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Something Must Be Done

Newborn Survival

From an AP article on

America may be the world's superpower, but its survival rate for newborn babies ranks near the bottom among modern nations, better only than Latvia. Among 33 industrialized nations, the United States is tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies, according to a new report. Latvia's rate is 6 per 1,000. "We are the wealthiest country in the world, but there are still pockets of our population who are not getting the health care they need," said Mary Beth Powers, a reproductive health adviser for the U.S.-based Save the Children, which compiled the rankings based on health data from countries and agencies worldwide. The U.S. ranking is driven partly by racial and income health care disparities. Among U.S. blacks, there are 9 deaths per 1,000 live births, closer to rates in developing nations than to those in the industrialized world... In the analysis of global infant mortality, Japan had the lowest newborn death rate, 1.8 per 1,000 and four countries tied for second place with 2 per 1,000 - the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland and Norway. Still, it's the impoverished nations that feel the full brunt of infant mortality, since they account for 99 percent of the 4 million annual deaths of babies in their first month. Only about 16,000 of those are in the United States, according to Save the Children. The highest rates globally were in Africa and South Asia. With a newborn death rate of 65 out of 1,000 live births, Liberia ranked the worst.

The Daily Kos asks the provocative question: Do "Christian Nations" Let Their Newborns Die?:

Somehow I sense this issue will not get the traction the overheated fetus debate gets with the fundamentalist crowd. There's just something not quite as alluring about discussing health care provisions for pregnant moms and their offspring compared with telling your neighbor what to do with her womb... So are we to expect Falwell, Robertson and Dobson to froth up the political waters on behalf of single-payer health insurance and longer paid leaves from the workplace? I'm not holding my breath. The well-being of mothers fares poorly as well, according to the report, with the U.S. tied for last place among industrial nations on indicators such as "mortality risks and contraception use." Perhaps it's time for Mullah Dobson to live up to his organization's name and focus on the family - which as he endlessly wants to remind us, means state intervention in the mother-child reproduction wars. It's hard to see the logic in how a soul that's stainless when it's enwombed does not deserve the best resources of a wealthy nation to make sure the physical body that accompanies it into life is healthy.

Right on.

Zimbabwe Nightware

125px-Flag_of_Zimbabwe.svg.pngWhat a mess there is in Africa. Something has to be done. From an article by Isaac Phiri in Christianity Today:

It still feels like last night to Newton Mudzingwa. Seven months ago, Mudzingwa, a security guard in an affluent suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, had a much-appreciated night off-duty. He spent the evening in one of the city's burgeoning slums, in the one-room shack he had rented-with him, his wife, and his two young children crammed into a single bed. It was to be their last night at home together. Around midnight, the blare of loudspeakers jolted them out of sleep. Police and military officers cheered by President Robert Mugabe's political activists swooped down on the slum to demolish "illegal" structures. Operation Murambastvina (meaning "Drive Out Trash") had begun. Mudzingwa quickly threw together whatever goods he could save. His wife bundled blankets around their children. As temperatures plummeted to biting levels, they rushed outside. The family then watched as bulldozers reduced to rubble the only home the children had ever known... The government says that only 700,000 people were relocated and that urban renewal was long overdue. Other reliable estimates put the figure at 1.7 million displaced people. Either way, the Mudzingwas were among tens of thousands of locals suddenly without shelter, proper food, and clean water... On the ground, away from the media, churches located in the slums felt the first brunt of the government's action. Thousands sought help... Churches responded by delivering food, water, and blankets, as well as by housing many of the displaced-at least until they, too, were forcibly moved. The government put many families into holding camps in remote areas... The government eventually succumbed to local and international pressure and halted the destruction. But by February, the beginning of the rainy season in Zimbabwe, thousands were still living out in the open or under plastic sheets. The government had promised earlier to build 200,000 new homes by the year's end. But the deadline came and went without much being done. Some media reports say the few houses that were constructed crumbled under the first heavy rains... Everything about Zimbabwe nowadays is bleak. Harare is gloomy. Potholes cripple the already rickety public transportation system. Water shortages occur daily. Power outages are frequent and will get worse. The utility company says it needs u.s.$9 million per month to pay its bills for imported power. People line up for basic necessities-food, gas, medicine-if they can be found, that is. Even cash is scarce. Banks run out. If you can get cash, you need a wheelbarrow to carry it home. Gideon Gono, the country's reserve bank boss, said inflation would be at 800 percent by March. "We are all millionaires," laughs a trader of foreign currency outside a Harare bus stop. He offers 1 million Zimbabwean dollars for u.s. $10. Pessimism reigns. In Mbare, a high-density slum township near Harare, the poverty is glaring. Garbage gathers. Burst sewage pipes gape and spill. Street children roam. Residents struggle to make ends meet by peddling anything and everything.

Grim Forecast for Young Black Men

From an article by Michael E. Ross on

At a time when the U.S. economy is on the upswing and more people are finding work, young African American men are falling further behind. That's the grim portrait painted by three new and forthcoming books by scholars at Columbia, Georgetown and Princeton universities. The picture isn't new, but the depths of its despair and pathology are. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are about 5 million black men in America between the ages of 20 and 39. The new books, and an earlier one from Harvard, find them losing ground in mainstream American society, despite advances made by black women, presumably part of the same socioeconomic experience. This vexing problem, caused by a variety of social ills, is equally vexing when scholars consider what causes it. Among the studies' findings:

  • Rates of imprisonment for young black men escalated throughout the 1990s and continued climbing well into the current decade. About 16 percent of black men in their twenties who were not college students were either in jail or in prison.
  • African Americans are seven times more likely to go to prison or jail than whites.
  • Almost 60 percent of black male high school dropouts in their early thirties have spent time in prison.
  • The percentage of young jobless black men continues to increase, part of a trend that generally hasn't abated in decades. In 2000, about 65 percent of black male high-school dropouts had no jobs, either because they couldn't find work or because they were in jail. By 2004, the studies found that number had grown to 72 percent. The numbers for young black men were higher than for whites and Hispanics similarly affected.


From an article titled "Water policy 'fails world's poor'" by Mark Kinver on BBC News:

Almost 20% of the world's population still lacks access to safe drinking water because of failed policies, an influential report has concluded. The UN World Water Development Report also blames a lack of resources and environmental changes for the problem. The study calls for better leadership if a goal of halving the proportion of people without proper access to safe water by 2015 is to be achieved.


How God's People Spend Their Money

This discussion is on at I don't know what the answer is. I don't think the answer for me is to ignore the needs that are out there and savor the comfort of my rich life. I don't think the answer for me is to give it all away tomorrow. Those aren't the only two options, and we shouldn't let the tension between them paralyze us. Let's be thankful for what we have. Let's be aware of the needs. Let's give generously and liberally as we are moved to meet them.


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