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Monday:  October 6, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Vietnam (10)

Monday
May282012

Dear Kara: War, What is it Good For? One Man's Journey (PROFILE)

(PHOTO: Paul Giannone in a room with unexploded ordinances in Angola/P. Giannone)(HN, 5/28/12) - Monday is Memorial Day in the United States.  Around the world other countries also celebrate their version of honoring the fallen; such as Remembrance Day in Commonwealth countries (Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, India, Kenya, Mauritius, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK) on November 11th; and similar ceremonies take place in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland.

Though, these days come once a year and help us to remember the brave and courageous  who died in the pursuit of justice, freedom and truth in the past - we must remember that war continues to exist with us in the world today.  It remains a factor - more so than ever in global history - all around us as conflict, indiscriminate killing, and terrorism. 

According to statistics gathered from Wars Around the World at least 51 global nations and armed guerilla groups are engaged in 335 active `hot' war.  This is more wars than the entire world has countries in it.

Africa, currently has 24 countries involved in hostile actions; with places such as Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan being the hottest spots.  In Asia, 14 countries are engaged in confrontations including Afghanistan, Burma-Myanmar, and PakistanEurope has experienced battle almost continuously since ancient times, and currently has 8 nations involved in confrontation.  The Middle East, on daily newspapers front pages every day, has 8 countries battling warfare in hotspots such as Iraq, Israel, Syria, Turkey, and YemenAnd the Americas, the most peaceful of world regions has 5 nation's including Colombia, and Mexico on the hot list.

But where has war in the world gotten us?  As a 1969 Vietnam protest song called "War" sung by vocalist Edwin Starr asked, "War, What is it Good For?"

HUMNEWS asked this question to the author of a poignantly honest and sometimes disturbingly real memoir `Dear Kara: One Man's Journey From War to War'.  Paul Giannone wrote the book as a lifelong letter to his daughter Kara who was born in 1993. A 26-year career emergency responder, planner and public health administrator Giannone began his professional work as a US Army Public Health Advisor in Vietnam 1969-1970 where he did two tours of duty.

From there, he then went on to years of working in conflict zones as a health worker including Iran (before the US embargo related to hostages was imposed in the late 1970's), Afghanistan, Sudan, Cambodia, Albania, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone among other nations.

EARLY YEARS

Giannone grew up in the small upstate New York town of Auburn. When Paul was 11, his father died of brain cancer and the family was plunged into instantaneous poverty. His mother had to work in factories just to keep the family going, finally seeing Paul enter college.  But, feeling no direction and flunking out he joined the Army - as many did - in 1969.

He didn't want to shoot anyone, and so joined the medical corps in the civil affairs unit of the Army instead. As a kid, Giannone played toys and guns and watched John Wayne movies - which, as Paul says, "Didn't show American soldiers screaming. Then you get to Vietnam and that's not the case."

What Giannone saw in the Vietnam war were high caliber bullets being used which essentially "tear your body apart".  And he learned he was "good at getting things done in difficult  situations".

(PHOTO: An An Duong boy injured in Vietnam fighting/P. Giannone)

AFTER VIETNAM

Seeing the impact of war on humanity up close and personal in Vietnam changed Giannone. When he returned to the United States in 1971 he vigorously pursued his Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health Services from the State University of New York at Brockport, graduating with honors in 1974. He then went on to achieve a Masters Degree in Public Health with a concentration in Population and Family Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1976.

Giannone's first work assignment out of graduate school was in Iran as an analyst for the University of Iran's, all Iranian, disease control team. He had wanted an oversees appointment so that he could 'see the world differently' than he had seen it in Vietnam which he thought was "a political fluke not to be repeated".

But what he saw in Iran "shocked me" says Paul. "The US government was not paying attention to the people on local levels in villages and towns. I would actually observe the Shah's government fomenting dissent among the people there, encouraging conflict.  It was disturbing."

After being evacuated from Iran, Paul learned that  the Vietnamese “boat people” exodus from Vietnam was headline news.  Paul volunteered for the U.S. Indochinese Refugee Program because he wanted to do whatever he could to help a people that he had grown to love.  He also wanted to see if he could find the Vietnamese public health staff he had worked with in Hue City.  Paul became Director of refugee screening operations in Singapore designed to determine what country the “boat people” would be resettled.  Paul saw the refugee program evolve before his eyes as the program was  dealing less with refugees and more with economic migrants.  Data collected by Paul and others indicated that the program was rampant with immigration and welfare fraud and more ominous was the program was actually resettling North Vietnamese civilians, former NVA infantry, Viet Cong and political party members.  This information was reported to President Reagan at the White House and the reaction was that his immediate supervisor was fired and they were told by the Secretary of State Haig to cover the story up.

Paul went on to work with “real” refugees in Africa and then home to upstate New York.  Paul was demoralized.  Two times he had volunteered to his government to help Vietnamese.  First as a soldier and later as a civilian and both times he was lied to and betrayed. Giannone began writing the first part of his book in 1982.    It was just my complete feeling that the reasons for the Vietnam War and then how the US was dealing with the boat people” For two months, he cranked out his thoughts and then just put them away. 

Giannone then set about to use his public health skills for a global greater good, working for humanitarian organizations such as CARE, the American Red Cross and Family Health International - running emergency response and refugee relief operations in Singapore, Sudan, Albania, and Pakistan; AIDS/HIV intervention research in Thailand and the Philippines; family planning research and institutional capacity building in Egypt, Kenya, Turkey and Pakistan; and disaster response in the US among other work.  

(PHOTO: Paul Giannone in teh Rwanda jungle with staff/P. Giannone) In the meantime, Paul's daughter Kara was born in 1993 and though his heart was at home, he was often missing for important events in her life over the years, as war zones and those in need of help kept calling worldwide. He began writing his book again for Kara in case he was killed in a war zone.

WHAT DID YOUR WORK IN GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH TEACH YOU ABOUT THE STATE OF OUR HEALTH SYSTEMS?

Generally in public health we need systems. Often  developing nations lack strong management systems, and a collective and sustained effort is often hard to accomplish.  Ironically, as compared to war, which many use as a way to galvanize opinion and consensus - public health is a really great unifier of people.  We can all get behind the idea that we need to address the pandemic flu or polio, for instance.

TRAVELLING THE WORLD FROM ONE WAR ZONE TO ANOTHER, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE WORLD AT LARGE THAT THE PUBLIC CAN LEARN FROM YOU?

To all the places I went,  I went as a manager or a coordinator and my lens was that of being a public health worker - and an American.  I have learned that all people around the world want to have dignity and work; and they all love their children and respect the elderly.  They all want to survive and keep their families safe. Most people want to give back to the world, and many of them have some form of community service that they do.  With human beings, that's what keeps them going as I've seen it. 

A while back I saw some data  indicating that American citizens believe that 27% of the US government budget goes to foreign aid in other countries and that's why some people say we shouldn't be helping those in need around the world.  Yes, we definitely need to be helping our own, but in reality the figure on US foreign aid is more like 1% and if we can help people help themselves, we have to do it.  None of the people I ever met wanted handouts.  

AS A PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIAL, WERE YOU ABLE TO OBSERVE THE IMPACT OF CONFLICT MORE GENERALLY?  WHAT DID PEOPLE TELL YOU?

(PHOTO: In traditional dress with colleagues in Sudan/P. GiannoneI was in Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990's, working with women who were a credit to their gender and a credit to the human race. They stood up as best they could to survive and it was an amazing thing to watch.  In our CARE refugee camp in Albania we had women coming in for colds or coughs to our clinics telling us they had been gang-raped while leaving Kosovo. There, I had a little girl come up to me to say that she was there because she knew that with the Americans present she wouldn't raped. 

In Sudan - I was there to work with local officials in an area so remote they told me that the means of communications was drums and runners. We would drop in by light plane and the pilot would say something like, "See you in 4 days if you make it".  That was during the 1990's and the people there asked me why hadn't President Clinton signed the global landmine treaty - even the most remote people in the world work to keep themselves informed!  And it's not just an `oh by the way' kind of information that they seek, it's a life and death situation for them. They knew about the landmine bill and what the US was doing with it!  I'm always surprised by how much people know when I meet them in far off places.

I also learned that we don't spend enough time listening to farmers, people on the ground and local community leaders.  We as Americans, but we as the world in general.  It's part of why we  fail overseas.  We have this idea that somehow trickle-down economics is going to work in the developing world, when it doesn’t even work in America,  and somehow the aid or influence we exert will somehow find its way from Kabul or Lagos to the village level without us addressing it. It doesn't work that way.

(PHOTO: The author in Vietnam holding a baby in 1969/P. Giannone)For instance, between Iraq and Afghanistan we can't account for 6 billion dollars. We need to drop the term superpower in the US and we need to become `Super Partners'. The US is still looked at in many ways as a country to help out but I don't think our strategy should be about  `boots on the ground' anymore.  More flip-flops and sneakers, less boots.

