WAM Addresses Inequalities In Media Representations, Access

The Women, Action and the Media Conference (WAM) began five years ago with a mandate to improve news coverage of women, people of color and other marginalized groups through grassroots media reform. With the advent of popular social networks like My Space, Facebook, You Tube and a deluge of blogs, opportunities has been provided for traditionally shut out voices to get a spotlight.

Chicana blogger and media justice activist Brownfemipower, spoke on a panel discussing immigration as a feminist issue. She says her blog gives her an opportunity to have real debates about immigration with anti-immigration advocates online.

“A lot of people who dislike what I have to say somehow find their way to my blog and want to have a discussion,” she said. “It’s really great.”

As the War on Terror rages on overseas, American Muslims have also found a channel to voice their dissent with the war in Iraq and “Islamofascism” at home.

“There is a growing number of message boards and blogs where Muslims are having serious discussions about their faith and life in America,” said Asra Nomani, former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam. “Some of the discussion is really changing how Americans once viewed Muslims.”

While there is a revolution taking place in cyberspace, there are still large segments of American society that are being left out of the new digital frontier. With nearly half of Americans not having high speed internet access in their homes and a larger number being forced to switch from analog to digital television by next year, there were also workshops on how to close the digital gap.

In a workshop called “Media, Technology and Social Justice,” attendees had an interactive discussion about what needs to be done to make technology available to all.

What is Media Justice?
• Media that reflects cultural, civic and economic diversity and equally accessible to all

What are the key trends preventing Media Justice?
• Lack of diversity
• Equality in access to all mediums
• Fairness and accountability
• Media obsession with celebrity
• Entertainment posing as news
• Mass media appeal to large groups rather than community building
• Privacy at risk
• Glamorization of violence
• Devaluing poor people

• More media justice lobbyists in DC to work on these issues
• Universal internet access
• Community training on web tools
• More internet cafes, especially in low income communities

It’s a start… To learn about joining the media reform movement go to the Media Action Center or Free Press.



Zangana slams Bush Administration on Iraq

By Talia Whyte

Iraqi journalist Haifa Zangana says that the Bush administration has made life in Iraq worse than it was before the war began in 2003. Upon the fifth anniversary of the US invasion, Zangana spoke to over 500 progressive women media professionals at the 2008 Women, Action and the Media Conference yesterday about life in Iraq under the occupation and why Americans and Iraqis should join forces to end the war.

Zangana has spent her whole life being a political agitator. When Zangana was only eight years old, she witnessed Iraqis flooding the streets of Baghdad to celebrate independence from British colonial rule. However, this celebration was short-lived when Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party set up house in the late 1970s. Because of her outspokenness against the regime, Zangana was imprisoned and tortured in Abu Ghraib prison. When she was released from prison, she was forced into exile and has live in London ever since, where she is a regular contributor for the Guardian and Al-Ahram Weekly.

She has only been back to Iraq twice since the war began, and is very displeased with the state of all Iraqis, particularly Iraqi women.

“After five years there is complete mayhem,” Zangana said. “What Bush chooses to ignore is to tell Americans about the real cost of the surge.”

Zangana described an Iraq that is largely ignored by the US media, including the approximate 50,000 Iraqis that have left the country every month since the war began, and that only 20 percent of Iraqi children go to school now. Zangana said that 300,000 Iraqis went missing under the Hussein regime, but over one million Iraqis have gone unaccounted for since the war began.

She was also very critical of Basra Children’s Hospital, a failed project sponsored by First Lady Laura Bush and State Secretary Condoleezza Rice to care for cancer-stricken Iraqi children. In 2004 the contract was given to the embattled American construction giant, Bechtel. However, the company was taken off the project after news broke of construction delays, overspending and mismanagement. David Snider, a spokesman for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department agency in charge of the project, said to the New York Times that technically, Bechtel's contract wasn’t contractually required to complete the hospital.

“And now the hospital sits there unfinished, and no child is being helped,” Zangana said.

Zangana is also disgusted that the Bush administration portrays Iraq as having a long history of violence; when, in fact, she says that sectarian violence in Iraq only started in 2003. Most of all Zangana is none to pleased with the US media’s portrayals of Iraqi women as helpless and weak.

“The sectarian government with the support of the US government has no regard for women,” she said. “The US government said it came to Iraq to liberate women. But the lives of women during the war have only gotten worse. Women are raped in Iraqi, American and British camps to degrade their families.”

According to Zangana more Iraqi women have become the heads of households since the war began, and many more of them have become politically active. Before the war one third of Iraqi journalists were women; however, because of the violence, it is very unsafe for them go out and report the news, especially after dark. Nonetheless, there are a growing number of Iraqi women using blogs to talk about their lives, despite lacking electricity and internet access in many areas in Iraq. Zangana requested that the audience of women before her make efforts to unite with their sisters in Iraq to bring the war to a conclusion.

“We need to do more,” she said. “There will be no peace around the world until there is justice.”

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Thomas on Hillary, Bush and the Future of Journalism

By Talia Whyte

Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas thinks Hillary Clinton is getting worse treatment by the media than Barack Obama. During her keynote speech last night at the 2008 Women, Action and the Media Conference, Thomas said Clinton’s bad treatment is due to still lingering sexism in the press.

“Hillary is being demonized by the media because of her gender,” Thomas said. “Every time either Hillary or her husband tries to say something, they get shut up by the media.”

Contrast to his opponent, Thomas says Obama “is walking on water,” as she believes the media is easier on him simply because he is an unknown commodity with a large “fan base.”

Thomas is no stranger to gender discrimination herself. She recalled to an audience of over 500 progressive women media professionals at the conference her experiences of sex politics in the newsroom over the last six decades, how much – or little – things have changed for women journalists, and the future of responsible journalism.

When Thomas started out as a reporter with United Press International in 1943, like other women at the time, she was only allowed to cover women’s issues. She would later go on to cover more serious topics at federal agencies such as the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Thomas would become the president of the Women’s National Press Club in the late 1950s, as well as the first woman member of the White House Correspondents Association and the Gridiron Club.

“It is much better for women journalists today,” she said. “There are more women pursuing journalism in college today than men. “Journalism has become a woman’s field.”

Thomas has also gained the reputation of being the “patron saint of not shutting up,” and she was not going to give her title anytime soon. As she has covered every president since John F Kennedy, who she said was her favorite Commander-In-Chief, Thomas gave an impression of each administration. While Lyndon Johnson was “bigger than life” and “knew where all the bodies were buried,” Bill Clinton was the “consummate politician but ruined his reputation with an affair and definitely will not be on Mount Rushmore.”

However, Thomas’ harshest words were for the current occupant in the White House. She calls the Bush administration the worst and most secretive yet. During Watergate she said that the media was more willing to question authority. However, since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks the press worry more about not gaining access to the president, and have instead become “stenographers rather than watchdogs of the President.”

“There are no pictures of coffins coming back from Iraq in the news,” she continues, “It seems like if you criticize [the Bush Administration], you will be seen as unpatriotic.”

As for the current presidential election, Thomas says that none of the three leading candidates have any idea how to deal with the war in Iraq.

However, she did say that Clinton would be the best candidate for the job because of her experience in the political arena. Thomas went on to say that the racial and sexual politics between the two Democratic candidates are what’s making the election the most interesting to watch.

“What’s wrong with divisiveness?” she said. “That is how politics is played.”

Following her talk, a few African American attendes had a lukewarm reception to Thomas’ remarks.

“I agree and disagree with [Thomas],” said filmmaker Faith Pennick. “I agree that there has been some sexism against Hillary, but I also think Hillary has played the race card many times herself against Obama.”

Nonetheless, the audience was enthused to be in the presence of a woman who has opened up doors in the newsroom for them.

“She is the kind of feminist that motivated me to become a better woman,” said Boston University student Denise Crooks.

