This week’s Saturday Mishmash hits three continents,with an eye on a fourth. If you see a story from the global press that strikes you as strange, surprising or memorable, don’t forget to send it our way.
The African Union goes after Joseph Kony – sort of
As of March 30, Kony2012 had a whopping 86 million views on YouTube and 16 million on Vimeo.
There continues to be controversy over how the film was made but at its heart is a question that has yet to be answered:
How it is possible that Joseph Kony and his brutal Lord’s Resistance Army have been able to wage havoc in central Africa for over 20 years?
This past week brought news of the African Union creating a 5,000-soldier task force to stop Kony and his guerrillas once and for all.
In the independent South African online publication, the Daily Maverick, journalist Simon Allison hails the decision and points out:
“The African Union and good publicity aren’t usually linked, but for once it’s put itself on the right side of global public opinion.”
The Daily Maverick writer portrays the AU as a bumbling institution that consistently finds itself on the wrong side of politically sensitive issues. Not so with the Kony2012 campaign. The AU’s task force is a timely and organized response – it’s composed of troops from the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Uganda – the countries most affected by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
But Allison is reluctant to give the AU too much credit. He doesn’t buy that the AU had the political organization to create such a large force on two-weeks notice. Instead, he thinks the troops were already organized and paid for, and that the AU used the Kony2012 publicity event to “create” a task force that essentially already existed.
“By committing African troops to solve an African conflict, the AU is proving that Africa can fight its own battles, and hopefully pre-empt any serious talk of sending in more American soldiers…. In the process, the AU is doing its own reputation a world of good, showing it is an organisation that can take strong, decisive action when necessary, and is also capable of listening to and acting on public concerns.”
In other words, Allison doesn’t care how the AU hitchhiked to the right side of an issue, just so long as it showed up on time.
“Buy My Face” so I can pay my debt
Two British 22-year-olds, both recent alumni of Cambridge University, are selling their faces as billboards in order to pay off their substantial college loans. Cumulatively they owe about $80,000 US. The human billboard scheme has already netted $47,000.
To quote the entrepreneurs themselves: “We’re Ross and Ed, and for 366 days, we’re selling our faces with the aim of paying off our uni debt. Does that answer your questions? Of course it doesn’t.”
If you buy a day, Ross Harper and Ed Moyse paint your name and logo onto their face and post it to their website. And if they continue to sell their faces every day (they’ve had buyers for every day since October 1, 2011) they’ll go well beyond their $80,000 mark. Cheek space in April is going for $750, but in September you’ll pay twice that.
By American standards, the two young Brits are overachievers. In 2011, the average college debt for an American graduate was $22,900 – that’s up eight percent from the previous year, despite college tuition rising only five percent. They’re also succeeding where others have failed. Though perhaps times have changed — U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds rented out his shoulder earlier this year.
Who’s watching the Koch brother’s fortune?
David and Charles Koch – wealthy libertarians worth about $25 billion each – have become something of a household name in the U.S. Now, Al Jazeera is introducing the Koch brothers to the rest of the world, or at least the Middle East.
The Kochs have made their fortune in petroleum, chemicals and financial products. In fact, Koch Industries is the second largest privately-held company in the U.S. The Koch’s notoriety has not come from their fortune, but how they use it. In this video documentary, Al Jazeera untangles how the Kochs are influencing policy from Congress to state capitals.
The Kochs founded Americans for Prosperity, which has resisted healthcare reform and battled unions in Wisconsin and Ohio. The Kochs contributed to 62 of the 87 new members elected to the House of Representatives in 2010. And the brothers are reportedly planning to raise and spend $200 million to try to defeat President Obama in the 2012 campaign.
Although this documentary first aired last fall, it has been updated to include how the Kochs are influencing the race for the White House.
To the most politically-savvy American, this report may not be a surprise. But if you haven’t had time to follow the Kochs’ political money trail, this will be a good primer. And if you’re not American, you may (or may not) be surprised at how far money can take your ideals in the U.S. today. Al Jazeera seems comfortable asserting cash is a corrosive force in U.S. politics.