The Concoction

An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

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        Friday, April 28, 2006
        Rally for Darfur
        On Sunday 30 April, there are rallies organized in different cities in the US to raise awareness on the situation in Darfur and make polititians do more to stop the on-going genocide.

        Which cities?
        The rallies are organized in 18 cities.

        Virtual rally
        If you cannot physically be in any of the above cities, at least sign this
        petition online.

        Or phone
        Call the white house at 1 800 224 2084.

        Excerpts of George Clooney’s report here

        A gloomier picture
        The UN is cutting food rations in half because of shortage of funding.

        Urgent situation
        Look how fast the situation deteriorates.

        A pathetic Council
        The UN Security Council is allowing a genocide to happen again. With two of its permanent members, Russia and China, keenly eyeing personal benefits from Sudan (2 billion barrels of reserve oil is no joke) no wonder that the Council was dragging its feet to even sanction four people let alone the whole Sudanese government. Time, unfortunately, is running out for thousands of Darfurians.

        What is this veto power nonsense anyway, shouldn’t the Council be run democratically?

        Five nations are permanently represented on the Security Council. They reflect the post-war power structure that held sway when the council was formed.(source)

        Exclusive news flash for the Members of the Council. End of world war:1945. Today is 2006.

        Come to think of it, what business does the Council, an undemocratic body itself, have sanctioning regimes and authorizing war to bring peace and democracy…? Talk about double standards.

        Let’s focus now
        One thing at a time. Go out and do what you can to help Darfur. As we say in Ethiopia, “united yarns/webs can tie a lion” I never thought which one we are talking about until today when I try to translate this into English because there is only one Amharic word,'dir', for yarn and cob web. Hmmmm. Well both are flimsy by themselves to tie a lion, so you get my drift, right?
        posted by Fikirte @ 9:31 AM   0 comments Digg!
        Thursday, April 27, 2006
        Green coffee

        A group of Ethiopian farmers is the first in Africa to win Rainforest Alliance Certification. This award is given for socially responsible and environmentally sustainable agriculture. A Belgian company EFICO has supported the group, and it is now selling the coffee from the 678 Ethiopian family farms.

        Kraft is a major supporter of the Rainforest Alliance, and Kraft = Philip Morris=tobacco. I am not insinuating anything here (yeah, right), but just stating a fact. I have not yet connected the dots between Philip Morris’ anti-smoking campaigns against American Legacy Foundation’s ‘Truth’ campaign, the role of Kraft in all this , its records of GM food production, most importantly, its position about the coffee crisis and how it influences Rainforest Alliance’s autonomy…. I promise I will dig a bit deeper and return to this topic sometime this year (a smiling face here).

        Starbucks’ and Oxfam’s one year fling
        In 2005 the honeymoon between Starbucks and Oxfam/UK came to an end because, according to everybody but Oxfam, of the fierce campaigning against the Starbucks’ chairman, Howard Schultz, pro-zionist stance.

        There is always going to be some uneasiness when a big company and an NGO tango. That easiness becomes an outrage when the company’s social responsibility records are poker dotted with black. Or do they get forgiven for the damage they do with one hand while the other is doing good all in the name of corporate social responsibility?

        Ethipia the origin of coffee
        Oxfam’s coffee shop
        More on sustainable coffee
        I’m glad it wasn’t me being grilled!
        Example of dodgy alliances
        Interesting corporate social responsibility cases
        If you are that motivated to read a 52 page report on Standards and Sustainability in the Coffee Sector
        posted by Fikirte @ 5:06 PM   1 comments Digg!
        Tuesday, April 25, 2006
        "It's the link, stupid"
        The Economist has an interesting article about blogging. The article focuses on how the 'new participatory media' is chaniging mainstream media.

        Newspapers are already feeling the heat from a drop in subscriptions due to blogs. Soon having a roll of newspaper lying by your front yard is going to be considered totally uncool, like using a manual type-writer in this day and age.
        posted by Fikirte @ 11:33 AM   1 comments Digg!
        Saturday, April 22, 2006
        Earth Day

        April 22 is Earth Day. Ironically, the celebration started in the US in 1970 in a response to the worsening situation of pollution in cities. It is ironical because now the US is back pedaling to wiggle out of any real commitment on environmental policies, and succeeding too.

        Earth Day has become a global campaign to save mother earth. Although nothing significant has been implemented, at least people are aware of the issues surrounding global warming and environmental degradation.

        I was eager to read the US governments Environmental Protection Agency’s website to see what is being done at the federal level. It was a very disappointing site because it just gives some lousy information about what people can do at home, in the classroom, at work…. There is nothing about what the government is doing (or at least, planning to do). Let me check again…. Nope. Nada!

        I, foolishly, expected to see some sort of explanation about the mess that Phil Cooney, Bush’s ex-Chief of Staff, has created by altering the reports of government scientists (mind you, he is a lawyer by trade and had no business tweaking scientific reports, and he was an ex-lobbyist for the American Petroleum Association – ke ching, ke ching – and after leaving the Bush administration he has started working for Exxon.) Just imagine having Bin Laden as the Chief of Homeland Security.

        And yet, the EPA chairman, Steve Johnson, has this message for:"Our nation's environmental accomplishments are rooted in our goal to leave the Earth a better place than when we found it. President Bush and I invite you to nurture the health of our global environment by renewing your environmental ambitions this Earth Day." Yes, siree! I will do my part and tell my eight year old to be more persistent in forcing us to wipe our hands on our clothes after washing rather than using paper towel (to save trees). But somebody has to do something about domestic energy policies to help. Won't you agree?

        Even countries like the UK who signed the Kyoto protocol are far from achieving their self-imposed 20% cut (they were required only 12.5%, but it was election year, they got carried away, the were shooting their mouths, and now they are slightly embarrassed). Their problem is that they have competing departments who can’t just get along and get on with it. According to the Economist (April 1-7 2006), the environment department and the Department of Trade and Industry can’t agree over carbon allocations. Also, instead of investing more on scientific research sites, they close down centers in the name of re-structuring. The Guardian has a list of interesting articles on global warming here.

        Awakening interest
        As the dangers of global warming are becoming more and more apparent, the media focus is becoming intense. Time magazine nge (April 3) had a special report on global warning showing a lone polar bear standing on a small strip of ice. Despite last ditch efforts of skeptics (mostly business lobbyists), there is now consensus that global warming is happening and strict regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are desperately needed. Actually, Time has announced that “The debate over whether Earth is warming up is over.” Al Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth is coming out in May. There is even a US coalition of Evangelical Christian leaders formed to do something about global warming.

        Even traditionally right-wing FOX broadcasting company, cannot be quiet about global warming. First, it aired a documentary on global warning under the title The heat is on: the case of global warming in 2005 and the movie Ice Age: the meltdown in 2006. I saw the movie, and I am certain that the greedy squirrel who doesn’t give a damn about the number of holes he’s poking on the ice while chasing the acorn must be representing petroleum and automobile companies.

        Global warming in Africa
        Global warming is already impacting Africa. Droughts are becoming more frequent and prolonged, lakes and rivers are diminishing, malaria outbreaks are expanding to highlands etc. Undoubtedly, the poor are more vulnerable.

        This is directly linked to development aid and poverty eradication efforts. The gang ho about reducing poverty by 2015 should be put in the context of global warming (among other things). There isn't much point begging for money to help against drought while Western environmental policies are contributing to the drought in the first place.

        Time’s list of global warming related topics
        All you want to know about climate changes
        The natural resources defense council (NRDC) information on global warming, and it has been organizing virtual marches (if you inspired enough to do something now.)
        Skeptics also have a comprehensive list of why global warming is just a hype by environmentalists.
        In the beginning there was... The history of global warming
        Science based updates on global warming
        For global warming 101 or Global Warning for Dummies (like energy lobbyists – could not resist that, cheezy me.)
        The Kyoto protocol
        The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
        Earth Day information
        posted by Fikirte @ 2:15 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Friday, April 21, 2006
        Happy Ethiopian Easter

        It is Easter Friday in Ethiopia – so melkam fasika to all! My mouth is watering thinking about what people are going to whoof down on Sunday. This city doesn't even have an Ethiopian restaurant, and I have no intentions of making some fake Ethiopian dish. Viva pizza delivery!

