Eudomar Tovar is the Central Bank President in Venezuela and has taken the spotlight most recently for blaming a nation-wide blackout on sabotage. Accusations have been made that the Central Bank has been using their gold supply in a deal with Goldman Sachs and Bank of America to increase hard currency.

Tovar vehemently denies that the Central Bank is doing any sort of business with either Goldman Sachs or Bank of America. Henrique Capriles, an opposition leader, claims that Central Bank was involved in a value swap with Goldman Sachs for the equivalent of $2 billion dollars (USD) in gold ounces. Central Bank has also been accused of dealing with Bank of America to pay off debts owed to foreign governments. Tovar denied any such deals and claimed they were unofficial proposals, but did not elaborate or further explain the Bank’s position in regards to these claims.

The main problem is that Venezuela is experiencing a shortage of basic goods, and could potentially use its huge reserves of gold to procure a loan from such companies such as Goldman Sachs or Bank of America. Main Central Bank officials have complained that they are due a huge amount of hard currency from Washington, and that the red tape and delay in receiving this currency is causing inflation and product shortages.

Furthermore, a decrease in oil supply has caused tension on the dollar value, making some think that Venezuela is in desperate need of cash. The value of gold has decreased as well, putting a dent in the net worth of the country’s enormous gold reserves. As it stands, only government channels have access to the dollar due to harsh capital requirements, which often causes delays and bottlenecks day-to-day cash flow.

Leaders of the South American nation do not believe in free market capitalism and have tightly controlled the cash flow for decades. Consequently, the country falls more deeply into poverty every year, while the tyrannical government is not improving the situation.

President Maduro replaced the recently deceased President Chavez, who had a reputation for spending funds that could not be liquidated. Shortages have increased, inflation has risen to 55% and an inside Bank official claimed that Venezuela was indeed conversing with Wall Street. However, all three parties involved had no comment to offer on these claims. The economy is in a downward spiral, encouraged by the fact that stores cannot buy new inventory due to the cost of goods being higher than the retail price.

Questions are circulating about methods of intervention and whether American aid is appropriate, as well as questions regarding the depth of corruption in the Venezuelan government. Basic economics further show that public spending is good for the economy, when business have the right to compete with each other for capital gain.

The absence of a free market suggests that if Bank of America or Goldman Sachs loaned Venezuela the cash they need, it would just be reinvested into a corrupt system and exacerbate the problem. Solutions must involve correcting the dishonest practices of the government and its leaders so that the citizens will not continue to suffer, but instead thrive.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal: The Pope, State and Venezuela, The Wall Street Journal: Blackout
Photo: Vintage 3D

u.s. foreign aid
The money the United States gives out in foreign aid is usually focused in areas of direct impact, such as food to famine-stricken countries or in disaster relief efforts. Some of the lesser-known impacts are in the field of education. In particular, scholarships in foreign aid have allowed students to attend universities throughout the United States which provide more opportunities than would schools in their home countries.

This form of foreign aid is, however, not unique in the Western world. In fact, just as the United States lags behind in the overall standings for foreign aid, it falls behind its Western allies in funding for foreign scholarships as well. France leads all nations in foreign scholarship aid with 18% ($1.36 billion) of its foreign aid going to education, with Germany ranking second, at 13% ($1.05 billion), according to University World News. The U.S., on the other hand, only gives about 3.5% ($805 million) of its own foreign aid to scholarships.

U.S. foreign aid is directed to a number of other areas, but the one area that outshines all others is foreign military assistance. As it stands, roughly 38% ($14 billion) of the U.S. foreign aid budget goes to foreign military assistance. Comparing this to the budget given to foreign scholarships shows where the aims of U.S. foreign policy lie, as they push their military agendas overseas.

The military agenda of the United States looks toward the promotion of friendly democracies in places that the United States does not currently have allies. This can be seen in the United States invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as support given to rebels in Syria and Libya.  In hopes of achieving these goals, the United States pumps dollars towards friendly foreign militaries in hopes that they will create functioning democracies, with informed and supportive citizens.

In a recent Seattle Times Article, columnist Thomas L. Friedman took aim at this disparity by comparing the figures of foreign military aid for Egypt ($1.3 billion) and foreign scholarships for Jordan ($13.5 million). Friedman wrote that, “merit-based college scholarship program promote(s) tolerance, gender and social equality and critical thinking.”

