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Bruno Giussani

European Director, TED

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Which relevant/important events currently unfolding around the world are being ignored by the media? Why are they relevant?

Open a newspaper or watch a newscast, and along with a couple of important news (say, Egypt and Tunisia) and a couple of surprising and insightful stories, you will read or hear a lot of irrelevant stuff. Yet world-changing and life-altering events are happening all the time around the world - just not where the media are focusing their lenses (I'm not suggesting active censorship here - just a structural problem in the way "news" is identified, selected and distributed). What are the events currently unfolding, anywhere in the world, of any kind, that are 1) underreported 2) regionally or globally truly relevant 3) may have a broad impact and 4) people should know about?

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    Feb 15 2011: We are in Singapore a island-state-country smaller than NYC.

    We're living in one of the most advanced and wealthy countries, yet Singapore is a odd drop in an immense SEA South East Asian countries of Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, Philippines, Bhutan.

    Being in Singapore is almost as if you took the city of Manhattan and relocated it in the middle of Africa.


    Most people would be surprised:

    + There are 650 million people this SEA = more than the whole population of South America!

    + They are many impoverished, least educated, sick, hungry in SEA, yet not very featured in mainstream media, perhaps because India and Africa loom so large in physical size on our world map.


    We can look out of our windows of our apartments and see neighboring Indonesia.

    + Indonesia is about the size of a handful of US States = has nearly the same population of US

    Imagine if the entire US population moved to live in just 5 US states and then everyone becomes one of the poorest people in the world.


    Much food for thought. Welcome everyone's ideas on how to hear the voices, stories and ideas of these 650 million of our fellow human beings...
  • Mar 1 2011: The increasing disparity in income between the rich and poor in the United States is being ignored. It seems to me that the gap between rich and poor is one of the primary reasons for revolutions. I'm wondering if the growing income gap means that a revolution will happen in the US, if there is no improvement in restoring a strong middle class to the country and elevating the income levels of the poorest 20% or so.
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    Feb 20 2011: One of the issues that's really struck me over the years is the amount of people who continue to die from easily-solved water-related issues (see washinitiative.org/ for more on that). We can fly to the moon, yet 1 billion people -- that's 1 out of every 6 people on earth -- still don't have access to safe drinking water. It's incredible, and solvable. Yet we hear so little about it.

    Another critical yet under-reported story is how western consumption drives human rights abuses in poorer countries. We all know about blood diamonds (thanks to Leonardo di Caprio), but less heralded are the stories of major international oil companies like Exxon and Shell enabling militaries and paramilitaries who have destroyed villages in Indonesia and Nigeria. And the hundreds of communities across India rallying against Coca-Cola, whose bottling plants are drying up the groundwater that feeds their wells and fields. And the deadliest war since World War II -- the conflict in the Congo known as "Africa's World War" -- is fueled in large part by lucrative sales of coltan, the mineral needed to produce cell phones, laptops, and other electronics. And don't even get me started on how western farm subsidies destroy markets in Africa, keeping farmers there poorer than they otherwise would be!

    I guess the bottom line story is this: we are all connected now -- how can we ensure it's for better and not for worse?
  • Mar 2 2011: How about the criminality behind the Federal Reserve ? It and its investors are behind much of the war, strife and political unrest that is rampant around the world.
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    Feb 26 2011: In my country (Argentina), and probably in many other, some of the world's leading seed production companies are hiring underpaid rural workers in near to slavery conditions. They are paid wages that in many cases don't exceed $500 a month for working up to 12 or 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, in a country with a raging inflation. They are deducted the price of anything they need, from food and water to even work tools, and they don't have access to other ways of getting those materials, since they are confined inside this "estancias" or ranches, with different kinds of threats if they dare leve before the season is over.
    They don't hace access to showers, they don't have electricity, hygiene tools, medical treatments, or safety mesures whatsoever.
    What's more shocking is that this is a common thing among this kind of companies. Pretty much all companies dedicated to this kind of seed production are involved in the same fraud, includins some of the world leadres in this industry like Nidera SA; Southern Seed Production SA; and Status Ager SA.
    Thousands of workers in this conditions have been found, and yet almost none of the major local newspapers is reflecting the case. Of course, it's worth mentioning that the two major media holdings have echonomical interests in the form of shares in some of these companies.
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    Mar 4 2011: .
    The rapid emergence of Africa as an economic powerhouse is definitely an underreported story.

