Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hurricane Damage: Can the Caribbean Economies Keep Bouncing Back

Everyone knows that the Caribbean, or most of the Caribbean islands, lies in the path of hurricanes. Over the years, some islands more than others have taken a battering from the powerful winds and heavy rains. Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, St. Vincent and The Bahamas are some the islands that get hit most often.

In recent times Cuba has taken a beating from a number of hurricanes and tropical storms. In 2005, Cuba washit by Hurricane Dennis; in 2008 so far the island has felt the effects of Hurricane Gustav and Ike. While early reports claim that the impact of Gustav will have minor economic impact, reports indicate that there was major damage “to homes, schools and medical facilities…”

Haiti’s already battered economy and suffering population have been made worse off by the forces of hurricanes. Twenty persons were reportedly killed in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as a result of Gustav. With the passage of Hurricanes Hanna and Ike, and a number of storms, the death toll in Haiti has surpassed 320. All of these deaths occurred within a month. When taken into consideration that the hurricane season does not end until November, the idea of more disasters is a real possibility.

Jamaica has had her fair share of hurricanes and tropical storms – usually leaving millions in damage. Since the start of the 2008 hurricane season Jamaica has already felt the economic, not to mention social and environmental impact of one major event, Tropical Storm, Gustav. The human toll from Gustav was listed as 11 dead and 1,000 left homeless. The damage to the island’s road network has been devastating and repairs are currently estimated to be around J$3 billion. Minister of Transport and Works, Mike Henry, pointed out during the week of September 1 that the full extent of damage to the roads and bridgework is still not known.

Each time there is a hurricane, the island’s major foreign exchange earners get a beating. Jamaica’s agriculture was just getting back on solid footing after Hurricane Dean in 2007 and Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when Tropical Storm Gustav struck. The widespread flooding that occurred, negatively affected banana plantations that were almost wiped out by Hurricane Dean. The region’s tourism industry normally takes a licking as well – especially when roads are destroyed and utilities are down.

With each succeeding hurricane season seemingly worse than the one before, one is left to wonder what is causing it. Some persons believe that manmade pollution is partially responsible. In islands such as Haiti and Jamaica where flooding is the main source of destruction and loss of life, environmental degradation is partly responsible for the devastation.

Can Haiti ever get back on her feet after being plundered by dishonest politicians, political warfare, HIV /AIDS and continuous onslaughts from the winds of nature? The already poorly built roads and poorly maintained bridges in Jamaica can only take so much more. In both islands entire communities are cut off from each other and have little access to food and shelter. Sadly in many of the islands the devastation is mostly affecting the poor and this begs the question: Why? The economic cost of hurricanes in the islands during a bad season runs into millions of dollars. With the almost annual destruction and loss of life, one wonders if the Caribbean will always be able to recover from hurricanes.

- Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bolt, Jamaicans Ruled the Tracks: Beijing 2008

Well, the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing China are almost over and what a show. As a Jamaican it has been a bittersweet event. Thankfully, it was moresweet than bitter. The losses were hard, especially when my special Asafa Powell failed to medal in the 100m. I was sure he was going to get the silver –what a heartbreaking moment. The agony of defeat was felt again when defending 4x100 champion women made a mistake with the baton change – but you win some and you lose some. Never mind ladies – you are homegrown heroes.

It was also bitter-sweet when I thought of some of Jamaica’s great athletes who have won mostly silver and bronze medals at numerous Olympic meets. I wonder if there was level playing field what would have happened. Would sprint queen Merlene Ottey’s medal case be filled with gold, and what about Grace Jackson-Small, Juliet Cuthbert, Bert Cameron and Raymond Stewart to name a few?

As for Jacques Rogge, I have one word of advice, visit Jamaica. Learn something about the culture and the people before you start making asinine comments. Bolt, like most Jamaicans are jovial people who like to dance and prance when they are successful. Sure there is something called sportsmanship, but when did it become such a big issue? Is it only when a tiny, little island comes along, breaking records and creating upsets? Over the years I’ve seen so many athletes showboating and never was it such a big issue.

