Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DC Statehood!

Taxation without Representation!
You may recall this protest propelled by the colonists against the British rule before our country was born. The colonists were tired of being treated as second-class citizens. They stood up and fought for Democracy and autonomy. DC residents are doing just this some 225+ years later!

The folks living in the District of Columbia do not have representation in Congress and Congress controls DC's local budget and laws!! Isn't it time we lift up the torch for Statehood again... we can win it this time with your support.

* Please goto to sign a petition in support of DC Statehood.

The petition will demonstrate to City and Congressional leadership that we want full voting rights, 1 House Representative and 2 Senators, and complete budget autonomy from the hands of Congress.

It's time we stand up for our rights as citizens of this nation. We can no longer stand the paradox of trying to create democracies around the world, mostly by violent force, when we don't have it right here in the Nation's capital.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

North Country Co-op Closes

A Letter from the North Country Board of Directors

After 37 years, North Country Coop to close it's doors on November 4th, 2007.

It is with great sadness that we write to inform you of the decision to close North Country Cooperative Grocery. On October 22, 2007 at the General Membership Meeting (GMM) of North Country Co-op (NCC) the members voted to support the Board’s intent to close the doors of North Country Cooperative Grocery store. The Board explored this option with the Membership last spring, and at that time decided it was premature to make the decision to close. In late June NCC entered into a 6 month agreement with Mississippi Market to provide part-time interim store management, and received assistance from the National Co-op Grocer’s Association in preparing financial projections and in reviewing product mix. Unfortunately NCC has run out of time. Sales have continued to decline and without at least modest increases in sales it is just not tenable to remain open. We will sell out the remaining inventory and plan to close the store no later than November 4th. The building and other assets will be sold. Upon completion of selling of the assets including the building the Board will work with council to meet all our financial and legal obligations. At this point we will have GMM to decide the future on North Country Co-op. We would like to thank you for your support over our long history. It is sad to see NCC close. With its 37 year her/history on the West Bank it was the oldest co-op grocery store in the Twin Cities. The Board is committed to proceeding in such a way as to honor the history of NCC. We hope you will continue to stop in and take advantage of these final days to help us clear out our inventory and say your farewells. If you have any questions the board can be reached at or call Marvin at 612-871-7920. Sincerely, North Country Co-op – Board of Directors Marvin Loxterkamp – Board President; Chris Garty – Vice President; Jay Hambidge – Treasurer; Cathryn Carlis – Secretary; A.K. Vincent; Amina Watson; April Alfuth; Doug Sembla; Rhea Dykoski We want to thank the founding sisters for starting NCC so many years ago. In special memory of Deborah Shroyer’s passing September 9, 2007.


The following is Greg Bastien's [ King of the run-on sentence ] article from Southside Pride ( though not posted online):

Nov. 4. 2007. marked the end of an era in local co-op history; North Country Co-op (the co-op that started the co-op movement in the Twin Cities from the back porch of Diane and Alvin Odermann's West. Bank house with a $100 loan from Debbie Shroyer) closed its doors in the" Cedar Riverside neighborhood. A purveyor of organic. bulk and retail food stuffs for over 37 years, this grocery has been a staple of the near southside community. Financial collapse is the reason given for its closure, with over $72,000 in losses last year and projected losses of over $10,000 per month for this year. Flat sales for the last five years and mounting demands from suppliers to pay COD made continuing the store impossible in the opinion of its board. On Oct. 22 the members of the co-op ratified the decision to close.

How did it come to this?

The Star Tribune article of October 24 indicated the overall health of the grocery co-op community in the Twin Cities was excellent, and North Country certainly had loyal members and name recognition. It had recently changed from worker-owned and managed to a volunteer board and paid employees, but it seems like it just couldn't dig itself out of its hole. Seward Cafe is probably the last remaining holdout from the 1960's revolution on the West Bank. It is still run and owned by a worker collective. Dreams die hard. What was once thought to be the future, no longer fit into today's "bottom-line" "Cost-benefit analysis" fast buck value system.

The historical and cultural influence that created North Country are too complex and profound to make a quick assessment of right or wrong [ KC: I recommend "Storefront Revolution" by Craig Cox on the subject ]. But at some point a structural analysis of what occurs in volunteer organizations where tensiion is created between paid and unpaid workers, between democratic and undemocratic methods of decision-making would be helpful and constructive to any neighborhood or enterprise attempting a more egalitarian operation. Our default mode is always to look for a leader to fill a vacuum. The vacuum is created by people afraid to wield power within an organization because it would cause conflict. We must not be afraid of some conflict when it comes to changing people's minds in difficult situations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Living through anguish

This is the third edition of an ongoing series. Look for the fourth edition in next Monday's Daily.
By Kathryn Nelson

the strength of the African people can only be shown through their tenacity to continue moving through the most arduous of situations with the hope that respite will someday come.

People often ask about hope in Africa, and sadly there isn't much. The overwhelming poverty and death that surround every corner of the continent only perpetuates the deepening despair.

But I have to believe that there are those who are gaining ground, even if it's the most minute of steps.

Sometimes it's the little stories that grant the most optimism.

These are the histories of two members of my Kenyan family, who, through their pain, connected me to the rest of the world. Because through our pain we realize that we are all alone, together.

Pastor Daniel Makecho

Daniel and I were truly such kindred souls from the beginning.

We spent almost every moment with each other making house visits, going to the market, traveling across the country in his broken sedan to visit friends and family.

There were many nights when we stayed up to the early hours of the morning speaking of life and jaded pasts. Talking about the futures we want to have but haven't quite grasped yet.

