Friday, April 25, 2008

1,2,3 ... you're dead

Count to three. I'm not joking; count to three. You know: "1, 2, 3"? In the time that it took you to do that, people died. Of curable diseases, of hunger, of AIDS, of poverty.

I am not making this up.

According to Tearfund:

"Currently, 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation and 1.1 billion people lack safe water. As a result 2.2 million children aged less than five die from diarrhoeal diseases each year. Women and children in poorer countries spend hours each day collecting and carrying water. The weight of water carried can be more than 25 kilograms."

So let's do the math. Just from lack of clean water: Two-point-two million divided by 365 days a year = 6,027 a day. Okay then divide that number by 24 for how many each hour (251). Then divide that by 60 for how man each minute (4). And that's just from a lack of water. That's not counting a lack of food or from disease.

That also doesn't count those killed in war, those who die from disasters, those who are killed in accidents, or those who take their own lives. That's just the folks who died each minute because they didn't have clean water to drink.

There has been a lot of press recently about the world food crisis. Most of us in the USA would probably not notice except if we tried to buy rice at Costco. But there is a real crisis out there. Some of it is out of our control - storms, El Nino, La Nina, earthquakes, droughts, etc.It even made the cover of Time Magazine.

But some of it - most of it - is under our control, or at least we can do something about it.

Currently, nearly one-half the world's population - 2.8 billion people - live on less than two dollars a day. Two dollars! I spent that on soda and pretzels; these people live on it. Another 800 million people go hungry every day!

Anyone want to go to McDonalds?

We worry about not being able to defend ourselves from terrorists (to the tune of 481 billion dollars this fiscal year to the Defense Department). We need to be more concerned about things much more basic - like the world starving outside our doors.

The debate about the rain forest and growing corn for fuel and the need for control on global warming is legitimate, but it skirts the real issue. The real problem is greed - a large part of the so-called crisis is caused by speculators hording food to drive the price up.

Trade liberalization policies - where the rich countries force the poor ones to open their markets to products from the developed world in order to receive aid from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund - have decimated the subsidies that poor farmers got to help stabilize the prices for their products

As a result, the poorer countries are now dependent on imports rather than home grown. Which of course means farmers in the developing world can't sell their products at competitive prices because the imports are cheaper because they are more abundant. So people don't farm. So they might as well blow themselves up - but that's a few steps down the road.

The poor also suffer from climate change. They are the ones who have the least ability to cope with nasty weather, cyclones, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, drought, or disease. The hundreds of thousands who perished in 2004 stand witness to the devastation that is "normal" for most people. They live in shacks or in poorly built houses, so when disaster strikes, they have no recourse. Disease follows - including cholera, typhoid, tetanus, and any number of other diseases.

And we wonder why the rest of the world seems to be turning anti-American? Maybe if we lived up to the motto of caring for the "tired, poor, hungry, teeming masses yearning to be free."

But we are often more worried about who won on American Idol.

I says this to my self as much as to anyone. A long time ago someone said to me "you are not responsible for what you do, you are responsible for what you KNOW." Jesus made a similar point. If you want the pants scared off you, read Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats. The sheep were the ones who responded with the love of Christ to the poor, the naked, the hungry, the lonely, the stranger, and the prisoner. Jesus said "as much as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." The goats got the same answer - but a much different result. Jesus called them cursed and said they were to go to the "eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels."

So I guess who we really serve - what we really believe in - shows in our actions, not just our words.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Nope, sorry you can't come in

US CapitolI have some friends who live in England but are running afoul of the visa requirements to come to the United States. They are part of a missionary group that comes to the USA for the National Day of Prayer and they are basically itinerant preachers.

But the State Department says they can't enter the country. I don't know all the particulars, but apparently two of the five team members are not getting visas to get in.

I did some research on the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security web sites. I even checked with my congressman's office. Apparently the U.S. branch of this ministry (of which I am a member) would have to file a form with the Immigration and Customs and Border Protection department.

Come to find out that this form - of course - had to be filed months ago. The team in England is appealing to the U.S. Ambassador, but he is likely to say that rules are rules. Who knows?

