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Archive for the ‘Research_global issues & news’ Category

Somalia Piracy in the News Again

I consider piracy to be deplorable, and yet I have to wonder why people, especially those with families dependent on them, choose such a dangerous lifestyle. Is it, for some at least, their level of despair over joblessness? I’m not alone in thinking of that possibility. One of the cures listed in the quotation below is ‘building livelihoods ashore.’

“Piracy is like an ancient disease that should be extinct in this modern world,” said Commodore Simon Ancona of the British Navy, who is currently deputy commander of Combined Maritime Forces. “The cure is difficult and requires the disruption of pirate actions, building law and order and livelihoods ashore, and making the merchant prey less vulnerable. Although there are signs of remission, I would judge the medicine will be required for some time to come.” from the August 28  NYTimes online: Piracy around Horn of Africa has plunged

As I look at the faces and body language of imprisoned pirates caught on film by  Jehad Nga for The New York Times, I see youth, hunger, belligerence, fear. I wonder what I can do in affecting a cure for piracy.

In my novel, Pieces of You, my protagonist asks the same thing after one of their corporate tankers is attacked by pirates.  What they tried worked for three years, and they were proud of helping young Somalis learn skills and pleased with organizing a large network to deter attacks. Then another of their tankers was captured.

What do you think Americans can do to cure this “ancient disease that should be extinct in this modern world?”

Who Are We Killing in Wars?

I used “The Killing Zone” for some of my research on the Vietnam War, one of the turning points of my protagonist. In his book, Frederick Downs recounts:

‘A man pointed to the hook sticking out of my left sleeve and said:

“Get that in Vietnam?”
When I affirmed his guess, he replied.
“Serves you right.”
Of one thing I am certain; none of the men I knew who served in Vietnam deserved to die or to be maime
d, either physically or mentally.’

Downs said that, twenty years later, when he returned to Vietnam for the first time since the war, he recognized the hatred he had held onto all these years for the ‘dinks’ was for “an enemy less than human” but, suddenly, he knew better. He recognized a reflection of himself in the natures of a Vietnamese man and his son.

So true! Here’s my perception as I wrote it in Pieces of You:

I wake each day waiting for him to call to me. Then I remember that he was put in a box and the box was covered with dirt. You know, Ban, it hurts more than when the mule stepped on my foot last year. This pain is in my heart. It must have broken into more pieces than my foot.”

Now tears were pouring down the boy’s cheeks and he began to wail, a sound that pierced the invisible listener’s soul. (more…)

“Hidden in Dreams” – A review of Davis Bunn’s new novel

Story Synopsis

Foretelling the future through dreams is—for nearly everyone—a compelling frame for storytelling. And we all know that not everything is as it seems, but I did not for a moment foresee the surprising twist to the prophesy of these dreamers. As Davis Bunn stated in his author note, he had to use his expertise from several careers to explain the aftermath realistically.

Davis uses the still-desperate economic conditions in the world as a backdrop to send a warning of the lengths to which greedy corporate types will go to gain more wealth and more power. Unlike so much  of what has occurred during the last four years, though, the bad guys in the novel are caught and will likely be convicted, but the first priority is to stabilize global financial markets.

Less significant, but effective for a good read, is a romance with two very eligible men vying for one woman, the protagonist. It’s pretty clear early on which one she will choose; and almost too sweet that her Christian values are mirrored in the perfect guy, a widower and her mentor, whose daughter takes to her immediately as a mother-replacement.

*My Evaluation

  • Command of language:  5 stars
    Varied sentence structure; word choices that paint vivid pictures; realistic dialogue.
  • Characterization: 4 stars
    All the main characters were fairly well developed, although not terribly unique. The bad guys were…all bad; and the good guys rarely stepped out of character, either.
  •  Creativity:  5
    The plot displayed an extremely creative mind. (I expected that—it’s what has made Davis Bunn one of my favorite authors—and I was not disappointed.)
  •  Content suitable to diverse audience(s):  4 stars
    This one seems to be written almost exclusively for Christian readers. The protagonist and all those who work closely with her often pray together. The one who chooses not to is somewhat ostracized. As great as the power of prayer is and as needed in our chaotic world, I think a more subtle approach—or maybe a stronger approach showing God at work—would reach audiences who might be turned off by all the spotlight on pray-ers.
  • Connection (and application) to current issues: 4.5 stars
    The timing for this story is excellent; economic conditions are still fragile and exposing too many people to painful choices and harsh living conditions. My only concern is the realism of the ending.

             Average – 4.5 stars


Tomorrow I will add Bunn’s answers to interview questions about this book. Please come back and bring some questions of your own!

Follow this link to read Chapter One of Hidden in Dreams

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Social Justice Issue: Food Insecurity (aka hunger, starvation, malnutrition, famine)

Why do so many of our friends and neighbors go to bed hungry? I found this website to be very helpful in answering that question and defining World hunger – Reasons and What We Can Do.  

