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

Friday, June 20, 2008

Questioning the Motivation Behind the Call to Open Up The Arctic for Oil & Gas Exploration

It is not surprising to find one of the main headlines on BBC's page (June 18, 2008) that George Bush Jr. has asked Congress to open up drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. He describes the 27 year old policy as "out dated and counter-productive". This call by the Bush Administration upon congress might be one prompted by one of two things:

1)It is his government's response to the plea by the Americans to alleviate the prices people are paying at the pump


2)It is one of the planned agenda items that his administration meant to implement before leaving the Oval office.

Dating back to the State of the Union Addresses by George Bush in the past 2 years, he had impressed back in December 2006 that Americans are "addicted to oil".

The analysis of Ms. Kay, "Oil and the Bush Cabinet" suggested the Bush Administration would try to clear a path towards the drilling of oil in Arctic. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1138009.stm (posted on January 29, 2001)

A poignant point in the analysis describes that the Bush administration differs from previous wealthy cabinets in that many of the officials have links to the same industry which is oil. "The president, vice-president, commerce secretary and national security adviser all have strong ties to the oil industry."

1) National Security Advisor – Condoleeza Rice was a director of Chevron

2) Vice President – Dick Cheney was CEO of Haliburton Oil Company

3) Commerce Secretary – Donald Evans owned stocks worth between $5m – $25m in Tom Brown Inc (another oil and gas exploration company.)

In that article Ms. Kay states that the administration had already made it clear that "it would be interested in opening up oil exploration in Alaska."

What the public needs to keep in perspective are the events of the past eight years since the election of the Bush Administration into office. In reviewing the State of the Union Address since 2006, Bush has impressed that Americans are "addicted to oil", and that the country needed to break that dependency through the development of alternative energy sources and providing consumers with other options such as fuel efficient hybrid cars.

Back in Oct 2006, the price of oil was at $2.26 per gallon, which had gone down from $3.04 in August. During a renewable-energy conference he addressed the audience:

"Let me just put it bluntly: We're too dependent on oil," Mr Bush told the conference in St Louis.
"Low gasoline prices may mask that concern.
"I believe so strongly that this country has got to use its talent and its wealth to get us off oil.
"Probably the fastest way we can begin to change the consumer habits is to promote hybrid vehicles."

In another analysis of US dependence on foreign oil (Dec 2006) the article lists that Bush wants to reduce oil imports from the Middle East by 75% by 2025. Crude imports are used in fueling homes, cars, and factories. It is necessary to keep the engine of the economy running.

Where does the US get its foreign oil from? The Middle Eastern countries supply the US with most of its crude oil supply, however the Persian Gulf producers only "make up less the 1/5th of all imports and just 11% of total US consumption, according to the US Energy Department" (source: BBC Article)

The neighboring countries of Mexico and Canada are biggest individual exporters of oil to the US. In 2004, Canada exported 782.5 million barrels to the US; and Mexico exported 609 million barrels (according to Energy Information Administration.)

The following year in 2007 the energy policy was among the top priorities in Bush's State of the Union address, because this priority is linked to national security. He bemoans that the US had been "too long dependent on foreign oil", and was "vulnerable to hostile regimes and terrorists." He called for a 20% reduction in petroleum use by 2017 by promoting research and funding of up to 3.6 billion. He promoted ethanol as the alternative fuel source which comes primarily from corn.

In that year's address he also stated that he wanted to double the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) by 2027. The intent is to double this emergency petroleum store from its current capacity of 727 million barrels of crude oil to 1,494 million barrels. I would question why this necessary if the goal is to be less dependent on petroleum oil to run the economy.

Despite these intended energy policy changes, Bush's critics have identified that the government has not made any headway on any of the goals. Although Congress passed the bill that authorized large increases into funding energy research, Bush requested less money for the research than Congress had allowed him to.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 called for $632m (£320m) into renewable energy research, for example.

But Mr. Bush asked for only $342m ($173m) - about the same amount that the Ben Stiller film Night at the Museum earned worldwide in its first three weeks.

