Category Archives: Assignments

Individual Research- Blood Diamonds

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Have you ever walked into a jewelry store and admired all the shining, beautiful diamonds? Have you ever wondered where exactly these gorgeous stones comes from? Without being certified by gemological laboratories, there is no way to know where diamonds actually come from. I have a lot of personal experience working with diamonds because I am currently employed with a jewelry store. Each day at work I am exposed to massive amounts of diamonds, whether I am showing a customer a diamond necklace, diamond earrings or diamond ring. Some of our diamonds are certified but that greatly increases the price of these already expensive stones. However, uncertified diamonds could be from anywhere in the world. In the store I work at, we are unsure what continent our uncertified diamonds even come from. With uncertified diamonds, it raises the question of whether or not they are conflict diamonds.

Conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, are defined by the United Nations as “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council (Diamondfacts.org).” In other words, they are diamonds that are illegally traded to fund conflict in war-torn areas, particularly in central and western Africa (Diamondfacts.org). Conflict  diamonds came about in Sierra Leone in the 1990s (The Digital Universe). After watching the movie Blood Diamond, it really opened my eyes and put into perspective what actually happens to get these diamonds. Something that really jumped out to me was that “thousands of people have died but none have ever seen a diamond (Blood Diamond).” The fact that people are losing their lives over these precious and high sought after stones is astonishing. The movie also brought to light that rebel groups in Africa will go to villages and kill everyone except young boys and men. They capture these boys and men and force them to work in the diamond mines. They work long hours and are often beaten and sometimes even killed. All for a diamond that has a high chance of being bought and sold in America. According to Blood Diamond, the U.S. is responsible for 2/3 of diamond purchases and conflict stones account for fifteen percent of diamonds (Blood Diamond). Something I also found interesting was that an American reporter in the movie, who was in Sierra Leone documenting the violence taking place, said that “people back home wouldn’t buy a ring if they knew it cost someone their hand (Blood Diamond). I think this is a very powerful and accurate statement. A lot of people in our country just simply aren’t informed about conflict diamonds or if they know what they are, they are unaware of the brutality that takes place to get them. I found the following video on CNN’s website which shows the violence in Sierra Leone. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-881410

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As an employee at a jewelry store, conflict diamonds is something that a few customers have asked us about. A couple weeks ago I was showing a woman engagement rings and she asked if any of the diamonds were conflict diamonds. So how does one respond to this you may ask? Through the company I am employed with, they took the time to make pamphlets that explain everything our customers need to know to ensure in their minds that we do not carry conflict diamonds. In short the warranty for the company I work for states “the diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations Resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict-free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds (“Our Diamond Sourcing Policy”).” As instructed by my manager, if any customer ever questions or asks about conflict diamonds I am to show them the pamphlet our company provides to each of its stores. The entire pamphlet is shown in the picture below.

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Another jewelry store, that is well-known worldwide, is Tiffany & Co. Tiffany also takes a stand against conflict diamonds and has even protested against them. Something that I found interesting was during my reading of War Games by Linda Polman. In this book it talks about children being sent to America from Africa in hopes of a better life. In regards to these children being sent to America, War Games mentions that “soon after their arrival in New York they appeared as special guests at demonstrations on the steps of Tiffany’s against giving ‘blood diamonds’ as Christmas presents (Polman, 71).” I don’t necessarily think this was the best way for Tiffany to get their message across about their company’s policy and its disassociation with conflict diamonds. They were essentially just using these children, who were from Sierra Leone, to act as a reason why Tiffany does not support conflict diamonds. They may have not had personal experience with conflict diamonds or even had a member of their family taken to go work in the mines. But since they are from the country where conflict diamonds are mined, Tiffany & Co. decided to use them in their demonstration. However, I do applaud the fact that Tiffany took the initiative to speak out against conflict diamonds and encourage consumers not to buy them.

Tiffany-and-Co

Despite the promise of certain jewelry companies that they do not sell conflict diamonds, it is hard to know for sure if the stone is not certified. If someone is still concerned about the diamond they are buying, I definitely recommend purchasing a certified stone, though they cost a little bit more. Certified diamonds come with certificates that give a diamond’s exact measurements, weight, cut and overall quality (kay.com). With certified diamonds, you know everything that you can about the stone you are buying. They also go through gemological laboratories, where qualified professionals state the characteristics of each diamond that comes into their company. With non certified diamonds, you have no idea where your stone is from or any of the qualities that comprise it. Since diamonds are such a special thing to buy or receive as a gift, I highly recommend purchasing certified diamonds. You want to make sure that what you are buying is worth it.

Another way that jewelry companies are helping to stop the process and sale of conflict diamonds is by signing the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process started when Southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2000, to discuss ways to stop the trade in ‘conflict diamonds’ and ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements (kimberleyprocess.com). The company that I work for is a part of this process and mentions it on the pamphlet I talked about earlier. I think the Kimberley Process was a good response to the violence in Sierra Leone in regards to conflict diamonds. The Kimberley Process imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’ and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate trade (kimberleyprocess.com). The following link shows all of these requirements.http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/documents/10191/14969/0004_KPCS_Document_en.pdf Obviously the Kimberley Process can not entirely stop the violence, sale, and purchasing associated with conflict diamonds. Thirteen years later it is still happening and jewelry stores are still coming in contact with customers who are concerned that their diamond is part of this. But I do think the Kimberley Process is greatly decreasing the sale of these diamonds.