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Radical Music Videos: DJ Spooky

Since I am still on a "tech high" from 08NTC last week, I thought it would be appropriate to have avant garde hip hop genius DJ Spooky included in Radical Music Videos this time. In the video below he received an award at Riverside Church two years ago for using his music and technology to address globalization and human rights abuses worldwide.



Much Ado About Nothing

Dear friends, foes and friends who will become foes after reading this post:

Now I will admit that I will be the first one to point out bigotry of any kind when I see it a mile away. But this latest "controversy" over the April cover of Vogue is just damn ridiculous, and I had to say something. Apparently the cover looks like a reflection of King Kong (Lebron James) grabbing Fay Wray (Gisele Bunchen) from the Empire State Building, or some variation of this(???).

All the race pimps out in blogosphere are out trying to make a big to do out of this cover really need to get a grip on reality. With all due respect, there is enough real racism in the world; there is no need to try to create it where it doesn't exist. Is there still racial stereotyping in the publishing world - yes, definitely? But, this is not an example of it and this is just much ado about nothing.

Furthermore, if the complainers spent more time on the disappearing media attention in the Gulf Region since Hurricane Katrina, or the thousands of people being killed in Darfur - you know, real racism - maybe we could actually accomplish something good for once.

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The Clintons Are Just Shady

I think we all knew that Bill and Hillary were conniving lunatics all along. This was highlighted this week when Hillary said that she "misspoke" about being under "sniper fire" during a 1996 trip to Bosnia.

But now it seems like their daughter Chelsea has inherited their iritating and arrogant genes. The other day when she was asked by a student during a campaign event at Butler University in Indianapolis whether her mother's credibility was affected in any way by how the then-first lady handled the scandal over Bill Clinton's relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.

"I do not think that is any of your business," Chelsea said.

I think it was a fair and appropriate question to ask her. Doesn't Chelsea think
that when most people see her, they think of her father's philandering ways? It's like the elephant in the room. Quite frankly, because of the way she answered the questioned, it made her, and even her mother look weak...

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Because All Food Is Political

Yes, you heard me right. Every piece of food you put in your mouth had be decided upon by politicians who want to control every aspect of the global economy.

With the surge in world prices in food crops, it is time to reevaluate going back to subsistence farming.

From the Associated Press:

What's rare is that the spikes are hitting all major foods in most countries at once. Food prices rose 4 percent in the U.S. last year, the highest rise since 1990, and are expected to climb as much again this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As of December, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls.

For many, it's a disaster. The U.N.'s World Food Program says it's facing a $500 million shortfall in funding this year to feed 89 million needy people. On Monday, it appealed to donor countries to step up contributions, saying its efforts otherwise have to be scaled back.

It is a common occurrence to see riots in the developing world over food shortages, but with the spike in gas at the pumps and wheat shares, Westerners are now going nuts. Although the experts say the prices will level, the reality here is that food eaten by most of the world is controlled by a very small few, and they are making decisions, mostly around international trade policies, that are starting to show their true colors and piss off some folks. As our selection of food starts to dwindling due to environmental and man made circumstances, thanks to globalization, food prices will only continue to climb.

Was it coincidentally that 60 Minutes last Sunday featured a segment on this scientist creating his own version of Noah's Arc, by collecting every seed for every plant in the world and storing them in a underground bunker in the North Pole? He says he is doing it just in case Armageddon happens, we can start all over again from scratch.

Armageddon is near, RUN!


La. Mental Health Bill Unveiled

Not sure what to think about this yet...but it seems like a step in the right direction.

Jindal unveils plan to aid mentally ill
By Laura Maggi
Originally Published in the New Orleans Times-Picayne

Nicola's Law, named for officer, would mandate treatment Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Potentially violent patients suffering from mental illness who are vulnerable to slipping through the cracks of a fractured post-Katrina health care system would be more effectively treated under a proposed law that gives judges the authority to mandate treatment for certain people, Gov. Bobby Jindal and other state leaders said Monday.

Jindal unveiled a package of legislation at a news conference in New Orleans, including a proposal to require involuntary outpatient mental health treatment that was prompted by the late January shooting of New Orleans police officer Nicola Cotton. Cotton was killed with her own gun, allegedly by a man described by his family as a paranoid schizophrenic in and out of mental institutions his entire adult life.

"Nicola's Law is designed to balance the issue of public safety with ensuring that people have the dignity of getting the care they need," Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said at St. Thomas Community Health Center on St. Andrew Street.

Bernel Johnson, the man charged with killing Cotton in Central City, had made threats of violence against family members and often stopped taking his medications when he was not in an institution, his sister said earlier this year.

A state grand jury indicted Johnson, 44, on a charge of first-degree murder in February. A hearing to determine whether he is competent to stand trial is scheduled for next month.

Jindal's proposal is modeled after a New York law passed in 1999. It would give Louisiana judges the authority to require that certain patients comply with prescribed treatment, take their medication, go to therapy and obtain substance abuse counseling. Judges also could require patients to undergo blood testing to ensure medicines are being taken.

Patients would not be affected by the law unless they demonstrate a history of failing to comply with treatment. A judge first would have to find that the person was either hospitalized twice in the past three years for a mental illness or in some way acted violently or threatened violence during that same period.

Under current Louisiana law, the mentally ill can be sent to a facility against their will, but there are no provisions to require people to follow medical treatment plans after they are released.

$26 million from state

Mandating treatment -- and checking on patients to ensure they are complying with court orders -- would require a massive expansion of the outpatient services available in the New Orleans area, which have been significantly lacking since Hurricane Katrina.

But Levine said his agency's new focus on the issue, including an infusion of $26 million in state money announced last month, will result in services that can support such court orders. For example, the state announced the creation of "assertive community treatment teams" of social workers, psychiatrists, nurses and employment counselors who would go to clients' homes and help them stay on their medication, find housing or jobs, or kick substance abuse habits.

New York's state legislature adopted Kendra's Law in 1999, inspired by the death of a Manhattan office worker who was pushed into the path of an oncoming subway train by a paranoid schizophrenic man. Jindal cited several statistics that show hospitalization, arrests and homelessness of mentally ill people in New York have plummeted since the law was enacted.

A controversial proposal

While more than 40 states have since passed laws that allow judges to require outpatient treatment of mentally ill patients, the concept remains controversial.

Part of the criticism is that no studies have been conducted that directly link the forced-treatment aspect of the law with the decreases in hospital stays and arrests, said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. The wide expansion of available services could also explain the more successful treatment rates of the mentally ill, he said.

Rosenthal said there is a human-rights objection to mandated treatment.

"Policies forged in an atmosphere that condemns people with psychiatric disabilities of being uncooperative increases fear and distrust of services," Rosenthal said.

Several states that have recently considered similar proposals -- including Virginia, in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 people dead -- have rejected the concept, he said.

Along with Nicola's Law, Jindal announced a series of legislative proposals meant to address the shortcomings in Louisiana's mental health system for the uninsured.

"Our goal is not just to repair the damage done from Katrina," Jindal said. "Our goal here is to improve a safety net that wasn't even adequate before Katrina."

One bill would create regional "crisis centers," places where police could bring people in the throes of a mental crisis instead of to local emergency rooms. The first crisis center would open in New Orleans, hopefully six months after the legislation is approved, Levine said.

Another proposal would expand local control of public health dollars across Louisiana, while also trying to impose more oversight on "human services districts." Levine said the Jindal administration supports the idea of local districts deciding to spend health money on problems specific to their areas, proposing to create more districts across the state.

Strict supervision

But persistent problems with the Metropolitan Human Services District, which controls many of the mental health and substance abuse programs in New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish, prompted the Jindal administration to embrace stricter supervision of the independent agencies. The new law would allow the state health agency to hold districts "accountable" if they can't meet standards.

A final bill would allow doctors to use "telemedicine" technology -- essentially video conferencing -- to interview patients in the throes of a mental health crisis in order to issue emergency commitments. This provision would make it easier for patients in remote locations to receive an emergency evaluation by a doctor, Levine said.

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Iraq: 5 Years On

After five years and over 4,000 American soldiers dead, what can I really say at this point that would make any contribution to the discussion on this subject? General Petreus said today that Bush should 'level off' troops in Iraq for the rest of the year, and John McCain thinks the US is doing a swell job. From where to where have we come?



So What Is Black Liberation Theology, Anyway?

With today being Easter, there was nothing but religious programming on television this morning. As I channel-surfed, I stumbled upon TV One, which was showing a December 2007 sermon by Rev Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's embattled spiritual advisor and former pastor of Trinity United Churc of Christ.

Amid all the talk about Wright over the last few days, this was the first time I actually watched a full sermon to really get a idea of where he was coming from. It got me to think about what black liberation theology is.

According to Wikipedia, black liberation theology is a Christian theology that came out of the 1960s and based on the ideals of progressive social change and pan-Africanism. "This theology maintains that African Americans must be liberated from multiple forms of bondage—social, political, economic and religious," continues on the website. "This liberation involves empowerment and seeks the right of self-definition, self-affirmation and self-determination."

Rev. Wright is considered "a national leader in promoting theological education and the preparation of seminarians for the African-American church."

Below are the quotes by Wright most people are familiar with:

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye...and now we are indignant, because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

"The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color" and "[t]he government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people...God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme".

Okay, with all this said, I did watch a full sermon - not slicing or dicing by the cable networks - jus the straight talk from his mouth. In this sermon he spoke a great deal about how the nation wants to pretend racism no longer exists and how it has neglected victims of Hurricane Katrina. For all intensive purposes what he said in the sermon was correct. This is a country that wants to put on blinders and act like racism is dead, and this country is neglecting recovery in the Gulf Coast.

While I do agree that his statements on 9/11, HIV/AIDS and Israel are a bit extreme, maybe if everyone looked at a full sermon they would have a more balanced view of this guy...

By the way, what the heck is post-racial??? Seems like a new term created since Obama got into the race.

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Jeremiah Wright and the Clintons!

No wonder the Clintons have been so quiet since the Jeremiah Wright debacle began last week...

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08NTC: Be The Change You Want To See

With the recent proliferation of videos showing abuse of pro-Tibet supporters at the hands of the Chinese authorities on YouTube and the shutdown of a Dutch website critical of Islam, people are starting to wise up to the power of technology. With simple access to the Internet, now those who have been marginalized have the power to be the media and see the change they want to see. There are over 3,000 social networking outlets where you too can be a citizen journalist, including the more well-known sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr, but also the lesser known but equally influential sites like Gather and GoodTube.

At the 2008 Nonprofit Technology Conference, there were more than enough examples of how technology is being used for social activism.

Here are some examples brought up at the conference:

The Burrito Project on MySpace: A group of activists organize using the social network to feed the homeless burritos in Los Angeles.

The Humane Society of the United States used YouTube to push the case in favor of animals rights during the Michael Vick debacle of a few months ago.

Hurricane Katrina victims blogged on the website for the New Orleans Times-Picayune to discuss their outrage at the US government.

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08NTC: Communications in Crisis and for Uplift

Two years ago Microsoft tycoon and philanthropist Bill Gates criticized Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for his new project One Laptop Per Child, which gives free laptops to children in the developing world. Gates got initial press coverage for mocking the lack of efficiency the computers had. But, what struck me were his other comments that providing good health care is more important than providing technology to the poor and marginalized.

The second plenary of the 2008 Nonprofit Technology Conference used its time to discuss this matter. Given the location of this year's conference, it was only be appropriate to reflect on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the recovery that has been going on every since.

While technology can't fix all the problems the poor and marginalized face, it can provide efficiencies that can make life easier.

Deborah Cotton, editor-in-chief of LouisianaRebuilds.info talked about how her website has become a trusted online destination for residents affected by Hurricane Katrina. Cotton moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans in 2005, just three months shy of the storm, or the 'thing' as Katrina survivors refer to it as now. After evacuating to Houston for two months, she returned to New Orleans and began writing about residents, businesses and organizations in the process of recovery on the website.

"People can find grocery stores, medical help, legal resources and possible funding information to rebuild homes," Cotton said. "The website is designed to rebuild lives."

Cotton has made every effort to make sure the website is accessible as possible for all Katrina survivors. Case in point, because of the high illiteracy rate in New Orleans, all written content on the site doesn't go above the 7th grade reading level and there is a three-click minimum. Also, part of the website is written in Vietnamese. Cotton says that she wouldn't have been able to do all the work for the website without the collaboration of nonprofit, community groups, who are the real driving forces behind rebuilding New Orleans.

Cotton also cited the websites Katrinahelp.info and Katrinahousing.net, which were influential in helping to search for missing loved ones and housing, respectively. Think New Orleans is a another outlet that is an on-going resource to continue the story on the storm's aftermath. The organization is currently seeking funding to support a Geographic Information System (GIS) for mapping areas that still need recovery help.

Patricia Jones, executive director of the Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association (NENA), is one of those collaborators. NENA's mission is to empower residents of Katrina's worst hit community to play a strategic role in rebuilding.

"Our goal is to be a means for all of us to share our stories, reconnect with each other, and put the past behind us so we can turn our attention fully to the future," Jones said. "People are coming back home and we want everyone to know that NENA is here to help."

Jones said that the Ward had almost no internet access for nearly a year after the storm, and there are still areas that don't have regular electricity. The vast majority of residents didn't even have email addresses. Nonetheless, the organization's website has been successful in providing long term recovery for those who returned to the Lower Ninth, and also for those from the Katrina "Diaspora" who want to reconnect with loved ones living all over the country. Jones also said that she loves how the community is embracing new technologies.

"This 90-year-old woman came into my office one day, and her cellular flip phone rang," Jones said. "She came to me and asked me "How do I answer this thing?"[chuckles]

Jones, being a Lower Ninth resident, was personally affected by the storm. Jones and her family just moved back into their home two weeks ago. However, she and others in her community are disappointed not only by the slow movement of federal monies flowing in to help with recovery, they are also offended that the government now wants to tax residents on federal money they haven't even received yet.

"We feel personally insulted," Jones said.

(Can you blame her?)

Below I have listed organizations/websites that are using technology to provide support for the poor and marginalized around the world who were featured or mentioned at this conference:

Kiva.org - ordinary people make microloans to entrepeneurs in the developing world

Intrahealth International - providing support for human resources to the developing world, specifically in the healthcare sector

Forum One - provides online technology support for many leading nonprofit organizations.

Gnosis Medical Project - supplies electric, medical record-keeping software for clinics in Central America.

I also shouldn't forget that text messaging/SMS are popular funtions for communications during a crisis. A great deal of Katrina evacuees used texting to find missing loved ones. Also, cell phones are very popular in the developing world. I loved the example someone told me about a Kenyan man who looked up and texted a couple of high level UN officials about a food shortage in his remote village. The food was delivered to the village almost two days later. Now that, my friends, is technology at work!

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08NTC: What's Hot in Technology Today

Yesterday at the 2008 Nonprofit Technology Conference in New Orleans, New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue opened the event with his three lists of tech items he thinks will revolutionize the way we communicate with each other in the near future.

#1 Telephones Are All The Rage
T-Mobile's Hot Spot @ Home
Basically, there is a choice of 5 cell phones with cellular and wireless coverage. All calls are free in wireless hot spots, including calls abroad. Customers can make a call in wireless area and move to cellular area and call remains free.

Grand Central
One phone number will ring all of your phones (home, cell, work etc) at the same time. All phone calls can be forwarded to the same voicemail box as well.

Google Cellular
Essentially a free 411 directory service. Consumers can send a text message and get a text back with name, address and phone number in 5 seconds. Consumers also can get weather, flight info., stock quotes, movie showtimes, definitions, driving directions, unit conversions, and currency conversions.

