Archive - January, 2006

Catholic Bishops Comment on Life in Philippines

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the
Philippines has issued a statement on “public life through moral values” in the
Philippines. I have posted the statement for download in a public file on my
website.

Poverty remains
the heaviest
burden our
people bear–
Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the
Philippines

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has issued a statement on public life in the Philippines. Based on what the bishops say they have heard from parishoners in local parishes, it is a reasoned, well-conceived critique of the current state of civic life in the Philippines. It’s significant because the Roman Catholic Church is the predominant religious community in the country.

The Conference cannot be easily characterized as radical extremists as human rights workers, clergy and laity from the smaller Protestant faith groups, and those from indigenous communities have recently been characterized. The picture the bishops paint is consistent with the descriptions of human rights delegations that have commented on the extrajudicial killings and other abuses in the past several months in the Philippines. (I was a member of such a delegation on Jan. 3-5, 2006.)

The bishops reflect a broad connection to those at the grassroots throughout the nation. They report a loss of trust in public institutions, “a sense of hopelessness about our country and the possibility of genuine reform” and the reality of povery which remains “the heaviest burden our people bear.”

I have posted the full text of the statement at this link on Perspectives Extra.

European Human Rights Centre

I received a nice note from Daniel at the European Human Rights Centre requesting a link to Perspectives. The Centre is a non-profit organization focussing attention on human rights and its website aggregates content from a variety of people around the world.

I’ll link to it as soon as I can do so safely. I’m a bit afraid to change code while on the road. (In a bit of a dicey situation with bandwidth reliability.) So, the link above will take you to the website and I’ll make a link in the sidebar of this blog under better conditions.

Koppel on Television News

Ted Koppel weighs in on the state of
television news.

Ted Koppel weighs in on the state of television news and he doesn’t hold back. One key point, however, is not of critique but of strategy. He asks why television news operations seek to reach a demographic (18 to 34-year-olds) that seems uninterested in the offering while abandoning the demographic (Boomers) who have the spending power and numbers.

Beyond his justified criticism of the state of journalism as practiced on television news, this question of demographics is particularly important. It’s not limited to journalism. It’s a common theme across many media.

According to Dr. Mary Furlong, boomers are 78 million strong. Their spending power is 78 trillion dollars and they will grow by 16 million in this decade. This demographic is being abandoned as television news operations attempt to get the attention of younger viewers who don’t get their information from traditional media.

Koppel also questions the current emphasis on giving the audience what it wants–or at least what the programmers think it wants. One result that concerns me greatly is the demise of coverage of important civic, political and international news. Foreign correspondents are a thing of the past, according to Koppel. Foreign bureaus have been cut back by most of the major news operations. At a time when globalization is continuing apace, U.S. audiences are getting even less international information that would help us put global issues into context.

To the argument that news is politically biased, Koppel says the claim misses the point. He says it’s not partisanship that determines the news, it’s profit. It’s the reach for the demographic.

Koppel is one more in a chorus of knowledgeable professionals who are decrying the decline of journalistic content in this new media environment.

Disaster Response Follow-through

How aid agencies follow-through after
collecting money for disasters is a topic guaranteed to generate debate. This
is especially true today in the aftermath of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

How aid agencies follow-through after collecting money for disasters is a topic guaranteed to generate debate. This is especially true today in the aftermath of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. This New York Times article presents a brief overview of the various perspectives on this debate.

Aid agencies that don’t follow through with initial commitments are probably few. Most work under extremely difficult conditions and do a commendable job. There are many obstacles placed before them, not the least of which is the fact that disasters loom larger in those regions of the world that are lacking in infrastructure, training and resources. They disproportionately affect places where poorly constructed buildings are more likely to collapse, for example. A host of other factors expose the poor to conditions that can become devastating. The same conditions might cause damage in other parts of the world but not total destruction.

There are also problems that are seldom discussed openly, such as corruption. I’ve seen circumstances in which it was necessary to negotiate through a maze of official requirements that benefit those in positions of authority in order to get aid to those in need. Aid agencies are in countries as guests of the host government and the relationship between the agencies and the government is often complex and tenuous.

So, generally, I’m more sympathetic than critical of this challenging effort to ease suffering. On another note, however, I’m less generous. I’ve seen a few agencies that were better at marketing disaster response than in delivering disaster response. And I’ve seen well-meaning intentions result in the delivery of aid that was determined more by the desires of the donor than by the needs on the ground. This creates problems of storage and delivery that make a bad situation worse.

But the bottom line is this: if, as this article points out, you make promises and collect money from donors to build houses and don’t build houses you’d better have a good reason and explain it in a timely, honest manner. In this age of media scrutiny, trust is difficult to gain and once lost very difficult to restore.

The Internet as Source of Community

A new study by the Pew Internet Project
finds that the Internet can be a source of community when people are under
stress and activate their e-mail contacts to help them through.

A new study by the Pew Internet Project finds that the Internet can be a source of community when people are under stress and activate their e-mail contacts to help them through. It’s been my observation that people whose mobility is restricted for physical reasons employ the Internet as a helpful aid to interact with the world. I’ve seen loved ones use the Internet to sustain on-going relationships with friends and family, stay abreast of new information about their interests and use the Internet for shopping and to transact business.

Internet relationships are different from face-to-face.

A First-Person Account of Intimidation in the Philippines

Father Rolando de Leon is a parish priest
who is actively working with poor people in central Luzon District. He received
a death threat in October, 2005 and recounts how the threat was made through the
offering during congregational worship.

This podcast is a first-person account by Father Rolando de Leon, a parish priest who is working with the poor in Central Luzon District in the Philippines. He works with indigenous peoples, informal settlers (homeless people known as “squatters”), workers and fisherfolk. He received a death threat four days after a co-worker was killed in his province. He is the spokesperson for a human rights group. The people in his area have experienced many human rights abuses in addition to the murder of his co-worker. His death threat was chilling–letters and bullets left in the offering plate during worship one Sunday morning. I met Fr. de Leon in Manila on January 4, 2006.

Day-trip to Southern Sudan

I have posted photos of a day-trip to
Southern Sudan at this link: http://web.mac.com/larryhol/iWeb/LarryHollon/Southern%20Sudan.html

I have posted photos of a day-trip I made to southern Sudan as part of my visit to Uganda to research community-based radio. A small number of United Methodist Sudanese are re-developing congregational life in southern Sudan now that a peace agreement has been consummated between the government and local militia groups.

While in southern Sudan we also visited Liberty-FM, a community radio station based in Yei. The link is here.

Human Rights Delegation Photos

This page contains a few photos of the visit
of the United Methodist Delegation on Human Rights in the
Philippines.

I have posted a few photographs of the visit of The United Methodist Delegation on Human Rights in the Philippines. This link will take you to the page.

Abuse of Medicine Could Make Malaria Untreatable

Brenda Wilson’s report on NPR’s Morning
Edition rang the alarm about the practice of some companies selling single
capsule of malaria medications, a practice that threatens to build immunity to
the disease making it untreatable. This could led to incurable malaria within a
decade according to the report.

(Revised 7:40 am EST, Jan. 20.)

Reporter Brenda Wilson’s story on NPR’s Morning Edition today rang the alarm about the practice of some companies that sell single capsules of the staple malaria drug arteminisin in developing nations.

A similar story appeared on MSNBC.com yesterday. I missed it but Stephen Drachler sent me a link.

The danger, as I understand it from a layperson’s medical knowledge, is that medications such as arteminisin must be taken in a full course and not piecemeal. As with many diseases, if the full course is not taken the virus or bacteria can adapt to it more readily, making the drug ineffective. In effect, this creates drug-resistant diseases.

The World Health Organization is attempting to get regulators and individual companies to halt the practice because of the imminent risk it represents. Health workers around the world are aware of this problem and one of their continuing challenges is to ensure that patients take the full course of their medications.

Wilson’s report was not posted on the NPR website as I write this, but if you missed it on the program it’s worth a listen once it’s archived.

Community-based radio in Uganda

This is a link to photos of community-based
radio stations I visited in Uganda last week.

I have posted photos of community-based radio stations I visited in Uganda last week. As you see, the stations are very basic. These stations attempt to serve audiences that are not being served by commercial stations. Community-based radio is non-profit. The strength of these stations is their effort to maintain direct relationships with their audiences. This interaction provide the station with guidance about programming that will be helpful to the audience. And it provides the audience with a voice that, in general, poor, rural communities lack.

Radio is one of the most effective means to reach un-served and under-served audiences in Africa today, especially poor and rural audiences who are not targets for urban, commercial radio.

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