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Progressive Podcasts

June 29, 2016

When I travel long distance, I love listening to podcasts to hear various perspectives on current events. My favorite podcast, Media Matters with Bob McChesney, ended production in October 2012, but you can still listen to Bob’s excellent interviews with guests such as Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, and Greg Palast at the archive.

Here are links to the podcasts that I subscribe to. In the comments, please share podcasts that you recommend.

Bite, or in iTunes

Unauthorized Disclosure with Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola

Moment of Clarity – Backstage of Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp

Best of the Left, or in iTunes

Wake Up Call Podcast, or in iTunes

Ralph Nader Radio Hour, or in iTunes

KCRW’s Scheer Intelligence with Robert Sheer, or in iTunes

Real Time with Bill Maher, or in iTunes


Democracy Now!, or in iTunes



Participatory Video for Improving Maternal and Child Health: PCI’s DARSHAN Project

February 3, 2015
Bishwajit and Brooks interviewing sahelis

DARSHAN project coordinator Bishwajit Mukherjee and me interviewing sahelis Pinky Kumari and Rekha Kumari

In November 2014, Project Concern International (PCI) invited me to document the process of their DARSHAN project, which used participatory video to educate women in rural Bihar about practices that protect maternal and child health, especially during and after pregnancy. DARSHAN was one of four such projects supported by Digital Green in India to demonstrate and assess the effectiveness of participatory video for improving maternal and child health. My report, Promoting Better Health through Participatory Video: The Process and Impact of PCI’s Program DARSHAN, can be seen here.

One of the women I interviewed in November, Radha Devi with her son Hritik.

One of the women I interviewed in November, Radha Devi with her son Hritik.

DARSHAN’s videos featured women who practiced, demonstrated, and endorsed healthy habits, such as handwashing with soap, exclusive breastfeeding for six months after delivery, and immunizing their children. This video clip shows a saheli screening a DARSHAN video during a women’s self-help group meeting.

Saheli Lata Kumari screening a DARSHAN participatory video on complementary feeding

Saheli Lata Kumari screening the DARSHAN video on complementary feeding to the members of a PCI Parivartan self-help group

Although I had twice previously documented PCI’s Parivartan project, which is supported by the Gates Foundation, this was my first exposure to participatory video and Digital Green, which Melinda Gates regards as one of the four ideas that are changing the world.

I returned to Bihar 10 days later to document a DARSHAN learning workshop, during which approximately 50 PCI’s frontline community mobilizers, called sahelis (friends in Hindi), reflected to distill lessons from the project.

Sahelis writing lessons learned during PCI's DARSHAN project

Sahelis writing lessons learned during PCI’s DARSHAN project

On 19 January, I presented findings from my fieldwork at the DARSHAN dissemination workshop in Patna. The workshop was attended by over 50 people from organisations including PATH, Digital Green, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, Janani, BBC Media Action, the Population Council, Engender Health, Water Aid, World Health Partners, Praxis, Jhpiego, and Marie Stopes, as well as by representatives of Jeevika, the Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society. For the workshop, I prepared case studies about a pregnant woman and a saheli who I had interviewed in November.

Presenting my findings at PCI's DARSHAN dissemination workshop in Patna, 19 January

Presenting my findings at PCI’s DARSHAN dissemination workshop in Patna, 19 January

I’m enormously grateful to PCI for the opportunity to document DARSHAN. I’m very impressed by the power of participatory video for accelerating progress in public health.

Illegal Dumping of Municipal Solid Waste Continues at Pondicherry’s Truck Terminal

August 22, 2014

My reports about illegal dumping of municipal solid waste and biomedical waste at Pondicherry’s truck terminal have received considerable attention. Photographs first published on this blog have been used in Health Care Without Harm’s report Medical Waste and Human Rights for the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, and on the website of Occupy for Animals. My reports have been viewed thousands of times on this blog, and helped to inform Kunal Vohra ‘s excellent documentary, The Plastic Cow, which has been viewed over 40,000 times. 

Given such coverage of the problem, I was curious to revisit Pondy’s truck terminal to see the situation now, three years after my first report. I visited the terminal yesterday and discovered that the area is still being used for illegal dumping of mixed municipal solid waste and biomedical waste, and cows are still foraging in the waste.

This is a public health problem because, as I explained in my first post on this topic, cows that forage in burnt plastic waste are likely to consume dioxin and then pass that dioxin to humans through milk. Such dioxin is passed to infants by nursing mothers. Permitting cows to forage in municipal solid waste endangers the life of cows because plastic bags accumulate in their rumen and can eventually cause cows to die. As this footage shows, cows continue to forage in illegally dumped municipal refuse and biomedical waste in Pondicherry’s truck terminal.

