Rumble: I have one question left...

You know in the past months I have been working on increasing the download speed of The Road to the Horizon. It seems the choice of your browser is as important as me optimising the site.


Look at these... The Javascript speed of Chrome -the new Google freeware browser- and Firefox beating up Internet Explorer.

Knowing also the problems Internet Explorer has in seemingly "hanging" for seconds when downloading pages, I have only one question left in my mind:

Why did I wait so long to abandon Explorer?

Graph courtesy

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Rumble: The Road's Kiva project 1: Danaya

Danaya project

Here is a summary of The Road's first social project:

A micro-financing loan to the Danaya women in Mali.

Danaya is a group of seven women of the Hamdallaye district in the city of Koutiala in Mali. They know each other through the making of the local "pâte" (typically a cooked mash of grain, seeds, or nuts, formed into a ball and eaten with the fingers) called "soumbala". They average 38 years of age. They are married and the mothers of at least four children.

Working for three years with Soro Yiriwaso - a local partner from Kiva- the loans have gone from 50,000 francs CFA (US$110) for the first loan to 150,000 francs (US$330) for the fifth loan. The group members all do the same work: making and selling soumbala. In addition, they have other work, such as knitting.

The current loan will enable them to buy the néré nuts, the base product for their soumbala, in larger quantities and at wholesale rather than retail prices. This will generate more profit. Their goal is to raise a profit of 125,000 francs CFA (US$280) for the duration of the loan. A large portion of the profits will serve to cover the school fees of the children and to cope with the typical family expenses.

In the future, the members will get their supplies from other places in Mali, especially from Gao and Kidal, which will lower the base price once more.

The women of Danaya have a 100% credit repayment history. (See their profile on Kiva)

The current loan request: US$2,050
Raised so far: US$925.00 US$2,050 (Nov 3rd 2008)
still needed: US$1,125.00 (Nov 3rd 2008)
They will repay the loan by May 16th 2009.

More on The Road's social project "Change Starts Here".
You can keep track of our project via our score card.

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News: DRCongo - The Rape of a Nation


Eastern DR Congo was once memorably described by the journalist Kate Thomas. The place "looks like heaven", she wrote, "but it feels like hell".

You need to watch this amazing video from MediaStorm to understand the extend of the hell.

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News: UN compound bombed in Somalia

Five suicide car bombs rocked a presidential palace, government security post, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office and an Ethiopian consular unit in two regions of northern Somalia today.

Several buildings were leveled by the attacks, which happened within a span of half an hour.

At least two people were killed and six seriously wounded in the attack of the United Nations office in Hargeisa, long considered as the safest city in Somalia. (Full)

The UNDP compound was hit by an explosion caused by a vehicle that had forced its way into the compound at approximately 10 a.m. local time.

“At present, we can confirm that two national UN staff have been killed, while two others were critically injured and medically evacuated to Djibouti,” UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said. Full)

The attack came five years after the attack of the UN compound in Baghdad and ten months after the bombing of the UN offices in Algiers.

Investigations after both bombings showed significant short comings in the UN security apparatus. Follow-up actions included loads of finger pointing and scape goating but failed to deliver any noticeable differences for humanitarian workers, UN or not UN.

Status Oct 5th, 31 aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan, 32 killed in Somalia and 11 in Darfur. (Full). Since then 2 more aid workers were killed in Somalia, and one was shot dead in Afghanistan.

2008 is heading to set a sad record.

More posts on The Road about being an aidworker, Somalia and terrorism

Video discovered via Humanitarian Relief

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Picture of the day: East Congo in trouble

east congo

Thousands of people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been fleeing a new outburst of fighting between government troops and rebel forces. (Full)

[Ed: This picture is taken now, but could have been taken in 1994 when we saw the influx of Rwandese refugees into East Congo. Or in 1996-7 when those refugees fled into the jungle, some of them ending up thousands of miles further away... This short story was written during that time. I hope we are not going back into a situation we will have 2-3 million refugees]

More pictures of the day on The Road.

Picture courtesy BBC

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Rumble: Don't you just love Paypal.

paypal does not like me

Paypal: "Payments made difficult"?

After my adventures with the PayPal support desk a few months ago, I am in trouble again.

Because I made more than US$1,300 worth of transactions in the past year, I need to give PayPal:
- a copy of my Photo ID
- a proof of address
- a voided check (who uses them anymore in EU?) or bankstatement
- proof of tax exempt
- 'organistation and payment' information
- and 'business information

While I am just an individual who wants to pay online. Please!

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News: Sophie - The Face of Poverty

somalia woman

Hargeisa, 1,500km north of Mogadishu, is home to thousands of displaced people from south-central Somalia. Sophie, 27, came to the city with her husband and three children, aged between 18 months and eight years, but her 10-year-old son was lost on the journey.
She and other women were robbed and raped along the way. She spoke about her plight:

"We used to live in north Mogadishu. We had a shop which was run by my husband and I had a stall in the market. We were not rich but we had enough to feed our family.

"The area got to the point where no one was safe and looting and rape became normal. Many houses were destroyed. One night, our neighbour's house was totally destroyed and no one survived. In the blink of an eye the entire family was dead.

"Our house was partially destroyed but we escaped unhurt. That morning we decided to leave with other families and take our children to some place safe.

