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February 27 2014

Saving Primate Lemurs

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

A group of researchers from Madagascar, Canada, UK and USA published a detailed report in Science that alerts on the possible extinctions of 90% of the known lemurs of Madagascar following the prolonged political crisis in the country.  One of the researcher, Christoph Schwitzer,  explains to the Scientific American the dire consequences of such threat:

lemurs have important ecological and economic roles, and are essential to maintaining Madagascar’s unique forests through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism.

Another researcher, Ian Colquhoun, explains what can be done to protect the unique Malagasy ecosystem in which the lemurs can thrive:

We highlight three key ways to save lemurs: community-based conservation management, the long-term presence of researchers at field sites, and ecotourism.

February 26 2014

Mushrooms, France's Latest Food Trend

Comestible? Pas sûr! licence creative commons Pavlinajane sur Flickr

Edible mushroom? Who knows. Pavlinajane on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

[All links lead to French-language websites unless otherwise noted.]

As a result of both the economic crisis and the need to eat healthier, the worldwide trend of eating local products has also gained ground in France, and at the center of the movement is the mushroom.

A Google blog searched returns 708,000 hits for the word “mushroom”, proof of the blogosphere's fascination for the fungus. Cristau de Hauguerne, an early pioneer of the trend, waxes poetic about her affinity for mushrooms: 

Dès que la neige eut fondu, que la pluie cessa et que le soleil put enfin réchauffer les pentes, les cèpes d'été en surprirent plus d'un dans la hêtraie-sapinière. Quelques sujets en prélude fin juin, mais, loin de faiblir, sans l'ombre d'un orage, l'activité mycélienne s'intensifia graduellement dans le courant du mois de juillet, aestivalis entrainant même pinophilus dans sa fureur de vivre. Après deux années d'indigence, au faîte de l'été, de par leur abondance ces cèpes conférèrent finalement aux sous-bois de hêtres l'allure de la grande pousse automnale. 

As soon as the snow had melted, the rain had stopped and the sun had finally warmed up the slopes, the summer porcini mushroom showing up in the beech-fir forest came as a surprise to many. An early smattering appeared towards the end of June, but, with no hint of a storm in sight, mycelial activity thrived and proliferated uninterruptedly, intensifying gradually throughout July, pinophilus kind bringing the aestivais kind with it in its eagerness to spread out. After two years of acclimatization, at the height of summer the abundance of porcini lent the beech woods the appearance of a full autumn flush.

Although the mushroom has had its longstanding enthusiasts, it has recently acquired a more significant status among the general public: like wine or seasonal fruit and veg, it is highly valued both in the mind and on the plate, associated with a better lifestyle and close proximity to local farmers. 

The most recent edition of the magazine We Demain published on 13 February even argued that “mushrooms are the new elixir of life“.

Local vs. imported

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) licence creative commons Kozumel sur Flickr

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) photo by Kozumel on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

However, this movement sometimes contradicts itself. On the one hand, it emphasizes local cultivation, whilst on the other hand, it glamorizes the exotic promise of imported mushrooms. These days, Asian mushrooms, such as shiitake or enokiadorn the shelves of French supermarkets alongside the common or garden variety button mushroom.

Shitake carries all the virtues usually associated with mushrooms: anti-aging and anti-cancer properties, the source of three different B-vitamins, etc. The Réseau Biloba blog expounds on the numerous virtues attributed to this fungus:

Le shiitake est riche en fibres alimentaires; substances qui ne sont pas digérées par l’organisme. La majorité des fibres du shiitake sont sous forme insoluble, fibres qui contribuent particulièrement à maintenir une bonne  fonction intestinale. De plus, une alimentation riche en fibres peut participer à la prévention des maladies cardiovasculaires et du cancer du côlon, ainsi qu’au contrôle du diabète de type 2 et de l’appétit.

Shitake is rich in dietary fibre: substances that are not digested by the organism. The majority of the fibre contained in shitake are insoluble, thus contributing to maintaining a healthy transit. In addition, nutrition that is rich in fibre may help prevent heart disease and cancer of the colon, as well as control of type 2 diabetes and appetite.

So is this mushroom consumption just a fad, a con or a fabulous discovery? Absolutely Green blog published a pertinent post:

A l’origine, on suppose que ce sont les Chinois qui ont découvert ce champignon, il y a plus de 6 000 ans. (…) Et pourtant, ce sont les Japonais (…) qui le diffusèrent à travers l’Asie, à partir du 11ème siècle. Plus qu’un aliment, le shiitake était envisagé comme une sorte de végétal miracle, augmentant la longévité, améliorant vigueur sexuelle et endurance physique. Encore de nos jours, cette réputation lui colle à la peau et fait débat. 

En comparaison, les Occidentaux se sont initiés tardivement à cette culture : il a fallu attendre les années 1970, alors que les Etats-Unis décrétaient un embargo sur les champignons vivants en provenance d’Asie, pour que des producteurs s’y attèlent. Et, encore de nos jours, les Européens restent frileux : quelques initiatives en Hollande et en France se comptent sur les doigts de la main.

It is thought that this mushroom was first discovered in China more than 6,000 years ago. But the Japanese are responsible for its propagation throughout Asia, from the 11th century onward. Far more than a mere aliment, shitake was considered to be a sort of herbal miracle, promoting longevity, improving sexual performance and physical endurance. To this day, it is stuck with this much-debated reputation. 

Westerners, in comparison, were introduced to this culture much later: It wasn't until the 1970s when the United States placed an embargo on live mushrooms imported from Asia, that production really took off. Even today, Europeans are still hesitant and there are only a handful of ventures in Holland and France.

Note that shitake does not come cheap, as demonstrated in the detailed comparative study published by Virginie on the same blog post. Nonetheless, for those who have had the chance to taste it, shitake is particularly tasty, especially if simply sauteed with a splash of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

The art of picking and preparing mushrooms

Cèpe de Bordeaux

Boletus edulis – Cèpe of Bordeaux. Photo by caitphil on Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Closer to home, there are many mushrooms within reach for any would-be hunters. Hunting for chanterelles, morels and Bordeaux porcini belongs to the same back-to-earth, back-to-basics movement as the pursuit of shitake's benefits.

The occasionally hunter, however, would be well advised to read up on the subject in order to avoid great or even disastrous inconvenience. According to the Ministry of Health, 546 cases of mushroom poisoning were registered in 2013. Pickers must also beware of the areas they forage in, which are sometimes regulated.

Furthermore, mushrooms are known for their surprising capacity to concentrate environmental pollution, explained in this French-language video: 

Hand-picked wild mushrooms become the centerpiece of a meal for guests, and can be prepared in a large variety of ways, ranging from the very simple to the very complicated. In her blog Papilles et pupilles, Anne shares the quintessence of the Bordeaux porcini:

C’est le roi des champignons locaux, à côté de lui nul n’est à la hauteur. (…) Les coins à champignon comptent parmi les secrets les mieux gardés que l’on ne partage que sur son lit de mort. 

No other mushrooms can compare to this one, it is the king of all local mushrooms. The best mushroom spots are among the most fiercely guarded secrets, shared only on one's deathbed.

Top chefs recommend scores of recipes for wild mushrooms. From cream of morel and white mushrooms to pig trotter pancake with shallots and black truffle, there is something for all tastes, for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Here is a simple recipe for raw porcini from a famous chef: 

The chef explains the process as follows:  

Separate the heads from the tails of the porcini and chop into fine slices.
Put the chopped porcini in a bowl and season with olive oil.
Add salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and if you have it, truffle juice. DO NOT use truffle oil.  
Add the basil leaves and stir. The salad should be bright.
Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.

For Cristau de Hueauguerne, one burning question remains, even in the middle of winter:

Alors que nous sommes rendus au milieu d'un hiver méconnaissable, se dessine en sous-sol la future saison des champignons, qui ne connaît pas de trêve, et, quoi que cela s'avère fort difficile et hasardeux, nous sommes déjà nombreux à nous demander quelle sera la teneur du millésime 2014. 

Whilst we are in the middle of a unprecedented winter, the next mushroom season is taking shape in the subsoil, and even though this may seem risky or even rash, many of us are wondering what the 2014 millesime (year of harvest)  has in store.

February 25 2014

PHOTOS: Venezuelan Women March for Peace in Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 -- Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman holds a sign that reads: 'Hail to peace and love'. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 — Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman holds a sign that reads: ‘Hail to peace and love'. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Women who support the government of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro took to the streets on Saturday, February 22, to demand an end to the violence that has been sweeping the country as protests continue.

Photographer Jesus Gil shared photos of the demonstration on Demotix:

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 -- Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country.  A woman with a Hugo Chavez poster joins the march. Photo by Jesus GIl, copyright Demotix.

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 — Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman with a Hugo Chavez poster joins the march. Photo by Jesus GIl, copyright Demotix.

Women march for peace in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Women march for peace in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

The day before the march, Andreína Tarazón, Minister of Women's Affairs and Gender Equality in Venezuela, invited women to join the demonstration:

 We march to demand an end to vandalism and violence, and [to demand] respect for the Constitution.

You can see more photos, reports and opinions under the hashtags #MujeresPorLaPaz (Women for peace) and #MujeresContraElFacismo (Women against fascism)

Protesters who oppose the government also denounced violence during demonstrations held that same day. You can read more about the opposing marches under the hashtag #22F.