YOU WROTE THIS AS A LESSON TO KARA BUT ITS ALSO YOUR MEMOIR, WHAT DO YOU THINK BOTH KARA AND THE PUBLIC CAN TAKE AWAY FROM IT?

The experiences that I've had have dissolved prejudices - we're just one people striving for life and organization trying to do good.

On the bad side - I have seen the bad side. Yes, there are people like terrorists. There is brutal innocent and needless killing and maiming.  There are people who use their wealth to gain while others suffer.  And for the US there is a failure in our foreign policy - we have to do what we should do and learn from our mistakes and grow.

We are experiencing more frequent, intense disasters and complex emergencies globally. Addressing these must be about building coalitions.  We must look at culture and politics in the places we work in around the world and learn.  For instance, if anyone had done research on the culture and religion of Iraq - no one would have ever have said yes to the US going in there.

YOU'VE SEEN CONFLICT FROM BOTH THE HUMAN SIDE, THE HEALTH SIDE, AND THE CONFLICT SIDE FOR YEARS.  HOW HAS THE WORLD CHANGED IN THAT TIME?

In my time the world has gotten much more violent. Finally African tribal society is changing and people are taking a better life into their own hands but it is a rough journey for them. In the Middle East we're having the Arab Spring. An advance in technology and the flow of information has led to both a positive and a negative situation.  Our number one priority should be about getting the global terrorists we're dealing with now.  Then, the economy, education, environment, healthcare - we have to deal with these. They are no longer nice to have's they are have to haves.

(PHOTO: Landmine areas in Cambodia/P. Giannone)

And there's a new war we don't seem to be picking up on here in the US - we're fighting for how we spell "democracy" -  either with a big `D' or a little `d'.  The last 3 to 4 years people are talking about rewriting the constitution, dropping the separation between church and state, re-writing history, controlling woman’s rights. These are dangerous roads to go down.

HOW DID KARA REACT TO A BOOK BEARING HER NAME?

Kara was very quiet about the book, but I hope she was impressed. She did just graduate from high school this weekend and I am impressed by her!  I wanted the book to give her some insight into the work I was doing and why I couldn't be there in her early years.

AFTER ALL YOU'VE DONE AND LEARNED, WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR LEGACY IS?

My contribution now is teaching public health professionals - particularly in the military - how you do this kind of very necessary work around the world That would be a legacy I would want to leave behind.

(PHOTO: The author) 

At 64 Paul Giannone resides in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Kate and daughter Kara.  He is currently the Deputy Director, Global Disease Detection and Emergency Response in the Center for Global Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The opinions expressed in this interview and in his book ‘Dear Kara One Man’s Journey From War to War” are not endorsed by, nor are policies of the US Government, Health and Human Services and/or the Center for Disease Control.  Further the stories and events that Paul Giannone discusses occurred before he became a federal government employee.

- HUMNEWS

Wednesday
Apr112012

The South China Sea: China, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, & the Philippines all stake claim over oil-rich waters (REPORT) 

(MAP: The South China Sea/NASA)(HN, April 11, 2012) -- A cold-war `esque conflict is brewing in the area known as the South China Sea, though recently US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said there is no such scale of a dispute brewing.  It might be described then as an inter-Asia issue with China claiming the entire South China Sea for itself, with Taiwan and four ASEAN members - the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam - also making overlapping claims to parts of the territory.

THE PHILIPPINES

The Philippines and China are contesting sovereignty over a small group of rock formations known as Scarborough Shoal which the Philippines calls the Panatag Shoal but what China call's Huangyan Island. This weekend, Philippine Navy officials said eight Chinese fishing vessels had been found there, 124 nautical miles off the coast of Zambales province and the country’s largest warship, the US Hamilton-class cutter Gregorio del Pilar, was sent to investigate.

The fishermen claim they were seeking shelter from bad weather, and were prevented from entering the lagoon by a Philippine Naval gunboat. A boarding party found endangered marine species on the ships, and a standoff ensued after China sent two surveillance vessels to the area to prevent the arrest of its nationals, Vice Admiral Alexander P. Pama of the Philippine Navy told reporters at a briefing.

On Wednesday in Manila, the Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario met with the Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing over the matter and  both made a statement saying "We resolve to seek a diplomatic solution to the issue", though neither country is backing down from territorial claims to the Scarborough Shoal  region.

(PHOTO: A Chinese fishing boat boarded by Philippine Navy officers/DAF handout)The dispute is one of a myriad of conflicting claims over islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea pitting China against its Asian neighbors who, last year using patrol boats to disrupt hydrocarbon survey activities chasing away a ship working for Forum Energy off the Philippines and slicing cables of a vessel doing work for Vietnam. Some of the claims have drawn the United States to press China over sovereignty.

Both of the countries reject China's map of the South China Sea as a basis for joint development of oil and gas resources, and have pushed ahead with exploration work, leading to more confrontations as China expands the use of its marine surveillance vessels.

OIL? SHIPPING?

Also at play are the Spratly Islands, a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea. The archipelago is situated off the coasts of the Philippines and Malaysia, about one third of the way from there to Vietnam - amounting to less than four square kilometers of land area over more than 425,000 square kilometers of ocean.  Such small, remote islands have little economic value in themselves, but are important in establishing international boundaries.

The islands stand as rich fishing grounds, and initial surveys indicate the islands may contain significant reserves of oil and natural gas which a 2008 US Energy Information Agency report said could be as much as 213 billion barrels of oil.

About 45 of the islands are occupied by small numbers of military forces from Vietnam, China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Brunei.

Tension has risen in the past two years over worries China is becoming more assertive in its claims to the area as needs for oil and gas rise in the population booming Communist nation in and as more goods are needed in the second largest nation on earth. 

Straddling the Spratly archipelago are also the main shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe and the Middle East and the control of these lanes has not been lost on those claiming sovereignty over these waters.

(MAP: South China Sea claims by country/USC China Center) The stakes have risen further since the US last year began refocusing its military attention on Asia, strengthening ties with the Philippines and Australia.  The US has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines and has boosted military relations with Vietnam in recent years.

VIETNAM

On Tuesday, Chinese state media said a Chinese cruise ship, the `Scent of Princess Coconut', had completed a trial voyage to the Paracel Islands - Hoang Sa in Vietnamese - a cluster of close to 40 islets, outcrops and reefs that both Vietnam and China claim as theirs since ancient times.

The Scent of Princess Coconut docked at a port in the Chinese southern island of Hainan on Monday after the trip. The proposed opening of the Paracel Islands to tourism by China could add to the long-standing tension, which has drawn the United States into pressing China over the issue.

The Japanese-built ship carried out a three-day voyage to the northern shoals of the Paracels, though China said there was no firm timetable for a launch of such regular cruises. Initial Chinese plans call for ships to visit Woody Island, called Yongxing Island by China, though tourists would not be allowed to leave their boat.

Vietnam's foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said Monday that the trip was "illegal and seriously violates Vietnam's sovereignty".

(PHOTO: Scent of Princess Coconut Cruise Ship/Yexiang Gongzhu)China and South Vietnam once administered different parts of the Paracels, but after a brief conflict in 1974, Beijing took control of the entire group of islands - although this remains disputed by Hanoi.

Last month, China detained 21 crew sailing on two Vietnamese fishing boats near the Paracels, sparking an angry rebuke from Hanoi.

INDIA, RUSSIA

Complicating matters as well are recent claims by both India and Russia which have both, in the past few months announced their own plans to go ahead with oil exploration in the South China Sea, in partnership with Vietnam.  China has vocally asked both nations to step aside saying, "China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea".

RESOLUTION?

Although not an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Nations) nation member, Chinese President Hu Jintao travelled to Phnom Penh ahead of the Asia bodies meeting in Cambodia last week to press his case over the South China Sea with Prime Minister Hun Sen - asking that ASEAN work to resolve the dispute among its members.  ASEAN, for its part has stated that it believes the issue should be discussed and solved among those members making claims to the area directly.

--- HUMNEWS

Friday
Mar302012

Asia pollution problem, drugs, economy on ASEAN Summit agenda (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Haze over Bangkok at sunset/Flixya, Yumandible) (HN, March 31, 2012) - Thailand will raise haze that blanketed its northern region and its neighboring countries as an agenda concern for leaders to deal with at the 20th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia next week, April 3-4, according to Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) group includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Cambodia, whose chairmanship was handed over from Indonesia last year, is for the first time hosting the ASEAN summit and related meetings from today through Wednesday (March 30-April 4). The summit marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the regional bloc.

Some countries, including the Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Indonesia, support Thailand's initiative and the ASEAN leaders may issue a joint statement for cooperation to solve the haze problem, an annual occurrence.

