Saturday, April 19, 2008

Debt Cancellation Act passes in the House


Jubilee Act passed in the House!

On April 16th, the House of Representatives passed the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2008. This bill pushes the Bush Administration to begin negotiations for an agreement with the IMF, World Bank, and the Paris Club of bilateral creditors to allow up to 24 additional low-income countries to qualify for international debt relief.

Debt cancellation is important because it is a tested and proven tool for releasing resources to fight poverty and injustice. For example, savings from debt cancellation in 2005 have enabled Zambia to hire 4,500 new teachers and eliminate fees for rural health care. Similarly Uganda used its $57.9 million in savings from debt relief in 2006 to invest in energy infrastructure, primary education, malaria control, health care, and water infrastructure. In fact, the bill requires that countries receiving debt relief use their savings for poverty reduction efforts. To ensure accountability, the Jubilee Act also requires countries to

-Foster transparent and participatory policies to achieve poverty reduction through economic growth;
-Ensure sound budget procedures, good governance, and effective anti-corruption measures; and
-Produce and disclose to the public an annual report disclosing how the savings from debt cancellation will be used.
The bill also includes measures that ensures that countries benefiting from debt cancellation will not fall back into unsustainable debt.

In addition to being a useful tool for reducing global poverty, debt cancellation is also important because of the unfair ways by which debt has accumulated for most countries. According to the Jubilee USA Network, debt:

-Is already paid - nations have already paid back their debts time and again. Debt continues to accumulate only because of skyrocketing interest rates and compound interests making repayment impossible. For example, from 1970-2002, Africa received some $540 billion in loans and paid back $550 billion in principal and interest. Yet Africa remains today with a debt stock of $295 billion.
-Hurts the poor - Loans are given with conditions that require countries to limit government spending. This leads to a reduction in spending on essential human services, like primary health and education, and access to safe water.
-Isn't really owed - Much of the debt is a result of "bad faith" lending including: the practice of pushing loans on developing nations because banks had too much money and had to lend it, knowingly lending to corrupt governments for political purposes, and lending with conditions ensuring profits return to the creditors.

Thanks to your advocacy efforts, the Jubilee Act passed the House on April 16 by a vote of 285 to 132. But it's not over yet! For the bill to become law, it must pass the Senate! To find out more information on how to call your state senator, visit: Jubilee USA Network

Thursday, April 17, 2008

David Beckmann on Bill Moyer's Journal: Farm Bill

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, appeared again on the Bill Moyer's Journal to talk about the Farm Bill. His summary is clear, concise and passionate. If you want some info about the really important stuff going on in the nation's capitol, check it out. It's hard not to be engaged in this debate after hearing what he has to say...

Snackin' with Jerome McDonnell of Worldview

Yesterday, I had a wonderful opportunity to go down to the Chicago Public Radio studio on Navy Pier and enjoy some great conversation about activism and world hunger. Our wonderful Chicago Bread for the World staff put together a program where we could meet Jerome McDonnell, host of Worldview. What a warm and wonderful individual! We got to hear about how Worldview came about, his goals for the program and insights on his hosting philosophy. BFW passed out white papers on the upcoming global poverty issues we are advocating about and we had time for some lively discussion about the state of poverty in the world.

Which brings me to a story about me re-learning a fundamental lesson: you don't get to stop paying attention even when you're out of college! Some of you seem to particularly enjoy personal stories about my missteps on this journey, so here it is:

