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February 18 2014

YouTube Chefs Are Cooking Up a Storm in Indian Kitchens

YouTube Chefs are cooking up a storm and gaining celebrity status in India and abroad

YouTube chefs are gaining celebrity status in India and abroad.

Recipes are no longer just about cookbooks or top professional chefs hosting cooking shows on TV. A new breed of Indian culinarians are cooking their way to celebrity – via YouTube. As they demystify Indian cuisine and offer step-by-step guidance to creating mouthwatering Indian dishes, these talented men and women are inspiring a whole host of Indians to pick up their ladles and try out various yummy recipes in their own kitchens.

Move over recipe books, the YouTube chefs are here. No longer does the amateur home chef have to flounder with trying to understand what exactly the recipe instruction meant when it said things like, “the batter should be of pouring consistency”. Now you can see the chef demonstrate on video what exactly “pouring consistency” ought to be like. 

VahChef

Sanjay Thumma, more popularly known as VahChef, is the founder of food website vahrehvah.com. His prolific recipes channel on YouTube, which he launched in 2007, has catapulted him to culinary stardom.

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's YouTube channel

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's VahChef YouTube channel

Over the years, VahChef Sanjay has put up over 1,100 easy-to-follow videos demonstrating mainly Indian (and some international) recipes. Currently, his YouTube channel has about 234,985 subscribers and has clocked 159,266,645 views. On Facebook too, he has garnered about 164,405 likes. Sanjay is also currently hosting cooking shows on a regional TV channel in India.

Food Blog Wandering Spoon notes:

It’s refreshing to watch someone demonstrate mouth-watering dishes with uninhibited joy, a matter-of-fact globalism and minimal make-up. It helps that I love so many cuisines in India, but what immediately appealed to me is his stance as a teacher.

In the video below, VahChef Sanjay demonstrates how to cook fennel and pepper chicken:

Manjula's Kitchen

Manjula Jain grew up in a North Indian vegetarian family. Though she married and relocated to the US in the late 1960s, her family and she remained vegetarians as they were Jains by religion. Since 2006, Manjula has been blogging recipes and creating cooking videos on YouTube that offer “simple and practical recipes” to authentic Indian vegetarian cuisine. Her recipes include vegan and gluten-free dishes as well.

Manjula's Kitchen website and blog

Manjula's Kitchen on YouTube has 146,873 subscribers and has racked up 73,769,313 views. Her Facebook page has 260,833 likes. Recently, Manjula has also published her first book, ”Manjula’s Kitchen: Best of Indian Vegetarian”which is available on Amazon.

In the video below, Manjula shows us how to prepare a tasty snack which is also a popular street food in Mumbai, India: Batata Vada or Aloo Bonda (fried potato dumplings):

Nisha Madhulika

It's not only English-language recipe videos that are doing well online. Meet 55-year-old Nisha Madhulekha from Delhi. After she retired from a full-time job, Nisha grew restless and turned to her passion for cooking to keep herself occupied. She started posting recipe videos online in Hindi with English subtitles for the non-Hindi audience. With over 800 videos uploaded to date, plus tonnes of recipes on her Hindi website (there is also a subset English version here), Nisha Madhulika is quite a culinary force.

nishamadhulika.com - the Hindi website featuring Indian vegetarian recipes

Hindi website nishamadhulika.com features Indian vegetarian recipes

In the following YouTube video, Nisha shares her story about how she started her journey as a YouTube chef:

As of today, Nisha Madhulika's YouTube food channel has 114,339 subscribers and has nabbed 33,236,034 views. Her Facebook page has close to 40,000 likes.

In the video below, Nisha Madhulika shows us how to make sweet puffed rice balls (somewhat similar to Rice Krispies Treats, but with jaggery instead of marshmallows):

Some of the other popular YouTube home chefs who post videos of Indian and/or South Asian recipes include Bhavna with her “exotic vegetarian cuisine recipes from all around the world with a hint of Indian flavor” at Bhavna's Kitchen (134,091 subscribers, 52,497,677 views) and the Hetal-Anuja team with their “step-by-step and practical approach to South Asian Cooking” at ShowMeTheCurry.com (120,696 subscribers, 65,979,089 views).

Screenshot of India Food Network page

Screenshot of India Food Network page on YouTube

In fact, YouTube video tutorials and recipe demonstrations have become so popular that a group of home chefs and food bloggers got together in 2012 to create the India Food Network on YouTube. According to the description on their Facebook page:

India Food Network is your step by step guide to simple and delicious home cooking. From regional Indian cuisine to popular dishes from around the globe, our focus is to make cooking easy

So next time you want to cook your way into someone's heart, don't reach for a cookbook. Log on to YouTube and let some of these new-age celebrity chefs show you the way.

February 11 2014

Iran: “Less” anti-U.S. Atmosphere

Iran celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Tuesday.Some netizens wrote about what hardliners reported after the celebration.Hadi Nili tweeted

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

February 04 2014

China's Second Largest Online Retailer JD.com Files for US Stock Listing

JD.com Inc., a major Chinese e-commerce company, has filed to raise up to 1.5 billion US dollars in an initial public offering (IPO) in the US, making it the largest IPO of a Chinese Internet company in the states thus far.

JD is a major competitor to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China's biggest e-commerce company, which is also considering going public in what is expected to be a much larger IPO valued around 100 billion. JD's business model is more similar to that of Amazon.com in that it is a direct seller of goods held in sprawling warehouses, while Alibaba runs online marketplaces.

The company's most distinctive feature is its highly efficient delivery team that reaches third-tier cities and is currently expanding to rural villages. Below is the latest advertisement of the company that highlights its delivery service:

JD.com, founded by its chairman Richard Liu Qiangdong only ten years ago, had 35.8 million customer accounts by the end of the third quarter of last year. After two years of losses, the company said it registered a profit of 60 million yuan (about 9.9 million US dollars) in the first three quarters of last year, mainly due to interest income.

The company said it would use the funds raised to “acquire land use rights, build new warehouses and establish more delivery stations,” according to the filing. It currently operates 82 warehouses and 1,453 delivery stations across China.

