In a cruel and brutally destructive practice, fishermen in Peru are killing dolphins to use as shark bait. “The shark meat is predominantly consumed within Peru, but the fins we’re told are being exported to the Far East for use as shark fin soup,” explains Pulitzer Center grantee Jim Wickens, who documents the slaughter in a documentary for Link TV.
The practice is illegal, but Jim estimates that some 10,000 dolphins are killed each year.
On the afternoon of April 23, 2013, workers at the Rana Plaza offices of BRAC Bank were concerned about recent cracks that had appeared in the walls of the building. Their manager ordered tellers to complete transactions they were working on and promptly evacuate. Hours later, the building would lie under an eight-story heap of rubble, taking 1,100 lives in perhaps the deadliest industrial disasters in history.
It has been nearly a year since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh left more than 1,100 workers dead. Pulitzer Center grantee Fred de Sam Lazaro revisits the scene of the worst accident in the history of the garment industry and finds that it is pretty much business as usual.
In a report for the PBS NewsHour, Fred found that safety standards remain haphazard and that despite new government-mandated wage increases, actual pay is “still well below what is considered livable in Bangladesh.”
Even more troubling is Fred’s discovery that many Western clothing retailers who profit enormously from the labors of low-cost garment workers in Bangladesh have paid little more than lip service to improving conditions in this $20 billion a year industry.
LIVING REMINDERS OF A GENOCIDE
This month also marks the 20th anniversary of the events that triggered the Rwanda genocide. More than 800,000 men, women and children, most of them Tutsi, were slaughtered. And while the conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu has gradually healed, the scars remain.
Last week, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld a controversial new law that, among other things, would provide free contraceptives to poor women. The ruling is seen as a significant blow to the Catholic Church, which fought against the legislation for 15 years. Officially known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, it guarantees universal access to modern contraception methods, sex education, and maternal care.
The immediate beneficiaries of the court’s ruling are the country’s women—especially women living in places like Tondo, a Manila slum district best known for the vast shantytown built on the perimeter of the city’s overflowing municipal dump.
“It is common for people to be denied care in state hospitals because of the nature of an ailment or because of patients’ caste, class and religion, despite the right to such services being guaranteed by the laws of Indian states,” writes Michael in the introduction of a four-part series that appeared in The New York TimesIndia Ink blog.
In a report for the BBC, Pulitzer Center grantee Meera Senthilingam follows a team from the University of Cape Town that is using new tools to investigate how the return of patients to their communities affects the spread of the disease.
The religious landscape of Saudi Arabia—a state founded on religion—is shifting. Internally, the dominance of the ultraconservative Wahhabists is being challenged by an explosion of social media and rising education levels among the kingdom’s largest-ever “youth bulge.” Pressures from the outside include sharpened tensions between Sunni and Shia, the rise of politically-oriented Salafism and the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood as a major political force.
I call this roofless enclosure My safe house, my shelter—
on this slab of concrete I learn to soften my bones to sleep.
This is my bed, this is my shelter
I call the murmur of people in the lane my assurance, my living
I call my clothes washed and folded my security, my superiority
this is my assurance, my dignity
I call the day coming up again, the water cupped in my hands to cleanse me
my anointing, my blessing, at seven each morning, I walk, my feet, my bruised
carriage moving throng this city of fallen men and women, my treasure
this is my anointing, my treasure.
You ask me how I live through this, I say that my sin of pride is my hope,
I say that my bitter condescension is my strength I say my perfect English—I am better than them, better.
You may not like me—this does not burden me. Come seven in the morning I am stubbornly here,
filled with secrets I will keep inside me, head held above the teeming mob.
Every encounter is a transaction for food, I know how to ask, not to beg,
I know how to negotiate my need, I train people to do mercy for me—it is a gift;
this is the art of the survivor I have mastered this art,
I have pawned my license for a bowl of rice, I have calculated and I have lost.
My pride, my bed, my shelter, my anointing, my hope, my dignity, my reason, my reason.
Pulitzer Center grantees Kwame Dawes and Andre Lamberson are exploring the shame culture that isolates homosexuals and persons with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica in their project: Shame: HIV/AIDS and the Church in Jamaica.
