Culling of Kangaroos in Canberra, Australia

aus_kangaroos

Julian Omidi discusses the culling of kangaroos in the Australian city of Canberra.

Whether it stems from global warming or just unpredictable meteorological phenomena, occasionally, climates will become inhospitable in the form of draughts, floods or freezing weather.  These changes can – and often do – result in the deaths of various species of animals and the overpopulation of others.  When floods of animals overrun their environment because their natural predators have been extinguished, they will starve to death, or spill into human territories.  Recently, the flood of kangaroos in the Australian city of Canberra, and opinions differ strongly over how to handle it.[1]

Should the residents cull the kangaroo population?  Will this prevent the torturous starvation and physical danger of the animals, or is it a cruel solution, not based on science but on the desire to hunt helpless animals?

Canberra is known for its easy proximity to wild kangaroos.  Rather than trek to the outback, tourists can often see a healthy kangaroo population right on the sidewalks.  The ‘roos are on residents’ lawns, in parks and golf courses.  However, human and kangaroo encounters aren’t always peaceable.  Kangaroos can be highly aggressive when frightened, and they have tremendous strength.  Citizens have been beaten and scratched by rogue kangaroos, and the kangaroos will occasionally break into people’s homes.

When animals are driven by hunger and thirst from their natural environments and into neighboring cities, they don’t necessarily behave with caution.  Many are highly stressed, starving and sick.  They will act desperately and aggressively, and are a greater threat than they would be if they were well fed and otherwise healthy.  Seeing a kangaroo in your front yard isn’t always charming; it can be quite dangerous.

Territory and Municipal Services minister Shane Rattenbury, backed by Australian National University professor and conservation expert David Lindenmayer, is advocating culling 1,600 kangaroos in order to stave off over-grazing and save the resources for other small mammals.  The culling would be achieve by shooting, which, while not 100 percent clean and accurate, is nonetheless the most efficient method for killing wild kangaroos.

Australian animal welfare advocates are rallying against this cull, saying that the shooting of over a thousand kangaroos is a deceptively cruel solution.  One reason being that, being marsupials, they carry their young in pouches, which can conceal the offspring from sight.  Once the mother is killed, an underdeveloped joey could die shortly after.  Also, it is very difficult to shoot a kangaroo cleanly, since it is incredibly fast, and tends to spring up and down at the slightest disturbance.

There are no easy solutions to this problem.  It is incredibly difficult for humans to either morally or ethically make decisions best left to nature, so we often, by necessity, defer them in order to offend nobody.  Of course, this strategy fails to address the question, which is more humane: Allowing an overpopulation of animals starve, grow sick and die in agony, or indiscriminately kill them by the thousands?

By Julian Omidi 

 

[1] Neubauer, Ian Lloyd: Animal-Welfare Groups Hopping Mad Over Canberra’s Kangaroo Cull Time Magazine 5/27/2014 http:// time .com/115385/animal-welfare-australia-canberra-kangaroo-cull/

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“Fed Up” – New Documentary About Childhood Obesity

Fed-Up

Julian Omidi discusses the new documentary film “Fed Up,” which is about the obesity healthcare crisis, particularly childhood obesity.

The food industry is making us fat, according to a recently released film exposé.  “Fed Up,” a 90-minute documentary by the team of filmmakers who produced “An Inconvenient Truth,” explores the food industry practices that could be actively contributing to our current obesity health crisis, with particular emphasis on the toll both the practices and the crises are taking on children.  Even products marketed as being “low-fat” are misleading and contributing to the problem, since they contain more sugar than their full fat alternatives.  It is the world’s addiction to sugar that is causing the massive obesity epidemic, but the food manufacturing industry is nevertheless wholly reluctant to yield.[1]

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other major organizations in processed food production have a tremendous amount of political influence, which not only affects the foods sold in the United States, but also all over the world.  According to the documentary, in 2003, the Bush administration stopped the publication of a World Health Organization report that advocated the calories in the human diet contain no more than 10 percent from added sugars with the threat of pulling all funding.

