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The Streets of Baltimore

The battle for Baltimore, which subsided with the indictment of six police officers, is the latest in a series of conflicts between citizens and police that occur, as President Obama said, “it seems like, once a week now.” The riots are a symptom of a national economic, racial and moral disease. It calls for soul-searching, the president suggested, when a community’s young men are more likely to “end up in jail or dead” than to complete school.

On April 12, the police officers stopped Freddie Gray, 25, because he was in a high-crime area, made eye contact with the officers and ran. They threw him in the back of a truck and took him to jail. By that time he was unable to walk, his spinal cord snapped. In and out of a coma, Mr. Gray died within a week. The city has failed to explain how he sustained the fatal injury. Anger rose in the black community, and as the riots following Mr. Gray’s funeral spread through the city on April 27, the city’s leaders and the Gray family condemned the violence of the mostly young men who smashed cars, looted stores and set fire to a church-sponsored housing project.

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Baltimore, with national help, must revitalize its economy, stamp out police violence and do all it can to keep its young people in school, where they can learn about the long history of human and civil rights. Taking to the streets to protest injustice is a vital part of that history. But as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible.”

Crisis in Katmandu

“Let such a calamity never happen to anyone anywhere,” Amrit Maharjan told Catholic News Service on April 29, standing on the rubble of his three-story house in the suburbs of Katmandu, Nepal. As of this writing, 5,000 people have been declared dead from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which struck on April 25. Rescue crews are still unable to reach some of the towns surrounding the main city, leaving individuals to fend for themselves as they search for relatives amid the rubble. Some worry that the number of dead could eventually eclipse 10,000.

Caritas Nepal and other relief agencies are aiding in the rescue efforts, especially in the regions beyond the capital. For many the progress has been too slow. Relief agencies were initially delayed in reaching the quake zone by severe congestion and heavy rains. Meanwhile, those who survived are eager to salvage what they can from the destruction and find new places to live, even if just under a tarpaulin.

Nepal faces a long, slow recovery that will require billions of dollars in international aid. Unfortunately, this will almost certainly divert attention and resources away from preparatory measures that could ameliorate the effects of another earthquake. Nepal’s Parliament is considering a bill that would set up a disaster risk-management commission, but observers worry that it does not focus enough on preparation. Meanwhile, building codes are haphazardly enforced, and builders are reluctant to pay extra for earthquake-resistant materials. Experts say that a similar quake in California would cause 100 times fewer deaths because of preparatory steps already taken. Kunda Dixit, editor of The Nepali Times, pointed out these deficiencies many times in the past, but his warnings went unheeded. The world is now, finally, paying attention.

Saving Surgeries

In a report published this month by the British medical journal The Lancet, a panel of 25 medical experts concluded that two-thirds of the world’s population lack access to “safe and affordable surgery” and that the deficiencies in care will have dire effects on human health and welfare—including death from such treatable problems as appendicitis, malaria and tuberculosis.

Medical professionals from over 100 countries contributed to the report, “Global Access to Surgical Care: A Modelling Study,” which revealed some alarming statistics. Of all deaths in 2010, for example, one-third (about 17 million) came from conditions that could have been corrected by surgery but were not. The study’s authors noted that because of failure to avert this crisis, the cost to the world economy could reach more than $12 trillion between now and 2030. The study was conducted with four aspects in mind: timeliness, surgical capacity, safety and affordability. Research found that in the poorest countries, access to medical and surgical care is critically lacking in all these areas. As noted in the study, the disparity is glaring: in the United States there are 35 surgical specialists per 100,000 people; in Bangladesh there are barely two.

Nearly five billion people on this planet do not have the care they need to keep preventable medical problems from becoming fatal ones. The authors of this study believe that “sustainable financing mechanisms” and a “firm commitment to universal health coverage” to the tune of $420 billion are urgent and necessary. It may seem like a steep cost to pay, but the price in lives lost is even greater.

