Archive | December, 2008

The Girl Effect

30 Dec

Several months ago I saw this great You Tube clip that addresses Millennium Develpoment Goal 3 of promoting gender equality and empowering women. 

As the Interface Foundation looks to help high impact foundations eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2009 and in all levels of education no later than 2015 this video shows the powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.

Time to Reboot America

27 Dec

I never tire of the words of New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman!  If you didn’t get to read his great Op-Ed piece take the time!!  Here’s to “rebooting America”!!!!!


“I had a bad day last Friday, but it was an all-too-typical day for America.

It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone. A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train — with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.

The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.

All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us? What has become of our infrastructure, which is so crucial to productivity? Back home, I was greeted by the news that General Motors was being bailed out — that’s the G.M. that Fortune magazine just noted “lost more than $72 billion in the past four years, and yet you can count on one hand the number of executives who have been reassigned or lost their job.”

My fellow Americans, we can’t continue in this mode of “Dumb as we wanna be.” We’ve indulged ourselves for too long with tax cuts that we can’t afford, bailouts of auto companies that have become giant wealth-destruction machines, energy prices that do not encourage investment in 21st-century renewable power systems or efficient cars, public schools with no national standards to prevent illiterates from graduating and immigration policies that have our colleges educating the world’s best scientists and engineers and then, when these foreigners graduate, instead of stapling green cards to their diplomas, we order them to go home and start companies to compete against ours.

To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions.

For all these reasons, our present crisis is not just a financial meltdown crying out for a cash injection. We are in much deeper trouble. In fact, we as a country have become General Motors — as a result of our national drift. Look in the mirror: G.M. is us.

That’s why we don’t just need a bailout. We need a reboot. We need a build out. We need a buildup. We need a national makeover. That is why the next few months are among the most important in U.S. history. Because of the financial crisis, Barack Obama has the bipartisan support to spend $1 trillion in stimulus. But we must make certain that every bailout dollar, which we’re borrowing from our kids’ future, is spent wisely.

It has to go into training teachers, educating scientists and engineers, paying for research and building the most productivity-enhancing infrastructure — without building white elephants. Generally, I’d like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets. If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us.

America still has the right stuff to thrive. We still have the most creative, diverse, innovative culture and open society — in a world where the ability to imagine and generate new ideas with speed and to implement them through global collaboration is the most important competitive advantage. China may have great airports, but last week it went back to censoring The New York Times and other Western news sites. Censorship restricts your people’s imaginations. That’s really, really dumb. And that’s why for all our missteps, the 21st century is still up for grabs.

John Kennedy led us on a journey to discover the moon. Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard. “

Compassion During the Holidays

26 Dec

 “I hope that this Holiday Season we can show grace to those less fortunate, just as God showed it to us.  By serving those in need and through other acts of love and compassion, we can honor God’s goodness and affirm the immeasurable value God places on the sanctity of life. 

We send our best wishes for a very Merry Christmas.  May you be surrounded by loved ones and blessed by the Author of Life during this joyous holiday and throughout 2009!!”

A Lazerson Family Christmas

A Lazerson Family Christmas

NextAid : Making A Difference in the lives of African children

18 Dec

On my recent trip to Africa I had the chance to visit my friend Lauren Segal’s Foundation project in Dennilton, South Africa.  This earth friendly sustainable village  serves as a beacon of hope in a community that has been devastated by AIDS. The village is place where resources are concentrated, where aid is efficiently distributed, where environmental education is emphasized, and where  youth reach their individual and collective potential.

NextAid is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization committed to developing and implementing innovative solutions to the challenges facing African children.

NextAid’s mission is to promote community-driven, environmentally sustainable, economically and socially empowering responses to the AIDS orphan pandemic.

NextAid collaborates with individuals, businesses and nonprofits to produce creative, culturally-rich, awareness-raising projects and music events involving technology, the arts, public education projects,and volunteer opportunities.

If you are ever looking for a project to get involved with I can guarantee your experience with Next Aid will be life changing!!  Call Lauren & let’s keep making the world a better place!!