"The journey was long; it took more than nine days. I lost my boy and we were robbed of everything we had. The bandits took us away from the main road and into the bush. They told the men to lie down and then took the women they thought looked good and young and raped us; five other women and myself. Our husbands heard our cries but could do nothing. They were being held at gunpoint.

"By the time we reached Hargeisa we had nothing. The people here [in Hargeisa] have been very kind. In the camp the residents let us share their dwellings. (Full)

More posts on The Road about Somalia, refugees and poverty,

Reprinted with courtesy of IRIN
Picture courtesy Derk Segaar (IRIN)

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News: Reality check - East Congo by the number

Congo living with fear
A woman carries her belongings past Congolese army soldiers
as she flees to escape fighting in Eastern Congo (DRC)

With fighting renewed between the government and rebel troops, and the UN "shooting in the air" in between, a reminder is needed at what this means for the 'ordinary people'. (Full)

A recent report report entitled "Living With Fear" offers an insight as to how life is in East Congo, based on a survey of 4,000 people.

Here is East Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by numbers:

55%: interrogated or persecuted by armed groups
53%: forced to work or enslaved
46%: beaten by armed groups
46% threatened with death
34%: abducted for at least a week
23%: witnessed an act of sexual violence
16%: victims of sexual violence

More posts on The Road about DRC

Picture courtesy AP Photo/Riccardo Gangale

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News: Paint for the Planet: Children paint global warming

save the planet

Last weekend, 26 children's paintings with the theme of climate change were auctioned in New York. The event raised money for children most adversely affected by global warming. The "Paint for the Planet" auction, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), spotlights the work of young artists across the globe.

The paintings are the best of some 200,000 entries received during the past 17 years of the UNEP's annual International Children's Painting Competition.

Entries came from as far as Burundi, Armenia, Thailand and Colombia. (Full

More posts on the The Road about global warming.

Picture courtesy CNN

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Rumble: And while we are at it. Life is really too serious.

Funny buttonDear Employees:

It has been brought to management's attention that some individuals throughout the company have been using foul language during the course of normal conversation with their co workers. Due to complaints received from some employees who may be easily offended, this type of language will no longer be tolerated. We do, however, realize the critical importance of being able to accurately express your feelings when communicating with co workers. Therefore a list of 18 New and Innovative "TRY SAYING" phrases have been provided so that proper exchange of ideas and information can continue in an effective manner.

#1 TRY SAYING: I think you could use more training.
INSTEAD OF: You don't know what the f___you're doing.

#2 TRY SAYING: She's an aggressive go-getter.
INSTEAD OF: She's a f__ing bit__.

#3 TRY SAYING: Perhaps I can work late.
INSTEAD OF: And when the f___ do you expect me to do this?

#4 TRY SAYING: I'm certain that isn't feasible.
INSTEAD OF: No f___ing way.

#5 TRY SAYING: Really?
INSTEAD OF: You've got to be sh___ing me!!

#6 TRY SAYING: Perhaps you should check with...
INSTEAD OF: Tell someone who gives a sh__.

#7 TRY SAYING: I wasn't involved in the project.
INSTEAD OF: It's not my f___ing problem.

#8 TRY SAYING: That's interesting.
INSTEAD OF: What the f___?

#9 TRY SAYING: I'm not sure this can be implemented.
INSTEAD OF: This sh__won't work.

#10 TRY SAYING: I'll try to schedule that.
INSTEAD OF: Why the f___ didn't you tell me sooner?

#11 TRY SAYING: He's not familiar with the issues.
INSTEAD OF: He's got his head up his a__.

#12 TRY SAYING: Excuse me, sir?
INSTEAD OF: Eat sh__ and die.

#13 TRY SAYING: So you aren't happy with it?
INSTEAD OF: Kiss my a__.

#14 TRY SAYING: I'm a bit overloaded at the moment.
INSTEAD OF: F__ it, I'm on salary.

#15 TRY SAYING: I don't think you understand.
INSTEAD OF: Shove it up your a__.

#16 TRY SAYING: I love a challenge.
INSTEAD OF: This f___ing job sucks.

#17 TRY SAYING: You want me to take care of that?
INSTEAD OF: Who the f___ died and made you boss?

#18 TRY SAYING: He's somewhat insensitive.
INSTEAD OF: He's a pr_ck.

Thank You,
Human Resources

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Rumble: Life is too serious.

This brightened up my day. I hope it works for you too!

no pole dancing-1

Thanks for the picture, Andrea!

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News: 1 million people fled Somalia in 2008 alone

Over 1 million people fled Somalia in 2008. 2.6 million Somalis - 35% of the population - now need humanitarian assistance, while one in six children under the age of five is malnourished. (Full)

More on The Road about Somalia, aid work and Somalia and humanitarian issues

Discovered via Humanitarian Relief and AidBlogs

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News: After blocking YouTube and WordPress, Turkey now bans Blogger

Turkey: freedom of press, a long way to go

TalkTurkey reports:
You have Blogger? Turkey has Blocker!

First, it was Wordpress. Then YouTube. And now Blogger, world's largest 'free' blog service, is blocked or banned in Turkey.

Why? What difference does it make? What's next? The Internet?

BasBasBas reports:

Blogger banned in Turkey

Since today, whoever tries to access Blogger or any * domain from Turkey will get the (above) message on (their) screen.

