GW in JA: The Selling of Jamaica

by John Maxwell
Special to Global Wire

The Spanish are becoming extremely protective about the integrity of their coastline. After forty years of breakneck tourism development, the Spaniards have looked at their 8,000 km of sea coast and they don’t like what they see.

Spain is the world’s second most popular tourist destination after the United States, annually attracting 10 million more tourists than the 40 million people of the country. Tourism, as in Jamaica produces about ten percent of GDP, but in Spain most of the money remains in the country, unlike Jamaica where much of it it leaks back out to the United States for supplies and to Cayman and other such havens for numbered bank accounts.

Cheap air fares were the stimulus for the Spanish hotel boom, and the result is a wall of concrete cutting off the Spaniards from their coast. Forty years of uncontrolled building of tourist hotels have left Spaniards agonising about the beauty and amenity they have lost. Isabel Soto, writing seventeen years ago in the New York Times complained that “ the idyllic Spanish Mediterranean coast [has been transformed] into an often nightmarish urban wall of big, unattractive hotels and apartment blocks, often with scant attention to environmental basics like clean beaches.”

Since then it has simply got worse, to the point where the Spanish environmentalists are complaining that their coasts have been almost completely destroyed. Instead of rocky headlands, bird filled marshes, long sweeps of beach and wilderness, , the coast is now a wall of hotels and apartments, massive avalanches of concrete occluding hiullsides, fronted by beaches pullulating in bodies like a St Elizabeth rice field under attack by the fall army worm.

The European tourism market is increasingly a mass escape from anywhere to anywhere, with young people looking for surcease from the Mcdonaldisation of the workplace. What is important is sun, sex and booze, and some people will only be able to say where they spent their holidays by checking their credit card records

But, never mind, pouring concrete was the simplest make to coin money, in hotels and apartments which replicate the banal frenzy for kilometer after boozy kilometer. Nothing about the experience is Spanish – even the gigolos have been globalised.

It is no wonder that an increasing number of Spaniards want their country back, want to preserve some of what was there before the attack of unsustainable tourist mega-development. They have begun to organise to stop the triumph of concrete over common sense.

The same thing is beginning to happen at the other end of Europe. In Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, growing ever more popular as a destination of those in the know, the construction of hotels and apartments is proceeding apace, rather like Spain a decade and a half ago. Writing for the Environmental News Service, Tatyana Dimitrova says “…not all of the rapid development has been viable or well planned. Lax state control and imperfect legislation have resulted in massive overbuilding on the Black Sea coast, and recently also in mountain ski resorts.

“While much effort has gone into the building of hotels, restaurants and other tourist buildings, little care has been taken of the urban infrastructure or the remaining green spaces.

“The gloomy precedent of Spain's Costa del Sol is increasingly spoken about as a warning of what can happen to a tourist industry if it is allowed to develop with no controls. Wholesale construction of densely packed high-rises all along the Costa del Sol in the 1960s and '70s resulted in a flight of better-off visitors to less "spoiled" resorts, leaving hoteliers in charge of empty buildings – a phenomenon known as "dead zones’”

The point is, of course, that people whether visitors or natives, are people first, and in traveling, they are most stimulated by meeting and interacting with people of other cultures. The Jamaican experience is what draws people to jamaica but often they are short-changed and given an ersatz version of the Jamaican reality, complete with fire eaters and limbo dancers while Choucoune, aka ‘Yellow Bird’ has died a million deaths at the hands of mento bands and Jamaican cuisine is apotheosised in Ackee and Saltfish

There is another jamaica, in fact several other Jamaicas, but the competitive pressure does not allow many of our resorts to give foreign visitors any taste of them any more than the visitors to Spain gain any insight into the rich cultures of that country.

The Spaniards are getting so tired of the misrepresentation of their country that a backlash has set in. In several places on the Spanish coasts, municipalities, pressured by the citizenry, are making more stringent regulations governing the number and size of hotels and pushing them back from the beach, which is being reclaimed for the public.

There is news to give Jamaican capitalists fits: the Spanish municipalities are condemning some of these hotels, some only half-built, and are demolishing them, blowing them up with dynamite and flattening them with bulldozers.

They want their beaches, their environment and their culture back.

Pear Tree Bottom

In his judicial review of the Pear tree Bottom debacle, Mr Justice Sykes made several unassailable points as to the almost absolute worthlessness of the Environmental Impact Assessment – EIA. An EIA is a mechanism by which the society decides whether it wants to do some work that will have serious effects on the lives of its members.

The first function of an EIA is to advise on whether there are alternatives to the proposed development, and to evaluate those alternatives. In Jamaica, a developer contracts an EIA which is submitted in support of the development. What is required instead, is an objective assessment of the costs and benefits, short-term and long-term, of any development and it should point out as well as the benefits, the possible deleterious consequences of the development.

People are blaming the technical officers of NEPA/NRCA for what happened, but as a former chairman of the NRCA I know that with a body of dedicated professionals, you will get what you ask for, no matter how difficult it is to get. It is the board of the organisation that must be faulted, because they have proved beyond doubt that they have no business being the arbiters of our environmental development. I doubt that most of them could tell you what the meaning was of sustainable development.

As Judge Sykes pointed out, without a Marine Biological Assessment, the EIA was worthless

But Jampro and the Minister of development should get most blame. In pressuring the NEPA?NRCA to deliver a development at Pear Tree Bottom, they corrupted the entire process, whether out of ignorance or some other fault is not clear.

In development, as in any commercial transaction the maxim ‘caveat emptor’ applies and it is a foolish developer who does not due his environmental due diligence. But the developer was samfied. As were the jamaican people, all of whom are stakeholders in Pear Tree Bottom. The Government is developing mega-disasters by stealth, pretending that only the closest neighbours have any cause for concern.I have enjoyed the water at pear Tree Grove starting at the age of seven. Beyond that is a whole world of small wonders, on land and below the water.

The government of Jamaica under P.J Patterson, disregarded its solemn obligations to the Jamaican environment, despite all the sonorous promises in its Manifesto. They deliberately avoided ratifying the SPAW protocol,(for the protection of species and habitat) with the excuse that ‘laws needed to be changed”.

It has taken 16 years to decide what laws needed to be changed. Meanwhile countries as disparate as the US and St Lucia have found no problem in ratifying the Protocol

The real reason in my view is that the absence of SPAW appeared to give them a clear run at stealing beaches and destroying ecologically sensitive areas. The notorious cases of the Doomsday Highway, the North Coast Highway, the Hope Gardens attempted rape and Long Mountain came to mind, but the vandals’ eyes are even now on Hayes Savannah, Reach Falls, Winnifred Beach and Canoe Valley, a nature reserve designed and built by the NRCA during my tenure there. instead of a nature reserve where children can learn about manatees, the vandals intend to build another deep water port there, when there are already facilities nearby at Port Esquivel and Salt River that can serve equally well. But, the vandals in and out of government, like Columbus’ conquistadors, feel that any jewel of nature on which their eyes light is theirs. “I claim this land in the name of Globalisation and Development.’

Many of our governors have never taken the time to find out about their country. I once wrote that many of our cultural assets which could be translated into riches, are blushing unseen by those who think that environment is a sissy concern. Then they ask me how come I know so much about jamaica. I am not rude enough yet, to ask them how come they know so little. Hayes Savannah is a place most Jamaicans have never heard of, but it is an ecological jewel in danger of being devastated by the developments consequent on the Doomsday Highway.

