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February 27 2014

How the Portuguese Influenced Indian Cuisine

Sorpotel. Photo by Flickr user gcmenezes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Sorpotel. Photo by Flickr user gcmenezes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The Portuguese established a colony in India at the beginning of the 16th century. Portuguese India was ruled first from Cochin, and then Goa. Over the next four centuries, Portuguese control spread to various parts of India, mostly along the west coast of the country, but also in the northeast in Bengal.

During this time, the Portuguese left their mark on certain Indian cuisines in two ways: by introducing new ingredients to India – including spices that are seen as an essential part of Indian food today – and by introducing Portuguese dishes that then were adapted to Indian culinary techniques and tastes.

The strongest Portuguese influence was of course in Goa, which Portugal ruled until 1961. In particular, Goan Catholic cuisine has a distinct Portuguese flavour. Blogger Hilda Mascarenhas describes the famous Goan dish pork vindaloo:

The name “Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish “Carne de Vinha d’Alhos” which is a dish of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. The Portuguese dish was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red Kashmiri chillies with spices, to evolve into Vindaloo. The alternative terms are Vindalho or Vindallo. Traditional Goan Pork Vindaloo is intensely flavored with fragrant spices and does not include potatoes. No celebration and festive occasion is complete without the Goan Pork Vindaloo. It is enjoyed with the most popular and loved accompaniment, Goan sannas, which are prepared with toddy! This speciality is served with pride in every Goan home at Christmas, New Year and Easter.

Gavin Harvey adds:

Vindaloo started as a vinegar and garlic based stew made with pork or other meat but when introduced to India it got revamped with various spices and chillies. Potatoes were also added to the dish and “alhos” became “aloo” (Hindi word for “potatoes”) – so soon people assumed potatoes were a necessary ingredient of this dish.

Further down the coast from Goa is the city of Mangalore, and Mangalorean Catholic cuisine has many similarities with Goan Catholic cuisine. A pork dish common to both is sorpotel (or sarapatel), originally from the Alentejo region of Portugal. At the Goan Recipes blog, Glenn writes:

The word ‘sarapatel’ literally means confusion, probably referring to the mish-mash of ingredients of pork heart, liver and even pork blood!

Bandel cheese. Photo by Flickr user Manidipa Mandal (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Bandel cheese. Photo by Flickr user Manidipa Mandal (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Moving to the other side of India, some Portuguese influence can be seen in Bengali cuisine as well. Rangan Datta gives us the history of a special kind of cheese:

Originating from the erstwhile Portuguese settlement of Bandel (about 50 km north of Calcutta), Bandel Cheese is perhaps one of the last traces of Portuguese cuisine in Bengal. The Portuguese influence in Bengal dates back to the late 16th century. Almost a century after Vasco da Gama reached the West Coast of India the Portuguese started making their inroads into Bengal. [...] It was the probably the Portuguese who introduced the art of cheese making in Bengal and in spite of all odds the technique has survived over centuries. The Bandel Cheese introduced by the Portuguese was probably made by the Mogh (Burmese) cooks under Portuguese supervision. [...] This variety of unripened cheese is made from cows milk and comes in two versions plain and smoked. First the the curd is extracted from the cows milk by using lemon juice. The cheese is then shaped and drained in perforated pots. The plain variety is of milk-white colour and comes in disc shapes of about an inch diameter and quarter of inch thickness. The smoked variety comes in the same shape and size but has a crispy brownish crust covering the soft milk-white interior.

Zoe Perrett notes:

The Portuguese influence on Bengal was not pure. Having gone to Goa first, many of the new introductions were delivered with a distinct Western Indian accent, or, indeed, were dishes the Portuguese purloined directly from that small state. The Portuguese also proffered Bengal bounty from travels further afield; fruity beauties like pineapple, papaya, guava, and the lychees from the Orient. Where Goa absorbed the influences, blending Portuguese techniques and dishes with local spices, in Bengal, many of the Portuguese-provided ingredients have retained their own clear identity. Mogh cooks soon mastered Western baking methods; displayed today in Calcutta’s prolific puffs and pastries, and perhaps also in the use of white flour for ‘luchis’ (a Bengali bread).

Kulkuls. Photo by Flickr user Amanda Fernandes (CC BY 2.0).

Kulkuls. Photo by Flickr user Amanda Fernandes (CC BY 2.0).

The Portuguese left a legacy of sweet as well as savoury dishes in India. Kulkuls, or kidyo, are a type of sweet eaten by Goan and Mangalorean Catholics at Christmas. Aparna Balasubramaniam describes them:

Kulkuls are made by deep-frying inch long bits of sweet dough moulded/shaped into small curls (like butter curls) which are often also coated with a sugar glaze which dries out. The kulkuls tend to resemble small worms, hence the name “Kidyo” in Konkani, the language spoken in Goa. If you do not to think of them as “worms” you can think of them as shell-shaped. I like to think that the name Kulkul/Kalkal comes from the rattling sound of these little treats jostling one another when they’re shaken in sugar syrup or maybe in the tin in which they would be stored. Kulkuls are made during Christmas in Goa and are an important item in the Kuswar (a collection of Goan Christmas-time treats), and are distributed to neighbours. They’re also taken along to give away during “obligatory” visits to friends and family. [...] Someone pointed out the Kulkuls are actually a variation of the Portuguese Filhoses Enroladas, which is a roll or curvy noodle-shaped Christmas-time sweet that is deep-fried and sugar-glazed. So it is possible that Kulkuls were brought to India by the Portuguese.

February 26 2014

Bangladeshis Protest Bollywood Film ‘Gunday’ for Misrepresenting Liberation War

A new Bollywood film, “Gunday“, has people outraged in Bangladesh against the movie's mischaracterizing their country's 1971 war for independence. 

The film begins with a scene of the 1971 India-Pakistan war and ignores the events of 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. It highlights only the 13 day long India-Pakistan war which occurred at the fag end, ignoring the essential element of the nine month long Bangladesh's struggle for liberation from Pakistan, in which an estimated three million people died.

Bangladeshis took to social media networks to express their anger and demand an apology from the production company behind the film, Yash Raj.

There have been offline protests as well. Several youth groups engaged in Street Protests in capital Dhaka. The government also officially protested.

Poster of Gunday movie. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Poster for the film “Gunday”. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Twitter user Abdullah Al Nadim wrote:

Worldfriend4u questioned the film director's knowledge of history:

Saima Selim tweeted:

Zarin Tasnim Maliha complained:

Facebook user Sedative Hypnotics argued with documents the historic facts of Bangladesh's 1971 war of liberation which the film misrepresented:

৯০ হাজার পাকিস্তানী আর্মি ভারতীয় বাহিনীর কাছে আত্মসমর্পণ করে নি। করেছে বাংলাদেশ-ভারত যৌথবাহিনীর কাছে। এই কপি টা ভারতের প্রতিটা ঘরে ঘরে পৌছায় দেবার দাবি জানাই। প্রথমে ‘গুন্ডে’ মুভির পরিচালকের বাসায়।

90,000 Pakistani army prisoners did not surrender to the Indian army. They surrendered to the Bangladesh-Indian joint force. I demand that this copy of historic facts should reach every Indian house. Firstly, the documents should be sent to the “Gunday” director's home.

