Wednesday: May 22, 2013
Malaysia pilot arrives in Taiwan as part of round-the-world adventure
Malaysia pilot arrives in Taiwan as part of round-the-world adventure: Pilot James Anthony Tan, 21, poses for photo with his single piston aircraft at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday. He arrived as part of a bid to become the youngest man to fly solo around the world, across 21 countries in Asia, the Americas, Europe & Africa in 50 days, with stops in 30 cities. (Read more at The China Post)
Gaza Marathon Canceled After Women Banned
Earlier today, the UN Relief & Works Agency canceled the 3rd annual Gaza marathon after Hamas rulers barred women from participating in the race. “UNRWA regrets to announce that it has canceled the third Gaza marathon which was to be held on 10 April,” the agency said in a statement. “This follows the decision by the authorities in Gaza not to allow women to participate.” The response from Hamas - which has banned women from riding on the backs of motorcycles & men from working in hair salons - was predictable: "We regret this decision to cancel the marathon but we don't want men & women running together," Abdessalam Siyyam, cabinet secretary of the Hamas government said. The race, which included women last year, would’ve raised money for UN summer camps for children in Gaza. (Read more at the Saudi Gazette)
Mohamed Nasheed, Former Maldives President, Arrested In Abuse Of Power Case
Authorities say the former president of the Maldives, the first-democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed was arrested Tuesday in the nation's capital Male on charges of abuse of power during his tenure. He was taken into custody by armed police almost 2 weeks after he left the Indian High Commission in Male where he had sought refuge for almost 11 days after a warrant was issued for his detention. Nasheed is charged with ordering the military to unconstitutionally detain the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, while he was head of state. Many of the ex-president’s supporters claim the charges against Nasheed are intended to keep him from attempting to reclaim the presidency in elections scheduled for September 7. (Read more at GulfToday)
Criminal court accused takes early lead in Kenya election
Millions of Kenyans have poured into polling stations to cast their ballots in a crucial, anxiously awaited presidential election in which a candidate charged with crimes against humanity appeared a real chance to emerge the winner. Early results show deputy premier Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been accused of financing death squads, has taken the lead. He is reportedly ahead of PM Raila Odinga in the 1st elections since a disputed presidential run-off vote sparked ethnic clashes in December 2007, in which 1000 died. With nearly 1/3 of the votes counted, Mr. Kenyatta has received about 54% & Mr. Odinga about 41%. Six other candidates trailed by a wide margin. (Read more at the SMH)
UN Human Rights Chief calls for North Korea investigation
Navi Pillay says North Korea's network of shadowy political prison camps is believed to contain 200,000 or more people & to have been the scene of rampant violations including rapes, torture, executions & slave labor - and she's calling for an international investigation into what she said may be `crimes against humanity'. She voiced regret there had been no improvement since Kim Jong-un took power a year ago, succeeding his late father, & said it was time for world powers to help bring about change for the "beleaguered, subjugated population" after decades of abuse. "Because of the enduring gravity of the situation, I believe an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst - but least understood & reported - human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue," Pillay said in a rare statement on North Korea.
Pillay herself is a former judge at the International Criminal Court. Living conditions in the camps are reported to be "atrocious" with insufficient food, little or no medical care & inadequate clothing for inmates. Pillay said she regretted that international concerns over North Korea's nuclear program & rocket launches were overshadowing "the deplorable human rights situation in the DPRK which, in one way or another, affects almost the entire population and has no parallel anywhere else in the world." (Read more at Haaretz)
Cyclone Dumile Strikes La Réunion
This photo shows Le Port, in the western part of the Indian Ocean French Overseas territory island of La Réunion, after Cyclone Dumile hit yesterday. Winds of up to 180kph & torrential rain caused extensive damage, knocking out power to 100,000 homes. La Reunion does hold the world record for the heaviest daily rainfall from 1966 when 1825mm of rain was recorded in just 24 hours; though Dumile was far more modest in terms of rainfall totals. The storm also struck Mauritius & Madagascar.
Planet At Night
Using new satellite capabilities, scientists from NASA & NOAA have released new imagery of Earth at night; providing an improved “Black Marble” counterpart to the iconic “Blue Marble” photo of the planet during the day. We first saw Earth from a 12/7/72 picture taken by Apollo 17 astronauts; NASA released improved `Blue Marble' photos earlier this year.
Climate Cliff, Spells `SOS'
After 36 hours of non-stop negotiation & 2 weeks of meetings in Doha, Qatar almost 200 nations agreed to a pact called the `Doha Climate Gateway' Saturday - intended to combat climate change & extend the life of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020; the only binding world treaty on curbing greenhouse gas emissions signed in 1997 & whose 1st leg expires December 31. Russia objected to the agreement & said it retains the right to appeal. Greenpeace's Kumi Naidoo calls it a betrayal, "setting us up to lose this decade". UN chief Ban Ki-moon said that what's needed most is "to accelerate action on the ground by limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius." @HUMCLIMATE
Cyclone Evan Slams Fiji, Leaves Thousands Homeless in Samoa
As Cyclone Evan batters Fiji thousands of people took refuge in evacuation centers & airlines suspended flights in & out of the country on Monday. The military government warned that Evan could be the most destructive cyclone since 1993 to hit the island, one of the Pacific's biggest tourist centers. Winds of up to 200km/h battered homes, some, "flying through the air". Meanwhile, New Zealand rescuers are searching for 10 fishermen missing off Samoa since the cyclone hit the island nation & damage there is thought to be "worse than from a 2009 earthquake & tsunami" that killed 135 people.
An Heir for North Korea?
As North Korea marked the 1st anniversary of the death of its former leader, Kim Jong-il, the nation’s current leader Kim Jong-un & his wife may be expecting. Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, was seen on state TV wearing a billowing traditional Korean dress, walking slowly next to her husband at the Kumsusan mausoleum, where they bowed before statues of Kim’s father & grandfather. State media has not confirmed Ri to be pregnant, but there was speculation in October that she could be after she failed to appear in public for about 50 days. If Ri is pregnant & it's a boy, he will likely be groomed to become the country’s next leader, as his family’s dynasty has ruled since the end of WW2. (Read more at the National Post)
Malaysia lands one of biggest-ever Ivory stash
Customs officials at Port Klang, Malaysia have seized an enormous illegal haul of 1,500 elephant tusks thought to have originated in Togo, through Spain, ultimately headed for China. Togo is known to be a major source of ivory exiting Africa says the Elephant Trade Information System, managed by the wildlife monitoring organization TRAFFIC. This is the 4th seizure of African elephant ivory at Port Klang & the 6th in the country since July 2011. 2011 was described by trade experts as the worst year for elephants in decades. (PHOTO: Inspectors at Port Klang with Ivory plats/TRAFFIC)
Devastation in the Philippines
Kathmandu International Film Festival to Open
(Video: Future Guardians, a film about Educating Nepal)
The 10th Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF) is taking place in Nepal from December 7 to 11. Altogether 62 documentaries, fiction, short films, animation films from 28 countries will be screened during the festival to be held at the City Hall. Chairperson of KIMFF Basant Thapa says an additional attraction for this year is the screening of the 10 best films from the "Educating Nepal" short film competition held earlier this year. Also part of the festival is interaction on films, photography, a book fair & a documentary workshop. The Festival will opens with the Nepal premiere of “Who Will Be A Gurkha”, a documentary by Kesang Tseten, (Read more at Republica)
Longest Serving Monarch in World Celebrates Birthday
A jubilant, crowd packed the Royal Plaza in Thailand today as more than 200,000 well-wishers in yellow listened to His Majesty the King's 85th birthday speech from the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall balcony. King Bhumibol Adulyadej known as Rama IX is the longest serving monarch in the world, having reigned since June 9, 1946; & he is the world's longest-serving current head of state & the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. His Majesty's grand audience was broadcast live & watched by millions of people across the country. It's been 6 years since His Majesty last gave a grand audience at Dusit Palace in Bangkok. (Read more at the Bangkok Post)
Political Crisis in Paradise: Sao Tome and Principe
(Video: Mario Lopes/YOUTUBE)
Sao Tomé & Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, off the west equatorial coast of Central Africa, is living a constitutional crisis. Scenes of fist fighting in the National Assembly, & a mass protest calling for early elections has plunged this nation into rare chaos. Opposition MPs which constitute a majority, have brought down the government by censuring it in a parliamentary session on 11/29. On the one hand the parties in opposition - Movement to Liberate São Tomé & Príncipe (MLSTP), the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD), & the Democratic Movement Force of Change (MDFM) do not want early elections & the party in power - led by PM Patrice Trovoada (of Democratic Independent Action, or ADI) - wants them. Among the list of accusations presented were alleged “acts of corruption, taking on negotiations overseas with ‘private companies sidelining the respective ministers with oversight, without the awareness of other sovereign bodies, & even less so with public knowledge'”, as newspaper Jornal Vitrina reported. (Read more at Global Voices)
Voyager 1 Reaches Interstellar Shore
35 years & 2 months ago on September 5, 1977, NASA launched the Voyager 1 spacecraft to study the outer edges of our Solar System. As the spacecraft, also travelling alongside its twin probe Voyager 2 - gets ever closer to becoming mankind's 1st interstellar emissary, mission scientists have announced the probe has now entered a new & mysterious region of the heliosphere nicknamed the `magnetic highway.' (The heliosphere is the sphere of influence of our sun; basically a bubble in interstellar space inflated by the sun where all planets, spacecraft & satellites are contained within.) After completing its primary mission of planetary exploration many years ago, the Voyager's have been travelling through the outermost reaches of the solar system, rapidly approaching the edge - called the heliopause.
Although data collected by the aging Voyager 1 have been showing strong signs of flying beyond the heliopause, mission scientists are saying `not so fast'. It seems that the solar wind carrying the craft is channeling solar particles forcing pressure back at Voyager. Scientists have said, "we didn't know this was there." But, says Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist, "We believe this is the last leg of our journey to interstellar space. Our best guess is it's likely just a few months to a couple years away. The new region isn't what we expected, but we've come to expect the unexpected from Voyager." (Read more at Discovery)
Oldest Microbrewery Found in Cyprus
University of Manchester archaeologists, digging in Western Cyprus since 2007 have unearthed a site thought to be the world's oldest brewery from the Bronze Age, approx 3,500 years ago. Excavated were a mud-plaster domed structure, used as a kiln to dry malt & make variously flavored beers brewed & fermented with yeasts, produced from grapes or figs. The resulting brew had an alcohol content of about 5%; & the beer may even have been sold in the 50m long courtyard found, which was the bar area.
Djibouti In Need
HORN OF AFRICA: Djibouti's Ali Addeh refugee camp is home to an estimated 25,000 refugees & by 2013 will total 30,000 according to UNICEF. The situation remains precarious - lack of drinking water, recurring droughts, malnutrition & food shortages are the norm here for asylum seekers from Somalia, Ethiopia, & Eritrea heading to Yemen & the Gulf States. Even more broadly approximately 120,000 people living in Northwest, Central & Southeast Djibouti are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, due to 5 years of drought & rainfall deficit.
Second Bangladesh Garment Factory Fire In 24 Hours
(Video: Times of India)
Fire-fighters Monday doused a fresh factory fire near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, a day after 1 of the deadliest blazes destroyed the Tazrin Fashion plant building in the Savar neighborhood, killing 124 people & raising questions about safety standards in the world’s 2nd largest garment-exporting nation. More than 500 manufacturers in the Ashulia area make apparel for top global retailers such as Wal-Mart, H&M, Tesco to JC Penney, Kohl’s, Marks & Spencer, & Carrefour. Officials & witnesses said the latest fire did not claim any life as most workers jumped out, breaking safety grills in the 10-story building housing 3 garment units. The fresh blaze came as the nation conducted a mass burial for victims burnt in Saturday night’s fire & police said they opened a “murder case”, attributing the incident to “criminal negligence”. Thousands of workers staged a protest Monday, demanding better labor protections. (Read more at Times of India)
New Zealand's Tongariro Volcano Erupts
New Zealand's Tongariro Volcano erupted November 21, with no warning; lasting 5 minutes at 1:25p local time. 5 reported eruptions occurred here between 1855 & 1897; it's been dormant, since. Scientists warn there could be more activity "for the next week or 2, at least"; & last week warned of possible eruption at neighboring volcano, Mt. Ruapehu. The `Volcanic Alert Level' changed from 1 to 2; & the Aviation Colour Code from Yellow to Red due to the spread of an ash cloud, extending 15,000 feet.