Lunch with 200 children in Dennilton, South Africa

Lunch with 200 children in Dennilton, South Africa

Justice in Rwanda

18 Dec

Last summer I fell in  love with the country of Rwanda.  The people, the food, the beautiful landscapes.  I specifically remember looking into the sky & seeing cloud formations I had never seen before — those clouds brought a strange sense of peace to me  yet I felt the bloodstained ground on which I stood  screaming from one of the worst atrocities committed by mankind: the 100-day genocide of 1994 .

Today the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda brought some justice to the people of Rwanda & the world  through the conviction of the genocide mastermind.  Some 14 years later we are seeing that justice can & should prevail.

Trio found guilty of Rwandan genocide

(CNN) — The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Thursday convicted the “mastermind” of the Rwandan genocide and sentenced him to life in prison for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Theoneste Bagosora, right, and his co-defendant Anatole Nsengiyumva, left, arrive in court.

Theoneste Bagosora, right, and his co-defendant Anatole Nsengiyumva, left, arrive in court.

It is the first time the tribunal has convicted high-level officials for the 100-day genocide in 1994 which left an estimated 800,000 people dead.

Theoneste Bagosora, 67, a colonel in the Rwandan army, was found guilty along with two other men — Major Aloys Ntabakuze and Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. All were sentenced to life in prison.

The tribunal — located in Arusha, Tanzania — acquitted General Gratien Kabiligi, the former head of military operations, and ordered his immediate release.

CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour — who covered the story — called the verdicts “a real turning point and a milestone in justice.”

“It sends a message that right up the chain of command, you cannot hide,” Amanpour said.

The court said Bagosora was a key figure in drawing up plans for the genocide.  A Hutu, Bagosora was convicted of ordering Hutu militia to slaughter rival Tutsis.

The massacres began after a plane crash on April 6, 1994 that killed the presidents of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi. The court said the plane was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired from the airport in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

Bagosora decided the military should take over and he refused to involve the prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, in any discussions, the court found.

April 7, while Bagosora held a crisis meeting with top military officials, the prime minister was arrested, sexually assaulted and killed by top members of the Rwandan Army, the court found.

That made Bagosora the head of all political and military affairs in Rwanda, and in that capacity, he was at the top of the chain of command.

The same day the prime minister was killed, the court said, army personnel confined and killed four important opposition leaders — including the president of the constitutional court and government ministers — and murdered 10 Belgian peacekeepers who had been dispatched to the prime minister’s residence.

The court found Bagosora bore responsibility for those and other killings because he commanded those who carried out the crimes.

“Bagosora was the highest authority in the Ministry of Defense and exercised effective control of the Rwandan army and gendarmerie,” said Presiding Judge Erik Mose. “He’s therefore responsible for the murder of the prime minister, the four opposition politicians, the 10 Belgian peacekeepers, as well as the extensive military involvement in the killing of civilians during this period.”

ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow said the convicted men “prepared, planned, ordered, directed, incited, encouraged and approved the murder of innocent civilian Tutsis.”

The killings were carried out by military personnel on the orders of Rwandan authorities including Bagosora, the court said.

The court found that from April to July 1994, Bagosora exercised authority over members of the Rwandan Army and their militiamen, who committed massacres throughout Rwanda with Bagosora’s knowledge.

“In all the regions of the country, members of the Tutsi population who were fleeing from the massacres on their hills sought refuge in locations they thought would be safe, often on the recommendation of the local civil and military authorities,” the indictment said. “In many of these places, despite the promise that they would be protected by the local civil and military authorities, the refugees were attacked, abducted and massacred, often on the orders or with the complicity of those same authorities.”

The indictment against Bagosora alleged he had been opposed to concessions made by his government to Tutsi rebels at 1993 peace talks in Tanzania, and had left the negotiations saying he was returning to Rwanda to “prepare the apocalypse.”

The U.N. established the tribunal in late 1994. The trial began in April 2002 and has been deliberating since June 1, 2007.

During the trial, the court heard 242 witnesses — 82 for the prosecution and 160 for the defense.

The three convicted men will be held in the tribunal’s custody until a state can be found to house them.

The genocide’s impact is still be felt today, with recent fighting in neighbouring Congo blamed on lingering tensions from the slaughter.

Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda says his forces are fighting to defend Congolese Tutsis from Hutu militants who escaped to Congo.

Classic Holiday Stories

15 Dec

LEANNE ITALIE did a great job in sharing how classic holiday stories can inspire during these hard times!   Here article can be found below.

