Need in the News, Vol. I, Issue 12

I summarize local, national and international “stories of need” from news sites, blogs, press releases and editorials at the end of every month so readers of don’t have to! The following are some of December’s most need-in-the-news-worthy crises, people and issues:

THE PHILIPPINES — On Dec. 6, a typhoon struck the southern Philippines. The toll from the storm: more than 500 people killed and more than 300,000 left homeless.

Students protest violence against women in India on Dec. 22. (Nilanjana Roy via Wikimedia Commons)
Students protest violence against women in India on Dec. 22. (Nilanjana Roy via Wikimedia Commons)

SOUTH SUDAN — At least 13 people died after clashes between armed civilians and police in the South Sudanese town of Wau, continuing a rash of violence and retaliation in the region.

UNITED STATES — On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother with one of her own guns. Then he forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where he killed 20 children and six school employees, and then took his own life. For more on the coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy, click here or here.

SYRIA — The United States launched plans to give $1.5 billion ofhumanitarian aid to help the victims of Syria’s ongoing civil war, including Syrians and more than 100,000 Palestinians formerly staying at a large refugee camp in the capital of Damascus. More than 525,000 Syrians have already fled to neighboring countries, with 1 million expected to flee in the next six months.

HAITI: On Jan. 12, 2010, an earthquake struck this Caribbean nation killing more than 220,000 people, displacing millions of others and causing nearly $8 billion of damage, more than Haiti’s then-current annual GDP. Unfortunately, according to the Center for Global Development, little has since changed, despite more than $9 billion of public and private aid given for Haiti following the disaster.

ECUADOR: This South American country is at a crossroads as it weighs the tension between economic interests centered around the extraction of oil reserves and the conservation of still-wild regions of the Amazon.

At times, what gets lost in the concern and clamor over major local, national and international events and issues, are ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things. Here are a few of them:

BLUFFTON (S.C.): An act of kindness by one café patron has inspired many more, and garnered publicity worldwide.

KATHMANDU, (Nepal) — Pushpa Basnet won the CNN Hero of the Year award for 2012, eight years after beginning to provide shelter, education and love for the children of prison inmates in the Nepalese capital.

THE INTERNET — In 2007, while Gretchen Witt’s son Liam was battling cancer, she enlisted the help of friends and colleagues to conduct an online bake sale. She and 250 volunteers sold 96,000 cookies in three weeks and raised $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. Although Liam lost his fight against cancer in 2011 at the age of six, Gretchen and her husband, Larry, continue Liam’s fight through the non-profit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

DENVER (Colorado) — Noteworthy news from the Denver and Boulder areas includes: a Westminster group that adopted a familyin need, a Boulder organization that works with immigrants, and two Sudanese brothers who found refuge in Denver.

NEWTOWN (Connecticut) — The terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has inspired a “26 Acts of Kindness” campaign.

TORONTO (Ontario) — An ad hoc choir in Canada became a unique kind of community.

These stories are worth reflection:

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN — Several recent stories from different parts of the world address the issue violence against women. They include the gang rape on a public New Dehli bus and subsequent death of a female medical student in India, the plight of some girls in Kenya and mob violence against women in Egypt.

LIVING LONGER — A recent report from The Lancet found that life expectancy worldwide has risen over the last 20 years.

RECORD DEPORTATIONS — The United States deported a record 400,000 illegal immigrants during fiscal year 2012.

RUSSIA BANS ADOPTIONS BY AMERICANS — Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a law banning adoptions of Russian children by prospective parents from the United States, leaving 46 American families in limbo, according to CNN.

SHOOTINGS IN AMERICA — Among the most chilling reflections on the Newtown tragedy is from Zhihong Yang, the mother of a Sandy Hook Elementary student. (Her son was not injured during the shooting.) She studied math and statistics at a university in China. Before the shooting she thought she was safe from shootings like the one in Newtown, because the probability of one happening to her was so miniscule. Since the shooting, she looks at the possibility of being involved in a public shooting in light of what she called “the large number certainty theorem.” Here is how she interpreted the theorem during an interview on NPR: “We know that many people have guns, and we know that a certain number of people have disordered minds or bad intentions, and we also know that this is a huge country. In other words, the base is big. So, you know, mathematically, something somewhere will happen with certainty.”

PROFITING FROM A CHILD’S ILLITERACY? — A recent column on child illiteracy and the receipt of benefits in America, and specifically in Appalachia, by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, has generated a variety of critical responses. Among them are this one and this one.

The stories and commentary published this month on include:

  • Shadows & dust / December” — A review of some of the books I’ve read recently.
  • Light questions” — Reflects on my family’s recent drive to view Christmas decorations in our area.
  • Last Call for Coats” — A take on the final day for Denver-area non-profits to gather free coats for their clients.

Coming up on

  • Commentary — “Shadows and Dust” for January.
  • Stories — “Need in the News” for January, and a look at economic poverty in the midst of one of the world’s richest communities.

What do you think is the most important or newsworthy “story of need” from December 2012? From 2012 as a whole?

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