A brother to 14 other siblings, Daniel was essentially left to fend for himself from the beginning.

His father died early in life, at least according to Western standards, causing money to dwindle quickly and responsibility to mount.

In his tender teens, Daniel began uprooting tree stumps in order to make enough money to go to school. After months of hard labor, he collected the money needed to attend school. Upon returning to his village, Daniel was beaten by one of his brothers and all his money was taken.

He was once again desperate and alone.

Daniel made an appeal to a high school official asking him to attend classes in exchange for working after hours.

Daniel didn't just do well in school, he excelled.

He emerged as one of the top five students in the country during a nationwide placement test.

Education, he said, was the only way to break out of the constraining poverty.

So with his test scores, he was sent to England to finish his pastoral studies.

Out of the group of African students who went to England, Daniel was the only one to return home.

He said he knew that other people saw him as hope, a dependence he could never shake.

Daniel returned to Bungoma, Kenya and built his own church in the neighboring village of Chebukwa.

The church is now a bustling hub among extreme desolation and desperation. In a community that has no running water or electricity, The House of Power has become their lifeline of hope.

Daniel also sponsors orphaned children, raising money for school fees, food and medicine so they may have a future.

He often spends nights outside in the cool air of darkness, sitting on the dirt ground with street children, pickpocketers and glue sniffers.

During the day, I would walk through the city with Daniel and people would yell "Asante sana!" (Thank you!).

It's ironic how a man who was once alienated from the world has now become the leader in the same community that once shunned him.

He is now working to build an orphanage in Chebukwa, soon to be a parent to the 300 orphaned children there.

Daniel has become the father to the lost and abandoned because he once understood what it meant to be alone.


She had far too many scars for a 25-year-old. One gash crossed her forearm, "My brother said ear piercings are for whores," Anne told me.

He cut her with a sharp blade to show her a lesson.

This was before her numerous rapes by her husband.

Anne was our live-in housekeeper and cook, but she became one of my closet friends in Kenya.

The first night I stayed in the Makecho home Anne knocked on my door and whispered to come in.

Her English was broken, but admirable considering she never attended school.

She approached me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. Anne said she believed God had brought me her as a companion.

As much as I didn't believe in God, I knew it was true.

In the afternoon, Anne and I would gather in the kitchen to wash dishes, cut vegetables for lunch or collect eggs from the hen. It was embarrassing at first for her to have a Westerner help her with her duties, but it became a daily practice.

As the days passed she began to spill her life's secrets to me: The beatings, abuse and starvation she once endured. How she left her husband but now had little to nothing to her name.

She worked from 5 a.m. to midnight washing, cutting and working her knuckles to bone.

It was all for her children, she said. That was all God gave her. The children and me.

Then, one day, she left. My closet friend, ally, sister had disappeared in the night.

I believe she went to her children because, for her it was better to be poor but together than alone and rich.

Life changes quickly in Kenya. One day someone is there, the next they are gone.

I suppose this is the way they see life - a process of coming and going with little interaction in between.

Still, I miss my father and sister. I wish I could hear their laughs and share a meal with them. Hear their chatter in the morning and their songs at night.

I have only recently grasped this feeling of community. I sometimes feel alone here in Minneapolis but then I realize that I have brothers, sisters, parents in Kenya, waiting for me to come home.

We have all suffered deeply. Life is often unkind. But this pain binds us together as people who only want to see a better life ahead.

It's only when we step out of our own pain and see each other that we can begin to feel alive again.

Kathryn Nelson welcomes comments at kgnelson AT

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's easy being green at this school

By Patrice Relerford, Star Tribune

Orono Intermediate School's cafeteria buzzed with activity as students formed two lines on opposite sides of a stainless steel countertop and sorted food, paper napkins and plastic bottles from their tray into color-coded bins.

As a fail-safe, 10-year-old Michael Winkey and other "green team" members stood nearby waiting to grab "the claw." It's a metal clamp students use to pluck items placed in the wrong bins.

"How exciting is it to watch a trash can?" said Orono School District food services director Kris Diller of the student, staff and parent volunteers. "But they were excited and we felt like we had the support right from the beginning."

Orono purchased the bins, the stainless steel counter top and, yes, the claws with a $19,600 grant from the Hennepin County Waste Abatement Incentive Fund.

It also bought biodegradeable trash can liners and more biodegradeable paper products, and is paying for weekly organics waste removal pickups.

All of the district's elementary and secondary schools eventually will participate in the program.

"We've been putting a lot of effort into organics for the past five years," said John Jaimez , coordinator of Hennepin County's organics recycling program.

The launch of Orono's program and three others -- in Brooklyn Center, Edina and Wayzata school districts -- means eight west Hennepin County school districts now recycle organics.

Organics include food scraps and food-soiled paper products, such as napkins, cardboard, brown paper bags and milk cartons, that can be mixed with a heating agent such as manure and eventually turned into compost.

'It's a chicken and the egg thing'

Orono's more than 2,648 students and staff members produce tons of cafeteria waste each year. But this year "we're already seeing less trash," Diller said.

Since the organics program launched, Diller said more than two-thirds of the waste at the intermediate and elementary school is recycled as organics or co-mingled paper. Diller also said trash pickups are now scheduled once a week instead of three times per week.

As part of the changeover, Orono's food service staff has swapped some items such as plastic soup bowls for biodegradable paper substitutes and replaced individually wrapped condiments with ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise dispensers.

Orono City Council Member Lili McMillan said the city of Orono launched its residential organics recycling program in May. Three other west metro cities -- Medina, Minnetonka and Wayzata -- launched organics programs earlier.