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John Wakefield
2 years 6 months ago
An article begins, "The battle for Baltimore, which subsided with the indictment of six police officers.." Kind of a revealing opening, n´est ce pas? "The Battle for Baltimore" .. ! .. reminiscent of 1258, in Baghdad? What can be said about this Baltimore/Ferguson/Staten Island/BedStuy situation that hasn´t been said? .. except to add the names of another 15 or 20 U.S. cities and parts of cities that are ready to blow? For President Obama to recommend soul searching would be great .. if we were a soul-searching people. We are not - we are shop ´til you drop people. The revolutionary radicality of Jesus´ message is so glaring, so in-your-face - like full frontal porn - that we .. hell´s bells, we do the only thing we can, we turn away. His revolutionary message, spoken like a true Buddhist, was a message of love - the kind that works in community. The kind that adds the quotient of life, vis-a-vis the pursuit of happiness, to community. Challenge to anyone/everyone: take a look at West Baltimore. Imagine (if you don´t live there) waking up there. Can your pancakes, your breakfast cereal, your anything go down well, given those surroundings? Hellish. Add furtiveness onto the hellishness .. you are young, you are black .. you must have done something wrong. Don´t matter if it is 7:53 a.m. When there is no way in there is no way out. When there is no way in and no way out there is no wiggle room. This will sound pretentious, but I know exactly what to do .. about West Baltimore, about the Delray section of beloved Detroit, about Flint, about Toledo, about the sad place where Michael Jackson from ... and does not need to sound nor be pretentious, because it is no-brainer stuff. I thunk it up here, where I live - the Dominican Republic - for application here, and in next door Haiti. Thunk it up while working in the Dominican government. It needs no pretention because it is no-brainer stuff. Needs action. Just think, for a moment - about dear Detroit. The fumbling. The mumbling. The squid scurrying (that´s the kind leave everything gray and lethal). The way out is so simple! It is so simple when, and if, it is human. I am willing, ready and able and rarin´ to go to action mode ... now. When you are in Sandtown you don´t have time on your side. You can be 13 and you don´t have time on your side. Life in the danger zone is a slippery slope. Mostly down, it goes. Yeah, well, no-brainer. It can be done. This whole mess of a situation - one that has been left dangling for over 50 years now, yes, that´s right! ... 50 years of wanton neglect throughout America ... it can be turned around. Ours, ours IS the American Dream. The only dream operative on the planet at this time. We haven´t begun to bring it to fruition. Yet. We have done about everything wrong we could .. along the way, these two hundred and some years of our country. But, ´ol God willing, we can, we can do this. And, we must. The whole world is watching. And: we are watching. Each the other. We must find ourselves, as Americans, we must get together. Fast. And, act.
John Wakefield
2 years 6 months ago
An article begins, "The battle for Baltimore, which subsided with the indictment of six police officers.." Kind of a revealing opening, n´est ce pas? "The Battle for Baltimore" .. ! .. reminiscent of 1258, in Baghdad? What can be said about this Baltimore/Ferguson/Staten Island/BedStuy situation that hasn´t been said? .. except to add the names of another 15 or 20 U.S. cities and parts of cities that are ready to blow? For President Obama to recommend soul searching would be great .. if we were a soul-searching people. We are not - we are shop ´til you drop people. The revolutionary radicality of Jesus´ message is so glaring, so in-your-face - like full frontal porn - that we .. hell´s bells, we do the only thing we can, we turn away. His revolutionary message, spoken like a true Buddhist, was a message of love - the kind that works in community. The kind that adds the quotient of life, vis-a-vis the pursuit of happiness, to community. Challenge to anyone/everyone: take a look at West Baltimore. Imagine (if you don´t live there) waking up there. Can your pancakes, your breakfast cereal, your anything go down well, given those surroundings? Hellish. Add furtiveness onto the hellishness .. you are young, you are black .. you must have done something wrong. Don´t matter if it is 7:53 a.m. When there is no way in there is no way out. When there is no way in and no way out there is no wiggle room. This will sound pretentious, but I know exactly what to do .. about West Baltimore, about the Delray section of beloved Detroit, about Flint, about