    Sub-Saharan Africa's middle class is now bigger than that of much hyped economic wonder India. And it already has more purchasing power. Africa's stock exchanges are the world's best performing, and they are so consistently, not just temporarily or by some trend in commodities.

    The rise of Africa will stun everybody -- especially because it is so underreported.

    And the (Western) media cannot accept that this rise comes from Africa itself. In a persistently colonial logic, they continue to attribute this rise (if reported at all), to some "outside" force: be it China which is investing, or the diaspora which is coming back, or some anonymous market force coming from the West. All these external forces pale compared to Africa's own dynamism and its growth spurred by its own rising class of investors and its hyper-globalised middle-class.

    Because of our own prejudice against Africa (and our wish to "help these poor people" via our aid industry), we will all be surprised and stunned, pretty soon.
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      Mar 8 2011: Hey Laurens, I couldn't agree with you more. I was already quite surprised and stunned by Africa during my short stay there last year, and yes I have the miserably poor media coverage to thank.

      First of all, I've met some of the most creative and resourceful entrepreneurs and engineer who have developed effective solutions and products, with virtually very little cost. Sometimes it's even painful to admit something that cheap actually does work.

      Second I'm amazed by the prevalence of mobile phones, and how many things they're capable to do, all using the simplest models. SMS, facebook, even mobile banking is already incorporated into people's daily lives for quite some while.

      Of course the emergence of Africa is by nature complicated. I certainly don't buy into those prototype stories anymore. We need to hear more voices about the exciting developments come from within.
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        Mar 9 2011: Hi Jing Cao, I agree: we need to get rid of prototype stories.

        I exaggerated in my view on Africa, just to give an anti-dote to the eternal "Africa = misery" line of reporting.

        But as you probably know all too well: Africa is dynamic because it blends very modern things rapidly with traditional structures.

        So lots of problems do persist, but on many other fronts they are really becoming very modern.

        The example of the mobile phone is strong: here in Europe we have none of the things they do in Africa with a simple phone. If only the internet-connections could catch up, that revolution would expand even faster.
    • Mar 10 2011: Totally agree. Huge emerging story, which I've seen up close recently. See Feb. 28 report by American Enterprise Institute demographer. It predicts that the largest share of the increase in the world labor pool next 20 years will be in Africa. In the last 20 years, the big contributors were India and China. Political and social implications of this prediction are substantial. See also my contribution above on how we can bring slow-motion stories like this to light.
  • Feb 20 2011: Pakistan floods and their continued aftermath. Coverage of global warming. Coverage of role/rights of women and girls around the world and the connection to success in societies. Coverage of religion and connection to culture. Coverage of state of education in America and what can be done. Coverage of global health and development. Coverage of science.
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      Feb 27 2011: I for one have known for this story for quite some time. And not just me. While American media for the most part associates China with debt and communism, our (Bulgarian) media associates China with industrial smoke and population growth.

      Yet even I am guilty of ignoring this, but I can tell you why - I see no solution for it... I can't see a working model from another country that could be duplicated in China, mostly because nowadays most manufacturing is in China and when it isn't, it's the same technologies. What was once polluting slightly the air in every country is now massively doing the same in China.

      If someone could find a working model that China should embrace - a goal - then it's only a matter of time before there's a critical mass behind the solution large enough to persuade the Chinese government to enforce it.

      Unfortunatly, I'm also not an engineer of any kind, so I can't come up with a solution either. I do wish someone could come up with one though. Not only for the better of China, but inherently, for the better of all of us.
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          Mar 10 2011: This is a dichotomy for the west, we here are constantly pressing to get things cheap, at the same time arguing for better human rights and environmental control, China want the trade to boost their economy and are therefore reluctant to agree to human rights and environmental controls as this would of course drive up their costs as it has in the west.
          The big problem with this, that many are aware of, is that the real solution is to move away from financially based society, if this is to happen a radical global change has to happen and no politician or government is prepared to take the risk of suggesting this, and won't until there is a tide change in overall public perceptions.
          We need global social commitment, unfortuinately unlikely in the short term but the opening up of communications through internet activity is showing some movement, Egypt & Libya.
          This is too big for the general media to sell to the general public so is relegated to more limited forums, like TED.
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    Mar 7 2011: Thank you all for your inputs. Brilliant -- and totally scary to see so many important stories underreported. Let's try to summarize some (this is a partial list, not meant to create a ranking, it is just a "cheat sheet" for me to keep track of some of these ideas as I work on curating upcoming TED events):