This is the same message we get if we try to visit YouTube, which is also banned in Turkey. In the past blogging platform has been banned as well, to much dismay of many Turkish bloggers.

Turkey’s EU ambitions seem paradoxical to the infringement on the freedom of press and speech of its citizens, residents and visitors by banning sites like this. This is not China. This has to stopped. Good thing the EU’s making a blacklist of censoring countries and are creating software for people in censoring countries to use to overcome the censorship (Global Online Freedom Act).

[Ed: Turkey: a member of NATO, and pushing hard to become part of the EU... It looks like one of the basic conditions of democracy, freedom of expression, is not even met.]

More posts on The Road about press freedom and Turkey

Cartoon courtesy TalkTurkey and BasBasBas. Discovered via Global Voices Online and For Those Who Want To Know

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Rumble: Darfur Now!

"Darfur Now" is not just a factual movie. It is an in-your-face call to action for people everywhere to help end the crisis in Darfur. For the first time in history, the US Government has declared a genocide while it is ongoing, and that is a bad sign.

The movie shows the struggles and achievements of six very different individuals who bring to light the situation in Darfur and the need to get involved:
A UCLA graduate in Los Angeles (CA), a Darfurian woman who joined the rebel forces, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a UN humanitarian on the ground in Sudan, an internationally known actor and activist, and finally to a community leader in a West Darfur refugee camp.

The film portrays the heroic efforts of six people responding to a humanitarian tragedy unfolding before our eyes. (More)

The official trailer can also be found on YouTube

If you have a high bandwidth Internet connection, you can watch the full movie online here.

More on The Road about Darfur, Sudan and genocide

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News: Non-profit organisations listed on the stock market: IPOs for charity

These days, stockmarkets stand out in only one thing: they crash like there is no tomorrow.

However, here is something different. In many ways.

The Canadian Women's Foundation (CWF), a national public foundation dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, took its shares to the stockmarket. They are now offering an Immediate Public Opportunity (IPO) to take stock in the future of girls.

Charitable shares, a new way of fundraising for a good cause?The Girls' Growth Fund offers the public the possibility to invest in girls across Canada. During the sales period, 10,000 shares at $100 each will be made available, raising $1 million.

CWF will use the capital to make a three-year investment in 15 Canadian programs for disadvantaged girls. There is no financial but rather an "ethical" return for the investors. (article in the press)

What do you think? Is this the way charity should go to raise funds for their cause? Or is this a mere publicity stunt? Should the UN put out an IPO on the stock market to be able to reach the Millenium Development goals?
Your views in comments are welcome!

More on The Road about fundraising and activism.

Story discovered via Change! and For Those Who Want to Know

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Picks of the week: 60 seconds and more

stood in the maasai mara

Ironic Sans does nothing else but publish 60 second videos "in the life of". Weird how beautiful "simple" can be.

Women for Women International mobilizes women to change their lives in conflict and post-conflict environments.

Positive Africa lists success stories in a continent riddled with poverty and war. This site is part of African Loft, "Where the People and Friends of Africa Mingle", a discovery by itself.

CauseWired features as headline "Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World - the Rise of Online Social Activism". How the digital social media can help changing the world.

Stood in the Congo is a funny and sweet Tumblr blog. Find the treasures! From the same author: Stood in the Maasai Mara.

Our Wall Bears Witness features pictures from the US Holocaust Museum.

Short-Term Volunteer in Africa is a fresh blog from Jo, working in Nairobi and DRC. It shows Africa in the eyes of someone who just arrived.

Congo Gorillas, the official website of Virunga National Park in DR Congo.

Humanitarian Relief by Michael Bear Kleinman is one of the newest treasured additions to my aidworker blogs. He writes informed posts about aid work and aid issues. Is part of Change!, a new site working on informing the masses of social issues.

More Picks of The Week on The Road.

Picture courtesy Stood in the Maasai Mara, discovered via The Signs Along The Road

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Rumble: Sailing with dolphins

My Friend E went sailing just off the coast of Italy two weekends ago. On the Saturday afternoon she sent these pictures from her iPhone:

sailing with dolphins
sailing with dolphins

I don't get jealous easily, but I can assure you I was at that moment!

More posts on The Road about sailing

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Tips & Tricks: How to measure pixel width on your blog?

On a blog, like any web page, everything is measured in 'pixels', the smallest unit of measure on a screen. So if you work with the layout of your blog, you need to have a precise idea of the pixel height and width of the different elements.


The other day, I was tweaking my blog, an had to measure the size of images and columns. Painstaking. Until I found Pixel Ruler, a freeware from Tahionic.

Pixel Ruler displays a simple ruler, either vertically or horizontally, you can grab and move around your screen.

You drag the ruler as an overlay over your screen and 'hold' it over any open window. It has a transparent colour making measuring different bits and pieces fast and precise. You can easily shorten or expand the ruler.

more tips and tricks for bloggers.

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News: How does it feel to be caught in cross fire...

This video was filmed by an amateur in East Congo (DRC), interviewing a Virunga National Park ranger. As the interview progresses, the cross fire between rebel and government troops comes nearer. You can almost feel the fear and panic from the people running past the camera.

The conflict in DRC is one of the most underreported civil wars, killing an estimated 45,000 people per month. Per month!
Fighting in eastern Congo has driven some 200,000 from their homes during the last eight weeks, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis. (Full)

Update: Regarding the actual video shoot: It was shot to show the plight of the wardens at the Virunga National Park. Things just got worse. Rebels took over Rumangabo's ranger station, in what seems a major offensive. The Virunga rangers have fled into the mountains. (Full)

More posts on The Road about DRC.

Video courtesy - The Virunga National Park website. Picked up from Humanitarian Relief, discovered on AidBlogs.

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News: One more aid worker killed in Afghanistan

Killed aid workers statistics

The killing of a British aid worker in Afghanistan has again highlighted the dangers posed to humanitarian staff in many parts of the world.

Aid work is about helping those less fortunate than yourself, but for hundreds of humanitarian workers in the world's most dangerous countries the threat of violence goes hand in hand with their chosen path.

The shooting of aid worker Gayle Williams, who had dual British and South African nationality, adds to a death toll that has reached almost 30 in Afghanistan alone during the past year, according to the UN. (Full)

More on The Road about aid workers and Afghanistan

Illustration courtesy BBC.

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News: US cities as bad off as those in Africa, Asia.

UN Habitat ReportGrowing social inequality in US cities could lead to widespread social unrest says a new United Nations report on the urban environment.

UN-Habitat's survey of 120 major cities found New York to be the ninth most "unequal" in the world. Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Miami were at the same level of Nairobi (Kenya) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast).

"Many were above an internationally recognised acceptable "alert" line used to warn governments of social unrest.

The life expectancy of African-Americans in the US is about the same as that of people living in China and some states of India, despite the fact that the US is far richer than the other two countries," the report said. (Full)

Picture courtesy UN-Habitat

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News: Wall Street investors retreating to Zimbabwe?


The title might be funny, but the reality is: the Zimbabwe benchmark Industrial Index soared 257 percent Tuesday, besting a one-day record of 241 percent set Monday, with share prices of some companies rising by up to 3,500 percent.

Reason? The stock market seems to be the only place Zimbabweans can get 'some' return from their cash, as - some experts say - the local economy runs at an inflation of 20 trillion percent. That is 20 t-r-i-l-l-i-o-n. (Full)

[Ed: So what is Wall Street complaining about? Opportunities! All Opportunities!]

More on The Road about inflation and the economy

Cartoon courtesy Inkcinct Cartoons

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News: US environment activists on terror list


Three US environmentalists working for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network recently found out they were listed as being “suspected of involvement in terrorism.”

In a recent letter sent to the activists the police went on to note they had “no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime,” so the listing and their possible tracking did not continue.

The question is of course, how come their civil obedience actions got them on the the suspected terrorist list on the first place. (Full)

Apparently the climate activists were part of 53 anti-war and anti-death penalty activists who were inappropriately listed as terrorists in a Maryland State Police database. The police files, created in 2005 and 2006, were part of a covert surveillance effort. Each "terror suspect" now received a letter indicating that he or she could review the entries before they are destroyed, "without cameras or lawyers present." (Full)

More on The Road about the environment.

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News: World record number of people stood up against poverty.


A worldrecord breaking 117 million people in 131 countries stood up last weekend as part of a United Nations-led campaign demanding world leaders to keep their promises to halve extreme poverty and achieve the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their target date of 2015.

Over 8,000 events were held around the globe, from Afghanistan and Burundi to Thailand and Uganda, as part of the “Stand Up and Take Action against Poverty” campaign held from 17 to 19 October.

The exact number of registered participants was 116,993,629 people. That’s almost 2% of the total world population! The break down:
* Africa: 24,496,151
* Middle East region: 17,847,870
* Asia: 73,151,847
* Europe: 951,788
* Latin America: 211,250
* North America: 123,920 (1)
* Oceania: 210,803 (1)

This event broke the Guinness World Record for the largest social mobilization on a single issue ever. (Full)

More posts on The Road about activism and poverty.

(1) Note: These figures were originally not included, but updated later.

Picture courtesy UN

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News: When was the last time a UN agency got a "Business Innovation Award"?

Food aid got betterThe 2008 ICIS Award for "Best Business Innovation" was given to a joint initiative of the Dutch company DSM and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Together, they developed "MixMe" powder sachets to provide people in developing countries with micronutrients that can be mixed with food at home.

The food enriching micronutrient powder "MixMe" will enable the World Food Programme, the UN's frontline agency for hunger solutions, to bring better food assistance to the hungry poor.

In addition to the almost one billion people who are hungry there are close to another billion of people in this world who seem not to suffer from hunger at first glance but are suffering from a deficiency in micronutrients (the so-called "hidden hunger"). These people appear to have enough to eat, but often eat mainly carbohydrate rich foods such as rice or maize which do not provide the essential vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) needed for good health and therefore they develop all kinds of diseases such as anemia and blindness.

The "MixMe" "home food fortification" is a novel approach to the enrichment of food with micronutrients.

This year alone, the "MixMe" sachets will reach over 250,000 people in Nepal, Kenya and Bangladesh. WFP and DSM plan to substantially increase the coverage area in the coming years to reach millions of people. (Full)

More posts on The Road about food aid and hunger.

Picture courtesy Christian Farnsworth (WFP)

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News: New case of fraud at the UN

UNA U.N. task force has uncovered five new cases of corruption, fraud and mismanagement involving $20 million in contracts.

