Tag Archives: economy

Unrest in Ukraine

The protests started when Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president, announced at the last minute that he wouldn’t sign an association agreement with the EU. There had been build-up to the Vilnius summit for months, and things looked positive for Ukraine’s signing the agreement, which would have granted Ukraine free trade with the EU and done other good political things — until Yanukovych abruptly backpedaled. He claimed that pressure from Russia (i.e., Putin) was too strong and he was afraid that signing the agreement would piss Putin off. Yet as I see it, Ukraine would benefit much more from free trade with the EU, and from the agreement’s implication of moving Ukraine closer toward integration with western Europe.

Apparently many Ukrainians shared my thoughts, because they took to the streets in Kyiv and around the country to protest Yanukovych’s backing down from signing the agreement. At the end of last week, the peaceful protests turned violent when riot police showed up in the middle of the night and started beating protestors. That only made people come out in greater numbers. More than ten days later, the protests are still going on; hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are out in the streets. Protests are still going on in Ukraine and elsewhere — even London.

Media is playing a big role in aiding the protests; tons of stuff is being blasted out via Facebook and online news platforms. The main marker being used for the protest movement is Євромайдан (“Euromaidan”), to represent people gathering in “maidans,” or squares — most largely in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) — to protest in favor of moving closer to Europe.

It’s thrilling to watch the Ukrainian people fight so hard for democracy and freedom that being associated more closely with the EU would represent. Part of me wishes I were there to join in — living and working in western Ukraine for two years during my Peace Corps service definitely turned me into a big supporter of the country and its people. Sniatyn even had their own pro-EU gathering a couple of days ago, which I would’ve loved to attend. I am rooting so hard for the Ukrainians, following the news closely, and hoping that things turn out well.

That’s a very basic summary, but there is a lot of history behind the current movement — most notably the 2004 Orange Revolution, but also going further back to Soviet and pre-Soviet times. If you want to read more about what’s been going on and why, check out some of the articles below; I’ve tried to pull out the most interesting bits, but many of them are worth reading in full.

  • For some backgroundThe New York Times ran a clear, succinct opinion piece near the beginning of the protests, called “Ukraine on the Brink.” I recommend reading that first to understand where all of this comes from in Ukraine’s history. Business Insider‘s “Why 1 Million Ukrainians are Protesting” also gives a relatively non-biased overview, complete with media, of the protests and the history behind them. Forbes published another great overview, “Why Ukraine Matters” (for a lot of reasons!), in neat sections.
  • “Ukraine’s Battle for Europe” focuses on the younger generation of Ukrainians leading the protests and how mass media has aided the movement. The writer of the piece, Oleh Kotsyuba, puts it well:

The protesters have at times called for resignations, impeachments and new elections. But what’s most striking is their association of Europe with a set of values that results in absence of corruption, a strong social safety net, an inclusive health-care system, fair wages, a stable currency and a responsible government that delivers reliable services and treats citizens with respect. For them, these were even more valuable than the tangible benefits of joining the E.U., like the right to work in other European countries and the prospect of big European investments in Ukraine.

What the European Union and other Western nations can do is to start looking into ways to make an “association agreement” with Ukraine less threatening to Russia. It’s worth exploring, for instance, whether Russia itself could be brought more closely into the European fold. Another possibility is to see how freer trade with Europe could be made compatible with Ukraine’s eastern trade ties. Once Ukraine is ready to start looking around, it should not again have to face a brutal either-or choice that Mr. Putin seems determined to impose.

Six months ago, a dozen Ukrainians would have been unlikely to rally for the pro-EU agreement. What changed? Certainly, Friday’s crackdown provided a spark.

For that, Yanukovich may have no one to blame but himself. The president’s own propaganda machine spent months touting the benefits of the EU agreement, raising the hopes of millions of Ukrainians who want to see their country as part of a European, not Russian, frontier. Whether Yanukovich intended to sign the accords or was negotiating with Putin all along is irrelevant now. Dashing the hopes of millions of people is a dangerous game.

[…] When fear of a strongman begins to melt, so does his power. Seeing hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Kiev may have emboldened members of the country’s elite to begin to move against the president. Ukraine’s rapacious [oligarchs] may—for the first time—have found common ground with their increasingly impoverished compatriots in getting rid of a tyrant.