(MAP: ASEAN nations) ECONOMY MATTERS

In preparation for the high level leaders meeting, finance ministers from ASEAN nations wrapped up their 16th gathering with an agreement to intensify economic and financial cooperation for realizing the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, said a joint statement released after the gathering.  

"The ASEAN finance ministers together with the troika of ASEAN central bank governors of Indonesia, Cambodia, and Brunei reaffirmed our commitment to maintain growth and development momentum and financial stability of the region in the face of difficult global challenges," said the statement.

It added the ministers exchanged views with the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund on policies to maintain stability in the current environment and called on them to continue to pursue innovative projects and assistance to better serve the needs of the ASEAN economies.

"We agreed to take all necessary actions to sustain growth and preserve the stability of financial markets," Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Keat Chhon said in a press briefing after the meeting.

(Video: Cambodia getting ready for ASEAN 2012/TeukTnotChou)

He said the ministers were also pleased that the ASEAN economies grew by 4.5 percent last year despite the heightened uncertainties in the global economy.   The ministers also agreed to continue intensifying efforts to build stronger integrated financial markets to achieve the ASEAN Economic Community.

Addressing the ASEAN economic situation at a meeting on Friday, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda said within ASEAN, Indonesia should continue robust growth on strong domestic demand, while Brunei will return to its trend growth thanks to high petroleum prices.   Thailand and the Philippines, both of which suffered a severe drop in exports toward the end of last year due to supply chain disruptions, are expected to show vibrant growth.

Vietnam continues to battle inflation, whilst Myanmar is expected to accelerate reforms, and Singapore, and to some extent Malaysia, will experience some slowdown, as they will be affected more by external conditions.

"But, importantly, we expect growth in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam--the so-called CLMV countries--to continue to outpace growth in middle-income ASEAN," he said. "All in all, despite a difficult external environment, we still expect ASEAN growth this year to remain robust at 5.2 percent."

ASIA DRUG FREE ZONE

Also on the Asian leaders agenda will be a declaration creating a drug-free zone among members in the next three years.  The 10 ASEAN leaders expect to endorse the declaration at their summit meeting next week. 

Arthayudh Srisamoot, director-general of Thailand's Foreign Ministry's ASEAN Affairs Department, said the government has pushed for the drug-free zone with member nations for some time, and was pleased to see the declaration finally come into being. The government regarded the zone as an important part of its campaign against drugs.

"ASEAN will try to give more cooperation and more coordination on drug policy as well as exchanging experiences among members," he said.

Cambodia will host the ASEAN Senior Officials meeting tomorrow and Saturday, a Foreign Ministerial Meeting on Sunday and Monday; the leaders' group meets Tuesday and Wednesday.  In June, Thailand will host a seminar on cross border management between ASEAN and Japan, South Korea and China (non ASEAN nations) to discuss rules and regulations for free flows of trade in the region.

The leaders are to praise Myanmar for making progress with political development after it invited ASEAN members and the media to observe its by-elections this weekend; hoping that open elections are the first step to more regional cooperation with this just emerging nation - including becoming a visa-free country for ASEAN citizens by 2015.

CHINA

Although not an ASEAN nation, China's presence is being heavily felt in Cambodia as President Hu Jintao arrived in the Phnom Penh capital Friday on a state visit to bolster ties between the already close nations, just days before the ASEAN meeting begins; and, having just left the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in New Delhi where leaders there called for the creation of a new global development bank  and where the attitude was described as `non-West, not anti-West'.

(MAP: The Philippine Sea is a marginal sea east & north of the Philippines/Wikipedia) Hu’s four-day trip is the first visit by a Chinese head of state to Cambodia in 12 years and is timed to showcase Beijing’s close relationship with the current ASEAN chair, observers say. It is likely that the thorny issue of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is likely to resurface among South East Asia leaders as well, without China being represented at the summit.

-- HUMNEWS (c)

 

Related:          Thailand: pollution puts Chiang Mai off the tourist trail

Related:          Will ASEAN Tackle South China Sea?

Related:          ASEAN security experts meet in Cambodia to strengthen small weapon control

Monday
Feb202012

Shifting Winds in the South China Sea (COMMENTARY) 

By Derek Bolton 

Floating oil barrier in the South China Sea (AFP)The South China Sea, although far from tranquil, has yet to revert to the volatility and violence witnessed in the late 1980s. However, current efforts to maintain stability and implement confidence-building measures could soon be overtaken by environmental changes in the region.

As global warming takes its toll on the South China Sea (SCS), it has begun to redefine the very nature and physical characteristics of the region. These transformations have the potential to further escalate the already heightened competition among states, increasing the likelihood of conflict. As noted by Will Rogers in a report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), climate change could indeed “act as an accelerant to destabilization.”

A Bevy of Disputes

The waters, islands, and resources of the SCS have been hotly contested among the littoral states of Southeast Asia in recent decades. Overlapping claims to maritime jurisdictions, Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZs), and various islands have been further complicated by rising nationalism in the region. Recent and ongoing discoveries of significant natural resources — including fish stocks, minerals, natural gas, and oil reserves — have only reinforced territorial claims and buttressed hard-line positions.  China, Vietnam, and Taiwan all lay claim to the entirety of the SCS, while the Philippines claims a significant portion as well. In addition to contradicting one another, these claims also tend to overlap with the EEZs of other countries in the region.

Other quarrels abound. Vietnam and China have yet to resolve an ongoing bilateral dispute over their competing territorial claims to the Paracel Islands, though China has maintained effective control of the islands since 1974. Meanwhile the Spratly Islands are engulfed in a multilateral dispute among China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia, all of whom maintain overlapping claims to various features of the islands.

Some progress has been made establishing mechanisms to at least manage the potential outbreak of conflict, such as the 2002 Declaration of Conduct. Other confidence-building measures have met with reasonable success, though these have also been unable to address the underlying causes of the disputes.

Environmental vicissitudes could potentially negate what progress has been achieved thus far. In his CNAS report, Rogers strives to evaluate how concerns over global warming — and especially its effects on resource development — affect the foreign policies of SCS states. This specifically applies to fish stocks, the growing demand for alternative forms of energy, and the recent influx of droughts in the region.  

Shifting Seas, Rising Tides

As CNAS scholar M. Taylor Fravel notes, SCS countries have in part sought to assert their territorial claims through commercial fishing — or, in the case of China, by challenging the commercial activities of other states. This has already led to a number of confrontations between countries, a worrisome development given the rising naval capabilities in the region. For example, in 2010, diplomatic relations between China and Japan were temporarily suspended after a Chinese fishing vessel rammed a Japanese patrol boat.

The effects of global warming may further complicate this situation. As sea temperatures in the SCS continue to rise, large quantities of fish will migrate north into even more heavily disputed waters. As fishermen are forced to follow suit, the probability of future confrontations will increase, raising the likelihood of a more serious conflict.

Moreover, the level of fishing required to maintain present per capita consumption would need to increase 25 percent by 2030. This will lead to higher levels of fishing in an increasingly smaller and more volatile segment of the SCS. The fact that present-day fishing, which is more dispersed and less abundant, has already led to near outbreaks of conflict does not bode well for the future.

Droughts and water contamination have also become a growing problem in Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, concerted development efforts have led to increased pollution and a constrained freshwater supply. These concerns are exacerbated by rising sea levels and the corresponding increase in sodium deposits on the mainland, which is detrimental to agriculture. With Vietnam’s development efforts centered partially on increased agricultural exports, the country cannot afford such setbacks.

Meanwhile, China’s hydroelectric power output was set to decline by 30-40 percent by the end of 2011 due to increased droughts. Accordingly, China is now seeking to double the number of its hydroelectric dams on the Mekong River, aiming to construct four new dams by 2020. China is pressing on in spite of protests from countries downstream that rely heavily on water from the Mekong for agriculture, especially Vietnam and Thailand. With Vietnam already struggling to maintain adequate levels of clean water, future cutbacks could be devastating. China’s disregard for the needs of other countries with respect to the Mekong River does not bode well for its behavior in the SCS.

Alternative Forms of Energy

As evidenced by China’s intensified development of hydroelectric power, concerns over climate change have led to increased investment in alternative forms of energy in the region. Although greener for the environment, this poses distinct geopolitical challenges.

Not least is the threat of nuclear proliferation in the region as countries seek to limit their dependence on oil. Vietnam plans to harness nearly 1,000 Megawatts (MWs) of nuclear power by 2020, 4,000 MWs by 2025, and 10,000 MWs by 2030. Indonesia and Thailand are set to achieve similar goals by 2020. This will inevitably foster fears over the possible military applications of nuclear programs, especially given the already hostile environment and intense competition in the region. Although the IAEA and a regional non-proliferation regime might help reduce tensions, nuclear reactors may further complicate an already complicated environment.