        For everybody else who may be wondering why Ethiopia celebrates Easter now, read on about Ethiopian calendar. And while you’re at it, enjoy reading about Ethiopian time, alphabet, numbers and food. Just for the record, most Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast for 55 days before Easter.

        Ethiopian calendar
        The Ethiopian Calendar has more in common with the Coptic Egyptian Calendar. The Ethiopic and Coptic calendars have 13 months, 12 of 30 days each and an intercalary month at the end of the year of 5 or 6 days depending whether the year is a leap year or not. The year starts on 11 September in the Gregorian Calendar (G.C.) or on the 12th in (Gregorian) Leap Years. The Coptic Leap Year follows the same rules as the Gregorian so that the extra month always has 6 days in a Gregorian Leap Year.

        Ethiopian time
        Being close to the equator, days and nights in Ethiopia have almost the same hours throughout the year. Dawn breaks roughly at 6:30am and night falls around 6:45pm. Therefore, logically (I have been trying to convince people that it is logical), the day starts at 1:00am for Ethiopians (7:00am for the rest of the world) and ends at 12:00pm (6:00pm) and 7:00pm for the rest is 1:00pm for us. Just subtract 6 hours and you’ll get it.

        Ethiopian alphabet
        The Semitic languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic. The Ethiopian languages of this family are derived from Ge'ez, the language of the ancient Axumite Kingdom, which was also the language of the country's literature prior to the mid-nineteenth century, as well as part of most present-day church services. Here is a quick look at what the letters look like.

        Because I have such a loooong name, people in the US feel sorry for me thinking that it must have been so difficult to learn how to spell my name as a child. I always tell them (with some degree of pride and snootiness) that I first had to learn 238 basic Ethiopian letters, spell my name in those letters, then learn the English alphabet. After 238 letters are drilled into me, I am sure learning the 26 English letters was a breeze.

        The simplest explanations for the large number of letters in the Ethiopian alphabet are:

        1. There are more than one way of writing some letters.
        2. The alphabet doesn't not have separate vowels. We add symbols on the root letter to show the seven vowels. There are 34 root letters (going down the alphabet)and seven varieties of the root (horizontal).
        3. There are different letters for explosive sounds.

        To complicate matters further, there are additional 19 special letters representing compound nouns. You can read some cool history of written language here. You can down load Amharic fonts here, and if you need help spelling your name or writing something in Amharic, let me know.
        Here is a history of Ethiopian writing system. Here are all the letters and numbers

        Language age
        Greek (2800 years old)
        Hebrew (2800 years old)
        Latin (2250 years old)
        Ethiopic (1650 years old)
        Phoenician Arabic (1650 years old)
        Armenian (1550 years old)
        Georgian (1550 years old)
        Cyrillic (1050 years old)
        Old English (900 years old)
        Thaana (Dhivehi) (400 years old)

        Ethiopian numbers
        The numbers are as unique as the alphabets. I found an old (2005) blog post about converting Ethiopian numbers into Indian/Arabic numbers here. It is interesting.
        The evolution of numerals Some fascinating stuff.
        The history of zero
        Ethiopian festivals
        The 75 Ethiopian languages Semitic languages
        Ethiopian culture

        Nothing to do with this topic, but just because it is a brilliant idea
        A donkey library
        posted by Fikirte @ 3:14 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, April 19, 2006
        Changing stoves doesn’t make the food taste better

        An African solution for African problems – what a grand idea this is! If only our politicians stop losing it when they come to power, if only they stop suffocating people, if only they stop stealing from the people, if only they stop killing or instigating killing, if only they can be made accountable….

        Several African initiatives have come and gone. The common factor for their failure or incompetence, it appears, is that the internal corruption and ethnic conflicts. However, there are several encouraging stories of ordinary people helping their communities on the way out of abject poverty.

        It’s truly mind-boggling to see money, energy and time wasted on such grand scale all in the name of developing Africa. Just looking at the African initiatives makes one’s head spin.

        The clumsy
        The Organization of African Union (OAU) was a good vision by Africans to unite Africa for socio-economic, political, promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms and “the removal of the remaining yokes of colonialism and apartheid on the continent.” This was a vision in the 1950s, and it has remained a vision. I cannot find one example where the OAU has positively contributed to Africa.

        You’d think that on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the organization, a list of we-did-this-we-did-that-and-we-kicked-butt would dominate the speech of the African Union’s chairman. Suspiciously, such bragging is missing – nothing to do with modesty - from Mbeki’s (South Africa) 2003 speech during the 40th anniversary of OAU. He went from admiring the founders straight to the “new challenges” for the organization. Nothing in between?

        In 1960's after independance, the organization was bustling with new ideas and activities.
        Nkrumah and a few other visionaries in Africa realised that the most effective way to develop Africa and Africans was to involve the state in economic activities in order to ensure that there was fairness in the distribution of the benefits from national income and growth. The new states, therefore, invested heavily in social services, particularly education and health. Huge investments also went into the building of economic infrastructure such as roads, ports, communications facilities and factories. In Ghana, the number of primary schools increased from 154 360 in 1951 to 481 500 in 1961 (211.9%); middle schools increased from 66 175 to 160 000(141.7%); secondary and technical schools increased from 3 559 to 19 143 (437.8%); teacher training colleges from 1916 to 4552 (137.5%). In 1951 there were only 208 university students in Ghana. In 1951 the number had increased to 1 204 (478.8% increase). In the health sector, number of hospital beds increased from 2 368 in 1951 to 6 155 (160% increase); rural and urban clinics increased from 1 to 30; doctors and dentists from 156 to 500 (220.5% increase). There were similar investments in transport, communications and electricity. Tanzania, Zambia and other countries followed the same path after they achieved independence.

        Then the energy evaporated and the commitment died - corruption is the culprit.

        Good thing that there are no defeatist attitudes within the organization and the continent. When the going gets tough, the tough changes its name. African Union (AU) has been the new boy’s club in town since 2002. I’m wondering if shortening the name is supposed to make it less clumsy. The AU is supposed to accelerate the integration of the continent while its visions and structure stayed the same as OAU. The Constitutive Act of the African Union states that the new body is committed to focusing on growth and development, democracy, and peace. And the OAU’s was,,,?

        The focus of OAU was
        • OAU Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) and the Final Act of Lagos (1980); incorporating programmes and strategies for self reliant development and cooperation among African countries.
        • The African Charter on Human and People's Rights (Nairobi 1981) and the Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action on Human rights: two instruments adopted by the OAU to promote Human and People's Rights in the Continent. The Human Rights Charter led to the establishment of the African Human Rights Commission located in Banjul, The Gambia.
        • Africa's Priority Programme for Economic recovery (APPER) - 1985: an emergency programme designed to address the development crisis of the 1980s, in the wake of protracted drought and famine that had engulfed the continent and the crippling effect of Africa's external indebtedness.

        So how different is the AU?

        The confused
        The legitimate child
        Then OAU gave birth to NEPAD (The New Partnership for African Development).
        Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa are the fathers. Poverty is the number one objective of NEPAD and good governance its number one principle.

        Since its inception in 2001, NEPAD has been confused in what it is supposed to do and particularly what it has achieved.

        “It recognises that many of Africa's problems are the result of poor leadership and aims to set up a mechanism by which leaders on the continent can scrutinise each others' performance.” I don’t think there is any point of scrutinizing if the idea was Mbeki (South Africa) style scrutiny of Mugabe (Zimbabwe) – hear evil, see evil, but say nothing.

