Friday, December 31, 2004

2004: A Year End Message to My Readers

I started working on this posting yesterday, December 30th, but hesitated to publish it because I felt that I did not get it right. So let’s try it again:

I’ve just finished watching the latest updates on CNNI and BBC World TV news regarding the catastrophic Asian Seaquake & Tsunamis as perhaps many of you have done over the past 5 days. Man! It will make you sit back and do some thinking, won’t it? You can’t help but feel sorrow for the victims and particularly for the plight of the survivors down there in Southern Asia. The death toll is estimated today to be over 120,000 people gone and the Indonesians have so many dead they have simply stopped counting. It will be over 200,000 dead before it is all over (which will take several more weeks), you watch.

Let’s face it. The Year 2004 was not a good year for the human race not to mention all kinds of other animal and plant species on Earth. And Mother Earth has given EVERYBODY something to think about as we go into the New Year 2005. All these people making senseless war and creating atrocities against women and children and the environment and calling for Holy War and all kinds of other bullshit better sit back and think about what you doin’, cause Nature, Mother Earth’s forces can make it so that everybody on the planet is gone, All Living Things Gone… and that is a scientific fact! The Quakes and Tusanamis that just swept across the Indian Ocean from Asia to Africa were just an appetizer.

Granted, many good and wonderful things happened to people this year___ from beautiful little babies being born into the world (animal and human) to outstanding leaders being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace 2004, people’s lives and property were saved from disaster by courageous rescue workers and aid professionals, a few very bright people solved some long-standing problems and answered a few more of the “Big Questions” which have been dumbfounding and threatening mankind and our environment for millenia.

People have stood up for liberty and justice and democracy when it comes to running the affairs of their country (Georgia, Ukraine) and have succeeded by using peaceful means while others are struggling desperately to establish the same truths in the face of ruthless and brutal enemies (fill in the blanks) while much of the world stands by and jeers and jaunts and opinionates from the comfort of their “living rooms”.

There have been Peace Treaties signed between warring parties who have been fighting one another for decades (or at least they promise to sign up and stop fighting___we’ll see if that is true real soon). All of these things are good and there are many many more good things happening around our world (unfortunately grossly under-reported in the international media).

Yet on the other side of the coin life on Earth this year has been an absolute disaster for many of us. The WARS and VIOLENCE and GENOCIDE and HUNGER and DISEASE and POVERTY and general misery and suffering of too many peoples is simply off the charts!

Maybe it is just my state of mind but the human race seems to be hellbent on going downhill fast, particularly in the past few years. Either that or we who now have the privelege and means to access information instantaneously from a seemingly infinite variety of sources have finally got a clearer picture of just how bad things are on the planet. This may be just symptoms of modern information overload where total ignorance would seem like a better deal than knowing everything___ the old “Ignorance is Bliss” factor.

If you have been following my writings on this blog Jewels in the Jungle since May 2004 then you know that I have devoted much of my time and energy (via the blog) to the peoples and the environment on the African continent. I’m interested in all kinds of things and people here on the planet Earth but I feel the Urgency of Africa___ I feel it real strong these days and I am determined to devote as much of “me” as I can to help turn things around down there on the African continent… and Thank God I know that I am not alone, I know it.

Africa has got help coming from all kinds of people from all corners of the Earth and believe it or not, something as new and elementary as the “blogging phenomena” has helped me to understand that better than a lot of other information resources at my disposal including live people and expert reports. It’s like Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca Mackinnon over at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and others are saying__ Blogging is Big and it is turning into a major civic dialogue movement worldwide.

So, before I go any further with this “long-winded” posting I want to first say a big Thank You to all of the people who have visited and commented on and contributed to and encouraged me to publish Jewels in the Jungle this year. I thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart, and I promise (uh-oh, there he goes again…) to improve it and make it better for 2005. If you have any suggestions on how I should do that don’t bother to send it to me ‘cause I ‘aint listening to you. This is MY BLOG and I AM THE KING HERE! (Just kidding, I need help improving this blog so send suggestions if you have them)

Now that I am finished with that brief introduction this is what I wanted to say today:

Many of us around the world have been following the situation in Darfur, Sudan this year with dread and shock and anger and a myriad of other rather unpleasant human emotions. Some of you undoubtedly have dug a little deeper into the story to discover that situations in other parts of Sudan (and throughout the region) aren’t much better and in some areas it is worse. Others of you either live in Sudan or have fled Sudan or left Sudan for greener pastures and know exactly what is going on in your country.

Now the country of Sudan and the people there have become really special for me and I cannot explain fully why that is, it just is so. I think that part of the reason is that a while back I convinced myself that if the “World Community” cannot muster the will and courage and resources to come to the aid of these destitute women and children being herded into the most hostile areas of the Sahara desert like cattle being driven to slaughter… if we can’t help these people, then Africa itself may soon be lost forever, especially for native Africans.

If that idea or belief is true, then the rest of us will go down right along with Mama Africa and her peoples and her beautiful and exotic natural wonders, the Birthplace of Mankind and in my mind a true Garden of Eden where man and nature first learned how to live together. It would seem that mankind has lost this knowledge and wisdom that our ancestors once had a long time ago. I think that we have not lost this knowledge (totally) but that we just refuse to accept the fact that every man and woman and child must learn to live together with nature.

This is what Mama Miti (Professor Wangari Maathai) is trying to tell us about, and thousands of other very wise people around the world just like her who have been pleading with us and begging us to wake up about this. It’s time that we all listen up and get busy to protect the planet or else. You disagree? Turn on the TV news tonight or open your local newspaper and read about it for yourself.

Which brings me to the conclusion of my last posting for the year 2004.

Now anybody who has any kind of access to news (including drums, smoke signals and native runners) has heard about the massive earthquake under the Indian Ocean and the resulting death and destruction caused by the deadly Tsunamis that swept from South Asia to East Africa like a speeding bullet. Almost everything in its path was destroyed or uprooted or disturbed in some way, and the Earth itself wobbled off its axis momentarily from the force of the undersea earthquake. (Note: that “Earth wobbling” thing is the scarey part ‘cause if that gets out of control we are all finished and quick! I hope the Geophysicists and other scientists are watching this! “Houston? I think we have a problem here.”).

When I was at university out on the desert years ago I took some classes in natural sciences i.e. Plate Tectonics and Volcanics and other Geology subjects. I have had the privelege of spending many a day and night on the deserts of the American southwest running up and down those hills and mountains and canyons and dry gulches like some kind of coyote or Apache indian or something. Mesmerized by the beauty of Mother Earth layed bare I often reflected upon what kind of power and processes did it take to create such natural wonders.

Now we have had a chance to see such a magnificent and yet destructive force of nature as a 9.5 (Richter Scale) seaquake in our lifetimes. And thanks to modern communications technology we can also see the event itself and the aftermath of the crushing tidal waves and flooding in the coastal basin of the seaquake. It is not pretty to watch the victims, is it?

We have also seen on TV news reports how international rescue teams and emergency aid and money and military resources and Presidents and Chancellors and the Pope and all kinds of important people are on TV talking about “coming together” to help these destitute and traumatized survivors and the governments of Thailand and Indonesia and Sri Lanka and India in the rebuilding and reconstruction of their devastated economies and lives and and and… nobody has bothered yet to help out in Somalia though.

