Monthly Archives: January 2012

College stories with an international angle

The Peace Corps, one of the best government institutions, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The whole purpose of the Corps is for America’s best and brightest to donate their time and knowledge to help people in other countries.

Since its inception by executive order in 1961, more than 200,000 young people have donated two years of their lives to development projects in more than 130 countries.

Just this past week the Peace Corps released a list of the top colleges whose graduates have joined the Peace Corps.

For campus and local community reporters, this is a gold mine of information about links between the college and the rest of the world.

Following are the top five colleges and universities in each undergraduate category, as well as the top graduate schools and a historical ranking. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers.


More than 15,000 undergraduates

  • University of Colorado Boulder (112)
  • University of Washington (110)
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (107)
  • University of Florida (101)
  • University of Michigan (97)


Between 5,001 and 15,000 undergraduates

  • The George Washington University (78)
  •  Western Washington University (73)
  • American University (63)
  • Cornell University (58)
  • University of Vermont (42)


Less than 5,000 undergraduates

  • University of Mary Washington (29)
  • Gonzaga University (26)
  • Oberlin College (24)
  • St. Olaf College (24)
  • University of Puget Sound (22)
  • The Johns Hopkins University (22)
  • Lewis & Clark College (22)


Number of graduate alumni volunteers

  • University of Florida (30)
  • University of Washington (24)
  • University of Denver (16)
  • American University (16)
  • Tulane University (16)


Number of alumni volunteers

  • University of California, Berkeley (3,497)
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (3,000)
  • University of Washington (2,738)
  • University of Michigan (2,458)
  • University of Colorado Boulder (2,317)

It would be nice if the University of Michigan would step up the volunteer numbers a bit. After all, the whole idea for the Peace Corps was floated by then Senator John F. Kennedy during a presidential campaign speech in October 1960.

Click here for the complete list of schools and their rankings within the Peace Corps.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Rights committee calls for protection of Pakistani journalists

A militant religious group in Pakistan are threatening two journalists for uncovering a private detention center run by a the group. The families of the journalists have also received death threats.

According to the Asia Human Rights Commission, here is a summary of what happened:


Mr. Ghulamuddin, senior producer and Mohammad Aatif Khan, associate producer/news, Samaa TV aired an exclusive report on December 13, 2011 on the captivity of innocent students in chains at a seminary which jolted the media and concerned authorities. The subsequent crackdown by police led to the rescue of over fifty persons who were shackled in a basement. Dozens of children were recovered from a separate room. The illegal and private detention center and torture cell was operated under the name of ”Rehabilitation Center for Heroin addicts” where the people from 4 to 50 years of age were detained and punished for not following the orders of the detention center staff. The guards of the detention center claimed that they were running an Islamic seminary (Madressa).

Both the producers made the video through a concealed camera which was then aired in the evening of the same day and generated a heated debate among officials, diplomatic circles, human rights groups and civil society. The illegal detention center in the name of Dar-ul-Uloom Zakria Kandholi, an Islamic seminary, was run by a cleric, Mufti Dawood, the principal of the seminary, which was located on the outskirts of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. The video shows how detained persons were kept in heavy chains. They complained that they were beaten daily and were not given proper food whereas their parents were paying huge amounts as monthly fees. Some students were provided with armed training and also to become suicide bombers and some were sent for holy war to Afghanistan against the US forces

Since the airing of the video, the two journalists and their families have received death threats.

In a January 26 update on the situation, the AHRC reported

The latest development in the case is that Mr.Gulamuddin, who is hiding with his wife Tasleem Bano and Hayyan Shah Alisher (six month old infant) and Mohammad Aatif khan with his wife Sajjal Atif Khan have both left their homes as the militants attacked their houses and threatened their parents, siblings and neighbours at gunpoint to disclose their whereabouts or else face the same fate planned for the producers. They are also receiving death threats through SMS and phone calls due to which they have stopped using them. They are not even allowed to go to the police station and file a report against the culprits. Their movements are being monitored all the times.