"My hope is that the schoolchildren will continue doing this at home," McMillan said. "It's a chicken and the egg thing."

Getting the hang of it

Earlier this school year, Orono teachers and administrators and college students from the University of Minnesota taught the students the difference between organics and regular recyclables such as plastic water bottles.

Jaimez said Orono's organics loads have been mostly "clean." He said Resource Recovery Technologies' Dakota County compost facility allows up to 10 percent contaminants.

Recently, Michael Winkey kept one eye on the recycling center as he talked about lunchtime. "The first few days everyone made mistakes, but now they've mostly got the hang of it," he said.

Alexis Mac Art, age 11, said she's thought about how landfills contribute to global warming, and she wants to keep more trash out of them.

Besides, "I think it's kind of fun," Alexis said -- and "it's helping the environment."

Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Child hidden

This is the second edition of an ongoing series. Look for the third edition in next Monday's Daily.
By Kathryn Nelson, Kathryn Nelson

by all accounts, Kevin Masengeli was born a normal child. But his possession began one year later and by his sixth birthday, he went down.

That's what his grandmother, Norah Nasambu told me at the hospital.

She is the only one that can tell his story, yet she is the one that tried to stifle it.

Kevin was found by Red Cross volunteers during a hut-to-hut malaria campaign. A villager told them there was a boy living nearby who was possessed by the devil and needed to be rid of because he was bringing a curse upon the community.

The volunteers waited over 12 hours before reporting the situation to the district office, and it wasn't until the next morning that we gathered a stretcher and left for the village.

It was only my second week in Kenya. I had been working with displaced persons in the war-torn area of Mount Elgon and had already experienced more than enough violence.

But what I saw in that hut disturbed me more than anything I have ever seen in my life.

A crowd gathered in front of a small mud hut and prepared to get Kevin and bring him to the hospital. As each volunteer passed through the doorway they let out a loud gasp.

The time came for me to enter, and I ducked down to fit under the door frame. I was immediately hit with stale, dirty, suffocating air.

Crouched in the corner of the hut was Kevin. He was naked and wrapped in a feces-infested blanket. Huge festering wounds covered his body and wept blood. His muscles looked like they had curled up inside his skin, leaving his mangled arms stuck to his torso. He weighed no more than 70 pounds.

I swear I could see his heart beating underneath his paper skin.

I have never in my life, before or after Africa, been so starkly confronted with such abominable violence and neglect.

At that moment I lost my belief in God, in humanity and in myself.

We carried him on our stretcher and brought him out from the darkness into the light of day, a place he hadn't been in years.

I knew I had to take a photo, gather some sort of documentation to show others. I was convinced that if people saw Kevin, they could save him. That's what I wanted to believe.

I started snapping photos of him, dozens and dozens of them.

I stayed crouched down next to him for what seemed like a lifetime. His eyes rolled around inside their sunken sockets and he only groaned at me.

We made eye contact and stared at each other for just a moment too long to forget.

Kevin was admitted to the Bungoma District Hospital, a collection place for the most ill and desperate.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the building every morning waiting to be admitted. They let me just walk in.

The stench of death and chemicals lingered in the air. Buildings housing typhoid and tuberculosis patients were situated next to the child and maternity wards. People with swollen faces, rotting flesh and infected wounds were all around me.

For the first time since I moved to Kenya, I began to sob uncontrollably. This was not a world I wanted to see. There was no hope for these people. This hospital was a revolving door of death, and I couldn't save a single soul.

I walked into the emergency ward where Kevin was staying. His body was so contorted that he needed two blankets to cover himself.

His grandmother Norah only spoke a tribal language, and it was virtually impossible to understand what she was saying. Slowly though, we began to collect the story of Kevin Masengeli.

Born out of wedlock, his mother cared for him for several years, until the convulsions started. She left him alone with his grandmother and never returned, dying several months later, most likely of AIDS.

As the devil continued to afflict him, Norah could no longer handle the stress and began to leave him alone in the hut. First for days, then for months.

His violent attacks became more dangerous and injuries to his brain began to develop. He hit his head on the ground so many times that he became mute and his contortions caused severe muscular atrophy.

Several months before we found him, he was poisoned, but lived.

Kevin was starved so severely that he would chew on the tips of his grandmother's fingertips.

She just wanted her trouble to die.

At the hospital, I asked Norah why she would treat her own flesh and blood like an animal.

"So that the burden may go," she said.

That night I went to the only club in town. I ordered a liter of vodka and bottles of Coke. I drank until I couldn't see straight. I stumbled home and ripped my leg open on a rusty nail.

I still have that scar. I look at it every day and think of Kevin. It's the only tangible mark of his life in this world.

I continued to visit him in the hospital every day because I needed hope. I wanted him to get up and walk with me, away from this godforsaken country.

But he didn't. When I left him two months later he was scheduled to return to his hut with his grandmother.

There wasn't an orphanage to take him, or money to pay.

It turned out that he was epileptic, but couldn't collect the medications to keep him stable.

He was sentenced to his deathbed at the age of 17.

My life is divided by a fault line. There is only the before and after, and I have lost myself in the blur.

It's like the night at the bar in Kenya. Everything is moving around me, but I can't find where I fit in the midst.

I lost myself the day I abandoned Kevin, and now I'm left to pick up the pieces of a shattered soul.

Kathryn Nelson is the Daily's projects editor. She welcomes comments at kgnelson AT

Homophobic Ignorance goes Global

The global GLBT community has a LONG way to go. This is a clip from the Daily Standard of Nairobi, Kenya. The author ignores that some people are born with a different orientation, and that it can be "cured." This is like a trans-gendered person that can be cured from being born that way - as if that is possible.

