Friday, October 22, 2010

show me the note!!!

GonzaloLira | So the week before last, I wrote about Brian and Ilsa, a retired couple in their mid-to-late sixties, living in a house in the Southwest that had—unremarkably—gone underwater.

They had tried to refinance their home mortgage, under the auspices of the HAMP, the Home Affordable Modification Program. HAMP was part of the Financial Stability Act of 2009—the famed “Stimulus Package”.

The point of my piece was, if and when solid upstanding middle-class people such as Brian and Ilsa ever do throw in the towel and let out a collective Fuckit, then it’s curtains for the American Republic: You cannot have a viable society where the backbone of the country thinks that following the rules and the law is for suckers and chumps.

Life goes on. Between when I last spoke to Brian and Ilsa, and when the reactions to my post started rolling in, Brian and Ilsa’s story continued, of course—

—and it took quite the amazing turn over the last couple of weeks.

“And we have you to thank,” Ilsa told me.

“Oh?” I said.

“Yes indeed,” said Brian—and then he explained: Fist tap Dale.

where poverty is rising in america

hemp is the far bigger economic issue

Video - speeded up version of 1942 gubmint documentary "Hemp for Victory".

AlterNet | Prop 19 will open up California to hemp, a multi-billion-dollar crop that has been a staple of human agriculture for thousands of years.

Hemp is the far bigger economic issue hiding behind legal marijuana.

If the upcoming pot legalization ballot in California were decided by hemp farmers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, it would be no contest. For purely economic reasons, if you told the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that the nation they were founding would someday make hemp illegal, they would have laughed you out of the room.

If California legalizes pot, it will save the state millions in avoided legal and imprisonment costs, while raising it millions in taxes.

But with legal marijuana will come legal hemp. That will open up the Golden State to a multi-billion-dollar crop that has been a staple of human agriculture for thousands of years, and that could save the farms of thousands of American families.

Hemp is currently legal in Canada, Germany, Holland, Rumania, Japan and China, among many other countries. It is illegal here largely because of marijuana prohibition. Ask any sane person why HEMP is illegal and you will get a blank stare.

For paper, clothing, textiles, rope, sails, fuel and food, hemp has been a core crop since the founding of ancient China, India and Arabia. Easy to plant, grow and harvest, farmers---including Washington and Jefferson---have sung its praises throughout history. It was the number one or two cash crop on virtually all American family farms from the colonial era on.

If the American Farm Bureaus and Farmers Unions were truly serving their constituents, they would be pushing hard for legal pot so that its far more profitable (but essentially unsmokable) cousin could again bring prosperity to American farmers.

Hemp may be the real reason marijuana is illegal. In the 1930s, the Hearst family set out to protect their vast timber holdings, much of which were being used to make paper.

But hemp produces five times as much paper per acre as do trees. Hemp paper is stronger and easier to make. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, and one of Benjamin Franklin’s primary paper mills ran on it.

But the Hearsts used their newspapers to incite enough reefer madness to get marijuana banned in 1937. With that ban came complex laws that killed off the growing of hemp. The ecological devastation that’s followed with continued use of trees for paper has been epic.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

what if we ran universities like wikipedia?

ChronicleofHigherEd | A silly question? Maybe. But the analogy, made by a speaker at the Educause conference here today, reflects a recurring theme at this year’s event: Do our university bureaucracies still make sense in the era of networks?

In a session called “The University as an Agile Organization,” David J. Staley laid out the findings of a focus group he conducted asking educators what a college would look like if it ran like Wikipedia.

First, it wouldn’t have formal admissions, said Mr. Staley, director of the Harvey Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching at Ohio State University. People could enter and exit as they wished. It would consist of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and students “not unlike the original idea for the university, in the Middle Ages,” he said. Its curriculum would be intellectually fluid.

And instead of tenure, it would have professors “whose longevity would be determined by the community,” Mr. Staley said, and who would move back and forth between the “real world” and the university.

