Like many people, I get some of my news these days from blogs. But I still read a daily newspaper. Had I not, I might have missed the brief report (all of three paragraphs on page A4 of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times) on the hunger crisis in Niger, the story about Haiti on page A11, the recap of China’s recent flooding disaster (page A6), and the drama unfolding about Donald Bren on page A33.
Niger is a land-locked nation in western Africa about twice the size of Texas (Wikipedia), with a population slightly in excess of 1.5 million. Frequently beset by droughts, parts of the country have recently witnessed temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the Times, nearly half the population is now in desperate need of food. The country has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. Niger is a member of the United Nations and receives some economic assistance from the United States and a few other countries.
On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the already impoverished country of Haiti (ranking 149 out of 182 nations on the Human Development Index). According to Wikipedia, the quake killed an estimated 230,000 people, with an additional 300,000 injured and 1 million made homeless. Six months later, 98% of the rubble remains, presumably including thousands of bodies. Almost no transitional housing has been built for 1.6 million people living in relief camps that have no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal systems.
Floods have killed an estimated 2,000 people in China this year. The worst occurred on August 7, and authorities are still attempting to rescue people crying for help and pulling bodies from the mud. Numerous cases of dysentery will probably claim more lives, as access to fresh water is limited.
Donald Bren is a wealthy man who is probably more responsible than any other single person for the development of Orange County, California. In 2008, Forbes Magazine estimated his personal fortune at $12 billion. Court records describe a lifestyle that includes at least three residences, a fleet of five jets, a 240-foot yacht, and a large staff of servants. Bren is also a noted philanthropist, having donated at least $43 million to the University of California alone. According to Business Week (2008), Bren’s total donations to education, conservation, and research exceeded $1 billion. Two of his children are suing for retroactive child support payments of $400,000 per month, claiming that the $10,000 per month they did receive for awhile was insufficient and did not last as long as it should have.
I know, you’re waiting for the hammer — the moral of the story. I don’t intend to provide it. It’s just a commentary on the nature of today’s world, culled from the pages of a single day’s newspaper. You want a hammer — supply your own!
Ronald Wolff publishes the blog Musings from Claremont, where this article first appeared. Republished with permission.