In many countries, these poor children will be born only to be executed because they are a "freak." Same as if they come out of the closet, they face a death penalty - legal or vigilante. That is the chance one takes in having children - they will not be the same as you.

I strongly urge you to email Mark Mzungu and all those who follow in homophobic and ignorant footsteps.



By Mark Mzungu

One of the contradictions I came across this week in the Ugandan newspapers was a press conference called by homosexuals, asking to be left in peace.

A press conference is a sure way of attracting attention and this seems to be exactly what they wanted. If, as they say, people with this problem have been around a long time, why is it only now they are coming out in the open?

And they are going about it the same way other countries have. Most of the Western worlds have witnessed nasty demonstrations of homosexuals in the streets — Italy and Poland most recently — with the kind of behaviour you would like to keep away from everyone. What kind of explanation can a mother give an inquisitive child who wants to know what such people are protesting against?

Was the press conference the first step to making this practice acceptable? Are they just testing the waters, and assessing the response in a traditional and conservative society, such as Uganda, which is more tolerant and less puritanical than Kenya?

Their claims and demands were over the mark. They claim they are the "homosexual children of God". This is hardly fair. Didn’t God destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, where homosexuality was practised?

The effect was such that this area, near the present Red Sea, is still, thousands of years later, sterile and hostile to human habitation. St Paul’s Letter to the Romans (chapter 1), in the context of idolatry and the marginalisation of God, condemns those who dishonour their bodies …and served the creature rather than the Creator…Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men, likewise, were consumed by passion for one.

These people are saying there are at least 500,000 adult homosexuals in Uganda. That’s a big number. And how did they reach this figure? Citing the Kinsey Report and other studies, they conclude that in Uganda between three and 10 per cent of the population is inclined this way. Such a conclusion hardly stands up to serious scrutiny. Besides, three to 10 per cent is a wide range.

Healthcare and proper treatment

In addition, they are demanding healthcare and proper treatment. For what? For their behaviour? They also claim that they were accepted in their communities before the colonialists came. Homosexuality is unAfrican. Slave traders brought it to Buganda.

It was considered an abomination in most cultures.

The Ugandan Penal Code criminalises homosexuality. It is considered an unnatural offence, punishable with life imprisonment. This code is based on British law. Now more countries are repealing laws against homosexuality and, predictably, the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction.

Not only is homosexuality no longer considered abnormal, it is now acceptable. Recently, orphanages in the UK were told they should be willing to hand over the custody of children to same sex couples. What kind of upbringing can a poor orphan expect in an arrangement like this?

Many people fear that we are accepting the bad habits of the West, without thinking or reacting, and before long will have legalised same-sex marriages like South Africa.

This is not to deny that some people (a small proportion) grow up with a certain homosexual tendency, which can be corrected.

If anyone justly claims the right to treatment and understanding it is these people. But this is different to declaring that the condition is irreversible, and that society has to make the necessary adjustments and allowances for their behaviour.

Some are born with a tendency towards kleptomania, but no judge will be so understanding as to let them steal other people’s property. Others are born with a brutal nature. Others, regrettably, inherit a pre-disposition to alcohol from a dipsomaniac father or grandfather. These people need help, and can be helped if they co-operate.

They should also remember that most well intentioned people feel sorry for them. No one has anything against them; but people are repulsed by their acts, and no normal society can condone such behaviour.

Our sorrow reaches a limit when they display their weaknesses publicly, and expect to be given special treatment, instead of struggling against their tendencies and seeking medical, moral and psychological advice.

markmzungu AT


Monday, October 15, 2007

Maathai censures parties over ‘individualism’

Published on October 15, 2007, 12:00 am

By Samuel Otieno

Nobel Peace laureate Prof Wangari Maathai has warned that the nomination wrangles that have rocked the Party of National Unity (PNU) may harm President Kibaki’s re-election campaign.

Maathai cautioned parties affiliated to the President against sending out negative signals.

"The perception is that some of the parties under PNU are arrogant, dishonest, selfish, secretive and unreliable," She said.

Maathai, who is also the chairperson of the Green Party of Kenya — an affiliate of PNU — also demanded an explanation as to why some parties in the alliance are opting to present civic and parliamentary candidates, adding that going separate ways will not necessarily deliver the desired goal.

"We need to know the reasons why parties like Kanu, Shirikisho, New Ford Kenya, and Safina, to mention but a few, are opting to go it alone." she said.

She further told PNU members to learn from history.

"The ideal situation would probably have been that all Kibaki-friendly parties go it alone, or, all of them present themselves to a primary process like we did in Narc in 2002," she said.

She said that parties that were engaging in these practices were fronting their leaders. They also wanted their leaders to be excluded from competitive nominations at the constituency level and allow them to receive nomination certificates directly.

She said this would mean that the rest of the candidates from other parties not privy to these schemes and who have, therefore, not been anointed would not even have a chance to compete. "That is completely unfair. People want free and fair nominations," she said.

She said the same parties are ensuring that civic and parliamentary candidates from their parties will equally receive nomination certificates irrespective of the results of the nomination process.

Maathai said there are accusations that some of the parties have signed secret Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) whose content is unknown to the other parties.

"There is also the concern that the registered constitution of PNU remains a secret. Who are the owners of PNU? Why is the constitution unavailable to prospective members and candidates?" she posed.

She added that there was the perception that PNU-based aspiring candidates would sign forms which would prevent them from seeking nomination through other parties if they lost through PNU.