The president also requested less than he could have done for research into hydrogen power, energy efficiency, and other areas, Senator Bingaman said in a February 2006 statement.

(Source: BBC News January 23rd, 2007)

It is important to understand and put into perspective the culmination of words, actions, and the events of the past 8 years when considering the latest call by Bush to open up the drilling in Alaska. Although the proposed size of the land is small ("the size of a postage stamp in the city of San Francisco", as described by a co-worker when I opened up the topic yesterday), there are other larger implications, and it isn't simply to save habitat of the endangered species of the Polar Bear.

It is a good balance to get a Middle Eastern point of view on the US' quest to reduce dependency on the Middle East for oil. In March 2003, the Saudi Arabian Petroleum Minister, Sheikh Zaki Yamani told in a revealing BBC interview about the dynamics of oil production and its effect on the US politics and economy:


Seven years or so ago, he saw a letter addressed to ex-President Clinton by a group of politicians advising him to attack Iraq, occupy the country and operate the oilfields.

Those who signed the letter are now in power - including Vice-President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Also refer to this other source from BBC NEWS that needs to be considered regarding the drilling in the Arctic


In closing, I ask the question, 'for what purpose will the opening up of the oil and gas exploration in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge serve if the current government is truly intent on changing the energy policies

"We are in this situation because of our dependence on traditional petroleum-based oil," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

He advocated "new technologies and new fuel choices for consumers" instead.

-Analyn Revilla

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Headed for a Regional Crime Plan

Crime may well be an issue that anyone with an interest in the Caribbean may not want to face, but unfortunately we have to. Jamaica was once seen as the crime capital of the Caribbean when compared to the level of crime in her sister islands. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case as crime is becoming a big problem all across the region.

As leaders look towards getting a grip on the crime wave, talk of hanging is once again on the agenda and frustrated citizens demand a return of capital punishment. In Jamaica, Prime Minister Bruce Golding recently announced that the issue of capital will be dealt with once and for all.

Mr. Golding has indicated that the administration is speeding up plans to make a decision once and for all on the resumption of hanging in Jamaica. According to PM Golding, the ‘issue will be put to a conscience vote’, and “If the results of that vote that will be driven by conscience say we abolish hanging then we will abolish it and if the results say we must retain hanging, then we are going to oil up the gallows.”

What is now needed is a regional crime plan. As Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning said in March when interviewed, “The region is not losing the war on crime, nor can the region afford to lose the war on crime…” Manning is just reiterating something all Caribbean leaders know. The region is too heavily reliant on tourism to allow crime to continue to rise at current levels. If crime is allowed to disrupt the tourism product, the economic impact would be devastating. The World Bank report (2007) stated that “The tourism-dependent Caribbean may now have the world’s highest murder rate as a region, severely affecting potential economic growth…”

Another negative of the rising crime levels as explained by Guyanese businessman, Ramesh Singh is a worsening of the brain drain being experienced in the region. As Singh said in an interview published by IPS News, “People want to live in comfort, not having to look over their shoulders, not having to carry a gun to defend themselves. The middle and professional class are going to bail out if the situation is not corrected ….”

According to a 2007 United Nations-World Bank report, there were 30 murders per 100,000 residents over the period of the study. The murder rate in the Caribbean is 15 times the rate in West and Central Europe, and reportedly 4 times the rate in North America. The previously mentioned UN-World Bank report said that ‘The murder rate in the Caribbean was even higher than that in troubled southern and western Africa.’

So, with reports of cross-border crime on the rise, it will definitely take a joint effort to begin to tackle the spiraling crime problem before it totally ruins the region’s tourism and trade.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lost in Translation

What is liberal in America may not be liberal in France, Russia, or Burundi. Although most of the world's leading nations rule under democratic principals, the translation and practice of those principals are sometimes, well, lost. The above newspaper, Die Tageszeitung, is published by the German left, and is known for their criticism of conservative foreign policy, xenophobia, and racism. Unfortunately, someone on the editorial staff didn't get the memo about the racial implications of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel. Onkel Baracks Hutte, translates to Uncle Barack's Cabin, and was the front page story of the newspaper a couple of weeks ago.