Although the company's profit comes from its interest and the reach of its e-commerce platform is far behind Alibaba and Tencents, JD.com has its supporters. IT news commentators Xie Pu and Xu Ji highlighted the great potentials of the company's logistics, in particular its nationwide warehouse and goods delivery network:

为京东点赞,因为刘强东比起其他电商公司,更早看到虚拟与现实的交融,京东十年来做对了一件事——自建物流。物流建设成就了京东,它进可攻,退可守。

We support JD.com because Richard Liu sees the intertwine between the virtual and the real. In the past ten years, it built its logistics system. JD.com is a logistic infrastructure. It helps the company to sustain and expand its business.

我们为京东点赞,也因为京东赚钱不容易。电商不是游戏,毛利低得可怜,要自建物流,还要供养数万快递配送员,能够赚到不容易赚到的钱,这样的公司,才好长期看好。

We support JD.com because it does not make easy money. E-commerce is no game and it has very little profit margin. To make money by building its logistic infrastructure and hiring tens of thousands delivery workers, this is not an easy task and the long-term effect will show.

China’s e-commerce boom

By 2015, China will have surpassed the US as the leading e-commerce market, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. On November 11, China marked its “Super Singles” day for jewelry and other sales to entice couples to shop for their loved ones. Sales hit five billion US dollars. By comparison, last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined reached around three billion dollars.

In such as huge market, local corporates such as JD.com perform much better than international giant corporates such as Amazon. Chinese New York Times columnist Li Chengdong compared JD.com and Amazon's performances in China on his Weibo:

凡是亚马逊进入的市场,基本是第一名。进入中国10年了,且提供的体验是要优于亚马逊全球的标准。拼钱,亚马逊更多;拼技术,亚马逊更强;拼仓储,亚马逊自建更早更先进;拼品牌,亚马逊更要强于京东。如果非要分析亚马逊中国为什么打不过京东?京东有不一样的就是刘强东,而亚马逊中国是一帮职业经理人!

In the rest of the world, Amazon occupies the number one position in all its markets. The company has been in China for about ten years and its services in China are on average better than the rest of the world. Amazon has more money, better technology, more advanced warehouses than JD.com. If I have to explain why Amazon cannot beat down JD.com, it is because of Richard Liu. Amazon is run by a team of professional managers [rather than an entrepreneur like Liu].

However, Jing Nanke, who is customer of both Amazon and JD.com, disagreed with Li's judgement:

胡说八道,这两家网店我都是经常去买东西,到我还是喜欢京东。在服务,响应时间,送货时间,平台友好程度上,京东都远优于亚马逊。看好京东,亚马逊在中国牛不了。

Nonsense, I am customer of both online platforms and I like JD better. Its customer service, delivery service and platform friendliness is better than Amazon. I don't think Amazon can gain an upper hand in China.

Lingpeng1973 said the “professional managers” of Amazon are poor at localization of e-commerce:

这些职业经理人们根本不了解在中国电商怎么玩,只对西雅图负责,不求有功只求无过,碰上刘强东、李国庆这帮不按规矩出牌的地头蛇,只能苟延残息。以前还看好其强大的技术背景和仓储实力,但随着京东等的崛起,亚马逊在中国的机会已经失去。

The professional managers don't understand how to run e-commerce in China and they are responsible to Seattle. They don't want to make mistakes rather than taking risks to compete for success. Thus, when competing with Richard Liu and Li Guoxin [CEO of Dangdang.com, China's biggest online bookstore], who play the game differently, it barely makes business. Because of Amazon's super technology and warehouses, it had great potential before. Now that JD.com, among others, have established themselves in China, Amazon has lost its edge.

Li Guoqing, CEO of another online retailer, Dangdang.com, believed that going public in the US could help JD.com to improve the company's capital flow and transparency:

目前公认美国资本市场过热,是融资好时机。老刘说“13年盈利,但14年不上市”,那我再劝一句:14年Q1务必在美国上市,补充资本金不足和增加被美国会计准则审计的透明度。

Now the US capital market is becoming overheated, which offers good timing for fundraising. Liu once said “JD will gain profits in 2013 but will not go public in 2014″, but I would advise him to go public in the first quarter of 2014 so as to improve capital flow and increase audit transparency.  

January 28 2014

South Korea: ‘Less is More', Net Users Turn Sour on Typical Movie Poster

French Poster Image of Movie 'Frozen'. Fair Use Image

French Poster Image of Movie ‘Frozen'. Fair Use Image

A massive Disney hit movie, Frozen is rapidly gaining traction also in South Korea. However, more young Koreans are turning sour on typical Korean-style movie poster, which has long been criticized for being either too confusing or overly interrupted [ko] by extra-bold text dropping names or media/net users’ reviews ridden with cliche [ko]. One net user from the TodayHumor site compared different versions [ko] of Frozen poster (allegedly tailored for audiences in US, France, Japan, China and Korea) and Koreans exchanged heated discussions on what has made Korean movie distributors select such cluttered posters as one can see below. (In comparison, on the left is the poster released in France which has been lauded by many net users for its artistic simplicity) 

Three Korean Poster Images of Movie 'Frozen'. Fair Use Image

Three Korean Poster Images of Movie ‘Frozen'. Fair Use Image

 

January 21 2014

Korean Seniors Prompt Boycott of McDonald and Get McResolution

Korean elderly have made headlines in New York City as they loiter at McDonald's each day, starting early in the morning till well after dark, ordering only fries or coffee. After they were kicked out for hampering business, some in the Korean community called for a boycott of the restaurant.

The New York Times story on elderly squatters in McDonald's went abuzz over the weekend, and McDonald's reacted quickly, putting out the fire by Monday by reaching a “McResolution!“. They promised extended sitting hours for the elderly during less-busy times and even to collaborate with local seniors centers to provide transportation to and from the restaurant.

However, Koreans, who are familiar with senior citizens overstaying at fast food stores in one of the most overcrowded and busiest cities in the world, South Korean capital Seoul, seem to understand McDonald's tough choice. Here are some reactions from South Korean online venues.

