Wednesday, December 21, 2005

African bloggers find their voice | My reflections

As the end of the year 2005 rapidly approaches I want to write about something today that has been on my mind for months. It is an act of Thanksgiving, not exactly the kind of *Thanksgiving we celebrate as a holiday back in my home country the United States of America, but another kind of thanksgiving.

I was thinking overnight about my post from yesterday re: the BBC News article by Andrew Heavens titled “
African bloggers find their voice”. Andrew did a fair job of bringing attention via his article to African bloggers and international blog authors who write about Africa, but in reality it was just that, a fair job. It just skims the surface of an ocean like a seagull going after a small minnow, missing everything that is swimming down in the depths of the Africa Sector of the Blogosphere. Those waters are very deep (like an ocean), the currents (dynamics) are fast moving like a wild river, and the landscape is as breathtaking as that of the deep blue sea.

I personally cannot give enough praise to the skills, imagination, diversity, passion, information and entertainment value shown and shared by just the small fraction of Africa bloggers I have followed in 2005. As I told my friend Bill Ainashe some months ago at his
blog, I am humbled by these beautiful minds.

I think it may have been said best by The Zimbabwean Pundit in the August 15, 2005 post “
The State of the African Blogosphere”. Here is an excerpt from that great post from the very fine African blogger The Zimbabwean Pundit:

“The African blogosphere is a heterogeneous amalgam of blogs not only by Africans and people on the continent as much as it is comprised of blogs that write about the continent. There are many people around the world that write about Africa. This miracle of cyberspace—that it allows for cheap communication unfettered by geopolitical boundaries—has made it possible for the African odyssey to share center stage alongside the big issues in the west, thanks in part to Africa’s bloggers. The latest news from Africa is available to anyone in the world with access to the internet.

Like the continent itself, content from Africa’s bloggers is vast and varied; from personal to politics, sports to short stories, and poverty to development economics. This wealth of information in the African blogosphere is categorized in many different ways. Most blogs are grouped according to their country of concentration. Many times this is the blogger’s country of origin or residence, other times the writers are expatriates.

The hallmark of African bloggers is authenticity. African bloggers are retelling the African story from their authentic perspective with an avid passion for their countries and continent to boot. It is impossible to read the posts on any of the blogs in the African blogosphere and come away without a sense of the writer’s deep connection to the country and continent. “

Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online recently addressed misconceptions about Africa held by some journalists and other media professionals in his postings “And now, a rant from our listeners” and “Chris Tenove responds!”.

Therefore I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to not only the thousands of readers who have visited
Jewels in the Jungle this year, but I would also like to say a special Thank You to the hundreds and hundreds of excellent citizen journalists who write about Africa in the Blogosphere. You are the real Heroes of Africa 2005 in my mind. I have learned so much about the people, places, and natural wonders of Africa from your work online this year.

I have been especially entertained and informed by the work of some very special people listed below who write regularly about Africa and African affairs. Like Andrew Heaven’s article, my list just skims the surface of a vast ocean of interesting blog authors who have emerged to write about Africa today.

Congo Crew & Co. (Democratic Republic of Congo)
007 in Africa by J. Bond (Canada, D.R.C.)
Breaking Hearts in the Heart of Darkness by Sahara Sarah (U.S.A., D.R.C.)
Tangawazi and Mundele by Lulu on the Bridge (Argentina, D.R.C.)
The Salon of News and Thought by The Malau (D.R.C., U.S.A.)
Exiled Soul by Carine (D.R.C., U.K.) (new blog, original blog is offline)
Telegraphe Congolais by Louis Ableman (U.S.A.)

Ethiopundit by ethiopundit (Ethiopia, U.S.A.)
Meskel Square by Andrew Heavens (U.K., Ethiopia)

Kenyan Pundit by Ory Okolloh (Kenya, U.S.A.)
Mshairi (The Poet) by Mshairi (Kenya, U.K.)
Kenya Unlimited (Kenyan blog community)
African Bullets & Honey by MMK and Akinyi Arunga (Kenya, U.K.)

Chippla’s Weblog by Chippla Vandu (Nigeria, The Netherlands)
Grandiose Parlor by Imnakoya (Nigeria, U.S.A.)
Black Looks by Sokari Ekine (Nigeria, Spain)
Timbuktu Chronicles, Africa Unchained by Emeka Okafor (Nigeria, U.S.A.)

On Safari with El Jorgito by George Conrad (U.S.A., Rwanda, Uganda)

Somalia and Somaliland
Inside Somaliland by Yvette Lopez (Phillipines, Somaliland) by Bill Ainashe (Somalia, U.S.A.)

Sudan Watch by Ingrid Jones (England)

…My Hearts in Accra by Ethan Zuckerman (U.S.A.)
Black Star Journal by Brian (U.S.A.)
The Head Heeb by Jonathan Edelstein (U.S.A.)
Booker Rising by Shay (U.S.A.)

