking, such as balancing a cheque book. Smeone with Alzheimer’s may have significant difficulties with such tasks, not understanding what the numbers mean.

*  Misplacing things:

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer’s may put things in inappropriate places – an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

*  Changes in mood and behaviour:

Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s can exhibit varied mood swings, from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason.

*  Changes in personality:

Personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness oracting out of character.

*  Loss of initiative:

It’s normal to tire of housework, business activites or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s may become very passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.


Here is the section of the article about exercising your brain:


*  Play games to challenge your mind – chess, word and number puzzles, jigsaws, crosswords and memory games.

*  Pursue a new interest, such as learning to play a musical instrument, taking a course or going to the theatre.

*  Break your routine – take a different route to the store or change the order of your morning routine.

*  Read a book – discuss it with a friend.

*  Pursue cultural activities like going to plays, museums, concerts, galleries.

*  Keep up hobbies such as sewing or carpentry, or take up a new one.


From the Toronto Star, Ideas, Week in Review, page ID2, by Daniel Dale:

Barack Obama wasn’t lying about that “change” thing, eh? After two presidential oaths, 10 inaugural balls and one bad Aretha Franklin performance, Obama got down to the business of governing; to the delight of progressives, he began by repudiating some of the most egregious Bush crimes: torture; Gitmo; and ghost prisons. We’ll see about his first 100 days, but his first three were delightful.

For anyone looking for a holiday plus something more, here is a great option – a volunteer vacation.  From the Travel section of the Saturday, February 2, 2008, Toronto Star, front page and pages T8-T9, is this article about the rewards of a vacation based on volunteerism:

Volunteer Vacation – Cook Islands


Painting, helping kids to read is life-changing for hard-working volunteers

Linda Barnard

Toronto Star

Rarotonga, Cook Islands – The commute to work is a 20-minute bike ride along a narrow seaside road, the white beach and the turquoise Pacific on one side, and palm trees, small houses and green mountains on the other.

The workday’s start is announced by the hollow beats of a log drum, and we slip out of our shoes, tuck a flower behind an ear and greet the supervisor with a traditional kiss on the cheek and the words Kia orana, which means “may you live on.”

We are nine women in paradise, aged 30 to 70+ – widows, single, married, from Canada and across the U.S. – who have come to this perfect South Pacific island some 4,500 kilometres south of Hawaii for what would be a life-changing experience for many of us.

Some of us are based in local schools, helping the kids with reading. Others paint walls. Several volunteers help create a school library in a classroom at Takitumu School – to the delight of the principal who had been waiting fror three years for the donated books and was unable to find the time to make the sign-out slips and envelopes and do all the cataloguing.

We all had different reasons for wanting to experience this idyllic spot so far from home, from a notion inspired in childhood, to a fascination with the South Pacific, show tune “Bali Hai.”

But a common goal had brought us here: to have a meaningful holiday, blending tourism with volunteering.

Global Volunteers’ motto is simply to wage peace through service. Like the others in my group who had flipped through the group’s magazine or visited the website, the Cook Islands provided an irrestible draw.

It’s not cheap – the service program fee, which includes simple, shared accommodation, meals, airport transfers and the daily help and guidance of an in-country manager, was $2,395 (U.S.) for three weeks and $2,195 for two, plus airfare. In our case, that meant a flight to New Zealand, connecting to Rarotonga – for me, a 40-hour journey with layovers.

U.S. residents can write off a portion of the program fee and airfare on their income taxes. And while Canadians can’t, Global Volunteers expects to establish an office here within six months, meaning Canadians could soon enjoy the same kind of charitable donation tax break.

Canadian Elaine Bryck, 51, a retired brewery employee who splits her time between Fort Erie, Ont., and winters in Tucson, Ariz., left Bob, her husband of 31 years, at home and went off after adventure in the South Seas.

“I searched the web for an organization that focused on the ‘mature’ participant’,” she says. “When I stumbled upon Global Volunteers and saw they had a program in the South Pacific, I knew that was the one for me. I’ve been fascinated with the South Pacific ever since I was a kid enjoying Tahiti Treat pop at my grandmother’s in Northern Ontario.”

Some of Global Volunteers’ programs have been running for years.

“I often hear people say, ‘I got back a lot more than I gave,'” says volunteer manager Kristina Hill, who is just backfrom a three-week stint in Tanzania. “They learn so much, they grew so much. I really think it’s a great way to travel. You get to a part of the country tourists don’t get to visit.”

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” says Denise Costa, 30, a U.S. defence department employee from Baltimore, who worked at St. Joseph’s School in Rarotonga’s main town, Avarua, teaching young children computer skills.

