By: Meredith Anderson
Staff Writer

On Wednesday, February 15th the UCSD Students for Global Health, the Global Health Program, and Global Forum held the Winter Quarterly Conversations in Global Health. The event focused on the topic, “Food Insecurity – Local and Global Perspectives.” Nancy Postero, a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Human Rights program at UCSD, moderated the event.

This Quarterly Conversations in Global Health featured three speakers, who each gave a brief presentation regarding food insecurity, followed by a question and answers session. The first speaker was Dr. Hanna Garth, the Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCSD. Garth presented on what she calls the “Global Industrial Food Complex” and how globalization has led to an increase in food insecurity. Garth provided the example of the 2008 global food crisis, a time when food prices rapidly increased while supply decreased, leading to riots worldwide. She explained how the modernization of agricultural practices caused such instability.

“These changes had the immediate effect of increasing food production across the developing world,” Dr. Garth explained. “However, the increase in green yields did not necessarily lead to a reduction in hunger or malnutrition.”

Dr. Garth continued on to suggest that the cause of malnutrition may not be insufficient food supply, but rather the inequality of distribution. Additionally, the foods commonly overproduced are grains, which can increase caloric intake but may not contain sufficient micronutrients to eradicate malnutrition. She provided an example of the United States foreign policy that promoted price supports and export subsidies on agricultural goods. This policy led to the overproduction of cheap goods, specifically corn and soybeans, which were then dumped into the global market. At the same time, many developing countries were accepting loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which came with strings attached. These conditions included adjustment programs, which require developing nations to partake in “free market” style practices. In relation to food security, these structural adjustment programs led to the privatization and deregulation of agricultural practices in developing countries. As a result, some firms were able to produce food cheaply. This, combined with the dumping of agricultural goods at low prices from developed nations, undermined the local farmers in developing countries. The long term effect is the modern dependence on industrialized nations for food products and weakened economies of developing nations.Dr. Garth concluded by stating that food insecurity and malnutrition will persist into the future, but she challenged the audience to use the lessons learned during the 2008 food crisis to prevent future food crises.

Kelcey Ellis, the Director of Programs for Feeding San Diego, spoke next. Feeding San Diego is a local nonprofit hunger-relief organization that distributes healthy food to San Diego residents. Ellis began her presentation by showing a video featuring the diverse array of San Diego residents who have relied on Feeding San Diego for assistance. Ellis continued on to promote Feeding San Diego’s various programs and encouraged the audience volunteer with the organization to support their efforts in building a hunger-free and healthy San Diego.

The final speaker at the Quarterly Conversations in Global Health was Dr. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, a Professor of Geography at San Diego State University. Dr. Joassart-Marcelli focused her presentation on “food deserts.” The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as, “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” When mapping food deserts, organizations typically base the accessibility of healthy foods off of the number of grocery stores in an area. Dr. Joassart-Marcelli challenged this notion in her presentation by claiming that ethnic markets, while not considered when mapping food deserts, provide communities with an abundance of fresh, healthy foods.

Dr. Joassart-Marcelli provided information from the local “Food, Ethnicity, and Place Project” that she works on. Specifically, she explained how the community of City Heights in San Diego is considered a “food desert” because it only has one supermarket. However, City Heights is home to an abundance of ethnic markets that serve the local community, which includes a large number of refugees from various countries. The study found that these ethnic markets actually supply more fresh food than supermarkets. Additionally, these markets offer what Dr. Joassart-Marcelli called “culturally appropriate foods” and often at a better price than large grocery stores. Therefore, she concluded that City Heights should not be deemed a “food desert.” Dr. Joassart-Marcelli also stated that the labeling of areas as “food deserts” has become a form of “territorial stigmatization and racialization.” Moving forward, policies must be more accepting of food suppliers, such as ethnic markets, in order to get an accurate understanding of which regions truly are “food deserts.”

The event concluded with a brief question and answer session during which the speakers discussed topics such as the global impact of animal agriculture, access to “culturally appropriate” foods, and the importance of supporting local farmers and economies.