Apparently the R-1 visas they are seeking - for religious workers - have been abused by people who wanted to come here illegally. People would say they are priests, nuns, religious workers, etc., and then of course would disappear. The must have felt "called" to stay in the USA illegally and make money. Who knows. Maybe some of them are plotting to kill our people and blow up more buildings. It wouldn't be the first time.

But the State Department says that basically its guy on site has the final say. If you are out under section 214 (B), you are out until you can prove otherwise. And of course, the team of missionaries is supposed to arrive here in the United States next Monday. Whether they will come or whether they will have to cancel (like they did last year) remains to be seen.

When I look at this situation, I sometimes feel like quoting Lawrence Fishburne in The Matrix: "Welcome to the REAL world." I hope that doesn't mean I am being faithless. God is obviously greater than the State Department. But this might fall under Romans 13 where it says the officer is God's messenger and "bears not the sword in vain." Rules are rules. We might not like it, but in this situation, if every "i" is not dotted and every "t" not crossed then the missionaries might be 214(b)'d out of a trip. And they already have bookings in several churches up and down the East Coast.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Biggest Loser?

Before you get too inspired by the winner of the biggest loser - you know the woman who lost 112 pounds or nearly half her body weight - remember this: she was working out 8-10 hours a day towards the end of her program.


Who has 8-10 hours a day to devote to exercise? No wonder you lose weight, your'e too tired to eat! And think of this, the guys who were in The 300 did their workouts six hours a day for six months. That's 2-4 hours less a day than this woman.

Can anybody stay fat working out 8-10 hours a day? I don't think so. But Jillian (her trainer) can point to this season as an advertising blitz and say "see, I can make you literally half as big as you are."

But c'mon. How about exercise for the REAL world, where most of us spend most of our time sitting on our butts at computers, in cars, or in front of the television.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nature's first green is gold ....

Monument Cherry Treesand I'm sneezing my head off.

It's that time of year, time to get out all the garden implements and start hacking away at the wilderness to try to tame it for another few months.

The cold is (almost) over and the new life has begun springing up all over the yard. Including dandelions, clover, and other undesirables. And the rats might have come out of hibernation - under my house. Last Tuesday was set traps day. Get under the crawl space with lethal, spring-loaded monsters and peanut butter. Then listen for the snap - or wait for the smell as summer comes along.

And it's time to order ant bait for the traps outside. At almost $100 for a gallon of Uncle Albert's Ant Bait, it's almost as a expensive as filling up my car.

Yesterday was the first mowing of the season. Time to roll out the Honda-powered mower with the bag on the back and go at it over my 1/3 of an acre. It wasn't too bad, but it reminded me that less grass is better than more.

And I'll be 46 in two weeks. Not that that will matter to the weeds, and the dandelions and the bugs and the rodents and my neighbor's rabbit that isn't supposed to be running loose in the neighborhood.

The Final Four was enjoyable, although it was work, not a pleasure trip. My editor's one comment? "Would have been nice if you had sent back photos of the celebration." Nice, huh? Except I was busy doing RADIO what they sent me there for.

The counselor at work told me that if I am looking for affirmation from my bosses, I am looking for the wrong thing from the wrong place. My bosses could give a damn as long as their fiefdoms remain safe and no one causes them to be uncomfortable.

So I will get back to the yard, now. There are still bushes to trim, beds to rake, plants to re-pot or dig holes for. And sneezes to sneeze, coughs to cough, and pills to take.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Two Faces of College Hoops

These women represent two faces of the college basketball final tonight in San Antonio. This lady is a Kansas fan, cheering her winning Jayhawks and coach Bill Self.

This woman is a Memphis fan. The Tigers came closer than any team I have seen in years. But Kansas was too much, too tough.


Rock Chalk Jayhawk Y'all.

Kansas has beaten Memphis, 75-68, to win the men's basketball championship for the first time in 20 years.

The game was electric, coming down to an overtime win. Kansas was down by nine with about two minutes left to play and then Mario Chalmers hits a monster three with less than two seconds left.

Memphis wasn't able to answer in overtime, and Bill Self and Kansas took the title. This is the first time Kansas has won the title since before Roy Williams was the coach - 1988.

