Our friends at the Bertha Foundation have alerted us to a brilliant and timely documentary film Breaking the Taboo, which recounts the history of the war on drugs, beginning with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Narrated by Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman, Breaking the Taboo is produced by Sam Branson's indie Sundog Pictures and Brazilian co-production partner Spray Filmes, and was directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen and Fernando Grostein Andrade. Featuring interviews with several current or former presidents from around the world, such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the film follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo over the United States led War on Drugs and expose what it calls the biggest failure of global policy in the last 40 years.
Watch the complete documentary now, streaming free online until Tuesday, January 15, 2013. Don't miss this limited chance to see the powerfully eye-opening film, Breaking the Taboo:
With the wall-to-wall coverage of candidates and polls we've watched and heard for almost a full year (remember all those GOP debates?), it's hard to believe the US presidential election is still several months away. But if you're like me, you might still feel disconnected -- even with 24/7 political coverage. The horse-race style programming that now dominates hot political seasons can be counterproductive -- further polarizing voters (or would-be voters) and reducing the election to personality gaffes of the candidates instead of issues that impact our lives on a daily basis.
Here's what I want to know during an election season and beyond: What are the facts behind the poll-question issues? What does it mean to be "pro-woman" or "anti-woman" or "pro-environment" or "pro-business" from a policy perspective -- in ways that really matter to all of us?
Luckily, my smart colleagues at Link TV agree.
As part of an effort to provide our audiences with in-depth, issue-oriented political coverage ahead of the US elections, we're happy to announce that Link TV will premiere Al Jazeera English's daily half-hour news program, "Inside Story Americas," on Tuesday, August 21st. The news program, produced out of Al Jazeera English's Washington DC news center, will air Monday through Friday on Link TV at 12pm ET/9am PT and again at 7pm ET/4pm PT -- and will be available online at LinkTV.org/InsideStoryAmericas.
Kicking off this fall with its "unconventional political convention coverage," the show will talk to people who are most affected by the policies and politics of the two parties, but are left out of the mainstream discussion. "Inside Story Americas" will go to the margins -- hearing from those protesting at the conventions and those calling for solutions that go beyond either party (The US political conventions take place during the last week of August and first week of September).
Hosted by Shihab Rattansi, the show offers expert analysis about what's behind the stories in the headlines and the issues affecting peoples' lives from Canada to the Caribbean to South America, as well as the policies and decisions made in Washington that impact the rest of the world. In its premiere months on Link, "Inside Story Americas" will examine topics as diverse as the Venezuelan elections to the structure of the global financial system. Already this year, "Inside Story Americas" has debated a range of topics from the struggle of Colombia's indigenous communities to the mainstream media's coverage of the link between climate change and extreme weather.
In the past year, Al Jazeera English was named "News Channel of the Year" by the Royal Television Society, received a Peabody Award for its coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings, a Columbia-DuPont award for its coverage of the Haiti earthquake, a George Polk Award and Robert F. Kennedy Grand Prize award for the film "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark," and has been nominated for an Emmy Award for the social media discussion show "The Stream."
And by the way, if you can't get enough Al Jazeera English programming on Link TV, there's more: In addition to the new carriage of "Inside Story Americas," Link TV airs Al Jazeera English news bulletins daily at 8:30am ET/5:30am PT, 1:30pm ET/10:30am PT, 10pm ET/7pm PT and airs the Al Jazeera English documentary series, "Witness," every Sunday at 8pm ET and 8pm PT.
We hope you'll tune in and check it out. After watching several episodes online, I feel a little smarter already.
Many films have been made about street children. Some good, some not. The kids are rewarding targets for filmmakers like myself, as we ardently become sponges for their heartfelt stories. With so much done already, why then, I was often asked, make another documentary about one?
The answer is simple: by means of a compelling story which accompanies a young street mother and her baby for over a year, I want to draw attention to the alarming reality of homeless kids who are setting out to start their own families. This is new. During several years of research, we found that the proliferation of a next generation of street children is largely undocumented. Governments, NGO's, academics, filmmakers' not even UNICEF manages data on children who are born on the city streets. Statistically, they are all treated the same, while the social differences between parents and their children are enormous.
In Nicaragua, as in most countries, children and teens end up on the street because they are running away from extreme poverty, domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. Arriving alone in the city, they will befriend others their age and are quickly absorbed in a street community that becomes their family. Having enjoyed some years of basic education, kids tend to be between 6 and 12 years old when they spend their first night on a piece of cardboard under the stars. I often refer to them as the first generation. They are the ones who some years later decide to have children themselves.
The second generation -- babies like Karla in Karla's Arrival -- are not on the run from some previous life. They are homeless from day one. Unlike their parents, they won't know what it's like to live under a roof or have a family in the traditional sense of the word (although the street community haphazardly offers some alternative). They might not ever go to school and won't be registered as citizens of their country. Chances are that, according to their governments, they won't exist at all and, as a result, will have no right to education or health care.
