A couple of weeks ago, the online magazine Slate had an interesting story that’s relevant to our discussion of Q&A. Although India has been well known for having enormous slums full of the desperately poor, they are attempting, at least here and there, to change that image. But whether they’re changing the reality is an open question.
The Mumbai slum redevelopment policy is the brainchild of local starchitect Hafeez Contractor, who is not coincidentally the designer of Imperial Towers. “I used to always say something should be done about the slums. And I always used to say that the best way of [dealing with] slums was that you give them free houses, keep the land, and build on it and make money,” Contractor told me when we met in his office near the Mumbai stock exchange. “When I first told them in 1982 … everybody said I am crazy. Today, they are implementing it.”
The program doesn’t rent the apartments to the residents of these slums, it gives it to them; they own it. However:
But because the policy calls for rehousing the poor without doing anything to raise their incomes, many end up unable to pay for utilities or contribute to the upkeep of the buildings through residents’ association dues.
There’s much to blog about here, if you read the whole thing.
If you missed the BBC Documentary, Mahatma Gandhi: Pilgrim of Peace, which we watched in class on Monday, please watch it outside of class and take notes. Your notes should be aimed at helping answering our Central Question regarding social institutions and oppression.
Pope Benedict XVI is resigning, citing his advanced age. He is the first Pope to resign in six hundred years.
More on the war inside Syria.
A map from Slate.com reveals a surprising fact about which countries don’t require employers to offer paid sick leave.
And for those studying Hinduism right now, the New York Times has a video up showing the festival of Kumbh Mela, “one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.”
Here are the links. Everyone should read the Executive Summary. Remember to talk with the other group who is presenting on the same religion, so that you don’t end up with two of the same presentation. I would like to know Thursday, if possible, the narrower subject of your presentation (i.e., “Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa,” or “Buddhist beliefs about creation and the afterlife”).
Dr. James Orbinski’s book is called An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century.
Here is the website for Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. It’s pretty fascinating, and includes lots of videos from doctors working in the field.
Here they are on Twitter.
Interestingly, Hurricane Sandy triggered the first-ever DWB/MSF relief effort within the United States.
Here are the links I was talking about in class. Here is Fergal Keane’s BBC report about the Nyarubuye massacre. And here is the story of Gitera Rwamuhuzi, who took part in the attacks. Also, you may recall that in Hotel Rwanda, when Paul is on the phone with the owner of the hotel, he says that the French arm and support the Hutu government. Well, here is a story from 2006 that discusses the subsequent breakdown between France and Rwanda. Oh, and here’s the reference to Plato’s “Leontius,” which Gourevitch made in the excerpt we read.
Some of you might be interested in doing some research into the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. It’s worth noting that when reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s hard to be sure that you’re getting unbiased information. Robert Wright, for example, complains here that mainstream coverage is hopelessly biased against the Palestinian side. (I like Wright’s work, but I’m not sure I agree with this.) In class sometime, I’ll talk about why that is; until then, here are some people who are well-informed and fair-minded. Jeffrey Goldberg, who I’ve linked to before; Walter Russell Mead had what I thought was an interesting analysis of why Americans tend to side with Israel in this conflict, despite what many consider to be a disproportionate response; and Glenn Greenwald complains that although many Americans might want to wash our hands of the conflict, the U.S. is “the central enabling force driving this endless conflict.”
In somewhat related and extremely disturbing news, a right-wing politician in Hungary has encouraged the government to draw up “a list of Jews,” according to Reuters.
Also: Did you know there was a rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo? They are apparently backed by Rwanda, and last week they took the city of Goma. There are many interesting opinions on the excellent site AllAfrica.com, including this one, which is critical of the UN’s ineffectiveness:
What is the United Nations doing in DRC if it cannot defend a small African city like Goma, women and children?
UPDATE, 11/29/12: Here’s another story about what’s going on in Goma.