Saturday, May 1, 2010

Today’s Video: Shakira non grata?

On Monday we'll discuss today's May Day marches in the U.S. and throughout the Americas.

For now we'll leave you with the apparent controversy over the official World Cup anthem by South African band Freshlyground and Colombia's Shakira. "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" has been both praised and criticized in South Africa where the World Cup will be held this June. Though I believe that the song is cheesy and an odd choice as an anthem, I won't go as far as one young lady who called on President Jacob Zuma to somehow intervene:

Online Sources- CBC, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

¿Por qué no te callas? – Gov. Jan Brewer

The recently signed immigration law in Arizona has inflamed passions in the already tense debate over immigration. Hence it should come as no surprise that there have been plenty of asinine, juvenile, and nonsensical rants related to the controversial law.

Several exaggerative statements have been made comparing immigration in Arizona to other far worse situations. As we briefly mentioned last week, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney referred to “German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques” in his scathing critique of the Arizonan edict. His comments were derided by some conservatives including one who deemed it as “frankly bizarre.”

Mahoney’s remarks was inappropriate but not as bad as this week’s ¿Por qué no te callas? “award” recipient, none other than Arizonan Gov. Jan Brewer. One week after signing SB 1070 into law, Brewer said in a TV interview that Arizona had been under “terrorist attacks” due to illegal immigration. Her unbelievable comments must be seen to be believed:

There are plenty of valid points on illegal immigration and its affect on border states. But to compare undocumented immigrants to murderous thugs who unashamedly use violence for petty political purposes is an undeniably stupid thing to say. Especially if one is the leader of a state thrust into the national and international spotlights over immigration.

Gov. Brewer, why don’t you just shut up?

Online Sources- Think Progress, YouTube, The latin Americanist, UPI, Los Angeles Times

Friday, April 30, 2010

May Day is D-Day for immigrant rallies

Immigrants’ rights marches have been planned for Saturday, May Day, in numerous cities around the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of protestors are expected to show up galvanized in support of a comprehensive federal immigration reform that those in power inexplicably continue to push by the wayside.

Recent events such as Arizona’s new immigration law are expected to boost turnout at Saturday’s rallies though there are other vital factors according to New American Media:
Another factor that could boost turnout is word that Latino/Americans won’t be the only ethnic group with a substantial representation in the march. The Asian Journal, which covers the Filipino/American community in Los Angeles and several other cities, recently reported that members of an organization called Bayan USA are planning to participate. Bayan USA is coalition of 14 Filipino/American advocacy groups located throughout the U.S.
The Arizona law has faced an increasingly powerful economic and political backlash across the U.S. The edict has even been criticized by some conservatives such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry who said that it “would not be the right direction for Texas."

Image- Reuters
Online Sources- FOX News, UPI,, New American Media

Finland Asks Mexico for Investigation

Finland's Foreign Minister has asked Mexico to ensure a full investigation into two human rights' workers deaths this week in Oaxaca.

Human rights observers Jyri Jaakkola, who's Finnish, and Beatriz Carino Trujillo, a Mexican political activist, were killed after gunmen attacked their convoy Tuesday.

They were attempting to deliver food and supplies, according to The Washington Post.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said all other foreigners -- most Europeans -- were "safe and sound."

"So far, local authorities have not provided information as to which of the armed groups active in the area is responsible for the killing," said Finland's Foreign Ministry in a statement.

After their convoy, with 27 people and signs on the cars announcing them as press and international observers, was attacked, the other Europeans had hid in the bush and later made their way to a small settlement, then Oaxaca.

Sources: The Washington Post, AP

U.S. Says Iran Threat Overblown

After Iran has made moves to develop closer ties with countries in Latin America, the Pentagon said this week that they're not threatened.

In a 12-page report, the Pentagon acknowledged an "increased presence" from Iran, especially in Venezuela, according to the AP.

Although they said Iran is playing a larger role in Latin America, Pentagon officials emphasized they weren't worried .

"It's a diplomatic, it's a commercial presence," said Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, in charge of the U.S. military in Latin America. "I haven't seen evidence of a military presence."

Earlier this week, we reported about Brazil's advice on the issue.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez caled the report a "disgrace," according to The Guardian .