Great moves Usain as you showcase, not showboat, popular Jamaican dance moves, Nuh Linga and 90s Rock. However, Asafa you were never taken from your pedestal by me – like me, you haven’t quite mastered what comes so naturally to most of our fellow Jamaicans. But your attempt to show some dance moves was entertaining.

Congrats also to fellow Caribbean nationals who showed the world that there is no need for performance enhancing drugs. Not even voodoo dolls were needed to make hard work and determination pay off.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Caribbean Display in Beijing

Since the big news of the moment is the 2008 Olympics in Beijing let’s look at the excitement the Caribbean contingent will be creating. Expectations are high that some of the best displays in the track and field events will be given by athletes hailing from the Caribbean.

Two of the world’s fastest men hail from the tiny island of Jamaica. The race between Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt (Jamaica’s super-two) and Tyson Gay of the USA will be one of,if not the most exciting display of stamina and speed in Beijing. Punters internationally are betting heavily on the placement of the top three 100 meter runners. The three men have some really impressive times. The current record holder is Bolt with a time of 9.72, while former world record holder, Powell has a time of 9.74 and world champion Gay has 9.77.

Doping and the Olympics

Due to doping concerns, many of the top athletes are feeling the needle – literally. One of Jamaica’s leading newspapers, The Daily Gleaner, reported in its Wednesday, August 13 edition that the Jamaican team has been tested numerous times since arriving in Beijing. Powell has been quoted as saying, “They have tested me four times and took a lot of blood. I’m saying they are taking too much blood….” Powell was concerned that the excessive blood testing may leave him too weak to perform well when the big day arrives.

Let the Games Begin

As can be expected, the top three men aced their heats on the 14th, and now the world waits for the big showdown on the 15th. Other Caribbean men expected to put on a good show are veteran Kim Collins from St. Kitts, and Trinidad & Tobago’s Darrel Brown, Richard Thompson & Marc Burns. Other Caribbean islands such as Cuba, Guyana (yes, also counted as part of the region), Antigua, Bahamas and Barbados all have athletes taking part in the games.

Barbadian swimmer, Bradley Ally wrote his name in the history books at the 2008 Olympics. Ally is now the first Caribbean swimmer to advance in the 200 meter individual medley.

Another track and field event that is highly anticipated and where the Caribbean is expected to do well is the men’s 4x100 Meter relay. Here both Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are expected to land in any of the top three spots.

The women are not to be overlooked. Champion sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown from Jamaica is expected to deliver a medal for her country. Other members of the Jamaican contingent expected to win medals include Sherone Simpson, Aileen Bailey, and Shelley-Ann Fraser. Knowing the competitive spirit of the Jamaican athletes, any other member of the female team can surprise with a medal-winning run.

Tiny Antigua’s five athletes at the games are no dark horses either. Sprinter, Sonia Williams is good and could do well for her country and the region as is James Grayman, a high-jumper.

I’m sure that Caribbean nationals all over the globe had goose bumps as the athletes from the various islands paraded on opening day.

The complete list of Caribbean islands represented in Beijing is:

Antigua & Barbuda
British Virgin islands
Cayman islands
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico
Saint Kitts & Nevis
Saint Lucia
Trinidad & Tobago

- Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Genocide Olympics


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
Martin Luther King

I have no interest in the Beijing Olympics and neither will I be purchasing merchandise from corporations with their branding splattered like bloodstains across the Olympic Games.

The massive infrastructure and eloborate opening ceremony are built on the blood and bones of nearly half a million black Dafur people, victims of the Chinese- supported genocidal policies of Sudan.

More than 2 million people are also believed to have fledtheir homes in Darfur in response to continuing attacks from the Sudan-armed, pro-government Arab janjaweed militia.

Food and water are in short supply and more than one third of Darfur's children seem destined to suffer from malnutrition in the coming months.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused Sudan's Arab dominated government of the most heinous crimes against humanity including summary executions, rape and torture to name a few.

