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First, for anyone that wants an in-depth look at the local, state and federal failure in regard to Katrina, you can read this Washington Post article. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9286534/

I particularly liked the part where the mayor of New Orleans publicly announces that they will evacuate the city even though he knows he won't be able to do it.

As far as your question, Tertia, I don't know. New Orleans has always largely been a poor city. The idea that the city was some glittering jewel in America's crown is odd to me. It's always been a charminng, relaxed, old and a bit crumbling place. I have visited there many, many times and have always been warned to keep on alert. The French Quarter was safe, but the rest of the city was pretty questionable. The residents of the city proper are largely poor and black and I think their elected officials chose to leave them there rather than evacuate them when they had the means. I don't necessarily think that's racist, but I don't count out the race issue either.

I also think that our anger at the results of Katrina is also based on our inability to accept that we can't control nature. For New Orleans, it was only a matter of time. The place is BELOW SEA LEVEL, NEXT TO THE SEA. Hurricanes wipe out places like that. Witness Galveston, TX in 1906.

As far as Africa, why is the lens always turned on the US to solve the hunger problem in Africa? I seem to remember the last time we tried to get involved we ended up in the middle of a local conflict and 19 of our Marines were dead. I'd argue that the problems people are facing in places like Zimbabwe are the result of the actions of an evil dictator that aren't likely to be cured with writing a check.

As you know, I just moved to Pretoria and quite frankly I am amazed at the amount of wealth here. Everyone is driving a BMW or Mercedes (and for those of you not here, cars are much more expensive than in the US and salaries are lower), the houses are large, computer access is easy and we have DishTV. There is a lot of building going on and commuter traffic is as bad as in the states. In short, the economy seems to be booming. Why isn't Thabo Mbeki on the case regarding hunger? Why isn't the TransAfrica Forum asking the question of him?

Why must it always be the u.s.? Why isn't France or Greeland or Japan doing more to help those starving in Africa?

My husband and I have actually had long talks about this issue.

First, I will have to say that a hierarchy does exist. Those at the top are white Europeans or descended from thus. At the very bottom you have Aboriginal peoples and Africans in general. Aboriginal Africans seem to be the lowest of the low. (Again, this is just my point of view which has been gained from numerous classes in issues surrounding Equity, debate me if you desire)

I think that North Americans and Europeans can ignore the deaths of millions in Africa because it is not happening in their back yard. These people are content to eat foods grown in said country, while the people of these countries starve from lack of food (South America). Those in developed countries feel nothing about eating meat grown in a developed country, even though the daily vegetation required to grow a pound of beef could feed 16 people for a day. That could be 16 hungry people in the world fed. Also, the United States especially is a throw-away country. Not only in non-edible products but also in edible products. The food an average middle class family throws away DAILY could feed one person. That's horrible. Also, farmers in North America have learned that certain foods do not sell. So, such items as strange-looking vegetables and whatnot are left to rot. These foods are just as healthy as the foods sold in stores. This could be as much as 25% of the total yield of that farm. Or, enough to feed thousands of hungry people. Grocery stores also throw away tonnes of food stuffs each year. My father worked at a milk plant and they BURIED powdered milk for lack of a market to buy it.

The US gives 0.34% of its GDP to foreign aid, which is much lower than the other developed countries who give around 3% on average. And at least half of that aid goes to Israel rather than starving people in Africa/ Aisa/ Latin America. And when the US does give aid, it imposes conditions on it like preventing HIV through abstinence rather than condoms. Also there is a gag rule on abortion-- i.e. if the organization provides or even refers women to abortion provides, they cannot receive aid from the US government.

The conservatives here in America have a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality. They think it is up to every country to help themselves and when an outside country helps, they are creating dependence and disrupting the process of the needy country getting on its feet. They would say it's up to African countries to deal with the HIV crisis themselves and if we help, we are preventing those countries from improving their political systems, kicking out the dictators etc. I've heard not insignificant numbers of people say things like, well, the poor people in New Orleans didn't get out because they are so used to depending on the government to do things for them. They should have stopped depending on the government and walked to Baton Rouge.

If you want to learn more about how conservatives in the US think look up Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh.

I think a lot of people just can't conceptualize Africa. It is very far away and hardly ever on the news (we get very little foreign news-- far less than on SABC) and most people are barely aware of Darfur. The only time we ever see or think about Africa is through romanticized movies such as Out of Africa.

One of the things that did stand out for me the last time I was in SA was that we hardly ever see positive portrayals of blacks on US TV. They are almost always criminals or secondary actors. SABC has done a fine job of creating some black-positive programmes.

I don't understand why we give SO much when people in our own country starve to death every day. Most of the poor have no health insurance and no education and live with much crime. Not that in counts as "aid" in my book, but we've thrown so much money toward Iraq that we can hardly recover from a natural disaster in our own country.

I think, if one were to sum it up in a brief generalization: The US is fuelled by money given to policitians - this is done through legalized bribery called "lobbying".

The US government more often than not will act on the interests of paying business interests, rather than humanity or even it's own people (see New Orleans). This has become even more evident the last few years wkith obscene favors dolled out to oil, credit card, insurance and other big business etc.

It's all about the money. Money produces legislation. The system is filthy (yet legal).

I have some conflicting thoughts of my own. First, there is an expectation, at least as far as I can tell, for the U.S. to bail out alot of other countries in trouble - be it natural disaster or man-made. Second, I think the majority of Americans definitly noticed the lull in response to victims of Katrina. Yes, there are distinct classes here, as there are everywhere, but I do not believe Bush, or our government, saw this as an opportunity to "get rid" of a certain class. At least I hope not.