        The surrogate brother
        The Commission for Africa is the surrogate brother of NEPAD. With some commitment to the majority of Africans, and political will the AU could do what the Commission for Africa set out to do. The duplication of organizations cannot answer Africa’s problems. As we say in Ethiopia, changing stoves does not make the food taste better.

        The neglected
        While big shots are flying around the globe attending one summit after the other, patting each other on the back and basically talking fancy stuff, ordinary African’s have rolled up their sleeves to get busy.

        An Ethiopian who set up a mobile library in rural Ethiopia using a donkey.

        A Kenyan high school principal is breaking the cycle of aid dependency by teaching his students to be self sufficient in food production. These students go back to their villages and teach others.

        A Malawian farmer is teaching people how to feed themselves despite poverty and harsh climates “using just hoes and shovels, he's built an elaborate gravity-driven irrigation system …and inch-deep trenches.”

        Farmers in Kenya are “turning to marula tree (elephant tree) farming as a way of fighting rural poverty.”

        South African priests are busy battling HIV/AIDS by distributing condoms and raising awareness while a Tanzanian traditional healer is cooking up some herbs and roots to fight infections associated with AIDS

        Kid-powered water pumps action=magazine.article&issue=Soj0602&article=060210 in South Africa and elsewhere are helping women reduce the distance and time that they have to cover to fetch water.

        An Ethiopian heart surgeon gives back to his community.

        Wangari Maathai’s speech is an excellent summary of what is wrong in Africa and what should be done. Her website has more information on her and her work.

        There are many more such examples than a Google search reveals, and these the people who fill the huge gap in Africa. The grandparents who are caring for children orphaned by AIDS, the women who pick up the pieces of wars and conflicts, teachers who get paid in kind by villagers in rural areas, health workers who volunteer to care for the sick… Although very little seems rosy in Africa, there are heart warming examples of resilience, compassion and rich culture
        posted by Fikirte @ 8:39 PM   1 comments Digg!
        Saturday, April 15, 2006
        Science shaping linguistics
        Science is making some well known and old proverbs outmoded. I imagine my grand and great grandchildren saying “What was that about?” when they hear these proverbs.

        Fish out of water

        Belgian scientists found an eel catfish in West Africa that preys on bugs on land. In 2004, American paleontologists found fossil in the Canadian Artic of an animal which shared characteristics with both fish and land animals. They believe that this was the ‘missing link’ in the evolution theory of fish.

        In light of these findings, proverbs like fish out of water and a place for everything and everything in its place (well, not anymore if fish come out of water to eat) are already meaningless. I am going to think of animals creeping out of water when I even hear the more the merrier (imagine killer whales and sharks roaming on land in search of food – creepy!). Birds of the same feather flock together sounds dubious now as well (next, may be some birds staying longer in water to fish and turn into fish in millions of years from now).

        Judas’ kiss

        The ultimate traitor and villain for 1,600 years, Judas Iscariot, is now a hero. After being kicked around the globe since it was discovered by farmers in some cave in Egypt in 1970s, the Gospel of Judas is redefining the meaning of Judas’ kiss. This kiss is not about betrayal anymore, but it is about doing the ultimate out of love and respect.

        Now this discovery is going to disturb a lot of things – is it going to be included as part of the Bible and instead of 66 books there are going to be 67? Are the books of Mark, Matthew and Luke which mention Judas’ betrayal going to be edited? Is the Gospel of Judas going to be accepted or rejected? If rejected, the saying the show must continue will have a new meaning (and I’m so going to church tomorrow!) More on Judas here.

        A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

        This must be in the good old days when man-triggered animal extinctions were rare and not very well known. Habitat loss and alteration are the main threats to birds. Gallery of endangered birds here and endangered birds around the globe here

        Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face

        This is surely before plastic surgery. Jacko the man has single handedly made this proverb redundant.

        The earth doesn’t shake when a flea coughs (Austrian)

        Obviously this is before global warming and globalization. Now somebody in the US drives an SUV, and somebody else in Indonesia gets slammed by tsunami.

        Don’t count your chicken before they hatch

        Imagine a mother hen sitting on her eggs for hours on end to hatch them. I’m sure this saying came from that an o...ld era. Now chicken are genetically tweaked to grow faster and perhaps tweaked even further to lay a certain amount of eggs in their life time. To order eggs online (for next Easter), click here.

        April showers bring May flowers

        These days it floods the damn place, too. From drought to flood in April. I blame global warming, so that’s the connection to science here.

        Lightening never strikes twice in the same place

        Roy Sullivan must turn in his grave when he hears this expression.

        Former Park Ranger Roy "Dooms" Sullivan never did. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Sullivan bas the dubious distinction of being the most lightning-struck person ever recorded. Between 1942 and his death in 1983, Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning seven times. The first lightning strike shot through Sullivan's leg and knocked his big toenail off. In 1969, a second strike burned off his eyebrows and knocked him unconscious. Another strike just a year later, left his shoulder seared. In 1972 his hair was set on fire and Roy had to dump a bucket of water over his head to cool off. In 1973, another bolt ripped through his hat and hit him on the head, set his hair on fire again, threw him out of his truck and knocked his left shoe off. A sixth strike in 1976 left him with an injured ankle. The last lightning bolt to hit Roy Sullivan sent him to the hospital with chest and stomach burns in 1977. Sullivan could never offer any explanation for this strange and unwelcome electrical attraction.

        Updating a language

        Does a group of linguists update the English language regularly like they do in The Netherlands or are these sayings going to remain? I would say replace these proverbs already and build a hi-tech museum of old sayings with cool audio-visual presentations. For example, show a fish coming on land to prey on bugs and it stays longer and longer out of water. The longer it stays out of water, the more some parts of its body change and he eventually turns into human. Then you see him on the street in some city, and he overhears a woman saying “…fish out of water…’ He stops abruptly, (close up of his face), his brows knot, (close up of his hands) he makes a fist with white knuckles and he slowly turns around and says to the woman “Who are you calling freak?”

        I hope I won’t be haunted by this fantasy tomorrow at church.

        Proverbs from around the world
        posted by Fikirte @ 10:18 AM   1 comments Digg!
        Friday, April 14, 2006
        Facts about aliens

        Cartoon credit: My own daughter
        The first page of her comic strip

        Immigrants are the subject of this post – not the sci-fi, one-eyed creatures flying some hi-tech flying object.

        I am compelled to write about the current immigration drama because it is exciting to find the occasional balanced view on such politicized and dramatized topics.

        The Internet is full of sites that argue on both spectrum of the immigration debate. Happy Circumstances has a post on some extreme views against illegal immigrants. On the other hand the Christian Monitor has a very balanced article showing the economics of the illegal immigrant debate.

        What caught my attention is some interesting facts in the lengthy article in Time magazine (April 10, 2006), which I find very enlightening. In an article entitled Should they stay or should they go? by Karen Tumulty, we get the real issues beyond the deafening ship-them-out-and-close- the-boarders or they-are-stilling-our-jobs noise.

        1. “The politics of immigration is becoming so tricky for the GOP. The business interests [$$ching, ching$$] in the party base don’t want to disrupt a steady supply of chep labor for the agriculture, construction, hotel and restaurant industries, among others.” pg. 32

        2. “Bush is keen to preserve for Republicans the gains that he is credited with having made among culturally conservative but traditionally Democratic Hispanics, who gave him 40% of their vote in 2004 and are believed to have been crucial to his re-election. …Florida Senator Mel Martinez, a Republican, warned his party last week that it risks losing ground with ‘individuals who share our values on so many different issues.’ pg. 36

        3. [Congressional Republicans] are short on tangible accomplishments in this midterm-election year. pg. 36

        In a related article (in the same magazine) Lisa Takeuchi Cullen and Daren Fonda provide some facts about aliens’ economics (pg. 43).

