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May 02, 2006 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-05-02

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A .r R EE

The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, May 2, 2006 - 5
Trying to care

Do you think your life
will be affected by the Day
Without Immigrants?"
- Poll question on CNN.com on Monday, May 1, the day
hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the nation took
time offfrom work to participate in protests againsttougher
immigration regulations currently pending in Congress.
How to write a letter to the edi-
tor for the Daily
The editorial page editor writes this sample letter instead
of a boring official letters policy to clarify exactly what
a letter to the editor should look like and what it should
say. As you see, the title is brief and deals directly with
the content and argument of the letter. The body should
address a story or editorial printed in any section of the
Daily or any other issue the writer cares to write about. It

From time to time,
you hear about
big-name celeb-
rities saying goodbye
to their pilates routines
and diamond-encrusted
bathroom faucets to go
"rough it" in some pover-
ty-stricken African coun-
try that few American
middle schoolers will ever even learn about
in their social-studies classes. The celebrities
may play soccer with starving children, tour
devastated residential areas with a distressed
mother suffering from a life-threatening ill-
ness or teach the natives a few English words
so their cameramen can capture the moment
and relay it to Oprah. This publicity stunt has
increased in popularity among Hollywood
VIPs to include A-list stars like Angelina
Jolie and George Clooney - all hoping to
bring back stories of poverty and genocide to
the uneducated American people.
Whether or not their intentions are to pro-
mote their next movies, these actors provide
one of the only possible ways to get Ameri-
cans to think about the problems in regions
such as the Darfur province of Sudan. They
are simply using their status to bring atten-
tion to global issues that often go ignored in
America - all the while looking like out-
standing members of society. Through brief
film clips on "20/20" and interviews via satel-
lite with Katie Couric, they hope Americans
will respond to their grueling explorations
with an increased interest in - and perhaps
monetary contributions to - the regions they
are campaigning for.
But for some reason, no matter how many
beautiful stars live in squalor for months
on end or develop catchily named donation
funds to bring clean water to needy areas,

most Americans still don't care about Africa.
Although happy to see their favorite movie
stars championing good causes, most Ameri-
cans still don't think twice about the dis-
tressed regions or donate to funds once "The
Today Show" moves to its next segment.
From the outside, it's easy to call Americans
lazy or ethnocentric, or blame them for not
giving a damn about what happens in faraway
places. But this name-calling is misguided,
because the thing that actually prevents many
Americans from caring about Africa is the
media. Due to the continent's lack of media
attention, issues such as the genocide in Dar-
fur and human-rights violations in Uganda
are absent from the thoughts of most Ameri-
cans. The media allows its viewers to be igno-
rant and lazy by only reporting on issues that
materially impact America and by failing to
stress the importance of caring about long
forlorn places like Africa.
The closest news programs come to
focusing on Africa is reporting on the latest
American doctor who has made strides in
finding a cure for AIDS or a rural American
family who has kindly taken in Nigerian
orphans to save them from the dangers of
Africa. It almost seems as if media sources
are afraid to directly address the real prob-
lems and describe the actual conditions
Africans face every day, so they settle by
only reporting on America's involvement
with the issues in the continent.
Meanwhile, an entire race of Sudanese
people continues to be wiped out by gov-
ernment soldiers, and two million of the
country's people are homeless or have fled
to surrounding countries. The situation in
Darfur may already have deteriorated to
resemble Rwanda, where millions of people
were massacred by the government in the
early 90's but America's attention was lim-

ited, even after the powerful account of the
genocide in the movie "Hotel Rwanda."
Sadly, unless the genocide in Darfur hikes
American gas prices or a disease breaks out
in that country and threatens America, the
media still won't let its viewers care.
It's no wonder that only about .003 percent
of American college students choose to study
abroad in Africa. That part of the world might
as well be uncharted to most Americans
because nearly everything there is unfamiliar.
Many Americans are probably clueless when
it comes to locating Darfur on a map. Africa
is disconnected from American life and will
remain that way until the media faces the
truth about situations developing on the conti-
nent and makes Americans face them.
Because of this diluted awareness, the need
for celebrities to rally support for Africa -
especially as America announces it will cut
federal aid to the continent by almost half
- is becoming more necessary. Demonstra-
tions, like the one last Sunday in Washington
led by famous faces like Clooney and Sen.
Barack Obama (D-Ill.), continue to encour-
age American interest in African concerns.
And these attempts are slowly starting to see
a positive response.
So we should be grateful for the grow-
ing number of actors who take the initiative
to popularize the struggles in foreign lands
- even if only to shift attention away from
a recent divorce or allegations of drug abuse.
Americans must rely on them for sparking
interest in African issues, especially since the
media continues to ignore urgent situations
like Darfur.
For now, the best thing Americans can give
Africa is the attention it deserves.
Kennelly can be reached at

DeVos's deception: the single business tax


v r

is always helpful to provide the title and date of any par- T he 2006 elections
ticular story that is referenced. are still more than
Letters may be as scathing as the writer wishes, but six months away,
be aware that no personal insults or content otherwise yet already we're seeing
deemed inappropriate will be printed. As always, the edi- y campaign ads. My favorite
for reserves the right edit all letters. A good length for a .. features likely Republican
letter is about as long as this one - no more than 300 gubernatorial candidate
words. To submit a longer Viewpoint, arrangements can be Dick DeVos and his veiled
made by contacting the editorial page editor. criticism of Gov. Jennifer
Finally, read the bottom of this letter to see exactly what Granholm's unwillingness
information about the writer is required to make letters to drop the single business tax (often incorrect-
eligible for printing. The Daily does not print anonymous ly labeled the small business tax) - without a
letters except in rare circumstances in which anonymity is means to make up lost revenue.
absolutely vital to prevent personal harm to the writer. It opens with DeVos driving in his car, occa-
And that's it! Happy reading, and I look forward to sionally peering out the passenger and driver-side
receiving you letters. windows, looking dismayed - as if the scenery
is indicative of something awful in Michigan.
Writer's Full Name The next shot has him in a round table discus-
School and class level sion with a small group of mostly white males,
Any relevant affiliations the writer may have with on all of whom complain about how hard it is to start
and off-campus organizations. a business in Michigan - what with so many
taxes and all. DeVos explains that he wants to
create more jobs in the state, and to do that, he
needs to make Michigan a better environment
WANT TO WRITE MORE THAN JUST LETTERS for business development. While he doesn't say
how, if you read his statements in the newspa-
THIS SUMMER? pers, it's pretty clear what DeVos wants to do.
JOIN THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE DAILY! I won't delve into the specifics about the SBT
because, frankly, I don't know much about it. What
I do know is that DeVos's theory about creating jobs
in Michigan by cutting taxes simply doesn't work.
Over the past 16 years, Michigan has cut taxes
FOR MORE IWORMATION. across the board. As a result, the state now has a
lower tax burden than at least 30 other states.

Yet jobs have not been created here. According
to DeVos's theory, states where the tax burden is
the lowest - such as Alabama and Mississippi
- should be some of the best places to create jobs,
whereas states where the tax burden is the high-
est - such as New York - should be the worst.
But, in reality, the states with the lowest amount
of taxes per-capita are also among the poorest and
have some of the worst job development to match.
DeVos babbling on about wanting to cre-
ate jobs in Michigan is akin to Pablo Escobar,
the infamous Colombian drug lord, telling kids
not to smoke crack. DeVos, for those who don't
know,is the son of billionaire Richard DeVos Sr.,
the founder of Amway, a multi-level marketing
firm. During his tenure as the head of that com-
pany, DeVos Jr. laid off 1,400 workers in 1998
and 2000. At the same time, he invested hun-
dreds of millions of dollars into the construction
of manufacturing plants in China. So you could
say he created many new jobs ... in China.
Coupled with his recent criticism of Gran-
holm's minimum-wage increase, it's clear what
DeVos thinks creates jobs in Michigan: busi-
nesses where workers make three cents an hour
and pay virtually no taxes. If that's what you're
looking for, then Dick, I wish you the best of luck.
You have a better chance finding Jimmy Hoffa
than you do finding workers to work for less than
minimum wage - and certainly not in Michi-
gan, the birthplace of the United Auto Nrkers.
But DeVos should know better because his
hometown, Grand Rapids, is a good example
of what makes a city prosper. The city was on a

decline until after 1990, when, under the direc-
tion of a group which included DeVos, it turned
itself around and eventually joined Ann Arbor
as one of only two cities in Michigan to have
a net increase in population. And it didn't do it
through tax cuts, either. Grand Rapids, in addi-
tion to continuing its own growth, has voted to
increase taxes twice since that time.
Considering that both DeVos and his wife,
Betsy - former chairperson of the Michigan
Republican Party - are close friends of President
Bush's campaign advisor Karl Rove, and that she
may have worked with Rove on election strategies,
there should be a sense of caution when listening
to her husband's campaign ads.If this report turns
out to be true, I wouldn't be surprised to see new
campaign ads likening Granholm to Osama Bin
Laden, with messages like, "Granholm wants
more taxes; Bin Laden wants to kill you. Jennifer
and Osama both hate your freedom."
I'm not endorsing Jennifer Granholm (yet),
and she certainly hasn't been the greatest gov-
ernor Michigan has ever had. She did cut fund-
ing to the state's public universities, resulting
in more than $1,000 increases in tuition at the
University alone. She's not perfect and she's had
to deal with budget shortfalls from the federal
government, jobs emigrating from the state and
a whole load of other inherited problems.
But to believe DeVos is the next best thing
- or possibly better - is a joke.
Goldberg can be reached at

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