  • Here’s an interesting angle: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kyiv Patriarchate, traditionally tied quite closely to the government, is actually supporting the pro-EU protestors. Read about it in “Kiev Protestors See Potent Ally Under a Spire.”
  • Masha Gessen, one of my favorite opinion writers for The New York Times who also happens to be Russian, wrote “A Whiter Shade of Envy” about how the Russian intelligentsia are amazed at — and admire — what the Ukrainians are doing and (hopefully) accomplishing. Gessen’s essays are always worth reading.
  • In “Amid Unrest, Ukrainian President Defends Choice on Accords,” you can read about the lame excuses (lies?) that Yanukovych made up about why he didn’t sign the EU association agreement.
  • “Crackdown in Kiev: Battle for Ukraine” in The Economist focuses on the violence that broke out last weekend, initiated by special riot police at the cowardly hours of early morning.
  • For fear of seeming totally biased in favor of Ukraine (which I am, but still), there was an op-ed published this week in the New York Times taking a more pro-Russia — or at least anti-EU — stance in terms of Ukraine’s position. The author or “How the E.U. Pushed Ukraine East” does make some interesting points about how Russia isn’t totally to blame in Yanukovych’s failure to sign the EU association agreement. Worth a read, if you’re interested in another perspective. Though I don’t agree with all of it, I do see the value of the claim that “Instead of adopting a strategy that would have allowed Ukraine to capitalize on its close cultural, religious and economic ties with Russia, and which could have also served to build deeper ties between Western Europe and Russia, from the outset European negotiators went out of their way to turn Union association into a loyalty test.” 

Things are happening fast and there are tons of news updates every day — way too many for me to follow them all, but I’m trying to stay as up-to-date as I can. Hopefully my overview will give you a better sense of what’s happening and spark your interest to pay more attention to Ukraine, now and in the future.

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News Roundup: Food, Culture, Taxes, & Telecommuting

There has been lots going on in the national and international news since my last news roundup. Allow me to walk you though the articles that most strongly caught my eye in the last month and a half. We’ll cover everything from economy, taxes, and class to food, arts, Ukraine, and telecommuting. I’ve tried to categorize them so you can skip sections that don’t interest you. As always, click the links through to read the full articles.

Economic Segregation & Equal Opportunity

  • Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth is an insightful opinion piece by Joseph E. Stiglitz about the near-impossibility of social mobility in America today. It’s really worth a read — I’ll leave you with his words to spark your interest:

“It’s not that social mobility is impossible, but that the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity. According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia. […] After 1980, the poor grew poorer, the middle stagnated, and the top did better and better. Disparities widened between those living in poor localities and those living in rich suburbs — or rich enough to send their kids to private schools. A result was a widening gap in educational performance — the achievement gap between rich and poor kids born in 2001 was 30 to 40 percent larger than it was for those born 25 years earlier, the Stanford sociologist Sean F. Reardon found.”

  • On the note of wide economic gaps, watch this short film about the distribution of income in the US. It is shocking and even a bit disgusting but necessary to know so we can try to change it.
  • And again, because of the appalling income distribution in the US, Why Taxes Have to Go Up (for the richest of the rich):

“As it happens, those taxpayers are the same ones who benefited most from Bush-era tax breaks and who continue to pay low taxes. Even with recent increases, the new top rate of 39.6 percent is historically low; investment income is still taxed at special low rates; and the heirs of multimillion-dollar estates face lower taxes than at almost any time in modern memory. […] On the spending side, Republicans are resisting cuts to defense. That implies brutalizing cuts in nondefense discretionary areas, like education and environment, which are already set to fall to their lowest level as a share of the economy since the 1950s.”

Food and Healthy Eating

  • This in an interesting piece from The Atlantic about how Americans spend money on food.
  • You’ve probably heard about how good the “Mediterranean diet” is for you. Well, it’s true! Yet another study as affirmed that a diet rich in healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, and wine may prevent diseases and help you live longer. Mark Bittman writes this nice column about how the Mediterranean diet is really just synonymous with eating real, fresh food. In his words, “What’s new is all the junk that been injected into our foods and our diet since the end of World War II. What’s not new is that eating real food is good for you.”
  • Staying on the “real food” kick, Bittman also has a great piece in the NY Times Magazine from the weekend of April 6th. He examines fast food and asks if it’s possible to have healthy fast food. The answer? Yes, but it’s going to be tricky to balance fast with cheap with healthy.