So how does a good global citizen respond to all of this? I think it starts with being informed. A good global citizen should be aware of these issues and violence, much like any other situation in the world. Conflict diamonds should not take the back seat to other issues because I think it is just as important. People are losing their lives so we can have a pretty ring on our finger or pendant around our neck. Being informed is key when it comes to global issues such as conflict diamonds. As a good global citizen, I believe they also have the responsibility to raise awareness about this issue and share their knowledge with others. With more and more people becoming aware of the process of conflict diamonds, it could have a great impact on the future of this industry. Consumers wishing to purchase diamonds should demand to know everything about their diamond or buy certified stones. If you ask and are informed your diamond is not part of the conflict diamond industry, that is one less sale of these diamonds. If more people simply ask about the facts of their stone, it could decrease the demand for stones mined in Sierra Leone.

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I do not think this process can be stopped entirely because 100% of the world’s population is not going to take these easy steps, and the buying of diamonds cannot be stopped either. Unless the world runs out of mines containing diamonds, people are still going to buy them, some of which will not care where they are from. But as someone who is aware of this issue and works for a company that does not tolerate nor sell conflict diamonds, I want people to know was actually goes on in places like Sierra Leone. For the people that don’t care, it almost comes down to greed. They aren’t concerned how the diamond they purchased ended up on their finger or around their neck, they are just concerned about boasting to others the new, shiny stone on their body, as diamonds are considered a symbol of wealth. Another quote from the movie Blood Diamond that I found particularly interesting was again from the American reporter. She said that if she reported the violence that was happening in Sierra Leone, that “people might cry or send a check but it won’t make it stop (Blood Diamond).” I completely agree because many times people see the terror in other countries and want to help but they may just send a monetary donation and call it a day. This may help a little bit but I don’t think it really helps the overall problem. I wouldn’t consider donating money an action by a good global citizen, at least not in the case of conflict diamonds. As I mentioned before, I think a good global citizen’s first responsibility it to be informed and to inform others. Then, take small steps in their daily lives that will contribute to the overall problem. Eventually, this may greatly impact the violence in Sierra Leone and bring the mining of conflict diamonds to a minimum.

References:

“Engagement Rings, Wedding Rings, Diamonds, Charms. Jewelry from Kay Jewelers, Your Trusted Jewelry Store.” Engagement Rings, Wedding Rings, Diamonds, Charms. Jewelry from Kay Jewelers, Your Trusted Jewelry Store. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.kay.com/ContentView?catalogId=10001>.
“Diamondfacts.org.” Diamondfacts.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.diamondfacts.org/index.php?option=com_content>.
Budd, Lauralee. “New Movie Puts Blood Diamonds in Public Eye.” U N I V E R S E. N.p., 14 Dec. 2006. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://universe.byu.edu/2006/12/14/new-movie-puts-blood-diamonds-in-public-eye/>.
“Conflict Diamonds: The Uncut Truth – CNN IReport.” CNN IReport. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-881410>.
“Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.” Kimberleyprocess.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2013. <http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/documents/10191/14969/0004_KPCS_Document_en.pdf>.
Polman, Linda, Liz Waters, and Linda Polman. The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.
Edward, Zwick, dir. Blood Diamond. 20th Century Fox, 2006. DVD. 1 Jul 2013.
Jewelers, Kay. Our Diamond Sourcing Policy. N.p.: Kay Jewelers, n.d. Print.
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A light where currently there is darkness: a clearer look at Obama’s intentions with the Power Africa movement

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Obama was quoted saying this about the United States’ new initiative Power Africa, which seeks to bring electricity to Africa: “…a light where currently there is darkness; the energy to lift people out of poverty–that’s what opportunity looks like” (“Obama Promises…”). Obama has often been said to charismatic, and also has been criticized for using his skill to manipulate people into thinking what he intends is good. I believe that this holds true to the Power Africa initiative. Essentially the US plans to give 7 billion dollars to give electricity to the people of Africa, which from a distance, sounds all well and good. But if we really think about the situation, does Africa actually need electricity? Cities and businesses already thrive there. Obama claims that it will get rid of poverty and create jobs, but how exactly?

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by…” (“Obama Promises…”). According to well-known history, thousands of people studied by candle-light before the invention of electricity. Although I understand that electricity may be centered around in Western society, it is not right to assimilate African culture when they are content without the extensive use of electricity. As far as I am aware, no one asked what the African people wanted before throwing money at an unknown affliction. In the Eyes of Others focuses on what locals present in humanitarian aid areas wanted and saw and I think this idea of discovering what locals want is essential in any movement that claims to be humanitarian-based.

The African American descent president once excited global citizens into thinking that his interests would lie in Africa, but many were disappointed in his lack of attention until now. Some say he was sidetracked by focusing on the recession during his first term, but I argue that this new focus on Africa is not because of his personal background, but because of America seeking out new places to import oil from (Samatar).

The War on Terror has often been argued to have been initiated because of the United States’ interest in oil in that area. Because the area is becoming increasingly dangerous for the United States, others have moved into the area: “The withdrawal of US and Western oil companies from regions of unrest and conflict in Middle Eastern countries such as Sudan, Iraq and Libya pave the way for the entry of Chinese oil companies in these countries” (Shih). This is only the first evidence of oil competition between China and the United States, and this is not only occurring in the Middle East. US Senator James Talent says: “China is expanding its economic, diplomatic, political, and security presence in the Middle East…That engagement is of particular importance to the US, given our country’s interests and investments in that part of the world” (Shih). The same now is occurring in Africa.

