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Happy New Year! 2014 is already looking up for some

Happy New Year. Hope that the holidays were kind to you.

I briefly went on the National Geographic website not really looking for anything when I came across an article about Intel’s “promise” to ban “conflict minerals.” This is a HUGE first step to improving the lives of thousands of people, maybe millions. Because this can set the example for other companies that profit from  violence and instability. This announcement came from Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, who has only been on the job for six months. Is well informed about the supply chain from the mining field to the production factories, since he was in charge of all of Intel’s supply chain.

This announcement made by Mr. Krzanich represents a step in the right direction following SEC’s adoption of a rule mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which now requires U.S. companies to disclose the use of conflict minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries.

I was glad to see that Mr. Krzanich’s initial reaction was to completely stop using minerals from the DRC and other surrounding areas. Which would have resulted in Intel only using minerals from conflict-free areas. But this idea was immediately disregarded by the supply chain team, do to the notion that this decision would eliminate a key source of income for local residents. So in 2012 Intel decided to only use minerals taken conflict-free areas by 2013.

The minerals that are required for the microprocessors include tantalum, tungsten, gold, and tin. Tantalum being the most important in this situation. Intel is the worlds number one commercial consumer of tantalum, so it is no surprise that it has the most power to change the market.

It took two years for Intel to follow the supply chain, from an actual electronic product to the smelters. And it can now proudly say that all the minerals in their microprocessors are conflict-free.

When writing this post I ran across Enough Project, which is an organization dedicated in fighting genocide and crimes against humanity. The have a list that was finalized in 2012 that lists all the major companies that provide us with electronics and how they rank against each other, regarding the use of conflict minerals. Intel takes the top spot on their list; you can find the list here.

Intel claims that all the conflict-free areas have been looked over by a third party. “You’re really going like a plumber into the depths of these smelters,” explains Sasha Lezhnev, policy director at the Enough Project, which works with Intel on its conflict-free sourcing. “These are highly secretive industries. They’re just not used to public scrutiny. This is just an organizational and cultural change that they in some senses have to react to.”

And just in case you were worried about the price electric gadgets increasing due to this great new step; that will not happen. Mr. Krzanich confirmed that the company decision will not affect prices of gadgets, the only results are pricey airfare and more manpower. So why did this take so long?

Below is a video put together by Intel about the Democratic Republic of Congo, the people there, minerals and much more relating to the matter.  It is a good starting point.

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Below you will find a copy of the article from the National Geographic.

Photo of miners eating lunch from a communal bowl in the mining town of Pluto in Ituri Province, Congo.

Miners eating lunch from a communal bowl in the mining town of Pluto in Ituri Province.

Photograph by Marcus Bleasdale, National Geographic

Tom O’Neill

National Geographic

Published January 9, 2014

Intel’s announcement that every microprocessor that it ships will be made without conflict minerals from Africa hit both a personal and professional nerve for photographer Marcus Bleasdale.

Bleasdale has spent the past decade photographing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to bring the issue to the world’s eyes: workers, including children, toiling in brutal conditions in mines overseen by militias in eastern Congo. In October National Geographic magazine published “The Price of Precious,” which featured Bleasdale’s powerful photos dramatizing the suffering of people caught in the middle of the violent, illegal grab for minerals like tin, tungsten, and gold. They’re referred to as “conflict minerals” because of the ongoing strife between army commanders and militia chiefs over control of the mines.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said the company’s action is the culmination of years of effort to track down the smelters, more than 60 in all, that provide the company with minerals such as tantalum, tungsten, gold, and tin and then auditing them for where the minerals came from. The result is that, now, all the smelters that Intel contracts with use minerals from mines not involved in the DRC conflict.

National Geographic spoke with Bleasdale in Washington, D.C.

What was your reaction to the Intel announcement?

It was: “Wow!” I have been working closely with the Enough Project to find ways to engage companies on the issue of using conflict minerals, but I didn’t expect such a significant action. Intel is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of microprocessors. What they did is huge. It gives the effort momentum. Almost one-fourth of the smelters used by electronic companies have been audited as conflict-free. Plus, more and bigger mines in the DRC are coming on tap as certified conflict-free.

There are so many players in this; it is so complex. Conflict minerals are not like diamonds that are relatively easy to source. We need a tracking system.

It must be gratifying to know that your photography has played a role in creating public pressure for such an action.

Let me say that an individual photograph can have a powerful impact. But the real power is what you do with it and whom you partner with. By working with Human Rights Watch, beginning in 2004, my work hit a nerve and was instrumental, for instance, in making a Swiss company stop buying Congolese gold.

What has the response been to your photos in our October issue?

The response has been massive. I have been surprised by how many people were not aware of where the minerals in their cell phones and computers and other electronics came from. I know the article will also engage industries, and there are hundreds of them that use these minerals.

I have also been amazed by the reaction to “The Moment,” a page in the back of the magazine with a photograph of a child’s funeral at the St. Kizito orphanage in the Congo. As a result of that picture, tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the orphanage have come in, from donors ranging from a media company in L.A. to a law firm in Oslo where I recently spoke. Every cent donated has been spent by the orphanage for the children.

Why do photographs have this potency?

With every conflict it is very difficult to show the enormity of the suffering. You have all these statistics, 4.5 million people killed, 30,000 women raped. To get through to people you have to show individuals touched by the conflict. That’s how you engage people, how you shock them to maybe change their behavior. I want to repeat, though: It’s difficult for photographs to do this work on their own. You need an advocacy group to partner with who can knock on the doors of Congress and corporations. This advocacy work is as satisfying to me as taking a photograph. (Related: “Marcus Bleasedale on Shock and Change.”)

