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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Global Village: A gift shop that gives twice

By Kate Clark

March 16, 2009 | LOGAN -- Nestled between old pines and twisted limbs that have experienced the worst of what winter has to offer, the old olive house stood comfortably, speckled in the afternoon sunshine. Above its strikingly blue door and worn orange steps, the words "Global Village" invite you in.

On the other side of the door, you are enveloped in a sea of vibrant woven bags, encrypted with native letterings, smooth wooden figures and strands of bracelets and necklaces, which gleam in the light filtering through the front window.

At 146 N. and 100 East, Global Village is unlike any other place in Cache Valley, and not just because of its curb appeal. It stands as the only place in Logan where fairly traded handicrafts can be purchased, assisting underpaid artisans in over 30 countries around the world.

"When you buy a gift from Global Village, you are getting a gift that gives twice," said Julie Barker, a volunteer at the shop.

According to Global Village's official website, the not-for-profit retail store grew from Ten Thousand Villages in Salt Lake City, and came to Logan as its own corporation in 2003.

Now as Global Village's supplier, Ten Thousand Villages, and SERRV International, "a nonprofit alternative trade and development organization," work with artisan cooperatives in Africa, Asia, and South America to purchase handicrafts.

Crafts are chosen based upon who needs the most help, how appealing the items might be to customers across the United States, and to help the artisans become stable so they can support their families.

To make certain the items appeal to U.S. consumers, the artisans are offered design assistance. This training helps them to develop design and business skills that will further their sales and bring them out of poverty. They also receive 50% up-front for their handicrafts. The rest is received once a purchase has been made. This way, long-term relationships are built so the progress of the artisans is supported and directed towards a healthier future.

Global Village relies entirely on volunteers donating their time to make fair trade possible. Customers, in their own sense, are also volunteering their time and money to help. Global Village is often called the "store that's never open" because the need for volunteers is so great.

"We would be open six days a week but we don't have enough volunteers to do that," said Sue Zollinger, a volunteer.

The store is currently open Thursdays and Fridays from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is always looking for new volunteers to direct sales, unpack inventory, or to perform store publicity and presentations.

Along with providing honest income to Third World people, Global Village educates volunteer workers and customers about the artisans and their practices to hopefully increase awareness about the principles of fair trade.

"Once you learn the stories behind the merchandise, it makes it that much more beautiful," said Zollinger. "You can see similar merchandise to ours in TJ Max, but you don't know whether it's fair trade or if it was just made in that country."

Books, clothing, ceramic and wooden kitchenware, and stationary in all varieties overflow the shelves of the friendly store. One room is dedicated to musical instruments. Children visit frequently to admire turtle-shaped whistles or to play with pan flutes and rain sticks. Exotic teas and chocolates are also on display. "Divine," chocolates even make the wrapper appear appetizing, with its black and gold designs demanding any customers attention.

"It's the only place I don't feel guilty spending my money," said Tess Davis, a local high-school student who admits to visiting the store frequently. "My grandmother spent a lot of time shopping there and after seeing the quality of the products she was getting, I decided to go myself."

Purchasing products from Global Village helps to preserve native artwork and traditional methods of production. "A lot of the artisans pass down skills through their families," said Barker, "We all have things in our lives we are accustomed to, but it's disappointing to see cultural traditions depleting."

Barker, who has volunteered at Global Village since November 2003, grew up in under-developed communities around the world. Her father worked for a non-profit organization that helped increase rice production in impoverished areas. He helped triple production in the Philippines.

"I was able to see how simple things make such a difference in people's lives," said Barker.

After graduating from high school in the Philippines and experiencing poverty first-hand, Barker is overjoyed to help people overseas while still being able to live in Cache Valley.

"We live in a society where we need to be a little more concerned about one another," said Barker. "We tend to think about ourselves so much because we are constantly told by advertisers that we need things when there are people who may not even be able to feed their families every day. If we had taken the time to help those who really needed it instead of focusing on ourselves, our country would be in much better shape right now."

Money issues and the state of our economy may be a worry for most Americans right now, but to all of the artisans helped by Global Village and other fair trade organizations, selling their precious handicrafts is a matter of life and death.

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