We took our annual family Christmas picture today.  Our thanks to Claire who always pulls the magic out in those very stressful moments.  There is no better place to feel the spirit of Christmas  than here in the snow filled mountains of Utah.

Happy Holidays!

A Sundance Utah Christmas

A Sundance Utah Christmas

Hard times have you down this holiday season? Take a trip to the library for some inspiration from treasured stories of Christmas past.

The mortgage meltdown, job squeeze and clash between rich and poor evoke long-popular holiday tales with ghostly clarity, offering messages of hope, faith and togetherness during an intensely uncertain year, says William J. Palmer, an English professor and Charles Dickens expert at Purdue University.

“The real reason that readers have always returned to `A Christmas Carol’ year after year since the 1840s is that it provides a way of reinvigorating the spirit of Christmas that everyone wants to feel during this season, no matter how hard the times or how bleak the economic outlook,” he said.

Dusty old stories mingled with more contemporary fare can touch all generations with the promise of better days ahead, says Brandon Mendelson, 25, a graduate student in history at the University of Albany in New York.

“This is how we as Americans feel in light of the recession,” he said. “For my generation at least, Gen Y, we have never in our lives encountered a situation like this. We have a belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that this situation will end soon and improve for everyone. It may be childlike innocence, but we know it to be true.”

A sampler of Christmas tales through the ages:

_ “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, 1843.

The Tale: Ebenezer Scrooge is so consumed by greed and downright meanness that he’s visited by three spirits looking to rehabilitate him at Christmas in Victorian London. They lead him on a back-and-forth journey through his past, present and future. He gets a fly-on-the-wall look at how the Cratchit family really feels about him before he emerges kinder, gentler and joyfully tossing money around.

Lesson: It’s never too late to make amends and let charity into your heart.

Notes: The story was hugely popular when released for Christmas, with an unblinking look at social injustice and gaping class disparity. By some accounts, young Dickens wrote it to pay off a debt, but high production costs cut into his profit.

_ “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” unsigned editorial in The Sun of New York, 1897.

The Tale: 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon begs for some Santa Claus truth. She follows her papa’s advice to consult The Sun, not wanting to believe her “little friends” that St. Nick is a fraud. The newspaper’s response in part: “Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Lesson: A little faith in the unseen can go a long way.

Notes: Written by a Sun staffer who covered the Civil War, Francis P. Church, this bit of holiday history has been reprinted in dozens of languages. The real Virginia was the daughter of a coroner’s assistant who grew up to be a school teacher. She died in 1971 at 82.

_ “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry, 1906.

The Tale: Jim and Della Young are in love, but they’ve hit hard times and can barely pay their $8-a-week rent. For Christmas, she sells her prized knee-length hair to buy him a fob chain for his cherished gold pocket watch, but he sells the watch to surprise her with two fancy hair combs. Then it’s time for pork chops.

Lesson: The greatest love may require painful sacrifice.

Notes: This short story inspired an episode of “The Simpsons,” a place in Steve Martin’s “Cruel Shoes” and a song from the band Squirrel Nut Zippers that goes like this: “Though we’ve pawned away our only pleasures. These gifts we give are not in vain.”

_ “It’s a Wonderful Life,” directed by Frank Capra, 1946.

The Tale: Beset by bad luck, a bank run and shattered dreams, George Bailey (James Stewart) is about to jump off a bridge on Christmas Eve shortly after World War II. But a guardian angel in training, Clarence, grants George’s wish that he had never been born. He reveals George’s accomplishments and earns himself some wings to-boot.

Lesson: A person’s real worth can be measured in family, friends and selfless service.

Notes: Based on “The Greatest Gift,” a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, the movie is among the most popular of all time. But it was a box office bust and fizzled at the Oscars. Some considered it communist propaganda with its indictment of the monied class and the spread-the-wealth zeal of the Building & Loan.

_ “A Christmas Memory,” by Truman Capote, 1956.

The Tale: “It’s fruitcake weather!” 7-year-old Buddy’s childlike, 60-something cousin declares after he was dumped on relatives in the rural South of the 1930s. Poor and inseparable, Buddy and Sook bake for the famous and the unsung, trek into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree and fashion kites for each other as gifts. Adult Buddy describes his grief years later over Sook’s death — “a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string.”

Lesson: Friendship can offer hope and joy amid bruising poverty and social isolation.