It sounds like a personal brand of photojournalism.

Objectivity is important to me. But when you face such horrific suffering and you know that it’s fueled in great part by [the] conflict minerals industry, you want it to stop; you are human and say it has to stop.

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For those who hope for a better world. This should be a sort feel like a step in the right direction.

Again Happy New Year

Peace

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Give it your all Brazil

brazil-confed-cup-protests.jpeg3-1280x960

In the previous post, ‘Jumping over the Bandwagon, I had mentioned that it is really crucial that the people of Brazil rose up now because the world is watching the country in anticipation of the World Cup.  Besides hosting the World Cup there are several reasons why we should be watching Brazil: it is the largest economy in Latin America, it takes the seventh position when it’s economy is compared to the rest of the world and it has arguably the best international soccer team in the world. If you look at the growth of Brazil in the recent years you will see that it has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, according to Trading Economics, this is due to it’s export potential. The country benefits from its diversity in agriculture as well as manufacturing production. Not to forget the country has an enormous supply of natural resources, all these factors helps the country lure in foreign investors. But all this growth is worth nothing if the country is plagued by a weak infrastructure, a failing education system, corruption, greed, and inequality.

940783-130622-brazil-protestsThe Brazilian people know that the country is growing and changing; they currently have in office the first female president, Dilma Rousseff leading the country.  So it is only natural that the people want their livelihood to grow with the country; this is one of the reasons why they are protesting.

The World Cup is going to attract the attention of the public and potential investors, which means growth for Brazil. But who is going to benefit from the growth? According to the article, ‘Grumbling in the Terraces,’ found at The Economist, one of the biggest demands made by the Brazilian people, is that schools, hospitals, and other public service facilities, reach the same building standards that stadiums currently in Brazil are reaching.

Two months back the country hosted the Confederations Cup, during that time, FIFA, took over management of the stadiums. Bringing in money, volunteers and order, many would argue that this was a good thing. I would agree as well but the problem is that it does not last, when the show is over no one cares.  If you want to see how fast things change, here is a quotation from the same article mentioned above, found at The Economist:

The 52,825 people who watched Flamengo play Coritiba on July 6th were treated rather differently to the elites who paid top prices to attend the inaugural Confederations Cup match three weeks earlier. Gone were the neat concession stands, the hundreds of volunteers and the top-class facilities for media. Instead, fans and press had the kind of experience that is depressingly familiar at Brazil’s football grounds.

The internet didn’t work, the radio reporters were forced to narrate the game from the stands, and fans were tossed drinks from a big fridge rather than served from behind counters. Even getting to the stadium was difficult: whereas busy avenues were closed to traffic during the Confederations Cup to improve access to the venue, fans now have to run a gauntlet of cars in order to reach the turnstiles. The promised tramlines have yet to materialise.

Complaints are not aimed at FIFA, which during the Confederations Cup provided a level of service to match the ticket prices. Rather, it is aimed at the Brazilian stadium managers who seem to be incapable of providing the same treatment.

The quotation above shines light on one of the problems that surrounds competitions like the World Cup or the Olympics. These games/competitions bring money and build stadiums but they also have a dark side that negatively affects the poor people in the hosting country.

Housing-rights-workshop-300x275A Geneva-based advocate group, Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), publicized in 2007 that it had an on-going three year study that covered seven past and at that time future events hosted by the Olympics. These events took place Beijing, Atlanta, Seoul, Sydney, Athens, London, and Barcelona; the topics covered included homelessness, crime, and cost of housing.

The study included very credible information which would be crucial in bringing justice to events like these:

For the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, 720,000 people were forcibly evicted from their homes and homeless people were rounded up and detained in facilities outside the city, the report said. Development and urbanization led to unaffordable housing.

Leading up to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, more than 400 families were displaced to make room for the Olympic Village, 20 families were evicted from the site of the Olympic stadium and 200 other families were displaced for the construction of ring roads. Housing prices and rents increased 139 and 149 percent respectively during the six-year period before the games and the lack of affordable housing forced low-income earners out of the city.

For the 1996 Atlanta Games, some 30,000 poor residents were displaced due to gentrification. About 2,000 public housing units were demolished.

Legislation was introduced to criminalize homelessness, the report said.Legislative measures also were introduced ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics to simplify the expropriation of private property. Hundreds of Roma were evicted from their settlements.

 Because the main sporting complex for the 2000 Sydney Games was built on surplus government wasteland, no one was directly evicted or displaced for those games. But the city’s gentrification caused housing prices to more than double between 1996 and 2003. Rents soared 40 percent, forcing many to move to the city’s fringe.

The quotation is from COHRE’s study. You can see that the in justice is something that is not new. Erica Brazil protest 1 RTBulman (2007) wrote in an article for USA Today, that COHRE’s same study had details about 1.5 million people being displaced in Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympics. The media following this were few because we are talking about China (the countries censorship is ridiculous) this is why the upraising in Brazil is necessary; because the world is watching.

The world was watching South Africa but corruption being the blame for many problems in Africa discourages many from expecting any change in Africa. You know that excuse that some people use when the words change and Africa are put in the same sentence. But I will be the first to admit that corruption does run deep in the South African government but the same goes for the Olympics and World Cup organization.

