Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nicaragua: Blogs tell what media ignores about sexual diversity

Recently, the Strategic Group for Sexual Diversity Rights (GEDDS), a network of organisations that fight for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, transgender, transvestite and intersexual community (LGBTTTI), launched a study into the ways in which the country's major media outlets deal with issues of sexual diversity.
The study, which is available from Conexiones.com.ni , affirms that :
Hemos encontrado grandes características similares en el abordaje de la noticia en los dos periódicos de mayor circulación en el país (El Nuevo Diario y La Prensa) siendo estas:
  • El abordaje amarillista de la noticia cuando estas se refieren al tema de la homosexualidad de hombre y mujeres.
  • La falta de interés de confirmar los hechos relacionados con las noticias que tiene que ver ya sea con un gay, una lesbiana o un trans.
  • El lenguaje poco adecuado al formular los titulares de la noticia, siendo estos generalmente hirientes, despectivos, burlescos.
  • Constante homo, lesbo, Transfobia de los periodistas hacia las personas de la diversidad sexual.
  • La violación constante de los derechos humanos de las personas que se ven involucrados en hechos delictivos. Siempre son objetos de escarnio y vituperio.
We have found major similarities between the two widely-distributed newspapers in the country (El Nuevo Diario and La Prensa) with regard to how they tackle this type of news. These being:
  • The sensationalization of news that refers to the issue of homosexuality amongst men and women.
  • A lack of interest in confirming facts related to news that is related to, or is about, gay, lesbian or trans people.
  • Inappropriate language in news headlines, these being generally offensive, disrespectful, mocking.
  • Constant homo-/ Transphobia from journalists towards sexually diverse citizens.
  • Constant violation of the human rights of people involved in criminal offenses. They are always objects of ridicule and criticism.
However, in Nicaragua's case, blogs offer alternative spaces where the issue of sexual diversity rights can be discussed and expressed with different perspectives.
Image from Flickr user Aayesha Siddiqui, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonComercial-ShareAlike License 2.0 Generic. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Sometimes, the issue is discussed through personal anecdotes, as is the case with the blogger Waldir Ruiz. In a recent blog-post, also published at www.elnuevodiario.com.ni, he tells readers that:
Como era de esperarse, no me sorprendió que su madre fuera lesbiana; no, fue la historia de su familia. Me dijo que sus dos madres tenían 22 años viviendo juntas, que ella no llevaba el nombre de su madre biológica, si no, el de su otra madre. Me confesó lo duro que fue para ella cuando tomó conciencia del rechazo que la sociedad sentía ante este tipo de relaciones…
As it was to be expected, it did not surprise me that her mother was a lesbian. No, it was her family's story. She told me that her two mothers were 22 years old living together, she hadn't taken the name of her biological mother, but rather her other mother. She confessed that the hard part for her was when she realised the repulsion that society felt towards this type of relationships.
Ruiz later expresses:
En mi monólogo interior, durante la conversación, me decía a mi mismo: “¡Opa!, pensé que en Nicaragua no habían relaciones de unión libre (tipo matrimonio heterosexual) entre parejas homosexuales, menos, de generaciones de antaño y nunca imaginé ser, de algún modo, testigo… ¡Ni en mis sueños más locos!”.
In my head, during the conversation, I was saying to myself: “Wow! I thought that there weren't consensual unions in Nicaragua (like heterosexual marriages) between same-sex partners, not to mention of an older generation and I never imagined that I would, in a manner of speaking, witness one… Never in my wildest dreams!”
Blogger Maycols Lovo, motivated by a conversation that he saw on Twitter about a video which features two homosexuals, writes:
Sin ahondar mucho en los trabajos que desarrollan las ONG’s y Gobierno, que son positivos, es notable que aún entre las generaciones de este siglo hay personas que se burlan de situaciones que enmarcan asuntos de género y sexualidad.
Without getting too bogged down with the work of NGOs and the government, which are positive, it is still noticable that among this century's generations, there are people that mock situations that encompass the subjects of gender and sexuality.
Later he offers his opinion about the Twitter discussion:
En cuanto a si soy merecedor de burla, admiración o ninguna de las anteriores, prefiero que lo hagan midiendo mi inteligencia y no mi opción sexual.
Regarding whether or not I am deserving of ridicule, admiration or either, I would prefer that it be based on my intelligence, and not my sexual orientation.
Other bloggers use avenues like video-blogs for telling their personal stories to offer information and advice. Mario S. Vásquez is one example. He has shared this video:
More examples of blogs as alternatives to the mainstream media agenda regarding sexual diversity can be found at  ”Nicaragua: Sexual Diversity in the National Blogosphere“ [en], a post for Global Voices by Rodrigo Peñalba.
A registry of Nicaraguan blogs can also be visited at Festival de Blogs de Nicaragua (Nicaragua Blog Carnival), which was held for the first time in September 2011 with the support of Global Voices.
Written by Carlos Fonseca · Global Voices

Spain: “Act, take to the streets, do not consume [es].”

Act, take to the streets, do not consume [es].”  With this slogan, the Assembly of the Neighborhood Los Austrias in Madrid convened the 29M General Strike (on March 29) in Spain, which had a massive attendance across the country.  This direct call to action [es] is contrasted with the labor unions' more impersonal slogans - “They want to change everything” - and is an example of the rift that opens in every social movement between the official conveners and those who demonstrate without a flag of any sort.
In this sense, the 15M movement has been a turning point in terms of supporting the calls of a part of civil society, organized in collectives, neighborhood assemblies, and local or individually-led associations.  In this general strike, the citizen movement has taken different forms in the streets, neighborhoods, social organizations, and digital social networks.
One of the initiatives has been the “consumption strike.”  Many took to the streets with their own food and drinks from home:
Hulega general España
Popular Lunch in favor of the workers' strike in Campo de la Cebada de Madrid. Photo by author Lidia Ucher.
- 14h: Comida Popular – traerse el tupper para compartir (recuerda #HuelgadeCONSUMO, cocina el día anterior)
- 2pm:  Popular Lunch [es] — bring Tupperware to share with everyone (remember #CONSUMPTIONstrike, cook the day before)
The intention was to support the strike and take to the streets without paying to consume food for 24 hours. This is how Kaos en la Red summarize the motives:
En principio, la idea es sencilla: una huelga de consumo consiste en dejar de consumir bienes y servicios durante el día fijado para la huelga. Realizar una huelga de consumo respondería a dos de las limitaciones de una huelga general: por una parte, incluye a toda aquella persona que no puede realizar huelga “laboral” - en realidad, se supone que sólo pueden realizarla trabajadores por cuenta ajena, y de estos ni tan siquiera todos-; por otra, dejar de consumir bienes pero sobre todo servicios contribuiría de alguna manera a no forzar a alguien a trabajar - y así, de paso, contribuir a deslegitimar la práctica de fijar servicios mínimos abusivos para minimizar la repercusión de la huelga.-
Initially, the idea was simple:  a consumption strike consists of stopping consumption of goods and services during a specific day.  Carrying out a consumption strike would respond to two limitations of a general strike:  on one hand, it includes all those who cannot participate in a “labor” strike” — supposedly workers can only carry it out on behalf of someone else in reality, and among them, only a few - and on the other, not consuming goods, and above all services, contributes in some way to not force someone to work, therefore discrediting the practice of fixing abusive minimum services to minimize the strike's impact.-
One of the suggestions to support the consumption strike was to “disconnect oneself,” to affect the statistics of home electric consumption at the moment the strike's impact was measured.
Another one of 29M's proposals from the neighborhood assemblies was the “care and gender strike” [es]:
…la propuesta es ponernos nuestro mejor delantal, guantes y utensilios varios con un cartel “Huelga de Cuidados” ¿Y dónde hacemos el piquete? Pues en los hogares. Vamos a contarle a las señoras que no lo sepan lo que es una huelga de cuidados y porqué es necesaria. Nos apoyaremos en el díptico que adjuntamos  Díptico: Comando de cuidados para la huelga (Es importante imprimir a doble cara para cortar por la mitad, haced las copias que podáis!!!).
…the proposal is to put on our best aprons, gloves, and various utensils with a sign that says “Care Strike.”  And where we will have the picket line?  Well, in our homes.  We're going to tell women who do not know what a care strike is and why it is necessary.  We will show our support in the diptych that we attach Diptych:  Care Commando for the Strike [es] (It is important to print it double-sided in order to cut it in half, and make as many copies as you can!!!).
From the collectives and neighborhood assemblies, 29M has become a new important date for the movements' agenda, in which hundreds of people have thrown themselves to organize, call, and mobilize thousands more.  And it is not revolving around large productions nor labor union meetings, but rather simple ideas that can motivate many more people to take to the streets and take part in demonstrations, in another way, or perhaps the same way as always [es]:
Huelga general España.
29M in Madrid. Photo by author Lidia Uche
14:00 en el Campo de la Cebada Austrias: Comida Popular a favor de la Huelga de trabajo, consumo y cuidados. . Haremos un gran puchero.
Huelga general España
29M in Madrid. Photo by author Lidia Ucher.
On social networks, the following hashtags have been created to make innovations in alternative and creative slogans surrounding the strike [es]:  #Take29M, #29M, #29BadStreet, #TaketheSTRIKE, #Iamstriking,#onstrike… and #SignsStrike
On their part, some social organizations have supported the general strike like State Coordinator of Spain-NGO's, the 2015andmore Platform, and the Spanish Alliance Against Poverty [es]:
…Y además el Gobierno asesta un duro golpe a nuestro modelo social, a los pilares del Estado de bienestar: la sanidad, la educación y las políticas sociales; eliminando o devaluando importantes derechos civiles como el derecho de las mujeres a la interrupción del embarazo, el matrimonio homosexual o los derechos de inmigración. De no evitar esta reducción de derechos, presentadas de forma falaz como reformas, asistiremos a una quiebra de nuestro modelo de convivencia, y a la confirmación de un programa de acción política sometido a la exigencia de los mercados financieros.
…Furthermore the government dealt a harsh blow to our social model, the pillars of the welfare state: healthcare, education, and social policies, eliminating or devaluing important civil rights like the right of women to terminate a pregnancy, homosexual marriage, or immigration rights.  If we do not denounce this reduction of rights, presented falsely as reforms, we will see a breakdown in our model of coexistence, and the confirmation of a political action program submitted to the demands of the financial markets.

Written by Lidia Ucher ·Global Voices

Kuwait: Call to Kill the “Infidel” Kuwaiti Twitter User

A Kuwaiti Twitter user has been detained, pending investigation, over a tweet in which he allegedly insulted Prophet Mohammed. The issue is taking a sectarian twist in Kuwait as the Twitter user Hamad Al-Naqi denies the charges, claiming that his account was hacked, while others charge that it is a Shiite attack on Sunni Islam. Meanwhile, a protest was held calling for the Twitter user to be killed for his alleged blasphemy.

Read more on Global Voices »

China: Arrests 6 on Coup Rumors

China arrested six people over the weekend and shut down at least 16 websites in a sweeping crackdown on Internet speech, especially on microblogs and social networking sites. The campaign was announced late Friday, and clamps down on rumors that former top government official Bo Xilai was dismissed in March because of a coup. The government said it was "cleaning up" the "harmful messages" about "military vehicles entering Beijing," as even comments sections were combed and shuttered.

Spain: Austerity Until the Pips Squeak

Spain's New Budget: 'As Austere As It Gets'

Budget is most austere in Spain's democratic history

- Common Dreams staff
Spain has unveiled its most austere budget in democratic history today in the wake of massive protests.
The government's budget calls for cuts of 27 billion euros ($35 billion). It cuts central government spending by almost 17% and freezes civil servant wages while requiring them to work an additional 10 hours per month. Another cut hitting households is an 7%-increase in domestic electric prices and 5%-increase on gas.Protesters in Madrid during yesterday's general strike (photo: Jesús Pérez Pacheco)
The austerity has been greatly resisted by the population. Yesterday Spaniards flooded the streets in a general strike to oppose the government's austerity push and labor reforms, which many believe would exacerbate the unemployment levels already the highest in the EU at 23.3%. Spaniards under 25 face an unemployment rate of 49.9%
* * *
El País: Government announces biggest spending cuts of the democratic era
The Cabinet on Friday approved 27 billion euros of savings for the rest of the year, the biggest spending adjustment seen in Spain’s modern democracy.
Speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet, Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro described the country’s finances as “critical,” and reiterated that the government’s goal is to bring down the deficit by the end of the year from the current 8.51 percent of GDP to 5.3 percent, in line with Brussels’ demands. [...]
The government plans drastic spending cuts in all the ministries with an average reduction of 16.9 percent of spending – two percentage points higher than the figure Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced on Tuesday. The biggest cuts will be made in overseas aid through international cooperation and development programs, with 594 million euros of cuts.
* * *
The Daily Mail: 'As austere as it gets': Spain announces deep cuts to government budget a day after violence erupts on streets during strike
The government, which swept to power in November with the largest Parliamentary majority in 30 years, has already passed labour market and banking sector reforms to improve competitiveness and reduce wage costs.
Brussels has agreed to let Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy aim for a 2012 deficit equal to 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product, a less demanding goal than the original 4.4 per cent but a substantial improvement on last year's 8.5 per cent. [...]
'This is as austere as it gets. It's a tightening of fiscal policy until the pips squeak. There can be no doubting the government's willingness to curb Spain's excessive budget deficits,' said Nicholas Spiro at Spiro Sovereign Strategy.

How stupid can we be?

How stupid can we be? Do not forget totally corrupt. Anyone seen what the use of depleated uranium has done to over 1 billion people? Fukushima has at least 2 China Syndroms, total meltdowns through the containment into the groundwater. That is what we need as a species is radiation death, either fast or slow, what is the difference. We will be dead or biologically destroyed through our DNA. This is that Hopey-feely stuff. Obama is really a right of center corporatist. He is not for the public at large. I am a lifelong democrat and am sick about what this party has become. It is bought and sold cheaply. If you are a billionaire this is minor money to control the politicians especially when they spit the bill, just like at dinner. You can buy the votes of politicians for less than a real nice dinner with great wine. It is dramatically cheaper than the gas for your private jet, much less the pilots and landing and take off fees. Just think about it from their perspective. If these people will let me control the agenda for a pittance, why not?

since private investors simply don't want to touch nuclear:


"They've asked the federal government for loan guarantees to support the project, and they have not revealed the terms of that loan guarantee … it's socializing the risk and privatizing the profits."
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service, noting the ongoing Republican attack on President Obama's loan guarantee to the failed solar power company Solyndra, said:
"The potential for taxpayer losses that would dwarf the Solyndra debacle is extraordinarily high … this loan would be 15 times larger than the Solyndra loan, and is probably 50 times riskier."
As long as our politicians dance to the tune of their donors, the threat of nuclear disaster will never be far off.

Japan: SC: NRC approves COLs for SCE&G, Santee Cooper Nuclear Units

POWERGRID International
About 1,000 workers are currently engaged in early-site preparation work at the V.C. Summer construction site. The project will peak at about 3,000 construction craft workers over the course of three to four years. The two units, each with a capacity of 1,117 MW, will then add 600 to 800 permanent jobs when they start generating electricity. The two AP1000 nuclear reactors will be fabricated by Westinghouse.
V.C. Summer Station is about 20 miles northwest of Columbia, S.C., and includes the now-decommissioned Carolinas-Virginia Tube Reactor unit. The plant comprises one 1,000 MW Westinghouse 3-loop pressurized water reactor currently licensed to run through 2042.

Ambulance Chaser Messes With Nukes

Amy Goodman: Big Nuclear's Cozy Relationship with the Obama Administration
Super Tuesday demonstrated the rancor rife in Republican ranks, as the four remaining major candidates slug it out to see how far to the right of President Barack Obama they can go. While attacking him daily for the high cost of gasoline, both sides are traveling down the same perilous road in their support of nuclear power.
This is mind-boggling, on the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with the chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission warning that lessons from Fukushima have not been implemented in this country. Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: they're going to force nuclear power on the public, despite the astronomically high risks, both financial and environmental.
One year ago, on 11 March 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, causing more than 15,000 deaths, with 3,000 more missing and thousands of injuries. Japan is still reeling from the devastation – environmentally, economically, socially and politically. Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister at the time, said last July;
"We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power."
He resigned in August after shutting down production at several power plants. He said that another catastrophe could force the mass evacuation of Tokyo, and even threaten "Japan's very existence". Only two of the 54 Japanese power plants that were online at the time of the Fukushima disaster are currently producing power. Kan's successor, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, supports nuclear power, but faces growing public opposition to it.
This stands in stark contrast to the United States. Just about a year before Fukushima, President Obama announced $8bn in loan guarantees to the Southern Company, the largest energy producer in the southeastern US, for the construction of two new nuclear power plants in Waynesboro, Georgia, at the Vogtle power plant, on the South Carolina border.
Since the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and then the catastrophe at Chernobyl in 1986, there have been no new nuclear power plants built in the US. The 104 existing nuclear plants are all increasing in age, many nearing their originally slated life expectancy of 40 years.
While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised that nuclear power would remain part of the US's "energy mix". His chief adviser, David Axelrod, had consulted in the past for Illinois energy company ComEd, a subsidiary of Exelon, a major nuclear-energy producer. Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel played a key role in the formation of Exelon. In the past four years, Exelon employees have contributed more than $244,000 to the Obama campaign – and that is not counting any soft-money contributions to PACs, or direct, corporate contributions to the new Super Pacs. Lamented by many for breaking key campaign promises (like closing Guantánamo, or accepting Super Pac money), President Obama is fulfilling his promise to push nuclear power.
That is why several groups sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month. The NRC granted approval to the Southern Company to build the new reactors at the Vogtle plant despite a no vote from the NRC chair, Gregory Jaczko. He objected to the licenses over the absence of guarantees to implement recommendations made following the Japanese disaster. Jaczko said, "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened."
Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the NRC, explained how advocates for nuclear power "distort market forces", since private investors simply don't want to touch nuclear:
"They've asked the federal government for loan guarantees to support the project, and they have not revealed the terms of that loan guarantee … it's socializing the risk and privatizing the profits."
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service, noting the ongoing Republican attack on President Obama's loan guarantee to the failed solar power company Solyndra, said:
"The potential for taxpayer losses that would dwarf the Solyndra debacle is extraordinarily high … this loan would be 15 times larger than the Solyndra loan, and is probably 50 times riskier."
As long as our politicians dance to the tune of their donors, the threat of nuclear disaster will never be far off.
* * *
Nuclear Expert Cites New Concer

Japan: Nuke Reg Commission OKs New Nuclear Plants in South Carolina

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: NRC Concludes Hearing on Summer New Reactors, Combined Licenses to Be Issued (pdf)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded its mandatory hearing on the South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Summer site in South Carolina. In a 4-1 vote the Commission found the NRC staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors (NRO) to issue the COLs.
* * *
The Hill: Regulators approve construction of nuclear reactors in South Carolina
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted 4-1 to approve a license allowing construction and conditional operation of two new reactors at Scana Corp.’s Virgil C. Summer nuclear power plant in Fairfield County, S.C. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was the lone vote against approving the license. [...]
Friday’s decision is a major victory for the nuclear power industry, which has struggled for years to receive the necessary regulatory approvals to build new reactors.
In his dissent, Jaczko reiterated his long-standing call for the commission to include in the license a requirement that the plant operator – in this case Scana subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas – comply with all post-Fukushima safety standards. [...]
“I fully support the decision by my colleagues to include this license condition and I consider this important progress in incorporating the lessons from Fukushima,” he wrote in his dissent. “However, I continue to believe that we should require that all Fukushima-related safety enhancements are implemented before these new reactors begin operating.”
Jaczko was also the lone dissenting voice in February when the commission approved the Vogtle license. At the time, he raised similar concerns about incorporating the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster into the license.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Japan: As Fukushima Worsens, US Approves New Nukes

- Common Dreams staff
Despite reports this week that the Fukushima nuclear situation may be even worse than previously thought, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given approval today for two combined licenses for two nuclear reactors in South Carolina, only the second time in the last three decades that new nuclear plants have been approved in the nation.
The Vogtle nuclear power plant, which was given the first license since the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in 1979 South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., a unit of SCANA Corp., and Santee Cooper, South Carolina's state-owned electric and water utility, will begin construction on the reactors in Fairfield County, S.C. at the Summer nuclear power site.
The NRC's decision to approve the license passed by a 4-1 vote, with the lone dissent vote coming from NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko due to safety measures raised by the Fukushima disaster. Jaczko wrote in his dissent, "I continue to believe that we should require that all Fukushima-related safety enhancements are implemented before these new reactors begin operating.”
The nuclear reactors will use Westinghouse's AP1000 design. But in November nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen warned of several unreviewed safety concerns with this design and said that Westinghouse’s assumption of zero probability of reactor and/or spent fuel cooling failure “is a blatant manipulation of a safety code designed to protect public health and safety.”
In February the NRC also voted to extend licenses to build two nuclear reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia.
Earlier this month, Amy Goodman noted that "Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: they're going to force nuclear power on the public, despite the astronomically high risks, both financial and environmental."
* * *

Keynesian Economics vs. Austrian Economics: Bernanke Looks Bad

Cyber claim: China has infiltrated every U.S. company


Cyber claim: China has infiltrated every U.S. company
The April issue of Smithsonian Magazine focuses on Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism czar who says every U.S. company has been penetrated by China through cyberspace and remains vulnerable to attack, and that the United States made and launched the infamous Stuxnet worm. Read & Comment

Keith Olbermann Fired by Current TV

Current TV said Friday afternoon that it had terminated the contract of its lead anchor Keith Olbermann, scarcely one year after he was hired to reboot the channel in his progressive political image.

In a letter to viewers, the channel said Friday, “We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before. Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.”

'Terminal Performance' Ammo: Homeland Security Orders Huge Amounts

The Department of Homeland Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement office is getting an "indefinite delivery" of an "indefinite quantity" of .40 caliber bullets from defense contractor ATK.

U.S. agents will receive a maximum of 450 million rounds over five years, according to a press release on the deal.

The high performance HST bullets are designed for law enforcement and ATK says they offer "optimum penetration for terminal performance."

Macedonia: Opening of Triumphal Arch - 20-year Indeperndence


The leaders of two former socialist countries have chosen the same architectural devices - triumphal arches - to mark the two decades of their states' divorce from the larger unions. Kazakhstan celebrated 20 years of independence from the USSR, and Macedonia - from the SFRY.
On December 16, 2011, while the government security forces were breaking down the Zhanaozen strike by shooting the protesting miners, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev opened the Triumphal Arch “Mangilik El” (“Eternal Earth”) in Astana, as part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence. As stated on the YouTube channel of Prime Minister Karim Massimov:
The Triumphal Arch that was constructed on the initiative of the President became another symbol of Kazakhstan's independence.
On January 6, 2012, the Prime Minister of Macedonia Nikola Gruevski opened the “Porta Macedonia” in Skopje (”porta”=”gate” in Latin and Macedonian). This triumphal arch was scheduled for unveiling on September 8, 2011, the actual 20th anniversary of Macedonia's independence, but construction delays had affected the timing. Nevertheless, the unfinished arch was used in the grandiose celebration (1, 2, 3, 4), which was then repeatedly shown on state TV, and at the welcoming ceremony for the national basketball team returning from the European Basketball Championship.
Porta Makedonija. Photo by Darko Nikolovski, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Porta Makedonija. Photo by Darko Nikolovski, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
During his 30-minute speech [mk], the Macedonian PM gave a much-commented-on statement [mk] that he personally had been the instigator and the chief backer of the Skopje 2014 project, which would leave an unavoidable mark in history.
He first thanked [mk] all the opponents of this “good, high-quality, useful project which has no downsides” - the opposition, those who disagree with him, the NGO sector:
…who with great passion and devotion strive to blacken this project, hoping that this would also negatively reflect on me and my collaborators, the current administration. This is a way for the artists to gain greater glory and escape anonymity after their deaths…
I do not say this cynically or ironically, if someone understands me that way. The greater the interest about a piece, in the sense of more critique and humiliation, in fact increases the motivation and the concentration of quality of that work…
Nikola Gelevski, an independent publisher and founder of the critical-thinking portal Okno, commented [mk] that the “discrete admission that he is the author of the most charlatan project in the history of Macedonia (according to me) was the only positive thing in the typically boring (and extremely) demagogic speech” by the PM.
Analyzing the speech, Gelevski noted:
  • “The one who abuses art and architecture for political goals, blames others for politicization!”
  • “Did we elect Gruevski to run the Government as a politician, or as an artist, a [demiurge], a prophet, and a messiah?!”
  • “One day–which will will come relatively soon–everybody will see that ‘Skopje 2014′ is but a great robbery of people's money.”
  • “All older monuments in the country are devastated in most humiliating ways, while whole squads of guards from private security agencies hired with public money “defend” the new monuments by Gruevski's regime.”
The triumphal arch was the most controversial element of the Skopje 2014 project. Many of its critics noted that it was superfluous and obsolete. The arch in Astana stands 20 meters tall, symbolizing the 20 years of independence. The Skopje arch is 21 meters tall, and no explanation has been provided in this regard.
The price of the Kazakh arch was not publicly disclosed in the news reports, while the Macedonian counterpart cost EUR 4.4 million. The everyday uses of the structure include selling souvenirs and providing space for weddings (or shooting ‘fancy' wedding photographs) on the observation platform.
Blogger Sead93 noted [mk]:
A few days ago the “Porta Macedonia” was officially opened in Skopje. After hundreds of reruns of the broadcast, this is not exactly news, but there's still something to add:
With all due respect to the one who named it Porta Macedonia, but this time I think they should have listened to the people, who use the name “The Triumphal Arch,” which is no accident. This is not just about the plain visual similarity with some-other-arches-from-some-other-countries and cities, but about the need to articulate triumphalism present in our daily lives. The nation needs an imprint, a space for canonizing or standardizing this triumphalism.
Namely, besides serving as an arch for triumphal marches of athletes, artists, scientists, laureates and other worthy citizens, the arch would be ideal for triumphal marching of our [Gastarbeiter] returning to visit the homeland. They could use it to parade their fancy cars (regardless of whether they own them or are just renting them to show off during vacation) and all their glitter. Imagine the view, and the astonishment, the sighs, the inspiration you would get from the successful emigrants. The prospective brides could easily eye a groom, and vice versa. This could be our Fashion Channel runway… Practical and profitable for all…
The linguistic assertion was proved by Zoriv, in his post [mk] praising the arch:
…the name does not correspond to the architectural work, but that is least important. The important thing is that the city of Skopje has acquired a structure that provides it with a new face and symbolism as the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. Debates about its aesthetics will rage among the architects… As a citizen of Skopje… I feel joy while looking at it, with a remark and question, was the middle of economic crisis the right time to build this - time will tell.
Responding to the implications stemming from the connection between Kazakhstan and Macedonia, Zoriv listed a number of other arches around the world, trying to show that building such monuments is quite normal: the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Siegestor in Munich, the Wellington Arch in London, Narva in St. Petersburg, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. He did not omit the tallest of them all, too - the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang.
On Facebook, members of the ruling party tried to prove that raising triumphal arches was not an anachronistic practice related to despotic regimes with imperial ambitions, by sharing a photo of the Millennium Gate arch built in 2008 in the democratic USA, disregarding the fact that that “kitschy McMonument that bespeaks a cultural inferiority complex for all the world to see” (comment by an architecture forum user quoted by the LA Times) was funded through private donations, not with public money.
Even when questions of possible corruption and kickbacks by the developers are not taken into account, the issue of whether the money invested in Skopje 2014, and especially the arch, is well spent keeps popping up as the majority of the Macedonian population sinks deeper into poverty, and there's less money in the state budget for basic infrastructure services.
For instance, Twitter user Banekoma posted this collage of contrasting photos of the arch and the state of the main children's hospital, part of the main clinic, part of the dilapidated public health system.
Written by Filip Stojanovski  Global Voices

Russia: ЭКСКЛЮЗИВ! Путинг 23 февраля. Кения за Путина


A month ago, the video of a group of Kenyan men who allegedly participated in the pro-Putin rally at Luzhniki on Feb. 23 received much attention [ru] on the RuNet.
For opposition-minded netizens, the presence of the young Kenyans at the pro-Putin rally confirmed yet again that much of the support for the Russian PM was not genuine. It also provided them with something of a comic relief: “International conspiracy” was part of the title of activist Igor Drandin's video post [ru]; “Putin is a politician of intergalactic scale, even Kenya supports him,” wrote [ru] LJ user cuduyc in a comment to Drandin's post; “the representatives of international Putinism are very impressive,” wrote LJ user pier_luigi, commenting on LJ user panzicov's photo post [ru].
The state-controlled NTV channel included [ru; approx. 5:20-5:45] the footage of the Kenyans in its controversial film about the recent opposition protests, implying that their appearance at the pro-Putin rally had been arranged by the opposition to discredit the regime.
Despite all this publicity, the Kenyan men have remained anonymous, just like most other, less conspicuous participants of the various rallies that took place in the past few months. In a comment to Drandin's post, LJ user bereg_solnca expressed the general assumption as to their possible identity:
Poor African students working hard for 750 rubles [$25]?
However, one blogger - Alan Butaev (LJ user butanti), a circus clown performing with the Butanti Comic Company - recognized the Kenyan men in the Feb. 23 video as the acrobats who were brought to Moscow from Kenya in 2011 by the Russian circus authorities, to hone their skills and have them later perform here. Because of the sorry financial state of the Russian circus and the hardships that local Russian circus artists are facing, this was not seen as a welcome initiative [ru] by some in the Russian circus community. LJ user butanti wrote [ru] on Feb. 24:
Exactly a year ago, I wrote [a post, ru] on how the leadership of the RosGosTsirk company (the Russian State Circus) had bought a number of Africans so that they, with their [extra-hard work and superhuman endurance], brought the Russian circus from the state of crisis […] at last.
Of course, replacing Russian artists for Africans is a brave innovation, modernization and reform, no doubt about it.
Needless to say, that [RosGosTsirk couldn't care less] about its own unemployed compatriots.
[…]
It hasn't even been a year since that blissful period when RosGosTsirk brought the Kenyans to Russia to teach them the circus craft, and today the enthusiastic bunch of these dashing African guys is out at the Feb. 23 rally in support of that one candidate for the post of the President of Russia. […]
In a comment to his own post, Butaev wrote [ru]:
I think it's a totally idiotic initiative to gather the Kenyans for the rally that they have nothing to do with whatsoever.
It doesn't matter who and for which purpose had gathered the Kenyans: the authorities or the opposition. Either way, it's disgusting.
In the past, students of the circus college used to earn extra cash by acting in movies, taking part in various concerts and performances.
Now, alas… they are earning money by dragging around banners and posters at rallies and marches.
The Kenyan acrobats performing at the Moscow Circus on March 23, 2012. Photo by Veronica Khokhlova
Andrei Provotorov re-posted Butaev's text [ru] on his blog at the Radio Echo of Moscow site. User tereza2011 left this comment on Feb. 26:
Turns out that not only “our mental asylum is voting for Putin” - but also the Kenyan one. Though it is obvious that they wouldn't have managed to make the posters by themselves - [their Russian isn't that good].
At the RusCircus.ru forum, user Yahia wrote […]:
The story of the Kenyans turned out to be very funny. They should have given this money [paid to the Kenyan acrobats] to those [Russian circus artists] who are unemployed, should have sent them on vacation to Kenya… They've got the most delicious coffee there.
This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.
Written by Veronica Khokhlova  Global Voicers

Georgia: made a significant step forward towards outlawing discrimination

Georgia parliament approved anti-discriminatory amendment. Any crime motivated by sexual orientation - "aggravating circumstance"

Georgia made a significant step forward towards outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Georgian parliament adopted in its final reading anti-discriminatory amendment that will consider any crime motivated by sexual orientation an "aggravating circumstance".

We need similar provisions for Armenia too. I wonder if the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) made similar recommendations for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey? If they have not made yet, well, they should. A comprehensive anti-discrimination provisions covering, along with criminal code, health care, employment, provision of services, education and so on, should be a MUST in a way of furthering integration with the EU.

For now, I may only re-instate what I mentioned in my previous related post: As of now, Georgia is clearly the most advanced country in the South Caucasus in terms of legislative provisions on LGBT issues. [Read more: Georgian Legislation on LGBT Issues - “Regional Network Against Homophobia” book chapter]

*Civil.ge reports

Parliament approved on March 27 with its third and final reading an amendment to the criminal code making the racial, religious, sexual orientation or other bias motives of an offender an aggravating circumstance to be taken into account by the courts.

Aggravating circumstances, according to amendment, will apply to any offense motivated by “race, colour, language, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, political and other views, disability, citizenship, national origin, ethnicity, social identity, origin, property and other status, place of residence or other discriminatory grounds and intolerance.”

The amendments was made in response to recommendations from the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), a human rights body of the Council of Europe, which has been calling on Georgia to enact legislation providing for racist motivation to constitute a general aggravating circumstance applicable to all types of offenses.

The initial proposal was prepared at the Civic Integration and Tolerance Council at the President of Georgia, followed by broad discussions with civil society groups and stakeholders, including in the regions in cooperation with the Public Defender’s Council of National Minorities in frames of USAID project.

In the process of further discussions in the Parliament, upon the recommendations of civil society groups the draft was amended to include not only ethnic, racial or religious factors in the list of discriminatory grounds but also sexual orientation.

Armenia: Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

Writing on Ararat Magazine, Global Voices' Caucasus Regional Editor interviews analyst Richard Giragosian and examines the political situation in Armenia ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 6 May 2012. Following the disputed 2008 presidential election which left 10 people dead, Giragosian argues that the authorities must learn to govern and not rule the country, warning that failure to do so will lead to an ‘explosive situation.'

Argentina: Asks #freethebooks

The coming into force of a resolution that restricts the importation of books has caused a new controversy. Here we bring together reactions that Argentinians have been sharing in recent days on their blogs and on Twitter with the hashtag #liberenloslibros (#freethebooks).

Read more on Global Voices »

Israel: Large security forces along border with Lebanon

By BEN HARTMAN, JPOST.COM STAFF
LAST UPDATED: 03/30/2012 10:06


Large numbers of police and border police forces were deployed in and around Moshav Avivim near the Lebanon border Friday morning ahead of expected protests for Land Day.

On the northern side of the border, the Lebanese Armed Forces and police were also out in force along the border and at the Beaufort castle, where some 4,000 protesters are expected later in the day, Lebanese daily an-Nahar reported. UNIFIL was also said to be conducting patrols and monitoring activity along the northern side of the border.

Last year, ten people were killed by Israeli and Lebanese forces on the northern side of the border during Nakba Day protests that attempted to march on the border.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Greece: 501 Arrested in Athens Crackdown

Police in the Greek capital said they have detained 501 people in an operation they say will be repeated "on a daily basis" to combat illicit trade, illegal immigration, drug dealing and other criminal activities.The majority of those detained were foreign nationals in a sweep of central Athens.In addition, 21 people were arrested, nine of them...
Belfast Telegraph

Greece: 500 Arrested in Athens Crackdown


The Real War vs Women is Muslim Female Genital Mutilation

by Lisa Richards, Wordpress

A month-ago, an unknown hack  law student named Sandra Fluke took up valuable Congressional time, falsely declaring non-government funded contraception a “war on women.” When feminist frat brats want sex paid for by the taxpayers, and taxpayers say no, it’s suddenly a war against women’s bodies.
Forget the false contraception distraction created by  leftist pimps pushing Obamacare, or the fact American girls have sexual freedom; there is a real war being waged against women the left refuses to discuss: Islamic Female Genital Mutilation.
According to UNICEF, Islamic tribal customs demand millions of Islamic women have their genitals cut off—preferably during childhood:
“It is estimated that more than 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM/C, primarily in Africa and, to a lesser extent, in some countries in the Middle East…The procedure is generally carried out on girls between the ages of 4 and 14; it is also done to infants, women who are about to be married and, sometimes, to women who are pregnant with their first child or who have just given birth. It is often performed by traditional practitioners, including midwives and barbers, without anesthesia, using scissors, razor blades or broken glass.”
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves removing the woman’s clitoris and labia minora. Often, removal of external genitals occurs. Then the woman is stitched up like a Thanksgiving Turkey, leaving a tiny opening for urination and menstruation. The reason for the barbaric custom is the female genitalia are considered filthy. Islamic women must be “clean” virgins when having sex for the first time with a husband. Also, genital removal also ensures that Muslim women never experience sexual gratification. Something only Islamic men are allowed.
Sandra Fluke should take this vile battle to Congress, demanding it be declared the war on women the next time she has a complaint about phony contraception wars waged against her body.

UNICEF further notes: Muslim women endure “excruciating pain [from lack of anesthesia], shock, urine retention, ulceration of the genitals and injury to adjacent tissue,” as well as blood poisoning and hemorrhaging to death after child birth.
Although human rights organizations are fighting back and some Muslim clerics are saying no to the vile practice, FGM continues.
In the meantime, American feminists endure the hardship of purchasing contraception.
The World Health Organization warns that this real war against women is no longer isolated to African and Middle Eastern Muslim nations. It has spread to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Dr. Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch.org notes that “There are now over 1,500 cases in Geneva and nearly 10,000 in Switzerland, with hundreds of thousands in European Union countries,” that are not being stopped due to “cultural relativism” that demands the world tolerate Islam’s violent culture.
Unlike Sandra Fluke, who was given a televised platform to address Congress and America, human rights advocates have been shouted down and silenced during UN Council talks when trying to expose Female Genital Mutilation to the world. The real war waged against women’s bodies must be kept silent while everyone is told to accept Islam’s brutal customs for religious tolerance.
Not only is silencing FGM talks a problem, ignorance plays a key factor: U.S. State Department officials wrongly claim “no religion demands the [FGM] procedure…”  False. Islam and most of its clerics demand the mutilation of female genitalia, as do most Islamic tribal customs.  And Sharia Law has not prevented or outlawed FGM. Furthermore, it shouldn’t matter to anyone what Islamic laws say or don’t say, what truly matters is the fact that millions of Islamic women around the world have their bodies brutally carved for an Islamic ceremonial practice considered honorable.
As to the right and wrong and whether or not FGM is considered just under Islamic law, Islamic government officials contradict themselves and Islam’s true culture when publicly asked about FGM. One Dubai government official told a local female news reporter that many Muslim clerics consider female circumcision “a noble sign that dignifies a woman,” and, as long as the parents cut off their daughter’s genitals according to Islam’s religious principles, “there’s nothing wrong with that.” Then, in an about face, this dignified noble government official claimed it is equally fine with Islamic laws if some parents choose not to circumcise their daughters.
Not according to the women fighting the barbaric practice.
African musician Sister Fa told Britain’s Guardian that if FGM is not performed on Muslim girls, the Muslim world denies uncircumcised women marriage. And, if a Muslim girl’s genitals are not removed, she is considered stained and forbidden public contact with other Muslims, who may accidentally touch the unclean woman, becoming sullied themselves. Sister Fa said uncircumcised daughters dishonor the entire family. And we all know what Islam does to dishonorable Muslim girls. They don’t get to whine to congress about a lacking sex life!
If only Muslim women had to bear the horrific burden of being called a slut while pillared to feminist sainthood!
FemiNazis are trying to push a phony contraception scam in order to impose Obamcare on Americans. Meanwhile, millions of Islamic women across the globe, including here in America, are having their genitals virtually ripped to shreds like meat on a chopping block. And none of the so-called feminists are standing up against this real war waged against women’s bodies.
Sandra Fluke, Hillary Clinton, and left-wing feminists refuse to march in protest against Islam’s violent war against women’s bodies. That fight doesn’t elevate Obamacare the way whining about the cost of contraception and demanding it be free (paid for by taxpayers) so women can whoop it up ala free love/free sex does.
Never mind Islamic women are forbidden basic human rights. Only Muslim men and radical feminists have those rights!
My how the 60’s Sexual Revolution saved women globally! Thank heavens for a bunch of self-centered spoiled feminists who have done nothing to help abused and tortured women living under barbaric customs demanding the removal of their genitals. The Sexual Revolution truly has set all women of the world free to enjoy sex without worry! That is if you’re lucky enough to still have your genitals intact.

Unprecedented action in Pittsburgh - 99%


Terry M. moveon-help@list.moveon.org
8:28 PM (14 hours ago)

to me

You could be a part of a huge wave of progressive direct action this spring. Learn how to practice nonviolence in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. at a 99% Spring action training in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Apr. 14, 2012, at 10:00 AM. Click here to join in:


Attend a Training
Dear MoveOn member,
I'm putting together an amazing event here in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Apr. 14, 2012, at 10:00 AM and I want you to come! I'm one of more than 800 people across the country who have stepped up to plan a 99% Spring action training.
We're going to prepare ourselves to join a huge wave of progressive direct action nationwide this spring. All over America, the 99% movement is getting ready for 60 days of protests, sit-ins, rallies, marches, and more this spring—all aimed and confronting the power, greed, and influence of the 1%.
It's exciting and I hope you can be part of it! The training is filling up fast but there's still room for more folks.
I jumped in to do this because I want to see the 99% Spring take off in a big way, and I want all of us in Pittsburgh to help make it happen. The training is on Saturday, Apr. 14, 2012, at 10:00 AM. Will you join in?
Our movement will be holding huge rallies in every major city on Tax Day to call out the 1% who refuse to pay their fair share. We'll be gathering massive crowds to confront CEOs and top executives at annual shareholder meetings of Wall Street banks, dirty energy polluters, and corporations that refuse to treat workers fairly. And we'll be doing everything we can to call out the corrupting influence of corporate money on our elections.
At the training I'm putting together here in Pittsburgh, we'll be preparing ourselves to take part in these bold actions and to build connections with other progressives who want to see a 99% Spring in America.

NYPD Spying to Trayvon Martin: Current Policing Makes Us Less Safe

When I heard that my name was featured in a NewYork City Police Department report, I should have been outraged.  I had followed revelations of NYPD spying, but it hadn’t occurred to me that they would come to New Orleans to watch me speakat a film festival.
However, I also knew that the NYPD, in their crusade under the guise of safety, had gone whitewater rafting with college students and aggressively monitored and infiltrated mosques and Muslim businesses. They operate in at least 9 foreign countries, so why shouldn’t they come to New Orleans, listen to me say a few words at a public event, and write a classified report about it? Perhaps the only strange thing about the case is that I don’t fit their regular profile. As a white US citizen, I feel my case is a bit of an anomaly for a department that has developed a reputation for targeting immigrants and communities of color. My privilege has given me a certain amount of security and expectation of privacy that many others simply don’t experience.
Recent revelations about NYPD abuses go beyond spying. The notorious stop-and-frisk program, which has led to the criminalization of virtually an entire generation of young men of color in the city, is one example. The New York Civil Liberties Union reported that more than 4 million stops and interrogations from 2004 through 2011 led to no evidence of any wrongdoing – about 90% of all stops. Other recent revelations about NYPD abuses have included arrest quotas, sexual assaults, and the harassment and arrest of an officer who had turned whistleblower. So my little brush with violation of privacy was just a small taste of what is possible from a police department that never met a boundary it didn’t want to cross.
The Occupy movement – now just over six months old - first captured mainstream attention when police were filmed pepperspraying young white women on a New York sidewalk. Subsequent instances of police violence, such as the wounding of former Marine Scott Olsen in Oakland, and the nonchalant pepperspraying of UC Davis students, brought more public outrage and attention. The response from many in the Black community has been, “welcome to our world.”
Step-by-step, we have seen any idea of privacy disappear – everything we do is the business of police. This has always been true for communities of color; now the scope has simply gotten wider. While law enforcement representatives defend the presence of officers filming at every protest around the country as harmless public safety measures, there is no doubt this has had a chilling effect on dissent.
It is not just in New York that there is a divide in how people see – and experience - police. The national outrage over the killing of Trayvon Martin shows that his death – and the continued freedom of his killer – has struck a nerve among Black communities nationwide.
Here in New Orleans, public outrage has been mounting over the abuses carried out by our own city’s police department.  More than a dozen officers have faced charges for their involvement in the murder of unarmed civilians in the aftermath of HurricaneKatrina, most notoriously in the Danziger Bridge shootings. In that incident, two families fleeing the storm’s devastation were attacked under a hail of police gunfire that left four wounded and two dead, including Ronald Madison, a mentally challenged 40-year-old, and James Brissette, a sixteen-year-old who had been called nerdy and studious by friends. Most alarmingly, our local media, district attorney, and other systems of accountability mostly failed in their oversight – it was not until the US Justice Department became involved in 2009 that the officers faced charges. The next year, a Justice Department investigation of the NOPD found "reasonable cause to believe that patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas."
In the latest outrage, during the first week of March, two young Black men were killed by New Orleans police in separate incidents. One of the victims, Justin Sipp, was shot by officers during a traffic stop. The other youth, 20-year-old Wendell Allen, was shot in his own home by an officer executing a warrant. Allen was apparently unarmed and only partially dressed. Allen’s killer remains free, as does George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon.
This week, it was revealed that one of the officers who killed Sipp recently wrote a racist rant about Trayvon Martin on a news website, saying the young man deserved to die, and is now "in hell."
I am disappointed that the NYPD choose to make me a target – however peripheral – of their spying. But I am truly angered by the role that police play in communities of color, at the criminalization of young Black children wearing a hooded sweatshirts. These latest revelations have had the effect of renewing my commitment to fighting for a system that knows that true safety and security comes from providing justice, liberation, and human rights for all; not in the harsh and violent justice of law enforcement.

Immigration Enforcement Results in Systemic Human Rights Abuses

Human Rights Organization Reveals Barriers Faced by Immigrant Victims of Crime, Identifies Indigenous and Latino Communities and People of Color Among Those Targeted in Discriminatory Practices

WASHINGTON - March 28 - Communities living along the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly Latinos, individuals perceived to be of Latino origin and Indigenous communities, are disproportionately affected by a range of immigration control measures, resulting in a pattern of human rights violations, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) reports today.