Palestine Sets November 29th for UN Bid
(UPDATE, 11/26/12) - The spokesman for the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN said President Mahmoud Abbas will address the 193-member world body before the resolution is put to a vote. Approval would give the Palestinians the same status at the UN as the Holy See. There are no vetoes in the General Assembly & the resolution, which needs a majority vote for approval, is virtually certain to be adopted.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed that the Palestinian Authority will present its bid for non-member observer status at the United Nations on November 29, telling reporters on Monday following talks with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which represents a majority of Palestinians, currently enjoys a "permanent observer" status at the UN. Abbas submitted Palestine's official application for recognition as an independent state at the UN in September 2011. That bid was blocked by a US veto in the Security Council; but the current bid, would require an approval by a simple majority of the 193-nation UN General Assembly & will not face a veto threat at the Security Council. (Read more at RIA Novosti)
Pacific Coconuts Under Threat
The international collection of the South Pacific's coconut palm species, held at a field gene bank in Papua New Guinea (PNG), is under threat from a disease outbreak located close to the center housing the samples. The warning came at a meeting on the Pacific coconut research & development strategy in Samoa last week, convened by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research & the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. The deadly disease, Bogia Coconut Syndrome is named after the town of Bogia on mainland PNG, & appears to be caused by bacteria similar to one that causes Lethal Yellowing disease that attacks palm species. Ironically, PNG was selected as the site for the gene bank in the 1990s because the country was relatively free of coconut pests & diseases. The gene bank holds 3,200 coconut palms, representing 57 different varieties of Cocos nucifera, & is 1 of 5 coconut collections around the world. (Read more at Nature)
18 Nations Elected to UN Human Rights Council
On Monday, members of the UN General Assembly voted on elections to the UN Human Rights Council. The General Assembly created the body in March 2006, made up of 47 UN member states - elected by the 193-member General Assembly to replace its widely discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. All nations elected today will serve a 3-year term beginning January 1st. The US won a 2nd consecutive term, after choosing not to take part in the past; while Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Pakistan, the UAE, Estonia, Montenegro, Germany, Ireland, Argentina, Brazil & Venezuela all take seats representing their region. Of the 18 countries elected Monday, human rights advocates say only about a third are qualified & have adequate human rights records of their own. (Read more at the UN News Centre)
Another United State?
On Tuesday, the US-territory of Puerto Rico voted by 61% approval to become the US' 51st state. The Congress would have to approve the bid. Complicating matters, the pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuno lost his bid for re-election in a close race against Alejandro Garcia Padilla who supports the island's current status as Puerto Ricans being US citizens, using the same money & passports; with limited representation in government, who can't vote in US presidential elections. Hawaii was the last state entered into the union on August 21, 1959. (HN)
Tibetans Immolate to Free Region From China
(Video NTD TV)
5 Tibetans set themselves on fire in China in an unprecedented string of protests ahead of the country's once-in-a-decade leadership change. All 5 self-immolations took place on Wednesday, the eve of a pivotal week-long Communist Party congress which will end with the transitioning of power to Chinese VP Xi Jinping, who will govern for the coming decade. Individual self-immolations to protest Chinese rule in Tibet have occurred regularly since March 2011, but this is the first time such a large number of burnings have happened on the same day. (Read more at News.COM.AU)
Guatemala Earthquake Kills 50 People
Devastation in the mountainous state of San Marcos in Guatemala - as shown on a local TV station. Scores of people trapped under rubble after an earthquake - which measured 7.4 on the Richter scale - struck 15 miles south of its Pacific coast. It has so far claimed the lives of at least 50 people across the country, destroying homes, cars & businesses. The tremor hit around 10:30AM local time, & damage was reported in all but one of its 22 states. Shaking was even felt as far away as Mexico City - 600 miles to the NW of the country. Eyewitnesses spoke of people running all over the place & screaming. Through the night & into the morning brave rescuers continued to search for survivors, but 5 aftershocks meant their efforts were being hampered. Many areas remain blocked by landslides, with no phone, electricity or water. (Read more at The Guatemala Times)
Ghana Building Collapse Blamed on Faulty Construction
Faulty construction & a bad concrete mix are being blamed for the collapse of the multi-storey Melcom shopping centre collapse in Ghana's capital, Accra, killing at least 9 people, said a spokeswoman for Ghana's National Disaster Management Organization, Kate Adobaya. "The building did not have the necessary permit & had not had a safety inspection. The foundation was not good enough." President John Dramani Mahama said those responsible for the "negligence will pay a price". Rescue efforts are continuing, with 69 survivors pulled from under the rubble since Wednesday, police said. It is not known many people are still trapped. An Israeli rescue team has arrived, using sniffer dogs at the site. (Read more at The Ghana News Agency)
Mali: Finally on the World agenda?On Thursday, UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said the international community was united in its goal to help Mali end a crisis which has seen radical Islamists take over the country's north, where it has implemented Sharia law. Just back from emergency talks in the capital city Bamako, where along with the UN, the African Union & the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, the veteran Swedish diplomat said the strategy will be to "establish constitutional order & achieve national unity to return respect of the country's territorial integrity".