Image by Flicker User Kansir (CC BY 2.0)

Image by Flicker User Kansir (CC BY 2.0)

The McDonald's fiasco. I really hope people don't bring ‘race’ in to the equation. It is not like they were kicked out because of their race/nationality. By emphasizing that it is ‘Koreans’ who were being kicked out, they are actually embarrassing themselves. This is so ugly, and just embarrassing. I can see why this happen.

The reason why I am not rooting for McDonald's boycott in New York is because how they approach this problem is just so typical. Jongmyo Area in Seoul is packed with elderly who loiter at fast food chains. It is not Korean “culture”, but a problem Korean society has. It is just deplorable they brought it over and repeat it in another country.

Net users cast doubt on the Korean Parents Association of New York – a group who initiated the boycott and question whether they are eligible to represent the whole Korean community in general. Some from the group, notably the chairwoman, are accused of being extreme right-wingers who infamously blocked a peaceful protest against the election manipulation scandal held in New York last autumn. User @hippietech wrote [ko]:

자극적인 제목으로 민족성 자극하는 저질 기사. 한인사회 발끈한 적 없습니다. 몇몇 노인들이 진상짓 했을뿐

I see so many sensational, trashy reports which provoke ethnicity issues. No. Korean communities have not been angered by [the McDonald's case] and it is just a handful of rouge seniors who made a scene.

January 11 2014

Viral Photo of a Giant Squid Found in California is Fake

image widely circulated on the

Image widely circulated on the Internet. Originally, it appeared io lightlybraisedturnip.com on January 10, 2014. Image used under fair use.  

This fake image of giant squid has been circulating widely on social media across many languages. Originally found on Lightly Braised Turnip, which appears to be a satire news website, the photo was accompanied by the description that a “giant squid was discovered on California coast and scientists suspect radioactive gigantism“, blaming the Fukushima nuclear accident for the existence of the large sea creature.

Giant squid (genus: Architeuthis) is a large, deep-ocean dwelling squid that can grow up to 13 meters (43 feet) naturally. Japanese blogger Piyohiko, suspicious of the photo, investigated [ja] the image online and quickly debunked it.

He searched for images of a “giant squid” on Google and found the original giant squid photo: 

image of giant squid posted in Xinhua news

Photo of a giant squid posted on Xinhua News. The photo was taken by Enrique Talledo [es], who specializes in documenting the ocean

10秒ぐらいで見つけてしまいました!!
なんだか似てると思うのですが、気のせいでしょうか?

It took only 10 seconds for me to find !!
The image looks very similar to me, don't they?

Photographer Masahiro Ariga [ja] also noticed that the image was fake. He noted that the spectators of the giant squid image coincide with those of the photo below, uploaded to 4thmedia.org in 2011:

image from 2011 on

Photo taken November 3, 2011, which appeared on 4thmedia.org's reporting a whale found dead in Chile.

Ariga commented [ja] how quickly the fake image was circulated on Facebook:

このフェイク写真、驚いたことにフェイスブックで物凄い勢いで拡散している。
9日のお昼頃にネット新聞のページを見たとき、いいね!は1300だったのに、その夜にはなんと2万に達していた。イカが放射線によって巨大化したことを信じて不安になる人も多いようだ。
このでたらめ記事が、冗談で書かれたのかそれとも悪意があるのかは分からないが、事実として受けとっている人が少なくない。ネットという空間で嘘と不安が拡大されて、世界中に広まっていくのを、現在進行形で見ているところだ。

The fake photo [of a giant squid washed ashore along the Santa Monica coastline] is spreading at amazing speed. When I saw the online news at noon on January 9, it only had 13,000 Facebook likes. However, overnight, it was already reaching 20,000 likes. Looks like many people believed the news of a squid growing enormous due to radiation and became anxious.

It's not clear whether this fabricated news was written as a joke or with vicious intention, but many people accepted the news as fact. I'm observing how lies and anxiety are amplified on the Internet throughout the world. 

January 08 2014

PHOTOS: Honor the Treaties With Native Indians

Honor The Treaties, a film by director Eric Becker, documents photographer Aaron Huey‘s mission to portray poverty and the struggles of the Native Lakota people of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the United States. Huey's original photographs are collected in the book Mitakuye Okasin, which was described by Mother Jones as “page after page of visual poetry,” and a “work [that] makes you care about the people and the place.”

Honor the Treaties is also the name of an organization – of which Huey is a member – that supports Native Indian art and rights.

January 06 2014

Christmas in the Puerto Rican Diaspora

To mark the end of the “official” Christmas season in Puerto Rico, we share some links to the online magazine La Respuesta, which focuses on gathering the experience of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States, about some thoughts regarding Puerto Rican Christmas traditions by two authors living in the diaspora.

Yessenia Flores Díaz, in her post “Preparando para las Navidades en la Casa de Abuela,” remembers her Christmastime experiences during her childhood while growing up in Brooklyn, New York, when visiting her grandmother's apartment:

You can only imagine the energy inside my abuelita’s tiny two-bedroom apartment during this time of year, the beginning of Advent, when she received her offspring and their offspring and their offspring’s offspring.  My family is huge and to give you an idea, my dad is number 17 of 19 children born to Felix and Regina Flores (en paz descanse) in rural Puerto Rico [...].  Yes, you read that correctly.  It is not a typo.  I come from a large, loving family.

Dorian Ortega, in her post “My Acculturatd Chrismas: An Introduction to Acculturated Stress and Cultural Buffers,” explains the ways that Puerto Rican immigrants have dealt with acculturated stress provoked by suddenly having to live in a culture quite different from theirs. One of thos ways is by holing on to their Christmas traditions:

Puerto Ricans have immigrated to the U.S. for over 60 years and for the first time in this century, outnumber the population in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans continue to rank highest among Latina/os for mental illnesses and have experienced their share of acculturative stressors. However, studies show that a strong cultural identity and adaptability serve as great protective buffers. My family, like many others, have found ways to hold on to our traditions brought by our ancestors and adapted them for the generations raised in a country with both similar and conflicting values. The holidays have served as a way to relate to one another and bring peace, which helps in times of distress.

