Space Satellites Are Not Afraid Of YOU

The use of satellite imagery in the fight against human rights violations is both important and fascinating. Amnesty International explains the power of technology like this:

Importantly for efforts to secure justice and accountability for the gravest of crimes under international law, remote sensing is replicable, and offers evidentiary value as we move closer toward a system of international justice that minimizes impunity for these grave crimes. These relatively new data – such as remote sensing data and corresponding analysis – cannot be intimidated or threatened, and enjoy permanence that allows for even retrospective documentation.

Remote Sensing for Human Rights, Amnesty International

This technology was used to examine political prison labor camps in North Korea and produced hard evidence that the camps are not being shut down, as promised by the North Korean government. In fact, they appear to be growing in size.

The report contains copies of images and detailed analysis of those images. It also presents information from survivors, including the following:

According to testimonies from former inmates in kwanliso 15, all inmates were subject to forced labour for between 10 to 12 hours daily in dangerous conditions in the production facilities, mines, logging and farming. Failure to meet the work quotas could lead to reduction or discontinuation of food rations. According to a couple, Kim and Lee (full names withheld), who were detained in kwanliso 15 between 1999 and 2001,

“We worked in the farms (at kwanliso 15) from 7am to 8pm. We cultivated corn. We were divided to work in units comprising 10-15 people each. We were given a daily production target that we had to meet. If the unit did not meet the daily target, the unit-members were punished collectively. During the course of our three-year detention, often we did not meet our targets because we were always hungry and weak. We were punished with beatings and also reductions in our food quota. In addition to that, in the Ideology Struggle Sessions that were held after work, those who did not meet the target were severely criticized and beaten by other inmates.”

According to prison official Mr. Lee who worked in kwanliso 16, inmates used to spend most of their time working in dangerous conditions, were overworked and had very little time to rest. In most cases, they had to work until they fulfilled their work quotas. After their work, they had to attend self-criticism meetings. Only after these meetings were they allowed to rest; mostly between 12 midnight and 4am. He had witnessed accidents in the work place, many of which were fatal.

North Korea, New satellite images show continued investment in the infrastructure of repressionAmnesty International, October 2013

The same imagery was combined with Tomnod crowd sourcing to identify locations of illegal fishing on Lake Malta, known for rampant human rights violations, including a disturbingly large number of of child slaves.

Visit Tomnod to participate in currently running crowd sourced projects or review the results of past campaigns.

Slave Free City

As the world enters the holiday season I have been doing a lot of thinking about the issue of modern slavery. These things may not seem to go together, but I recently finished the Ending Slavery MOOC and (to complete a class assignment) started trying to complete my holiday shopping with exclusively slave-free products. This is much harder than it sounds! It’s also something that really struck a nerve with me because giving slave-tainted holiday-season gifts or chocolates is just…well…wrong! I don’t care what high holiday you celebrate during the winter solstice – whether Santa visits your house or if the event is entirely religious – giving gifts made from slave labor, CHILD slaves in particular, is counter to the spirit of the season.

The course then introduced the concept of a slave free city. The idea is simply this: develop the support, networking, community organizations and whatever other resources are necessary to completely eliminate slavery from a single city. This isn’t a long-distant effort to assist people in other countries, this is a targeted program designed to eliminate slavery and human trafficking, in all of its forms, from your own home town.

There’s even an entire conference devoted to the topic (and I really really really want to go!): Slave Free City Summit (SFCSummit)

How and why have I never heard of this before? Sadly, the answer to my question is this: it’s a new concept, still being developed and tested. But I am convinced that it both can and MUST work. This effort intersects with the efforts of people fighting homelessness, poverty, and social justice issues of all kinds. Achieving this goal will have a universally positive impact on the entire community (city). This is something worth supporting 100% – and then some!

More information about Slave Free Cities:

Slave Narratives and the Pimp in the Shadows

The Ending Slavery MOOC on Future Learn, presented by the University of Nottingham, covers quite a bit of information about the history of slavery worldwide and the reality of modern slavery.