“…China aggressively engages the continent, pouring billions of dollars into it and replacing the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner. Obama applauded China’s investment in Africa, saying he is ‘not threatened by it.'” (Karimi and Bernardini). Why would Obama even find it necessary to say he is not threatened by China’s investments in Africa? Clearly the situation is more like a competition between China and the United States for oil, because if the basis for Power Africa was humanitarian, the countries would seek to work together or applaud efforts. Another article shows the increase of China’s presence in Africa: “Although the US still gets a significant amount of its oil imports from Africa, China has gained a substantial foothold with new oil producers such as Ghana, Uganda and Sudan, and has made some headway with older ones” (Samatar).

The War on Terror has affected Africa more than the United States’ drive to seek more oil, but also through misplaced agenda. According to Samatar: “The Somali case is the clearest manifestation of such a misplaced agenda. Indigent people who were terrorised by warlords for nearly two decades decided to fight back and regain their dignity using their faith, Islam, as the principal mobilising tool. Once this became known, Western media and the terror bosses, and their regional allies, like Ethiopia, interpreted this movement as a terrorist menace” (Samatar). Misinterpretations of the Western media have happened like this before, which really end up severely hurting the victims and prolong war.

For instance, in War Games Polman discusses the situation in Biafra, where in 1967 Ojukwu, the governor, proclaimed Biafra an independent republic (it also happens to be one of Nigeria’s most oil-rich provinces) (Polman 106). The Nigerian government reacted by imposing a blockade of Biafra, which made it impossible to deliver food supplies which caused hunger (Polman 106). “In June 1968 he [Ojukwu] called in the Genevan PR company Markpress to mobilize world opinion in his favour with photographs and television images of starving children” (Polman 107). Ojukwu insisted this was a genocide against the Ibo people by the Nigerian government although up to 7 million were not within the blockade, but aid came anyway without knowing the full situation (Polman 107). Aid organizations were even forced by Ojukwu to pay for space to put their food and medicine supplies (which were mostly consumed by Ojukwu’s soldiers) and weapons were accumulated for Ojukwu’s army (Polman 107). The media has misconstrued our ideas on where crisises lie, and the United States has remained blind to the fact that they are causing more harm than good with their self-interested aid efforts.

If we truly want to make a difference without our own self-interest involved, we must keep what In the Eyes of Others has taught us from MSF’s study on its impacts and misconceptions: “Neutrality and impartiality, the studies show, are not theoretical concepts or pie-in-the-sky constructs; they are essential ingredients of effective humanitarian action” (“In the Eyes of Others…”). In other words, in order to truly make the world a better place, we need to refrain from looking for what benefits we can draw out of a situation, but instead make a true good impact on an area by doing what the locals say they need.

 

Works Cited:

“In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid.” In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/book/perceptions/>.

Karimi, Faith, and Laura Bernardini. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. Cable News Network, 30 June 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/30/world/africa/south-africa-obama-pledge/>.

“Obama Promises U.S. $7 Billion Investment in Power Grids.” All Africa. N.p., 1 July 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://allafrica.com/stories/201307010610.html>.

Polman, Linda. War Games. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

Samatar, Abdi Ismail. “Obama’s Africa Rhetoric: Beware!” Aljazerra. N.p., 27 June 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/2013626141431344927.html>.

Shih, Toh Han. “Beijing ‘to Increase Reliance on Middle East Oil'” South China Morning Post. N.p., 10 June 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.scmp.com/business/commodities/article/1257412/beijing-increase-reliance-middle-east-oil>.

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Final exam: An Open letter to the Obama administration

An Open letter to the Obama administration

On June 30th the Obama administration announced a “Power Africa” initiative earmarking nearly $7 billion dollars for use over the next several years to “double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.” The US and global media, particularly in Europe and Africa, have covered and commented on this story, and now it is your turn.

Through the reading and writing you have done for this course you have become a more aware and critical global citizen, and in africaparticular have become much better able to understand and to assess the complexities of humanitarian and development aid. Additionally you have amassed some terms, concepts and perspectives from the social sciences, specifically sociology, that make you able to articulate insights from an academic, though grounded, perspective.

For your final blog post I want you to write an open letter to President Obama where, using specific insights from each of the three books you read and the other materials you have accessed over the last four weeks, you provide comment and advice on his “Power Africa” initiative.

You can choose to focus narrowly and specifically on this recent initiative or be more broad and comment on any major aid initiatives that are undertaken by significant entities (be they governments, large NGO’s or foundations [e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation]) similar to to Obama’s initiative.

In other words, this is your chance as a global citizen to make a general comment on the nature and delivery of humanitarian and development aid.

 

Rubric:

  • Due by 10:00pm EST July 3rd.
  • Late posts will be downgraded at least one letter grade; no late posts will be accepted that are more than 24 hours late.
  • At least four citations: at least two from text and/or other assigned reading, and at least two from outside academic sources.  Note:  you are to read/watch/listen to all of the material in the hyperlinks in the parent post above; your contact with the material should be apparent in your post.
  • List references at the bottom of the page (MLA format).
  • At least one photo.
  • Minimum 0f 500 words (excluding references).
  • Grade will be based on quality and quantity of response to the post prompt including adherence to the above benchmarks.
  • Keep in mind that you are writing for a broad audience that is educated and interested in this topic; infuse your post with the sociology you are learning/have learned in a non-jargonistic manner

Please check Final before you Publish.

