“When an issue is not on TV, it doesn’t exist for millions of Americans,” said Danny Schechter in an article for Global Research. Schechter was supposed to speak at the 52nd Session of the Commission for Social Development of the United Nations but did not have time to deliver his prepared monologue.

The article he wrote describes what his speech would have contained, including the opening quote. The statement is very powerful and the impact television and media has on the perceptions of Americans is enormous. People know about the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” but not about the billion or so humans trying to live in severely impoverished conditions.

The UN session focused on finding new ways to end poverty and improve the human environment in terms of global resources. Danny Schechter believes that “glamorizing” poverty the way pop culture is glamorized in the U.S. will help to put an end to the problem. No one can solve a problem that they do not know exists.

Seeing famous movie stars, reality television personalities or criminals on the news every day obliterates all thoughts of the world’s poor from the minds of audiences everywhere. It is recognized that students in high school and college may be disconnected from the realities of the real world to the extent that they often lack any sort of insight into the problems of others.

Relying on news sources that report only a few giant natural disasters and local sensationalist stories the majority of the time leads to an uninformed generation.

If readers went online and saw pictures of starving children, rundown villages, and overpopulated hospitals in all the places they normally see advertisements or stories about the rich and famous, the problem of global poverty would become much more prevalent on the scale of importance. More people would be talking about it, and more people would be acting towards eradicating global poverty.

Sending aid, medical supplies, food, and leaders to assist communities in the climb out of deep poverty would be a higher priority than the possibility of Justin Beiber getting deported.

Generating awareness about the causes and effects of global poverty is extremely important and intertwined with the solution. Knowledge is power, and the more information that can be spread throughout the world, the more aid will follow. Put global poverty on TV and the news; put it on the reality television shows.

The media plays an invaluable part in ending global poverty, and they need to start by getting involved and spreading the word.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: GlobalResearch, DESA Social Policy and Development Division, UNDESA Poverty, The Guardian
Sources: SheKnows Health & Wellness

sin nombre
Sin Nombre may seem like old news compared to Cary Fukunaga’s most recent project “True Detective.” This is especially the case since the newly popular HBO crime drama, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, has cemented the fledgling director’s reputation as a serious filmmaker.

However, before 2014’s “True Detective,” and even before his critically acclaimed 2011 adaptation of Jayne Eyre, Fukunaga debuted as a director with the much less watched Sin Nombre (Spanish for “nameless”). The 2009 U.S.-Mexican production tells the story of two emigrants travelling north through Mexico to the United States. One of them, a young girl from Honduras accompanied by her family. The other, a former gang member from Chiapas, Mexico, escaping from the Mara Salvatrucha, known colloquially as the infamous MS-13.

While the film lacked the mainstream success of some similar area films (like Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s “death trilogy”) it fared well on the festival circuit and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from critics. The film currently holds an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, a score of 77 on Metacritic and a 7.6 on IMDB. The film was popular both domestically and internationally, receiving awards at the Sundance and Stockholm film festivals, among others.

Sin Nombre is noted for its gritty and at times harrowing portrayal of Central American gang culture, particularly focusing on the entrapment faced by young men growing up in poverty. The film’s protagonist, known as El Casper, decides to escape after his gang leader questions his loyalty. Atop a northbound train, full of other U.S.-bound emigrants, Casper is befriended by a young girl named Sayra, despite her family’s reproach.

According to Roger Ebert’s review, Fukunaga was inspired by a story of 80 illegal immigrants found trapped in a truck in Texas, 19 of whom had died. Unlike many films on social issues, however, Sin Nombre is an apolitical and one could even say an amoral film, depicting the dangers of emigration without the politicking of immigration reform.

Though the film lacks the gloss, subtext and moral of what you would call “socially conscious films,” the movie is socially conscious in its own way, depicting desperation that transcends political ideals and the legality of immigration. Its message is not in its words, but in the adrenaline of watching its characters go through struggle.

The protagonist, after all, is hardly a hero. The film does not ask its viewers to respect or adore him. It shows the other side of the border which we rarely see, and tries to explain that for some, the risks of emigration are small compared to the consequences of home.

What is also important to note is how films like Sin Nombre have reached wide-ranging audiences through outlets such as Netflix—especially its “Watch Instantly” feature. Viewers looking to watch a film immediately (as opposed to planning to see it in theaters) are more likely to go beyond their genre comfort zone. The fact that films like Sin Nombre, Maria Full of Grace and Whore’s Glory have become well-known in the U.S.—all of which are foreign or transnational productions—shows how filmmakers can use neutral outlets such as Netflix to reach new audiences, sparking discussion and interest.