"The White House in Washington: Will Barack Obama be the first black president to move in there?" read the caption under the picture of the white house. According to Speigel Online International, David Gordon Smith writes that the story was "intended to be satirical", and show that Obama, if elected, will lead a racist nation.

An "Uncle Tom", historically refers to an African-American who is "subservient" to whites, and is therefore offensive to Barack Obama and what his campaign stands for.

For the full story, visit here.

-Wayetu Moore


Nubia Chic: Sika Designs & Cote Minou

Among the world's growing population is a sub-culture of Africans who were raised outside of their countries, allowing them to familiarize with both their native (or parent's) country, as well as their host country. Of that sub-culture is a new and blossoming style of dress that is spreading like wildfire in America and abroad. Phyllis Taylor's Sika Designs of London, and Maryanne Mokoko's Cote Minou of DC represent this mixture of cultures; meshing contemporary West African prints and fabrics with contemporary Western styles to introduce, Nubia Chic.

Though Sika and Cote Minou are only two of hundreds of growing African lines, their styles are avant-garde, yet elegant approaches to defining young West-African esteem and flair. Sika Designs is based in London, but its factories are in Ghana. Phyllis Taylor, a Ghanaian-European, and her line have been featured in a number of magazines such as Pride, Dare, Grazia and London Lite. "Life in London and Ghana inspire me," Taylor said in a previous interview with The Coup Magazine, "I also use trend forecasts while working on a particular collection. I am lucky enough to have my own factory in Ghana, where I produce all my pieces."

Cote Minou was begun by two students at Howard University, home to a campus yard that people refer to as a "runway". Maryanne Mokoko and Stephanie Mouapi are Cameroonian friends that came to America for college. "Fashion to me is a matter of personal taste as we say in Cameroon "ya style". It requires confidence to make others believe it is worth it," Mokoko said in a blog. The two have visited more than 17 fashion shows in the past year, spreading the word of their art to colleges all over the northeast, and shedding light on a new and different kind of "chic".

Visit their sites online at www.sikadesigns.co.uk, and www.coteminou.blogspot.com

-Wayetu Moore


Thursday, June 12, 2008

One Regional Airline for the Islands?

Some time ago, the World Bank suggested that Caribbean leaders consider having one regional airline. In the wake of the failure and profit loss of some airlines, the idea is once again being revisited, this time by Sir Ronald Sanders. Sanders, a former Caribbean diplomat, who served as Antigua & Barbuda’s high commissioner to the UK (1995-2004) is once again putting the subject back on the table. In fact in 2005, Sanders had lamented the fact that the possibility of a CARICOM or regional airline may never be. With the dismal financial status of the popular Air Jamaica airline no one can blame him.

In 2006, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also suggested that the government of Jamaica shut down Air Jamaica since it was draining the already strained budget. In 2006, Air Jamaica reportedly lost US$136 million and a record US$171 million in 2007. As a matter of fact, Air Jamaica has never made a profit in its 40-plus years of existence.

Many Jamaicans are unwilling to see the ‘national airline’s’ demise, but with the continuing inability to fund its operations it may be the only solution. The government is turning to the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank for assistance to divest the struggling entity in a bid to secure the jobs of its employees.

Unfortunately, Air Jamaica is not the only Caribbean airline to have financial woes. In 2006, another airline that was a standard in the Caribbean folded. BWIA, Trinidad which had operated in the Caribbean for over 60 years flew its last flight on December 31 and was replaced by Caribbean Airlines. LIAT, another Caribbean flyer is experiencing financial troubles and was actually bailed out in 2006 to the tune of US$16 million.

So, the big question at the moment is, ‘Should the Caribbean have one regional airline?’ Although one of those persons who flies Air Jamaica when I travel (I’ve been fortunate in not having a bad experience), a regional airline may be in everyone’s best interest. Such a merger, as Sanders stated in an article on Huntingtonnews.net, would possibly “be the silver lining in the cloud of oil at US$130 per barrel that now hangs darkly over the region’s tourism and transportation industries, and the livelihood of its people…”

In 2005, one of the region’s major tourism organizations, the Caribbean Hotel Association said that a ‘regional airline was the only way forward for air travel in the region.’