Universities “seem to be becoming more top-down and hierarchical at a time when more and more organizations are looking more like networks,” said Mr. Staley, who expanded on the Wikipedia theme last year in Educause Review. Fist tap Dale.

culture of poverty makes a comeback

NYTimes | “Culture is back on the poverty research agenda,” the introduction declares, acknowledging that it should never have been removed.

The topic has generated interest on Capitol Hill because so much of the research intersects with policy debates. Views of the cultural roots of poverty “play important roles in shaping how lawmakers choose to address poverty issues,” Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, noted at the briefing.

This surge of academic research also comes as the percentage of Americans living in poverty hit a 15-year high: one in seven, or 44 million.

With these studies come many new and varied definitions of culture, but they all differ from the ’60s-era model in these crucial respects: Today, social scientists are rejecting the notion of a monolithic and unchanging culture of poverty. And they attribute destructive attitudes and behavior not to inherent moral character but to sustained racism and isolation.

To Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard, culture is best understood as “shared understandings.”

“I study inequality, and the dominant focus is on structures of poverty,” he said. But he added that the reason a neighborhood turns into a “poverty trap” is also related to a common perception of the way people in a community act and think. When people see graffiti and garbage, do they find it acceptable or see serious disorder? Do they respect the legal system or have a high level of “moral cynicism,” believing that “laws were made to be broken”?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

changing education paradigms

Video - Changing Education Paradigms

the limits of social media

Shareable | Blogs have been a twitter about Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article last week slamming those who believe social media can revolutionize activism. The article compares the high risk activism of the civil rights movement with Twitter’s role in the Iranian elections concluding that, “the revolution will not be tweeted.”

First of all, taking aim at those who are love drunk for social media is like shooting fish in a barrel. Secondly, it’s no revelation that a tweet is less effective than putting your life on the line for a cause.

Moreover, Gladwell gets the role of the online activism wrong. As someone who worked with professional online activists on a daily basis for two years while at, I can tell you that none of my clients believed online activism had much value by itself. It was always part of a larger strategy and, as Mashable pointed out, serves a very specific role in activism – it offers citizens a no risk first step on the path to higher risk engagement. But this is no reinvention as Mashable argues. It’s mostly optimization.

From my perspective as publisher of Shareable, Gladwell's article and the resulting hubbub misses the larger points:

1.) activism by itself can’t achieve its stated aims no matter what medium is used. A new social order requires a new economy.

2.) social media is primarily creative – its true power is not as a tool for resistance but as a coordinating medium for an emerging peer-economy which promises to obsolete state capitalism.

The reason I co-founded Shareable is that having been a lobbyist and a capitalist, and now a nonprofit activist, I’ve come to believe that activism by itself is no match for state capitalism. I remember vividly the time ten years ago when I naively asked a peer at the FCC, who I interfaced with as a representative of a large telecom trade association, where the FCC got their market research. They said, “from you.” I was shocked. The FCC didn’t do their own research. They relied mainly on industry for that. Of course the public could way in too, but the presence of public interest advocacy seemed minimal. We, on the other hand, never missed a beat. The association membership was unified and funded our lobbying efforts well.

This story points to a systemic issue - activists face a classic collective action problem that has no resolution: the nonprofit sector is composed of many entities with many agendas; the corporate sector is composed of a smaller number of vastly more powerful entities with only one agenda – profit. This means that it’s significantly easier for corporations to act collectively and achieve their goals than it is for nonprofits. This is partly why corporations have become so powerful.

Bottom line, the nonprofit sector is structurally fucked and social media doesn’t change this one byte, because after all it’s available to both sides in the game. The failure of the COP15 climate negotiations is a good example of activism’s limits. And then there’s this brave letter from Bill McKibben admitting that the environmental movement is failing to get action on climate change. This is despite having public opinion on its side and a legion of activist across the globe. Fist tap Dale.

economics memewar

Adbusters | In anticipation of November’s Carnivalesque Rebellion, a memewar salvo has been opened on the University of California – Berkeley’s prestigious Economics department. The first act was a defiant challenge. The Kick It Over Manifesto was boldly pinned to the door of Daniel McFadden, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, along with bulletin boards throughout the department. [The Kick It Over Manifesto was pinned to McFadden's office door.]