        1. “Immigrant labor is a drag on wage growth, thus keeping a lid on inflation and interest rates. As a result, prices for goods and services are lower, and citizens can purchase more.”

        2. As consumers they, spend 80% of what they earned in the US. “University of North Carolina found that Hispanic residents, 45% of whom were undocumented, contributed $9.2 billion in spending to North Carolina’s economy in 2004.”

        3. “’No credible estimate exists that [shows] immigrants cause unemployment,’ says James Smith, a senior economist at the Rand Corp.

        4. Illegal aliens offering cheap labor takes away jobs from native high school drop outs, according to Harvard economist George Borjas.

        5. “Through 2002, illegals paid an estimated $463 billion into Social Security.” And they gain “almost nothing” out of this.

        Bottom line

        Politicians and businesses have a huge stake in all this.$$
        posted by Fikirte @ 2:38 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, April 12, 2006
        Cautious drumrolls for Gordon Brown’s education initiative
        Finally, somebody pledges money earmarked for education. Just education. The UK Finance Minister, Gordon Brown, has pledged $15 billion for education in developing countries, mostly in Africa. This is, according to NPR, “the biggest global education initiative” ever.

        It is a significant step because it breaks away from the traditional blanket development aid where resources are stretched so thin to a point where their impact is a drop in the ocean of Africa’s poverty. I think it is important to earmark development aid for specific areas for effectiveness. There is a valid reason why countries have different ministries – finance, agriculture, information, education, etc. I don’t understand what the logic of NGOs is trying to be everything everywhere. There is no Ministry of All in some weird country, is there?

        Politically, it is good for the UK to pioneer such an initiative and shame the other G8 members into being serious about what they might have been bragging regarding “ending poverty” in the last G8 meeting last July. After all more people were aware of this summit thanks to rock star poverty and development buddies.

        It also puts a spotlight on one of the neglected basic human rights – the right for education. If you think about it, development theories were screaming for investment in education since the early 1960s. Human Development, social capital, sustainable development, empowerment all have education at their core. This is of course if education is broadly defined to include ‘informal education’.

        Enter caution zone

        The main reasons for my cautious cheering are because I am afraid that
        a) the definition of education is going to be limited to formal education
        b) therefore the major beneficiaries are going to be city/town dwellers
        c) and transparency and accountability issues are going to once again be overlooked.

        Education re-defined

        I will not at all be surprised if only formal education is considered worthy of some of this new cash at Africa’s disposal. For example, would a project trying to raise awareness on HIV transmission be considered as possible guarantee of this fund? This is not some fantasy project I cooked up. In Uganda school kids are helping in redesigning the curriculum to incorporate AIDS awareness in the formal education. Given the fact that there is a huge need for AIDS awareness in Africa where even a Minister (I am assuming that he is educated) says that he has taken a shower to protect himself from HIV infection. Would ‘education’ include teaching people how to participate in political and policy decision making processes? This obviously crosses into political domain (although I believe that even food distribution is political) Therefore, are NGOs who would probably funnel this new money prepared to cross this line or still trade carefully not to be too political and offend their host governments? Poverty Action Network Ethiopia, for example is at that cross road already.

        Ethiopia’s political environment remains difficult, particularly since the disputed elections in May 2005, so that engaging in advocacy is a challenge. Both the membership and the government are clear about PANE’s remit, so that it has not been affected by political arguments. The network is now focusing on strengthening the regional chapters, and on encouraging members to ensure their capacity to engage in the policy process continues to grow.

        The core of my musing goes to the development vs. westernization debate.
        Western development thinking has been insisting adamantly that poor nations have to catch up with the West. Such thinking has been the basis for development aid practices. This is the context in which the $15billion dollar is pledged, and I will not be surprised if ‘education’ is confined to its traditional definition and more chalkboards and simplified hymn books start pouring to ‘teach’, for example, children of pastoralist in South East Ethiopia.

        Rural illiteracy remains?

        If education is limited to formal teaching (in schools and with already established curriculum) then towns are going to be the main beneficiaries. More attractive education in towns would encourage more urbanization which would amount to more neglect of rural areas. I would be surprised to see more schools built in rural areas because that does not yield instant gratification (as if development is about instant gratification.)

        Billions of dollars have been pumped in Africa through development aid and loans from World Bank and IMF. Unfortunately, there is much to show for it. Where is the money going is I think a legitimate question at this point. Even if money is not actually missing, there is also the question of efficient use of resources. Tim Harford has an excellent piece on ‘shocking waste’ from his first hand account in Cameroon where an impressive new library building is just that – an impressive building – which cannot even house books because the open book shaped roof was damaged by rain before even the books were transferred into the building. With such horror stories with aid development money abound, it is hard to be gleeful of more money. I do not mean to be an ungrateful bitch here, but just stating a fact.

        Still nagging voices

        Regarding transparency, my previous rants about corruption withstanding, I can only hope that there is going to be some sort of mechanism in place to ensure that every penny is spent on education – not Land Cruisers for the Minister of Education, not more allowance for the supervisor or any other non-sense. If there is no such mechanism, then the people of Africa are going to get $0 at best or go into a deficit of $5billion. I reached at this conclusion through this complex mathematical problem.

        Estimated input for Africa $10billion (just an arbitrary number)
        Amount stolen from Africa every year by its rulers $15 billion
        Therefore, $10billion - $15billion = -$5billion

        Trust me, if I figure this out so could Gordon Brown.

        It is such level of corruption that has kept Africa poor, and it is way past the time to address this problem. Adrew Dowden of Royal African Society has this excellent article entitled Only Africans can help Africa. It talks about money that flows out of Africa and into personal accounts in Europe. Corruption is not some sort of conspiracy theory or some improvable problem. The UN has already passed a convention against corruption and survey results
        are available for all to see. Based on this convention's Asset Recovery section,Transparency Institute has already started the effort to reclaim stolen African money by calling upon Western governments to help.

        Invest in Africa, end conflicts and promote democracy seem to be the easy that most people are advocating. We are also told that African development should not take decades. Along with revisiting the development thinking in the West that dictates development aid, putting African poverty in context is also necessary. By the way, the two are linked. Tunde Obadina of African Business Information Services goes in detail why measuring development in terms of GDP and GNP is dodgy because it ignores informal sectors all together. It is also dodgy while measuring developed nations economic performance because such system does not take into account the damage done by ndustrialization. He argues that this dodgy economics goes beyond disguising the real situation.

        Getting a more accurate picture of the size of African economies will give us a better perspective on the challenge facing African governments and development agencies. The exaggeration of the wealth gap between Africa and the West has the effect of making the prospect of Africans achieving a standard of living comparable to what exist in the West seem almost impossible. When faced with GDP data that suggest that their nations are a century behind developed countries, Africans understandably feel overwhelmed or defeated by the enormity of the task of catching up, and some opt for personal short-cuts to the higher living standards.

        More links related to development issues

        Ranting for development

        African perspectives: Africa past, present and future

        Putting African poverty in perspective

        Commission for Africa
        New Partnership for African Development
        posted by Fikirte @ 5:48 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Sunday, April 09, 2006
        Bloggers contribution to newspapers' next evolution
        Knowledge@Wharton wrote an interesting e-article on the current status of newspapers. The newspaper business has been suffering decline in circulation and stock prices, and part of it is due to online news and bloggers. "To remain competitive in the coming years, these scholars say, daily newspapers will have to strengthen their efforts to attract younger readers, make more imaginative use of the Internet, and develop stories, mostly local in nature, that better meet the needs of readers who have thousands of news and information sources at their fingertips."

        Race against time

        Ancient law on a wall, Greece
        Photo credit: Me, Myself & I

        Racing to deliver the news first is becoming tough for newspapers. According to Michele Weldon, a Professor at Medill School, newspapers should evolve into narration and human stories. Furthermore, they have to make all this interesting to younger readers. Lordy, lordy!