In an article by Gary Anderson called, “South Africa to kick homeless off  streets before the World Cup (2010),” written for Global Research. Mr Anderson wrote this:

More than 800 tramps, beggars and street children have already been removed from Johannesburg and sent to remote settlements hundreds of miles away.

And in Cape Town, where England face Algeria on June 18, up to 300 have been moved to Blikkiesdorp camp where 1,450 families are crammed in a settlement of tin huts designed for just 650 people.

Johannesburg councillor Sipho Masigo was unrepentant. “Homelessness and begging are big problems in the city,” he said. “You have to clean your house before you have guests. There is nothing wrong with that.

You can see that the fault is on both sides, both are necessary for the system to continue. Some of these stadiums in South Africa, which cost at least 30 million US dollars, were only used four times throughout the whole competition. If Sipho Masigo was homeless he would have a problem with being relocated instead of being taken care of.

Mbombela-Stadium-006

Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, is kept up by 18 orange iron, ‘giraffes.’

The article, “Human cost of the World Cup (2010),” posted by Al Jazeera, provided more proof of the collaboration of local officials and the representatives of the Olympics and the World Cup. The article showed corruption in England, “In Britain, 400 people were forced out of the Clays Lane estate, which was demolished to make way for the 2012 Olympic Park in East London.” So far it seems like it does not matter where they go these people continue to prey on the vulnerable.

There was some positive news in the article posted by Al Jazeera (2010), the news is that Chicago ahead of the 2016 Olympic bid pledged to be the first city to disallow evictions. The city lost the bid of course but what a moment.

Give it all you got Brazil;Peace!

Reference:

Anderson, Gary. (2010, March 28). South Africa to kick Homeless off streets before World Cup. Global Research. http://www.globalresearch.ca/south-africa-to-kick-homeless-off-streets-before-world-cup/18401

Bulman, Erica. (2007, June 5). Rights group: 1.5 million people displaced by preparations for 2008 Beijing Olympics. USA Today. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/2007-06-05-3431055449_x.htm

Smith, David. (2010, June 2). Nelspruit’s brutal inequalities test World Cup’s legacy. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2010/jun/03/nelspruit-world-cup

http://www.aljazeera.com/sport/2010/03/20103816395976656.html

Egyptians are not Satisfied

I woke up to news about peaceful protests that turned violent in Egypt. I personally did not think that there was going to be so much friction in Egypt this early. I did anticipate some friction due to the journey that Egypt took  to get to this point. As well as the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood rose from the ashes of the 2011 uprising. It is not easy for a country to go from so much unrest to peace. Not to forget it is really hard to make everyone happy.

So, from what I have read, it seems that the Egyptian military suspended the constitution and ousted elected President Morsi. The reaction from the world is split. I have supported the uprising in Egypt since day one but I have to admit, the region to me is very complex.

Below I have provided a video that hosts individuals digging deeper into the issue surrounding Egypt. It was posted on Al Jazeera on July 4, 2013.

The video below is news coverage from Al Jazeera about the ousting of President Morsi; it was posted on July 3, 2013.

I wanted to add comments from world leaders about the steps that the Egyptian military took. I copied this from Al Jazeera. It was posted on July 4, 2013.

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The Egyptian army’s suspension of the constitution and removal of President Mohamed Morsi has drawn mixed responses from world leaders:

European Union

The EU has called for a rapid return to democracy in Egypt.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said: “I urge all sides to rapidly return to the democratic process, including the holding of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and the approval of a constitution, to be done in a fully inclusive manner, so as to permit the country to resume and complete its democratic transition,”

“I strongly condemn all violent acts, offer my condolences to the families of the victims, and urge the security forces to do everything in their power to protect the lives and well-being of Egyptian citizens.”

Saudi Arabia

Saudi King Abdullah sent a message of congratulations to Adly Mansour ahead of his appointment as interim president.

“In the name of the people of Saudi Arabia and on my behalf, we congratulate your leadership of Egypt in this critical period of its history. We pray for God to help you bear the responsibility laid upon you to achieve the ambitions of our brotherly people of Egypt,” the message said.

Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government, which had formed an alliance with Morsi, spoke out in favor of the ousted leader. Turkey’s foreign minister slammed the overthrow as “unacceptable” and called for Morsi’s release from house arrest. Turkey itself was hit last month by a wave of protests against Erdogan’s perceived authoritarianism and attempts to impose his conservative views on secular society.

Iran

Iran was disappointed at the fall of Morsi, with a prominent legislator saying the leader failed to reshape Egypt’s powerful military and other security agencies. After Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the new leadership formed military and security forces loyal to the clerics and others. Morsi’s government had ended more than three decades of diplomatic estrangement with Iran dating back to the revolution, when Egypt offered refuge to Iran’s deposed shah.

Tunisia

The ruling Islamists in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, condemned the overthrow as a “flagrant coup”. Ennahda party leader Rachid Ghannouchi expressed astonishment, saying the overthrow undermined democracy and would feed radicalism.

Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed support for the Egyptian people’s choices and congratulated Egypt’s interim president, a spokesman said. The spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi, added that Iraq is “looking forward to boosting bilateral relations” and is “certain that the new president will move on with the new plan in holding elections and safeguarding national reconciliation”.

Syria

Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday praised Egypt’s protests against their leader and said his overthrow by the military means the end of “political Islam”. Assad, who is seeking to crush a revolt against his own rule, said Egyptians have discovered the “lies” of the Muslim Brotherhood. He spoke in an interview with the state-run Al-Thawra newspaper.

“What is happening in Egypt is the fall of so-called political Islam,” Assad said. “This is the fate of anyone in the world who tries to use religion for political or factional interests.”