"The Abominable Crime" Wins Audience Award for Best Documentary
“The Abominable Crime" received the Audience Award for Best Documentary and a special mention in the juried awards at ‘Roze Filmdagen,’ Amsterdam’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
The full-length documentary explores homophobia in Jamaica through the lives of Simone Edwards, who survives a hate crime shooting and flees the country to the Netherlands to protect herself and her daughter, and Maurice Tomlinson, a human rights lawyer whose marriage exposes him to personal danger. The documentary was supported by the Pulitzer Center from its earliest stages. The documentary grew out of a grant in 2009 from the Pulitzer Center to director Micah Fink to cover HIV in Jamaica, which resulted in the “Glass Closet" series for WNET’s World Focusprogram.
Salt and Thunder: Contraception Misconceptions in Nigeria
LAGOS, Nigeria — “If you use condoms you get the Thunderbolt disease,” Antoinette Kpetosi said, perched in the back room of a hair salon, her dainty feet visible in purple flowered sandals. “It’s a charm,” she explained.
The soft-spoken 19-year-old was describing magun, a traditional Yoruba curse men can put on their female partners. “If she goes out to sleep with someone in an extramarital affair, the partner will die. I don’t know who would have it, so I decided not to use [condoms].”
Researchers often point to “myths” as one of the reasons women steer clear of hormonal contraception, though mostly they are referring to fears of sterility, or side effects like weight gain. Kpetosi’s beliefs are an extreme example. Afraid for her life, Kpetosi did not use condoms. She had also never heard of any other type of contraception. Luck was her birth control with her boyfriend of five years.
Magun is still hotly debated on Nigerian internet forums, and was the subject of a 2001 Nollywood film. The deadly curse is said to cause victims to crow like a rooster, somersault or guzzle water until they drown. But it is just one of the misconceptions about contraception flying around young women like Kpetosi as she tries to balance survival, health and relationships in this crowded neighborhood jutting into the lagoon.
Nigeria has a massive problem with unsafe abortions, which kill between 3,000 and 34,000 women every year—the numbers range widely because the procedures are permitted only to save the life of a woman, so they are largely underground and uncounted.
But before abortions come unwanted pregnancies, and in Nigeria birth control is widely stigmatized, misunderstood and inaccessible.
Allison and Allyn also completed a project in Nepal about “chaupadi,” the tradition that exiles women from their home during their menstural cycle. Read more today: “Chaupadi: Nepali Women’s Monthly Exile”
Before the 1994 genocide, Dominique Bizimana, a former Tutsi fighter for the Rwanda Patriotic Front, was a volleyball player. His dream was to reach the Olympics, but the war and a serious injury in which he has lost a leg made that unlikely. But Dominique never gave up and after a decade he finally made it: He was in London in 2012, not at the Olympic Games, but as a participant in the Paralympics. He was there with the Rwandan sitting volley national team, probably the best example of the “new Rwanda”.
Made up of both Tutsi and Hutu the team has become a symbol of the reconciliation process in the country. The majority of the players suffered injuries and amputation during the 1994 genocide. The captain, Dominique, is a Tutsi, and Jean Rukundo, the vice captain, a Hutu. They were enemies; they killed. Now they play on the same team and fight together for the qualification at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
MUMBAI — I first became interested in India’s government hospitals after my son was born last May at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai, one of the city’s well-regarded private hospitals. The care was exceptional, but a stay at a private hospital is a luxury that only a small percentage of Mumbai residents can afford. My curiosity about what kind of care existed for the city’s less fortunate babies led me to write about the fight against infant mortality in the Dharavi slum for India Ink in September.
But India is larger than the metropolises of Mumbai and Delhi, and the people living in Dharavi are luckier than most. So in digging deeper on the subject of health care, I traveled with a photographer, Sami Siva, to West Bengal, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, visiting hospitals and speaking with caregivers, government officials, patients and academics along the way.
What I found is that the health care that lower-income patients receive is not only problematic on the whole; it can sometimes be outright lethal. In a series that will run through Thursday, I examine the complex issues facing India’s government hospitals and health care in greater detail.
Drone warfare—cheap, easy and deadly—is likely to write the next chapter of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Pulitzer Center grantee Yochi Dreazen, in a feature article for The New Republic, notes that Israel already boasts one of the most extensive and sophisticated drone fleets in the world. Meanwhile, its most persistent adversary, Hezbollah, is rapidly building up a drone fleet of its own, thanks entirely to its principal patron, Iran.
Israel routinely uses drone strikes to settle scores with militants in Gaza, but was deeply unsettled itself a year and a half ago when a Hezbollah drone flew to within 20 miles of Israel’s heavily guarded nuclear facility at Dimona.
“What makes drone-on-drone warfare so destabilizing is that the rules of engagement still remain to be written,” says Yochi. “Should a flight by an unarmed aircraft be considered a mere provocation? Or a breach demanding retaliation—perhaps in the form of the limited airstrikes that Israel orders after rocket attacks? What if a drone that crashes on its own before reaching its intended destination is then found to be armed?”
“This agricultural country used to export herbs and tea leaves. Now it exports people. At least 2.2 million Nepalis — nearly 10 percent of the population — are working abroad,” writes Anup. “And that doesn’t include Nepalis who leave to work illegally.”
A former Johns Hopkins professor and World Bank official named Ashraf Ghani has emerged as a frontrunner to succeed Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan’s presidential election later this week.
Ghani presents an impressive resume, but as Pulitzer Center grantee Jeff Stern writes in a profile for The New Republic, “Whoever’s elected next month will have to strike a delicate balance between allegiance to, and independence from, the international community that Ghani knows so well—especially America. As the U.S.-led combat mission ends, keeping America involved without showing weakness at home is going to be a difficult balance, especially for Ashraf Ghani.”
Jeff says that Ghani has been unafraid to embrace his ties to the West, but as a presidential candidate, he has also baffled some of his supporters in the West by his choice of running mate: General Abdel Rashid Dostum, a warlord who has been responsible for massacres of prisoners, accused repeatedly of using mass rape as a weapon of war, and has a long list of other war crimes attached to his name. Ghani shrugs off the criticism: “General Dostum is not coming with a militia to take over Kabul. He’s coming in a suit. To be vice president. Based on a democratic election. And that is the profound change.”
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Larry C. Price will present his work on child gold miners on Tuesday, April 8 at a special talks @ pulitzer. Larry will show work from the Philippines, Burkina Faso and Indonesia where children, some as young as four, smash boulders, haul 60-pound bags of ore, handle mercury and other toxic materials, and dive underwater into deep pits.
Although large foreign countries had mined Burkina Faso gold for almost half a century, it wasn’t until the famines of the 1980s forced families off their farms that artisanal or small-scale mining took root. Now, to maximize profits, entire families work the mines—this means putting children to work as child laborers. Gold fever shows no sign of ending.
The Philippines produced more than 1 million troy ounces of gold in 2011, ranking 18th in world production. More than half of that gold came from small-scale mines. In these mines, many of them illegal, entire families, including very young children, dig, pan, crush and haul rock. Children risk injury and death and face long-term health problems caused by back-breaking labor, exposure to dust and chemicals and, worst of all, mercury poisoning. Indonesia and the Philippines officially ban child labor, the burning of mercury and most small-scale gold mining. But in both countries, pervasive corruption, payoffs to local officials and weak central governments make it difficult to curb these practices, especially in remote areas.
We’ll start the evening with a light reception at 5:30 pm, followed by remarks at 6 pm. Space is limited so reserve your seat today: email@example.com—specify in subject line: “April 8 Talks @ Pulitzer.”
Tuesday, April 8 5:30-7pm Pulitzer Center 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 615 Washington, DC 20036 Closest Metro: Dupont Circle
The event will be livestreamed using Google Hangout on Air. Watch above (refresh the page if you do not see a video) or on YouTube. Tweet your questions to @pulitzercenter.