The cases span air charter services in Congo, office supplies in Kenya, consulting jobs in Greece and payroll services at the New York headquarters. They are the latest cases in a three-year investigation into U.N. purchasing that has exposed more than $630 million in contracts tainted by fraud, corruption or mismanagement at the United Nations. (Full)

[Ed: whatever we can expose, should be exposed, and without reservations. Only that way, we will clean up the system!]

See also this post: Sometimes i am ashamed to work for the UN.

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Rumble: Sunset this evening

Sunset in Fregene

Just after work, took a walk along the beach to air my thoughts. Feet in the water, looking at the sunset.

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News: Vote for your CNN Hero

CNN Hero

Did you vote for your CNN hero yet? My favourites are Yohannes who sets up libraries for children in his native Ethiopia, and Viola organising girls' education in rural Senegal.

With thanks to Temmy for the tip.

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News: Economic crisis - beginning of global socialism?

An overview of the interventions governments have made to "rescue" banks up today:

Bank Date Status
Fannie Mae 07 Sep Nationalised
Freddie Mac 07 Sep Nationalised
Lehman Bros 15 Sep Collapsed
Merrill Lynch 15 Sep Taken over
AIG 16 Sep Part-nationalised
HBOS 17 Sep Taken over
WaMu 25 Sep Collapsed and sold
Fortis 28 Sep Nationalised
Bradford & Bingley 29 Sep Nationalised
Wachovia 29 Sep Taken over
Glitnir 29 Sep Nationalised
Hypo Real Estate 06 Oct Rescue package
RBS 13 Oct Part-nationalised
Lloyds TSB 13 Oct Part-nationalised

What is this? Beginning of global socialism? Of global anarchy?

Source: BBC

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Rumble: Sometimes I forget where I travelled to...

I travelled

I forgot on which site made this picture, based on the countries I have been to. Loads.. Although I did not exactly travel 47% of the world. In Russia, I was only in one small dot: St.Petersburg,..

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Rumble: Blog Action Day - The outcome.

Blog Action DayThe Road participated in Blog Action Day on Oct 15th.

Blog Action Day united 12,836 blogsites with the single purpose of raising the awareness about poverty.

During the event, the blog community reached 13.5 million people. Over 1,000 readers came from The Road. Change starts here!

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Rumble: The virtual march against global warming

stop global warming, join the virtual march hereGlaciers melting ten times faster than previously thought, atmospheric greenhouse gases reaching levels not seen for millions of years, and species are vanishing as a result of climate change. is a movement about change, as individuals, as a country, and as a global community.

Join the 1,167,642 supporters of the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, and become part of the movement to demand our leaders freeze and reduce carbon dioxide emissions now. We are all contributors to global warming and we all need to be part of the solution.

More on The Road about global warming, the environment and pollution

Discovered via Beading Stars and AidNews

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Rumble: Exciting news on The Road

We are nearing our 200,00th visitor on The Road to the Horizon. When I started this blog back in January last year (here is the first post) I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it worked out nicely... Thank you for your loyalty, and I hope you continue to be inspired by this blog. Drop some feedback in one of the comments, sign the guestbook and fill in the feedback polls I run.

To celebrate the upcoming 200,000th visitor, I have started two new parallel sites:
AidBlogs automatically aggregates new posts of the "aidblogs": blogs by aidworkers spread around the world you see listed in the right column under the heading "Need Inspiration? Other Blogs". Bookmark this site, to see the daily overview of what's happening in the lives of aidworkers, just like me: people who try to make a difference...

I also launched The Signs Along The Road which aggregates my quick clips. This is not a shared site, so it only contains my news clippings.

However, if you are interested in the humanitarian causes, and you want to contribute by sharing news articles on the topic, I encourage you to join International Aidworkers Today. The purpose this Newsvine group is explained in this post.

And of course, we still have The Other Worldnews, an automated humanitarian news aggregator, and The Road Daily which contains clips of any news I find interesting. Most news clips I comment on, on The Road, are there posted in full.

Well, I hope this keeps you inspired and informed.

PS: You like the new drop down menu navigation?

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Picks of the week: Vigilante Journalist and others

There are many treasures out there in the blogosphere and the Internet in general, which give a perspective on the humanitarian causes. I decided to start a new series on The Road, pulling treasures together in one short post. I will call them "Picks of the Week". Here we go.

Vigilante Journalist Anne Holmes reports on human rights and social issues in developing nations and conflict zones around the world.

Harry RudHarry Rud is an aidworker in Afghanistan. He features great pictures and excellent writing.

Humanitarian Relief blogged by Michael, an aid worker, lawyer, and consultant, as part of the initiative.

Louder than Swahili by long time blogger Pernille, who moved to Tanzania since a while. She has been one of my role models in blogging.

Pictures from the Ethiopia famine reminded me why I am doing the work I do.

The UnCultured Project shows how one young man decided to do his bit for a better world. Hat off to Shawn.

One Mango Tree uses a fair trade model to provide income generating opportunities for women in impoverished and conflict-ridden areas of the globe. Our first project is now underway in northern Uganda. (thanks Rebekah)

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Rumble: If you want to change the world, you have two days left.

Google's Project 10^100 ("Project 10 to the 100th") calls for ideas to change the world, in the hope of helping as many people as possible.