“…there’s now a market for a fast-food chain that’s not only healthful itself, but vegetarian-friendly, sustainable and even humane. And, this being fast food: cheap. […] What I’d like is a place that serves only good options, where you don’t have to resist the junk food to order well, and where the food is real — by which I mean dishes that generally contain few ingredients and are recognizable to everyone, not just food technologists.”

Peace Corps & Ukraine

  • I will continue to advocate for the Peace Corps for as long as I live. My Ukraine experiences were unforgettable. This Huffington Post article, called “Not Your Parents’ Peace Corps” (that’s certainly true — and I would know! My dad was a PCV in Tanzania in the ’60s), mentions the impact that today’s PCVs can have, both in their countries of service but maybe even more so back at home:

“‘The impact of Peace Corps service lasts a lifetime.’ Living and working in villages and communities far from home, volunteers learn to see the world in new ways and to communicate in new languages, to adapt to new environments, manage teams, troubleshoot obstacles and organize large-scale initiatives. Put simply, the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience and launching pad for a 21st century career.”

  • This is a wonderful short film of Ukraine, made by a couple who spent some time cycling through (mostly) western Ukraine. Sniatyn doesn’t appear, but you will see shots in Kolomiya, the next biggest city, and the beautiful Carpathian Mountains. This video made me miss Ukraine.
  • In not-so-chipper news, Ukraine continues to struggle to define its position between Russia and the E.U. If you’re interested in the political side, read this opinion piece.

“…the E.U. would like to sign and ratify an Association Agreement with Ukraine by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. For this to happen, the E.U. is looking for progress in Ukraine’s handling of three issues: prevention of selective justice, elections with international standards, and other reforms as defined in a jointly agreed Association Agenda. […] The most persuasive steps that the Yanukovich administration could take would be to free Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. […] An Association Agreement with Ukraine serves fundamental E.U. interests. It would also serve the interests of the people of Ukraine and increase the chances that Ukraine undertakes necessary political and economic reforms.”

Music & Literature

“Beethoven’s music is too often seen as exclusively dramatic, expressive of titanic struggle. In this respect, the “Eroica” and the Fifth symphonies represent only one side of his work; one must also appreciate, for example, his “Pastoral” Symphony. His music is both introverted and extroverted and it again and again juxtaposes these qualities. The one human trait that is not present in his music is superficiality. Nor can it be characterized as shy or cute. On the contrary, even when it is intimate, as in the Fourth Piano Concerto and the “Pastoral” Symphony, it has an element of grandeur. And when it is grand, it also remains intensely personal, the obvious example being the Ninth Symphony.”

  • Another NY Times Magazine feature article, this time on “The Epic Ups and Downs of Peter Gelb,” the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager. Worth reading, if you are at all interested in the classical music and opera world.
  • As an English major, I was struck by this piece on the value of teaching how to write through literature. I love this:

“The question “What was your favorite moment in a story?” is an easy entry point for both a student schooled in the finest prep academy and a science major straight out of a substandard district. Anyone can find a favorite line. Placing further pressure on those lines — Why did you like it? What changed at that moment that brought energy to the text? — can help students trust their instincts: they were on to something! It’s a less intimidating approach to literature, free from the burden of historical background and devoid of grad-school jargon.”

Women’s Rights & Telecommuting

  • I’m sure you’ve caught wind of the telecommuting debate (to allow it, or not to allow it?) sparked by the new Yahoo CEO who banned it. I completely disagree with her decision, both from my own experience and for many of the reasons stated in the article: “[…] numerous studies show[] that telecommuting workers are more productive than those working on-site. […] a work force culture based on long hours at the office with little regard for family or community does not inevitably lead to strong productivity or innovation.” There are, of course, good reasons for working regularly in an office setting amongst other people, but there are also many reasons for a company to allow employees some flexibility in where they work some of the time.
  • A smart opinion piece urging the UN to take a stance on violence against women. I particularly agree with this: “Violence against women must be seen as a human rights issue, and that has nothing to do with culture or religion.”