The countries of the region have considerable reason to reduce their dependence on oil. Oil exploitation in the SCS is both expensive and politically risky (if not impossible), and oil imported from the increasingly unstable Middle East must pass through the narrow and vulnerable straits of Malacca. However, all nations in the region will continue to actively pursue oil reserves in the sea, both for export and domestic consumption, even if demand is reduced. Vietnam, for example, could see oil exports as a way to offset its faltering agricultural sector. Moreover, as economies in the region continue to grow, so too will the demand for energy.

New investments in alternative energy will also lead to increased demand for the minerals associated with such technology, which can be found in abundance in the SCS. States developing these technologies will be driven to compete for these resources. Consequently, energy competition will be driven not merely by oil and natural gas, but also by rising demand for alternative energy.

Accommodating a New Actor

Still, all is not lost for the SCS. If states in the region approach the problem cooperatively, tensions may yet be defused by joint ventures in resource development.

However, with the emergence of global warming as a predominant non-state actor, the world is beginning to witness the very real intersection of climate change and geopolitics. As transformations in the environment continue to reshape the distribution of natural resources and states are forced to seek out new ones, resource competition will arise like never before.

- Derek Bolton is a contributor to Foreign Policy In FocusOriginally published by Institute for Policy Studies licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday
Jan172012

New Chair of ASEAN, Cambodia can reset the balance of Asia power (Perspective) 

By Kavi Chongkittavorn

(PHOTO: Cambodia, as the new ASEAN chair, will seek to consolidate the community of 600 million ASEAN citizens & increase the grouping's bargaining power with the world's major powers/THE NATION)

Ten years have elapsed since Cambodia chaired the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit for the first time, in 2002, three years after its admission. Now, Phnom Penh is more democratic and richer and has gained more experience in handling the ASEAN scheme of things. Indeed, the current host has the potential to reset the grouping's global standing and relations with all of its powerful dialogue partners. Undeniably, Cambodia would like to leave behind a tangible legacy under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen - the region's longest-reigning leader. It is not surprising that Cambodia has chosen a simple slogan of "One Community, One Destiny" - reflecting the nation's fundamental Buddhist values and new-found confidence. In short, at least for the time being, ASEAN's destiny is now in Cambodia's hand.

There are at least three areas in which Phnom Penh can take the lead.

First, as an emerging developing country, Cambodia can serve as a linchpin to narrow the development gap between the new and old ASEAN members. The country is in a good position to do so. During the past decade, Cambodia's economy has grown impressively at around 5 per cent per year. That helps to explain why it has now graduated from the list of the world's least-developing countries. The Cambodian leaders believe that more equitable development within ASEAN will strengthen its unity and prosperity. Truth be told, a development gap does not only exist between the old and new members but also among the former group. For instance, the per capita GDPs of Singapore and Brunei are many times higher than those of Indonesia or the Philippines.

Although Cambodia is the newest member of ASEAN - joining in 1999 - the country has enjoyed a special status within the group because of the nature of its political system and leadership - nobody can deny that it is the freest among the new ASEAN members. This unique position allows the once war-torn nation to play multiple roles in the regional and international arenas.

Just take a look at present-day Cambodia and its cosmopolitan capital city, with its heavy presence of foreign investors and thriving business community. Cambodia, the UN and other international organisations have been working closely together to build up this nation since the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991. Indeed, its international profile has been the envy of ASEAN members. For instance, it is the only ASEAN member that has signed all important human-rights instruments. Next year, it will bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the first time. At the end of December, Hun Sen delayed for another two years the adoption of a highly controversial law to regulate the operation of civil society organisations based in Cambodia. It was a wise move to mitigate any possible criticism in the future. The host is also contemplating holding a forum to allow interfacing between ASEAN leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations ahead of the summit in early April.

The second challenge is to ensure that ASEAN will not become a pawn in the major powers' competition. With pro-active multilateral diplomacy and a long tradition of strict neutrality since independence, Phnom Penh will not shy away from engaging the grouping's dialogue partners, especially the US and China, to harness their economic power as well as manage their relations with ASEAN. The outcome of the East Asia Summit in Bali last November showed that ASEAN needs to stay ahead of the curve and further consolidate its common positions, which are extremely limited. As the ongoing Thai-Cambodian conflict and disputes in the South China Sea will continue to dominate the ASEAN agenda one way or another, Cambodia's past diplomatic finesse and brinksmanship could come in handy in keeping ASEAN together.

Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong are considered highly seasoned diplomats, each with three decades of experience, who understand the regional pulse like the backs of their hands. The two want to see ASEAN play a mediating role in the six-party talks aimed at resolving problems relating to North Korea's nuclear weapons programme since all concerned countries are members of the ASEAN Regional Forum. In the past, ASEAN tried to play such role but was not successful. At the Bali summit, South and North Korean foreign ministers met and agreed on the resumption of six-party talks. With the new leadership in North Korea, the ASEAN chair wants to explore this prospect again. Phnom Penh has longstanding and good relations with Pyongyang. Former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung built a residence for retired Cambodian King Sihanouk to live in during his exile. His son, King Norodom Sihamoni, has a contingent of security guards trained by North Korea.

As the ASEAN chair, Cambodia hopes to get all five members of the so-called "nuclear club" - the US, China, Russia, the UK and France - to sign the protocol of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone this year. ASEAN wants a commitment that the five would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the group's members. China was the first nuclear power to express interest in signing the protocol in 2005. But ASEAN would prefer all five to sign at the same time.

Another important mission is to encourage China and ASEAN to conclude a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea as soon as possible. Senior ASEAN officials met and discussed the terms of reference last year among themselves, ignoring China's request to sit in on the meeting. Last week, senior officials from China and ASEAN held discussions in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, after months of delay, to exchange views on how to proceed with the proposed joint projects stated in the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. At the meeting, Beijing was more conciliatory, while the ASEAN claimants, especially the Philippines, played tough.

The third area of importance regards the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI). Cambodia would certainly like to promote multifaceted cooperation within this framework. That would also mean boosting its ties with the US. During the past three years, the countries have ramped up their relations, including the security dimension. Since there are many ongoing hydroelectric projects along the Mekong River, cooperation concerning water management and conservation as well as better governance will be highlighted. The degree to which the lower riparian countries (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) can cooperate with the US will impact on the upper riparian countries in the long haul. Last November, the US invited Burma to join the LMI as part of the US-Burma normalisation process.

In the final analysis, the current chair must do its utmost to convince the leaders of non-ASEAN countries that their participation in all ASEAN-led meetings or summits are important and beneficial to all. Uncertainties abound at this juncture on whether the invited leaders would be able to make their way to Phnom Penh. For instance, despite Washington's strong commitment to ASEAN and the East Asia Summit, it is not clear who will represent the US at the upcoming EAS summit later this year. Similar anxieties also persist in the cases of China and Russia, which will pick new leaders.

Can Cambodia build on the success of the Indonesian chair in raising the profile of ASEAN and consolidating ASEAN in the global community? It will not be long until we find out.

- Kavi Chongkittavorn is assistant group editor of Nation Multimedia Group – publisher of the English-language daily, The Nation, in Thailand. He has been a journalist for over two decades reporting on issues related to human rights, democracy and regionalism. This piece ran in the Nation on 1/16/12.

Wednesday
Dec282011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/28/11

Afghanistan 

India, Iran to resolve crisis in Afghanistan

(PHOTO: Canada's 1915 IDP's in La Ferme, Canada. MONTREAL GAZETTE)Albania

 Ton of cannabis seized in Albania

Algeria

Turkey accuses France of genocide in Algeria

Angola

Government pledges to cultivate human rights 

Antigua & Barbuda

World Bank says climate change talks bring ‘good and bad news’ for the Caribbean

Argentina 

Five Argentines Die in Traffic Accident in Southern Brazil

Armenia

Armenian women’s national team beats Vietnam’s team

(PHOTO: Tariq Ramadan at the Toronto1 gathering. The convention lured an impressive galaxy of distinguished scholars, including Prof. Tariq Ramadan ONISLAM.NET)Bolivia

Bolivian Minister Highlights Economic Growth 

Brazil

Due to Too Little Structure & Too Much Pesticide Brazil Exports Less than 1% of Its Fruit

Cameroon

Eto'o launches mobile network

Chinese Goods Top Christmas Wish List In Cameroon

Canada

Toronto Convention Inspires Canada Muslims

Remembering the spirit of Canadians unjustly interned

China

Chinese dissident Chen Wei gets 9 years in prison

Snack makers face expired food probe

Facebook Follows Server Brains From Taiwan to China

Colombia

Colombia, The Netherlands  Sign Rivers Dredging Agreement

(PHOTO: In Cyprus, poaching of the Blackcap birds is surging in defiance of a European Union ban. József Szabó.)Congo (DRC)

