|by Ret Z.|
|Covering Poverty Widely in a Net of Many Voices|
|March 19, 2008||No Profit; No Proceeds|
|Volume 11 Number 22||All-Volunteer|
|"Give a family a fish, and they'll eat a meal; give them a Net, and they'll have fish for Life."|
|Officials See Progress in Camden|
Five years after New Jersey invested $175 million into one of the nation's poorest cities, state and local officials praised the progress but said they are far from finished. A report released on March 11 detailed the successes of a program that used state funds to invest in multiple major projects.
In Camden, the focus has been on higher education and the medical field, including a new law school building at Rutgers University, major expansion to Cooper University and Our Lady of Lourdes hospitals, and plans to add an academic building to Rowan University's Camden campus. Thousands of jobs have been created for city residents; hundreds of older homes have been refurbished or rebuilt; and millions of dollars have been pumped into the economy.
"There's a lot more to do," said Governor Jon Corzine. He said he hoped there would be a similar meeting five years from now where even more progress would be highlighted.
The educational and medical institutions have applied $32 million in state money toward expansion projects that have received $314 million in matching funds from outside sources:
Looking ahead, the program may not see much more financial support from state government. "It's going to be limited," said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D) of Brooklawn. "We're facing a tough time in the state."
Source: Today's Sunbeam
|Millions of Iraqis Lack Water, Healthcare|
Five years after the US led an invasion of Iraq, millions of people there are still deprived of clean water and medical care, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday. In a sober report marking the anniversary, the humanitarian body said Iraqi hospitals lack beds, drugs, and medical staff.
Some areas of the country of 27 million people have no functioning water and sanitation facilities. The poor public water supply has forced some families to use at least a third of their average $150 monthly income buying clean drinking water.
"Five years after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, the humanitarian situation in most of the country remains among the most critical in the world," the ICRC said, describing Iraq's health care system as "now in worse shape than ever."
Iraq is the ICRC's largest operation worldwide with an annual budget of 107 million Swiss francs ($106 million). It deploys 600 staff in the country, including 72 expatriates.
|Federal Homelessness Chief Visits South Jersey|
The federal government's point person on homelessness arrived in Gloucester County NJ on March 13 to discuss the problem with regional leaders. He, Philip Mangano, executive director of the US Council on Homelessness, had said, "Coordinators across the country have been working to create 10-year plans to reduce and ultimately end homelessness of the most disabled, most vulnerable, most visible and most expensive citizens."
Mangano said that, though homelessness does not seem like a visible problem in the county in comparison to city environments, it is reflected through demands on health services and law enforcement. "What we've discovered is that, somewhere in every geographic location, homeless people are receiving services. So the issue, which may not be visible to many, does exist there."
"The plan is shaped around business principles," said Mangano, "and follows a simple strategy to find innovative initiatives that are already field-tested, evidence-based and proven to work in other places. This allows the county to invest resources in only the most effective ideas."
These initiatives include rapid rehousing, better street engagement, better shelter engagement. Also included is Project Homeless Connect, a one-stop connection for homeless people with on-site access to services like basic medical care, dental care, hygiene, assistance in applying for benefits, and more.
Source: Gloucester County Times
|AIDS Not as Prevalent in Haiti Anymore|
US President George W Bush sees his initiatives against AIDS and malaria as foreign policy successes. During a trip to Africa last month, he was given a hero's welcome, in part for malaria and AIDS programs.
AIDS activists have praised PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, for getting life-extending drugs to people who otherwise would go without them. They've also criticized its prevention measures for focusing too heavily on encouraging sexual abstinence. The program was launched by the President in 2003 to provide support programs and drugs in 15 countries -- 12 in Africa plus Vietnam, Guyana, and Haiti -- to treat infected people.
Consider Haiti, which is due to receive about $100 million in PEPFAR funding in the year ending September 30. Impoverished Haiti is the Caribbean country most affected by HIV/AIDS. The disease is fueled by poverty and high illiteracy rates which make it tougher to teach about safe sex, experts said.
In Haiti, where HIV is primarily transmitted through heterosexual contact, the poverty plays directly into the infection rate, said Jean William Pape, director of GHESKIO, a Haitian clinic which was established in 1982 and calls itself the first institution in the world dedicated exclusively to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
He said there is a high incidence of "end of the month" prostitution: When women find they are unable to pay rent or school fees, some of them resort to prostitution.
In Haiti's urban areas, women are more likely to have HIV than men, Pape said. He said the infection rate in urban areas is 2.8% among women and 1.8% among males. The country's overall infection rate, while high, is steadily improving from one-time highs of about 15%, Pape said.