*An aside:
Owukori, my blogger buddy over at Black Looks, likes to tease Americans about how much we like to “EAT-EAT-EAT” during our traditional holiday festivities Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Well honey, let me tell you. My European friends here in Germany are no better. I made the mistake of roasting a fresh Tom Turkey with a side of candied sweet potatoes for a dinner party we threw for friends this past November and you should of seen ‘em. Not only did our guests rave about the turkey with stuffing and the baked candied sweet potatoes (recipes from my dear grandmothers and Mom), some guests attacked me afterwards as I was trying to discard the turkey carcass to the trash bin, snatching the poor bird out of my hands so that they could pick at the little bits of meat that was left hanging on the bones. Heathens. Worst than any behavior I’ve ever seen at a feast or banquet back home. Right out of the
Middle Ages these people. Professionals too, managers and lawyers!

Wishing a
Very Happy Holidays 2005 to all of my readers and friends. Worldwide.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | African bloggers find their voice

Congratulations to Africa's bloggers and to those of us who (attempt to) write about Africa in the Blogosphere. I just love it when the MSM (mainstream media) gives good blog authors credit where credit is due. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That is what it means to me...

Some of my favorite (favourite) blog authors are featured in this December 20th article by Andrew Heavens of BBC Focus Magazine including the formidable ethiopundit and Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online and ...My Heart's in Accra. And when did they dressup the design of the BlogAfrica site? Their new design looks real slick, much better than the original layout.
Does BlogAfrica accept ATOM feeds for blog post updates yet, Ethan?

The world's leading politicians, business leaders, and professional media companies are starting to listen up to the Blogosphere, and I would advise that they listen up good because "the little people" around the world are talking tough and from the heart.
Millions of 'em. Voters and consumers. Oh my!

Are you listening Sir? Are you listening Ma'am? Great. Fantastic!


Thursday, December 01, 2005

World AIDS Day 2005: Focus on Zambia and southern Africa

The 18th Annual World AIDS Day activities to raise awareness and action in the fight against HIV/AIDS around the world are in full swing today. According to the latest news and statistics on this global war against a devastating disease there is very little to be happy about. We are losing this war and we are losing badly. The theme of World AIDS Day 2005 is “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” and when I think about how many “promises” the world community has not kept or broken over the past few years alone one could just throw in the towel and raise the white flag on stopping AIDS in poorer countries.

I was a bit more upbeat when I posted on the World AIDS Day 2004 because I naively thought that we were making some progress last year in the fight against AIDS. The only significant progress this year outside of some medical advances and "promises of financial aid" is that the disease is steadily progressing on the African and Asian continents. China, India, and Russia are bracing for an explosion in new HIV/AIDS infections and deaths in 2006. Here are some sobering numbers for the year 2005 from Reuters AlertNet on HIV/AIDS in Africa and Asia.

CNNI (CNN International) aired a special yesterday by veteran award-winning documentary filmmaker Sorious Samura titled “Living with AIDS”. This powerful video documentary will be airing worldwide on CNN Presents again today and through the weekend to Sunday, December 4th. Check your local TV listings to see when it airs in your neighborhood or visit the CNN Presents website. If you are interested in learning more about the AIDS epidemic in southern Africa don’t miss this important documentary. People in the U.K. may remember the June 27, 2005 airing of Living with AIDS on Channel 4 or may have read the review in the Guardian Observer on June 19th.

I must say that I am a very big fan of Sorious Samura and the Insight News TV production team and try to watch every documentary they produce ever since seeing Samura’s Cry Freetown years ago. Living with AIDS is the third in a special series preceded by Living with Hunger and Living with Refugees. The video was shot in Zambia and in his characteristic style Sorious Samura immerses himself and the audience into the story as he works as an orderly in a rural Zambian hospital treating gravely ill AIDS and tuberculosis patients.

Owukori of the Black Looks blog 1st broke this story in the Blogosphere back in June 2005 but was unable to view the U.K. premiere so I hope that she can view it out down in Spain this weekend. Owukori writes about many of the issues on sexuality and sexual abuse in Africa that Samura raises in this documentary so check her blog for in-depth viewpoints.

As with some of the earlier works by the Sierra Leone native Sorious Samura I came away from Living with AIDS so deeply upset, furious, angry, and frustrated that I could have leaped right through the screen of my TV set to grab the perpetrators of violence and other unspeakable crimes against innocent people by the neck and choke the living crap out of them. I always come away better informed about the issues confronting the people characterized in Samura’s excellent documentaries about Africa, that is, after I cool down.

Case in Point:

In Living with AIDS there are interviews with some young (and some older) Zambian men who are either HIV+ and/or suffering from AIDS and tuberculosis. One scene in particular that burns into my memory is of a young boy (calling him a young man would be an insult to any real men) who brags about his being infected with AIDS and yet he refuses to practice safe sex by wearing a condom. There are other scenes where young and middle-aged men boast of their (perceived) sexual prowess by having multiple sexual partners (mostly young girls) and complain vehemently to Sorious Samura that they like to have “The Real Thing” and “Flesh-to-Flesh” when they are having sex and therefore don't use (free) condoms. Who do these guys think they are? Coca-Cola? This is not only irresponsible and dangerous sexual behavior it is murder. And don’t come to me with that age-old African traditions and cultural taboos BS because I don’t buy it. People are dying like flies from AIDS down in Africa and in the face of certain death you will drop all taboos to stay alive.