Notes: The semi-autobiographical short story was first published in Mademoiselle. A young Capote wrote it before “In Cold Blood” propelled him to socialite status. A teleplay in 1966 starred Geraldine Page as Sook. In 1997, Patty Duke had the role in a Hallmark TV special.

_ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” by Dr. Seuss, 1957.

The Tale: A furry grouch of a creature lives north of Whoville and makes his way down Mount Crumpit to end infernal Christmas. He steals the gifts and trimmings of the kind and gentle Whos. But it doesn’t work. Christmas arrives despite his plundering. The Grinch’s heart “two sizes too small” grows large after he meets sweet-faced little Cindy-Lou and hears the Whos singing. He returns the loot and makes new friends.

Lesson: Being together on a special day is more important than how you celebrate it.

Notes: Chuck Jones made an animated TV special in 1966 and turned the Grinch green. Jim Carrey took it live-action in 2000. Seuss has the Grinch conclude: “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

_ “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1965, TV special based on the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz.

The Tale: Reliably depressed Charlie Brown complains about the commercial corruption of Christmas as he tries to organize a Nativity play. He gets a tongue-lashing from Lucy and the gang over the puny tree he chooses as a stage set. Inspired by a reading from Linus from the Gospel of Luke heralding the birth of Christ and urging peace on Earth, the other kids learn to love the little tree as much as Charlie Brown does.

Lesson: Have the courage to stand up for those in need.

Notes: Linus says it best as he props up the overburdened tree with his precious blanket: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”

Contagious Happiness

5 Dec

The holiday season always seems to bring the best out in people;  when I was reading the New York Times this morning it made me smile even more to see the research studies of Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis of the Harvard Medical School showing just how contagious happiness is! 

Today, let us be a little kinder and recognize the profound influence we have on each and every single person we come into contact with during the day–especially our family & closest friends 3 degrees removed. 

My Daughters, A Source of My Happiness

My Daughters, A Source of My Happiness

The New York Times 


Published: December 4, 2008

How happy you are may depend on how happy your friends’ friends’ friends are, even if you don’t know them at all.

And a cheery next-door neighbor has more effect on your happiness than your spouse’s mood.

So says a new study that followed a large group of people for 20 years — happiness is more contagious than previously thought.

“Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don’t even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you,” said Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and social scientist at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study, to be published Friday in BMJ, a British journal. “There’s kind of an emotional quiet riot that occurs and takes on a life of its own, that people themselves may be unaware of. Emotions have a collective existence — they are not just an individual phenomenon.”

In fact, said his co-author, James H. Fowler, an associate professor of political science at University of California, San Diego, their research found that “if your friend’s friend’s friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket.”

Feeling the Effects of Genocide

3 Dec

It was my summer 2007 trip to Nyamata, Rwanda that brought me face to face with the effects of genocide. 

Our Rwandan guide led us to the grave site of some 42,000 people who had been slaughtered only years before.  My mind could not comprehend such evil acts let alone absorb the fact that I was standing IN a grave surrounded by the skulls & bones of thousands who paid an ultimate price for what? 

Lt.Gen. Romeo Dallaire puts it best, “Rwanda–“It’s a story of betrayal, failure, naivete, indifference, hatred, genocide, war, inhumanity and evil. In just one hundred days over 800,000 innocent Rwanda men, women, and children were brutally murdered while the developed world, impassive and apparently unperturbed, sat back and watched the unfolding apocalypse or simply changed channels. Almost fifty years to the day my that father and father-in-law helped to liberate Europe–when the extermination camps were uncovered and when, one voice, humanity said, ‘Never again’–we once again sat back and permitted this unspeakable horror to occur. We could not find the political will nor the resources to stop it. Since then, much has been written, discussed, debated, argued and filmed on the subject of Rwanda, yet it is my feeling that this recent catastrophe is being forgotten and its lessons submerged in ignorance and apathy. The genocide in Rwanda was a failure of humanity that could easily happen again.”

The Grave of  42,000 in Nyamata, Rwanda

The Grave of 42,000 in Nyamata, Rwanda

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour will be presenting a two hour special called, Scream Bloody Murder tomorrow, December 4 at 9pm EST.