It's no small problem either. Estimations are that there are 75 million girls living on the world's streets. Most of them will at least bear one child before they turn 18. This is an enormous, worldwide, complex yet unknown problem.
Ironically, the baby can be part of the solution. While a young mother's low self-esteem might inhibit her from leaving the streets, a son or daughter can mark a turning point. Their babies offer them something which will have been lacking in their own lives -- unconditional love -- and are seen to be more important than themselves. A desire to offer their child a better life is reason enough to seek help, which generally is not hard to come by.
I believe it goes without saying that becoming a parent is the most basic human right that should be available to all. I made Karla's Arrival to open a dialogue around the question of how we can create the conditions to make this a reality for everyone. And, luckily, we came across a touching and hopeful story.
Koen Suidgeest (Amsterdam, 1967) is a Dutch filmmaker based in Madrid, Spain. He is the director of Karla's Arrival, which will air May 6, 2012, on Link TV's DOC-DEBUT, funded in part by ITVS.
This week, we had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Sharon Norton, Director of Development at the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition. Link Media is collaborating with the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition this year to raise awareness about global hunger and malnutrition through Revolution Hunger. Revolution Hunger is a unique campaign that harnesses the power of teens across the United States to take on the problems of hunger and malnutrition around the world.
Hi Sharon. Thanks for joining us to talk about your work. First and foremost, what is the mission of the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition, and what type of work does it do?
Our mission is creating lasting solutions that enable nutritional well-being in children. Our work is focused on children under the age of five and particularly those under the age of two. The provision of proper nutrition to this difficult to reach and often overlooked age group can help prevent stunting, improve cognitive outcomes, and ensure more positive health consequences for life.
In terms of hunger and malnutrition, what are the major challenges happening globally?
Overall, the majority of our work is aimed at resolving hidden hunger. Hidden hunger is a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals that can lead to physical and cognitive afflictions. In Central America for example, there is a dire need for nutritional intervention to alleviate hidden hunger as evidenced by the average prevalence of 23.5% stunting regionally. Stunting is essentially where children do not grow to their potential in height and Guatemala and Honduras top the list with 54.5% and 30.1%, respectively, in stunted children under the age of 5. Moreover, anemia, iodine and/or vitamin deficiencies affect over 16 million young children and 5 million pregnant women in this region. This is a significant issue as those affected by micronutrient deficiency worldwide exceeds two billion. Dietary deficiencies are borne disproportionately by children, mothers, and those living in rural communities. Resolution of these deficiencies will result in improved health outcomes for children and mothers.
How did you find your way to the position you now hold? How do you feel personally connected to this cause?
I think it has been the combination of an open mind, a spirit of discovery and skills that had the potential for broad application. When I entered college, I was 100% sure I wanted to be a veterinarian, then I started taking nutrition classes and learned that I loved nutrition, ration formulation and working with large animals. That took me into an entirely different career, but my degree in nutrition has allowed me to work in a number of different nutrition related sectors. Today, at the Mathile Institute I am using my nutritional training to help resolve malnutrition in children. But I also get to apply other skills I picked up while working in the packaged goods sector such as technical communications and consumer understanding methodologies. My personal connection to my work stems from my belief in the "Golden Rule" -- treating others as we would wish to be treated. I believe in treating people with dignity and respect and, for children, I believe that includes their right to a healthy diet.
You have the amazing opportunity to learn about a lot of positive work happening in the field around this cause. What is one of the most inspiring stories you have come across recently?
I was incredibly inspired by an experience I had not long ago in El Salvador. We met with FUSAL, a private non-profit organization in El Salvador that channels the experience and social responsibility of a committed Salvadoran business family. This family has solidarity with the most vulnerable people in society and are dedicated to human development, which is why health and education are at the core of their non-profit organization's work. I had the opportunity to visit one of FUSAL's project sites in a rural community. The community workers were teaching the mothers about nutrition and health, demonstrating how to prepare more nutritious meals and ways to provide their babies stimulation to enhance cognitive development. I was so inspired by the sense of community, kindness and the care among these women and among those that were serving them. It was an example of the kind of humanity and action that we need to solve the problem of hunger in this world.
Another story that continually moves me the life and work of Dr. Norman Borlaug. This one, soft-spoken man, with humble, Midwestern roots, was able to change the world through his Green Revolution, an agricultural initiative, which increased crop yields so countries could feed their people. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to ending hunger. Norman Borlaug has been credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. Knowing that one person can make that type of impact is personally inspiring.
What does "under-nutrition" mean to you? Where is this happening?