To make matters worse there was yet another interview with very young sex workers (prostitutes) who shyly admitted to the filmmaker that they sometimes have unprotected sex with their customers because they earn more (about 50 cents more). These young girls were aware of the dangers of unprotected sex in rural Zambia, had access to free condoms and counseling, and had lost friends and family members to AIDS and related diseases. Yet they were willing to put their lives and their customer's lives on the line for a few extra coins. That is not a result of the pressures of severe poverty, that is just plain stupidity!

The last straw for me came toward the end when a “traveling blind preacher” was giving one of his open-air fire-and-brimstone sermons to a group of orphans (all children, about 100 of them) that had been placed under his watchful care and guidance. As the reverend was preaching to these poor, uneducated, helpless little children about the Bible and Jesus (that part was O.K.) through his Zambian sidekick (a translator, the preacher didn’t speak the local language) he decided he would cover the subject of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and sex with a phrase that went something like this:

“I don’t believe in condoms, I believe in Jesus, and that is all you need.”

This is the point when I lost all control and went ballistic, (feeling like) pulling out my .45 caliber Smith & Wesson and filling that hoodlum priest (the preacher) and his baboon friend full of lead, hoping that I wouldn’t hit any of those poor kids in the process. God forgive me.

Just about everybody I describe above appearing in this riveting documentary needs to be locked up by the Zambian police ASAP and then throw away the key. Then they should find the orphans a new home Pronto. No more blind preachers giving out sex education and HIV/AIDS counseling to minors in Zambia or anywhere else in southern Africa. And somebody needs to talk about AIDS in Africa with the new German Pope Benedict too, bring him up to speed on reality.

So for a more in-depth and cool-headed review of Sorious Samura’s new documentary on the AIDS epidemic in Zambia, please follow the links below:

CNN Presents: Living with AIDS
November 30th – December 4th, 2005

Insight News TV: Living with AIDS

Guardian Observer (U.K.): Africa’s fatal sexual culture spreads AIDS

Moving right along:

I’ll write more about World AIDS Day 2005 tomorrow. I need to calm down right now after reflecting on some of the scenes in the documentary “Living with AIDS”.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Liberia: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf officially declared election winner

Madam President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia. Congratulations! Today it has become official. Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been declared Africa’s 1st elected woman head of state in history. Wow, with Angela Merkel’s swearing-in yesterday as Germany’s first female chancellor the ladies might be on a roll in taking charge of the "reigns of power" around the world.

I have been patiently following this important story for weeks in the mainstream media and in the Blogosphere and today the National Elections Commission of the Republic of Liberia has reached its final decision re: the claims of voter fraud by presidential contender George Weah and his CDC party. Ms. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has won the presidential runoff election fair-and-square. She is the next President of the Republic of Liberia, Africa’s first and oldest republic.

Congratulations Madam President and congratulations to the people of Liberia who have chosen peace over war, democracy over dictatorship and fear and chaos. May peace and prosperity and substantial support and respect from your neighbors and the world community be with you from this day onward. I will be writing more about this wonderful new world leader in the next few days as the story of President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf deserves a great deal of attention and praise.
In the meantime please check out the news links below:

VOA News (text and audio):
Liberia declares Johnson-Sirleaf election winner
Sirleaf-Johnson to become Liberia’s next president

BBC News:
Iron Lady named Liberian leader (article from The Analyst – Monrovia)
Red Letter Day!


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mission accomplished. Germany elects first female chancellor.

The big news of the day here in Germany is of course the election and swearing-in of the new Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, Germany’s first woman federal chancellor. My congratulations Madam Chancellor for working your way to the top of German politics; a journey full of danger, intrigue, betrayals, pessimism, personal and political landmines, blame games, and a generally mean-spirited and thankless electorate (sounds like Washington D.C., don’t it?).
Good Luck Angie!

Honestly, Angela Merkel is a real fighter and
her story is well worth the time to read and understand. The shy daughter of a German Lutheran pastor she grew up behind the Iron Curtain in the former German Democratic Republic. After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Empire in 1989-1990 she became involved with the East German Demokratischer Aufbruch party that merged with the West German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 1990. Merkel worked her way to the top of the CDU party elite under the careful guidance of Germany’s longest-serving chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

The recent snap elections called by former Bundeskanzler
Gerhard Schröder in September 2005 was a particularly nasty and hard fought campaign even by German standards. In the end Bozo’s (Schröder) political shenanigans backfired on him and the SPD (Social Democratic Party) and Angie’s party won by a very slim margin (1%). Here is a blow-by-blow account of the German elections 2005 by Der Speigel magazine’s international online edition (English).

The German voters have a great deal of trouble to be worried about, not least of all the issues of jobs and the economy and the highly coveted
transatlantic relationship with the United States of America. What relationship? That love affair is over Sucka! However we might cut Angie some slack at the beginning to see if she can get Deutschland back on track with The Program. The German public is basically worried about only one thing in the transatlantic relationship with the U.S.:MADE IN GERMANY = Please buy our stuff. Pleeaasse!

I was pulling for Frau Merkel in the recent elections by the way, albeit I am not a citizen of Deutschland and cannot vote here. Thank God. Here in northern Germany one is surrounded by voters that continue to have their thick heads stuck up Schroeder’s red (Socialist) rear-end. The atmosphere here today is not one of jubilation, let me tell you. Sort of reminds me of the days shortly after the Berlin Wall fell back in 1989. That was a Black Day for many West Germans. Surprised? Do your research on West vs. East Germans if you don’t believe me.

