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An Enlightened Exchange in Iran

By Tina Rosenberg

Associated Press/Enric Marti

A nurse prepares an injection of methadone at a rehabilitation center in Iran.

This is a story about a courageous policy in an unexpected place. In this place homeless shelters have vending machines selling clean syringes for injecting drugs. Drug users are not prosecuted as long as they are in treatment programs. Drug addicts are given clean needles and methadone maintenance therapy ─ available on a widespread basis even in prison. These tactics have worked to reduce crime, lower H.I.V. rates among drug users and keep AIDS from spreading out into the general population. The place is not Amsterdam. It is Tehran.
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Secrets Shared Must Be Handled With Care

By David Bornstein

When I was in Mexico City last month doing research on the Antenas program – the subject of my Fixes column earlier this week — I had the opportunity to sit in Antenas’ room and have a conversation with the animated character used by psychotherapists to communicate with children. I found the effect surprising. Antenas, guided by a therapist named Elsa Molina in the next room, began by asking me simple questions, as he does with all children. Antenas asked: “Why did you come to Mexico City?” I replied, “I’m a writer and I’m doing research.” Antenas asked: ‘What is a writer?’
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A Safe Haven in Cartoon Confidants

By David Bornstein

Antenas por los Ninos

Talking about abuse to Dulas, instead of an adult, has been therapeutic for some traumatized children.

For months, psychologists struggled to reach the eight year old boy in the burn unit of the Pediatric Hospital of Tacubaya, in Mexico City. He had been discovered in the basement of a house, tied to a water tank after being burned along the backs of both legs with a clothes iron by his uncle and aunt, who were later arrested. Every time an adult tried to talk about his abuse, the boy would turn away and repeat, “No, no, no, no.” One day, a therapist said to a colleague, “Nothing is working. Let’s try Dulas.”
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Green Strategies for the Poorest

By Tina Rosenberg

Vestergaard Frandsen

Vestergaard Frandsen

On Tuesday I wrote about the LifeStraw Family, an in-home water purification device. The product itself is interesting, but what I wanted to highlight in the column is how its manufacturer, Vestergaard Frandsen, is planning to make money with it. Not from the poor families who use it — they will give it away in western Kenya. Instead, the company plans to be paid in credits they can sell on the global carbon markets. In this system, credits are awarded to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They may then be then bought by polluting companies or governments to offset their own emissions. LifeStraw Family users no longer have to boil their water to make it safe to drink. Less boiling means fewer emissions.
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Clean Water at No Cost? Just Add Carbon Credits

By Tina Rosenberg

Pieter Bauermeister

Water must be transported by hand when there is an absence of fresh water in villages. These women in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, trek one and a half hours to gather water from Nongoma, a larger town.

In America, I turn on the faucet and out pours water. In much of the world, no such luck. Nearly a billion people don’t have drinkable water. Lack of water ─ and the associated lack of toilets and proper hygiene ─ kills 3.3 million people a year, most of them children under five.

Lack of access to clean water is one of the world’s biggest health problems. And it is one of the hardest to solve. Lots of different groups dig wells and lay pipes ─ but the biggest challenge comes after the hardware is in.
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The Ways of Empathy

By David Bornstein

It seems that just about everybody has had experience with babies or bullies — or both. Which is why the commentary that followed this week’s Fixes column about Roots of Empathy — an organization that decreases bullying by bringing babies into school classrooms — was so rich, personal and detailed. At the end of the column, I asked readers if they had ideas for ways to reduce bullying. Many offered suggestions about organizations, techniques and books (some of which I list at the bottom of this column), but many more readers reflected on their own experiences having witnessed bullying or the surprising effect babies can have on children and teenagers.
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Fighting Bullying With Babies

By David Bornstein

Stop Bulling Now Campaign

The problem of bullying has attracted federal attention. Above, an excerpt from a cartoon in the government’s bullying prevention guide for children.

Imagine there was a cure for meanness. Well, maybe there is.

Lately, the issue of bullying has been in the news, sparked by the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gay college student who was a victim of cyber-bullying, and by a widely circulated New York Times article that focused on “mean girl” bullying in kindergarten. The federal government has identified bullying as a national problem. In August, it organized the first-ever “Bullying Prevention Summit,” and it is now rolling out an anti-bullying campaign aimed at 5- to 8-year old children. This past month the Department of Education released a guidance letter to schools, colleges and universities to take bullying seriously, or face potential legal consequences.
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Doing Good by Default

By Tina Rosenberg

At the end of Tuesday’s Fixes column about changing the default choice from “opt in” to “opt out” for decisions like putting money into a 401(k) account, donating organs or taking an AIDS test, I asked readers to send in their own ideas about where else the opt-out default could be applied for the common good.

Readers had some very useful ideas about how to use a new default to do just this in different fields.
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The Opt-Out Solution

By Tina Rosenberg

Americans don’t save enough. In 2005, Americans’ personal savings rate was negative for the first time since the Great Depression ─ instead of piling up savings, we are piling up debt. According to Financial Engines, an investment advisory firm that has surveyed the 401(k) retirement savings plans of 2.8 million people, only 28 percent of savers are on track to retire on 70 percent of our final salaries ─ and 70 percent may not be adequate to pay for health costs or travel. Worse, only one third of American workers participate in 401(k) savings plans at all.
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