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Archive for August, 2010

Music video by Young Artists For Haiti performing Wavin’ Flag. (C) 2010 Universal Music Canada Inc.

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Of the 800 children born each day in this luckless Caribbean nation, only 567 are fortunate enough to eventually attend school. One of three finishes sixth grade, and just seven of that original 800 ever see the inside of a university.

And those numbers reflect the situation before the Jan. 12 earthquake wiped out or damaged 1,300 schools.

As leaders prepare to shape this quake-battered nation’s rebuilding effort, proponents of education want to seize the moment to fix a broken education system.

“Poor parents pay up to half of their income to send kids to bad schools,” said Marcelo Cabrol, the Inter-American Development Bank’s chief education expert. “It’s like going to see a doctor without a license to practice.”

For months, he, New Orleans’ education guru, Paul Vallas, and members of a high-level Haitian presidential commission on education have been waging a quiet debate on how to transform education in this nation where 2.5 million of the nine million people can’t read or write.

At the heart of their discussions: How to ensure quality education in a country with so much inequity and so few resources — and where 90 percent of the schools are privately run, adhering to wildly disparate standards.

Even before the quake, a million school-age Haitian children simply didn’t go to school.

What they have come up with is an ambitious plan that seeks to use international aid dollars to not only subsidize the construction of new schools but also to put private schools, which are the vast majority, under state oversight.

Although the Haitian government has a spotty history as far as competent stewardship is concerned, the hope is that money can be used as a means to hold schools accountable and as a way to raise teacher salaries in a country where some household servants can make more than educators.

In exchange for funding, schools would be required to reduce classroom sizes, train and recruit quality teachers, and qualify for national certification.

The plan seeks $4.3 billion over two years, and is among dozens of projects — including the construction of a new $15 million, 320-bed teaching hospital in the central Haiti town of Mirebalais — that are expected to be presented Tuesday when former President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive chair a meeting of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.

Full Story…

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — The number of Pakistanis rendered homeless by massive flooding doubled to 4 million, the United Nations said Thursday as Washington planned to ramp up assistance to aid the suffering.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she plans to announce an additional $60 million in U.S. aid to add to the $90 million already pledged by the United States.

In addition, Democratic Sen. John Kerry said Thursday that $200 million from Kerry-Lugar Bill allocations will be diverted to flood assistance. The bill, named after Kerry and Republican Sen. Dick Lugar, essentially grants $7.5 billion in nonmilitary aid to Pakistan for social and economic development.  Read More…

For some problems there is no second best solution!
The Paradox of Second Best

“Earth Song” performed by Michael Jackson from YouTube

WINDHOEK, Namibia (AlertNet) – The area around Otjiwarongo in Namibia’s heartland is a green sea of short, shrubby trees as far as the eye can see. While beautiful to some, this bush is an invader species and seen by ranchers as a dreaded pest that pushes out nutritious grasses.

Since the 1950s, bad grazing practices have led to the bush taking over 26 million hectares of Namibia’s rangeland – an area the size of New Zealand. That costs the country’s beef farmers $160 million a year in lost earnings, in an industry that farmers say accounts for 3 to 6 percent to Namibia’s gross domestic product.

But what if the bush could be fed into a power plant, clearing land for grazing and simultaneously supplying Namibia with clean, renewable electricity in a region that is starved of energy?

“(Burning) wood to make electricity is one of the cheapest renewable energy options available,” said Robert Schultz, head of energy projects for the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN), a think tank.

“And it is quick,” he said. “Sixty minutes after powering up the plant, kilowatts are flowing into the grid. This makes it suitable to meet unexpected peaks in demand.”

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Will there be a Nobel Prize for the Environment in 2012?
The Call For a Nobel Environment Prize

“Keep Your Eyes On The Prize” performed by SNCC from YouTube