I have just completed an outline for my second novel, one that will answer this question with, “Food is being used as the weapon of choice to keep people (the 99%)  in servitude.” It will portray a future where a few corporate leaders have taken control of most of the food supply by transporting basic foodstuffs off our planet using a space elevator.  Sound unrealistic? Space elevators are not far from reality according to this article: Space Elevator by 2050?

You may have read about government leaders limiting the availability of food to “crush the hearts, minds and spirits of civilians.” Here’s a recent article on how that is playing out in Ethiopia: African Hunger Games

I am convinced the best way to serve the hungry is to communicate our distress, our suggestions and willingness to act by writing stories or articles and/or by speaking out.  My way (at least for now) is to write stories using words that paint true pictures rather than disguise reality by playing semantic games (e.g., famine and starvation vs food insecurity or shortages).

I would love to hear from readers who feel strongly about this injustice. Would you please  make comments, tell your stories or share your images here?

Kazakh Traditions: Stealing Brides

Kidnapped brides in Kyrgystan (in 2 parts)

Madina, the one Kazakh among the three wonderful interpreters who worked for me during my Peace Corps adventure, was my mainstay in Zhezkazgan.  Her devotion to my partner and I allowed us to do what we were sent to this oblast (region) to do, to assemble a small business assistance center. We wanted to express our devotion to her as well, but in the one area that might ruin her future, we could not help.

She was of dating age, maybe late teens or early twenties, interested in men, and cute–in the petite, dark-eyed way of women of her culture. Madina told me her parents hoped she would marry someone they approved, but it was not in their tradition to arrange her marriage.

We were in the tiny room that housed all the assets of our Center when she shared what must have seldom left her mind. When she began to talk, the pain in her voice drove me to look up so quickly from our brand new computer that I almost dislodged it from its perch on our homemade desk of boards and crates.

“Djoic, I am afraid to go to parties where Kazakh men may be present. I don’t dare make eye contact with Kazakh guys my age. Once in a while, one asks to give me a ride home from a party. I never say yes, even when I want to, and even if he is a friend from my school.”

I knew Madina well enough by now to know she did not go to wild parties. And I knew enough of Kazakh values from living with Saulye and from working with the region’s chief cardiologist’s staff to know their stand on premarital sex. 21st century Kazakhstanis and early 20th century Americans held similar beliefs.  “Madina, American women are careful, too, about riding with strangers, but if you know the man well, why would you be afraid?”

“Kazakh men often kidnap women to become their brides. It is our tradition.”

“What in the world do you mean by that?” I couldn’t comprehend that intelligent, free-born women could be forced into a marriage. “You live in a civilized country. And this is 1993. How could this be?”

“It has happened to some of my friends, Djoic. One was kidnapped last month when she left a party. A Kazakh man she had just met offered her a ride home. Because he was known to some of her friends, she accepted. Instead of taking the direct route to her parents’ house, the driver set off in another direction. The car pulled up at his parents’ home, not hers. My friend told me later that as soon as she realized what was happening, she screamed and fought him. But it was too late.”

“How could it be too late? Surely his parents would help her! Or at least she could have called her parents to come and get her. Why didn’t she?”

“You don’t understand our traditions. Stealing a bride is how Kazakh men prove they are strong and brave. They see it as a way to earn respect. And their mothers approve. Very few homes have automatic wash machines or vacuum cleaners, so another pair of hands is welcomed.”

Madina had to be mistaken about the mothers. “No mother in her right mind could approve of kidnapping as the means to gain a daughter-in-law.” I was almost shouting at Madina, and I didn’t stop there. “This is violence against women and it’s illegal! No American mother would tolerate it!”

By this time Madina was close to tears, but she looked me in the eyes and spoke in a very calm voice. “I will tell you a story, Djoic, that may help you understand. Most of our men are not bad. (more…)

Your Best Tool for Collaboration May be Ringing at This Moment

Friday I drove three hours to metro Detroit for a Board meeting with some of my nun friends. Getting to my old neighborhood was no problem; getting to the changed location took an extra hour and would not have occurred without a little help from technology–a smart phone and a laptop. Being new to the android phone society, I didn’t think to open an old email for the correct address using what I was waving around as I placed help calls. But a young man who heard my dilemma was immediately searching the internet from his phone.  I made a mental note to wise up and use this wondrous form of connectivity more effectively in the future.

The incident was stowed away in my memory as just another helpful hint until I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion editorial in the New York Times online today. He quoted Carlson’s Law (written by Curtis Carlson, CEO of SRI Int’l. in Silicon Valley:

“In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is “moving down,” closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate.  From Advise for China

The same little phone (or other internet portal) that could have saved me from wasting time and disrupting plans could make you and me much smarter together, smart enough to find solutions to problems eluding some of our finest minds isolated in their labs. Maybe it’s time for more than just me to wise up and use the technology we already own and the social networks we’ve already established to orchestrate the innovations we thought would trickle down.

Quaking in Japan

Quaking in Japan. Article by Berkana Institute’s Bob Stilger

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