Larry’s talk is the first in a special series of talks@ on issues affecting women and children. Other events in the series will feature the work of Pulitzer Center journalists such as Ameto Akpe on the effect of U.S. development projects on women’s health in Nigeria, Allison Shelley on reproductive health also in Nigeria, Mellissa Fung on the education of girls in Afghanistan, Katherine Zoepf on Saudi women entering the workforce, Steve Sapienza on sex workers in Cambodia who are battling stigma and HIV, and Amy Toensing on widows in India—both unwanted and unprotected. Details to follow.
Politics in Russia has always made for interesting theater, the current crisis in Crimea being no exception. So we were hardly surprised when Pulitzer Center grantee Dimiter Kenarov, who has been covering the drama for Foreign Policy, told us that he spent a recent evening in Simferopol at a performance of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector.” It is a classic story of corruption, duplicity and how provincials always come out the losers.
“All Crimea’s a stage and all Crimeans merely players: from the pro-Russian ‘self-defense units,’ who strut up and down the streets in their mismatched fatigues and red armbands, to the local teenagers who never spent a day in the USSR but guilelessly wrap themselves up in red Soviet flags and listen to Soviet marches, to the Crimean Tatars who try to stage a kind of counter-theater with their own rather defenseless self-defense units,” Dimiter writes.
“The referendum itself, which took place on Sunday and resulted in over 96 percent support for a union with the Russian Federation, was nothing more than theater-of-the-absurd: A group of people pretending to make a choice and others pretending to scrutinize the objectivity of that choice, while in fact there was no choice at all. In a sense, even we, the journalists reporting from Crimea, are at times complicit in that theater by pretending we are covering a real event—as problematic as the term ‘real’ is—rather than a staged one.”
Unfortunately, Dimiter did not get to watch the whole performance of the Gogol play. During an intermission, he checked his Twitter account and learned that masked men, armed with automatic weapons, had barged into the hotel where most of the international journalists covering the referendum were staying. Dimiter grabbed his coat and ran out to cover a live drama.
FINDING PROFITS IN LATRINES
Saturday was World Water Day, and Pulitzer Center grantee Sam Loewenberg marked the occasion with two timely reports. In a video and article from Kenya for The Lancet, Sam makes the point that “water and sanitation are arguably two of the most crucial factors in health and nutrition, and yet they are among the least addressed, often falling into the cracks between the humanitarian and development portfolios.”
Sam notes that issue is only becoming more urgent. “By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in ‘severe water stress conditions,’ according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Seven hundred eighty-three million people do not have clean water and 2.5 billion lack hygienic sanitation.”
The technology is the “Gulper,” a 2-meter-long PVC and stainless steel hand pump used to empty out pit latrines. The brainchild of a British engineer, the Gulper is inexpensive, easy to operate and can navigate the narrow lanes and alleys of Kampala’s slum districts that large sewage removal trucks can’t.
“The idea of turning sanitation into a small business in Kampala originated with Water for People, a Denver-based non-profit that brought the Gulper to the city by contracting with a local manufacturer to make and sell it,” writes Sam. “Now the non-profit is working with the entrepreneurs to try and set up an association and certification scheme. After just one year, the businesses in Kampala are self-sustaining, or at least trying to be.”
In pharmacies around Lagos, behind counters stacked with cough drops, vitamins and antibiotics, usually hidden but available on request is a drug called misoprostol or by its brand name Cytotec. Sometimes the pharmacists request a prescription — something that can be bought at some clinics even without seeing a doctor — but often they don’t and will simply hand over the medicine for 500-1500 Naira ($3-$9).
Misoprostol was originally used to treat ulcers, but it is also 90 percent effective for first trimester abortions. In Nigeria, where abortion is legal only to save the life of a woman, clandestine abortions are common and often deadly. The widespread sale of misoprostol is recent, and it is adding a new, complex dimension to Nigeria’s underground abortion market.
While Nigeria has only 2 percent of the world’s population, it has 10 percent of global maternal deaths. Between 3,000 and 34,000 women die of unsafe abortions in the country every year (the numbers vary widely due to the difficulty of counting the secret procedures). But the movement to legalize abortion is small in this very religious country, and according to the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of Muslims and 94 percent of Christians in Nigeria believe that abortion is wrong.