The federal program to combat childhood obesity, “Let’s Move,” might also have felt the power of food manufacturing lobbying interests.  Again, the documentary posits a theory that the presidential administration could have been influenced by the food industry, and moreover may have backed down from making meaningful changes.  While the beginning of the anti-obesity initiative seemed to promise that childhood obesity would be attacked from every direction, the food industry wanted to appear to partner with the “Let’s Move” program, which would have taken off much of the outside pressure to significantly change its manufacturing and marketing strategies.

Among other revelations from the film, childhood bariatric surgery as an anti-obesity option is being discussed and even embraced by the medical industry.  While the idea of performing surgical weight loss procedures on teenagers would have once filled medical professionals with horror, today it isn’t uncommon.  The adolescent obesity problem is so severe that many medical professionals and parents are willing to risk the potential for nutritional deficiency in growing teenagers by agreeing to gastric bypass surgery.

Ultimately, the convenience food industry has effectively changed the public mindset about what real food and convenience are.  Since we’ve convinced ourselves that cooking whole foods is more expensive in terms of time and money, is it possible for us to disengage ourselves from prepackaged foods and go back to preparing food from scratch?  According to “Fed Up,” we might have to sacrifice a bit of time and comfort in order to ensure our own health and the health of our children.

Once we’ve gotten used to relying upon ourselves for our food and not large corporations, we might be able to combat obesity in an effective and enduring way.  This new film might be provocative and even divisive, but if it asks us to ask difficult questions about ourselves, our habits and our futures, it can only lead to more discussion on a critically important topic.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Morgan, David: Documentary: “Fed Up” With Rising Childhood Obesity CBS News 5/9/2014 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/documentary-fed-up-with-rising-childhood-obesity/

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Animal Testing for Cosmetics in China

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Julian Omidi discusses China’s new initiatives regarding animal testing in cosmetics.

Although historically, China might not exactly have its hands clean when it comes to the safety and well-being of rhinos[1] and elephants, it is beginning to make significant strides in terms of its tolerance of animal testing in cosmetics, something that even the United States government has, as yet, been unable to do in a meaningful way.

Animal testing in cosmetic products has become anathema in the Europe.  The European Union, in fact, enacted a law in 2013 forbidding the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. However, China hasn’t had the same active abhorrence for animal testing that many other nations has, and has only recently begun to question its methods for testing common products.  Until recently, there haven’t been any non-animal related testing procedures for cosmetics firms in China, and imported products that weren’t tested in accordance with their own procedures can’t legally be sold.  However, China’s Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it was beginning its own non-animal testing training program, and in June of 2014 will begin to allow the manufacture and sale of domestic “non-specialized” cosmetics whose ingredients have undergone European Union non-animal safety testing.[2]

Because of China’s regulations regarding the sale of non-animal tested cosmetics, some corporations that had previously abandoned animal testing began to again use animal testing methods to satisfy Chinese official safety standards.  While the new regulations do not yet relax the criteria for imported products, ultimately, if the new standards prove successful, China may open the door to the importation of non-animal tested products from Europe and elsewhere.

However, China’s history of animal testing to the exclusion of all other methods has the scientific and animal welfare community concerned that it may not be able to effectively conduct newer tests.  The new regulations specify that the laboratories will only be able to conduct non-animal tests if they possess the requisite expertise on par with that of the European Union and other established alternative testing laboratories.  Unfortunately, it seems that Chinese laboratories are still far from achieving this standard.

The new regulations are a turnaround from the attitudes expressed by Chinese officials as recently as 2012, when the animal testing standards were broadened to include animal testing on certain over-the-counter skin treatments.

Hopefully, China’s burgeoning acceptance of non-animal cosmetics testing will spark some new regulations in the United States, where cruel and unnecessary animal testing still occurs.  Even though more accurate data can be compiled from cosmetic testing through donated human tissue samples (which is also cheaper and faster), laboratories continue to torture animals for the production of soaps, shampoos and anti-aging creams.  If stopping animal cruelty isn’t enough, shouldn’t the significant monetary savings be an enticement, at least?