Dr George Proctor, the world renowned botanist describes Harris Savannah as a world class scientific treasure house – and he knows what he is talking about.

As I wrote in january 2003 “After rain, Harris Savannah is a botanical bonanza, full of species unknown until Proctor discovered them. Many are new to science. Apart from their intrinsic interest to botanists, some could be of profitable horticultural economic interest, others may contain substances which may lead to important medical or other scientific advances. Most of the world’s standard medications are made from compounds first discovered in plants and other ‘insignificant‘ forms of life”.

In that column (Treasure in the Badlands) I referred to a column written nearly a year earlier in which I pointed out that the (then proposed) dredging in Kingston Harbour threatened to destroy the habitat of another insignificant but important species: “… Ecteinascidia turbinata … one of a number of marine animals which manufacture proteins that are proving effective in fighting cancer and may yield substances which may be able to defeat other diseases. A big Spanish drug company, PharmaMar, has bought the rights to a new drug derived from one of the sea-squirt’s proteins.”

Harris Savannah like Pear Tree Bottom, is threatened by the same constellation of geniuses responsible for brutalising Kingston Harbour and Long Mountain. Pear Tree Bottom is another treasury of terrestrial and marine species, including one of the world’s oldest, deepest and most complex coral reefs.

These are just three of the atrocities the Jamaican environment has been made to suffer recently. The Turtle Crawle reserve is next on the list.There are others, and most of them may be found in the Jamaican government Green Paper on proposed Protected Areas. I sometimes uncharitably believe that people like Jampro and the Ministry of Development use this Green Paper as a source book for their environmental outrages. And they are assisted by a document on beach policy, prepared by an outside expert for the NRCA, which treats the Jamaican Beach Control Act as a hostile witness, providing principles to be destroyed in the hunt for the Golden Goose.

We have given a uniquely Jamaican twist to the Precautionary Principle. Whenever we find something that may be scientifically valuable, we take immediate steps to destroy it Norman Manley, H.D. Tucker, Harold Cahusac, Jacob Taylor and others who worked so hard to protect our patrimony could not have had any idea that their work would be so denigrated, so quickly, by posterity.

There is a final consideration: Water. Part of the race to build enormous new hotels is fueled by the fact that people who play golf spend six times as much on their holidays as those who don’t. Golf courses demand millions of gallons of water. Patterson’s government, in its wisdom, privatised the water supplies of Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay, guaranteeing the concessionaires millions far into the future. We need to take these assets back. We sow, they reap. That is unfair and unconscionable.

We are plagued by the most miserable slums in tourist areas, where there is no provision for workers’ housing. The workers and other people in the area have no sanitary conveniences, and to add insult to injury, the Bahia Principe development has filled in the waterhole which once supplied the people of Pear Tree Bottom. That, for me, encapsulates more than any other single thing, the brainlessness, cruelty, irresponsibility and social illiteracy of all those who defend the unsustainable development of Pear Tree Bottom and our other endangered treasures.

Portia Simpson needs to get moving with her plans for community development planning. It is the only way the people of Jamaica will be able to identify and protect the legacies of their progenitors and the essential heritage of the human race.

Copyright 2006 John Maxwell


Obituary:Katherine Dunham (1910-2006)

by Samantha Gross (AP)
Special to Global Wire

Katherine Dunham, a pioneering dancer and choreographer, author and civil rights activist who left Broadway to teach culture in one of America's poorest cities, has died. She was 96.

Dunham died Sunday at the Manhattan assisted living facility where she lived, said Charlotte Ottley, executive liaison for the organization that preserves her artistic estate. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Dunham was perhaps best known for bringing African and Caribbean influences to the European-dominated dance world. In the late 1930s, she established the nation's first self-supporting all-black modern dance group.

"We weren't pushing `Black is Beautiful,' we just showed it," she later wrote.

During her career, Dunham choreographed "Aida" for the Metropolitan Opera and musicals such as "Cabin in the Sky" for Broadway. She also appeared in several films, including "Stormy Weather" and "Carnival of Rhythm."

Her dance company toured internationally from the 1940s to the '60s, visiting 57 nations on six continents. Her success was won in the face of widespread discrimination, a struggle Dunham championed by refusing to perform at segregated theaters.

For her endeavors, Dunham received 10 honorary doctorates, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Albert Schweitzer Prize at the Kennedy Center Honors, and membership in the French Legion of Honor, as well as major honors from Brazil and Haiti.

"She is one of the very small handful of the most important people in the dance world of the 20th century," said Bonnie Brooks, chairman of the dance department at Columbia College in Chicago. "And that's not even mentioning her work in civil rights, anthropological research and for humanity in general."

After 1967, Dunham lived most of each year in predominantly black East St. Louis, Ill., where she struggled to bring the arts to a Mississippi River city of burned-out buildings and high crime.

She set up an eclectic compound of artists from around the globe, including Harry Belafonte. Among the free classes offered were dance, African hair-braiding and woodcarving, conversational Creole, Spanish, French and Swahili and more traditional subjects such as aesthetics and social science.

Dunham also offered martial arts training in hopes of getting young, angry males off the street. Her purpose, she said, was to steer the residents of East St. Louis "into something more constructive than genocide."

Government cuts and a lack of private funding forced her to scale back her programs in the 1980s. Despite a constant battle to pay bills, Dunham continued to operate a children's dance workshop and a museum.

Plagued by arthritis and poverty in the latter part of her life, Dunham made headlines in 1992 when she went on a 47-day hunger strike to protest U.S. policy that repatriated Haitian refugees.

"It's embarrassing to be an American," Dunham said at the time.

Dunham's New York studio attracted illustrious students like Marlon Brando and James Dean who came to learn the "Dunham Technique," which Dunham herself explained as "more than just dance or bodily executions. It is about movement, forms, love, hate, death, life, all human emotions."

In her later years, she depended on grants and the kindness of celebrities, artists and former students to pay for her day-to-day expenses. Will Smith and Harry Belafonte were among those who helped her catch up on bills, Ottley said.

"She didn't end up on the street though she was one step from it," Ottley said. "She has been on the edge and survived it all with dignity and grace."

Dunham was married to theater designer John Thomas Pratt for 49 years before his death in 1986.

Addendum from PBS:

...During the 1940s and '50s, Dunham kept up her brand of political activism. Fighting segregation in hotels, restaurants and theaters, she filed lawsuits and made public condemnations. In Hollywood, she refused to sign a lucrative studio contract when the producer said she would have to replace some of her darker-skinned company members. To an enthusiastic but all-white audience in the South, she made an after-performance speech, saying she could never play there again until it was integrated. In São Paulo, Brazil, she brought a discrimination suit against a hotel, eventually prompting the president of Brazil to apologize to her and to pass a law that forbade discrimination in public places. In 1951 Dunham premiered "Southland," an hour-long ballet about lynching, though it was only performed in Chile and Paris...


Africa Freedom Day

by Caroline Nenguke
Special to Global Wire

Africa Freedom day which falls on 25th May, is a day in which as Africans we observe the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and pay tribute to the Heads of State, who through a common vision of unity, decided to seek a joint African solution to the dichotomy facing Africa in the 1960s.