I hate it. It makes me really sad. A mother should never have to watch her baby starve to death. ever.

I don't believe Katrina had anything to do with race/class however the people there don't have SUV's and jaguars to jump into to leave, the local officials should have taken the buses now flooded, trailers, semis etc. filled the superdome with food/water and picked up the people as many as they could that had NO way out. If this hit my city I have a car however, I have NO bank account, I am not rich, I don't drive fancy cars, don't have designer clothes, expensive furniture, tvs, anything. The most I have is a computer! I think I was the last person to get a CD player, hell I never had a pedicure in my life and I'm 45. I did the most unselfish thing in life, IF treatments with loans, working 7 days/week and am still trying to pay these off. I have retail businesses I opened after, am drowing in debt, take NO paycheck in over 3yrs but give to MANY charities. After Katrina, we gave from my husband's pay and for the past week have eaten BLT sandwiches & sweet corn, we had no money for groceries. I am grateful I have food and a small home. I think Americans are one of the most GENEROUS people & countries. I do wonder why we are always called upon to bail out everyone? Most of the time it appears it is the working class that does more donating than the rich from what I see but I suppose that's why I'll never have a bank account probably, just the necessities.
It starts local and goes up the ladder. The fact a nursing home filled with elderly all died is tragic! New Orleans had 5700 National Guard available but called in very few the first day. I've watched this entire story and have a cousin from New Orleans who is white. I heard Geraldo Rivera interviewed, he agreed that if it was a rich community they would have probably been evacuated better however he said there was no reason for car jackings, raping 13 yr olds and the violence that took place in the city didn't allow the police to do their job, instead they were fighting crime. They asked him would it have happened in a rich community (the crime) and he said "probably not" which I found to be a statement that who would know with the devestation but he did say when your child has no food you will break the windows of a store to get milk and food, the reason to have been stealing 17" plasma tv's was uncalled for and the crime that was going on cost lives. I wasn't there so PLEASE don't feed blast me for stating what I heard from the media! We know the MEDIA is always right aren't they? I did one search on U.S. Aid to South Africa, got a ton of websites, this was from the first (not sure if the pics will show up) U.S. Aid to Africa

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A young Congolese girl carries her little brother as she receives food aid for her family from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at a camp in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo. Hunger continues to stalk the African continent, with an estimated one in three people undernourished, constituting a third of the world's undernourished people. USAID has designed the Initiative to End Hunger in Africa in order to meet the Millennium Challenge goal of halving the number of hungry in Africa by 2015. (©AP/WWP)
U.S. Aid to Africa

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Bono, who together with producer Bob Geldof, has spearheaded the campaign to promote a worldwide concert series to benefit Africa entitled Live 8, has met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice twice since May 2005 to lobby for more aid for Africa. Bono is a co-founder of DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) and has publicized the need for economic aid to Africa for many years. The intent of the eight Live 8 benefit concerts to be held July 2 is to get the public to urge the delegates to the G-8 conference in Gleneagles, Scotland, to “make poverty history.” (©AP/WWP)
U.S. Aid to Africa

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Children with HIV/AIDS eat their lunch at the Sparrows Nest, a home that cares for adults and children with HIV/AIDS in Roodepoort, South Africa. The United States has played an active role in facilitating AIDS research, treatment, and prevention throughout the world, and specifically in Africa. The President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief was initiated in May 2003 to provide $15 billion in prevention, treatment, and care efforts to be contributed in the next five years to the fight against AIDS in 15 countries, 13 of which are African. (©AP/WWP)

U.S. Aid to Africa

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U.S. President Bush met with five African presidents June 13 to discuss the positive results and future goals of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, which will be held in Dakar, Denegal, July 18-20. The AGOA Forum is an annual meeting of government ministers, businessmen and NGO representatives to evaluate and project the effects of the U.S. trade facilitation law that allows for duty-free import of goods from the 37 eligible African nations as a means to generating growth and lasting development. (©AP/WWP)
U.S. Aid to Africa

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Displaced Congolese residents arrive at a camp in Bunia to receive food aid, despite the destruction of the town. Years of fighting between the Congolese government and the Movement for the Liberation of Congo forces have ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo. USAID has contributed tons of food to support those displaced. Each family of five receives 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of cornmeal, 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of beans and 1.5 liters (51 ounces) of cooking oil that will sustain them for the week. (©AP/WWP)
U.S. Aid to Africa

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An Ethiopian child receives polio vaccine near Butajira as a part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The GPEI, a combined effort of the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.N. Children's Fund, and the private nonprofit service organization Rotary International, aims to eliminate polio completely by 2005. Although there has been considerable success in decreasing the number of instances of polio, the disease continues to plague much of Western and Central Africa. Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of polio in the world. (©AP/WWP
U.S. Aid to Africa

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Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), works with students of Minerva High School in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg, South Africa, as they learn to use computers. Minerva School is one of the beneficiaries of a USAID project to develop science, mathematics and technology skills in South Africa's poorer communities. USAID's African Education Initiative is designed to improve the lives of Africa's children both to contribute to the society's economy and to lead happier, healthier lives. (©AP/WWP)
U.S. Aid to Africa

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Bono, celebrity activist and member of the band U2, feeds 11-month-old Thomas Qubile at the prenatal HIV clinic of the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, during his trip to the region with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in 2002. Bono, who has visited the continent often and seen the effects of poverty on the children of Africa, has taken an active role in publicizing the fight against hunger, poverty and AIDS in Africa, including assisting organizing the Live 8 benefit concerts to be held June 2 in eight cities around the world. (©AP/WWP)
U.S. Aid to Africa

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Newly installed World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, seated with Ambassador Faida Mitifu of the Democratic Republic of Congo (left), Co-Chair AGOA 3 Action Committee Rosa Whitaker, and President of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa Leonard Robinson, says he wants the bank to help transform Africa from a continent of despair to one of hope. In the U.S., the AGOA opened up trade by allowing 98 percent of all African goods to enter the U.S. duty free, thereby improving national economies, increasing employment and trade and helping to reduce poverty. (©AP/WWP)
U.S. Aid to Africa

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Sudanese workers unload relief trucks filled with sacks of wheat donated by USAID in the Sudanese Liberation Army-controlled village of Deesa in northern Sudan, where the U.S. has committed to provide food aid to hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and logistical support to African Union peacekeeping troops. The crisis that has hit the Darfur region of Sudan has been identified as "the worst humanitarian and human rights crisis in the world today," according to the State Department's bureaus of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and Intelligence and Research. (©AP/WWP)
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U.S. Aid to Africa

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer (State Dept. photo)
Frazer Takes Helm as Top Official on Africa at State Department

Secretary Rice administers oath, calls Frazer key policy-maker

Washington - The State Department was celebrating as a member of its diplomatic family, Ambassador Jendayi Frazer, took the oath of office September 7 as assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, administering the oath, praised her as a key formulator of U.S. Africa policy

It seems to me that asking "Why is the US always called to bail everyone out?" is an inappropriate response to "Why does the world seem to accept extreme suffering in Africa?"
If I lived in a huge mansion, drove a mercedes, had a nice underground swimming pool, but when I walked out my door, poeple in the next yard over hadn't eaten in days, they were sick for lack of basic medical care, mothers were holding their dying children - wouldn't I be heartless if I didn't help them? Wouldn't it be wrong for me to go on with my life, and not even give a thought to the people next door?
Yes, the US does give money to Africa. The Bush administration has vowed to give even more than its predecessors (I do not know if they ever fulfilled this promise, and I think there is some debate). But we all know it barely amounts to anything in terms of our enormous budget. Not even one percent.

Who gets helped has a lot to do with skin color, but more to do with MONEY. Drug companies do not make meds to cure people; they make them to make money. ppl in Africa cannot pay for meds, so they dont get them. Drug companies have thus far successfully blocked legislation to lower drug costs to the poor in Africa. Part of why they are allowed to do this is b/c in the US, corporations have the same legal rights under the Constitution as individual people. They can fight, and usually win, when they think things will hurt their businesses. They even fight citizens, and towns, here, and win.

Also, it's true that Bush will not provide aid to organizations that provide abortions. I do not like Bush at all, BUT, this is who Americans elected. This was always his policy as he is anti-abortion (I refuse to call him pro-life b/c war and the electric chair kill). WE KNEW THIS BEFORE HE GOT ELECTED, which means all we can do now is call senators and such, and lobby for change. There are conservatives who support his plan, obviously. I live near some of them. Go ahead and call him an ass for doing it, whatever, this is what he ran on.

Helping ppl in Africa will not help American "interests." Helping ppl in the Middle East was protecting our interest in oil. Africa has nothing to offer us, which is why they dont get as much help. Saving a bunch of starving babies so that they can grow up and make more starving babies does not benefit the US government in any way. Should that matter? Is human life human life? Yes, but this is how it has been forever. Greed is a sin, and this is why.

Good questions, difficult answers.

Out of curiosity (and asked kindly, not meant to be rude) - because of your knowledge of your own country, I'd like to ask what the government of South Africa, and the people of South Africa are doing to help the problem?

Much like the victims of Katrina were personally helped by neighbors in close proximity, as well as financial aid given by those further away, which African countries are helping out their neighbors?

Bush is an Asshole and if it was his rich white friends, instead of a bunch of poor black strangers you bet your ass he would have had the National Guard there in a New York minute. And food. And water. And baby formula. And he would have had those floating medical ships waiting off the coastline.
Oh, and there would be free martinis in the Superdome.

Tertia, in answer to your question: Yes, here in Canada we are made aware of the suffering of African people. It is appalling and heartwrenching and overwhelming.

It is hard to undcerstand, bnecause it is so far from what I have been raised with. LIke you said, it is not in my own backyard, I don't have to live with it on a daily basis. There is quite a bit of poverty in the town where I live, but, again, not exactly where I live.

But I try to make a difference. Despite being one of the 'haves', we don't actaully have a lot extra to give to the 'have nots'. When I am at the supermarket, we always get a bag for the soup kitchen as well. I want my 4 year old to understand that some people need help to get food, and she always grabs a bag now. This doesn't help with Africa, of course, but maybe my daughter will grow up and be the person who discovers the 'cure' for AIDS or the answer to eradicating poverty, based on her being raised to care about those less fortunate.

Sadly, it's baby steps here for us on a personal level. We want to do so much more and just can't. Definitely govts that clearly 'have' should be doing all they can to help those who 'have not'. I'm not advocating that the US 'bail' people out, but isn't it a clear case of caring about humanity, about the lives of others less fortunate than yourself, that would make people want to help? Mind you, sometimes I see the world a bit too rosily and have faith in the kindness of others, so perhaps this caring of humanity doens't exist on a widespread area. I like to think it does.