Pakistan remains the most dangerous place for journalists.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, seven journalists were killed specifically because of their work. Another 42 journalists were killed but the CPJ could not determine the reasons for the murders.

The AHRC notes that journalists can expect little help from the authorities.

The network of extremist groups is very strong and it is no exaggeration to say that they are more powerful than the security agencies, including the Pakistan Army whose General Head Quarter (GHQ) was attacked by these groups. It is these same militant groups who were responsible for the assassinations of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti both in 2011

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Filed under Corruption, Harassment, Press Freedom

Grand Rapids TV station connects the dots with Honduras

A reporter for WZZM in Grand Rapids looked around and found a story that linked Western Michigan with Honduras. And it was more than just another report about another church or civic group building homes for the poor.

The story was about a non-profit organization in Grand Rapids that is actually working to improve — in the long run — the lives of some of Honduras’ poorest people.

It’s not much but it is a start. Maybe some of the people in Grand Rapids will see there is more to global events than just wars and natural disasters.

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Filed under Central America, Connections, International News Coverage

Taiwan, China and Hong Kong

Excellent piece by Elizabeth C. Economy in a Jan. 25 Asia Unbound (Council on Foreign Relations) blog – China, Hong Kong and Taiwan: Running Dogs, Democracy, and More

Much of it is on Beijing professor Kong Qingdong who has gone off the deep end by repeating outdated Mao lines, denouncing rule of law as something only trash and dogs need and complaining about Hong Kongers. (This blog site has already looked at Kong’s statements here and here.)

What recommends Ms. Economy’s piece is her last paragraph. It discusses the danger Taiwan presents to China. In a word that danger is “democracy.”

The Chinese government always pointing out China’s 5,000 years of  civilization. In that time China gave the world paper, gunpowder and pasta. (They also gave us mindless and autocratic bureaucracy, but that is hardly something to celebrate.)

Yet, in all that time, there was never self-rule. Government was always by some form of dictatorship from emperors to war lords to the Communist Party.

When the Nationalists fled China in 1949 and settled in Taiwan they were no better. Democratic stirrings did not seriously start taking hold until the early 1990s. It fully blossomed in 2000 when power was transferred from one political party to another by way of a popular election. That was the first time in 5,000 years of civilization that the people of a Chinese-speaking land actually had a say in their government.

Since then there have been many more elections on the local and national level. The most recent presidential election took place earlier this month.

And it was something the people of mainland China have noticed. Millions of netizens in China followed the election and marveled at how society remained stable even as competing political philosophies battled for the leadership of the island state.

(You have to remember that Beijing says China cannot have political reforms — to match the economic reforms — because any change or challenge to the system will bring immediate chaos and instability to society.)

Even the official media in China had to admit the idea of democracy — especially as practiced in Taiwan — struck a chord in China. (But the paper Global Times was also quick to point out that democracy in China ain’t gonna happen.)

On the mainland, similar questions concerning democracy, equality and interests are countless and all sound reasonable. But the systems designed for modern countries are not exactly suitable for gigantic countries like China.

China is too big in both size and population. Its diversified behavior and mentalities are weakening its current national cohesion.

Now add Hong Kong to the mix, with its free media and rights of assembly, rule of law and limited democracy and one can understand why Beijing hardliners — like Prof. Kong — and the party leadership are nervous.

For them, there are just too many Chinese-speaking places that have too many rights and freedoms.

Oh and maybe it is time the US media started paying attention to the situation in Taiwan. And not just the Taiwan-China disputes but the day-to-day political and economic events in Taiwan. This is a strong economy with a stable democratic government. It is worth keeping an eye on.

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Filed under China, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Hong Kong-Mainland Divide (UPDATE)

More on the issue of the difference between Hong Kong and Mainland China from Professor Kong Qingdong of Peking University, who traces his lineage back to Confucius.

Seems the guy not only thinks Hong Kongers are “dogs” (as previously noted) but also that rule of law is a bad thing.

