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Thursday:  November 20, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Costa Rica (6)

Friday
May112012

"Rise of the Lilliputians" (REPORT) 

(Video AJE reports on the most recent `Non-Aligned Movement' summit in 2009, Sharm el-Sheikh/Egypt)

By Colum Lynch

They are called the S-5, or the "Small Five", a group of small and middling UN member states that have been informally meeting since 2005 to try and chip away at the unchecked powers of the P-5, the UN's dominant, permanent five members of the Security Council.

And they are heading for a confrontation next week with the five big powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- over an initiative in the General Assembly aimed at pressing the P-5 to voluntarily cede some of their powers.

On May 16, the S-5 will press for a vote on a resolution before the UN General Assembly that calls on the veto wielding powers to refrain "from using a veto to block council action aimed at preventing or ending genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity." It also requests that in cases where a permanent member ignored the General Assembly's advice and exercises its veto, it should at least explain why it did so.

(PHOTO: Jordan's Ambassador to the UN, Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad)The push for a vote comes at a time when the UN Security Council has faced criticism for acting too slowly to contain the escalating violence, and in the wake of two key powers, Russia and China, having cast vetoes twice to block an Arab League initiative aimed at ending the violence in Syria and that would force President Bashar al-Assad from power. Russia, which has argued that its diplomatic strategy stands a better chance of lessening the violence, has been among the sharpest critics of the S-5 initiative, characterizing it as an affront to Moscow, according to a senior diplomat involved in the negotiations.

The veto power has long been a source of resentment among the UN's broader membership, who believe that it places the big powers above the law, shielding them and their friends from the edicts they routinely enforce on the rest of the world.

But for the United States, Russia, and other big powers, the veto represents the most important check on international intrusion into their spheres of influence by a sometimes unsympathetic majority. The United States, for instance, has routinely used its veto power to shield Israel from Security Council measures demanding it show greater restraint in its dealings with the Palestinians.

China and Russia, meanwhile, have exercised the veto to block condemnation of friendly countries, including Myanmar and Zimbabwe, from condemnation for committing rights abuses.

A number of economic heavyweights and emerging powers, including Brazil, Germany, Japan, India, Nigeria, and South Africa, have been clamoring for a greater say in the council's deliberations, leading to several proposals that would expand the 15-nation Security Council and grant a number of rising powers a permanent seat.

The S-5 -- Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore, and Switzerland -- realize that they have no hope of ever becoming big powers with permanent seats on the council. So they have devoted their efforts to pushing for reforms in the way the 15-nation council does business.

(PHOO: Switzerland's Ambassador to the UN, Paul Seger) Indeed, their recommendations on the use of the veto are a part of a broader menu of suggestions, including more P-5 consultations with states that aren't serving in the Security Council, that they intend to put before the General Assembly as a way to encourage reforms in the way the council works.

The sponsors say they are confident that they will have support from more than 100 of the assembly's 193 member states. But the P-5 have made it clear they want nothing to do with it, arguing that the UN Charter intended the victorious powers of World War II to manage threats to international security. While the vote would not be legally binding it could serve to ramp up political pressure on the big powers to change.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, and top diplomats from Britain, China, France, and Russia met with the S-5 on Wednesday in an effort to get them to back down.

Rice also pointed out that there were many other countries, not only the P-5, that have expressed opposition to a General Assembly vote. Another bloc of countries, known as the Uniting for Consensus group, which includes countries like Italy, Pakistan, and Argentina, also oppose a vote -- saying that it would distract from efforts to negotiate an enlargement of the Security Council.

Rice, who did most of the talking, told the group that while they recognize their pioneering effort to reform the council, their resolution would actually undercut the efforts to make the council more transparent. Rice asked them not go ahead with the resolution, according to Paul Seger, Switzerland's UN ambassador.

"They tell us don't put that resolution to a vote; it's infringing on the prerogatives of the Security Council, it's disruptive and could jeopardize the overall reform of the Security Council," Seger told Turtle Bay. "My sense is that they are afraid that certain prerogatives, certain acquired rights, are being questioned for the first time."

Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's UN ambassador, told Turtle Bay that the UN Security Council has undertaken many of the reforms being sought by the S-5, but their decision to bring the matter before the General Assembly would likely result in a "divisive vote that sets back the overall cause of reform."

"The Security Council must be always able to adapt and operate with flexibility in order fulfill its responsibilities under the Charter to meet the evolving challenges to international peace and security," he added in a statement. "But for that effectiveness and adaptability, it needs to be confident in its own decisions and procedures. It ultimately must remain the master of its own rules of procedure, as stated in the UN Charter."

Seger and other members of the S-5 say they are not looking for a fight -- but they also say it's unfair for the Security Council to ask other states to send their peacekeepers into harm's way, as Switzerland has in Syria, without including them in informal council deliberations on the situation there. The group, meanwhile, has marshaled a series of legal and political arguments to bolster its case that the majority of UN membership should have some role in advising the 15-nation council. They invoked Article 10 of the U.N. Charter, which permits the UN General Assembly to make recommendations to the Security Council, except in cases where the council is managing an international "dispute or situation".

Jordan's UN ambassador, Prince Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, told Turtle Bay that there is also a legal case to be made that the UN Charter itself places limits on the rights of the council's permanent members to veto council action aimed at preventing mass killings. He argued that while the council bears "primary responsibility" for the maintenance of peace and security it also requires decisions be made in "conformity with the principle of justice and international law." Genocide and mass slaughter, he said, are certainly not in conformity with those principles, he said.

(PHOTO: Russia's Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin)"We don't want to go up against the P-5," Seger added. "We don't question the right of the veto we only ask them kindly: Would you consider not using the veto in situations of atrocities, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide?"

Seger, who also serves as chairman of the UN peace-building commission for Burundi, recalled an invitation to brief the Security Council on a visit he had made to that Central African country. He briefed the council on his findings, and then was asked to leave as the council went behind closed doors for its own discussions on the matter.

"I asked Churkin, 'could I maybe just sit there, be a resource person?'" Seger said, referring to Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin. "He said, 'No. We cannot open the council consultations to outsiders: It's never been done and it will never be done in the future.'"

- This article first appeared on Colum Lynch's `Turtle Bay' page on Foreign Policy. Follow the writer on Twitter @columlynch

Monday
Mar262012

Guatemala President Calls for Drug Legalization Ahead of Summit Of The Americas (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: Guatemalan President Otto Molina & Honduras' Vice President Samuel Reyes speak during an anti-drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala/IBT)(HN, March, 26, 2012) - This past weekend, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss the drug issue which has plagued their nations and their neighbors for decades.  In Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday for the first time, leaders met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the war on drugs has "failed", and it's time to end the "taboo" on discussing decriminalization for the Americas.

Also in attendance were Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a harsh critic of US-style drug policies and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was an invited guest and addressed the summit. Outside of Central America, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have expressed support for the meeting.

Invited to attend but who didn't were El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.  While Funes initially expressed support for the summit, he has since backed away. Lobo and Ortega have opposed the idea from the beginning.  Funes and Ortega did send lower ranking members of the governments to the meeting, and the Salvadoran delegation called for a future meeting on the subject, saying it remained a topic of great interest and importance to the region.

"We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives," said President Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. "We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it."

(PHOTO: Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla attends Saturday's drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel in Antigua/CRTV)He said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated and suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.

But US-backed drug policies in the region have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.

High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras,  combined with the cartel presence is making the region one of the world's deadliest.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates; and Guatemala recently has been saying it is being "outgunned by gangs".

In its most recent annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said violence linked to the drug wars has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in the region.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" asked Chinchilla. "Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

President Molina also suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf - including the United States.

