Sudan's regime of terror
After watching "The Devil Came on Horseback" about the killings and mass exodus of people in Western Sudan & Darfur, it really got me thinking again about situations that are happening today in the Eastern hemisphere. Many people in the West really don't know how isolated we are from the daily atrocities and staggering poverty that is overseas. The US media is focused on an election where candidates are focused on Iraq, save a few who are proposing some ideas that all troops could be pulled out of Iraq and redeployed to Sudan. With a March 2008 timeline, this probably isn't going to happen any longer, though the UN should at least send in a few helicopters & Rambo to get some order and protect the refugee camps.
The current US administration is doing something to Sudan. They are cutting economic ties.
Investment Funds and Human Rights
President Bush signed legislation on Monday that makes it easier for mutual funds and private pension funds to sell their investments in companies doing business with Sudan.
No mention of how this will affect jobs and the people over in Sudan. However China holds large stakes in Sudan. Specifically PetroChina, a company formerly owned by Warren Buffett, who got into some serious hot water over the holding. Berkshire made $3.5 billion selling its shares in October... coincidentally when the Darfur bill was going through the house. Maybe this bill will affect China a bit?
Poor Warren (and Poor Charlie) seem to get hit regularly with organizations that disagree with their investments, like opponents of Planned Parenthood. In the case of that investment, they shut down their shareholder donor program. This would have cut out a lot of funding for the 3,500 or so organizations that were affected by the program.
Berkshire class B stock was up around $5000/share in December. It's revenue was $98 billion dollars. That put it at #53 in the list of GDP by country, ahead of Kuwait. It will probably be much larger this year. 2008 could be a value investors dream year if things keep going the way they have been since last August.
Berkshire doesn't show up in the Sudan Divestment Stock Screener any more, though there are over 500 funds with ties to Sudan. Realistically, any funds on the stock markets of the world will have things in their closets that they don't want you to see. Some more than others...
Even Warren's friends Bill & Melinda are having troubles investing all their capital without hitting regimes with poor track records for human rights. A "miniscule" $22 million, or around 6% of their $38 billion endowment was invested in companies related to the Sudanese government, which they dropped like a hot potato after a New York Times article.
Bill steps down this year from Microsoft to focus his efforts on the foundation.
A charity close to me is Room To Read. I am a book fanatic, and probably have about 5 books on the go right now. I am regulated to a quota of no more than 10 book purchases a week by my better half.
The statistics below are almost as mind-boggling as Berkshire's revenues, and it all started from a single ex-MSFT'ie who was upset over how stupid it is that children don't have access to books.
Since our inception in 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of over 1.3 million children by:
- Constructing 287 schools
- Establishing over 3,870 libraries
- Publishing 146 new local language children's titles representing over 1.3 million books
- Donating over 1.4 million English language children's books
- Funding 3,448 long-term girls' scholarships
- Establishing 136 computer and language labs
They focus mainly on Asian countries, though they have started moving towards Africa.
Books or Guns
It seems almost that a campaign is being put in place to bring disorder to countries outside of the West, and therefore bring the emerging market funds back into domestic hands, at the expense of the people. Hopefully the policies of governments and world organizations will somehow take into account that human capital is worth a thousand times more than venture capital, and these funds should be put to work maintaining social and economic benefits for the people who need it the most.
Toronto, Canada: I am African and I love Kenya dearly. I pray and hope that it survives intact the current unrest. Do you think Kenya will survive this? What will happen to the bouyant economy after the violent upheaval? Will Kenyans continue to enjoy the good economy that is one of Africa's best?
Do you think that roving blackouts in Iraq could cause the situation there to continue to destabilize? How about bombings in Afghanistan? During the great blackout the Eastern Seaboard experienced a few years ago, even homeless people directed traffic, and people ate ice cream and drank beer in the dark. Something tells me we don't understand how isolated we really are from the "real world".
In 3 days of 2008, 42 people have died in Afghanistan. Over 300 people have died in Kenya. Last year 84 people were murdered in Toronto. This was a record. It should not be that scary for the general public though, since 80% of all the victims knew their killers. Of course 20% is not a number to sneeze at, though with 5 million people you're odds are probably greater to win the lottery. Not that any of these people should have become statistics in the first place...
Unfortunately 100% of the people in Darfur know who their killers are too, though perhaps not the indirect ones.
The list of travel warnings continues to grow.