Congo: What’s Rwanda got to do with it? Interview

Cyprus

Illegal bird trapping a surging problem in Cyprus

Egypt

Egypt’s Amina Diab forges ahead with handbag collection

From Burning Bodies To Burning Books: Egypt Becoming “House Of Dust’ (Perspective)

Equatorial Guinea

Seadrill semi-tender rig gig off Equatorial Guinea

Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Swedish journalists to spend 11years in prison

Finland

Finland Authorities Clear MS Thor Liberty With 11 Ukrainian Citizens On Board After Finding Explosives To Travel Again 

Guinea

Guinea to review mining contract – Mr. Alpha Conde

India

Guwahati campus to become operational next June, says TISS Director

Don’t write off the India story yet (Perspective)

Iran

(PHOTO: Taiwan election-inspired merchandise on display in a shop. CHANNELASIA.NET)Iran and Russia survey regional developments

Iran envoy:  Abducted engineers in Syria are safe and sound

Iran threatens to stop Gulf oil if sanctions widened

Stop worrying and learn to love the Iranian bomb (Perspective)

Japan

Anti-Whaling Activists Use Drone to Track Japanese Fleet

Japanese PM Noda in India on economic mission 

Jordan

Libyan health minister visits Jordan field hospital

Kosovo

Serbia returns to dominate Kosovo market

(PHOTO: Screen shot of Tunisia's new Islamic TV channel, "Al Kalam")Kuwait

Kuwait donates 1 million to support Gaza preschool children 

Second consignment of Kuwaiti fuel donation arrives in Benghazi 

Lebanon

Lebanese al Qaeda operative eulogizes Jordanian killed in Afghanistan

Libya

Aid workers in Libya ponder future role in oil-rich country

Benetton Donates UnHate Statue To Libyan Capitol

Malta

(PHOTO: S. Sudan, the planet's newest nation opens its embassy in Washington, DC this week. WASHINGTON POST) PM, wife unharmed as shots fired close to Girgenti Palace

Montenegro 

Montenegro police arrests 16 members of international drug trafficking ring

Morocco 

Journalist Denied Access Into His Office

On the Verge of a Clean Energy Transformation: Morocco

Myanmar 

Burmese embassy in Thailand appoints labour official

Niger

A 'children's crisis' unfolds in West and Central Africa's Sahel region (Press Release)

(PHOTO: A gorilla stops to groom a tourist in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. DISCOVERY NEWS)Nigeria 

Christians flee north as Nigeria mourns church bomb victims

North Korea

Web blackout helps North Korea craft new cult of Kim

Oman

Pirates Seize Enrico Ievoli Ship With Five Ukrainians On Board Near Oman

Philippines

The Rights of the Child (Perspective)

Russia

Egyptian Foreign Minister in Russia to discuss Syria crisis

Rwanda

Country Committed in Fight Against Climate Change - Kamanzi

(PHOTO: `Harare Beyond Words' opens at H Gallery, Bangkok Thailand Jan 5-30th, 2012)Saudi Arabia

AIDS patient sues Qunfuda hospital

KSA residents protest fines for 'wasting water'

Value of Saudi's delayed public projects hits $147bn

Mobile phone subscriptions in Kingdom up to 56.1m in Q3

'Hafiz' flayed for precluding job hunters above 35

Endless debate over death penalty (Perspective)

Senegal

EALA roots for disaster experts in the region

South Africa

SA envoy visits drug mules in Thailand jails

Discovery of world's oldest bedding in SA (VIDEO)

South Sudan

South Sudan’s entrance on world stage includes setting up Washington embassy

South Sudan: Africa’s next farming frontier

Creating a film industry in South Sudan from scratch

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Fresh Insights On Attempts To Join ASEAN – Analysis

Sudan

Steps to Launch the Sudanese Satellite

Swaziland

(PHOTO: First community of hackers, called Hacekerspace were found in Tunisia this week. Nawaat.org) Electricity consumers soon to decide on tariff hikes

Whoonga - a new social threat

Switzerland

Swiss village in uproar over asylum centre

Switzerland slips in global ranking

Switzerland to renew Turkish-Armenian mediation

Syria

Telecomix hackers helping Syrians detect and avoid government surveillance online

Syrian NGOs: A dual-use technology?

“30%” Syria Oil Production fall, Minister

Syria refugees find sanctuary in Libya

Taiwan

(PHOTO: Zimbabwe farmers tend their fields. IITA) Taiwan poll campaigns spark merchandise

New prevention policy needed for tuberculosis: medical expert

Renowned Taiwan Lantern Festival set to light up heavens on February 6

Taiwan monastery hopes to attract tourists to see Buddha's tooth

Tanzania

Diplomatic, Trade Row As Dar Blocks Ugandan Exports

Serengeti Investor Speeds Up Social and Economic Development

World Bank stresses improvement of public health facilities in Tanzania

Investor: Tanzania good for pay TV

Thailand

Thailand battles with post-flood clean-up (VIDEO)

Thailand wires up with free Wi-Fi

Thailand prepares to be cloud hub

Seventh Anniversary of Thailand's Boxing Day Tsunami (VIDEO)

Zimbabwean art show opens next week in Bangkok

The Arctic

NOAA issues draft study for Arctic Sea oil drilling

The Netherlands

The battle for free speech continues

Tonga

Tonga’s Speaker facing arrest when he returns to the country

Tunisia

First Community of Cyber-hackers Founded in Tunisia

Train Operators Join the National Wave of Strikes

New Islamic Tunisian TV Channel “Al Kalam” Announced

Douz: Gateway to The Desert

Air France launches new direct flights to Tunisia destination

Turkey

Tourists visiting Turkey hit 30 million this year, surpassing target

Turkey is the answer (Perspective)

Uganda

Man Groomed by Gorillas On Trek in Uganda

Activists oppose plan to build railway through national park

The Joys of a Christmas Celebration in the Village

A List of the Most Corrupt Would Help the Poor More (Perspective)

Time is now for Ugandans to rise against the cancer of corruption (Perspective)

Ukraine

Ukraine becomes the European capital of rabies

Russia, Ukraine do not envision gas war this year

Ukraine, Turkey sign visa-free travel agreement

United Arab Emirates

UAE pledges to bolster China-Arab trade relations

100 distressed overseas foreign workers in Abu Dhabi spend Christmas in shelter

UAE launches first association for policewomen in Arab world

Property market is being rebuilt in the UAE

Meet the UAE's Marathon Woman

Emirates Airline Launches U.S. TV Ad Campaign (VIDEO)

United Kingdom

UK businesses investing in social media for 2012

Morrissey named PETA UK Person of the Year

United States

U.S. population growth slows

America’s Best Kept Secret: Rising Suburban Poverty

U.S. gets holiday gift in the form of Occupy Wall Street (Perspective)

US needs to act as melting ice transforms Arctic (Perspective)

Uruguay

Uruguayan Economy Grows

Uzbekistan

No more panties in public eye in Uzbekistan

Venezuela

Venezuela: UN human rights experts voice alarm at extended detention of judge

Hugo Chávez claims that Venezuela's economic strengthening "is amazing"

Vietnam

Vietnam freezes oil product prices, eyes import tax on gasoline

Vietnam masterpieces in auction for the poor

New high-income consumers emerge in Vietnam

Endangered wildlife dealers arrested in southern Vietnam 

Virgin Islands

A windsurfing nightmare called Maho Beach

Western Sahara

U.S. foreign aid done right (Perspective)

Yemen

Yemen malnutrition data should "shock"

The Emergence of a New Political & Social Consciousness in Yemen (Perspective)

Zambia

Stray Dogs 'Besiege' Kapiri Mposhi, Spread Rabies

MTN Zambia deploys first solar-powered site

Zimbabwe

WFP buy local scheme helps farmers

Zimbabwe loses again on AIDS funding‏

Labour Law - Dilemma of New Employers

Monday
Dec262011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/26/11

Afghanistan

High Power consumption the main factor of electricity outage

Canada 

(PHOTO: The provincial government of British Columbia has created a task force team to handle the tonnes of debris from the Japanese tsunami floating in the Pacific Ocean that is expected to hit B.C. shores. US NAVY)B.C. launches task force to manage coming tsunami debris

China 

Asia to be largest corporate, investment banking market by 2015: McKinsey

Congo (DRC)

Capital markets: Burj Capital thrives against the tide

Cuba 

US 'Disappointed' Cuba Will Not Release American Prisoner

Egypt 

(PHOTO: Ismail Haniya, Gaza Strip PM. EPA)Palestinian PM in Cairo

Ethiopia

Egypt deports 93 Ethiopians using the country as a transit stop to reach Israel illegally