According to UNAIDS, by the end of 2005 about 3.8% of Haitian adults were HIV-positive.
|Princeton to Send Incoming Freshmen Abroad to Serve|
Welcome to Princeton University! Your first assignment is to take the year off.
The university is starting a program to encourage as many as 10% of its incoming freshmen to take off a year after high school to perform social services around the world. Provost Christopher Eisengruber said, "We think this kind of service experience abroad will give them a very different perspective on their Princeton education."
The program, which university officials hope to have in place by the 2009-10 school year, would eventually involve as many as 100 students. Participants wouldn't pay tuition and might receive financial aid to help pay for fees, living expenses, and travel. They would not receive academic credit.
Eisengruber said Princeton wanted to achieve two things: allow the university's high-achieving students to take a breather before college, and give them a chance to serve others while learning about the world.
Sophomore Eliza MacFarlane, 21, said spending the 2005-06 school year -- what would have been her freshman year -- helping autistic children in a rural Irish community had left her better prepared for college and life. "If everyone here spent a year focusing on someone else's needs, I think Princeton would be transformed."
Source: Associated Press
|Spain Heads List of Remittance Senders|
Migrants living in Spain sent nearly $13 billion in remittances back to their home countries in 2007, 19.5% more than in 2006, says a new report by the Banco de España, Spain's central bank. That makes the country the third largest remittance sender in the world in absolute terms, after the US and Saudi Arabia, and the top sender in relative terms.
The remittance market moves such large sums of money that national and international banks are attempting to tap into it by forming partnerships or competing with the money transfer services that have traditionally monopolized the market. Until recently, just two major companies, Western Union and MoneyGram International, handled three-quarters of all money transfers sent from Spain. Banks are not only keen on capturing the substantial transfer fees, but are also interested in drawing immigrants into using their other services, like savings accounts.
The fees charged by remittance companies had climbed so high that immigrants associations, supported by consumer organizations and trade unions, complained to authorities in Spain, in the rest of the EU, and in their home countries. After the Spanish government passed a new law to prevent abusively high fees, they gradually came down. Immigrants associations, however, continue to consider them too high. They also protest the steep fees charged in some recipient countries.
The question of money transfers is a hot issue in a country like Spain, which by the early 1990s was no longer a net exporter of people, as it had been for half a century, and has instead now become one of the world's top recipients of migrant workers. In 1991, the INE census counted just over 360,000 foreign nationals, compared to nearly 4.5 million in 2007.
"The situation in which immigrants in our country find themselves is similar to what our fellow countrymen experienced in the 1960s and 1970s," wrote Elena Izquierdo, a sociologist who writes on economic issues.
Large numbers of Spanish workers emigrated to the rest of Europe and to the Americas in three distinct waves: prior to the 1936-1939 civil war, during the war (when many people went into exile), and after 1960.
"They emigrated to Europe and the Americas with the aim of improving their living conditions and those of their families," she added. "The money they saved and sent back to Spain drove, without a doubt, the country's development. Up to just three years ago, the amount of money sent home by Spanish citizens living abroad outstripped the amount sent to their home countries by migrants here."
"Migration operates as a kind of equalizing mechanism," said Enrique Alberola, head of the Banco de España's international economy division. "In the face of huge wage gaps, immigration contributes to greater equality of wages between the regions that send and receive migrants."
In the campaign leading up to Spain's March 9 election, the government said the country's recent economic boom was largely due to immigrant labor. Rightwing groups blame immigrants for the current slowdown.
Source: Inter Press Service
|New Jersey's Only Successful Needle Exchange|
It's hard to imagine things could be any worse for Tommy Fagan. The 25-year-old's 11-year relationship with heroin has left him homeless, and in 2004 he tested positive for Hepatitis C, a disease he says he acquired because of his tendency to share syringes.
Fagan is one of more than 200 heroin users enrolled in Atlantic City's pilot needle-exchange program since its inception in November. The program, located on the second floor of the Oasis Drop-In Center, was New Jersey's first legal exchange and appears to be the only successful one.
In just three months, the exchange has registered 204 users and sees about eight clients per day, according to recent Health Department statistics. New visitors to the program must register by answering basic demographic questions and questions about their history of HIV testing and drug treatment. They also are assigned an identification number. After six months they'll be asked other questions, such as whether they are still sharing needles with others and whether they have sought drug-addiction treatment.
New participants are given 10 needles initially and then one needle for every used needle they return. The amounts they are given when they return depend on how many times they shoot up in a week.