I watch (like you do) how the world can come together and work together to help one another out during a terrible tragedy and humanitarian disaster as the Asian Quake and Tsunami events of December 26, 2004 or the devastating earthquakes that leveled the city of Bam, Iran and killed an estimated 30,000 people 1 year ago to the day___December 26, 2003.

I watch all of this activity with great sadness and dread just like millions of people around the world___ except perhaps for this one thing. While I watch all of this outpouring of humanity and aid on behalf of the peoples of Southern Asia during their darkest hour I am asking myself these questions also:

Why can’t the World Community quickly build an “international coalition of the willing” in order to help out the peoples of Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo?"

"What choice would a belligerent leader like Omar al-Bashir or his Janjaweed militias have if all of these dignataries and military personell and equipment and humanitarian teams showed up all at once in the deserts of the Sahara to help the people of Darfur?"

"What could the bast---ds in Khartoum do but Accept the Will of the World and set those people free? Why can’t Kofi Annan or Thabo Mbeki or Tony Blair or The Arab League or whoever make this point very clear to the regime in Khartoum?”

I’ll see you next year in 2005 so that we may explore the answers to these questions and many others together. May God Bless and Keep You Safe on the last day of the year 2004.

P.S. I’ll add the relevant URL links and a nice photo ASAP. That’s enough for today.

P.S.S. Added some new URL links and corrected some spelling on January 5th.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Back to the Blogosphere: Dr. Wangari Maathai and coming attractions

Wow! Fifteen days since I made a posting to the blog, now that is what I call going “Cold Turkey”! Blogging is very addictive you know and a lot of hard work as well, but I’ve already said that before. Well, what’s been going on and where do I start, hummmh? Oh yeah. Professor Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya and the Nobel Prize for Peace 2004.

Well, did you see any of the TV coverage of the Nobel Award Ceremonies at Oslo and the various live interviews with Wangari Maathai on December 10th? Of course you did and so did I, she was just fabulous and yet remained so humble before the whole world. I hear they even watched Dr. Maathai live from space aboard the ISS (International Space Station)! Thirty years at fighting to save the environment in Africa and fight for the rights of women and communities and we don’t learn about this great environmentalist and leader until now. Now whose fault is that, hummh?

Well, if you didn’t know who
she was up until October 8th of this year, you know who she is now. There have been so many good things written about her in the past months, all I can add is what many, many of us around the world feel about Dr. Maathai and her work:

“God Bless you Mama Miti! Keep on going with your wonderful work in Africa. You are an inspiration and excellent role model to all of us who care about the Planet Earth and the sake of all living things upon Her. Congratulations for receiving the coveted Nobel Prize for Peace 2004, and congratulations to the many people especially the women of Africa and beyond who have stood together with you against great odds and adversity in your native Kenya.”

If you haven’t had the chance to catch up on the latest about “Mama Miti” this month then checkout the links below:

The Nobel Peace Prize website
Nobel Peace Prize 2004 Lecture (Dr. Maathai's acceptance speech)
The Green Belt Movement website
Wangari Maathai’s personal website
BBC World Online’s latest articles on Wangari Maathai (she’s hot here, telling it just like it is)
CNN’s latest articles on Wangari Maathai (we are messin’ up the Planet, and we must stop it now)
CNN’s Nobel 2004 Special interview (transcript not available yet)
Wikipedia’s information pages on Wangari Maathai (the best open encyclopedia on the Net)

Oh yeah, by the way Dr. Maathai will be live on
BBC’s Talking Point programmes (radio and TV) for December 26th. If you haven’t heard her speak as of yet, try not to miss this chance.

Coming Attractions in the Next Weeks:

Back To Sudan – “Omar & the Janjaweak” They just don’t get the message over there. Time is up, Omar… and that goes for your camel-riding murderers and slavers as well. How we can stop the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed dead in their tracks, for good.

UNICEF’s “Childhood Under Threat” Report - The State of the World’s Children 2005.

The U.N. and Kofi Annan – Should Donald Trump finally be allowed to take over the U.N. real estate in New York City, or should we convert it into a public zoo and theme park?

The D.R.C. – Nobody but nobody wants to talk about this “international community” disaster. More than 1000 people are dying per day, 31,000 dead per month, 3.8 million mainly women and children dead from starvation and curable dieseases over the last decade, and counting.

The deadliest conflict on the planet since WWII and no one has any answers. Not the U.N. nor the SC nor the MONUC, not the AU, not the EU, not the U.S., not the Russians & Co., not the Asian countries, not the Commonwealth countries, nor the Islamic countries, Nobody.

Even Angels must drop their heads in shame and sorrow to weep. Africa’s forgotten people trapped in Africa’s most savage cross-border conflict. The Congo Wars.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

World AIDS Day 2004: The Day After

Now did we all do something positive for World AIDS Day 2004 yesterday? If not, don’t worry because you can do something about it today, or tommorow, but don’t wait too long ‘cause time is running out for millions and millions of people the world over.

Each year because of events like World AIDS Day 2004 I learn more and more about this devastating pandemic HIV/AIDS, and I feel that I still don’t know enough. There have been 17 Annual World AIDS Day events to help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, 17 years for the world to begin to wake up to the most devastating disease to affect humans on Earth, ever.

I took some time yesterday to read online news articles and blogger postings and even watched a little TV coverage on BBC World & CNN International about World AIDS Day and I’ll tell you there are some wonderful things happening out there on behalf of AIDS sufferers. Here are a few of my favorite World AIDS Day 2004 discoveries:


These folks have a “serious” (U.K. english translation = well done) online presence for their international programs to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and TB. I was particularly attracted to their
Stories from the Field section, their Country Profiles tool, and their financial contributions and disbursement features (you can find all of these features on the web page link provided). The U.N. H.Q. in New York and their overpaid accountants can learn something from these folks about financial accountability and transparency ref: Iraq Oil for Food Scam.

I was particularly attracted to the featured organization of the month KENWA (Kenya Network of Women with HIV/AIDS) based in Nairobi, Kenya. This community-based organization founded and operated by women has proven that they can have an impact on the lives of HIV/AIDS sufferers in their communities, and they have proven that women can organize and run a successful non-profit organization which garners the attention and funding from international foundations i.e. The Global Fund (and do the job better than men).

Now some very fine people from Kenya have been talking and working with me over the past few months, helping me to understand all kinds of things about Kenya that I didn’t know before (can’t learn about Kenya in the movies or from the skewed views of Colonials you know, you gotta deal with the people who come from there to get the lowdown). And then there is “Mama Miti” (The Mother of Trees),
Dr. Wangari Maathai, who will be in Oslo, Norway in just a few days to pick up her well-earned 2004 Nobel Prize for Peace. God bless her for showing the world how something as simple as planting trees can help save the planet. She had a little something to say about womens roles and woes in Africa recently too.

So, KENWA in Nairobi is an excellent choice in my opinion to directly contribute funds to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, or you can contribute money to The Global Fund in Switzerland and let them use it where they see fit. Either way, you can be assured to help someone.

Africa-centric weblogs

Kenya Hudson, the author of the excellent blog
Ambiguous Adventure, used a very nice “personal stories” touch for her December 1st posting about World AIDS Day 2004. You need to go over there and check it out for yourself and while you are at it, review some of her articles and commentaries on African issues and affairs. Kenya Hudson is coming up-to-speed nicely in the blogosphere and she is "a graduate student and itenerant researcher and writer" coming to us LIVE out of the U.S.A. Nice work Kenya.