 

 

 

 

 

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Assignment 10: Seeing is not believing

So many wars, settling scores Bringing us promises, leaving
us poor I heard them say ‘love is the way” Love is the answer,’ that’s what they say

But look how they treat us, make us
believers We fight their battles, then they deceive us

Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us
‘Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers

K’naan-Wavin Flag

 

James Morris, the executive director of the World Food Program quoted, “Occasionally, I have thought the worst place for a hungry child to live in Africa today is a community that is at peace with its neighbors and relatively stable” (Polman). The media will focus on more interesting regions where people want to listen and hear about. Simply crying out loud from hungry children is not enough to motivate the media to cover and feature their relatively stable and peaceful place in Africa. When more than 100,000 Iraqis died from the Iraq war, the establishment used the media for its justification. Over half of young adults Americans heard about Kony 2012 and they urged for stopping Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Many people including Teju Cole criticized this behavior stating Americans should worry about the mess that they have made. Should Americans get blamed? Or Were they just victims of the media just like the hungry children in a safe region in Arica?

Dear Media, please don't use their smiles to benefit yourselves. Some of us can tell the difference between fake smiles and genuine smiles.

Dear Media, please don’t use their smiles to benefit yourselves. Some of us can tell the difference between fake smiles and genuine smiles.

There are many possible answers for the questions above, but certainly people need to be more careful with information they receive and their sources. Global citizens should know about the true image of the world. They need to keep putting efforts to get genuine and accurate information as well as they have to choose sources carefully and be critical about information they encounter. The power of the media is terrifying. Compared to Korea’s corrupted media usage and manipulation, The United States’ are less subtle. Lee Myoung Bak, the 17th president of South Korea dominated the media to cover up his money laundering. During the election campaign, Lee spent a lot of money to take control major broadcasters, newspapers, and most of newspapers. Korean citizens were manipulated and brainwashed; to the point where a hidden video that proves Lee’s money laundering and his lies, was suddenly posted on the internet, but people didn’t believe. Their eyes got blinded and their ears went deaf. Lee was elected and as a result, he has been such a successful president that made a lot of money through his presidency. People regretted, but it was too late. That’s what they got for blindly believing the media and not being critical about the sources.

The media for 'us'? No. They neve cared in the first place.

The media for ‘us’? No.

When it comes down to getting information, I try to get it from as many sources as possible along with many different characteristics and tendencies of the sources. For instance, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal are conservative where the New York Times, CBS, International Herald Tribune are progressive. When I want to know about an issue that has conservative manner, I will be critical about what the New York Times says and compare and contrast with conservative sources like the Wall Street Journal. Aljazeera and BBC are fairly reliable and credible sources. However after so-called ‘Arab Spring,’ Aljazeera’s fair and equal reports and its independency have been questioned. There is no source that is completely free of bias, stereotypes, assumptions, political interests and monetary benefits. We must find our information from many different places and have keen eyes to tell the truth from the wrong.

References

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. 21 Mar. 2012. Web. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/2/>.

Polman, Linda. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?” New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

“민주, 이명박 대통령 대선자금 수사 촉구.” . SBS News, 15 Jul 2012. Web. <http://news.sbs.co.kr/section_news/news_read.jsp?news_id=N1001259956>.

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Media is a Business

As humans, we often hear what we want to hear more often than what we should hear. This is especially the case with news stories. The news industry is a business, meaning their main goal is maximizing profit. To maximize profit, one needs to please the consumers, or the people watching the news. This contributes to many news sources targeted towards different audiences, in turn, creating a number of different biases in the news. The main question is how do we pick apart information from different news sources to find out what’s true and what isn’t?

In his book, “Manufacturing Consent”, Noam Chomsky talks about two different kinds of subjects in news – worthy victims and unworthy victims. Unsurprisingly, the group that the news focuses on most of the time is the worthy victims. They’re the ones the public wants to hear about whereas the unworthy victims are the people that the public wouldn’t care about as much. “A propaganda system will consistently portray people abused in enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will be unworthy” (Chomsky). News sources not reporting on what are considered “unworthy victims” is a huge problem in the media and creates a skewed perspective on how people view conflicts around the globe.

Furthermore, news sources will sometimes make assumptions or misinform the general public about these worthy victims to make the news seem more appealing. A very recent example of this pertains to Nelson Mandela who was recently put on life support because of his inability to breath on his own (Huffington Post). Yesterday, a news source called “The Gaurdian Express” launched a news article entitled “Nelson Mandela Life Support Shut Down as Respected Humanitarian Died Age 94”, reporting on something that wasn’t true. In this case, the Guardian made an assumption about the state of Nelson Mandela’s state because of his being put on life support, and turned that assumption into a news article. This soon became the Guardian’s most popular news article even after the public realized it wasn’t true. To be fair, the Guardian has since updated their wrongful assumption and added a question mark to the title.

Now raises the question, which news sources can be trusted and which can’t. The first is to try and avoid news sources geared towards a specific audience such as Fox News or the front page of Reddit. Second, always take news stories with a grain of salt, don’t hesitate to check multiple news sources to try and get the whole picture on current events. A good global news station would be NPR. NPR’s number one goal is to spread information on current events around the world, they have reporters all over the world sharing what they see and hear in their areas, then relaying it to the radio station. They aren’t geared as much towards a specific audience as much as many other news sources.

As a global citizen, one needs to realize that media is a business. Near everything they report on is what the public subconsciously hear, news about victims they can sympathize with, even if the source is incorrect. A global citizen needs to be able to second guess everything, stay unbiased in their learning about an event, even if a news source is. This is often tough to do since we have many different biases instilled in us, but it’s important to learn how to deal with media today even if it can often be frustrating.

 

Anderson, Jessica Cumberbatch. “Nelson Mandela On Life Support (REPORT).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 June 2013. Web.

Chomsky, Noam. “Manufacturing Consent: CHAPTER 2: WORTHY AND UNWORTHY VICTIMS.” Winkest Leak. Web.

Smith, Michael. “The Guardian Express.” The Guardian Express. Frackle Media, 26 June 2013. Web.