If you consume dairy products in India, the chance is very high that the milk came from a cow that eats hazardous municipal solid waste.

Here are a few images of cows foraging at Pondicherry’s truck terminal:

Cow foraging in municipal and biomedical waste in Pondicherry, India

Cow foraging in municipal and biomedical waste in Pondicherry, India

Cow and crow in municipal solid waste in Pondicherry, India

Cow and crow in municipal solid waste in Pondicherry, India




Cow and dog foraging in municipal solid waste and medical waste in Pondicherry, India

Cow and dog foraging in municipal solid waste and medical waste in Pondicherry, India

Processing Lumix GH3 and Nokia 808 Video for YouTube: The Search for the Best Settings

August 15, 2014

I’m writing this post to share my experience editing and processing video clips shot with a Lumix GH3 or with a Nokia 808. My primary purpose for editing and processing video has been for uploading videos to YouTube, so I’m trying to find the best combination of compression and image quality. I invite you to share your video processing experience and advice in the comments section.

In this post, I’m going to use the words “format”, “codec”, and “container” as they are explained in this YouTube video from

I use PowerDirector 10 for editing and processing. I’ve found it very easy to use, and it worked well until I noticed odd blotches of color in videos that I exported from PowerDirector in MPEG-4 format. Here’s a screenshot that shows orange blotches on my arms in a frame of video that was processed by PowerDirector:

Orange blotches

The full video can be seen here.

I also found that when uploading .mp4 videos to YouTube, YouTube would display a message saying that my videos would process faster if they were in a format that is suitable for YouTube. I understood this to mean that my MPEG-4 videos were not in the best format for YouTube.

I wasn’t sure what was causing the blotches in my videos. The blotches did not exist in the original files from the camera. The blotches occurred only after the files were edited and exported from PowerDirector 10. I wondered if the blotches could be avoided if I shot the video in a different format, or if I exported the edited files from PowerDirector 10 with a different codec.

So, instead of shooting in the GH3’s high-bitrate MOV format and exporting from PowerDirector in MPEG-4, I tried shooting some video in AVCHD 1080p, 24fps at 24 Mbps bitrate and exporting the edited clip from PowerDirector in H.264 AVC 1080p, 23.976fps at 13 Mbps.

PD screen shot with h264 circledI found that videos shot in AVCHD (with an .mts extension) and exported from PowerDirector in H.264 AVC (with an .m2ts extension) have not had any color blotches. Here’s a 55-second sample of such video. Its bitrate was 13 Mbps, and the file size is 91 MB.

In a thread on the Cyberlink forum, a forum member named Carl said that he exports videos from PowerDirector in Windows Media Video (WMV) 9 HD standard.

PD screen shot with WMV circled

I tried that and found that the video clip that I showed above became just 40 MB in WMV (at a data rate of 6 Mbps). I thought that the WMV version still looked acceptable. Here it is on YouTube:

I’ve also found that the MOV video that acquired color blotches when I converted it to MPEG-4 in PowerDirector did not acquire color blotches when I converted from MOV to AVCHD in PowerDirector.

So, I’m concluding from this experience that MPEG-4 is causing the color blotches in my videos.

I’ve also observed that when uploading .m2ts files to YouTube, I do not get a message from YouTube saying that the video will process faster if I use a format that is suitable for YouTube. I understand this to mean that the H.246 codec is suitable for YouTube, which is something that I’ve heard on several YouTube videos.

I’ll keep experimenting and will share what I learn. I’ll be very interested to read about your experiences. Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments section of this post.

The Lowepro Magnum 200 AW — First Impression

August 9, 2014

I just received the Lowepro Magnum 200 AW. I loved the Lowepro Inverse 100 AW, but my gear collection outgrew the bag, so I needed something a little bit larger.

Here’s a video of my first impression of the bag, compared to the Lowepro Inverse 100 AW and the Case Logic SLRC 203.

A Photo I Shot Is Featured on the Cover of a Book about Urban Planning in India

August 6, 2014

Copal Publishing has featured a photo that I shot of municipal solid waste management on the cover of a soon-to-be-released book about urban planning in India, India’s Urban Confusion: Challenges and Strategies.

India's Urban Confusion

Images taken while documenting the Gates Foundation’s Ananya program in Bihar, India

June 23, 2014

I spent six days in Begusarai and Khagaria Districts of Bihar, India, last month to document efforts of World Health Partners, Project Concern International, and CARE to improve maternal and infant health and survival. Here are photos of some of the mothers I interviewed: