Bits, bobs and podcasts

Hello everyone,

Sorry for the long absence in posting- I’m sure you’re all waiting with baited breath for ny next post 😉  My delay in posting is a combination of work malaise and the 45 degrees plus heat (up to 48 and 49 degrees) is just kicking my ass… along with day long power outages that don’t exactly help.  Water drank by 7 pm.: 3 liters…

I don’t have too much to report on the job front. The workshop I’m still planning keeps getting pushed back and back… fine.  I’m also starting to see if I can find funds to get them some books.  An exercise in frustration, surely, but gotta keep busy.  But I have a second organisation to work on now, an agricultural body that I think is somehow related to the government but not exactly sure how yet. We’re going to compile articles on onion production and put them on CD-Rom to distribute to their centres in rural areas.  Yes, contrary to popular opinion in the global north, the CDRom is not dead, in fact can be very useful for information distribution to areas that may have a computer but no internet access. I think the first essay I wrote in library school circa 1996 was about library services in developing countries, and the research seemed to also highlight the use of CDRoms.. so many things haven’t changed that much… but surely they have in some ways. In this situation, although rural areas don’t have strong internet access (in our case, they may actually have some access, but not strong enough to download articles), urban areas now have better access so they can collate info to send out. So we’ll see how that goes. Honestly, the man in charge seems to already knows what he wants and I don’t know what I can add to it, I guess a little leg work with indexing, etc. Gotta have it ready for Niger’s National Onion Day!

On that note, thank you to everyone for the suggestions surrounding library catalogues. Your suggestions make me realise that there are programming skills needed for open source options too. God, how ignorant was I? So, still working on this side of things.

So, never mind work things. Life goes on day by day, a definite highlight of the week definitely being swimming on Sundays. Outside of reading, I do tend to live off of CBC and Democracy Now podcasts and downloaded episodes of 30 Rock (which I love), along with listening to Radio France International (Afrique) and BBC Africa.  (I also just listened to a podcast from the NPR network calls “Arkansas Cooks”. I couldn’t resist, who knew there were so many foodies in Arkansas!? So sorry if this post is just a list of bits and bobs that are not at all connected.. and maybe a little out of date by now. (And sorry if any of them are repetitive of something I’ve posted before… or that it may be old news to you…)

_Noir Canada_

This is the first time in years that I won’t be on BCLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee’s “Ain’t on the Globe and Mail’s bestseller list” at the BCLA conference, which is fine because I started to think I was becoming a bit of a downer on it.Despite this it hasn’t been far from my mind.  I won’t go into what I would have presented if I was on it this year- there will always be another year- but the AGMBL has made it’s way to Africa, in a sense.  About two years ago I was at a talk about mining in Guatemala, and in passing the speaker made reference to a book that is probably now very well know in librarian circles called “Noir Canada”.  The work documents the Canadian mining corporations in Africa, and when it was about to be launched the publishers got hit with a SLAPP suit by the Barrick Gold Company to halt it. Well, since then I’d tried to find an English translation, knowing that my French was not good enough to read it in the original. So, low and behold, how taken aback I would be as I went to my new apartment here to sign my lease to only see, what is sitting there on my landlord’s desk?! but a copy of “Noir Canada”, which he had just lent to my neighbour to read. My landlord’s brother lives in Quebec and had sent him a copy.  My first live copy! I regret not asking to borrow it (didn’t want to ask for favours from a new landlord), but it’s apparently quite detailed and technical and my French may still not be good enough.  Hum, maybe I’ll ask anyway. I suspect it may be very difficult to ever see it published in English because that may attract yet another suit, unfortunately.  It looks like the suit, for $11 million Canadian, will be going ahead in September 2011. The publisher has as a website about the case here (in French):  and an old note about it here:  Surely there is more out there on the web about it too.

_You godda fight for your right to Facebook_

I heard an interesting story on BBC Worldservice Africa, about a Sharia court ruling in Nigeria that ruled that civil rights activists could not Facebook or Twitter about the tenth anniversary of a court sanctioned amputation.  What cought my ear was that activists showed up with t-shirts at the court declairing their right to social networking. I’m going to start keeping my ears open a little more to listen about how social networking is being used for activism here.

_Maternal Mortality_

This past year, Amnesty International moved to make maternal mortality a major human rights campaign issue. The choice wasn’t without it’s critics, but it is hard to deny that the death of at least half a million women around the world every year (one a minute) due to the lack of medical care (and the ability not to get pregnant, among other reasons) should be considered a crisis.  Unfortunately, countries hit very hard by it- like in sub-saharan Africa- are making very little progress on it. Niger, has the world’s highest birthrate, also has a high rate of maternal mortality (from what I’ve found out), which is not surprinsing given it is potentially the poorest country in the world. I was happy to hear, in passing on RFI, that the AI campaign was gaining some momentum in Burkina Faso, where human rights activists made a caravan to throughout the country to present a report on the issue to the president.