What I always find amazing is the people who 'have not' are always ready to help those they consider even less fortunate, even though they have nothing to give, while many 'haves' tend to turn a blind eye.

Enough rambling from me today!

There is extreme suffering in the entire world including the U.S.A. In Iraq people were starving due to the hoarding of money and mansions being built,no medical getting to the people, they found U.S. money there! No regard for human life when you think throwing people in meat grinders and watching executions with a bowl of popcorn is entertainment? Were we justified to tell them this wasn't entertainment if they thought so? Why can't Saddam not feed his own people and deny them medical? Who are we to say? If he finds killings and gasing his own people fun and entertaining do we have the right to take him down? I have tapes of the executions, torture etc. mothers digging in dirt for bones of their babies that were slammed alive against brick walls,digging with their bare hands for bones? etc. (it was to make me see we should be in Iraq given to me by someone in the military, a friends daughter, I can't watch this, I'm not an animal the cover is enough to make me puke). Don't all countries have poverty, some more than others. Dictators, Barbaric Leaders? The worst the suffering, turning our head on suffering anywhere but do other countries normally take care of themself first? What person in Hollywood (not a hollywood worshiper,they are rich people that drive in limos and don't know what the average person lives like just MY opinion, stress MY opinion many here worship hollywood's words & them) said we should have just surrounded our borders with all our military, pulled out of every country and said screw it instead of invading Iraq or worrying about Bin Laden? I have to ignorantly agree part way with that,(notice I said ignorantly because it isn't the U.S. way obviously as we can see that in Iraq :( but I thought yeah bring the Americans home and why are we fighting everyone else's battle? Is it ours to fight? People will always hate the U.S. We will always be accused of never doing enough. Helping with suffering is just the RIGHT thing to do when it comes to starving people etc. anywhere in the world but don't most countries have rich also? What do the rich people in all these countries that have such poverty do to help? I know rich people here that don't donate ONE dime to anyone or any charity. One of my mother's friends (she isn't alive anymore) her view was everyone can take care of themself and she started poor but married wealthy. She didn't believe in charity, let others get jobs. :( We are supposed to be the most powerful country but then why do we have our own poverty here, look at what just happened here. We couldn't save our own! Don't we have a responsibility to U.S. citizens here first? I was amazed at the outpouring from other countries to the U.S. after Katrina, amazed, grateful... Actually IS THERE AN ANSWER TO ANY OF THIS? I don't think so, there will always be critics both sides. Unfortunately just as there will be people starving in every country. Answers?

I believe the issue is one of closeness. If your neighbor's house falls down, it affects you more than if you hear someone's house falls down on the other side of the world. Within any community, the local problems have a greater impact thatn the distant ones. I don't think that is a hierarchy of life, but just a fact of how human's process things.

Combine this with the concentration of wealth and power- that is concentrated in predominantly white, western nations. I don't think overall that it is that these countries care less about the plight of Africans because they are black, but because they are distant.

This is not to say that it is right. I absolutely think that the US should give more aid to Africa. I think just about everyone thinks that the administration completely failed in the Katrina relief. Do I think they failed because the people were black? No. I belive if these were poor whites, the effort would have been the same. I think they failed because the administration has misguided interests and misplaced priorities. I do believe economics had to do with it - these were poor people. Povery disproportionately affects blacks, and they suffer disproportionately. But that is a subtly different issue from suffering as a direct result of your race.

I do not believe race played a part in the response to Hurricane Katrina. Rather, I believe poverty is to blame.

There is a Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation Plan. Part of the plan states, "The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles may be used to provide transportation for individuals who require assistance in evacuating."

Government vehicles were not used on a large scale to get people out of town. Instead, Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin decided to allow New Orleans residents to stay if they wanted, even though a mandatory evacuation order had been issued 14 hours before the storm hit.

Nagin authorized transportation to get people to the Superdome, however the buses were eventually flooded when the levees were breached.

Even though the mayor opened the Superdome to thousands, there was not enough security inside, nor enough food and water.

Governor Blanco asked the federal government to declare the hurricane zone a disaster area two days before the storm hit, which it did. The governor then didn’t send any National Guard troops in to secure New Orleans and the surrounding parishes before the storm, even though they were available to her. Sending in the troops was not in the authority of the Federal government. It was and is under state authority.

Once the levees were breached, the National Guard could not get into N.O. It took three days for Blanco to admit she didn’t have enough security in the city.

When the levees were breached, the situation became a national security issue. The Federal Government took an additional 24 hours to take action.

As for U.S. aid to other countries, this was written by Helle Dale, directory of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies of the Heritage Foundation.

Fact: The United States donates more than any other country in Official Development Assistance, to the tune of $16 billion. That is up from $10 billion in 2000. For fiscal 2006, Mr. Bush has requested an additional $3 billion. American increases in official development assistance over the period of Mr. Bush's presidency have far outpaced those of the European Union.
 Fact: The United States is the largest single donor to international organizations, paying $362 million (or 22 percent) of the U.N. budget. We contribute more than $1 billion to the World Food Program. We contributed $194 (or 19 percent) to the U.N. Development Program and $288 million to the U.N. Children's Fund.
Fact: The U.S. government counts less than half of its foreign assistance as development aid. Excluded is aid to Israel, to the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, peacekeeping and military aid, educational and cultural exchanges, the National Endowment of Democracy, educational and cultural exchanges, funding to the Export-Import Bank, the Inter-American-Foundation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. All of this amounted to $12.7 billion in 2002.
 Fact: The United States has a great tradition of private giving, unequalled in most of the other countries with whom we are regularly compared. In 2004, private assistance flowing from the United States totaled $48 billion. This includes charity from private foundations, corporations, colleges and universities, religious organizations and NGOs, as well as individuals. It also includes personal remittances, about $28 billion. The U.S. government, of course, has no role in directing remittances, but facilitates these transactions through immigration and commerce legislation.
Fact: Americans donated nearly $700 million in tsunami relief to the stricken people of the Indian Ocean.
In total flows of international aid, the United States far and away leads the world. It is only in terms of an arbitrary percentage of GNP that our numbers look inadequate. Americans have nothing to apologize for when it comes to giving. Mr. Bush ought to hammer that message home when he speaks to the world leaders today in Scotland. In fact, his administration has set a standard for others to emulate.

I saw an interview with a rather wealthy man who was returning to his home to pick up a few things. I actually felt less sympathetic towards him then the poorer people. He can rebuild. He can replace the things he lost. The people who have no money are the ones who are really suffering. How do you start over when you have nothing?

As far as the people in S Africa, I only wish I could do more. I am not up to date on much, news wise, because I can't handle watching. The anxiety it causes me is almost crippling, so I avoid it. I'm sure people will judge me for that, but its what I have to do to get through each day. I didn't realize that people in S Africa were still starving to death. And the children? My God, its more then I can even wrap my brain around. How painful would it be to watch your child starve and not be able to do anything about it? I am tearing up just thinking about it.

I can't really comment about why the help for Katrina victims was so slow or why America isn't doing more to help SA because of the whole not watching the news situation, but I do find it heartbreaking. And I do wish I could do more.

i'll have to come back to read the comments later, the ones i saw scrolling down seemed very interesting, particularly the defensive [american] ones.

my short answer is that yes, tertia, i believe you are right to think that 'some animals are more equal than others' (with apologies to george orwell). i have yet to see large-scale evidence to the contrary.

We in the United States are insulated to a certain degree and cannot even fathom what poverty in other countries is like. Being poor in the United States still gives you some level of safety net, there is government assistance to feed your children, house you, and provide you with some financial assistance. Your children have schools to go to and there are jobs to be had. Your children will still be immunized and likely will not die from a preventable disease that could be cured with easily attained antibiotics. In the United States you can realistically rise out of poverty.

Being poor in Africa and other developing areas of the world means you have no safety net. You are at the mercy of an often corrupt government and a trade situation that makes it overwhelmingly difficult for these countries to compete with developed countries. Being poor in Africa often means you die of starvation or some easily prevented or treated disease. But worse than all, being poor in Africa generally means you have no hope of rising out of poverty.

It's more than the U.S. and other countries just bailing these countries out, it's about giving developing countries a fair shot. Check out maketradefair.com.

I think it is just too easy and common to play the "race" card, as far as katrina is concerned. In my opinion, race had nothing to do with it, rather it was an issue with class. Just happens that the poverty class in N.O. was mostly black ( they were ALL Americans) I think that aid was also slower to respond because of all of the crime that was happening. Effort had to go towards rapes, murder, etc, so that was less help to go toward the honest survivors. THAT was unexpected.

Oh boy, T. you really opened up a can of worms here. We have been having this discussion in our house since the hurricane hit. And I've been working it ove and over in my mind, trying to figure out why things happened like they did. So I spent most of the morning writing this.

I hope it's not too long.

The prevalent comment in response to T's questions seems to be "why is the US always expected to aid Africa?" and "why is the lens always on the US?" The answer lies in the fact that we are not living in a timeless vaccuum. We (the US) have been involved in the politics and economies of Central America, South America, Africa, the Carribean, South East Asia and the Middle East going back to the 50's and 60's, and sometimes before. Before that it was the European countries. In 1884 Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium all met together in the Berlin Conference to colonize Africa. They basically split up Africa, into 'influences' and divided it among themselves. They set up governments and brought in corporations to reap (rearrange the letters in that word if you like) any money that could be made from Africa's wealth of natural and mineral resources.

We took over where England left off when it comes to Imperialism. The US was a little more sneaky than England, France, and Germany of old, though. Most of our operations were done through CIA covert operations and the backing and subsidizing of corporations. We have installed so many governments, at our whim, disregarding the views and opinions of the native peoples. We have propped up so many dictators and despots, when it was beneficial to our business and economy, that we have indelibly changed the economic foundation of those countries. How many times have we supported a leader and then gone back many years later, only to condemn and interfere more, when things don't seem to be going in a direction we approve of? The most recent and forefront in our cultural memory is Saddam Hussein. We have all forgotten that it was our government that supported his position over and over again. The same goes for the Taliban in Africa. We supported them when they were rebelling against their government. There was Mobuto in Congo. His rule has been described as kleptocracy because he robbed so much from his people, and Reagan said of him, that he had a "voice of good sense and good will."

We have had our fingers in the politics, business, and economies of so many countries. The people who live in these countries remember this - we don't. So they of course look to us to help when things are going down the shitter. They remember and want to know where are the people who were so eager to help before? This has happened with deBoers and Alcoa in South Africa. Dole in Cuba, Guatemala, and even Hawaii way back before it was a state. Rubber production and exploitation in the Congo at the hands of European corporate leaders. 3M, Abbott Laboratories, Archer Daniels Midland, Citigroup, Conoco, DaimlerChrysler, ExxonMobile, (our favored son) Halliburton, IBM (sorry T - Iknow you're doing good work), Johnson & Johnson are all being 'encouraged' in their business dealings in Africa. Large agricultural giants such as Monsanto are taking over small farmers in Africa, just as they are in the U.S. Now, not all corporatization is inherently evil. It's just that the main priority of any corporation is to make money. And if they are setting up in foreign countries to do that, with lots of money funneled from the U.S. government, or with military 'protection' provided by the US military, it's not really a fair playing field, and the outlook doesn't look good for the country in which they set up. Although there will be some increased employment from these companies, do they pay a living wage to those they employ? Do they provide healthcare? Do they support the local economy in non-desctructive ways? And why do these companies choose to set up operations in these poor countries? Is it because they feel compassion for them and want to help? Or is it because it is far cheaper and can save far more money to do business there, where they are poor, and probably don't expect as much?