The organization's new report, In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest, highlights systemic failures of federal, state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws on the basis of non-discrimination.

Among the many findings, the report illustrates that the United States is failing in its obligations to respect immigrants' right to life, ensure access to justice for immigrant survivors of crime, particularly women and children, and recognize the border crossing rights of indigenous communities.

According to the U.S. government, there are approximately 14,500-17,500 people trafficked into the United States each year for labor or sexual exploitation. However, barriers caused by breakdowns in the system that identify immigrant survivors of trafficking leave many without any relief from immigration detention and deportation. Of the 5,000 T-visas available annually to survivors of human trafficking, statistics show that only six percent are actually utilized.

"The culture around immigration in the United States has created a perfect storm — survivors of trafficking and other crimes like domestic violence are increasingly seen as criminals rather than as victims,” saidJustin Mazzola, Amnesty International researcher and lead author of the report. “At the same time, fewer people are willing to report suchcrimes, as they feel it may expose them to immigration enforcement.  In addition, many feel that police will be unable or unwilling to help.”

Carolina, a Honduran native who was brought to the United States after being repeatedly sold for sex, beaten and drugged, was held for six months in detention in Pearsall, Texas, after immigration agents found her in the trunk of a car crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. While detained, Carolina was denied certification as a trafficking victim because she had originally wanted to come to the United States voluntarily before she was sold into sexual slavery and trafficked into the country.

It was only after a review of her case in February 2011, more than two years after she was discovered in the car trunk, that Carolina's trafficking victim visa was approved, allowing her to remain in the United States and become eligible for mental health and support services.  "Now, I can finally begin to heal," Carolina said following her release from detention.

Immigration control measures increasingly jeopardize individuals' right to life when crossing the border.  U.S. policies intentionally reroute migrants from traditional entry points to the most hostile terrain in the Southwest United States, including crossings over vast deserts, rivers and high mountains in searing heat.  From 1998 to 2008, as many as 5,287 migrants died while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The report finds that indigenous communities are left particularly vulnerable to discrimination and other abuses stemming from immigration enforcement. Indigenous peoples, whose traditional territories and cultural communities span the U.S.-Mexico border and necessitate frequent crossings, are often intimidated and harassed by border officials for speaking little Spanish or English and holding only tribal identification documents.

Furthermore, federal immigration programs that engage state and local police in enforcing immigration laws place Latino communities, Indigenous communities and communities of color along the border at risk of discriminatory profiling.Because monitoring and oversight of these immigration programs is vastly inadequate, those responsible for human rights abuses are rarely held to account.  As a result, such practices, including targeting individuals based on their perceived ethnicity, have become commonplace and entrenched, fostering a culture of impunity that perpetuates discriminatory profiling. The recent proliferation of state laws that target immigrants place them at further risk of discrimination and impedes their right to access education and essential health care services.

Texas-born actress Amber Heard, who has participated in several research excursions to the Southwest border with Amnesty International, said: "I was moved to tears upon hearing the stories about the ill-treatment of immigrants. These are individuals whose only objective is to provide for their families. If our nation’s goal is to promote and protect human rights around the world, then we need to start implementing that notion at home and we must do better.”

Among its recommendations, Amnesty International urges the U.S. government:

·        to suspend all immigration enforcement programs pending a review by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General to determine whether the programs  can be implemented in a non-discriminatory way
·        to pass legislationthat guarantees equitable access to justice and protection for survivors of crime
·        to respect and facilitate the use of indigenous identity  papers and immigration documents for travel across borders
·        and to ensure, as a matter of priority, that its border policies and practices do not have  the direct or indirect effect of leading to the deaths of migrants
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Chad: Facing Malnutrition and Meningitis Emergencies

Immediate Response Needed to Save Lives and Prevent Deeper Health Crisis

NEW YORK/N’DJAMENA - March 28 - Severe acute malnutrition in parts of Chad has reached emergency levels, requiring immediate life-saving interventions, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
Nutrition assessments carried out by MSF have revealed alarming levels of malnutrition among children in multiple districts of the country. An expanding meningitis outbreak in Chad is also threatening the population and requires an urgent response.
“We can see clearly that in some parts of Chad there are already very alarming rates of malnutrition among children,” said Dr. Kodjo Edoh, MSF’s head of mission in Chad. “We are concerned that this situation might also be affecting other districts in the country and we urge the Chadian government and humanitarian agencies to investigate and act.”
An assessment conducted by MSF in February in the district of Biltine, in Wadi Fira region in the east of Chad, revealed a 6.5 percent rate of severe acute malnutrition among children aged 0 to 5. The global acute malnutrition rate among the same group was 24.3 percent, well above the United Nations emergency threshold of 15 percent. Global acute malnutrition rates include moderately and severely malnourished children.
The discovered rates are of great concern because the month of February normally features the lowest malnutrition rates of the year. A considerable deterioration has taken place since UNICEF collected data in the same region in August and September 2011, which showed 4.6 percent for severe malnutrition and 18 percent for global.
Several factors appear to play a role: a below-normal harvest, crop-destroying pests, and a plummeting economy due to reduced remittances from Libya.
This week, MSF will open an emergency nutrition project in the town of Biltine, in collaboration with the Chadian Ministry of Health. The program will include an intensive therapeutic feeding center and treatment for critically-ill non-malnutrition patients. Outpatient therapeutic feeding centers in the outlying areas are also planned.
Elsewhere in Chad, MSF recently began a nutrition intervention in Yao, in Batha region, responding to high levels of severe acute malnutrition there. The program features inpatient and outpatient care, as well as primary health care and vaccination services. Health assessments are taking place in the regions of Hadjer Lamis, Abéché and Ouaddai.
Meanwhile, a meningococcal meningitis outbreak has struck the country; eight districts have surpassed the epidemic threshold for the disease and four other districts are on alert.
In the eastern Oum Hadjer district, a total of 209 meningitis cases and 8 deaths have been reported to date. The epidemic threshold was passed during the week of February 12. In the southeastern Am Timan district, 147 cases and 8 deaths have been recorded. Epidemic levels were reached there during the week of March 18. The numbers of meningitis cases in the districts of Am Dam, Abou Deia, Lere, Dono Manga, Massakory and Bedjondo have also reached epidemic levels.
In response, MSF will launch, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, mass meningitis vaccination campaigns in Oum Hadjer, Am Timan, Lere and Pala districts in the coming weeks targeting over 900,000 persons aged 1-29. Treatment for people who have fallen ill from meningitis will also be provided.
The campaign will utilize the new MenAfriVac vaccine, which confers longer immunity from meningitis for a wider section of a population than previous vaccines.
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