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Pulitzer Center Update January 26, 2016

This Week: An Arctic Warm Front


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Three scientists, two glaciers, one summer. What does melting Arctic ice have to do with volcanoes...

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The three mile-wide Helheim glacier is one of the biggest outlets of the massive Greenland ice cap, the second-largest in the world. Image by Ari Daniel. Greenland, 2016.


As we dig out from beneath a record-breaking blanket of snow here in Washington and elsewhere along the East Coast, Pulitzer Center grantee Ari Daniel visits Greenland where he documents the alarming effects of rapidly melting ice—an average of 287 billion metric tons a year—on an island that holds the world's second largest ice sheet.

"There are trillions of tons of ice here in Greenland, enough to raise global sea levels 21 feet if all of it were to melt. No one can say yet how quickly that will happen," Ari reports in the first in a series of dispatches for PRI's The World.

But one thing is certain: "There's no doubt that sea level will rise in a warming planet—we have ice that is on land that will melt," a climate scientist tells Ari. "But what is important for humanity is to understand how quickly it will rise. We need to know this so that we can plan."


Vietnam is officially a communist state, so the multi-billion dollar Ciputra International City complex might come as a bit of a surprise. Located on the edge of Hanoi, it covers 741 acres of former farmland with over-the-top mansions, posh private schools, a clubhouse and chic boutiques.

As Pulitzer Center grantees Matthew Kennard and Claire Provost report in The Guardian, Ciputra "is a private enclave of ostentatious wealth – a paradise for the Vietnamese capital's expatriate and local elite. Inside the gates, wide roads are flanked by luxury cars, palm trees and giant statues of Greek gods." And Ciputra is not an anomaly. "There are about 35 of these projects already completed in Hanoi, with as many as 200 more at different stages in the pipeline."

The embrace of capitalist values by Vietnam's communist leaders has lifted the country out of poverty, but it has also created a glaring income gap between rich and poor. The gated communities for the wealthy are perhaps the most egregious manifestation of the wealth disparity as developers force thousands of poor families to give up their land and livelihood.


Since the first reported case in 1984, the Philippines has had one of the lowest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world. But as Pulitzer Center grantees Ana Santos and Veejay Villafranca report in the Los Angeles Times, that is changing. The island nation is now on the brink of an epidemic with more than 20,000 new HIV infections reported from 2010 to 2015 — more than four times as many as had been recorded in the 26 years before that.

Most at risk are men who have sex with men, transgender women, sex workers and people who inject drugs. Health officials and activists say that raising public awareness has been difficult in this conservative society that typically shuns frank discussions of sex.

"In the heavily Roman Catholic country, condom ads and public service campaigns on HIV/AIDS are muted by protests from religious groups, which see them as promoting promiscuity," writes Ana, our 2014 Persephone Miel fellow. "And existing laws bar minors from getting an HIV test or being offered condoms from public health clinics without parental consent."

This week, you can visit our Instagram account @pulitzercenter to see Veejay's powerful documentary photography on the steady rise of HIV cases in the Philippines. Despite the social taboos surrounding this burgeoning epidemic, Veejay notes "a prominent trait we have gathered is empathy, compassion and love."


As Europe tries to come to grips with an unprecedented tide of migration, Kenyan journalist and one of our 2015 Persephone Miel fellows Wairimu Michengi looks at the crisis from a different perspective. In a series of dispatches for Global Press Journal, Wairimu tells the story of a Kenyan woman living in Spain who facilitates the illegal entry of others from her homeland.

Wairimu also introduces us to some of the illegal immigrants and others living on the margins in Europe, humanizing their stories as they struggle for economic survival in an increasingly hostile environment. We're proud of the unique viewpoints that our Miel fellows bring to readers, and we look forward to choosing this year's fellow. Candidates are welcome to apply here. The deadline is March 1, 2016.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor


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Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change