Environmental photojournalist and Pulitzer Center grantee Sean Gallagher talks about his most recent multimedia project “The Toxic Price of Leather” filmed in Kanpur in northern India. You can see the video here and learn more about Sean, including a free multimedia e-book that includes much of his work in China here.
Urban Legacies, Rural Traditions: Pulitzer Center at DC Environmental Film Festival
Pulitzer Center Shorts at the Environmental Film Festival of the Nation’s Capital
URBAN LEGACIES, RURAL TRADITIONS
Join us on Tuesday, March 25, for a screening of short documentaries by Pulitzer Center grantee journalists about the environmental and social consequences of urban industries—and a growing movement to return to rural life.
Journalists Sean Gallagher, Brendan Hoffman, Sun Yunfan and Leah Thompson will discuss their work. Reception follows.
Free but please reserve your seat today: http://dceff2014-pulitzercenter.eventbrite.com
India’s Toxic Tanneries: On the banks of the Ganges River, the city of Kanpur has become India’s leading producer of leather, with 95 percent of its products destined for western markets. Behind this record production however lies a toxic legacy that has poisoned both the environment and people of the region. Dangerous levels of chromium are being discharged into the air, water and soil leaving a trail of illness and ecological devastation. A film by Sean Gallagher. India, 2013
Monotown: Asbest: Asbest, Russia, is like many small industrial towns the world over, struggling to survive on the proceeds of an antiquated business as younger generations move away. Nikolai Ross, 25, grew up in Asbest and is committed to making it flourish. A film by Brendan Hoffman and Anna Nemtsova. Russia, 2013.
Down to the Countryside: 2011 marked the moment when China’s population became more urban than rural. This is a significant change for a population of more than 1 billion, which as recently as 1998 was 70 percent rural. At the same time, a back-to-the-land movement is emerging in China, led by urban intellectuals who are experimenting with alternative development models in the countryside. A film by Sun Yunfan and Leah Thompson. China, 2013.
Tuesday, March 25
Carnegie Institution for Science
1530 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle
Please remember to RSVP: http://dceff2014-pulitzercenter.eventbrite.com
The decades-long conflict between the Burmese government and Kachin Independence Army, members of a minority group, has “created a perfect storm for human trafficking along the China-Burma border,” according to a report released by Kachin Women’s Association Thailand.
Since 2010, some 10,000 people have been driven to the Chinese border and now live in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. They cannot seek help as refugees because the Chinese government refuses to become involved. Kachin women who live near the border suffer dual risks—exposed both to fighting and human trafficking. In this video Boston University student fellow Lusha Chen shows us women who have been trafficked, some who have escaped, and one who helps victims re-adjust to a new life.
Read more about Burmese Brides, reported on by Pulitzer Center student fellow Lusha Chen.
This Week: Dear Taliban: We Know What You’re Trying to Do
UNFINISHED BUSINESS IN AFGHANISTAN
For journalists who have spent time in Afghanistan, the combined assault by two gunmen and a suicide bomber on a popular Kabul restaurant cuts close to home. Twenty-one people were killed in the Jan. 17 attack on La Taverna du Liban, including the restaurant’s well-liked owner, Kamel Hamade.
Pulitzer Center grantee Jeff Stern, who is in Afghanistan now, was a regular at La Taverna, a place that some journalists have described as the Rick’s Café of Kabul, a place where secrets and gossip flowed as freely as the wine—served in cups and discreetly referred to as “white tea” or “red tea.” Above all, it was a safe place, a place to step away from the war that has lingered for more than a decade.
For many foreigners in Kabul, the intended message was clear: Time to leave Afghanistan. Jeff, in a dispatch for Foreign Policy, takes a different view.
“For a while there — the past two months in particular — it felt like we were on our way out. The agreement was going to fail, America was going to leave wholesale. Most of my friends say this weekend’s attack will accelerate that process. But I don’t think so. To me, it’s the opposite. To me, the Taliban just reminded us all that our work here isn’t finished. They’ve reminded us that we owe it to the Afghans, who keep risking their lives helping us rebuild their country, to stay.”
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Financial Times correspondent and Pulitzer Center grantee Robin Wigglesworth wraps up his brightly reported and thoroughly engaging project on the Caribbean with two dispatches on the region’s difficulties in recovering from the global financial crisis. Writing from Trinidad and Tobago, Robin notes that one of the wealthiest of the Caribbean statelets is plagued by one of the highest murder rates in the world. He also looks into how the region’s lingering economic distress is forcing some politicians to revive the idea of the West Indies Federation, an ambitious political union of British colonies and protectorates in the Caribbean, which collapsed more than half a century ago.
