The Concoction

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

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        Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
        Wednesday, April 25, 2007
        We are the world II coming to Africa and the USA
        Back in 1985, Quincy Jones conducted and produced We are the World to raise funds for Ethiopian famine victims. Tonight's American Idol fund raiser for the poor in Africa and the US can easily be part two of that song.

        I'm glad that American Idol has focused on both Africa and the US. I'm also glad that the program didn't gloss over poverty in the US and just pretended that it is the problem of Katrina victims.

        I still get fascinated by how people here in the US are so conditioned to seeing poverty in Africa on telie, and how the fact that the fund raiser is also for poor kids in the US completely escape them. I wonder how people (in the US) would perceive the dignified images that the program portraid - despite tears, sick people dying on their bed and crowded health centers, there were also images of kids in neat uniforms singing and smiling, a woman with HIV infection laughing...

        During the day, my neighbour, inspired by the clips she saw of tonight's program, was encouraging me to adopt a child from Africa because she was "sick to her stomach of seeing the poor African kids on television". I asked her what she thought of poor kids in the US, and I don't even remember what she answered me. In any case, I suggested that she should also adopt a child from down town (considering that she is terrified of flying and it will be only a half hour drive to zip down to the most impoverished part of our city.)

        Even my dentist was lecturing me about poverty in Africa. It was difficult to lecture her back about poverty in the US - which I believe is totally unexplainable - because she had stretched my mouth in all directions and stuck those nasty poking/sucking/splashing/air puffing tools in my mouth. I still managed to sneak in the info about 1 in 3 kids in the US go hungry in between the poking and the splashing. Look at the variety of food that even pets have in grocery stores, and 1 in 3 kids go hungry??? In comparison to poor African kids, poor American kids have a lot more. But compare them to kids in other affluent countries, and the picture becomes grimmer.

        I truly wonder if this is an ego problem or Americans are conditioned to associate poor kids on television with only Africans. I wonder how many people realize that Katrina merely exposed the fine line between mere survival and extereme poverty in the US. It's getting frustrating to be asked "how come Africa is still poor after 'We are the word'?" Well, in a similar twisted way that more and more people in the US are getting poorer.

        Idol Gives Back

        This season, I was getting very frustrated with American idol because it's the fifth season, the excitment (even for my kids) is wearing off and there was Sanjaya or whoever was behind him spoiling it. The "Idol gives back" idea - especially the Elvis Presely-Celine Dion duet (which was so cleaverly done that it was almost spooky) was a nice & meaningful change.

        Waiting for the world to change for the better is proving to be slightly silly. So, if several lives can be saved with a mosquito nets for less than $10, go for it. If you can send 80 kids to school with the school-in-a-box for $183, just do it. I don't think it really matters who's poor where. Quincy Jones' 1985 advise (to the participating artists of We are the world) still holds true to all of us - "check your egos at the door".

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        posted by Fikirte @ 10:24 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Thursday, April 19, 2007
        God's eye-view over Darfur's genocide

        Google Earth and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum shading new (geeky) light on the crisis in Darfur. You can see 1,600 burnt villages in 3D satellite images. Take a look here. You can down load Google earth, see what you can do to stop the genocide in Darfur and learn more about the situation here.

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        posted by Fikirte @ 10:08 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, April 18, 2007
        Cursors of societal malfunctions
        My condolences to the families of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting, to the students who lost friends and their sense of safety at what was supposed to be home away from home, to the staff who are going to be burdened by helplessness and possibly the guilt of not protecting their students. It's a bloody mess - literally and figuratively.

        Inevitably, such tragedies bring bigger social issues to the spotlight. In the same way that Imus' racial and sexist comment opened the door for criticism of Hip Hop's (some, as the industry people would like us to differentiate) female-demeaning culture, the Virginia Tech massacre is opening up doors for various issues. From what I have read so far, heated online debates about violence against women, gun control, immigration and racial profiling are going on.

