News: "Green card soldiers": Die in Iraq, US citizenship guaranteed.

Iraq Burial

A young, ambitious immigrant from Guatemala who dreamed of becoming an architect. A Nigerian medic. A soldier from China who boasted he would one day become an American general. An Indian Sikh native. What do they have in common?

They are among more than 100 foreign-born members of the U.S. military who earned American citizenship post-mortem, by dying in the Iraq war.

Immigrants have always fought — and died — in America's wars. There are tens of thousands of foreign-born members in the US armed forces. Many have been naturalized, but more than 20,000 are not US citizens.

Early in the Iraq war, Bush signed an executive order making the "Green card soldiers", as they are often called, eligible to apply for citizenship as soon as they enlist. Previously, legal residents in the military had to wait three years.
Since Bush's order, nearly 37,000 soldiers have been naturalized. And 109 who lost their lives have been granted posthumous citizenship.

Immigrant advocates have mixed feelings about military service for non-citizens. "Immigrants are lured into service and then used as political pawns or cannon fodder," said Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. (Full)

Picture courtesy Source: The Road Daily

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Rumble: Lana on the slopes

lana jumps

Meet Lana, 13, our oldest. A picture from this morning on the slopes of the Kronplatz, in the North of Italy.
The girls enjoy the adventure of jumping, going off the main ski piste, in between the trees...

Nuts as their dad.

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Rumble: Hannah on the slopes

Hannah on the Kronplatz

This is Hannah, 10, our youngest. A picture taken this morning, on the slopes of the Kronplatz, here in South Tyrol.

Hannah learned to ski when she was two and a half. The first day she went skiing, I will never forget: We picked her up from the ski school in the afternoon, where we found her (and her ski instructor), covered with blood. She had just ran into a wooden barn on the slope, and pierced her lip. We had to rush her down the mountain, into the car, and onto the operating table of the nearest hospital where they sewed her lip under full anesthesia. Two days later, she was back on her skis.

Nuts like her dad, she is.

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News: Airport security: "Nipple piercing? Here are pliers!"

Mandi Hamlin from Texas was about to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent after passing through a larger metal detector without problems.

The handheld detector beeped when passed in front of Hamlin's chest. Hamlin told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The agent said she would have to remove the jewelry.

Asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent, the answer was "No, you can not board until the jewelry is out".
She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second and was handed a pair of pliers.

TSA officials said they are investigating to see whether its policies were followed. "Our security officers are well-trained to screen individuals with body piercings in sensitive areas with dignity and respect while ensuring a high level of security," the agency said in a statement. (Full)

Picture courtesy Source: The Road Daily

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News: Google went dark on Earth Hour

google dark

Not only Dubai switched off its lights (well some of them) during Earth Hour, also the US version of the Google search page made an environmental gesture. They switched to a black background for an hour.

Picture courtesy

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News: Earth Hour switches Dubai's lights off.

Earth Hour in Dubai: Burj Al Arab in darkness

Dubai was the first Arab city to declare its public support for Earth Hour, a worldwide environmental movement backed by the World Wildlife Fund.

Millions of people around the world participated yesterday by switching off non-essential lights as a signal they care about global warming.

In Dubai, the Burj Al Arab, said to be the world's only six-star hotel, switched off its external lighting, as residents held a walkathon on Jumeirah Road. (Full)

Picture courtesy Atiq-Ur-Rehman (Gulf News)

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Rumble: The Brunico Padlock Mystery

In Brunico, a town nearby, there is a bridge over the Rienza river with hundreds of padlocks on its railing. We thought these had a romantic meaning: love pledges or "lost loves locked into ones heart".

The guy at the gas station had the answer: Up 2004, there was a military camp in Brunico where youngsters came for their military service. After finishing their tour of duty, it was a tradition to hook the padlock of their trunk to the railing, and throw the key into the river.

brunico bridge padlocks
brunico bridge 1

Delving a bit deeper into the "Italian padlock mysteries", revealed different connotations and other traditions:

Originally, the Italian men drawn into military service, took a lock from their home and hooked it onto a monument or a structure, as a public vow to return back home. Some say, it was a vow to return safely back to their loved one..