‘China New York Times'? Welcome to Tycoon Chen Guangbiao's Dream

Chen Guangbiao, a Chinese billionaire with a penchant for performing dramatic acts of charity, claimed on December 31, 2013 that he was planning to buy the New York Times during his New Year's trip to the United States, despite the publisher's denials that the famed newspaper was up for sale. 

The billionaire wrote in Chinese tabloid the Global Times that he is willing to spend his life savings on purchasing the New York Times and will reform the paper by improving its credibility and objectivity once the acquisition is completed.

Given his previous eccentric public performances, such as handing out 100 yuan (approximately 16 US dollars) paper bills on a Beijing street, or selling canned air online to buy the Diaoyu Islands, most Chinese people saw the news as another performance of the same kind.

Cartoonist D.S.X posted a caricature of Chen Guangbiao's attempt to acquire the giant media corporation.

Cartoonist D.S.X posted a caricature of Chen Guangbiao's attempt to acquire the giant media corporation.

In fact, it turns out Chen is not nearly rich enough to make a successful deal. Currently, Chen's wealth is worth one billion yuan (approximately 16 million US dollars), while the New York Times has a market value of 2.4 billion US dollars. When confronted with the finance question, Chen replied in his typical eccentric fashion that if he did not have enough money to buy the paper, he could buy a page [zh] which he would top with the banner “China New York Times”.

Back home, Chinese Web users joked about Chen's grandstanding and suggested that he buy local papers, such as the People's Daily or the Global Times, instead.

On Sina Weibo, China's popular microblogging website, Siling Ben, an artist, pointed out that Chen is a typical example of the bad behavior of China's riche nouveau:

陈光标轰轰烈烈的飞美国去了,标哥做事一向只为博眼球,感觉这次又是个新年笑料,而《纽约时报》回应不对谣言置评,不啻是一记耳光。 #司令点评#一个国家如果不能在基本价值观念方面与世界融合并提高国民的人文素养,钱再多也只能出产土豪土鳖和无厘头奇葩,在世界舞台不可能得到真正的尊重。

Chen Guangbiao made a big fuss and flew to the US. Such an eye-catching act is so typical of him. It is just a New Year's joke. The New York Times did not make any comment on the rumor. This is like a slap in the face to him. When a country cannot integrate with the world on some fundamental values and develop humanistic concern among its people, no matter how rich the country is, the wealthy act like thugs and royalty and cannot gain respect from others on the world's stage.

Weibo user “Big Bear” made a similar argument with more moderate tone:

陈光标做了许多慈善,这一点我无可厚非,令人敬佩,但这并不能掩盖他的无知和幼稚,试问纽约时报离开美国人自由的思想还是纽约时报吗?你是想谋杀它吗?

Chen Guangbiao has done much charity work, this is respectful. But his generosity could not cover up his ignorance, without the belief of American freedom, can the New York Times still be the New York Times?

Shanghai-based Weibo user Chen Jinguo re-posted an imagined conversation between Chen Guangbiao and the owner of the New York Times:

话说陈光标来到纽约,《纽约时报》老板与标哥谈判。问:“你是做什么的。”答:“我是收废品的,包括废铜、废铁还有废纸,废物利用。”问:“那你怎么想起收纽约时报了呢。”答:“废报纸我也收啊”。

The story started with Chen Guangbiao's arrival to New York City, and the negotiating between the owner of the New York Times and Chen began. Q: “What is your major business?” A: “Recycling, including copper, iron and paper, anything reusable.” Q: “Why do you want to buy the New York Times?” A: “I also recycle paper!”

Film critic Zhou Liming suggested Chen buy the White House instead:

我希望标哥直接收购白宫,然后让他的手下人轮流坐庄。收购成本可以靠卖门票回收。收购《纽约时报》,太小儿科了。

I wish Brother Biao would buy the White House instead. Then he could ask his men to sit at the entrance and sell tickets to cover the cost. Buying the New York Times is such a small deal.

December 21 2013

Photos of South Koreans’ Candlelight Rallies in New York, Paris, London

South Koreans living abroad have held candlelight vigils in New York, Paris, London and Berlin throughout this week, accusing the government bodies’ manipulation of the latest presidential election. More protests are planned in various major cities around the world next week. Follow @OverseasCandle for updates. 

South Koreans’ protest in New York City, on the night of December 20:  

After having held overseas candlelight rallies in Paris, Berlin (earlier this week), we went to Manhattan. About 100 people have participated. Please support us!

This is the scene of the overseas candlelight vigil in New York City. Such a touching moment! 

A candlelight rally in Paris, France, on December 20: 

This is a photo of overseas candlelight rally in Paris. 

I am uploading a picture of Paris candlelight rally here. Please specify it as ‘Paris candlelight rally by citizens’ when you share it. 

A protest in London on December 21: 

This is the photo of London's protest which was held under the slogan of ‘We Want Our Democracy Back'. Peoples’ raincoats and umbrellas show the weather here in London.

We, who ‘are not fine’ (about things happening in South Korea), have gathered in this rainy and windy day. What have made us ‘not okay'? The answer is in the photo. 

Tour Builder, another Google service not allowed to Cuba

Tour Builder no está disponible para Cuba

Screenshot of what happens when trying to use Tour Builder within Cuba.

Tour Builder, a new service from Google still in its beta phase, is not available for cuban users due to the restrictions of the economic embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba. Currently, Google Earth, another one of Google's services unavailable to Cuba, allows users to virtually travel to anywhere on earth. Tour Builder “could change the way users tell stories about their own real-life travels,” according to an article published on Mashable.

This tool provoked much interest that soon spread among cuban users, considering that they would be able to tell their stories through pictures, videos, texts, and Google Earth. Previously, Google had blocked access to Google Earth, Google Destktop Search, Google Toolbar, Google Analytics and Google Code Search. 