While the MOOC was extremely well done (I highly recommend it) there was one question in week four that caught my attention because it’s a good example of missing research. Assignment 4.8 focuses on the Slave Narrative as a literary tradition and includes a link to the Characteristics of the Slave Narrative, as an example of literary interpretation and research that has been done on historic narratives (e.g.: antislavery writings completed in the United States during the civil war era). The assignment then instructs students to examine modern slave narratives and consider them from a literary perspective – are there commonalities in structure?

It’s a standard academic exercise and a good way to examine the information from another angle, which can be extremely useful when trying to perform problem solving exercises. A problem solving example: activists who are trying to figure out a way to address a specific problem facing slaves or former slaves in a specific area can force their brains to stop following the same unproductive maze and take some time to analyze narratives from people in other areas, looking for literary commonalities, in the hopes that it will provide some kind of unexpected insight into their own immediate problem.

So far so good.

The problem that I see is not what is there but what is NOT there.

Go into any large-chain bookstore and there will be an entire section devoted to sensationalist books covering ‘current events’ and ‘conspiracy theories’ of all kinds. Usually, this sections will also contain equally sensationalist ‘biographies’ of people who have survived harrowing experiences or done incredibly awful things. This is how the biography of a young woman sold into sexual slavery sits on the same shelf as the biography of a serial killer who lured, raped, tortured and murdered several women. Usually, the biography of the slavery victim has a cover that is vaguely BDSM erotic – clearly targeting people who like the idea of owning a slave.

Search through the movies offerings in any on-demand video provider (e.g.: Netflix) and similar ‘documentaries’ about people in slavery (particularly sexual slavery) are available, frequently with similarly vaguely BDSM erotic advertising graphics. Years ago, I watched one that supposedly covered the lives of woman trapped in sexual slavery all over the world. It DID include interviews with women who were enslaved all over the world, along with pornography-level video of some of those same women performing sexual acts with clients. At every point in the ‘documentary’ the shadow of the pimps/owners hovered over the words of the women being interviewed. It was LITERALLY a 1.5-hour infomercial geared toward men who are best described by the The Bloodhound Gang song The Lap Dance Is So Much Better When The Stripper Is Cryin’ (YouTube).

I’ve seen the same thing occurring within news stories. In 2009, after the economy crashed, every news outlet (big and small) was publishing/broadcasting stories about women fighting over jobs as strippers and prostitutes. The sex industry had it’s pick of recent college grads because these women has student loans to pay! There was one in particular that was on a national news program that looked exactly like the documentary described above, but wrapped up in a 3-minute news story and keeping the sex acts just barely visible or highlighted through ‘interviews.’

I made the decision to refrain from including a link to the news story, the title of the documentary or examples of sensationalist slave biographies because the old adage any press is good press is a statement of truth and these people don’t deserve the traffic.

Having said that, the discussion of slave narratives MUST include this form of exploitation.There are distinct differences in the type of information selected and the manner in which it is presented – there’s a lot of literary ground to cover.

Also, a biography or narrative can be a powerful tool in the hands of antislavery activists. It can be an equally powerful tool in the hands of pimps, slave owners and human traffickers.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has done this research. If I am wrong about this, I invite (encourage!) you to correct me on this point and/or provide recommended readings in the comments below.

Respect and The 2016 Election

The election is over and I am sitting here in stunned silence, mulling over the same questions so many others are asking: Why? How? What do we do now? I have no concrete answers. Instead, I have decided to share the following responses and observations in the hopes that it will encourage communication and positive discussion.

Respect is Important

Long before the election started, I made the conscious decision to stop posting political memes and liberal-rants on Facebook. Instead, I started posting the memes to my Human Rights and Political Pinterest boards. Liberal commentary is placed here on my blog and in answers to questions posted to Quora.

Why? In a word: Respect.

Like most middle age adults with a Facebook account, my friends list contains a wide and varied array of personalities. I have known entirely to many people, and survived far to many life-experiences, to restrict my community to a single political mindset. People come into your life and stay for a while. Life changes occur and some people fade away while others remain in contact through phone, mail or social media platforms like Facebook. In my case, many of the neighborhood kids from my childhood  have grown up to become right wing, conservative, Trump-supporting adults.

I started to realize that my liberal leaning memes and occasional rants were showing up on other people’s timelines in a manner that was analogous to forcing my own strong and entirely unasked for opinions into the face of every person on my list. It felt invasive and disrespectful. That feeling that someone really and truly does not respect you or your opinions is a powerful and negative force and it was turning a useful tool for communicating with other people into a relationship breaking wedge.  This was entirely counter to my reasons for using Facebook, so I decided to make a change.

