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Robert Lehrman
Washington, DC

Robert Lehrman

I've published four novels. But as a political speechwriter, I've never been able to regularly express my political views under my name.

Pakistan—more than a miner problem

Trainers put them through workouts. Engineers test the torpedo-shaped rescue capsules they'll enter. And, each day, the world watches workers drill down towards 33 miners trapped in a Chilean copper mine.

As it should.

But each of those days, about 20,000 children die, mostly from malaria or diarrhea - over a month, more kids than the entire population of Santiago. We could rescue any 33 of them for about as much as dinner for two at Sizzler.

Why don't we? Because people love drama? The miners' story is dramatic--but not more than the rescue teams now struggling to reach floodstricken Pakistani villages.

Racism? Nah. Most of the miners are mixed race.

Besides, I remember once in the 1990's Americans spent millions rescuing two whales trapped under the ice in Antarctica. That riveted people, too.

The common response by bleeding heart liberals like me is to show how little it would cost us rich Americans to help. That's not so naïve. For about $3 billion a year, researchers tell us we could control malaria-- saving 3 million people every year.

Even if Americans paid for it all, that's less than $10 a person.

But clearly people don't respond to numbers. They respond to stories

So here's another thought prompted by the rescue in Chile.

Why can't editors and producers dig harder not just for stories of dying kids - too depressing!--but about the big rescues underway? Because they exist.

Right now, exhausted doctors in Pakistan's refugee camps work desperately to prevent cholera from sweeping through the tents. Health workers in Malawi trained to perform Cesareans, race from village to village to reach women lying on cots giving birth alone.  Politicians in Senegal risk their lives to help outlaw the way grownups yank a young girl from her house, and use a knife to cut off her clitoris.

In Chile they're saving 33 people. These teams save thousands. Those are much bigger stories, just as compelling, just as visual,  and ones a good reporter with a flip camera and laptop could make impossible to ignore.

In the days before the Internet, maybe reporters had an excuse to ignore such stories

It was hard to make dying kids in far-off countries visible. Now we watch people 7,000 miles away, trapped below a half-mile of solid rock. That excuse is wearing thin.

By Robert Lehrman  |  October 11, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Initial Entries
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Send the Bill for Deaths, lost and wasted resources, global warming caused flooding, tornados, hurricanes, civil wars, lost agricultural crops, and record heat waves to the Coal and Tobacco industries;

At the world's current population, about 57 million people die each year. Smoking contributes to six of the top eight killers; snuff the butts, and you stop many of the deaths

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that health costs caused by smoking total $7.18 per cigarette pack sold and smoked in the United States.

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking was estimated to be responsible for $193 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States ($96 billion in direct costs and $97 billion in lost productivity).

22 Tornado warning in one day in Arizona, Tornados in the middle of urban areas and thousands of trees uprooted in Brooklyn NY; Nashville has a 1000 year flood, Mexico, Pakistan, and several US states have record flooding and tornadoes, record heat wave in California and record drought and heat along the Eastern seaboard: Send the bill to Massey coal, Tobacco producing states and Billionaire Koch brothers; Charles and David. It’s a record of their making.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 15, 2010 2:53 PM
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Wonderful writing, the biggest of stories.
Clearly a Top 10!

Posted by: chucky-el | October 14, 2010 2:54 PM
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Defending mining doesn't surprise me, but you're against saving the whales? I'm confused!

Sadly, the "throw down another $10" solutions are sending our own healthcare in the direction of epidemics and third-world childbirth. More than $10, they need democracy and a free economy.

Anne Yoakam
The Daily Tuna

Posted by: AnneYoakamTheDailyTunahttpdailytunafishblogspotcom | October 12, 2010 10:48 PM
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A Nicholas Kristof wannabe?

Might I gently suggest that the author himself go to Pakistan or elsewhere and write these sorts of stories himself? In this day and age, that’s what truly impassioned people do. They don’t chastise others, they walk their talk.

Posted by: MsJS | October 12, 2010 2:49 PM
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This appeal for fairness and equity reminds us that the G-20 must continue to stand for a conscience when suffering strikes the powerless. Are we so sure that one hundred years from now the Subcontinent of Asia, or China will decide that malaria needs to be eradicated or polio wiped out. There are some things America does best-one, is have a big heart. the author demonstrates he practices what he preaches, highly commendable

Posted by: maemrada | October 12, 2010 2:21 PM
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