Need in the News, Vol. II, Issue 2

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

SYRIA — The government of President Bashar al-Assad is showing an increased willingness to talk with the Syrian opposition in order to end the nation’s 23-month-old civil war. A recent story summarized the conflict’s casualties: 70,000 people dead, 2 million people displaced within Syria and almost 925,000 people refugees outside of Syria. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today promised expanded aid to the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, displaced Syrians face continued hardship, and the United Nations has identified millions of needy people inside Syria who are currently out of reach.

MEXICO — The ongoing conflict between drug cartels and Mexican security forces has led to another major crisis–up to 25,000 people have disappeared and been unaccounted for in Mexico. (My 2011 serialportrays a facet of this crisis.) The influence of the conflict extends far north of the U.S.-Mexico border, as another recent story showed: in Chicago, a Mexican cartel leader has been declared “Public Enemy No. 1.”

MALI — Fighting has disrupted schooling for 700,000 school children and more than 400,000 people have fled from their homes to escape fighting in Mali.

HAITI — As attempts continue to recover from the earthquake that devastated this Caribbean nation in 2010, some people are asking what happened to the aid money meant help Haiti rebuild?

UNITED STATES — Without last-minute action by Congress, $1.2 trillion worth of federal budget cuts will take effect tomorrow. Here’s how the cuts could impact education, social programs and more in all 50 states.

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:

A Syrian refugee camp on the Turkish border for displaced people of the Syrian civil war. Taken last September. (Henry Ridgewell of Voice of America via Wikimedia Commons)
A Syrian refugee camp on the Turkish border for displaced people of the Syrian civil war. Taken last September. (Henry Ridgewell of Voice of America via Wikimedia Commons)

BROOMFIELD (Colo.) — Broomfield’s largest food pantry serves 350 families per week and was featured recently on local network TV. (Full disclosure: The pantry is run by a friend of mine.)

TEHRAN (Iran) — The Oscar-winning movie Argo is based on the little-known rescue of six U.S. embassy employees from Iran through the Canadian embassy and the auspices of a fake film project. Listen to the real story as told by Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran at the time.

TWIN CITIES (Minn.) — Bhutanese refugees living in Minnesota participated in an oral history project.

ISRAEL & IRAN: Ordinary Israelis and Iranians who had never met recently participated in a viral campaign to express their lack of hostility toward each other.

BOLIVIA — An innovative woman is using recycled plastic bottles and sand as a brick alternative for house construction in this South American nation.

KANSAS CITY (Mo.) — Residents of the Waldo neighborhood used their snow shovels to free a stuck ambulance on Tuesday. The ambulance was responding to a medical emergency of a Waldo neighbor when it got stuck in the snow. Paramedics had to run on foot to the home of the patient, while neighbors who were out shoveling their own walkways worked to free the vehicle.

RUI’AN (Zhejiang Province, China) — In protest against water pollution by factories and a lax government response, a Chinese businessman is offering local officials the equivalent of $32,000 to swim in a polluted local waterway.

SAFED (Israel) — Ziv Medical Center in northern Israel regularly treats the wounded from different sides of area conflicts, including Syrians fleeing their embattled nation.

BUKAVU (Democratic Republic of Congo) — Physician Denis Mukwege has been treating rape victims from his nation’s civil war for more than a decade. In 2008, he received the U.N. Human Rights Prize for his work.

DETROIT (Mich.) — A new community garden has been helping bring life back to the blighted Brightmoor neighborhood.

CARMEL VALLEY (Calif.) — A local pediatric ophthalmologist is helping raise money for a non-profit that provides reconstructive surgery and other healthcare services for kids in need.

These stories are worth reflection:

LEARNING FROM FAILURE — Learning from failure is a seldom practiced, but valuable tool as one aid and development-related opinion piece recently noted.

CASUALTIES OF WAR — Unfortunately, the use of drones in the worldwide war on terror has led toinnocent loss of life. In related news, a recent NPR interview with the author of the new book The Outposthighlighted a U.S. outpost in Afghanistan and the highs and lows of those stationed there. Fifty-four countries have participated in a CIA program to transport prisoners for torture in the war on terror, and efforts by the CIA have had the unintended side effect of harming efforts to eliminate polio in developing nations.

BITTER PILL — Why does health care cost so much in United States? Time Magazine took an in-depth look at that very question, while an ABC News featured families forced into bankruptcy because of bills associated with their mentally ill children.

ACTUAL DEATH EXPERIENCES — Intriguing research is currently being done on the science of resuscitation, in particular with patients who have experienced cardiac arrest and have been “officially” dead.

FEMALE VETERANS HOMELESS — According to the New York Times, the fastest-growing segmentof America’s homeless population are female military veterans.

MUST SEE — A new documentary about hunger in America, called A Place At The Table, opens tomorrow, and features a small town in the Western Slope of Colorado. Other films of note include: The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken CamerasOpen Heart and Girl Rising.

This month on

Coming up on

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

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

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