Haiti 

Haitian migrants found dead off Cuban coast

Iran 

Iranian diplomats review Islamic awakening in Arab states

Tehran, Tunis Able to Further Develop Relations Far from Sectarian Differences

Iran President underlines development of ties with Africa

Iraq 

Iraq blocks Jordanian trucks heading to Turkey over Syria concerns

Israel 

Israeli gas quests plagued by pirates

Libya 

We are pumping more than a million barrels of oil a day, says Libya

Nepal 

Nepal sets up diplomatic ties with Solomon Islands

Nigeria 

Africa’s Biggest Street Party Takes Centre Stage

Paraguay

Paraguay, stuck in siesta mode, awaits Lugo's exit

Somalia 

Somalia: Protesters march the streets to stop violence aimed at aid workers 

South Korea 

(PHOTO: RIA NOVOSTI)S.Korea: doctors charged over deal with pharmaceutical companies

Spain 

Spain: King Juan Carlos Says Fighting Joblessness Top Priority

Sri Lanka 

Sri Lankan female ex-rebels faces uncertain future

Sudan 

Sudan’s Ancient Civilization: Nubian Kingdoms and the Christian Era

Svalbard and Jan Mayen (Arctic Ocean)

Pack ice breaking up in Svalbard in the arctic north of Norway (PHOTO)

 

Swaziland

Marriage trouble for Mandla Mandela  

Sweden

The tallest revolving door in the world

Busy Christmas weekend for the Swedish police

Syria

Syria Faces a New, Long-Term Phase

Taiwan

Taiwanese banks will back plant restoration in Thailand

More sons in Taiwan get inheritances than daughters: report

Tajikistan

Wheat genetics in Tajikistan could help feed the world

Tanzania

Exposed: Dar lacks disaster response system

Thailand

High waves ravage S. Thailand, thousand affected, tourists marooned

Tonga

Tonga National Population Census 2011; Preliminary Count

Trinidad and Tobago

Business owners crying as shoppers watch their pockets

Tunisia

Tunisian women’s group ATFD wins Simone de Beauvoir award

Turkey

(PHOTO: Turkey's learning disabled students. SUNDAY'S ZAMAN)Learning disabilities often confused with mental retardation in Turkey

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan to hold talks on laying international fiber-optic communication lines

Tuvalu

Anglicans tiding Tuvalu over

Uganda

Hopping mad: Uganda power cuts hit grasshopper harvest

Ukraine

Iran, Ukraine to sign oil contracts

Ukraine and Russia to hold next round of gas talks on Jan 15

Ukraine to produce 36 million tonnes of steel in 2012

United Arab Emirates

DHA: No local emergence of malaria

Most in UAE borrow to splurge, says expert

Dassanayake to embark on talent hunt

United Kingdom

Pen woman swallowed 25 years ago works

UK taxpayers face extra £250m bill for nuclear waste clean-up

The globalised underclass (Perspective)

United States

Hackers target United States security think tank

Child Homelessness on the Rise in the US 

Giant shrimp raises big concern as it invades the Gulf of Mexico

Uruguay

Uruguay to Adapt Agriculture to climate change conditions

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s courts launch fight against corruption

Vanuatu

Nursing School gets educational material from Rotary

Global Fund for Environment Projects Ends Year in Vanuatu

Venezuela

Chavez issues Christmas amnesty to 140 prisoners

Vietnam

(PHOTO: Thailand's `Bubble Woman'. THANH NIEN NEWS) Vietnam’s Bubble Woman to be treated in HCMC 

Vietnam still doesn’t have regulations to treat electronics waste

Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program in Vietnam, yielding positive results

More int’l brands shifting base to Vietnam from China

Yemen

Photos of Yemen’s Deepening Humanitarian Challenges

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh heads to United States after government forces attack peaceful protesters

Zambia

Zambia’s poor still waiting for change after Sata’s 90 days

MTN Zambia launches solar green site

Women for Change launches ‘Zambia We Want Charter’

Zimbabwe

Reform efforts in Zimbabwe move slowly

Medical student wins Face of Zimbabwe pageant

Tuesday
Oct112011

Asia's Rice Bowl Inundated by Historic Floods (NEWS BRIEF)

Farmer Sai-ngern Inthawong on the Bueng That Luang wetland in Laos during dryer times. CREDIT: Mekong River Commission(HN, October 11, 2011) - Amid a global food crisis that has seen the price of staple items soar in countries as diverse as Somalia, Pakistan and Laos, historic floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have damaged tens of thousands of hectares of rice paddies in South-east Asia.

Worst hit is Thailand - the world's Number One exporter of rice. However, smaller and poorer countries such as Laos and Cambodia are fearing extensive crop damage.

More rains are forecast in an unusual monsoon season that has already devastated some 1.5 million hectares of prime agricultural land. Vietnam, the world's Number Two rice exporter, has also suffered extensive crop damage.

In Thailand, where flooding has been mostly limited to rural areas, the capital Bangkok is bracing itself for a deluge. More than 230 people have already died in Thailand. 

Laos, among the poorest countries in the world, has been struggling to recover from severe tropical storms that struck in June. The Vientiane Times reports that some 64,000 hectares of rice land has been damaged by flooding this wet season.

More than 429,900 people in 1,790 villages of 96 districts across 12 provinces have been affected by floods and landslides triggered by tropical storms Haima and Nock-Ten, the newspaper reported.

"The whole region will now suffer from rising food prices as potential harvests have now been devastated," said Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations chief of disaster reduction. "The damage is very serious this year and it will be some time before people can resume normal lives."

The Mekong River, which cuts through all the countries, is rising in some parts. According to the Bangkok-based Mekong River Commission "all stations along the Mekong River mainstream were recording levels that are above the long-term average for this time of year."

- HUMNEWS staff, UN, agencies

Tuesday
Mar012011

(TRAVEL) - `A Trip to Adjara, Georgia’ 

--- By Craig Fedchock

Some of Georgia’s impressive historical churches. (CREDIT: Craig Fedchock)My work has given me the opportunity to travel to a wide variety of places around the world.  I’ve seen giant fruit bats in Australia and the Philippines, the harvest of longan fruit in Vietnam, and citrus in South Africa.  While I’ve seen so many things, I nevertheless didn’t know what to expect when I first came to the country of Georgia, nestled as it is along the Black Sea and reaching into the Caucasus Mountains. 

While the capital Tbilisi is at least somewhat well-known if for nothing more than being the capital of the country that tried to take on Vladimir Putin’s Russia two years ago, and limited amounts of Georgian wine and food are starting to make their way to our shores, not much else is widely known about the country. 

My experience began in the capital, a robust city which is benefitting from investments to its infrastructure from many countries, including most especially the United States.  I suspect that most of you reading this piece would be fairly surprised to learn that the main road from the city’s airport into town is named “George W. Bush Avenue,” complete with the former President’s picture.  As there are others much more experienced with Tbilisi and its environs, I shall be more than happy to defer to their perspectives and comments about that fine city. 

My preference instead is to reflect on the far too short a time I spent in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, which, with its capital Batumi, is seemingly a miniature version of the country as a whole. There are daily flights to and from Tbilisi on the national airline Georgian Airlines, as well as Air Batumi, although their dependability is suspect as one of my colleagues found out to her good fortune to be explained later.  There is train service as well to and from the capital, including an overnight train.  My suggestion, however, would be to fly to Istanbul on any one of the major airlines and take the non-stop Turkish Airlines directly to Batumi.  I myself was fortunate to arrive in traditional Georgian style in a “marshroutka”, sort of a large minivan with just enough shocks to keep you from tumbling like an astronaut in the space shuttle, but not enough to keep you from feeling like you just spent a few hours with one of those old fashioned weight loss machines in which you were strapped with a belt around your waist.  The redeeming thing is that despite the best efforts of the somewhat macho Georgian drivers, I managed to arrive at my hotel safe and sound. 

The Black Sea coast looking north from the Batumi botanical gardens. (CREDIT: Craig Fedchock)At the moment Batumi is in the midst of an enormous economic expansion.  The city, a favorite summer vacation spot during the Soviet times for those coming from Moscow and the other large northern cities, is slowly but surely picking itself back up from the ashes from the former USSR as well as the significant internal strife which took place for some time after the fall of communism.  Batumi has even been holding the Black Sea Jazz Festival for the past five years, bringing in some of the world’s best artists on a regular basis.  One of the key landmarks in the city is the Sheraton Hotel, which opened only in June of this year.  The Sheraton stands above most of the other buildings in the city, almost like the Alexandrian light house after which it claims its design.  It will soon have company, however, as Radisson, Kempinski, Hilton and Novotel all are in the process of developing properties which are destined to make the Batumi skyline gain an appearance more akin to that of Miami than a Caucasian Black Sea resort when they are all completed sometime in the next two years.