These qualities of ideal democratic citizens that the United States is hoping to instill in foreigners would be much better fostered through foreign education aid, according to the first-hand observer, Friedman. While Egypt remained in a state of flux during 2013, Jordan has dedicated itself to working towards a state of democracy.  The comparison put forward by Friedman is an informative one for a casual observer, as one can see the benefits that current education aid gives and the potential of what the United States could do.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: National Priorities Project, University World News, Seattle Times
Photo: Giphy.com

On November 10, a deadly cyclone raged through the region of Puntland, located in Somalia’s northeastern coast. Though the cyclone has reportedly killed up to 300 people, the death toll has not yet been verified. Many of these victims were children and elderly, both of which are more vulnerable to hypothermia and exposure. Moreover, the United Nations says as many as 30,000 people are in need of food aid.

Whole villages have been washed away by the storm, thus forcing local aid workers to struggle to reach the stranded victims due to the damaged infrastructure. Furthermore, large portions of roads have been damaged, driving aid workers to deliver food aid on foot. Many people are also missing, especially in coastal towns where fisherman and their boats have been lost at sea.

Pastoralists have been hit the hardest since their livestock and poorly built homes and barns have been washed away. The region does not normally experience rain so the area’s infrastructure has not been built to withstand this sort of storm. In fact, some of the worst hit villages have lost 90 percent of their livestock to icy rain and flooding.

Moreover, areas infamous for pirates such as the port of Ely are some of the worst affected. This is worrisome as the 2004 Tsunami was considered one of the major triggers of the pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia where 736 people and 32 ships were held hostage.

The World Food Programme (WFP) recently arrived in Puntland and transported 340 metric tons of food including cereal and vegetable seeds to the worst affected areas of Bossaso, Banderbayla, Dongoroyo and Eyl. In total 27, 000 people have been given a month’s worth of food rations. In addition Puntland’s government sent 32 trucks of emergency supplies throughout the needed areas.

Once emergency aid has been distributed and the region is no longer in a state of disaster the WFP will begin recovery work to rebuild the infrastructure of the area. The Food-for-Assets initiative is a recovery program run by the WFP that assists communities in rebuilding their infrastructure in a way that would better withstand a future natural disaster. Moreover, community workers are paid in food rations for assisting with the development.

Further south in Middle Shabelle, flooding has devastated the town of Jowhar and surrounding areas, pushing over 10,000 people to flee their homes. Their water supplies have, furthermore, been contaminated increasing the risk of waterborne diseases, while all standing crops and livestock in the area have been destroyed or lost. The International Committee of the Red Cross has provided 25,800 people with emergency essentials such as kitchen sets, clothes and sleeping mats.  They have also been able to stop flooding and repair riverbanks in five locations and distributed emergency food aid and water.

Lisa Toole

Sources: AllAfrica: Food Aid, AllAfrica: Twin Natural Disasters, Yahoo, World Food Programme, Aljazeera

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

Countless everyday appliances and gadgets would not exist if it were not for the minerals that come from Africa. From cars to cell phones, laptops, airplanes and batteries, much of what makes the world go round depends on resource-rich African nations that are being fueled by a global commodities boom.

Although much can be said of whether the rising demand for these minerals is actually benefiting those at the bottom of the pyramid, it is certain that emergent African economies are growing thanks to these raw materials. If well-managed, Africa’s mineral resources can lift the continent out of poverty and catapult it toward growth and prosperity for all.

Here are some of the everyday objects that are created with African natural resources.

1.       Cars

The catalytic converters in cars that are made to reduce pollution are made with platinum and rhodium. South Africa alone produces 72% of the world’s platinum and 83% of the world’s rhodium.

2.       Electronics

Devices such as cell phones, laptops, and other electronic gadgets are made from tantalum. Africa provides 71% of the world’s tantalum, with Mozambique leading the region as the source of 24% of the global production of the mineral, followed by Rwanda with 20% of the production.

3.       Jewelry

In 2011, more than 57% of the world’s diamonds, nearly 75% of the world’s platinum and 20% of the world’s gold was found in Africa. Botswana is the world’s second largest producer of gem diamonds, and in 2011, the diamond industry accounted for half of the government revenue.