United Arab Emirates

The UAE welcomed the change in Egypt, according to state news agency WAM, and praised the Egyptian armed forces.

“His Highness Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the foreign minister of the UAE, expressed his full confidence that the great people of Egypt are able to cross these difficult moments that Egypt is going through,” WAM said in a statement.

“Sheikh Abdullah said that the great Egyptian army was able to prove again that they are the fence of Egypt and that they are the protector and strong shield that guarantee Egypt will remain a state of institutions and law,” it added.

Qatar

Qatar’s new emir congratulated Egypt’s Adli Mansour after he was sworn in as an interim leader. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, “sent a cable of congratulations” following the swearing in.

The foreign ministry said: “Qatar will continue to respect the will of Egypt and its people across the spectrum,” the source said. Qatar was alone among Gulf Arab states in celebrating the 2011 Arab Spring revolt that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

United Kingdom

The UK urged for calm in Egypt, but stopped short of calling the military intervention a coup.

“The situation is clearly dangerous and we call on all sides to show restraint and avoid violence,” said Foreign Secretary William Hague. “The United Kingdom does not support military intervention as a way to resolve disputes in a democratic system.”

The UK called on all parties to move forward and “show the leadership and vision needed to restore and renew Egypt’s democratic transition”.

“It is vital for them to respond to the strong desire of the Egyptian people for faster economic and political progress for their country,” stressed Hague.

This must involve early and fair elections and civilian-led government, he said.

United States

The US State Department expressed concern over the military intervention.

The US ordered the mandatory evacuation of its embassy in Cairo, just hours after the army deposed Morsi. A later travel advisory confirmed that “the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency US government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.”

US President Barack Obama released a statement saying he was deeply concerned by the decision by Egyptian military to depose Morsi, and called for a swift return to civilian government.

“No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve,” Obama said.

“The long-standing partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.”

However, the US also stopped short of calling the military intervention a coup.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, noted that any country involved in a coup was not entitled to aid from the US.

Germany

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the military intervention was “a major setback for democracy in Egypt” and called for “dialogue and political compromise”.

“This is a major setback for democracy in Egypt,” Westerwelle said during a visit to Athens. “It is urgent that Egypt return as quickly as possible to the constitutional order… there is a real danger that the democratic transition in Egypt will be seriously damaged.”

“We call on all sides to renounce violence. We will watch developments in Egypt very closely. And then make our political decisions.

“Political detentions and a political wave of repression must be avoided at all cost. Now this is about returning to the path of democratic order.”

France

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Paris took note that elections had been announced in Egypt following a transition period after the army ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

“In a situation that has worsened seriously and with extreme tension in Egypt, new elections have finally been announced, after a transition period.”

France hoped a timetable would be drawn up respecting “civil peace, pluralism, individual liberties and the achievements of the democratic transition, so that the Egyptian people can freely choose their leaders and their future”, he added.

 

We hope for Peace.

More than One Million Protesters Shake up Brazil

So, I do not know if you have heard but about 1.2 million people all over Brazil took to the streets. In protest of a number of things but we can just simply say economic inequality. I have been meaning to write something regarding the economic inequality in Brazil and its relationship to the World Cup but I couldn’t. This is because, ‘I have not been able to find this documentary,’ that I watched a couple of years ago; I have been looking for it for at least one month and fifteen days (I feel that it is really important). I know, I have said those words several times before, I wish I had anticipated that I was going to start this blog because I would have kept a record of information on how to find it. I am going to explain it a little bit of it, just in case someone reading this would know what documentary I am talking about; please share if you do.

So the documentary was about the what the government is doing to the poor people living in the flavelas. Which is locking up young black Brazilian males from the flavelas. One of the  worst parts of the situation was the prison conditions; they were unbelievable. The documentary stated that the young men and boys were being stuffed in these cells; it was at least 16 people in one small cell. The governments argument was that the boys and men were involved in violence, crime, drugs, etc. But really, the real reason is because they are poor. I am going to write another post when I have a little more time to think about this; for now this works.

With that said, I had hoped that the people in Brazil would take to the streets, anytime before the World Cup would have worked for me. I did not expect some action this early. The timing is perfect because the World Cup will help the story reach more people. This is a fight for all of humanity not just Brazilians. This is all I will say for now, below is a video and an article from Al Jazeera on the matter.

Notice the medical student, I personally am proud of the youth all over the world for rising up. If you look at all the uprisings that we have watched take place in the twenty first century, the youth have really been an important factor, even in Europe, just look at Greece. This is also a good time to point out how important education is because the youth are students. We also cannot forget the youth of the sixties for their courage as well because they are in the streets today; I have protested with them.

Article below!

Clashes with police mark biggest day of demonstrations as President Rousseff calls for emergency meeting amid pressure.

Last Modified: 21 Jun 2013 16:54
Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied across Brazil as part of a protest movement over the quality of public services and the high cost of staging the World Cup.President Dilma Rousseff called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday amid mounting pressure on her government in the face of the biggest street protests the South American country has seen in 20 yearsThe demonstrations have also prompted her to cancel a trip to Japan planned for next week.Local media reported that 1.2 million people took part in rallies across the country of 194 million people – an intensification of the movement which started two weeks ago to protest at bus fare increases.Police fired tear gas in Rio de Janeiro, scene of the biggest protest where 300,000 people demonstrated near City Hall, to disperse stone-throwing protesters. At least one person was injured in the clashes. Demonstrators also set ablaze a vehicle owned by the SBT television station.On Friday, CBN radio and the website of the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, both respected, mainstream media carried reports speculating on the suspension of the Confederations Cup, an eight-nation football tournament considered a dry run for next year’s World Cup.