Forty-one years ago, leaders of the African Continent decided to establish the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Driven by a common aspiration towards de-colonisation, liberation, equality, justice and progress, an inter-African organisation of independent states was founded.

Africa Day exemplifies the achievements made by the various leaders on the continent with regard to the founding of the new African Union (AU), in establishing NEPAD and other continental developments, to address the challenges and ensure that the 21st Century truly becomes an African Century.

But as the continent celebrates this day it is with mixed feelings of having achieved less conflicts in the continent in the past year but on the other hand gross human rights violations including killings and rape continue in volatile areas. The poison of corruption too, continues to leave a bad taste in our mouths.

A 2006 report released by Amnesty International on the state of the world's human rights, says there has been encouraging progress towards conflict resolution in some areas of Africa but many places face political instability and serious risk of further conflict and violence.

Apart from the conflicts, the report also says some governments continue to deny their citizens rights to food, health, water and education. It singles out Zimbabwe's controversial clean-up campaign called Operation Murambatsvina last year, which the United Nations says left about 700 000 people homeless and destitute.

The situation in Sudan is not any better. The report says, "civilians were killed and injured by government troops, which sometimes bombed villages from the air, as well as the government-aligned nomadic Janjaweed militias". Three years of conflict in Sudan has left about 300,000 people dead and 2,4 million others homeless.

In northern Uganda, civilians continue to be victims of the 19-year-old fight between the government and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, leaving more than three million internally displaced and half a million refugees moving to the south.

Across in West Africa, there had been no progress in demobilising around 50 000 fighters under the Côte d'Ivoire’s peace process in the past year, while child soldiers continued to be used there and in the DRC.

Africa has overcome many obstacles and has begun building an Africa that belongs to all Africans, through partnership between governments and civil society, in particular women and youth in strengthening solidarity among Africans. Africa today is inspired by the principles of the Charter of the OAU, which is committed to peaceful settlement of disputes, economic and social development, respect for human rights, the protection of all Africans and to fight all oppression.

It is clear from the above that we still have a long way to go for the ideals of the OAU to be realised and for the equitable and just Africa that we want to see to become a reality. As we celebrate Africa day let us focus on the this years theme, "Together for Integration and Development" and as we do so, let us remind ourselves that we all have a role to play in realising Africa's dream. None of us can change Africa alone, but together we can make a difference.


Third World In America: Color of Wealth

by Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Did you know that for every dollar owned by the average white family in the United States, the average family of color has less than a dime? All the authors argue that people of color have been barred by laws and by discrimination from participating in government wealth-building programs that have benefited white Americans.

“The latest issue relating to the immigration debate around undocumented immigrants is only the latest example of the government hindering people of color,” said co-author Barbara Robles. “Latinos are being blocked from making a living for their families.”

The authors argue that these disparities between the races have been happening since America’s birth, when white Revolutionary War veterans were paid by the government with nine million acres of land stolen from Native Americans. In 1841 it was made legal for whites to take over Indian land by squatting on it. The US government sent the Army out to the western part of the country to beat back Native Americans from land coveted by white settlers. Land ownership was limited to citizens and citizenship was only permitted to whites throughout the 1800s. This policy not only affected many Native Americans and Latinos, but also newly arrived Chinese Americans. One in four white Americans have an ancestor who was given Indian or Mexican land under the Homestead Act of 1862.

“Native Americans have a different concept of land from the government,” said Meizhu Lui, executive director of United for a Fair Economy. “The land is their life line. The transfer of the land from Native Americans to whites is what caused and still causes their poverty today.”

It is widely known that the federal government allowed some states to enable whites to profit from slave labor. However after slavery most people didn’t know that freed slaves were promised “40 acres and a mule,” but the government went back on their promise and gave southern land to white Union veterans instead. Very few people also know that during the New Deal, the federal government gave industrial workers (almost all white) minimum wages, union rights, and Social Security, but denied them to agricultural and domestic occupations held by most people of color.

“The GI Bill was set up to be accessible only to whites,” said co-author Betsy Leondar-Wright. “Because of this a whole generation of African Americans are supporting their parents and grandparents instead of saving up for their own retirement.”

Despite the gains of affirmative actions plans during the civil rights era, people of color are still falling behind because of the lack of wealth not income. In a recent study by economist Thomas Shapiro, in a comparison between a white and black family with the same income, the white family is far more likely to receive money from their families, in the form of a down payment, college tuition or inheritance. The federal government invested in infrastructure to expand surburbs where only whites were welcome, and subsidizing mortgages in the suburbs while redlining the inner city.

“Welfare reform went into effect in 1997, childcare and transportation assistance have been much more likely to go to white welfare leavers; unpaid ‘workfare’ has been far more common for welfare leavers of color,” said Leondar-Wright in a press statement. “The Bush tax cuts have been much more generous for people with substantial income from investments (disproportionately white) than to working people and IRS audits have tended to befall low-wage workers taking the Earned Income Tax Credit (disproportionately people of color).

Leondar-Wright and Lui suggest that these wrongs can be corrected. They say that when the government invests in the middle class it actually works.

“What worked for the first 200 years for white men can now work for people of color today,” said Leondar-Wright.


West's Failure over Climate Change 'Will Kill 182m Africans'

by Philip Thornton of the UK Independent
Special to Global Wire

The poorest people in the world will be the chief victims of the West's failure to tackle global warning, with millions of Africans forecast to die by the end of the century, Christian Aid says in a report out today.

The potential ravages of climate change are so severe that they could nullify the efforts to end the legacy of poverty and disease across developing countries, the charity says.

The report highlights the fact that, despite hand-wringing in the West about the threat to its coastlines from rising temperatures, it is the poorest who are likely to suffer most. It estimates that a "staggering" 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by 2100. Many millions more face death and devastation from climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict.

Sir John Houghton, former co-chairman of the scientific assessment working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has given his support to the report's findings. "This report exposes clearly and starkly the devastating impact that human-induced climate change will have on many of the world's poorest people," he said.

Its warning came on the eve of a meeting of nearly 200 nations this week in Bonn which hopes to close the gap between the US and its allies over the best way to combat climate change.

While 40 nations are committed to cutting carbon emissions in line with the Kyoto protocol, the US and leading developing countries such as China have refused to sign.

Kyoto obliges rich nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Few experts expect the Bonn talks to break new ground.

The summit of the leaders of the Group of Eight rich nations chaired by Tony Blair in Gleneagles last July agreed to develop markets for clean energy technologies, increase their availability in developing countries, and help vulnerable communities adapt to the impact of climate change.

Last week the head of environment at the World Bank said the world needed to do more to protect the poor from global warming. "As a development institution we have to focus on the fact that millions of people will suffer from climate change," Warren Evans said. "The last G8 pushed African development but didn't focus on the impact of climate change on Africa. We need to catch up on our understanding of that."

The World Bank said in its most recent assessment, that developing and transition countries would require investment of $300bn a year over the next 25 years.

In its report, The climate of poverty: facts, fears and hopes, Christian Aid calls on rich countries to fund a switch from fossil fuels to clean energy sources. Britain has pledged to cut CO2 emissions by more than the Kyoto target - 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010 - but the report urges the Government tocommit to a 33 per cent reduction by 2050.

The warnings

* 182 million people in sub-Saharan African could die of disease by 2100.

* Average global temperatures could rise by between 1.5C and 6C by 2100; sea levels are set to rise by between 15cm and 95cm.

