Friday 27 March '09 show

  • Show live from Salem International in Stadtsteinach, Germany. Salem Childrens' Village in New Hampshire. Hunter School.
  • "Brunch with Bernie" with Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont. Budget yesterday, not all he wanted, but it addresses the main issues from the campaign - universal health care, energy independence, global warming, education. Stimulus money is beginning to get out, yesterday Joe Biden announced $3 billion for energy/environment. He is chair of the green jobs committee. Today the White House announced a release to community health centers. Wall street, need vigorous investigation. Too big to fail. He has introduced single payer legislation, but not enough support. There has been no money in the stimulus package for those like Salem Childrens' Village who have not been been able to get extra credit because the State has cut back its budget and is paying late. We need to treat kids better.

    Subscribe to Bernie's newsletter. CBO budget projection. Why trust the government when it was so incompetent over AIG? The private sector does not have a good record either. All empires crumble. Does Bernie support Afghan policy? He's not on the relevant committees so does not know so much, but is nervous about it. When is Wall Street going to be held accountable? Justice. What the Secretary of State said about Mexico, drug wars. Is he for legalizing marijuana? The Secretary of State was right, it is our demand. Marijuana is a difficult issue. Where to draw the line? Too many are in jail for non violent crime. Paul Krugman is moving from disappointment to despair, Stiglitz saying it is the worse of all possible worlds. Claw back. Go on offense with class warfare. Are the gang of 15 Democrats the same that obstructed during Bush years? How will the Obama agenda get through? If we need 60 votes for single payer health care, it will not be a good plan, so go for budget reconciliation which needs a simple majority. Reagan did it. "Outfoxed", which Bernie was in.

  • Bumper Music: Give a Little Bit, Supertramp.
  • Bumper Music: Free, Donavon Frankenreiter & Jack Johnson (video).
  • Salem is 52 years old, its founder, Her Mùller is 94 years old, they are having their annual reunion. The word Salem is from the Hebrew and Arabic for peace. Their work in Uganda. "The Prophet's Way". The title is taken from a path in the woods that they walked today. Thom read a passage from the book.
  • "Kampala, covering several square miles, is built on seven hilltops. Before its destruction, it must have been one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Now everywhere are burned-out buildings, broken glass, and tens of thousands of hungry, haunting faces.

    Young boys urgently cry out "cigarettes" among the thick crowd. Burlap bags lay empty upon the ground with small piles of tobacco and salt upon them. They are part of sales in the vast, teeming black market. Corrugated metal and cardboard shacks house thousands of people in endless rows of fetid squalor. Urine and rotted waste clog the dirt paths of the market, as we gingerly navigate through the crowd, avoiding mud and pools of overwhelming stench. There has been no running water in this city for over two years. Young children everywhere stagger about in dazed desperation, their parents brought to death by famine, disease, war, and the insane, random murders by soldiers and associates of the former president Idi Amin.

    Night is approaching. We must flee the market before the 8 p.m. curfew falls and an army of young Tanzanian soldiers, their rifles puncturing the night sky with staccato bursts of machine-gun fire, fans through the city. Two years ago, when Amin was overthrown and his brutal dictatorship ended, Ugandans welcomed the Tanzanian liberators from the south. But the combination of an unprecedented drought in this area as in other parts of East Africa, and an escalating civil war by factions still loyal to Amin and other dissidents have plunged this once peaceful and fertile land into another round of fear and chaos.

    In the morning we find the bodies of those who could not find shelter before the night descended. During a short walk, Mr. Müller counts nine corpses, huddled in death next to buildings or sprawling naked in the streets.

    Everywhere we come upon razed buildings, bullet holes, and the devastated ruins of a once-beautiful country. The first night we stay in a church dormitory with no water or electricity. The only food is white rice and stale white bread. Boiled rainwater is served on request, caught from the gutters, runoff from the roofs. We sleep on small steel cots in cement block rooms. There are half-inch steel bars on the windows, and the massive gray door in our cell has only a small glass-with-embedded-wire window. We are locked in for the night.