    - The Chinese deal to build a canal in Colombia (to "compete" with Panama) (Debra)
    - SMS (texting) in developing markets as a social network (Bill)
    - The emergence of Africa as an economic powerhouse, and of Africa's middle class (Laurens)
    - Melting of polar ice caps (Robin, Steve, Jon)
    - The increasing disparity in income between the rich and poor in the US, and Europe (Rhona, Tamar)
    - Somaliland and other stable, but little-talked-about countries (Martha)
    - The "quiet tsunami" of erosion (Andrian)
    - The wrecking of the oceans an the toxicity of extraction (Birdia)
    - The persisting scandal/tragedy of slavery (Matias)
    - The many people who continue to die from easily-solved water-related issues (Jeffrey)

    @Alisa: on the state of education in America, here a small contribution that we just published:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_how_state_budgets_are_breaking_us_schools.html

    Plus: the need to acknowledge the good news, too (I totally agree, John: let me point out that we did a full conference on that last July, TEDGlobal 2010, which went under the theme "And Now the Good News")

    Plus: the question, when confronted with global, vast, complex problems: "What can I, individual, do?"

    Plus: where can we FIND some of these stories?
    (Jeffrey suggests the Center on Crisis Reporting http://pulitzercenter.org/ - Let me point also to Global Voices http://globalvoicesonline.org/ )
    Any other suggestion for alternative, credible sources?

    Thank you,
    Bruno
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    Mar 2 2011: I found myself asking this question this morning when all the news coverage was focused on Charlie Sheen rather than the American deficit crisis, revolution in the Middle East and issues of incredible consequence breaking around the globe. One issue being ignored that had tremendous consequences to everyone on earth is the ignored story about the melting of the polar ice caps. This is something that must be dealt with but something that is getting ignored in a culture that is so focused on celebrity and issues that are consequential.
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    Mar 1 2011: I definitely agree with Rhona. Though the US plays a valuable role in conflicts beyond its borders, the growing gap between the rich and the poor inside America is a huge problem that largely gets ignored. The gap is so large that it is almost comparable to that of a third world country, raising immediate concern. Emily Pilloton's TED talk on Project H illuminated this issue for me, and I strongly recommend that everybody watch it.
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    Feb 16 2011: I signed a disclaimer the other week so that I could swim in the Serpentine (Hyde Park, London Outdoor lake), It basically warned me of the health risks of swimming in not so clean water. I thought about the UNAM study that showed Mexico City is losing it's sense of smell (link) and wondered why I am signing a disclaimer to jump into kinda dirty water, when I don't need to sign one to travel into very dirty air.

    Link: vimeo.com/1162596?pg=embed&sec=1162596
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    Feb 15 2011: I think events like the Groupon debacle highlight a need for a paradigm shift in our approach to culturally offensive actions. We need to look to companies that localize properly and how they do that with sensitivity and positive impact.
    Out of 50 articles and 100s of tweets and updates on the impact of the commercial none, that I saw, spoke to the impact on the lives of those who were thought to be slighted. Instead, pundits addressed the economic impact to Groupon should they hope to succeed in the China market.
    No one asked the tougher questions of the groups involved directly or obliquely:
    --How did in-country native Tibetans feel about the lack of study on the part of Groupon when a coupon was offered for Fish Curry when fish is never eaten in that country (SAR/Autonomous Region) when as it is tied to religious burial rites water burial? ...
    --How did poor native Tibetans )some still recovering from a devastating earthquake and later mudslide) feel when they were identified as recipients of money that actually went to dissidents living exile?
    --How was the "Tibetan" charity designated impacted? Did donations drop?
    --What were the ramifications for expats living and working in China and Tibet who are often already thought of as culturally naive?
    --Are there charities that have navigated these waters and changed lives through CSR?
    --Do PC donations (Tibet as a cause and not an emergency aid intervention) affect quality of life? Are ideas more worthy of our attention than dying children & homeless families? It is rhetorical

    --How did political perceptions & media involvement help or hinder the people in those regions?
    --How do we address the latter without invoking the wrath of governments or those involved in causes who have huge social capital without collateral damage, without causing widespread censorship of important future interventions?