Rule of law for ‘trash’ societies

Kong dismissed the rule of law as a colonial mechanism to beat Hong Kong residents. He also slammed Singapore for its laws on smoking. He equated both as inferior people who need to be whipped into correct behavior. The need for the rule of law, he said, is evidence of ‘trash’ societies.

“Speaking of the rule of law, the British brought it there and let it stay. How did the British deal with these Hong Kong dogs? They gave them a good lashing. They lash them harshly. Today the Beijingers would say that these people f—–g deserve a physical lashing.”

When the talk show host commented that the environment is cleaner in Hong Kong, the professor’s retort was “Why is it cleaner? Because they rely on rule of law. They do not rely on the quality of the people. Just like in Singapore, you are fined 5,000 dollars for smoking. When you have to resort to the legal system to maintain order, it shows that your people have no quality and no self-consciousness. You won’t do what you are supposed to unless you get a beating. This is summarized in one word: Trash.”

Kong’s words were right in line with what the Beijing leadership said when a survey late last year showed that more Hong Kongers think of them self as Hong Kongers first and Chinese second.

Kong was the inspiration behind the Confucian Peace Prize after Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. The philosophy behind the Confucian award is pretty clear from who won it last year: Vladimir Putin. Hardly a supporter of peace or democracy.

And while many may dismiss Kong as a “has-been hold over” from a by-gone era, the fact that he gets air time and draws a strong audience of his rants and raves means that he has at least the tacit approval of the government and party leadership in Beijing. The Chinese leadership has never hesitated to play the “nationalistic” card when its absolute rule is questioned.

In this case, rule of law is dangerous to the Chinese government. Their attitude, like so many dictatorships is “We make the law, so we rule” or “We rule so we make the laws.” Either way, challenges to the leadership are not encouraged.

With American politicians — especially the GOP presidential contenders — winding up their rhetoric against China, it would be useful for U.S. journalists to understand the situation in China better. It is also important to understand the difference between Hong Kong and China.

There are still a handful of xenophobes who think that because a company owned by HONG KONGER Li Kai Shing operates the ports on both sides of the Panama Canal, those ports are being controlled by Beijing. Hardly.

It doesn’t take much to learn about the differences just a willingness to learn.


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Filed under China, International News Coverage

Hong Kong-Mainland China Divide Remains (and why it is important to understand)

Even though Hong Kong reverted to China in 1997, that does not mean that Hong Kong is “just another large Chinese city.”

I am still amazed after all these years that there is still a basic misunderstanding by people in the United States — including many in the media — about the differences between Hong Kong and mainland China.

I still clearly remember the conversation I had with an editor in 1999 when I moved to Hong Kong. Could I please write a piece about being a freelance journalist operating in a Communist-controlled territory, I was asked. I had to explain slowly and carefully that under the terms worked out between Britain and China, Hong Kong would enjoy civil liberties — such as freedom of speech and press — for 50 years after the handover.

By and large the Hong Kong people and media have used every ounce of that freedom. Is it any wonder then that more residents of the territory see their national identity as Hong Kongers and then ethnic Chinese?

Hong Kongers see the mainland Chinese as the poor country cousins. (Back in the early days following the handover it was easy enough to identify the mainlanders in Hong Kong because of their ill-fitting clothes and general uncomfortable demeanor in a modern city.)

And the mainlanders saw Hong Kongers as superstitious fools because of the dominance Feng Shui plays in the society. (Not to mention the very popular “villain hitting” exercises that take place under highway overpasses in Hong Kong.

In the past few years, Hong Kongers have complained of pregnant mainlanders giving birth in Hong Kong hospitals so they can claim Hong Kong citizenship for their children. (Sound familiar? Think “Anchor Babies” in the States. And some wackos even thinks this is a plot to get future terrorists US passports.)

ADDENDUM: With the Chinese New Year of the Water Dragon now upon us, the latest concern are all the mainland mothers-to-be coming to Hong Kong to give birth to “lucky” babies.  Hong Kong braces for influx of “Dragon Babies”

The tension between Mainlanders and Hong Kongers continues.