So Madam Chancellor Angela, although I and many others are pleased that you are finally able to takeover the reigns of power in
Good Old Germany I would like to move on to write about another outstanding Madam President-in-waiting who has earned her right to rule: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia.

In the meantime my readers can catch the latest on Chancellor Angela Merkel by following the German point-of-view links below. Auf Wiedersehen. Y’all.

Technorati search for German and international bloggers:
Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, German politics, Politik
Deutsche Welle (English language version):
Der Spiegel Online (international edition – English)

Some U.S. political Think Tanks operating in Germany:
Aspen Institute in Berlin: Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin appears on more political talk shows in Germany than Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.

The GMF (
German Marshall Fund): second only to the Aspen Institute on German "Let’s Talk Politics" TV. However, checkout this November 09, 2005 testimony by the GMF's Dr. Karen Donfried to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Emerging Threats: Germany after the Elections: Implications for U.S. - German Relations

P.S. I love the title of this U.S. Congressional subcommittee: Europe & Emerging Threats!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Riots in France enter 12th night: Is Paris (still) burning?

It is late afternoon here in Germany. The sun has just dipped below the horizon and the dreary grey skies of a typical rainy November day have begun to shift toward orange and deep reds and violet before night falls. Nighttime. We all know what that means here in Western Europe for the past 11 days. Is Paris still burning? Has the violence crossed the border into our country yet? Aach Du Schei--e! Wirklich?

For my regular readers, my apologies for not posting over the last several days. Plenty of hot stuff going on around the world though, isn't it? In regards to the Paris riots which have now spread to over 300 cities and towns across France, we in Germany and throughout Western and Central Europe are watching these events with great interest. Indeed!

I haven't been totally silent about "le disturbánces" you know, just reserved. I've weighed in with my blogger friend down in the Congo 007 in Africa and left a word or two over at Booker Rising. The Blogosphere heavyweights like Instapundit et Al. have torn into this with a passion and you can follow more of the conversations over at Technorati.

Downright Angst has set in for many people here if you ask me. I mean, if the "Shei--e hits the fan" here in Gemany who's gonna deal with it? Die Polizei? The police need to take orders from people in high places (Politiker), especially here in Deutschland. In Germany there is nobody officially in charge of the government at the moment. That is, not until the three main political parties (CDU/CSU and SPD) from the September 2005 elections finally work out a deal. No deal, no coalition government. Basta.

So, I and others in Europe need a little more time to get a handle on the fast-moving events over on the Western Front. In the meantime, keep your eyes glued to your TV sets and your newspapers and online news sites for the latest nightly developments. Jacques Chiraq has called for a stop to the violence (= a showdown), and the kids with the Molotov cocktails and sawed-off shotguns don't seem to be listening. Not a good combination if you ask me.

Now where did I park my car today? Got my keys, my passport, change of clothes, and my airline ticket. I'm outa here. Gone.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Uganda: "Jimmy" and Gulu Walk Day

Everybody loves a parade, except perhaps the one I want to write about today. This parade takes place every night on the rural roads of northern Uganda, where literally thousands of children and young adults walk in small groups for miles to a town named Gulu in order to seek shelter and safety from marauding bands of armed militias. These children have a label: Night Commuters.

Many of them make it, but not all. And the fate of the ones who do not reach the town of Gulu or Kitgum is too horrible to describe in any detail. The ones who do not make it many times are kidnapped and forced to fight as child soldiers for one of the most savage and crazed killers on the planet. His name is
Joseph Kony, and his militia is called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This parade of misery and naked fear has been going on all across northern districts of Uganda for more than 19 years, and the time is long overdue to put a stop to it.

So allow me to introduce you to some of those children and to the people around the world who are working very hard on their behalf. It is better that you see and hear and read for yourself about what’s going on in northern Uganda.

First let me introduce you to Jimmy, a young schoolboy who so eloquently and clearly explains what it is like to be a Night Commuter in Uganda. Jimmy is a 14-year old who walks every evening from his home village to the town of Gulu. He is afraid of being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army militias that have roamed, kidnapped, and murdered children in his area of the country since the time of his birth. The link below to a short online video interview with Jimmy is courtesy of independent video journalist
Ruud Elmendorp* of The Netherlands. One of my favorite moments in the video is when the journalist asks Jimmy what he would do if they would meet the (LRA) rebels on the road. Jimmy answers:

“If we meet them I would just give them some advice, I would tell them that they should stop fighting (pause), the government. They should come home so that we can join arm-in-arm to make peace in Uganda.”

Jimmy – Uganda: Any time the rebels can come to abduct children
Date: August 2005 URL:
Format: Windows Media File (.wmv), Length: 4 min. 15 sec, Size: 8.60 MB
Source: Ruud Elmendorp –
Video Journalist weblog, Ruud’s website

*More info about Ruud Elmendorp’s reports on Uganda can be found at his
Uganda Country page and Reporter’s Log. A selection of Ruud’s video reports on Africa can be found at his online video archives.