Still, a passionate contingent of activists, including the international women’s health organizations, Ipas and Marie Stopes International (MSI), and the local Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy has been pushing to make abortion safer. Working within the legal restrictions, this has often meant focusing on post-abortion care (PAC), which includes training providers and equipping medical centers to deal with women who have miscarried or induced an abortion without a qualified provider. “We don’t even talk about abortion. We talk about PAC and train them on that,” Richard Boustred of MSI said.
In 2009 after Ipas and others pushed the government, Nigeria became the first country in the world to add misoprostol to its essential medicines list for post-abortion care. The drug has now become much more widely available. MSI has worked to get misoprostol into pharmacies and train pharmacists on its proper use.
The thing about post-abortion care is that it looks awfully like abortion care. The only difference is where the abortion started. But in a medical and pharmaceutical market as messy and unregulated as Nigeria’s, a side effect is that this drug intended for use by doctors to complete a half-done abortion is also now available for women to buy and use on their own.
Armenia On the Big Screen: An Interview with Sona Tatoyan
Sona Tatoyan – actress, Syrian, Armenian, American, Anatolian – is making a film about the Armenian Genocide based on the novel, Three Apples Fell from Heaven, by Micheline Aharonian Marcom. The screenplay has been adapted by Oscar-nominated writer Jose Rivera and will be directed by Shekhar Kapur, the director of the historical biopics on Queen Elizabeth Elizabeth(1998) and The Golden Age (2007), which garnered several Academy Award nominations.
The story travels from slaughter in what is modern-day Turkey to refuge in Beirut, Lebanon, passing through Syria. Survivors in Sona’s family found safety in Syria and only recently left Aleppo, after nearly a hundred years there. Today, they are trying to establish lives in Armenia.
Here Sona Tatoyan answers questions here about her own family’s story, the making of the film, and the complications of identity.
Why are you making a film about the Armenian Genocide?
I am making a film about the Armenian Genocide because I can’t not make a film about the Armenian Genocide. This story has been an obsession of mine since I was a kid trying to understand my own family history: Why were we Armenian but living in the States? Why was our extended family in Syria, where my mother and father grew up, surrounded by Arabs? What were these family stories about exile and slaughter from our original homes in places like Kharpert, Urfa, Aintep, and how come I never came across those stories in the history books of my youth, in American schools in Indiana and California where I had a nomadic upbringing?
Why did you choose Three Apples Fell from Heaven?
I came across this novel in my early 20s—having read so many others out of this obsession to know more, learn more. Being a lover of literature and a self-described dork, I fell in love with its poetry, its language, its visceral, lyrical way of telling the story. I remember the exact moment, reading a passage about one of the central characters walking through the town and seeing the heads of men on pikes after slaughter—and it was written in such stunning, visual language that I literally saw the scene in my head. The book had the ability to draw me in further with the beauty of its language, while at the same time the content of what it was describing stunned and horrified me. I found that juxtaposition of beauty and horror incredibly exciting and could see that it would make a great film. The novel also had several magical realistic sequences, which impacted the reader on an emotional level, and allowed the story to exist in myth and surreality. Given the subject matter, genocide, this is so fitting. How else can we even start to grasp that level of destruction? It’s all very surreal.
What is your own family’s story?
On my father’s side, my great grandmother Lucine was pregnant with my grandfather when her husband was beheaded. She gave birth to my grandfather and marched to Aleppo. The details beyond that we do not know. I can imagine the level of shame that must be wrapped around what a young woman had to endure with an infant in those conditions to safely arrive at the refugee camps of Aleppo. My paternal grandmother was born in Aintep to a very wealthy family—and they were able to arrange a passage to escape, having been forewarned of the doom that was coming.
On my mother’s side, also, there was privilege. They had Turkish friends who told them they needed to flee. So, that’s what they did. They left Urfa and went to Aleppo and tried to re-start a life there.
On a sunny Friday in late January, Dr. Denis Mukwege, the director of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in the eastern Congo, stood inside a darkened room to preside over a grim PowerPoint. Mukwege, 55, is tall and grandfatherly in appearance, with the large and elegant hands that befit a surgeon. He wore a white laboratory coat and a matching shirt with a mandarin collar. His hospital is the foremost treatment center for victims of sexual violence in this part of Congo, which, since the mid-1990s, has suffered successive miasmas of violence as armed groups, often backed by neighboring countries, clash with Congolese forces and target civilians.