Just a short walk from the Sheraton, and eventually all of the other hotels mentioned above, stands the “Boulevard”, a lengthy boardwalk the likes of which I have not seen elsewhere.  Bordering the Black Sea “beach”, which is really stone rather than sand, the Boulevard stretches for roughly seven kilometers and just like everything else in Batumi, is on the upswing, with plans for expansion, some Batumians say, almost all the way to the Turkish border, about an additional 12 kilometers.  The amazing thing about the Boulevard is that while it abounds with restaurants and discos, it does so in such a way that it still maintains a feeling of spaciousness that is not at all common with other boardwalks I’ve had the chance to visit.  The Georgians have managed to keep their traditional menus alive in several of these shoreline restaurants, but I also saw a Chinese and even a Dutch (yes, a Dutch!) restaurant bordering the boulevard.   While nothing has been written about Georgian cuisine that can even come close to doing it justice, I don’t doubt for a minute that the restaurants featuring other cuisines will produce some good results if for no other reason than Georgians will be doing the cooking! 

The Georgian Table. (CREDIT: Craig Fedchock)I will mention that there are some true jewels in the Georgian culinary cupboard.  From simple fare like Khachapuri, which is really not much more than bread and cheese, (but oh what bread and what incredible cheese), and the basic “salsa” of Georgia, Tkemali, (made from tart plums, garlic, coriander (or dill) and salt and pepper and which Georgians are happy to put on just about anything), to more exquisite dishes, having a meal anywhere in Georgia is truly special.  Georgians will use almost any excuse to feed strangers, and the people living in Batumi are no exception.  The hospitality of Georgians is unmatched and simply needs to be experienced.  Beyond that however, the use of spices in the Adjara region is a little more creative and the flavors little more complex, and this alone warrants giving the region more attention.  

As I mentioned above, the city is truly undergoing a major renovation, and nowhere do the results promise to be more fantastic than in the area known as “Old Batumi.”  While there is still more work to be completed (according to one wine shop owner, who just happens to be producing a sherry-like Church Wine” based on a recipe his grandfather developed in 1907, the streets are being rebuilt for the first time since the Tsars were running the place, and the results are already striking. 

Nearing completion is Europe Square, surrounded by buildings no more than two stories tall which easily conjure up images in the mind of just about anywhere in the developed countries of Europe (although France comes first to my mind).    An additional shopping plaza is under construction in Old Batumi as well, and once complete, Batumi will definitely be in the running for being considered as a true jewel of the Black Sea. 

Beyond the city of Batumi, there are a couple of other places which must be mentioned.  For a short taxi ride from the Sheraton costing roughly about $3-5, you can visit to Batumi Botanical Gardens.  With thousands of species representing almost all the far corners of the earth, you can easily spend a minimum of two hours walking on the well-paved trails without seeing even a third of everything you could possibly see.  That the garden also houses Stalin’s one time dacha made it particularly fun for me, having spent several of my formative years studying the Soviet Union.  For roughly $3, you can make a day of it here, just make sure you bring along some Georgian wine, bread and any number of the fresh fruits and vegetables which are seemingly ubiquitous on the road side.

A makeshift banquet of honeycomb, pears, and of course, vodka. (CREDIT: Craig Fedchock)The best thing of all for me, however, was the chance I had to visit Georgia’s newest National Park, Mtirala.  This came about at the invitation of the Adjara Autonomous Republic’s Minister of Agriculture, Emzar Dzirkvadze, and resulted in a day I will most likely never forget.  The Minister exhibited a true love of his region, and respect for the land for which he cares in many ways, not least of which was his willingness to get behind the wheel of the four wheel drive which took us up the winding and unsurfaced road to the mountaintop where the park is located.   As I mentioned above, one of my colleagues was able to join the trip because her flight on Air Batumi was delayed until much later in the day.  On the way there we stopped by a small stand, artfully constructed with the help of the World Wildlife Fund, for a taste of the honey produced by bees kept by residents living in one of the small villages of indeterminate age (maybe hundreds of years old?) that can be found in one of the truly remotest regions of the country.   

While on the road to our visit, the Minister spoke of his plans for the region, all reasonable and deserving to be realized, while pointing out with pride the many things that are represented in Georgian nature.  It was obvious in his comments that not only the minister, but his fellow Adjarians are committed to ensuring that whatever happens, the need to maintain the quality of life and produce, with a strong emphasis on organic production, is paramount.  That being said, after a fantastic drive which had us driving next to, around or even in a few cases through, spring-fed waterfalls around almost every corner, we arrived at the Visitor Center (again constructed with the aid of the World Wildlife Fund and even equipped with a wheelchair ramp) for the park.  While there, we were given a presentation by a park representative in flawless English which included a tour of the guest quarters, four rooms which at 20 Lari (the Lari is currently running about $.50 US) a night, including breakfast, which can only be described as elegantly Spartan, one of the best examples of the finest in ecotourism I have seen. 

Georgian Beekeeper in Mtirala Park. (CREDIT: Craig Fedchock)We then visited the beekeepers, who make all of their beekeeping supplies out of local materials, and saw first-hand the love for the land which is in the Adjarian people, not to mention the ever-present Georgian hospitality.  Within minutes of the completed presentation on  beekeeping, a table magically appeared from out of nowhere under a pear tree and we were treated to the freshest honey and honey comb possible, along with the requisite shot of honey vodka.  As we had some lunch waiting for us at the restaurant a short walk from the Visitor Center, we made our goodbyes far too quickly and moved a short bit it down the mountainside for our lunch.  That the restaurant is situated next to a spring-fed mountain stream, and the water is absolutely drinkable only made the remainder of our time in the park that much more enjoyable.  At the Minister’s suggestion, we gathered up our clay water vessel, walked about two minutes and filled our pitcher with water coming directly out of the mountain side.  Everything in our meal, with the exception, once again of the requisite beer and vodka, was locally and organically produced (including some of the best fresh trout which kept getting bigger and bigger the longer we stayed at the table), and had we not needed to catch our flight home, all of us in our party would have had no trouble at all to committing to several additional days in the park.   

The Adjara region is one of those places where you can lose yourself for a few days in the forested mountains, and come back to Batumi to enjoy nightlife and cuisine as sophisticated as anywhere.  While the renovations are still underway it is not too early to pay a visit; you will leave wanting even more.   

--- The author if Craig Fedchock, Director of International Capacity Development for the United States Department of Agriculture; Animal, Plant Health Inspection Service.  He recently took this trip to the country of Georgia, and was so moved by the beauty of the culture and the people, he wanted to share the experience with others.

Wednesday
Sep082010

(REPORT/INTERVIEW) "Reading is FUN-damental" - Twitter partners with Room to Read on World Literacy Day

PHOTO: Room to Read, India (HN, September 8, 2010) – Can you read this? 

Wehn yuo cnnaot raed, noe hruendd ftory ccrhaetars maen noinhtg. Hlep ptoorme goalbl latceriy:  http://t.co/W5UTbuB

Today, September 8th is the 35th anniversary of World Literacy Day.  Adopted in 1965, this year’s theme organized by UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) celebrate’s women’s empowerment through literacy and pays tribute to the women and men who work behind the scenes who help others acquire literacy skills.

One in five adults worldwide - 796 million - lack minimum literacy skills (reading and writing); with two-thirds of those being women and girls accounting for more than half of the 67.4 million out-of-school children globally.

Literacy rates are comparatively, a cause for celebration and the world has made progress since 1965 with now close to 4 billion literate people in the world.  However, literacy for all – children, youth and adults - is still a goal ahead to achieve.

In 2003, the United Nations proclaimed the ten years until 2012 the “United Nations Literacy Decade”, and has put literacy and education front and center as `Millennium Development Goal Number 2’ to be accomplished by 2015.  

A basic education equips children with literacy skills for life and the ability to learn further and grow intellectually.  Literate parents are more likely to send children to school and literate people are better able to access continuing, higher education; and jobs.  In today’s 21st century, `later literacy’ also means experience and understanding with digital languages and technologies but reading and writing remain the fundamental building blocks for development.  

The International Literacy Day global celebrations today focus on the transformation literacy can bring to women’s lives and those in their families, communities and societies and on the people and efforts who help them get there, such as the international organization `Room to Read’.

PHOTO: Erin Ganju, Room to Read`Room to Read’ was founded by former Microsoft executive John Wood, with co-Founders Erin Ganju and Dinesh Shrestha.  This year the organization celebrated its 10 year anniversary with the opening of its 10,000th library in Nepal; where the effort first began.   After a vacation to Nepal in 1999 allowed Wood to witness first-hand the country’s lack of educational resources, he and his co-founders launched a book drive for one school, and turned that one-time act of kindness into the basis of inspiration for a global education movement.  

Over the last decade, `Room to Read’ has increased its work exponentially to impact over four million children in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia through its worldwide network of more than 1,000 schools and 10,000 libraries filled with over 7 million children’s books. 

The organization works in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, and has empowered children with increased access to high-quality educational opportunities – including 10,000 girls this year who are attending school on scholarship.  