Dangerous Dodge Ball

Facebook also illustrated the fact that memes and internet posting do nothing to change opinions or modify behaviors. Instead, the standard response seemed to be heightened emotion and stubborn digging-in-the-heels demands that one side admit that the other side was wrong.

It felt like a high stakes and highly competitive game of virtual dodge ball. Conservatives vs liberals! The levels of emotion (desperation, fear) and verbal viciousness escalated with every throw. This was not a positive contribution to the discussion or a productive movement toward any political effort or objective.

When I stopped posting memes and rants, I made the personal decision to remove myself from Facebook debates while continuing to participate in discussions on other forums (e.g.: WordPress and Quora). This required making the conscious effort to restrict my own participation to those moments when I really felt commentary was warranted and/or necessary, which proved to be relatively rare – an interesting fact worth examining in more depth at another time.

Instead, I took the opportunity to watch. What I observed on both Facebook and Quora were reactions similar to those detailed in Arlie Russell Hochschild‘s Strangers in Their Own Land. For example:

When we sat down a week later to sweet teas at a local Starbucks, I asked Madonna what she loved about Limbaugh. “His criticism of ‘femi-nazis,’ you know, feminists, women who want to be equal to men.” I absorbed that for a moment. Then she asked what I thought, and after I answered, she remarked, “But you’re nice . . .” From there, we went through Limbaugh’s epithets (“commie libs,” “environmental wackos”). Finally, we came to Madonna’s basic feeling that Limbaugh was defending her against insults she felt liberals were lobbing at her: “Oh, liberals think that Bible-believing Southerners are ignorant, backward, rednecks, losers. They think we’re racist, sexist, homophobic, and maybe fat.” Her grandfather had struggled as a desperately poor Arkansas sharecropper. She was a gifted singer, beloved by a large congregation, a graduate of a two-year Bible college, and a caring mother of two. In this moment, I began to recognize the power of blue-state catcalls taunting red state residents. Limbaugh was a firewall against liberal insults thrown at her and her ancestors, she felt. Was the right-wing media making them up to stoke hatred, I wondered, or were there enough blue-state insults to go around? The next time I saw Madonna, she was interested to know if it had been hard for me to hear what she’d said. I told her it wasn’t. “I do that too sometimes,” she said, “try to get myself out of the way to see what another person feels.”

Vindication and ‘Stupid Jokes’

After the election, right-wing Facebook posts appeared which specifically expressed anger over the left-wing portrayal of conservatives as uneducated or lacking intelligence. The fact that Trump won has been held up as proof that conservatives are actually very intelligent.

This is not the only highly emotional and very personal anger being expressed, but it’s an excellent example of the negative affects of politically divided communities throwing insults at one another for an extended period of time.

Among middle and lower class whites education level and perceived intelligence are long-standing targets. Put bluntly, the left tends to portray the right as being inherently and hopelessly stupid and ignorant. It’s a sore spot with many conservatives on an individual and personal level. When liberals talk about the lack of education among conservatives what people on the other side of the political wall hear is “you (personally) are laughably dumb.”

Regardless of your political affiliation, please take the time to fully understand this:

There is a difference between intelligent and educated.

The existence, or lack thereof, of an education is neither proof nor measurement of an individual’s intellectual potential or capabilities.

A degree is proof that an individual has established, and achieved, a goal. Nothing more, nothing less.

People Being People

For every vote cast during this election there is a long list of unique and personal reasons why that vote was cast. It is not reasonable to suggest that Trump won because (and only because) a large number of people were feeling vindictive about enduring many years of ‘stupid jokes’ thrown by members of the political left.

HOWEVER, it has become clear to me that there are a good number of people who are feeling vindicated. In their opinion, electing Trump has effectively thrown those very insults back into the face of every person who ever uttered them. That’s powerful emotion – and there is no doubt in my mind that it played a crucial role in the decision making process.