Many people may hear the word undernutrition and think this means not having enough food or calories. While that is one form of undernutrition, hidden hunger that I described earlier is another and very prevalent form. But even in the developed world, we see undernutrition due to the inability to access nutritious food. While some of this is linked to poverty, many with the financial means and ability to access a healthy diet make poor food choices. They often do not consume enough of the foods they need to derive important nutrients needed for health. The bottom line is, undernutrition is a global epidemic and the first step in ending it is awareness of the issue and the causes.
Your organization has just launched a new initiative called "Revolution Hunger," what ignited your interest in an initiative that mobilizes teens?
I am really excited about this initiative and it was actually inspired by Norman Borlaug. He dedicated his life to fighting hunger around the world. His skill, passion and deep respect for communities in the developing world ignited a global movement that would feed billions worldwide. The spirit of Revolution Hunger was born out of his example and is a campaign that arms teens with information about hunger's causes and solutions and challenges them with calls to action to fight the issue. Everyone has a role and everyone can be a hunger fighter through Revolution Hunger.
What do you hope to see as a result of the work of your organization?
We hope that through our collaborative effort we will alleviate malnutrition and put an end, once and for all to the 25,000 daily deaths that result from hunger-related issues. We believe that capacity-building with initiatives like Revolution Hunger are part of the answer. We also are confident that our approach to establishing new nutritional innovations coupled with community awareness and education programs, relevant behavior change initiatives, and ongoing engagement of community leaders will produce scalable and sustainable solutions.
How can others get involved in what you do?
For teens go to revolutionhunger.org and learn what it takes to become a hunger fighter. Watch the video, take a personality quiz and begin the journey to face, fight and live the battle to fight hunger. Participate in activities to fight hunger in your local community and beyond. For adults, I would also suggest visiting revolutionhunger.org to not only learn more about hunger but also what you can do to become a teen advocate. If you are a teacher, we also have begun to develop case studies that can give students the opportunity to explore and tackle real issues in the classroom. I hope everyone will join the fight and join the revolution!
This week on Link TV, we are airing a week of programming uncovering various global perspectives on food. Visit this page for airtimes, to watch programs online, and to find out what you can do. In addition, we are interviewing key players and partners who work around issues of hunger and food justice. In today’s report, we interviewed Jane Sung E Bai, Director of National Programs for Slow Food USA.
Thanks for doing this interview, Sung E. First and foremost, can you tell us a bit more about what Slow Food USA does?
Slow Food USA is part of a global, grassroots network with supporters in 150 countries who believe that food and farming should be sources of health and well being for everyone and for our planet. In the US, Slow Food USA brings people together through food, organizes them to improve their local food systems, and garners that power to change legislative policies that shape our food and farming system. Slow Food USA has more than 250,000 supporters, and 25,000 members working together in 225 local chapters.
What are a few programs you are currently working on with Slow Food USA?
We are currently developing a campaign to ensure that the next reauthorization of the Food & Farm Bill (the single largest piece of legislation that shapes our food and farming priorities) in 2012 protects and invests in the efforts of those working to make food sustainable, healthy, accessible, and affordable.
While our chapters are running diverse projects to raise awareness and to change people's relationships with food and farming locally, we are specifically supporting local efforts that are focused on improving children's relationship with food (both in and out of the classroom), as well as on providing alternatives to industrial agriculture (e.g. fast food). Such efforts were illustrated by our recent $5 Challenge campaign to take back the 'value meal,' and are part of our long-standing work to promote and to protect plant varieties and animal breeds that are under the threat of an increasingly homogenized food system. We provide resources, trainings, and other forms of support to those already doing this work, and to those interested in initiating a project.
As our network of supporters is sizeable and has varied interests, we regularly run activities that raise awareness of the challenges of our current food and farming system, provide opportunities for individuals to come together with others (especially through eating and growing food), and inspire people to take collective action.
Can you describe what the "Good, Clean, and Fair" Movement is?
Good, clean, and fair refers to food that is good for us, good for those who produce it, and good for the planet. Slow Food USA believes that all are vital to our vision for a different food and farming economy. Workers must be paid fair wages, farmers need to sustain themselves and their families, all people have a right to food that is good for them, and we all have a responsibility to protect our natural resources.
What is the importance of eating "Good, Clean, and Fair" food over factory farmed foods?
There is a correlation among the growth of factory-farmed foods, decreased income for farmers, stagnation/decline of wages, surge in diet-related diseases, and continued damage to our climate and ecosystems, among other socio-economic problems our society faces. Rather than supporting farmers to grow biodiverse non-GMO crops, grass-fed animals, and sustainable practices, factory farming has unfortunately become the solution to feeding people who cannot afford good, clean, and fair food, as well as those who can! This contributes to the massive healthcare costs of nutrition-related illnesses, the contraction of family-run farms and jobs, increased greenhouse gases, and dwindling diversity of food sources -- just to name a few consequences.