– Dmitriy Synkov

Sources: Rotten Tomatoes, Meta Critic, Nth Position, Roger Rebert, IMDB, New York Times, The Borgen Project
Photo: Brad Nehring

Kevin O’Leary, best known in the United States for Shark Tank on ABC, commended Oxfam International’s most recent report that stated that the world’s 85 richest people possess the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the planet’s population.

O’Leary is also a Canadian businessman and a co-host of Canada’s “The Lang and O’Leary Exchange.” On Shark Tank, O’Leary is known as “Mr. Wonderful” and the show has gained fame in the last few years for its success stories.

The report titled “Working for the Few,” detailed that 3.5 billion people, the poorest half of the world’s population, accounts for only $1.7 trillion, which is about 0.7 percent of the entire world’s wealth. In contrast, the richest 1% in the world has about $110 trillion, which makes up 46% of the world’s wealth.

O’Leary said, “This is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivated to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.”

The general reactions to Oxfam’s report, released in mid-January have been of great concern. World leaders have taken this report into account in deciding how to best improve the global economy and attempt to close the ever-growing gap between the rich and poor.

Oxfam’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima found the report cautionary as, “Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power and increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table.”

Americans have especially found the wealth gap disheartening, as a recent Gallup poll reported that two-thirds of the nations were not satisfied with the distribution of income and wealth. Many Americans have been forced to take lower-paying jobs because of the economic downturn.

However, this is a worldwide issue, with the wealth gap widening in many countries. A larger wealth gap produces more social tension, which could prove to be an enormous threat in the future. Oxfam has called extreme inequality a huge danger and furthermore, “the extreme levels of wealth concentration occurring today threat to exclude hundreds of millions of people from realizing the benefits of their talents and hard work.”

O’Leary went on to say, “This is fantastic news and of course I’m going to applaud it. What can be wrong with this?”

In response, O’Leary’s cohost Amanda Lang was silent upon hearing his comments. Lang asked her cohost, “So somebody living on a dollar a day in Africa is getting up in the morning and saying, ‘I’m going to be Bill Gates’?”

O’Leary’s response was a repetition of his previous comments about the world’s economic conditions serving as a source of motivation.

O’Leary’s comments have faced serious backlash from various news sources, with one contributor to Forbes writing that, “this is a moment for CBC and ABC to show some responsible leadership, and yank O’Leary off the air.”

Despite O’Leary’s comments, Oxfam is stressing the importance of its findings, with Byanyima warning that if no action is taken, “we will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream.”

– Julie Guacci

Sources: Huffington Post, Forbes, LA Times
Photo: Business Insider

Syrians have recently become the highest population of refugees on the planet at nearly 2.4 million people strong. The UN has, in fact, labeled the Syrian refugee crisis as “the greatest humanitarian crisis in modern history.” However, media throughout the world is strangely quiet about their monumental struggle.

In nearly every host country that Syrian refugees have been forced to flee into, they have been met with indifference, hatred or open hostility. Many have even chosen to go back to their Syrian homeland despite the overwhelming violence, deciding it best, if die they must, to die in their homeland. The international community has also been negligent to their needs while the aid that is being given lags far behind what the dire situation calls for.

This is only part of their plight, so why is there such silence in the media considering the scale of the issue? A simple reason may be reflective of the refugees’ inability to articulate for themselves; according to Nancy Baron, a UN psychologist who provides mental health to Syrian refugees in Egypt, “the Syrians don’t have a voice.”

Rattled by warfare and hostility in a foreign land, Syrian refugees are doing their best simply to stay alive. Most find it hard to talk about what they have been through, and even if they did want to talk, few (if any) are willing to listen. The international community seems to still be trying to figure out exactly what is going on in Syria. Most are eager for the peace talks scheduled for January 22 to begin both as a respite from the civil warfare as well as for a chance to hear both sides of the story and garner a better picture of the situation.

Furthermore, a great deal of the problem with attaining media coverage involves the lack of proper reportage. This dearth is caused by several issues, not least of which is the difficulty of finding a ‘fixer,’ a person who can provide interviewees, translations and safe passages to areas of interest. Due to this scarcity, many media outlets are forced to use the same fixers, and therefore have less to report, leading to empty and sometimes sensationalized news stories.

Moreover, if international media continues to be reticent in interceding on behalf of the Syrians, media outlets within host countries may become anxious to condemn the new Syrian presence. In Egypt, for example, TV presenters affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have accused Syrians of undermining their country’s well-being and have threatened violence upon the refugees.