October 22nd, 2005 is the first ever
Gulu Walk Day. Two Canadian men and people around the world have organized several marches on behalf of the children of northern Uganda, the Night Commuters. These marches will be taking place in over 40 cities worldwide and are meant to help raise awareness about the plight of these children and to make A Call to Action. Visit the UgandaCAN site to learn more about Gulu Walk Day and how various organizations are working to help the child victims of this terrible 20-year war all across the northern districts of Uganda and beyond.

Following are additional resources that may help you to learn more:

Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone from Yahoo! News
Blog post October 19th, 2005: Fighting a Phantom

Invisible Children – an exceptional documentary video and project website

International Crisis Group: Resources on conflict in northern Uganda
The conflict in Uganda presented on ABC News “Nightline”
August 2005
John Prendergast op-ed in the Washington Post – April 7, 2005
Building a comprehensive peace strategy for northern Uganda
June 23, 2005

Reuters AlertNet:
Crisis Profile -
What’s going on in northern Uganda – June 7, 2005
Rebels without a Cause” film by Daniel Simpson and Matthew Green

BBC News Online:
Uganda’s Atrocious War – June 12, 2003 (Warning: disturbing images)
Profile of Joseph Kony – October 7, 2005
Uganda rebel warrants confirmed – October 14, 2005

The Christian Science Monitor:
Africa’s Peace Seekers: Betty Bigombe – September 13, 2005

HRW Press Release “
Night Commuters” – August 22, 2005
Human Rights Watch video “
The Night Commuters
HRW online resources:

UN IRINnews Web Special on northern Uganda – January 2004
When the sun sets, we start to worry” - Overview

Bloggers writing regularly about Uganda:
Global Voices Online:
Uganda Watch by Ingrid Jones
P.Scott Cummins =The Urbane R:
Worldwide focus on the children of Gulu and Northern Uganda

Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, Uganda, Gulu, Acholi tribe, Yoweri Museveni

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sudan: The GI-NET and Spotlight on Darfur 2

I have today added a new badge from the Genocide Intervention Network to this blog (check the middle right-hand side of the homepage, above my blogroll). This new organization (formed in 2004) is working to “…empower citizens around the world with the tools to advance initiatives that help protect civilians from genocidal violence” (and death I would presume). The Genocide Intervention Network has come up with the radical idea of providing private funding from the collection of international donations to the African Union peacekeeping forces stationed in Darfur and/or to those forces scheduled for operations in Darfur.

I can’t say that I would support such an approach vs. pressuring UN member countries to live up to their responsibilities and promises already made to the people of Darfur and to the people of the world, but you have to admit it is a novel idea. BTW,
their list of sponsors and supporters is quite impressive, and it is growing. According to information displayed on the GI-NET site homepage:

“Today as genocide rages in Darfur, Sudan, the world stands by, failing the vow of “never again” that it made after the Holocaust and reaffirmed after the Rwandan genocide. The genocide in Darfur has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced 2,500,000 people. Five hundred people continue to die each day; fifteen thousand die every month.”

Some of my readers know that I have written a number of posts and comments to this blog and others about Sudan and Darfur. Pay a visit to the
GI-NET site or the Coalition for Darfur blog or the Save Darfur site to find out what you can do before there is no time left to be able to do anything at all to help these suffering people.

Spotlight on Darfur 2 at the Live from the FDNF blog is a new collection of posts from bloggers focusing on the continuing atrocities taking place in Darfur. Somehow I missed the news about this blogging event on October 17th but it is never too late to go back and read what blog authors, professional journalists, and others have to say about this human catastrophe playing out before our eyes everyday. The Government of Sudan’s murderous crusade against their very own people goes unhindered by any form of meaningful intervention. Forever Again.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Earthquakes and Floods: South Asia to the Americas

One cannot help but to be saddened yet again by the massive loss of life, homes, livelihoods, and possessions experienced by people from Pakistan and India to Guatemala as a result of natural disasters. The BBC News is reporting that as many as 20,000 children may have lost their lives in the remote northern provinces of Pakistan due to the earthquake, and surely the number of people washed away in the floodwaters raging in Central America’s rural towns and villages is painfully high. Let’s face it, 2005 has not been a good year for the survival of life on Earth. Neither was 2004 come to think about it.

Global Voices Online:
bloggers respond to the big quake:
Pakistan South Asia
bloggers respond to aftermath of hurricane Stan: Central America
Rob Mercatante’s Guatemala Journal: Anger at Slow Aid

BBC News Online:
In Depth
The South Asia Quake, Reporters Log South Asia (Day 3)
Guatemala villages mass graves

CNN International:
Guatemala landslide areas considered mass graves

Aljazeera Online (interesting reader comments section):
Quake survivors wait for Relief (South Asia)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Diamonds are not a girl's best friend

Boys and young men laboring in an illegal diamond mine
in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Image copyright: Foreign Policy Magazine / Kadir van Lohuizen

Conflict diamonds. You who have read reports about the curse of an abundance of natural resources that fuel bloody conflicts and civil wars, finance the illegal arms trade, and undermines human rights around the globe know what this term means.

Foreign Policy, the award-winning magazine about global politics, economics, and ideas funded by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has introduced a new photojournalism feature called “Wide Angle”. The premiere photo essay in the 35th Anniversary issue September/October 2005 is a series titled “A Trail of Diamonds” by photographer Kadir van Lohuizen who followed the trail of the diamond trade around the world. This trail is dirty, oft-times violent and bloody, and littered with the destroyed lives of marginalized and victimized children, young people, and adults from Africa to India who work as underpaid laborers and unpaid slaves in the mining, cutting, and polishing of billions of dollars ($$$) worth of diamonds every year.