"It would appear that parties are being driven apart by perceptions of mistrust and suspicions," she said.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Greenest On Earth? ( according to Reader's Digest )

Living Green
Ranking the best (and worst) countries.
By Matthew E. Kahn, PhD, and Fran Lostys
From Reader's Digest
October 2007

Methodology for Countries Rankings
To build our green and livable index, we collected data from the United Nations 2006 Human Development Indicators (HDI) and the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI). The HDI examines national quality of life and doesn’t merely focus on per-capita income. It takes into account information on life expectancy, educational attainment and national per capita income. The ESI index is based on a collaboration between Yale University and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University, and the World Economic Forum. It tracks a diverse set of indicators that influence environmental sustainability at the national level. For 141 nations, the database offers information on 76 different variables organized into 21 sustainability categories. We included information on 13 of these 21 categories in our index. Six of the thirteen categories have a direct effect on a nation’s daily environmental quality of life, such as air and water quality. The remaining seven categories are key indicators of whether a nation is a good regional and global “citizen” in not exacerbating environmental challenges. Such a nation does not contribute to regional problems such as acid rain, and on the important issue of climate change, has a small ecological footprint and produces relatively few greenhouse gases. A good global citizen also protects biodiversity located within its physical borders. To construct a national ranking based on a nation’s HDI score and on its scores on each of these thirteen categories, we first take all fourteen scores and standardize them. This transforms the data into comparable units. We chose to give the HDI index a weight of 50%, and the subset of ESI variables received a weight of 50%. We weighed each ESI variable equally so each of the thirteen indicators receives a weight of (1/26). Sorting this overall score provides our ranking.

Standardization Formula Used:
Define Xi = nation i's score on variable X
Define Xbar = the sample average for variable X
Define sdX = the sample standard deviation for variable X
Nation i's standardized score = (Xi - Xbar)/sdX

How Countries Rate

Top 5

1. Finland

2. Iceland

3. Norway

4. Sweden

5. Austria

Bottom 5

137. Chad

138. Burkina Faso

139. Sierra Leone

140. Niger

141. Ethiopia

Air Quality
Rates concentration of several pollutants in urban areas

1. Moldova

8. Finland

63. United States

126. Ethiopia

141. Guatemala

The World's Greenest, Most Livable Cities
Using different data, we analyzed 72 major international cities and ranked them in terms of being green and livable. The sources included The Millennium Cities Database for Sustainable Transport (2001) by Jeff Kenworthy and Felix Laube of Australia's Murdoch University, the World Bank's Development Economic Research Group Estimates, and our own reporting on local environmental laws, energy prices, garbage production and disposal, and parkland.

5 Best

1. Stockholm

2. Oslo

3. Munich

4. Paris

5. Frankfurt

5 Worst

68. Bangkok

69. Guangzhou

70. Mumbai

71. Shanghai

72. Beijing

How U.S. Cities Rate

15. New York

22. Washington, D.C.

23. Chicago

26. San Francisco

36. Atlanta

43. Denver

46. Houston

55. San Diego

57. Los Angeles

60. Phoenix

Water Quality
Rates pollutant levels as well as other factors that affect water purity

1. Norway

2. Finland

22. United States

127. Ethiopia

141. Morocco

Greenhouse Gases
Rates carbon emissions per capita and by GDP

1. Chad

18. Ethiopia

75. Finland

107. United States

141. Turkmenistan

Energy Efficiency
Rates conservation efforts and use of renewables such as hydropower

1. D.R. Congo

17. Ethiopia

66. Finland

106. United States

141. Trinidad & Tobago

Environmental Health
Rates childhood mortality, disease; deaths from intestinal infections