The latest comes in a confrontation in the Hong Kong Metro. (Mainland Visitors Eating On A Hong Kong Train Caused A Huge Fight)

Suffice it to say, the Mainlanders were wrong to eat on the train and both sides were wrong to start shouting.

What is clear — even for Mandarin/Cantonese challenged listeners — is the contempt each side held for the other.

Now add to that a descendant of Confucius jumps in and calls Hong Kong as a land of “dogs” and “thieves.” (Beijing professor and descendant of Confucius provokes anger by insulting Hong Kongers)

Every stereotype is played out in this shouting match between Hong Kong and the Mainland.

So why is this important to the West?

To begin with, the Hong Kong economy.

Hong Kong sits to Asia as the United States sits to the world. It is a massive economy with a currency recognized around the world. (Unlike the Chinese yuan.)

The  gross domestic product in Hong Kong is US$325.8 billion. And this is with an economy that shifted from production to services decades ago.

The per capita income is US$45,736 compared to China’s US$8,288.81. (By comparison, the United States is US$48,665.80)

Much of the investment in China comes from Hong Kong companies or Hong Kong middlemen.

Hong Kong is rightfully proud of its rule of law, anti-corruption regime and its civil liberties. But all these items put it in direct conflict with what Mainlanders are used to.

And then add into the mix the “get rich at all costs” attitude of Hong Kong businesses.

Many shops in Hong Kong now cater to the increasing mainland Chinese tourist trade. Some store have even gone as far as making access easy for mainlanders and difficult for Hong Kongers. Or providing “special protection” to mainlanders. Dolce & Gabbana in Hong Kong got a caught in the middle when it handled the conflict poorly. (Several people speculated that D&C did not want its mainland Chinese patrons accidentally photographed because its clients were most likely high-ranking party and government officials. It would, after all be embarrassing to those mainlanders to be seen buying expensive clothes that cost more than most Chinese earn in year.)

This division plays into the economic situation in the region. It also plays into the political and social expectations of Hong Kongers. And it plays into basic prejudices.

Hong Kong is the only place under Beijing rule that can — and does — have an annual commemorative demonstration to remember the students killed in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It is the only place under Beijing rule that allows media to openly criticize the local and national governments.

Hong Kong provides a chance to educate mainland Chinese journalists how to be better journalists and how to push back against the ruling elite.

And for the global economy — which affects the United States — Hong Kong provides an example for businesses to better understand how to get ahead under the rule of law instead of through constant bribery. (Granted a lot of the corruption and bribery in China does come from Hong Kong companies but in the territory of Hong Kong, the anti-corruption laws are firmly applied.)

Lastly, the divide between the Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese offers a glimpse of the divides that we see between United States and Latin America or Western and Eastern Europe.

Looking for links is not hard. One just has to be willing to  look.


Filed under Asia, Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Chile breaks from Latin America anti-free media trend

The good news is that the government of Chile woke up to the dangers in a piece of legislation it proposed. The bad news is that the rest of Latin America is not so lucky.

Chile retreats on requiring media to inform police

Granted, the Chilean government withdrew the proposed legislation because Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter didn’t want any conflicts with the international press. In addition, aides to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said seizing journalists’ material would damage Chile’s image internationally. They saw that Reporters Without Borders is getting ready to publish its annual review of threats against the media, including a freedom index that would show a sharp drop in Chile’s reputation.

So the Chilean government corrected a bad plan because of the threat of international retaliation.

And Chile’s neighbors?

A summary paragraph from the AP says it all:

In Ecuador this week, opposition lawmakers failed to block a law barring the news media from broadcasting or publishing any material that could influence opinions about candidates or proposals during election campaigns. In Argentina, the commerce minister was put in charge of managing the nation’s newsprint supply, a tool that opposition media fear could be used to silence criticism.

There is also the massive campaign against free press in Venezuela. And Cuba? Well, Cuba remains Cuba: No free press.

In addition to the government-sanction moves against free press, there is the intimidation of the narcos against journalists in Mexico and Central America. (And, obviously the outright murders of journalists from those same bad guys.)

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Filed under Censorship, Central America, South America