I've had a link off to the left to the Grameen Foundation for a while. Grameen has a presence in Haiti through a group called Fonkoze. In a post on their website today, there was
a grant recently made to Fonkoze to operate a "mobile bank branch" which will meet bank members wherever they are in Haiti. Fonkoze, like Grameen and other microfinance group, is a bank. Loans are given to the poor based on a skill they have to manufacture and sell something and/or provide a service to others. Borrowers are charged interest and are given a plan to pay back the loan with interest as long as they are willing to work with other borrowers in a peer-support system. They keep the profit they make and are invited to open savings accounts with Fonkoze, etc.
As long as people are thirsty, hungry and in need of medical care and shelter, donations to organizations that provide this service will be needed. The long-term challenge is to support the work done by groups like Fonkoze who, instead of fostering dependence on aid, are raising the poor up from desperate poverty and giving them and their children to rebuild their nation bit by bit. While grants may be needed for one-time programs and to grow new branches, the branches support themselves after just a couple of years.
I'm writing and watching MSNBC's "President's Question Time" special with President Obama answering questions asked from Republican legislators. What's nice about it is that the question and answer is about 95% unedited so that one can watch this event, unique to the U.S, in bite-sized pieces. The "no teleprompter for the President" aspect is just wonderful! It was nice to see him speak off the cuff and I'm looking forward to more of that. I don't know if what happened in Baltimore today is the start of something we'll see every couple of months, but what a fresh way to approach the whole "politics versus the facts" thing that MSNBC and Fox News spend hours a day, Monday-Friday, chewing over and pontificating.
Finally, a few folks in California moved one step closer to doing something that will, no doubt, start a snowball of controversy. Nearly 700,000 signatures were collected and around 143,000 of those delivered to the Los Angeles County Registrar's office in Norwalk to add a proposition to the November 2010 ballot to legalize personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by those age 21 and older, permit those 21 and older to grow enough marijuana for personal use and "..would also allow cities and counties to permit marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on (sales of marijuana)".
This isn't just a few thousand stoners in a state with 36 million residents trying to get their habit legitimized. While the amount of money raised to campaign for this proposition so far isn't jaw dropping, it's not just as much money those same stoners found under the sofa cushions. While the case for medicinal use of marijuana has been made by those with something to gain, the city of L.A. has been trying to reign in the proliferation of cannabis clubs recently. Delivery of these signatures is a bit out there in contrast to the relatively modest moves in the state to carry out medicinal use of cannabis. On the other hand, I can take a quick stroll at lunchtime and pass two such clubs within a couple of blocks of each other (see the photo above for a sign for one such club -- the green cross with caduceus). These clubs aren't just in the funkier neighborhoods in LA County, either.
I don't use marijuana. Yes, there is a fairly liberal gay person in California that doesn't use the stuff. On the first smell I took of the smoke I was turned off and haven't found a reason to be turned on to it since. That said, if marijuana is regulated, used privately and penalties for impaired driving, use while at work, etc., are as strong as drunk driving, being drunk at work, etc., then any health concerns just go out the window for me.
What makes this proposition likely to succeed? If the backers have enough sense about this, it'll become about money. Money to be made by growers, retailers and, as tax collector on every sale of the weed, the state government. For all three groups, the promise of legitimate profits/revenue to be made may prove too irresistible to vote down.