There is also the Roman legend that lovers will spend their lives together if they write their names on a padlock, place it on the Ponte Milvio's third lamp post and throw the key in the Tiber. (This story had a funny spin last year when Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni introduced fines for anyone leaving a padlock on a lamp post.)

In Florence thousands of young lovers attached their padlocks to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. Back in 2006, the council set a team of metal cutters to work removing the 5,500 locks on the railings. It took them five months to finish, as new “lucchetti d’amore” accumulated too fast. Also in Florence, the city police has been told to slap a 50-euro fine on anyone who tries to attach a lock to the bridge.

But the issue is not confined to Italy:

The city council of Pecs in Hungary also seems to fight a loosing battle against lovers' padlocks. More of the same on the Szinva Terrace's railing in Miskolc (Hungary), Guam's "Two Lovers' Point", in Huang Shan (China), and Riga (Latvia), and Tokyo (Japan), and, and...

HELP: it seems that we have a worldwide padlock problem. Or is it a worldwide love problem?

Luckily, in Brunico, the padlock problem was resolved by replacing the enforced military draft service by a 100% voluntary force. Clever people, those Italians!

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Rumble: Snowfun - Rodeln

First day of snow fun: "Rodeln":

The family:

family in snow

Hannah, our snow bunny:

hannah snow bunny

Lana, our second snow bunny:


Figuring out how things work:

hannah and the sledge

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Rumble: On the Road Again.

on the road2 28-03-08
on the road1 28-03-08

Enough of the world problems, holiday time! Today we drove from Belgium to North Italy for our skiing holiday.

Travelling is always adventure, no matter how much we travel, would you not agree? There are probably few who travel more than I do, being home for less than one month per year. And still I enjoy every moment of it. And still I get the butterflies in my stomach each time I close the door behind me, and take a step... A step on the Road to the Horizon.

Our home for the next week:

View Larger Map

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News: Explosion in Dubai's industrial area

When I worked in Dubai, traffic accidents were the things I was the most scared off. Fire was next on the hazards list.

We knew that with the drought, heat, an almost constant wind and fire rescue services often taking a long time to shuffle through the traffic jams, there would be little chance of saving our houses or offices if a fire would break out.

Two days ago a fire works factory exploded in the Al Quoz industrial area, and 83 warehouses were gutted in the blaze. This was the area we used to have our offices. (Full report)

Here is a video of the actual blast:

The fire spread to neighbouring warehouses.

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News: Poor Billionaires

Zimbabwe's 100,000 percent inflation rate is the world's highest. While officially, one U.S dollar is worth about 30,000 Zimbabwean dollars. As of last week the real price on the black market was about 35 million dollars, or 1,166 times the official rate.

The average wage for a farm worker is 30 million dollars per month. A domestic worker makes about five times that amount, and a laborer in one of Zimbabwe's decrepit factories can expect to earn as much as 300 million per month.

It sounds good until you consider how much things cost. Four Coca-Colas cost about 20 million. A one-way bus ticket around town will set you back one of those 10 million dollar notes (and that price may go up even as you're on the bus). Ten kilograms (22 pounds) of corn meal, which might last a family of four two or three days, goes for 45 million. It's 7 million for less than a quarter pound of low-grade beef. A loaf of bread is 10 million.

If you're a government worker you'll earn a monthly pension of 60,000 (yes, thousand) a month. But an empty potato sack alone costs 2 million, or 33 times your monthly pension. (Full)

Picture courtesy BBC/AP (Thanks to "E"). Source: The Road Daily

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News: The Empire Strikes Back: Jaguar and Land Rover are now Indian.

The Queen in her Jaguar, soon to be TataUS car giant Ford has sold its luxury UK-based car brands Jaguar and Land Rover to the Indian company Tata for US$2.3bn (£1.15bn), about half the price Ford paid for it originally.
Although Land Rover remains profitable, Ford has never managed to make money from its investment in Jaguar.

