Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Last weekend I managed to watch the film "Blood Diamonds" twice. Once I was watching by myself with the directors commentary on (really interesting insights to the film that way) and the second time I watched it with some friends who hadn't seen it before (I had to stop myself from saying every few minutes..."oh this is how they filmed that scene" "those roads are rubber, and those mountains in the background are CG"). If you haven't seen it it's a film about the Diamond trade and how the illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone fulled the conflict that has so violently damaged that country and the millions of people there. One of the gruesome practices performed by the militias there would be to cut off people's hands to show their power and keep people in fear. One of the poignant lines spoken by the lead woman, an American journalist trying to uncover the facts and bring this to light, was this:

"People back home wouldn't buy a diamond if they knew it cost someone their hand"

We had a discussion afterwards, where we discussed if that's really true? I feel more so these days that we've just come the accept (myself included) that our products have come at the suffering of those far away from here, but that's just a fact of life and there's nothing we can do about it.

Case in point. The above picture is from the DR Congo, it's of Rwandan militas in the eastern part of the DRC where, as it was with diamonds, militias and armies have been fighting over the trade of the rich mineral resources in the area. We have been told so many times that our cheap electronics, our ipods, and mobile phones can only be made through using these materials. We know that this trade has been fuelling violence leading to the deaths of over 3 million people in the past 10 years. But we have seemed to accept it as the inevitable perhaps "collateral damage" of technological 'progress'.

HERE's a link to the most recent BBC article that alludes to this, along with other complexities involved. It's somewhere in the back pages.

To see some GOOD news happening in the region, check out the work of one of my favourite organisations, Congo Initiative, which some of my friends are involved in helping to run: Congo Initiative

Friday, January 16, 2009

As someone who has had the blessing (although it doesn't always feel that way) of needing to fly in airplanes on a frequent basis (let's just say I owe the world a few trees), the picture above serves as a bolt of hope, and completely made my day. The amount of times I'd seen those animated videos of what will happen if the plane needs to land on water, and people piling out onto wings and magical rafts that come from the doors, never once thinking that it was even remotely possible.

Ah New York, what a crazy place to live.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Obama the political genius and Sanjay Gupta

I'm just enjoying watching almost-President Obama do his political maneuvering. He's so great at it. Remember this is the guy who was rated the Senate's most liberal senator (or at least close). This guy struck fear in the hearts of many a conservative (probably for good reason). But the people he's been upsetting most lately seem to be democrats, and liberal democrats at that. Obama is completely changing his image (although i doubt his substance). This guy's a genius.

First it was his more centrist cabinet choices, then all the angry blogs about him asking the Christian pastor Rick Warren to give a prayer at his inauguration (bizarre for a country which is supposed to separate church and state -perhaps i'm more of a mennonite in that), and now this latest one which interests me because it's medically related.

I've been reading about Obama's possible appointment of one of People Magazine's 'Sexiest Men of 2003' (that's wikipedia knowledge, not my own...honest), Sanjay Gupta as new Surgeon General of the United States. Surgeon General as far as I can understand is pretty much mainly just a figurehead anyway, and the person who the public see as the most authoritative person when it comes to health matters, which is handy because Gupta is widely known in the US for being CNN's Health Correspondent, and for writing a widely read column on health matters. He briefly worked in the Whitehouse as a fellow under Hillary Clinton during the days of the failed attempts at reforming health care policy.

Anyway, the reason this is a massive political win for Obama, is that again, all the press about his appointment is from left-wing democrats complaining that this guy had a big argument with Michael Moore for his film Sicko. Now, i didn't realise this fact about Gupta, and I doubt most people do. But now people who are even semi-interested in Gupta will know this. For conservatives this will put their hearts at ease; anyone who disagrees with Moore gains points in their books. So that will put the emotional fear element to rest, but actually Gupta's views are to reform health care in the US, much in line with Obama's plan, and as Obama's Surgeon General it'll be his job to try and convince the nation that it's a good idea. So who better than to get someone who most in the nation regularly welcome into their homes and go to for medical advice.

Obama (or at least someone on his team) is a political genius.

Massive Job Losses

This is another reason why I love Ireland. In few other countries in a newspaper article about a manufacturing plant closing would you get such a gracious, thoughtful perspective in relation to seeing such a painful event unfold.

I just read this in the Independent

"The dread day has arrived and the worst rumours are proved true. Although the job losses had been heavily signalled, nothing really prepares us for the realisation that the work is going and with it the salaries, the security, the mortgages, the immediate future.

People are saying that it's ironic that we trained the Poles who will now take 'our' jobs.

But you can't help but notice that many of senior Dell managers interviewed all day on the radio had a distinctly American twang to their Irish accents.

Who trained them? Whose jobs did Limerick take back in 1990 and keep for the last 17 years? What did they think in Texas when Michael said he was setting up in Ireland and giving 'their' jobs to us?

So perhaps this is part of that natural economic cycle that the economists are always talking about where manufacturing invariably flows to the locations with the lowest costs? We'll have lots of time to think about the answers for the next couple of years."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gaza day 11

Let me just say that to start this off that I know of no solution to the ongoing problems in the middle east, and that there are two sides to the story. This CBS interview with a Norwegian doctor working in a hospital in Gaza was sent to me by one of my housemates who said it almost brought him to tears. I think people everywhere, and hopefully those who desire to emulate the radical way of Christ, need to mourn this and speak out against war in all its material forms.

These people have nowhere to run. I can't (and don't want to) imagine what that's like.