 

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Navigating the Media Minefield

The saying knowledge is power is a well known idiom, and in our society it is most decidedly the truth.  With the right information you can make millions  or change the world.  This emphasis on knowledge has led to a booming news industry with TV stations, newspapers and websites all vying for your attention.  These sources of information have become so powerful that they can now shape the facts to their choosing, resulting in often contradictory coverage.  As global citizens it is imperative that we learn to separate the true from the false and the biased from the facts.

It is worth noting that in todays day and age few news organizations can get away with a complete lie.  Not only are there laws in place to prevent it, other organizations will jump at the chance to call their opponents out for slip ups.  Instead we see subtle, and sometimes incredibly overt biases guiding the tone and nature of the news.  This far more insidious practice can have a massive influence on peoples opinions, resulting in multiple conflicting interpretations of the same facts.

As a global citizen you should always take new information with a grain of salt.  All news has at some point been written and repackaged by another person.  Even if they are trying to give an unbiased account they can still give a slant to their news, not to mention the possibility of their source being biased.  Furthermore, many news stations and sources purposefully give their news a bias in order to maintain viewership and therefore money.  For instance, a 2012 Pew Research Center Survey “found that opinion and commentary fill 85 percent of the airtime on MSNBC.” (Logiurato)  This heavy level of opinion can result in misinformed viewers whose opinions are not necessarily their own.  While this specific example highlights TV, biased news of all mediums has become a hallmark of American media.

So as a concerned citizen, what can you do to sift through the slant?  The single most important thing you can do it get your news from a variety of sources that present the news as straight as possible.  Yet, having a few opinionated and contradictory sources can help give you new perspective.  For instance my father, a fairly liberal guy who enjoys listening to NPR and watching CNN, tries to tune into Fox’s opinion panel “The Five” to “see how the other side thinks”.  Having a diversity of opinions can make you better informed and more capable of making your decisions.  Another helpful trick is to go international.  There are many reputable news sources outside of the US that can give great insight into international affairs and even American politics.  The BBC and Aljazeera are are both incredible sources, if a tad conservative.

 

The other key to navigating media bias is to dig deeper.  Often times what is presented in a simplistic manner is actually far more complicated.  Beyond this, sometimes news sources end up simply reporting lies.  For instance, in the fall of 2012 a french research study came out implicating genetically modified food consumption with highly increased rates of cancer.  This sent the media into a tizzy and ushered in renewed calls to label GMOs.  Yet upon further investigation it was revealed that the study was done in a completely haphazard manner with little regard for the scientific method (Revkin).  Because of the shallow initial investigation the issue was sensationalized and lies perpetuated.

Another great way to sort fact from fiction is to look at the numerous fact checking institutions.  The fact of the matter is that manipulation of the news is so widespread that some groups make a living off of exposing their lies.  For instance, factcheck.org is an unbiased website that monitors statements made by American politicians and news sources that separates fact from fiction.  These sites are indispensable tools for any global citizen.

The bottom line is that as global citizens we need to take everything with a grain of salt.  Everyone is out to make a living, even the people that are supposed to be giving us the facts.  As Linda Polman points out in War Games, many news stations used children with amputated limbs to increase sympathy and to try and garner a few more views (Polman).  What some may call the deplorable exploitation of suffering, others would call the presentation of the facts.  It all boils down to opinion.

Works Cited
Logiurato, Brett. “MSNBC Has Become Almost Entirely Saturated With Opinion, And Fox News Is Doing Much More Factual Reporting.” Business Insider. N.p., 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.
Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.
Revkin, Andrew. “Six French Science Academies Dismiss Study Finding GM Corn Harmed Rats.” Dot Earth Six French Science Academies Dismiss Study Finding GM Corn Harmed Rats Comments. N.p., 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013.
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A. Nicot – Assignment 10: Vetting

There are three main ways to determine a source’s validity as provider of information: are the people writing this information accredited and qualified?; is the publication be it print or digital that they are using accredited, recommended, or respected by experts in the fields it deals with?; is it actually presenting information in a way that defies doubt?

The third of those aspects is crucial if you are trying to determine a source’s true worth, the first two aspects are useful to determine a level of respectability if the issue covered is not particularly dubious or virulently controversial in a manner that might otherwise affect reporting or opinion. Let us describe a hypothetical example.

The nationalist website FdeSouche often delivers factual content – but is it’s presentation questionable? Should a strong condemnation of it by other press outlets affect a reader’s judgment of it?

A story concerning a local crime incident is reported in a local blog posted online, but the story is one that is controversial due to the circumstances of the event in question. The blog post about this incident contains photographic evidence of the event and direct testimony from witnesses the blog author interviewed, but he himself holds opinions directly involved in this controversial case as presented in the rest of his blog. While the information he presents is reliable and his conclusions even sound based on the evidence, a larger national press syndicate condemns his appropriation of the crime for political ends, while it itself does not publish perhaps crucial witness testimony which may change the way the case is presented to and understood by the broader national public.

In this case, should one trust the national publication which is reputable and contains professional investigative journalist, or the clearly-evidenced blog post of a politically minded blogger? Quite clearly the more reliable source on this story at least is the one with photographs of the crime in action who lived in the neighborhood where it was committed. His direct expertise and irrefutable (let’s say) presentation of evidence to form an interpretation of events should trump the reputation of a national press organization which deliberately withholds information for what might be an ideological purpose, or which lacks a contextually appropriate interpretation of the event.

