Author Archives for Grant Montgomery

As Covid-19 closes schools, the World’s children go to work

Posted on by

Every morning in front of the Devaraj Urs public housing apartment blocks on the outskirts of the city of Tumakuru, India, a swarm of children pours into the street. They are not going to school.

Instead of backpacks or books, each child carries a filthy plastic sack. These children, from 6 to 14 years old, have been sent by their parents to rummage through garbage dumps littered with broken glass and concrete shards in search of recyclable plastic.

In many parts of the developing world, school closures put children on the streets. Families are desperate for money. Children are an easy source of cheap labor.

While the United States and other developed countries debate the effectiveness of online schooling, hundreds of millions of children in poorer countries lack computers or the internet and have no schooling at all.

United Nations officials estimate that at least 24 million children will drop out and that millions could be sucked into work.

[New York Times]

The Role Model of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates

Posted on by

A lot of people look up to Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. But who do Buffett and Gates look up to?

That would be Chuck Feeney. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s by design. Feeney is a multi-billionaire — actually, make that a former multi-billionaire. He co-founded a chain of duty-free shops (the kind you see in airports), and later made it his life’s mission to donate every cent he’d ever made to charity.

Having made billions, his goal was to die broke. He did it all very quietly for years — even anonymously, trying not to draw attention to himself. His quest eventually became known, however, and last week, Feeney reached his goal: having given away a total of $8 billion — virtually his entire fortune — at the age of 89. “To those wondering about giving while living: Try it. You’ll like it.” Feeney said, during the meeting when he signed the papers to dissolve his charitable foundation, since it no longer has any assets.

For Buffett and Gates, a milestone date of May 5, 2009,  explains their awe and reverence for Feeney: At a dinner at Rockefeller University in New York, Feeney was there, along with Oprah Winfrey, then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, David Rockefeller (the host), and about a dozen other billionaires. It was out of that dinner meeting that Buffett and Gates teamed up to announce the Giving Pledge, convincing 210 other billionaires (so far) to commit to give away at least half their net worth. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett credit Chuck Feeney as a major inspiration for both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Giving Pledge.

Feeney and his wife reportedly live in a fairly modest, rented apartment in San Francisco. After giving away most of his fortune, Feeney reportedly has a remaining net worth of about $2 million. That would mean he held on to about .025 percent of his net worth, just to keep himself and his wife comfortable in their Golden Years.

[Inc]

Pope to UN: COVID crisis should help us come out better, not worse

Posted on by

Pope Francis urged world leaders Friday to use the coronavirus emergency as an opportunity to reform the injustices of the global economy and the “perverse logic” of the nuclear deterrence doctrine, warning that increased isolationist responses to problems “must not prevail.”

Francis laid out his appeal for greater involvement and influence of the United Nations in protecting the poor, migrants and the environment in a videotaped speech Friday to the U.N. General Assembly, held mostly virtually this year because of the pandemic.

Francis said the world has a choice to make as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis and addresses the grave economic impact it has had on the planet’s most vulnerable: greater solidarity, dialogue and multilateralism, or self-retreat into greater nationalism, individualism and elitism.

“The pandemic has shown us that we cannot live without one another, or worse still, pitted against one another,” he said. “This is why, at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project.”

[Washington Post]

Lesbos islanders and migrants stuck waiting for Europe to decide

Posted on by

Crisis-weary residents of the Greek island of Lesbos and the thousands of migrants stranded there after this week’s refugee centre fire are united by one thing—they all want to see the migrants moved off the island.

Lesbos and other islands off the Turkish coast have been among the main entry points for migrants into Europe for years, peaking in 2015-16 when around a million people arrived in a seemingly endless stream of small boats. The overflowing camp that burned held more than 12,000 migrants—four times the numbers it was supposed to—forcing thousands to live in squalor and putting a strain on both its occupants and residents in nearby areas who have mounted a series of protests this year demanding the centre be shut down.

But with the European Union unable to reach agreement between countries like Greece and Italy, which want the bloc to share the burden and others refusing to take in refugees, for the moment Lesbos’ 86,000 islanders and migrants remain unwillingly together.

Greeks oppose continued sheltering of migrants

Posted on by

Thousands of migrants remained stranded without shelter on the island of Lesbos, sleeping on streets or in fields near Greece’s largest refugee camp after a devastating fire burned the facility to the ground. The Moria camp, long notorious for poor living conditions, had hosted more than 12,000 migrants, four times its stated capacity.

The Greek government said it had secured thousands of tents to provide temporary shelter for the migrants. But Athens’s plans face stiff resistance from local authorities and residents who fear the temporary shelters will turn into another permanent migrant camp.

“Moria is a monstrosity,” Dimitris Koursoubas, a senior official responsible for migration in the northern Aegean islands, told Reuters. “We want all the migrants out, for national reasons. Moria is over.”