        "Newspapers will never win the time race," Weldon says. "By the time readers get their papers, they pretty much know the news, and newspapers have already been beaten by TV, radio and bloggers."

        Bloody bloggers!

        Some funny remarks against newspapers (in the article)

        - if you go away for a few days, piled up newspapers outside your door attract burglars,
        - they have been around for 400 years - so time to die?
        - too slow
        - are useless these days because wrapping fish with newspaper is so yesterday
        - readers have to bother with recycling them

        Read the whole article here.
        posted by Fikirte @ 9:41 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Friday, April 07, 2006
        100 days in hell: remembering genocide victims in Rwanda
        Today is National Mourning Day in Rwanda (genocide remembrance day).
        In 1994, upto 800,000 Tutsies and 'moderate' Hutus were killed in the genocide that lasted 100 days. I wish remembering those who were brutally masacered and the survivors who still carry the physical, emotional and psychological scars could make the world a better place so that their death and sufferings are not in vain.

        The 'never again' promise that echoed after the Holocust is proving to be an empty vow as we still allow genocides to happen. Darfur is happening today while the world cannot even decide whether to call it genocide or not, while NATO is waiting for the African Union to formally request its help, while it is not clear who is going to be responsible after the UN temporarily takes the responsibility of peace keeping from the AU... What a load of crap!

        I will save my ranting for another post. Here are some informative links about the Rwandan genocide.

        Convention on genocide
        Bystanders to genocide
        Testimonials of survivors
        Chronology of events
        Ten years on
        Guilty of by standing
        Rwanda today
        Women of Rwanda building the future
        ...the orphan who adopted me


        Rwandan genocide in a historical context
        Humaniterial failure">Humanitarian failure


        Hotel Rwanda
        Shooting Dogs
        In Rwanda we say...

        The future

        The beautiful side of Rwanda

        Division is created by bad leadership. The Rwandan government is fighting against segregation. This gives me hope. I do have hope in the future. The most important thing everyone asks for is peace – even if you have only a little to eat, to be able to eat it in peace. Even though I’m old, I ask for peace and I have it now. I am sad, but I have peace. I’m in a peaceful country. (Rwandan Servivers' blogsite)
        posted by Fikirte @ 1:17 PM   1 comments Digg!
        Thursday, April 06, 2006
        My to do list for cooperation this World Health Day
        Today (April 7) is also World Health Day, and these year's theme is 'working together for health'. So what better way than starting commemorating the day by sharing some information about health issues affecting Africans and do a extreme comparisons.

        Just a quick observation

        It is hard to reconcile the fact that thousands of people in Africa die each year of stupid things like diarrhea and mosquito bites (malaria) and in America you cannot run fast enough not to avoid taking pills for the littlest things. Even in your own house, pharmaceutical companies continue to haunt you every commercial break on TV. A pill to fall asleep (instead of warm milk and a book), a pill to wake up (instead of a cold shower and real coffee). A pill for restless feet (instead of walking/jogging), a pill for heart burn (instead of cutting out junk food). These commercials are so shameless that they even make fun of eating vegetables and fruits instead of taking a simple pill. There is even medication to dry the nose out during a bad cold!!! My daughter was prescribed that the other day, and I left the doctor's office half laughing and half shaking my head. What happened to blowing the nose or simply do what translates from Ethiopian as 'slurping soup'- sucking it in?

        More gloom and doom

        Chronic diseases which include cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory infections, are what developing countries have to deal with. Urbanization (city life in polluted environment and easy access to fags), industrialization (being lazy and no daily work out through farming)and globalization (easy access to junk food)are the explanations that the Population Reference Bureau gives. Is the question going to be to modernize or not to modernize? Or is there going to be a healthier way of modernizing for Africans?

        The New York Times has information on polio and cholera.

        A list for pharmaceutical companies to choose from

        African Trypanosomiasis (“sleeping sickness”): African trypanosomiasis is spread by the tsetse fly, which is common to many African countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 450,000 cases occur each year. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headaches, joint pains, and itching in the early stage, and confusion, sensory disturbances, poor coordination, and disrupted sleep cycles in the second stage. If the disease goes untreated in its first stage, it causes irreparable neurological damage; if it goes untreated in its second stage, it is fatal.

        Cholera: Cholera is a disease spread mostly through contaminated drinking water and unsanitary conditions. It is endemic in the Indian subcontinent, Russia, and sub-Saharan Africa. It is an acute infection of the intestines with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Its main symptom is copious diarrhea. Between 5% and 10% of those infected with the disease will develop severe symptoms, which also include vomiting and leg cramps. In its severe form, cholera can cause death by dehydration. An estimated 200,000 cases are reported to WHO annually.

        Dengue: WHO estimates that 50 million cases of dengue fever appear each year. It is spread through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Recent years have seen dengue outbreaks all over Asia and Africa. Dengue fever can be mild to moderate, and occasionally severe, though it is rarely fatal. Mild cases, which usually affect infants and young children, involve a nonspecific febrile illness, while moderate cases, seen in older children and adults, display high fever, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rash. Severe cases develop into dengue hemorrhagic fever, which involves high fever, hemorrhaging, and sometimes circulatory failure.

        Malaria: Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that affects 300–500 million people annually, causing between 1 and 3 million deaths. It is most common in tropical and subtropical climates and is found in 90 countries—but 90% of all cases are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of its victims are children. The first stage consists of shaking and chills, the next stage involves high fever and severe headache, and in the final stage the infected person's temperature drops and he or she sweats profusely. Infected people also often suffer from anemia, weakness, and a swelling of the spleen. Malaria was almost eradicated 30 years ago; now it is on the rise again.

        Measles: Measles is a disease that has seen a drastic reduction in countries where a vaccine is readily available, but it is still prevalent in developing countries, where most of the 777,000 deaths (out of 30 million cases) it caused in 2001 occurred. Symptoms include high fever, coughing, and a maculo-papular rash; common complications include diarrhea, pneumonia, and ear infections.


        Influenza: Several influenza epidemics in the 20th century caused millions of deaths worldwide, including the worst epidemic in American history, the Spanish influenza outbreak that killed more than 500,000 in 1918. Today influenza is less of a public health threat, though it continues to be a serious disease that affects many people. Approximately 20,000 people die of the flu in the United States every year. The influenza virus attacks the human respiratory tract, causing symptoms such as fever, headaches, fatigue, coughing, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches.

        Schistosomiasis: Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease that is endemic in many developing countries. Roughly 200 million people worldwide are infected with the flukeworm, whose eggs cause the symptoms of the disease. Some 120 million of those infected are symptomatic, and 20 million suffer severely from the infection. Symptoms include rash and itchiness soon after becoming infected, followed by fever, chills, coughing, and muscle aches.

        Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis causes nearly 2 million deaths every year, and WHO estimates that nearly 1 billion people will be infected between 2000 and 2020 if more effective preventive procedures are not adopted. The TB bacteria are most often found in the lungs, where they can cause chest pain and a bad cough that brings up bloody phlegm. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, appetite loss, chills, fever, and night sweats.

        Typhoid: Typhoid fever causes an estimated 600,000 deaths annually, out of 12–17 million cases. It is usually spread through infected food or water. Symptoms include a sudden and sustained fever, severe headache, nausea, severe appetite loss, constipation, and sometimes diarrhea.

        Tackle one, tackle all

        International Food Policy Research Institute:
        POLICIES TO PREVENT EPIDEMIC CHRONIC DISEASESPlans to prevent epidemic chronic diseases involve not only public health, but also finance, agriculture, manufacture, employment, development, trade, transportation,, and education. Any public policy may enhance or harm people's health. For this reason, all public policies should be examined in light of their possible effect on public health, as illustrated by these examples.

        Health. Major chronic diseases are prohibitively expensive to treat. Strategies to reduce the incidence of chronic disease should be a vital part of national health-care planning. Strategic policy action plans with quantified targets for specified time periods should include financial projections. Judging from the experience of some countries, effective strategies can significantly reduce health care costs.

