Need in the News, Vol. II, Issue 3

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

MALI — Fighting in Northern Mali, combined with the effects of last year’s drought (the third in seven years) is threatening the people of this embattled region. Around 340,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, compounding the hunger crisis in Mali and neighbouring countries.

MEXICO — A grisly new chapter in the Mexican drug war was written last week when seven bodies slumped in plastic chairs were found in the main plaza of Uruapan.

SYRIA — More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to find refuge in neighboring countries because of their country’s civil war. In Lebanon, some refugees have been forced to stay in prisons.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC — Operations in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) by the Ugandan army, aided by U.S. advisors, against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have been suspended due to the departure of Pres. Francois Bozize and the subsequent takeover of the C.A.R. by the Seleka rebel group. The LRA has long terrorized the region, and prompted the creation of the Invisible Children documentary.

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 recent protest about a new panhandling law by Durham, N.C., ministers received local media coverage on

DURHAM (N.C.) — Author, blogger and speaker Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is helping to lead a campaign to overturn a new city law that bans pandhandling. His blog posts (see here, here and here) about the campaign and his convictions regarding the injustice of the ordinance and its targeting of homeless people in Durham are worth a read.

IDLIB PROVINCE (Syria) — Somehow, despite two years of civil war, a public school for 500 children has managed to stay open.

WATERLOO (Iowa) — Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa held a public hearing on Wednesday in the unusual case of Rasberry Williams, a 66-year-old man who has served 38 years of a life-without-parole sentence. Among those asking the governor to commute Williams’s sentence are the Iowa Board of Parole, the judge who presided over his 1975 trial and the prosecutor who helped convict him. During his years in prison, Williams has mentored dozens of inmates, served as a model inmate and even intervened to save two guards during a hostage situation.

NIGERIA — Chinua Achebe, the acclaimed Nigerian writer who influenced the development of African literature and dealt with such issues as racism, colonialism and the African experience, died on March 21 in Boston.

KANSAS CITY (Mo.) — In a controversial move, a wounded Iraqi war veteran recently went public with his decision to allow himself to die.

TODAY SHOW — Amy Barber, a 26-year-old woman who had been deaf from birth, recently heard the voices of her family members for the first time after receiving a cochlear implant.

RIDGWAY (Colo.) — The tiny mountain town of Ridgway, Colo., recently came together to mourn the death of a 2-year-old resident, who was murdered during a family vacation in Mexico.

These stories are worth reflection:

BACKGROUND OF DEAD CHILD PHOTO — A Washington Post article highlighted the contextual difficulties of doing journalism in the midst of ambigious and stressful situations. Case in point: the dead Palestinian child pictured recently in his anguished father’s arms was apparently killed not by an Israeli attack, but by a Palestinian rocket.

WHAT CAUSES “GULF WAR ILLNESS”? — As many as one-third of the veterans of the First Gulf War reportedly suffer symptoms of a condition that has been dubbed “Gulf War illness.”

NEW YORK CITY’S SAFETY NET — Recent remarks by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg placed the issue of homelessness in the spotlight. At issue is whether New York City’s status as a regional, national and international center for culture and commerce obligates the city to provide emergency shelter to people who seek refuge there.

REPORT ON THE IRAQ WAR — According to a report from Brown University that is highlighted in the Christian Science Monitor, an estimated 134,000 civilians died of “direct war violence” during the second Iraq War that began in 2003.

MUST SEE — A new documentary about modern-day slavery, called Not Today, opens in theatres on April 12.

This month on

Coming up on

  • Commentary — “Shadows and Dust” for April.
  • Stories — “Need in the News” for April, 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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