Mshairi, my blogger friend and author of
Mshairi (the Poet), wrote a lovely little poem (or is it a sonnet?) titled “This Day” for December 1st, 2004. It is a wonderful piece as are many of her poems that she shares so generously with us in the Blogosphere before we all have to spend “big bucks” to buy her first published book of poetry at Amazon. She is helping me to take an interest in poetry again and to learn more about her home country Kenya as well. A jewel of a woman writing from the dark and damp jungles of London in Winter.

There is plenty more on World AIDS Day 2004 one can discover in the Blogosphere on zillions of weblogs, but unfortunately I have not had the time to search. If you know of some other good blog postings on this important day, let us know via the comments feature.

Telling Tales, Singing, and Acting for AIDS Victims

If you like reading books like I do then you may find this link to the
UNDP Choices online magazine for September 2004 interesting. South African native Nadine Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature, came up with an excellent idea to organize an anthology of short stories written by some of the world’s most renowned authors and use the proceeds from sales of the book to help HIV/AIDS victims in Southern Africa. The lineup of 21 writers and their respective short stories is outstanding, with a few of my favorites on the list and others I have been intending to read at some future date (which never seems to arrive). So, this book titled “Telling Tales for AIDS” could be a Christmas gift to myself this year. Maybe I should buy a copy or two for some friends as well. Nah, why do that?

A group of 18 top African musicians and performers from the continent have released a special album (sorry, a CD) to help HIV/AIDS victims and to help alleviate poverty in Africa. The name of the recording is “
We Are The Drums of Africa” and I had a chance at hear a brief take 5 of the music on CNN’s Inside Africa program last weekend. You can find out more about the CD release with photos at the Africa 2015 Foundation site. Hmmm, I think I’ll get that cool CD for myself this Christmas too.

And last but not least, I got a tip on a new film being released in South Africa this month titled “Yesterday”. The work is the first major film release in the Zulu language and will be South Africa’s entry to at least 3 major international film festivals in 2004-2005. Below is an excerpt of a brief review by
South Africa Films online magazine:

"Shot on location in KwaZulu Natal, Yesterday is the first feature film to be made in Zulu (with English subtitles). It is also the first South African film to be selected for both the Venice and Toronto film festivals and, more recently, has been chosen to be South Africa’s Official Entry for the 2005 Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Picture.

Written and directed by Darrell Roodt (Cry, The Beloved Country), Yesterday tells the moving story of a young mother (Leleti Khumalo) who is HIV positive. Her husband refuses to accept this and she is left to fend for both her daughter and herself. The film was produced in association with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which has described Yesterday as “reaching beyond conventional HIV-Aids rhetoric, towards real action and active engagement”. Oprah Winfrey, who saw the film in South Africa last year, says of Yesterday: “Its simplicity and clarity of message resonate with power”. Nelson Mandela has described the film as “truly inspiring”.

Hmmm? If Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandella say the film is good, then it must be good. I’ll guess that I’ll treat my----, or a friend or a loved one, to this film for Christmas. I wonder if it will be showing in Germany by Weihnachten 2004. I hope not with subtitles “auf Detusch”! Yeah? Bummer! O.K., it would be nicer for German-speaking audiences if subtitles are in German. O.K.

Advice provided by yours truly,
SCROOGE (of the River People)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Uganda. World AIDS Day 2004

Uganda: World AIDS Day 2004. We are counting on you too!
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Photo of rural village schoolchildren taken in Jinja District of southern Uganda near Lake Victoria. They look just great and very interested in having their picture taken. Is there a future professional woman photographer in this shot? Maybe a doctor? I sure do hope so.

Africa: World Aids Day 2004

Uganda: World Aids Day 2004. Don't forget about these children, they are counting on us.
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Tommorow, December 1st 2004 marks the Annual World Aids Day. The UNAIDS & WHO just released a new report on the pandemic which shows that women and children (like these sweet little Ugandan kids in the photo) are under unbelievably high risk of contracting, suffering, and dying of HIV/AIDS. Over 60% of AIDS infected people in sub-Saharan Africa are women and girls today.

Now I can't tell you if the children in the photo above are infected with HIV/AIDS or not, chances are that they have never been tested for the disease. I can't tell you if they belong to the enormous group of millions of children in Africa who have been orphaned because their parents have died from illnesses related to HIV/AIDS either, but I can tell you this:

Without the help from all of us around the world to help prevent and fight this devastating disease, particularly in the developing countries, these poor kids won't have a chance in Hell for any kind of a bright future. None of us the world over will have a chance for a bright future. Nobody.

Here are some useful links to resources on World Aids Day 2004:
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria
BBC HIV/AIDS Debate site

If you can do anything to help, no matter how small it may be, do it. I'm sure that the little ones in the photo above would be mighty appreciative of your efforts to help them, now and in the future.

Friday, November 19, 2004

SUDAN: Good news for the Chai Lady

Sudan - A parting shot of the Chai Lady of Khartoum.
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

I thought that it would be a good idea to share this full color photo of the Chai (Tea) Lady of Khartoum with my readers today. I'm sure that for many of us around the world who have been following the news and reports about Sudan and the crisis and atrocities taking place in the Darfur region of the country this year, the signing of a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the regime in Khartoum (GoS) and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) representatives today is hopefully a big step towards a workable peace for the people of Sudan.

All the international newswires and television coverage is full of stories on the historic meeting of the UN Security Council & Co. in Nairobi, Kenya and the outcome of the 2-day negotiations to force a peace agreement to end the 21 year civil war in Sudan. Here is the latest article from the U.K. Guardian Unlimited which a lot of my liberal leaning left-winged blogger buddies read. There is also an excellent link at the bottom of the online article to a resource I have never noticed before in my research, The Rift Valley Institute's Sudan Internet Resources. These folks are good, look at all that stuff, yum-yum. It will take me weeks to get through all of that information, maybe years.

Nonetheless, there is some powerful medicine coming out of Kenya today, despite the backsliding and maneuvering from the Chinese, Russian, Pakistani, and French UN ambasstardors (did I spell that right?). Lot's of people will be working and praying for you over the next months Madam Chai Lady, working to help Peace break out all over Sudan and across Kenya all the way down to the Great Lakes Region. Yep, big meetings down in Tanzania this weekend too. Peace trying to break out all over the place, 'cause it's time! Peace is loooong overdue and we all want to see it in our lifetimes. I'd bet the Chai Lady would be real happy to hear that news, the streets of Khartoum and the folks around her little stand must be just abuzz with news and opinions today. Good sales.

Following is what the photographer Tom Gething had to say about the lovely photograph, before I added my 2 cents worth on Sudanian politics and issues:

"This tea (or 'chai') lady was operating her stall by a traditional brick making factory on the west bank of the Nile, in a district of Khartoum called Elacocu. It's part of a series on traditional skills that I am trying to develop.Taken handheld, in the first hour after dawn, I was attempting get an enviromental portrait. As I don't have a WA lens I decided to use an angle that put her in context. I was also very aware of not getting blown highlights on her face. I'm particulary happy with the orange tone of her 'tobe' (shawl). ..."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

SUDAN: Coffee with The Chai Lady of Khartoum

Khartoum _ Chai Lady Preparing Coffee
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

I have been just dying to get back to posting to my blog about Sudan. O.K. so dying is not a good choice of words if you have been following news and reports on Sudan and Darfur lately. The more I read the angrier I get, and not only at the regime in Khartoum but perhaps most of all at myself for not being in a position to go in and help these people right now, and I am not only talking about being a humanitarian or an aid worker. Something bigger.