One of the biggest obstacles to such a merger happening is the nationalistic pride of Caribbean people who want to hold on to a little piece of what is theirs.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big Business - War Profiteering

Today's BBC article in the Business section headlined: "BBC Uncovers Lost Iraq Billions" Reportedly, "A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq. "

Throughout history our species' atrocious acts of war have been documented in various genres from fiction, memoirs, biographies, song writing, epic poems, documentaries, movies and new articles. There are, sadly, people who profit from the ravages and death of war.

The BBC article quotes the chairman, Henry Waxman, of the investigation committee "Oversight and Government Reform". His words describe the gross indecency and greediness by the war profiteers:

""It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."


"The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious. "

A movie came out in 2003 called "The Corporation", a Canadian documentary movie that was based on a book written by Joel Balkan. The book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power shows historically how some "top" US companies have profiteered from war.

"The movie showed close-ups of several documents including IBM code sheets for concentration camps taken from the files of the National Archives. Prisoner Code 8 was Jew, Code 11 was Gypsy. Camp Code 001 was Auschwitz, Code 002 was Buchenwald. Status Code 5 was executed by order, code 6 was gas chamber." (source: Wikepedia)

Edwin Black, a New York journalist, authored a book published in 2001 called "IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful corporation". The book "tells the story of IBM's conscious involvement-directly and through its subsidiaries-in the Holocaust, as well as its involvement in the Nazi war machine that murdered millions of others throughout Europe". The CEO, Thomas J. Watson, used IBM's overseas subsidiaries in Germany and Geneva to provide the Nazis with the punch card machines to record the European Jewry. "The book also includes IBM's internal reports that admit that these machines made the Nazis much more efficient in their efforts." (source: Wikipedia.)

What exactly does "top" mean? I could easily assume that it is a list of the highly recognized corporations that most Americans have grown to know and accept as part of their day-to-day life. Or, does "top" mean top income grossing organizations that have won government defense contracts? Perhaps it is both.

In July 2005, a subsidiary of L-3 called, Government Services Inc. (GSI), won a contract to provide intelligence specialists in Iraq. The contract was worth $426.5 million. In addition, L-3, also worked on other military contracts that had their advisors give information technology, management, and intelligent support services to the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

In the article "Outsourcing Intelligence in Iraq" (http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15017),

the CorpWatch report describes in detail about the history and methods used by L-3 in the interrogations for intelligence gathering. According to the report, L-3 was a spin-off of Lockheed Martin and Loral manufacturing that specialized in advanced electronics. L-3 was born as an independent middle company "that would supply advanced electronics to anyone" (source: Gopal Ratnam "Interview: Frank Lanza" Defense News, January 16, 2006)

The deal was designed by Wall Street investment bankers working for Lehman Brothers in 1997 and aided by two former Loral executives: Frank Lanza and Robert LaPenta. ("L-3 stands for Lanza, LaPenta and Lehman".)

A year ago, an analyst for Money Magazine, wrote about the recent hardships of "socially responsible mutual funds, which usually seek out companies with progressive labor practices and product lines that don't pollute or kill." It asks the question why many of the socially responsible funds were not performing for the investors? One reason is that these funds were designed to avoid oil companies for environmental reasons (source: http://money.cnn.com/2007/03/21/pf/funds/dogoodfunds.moneymag/index.htm )

A website called "The War Profiteers" maintained by CorpWatch (www.corpwatch.org) mission statement is to counter corporate-led globalization through "education, network-building and activism." The website is built by a group of activists (educators, journalists, designers, organizers, and techies who are disturbed by the "obscene concentration of power in the hand of an elite few who control the world's wealth and manipulate democracy through governments and corporations.

The website lists other stories that exposes on the topic of how some corporations have divided the resources in Iraq.