While it is perfectly valid to argue that an individual’s hurt feelings over childish insults is not a logical or valid reason for selecting a president, it is equally valid to note that, in some cases, the insults were unnecessary and inappropriate. Human beings are always emotional and (sadly) frequently irrational creatures. Emotional reactions lead to actions.

It is an important reality to consider.

History is Today – As Seem From Tomorrow

The 2016 election was the moment in recent history (there have been many moments prior to this) when the political divide and mud slinging intersected with our country’s  history of slavery, brutality, racism, white supremacy, sexism, homophobia, religious supremacy and other similarly nasty things. No matter how much anyone wanted to believe these things had been eliminated, they never actually went away. All of it was still there, lying just below the surface of our everyday lives.

The ugly beast used the election as an opportunity to raise it’s awful head and show us all just how BIG and POWERFUL it really was. Terrifying and eye opening, it left many people wondering whether or not elections have do-overs or political morning-after pills (actually, as it turns out, they do).

On “Woke” White People Advertising their Shock that Racism just won a Presidency by Courtney Parker West makes many excellent points on the topic of long-standing racism existing (thriving?), yet remaining unacknowledged by most white people in the United States. She does this far better than I ever could. Please read her article. Here’s a quote:

More white people than I can count, people who are quick to profess themselves as oh-so-woke, have expressed some real shock and dismay not only at the election results, but at the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and bigotry that paved the way to those results. And this is not just me surmising what has them all up in their feelings. This is me reading their words…

Respect and Fear – Actions and Emotions

Right now there are a lot of people who are afraid – myself included.

Trump’s campaign was entirely devoid of respect. When people say he ‘tells it like it is,’ they are referring to many months of one bigger-than-life white-male looking every non-straight, non-white, non-Christian community in the eye, lifting his middle finger and saying ‘fuck you!’

Trump’s campaign clearly and blatantly used racist slurs and sexist commentary. Trump bragged about participating in rape, made overt calls for violence against anyone who opposed him and gleefully utilized a litany of similar tactics that should have stood as a warning sign to everyone. Every. One.

Now that the election is over, it doesn’t matter who he chooses for his cabinet or what proposals he makes to congress, he has shown complete and absolute lack of respect for massive numbers of people. The trust of a significant portion of the US population was irrevocably lost before the election started. That kind of breach effectively eliminated the possibility of gaining trust at some point in the future.

Right now, the FEAR is everywhere. It’s tangible. It’s also exacerbated by an increase in hate crimes and threatening behavior on the part of individuals who heard Trump’s call for violence and liked it…LOVED IT….took it literally….and jumped on the opportunity to get out there and take action:

Ada Gonzalez was about to drop off her son, one of the few Hispanic students at his school, on Wednesday in Ventura, California, when she says she noticed a group of fifth graders chanting “Build a wall!” In Rochester, New York, pride flags were burned outside homes. Elsewhere, a teacher reported that a 10-year-old girl had to be picked up from school after a boy grabbed her vagina, saying if a president can do it, he can, too.

After Trump’s Election, Americans React With Tweets–And Donations, Forbes

“We have seen Klan literature drops, we have seen that suicide hotlines are ringing off the hook, and we are hearing of very extensive bullying in and around schools,” a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center said.

Rash of Hate Crimes’ Reported Day After Trump’s Election, NBC Chicago

The incidents, some that bring up memories of the Jim Crow era, continued into Friday. In Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania issued a statement saying it was working to find the source of racist messages sent to black freshmen, and in Syracuse, N.Y., a group of pickup trucks – one draped with the Confederate flag – drove through an anti-Trump rally. In Columbus, Ohio, a man banged on the car window while a Muslim woman was driving, her children and elderly parents with her, and told her, “C–t, you don’t belong in this country,” according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington.

All those were added to the list of incidents that included black children being told to get to the back of a bus and Latino children being taunted about the wall that Trump promised to build between Mexico and the United States.

Post-election spate of hate crimes worse than post-9/11, experts say, USA Today

Reports of racist graffiti, hate crimes post-election, CNN

Significant numbers of non-white, non-straight, non-Christian and most non-male citizens (and many more communities along with them) are preparing for the worst – as in they-are-coming-for-you-and-your-children WORST-CASE SCENARIO.

While some members of the conservative right may feel vindicated by this election, many more members of the liberal left feel threatened. Both sides are feeling disrespected.

