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

Technorati Tags:
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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