    Zuckerman (for example) has chosen a confrontational path. Is there a middle way? Someone who can speak to this?
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    Feb 15 2011: The mysteries that are yet to be revealed in the final phase of Srilanka war. The recommendations from the panel set by UN are still working on it.
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    Mar 9 2011: Edge had a special issue about this topic 11 years ago, maybe some of them are still relevant: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/story/contributions.html
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    Mar 9 2011: During a week when five US Soldiers lost their lives in battle, nothing was mentioned, but plenty of coverage was given to a drug addicted, whore mongering celebrity. Our military is out fighting a war, putting their lives and limbs on the line to protect freedom (and I don't want to debate about whether the war is right or not, it doesn't matter, they are selfless heroes for going where their country has sent them) and they don't even get a passing honor. Those who are willing to give their all to protect and defend their country are our true heroes, not the sports and movie stars. Our media is failing miserably by not providing information which allows our citizens to be aware, appreciative and supportive of their efforts. The end result is that our veterans return with very little support as our citizens are completely ignorant of them, and the every day struggle for survival continues as they deal with PTSD and it's resulting depression, divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism and even suicide. It is as if they have been left alone on the battlefield, with no intention to ever really bring them home!
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      Mar 9 2011: I recently read that more soldiers died last year by suicide than died in battle. If this is true there is another war going on the needs to be stopped- the absolutely devastation that war causes in the warriors.
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    Mar 4 2011: The most under reported story of global magnitude in history?

    There are two global social networks forming. The first everyone knows.... Facebook. The second is much larger. SMS usage in developing markets is now the largest social community in the world and it is growing faster than Facebook. As opposed to enabling games and dating, this new social network is enabling new applications in: commerce, health care, education, crisis management and even middle eastern revolutions!

    I believe this is the most transformative event in human history. Where is the media on this event? Please get on it. Report it, police it and hold those who may abuse it to account. Most importantly tell the stories of those heroes who would make this new community more valuable than the sum of it's parts.

    Thank you.
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    Mar 2 2011: The Chinese deal to build a canal in Columbia is certainly an important story that I am not hearing much about. This is relevant because it will change the way business is done around the globe. The Panama canal is currently used beyond capacity and China has limited access to the Atlantic in shipping. The proposed canal will change that and change which goods are available from China at low prices.

    I also think that there is shockingly little conversation about holding the creators of the global financial meltdown responsible for their fraudulent actions.
  • Mar 1 2011: Somaliland. I had never even heard of it until a year ago. Have you?

    It is not an event, it is a country, related to countless negative events reported in the news constantly in neighbouring Somalia. A peaceful, prosperous part of Somalia that has its own capital, government, and where people are leading relatively normal lives. As a non-country, however, it cannot benefit from most forms of official development assistance. A good article was published about it in National Geographic recently.
  • Mar 1 2011: resource-based economy. zeitgeist
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    Feb 28 2011: There is a huge subject that hasn't quite spawned the debate one might expect - the erosion not of single tracts of land (monoculture) or even whole countries (Haiti), but of planet earth as a whole. David R. Montgomery wrote a book about it (Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations). he leads the Geomophological Research Group at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    http://gis.ess.washington.edu/grg/

    According to his studies 24 billion tons of soil are lost annualy. It is not a hot topic as climate change, it is not politicized yet. Even though the UN called it the "quiet tsunami". It might be because agricultural policies are not as flashy as climate change or the question about energy. Soil being the basis for human civilization makes it a rather urgent matter though.
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    Feb 20 2011: A good place to start might be the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (http://pulitzercenter.org/), which funds experienced journalists to cover under-reported stories worldwide. Right now they're highlighting a few stories on the situation in Sudan, where a momentous secession process has just taken place peacefully and democratically to form the first new country in Africa in decades, while the war in Darfur is quietly re-igniting (quietly, that is, as far as the rest of the world is concerned). They're also looking at the guerrilla war that's ramping up again in Russia's Caucasus Mountains, Malaysian forest destruction for palm oil production, the brutal war waged by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, Haiti after the quake, and much more.