Sudan's rapid industrialization and modernisation have been fueled by its lucrative oil and commodities trade with Asian and Arab partners. This has emboldened the Sudanese government to resist American and European pressure to end the genocide in neighbouring Darfur. The truth is that Sudan can ignore Western revulsion at genocide because it has no need of Western money or trade.

Sudan has been subject to U.S. sanctions since the 1990s and has been condemned in numerous United Nations resolutions.

Yet thanks to China, a small group of western capitalists, Kuwaitis, Saudis, Indians and Pakistanis, Sudan's petro-economy is flourishing. The economy is expected to continue a robust growth rate on the back of oil exports, 80% of which go to Beijing.

China, as Sudan number one trading partner is in a key strategic position to pressure Sudan into stopping its sponsored violence in Darfur. But to date, China has been passive, taking very little action to influence the Sudanese government and nothing much has changed on the ground level in Darfur.

In fact, quite disturbingly, it now appears that China is actually assisting Sudan to contravene the 2005 UN Arms Embargo on Darfur. This embargo requires foreign nations to ensure that they do not provide any form of military assistance to the groups involved in the Darfur conflict.

A BBC Panorama TV team recently tracked down China-made Dong Feng army lorries in Darfur. These lorries were sold to Sudan in 2005, months after the UN Arms Embargo was put in place. The BBC team was given graphic descriptions of these Dong Feng lorries that used anti-aircraft guns to attack the huts and murder unarmed civilians in a town called Sirba.

The reporters were also told that China was training fighter pilots to fly Chinese A5 Fantan Jets in Darfur.

It is now clear to all observers that Sudan can only defy the UN and western nations with a conscience because of China's support. And yet, western leaders and millions of tourists are falling over themselves to be present at the Genocide Olympics in a barbaric country that feels free to trample the basic standards of human decency in pursuit of greed.

How quickly have they forgotten Darfur.

How quickly have they forgotten Tibet.

How quickly have they forgotten Tiananmen Square.

The hypocrisy, media blitz and ritualized medal count have no impact on me as the ossified Chinese government bends over backward to show off its “achievements and modernisation.”

The shadows of the Darfur genocide, massive rural poverty, unbearable pollution, degraded landscapes and authoritarian leadership are everywhere, even as they walled up unsightly residences of impoverished Chinese people like prisons and destroyed the homes of others without compensation to facilitate this massive public relations campaign to impress the world. China lives in denial of its collective shadow and capitalist fed barbarism. Not even the fancy pyrotechnics and regimented choreography of the recent opening ceremony can hide its ugliness.

As the great granddaughter of Asian migrants, there is a fair amount of Chinese (and Indian) blood running through my veins and I have the right to accuse China of genocide.

When one adds the Tibetan invasion, basic human violations of their own people and religious intolerance to the tableau of Chinese “achievements” to date, it is very difficult for any human being with a conscience to cheer anything at this danse macabre called the Beijing Olympics.

- Carol Ann Mohamed

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Open Network Agenda & Cell Phone Applications

A Victorious Battle in the War for Keeping the Internet Open

A commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Kevin J. Martin feels a victory has been achieved in the fight to keep the Internet Open from when he convinced two other commissioners to support his plan to impose sanctions on Comcast for interfering with the transfer of data packets of applications that uses peer-to-peer technology. In other words, Comcast chose to block an application that an end-user requested. An example could be, a user who wants to download music from a server; and the user starts an application that uses peer-to-peer technology; Comcast could've prevented the request from being started and/or completed.

The issue was profiled back in February when the inquiry into Comcast's action back in October 2007 was brought to attention before the FCC. Comcast along with another large communications operator Verizon argued that their companies should have the ability to control the traffic of information that flows through their networks. They reasoned that some applications used for file transfers can degrade the performance of their network, and they want to be able to control the priority that an application will have in the network.

This "control" could be broadly applied beyond controlling network traffic. The danger could be to extend this "control" to content flow also. Mr. Martin expressed in an interview last week that "people should generally be able to use any device and any software to connect to any legal content they want." (source NYT – Aug. 4th 2008.)