“But it’s been awesome. It’s been life-changing, that’s for sure. For Americans, when you travel to a typical all-inclusive resort, the only time you leave is on organized tours. You don’t experience the people.”

It’s a vastly different life for city-dwellers – there’s a single, two-lane, 32-km-long ring road that circles the island, and no traffic lights. The entire place closes on Sunday for the Sabbath and you’re not considered dressed unless you wear a flower behind your ear, men as well as women.

Country managers act as guide, team leader and facilitator, combining just the right amount of handholding with room to let us feel we were experiencing the island and integrating on our own. And while we were there to volunteer, there was enough downtime built in to truly make it feel like a holiday.

Our country manager, Taiana Kingston, 47, has spent a year working for Global Volunteers. She did everything from picking us up at the airport (and draping fragrant flower eis – what Rarotongans calls leis – around our necks), to helping us learn snippets of the Maori language, explaining customs and easing us into island life and work with grace and good humour. She also helped us set goals as a team.

After a day of orientation, Kingston took us on a tour of the various work sites to help us choose where we wanted to volunteer. Several schools, the Red Cross, the library and the island’s conservation area were all looking for help. It was so different from home – chickens wandering in the yard at the Red Cross, schools with no interior hallways and barefoot pupils, and the brilliant turquoise ocean forming the backdrop at the playground.

We ate breakfast – fruit, pancakes or omelettes, toast and coffee – and dinner together in a common room at the hotel, and then packed our own lunches before setting off to work. Dinners – delicious, plentiful meals of local fresh fish, chicken or lamb with side dishes and desserts – were sometimes catered by a local resident. Or we went out as a group to eat and listen to music or watch a dance performance at a restaurant.

Lilia Javier, an energetic 70-something retired phys-ed teacher from New York City, was delighted to teach dances from her native Philippines to pupils from St. Joseph’s school. On previous Global Volunteer trips, Javier  has been to Turkey, Poland, China and Ecuador.

“I was bored,” she recalls of what prompted her to sign up in 1999.”I have to be with people. My philosophy of life is joie de vivre.”

Javier, who was my roommate, could often be heard humming “Bali Hai” as she puttered around our kitchen. The island custom of not being really dressed without a flower in your hair delighted her and she often had an exotic bloom tucked behind her ear.

“I came here to know the culture, to be with the locals, to be with the students,” she says.

There was plenty of opportunity for all of that. One night we joined locals from toddlers to seniors at the auditorium for the weekly uru (hula) dance practice. There’s a reason they’re known as the best dancers in the Pacific and we gamely tried to match their movements as a group of drummers and musicians played from the front row of the bleachers.

Soon there was a rhythm to our days. Breakfast and a journal reading from the daily diary we took turns keeping (a wonderful remembrance of the trip), work until about 2 p.m., and afternoons free to explore on our rental bikes, take the bus into town, snorkel or swim. Dinner was a time to gather and talk about the day. And with a 6:50 a.m. call for breakfast, we were in bed early. Weekends were free time.

The opening of the new library made the local news and was celebrated with a huge party where the Global Volunteers were honoured with mounds of fragrant eis piled around their necks.

“This trip was very different from any previous trips I have taken,” Bryck says. “Being involved with the community and immersed in another culture was very rewarding.

“I think of our team goals and how we accomplish them all: to learn from others, develop friendships, support the community, experience personal growth and to have fun.”

Linda Barnard is movies editor in the Star‘s entertainment department.

From the World section of the Monday, January 14, 2008, Toronto Star, page AA3, an article about a message of peace from a soldier:


Childhood story penned by Israeli seized in raid published as kids’ book

Matti Friedman

Associated Press

Jerusalem – Years before he was a soldier seized by Palestinian militants, 11-year-old Gilad Schalit penned a simple parable about how enemies can get along.

His story, When the Shark and the Fish First Met, has now been published as a children’s book that teaches tolerance – while its author, now 21, spends his 19th month captive in the Gaza Strip.

The tank crewman was seized in June 2006 by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip in a cross-border raid into Israel. Two of his comrades were killed in the attack. Secret negotiations on a prisoner swap deal have stalled.

The story Schalit wrote as a fifth-grader in 1997 was published Saturday with its 64 pages illustrated by 29 Israeli artists.

In the story, a shark is about to eat a little fish, but the fish persuades the shark to let him live. Instead, the two play hide-and-seek underwater and become friends.

But their mothers disapprove. “The fish is an animal we eat. Don’t play with it!” the shark’s mother tells him.

“The shark is the animal that devoured your father and brother – don’t play with that animal!” the fish’s mother tells him.

After avoiding each other for a year, the two meet again. The shark says, “You’re my enemy, but shall we make up” The fish agrees, and eventually the two announce their friendship to their mothers.