Transcribes voice messages to text on cell phones

#2 Movie downloads killed Blockbuster?
More and more consumers are going online to watch their favorite movies; however, Pogue doesn't believe that the death of DVDs is nigh because:
1. the selection of films that consumers can view online is usually and will remain small because of copyright issues with film production companies.
2. films online don't have the special features one would usually find on a DVD, like deleted scenes, extras and subtitiles
3. Only 50% of Americans have high speed internet in their homes.
4. film viewing online is usually poor quality and not high definition

#3 Web 2.0 will save us all!

Social media is the new wave of the future, and get used to it, whether you like it or not. Nearly 75 blogs are created every minute. While Pogue said that Web 2.0 is in its "Neanderthal beginnings," it is not only a way to get rid of the middle man to get infomation out to the masses, it is also allowing people to get to know it each other in ways not allowed before. But, there are also problems with social media as well, such as copyright, abuse, no fact checking, and the old saying that what you put online, stays there forever.


Ordinary people giving loans to other ordinary people

Find carpooling buddies in the neighborhood online

Names says it all. Beneficial for those parents who want to safeguard their kids

Brian Reich, principal of EchoDitto and co-author of the new book, Media Rules! Mastering Today's Technology to connect with and keep your audience, couldn't agree more with Pogue.

"Social networking is a functional part of my life," Reich said. "Everything we do today can be done online, whether we go to the movies, learn about new restaurants, search for new jobs or homes. We feel a need to stay connected and engaged."

In a workshop later in the morning on how to efficiently use Web 2.0 in a communications strategy, he said that there are over 3,000 social networks to work with today and organizations have to find the one that suits them best. By that, he means that the more well-known networks like Facebook and MySpace aren't for everyone. The lesser known networks are usually the ones that have worked best for organizational communications strategies.

"Every single social network is unique," he said. "If you are going to be involved, you have to figure out how they are going to work for your audience."



UMass-Boston prof critical of South African leaders

By Talia Whyte
Originally Published in the Bay State Banner

Fourteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa has emerged as one of the continent’s premier powers. But it is still a country in transition. Racial strife between the country’s white minority and the black majority is still a problem, and new challenges, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic and widespread violent crime, are draining the country’s resources.

In fact, there are some critics who believe the new South Africa may actually be in worse shape than it was under the apartheid regime.

Padraig O’Malley, an activist, author and professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, is one of those critics. During a lecture last Wednesday at the University of Massachusetts Club, O’Malley discussed how corruption within the African National Congress (ANC) has ruined the country.

One of the world’s leading experts on conflict resolution, O’Malley has written extensively on promoting dialogue in divided societies, including South Africa. In 1992, he invited prominent South African officials to Boston for a meeting with representatives of the factions in Northern Ireland. Four years later, he helped arrange a second meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland, attended by South Africans Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC and Roelf Meyer of the white National Party.

But for all his work over the past two decades to unite the “Rainbow Nation,” O’Malley now says he feels that his labors have been fruitless, and he has all but given up trying to deal with the new leaders running South Africa.

“The new South Africa has no moral compass,” he said.

During his 40-minute talk, O’Malley blasted individual South African politicians and their supporters for the allowing their country to free fall into an abyss of black-on-white racism and “crony capitalism.” He also decried most of South Africa’s new black elite for failing to criticize the problems caused by government officials.

O’Malley’s first victim was current South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, whom the professor claims is out of touch with the realities of the country, largely because Mbeki did not live in South Africa during most of the apartheid era and was educated in the United Kingdom. Thus, O’Malley concludes, Mbeki only cares about the interests of upper middle class blacks.

But what really infuriates O’Malley are Mbeki’s unorthodox views about HIV/AIDS.

Though he was once an ardent HIV/AIDS advocate, upon assuming the presidency in 1999, Mbeki declared that HIV did not cause AIDS. Instead, he said he believed the illness was a “disease of poverty,” a belief allegedly based on Internet research and discussions with dissident scientists.

Because of the president’s views, South Africa’s health ministry was reluctant to provide antiretroviral drugs to treat those living with HIV. Instead, it tried to promote healthy eating as a way to fight the epidemic.

In July 2002, however, the South African AIDS activist organization Treatment Action Campaign won a case against the nation’s government. The Constitutional Court of South Africa ordered Mbeki’s government to make the antiretroviral drug nevirapine available to pregnant women to help prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV.

Despite the presence of free medication being provided by many international drug companies to South Africans in need, the health ministry is still reluctant to make antiretrovirals available to all.

But the blame extends beyond Mbeki, according to O’Malley.

“More pathetic than Mbeki was the ANC,” the country’s ruling political party, he said. “Not one ANC member questioned Mbeki or were prepared to sacrifice their seat. They all share responsibility in allowing the suffering of South Africans with AIDS. Their silence stole the revolution.”

Under the Mbeki administration, O’Malley said that South Africa tolerated political corruption, a tendency embodied in the recent career of Jacob Zuma.

In June 2005, Mbeki relieved Zuma, then deputy president of the ANC, of his post due to allegations that Zuma accepted bribes in a $4.8 billion 1999 strategic arms deal. Six months later, in December 2005, Zuma was charged with raping a 31-year-old woman that he knew was HIV-positive. During his trial, Zuma admitted to having unprotected sex with the woman, but claimed the encounter was consensual. He also said he took a shower after the encounter to “cut the risk of contracting HIV.”

Despite these highly public situations, Zuma was elected the new president of the ANC in December, putting him in line to become the next president of the country when elections come in 2009.

Mere days after his ascension to the party’s leadership position, however, Zuma was charged with racketeering, money laundering, fraud and corruption stemming from the 1999 arms deal. His trial is scheduled to begin in August. If Zuma is convicted, he will be ineligible to become president.

O’Malley also said he is disappointed, but not surprised, that both Mbeki and Zuma continue to support Robert Mugabe’s controversial reign in Zimbabwe. Many Africans feel obligated to support Mugabe because of his history of being a staunch anti-colonial leader, O’Malley said, and those who criticize Mugabe are considered racist. Even Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was labeled an “icon of white elites” by Mbeki after he spoke out against the ANC not taking a stand against Mugabe.

“Mugabe is one of the worst people to come out of Africa,” O’Malley said. “He lacks respect for his fellow Africans. He has destroyed his country, and South Africa allows it to happen.”

Peter Kovac, a UMass-Boston junior who traveled to South Africa in January, agreed with the thrust of O’Malley’s lecture.

“There is a disconnect between the government and the people who elect them,” Kovac said. “It seems like the voice of most South Africans are being muffled.”

O’Malley said he didn’t have any solutions for the country’s problems. But, he said, he is certain this is not the “new South Africa” many people wanted.

“Never did South Africans believe in so much, but get so little,” he said.


‘Iron Ladies’ doc showcases Liberia’s strong female voices

By Talia Whyte
Originally Published in the Bay State Banner

When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf assumed the presidency of Liberia in 2006, she had to hit the ground running. As if becoming Africa’s first elected female head of state was not daunting enough, it fell to her to fix many of the problems left over from nearly two decades of civil war, ethnic conflict and social strife.

The PBS documentary “Iron Ladies of Liberia,” which debuts on WGBH 44 today and will be re-aired Sunday night at 9 p.m., follows both the turbulent first year of Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration and the many talented female politicians and ministers helping her turn the country around.

Filmmaker Daniel Junge and Liberian media activist Siatta Scott Johnson were given full access to Johnson-Sirleaf’s day-to-day affairs prior to her inauguration in January 2006.

“She was reluctant at first, but she finally agreed to be a part of this,” Junge said during a recent telephone interview. “I felt it was important to document her administration for historical purposes.”

Johnson-Sirleaf accomplished much during that first year. Highlights include the restoration of electricity to the Liberian capital of Monrovia for the first time in years, as well as the negotiation of a debt relief agreement with the United States.