The journalism articles ranges from the BBC, The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press. A couple are listed below.

IRAQ: Army to End Expansive, Exclusive Halliburton Deal
Logistics Contract to Be Open for Bidding

by Griff Witte, Washington Post
July 12th, 2006

The Army is discontinuing a controversial multibillion-dollar deal with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, a decision that could cut deeply into the firm's dominance of government contracting in Iraq.

IRAQ: Controversial Contractor's Iraq Work Is Split Up
by JAMES RISEN, The New York Times
May 24th, 2008

WASHINGTON — Sometime soon, a group of American corporate executives and military leaders will quietly sit down and divide Iraq into three parts.

Their meeting will not have anything to do with Iraq's national sovereignty, but instead will involve slicing up billions of dollars in work for the defense contractors that support the American military's presence in the country.

For the first time since the war began, the largest single Pentagon contract in Iraq is being divided among three companies, ending the monopoly held by KBR, the Houston-based corporation that has been accused of wasteful spending and mismanagement and of exploiting its political ties to Vice President Dick Cheney.

It is not easy to give this serious topic the proper in-depth coverage it deserves in a blog. In my weekly blogs, I strive to present topics in the realms of 'Business and Technology' that are relevant, and backing views and opinions with facts found from different sources. Of course, facts can also be manipulated, and the public (you, me, everyone ) have put automatic faith in believing published material is truth. The truth also needs to be continuously examined and questioned even if it comes from establishments, especially corporations and governments.

My original submission to the editor had some cynical comedy injected in the end, because I felt this topic has perhaps become desensitized to the public for reasons of information overload, its gravity, and also its idea of senseless inhumanity.

There was a fictionalized movie drama called "Lord of War", released in 2005, that depicted war profiteering by way of arms dealing (partially based on Victor Bout, the Russian arms dealer.) " Recent reports suggests he is also operating in Iraq using front companies and Cargo Airlifts: Airline Transport, Air West, Aerocom, and TransAvia Export" (source: Wikepedia.)

Another drama that depicted war in a tragic comedy was the TV series (and movie) M*A*S*H. Each episode featured the victims of war as both the casualties and the regular characters of the 4077th hospital crew trying to survive another day with trivial practical jokes. Do you recall the character Coloner Flagg? He was the US Military Intelligence agent with the CIA who behaved irrationally and paranoid. And this literary character allusion is, to me, the irony of the business of war: invoking fear, putting up walls, lobbing bombs, and above all these obtuse actions is the idea that there are people making profit from war.

In closing this blog, I can't resist to quote Col. Flagg in one of the M*A*S*H episodes, because it summarizes the rhetoric of war pigs:

"Nobody can get the truth out of me because even I don't know what it is. I keep myself in a constant state of utter confusion." - Colonel Flagg

-Analyn Revilla


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Burning the Welcome Mat: Xenophobia in South Africa

A surge of violent xenophobic attacks has swept through the South African province of
Gauteng, particularly the greater Johannesburg area, in the past week, leaving at least 32 people dead, scores more injured, and thousands homeless Since Sunday 11 May, daily outbreaks of violence against foreigners have ravaged the city - including multiple incidents of sexual assault, beating, shooting, looting and burning of homes and businesses. The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) and its partners across the SADC region strongly condemn this despicable violence, and are disturbed by the utterly inadequate response of the South African government to the volatile situation - one that independent media observers have likened to a war zone.

The humanitarian impact of the xenophobic attacks in Gauteng is
devastating. It is estimated that up to 10,000 foreigners
throughout the province are now destitute, either due to
destruction of their homes or because they had to flee for safety,
leaving all of their belongings behind. Hundreds of foreigners have
sought shelter in police stations and many have been turned back to
the streets to face brutal mobs. Centres for refugees run by
non-governmental organizations are filled past capacity, with many
experiencing shortages of essential medical supplies, food,
clothing, blankets and sanitary services. Some paramedics sent to
provide emergency care at the scenes of violence have been forced
to retreat under attack.

