24 March 2008

world tuberculosis day

today, march 24, is the international day against tuberculosis. if you're wondering why we need such a day, the world health organization's latest report will tell you that 9.2 million people were infected with the disease and 1.5 million died from it in 2006 (the latest year for which data is available). the majority of these people live in the developing world.

i became familiar with the disease over the past few months, when reading cases of starvation and tb related deaths amongst a weaving community in varanasi, india.

"The decline of India’s weaving industry, particularly the hand woven sari trade of Varanasi--which once enjoyed great prosperity—has led to many deaths, from hunger and tuberculosis... While the cases involving malnutrition and starvation clearly indicate the complete failure of India’s food distribution system and relevant government bureaucracies, the cases of tuberculosis infection spotlight the country’s failing health care system."

"The decline of the handloom weaving industry—caused by the introduction of the power loom, cheap imports and a lack of government intervention—has led to many weavers being out of work. These weavers were proud of their occupation, which was a family trade, passed on through several generations. One such weaver, Jamaluddin, who has been working as a weaver for about 20 years, is racked with illness and weakening eyesight. He has now given up weaving and taken to carpentry, a trade alien to him. He earns only 20 -25 rupees a day, with which he cannot make ends meet. His child is also sick, but he cannot afford medical treatment for his child or himself. Jamaluddin told the tribunal that he burns up all the medical prescriptions in rage and frustration."

you can read the entire article here.

another concern regarding tb is the prevalence of infection amongst those suffering from HIV/AIDS. (this might be a good topic for my next africa post). according to india's health and family welfare minister, not only are women more prone to HIV infections, but at present tb is the "single biggest killer of young women".

world tb day tells you what is being done to change this situation.

12 March 2008

representation of islam in american media

managing editor of the washington post, Philip Bennet, gave a lecture titled "covering islam: a challenge for american journalism" at the university of california, irvine on march 3.

"The United States news media has failed to produce sustained coverage of Islam to challenge the easy assumptions, gross generalizations or untested rhetoric that shape perceptions of Muslims."

with regard to Middle East coverage, Bennett says the media "fails to demonstrate a critical understanding of the region’s history, culture and context." (this can be said of many regions and many media).

one of Bennett's solutions to this failure is to bring in more muslim journalists. hmm, i can see this going down well with the more conservative sector of the american population.

i agree with the principle, but i don't think that by simply having more muslim journalists, the issue of representation is solved. more importantly, as he noted himself, "coverage of Islam is always dominated by political and military conflict and for all sides 'the media is a part of the battle space'." all media has its own ideology and political stance; this will inevitably affect its portrayal of anything, including islam. in that case, it is not the journalists but the editors and managing boards that would need to be muslim.

03 March 2008

what do muslims want?

a Gallup poll of more that 50 000 muslims in 35 countries (90 per cent of the global muslim population) has been done, and the results will form part of a new book, Who Speaks for Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think.

how interesting. you can read the bbc story here, which gives some info on the poll results; the majority of muslims want democracy, but not a democracy imposed by the west, for instance. doesn't sound much like the muslims the mainstream media generally portrays. more info on the book is also available here.

02 March 2008

china's influence in africa

the romance of china and africa is suddenly the talk of all media. every site i read, has some story regarding china's increasing influence in the continent. this is possibly because i have been reading far more on africa than i usually would due to my international news class, as well as the fact that the beijing olympics has everyone ready to blackmail china for everything, the most obvious being steven spielberg's recent resignation. i was quite amused by that whole episode, as well as the various blog posts it generated. my favorite by far was this one by zhongnanhai.

today, i came across a bbc story on how china is responsible for africa's eroding press freedom, according to a report by reporters without borders. the story was not able to prove the claim in anyway; i don't know if the actual report does any better. you can read some african reactions to this here, all of which, needless to say, were quite scathing of the claim.

i haven't researched chinese reactions yet, but i wouldn't be surprised if they were just as harsh. i make no denial of china's atrocious human rights record, but i have to say that it is arrogance of the highest order, to claim that china is somehow responsible for all of africa's ills. especially when you fail to take into account all the players involved.