Mrityunjay Devrat, who is the director of the film “Children of War” based on the Bangladesh Liberation War has expressed his displeasure for the film in an interview with Bollywood Hungama, questioning the way the war was depicted:

If I am allowed to be honest, then I'd have to say that the makers of Gunday have been factually incorrect. I think it is hugely irresponsible and derogatory to use a sensitive subject such as the Bangladesh war for purely commercial purposes.

Yash Raj films has apologized in a statement on their blog for “any disrespect or hurt” that the film has caused Bangladeshis.

February 24 2014

Celebrating Puerto Rican Poet Julia de Burgos on the 100th Anniversary of Her Birth

Julia de Burgos

Julia de Burgos. Screencap from video.

Poem titles given in English correspond with dual-language collection Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos.

February 17th marked 100 years since the birth of Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos (1914-1953), considered by many be the country's national poet. Although her body of work was relatively small, consisting of some 200 poems, the poetry of Julia de Burgos has succeeded in capturing readers’ imaginations and touching their hearts ever since her first book of poems, Poemas exactos a mí misma, was published in print in 1937.

De Burgos only published three books of poems during her life: the aforementioned Poemas exactos a mí misma [Exact Poems to Myself], Poemas en veinte surcos [Poems in Twenty Furrows, 1938], and Canción de la verdad sencilla [Song of the Simple Truth, 1939]. A fourth book, Mar y tú y otros poemas [The Sea and You and Other Poems], was published in 1954, after her death at age 39. The high quality of de Burgos’ poetry has earned her work a permanent place among the best Latin American poetry of the 20th century.

Julia de Burgos was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and was the only one of 13 siblings to attend university. Although she did not graduate, she succeeded in obtaining a teaching certificate at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1936 she joined the women's branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, The Daughters of Liberty, who advocated for Puerto Rican independence under the leadership of Pedro Albizu Campos. She spent time living in Cuba and in New York, where she died of pneumonia in 1953. Because she carried no identification at the time of her death, she was buried in an anonymous grave in New York. Her remains were later transferred to a burial site in Carolina thanks to friends who were able to find the grave and claim her body.

De Burgos has become deeply imbedded in the collective imagination of Puerto Ricans living on the Island, as well as those of the diaspora. In the following video, Puerto Ricans of New York read excerpts from one of de Burgos’ most famous poems, “Yo misma fui mi ruta” (I was my own route).

According to José Gómez Biamón in his article for the online publication El Post Antillano [es], most of the activities commemorating de Burgos’ centennial took place outside of Puerto Rico:

[...] En el ámbito del Caribe Hispano, ha habido actividades, que demuestran un gran interés por el centenario, según se ha visto en la prensa recientemente. Específicamente, en la República Dominicana han develado un busto en honor a Julia de Burgos, en una plaza de la capital dominicana. Además, en Cuba la editorial Casa de las Américas ha expresado comunicados de júbilo, por la celebración del centenario. Igualmente, en los Estados Unidos ha habido varias actividades culturales, específicamente recuerdo ver en la prensa las fotos de un vistoso mosaico en una Calle del “Barrio” en Harlem, New York. Cabe mencionar, que en España, durante los últimos meses, también ha habido actividades y varias publicaciones relacionadas con Julia de Burgos.

[...] Judging by what has appeared recently in the media, there have been activities in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean that demonstrate a great interest in the centennial. Specifically, in the Dominican Republic, a bust in honor of Julia de Burgos was unveiled in a plaza in the Dominican capital. Furthermore, in Cuba, cultural organization Casa de las Américas has shared messages of celebration of the centennial. Likewise, there have been various cultural activities in the United States; in particular, I remember seeing photos of a remarkable mural on a street in “El Barrio,” in Harlem, New York. It should also be mentioned that in recent months, there were various activities and publications related to Julia de Burgos in Spain.

However, it should be noted that a large number of commemorative and celebratory events [es], like lectures and concerts, have taken place in Puerto Rico as well.

In an article on 80 Grados [es], Puerto Rican singer and composer Zoraida Santiago remembers Julia, who has been one of her great inspirations:

Este año hay mucha celebración de centenario. Sinceramente, me alegro. Pero espero que nos sirva para algo.

Que la celebración del centenario de Julia de Burgos nos sirva para rescatar la poesía. La suya y la de todos y todas las poetas.

This year the centennial is being widely celebrated. I'm sincerely happy. But I hope that it will serve a purpose.
I hope the hundredth anniversary of Julia de Burgos’ birth will serve to rescue poetry. Her poetry, and that of all poets.

Juan Camacho, in his blog post about Julia de Burgos, warns about the danger of her memory being reduced to the stereotype of the bohemian poet who lived a tragically short life:

Como cualquier ser humano de su época y de la nuestra, Julia enfrentó problemas e inconvenientes en el transcurso de su vida. Unos los pudo vencer, otros no. No obstante, entendemos que es injusto que se le recuerde, más allá del consenso de su calidad como poetisa, como la mujer fracasada, alcohólica, excesivamente romántica y pasional, enajenada de la realidad.

Julia fue más que un poema romántico; fue más que una relación amorosa; fue más que una mujer que enfrentó problemas.

Es hora de rescatar, sin que tengamos que reescribir la historia, a la otra Julia. A la otra Julia que también reclama la joven escritora Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro cuando escribe:

“Quiero conocer a la Julia revoltosa y desobediente; a la Julia de la rebelión, la que se codeó con Don Pedro Albizu Campos; que escribió cartas a favor de la excarcelación de Juan Antonio Corretjer; aquella que sostenía reuniones con grandes pensadores y libertarios como Juan Bosch…”

Like any human being of her time, or ours, Julia faced problems and obstacles over the course of her life. Some, she could overcome; others, she could not. Regardless, beyond the consensus about her excellence as a poet, it's unfair to remember her as a struggling alcoholic, excessively romantic and passionate, estranged from reality.

Julia was more than a romantic poem; she was more than a love affair; she was more than a woman who faced problems.
Without rewriting history, it's time to rescue the other Julia. The Julia sought by the young writer Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro when she writes:
“I want to know the unruly and disobedient Julia; the Julia of the rebellion, the one who rubbed shoulders with Don Pedro Albizu Campos; the one who wrote letters advocating for the release of Juan Antonio Corretjer from prison; the one who met with great thinkers and libertarians like Juan Bosch…”

Puerto Rican writer Luis Rafael Sánchez [es] has perhaps best articulated the reasons why we remember Julia de Burgos and, furthermore, how we should remember her:

Alargada en el espíritu de cuantos admiramos su hembría insurgente, enroscado su nombre en los labios de a quienes nos deslumbra su universo hecho de verso, a Julia de Burgos la llamaremos Poeta ahora, después y siempre. Y no porque la recordemos. Y sí porque la sentimos. Que como un grito integral, suave y profundo, estalló de sus labios la palabra.