Boston University student fellow Lusha Chen traveled to Burma and China to produce a revealing documentary on victims and survivors of human trafficking. In “Burma: Human Trafficking in Kachin,” Lusha shows us women who have been trafficked, some who have escaped, and one who helps them re-adjust to a new life.
Until next week,
The once grand entrance of the Mingxian Hall is locked and hidden behind splinted boards and overgrown greenery. Wang Shouchang, a 67-year-old farmer from Bishan village, leads us into the cramped kitchen of the farmhouse next door and heads through a passageway on the far wall. What stands before us is breathtaking: a soaring space whose ruined grandeur is only made more compelling by the way it has been packed to the rafters with the humblest of everyday junk. The hall was built in the late-Qing dynasty by the Wang family as a place to venerate a relative who served as a high-ranking civil official in the imperial court. Since the 1980s, the Mingxian Hall has been a makeshift communal storage space, littered with cast-off toys, aged farming equipment, and pre-ordered coffins, which compete for space with a pair of pigs and a flock of boisterous chickens.
Bishan, in the historic Huizhou region of Anhui province, once boasted 36 such Wang family halls. Today, two centuries and a revolution removed from its most flourishing period, only three halls remain. As China’s economy soars, an exodus from the countryside into nearby towns and cities hastens Huizhou’s detachment from its past.
Nearby villages better endowed with historic architecture were granted UNESCO world heritage status in 2000 and have been overrun with tourists and film crews ever since. Their success puts also-ran villages in the region, like Bishan, at once closer and further away from the fruits of China’s new prosperity. Tourists—at least the fast-moving tour-bus variety—can visit only so many places in a day.
But Bishan’s relative lack of touristically exploitable cultural heritage has recently given it a different kind of allure and possibly, a second chance at escaping obscurity. Ou Ning and Zuo Jing, two urban cultural figures, have settled in Bishan and are attempting to revitalize its economy and cultural heritage without resorting to mass tourism. Their Bishan Project, which we have been documenting for the past year, has brought more rarefied forms of development—an arts festival, high-end rustic-chic guesthouses and a branch of the Nanjing bookstore Librairie Avant Garde—to Bishan, all in an effort to explore routes to economic revitalization that don’t involve industrialization or mass tourism.
Unlike most villagers, Wang Shouchang maintains a deep connection to Bishan’s illustrious past. He devotes much of his private time to researching the kinship history of the region. Scenes he has drawn of Bishan and its surrounding mountains cover the walls of his home. When we visit his house, he unfurls a hand-drawn historical map of Bishan that shows the village before the ravages of the Taiping Rebellion and the Cultural Revolution stripped it of its most distinctive features. He has signed it, “Wang Shouchang, Wang Family 93rd Generation.” Wang knows that even if Mingxian Hall were fully restored, no one would use it for worship—the village’s traditions have crumbled faster than its buildings. But, a combination of local and family pride and dismay at the idea of letting the town’s rich “cultural deposits” go unmined has Wang hoping tourism will grow.
If that happens, Mingxian Hall will likely get a facelift, so that busloads of visitors can bask in the artificial glow of its imperial glory days. If Bishan’s urban immigrants repurpose it, perhaps it will take the village in a new direction. But so far, the hall remains in shambles—with its grandeur and the hardships it has weathered in plain view.
Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Leah Thompson in her project: “Bishan: Reinventing China’s Emptying Countryside”
This Week: The Atlas of Pentecostalism
An innovative new project explores the remarkable growth of Pentecostalism around the world. Each day, an estimated 35,000 people join a Pentecostal church. Of the world’s two billion Christians, a quarter are now Pentecostals—up from just 6 percent in 1980.
The Atlas of Pentecostalism developed by Pulitzer Center grantees Bregtje van der Haak and Richard Vijgen is a unique and dynamic online database that maps an expanding global religion as it evolves. The project uses global crowd-sourcing, big data—and an immersive video documentary on a Pentecostal church in Nigeria that routinely draws congregations of half a million people.
On the Pentecostalism project we are collaborating with the University of Southern California. It’s part of a three-year project undertaken with support of the Henry Luce Foundation, aimed at exploring the intersections of faith and public policy and drawing on the expertise of Pulitzer Center partner universities.
At the Pulitzer Center we are keenly interested in developing new forms of journalism to tell important but often complex stories, and to bring those stories to the broadest possible audience. For an introductory walk-though on how the Atlas works, click here.
ENDING A WAR
Barely two years after the last American combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq and nearly a decade after more than 100 U.S. soldiers died in the battle for Fallujah, the strategic city in Anbar province has again been captured by Sunni insurgents, many of them with ties to Al Qaeda.
This sends a deeply pessimistic message to Afghanistan, which is awaiting the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops at the end of this year. Pulitzer Center grantee Jeff Stern has been in the country for several months on a long-term project that looks at the legacy of America’s war in Afghanistan by chronicling how it ends. Jeff has spent time with Afghanistan’s most vulnerable groups—women, ethnic minorities, youth, businesses dependent on the foreign presence—to see how they are preparing for life after the U.S. withdrawal.
In the latest installment, for Foreign Policy, Jeff speaks with Shabnam, 25, a therapist in a drug addiction treatment center in Kabul.
“Right now, there are organizations working against drug sellers, working against people who are importing, using, producing drugs, but when the foreign forces leave, there will be insecurity,” Shabnam tells Jeff. “And that insecurity will increase the rate of drug sellers and drug users and drug importers. That’s a big concern.”
While the Obama Administration “pivots to Asia,” China has signaled a pivot of its own—to Africa.
Writing for The American Interest, Pulitzer Center grantee Jacob Kushner notes that “when Xi Jinping pondered which foreign region to visit first as China’s newly appointed President, he wasn’t swayed to a mineral-rich Australia, a thriving Singapore or steadfast North Korea. Instead, his careful calculations took him to Africa. After a brief, almost obligatory stop in Moscow, he flew to Tanzania, South Africa and Congo-Brazzaville, where he promised $20 billion in new credit to finance infrastructure and agriculture in Africa over the next three years.”
China passed the U.S. as Africa’s main trading partner in 2009 and the gap continues to widen. Some two months after Xi’s visit, President Obama made his first extended visit to Africa after more than four years in office. “The sign of America’s lagging commitment to Africa was not lost upon Africans,” writes Jacob.
Until next week,
Tom Hundley, Senior Editor
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MURDER ON THE MEKONG Jeff Howe with photographs by Gary Knight
Jeff Howe and Gary Knight traveled to Southeast Asia in July 2012 to report on the massacre along the Mekong River in 2011, as well as the pervasive influence of China exercised in countries such as Burma.
Now, their writings and photographs are consolidated eBook “Murder on the Mekong,” available on Atavist with the following description:
"At first, what happened on the Mekong River on October 5, 2011 seemed like a simple matter of rough frontier justice. A detachment of Thai military commandos reported that they had confronted a band of drug runners smuggling methamphetamines out of the Golden Triangle, the famously lawless borderlands between Burma, Laos, and Thailand. A gunfight ensued, the smugglers fled, and the commandos seized two barges and a haul of nearly a million pills. The story appeared to be over—until the bodies started washing ashore. There were thirteen of them, all Chinese merchant mariners—not hardened criminals. And they appeared to have been executed in cold blood. It was the largest massacre of Chinese civilians outside of China in over half a century, and Beijing quickly named the culprit: Naw Kham, a mysterious former guerrilla warrior turned river pirate who had haunted the Golden Triangle for years. Regarded as a feared terrorist by some and a local Robin Hood by others, Naw Kham was undoubtedly a skilled criminal—but was he a mass murderer? In Murder on the Mekong, Jeff Howe travels to the scene of the crime that transfixed East Asia and finds a tale of adventure, deception, and political intrigue." Download the book on Atavist.
MELTDOWN: CHINA’S ENVIRONMENT CRISIS Sean Gallagher
How can you make sense of the enormous scale of China’s environmental problems? With a delightfully affable and knowledgeable personal guide. Through beautiful images and engaging storytelling, award-winning photojournalist Sean Gallagher takes readers on a tour through China to places both familiar – like big megalopolises – and hidden, such as ancient cities wiped off the map by desertification. Gallagher captures everything from the lifestyle of nomadic herders of Tibet and some of China’s iconic animals and landscapes before they may disappear forever. Four chapters—one each on wetlands, forests, desertification and the Tibetan Plateau—move you 10,000 miles through China, from delta to glacier. Multimedia features including maps and videos allow readers to can see China as Gallagher does – beautiful and endangered. Versions of this book can also be read on browsers and in the Creatavist app.