In the spirit of the Foreign Policy managing editor William Dobson who stated in an August 30th interview with PDN online reporter Daryl Lang, “I fundamentally believe that there are some stories that are best told through images…” I shall allow the photos do most of the talking today. I will address some of the issues raised in Lohuizen’s excellent series in follow-up posts to this blog in October and November 2005.

Also I am presently in talks with a German audio/video production team to record a series of audio interviews with young African men who have worked in the diamond fields of Sierra Leone before the decade-long civil war. Should be very interesting stuff for my readers and listeners, indeed.

There are measures that you the consumer can take to help stop the illegal trade in conflict diamonds and gold from Africa and elsewhere. Take a look at the Global Witness press releases here and here to better understand what you should demand of your retailers and the industry before making a purchase. Before you buy that next piece of gold and diamond jewelry for your loved one(s) or for yourself, remember these images of the laborers and slaves who suffered to extract, cut, and polish that beautiful jewel from the jungle. Help save lives by supporting the rule of law and justice, transparency in the diamond and gold mining industries and trade, fair wages, and humane working conditions for the people shown in these photo essays.

Foreign Policy magazine online:
A Trail of Diamonds
Kadir van Lohuiyen (photographer): Diamond Matters (2-part essay)
Marcus Bleasdale (photojournalist): Rape of a Nation
Global Witness: Resources Conflict Courruption - Diamonds Campaign

Monday, September 19, 2005

German Elections 2005: Reaping a bitter harvest

I am anxious to return to writing about African news and issues but it would be uncharacteristic of me not to say just a few words about the German elections that took place yesterday September 18th. News media headlines across the globe today are declaring the surprise election results a catastrophe and an economic and political crisis for Germany, Europe, and the developed world.

However, for Deutschland Kenner (people in the know about Germany) there is absolutely nothing surprising at all about this political stalemate as the election results simply reflect the deeply divided, confused, fearful character of not only the political leadership in Germany but also the German people themselves. The only surprise is that now it is out in the open for everyone to see and cannot be kept under wraps by the German media, business, and political community’s propaganda machinery. This is a real mess Made in Germany and you the reader should dig a lot deeper into what Germany and Germans today are really all about. The closer you look the messier Germany gets. Downright ugly.

The present political leadership under Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder has over the past 7 years proven itself to be totally incompetent in running the country properly, taking bold and necessary steps to resolve the myriad problems facing some people living in Germany way too late. This government has proven to be untrustworthy with its long-standing allies and partners in international crisis and problem resolution and is unwilling to meet its responsibilities in helping to solve regional conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and in Asia. Schroeder’s promises of generous financial aid and debt relief to various developing nations are empty and undeliverable. Germany’s Treasury is flat broke. Pleite.

Many Germans nonetheless seem to like it this way and their main problem with the
SPD and The Greens coalition government is a weak economy and lack of jobs. Global issues such as world security, human rights, poverty alleviation and fair trade with developing nations take a backseat to the more important domestic issues like the economy, high salaries and wages, immigration and integration, and a 36-hour long working week with 6 weeks of vacation per year. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the guaranteed job-for-life for union workers regardless of their job performance and qualifications. Made in Germany costs money, lots of wasted money and to be honest you can find better deals elsewhere.

I personally feel that a return to power of the
CDU-CSU-FDP coalition under the leadership of Angela Merkel would be much better for Germany and certainly better for the so-called Trans-Atlantic relationship as well as for the rest of Germany’s global partners, but I am an American citizen and do not vote here, thank goodness. These are Deutschland’s political and socio-economic problems and for once I hope that they can get it right. Following are various lowdowns on the election from distinctly German points-of-view:

Der Spiegel International Online:
German Elections 2005 Special
Select articles from Der Spiegel’s English language coverage:
Daily Take (blog): Who Wants to Be Germany’s next Chancellor?
German Papers: Do We Have a Government or Not?
Postcards to the Chancellor: Gerd and Angie You’ve Got Mail
Dirty Dawgs: German Politician Offends with Coffins of U.S. Soldiers
Daily Take: Schroeder Plays the Iran Card in German Election

Deutsche Welle (English):
Election 2005 Special
DW: A Dummy’s Guide to German Elections
DW: Germany Not Ready for Change

German Embassy – U.K.:
Election Special 2005

Sign and Sight (independent German online magazine):
Election Special
Chancellor Schroeder’s post-election TV appearance: What was Schroeder On?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Benefit Concerts & Katrina News Database

It is clear that Hurricane Katrina will be one of the most blogged about natural disasters of the decade. Technorati has tracked more than 246,815 posts to date using the search term “Katrina” and the aftermath of the storm remains a top news story in the Blogosphere. In comparison the Live8 and G8 Summit posts tracked by Technorati totalled only 19,339 and 14,258 respectively.