Embedded in the spirit of all those who admire her rebellious femininity, her name entwined on the lips of those stunned by her universe of verse, we call Julia de Burgos a Poet, now, later, and always. Not because we remember her, but because we feel her. Like a primal cry, smooth and profound, her words burst from her lips.

You can find more information on Julia de Burgos here [es].

The Venezuela I'll Always Remember

Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela. Image by flickr user danielito311. Used with Creative Commons licence (BY-NC 2.0).

Back then in Peru, terror and fear was part of our daily lives.

I had just graduated from law school in Lima. It was late 1993 and my beloved Peru was recovering from 12 years of internal conflict which had claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Christmas was coming and I decided it was time for my first journey abroad to visit a dear aunt. 

My mother's elder sister moved to Venezuela in the late 1950s. She got married in Caracas and settled there with her husband and two sons. After my younger cousin died in a car accident, my mother and her sister strengthened their bond and never let distance deter them from staying in touch.

When I stepped foot outside Simón Bolívar International Airport [es] in Maiquetía, I was instantly struck by how different everything looked, compared with Lima.

Caracas was a shiny modern city, with high-rises, highways, flyovers, and recently repaved roads.

All the cars looked like they had just rolled off the factory assembly line, glossy and splendid. New cars was something we were just starting to get used to in Peru, after out-of-control hyperinflation [es] had made all of us billionaires with little purchasing power.

The road signs looked like they had been painted the day before.

I could feel progress everywhere I looked, and this was just on the way from the airport to my aunt's house. Rain welcomed me on this adventure, something we Limeans are not used to at all.

The next day I started my tour of the city. I didn't feel like a total outsider. My generation grew up watching Venezuelan soap operas on TV, so some popular areas were familiar to me: Chacao, Chacaíto, the Virgen of Chiquingirá. So was the rhythmic speaking that I noticed was following me everywhere, after a few days.

During a visit to one museum, I saw a guy looking at a list of battles fought by Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia. There were the names of the battles with no indication of the where they'd been fought, and I stood by next to this tourist and started with a lesson learnt long ago at school: Carabobo, Venezuela; Boyacá, Bogotá, Pichincha, Ecuador; and Junín and Ayacucho, Perú (country of yours truly).

On that trip, during a visit to a beach whose name I have forgotten, my toes first felt the waters of the Atlantic, I owe that to Venezuela too.

But what impressed me above all was the freedom people had, simply living their lives. We could enter any building and there was no military officer waiting to check our bags and belongings. There were no metal detectors or special machines that we had to pass through at the entrance of shopping centers or museums or anywhere for that matter.

I even walked in front of government buildings and ministries, as if that was the most normal thing to do. No one stopped me from being there, no one checked my documents, and no one made me feel like there was something to fear.

That is why I have been overwhelmed with sadness, as the recent stories and images have been trickling out of Venezuela.

Venezuelans are suffering. Venezuelans are crying. Venezuelans are mourning.

Protesters are rallying for liberty and demanding their rights be respected. Young people are dying in the streets, as police and government supporters battle protesters. Brothers are fighting brothers. 

I prefer to remember the Venezuela I knew in 1993. Joyous Caribbean music mingling with traditional Christmas songs wherever I went. Smiling faces greeting me, people welcoming me with kind words open arms, upon learning that I was Peruvian. 

Venezuela, you will always be in my heart.

Gabriela Garcia Calderon is a Peruvian lawyer specialized in Arbitration and Civil Law. She comes from a family connected to the media in Peru. Gabriela has been a member of Global Voices since November 2007.

Myanmar's Last Remaining Synagogue

Built 120 years ago, the Musmeah Yeshua synagogue in Yangon is the last remaining Jewish synagogue in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar. Aside from being a tourist attraction, it is also listed as an archaeological heritage building in the city.

February 23 2014

Census Could Worsen Conflict in Myanmar

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from  Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Myanmar’s nationwide census scheduled from March 23 to April 10 threatens to inflame more ethnic and religious conflicts in the country over some ‘antagonistic and divisive’ issues included in the questionnaire. Myanmar’s last census was held more than 30 years ago.

The census, supported by the UN, aims to determine Myanmar’s key demographic and socio-economic statistics in order to ascertain the country’s particular development needs. But questions about ethnicity or tribal identification have become controversial after the government listed 135 ethnic groups and sub-groups on the questionnaire. Critics reminded the government that the listing is a colonial legacy which must be revamped. Several ethnic groups have complained about being lumped with other minorities while others claimed they were dropped from the listing.

The government is urged to reclassify the listing based on consultation with ethnic communities. And while the government is doing this, some groups wanted the census delayed for another month.

In Myanmar, majority are Burmans. An estimated 40 percent of the population is considered an ethnic minority, with Shan composing the biggest minority group.

The common complaint of many groups is the inaccurate categorization of ethnic groups. For example, the Palaung (Ta’aung) tribe questioned their inclusion as a Shan race:

We, Ta’aung, settled down in this land before the Shan…We are not the same with other races. We live in mountainous area and have a different culture and language.

Kyaw Thu, head of the civil society consortium Paung Ku, thinks questions on ethnicity and religion should be dropped because they are no longer necessary:

If development is the priority, the data of headcounts—the numbers of people and the age group—is enough to conduct economic projects.

Tun Myint Kyaw, local coordinator in Mon State for the European Union-funded Rule of Law Project, also urged the removal of some controversial questions in the census:

If [the Ministry of Immigration and Population] has a plan to omit the ethnicity and religion category from the national identity card, why would they still include in the census data collection?

Khun Jar of the Kachin Peace Network explained how inaccurate ethnic categorization can cause trouble; and he also warned about the danger of conducting census in some remote areas where armed conflicts are still taking place:

If the government accepts 135 ethnic groups only, it can cause harm to the peace process because ethnic groups can get into armed conflicts if disagreements arise among them

We can’t anticipate who will conduct the census in remote areas and places where there is no ceasefire. In some places there are no schools. Teachers are normally used to collect data on the population. So with no schools, it will not be easy to collect population figures at the refugee camps.

Thet Ko from Minority Affair proposed the drafting of a new listing based on the principle of democratic consultation:

The list of ethnics should be compiled again after consulting with ethnic groups through a democratic procedure.

Some ethnic groups are worried that they might lose political representation if the proposed census will adopt the official listing of ethnic groups in the country. Ethnic minister positions in local parliaments are automatically given to ethnic groups with more than 0.01 percent of the population in the area.

The government is accused of deliberately bloating the number of ethnic subgroups to deny representation to some tribes.

But in the case of the Rohingyas, the government refuses to recognize them as citizens. Kyaw Min of the Democracy and Human Rights Party is appealing for the recognition of Rohingyas, who are mostly Muslims:

Every human race has its own identity. We have our identity already…This is not just now—we have had it for a long time. But we have found that there is discrimination in the country, which ignores our demand that our identity be recognized.

