"An open letter to the parasites I managed to pick up in West Africa this summer," from McSweeney's:
Anyhoo, just wanted to let you know there are no hard feelings over your unwanted breach of my lower tract. Aside from the occasional cold and a sinus infection once in high school, I've never actually had a real disease before, and I think this counts. Well done. This way, at cocktail parties for the rest of my life (or at least until something better comes along), I'll be able to nonchalantly mention that bout of hookworms I had in West Africa once. People will be intrigued by the suggestion of exotic adventures in my past. They'll think I'm very interesting and want to be my friends. It might go something like this:
STRANGER AT A COCKTAIL PARTY: These shrimp croquettes are a little overcooked, don't you think?
ME: Obviously you've never dealt with a case of intestinal parasites in post-conflict West
STRANGER: You're fascinating.
West Africa's Achilles Heal, a great project about drug trafficked in Guinea Bissau is running as a series on the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. It's especially relevant right now as people in Guinea Bissau vote, or in many cases, don't vote. The photos from this project are awesome, but I'm not web savvy enough to figure out how to re-post since they're in a gallery, but you should head over there and check them all out.
In just nine hours Guinea Bissau had lost both it president and the head of its army. Why so much violence? Was this double assassination the result of an old rivalry between Vieira and Tagme, or was it something more? The army’s spokesman, Zamora Induta, declared that the president had been killed by a group of renegade soldiers and that assailants using a bomb had assassinated General Tagme. He said there is no connection between the two deaths. Of course, nobody believed that this was so.
And if this is all making you salivate over the thought of heading to West Africa, here's a job you can apply for, via my brother Grant's blog Mo'dernity, Mo'problems:
The RA will manage a large quantitative survey of the impact of paralegals in prisons and police stations in Sierra Leone as implemented by a local NGO, Timap for Justice. The evaluation is funded by the Open Society Justice Initiative (www.justiceinitiative.org/) and administered by the Centre for the Study of African Economies (www.csae.ox.ac.uk) The nationwide survey will be spread across 15 – 20 sites and will require that the RA spend a significant part of time per month at field sites throughout the country. In addition the RA will perform a variety tasks including: managing survey teams, cleaning and analyzing data, coordinating with local partners, and ensuring the successful execution of the evaluation.
(And just putting this out there, but working a job like this will likely involve way more cute kids than assassination. And more statistics than cute kids. And definitely enough parasites to be fascinating.)
Shelby Grossman tells the story of her friend Jonathan, and a story about Liberia:
As donor enthusiasm for Liberia wanes, as it inevitably will, the presence of international development groups will fade. Their trademark large, white SUVs that have become a staple to the roads of Monrovia will start to disappear. The 15,000-person strong UN peacekeeping mission with its thousands of additional civilian support staff has already started to reduce its numbers. This dwindling attention from the international community will have many implications for Liberians. Those most cynical of international intervention argue that Liberia’s sovereignty will be restored. Liberians will be able to make their own choices. Farmers won’t have to grow bulgur wheat just because some UN agency wants them to. Liberians will develop their country on their own terms.
But the pull-out also will mean a loss of well-paying national-hire jobs. The many university graduates working with the UN and international non-governmental organizations will have to find a job in a country where there aren’t many.