We are what we eat. And what we eat is based on the economic and political priorities of government and corporations. Unfortunately, the health of people and our environment is not the priority right now. And it needs to be the number one priority.
Slow Food USA believes that we need to reshape the story of food and farming so that it is one that we can feel proud of and we can be sustained by. Our organization's story includes producing food humanely, treating workers fairly, increasing job opportunities, adequately compensating farmers, preserving (rather than depleting) natural resources, and appreciating food traditions of diverse cultures and communities.
What would you say are the current root causes or main factors that contribute to hunger both within the United States and globally?
The UN has found that the number one factor leading to hunger is access, whether to land for growing or to income for purchasing. The issue is not innovations in farming or distribution. Rather, it is an issue of poverty. In order to eradicate hunger we have to eradicate the root causes of systemic poverty.
Rather than seek to elevate solutions to hunger through supporting communities to grow food and earn a living, the drive often seems to be towards 'cost efficiency' and 'profit.' There is an invisible expense to this drive. Investment in genetically modified foods means a divestment in the livelihood and health of people -- food is not just about nourishment. Food is part of a larger ecosystem, which includes working the land to grow the food that feeds us. We need more farmers, not just more scientists. Study after study shows that we as a global community can in fact produce enough food to feed the world. We produce more than enough food for every human being, yet 1/3 of all annual food production is wasted. We need solutions that are based in values of human dignity, health, and well being.
How do you feel can people help alleviate hunger both on an individual and societal level?
On an individual level, we need to have the awareness that we are all part of the problem, and part of the solution. This means that we need to reflect on our own practices: How are we living? Sharing information (with our children, families, and friends)? Reducing waste? And, how are we supporting the survival of those who are seeking to address hunger? What can we do to volunteer or support (through money or in-kind donations) those organizations that are dedicated to eradicating hunger? You can dedicate a patch of your own garden to a local soup kitchen or volunteer to tend a community garden plot whose produce is donated to a food bank. Get involved in gleaning projects. Reduce waste.
As a society, we must first embrace the responsibility to be part of the solution. Then, we need to make a choice to start doing something with the intention of supporting the eradication of hunger. Each act contributes to the possibility of a greater motion of change.
What role does independent media play in raising awareness about these issues?
Similar to the way that our food system is structured -- largely controlled by a handful of corporations -- so is our media system. This has meant that we are hearing the same stories again and again through mainstream media, and they are sometimes skewed to uplift the interests of those who benefit from the current food system the most. Even as 'healthy living' and 'eating healthy' has taken center stage due to both grassroots activism and political interests, they are conveniently absorbed, and repackaged by the same corporations who contribute to a broken system. What is too often ignored are the root causes for why it is so hard to have access to affordable good, clean, and fair food. It is only through independent media that everyday people can hear other sides of the story -- the stories of those who are most impacted by a broken food and farming system, the stories about root causes. And as people become more aware, they are able to act from a more informed and powerful position. And as more people act, mainstream media will be more compelled to cover such stories.
What changes do you hope to see in the next 50 years?
In 50 years, my daughter will be 54 years old. I hope that she is part of raising a next generation where every day, every child in this country and around the world has a belly full of healthy food that comes from the calloused hands of farmers and workers who are able to live sustainably and peacefully. I hope 54 is the new middle age because domestic and global priorities have shifted to pool together resources and knowledge to eradicate poverty and human-made illnesses. I hope that farming and working in the food chain are embraced as dignified and valuable work. I hope that food continues to be the common ground for breaking bread and building relationships across difference.
How can someone get involved in your organization or work?
Once you have signed up to receive our communications, you will be able to find a meal to attend or a garden to volunteer at. If you do not find one in your local area, host a meal with some friends or start a conversation about the food system in your community. We also have a fast growing and active Facebook community, blog readership, and Twitter following. If you are interested in doing work related to children and food or alternatives to processed foods, please do not hesitate to contact us and join a community of volunteers who do this work locally across the country. You can also get involved in our national campaign around the 2012 Food & Farm Bill to improve legislation that shapes our food and farming system. By becoming a member, you can join a chapter, start a chapter, and/or keep up with the latest food news; obtain tips on cooking slow food, gardening and buying local; and start advocating for better food for all.
More about Jane Sung E Bai: After 25 years of racial and economic justice and immigrant rights organizing, she embraced food justice when she enrolled her daughter in a daycare that serves low-income children. Dismayed by the Board of Education-provided meals, Sung E made a commitment to prepare her daughter’s breakfast and lunch everyday and to work towards improving access to nutritious food for working people. Along with being the executive director of a community-based organization for almost 12 years, Sung E has held teaching appointments in higher education, been a certified advocate for domestic violence survivors and trainer for grassroots organizers, and served on various leadership bodies of local and national organizations. She believes in the power of everyday people making change every day.