nick benton

Nick Benton's Corner: On Irrigating The Sahel

Posted in full by permission of Nick Benton, owner/editor of the Fall Church News Press. Take a look at the new format of the online version of his weekly newspaper--recognized as the best local paper in Northern VA.

In the cover story of the April 2008 edition of National Geographic magazine, “Africa’s Ragged Edge: Journey Into the Sahel,” author Paul Salopek, photographer Pascal Maitre and the editors do a terrific job introducing readers to perhaps the most important region of the world that no one, almost, has heard about.
The Sahara is known, the Sahel is not.

Yet the Sahel is perhaps the largest contiguous arable region on the planet, dwarfing the entire continental United States in scale. From coast to coast, from Dakar on the west to the Red Sea on the east, it is at least one-and-a-half times the width of the U.S. Presently, despite its dry and undeveloped condition, it is home to an estimated 55 million mostly poverty-stricken and ethno-politically divided people.

As the National Geographic article points out, the Sahel’s dimensions have shifted over the centuries due to the amount of rainfall. Just as the arable land in the U.S. plains can devolve from agriculturally-fertile to dust bowls, so it goes for the Sahel. The Sahara Desert can encroach on its land under drought conditions, or it can recede when there is rain. At one point a thousand years ago, much of it was fertile and lush, and in that era Timbuktu on the Niger River in modern Mali was the seat of a rich and powerful regime.

Nick Benton's Corner:Obama’s 3 Steps To Redemption

posted by permission of Nicholas Benton, owner/editor of the Falls Church News Press.

three distinct phases of Barack Obama’s reaction to the wildly-disseminated YouTube snippets of sermons by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, took him from the depths to the heights over the last two weeks.

His “three steps to redemption” not only carried this observer’s opinion of Obama from the pits to the pinnacle, but so, I believe, it has done for his presidential aspirations.

Nick Benton's Corner: Male Chauvinism & Hillary Clinton

Published with permission of Nicholas Benton, owner/editor of the Fall Church News Press. Benton supports Clinton for president.

Back in the day, feminists and those like myself who supported them, called it “male chauvinism.” It remains a mighty force in our society, so pervasive that few of either gender are really attuned to detect it.

Among men seeking to bond and avoid potential conflict, endless talk of sports and women has always been the coin of the realm. In this discourse, of course, women are routinely “objectified,” as we used to say. While often restrained in the presence of the opposite sex, amongst themselves men giggle and leer over women who live up to some social standard of sex appeal, or the opposite of it.

Does anyone not remember the extent to which Hillary Clinton was the butt of cruel male chauvinist humor during her husband’s first campaign for president and first years in the White House? Somehow, taking sexist pot shots at a First Lady was considered fair game, even in generally mixed company.

In the more recent era, the two First Ladies that drew the greatest derision from the less-than-magnificent male species were Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton. There were elaborate jokes made up about Roosevelt always related to her appearance in contrast to the conventional masculine taste in female beauty.