"For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the has a "responsibility" because of its high rates of drug use.

While Saturday's summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade.

Some leaders are pushing for a discussion on alternatives to the drug war to be on the agenda at next month's Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14-15 where President Santos has also been signaling an openness to debate on the issue. 

Members of the OAS include 35 countries:  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,      Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Bahamas, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Canada, Belize, and Guyana.

The White House says US President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for a North American summit in Washington on April 2. The meeting is expected to focus on economic growth and competitiveness, security, energy, and climate change; along with North America’s role in the upcoming Summit of the Americas

Ahead of the summit, Obama said Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, which waives import duties on thousands of goods from developing countries because of the South American country's failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors; effective in 60 days.

Argentina's top exports under the program were grape wine, prepared or preserved beef, sugar confections and olive oil. Washington waived about $17.3 million in duties on those goods from Argentina last year.

--- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Saturday
Jul022011

Immigrants and 11 Latin America Nations Fight New US Immigration Laws (REPORT) 

Protestors hold signs and chant while marching to Georgia's state capitol Saturday. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) (Atlanta, Georgia, USA-HN, 7/2/11) – Today, thousands marched on the US state of Georgia’s Capitol in protest of House Bill 87 – an anti immigration bill which passed and was signed earlier this year - chanting cries of “Humans are not for sale” and “Justice for all”.  Protestors called upon US President Barack Obama to step in and do something to halt the stringent requirements.

In March of this year, after a moderate amount of debate in the state House of Georgia, the legislature passed a strict immigration bill that has sparked ire among 11 Latin American countries and various civil and human rights groups.

Following a similarly controversial step in the US states of Arizona, Utah and South Carolina, Georgia passed the law, known as House Bill 87, targeting illegal immigrants and those who harbor them in the state. It carried by a largely Republican party-line vote of 113-56 in the House; with a 37-19 vote in the Georgia State Senate. HB 87 is also called the `Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011'.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal went on to sign the bill, one of the nation’s toughest immigration enforcement measures in May, and both the Georgia law and the South Carolina law took effect July 1.  All of these laws have challenged the thorny debate over illegal immigration in the United States and triggered immediate court appeals.

Under Georgia’s sweeping HB 87, police will be empowered to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and Georgia employers will be required to check the status of potential workers by using the US Federal `E-Verify’ system before hiring. The measure also sets new regulations and penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants in the state. 

State lawmakers have cited passage of these bills as being necessary because they say “efforts to get comprehensive immigration legislation through the US Congress have failed”, complaining the federal government has not secured the nation's borders.

Immigration protestors want Justice for All on Saturday in Georgia (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) But federal judges in both Utah and Arizona have halted both of those states' laws amid complaints that they are unconstitutional. In Georgia last week, two of the more controversial provisions of the state’s new immigration enforcement law were blocked by US federal judge Thomas Thrash; but other provisions that were not overturned go into effect July 1. It is now a criminal offense to apply for a job with a false I.D. in Georgia, punishable by up to $250,000 in fines and 15 years in jail.

Aside from the 11 Latin American countries, the US Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several other civil and immigrant rights groups are party to the legal cases hoping to stop Georgia HB 87 from going forward.

The governments of Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru filed court papers stating that HB 87 is unconstitutional because there is already a federal immigration law on the books.

“HB 87 substantially and inappropriately burdens the consistent country to country relations between Mexico and the United States of America,” Mexico says in its brief in support of halting the law. It also claims the bill is “interfering with the strategic diplomatic interests of the two countries and encouraging an imminent threat of state-sanctioned bias or discrimination.”

In its defense, the state of Georgia has also filed court papers against the challenge to dismiss the lawsuits.

Even before the law in Georgia took effect yesterday, there were reports of immigrants, Hispanics and others who may be affected by the new law leaving the state to avoid detection or prosecution.

In a state – and indeed region where agriculture is one of the biggest industries for the South – the consequences include serious labor shortages with crops rotting in fields, and forcing farmers to raise prices to pay for new workers.

"When this all started in May there was big concern whether we would have enough labor to harvest the crops," Executive Director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Charles Hall, said.

Immigrant workers have been leaving the state since Georgia's bill passed. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) Judge Thrash’s ruling last week has stemmed the flow of people leaving for the time being. But many remain worried, and in recent days have taken to Georgia’s streets and called for a `Human Rights Summer’ in the state to stop the bill from fully coming into practice. Organizers plan to visit Latino communities throughout the state to educate people and organize mobilizations.

The two provisions halted by the judge would have resulted in police checking the immigrant status of anyone detained for traffic violations or some other crime and would have criminalized the harboring and transporting of undocumented immigrants.

Still in play and set to go into effect on January 1, 2012 are parts of the bill which will require employers with 500 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify system to determine job applicants’ legal status before hiring them. Federal law says that E-Verify can only be used for new employees; so many undocumented workers will be unaffected unless they lose their jobs.  That requirement will be phased in for all businesses with more than 10 employees by July 2013.  Also starting January 1, applicants for public benefits must provide at least one state or federally issued “secure and verifiable” document.

In South Carolina, a new illegal immigration enforcement unit has been established by that state’s law and the unit will coordinate between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

Critics of the bill cite both the need for migrant workers for food harvesting but also other economic issues as being impacted with the state’s decision.  Metro Atlanta school officials plan to closely monitor their enrollment figures over the summer.  The reason: many illegal immigrants could leave the state and pull their children out of public schools if opponents are unable to block the law in federal court. In Arizona, which passed a similar immigration law last year, hundreds of children left some of its schools after the bill passed. The state’s tourism business is also taking a hit too.

On Saturday immigrants and US citizens alike took to the streets of Atlanta (CREDIT J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) On Friday in Georgia, the day HB 87 took effect, a Latino community group called The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights organized a “day without immigrants” to protest the measure. It called for a day of non-compliance, asking businesses to close and community members to stay home and not work or shop. Accounts suggest that at least 125 Atlanta-area businesses closed to show their support Friday.

“We will mark our presence with our absence so that the state of Georgia takes note of the important role and contributions of Latinos in the state,” the group’s president, Teodoro Maus, said.

At Plaza Fiesta, a mall in Atlanta that caters to the growing immigrant population, many stores were closed, with signs in the windows expressing opposition to the law and saying they would be closed Friday in solidarity with the immigrant community. Many restaurants in the food court, however, were open.

The group is also trying to create shopping zones that are friendly to the immigrant community. After a business owner signs a “pledge of non-compliance” with the new law, they get a sign to put in their window that says “Immigrants Welcome Here, Georgia Buy Spot.”

Georgia’s Hispanic population has nearly doubled since 2000, to 865,689, or nearly 10 percent of the state’s population, according to 2010 US Census figures.

But the legal fight nationally is far from over. It could drag on for months and reach the chambers of the US Supreme Court before long.