Twitter has been used in two creative schemes in the past week:

Representative, John Culberson, used his cellphone, Twitter and Qik to broadcast on the internet proceedings at the House after it had adjourned for its 5 week summer recess. Typically, when the House adjourns C-Span's cameras and microphones tune out as well. Last Friday, a few dozen Republicans had decided to stay on the House floor, after the recess was announced by the speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

Mr. John Culberson used his cellphone to make a live broadcast on Twitter: "Pelosi just turned out the lights." Another Representative, Mr. Peter Hoekstra, also used Twitter to post live updates. Meanwhile, Mr. Culberson filmed the event with his cellphone and shared it live on the internet using a streamlining video service called, Qik.

Meanwhile in Brazil, it was reported by BBC that Twitter's social network had been a target by cyber criminals. The attack was designed using a fake Twitter profile that enticed users to click on a link to a pornographic video. Upon clicking on the link the program appears to load a false version Adobe Flash, when in reality it is a program that can allow the intruder, a worm, to steal personal data.

It was Kaspersky Lab, a computer security company, that discovered the malicious attack on Twitter. The discovery came about at the same time that Kaspersky Lab published details on two worms that target two other social networking sites, MySpace and Facebook.

"The worms transformed victims' machines into zombie computers, used by criminals to send spam, launch phishing attacks and harvest data… " They were disguised as a link to YouTube which also installed a fake version of Flash Player." (source BBC News)

It is noteworthy that the article mentions that only Microsoft Windows is vulnerable to infection from these malicious programs.

- Analyn Revilla

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

She's Famous!

Chanel Kennebrew was in the Post yesterday! Yes, yes, I know. I'm late. I knew yesterday and was going to make a post butsomehow managed to get through my day without doing so. I apologize. I don't think the delay reduces the excitement though.

Take a look at Ms. Lady here. I'll scan in the pictures from the actual article and post them soon.

CONGRATULATIONS CHANEL!!!! From the entire Coup family.

-Ashleigh Rae

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Homosexuality Blamed for Increasing AIDS Problem in the Caribbean

The 2008 UNAIDS report indicates that the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean is being fuelled by men having sex with men. According to statistics from UNAIDS there are currently an estimated 230, 000 personsliving with HIV in the Caribbean. Some sources have it as high as 270, 000. Interestingly three quarters of this number, that is approximately 173, 000 are in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The report indicates that as much as one of every eight HIV infection cases in the Caribbean region resulted from unprotected sex between men, especially in Cuba and Dominica. Statistics revealed that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with other men in Jamaica was between 25 to 30 percent, while it was 20 percent in Trinidad & Tobago. This information came from a Caribbean Commission on Health & Development 2005 document.

Other Factors Impacting HIV Epidemic in the Region

In addition to unprotected sex among men, the HIV rate is being driven by poverty, gender and unemployment. The associated stigmas of the disease are also preventing many persons from finding out and or revealing their status because of discrimination.

Recently there was a major debate in Jamaica concerning whether or not to decriminalize prostitution in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Professor Affette McCaw-Binns of the University of the West Indies is one voice in the wilderness calling for the legalization of prostitution to stem the spread of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.

To support her argument, Professor McCaw-Binns noted that making prostitution illegal does not serve as a deterrent to those who practice the trade as a means of livelihood. She said that decriminalizing and licensing sex workers would result in “their being examined and tested every three months and if they are unfit to practice, they lose their license.”

The 2008 UNAIDS information is staggering especially given the homophobic nature of Caribbean society. However, the fact is there is a large homosexual community in the region. The sex market is not limited to heterosexuals, as homosexual men can at times be seen offering their services to men if one knows where to look.

The biggest issue as I see it currently is educating persons on the ways to help prevent the spread of the disease by practicing safe sex. The call for issuing condoms in prison is often criticized as a means of promoting homosexuality, but the reality is, sex between men takes place in penal institutions.