Printed on bright pink paper, the manifesto declares in part: “You hide in your offices, protected by your mathematical jargon, while in the real world, forests vanish, species perish and human lives are callously destroyed. We accuse you of gross negligence in the management of our planetary household.”

The goal was to disrupt the obliviousness of students and teachers who preach the self-destructive consumerist lie that societies should pursue economic growth. It worked: the manifesto hit a nerve.

Within three hours, an adjunct professor emailed Adbusters to justify his approach to teaching economic theory. But he concluded with a defiant flare: “I have a fairly strong hunch that you are mistaken about the system crumbling, or the imminent loss of relevance of mainstream economics. In all likelihood my students will continue to have considerable influence on the body politic for many years to come.”

We, jammers and activists, vow to make the econ department a key location in the coming insurrection of ideas. To the students of economics in universities across the world, we say that it is time to challenge the flawed economic theories of your professors. As Kalle Lasn wrote in his Preface to the Student, before you is a decision moment: “You can ignore all of the screaming inconsistencies and accept the status quo. You can cross your fingers and hope the old paradigm has a generation or two left in it, enough for you to carve out a career. Or you can align yourself from the get-go with the mavericks. You can be an agitator, a provocateur, one of the students on campus who posts heterodox messages up on notice boards and openly challenges professors in class. You can bet your future career on a paradigm shift.”

The economics department at Berkeley will be jammed again… and again. Join us by spreading the memewar to your campus. Remember, the Carnivalesque Rebellion is November 22 to 28!

tea party parasites

RollingStone | Quelle surprise! So it turns out that one after another of the Tea Party candidates is in one way or another mooching off the government. The latest series of hilarious disclosures center around Alaska’s GI-Joe-bearded windbag Senatorial candidate, Joe Miller, who appears to have run virtually the entire gamut of government aid en route to becoming a staunch, fist-shaking opponent of the welfare state.

Miller’s pomposity and piety with regard to government aid programs has all along been in line with the usual screechingly hysterical self-righteousness Tea Party candidates bring to such matters, railing against Obamacare and other “entitlement” programs and promising to end the “welfare state.” That makes it all the more delicious now that he and his family have been exposed for taking state medical aid, unemployment insurance, farm subsidies, hell, even for using state equipment to run a private political campaign.

Back in June, Miller was saying this about his Republican primary opponent Lisa Murkowski, blasting her for supporting a state health care program:

As you are aware, just last week the Anchorage Daily News reported that the Denali KidCare Program funded 662 abortions last year. Senator Murkowski has been a champion of this program, voting against the majority of her Republican colleagues for CHIPRA (HR 2) in January of 2009.

Of course it now turns out that back in the Nineties, Miller himself and his three children (with one on the way; he now has eight) were at one point receiving assistance via a program almost exactly like the Denali KidCare program, which is only for low-income earners. Various reports note that Miller received this assistance after he’d bought a house and been hired by a prestigious law firm; he also got low-income hunting and fishing licenses during that time. It’s also come out that he received some $7,000 in farm subsidies and that his wife received unemployment insurance benefits.

So now of course Miller, who said he and his family “absolutely” used Alaska’s state medical program, is backtracking and saying that he’s not against the modern Denali Kidcare program, only against the “expansion” of it. But even more telling was his longer answer about the program, as reported in the Anchorage Daily News:

Miller said what he's advocating is complete state control of the programs. "That doesn't mean we cut off the programs. That is ultimately a state decision. And I think there is a use; in fact the most effective use is probably those programs that help transition the populations from more of a situation of dependency" to one where they can be economically independent, Miller said.

