The Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue team has a global reputation for its work. And now, once again, it is being called up to help people half a world away.
At the time I said the Fairfax teams deserved more coverage — as did all the SAR teams. And I stand by that still.
Maybe some local news organizations might want to step up and do something about it.
I just love stories that link absctract concepts such as human rights and freedom with concrete, real-life problems.
A report on access to basic sanitation highlighted by the Open Society Foundations showed how the lack of functioning toilets and other basic sanitation facilities, results in poor health and unsafe living conditions
The Link Between Functioning Toilets and Justice
“Some residents are left to use open fields and bushes and become most vulnerable to criminal attacks, especially at night.”
No one should have to fear assault, rape, or murder while going to the toilet, yet this is an everyday reality for many South Africans and the world’s poor.
The report was done by a collaboration of the Social Justice Coalition and Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know), with technical assistance from the International Budget Partnership (IBP).
The bottom line is that there is more than just good health at stake. Safety issues and personal well being are at risk when there is no place to have a few private moments to one’s self.
People can talk all they want about the need for better health and safety among the world’s poor. Yet too few of us can really understand just how bad things can be. Breaking down the issue to one of the most basic and common functions of living creatures helps put the issue of poverty and health into a perspective most people can understand.
Once again Freedom House does a great job of putting things into perpective with thos nasty things called FACTS:
Democracy Is the Best Defense Against Terrorism
Just off the top of my head I can see a handful of useful articles that tie in domestic and international issues.
- What are the conditions that lead to this conclusion? (If poverty is a major contributing factor — and in many cases it is — then maybe development aid programs and greater diplomatic involvement are a more cost-effective way to address terrorism and security. That means a closer look at the non-military international affairs budget.)
- Why are there fewer attacks in democracies? (I would argue becuase there are fewer domestic terrorists. People have a legitimate way to fight back against the government.)
- How do adherence to human rights and civil rights affect violence and terrorist acts? (Again, if a society offers decent treatment to its people in a fair and equitable manner, there are fewer reasons to engage in terrorism or any acts of violence against society.)
- How are free and independent media operations important to democracy and limiting home-grown terrorism? (Access to information not slanted for poltical or governmental purposes goes a long way to easing tensions.)
I am sure there are more, but I am still groggy after a 10-hour drive back home.
The trick to putting things into context is getting the right information.
With all the recent talk of illegal immigration to the United States, it is sometimes useful to look at legal immigration before going off on a bender on immigration law.
Fortunately the Department of Homeland Security puts out a regular report on the numbers of people coming — legally — across the US borders and where they come from. (I’m sorry, from whence they came.)
The bottom line is that the top 5 countries that sent visitors to the USA last year were:
- Mexico – 17,980,784
- United Kingdom – 4,566,669
- Canada – 4,445,88
- Japan – 4,298,081
- Germany – 2,359,681
Brazil was in a close sixth place with 2,143,154 entering the US. (By the way — and this is an old story — a Florida business group did a survey about six years ago that showed a direct link between US visas issued in Brazil and jobs created in Florida. It is worth reviewing this piece.)
California and Florida — 11,182,804 and 8,089,139 respectively — were the top two desitnation sites. Kinda looks like a lot of tourism to me. And toursim means jobs and a more favorable foreign exchange situation.
There is a lot of information in this report that can easily be fodder for some great local-global stories.
One of the data points I liked was the growing number of foreign journalists coming to the United States with their families. That means they are coming to stay for a while. That means more coverage of the US overseas and more income for the communities where the journalists are going to live. (Granted, some could be for just a short time to cover a story and then go home, but even so, the numbers are impressive.)
Representatives of foreign media and their spouses and children:
- 2013 – 45,827
- 2012 – 44,472
- 2011 – 51,459
The online New York Times has a series of blog and news postings about news from around the world. Nida Najar from India posted a blistering (and well-deserved) attack on the US media’s lack of coverage of India’s election. And the attack was based on a bit done by former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver: John Oliver on the American Media’s India Blind Spot
And sure enough, a quick Google Search of “Indian Election 2014” does not yield one U.S. media outlet reporting on the election.
In a way this is not surprising. Oliver points to the McLaughlin Group as the only news show that discussed the election, only to have it being dismissed by the host as irrelevant because “it’s not even in our hemisphere.” (For once I found myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan: “It’s 800 million voters! More than 1 billion people!”)
For the political and economic well being of the United States, India matters. (I can be snarky: The importance if India is well beyond tech support. Where do you think you are calling when your computer crashes?)
India is the 11th most important trading partner with the United States, accounting for 1.7 percent of all US trade. That puts it in the same neighborhood as France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
Most of what the US sell to India are not raw materials or agricultural products but finished goods that require good jobs:
- Misc. manufactured commodities
- Transportation equipment
- Computer and electronic products
So, yes, the US needs to be informed and aware of what is going on in India, if for no other reason, because our economic well being depends on it.
Local media is supposed to provide local news. For most people in the world that means information on city councils, mayors, schools and civic groups.
But in Syria, an experiment in local news means identifying where the minefields are and where the snipers are located.
Aleppo TV provides lifeline in wartime
Granted, the “local” news is broadcast from neighboring Turkey, but the news is what is needed at the local level.
The 24-hour, opposition-aligned news channel started a few months after the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, in order to cover protests and broadcast news about the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, back when it was hard to find any independent, non-government-controlled news out of Syria’s largest city.
”It’s an experiment of having a local TV [station] inside Syria, because previously we had only the government’s national TV,” said Aleppo Today’s manager, Khaleel Agha.
The station lets viewers know where fighting has broken out, where snipers are located, which roads are safe and what the constantly fluctuating currency exchange rates are. It also keeps viewers up to date on which border crossings with Turkey are open, and whether they are open to foot traffic only, or also to cars.
One public service announcement recently warned residents to keep their important documents at home, in a convenient place, so they can grab them and flee at a moment’s notice.
Rest of story.
Kudos to Al Jazeera America for running this “slice of life” story from Syria. Expect to see a similar story on NPR in a couple of weeks and then in the rest of the US media in a month or so.
Tea Leaf Nation has a great map of the stereotypes of China by Chinese based on social media auto-complete searches.
A Map of China, By Stereotype
This is similar to the one done about the United States: ‘Why Is Louisiana So Racist?’ Google Autocomplete Map Shows State Stereotypes
Personally I like the query from China: Why are many from the southern metropolis of Shanghai “unfit to lead”?
But honestly, I can’t wait for the Party leadership in Beijing to complain about how auto-complete (in China) has hurt the feelings of all Chinese by using these stereotypes.