And then suddenly there was the whole kurfufle with the G-8 meeting and what Stephen Harper’s government did or didn’t say about contraception and women as a lead-up to the meeting… and now the issue was really getting airplay. On March 19th, The Current interviewed an advocate for contraceptions within the context of women and the Global South (Kathering MacDonald, Action Canada for Contraception in Development), who paints a good snapshot of how contraception plays into the maternal mortality issue.  I was shocked to hear that complications from pregnancy is the number one cause of death of women aged 15-19 (presumably in developing countries- but maybe that could be globally?)(  The second half of the segment includes an anti-abortion advocate and, in my opinion, reflects the unrealistic perspective of many anti-choice advocates that don’t seem to understand (or accept) that women who want to avoid having a child do go to desperate ends. Of course, the issues surrounding fertility and reproduction is much, much more complicated than just distributing birth control, but I don’t have to tell any of you that.  There was also a good interview with some of the women who have formed the W-8, a group of women from around the world who are working in their countries to improve the lives of women.  I think one of my favorite quotes in the interview was when of the women in the group said essentially “In Malawi, we train a lot of women to be nurses. We train them for you”, aluding to the outflux of trained personel in poor countries for richer countries. See, just that issue is laden with complexities. That interview was March 8th and you can read more about the women at this Oxfamsite:

I can only imagine, as Niger, sits potentially on the cusp of another food crisis, that things are not going to get better for women and their babies anytime soon.

_Skin creams_

For years Michael Jackson’s increasingly lightening skin was the butt of jokes. But over here, the issue is not that funny.  More than once, people have pointed out to me certain local women who have been using using skin lightening creams. How can you tell? Smooth light skin? A glow? No, by the damage it does to a person’s skin: pockmarks and acne like spots.  And worse, from what I’ve been told, once someone starts using it, they can’t stop (for reasons I can’t figure out)… but when you add it all up, it sounds very similar to the results of using crystal meth.  I can only speculate that these could be products that have been made illegal or become obsolete in North America.  Does anyone know anything more about this? Strange that it would keep being used? I’m going to see what else I can find out about it from some of the women I work with and report back.

_No strings attached_

The CBC’s China correspondent -and former Ottawa morning show host- Anthony Germaine, will be reporting for the CBC radio show Dispatches this week (I think it’s this week) about China in Africa, in a series they call “No strings attached”. Should be very interesting.  Here in Niamey, there is currently only one bridge that crosses the Niger River, but China is building a new one, that is often called “the pond Chinois”… As in “Have you seen the Chinese bridge?” It is scheduled to open in 2011, I believe.  I think the old bridge should now be able to have a “camel only” lane, but I don’t know if that idea will gather any steam.  I suspect that Germaine’s focus will be on the fact that Africa is very mineral and resource rich and China needs it to fuel it’s huge growth. We’ll see- better to hear it all from him than me!

_Quiz update_

Okay, so what you’ve all been waiting for. The answer to the quiz. Who was the subject of “L’enfant terrible de Cleveland”? It is none other than the city’s former mayor, past presidential candidate, and universal medical care advocate Dennis Kucinich.  What was so interesting about the book is that is was written, in 1980 (a detail I realise now I should have mentioned!), by three Quebecers, who from the best I can tell, were journalists from Le Devoir. And given what happened during the recent medical care vote in the United States, it’s bittersweet (or proof that history repeats itself), that the title of the epilogue is “A dream broken by the establishment: the Dennis Kucinich experience.” The endorsement on the back of the book is by Ralph Nader.  So, there was one correct guess offline (by my dad and Lorraine), but otherwise online the closest guess was Barb’s guess of Michael Moore.  Oh! but what also made it great was the photo on the cover of the book, which I’ve included below.  If you want to listen or watch Dennis and Ralph talk about the health care vote, tune in to Democracy Now’s discussion with them from March 18th, 2010. I really forgot how civilized this type of interview can still be.

Gosh, I think I really have to start listening to less radio.

I have more little bits and pieces, but I’ll leave that for another time and try to make all this a little more interesting, and little less about what podcasts I’m listening to!

Finally a couple of positive notes. A friend I have here has brought me a camera back from Canada, so I hope to be able to post soon so you can again have a better idea of things here.  And, do you ever go to ( I go a couple of times every year, because it just cracks me up. (“You may just have to come to realisation that your life has been led solely to be a warning to others.” Or the such.)

In closing I want to thank everyone who continue to write and phone. I love hearing from you, even if I don’t always have a chance to reply quickly. If you see them please hug my boyfriend and dog for me.



4 Responses to “Bits, bobs and podcasts”

  1. Jeremy Tan Says:

    Skin whitening creams are huge in Asia too. I have also heard stories of people trying out new or illegal treatments from China and getting permanently disfigured.

    • galpalval Says:

      Gosh, what a shame. Meanwhile, I remember women in the 80s slathering themselves in coconut oil to get the darkest skin possible. Humans are so strange.

      • Jeremy Tan Says:

        The easiest explanation for this that I’ve heard is that in developing countries, having light skin meant you weren’t out there slaving in the fields. Meanwhile, in the industrialized West, having tanned skin meant you were part of the leisure class. Probably a generalization but with a kernel of truth in it.

      • galpalval Says:

        Hum, that makes sense because because it was the similar in the West- being pale mean you didn’t have to work in fields. I think it was the same with weight, at one point having some extra weight meant you could afford to eat well, but then when everyone could eat better it wasn’t as much of a status symbol.

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