And it's not just the US to blame. All of the developed, modernized, 'wealthy' countries are to blame. Most of the G8 countries are involved everyday in changing the surface of African economies. Japan - http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol12no2/japan.htm Germany - http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1631385,00.html Ireland http://www.dci.gov.ie/about_mission.asp Once again, if we live in the US, we generally have our heads in the sand, for whatever reason, when it comes to world events and world issues that occur outside the realm of FoxNews, CNN, or MSNBC.

And back to T's question. Why have we installed so many governments and propped them up with millions of US dollars? 'Because, we of course, know better how to govern and develop a country than those poor, uneducated Africans. We must show them how to bring themselves up.' http://www.africacncl.org/About_CCA/index.asp There is a heirarchy, and whether it is based on race or money, I don't know. I'm likely to say it is money/wealth. It is a vicious cycle that starts with 'they don't have money' so 'they must not be responsible/smart/hardworking/moral' so 'they don't deserve our help' and ends with 'they don't have any money'.

And that is seconded by 'S's post. We do have people starving everyday here, and children getting sick because of the lack of healthcare. Not nearly to the extent that exists in Africa and some Central American countries, but more so than one of the riches, most powerful countries in the world should have. And what does this say about our values? Our leaders talk all the time about family values and a culture of life. But if you look around, you have to realize that this is bullshit. We as people, don't care for the poor. If we did, we would help take care of everyone, and not wait until there is a horrible disaster to bring it to light. We would have compassion for the poor everyday, and not wait until there is an epidemic of starvation.

In a nutshell, historically, we have chosen to invest our money where there is the quickest return of profit. Rather than help to provide education and healthcare, we choose to provide corporate subsidies to companies that we know do not have altruistic motives. We have chosen to drain the sea, collect the fish, and move on to the next sea rather than teach the man to fish. (To use a biblical allegory.)

There are a couple of major issues Tertia brought up. I do believe Americans are very generous. That doesn't mean that the USA doesn't have a huge class divide. When I visited New Orleans last year, I was suprised to learn such a large percentage of the residents live below the poverty line.

I don't think that we (Americans) can solve the world's class/poverty problems when we cannot fix our own. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't work on both. I think it is human nature to help your neighbor before you help someone else in need. The US government does do both, but unfortunately there is a long way to go before poverty and hunger are solved.

One of the important reasons we as a world community need to address poverty and hunger in Africa is because many people are being recruited into terrorist cells there. People with little hope are embracing something to believe in, and this has long-term ramifications on the entire world.

It is human nature for angry people to want to lash out at someone. We saw this in New Orleans with the people at the Superdome and the Convention Center who didn't have food, water, or sanitation. We have also seen this through acts of terrorism. It is amazing how much different someone's life can turn out if that individual has the basic necessities.

Oops. I forgot to format the links. Sorry.

Thanks for your post. You raise some interesting and difficult points and I too don't have answers, just observations. Sadly a lot of these issues were being debated in the UK around the time of Live 8 and the G8 summit with a full week of Africa-related programmes (both heartwarmingly positive and heartwrenchingly sad) being shown on the BBC. Unfortunately attention was diverted from these issues by the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London and no one is talking about them now.

Anyway, here are just a few random observations and questions.

- Whenever African news is shown in the UK it is inevitably depressing and negative and I'm sure the succession of wars and famines depicted is seen as inevitable and boring. It was wonderful to see some positive stories during the BBC's Africa week, but these hardly ever make news normally.

- So few of the stories show Africans helping themselves. We see story after story of genocide in Rwanda or Darfur war in Congo or of thuggish dictatorship in Zimbabwe. I'm not saying this is right, but I think this creates a sense of 'having brought it upon themselves' which colours some peoples' response (though as a Brit the situation in Zimbabwe makes me feel horribly guilty).

Contrast this with the response to the Ethiopian famine in the 80s or the Asian tsunami where the victims were portrayed as victims of natural forces beyond their control.

- When I lived in New York many years ago, I was shocked at how little foreign news was shown. We Brits are pretty insular but nothing in comparison to what I saw, or didn't see, then.

- Though aid is one issue I think trade is even more important. I hate the fact that the European Union is very happy to import cocoa as a commodity for its indigenous chocolate-making industry, but if an African company had the temerity to produce its own high value-added chocolate we would slap heavy import duties on it.

And in a couple of rather tangential asides...

- I wonder if Katrina will make the US rethink its stance on climate change and global warming.

- I wonder also if Katrina will make the US rethink its gun laws. I thought the breakdown in law and order in New Orleans made for an interesting contrast with the countries hit by the tsunami.


BTW I've just won the WWM award. While I was writing this post Lulu woke up from her nap and rolled off the bed. Apparently you should only worry if they don't shriek though.....