        Agriculture. Many if not most current agricultural policies that affect price, such as research priorities and production and marketing subsidies, make unhealthy foods artificially cheap and healthy foods relatively expensive. New policies should encourage the production and marketing of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and a variety of other foods of plant origin, and decrease support for the production of fat and sugar and fatty, sugary foods and drinks. Many developing countries have abundant supplies of fruits and other foods of plant origin. Plans to prevent chronic diseases should emphasize the value of traditional farming and food systems as well as encourage food technologies that are beneficial to human health.

        Manufacturing. Much food is still preserved by using salt and sugar and by converting oils into hard fats. Food supplies with substantial amounts of hard fat, sugar, and salt increase the risk of many chronic diseases. Industry should be encouraged to preserve the nourishment in perishable foods by using healthy processing methods, whether traditional, well-established, or relatively modern. Such methods include drying, fermenting, bottling, refrigerating, and vacuum-packing.

        Transportation. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of a number of major chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, colon cancer, and osteoporosis. But people who live in cities are usually sedentary. Urban planning and transportation policies can make cities safe places in which to enjoy physical exercise, such as walking, cycling, and other sports and recreational activities. Such policies also can make public transport an attractive alternative to private automobiles.

        World Health Organization
        Research on Ethiopia
        posted by Fikirte @ 11:51 PM   1 comments Digg!
        The world asked Ethiopian villagers

        Here is what the world asked villagers in Moyale regarding the drought in South Eastern Ethiopia.

        The answers clearly show factual discrepencies at all levels. There is obviously a huge gap between the central government's version of development and what people in the village conceive as development, HIV/AIDS awareness in villages and towns, the needs and help available (I couldn't help chuckling while reading about LVIA, an Italian NGO, building an abattoir - what do I know? May be there is a need for it)and 'free market' principles and the trade restrictions which affect villagers in Moyale. I was really surprised to read a comment from Addis Ababa, the capital, that some people in the capital have not heard of the drought in the South.

        The politics of food aid has not escaped the participants either. Adan Aliyo has this to say about it.

        Those helped in the Somali region got 15kg The aid is coming from the government's DPPC (Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission) and the sacks have European Community and USAid written on them.

        Just a thought here
        Wouldn't it be something if development agencies follow the BBC's example and do such kind of discussions with villagers before they design their projects?
        posted by Fikirte @ 3:03 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Cartoon with a real purpose
        Here is a great idea from Norooz,a cartoon production company, which aims at educating children about cultural diversity while entertaining. Watch the news clip (you have to first suffer the commercial and it will start automatically.)

        What a great idea!And, no wonder they won the NYU Stern Business Plan competition in 2005.

        The first production, Babak and Friends, is about the Persian culture. Norooz is planning to expand their coverage by including other cultures from Asia and Africa. Shabnam Razaei, co-founder of Norooz, mentioned a ceremony on Norooz, Iranian New Year's day where people jump over fire to symbolize leaving bad feelings/energy behind. In Ethiopia, Meskel (the finding of the true cross)ends with a same ritual for the same reason. Norooz, like Ethiopian New Year which is in September, is also a celebration of the beginning of new life after winter.

        Here is a description of Meskel

        Meskal has been celebrated in the country for over 1600 years. The word actually means "cross" and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The original event took place on 19 March 326 AD. but the feast is now celebrated on 27 September.

        Photo credit:

        Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskal, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskal Flowers, are placed at the top. During the night those branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited - This symbolizes the actions of the Empress who, when no one would show the Holy Sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three roses. To one of the three, on the True Cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.

        Meskal also signifies the physical presence of part of the True Cross at the church of Egziabher Ab, the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located 483 kms north of Addis Ababa in Wello administrative zone. In this monastery, there is a massive volume called the Tefut written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434 - 1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the cross was acquired.

        During this time of the year flowers gloom on mountain and plain and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskal eve in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskal daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called "Chibo" are used to light the bundle called "Demera".

        Some of the Ethiopian jewelry and architecture resemble that of India and Yemen. The tropical museum in Amsterdam displays (at least 10 years ago, it did) Ethiopian artifacts between the Iranian and Indian artifacts because of their similarities (trust me, I asked why Ethiopian stuff is not in the African section and that was the answer I got). The intricate Ethiopian art on jewelry is, for example, very similar to Indian art. An Indian friend of mine always used to be so sure that my bracelet was from India and I used to ask her where she got her Ethiopian ear rings from? Given Ethiopian's old trade relations with the middle East, this is no surprise. Wanadoo tells us that a 5th century temple in Tigre, N. Ethiopia, resembles buildings in Yemen.

        I describe to American's how Ethiopian food the wot (stew) and Injera (the crepe-type of thin bread)is similar to Indian curry and nan bread. Check out this site for reviews of Ethiopian restaurants in the US (I dare you to go and try the food if you have never done so before. And, let me know if you are not hooked instantly.)If you feel adventurous and would like to impress your friends and family, here are some recipes for you. My Puerto Rican friend, speaking from experience, has asked me to remind you that "What goes in, must definitely come out" so easy with the berbere (chili powder) or the morning after is going to be hot. Good luck!

        Isn't it sad though that we miss the beauty of our similarities while we focus on our differences?

        Interesting links

        Norooz, Iranian New Year

        The people behind Babak & Friends

        Ethiopian festivals
        posted by Fikirte @ 10:51 AM   0 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, April 05, 2006
        Ask a drought victim in Ethiopia

        This is a rare chance to chat online with drought victims in Ethiopia. Here you can get the information on how to use your laptop/PC to get first-hand information from villagers affected by the current drought. They will be answering questions the whole day on April 6. So hook up with them, and learn what it is like to live in a drought stricken village in Ethiopia.

        Thanks BBC!
        posted by Fikirte @ 11:59 AM   2 comments Digg!
        Tuesday, April 04, 2006
        Sleaze without boarders: Abramoff to save Sudan’s reputation?
        This post was supposed to be about the news that the Sudan government has prevented Jan Egeland, the UN’s top humanitarian guy, so that he wouldn’t witness the conditions of some 200,000 refugees from Darfur in neighboring Chad. While googling to see if there were more coverage of this news by others, I stumbled across this rather disturbing news on Los Angeles Times online.

        Abramoff, a sleazy lobbyist who is accused of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, is said to have offered his services to help the Sudanese government improve its tarnished reputation in the US. His former associate and the Sudan’s ambassador to the USA, Khidir Haroun Ahmed, and Abrafoff’s spokesperson, Andrew Blum all admit that the conversations definitely taken place.

        Khidir Haroun Ahmed, Sudan's ambassador to the United States, said in an interview that Abramoff proposed a multimillion-dollar lobbying contract in late 2001 but that the proposal was "never seriously considered" by the Sudanese. He declined to elaborate.

        Abramoff is notoriously known to lobby on behalf of anybody who would pay him. He is also well connected. The Sudan connection would have indirectly implicate Ralph Reed, the ex-boss of Christian Coalition who’s currently running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

        Perhaps the American tourist that mesquel square said were trying to paint a rosy picture of current situations in Ethiopia are Abramoff missionaries. You can’t trust anybody these days.

        Abramoff is sentenced for five years and ten months in a federal prison for other charges.

        Sudan: Country profile

        Information on Darfur
        posted by Fikirte @ 8:41 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Monday, April 03, 2006
        Mind your laguage

        I find this too funny to let it pass.

        1. AND reported that the Swaziland Minister of Public Service and Information(this is relevant, very relevant) was caught in a compromising position.

        2. The report said that he was naked, kissing and caressing his mistress outside a lodge where he allegedly booked a room (public service?).