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Hongqiao, Liu: China’s many roles in the illegal rhino horn trade 12/16/2013 China Dialogue https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/6577-China-s-many-roles-in-the-illegal-rhino-horn-trade?_ga=1.14420276.2043734224.1399942373

[2] Huang, Shaojie: Interest Grows in Animal Testing Alternatives 5/2/2014 New York Times http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/02/interest-grows-in-animal-testing-alternatives/

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Poverty Rate in Appalachia & Causal Factors

Appalachian_region_of_United_States

The war on poverty is hardly over, and in some areas, the progress that was made in the 1960s is now coming undone.  Julian Omidi discusses the poverty rate in Appalachia, and its causal factors.

In the United States, poverty can hit a community as quickly and effectively as a sledgehammer; a region whose economy was largely based on one particular industry finds itself destitute if that industry folds.  While many of us might think of the economic downturn as being the harbinger for the new and rapidly dividing economy, there are some segments within the U.S. that were never prosperous, and whose statistics seem unlike what should even be possible in the nation that was globally viewed as the “Land of Opportunity” for more than a century.

In Appalachia (the region in the Eastern and South Eastern United States stretching from the southern portion of New York State down to Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi), there was always poverty; during the Great Depression, photographs of locals created the widely recognized face of rural hardship.  However, in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was established largely to address this horribly underserved community by providing welfare and meal stability programs.  The bit of federal security combined with the coal mining industry managed to keep the locals in a manageable economic condition for a time, even though the poverty rate was still high, tens of thousands of people were saved from destitution.[1]

Fast forward to the 1990s, when the coal mining industry was on the decline.  The residents with the highest levels of education, the most drive and the most prospects were beginning to leave for greener pastures, and those who remained were largely older, less educated and dependent upon governmental assistance to get by.  Combined with a burgeoning drug culture and an increase in unplanned teenaged pregnancies, the poverty rate began to climb – and climb and climb.  Today, in the southern portion of West Virginia, the poverty rate is a staggering 41 percent among families with children.

The fact that nearly half of families are living in poverty is nothing short of astonishing; the fact that 46 percent of children in McDowell County do not live with a biological parent is heartbreaking.  These statistics are due to the absurdly high number of parents either in prison, dead or simply gone – having abandoned their kids to the care of relatives or neighbors.  Furthermore, the use of narcotics and prescription drugs is overwhelming.  According to data from Welch Community Hospital, out of 115 babies born in their facilities, 40 had been exposed to drugs prenatally.

Drugs, entire industries leaving communities and crime have all played a part in creating a seemingly hopeless environment.  There are no simple solutions; we can only open our eyes to the way our fellow Americans are being forced to live and do our best to ease some of their burdens.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Gabriel, Trip: 50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back New York Times 4/20/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/us/50-years-into-the-war-on-poverty-hardship-hits-back.html?src=me&_r=0

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Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan

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A medical and humanitarian crisis is burgeoning in South Sudan, as hundreds of thousands of people face mass famine after months of deadly conflict.  Julian Omidi discusses the reaction of representatives from Doctors Without Borders to the United Nations peacekeeping response to the devastating events in South Sudan.

In South Sudan, the peacekeeping operation initiated by the United Nations came under critical fire from representatives from the international medical nonprofit Doctors Without Borders, due to the gruesome conditions in the Tomping compound, located in Juba, the capitol of South Sudan.  There are currently 21,000 refugees sheltering in the compound, which has become a massive public health hazard.[1]

The United Nations has worked with Doctors Without Borders providing aid in numerous nations in crisis states, and both organizations have served South Sudan throughout its turbulent history.  Currently, South Sudan is in the middle of a catastrophic humanitarian event, made worse by the rampaging violence.

Nearly 4 million people face starvation, and several hundred thousands find themselves without shelter save what is provided by the United Nations.

Doctors Without Borders has released a statement lambasting the reaction of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (known as Unmiss) during this crisis.  In the statement, the UN is accused of ignoring the pleas to assist with improvements at Tomping, which is currently situated in low ground.  During the rains, latrines were overturned, and the waters flooded the compound with sewage, causing the immediate threat of water-borne illnesses.  The compound is surrounded by barbed wire fencing, and just beyond the fence is higher, dryer ground with warehouse space.

