Horror and Hope in Syria

Protesters mourn in Damascus. Photo credit: flickr/Syriana2011. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

As the Arab Spring continues to flourish in other countries, Syria is descending into civil war. Pro-democracy protests have led to a ruthless backlash from the Assad government. The death toll is in the thousands, with estimates from activists inside the country claiming as many as 40,000 casualties due to the unrest. The most conservative death toll estimates include hundreds of children. Civilian neighborhoods are under attack, the target of rockets and tank shells from government forces, while their snipers aim for anything that moves. Even in the face of these unspeakable atrocities, there are glimmers of hope.

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The U.S. Assassination of a U.S. Citizen and the Nobility of Asking Tough Questions

A U.S. predator drone. Photo Credit: flickr/CliffStreetPhotography. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper is a hero as far as I’m concerned. Tapper bothered to ask White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a few critically important questions about the U.S. government’s assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, after Awlaki was decimated in Yemen late last week by a missile fired from a U.S. predator drone. When given the political run around, Tapper didn’t shrink into his chair. Thankfully, he persisted.

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Poverty Tourism is Bad. Idle Opinions Are Worse.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

A discussion has erupted on the internet about the dangers of poverty tourism. The critics argue that we really only make ourselves feel better about America’s disproportionate privilege while glossing over the complex issues of global poverty by visiting struggling countries for a bit of brief outreach. All of this broader talk is happening as my wife Lauren, her boss Matthew and I prepare to travel to Cambodia next week for 10 days in an effort to offer some support in that country.

There is definitely something legitimate to the concerns that have been raised about poverty tourism, but I would argue that focusing on such concerns is far more damaging than any misguided altruism. Here’s why.

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Living on Two Dollars a Day During Lent: Simplicity in the Burbs

Photo Credit: flickr/kimili

The following is a post written by my friend Kurt Willems of The Pangea Blog.

I am picky.

I hate most foods that could be considered healthy.

In college, I ate Panda Express (Chinese fast food) for dinner almost every night and supplemented other meals with burgers and pizza.

As a child, I would sit at my Grandpa’s dinner table for hours because I refused to eat my veggies. My most consumed meal during childhood: cereal.  Count Chocula was not just breakfast, but sometimes dinner.  And if I ran out of milk, no problem… water.

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Narcissistic Stockholm Syndrome: War Machine

Photo Credit: flickr/Kenny Holston 21. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

A couple of friends are filling in for me while I’m away on break. This post is written by Jason M. Dye of the blog Left Cheek.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” -Mahatma Gandhi

Someone out there is planning a counter-demonstration to a peace march. Oddly enough, it’s not Boeing, Haliburton, Blackwater, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, nor any of the other war profiteers taking out the banners and megaphones to stymie the influence of the peace activists.

It is a Marine who served in Vietnam.

Please don’t miss the irony of this. Someone who suffered under the direction of war-mongers and profiteers believes that those who oppose the war-mongers and profiteers need to be opposed.

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The Strange American Reaction to the Egyptian Uprising

Photo Credit: HBO.com

It took just 18 days of protest to overthrow a cruel dictator of 30 years in Egypt. And with that, 3 out of 4 recent uprisings in the Middle East and Asia have been successful so far. But you wouldn’t know it if you listened to certain segments of the American public. These pro-democratic movements (now spreading to Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, and further south to the African country of Djibouti) have been met with concern over here. When did hope get the reputation for being naivety in disguise?

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What Uprisings in the Middle East and Asia Suggest About Muslims…and Everyone Else

Flag of Egypt all over Tahrir Squarephoto © 2011 Ramy Raoof | more info (via: Wylio)

 

 

If you follow the news then you know that Egypt is in the midst of a revolution. Don’t be alarmed if you’re experiencing deja-vu. The unrest is something the whole world has witnessed recently in Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan and Iran. What are the goals? And what do these movements say about Muslims and the rest of us?

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Inside Africa Part II: Zimbabwe’s Brutal Conflict

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

At the conclusion of the first part of this article, I mentioned that it was obvious that South Africans viewed me as American before considering my race. Well in the next country I visited, Zimbabwe, it was even more obvious I along with my two travel partners were “the Americans” of the group.

It wasn’t a negative view they were taking, it was just that the color of my skin did not get me immediate access into the Continental Club of Africans. There was no window at the Harare airport for all black Americans to visit and receive a “Welcome to Africa, Cousin!” pin upon arrival (and, yes, I was expecting one).

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Inside North Korea PART III: What Do We Do Now?

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il

North Koreans suffered for decades under the oppression of Kim Il-sung until his passing in 1994.  Then an economic collapse, famine, and the continuation of tyranny under Kim Jong-il claimed the lives of up to 2 million North Koreans during the 1990s. What’s happened since then?

North Korea continues to be a prison for its citizenry. Kim Jong-il has relaxed a few restrictions and punishments though other state-sanctioned human rights abuses such as public executions have escalated. Almost all of the U.N. and world food aid has been diverted away from the population most in need. It was probably stockpiled for military purposes or sold by government workers on the black market.  Economic stagnation and malnutrition continue to reverberate throughout the land in what has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis on the planet. As many as 2 million more North Koreans may have died prematurely since the beginning of the new millennium. North Koreans are, with rare exception, completely cut off from the rest of the world, and any incoming access is manipulated by the regime’s robust propaganda operation. The question for the rest of us is: what do we do now?

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Inside Africa PART I: The Challenge of Progress

Day 18.07 Happy Madiba day!photo © 2009 Frerieke | more info (via: Wylio)
by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

Many Americans know next to nothing about the continent of Africa, and it appears that they are just fine with that. As a matter of fact, even adding the word ‘continent’ in front of the word Africa would probably be a reminder to many of us that it is indeed not just one big country. What is to follow will not be a polemic about how clueless Americans are about the rest of the world. I think we all have already gotten the message that our citizenry isn’t the most well-educated in many important ways.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not defensive about our collective ignorance of the continent because I am African-American. Unfortunately, most African-Americans I know have no more meaningful interest in that part of the world than the rest of the U.S. population. Most African-Americans feel more like Americans than Africans. And if you ask most any person from a country in Africa, they will agree that you are NOT an African. How do I know this? I have been to two countries on the African continent and have heard that message loud and clear.

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