With one of the largest incidence of HIV/AIDS infections in the world, the Caribbean region has to address head on the factors driving this increase. This may call for unpopular remedies that are against societal norms and Christian beliefs such as legalization of prostitution.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Real-Time Networking

I was away on hiatus last week in LA. During my break from the day-to-day race of making goals and meeting deadlines I decided to touch bases with some friends and work peers.

Despite the proliferation of online social networks that are designed to help us maintain our networks active and alive, I still believe that the old-fashioned telephone call and actual face-to-face time with people has deeper benefits than online social networks. I would call this type of networking as "real time" which in computer terminology is generally meant as something actually happening in the moment.

I've worked in the IT industry for over 15 years, and during that period I found my job/career opportunities through my social network of peers with whom I've worked with. That said, it's important never to break bridges, though sometimes some situations can be sticky for professional and/or personal reasons that I had decided to move on to greener pastures.

In the past twenty-five years (plus or minus) most people have changed their places of work more than 5 times (probably more for some people.) I think this scenario is more common than uncommon. I did work for one company where my manager had worked for only one company throughout his career that spanned seventeen years. That is the same length of time I've been working in IT (Information Technology.)

He was impressed that I had worked at over seven companies during that period of time (not including working the same company we were working for.) I was equally impressed that he could have stayed so long in one company during that period of time. There were vast differences in the outcome of our choices. While he has a deep knowledge of his company's business (manufacturing and distributing consumer electronics); I had a deep knowledge of "business processes", because I've been exposed to seeing how many different companies operate.

This new insight led me to understand that he is dependent on his company's ability to maintain and thrive in current economic conditions. If for some reason the company could no longer sustain work for him then I wonder what social network he has to fall on to look for another job. Meanwhile I have quite a rich social network that I've fallen back on to help me grab on to the next vine as I swing through the job opportunities jungle. My eyes are constantly roving and looking out for what's the newest technology and business process improvement methods. This aspect of my career is important, and so I do work to keep in touch with people. It's also a personal need I have to constantly evolve my thought and work process, and that can only happen with exposure to different environments and people.

It's not always convenient to get together with peers. Often, I'm keeping in touch by way of e-mail, online chat, and less often by on-line social networks.

I find these days that those who have access to Internet and mobile phones are sometimes bogged down with maintaining calendars, synchronizing data between laptops and mobile phones, keeping track of all their e-mails (at work, and yahoo/hotmail/gmail accounts.) We need to be concerned with backing up the data in case data get corrupted; and when a server is down then everyone is affected like a grid going down and the lights have gone out.

I sometimes wonder if our society is more vulnerable to losing touch with professional peers and friends if we get so dependent on technology and online networks. I believe that investing real-time with people has lasting effects because as people we ultimately look for and need the nuances of reading facial expressions and hearing the tones between the lines.

-Analyn Revilla

Monday, July 21, 2008

Her Queendom Cometh: The Triumphs of Wendy Williams

This past Monday July 14th marked the premiere of New York’s most notorious radio personality Wendy Williams’ daytime talk show on the Fox Network (this is a six week sneak peak and only available in New York, Detroit, Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles). If you don’t know who Wendy is or her true “Rocky” story, here we go in a nutshell. Ms. Williams has been a fixture on New York radios stations since the eighties, where she bounced around and finallylanded at 98.7 KISS FM where she honed her “put a celeb on blast/just chatting with a girlfriend” style. When that station was bought out she was switched to Hot 97 which was also owned by the same company. She remained there until 1998 when she was famously fired amidst rumors of a physical altercation with another female DJ. But you can be the judge just pick up her first New York Times Best Selling autobiography, Wendy’s Got The Heat.