In January, Tata launched the world's cheapest car, the Nano, priced at US$2,500 (£1,250). The starting price for Jaguar's latest sports car is more than US$64,000 (£32,000). (Full)

I wonder if now is the right time to up the issue I had with The Ugly Duckling, my old Land Rover in Uganda I just could not get repaired? Or should I wait until Tata bought Mercedes and BMW?

Picture courtesy Ben Stansall (

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News: Where do children sell themselves ten times a day for one loaf of bread?

Zimbabwe Orphan

Zimbabwe goes to the polls on March 29th. Will it be more of the same, or is something really going to change?

The horror stories keep on coming up from a country that used to be the breadbasket of the region:
The Aids crisis, and the creaking health system it has overwhelmed, has left hundreds of thousands of children orphans, struggling to fend for themselves. As once-prime farmland fell back into bush, thousands picked up their few belongings and headed for the cities in search of a better life.

Lina, then 14, had no money for her fare, so the driver took her virginity as payment. Princess, then 13, sold hers for a loaf of bread after the police stole the peanuts she was selling and chased her off the streets. Precious, at 14, followed the others into prostitution, selling herself to strangers on the streets of Harare merely to survive.

The money Princess got for her first client could buy her a loaf of bread. Now it can barely do that. Sex with one of Mbare's street girls costs Z$10 million (25p) — when the customers actually pay. “I'll have about four or five a day,” Princess said. “Out of that, maybe two will pay.” The police do not chase her any more, but they still steal, demanding sex in return for leaving her alone.

Amine, one of the girls who works the streets with Princess, showed a fresh scar on her hand where a customer had stabbed her, forcing her to drop the notes that he had just paid her.

Precious, a tiny 16-year-old, stunning beneath the grime, sees as many as ten men a day. (Full)

More posts about Zimbabwe.

Picture courtesy Times Online. Source: The Road Daily

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News: Top 50 most stable and prosperous countries.

Political stability

A one-year investigation and analysis of 235 countries by Jane's Information Services resulted in a list of the most (and least) stable and prosperous countries. Times Online published an article which got commented upon quite a bit. Some said it took a ride with Jane's the original report.

Here is a summary of the Times Online article:
The scoring is based on the sort of threats existing in the country, the economic pressures, each nation’s political structures, social and economic trends, military and security risks and external relations. (Full)

Here is the Top 10 (in order): Vatican, Sweden, Luxembourg, Monaco, Gibraltar, San Marino, Liechtenstein, UK, Netherlands, Ireland.

Rank 11-20: New Zealand, Denmark, Austria, Andorra, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland, Portugal, Australia, Norway.

Rank 21-30: Malta, France, Canada, USA, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Japan, Finland, Czech Rep.

Rank 31-40: Samoa, Falkland Islands, Singapore, Guam, Slovakia, Anguilla, Cyprus, Qatar, Montserrat, Costa Rica.

Rank 41-50: Greece, St Pierre and Miquelon, UAE, Cayman Islands, American Samoa, Virgin Islands (UK), Poland, St Lucia, Oman, Northern Mariana Islands.

At the bottom we find as the most unstable (score between brackets): Iraq (44), Central African Republic (39), Democratic Republic of Congo (38), Chad (38), Zimbabwe (38), Haiti (38), Ivory Coast (36), Afghanistan (36), Sudan (35), Somalia (29) and Palestinian Territories (27).

My observations:
  • According to this list, we should all become a priest and migrate to the Vatican.
  • all jokes aside: there are only three Middle-Eastern and two Asian countries in the top 50.
  • 7 out of the 10 bottom countries are in Africa. There are no African countries in the top 50. No South American countries either.
  • Hmm... I lived and worked in six out of the eleven bottom countries.
  • Montserrat?!?! With all its 5,000 people, most of them evacuated.. Could not be the same Montserrat we wanted to sail to this summer, but did not after the charter company strongly recommended to stay away because of the active volcano... Safe, hey?