4.       Batteries

The cobalt used in the electrodes of rechargeable batteries is growing rapidly in demand due to the use of portable electronic devices. In 2011, Africa accounted for 58% of the global production of cobalt, while the Democratic Republic of Congo alone represented 48% of this supply. Mineral mining, however, has been implicated in funding conflict in the country.

5.       Airplanes

Many aircraft parts are made with aluminum alloys, which can account for up to 80% of the jet’s weight. Jet engines also use superalloys that contain cobalt and chromium. South Africa represents 47% of the global production of chromite – used to produce chromium -, while Guinea represents 8% of the world’s production of bauxite, used to make aluminum. Guinea has almost half of the world’s bauxite reserves and is predicted to become a world-leading producer of iron ore in the next decade.

6.       Electricity

Besides coal and gas, Africa produces 16% of the world’s uranium, which is the source of the nuclear fuel that provides 14% of the world’s electricity.

7.       Oil

Last year, Africa produced 10% of all the world’s oil – nearly 9.4 million barrels per day. Leading this production is Nigeria, with 37 billion barrels of proven reserves of oil – enough to keep supplying oil at 2011 levels for the next 40 years.

– Nayomi Chibana
Feature Writer

Sources: African Minerals Development Centre, CNN
Photo: CSMonitor

We currently stand with a global population of around 7.2 billion people and that number is expected to rise over the next few decades. A United Nations agency has recently projected a world population growth of 9.6 billion people by 2050 and a continuation of this trend through 2100 with a projected population growth of 10.9 billion.

We can expect to see most of this growth in the developing world and will continue to see countries like China and India providing impressive growth figures. We will also see new countries emerge globally with significant populations. Nigeria is expected to surpass the United States by 2050, and could even compete with India and China in terms of population.

These numbers have implications for our global economy and for many issues of development and conflict.

Population demographics can impact the futures of nations and the trends of growth shape our shared economy in this age of post-globalization. A successful and thriving population is a healthy one with stable growth. Growth can mean more business activity and therefore more tax revenue. Conversely, if a growing population’s needs like social services and infrastructure cannot be met, population growth can lead to economic decline and political instability.

The vast majority of growth, both current and projected, is happening in Africa. World population growth is mostly happening in developing countries. When looking at the figures, nearly all of the states whose populations are growing at a rate of 2 percent per year or more are in Africa, with the majority of those in sub-Saharan Africa.

Similarly there has been high growth in countries in the Middle East. Populations on both continents have high fertility rates. Women in Africa are averaging more than five children per family. Additionally, recent improvements in health standards and development have led to higher life expectancy. Over the past few decades in Africa, there has been a significant decline in conflicts and wars, leading to more security and a better quality of life.

In addition to the growth in numbers in the developing world, there has been a decline in other populations globally. Europe has incredibly low figures of fertility, along with Japan, and has seen a decline in growth for decades. There has been a similar decline in Asian countries, which have been reporting slowing growth as well.

The truth to these projected figures and the actual world population growth we will experience lie in factors like development and government stability. So long as populations continue to grow, they will have needs as a society to be provided for and will require a stable government to administer to these needs.

The world population doubled from 1960 to 2000, and unless governments can more effectively implement policy that can keep food production and services at pace with growth, the results could be extreme and damaging. When burgeoning populations experience food insecurity and vulnerability, the cost can not only be measured by military budgets during war and food programs during famine but by government collapse and the loss of human life.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: Washington Post, Scientific American
Photo: Robert Filip

One of the most glaring inefficiencies in the campaign against global poverty is a lack of fiscal intentionality among citizens of developed nations.

Even amidst economic recession, there is a tendency among citizens of the world’s most privileged nations to spend large amounts of money on nonessentials and engage in irresponsible consumption of resources such as clean water and energy. These practices deplete funds that could otherwise be channeled into a more effective fight against global poverty.

Unnecessary energy consumption is one of the biggest money drains in America. Business Insider estimates Americans waste $146 billion in energy annually. If consumers take some simple and practical steps in energy conservation, the amount of money spent on energy could easily be cut by 33 percent. Here are some easy ways to cut back on energy consumption and save money:

(1)   Regularly replace your air filter. A dirty air filter makes air conditioning and heating units far less efficiently. It requires the units to work harder. The units require more energy to run properly, thereby driving up utility costs.

