Need in the News, Vol. II, Issue 1

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 January’s most need-in-the-news-worthy crises, people and issues:

BRAZIL — Casualties from a fire in a Santa Maria nightclub last weekend have now risen to 235 killed and 143 injured. The owner of the club blamed the whole country of Brazil for the fire.

UNITED STATES — The “Gang of 8,” a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, recently announced a set of proposals aimed at immigration reform. For a taste of the current complexity of the legal immigration system in the United States, take a look at this chart. According to the Pew Research Center, net migration to the United States from Mexico has recently fallen to zero.

This photo of Nile crocodiles was taken at the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm near Stellenbosch, South Africa. (Dewet via Wikimedia Commons)
This photo of Nile crocodiles was taken at the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm near Stellenbosch, South Africa. (Dewet via Wikimedia Commons)

SYRIA — The bodies of dozens of young men were found in Aleppo, and a British-based group reported the death of 106 others in an impoverished district of Homs, as the Syrian civil war continued. Meanwhile, Syrian refugees in neighboring countries are facing harsh winter conditions.

INDONESIA — This month, at least 20 people died and 46,000 people have lost their homes due to flooding. Refugees began returning to their damaged homes and businesses even as Jakarta braced for more rain.

MALI — French troops arrived in Mali this month to help stabilize the country and stop the advance of Islamic militants on government-controlled areas. Read the Guardian’s primer on the Mali situation.

EGYPT — There may be some signs of hope and de-escalation in the volatile situation in Egypt, where protests against the current government have led to clashes between police and protesters. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted two years ago this month.

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:

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Haiti): An American family who lost a loved one in the devastating Haitian earthquake three years ago, hasestablished an orphanage in her memory in the coastal town of Grand Goave.

MOGADISHU (Somalia): Somali women are among those returning to help rebuild their homeland.

BOULDER (Colo.)— Business students at the University of Colorado at Boulder and local tax experts are offering free tax preparation today for low-income families.

LIMPOPO PROVINCE (South Africa): Police put out a call for civilian volunteers to help round up 15,000 crocodiles that escaped from a crocodile farm located along a river on the South Africa-Botswana border. Thousands of crocs are presumably still on the loose.

COSTA RICA — Researchers are pioneering aquatic agriculture in freshwater lakes to solve the problem of scarcity of water.

These stories are worth reflection:

THE CHRISTIANITIES OF VALJEAN AND JAVERT — The acclaim for the latest movie version of Les Misérables has led some to point to the different “Christianities” represented by the musical’s two main characters. Like its predecessors, this movies is based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel of the same name.

VIOLENCE A DISEASE? — Reports about violence of different kinds dominate news coverage. For example, the Huffington Post recently reported the violent weekend deaths of nine people in Chicago and Reuters covered the deaths of nine people in sectarian violence in Nigeria. Digging a little deeper, a Wired Science story tackles the question of the nature of violence and violence prevention, and an NPR interview examines whether or not better mental health care would reduce gun violence.

SEA CHANGE — Islands off the coast of India and Bangladesh are being threatened by rising sea levels.

IN THE WAKE OF THE DRUG TRADE — Illegal drug use in Mexico has risen dramatically in the last decade, even though most drugs shipped through Mexico are meant for consumers in the United States.

STILL AN EDUCATION GAP — A series of pieces on Colorado Public Radio examined the reasons for the apparent achievement gap between white and minority students in area schools. Among the reasons cited for the gap include economic status and re-segregation. In a related story from Webster County, Mo., a growing number of school kids from the small towns of Rogersville and Fordland are registering to take home backpacks full of food for weekends. The backpack program is based on financial need.

KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD — A shout out to local newspapers as a good source of information on what is happening in our own backyards.

The stories and commentary published this month on include:

Coming up on

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

What do you think is this month’s most important or newsworthy “story of need”?

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