Realizing that many of my readers who do not live in the United States may not be aware that there have been 3 nationally televised benefit concerts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina,
I thought it would be a good idea to provide information about those concerts via this blog today. It is great to be able to just go online to watch and listen to some of America’s and the world’s finest music, stage and film performers as they give their best to help people affected by this catastrophic natural disaster. It was reported that the concerts were broadcast to more than 100 countries but I have yet to see any substantial coverage about the concerts on German TV networks. Information overload about Katrina is overwhelming at the moment and it is a well-known fact that a little bit of music can do wonders to help heal one’s soul. So checkout the performances, enjoy the music, and reflect on the messages in the words of the artists, the songs, and the images.

For you absolute news freaks out there,
LexisNexis has launched a special online news portal on Hurricane Katrina packed with information from more than 4000 news sources from all over the world, from Biloxi to Baghdad, in a searchable online database. A Hat Tip goes to Spiegel Online’s September 9th feature “SPIEGEL Surfs the Web” for reporting on the new news service.

REAL Music Guide:
Shelter in the Storm Benefit Concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina along America’s Gulf Coast. REAL Guide’s homepage with links to all 3 major benefit concerts including the MTV “React Now” Concert and the BET Relief Telethon “SOS - Saving Ourselves”. Additional benefit concerts across the U.S.A. are planned for September 2005 and are listed in Real Guide’s Calendar section.

think MTV’s website:
MTV “React Now” Concert and disaster relief information

Black Entertainment Network) website:
BET Relief Telethon “
SOS - Saving Ourselves

Additional Resources for Katrina benefit concerts:
CNN Entertainment:
Stars gather for hurricane relief
MSNBC: Stars offer heartfelt performance
Google search news results: Hurricane Katrina benefit concerts

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Technorati Search: Katrina Benefit Concerts

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: How to help the victims

Now that we blog authors and readers have had our say over the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and related issues, it is time to get constructive and creative. The most important thing that I can think of doing via this blog now is to provide reliable information to my readers who want to help in some way. Below is a list of resource sites to help those of you willing and able to donate money, volunteer in some way, or simply express your condolences and sympathies:

Network for Good - Hurricane Katrina Relief. A very reputable organization with lots of information on charities and organizations involved in the relief effort. Great resources for North American and International donors.

Charity Navigator - How to Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina. Charity Navigator is similar to the Network for Good, in that it is very reputable and offers information for donors worldwide.

NPR (National Public Radio) - How to Help Hurricane Katrina's Victims It goes without saying that the U.S. National Public Radio service offers reliable and excellent information. Punkt.

Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - How to Help . In addition to a good list of aid and relief organizations checkout Newsweek's new cooperation with Technorati that allows its readers to tap into how citizen journalists (bloggers) are covering various stories.

BBC News Online - Hurricane Katrina: How to Help . This list includes information helpful for U.K. and international donors and volunteers willing to help out.

German Media - Hilfe fuer Amerika? - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government has of course offered help. However according to these news stories at Deutsche Welle here and here and at Der Speigel's International Editon here and here I'm not sure that the American people would want to accept it. Washington may have another take on that however, especially after the September 18, 2005 election.

Update September 05, 2005:

My boss (my conscience) said that I should apologize for taking my anger out on the German people in a statement made earlier just because a few government Bozos (Schroeder, Trittin) want to use this catastrophe to forward their political agendas. So I apologize zu dem Deutschen Volk. Please send help to the people of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama affected by this hurricane if it is within your means and in your heart to do so. Thank you.

If none of the organizations or agencies listed in the resources above are available from where you live, contact your respective government or local religious or community organizations about how you can help. Thank you from the people of the affected region and from the people of the United States of America. Thank you for caring.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: A Video Tribute

Today while reviewing news coverage and blog posts about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina I came across this wonderful video tribute to the people along America's Gulf Coast struggling with the shock, the loss of life and property, and the pain left behind by this enormous tropical storm.

The Hurricane Katrina Tribute video created by Kaizenamazen features images of the hurricane's destruction and the ongoing rescue efforts down in New Orleans. Background audio is the music of the fine Italian musician Zucchero and the late John Lee Hooker both singing the beautiful blues track "I Lay Down with the Angels". John Lee Hooker died in July 2001 about a month after this song was recorded. If you can understand the power of these images and this music then you can understand what I and many others around the world who have experienced and love America's Southland are feeling today. The Blues.

Thanks to Andy Carvin for the tip on this video tribute posted at his new Katrina Aftermath blog.

"Come sweet soul of mine
I lay down with the Angel..."

"I lay down
With an Angel
'cause she treat me kind sometimes
Vieni in me
Portami via
Ali d'oro"

Update September 2, 2005:
I wanted to update this posting from yesterday to write a few more words about the unfolding emergencies in the aftermath of the hurricane and to include the new Technorati tag for International Blogging for Diaster Relief Day. You can read more about the latter at Andy’s
Waste of Bandwidth blog and at the international bloggers favorite hangout Global Voices Online. Who’s been screwing around with the GVO blog template again? I liked the old one better!

The personal video tribute by Kaizenamazen above has been viewed more than 2500 times since yesterday, up from 44 views when I first inserted a link to it on this blog. Also I would like to again thank my Nigerian friend Imnakoya for his posting on August 30th
“Katrina: The Day After” and the participants in the Nigerian group blog Nairaland Forum for their discussion around the topic “Hurricane Katrina: Should Nigeria & Nigerians Help Out”.