This is in any case how I would personally determine a good source if I actually applied a formal logic to it. In fact of course, I search for sources which will provide news in the format I am looking for it. If I want a broad overview of a news story in easy-to-read blurbs I go to the BBC or CNN (in English-language), or if I want to read a slightly more in depth article I will read the UK newspaper, The Telegraph (in English), or Le Figaro (in French), maybe Le Monde (also French). If I’m looking for a left wing analysis, or a right wing one, I will visit the appropriate website in whichever language I choose, and usually most mainstream news sources have a bias in one of those directions. If I’m looking for a specifically nationalist approach  I will visit one of many nationalist news-agglomeration sites which usually do not necessarily write their own articles but draw attention to the manner in which news stories are covered and provide information in a manner which filters for relevancy to its audience. Perhaps I will pursue the topic to seek a general view of the issue in the eyes of internet denizens, and look at popular imageboards or content-sharing websites.

News acquisition is contextual. I wouldn’t actually recommend a standard manner to analyze a news source like I provided, but rather to understand that since all news is filtered and since all content distributors have interests and biases, to sort through them accordingly to what you’re trying to know. Le Figaro will mention how an international incident will affect France where the BBC will not, for example. As far as sorting through information that is contradictory, if there is no way to find out a definite answer, the only solution is to trust your gut and use what is the most likely version of a story, as you would think it. Or defer to the opinion of  a person or commentator you trust. For example, Eric Zemmour (investigative journalist and media personality)  is usually my go to reference if I have doubts on an issue I know he would know more about in his work. It helps that we agree on many issues.

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The Truth? You Can’t Handle The Truth!

In War Games, Polman opens our eyes to the fact that media has a tendency to cut corners when it comes to reporting on humanitarian aid efforts. Many of the media outlets only send out reporters, or coverage teams, if the costs are covered by the organization wanting the coverage. The coverage serves as an advertisement to bring in donors, and money. So, the independent factor of the media is tainted and most reports only show those poor people in need, how terrible the situation is, and how much help this organization is providing to those poor people. In essence, the media becomes an employee of the organization and only reports positively about the aid effort. Would it be a smart move for the media outlet to report negatively on the organization? A couple of old sayings come to mind. You never bite the hand that feeds you or you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

Sadly, this scenario probably happens more often throughout the media and news coverage than most people realize. No matter what major news channel you tune in to, they probably have something that influences them besides simply reporting the news. For example, in the coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election, you could turn it to CNN, MSNBC, or FOXNEWS and get different poll results, different opinions on who won debates, and different results on the actual voting. Do you think these media outlets were just getting the wrong information? Maybe, but it is more reasonable to assume that these outlets were trying to please whichever political party with which they are affiliated. In the end, the results have to reflect the true results, but everything in between that can be chalked up to misinformation, even though that’s probably not the case. However, if misinformation is to blame for this, then how can we rely on information that they report on other stories?

The truth to this is that we shouldn’t. The fact is that we all have different opinions, different cultures, and different interpretations of things that we experience or watch. Polman’s book could exaggerate the facts, but it is her experience. In the Eyes of Others could be propaganda for MSF, as simply a show that they are trying to solve the problem, when they really just want to rebuild their image. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures could overemphasize their experiences. How do we trust these print publications when we have evidence that the media isn’t always independent or reporting the “whole truth”? We don’t. Emergency Sex contains a disclaimer to all readers at the beginning of the book. It reads:

Everything in these pages is true as we experienced it, perceived it, and remember it. The book does not, however, pretend to be about the nuances of international politics, and we are not claiming objective historical, journalistic, or academic accuracy. The work is derived from our official memos, personal diaries, letters home, and memories—some many years after the fact. These pages therefore include all the subjective distortions and revisions we told ourselves, our friends, and our bosses. We have changed the names and identities of lovers, acquaintances, and colleagues. We have telescoped time, adjusted the sequence of events, and altered minor facts in some passages to help render the progression of our lives and missions more understandable. We have not artificially re-created dialogue; instead we have simply reported conversations as we remember them. Dialogue that does appear in quotes indicates a more distinct recollection of specific words and phrases. (Emergency, Note to the Reader)

We see many disclaimers, while different in verbiage, similar to this on many ads and commercials as well. While the reason for the disclaimers being on the ads and commercials is for a different reason then it being at the beginning of this book, it is another strong point that proves this concept should be applied to more than just ads, commercials, and books.

However, there are no disclaimers in newspapers or on news channels when they report the news. We are supposed to trust that they are doing their job properly, independently, and reporting the cold hard facts to us. However, there is evidence that disproves this ideology and shows that we must find a way to take the information that is reported, interpret the facts, determine any underlying allegiances or bias that many be present, and then dig to find the truth. There is no easy way, no easy answer to how this is done. There is no magic channel, website, or book that will give us all of the answers. We must use something that we have been working on since we were children.

As children growing up, studies have shown that we aren’t able to truly differentiate advertisements from actual tv programs, distinguish between the two, comprehend the purpose of the advertisements, or understand that they are trying to sell us something until roughly age 12. By that time, we are supposed to have the cognitive ability to grasp that concept. We are supposed to continue to use and strengthen this ability and apply it to all facets of our life. We are not supposed to rely on others to form our opinions for us. We, as responsible members of society, adults, and global citizens, have to recognize the ever growing problem in media and the news and decrypt the information. While it is not possible to find the “whole truth” all the time, we do have a responsibility to dig deeper. As kids, we all, at one point or another, gave our parents the answer when asked why we did something, “Well so-and-so was doing it.” Which our parents would respond, “Well, if so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” The whole premise of this conversation is to instill in us the confidence to be different, make our own decisions, and not be a follower. We can still learn from a simple concept our parents taught us when we were young and apply it when dealing with the media today.