Toledo, about the sad place where Michael Jackson from ... and does not need to sound nor be pretentious, because it is no-brainer stuff. I thunk it up here, where I live - the Dominican Republic - for application here, and in next door Haiti. Thunk it up while working in the Dominican government. It needs no pretention because it is no-brainer stuff. Needs action. Just think, for a moment - about dear Detroit. The fumbling. The mumbling. The squid scurrying (that´s the kind leave everything gray and lethal). The way out is so simple! It is so simple when, and if, it is human. I am willing, ready and able and rarin´ to go to action mode ... now. When you are in Sandtown you don´t have time on your side. You can be 13 and you don´t have time on your side. Life in the danger zone is a slippery slope. Mostly down, it goes. Yeah, well, no-brainer. It can be done. This whole mess of a situation - one that has been left dangling for over 50 years now, yes, that´s right! ... 50 years of wanton neglect throughout America ... it can be turned around. Ours, ours IS the American Dream. The only dream operative on the planet at this time. We haven´t begun to bring it to fruition. Yet. We have done about everything wrong we could .. along the way, these two hundred and some years of our country. But, ´ol God willing, we can, we can do this. And, we must. The whole world is watching. And: we are watching. Each the other. We must find ourselves, as Americans, we must get together. Fast. And, act.
Rory Connor
2 years 6 months ago
To the Editors of America Magazine - re Baltimore (and much more) There was a truly remarkable article in the Irish Independent on Thursday 7 May which will soon be forgotton - although it shouldn't be. It concerns the murder of a former IRA strong man Gerard Davison in west Belfast - probably by criminals whom the IRA used to suppress in the most brutal possible way. The article by Jim Cusack is called "Davison Murder Shows North's Criminal Gangs No Longer Fear Provos" http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/davison-murder-shows-norths-criminal-gangs-no-longer-fear-provos-31202237.html West Belfast was the biggest stronghold of the Provisional IRA during 30 years of violence which began in the late 1960s as a struggle for Civil Rights. The area suffered from poverty and discrimination but the methods used by some residents to rectify REAL injustices, ended by making things a great deal worse. (Let's not forget that Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot also began by fighting oppression - because west Belfast nowadays has a lot in common with parts of the Soviet Union after the collapse of Communism.) As per Jim Cusack: As the IRA’s grip on Catholic areas has slipped, the same areas have gone into a form of social freefall, with west Belfast registering the highest levels of deprivation and welfare dependency in the UK. In a statistical profile of the constituency published in April 2013, a higher proportion of people aged 16 and over living in Belfast West claimed at least one benefit when compared to the NI average (50.7pc compared to 39.8pc). It has the lowest proportion of students in third-level education; the highest levels of teenage pregnancy; lowest life expectancy; highest levels of respiratory and circulatory disease; and rates of violent crime, burglary, theft and criminal damage are high. ...... In other words, west Belfast and, like it, other Catholic working class areas now have the same social profile of the most deprived areas of Dublin and, like those areas, the highest levels of illicit drug taking and associated problems. The Falls Road, an area which is still difficult for the PSNI to police because of the recurrent threat of dissident republican violence, is said to be the main distribution centre for heroin in Belfast. ...... So a cause which began as a demand for Civil Rights has plunged an entire community into barbarism - and if people think that I am exagerating, I urge them to read the complete article . Here is another snippet: In the two decades before they finally ended the practice in 2004, the IRA “kneecapped” more than 1,000 young men in nationalist areas of the north, the majority in west Belfast. The beatings, which began to replace the shootings, caused even worse damage to victims whose limbs were pulverised and unable to be saved by surgery. The Northern Ireland police are still unable to operate properly in west Belfast - which means that criminal gangs are replacing the IRA. The people of Baltimore (and Ferguson and similar) had better realise what kind of future they are preparing for themselves when they direct all their ire at POLICE brutality!

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