And then there were those three years when she broadcast from New York’s first cousin, Philadelphia and it seemed like Wendy was done in the Big Apple. Maybe she had pissed off too many people in the industry (there were those persistent rumors and just as much silence from insiders) or wanted to start over some place new herself? Whatever the cause the effect was Wendy being absent from the landscape of the city and Wendy is as New York as street corner hot dog vendors, Coney Island and Biggie. But Ms. Williams was working hard in Philly, had secured a new fan base and sky rocketed that stations ratings. Then came 2001, the offer from 107.5 WBLS and The Wendy Williams Experience was born. Did somebody say like a Phoenix from the flames? And our girl was back with that juicy, infectious and mischievous giggle dishin’ dirt, securing interviews with hip-hop & R&B A-listers, re-capping reality shows, tossing out Wendyisms (donkey, a swoop down, luxuriate, negroidian, pinkies up etc.) and all along the way solidifying the brand that is Wendy Williams. From her VH1 show, Wendy Williams Is On Fire, Billboard Awards, two NY Times Best Selling Books up to her network premiere on Fox Wendy continues to defy set backs and has defined a space for herself as a “Media Queen.”

On Friday July 18th the fifth day of her live TV show Wendy turned 44 and her parents and brother were in the audience to mark the day with her. But Wendy was celebrating just as much as she was acknowledging her journey. From her start on a station in St. Croix, the big jump to D.C. to creating a name for herself in New York. She also claims the years of addiction to Cocaine, her public firing and the fickleness of fans and fame. Not to mention the candid talks about trying to have a child, the miscarriages but the eventual full term pregnancy and birth of her son all the while working to keep her marriage together, still broadcasting and planning ahead. Those defining, maturing and humbling experiences say just as much about what she is made of as well as who she is today. Wendy said it best in an interview with New York Magazine, “Virtually everything in my life I have plotted on to get it. Nothing has happened by fluke.” So it was a grown woman on the set of her TV show that honored her parents and their support of her, their fifty plus years of marriage and finally her tenacity in life and in an industry that gives women nothing and devours the weak.

-Adisa Vera Beatty

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Duvalier Funds May Be Returning Home to Haiti

Duvalier Funds May Be Returning Home to Haiti

The impoverished country of Haiti may be getting a windfall in a few months as the Swiss government may be handing over millions in unclaimed funds. According to news reports, if no one comes forward by September to claim the US$7.52 million (some news reports state up to US$12 million) in a Swiss account, and also prove that the money was legally obtained, it will be repatriated to Haiti. The Swiss Justice Ministry said that the funds have been linked to former dictator of Haiti, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. It is believed that the younger Duvalier and his cronies embezzled well over US$100 million from the country before fleeing to France in 1986.

The Duvalier Era

A couple of years ago the name of Papa Doc and Baby Doc were synonymous with Haiti. For years the country was ruled with the iron fist of this father and son team, from 1957 to 1986. Papa Doc was Dr. Francois Duvalier, who ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1971. A medical doctor by training, Duvalier captured the imagination of black Haitians and garnered their support during a time when the country was controlled by the small, but powerful group of mulattoes.

During the reign of his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier or Baby Doc, the country was even worse off, as the young ruler was not interested in politics and allowed the corruption to continue. He gained the name Baby Doc (Bebe Doc) because he was just 19-years old when he became Haiti’s president upon his father’s death in 1971. However during his rule Haiti sank further into decay and the people suffered greatly from the lack of infrastructure and economic development.

Proceedings for the return of the money began from as far back as 1986, but were only just finalized in May 2008.

The return of the funds, while late, is a welcome event. Haiti is one of, if not the most impoverished country in the region with a staggering illiteracy and HIV/AIDS rate. However, with the current instability in the country I find myself worrying that the money may well go the way of such funds – in the pocket of yet more corrupt politicians and their cronies, with nothing going towards alleviating the suffering of the people who need it most.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reaching for the Status Quo

"I'm not buying into this ghetto mentality gangster bullsh--. It's genocide."
-Spike Lee, in an interview in Uptown Magazine

I read that this afternoon in Uptown Magazine (the one with that crazy image of Obama on the cover. I've come to the conclusion that it's some kind of illustration, photography hybrid). We've reached an interesting point in our progression as a people, as a nation. People familiar with my political leanings and activities are constantly asking how I feel about Obama, and his possible presidency. The truth is, I feel all kinds of ways about it.