Known also for its innovation in technology and marketing, `Room to Read’ (@roomtoread) became Twitter’s first Corporate Social Responsibility partner last year creating a joint project to create `Fledgling’ wine (@fledgling) - a year-long first-of-its-kind social winemaking project in collaboration with the Napa Valley vineyard Crushpad. The Fledgling wines, a Pinor Noir and a Chardonnay, will benefit `Room to Read's’ literacy programs in India and will launch to the market on September 25. 

Additionally, Twitter and `Room to Read’ have teamed up on this International Literacy Day in order to show the world what someone who cannot read see’s, when they look at a page of words.  The `Hope 140’ effort will show viewers the scrambled message you see at the beginning of this article, and then unscramble the message to show the true words. 

"With the International Literacy Day campaign, we are asking the average Twitter user to experience, just for a minute, the disempowerment that one in five people in this world experience due to illiteracy," said John Wood. "Room to Read' is galvanizing a global movement to solve this critical issue and through Twitter's worldwide platform, we aim to not only raise awareness but to instigate action." 

On the `Hope 140’ page you’ll also find ways to buy `Fledgling’ wine, as well as how to donate to Room to Read’s publishing program which has created 433 children's books in 22 local languages and distributes them throughout its library network in Asia and Africa.  In honor of International Literacy Day and throughout September, `Room to Read’ will be producing the book "Unjani" or "How Are You," an original South African children's book written in Xhosa and English and a donation will be matched by a Room to Read donor.

So today, HUMNEWS, Room to Read and Twitter ask you to tweet for literacy and help others around the world to achieve the basic skill of reading - which can change people’s lives, forever.

Because if you can’t read this “Wehn yuo cnnaot raed, noe hruendd ftory ccrhaetars maen noinhtg. Hlep ptoorme goalbl latceriy:   http://t.co/W5UTbuB” – there is still a long way to go to total world literacy.

==============================================================================================================

PHOTO: John Wood, Room to ReadINTERVIEW WITH JOHN WOOD, Founder of Room to Read and author of the highly-acclaimed book,Leaving Microsoft to Change the World”.

Q:  10 years on in Room to Read for you John. What is the most important thing you've learned about the world as you've been building Room to Read 

John:  Ten years ago, when I delivered that first load of books to children in Nepal, I had no idea that we’d be at the point we are today – impacting the lives of five million children and on track to double that by 2015. The big lesson for me is to dream big and share that dream with incredibly passionate, qualified and hardworking people to make that dream a reality. That’s what Room to Read is all about – we went from a handful of supporters (mainly friends and family) to a network of thousands around the globe.

Children’s education is an issue that crosses borders and resonates with people in every corner of the world – and it’s incredible that Room to Read is the convergence point as we lead a global movement to provide every child with the ability to attend school and learn to read.

Q:  Room to Read was Twitter's first corporate social innovation sponsor.  Talk about before Twitter, and after Twitter.  How has this, helped Room to Read better achieve its goals of literacy?

John:  Twitter has become a great vehicle to help us engage with our supporters and spread our message and mission to an even wider audience. Room to Read’s Twitter account (@RoomtoRead) already has close to 450,000 followers and with the 315,000 people following me @johnwoodRtR, together  we’re reaching almost half a million people around the world on a daily basis – which is outstanding! Many of the our  40+ volunteer chapter network around the world also maintain their own Twitter accounts – so we’re definitely getting the word out there.

Twitter’s unique format enables us as an organization to provide real-time updates and information to supporters – without greatly taxing our resources. We use it to thank our supporters and partners, give shout-outs to other organizations, and just to keep the Room to Read message alive and fresh.

We were also fortunate enough to be chosen by Twitter as their first corporate social innovation partner and because of that we’ve had the opportunity to experiment with creative ways to use the platform. In fact, for International Literacy Day on September 8, we have worked with Twitter to develop a creative way for people to understand the concept of literacy and what it’s like for the 776 million people in the world who still can’t read. At the same time, we’re asking the social network community to help support the publication of a new children’s book for the children of South Africa.

I truly believe that simply by getting the message out across the globe, we’ll rally more and more supporters in our battle against illiteracy – and Twitter is an incredibly platform that allows us to do just that.

Q: R2R has an intense focus on results, talk about how running an efficient and stable business, helps to achieve your goals for reading, literacy and education worldwide?

John:  We started Room to Read with some important basic business principles – that we would be efficient, accountable and results-driven. I strongly believe it’s necessary to take the best of the business world and combine it with the best of the NGO world – in fact, I tell our team that we want to run Room to Read with the compassion of Mother Teresa but the focus and tenacity of a blue-chip company.  

I don’t believe in the model of an NGO spending up to 40 cents of each dollar on administration and fund-raising. So, we keep our overhead low and run a tight ship. We do creative things, like getting our board members to donate frequent flier miles, and having volunteers in 40+ cities raise about a third of our annual budget. There are many small steps that together add up to create a very efficient organization. So, what you get when you make a donation to Room to Read is a very direct, very tangible result. We tell donors exactly how much it costs to build a school, publish children’s book, establish a library or to support a year of a girls’ education. In the long term, education in the developing world has been proven to be the best ticket out of poverty, so an investment in this area yields amazing long-term benefits.

Q: How does technology play a role in how you conduct business and measure results?

John:  It’s incredible how quickly technology evolves and allows us new and creative ways to communicate with our supporters. Using social media has enabled us to have instant access to millions of potential supporters across the globe – we can directly engage with them on a regular basis and develop a real connection more easily share our work across the globe and directly engage with people.

We also actively use technology to develop and track our programs as well. With Salesforce licenses generously donated by the Salesforce.com Foundation since 2007, we have built what we call our Global Solutions Database (GSD) that tracks all of our projects in nine countries as well as our operations in the global office. It’s the Room to Read mega-reference – which is key, because keeping results in key to our organization. Every project established by Room to Read across our nine countries is tracked in the system – we track implementation timeline, number of students and teachers, percentage of community contribution, etc.  The information collected helps guide our monitoring and evaluation team’s efforts, so we know if we need to boost our work in certain areas.  This information is then also used to provide more detailed information to our donors so that we can directly connect them to the project they’re supporting -- and in doing so, we keep our them excited about our work.

Q:  Can you talk about the importance of your local language education programs and books? Why was it important for teaching and learning?

John:  When we started building libraries we soon realized that many of the children’s books in our libraries weren’t being used by the children – most of them were in English, which is not the primary language for most of the students. At that point, we decided to develop our Local Language Publishing program, to produce and distribute books in local languages. The books are written by local authors, many of whom attend our writers’ workshops, and are illustrated by local artists. We also publish the books locally, so in addition to providing books for the children, we’re helping to support the local economy.

Many of our books have won prestigious awards – but more importantly, they are incredibly popular and effective tools in teaching children to read. Not only is the language something the children can understand, but the stories and illustrations are culturally relevant and speak to the children’s life experience.

Q:  Helping children get the habit...how easy is that?  And what have you heard years on, about how this simple act, changes their lives? 

John:  I believe children have an inherent desire to learn, so if you give them the tools and the right guidance, they can’t wait! With our focus being now more directed on literacy and gender equality in education, we’re developing new programs to teach reading more effectively so that it does become a skill and a habit for millions of children. Our teams in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal are already having great success in the pilot phases of their literacy programs, so we have high expectations to see literacy rates jump dramatically in the next several years.

How does reading change a child’s life? This is probably most dramatically illustrated when you talk about educating girls. No offense to my gender – but it is amply documented that when you educate women you have spillover effects to the next generation which are substantially larger.  When you educate a woman, you educate the next generation and all subsequent generations.

There is an increase in health and nutrition for the whole family, higher income levels for the woman and overall improvement in the quality of life for a community. For only $250, you support a girls’ education for one year. I believe that’s the best investment one can make when trying to effect global change.

Q:  What's next for R2R and for you?

John:  For the organization, Room to Read's long-term goal is to help over ten million children to gain the lifelong gift of education by the year 2015.  We’re well on our way to meet this goal – by the end of 2010, we’ll have impacted the lives of over five million children. But we’re also looking to increase the quality of education through improved teacher training and additional materials – we want the educational opportunity to be the best it can be. We’re also looking to expand our Girls’ Education program and provide even more life skill training – girls thrive when they’re allowed to develop self confidence and academic skills – and we want them to go out and conquer the world!

Geographically, we’re looking to add programs in Africa fairly soon and have been researching opportunities in Central America as well. The sad fact is that there is a long list of countries ripe for Room to Read, but we have to be sure we have our resources in place before we take the next leap – but we’ll get there!

As for me, this is it!  I want to see to it that Room to Read meets its goal of reaching 10 million children within the next five years. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked, but it’s also the happiest I’ve ever been, and I can’t imagine doing anything else! Every morning, I feel like the luckiest person alive because I get to make a difference in the lives of children