CHINA’S CONGO PLAN: WHAT THE ECONOMIC SUPERPOWER SEES IN THE WORLD’S POOREST NATION Jacob Kushner
What does China see in the world’s poorest nation? An opportunity for big business. Congo is known for poverty and conflict, but it is home to an enormous wealth of buried minerals. Already, tens of thousands of Chinese men and women have left their families behind to live in Africa to dig and process ore. Now, two Chinese state-owned companies are opening the biggest mine Congo has ever seen. In exchange, they’re spending billions of dollars to build new roads and modernize Congo’s infrastructure. But will Chinese mines and roads help transform the country in a way Western aid and business has not? Or will Chinese businessmen and Congolese officials get rich while the people continue to live in poverty? Author Jacob Kushner takes us street-side to a grand, Chinese-constructed boulevard in Congo’s capital Kinshasa, to a mountain range where Congolese men, women and children dig for minerals with picks and shovels, and to a factory where Chinese immigrants melt aqua-blue rocks into molten copper lava. Two years after China overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner, Kushner brings us inside the world of China’s rise in the continent. “China’s Congo Plan” was awarded the Grand Prize in the Atavist Digital Storymakers Award for Graduate Longform, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.
CANCER’S GLOBAL FOOTPRINT: THE ECONOMICS OF A DISEASE Joanne Silberner
Worldwide, more people die from cancer than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – combined. Yet until recently, cancer was almost ignored by the global health groups, charitable organizations and governments working to improve conditions in developing countries. Joanne Silberner looks at cancer issues in Uganda, India and Haiti. How do people experience cancer when they have no money for care, or when no care is available? What are the causes of cancer in the developing world? Are there inexpensive ways of detecting and treating cancer, and are these ways acceptable to the populations they’re aimed at? This project, by reporter Joanne Silberner, was supported by PRI’s The World® and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Versions of this book are also available on browsers and in the Creatavist app.
BETWEEN THE LINES: FACIALS TATTOOS AND THE CHAOUIA Yasmin Bendaas
Sepia-tinted photos from over 50 years ago show striking facial tattoos of women from indigenous populations in Algeria. But documentation of these women has faded like the aged photographs. In Algeria today the actual practice of facial tattooing is disappearing along with the older generation. One particular indigenous group losing this cultural marker is the Chaouia of the Aurès Mountains in northeastern Algeria. This project from Pulitzer Center student fellow Yasmin Bendaas captures incredible portraits and stories from Chaouia women and investigates the origins and disappearance of tattooing, especially with the advent of literacy and Islam’s spread. Available on browsers and in the Creatavist app.
VOICES OF HAITI Lisa Armstrong, Kwame Dawes and Andre Lambertson
An itinerant preacher whose story reads like Job—except for an incandescent smile and a mountain-moving faith. A woman who remains resolutely joyful despite the HIV that has infected half her family. Young girls subjected to rape and forced into commercial sex. A couple whose triumph over the disease is a study in grace. “Voices of Haiti” tells these and other stories in a mesmerizing presentation that combines the poetry of Kwame Dawes, the prose of Lisa Armstrong, the photography of Andre Lambertson, and the music of Kevin Simmonds, from work that has been featured in The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, and USA Today. To download an enhanced version of the e-book exclusively for iPad, please visit http://bit.ly/voices-haiti. “Voices of Haiti” was recognized as one of the best e-books of the year by Pictures of the Year International Awards (POYi). The book was also awarded a Kirkus Star.
IN SEARCH OF HOME Greg Constantine, Stephanie Hanes
They are not refugees. Often they are living in their homes in a country they consider to be their own. Yet they are stateless—without the basic right to get an education, work in the legal economy, receive health benefits, get married, vote or own property. The cause is often rooted in religion or ethnicity but even when the stateless are not actively persecuted they remain the most vulnerable. Writer Stephanie Hanes and photographer Greg Constantine draw on field work from the past six years to present a nuanced look at the stateless peoples of Kenya, Burma, and the Dominican Republic. To download an enhanced version of this e-book made exclusively for iPad, please visit the iBookstore. “In Search of Home” is now also available on Amazon. Click here to download. *”In Search of Home” received an Honorable Mention from the National Press Photographers Association in the Tablet/Mobile Delivery category (2013).
BIRD OF CHAMAN, FLOWER OF THE KYBER: RIDING SHOTGUN FROM KARACHI TO KABUL IN A PAKISTANI TRUCK Matthieu Aikins
How do you supply an entire war in landlocked Afghanistan? Mostly by truck. In the fall of 2012, award-winning journalist Matthieu Aikins found out firsthand, riding in a rickety 1993 Nissan along the U.S. supply route, from the port city of Karachi into Pakistan’s scorching flatlands and lawless borderlands, then through the famed Khyber Pass and on toward the Afghan warzone. The result — the second in the Borderlands ebook series from Foreign Policy and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting — is both a harrowing account of life on Pakistan’s highways and an anatomy of the way foreign military intervention can transform a society. Click here to buy the Foreign Policy PDF edition. The Kindle version is available here.