Beyond the obvious humanitarian crisis, the situation also reveals
a crisis of leadership in South Africa. High-level condemnation of
these attacks is not being matched by the urgent action that is
necessary to contain them. Actions taken to date by the South
African government have proven woefully insufficient to stem the
fierce wave of xenophobia and its devastating aftermath. Police,
health and social service systems are ill-equipped to respond
adequately to this emergency. A government panel mandated to 'look
into' these attacks and a provincial task team were only
established one week after the violence broke out; and so far have not articulated any emergency plan to improve the government's response to this crisis - including, most importantly, a plan to provide secure shelter for survivors of violence and potential victims. Without the guarantee of secure shelter for refugees remaining in South Africa, the current undertaking not to deport anyone in Gauteng is meaningless.

Meanwhile, civil society organizations are receiving information on
planned attacks in other cities. On the night of Sunday 18 May,
residents in Mitchell's Plain, a township in Cape Town, mobilized
and began chanting slogans calling for an attack on foreigners,
which was avoided by quick police intervention. However, no
standing plan has been established to pre-empt outbreaks of
xenophobic violence in other parts of the country.

The current events have been driven by the broader human rights
crisis that has built up in South Africa around migrant issues. The
very police and social services that are now mandated to deal with
this outbreak of violence have themselves been implicated in
xenophobic incidents several times in recent months. The failure of
the South African government to respond strongly to widespread
episodes of discrimination and violence against migrants and to
confront the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe - from
which the majority of migrants in South Africa originate - has
turned what should have been a haven for refugees fleeing the
brutality of Mugabe's regime, into a nightmare.

ARASA and its partners call upon the South African government to
urgently develop and implement an emergency national response to
violence against foreigners. This must include:

* Ensuring that civil authorities, particularly the police, have
the capacity to respond immediately to all incidents of violence
against migrants;

* A guarantee that all survivors of violence, in fact, all
migrants, receive basic services - including health care, food,
sanitation services, clothing and secure shelter, regardless of
their immigration status, as is due to them under the South African

* Fast-tracked prosecution of the perpetrators of xenophobic

* A mass education campaign designed to tackle xenophobia in
communities and to ensure that non-citizens are aware of their
rights and protections; and

* The formation of task forces in each province that will
coordinate swift action to pre-empt and if necessary to respond to
outbreaks of xenophobic violence elsewhere in the country.

Furthermore, we call on the government to ensure that the panel
responsible for investigating these attacks acts swiftly and
transparently and that its mandate be expanded to include a more
general investigation into the treatment of migrants in South

Moreover, we call on the African Union, SADC Secretariat,
governments in the region, President Mbeki, and ANC President Zuma
to respond responsibly to the crisis in Zimbabwe by doing
everything in their power to ensure free and fair elections at the
end of June and an end to political violence in the lead-up to and
aftermath of the elections.

Finally, we expect all of our leaders to ensure that those seeking
refuge in South Africa and other countries in the region are
treated with the dignity and compassion that is their inalienable
human right, regardless of citizenship or ethnicity.

Gregg Gonsalves
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
Email: gregg.gonsalves@gmail.com

SOURCE: Africafocus


Monday, June 9, 2008

If Obama Became President, Would it Change Caribbean Policy?

Many black people worldwide, the Caribbean included, are in a state of disbelief. Barack Obama has claimed his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States. “I didn’t expect to see this in my life time,” many have said. While this is indeed an historic moment not only in the history of the USA, but the world, it doesn’t mean that Obama will become the savior of the Caribbean as some seem to think.

It was interesting to read in The Jamaica Observer on June 5, a commentary warning Caribbean leaders not to expect special favors if Obama ends up in the White House. University of the West Indies (Mona campus) lecturer, Professor Rupert Lewis said that “Obama is not going to be playing any black role; he’s going to be pursuing America’s agenda, which will need to be strengthened by black Americans, but I don’t see an advantage for the Caribbean – the Caribbean will have to define what it wants from the States.”

It was interesting because I don’t want to believe that any black person or country would expect special treatment simply because an African American is in the White House.