Compelling stories have helped the United States and other countries rally on behalf of refugees in the past. There are stories waiting to be told, stories that need to be told. Hopefully, for the sake of millions of innocent lives, they will be.

– Jordan Schunk

Sources: FIDH, The Interpreter, Reuters
Photo: Religious Action Center

Film Tells Story of Exiled Musicians in Mali
In every culture, music is a special way to tell a story.  It says something unique and important about a culture, and is an essential way to connect people.  Music’s importance is seen most visibly in Malian culture, where music is not a profession or a pastime, but a people.  Griots are musicians who tell stories about Malian history, and hold the keys to the past.  In Mali, therefore, music is culture.

In 2012, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa banned all music in Northern Mali.  This movement took over Northern Mali after a violent take over instigated by Islamic extremism.  This music ban forced Malian musicians to either flee the nation or move underground.  As a result, an incredible counter-cultural movement is sweeping over Malian music.

“They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Musicians in Exile” is a documentary currently being commissioned by British director Johanna Schwartz and producer Kat Amara Korba.  The documentary will explore how Malian musicians are seeking to restore music and peace to the ailing nation.  Musicians featured in the documentary will include Khaira Arby (the “Nightingale of the North”,) Manny Ansar (a music festival director), and Toumani Diabate (a 72nd generation Griot.)

The project began shooting in February 2013, near the beginnings of the conflict, and will continue to shoot through April.  The documentary is being independently funded through a Kickstarter Campaign.  The fundraiser officially achieved its goal of 30,000 British pounds on December 7, 2013, but is still accepting pledges to meet production costs.

As stated by Malian musician Fadimata Disco Walet Oumar, “They want to ban music?  They will have to kill us first.”  Mali’s musical rebellion is a testament to the power of expression.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: Kickstarter, They Will Have to Kill Us First

One billion of the poorest people on the planet embody an enormous obstacle for nations today. Countries suffering from extreme poverty, overlooked and undervalued, are examined thoroughly in Paul Collier’s book, The Bottom Billion. As a professor of economics at Oxford University, Mr. Collier is well versed in the financial implications of poverty on the world as whole. Everyone who has read a history book or seen the television show Game of Thrones knows that when societies lack a leader and structured laws, chaos ensues as the fight for ultimate power begins. This situation is mirrored in the corruption consuming countries all over the world, and they are highlighted in Collier’s book.

According to Paul Collier, the 8 industrialized nations, known as the G8, will have to make a priority out of developing laws to help these ‘bottom billion’ populations. This group consists of the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Canada, France, and Russia. Protecting endangered states against corruption, greed, power struggles, trade resources, and more will have to become a main focus for stabilized nations in order to help eradicate global poverty.

Claiming that there are four traps countries fall into that lead to a spot in the ‘bottom billion,’ Collier lists the culprits as natural resources, corrupt neighboring nations, negative governing, and violent conflicts. No country has the ability to generate more natural resources than it already has, so creating laws that govern trade policies is one of the only ways to help states in that situation.

One suggestion offered by the author to reverse the destitute situations of poor countries is military interference. He claims that foreign financial aid is not enough to help on its own. Military force and strict legislation on corrupt leaders and factions are required to pull countries out of expensive civil wars and violent day to day lives.

Main goals of the book include debunking popular myths about global poverty and explaining why the U.S. and other stable countries need to make aggressive changes to prevent unstable nations from ‘backsliding’, or getting deeper into a state of distress than they presently are. China and other societies are doing so well on reducing global poverty that more aid is offered because they seem like a more appealing investment that is likely to succeed. Less stable countries do not look like a good fit for aid and are shortchanged by potential donors.

Simultaneously educational and inspiring, Paul Collier’s book was first published in 2007. Collier has spoken at local and national forums about the importance of forming a solution to these ‘bottom billion’ people that is as complex as the problem. Spreading awareness and correcting misconceptions the general public may have about poverty is the first step in attempting to fix it. Outlining how these countries become part of the ‘bottom’ in the first place helps clarify the intricate situation that has been created and how the way to save these people must be equally intricate. The Bottom Billion can be purchased from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or wherever books are sold.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: TED, Amazon, The Guardian, Oxford University Press, AusAID
Photo: Bahai Forums

Lynsey Addario
With cameras and bravery as their primary tools, photojournalists risk their lives to raise awareness about global suffering, far removed from the headquarters of organizations that award them for their efforts.