(Video: Algeria TV)
His remarks came amid news that the African Union, which suspended Mali after a March coup, had agreed to reinstate the country's membership in a move to curb the extremist threat which followed the uprising, giving free rein to a rebellion by Islamic extremists & Tuareg separatists who took over an area in the North the size of France. Now, reports of jihadist fighters from Sudan & Western Sahara arriving to reinforce the Islamist rebels has added urgency to the international debate.
Earlier this month, the UN Security Council passed a resolution pressing African nations to speed up preparations for an international military intervention to include a 3,300-strong West African force to be supported by Western powers; the resolution gives a 45-day deadline for ECOWAS to submit a detailed plan. According to some sources, Algeria & Burkina Faso are to mediate between the different armed groups during the intervening period. (Read more at Africa24)
Panama sells land to companies; locals protest
Hundreds of demonstrators in Panama burned tires & clashed with police hours after the National Assembly approved legislation allowing the sale of land in the duty-free zone of Colon, at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal where more than 2,000 companies operate in the lucrative free trade port area. Work in the expansion of the canal, going on for years, should be completed in time for its 100th anniversary in 2014.
Protesters fear the new legislation will cost jobs & cut incomes. President Ricardo Martinelli appealed for calm & said the sale of state-owned land will benefit the region. According to the law, 35% of the proceedings generated by the sale of land will go to a trust for "social investments" in the area. The other 65% will go the central government in the Central American nation. (Read more at the BBC)
Cuba to allow citizens to freely travel abroad
Beginning January 14, 2013, Cubans will be able to leave the island with only a valid passport & visa from the country of destination, without first obtaining exit permits, the Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday. The long-awaited immigration reform eliminates the presentation of a letter of invitation from the host country & the processing of the “carte blanche” needed by Cubans for decades to leave the country. The reform also extends permission to stay abroad from 11 to 24 months as current laws prohibit Cubans uninterrupted stays abroad under penalty of losing their property on the island & the possibility of being able to return. In mid-2011, President Raul Castro’s government announced immigration reform as part of a series of profound economic adjustments to “update” the Cuban model with market elements. It remains unclear whether the measure will allow temporary travel abroad for political dissidents such as bloggers like Yoani Sanchez, who has been denied exit visas on 20 occasions. (Read more at Havana Times)
One of biggest art heists in history takes place in Netherlands
On Monday night thieves pulled off 1 of the biggest art heists in history taking 7 masterpieces, including priceless works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Gauguin, from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum in the Netherlands, police said. The paintings are Pablo Picasso’s “Tete d’Arlequin”, Henri Matisse’s “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune”, Claude Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge, London” & “Charing Cross Bridge, London”, Paul Gauguin’s “Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte, dite La Fiancee”, Meyer de Haan’s “Autoportrait” & Lucian Freud’s “Woman with Eyes Closed”. The gang managed to raid the high-security museum & slip back into the night with such skill they didn't even set off the 'state-of-the-art' alarm system, snatching the paintings straight from the walls of the museum which was showcasing a private collection of over 150 works & had only been open for a few days. Roland Ekkers, a spokesman for Rotterdam police, said they received a call alerting them to the theft at around 3 a.m. local time Tuesday. (Read more at Daily Mail)
Taliban shoots teenage peace campaigner in targeted assassination
The Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan claimed responsibility for an attack Tuesday on a 14 year-old teenage peace campaigner, Malala Yousufzai as she was returning from her school in Mingora town of Swat valley. They shot her in the head & said they did so for her pro-peace, anti-Taliban, ‘secular’ agenda. The assassination attempt took place on a school bus & 2 other girls were also wounded; all were taken to a local hospital & then to the NW city of Peshawar for further treatment, but doctors said they were out of danger.
Malala won international recognition for highlighting Taliban atrocities in Swat with a blog for the BBC Urdu service 3 years ago, when the Taliban led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah burned girls’ schools & terrorized the valley - a place known traditionally as popular with holidaymakers for its stunning mountains, balmy summer weather & winter skiing. Malala was awarded the country's first National Peace Award & in 2011 was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by advocacy group Kids Rights Foundation. (Read More at Gulfnews)
Maldives first democratically elected President on trial
Hundreds of protesters gathered near the President’s Office in the Maldives capitol of Male on Monday night before former President Mohamed Nasheed attended a preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon. The country’s 1st democratically elected president was taken into police custody after the Hulhumale Magistrate Court issued a warrant for his arrest over the weekend. The notice came exactly 7 months after Nasheed’s ousting & followed his defiance of a court-ordered travel ban outside the capital Male, & 2 court summons.
At this afternoon's court proceeding, the state read the charges, & Nasheed stated that the trial reflected the “grave” situation that the democracy of the Maldives is in, saying, “Honorable judges, this charge against me is a deliberate attempt by the prosecutor general to bar the presidential candidate of the largest opposition political party of this country from contesting the next presidential elections”. The next announced hearing will be held November 4, 2012. (Read More at Minivan News)
Amid continuing concern for journalists' safety, guerrillas claim bombing of radio station
Reporters Without Borders joins the Paraguayan Journalists’ Union (SPP) in demanding justice & protection for the journalists who were the target of a bomb attack by 2 gunmen last week in the northern department of Concepción. Claiming to be members of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), the 2 gunmen left 3 bombs inside Guyra Campana, a privately-owned radio in the town of Horqueta on the evening of October 4. 2 of them exploded, causing serious damage & forcing the station off the air. Police defused the 3rd after it failed to go off.
Political tension since last June’s parliamentary coup against President Fernando Lugo combined with the continuing violent crime are taking their toll on journalists. The level of fear is especially high among the many community radio stations in rural areas. (Read More at Reporters Without Borders)
Saudi Arabia Refuses Entry to Nigeria Women For Hajj
Saudi Arabia has begun to expel 1,100 Nigerian women pilgrims for violating the kingdom's rule which prohibits Muslim women from entering the country without a male guardian. The government-run el-Eqtisad website quotes an unnamed Saudi official Friday as saying the women were detained after landing at the international airport in Jiddah. On Thursday, 171 were sent back. The report says some of the women have been detained since Monday. In Saudi Arabia, women must be accompanied by or have permission from a "mahram" - a male guardian - in order to travel. But in the past, authorities allowed women to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage in groups with male tour operators. There was no explanation for why the authorities were now enforcing the rule. (Via ABCNEWS)
Russia's Continued Disdain for NGO's Targets USAID
Russia said on Wednesday it has given USAID until October 1 to stop work in the country, claiming it was meddling in domestic politics. The decision may also seriously harm the operations of a string of NGOs that are heavily dependent on its funding, including vote monitor Golos that pointed out irregularities in recent elections. The unexpected move appears part of an increasing crackdown in Russia on civil society after President Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin for a 3rd term in May amid an outburst of street protests. "The decision was taken mainly because the work of the agency's officials far from always responded to the stated goals of development & humanitarian cooperation," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. (Read more at AFP)
Somalia Elects First President in 21 Years
(Video: Standard Group Kenya)
Somalia’s lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Monday for political newcomer Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to be the country’s next president, with the streets of the capital erupting into celebratory gunfire. An academic, & activist, Mohamud was immediately sworn in following the vote. The country’s lawmakers were voting in the first poll of its kind since the organized government fell into chaos & clan conflict in 1991. Mohamud, seen as a moderate, defeated incumbent President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in a 3rd round run-off after 2 of 4 candidates who made it to the 2nd round of voting opted out. Speaker of parliament Mohamed Sheikh Osman said the new president won in a landslide; declaring, "Sharif Sheikh Ahmed got 79 votes. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud got 190 votes." (Read more at The State)
Red Cross Chief Pleads for Greater Syrian Civilian Protections