Update 30-Mar-2008:
The original article I referred to above, has been removed from Times Online. It can still be found through their on-site search, but that gives an invalid link.
Either the article was too loose in interpreting Jane's report (of which I could not find an original - if anyone has it, put it in the comments), or ... too many people complained "THEIR" country had to be the most stable and prosperous.. Or maybe the US government filed an official complaint: After all, no country can be more stable and prosperous than the US. Certainly not after the investments in the economy and expenses for Homeland Security under the Bush administration. Right? Right?

Update: Apparently Times Online got the links back up.

Picture courtesy

The Road Daily

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Rumble: Global Warming? My backside!

this morning. this is supposed to be spring!

View from our house in Belgium, this morning. Five centimetres of snow. A sharp contrast to early March last year when I complained it was too warm!. Complaints, always complaints! :-)

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Rumble: Trinity by Carl De Keyzer

Trinity by Carl De Keyzer

In an earlier post, I raved about Belgian photographer Carl De Keyzer. He just finished a new project, called Trinity. You can browse through the astonishing Trinity pictures on his website.

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News: 14,200 cases of rape. With only 287 court cases.

I wonder in which country one would accept a mass of 14,200 registered rape cases in two years, in one province only. Even worse: of which only 287 cases were taken to court. No-one would accept this, right? Right?

Well, this is the case in South Kivu, a province in Eastern DRC (Congo), according to the UN Human Rights Council. (Full)

Amnesty International reports tens of thousands of women and girls have suffered systematic rape and sexual assault since the devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo began in 1998. Rape, sometimes by groups as large as twenty men, has become a hallmark of the conflict, with armed factions often using it as part of a calculated strategy to destabilize opposition groups, undermine fundamental community values, humiliate the victims and witnesses, and secure control through fear and intimidation. It is not unusual for mothers and daughters to be raped in front of their families and villages, or to be forced to have sex with their sons and brothers. Rapes of girls as young as six and women over 70 have been reported. Young girls are also regularly abducted and held captive for years to be used as sexual slaves by combatants and their leaders. (Full)

Help putting an end to violence against women. Sign up:

Picture courtesy Kevin Sites. Source: International Aid Workers Today

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News: Saudi Arabia uses 11 planes to bring rain.

Desert Clouds

Saudi Arabia has started the fourth phase of its program to extract rain from clouds, part of a project started five months ago to secure more water resources in the kingdom.

The head of the Meteorological and Environmental Protection Administration, Saleh al-Shahri, said 11 planes are being used in the current phase, together with a high-tech network of mobile cloud physics radars, a communication and satellite network, and experts from various Saudi universities and research centers.

The process, commonly known as "cloud seeding" is a form of weather modification, attempting to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds, by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei.

The program is part of the kingdom's ongoing efforts to counter the scarcity of water, especially since ground water is subject to depletion. The average annual rainfall for Saudi Arabia is around 4.4 inches (112 mm) per year but whole regions may not experience rainfall for several years. (Full)

This post was written as follow-up to "World Water Day: One billion people without clean water".

Picture courtesy 3D Nature. Source: The Road Daily

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News: Dubai builds world's largest water reservoirs

US technology is not used in the Middle EastDubai began constructing the world's largest pre-stressed concrete drinking water reservoirs.

The three giant rectangular reservoirs, each with a capacity of 60 million imperial gallons (roughly about 240 million litres), are being constructed in the Mushrif area of Dubai and will cost US$168.6m. The aim to cope with the increased demand for water boosted by multi-billion dollar property projects in the emirate.

The three giant Mushrif reservoirs will:
• Cover a total area of approximately 165,000 square metres
• Measure 372 metres x 169 metres and will be 5.6 metres deep
• Consume 270,000 cubic metres of concrete
• Use 27,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel

The Earl Thomas Reservoir serving San Diego in California currently holds the record as the world's largest pre-stressed concrete drinking water reservoir with a capacity of 35 million gallons.(More)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) consumes more water per capita than any other country in the world with the exception of the United States and Canada. Lacking natural water sources to meet the demand, the Emirates use desalination. Dubai alone has an installed desalination capacity of 188 million gallons per day (MIGD). (More)

To cope with the energy demanded its these massive desalination plant, the UAE has recently decided to switch to nuclear energy. (More)

More Dubai related posts.