The Jamaica Gleaner of Thursday, June 5 interviewed a number of the country’s leaders on Obama landing his Party’s nomination. The overwhelming response was that it was a great motivation. According to Robert Russell, Chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company, “It has given new meaning to racial equality, it has certainly given a number of people, who thought they did not have a chance to achieve, the realisation that nothing is impossible.”

Other people in the Caribbean are happy for lots of other reasons as well. Some do not want to see the Republicans or a Clinton back in the White House – they too want a change and see Barack Obama as the key to that change.

Obama has pledged to remove some major sanctions against Cuba if he lands in the White House – now this would be a momentous happening if ever there was one. In declaring his hand, Obama clarified his stance on U.S sanctions against the communist state: “John McCain’s been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I’m looking for a social gathering. That’s never what I’ve said, and John McCain knows it….” What Obama proposes to do is to “immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island…to make their families (of Cuban Americans) less dependent on the Castro regime…” he however, plans to keep the trade embargo in place to use as a bargaining tool to request reforms in Cuba.

The Race Issue

While I am amazed that I have lived to see the unbelievable, every time someone refers to Obama as an African-American a little voice in my head says, but he’s equally white. Yes, his skin is a little darker than some persons of mixed race, but he is fifty percent white as well.

Why does this seem to bother me? Simply, Obama is as much his mother’s child as he is his father’s. To assign the label of black or African-American simply because one parent is black is obviously racist – an individual of mixed race, is 50 percent of each and not 49 percent of one and 51 percent of the other. This is something to think about, isn’t it?

Finally, as I have said before in a previous post and will repeat here, despite what everyone is saying about Obama’s poor showing among blue-collar white Americans, his biggest battle will be to win over Hispanics and Asians. It is believed in many quarters that the Latino vote is based more on the immigration stance of the ‘would be presidents’ than on race, but I’m not totally convinced – yet.

Whatever the outcome of the November election, America has sent a powerful message to the world – “Despite our problems, our racial issues, we are a great nation”.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Green Elite

While watching television the other day, I stumbled onto a reality TV show that immediately caught my attention. The star, which will remain unnamed, was in search of an electric car that she described as being "the new it-thing in Hollywood". I was aware that the "go green" movement turned into a somewhat exclusive phenomenon since pricy stores like Whole Foods positioned themselves into expensive neighborhoods, but I never imagined that environmental awareness would become one more element of the Joneses syndrome, demoted to a trend similar to when tiny, neglected pooches poked their heads out of Prada purses. Is that all this is becoming?

The electric car isn't all the talk in vehicular transition to "green" living. Greencarcongress reported that US sales of hybrid cars had climbed 10% in March 2008 year-on-year to 38,214 units. Hybrids are vehicles that use two or more alternate power sources to run, popularly ranging from either air, stored energy, or ethanol fuel. The cars are less burdensome to the wallet at the gas pump, and do not cause harm to the air. The catch is that with the popularization of all that is green, auto companies are asking up to $4,000 above the asking price to match demands that fill waiting lists for months. According to hybridcars.com, Toyota Prius (the most popular hybrid) customers are to expect "long waiting lists for the Prius, and in some cases, big dealer premiums, for the rest of 2008." Sadly, if that's truly the case, then customers won't realize gas savings for years. The increasing prices also marginalize an already exclusive clientele of tiny pooch, I mean "green" buyers, leaving a mass majority (if aware), to wallow in what harm they are supposedly causing to the environment by not being able to afford air-friendly cars.

Whole Foods, is also benefiting (largely)from the demands of the green elite. The trendy health food store's stock was up 28% in March, catering to a young, (assumingly) aware, mostly vegan clientele of upper-middle-class young professionals. Unfortunately, the lines only open in busy areas of big cities and wealthy suburbs.

I also contemplate countries like China and India, who continue to build new coal-powered stations in their increasingly growing industries. South Africa and Nigeria are also to be considered in booming economies that are not likely to slow down or open wind farms for the sake of a better environment, especially since these economies are contributing heavily to foreign investment in Africa, investments that are both needed and long overdue. I'm not saying that America's green movement is pointless, only that perhaps more focus should be placed on international environmental awareness than national "green" trends.

