Saturday, August 7, 2010

Weekend World Watch: Floating away

* Greenland: A massive ice sheet measuring around 100 square miles has broken off Greenland’s Petermann Glacier according to researchers.

* U.S.: A spokesman for the WikiLeaks website said that they will publish more classified U.S. military documents on top of files leaked last month.

* Pakistan: More rain is expected to hit flood-ravaged areas that have left roughly 1500 people dead and millions of victims affected.

* China: At least 61 miners have died in accidents so far this month including 16 in the latest incident on Friday.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- Bloomberg, New York Daily News, MSNBC, UPI

Weekend Headlines: August 7-8, 2010

* Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo was diagnosed in the early stages of cancer though doctors say, “there is a good chance the illness can be treated successfully.”

* Venezuela: The country’s oil and energy minister said that BP has not offered to sell its Venezuelan assets in order to pay for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

* Chile: Rescuers are searching for at least 34 miners who are trapped nearly 1500 feet underground.

* Haiti: Pras- former Fugees colleague of Wyclef Jean- isn’t too enthused over Jean’s bid for the Haitian presidency.

Image – Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- MSNBC, BBC News, BusinessWeek, Reuters

Friday, August 6, 2010

World Watch: Flash

* Japan: 74 countries including first-timers Britain, France, and the U.S. sent representatives to the official ceremonies observing the 65th anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima.

* France: The government’s crackdown on immigration when Saint-Etienne police started dismantling illegal Roma camps on Friday.

* Kenya: Approximately two out of three voters backed creating a new constitution that supporters argue will make Kenya more democratic.

* U.S.: Elena Kagen will reportedly be sworn in on Saturday as the latest Supreme Court justice though she is not expected to alter the tribunal’s conservative-leaning majority.

Image – Christian Science Monitor (“Girls pray after releasing a paper lantern on the Motoyasu River in remembrance of atomic bomb victims on the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima Friday.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, Voice of America

Michelle my belle…

The image of ex-president Michelle Bachelet has become the second-most valuable image in Chile and is only surpassed by Coca-Cola according to a study revealed today by Qué Pasa magazine.

The publication found that the Bachelet “brand” is stronger than those of over 1200 products including Nike, Google, and Nokia. The analysis- that in part looked at BrandAsset Valuator rankings- found that Bachelet’s image is stronger than other regional leaders “such as Obama in the U.S. and more than Lula in Brazil.”

Compared to other brands, Bachelet received very high marks in areas like sincerity, intelligence, and friendliness. Yet the key quality to the success of the ex-president’s “brand” according to Qué Pasa is her “relevance”:
The Relevance of a brand tells us the capacity it has to connect with the real needs of the average people. It is a human dimension…that lives in the consumer. It’s a pillar that shows if a brand’s value is relevant to people. This is Bachelet’s great strength.
Meanwhile, the magazine sees the brand of her successor- Sebastián Piñera- as one that does not connect well with all Chileans. He is “like Colo Colo (Chile’s most well-known soccer club)…but he is not the national team”, according to the analysis by Qué Pasa. Perhaps this (along with the “perceptions that he lacks the charisma” of Bachelet) explains in part why Piñera’s popularity slipped last month to 46%.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Qué Pasa,, Bloomberg

Cuba denies terrorism “sponsor” status

Yesterday we mentioned that a U.S. Department of State labeled Cuba as a “state sponsor” of terrorism along with countries like Sudan and Syria. The agency’s terrorism report claimed that "no evidence of direct financial support for terrorist organizations by Cuba in 2009" yet said that the island’s government has provided safe haven to Colombian rebels and members of Basque separatist group ETA.

Shortly after the report was published the Castro regime responded to the claims made by the Department of State. Unsurprisingly Cuban officials were not too happy:
A statement issued by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director of North American affairs at the Foreign Ministry in Havana, said Cuba ``categorically rejects'' the island's inclusion on the list.