Photo by: Neha Viswanathan



By Rebecca Benest
Staff Writer

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially announced her candidacy for president in the 2016 election. While many of her supporters were first alerted over email, she quickly released a YouTube video featuring many American families in all their diversity, culminating in her announcement. “I’m hitting the road to earn your vote because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.” Clinton’s support among the democratic populace is also widespread and strong. A Real Clear Politics poll taken in April reported she held a 50-point lead over Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden, her closest competitors, and according to Sean Spicer of the Republican National Committee, her chances of losing the nomination are as high as his of “getting struck by lighting riding a unicorn”. Hillary’s campaign means we are seriously looking at placing a woman at the head of our nation; electing a woman to that decision-making position signifies a more widespread agreement that gender cannot and should not diminish one’s capabilities. While ultimately it should be the politics of the nation’s ruler that matter above all other factors, a female president in the United States is a big step, and is long overdue.

Her campaign marketing, at least so far, is not particularly aimed at her pull as a female leader, and she seems dedicated to working as hard as necessary toward her goal. In a memo to her campaign, she wrote, “we are humble, we take nothing for granted, we are never afraid to lose, we always outcompete and fight for every vote we can win.” Nevertheless, in a world where women are increasingly crucial to international and domestic politics and peace building, the United States is ranked 79th in terms of women’s political participation. This puts us far behind many countries that we designate as “third world.” In this sense, Hillary Clinton’s election could mean a step forward, adding to a line of women internationally who have made that same step.

Hillary’s election could also mean her addition to the Council of Women World Leaders, an organization of current and former female presidents and prime ministers. Also in that network are several women who have made huge steps in the fight for gender equality. Corazon Aquino, the first female president of the Philippines and in Asia, established a new constitution and congress, broke up national economic monopolies, and was named TIME Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1986. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, fought to change Ireland’s immigration policy and was active in international human rights as the first head of state to visit Somalia after the civil war in 1992 and Rwanda after the genocide in 1994. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president in Liberia and in Africa, brought up the Liberian GDP from $604 million in 2006 to $1.7 billion in 2012; she also received, along with two others, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her work toward gender equality. The newest addition to the Council is Atifete Jahjaga, the first female president of Kosovo and the nation’s youngest president. Since her election in 2011, she established the National Anti-Corruption Council, which is dedicated to female and minority equality. Whether or not their platforms rest on gender equality, their presence and capability in those leadership positions works to expand horizons and opportunities internationally.

It is by no means necessary, however, to run a country in order to make a difference. There are myriad examples of women changing their environments locally. Marisa Ugarte epitomizes this: After experiencing human trafficking in Tijuana, Mexico, working with runaway teens, she founded the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition in 1997. The organization works with agencies on both sides of the US-Mexico border to combat commercial and sexual exploitation of all persons. Working with one person at a time, Ugarte and her organization will make a difference in those lives. She has been recognized for her accomplishments by the International Foundation of Human Rights and former President Bill Clinton, and will be speaking about human trafficking at an event hosted by San Diego’s Ambassadorial Roundtable on May 7th. Ugarte is just one of so many others working to improve conditions in the world around her, and over time it is becoming increasingly possible for other women to do the same. In this sense, support for Hillary Clinton and Marisa Ugarte, both hardworking, intelligent, and capable of shifting their environment, lead to a similar conclusion. Women and men, more and more, are lending their support toward putting more qualified and hardworking women in positions of decision-making power.

Image by Mike Mozart


By Emily Deng
Staff Writer

While the average person only sees the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the news from the comfort and protection of their own national boundaries, a surprising number of foreigners are becoming more involved in the crossfire. This includes former San Diego resident Douglas McAuthur McCain.

After a bloody battle between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and ISIS, the victorious FSA looted the bodies of downed ISIS fighters, unexpectedly finding $800 and an American passport in a fighter’s pocket. Identified by his distinguishable neck tattoo, White House officials confirmed the death of Douglas McAuthur McCain on August 26, 2014, a few days after the battle. McCain is the first American to die fighting for ISIS. The 33-year-old’s last place of residence was San Diego, California.