    As a former editor for OneWorld.net (full disclosure), I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that OneWorld continues to cover the global human rights and development stories others are ignoring. On the news page today, for example, are stories about Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe turns 87 this week!), the notorious exploits of the Japanese Whaling Fleet in the South Pacific, and the murder of an indigenous leader in Brazil. More here: http://oneworldgroup.org/headlines
  • Feb 17 2011: Now adays, the best way to follow such news is through Twitter especially that most of international political activists and bloggers have accounts there and are always keeping their statuses updated with current happenings in different places around the world. I am from Egypt and during the whole revolution ( before the internet cut off) I relied solely on Twitter and tweeps who used to broadcast live from demonstrations, that for me was 100 times more credible than any other news source especially that these people are mostly eye witnesses that News agencies, TV channels and newspapers use inorder help them report whats happening or what has happened on the spot of the incident.
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    Feb 15 2011: How about the fact that 40% of the ice caps have melted practically overnight in geological terms. That has got to mean something on the planet has shifted. But which direction? Better or worse?
  • Mar 14 2011: But Bruno; If you want to know about increased healthy lifespan research that indicates 120 year plus healthy lifespan look at the research ==>

    Calories Do Not Explain Extension of Life Span by Dietary Restriction in Drosophila
    http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0030223

    Macronutrient balance and lifespan
    http://www.impactaging.com/papers/v1/n10/full/100098.html

    http://knol.google.com/k/ron-mignery/protein-cycling-diet/2s3nmvrwklbxs/1#
    Protein Cycling Diet
    A Defence Against the Diseases of Aging

    ©2008, 2009 Dr. Ron Mignery, PhD

    Eric Anderson
  • Mar 14 2011: 1 degree in 200 years does not make man made global warming via CO2 real. Not suported by data from the past 200 years with several 20 to 30 year periods of decreased average temperatures and increased atmospheric CO2.
    Not Supported by the record of temperature and CO2 levels for the las 2.5 million or 100 million years.
    Although most westerners believe in what they are told.

    In the matter of slavish imitation, man is the monkey's superior all the time. The average man is destitute of independence of opinion. He is not interested in contriving a opinion of his own, by study and reflection, but is only anxious to find out what his neighbor's opinion is and slavishly adopt it.
    - Mark Twain's Autobiography
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    Mar 12 2011: As the nature of media is somehow selective process by journalists and by media owners, and their interests and agenda must be highly influencial on coverage of various media. Certain ideologies, political and economical agenda might be manipulated in a disguise of entertainment as well. Thus, it is presumable that there will be a lot of information that exists yet not covered.

    For example, freedom of expression in China was outrageous in China as we saw in Wei Wei's video footage. Not to mention, stories about people in poverty, trafficking, and/or family violence are too innumerous and depressing to cover by media most of the time.

    Also, many activism efforts, such as those of Noam Chomsky and Amy goodman will be hardly seen on National News.
  • Mar 10 2011: Bruno this is an issue I wrestled with a lot as a foreign policy editor, where each day I looked across the world at what was happening and tried to assign weight to developments. The media business is competitive and therefore thrives on this-just-in and on stories with lots of tension. It doesn't do slow-motion stories well. Not enough tension, not enough daily movement. This is a structural problem, yet but it's also a distribution problem. It's not sufficient to decree from on high that, hey world, you better start paying attention to this issue that's really vital. What needs to happen is to find those in the world who are passionate about that issue and then use them to make the rest of us care. The current media model isn't built for that kind of dynamic interplay. It's a one-to-many model for the most part, with very limited feedback. I believe that social games are an emerging media construct that can help with this problem of the underreported stories. Games? What is DeMarco talking about? Games are about play, interaction and what-ifs. The 21st century media audience will not only expect to be engaged directly in a story, it will demand to be engaged. It's about community. That audience will itself bring these lesser known stories to light, with the context that makes a wider audience care. I invite you to check out a game I'm developing with veteran games builders called GiG (short for Global Innovation Game) on Facebook. It's still embryonic, and we're still working out the tricky business of building what amounts to an idea market in the frame of game play. But it's a start. We're putting a lot of content into the game around environmental issues because this is a classic slow-motion story of major importance but often difficult to tell in its many parts. And the environment is a cross-border issue, and increasingly we're dealing with an internationally aware (young) audience eager to adopt solutions from around the world. So, see the game and GiG It!
  • Mar 10 2011: Geo-engineering and the impacts of alluminium, barium, striontium and sulphates on life on earth.
    If this is to save the planet, why is no-one talking about it.