One concern about the inclusion of religion in the census is the destabilization it might generate. In particular, the census might confirm that Myanmar has a growing number of Muslims which could provoke Buddhist extremist groups to cause trouble in many villages.

Worried about the threat, the International Crisis Group, is proposing to limit census questions on age, sex and marital status:

…the coming census, consisting of 41 questions, is overly complicated and fraught with danger. Myanmar is one of the most diverse countries in the region, and ethnicity is a complex, contested and politically sensitive issue, in a context where ethnic communities have long believed that the government manipulates ethnic categories for political purposes

A poorly timed census that enters into controversial areas of ethnicity and religion in an ill-conceived way will further complicate the situation.

Meanwhile, the Burma Partnership fears the census might undermine the national reconciliation process:

Yet the lack of transparency and consultation is a damning indictment of the UN’s – and donors’ – role in the census, while the accusations of inaccuracy and divisiveness only serve to further undermine the credibility of these parties. Moreover, there are real fears about the logistics of collecting the data, both in terms of authorities using the correct forms and accessing remote areas or conflict zones, which would have implications for the accuracy of data recorded

It is clear that this census represents a Pandora’s Box of potential ethnic tensions and conflict. At a time when the Burma government claims to be striving to secure a sustainable peace deal with the armed ethnic groups and cementing political reforms before the 2015 national elections, the timing and nature of the census is strange, to say the least. It risks jeopardizing national reconciliation, undermining the peace process, and exacerbating inter-communal violence.

Apparently, some ethnic groups are cynical of the census process that they chose to conduct a census on their own.

February 19 2014

Soviet-era Monuments and Slogans in Tajik Capital “Should Stay”

Over the last two decades, the authorities in Dushanbe have dismantled most of the Soviet-era monuments and huge political slogans on rooftops which had all been an important feature of the cityscape before 1991. However, as Radio Ozodi reports [tj], Tajikistan's capital has preserved a handful of Soviet statues, slogans, and signs [see all photos].

Blogger writing on Russian Chronicles of Tajikistan suggests [ru] that these “remnants” of the Soviet period should stay:

I believe that all these symbols, monuments, bas-reliefs, and signs should be preserved. More than that, we need to take a good care of them and ensure their proper maintenance. It is not about some kind of nostalgia or love for the Soviet past. No. It is more about the fact that all these “remnants” of the Soviet epoch could become important tourist attractions.

The blogger also proposes to keep signs with the Soviet-era street names in the capital and place the monuments that have been dismantled in museums.

And under Ozodi's story, Mansur comments [tj]:

The symbols and signs left from the USSR should not be taken down, for they are important historical evidence reminding us of our great past…

Assessing Myanmar's Democratic Transition

Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, concluded his mission by assessing the country's democratic transition:

For the time being, the military retains a prevailing role in the life and institutions of Myanmar. State institutions in general remain unaccountable and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an independent branch of Government. Moreover, the rule of law cannot yet be said to exist in Myanmar.

He also talked aboout the challenges facing the media sector:

I met journalists who described a prevailing climate of uncertainty and fear of arrest, particularly if reporting dealt with issues too close to the interests of the military or other powerful elites.

Four short links: 19 February 2014

  1. 1746 Slippy Map of London — very nice use of Google Maps to recontextualise historic maps. (via USvTh3m)
  2. TPP Comic — the comic explaining TPP that you’ve been waiting for. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Synthetic Biology Investor’s Lament — some hypotheses about why synbio is so slow to fire.
  4. vizcities — open source 3D (OpenGL) city and data visualisation platform, using open data.

February 18 2014

Olympics Overshadow Evictions in Tokyo

反五輪の会のフェイスブックページに投稿された写真。ロシア政府は、19世紀にアレクサンドル2世によってチェルケシア人口のおよそ90パーセントが殺害されたか土地を追われたチェルケシア虐殺についていまだ認めていない。

Photos of an anti-Olympics group in Tokyo posted on Facebook. Banners show messages of opposition to holding the Sochi Olympics on the land of genocide and the 2020 Olympics in Japan. (photo by 反五輪の会[han-gorin-no-kai] used with permission)

[All links lead to Japanese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

While many people in Japan are happy with the country's results of the Sochi Winter Olympics – notably, Ayumu Hirano, the youngest medal winner on the snowboard half pipe and Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan's first Olympic gold in men's figure skating, just to name a few – there are some who are speaking out against the Olympics, present and future.

Given some tens of billions of dollars are used to host the international sporting event, the Olympics are never without criticism. At the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, courtesy of the so called “anti-gay propaganda” law that Russia passed last year, the US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those absent [en]. Human Rights Watch has been urging the International Olympics Committee [en] to investigate over non-payment of compensations for construction workers for Sochi game-related facilities. Animal rights groups are anxious that the stray dogs swept out of Sochi would be killed [en]. 

But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended. Yuji Kitamaru, a Japanese columnist in New York, referred to the lack of human rights awareness in not just the leader, but its citizen:

The reason why all the European leaders being absent at the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony was because of an overwhelming domestic pressure to increase pressure on Russia, rather than the leaders themselves putting pressure on Russia. This is domestic politics rather than a diplomatic move. Abe was able to attend not just because of his lack of awareness of human rights, but also because there is a lack of human rights pressure in Japanese public opinion.

The lesser known problem may be the history of Sochi [en]. The Circassian people has demanded [en] that the Russian government acknowledges the 19th-century Muhajir [en] (Circassian Genocide), during which about 90 percent of the local Circassian population was killed or displaced by Tsar Alexander II. “NoSochi2014“ is a website created to put more pressure on the Russian government and to gather support for the cause.

Japanese anti-Olympics group “Hangorin-no-kai” showed their solidarity with NoSochi2014 and published a message on Facebook[en/ja] declaring that they do not welcome 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the forced evictions it may cause:

To the people around the globe fighting against the 2014 Sochi Olympics, we send you a message of solidarity from Tokyo, the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

We understand that Sochi 2014 is being held on a land where Circassian people were massacred by the Russian Empire, and today Russia is running the games on the biggest budget in the history of the Olympics.

We also recognize that for the Olympics development, more than 2000 people were displaced from their homes and extreme levels of environmental destruction were brought to the land.

[…]

Here in Tokyo the unnecessary redevelopment for the 2020 Olympics has already started with evictions of low-income populations from their homes.

The radioactive contamination by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is nowhere near stabilisation, let alone “under control” as Prime Minister Abe proudly announced to the IOC.

Tokyo is only swimming in the cloud of an illusion, while the people in Fukushima and many nameless radiation-exposed workers at the power plant are left without sufficient support from the state.

The Olympics is nothing but a nightmare.

What is happening in Sochi today, is what might happen to us in 6 years.

The concerns of the group are the evictions that often take place before hosting large international events. There have been cases where homeless people staying in public parks were forcefully moved out of their tents when big events took place nearby.