According to his Twitter feed, McCain converted to Islam ten years ago and adopted the name Duale Khalid. McCain’s tweets hinted at his increasing involvement with ISIS, which prompted surveillance from U.S. anti-terrorist investigators. On June 9, he wrote to an alleged ISIS member, “I will be joining you guys soon,” followed by a tweet the next day, “I’m with the brothers now.” A couple weeks later, he re-tweeted “It takes a warrior to understand a warrior. Pray for ISIS.” His twitter account @iamthetooth has since been taken down.

McCain’s criminal record, beginning in 2000, was spotted with nine arrests for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct and obstruction charges, but he first came to the attention of the federal government when he began associating with suspected jihadists in Minnesota. U.S. counterterrorism investigators began following McCain and believed he had joined a militant group before his death confirmed his involvement.

McCain was born in Chicago and moved to the suburbs in Minnesota where he was part of the 10 percent of African-American students at his high school. Many of his high school friends described him as a “joker” who loved basketball and PizzaHut.

He soon moved to San Diego, California where school officials confirm that he attended San Diego City College. He was an employee at the now-closed restaurant African Spice in City Heights and worshipped at Masjid Nur, the center of the black, Muslim community.

The State Department notified McCain’s family of his death the Monday following the battle. CNN interviews with McCain’s family expressed shock and confusion over McCain’s death. Their last correspondence was a week earlier through Facebook when McCain indicated he was in Turkey. His cousin Kenyata McCain claimed, “That’s not who he was. For him to be in Syria fighting for a terrorist group, that doesn’t make sense.”

In an interview with UT San Diego, an acquaintance from a shop near African Spice described McCain, “He wasn’t even very religious. He was just another American kid.” Mohamed Ali, who attended the same mosque with McCain in City Heights said, “This is just a big surprise to everybody.” Friends and family did not expect this and still do not understand how McCain got involved with ISIS.

While McCain’s family defends his upbringing as an “average American,” many Twitter responses and article comments express public outrage, calling McCain a traitor and “not a real American.” The aggressive response to McCain’s death demonstrates how many Americans continue to fear terrorist threats and are hypersensitive to individuals that deviate from their patriotic American ideal.

Amid public anger, the terrorist threat of ISIS has become a greater U.S. security concern with the beheading of American reporter James Foley. Obama has responded by expanding the air campaign against ISIS into Syria.

As an American who joined ISIS by choice rather than by captivity, McCain’s journey brings up the question – what is the significance of foreign fighters in ISIS? McCain’s death shows a shift in how ISIS and militant groups are utilizing foreign fighters. According to Richard Barrett of the security consultant Soufan Group, rather than train Americans for terrorist attacks in the United States or for propaganda purposes, ISIS now enlists them to fight in combat.

ISIS has become known for recruiting foreign fighters through social media. According to NBC News, authorities estimate 70 to 100 Americans fighting for ISIS. Americans from many backgrounds and ethnicities choose to join extremists groups abroad, making it difficult for officials to predict who is fighting for ISIS. Like McCain, most foreigners have no connection to Syria when they join; as examples, the New York Times lists half-Palestinian Moner Mohammad Abusalha from Florida who died in a suicide bomb attack and Nicole Lynn Mansfield who died with Syrian rebels.

As the first American to die fighting for ISIS, McCain’s story rippled through the country during the following week, but did not seem to make major headlines. His story was largely ignored and unknown.

However, McCain’s story shifts our understanding of ISIS as a far-away threat to one close to home in San Diego. We can no longer ignore the enormous influence of ISIS as a terrorist group solely in Syria, but as one of an increasingly international presence.

Beyond the week after his death, McCain’s story was lost in the black hole of internet news reporting, but I believe McCain provides evidence of the world’s rapid globalization and the influence of massive social movements across boundaries.

McCain’s death resonates with San Diegans and, to a larger extent, all Americans, as the news incites the fear that even an “average American” like McCain could join these far-away extremist groups. I am not recommending that we all live in fear that our neighbor will join the next extremist group, but the affairs of the greater international world should be no longer contained to what perceptions we see in the media. We have a responsibility to maintain a greater awareness of world affairs beyond our borders, as these issues are becoming increasingly globalized, transcending historical boundaries of race, religion and national identity.

Image by Kodak Agfa