I would love someday to be able to extend the hand of friendship personally to the Sudanese people in the photos from Tom Gething on this weblog. It would be a great honor for me albeit they may think I’m crazy for thinking that it was so special to be able to meet them. Anyway, before I return to Sudan next week via this blog I thought that I would share another one of Tom’s beautiful photos with you today. Here is another B&W image of The Chai Lady (see my A Survival Study in B&W posting) as she prepares a coffee (or tea?) for us.

If I were there in Khartoum with her I would be excitedly trying to tell her (via a translator) that she is probably one of the most famous “Chai Ladies” on the planet and certainly in all of Khartoum, that perhaps 100,000+ people around the world will have seen photos of her on the World Wide Web, and that many of us just love her only by seeing images of her, and that it has helped some of us to learn more about her country, Sudan, and her people. I’d tell her all of this while she was busy preparing my coffee (she nervously thinking to herself, “Who is this crazy guy? Do all Americans act this way asking all of these questions?”).

And when my coffee was ready I would pay her for it, I would pay at least 100 times what she normally charges for the glass of coffee (which is $00.01 or 1 cent a glass), I would pay her about $1.00 U.S. Dollars. At this point she would be totally convinced that I AM DEFINITELY CRAZY, but also that I am a rich American and too loose with my money. I would be spending 300-400% less for a cup of her coffee than what I would pay at Starbucks, and the service and company is undoubtedly better with The Chai Lady by far.

Then I would try to strike up a conversation with The Chai Lady, to learn a little more about her life and her people and try to tell her things about my country and my people and about other people I’ve met around the world, while enjoying my wonderful cup of coffee with her. Can you see it? I sure can, clear as day, what a wonderful experience that would be.

And after we had finished our coffees and our conversation I would bid The Chai Lady farewell and tell her what an honor it has been to be in her presence after having only a photo image of her in my mind for so long. Perhaps she would be happy also to share such an experience and be anxious to see me again soon so that we may swap stories and so that she could sell her coffee at premium prices.

Then I would bow my head to kiss her hands and then walk away, and as she watched me go my eyes would swell with tears to the point that my vision would blur, tears of happiness and sadness at once, and my heart would be full of joy at having the chance to finally have met her, The Chai Lady from Khartoum made famous by a photograph and a blog and a very long war.

Can blogs and bloggers and their readers help change the World?? I believe the answer to that question is an emphatic YES, and we are already well underway down that road. This is the greatest social dialogue and collaboration experiment I’ve seen in many a year, and I’ve been around for awhile. Thanks to a posting from Ethan Zuckerman over at Harvard here is an article about the affects bloggers are having on the international media scene and global politics already____ and we bloggers are not even out of the race starting blocks yet!

While reviewing the ONA site (ONA= Online News Association) today regarding the prestigious award to BBC News Online for Best Online News Website 2004 I also ran across an excellent piece on blogs and bloggers vs. mainstream international media. Here is an excerpt about a speech by Alan Nelson from The Command Post - Newsblog Collective delivered to the Associated Press Managing Editors on the subject of blogs (weblogs):

"Alan Nelson of gave a great speech to the APME a couple of weeks ago. He talked about the Law of the Flow, the Law of the Fast, Law of the Few, and the Law of the Many. It's fascinating reading. Here's one quote: There’s a very important lesson here: bloggers should not be underestimated. They are not just average people … they are people who, long before blogs came along … had the ability to surface information and present it to others in a persuasive and compelling way. They are opinion leaders, and weblogs have only served to exponentially increase their reach and their power." I encourage you to read the full text, and the comments attached at the end."

This is a "must read article" for my fellow blog authors and avid blog readers by the way, as we all try to get a grasp on what this is really all about and why we do it. The folks over at The Command Post have a real hot blog by the way, and you can find their permalink in my blogroll "Hot Blogs and Sites To Go" along with some very fine new blog additions to Jewels in the Jungle i.e. Crooked Timber and Ambiguous Adventure.

Now, I wonder how I could explain all this stuff about blogs and bloggers to The Chai Lady of Khartoum?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Intro to American Politics 101: U.S. Elections 2004

This is one of those agonizing postings to my blog I don’t want to really do but I feel somehow that I have to do it ‘cause everybody’s talking about it and most people have no idea whatsoever about the subjects but they feel they have to say something anyway even though what comes out of their mouths most times is totally GARBAGE irregardless of their political leanings and preferences.

What am I talking about? The U.S. Elections 2004, that’s what!! Personally, I am sick of hearing about it and I don’t necessarily want to see this subject on Jewels in the Jungle. However, being a true-blue red-blooded American citizen whose family has heaps of history and a fascinating heritage in the good old U.S. of A. it would be unpatriotic if I didn’t say something on this subject. So here goes:


Never say never. What is done is done and the best thing to do is to get over it and move on. All of that expert commentary, opinions, analysis, tea leaves and crystal ball predictions, polls, live T.V. coverage by 10 million journalists from all over the world, foreign air mail voter manipulation and harassment from our “concerned cousins” in the U.K., jumping up and down at conventions and rallies waving flags and wearing stupid looking T-shirts and hats and campaign buttons and laughing and crying and literally making a damn fool of yourselves on international T.V., not to mention threats of foreign invasion and economic boycotts and breaking of diplomatic ties and all kinds of other B.S. from our long-time traditional allies and partners” overseas (many by the way who were our “mortal enemies” just a few years or generations ago but that’s a long time in most people’s minds due to chronic memory problems) ….. all of this stuff didn’t amount to more than a hill of beans. If you were against G.W. Bush, you lost. Period. BUSH IS BACK AND THAT’S THAT. If you need some consoling or something, see my links in LESSON NR. 2 below.

As a matter of fact, he never left and he is "startin’ to take a likening to Washington D.C." as they say down in my part of the country, The Heartland. Now the problem for a lot of people who have no idea about America or Americans (this includes an awful lot of U.S. citizens by the way), the problem with all of these folks is that they don’t understand the term “Heartland” nor do they respect or understand the millions of Americans who hail from these parts. Most people around the world cannot even find the place on a map including a whole lot of so-called experts on America.

So to answer that pressing question I get here in Europe from far too many absolute strange people who say they have a “genuine concern about the United States of America" since the first day I got here to help save their disgusting butts from political and military catastrophe years and years ago, that question which goes something like this:

By the way, what do you think about the results of the U.S. Elections 2004 and the re-election of President George W. Bush?”

My answer often time is like this:

Nothing, it’s over, we have another President. Why, you don’t like it or something? You’ve got something to say about it? You from the States, pay taxes over there or something, have sons and daughters dying on foreign battlefields in U.S. uniforms? No? Who is your president? What is your government doing to “save the world”? Oh really, I don’t believe you because the facts and evidence shows that your leaders aren’t doing Squat to help anyone other than themselves. Don’t leave, what is it, have I insulted you or something? Good, because that is what I intended to do. Goodbye and don’t come back!