Lynsey Addario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American photojournalist, has dedicated her life to covering conflict, war, and poverty around the world.

Featured in The National Geographic Society’s “Women of Vision” exhibition, Addario is one of 11 female photographers that have been selected to showcase the female version of “National Geographic storytelling.”

Addario has been kidnapped on two separate occasions whilst covering war-torn places – the first of which was in Iraq in 2004, and the second in Libya in 2011.

According to an article co-written by Addario, she and three male journalists were kidnapped in 2011. Addario’s first comment to her colleagues during the ambush that initiated their six-day long ordeal was, “God, I just don’t want to be raped.”

Gender did not stop the soldiers from beating Addario.

These experiences and acknowledgement of gender vulnerability are evident in the photographic collections available on Addario’s website. They range from documenting breast cancer in Uganda, to rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the refugees of Syria.

Each photograph is captioned with the names and stories of each subject, highlighting humanity amongst chaos in poverty and conflict-ravaged locations.

Within the patriarchal societies in which she has worked, Addario believes her gender has allowed her access to places and people that her male counterparts would be denied.

The motivation that drives Addario’s work is the importance of telling these stories of suffering to the American public, as well as the daily life that continues against the backdrop of conflict.

With a similar objective, Hazel Thompson, an award-winning British photojournalist, immersed herself in the red-light district of Mumbai for 11 years to produce “Taken.”

“Taken” is an e-book and photo documentary that Thompson hopes will address what she describes as an “emergency” on the streets of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

By capturing the daily impact of sex-trafficking on young women and children, Thompson has created “a body of evidence” that cannot be denied or ignored by policy makers who, according to Thompson, have historically taken an apathetic approach to the problem.

“Taken” is also an educational opportunity and a prevention tool that Thompson is working to share with children living in poor villages, who are often targeted by sex-traffickers.

The profits from the project are donated to the Taken Campaign for Bombay Teen Challenge, an organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of the victims of Mumbai’s sex industry.

“Women of Vision” can be seen at The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. October 10, 2013 – March 9, 2014.

The exhibition will go on to be featured at various venues across the U.S. until 2017.

“Taken” by Hazel Thompson is available on ibooks.

– Zoë Dean

Sources: PBS, New York Times, Lynsey Addario, Women News Network, Hazel Thompson
Photo: MacArthur Foundation


We’re all busy. Hectic schedules and technology practically run our lives, so here are nine easy ways to make them work in your favor and become more globally aware.

1. Twitter
It’s not all celebrities and witty screenwriters. Worldwide news organizations like CNN, BBC, and the Financial Times host Twitter accounts. Follow them or have their updates sent directly to your phone. Keeping an eye on worldwide trending topics can also help alert you if news is breaking.

2. Google Alerts
More along the lines of a “target acquired” approach, Google Alerts allows you to plug any phrase, country, word, or person into the endless Google engine and have the new results delivered to your inbox whenever you’d like.

3. RSS Feeds
Most sites these days will have an RSS Feed option. Signing up for it allows you to have the most important news right on your tablet or computer without having to search the internet.

4. Global News Sites
Go directly to the source. Sites like BBC News and CNN allow you to see the most important articles around the globe and then divide them by continent and country.

5. Magazines
Political magazines tend to take the occasionally dull topic of foreign affairs and make them digestible for larger audiences. However, because they tend to be monthly issues, you only get the greatest hits.

6. Council on Foreign Relations Daily Briefs
Delivered to your inbox every morning, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) gives you a summary of the most important events around the globe, analyzes them, and explains why what they’re giving you is important. CFR tends to be nonpartisan, gathering analysis from both sides of the aisle.

7. News Television/Radio Channels
Turn that remote to your favorite news channel of choice and have it serenade you with factual goodies while working the evening away. Not a morning person? Turn on the news while making coffee or getting ready to help get the juices flowing.

8. Books
Transport the written word to your iPad or tablet and take it with you on the morning commute, or take a mental health break while waiting for a meeting. If non-fiction books aren’t your thing, try historical fiction like Khaled Hosseini’s novel, “The Kite Runner.”

9. Newspapers
They’re still alive! Subscribe to a newspaper and have it on your phone or tablet whenever you have time.

– Hilary Koss

Sources: CFR, Amazon, Financial Times, BBC News

While talking about poverty alleviation, chances are most people think about money, food, houses and many other physical assets. However, poverty can also be healed from the heart, and art has the transforming power to bring people out of destitution physically and mentally.