Lulu brought up a good point re: gun laws but a lot of guns are not purchased legally. My father is 77 yrs old,when he was young everyone had guns,they weren't locked up. There was not the violence of today. My husband is a police officer, he leaves the house wearing a gun. People kill. How does the U.S. keeps guns out of the hands of the wrong people?

Bit of a touchy subject for me so I might ramble a bit and froth at the mouth from time to time.

First off,
Yes, there is still racism in my country(america*). I have been on the receiving end of it from a few racist dentists ever since my permanent molars came in and my family's dentist saw that they had vestigial fifth cusps. For those that have no idea why that should mean anything let me just say for the record that to that particular dentist having five cusps on your molars just screams Native American. So even though he gave my dad truly excellent care the treatment that I received from him from that day onward bordered on torture.

But even people who literally become sick to their stomachs at the mere mention of callus racist acts have treated me and some members of my family as second class humans because of our income.

I have been spit upon in school for not wearing the "right" clothes because my parents could simply not afford shoes, new clothing AND food AND medical care for three fast growing children and still keep a roof over our heads. Something had to give. For us it was the new clothes. Most of my life I have had to wear "hand-me-downs". From second hand coats to mittens to T-shirts to bathing suits to warm sweaters I have worn them all. (With the exception of underwear and socks which I got new every Christmas from my Grandma.) And I have been shunned for it.

I have seen my mother reduced to begging with tears streaming down her face for enough Food Stamps to adequately feed her children.

I have had to spend $1 Food Stamps (back when Food Stamps were little slips of paper)on a single piece of $0.05 candy in three or four different stores in order to get enough change to buy the gallon of gas needed for my mom to drive me to a doctors appointment instead of walking two miles in the snow with bronchitis. Because it was the last week of the month and there was NO money for anything. (Not technically legal, the clerks should have given me a slip for $0.45 store credit and a $0.50 Food Stamp.)

I have known mothers who have had to prostitute them selves in order to get the bills paid.

I have known women with latex allergies who have had unprotected sex because they could not afford non-latex condoms and the Health Department clinics don't give out anything other than latex condoms. Because it costs too much to give them out free.

I have seen families trapped in poverty because they could not afford the gas to get to work.

I have seen, I have seen.
Oh, what I have seen.
What I have seen would make you weep in shame and rage.

So yes.I do think it is/was about poverty.

~Adi V.
*The lack of caps is intentional.

Tertia, you raise some outstanding issues here. Thank you for being a sounding board to many.

My husband and I have personally supported foreign aid projects through non-governmental agencies here in the US. I don't like the fact of mixing our often-crooked politics with humanitarian efforts, especially when the people in power are not ones I support.

I would love to comment and comment and comment on this, but right now, I'm preparing dinner for almost 50 evacuees from Katrina that are in a shelter in my town. I'm still pretty emotional about this whole disaster (and it isn't all natural, either), so I don't think I can comment in a logical way right now. I just have to help who I can, how I can, when I can. And that's the best I can do.

After all, that's my job as a fellow human being, whether the suffering be in my backyard (or my neighboring state) or across the globe. I put my money/resources where my mouth is.

Oh for fuck's sake... I've only read half of the comments... and while some people are making some interesting comments... I take issue ONCE AGAIN with the people who respond from a defensive standpoint. For heavens' sake... Tertia asked some very valuable questions... about human nature as a whole... and how we choose to prioritize how much we give to whom... and our perceptions of those choices. Because the fact is, we can't give everything to everybody... life just wouldn't work that way. So I just roll my eyes in frustration to those of you who interpreted these questions as a critique of American foregin policy. If you want find someone to argue with about that... come visit me if you like... but PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT TERTIA IS ACTUALLY ASKING! When some of you American readers respond with, "Why are WE expected to fix it? I don't wanna give anymore. " That attitude sounds incredibly childish, complete with a stomping foot... and an inattentive one at that. Because the question is so much fucking bigger than that.

And for those of you think that Americans are soooooo generous? THINK AGAIN... you give only one tenth of what world-wide international average. So... if I as a Canadian give $1 in tax dollars.... little 'ol Canada... a country with the population LESS than the state of California... your equivalent gift is 1 cent.

Hi Tertia,
Interesting, I read this post and didn't comment because I knew that whatever I wrote would come off as defensive, so I did not write. I do however feel that lots of countries like to pick on America to help, as if we don't have our own problems, and we do help other countries an awful lot. But reading your second post I do see where you are coming from. I just didn't get that idea from the first post.

If we Western countries saw the suffering of Africans every day, we would be appalled. All we see is their faces on "Feed the Children" commercials. One thing that annoys the hell out of me is how people say, "Oh, I am so shocked this happened in America." Hello, are we immune to natural disasters? Is America immune to suffering? We like to think we are alot more removed from pain/suffering/poverty than we really are. If you are human, the shit just may hit the fan in YOUR area of the world.

So I see what you are saying. I see both sides. I am Switzerland. :)

There is absolutely a hierarchy. Watching the national news last week I heard the quote "People shouldn't have to drink of the trashcan in AMERICA." Because being somewhere else would make that alright? Give me a fucking break. I hate how everyone is super upset and has telethons for the victims of Hurricane Katrina when there is constant suffering in other parts of the world that seems to get very little attention. I'm not saying that the Hurricane victims don't deserve aid, because they do deserve some. But the innocent people being killed around the world everyday deserve at least some of America's attention. I like the blame everything on Bush, because he really is quite the asshole. And for the record, I am an American

I run an emergency food pantry in my spare time, and I live in the United States. There are plenty of poor people in the United States -- I see them all the time. However, comparing poverty in the US to poverty in most third-world countries is like comparing apples and oranges. In the US, most people have access to government programs, including food stamps and fuel assistance, not to mention that children have access to school breakfast and lunches, sometimes even in the summer (depending on where you're located). Most people in the US -- even most poor people -- have access to some sort of running water, septic system or sewer lines, and paved roads. Is there racism? Without a doubt. But people in America at least have places to turn, unlike many in the poorer nations of the world.