An article published in Cubadebate [es] in 2012 confirms that the new error screen that impedes the use of Google Analytics within Cuba “is based on rules previously defined with the island.” On that occasion, Google maintained that cuban users “should not have used the online traffic monitoring service because they were in violation of the provisions of the United States’ commercial embargo.”

Google no ha podido explicar por qué se incluyó en los servicios censurados para Cuba a Google Analytics, un producto gratuito -como el buscador y el correo electrónico de esa compañía-, que funciona desde Internet, sin tener que ser descargado en la computadora del usuario, por lo que en teoría no hay intercambio o entrega de productos, añadió Cubadebate.

Google hasn't been able to explain why it included among the services banned to Cuba Google Analytics, a free product -like its search engine and its email service-, that is web-based and doesn't require downloading by the user, which, in theory, means that no economic exchange or delivery of products has taken place, added Cubadebate.

In November of this year, Google's Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, said in an interview to The Wall Street Journal that Cuba was a top priority on his international travel agenda. Currently, Google only permits access to its search engine, chat, email, and other communication services that are authorized in section 515.578 of the regulations of the United States’ embargo on Cuba.

December 13 2013

South Korea's ‘Gas Tank Grandpas’ Block Protests in US

Notorious right wing extremists who go by their nickname ‘Gas Tank Grandpas‘ have continued to obstruct protests held by South Koreans living in the United States against the snowballing election manipulation allegations.

Storify user @wjsfree shared images of right wing groups trying to block a small peaceful demonstration held at Yale University earlier this week. Youtube user biophysics7 shared raw footage of the clash embedded below.

Back in September, protesters even caught on tape (no English subtitle yet) one of these ‘Grandpas’ accidentally divulging, while obstructing a candlelight vigil in New York City, that they were paid 100 dollars per protest they block by powerhouses and conservative political groups.

Identified by their extreme language, bandannas and military uniforms, these violent ‘Grandpas’ are exclusively comprised of elderly men well over 50 and have earned their nickname for wielding all sorts of weapons, including a portable gas tank, a fire extinguisher and sticks, while calling protesters ‘Anti-government commies'.

December 07 2013

A Brief Unity of Purpose: Marching for Puerto Rican Prisoner Oscar López Rivera

Thousands gathered in Hato Rey, the economic hub of the capital city of San Juan, on Saturday, November 23, to demand the release of Oscar López Rivera from prison.

Thousands gathered in Hato Rey, the economic hub of the capital city of San Juan, on Saturday, November 23, to demand the release of Oscar López Rivera from prison. The banner says “Christmas with Oscar back home!” Image taken from the Facebook page 32 x Oscar [es].

November 23 was a gorgeous day. Cool breezes blew through the streets and the temperature was nothing short of ideal on what I expected to be a stifling hot Saturday afternoon. Even the trees on the grounds of the Federal Court appeared to be in on the act, providing shade from the bright Caribbean sun. It was as if nature had conspired to create perfect weather, as if it, too, was somehow in solidarity with the thousands of us who gathered in front of the Federal Court building in Hato Rey, the economic hub of Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan, to demand the release of the country’s longest-held political prisoner.

Oscar López Rivera has been imprisoned for 32 years, and counting, by the U.S. federal government in Terre Haute, Indiana. The charge is “seditious conspiracy,” even though he was never convicted of crimes that resulted in death or injury to anyone. His lawyers have reported he has been subjected to inhumane treatment during his incarceration. They have also said he has been singled out for punitive treatment because of his political affiliations, which prompted Amnesty International to criticize the conditions under which which he and other political prisoners were being held.

And yet, through it all, Oscar's spirit remains serenely unbroken. So much so, that in 1999 he refused the conditional clemency offered by President Bill Clinton, saying that it would be like being in prison outside of prison.

Image taken from the Facebook page Free Oscar López Rivera Now.

Image taken from the Facebook page Free Oscar López Rivera Now.

Looking around as more and more people arrived to join the march, I marveled at the diversity around me. The campaign to secure Oscar López Rivera’s release from prison is supported by people from all walks of life, of all ages, and across the political spectrum. Granted, the most vocal sector calling for his release is still associated with the political left. Nevertheless, it has reached to a point where it doesn't matter if you're in favor of independence, statehood, or something in between for Puerto Rico. 

Lady Justice

An effigy of Lady Justice rises over the crowd at the protest to demand Oscar López Rivera's release. Image taken from the Facebook page 32 x Oscar [es].

One of the things that immediately drew my attention was a huge effigy of a Caribbean version of Lady Justice, the famous image of a woman with scales in one hand and a sword in the other that adorns many a courthouse around the world. I remember remarking to my mother how odd it seemed that she wasn't blindfolded. She said, “Well, maybe they decided to remove her blindfold to see if she is more just without it; it certainly hasn't worked so far.” The oft-repeated phrase “a nation/country of law and order” came to mind, and I thought to myself how little that actually had to do with justice and doing the right thing. Perhaps the blindfold that Lady Justice is often seen wearing also blinds her to the injustice of the legal system that she stands for, turning her into nothing more than a legalistic automaton.

As in any decent Puerto Rican protest, the mood was festive. Plena rhythms and artistic creativity abounded. Outsiders often find this strange, possibly because they're more used to protests more serious in tone, more solemn and angry, even when it is a peaceful one. This isn't to say that people weren't serious about what they were trying to accomplish, or that they weren't angry about Oscar López Rivera's incarceration. Rather, this is a distinct characteristic of Caribbean societies, and in a society like Puerto Rico's, which, like all Caribbean countries, has historically been oppressed by an external power that tries to build itself up in the minds of people as the model of all that is civilized, cultured, enlightened, and just plain better, there is no more effective way to deflate that power. Humor and the carnivalesque are, in other words, an important form of resistance.