WE NEVER KNEW EXACTLY WHERE: DISPATCHES FROM THE LOST COUNTRY OF MALI Peter Chilson
In 2012, Mali, once a poster child for African democracy, all but collapsed in a succession of coups and countercoups as Islamist rebels claimed control of the country’s north, making it a new safe haven for al Qaeda. Prizewinning author Peter Chilson became one of the few Westerners to travel to the conflict zone in the following months to document conditions on the ground. What he found was a hazy dividing line between the uncertain, demoralized remnants of Mali’s south and the new statelet formed in the north by jihadist fighters. Chilson’s definitive account is the first in the new Borderlands series of e-books from Foreign Policy and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Purchase the Foreign Policy PDF edition. The Kindle version is available here.
AFGHANISTAN BY DONKEY Anna Badkhen
Anna Badkhen’s extraordinary account of a year in northern Afghanistan is a travel guide to a conflict that has raged for the last decade, with little end in sight. Badkhen, a courageous war correspondent, decided to embed not with American troops but with the Afghan people. Throughout the year, she returns again and again to the country, traveling by foot, by taxi—and even by donkey—to the remote villages and hamlets of the Afghan north. It’s a place so remote that even the death of Osama bin Laden barely registers, where war is taken as a fact of life along with the rituals of mourning and celebration that Badkhen is allowed to witness. It is a bleak tale told by an expert storyteller.
DEEP WATER Dan Grossman
Dan Grossman is an award-winning science journalist, regular contributor to public radio, and multiple Pulitzer Center grantee. He has been reporting on science and the global effects of climate change for over a decade, with field reporting that has taken him from Mongolia and the Andes to Europe and Australia. Dan’s new e-book, Deep Water, is a partnership with TED books and makes innovative use of the new TED book-app to bring us a multimedia adventure about the urgent research into one of the most critical issues of our time.
This Week: China’s African Frontier
CHINA’S EYE ON THE PRIZE
Several recent Pulitzer Center projects have focused on China’s increasing interest in Africa and the growing dominance of the Chinese in various extractive industries. The latest is Alexis Okeowo’s account in Fortune of trouble in a Chinese-run coal mine in Zambia, a country in which Chinese investors have already acquired a huge stake. The Collum Coal Mine in southern Zambia has been the scene of repeated bloodshed—Chinese bosses have fired on Zambian workers and one Chinese boss was killed by rioting miners—forcing the Zambian government to rethink its relationship with the Chinese.
“Zambia’s people, over half of whom live in poverty, are doubtful they will ever get their own share of the country’s abundant resources,” writes Alexis. “China has invested more than $2.5 billion in Zambia and created thousands of jobs. Nevertheless, Zambians say they fear those new jobs will go to Chinese immigrants, who have already entered the country’s market for unskilled work.”
Alexis’s reporting from Zambia has also been featured in The New Yorker. Meanwhile, for an in-depth look at China’s designs on another African nation, we recommend Pulitzer Center grantee Jacob Kushner’s new multimedia e-book, “China’s Congo Plan: What the Economic Superpower Sees in the World’s Poorest Nation.” Jacob’s book is now available on Amazon, the iBookstore, the Nook store, and the free Creatavist app.
WAR WITHOUT END
Veteran radio journalist and Pulitzer Center grantee Reese Erlich has a knack for getting himself into—and just as important, out of—hard places. Earlier this year, Reese reported from inside Iran. Now he returns from a reporting trip to Syria where, as one of the few journalists to be accredited by the beleaguered Syrian government, he gleaned important insights into the staying power of regime that was supposed to be long gone.
RED LIGHT RIO
At $20 per “program,” the women who work Rio’s gritty Vila Mimosa district are engaged in what Pulitzer Center student fellow Lauren Wilks describes as “survival sex.” Poor working conditions, social stigma and daily risks to health and safety are just some of the issues that concern the many women who see prostitution as the only way to make ends meet.
With Brazil gearing up for next year’s World Cup extravaganza, Lauren reports that efforts to “clean-up” the country’s reputation as a global destination for sex tourism are not making life easier for the most vulnerable.
Until next week,