----HUMNEWS staff

Friday
Jun102011

(HEADLINES) - The Americas - June 11, 2011

THE AMERICAS

(File: Eva Peron) Latin ladies take crack at presidential glass ceiling

EU challenges and opportunities with LatAm

Latin America ponders role of the renminbi

Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Peru shoppers, most promising for retail expansion

New South American exchange opens with uncertainty

Visit of EC Vice-President Tajani to Chile, Argentina and Brazil

UPS expands Latin American capacity

UN chief starts tour of four Latin American nations

Rainforest Leaders to Sign Sustainability Action Plan in 2012

Latin America’s Glossed Decade  

Central America losing war on crime (commentary)

Argentina

(Photo: NASA, A cloud of ash billows from the erupting Puyehue volcano in southern Chile)Flights resume tonight in Argentina from Aeroparque, Ezeiza airports after Chile Volcano eruption

Argentine satellite launches to monitor ocean saltiness from US base

Yum! Brands looks to Argentina for expansion

Israel and Argentina 'most engaged' on Facebook

Argentina's Film `COLD SWEAT’ Will Dynamite U.S. This Fall

Argentinean doctors claim they have cloned the world’s first cow capable of producing human breast milk

Argentinean Air Force launches new UFO commission

Belize

University of Belize Makes History, Offers First Masters Degree

(Photo: ZUMA Press)Destination of the week: Belize

Overturning the Belize Constitution (commentary)

Bolivia

Bolivia switches on modified foods ban

Bolivia asks Iranian official to leave country after Argentine complaint

Bolivia to strengthen ties with Peru's new government

Swapping sugar cane fields for school in Bolivia

Bolivia's stunning salt flats

(Photo: Bolivia's `Bus-train', JALOPNIK)Take a scenic ride in Bolivia’s bizarre Mercedes bus-train

Brazil

Amazon Deforestation Increases Alarming

Brazil to fight drugs with drones

Italy recalls ambassador to Brazil

Brazil is improving on human rights (Commentary)

Rio's Favela Tours: Helpful or Just an Exercise in Voyeurism? (Commentary)  

Canada

Ensure measles shots up to date, health officials urge, as Quebec cases top 300

Vancouver still leads country in reported gay bashings

The Third International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide - a tremendous success (Blog)

Chile

Chinese VP Xi visits 'gateway to Latin America'

(Photo: The Nilahue River, Chile. EPA)Chilean volcanic eruption turns waterway into a steaming torrent

Protest at world’s largest underground copper mine in Chile, drags on (Blog)

(Photo: Lollapalooza, Santiago Chile 4/3/11. Jane's Addiction. Credit: Jeremiah Alexis)Lollapalooza Evolution

Colombia

Ban Ki-Moon arrives in Colombia

Colombian gunman kills victims' rights campaigner

Land and Victims Law Crucial for Millions of Displaced Farmers in Colombia

Costa Rica

Energy expert: Costa Rica needs to define path

(Photo: Containers of Hope. Benjamin Garcia Saxe. INHABIT) Containers of Hope: Cool Costa Rican Shipping Container House Only Costs $40,000

A fair deal for Costa Rica’s indigenous artisans

Ecuador

Ecuador: Correa’s Economic Legacy

Germany's Withdrawal of Funding Threatens Plan to Save Ecuador Forest

The UN Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Ecuador's 17 year battle against Chevron

Ecuador's vice president to head country’s Special Olympic delegation

El Salvador

Journalist Slain in El Salvador

El Salvador Investigates Mysterious Deaths of Sea Turtles

OAS and El Salvador Work together for a Greener General Assembly

Canada to Give $1 Million to El Salvador to fight crime, human trafficking (blog)

Falkland Islands

(Photo: Gilbert House, Falkland Islands Legislative building. MERCOPRESS)Falklands tells OAS sovereignty is “non negotiable”, but seek “neighbourly relations” with Argentina

Obama Administration Votes Against England, Supporting Argentine-Backed Resolution on the Falkland Islands (commentary)

French Guiana

Astra 1N readies for a July 1 liftoff in French Guiana

Guatemala

Future Interoceanic Corridor in Guatemala Will Rival Panama Canal

Guyana

President Jagdeo named first Goodwill Ambassador for global tropical forest

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission is advocating the marketing of non- traditional minerals

Land is the most valuable asset a person can have (commentary)

Honduras

'Up in Smoke' Chronicles Slash and Burn Agriculture in Honduras

Zelaya returns to Honduras

Honduras Levies Security Tax to Pay for Prison

Spain to aid Honduras on basic education

Honduras Readmitted to OAS (commentary)

Mexico

Bank of Mexico Gov. Agustin Carstens Remains on IMF Chief Short List

(Photo: US Mexico Ambassador Nominee, Earl Anthony Wayne, Foreign Policy) Obama nominates new ambassador to Mexico

Mexico tourism chief blasts 'ludicrous' travel warnings

Twitter Saves Lives in Mexico (blog)

Nicaragua

Nicaragua to begin cotton production

Nicaragua, Honduras Restore Bilateral Trade

Nicaragua, Ecuador Condemns U.S. Threats against Venezuela at OAS

Solidarity Plan with Cuba Approved in Nicaragua

Panama

More than 60,000 Children Work in Panama

Panama’s “litter pigs” get tongue lashing from Mayor Bosco

Dam construction threatens Ngöbe

Citizens’ groups fight on as government steams ahead with Cinta Costera

Paraguay

Under UN pressure, Paraguay agrees to ‘open debate’ on abortion issue

Indigenous still marginalized 200 years later (commentary)

Paraguayan Senate approves Unasur charter; new Venezuela Mercosur bid

Peru

Humala: 'Peru's economy is rock solid'

Peru’s Humala Visits Brazil To Meet With Rousseff; Looks To Distance Himself From Chávez

(Photo: Lima skyline. Peru is expected to grow by 6.9% this year. LivinginPeru.com) World Bank says that Peru will be star performer in South America

Suriname

Significant mining pollution in Suriname

Heavy rain triples price of some Suriname vegetables

Suriname soccer chief describes alleged bribery attempt

Suriname not giving up claim to New River – Bouterse

United States

Mexicans protest against Alabama's new anti-illegal immigration law

Cancer patients struggle as drug costs soar

Endless 'war on (some) drugs' fills our prisons, wrecks lives and wounds society (commentary)

Uruguay

Hundreds of Dead Penguins Wash Up on Uruguay Shore

(Photo: Uruguay President Jose Mujica received Vice President Xi Jinping of China. MERCOPRESS)China and Uruguay sign 17 cooperation accords and 530m USD trade package

Uruguay: A Bitter Lesson in Forgiving (analysis)

Venezuela

Venezuela ranks sixth in Gallup wellbeing survey

Venezuela-Iran ties go beyond the oil issue

Venezuelan government to borrow additional USD 10.5 billion

Venezuela’s Chavez and Senior Officials in Cuba for Talks (Commentary)

Wednesday
Dec012010

The 7th Annual `ARTIVIST' Film Festival Begins Tonight in LA: Meaningful Media at its Best

(HN, December 1, 2010) -- Artivist means ARTIST+ACTIVIST = ARTIVISTS.  Founded in 2003 as a non-profit charitable organization by Diaky Diaz, Dr. Bettina Wolff, Psy.D., and Christopher Riedesel, the Artivist Film Festival is the only festival dedicated to raising awareness for International Human Rights, Children's Advocacy, Environmental Preservation, and Animal Advocacy through Film.  (SEE TRAILERS FROM MANY OF THE FILMS BELOW)

This is the 7th year, with events taking place in LA (beginning today through 12/4/10), NY (at Tribeca Cinemas from 12/9-12/12/11) and in Rio de Janeiro (March 2011); screening 45 films from around the globe including independent, narratives, documentaries, shorts, and experimental films. Artivist’s mission is to strengthen the voice of socially conscious artists - "Artivists" - while raising public awareness for social global causes.  The Festival has showcased 400+ films representing more than 60 countries around the world over the past 7 years and has reached millions of people with its film festivals in Hollywood, London, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Lisbon and the main annual event is held in Los Angeles every year.   And tickets to all of the screenings are FREE!

In recognition of the socially conscious platform it provides, Artivist has been endorsed by Claes Nobel of the Nobel Prize family; by Senator Barbara Boxer, by the United Nations Department of Public Information; and this year is being sponsored by Petrobras.

Films Premiered at the Artivist Film Festival have received international acclaim such as ACADEMY AWARD winner "Born Into Brothels", ACADEMY AWARD Nominees "Super-Size Me" and “God Sleeps in Rwanda”, “Fast Food Nation",  “Emmanuelle's Gift", “Zeitgeist”, "Trudell“, “Stolen Childhoods”, and more.

Artivist Founder-President, Diaky Diaz, states: "Raising awareness for the interdependence between Humanity, Animals, and the Environment is the true mission of Artivist. Filmmakers, celebrities and NGOs from around the world gather at the Artivist Awards to celebrate advocate artists that inspire positive actions in our global community.”

As they do each year, Artivist honors artists whose exemplary work in their community stands out as a shining example of one’s ability to change the world for the better. This year Artivist will honor Actor Peter Fonda with the Artivist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Advocacy; Barbara Pyle will receive the award for Environmental Humanitarianism, and Avis Richards will receive the award for Community Advocates.

About the Honorees:

►        Peter Fonda:  With an acting career that spans over fifty years in theater and films, Peter Fonda is a celebrated artist, counter-culture icon and a noted member of family of celebrated actors including his father legendary thespian Henry Fonda, his sister actress and fitness icon Jane Fonda, and his daughter actress Bridget Fonda.  Over the years, Fonda has supported numerous motorcycle-related fund raising programs such as Easy Ride for Autism, and the Love Ride, which supports of people with muscular dystrophy. His current film Smitty emphasizes pet adoption and is part of the Adopt-A-Dog Month campaign; his environmental efforts to encourage alternative energy through supporting the film Fuel and his recent clean-up work in the Gulf of Mexico with the Gulf Coast Fund; as well as his work on human rights with Doctors Without Borders, and his work with Best Buddies whom he recently received the award for Legacy Leadership, make Fonda a perfect honoree for Artivist’s issues.

►        Barbara Pyle:  For 20 years Barbara Pyle served as Corporate VP of Environmental Policy at the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), setting the company's environmental broadcast agenda and branding TBS as the environmental network. As CNN’s Environment Editor, Barbara introduced and oversaw environmental coverage, including the original Earth Matters, which premiered on CNN in 1981 and she championed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policies and initiatives company-wide; setting the standards for energy efficiency, recycling and carpooling with her department's award-winning Clean Air Commute program. With Ted Turner, Barbara created the animated action adventure series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, overseeing production of 113 episodes as Executive Producer. Broadcast in over 100 countries to popular and critical acclaim, this classic eco-toon has won dozens of awards and today still has a very dedicated international fan base. To reach the next generation of Planeteers, it is now streaming online at the Mother Nature Network (MNN).

►        Avis Gold Richards: is the Founder and CEO of Birds Nest Foundation™, a 501(c)3 non-profit  creative group that produces high-quality documentaries, short videos and  public service announcements (PSAs) for charitable organizations. She is an award-winning executive producer and director who has produced and directed over 50 films, multiple websites and events in support of NGO’s winning more than a dozen Stevie Awards, Telly Awards, Davey Awards, and Aurora Awards for producing non-profit films and videos on the issues of healthcare and education, serving inner-city youth, protecting against domestic violence, promoting human rights, and defending the environment. The goal of Birds Nest Foundation is to provide the media to educate and promote important causes and issues that enable non-profits and other foundations to communicate their messages through "moving pictures."   Avis is currently producing a public television series entitled "Lunch NYC" for NYC Media, part of the City of New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, after the successful launch of her short documentary, LUNCH, which was sponsored in part by Earth Day Network. The series exposes unhealthy foods being served in the public school system across the US and highlights the efforts of individuals actively seeking alternatives to promote nutrition and health.

Past Artivist Award recipients include: Olivia Wilde, Hank Azaria, Ted Danson, Alyssa Milano, Joaquin Phoenix, Matthew McConaughey, Mira Sorvino, James Cromwell, Ed Begley Jr, Tippi Hedren, Mike Farrell, Claes Nobel of the NOBEL Prize Family and noted producer Stephen Nemeth.

This year’s awards will take place December 4 at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood at 8pm and will be hosted by Actors’ Boris Kodjoe and Vanessa Williams; featuring celebrity presenters and guests such as Nicole Ari Parker, Ryan Gosling and many more, followed by a vegan, organic reception.

FOR FREE TICKETS visit: http://artivistff-la.eventbrite.com/

*NOTE ALL OF THE FILM SCREENINGS IN LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK ARE FREE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC

Schedule of film screenings & selected film trailers - Los Angeles Dec 1-4, 2010 

Location: Egyptian Theatre 6712 Hollywood BLVD. Los Angeles, CA 90028

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8:00PM - "ReGeneration" / Director: Phillip Montgomery 

 

Artivist Opening Night Event Screening – Los Angeles Premiere

Synopsis:  Philip Montgomery’s feature documentary film ReGeneration takes an uncompromising look at the issues facing today’s youth and young adults, and the influences that perpetuate our culture’s apathetic approach to social and political causes. Focused on how today’s education, parenting, and media can shape us, the film follows three stories each with a unique perspective – from an inspired collective of musicians working outside the corporate system, to a twenty-something conservative family about to welcome the birth of their second child, and a group of five high-school students from the suburbs looking for their place in society.  Their stories are interspersed with the knowledge, wisdom, and personal reflections of some of the country’s leading scholars, social activists, and media personalities, including Andrew Bacevich, Noam Chomsky, Talib Kweli, and the late Howard Zinn, among others.

8:00PM - Journey from Zanskar / Director:  Frederick Marx

Synopsis:  Two Buddhist monks promise the Dalai Lama they'll do everything in their power to help save Tibetan culture from destruction. Working in one of the most remote and desolate places on Earth - Zanskar, in northwest India - the monks build a school in their 1,000 year old monastery combining the best of modern and traditional education. Not content to wait for completion, they take 17 of the poorest children from nearby villages and walk over the mountains to get them into schools and monasteries. This is the story of their incredible journey.

8:00PM - The Last of the Black Tents


Synopsis: Focusing on the Khampa Tibetan nomads whose ancestral lifestyle is threatened by China's forced modernization, 'The Last of the Black Tents' explores an eye-opening subject in one of the world's most remote regions. In this short documentary, the expedition team captures the lives of these nomadic people who live close to the source of the Mekong River in China's Qinghai province. Stewards of the land for millennia, their unique culture, lives and livelihoods face an uncertain future. The film is part of a series produced by Radio Free Asia Note: the expedition team's identities are protected to ensure they can return to these regions, which are in countries that prohibit outside journalists and documentarians to wander freely. The identities of subjects in the film are also concealed for their protection.

9:00PM - "Fish: A Boy in a Man's Prison" / Director: T.J. Parsell  


Synopsis:  A 17 year old boy is sent to an adult prison for robbing a Fotomat with a toy gun. He thinks he's going to a minimum security prison camp where they send non-violent, first-time offenders, but the prison psychologist in charge of inmate classification tells him that he's going inside the walls of a maximum security prison. Shot entirely in the Hampton's, (at the Sag Harbor historic jail) this film is an adaptation from the book, Fish: A Memoir of A Boy in a Man's Prison.

9:00PM - "Will” / Director:  Hannah Robbins


Synopsis: Meet William, a twenty-year-old broken soul who has been homelessness, and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today he has found solace through a youth shelter.  Sol House is a transitional living program for homeless youths between the ages of 16 and 21.  It provides shelter, life skills, counseling, and social and mental health services.  Will is an experimental documentary showing the past, present and expected future of William, a victim of child abuse and neglect.   I hope to express his life through the use of archive footage, black and white photography and verite footage.  As a resident of Sol House, his life is starting to improve, but for how long, who can say?  I met William in October when he had been at Sol House only a few weeks.  Prior to this, he had been in jail and on the street, a common story of so many homeless youth. According to the National Coalition of Homelessness, the 'Causes of homelessness among youth fall into three inter-related categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability.'  William plans to finish high school and get a job.  Sol House offers hope and opportunity to young people such as William.   I believe this film will offer a realistic and representative portrait of the lives and experiences of millions of homeless youth in the United States. 1 in 6 children live below the poverty line in America.

9:00P - "Kids of the Majestic / Director:  Dylan Verrechia 


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: Every day, a sea of passengers floods the Majestic Railway Station of Bangalore City, India. Beneath the commotion of commuters, a group of orphans live beneath the station, collecting the trash that the passengers have left behind. 'Kids of the Majestic' is a documentary by filmmaker Dylan Verrechia and Dr. Suhas Radhakrishna that follows a group of such orphans: Rafik, a smiling young drug addict; Mental Manja, nicknamed 'mental' because he didn't speak until he was 10; Arun-Badur, the artist and the writer; Baba, who at 8 has travelled throughout India alone; and Joti, mother-to-be at 16, who was abused at 9. The filmmakers befriended these children who, uneasily and slowly, opened up to them,  sharing  their life stories as no one before has ever heard. This documentary upholds a strong moral content by not only depicting the reality and hardship of these children, but also the positive aspect of this social group that works within its community.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tainted Wolves / Director: Amitabh Avasthi 


Synopsis: Each year, nearly 70 percent of gray wolf pups in Minnesota die from a virus common in domestic dogs. Scientists believe that a series of rare mutations and increased air travel helped a feline virus jump from cats to dogs, and then to gray wolves. This short documentary explores the threat to gray wolf populations from canine parvovirus, the factors helping its spread, and the lessons we can draw from viruses -- HIV1, SARS Coronavirus, HINI swine flu -- that jump from one species to another.

6:30PM - “The Hybrid Union” / Director: Serguei Kouchnerov 


Synopsis: Somewhere in the imaginary land of cyberdesert, unaware of each other’s presence, two abstract characters, Plus and Minus, coexist. Plus struggles with a dependency on an obsolete source of energy while the light-powered system of Minus is threatened by an ominous dark cloud. The unexpected meeting between Plus and Minus leads to a competitive race until they are interrupted by the surprising appearance of another stranger. This new character, Smart, moves fast on demand and seems unaffected by an external circumstances. In order to challenge Smart, Plus and Minus are compelled to combine their unique individual capabilities. Will this hybrid union win the race against the newcomer?

6:30PM - H2Oil / Directors: Dale Hayward & Sylvia Trouve

Synopsis: The H2oil animated segments are 3 short films completed for the feature length documentary 'H2oil' which is about the Alberta tar sands & its war with water. These animations explain the tar sands process, it's relationship with water, and how NAFTA is involved. They were animated with a mixture of 2D and after effects, using illustrations and elaborate photo textures to emphasize the harsh reality of this catastrophic operation. It goes without saying that water -- its depletion, exploitation, privatization and contamination -- has become the most important issue to face humanity in this century. Water security will soon define­ the boundaries between people and countries. The war for oil is well underway across the globe. However, a struggle is increasingly being fought between water and oil, not only over them. Alberta's oil sands are at the tension center. The province is rushing towards large-scale oil extraction, which will have far reaching impacts on water, health, animals and the environment in the region.

6:30PM - Water On The Table / Director: Liz Marshall


Synopsis:  Water On The Table is a character-driven, social-issue documentary that explores Canada's relationship to its freshwater, arguably its most precious natural resource. The film asks the question: is water a commercial good like running shoes or Coca-Cola, or is water a human right like air? Water On The Table features Maude Barlow who is considered an 'international water-warrior' for her crusade to have water declared a human right.  'Water must be declared a public trust that belongs to the people, the ecosystem and the future and preserved for all time and practice in law.' The film intimately captures the public face of Maude Barlow as well as the unscripted woman behind the scenes. The camera shadows her life on the road in Canada and the United States over the course of a year as she leads an unrelenting schedule. From 2008 - 2009 Barlow served as the U.N. Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations. But more than a portrait of an activist, Water On The Table is a poetic-essay that presents several dramatic and artfully crafted debates. Barlow's opponents; policy and economic experts in Canada and the U.S., argue that water is no different than any other resource and that the best way to protect freshwater is to privatize it. It is proposed that Canada bulk-export its water to the United States in the face of an imminent water crisis.

7:00pm - “How Weed Won the West” / Director: Kevin Booth


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: While California is going bankrupt, one business is booming. 'How Weed Won the West' is the story of the growing medical cannabis / marijuana industry in the greater Los Angeles area, with over 700 dispensaries doling out the buds. As a treatment for conditions ranging from cancer and AIDS, to anxiety, ADHD, and insomnia, cannabis is quickly proving itself as a healthier natural alternative to many prescription drugs. Following the story of Organica, a collective owned by Jeff Joseph that was raided by the DEA in August of '09, the film shows that although some things have changed with Obama in office, the War on Drugs is nowhere near over. From Kevin Booth, the producer/director of Showtime's 'American Drug War', 'How Weed Won the West' puts California forward as an example to the rest of the country by documenting how legalizing marijuana can help save the economy.

8:30PM - "Shadows in the Forest" / Directors: Carly Pandza, Jacob Tyler, Matthew Prouty, Roxanna Amini

 

Synopsis: The indigenous communities of Cameroon are losing the very essence of their culture and are powerless to prevent it. These communities, commonly known as Pygmies, have lived in the forests of the Congo Basin for thousands of years and are now being removed from their land. Their own government does not acknowledge their existence and as their protests go unheard their land is destroyed and replaced by uninhabitable palm oil plantations. There are those who have come to aid the Pygmies in their plight, but they are desperately in need of funding and support.

8:30PM - "Africa's Lost Eden" / Director: James Byrne

Synopsis: It was once known as 'the place where Noah left his Ark' - 4,000 square kilometers of lush floodplains in central Mozambique, packed with wild animals.  But 15 years of civil war has taken a heavy toll- and many species have been almost completely wiped out. Journey with National Geographic to Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park and discover what is being done to bring this Africa oasis back to its former glory- including perhaps the most ambitious restoration effort ever attempted, with elephants, hippos and scores of zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo being relocated into the park.

9:30PM - "War Don Don" (War is Over) / Director - Rebecca Richman Cohen


LA Premiere at the 7th Artivist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: "War Don Don" (War is Over) is a Rashomon-esque legal documentary, with global importance, a thought provoking film that engages the heart, mind and conscience. In Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, United Nations soldiers guard a heavily fortified building known as the 'special court.' Inside, Issa Sesay awaits his trial. Prosecutors say Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace. Directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen, "War Don Don" tells the story of a sensational trial with unprecedented access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and from behind bars, Sesay himself. In Krio, war don don means 'the war is over,' as today, thankfully, Sierra Leone is at peace. Can the trial of one man uncover the truth of a traumatic past?

10:00PM - Gorillas 98% Human / Director: Charles Annenberg Weingarten


Synopsis:  On a trip to Rwanda, NatGEO explorer had the opportunity to visit four families of wild mountain gorillas, a species with only 720 remaining members. Their guide is Craig Sholley, who has been intimately involved in the preservation of African wildlife for more than 30 years. The team's thrilling interaction with these peaceful creatures who share 98.6% of their genetic makeup with humans is a startling reminder of their own humanity.

10:00PM - Wild Horses in Winds of Change / Director: Mara La Grande 

Synopsis:  In a desperate run for their lives, America’s wild horses are being rounded up by helicopter from their free roaming lives on the range, with nearly forty thousand languishing in long term “warehousing”, the time for solutions is critical. As tensions escalate for their future, this film takes us on a journey into the vital importance of the wild horse to humanity while offering a thoughtful portrayal into their ability to adapt to an ever changing landscape, thus surviving the great odds of time and the human as conqueror. Unraveling outdated myths and prejudices, this documentary exposes the politics and mis-management that have led to the crisis.  In the midst of conflict, solutions are presented to help the wild horses and burros continue to thrive sustainably on the land simultaneously requiring all of us to develop resource conservation methods and an ability to work together for the common good.

10:00P - Albatrocity / Directors: J. Ollie Lucks, Iain Frengley, Edward Saltau

Synopsis:  'Albatrocity' was made on a very limited budget of only $2000 NZD. We spent this entire amount on a trip to film Southern Royal Albatross in their natural environment on Campbell Island, a remote New Zealand territory in the southern ocean. This trip not only allowed us to film the birds in their untouched yet fragile habitat, but it also helped us appreciate how at ease and graceful Albatross are in the violent storms of the southern ocean. Consequently, our film portrays these almost fantastical animals in a suitably creative way. We use Samuel Colleridge's atmospheric and metaphoric poem, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' as a modern day metaphor for the detrimental relationship between seabirds and commercial fishing.In an attempt to help the interview and informative sections of the film gel with the creative parts, we used innovative graphics and visual effects techniques. This is the first film that we've made and above all we wanted to challenge ourselves and the rules you are taught at film school. We hope that viewers find it both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally evocative. We are proud of the way 'Albatrocity' combines educational information about an environmental issue, whilst maintaining creative integrity.

Friday, December 3, 2010

10:00AM - Lunch / Director: Avis Richards


Synopsis: As nation-wide funding for school cafeterias rapidly decreases and high-calorie, low-nutrient meals have become order of the day, our nations children are being afflicted by a slew of diet-based diseases from high-blood pressure and cholesterol to diabetes and obesity. In Lunch, a revealing documentary short, director Avis Richards investigates the causes and the consequences of growing up in a junk-food culture.

10:00AM - Climate Refugees /Director: Michael Nash


Synopsis:  The Human Face of Climate Change. There is a new phenomenon in the global arena called “Climate Refugees”. A climate refugee is a person displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters. Such disasters result from incremental and rapid ecological change, resulting in increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, fires, mass flooding and tornadoes. All this is causing mass global migration and border conflicts. For the first time, the Pentagon now considers climate change a national security risk and the term climate wars is being talked about in war-room like environments in Washington D.C.

4:30PM - Last Chance / Director: Sami Nikki


Synopsis:  Last Chance is a timeless piece about the importance of hope in our current environment. Through a tale of evolving consciousness it shows the viewer a simple beacon of happier times. The story is told through a series of paintings, computer animation that is softer than other contemporary styles. Instead of aiming for a more realistic look, a subtler but more vivid style has been chosen.

4:30PM - Beating the Bomb / Directors: Wolfgang Matt, Meera Patel

Synopsis: 'Beating the Bomb' covers 50 years of the Peace movement in Britain against the historical and political backdrop of the atomic age. The narrative follows the now called 'nuclear deterrent', starting at the dawn of the nuclear age in WWII to present day.  Nuclear weapons shaped the power structures that rose out of the rubble of WWII and underpin them to this day.  It is widely argued that the pressing issues of the day, from poverty to climate change cannot be tackled without addressing the underlying economic system. Our film evidences the claim that the foundations of our economic system are 'straight power concepts'.  The most straightforward of these concepts being the bomb, both in its physical manifestation and also in the mindset it engenders and stems from. The film charts the efforts of individuals and organizations to rid Britain of its nuclear weapons system from past to present.  It also frames the nuclear weapons issue within the wider context of global justice. The film is a tribute to peace campaigners and accordingly features interviews with Tony Benn, Mark Thomas, Walter Wolfgang, Helen John and Vivienne Westwood, bringing into special focus the UK based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). It is an attempt to mediate their spirit & commitment and to thus empower & inspire the viewer.

6:30PM - Arena / Director: Jota Aronack 

Synopsis: Jonash does not know what sunlight is. He has never seen a tree or the sky. He has never left his room. He does not need to. But that note makes him think, and the simple idea of having an option, becomes powerful. Arena, biography of a revolution.

6:30PM - Desert of Forbidden Art / Directors: Amanda Pope, Tchavdar Georgiev


Synopsis: How does art survive in a time of oppression? During the Soviet rule artists who stay true to their vision are executed, sent to mental hospitals or Gulags. Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art but instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist's works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. Savitsky amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions. Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. Intercut with recollections of the artists' children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. Described as 'one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art' and located in one of the world's poorest regions, today these paintings are worth millions, a lucrative target for Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt bureaucrats and art profiteers. The collection remains as endangered as when Savitsky first created it, posing the question whose responsibility is it to preserve this cultural treasure.

7:00PM - “Complexo – Universo Paralelo” / Director: Miro Patrocono


LA Premiere at the 7th Artivist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: At the peak of tensions in Rio, Brazil, two Portuguese brothers ventured into the most feared slum and lived there during the largest police operation ever launched in that state. They experienced a life where most people awaken to the sound of gunfire and sleep accompanied by shots. The heads of the largest criminal faction in Rio speak intimately and plainly of the life in the world of trafficking. They are the power that exists after a decades-long absence of government power. But the film also offers a slice of life with inspirational characters - a mother shows how her faith in Jesus makes her believe all is possible; the president of the dwellers' association shows that despite the frightening expansion of the complex, the arrival of crime, drugs and guns, he is able to make life better for his favela neighbors; a rapper - MC Playboy - a funk artist who realized that his path was not trafficking, while he saw many of his friends murdered, he conquered his space within the community and fights to destroy prejudice and bring all of society together. The people in the favela live under constant tension in the midst of a power game where both everything and nothing is possible. Through action and word, each character adds a piece to a gigantic puzzle that reveals to us the daily life of the favela as a whole. Director Mirio Patroconio’s film asks and answers “How is it to survive in this reality?” 

8:30PM - Trees / Director: Randy Wakerlin

Synopsis: Voiced by the incomparable Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob) with Jill Talley, “Trees” serves as a comic warning about the devastating effects of deforestation of our rainforests. As the story unfolds, we move through a lush deep green pastoral jungle inhabited with exotic creatures. “Welcome to the oxygen factory! We breathe in the old CO2 and breathe out the O2. I tell you, though, a lot more CO2 these days,” barks a tall, skinny character who calls himself the “green collar guy.” “Yeah, lotta CO2,” confirms his leafy companion, Donny. Suddenly, a chain saw starts up, followed by the sound of another tree crashing to the ground. “The rain! Tell them about the rain!” our fallen friend gasps. Green collar guy happily demonstrates what he calls “transpiration – how the trees water each other downwind with their “breath.” As the situation spirals downward it seems clear: our long-limbed neighbors are not the only ones fated for the endangered list.

8:30PM - The Krill is Gone / Director: Jeffrey Bost

Synopsis: Voiced by the incomparable Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob) with Jill Talley, “The Krill is Gone” brings comic awareness to the looming danger of man-made global warming on the fragile ecosystems deep within our oceans. As this ominous tale begins, our host – the Robin Leach-like Plankton Emiliania Huxleyi — introduces us to his undersea world just seconds before he is devoured by a ditzy Krill, who quickly sheds her shell in a successful maneuver to outwit a predator only to have trouble sprouting another. As the tour continues, we spot a celebrity tuna who looks and talks suspiciously like Al Gore, dodge a swarm of deadly jellyfish, and watch in horror when the dastardly source of the problem is finally revealed.

8:30PM - Deep Green / Director: Matt Briggs


Synopsis: Almost every time we use energy, we burn carbon. Every time we burn carbon, we heat up the atmosphere.  It's a dirty fact that Global Warming cannot be stopped as long as fossil fuels run our planet. We can fix this. Over three years in the making, 'Deep Green' is the first documentary devoted exclusively to showing us how. Accompanied by an international team of award-winning cinematographers, filmmaker Matt Briggs takes us on a compelling journey to nine countries, including China, to uncover the best people with the best ideas, strategies and cutting-edge technologies that can get the job done... if we start now.This inspiring feature presentation includes two electrifying animated shorts on the devastating effects of clear-cutting our rainforests and burning carbon for energy on the fragile ecosystems within our oceans.

9:30PM - Hempsters / Director: Michael Henning


Synopsis: HEMPSTERS: PLANT THE SEED follows seven activists as they fight to legalize industrial hemp in the United States, which is used in over 30 countries and is widely known to have numerous environmental benefits such as:  less reliance on oil, more efficient use of energy, forest conservation, soil redemption and landfill use reduction, just to name a few. Featured in the film are Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, Ralph Nader and Merle Haggard.  HEMPSTERS is a thought-provoking and compelling documentary that will not only encourage all of us to take action, but love us one step closer towards a more sustainable planet.

11:00PM - USS Din / Director: Vikram Gupta


Synopsis: Kabir and Ram were two kids who just wanted to play bat-and ball. One day, there was a big fight amongst the elders, which left the family divided into two. Kabir and Ram now found themselves on opposite sides trying to reach each other. The bat was smashed, the ball was broken, and the kids were locked up in their houses. And then one house got the news....the others had got a gun. So began a mad race of collecting weapons, that reached ridiculous extents. When fear drives people to surrounding themselves with guns, one day, One of those guns is bound to go off. USS Din is the story of what happens that day.

11:00PM - Call me Salma / Director: Sebastien Rist


Synopsis:  The premiere of "Call Me Salma", a documentary on a transgender teenager, was held on February 4 at the auditorium of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB). ULAB and Bandhu Social Welfare Society organised the premiere.  Directed by Canadian filmmakers Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque, the film is a story about "love and loss."  The film follows Salma, a 16-year-old transgender individual, who leaves her family and village, and moves into the hustle and bustle of city life in search of an identity, a new family and above all, a sense of acceptance.  Emotionally torn between her youth and her desire to be a woman, Salma decides to return to her village and face events that force her to question the preconceived notions of gender. The documentary is nearly 54-minute long.  ULAB Vice Chancellor Professor Rafiqul Islam formally inaugurated the premiere show. Anisul Islam Hero, director, Bandhu Social Welfare Society, also spoke on the occasion. The directors and Salma, protagonist of the film, were present and answered questions from the audience.  The filmmakers Sébastien and Aude have been in Dhaka for the past few months and followed the lives of local transgender communities as part of their research for the film. The film will be aired on a French TV channel later this year.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

12:00PM - How I Became an Elephant / Directors:  Synthian Sharp, Tim Gorski


Synopsis:  Watch as a 14 year-old girl from Los Angeles commits to the face-to-face rescue of a single female elephant living in a forced elephant breeding camp in Thailand. Tour the living conditions and tribulations of these captive giants as they’re “broken” to perform for humans… and stay with them in their final sanctuary until they accept their liberators into the herd, and finally see themselves, not as objects, but as elephants. 

12:00PM - “Play Again” / Director: Tonje Schel


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis:  What are the consequences of a childhood removed from nature? One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii. But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how does this impact our children's well being, our society and the very future of our planet? At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole? This documentary follows six teenagers who, like the 'average American child,' spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. PLAY AGAIN unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure - no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality. Through the voices of children and leading experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, neuroscientist Gary Small, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, parks advocate Charles Jordan, psychiatrist Susan Linn, and Canadian scientist David Suzuki, PLAY AGAIN introduces new perspectives and encourages action for a sustainable future. The soundtrack includes music from well-known Icelandic band Sigur Ros and singer Kimya Dawson (JUNO soundtrack). Music Director is Andreas Hessen-Schei, of the Norwegian bands Jaga Jazzist and Shining.

2:00PM - “Maasai at the Crossroads” / Directors: Joe Dietsch, Kristin Jordan


Synopsis:  In MAASAI AT CROSSROADS, we chronicle the struggles of the Maasai tribe as they attempt to modernize while maintaining their traditional culture. Since the most direct route, of such a society towards modernization, is Education, the framework of the film is structured around the non-profit organization, Africa Schools of Kenya (ASK). A Speaker Program was conducted over March and April 2009. ASK is an educational curriculum that introduced experts in their area of expertise and their outside influences to the tribe - deeply influencing the worldview of the students, as will as the adults/elders. The external factors forcing the Maasai to modernize are the current drought and the encroaching influence of civilization. The questions asked are: What elements of any culture are important? / What should be preserved and what can be left behind? / Will the children return to the traditional Maasai way of life after being exposed to the modern world? If so, why? / What elements of the Maasai culture define them as a people? / How are the Maasai integrating modernization to aid themselves in becoming stewards of their land? / And why is this so important? 

2:00PM - The Story of Bottled Water / Director: Louis Fox


Synopsis:   The Story of Bottled Water employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufacturing demand, using the example of how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. The film explores the bottled water industry's attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to 'take back the tap,' not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

2:00PM - My Pantanal /Director: Andrea Heydlauff

Synopsis:  ‘My Pantanal’ is a film about a boy named Aerenilso, who lives on a ranch in the Pantanal, the world’s largest and wildest wetland, in Brazil. Aerenilso shows us what it is like to be a Pantanero (a cowboy), riding his horse, doing his chores, and exploring this incredible landscape that is teeming with wildlife, including the jaguar. Sadly, jaguars have been hunted by people but Aerenilso’s ranch is different; he lives on a conservation ranch where the cowboys and biologists are working together to show that ranching and jaguars can coexist in this magical place.

2:00PM - Campesinos / Director: Adam Pajot Gendron

Synopsis:     Three children live and work in agricultural communities in Central America: Duli harvests macadamia nuts in the mountains of Guatemala, Jenier coffee on an Island in Nicaragua, and Paul Cacao in the jungles of Costa Rica. Despite the distance that separates them, they share a common bond: they each belong to a cooperative of which their family is a member, and through which they work to create sustainable choices and improve their quality of life. These three children do not know each other, but share the collective experience of growing up in a community that has sought improvement. Where many have tried, they have succeeded. Where many have let go, they have not given up, and now their courage and determination is reflected in these children, the mirrors of their community. Through their day to day experiences, these children share their story and make us a part of their concerns in the face of an uncertain future. What they do, above all, is allow us to put a face on the people who harvest so that we can eat.