Works Cited:

Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.

“Advertising and Children.” Raising Children Network. Raising Children Network, 14 3 2011. Web. 27 Jun 2013. .

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

StateFarm,. State of Disbelief (French Model). 2013. Video. YouTubeWeb. 27 Jun 2013. .

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Is Your News Fact or Fiction? The Impact of Media Bias

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There are over seven billion people on this planet.  As humans, we are all tied together, and we have a duty to one another.  Acknowledging these ties and this duty makes one a global citizen.  Global citizens recognize themselves as part of the entire world; therefore, as part of the world, they are responsible for the protection of its citizens.  Awareness is key if we are to successfully protect our fellow citizens.  Since we are so far from many of the current humanitarian concerns, we have to rely on news outlets to inform us.  Is this news accurate?  How can we determine whether a story is true?  What happens if we find out it is not?  Awareness plus action is what equals a true global citizen.  If we act based on faulty information, we may do more harm than good.

In this day and age, news flies at us every second of the day.  From our computers, to our phones, to just a plain old newspaper, everything is programmed to keep us up to date on the latest stories of the day.  With all of this surrounding us at all times, it is important to look critically at these stories.  News only matters if it is true, so determining which stories are biased or flat out lies is extremely important.  Bias is common in journalism, with many journalists admitting to using a liberal slant in their stories.  People’s feelings about a situation can be significantly affected depending on how the media portrays it.  The same goes for humanitarian aid.  Often, when donors give large amounts of money to an aid organization, they dictate where it will be spent.  Their choice is influenced by what they see on TV, what they read online or in the newspaper, and what other people are saying about the crisis.  How much of this information is actually true?

Greg Mortenson is the best-selling author of Three Cups of Tea.  This book is marketed as a story about a man who was inspired to build schools in Pakistan, and includes tales about him being taken care of by a small village and being kidnapped by the Taliban.  Recently, many of the stories in this book were exposed as exaggerated or completely false.  In the book, there is a picture of Mortenson with his alleged Taliban kidnappers.  One of the men pictured is a member of a respected think tank in Pakistan, and until a short time ago did not know that he was being passed off as a member of the Taliban in a best seller.  The stories in the book are not all that is fishy.  Over the fourteen years that Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, has been in existence, they have only once submitted an audited financial statement.  Questions are rising about how the Institute’s money is being spent.  In fact, more money is spent on domestic travel to promote the idea of building schools in Pakistan than actually building the schools.  Mortenson’s story is an example that not everything you see is what it seems to be.

Greg Mortenson with his book, Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson with his book, Three Cups of Tea

Misrepresentation of information can have huge ramifications, especially in the aid industry.  When learning about world events and crises, it is important to do your research.  Checking what several news sources say about a particular topic is one way to protect yourself from inaccurate or slanted news.  For instance, if you rely on Fox News as an information source, there will be a conservative slant to your news.  Knowing this and examining a piece of news on several news outlets will allow you to see a clearer picture of what actually happened.  Scholarly, academic articles can be another source of information.  Because these articles go through several rounds of vetting to ensure they are accurate, they will not offer up-to-date news.  However, they can paint the big picture surrounding an event.  There have been many scholarly articles written about the Rwandan genocide, which happened nearly twenty years ago.  These articles try to answer questions about the genocide, such as what actually happened and why it happened.  First-hand accounts can also be useful in piecing together a story.  The book Emergency Sex gives the reader multiple eyewitness accounts from Ken Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson, who worked in humanitarian crises all over the world in the 1990s.  However, when reading stories such as these, we must be appropriately skeptical.  Greg Mortenson’s story was a firsthand account, and we now know how much of that was actually true.

In her book, War Games, Linda Polman discusses how aid organizations sometimes aren’t spending their money wisely.  Some employees take kickbacks, money is not competently kept track of, and projects go unsupervised.  “Neither the donors nor their INGOs dare to visit the projects they finance.  The result is an unfathomable channeling of aid billions that is highly susceptible to fraud.” (Polman 134).  Do we hear about this humanitarian aid fraud in the news?  Personally, I feel like it is important enough to be more thoroughly covered by news outlets.  We must demand that the media cover these topics, so that aid organizations will fix these problems to function more effectively.

It is easy for us to assume the best in people, especially in organizations that are based on doing good.  However, we must still remember to keep them accountable, to let them know that someone is watching what they are doing.  Being aware of what is happening in the world is the first step toward becoming a global citizen, and knowing that you are being told the truth is crucial.  Thomas Sowell said, “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”  It is important that we be able to distinguish fact from fiction, for our own knowledge and for the sake of the person whose story we are hearing.

 

Works Cited

 

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

“Greg Mortenson’s Stories From ‘Three Cups Of Tea’ Called Into Question By ’60 Minutes'” American Attorney. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://americanattorneysonline.blogspot.com/2011/04/authors-tall-tale-comes-to-light.html>.

Huber, Michaela, Leaf Van Boven, A. Peter McGraw, and Laura Johnson-Graham. “Whom to Help? Immediacy Bias in Judgments and Decisions about Humanitarian Aid.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 115.2 (2011): 283-93. Web. 26 June 2013. <http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/mcgrawp/pdf/huber.vanboven.mcgraw.johnsongraham.2011.pdf>.

“Journalists Admitting Liberal Bias, Part One.” Media Research Center. N.p., 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.mrc.org/media-bias-101/journalists-admitting-liberal-bias-part-one>.

Kroft, Steve. “Questions over Greg Mortenson’s Stories.” 60 Minutes. CBSNews, 24 June 2012. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57455559/questions-over-greg-mortensons-stories/>.