How? Fill out the submission form, outlining your idea. You can supplement your proposal with a 30-second video.

In January, Google will post a selection of one hundred ideas and ask the public to choose twenty semi-finalists. After that, an advisory board will select up to five final ideas.

Google committing $10 million to implement these projects, with the goal to help as many people as possible.

The submission can be on topics like community, environment, health, education, or anything else.

While I scan the Internet regularly for innovative ideas in the area of development and aid, this is the first time I came across Project 10^100 (found it thanks to WorldChanging). So I almost missed the occasion: the deadline for submission on Oct 20th, so if you want to change the world, you have two days left.

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Rumble: We have a pink team

Mats in pink

I do not share a lot of the actual work I do. "I work for a UN humanitarian agency and I am based in Rome...", this you already know. But for the rest, I am trying to keep a distance between my work and my blog.

One thing I want to share though. It is a cut and paste from my team's mission statement.

Our team's core Values:
  • Trust – we cultivate an environment of trust where we can safely challenge each other’s perspectives, use conflict as a source of creativity and make mistakes in the pursuit of learning.
  • Energy – we bring a positive energy to our work that inspires us to take initiative, work hard, get results and have fun.
  • Learning – we enjoy the challenge of continuously learning and creating.
  • Pink – we instill true human and humanitarian values which often challenge traditional norms

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Picture of the day: Famine in Ethiopia

famine in ethiopia

Ethiopian women left their village in search of food and water. Milk is used as a substitute for food, but animals that have not already perished produce only a fraction of what they would if healthy. (Full)

More Pictures of the day. Check also the posts on Ethiopia and hunger.

Picture courtesy Nick Danziger/Oxfam

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News: Who is hungry on the World Food Day?

The World Hungermap - Click to view

Tomorrow Oct 16 is the World Food Day, marking the "birthday" of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. FAO was the first agency created by the United Nations to address global hunger in 1945.

Did you know 25,000 people die every day from hunger and related causes? Not in 1945, but today!
Did you know 923 million people do not have enough to eat - more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union together?

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) continuously updates its World Hunger Map. On this interactive worldmap you can zoom into the hunger hotspots in the world, and find out the facts.

Did you know that out of the 69 million people in Ethiopia, there currently are 31.5 million (45%) undernourished?
Did you know 21% of Indians (221 million people!) are hungry?

Use The Global Hunger Index (GHI) from International Food Policy Research Institute to find out more.

Blog Action DayThis post is part of the Blog Action Day campaign inviting bloggers to publish posts about poverty today, October 15th.

More posts on The Road about poverty, development, hunger, WFP and foodaid.

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Rumble: The download speed of The Road. You spoke!


For the past two weeks, I have been tweaking the download speed of The Road to the Horizon.

I optimized, moved or deleted a lot of unnecessary widgets, and experimented with higher compression for the pictures.
For the bloggers amongst you, I wrote down my experiences in this post.

During the tuning I ran a small poll. 57 readers answered the question "How do you rate the download speed of The Road?"

Your answers were:
Fast: 13 (22%) - Good: 14 (24%) - OK: 14 (24%)
Rather slow: 12 (21%) - Too slow: 4 (7%)

So, 70% of you found the speed OK (or better), which is pretty good.

Thanks a LOT for the feedback during the work. I will try to keep the speed up!

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Rumble: Breaking the cycle of poverty: PumpAid - Water for Life

To break the cycle of poverty in Africa, access to clean water for drinking, water for irrigation, toilets with hygiene and nutritional education must be improved. Using simple but effective technology, PumpAid builds water pumps, called Elephant Pumps, that can be maintained by poor rural communities without any assistance.

Pumps are built in response to grassroots demand and in full consultation with the local community. The local community come together to assist in the building process, providing materials such as bricks, sand, stones and unskilled labour.

The Elephant Pump can also supply water for irrigating gardens where villagers can grow fruit and vegetables to improve their families' diet or even to sell to bring much needed cash into the household.

The Pump that has been developed by Pump Aid and is based on a 2,000 year old Chinese design. Pump Aid has adapted this design so that it is strong, long lasting and made from locally available materials.

The pump can lift water from as deep as 50m deep and produce one litre of water every second. Wells are usually dug by hand but teams may need help to blow out rocks and heavily impacted earth. Pump Aid never uses mechanical diggers because it would deprive someone a job and increase the total price of installing a pump. In addition some of the places we work in are so remote it would be impossible to bring in machinery.

The location of a well is determined by geological formations and vegetation growth but the final decision is made by one of the water diviners in the Pump Aid team.
As the Pump handle is turned, water is drawn up the pump by plastic washers attached to a rope. The Pumps are so easy to use that children as young as five years old can manage to pump out a bucket full of water.

The Pump is encased in concrete to prevent any contamination, ensuring that a clean sustainable supply of water is provided for the local community.

When a Pump is built, the beneficiaries will receive a training workshop so that they can maintain and repair the Pump using easy to find materials such as plant fibres and plastic. They will also receive hygiene education on practices and tips on using the overflow of water for agriculture. Often nutrition gardens are set up alongside the Elephant Pump.

An Elephant Pump cost £500 for materials and to install, which is cheaper than a metal piston pump and lasts for up to 50 years. 250 people can be provided with 40 liters of clean water from each Pump, everyday.