1. Austria

8. Finland

125. Ethiopia

16. United States

141. Turkmenistan


Countries Overall
1. Finland

2. Iceland

3. Norway

4. Sweden

5. Austria

6. Switzerland

7. Ireland

8. Australia

9. Uruguay

10. Denmark

11. Canada

12. Japan

13. Israel

14. Italy

15. Slovenia

16. France

17. Netherlands

18. Portugal

19. New Zealand

20. Greece

21. Germany

22. Latvia

23. United States

24. Lithuania

25. United Kingdom

26. Belgium

27. Argentina

28. Croatia

29. Spain

30. Hungary

31. Albania

32. Estonia

33. Slovakia

34. Costa Rica

35. South Korea

36. Cuba

37. Belarus

38. Czech Republic

39. Bosnia and Herzegovina

40. Brazil

41. Panama

42. Armenia

43. Chile

44. Paraguay

45. United Arab Emirates

46. Macedonia

47. Bulgaria

48. Poland

49. Kuwait

50. Oman

51. Russia

52. Peru

53. Colombia

54. Malaysia

55. Guyana

56. Romania

57. Trinidad & Tobago

58. Georgia

59. Kazakhstan

60. Moldova

61. Thailand

62. Tunisia

63. Mexico

64. Libya

65. Ukraine

66. Sri Lanka

67. Lebanon

68. Venezuela

69. Ecuador

70. Turkey

71. Jordan

72. Algeria

73. Kyrgyzstan

74. Azerbaijan

75. Bolivia

76. Gabon

77. Dominican Republic

78. Syria

79. El Salvador

80. Saudi Arabia

81. Jamaica

82. Indonesia

83. Iran

84. China

85. Nicaragua

86. Namibia

87. Philippines

88. Egypt

89. Mongolia

90. Viet Nam

91. Myanmar

92. Honduras

93. Botswana

94. Turkmenistan

95. Tajikistan

96. South Africa

97. Guatemala

98. Cambodia

99. Uzbekistan

100. Bhutan

101. Laos

102. Morocco

103. Ghana

104. India

105. Congo

106. Cameroon

107. Uganda

108. Nepal

109. Papua New Guinea

110. Gambia

111. Bangladesh

112. Madagascar

113. Senegal

114. Togo

115. Pakistan

116. Kenya

117. Rwanda

118. Guinea

119. Zimbabwe

120. Zambia

121. Nigeria

122. Sudan

123. Tanzania

124. Benin

125. Central Africa Republic

126. Malawi

127. Mauritania

128. Yemen

129. Angola

130. Côte d'Ivoire

131. Democratic Republic of the Congo

132. Haiti

133. Mali

134. Guinea-Bissau

135. Mozambique

136. Burundi

137. Chad

138. Burkina Faso

139. Sierra Leone

140. Niger

141. Ethiopia

Cities Overall
1. Stockholm, Sweden

2. Oslo, Norway

3. Munich, Germany

4. Paris, France

5. Frankfurt, Germany

6. Stuttgart, Germany

7. Lyon, France

8. Dusseldorf, Germany

9. Nantes, France

10. Copenhagen, Denmark

11. Geneva, Switzerland

12. Zurich, Switzerland

13. Glasgow, United Kingdom

14. Barcelona, Spain

15. New York, United States

16. Brussels, Belgium

17. Hamburg, Germany

18. Hong Kong, PR China

19. Newcastle, United Kingdom

20. Tokyo, Japan

21. Helsinki, Finland

22. Washington, D.C., United States

23. Chicago, United States

24. Vancouver, Canada

25. Dortmund, Germany

26. San Francisco, United States

27. London, United Kingdom

28. Perth, Australia

29. Melbourne, Australia

30. Manchester, United Kingdom

31. Graz, Austria

32. Berlin, Germany

33. Ottawa, Canada

34. Wellington, New Zealand

35. Amsterdam, Netherlands

36. Atlanta, United States

37. Marseille, France

38. Vienna, Austria

39. Rome, Italy

40. Sydney, Australia

41. Prague, Czech Republic

42. Brisbane, Australia

43. Denver, United States

44. Berne, Switzerland

45. Singapore, Singapore

46. Houston, United States

47. Bologna, Italy

48. Montreal, Canada

49. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

50. Toronto, Canada

51. Cape Town, South Africa

52. Seoul, South Korea

53. Milan, Italy

54. Curitiba, Brazil

55. San Diego, United States

56. Madrid, Spain

57. Los Angeles, United States

58. Budapest, Hungary

59. Calgary, Canada

60. Phoenix, United States

61. Johannesburg, South Africa

62. Sao Paulo, Brazil

63. Athens, Greece

64. Tel Aviv, Israel

65. Chennai, India

66. Cracow, Poland

67. Taipei, Taiwan

68. Bangkok, Thailand

69. Guangzhou, PR China

70. Mumbai, India

71. Shanghai, PR China

72. Beijing, PR China


Monday, October 08, 2007

Finding hope in the midst of darkness

By Kathryn Nelson

when I left for Kenya, I believed that I would change the country more than it would me. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I now see that my life has fractured into two halves: the before and the after. It seems like the before has begun to fade away like it was some sort of façade, as if I was really only born the moment my feet touched African soil. Before that, I did not know the world.

As I think back on my time in Kenya, I feel a profound sadness for all I experienced. It's hard to corner the exact source of my grief. I think the cause constantly morphs as I try to fit myself back into the box of American society, one I can't feel comfortable in again.

It seems as if I can't escape my memories. Every corner of my mind is filled with the details of my two months. It's really the only life I know now.

Still, I would never give up the experience that has made me the woman I have always wanted to be. I will never give up this pain because it has provided me with the most profound understanding of who I really am. There is no greater joy in my life than retelling the stories of my children. I see their smiles as they touched my hair, tugged on my clothes and tasted the candy I brought them. This constant narrative runs in my mind and provides me with a deep inner bliss, but also makes me long to return to my country.

I see my world through the eyes of a broken aid worker. Smelling the sour stench of garbage takes me to Nairobi's slums, blooming tree buds send me back to the flowering branches on Moi Avenue, the taste of chai tea brings me to eating dinner with my father, legs stretched out on his rotting couch.

I desperately want to recreate my life in Africa. Sometimes I search in the aisles of the grocery stores for sweet bananas, sukuma wiki, ingredients for chapattis, just so I can escape for just one moment, to the only place that has given me peace. Sadly, I usually come up empty and wandering.

I am a different person now. I sometimes mourn for the ignorant bliss I urged to shed only a few months ago. Friends and family have told me they see the change. They tell me that sometimes I'm physically present but not mentally "there." I'm off in some other world, they say. I know exactly where I am though - sitting in a field of grass wrapping plastic bags with twine to make soccer balls for squirming kids or sitting in a hut, flies crawling up my legs, laughing with my best friend Centrine.

Instead, I often find myself in some dirty bar in Minneapolis, music pumping in my brain as I suck down another vodka tonic.

I'm so frightened that those memories, my most cherished thoughts, might leave me one day. I often find solace in listening to my grandfather speak about fighting in "the war". It seems that even though he forgets the day-to-day details of his life, he seems to hold those past memories, decades old, so close to his heart. He spins yarns about the battles he fought in Morocco and the way shrapnel feels when it burns under your skin. He rehashes these stories, looking for new angles to note or people to remember.

I too, have become a withered storybook, retelling the same tales to whoever will hear them. My friends have listened enough since I returned, but they always humor me when I pull out another album and retell Kenya again.