I'm proud of him. He's not just an intelligent, passionate, black man, but he's one hell of a candidate. I'm interested however, in his possible position as the "Great White Hope". Familiar with the "but you guys are doing so much better now" argument, I'm curious to experience how frequently I'll hear that argument if Obama is elected. Not stressing it though, as it's not the point.

But, as I've gotten older, I've become increasingly aware of the definitions and defining characteristics of my generation. We've hit a stride in our professional and academic pursuits that are definitely the dreams of our parents. As we continue to progress, I've begun to become worried by some of the comments I hear coming from my peers. What worries me about our success is the possibility that we'll start to accept the status quo as our finish line.

Does my/our (depending on who is reading) generation feel that we're approaching our pinnacle? Are we looking for that line in the sand, the banner announcing "You've made it"? I don't want us to be lulled into a false sense of security. Of course, I'm also convinced that Obama himself will address this possibility...at some point, in a moving speech that will bring me to tears every time I watch it on You Tube.

My point is, there's still a lot of work to do. "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." I wonder,though, have we been trained for the long haul?

-Ashleigh Rae

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Give Peace a Chance

Technology section of BBC read “US Kid Spreads Peace Over the Net”

Trevor Dougherty, a 16-year-old from Ithaca, New York, has combined his passion for communication and his hobby of video production to promote peace over the internet.

It was a year ago that the student from Ithaca High School produced a short video with the message:

"People around the world are getting killed. We should end the violence and strive for world peace."

It is a simple and profound message, and he posted his video on YouTube. To his surprise it was nominated for the “Most Inspirational” category in the 2007 YouTube Video Awards.

The internet has connected people in different ways, and through Trevor’s message he reached millions of people online, and he got 6,000 people to gather in Ithaca to form the peace symbol.

Trevor says, "I knew it was the best video I had ever made, but it was incredible to see it featured. It's funny because I made the original video during my exams last year and I organised this event during my finals this year. It's beautiful to be distracted from my ghastly final exams, by doing something righteous." – quote from the BBC article.

He planned an event to get about 5,000 to come to the Ithaca Festival to make the world’s largest peace sign. The organizers of the festival said that they get about many people to come out for the festival. Furthermore he was warned of the work needed to launch Trevor’s specific idea. It would need a lot of advertising, sending out press releases and putting up posters.

By way of internet social networking using Facebook and YouTube. Friends told their friends, and it spread like wildfire to build to the official count of 5,814 persons who participated.

"Everyone was extremely cooperative, they were all very excited about about the idea of setting a record. They also understood the message. I think they agreed that, while we were not confiscating any weapons or ending any wars, we were forming a community of persons dedicated to one powerful cause."

-Analyn Revilla

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Merging Issue

The Merging Issue is here!

Dear Reader,

At the height of globalization, words like fuse, merge, and collaboration are frequently throughout various media. People are coming together every day. For the merging issue, we wanted to explore the fusing of different things/people/concepts/etc. Black + White, Church + Politics, Music + Business, etc. We were interested in a collection of works that are an abstract exploration of that word.

Happy reading y'all!
And here is the rest of it. READ MORE

This S**t is in my Dreaaamsss

"But Ms., how do you know when gentrification has come?" "When you see a Starbucks children, when you see a Starbucks..."

That's how one of my lessons went this year. I work with high school students in the Bronx, teaching art/photography and generally encouraging critical thought (very unpatriotic of me). One day in January, right after the Christmas Season may lay, I'd gone into corporate involvement in the media - which fits right in with a photography curriculum - and ended up discussing big business and government. It was one of those moments where you don't realize you've been going on for 10 minutes, until you see the blank stares of your audience. I stopped. "Any questions?" And that, is where this blog began.