It was a GREAT game. The largest lead the whole game was nine points. By Memphis. It was like standing in the midst of a hurricane when Chalmers hit that shot. Magnificent!

Monday, April 07, 2008


We're going to OVERTIME!

Mario Chalmers of Kansas hits the three with less than two seconds left and the game goes to an extra five minutes!!!!!

The joint is rocking. The building is literally moving. It's electric and like standing in the middle of a tornado.

Hall of Famers

Dickey V - Dick Vitale, Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon et al inductees to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

In addition to the above mentioned heroes of the game, Adrian Dantley, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson and Immaculata University women's coach Cathy Rush will also be inducted into the Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

There was a lot of greatness there. Lots of points scored. Lots of hoop dreams. Kansas leads the game at halftime, 33-28.

Ohh rah

The joint is going nuts. Right now it's a see saw game with the teams tied at 26.

Kansas just took a two point lead on a huge jam by Kaun. Memphis answered with a two-pointer from Chris Douglas-Roberts. Both teams are running it as hard as they can. Memphis looks like the bigger team. Tied at 28 with 4:09 left.

Taggert, Anderson, Douglas Roberts - who throws up a brick and Kansas ball. Wee hah. Time out on the floor - no doubt to sell you cars or chips or insurance or something. None of that here - except you can't take a cup into the building without Dasani written on it.

Game On

San Antonio, Texas, 15:36 in 1st half. Memphis 9, KU 5. Crowd is yelling "Go Jayhawks" at least the Kansas fans. The KU band is playing the team's fight song and the KU fans are clapping along. Thousands of pairs of hands clapping in rhythm to the song. You cannot understand the words except "Go" and "KU". The horn has sounded for play to resume and Memphis is looking tough.

Kansas just tied the game at 9-9 and the crowd is loudly cheering. To my right are the KU fans. The folks behind me and to my left are a mixture. The Memphis folks are mostly on the same side I am.

A'int nothing like being there

You might have seen an NCAA final on TV. It's not the same. Not even close to what it's like to be here.

First off the building is a football stadium. The court is set in what would be one of the end zones with huge bleachers on what would be the 10-15 yard line. The building is full to the rafters - even the upper deck on the sides to the opposite end - except of course for those seats behind the massive bleachers. But the farthest seats are going for something like $50 face value. Yeah, try to get that on the street.

The building echoes. It's like someone turned the volume up on your TV real loud and left it there. No recourse from the noise. And when someone scores, it sounds like a jet engine is blasting next to your ear. Especially on a dramatic play like an alley-oop dunk.

People are wearing all manner of regalia. The Memphis fans have on blue beads that illuminate - like a flashlight. They are sparkling all over the building. Guys are dressed in suits and ties, too. Everyone wants to be Pat Riley, huh?

The music from the bands is thunderous as well, made even more so by the size of the building. There's security everywhere and the atmosphere is like something great is about to happen.

Which it is.

Stay tuned.

Courtside seat

8:43 pm EDT Monday April 7 2008, San Antonio, Texas

Surprise, Surprise. Court side at the NCAA men's basketball championship game. We're about 30 minutes from tipoff between Memphis and Kansas and the Jayhawks have just taken the court for warm ups. It sounds like there are more Kansas fans in the Alamodome than Memphis fans. The Jayhawks are trying to win the title for the first time since 1988. Memphis has never won the men's championship.

Jesse Jackson is here. I saw him on the front row as I was coming back from the men's room. He talked to the Memphis team earlier this year (according to coach John Calipari). The Rev. Jackson was in Memphis for something else and Coach Calipari asked him to talk to the players about the Civil Rights struggle, MLK, and the press. Apparently it had quite an effect on the Tigers.

I finally broke down and bought a wireless contract for today. $16.50 of the taxpayers dollars for me to do my job. I will have to redo my authorization, but so what. How much would it cost for me to spend the time it would have taken to go across the street to file?

Anyway, my seat is way better than Saturday night. I'm right behind the players towards the KU band. Cool. I have a direct view of the rim near the KU cheerleaders. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Pony Express anyone?

There are so many people trying to use the INternet in my hotel that the server cannot handle it and crashed. Great. Now how am I going to file? I guess teh same way I am typing this - FROM ANOTHER HOTEL!

