The Guardian


The human cost of Qatar’s migrant policies | 

Doha Construction Site
Doha Construction Site

Revelations of the mistreatment of migrants working on the World Cup sites in Qatar continue to bring forward a larger problem in the Middle Eastern nation.

The AFP revealed on Monday that more than 450 Indian migrants have died while working in Qatar over the past two years. The data comes from a Right to Information request filed by AFP to the Indian embassy in Qatar.

Records show that 237 fatalities in 2012 and 218 in 2013 (through December 5). The rates are alarmingly high, adding to the evidence that the conditions for the more than 1.2 million migrant works in the country.

The Guardian determined that 185 Nepalese workers died in 2013. It’s groundbreaking report in September showed the terrible labor conditions faced by Nepalese migrants doing construction work on new stadiums.  Qatar won a bid to host the 2022 World Cup and is undertaking  a significant construction project to prepare.

Workers face slave-like conditions with their rights severely restricted in Qatar, reported the Guardian. Labor abuses, including working extended hours during the mid-day extreme heat, were attributed to the deaths of some of the workers. The concerns led to attention from the world soccer governing body, FIFA, who condemned the conditions in Qatar. Continue reading

Behind the scenes with the Gates Foundation’s ‘strategic media partners’ | 

media horde Flickr
Flickr, MMR d

Just kidding.

I wasn’t actually allowed behind the scenes at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s recent meeting in Seattle entitled “Strategic Media Partnerships.”

The Gates Foundation funds a lot of media – more than $25 million in media grants for 2012 (but still less than 1% of the budget). 

I’m media but I wasn’t invited. I asked if I could come and report on it, but was told the meeting was off the record. Those attending included representatives from the New York Times, NPR, the Guardian, NBC, Seattle Times and a number of other news organizations, non-profit groups and foundations. Not all were grant recipients, or partners. Some just came to consult.

Spoiler alert: Nothing sinister happened. But there’s still a story here.

The public doesn’t see much coverage of the media’s collaboration with the Gates Foundation. Yet it’s substantial, influential and, despite the media’s distaste for reporting on itself, I feel compelled. So here’s my news analysis…. Continue reading

Three reasons why CIA faked vaccines may cause contagion of damage | 

Flickr, johanoomen

New Action Thriller: From UNICEF with Love?

Now that the CIA has acknowledged running a deceptive, if not totally fake, vaccination program in Pakistan as part of the effort months ago to hunt down Osama bin Laden, here are three reasons why this episode is prompting an angry response by those who work against global poverty and disease:

  1. This isn’t just about vaccines — about fighting terrorism vs fighting polio.
  2. Health workers and aid workers overseas have to be seen as neutral and independent if they are to operate effectively and safely.
  3. National security isn’t achieved just by hunting and killing bad guys. It’s also achieved through humanitarian efforts, aid efforts and other forms of international collaboration based on mutual trust.

So let’s review where we are so far with the strange case of “The Immunizer of Abbottabad.”

After The Guardian on Monday first revealed this bizarre scheme aimed at collecting DNA from bin Laden family members, the CIA apparently has confirmed to the Washington Post that it did set up the vaccination program in northern Pakistan. Here’s what some anonymous official reportedly told the newspaper:

A senior U.S. official said the vaccine campaign was conducted by medical professionals and should not be construed as a “fake public health effort.”

“People need to put this into some perspective,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else.”

“If the United States hadn’t shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn’t used all tools at its disposal to find bin Laden.”

Actually, many seem to be scratching their heads asking how the Central Intelligence Agency (given its middle name) came up with such a far-fetched scheme — it doesn’t appear to have worked — and how it can argue with a straight face that this was, in addition to a covert op, a legitimate vaccination program.

To begin with, just giving kids a real Hepatitis B vaccine doesn’t mean it’s not fake public health. Continue reading

TOMS Shoe flap update 2: Weird placement of news and advertising | 

In the midst of a raging blogosphere debate regarding the wisdom and worth of TOMS “One Day Without Shoes” campaign, I noticed this odd juxtaposition of news and advertising at The Guardian:

TOMS Shoes advertising is literally wrapped around a column by Rick Rowden arguing that “It’s Time for a New Development Model.” Says Rowden:

Short-term poverty reduction has become a stand-in for actual long-term development. This has to change to enable poor countries to get off the aid bandwagon.

Here’s the ad by TOMS Shoes, as long as it lasts online anyway, and the column arguing against, uh, pretty much the kind of short-term, ineffective fixes that many say TOMS Shoes represents:

It’s not unique to The Guardian, I guess. Tom Murphy at A View From the Cave wrote about the shoe flap for Huffington Post, which also has banner TOMS Shoes ads at the top.

Thoughts on the Gates Foundation paying media to cover global health and development | 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has gotten a lot of attention lately for funding media organizations.

Flickr, Genista

Most trusted name in news

An article in the current Columbia Journalism Review called “How Ray Suarez Really Caught the Global Health Bug” by local writer Robert Fortner, formerly of Seattle’s Crosscut, is perhaps the most extensive and pointed.

I had to laugh at the article’s title (based on the title of a talk given by Suarez in Seattle a while ago). Fortner’s answer is Suarez and PBS Newshour got the bug after they received $3.6 million from Gates to cover global health issues.

Fortner, who wrote about the Gates Foundation for Crosscut, said he quit in 2009 because of his unease with publisher David Brewster accepting funds from the Gates Foundation. Brewster told me he had not been aware that this was the reason Fortner left.

The latest Gates media partnership was what the New York Times called “an unusual financial agreement” between ABC News and the world’s biggest philanthropy aimed at promoting greater coverage of global health issues. Continue reading

Gates Foundation responds re Monsanto investments | 

Flickr, by sarniebill1

The Guardian recently published a post on its new online Global Development site (funded by the Gates Foundation) in which their environmental writer demanded that the Seattle mega-philanthropy explain why it had recently upped its investments in Monsanto.

Monsanto is big on genetically modified seeds and crops. The Gates Foundation is trying to spur an agricultural revolution in Africa. Some see this as an unholy alliance to spread genetically modified organisms across the planet (lots of GMO crops are already all over the U.S., as it turns out).

Not surprisingly, many people commented on this article.

But I wanted to highlight one response posted the other day from Mark Suzman, advocacy director for global development at the Gates Foundation.

Below is Mark’s statement printed in entirety: Continue reading

Gates Funds Guardian News Site, Which Then Profiles Melinda Gates? | 

I don’t know who made the call to do this, the Guardian newspaper or the Gates Foundation.

But I don’t think it was a good call — to do this somewhat gushing story on Melinda Gates.

Earlier this week, the British newspaper and the Seattle philanthropy announced they had partnered to create a new online news site at the Guardian devoted to global development.

The arrangement is a bit awkward since the Gates Foundation is also one of the biggest players in global development. But it’s also not that unique anymore, as media organizations struggle to survive financially, for organizations — including philanthropies or advocacy groups — to fund coverage of targeted areas of interest. Continue reading

Gates Foundation Funds Media Coverage of Itself | 

Okay, this could be a little awkward.

But it’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of arrangement; nor will it be the last.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Guardian newspaper in Britain announced today it has launched a new Global Development section on its website, partly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — one of the biggest players in global health and development. Continue reading