    In the morning we rise early and leave by 8 a.m. for Mbale, a small town on the fringe of the famine district and the site of a large refugee camp. Our route will take us through miles of jungle and over the waterfall which is the source of the Nile.

    We arrive at the Mbale camp just as the sun begins to set, a heavy grayness covering the jungle. Approaching the first cluster of mud huts, we are surrounded by perhaps a hundred people: children, adults, enfeebled elders at the end of their lives. Sweat, urine, and the smoke of hundreds of small twig fires make the air bite and cut into my nose and lungs. The Earth is hard as stone, a red clay, and all about us are littered small bodies—crying, moaning, yelling for food or water, staggering about or sitting, staring emptily. Hunger haunts us as we walk about, incessantly tapping us on the shoulder as everywhere we are brought face to face, hand to hand, skin to skin with the hollow pain of empty bodies and frightened souls.

    A toothless, graying old woman makes her way slowly through the crowd toward us. Her shuffle is slow, and she seems to wince with every step. Her breasts lie flat and dry, hanging down to a wrinkled and shriveled stomach. She cries out softly to us in Swahili. Rev. James Mbunga, a government official who is accompanying us, interprets: "I am a widow with eight young children. As my husband is dead, no one will help or care for me and my children. We shall die. Will you please help us?" A lump fills my throat.

    "Soon," says Mr. Müller gently. "Soon, I promise, we shall return with some food for you."

    As we walk back to our car through the makeshift "village," night descends. The air becomes cold, and people retreat into their huts. Outside one deserted hut we find three young children lying on a mat, naked to the approaching evening chill. Two of them are nearly dead. Their bodies look like skeletons, swollen heads on shrunken skin, too weak to even lift up or to make a sound. The third, a bit older, lifts himself up with obvious pain and tells his story. Their father is dead, their mother has never returned from a trip looking for food. Tears choke my eyes as we turn and walk away from these dying children. Forcing down the trembling in my throat, I whisper a silent prayer. I recall that back home in the United States today is Thanksgiving.

    Tonight Sanford Unger of National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered" show has arranged a satellite call to us, routed to our hotel. He interviews me about the situation in the camps and the bush, and I later learned that the interview ran that night in the US as ATC’s Thanksgiving special. Twice while we’re talking to NPR we’re cut off by the military when Unger asks me questions about troops and the dangers of being shot.

    The next morning we leave for the northern region of Karamoja where starvation and disease are reportedly at their worst. We load into an aging Mercedes and pull out of town. The sky is a vast expanse of blue, the sun burning down, scorching both earth and people alike. As we travel north on the dusty, broken road, the terrain gradually becomes more and more desert-like. We pass through expanses of scattered grass-covered plains dotted with occasional mesquite-like trees. A game preserve, this area was once home to herds of lion, buffalo, zebra, elephant, and other African mammals. Now all are gone, the victims of poachers and hungry, fleeing troops and refugees.

    As noon approaches, the air becomes painfully hot and dry, the plains pregnant with death. Rev. Mbunga points out some skeletons by the side of the road, those who couldn’t make the eighty-one-mile march to Mbale. Their bones were picked clean by buzzards and ants. Empty eye sockets stare at us as we pass.

    About one p.m., we come to a huge, barbed-wire-enclosed compound with cement and corrugated iron buildings: the Namalu prison Farm, scene of countless atrocities under the reign of Idi Amin, now a hospital and feeding station for the Karamoja refugees. As we pull into the compound, I see several hundred naked children huddled around one large building. From inside I can hear shouting and crying—this is the feeding center. The United Nations has been trucking in food recently, and each child is allotted one bowl of ground corn and powdered milk per day.



