Human rights: Common threat, common theme

When Ursula LeGuin and Pope Francis echo each other’s concern for basic human rights being relegated to mere commodities it is time to take heed. As these intellectual giants remind us, human beings have a certain and inalienable right to access to food and access to information and ideas. The right to food and literature transcend the unfettered pursuit of wealth and the power that it affords. Pope Francis spoke at the International Food and Agriculture conference meeting in Rome.(http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49396#.VHjGY8aC14M). Ursula LeGuin shared her thoughts from the prestigious platform of the 2014 National Book Awards. (http://www.nationalbook.org/amerletters_2014_uleguin.html#.VHjFjcaC14M) Continue Reading

Security vacuum

The Iraqi security forces, bolstered by a small contingent of US ground forces working as advisors to the Iraqi Army, have been battling the terrorist organization known as ISIS or ISIL for the last four months (the air campaign has been in effect for six months).This is a Community Voices submission and is moderated but not edited. The opinions expressed by Community Voices contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TC Daily Planet.The conservatives don’t think the Obama Administration is doing nearly enough and Liberals think that throwing a pebble is too aggressive against any foreign or domestic enemy and are generally against any form of military action. The point of the matter is why was a terrorist organization able to gain such a strong foothold and able to threaten large cities (including Baghdad) in a country the United States military had a strong presence in for almost nine years? For whatever reason, the Iraqi armed forces weren’t ready to secure their country and, as is often the case, the US military needs to bail those forces out unless they want to see Iraq overrun by a fanatical terrorist organization and see a new authortarian government formed in Baghdad.The air strikes and the current US ground forces serving as combat advisors to the Iraqi security forces would not be necessary if the United States and Iraqi governments had negotiated a modest US force to occupy and maintain a few permanent bases in Iraq-say 40,000 soldiers. Three or four divisions of US troops would have been more than enough boots on the ground to maintain security and keep the peace while at the same time not overshadowing the work and continual training of the Iraqi Army or looking like an occupying power to Iraqi citizens. Continue Reading

Minnesota imam looks at ‘caliphate’ through Islamic lens

Any time a militant organization rises with violent acts in the name of Islam, some Muslim leaders grow vocal in denouncing radicalization as they distance their faith from terrorism. Often times, some of these religious leaders seem to condemn certain actions or groups because the society expects them to do so — or because they’re concerned that critics might put them in the spotlight for their silence.

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Pope Francis speaks out on the right to food access

Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to focus on the seminal issue of the human right to access to food, an issue so complex, political and gnarled that I’ve given up the quest to plumb the depths – until Pope Francis brought it up. Truth to tell, the Pontiff didn’t conjure it up out of the rarified atmosphere of the Vatican – the challenge to unravel the issue has fostered countless efforts, stymied many and challenged human rights activists for a couple of centuries. Continue Reading

What you need to know about the India-US agreement at the WTO

Just ahead of the G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane, Australia (November 15-16, 2014), India and the United States announced a breakthrough in their trade negotiations impasse over agriculture. That fight had brought trade negotiations to a crashing standstill in July after the few months of tentative optimism among negotiators that followed the eleventh-hour agreement in at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013. Confidence in the multilateral rules-based trading system had reached an all-time low, and while the response was muted (an agreement between two WTO members is not the same as an agreement among all), the media coverage made it clear the news of the U.S.-India agreement was very welcome in trade circles. Continue Reading

Reflections of New Minnesotans: “Ebola thrives within weak health care systems”

Julia and guests LaBelle Nambangi and Wynfred Russell discuss the local impacts of Ebola, as well as global efforts to battle the epidemic in West Africa. Nambangi is with the Minnesota Task Force Against Ebola. Russell, a health care advocate and the executive director of African Career, Education & Resource, Inc., recently returned from a week-long trip to Liberia. The purpose of his trip was to conduct a research assessment to inform the possible deployment of an Ebola response team. [Audio below]

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Trade vs. local economies: Procurement on the table

Communities across the United States and Europe are working to transform local economic systems so that they are more sustainable and equitable. Many states and communities are utilizing public procurement programs to support those efforts, especially bidding preferences for healthy, locally grown foods, energy or transportation programs that create local jobs and fair markets. Especially in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Buy American programs have helped ensure that taxpayer-funded programs create local jobs and serve social goals. Farm to School programs that incentivize purchases from local farmers have grown in all 50 U.S. states and many European countries. Innovative efforts are also underway to expand this approach to other institutions such as hospitals, universities and early childcare programs like Head Start. Continue Reading