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)