This post was written as follow-up to "World Water Day: One billion people without clean water".

Picture courtesy (as I did find pictures of the UAE reservoirs!)
News source:
The Road Daily

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News: KLM "lost" track of new Indian airport.

klm got confused

A KLM flight headed for Hyderabad in India's south skipped its destination and flew across India because the pilot was unaware the city had a brand-new airport.

The confusion occurred barely hours after the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad became operational. The KLM pilot first headed towards Hyderabad's old airport and was told by air traffic control the facility had been shut.
When directed to fly to the new airport, the pilot replied: "What's that?". Instead he flew to New Delhi, where he was declined permission to land, and ended up in Mumbai.

KLM HQ apparently had not received a notice about the closure of the old and the opening of the new facility. (Full)

Afraid of flying? Then don't read my short-story Italians, the art of flying and the laws of probability, and don't look at the videos in The World's Ten Most Dangerous Landing Strips!

Picture courtesy Source: The Road Daily

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Rumble: Sahara!

cars between rocks

"Y", a friend of "E" sent me this story. A story of a rally turn love affair with the desert.

It all started with…

It all started with phone call from my brother in law, asking if I wanted to go to the Libya Desert Challenge. The rally is mostly made up of people from Belgium, Holland, and Germany, under the umbrella of the Paris-Dakar Rally. So my answer was “Yes, of course.”

A few weeks later, we walked out of Sebha airport, greeted by plenty of people holding up signs. We found our guides, who grabbed our bags and loaded them in the vehicles. In a few minutes, we were off to what was supposed to be a short trip to the camp…

Around two hours and plenty of check points later, we stopped and asked how much longer we had. We were told: “About 2 more hours”. Ok cool, no biggie. A few hours later, we were getting rather antsy and we were told “Another hour or so”.
We were tired at that point, but still in a good mood and flying down the road.

Eventually what was supposed to be an hour long ride became an eight-hour road trip through the Sahara, ending up near a city called Ghat, along the Algerian-Libyan border. We were trying to find where to branch off the road to go to the camp but at 3:30 am with no street lights or signs, it can be quite difficult.

Next thing I know we start looking for tire tracks. And when we found some, we started counting how tracks, if they were new or not… We finally found some that looked like “a lot of cars” and “recent” and turned off the road, into the Sahara.

The tire tracks were hard to see with only our headlights, and we weren’t going slow. Even though we had a GPS and a satellite phone, I was still a little nervous about getting lost, in the middle of no-where. As we were flying through the desert we saw a bright spot light from the right. We turned around and drove towards it, but it turned out to be several police vehicles. They asked what we were doing and we told them we were looking for the camp. They pointed us in the right direction and we were on our way.

As we drove into the camp, our high was quickly followed by a low, as we realized everyone was dead asleep. It was near zero degrees and we had no tents. Stumbling through the camp revealed no spare shelters, so we threw down a large mat, laid down with a blanket and tried to sleep. The cold was unbearable and if the blanket came up it felt like someone stabbed you with a frozen knife.

The sky was a reward for putting up with the cold though. Since it was around 4:30 am, the Milky Way spread across the desert sky, truly a sight you don’t want to close your eyes for.

After a while, I gave in and dozed off for just a few hours. But since right before sunrise the temperature drops and the cold rises from the sand, it woke us all up. This cold is the worst I have ever experienced. I never imagined this in the Sahara!

The next morning.

We walked around the area to see the sights and meet some of the competitors. We found them all rather dry and boring, so we befriended all the guides, workers and police. They were a funny bunch and never asked too many questions. We found some guys making coffee and tea and we had breakfast with them.

One of the bunch was a famous photographer who invited us to join him to a place most Libyans don’t even know about: an area called Mughadat. As he described it, it resembled a picture from Mars, so we jumped in the Land Cruisers and took off.

