Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day Twenty: bridging the digital divide

OK. I admit it. I am developing an obsession with positive stories about Africa! This is one of several recent articles documenting the leapfrogging of 'wired' telecommunications in developing countries. The prospect of 'wireless Africa' - and more importantly, of a more equitable distribution of the benefits of internet access - is looking more realisable every day, with the expansion of mobile telephone networks, development of cheaper, more rugged laptops, and now signs of competition between the different firms looking to install wireless broadband. (Several African governments and development agencies are also working to ensure these benefits can be accessed by poor and marginalised populations.) Maybe we can bridge the digital divide after all?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day Nineteen: little girl pulled from plane wreckage

This is an amazing 'local' story, of a 3-year-old Canadian girl pulled from the wreckage of her grandfather's Cessna aircraft after it crashed in the Rockies. Unfortunately, the girl's grandfather (the pilot) and a fellow passenger were killed in the crash. But the girl was strapped securely into her car seat, which must have been a key factor in her survival. Rescuers found her hanging upside down, just before darkness fell. Her first request upon being rescued? Her teddy bear.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day Eighteen: voice of landless heard in India?

This is a really interesting, significant and ultimately encouraging story. For several weeks, people from India's rural communities have been marching to the capital, Delhi, to protest threats to land ownership. Some have never had secure tenure; others are under pressure to give it up to business interests. All are worried about their prospects of longer term survival without land. The best brief summary of the issues I've seen is in the Hindu newspaper: (the photo here is also from the Hindu, courtesy AP). The title above links to a more recent BBC story, reporting that the Indian government has today set up a panel to resolve this and other land issues. This is a big undertaking. But it may prove critical, if India's development is to offer gains for all its (one billion) citizens.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Day Seventeen: Africa looking up

Perhaps this will become a recurrent theme in this blog? Let's see. For here is another interesting article about African success. This time, the focus is on Nigeria and its space programme - and the associated rapid growth in wireless technology across the continent. Satellite technology also has tremendous potential for areas such as natural resource management and disaster preparedness. I recall the Indian space programme making similar big strides just over a decade ago. Not long afterwards, there were tales of Indian farmers using cell phones to check stockmarket trends before taking their goods to auction, so they could get the best prices... It seems as if Nigeria, at least, is catching up - fast.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Day Sixteen: bright green hope

OK, so it's not a story - more a series of stories, or an anthology. This week, Time magazine opted to run a double issue on 'green heroes' - those who have really made a difference in 2007 in environmental terms. There is so much worth reading here. There is also an amazing photo montage just beneath the first page of the main article - I am including one photo here for you to enjoy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Day Fifteen: a very good reason to be hopeful

It's good for your health to be optimistic. Nuff said. But you know that - that's why you are reading this, right?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day Fourteen: hope for Africa?

If there is one thing that really 'grinds my gears' (as Peter in Family Guy would say) it's the continually negative media portrayal of Africa as a continent. The only news from African nations that reaches us in Europe or North America seems to be about conflict, poverty or disease. So today I'm posting a relatively hopeful reflection on African successes - written by the President of Malawi no less. Plenty of incentive to talk things up, perhaps, but I find the optimism somewhat refreshing - and at least some kind of contrast with the norm... What do you think?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day Thirteen: twin books

A simple story about that tried-and-tested method of connecting people from different countries and cultures: town twinning. In this case, Timbuktu (or Tombouctou in French) in Mali has been twinned with Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Visitors from Timbuktu to Hay-on-Wye are being greeted by local schoolchildren singing both Malian and Welsh national anthems. How sweet! It's not clear whether any of the schoolchildren will be on the return visit to Timbuktu scheduled for early 2008. Interestingly, both towns have a literary profile - Hay is knows as 'the town of books' with over 30 bookshops and an annual literature festival, whilst by the 14th Century Timbuktu had become a major centre for the writing and distribution of books across Africa. Wow. What a great thing to have in common.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day Twelve: good news in my house at least!