(CNN) — They share a deep sorrow: an idealistic American who tried to protect the Kurds of Iraq, a Canadian general who refused to follow orders in Rwanda, a French priest who fought for the soul of Cambodia.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for "Scream Bloody Murder."

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for “Scream Bloody Murder.”

Each one tried to focus the world’s attention on the world’s most heinous crime: genocide. Each time, they were shunned, ignored or told it was someone else’s problem.

To understand why, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for a two-hour documentary, “Scream Bloody Murder.”

Having reported on mass atrocities around the world, this time Amanpour traced the personal accounts of those who tried to stop the slaughter.

The yearlong CNN investigation found that instead of using a U.N. treaty outlawing genocide as a springboard to action, political leaders have invoked reason after reason to make intervention seem unnecessary, pointless and even counter-productive.

December marks the 60th anniversary of the U.N.’s Genocide Convention, when — in the aftermath of the Holocaust — the nations of the world pledged to prevent and punish future attempts to eliminate ethnic, religious and national groups.

“The Genocide Convention should have stopped genocide, but it didn’t,” said Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Intervention is a daunting challenge, he believes, because of a tendency to minimize accounts from refugees and victims. “It’s better not to believe, because if you believe, you don’t sleep nights. And how can you eat? How can you drink a glass of wine when you know?

1970s: Cambodia

Father François Ponchaud was a Catholic missionary in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge guerillas — communist revolutionaries — seized power in 1975. They expelled all foreigners from the country.

But working from France, Ponchaud gathered refugee accounts and monitored radio broadcasts to document the slave labor, torture and executions the Khmer Rouge were using to kill one-fourth of Cambodia’s population.

He published his findings in a major French newspaper and wrote a book, “Year Zero.” But even so, Ponchaud tells Amanpour, “No one believed us.”

1980s: Iraq

CNN found that intervention is often weighed against political and economic costs.

Declassified U.S. government documents show that while Saddam Hussein was gassing Iraqi Kurds, the U.S. opposed punishing Iraq with a trade embargo because it was cultivating Iraq as an ally against Iran and as a market for U.S. farm exports.

According to Peter Galbraith, then an idealistic Senate staffer determined to stop Hussein from committing genocide, the Reagan administration “got carried away with their own propaganda. They began to believe that Saddam Hussein could be a reliable partner.”

1990s: Bosnia

Even extensive news coverage may not lead to intervention.

During the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the media reported on the Bosnian Serbs’ ethnic cleansing of Muslims: the siege of Sarajevo, the concentration camps, the use of rape as a weapon of war.

It was like watching “a color remake of the black-and-white scenes we’d seen in World War II,” said U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose Jewish grandfather fled Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power.

Holbrooke was an early advocate for a U.S.-led military operation against the Bosnian Serbs.

“I took a stand that I believed was correct,” he told Amanpour. “I didn’t think it was so controversial.”

But it would take three years — and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica  — for Holbrooke to make his case within the Clinton administration.

1994: Rwanda

In Rwanda, where Hutu soldiers and militias massacred their Tutsi countrymen, the Clinton administration tried to avoid characterizing the ethnic slaughter as genocide.

According to an internal memo, the State Department worried that under the 1948 Genocide Convention, using the term “genocide” could force the U.S. “to actually ‘do something.'”

The head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda, Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, begged for additional troops. Instead of reinforcements, Dallaire got an order to withdraw completely. He would not leave Rwanda.

“I refused a legal order,” he told Amanpour, “but it was immoral.” His tiny U.N. force was not enough to stop the slaughter of more than 800,000 people.

2003: Darfur

Some human rights advocates consider Darfur, the western region of Sudan, to be the scene of the first genocide of the 21st century.

The atrocities in Darfur grow out of a civil war between rebels from Sudan’s African tribes and the country’s Arab-led government.

In 2003, when the rebels attacked government outposts in Darfur, a U.N. human rights monitor warned that in the “escalating conflict,” Sudan’s government may be “engaged in … ethnic cleansing aimed at eliminating African tribes from Darfur.”

At the time, world attention was on Iraq, where the United States was fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The early warning on Darfur “disappeared into a big hole,” according to Mukesh Kapila, then the U.N.’s top official in Sudan.

Even when the U.N. Security Council put Darfur on its agenda, it took more than three years to authorize a robust peacekeeping force.

“There was no lack of information,” says activist Eric Reeves. “There was a lack of will to stop genocide.”