* The number of people affected by storms and floods has increased from 740 million to 2.5 billion people since the 1970s.

* Up to 3 million people die of malaria each year. Warmer, wetter weather will help the disease to spread.

* Climate change could reduce Africa's crop yields by 10 per cent.

Source: Christian Aid


Tarzan Returns To Africa...And Edits A Newspaper

U2 frontman Bono continues on his quest to save the "terrible beauty" of Africa as he embarks on a 10-day tour of the continent today. According to CNN, "Bono will announce a new initiative to fight HIV/AIDS in Lesotho's textile and garment industry with U.S. clothing maker Gap Inc., which has signed onto his Red Products branding plan to raise cash to fight the epidemic. Gap is contributing 50 percent of its profits from the sale of GAP Red products to a global fund for AIDS in Africa and has committed to produce some of the Red Products in Africa."

Who really cares that the Gap has a history of sweatshops in Africa.

According to an investigative review by UNITE, Gap systematically drives down wages while exploiting the workers who produce its clothing. The Gap’s Global Sweatshop said workers endure continuous physical harassment, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and are cheated of wages and workplace rights. Workers report beatings, stabbings, sexual harassment and repression of their freedom to form a union.

Workers at a Gap factory in the southern African country of Lesotho, who make 30 cents an hour, are so desperately poor they go to loan sharks to get money to feed their families, according to the UNITE report. Many of the loan sharks manage the factories that employ the workers, according to UNITE.

(Although the Gap has made efforts to correct this problem, the company still has a tarnished image.)

But we digress...

What really struck a nerve with Global Wire today is the Red edition of the UK Independent, guest-edited by Africa's savior himself. Journalism has not gone embarassingly so low. Harry Browne at CounterPunch sums up our feelings.

"I have no embarrassment at all. No shame." Bono says it himself, in the course of his luvvie interview with comic Eddie Izzard, and that's a typically 'disarming' tactic. But don't be disarmed: Bono's shamelessness is of a whole different order from anything we've seen before, and it crosses new frontiers in the edition of the London Independent that he allegedly 'edited' today (16 May).

For a day, you see, it's the RED Independent. (The capital letters in RED are obligatory, for some reason.) Much of the paper is given our to plugging Brand RED, this corporate PR strategy that sees a few big companies buy Bono-bestowed credibility in return for some shillings to Africa. If the word for Bono is indeed 'shameless', then the word that comes to mind in relation to the newspaper itself (a usually credible outlet in Irish mogul Tony O'Reilly's media empire) is 'prostitute'.

Much of Bono's RED Indy is online, but its special qualities are best appreciated on paper. RED is somehow related to the colour red anyway, so we get a front-page created by celebrity artist Damien Hirst, soaked in red and declaring "NO NEWS TODAY" and an asterisk leading to the small print: "Just 6,500 Africans died today as a result of a preventable, treatable disease. (HIV/AIDS)" So far, not terrible, highlighting the issue and its absence from the conventional Western news agenda. But why does it say "Genesis 1.27" on the cover? That's the line about how "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Since Bono is responsible for creating this paper in his image, does that mean he's God?

It's not an entirely facetious question. Certainly this edition, largely given over to Africa and AIDS, creates an image of a continent in dire need of an outside Savior. On page after page, in stories, photographs and advertisements, Africans are presented as pathetic victims, often children. No Africans write about Africa. Only one is presented in an interview as having any agency at all, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It is remarkable that even for the sake of appearances Bono is incapable of hiding his essential paternalism.

A colleague points out that there is nothing here about the arms trade. But perhaps this is not surprising given all the advertising and editorial space given over to endorsing RED mobile phones from Motorola, a military contractor. Nothing either covering mineral exploitation in Africa, perhaps something else Motorola might be sensitive about, given the importance of African-extracted materials in cellphones.

The self-crafted character of Bono, on the other hand, is never far from the page. Justifying his commercial fundraising strategy, he writes: "For anyone who thinks this means I'm going to retire to the boardroom and stop banging my fist on the door of No. 10 [Downing Street], I'm sorry to disappoint you." Frankly, we hadn't noticed any fistbanging: the butler is always discreetly ready to open the door unbidden for a welcome guest like Bono.

Bono's status on Downing Street, at No. 10 and No. 11 (where Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is to be found), is underlined by the cozy, snoozy interview Tony Blair and Brown "teamed up" to do (by phone) with the U2 frontman. Bono's hard-hitting line of questioning includes: "Chancellor, I've just got back from a trip to Washington, where your announcement of $15bn over 10 years for education for the poorest of the poor created a real reverberation. Are you worried that some of your other G8 partners and finance ministers are not coming up with new initiatives to match this?"

Bono is still reverberating when he talks to Blair: "Prime Minister, I want to just take you to a more personal place in your trips to this terrible beauty that we call Africa now--to an inspiring moment, a person you have met, or a moment of despair." Bono likes his Yeatsian "terrible beauty", repeating the phrase in his editorial.

Half the proceeds from this edition supposedly go to fight AIDS in Africa. Given all the extra advertising for cool products, gigs and charities targeting the day's once-off buyers, you can be sure those proceeds will be considerable.

No outing with Bono would be complete without licking-up to the White House as well as Downing Street. So we've got Condoleezza Rice naming her "ten best musical works". Condi, it seems, is a "big fan" of Bono and names "anything" by U2 as number 7 on her list, just ahead of Elton John's 'Rocket Man'. As for Cream's 'Sunshine of Your Love' at number 2 (after Mozart): "I love to work out to this song. Believe it or not I loved acid rock in college--and I still do."

What a long strange trip it's been. And that's before you open the supplement and find, after some grim monochrome photos of Deep South poverty from Sam Taylor-Wood, another hard-hitting interview. "She's the bright young star breaking all the rules. He's the grand master whose influence on the way we dress is felt around the world. In a rare interview, STELLA McCARTNEY asks Giorgio Armani about fur, fashion and film--and why RED is his new favourite colour."

Indy associate editor Paul Vallely is Bono's luvvie for the day, with his full-page 'big question' feature, "Can rock stars change the world?" arriving at an ever-so-British qualified Yes ­ "Oh all right then. But with a little help from their friends. Which includes all of us ­ fans, activists, politicians and now ­ as Project RED so clearly demonstrates ­ shoppers too."

The edition is themed around this notion. Even "The 5-Minute Interview", with BBC radio DJ Zane Lowe, finishes with an incongruous, not to say idiotically phrased, question, "Can big corporations make a difference to people's lives?" Lowe sings from Bono's hymnsheet: "The only thing people who are trying to make a difference can do is work alongside corporations. We're not going to abolish big business, people aren't going to stop drinking Starbucks and buying Nike, but you can say to them, 'There's a big difference you can make and if we find a way to make it easier for you, would you contribute?'"

This notion of lowest common denominator activism is the keynote of Bono's signed, somewhat tetchy editorial: "So forgive us if we expand our strategy to reach the high street, where so many of you live and work. We need to meet you where you are as you shop, as you phone, as you lead your busy, businessy lives."

Two more signed opinion pieces, by Geldof and Niall Fitzgerald (chairman of Reuters, former chairman of Unilever) both advocate more or less neoliberal solutions to Africa's crisis. In fairness (and believe me, it's tough to feel fair about these egomaniacal creeps), Geldof, like Bono in the Blair-Brown interview, does criticise "enforced liberalisation by the IMF, the World Bank or the EU", but in both cases it's pretty parenthetical.