Now if I like you and think that you are really intelligent and well informed on global issues including those which affect Americans as well as the rest of the world and you are the type of person with which one can have a good dialogue on politics I might answer in this way:

The American Elections for 2004, interesting wasn’t it? Looks like Bush and the Republicans just fooled all of the experts, must’ve have really pissed a lot of people off. Actually as a rule I almost never discuss who I actually voted for, but I am more than willing to discuss issues with you. Where you from? Oh, I’m from _______”


Before you open your mouth, make sure that your brain is engaged. American politics is really complicated. Politics anywhere is usually complicated unless you live in a country where decisions are made for the people vs. by the people. I would guess that most people in the world have never had the opportunity to vote, although I believe that all people of the world have the Right To Vote. A lot of government and business leaders in foreign lands making all of this racket about the U.S. Elections are working very hard to make sure that their people CANNOT VOTE.

I personally use various sources of information from broadcast media, the Internet, real experts on political issues (a rarity), and even my own gut feelings to help me determine who should be the President or Senator or Congresswoman/man for my country or home state. This is particularly important when you have lived abroad amongst absolute savages (albeit well dressed savages) here in Europe as long as I have___ which is too long by the way, way too long.

Here are a few of my favorite info resources for the recent U.S. elections:

1. CNN U.S. Election 2004 Coverage
2. BBC U.S. Election 2004 - Don’t miss their Guide to U.S. Government.
3. Internet Public Library - Online news sources from around the world.
4. My Mom - She says she "hates Bush" by the way, although she is trying to be a good Christian. Don't arrest her Mr. Ashcroft, she doesn't mean it. Mom is just highly emotional about politics.
5. Priorities & Frivolities - Tagoda is at the John F. Kennedy School of Government - Harvard University. You can learn a lot about U.S. politics if you spend some time on his blog. I think he is a progressive Republican with immigrant roots in the Phillipines.
6. Cox & Forkum Editorial Cartoons - This is a good place when you begin to take politics and yourself too seriously. Everybody needs a good laugh now and then.
7. German media and press - I occasionally checkout these news sources in order to keep up with the well-oiled propoganda machines the Austro-Germans perfected years ago. These guys are good and much of the German-speaking public doesn’t notice a thing. I hope that somebody in the U.S.A. is analyzing these sources in order to help us ammend foreign policy strategies for the 21st century and beyond.
8. The African Viewpoint - Interesting and diverse views from Africans. Also checkout various news and commentaries expressed on
9. Barack Obama - I have yet to see any coverage of this story in the German media. Here are two articles from the BBC and CNNI. Obama is a Big Story and I’m delighted for his win in Illinois.

10. The Blogoshpere - Technorati's Election Watch 2004 lists the top political blogs on the U.S. Elections. The Berkman Center at Harvard is a good place to track politics and blogging as well. Blogger of course covered the effects of blogging on the U.S. Elections 2004 in their posting Blog The Vote.


No matter how the election turns out, whether your candidate(s) have won or not, it is very important that afterwards everybody just calms down. Go home and do some reflecting or go out with your pals and have a celebration or cry in your beer or whatever makes you happy. Then wake up the next day and go about your business. Here are a few more tips for those of you feeling low about the results of the U.S. Election 2004:


2. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT GO NEXT DOOR AND BURN DOWN YOUR NEIGHBORS HOUSE BECAUSE THEY VOTED DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU. If you want to burn something down, then burn up your own stuff, or burn yourself in effigy or something. Make sure you leave a note to save the taypayers money on police investigation costs.



Find something you like to do which helps you to relax. Focus on what your nation needs to be doing and make sure that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem. Go out and do something other than "running your mouth like a clatterbone on a Goose’s rearend" as my Grandma used to say, God Bless Her Soul. Make the American Dream work, and the dreams of your own respective country work and those of people who can still dream all over the world. Make it work by getting your butt to work on their behalf.

So, that is the end of the first part of the course "Introduction to American Politics 101".

Next time I will cover the 2nd part of this course,

How to Politely Reject Foreign Influences on National Political Matters Without Losing Your Temper, Your Mind, and/or Your Religious Upbringing and Beliefs”.

Thank you and Good Night.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Fans

The Fans at the Big Game
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

I would have titled this photo "The Boyz at The Big Game". It can be said that I tend to favor girls and women in the photos on this blog, that is true and there are lots of reasons for it. However, my love for "The Boyz" all over Africa is in reality no less than for the girls, particularly when they are young like these little guys.I want to do some more work this week with Tom's images and I am going to favor the men and boys of Sudan in the series.

I read in various news reports that the negotiations for a peace deal for Darfur is unravelling pretty fast, and that is terribly sad for all of Sudan. These little guys are growing up in a refugee camp several kilometers outside of the capitol city Khartoum. Their families have been in these IDP (internally displaced persons) camps for years and years as a result of war(s). How long must these kids wait for peace and a chance for a better life? How long???

Here is what Tom had to say about this photo and this day:

"One of the best things about living in Khartoum is that because the international community is so small you tend to know everybody. A group of us from all over (Italians, Dutch, French, Americans, British and others from Cameroon, Egypt, and Ethiopia) have a football team that play once a week on a dust pitch (no money for grass!).

The best part of this was in April when we went out to a displaced camp about 50km from the city where about 40,000 people live. We played a match against the 'Juba Allstars' - a team made up from the southern Sudanese refugees who have lived in Jebel Aulia for over 9 years. About 3000 people came to watch - it was absolutley fantastic.

As with everythig in Sudan we had to have official permission and pass through road blocks but it was worth it. I've just heard we are going back at the end of Ramadan for a rematch so when I fly back on Saturday its back to training.

In case anybody is interested the locals hammered us 6-1."

An Note from Black River Eagle:
"Well Tom, looks like Ramadan will be drawing to a close soon and the Big ReMatch should be coming up fast over there. Make sure that you get another great photo of "The Boyz" if you can."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Anti-Slavery Award 2004

Today I wanted to highlight and comment on some positive news coming out of Africa as there is plenty of Good News from Africa. There were also some interesting developments in regards to blogs and their affects on society I wanted to write about, but that will have to wait. While checking on some of my fellow blog authors today to see what they are up to I ran across this bit of news at Owukori’s Black Looks about a human rights organization working in the African country of Niger named Timidria.

Now, last week “Mama Miti” (a.k.a. Professor Dr. Wangari Maathai) down in Kenya was awarded one of the most prestigious honors the world has to offer, The Nobel Peace Prize. Today I have learned that another great honor albeit not as well known as the Nobel has been bestowed upon the not-for-profit foundation Timidria and their president Mr. Llguilas Weila by the world’s oldest human rights organization, Anti-Slavery International in the U.K. I want to extend my personal congratulations to Timidria for receiving the 2004 Anti-Slavery Award for their pioneering work to help eradicate the practice of slavery in Niger.

The ceremony will take place in London, U.K. on November 03, 2004 at St. James Square and the award will be handed out by one of my documentary film director heroes
Sorious Samura of Cry Freetown and Living with Hunger. Unfortunately, this excellent African organization which has worked so hard to help end one of the worst scourges of ancient and modern times, SLAVERY, will not be receiving any financial award for their efforts in Niger. The Anti-Slavery International foundation has been around since 1839 and has been doing very notable work long before U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued on September 22, 1862 one of the most treasured documents in U.S. American History, The Emancipation Proclamation, ordering the freedom of slaves (all nationalities and colors) held in the U.S. at the height of the American Civil War.