``Once again, the United States casts doubts on the (island's) seriousness and commitment in the fight against international terrorism,'' the statement said, adding that the list shows a U.S. ``double standard.''

While five Cuban ``anti-terrorists are unjustly jailed'' in the United States -- they were convicted of spying charges -- Miami exile Luis Posada Carriles ``and others who have confessed to horrendous acts of terrorism against Cuba remain in complete freedom,'' it said.
The Salvadoran press last month cited local and Cuban intelligence reports claiming that that there are active “terrorist cells” founded by Posada Carriles functioning in El Salvador.

On a related note, Havana Roman Catholic Archbishop Jaime Ortega was in Washington this week where he received the Knights of Columbus’ highest honor and met with State Department and national Security Council officials. (Ortega was instrumental in brokering the planned freeing of 52 political prisoners by the Cuban government).

Image- New York Times (“A billboard in Havana bears a likeness of Luis Posada Carriles and reads, “Cuba declares him guilty” in the bombing of a Cuban jetliner in 1976.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Miami Herald, EFE

Haitian migrants still face upward climb

On Thursday musician Wyclef Jean announced his candidacy to the Haitian presidency. It remains to be seen if he’s eligible to run but regardless of who wins in November the next Haitian president has plenty of pressing issues to face. One of them has to do with migrants leaving Haiti with the hopes of a better life.

According to Reuters there may be an uptick in migrants fleeing Haiti by sea after several months of a post-earthquake decline. “U.S.-bound migration attempts by Haitians might be picking up momentum again” after the Coast Guard intercepted two vessels last weekend. Over 300 Haitians were detained and returned to their homeland after they were found on a pair of “overloaded sailboats” near Bahamas.

Earthquake survivors wishing to reside abroad have faced their share of difficulties; Canadian officials have approved permanent resident visas to over 1030 Haitians so far this year. Local immigration advocates noted, however, that most of the approved visas were for those who arrived before the quake and highlighted that 900 Haitian applicants were rejected so far this year. A similar situation is playing out in the U.S. where a reported 55,000 Haitian expats have applied for temporary protected status though undocumented earthquake survivors are ineligible for these benefits.

A recent article in GlobalPost examined the dichotomy of immigration from Haiti to the neighboring Dominican Republic, especially in light of last January’s deadly earthquakes:
Haitians have migrated to the Dominican Republic for nearly 100 years, first to work on the vast sugar plantations and later to construction sites and to jobs at the country’s famous beaches. Cheap Haitian labor helped the Dominican economy surge, growing at nearly 10 percent some years, according to the World Bank…

But migrants like (Fabiola) Jean who have come since the earthquake add a complicated new twist to an old conundrum: The Dominican Republic has won international praise for its commitment to helping Haiti recover and rebuild from the earthquake, but its government and society are so intolerant of Haitians that they’ve drawn international criticism.
The immigration issue in Haiti (as in other countries around the world) is a complex one that requires careful examination and significant steps for improvement. This is one of the challenges the next president must tackle whether he's Wyclef Jean or somebody else.

Image- The Guardian
Online Sources- Miami Herald,, GlobalPost, MetaFilter, NPR

Daily Headlines: August 6, 2010

* Mexico: In an 8-2 decision the country’s Supreme Court upheld a law legalizing gay marriages in Mexico City.

* Nicaragua: Is a former Contra rebel planning a coup against President Daniel Ortega if he runs for reelection?

* Brazil: 2006 Copa Libertadores winners Internacional of Brazil will return to the finals after beating Sao Paulo on the away goals rule.

* Puerto Rico: According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union a lack of proper medical care may’ve led to the deaths of over fifty inmates in a local prison.

Image – The Independent (“Gay people celebrate a law approving same-sex marriage in Mexico City” last December).
Online Sources-, BBC News, Canadian Press, AP

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Decades in jail for Jose Sucuzhañay killers

Two men will face several decades in prison in the hate crime death of an Ecuadorian immigrant in New York City.

Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott were sentenced to 37 years in prison for the December 2008 killing of Jose Sucuzhañay in Brooklyn. Both men were accused of launching a tirade of anti-gay and Latino slurs while Sucuzhañay was walking with his brother Diego before repeatedly hitting him with an aluminum baseball bat.

“I think the system has sent a clear message and whoever acts irresponsibly has to be held accountable," said Diego to the press after the verdict that found Phoenix guilty of murder and hate crimes charges. (Scott was convicted of manslaughter and attempted assault, instead).

Both men apologized to Sucuzhanay's family before being sentenced with Phoenix claiming that he was “not a monster like the prosecutors and the media make me out to be.” Yet Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango found it “beyond…comprehension” that both men took “another human being's life in such a cruel and wanton manner."

Today’s sentencing comes amidst a rash of bias attacks targeting Latinos in the New York borough of Staten Island. According to BBC News there has been at least ten reported cases of attacks against Latinos since April with the latest assault taking place over the weekend. Despite increased community involvement and a greater police presence some Staten Island youth expressed their misgivings to the New York Times:
“It used to be nice,” said Farad Montalvo, 17, a Staten Island native of part-Puerto Rican heritage who will be a senior at Port Richmond High School in the fall. “Now kids are getting scared. They can’t walk down the street now”…

“It’s a war between Mexicans and blacks,” said Dream Rogers, 11, who was walking with her sister, Kim, 10, on Tuesday. “When the cops leave, it’s going to start again.”
Image- New York Daily News (“A business card belonging to Jose Oswald Sucuzhanay.”)
Online Sources- Gothamist, NY1, New York Daily News, New York Times, BBC News

Cuba “sponsors” terrorism says State Dept.

On Thursday the U.S. Department of State, (DOS), issued its annual list on global terrorism and the Americas were not exempt from the agency’s analysis.

Once again the DOS designated Cuba as a “state sponsor” of terrorism alongside countries like Syria and Sudan. According to the Washington Post the report mentioned that Cuba has provided sanctuary to several U.S. fugitives; one example that we mentioned last year was Joanne Chesimard who was convicted in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper. Furthermore, the report also said that Cuba has given refuge to Colombian rebels and Basque separatists yet there was "no evidence of direct financial support for terrorist organizations by Cuba in 2009."

The DOS also pointed out that the Shining Path rebels “remain a threat” in Peru while also praising U.S.-Mexico efforts to try to control money laundering and crime. The report also mentioned the “concern” by the U.S. government of “Hezbollah and HAMAS sympathizers” in South America’s Tri-Border area but said that they lack “an operational presence in the region.”

The report also waded into Colombian allegations that some rebels from that country were safely living in Venezuela. U.S. ambassador-designate to Venezuela Larry Palmer said last week that he was "keenly aware of the clear ties" between Colombian guerillas and some members of the Venezuelan government. The DOS report took a more neutral stance, however:
It remained unclear to what extent the Venezuelan government provided support to Colombian groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The FARC and ELN reportedly regularly crossed into Venezuelan territory to rest and regroup as well as to extort protection money and kidnap Venezuelans to finance their operations. Colombia on various occasions has accused the Venezuelan Government of harboring and aiding top FARC leaders in Venezuelan territory.
Image- EPA (Peruvian soldiers recently fought against the resurgent Shining Path rebels).
Online Sources-, Reuters, CNN, Washington Post, The Latin Americanist

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Today's Video: The mind of Question Mark

Before we get to today's video I would like to make a sincere apology for not posting regularly on this blog over the past week-and-a-half. Blogging in recent days from my end has had to take a back seat since I've been busier than normal taking care of personal affairs. Hopefully I can pick up the pace in the next few days but for now I'm very sorry for my lack of posts.

In the meantime, please check out this very interesting interview by New York magazine of musician Question Mark. Born in Michigan and with the birth name of Rudy Martinez, Question discussed Bob Dylan, how he predicted Hurricane Katrina, and how he prefers to be called.