Not much new 'news' makes the paper at all. There is room for a rubbishy Google short declaring that "Irish are top users of 'lonely' search term", but no room at all for the story convulsing Bono's hometown of Dublin: 41 Afghan men have been on hunger and thirst strike inside historic St Patrick's Cathedral to prevent their deportation to the dangers of their home country. Since this story clearly involves the West's role in the suffering of people from the poorer world, and it also involves poor people taking their own, desperate measures to defy a Western government's prescriptions, it fails to fit Bono's world-view.

Young fogey Johann Hari interviews Hugo Chavez with reasonable sympathy over two pages, pausing to wring his hands about Chavez's admiration for Castro and Mugabe. The interview appears to be shorter than the online version because of the big ads for Unicef and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/Aids.

One weak attempt at self-mockery is John Walsh's unfunny column about some of the "less successful guest-star interventions in history"--Groucho Marx addressing the Pentagon War Room on the eve of D-Day, Margaret Thatcher guest-editing teen-mag Jackie--"the usual questions about petting, bra sizes and periods were replaced by enquiries about the public sector borrowing requirement". (Did I say unfunny?)

Bono is obsessed with justifying Live8, and the centre-spread is given over to a board game called "Gleneagles Crazy Golf" ("Will the G8 keep their word?"). The biggest move available in the game is "Move Forward 3: Independent goes RED".

Much more can be said about this low point in the history of journalism and public culture, but the final word should go to Julia Raeside on Megastar.co.uk: "We wonder if Simon Kellner, the editor of the Indy, will get to spend a day being a self-important, whining rock bore in silly pink sunglasses and trousers that are ever so slightly too tight."

Thank goodness for the May edition of the New Internationalist, which gives the real deal on whats going on in Africa this month. Could someone please mail a copy to Bono in Africa so he can see what real journalism looks like.


Third World in America: Poverty and the American Dream

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Is the American dream still alive? We are told from an early age that if we work hard enough we can do whatever we want in life and be happy. It is everyone’s dream to get a job that pays well and live prosperously. Apparently this is not true. Approximately 37 million Americans live below the poverty line and many more are on their way to poverty due to globalization. The recent tragedy of Hurricane Katrina put a spotlight on the plight of the poor. Poverty experts gathered in Boston recently to try to make sense of America’s invisible problem.

“The thing about New Orleans was that it forced people to recognize poverty,” said Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City. “You can go through life and not see poverty. Katrina forced us to see poor people and feel the pain of poverty.”

“I am surprised by the ‘rediscovery’ of poverty by the media,” said author Barbara Ehrenreich. “Who did the media think was making up their beds in the hotels down there. It shouldn’t have been a surprise.”

Ehrenreich is famed for her book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, where she gave up her middle class lifestyle to see how the working class in America get by.

Today eighty percent of jobs in the US and Canada are in the service sector. Fifty percent of those low-paying jobs are in hotels and restaurants. These workers get pay that is just barely above the minimum wage and don’t qualify for health insurance, pensions or retirement plans. The hotel industry has witness immense consolidation and expansion over the past few decades and now employs 1.3 million workers. While sales in the hotel industry are reaching back to pre 9/11 numbers, hotel workers are not reaping the benefits.

Analysts believe that the wave in globalization has caused a shift in the job market. Ehrenreich said that the only reason Americans can get service jobs is because they are not being exported to other countries such as China and India.

“Out of the top twenty jobs in America, only five of them require college degrees,” she said. “Companies are having trouble outsourcing service jobs. We have even produced professionals but they are not getting jobs. The break down of the American dream is that you can’t work hard in this country and get ahead.”

Canada said that the solution to this is to improve the public education system in the country.

“America is at a competitive disadvantage,” he said. We don’t produce scientists and engineers like India and China do. We have allowed our public schools to be horrible. We need to think about being more competitive with education.”

Ehrenreich disagreed with Canada’s premise, stating that no matter what kind of education you have, you still can’t get ahead in America.

“People with college education are being down mobilized and having to get jobs at Starbucks and Circuit City for $8 dollars an hour,” she said. “Only then do people see what poverty is.”

Poverty has taken its toll especially in communities of color and African American males in particular. Canada says that the government focuses too much of its social services on single women with children. He states that more is needed to support males in this country.

“You are not going to solve poverty by focusing on one gender,” he said. “Fifty percent of African American males are unemployed and 32,000 of them are in jail. We spend approximately $30,000 per male in jail. It is just ridiculous as a policy. We should be spending money on youth development programs that will keep them out of jail in the first place.”

The Bush administration has recently proposed that marriage would be a way to alleviate poverty. Conservatives say that there is evidence that married people get ahead better and have an easier time economically than single people.

“Marriage should be based on love, not to have a income stream,” Ehrenreich said. “There are different arrangements people can make that works. There was a case in Virginia where two single moms lived together for financial reasons. The neocons couldn’t handle it because they can’t deal with anything that looks remotely homosexual. People have to understand that poor people have to make their lives work for them.”

While no conclusion to what should be done about poverty was made, panelists believe that it should be a matter that all Americans take up.

“We are seeing a class war in progress,” Ehrenrich said. “We can only overcome this when we join together regardless of race and fight poverty.”


World Fair Trade Day 2006

So what is Fair Trade...

From Global Exchange:

In today's world economy, where profits rule and small-scale producers are left out of the bargaining process, farmers, craft producers, and other workers are often left without resources or hope for their future. Fair Trade helps exploited producers escape from this cycle and gives them a way to maintain their traditional lifestyles with dignity. Fair Trade encompasses a range of goods, from agricultural products from the global South like coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas, to handcrafts like clothing, household items, and decorative arts. Our Fair Trade campaigns and stores offer a variety of ways for you to support this growing movement for social justice!

Fair Trade involves the following principles:

*Producers receive a fair price - a living wage. For commodities, farmers receive a stable, minimum price.
*Forced labor and exploitative child labor are not allowed
*Buyers and producers trade under direct long-term relationships
*Producers have access to financial and technical assistance
*Sustainable production techniques are encouraged
*Working conditions are healthy and safe
*Equal employment opportunities are provided for all
*All aspects of trade and production are open to public accountability

Fair Trade products can be identified by the "Fair Trade Certified" label or the Fair Trade Federation logo on a product. The "Fair Trade Certified" system involves non-profit organizations in 17 different countries, all affiliated with Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International. In the USA, TransFair USA places the "Fair Trade Certified" label on coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas and other fruits. This label is product-specific, meaning that its presence on one product doesn't mean that all of the companies products are Fair Trade. The Fair Trade Federation is an association of businesses that follow fair trade principles across the board, so its presence on a product DOES mean that a company supports the highest level of commitment to fair trade -100%. The Fair Trade system benefits over 800,000 farmers organized into cooperatives and unions in 48 countries. Fair Trade has helped farmers provide for their families' basic needs and invest in community development. However, these farmers are still selling most of their crop outside of the Fair Trade system because not enough companies are buying at Fair Trade prices. Help increase the demand for Fair Trade among companies, retailers, and consumers! Learn how you can get involved and make a real difference for small-scale producers!