It was only later, when I thought about the poor coverage the march had received in the international mainstream news, that I realized there was no chopper overflying the area. This was mind-boggling, considering that simultaneous protests were taking place in New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC, and that there were a many as 40,000 people gathered to protest in Puerto Rico alone. René Pérez, from the band Calle 13, had lent his support and was participating in the march held in New York. Calle 13′s tweet became the most relevant topic on Twitter related to President Barack Obama's Twitter account:

Marchando rumbo a Brooklyn. Libertad para Oscar Lopez @barackobama Free Oscar Lopez! pic.twitter.com/cYtrwsGyqK

— Residente C13/ RC13 (@Calle13Oficial) November 23, 2013

I must confess that until about a year and a half ago, I knew practically nothing about Oscar López Rivera. As I gradually learned about him, I couldn't help but feel that the cause in favor of his release from prison should also be my cause, just as his cause to free Puerto Rico from colonial rule is also my cause, one that I pursue in my own small way every day.

Seeing the unity of purpose show, if only for the briefest of moments, on that Saturday afternoon by such a large, diverse crowd of Puerto Ricans renews my faith that someday we may, perhaps, unite to demand the decolonization of Puerto Rico once and for all.

That, I believe, is the secret to the remarkable resilience of Oscar López Rivera's spirit: His conscious, defiant resistance that translates into a faith that rejects the nihilism of self-fulfilling despair, in spite of the temptation to retreat into the seductive silence of comfortable passivity.

Ángel Carrión is a blogger and musician from Caguas, Puerto Rico, currently working on a Master's degree in the History of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. His current research focuses on the history of music in Puerto Rico and issues related to cultural policy. He has been writing for Global Voices since February 2012. Follow him on Twitter (@angel15amc) and read his blog at dialogolibre.blogspot.com.

November 20 2013

Chinese Netizens Say Farewell to American Embassador Gary Locke

Chen Guangcheng is wheeled into a hospital by Gary Locke, on 2 May 2013. U.S Beijing Embassy Photo.

Chen Guangcheng is wheeled into a hospital by Gary Locke, on 2 May 2013. U.S Beijing Embassy Photo.


Gary Locke, the American ambassador to China, announced on 20 November 2013 that he will leave Beijing early next year to return to the U.S. He told the press that he informed U.S president Obama earlier in November but in his public statement, he did not explain his early resignation.

As the first Chinese-American, Gary Locke was welcomed by many Chinese for his humble lifestyle when he took up his post in August 2011. At the same time, he has been highly controversial because he has been very keen to connect with Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists. In fact, his involvement in the escape of Chinese prominent human right activist, Chen Guangcheng in 2012, fomented angry reactions from the Chinese authorities. Yet he continues to meet with dissidents, as stressed in his statement on his accomplishments regarding U.S-China relations:

And we have advanced American values by meeting with religious leaders and human rights lawyers, and visiting Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.

In addition, the embassy public monitoring of air-quality in Beijing via Twitter has also been considered an insult to the Chinese authorities.

In Sina Weibo, many netizens are still praising Locke for his humble lifestyle.
Pan Shiyi, the head of Soho China wrote of Gary Locke's contribution in his Weibo:

骆家辉同志在北京工作期间,克服各种困难和阻力,聘中国人办理签证,大大加快了签证速度。坚持每天公布PM2.5,引起了有关部门的重视。

Gary Locke has overcome a lot of difficulties in Beijing. He hires Chinese people to handle visas and speeds up the visa processing time. He insists on announcing to the public the PM2.5 index and the Chinese authorities have to pay attention to the situation.

Liu Guojie, a professor of journalism noticed the shift of media opinion on Gary Locke in the past two years:

骆家辉刚来中国的时候,中国媒体很感兴趣,过几天就是他的新闻。后来却悄无声息了,骆家辉的言行是不是对中国人内心冲击太大,对统治者造成威胁,后来就把他封杀了?

When Gary Lock first came to China, the Chinese media were very keen in reporting about him. Later, we could not see any news about him. I wonder if his behavior is too overwhelming for Chinese people and becomes a threat to the ruling elites. That's why there is no more reporting?

Simon Zhou, an editor from a Hong Kong based newspaper, elaborated on Gary Locke's forceful behavior:

【别了,骆家辉】中国的平民突然明白:原来美国官员是骆家辉这样的,原来中国官员那样做是不对的;中国的官僚们也突然感觉:原来当官要像骆家辉那样奉公、廉洁和克己,原来当官不可以有特权,原来当官真的就要当人民的公仆。骆家辉的行为语言,都是对中国官员无声且有力的鞭打。

[Farewell, Gary Locke] Ordinary Chinese people suddenly realized: That's how American officials behave, the Chinese officials are wrong. The Chinese officials suddenly realized: Officials should serve the public, restrict one's power, resist corruption and privileges. The Officials should be the public servants. Gary Locke's behavior has become the strongest pressure for Chinese officials.

“My heart has something to say” described Gary Locke's virtue with dark humor:

【别了,骆家辉】骆家辉你错了:你出行不该背双肩包,更不该出行乘机坐经济舱;你也不该出行乘公交车;你不该把孩子送去普通学校去上学;你不该擅自检测PM2.5,你更不该擅自公布出去;你不该陪一个残疾人去看病;你不该把自己混同于一个普通群众……你的这些行为连一个县长都不如!

[Farewell, Gary Locke] Gary Locke, you have done wrong: You should not have carried your own backpack. You should not have flown economic class. You should not take public transportation. You should not send your kids to ordinary schools. You should not monitor the PM2.5 and announce it publicly. You should not have accompanied a crippled person to the hospital [referring to Chen Guangcheng's escape]. You should not mix with ordinary people…. What you have done is lower than the head of a county in China.

In Twitter, many are speculating about the reason behind Gary Locke's resignation. @wenyunchao, a mainland Chinese dissident based in the U.S writes satirical news:

Reuuuters: The American Ambassador to China Gary Locke resigned because of Beijing's poor air quality and Obama cannot turn down his request based on this reason.

@yueyexiake's parody is more extensive:

Three reasons for Gary Locke's resignation: The smog is too serious, he will have lung cancer if he stays longer. He can't bare the psychological stress anymore: a village official's golf skill is better than his. The U.S dollar's value will increase, better exchange the RMB back to USD and leave.

November 19 2013

South Koreans in USA Held a Candlelight Vigil, Denouncing the Spy Agency Scandal

South Koreans living in the United States held a candlelight vigil in Times Square, New York, denouncing the state spy agency's interference with the latest presidential election. @Metempirics posted photos and a video clip of the protest.

