Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Via Jesse I came across the following article:

"Well, others in the Bush administration did, apparently, make an appearance at the local Starbucks. And as the Washington Post reports today, one of them – obviously readying himself to prep Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – left his notes on the table. Talking points, hand-written notes on spin tactics, and a hand-drawn map to the Secretary's house were found by a resident of DuPont Circle, who made them available to the Center for American Progress. The name of said resident is being withheld at his request, as he fears that he may be accused on national television of being "disgruntled."

Story from The Center for American Progress
Monday, March 29, 2004

"Rich country governments have failed to provide financing they promised under the "Education for All Fast Track Initiative" (FTI) to help fund universal primary education in poor countries, according to a World Bank report.

The scheme - intended to help countries meet the Millennium Development Goal of providing primary education for all children by 2015 - is suffering from a lack of financing, according to a report by World Bank staff." Full story Financial Times.

As bad as it sounds, it is not what it seems. The countries elligible for this program are only those who are working closely with the IMF and the World Bank, restricting elligibility only to those who will fit the endorsed education policy. But working closely with the IMF has a catch. In order to receive IMF funding, one must do as the IMF says. This, as seen in countries like Brazil or Jordan, can have dire consequences for the poorest stratum of society.

For an editorial on whether trade exploits or benefits developing countries, see this report.

Congress member Cynthia McKinney from Georgia has written a highly controversial letter asking the US to press for IMF reform over lending policies. That, as we all know, has yet to happen.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
The Maiden name debate.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
El Salvador -- "Salvadorans gave a landslide victory to the ruling rightwing Arena party in Sunday's presidential election, turning out in record numbers to defeat a former rebel commander and ensuring the survival of the region's most loyal backer of the US." Financial Times

Brazil -- China would invest some $3.3 billion USD in railways in Brazil. Translated: "The main destination to Brazil's soy and iron exports, China would invest in the rehabilitation and expansion of Brazilian rail systems, aiming to guarantee the acquisition of these products at competitive prices...Last year China became the third major recipient of Brazilian exports, behind only the US and Argentina."

Original: "Principal destino das exportações de soja e de minério de ferro do Brasil, a China pretende investir na recuperação e expansão da malha ferroviária brasileira, com o objetivo de garantir o fornecimento desses produtos a preços competitivos...A China se transformou no ano passado no terceiro destino das exportações brasileiras, atrás somente dos EUA e da Argentina." Folha de Sao Paulo (Portuguese)

Colombia -- In a controversial editorial, the writer argues that Ingrid Betancourt's kidnap has been seen under different lights in the international scene than it has in Colombian eyes.

"The campaign for Ms Betancourt's release shows how little understanding her foreign supporters have of Colombia's conflicts. But its subject is an innocent woman who is monstrously confined, as are her fellow hostages. Her supporters should be deluging the FARC with demands for their unconditional release. Past prisoner swaps in Colombia have merely prolonged the country's agony. The hard truth is that there will be no peace in Colombia until the FARC is persuaded that it cannot take power by military means." Economist

For more information on this story, visit the Official Ingrid Betancourt site (French and Spanish versions only)
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
"Israel on Monday night faced widespread international condemnation for its assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas leader, as Palestinian militants vowed revenge and all-out war.

Ariel Sharon, Israeli prime minister, defended the killing of the 67-year-old head of the Islamic movement, describing him as an arch-terrorist who plotted attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis."

Full story Financial Times.
Monday, March 22, 2004
blogging break to write thesis...more asap
Monday, March 15, 2004
A GI has contested the orders given him while in Iraq, which he claims unnecessarily puts soldiers in danger, and threatens the lives of civilians. Questioning the morality of this war, he has refused to return. Story here.
Rwanda --In a police report reproduced in French newspaper Le Monde, evidence is claimed to have emerged surrounding the plane crash that killed then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, triggering the civil war that saw over 800,000 dead. The report concludes that current Rwandan president Kagame is responsible for the plane crash. It also mentions that the UN received a copy of the blackbox soon after the incident, but that it blocked an inquiry into the incident. UN secretary general Kofi Annan said he had no knowledge of the flight recorder. An internal UN investigation is to take place regarding why this key piece of evidence was not reported to senior peacekeeping officials. From BBC News.

South Africa -- President Mbeki and opposition leader Leon argue over the constitutionality of weapons sent in aid to Aristide before the latter left Haiti. From BBC News

Argentina -- Kirchner agrees to pay the $3.1 billion owed to the IMF, averting one of the largest defaults in history. Part of the reason may have been Horst Koehler's stepdown from his position as manager of the IMF after being nominated for president of Germany alongside Chancellour Schroeder. From The Economist

China -- France and Chinese navies engage in joint naval drills. France, who is also lobbying the EU to drop arms sales sanctions against China, provides a country likely to be helpful to China, according to a Shanghai based publication. "China wants to co-operate with traditional European powers, and France, as a stringent critic of the US, and a fervent advocate of lifting the arms embargo, was the country likely to take the initiative." The five-day drills are the 12th such initiative from the French navy towards China. Full story here.

China -- By a majority vote yesterday, private property declared an "inviolable" constitutional right. Full story

Brazil -- This is an interesting article on Brazilian favelas -- for those unfamiliar with the term, favelas refers the shantytowns recently depicted in the movie Cidade de Deus (City of God).
Friday, March 12, 2004
This afternoon I was reading this article via Blogs Canada:

Axis of Logic> Click around the blogosphere and you'll see a lot of ideological diversity. Bloggers are posting from left, right and center, from perspectives that range from Libertarian to Marxist. And on the surface, that diversity extends to other arenas: Men and women, recent studies show, blog in roughly equal numbers. A notable exception: Women are responsible for as little as four percent of political blogs -- "sites devoted to politics, current events, foreign policy, and various ongoing wars" -- according to the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE).

I am glad to be doing my part as one of the female political bloggers out there then. I am not American, I am not white, and I am not male. In fact, I do not come from a country where English is the primary language spoken. But I want to bring you my point of view and what's more, I want to represent just a little bit of what I have been shown in my experience.

As I explain in my Picture blog, to me the point of owning these sites is not to induce pity or compassion towards the Third World. I think guilt and pity are ineffective tools of information. It certainly works for some, but for me it is not the way to understand another person's/another culture's pointof view as your own through reason.

The point of posting my pictures on my sites is another entirely -- it's to include them as a celebration of life, a call to attention of the different types of lives that one can lead, without judgment as to the quality in which they do so. When I take these pictures I do not have evoking pity in mind -- in fact, just the opposite. It's an invitation to study the lives of others, and the photograph is but a little window, an introduction, into something that the viewers of this site might otherwise not have seen.

I cannot plant social consciousness in others, because that is something that ought to spring from their own self awareness. I can only contribute to that awareness by increasing exposure.

The same applies to my posts. I want to share what I think and what I have seen because I find that unfortunately the type of experience I have had is underrepresented out there, both in the "real world" and in the blogosphere. Aside from a few excellent Iraqi blogs, most blogs are anglo (more particularly, USA, and a few are Canada or UK) directed, and there is very little cross-reference between the anglo and the various other-language other-culture blogging communities out there.

I feel fortunate to have lived in four countries, most of which I love dearly, and to understand a couple of cultures other than my own. I love Canada, for instance, and I am very proud to have lived there. I feel very fortunate to speak five languages, and to be able to communicate with a few people out there. At times I've even considered changing this blog into another language entirely, because it is so difficult to try to appeal to an English-speaking audience without the usual content -- what's the latest in the US elections, etc. My point is to share what is outside of the usual realm of North American politics, yet unless it is coming from a country that also happens to be in the headline news (think Iraq), few people seem to care how others outside their own culture view the world -- and this is a crime of which most cultures are guilty.

How many Ethiopian blogs are in the top 100, or how many Honduran ones? How many blogs in English get read out there that are written by non native speakers? Brazil has a fairly large Portuguese-speaking blogging community -- probably second to the US. I've thought many times of blogging in Portuguese, it just might be easier. But I wouldn't be doing what I set out to do with my blog. I may be underrepresented, but I am doing what I can to keep pushing up that rock of awareness, both as a woman and a third world citizen, Sisyphus-style. If we don't, who will?

Hasta la vitoria, sempre.
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Spain suffered its bloodiest day of terrorism on Thursday when at least 192 people were killed and 1,430 injured by bomb explosions on packed early morning commuter trains in Madrid.

Thousands of Spaniards protested against the attacks in cities throughout Spain and millions more were expected to take to the streets on Friday in response to a call by José María Aznar, prime minister, and opposition party leaders for a massive show of support for the victims.

The Spanish government blamed Eta, the violent Basque separatist group, for the massacre after police investigators linked explosives used in the attack to material stolen by supporters of the group in France.

However, the interior minister later announced that a van had been found near Madrid containing detonators and an Arabic tape. He ordered the police to open a new line of investigation, but added that Eta remained the main suspect.

Subsequently, a London-based Arabic newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi, said it had received a letter purporting to come from Osama bin-Laden's al-Qaeda network. The letter was signed in the name of the "Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades". Similar letters were faxed to the paper following last November's attacks on two synagogues in Turkey, and after last year's bombing of the UN headquarters in Bagdhad.

(Source:The Financial Times -- Full story)

Pretty bad stuff. I wanted to go study in Madrid next year. Then again, is living close to NYC any different? What's the appropriate response? Is there an appropriate response? What's so hard to understand about valuing human life -- whether it's Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Theist, Buddhist, Hindu, or you name it?

When I was seventeen I bought a pair of glasses with rose coloured lenses. I wanted to see everything around me in the most beautiful possible light. Since then I've been through different times in my life, thinking at some point that such an attitude was simply hopelessly optimistic and even a little foolish.

I hate cliches and I hate inspirational talks. Yet since those days I've come to realize that life is simply the most beautiful thing we can ever hope to have -- whether you live in Colombia, in France or in Canada. Whether one lives in abject poverty or in riches. We all have just a little bit of time, some are lucky to have more than others. I think our main preoccupation should be in how to use it wisely, how to make the most of it -- how to find happiness, how to enjoy the small things, how to enjoy the people in our lives, how to discover the world, how to discover knowledge, how to learn to see life through a different pair of cultural lenses, how to learn to see life from a different age, how to learn to give back and become involved with our surroundings. How to live and let live.

It simply escapes me why anyone should deliberately cut another person's time short. How one person can deprive another of existence.

And what's more -- the blame game starts again. Rainbow coloured warnings, politicians riding on security, mass hysteria and more media lunacy feeding fears and irrationality. Sometimes it's hard to follow it all and still keep a smile on your face.

It's time for my rose coloured glasses again.
If you can read Spanish, click this interactive map:

for visual coverage (content advisory: graphic images).
Monday, March 08, 2004
It's true! As I become quickly ensnared by my newest fascination, a.k.a. blogging, I being to wonder what will become of my unfinished theses and the rest of my non-cyber life. Don't worry, I'm still in love with blogging, but articles like this do touch a sensitive nerve for me...maybe I'll just post some bits from my theses (yes the "e" is intentional -- there are two) for the next few days as a time saving strategy until I can post some more without compromising my degrees ;)
Sunday, March 07, 2004
Nothing better than reading a blogging post that actually makes you laugh out loud. This post sure did:

This week, in the first 30 pages of US News and World Report, interspersed among reports on US politics and the economy, there are ads for:

international calling plans
Wellbutrin XL
International airline travel
Paxil CR (followed by two whole pages of fine print)

The message seems pretty clear. After reading about the state of the US, you're going to want to get heavily doped up on antidepressants, have some sex, and then flee the country

Looks like advertising agencies have caught on.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
When I first read that Bush, Blair and the Pope were being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, I admit I was a little skeptical. Ok, make that "wow, I wonder where's the punchline."

And yet it's true:
"OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Nobel Peace Prize awards committee reported a record 173 nominations for 2004, with known candidates including President Bush, jailed Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu and the pope...those nominating candidates often announce their choices, this year including Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for protecting world peace; the European Union; French President Jacques Chirac; former Czech President Vaclav Havel; Pope John Paul II; former U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei; Vanunu, for exposing his country's nuclear weapons program; Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya; and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn for their Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which is intended to dismantle nuclear weapons left over from the Soviet Union.."

But it makes sense.

After all, if we eventually achieve peace because of war, hey, it's achieving peace even if it is done through some questionable means, isn't it? Who's to say that a few people killed here and there matter, compared to the glorious day when the Axis of Evil has been eliminated in the name of freedom? When Bush and his Coalition of the Willing have liberated the world, complete with free trade agreements that have made us all wealthier, we will indeed look back on them as our saviours.

As for the Pope, well, he did do much for all those...those...well, I'm sure there was someone somewhere who was greatly helped by the Pope this year. Therefore he is also responsible for bringing about world peace.

In fact, I'd even extend my list to include bin Laden, who, by contributing to disaster and human casualties, has unchained the sequence of events that would eventually bring about peace.

Let's take that one step further. If it were not for imperialism, we would never have achieved world peace, since we would never see the world as it is in its present state -- and thus we would never have seen one large, benevolent nation conquer all under the name of our beneficent enlightened despot, Bush and his sidekick, Blair. So therefore, if there were no imperialism, there would be no world peace.

So it all works out in this best of all possible worlds. It's all for the best. Peace is forthcoming (or is it here already? Oops I suppose it may have passed me by while I was so busy thinking about the homeless! Silly me!), and we will all live happily ever after in our freedom. Imperialism pisses off people like bin Laden, who plan out attacks that piss off Bush, who is enabled by imperialism to wage war against evil countries, and together with his sidekick they conquer all and save the world from being taken over by the bad guys.

In fact, let's call this the Nobel War prize, as the recent war was, indeed, noble. What other word can convey the praiseworthy sacrifice that Bush and sidekick Blair underwent to free millions in Operation Iraqi Liberation (aka O.I.L.)?

Anyone read Voltaire's Candide? Do.

But still, I wonder, what shall we turn our attention to when this greatest problem of all times has been conquered? What shall we fight when we have finally achieved world peace? As an MSN advert explains, "Join the Low Carb Revolution!"

Hasta la Vitoria -- translated, "I shall see you when our victory has been achieved."
¡Viva la Revolución!
Thursday, March 04, 2004
There seems to be something wrong with opening my page in explorer...some of the pictures don't load up. I'm currently looking into this ;)