Lastly, like many fellow Americans and people around the world, and particularly fellow African-Americans, I am shocked and outraged that so many lowlifes in New Orleans would use this terrible disaster and all of this suffering to carry out their dark deeds of robbery, theft, rape, and murder. A good article on the deteriorating security situation can be found at CNN International Online:
Military due to move into New Orleans - Sep 02, 2005

This is a disgrace to the country and particularly to African-Americans and people of color everywhere. That is not to say that everyone involved in this violence and lawlessness is Black, but almost everyone we see on our TV news reports across the globe running around like the Taliban, flashing guns and other types of lethal weapons, and carrying away looted goods like pirates___ look Black. Maybe it is a problem with my Contrast Control, but I don’t think so.

You can read more about what fellow Americans are saying about this disgusting behavior over at
Booker Rising. Look here and here and here and keep reading. My opinion and attitudes toward looters and hoodlums operating in New Orleans at the moment is very simple. Stop them by any means necessary to restore law-and-order in the affected areas. Get to the people who are desperately in need of help and rescue and make it possible for people to do their jobs there.

I was speaking with my Mom by telephone last evening and we were comparing the devastation and suffering we are seeing along America's Gulf Coast to the Great Flood of 1993 at St. Louis, Missouri and cities across the Midwest. I said to Mama,

“...It’s good Mama that your church is collecting money to send to those poor, suffering people down South in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. But while you all are on your knees asking God to send your prayers to those poor people, make sure you ask Him to send more ammo (ammunition) to stop them damn thieves and gangsters from stealing and killing."

Mom scolded me saying what I said wasn’t very Christian-like; as she hung up the phone I could here her laughing in the background. ‘Nuff said about that subject, I hope. I meant it, too.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: The Aftermath

Andy Carvin, Program Director of the EDC Center for Media & Community and coordinator of the outstanding Digital Divide Network organization, has started a blog to assist with information about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina along America’s Gulf Coast. Blogs are a fast and effective way to mobilize people around an emergency like this so a big “Hat Tip” goes to Andy for thinking fast and organizing this effort. You can find out more at Andy’s Waste of Bandwidth. See the August 31, 2005 post Hurricane Katrina Mobcast or just hop over to the Katrina Aftermath blog and have your say (no TypeKey registration headaches required for leaving comments).

View this image of a New Orleans cemetery statue titled “
Indescribable Sadness” courtesy of Pinhole. A picture can truly say a thousand words and in this case for all of the people fighting floodwaters and loss of life and property along the American South’s Gulf Coast. Here is the link to the online photo-sharing service Flickr site for all images tagged HurricaneKatrina (again, thanks to Andy Carvin).

I haven’t seen flooding like this in the States since the
Great Flood of 1993 along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. I was visiting my hometown near St. Louis, Missouri at the time of that devastating flood and there is very little you can do when the levee breaks except watch Mother Nature do her work and afterwards pitch-in to help out the people of the affected communities in whatever way you can. More than fifty people died, USD$ 21 billion in damages to property, some communities submerged under floodwaters for almost 200 days. Hurricane Katrina has already left more death and destruction than the Great Flood of ‘93 in her wake. Here are more useful links to help inform my readers about this storm:

National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center
NOAA: National Climatic Data Center, Historical Significant Events Imagery
Google News:
Hurricane Katrina
CNN: Conditions deteriorate in Katrina's wake (also see videos)

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Blogging Hurricane Katrina

The big news of the day back in the States is of course the massive storm Hurricane Katrina that at the time of this writing is slamming into America’s Gulf Coast. The beautiful and historic city of New Orleans, Louisiana and surrounding areas are taking the brunt of the 400Km-wide Category 4+ storm. Recent reports say that the hurricane may reach U.S. Gulf Coast cities as far away as Biloxi, Mississippi and east into the Florida panhandle.

Along with mainstream news media networks (MSM) such as CNN bloggers are also on top of this developing story. Michelle Malkin has a good roundup on the Hurricane Bloggers in her August 28th post “Katrina Blogging: Dire Outlook”. Have a look at Dr. Jeff Master’s The Weather Underground for August 28th-29th updates and stop over at Stormtrack where Jordan and Bryan are surfing the storm right to your doorstep. Here is the Hurricane Katrina Advisory from the NOAA’s National Weather Service. These are great examples of how weblogs authored by professionals and ordinary citizens can be very useful in natural disasters and weather emergencies. The Asian Tsunami of December 2004 was another good example of how blogs can work to help save lives. My thanks to Chrenkoff for his August 29th lead to Michelle Malkin’s posting.

Additional info can be found at the CNN special section Hurricane Season 2005 and to be fair CNN’s Miles O’Brien has a Cane Blog too. First a Space blog and now a Hurricane blog; I guess that Miles is serious about the Blogosphere. CNN’s website also has a feature on Citizen Journalists covering the storm. It can be found in this article "Katrina’s floodwaters inundating Gulf Coast" but it is limited to photos with brief text descriptions only. Wikipedia has a detailed article on the storm and a special section titled 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season with lots of background information and facts on hurricanes and tropical cyclones around the world.

In the meantime lots of prayers and hope go out from around the world for the people in the path of this massive killer storm.

NOAA/NWS National Hurricane Center
Google News: Hurricane Katrina

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