The group mentioned [ja] past examples on Twitter: Before the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 World Athletics Championships, homeless people squatting at Osaka's Nagai Park [ja] were forcefully evicted. Prior to the Aichi World Expo, tents of homeless people in Nagoya city's Shirokawa Park [ja] were forcefully removed. And, evictions in Tokyo already started in early March last year with tents and belongings of the homeless forcefully removed when an International Olympic Committee inspection group visited Tokyo.

2013年12月15日(日)反五輪の会が主催したデモの模様。写真:mkimpo.comより許可を得て掲載

Protesters organized by an anti-Olympics group march in Tokyo on December 15, 2013. Photo by mkimpo.com. Used with the permission

Eviction is not only for people squatting in public parks. According to AFP [ja], about 2,000 households at the Kasumigaoka public housing apartment in Shinjuku, Tokyo are facing eviction. Most of the residents are elderly.

A blogger named “定年おじさんのつぶやき”, which translates to “Blurbs of a Retired Old Man” wrote about the shadows of the Olympics:

日本での最初の五輪開催は、まさに日本が経済成長を遂げ先進国の仲間入りを果たしたことを世界に誇示する最高の舞台だった。
だが晴れの舞台の陰には多くの人々の犠牲がついて回る。
昔から「開発」という行為には必ず自然や環境の「破壊」ということばがついて回った。

戦争は何も生み出さない最大・最悪の「破壊」行為であるが、五輪開催という大義名分には中々反対の声は上げにくい。

とりわけ立場の弱い人たちは、「お上」の命令には逆らうことができない。
54年前、アジアで初めての五輪開催を控えて都は老朽化住宅の建て替えを始めた。

当時は建て替えられた新しいアパートに再び入居することができたが、そのアパートも逐50年も経ち高齢になった住民は、2020年の五輪に向けて追い出されることになった。

When Tokyo hosted the Olympics for the first time [in 1964], it was a great milestone to show off to the world that Japan has grown into a developed country thanks to economic growth.

But a grand occasion in the spotlight often comes with sacrifices.

Through the ages, an act of development always was followed by destruction of nature and environment.

War is the biggest, worst example of destruction that does not generate anything good, but when it comes to a good reason like the Olympics, it's hard to speak against it.

Especially marginalized people can never go against the orders of authorities.

Fifty-four years ago, Tokyo began reconstruction on old housing prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. People who had been asked to leave their old houses were moved to a newly built apartment building.

But that apartment building, now 50 years old, and its old residents face another eviction for the 2020 Olympics. 

For Kohei Jinno, a 79-year-old resident of the Kasumigaoka apartment building, it's his second time facing eviction because of the Olympics. According to Japan Times [en], his home and business were torn down to make way for an Olympic park around the main stadium for the Tokyo Games in 1964. Now he has been told he must move again to make way for the stadium’s redevelopment and expansion in time for 2020. 

Unlike the anti-Olympics group “Hangorin-no kai”, most people in Japan are not against hosting the games themselves, but some are against tearing down the existing stadium to build a new, larger one. 

A YouTube video made by architect Ken Aoki using Google Earth shows a 3D model based on information made public in March 2013 of the new national stadium:

Edward Suzuki, a Japanese architect, suggested on his blog fixing up the already existing national stadium rather than simply building a new one and called on people to join the campaign on online petition platform Change.org. The petition “Saving Meijijingu Gaien and National Stadium for Future Generations (unofficial translation) argues that throwing large amount of taxes away to build a new giant stadium which would be too huge, raising issues with emergency guidance and risk management in the event of disaster, will only prevent recovery efforts for areas affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 and will destroy the city's scenery, such as Ginkgo trees and the blue sky. All this, the petition warns, will become a burden for future generations.

With the city headed toward a development push for the Olympics, Twitter user Nakajimayuki commented on the role of citizens:

Tokyo residents, as the leading actors for the city, must stay strong and pay close attention to this massive change that Tokyo will go through “for the 2020 Olympics”, not just the plan to rebuild a new stadium, so that such development will not proceed in an non-transparent way.

The thumbnail photo is from Hangorin-no-kai's Facebook page
The post was edited by L.Finch

February 16 2014

Revisiting the Era of Foreign Domination in Cameroon

Dibussi Tande revisits the era of foreign domination in Cameroon in the context of the Guiness Mount Cameroon Race:

The first three editions of the Guinness Mount Cameroon Race were won by local Bakweri runners. By the time of the 4th edition in 1976, an aura of superstition had already enveloped the race. There was a widely-held belief, even among non-natives, that efas’a moto, the mountain god, would never allow a “stranger” to “conquer” the sacred lair of the Bakweri people who lived at the foot of the mountain. In fact, during the first three races, there were numerous stories of supernatural happenings up the fog-covered mountain which disoriented and frightened non-native runners into submission. This would all change in 1976.

Film Documents America's “Invisible” Drone War in Pakistan

A recently released short film focuses on the physical, moral and political invisibility of the United States drone warin Pakistan.

Tactical Tech logoUnseen War” is made by “Exposing the Invisible”, an initiative of the international non-profit Tactical Technology Collective which uses information, communications and digital technologies to maximize the impact of their advocacy work through short films.

Their series explores new frontiers of investigation and shares stories of people working to expose hidden layers behind problems in their societies.

From their website:

We speak to journalists, activists and experts inside and outside of Pakistan about the consequences of the strikes in the tribal FATA region, why they are possible, and how we can make the issue more visible using data and visualization tactics.

Apparently the US is at war in Pakistan against terror and has made hundreds of attacks on targets in Northwest Pakistan since 2004 with unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). They have refuses to officially acknowledge that more than 300 CIA drone strikes carried out in Pakistan and only describes them in off-the-record briefings. The previous Pakistani government openly condemned these attacks but Wikileaks exposed that they privately approved the strikes. According to an expose in Washington Post Pakistani military officials, even those who bitterly complained about drone strikes, had secretly been choosing some of the targets.

A leaked Pakistani report tells that the number of casualties are much higher than those provided by the US administration. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism the estimated casualties in the US drone attacks in Pakistan are:

Pakistan 2004–2013 CIA Drone Strikes

Total strikes: 381
Total killed: 2,537-3,646
Civilians killed: 416-951
Children killed: 168-200
Injured: 1,128-1,557

The reasons for high number of casualties have been contributed to shoddy intel gathering standards such as facilitating strikes without knowing whether the individual in possession of a tracked cell phone or SIM card is in fact the intended target of the strike.

Jeremy Scahill, journalist and author of ‘Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield’ explains how the definitions of “imminent threat” and “enemy combatants” are being redefined by US authorities to give legitimacy for drone attacks. For example all military-age males in an area of known terrorist activity are deemed as combatants, assumed to be up to no good and can be condemned to death by drone.

In the movie “Unseen War” you can hear more from the protagonists by reading the full interviews accompanying the film. You can watch the movie on the website or download it. You can also read the stories and engage in discussions.