But there were stumbling blocks, as well. Johnson-Sirleaf came into office without much support from the nation’s male politicians, including then-Speaker of the House Edwin Snowe, former son-in-law of Liberian warlord and president Charles Taylor.

To counter the patriarchal opposition, the president surrounded herself with a cabinet comprised mostly of capable women, including police chief Beatrice Munah Sieh, a former Trenton, N.J., middle school teacher, and Minister of Finance Dr. Antoinette Sayeh.

Sayeh and Johnson-Sirleaf work closely together in “Iron Ladies” to bring down the culture of corruption that has festered in Liberia for many years.

Sayeh says her ministry operated like a “mafia” during the Taylor years, noting that she had to fire most senior officials to start off with a clean slate. Throughout the documentary, she spends most of her days working to clean out corruption and dealing with the national debt, while at the same time trying to convince international donors that Liberia is a viable country to support.

“Women have not been, to the same extent as men, party to all of the bad things of the past,” Sayeh said in the film. “They certainly were very strong voices against the atrocities in Liberia in the war, and they fought very, very hard to make sure that the democratic process worked this time around. And so, this is our biggest opportunity to change Liberia.”

Liberia has a longstanding relationship with the United States. Freed African American slaves immigrated to the West African nation in the early 19th century, declaring it an independent republic in 1847. In 1926, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company opened one of the world’s largest rubber plantations in the country.
For years, Firestone has been criticized for human rights violations against Liberian workers. In “Iron Ladies,” Johnson-Sirleaf takes a stand for the plantation’s employees, getting Firestone to increase salaries.

However, the problems with Firestone have increased Liberian interest in another superpower eager to do business in Africa — the Chinese government.

Johnson-Sirleaf and her cabinet are seen in the film having multiple meetings with Chinese officials, much to the dismay of the White House.

“Ellen is a really adept person,” Junge said. “She is loyal to the United States, but she needs help for her country where she can get it and that option might be China.”

Junge said Johnson-Sirleaf saw the first cut of the film last year. The president, he said, was highly impressed with her portrayal. Her only complaint? It did not include enough voices from women. The filmmakers happily compiled more.

The film also follows Scott Johnson, the Liberian media activist, as she deals with being a female filmmaker living in a male-dominated society in transition.

At last year’s Toronto Film Festival, Scott Johnson was surprised to get a standing ovation after the “Iron Ladies” screening — Junge said he pulled her aside afterwards and told her that not all filmmakers get applause like that after their first film.

At a time when New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is involved in a hotly contested race for the chance to become America’s first female president, Junge believes that “Iron Ladies” has the potential to change Americans’ views about women in leadership roles around the world.

“I hope this film will [lead viewers to] question [America’s] relationship with Liberia, the developing world and women in Liberia,” he said. I especially want people to have a positive view of women in Africa.”

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Sex and the Politician

Is there something in the water in the Tri-State Area that some of the politicians are drinking to cause the sudden rash of sexual revelations?

Just one day after being inaugurated the first African American and legally blind governor of New York, David Paterson told New York Daily News that both he and his wife engaged in affairs during a rough time in their marriage several years ago. The revelations come after rumors started circulating over the weekend that he was unfaithful with his wife, just like his suddenly-departed predecessor Eliot Spitzer.

I respect Paterson for being upfront about his infidelities at the beginning of his tenure to save face; however, is it really my business to know about other people’s private lives?

I really could care less what consenting adults do behind closed doors. It only becomes my concern when there is a sense of hypocrisy or illegal and shady activity happening.

Paterson’s news also comes as the wife of former New Jersey governor and “gay American” Jim McGreevey denies being involved in three-way sex orgies with her ex-husband and their former driver. Again, these are consenting adults we are talking about here.

What offends me about Gov. McGreevey is the fact that he hired his inexperienced boyfriend, Cipal Golen, to be the state’s homeland security advisor, which is what forced him to resign in the first place.

And then there is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has a history of having affairs with women he would eventually marry. He started dating Judith Nathan before he finalized his divorce with second wife Donna Hanover. According to reports, beginning in the summer of 1999, costs for his New York Police Department security detail during weekend visits to her in the Hamptons were charged to obscure city agencies. In early 2000, Nathan began getting city-provided chauffeur services from the police department.

And then there are the hypocrites, and you know who they are. They are the politicians who get on a pedestal and wag their fingers in your face about what morality is and that hell will freeze over if you don’t straighten out.

Eliot Spitzer made a career out of doing this. Before becoming governor, he had success as an attorney general chasing others for fraud, corporate white collar crime and mafia-related activities. Meanwhile, as he was doing all this, he was using his off hours with high-priced ladies of the night, spending an estimated amount of at least $80,000 for these trysts.

Lest we forget the ultimate hypocrite – Larry Craig. The US congressmen has spent nearly thirty years in his position voting on the most horrific legislation that makes life harder for gays and lesbians in this country, and have the audacity to criticize Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky on national television. Meanwhile, he has allegedly carried out relationships with other men for years. The culmination of these allegations came out this summer when he was arrested in a Minnesota airport men’s room for soliciting sex - wide stance, anyone? My only advice to him and others like him – don’t be a closet gay and a public homophobe at the same time. It always comes back to haunt you eventually.

My point here is that we need to stop caring the bedroom activities of politicians. It is totally a waste of time, and there are more important issues we as Americans should care about.



Clinton makes good...for now

It’s good to see President Bill Clinton taking a break from being the “race pimp” for his wife’s presidential campaign, and focusing on something he is actually good at – humanitarian aid work.

This weekend Clinton joined actor Brad Pitt and 600 students from around the world for the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University, which was held at Tulane University in New Orleans. The meeting was an opportunity to look at some of the world’s most pressing issues, such as poverty alleviation, climate change, global health, and education. It is no coincidence that this event was held in New Orleans, where two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, the lives of victims are still shattered. All the attendees participated in rebuilding homes in the devastated Lower Ninth Ward.

I have been down there twice since the hurricane, and it is still hard to believe that Americans are beginning to forget what happen there. But it is not surprising either, as many Americans, especially those in the White House, want to believe that social injustice and poverty is an “over there” issue, as in a problem that only exists in the developing world.

One of the best things to come out of the now deceased president campaign for John Edwards was the idea of “Two Americas” – one for the rich and secure and the other for the rest. The United States has one of the highest rates of citizens without health insurance and the lowest performing schools for a Western nation – and these problems are interconnected with economic and racial disparities.

New Orleans embodied all of these problems prior to the storm, and only increased afterwards. The city is now not only dealing with a severely increased crime rate and housing crunch, but is also dealing a major problem of treating mentally ill residents who have been displaced when Charity Hospital, the only hospice for severely mentally ill in New Orleans, was closed indefinitely after Katrina. And let’s not forget about the Katrina victims who are still living in trailers and waiting for FEMA checks all over the country.

So, for all the criticism President Clinton has received for things he has said recently about Barack Obama, he is making good use of his time now.

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Radical Music Videos: Parliament Funkadelic

Parliament Funkadelic is legendary, enough said. They have revolutionized music with their funky beats and flashing stage costumes. Their music lives on today through some of hip hop's best artists. Check out this 1978 concert footage where they perform one of my favorite songs, Mothership Connection, with a performance from the late, great Glen Goines.

The lyrics "Swing down, sweet chariot" paraphrase the traditional spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which is sung primarily in African American churches and has references to the Underground Railroad. Many music critics have said over the years that this song is a reference to the continued struggle of African Americans, and that "the motherhsip will take us to a better place one day."



The Politics of Identity

The election cycle is turning out to be the most politically correct yet. Feminist politician Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first woman to be put on an American presidential ticket, resigned from the Hillary Clinton campaign today for saying that the only reason anyone is paying attention to Barack Obama because he is black. While Ferraro admits that she was the “token woman,” what exactly was her point to speak out against Obama at this time?