Red Cross chief Peter Maurer was in Syria on a mercy mission seeking greater protection for civilians on Tuesday, as a spate of bombings & clashes brought fresh bloodshed to the capital Damascus, & the second city Aleppo. After speaking with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he met with Abdul Rahman al-Attar, the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. (Via AFP)
Communicating Across the Oceans
Greg’s Cable Map is an attempt to consolidate all the available information about the world’s undersea communications infrastructure & provide a map along with raw data. See “The Economic Impacts of Broadband” for more information on how the internet & broadband internet access has an impact on a country’s GDP. (Read more at the World Bank)
Asia Typhoon Season Causing Food Price Spikes
An intense & active typhoon season continues in parts of Asia. This weekend at least 27 people were killed during `Kai-Tak'; which swept across northern provinces of Vietnam. On Sunday, parts of Hanoi remained flooded & flash floods still posed a risk. Meanwhile, repeated storms this season have hit more than 10 cities in China, where on Friday, the same storm also left 2 dead & 2 others missing as it passed across southern parts of the country, destroying some 4,200 homes in Guangdong province. In Singapore, the storms have caused a food price pinch where certain types of vegetables imported from China, including carrots, radishes, cabbage & onions have seen a 5% increase. Wholesalers said they have been importing vegetables from various sources in a bid to minimize price fluctuations - and at least 2 more storms are on the way. Typhoon "Igme" has gained strength as it moves in waters off the northern Philippines on Monday night, likely to move toward Taiwan by Tuesday; additionally, Tembin, the 14th storm of the Pacific typhoon season, was just named & is packing winds of 119 kph, with gusts of up to 155 kph, also expected to reach Taiwan later this week. (Read more at Channel Asia)
The 16th Non-Aligned Movement Summit Opens in Tehran
Taking place in Tehran, Iran from August 26 to 31, representatives from over 150 countries are attending this gathering. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a group of 120 members & 17 observer countries who don't consider themselves to be formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. This year, the UN Secretary General, 27 presidents, 2 kings and emirs, 7 prime ministers, 9 vice presidents, 2 parliament spokesmen & 5 special envoys travelled to Tehran where Iran is taking over from Egypt as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement for the period 2012 to 2015. On Tuesday, foreign ministers of the NAM issued a draft statement on Syria, saying that the crisis must be resolved without foreign intervention & welcomed Lakhdar Brahimi as the representative of the UN Secretary General for Syria, replacing Kofi Annan.
In New Year's Speech North Korea Leader Says Wants to `Remove Confrontation'
(Video: New Year's Eve, 2012/Telegraph)
In a domestically televised New Year’s Day speech, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un said he wants to “remove confrontation” on the divided Korea peninsula. The lengthy address, which laid out the country's goals for the year, marked Kim’s 1st formal remarks since the election 2 weeks ago of Park Geun-hye as South Korea’s next president, who takes office next month. Kim asked for a detente - but with prerequisites that the conservative Park is likely to be reluctant to accept. Those agreements call for, among other things, economic ties, high-level government dialogue & the creation of a special “cooperation” zone in the Yellow Sea, where the North & South spar over a maritime border.
Park, has said she will resume humanitarian exchanges & small economic projects with the North - but has pledged to hold off on major economic cooperation unless the North disassembles its nuclear weapons program. Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, who ruled for 17 years, only addressed North Korean citizens once verbally, preferring the New Year’s message to be delivered in a lengthy editorial carried by the state-run newspapers. The previous live address for January 1 was last given by North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, in 1994, months before his death. (Read more at the ChosunIlbo)
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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Pakistani rice exporters losing out to India (Perspective)
(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
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
by Cholpon Nogoibaeva
Exclusive Commentary for HUMNEWS
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - Bloody clashes in Kyrgyzstan’s south have been dominating headlines in the international media for the past several days. Scenes of rioting crowds watched by seemingly clueless law enforcement officers remaining passive have flashed on television screens around the world, suggesting a direct link between the state and the marginalized groups. Pictures of young men agitated by a feeling of impunity riding captured armored vehicles are coupled with text saying that the government is unable to normalize the situation. The printed and electronic media, blogs are full of stories describing horror, violence and lawlessness.