Pump Aid started in 1998 and has so far built over 4000 pumps. Currently around 80 Elephant Pumps are built each month, resulting in 20,000 people benefiting from access to clean water.

Blog Action DayThis blog entry is part of the Blog Action Day campaign inviting bloggers to publish posts about poverty today, October 15th.

Discovered the Elephant Pump via Afrigadget

More posts on The Road about poverty, development and water.

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Rumble: Reminder - tomorrow is Blog Action Day

Blog Action Day Reminder for all bloggers out there: tomorrow is Blog Action Day, an event uniting the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Their aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.

This year's theme is "poverty".

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Rumble: The river Nile, a darned good place to land a plane

Plane in the Nile

In The Road's Ebook short story "Italians, the Art of Flying and the Laws of Probability", I quoted an anecdote by a friend describing how a pilot once mistook the river Nile near Khartoum for the runway, and landed the plane onto, err.. INto the river.

Just by coincidence I came across pictures of this incident. According to, it happened on Sept 10 1982. The plane was a Sudan Air 707 purchased from Air Lingus (ST-AIM - cn 19410/599). The pilot mistook the moonlit river for the nearby runway.

Plane in the Nile

Soon after this accident, staff of Sudan Airways tried to remove the company's titles and logos but could not get any closer to the tail. While the plane rested on a sandbank on the river, locals stripped it bare within days after the accident.

Plane in the Nile

More posts on the road about flying, aircraft and airports.

Data and pictures courtesy, Chris Wells and Linze Folkeringa

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Rumble: "Saying Good-bye Sudan, Good-Bye Darfur"

Colleague and fellow blogger Worldman is retiring. In this must-read post, Peter is saying good-bye from Darfur and Sudan.

He writes: "I have been living and working here for 4 years. In a few days I will leave. It is very hard to go. But a big part of my heart will stay behind."

Why do I call it "a must-read" post? Because it shows the heart and the essence of an aid worker.

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Rumble: 30 things I do not understand about airport security

airport security

I am a frequent traveller. A very frequent traveller. With questions.

1. Why can I not go through security with a flask of aftershave, but can buy all the aftershave I want in the duty free? If duty free goods are screened in a different way, why can my check-in luggage not be screened in the same way?

2. How come I can not take any liquid on board, but I can put all the liquid I want in my check-in luggage? If check-in luggage is screened in a different way, how come carry-on can not be screened in the same way? How come I can not take a bottle of water on board, even though I could drink it to show how harmless it is?

3. How come I have to put things like a deodorant and toothpaste in a sealed zip-lock plastic bag, but no-one ever sees or asks to see the bag tucked in my carry-on?

4. If my Leatherman with a 1.5 inch blade does not get it through security, how come I buy dozens of things more dangerous at the duty free (ever seen what damage a broken bottle can do?).

5. How come some airlines serve meals with stainless steel knives and forks? Why does the restaurant in the waiting lounge serve meals with stainless steel knives and forks?

6. How come the metal strings on my guitar are not considered as dangerous goods? Ever seen what damage my thin "high E"-string can do when strapped around a person's neck?

7. How come a sharpened pencil is not considered a dangerous good? Ever seen the damage a pencil does when pushed through someone's nose?

8. How come my glasses are not considered a dangerous good? They showed how to use it as a weapon in The Godfather III, didn't they?

9. How come needles and syringes are not seen as dangerous goods? How come nobody ever checks what the liquid is in the ampules I carry on? How dangerous could the combination of syringes with liquid morphine ampules be? Or the combination of a lighter, syringe and a combustible fluid in an ampule?

10. How come airport security screening never catches the three metal bottles of compressed air of our self-inflating sailing life jackets when we check it in with our luggage, but there is no way in hell we would get it on board as carry-on?

11. How come security confiscated the horse-shoe my daughter wanted to carry-on?

12. How come some airports confiscate lighters and others don't? Why do some confiscate matches and others don't? Why do some only allow one single box of matches? Why do some confiscate Zippo-lighters and others don't? What is more dangerous: a single Zippo lighter or five throw-away plastic lighters with lighter fluid in them?

13. How come in some airports, I just show a piece of paper, allegedly representing a printout of my Internet check-in, and they let me into the departure hall, and through security without scanning the barcode to see if I did not fake the print-out?

14. How come I could get on a flight even though the boarding pass was not in my name?

15. How come no-one at the gate ever checks if my plastified ID card is real? How come I can board a flight even though the lady at the gate said "I have never seen an ID-card like this!".

16. As it has been proven some lithium-ion laptop batteries are a fire hazard, can explode generating heat up to 1000 degrees, how come they don't have to be removed from laptops? How come some airlines offer adapters to charge laptops inflight?

17. How come in some airports I need to go through a security screening when entering the airport, one when entering the departure area, and one just before entering the boarding area? Just to make sure?

18. How come I could walk from the arrivals hall, back into the luggage-belt area and nobody stopped me?

19. How come the lady at the check-in counter laughs when I answer the question "Did you pack your bags yourself", with "No, my wife did."

20. How come everyone lies when asked the question "Was the luggage with you at all times?", like it was never held in the hotel luggage room by the bellboy, never stowed in the trunk of the airport shuttle, or left alone in the hotel room.