You see, when a nice white lawyer with a GI Joe beard uses state aid to help him through tough times and get over the hump – so that he can go from having three little future Medicare-collecting Republican children to eight little future Medicare-collecting Republican children – that’s a good solid use of government aid, because what we’re doing is helping someone “transition” from dependency to economic independence.

This of course is different from the way other, less GI-Joe-looking people use government aid, i.e. as a permanent crutch that helps genetically lazy and ambitionless parasites mooch off of rich white taxpayers instead of getting real jobs.

I can’t even tell you how many people I interviewed at Tea Party events who came up with one version or another of the Joe Miller defense. Yes, I’m on Medicare, but… I needed it! It’s those other people who don’t need it who are the problem!

Or: Yes, it’s true, I retired from the police/military/DPW at 54 and am on a fat government pension that you and your kids are going to be paying for for the next forty years, while I sit in my plywood-paneled living room in Florida watching Fox News, gobbling Medicare-funded prescription medications, and railing against welfare queens. But I worked hard for those bennies! Not like those other people!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

hitler exhibit explores nazi empowerment

NYTimes | As artifacts go, they are mere trinkets — an old purse, playing cards, a lantern. Even the display that caused the crowds to stop and stare is a simple embroidered tapestry, stitched by village women.

But the exhibits that opened Friday at the German Historical Museum are intentionally prosaic: they emphasize the everyday way that ordinary Germans once accepted, and often celebrated, Hitler.

The household items had Nazi logos and colors. The tapestry, a tribute to the union of church, state and party, was woven by a church congregation at the behest of their priest.

“This is what we call self-mobilization of society,” said Hans-Ulrich Thamer, one of three curators to assemble the exhibit at the German Historical Museum. “As a person, Hitler was a very ordinary man. He was nothing without the people.”

This show, “Hitler and the Germans: Nation and Crime,” opened Friday. It was billed as the first in Germany since the end of World War II to focus exclusively on Adolf Hitler. Germany outlaws public displays of some Nazi symbols, and the curators took care to avoid showing items that appeared to glorify Hitler. His uniforms, for example, remained in storage.

Instead, the show focuses on the society that nurtured and empowered him. It is not the first time historians have argued that Hitler did not corral the Germans as much as the Germans elevated Hitler. But one curator said the message was arguably more vital for Germany now than at any time in the past six decades, as rising nationalism, more open hostility to immigrants and a generational disconnect from the events of the Nazi era have older Germans concerned about repeating the past.

“The only hope for stopping extremists is to isolate them from society so that they are separated, so they do not have a relationship with the bourgeoisie and the other classes,” Mr. Thamer said. “The Nazis were members of high society. This was the dangerous moment.

“This we have to avoid from happening.”

why 13 percent of germans would welcome a 'Führer'

CSM | A new survey signals that Germany, where the term 'Führer,' or leader, is explicitly linked to Adolf Hitler, is not immune from the far-right sentiments that are spreading across Europe.

A new survey in Germany shows that 13 percent of its citizens would welcome a “Führer” – a German word for leader that is explicitly associated with Adolf Hitler – to run the country “with a firm hand.”

The findings signal that Europe’s largest nation, freed from cold-war strictures, is not immune from the extreme and often right-wing politics on the rise around the Continent.

The study, released Oct. 13 by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, affiliated with the center-left Social Democratic Party, revealed among other things that more than a third of Germans feel the country is “overrun by foreigners,” some 60 percent would “restrict the practice of Islam,” and 17 percent think Jews have “too much influence.”

The study's overall snapshot of German society shows new forms of extremism and hate are no longer the province of far-right cohorts who shave their heads or wear leather jackets adorned with silver skulls – but register in the tweedy political center, on the right and the left. Indeed, the study found, extremism in Germany isn’t a fringe phenomenon but is found in the political center, "in all social groups and in all age groups, regardless of employment status, educational level or gender." Fist tap Nana.

how hitler won over germans

Bloomberg | In their neatest handwriting, hundreds of children wrote to Adolf Hitler congratulating him on his 43rd birthday in 1932. One letter is on Mickey Mouse writing paper; others enclose photos of their diminutive authors posing in “Heil Hitler” salutes or waving swastikas.

“I hope that you will save Germany in the election on April 24!” writes 12-year-old Elga. “Here in Liebenburg, 90 percent of the people are Nazis and voted for you!”

More than 65 years after Hitler’s death and the collapse of the Third Reich, the German Historical Museum is seeking answers to a question that each generation asks anew: How did Germany, known as a nation of poets and thinkers, fall under Hitler’s spell and let him commit some of the worst crimes in history?

The new exhibition, called “Hitler and the Germans, Nation and Crime,” is the first in Berlin to focus exclusively on the dictator and his influence over the people. That is not to say that Hitler is still a taboo topic in Germany, as some of the international coverage of the exhibition would have it.

Far from it. Hitler sells. Television news channels such as N-TV and N-24 broadcast Hitler documentaries back-to-back in non-peak hours. Der Spiegel news magazine has put him on its cover no fewer than 40 times since 1947. The first academic biography of Eva Braun, published this year, became a bestseller. The fascination extends beyond Germany: the English- language film rights to the book have already been snapped up. Fist tap Nana.

Monday, October 18, 2010

scenes from life in a drug war

NYTimes | Incidences of drug-related violence in Mexico and on the border continue to make news. We tend to hear about the crimes that touch American lives — like the reported killing of a man riding a Jet Ski on the Rio Grande. What we don’t hear as much about is how drugs and violence shape the everyday lives of Mexicans. So here are dispatches from four writers on how drug trafficking has changed their parts of the country. They were translated by Kristina Cordero from the Spanish.

The Walls of Puebla
The drug lords like this city for the same reason I do: it’s safe.

Tijuana Reclaimed
Drug-related violence has driven away the tourists, but now locals are reclaiming their city.

Ground Zero in Sinaloa
In the state where Mexico’s drug trade started, narcotics have seeped into the social D.N.A.

Monterrey’s Habit
In Mexico, we have a drug problem — but it’s not the one you think.

mexico under siege

Sunday, October 17, 2010

integrieren Sie oder sonst!

Video - RT synopsis of Angela Merkel statement on multiculturalism in Germany.

Guardian | Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared the death of multiculturalism in Germany, saying that it had "failed utterly" , in what has been interpreted as a startling shift from her previous views. The German leader said it had been an illusion to think that Germans and foreign workers could "live happily side by side".

"We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn't stay, but that's not the reality," she said at a conference of the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union party at the weekend, referring to the gastarbeiters, or guest workers, who arrived in Germany to fill a labour shortage during the economic boom of the 1960s.

"Of course the tendency had been to say, 'let's adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other'. But this concept has failed, and failed utterly," she said, without elaborating on the nature and causes of this failure.

Merkel's verdict marks a shift in her previously liberal line on immigration which had always put her at odds with the more conservative wing of the party.

While she stressed in the same speech that immigrants were welcome in Germany and that Islam was a part of the nation's modern-day culture, her remarks positioned her closer to Horst Seehofer, the Bavarian state premier of the Christian Social Union, who last week called for an end to immigration from Turkey and Arab countries.

They also align her with Thilo Sarrazin, the former Bundesbank member whose book on how the failure of many of Germany's 16 million immigrants to integrate was contributing to Germany's decline led to his dismissal.

Sharing the same podium as Merkel in Potsdam, Seehofer also said "multiculturalism is dead" and that both the rightwing parties were committed to a "dominant German culture". If Germany did not revise its immigration policies, he said, it was in danger of becoming "the world's welfare office".

the new oil?