Sources: AP, The Guardian

Photo: The Washington Note

Today’s Video: The future is now

It has been nearly four months since hundreds of thousands of Haitians were killed when a massive earthquake rattled densely populated parts of the country. Haiti’s rebuilding efforts have been slow as those fortunate enough to survive continue to live day-by-day in makeshift camps and in the streets. One of the most vulnerable groups is youth including those who’ve been orphaned as the result of January’s tremor.

In this gripping video from UNICEF two Haitian boys describe the difficulties they face on a daily basis as well as their wishes for a better future in their homeland:

Online Sources- YouTube

Daily Headlines: April 30, 2010

* U.S.: Bachata group Aventura was honored with nine Billboard Latin Music Awards including Latin artist and album of the year.

* Puerto Rico: A proposal to establish a referendum on the commonwealth’s legal status was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and moves on to the Senate.

* Argentina: The government’s plan for a $20 billion debt swap was formally announced yesterday and is expected to start this Monday.

* Bolivia: Has French firm Bollore gained the inside track in the bidding process to develop Bolivia’s lithium deposits?

Image – ABC News
Online Sources- AFP, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, LAHT

Lula Tops Time List

Luis Inácio Lula de Silva - let's just go with Lula - is on top of Time Magazine's list of the World's 100 Most Influential People.

The internet tells me the list is ranked by order of most influential, but I'm not 100% sure Time is so explicit about it. If they are, J.T. Wang, head of Taiwanese computer manufacturer Acer Group, ahead of President Obama? Absolutely no way. Lula is the most popular leader in the world, but any credible influence list should begin with B-Rock.

Image Source: Time
Online Sources: Time, AFP

Thursday, April 29, 2010

World Watch: You only live twice

* Pakistan: Despite initial claims that he died in January it’s now been reported that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud survived a U.S. drone attack.

* Iraq: A report by Human Rights Watch said that police routinely tortured detainees “at a secret prison outside Baghdad”.

* Asia: The leaders of India and Pakistan met on Thursday and vowed to dialogue with the goal of improving relations.

* Belgium: The lower house of parliament approved a bill that would ban women from wearing burkas.

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

Nuestro Cine: Danny Trejo

Danny Trejo may not be a household name but he is a versatile Latino actor who has appeared in over 180 film and television roles. He is a particular favorite of director/cousin Robert Rodriguez and after years of supporting roles Trejo will lead an all-star cast in Rodriguez' upcoming movie "Machete." In an The Onion A.V. Club interview with Trejo, the convict-turned-counselor explained how he landed his first film role as an extra in 1985's "Runaway Train":
This guy asked me if I wanted to be in a movie, and I said, “What do I gotta do?” And he said, “Do you want to be an extra?” And I said, “An extra what?” And he said, “Can you act like a convict?” I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever heard. I’d been in every penitentiary in the state. I looked at him and I said, “Well, I’ll give it a shot.” He gave me a blue shirt, and I took off my shirt, and I have that big tattoo on my chest. He said “Leave your shirt off.”
The following is the trailer of a documentary on Trejo entitled "Champion", which gives a taste of the difficulties he overcame in order to be such a well-respected and celebrated actor:

Online Sources- Onion A.V. Club,, Wikipedia, YouTube

Congress to vote on Puerto Rican status referendum

The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on whether to pass a non-binding act establishing a referendum for Puerto Rico’s legal status.

The Puerto Rico Democracy Act would establishes a two-tiered vote wherein eligible voters would decide if they were satisfied with the island’s current commonwealth status. That could subsequently lead to a second vote where Puerto Ricans would select to have the island either remain as a commonwealth or move towards becoming a state or an independent country.

The possibility of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state to the U.S. has alarmed some on the right. The Lexington Institute think tank issued a report in March warned of economic issues that “would need to be addressed” if statehood were to be achieved. On a more extreme level Glenn Beck declared that the act was part of a conspiracy by “the progressives” to rig the vote, ensure statehood, and increase their political power.

The bill has received some support from Republicans, however. "Congress has never asked those American citizens residing in Puerto Rico to express their opinion on the territory's political status," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Republican political consultant Alex Castellanos urged GOP legislators to pass the act and not fall into the trap of “mischaracterizing” it as a statehood bill. Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño (who is allied to the Republicans) advocated for the act last year:
“The reality is that the island’s current status does not enable the people of Puerto Rico to fulfill their potential for social, economic and political development,” the island’s governor said on Wednesday in a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources…

He said the measure presented by Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative to Congress, Pedro Pierluisi, provides for a “just and impartial” process, without taking a position in favor of or against the options on the table.
Though the measure has received mostly Democratic support, one congressman is upset with the “shady” proceedings surrounding it. Rep. Luis Gutierrez wrote that he was disappointed with the alleged lack of debate and he will vote against the measure.

Image- Mental Floss
Online Sources- HULIQ,, Lexington Institute, FOX News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, National Review Online, LAHT, Huffington Post

Daily Headlines: April 29, 2010

* Haiti: According to the Coast Guard there has not been a “noticeable change” in immigration from Haiti since a major earthquake on January 12.

* Panama: President Ricardo Martinelli said that he would request the extradition of Manuel Noriega from France and face trial on human rights violations.

* Mexico: A pair of human rights workers was killed in what has been reported as a “paramilitary attack on an aid convoy.”

* Chile: The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook Chile in February has taken a heavy toll on the country’s economy.

Image – PRESS TV
Online Sources- Reuters, Al Jazeera English, AFP, Miami Herald

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

World Watch: Thailand’s bubbling cauldron

* Thailand: The crisis between the Thai government and opposition protesters worsened after a soldier was killed and eighteen demonstrators were wounded in clashes.

* Europe: The region’s debt crisis has gotten worse after Standard & Poor’s downgraded Spain’s credit rating one day after doing the same to Greece and Portugal.

* Australia: The country's government will reportedly soon announce plans for plain packaging of cigarette boxes.

* Britain: Gordon Brown’s time as British Prime Minister is likely coming to an end after he insulted a Labour Party supporter by calling her “bigoted”.

Image – Los Angeles Times (“Anti-government protesters using shields advance on police and military forces during clashes in Bangkok, Thailand.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, AP, BBC News, Reuters

De Musica Ligera: Feliz cumpleaños Willie!

April 28th marks the sixtieth birthday of Nuyorican salsa legend Willie Colon. His career began at the age of fifteen and since then his musical style has gained widespread acclaim as well as collaborative efforts with the likes of Celia Cruz and Ruben Blades. The video below is grainy and difficult to see but it's an absolute treasure that will surely make you stand up and dance: Colon performing with the late, great Hector Lavoe.

Online Sources - Wikipedia, YouTube

States consider own Arizona-like immigration plans

Could versions of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law be passed in other states? Despite the growing backlash against the measure politicos and police in several states are considering their own hard-line actions.
  • Utah: State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom has drafted a bill similar to that in nearby Arizona and claimed that most Utahans would support him.
  • Ohio: Several officials including Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones have urged Gov. Ted Strickland to "to employ your leadership role as Governor to assure legislation is passed that will mirror that of the illegal immigration legislation".
  • Georgia: Gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal said that if he were elected he would “pass and sign similar legislation" to that in Arizona. (As a former congressman Deal backed the barring of illegal immigrants from participating in the health care reform act and tried to block citizenship for babies born in the U.S. to undocumented parents).
  • Maryland: Worried over a possible exodus of illegal immigrants hundreds of miles northeast to Maryland, State Delegate Pat McDonough said he would back anti-immigration legislation.
  • Texas: Rep. Debbie Riddle said that in January she would introduce her own version of the Arizona immigration bill “to make sure that the safety and security of Texans is well-established".
Opposition to the Arizona law has not only been domestic but international too. As we mentioned yesterday, Mexico’s government has increased its political pressure including issuing a travel warning for Arizona. And even though she is best known for her songs and charitable efforts Shakira will purportedly meet with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon as part of a campaign against the new law.

Image- The Telegraph (A US Border Patrol officer walks beside the border fence that divides the US from Mexico in the town of Nogales, Arizona.”)
Online Sources- The Weekly, WMAR, Salt Lake Tribune,, Dallas Morning News, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Colombia: Mockus continues climb in polls

Back in February when Colombia’s Constitutional Court barred President Alvaro Uribe from seeking a third term it seemed a sure bet that one of his closest allies would succeed him. Since then, however, former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus (image) has enjoyed a stratospheric rise in the polls at cost of several Uribista presidential hopefuls.

In a poll released on Monday by RCN Television dark horse candidate Mockus would win in either a first or second round over ex-Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos. Another poll released yesterday by Invamer-Gallup showed a statistical tie between both men but also indicated that Mockus would win in a run-off against Santos. Those polls showed that may have a very realistic chance in becoming Colombia’s next president after trailing Santos by nearly thirty points as recently as five weeks ago.

The race for Colombia’ presidency has become a two-horse race between Santos and Mockus while conservative candidates such as Noemi Sanin and German Vargas Lleras have fallen by the wayside. It was no surprise then that Santos attacked Mockus in a televised debate last night and criticized him for supposedly endorsing extraditing Uribe to Ecuador over a controversial 2008 Colombian military incursion.

Trying to pigeonhole Mockus into an ideological category is not an easy task. On the one the hand he is not as staunchly pro-Uribe as the likes of Santos and Lleras. Conversely, he has vowed to continue the “economic and security policies” of the very popular Uribe. Take for example his views on Colombia’s armed conflict and Venezuela’s president:
Mockus has repeatedly stated that he will not negotiate with the FARC rebel group until all hostages are released and said he “respects”, but is no fan of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whom the Colombian Government has accused of interfering in the elections by attacking candidate Santos. Chávez has said that if Santos if elected president, a regional war is “almost inevitable since he is puppet of the US Empire”.

“What is productive (with Venezuela) is relations based on prudence,” has been the message of Mockus to Colombian public opinion. According to Colombian political analyst Alejo Vargas, soaring popular support for Mockus can be explained because of a “media swell” similar to what happened eight years ago with Álvaro Uribe who, against all odds and forecasts, was elected president of Colombia in May 2002.
Image- LAHT
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Plan Colombia and Beyond, BusinessWeek, MercoPress, Colombia Reports

Brazil urges diplomacy on Iranian nuclear ambitions

Iran’s nuclear program has been a thorny issue that has pitted Western powers against the Islamic republic. Brazil has entered the fray be advocating that it could mediate and perhaps broker a deal.

While visiting Tehran this week Foreign Minister Celso Amorim (image) proposed intervention as a means of resolving "the single most important security issue that the world faces today". Amorim said that it was not necessary to “reinvent the wheel” but instead revive an international deal agreed upon last year. He also opposed imposing “unfair” sanctions against Iran and claimed that they had the right to pursue "peaceful nuclear activities" much like Brazil does.

Amorim’s declarations come as Brazil has tried to become a more important player on the global political and economic stage. Brazil’s is one of the temporary members of the U.N. Security Council and has therefore been aggressively lobbied by Iran. Hence Brazil’s relations with Iran (and, for that matter, possible intervention in the Israel-Palestine quagmire) have discomforted some U.S. officials.

Iran’s increased influence with a few Latin American governments has been of great concern from Washington such as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who warned last year of Iran’s ``subversive activity'' in the region. Yet some higher-ups at the Pentagon have apparently not shared Gates’ concerns:
(U.S. Southern Command head General Douglas Fraser) appeared to contrast with a Pentagon report sent to Congress earlier in April. The report said the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' elite Qods force had a growing Latin American presence, "particularly in Venezuela" -- a claim Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has strongly denied…

"We see a growing Iranian interest and engagement with Venezuela. ... It's a diplomatic, it's a commercial presence. I haven't seen evidence of a military presence," Fraser said.

Asked whether he was contradicting the Pentagon report and earlier comments to the same effect by the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Fraser said: "I don't see it as a contradiction."
Image- LAHT
Online Sources- Xinhua, Reuters, Voice of America, Christian Science Monitor, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: April 28, 2010

* Chile: The world's largest telescope will be built on a 3000-meter high mountain in the Atacama Desert and will include a light-collecting mirror nearly 140 feet wide.

* Guatemala: The Santiaguito volcano erupted and sent a massive plume of ash across parts of Guatemala.

* Latin America: A World Court decision last week did not end a dispute between Uruguay and Argentina over a controversial border paper mill.

* Peru: Soccer veteran Nolberto Solano was arrested and released after he was accused of rape in England.

Image – Al Jazeera English (“The giant telescope is expected to cost more than $1bn and be operational by 2018.”)
Online Sources- UPI, Sydney Morning Herald, USA TODAY, Scientific American

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

World Watch: Pugilistic parliamentary procedure

* Ukraine: The above video shows how some Ukrainian legislators threw eggs and launched smoke bombs in protest over Russia’s military presence there.

* World: Stock indexes worldwide fell in trading on Tuesday after Europe’s debt crisis worsened.

* Zambia: Several human rights groups including Human Rights Watch condemned Zambian prisons as “’death traps’ beset by overcrowding, malnutrition and rampant disease.”

* South Korea: South Korea’s Oh Eun-sun became the first woman to climb the world’s fourteen highest mountains.

Online Sources- YouTube, USA TODAY, FOX News, New York Times, BBC News

Red Cross: Colombian victims “almost invisible”

Victims of Colombia’s armed conflict have become “almost invisible” to those in power according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC report on Colombia was released in Geneva on Monday and warned that the still bloody civil conflict in the country’s rural areas has become virtually ignored. "Many are being forced to flee because of threats to their lives. Other are subjected to extra-judicial killings or to sexual violence, and yet most of their tragedies go unreported," said the ICRC’s Christophe Beney. The report identified the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities as most in danger of the armed conflict and denounced the recruitment of minors as soldiers by illegal armed groups.

The ICRC also said that Colombia’s displace population, already one of the world’s biggest at over three million, continues to grow. A press release by the organization cited the plight of one such victim:

“We were in the house when we suddenly heard gunfire", explains María, who recently fled her home in the south of the country. "When we looked out into the courtyard, we saw my brother's body lying on the ground. They let us bury him, then they forced us to leave our village. Who knows what would have become of us if we had decided to stay.” When people like María are driven from their homes, they generally lose everything they have.
The Colombian government subsequently condemned the ICRC’s assessment and several officials defended the so-called "democratic security" policies of President Alvaro Uribe. “The FARC still have the capacity to do harm, but they do not have a greater capacity now than they had 8 years ago,” claimed government peace commissioner Frank Pearl. Armed forces head Freddy Padilla denied ICRC claims that the leftist FARC guerillas have undergone a recent resurgence and said that the rebels are down to only 8000 soldiers.

Online Sources- International Committee of the Red Cross, Poder360, El Espectador, BBC News, EPA, Washington Post

Mexican president bashes Arizona immigration law (Updated)

On the same day that Arizona controversial immigration law was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer Mexico’s legislature condemned the measure. The Mexican government has not remained quiet and has also joined the growing backlash against the edict.

"Criminalizing immigration, which is a social and economic phenomena, this way opens the door to intolerance, hate, and discrimination," Mexican president Felipe Calderon said yesterday. Calderon added that the law- which permits police to check the immigration status of Arizonans suspected of not having proper papers- “doesn’t adequately guarantee respect for people’s fundamental rights.” Calderon said that he would bring up the law when he meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington next month.

Aside from Calderon other Mexican officials have played hardball against the new law. Earlier today the Mexican exterior ministry issued a travel warning to “all Mexicans visiting, living, or studying in the state of Arizona.” In addition, the annual Sonora-Arizona Commission meeting scheduled for June was cancelled yesterday by the Mexican border state’s governor as a protest against the new measure.

Meanwhile, some conservative commentators and Republicans have voiced concern over individual liberties in their opposition to the law. Through Sen. John McCain called the law “a good tool” his daughter Meghan blasted it for giving “the state police a license to discriminate, and also, in many ways, violates the civil rights of Arizona residents." Aside from Latino grassroots Republicans, one key Cuban-American GOP legislator spoke out against the measure:
The measure also drew reaction from U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

``I strongly disagree with the Arizona immigration law,'' said Diaz-Balart. ``It alters American tradition and long-standing policy making immigration law enforcement a federal matter.

``And it strikes fear in the hearts of many American citizens and legal residents,'' said the congressman, who has long championed comprehensive immigration reform.
Update: Cuban-American politico and GOP Senate candidate for Florida Marco Rubio also blasted the Arizona immigration law.

Al Jazeera English (“Illegal immigrants regularly cross the border between Arizona and Mexico to seek jobs in the US.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, BusinessWeek, Voice of America, Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, New York Times, CBS News, Miami Herald

Today’s Video: Love in the times of snow

The ending is a bit of a downer but the following commercial made by an Argentine ad agency is an absolutely beautiful piece of stop-motion animation:

(Hat tip: AdFreak.)

Online Sources - AdFreak, YouTube

Daily Headlines: April 27, 2010 (Updated)

* Panama: Bon voyage Manuel Noriega; the former Panamanian strongman was extradited to France where he faces trial for alleged money laundering. (Update: Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning and he was promptly taken to a Paris courthouse for closed-door proceedings).

* Honduras: A human rights commission linked to the Organization of American States will head to Honduras next month and investigate the recent rash of journalist murders.

* Nicaragua: Tensions between the government and opposition are reaching a boiling point as supporters of President Daniel Ortega took to the streets in protest last week.

* Chile: Ex-Nazi and disgraced former cult leader Paul Schaefer died on Saturday and reportedly only one person attended his funeral.

Image – Washington Post
Online Sources- Washington Post, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, AS/COA Online, CNN

Aló, Presidente! How you doing?

Not too many pundits expect Hugo Chávez's grip to be significantly weakened when Venezuelans go to the polls in September. But with the economy severely weakened by continued electricity shortages that not even rain bombs can fix, Chávez may be looking to stay on the offensive.

A few compelling examples:
Chávez's domestic problems are serious. In addition to the economy, which is the only major Latin American country expected to shrink this year, the crime rate is being cited as a significant driver of requests from Venezuelans of Spanish decent to obtain Spanish nationality. The main factor in the elections, though, may turn out to be whether the Venezuelan opposition can manage to do anything in unison.

If anyone's listening, I'd propose a Gingrich-style "Contract with Venezuela." Everyone loves a good contract these days.

Image Source: Times Online
Online Sources: Bloomberg Business Week, NY Times, Reuters, Wikipedia, Washington Post, The Times Online, The Independent, VHeadline

Monday, April 26, 2010

World Watch: Don’t copy that floppy!

* World: The end of the floppy disk seems to be forthcoming after Sony said that it would stop sales of the 3.5-inch version of those devices in Japan by 2011.

* Sudan: President Omar Hassan al-Bashir may’ve won reelection yet Human Rights Watch claimed that the elections were “marred by widespread irregularities and gross human rights violations.”

* Poland: The twin brother of recently deceased president Lech Kaczynski said that he would run for the presidency.

* Japan: Protestors in Okinawa rallied on Sunday against the massive Kadena air base that is run by the U.S. military.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- CBC, Voice of America, ABC Online, Al Jazeera English

Today's Video: José Tomás Gored in Mexico

Have a case of the Mondays? At least you didn't get gored in the bull by an 1,100 pound bull.

José Tomás, one of Spain's most celebrated bullfighters, known for his fearless style as well as his unexpected retirement at the peak of his career in 2002 (he returned to the ring in 2007, saying "living without bullfighting is not living"), was gored yesterday during a bullfight in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

I wouldn't call this video NSFW, but definitely be careful if you're squeamish about this sort of thing. The goring sent the bull's horns 4 inches into Tomás' groin, puncturing an artery and causing him to lose 17 pints of blood. The injury was so severe that Tomás was operated on without anesthesia, and the fights' announcers at one point asked the crowd for potential donors of Tomás' rare A- type blood.

Long-form profiles of Tomás mind-boggling comfort with the danger of close passes have been published by the New York Times and LA Times, with Tomás being consider by many aficionados as an heir to the revered fighters of Spanish bullfightings glorious era.

What better time than now to chime in with your opinion on bullfighting.

Video Source: YouTube/AP
Online Sources: AP, New York Times, Huffington Post, LA Times, Bellas Relicas

Paraguay: President given emergency powers

Paraguay’s Congress granted President Fernando Lugo emergency powers as part of a crackdown on leftist guerillas.

The new law suspends public gatherings and the right to due process in five northern provinces during a span of thirty days. "We want to make clear that this measure does not alter the democratic norm in our country," Lugo said after signing the law yesterday.

The move comes days after authorities blamed the Paraguayan People’s Army (PPA) for killing four people in the country’s agrarian area. The PPA reportedly collected ransoms of $700,000 from a pair of kidnappings, has been accused of drug trafficking, and is said to have cooperated with Colombia’s FARC rebels.

Though the new law was approved almost unanimously by the legislature though one opposition senator blasted Lugo for his supposed passivity in combating the PPA. Meanwhile, the use of emergency powers has been seen by some Paraguayans with trepidation:
Lugo's call for extra powers is controversial in Paraguay, because the measure was used frequently during the 35-year dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner, which ended in 1989.

Lugo, a left-leaning former Roman Catholic bishop, has struggled to push laws through the opposition-controlled Congress. Some lawmakers on Friday criticized Lugo's security policies and were skeptical of the measures they said could lead to abuse by security forces…

The last time an emergency measure extending government powers was imposed in Paraguay was in 2002, after violent anti-government protests against former President Luis Gonzalez Macchi.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Washington Post, Diario ABC Color, CNN, AP

Guatemalan Good Samaritan dies ignored by passersby

A Guatemalan Good Samaritan has been hailed as a hero who senselessly died after trying to help an attack victim.

New York police alleged that on April 18 at least twenty people in Jamaica, Queens passed by Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax after he came to the aid of a female attacked by an unknown assailant. A surveillance video showed that for over an hour the homeless Tale-Yax laid bloody and struggling for life on the sidewalk while pedestrians ignored him. One person lifted Tale-Yax’s head momentarily before moving on while another took a photo of him of the dying man with a cell phone. It took almost ninety minutes until someone called emergency services where called yet Tale-Yax was found dead from multiple stab wounds.

The death of Tale-Yax has been compared to that of Kitty Genovese in 1964, which led to increased analysis into the bystander effect. That phenomena- which claims that the more the bystanders the less the chance of help- may’ve manifested itself two Sundays ago. In the end, the body of Tale-Yax is off to Central America for burial:
The Post reports that Tale-Yax was a "Guatemalan immigrant [who] eked out a living working odd jobs, but he was recently out of work and lost his home in Queens." His body is being sent back to Guatemala where his parents live. (Tale-Yax’s cousin Edwin) Tacam said, "He lost his life trying to help someone else — that’s brave. I guess you could say he was a hero."
Anyone with tips into the death of the 31-year-old is urged to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.

Image- Sky News
Online Sources- Gothamist, NY1, ABC News, Wikipedia, Listverse, Village Voice

Daily Headlines: April 26, 2010

* Cuba: Dissident group the Ladies in White was once again harassed and “manhandled by government supporters” while trying to march in Havana.

* U.S.: Hundreds of people rallied yesterday in the Arizonan capital of Tucson in protest against a controversial immigration proposal that was signed into law last Friday.

* Latin America: According to the International Monetary Fund Latin America is “recovering nicely” from the global economic crisis though results vary from country to country.

* El Salvador: Are Salvadoran street gangs a U.S. security threat similar to terrorists? One FBI agent thinks so.

Image – Reuters (“Members of the "Ladies in White", a group made up of family members of imprisoned dissidents, hold up flowers and gesture as they tried to march in Havana April 18, 2010.”)
Online Sources- International Monetary Fund, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist, CNN, Washington Post

Sunday, April 25, 2010

¿Por qué no te callas? – Chilean "Piñerías"

It has been a while since we’ve last bestowed our dishonor on those who have made ridiculous remarks. There have been several recent candidates considered for our hall of shame including Cardinal Roger Mahoney’s inappropriate references in criticizing Arizona’s immigration law and Sen. Lindsay Graham’s flip-flop on federal immigration reform. Steve Forbes’ recent Chicken Little-like worry of a “Chavez-style media crackdown” in the U.S. and Evo Morales’ unscientific views on chicken were two other choices. Today, however, we’ll take a look at the lighter side of life with the "Piñerías".

Named by a Chilean journalist, the "Piñerías" describe the mental and physical gaffes committed by Chilean president Sebastian Piñera. His mistakes have apparently become too prevalent according to the EFE news agency including nearly falling into the Mississippi River on a trip to New Orleans and almost getting hit by a car while jaywalking in Santiago. Chilean poet Nicanor Parra may be 95-years-old but Piñera erroneously thought he was dead. Perhaps his biggest mistake was during a visit to the Juan Fernandez archipelago:
“Robinson Crusoe lived on this island for many years and his story not only fascinated the world but also put on the map this island inhabited by 800 Chileans,” said Piñera…

In reality Juan Fernandez is an archipelago consisting of three main islands including one where Scottish mariner Alexander Selkirk was shipwrecked for four years. It was his adventures in the 17th-century that inspired Daniel Defoe to write his fictional masterpiece “Robinson Crusoe”. – [ed. Translated text]
Let’s hope that Piñera keeps his future "Piñerías" to a minimum despite their silliness.

Image- Times Online
Online Sources- El Espectador, UPI, Gawker, Fox News, Los Angeles Times