Daily Archives: December 3, 2011

Looking for the Perfect Holiday Gift?

Choosing the perfect holiday gift is one of life’s greater challenges, modestly more difficult than earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics. So it is time for my annual gift guide.

Major humanitarian organizations offer alluring holiday gifts. Through the International Rescue Committee, $30 buys a flock of chickens for a needy family. At CARE, $29 gets a girl a school uniform. Through Heifer International, you can stock a fish pond for $300. With Mercy Corps, $69 can start a female entrepreneur in the sewing business.

Beyond those organizations, here are some lesser-known charities that offer a world of good.

Helen Keller International fights blindness and malnutrition around the world with simple and cost-effective programs. One of the best ways to improve children’s health is to focus on micronutrients, like iodine, vitamin A and zinc — and in some cases to fortify foods with nutrients at a negligible cost. Helen Keller International, at hki.org, is a leader in that effort.

Against Malaria has a simple model: $5 will buy a net that protects people from mosquitoes that carry malaria. All the money that donated goes to buy nets, and the charity, at againstmalaria.com, gets a rave review from GiveWell, which rates charities.

Reading Is Fundamental is a program that promotes literacy in America. Its government financing has been slashed, so it needs support. The group is a public-private partnership with 400,000 volunteers, bringing huge efficiencies. It provides new, free books to four million children across the United States, and encourages the kids to read. Information is at rif.org.

The Citizens Foundation was started by Pakistani businessmen concerned about their country and builds schools for needy children there. Billions of dollars in American military aid to Pakistan haven’t accomplished much. The best way to moderate Pakistan and defeat extremists is to bolster secular education. Information is at citizensfoundation.org.

GEMS is a New York-based organization supporting American girls who have been trafficked, prostituted, or sexually abused. It provides shelter and education for those rescued from pimps and provides some of the first nurturing many have received. Prostitution of children should be a stain on the national conscience, and GEMS helps survivors while using peer counseling to prevent the trafficking in the first place. It is at gems-girls.org.

Via The New York Times. For the rest of Nicholas Kristof’s suggestions, and to see more information about the featured charities, please click here.

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George Clooney’s Satellites Help International Criminal Court Investigation

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is compiling evidence of possible war crimes in southern Sudan, allegedly directed by the same man, Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, an ICC prosecutor wants to apprehend for alleged crimes eight years ago in Darfur. An ICC memo outlines the Darfur crimes and says Mr. Hussein is “currently central to the commission of similar crimes” along the border between the north and south, including the killings of thousands of civilians.

A significant part of this investigation is based on data from the Satellite Sentinel Project, a network of private satellites and analysts organized by George Clooney in partnership with John Prendergast’s Enough Project. The satellites have snapped pictures of Sudan since December 2010. “We are the antigenocide paparazzi,” Mr. Clooney told TIME.

The investigation comes as ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested an arrest warrant for Mr. Hussein with respect to war crimes from August 2003 to March 2004. Mr. Hussein allegedly engaged in war crimes by dispatching troops and militias to Darfur that killed tens of thousands of civilians to suppress rebellion in the region.

The ICC is building a case that Mr. Hussein is behind the killing of civilians over the past year. The North is seeking to secure control over those oil-rich regions along the border between the north and south.

The ICC investigation memo says evidence suggests that military forces from North Sudan and their militias committed “grave crimes.” Military forces under Mr. Hussein’s command are conducting military operations in these areas and utilizing proxy militias to carry out atrocities. The memo cites the deaths of at least 2,000 civilians since early this year. Tens of thousands have been displaced, the memo adds.

The ICC memo cites Mr. Clooney’s satellites capturing images of the results of bombing of villages in late May that resulted in the displacement of 30,000 people, as well as pictures of the movement of northern artillery and thousands of troops in Karmuk.

The fact that the ICC is investigating Mr. Hussein’s role in possible atrocities in the South does not necessarily mean he will face arrest.

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Breaking: Herman Cain Suspends Campaign

Herman Cain announced he is suspending his bid for the Republican Presidential nomination.