Ferraro’s admission is only the latest example in the identity wars between Clinton and Obama. But from where I stand, the only one playing the identity card is Clinton.

From her slighting Martin Luther King’s legacy to her husband comparing Obama ambititous campaign to Jesse Jackson’s less spectacular presidential run in ’84 and ’88, Hillary is the real bigot here. I don’t seem to remember Obama making under-the cuff sexist remarks about her.

In a desperate move to save face with African American voters, last night Clinton addressed the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a collaboration of 200 black newspapers by apologizing for hers and her huband’s ‘sins.’

From CNN
"I want to put that in context. You know I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive," Hillary Clinton said. "We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama."

"Anyone who has followed my husband's public life or my public life know very well where we have stood and what we have stood for and who we have stood with," she said, acknowledging that whoever wins the nomination will have to heal the wounds of a bruising, historic contest.

(Regarding Ferraro’s comments) "I certainly do repudiate it and I regret deeply that it was said. Obviously she doesn't speak for the campaign, she doesn't speak for any of my positions, and she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee."

With all due respect, Mrs Bill Clinton, the only reason anyone is paying attention to you in the race is because you are Mrs Bill Clinton.



HIV and Gay in Tunisia: A Twin Taboo

By Sonia Ounissi
Originally published in Reuters

TUNIS - Homosexual men living with HIV/AIDS In the Arab world face a twin taboo, but Karim doesn't look like someone burdened by stigma.

Smiling and self-assured, the healthy looking Tunisian says his peace of mind comes from accepting what he cannot change, living in the moment and taking care to present a normal face to the world.

The 34-year-old draws the menace from his infection by seeing it as his offspring.

"Personally, I accept the illness. I consider the virus my little baby. Together, we make up the same person," he said.

Dressed in jeans and a V-neck pullover, Karim sounds matter-of-act about his condition, but acknowledges that it wasn't always so easy.

Karim first learned he had HIV when he returned to his native country from France in 2005. He was infected during an eight-year relationship with a French man.

"First, I thought I had flu. But my health kept worsening and analysis showed I had AIDS. A person who was so important to me had infected me," he said.


"At the beginning, I was furious. I hated everything. But afterwards, I thought that it's better to be hopeful than crying."

He decided to face up to the illness, sensing that a positive mental attitude would translate into stronger physical health. Also, he is on anti-retroviral medication.

"I'm quite good. My health situation is stable. HIV-positives who can't move or even walk are people who refuse the fact that they're infected with HIV. They suffer because they're in very low spirits and not because of the virus."

"I have a principle in my life which says we must make the most of life while we still have its advantages. So, I still enjoy my life. I consider AIDS a flu."

He lives with his Tunisian boyfriend, who is uninfected. They have protected sex.

"I was sincere. I told him the truth and he accepted. His attitude really moved me," said Karim.


Unlike most Tunisians, Karim refuses to draw up plans for his future, even in the short-term, as he doesn't know when AIDS will bring his life to an end.

"I can't do long-term projects. I can't even plan for the summer holidays. I think just about what I can do in the next week and enjoy the moment."

HIV/AIDS is a common topic of conversation widely discussed in many Western countries. But it is still an invisible disease in north Africa and many other parts of the world.

Karim, one of 1,428 Tunisians who live with HIV, has learnt to keep his status a tightly guarded secret in a society where fear, prejudice and ignorance about the disease prevail.

Seventy new cases are declared per year in the North African country, according to official figures.

HIV-positive people who become known as such are shunned by society.

"To live in Tunisia, people infected with HIV have to lie and never say they suffer from AIDS," he said.

"I told my boss, because he's French. If I told a Tunisian about that he'd have a cardiac arrest", said Karim.

"I hate the Tunisian way of thinking. They present themselves as open-mind people and cultured. But it's just a mask," he said.

"In reality, they still think they can be infected via the air."

(Reporting by Sonia Ounissi, editing by William Maclean and Paul Casciato)

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So What Is Sustainable Tourism?

There were articles recently published that take a look at both the good and bad sides of socially responsible tourism. Yesterday’s New York Times highlights the movement towards so-called ‘poverty tourism’ or ‘poorism’ by posing the question of whether this was a legitimate form of tourism or voyeurism.

What I didn’t like about this article was that it gave a bad impression of what people to people travel is. So-called 'slum tourism' is voyeurism when it is just tourists riding in an air conditioned minibus, snapping pictures and indirectly interacting with the community being visited. There are many organizations that provide travelers opportunities to interact with residents in a poor area in a respectful manner. I have traveled with Global Exchange to Jamaica and South Africa and I got the chance to meet with people and organizations in poor communities who talked to me about what is really going on in their community and how they are trying to make life better.

I am also offended that this article implies that poverty only exists outside of the West, namely the United States, as if poverty is an "over there" problem. Two and half years later, victims of Hurricane Katrina have all but been forgotten by the US media and Americans at large. If you want to learn about the poor, maybe you should look in your own backyard...

Today’s Wall Street Journal, however, has an excellent article about the rise in Americans going on tours of small farms around the world that produce fair trade coffee and making connections about the need to improve workers’ rights in the developing world and providing environmental sustainability.

To read up more on the case for ethical travel, check out this month’s edition of New Internationalist.



Don't Drink The Water...

Forget about medicine-tainted water in the United States

The real story is about the bad water Halliburton is providing US troops in Iraq.

From the Associated Press

Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says.

A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

The Defense Department's inspector general's report, which could be released as early as Monday, found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations.

It was impossible to link the dirty water definitively to all the illnesses, according to the report. But it said KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards" and the military-run sites "were not performing all required quality control tests."
The report said KBR took corrective steps and was providing adequate water quality by November 2006. But military units at the two sites they controlled were still failing to perform required quality control tests and maintain appropriate records by that time.

"Therefore, water suppliers exposed U.S. forces to unmonitored and potentially unsafe water," at the military sites by late 2006, the report said.

The problems did not extend to troops' drinking water, but rather to water used for washing, bathing, shaving and cleaning. Water used for hygiene and laundry must meet minimum safety standards under military regulations because of the potential for harmful exposure through the eyes, nose, mouth, cuts and wounds.

The KBR sites were Camp Ar Ramadi, Camp Q-West and Camp Victory. The military sites were Logistics Support Area Anaconda and Camp Ali.

The inspector general's study confirmed AP reports on the contaminated water in early 2006 and provided additional details on the scope of the problem at the Iraq bases. In January that year, interviews and internal company documents disclosed the problems at Ar Ramadi and showed that KBR employees could not get the company to inform base residents.

Halliburton Co., then KBR's parent company, disputed the allegations even though they were made by its own employees and documented in company e-mails. In March 2006, the AP obtained an internal Halliburton report that, in one instance, the company missed contamination that could have caused "mass sickness or death" at Ar Ramadi.
The report said the event at Ar Ramadi could have been prevented if KBR's reverse osmosis units on the site had been assembled, instead of relying on the military's water production facilities.

Halliburton is the oil services conglomerate that Cheney once led. Congressional Democrats long have complained that KBR has benefited from its former ties to Cheney.
KBR, responding to the inspector general's report, said its water treatment "has met or exceeded all applicable military and contract standards." The company took exception to many of the inspector general's assertions. "KBR's commitment to the safety of all of its employees remains unwavering," the company said in a statement to the AP.

KBR provided water treatment to U.S. troops under a large-scale defense contract that also included housing and food to soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Djbouti and Georgia.

The military has "taken the appropriate measures to correct the problem and ensure we provide the appropriate oversight of the system," said Navy Capt. James Graybeal of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. troops in the Middle East.
North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, who has led Democratic inquiries into contracting abuses in Iraq, said the inspector general has backed up what those earlier hearings uncovered. "KBR was not doing its job" and U.S. forces had water that did not meet Army standards, Dorgan said.