Violence in Brasilia

In the capital Brasilia, security forces including military police blocked protesters trying to break into the foreign ministry building and throwing burning objects.

In Sao Paulo, an estimated 110,000 people flooded the main avenida Paulista to celebrate the fare rollback and keep the pressure on Rousseff’s leftist government to increase social spending.

Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez reports on the people behind the Brazil protests.

But clashes erupted between a group of ultra-leftists marching behind their red banners and a majority of demonstrators who objected to the presence of political parties.

One of the leftists was hit in the head by a projectile and blamed a member of the ruling Workers Party. Police were forced to intervene to put an end to the clashes.

The protests have escalated into a wider call for an end to government corruption in the world’s seventh largest economy, a call prompted by resentment over the $15bn cost of hosting the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.

Those opposing the hosting of the World Cup are planning a march to Rio’s Maracana stadium on June 30, the day of the Confederations Cup final.

Protesters say they want higher funding for education and health and a cut in salaries of public officials. They are also protesting against what they viewed as rampant corruption within the political class.

About 15,000 people, most of them in their 20s, gathered just before dusk on Thursday the Alfonso Pena thoroughfare in Belo Horizonte, but a prompt police response of rubber bullets sent them scuttling for cover.

“Brazil, country of corruption,” “We want a serious economic policy,” “Enough, it’s time to speak” and “Brazil is waking up,” were just some of the slogans marchers held aloft as they wound their way through the city centre.

Recife and Salvador rallies

Thousands more marched in Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, and Recife.

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Sao Paulo, said police in Recife said marches there attracted more than 100,000 people, while a small protest in the northeastern city of Salvador resulted in clashes between police and protesters.

Many marching against corruption and the cost of the 2014 World Cup are also angry at the media, including the influential Globo network, accused of belittling their movement.

In Sao Paulo, Globo TV crews have been jeered while covering protest rallies and on Tuesday demonstrators set the satellite van of another station ablaze.

Social media networks have been key to the organisation of the mass protests, with demonstrators using the slogan “It’s more than just 20 cents” – a reference to the bus fare rises – to rally people to their cause. The movement has no political hue and no clear leadership.

 

Peace!

Reference:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2013/06/201362022328194879.html

Economic Inequality in America: The 1% of America has 40% of the Wealth

Over the past week, the topic of inequality has been floating around me. I have been thinking about inequality and its direct impact to the well being of, what I would argue the majority of the people on this planet. I started this thinking marathon last weekend when I was at a barbeque and I heard one of the other guests shout something similar to this, “I know, they just raise the prices and kick everyone out!”  I looked towards the source of this statement and we made eye contact, the source proceeded with a drawn-out head shake. That is all I heard him say and that was enough for me to know what he was talking about; gentrification. All over America cities are going through gentrification: getting rid of the old and bringing in new money.

Hearing a conversation regarding the topic of gentrification at a friendly barbeque was both a bad thing as well as a good thing. The bad thing is that gentrification exists at all and we have to deal with it, on the other hand it is a good thing because I see it as a sign that it might be becoming more of a concern to the common individual.

My first encounter with gentrification took place at least four years ago when I was at a local tea shop studying for an exam. During my stay there I met a man(I do not remember his name now) who made it clear to me that he was homeless. We talked for most of the day,we talked about life and the adventures that come with it. But one of the things that he said is that he noticed that a lot of people are leaving San Francisco, California. When I heard this I was shocked, “really,” I thought, because as far as I know everyone wants to live in San Francisco. But now I think about it he was probably referring to people who were more like him, people who did not have enough money to afford to live in San Francisco. Since that day I had kept my mind open to learning more about gentrification.

Fast forward one year and I am enrolled  in a class that provides me with the opportunity to learn more about gentrification. I had a final paper assignment and the topic that I chose to write on was “the history and impact of murals in San Francisco.” My professor really wanted me to focus on the, “weirdness and or the peculiar messages in the murals,” to this day I do not know what he was saying. But I knew what I wanted to learn about, I surrounded myself with everything regarding gentrification and absorbed as much as I could.

Now back to my marathon of thoughts regarding economic inequality. a couple of days ago I came across pictures(below) of  extravagant hotels/resorts in Dubai. I know that Dubai is one of the wealthiest cities but after seeing these pictures I think, “really,” people still have money.

I mean, because I recently started taking business courses, so it is all new to me. But I do  know that big corporation(s)/companies do their research before they open a business in a certain area. They find out how much they are going to make, how many people come each year, when they need to advertise, who are their main clients, etc; they find out everything before the invest their money. So basically it surprised me that this resort is doing so well(in this day and age), while others are suffering. One of main problems I find with the state of the world is that things do not have to be the way that they are. It is not necessary to produce or consume nice things in the expense of others; which is exactly the way the world functions today.

Palm-Islands-Dubai-Giant-Palm-Tree-in-The-Middle-of-Sea-1

Sky View

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People’s homes

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The smaller of the two palm trees

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atlantis-the-palm

There aquariums inside the buildings. It can be at least 90 degrees outside.

To sum it all up, I found a video that really puts the economic inequality in America and ultimately the world into perspective. This video is pretty impressive. This video is found on upworthy.com and it is called,”9 Out Of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact,” posted by Adam Mordecai.

Most Americans want a more ideal and equal distribution of wealth.