Lily Yeh is a petite 70-year-old Chinese artist. Born in China but raised in Taiwan, Yeh moved to the United States in 1963 to study painting at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Fine Art. Instead of becoming a studio artist who creates personal artwork, she chose to use art to develop impoverished communities, build connections among people, and bring prosperity. Yeh believes art is a powerful vehicle for healing, self-empowerment and social change.

“Making art in destitute areas is like making fire in the dead, cold night in the winter, which gives us warmth, light, direction, and we kindle hopes.,” Yeh said. “I can’t solve these huge social problems, but I can open up new possibilities and spaces where, through creativity and working together, we might come to new solutions.”

From 1986 to 2004, Yeh served as the co-founder, executive director, and lead artist of The Village of Arts and Humanities (The Village,) a non-profit organization dedicated to community building, economic development, and personal transformation through art. To conduct a summer park project for The Village, Yeh went to a community in North Philadelphia that was notorious for violence, drug trade, and destitution. It was called “a place without resources.” She offered art classes to local children and adults, and inspired them to paint together. Eventually, she transformed 200 abandoned lots into art parks and gardens.

Aside from changing the community’s landscape, Yeh gave people hope and fostered a sense of community pride and individual accomplishment. “It’s a new kind of empowerment,” Yeh said. “People’s minds are opened to new possibilities and affirmation.”

Under Yeh’s 18 year tenure at The Village, the organization has developed into a multifaceted center of arts and humanities, which includes educational programs, housing renovation, theater, and economic development initiatives. Currently, it has had 25 full-time and part-time employees, hundreds of volunteers, and a $1.3 million budget.

In 2002, Yeh founded Barefoot Artists, a volunteer organization which aims to revitalize the most impoverished communities in the world through participatory and multifaceted projects that foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve and support indigenous art and culture. It partners with locals, joining with them to create beauty. Yeh believes that art is an inclusive process and everyone has an artist in their heart.

“Not my light shining bigger than anyone else,” she said. “We all have that innate light within us. My role is to kindle other people’s inner light, so we shine together.”

Yeh is now working on projects in Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Ecuador, and China. She brings her unique methodology for using art as a tool for community empowerment and individual transformation to the world.

According to YES Magazine, Yeh worked with villagers to create a wall mural called “The Palestinian Tree of Life” in Palestine. In China, she transformed a once prison-like school into an ideal and brilliant place for study. In Rwanda, she helped people build a memorial to heal their still open wounds from the Rwandan genocide.

Yeh believes that the whole process of transformation and empowerment does not merely benefit people living in the communities. She is also inspired and fulfilled by the progress of art creation, believing that it makes her life meaningful.

– Liying Qian

Sources: Barefoot Artists, The Village of Arts and Humanities, YES Magazine
Photo: Chiam Online

The newest collection at the Brooklyn Museum offers unapologetic effects of violence around the world in a new exhibit titled “WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath.” The collection features works by 225 photographers from all walks of life including military members, commercial portraitists, journalists, amateurs and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Nearly 400 pieces are present in a variety of mediums such as prints, books, magazines, albums and photography equipment. The exhibit allows visitors to explore the evolving relationship between war and photography over the last 166 years.

Several iconic pieces are present including Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph of solders holding up the American flag on the battlefield in Iwo Jima and Robert Clarks’s images of the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Unknown works like “Valentine with her daughters Amelie and Inez” offer new perspectives on continuing issues of violence. In the photo, Valentine stands in front of a house with two young girls, her arms wrapped around one.

The image depicts the struggles of Rwandan women during the early nineties, when instances of violence and rape swept the region. The two girls with Valentine are her daughters, one conceived through marriage, the other by rape.

Other images in the collection show the endurance of humanity in the face of endless violence such as Mark A. Grimshaw’s First Cut, which illustrates an American soldier cultivating a small patch of grass in the middle of the harsh Iraqi landscape.

Some works, on the other hand, are simply heartbreaking as in the case of W. Eugene Smith’s “Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan,” June, 1944 depicting a soldier holding the baby in his arms as another soldier watches on.

Rather than a strictly historical account of past wars, the organizers of the exhibition aim to not only reflect the effects of violence in the world but also, explore the connection between violence and photography. The exhibit’s curator, Anne Tucker explains that despite the sheer volume of images and variety of locations, certain patterns are evident in the type of photographs produced from such occurrences.

Those interested in learning more about the collection can visit the Brooklyn Museum website or visit the exhibit in person until February 2.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: The New York Times, Brooklyn Museum