At first we saw the typical images you think of when you hear about the Sahara: huge sand dunes. The dunes raise and fall with the softest sand I have ever touched. Someone described it as 'powdered gold'. When we reached Mughadat, the scenery was baffling. When we switched off the engines, the silence was every bit as deafening as absolute silence can be. It was a humbling experience to actually feel the Earth’s age. Some things you just take for granted but here you could actually feel the respect the Earth commands much like you feel when meeting an elderly hero.

The sand dunes went in and out of the rocks resembling a stone forest. Some rocks looked like statues, or homes, graves, others were like walls or trees. No one really knew the history. My guess is that the area was below water at some point with the rocks stacking one upon one another.

We made camp and rested. One of the Tuareg, native of the region, made a fire and the work began. They all started making some tuna sandwiches and preparing macaroni. After we ate, they made green tea on the fire. They pour it from one tea pot into another creating a lot of foam. The foam is then poured in a tea glass. This traditional way of making tea is still done throughout much of North Africa. While the green tea ritual was taking place, everyone sat around the fire telling jokes and stories. After a while, we retreated to a shaded area and napped for half an hour. Before we left, we burned our trash not to leave a mark and buried our fire. All the area’s inhabitants take a lot of pride in not trashing the desert.

Our next stop was a huge sand dune. While still debating if we could make it to the top, pushing the gas pedal all the way down, we climbed up a fair distance until the little engines could go no further. We stopped and got out to play in the world’s largest sand hill. A few rolled down the sand, a few raced up and a few just stood with their jaws open. I went as far as my engine would take me and looked down. I have no idea how high we were but it looked no less than 20 stories. We jumped back in the vehicles to head home so we wanted to beat the sunset. No one wanted to be stuck away from camp after sunset.

We finally made it back and this time, we had tents, cots and blankets waiting. They started a camp fire and we all sat around. The green tea came out again and some food was being prepared as well. As the Tuareg was preparing the tea, others began a singing circle while everyone was clapping along, forming a basic drum beat. The songs were old, and usually about love. I actually understood the words, and could engage in most of the conversations until they started a Tuareg poetry slam which was so funny. This is an old ritual using poetry to slam each other. One example is that two of them drove different vehicles, one a Land Cruiser and the other a Land Rover. They would then go back and forth through poetry to talk trash about the other and their vehicle. While this is being done, the last word of each line would be repeated or shouted by everyone around the camp fire. A few would also scream to encourage the person speaking. Surreal…

We finally dozed off in our tents. Mine was - not surprisingly - one foot shy of my height. We ended up freezing again as the temperature dropped to -4 degrees Celsius, but I lived.


The next day, we had coffee and sandwiches, and jumped in the Land Cruiser to head back to the airport. For eight hours, we just stared into the Sahara as though it was some incredible epic movie that you had to finish.

After we cleared the last town, we drove past this one guy. He was walking alongside the road, in the middle of no-where. A small speck in the background of the yellow void. He wore a typical Tuareg outfit, carrying a woven basket on his back, and a walking stick in his hand. When we passed him he neither waved, tried to ride with us or even look at us for that matter. It looked like, for him, we were from another world. And he was alien to us.

Alien to us, but part of the desert which we savoured for just a few days, stripping us of our garbage, to our bare bone essentials: a human like all other humans.


With thanks to "Y" for the story and pictures. Thank you, "E" for the editing.

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News: Current price of a slave? $50 and a plane ticket to Haiti.


With $50 and a plane ticket to Haiti, one can buy a slave.
That is one of the findings of Benjamin Skinner while researching his book, "A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery."

As the definition of "slave" is still "a human being forced to work under threat of violence for no pay beyond sustenance", Skinner concluded there are more slaves on the planet today than at any time in human history... Even though slavery is now illegal throughout the world.

There is one difference, though: slaves got cheaper. After adjusting for inflation, Skinner found that, "A slave sold in 1850, would now roughly cost $30,000 to $40,000. Today you can go to Haiti and buy a 9-year-old girl as a sex slave for $50. The devaluation of human life is incredibly pronounced."

