Saturday, June 5, 2010

Today’s Video: Cleaning up is hard to do

Saturday marked the latest observance of World Environment Day, which included activities and events around the world. Though there seems to be general agreement on what environmental problems plague the world there are deep divisions on how to solve them. As one Mexican official noted in the video below, creating a global treaty on global warming will likely (and quite unfortunately) be impossible this year:

Weekend Headlines: June 5-6, 2010

* Costa Rica: The government has forced the shutdown of the country’s largest stem cell treatment clinic after claiming that such therapy doesn’t work.

* U.S.: According to a Pew Research Center report mixed marriages in the U.S. have reached an all-time high partly due to immigration from Latin America.

* Brazil: After being separated for nearly three years a gay Brazilian man reunited with his husband in Massachusetts.

* Panama: Judicial authorities have requested that France extradite ex-ruler Manuel Noriega to Panama where he awaits trial.

Image – The Guardian
Online Sources – AFP, AP, New York Times, MSNBC

Friday, June 4, 2010

World Watch: Standing tall

* China: Officials callously defended the government’s role in 1989’s brutal crackdown of protesters at Tiananmen Square.

* U.S.: Good news – 431,000 jobs were created last month. Bad news – 95% of those posts were for temporary employment.

* Nigeria: At least 163 people died since March as a result of illegal gold mining.

* Japan: New Prime Minister Naoto Kan has a daunting task ahead of him if he wants to fulfill his promise of “rebuilding” Japan.

Image – The Guardian (“A Chinese man stands in front of a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Cangan Blvd., in Tiananmen Square on 5 June 1989.”)
Online Sources- The Telegraph, BBC News, MSNBC, AP

De Musica Ligera: The return of Silvio Rodriguez

Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez is scheduled to perform tonight at New York’s Carnegie Hall after a thirty-one year absence from the U.S.

In a press conference on Tuesday Rodriguez expressed his joy at being able to play again in the U.S., a country he “admires in many different directions.” A staunch defender of the Cuban Revolution, Rodriguez said that he still "believes” in its ideals and the social changes created under the Castro regime. Nevertheless he added that Cuba needs to "repairing the decrepitness" and that there are aspects of the island that should be “revitalized.”

Rodriguez plans to perform in a tour of cities like Oakland, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. His visit to the States is “is the latest addition to a growing list of Cuban performers allowed to enter the U.S. since October 2009.” (One example of this was last February when Los Van Van held a concert in Miami for the first time in eleven years).

While Rodriguez tour could be seen as part of a change in Cuba-U.S. relations, one analyst interviewed for a Bloomberg article sees things somewhat distinctly:
“The fact that we’re willing to grant a visa to Silvio Rodriguez, an icon of the revolution, the bard of the revolution, demonstrates that the Cold War dynamic, the fear, the isolation, the retribution, we’re past that,” (Council of the Americas policy director Christopher) Sabatini said. “Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean this administration is in any hurry to push for a real opening.”
All politics side, here is “El Mayor” as performed by Rodriguez in 1990:

Online Sources- Reuters, Latin America News Dispatch, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, YouTube

And the World Cup Winner Is

Six days now until the World Cup kicks off in South Africa and the projected winner, according to the EA Sports 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Video Game, is: Spain.

Argentina 2-1 over Mexico in 2nd round
Brazil 3-1 over Chile in 2nd round

The semifinals see my project winner, England, go down to Brazil in PKs, which means Wayne Rooney ends up in the "caravan park" instead of being knighted by the queen. But the final sees Brazil crumble as Spain realizes its first World Cup glory.

And the oddsmakers seem to agree with the video game simulators: Spain and Brazil are the bookies' favorites to take home the cup.

What do you think? Will the Cup final play out like the oddsmakers expect? Or will some unexpected teams (think South Korea in 2002) emerge from the high altitude?

Video Source: YouTube, FIFA World Cup: Team Analysis Series Part 1 (via NY Times)
Online Sources: NY Times, EA Sports, Ladbrokes, YouTube/Nike

Daily Headlines: June 4, 2010

* Central America: Survivors of Tropical Storm Agatha attempt to rebuild and recuperate after the wild weather left 180 people dead and thousands homeless.

* U.S.: A coroner ruled that the death of a Mexican migrant killed near the border by a stun gun was a homicide.

* Brazil: Approximately one million people in Sao Paulo took part in the annual "March for Jesus."

* Argentina: Five former military and intelligence officials have gone on trial for suspected Dirty War crimes.

Video Source – YouTube
Online Sources- AP, MSNBC, BBC News, Reuters

Thursday, June 3, 2010

World Watch: Targeted in the Congo

* Congo: The U.N. has urged the Democratic Republic of Congo to look into the mysterious death of prominent local human rights activist Floribert Chebeya.

* Middle East: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remains defiant as international pressure increases over a military raid against activists at sea.

* Japan: Finance Minister Naoto Kan is the odds-on favorite to be selected as Japan’s next Prime Minister.

* Bangladesh: At least 100 people died when a fire engulfed a neighborhood in the capital city of Dhaka.

Image – BBC News (Deceased African human rights activist “Floribert Chebeya last sent a text to his wife from the police headquarters.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Reuters, Washington Post, BBC News

Musicians focus on Arizona immigration law

We’ll look into the immigration debate over Arizona (including today’s meeting between Gov. Jan Brewer and President Obama) in more detail on Friday. For the time being we’re going to take a quick look at musicians who have interjected themselves into the heated discussion.

On one side of the equation an alliance of artists entitled The Sound Strike are against the law and have vowed not to perform in the southwestern state. Started by Rage Against The Machine’s Zack De La Rocha, the group includes such varied musical acts as Kanye West, Massive Attack, and Sonic Youth as well as Latin American musicians like Los Tigres Del Norte, Calle 13, and Café Tacuba. According to the coalition’s website, artists will not tour there until the "odious" bill is repealed.

Though not part of The Sound Strike alliance other Latin American acts have protested the Arizona law include Shakira, Jenni Rivera and Wisin & Yandel.

In a unique position is the likes of Pink Eyes (real name: Damian Abraham), lead singer of Canadian band Fucked Up. In an opinion piece written last April on the Sterogum music blog, he expressed his opposition to the law but argued that a musical boycott is counterproductive. His views were partially shared by Curtis McCrary- booker of Tucson’s Rialto Theatre- who urged Cypress Hill to perform there “as a rebuke to those (who) would attempt to give the force of law to racial disharmony.” (Cypress Hill would ultimately cancel their planned Tucson concert and are currently one of the acts in The Sound Strike group).

Perhaps the most notable musical effort in favor of the Arizonan law comes from comedic singer Ray Stevens whose video for "Come to the USA" has reportedly become a “new viral hit”. The song focuses on illegal immigration and compares immigration laws in the U.S. to countries such as China and Sudan. “(Illegal immigration) scares me, and it’s going to really hurt the fabric of the country,” said Stevens in a recent interview.

Musicians throughout the Americas have given their views on Arizona’s immigration law. Perhaps it may not matter to the political powers that be yet the abovementioned acts could influence public opinion.

Image- CBS News (“A man leaves an upscale shopping mall in front of metal barricades marking the border with Tijuana, Mexico, June 2, 2010 in San Diego.”)
Online Sources- Too many too list!

Daily Headlines: June 3, 2010

* Haiti: How sad is that two months after international countries pledged $5.3 billion to help in Haitian reconstruction only Brazil has “actually cut a check?”

* Latin America: According to British think tank Chatham House Latin America could take advantage and forge closer ties to Africa at the expense of “the continent's traditional partners.”

* Bolivia: Government data claimed that since Evo Morales became president four years ago coca eradication has fallen by 40% yet cocaine seizures have doubled.

* U.S.: In a letter to the White House sixteen Republican legislators urged the Obama administration to push for free trade deals with Colombia and Panama.

Image –Canadian Press (“People walk inside a camp for earthquake displaced people after a rain in Port-au-Prince, Friday, May 28, 2010.”)
Online Sources – Miami Herald,, LAHT, Reuters

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Daily Headlines: June 2, 2010

* Mexico: Cancun mayor Gregorio Sanchez has been barred from running for governor of Quintana Roo after a judge charged him with ties to powerful drug gangs.

* U.S.: Univision emitted a public apology after airing a racially insensitive skit supposedly meant to promote the upcoming World Cup.

* Venezuela: For the fourth year in a row the Department of State has placed Venezuela on its list of countries “which do not fully cooperate with US anti-terrorist efforts.”

* Cuba: Officials have started to move some political prisoners to jails closer to their homes though dissident groups still continue to campaign for their prompt liberation.

Image –BBC News (“Gregorio Sanchez denies the charges against him.”)
Online Sources – BBC News, MSNBC, El Universal, Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Today’s Video: Order at the border?

Last week U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to send 1200 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico with the primary aim to prevent drug smuggling. The deployment includes an additional $500 million in federal funds while the Mexican government supported the move as a security measure.

The issue of so-called "militarizing" the border has always been a sensitive topic and that can be seen in the below video via PBS. "The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández" was a documentary that highlighted the 1997 death of a Texan teen near the border by U.S. Marines. The trailer for the film looks at the complex topic of immigration as well as the efficacy (or perhaps the lack of it) in the "war on drugs".

Online Sources - YouTube, New York Times, Times Online

Daily Headlines: June 1, 2010

* Central America: The death toll in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras from Tropical Storm Agatha has risen into the triple digits.

* Peru: Could recently paroled U.S. citizen Lori Berenson have her sentence commuted and get the chance to leave Peru?

* Cuba: In his latest article ex-president Fidel Castro blasted European and U.S. antidrug efforts and praised Bolivian coca leafs.

* Mexico: As part of Mexico's bicentennial celebration the bones of ten historical figures where exhumed and will be examined.

Image –Sky News
Online Sources – CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Reuters,

Monday, May 31, 2010

World Watch: Tensions on the seas

* Middle East: Harsh condemnation worldwide has focused against Israel after nine people died in a military raid on ships carrying humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

* Pakistan: A court removed the government ban on Facebook yet it’s reported that authorities monitor content via a “central exchange”.

* Ireland: Pope Benedict XVI appointed a panel to investigate child abuse in the Irish archdiocese.

* Africa: Economic growth and political stability are expected to be two of the main topics at the 25th Africa-France summit that opened on Monday.

Image – Newsweek (“An image from video of Israeli forces storming an aid ship bound for Gaza.”)
Online Sources- Voice of America, BBC News, AP, MSNBC

Today’s Video: Latinos and the Military

For the record I do not agree with all the arguments made in the below video from Russia Today. Yet in recognition of Memorial Day it's worth debating and examining how the U.S. military is actively recruiting young Latinos. Interestingly enough these recruitment efforts include backing certain immigration initiatives such as the DREAM Act:

What do you think, fair readers?

Online Source - YouTube

Mockus and the Green Fail

If you were following polls leading up to yesterday's Colombian presidential election, you're probably very surprised with the results that emerged today.

Juan Manuel Santos, who by most indications was running neck-and-neck with upstart former Bogotá mayor and Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus, took 46.6% of the vote. Mockus, meanwhile, won only 21.5%, far below the 32% he was polling at when the last poll was conducted by RCN/Semana a week ago.

Because Santos didn't win a full majority he still faces a second round with second-place Mockus, but some members of the Santos camp are calling for Mockus to drop out and save the cost of putting on what they call a futile effort to overcome Santos. As the argument goes, if Mockus drops out "20 schools can be built" with the money it would cost to support a second round.

I don't think budgets work that way, but it's a clever political move by the Uribista camp to pressure the famously civic-minded Mockus to throw in the towel.

Image Source: La Tribuna (Honduras)
Online Sources: NY Times, Colombia Reports, El Espectador

Daily Headlines: May 31, 2010

* Central America: At least 85 people have been killed in Central America as a result of torrential rains, flooding, and mudslides from by Tropical Storm Agatha.

* U.S.: According to a report released last week most detainees a Guantanamo are “low-level fighters” and about one in ten prisoners had some involvement in anti-U.S. “plots.”

* Mexico: As many as 25 bodies were uncovered in a mass grave in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

* Latin America: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Latin America next month that will include visits to Peru and Ecuador.

Image –The Globe and Mail (“A man retrieves his belongings from the ruins of his house destroyed by tropical storm Agatha on May 30, 2010, in the village of Los Almendros, in the municipality of Palin, Escuintla 39 km south of Guatemala City.”).
Online Sources – The Telegraph, New York Times, Reuters, AFP