“Media Bias Explained in One Picture.” Imgur. Imgur, n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://imgur.com/xMpLl>.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.

“Rwanda Genocide Scholarly Articles.” Google. Google, n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=rwanda+genocide+scholarly+articles&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart&sa=X&ei=41rMUb-JI4f28wSaxIHgCQ&ved=0CCoQgQMwAA>.

Sowell, Thomas. BrainyQuote. BrainyQuote, n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomassowe440790.html>.

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Global Citizenship: Examining Media Sources

 

This day in age, society has become overwhelmed with sources of information. From popular news channels like CNN or Fox News and popular newspapers such as The New York Times and USA to Google searches and Twitter posts, the public is constantly exposed to new information from the media. According to a study by Albert Bandura, the media is primarily used to “promote changes by informing, enabling, motivating, and guiding participants. In the socially mediated pathway, media influences participants to social networks and community settings that provide natural incentives and continued personalized guidance, for desired change” (Bandura).  Because the media can ultimately influence such social change, it’s important to make sure we, as global citizens, extract our information from reliable sources. But how do we know what sources are credible? How can we determine what information is true? How can we recognize biases in articles and news reports? All sources must be met with a critical eye. We must question everything we read or see. Nothing we read can be assumed as true. I believe that when examining information sources, the personal bias of the author must be recognized and accounted for. This kind of examination is especially crucial when investigating accounts of humanitarian aid. Inaccurate reporting about the aid industry will allow corruption and effective aid to continue.

Tony Mazzarella Filming School in Tanzania Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media filming student aid work in Tanzania.

When assessing what sources are trustworthy and what sources are not, I like to pay particular attention to the expertise of the author in the field in which they are reporting about. In Linda Polman’s book War Games, she references media coverage of the Murray Town Camp for Sierra Leone amputee victims as one on many instances in which inaccurate reporting was used to increase aid fund raising.  Because this case was very popular in many countries, media sources from “CNN and the New York Times to Dutch public television and the South China Post all managed to find the Murray Town camp” (61). Not only was the situation of the amputees exaggerated by these sources, resulting in a surplus of aid goods and misuse of aid money, but “even organizations that were not there specifically to help the amputees used photos of people in Murray Town Camp in their fundraising campaigns”(61). In this way, sources that had no knowledge of how to help the amputee victims exploited their situation for personal gains. For this reason, it is important to examine the expertise of the author. Did they actually go and examine the situation in the Murray Town Camp?  Do they have a history of working in crisis areas? Are their reports detailed and accurate, or do they seem embellished and inflated? As global citizens, it is essential that we ask these kinds of questions when examining information sources.

It is also important to investigate Linda Polman as an author. Is her reporting accurate? How do we know? First of all, Polman’s expertise in the aid industry is apparent throughout her book. She has been to many crisis areas, interviewed many aid officials, and always questions the information she is told. Instead of taking facts presented in media reports as truth, Polman investigates deeper, coming to her own conclusions, which often differ from the popular opinions of media sources. Polman’s expertise in the aid industry combined with her critical eye make her book a valid source. Even so, it is important to keep Polman’s ultimate goal of exposing flaws of the aid industry in mind and realize that this personal bias comes through in her writing. If we understand that, Polmam’s book can be used as a valuable source for understanding the aid industry.

The experiences of the author are also important when examining the credibility of a source. In the book Emergency Sex, authors Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson, all recall personal experiences as aid workers for the United Nations and the Red Cross. By recalling these experiences, each author reveals their personal growth and changed opinion of the aid industry. After their time working in many crisis areas, all three authors are exposed to the corruption in aid organizations. Through personal experience, each author becomes critical of the aid industry and questions the true extent to which aid organizations help victims. At the end of the book, Cain reflects on what he has experienced and realizes that he now understands “the world is corrupt and brutal, that most countries look out only for their own interests, and people seldom rush to dangerous acts of selfless sacrifice” (294). But this does not stop Cain from wanting to help. This is why he feels compelled to write about his experiences and expose problems of the aid industry. In telling their personal experiences, all authors reveal personal flaws and shortcomings while working in the field. Their “tell-all” style of writing shows the truthfulness in their reporting. The amount of experience each author has in the aid industry is made very apparent, therefore validating the book as a reliable source. Even so, we must remember that these stories are personal accounts of the past and are likely contain bias. Instead of taking every word of every story as exact fact, it is more important to see the truth in the themes each author explains and develop a better understanding of the aid industry as a whole.

When first inspecting a media source, one must verify the expertise and experience of the author. If the author has little experience in that field or seems to be reporting for solely popular interest, the source is most likely unreliable. The author most likely used inaccurate statements to gain popularity and public interest. However, if the expertise of the author has been confirmed, then the personal bias of the author should always be investigated. What are their motives for writing? Although all reporting contains some amount of bias, some articles are more opinion based than others. If the article contains a lot of personal opinion, it is important to keep that in mind when extracting information from this source.

Overall, global citizens should examine and investigate all types of media. Thorough and expansive research means exploring beyond popular media sources.  Sources must be critically examined, with particular investigation of the author. Global citizens must make it a priority to find credible sources to truly understand the flaws of aid industry, and therefore we can move forward in finding an effective solution to ending corruption in humanitarian aid.

 

The following video shows how popular media sources often jump of stories of popular interest or report inaccurate findings just for the sake of public interest:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlOI4AQCXiA

 

Sources:

Bandura, Albert. “Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication.” Media Psychology 3.3 (2001): 265-99. Print.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

Picture:

http://mazz.com/education/2012/08/mazz-media-president-visits-students-in-tanzania/

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