The refugees within the compound are experiencing an overwhelming flood of diarrheal, respiratory, and skin infections all due to the bacteria-laden water in which the inhabitants are situated.  The Doctors Without Borders staff say that such diseases account for over 60 percent of the illnesses reported in the compound.

The fact that the UN has refused to allow the residents to relocate has confounded the relief workers, particularly since better conditions are relatively close by.

Representatives from the UN insist that the camp will be closed by the end of April, and that they acknowledge that the compound has turned into a massive health hazard and have already relocated approximately 1,300 people.

Nevertheless, it is not clear if the remaining refugees can be moved before the rainy season begins.  According to the UN, there is simply not enough space for all of the inhabitants in the Tomping compound, but the aid workers insist that better, dryer conditions are so close by, that they are actually within eyeshot.

In addition to the crisis in sanitation for the Tomping refugees, the displaced residents, unable to tend to crops after facing months of unimaginable violence, could potentially face starvation.  According to the United Nations South Sudan relief coordinating officer, the region needs approximately $230 million in order to combat what could be the most devastating example of mass starvation since the famine in Ethiopia.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Gladstone, Rick: U.N. Ignores South Sudan Camp Crisis, Charity Says 4/9/2014 New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/world/africa/medical-charity-sharply-criticizes-un-operation-in-south-sudan.html?ref=africa

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Leslye Borden – Founder of Handmade Especially for You

leslye_borden

Julian Omidi profiles the founder of Handmade Especially for You, Leslye Borden.

Sometimes, having someone make a kind and thoughtful gesture, even if it is small, can make all the difference in our feelings of self worth.  People who have suffered years of abuse might have been conditioned to believe that simple kindness is something they will never either experience or deserve, but one organization, Handmade Especially for You, seeks to give people without hope a ray of handmade sunshine.[1]

Leslye Borden’s organization Handmade Especially for You, gives battered and abused women heartfelt, hand-knitted comfort scarves, which might be one of the few pieces of clothing the women have managed to retain after fleeing their dangerous conditions.  These scarves are colorful, lovingly packaged and created by groups of volunteers from all over the world.  Ms. Borden works with legions of recruits from church groups, retirement communities and community centers in order to produce the brightly patterned, cheerful scarves.  Since the organization’s inception in 2008, more than 57,000 scarves have been knitted and distributed to women in abuse shelters all over the United States.

Ms. Borden’s organization was founded shortly after she sold her stock photo business in 2007.  An avid knitting enthusiast, she spent her days knitting gifts for her grandchildren.  Scarves, sweaters, slippers, mittens, hats; any item of clothing that could be fabricated with yarn and needles.  When the number of articles began to overwhelm her family, she began donating the items to local shelters, and actively seeking organizations that needed knitted clothing.  When she found a Chicago shelter looking for knitted scarves for the rape survivors it helped, the concept of Handmade Especially for You was born.

Many of the volunteers are abuse survivors themselves.  Domestic abuse survivors are underrepresented members of society; they have little political or economic clout, so they are woefully unserved.  Organizations such as Handmade Especially for You bring the problem of domestic violence to the fore by encouraging survivors, witnesses of domestic abuse and those who haven’t been personally affected to work together to give a neglected segment of society a gift and a helping hand.

Handmade Especially for You is currently seeking facilities to house the supplies and scarves, as well as serve as a workshop for volunteers.  Currently, Ms. Borden keeps the supplies and donations in her home, which, thanks to the generosity of benefactors and volunteers, is becoming overwhelmed.

There are several satellite workshops where people can gather to knit and inspect scarves in accordance with Handmade’s specifications.  However, for those whose schedules or obligations do not allow them to visit one of the organized workshops, Handmade has patterns and kits for people to use when working on their own.  The organization has been highlighted by Oprah.com, as being a worthy volunteer opportunity for people who want to serve a charity from home.

We at Civic Duty would like to applaud Ms. Borden and her organization, not only for the invaluable service they provide to a vulnerable segment of the population, but also for bringing the problem of domestic abuse to greater public consciousness.  Handmade Especially for You also gives survivors as well as people untouched by domestic violence the opportunity to gather together and learn about each other, which is essential if we are going to increase empathy and understanding of this tragic problem.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Lubinskey, Annie: Local ‘Hero’ Offers Comfort to Abused Women Palos Verdes Peninsula News 3/5/2014 http://www.pvnews.com/news/local-hero-offers-comfort-to-abused-women/article_c9640b6e-a492-11e3-a0f4-0019bb2963f4.html

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Doctors Without Borders Removed from Myanmar

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Myanmar Protesters surround Sittwe in Rakhine late February – Photo credited to CNN.com

In the following article, Julian Omidi discusses the expulsion of Doctors Without Borders from the Rakhine region of Myanmar.  The organization was dismantled due to the government’s assertion that Rohingya Muslims were being favored over the Rakhine Buddhists, but tensions between the two groups extends far beyond access to medical services.  Julian Omidi is cofounder of the organization No More Poverty with his brother, Dr. Michael Omidi.


The activities of the nonprofit organization Doctors Without Borders have been suspended in Myanmar, due to governmental accusations that Rohingya Muslims were receiving preferential treatment over Rakhine Buddhists.  The two ethnic groups have been in conflict since the British colonial era, and the hatred of the Muslim population is widespread and generally accepted.  It has been theorized that, by shutting down Doctors Without Borders, there will be fewer international witnesses to violent outbursts against Rohingya Muslims.[1]


The medical services provided by Doctors Without Borders are the only treatments available to the Rohingya Muslims.  They have been denied citizenship in Myanmar by order of law, and in 2012 were forced to relocate to internment camps and ethnic ghettos.  Although Doctors Without Borders has been accused of giving Muslims special favor, there are no medical facilities available to the Rohingya Muslim population, as the government-run clinics are situated outside of the districts in which the Muslims are allowed to live.


Although the International Red Cross is still permitted to operate, Doctors Without Borders is the largest healthcare provider in the Rakhine region.  More than a quarter million people receive treatment from Doctors Without Borders facilities.  Since the restriction of services began, it has been estimated that 150 people have died due to having been denied medical care.


Doctors Without Borders was the only resource for chronically ill Rohingya Muslims.  Those with tuberculosis, malaria and H.I.V. who have depended upon medications supplied by Doctors Without Borders might not have a reliable supply for the foreseeable future.  Government officials have stated that medications donated by Doctors Without Borders will continue to be distributed, but exactly how this is to be achieved has not been made clear.


For the past several years, anti-Muslim actions have been intensifying.  Monks regularly include anti-Muslim rhetoric in their sermons; local politicians are lobbying to prohibit the Rohingya from identifying themselves as such on the national census for fear of confirming the numbers are higher than governmental estimates.  However, the most disturbing trend is the violence against whole families – including children.  One gruesome incident involved the slaughter and decapitation of 10 Rohingya men, whose heads were left in a water tank.  While the violence is not technically sanctioned by the government, little has been done to prevent it or punish those who have perpetrated it.


Because Myanmar is working to gain international acceptance, it is critical that the United Nations as well as both western and eastern governments make it perfectly clear that ethnic cleansing will neither be encouraged nor tolerated.  The lessons of Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan have been recently learned – we can only hope that they have also not been quickly forg [1] Perlez, Jane: Ban on Doctors’ Group Imperils Muslim Minority in Myanmar New York Times 3/13/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/world/asia/myanmar-bans-doctors-without-borders.html?src=recg&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Recommended&pgtype=article&_r=0 By Julian Omidi

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How Donated Unusable Medical Equipment Impacts Under Developed Regions

medical_equipment

Julian Omidi discusses the impact the donation of unusable equipment has upon medical clinics in under developed regions.

Many hospitals and private organizations donate their unused supplies and medical equipment to clinics and nonprofit health initiatives in remote, undeveloped locations in order to give them the opportunities to perform the best and most modern treatments that they can.  Without these donations, many medical centers in poor regions wouldn’t have access to life saving drugs, gloves, sterilization tools, swabs, bandages and numerous other items that are essential for proper medical care.

However, there are many items that, although delivered with the best intentions, wind up being thrown away.  These items clog up landfills, waste valuable time for volunteer workers who have to sort through the equipment and cost quite a bit of money in shipment fees.[1]

Medical supply companies and hospitals who wish to donate equipment more often than not believe that health care centers are glad to get anything they can.  While this is largely true, it is unfortunate that the donations aren’t given much consideration.  Heavy electronic devices are sent without their instruction manuals, or even with all of the appropriate parts and accessories.  Machines that require consumables – fuel, water and electricity, which simply aren’t available in extremely deprived regions – are sent and are never operational.  Machines that are operational can’t be fixed when something goes wrong, and there is no one qualified to make repairs.  As a result, clinics are overrun with heavy equipment that is, essentially, junk.

Even the equipment that is useable can put tremendous strain upon delicate operations.  Clinics that operate with generators or old electrical systems can have most of their useable power eaten up by energy-sapping equipment.  This can actually put people’s lives in jeopardy.

In a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), it was found that only between 10 and 30 percent of all donated equipment is ever used by the receiving hospitals.

How can foreign hospitals and medical suppliers ensure their donations are put to good use?  They can send only what all clinics, without exception, need.  Gloves, crutches, bandages, sanitation materials, feminine hygiene products, bandages and other supplies that developed world hospitals take for granted are desperately needed in the undeveloped world.

Another way donators can save themselves and the recipients time and money is to go through all of the equipment slated for donation and determine whether or not it actually works, if the parts and accessories are available and if the instructions are included.

The third and most effective method for donating successfully is asking the healthcare workers in the clinic exactly what they need and what equipment their facilities can handle.  If the donating party knows that the region has no one available to repair nonfunctioning equipment, or if the repair service is only qualified to work on the devices from a certain manufacturer, then they won’t waste resources shipping devices that cannot be maintained.

Many health centers in the developing world exist using exclusively donated equipment and supplies, so it is crucial that hospital and medical supply services keep giving.  However, it is no less important to donate only what can be used effectively.

By Julian Omidi


[1] Jones, Andrew: Medical Equipment Donated to Developing Nations Usually Ends Up on the Junk Heap Scientific American 5/6/2013 http ://www. scientificamerican .com/article/medical-equipment-donated-developing-nations-junk-heap/

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In the Spotlight: Dan Wallrath – Founder of Operation Finally Home

Dan_Wallrath

Julian Omidi discusses the work of Dan Wallrath, founder of Operation Finally Home, an organization that builds and remodels homes for United States Service men and women.

United States armed forces men and women face unimaginable challenges every day of their services.  The stress and anxiety of performing their duties along with the terror of realizing that every new day might bring some circumstance that might forever change – or even end – their lives, is more than many of us could bear.  However, if a soldier finds himself seriously injured, he could face a series of difficulties for which he might not be prepared.  This is where Dan Wallrath comes in.[1]

For three decades, Mr. Wallrath build and remodeled the homes of wealthy clients.  When Mr. Wallrath met the father of a 20-year-old injured marine in 2005, he saw first hand the struggles of American veterans with coping with day-to-day realities.  The veteran had once been a large, hale, and hearty marine, but his injuries had depleted him to the point where he weighed approximately half of what he did when he enlisted.

The veteran’s father wanted to construct a wheelchair ramp and other amenities so that his son could access the family home more easily, but he didn’t have the money to do so.  Mr. Wallrath volunteered his services, and convinced several other contractors to contribute their resources to the effort.  After the project was finished, Mr. Wallrath decided that there were service men and women all over the country that could be facing the same thing, and Operation Finally Home was born.

To date, Operation Finally Home has built 44 homes for injured veterans.  The homes are mortgage-free, and the organization even pays the taxes and insurance fees for one year, while the veteran goes back to school, or establish new careers.  The time allows the veterans to become financially stable enough to take the reigns, and begin whole new lives.