        Jill at Feministe RIGHTFULLY connected some dots about female students being easier targets in past school shootings, pointed at the "theme of misogyny" and caused a mixture of reactions.

        To me, whether Cho's crazy actions were triggered by one or several girls is besides the issue here. What's interesting is to see where people stand with regards to issues surrounding violence against women (VAW). The 262 comments on Feministe's post alone are worth reading because they reveal extreme view points on VAW. I belong to the camp which brings VAW discussion at every opportunity. My reasoning is that while 1:3 women is abused in her life time in one form or the other, discussing and arguing about VAW as often as possible is necessary. Several decades after the feminism movement we are still debating whether a woman who has been a victim of violence carries any responsibility for the crime committed against her. Insensitive, ignorant and loaded language such as(via Feministe)"This is the face of the teenage student who may have sparked the biggest gun massacre in US history", calls for commenting/correcting/bashing. It is dangerously misleading and falls in the category of "she got raped because she was asking for it" type of stupidity.

        Jefferson of Neither Blue nor Red is discussing gun control in his post What’s wrong with the NRA and suggests some points that Congress should consider. I don't necessarily agree with Jefferson's suggestion that non-US citizens should not be allowed to own a gun. Considering the fact that previous school shootings were committed by American citizens, this argument won't achieve much. Guns should not be easily available for purchase like hot donuts. Period.

        It is unfortunate that we still need Bowling-for-Columbine for some sort of progress towards gun control in America. While writing this post, my daughter interrupted me with that hurried excitement that only a young child has and said to me "Mommy isn't it awesome that in America people can change the law if they don’t like it?" Well, today is not a good day to answer that question. I didn’t want to kill her excitement with "Well, 67% of Americans want tighter gun control, but because NRA has politicians in its pocket, it doesn’t matter what the majority wants." I just gave her an unconvincing "Yeah". It is my sincere hope that something positive will come out of this madness and terrible tragedy. I also hope that the debate that re-started is not going to wear off and we resort to sending our kids to school in stab-proof hoodies and bullet-proof vests.

        Further reading
        Inside Cho's troubled mind
        Earlier signs of trouble
        Church leaders for tighter gun control

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        posted by Fikirte @ 11:24 AM   0 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, April 11, 2007
        Corruption within the World Bank: Build a glass house & throw brinks in it. Why won’t you?
        This is good. A mixture of Clinton-Lewinsky and Cheney-Halliburt-Iraq good. World Bank's chief, Paul Wolfowitz' girlfriend (OK, everybody is referring to her as a "female friend" and I don't know the difference – so I use the terms interchangeably) got transferred from World Bank (to avoid conflict of interest – a "female friend" working under her "male friend" type of conflict that the bank doesn't allow) to State Departmnet when Wolfowitz became the boss of the Bank in 2005. So far so good. However, she got huge promotion with a huge raise and remains on WB's payroll. Now that's pure corruption! She earns more than Condi Rice apparently. Experts say that it was a big jump in raise and the position she holds was not opened for others… Corruption 101.

        As if the allegations are not serious and damaging, as if he is not in trouble with board members, as if it is highly hypocritical of the bank to lecture poor nations about good governanc..., what Paul Wolfowitz worries about right now is who possibly leaked this to Fox News? Who cares? The question is what's is going to be done about it?

        The irony of it all
        Exactly a year ago, Mr. Wolfowitz had this to say about corruption…
        Corruption not only undermines the ability of governments to function properly, it also stifles the growth of the private sector. We hear it from investors, domestic and foreign, investors who worry that where corruption is rampant, contracts are unenforceable, competition is skewed, and the costs of doing business becomes stifling. When investors see that, they take their money somewhere else.
        Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank President, Jakarta, Indonesia, April 11, 2006

        Unfortunately, that has come back to bite him. Investors (some 185 nations) are furious and things are not looking good for the Bank and Mr. Wolfowitz himself.