November 08 2013

GV Face: Dreams of US Immigration Reform

“Time Is Now” Immigration Reform Rally in Washington, DC (April 10, 2013). By David Sachs/SEIU (CC BY-NC-SA)

Is immigration reform just a dream?

Millions have emigrated to the US, for family, opportunity or in the pursuit of a better life. Today, there are 40 million immigrants in the United States, of which an estimated 11 million, live and work without legal status. Fear of deportation drives many to live in the shadows, making them vulnerable to violations of basic rights protected under US and international law.

In this week's GV Face, l talk to activists and experts about the movement for immigration reform, and discuss what the proposed reform could mean for the daily lives of millions of immigrants.

Activist Marisol Ramos talks to us about the various youth immigrant movements offline and online.

Alfonso González author of Reform Without Justice and editorial committee member of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) questions whether guest worker programs can solve the deadlock over immigration.

Global Voices author Robert Valencia talks about the various times reform seemed within reach but then got sent to the back burner.

Global Voices Managing Editor Solana Larsen will be leading the discussion.

Read our Special Coverage page Migrant Journeys for background (in partnership with NACLA).

November 07 2013

Dominican Republic and Haiti: Two very different versions

The blog Repeating Islands republished two letters to the editor of the New York Times that paint two very different pictures on the situation regarding the recent decision of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic to strip citizenship from all descendants of immigrants who entered the country extralegally, retroactive to 1929. The first letter is from Aníbal de Castro, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Washington, who considers the Dominican Republic unduly pressured by the international community:

The Dominican Republic has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration and having clear rules for acquisition of citizenship. It should not be pressured by outside actors and other countries to implement measures contrary to its own Constitution and that would be unacceptable to most other nations facing similar immigration pressures.

The second letter is signed jointly by authors Mark Kurlansky, Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, and Julia Álvarez, who dispel the assurances of the ambassador that no one will be negatively affected by the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling:

The ruling will make it challenging for them to study; to work in the formal sector of the economy; to get insurance; to pay into their pension fund; to get married legally; to open bank accounts; and even to leave the country that now rejects them if they cannot obtain or renew their passport. It is an instantly created underclass set up for abuse.

October 23 2013

USA: Elevating Young Asian Voices in Immigration Reform Debate

The Youth Leadership Council of the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center created an inspiring video to help young Asian voices heard in the immigration reform debate. Blogger Angry Asian Man briefly comments on this video featuring local youth's thought-provoking spoken word performances. 

October 10 2013

A Call to Rekindle Immigration Reform Amidst United States Government Shutdown

Cientos de familias hispanas salieron a las calles por un llamado a una reforma migratoria integral. Foto cortesía de Alliance for Citizenship.

Hundreds of Hispanic families took to the streets to call for comprehensive immigration reform. Photo courtesy of Alliance for Citizenship.

The “National Day of Dignity and Respect” on October 5, 2013 was a huge event in the United States involving hundreds of vigils, marches and pilgrimages across the country that demanded definitive immigration reform.

One of the largest gatherings took place at Washington DC's National Mall.

The shutdown of government operations that began on the October 1 has threatened the country's economic stability. As Republican and Democrat Members of Congress have not reached agreement on a spending plan for the new financial year and the start of the so-called “Obamacare” healthcare program, important issues like immigration reform have been in danger of once again being left behind. In the midst of this government chaos, the Democrats in the Lower House presented their own bill on the 2nd of October aiming to improve immigration law, while also calling for Republican Members of Congress to take immediate action.

The national march received support from figures such as the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel and the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, who came together in Chicago's Union Park to request an end to deportations and to vote for proposed changes to federal immigration law. Another march is expected to take place on October 8, called “Camino Americano”, which aims to bring together thousands of people in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

On Twitter, the hashtag #TimeIsNow was created for the national march, and these were some of the most notable comments:

October 09 2013

White American Claims to Be Kenya's First Female Maasai Warrior

Mindy Budgor is an American woman from Southern California who has released a book, “Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior“, detailing her controversial attempt to become the first female Maasai warrior.

A photo of Mindy Budgor's book from amazon.com.

A photo of Mindy Budgor's book from amazon.com.

Mindy says that she traveled to Kenya from the US and lived among the Maasai who took her through the rituals of becoming a warrior. Maasai men become warriors after going through rituals that demonstrate bravery, courage and patience. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and Tanzania, known for their centuries-old traditions.

Her journey has sparked intense debate online about cultural appropriation and insensitivity. TMS Ruge, the co-founder of Ugandan technology incubator HiveColab, shared his thoughts on Mindy's warriorhood:

I have been toying with the idea of writing a full blog post in response Mindy Budgor’s ill-advised Warrior Princess book that I linked to yesterday. Partly because I got so incensed by and felt I really needed to dig deeper to understand her reasoning for thinking this was a good idea. Then I thought, how many amateur NGO’s or ‘guilt of privilege’ projects have I heard of that started after a volunteer came back from a two-week trip to Africa or read about some injustice on the continent? Nearly all of them turn out to be spectacular disasters. So why should I waste any more energy on this one?

He then posted a comment left by a Maasai woman, Rarin Ole Sein, on a Facebook discussion group:

I have expressed how I feel about this piece elsewhere but I have to add my 2 cts to this discussion as a Kenyan Maasai Woman. What I find disturbing about it;

Of course the obvious ‘white savior’ aspect – she came, she did and now we all should be able to follow suit. Like we needed her to come show us the way. Who told her we want to be ‘warriors’? Who told her we need to be ‘warriors’ to make a ‘difference’?

The culture insensitiveness of it all – that she can just trot into the wilderness and claim to be a ‘warrior’ after a month WTF it takes about 15 years to be a Moran and even then some don’t make it – so what is she saying – the Maasai morans are slackers?

Insulting to the many Maasai women and Maasai Culture in general. Especially all the brilliant women working towards equality for themselves and girls. As far as I know Maasai women don’t become warriors and don’t want to be warriors But if they want to and choose to…they don’t need an ‘outsider’ to come fight their fight for them.