The actual distribution is ridiculous

1% of America has 40% of the wealth.

Peace!

“Only my body is here because I am thinking about what is happening around the world.”-Mumia

References:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gentrification

http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-americans-are-completely-wrong-about-this-mind-blowing-fact-2?c=ufb1

Jose Mujica: Uruguay’s Extraordinary President

Below is a post from David Suzuki’s Blog. It is called, “Uruguay’s ‘Poor’ President is a unique leader” it was published on March 7, 2013.

Photo: Uruguay's

Something particularly unique is happening in South America. I only recently learned of Jose Mujica, a remarkable man who became president of Uruguay in 2009. (Credit: Embajada de los Estados Unidos en Uruguay via Flickr)

By David Suzuki

When bright young idealists share their environmental concerns with me, I encourage them to get involved in politics. That’s where decisions have to be made about the severe ecological problems we face.

Have you noticed, though, how often idealism gives way to a sense of entitlement to all the perks that come with political office? It’s amazing how being elected to serve the people is often turned on its head: we’re expected to support elected leaders without protest or question. And what happens to many who leave government? Lucrative board memberships and business deals.

Some politicians take a different road, though. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter stepped down after one term, was roundly ridiculed by popular media, yet continued to dedicate his life to promoting justice and eliminating poverty around the world. Nelson Mandela is another incredible role model who sets a high bar.

But something particularly unique is happening in South America. I only recently learned of Jose Mujica, a remarkable man who became president of Uruguay in 2009.

He’s a radical activist who, in the 1960s, joined the left-wing guerrilla group known as Tupamaros, formed by sugar-cane workers and students. The organization was crushed after a military coup in 1973. Mujica was shot six times and imprisoned for 14 years; he claims incarceration solidified his thinking. In 1985, constitutional democracy was restored to Uruguay and Mujica was released. He ran for office and was elected president in 2009.

And what a politician! He’s a vegetarian who lives in his wife’s ramshackle farmhouse where they work together in the fields growing flowers. He turned down the opportunity to move into the presidential palace in Montevideo, preferring to stay on the farm, which is linked to the capital city by a dirt road. Under Uruguay’s law, elected officials must declare their personal wealth. In 2010, Mujica’s was $1,800, the value of the 1987 Volkswagen beetle he drives. When he added a share of his wife’s assets — her house, land and tractor — it brought his declared family wealth to $215,000.

Mujica receives $12,000 a month as president but donates 90 per cent of it to the poor and small businesses. “I can live well with what I have,” he says. “I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more.”

He added, “This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself. I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

Mujica attended Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in June 2012, where he stated: “We’ve been talking all afternoon about sustainable development — to get the masses out of poverty. But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: What would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household as Germans? How much oxygen would we have left? Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet.”

Mujica says most world leaders have a “blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world.”

He’s hit a bit of a bump in popularity, dropping below 50 per cent for refusing to veto a bill legalizing abortion before 12 weeks (as all his predecessors did) and supporting a debate on legalization of marijuana use that would give the state a monopoly over its trade. Mujica points out: “Consumption of cannabis is not the most worrying thing; drug-dealing is the real problem.”

Mujica isn’t worried about the drop in popularity. It’s part of politics, and besides, he’s 77 and can’t run again in 2014. He’s a good role model with wise, enduring values, and an inspiration for people around the world.

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President Jose Mujica is definitely an extraordinary leader. When people attain power, too often their ego or personal goals take over the true and only values that we should all cherish. Jose Mujica has chosen to stay true to the things that really matter in life. David Suzuki gives a little history on the president but there is a nice article on the BBC News website.

Below is a video on President Mujico.

This is the recorded video of President Mujica giving a speech at the G+20 Summit last year.

Peace

What Would You Fight For?

Below is a piece by Aric Visser,(2013), called,”My Friend Daramane is Volunteering for the War.”

Image

This is a story about a man named Dramane – a story that has a beginning but no end – at least I don’t know how it is going to end…so let’s start at the beginning.

Dramane was my first friend that I made after my family arrived in Spain. In the second week of September the sun still screams at anyone who dares venture outside in Zaragoza, but the calendar calls all the kids to school anyway, so I took my daughter’s hand and walked her through the park and into the schoolyard of what would be her first real school.  I forced a big smile and said encouraging things, but my daughter just stared back at me with a look of “But dad, you never taught me any Spanish” on her face.  I gave her a hug, and took a big breath and swallowed hard as she walked in with her new classmates who would spend the next few months talking at her with no response.  When all the children were inside, the parents began filing out, chatting and catching up on news and gossip from the summer.  I just stood there for a moment and then started for the door, where I would see Dramane for the first time.  He wasn’t chatting and catching up.  He was just standing in the back and smiling, then darted out – satisfied grin in tow.

For a few days each morning was identical.  My daughter was brave and Dramane stood in the back and smiled after seeing his twin boys hop up the steps into the school. But then after about a week, Dramane came over, shook my hand and simply said “Hi.  I’m Dramane.”  I told him my name and stood there looking at his smile.  I don’t know that I had ever seen anyone smile that much.  As Americans, we often get made fun of for smiling all the time in public, which is fine, because it is absolutely true, but on that morning, and for mornings to come, Dramane made me look practically miserable in comparison.

For the next two weeks it was always the same, a firm hand shake, a “how are you” and an enormous smile.  We became friends, at least I considered him my friend, and I hoped he thought the same of me.  We told each other about our home towns – mine in the United States, his in Mali – and we talked about the school.  We shared our “immigrant experiences,” and I ridiculously imagined that we had so much in common.