It's hard to think of hope in a world like this. I try to make sense of what this life is, why such unspeakable acts have occurred under our noses. Some people say that we are all cursed, doomed to fester and fight until the earth collapses. Other people rationalize the pain by believing it's just a natural process of the universe. There always has to be an underdog.

I can't accept these explanations. I have to believe that someday there will be happiness here, both in my own soul and in my country. If I give up that hope, there is nothing more to live for.

My only faith for Africa rests on the shoulders of our generation. In Kenya, children study their school notes under kerosene lamps - eyes squinted as to make out the torn pages of their books. In Chebukwa, groups of girls came to meet me in the afternoon just to practice their English or tell me about their studies.

"I want to be a pilot," one girl said. "I want to be a doctor," another answered.

This is where hope comes from - the girls and boys of Africa who have the undying lust to break free from their parent's poverty.

We, in the West, also have the power the rise up for these children. Their futures depend on a menial amount of money. Children cannot attend school without a uniform, but for around $17 they can purchase one. School fees are less than $30 a semester, but this is far too much for a Kenyan who makes .25 cents a day. It's amazing really, how much power we hold in our own pockets and we have the ability to change it all.

I plan to return to Kenya soon, May 2008 at the latest. I have to attend to my charity, The Nafula Foundation, meaning she came in the rain. It was founded with Pastor Daniel and University student Aaron Bucher. We are striving to make a positive dent in this world of chaos and sadness.

I often dream the emotions I will have when I step foot back in Africa. Though I can't wait to be back in the arms of my family, it breaks my heart to think of all the people who won't be there when I go back. Already half a dozen have died from AIDS and malaria in the village, leaving close to 30 orphans to fend for themselves. But it doesn't have to be this way forever.

There's an African proverb that says, "A little rain each day will fill the rivers to overflowing." I find that even the smallest contribution in the lives of these children can determine their entire futures. It just depends on if you wish to become a drop of rain in this river, or if you want to let it go dry.

We simply must remember that it is only when we truly believe that we can change the world that we accomplish it.

Kathryn Nelson welcomes comments at kgnelson AT

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Winona LaDuke was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. - Winona LaDuke was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls Oct. 7, joining eight other inductees.

LaDuke has dedicated her life to protecting the earth, advocating for renewable energy resources, and protecting and preserving American Indian cultures. Her efforts involve the preservation of ancient traditions, such as the wild rice that is central to her cultural and spiritual way of life.

LaDuke, Anishinaabeg from the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, is a graduate of Harvard and Antioch universities. She returned to her ancestral land on White Earth and raised three children while starting businesses and traveling the country on speaking engagements and attending meetings.She ran as a vice presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000.

LaDuke organized the White Earth Land Recovery Project, the largest reservation-based nonprofit organization in the country. Its mission is to facilitate the recovery of the original land base of the White Earth Indian Reservation while preserving and restoring traditional practices of land stewardship, language fluency, community development and strengthening the spiritual and cultural life of the community, according to the organization's Web site.

Her work to protect the planet began in 1993 with the organization of Honor the Earth, a grass-roots organization that has expanded its influence internationally to work for environmental justice and to encourage and support other American Indian communities in their efforts to sustain a healthy environment and live a healthy lifestyle. Honor the Earth also utilizes indigenous wisdom to understand the connection between all life and the earth.

LaDuke is especially vocal about renewable resources and especially what individuals can do to reduce the growth of global warming.

''I am proud of Winona being inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame,'' said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network and co-chair of Honor the Earth. ''I have been working with Winona for years on energy and food-security issues. She has dedicated her life to working with our Native nations towards helping build sustainable and healthy communities.''

At a recent gathering of tribal leaders from across the northern Great Plains, LaDuke, as a keynote speaker, mentioned that her reservation was east of the Great Plains and the emissions from fossil fuel-powered facilities travel over her reservation. She said her reservation has 11 lakes that already have enough mercury in them.

''We continue to fish and harvest our wild rice,'' she said. Some of those harvests come from lakes that contain mercury.

''I'm acutely aware of our relationship over all these years with many of the Dakota people in our territory, and are interested in hearing about questions of how we can ensure that our air our land and our water will be there for those generations yet to come,'' she said.

LaDuke is a person who puts into practice what she advocates when it comes to the environment and traditional values. From a handful of corn kernels, similar to heirloom seeds, that were part of the traditional corn crops grown in the Southwest centuries ago, she has grown seven acres of corn that she turns into food products for her family.

She also drives a 1983 diesel automobile that burns biodiesel - or the cooking oil left over from fast food establishments.

''We don't want to change who we are; we don't want to change our identity. You are all really smart indigenous people - we know the truth to who we are and we know that our land is tied to who we are, is tied to identity, is tied to our spiritual practice.

''The covenant in our relationship to the Creator is where our sovereignty comes from - it doesn't come from an IRA government, it doesn't come from a treaty; it comes from who we are and our reaffirmation of relationship with the Earth, like harvesting wild rice, by having the ceremonies,'' she said.

LaDuke is one of 217 women who have been inducted into the hall of fame since 1969, when the hall was established. The National Women's Hall of Fame is on the site of the first women's rights convention in 1848.

LaDuke is a former member of the Greenpeace USA board of directors and is co-chair of the Indigenous Women's Network.

Time magazine nominated her in 1994 as one of America's 50 most promising leaders under 40 years of age; received the Thomas Merton Award in 1996; received the Anne Bancroft Award for Women's leadership Fellowship, the Reebok Human Rights Award and wrote her first novel, ''Last Standing Woman,'' in 1997; and was chosen as Ms. Magazine's Woman of the Year in 1998.