Africa is a Country described the background of Mindy's trip to Kenya, and went on to critique Western media coverage of her book:

Loads of our readers have been badgering us to blog about Mindy Budgor, a young white, middle class American from Southern California (her site comes with a health warning) who traveled to Kenya for a PR campaign for Under Armour sports clothing prior to starting an MBA degree and disguised the trip as a white feminist cause to end sexism among the Maasai. Budgor predictably published a book (Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior) and goes on about her “tribe” of Maasai. She now gets interviewed by glossy women’s magazines and even suckers The Guardian and the BBC (both of whom should be ashamed of themselves). The Guardian have chosen to indulge this sort of drivel plenty of times before despite always considering themselves better than other British newspapers, and we have to wonder why Mindy’s piece wasn’t posted to the Guardian Africa Network page if they really thought it was a piece worth publishing. It’s one thing to talk about getting past the bad old way of writing about Africa, quite another to show that you are really serious.

Young Maasai warriors doing the traditional warriors' dance. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.

Young Maasai warriors doing the traditional warriors’ dance. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.

A commenter on their piece, Rachel Kay Albers, expressed her total disgust:

I am absolutely DISGUSTED by this! And her personal website is the WORST. Apparently the “first female Masaai warrior” wears Chanel nail polish and washes her PEARL earrings in Smart Water. Are you effing KIDDING ME?!?!? Oh and 25% of book proceeds go to “empower” women. Yay! Let’s empower women of color to seek out “brave” middle class white women to be their heroes AND make money do that. “Go ahead! Appropriate my culture and get rich doing it! I’ll take 25% How empowering!!!!!!!!!!!!”

However, another reader, Micah, argued that Mindy pursued her passion of experiencing a different culture:

I think Miss Budgor pursued her passion of experiencing a very interesting culture and has done an incredible job at creating a universe around this experience. All of the naysayers are clearly jealous of the ability to take a brazen leap into a new journey, and are solely focusing on her “privileged” situation. I applaud Mindy’s efforts and I think the book was punchy and sheds light on a culture that I was not familiar with. Bravo Mindy Budgor!!!!!!!

April Conway, who said she spent five years in an African village, disagreed with Micah's argument:

I’m a nay-sayer (this book is horse-crap, and she’s exploiting the concept of the noble savage for her profit), and I can certainly say I am not jealous of her. I think her a fool. I’ve spent over 5 years living in an African village, learning from them without trying to change their culture and without exploiting their culture for my profit. I think you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Read some of the Maasai women and the Kenyan peoples responses to this article and maaaybe you’ll get a clue. Seriously, three months in a place is just a flashy vacation – to promote it as otherwise is moronic (Not Moran-ic).

In another post, Africa is a Country shared two responses from their readers who happen to be Maasai women. aerofloatbo wrote:

I am a Maasai woman (from Kenya) and we have seen these (white) women come and go. We have Maasai women members of parliament, doctors, lawyers, professors, civil servants, teachers, nurses, business owners etc., but of course, we don’t exist in the eyes of fools like this Mindy woman whose sole purpose always appears to be to fetishize Maasai men (our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands) in one way or another. How many books are going to be written by white women about how they came and fell in love with a Maasai man, gave up everything for him, helped poor ignorant Maasai women, taught Maasai men how to behave etc, etc. We are sooooo fed up! I’m surprised it was an American this time because usually, the British are the WORST culprits.

Another Maasai reader, Leah, said she was offended by the book:

As a Maasai woman I feel very offended by Budgor’s attempt to gain fame at the expense of Maasai culture. There is nothing unique she has done that a regular Maasai woman hasn’t done and/or experienced and we don’t call ourselves warriers for a good reason. It’s like me coming to America and claiming I am the first female football player because I spent two weeks at training camp!

A discussion thread on Africa is a Country Facebook page, “Please.Stop:With.This.Nonsense ( “How Did This California Girl Become a Real Warrior Princess?”)“, has attracted 62 comments and 66 likes at the time of writing this post. Adding a comment on the thread, Chad McClymonds complained:

Oh my God. The worst part is, so many great African writers get rejected by publishers, yet this bullshit gets published and dispersed widely. I only wish it was a parody it is that God awful absurd

Laurah Sambuli made fun of her:

I read through hoping to read that she had killed a lion with her spear or bare hands (that's how it used to be to become a Maasai warrior). And she claims to have succeeded in changing the Maasai gender policy. Ntsk!

Tunan Nyokabi noted:

what a nonsense! Laurah Sambuli that's how fake these books by people who have no idea about our cultures continue to spread stereotypes

Following widespread criticism about her attempt to become a female Maasai warrior, Mindy used her website to explain herself:

I never intended to fall in love with Africa, nor find myself living among the Maasai. But I did and I have. During my first trip to Kenya, as a volunteer in a women’s clinic, I met an inspiring man named Winston. This Maasai warrior explained the rites of passage to become a warrior, a path closed to women because we were not strong enough or brave enough, but one I could try to master.This conjured up feelings of my own inadequacies, physical limitations, and lack of confidence in the unknown. Perhaps I would have forgotten about Winston’s words if I hadn’t met a Maasai woman named Faith later that day; she told me that women in her tribe have wanted the right to become warriors for generations. Faith explained that women longed to receive this status, and thus ultimate respect in the tribe. She took the offer seriously and encouraged me to understand its significance.

She concluded:

In the end, a group of elders decided to take it upon themselves to work to allow girls the right to become warriors because they believed it was in the best interest of the preservation of the culture. Today they are working to allow twenty Maasai girls in Loita to be part of the next warrior class.

My experience with the Maasai was transformative. I was pushed in my physical and mental capacity on a daily basis, despite wanting to wave the white flag on countless occasions. It seemed to me that the Maasai didn’t care that I was white, Jewish, or came from a family of financial means.

My intention in sharing my story was not to stir up controversy and surely not anger, but to build awareness for the tribe and show that even the least auspicious person can allow her or himself the freedom to explore other perspectives.