I would love to address the issues of Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking on this blog today, but to be honest, this subject gets me so upset that if I get started on it your computer might catch on fire just from the heat coming off of the words I would use. So instead, I will just provide you with some excerpts of words written by others and some useful links to resources for my readers to learn more.

An excerpt from the Anti-Slavery International Award 2004 Press Release

“Slavery is an integral part of Niger society. Thousands of people are born into a slave class and are forced to work without freedom or pay throughout their lives.The true scale of slavery across the country only became clear last year, following Timidria's research -- the first national study of slavery to be carried out. The organisation interviewed over 11,000 people, most of whom were identified as slaves, establishing that at least 43,000 people are in slavery across the country. Many of those interviewed were subjected to torture and other forms of humiliating and degrading treatment, including rape, physical abuse and threats.

Following the release of the report, the Government introduced a law that defines, prohibits and punishes slavery. And as a direct result of Timidria's action, over 200 people were freed by the end of 2003. Despite this progress there is still much to do to ensure the regulations are enforced and support is available for those freed.

Slavery has been a taboo subject in Niger with supporters both within the state apparatus and among traditional chiefs. Even other human rights organisations in the country have been silent on it. Ilguilas Weila and other Timidria staff have faced a continual struggle in their work against slavery, including being threatened, intimidated and attacked…”

An excerpt from the background and testimony of a former woman slave freed in June 2004 named Assabit:

"Assibit's experience is typical of many former slaves in Niger. She was a slave for 50 years. She was born a slave, her mother, husband and children were all slaves. She had to work all day from early in the morning, preparing food for the master and his family, milking camels, collecting water and firewood, and doing all the household chores. She had to move her master's heavy tent four times a day so he and the mistress remained sitting in the shade.
Assibit escaped on 28 June 2004, walking 30 kilometres to freedom. She says of her experience:

"We were never paid, I was only given one tenth of the camel milk and leftovers. I have never known happiness until this month of freedom. Now I can go to bed when I want, no one insults me. Now that I am free, I can live as I please."

Timidria is now helping Assibit adjust to freedom and has also secured the release of her mother and daughter…”

More Useful Links and Resources on Slavery and Human Trafficking Worldwide:

Anti-Slavery International homepage
Anti-Slavery International web pages on Niger

U.S. Department of State
2003 Trafficking in Persons Report

National Geographic
Special Report 21st Century Slavery

Black Looks weblog
Chronological Postings on Slavery

Experts and international organizations dealing with Human Trafficking and Slavery estimate there are about 27 million modern-day slaves in existence today around the world. I beg to differ, as I think there are probably more than 3-5 times that many people living in some form of slavery around the world (based upon the experts very definitions).

Economies and social structures of too many nations depend upon the cheap and/or free labor and suffering of slaves___ for centuries and to this very day. We can stop it worldwide in our lifetimes, and we must work together to put a stop to it.

Actually, this is how I really want to say it to the nations and peoples who condone slavery:


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Survival Study in Black and White

The Chai Lady
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

It is a beautiful B&W portrait of one of the older Chai Women of Khartoum. Her face and hands tell us stories that words could probably not adequately describe. I cannot tell her age from this photo but she seems to have seen a lifetime already, and she looks so tired today. She is as beautiful as any of the young women of Khartoum who hopefully seek her knowledge and wisdom. A mother of the City of Khartoum.

Here are Tom's words used to describe this photo:
"A portrait of a 'tea' lady in Khartoum. She makes a subsistance living selling glasses of tea or coffee on the street at $0.01 a glass.

I think this is one of my favourite photos. Her face is wonderful, proud and beautiful. The original was coloured but the light was great. Changing to B&W has I think brought a different sort of depth to the photo."

Amen brother!

Coffee, Tea, or a Smile?

The Smile is Free!
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2003-2004

Well, I don't know if he bought a tea from the Chai Lady, but he was certainly able to encourage her to give the world one of the most beautiful smiles from Khartoum. The people of Khartoum and throughout Sudan are some of the most warm-hearted and welcoming people anywhere on the planet. I should know. One of my best friends when I was a younger man who lived and worked in another faraway desert land hailed from the ancient city of Al Khartum in the Sudan.

Here is what Tom had to say about this lovely young woman:
"Another picture of a 'chai' (tea) lady working on the streets of Khartoum. This young woman is a refugee from the Nuba Mountains in the west of Sudan, whose 'tea house' is a ramshackle lean-to (made from sticks of cane and plastic sheeting) on the side of an empty brick building.

She looks so young and yet has a beautiful daughter (about 6 years old I would guess).'Chai' ladies can be found on every shady street corner in Khartoum. In the mornings they set up shop in the dawn light, burning the charcoal and mixing their sweet teas and tangy coffee. Some offer delicious doughnuts to start the day, and many regulars stop on their way to work to sit and chat with friends.

It's a precarious existence; the money they make in a day (often 12-14hours) will probably only be enough to buy tomorrow's provisions and pay for a meal for their family."

A Chai Vendor in Khartoum

The Coffee Lady
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2003-2004

She doesn't look too happy about this white dude hanging around with a camera wanting to take her picture. Perhaps she would be friendlier if this guy wanted to buy some of her wares (coffee or tea)? Maybe the conversation would go something like this:

"Hello kind sir, welcome to Al Khartum. Would you like a tea with that photo?"

The Orange Door to Al Khartum

The Day the Sky Turned Orange
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2003-2004

This is the start of a new series of photos taken by Tom after his return to Khartoum in September 2004. I love the light transition from darkness to the orange sky as it is framed by this portal doorway to the outside . The photo was taken during a "haboob" (duststorm) which Tom describes for another photo in this series:

"... but it shows what a dust storm is like in Khartoum. It arrives swifty, turns the world orange and is gone in 20 minutes. An extraordinary feat of nature."

Monday, October 18, 2004

Back to the Future: Sudan

Some weeks ago I received a special permission to work with some digital photos taken by Tom Gething who lives and works in Khartoum, Sudan. I am very appreciative to Tom for the opportunity to display and comment in my own words (and sometimes in his words) about a body of work that has captured my attention for months. I am very proud to be able to share these beautiful images with you my readers. I hope that I can do his work and the people in Tom's photos justice.

There has also been an increase in “behind the scenes” communication with fellow bloggers from Africa and people interested in Africa. It’s encouraging to know that so many people are trying to find ways to work together around the world to help solve Africa’s many problems and move the continent forward. I am so very thankful for that communications everyone.

Jewels in the Jungle started out as an experiment with what we technologists call a “web-based application” to see if weblogs can be a viable, reliable, secure, inexpensive and an easy-to-use communication tool for people who share similar interests. Blogs are also used to help people easily collaborate with one another, a type of grassroots information and knowledge-sharing platform. The technology behind weblogs is actually more than 12 years old but blogging still is in the cradle stage right now and the "Baby is on steroids!".

I do read the work of a number of other blog authors regularly and am amazed at the wealth of human talent and ability out there in the Blogoshpere. I am equally amazed at how fast blogging is growing at the rate of about ½ million blogs a month. There are a number of professionals in various fields following weblogs closely and notably among them are people who write and publish for a living: journalists, publishers, media companies. So do visit my blogroll “Hot Blogs & Sites To Go” and use it as a launch pad off into the Blogoshpere to discover what other people around the world are thinking and writing.