In the fall of 2005, he visited Haiti, which has one of the highest concentrations of slaves anywhere in the world. "I pulled up in a car and rolled down the window," he recalls. "Someone said, 'Do you want to get a person?'".
Though the country was in a time of political chaos, the street where he met the trafficker was clean and relatively quiet. A tape of the conversation reveals a calm, concise transaction. He was initially told he could get a 9-year-old sex and house slave for $100, but he bargained it down to $50.
"The thing that struck me more than anything afterwards was how incredibly banal the transaction was. As if I was negotiating on the street for a used stereo." (Full)

Update: This post was picked up in different forums. People ask 'how can we help?'.. I would suggest to check out Plan International, who allows you to 'virtually' adopt a child from a developing country.
Plan International has a program in Haiti.. Try it.. Our family "adopted" a child from the rural areas in Pakistan years ago. For a modest monthly amount, we secure the child's education, clothing and basic well being.. Every year, we get a letter from her, with pictures and testimonies...
Education and basic care keeps children out of harms way, and brings them a future.

Update: See also this article on modern day slavery.

More recommended books from The Road.

Pictures courtesy In These Times and Source: The Road Daily

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News: Corporate Hall of Shame. Open for Voting.

Click to vote Global warming. Toxics in toys. Sub-prime mortgage lenders preying on the poor. Hired US guns killing civilians in Iraq. It’s been a year of corporate abuse.
Corporate Accountability International opened its poll booths. Vote for the Corporate Hall of Shame or submit a company you think should be set as an example of unresponsible corporate behaviour.

This year’s nominees include:

  • ADM (Archer Daniels Midland), for helping make Indonesia the world’s third worst contributor to global warming through its clearing of endangered forests and wildlife habitat for palm oil plantations.
  • Blackwater Worldwide, for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians, hiring paramilitaries trained under military dictatorships, and using its close political and financial ties with the Bush Administration to secure lucrative contracts.
  • Countrywide, for predatory mortgage lending to elderly and non-English-speaking borrowers, and for gouging minority borrowers with discriminatory rates and fees.
  • Mattel, for producing tens of millions of lead-contaminated children’s toys, and aggressively lobbying against bans on other highly toxic chemicals
  • NestlĂ©, for numerous labor violations — including child exploitation — contributing to the obesity epidemic, and threatening community water supplies with its bottled water brands.
  • Toyota, for aggressively lobbying against increased fuel economy standards and state measures to reduce global warming gas emissions while hypocritically spending millions to advertise its environmental “leadership” and popular Prius hybrids.
  • Wal-Mart, for displacing local businesses, failing to cover employees under the corporation’s health plan, and opposing legislation that would increase homeland security.
  • Wendy’s, for its contribution to the growing childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, and for refusing to meet nutritional labeling regulations.

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Rumble: A Happy Easter Gorilla

Easter Gorilla in Cincinnati Zoo

A gorilla picking Easter eggs at the Cincinnati Zoo

Picture courtesy AP Photo/Al Behrman. Source: Universal Jellyfish

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News: The World's Oldest School Boy: 88, Kenyan and Refugee

Kimani Maruge is his name. You might never have heard of him.

This Kenyan peasant farmer and great-grand father was illiterate all his life, until at the age of 83, he jumped at a belated opportunity to educate himself when free primary schooling was introduced in Kenya, five years ago.

Maruge became something of a national celebrity and poster boy for free education campaigners worldwide. The U.N. even sponsored a trip for him to New York.

Now, at the age of 88, he is faced with a new challenge. In the recent post-election violence, members of his Kikuyu tribe were attacked by gangs and Maruge became one of the 300,000 refugees around the country are still scared to return home.

So every morning, "Mzee" as he is called - Swahili for 'elder' - gets out of his white Red Cross canvas tent at an agricultural showground housing 14,000 displaced people, to collect his books, don his uniform - shorts and all - and walks with a limp the 4 km (2.5 miles) to his beloved Kapkenduiywo Primary School.
At first, he went to a special school set up at the refugee camp, but he prefers his old school near his home.

"But I have not stopped studying. School is too important.", Maruge says, "It is hard. There is no one to help me walk. I go alone. But the urge to learn keeps me going."

In an interview with Reuters, he asks: "If you see people, tell them the kids here need help."