        3. A few minutes later a new article was posted under the title Swaziland: Minister caught with his pants down is sick.

        4. The Minister missed a cabinet meeing because the allegations shot his blood pressure high.

        5. In a school-boyish tone, the Minister said that he has his doctor's note ordering him to rest at home and excusing him from office work...aaaah, how cute?

        6. Then to repair his tarnished reputation, he said that he only frequents the lodge's area, but he has never booked a room.

        7. To reinforce his inocence he added, "Usually I just order the meat then wait for the patrons to deliver my meal in my car." You gotta love the Info. Minister.

        8. Digging deeper he also said "I had opened my side door as you saw in one of the pictures and I wouldn’t have started kissing and caressing a woman in such a public place crammed with strangers." Don't you wanna ask, where would you do it then?

        9. Tackling the nakedness accusation he replied, "I stepped out of the car barefoot because I was relaxing with my sandals off,” he said with an innocent tone. Too cute.

        Nothing to do with being a native English speaker

        "I am not going to die until my life is over." My own 5 year old.

        "It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it." Vice President Al Gore

        "We are ready for any unforseen event that may or may not occur." Al Gore

        "I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix." Dan Quayle

        "We've got to pause and ask ourselves, how much clean air do we need?" Chairman & CEO of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca

        "The word 'genius' isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein." NFL Quarterback & Sports analyst, Joe Theisman.

        "We don't necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people." ROTC Instructor, Colonel Gerald Wellman.

        "Traditionally, most of Australia's imports come from overseas." Keppel Enderbery (?)

        "If somebody has a gad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record." FCC Chairman, Mark S. Fowler

        The winner is...

        "Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstance." Greenville, S. Carolina, Department of Social Services
        posted by Fikirte @ 6:37 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Bizarre concoction for relief from HIV/AIDS

        I cannot quite let go of the mandatory AIDS testing that Clinton is pushing. I was thinking in places where the doctor-people ratio is 1:33,000 where as the traditional healer-patient ratio is 1:156 (such a place really exists – Tanga in Tanzania), are traditional healers going to use a more bizarre concoction of veggie strips, some roots, some curious liquid and anti-AIDS medicine? Also, is there going to be a crush course for traditional healers on how to prescribe the medicine?

        This is not so bizarre, actually. IRIN knows of such concoction that is recognaized internationally. In Tanga, Tanzania, a stew of veggies, roots and “brownish liquid” - yaaam - is miraculously (for ‘modern’ medicine and science obsessed) is giving patients relief from infections often associated with HIV infection. It must be working very well for medical doctors to acknowledge its importance.

        "A lot of patients are getting relief from these medicines," Dr Justin Nguma, an HIV/AIDS specialist with over 20 years experience in Tanzania, said. "We don't know exactly what these medicines may have that is providing this relief but there is some research that is going on and, before long, we'll be able to know what it is."

        This powerful concoction is the discovery of a ‘traditional’ healer who works for a ‘modern’ hospital. Because this stew is working, there exists in Tanga the collaboration between‘modern’ screening and counseling with traditional healers. The UN has also given it its blessing.
        Similarly, in a 2002 case-study, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) described the work of the Tanga AIDS Working Group as "an outstanding example of how positive results can be achieved in the fight against AIDS by using local, culturally relevant expertise and resources to provide low-cost care and prevention for people living with AIDS."

        The World Bank is all over it as well.
        The million dollar question is how do you taste all the bizzar brews and stews throughout Africa, and how do you control really harmful/useless traditional remedies? Doctors for Life opposes the use of traditional healers when the medical system of a country fails or is inadequate. They claim that each year, 10,000 to 20,000 South Africans die due to poisining by traditional medicines. Would the UN and the World Bank recommend incorporating such traditional treatments in Africa? Is Clinton including the effective traditional stew as medicine, which are only a fraction of the price of 'modern' medicine against the so called opportunistic infections?

        I will stop my endless questions about this, and leave you with some interesting alternative ways to battle HIV/AIDS. I have no clue what works and doesn’t, but it is interesting to learn that African traditional healers, who are once looked down upon are now becoming important partners on the fight against HIV/AIDS. Another interesting fact is that using herbal medicine in the West and East are not really frowned upon. The Chinese, for example are big on herbs which actually are fashionable in the West (green tea, ginger etc). The World Health Organization has an interesting article on the background of herbal treatments

        What's out there?

        From South Africa(recommended by the Minister of Health – honestly! He so blieves in the following treatment for AIDS patients that he allegedly barred Treatment Action Campaign - an NGO - from participating in UN discussions)

        Beet root
        Vitamin pills
        A plant called (Sutherlandia – not included by the MoH)

        From Zambia (WHO involved – source

        3 out of 14 herbs were going to be tried on people in 2005.

        Supporting traditional concoction
        American Jewish World Service


        University of Penssylvania's involvement
        posted by Fikirte @ 12:57 PM   1 comments Digg!
        Saturday, April 01, 2006
        News analysis - Ethiopian style
        If the daily ritual around my mom's dinner table and the Ethio-blogsphere are yardsticks, I can safely conclude that political discussion is well and alive in Ethiopia. It has always been, and it goes beyond discussion into dissecting, surgery – both plastic and remedial. Whichever direction it goes, the common factor is that it is always passionate and whether you are a participant or a mere spectator you feel that you solved the country’s and the world’s problems at the end.

        I do miss those days when my two brothers, my mom, my cousin and myself used to butcher the daily events and history Monday to Friday around 6pm at the dinner table. I just realized that we didn’t do politics on the weekends. My sister (a major in Political Science) was the only one in the family who refused to talk politics. My auntie was the self-designated devil’s advocate and instigator. A tiny woman who always wore the Netela (an Ethiopian shawl) and who was the mistress of coffee ceremony, used to cover her mouth with the Netela and drop a bomb here and there when she felt that the screaming, name calling (in front of my mom – it was only allowed during political discussions), and the popping veins were subsiding. She ignited something and left us with her favorite line Belu ete, wedebete lihidibet (something like Okey now let me go home). As if we were holding her up from going home…! And we knew that my mom was signing off when she said with such authority and clarity of knowledge, “Everybody is a thief!”

        For an outsider, it would look as if we were going to strangle each other the way we debated issues. How I miss that in the US. Most people around me (I'm refraining from generalizing) are really oblivious to what is going on in their own country, and are blissfully clueless about the world.

        What I really wanted to do in this post was to dissect a news item from BBC Online in Ethiopian style. I must be missing home to go around the intro. above. This is how my family would entertain itself with the following news.

        Rice admits multiple Iraq errors

        Cousin: Reads out the article (I don’t know why she was always the reader. May be she bought most of the newspapers on the way from work)

        Bro 2. Yeah right, it is a bit too late isn’t it?

        Aunt: Is Rice a real name?

        Everybody: It doesn’t matter! To my cousin, keep on reading.

        Mumbles with her mouth covered with her Netela and checks the coffee pot.

        Mom: Leboch (cheaters). (She must have had a rough day at work to sign off before the debate even begun.)

        Cousin: Come on Etete, let’s see what the rest of it says.

        US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admitted the US has made thousands of tactical errors in Iraq, but said it was right to remove Saddam Hussein.

        Mom: I told you they are thieves. All of them.

        Bro. 1: What does tactical error mean?

        Bro. 2: It is just bullshit. Who cares about the tactics? It is the principle of going to war that was wrong anyway.

        Sis: I’m going to my room. Can I have ginger tea and popcorn? (that girl consumed huge amounts of popcorn that it is a mystery how she didn’t start popping.)

        Cousin: I swear on my father’s life (she always does), Rice is just pretending to be admitting an error so that people would be happy that the Bush administration has finally admitted their mistake in invading Iraq.

        Bro. 1: I still don’t understand. Is she talking about the tactics they used to convince the domestic and international public to invade Iraq or tactics of military strategy once they are in Iraq?

        Mom: That’s why they are thieves. She’s deliberately vague so that she appears to be admitting to something while not admitting to anything.