“Since that day, the sharks and the fish have lived in peace,” wrote Schalit.

One of Schalit’s teachers found the story while cleaning last year and brought it to his family, said Noam Schalit, Gilad’s father.

“This is a message from an 11-year-old kid who believes that even enemies can live together in the end,” Noam Schalit said. “It’s amazing how relevant that is to his situation today.”

Mazal Gabai, Gilad Schalit’s former teacher, told Israel Radio: “I believe that the prophecy will come true, and the two will live together … The message is clear – nothing can happen without dialogue.”

Talks over Schalit’s release have produced no results. Hamas wants Israel to free hundreds of Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis. Israel has refused, though the government has been discussing relaxing its criteria for a prisoner release in order to bring Schalit home.

(News agencies had previously spelled the soldier’s surname as Shalit, but have revised it to Schalit at the family’s request.)

From the January 2008 issue of B Magazine: Beauty & Beyond, January Reminders section, page 10, an article on adding volunteering to your list of resolutions for this year:


By Linda Matarasso

Most of you have already made a list of resolutions for 2008. Is volunteering your time on the list? If not, please put it on. As an avid volunteer for over 10 years, I can recommend the experience. It has made a huge difference in my life. I have met many of my best friends while volunteering, as well as celebrities, EO’s, politicians, and many people who make a difference in the world.

Over the years I have had a wide array of volunteer jobs, from a talent wrangler for award shows, a makeup artist for cable TV shows, fashion shows and short films, a driver, ticket taker, bag stuffer, and green room volunteer for film festivals, an assistant at a silent auction for an AIDS charity … the list goes on. Each has been a wonderful experience that has left me with the desire to keep on volunteering.

Don’t stop financially contributing, but also contribute your time by helping to build a house, cook a meal for a homeless person, sort toys or food for an underprivileged child, assist seniors with daily activities, learn about film and television as a production assistant or film festival volunteer, raise awareness about issues and diseases by handing out flyers  or making phone calls, and assist in administrative duties for many organized charities.

What a great way to try things that you have never tried before, while giving back to the community. Other reasons to volunteer include:

*  Raising awareness for causes or charities

*  Helping people in need

*  Being part of a community

*  Meeting new people

*  Learning hands on skills

*  Networking for future employment

*  Developing long lasting friendships

*  Sense of fulfillment

Help build your resume by developing transferrable skills such as comunication, creative, problem solving, leadership, management and technical.

There are many organizations that are seeking volunteers. You can gear your volunteer activities to either career goals, personal interests or to causes you believe in. You can spend a little time and make a difference. Some of the many issues that need your help are:

*  Women’s Issues

*  Environment

*  Arts and Culture

*  Substance Abuse

*  Children and Youth

*  Health

*  Human Rights

*  Poverty

*  Seniors

*  International Relief

The list goes on. Volunteer your time in 2008 and help change the World while having a lot of FUN!

From the November 2007,  National Geographic, page 154, from an excerpt on Alzheimer’s, an article on how to boost your memory:

Memory Boosters

Keep this in mind: Already some five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, a figure set to triple by 2050 as theU.S. population ages. The result is a huge push to aid the aging brain. Many studies seem to link both mental and physical exercise to a well-oiled memory and less severe age-related decline. But proving cause and effect is hard. People with better brainpower may simply be more active, and some scientists warn that the evidence is slim-to-none in favor of individuals being able to control mental destiny. Still, some actions may be worth the effort:

  • Stress signals  New ressearch supports the long-held belief that distress and anxiety are bad for the brain. A recent report links chronic stress with a mild form of cognitive impairment that can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Mind games Brainteasers have not been proven to fend off dementia. Yet scientists say puzzle away – anything that takes you out of your normal range of thinking (or lightens your mood) can’t hurt. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are options for puzzle haters.
  • Give it a rest  “Poor sleep before or after learning makes it hard to encode new memories,” says Harvard neurophysiologist Robert Stickgold. Data suggest a good night’s sleep improves motor memory up to 30 percent after a lesson (e.g., piano). Leaving six hours between pursuits helps keep one skill from crowding out another.
  • Help your heart  Your brain will likely benefit, too, from a healthy diet (antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries may protect brain cells, aiding memory), regular exercise, and possibly light use of alcohol (a new study indicates a daily glass might slow dementia).
  • Cheat  Keep lists, jot reminders, repeat names aloud. And rely on others. “I just ask my wife,” says Johns Hopkins neurologist Barry Gordon. “She remembers 99 percent of everything. She’s a perfect memory aid.”