"Ques" (as he said his dad calls him) is best-known for heading the all-Latino rock band Question Mark and the Mysterians. The group may be a one-hit wonder with “96 Tears” yet the song is one of the most famous garage rock singles of all time:

Daily Headlines: August 4, 2010

* Latin America: Guadalajara-based Chivas became the second Mexican team ever to make it to the Copa Libertadores finals after beating U. de Chile by a 3-1 aggregate in the semis.

* Brazil: Iran’s government has reportedly rejected Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s offer to grant asylum to a woman sentenced to execution for her supposed adultery.

* Peru: At least 31 people are infected from an outbreak of the plague that has already killed one minor.

* Colombia: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the recent murder of a prominent Colombian indigenous rights leader.

Image – El Universal
Online Sources- USA TODAY, Al Jazeera English, MSNBC, CNN

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

World Watch: Kenya’s critical vote

* Kenya: Kenyans will go to the polls on Wednesday to vote in a constitutional referendum that could bring major changes to the nation’s political landscape.

* Pakistan: President Asif Ali Zardari claimed in an interview “the international community…is in the process of losing the war against the Taliban.”

* Russia: The country’s emergency chief warned that wildfires that have already killed 34 people are “out of control” in some areas.

* Iran: The U.S. Treasury Department will impose additional sanctions on over twenty companies believed to be owned by the Iranian government.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- Xinhua, MSNBC, CNN, The Guardian

Today's Video: Honoring Pachamama

August is a very special month for several indigenous communities in the Andean areas of South America. The "month of Pacahamama" is observed in recognition of "Mother Earth" and, as shown in this news video from teleSur, includes numerous ceremonial offerings to the gods:

Online Sources - YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: August 3, 2010

* Latin America: Nearly thirteen months since the controversial ouster of President Manuel Zelaya the governments of Chile and Mexico reestablished reestablished diplomatic ties with Honduras.

* U.S.: According to a study from the Pew Hispanic Center Latinos born in the U.S. are more tech-savvy than foreign-born Latinos.

* Venezuela: Ex-defense minister Italo del Valle Alliegro may face prosecution for a 1989 civil uprising known as the “Caracazo.”

* Panama: A squad from the Panamanian city of Chitre will represent Latin America in this year’s Little League World Series.

Image – MercoPress (Current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo).
Online Sources- Lebanon Daily News, LAHT, Pew Research Center, Americas Quarterly

Monday, August 2, 2010

World Watch: Drowning

* Pakistan: The death toll from major flooding in Pakistan has reached 1200 while aid organizations scramble to provide help.

* Sudan: The U.N. Security Council renewed the mandate of the mission in Darfur for an additional twelve months.

* France: Police have been accused of using “excessive force” during the removal of 150 immigrant squatters.

* Ukraine: According to a team of international scientists contamination around the Chernobyl exclusion area has led has led to a sharp decline in biodiversity.

Image – The Telegraph
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, CNN, The Guardian

Daily Headlines: August 2, 2010

* Latin America: Several gay couples in Argentina were wed on Friday under the country’s recently passed same-sex marriage law while a Chilean senator said yesterday that he will soon introduce a bill to legalize gay marriage.

* Brazil: President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has offered to grant asylum to an Iranian woman sentenced to execution by stoning for her supposed adultery.

* Nicaragua: A U.S. judge overturned a $2.4 million verdict in favor of Nicaraguan workers who claimed they were poisoned by pesticides at plantations run by Dole Foods.

* Ecuador: A verdict in the multibillion-dollar environmental damages case against Chevron may not be reached until next year according to remarks made by the trial’s judge to Reuters.

Image – Foreign Policy (Protests for and against Argentina’s gay marriage proposal took place in the weeks leading to the bill’s approval in the legislature).
Online Sources- Reuters, CNN, Buenos Aires Herald, The Guardian