[Reuters]

45 migrants die in Mediterranean shipwreck

Posted on by

At least 45 migrants died in an August 17 shipwreck off the coast of Libya, the deadliest such incident this year. The boat’s engine exploded off the coast of the city of Zuwarah.

More than 300 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya this year, according to the United Nations, but the real figure could be much higher.

On Wednesday, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees and the International Organization for Migration called for international search and rescue efforts to be stepped up. The European Union has shied away from launching its own rescue operation.

[Foreign Policy]

World Humanitarian Day tribute to aid workers on the front lines

Posted on by

Today, World Humanitarian Day, the world honors all humanitarians – many working in their own communities – who are going to extraordinary lengths in extraordinary times to help women, men and children whose lives are upended by crises and the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid a global pandemic, unprecedented needs and growing insecurity, aid workers and health-care responders are staying and delivering to the world’s most vulnerable people.

  • The dedication, perseverance and self-sacrifice of these real-life heroes represent the best of humanity as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the massive increase in humanitarian needs it has triggered.
  • Last year was the most violent on record for humanitarians, with 483 attacked, 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped.

Humanitarian workers are being tested like never before, struggling with unprecedented movement restrictions and insufficient resources as needs are outpacing funds.  And all too often, they risk their own lives to save the lives of others. Read more

[WHO]

World leaders pledge $298 Million in aid to Lebanon

Posted on by

International leaders at a virtual summit Sunday pledged $298 million in aid to help Lebanon in the aftermath of the catastrophic blast that killed at least 158 people and devastated large swaths of Beirut.

In his opening remarks, French President Emmanuel Macron — co-host of the summit along with the U.N. — said “Lebanon’s future was at stake” and urged attendees “to come together in support of Lebanon and its people.”

Reuters quotes Macron’s office as saying the approximately $298 million would not be conditional on governmental reforms in Lebanon, but longer-term support would be. During Sunday’s summit, Macron urged Lebanon’s leaders to act in the best interest of the country, making apparent allusion to outrage at the country’s ruling class following the blast.

Unrest in Lebanon has been at a high following last week’s explosion at Beirut’s port. Anger over the blast has been directed at corruption and negligence by the country’s politicians. A day ahead of the virtual summit, massive demonstrations drew thousands into the streets of downtown Beirut, with protesters even assembling a mock gallows for cut-outs of prominent politicians.

Prior to the explosion — caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut’s port — the country had already been undergoing a major economic collapse. Lebanon had also been struggling under the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European Commission — the executive body of the European Union — pledged some $35 million on top of an already promised $39 million. The United Kingdom also pledged $26 million during the summit.

Earlier on Sunday, the acting administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development specified that the agency would pledge $15 million that would instead go through universities trusted by the United States, rather than the Lebanese government.

[NPR]

Doris Buffett and the Sunshine Lady Foundation

Posted on by

Doris Buffett, a self-styled retail philanthropist, who once declared that her billionaire younger brother, Warren Buffett, “loves to make money and I love to give it away,” has passed away at age 92.

When Doris inherited millions in Berkshire Hathaway stock from a family trust in 1996, instead of clinging to it like a security blanket, she dedicated the rest of her life to giving it away—all of it—mostly to individuals in trouble through no fault of their own. She gave away well over $100 million of her own money. She said she wanted to give it all away; that she wanted the last check she wrote to bounce due to “insufficient funds.” 

She began the Sunshine Lady Foundation, helping battered women, sick children, and at-risk kids who otherwise would never have had the chance to go to college. She also funded college programs for prison inmates, lowering recidivism. And she did it through “retail philanthropy,” often making personal phone calls to those who needed help, one by one. 

Doris shunned what she called “the S.O.B.’s” — symphonies, operas and ballets — and instead concentrated on the underprivileged.

Despite a life filled with negative experiences, Doris kept her heart open, focusing on the needs of others. She’d been knocked down repeatedly, only to get up, brush herself off, and go on. So there was no greater joy for her than knowing she had given someone else a hand up.

Red Cross warns of big post-Covid-19 migration

Posted on by

The coronavirus crisis could spark huge waves of fresh migration once borders reopen, the head of the Red Cross has warned. The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Jagan Chapagain, said he was deeply concerned about the secondary effects of the pandemic, as border closures and Covid-19 restrictions have driven millions into poverty.

Many people are already faced with the choice of risking exposure to the novel coronavirus or going hungry, Chapagain said, warning that the desperation being generated could have far-reaching consequences.

“…Many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move,” he said. “We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years.”

Chapagain also condemned efforts in some countries to secure vaccines for their own people first: “The virus crosses the border, so it is pretty short-sighted to think that I vaccinate my people but leave everybody else without vaccination, and we will still be safe,” he said.

The warnings came as the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,strongly criticized the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo’s comment that the WHO health agency chief having been bought by China. “The comments are untrue and unacceptable, and without any foundation for that matter,” Tedros said. “If there is one thing that really matters to us and which should matter to the entire international community, it’s saving lives. And WHO will not be distracted by these comments.”

[The Guardian]