The folks at the Alamodome charge for wireless access, and the bosses in DC don't want to spend too much on "a sports event" so I have to find ways to get the job done on the cheap. Like this portal. $6.00 for 20 minutes, which works enough to get the job done.

I understand the wireless network is up and running in my hotel, so what I will have to do is cover tonight's game, get everything written and produced, and then go down to the lobby with my laptop to file using wireless. It's not as fast as the ethernet cable, but it should work. Let's hope so. The American people sent me here to send stuff back.

Otherwise I will do what I did this morning - trot across the street to the Mariott and file from there. Jump driver madness.

I hope it's a good game. I'm picking Memphis. They look so much stronger and BIGGER than Kansas. But Bill Self might have the boys ready. It's been 20 years since KU won the title. But Memphis has never won it.

A little less conversation and a lot more action. Got my boarding pass printed already. Laundry day now.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

NCAA Shotz

Here's some photos from the NCAA,

The first is Big Jay, the Kansas mascot. Don't know who's in the suit, but they were working the whole game.

Next some fans celebrate their Jayhawks' win over North Carolina.

Finally here's some Memphis fans cheering the Tigers at the Alamodome Saturday.

Hoop Dreams

Kansas basketball fans - including Abbey Stockstill and Adam Harley in this photo - had plenty to cheer about tonight in San Antonio. The Jayhawks gave North Carolina a whooping like they have not had all year. Though the final score was an 18 point difference 84-66 the game was nothing like that.

Kansas blew out of the blocks and never looked back. The Jayhawks led by as many as 28 points and though Carolina put on a strong comeback - they got to within four points - it was not enough.

Sad for Carolina fans, but exciting for fans of basketball. The game was a see-saw contest and Kansas seemed to shut down in the second half until late. But they revived in time to win and move on the the finals against Memphis.

The Tigers looked really good against UCLA. They had the joint rocking. Monday night's game is going to be a great one - unless you're from UCLA or UNC. They're probably booking their flights home right now.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

River Walking

I ate dinner last night at the Original Mexican Restaurant on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio. What a crowded, noisy, place. Turns out it was right below the Coyote Ugly bar on the Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk is cool, but not when you have 100,000 noisy basketball fans in it at the same time. Okay so maybe there weren't that many. But there were a lot of folks. And it took a LONNNNNNNG time to get my food.

The waiter forgot my chips and salsa, left me sitting there - by the door I might add - and left my beer empty. When the food final did get there, it was luke warm. So won't be eating there again.

Granted, it was crowded and the crowd was so loud that you couldn't hear your table announced over the PA system. So I cut the kid some slack - I did give him a tip, but not 15% by any means.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Electric atmosphere

Williams HansbroughI made it to the final practice for North Carolina before the semifinal game against Kansas today. The game promises to be a great one, and I really can't wait.

I talked to one guy from Galax, North Carolina, who along with his two sons and his brother drover 23 hours to get to San Antonio to see the game. Now that's a fan. Turns out this guy is a probation officer and graduate from UNC in 1983, the year after Carolina won the national title with Michael Jordan, James Worthy, and Sam Perkins.

There were about 5,000 people watching the practice. There was also a huge media contingent through which and with which I will have to wade into the game tomorrow. The Alamodome is sure to be rocking. I look forward to it.

San Antonio Final Four

United HeavyI'm in San Antonio, Texas, this week for the Final Four. Getting here was no fun. The plane was delayed 90 minutes by weather and because it was too heavy.

The jet seats 66 people but only 52 were able to fly because United had loaded extra fuel on the plane in case it had to divert to another airport because of thunderstorms between DC and Texas.

Then when we got to San Antonio, we had to sit on the tarmac because there was no where to park the plane. So all these delays made me late for the final practices for the games. So I missed the players and coaches, and the fact that Roderick Stewart broke his knee cap while trying to do a funky dunk during warm-ups.

So I have to play a little catch-up. Carolina was practicing by the time I got to the Alamodome, but I couldn't talk to players or coaches. So I will have to get audio from a local affiliate or something.

Thus is the life of a government reporter. I probably should have come here yesterday.