Gaza Boat Crisis: Two Sides to Every Story

There are always two sides to every story.

This morning, the Israel Defense Force raided a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, where nine activists were fatally shot. Everyone seems to agree up until that point. The interesting thing about this whole situation is how both sides used online video to plead their cases.

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the activists on board "deliberately attacked soldiers."

And IDF has video to prove their point:

Meanwhile the folks on the flotilla tell a different story. The Free Gaza Movement says that "Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck. They fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep."

From the Guardian:

The Scottish journalist and documentary film-maker Hassan Ghani, 24 and from Glasgow, was on board the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish vessel attacked by Israeli forces. He was seen broadcasting for PressTV as the commandos took control of the ship. In footage shown on YouTube, Ghani said: "This is the MC Marmara, Hassan Ghani reporting for PressTV. We've had several injuries here; one is critical. He has been injured in the head and we think he may die if he doesn't receive medical treatment urgently. Another person being passed in front of me right now has been seriously injured. We are being hit by tear gas, stun grenades. We've navy ships on either side. We're being attacked from every single side. This is international waters and not Israeli waters, not in the 68-mile exclusion zone. We're being attacked in international waters completely illegally."

You decide...

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Jamaica, Bananas & Free Trade

Of course there's a food connection to what's going on in Jamaica.

As the death toll continues to rise, many wonder why all of a sudden there is such interest in the Caribbean island. Finally, the world is seeing a problem that has been bubbling for a while - by way of trade agreements. I happened upon this great article in the Guardian recently:

...Since 1975, Europe protected Caribbean banana growers. But the largely American interests that controlled the vast banana plantations in Ecuador and Colombia, where workers' rights are at best an afterthought, persuaded the then fledgling Clinton administration, whose election they lavishly funded, to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organisation demanding they overturn this perceived unjust support

For 17 years, the banana wars raged. Then, five months ago, with one eye on huge trade deals between Colombia and Peru, Europe relented.

Compensation for banana farmers in a dozen Caribbean and African countries comes in the form of €190m fund. The money will be paid to Caribbean governments in the form of budget support. In other words, farmers won't see the cash.

The most serious challenge to agriculture in the Caribbean comes as islands face falls in tourism, foreign direct investment and financial services. This after the international community told the islands to pursue these paths.

The decline of the Caribbean banana industry may seem like a sideshow. But abandoned farms together with laid-off financial workers are a seedbed for enveloping the Caribbean economy and political system in a drug morass.

There is evidence of the spread of marijuana cultivation and trafficking, especially in St Vincent where a Marijuana Growers Association was publicly announced, despite the practice being illegal...

I remember my mum telling me stories about going up on a farm near Montego Bay and how everyone in her village had a job doing something related to the banana business. Today those jobs no longer exist. The banana industry is Jamaica's fifth leading revenue earner behind remittances, tourism, bauxite and sugar. However, in recent years with the United States pushing to buy their bananas cheaper (and at the expense of decent worker rights) in South America, along with the devastating hurricanes of late, many Jamaicans are turning to the underground economy to stay alive.

This is where drugs baron Christopher "Dudus" Coke comes in. Of course, I'm not defending what this dude is doing, but he seems to be fulfilling a void among the population's most vulnerable. There is a lot to be said about a situation where there are people willing to defend the drug dealer first. I'm just saying...

From where to where have we come?

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Political Tweets and Transparency

By now, everyone knows the power social media giant Twitter has had in revolutionizing how our society communicates with itself. Even politicians understand the leverage of sending out 140 characters of talking points to solidify support for their positions. Recently, May 8 edition of The Economist explores political tweeting.
Sebastián Piñera, the newly elected president of Chile, has asked all cabinet members to start tweeting. His own account is now the most-followed in the country. Venezuala’s Hugo Chávez tweets too (@chavezcandanga). In June only three Japanese politicians had accounts; now Politter, a site dedicated to Twitter and Japanese politics, lists 485. An analysis of last year’s German elections by the University of St Gallen discovered that 577 politicians had opened Twitter accounts, three-quarters of them in 2009. Greece’s prime minister George Papandreou uses Twitter. But @primeministergr is the office, not the man. His staff tweet for him, sometimes using a code to signal who wrote what.

However, does social media make politicians more accessible to their constituents and detractors? Possibly not. President Barack Obama won the White House, thanks in part to his campaign's strong use of social media. According to the article, "at its height Barack Obama’s campaign (@barackobama) employed 100 staff working on social media such as Twitter." Nonetheless, "the scale of response makes it hard for office-holders to tweet themselves. Mr Obama reads just a select ten of the messages (20,000 of all kinds) he receives daily."

Recently, Global Wire went out and interviewed ordinary people about their thoughts on this matter. Some opinions were negative.

"At first, it might seem cool to follow and send tweets to your favorite politicians, but then you realize that the politician's Twitter account is being run by some intern or secretary in their office, which I think defeats the purpose of politicians connecting with your constituents about their concerns," said Nadya Ghanem of Turkey.

"What is the point of connecting with politicians online when they are not really connecting with you," said Luis Calbarro of Suriname. "It's like Twitter is no different from sending an email to a politician's office and not getting a response. It might be read or thrown in a inbox with other Tweets. It is all window dressing."

But some were hopeful of the future of political tweeting, like Shelly Kim from South Korea, who was exciting see the digital activism in her country's recent presidential election. Last March there was some controversy over the use of Twitter by South Korean lawmakers and making it accessible for all.

"I have seen the power of why social media is being taken more seriously by politicians because they really do listen to what the people have to say," she said.

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Lena Horne - The Original Hollywood Activist

Singer, dancer and actress Lena Horne passed away last night in New York at the age of 92. Horne is best known for using her entertainment career to move forward civil rights for African-Americans.

She toured as a featured singer with a white band in 1940, a first for an African-American, according to her biography. She was also one of the first blacks to sign a long-term movie contract with a major Hollywood studio when she joined MGM in 1942.

But she was also known for her activism in other areas.

From Wikipedia:

Horne was long involved with the Civil Rights movement. In 1941, she sang at Cafe Society and worked with Paul Robeson, a singer who also combated American racial discrimination. During World War II, when entertaining the troops for the USO, she refused to perform "for segregated audiences or for groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen", according to her Kennedy Center biography. Since the US Army refused to allow integrated audiences, she wound up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black US soldiers and white German POWs. She was at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the weekend before Evers was assassinated. She also met President John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated. She was at the March on Washington and spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC and the National Council of Negro Women. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. She was a member of the prominent organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

A pretty cool lady! RIP



Innovations in Farmers' Markets

So it is that time of year again when the local farmers share their bounty of fresh foods directly with community members. Farmers' markets are beneficial for the health of humans and the earth. Recently, I saw a couple of videos on CNN discussing new ways of making healthy foods accessible to all.

(In this video, they actually talk about callaloo!)


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