Fair Trade handcrafts are purchased through a number of different Alternative Trading networks, such as the Fair Trade Federation and the International Federation for Alternative Trade. Global Exchange has three retail Fair Trade Stores: online and two brick & mortar locations. These stores offer consumers the opportunity to purchase beautiful, high quality crafts and commodities from producers and farmers that were paid a fair price for their work. We tell the stories of the cultures and families, primarily indigenous peoples and women who created these amazing crafts from around the world.

What about family farmers and farmworkers struggling to make ends meet in the USA? You can ensure equity and sustainability in domestic agriculture by buying local organic produce from farmers' markets, co-ops, and Community Supported Agriculture groups, and by looking for the union label on produce items. YES- you can have it all!

Fair Trade provides a sustainable model of international trade based on economic justice. It means an equitable and fair partnership between consumers in the Global North and producers in the Global South -- and is an alternative to sweatshop production. Please join us in supporting Fair Trade and using our consumer power to create a better world for all!

Get involved with Fair Trade with the following organizations:

Oxfam's Make Trade Fair:www.maketradefair.org
Equal Exchange: www.equalexchange.org
TransFair: www.transfairusa.org
DATA: www.data.org


GW In JA: Beyond the beach and reggae

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Jamaica Americans not only make a valuable contribution in Boston, but
are also concerned about issues going on back in their home country.
According to the 2000 US census approximately 20,000 people from
Jamaica live in Massachusetts. However most people don’t know that
there is a lot of things happening on this Caribbean island beyond
beautiful beaches and reggae music. In fact Jamaica is currently going
through a major political and economic shift that Jamaican Americans
are part of.

Portia Simpson Miller, for example, was recently elected the island’s
first woman prime minister. A long time politician who ran on a
campaign platform of eradicating corruption, poverty and human rights
violations, Simpson-Miller is seen as a breath of fresh air for many
Jamaican Americans.

“Jamaicans in Boston are excited about the new Prime Minister,” said
Patricia Farr, special assistant to the Jamaican Consulate in
Boston. “Most people are positive about her uniting the country.”

However the jubilation ended abruptly just a week after Simpson-
Miller’s inauguration when she declared that she was “elected by God.”
Analysts became concerned about religion’s place in the political

“I get scared when people inject religion into their political power,”
said Marcia Johnson, a Jamaican from Mission Hill. “Portia is starting
to sound too much like Bush and the religious right, and that’s not
good. Is she secretly working for the Bush administration?”

Despite the criticism Simpson-Miller has found supporters amongst even
those who consider themselves secular.

“I love her,” said John Maxwell, renowned progressive Jamaican
journalist and professor. “I think she is the best thing to happen.
Over time people will calm down on her religious views and see the real
problems she is working on.”

Stereotypes about Jamaica run rampant in the American media. One of
them is the false notion that tourism is the island’s top money
grossing industry. In fact Jamaica makes more money through the large
sums sent by Jamaican Americans back home to family and friends.
Particularly Jamaicans in Boston have been very generous about giving
back to the home country during many occasions, including last year’s
hurricane disasters.

“My mother still is living in Jamaica and the roof on her house was
damaged by the hurricane last year,” said Bonnie Wright of Mission
Hill. “I had to take a second job just to make the money for her…My
mom lost her job when the factory she worked for decided to move its
operation to China. She also can’t get healthcare to deal with her
arthritis and heart problems. I might have to bring her here to get

Jamaica has been in a downward economic spiral since it gained
independence from in 1962. During the 1970s then Prime Minister
Michael Manley reluctantly took out loans with the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions to get the country on track
financially. Loan repayment takes up 75% of the island’s budget.
Because of this only a minimum of money is available for other
essential programs like education, healthcare and sanitation.

Wright came to Boston because of this lack of social services. Like
her mother she is also a victim of losing her job to what she
calls “criminal globalized slavery.” Wright worked in Jamaica’s
infamous free trade zone, sewing t-shirts for an American clothing
company. The free trade zone is a section in Jamaica’s capital,
Kingston, where multinational corporations such as Hanes and Nike can
have their products assembled tax-free. When the free trade zone was
first introduced in Jamaica, it was seen as a way to bring in much
needed revenue, as the companies were hiring locals. However employees
worked long hours under stressful conditions and receive well below a
living wage. When workers complained they are fired and blacklisted
from working anywhere else. Wright lost her job because the Chinese
factory she worked for decided it would be cheaper to bring in Chinese

“The same thing I believe is happening with the stadium being
constructed in Kingston for next year’s World Cup,” Wright said. “The
Chinese government is building it with its own Chinese workers. No
Jamaicans are really benefiting.”

Today many multinationals have moved their productions out of Jamaica
to recruit cheaper labor in other developing countries. Marcia Johnson
is awaiting the arrival of her cousin, Clarence, who will be moving
here from Jamaica. Clarence worked in the once prosperous banana
industry. Once a moneymaking commodity, Jamaica’s banana production
has now become a product of neo-liberal policies mostly imposed by
Western nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under the Lome
Convention quota Jamaica was able to sell their bananas solely to
England under a special agreement. However the US felt that this
agreement was unfair, proposing that US companies should be able to
compete in the market. This forced Jamaica to compete with larger
scaled exporters from Central and South America.

“The US doesn’t even grow bananas on its own soil,” Johnson
said. “Companies like Chiquita only grow bananas in places where they
can get cheaper labor. Jamaica can’t compete with the Dominican
Republican and Colombia. The funny thing is that the US sends their
food down there but Jamaicans can't sell food here because of so-called
low quality. But that’s not true.”

Because of the lack of employment opportunities, Jamaicans are leaving
the island in huge number for greener pastures in the US and England.
Along with Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Miami also have large
Jamaican populations. Jamaicans who stay on the island get involved in
underground industries like drugs and arms trade and sex tourism. The
economic upheaval has also caused a surge of violence in the inner
cities. Jamaica has one of the highest rights of violent crime,
corruption and police brutality in the world.

“People are unhappy about not having opportunities,” Wright
said. “It’s not true that Jamaicans are violent people by nature. The
people are just desperate. When people are desperate they turn to
desperate measures. Let’s be real here. You can’t expect people to be
nice when their jobs and social services are being taken away.”

Both Wright and Johnson hope to go back to Jamaica one day. But right
now they hope to help out the country from Boston by being activists of
trade justice and human rights abuses.

“I’m going to do what I can from Boston,” Johnson said. “It’s a big
job, but you have to start somewhere.”

To learn more about the issues addressed in the article, go to Global
Exchange at www.globalexchange.org.


Aid for Uganda Through Music

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Jim Logan is using his musical talent to make a difference in the world. The jazz guitarist and Berklee college alum will be travelling to Uganda on Thursday for three weeks to perform in at least four internally displaced people (IDP) camps and two townships. These concerts will also provide much needed health services.

“I am really excited about this opportunity,” he said. “This is an incredibly experience and I am really looking forward to it.

Logan first traveled to the east African country in 2004 under a grant from the US Embassy to perform with a band of local musicians at a barely
sustainable camp for internally displaced peoples in the northern part of the country. UN Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has called the plight of these people as “the largest neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.”

Conflict in the northern parts of the country continues to generate reports of abuses by both the rebel Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan army. Torture continues to be a widespread practice amongst security organisations. Attacks on political freedom in the country, including the arrest and beating of opposition Members of Parliament, has led to international criticism, ending in May 2005 in a decision by the governments worldwide to withhold part of its aid to the country.

In addition, while the country has seen a decrease in HIV infections in recent years, Uganda still has among the highest rates in the world.

Knowing that this was a good opportunity to make people aware of their health, Logan invited non-governmental healthcare organizations to deliver services from tables around the edges of the audience during his 2004 performance. Logan believes that his performance eased the stigma of people getting tested for HIV. To prove this Logan says that 100 HIV testing kits were brought to the performance, believing that not many of them would be used. After the performance all the kits were used, leaving a demand for more.

“There was a relief of the stigma that night,” he said. “The music makes people feel more relaxed and the fear of HIV testing is reduced.”

This time Logan is returning to Uganda with 2,000 HIV kits as well as malaria testing kits and mosquito nets donated by Abbott Pharmaceuticals. He is also receiving help from The Berklee College of Music Alumni Grants Association, Christian Aid and Save the Children Uganda. Doing tour preparation in Uganda is the Concerned Parents Association, an organization of parents whose children have been abducted and forced to be child soldiers.

“My partner, Stefanie Pollender, had a lot of great connections with these organizations that are helping us out," Logan said. “She is very involved with the British Quakers Association. She has made a phenomenal contribution to this project.”

Traveling with Logan and Pollender will be Berklee assistant professor Herman Hampton, a bass player and Roxbury resident. Logan also hopes to return to the US with a young man named Godfrey, a piano player he met while living in Uganda two years ago who has been accepted to Berklee College but faces obstacles due to the lack of funding for full tuition. The situation is more complicated as the Ugandan is currently raising his own three children and the three children of his brother, a noted Ugandan musician himself, who died of AIDS.

“We applied and he was accepted,” Logan said. “He got $50,000 scholarship that will be distributed equally throughout the four years. But obviously this is not enough to pay for tuition. We are raising funds through my organization to get him through school.”

Logan formed his Cambridge based organization called CARAVAAN to support further exhibitions combining music and health service delivery in Uganda. CARAVAAN is the acronym for cultivating art and realizing alternative ventures for aid to the African nation. Its mission is to use live music as a way of delivering health services to disenfranchised Ugandans. This includes HIV testing and counseling and other health initiatives. CARAVAAN also has an endowment for outstanding
African artists to attend colleges in the US.

Reminiscing about his last tour of Uganda, Logan said, “It was the most
significant musical experience of my life. We made a difference in the
lives of many people that day.”


Fair Trade Art Comes to the US

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Usually the term fair trade is associated with coffee, chocolate or bananas. But how often do you hear about fair trade art? Planet Aid, Friends Forever Zimbabwe will host a three-week exhibition in Boston displaying fairly traded sculptures from Zimbabwe starting May 3.

Breathing Stones: Master Sculptors of Zimbabwe will present the work of seventeen craftsmen who describe their life stories through their designs using stone. Buyers will not only be able to purchase amazing art, but will also help provide a living for the artists and their family at the same time.

“This is art that you just can’t find anywhere,” said Sune Joergensen, curator of the exhibition. “This is a great way for the artists to get their work out there and actually get paid for them.”

Joergensen works for Friends Forever, which buys pieces of art from the artists and arranges exhibitions outside of Zimbabwe with the help of like-minded partners, such as Planet Aid. Planet Aid is a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that collects used clothes and sell them as a means to financially support development projects around the world, such as teacher training colleges, pre-schools, HIV/AIDS outreach and community development. The first exhibitions have been held throughout Europe and most recently Atlanta.

“This exhibit will expose Americans to a positive side of Africa,” said Steve Courchesne of Planet Aid. “Americans are so used to seeing bad things going on in Africa, but this gives people the opportunity to see a different side.”

Most importantly the sculptures are an example of fair trade art done good. The artists know the prices the stones are being sold at and get their fair prices. The artists are involved throughout the whole process. The artists are the ones who decide if the relationship between themselves and Friends Forever is equitable or not.

The fair trade movement has picked up a lot steam in recent years. The practice of fair trade is seen as a way to alleviate extreme poverty in the developing world. While the fair trade movement concentrates more on the abolition of agricultural subsidies and dumping by Western nations, there is growing interest in ensuring fair pricing for artisans. In Boston there are a few organizations active in fair trade for the arts such as Ten Thousand Villages and Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ).

“About two thirds of the sales come back to us for administrative purposes,” said Joergensen. “One third of the sales go towards the health care of the artists. Most of the artists don’t have healthcare and many of them suffer HIV and other problems.”

“Considering the situation in the country [Zimbabwe] now, medication is expensive,” said artist Lawrence Mukomberanwa in a statement. “Not many of us can afford that. But now we have got a budget for that.”

Usually one of the artists is invited to participate in the exhibition by teaching art students the tricks to their crafts. In November and December 2005 Lawrence Mukomberanwa was given a paid, two-week visit to the exhibitions in Barcelona, Spain. Unfortunately because of lack of funding for this exhibit there will be no visiting artist. However, the organizers are looking forward to future exhibitions for the rest of the year in Washington DC, Los Angeles and possibly Boston again.

“People in the neighborhood are really excited about the exhibit,” said Joergensen. “I went to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street the other day and they were asking about it. So there is a lot of interest.”


Post Colonial Moment: Cinco De Mayo

Mexicans have been involved in revolutions long before the immigration debate in the United States.

From Wikipedia:

In 1862, in response to Mexico's refusal to pay off its debt, Britain, Spain and France sent troops to Mexico. These debts had become onerous due to the cumulative effects of the War of Independence against Spain, by the war with the United States in which half of Mexico's territory was lost, and by the recent War of the Reform. Troops arrived in January of 1862. The new democratically-elected government of President Benito Juárez made agreements with the British and the Spanish, who promptly recalled their armies, but the French stayed, thus beginning the period of the French intervention in Mexico. Emperor Napoleon III wanted to secure French dominance in the former Spanish colony, including installing one of his relatives, Archduke Maximillian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico. Additionally, wealthy Mexican conservatives as well as the leadership of the Catholic Church, alarmed by the election of the liberal indigenous Juarez, supported an intervention.

Confident of a quick victory, 6,500 French soldiers marched on to Mexico City to seize the capital before the Mexicans could muster a viable defense. Along their march, the French encountered stiff resistance before Zaragoza set out to intercept the invaders.

On May 4, an army of Mexican conservatives rode out to aid the French near the city of Puebla, but before they could reach their French allies, they were defeated by a Mexican loyalist unit commanded by General Tomas O'Horan.

The battle between the French and Mexican armies occurred on May 5 when Zaragoza's ill-equipped militia of 4,500 men encountered the better-armed French force outside Puebla. However, Zaragoza's small and nimble cavalry units were able to prevent French dragoons from taking the field and overwhelming the Mexican infantry. With the dragoons removed from the main attack, the Mexicans routed the remaining French soldiers with a combination of their tenacity, inhospitable terrain, and a stampede of cattle set off by local peasants. The invasion was stopped and crushed.

The French Emperor, upon learning of the failed invasion, immediately dispatched another force, this time numbering 30,000 soldiers. By 1864, they succeeded in defeating the Mexican army and occupying Mexico City. Archduke Maximillian became Emperor of Mexico.

Maximilian's rule was short-lived, and limited to areas near French garrisons. Mexican rebels opposed to his rule resisted throughout most of the rest of Mexico. He also quickly lost the support of Mexican conservatives when he turned out to be more liberal than they had expected. Once the American Civil War was over, the U.S. military began supplying Mexicans with weapons and ammunition, and by 1867, the rebels finally defeated the French and deposed the puppet Emperor. The Mexican people then re-elected Juárez as president.


World Press Freedom Day 2006


This year's theme: Media, Development, Poverty Eradication

The correlation between media freedom and the eradication of poverty is the main theme of “World Press Freedom Day” 2006. In the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals of 2000, aid agencies, NGOs and state actors are increasingly recognizing the multi-level impact and the central dynamic of media assistance in fostering sustainable human development and alleviating extreme poverty. Media freedom and access to information play a key role in facilitating local participation and empowerment of the poor. Freedom of expression is furthermore the core human right in a rights based approach to poverty reduction, since it serves as a trigger and catalyst for the realization of all other basic human rights.

From UN Press Service:

Statistics on the number of journalists killed, imprisoned or harassed each year were important barometers for press freedom, which was essential for democracy, for free and fair elections and for the oversight of Governments, Ann Cooper, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists, told correspondents today during a Headquarters press conference sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-profit, bipartisan organization based in New York City, works to defend journalists and press freedom all around the world. To mark World Press Freedom Day tomorrow, 3 May, the CPJ launched a report on the “10 Most Censored Countries”, thereby focusing on the consequences for the public when there is no free press. “What is it like for citizens in countries where all media is controlled by the State, where the Internet is either unavailable or censored, where foreign news broadcasts are jammed by the Government?” Ms. Cooper asked. People in countries like that were kept uninformed by “authoritarian rulers who muzzle the media and keep a chokehold on information through restrictive laws, fear and intimidation”.

She said the report showed that people in North Korea were the most isolated people in the world, living in the most censored country and in the “deepest information void”. The Government there controlled all local media. The official Korean Central News Agency offered a “steady diet of fawning coverage of dear leader Kim Jong Il” while ignoring the 1990s famine. Other countries on the list were: Burma; Turkmenistan; Equatorial Guinea; Libya; Eritrea; Cuba; Uzbekistan; Syria; and Belarus. Details on those countries can be found on www.cpj.org.

She said the list had been compiled by regional staff which had looked at dozens of countries and had rated the degree of censorship against 17 benchmarks, including prior censorship, jamming of foreign new broadcasts and the degree of State control of media. Each country on the list used at least 9 of the 17 censorship benchmarks. In all 10 countries, print and electronic media were under very heavy State control. Most of the 10 countries were ruled by one man who remained in power to a large degree by controlling media. In some cases, such as in North Korea, Turkmenistan and Equatorial Guinea, the media were actively used to foster a personality cult around the country’s autocratic leader.

There was also zero tolerance for negative coverage in countries such as Uzbekistan, Belarus and Cuba, she said. The report underscored how those Governments, who censored so heavily, showed a cynical disregard for people’s welfare. “By any international standard, the practices of these Governments are unacceptable. We call on the leaders of these most censored countries to join the free world by abandoning their restrictive actions and allowing journalists to independently report the news and inform their citizens”, Ms. Cooper said in conclusion.

Answering a correspondent’s question, Ms. Cooper said over 100 countries were constantly being monitored. Regional staff had a good feel for what were likely to be the most censored countries and had honed in on a few that they knew would meet some or all benchmarks.

Asked about Uzbekistan, a country recently praised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for its progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, she said the United Nations system and all Governments that cared about democracy in the world needed to look at the records. It was true that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some independent media had developed in Uzbekistan, but their independence had always been tenuous at best. After the Andijan massacre last May, all independent and foreign media had been squeezed out. The situation now looked pretty much like during the Soviet era. The United Nations and Governments needed to protest about that very strongly.

In terms of press freedom, Belarus was the most repressive country in Europe. It was a “shameful record” that should be protested not just by the United States and Western European Governments, but by Russia and other countries from the former Soviet Union. The fact that criticism was not forthcoming from that corner was a factor enabling the country’s President, Aleksandr Lukashenko, to continue his repressive actions. He used administrative techniques to repress the press. Printing houses, for instance, were ordered not to print private newspapers. The postal service was told not to distribute them. After the recent elections, a number of journalists had been arrested on the “ridiculous” charge of “hooliganism”, a Soviet-style charge.

Noting that three countries on the list were former members of the Soviet Union, a correspondent asked if there was a pattern. Ms. Cooper answered that there “absolutely” was a pattern. A year and a half ago, the CPJ had written that there was less press freedom today in most of the countries that were in the Soviet Union, than there was in the Soviet Union during its final years, the “glasnost” years. In those days, the press was much more lively and unfettered than it was today in most of the countries that had been part of the Soviet Union, including the Russian Federation, all of Central Asia and “absolutely” Belarus.

Responding to a question about the arrest of an editor in the Republic of the Congo, currently President of the Security Council, Ms. Cooper said that “journalism should not be a criminal act”. There were far too many countries that were willing to throw journalists in prison for being critical. The CPJ did news alerts on such cases. Unfortunately, there were worse cases in Africa, such as in Eritrea, where 15 journalists had been in jail, many of them since September 2001, and held incommunicado.

Asked about the situation in Cuba, she said that country was the world’s second worst jailer of journalists, after China. It now had about two dozen journalists imprisoned. The situation there was monitored closely, and international attention could make a difference. Some journalists had been released as a result of international campaigns. It was “very slow going”, however. The CPJ was not going to give up, and she hoped Governments around the world would not give up either on pressuring Cuba to release imprisoned journalists.

Addressing the situation of the Arab Press, she said the CPJ’s Middle East programme was “extremely active” in monitoring press abuse around the region. It had published a major report on Yemen. Recently, she had visited Saudi Arabia and a report was forthcoming. The CPJ was constantly pressuring the United States Government and Iraqi authorities on death threats to journalists and pressure on journalists. A number of Iraqi journalists had been held by the United States. However, all of them had been released and cases against them had been dismissed.

There was indeed a difference between the treatment of foreign journalists and local journalists, she answered another question. In some cases, it was difficult for foreign journalists to enter a country. In North Korea, it was virtually impossible. In Cuba, it was hard to operate. Often, like in the Pakistani tribal areas, foreign journalists had to travel with a local journalist. The worst thing that could happen to a foreign journalist was that he or she was thrown out of the country. A local journalist could face incarceration.

One of the “also ran” countries that had not made the list was China, she answered another question. China was the leading jailer of journalists, but at the same time the press had more freedom now than ever before. The report had looked at where people felt the most isolated, and China did not fit in that category, as news entered the country. Zimbabwe was another example. Some 100 journalists were now living in exile, but foreign journalists were still getting in.

It was the first time her organization had compiled this particular list, she added. It had compiled other lists and reports, such as a list of the most dangerous countries for journalists. North Korea had not made that list, because it did not have any independent journalists.

As for the success of her organization’s actions, she said that the condition of freedom of the press was worsening. The situation in Iraq was particularly difficult for journalists. There were now some 500 attacks on journalists a year. The CPJ issued news alerts and wrote protest letters, all accessible on its website. Often, when a journalist was released early, she believed it was done so as a result of international campaigning and by pressure from foreign Governments who prized press freedom. The CPJ wanted to make governments understand that it was “simply not acceptable” to put journalists in prison in a country that claimed to strive towards democracy.