Each new year makes it clear that we all live together on Planet Earth. But when one's neighbors live half-way around the world it is easy to be out of touch with what is actually going on in their day to day lives. The following stories reflect a lack of public knowledge about important realities.
We should not shut our eyes to the facts, painful as they may be. As a beginning, take a look at The Raw Story (1/5/09): "Bush to honor Blair, Howard*" regarding the real reason why President-elect Obama and his family will be living in a hotel until January 15.
Pushed aside by the stories coming our of Israel and Gaza, this headline from Buzzflash,"Muslims Plan Boycott Of American Goods and the U.S. dollar*" (1/7/09), reminds us that not every relatively stable country supports Israel. To quote:
More than 2,000 Muslim restaurants in Malaysia will remove Coca-Cola from their menus. [Coke plus] some 100 other products ranging from food to beauty and clothing such as Starbucks, Colgate, McDonald's and Maybelline, [are also] part of a boycott of American products in protest against Israel's bombardment of Gaza. American companies are being targeted because of the U.S. government's support of Israel.
"Cell Phones and Congo's War Against Women*" was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Common Dreams sent it out in their newsletter (1/7/09). Robin Wright Penn and John Prendergast write passionately about a situation in Africa about few of us are aware, the war over raw materials that power our electronic gadgets. And the death toll in this war is astonishing. To quote from the story:
. . . [The] Congo, has been torn apart by the deadliest war since World War II, where 5.4 million have perished. Its war is fueled by our inexhaustible thirst for cell phones, laptops, video games, digital recorders and other products that owe their existence to Congo's contribution to the world's mineral supply. . . and Congo has a good percentage of the world's supply of all three. The upshot is that feuding militias and a failed government have led to one of the highest death rates in the world, where an estimated 1,500 people die per day of war-related causes.
. . . The latest chapter has seen the neighboring country of Rwanda in direct confrontation with Congo over the remnants of the militia that perpetrated Rwanda's genocide 14 years ago. These forces have taken up residence in Congo and are supported at times by the Congolese government. In response, Rwanda supports Congo's rebels. . .
. . . the Congo - with the highest rates of sexual violence globally - has become the world's most dangerous place to be a woman or a girl. . . what appears to set Congo apart is the frequency of sexual assault, as well as its graphic nature. The militias in the Congo are perfecting this tool of war in a manner never seen before. . . Competing forces rape in order to permanently drive communities out of contested areas.. Women are so traumatized by gang rapes and other depredations that they never want to return to their homes, too afraid to re-live their experiences. . . impunity and inaction leads the militias to intensify their attacks. . .
The Common Dreams article goes on to explain why citizen involvement is so essential to changing this very unfortunate situation To quote further:
. . . That's where we come in. As we use our cell phones, computers, iPods and video games every day, we are benefiting from Congo's natural wealth. We need to stand up for the women of the Congo and let our elected officials know that we want to see an end to that violence. We need to let the electronics companies that we all buy our products from know that it matters to us where they get the raw materials that run their devices.
. . . President-elect Barack Obama will have the chance to help rectify one of the world's most egregious injustices by making the end of the Congo's war one of his policy objectives. High-level American involvement can help catalyze efforts toward peace in that shattered country.
But a president's attention won't be enough. . . we will have to use our considerable market muscle to demand from companies like Apple, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard and Nintendo that their products do not contain "conflict minerals." This will require them to change their procurement practices and ask far more questions about where their components are from.
Not all the news from around the globe is bad, however. This headline from The Huffington Post: "You Are Being Lied to About Pirates*" (1/4/09) is provocative. And it could be seen as actually positive. The article is an important alternative view to the conventional wisdom about the current rash of piracy off the coast of Somalia. Author Johann Hari uses history to clarify what might be motivating today's pirates, based on the origins of pirates centuries ago. It is a view that makes absolute sense to me, and fits with previous stories of how the local Somalian population feels positively about their "benefactors/protectors," despite their questionable methods.
To conclude, if you do not mind the agricultural method of genetic modification, my closing news item is really good. The headline is from The Raw Story: "World's first 'drought-tolerant"corn ready by 2010: Monsanto*" (1/7/09). "Drought-tolerant corn is designed to provide farmers yield stability during periods when water supply is scarce by mitigating the effects of drought -- or water stress -- within a corn plant," Monsanto said. . . "Trials of the corn conducted last year in drought-prone areas of the American midwest "met or exceeded the six percent to 10 percent target yield enhancement," according to the company.
View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.
Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.