If there is one thing that I have learned from this election, it is this: never underestimate the power and importance of respect.

The Difference Between Obama and Trump

Here is the difference between Obama and Trump…

2008 Election

After the 2008 election, people all over the United States were LITERALLY dancing in the streets.

The AP Archives

In Harlem, thousands of people, black and white, took to the streets, some dancing, others crying tears of joy…

In Miami, honking horns and fireworks greeted news of Obama’s victory. In Seattle, people poured out of bars, restaurants and houses in the streets near historic Pike Place Market…

But the biggest celebration was in Chicago, Obama’s hometown, where several hundred thousand people jammed the streets as the president-elect addressed the nation from Grant Park.

The downtown park — where police fought anti-war protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention — was transformed by white tents and a stage lined with American flags and hung with red, white and blue bunting.

Tear of Joy, dancing in streets over Obama win, NBC News

2016 Election

After the 2016 election, people are violently confronting one another in the street, hate crimes are on the rise and people are expressing increasing levels of fear.

Day 1 in Trump’s America, Twitter

Pulling from news reports, social media, and direct submissions at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, the SPLC had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country as of Friday, November 11 at 5pm. These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents. There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals. Often times, types of harassment overlapped and many incidents, though not all, involved direct references to the Trump campaign. Every incident could not be immediately independently verified.

Over 200 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since Election Day, SPLC

A black woman from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, also tells how she was threatened with a gun when pumping gas. Four white men pulled up and started talking about how they wouldn’t have to deal with black people much longer, she wrote on Facebook. “How scared are you, you black b****h?” she said one of the men shouted at her.

Racist attacks sparked by Donald Trump’s US election win, International Business Times

Posts show Illinois college students wearing blackface and posing in front a confederate flag while one man showed his vandalized car with a racial slur painted across the windshield. In classrooms, white students, some as young as kindergarten age, have been reportedly chanting “cotton picker” and “heil Hitler” at black students while Muslim women have shown concern for wearing a hijab in public.

‘Day 1 in Trump’s America’ Highlights Racist Acts, Violent Threats, Rolling Stone


Linguistics and White Privilege

Every once in a while a question will be posted to Quora about White Privilege that questions the validity of the term and concept based on personal experience with hardship.  These stand out to me because the author is usually focused on Class Privilege and the very real advantages provided by financial class, Since I spend most of my time on Quora reading and writing about Poverty, class issues catch my attention.

I think Gina Crosley-Corcoron‘s Huffington Port article Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person does an excellent job of breaking down the concept as it applies to all white people. She also makes some strong points about places where the original 1988 essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh (which brought the phrase ‘white privilege’ into the academic mainstream)  drifts away from race and goes knee-deep into financial class. Therefore, I am not going to try to recreate that here.

The objective behind this post is to take a look at the cultural and communication problems inherent in using the word Privileged to target racial problems in the United States.

Connotation vs Denotation

Every time an article or opinion expresses heightened negative emotion or simple disbelief about the concept of ‘White Privilege’ the core arguments come down to two things:

  1. I worked hard for what I have, how can you call me privileged?
  2. My life has been hard for reasons beyond my control, how can you call me privileged?

According to, the word Privilege has many meanings. In the context of White Privilege, definition number four (4) seems most applicable: 

The principle or condition of enjoying special rights or immunities.

When a person takes the time to read and digest the definition of White Privilege, the denotation (dictionary definition) of the word ‘privilege’ is clearly applicable.

The problem that seems to keep resurfacing is not the denotation – it’s the connotation:

Connotation: the associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning: A possible connotation of“home” is “a place of warmth, comfort, and affection.

Privilege As An Insult

When I was growing up among poverty survivors in an almost-entirely-white community, the word ‘privilege’ was usually considered an insult. It was something that applied to upper class snobs and people who aspired to act like them, despite being just as poor as the rest of us.

By comparison, there is a saying that is common among white communities: 

When you’re poor, you’re crazy; when you’re rich, you’re eccentric.