  • Guest: Hilary Storm from Salem Uganda. It is now run by Ugandans with Salem funds. The work is now mostly health and social welfare. Health center 60 beds. Mostly malaria. How did she end up there? She gave up work with National Health Service after 30 years; she was happy helping people but wanted to help the environment, planned to go to Scotland with friends, got an email from Herr Mùller's wife asking for help in Uganda. She went out of respect for Salem. A lot of work with children. Mostly subsistence farming. Some kids neglected. Maternal mortality high, and fathers cannot cope. They have a kids home for orphans, but most are resettled, and they are working out in the community. They are trying to cut the school drop out rate. Tree planting program, involving kids. Environment clubs. They are planting 10,000 trees this year.
  • Bumper Music: America, Tracy Chapman (video).
  • Guest: Pamela Spence, Medical Herbalist MA, BSc, MNIMH from Troon, Scotland. She was in the studio with Thom. British health care, devolved into 4, now - England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales. The other three are going for free prescriptions, England decided it cannot afford that. England just put prices up. Homeopathy is being accepted, but not herbalism. In the US system you can pay for whatever you want, you may not be able to get all options in the UK.
  • Kenny McDougal in the room with Thom, one of the first who joined Salem because of "The Prophet's Way", living in Australia. Australia is private health. He had a medical for his visa, had to get further tests, and had to go home to get treatment.
  • Guest: Vanessa from Melbourne in the room with Thom, working in Ethiopia for 6 months. Australia has public and private health. There can be long waits for non-urgent treatment. The last government, Howard, encouraged private health. She is working with an Ethiopian NGO, teaching English to indigenous health workers so they can go to university.
  • Bumper Music: If You're Going Through Hell, Rodney Atkins (video).
  • Mountjack in the room with Thom, studying a degree in herbalism at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, UK. It is legal for herbalists to diagnose and treat diseases, due to public support.
  • Pamela again, in Ireland the cost for alternative medicines, herbalism is the same as conventional medicine, and people voted with their feet, herbalists are very busy.
  • Charlie in the room with Thom, a German living in Scotland. Germany changed to the central government paying the insurance companies, you can choose which.
  • Guest: Samuel Müller, the son of founder Gerhard Müller and managing director of Salem International. Overview of Salem. Doing something for the time. Not problems, challenges. 50 years ago it was World War II orphans. Now they are in Africa helping children, reforesting, teaching and learning. German health care. 15.5% goes to health care. Doctors are closing because the budget is used up. People expect too much. Solar energy, saving a lot of oil. Everybody must have a vision, think for tomorrow. No oil, some nuclear plants. Germany decided to solarize. 2005 renewables accounted for 10.5% of energy, now 14.2%. What else if not solar? How the solar system works. Farmers took it up first. Last week a company asked if they could hire Salem's remaining roofs, but they would prefer to do it themselves.
  • Germany, globalization, a move towards Australian/American health systems. It now 10 Euro a quarter and people complain, but it is still much better than America. Family doctors still make house calls, but that is changing.
  • There are about 30 people from all over the world in the room with Thom.
  • Seth, a Scottish marketing consultant in the room with Thom who has been taking kids up to the Arctic circle and working with indigenous and aboriginal people there. Health insurance companies say they don't want us to live long because it costs them. Working with indigenous people in the Arctic circle who have been pushed into our lifestyle. Catching them early.
  • The difference between a Republic and a Democracy. Thom talks in one of his Buzzflash books of the month a couple of years ago about how Madison said there was no difference. Frank Lunz style campaign to call America a Republic.
  • Bumper Music: What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong. Thanks.
  • Victoria Jones of Talk Radio News. She was at Obama's Afghanistan speech. He spoke a lot about Pakistan. Gibbs briefing. The way forward is to nation-build - Clinton/Holbrooke rather than place-holding (Biden). Book: "Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace...One School At A Time", Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. He is sending 4,000 more troops to train local army and police. Richard Holbrooke briefing. Obama meeting with bank CEOs, what they talked about. Personal spending up, income down last month, so credit flowing. Diane Feinstein supported Employee Free Choice Act, has issued a new statement, now looking for compromise, common ground.


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