Addicts are offered more than just needles. A full line of clean paraphernalia is displayed in the back of the room. "The disease isn't just in the needle," says Marcy Pinsky, a volunteer and former addict. "We tell the people that come here, the disease lives in the cotton, the disease lives in the spoon."
This city's needle exchange is a far cry from the state's other pilot programs, in Camden and Paterson. While the program at the Well of Hope Drop-in Center in Paterson fights to attract users, Camden's exchange is done out of the back of a van. Both are victims of low funding.
Gene Brunner, the Atlantic City Health Department's HIV services coordinator, thinks the exchange is benefitting from its location -- near transportation, a prostitute area, the Boardwalk, and a methadone clinic. The best feature of its location is the popularity of the Oasis center below, which had already provided free HIV counseling and testing, drug-treatment referrals, and other social services.
The program also has sufficient funding.
Source: Atlantic City Press
|NAFTA: A Look at the Mexican Side|
In Mexico City, the concept of global integration is more or less accepted. NAFTA, the trade accord from which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama threatened to withdraw if they win, is seen as having made Mexico a better and more prosperous place.
"It has locked our economy into that of the US and Canada, and they are gradually dragging us up to where they are," says Nicolás Hernández, a small-time accountant. "You can already feel it: We have better and more modern products on offer -- products that my parents' generation could only dream of."
It's been almost 15 years since NAFTA was implemented. Only the most fervent anti-globalization activists would argue that the free-trade agreement between Canada, the US, and Mexico has not brought widespread benefits for Mexico.
Economist and NAFTA negotiator Luis de la Calle points out that since the pact came into effect, Mexican exports to the US have more than quadrupled from about $60 billion a year to $280 billion. "When people look back, they will divide Mexico's economic history into two parts," he says: "Pre-NAFTA and post-NAFTA."
He adds that NAFTA has been good for Mexico's northern neighbor, too, with exports to Mexico growing from $41 billion in 1993 to about $136 billion last year. With those sorts of figures, it is perhaps unsurprising that the center-right administration of Felipe Calderón is disturbed by the Democrats' pledges. "What North America needs is more integration, not less," said Eduardo Sojo, Mexico's economy secretary, said. In private, Mexican officials went so far as to label the US candidates' threats as not only impractical but "ridiculous".
One clear example of how NAFTA has improved living standards in Mexico is electrical and household goods. Go to any Wal-Mart store -- there are nearly 1,000 in Mexico now -- and the cost of a refrigerator or flat-screen television is not that different from in the US or Canada. Ernesto Cervera, an economist at GEA, a Mexico City think-tank, argues that the average cost of white goods today is at least 50% less than pre-NAFTA.
De la Calle says one of NAFTA's biggest achievements has been to steady Mexico's economy. For example, Mexico has closed its trade deficit to consistently manageable levels in sharp contrast to pre-NAFTA. "Mexico didn't have an economic cycle before NAFTA, it just had a roller coaster," he says. "Today, we have a clear economic cycle and it is in line with the rest of North America."
Not everyone has felt the benefits, though. Maize farmer Félix Rios says NAFTA's elimination in January of tariffs on corn, sugar, and dairy products almost certainly spells the end of his business. Yet even here, analysts claim that it is not all bad. NAFTA's latest installment comes at a time of record corn prices, meaning even small farmers can survive -- in the short term, at least.
Source: Financial Times
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|'Death Camp' for Cats Found Near Pittsburgh|
Humane agents raided a property north of Pittsburgh on March 13, finding hundreds of dead and dying cats in what may be the largest animal seizure in Pennsylvania history. Howard Nelson, director of the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania SPCA, which orchestrated the raid, said as many as 1,000 cats might ultimately be removed from Tiger Ranch, located in Tarentum, about 20 miles from Pittsburgh.
"It's a death camp," said Nelson, speaking by cell phone as he helped gather emaciated and diseased cats crammed into trailers and other outbuildings across the 30-acre property. "I see cats that can't walk, and dead cats in litter boxes and lying by food bowls." He said many of the cats have severe respiratory illnesses and others are infected with diseases that cause blindness.
A team of more than 100 people, including law enforcement officers, humane agents, veterinarians and volunteers, entered the property about 7:15pm, Nelson said. What they found stunned even veteran humane agents.
"The vast number of animals and the degree of neglect is astounding," said Reba McDonald, a humane officer with the SPCA.
The raid was expected to last all night and into the next day as agents worked to trap the cats and deliver them to medical teams for assistance. An emergency shelter was set up at the Clarion County SPCA to handle the vast number of animals.