(2)   Schedule regular tune-ups for HVAC equipment. This ensures the equipment is operating properly and efficiently. It prevents unnecessary energy consumption and saves money.

(3)   Install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats adjust heating and cooling based on predetermined settings that minimize energy consumption. Energy Star estimates that this can save $180 per year in energy costs.

(4)   Make sure that heating and cooling ducts are airtight. If air is leaking through the ducts, equipment will not be efficient and will work harder. This drives up energy costs.

(5)   Reduce the temperature on your water heater thermostat. According to Business Insider, decreasing the preset temperature by just 20 degrees can save in excess of $400 annually.

(6)   Use more efficient light bulbs. Energy Star estimates that inefficient lighting accounts for $9 billion of the $146 billion that Americans waste on energy.

Abolishing poverty can often seem like a daunting task – and rightly so. There is still much work to be done. However, by being more selective with discretionary income, it is possible to save billions of dollars that could be contributed to the cause. Conserving energy is easy if these practical suggestions are followed. It requires little effort and can have immeasurable global impact.

– Matt Berg

Sources: Business Insider, Energy Star

Make a Difference
The world is a big place filled with billions of people. It can be easy to think that one person couldn’t possibly do enough to change the world. When the weight of global issues simply feels too huge for one person to handle, we have to remember that we do have power to make a difference, even if it starts on a small scale. Below are ten things you can do that may not change the whole world, but will change someone else’s world.


Simple Steps to Make a Difference


1. Smile: Who knew that a smile could go so far? Being friendly to others is a great way to brighten up someone else’s day. Whether it’s at the store, work, or simply walking along the street, a nice gesture like a smile could go a long way for someone having a bad day.

2. Do Some Volunteer Work: Volunteering is an amazing experience that gets us out of our daily routines and allows us to turn our efforts outwards. Go out and help feed the homeless, volunteer at local events – even picking up trash in your city is a great way to give back to the community!

3. Sponsor a Child: There are tons of organizations looking for people to sponsor children in need in countries around the world. These organizations are literally only a click away, and don’t take much time to sign up for. It is a small price to pay to make an incredible difference in a child’s life.

4. Invest and Listen: Society has become so drenched in the buzz of technology that real face-to-face interaction and relationship is growing scarce. Next time you throw out the standard, “Hi, how you doin?” make an effort to really invest in what is going in that person’s life. Ask questions that show you really care and want to listen.

5. Teach!: Go out and teach a skill to someone who wants to learn. Whether it’s teaching someone how to drive, or helping a student with their homework, your lessons will make a huge impact on their lives.

6. Donate: If you’re anything like the typical American, you probably have a lot of stuff. When it comes time to get rid of something or buy something new, make a donation instead! There are many ways to make donations online and in your community.

7. Stop What You’re Doing and HELP: It’s easy to think that our priorities are the ones that matter the most. When you’re driving and see someone along the road struggling with a flat, stop to help. Wouldn’t you want a person to do the same for you? There are tons of ways for us to lend a helping hand throughout our day.

8. Team Up with Someone to Live Healthier: Oftentimes having a workout partner is the best kind of motivation out there. If someone you know keeps talking about how he/she wants to get in shape, join them! This will make a huge impact on their lives, and together, you’ll both be on your way to a healthier life.

9. Make a Care Package: Care packages are easy and affordable to make and they can be used in so many different ways. They can be sent overseas or used locally! Next time you’re out and about and see a homeless person, offer them a care package. Keep a supply of the packages in your car and they can go a long way.

10. Having an Outward Gaze: We live in a pretty self-centered society. Many of us are taught at a young age to do what is going to make us most successful; this can lead us to do a lot things that are only self-serving. It’s time for a change of perspective! Start thinking in ways that turn that self-centered gaze outward. See what it’s like to put others needs before yours. You won’t regret it.

– Chante Owens

source: Zen Habits
Photo: ActionAid


Imagine living in a medical world where there are hospitals, doctors, and nurses, however there is no electricity. This world is currently Gambia. Gambia is a country in western Africa, and one of the only things holding them back from having a successful medical field is a lack of electricity.