Newsweek | Sitka, Alaska, is home to one of the world’s most spectacular lakes. Nestled into a U-shaped valley of dense forests and majestic peaks, and fed by snowpack and glaciers, the reservoir, named Blue Lake for its deep blue hues, holds trillions of gallons of water so pure it requires no treatment. The city’s tiny population—fewer than 10,000 people spread across 5,000 square miles—makes this an embarrassment of riches. Every year, as countries around the world struggle to meet the water needs of their citizens, 6.2 billion gallons of Sitka’s reserves go unused. That could soon change. In a few months, if all goes according to plan, 80 million gallons of Blue Lake water will be siphoned into the kind of tankers normally reserved for oil—and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai. From there it will be dispersed among several drought-plagued cities throughout the Middle East. The project is the brainchild of two American companies. One, True Alaska Bottling, has purchased the rights to transfer 3 billion gallons of water a year from Sitka’s bountiful reserves. The other, S2C Global, is building the water-processing facility in India. If the companies succeed, they will have brought what Sitka hopes will be a $90 million industry to their city, not to mention a solution to one of the world’s most pressing climate conundrums. They will also have turned life’s most essential molecule into a global commodity.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

can mushrooms rescue the gulf?

Justify FullYesMagazine | For more than a decade, mycologist and inventor Paul Stamets has known that mushrooms eat oil. There were still a few kinks to work out; bringing the technology to scale and winning the acceptance of government agencies were two of the most challenging. Yet the basic science was solid and had been replicated many times by other scientists.

Then Stamets heard about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While his first reaction was horror and regret, he also knew that he might be able to offer practical solutions, while at the same time giving his oil-eating mushrooms a chance to show their stuff.

He wasn’t the only one who thought mushrooms might be part of the solution. In the days after the explosion in the Gulf, the EPA contacted him several times to request a proposal. They wanted to understand how mycoremediation—the reduction of toxic compounds into harmless ones by fungi—could work as a component of their cleanup strategy for the spill.

Stamets drafted a three-page proposal and sent it off. Then he ramped up the pace of his research and shifted his focus to finding oil-eating mushrooms that could tolerate the Gulf of Mexico’s salt water and powerful sun.

big financiers now betting on world hunger

NewsJunkie | Recently, of all people, the President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, said that “for the first time in history more than a billion people go to bed hungry every night”. Zoellick also added that the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to eradicate hunger by 2015 “will not be achieved”. Recent natural disasters are only compounding the problem for food commodities, and potential very serious food shortage.

The monsoon in India and the killer floods in Pakistan have devastated the region, and have destroyed crops and livestock. In just a few months, the price of rice and tea has increased by more than 30 percent. In Russia, the fires that swept through the farmland have dramatically reduced the wheat harvest.

But the upcoming new food crisis looming in our global forecast is more man made than anything else. Raw material, and especially food commodities, are the new prime target for global investors. After betting on property values, and by doing so creating the real estate bubble, the financial “Masters of The Universe” of the financial markets are now turning their undivided attention to agriculture commodities.

International hedge funds are now gambling on basic commodities such as wheat, rice, corn and soy. For example, in September, Amajaro, a London based hedge fund, bought a quantity of cocoa equivalent of 25 percent of all European stocks. Needless to say, a few days later the price of cocoa per tonne skyrocketed and broke all records. After causing the financial collapse, and later profiting from it, the super-wealthy speculators are now focused on making a “killing” by stocking up on food commodities and watching the poor go hungry. How is shock capitalism working for you? Fist tap Big Don.

egypt's conundrum over food security and nile waters

Afrik-News | Russia’s decision this year to halt wheat exports has dealt Egypt a severe blow and brought many questions to the fore. Egypt’s population explosion is fast surpassing its agricultural capacities, and the Nile river water resource, which irrigates its reduced wheat farms, has also come under heavy scrutiny as other Nile riparian countries seek a break from colonial era agreements that give Egypt and Sudan about 90% of the Nile’s water. The clock is ticking away with incredible speed as Egypt tries to develop external strategies. Strategies that are increasingly becoming risky for Egypt.