I don't believe that everyone that makes attempts to eat nutritionally and improve the quality of our air is following trends.I, however, don't encourage perpetrating greenness, or whatever you wish to call it, without making yourself aware of why you are doing it. Otherwise, the movement is likely to go out of style when celebrities stop talking about it. What will happen then?

When I think of "green", I think of my Aunty Ree, who for as long as I can remember, washed styrofoam and plastic cups to re-use after family events, disregarding jokes and teasing from my uncles and family.

I also think of my 8th grade science teacher Mr. Rutledge, who rode his bike to and from school every day. He wore old clothes and drank fresh lemonade out of recycled water bottles. Mr. Rutledge, likely a hippy during the wonder years, was my first introduction to ecological awareness, and a person I felt sincerely cared for the improvement of humanity and the world. I hope that their kind of consciousness never goes out of style.

Here's some advice to contribute to the wellness of the environment (on a budget). SOURCE

1. Save energy to save money.

* Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs.
*Unplug appliances when you're not using them. Or, use a "smart" power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts "phantom" or "vampire" energy use.
*Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
*Use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy otherwise used during machine drying. If you must use a dryer, consider adding dryer balls to cut drying time.

2)Save water to save money.

*Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and heating bills too.
*Install a low-flow showerhead. They don't cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment.
*Make sure you have a faucet aerator on each faucet. These inexpensive appliances conserve heat and water, while keeping water pressure high.

3)Less gas = more money (and better health!).

*Walk or bike to work. This saves on gas and parking costs while improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of obesity.
*Consider telecommuting if you live far from your work. Or move closer. Even if this means paying more rent, it could save you money in the long term.
*Lobby your local government to increase spending on sidewalks and bike lanes. With little cost, these improvements can pay huge dividends in bettering your health and reducing traffic.

4)Eat smart.

*If you eat meat, add one meatless meal a week. Meat costs a lot at the store-and it's even more expensive when you consider the related environmental and health costs.
*Buy locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can.
*Whatever your diet, eat low on the food chain. This is especially true for seafood.

4)Skip the bottled water.

*Use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste.
*Bring a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminum rather than plastic, with you when traveling or at work.

5)Think before you buy.

*Go online to find new or gently used secondhand products. Whether you've just moved or are looking to redecorate, consider a service like craigslist or FreeSharing to track down furniture, appliances, and other items cheaply or for free.
*Check out garage sales, thrift stores, and consignment shops for clothing and other everyday items.

6)Borrow instead of buying.

*Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books.
*Share power tools and other appliances. Get to know your neighbors while cutting down on the number of things cluttering your closet or garage.

-Wayetu Moore


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What is wrong with this picture?

Has anyone noticed that the Black celebrities that we praise for being dark-skinned and beautiful in a European favoring society, don't stay dark-skinned for long?

We've all had the conversations. I can hardly think of when I was with educated Black people in discussions about racial politics, that colorism didn't come up. The light-skin/dark-skin debate-debacle-controversy-history-hierarchy-whatever could go on for days, and I won't bother (or care to) go into any elaborate detail or polemic. I just think that it's unfortunate that when dark-skinned Black women in media are celebrated, we see trends of lightening.

For instance, look at this recent picture of Jill Marie Jones. She started off as the sexy and successful real-estate agent on Girlfriends, who happened to be the darkest of her other sister-friends. Jones' beauty was praised. An episode of the sit-com was even dedicated to her issues with colorism when she refused to date a wealthy man that she described as "too black". If you'll recall, however, as the seasons rolled on, so did the transformation of her skin tone.

There are of course exceptions. I'm not ignoring celebrities that seem to have stayed the same and chosen not to conform to Hollywood's apparent standard. We should notice, however, that as much scrutiny as Michael Jackson and other transformers receive for conforming to European standards, there is a CURRENT trend among black female celebrities that we should talk a little more about.

-Wayetu Moore