4:00PM - Hove (The Wind) / Director: Alex Webb

Synopsis:   Two Armenian women's friendship is deeply affected by a chance encounter with the past and the powerful, unresolved legacy of the Armenian Genocide. Zara (played by Olympia Dukakis) is visited by her friend Nina (played by Shirleyann Kaladjian) at her Armenian cultural bookstore.  Zara is reading a mysterious book that has deeply disturbed her.  Nina finally rouses Zara from the book and asks Zara what it is that had her so absorbed.  Zara mysteriously dismisses the question. Nina reveals a personal tragedy over coffee with Zara.  Zara goes to her desk to retrieve a treasured family heirloom to comfort Nina.  When she returns Nina is now engrossed in the mysterious book. They argue over the implications and Nina leaves.  The mystery of the book and Nina's tragedy is revealed along with a surprise about Zara's past at the end of the story.

4:00PM - Mine: Story of a Sacred Mountain / Director: Survival International


Synopsis:  The Dongria Kondh are one of India’s most remote tribes. In a stunning real-life version of ‘Avatar’, the metals giant Vedanta Resources is intent on mining the tribe’s sacred Niyamgiri mountain for bauxite, the raw material for aluminum. But the Dongria Kondh don’t simply accept their fate, but decide to fight. ‘Mine’ has been watched over 600,000 times online, and in a truly David v Goliath victory for the Dongria Kondh, the Indian government blocked Vedanta’s mine in August 2010.

4:00PM - The Last Cut / Director: Damian Rafferty

 

Synopsis:   We hear from mothers who have suffered because of Female Genital Cutting, a former cutter, villagers, medical experts, campaigners and Kadija who leads her team into remote villages and sets up a mobile cinema in places where they don't even have electricity. Over the course of five visits, she attempts to convert the mothers of the village to collectively abandon a harmful but almost ubiquitous practice. Villagers are drawn in by the entertainment, stimulated by the educational films thrown into the mix and engaged in a community wide discussion held under the African night. The mix of stories and discussion is what the griots (conveyors of oral culture) have been doing in these parts for hundreds of years. It turns out this is still the right approach if you want to affect change. Ultimately, this is a film about hope for the children of Mali and how it comes down to African people using African ways (even if the money comes from outside) to update rather than destroy traditional culture.

4:00PM - Water / Director: Corrie Jones


Synopsis: Toby yearns for a life like any other eight-year-old kid. But his mentally disabled father is a constant reminder that life for Toby, will never be normal. WATER is a film about a young boy's struggle to accept his fears, his mentally disabled father and his possible future duty.

4:00PM - Rapping in Iran / Director: Hassan Khademi

Synopsis:   If there is any music style in the world to which the term 'underground' can be justifiably applied, it is rap in puritanical Iran. Since the beginning of the 1990s, practically every kind of pop music has been forbidden in the Islamic Republic, but the state security forces crack down particularly hard on rappers. Their outfits, modelled on Western idols, their lyrics about identity conflicts and sexual deprivation or the fact that young women sing about themselves and their problems are reason enough to keep raiding the few studios in town and closing down the websites of the most famous singers and bands. The only consequence is that every closed down site spawns four new ones, the studios that are closed in one place re-open somewhere else and become more attractive to the scene. 'Rapping in Tehran' is about young people's tough struggle against the rigid rules of a government of old men whose resistance in the long run will be in vain. For the music keeps spreading: via the Internet, through exiled rappers who broadcast their lyrics into the country from Dubai, via mobile phones or secret parties. In any case, the courage with which they insist on the right to lead their own lives is cause for admiration.

--- HUMNEWS' Staff 

Tuesday
Aug032010

“Broadband Liberation” (PERSPECTIVE) 

--- by Shashi Tharoor

NEW DELHI – In July, I was among 30 men and women from around the world – government ministers, bureaucrats, technologists, and strategic thinkers – who gathered at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva to discuss how broadband can transform the world for the better. This “Broadband Commission” met under the Chairmanship of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the Mexican communications mogul Carlos Slim.

The ITU, a United Nations body, established the Commission in partnership with UNESCO, and the joint chairmanship was no accident. The UN recognizes that if the information revolution is to advance further, it will take a public-private effort. As ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré has put it, “In the twenty-first century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water, and power.”

The Swiss writer and playwright Max Frisch once dismissed technology as “the art of arranging the world so that we need not experience it.” Today, however, technology is essential to effective participation in our world. And, although mankind cannot live by technology alone, the information revolution has liberated millions of people.

Information is liberating in the traditional political sense of the term: the spread of information has had a direct impact on the degree of accountability and transparency that governments must deliver if they are to survive.

It is also liberating economically. Information technologies are a cost-effective form of capital. Estonia and Costa Rica are well-known examples of how information-access strategies can help accelerate output growth and raise income levels.

Some of the least developed countries, such as Mali and Bangladesh, have shown how determined leadership and innovative approaches can, with international support, connect remote and rural areas to the Internet and mobile telephony, thereby helping to liberate subsistence farmers who were previously tied to local knowledge and local markets. Likewise, mobile networks are delivering health services to the most remote areas of India.

One successful UNESCO initiative is the creation of multipurpose community telecenters throughout the developing world, providing communication and information facilities – phone, fax, Internet, computers, audio-visual equipment – for a wide range of community uses. India’s Unique Identification Number project, under the capable stewardship of information-technology pioneer Nandan Nilekani, will enable access to government, banking, and insurance services at the grass-roots level.

There is no doubt that the Internet can be a democratizing tool. In some parts of the world – and certainly in most of the West – it already is, since large amounts of information are now accessible to almost anyone. But the stark reality of today’s world is that you can tell the rich from the poor by their Internet connections.

Indeed, economic development nowadays requires more than thinking only of the poverty line; one must also think of the high-speed digital line, the fiber-optic line – indeed, all the lines that exclude those who are not plugged into the possibilities of our world.

But the digital divide is no immutable gap. On the contrary, the technology gap between developed and developing countries, measured by levels of penetration by personal computers and information-technology and communications services, has narrowed markedly over the course of the past decade, with rapid growth in mobile phone and Internet use. The average level of Internet and mobile-phone penetration in the rich world in 1997  – 4.1 Internet users and 10.7 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants – was reached in developing countries only five years later.

By contrast, the average level of fixed-line telecommunication penetration in developing countries is nearly 50 years behind the levels of the West. Not surprisingly, it was in Africa – not Europe or America – where the cell phone first overtook the housebound handset. More Africans have become telecommunications users in the last four years than in the entire twentieth century.

The Indian story is even more remarkable. When I left India in 1975 for graduate studies in the United States, the country had roughly 600 million residents and just two million land-line telephones. Today, India holds the world record for the number of cell phones sold in a month –20 million – and for the most telephone connections made in a single month in any country in the history of telecommunications.

The growth in mobile-telephone technology demonstrates that the digital divide is shifting, and the focus of development efforts must change with it. India, for example, has 525 million mobile phone users and fewer than 150 million people with Internet access, so using mobile-phone technology as a tool of e-governance has become vital. This calls for creative means of effecting information transfer and making and receiving official payments by telephone.

Security is a key area of concern today in e-governance – both physical security, in an age of terrorism, and cyber security. Using technology to deliver security will become even more important in areas such as information sharing, disaster management, and data-privacy standards.

Information and communications technology is a powerful tool to address underdevelopment, isolation, poverty, and the lack of political accountability and political freedom. But people need access first and foremost. High-speed broadband Internet access can improve everything from transport management, environmental protection, and emergency services to health care, distance education, and agricultural productivity. Delivering these benefits to ever more people will require resources, international cooperation, and political will.

--- The author is a former Under Secretary General of the UN and former Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. An award-winning novelist, he is currently a member of the Lok Sabha, India’s parliament.

Copyright:  Project Syndicate, 2010.  www.project-syndicate.org

For a podcast of this commentary in English, please use this link:  http://media.blubrry.com/ps/media.libsyn.com/media/ps/tharoor22.mp3