In July, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court accused Sudan’s president of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, charges Sudan denies.

How will history judge the world’s response to Darfur?

“It will applaud the young people … who believe in solidarity,” says Wiesel. “It will certainly criticize the leaders of the world.”

And the next time somebody screams bloody murder to stop a genocide, will anyone listen?

Human Rights

2 Dec

I have now been home from South Africa for a few days and think the extraordinary events of my time there are finally sinking in.  I am still in awe that my newest hero Bishop Paul Verryn invited me to visit him at the downtown Johannesburg Central Methodist Mission which is considered “home” for over 1,600 Zimbabwean refugees.  Bishop Verryn  has tirelessly given his love and compassion to find justice for the over 4,000 who have found refugee at one point or another at his Church.  Presently over 3 million Zimbabweans have come to South Africa to seek political asylum.  Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, former United States president Jimmy Carter, and Graca Machel, an advocate for the rights of women & children, and also wife of Nelson Mandela spent over an hour and a half withsome of the Zimbabwean refugees & Bishop Paul.  I had the great honor of being present during their visit. As I was reading this morning, the following commentary from former President Jimmy Carter became quite personal as I spent time with him last Sunday evening.

Bishop Paul Verryn & Zimbabwean refugees with Graca Machel, Jimmy Carter & Kofi Annan

Bishop Paul Verryn& Zimbabwean refugees with Graca Machel, Jimmy Carter & Kofi Annan

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN)— It has been heartening to witness the outpouring of worldwide enthusiasm over the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States, a transformational moment for our country.

Our incoming president has huge challenges ahead of him, and he will undoubtedly reach out to other world leaders to help address the most difficult problems. A high priority will be the restoration of human rights, which have been badly eroded in recent years.

President-elect Obama has reiterated his decision to close Guantánamo Bay detention center and end U.S.-sponsored torture. Also under discussion is the establishment by the U.S. government of an independent commission to examine the actions that led to these shameful policies and practices.

Together, these steps would signal a renewed commitment to the cause of universal human rights long championed by the United States. As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the reassertion of these fundamental rights is necessary.

While the U.S. government has much work to do in this regard, there will have to be a concerted international effort to achieve meaningful protection of human rights, even as the issue of security continues to demand our attention.

The American people and our courts have rejected the proposition that some people’s rights can be suspended arbitrarily; to do so violates the very core of our democracy. Hopefully, those working to establish democratic practices and institutions worldwide will seize upon this development and convince their own fellow citizens that democracy and human rights are worth the struggle.

The international community, including a newly energized United States, should move swiftly and decisively to support the local heroes who risk much to advance this cause.

Human rights defenders from throughout the world are participating in our annual conference at The Carter Center this week to share the challenges they face, and to decide how the international community can best support their efforts.

For years, these activists have told us that when the United States engaged in torture and indefinite detention, their decades of struggle for rights began to erode. Dictators who had felt pressure from the United States to improve rights were suddenly off the hook. With new leadership in Washington, a clear and principled message on the centrality of human rights can help set a new tone.

Too often, the international community has failed to respond to emerging crises, partly because voices of the oppressed are missing in policy discussions. Had the international community heeded the warning of human rights defenders in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, more robust and coordinated diplomacy and even limited intervention may have averted these crises.

Catastrophic conditions exist in Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and elsewhere and will require unprecedented cooperation to resolve. It is time to embrace the idea that when human beings are systematically abused, international peace and security are inherently threatened.

In such situations, the global community should spare no effort to help societies in distress. Crises like these can be assuaged before they escalate if there is determined global leadership and cooperation.

Human rights defenders are on the frontlines of this battle, and we must protect them when they face danger because of their work. We must do a better job of listening to their diagnoses of issues and be receptive to their proposed solutions.

And we must strengthen their voices and help to protect them in a collective, undeniable commitment to create the world of peace and freedom that many of us enjoy and we all desire.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jimmy Carter.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Farrell of the AP

World AIDS Day

1 Dec



Today is World Aids Day…

After returning home from a life changing trip to Africa this day holds new meaning to me as I met with many vulnerable & orphaned children who’s lives have been greatly affected by HIV/AIDS.  There are many great organizations helping with the Global AIDS crisis & I hope you will take a moment to learn about their individual missions to combat this devastating disease: