Recently in Global South Category

Warning: Shopping May Prove Deadly to Miners

WorldNewsNetwork.jpg26 April 2010
BY Mark Nowak

Miners from Utah to sub-Saharan Africa to China's Shanxi province die, in part, for us.

Anderson Cooper is talking to coal-mining families and politicians in West Virginia again. Ever since that explosion ripped through an underground mine in Montcoal, it seems people all across America are discussing the dangers of mining.

If you watched the news during the recent disaster, you may have heard television anchors and reporters speaking about an "exceptional" tragedy, a once-in-40-years catastrophe that took the lives of 29 coal miners in southern West Virginia. Yet if we look at this tragedy from a global perspective, the tragedy in Montcoal looks, unfortunately, all too typical.

Since the Sago, West Virginia disaster over three years ago, I've been tracking deaths in the global mining sector on my blog, Coal Mountain. Rarely does a day go by when I don't have to add more names and stories to this death roll. Mine collapse kills 16 in northwest Tanzania. Six bodies found in Xinjiang mine collapse. Worker dies in Australian nickel mine. And these are just a few of the headlines from the days since the Montcoal disaster.

What happened earlier this month happens almost every day somewhere in the world: Miners are killed at work. And why do they die--or for whom? Miners from Utah to sub-Saharan Africa to China's Shanxi province die, in part, for us. As consumers who walk the aisles at WalMarts, dollar stores, and suburban shopping malls, we fuel the extraction of coal and other minerals every time we purchase items that are intimately connected to miners around the world.

Every time you purchase something made in China, your item more than likely was made not only in a factory with its own horrific labor conditions, but a factory powered by electricity produced from coal. And each year in China, several thousand miners are killed as they extract that "black gold" from deep inside the earth.

Similar stories can be told about objects in almost every room in your house. To extract precious minerals like diamonds and gold in South Africa, for example, miners risk their lives every day--including 76 miners whose bodies were found in an abandoned Harmony Goldmining Co. mineshaft in Free State last year. And tin? From the precarious and brief lives of Indonesian "tin divers," to the five child miners killed in a collapse in southeast Congo earlier this year, tin extraction is likewise written in blood.

One of the many lessons we must learn from the 29 miners who lost their lives in Montcoal, West Virginia is that our patterns of energy use, as well as how we shop, are intimately tied to those who risk their lives each and every day deep beneath the Earth's surface. As we begin to discuss the changing economy and our spending habits in the post-boom period, it's also time to think more about where the products that clutter our bedrooms and basements and boardrooms come from. And who is risking and losing their lives so that we can have them.
Distributed by OtherWords

Mark Nowak is a documentary poet, social critic, and labor activist. Nowak is a 2010 Guggenheim poetry fellow and serves as the Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College. His writings include Shut Up Shut Down (afterword by Amiri Baraka; Coffee House Press, 2004), a New York Times "Editor's Choice," and the recently published book on coal mining disasters in the US and China, Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009), which Howard Zinn called "a stunning educational tool. Nowak was featured at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in March.

UPDATE: "Stealing the Babies" - Americans Charged with Abduction

Ruth Fremson NYT.jpg0204-Haiti-Americans-Detained-600_full_380.jpg0204-Haiti-Americans-Detained-2-600_full_380.jpg

The New York Times
4 February 2010

10 Americans in Haiti Charged With Abduction, Prosecutor Says

Ten Americans [from the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho] arrested in Haiti last week as they tried to take 33 Haitian children to an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic were charged on Thursday with abduction and criminal association, according to prosecutors.

The charges, which carry prison terms of up to 15 years, were announced after a closed court hearing in which prosecutors questioned the Americans, most of them members of a Baptist congregation from Idaho. The case has become a flash point for Haiti's fears of foreign encroachment in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Read More here.

Photo credits:
1. "Charisa Coulter and nine other Americans were charged Thursday in Port-au-Prince with abducting 33 Haitian children." Ruth Fremson / NY Times | The New York Times

2. "Four of 10 Americans who were arrested while trying to bus children out of Haiti without proper documents or government permission, arrive to court inside a Haitian police truck in Port-au-Prince, Thursday." Rodrigo Abd / AP | Christian Science Monitor.

3. "In this photo taken Saturday, four of the 33 Haitian children that a group of 10 Americans were trying to bus out of Haiti without proper documents or government permission, are seen at a police station in Port-au-Prince." Labrousse Wadson / AP | Christian Science Monitor

Stealing the Babies: Baptist "Rescue Missions" in Haiti

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Ten members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho went on a mission to "rescue" thirty-three Haitian kids by attempting to steal and take them across the border to the Dominican Republic. Fortunately, Haitian authorities stopped the church group. Central Valley's web site has this "news update" on their homepage:

A ten member church team traveled to Haiti to help rescue children from one or more orphanages that had been devastated in the earthquake on January 12. The children were being taken to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic where they could be cared for and have their medical and emotional needs attended to. Our team was falsely arrested today and we are doing everything we can from this end to clear up the misunderstanding that has occurred in Port au Prince.

If I were lying dead in Haiti and my baby was out there homeless, the absolute last person I would want to take my baby is anyone who thinks that their race, religion, family, country, and culture are superior to my own. The ideology of this church is best captured in the rationale that its "Minister of Connections," Drew Ham, provides for becoming a "strong Southern Baptist" (typos and capitalizations, his):

I was saved at the age of 5. It was very clear to me: I was sinner and headed to hell. However, Jesus Christ died on a cross for my sins. The choice was pretty simple: a.) accept Jesus and spend eternity in heaven or b.) reject him and accept the consequences of hell. It was pretty much a no-brainer for me. I often speak of my life a journey - a quest toward the KINGdom of heaven (Matthew 6:33). I am continually striving to be more Christ-like and know God at a deeper level.

Can it really be considered a "rescue" if a large group of unknown, white, "strong southern Baptists" who think anyone who isn't "saved" will be subject to "the consequences of hell" pick up black, Caribbean kids and take them anywhere? Talk about culture shock for those kids! I am not only galled but, perhaps, a little frightened of how fierce such church groups can be.

You can read "Haiti Detains Americans Taking Kids Across Border ," an Associated Press report on the group's failed attempt, in the Sunday (31 January 2010) World section of The New York Times.

Haiti_map.gifBelow is an important statement made by the Adoptees of Color Roundtable (a new site for discussion) regarding the fast-tracking of Haitian adoptions. (Thanks, Ron, for the link!) The group rightly critiques the concept of the Northern family as better, preferred, supposed haven and bastion of rationality for Haitian children. I find their statements significant in relation to international and domestic transracial adoptions.

Statement on Haiti by the Adoptees of Color Roundtable

This statement reflects the position of an international community of adoptees of color who wish to pose a critical intervention in the discourse and actions affecting the child victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. We are domestic and international adoptees with many years of research and both personal and professional experience in adoption studies and activism. We are a community of scholars, activists, professors, artists, lawyers, social workers and health care workers who speak with the knowledge that North Americans and Europeans are lining up to adopt the "orphaned children" of the Haitian earthquake, and who feel compelled to voice our opinion about what it means to be "saved" or "rescued" through adoption.

Global North's Role in Haitian Crisis

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People-wander-the-streets-008.jpgVictims bodies laid out in the street | Photo: Cruz Roja /Espanola/EPA

13 January 2010

Guardian, UK
BY Peter Hallward

Peter Hallward is professor of Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University and author of Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment

If we are serious about assisting this devastated land we must stop trying to control and exploit it

Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone. Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.

History & Politics Defines the Response to & Vulnerability of Haiti

e670585c-0027-11df-8626-00144feabdc0.jpgI have tried to quickly assemble various comments, media, and press in this post on the recent "natural and unnatural" crisis, as Naomi Klein refers to it, in Haiti that began just days ago.

Why is the U.S. still "assessing" the situation in Haiti?!? China is already there. Venezuela and Cuba have already stepped in. The U.S. "didn't create the earthquake, but we created some of the circumstances that . . ." Below are some enlightening comments by guests on today's Democracy Now broadcast. You can listen to the full program by watching the video at the end of this post.Haiti Damon Winter NYT '10.JPGAlso below is an op-ed by Tracy Kidder from the New York Times, "Country without a Net>"

Lastly, if you are planning on helping in Haiti, one way to help is to push governments to offer grants NOT LOANS to the country!

Don't fear the victims.

In 1804, the imported African slaves revolted against the French rulers and established a free black state. The US responded very badly because we still enslaved millions of Africans.

evo morales relection 09.jpg

UPDATE: Evo Morales re-elected on 6 December.

Huffington Post
6 December 2009

In the US, presidential elections shift trillions of dollars and move armies across the globe. In Bolivia, the stakes are even higher.

Hoy, el 6 de Deciembre, nearly every citizen in the country - voting is obligatory here - will go to the polls for an election whose outcome is certain: a victory for the incumbent indigenous president, Evo Morales. And yet political energy has been vibrating plazas, radio stations and kitchens nonetheless. Because Bolivians are casting their ballots not to identify a new president but to take advantage of an even rarer opportunity: a chance to define themselves.

The 2001 Bolivian Census Survey on Race identified 12% of the population as white, 30% as mestizo (mixed) and the remaining 58% as indigenous. But such demographic studies of the population are more exercises in definition than data gathering; race is an inherently fluid notion in a country with 36 recognized ethnic groups and a 400+ year history of racial mixing and integration. In a country where the racial lines are so blurred, both "whiteness" and indigenity (to coin a term) are highly economically and culturally determined. And, as a result, somewhat self-defined.

Possible Alternatives to Transracial/International Adoption

Malawi adoption.JPG

The article below from today's NY Times provides some proof that small amounts of money given directly to families in the Global South may be able to stem the tide of predominantly white adoptive families from the US, Canada, and Europe adopting children of color (particularly those from Africa, China, and S. Korea) in such great numbers.

One way to decrease the availability of children to adoptive families from the Global North would be to provide direct aid (monthly funds, medicines, etc.) to families who might otherwise place their children for adoption because of poverty, political violence, or AIDS, Another way is to provide direct aid to extended families who could care for their relatives' children if they had access to adequate assistance - this is what the NYT article discusses.

Obviously, the next and even better step would be a massive movement to combat political and economic issues in countries like Ethiopia, South Korea, and Guatemala (as well as the US). In more ways than one, these issues the historical repercussion of western colonialism and contemporary histories of western repression, advanced capitalism, and continued cultural and political influences.

• In the first population-based survey of U.S. parents who have adopted internationally . . . eighty-eight percent of the parents [surveyed] reported transracial adoptions (97% of the parents were white); 57% of the adopted children were Asian.<small>(1)

Compared with other countries, the number of children adopted in the U.S. is 4-16 times greater. However, the highest rates of adoption (per live-births) are in Europe, especially in Scandinavian countries.(2)

Ethiopia became the first African nation to hit the U.S. State Department's list of the top 10 foreign countries from which Americans adopt in 2004. [In 2006], the numbers . . . [were] on pace to increase again, by about 20 percent, to 530 adoptions, according to State Department data. And while Ethiopia still trails nations such as China. . . with 8,000 children arriving here in 2005, Russia with 5,000, and Guatemala with 4,000, observers say that the increase is significant.(3)

The New York Times
6 December 2009
"Aid for Relatives Offers Alternative to African Orphanages"
BY Celia W. Dugger

MCHINJI DISTRICT, Malawi -- The Home of Hope orphanage provides Chikodano Lupanga, 15, with three nutritious meals a day, new school uniforms, sensible black shoes and a decent education. . . .

In a country as desperately poor as Malawi, children placed in institutions are often seen as the lucky ones. But even as orphanages have sprung up across Africa with donations from Western churches and charities, the families who care for the vast majority of the continent's orphans have gotten no help at all, household surveys show.

Researchers now say a far better way to assist these bereft children is with simple allocations of cash -- $4 to $20 a month in an experimental program under way here in Malawi -- given directly to the destitute extended families who take them in. That program could provide grants to eight families looking after some two dozen children for the $1,500 a year it costs to sponsor one child at the Home of Hope, estimated Candace M. Miller, a Boston University professor and a lead researcher in the project.

Experts and child advocates maintain that orphanages are expensive and often harm children's development by separating them from their families. Most of the children living in institutions around the world have a surviving parent or close relative, and they most commonly entered orphanages because of poverty, according to new reports by Unicef and Save the Children. . .

Click here to read the FULL ARTICLE.


Photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times.

1. Wendy L. Hellerstedt and Nikki J. Madsen, et al, "The International Adoption Project: Population-based Surveillance of Minnesota Parents Who Adopted Children Internationally," Maternal and Child Health Journal 12.2 (March 2008): 162-171.

2. Ibid.

3. Nara Schoenberg. "As More White Americans Adopt Africans, Experts Point Out Social Realities," Chicago Tribune, 28 August 2006.

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