        The implications
        Although I know that corruption in Africa is real bad affecting entire nations’ economic development, it always feels bad when others (such as Mr. Wolfowitz) have this hollier-than-thou approach when they lecture poor nations about cleaning house while there are skeletons in their own closets.

        If the Bank remained just a financial institution and didn't become a self-appointed governance and policy maker on behalf of poor and corrupt nations, then all this might not have had teeth to bite. But, the Bank was actively twisting the arms of nations to change their policies if they want approval to borrow money. The bank tweaked and "…rewritten India's trade policy, fiscal policies, labor laws, health care regulations, environmental regulations, procurement rules and foreign exchange laws."

        Insult to injury
        As if that's not enough headache for the bank, there is a campaign (50 yeas is enough)to be launched on Friday the 13th of April (can't be good news for the bank), led by the likes of Danny Glover and prominent American and European NGOs, to bring the Bank to trial for its lousy economic and environmental policies that devastated lives in poor nations. Now they can add sleazy corruption to the list of sins. What perfect timing for the campaign to shake the Bank more while it's already shaky with this Wolfowitz-Shaha Riza scandal!

        Lesson for all
        For everybody's sake, I hope that the Government Accountability Project, angry board members, and even corrupt nations themselves will push enough for some serious measures to be taken against this crime. It is going to be a green light for all those corrupt governments (who steal from the poor, the sick, the most vulnerable, the illiterate...) if Mr. Wolfowitz comes out of this with a mere slap on the hand. How's the Bank ever going to preach about corruption in Africa if it doesn't clean its own mess seriously?

        Interesting links

        Leaked document on WB’s staff association’s response
        Wolfowitz’ response

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        posted by Fikirte @ 6:36 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, April 04, 2007
        Rally for Darfur
        Date: April 5, 2007

        Location: Lawyer’s Mall, Annapolis, MD

        Event time: 9:30am

        Description: This Darfur rally will feature Senator Benjamin L. Cardin and Maryland Senator Verna Jones, Chair of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus.Senator Cardin has called for galvanizing U.S. support for additional funding for the African Union/UN Peacekeeping forces in Darfur and serves on the Senate Subcommittee on Africa that will be reviewing sanctions against the government of Sudan. Maryland State Senator Verna Jones, Chair of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, has worked for passage of a measure in the Maryland General Assembly that would restrict the investment of state funds in companies or entities that do business with the Sudanese government.

        Contact: Mark Clack @

        More on Darfur
        Campaign to stop genocide in Darfur
        Latest news about Darfur

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        posted by Fikirte @ 11:07 AM   0 comments Digg!
        How far does citizen journalism go?
        Welcome, dear listeners, to the newest program of the series, Interactive Radio for Justice.... In this program, we receive questions about justice from the population.

        This is the beginning of a radio program in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The full story here.

        (photo: Personal Democracy Forum)

        It is encouraging to see that good old radio is being interactively used to give people voice in rural Africa. Congolese victims of war are at last having their say.

        With all the current "citizen journalism" hype, good work, half baked work, lousy work… over the internet, I wonder what "citizen journalism" using the internet means to those who don't have access to basic necessities let alone something fancy like the internet. This is of course considering the fact that those people are the majority and "citizen journalism" still refers to the global minority. It is a start, wonderful changes are happening because of citizen journalism, big companies are shaking in their boots... Still, it excludes the majority of global citizens.

        According to FAO "rural and community radio in Africa currently reach a far wider audience than the Internet or television." Well, that doesn't require rocket science to figure out.

        Listen to the challenges of rural radio broadcasting and how those challenges are met with basic technology to inform people about food security, livestock, water and other issues.

        It will be truly remarkable if some geek somewhere figures out a way to use podcasting and blogging the other way round. Upload rural voices from radios on the internet. Now that will be true citizen journalism.

        Relevant links

        Grassroots, local language climate reporting
        Community journalism in Africa
        Community journalism and development
        posted by Fikirte @ 9:36 AM   0 comments Digg!
        The face of VAW

        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.
        Go to the blog
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