Screenings for this short film have already taken place in Islamabad and Karachi and those interested in attending future screenings or hosting them can seek information here.

Two other movies on the US drone warfare in Pakistan – Wounds of Waziristan by Madiha Tahir and Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill – were also released last year.

With additional input from Rezwan

Why It's Hard to Say “I Love You” in Chinese

Roseann Lake from ChinaFile explores why it's hard for Chinese to say “I Love You” in their own language from historical and sociological perspectives. The piece has also introduced an experiment about Chinese brain and its relation to love and romance. 

February 14 2014

Examining the Post-Colonial Evolution of Francophone and Anglophone Africa

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa via Le Monde

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa -Blue countries are French-speaking nations, red countries are English-speaking nations.  via Le Monde

The topic of the post-colonial evolution of francophone versus anglophone African states has always a fodder for intense debate. Cheidozié Dike, from Nigeria, brings a new perspective to the subject :     

While the French Loi Cadre system was mostly about integration, the British colonial system sought only exploitation. Creating an air of suspicion between the nations that make up present-day Anglophone Africa, fracturing connections before they were even made, all the better to rule.[.;] Francophone Africans do not feel the need to aspire to western culture, because the French culture was wedded with local customs such that it became an indivisible whole

However, the predominant analysis from francophone Africa is quite different. Ouréguéhi, from Benin, articulates why he thinks francophone Africa is lagging behind its anglophone counterpart financially [fr]:

Les pays anglophones ont été libérés de leur colon sur tous les plans. la France a toujours les regards dans les affaires des colonisés sans oublier la dictée qu'elle fait à ces pays. Quand tu veux voir celui que tu prétends aider évoluer, tu lui donne les conseils tout en lui laissant le choix de sa politique

English-speaking countries were freed from their colonizers at all levels. France still keeps an eye in the affairs of its former colonies, not to mention the fact that she still dictates (a few policies) of these countries. When you want to help someone evolve, you give him/her advice but you let them choose their own policy. 

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

PHOTOS: Saigon in the Past 50 Years

The Saigoneer features several photos published by the French Consulate in Saigon, Vietnam that highlight the changes that took place in the city between 1955 and 2005.

February 13 2014

The Iconic Trinidadian Film You've Never Seen

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

The 1970s saw the release of two important indigenous Caribbean films: Jamaica’s iconic The Harder They Come, starring musician Jimmy Cliff, which still takes some measure of credit for introducing reggae music to the world, and Bim, which explores race, politics and working class challenges in colonial Trinidad.

If you’ve never heard of Bim, far less seen it, that’s all about to change, thanks to the power of social media.

Pat Ganase, who has had a long career in journalism, publishing and communications in Trinidad and Tobago, has started a Facebook page called “BIM the movie” in an attempt to ignite online discussion about the film and the issues it deals with.

“I decided it was time for the first all-Trinidad film to have a Facebook fan page,” Ganase says. “It was the first film that didn’t just use our environment as a location and our people as exotic natives or extras. It is a film with a story that is authentic…and ours.”

Fellow journalist and writer Raoul Pantin collaborated on the script. The actors were all local. So was the majority of the film crew. The early fusion soundtrack was composed by Andre Tanker and performed by some of the country’s most outstanding musicians, including Mungal Patasar. But most importantly, it was a Trinidadian story.

Ganase is friends with Suzanne Robertson (who co-produced the film with her late husband Hugh, an American who edited the Oscar-winning film Midnight Cowboy) and says that even back then, the couple saw a bright future for the film industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The first Trinidadian film company was SHARC,” she explains, “named for Suzanne, Hugh and their children (Antonio and Anna) Robertson. Bim—and SHARC—probably failed then, for the same reasons that film, as a viable industry, is not succeeding today. There is a failure to appreciate it as a productive industry that can employ many, many people and bring returns on investment through distribution.”

As Ganase notes, the challenges for young filmmakers today are the same: “Funding, institutional support, distribution and marketing. The film industry is not a solitary art, which is why it is an Industry with a Capital I.” But the sense of déjà vu does not stop there—it extends itself to societal challenges as well. While the film marked a particular time in Trinidad and Tobago's history, addressing attitudes towards issues such as racial identity, Ganase believes  its lessons are still relevant. “Maybe it can tell us something about ‘crime’ in our society,” she offers. “It certainly has something to say about young men who grow themselves up, without father or family.”

The plot follows the main character Bhim (initially pronounced Beem) Singh, whose father, a union leader for workers in the sugar cane fields, is killed on the day of his sister’s wedding. Bhim leaves the only life he knows in rural Trinidad to live with his aunt and her ne’er-do-well husband in Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital city. From the get-go he's an outcast, and is soon drawn into a life of petty crime, working for an underworld type who re-christens him Bim. Meanwhile, the winds of political change are blowing. Bim seizes the opportunity, crushes the son of the man who killed his father and gets himself elected as head of the sugar cane workers’ union. His victory is short-lived, however, and his demise comes rather quickly, as a result of alcoholism.

Upon its release, the film was not panned by critics, but it didn’t quite get rave reviews either. The New York Times critique in 1974, for instance, opened by saying, “By no conventional standards is ‘Bim’ very good, but it’s still vastly more interesting than lots of other movies you’re likely to stumble on.” ‘Interesting’ may have been an understatement; it certainly struck a note with local audiences, presumably even before anyone had even seen it. Trinidad and Tobago had an active Censors Board at the time and the film’s planned debut in December 1974 never happened thanks to a ban. A month later, after legal action was taken against the Censors Board, the film was finally screened—uncut—at the landmark Roxy cinema in St. James.

“The language is harsh; it had plenty cusswords [obscene language],” Ganase recalls, “but not unwarranted. People who have seen the film are the ones who perceive it as seminal and important. There is a ring of truth in Bim the movie.”

There's certainly a timeless quality to Bim. Ganase says that “viewers of all ages and in every decade respond [to the film] the same way…as if it is something that they were deprived of.” She thinks this is because the story is as relevant now as it was then. “It’s not that I want people to know the film,” she says. “It is that people have a hunger for it.”

In just three days, the Facebook page has received over 130 “Likes” and a substantial amount of commentary, both from people who have already seen the film and from those who would like to. Ganase says the page will develop according to the discussion it generates: “It will point us in a direction that comes from the collective.”

One idea that came out of user comments was the suggestion by Trinidadian visual artist Christopher Cozier to work towards having Bim listed in Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, which restores and distributes films from countries that are underrepresented in global film culture. “It is a worthwhile idea that might be an avenue for new distribution,” Ganase explains. “There will be a showing in the future. But that will happen when the time is right.”

Janine Mendes-Franco is a communications consultant, media producer and writer. When she's not blogging about the Caribbean for Global Voices, you can find her blogging here and tweeting here.

The image used in this post is from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions, used with permission. A version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian Arts section.

