Archive for July, 2005

Showing Us the War

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

“In my day, we followed every development in the wars America was fighting. Every report on the radio or in the newspaper told us what was happening. And we wanted to know everything, because every family had a father, a son, a brother, a cousin fighting. Now, news of the war in Iraq is treated as an inconvenient interruption of all the entertaining reports on movie stars getting married and pop stars going on trial. As a result, it becomes too easy to forget that kids from this country are dying just about every day in some distant fight that, because of our media, is too easily forgotten.” –Studs Terkel

Amen, Studs!

In this era of corporate, conglomerate media, it’s rare to get even a shred of substantive news about the continuing war in Iraq. The big TV news divisions and major dailies have pulled out all but a pittance of their military “embeds” from Iraq. Most of what we are served up at this point is simply cheap, ill-informed and partisan punditry. In fact, a recent review of major U.S. newspapers and the nation’s two most popular newsmagazines shows that the “true costs of the Iraq war are downplayed by the American media, both in print and in photos.” Check out this story on DailyKos

Hurray for anyone who cares to hold informed opinions about U.S. policy in Iraq.

Hurray for democracy, folks.

One of the exceptions to this sad media trend is Phillip Robertson, whose heartrending stories from Baghdad and beyond are being filed these days for, primarily, Robertson’s reports are like coming to an oasis in the desert of what passes for war coverage today. Robertson is freelance and independent, one of a small band of journalists who’ve been spending the majority of their time in Iraq since before the U.S.-led invasion, attempting to document the effects of a war that stateside Americans seem all too willing to forget is being fought in their name. But then again, as Mr. Terkel points out above, it’s damn hard to find any reports of the war, what with all the runaway-bride, michael-jackson and tom-cruise-and-katie-holmes “news” taking up our media space.

I got an email the other day from Robertson, telling me of a story he would soon file for Salon. “I found the American sniper who killed a friend of mine. Let’s see; that’s it, other than the fact it’s like living on the surface of the sun out here.” Here is an excerpt, from “The Victim and the Killer”:

Guantanamo Redux: New News Is No News

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

The president’s such a peaceful man
I guess he’s got some kind of plan
They say we’re torturing prisoners of war
But I don’t believe that stuff no more …
I wish this war was over and through
But what do you expect me to do?

Cutting-edge stuff, eh? Hot off the notebook of a modern writer of “protest songs”?
Wrong: troubadour Tom Paxton wrote We Didn’t Know in 1965. The war was Vietnam. Forty years and six presidents later, the lyric is still up to date. I didn’t have to change a word.

Organic Farming Study Is Well Grounded

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

You’ve heard the myths about organic farming: It’s more trouble. It’s more expensive. The yields are smaller. And the yields are, well, icky — spots and blemishes, hidden bugs, etc.

I call them “myths” because guess what? They’re wrong. In a posting on the Web site of the environmental advocacy group Truth Out, writer Susan S. Long reports on the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, a 22-year study (that’s two decades plus, not a misprint), the results of which were published in the July issue of Bioscience magazine.

One Small Step for Biokind

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Like an arthritic Saint Bernard getting out of an armchair, American agribusiness is slowly responding to the potential of an energy source that environmentalists have been championing for years, if not decades: biomass.

An article on the subject in the June 26 Los Angeles Times was subtitled: “American crops could be used in place of many products’ petroleum base, some scientists say.”

In the current jargon of the street: Well, duh.

World Population Day

Monday, July 11th, 2005

World Population Day on July 11th represents not only a time to consider the unprecedented impact that human beings are having on the planet, but also an opportunity to consider the simple and proven solutions that help to mitigate this impact.

Since its inception in the 1960′s, voluntary international family planning programs have been instrumental in cutting the global fertility rate in half, from about six children per woman to the current rate of just under three. Access to reproductive health services, including family planning and education, is critical to reducing the maternal and infant mortality rate, increasing women’s and girl’s literacy rates and education levels, and improving the economic prospects for millions of families around the globe.

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