"I think it's outrageous that KBR tried to deny that there was a problem, especially when it turned out that there were dozens of U.S. troops reporting water-related illnesses," he said.

The inspector general investigated the 2006 reports at Dorgan's request.
The inspector general's report said some troops noticed problems with the water. Between October 2004 and May 2005, troops at Camp Ar Ramadi said bathwater was discolored and had an unusual odor. The report said KBR failed to treat the nonpotable water and monitor water quality during the same period.
At Camp Q-West, KBR inappropriately delivered chlorinated wastewater for showers and latrines without informing military preventive medicine officials, the report said. "KBR did not monitor or record the quality of water at point-of-use containers before April 2006, even though the ... contract required the company to do so," the report added.

Medical records for troops at Camp Q-West indicated 38 cases of illnesses commonly attributed to problem water. These include skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed 24 of the cases in January and February 2006, the same period when medical officials warned of a rise in bacterial infections at the base.

In addition, military medical records — tied to no particular base in Iraq — showed 26 cases of food and waterborne diseases, including hepatitis, giardiasis and typhoid fever.



Spring Forward Into Books!

Here are a few books I will be reviewing soon, so get cracking on your spring reading a little early. All are dealing with my one of my favorite issues - food politics!

Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World by Peter Chapman

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8Lee



Zim announced election observers

Wow, shocking news from Zim, Mugabe bans Westerns observers from this month's elections!!!!

From SW Radio Africa

Robert Mugabe's regime announced Thursday it will bar Western observers from coming into the country to monitor the March 29 joint presidential and parliamentary elections.

Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told diplomats at a meeting in Harare that they have not invited any of the countries they feel believe free and fair elections can only be won by the opposition. The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union in general have all been listed in this category. The Minister said diplomats from these countries who were already in the country could apply for clearance to monitor the elections. Russia is the only country from Europe to be officially invited.

State media announced that 47 organisations drawn from Africa, South America and Asia have been invited to observe the elections because government feels they are objective and impartial in their relationship with Zimbabwe. Brazil, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Jamaica, China, Malaysia, India and Iran are some of the countries to be given 'observer' status. A total of 23 African countries have been invited and these include all 13 SADC countries, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Libya, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and Senegal. The move has not surprised many given that in 2002 a delegation from the European Union led by Sweden's Pierre Schori was expelled by the regime after being accused of bias.

The idea behind the tactic has always been to invite so-called 'friendly' nations who for one reason or other have not been hard hitting in their criticism of the regime. SADC countries have traditionally shown a tendency to fear criticising Mugabe and this seems to be the idea in the cherry picking of observers. Analysts say another part of the strategy is to create a racial divide in perceptions of the crisis. By banning western countries Mugabe is hoping to create the impression they are the only nations that consider elections to be rigged in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile Minister Mumbengegwi sought to pre-empt allegations of political violence and intimidation coming from the opposition by telling diplomats, 'You are the resident ambassadors here; you know this country. All those who do not expect to win the elections would want to discredit the process. Therefore, you will come across all sorts of allegations in volumes and volumes. My appeal to you is please try your best to ensure that any allegation that is made is verified. We think that is the role you should play," the Minister said. His remarks however betray reports the ruling party is employing bullyboy tactics against the MDC. The opposition say their complaints are being ignored by the police who in some instances are behind the harassment and intimidation.



US still wants trade deal, amid pending war in Latin America

Today, as government officials in Columbia, Ecuador and Venezuela try to broker a deal to end the violence between the FARC and the Colombian Government, the US still wants to play free market politics.


U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told Congress on Thursday "the time is now" to approve a free trade agreement with Colombia, rather than wait for that country to make more progress in reducing violence against trade unionists.

Schwab's comments came days after Colombia set off a major diplomatic crisis in the Andes when its troops crossed into Ecuador to kill Marxist guerrillas, prompting Venezuela and Ecuador to move their troops to their borders with Colombia.

U.S. President George W. Bush has supported Colombia, which gets billions of dollars in military aid from Washington to fight rebels and drug cartels.

"This administration will not yield in our efforts to persuade Congress to do the the right thing -- and approving the Colombia FTA is most assuredly the right thing," Schwab said in testimony prepared for the Senate Finance Committee.

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have insisted that Colombia make more progress in reducing murders of trade unionists and putting their killers in jail before Congress votes on the free trade deal.

Schwab said that stance ignores the "clear and compelling" progress Colombia has already made and threatens relations with a strong U.S. ally in a volatile region.

Colombia's murder rate is now at the lowest level in more than a decade and the prosecutor general's office already has stepped up efforts to resolve 187 priority cases of violence against trade unionists, she said.

"The time is now" to approve the pact, Schwab told the panel. "By delaying its consideration, or voting it down, we accomplish nothing. Or worse."

The Colombia deal is the first of three free trade agreements that the Bush administration is struggling to persuade Congress to approve this year. The others are with South Korea and Panama, and each faces its own problems.


In a tense exchange with Schwab, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said there was little hope for the pacts unless Congress and the Bush administration agree first on a bill to expand federal the trade adjustment assistance program (TAA), which provides financial aid for workers who have lost their jobs because of trade.

"Mr. Chairman, we all have priorities here and I think that it's in everyone's interest for a win-win (deal) that would include movement on trade adjustment assistance and the free trade agreements," Schwab said.

"I'm just saying TAA is number one," Baucus said. "I don't think we're going to make much progress on the free trade agreements until we get TAA done."

Although Bush has said he wants to work with Congress to revamp the trade adjustment assistance program, he has threatened to veto a bill passed by the House.

Democrats want to expand the program to include service industry workers, in addition to those in manufacturing sectors. They also want to include workers whose jobs have been moved to India, China and other countries not currently covered by the program, as well as other reforms.

The Colombia agreement is protected by trade promotion authority, which requires Congress to approve or reject trade agreements within 90 days without making changes.

The White House has hoped to persuade Democratic leaders to voluntarily schedule a vote, without forcing them to do that under trade promotion authority.

That's still the preferred option, Schwab told reporters in in response to a published report that Bush could send the Colombia agreement to Congress next week.

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‘Africa Unite’ delivers Marley’s message

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in the Bay State Banner

Each year, on Feb. 6, music fans around the world gather to celebrate the birthday, life and legacy of reggae legend and social critic Bob Marley. Now, fans can relive possibly the biggest Marley celebration of all time in the comfort of their own homes.

Director Stephanie Black’s film “Africa Unite: A Celebration of Bob Marley’s Vision,” recently released on DVD, documents the 2005 concert and commemorations to celebrate Marley’s 60th birthday, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and attended by over 300,000 people.

The weeklong celebration represented a realization of Marley’s dream to promote pan-Africanism and social justice around the world. Those who gathered in Addis Ababa to continue pursuing that dream included all of Marley’s children; his widow, Rita; his mother, Cedella Booker; and a host of celebrities, including singers Lauryn Hill and Angélique Kidjo, among others.

“Bob Marley expressed his passion for Africa through his music,” says actor Danny Glover in the film. “The fact that we are here is very important.”

It was no coincidence that the commemorations took place in the East African nation. Black does an excellent job of explaining the relationship between Haile Selassie I and the Rastafarian culture of Marley’s Jamaica, a movement founded in the 1930s to pay homage to the Ethiopian emperor, whom Rastafarians accept as God incarnate; the lyrics from Marley’s famed song “War” were derived from Haile Selassie’s 1963 speech before the United Nations General Assembly on racial injustice and anti-colonial struggles.

The film follows Ras Bongo Tawney, a 73-year-old Jamaican Rastafarian who travels to Ethiopia for the birthday observances. During his journey, Tawney tells his own tale of being discriminated against and physically harassed for his Rasta lifestyle in Jamaica, providing some of the film’s most absorbing moments.