WBEZ had really rolled out the red carpet for us with a wonderful lunch, a conference room with a phenomenal view of Lake Michigan (on a particularly beautiful spring day), and ample time with Jerome. I firmly told myself "Less talking, more listening!!" as there were many people there I could learn from. Conversation ranged from micro-loans to Share Our Soles to the Farm Bill. I was basking in the conversation, heady with that mid-afternoon I'm-playing-hooky-in-the-middle-of-the-day feeling because I was getting to hear about all this good stuff instead of the normal lunch conversation I usually engage in. I was on the edge of my seat learning all this new stuff, but when they turned to the Farm Bill, I suppose my brain sort of drifted since I have a handle on that after advocating on it for a year. I allowed my mind to sort of drift through the window and down to those lovely boats on the lake. Vaguely aware that someone was asking Jerome what he had done on the show on the Farm Bill and Jerome was wanting to know what we wanted, suddenly I was pulled back by our Bread coordinator turning to me and saying, "You're an advocate. Why don't you take this one?" To which my brain (not my mouth, thankfully) responded, "Boats???" My moment and I was missing it! I came up with an answer that hit on the main topics, but it was definitely on the rambling side and might have come off like I was telling Mr. McDonnell how to run his show after giving it 2 milliseconds of thought! Fortunately, I saw him later that night at the Expo and got a chance to follow up with him. So, the take away is, if you're going to bother to become educated on a topic and advocate about prepared to do so at any time!

Anyway, that aside, it really was a great afternoon followed by the Global Activism Expo that night filled with orgs and people with the common goal of making the world a better place. An uplifting day overall!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 build vocab, feed people

OK, OK! I'm finally hooked. Oodles of people have been telling me I should try this and I've resisted, but today I fell prey to the addictiveness of playing the vocabulary game at It's just a quick little multiple choice vocabulary quiz. For each correct answer, 20 grains of rice are bought for hungry people through the UN World Food Program. Advertisers do all the money work. They don't need to know your name or anything. The addictive part is that it just keeps coming and coming! An uninterrupted stream of SAT type words. For a geek like me, it's a little slice of heaven.

Since it's inception in Oct 2007, they have donated 26,662,277,870 grains of rice. I wish I knew what that was in lbs or kilos.

I should have been writing a letter-to-the-editor, but I got sucked into this instead. I justify it by saying maybe the improved vocab will improve my LTE's. Thanks a LOT MKinSA ;)

Oh, and Happy Birthday to the other CCY if you are reading this!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chuck Taylor: Project (RED)

Great news for Chuck Taylor converse fans! Converse has a program for the 2008 year called 1HUND(RED). They have teamed up with the Project (RED) to make a line of shoes to alleviate poverty. "Converse's 1HUND(RED) initiative brings together a hundred artists from around the globe to celebrate the artistic spirit and help fight AIDS in Africa. With our canvas as your canvas, 1HUND(RED) illustrates how the power of creativity can help change the world." 10% of the net wholesale price of these shoes will be given to The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Even more fun is Make Mine (RED), a fun program by which you can design your own Chuck Taylor sneaker fully customized for you! You can even specify tongue color or get text printed on them. 15% of the sale will go to The Global Fund.

I haven't ordered a pair yet, but if you see someone walking around with crazy Chucks that have "ccyl" up the back, you'll know it's me :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dramatic Increase in World Hunger Coverage

Some of you might have noticed that this blog has been a little (ok...a lot) light on the content for a while. Sorry! The reason was that I was traveling around the eastern US in a minivan, discovering how irritating dependence on someone else's i-phone for internet access can be. But I've been back now for a while and catching up on all the poverty coverage I missed and didn't comment on. As I scan the papers and reflect on the only decent news source I had recently (NPR), I'm struck by the rising amount of coverage that global hunger is getting lately. I remember, last summer, sometimes I would go weeks without hearing anything poverty-related. Now, I hear something daily. On one hand, I'm happy the issue is finally making front page news (literally front page on the Sunday Chicago Trib this AM) and entering the global and national debate. On the other hand, I think it's because things are really getting bad and they are likely to get much, much worse.

Last December, I posted an Economist article from the economist called "The End of Cheap Food" predicting that food prices would be skyrocketing within the year. And now it's happening. I'll write further posts about the reasons for it, but let's just leave today's observation at the fact that people are talking about it now. Riots in Haiti, unrest in India, American food stamp program in trouble... Not a day goes by that I don't hear something about it.

What point can I leave you with today? It's a great time to become an anti-poverty activist. The need is great, the coverage is plentiful. If you've been wondering whether to exercise your voice and speak out for people in need, the answer is "yes!" and the time to do it is now. To get started, please visit or to learn more about how to make some real change.