I will never cease to be amazed by a leader who thinks that words and not actions prove how Christian he is.

I think Africa and A LOT of other "non-western" countries get ignored. I do not know if it is because of their skin color because, honestly, I couldn't imagine ignoring an entire group of people that are in need just because they look different from me.

Honestly, I told my husband today I'm tired of discussing this. I just want people to help people, black white or whatever color they are.

I agree with Foster and Carrie that the issue is poverty and not race. And so does Colin Powell (black former high-ranking official in the US; http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/09/katrina.powell.reut/). Apparently, if you are poor, your are disposable in this world. Horrid.

I haven't read all the comments, but let me just say this: I'd be delighted if the $250 billion or whatever that the US has spent waging war in Iraq had instead been sent to Africa to help with food, agriculture, clean water, immunizations, AIDS medicine, education, etc. I don't care for Bill Gates as a businessman, but at least his foundation is dedicated to promoting health in Africa. I wish my government would follow his lead.

Sadly Tertia I do think you're right. There is a hierarchy, it's based in racism/classism/sexism rolled together, and Africa gets totally ignored at least by us Americans (can't speak for the rest of the world). Yes there is terrible poverty in the US too but a) I still think we Americans share a responsibility with the rest of the world to help all human neighbors, and b) I don't know why so many Americans think we get called first in a crisis or "picked on" to be asked for help -- I think we've proved to the world that we're willing to help almost no one and that we'll act like it's some gigantic freaking present when we (finally, after everyone else) send a pittance. "Oh we don't hear about Africa" is a pitiful excuse too -- we don't need daily specific news to know the situation is horrible. It has been for decades and we've known it for AT LEAST 20 years -- Africa=famine in the minds of most Americans. Our governments only encourage hierarchical attitudes and I'm sick of our excuses myself. I expect better of us.

Gosh, what a can of worms we've opened. There are a number of comments that I agree with, and I will ignore the commenters who have not read your post properly and have automatically leaped to the USA's defence. I do believe there is a hierarchy of life, I'm not so sure it is completely based on skin-colour and poverty, but there are definitely factors of location, media exposure and governmental priorities.
OK, I'm sure we all agree that Hurricane Katrina was bloody awful. And it is true that the majority of people it has affected are poor and/or black. The hurricane hit an area that was poverty-stricken and it has hurt America's sensibilities to have it thrown in their face that their people do suffer. I think because of America's insularity, a lot of people did not even realize there was abject poverty in their own country. And that hurts.
The tragedy of Katrina is that there was no planning, no contingency plan (on a worse-case scenario) and no level-headed, thought-out response to the disaster. This is (at a guess) due to the inadequacies of government (at both a federal and local level) and the continuing crumbling of the infrastructure of the USA (health, education etc). A government so wound up into pumping money into the war against terror and Iraq and bloody space shuttles and telescopes and whatever...
This is brutal, but the world (including the USA) is tired of disaster and tragedy. Sadly the overwhelming tragedy for African nations is that the "big" events keep happening, and stealing the limelight; 9/11, the Tsunami, London bombing (to a smaller extent) and now Katrina. The dying millions in Africa are a niggle on our conscience. We know they are there. But we are swept away by the "big" things with the "big" media exposure. It seems in turn we may get back to the Africans when the other things die down. I am not condoning this, I think it's appalling.
The African tragedy was first bought to our attention back in the '80s Live-Aid days. Every few years it comes back to our attention (during slow-news years and the continuing drought cycle of the world). Some celebrities with a conscience (?? not so sure) have been trying to persuade affluent nations to forgive third world debt. This idea has been floating around since the Year 2000 and cant seem to get off the ground.This would be such a great start! Helping the African nations help themselves!
The other factor is locality. Out of sight, out of mind. The tsunami had more affect on Australians (of which I am one) than it would have on Americans or Europeans. For years Australia has been trying to forge trade relationships and keep on happy terms with Indonesia - they are our closest neighbour - and we are also wary (read scared)of them and so we gave, annd we gave and we gave. I'm definitely not saying that my government was generous - I think they had an ulterior motive.

Actually, it is France, Japan, Ireland, England and most of the rest of the world.


The US is in fact spending more money than anyone bar Israel, on arms, not saving the world as many would have us think.


I think the media plays a huge role in the way people here see the world. The media here tells us a tiny fraction of what’s going on in the world. The general public has no idea what’s going on in Africa or the rest of the world. Unless you actively seek out the information ABC, NBC and CBS will feed you a steady diet of watered down carefully censored drivel.

I hope I’m not repeating myself, I haven’t read all the comments but the usual cries of why us just annoyed me this morning.

That should have read repeating previous comments, - sorry;)

I think it's strange that people do not understand why the world's only remaining super-power gets asked to help out.

And, absolutely, the lag in response time was related to both race and class.

This is way more of a poverty issue than a race issue. The folks left in the city were the ones who could not afford to leave. Believe me... plenty of rich blacks got out in their SUV's.

In my country there are a lot of remote areas where access to proper medical facilities is unavailable; the figure is even higher than the national average.

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