Tawney’s story culminates when he visits Shashamane, a small town outside of Addis Ababa that gained international attention in 1948 when Haile Selassie granted the land as a gift to allow those displaced in the African Diaspora to return to the continent, and Addis Ababa’s majestic Cathedral of St. George, where Haile Selassie was crowned emperor in 1930.

Keeping true to Marley’s vision of social activism, the commemorations also brought together 40 youth delegates from all over Africa to participate in a symposium to discuss how to improve the continent politically, socially and economically.

According to the United Nations, nearly 40 percent of Africans are under the age of 22, so youth participation in such a discussion is vital because, as one delegate says in the film, “we are the future of Africa.” From HIV/AIDS to women’s empowerment, there was no shortage of opinions from this group of African teens, but trade justice was the top issue for this group.

During the discussion, Jimmy, a Ugandan peasant’s son who had to pay his own way to the birthday observances because his government couldn’t afford to send him, called for Africans to unite against global militarism and focus on the real issues affecting Africa, such as fair trade on agricultural products.

“We don’t want millions of dollars from the World Bank,” he says in the film. “We can make our own money. Let’s buy more seeds, not weapons.”

With “Africa Unite,” documentarian Black continues to shine a light on economic disparities in the developing world. Her first film, 1990’s “H-2 Worker,” deals with the exploitation by U.S. corporations of Caribbean men who migrate to work in Florida’s sugar cane fields, and her widely acclaimed 2001 documentary “Life and Debt” examines how the economic policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank affect the social and political fabric of Jamaica.

But for all the discussion of economic justice, “Africa Unite” is really about the power and quality of Marley’s music, and there’s no shortage of that in the film, either. Viewers get a chance to see Ziggy Marley and family, all on the same stage, set the audience to swooning with a stirring version of the song that gives the documentary its title.

Black hopes that viewers of “Africa Unite” will be inspired, as Bob Marley was, to do what they could to become agents for change in the world.

“There’s not an artist in the world who was both the commercial success and the inspiration that Bob was,” Black says in an article on the film’s Web site (www.bobmarley.com/africaunite). “We approached this film not as a way to gaze upon Bob, but to direct the viewer’s gaze on the things that were important to Bob: His Majesty [Haile Selassie], Ethiopia, a united Diasporic movement.”

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Socialist campaign stresses workers’ rights

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in the Bay State Banner

This is a fact: Róger Calero has absolutely no chance to become president of the United States.

He is still running nevertheless, and while his campaign has not triggered a single blip on the national political radar, his lack of name recognition is not the real reason his campaign is doomed from the start.

Some of his choices haven’t helped his political career, but none of them, really, are blocking his entrance to the Oval Office either. During his high school days, for instance, he sold marijuana to an undercover Los Angeles police officer and, according to a 2002 article by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Calero “agreed to a plea bargain and received a suspended 60-day sentence with three year’s probation and a $50 fine.”

And his decision to run as the nominee of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is not — at least in theory — a deathblow to his presidential aspirations, even though the far-left party’s designated standard-bearer hasn’t earned more than 41,000 counted votes in a presidential election in over three decades.

No, the real reason that Róger Calero, 38, has absolutely no chance to become president of the United States is because he wasn’t born in this country, and according to Article 1, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

So why is this Nicaraguan native — whose campaign bio says he has lived in the U.S. since his family moved to L.A. in 1985, and who, according to multiple published reports, has been a permanent resident alien since 1990 — traveling across the country, holding campaign events, talking to voters and, you know, actually running for the Oval Office?

Because Róger Calero said he feels he is the true voice of America’s working class, and he’s willing to tilt at some windmills if that’s what it takes for that voice to be heard.

As part of the Massachusetts leg of his national campaign tour, which has included stops in Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Newark, N.J., Calero — a writer for the SWP newsweekly The Militant and editor of its Spanish-language section, El Militante — spoke passionately to a small but enthusiastic group of potential voters in East Boston Saturday evening, discussing how he differs from the mainstream presidential candidates and explaining why he feels a socialist alternative is needed in Washington.

The reality of Calero’s no-chance candidacy does have its benefits — namely, with no expectation of victory, he can speak freely and use his campaign to try to spotlight the issues frequently pushed to the margins of the national political debate. Two such issues, workers’ rights and trade justice, are hallmarks of Calero’s campaign, and were keystones of his East Boston visit.

He spoke to the audience eloquently about his own experiences working as a meat packer in Iowa and Minnesota, where he was part of a groundbreaking union organizing drive at Dakota Premium Foods in St. Paul. He argues that most U.S. corporations — “the bosses,” as he calls them — have no regard for their workers or the products they produce, and claims that both the Democrats and Republicans support “the bosses” in exchange for campaign contributions.

“I am presenting an alternative to the capitalist agendas of Democrats and Republicans,” Calero said. “We think it’s important to defend the interests of workers.”

Calero had scathing words for the North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA, which he blamed for destroying both the U.S. and Mexican economies. He is also concerned about Mexican agricultural workers losing their jobs due to the redistribution of cheaper American-made products in Mexico, a practice known as “dumping” that he says American and Mexican workers should join forces to fight.

Calero has long been an advocate for trade justice. In December 2002, he was arrested in Texas by federal immigration officers upon his return from assignments for The Militant in Cuba and Mexico, covering a conference in Havana opposing the Free Trade Area of the Americas and a congress in Guadalajara of the Continental Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Students. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service jailed Calero in Houston for 10 days and began deportation proceedings against him, despite his status as a permanent U.S. resident. The charges were later dropped, and Calero was allowed to stay in the U.S.

Another linchpin of Calero’s platform is his three-pronged plan to improve America’s tarnished image: end the trade and travel embargo with Cuba; cancel all Third World debt immediately; and immediately withdraw all American troops from Iraq.

“It really doesn’t matter if a Democrat or a Republican is elected; the Iraq war will continue and it will only support capitalistic interests,” he said. “Neither Obama or Clinton are against the occupation.”

Speaking at length on the controversial subject of immigration, Calero said he supports the immediate legalization of all undocumented workers, noting that it is unrealistic to try to deport the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants supposedly living in the U.S. and predicting that the economy would go into a shocking, immediate standstill if that were to happen. He says that immigrants are the backbone of this country’s economy, and all efforts should be made to make them fully part of America’s growing multicultural fabric.

Following Calero’s East Boston talk, many attendees — admittedly a partisan crowd — sounded agreement with some of his views.

“The middle class make up this economy,” said Sarah Ullman of the Boston Socialist Workers Party. “But if Obama or Hillary is elected, they will be representing the bosses.”

In an election where race is a clear factor, Calero expressed disappointment at the efforts of some political operatives to create divisions between Latino immigrants and African Americans over employment issues — specifically, the question of which ethnic group is taking jobs from the other.

Instead, he said, he has noticed that Latinos are learning more about the struggles of blacks, specifically the achievements of the civil rights movement, and are starting to stand up for their own rights. He cited a recent incident where black and Latino workers in a North Carolina factory worked together to get their company to give them a paid day off in recognition of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a group of Guatemalan activists who converged in Louisiana a few months ago with African Americans to support the Jena Six.

As for the historical significance of the American people potentially electing the first black or female president, Calero espoused a different view — he said it really didn’t matter if Obama or Clinton were elected, because they are representatives of the ruling class in this country, and what class one belongs to is really the issue that unites Americans today.

After visiting East Boston on Saturday, the man soldiered on. While the big names jockeyed for delegates, position and political capital before Tuesday’s primaries, Calero spent Sunday and Monday commemorating the first anniversary of the raid of the Michael Bianco Inc. textile factory in New Bedford by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and visiting workers in a clothing factory in Lawrence.

Róger Calero promises to do more of the same, sitting with seamstresses and standing in solidarity, each small but enthusiastic audience yielding more untold stories for him to broadcast with the megaphone he’s fashioned. That, more than anything else, is why he says he’s in this race for the long haul.

“Our campaign is more serious than the other candidates,” he said. “Our campaign is about who we are, and how working people can work together.”

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