Sunday, May 08, 2011

8 May 2011 (VE Day)

Russia Today: "Nazism defeated 66 years ago. Or not?"

"Why the dream of microfinance is turning sour"

Small loans were meant to spell the end of Indian poverty. Instead, they reinforce it

By Leo Hornak Sunday, 8 May 2011:

"I remember the day three years ago when I decided I no longer wanted to be a part of the microfinance industry. I was standing in a one-room house in a small town in southern India, meeting a family that had taken out a microfinance loan. The mother and father were tired and nervous – both had the gaunt, prematurely aged look that is the hallmark of rural poverty in India. With them was their daughter Laxmi, a tiny eight-year-old girl, hiding in the folds of her mother's sari.

"For the three days that they took her away, I couldn't touch food," Laxmi's mother told me through a translator, pointing at her daughter. "We are just glad to have her back." A few weeks before, Laxmi had been kidnapped and held hostage by a local moneylender called Mrs Lalitha. Laxmi's parents had failed to keep up with payments on a debt. The debt was not to a loan shark or a mafia boss, however. It was to a registered Indian microfinance company which still claims in its brochures to be dedicated to fighting poverty, with a particular emphasis on women's rights and "empowering the girl child". Loan repayments had been informally outsourced to the moneylender.

What happened to Laxmi would no doubt have horrified the founder of the microfinance movement, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus. For most of the past year, however, a backlash against abusive and exploitative microfinance practices has been growing across Asia. In southern India, microfinance banks have been blamed for an epidemic of suicides among indebted farmers. ..."

I'm not always happy with Slate's frequent pro-establishment slant, but I appreciated these two recent items:

Still Stupid, Still Wrong, Still Immoral
Why the death of Osama Bin Laden shouldn't change our views about torture—or of the people who approved it.
Dahlia Lithwick | May 4, 2011

Is It "Justice"?
The danger of confusing the death of Osama Bin Laden with an act of justice.
Thomas Nachbar | May 5, 2011

Cheerleader who wouldn't root for assailant loses
A Texas high school cheerleader who was kicked off the squad for refusing to chant the name of a basketball player - the same athlete she said had raped her four months earlier - lost a U.S. Supreme Court appeal...

Moon of Alabama, "Open questions on the alleged bin Laden Kill"

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