You may be asking, 'But Ash...you're not really going into a gentrification blog now, are you? It's old news. We get it...' My response to you is, yes I am, because I just woke up from a dream in which one of my good friends led me all around Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, from artist loft to creative space filled with awkward art kids (no worries, I'm one of them) in funny clothes, smoking Cloves. And she kept referring to it as "One of the most progressive gated communities in New York."

What's scary about this all is, that shit could actually happen. That tour could take place today.

I like Starbucks. I drink Starbucks, sometimes, while discussing art...I'm not judging. What upsets me are all of the double standards that go into turning a community into an "up-and coming-community". Case in point, the "Green the Ghetto" campaign going on in the Bronx right now. Yeah, I love it. There are some really amazing, progressive things happening in the borough that will benefit not only Bronx residents, but the human race. But, even as I watch these things going down I can't help but consider the other events taking place.

Harlem residents are being priced out of their homes, and gentrification has a way of seeping. It's funny like that. When you have a city of however many billion, people flock to where there's space, and things are affordable. But the isle of Manhattan, feels like it's almost to capacity with people smart enough to look for "affordable housing" although they could afford to pay the premium. Generally, they don't move in with malice; but the presence of the up-and-coming middle-class, causes developers to dismiss the I've-been-here-my-whole life class. And then, enter stage right, the Starbucks'.

- Ashleigh Rae

P.S. I was going to write about this. I'm intrigued. There's lots to say, but it's mostly been said in the article. The photo at the beginning is what really got me. Everyone looks so serene (from the backs of their heads...), watching the fire burn. The image hardly goes with the word riot. Also, I'm moved by the people's resolve.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Keeping it Real – Reality Mining

April 2008 issue of Technology Review lists the top ten emerging technologies, and the list includes something called ‘Reality Mining’.

The founder of the, Sandy Pentland from MIT, describes reality mining in layman terms as: “is all about paying attention to patterns in life and using that information to help [with] things like setting privacy patterns, sharing things with people, notifying people – basically to help you live your life.”

The idea is to keep a database of profiles of people and track the locations of these peoples. This combination could allow for inference of patterns in social behavior. The cell phone has been the device used to gather the data. For example, in creating an accurate model of an individual’s social network, the MIT team monitored a person’s phone call logs and the nearness of this cell phone device to other peoples’ devices that has Bluetooth sensors (laptops, phones.) A statistical technique used in social sciences called, factor analysis, was used to identify patterns in the data and thus the team is able to create a social relationships map.

How useful is this? Back in April, the example given was to develop privacy settings by categorizing the person’s address book between friends, family members, acquaintances, or coworkers. The idea is to auto-create the privacy settings to allow certain individuals to view your personal schedule. An extension would be to add the location dimension. The phone would be able to predict if the person is within the vicinity of someone in their address book.

June 2008 and the Sunday issue of the New York Times features a company that has found an application that is based on Reality Mining. In the “Bright Ideas” section, an article titled “Predicting Where You’ll Go and What You’ll Like” shows a picture of the founding owners of Sense Networks, and below their image is a Blackberry with the map of downtown San Francisco. (Sandy Pentland was initially one of the founding co-founders of Sense Networks, and now gives advise on privacy issues.)

Meanwhile, the product Gregory Skibiski and Tony Jebara (both science majors) are providing a service to businesses and consumers that make recommendations based on the users’ locations. Rather using telephone devices, their models gathered data from taxicabs that were installed with GPSs. (By the way, the new model of Blackberry that will be released in July will be installed with GPS chips.) In developing models for Sense Network product, Macrosence, it required gathering very large sets of data that go back many years.

There are other companies now engaging in Reality Mining, including Microsoft. A spin-off company called Inrix uses traffic data to predict traffic patterns. Something similar to this is Path Intelligence which monitors traffic flow in shopping centers by tracking the cell phones in the area. That would be a useful application for those who hate to be stuck in holiday traffic jams.

Macrosense and Citysense are services that users of iPhones or Blackberrys can sign up for. The software is designed to help the user in decision making for places to go, or show them where people of like interests are going.

“What Will They Think of Next?”

- Analyn Revilla