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   Issue 21,
  December '04






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Bell Ringers, Plasma TV’s, and Year-End:
Can we find a December compromise?

December. It’s a time when nonprofits and charitable organizations tend to solicit most heavily from individuals and family foundations, seeking last minute donations made in view of year-end tax perks and the generosity that stems from holidays’ glad tidings. Good economy or not, December is a time when people remember not just their own families and friends, but also strangers in need.

But 2004’s month of “good will toward men” is turning out a little differently.

The Boston Herald recently ran a cover article on the increasing demand for, and decreasing presence of, support for such traditionally successful-in-December charitable organizations as the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots. In Boston, Toys for Tots usually fills 300 orders in a season; this year, they are currently unable to fill 30 of the 71 orders they’ve received (Boston Herald 12/15/04).

The Salvation Army has also been struggling, due in large part to a nationwide trend of banning solicitation outside major chain stores such as Target, Costco, and Toys R’ Us.

Few would argue that dropping a dollar or two into Santa’s kettle significantly dips into their holiday spending cash. But a recent letter to the Editor in a Boston paper suggested a thoughtful explanation for this ban on solicitation: people are less likely to spend money on plasma TV’s and expensive toys if they are simultaneously being reminded of all the people who cannot even afford to feed their families.

Couple this with the fact that few people’s guilt is really assuaged by making a couple dollars’ donation, and we have a seemingly intractable conflict of interest. Is there any compromise to be found?

A few years back, there was a campaign to give “concrete” charitable donations made on one’s behalf, like “buying” a square foot of rainforest or a share in domestic livestock. This seems like an idea that, although still present, needs to be re-emphasized. If every middle and upper class parent in America were to put 1/10 of the money they’d normally spend on their children’s presents towards a donation in their children’s names, we’d have the most successful December on record. And while this sort of gift might not compare to the latest toy, a lot of children would think it was really cool to “own” a piece of land in the rainforest, or a lion in Africa. This sort of gift, given alongside the toy the kids have been clamoring for since June, gives parents the gift of knowing that they’ve contributed not only to their children’s holidays, but also to the world their children will be inheriting.

We'd like to hear what you think on the matter. Email us with your thoughts. Feedback published will receive a free lb. of Kenya Morning coffee. (Please send details of where your coffee should be sent with your question.)
This month the focus is on The Republic of the Congo, where civil wars and militia conflicts have plagued the country throughout its recent past, but hopes for stability have recently been raised.

Official name: Republic of the Congo / Congo (Brazzaville)
Capital: Brazzaville
Currency: CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc
Languages: French, indigenous African languages
Religions: Christianity, indigenous African beliefs


3.8 million
Land Area: 132,047 sq miles ( slightly smaller than Montana )
Location: Western Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon
Life Expectancy: 47 years (men), 50 years (women)
Main Exports: Oil, timber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds

Natural Resources:

petroleum, timber, potash, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, natural gas, hydropower
Average Annual Income: unable to determine
Independence: 1960
President: Denis Sassou-Nguesso
A Brief History:

Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government installed in 1992.

A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President SASSOU-NGUESSO, but ushered in a period of ethnic unrest. Southern-based rebel groups agreed to a final peace accord in March 2003.

The Republic of Congo is one of Africa's largest petroleum producers with significant potential for offshore development.

The African ass is a grey-coated relative of our domestic donkey living in the rocky deserts of Africa and is the smallest member of the horse family and is critically endangered.
The African pygmy goat is a miniature dairy goat with milk production being quite generous for their small size. They will produce as much as a quart and a half per day for up to ten months.
Roman historian Pliny gave bustards their original Latin name, avis tarda, meaning "slow bird." The Latin designation eventually fledged into abetarda in Portuguese, ottarda in Italian, bistarde in old French, and finally "bustard" in English.
During the dry season in East Africa, wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) form herds tens of thousands strong to migrate more than 1,000 miles in search of food and water.

Over millions of years, hoofed mammals have evolved long, sturdy legs ideal for running. The long, fused bones in their feet are raised off the ground—they run on tiptoes—and their toenails have evolved into strong hooves. Gazelles, like all artiodactyls, have an even number of toes. Equids (horses and zebras), like all perissodactyls, have an odd number.

Although the marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) primarily scavenges its meals, it also kills and eats termites, young crocodiles, flamingos, and small mammals.


1 Sudan
Aid workers fled into bush areas to escape fierce clashes in Sudan's Darfur region before being rescued by an African Union helicopter and flown to safety, U.N. and aid agency officials said.
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2 Republic of Congo
Human rights groups urged the Republic of Congo's government to ratify an international treaty that would protect the rights of pygmies, many of whom live in virtual slavery here.
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3 Namibia
Namibia's ruling South West African People's Organization retained its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly Sunday after a landslide victory in parliamentary and presidential elections.
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4 Kenya
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has opened an international landmine conference with an appeal for more countries to sign up to the treaty banning them.
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5 Ivory Coast
African leaders ended an emergency summit early this month on Ivory Coast agreeing to support an arms embargo and other proposed U.N. sanctions against the government and rebels as the defiant Ivorian president stayed home, vowing to defend his country.
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6 Kenya
Africa could pull itself out of endemic poverty if its men were to treat women as equal partners in managing the continent's vast natural wealth and resources, 2004 Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai said.
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7 Uganda
An anthrax outbreak has killed 194 hippos in western Uganda, and scientists are struggling to develop a way to quickly diagnose and contain the disease.
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8 Rwanda
Rwanda has warned it will launch an attack "very soon" on Rwandan Hutu rebels sheltering in eastern Congo, the U.N. mission said, raising fears of the renewal of one of Africa's most devastating conflicts. A Rwandan official denied the allegations.
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9 Sudan
Warring factions in southern Sudan have signed a pledge to formally end their 21-year old civil war at a rare meeting of U.N. Security Council ambassadors in Nairobi.
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