At the National Women's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, she promoted the contributions made by the indigenous peoples of this continent by speaking about the model for the nation's government structure that came from the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy of what became New York state.

She pointed out that in trying to establish a democracy, the Founding Fathers of this country had no role models in Europe. She said they turned to the Iroquois Confederacy as the model.

''In coming here, I saw signs along the roads against Indian businesses, against reservations, against sovereignty,'' LaDuke said in her acceptance speech, as reported in the Finger Lakes Times.

''If we want peace, we have to have justice. I would hope we could not encourage hate and division. It's time to end the war against the Indians and make peace.''

Monday, October 01, 2007

Modern enslavement

This is the fourth edition in an ongoing series. Look for the fifth in next Monday's Daily.
By Kathryn Nelson

as a white Western female living in Kenya, you sometimes feel that you're immune to the violence that afflicts everyone around you.

But it was only when I was confronted with such violence that I truly became a woman of this country, when a man attempted to sexually assault me inside his Kenyan home.

Grappling with the fact that I was almost raped has been one of my most difficult trials I have ever dealt with.

It was after I sat across from the assaulter at the police station, listening to his testimony of how I had seduced him into the act that I really recognized the depth of what occurred and the profoundness of how women around the world live in sexual slavery.

Peter Serango was the supervisor of disaster relief at Mount Elgon. He studied engineering at a university in Europe and had worked at the Kenyan Red Cross for many years with hundreds of young volunteers.

His appearance reminded me of an old friend of my parents, soothing and genuinely interested in hearing about my life. We spent many afternoons talking in the hot sun about life in the West, what we missed and what we didn't.

I wasn't surprised when he offered me a ride into town on his bicycle one afternoon. Peter just needed to drop off his backpack at his home nearby and wanted to show me the new land he had recently purchased.

I wanted to honor our friendship by visiting his home and attempting to understand his life.

I climbed on his old bicycle and rode to his home, but as soon as I walked into his living room, I knew there was something wrong.

The floor was littered with empty containers of glue, broken liquor bottles and a bare, soiled mattress in the corner.

My world slowed to a halt during those first few minutes. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I do know that he grabbed my shoulders and slammed me on the wall.

"I love you Katie," Peter said. "You need to kiss me."

My body seized as he came toward my face. Somewhere in my bones and muscles, in the deepest part of my soul, I found the strength to break his hold from my body and run.

I dashed to the nearest road and looked around for help but there was no one there to help me. My only lifeline was my cell phone. I called my mother in Minneapolis and told her, "If I hang up, I'm being attacked. Please stay on the line until I find help."

There is no 911 emergency center in Kenya, no police to trust or people who know you. I needed to get to my home with my host family as soon as I could, but my feet couldn't carry me fast enough; I was too slow for Peter.

He began following me on his bicycle trying to apologize for his actions.

"Do not tell anyone, Kathryn! I am very sorry," he said.

I stayed on the phone until I found a taxi that took me straight home and to the open arms of my host sister, Anne. When I explained what had happened her response was vague.

"What a bad man," she said.

Callous as her comfort initially was, I soon remembered that Anne had been raped her entire life by her husband. An attempted assault was normal in her existence.

My host father, Pastor Daniel Makecho, took a much firmer stance.

"When people hear of this in America, they will think all Africans are rapists," Daniel said. "We will make an example of him, send him to jail for the rest of his life."

It's long been known that Kenya has one of the most corrupt police forces in the world. I met with women weeks before who had been raped by government security forces in Mount Elgon. In my own selfish, embarrassed mind, I wanted to make this all go away and never speak of it again.

The next morning, Daniel took me to meet with the local police who took my statement. Unlike here in the West, there was no privacy to my pain. Most people at the station wanted to hear what the 'mzungu' woman was complaining about.

A warrant for his arrest was assigned immediately.

I felt no remorse when Peter filed into the station, head down and shamed. I initially didn't intend on pushing full charges for attempted rape; I just wanted to teach him a lesson about boundaries, not ruin his life.

It was also not Peter's intention to tell the truth about his actions. He lied in my face and told me I wanted to lay with him - that I had pursued everything. He continued to blame me for everything, as if I had the power over his mind.

After an hour, I began hysterically crying and asked to leave the room, but instead he was taken out, behind the station to be spoken with.

When he returned, he was more remorseful. He pleaded guilty to attempted rape and apologized to me. Peter was sent to jail for several days while we drafted the official charges.

The minimum sentence for his charge is 12 years.

But that was before we discovered he had raped a 3 1/2-year-old girl. He had done this before.

Some people say the most painful moments in life are just a lesson or blessing in disguise. I can only hope this is what happened.

I sometimes wonder how many more women had been exploited by him or how many children had their innocence stolen away.

As far as I know, Peter is still in jail and will be for the rest of his life. My father Daniel goes to visit him sometimes and pray for his soul. Peter asks for forgiveness from God and from me.

I try not to think of him anymore, his face, his thoughts. I do sometimes wake up in the night crying because in my dreams I see the face of one of the children he stole from the world.

We are living in a generation of women who are enslaved by the sexual exploits of men.

These acts are no longer simply a continent's problem - it is our collective crisis that spans all cultures and colors.

We can no longer allow children to be defined by the malicious acts of other people's selfish exploitations.

This is our cross to bear and to act upon. It is my burden too.

As long we continue to allow these acts to befall the most innocent people on earth, may we never find peace in our lives.

Kathryn Nelson welcomes comments at kgnelson AT

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