This is a really fascinating article. One of the best I've read since I started this 12 days ago (and I have read A LOT of news articles, believe me). It's about all the bacteria that have a positive influence on our existence - on our appetite, our immune system and even, it seems, on our happiness! There is some bad news - as many have suspected for some time, modern cleaning agents, hand sanitizers and society's 'germ free' obsession may be doing us a disservice. But it seems we are getting closer to understanding the power of microbes and to learning how to foster the 'good bacteria' whilst controlling 'the bad bacteria'. (I am starting to sound like an advert for yogurt...) My answer: clean infrequently, with fruit-based eco-friendly products, and all will probably stay in balance!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Day Eleven: hope for Congo and for human rights

A few websites carried stories today about the first appearance of the suspected Congolese war criminal, Germain Katanga, before the International Criminal Court (ICC). I like the article linked above (as always, click the title), which gives detailed background on the context and the charges against Katanga. The ICC trial is clearly good news for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - and the ICC have said that further such cases are likely to be brought in future. But it's also good news for human rights in general, and for the role of the ICC in upholding them. For too long, leaders of armed militias have been beyond the law, looting, raping, enslaving and killing with impunity. The ICC may yet prove central to bringing at least some of them to justice.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day Ten: greening the cement industry

It was hard to find good news today (I think this may be an issue with weekend journalism, actually) but I thought this article was interesting. It seems that cement manufacturers are taking steps to improve the environmental impact of their trade. This is particularly encouraging given there is relatively little regulatory or other pressure on the industry to clean up its act, at least at the moment - this seems to be a case of an industrial sector demonstrating leadership without being pushed. Always good to see.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day Nine: A sweet tail about a dolphin...

No, really. The dolphin in this news story has been fitted with a prosthetic tail to replace the one she lost when caught in fishing gear as a baby. The link takes you to a short video documenting her physiotherapy. (The only drawback - you have to wait until CNN's sneakily installed advert has finished before you can watch it...)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Day Eight: Growing investment in Africa

I thought I'd look at Africa specifically today, to see if I could find some really good news across the continent. I found some pretty rapidly! A new UNCTAD report says that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa doubled between 2004 and 2006. This is good news for growth and potentially for openness in society. Whether the benefits will be shared equitably within societies remains to be seen, of course. As for global equity? Well, Africa's share of global FDI was less than 3% in 2006 - there's a way to go...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day Seven: Costa Rica's debt-for-nature swap

Having just had the most amazing family holiday in the beautiful and peaceful country of Costa Rica, I was delighted to see this story. Apparently, the US has relieved Costa Rica of about $26m of its debt - good news in itself as I understand there is plenty more where that came from (debt, I mean) - which the Costa Rican government has agreed to invest in protecting the country's national parks and the stunning wildlife within them. Such efforts take on even more poignance following this year's IUCN Red Book, which stated that 16,306 species across the world are now threatened with extinction... Costa Rica sets an example other countries would do well to follow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day Six: one step closer to a malaria vaccine?

I had to post this today. It's news that I and many others have been waiting for, for such a long time... some positive signs from malaria vaccine clinical trials. Let's all hope this is a story that just keeps on getting better.

(By the way, finding something really upbeat in the news each day is hard work. I have, however, recently discovered one outfit that specialises in 'positive journalism' and has reporters all over the world submitting good vibes, plus a few really wacky tales. It's called '' and the link is now listed opposite. Just in case you need MORE than one positive story a day!)

Day Five: hope for the sub-millionnaire!

An encouraging synopsis of the non-linear relationship between wealth and well-being, or at least, between money (and consumption) and happiness. Encouraging, at least, unless you are one of the 'already comfortable' busting a gut to earn an even bigger paycheck or bonus. If that sounds like you, stop. Now. It's officially not worth it!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Day Four: the resilience of nature

Only the other day, I was reading a book about extinct and endangered animals with my son - and the South China tiger was definitely in it. But it seems that one has recently been spotted in the wild, for the first time since 1964! Wow!
(I think this photo, from the BBC website, is actually of one in captivity not in the wild, but it's still very sweet.)

As an aside, here is a link to an interesting article in the Guardian today, about how the US is in a 'funk'. It's called 'The land of optimism is in the dumps, but refuses to admit how it got there'. It's an informative read. Enjoy:,,2191182,00.html

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Day Three: Good news - if you're a cat

Well, finding anything positive in the news today has been a struggle. But this story certainly caught the eye. It's about a North Carolinan priest who offered to bless the local congregation's pets at 2pm yesterday...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Day Two: moving beyond sectarianism

This story jumped out at me today. A tale of refugee Iraqis who, having fled their home country, now find it easier to put sectarian differences to one side - dining together, socialising together, celebrating together. It's about more than this, however. The story documents human resilience. It reflects the amazing ability humans have to recover from conflict, to build bridges across communities and to imagine a new future - and perhaps to find hope where before there was none. A cause for cautious optimism, at least...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Day One: A vote for peace - and science

Today's good news story has to be the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Al Gore, in recognition of their work on climate change. Finally, this critical issue is getting the attention it deserves. And there's a reason to be hopeful, if ever I heard one!