In addition to the 44 homes already built, Operation Finally Home has 42 homes currently under construction.  The organization works with carpenters, plumbers, electricians and builders’ associations in 17 states.  The economic downturn has made the home building and remodeling services even more vital.

Mr. Wallrath has retired from his home building profession in order to devote all of his time and effort to his crusade.  According to Mr. Wallrath, “It really broke my heart to think (about) these young men and women.  It was like someone hit me upside the head with a 2×4. … I just felt like this is what God wants me to do.”

Mr. Wallrath’s contribution to these men and women is more than just material – it gives them the chance to give their lives a much-needed boost.  We at Civic Duty salute Mr. Wallrath and his organization, and we hope that his efforts continue to bring hope and stability to these men and women who couldn’t be more deserving.

By Julian Omidi


[1] Toner, Kathleen: Building Free Homes for Wounded Vets CNN.com 12/18/2013 http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/06/us/cnnheroes-wallrath-operation-finally-home/index.html

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Conflict in South Sudan

South_Sudan_Conflict

In the following article, Julian Omidi discusses the conflict in South Sudan.

Since civil war erupted in South Sudan in December of 2013, thousands of people have fled to refugee camps in the Sudan and to the United Nations base, leaving their homes, all of their possessions and their livelihoods.  The hundreds of thousands of refugees are facing additional crises, as humanitarian organizations believe that, as fields go unplowed and crops are left to rot, millions could starve.  Moreover, the violence has grown to such an extent that there is no one who isn’t considered a target – including aid workers and people convalescing in hospitals.[1]

The fighting is atrocious. The soldiers, of both the national army and the anti-government forces are conducting their battles in particularly brutal fashion. Hospitals have been ransacked, and patients beaten, raped and killed in their beds. According to the organization Doctors without Borders, the attacks on hospitals is a part of a strategy meant to completely debilitate entire communities down to the most helpless. Entire hospitals have been burned to the ground, and those that remain standing are ransacked, with most of the valuable supplies either stolen or rendered utterly unusable.  The volunteer physicians have been forced to flee to the bush for their own safety.

The soldiers have been destroying civilian homes and livestock in addition to the killings.  The people will likely continue to suffer from the conflict for years to come, even after the active fighting has stopped.  The refugees are vulnerable to any number of infectious diseases, and with medical aid being actively targeted by fighting forces, the casualties from illness could be massive.

South Sudan is an extremely poor nation, with a huge segment of the population on the verge of going hungry even when there is no active warfare.  The infrastructure, previously weak, has been destroyed since the conflict, and necessary provisions will have a great deal of difficulty being delivered long after the fighting stops.

Although a cease-fire agreement was signed in January, it has been observed by neither side.  Doctors without Borders were stationed in Leer, the hometown of the former Vice-President and rebel leader Riek Machar.  Because Mr. Machar still has relatives living in Leer, the national army has specifically made it a target, killing civilians and plundering thousands of homes, and making it impossible for the aid workers to provide needed medical care.

The regions of Sudan and South Sudan have been locked in conflict for more than 50 years.  The Second Civil War fostered a generation of Sudanese “Lost Boys,” who were orphaned children (boys and girls) and former child soldiers.  Many of these children received asylum in other countries, and have since grown up to be advocates for the people of their former nation.

There are Sudanese people who, in middle age, have never known a life that wasn’t threatened or compromised by war.  It is unclear how this conflict will resolve itself, but since the region has known nothing but war for more than a half century, the sad fact is that there will likely always be some measure of unrest in that region.  Hopefully, the returning “Lost Boys,” (many of whom received educations in the United States and Europe) will help their nation overcome its strife, and give their countrymen and women the first glimmer of hope for a peaceful world that they might have ever had.

By Julian Omidi


[1] Kulish, Nicholas: Reports of South Sudan Fighting, Despite Pact, Prompt Worry and Warnings New York Times 2/12/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/fighting-persists-in-south-sudan-despite-pact-and-aid-groups-issue-warnings.html

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