From the Amnesty International USA website,  http://www.amnestyusa.org/, under the “What You Can Do Section”, “Online Action Center,” are a list of various human rights issues and the online actions you can take about them,  http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/c.jhKPIXPCIoE/b.2590179/siteapps/advocacy/ActionCenter.aspx:

Urge your Senator or Representative to co-sponsor the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007
Take Action On This Issue

Congress recently introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 (ERPA) (H.R. 4611, S. 2481), a bill that would prohibit the use of racial profiling by federal, state, local and tribal Indian law enforcement. Ask your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor and pass this legislation (or thank them for supporting the bill if they are already co-sponsors).

Sudan: Arrest War Crimes Suspects Now
Take Action On This Issue

Take action today to call on the Security Council to condemn Sudan’s refusal to arrest and surrender Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb to the ICC for trial.

Demand Fair Treatment for Migrants
Take Action On This Issue

International Migrants Day is an occasion to celebrate the contributions made by millions of migrants around the world, and to promote and protect the rights of migrant workers and their families. Show your support for fair treatment of all migrants.

Urge President Bush to publicly call for the release and reinstatement of the Justices of the Pakistani Supreme Court!
Take Action On This Issue

We strongly condemn the assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and need your help to ask President Bush to publicly call on General Pervez Musharraf to immediately restore the constitution and rule of law, and reinstate the independent judiciary. The situation in Pakistan has been deteriorating steadily.

Protest Child Asylum Seekers in Jail
Take Action On This Issue

Children seeking protection from persecution are detained in large numbers in the United States. Ask the U.S. government to treat unaccompanied children fairly.

Call for an investigation into Khalid el-Masri’s ill-treatment and wrongful detention
Take Action On This Issue

German national Khaled el-Masri was detained and mistreated in 2003 and 2004, during which time he was taken into custody by Macedonian authorities. Call on the government of Macedonia to cease cooperation with the United State’s illegal rendition program and to order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into Mr. el-Masri’s arrest and abusive treatment while in detention.

Support LGBT Rights in Indonesia
Take Action On This Issue

On January 22-23, 2007 two gay men were reportedly beaten, kicked and verbally abused by neighbors and then were arbitrarily detained by the police, and taken to Banda Raya police post, where they were subjected to further sexual abuse and other forms of torture and ill-treatment. Amnesty International is concerned that these men were targeted solely because of their sexual orientation and homophobia remains a persistent problem in the police establishment.

Protect the Rights of Trafficked Women in Greece
Take Action On This Issue

Greece has been a transit and destination country for trafficked persons since the early 1990s and has seen a continuous increase in the number of women and girls trafficked and forced into prostitution. The women mainly come from Eastern Europe and Africa. They often believe they are being brought to Greece to make a living but rarely know that they will be forced to work in the sex industry.

Please take action and demand the Government of Nepal investigate the fate of the disappeared
Take Action On This Issue

Sanjiv Kumar Karna, a 24-year-old student in Janakpur was picnicking with a group of friends when he and ten others were arrested by a group of joint security force personnel. They were reportedly brutally beaten before being interrogated.

Call on investors: stand up for human rights in Darfur
Take Action On This Issue

To ensure the speedy and full deployment of a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) in Darfur, Khartoum must hear from key economic interests, including the oil companies that they depend on for revenue. Urge 10 of the top investors in Sudan’s oil industry to take a stand for the people of Darfur.

Accountability for Blackwater
Take Action On This Issue

On September 16, at least 17 Iraqis were killed after personnel of Blackwater Worldwide, a contractor of the U.S. State Department, reportedly shot several rounds from their armored vehicles in Baghdad. This is neither the first time nor an isolated incident of Blackwater personnel using lethal force against Iraqi civilians. Call on Blackwater to take their human rights responsibilities seriously.

Burundi: No Protection from Rape in War and Peace
Take Action On This Issue

Amnesty International recently published a report expressing concern regarding the Burundian authorities’ failure to adequately address the problem of sexual violence against women. Take action now and urge Burundian authorities to prevent and investigate rape, and provide justice to the victims.

Quality Health Care for Native American and Alaska Native Women
Take Action On This Issue

Indigenous women suffer disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence. Yet, there is a lack of accessible medical and response services for survivors. Urge the Indian Health Service (IHS) to prioritize clear programs and protocols for treating victims of sexual violence.

Help Pass the Historic International Violence Against Women Act
Take Action On This Issue

The International Violence Against Women Act will be introduced in the Senate this week. Please ask your Senator to co-sponsor the The International Violence Against Women Act.

Guatemala: Release Key Military Files Now!
Take Action On This Issue

The Guatemalan government is opposing the release of past military files which could contain essential information about war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996). These military documents have been requested by the prosecution in the context of the judicial cases against former president General José Efraín Ríos Montt and other high-ranking officials.

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