UN: More Midwives = WAY Fewer Maternal and Infant Deaths

20 Jun

Want to help save babies and birthing moms in the developing world? Get more midwives out there! The UN released a major report today saying that every year, 358,000 women die while pregnant or giving birth, and nearly 5 million babies die in the womb or soon after birth – but that more than half of those deaths could be prevented with access to midwives. Take it from the dad of two happy, healthy, homebirthed kids: midwives are great, despite how little respect they get in this country.

courtesy of United Nations

Why ‘Treme’ isn’t ‘The Wire’

15 Mar

I’ve got a long interview with David Simon, the man behind both ‘The Wire’ and ‘Treme’, in the current issue of The Progressive. Check it out here.

David Simon, at the New Orleans racetrack

$1 Billion Later, Feds Give Up on High-Tech Border Fence

22 Oct

It sounded good: build a high-tech array of cameras, sensors, and other gear to monitor the Mexico-US border. Boeing, the contractor the federal government hired to build the ‘virtual fence’, promised it would be a cheaper and more efficient way to catch smugglers and illegal immigrants than flooding the zone with Border Patrol agents. But three years later, the government is conceding what critics predicted all along: the thing doesn’t work. They’re defunding the project. As the LA Times reports, “the result, after an investment of more than $1 billion, may be a system with only 53 miles of unreliable coverage along the nearly 2,000-mile border.”

When the border project was just getting going,  I wrote this piece in Mother Jones headlined: “A proposed $2 billion high-tech fence on the U.S.-Mexico border is likely to be virtually useless.” Maybe the Department of Homeland Security oughtta subscribe.

Killing the Jordan

19 Oct

How people and pollution are killing the Jordan River. My latest attempt at video journalism…

This Is Your Time Wasted on Anti-Drug Ads

11 Oct



Originally uploaded to Flickr by ApeLolz

With methamphetamine use soaring in Montana in the early ’00s, a group called the Montana Meth Project tried to fight back with a series of TV, radio and print ads depicting the damage the drug can cause. Montanans were bombarded with images of adolescent prostitutes and vicious criminals – and in recent years, meth use has apparently declined in the Big Sky state. Success, right?

Actually, probably not. A recent University of Washington study found meth use was already dropping – as it was in neighboring states – and that the ads had “no discernible impact on meth use.” (As the invaluable StopTheDrugWar.org sums up.) That should come as no surprise. As I reported a while back, even the federal government’s many lavishly-funded anti-drug ad campaigns have been found to accomplish essentially nothing.

Of Marines and Sunbeams

28 Sep

Photo via Flickr

It’s going to be (almost) all sunshine for a US Marine company currently gearing up to deploy in Afghanistan. In a historic first, they’ll be powering much of their gear with solar energy, which could cut their fuel consumption in half, reports Wired’s Danger Room. Seems the brass was pleased with the results of a test this summer where the unit ran much of a mock Forward Operating Base on sunbeams.

It’s not that the Pentagon has gone all tree-huggy. Their very practical motivation is cutting costs and saving lives. Each soldier in Afghanistan uses 22 gallons of fuel a day, and delivering each gallon to the war zone costs between $300 and $400. And those convoys make great target practice for the Taliban. Plus, it’ll help the Pentagon beat Pepsi and Intel in the race to America’s top user of renewable energy.

Suicide Bomber City Revisited

22 Sep

Jenin's Homegrown Heroes

I reported a while back on how the West Bank city of Jenin, once a  hotbed of Palestinian radicalism, is now being touted as a model of Israel-Palestinian cooperation – but that the progress there could easily collapse if Palestinians don’t start seeing some tangible benefits. The world’s greatest news magazine, The Economist, has a more recent dispatch from Jenin in their current issue, which reports some encouraging updates.

To wit: “Israel now lets cars as well as people go through the Jalameh terminal, the gateway between Jenin and the Galilee district of northern Israel …  Hundreds of Israeli Arabs drive across every day, ending Israel’s economic boycott. Around Jenin Israel has lightened its footprint; many checkpoints are unmanned. On a good day you can drive from Jenin to Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative capital, without a single Israeli soldier demanding papers.” There’s even a new outdoor movie theater.

But things are still might dicey. The economy is still feeble, and a promised joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial park unbuilt. There’s still plenty of loathing for Israel, too: Locals cheered when Hamas terrorists killed four Israelis at the start of the latest peace talks. And I can’t say I hold out much hope that those talks are going to produce any real results – make that ANY results. But at least they’re talking instead of shooting.