In August 2010, Egyptians discovered that an environmental catastrophe in Russia could directly affect their livelihoods after Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin announced that his country was suspending the exportation of wheat because of devastating bush fires that had consumed large portions of its wheat farms. The Egyptian government assured citizens that the Russian decision would not have an immediate impact on the country as it had some 3 Million tons of wheat in reserve, enough for a few months ahead.

Egypt is presently the second biggest importer of wheat worldwide, and Egyptians stand to suffer should the Russian decision linger for more than the “few months” needed before a complete depletion of the country’s wheat reserves. Egyptians are worried and the public is demanding answers to some vital questions.

Why is Egypt, a country that once exported large quantities of wheat, now threatened by an act of God that takes place several thousand kilometers away, in Russia? As farmers question the impact of the government’s decision to import more wheat instead of encouraging domestic production, it goes without saying that producing wheat locally is simply not economically viable for the northern African Country. In fact, in 2007 the price of a ton of wheat produced locally amounted to 1100 Egyptian pounds against an international market price that stood at 900 Egyptian pounds.

Following the heavy financial losses in the agriculture sector linked to the growing of wheat, the Egyptian government reduced the amount of land allocated for wheat cultivation in favor of the expansion of much higher yielding export products like strawberries and other fruits.

In recent times, the already reduced wheat producing sector has been hard hit by the tug of war among the Nile Basin countries, seven of who are seeking a “fair share of the Nile’s water resources”. Egypt and The Sudan, under colonial era agreements, have the right to about 90% of the Nile water resource (55.5 billion cubic meters for Egypt and 18.5 for Sudan, annually). Ethiopia contributes about 80% of the total Nile water downstream through the Blue Nile, — which provides 59% of Egypt’s Nile water, — was among the least favored by the 1929 and 1959 accords between Egypt and Britain (on behalf of its colonies) and Egypt and Sudan.

Seven out of the eight remaining Nile Basin countries have threatened to build dams in their countries to improve their agricultural sectors and also to address their water own needs. Egypt sees this as a threat to its national security and has suggested that it would discourage the move militarily if it has to.

whose river is it?

NPR | The Nile River is almost always associated with Egypt. Think back to Herodotus, who called Egypt the "gift of the Nile.” Or to baby Moses, whose river-borne bassinet made it all the way to Pharaoh's inner circle.

Egypt still draws more water from the Nile than any other country. But it doesn’t contribute any water to the Nile.

Egypt is mostly desert, so rivers and rain from eight or nine other countries make the Nile flow. And those other countries want some of their water back.

Ethiopians say they could use some of the Nile’s headwaters to become a hydropower superpower in Africa. And they’re claiming the geographical and moral high ground.

Ethiopia is home to the Blue Nile, a major tributary of the river. But Ethiopians have had little access to the Nile.
Nile River

From its humble beginnings in the western highlands, the Blue Nile, known locally as the Abay, (pronounced ah-BYE) quickly cuts through deep gorges — too deep for most people to reach. Then, it’s off to Sudan, where it merges with the White Nile and proceeds northward to the Mediterranean Sea.

High up in the soggy, green hills of western Ethiopia is a place called Gish Abay, where locals say the true source of the Blue Nile is located. Despite its claim to greatness, Gish Abay isn’t exactly a major tourist attraction.

That may be because the source — a spring that feeds the headwater — is under lock and key. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has built a shack over the source, and the priests don't cotton easily to visitors. They'll let you enter only if you meet all of the criteria: You must be Christian, male, barefoot and fasting.

There’s not much of a division between the religious and the secular in Gish Abay. In years past, this region was hard hit by famine, and many say they stick closely to the rules of the church on pain of bringing another catastrophe upon the community. Government leaders tend to defer to local inclinations.

The source of the Blue Nile is believed to be holy. People drink from the headwaters daily for good health.

Bosana Hailu came all the way from St. Louis, Mo., to taste the Abay. Hailu won’t say what her ailment is, but in addition to treatment from doctors in the United States, she says she needs the extra insurance that only holy water can provide.

“It’s my culture,” Hailu says.