One of my favorite bloggers on Africa is Owukori of
Black Looks who has just returned from a visit to the States (she hates America but we’re trying to work this problem out somehow). Anyway, I really like her work and her style when I’m not pissed-off at her comments about my country. Owukori has been doing some excellent writing on Nigeria and especially on the crisis with Big Bad Oil vs. the People of the Niger River Delta. Do visit her weblog and help educate yourself about Owukori's views on Africa and the world.

I’d also like to thank Owukori for the hot tip on an excellent article about Sudan from Mahmood Mamdani, the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Director of the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University, New York. Professor Mamdani’s article will serve as a solid foundation for a new series of postings I'm doing on Sudan together with Tom’s photos.

So, here we go, through the open doors of Al Khartum and into the Land of the Sudan.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Nobel Peace Prize for 2004

Olso, Norway. Friday morning. October 08, 2004
"...and the winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Peace is... (Wait a minute. You sure we have this name right Hans? Ja ja Ole, the name is correct. Go ahead and read it aloud.) ...and the Nobel Prize for Peace for the year 2004 goes to___ (light cough) goes to Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

Newsroom editors around the world. Friday. October 08, 2004
"Professor who? Dr. who? Kenya? You sure they got that right? I've never heard of him. Her? It's a woman, an environmentalist!? And she is BLACK!!? This is big news, real big! Get me some copy on Dr. what's her name__(Professor Wangari Maathai, she's a Member of Parliament in Kenya)__ yeah, yeah, get me some copy on Professor Maathai there right away. Right now! Stop the presses. Stop the doggone presses!

CNN News:
Kenyan in Surprise Peace Prize Win , Maathai Profile
BBC News:
Kenyan Ecologist Wins Nobel Peace Prize, Profile
Kenya Daily Nation:
Professor Maathai Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Office in Germany. Friday noon. October 08, 2004
(BlackRiverEagle) "Yessir! What? Yesss Mamm!! She won! She won, doggone it! Stand up Africa, stand up in the world and be counted! Show me you can do it, show the world you can do it and all you need is a little help in the right places from the right people. All I need is a little help from my friends."

"My hat is off to you Doctor Maathai, I mean Madame Minister. Hallelujah! Congratulations Kenya! Congratulations to the women of Africa and to women all around the world. Show 'em you have a place in this world, that you have the right to be in charge of things and that you have the brains for it, the courage for it, and the heart for it. Yessiree!"

Mshairi, my blogger friend from Kenya. You were right my dear. Women most definately can save the planet Earth. The right answer to your question is an empahtic YES! Congratulations.

Here is the link to Professor Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement organization in Kenya.

Here are some recent news articles on environmental issues in Africa and Planet Earth:
Planet Under Pressure (a BBC News Six-Part Special Report)
Oil Boom Fuels Bushmeat Trade

Here is my favorite quote (so far) from Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya:

...Mrs Maathai says she usually uses a biblical analogy of creation to stress the importance of the environment.
"God created the planet from Monday to Friday. On Saturday he created human beings.
The truth of the matter is... if man was created on Tuesday, I usually say, he would have been dead on Wednesday, because there would not have been the essential elements that he needs to survive,"
she told the BBC...

Update Saturday October 9th, 2004:
Boy I can see the editors and reporters at the bigtime news organizations got their act together quick, you could watch the stories update online hour-to-hour on Dr. Maathai. The more I read about this great woman the more I like her. How come it took 30 years for the world to know about this woman and to recognize her work?

"Mama Miti" - The Mother of Trees (in Kiswahili language). Boy they got that name right. Here is some more news and background on Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya.
BBC News: Locals toast Mama Miti's Win

And here is good news on new agreements reached at the CITES Convention in Bangkok to help protect the remaining wildlife populations in Africa. BBC News: Ivory Crackdown Agreed in Africa

If we could only keep those corrupt politicians and business people (you know who you are) and the murdering bushmeat hunters and wildlife traders away we just might be getting somewhere with protecting Africa's precious flora and fauna. At least what's left and that 'aint much.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Friday's Smile

Something to smile about on a Friday.
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Something really important happened to me this week in regards to this blog, some really good news Out of Africa. I've been thinking about it and thinking about for the past few days, and I am gonna think about it some more this weekend. And then I am going to get busy with this new opportunity and together with the bearer of this gift from Africa share it with you, my readers, ASAP.

In the meantime, please check out the other great blogs and sites listed in my blogroll "Hot Blogs & Sites To Go" because there are some excellent blog authors there. Follow Yvette at Inside Somaliland and Ethan Zuckerman at Harvard and the new addition Timbuktu Chronicles and oh yeah, don't forget the folks at University of Southern California's Online Journalism Review. Here is a link to a great article from USC's OJR on Internet Access and Use in Africa.

Good, see you again next week. Have a nice weekend :-) Jeez, how American can this guy get?!

P.S. Hey, you like politics and world affairs? Are you one of those people who go around thinking "If I had a chance to meet President So-and-So I would give him a ...", one of those international affairs pundits? Have you seen this story on Kerry and Bush from the Washington Post, "Kerry is Widely Favored Abroad"? Then you need to visit Priorities & Frivolities over at my blogroll, that's why I put it in there. Got an opinion, tell Robert Garcia Tagorda, not me. I'm not into politics myself (ha-ha-ha-ha- ha-ha-ha-ha). ha.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Iranian Bloggers Protest Government Crackdown

Iranian Bloggers Protest Government Crackdown on Reformist News Sites

"Uhh-Ohh! I think they are on to us (bloggers)?! Oh Schei--- !"

... and you thought that I was only going to write and post about Africa. Hah, fooled you didn't I?

Look, bloggers are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with, online and offline (like in the streets). All kinds of people are trying to follow and understand this fast-developing phenomenon of free speech from the people available for free___ or at least at low cost, requires lot's of sweat-equity from the author(s) & publisher(s) though.

So if you are blogging from behind enemy lines or from within countries where free speech makes the folks-in-charge kinda nervous, watch your step and cover your behind. Pay attention to articles like this one from the Online Journalism Review, an excellent website of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism.

"You could be next, Buster, so watch what you say in our country!"

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Millennium Development Goals 101 - Lesson 1

Social and sustainable economic development for the world, now there is a subject you can sink your teeth into. Thanks to a reader comment on my last posting "U.N. Delegation from Uganda" I have been "yanked-away" from breathing fire at Khartoum and made to focus on a topic which is one of the basis points for starting this blog in the first place. Thanks Mshairi.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) is probably one of the most comprehensive initiatives to come out of the U.N. and its member nations for decades. As Mshairi has so eloquently pointed out in her comment, it is extremely important that we (we = the Whole World) successfully fulfill our promises and responsibilities as set forth in the MDG's for 2015___ and beyond.

I became interested in some MDG progress reports myself after Mshairi brought it up in her comment, so I did a little search (using Google of course, since they support us
Blogger bloggers big time). Here is what I was able to find on Google in like 0-comma-zip seconds:

The UNDP (
U.N. Development Programme) has all kinds of very good websites, and one of them is focused on Human Development Reports (HDR's). The Human Development Report 2003 has a lot of detailed information on where we (we = the Whole World) are at the moment on the MDG 2015 performance scale and timeline. The complete HDR 2003 is massive folks (6.5+MB pdf-file download) so watchout if you only have a dial-up internet connection, you'll be downloading all day. The report is also broken-down into smaller parts for easier digestion and downloading, fortunately. Smart and very considerate of the web design team at UNDP.