In essence, this describes two realities in the United States:

  1. Mental Illness: Poor people are locked up in institutions (mental hospitals or prisons) because they are ‘crazy’ while rich people are indulged and provided top-notch care for living with their ‘eccentricities.’ If you are lucky to be among the upper classes, then you have enough money to be ‘eccentric,’ while the rest of us are stuck trying to survive ‘crazy.’
  2. Unusual Hobbies and/or Alternative Lifestyles: Again, poor people are locked up or otherwise strongly discouraged from indulging in anything considered outside the social norm. Rich people are given the freedom and space to indulge themselves while being excused for expressing their ‘eccentricities.’

Privilege has a similar usage among the lower classes. It’s something that applies to the upper class, something those with money and power openly and aggressively toss in the face of those less fortunate. It’s something you do not want to be accused of having when trying to survive poverty because surviving poverty requires connections to, and help from, the community. Being labeled as ‘privileged’ sets a person outside that community in a very negative manner.

When Petra Ecclestone was interviewed about her lavish lifestyle and ‘career’ throwing stunningly expensive parties (on her daddys tab) she responded with “I’m not spoiled, I’m privileged.” and then made some comments about how spending that same amount of  money on housing for poor people wouldn’t ‘change the world’ and (in essence) wasn’t her problem.

Petra’s behavior pretty much sums up the poor-white interpretation of ‘privilege’ – everything is handed to you and community is irrelevant because the money pays for everything.

Synonyms: Lazy, offensive, overindulged, antisocial and living outside the law (read: the laws don’t apply because the money/lawyers take care of everything).

Generations of Knee Jerk Reactions

I clearly remember my parents having a from-the-gut knee-jerk reaction to the word privilege when I was a kid (back in the 1970s-80s). When I was introduced to the term White Privilege my first reaction was the same, emotional, non-rational, gut reaction to the word privilege. This visceral respond to the word itself has been around since the baby boomers were young – probably longer.

Race vs Class

The non-rational and highly emotional response to the term ‘privilege’ is entirely based in financial class. Connecting the term to the word White and using it to describe the reality of race issues here in the United States connects one emotional response to another – race and class.

Is that a good or useful thing?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question.

What I would like to see is more discussion around the linguistics of the terminology and how our reactions to the words strongly (unconsciously?) affect our ability to grasp the concept. How many people are unable to enter into a healthy conversation about the concept (reality) of White Privilege because they cannot get passed the feeling that they have been deeply insulted through the use of the word privilege?

The problem exists. The existence of the problem does not, necessarily, mean the term White Privilege’ needs to change. However, the emotional response must be addressed. Without that step in the process, many people will never be able to move into a discussion about race.

This begs the question “how?”

Again, I don’t know the answer.

Personally, I had to get passed the word and into the concept by my own volition. I made the conscious effort to put aside the emotion, read the literature and find out what the term was being used to convey. In other words, I had the standard bookworm response: I read up on it. Not everyone operates that way.


I would like to suggest this as a topic for discussion among activists and community organizers:

  • How do you get people to move passed the emotional response to sheer linguistics (terminology) and into a productive and positive discussion about race?
  • How to you get around the financial class issues associated with the term ‘privilege’ and focus on the race issues that are identified within the concept of White Privilege?

Of By For

Of By For is a documentary about the American political system. I enjoyed the film and recommend watching it…..but…..Yes, there’s a but…

Frankly, the interview conducted, the things said, and the history illustrated is BOTH important and frequently covered. I found myself thinking that I’ve seen another version of this movie a dozen times  before and I can’t remember the names of any of the other films.

Then Dan Rather spoke.

Dan Rather made some very heartfelt comments about the loss of a spine within the American press. He commented on the loss of checks and balances that the press is, theoretically, supposed to provide and the fact that ‘reality television’ can be done without consequence while true hard journalism comes with the potential of facing a lot of very hard, expensive and potentially career ending consequences – even with the journalistic work is good, professional, ethical and legal.

This reminded me of Puerto Rico’s “most trusted journalist” as covered on the Daily Show: La Comay on SuperXclusivo. Perhaps we need more puppets asking questions and fewer journalists acting like puppets.

Of By For resources:

Poverty, Inc.

I finally got the opportunity to watch the documentary Poverty Inc. It’s well worth watching and covers a lot of details that are extremely important to consider when providing assistance internationally.