21. How come I can pick up someone else's luggage from the belt, and walk out of the airport without being checked?

22. How come, with all the security cameras around, people have their handluggage stolen at the check-in counter?

23. How come I can put my two mobile phones in the tray next to the metal detector and pick them up at the other side without them being screened?

24. How come some airport metal detectors go bazurk when I forget to take off my watch, and others don't?

25. How come I always fear for my harddisk when I see the way the security staff handles the tray in which I put my computer? Why can I not complain without being arrested for contempt?

26. How come the shuttle bus from the departure gate to the plane can drop us off at the wrong plane?

27. How come, allegedly for security reasons, I can not board with a computer bag and a small trolley, but it is OK if I put the bag in the trolley? How come it is OK to have two carry-ons when flying business class then?

28. How come I can ask a friend to hold my excess carry-on out of sight of the check-in counter, deny having any carry-on when checking in, and pick up the carry-on again before going through security?

29. How come, allegedly for security reasons, I am only allowed one bag with certain maximum weight and dimensions as carry-on, but can buy 15 bags of duty free stuff?

30. How come airlines do not award passengers when they can prove the security staff did not check thoroughly? Why am I regarded as a moron when I show what I managed to get through security this time? Why am I regarded as a nuisance when I tell the security staff they are not paying attention when I walked through the metal detector?

31. How come nobody asks these questions aloud?

More posts on The Road about flying, airports and travel.

Cartoon courtesy U.S. News & World Report

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News: US elections - when stupidity takes over

I don't have words for this. As non-Americans, we stand by and can do nothing but sigh. And hope.

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News: After the global financial crisis comes the global humanitarian crisis?

Financial crisis causing a humanitarian crisis?

“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled,
public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.”

Cicero, 55 BC

What is the plural of "crisis"?

It seems like 2008 is becoming the year of global crisis. First we were faced with the worldwide food crisis, swiftly followed by, what now seems to be, a collapse of major financial institutions.

But it might not stop here. As FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, calculated the cost to deal with the current food crisis at US$30 billion per year, donors stepped up their financial support.

But that was before the current financial crisis. At this moment, the governments worldwide concentrate their financial resources in keeping their banks and financial institutions afloat:
  • The Belgian, French and Luxembourg governments put in US$9 billion to keep Dexia afloat. (Full)
  • Previously Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg put up US$16.1 billion to save the Fortis bank. (Full)
  • Britain is working on a US$87.7 billion bank recapitalization concentrating on Barclays, HSBC and the Bank of Scotland (Full)
  • Spain announced a US$40.9 billion fund to buy up bank assets and maintain liquidity (Full)
  • Sweden is given Iceland's biggest bank, Kaupthing, an emergency loan worth up US$702 million) to help keep it afloat. (Full)
  • Germany has thrown a US$50 billion lifeline to struggling lender Hypo Real Estate. (Full)
  • Italy is about to set up a rescue fund close to US$30 billion for the banking industry. (Full)
  • Canada gave a US$25 billion "backstop" for there banks. (Full)
  • Russia pledged to boost liquidity by more than US$100bn (Full), on top of a US$5.4 billion loan to Iceland (Full)
  • And of course we all know about the $700 billion monster US bailout (Full)
Apart from the fact that economists doubt the effectiveness of bailouts, we might be facing the early beginning from a real 1930's style recession. If the consumers' confidence in the banks is not restored, governments can bailout all they want, up to the level where they bankrupt themselves. Like in Iceland, where the country declared anything short of a national bankruptcy...

Any money left for international aid?

The end balance? During the food crisis, donor countries already stepped up their extra-budgetary funds to come to the rescue of aid organisations "on the occasion of the raising food prices", but now are faced with the massive cash drain bailing out their own financial institutions.

At the same time, poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which are already dealing with a surge in food and energy prices, are now finding it harder to sell goods abroad and encourage investment in their own economies. (Full)

The question now is: how much money will be left for international aid?

This week, amidst the financial turmoil, world leaders met to review the progress of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are intended to reduce extreme global poverty and, improve health and education.
It was stressed that development aid needed to increase by $18 billion each year towards fulfilling the goals. At the end of the event, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that an additional US$16 billion had been pledged by governments to meet the targets of the MDGs. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his address to the UN, went on to say that the financial crisis should not be an excuse to cut aid. (Full)

The "Humanitarian Doomsday scenario" - the first signs

Many of us, in the aid organisations, are not that optimistic as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

Journalist Andrew Stroehlein, the Director of Media and Information for the International Crisis Group, states it bluntly: "I might as well just pack up and go on holiday for a few months. With the global financial crisis continuing, no one wants to hear about violent conflict and mass atrocities around the world". (Full)

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, just wrapped up its annual refugee conference and it is concerned its needs may not be met because of the global financial crisis. (Full)

"The financial turmoil rippling across the globe will set back efforts to fight climate change, drying up capital that could help poorer countries upgrade to clean energy technology", said Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the U.N. climate secretariat, adding: "You can't pick an empty pocket". (Full)

Will the global financial crisis also cause a global humanitarian crisis? Time will tell, but it looks like it. As history showed, the poorest of the world always pick the shortest straw.

Update Oct 15: Aid agencies say world's poorest will be biggest victims of world's financial crisis

More posts on The Road about the food crisis, poverty, development, the UN and the economy.

Original picture courtesy Susan Manuel (WFP)

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