“One of the first declarations that I want to make to you today is that I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife, and she is at peace with me,” he said.

Mr. Cain said the decision was a result of the “cloud of doubt” that had been cast over his family in light of what he called false allegations.

Mr. Cain’s once-surging bid for the nomination began to falter in recent weeks after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.

Most recently, Ginger White of Atlanta claimed that she and Mr. Cain, who is married, had carried on a thirteen-year affair.

Mr. Cain this week told a newspaper he had repeatedly given White money to help her with “month-to-month bills and expenses,” but he denied the relationship was sexual.

Mr. Cain told staffers he was assessing his campaign in the wake of the allegation and acknowledged that her account led to a drop in contributions to his campaign.

“Suspending” a campaign allows a candidate to continue raising and spending campaign funds.

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Support for Tea Party Down, Even in Tea Party Strongholds

Support for the Tea Party has fallen sharply even in places considered Tea Party strongholds, according to a new survey.

In Congressional districts represented by Tea Party lawmakers, the number of people who disagree with the Tea Party has risen sharply over the year since the movement powered a Republican sweep in midterm elections. Almost as many people disagree with the Tea Party as agree with it, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center.

In the sixty districts represented in Congress by a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, Republicans are viewed about as negatively as Democrats.

The Tea Party is dragging down the Republican Party heading into a Presidential election, even as it ushered in a Republican majority in the House a year ago.

Polls have shown a decline in support for the Tea Party because its hard line during the debate over the debt ceiling and deficit reduction made it less an abstraction. In earlier polls, most Americans did not know enough about the Tea Party to offer an opinion.

The Pew survey shows that Tea Party support declined even in places where it had been particularly robust.

The number of people who disagree with the Tea Party had risen among the public and in the districts represented by the Tea Party caucus, according to one of the polls. Among the public, 27% said they disagreed with the Tea Party, and 20% said they agreed. A year ago, 27% agreed and 22% disagreed with the Tea Party.

In Tea Party districts, 23% of people disagree with the Tea Party, while 25% agree. A year ago, 33% of people in those districts agreed with the Tea Party, and 18% disagreed.

Opinions of the Republican Party dropped sharply in Tea Party districts. In an October Pew poll, 48% of people in those places had a negative view of the Republican Party; 41% have a favorable view. The favorable rating dropped fourteen points since March.

That drop was sharper than among the public, where the percentage of people with a favorable opinion of the Republican Party dropped to 36%, from 42% in March.

Opinions about the Democratic Party shifted less. In Tea Party districts, unfavorable ratings for the Democrats dropped, to 50% in October from 57% in August. Favorable ratings stayed about the same — at 39% in October, and 37% in August.

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Study: People Think Rapists are as Trustworthy as Atheists

According to the Vancouver Sun, University of British Columbia researchers have determined that people find atheists really, really terrible.

The researchers conducted six experiments on 350 Americans and 420 UBC students of varying religions (67% of the Americans were Christian). In one experiment, they presented participants with the story of an “archetypal freerider” who cheats and steals a lot, and asked what group they thought that person might belong to. Participants were more likely to categorize the person as an atheist than as a Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay person, or feminist. Only rapists fared as poorly. According to the study, “People did not significantly differentiate atheists from rapists.”

In another experiment, researchers asked what jobs the subjects would hire atheists to do. Lead study author Will Gervais discusses the results:

People are willing to hire an atheist for a job that is perceived as low trust, for instance as a waitress. But when hiring for a high-trust job like daycare worker, they were like, nope, not going to hire an atheist for that job.

Study coauthor Ara Norenzayan told QMI,

Outward displays of belief in God may be viewed as a proxy for trustworthiness, particularly by religious believers who think that people behave better if they feel that God is watching them. While atheists may see their disbelief as a private matter on a metaphysical issue, believers may consider atheists’ absence of belief as a public threat to co-operation and honesty.

Obviously, fear of God is the only reason people are nice to each other.

Atheists, conversely, didn’t find religious people untrustworthy. Says Gervais, “They seem to think that religion is not an important signal for who you can trust.”

Via Jezebel.

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