February 12 2014

VIDEOS: Argentina's Melting Pot of Culinary Traditions

[All links lead to Spanish-language sites unless otherwise noted.]

The diverse migratory flows that have reached Argentina from the 1880′s and until now contributed to the richness and variety of the typical [en] cuisine in the country.

The various ‘ferias de colectividades’ (cultural fairs) that take place throughout Argentina are good illustrations of this. In these fairs we can witness not only a display of each community's traditions, folkloric dances, beauty pageants and souvenirs but also their traditional dishes. For instance, during the Fiesta de Colectividades in the city of Rosario that takes place every year, a varied menu is offered representing the multiple communities (Latin, European and Asian) that compose the Argentinian society. In this video, we can see how typical Paraguayan food is prepared and sold during that same fair in Rosario.


On Facebook, the page Encuentro Anual de Colectividades (Annual Gathering of Communities) shows some dishes that will be sold during the 2014 program in the city of Alta Gracia [es]. The city, located in the Córdoba province, is quite famous because it is where the revolutionary Che Guevara [en] lived for 12 years.

Imagen de la página de facebook Encuentro Anual de Colectividades

Photo posted on the Facebook Page of the Encuentro Anual de Colectividades event

Every September, the Misiones province [en] also celebrates its traditional Fiesta Nacional del Inmigrante (National Feast of the Immigrant). For the occasion, the Polish community, among other migrant groups, cooks Kursak Polski na Royezaj, better known as Polish chicken.

Ingredientes
1 pollo
1 cebolla grande
2 ajo puerro
1 morrón rojo mediano
1 morrón verde mediano
200 gramos crema de leche
200 gramos champiñones
sal y pimienta

Preparación de la salsa
Picar la cebolla bien fina, rehogar con una cucharada de aceite, agregar los morrones cortados en daditos, agregar el ajo puerro picado muy fino. Revolver muy bien, agregar crema de leche y los champignones.
Cocinar durante cinco minutos, agregar sal y pimienta a gusto.
Optativo nuez moscada.
Si queda muy espesa la salsa agregar leche para suavizar. Servir acompañado con pollo a la parrilla o al horno

Ingredients

1 Chicken

1 Large Onion

2 Leeks

1 Medium Red Pepper

1 Medium Green Pepper

200 g. Cream

200 g. Mushrooms

Salt and Pepper

Preparation of the sauce

Chop the onions very finely. Fry lightly with one tbsp of oil. Add the peppers after they've been diced followed by the leeks finely cut. Stir well. Add the cream and mushrooms.

Cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some nutmeg if you wish. If sauce gets too thick, add some milk. Serve with grilled or roast chicken.

In addition there are community-specific celebrations, such as the one by the Volga Germans [en], who settled mostly in the province of Entre Ríos. The Volga Germans lived in the region of southeastern European Russia, close to the Volga river [en]. They came to Argentina in 1878 and preserved their traditions as well as their language. Cuisine is naturally at the heart of these traditions. This video produced by the Asociación Argentina de Descendientes de Alemanes del Volga (Argentinian Association of the Volga Germans Descendants) demonstrates how to prepare a Kreppel:


There also many restaurants serving foreign food. The Croatian community in Argentina, for instance, keeps its culinary traditions with restaurants like Dobar Tek, offering a rich Croatian menu. This video shows the “art” of preparing an apple strudel.


The Armenian community is also quite influential in Argentina. Romina Boyadjian suggests the 5 best dishes in Armenian cuisine while pointing out that the Community in the diaspora has reinvented the typical dishes:

Algo curioso es que la comida armenia que se come en Argentina es muy distinta a la que se consume en Armenia. Esto tiene que ver con las reinvenciones que hacen los diferentes pueblos al partir de su tierra natal, las costumbres que traen consigo y lo que termina siendo valorado en la nueva comunidad. Hay comidas que acá se consideran típicas y que allá apenas se conocen.

It's quite intriguing that the Armenian cuisine we eat in Argentina is quite different from the one actually consumed in Armenia. This has to do with the reinventions done by the different populations based on their homeland, the traditions that they bring and what ends up being valued in the new community.  Some dishes are considered traditional yet they are barely known there (in Armenia).

One of the cities symbolizing the Jewish immigration to Argentina is Moisés Ville [en], established by the first immigrants who reached the country. On the YouTube account of the initiative Señal Santa Fe we can see the city and get to know how traditions are preserved through well-known dishes such as the strudel or the Knish [en] among others:


But which dish was quickly adopted by immigrants upon their arrival to the country? The asado [en] without any doubt, especially because the majority of the newcomers were peasants and meat was quite cheap. The Club Argentino de Asadores a la Estaca (Argetinian Club of Rotisseurs) has some photos for you to enjoy.

Asado a la Estaca - Imagen. Laura Schneider

Asado – Photo by Laura Schneider

February 11 2014

Prisoners Lists Stir Informbiro Memories in Former Yugoslav Republics

The recent publishing of lists of prisoners of Goli Otok, victims of communist purges in Yugoslavia from 1949 to 1956, has reignited dormant debates and opened some old wounds, across all the former Yugoslav republics.

Goli Otok is a Croatian island that was used as a prison camp during the so-called “Informbiro era” – the post-World War II breakdown between the communist leaderships of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. For many Yugoslavs, “Tito's historical ‘No!’ to Stalin” was a source of pride, especially because it solidified their country's role as an intermediary between the Western and Eastern Bloc. The purges that were part of the clash officially included persecution of alleged “pro-Soviet communists”. According to the victims and dissidents of the time, this was often just an excuse by the country's power-mongers to get rid of anyone they disliked for any reason and, thus, people of many other political affiliations were sent to the notorious camp.

Prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

Abandoned prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

During the last two months of 2013, Croatian portal Novi Plamen (New Flame) published two lists compiled by UDBA (Yugoslav State Security Service) from the State Archive of Croatia – the list of the 413 people [hr] who died in the camps, and the list of all 16,101 prisoners [hr] who had served sentences there. The second link spread widely through social networks and then through news portals in all six former Yugoslav republics.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment... Published by Novi Plamen.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment… Published by Novi Plamen.

Slovenian right-wing blogger Pavel noted [si] that the publishing of the lists coincided with the recent December 9, 2013, death of Jovo Kapičić [sr], who had allegedly been the man in charge of Goli Otok. In an August 2013 interview, Kapičić, a Serb, claimed [sr] that the Serbs had made up the majority of prisoners at the camp.

Twitter user ‏@flusteredcooler from Montenegro commented on this issue as well and, while people from all of the former Yugoslav republics often claim that their nationals made up the majority of those sentenced to serve time at Goli Otok, he noticed:

Legend says that most of the population of Goli Otok consisted of Montenegrins? The lists show that it was Yugoslavia in a nutshell [representing everybody]

A senior Macedonian blogger, among the oldest members of the local blogosphere, and a World War II anti-fascist resistance veteran, Buv (“Owl”), posted an announcement [mk] by the Association of former Goli Otok prisoners, advising caution in relation to the lists and offering first-hand consultations to all interested parties:

Темата за “голооточаните“.“информбировците“затвореници што ја издржувале казната во логорот Голи Оток е дел од пошироката историска тема за конфликтот меѓу СССР и СФРЈ.Не може да се зборува за казнениците на Голи Оток,без да се разгледуваат во комлесот на историските збиднувања.