One morning he took me for coffee and showed me his business – one of those storefronts where you can get on the internet, make copies, use a phone or send a moneygram to a loved one back home.  He ran the place with his brother.  That day he told me more about his family. He told me about his wife and how the paperwork to get her to Spain was impossible.  He told me that he had a two-year-old son, also in Mali. He told me about driving back and forth to bring his family things, describing a car trip that would make a coast-to-coast U.S. road trip look like a lap around the block.

I never went to his shop again, but we always shook hands and said hello without fail.  I found what I thought was a link between us, an immigrant experience that we shared, and knew that no one else in the schoolyard quite understood us.  We were different, and although eventually I started talking to the Spanish parents, Dramane never did.  He just stood in the back and smiled like he always did.

—–

Now the weather has turned colder and the schoolyard chats have been shorter.  Up until this week I hadn’t seen Dramane in a while and wondered where he had gone.  I no longer think that we share a common immigrant experience, and realize that it was a fantasy to think that we ever did, and never did that become more clear than when I saw Dramane last Friday and shook his hand for the first time in a while.

“Hey Dramane, how are you?”

“Aric, I’m good, How are you.”

“Good.  I’m good.  Hey what ever happened with your wife’s papers?”

“Oh, she is here now.  I don’t know, maybe you have seen her?”

“Wow! Great news. And your son?”

“We had to leave him in Mali.  His papers did not go through.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“It’s o.k.  I am leaving soon anyway.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to Mali.  I am volunteering to fight in the war.”

“You’re doing what?”

“I’m going to fight.  They are taking volunteers.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Aric, you need to understand, this is no way to live.  I can’t stay here, and I can’t just go back and live in the sand.  What am I going to do, live in a village in the middle of the desert?  I can’t do this anymore, so I will go home and fight.”

I didn’t know what to say.  I just stood there looking for words and Dramane just stood there smiling and shaking my hand.  He probably noticed that I didn’t know what to say, so he just said, “ I will be fine.  It’s no big deal.”

But of course it is a big deal, but all I could come up with at that moment was “good luck.  I really don’t want this to be the last time I see you.  Be careful.”

He assured me that he would, turned and walked away…

I walked home thinking about Dramane.  He was going to fight, and I didn’t even know what side he was on, hell, I didn’t even know what the sides were.  I went home and looked it up.  It’s complicated.  Why does it always have to be so complicated in West Africa?  It’s about religion, or not, because it is really about cultural differences from hundreds of years ago, or not.  It’s about al-Qaida.  It’s about money. It is about oil.  It is about colonialism.  It is about the French.  It is about poverty.  It always seems to be about poverty.  It’s about the Tuareg, a nomadic North African people who impossibly have a Volkswagen named after them.  Do we name cars after ethnic groups?  Is that actually something that we, as privileged westerners get to do? You can read for yourself what it is about here. It is about all of those things and none of those things, but whatever it is, it is enough to make Dramane want to fight, and perhaps kill other human beings.

There is no moral to this story without an end. Only that we live in a big world, where sometimes people leave to go fight, and when that happens, the lucky ones stay home. I don’t know what Dramane believes in, or if he will actually take up arms against his countrymen, but if he does, I hope that he is safe.  I will think of him when he is gone, and perhaps while he is away I will embrace my big fat American smile and start shaking some more hands.

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I wanted to start with this story, with the hope of humanizing the the situation in North Africa. Because to so many it is something that is so distant that we do not really feel a connection to the people who are living a very different reality. Right, for example if Mr. Visser never met Daramane, like the other parents in that school would he have put out his feelings in this piece?

Peace.

References:

Visser, Aric. “My Friend Daramane is Volunteering for the War.” Aricvisser.wordpress.wordpress, LLC. 21 Jan. 2013

What! You Mean All of that Money We Gave, is Just Sitting There?

Yes, about $2.6 billion US dollars. Only about half of the $5.3 billion dollars that was donated to the Haiti Relief effort so far has been allocated. It has been a little bit more than three years since the earthquake in January 12, 2010. Today if you went there, it would look like the earthquake was yesterday. The earthquake hit one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, so it is not to say that Haiti did not need some form of support but with all that money something must be happening.

Jonathan Katz, who wrote the book, “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left a Disaster,”reported from Haiti between 2007 to 2011. In his book he talks about many things surrounding the relief effort, especially how the donation money was spent. Below is a video going getting deeper in this topic.

You know, a lot of the money that’s spent in the wake of any natural disaster, but especially in a foreign aid context, kind of goes in circles.

Part two found here.

An aspect of the relief effort that I want to focus on, is the building of a sweatshop complex in Haiti, called Caracol Industrial Park. This is something that was decided by the UN Haiti Envoy as well as the Haitian government. A decision that many believe has no long-term benefit to the Haitian people. More on Haiti can be found here. Sweatshops are a way for foreign companies to go into an area and provide low-wage labor to the local population. The excuse that the companies give to make it look like they care about the well being of the local community is that they are providing jobs. Well, this is true the foreign companies do provide jobs. But are they jobs that the community can survive on? And how much is the company making in comparison? What happens when the sweatshop closes due to financial problems, or the depletion of resources, and or the burning of the factory? Hundreds of people all around the world die each year in sweatshop fires. So you have a chance to make your voices heard, make it clear that you do not want your money used to further suppress the Haitian people. Sign the petition here or here.