As I was watching it, I kept thinking the same systemic concerns, complaints and problems occur here in the United States. The manifestation is different, but the way money, business, non-profit work and political/social forces operate are the same. Honestly, I think a Poverty Inc USA-version is both possible and warranted. Maybe someday that will happen.

The danger I see in this film is the assumption that no help at all is better than anything being provided for free. That is not the argument made by this film, either purposely or as a result of the evidence provided. The point made…extremely well…is that non profits make money off of catastrophes and continue making money as long as the catastrophes continue, which directly and drastically hinders the efforts of people trying to overcome terrible events.

Help is ethically, morally and politically necessary. However, turning people into your permanent fundraising poster child by hindering their ability to move into (or return to) a state of financial and political self-sufficiency is not help – it’s business.

This would make an excellent starting point of an in-depth discussion or class on poverty, economics, business and politics.

Details about the movie:

The Reason People Do Not Trust The Police: Abduction and Human Trafficking

Having lived and worked in both the Fargo/Moorehead area and Duluth, MN, this story does not surprise me. Sadly, it is far from the first time I’ve run across an article like this. Also, this is neither the first nor the last woman to experience this problem, yet police continue to refuse to take it seriously: Crimes against Native American women raise questions about police response, The Guardian, by Zoe Sullivan (01/19/2016)

North Dakota nightmare: Lake Vermilion woman abducted, taken to Bakken oil patch, The TimberJay, by Marshall Helmberger and Jodi Summit (06/03/2015)

A woman was traveling through North Dakota when she found herself stranded. While contacting family on her cell phone she was abducted:

The man had snuck up behind her while she was messaging friends and family members on her progress and was focused on her laptop computer. It was the last message her family would receive for almost a week.

Somehow she managed to escape:

The following few days, she said, are lost in a fog, as her abductor may have kept her drugged. She woke up to the dinging of an open car door, and found herself lying in the backseat of a beat-up Honda Accord with a missing back window. With her abductor apparently outside the vehicle, she stumbled out of the back seat and crawled away. “I tried to run,” she said, but her vision was blurry. Despite that, she managed to make her way down a steep ditch and her abductor apparently didn’t pursue her, but her memory of her escape is far from clear.

And survived through the help of a Good Samaritan:

While she had begun her ordeal in Casselton, in far eastern North Dakota, after escaping her abductor she found herself in a remote part of northwestern North Dakota. She said she wandered for at least two days, without food or water, before finally being rescued by a North Dakota man, who spotted her wandering across open country near the tiny town of Wildrose.

Then the police do THIS:

While Edith had hoped her experience would help law enforcement officials apprehend a kidnapper and possible human trafficker, she soon discovered that officers at the Williston Police Department had little interest in her story. She said officers refused to take a statement about her abduction. Instead, they ran her own record and found a 2011 traffic violation from Grand Forks still outstanding—and arrested her on a bench warrant for the unpaid ticket.

“I kept trying to tell them that I’d been taken, but they wouldn’t listen. One officer told me I was full of __it and was just trying to get out of the warrant,” said Edith.

According to Edith, the Williston police offered no medical assistance. Instead, they booked her into a holding facility overnight and shipped her to a jail in Minot the following day.

This is just one of the many reasons why people do not trust the police. It’s also living proof that the militarization of the police force is ineffective. When police officers are so distanced from the human beings they are tasked to serve that they can’t recognize a situation for what it is…or take the OPPORTUNITY it presents to capture a REAL bad guy…then there is something seriously wrong.

International Sorry Day – Alaskan Children

May 26th is National Sorry Day in Australia. As I’ve stated before, the forcible removal of children from their families in an effort to destroy languages, cultures and religions is a human rights violation that has occurred world wide. In honor of International Sorry Day (an unofficial holiday), I am posting this quote is from a book about an Inuit child who suffered this violation. Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867 and the last residential school closed in 1996, so the residential schools program is a history shared by Canada and the United States.


“Olemaun,” he whispered. I had not heard my Inuit name in so long I thought it might shatter like an eggshell with the weight of my father’s voice. At the school I was known only by my Christian name, Margaret. I buried my head in my father’s smoky parka, turning it wet with tears. I felt a touch much gentler than my father’s strong grasp as my mother’s arms joined his. Together they sheltered me in that safe place between them.

Not My Girl, written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

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