The coverage of the events in the South has been immediate but its accuracy left much to be desired. It is vitally important that conflicts should be covered, and, preferably, by free media, who adhere to impartiality. However, reporting on Kyrgyzstan shows that even those enjoying freedom of the press fall victim to stereotyping, generalization and misrepresentation.
Today Kyrgyzstan is shown in international media as a failed state that is about to cease to exist, a country gripped by civil war, where ethnic cleansing and genocide of ethnic Uzbeks takes place. How and why did such an image of Kyrgyzstan and its people arise? Whatever the reason - uninformed reporters or superficial analysis - is of little importance now: major messages have been communicated and fixed in the minds of millions of people creating fertile ground for panic and rumors.
What happened in the south was horrible – the dead, wounded, refugees and victims of violent crimes. The number of people killed is higher than reported in official statistics because only those who have been delivered to specialized medical institutions for identification are included in the statistics. While houses and shops were torched on a scale hitherto not seen in Kyrgyzstan, these were not acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide of Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks. Central and local governments, police and army, government and non-government organizations did not engage in acts that violated the civil rights of Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks. The Kyrgyz Republic's identity as a state is based on citizenship, not ethnic origin.
Kyrgyzstan does not have a policy that separates or discriminates on the basis of ethnicity. That is why police officers died trying to calm mobs of young Kyrgyz and Uzbeks who were provoked by specially trained mercenaries. Liberal use of the words "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing," irresponsible distribution of information, or, what is much worse, willful distortion of information, have damaged not only the people of Kyrgyzstan, but ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries.
It is particularly sad that the clashes in two Southern regions of Kyrgyzstan are labeled as ethnic conflict. Willingly or unwillingly, those who do so confuse causes and consequences. The bloodshed in Osh and Jalalabad was caused not by inter-ethnic tension between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, but by willful provocations that were aimed precisely at causing bloodbath between the two peoples. The perpetrators were nationals of Kyrgyzstan and other countries, while the funding and overall coordination came from ex-President Bakiev's closes relatives. Their purpose was to create havoc to ensure that the 27 June referendum on the new constitution that establishes a parliamentary democracy does not take place.
There were at least three groups of mercenaries. One included highly trained snipers who went around town in cars with tinted glasses, shooting both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Presumably, these snipers were the same snipers who shot at the people from the roof of the Government Building in Bishkek in April.
There were also arsonists, who were responsible for setting buildings on fire in Kyrgyz and Uzbek districts. One of the things that contributed to the panic was that the arsonists set on fire buildings with slate roof. At high temperature slate cracks loudly with a sound that can be mistaken for gunfire.
The third group consisted of instigators who prompted males to avenge by spreading rumors of multiple atrocities: committed by Kyrgyz against the Uzbeks, committed by Uzbeks against the Kyrgyz. These planned and deliberate actions caused the conflicts on the night of June 10-11 and the timing was to coincide with the 20th anniversary of serious inter-ethnic disturbances that took place a year before Kyrgyzstan became an independent state in 1991. Subsequent events followed the intended scenario and resulted in clashes between the two communities.
The new coalition interim government was not ready for this development and lacked capacity to intervene to turn the events around quickly, which the mercenaries took advantage of very well. There were cases when residents of neighboring ethnic districts tried to reconcile with each other, but were shot at by unknown snipers. Gunmen fired on trucks that distributed humanitarian aid, sabotaging relief efforts and creating an impression among the people of Osh (who suffered from lack of food and other essentials) that the local and central government abandoned them.
The masterminds of these provocations that caused numerous civilian victims and a flood of refugees knew precisely of various long running social, community and criminal (especially narco-business) tensions which existed in the south and were able to take advantage of weakness of the interim government.
Rehabilitating towns and villages and, most importantly, returning to normal life in Osh and Jalalabad will take years and colossal resources. Kyrgyz citizens will face a wave of post-conflict gore and negative information. A representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said today that the events were orchestrated and planned in advance by shadowy groups and not a spontaneous inter-ethnic clash.
Free media would do a great service to all Kyrgyzstanis by stopping reproduction of clichés and paying more attention to the young nation that tries to create its own civic identity.
Ms. Nogoibaeva is President of Institute for Policy Analysis in Bishkek.