Need in the News, Vol. II, Issue 10

At the end of every month, I summarize local, national and international “stories of need” from news sites, blogs, press releases and editorials. The following are some of October’s most need-in-the-news-worthy stories:

UNITED STATES — October began with a government shutdown and the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s online enrollment system. The shutdown ended mid-month after straining food assistancesocial services and medical treatment across the country. Online health care enrollment glitches are dominating news headlines, while high online traffic continues on insurance exchange sites.

SYRIA & its neighbors — The Syrian government acceded to international efforts to decommission its chemical weapons. Meanwhile, fighting between the government and opposition forces continues. Among those suffering as a result are the elderlyfamilies and ethnic and religious minorities.

MIGRATION TRAGEDIES — Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for a better future, according to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Some call world immigration a “win-win” situation for rich nations and poor people, alike. Yet migrants are often less than wanted and sometimes they find themselves in great danger. Several cases in point: a ship carrying African migrants to Europe capsized off the coast of Italy, killing more than 90 people; another 300 people drowned off Lampedusa on Oct. 3.

MADAGASCAR — Swarms of locusts and erratic weather have left 4 million people short of food.

At times, what gets lost in the concern and clamor over major local, national and international events and issues, is the ordinary person who is doing extraordinary things. Here are a few I’ve heard about recently:

A "cash-for-work" project in the Mukuru neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. (Linda Ogwell/Oxfam East Africa via Wikimedia Commons)
A "cash-for-work" project in the Mukuru neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. (Linda Ogwell/Oxfam East Africa via Wikimedia Commons)

NAIROBI (Kenya) — In an effort to improve safety, lower the risk of sexual assault and upgrade their standard of living, a small group of women from the Mukuru “slum” are suing for ownership of their community.

TIJUANA (Mexico)Antonia Brenner, an American nun who gave up her life in Beverly Hills to live in La Mesa State Penitentiary, a Tijuana, Mexico, prison, died earlier this month. She was 86.

ACROSS THE UNITED STATES — Here are 10 acts of kindness spurred by the recent government shutdown.

ARRONMORE (Ireland) — A 19th-century cauldron was recently found to be evidence of Quaker food and material assistance to starving people during the “Great Famine” in 1847.

GUATEMALA CITY (Guatemala) — Claudia Paz y Paz, the first female attorney general of her country is tackling violent crime and corruption.

GLEN HAVEN (Colo.) — Even as their town seemed to get lost in the midst of flood relief efforts on behalf of other, larger communities, neighbors in the tiny Colorado mountain hamlet of Glen Haven built their own foot bridge, dug mud out of each other’s houses and evacuated stranded neighbors.

ANGOLA — Despite being held in solitary confinement, Nito Alves, 17, is inspiring popular protests against the corruption of the current Angolan regime.

LONG BEACH (Calif.) & CAMBODIA — Tuy Sobil grew up in Long Beach, joined the Crips gang at 13, spent eight years in prison, and got deported to Cambodia where he didn’t speak the language. He hasn’t been able to return to the United States, where his son still lives, but he now teaches language, history and computer skills to disadvantaged youth in Cambodia.

NORTHERN UGANDA — Ocitti “David” Okesh escaped the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and returned to Northern Uganda, where he went to college. Now he is telling his tale as he travels through the U.S. with the non-profit advocacy group Invisible Children.

MIAMI (Fla.) — When Vicki Thomas, a Miami-Dade police officer, caught a young mother shoplifting, she paid for the young mom’s groceries instead of arresting her.

WILD AREAS WORLDWIDE — Every four days a wildlife ranger is killed in the line of duty.

ANN ARBOR (Mich.)This story revisits the day in 1996 when Keshia Thomas, a black woman, protected a Ku Klux Klansman from a violent mob.

BURUNDI & BRITAIN — Despite growing up in war-torn Burundi, Gael Bigirimana found his way to England and realized his dream of playing “football” in the English Premier League.

Stories worth reflection:

“BOARDING” A FAR TOO COMMON PRACTICE — People involuntarily detained for treatment of mental illness in Washington state often find themselves “boarded” —- that is, stuck waiting for days or months in chaotic hospital ERs or ill-equipped rooms.

REAL-LIFE GRISHAM PLOT? — This story about coal miner medical claims and the coal mining industry’s legal attempts to avoid paying legitimate claims sounds like it came right out of a John Grisham novel.

DRONE STRIKES CONTROVERSY — The United States is taking criticism for reports that there have been a higher number of civilian deaths from drone strikes than what the U.S. government will admit.

COCA RICHES FLOW UP — Many Peruvian growers of coca, a traditional plant used both as a mild stimulant and as a medicine to combat menstrual pains and altitude sickness, live in grinding poverty.

STRESS = DEMENTIA IN WOMEN? — Among the reasons for women to avoid excessive stress now appears to include an increased risk of dementia, according to recent research.

MORE ABUSE BY CHURCH LEADERS?Revelations of abuse by clergy and coverups by church leadership continued to mount this month, this time in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

IRAQI CASUALTIES OF WAR — According to a recent population-based analysis, about half a million Iraqis died during the recent eight-year Iraq War, many due to the nation’s war-ravaged infrastructure.

EMINENT DOMAIN, A WAY FOR CITIES TO SAVE HOMES? — In September, the city council of Richmond, Calif., voted to wrest the underwater mortgages of residents from the hands of Wall Street using eminent domain, the power of government to seize private property for public use.

SANDY AID RUNS DRY — Aid for people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy, which struck the east coast last year, is running out.

MUST SEE — “Sisters,” a documentary about five nuns serving their neighbors in different ways; “The Making of Malala,” about the back story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was recently nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; “Cardboard,” a film about panhandlers in Seattle.

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