University has a Crucial Place in Society

Tomorrow night (January 7, 2013), Brooklyn College in New York will be hosting a forum that will focus on the Palestinian-led campaign to boycott and ultimately free itself from the grasp of Israel. This forum is very important because it allows for the discussion, sharing of information and possible solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Unfortunately, New York politicians all the way up from Congress to council members have condemned this forum. According to Democracy Now (2013), ” In response, a group of New York City council-members has raised the possibility of Brooklyn College losing taxpayer support.” This should not be a surprise since there is an enormous amount of support given to Israel from Individual in America as well as top politicians. I mean we cannot forget that Obama’s 2013 budget, shows 3.1 billion in U.S. military aide to Israel, which is an increase from 3.075 billion in 2011. At the same time thousands of people who three months ago, were affected by Hurricane Sandy, still live in shelters and temporary hotels. As well as, all over America public schools are being shut-down because of the excuse of, lack of funding. With the support of Brooklyn College’s president, Karen L, Gould, the forum is going to continue despite the threats; the show must go on. So any of you who can make it to Brooklyn College, go to the forum and show your support for Important and beneficial information. The event I believe is in Brooklyn not New York at 6:00pm to 9:00pm. The exact address is this:

2900 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 11210

Room: Student Center Building: Penthouse.

phone number: (718)751-9000.

This is a very important step/stand, right, because for those who listened to the talk called, “University as a Factory,”given by Max Haiven, which I linked to my previous post* you would see how crucial it is that we have universities that allow and encourage positive free ideas that engage our conscience. The university should be a positive place where we can develop, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. How else would we be prepared for the world ahead of us? The link to Max Haiven’s talk can be found here. Democracy Now covered the events in New York; the video is below.

I would like to now transition to the Palestine-Israel conflict which is the fuel that gave fire to the events at Brooklyn College and New York as a whole. The Palestine-Israel conflict is one that has several stories, so ultimately it depends on who you talk to. But one story that is backed by documented history starts in 1967 when Israel under the order of the American military, defeated the Nasser regime. To this day America and Britain support Radical Islam because it prevents the rise of Secular Nationalism; this is why Israel was asked to defeat Nasser. Move forward several years (1970) and again Israel was called upon to scare Syria from intervening in the massacre of Palestinians by U.S. backed Jordan. There are other events such as the Yo Kippur War in 1973 and the peace treaties that were presented to Israel from Egypt (1971) and Jordan (1972). Two important points must be highlighted in these peace processes, the first is that they did not include the Palestinians who were being killed in the area. The second point has to do with the two countries (Egypt and Jordan) not giving up their territory. So, this is the beginning of the Israeli settlers who expanded within the territory that is today called Israel. So those Palestinians who were being massacred , are the same Palestinians who were being pushed back before: Till the only thing left was present the Gaza Strip and The West Bank.  November 29, 2012, was a day of joy for Palestinians and other supporters because finally the Palestine state was recognized by the U.N. (not including Israel and the U.S.)

An important aspect of the Palestine-Israel conflict, that I like to look at is the mentality that surrounds some individuals in the Jewish culture. This mentality is connected to history that can go back to the biblical times (if you believe in religion). Nonetheless, one point in history that cannot be mistaken is the events of World War II (WWII). Basically what I am saying is that there is a significant population of Jews who believe that someone or some group of people is or are, trying to wipe them out of the the face of the planet: to this day. This can be noticed in the video below featuring Noam Chomsky (Cool Guy), interviewed on Channel 2 News in Israel. He is featured here because he was denied entry into Birzeit University.

Noam Chomsky.”Well you get a free trip.”

Noam Chomsky,”Let’s try to find one country that like all my views…..I do not plan on it but if I am asked!” “Israel is at a position of security, well beyond above that of many other states.” This is because America supports Israel.

I like how Noam Chomsky highlights the plights of the Native American People.

Noam Chomsky,”A person should take responsibility for what they are responsible for.”

Notice how the Interviewer, emphasizes the past and believes that there is some imminent threat against Israel.

I hope that the videos above got things moving in your mind but we can go further. The videos below will focus on what the people in Palestine and Israel go through everyday. The first video below focuses on  a documentary, “The Gatekeepers;” which is about the  six previous members of the once secret Israeli security agency force called, the Shin Bet , which hunts and or kills Palestinian militants but some of the time civilians are killed in the process. The whole broadcast can be found here. The second video will show what it is like to live as a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip or the West bank.

The director, Dror Moreh makes the argument that both sides are responsible for killing and causing harm to innocent civilians. Because, it is important to point out that the biggest problem that should be addressed is that children, women and whole families are being killed on both sides and it is not right.

It is inadequate to bring out facts, information, and not give people something to do, if the opportunity is there. So I want you to take action, Today, and it is very easy, just sign the petitions linked here and here. Not only that spread the word get other people involved because it takes all of us to make a change. We can look back in history/present times and see that our voices together are what keeps the,” change train,” going. Join majority of people who want to live a peaceful fulfilling life.

I have provided another video below that focuses on the corporations that support the Israeli Occupation of the Palestine state.This video (below), which features activist Dalit Baum (I saw her speak, at an University on the same issue) highlights corporations that are supporting the Israeli Occupation; boycott them!

Dalit Baum,”Israeli weapons companies, they start a subsidiary in the U.S, in order to win contracts with the Israeli army, … it is cheaper.”

Peace

*”The Spark that could Initiate the Transformation of the American Education System.”

References:

Haiven, Max. “University as Factory.” Against the Grain. KPFA. 10 Oct. 2012.

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