Bands of armed men operate with impunity over much of the territory, and they routinely harass and attack civilians, particularly women. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Healthestimated that as many as 1.8 million women in the country had been raped at some point in their lives — translating to roughly one rape every minute. For many victims, the Panzi Hospital is the only place to receive treatment for their injuries.
Mukwege, a gynecologist by training, has said before that “there is no medical solution” to the war in eastern Congo, and he has paid a personal price for his activism. In October 2012, he survived an assassination attempt — his bodyguard did not — that caused him to flee to Sweden. The investigation into the killing has stalled. But Mukwege returned to Bukavu in January 2013.
MEDIA LUNA, Guatemala—A goat? Diego Sarat scratched his head. What’s a goat?
His wife had just returned from a community meeting and reported that she had signed up for a new program which would give their family a goat.
“I didn’t even know what a goat was,” Diego recalls now. “We didn’t know how to handle livestock.”
That befuddling day in May 2008 turned out to be a turning point for the health of his family. The goat was part of a program run by Save the Children, the international humanitarian organization, to improve the nutrition of children in Guatemala’s western highlands, particularly in the 1,000 days from when a woman becomes pregnant to the second birthday of the child. In this region, nearly three-quarters of the children are malnourished, and many of them are stunted physically and mentally due to micro-nutrient deficiencies during their first two years of life.
“The main thing was to get animal protein into their diets,” says Carlos Cardenas, Save the Children’s Guatemala director, about the goat milk program.
Guatemala is a country of stunning paradox, illustrating that malnutrition isn’t just the absence of food but the absence of nutritious foods and well-balanced diets. Corn grows up and down the lush hillsides and all manner of vegetables blanket the verdant valleys, most of them destined for export markets. Still, Guatemala has the highest malnutrition rates in the Americas. In the western highlands, where poverty rates soar past 80 percent, poor families can’t afford to purchase nutrient-laden, protein-rich foods vital for the physical and mental development of their children, particularly in the first years of life.
Save the Children’s goat program was designed for families with a child under three years old. A single goat would produce enough for one glass of milk a day for that child.
Crimea: 'All We Can Do Is Try To Defend Our Families'
BAKHCHYSARAI, Ukraine — The room looks like the basement of a frat house. Food scraps and half-empty plastic bottles are strewn across decrepit school desks. A disco ball hangs limply from a hook in the middle of the ceiling. Dirty, tattered curtains cover dirtier window panes, as men come and go, pacing across the room.
There are no parties here. This basement is for strategizing: Sitting behind a desk in the corner, one man is hunched over a large ledger, carefully filling in names, schedules, and responsibilities. Two others — tense and worried — are poring over a map of the neighborhood.
The regional headquarters of the “self-defense units” of the Crimean Tatars, in the Ceyhan Quarter of the town of Bakhchysarai, Crimea, stays busy throughout the night. It is here, in the local youth center, that people come to receive their instructions before heading out on patrols. They drop by for a quick snack and a coffee between shifts, clutching their plastic cups by an old electric heater.
Small volunteer units of usually three or four local residents stand watch during the night, on three-hour shifts, at strategic locations — intersections, main roads, back roads — throughout the neighborhood. They keep track of suspicious movements or individuals, in an attempt to head off any situations that could escalate into open conflict. Ever since the clandestine Russian takeover of Crimea more than two weeks ago, organized groups of Tatars — a Muslim ethnic group native to Crimea, that makes up 12 to 15 percent of the population — have been on guard, waiting for their pro-Russian “self-defense unit” counterparts to make a move. There are about seven to eight of these posts in the Ceyhan quarter, but many more throughout Bakhchysarai and other parts of Crimea.
"We try to keep people in our community safe, but we don’t use any weapons," said Ayder Abdulaev, the coordinator of the Ceyhan headquarters. "Our whole effort is to try to avoid provocations of any kind. Nobody wants war."