Just For Fun

  • Those of you interested in languages and word origins should look at this, “Visualizing English Word Origins.” 
  • A dense but worth-reading excerpt by the late philosopher Ronal Dworkin’s forthcoming book, Religion Without God.
  • “Diagnosis: Human” is an op-ed on today’s over-diagnosis of ADHD and excessive diagnoses of other disorders. The author argues that, rather than trying to diagnose every little thing — too much energy, depression from grieving — we should remember that we are, after all, human and are therefore allowed to — and should — experience human emotions:

“Ours is an age in which the airwaves and media are one large drug emporium that claims to fix everything from sleep to sex. I fear that being human is itself fast becoming a condition. It’s as if we are trying to contain grief, and the absolute pain of a loss like mine. We have become increasingly disassociated and estranged from the patterns of life and death, uncomfortable with the messiness of our own humanity, aging and, ultimately, mortality.”

 

What have you been reading lately?

News Roundup: Education, Equality, Health, & Human Rights

Every time I read an especially good op-ed or article, I post it to my Google+ profile. Not so much because people will find it there and read it (though I hope some do), but more to remind me of it at a later time when I care to share it with a larger audience. So without further ado, here is a collection of particularly good pieces I’ve read recently, with short summaries and/or quotes in case you don’t have time to click through to read the whole article (though I hope you do).

Health around the world

  • “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive”: You should try working in 90-minute chunks, this article advises. “A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.” I totally agree, since I’ve spent chunks of time working from home on freelancing and other projects. When given the chance to schedule my own day, I find that I can only focus well on a task for 60-90 minutes before becoming tired and/or distracted. This article is worth a read.
  • “The Land of the Binge”: Wonderful article by Frank Bruni on Americans’ current obsession with binging (and purging). Can’t anything be done in moderation anymore? A favorite quotation: “Moderation. Remember that? It was once held up as an indisputable virtue, virtually synonymous with prudence. Don’t get too carried away with any one thing. Don’t become too set in your ways. That was the message from parents and teachers. That was the cue the culture gave. […] But America these days is an immoderate land of fixed opinions and outsize fixations. More and more we wallow: in our established political philosophy; in our preferred interest group; in our pastime of choice; in whichever health routine we’ve turned into a health religion.”
  • “For Americans Under 50, Stark Findings on Health”: Wow. Let’s do something to change this: “The United States has the highest infant mortality rate among [17 highly developed countries], and its young people have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and deaths from car crashes. Americans lose more years of life before age 50 to alcohol and drug abuse than people in any of the other countries.”
  • “Malawi’s Leader Makes Safe Childbirth her Mission”: Read this. Admirable woman.

Education

  • “The Boys at the Back”: A nice NY Times piece on how boys — especially in the U.S. — are struggling to achieve in traditional school settings. The author points out how behind the U.S. is in addressing these issues, and that it would be to the country’s advantage to check out how other English-speaking countries around the world are helping boys get through school: “the British, the Canadians and the Australians […] have openly addressed the problem of male underachievement. They are not indulging boys’ tendency to be inattentive. Instead, they are experimenting with programs to help them become more organized, focused and engaged. These include more boy-friendly reading assignments (science fiction, fantasy, sports, espionage, battles); more recess (where boys can engage in rough-and-tumble as a respite from classroom routine); campaigns to encourage male literacy; more single-sex classes; and more male teachers (and female teachers interested in the pedagogical challenges boys pose).”
  • “Ich Arbeiterkind”: Yes, this one is in German. Sorry. My boyfriend shared it with me last week and I spent a few days reading through it in chunks. It’s a beautifully written piece on how social class and inequality affects how children are treated in schools and ultimately determines their futures. In Germany, kids are tracked quite early (before 5th grade or so) into different high schools; some are for university-aiming students, while others are for (generally working-class) students who will essentially become tradespeople. The article hits home on how much weight a teacher has in determining a child’s future, and how without supportive teachers there is rarely a chance for a German kid to move up the socio-economic ladder. It is possible, of course, but extremely difficult. We obviously have similar problems in the U.S. I could go on about this subject, but instead I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotations from the article: “Ich erzähle das, weil ich der Meinung bin, dass jeder Mensch die Chance haben sollte, etwas aus seinem Leben zu machen.” (“I am telling you this, because I am of the opinion that every person should have the chance to make something of his life.”)
  • “Downton and Downward”: Continuing on the theme of social inequality, this is a nice piece by Timothy Egan on the lack of class mobility in the U.S.: “…Britain, much of Western Europe, and Canada are becoming more socially and economically fluid while the United States hardens its class arteries. […] universal preschool [and] more help for college students…are proven elevators to a better station in life. […] Short of winning the lottery, education is the best route to a change in class status. Yet, because of the obsolete, factory-like nature of high school, which fails to propel at least a third of its students, and the confiscatory cost of college, the next rung up for 18-year-olds is becoming another haven for the rich.”
  • “In Alabama, a Model for Obama’s Push to Expand Preschool”: Part of the impetus for Egan’s article (above) was probably the newest educational debate in the U.S.: that of Obama’s hope to make preschool free and accessible for every 4-year-old regardless of family income. This is such a good idea; early childhood education has shown to be one of the biggest determiners in future life success. I’ll leave you with a block quote about Obama’s plan: “…the administration proposed that the federal government work with states to provide preschool for every 4-year-old from low- and moderate-income families. The president’s plan also calls for expanding Early Head Start, the federal program designed to prepare children from low-income families for school, to broaden quality childcare for infants and toddlers. […] Advocates for early education frequently cite research on the long-term benefits of preschool, by James J. Heckman at the University of Chicago and others, showing a link to reduced crime rates, lower dropout rates and eventual higher incomes among those who attend preschool. […] ‘We haven’t yet tried to replicate high-quality preschool programs, because we haven’t yet tried to pay preschool teachers the same that we’re paying our K-12 teachers,’” said Lisa Guernsey, director of early education at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy institute. “It’s pretty hard to imagine that we’re going to be recruiting great teachers if we’re paying them a poverty-level or just-above-poverty-level wage.””
  • “Education with Hands, Hearts and Heads”, Satish Kumar at TEDxWhitechapel: My friend Sam alerted me to this; Kumar is the founder of the U.K. Schumacher College, where Sam is currently doing his Master’s degree. It’s a short talk worth watching, in which Kumar illuminates his passion for education and articulates his ideas for reforming education to employ our hands, hearts, and heads. He says, “We are not consumers, we are makers.”

Equality & Human Rights

  • “The Audacity of Lena Dunham, and her Admirable Commitment to Making us Look at her Naked”: I didn’t really like the pilot episode of “Girls,” Lena Dunham’s hit HBO series. That said, she is an Obie (like me!) and she has done a few interesting things in the name of gender equality and breaking down barriers of expectation. This quotation aptly sums up the article’s point: “For all our talk about wanting to see more so-called “real women” in the media we consume — a problematic category itself, as all women are “real,” no matter how near or far they might be to the female beauty ideal — we are awfully quick to condemn a woman who is showing us reality in a very plainspoken, unvarnished way. […] The aghast controversy evoked by Dunham’s nudity shows us just how much of this “real women” talk is lip service, and how very far we have to go before we can socially deal with the fact that different bodies exist. Truth is, we’d all probably be a lot less neurotic about our own bodies if we could get used to seeing and accepting the natural variety in other people’s — without shame, and giving no fucks.”
  • “Is Delhi So Different from Steubenville?”: A NY Times op-ed by my all-time favorite columnist, Nicholas Kristof. He’s quick to point out that human rights abuse happens both at home and abroad, in developing and developed countries alike. He’s also an unfailing advocate for women’s rights (yes!): “Gender violence is one of the world’s most common human rights abuses. Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. The World Health Organization has found that domestic and sexual violence affects 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries.”
  • “Love, Marriage and Voters”: By my second-favorite NY Times op-ed columnist, Frank Bruni. Bruni writes about all sorts of issues, but he is at his best when advocating for equal treatment for same-sex couples: “We’ve seemingly moved away from conventional and naïve expectations, if we ever really had them, and in the years to come we’ll surely see, on the national stage, more proof of that: candidates without partners, candidates with partners they haven’t wed, candidates with partners of the same sex. […] And my guess is that many of them will do just fine, as long as they aren’t defensive or opaque and they permit enough of a view into their lives and hearts for voters to see — and identify with — a bedrock of common longings, a braid of recognizable frailties and frustrations.”
  • “Civil Unions V. Marriage”: This is an informative piece explaining some of the main differences between civil unions and marriage. Ultimately, the article argues that the federal government should recognize same-sex unions across the board (true that!): “Civil unions, while definitely a stepping stone on the path towards equality, are rife with error. They are not universally accepted, so once you cross state lines you are once again a single person fighting the battle to simple live your life. Thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government does not recognize ANY same-sex unions. That’s right. ANY.”

Language

Peace Corps

  • An Open Letter: This begins, “Dear Person Contemplating Joining Peace Corps…” It’s worth a read, especially if you have been or are hoping to be a Peace Corps Volunteer one day. I found it to be quite accurate.

Eastern Europe (aka Ukraine & Russia)

  • “A Surprising Map of the Best and Worst Countries to be Born into Today”: This Washington Post piece cites a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit that ranked 80 countries across 11 criteria to determine “which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead.” Now, rankings like this should always be taken with a grain of salt, but it was surprising to see Ukraine — where I spent two years in the Peace Corps — ranked the third-worst country to be born into: “Ukraine is a middle-income democracy […] severe and worsening problems with economic inequality, which in turn are fueling corruption and poor governance. You’re worse off being born in [Ukraine], according to the data, than you are just about anywhere else, including Sri Lanka, a poor hotbed of ethnic violence, oppressive Vietnam, or even Syria.” I can say that the economic gaps in Ukraine are huge, and that corruption is still a big problem. However, as a fellow Ukraine RPCV pointed out, it would still be worse to be born into a war zone.
  • “Why Did ‘The Ukraine’ Become Just ‘Ukraine’?”: One of the pet peeves of most Ukraine (R)PCVs is when people call Ukraine “THE Ukraine.” This article, from Mental Floss, gives a good explanation for why Ukraine used to carry an article and why it doesn’t anymore. It’s a quick, interesting read.

U.S.

  • President Obama’s Inaugural Address: It was excellent. Here are some of my favorite parts: “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet […] We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. […] It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

News Roundup: Peace Corps- & Ukraine-Related

In case you haven’t been following Ukraine or the Peace Corps in the news recently, here are links to some interesting articles and humorous tidbits that are worth checking out.

Peace Corps

  • The EU is thinking about establishing / planning to establish a Peace Corps-like volunteer organization for humanitarian aid. I say power to them. Click HERE to read the full article.
  • The Global Health Service Partnership is a partnership with Peace Corps that its creator, Dr. Vanessa Kerry (daughter of Sen. John Kerry) calls “a Peace Corps for doctors and nurses.” Medical people, check it out and read more HERE. (Another perk: the GHSP will help pay off student loans.)
  • We PCVs joke about the amount of acronyms that Peace Corps has developed and regularly uses. Here’s a great short video made by some PCVs what looks like somewhere in Africa, using as many acronyms as possible.
  • And if you’re into gif tumblr blogs, here’s a pretty funny Peace Corps one.

Ukraine

Happy reading!

 

Ukraine: Economy

Ukraine’s per capita GDP places it among the lower- to middle-income countries. The country has a highly-trained professional labor force, fertile agricultural land, and a wealth of raw materials, metals, and natural resources. So why do they need the Peace Corps, you may ask? Well, after declaring independence in 1991, the Ukrainian government liberalized most prices and created a legal framework for privatization. But reform efforts soon stalled, leading to 8 years of sharp economic decline. Because of this, the country needs help with improvements like fighting corruption, developing capital markets, and improving the legal framework for businesses. On the positive side, the U.S. and E.U. granted Ukraine market economy status in 2006, helping pave the way for its joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2008. Because Ukraine wants to get a strong foothold in the world economy, Peace Corps Volunteers work in many areas of business, community development and education (see previous post).

The Ukrainian currency is the hryvnia (UAH, or

), which subdivides into 100 kopiyok. According to Wikipedia, the current exchange rate is 8-8.25 UAH/USD. And according to the above image, it is quite colorful currency!

(Most of the information in this post comes from my Peace Corps/Ukraine Welcome Book.)