        Bro. 1: Does this mean she’s saying that although they went in for the wrong reason, the outcome of removing Saddam was good?

        Bro. 2: Why are you obsessing about the little details? She is not saying anything new. That is the point.

        Aunt: Read the rest and let me go home.

        Cousin: Continues to read.

        “This could have gone that way, or that could have gone this way,” said Ms Rice, adding that the US-led invasion was “the right strategic decision”.

        Bro. 2. I told you she was not saying anything new!

        Cousin: At least they are admitting something.

        Bro. 2. Not really. Read between the lines. She is still saying that they were right to invade Iraq regardless of finding weapons of mass distraction. I want her to apologize for the WMD cover.

        Mom: (Warming up to the discussion) At least they got rid of that evil guy (she won’t mention his name because he is as ‘evil’ as cancer and AIDS).

        Bro. 2: And they achieved what?

        Aunt: I wonder how her parents came up with the name Rice.
        Everybody: Glares at Auntie for obsessing about an irrelevant issue. She re-checks the coffee pot nervously.

        Bro. 1: (He, by the way, thrives on intellectual goading) Is she implying something when she says ‘this’ and ‘that’.

        Bro. 2: Now you sound like Clinton – “what does ‘is’ mean?” She says ‘this’ and ‘that’ because she really doesn’t have anything to say.

        Aunt: Hmm, why would the newspaper write about what she said if she doesn’t have anything to say then? They are quoting nothing basically.

        Everybody: Pretends to not listen to her comment although she has a point.
        Cousin: I swear on my father’s life, she must have bribed the journalist to publish this article and make it look like she has made a major confession.

        Bro. 1: So, Auntie was right in saying that the paper is quoting “nothing”?
        Cousin: (Keeps on reading.)

        Ms Rice's comments came after she delivered a major foreign policy speech in Blackburn during her tour of the UK.

        Bro. 2 You see the timing was right for her to say something about mistakes. Something must have happened to give her a reason to appear apologetic.
        Bro. 1: But she’s not apologizing. She just said we would do this all over again, but differently.

        Cousin: (Reads on.)
        Her visit has sparked anti-war protests in the north-western town.

        While democracy may take time, it's always worth it - it's going to take time in Iraq

        Bro. 2: I told you (and sinks into his chair and pretends to be relaxing with victory)

        Aunt: Do you remember that Mengistu (former dictator) used to put more non-revolutionary Ethiopian variety shows and American movies on TV before something bad happens? (The only government owned channel was airing only Chinese and Russian movies, and the rest was Ethiopian revolutionary propaganda)

        Mom: Yeah, and we always knew that something bad was going to happen.
        Aunt: And do you remember a week or so later, they would play that song “Yefiyel wet’et’e” (This song was about a kid goat with a chip on its shoulders and a heart inflated with contempt. It was a sign that the government was going to announce the execution or arrest of a political opponent(s) or “threat(s).”)

        Bro. 2: You’re changing the subject now.

        Cousin: Reads on

        "I know we've made tactical errors - thousands of them, I'm sure," Ms Rice said in a session of questions after her speech, organised by BBC Radio 4's Today programme and Chatham House international affairs institution.

        Aunt: This Pasta woman…

        Everybody: Rice!

        Aunt: Whatever. She has lots of nerves to admit that!

        Bro: 2: (Back on the tip of his chair) Admit what?

        Mom: She’s still better than Mengistu.

        Aunt: Remember how Mengistu used to shift his eyes when he made speeches.
        Bro. 1: May be that is why Condi is making this speech instead of Bush. His eyes shift like Menge’s.

        Bro. 2: Can you imagine Bush in England speaking in English about such touchy topic?

        Everybody: Outburst of laughter.

        Bro. 2: (Really relaxed now for a moment) He would go “I’m the master of low expectations. I know something about being a government. And you’ve got a good one”

        Bro. 1: (Letting lose now) Yeah, and Tony would sit there grimacing with each sentence.

        Bro. 2: And…and, he would say something like “I think war is a dangerous place. I think the American people – I hope the American – I don’t think, let me – I hope the American people trust me”

        Bro. 1: When he sees Tony grimacing, he would feel obliged to say something like “[Tony] is a good listener, and he’s a pretty good actor, too.”
        Everybody: Outburst of laughter.

        Cousin: How about the famous “There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on- shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”

        Aunt: (You can almost see the light bulb going on in her head) So ferenj’s (Whites) are also leboch (cheats).

        Everybody: Long glare.

        Reads on

        "But when you look back in history, what will be judged is did you make the right strategic decisions," she said. "I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam (Hussein) had been a threat to the international community long enough," Ms Rice added.

        Aunt: Did they find the cruel weapons (WMDs)and Bin Laden? Leaves the room with the coffee pot to avoid another round of glares.

        (Reads on)

        During her speech Ms Rice touched on a number of key issues of US foreign policy, saying that:
        • no-one should doubt America's commitment to justice and the rule of law
        • the US had no desire "to be the world's jailer", and that Washington wanted "the terrorists that we capture to stand trial"
        • the cause of advancing freedom was the greatest hope for peace today
        • the use of force "is not what is on the agenda now" in the stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme - adding that President Bush "never takes any option off the table"
        • the US and Britain should continue to have "extremely close" relations and be united in the fight against terrorism

        Bro. 1: So what does all this mean?

        Mom: Nothing!

        Cousin: I swear on my father’s life, brave of the protestors to demonstrate.

        Bro. 1: Aaah, protesting is easy in the UK because nobody is going to die or get shot at if they do.

        Bro. 2: Yeah, let them come to Addis and try that!

        Aunt: I think Ethiopians are braver to protest despite being killed, wounded or jailed. Let me go home now.

        Mom: Did you hear that So and so’s son was shot in the leg while demonstrating.

        Then the discussion about an acquaintance’s son would lead to family discussions…and the political debate fades away.

        The quotes from Bush's speeches were from Jacob Weisbert's Still More George W. Bushism.

        More Bush quotes on the war in Iraq

        Setting the agenda
        “There may be some tough times here in America. But this country has gone through tough times before, and we’re going to do it again.”

        Analyzing the enemy
        “These people don’t have tanks. They don’t have ships. They hide in caves. They send suiciders out.” 2002

        Setting goals
        “There’s no doubt in my mind that we should allow the world’s worst leaders to hold America hostage, to threaten our peace, to threaten our friends and allies with the world’s worst weapons.”

        Setting objectives
        “I was proud the other day when both Republicans and Democrats stood with me in the Rose Garden to announce their support for a clear statement of purpose: you disarm, or we will.”

        Clearing the way for action
        “The law I sign today directs new funds and new focus to the task of collecting vital intelligence on terrorist threats and on weapons of mass production.” 2002

        Extent of project
        “There’s no cave deep enough for America, or dar enough to hide.” 2002

        Project participation
        “People say, how can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil? You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in’s house and say I love you.” 2002

        “President Musharraf, he’s still tight with us on the war against terror, and that’s what I appreciate. He’s a – he understands that we’ve got to keep al-Aaida on the run, and that by keeping him on the run, it’s more likely we will bring him to justice.” 2002

        Project narration“The war on terror involves Saddam Hussien because of the nature of Saddam Hussien, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.” 2003

        Who’s who?“We ended the rule of one of history’s worst tyrants, and in so doing, we not only freed the American people, we made our own people more secure.”

        Progress report“We’ve got hundreds of sites to exploit, looking for the chemical and biological weapons that we know Saddam Hussein had prior to our entrance into Iraq.” 2003

        “Security is the essential roadblock to achieving the road map to peace.” 2003

        This has been a lot of fun! Happy fools day!
        posted by Fikirte @ 7:20 AM   0 comments Digg!
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        Kamilat - victim of acid burning The face of VAW - violence against women. It should and can be stopped with enough commitment. Helping one woman at a time is a start.
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