Which we do. Hat off to you, Mzee! (full)

Picture courtesy Reuters. Source: The Road Daily

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Rumble: Water for the Toposa in South Sudan

Topohsa in South Sudan

Meet the Toposa people. These traditional herdsmen live in a remote area on the shared borders of Uganda, Kenya and Sudan. Their tribe is called "Karamojong" in Uganda, "Turkana" in Kenya (an area stretching from the Rift Valley to Lokichoggio) and "Toposa" in Sudan (from Lokichoggio to Narus and Kapoeta, in the eastern Juba).

They live the life as it once was. Clothing is optional in their "country". If they have a cloth, serves the whole village, used when travelling outside the community.

Their life is centered in function of their cattle. Their cattle is their life. Traditional diet is cow blood mixed with a sort of cassava.

The family and tribe has a patriarchical system: Toposa men take decisions on behalf of the family or tribes in meetings where women and children are kept at a distance while the men discuss the people’s affairs. Tradition has it that important matters are decided in the early hours of the morning before sunrise.

Toposa in South Sudan

Last year, the Toposa in South Sudan faced drought, cutting not only their water supplies, but also their food production. Only delivering food aid was not enough, so we started trucking in water with the food.
It was clear that a more permanent solution was to be found, to provide them with water, a rare item in the Toposaland.

delivering water to the Toposa
delivering water to the Toposa

This solution was to dig a bor hole, where they could pump water from an underground well. We trucked in the mechanical pump, and connected it to a small plastic storage tank. A low cost, low tech but also low maintenance solution.

Offloading the storage tank
Installing a pump. Any work is a community affair, so loads of people are interested!
The borhole and pump are operational!

Aid with a permanent impact...

This post was written as follow-up to a previous one: World Water Day: One billion people without clean water.

Pictures courtesy Constance Lewanika (WFP), with a special thanks to Cyprien Hiniolwa.

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News: "World Water Day": One billion people without clean water.

Sudan 2006.2 095 constance lewanika

Today is World Water Day. This annual event highlights the need for clean water and proper sanitation. Let's have a closer look...

FACT: More than one billion people throughout the world have little choice but to drink from potentially harmful sources of water. 2.6 billion people have no access to proper sanitation. (International Red Cross)

FACT: The consumption of unsafe water results in diarrhoea, worm infestation and other water and sanitation-related diseases. (International Red Cross)

FACT: About 200 million tonnes of human waste are discharged untreated into watercourses every year -- exposing people to bacteria, viruses and parasites. (International Red Cross)

FACT: On a typical day in sub-Saharan Africa, half the hospital beds are occupied by people with faecal-borne diseases. (UN)

FACT: Poor sanitation, hygiene and unsafe water claims the lives of an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five every year. (International Red Cross)

FACT: Every dollar spent on improving sanitation - ranging from digging latrines or building sewers - has $9 in benefits such as higher economic growth or lower hospital bills. (UN)

FACT: In 2002 the world set a Millenium Goal to be reached by 2015:"Halve the estimated 2.6 billion -or 40 percent of the world population- with no access to sanitation.". To reach this goal, the world would need to spending $10 billion a year. We are no-where near. (UN)

Read more in the Water for Life brochure

The top picture is an extract from the photo-story Water for the Toposa in South Sudan.

water for life

Top picture: A South Sudan water project, courtesy Constance Lewanika (WFP). Bottom picture courtesy UN (Water for Life)

Source: International Aid Workers Today

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News: Czech car crash rivals the Dubai record


Thirty people were injured in a massive car chain collision accident on the D1 motorway between Prague and Brno in the Czech Republic yesterday. The crash involving 116 cars, left thousands blocked in the tailbacks along the motorway in a snowstorm.

It was was a record car jam for the Czech Republic, but it did not come close to the sad record the UAE set a couple of days ago, which involved 227 cars.

Update: The World Health Organisation says every year 1,2-million people die in road accidents, making it the seventh-biggest killer in the world, ahead of diabetes and malaria. (Full)

Picture courtesy Reuters

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