Независно од тоа колку биле свесни/идејно свесни/за својот однос кон конкретните настани,учесниците во збиднувањата,што подоцна се нашле на Голи Оток,се учесници во еден политички судир кој има исклучително историско значење,за нив,за нивната земја,за пошироките светски движења.

Ова отклонување го направивме за да обрниме внимание на оние лесно искажани карактеристики што се даваат по повод на објавените списоци за голооточаните/информбировците/ и во други прилики.Без да се има во вид поширокиот контекст на случувањата,може паушално да се кажува се и сешто.Важноста на историската проблематика бара сериозен пристап.

Здружението Голи Оток,меѓу другото,ја има и таа задача да ја објасни,документира,да ја покаже историската вистина за настаните во кои независно од нивната волја се нашле и овие страдалници,што така строго ги казнила историјата.

The topic of the “inhabitants of Goli Otok,” the “Informbiro prisoners” is part of a larger historical topic about the conflict between the [USSR] and the [SFRY]. One cannot talk about the Goli Otok prisoners without taking into account the complexity of historical events.

Regardless of how much they were aware or ideologically involved in these concrete events, the participants who were detained on Goli Otok were engulfed in a political clash with exceptional historical importance, for them personally, for their country and the wider world movement.

We publish this notice to draw attention to the reactions that have been published with great ease after the lists of prisoners were exposed, as well at other occasions. Without taking into consideration the wider context of events, anyone can say anything without arguments. The importance of the historical issues requires a very serious approach.

The Goli Otok Association has the mission to explain, document and disclose the historical truth about the events which unwittingly encompassed these sufferers, who were so severely punished by history.

Informbiro activities left deep trauma in the collective former Yugoslav memory, parts of which were artistically expressed through popular cult movies like When Father Was Away on Business (1985) by then young Bosnian/Serbian director Emir Kusturica, and Happy New Year '49 (1986) by Macedonian director Stole Popov.

Russia's Patriotic Overdrive in Sochi?

Hans Woellke (left) and Julia Lipnitskaia (right) compared. Ashley Wagner's reaction-face meme responds. (Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.)

Hans Woellke (left) and Julia Lipnitskaia (right) compared. Ashley Wagner's reaction-face meme responds. (Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.)

The Soviet Union may have defeated Hitler, but modern-day Russia’s war against fascism wages on. In just the last month, Russian authorities have used their battle with “the rehabilitation of Nazism” as a pretext [ru] for attacks on three different media outlets.

In late January, Russia’s only independent TV station got into hot water, when it aired a survey asking viewers if the USSR could have saved more lives by abandoning Leningrad to the Germans. On February 7, 2014, a Russian Senator demanded [ru] that officials temporarily suspend the broadcasting of CNN, after it published a story (later deleted) calling the Brest Fortress World War II memorial in Belarus “one of the world’s ugliest monuments.”

Most recently, there is trouble at Echo of Moscow, Russia’s premier liberal radio station (and a major hub for opposition-leaning materials online), where satirist Victor Shenderovich (best known for creating a political puppet show that aired in the 1990s) published a controversial blog post [ru] about the politics of Russia hosting the Winter Olympics.

Speaking on the floor of parliament today, Vladimir Vasilyev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Duma, demanded that Echo of Moscow apologize for Shenderovich’s post. (Curiously, Vasilyev addressed only Echo of Moscow, though the text was originally published on the less-trafficked website Ezhednevnyi Zhurnal.) Echo’s chief editor, Alexey Venediktov, wasted no time refusing to apologize [ru], pointing out that Shenderovich’s piece was never broadcast over the radio and only appeared in his blog (hosted on Echo’s site). (Shenderovich has also refused to apologize [ru].)

The post in question, titled “Olympic War: Putin and the Girl on Skates,” describes how liberal oppositionists suffer from a certain “schizophrenia” during the Olympics, struggling to reconcile their love of Russia’s historical accomplishments (Tolstoy, constructivist art, and so on) with Vladimir Putin’s apparent exploitation of these feats to boost his own popularity. Most memorably, Shenderovich also likens fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia’s performance in Sochi this week to Hans Woellke’s triumph in the men’s shot put competition in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. “Something, however, prevents us from enjoying [Woellke’s] victory today,” Shenderovich adds, warning against pride in an authoritarian state’s Olympic athletes.

While many things undoubtedly do keep us from celebrating Woellke today (in the war, he served as a captain in the Waffen SS, and his murder precipitated the massacre of a village in Belarus in 1943), Shenderovich’s comparison has proved controversial for many Russians. Though the Internet-savvy might regard it as nothing more than quick service of Godwin’s law, Shenderovich’s decision to equate Russia’s newest national treasure—a charming adolescent girl, no less—with a Nazi jock couldn’t have come at a worse time.

With the Winter Games underway in Sochi now, Russia is (understandably) in patriotic overdrive. That means anyone toying with the World War II narrative—to this day, Russia’s most sacred unifying myth—better be careful. TV Rain’s survey about ditching Leningrad crossed the line. CNN’s mockery of the Brest Fortress went too far. Shenderovich seems to have committed an even greater sin by abusing young, pretty Lipnitskaia, but it’s possible that any of these offenses would have passed as minor kerfuffles, were it not for the Olympic adrenaline now filling the country’s veins.

February 07 2014

When Genocide is, apparently, a Laughing Matter

French humorist Nicolas Canteloup has come under fire for a sketch making light of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda [fr]. Following the outrage,  Mr Canteloup has yet to apologize for the sketch. Audrey Kucinskas, a blogger for the Plus asks the logical question: “can anything be a laughing matter?” [fr]: 

Rire du génocide rwandais, ça me dépasse. Vous vous souvenez qu'en 1994, plus d'un million de personnes ont été torturées, violées et assassinées ? Ça vous fait rire ? 

Joking about the Rwandan genocide is beyond me. Do you remember in 1994 when more than a million people were tortured, raped and murdered? It was a riot, wasn't it ?

The president of CRAN, Louis-George Tin believes the sketch is totally unacceptable [fr]:

Quand il s'agit des Noirs, à l'évidence, on peut tout se permettre. Mais il est temps que cela cesse. Ce soi-disant humour masque mal une forme extrême de mépris et d'abjection. Devant le crime contre l'humanité, esclavage, Shoah, Rwanda, on ne rit pas, on fait silence.

When it comes to black people, it seems that again, anything goes. But it is time to put an end to that. This so-called humor barely hides an extreme form of contempt and prejudice. When it comes to crime against humanity, slavery, the Holocaust and Rwanda, we do not laugh, we just ought to stay silent.

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