Note also that this UNDP site has some very interesting facts listed on their
Do you know webpage. Here is one little factoid from this cool mini-site for your reflection:

Did you know that...
A baby born in Zambia today can have a life expectancy of just 32 years. A baby born in Japan can expect to live until the age of 82. (Ref. HDR 2004)

So, have fun on these excellent UNDP sites, although there is nothing funny about the subject matter. Don't miss the
HDR Statistics site and the National HDR sites. Maybe we need to work on making careers in this field not only fulfilling, but also a lot of fun, and economically rewarding.

Hey, I see the UNDP design team is using Macromedia Cold-Fusion for their web development. I wonder what kinda database their running? Ummm, what is this HDR toolkit button... ___ ooh! Online learning courses too, cool.......... .

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The U.N. Delegation from Uganda

The U.N. Delegation of the Future from Uganda
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Just doing a bit of dreaming about what the future could hold for the kids in the photos I'm posting today. What the future could hold for them in this century if we get behind 'em and get serious about all that talk at the U.N. this week. I wonder what these children dream about in regards to their future? Simple needs or really big dreams?

I wonder how many of my readers have ever heard about the Millinneum Development Goals or the Millinneum Challenge Account? I bet my two new blogger friends from Kenya, Mshairi and Kui, know what these programs are all about. Now the challenge is, how do we make it work for these kids?

The Concierge at the Waldorf

The Concierge at the Waldorf
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

O.K. for this kid that might be quite a stretch. However, where I come from there are plenty of Rags-to-Riches real life stories, so why not for this little guy? He already has the "warm greetings" part of the job down pat.

The Dance Teacher

The Dance Teacher
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Respect for the Rule of Law

Addressing UN Assembly, Annan urges nations to restore respect for rule of law

Are you following the events in New York at the opening session of the 59th U.N. General Assembly? If not, you should be, because your very life may depend on what happens there, and what does or does not happen afterward.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan was in top form while delivering the opening address. You have to respect and admire this man who sincerely cares so much for all people around the world. Annan's speech was very moving and should make everyone do some deep, serious thinking about our responsibilities and actions. Annan is a valuable gift for an undeserving world.

I would suggest that we all not let him down, again. That goes for you too, Omar. We saw your U.N. delegation taking a serious toungue-lashing while they were looking for a hole to crawl into under their seats. 'Aint no hiding places on the floor of the General Assembly when the eyes of the world are upon you. Eyes fed by TV news cameras running live feeds and connected to satellite uplinks and downlinks around the globe.

Now I saw Dr. Condelezza Rice sitting in the General Assembly surrounded by representatives from just about every country in the world, and neither she nor Colin Powell looked none too happy when the subject of Darfur came up. President Bush of the U.S.A. is the only head of state to my knowledge who has had the "canollis" to call the situation in Sudan genocide, and he has done it before the whole world at this U.N. General Assembly. Correct me if I am wrong now. What you whispering about there in the back? Yeah, you!

Dr. Susan Rice from the Brookings Institute (now this Dr. Rice has a real mean streak in her, Omar, she is not so soft-spoken like Condelezza) has called the latest U.N. resolution on Darfur "toothless" on live T.V. yesterday, and she is working for the U.S. Democratic Party presidential candidate John Kerry! Things just aren't looking too rosey for your government over there in Khartoum, so oder so. Better straighten' up over there, quick.

Plenty of good reading at the U.N. News Centre website. Click on their Homepage link to get a rundown on who said what at the 59th General Assembly this week. Oh yeah, here is the latest news on activities of the U.N. special envoys and investigators and what have you on the ground in Sudan today. Ummph, umm, ummm.

Let's see which leaders and nations are going to back up their words with real action; otherwise, there might be some more "serious consequences" coming down the Pike real soon.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Big Vote is In on Darfur

Of course I followed the events at the U.N. Security Council Saturday re: the vote on the new resolution for Darfur. As a matter of fact, I stayed up late to watch the proceedings LIVE on TV (guess what channel?). A vote of 11-0-4 'aint bad, but what will really count is what happens next, and when it happens.

While we wait about 333.333 people a day are dying there, so let's see how fast everyone can get busy. I totally enjoyed the comments of U.N. Ambassador Danforth (Right-On Bro!), thought that the abstention speeches from China-Pakistan-Algeria were a total cop-out and something we all need to remember "down-the-line" when these guys need something, and I threw my shoe at the TV when the Sudanese Ambassador started to speak, then turned the thing off to conserve energy.

On a more positive note re: Sudan I want to let you know that I again attempted to contact the teacher/photographer Tom Gething in Khartoum today in regards to his wonderful photos and commentaries. As a "really nice guy treat" for my readers here is the link to Tom's digital photography portfolio at
TrekEarth . There are more online images from Tom, but one link at a time folks. "Don't push and get in line over there, Bub".

Lastly, I want to thank a new visitor and fellow blogger Mshairi for her comment today and direct you to her very nice blog by the same name Mshairi . I think that she is just getting started with Blogger since August and I want to welcome her to the Blogosphere and encourage my readers to visit her weblog. Poetry from a modern Kenyan woman blogger, that should be interesting.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

What You Can Do About Darfur

In case you didn't have a chance to read some of my earlier posts on Darfur stating what you can do as an ordinary World Citizen (a.k.a. a mushroom... always kept in the dark and fed a diet of chicken poop), click on the link above to the HRW website.

Don't miss their Crisis in Darfur jumpage for the latest from the HRW point-of-view, which isn't so left of center from my own except for some of the "wimpy" suggestions they have for government and world leaders. I'm a bit more Hawkish (hmmph!, Eagle-ish) than the folks at HRW on most issues of this nature.

You say you don't have any time to write these guys? How much time does it take you to send an email? If the leaders of our respective governments and particularly the bozos in Khartoum get enough email from around the world that could start to really piss them off! It might even motivate them to do something about Darfur and maybe even go after Public Enemy Nr. 1, SPAMMERS!

Today U.N. Votes on Darfur - Again

BBC NEWS Africa Darfur crisis divides press

Well, today is the day when the U.N. Security Council votes on the latest U.S.-sponsored resolution on the Crisis in Darfur. Don't expect much to happen so oder so, but it's worth mentioning.

In the meantime, it may be interesting for you to check out what the leading news media in the region (Sudan, Egypt) are saying about the situation. I was impressed on how open some of Sudan's journalists are expressing their views on the crisis in their country. Checkout the links above for more information.

Here is an excerpt from a Sudan news commentary of particular note:

"Whatever the UN Security Council's verdict is today, the issue, from beginning to end, is a Sudanese one, and is the result of our failure to solve the crisis... We have to work hard and find a comprehensive solution to the Sudanese problem, and to Darfur in particular, as soon as possible."

Commentary by Kamal al-Sadiq in Sudan's al-Ayyam

Don't miss the links to the various newspapers online and to the Arab Leagues backing of the Government of Sudan's position. And these guys claim to be friends and partners with my country? Do we really appear to be that stupid to these guys?