The electricity shortage results in many problems such as nurses having to assist patients by candlelight, emergency surgeries are impossible, drugs and vaccines dependent on refrigeration are ruined, and people cannot get supplemental oxygen from oxygen concentrators.

Kathryn, a U.S. medical student visited Gambia to help provide medical assistance and witnessed the devastating effects of the electricity shortage first hand. Kathryn was observing a routine caesarean section, however when the baby was delivered it was only 3.5 pounds and was unable to be revived. The doctors said that if the hospital had proper electricity, this death could have been avoided, because they would have had the ability to have used an ultra sound machine and detected that the baby was underweight. The baby could have also survived had the hospital had access to incubators.

Gambia has been working towards establishing solar energy, and they have high potential in the development of solar power and solar thermal technologies. The Gambia Renewable Energy Centre has been established, and their goals include promoting the use of renewable energy, advising the government on renewable energy techniques and carrying out adaptive research.

However, Gambia is facing quite a few financial constraints. Their constraints include high capital cost, high transaction cost, and lack of dedicated financing for renewable energy in the banking institutions. The financial resources necessary for Gambia to have electricity for the next three years is $112.5 million.

In comparison, the U.S. is the world leader in energy waste. On average the U.S. wastes 57 percent of the energy they use, and this costs businesses and households an estimated $130 billion yearly. However, the U.S. is also spending billions of dollars on green initiatives and sustainable energy, though only within the country’s limits. President Barack Obama created a green stimulus package, and from 2009-2014 it is estimated that the government will spend over $150 billion on green initiatives, including $100 billion going directly towards renewable energy in the U.S.

With such an abundance of energy in the U.S., it is shocking to see the lack of energy globally. U.S. leaders need to recognize the need for electricity worldwide and consider applying the developments being made towards renewable energy to countries such as Gambia that are in dire need for it.

– Olivia Hadreas

Sources: Power Up Gambia, CNN, Forbes, UN

Working for an organization that stands for an important cause is very appealing to many people. Nonprofit internships are great ways to be a part of something bigger, while gaining experience in the world. With the opportunities so vast, it’s hard to know where exactly to start. Below are the Top 10 sites for finding internships with a nonprofit organization.

1. Encore

Encore is a powerful resource in the nonprofit world. With a listing of over 5 million opportunities in nonprofit sectors, Encore is one of the biggest sites for navigating jobs and internships in encore careers.

2. Idealist

This site is a huge resource with close to 80,000 nonprofit organizations and 10,000 job/internship listings.

3. The Foundation Center

Known for bringing forth developing information about philanthropy, The Foundation Center has an easy-to-navigate job board featuring openings at nonprofit organizations.

4. Internmatch

Internmatch provides a comprehensive listing of nonprofit organizations across the world, and the internship opportunities therein. The site is tailored to meet visitors’ needs, making it easy for an individual to choose a nonprofit organization based on his/her preferences.

5. Commongood Careers

This search firm helps nonprofit organizations hire and recruit individuals based on their skill set and talents. Boasting a 93 percent successful hire, and retention rate, Commongood Careers is a great resource to help people find the right nonprofit for them.

6. Bridgespan Group

The Bridgespan Group operates the online Nonprofit Jobs Center with approximately 350 open positions. Their site also provides people looking for leadership opportunities within a nonprofit the necessary tools to get started.

7. The Nonprofit Times

This site provides visitors with a newsfeed that tracks events in the nonprofit world, and a huge database in which visitors can enter key search terms to find the nonprofit of their choice.

8. Greenlights

Greenlights is home to a large number of nonprofit members whom they help support by giving people a way to join their organization. Along with offering training and other services to nonprofit organizations, Greenlights makes the process in finding a job/internship position very informative and easy.

9. The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Another site that provides news and information on philanthropy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy also has a jobs listing with over 1,000 positions in various fields in the nonprofit sector.

10. Interns.org

Interns.org is an easy-to-use site that directs volunteers looking for internship opportunities with nonprofit organizations that suit them the best. It also provides those in search of an internship with a way to communicate with one another.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Interns, Greenlights, Internship Match, Huffington Post