Humane officers said the owner, Linda M Bruno, would be charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty. Bruno was at the site when the raid started and was questioned late into the night by state police troopers, Nelson said. Just 90 minutes after the raid began, Nelson said Bruno was already facing 13 counts of cruelty connected to the first 17 cats seized.
Tiger Ranch, which on its Web site billed itself as "a cat sanctuary where mercy triumphs" -- took in thousands of stray and unwanted cats a year from individuals and high-kill shelters from nine states. Postings on Internet message boards suggest that rescues from as far away as Georgia shipped cats to Tiger Ranch and that Philadelphia rescues also sent cats there.
Nelson called it "a classic hoarding situation."
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
|North Africa to Develop Drought-Resistant Barley|
Agricultural researchers in Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia have teamed up to create drought-resistant and salt-tolerant varieties of barley better suited to the North African region. The project, funded by the Canadian International Development Research Centre and overseen by the New Partnership for Africa's Development North Africa Biosciences Network, will see thirty scientists from five organizations spending the next two years developing the barley varieties.
Barley is traditionally used as animal feed in much of North Africa. Lack of alternative food sources is leading to human consumption.
The researchers met in Borj Essedria in southern Tunisia last month to discuss genetic techniques -- including genetic modification -- that could be used to increase barley's nutritional quality, as well as make it drought- and saltwater-tolerant.
"We want to develop two varieties of barley in each country, making a total of six varieties expected to be resistant to drought and high salinity," says Hussein Irikti, coordinator of scientific activities and research for Algeria's National Institute of Agricultural Research, which is overseeing Algeria's role in the project. "If we succeed in achieving the goal, we will launch another program bigger and broader than this."
Irikti says they are focusing on barley because it is "exceptional, very adaptable to different climates, resisting drought and high temperature compared to other cereals -- in addition to containing vitamins that are not found in other grains. It is a strategic challenge for North Africa, which suffers from drought and high degree of salinity."
Source: Science & Development Network
|UK Child Poverty Goal 'Unlikely to be Hit'|
It is "extremely unlikely" the British government will hit its next target to reduce child poverty, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said on March 13, even after Alistair Darling devoted what money he could spare to poor families with children. In the budget, Darling boosted the child benefit for the first child to £20 a week from April 2009, increased the generosity of child tax credits, and said that in the future the calculation of housing and council tax benefits would ignore the child benefit in their means tests. This package will cost taxpayers £870 million in 2010-11.
The IFS confirmed Darling's claim that it was likely to reduce by 250,000 the number of children living in families with incomes less than 60% of the national median, the government's poverty line. But the think-tank added that about £2 billion to £3 billion more would be needed for Darling to have a 50:50 chance of halving child poverty by 2010-11, compared with the 1998-99 level -- a target confirmed by James Purnell, work and pensions secretary, in the Commons.
James Browne, an IFS economist, said the change in the way benefits would be calculated was innovative as it was simultaneously designed to help poor families with children and improve the incentives to work. It operates by significantly raising the amount of money lone parents receive once they are working 16 hours a week.
The price of this increased generosity, however, which Browne said the government must believe is "worth paying", is that many more people will become eligible for housing and council tax benefits as the benefits' reach extends to much better-off families. This would reduce the incentives to work much more than 16 hours a week.
Source: Financial Times
|Tracking System Developed for Maternal Death|
Researchers from India and the UK have developed an inexpensive surveillance system for measuring maternal mortality. The system could eventually guide policymakers in protecting maternal health.
Conventional surveillance of maternal deaths is expensive and logistically challenging, write the researchers. Under-reporting is also frequent, particularly in India's remote rural areas, where more mothers die. As a result, policy decisions are made on inadequate evidence.
About two-thirds of Indian maternal deaths occur in just nine states. The study looked at two of those -- Jharkhand and Orissa in eastern India -- with a combined population of 228,186.
In their surveillance system, the researchers recruited key local informants -- mostly traditional birth attendants -- to record all births and stillbirths, and deaths of women of reproductive age (15–49 years). By asking the causes of death from relatives of women who had died, deaths were classed as maternal, pregnancy-related, or late maternal. Doctors then verified causes of death by examining the verbal autopsies.
A maternal mortality ratio of 722 per 100,000 live births was found. And the cost of the system was just US$0.02 per person per year.
"The new method appears to be robust," said Prasanta Tripathy, an author of the study who is affiliated to Ekjut, an India-based nongovernmental organization. "We always need to stress the difference between estimating -- as most people do -- and measuring, which is what we did."
Source: Science & Development Network
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