February 23 2014

First Open Heart Surgery in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

The health international network La Chaîne de l’Espoir (The Link of Hope) reports that 7 Congolese children in critical conditions benefited from open heart surgeries [fr] on February 14 in Brazzaville, Congo. With the help of the Congo Assistance Fundation as well, Prince Béni and Maya, both suffering from cardiomyopathy were operated for several hours as told in the following report [fr]:

Elle a dix ans et ne pèse que quinze kilos. Son cœur fonctionne mal. Il l'empêche de s'alimenter et donc de grandir. La petite fille doit être opérée le plus vite possible. L'intervention dure six heures.

(Mayala) is ten years old and weighs fifteen pounds. Her heart is malfunctioning. It prevents her from getting nutrients to all her cells and therefore growing. The girl needed an operation as soon as possible. The procedure took six hours.

February 22 2014

Malagasy React to SI Swimming Suit Issue and Model's Take on Madagascar

The 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimming Suit Issue was shot on Nosy Iranja (Iranja Island), Madagascar:

Nosy Iranja is known as the Turtle island for the Hawksbill Turtles came to shore to lay their eggs. It is also known for the spectacular sandbank that bridges the two nearby islands.

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar - Public Domain

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar – Public Domain

Russian Top model Irina Shayk and wife of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo said that she has a special relationship with Madagascar:

When I was a student I did a report on Madagascar, and ever since then it was my biggest dream to go there [..] The (Malagasy) people live and get by every day walking in the roads, living this super simple life, and they're still happy. It is an experience that keeps you humble, puts things in perspective.

Rakotonirina Miaro wonders why the world outside Madagascar seem to appreciate the island's treasures but Malgasy citizens cannot seem to notice [mg]:

Ny olon-kafa maita ny hatsaran'ny Nosin-tsik fa ny tompony jay no tsy mahafatatra fa tsar i Gasikara! Tsara daholo ny mannequin naka sary é!

Foreigners know how beautiful our island is but we, who live here, do not seem to appreciate about our own treasures. Oh yeah, and the swimming suit models were not bad looking either

February 21 2014

‘Central African Republic's Most Pressing Need Is Security for its People’

Mme Beatrice Epaye via Centrafrique Press blog -Domaine public

Béatrice Epaye via the CAR Press blog – Public domain

Béatrice Epaye is a former member of Parliament and today a member of the Central African Republic's National Transition Council (CNT), the body tasked with selecting a transitional president who will lead the war-torn country until the next presidential elections. When an uprising plunged the country into crisis in late 2012, the previous President-elect François Bozizé was removed by the Séléka rebels.

The terrible religious conflict continues still in the Central African Republic (CAR). On February 19, heavy fighting erupted near the airport in the capital Bangui. Anti-Balaka groups tried to block the evacuation of Muslims and disrupted a visit by a top United Nations (UN) aid official.  

Epaye agreed to answer our questions on the current situation in the Central African Republic and the steps which need to be taken to avoid a human catastrophe in her country. In addition to her role on the National Transition Council, she is the president of the “La Voix du Coeur” (Voice of the Heart) Centre, which is currently a place of welcome and support for street children in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. She also sits on the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa's parliament (CEMAC) in Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, where she represents the Council.

Global Voices (GV): What's the latest situation in your area? 

Béatrice Epaye (BE): Je suis une habitante de Bangui la capitale de la RCA, une ville meurtrie par le conflit. Tous les jours, de chez moi, j'entends des coups de feux venus de certains quartiers de Bangui. Ma maison comme beaucoup d’autres accueillent des proches venus de quartiers plus fragiles. Les gens fuient et beaucoup se sont regroupés dans des lieux qu'ils estiment sécurisés : Aéroport, Mosquées, Églises, dans des familles, en brousse dans la périphérie de Bangui ou en République Démocratique du Congo de l'autre côté du fleuve Oubangui.

De même, le Centre « Voix du Cœur » que j’ai fondé est devenu un lieu de regroupement pour les enfants de la rue en détresse. Là chrétiens et musulmans se côtoient, s’entraident.

Béatrice Epaye (BE): I live in Bangui the capital of the CAR, a town battered by conflict. Every day from my own home I hear shots coming from different areas of Bangui. Like many others, my house welcomes friends who come from the most fragile areas. People are fleeing and many gather together in areas which they feel are more secure: the airport, mosques, churches, with families, in the bush on the edge of Bangui, or in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the other side of the Ubangi River.

Likewise, the Voice of the Heart Centre which I founded has become a gathering place for distressed street children. Christians and Muslims come together and help each other.

GV: How do you manage the uncertainties? What are the most pressing needs so far?

BE: Effectivement c'est une situation difficile et précaire pour tout le monde : à tout moment le pire peut se produire! Quand on sent le danger, on cherche un abri.

Le plus difficile pour les familles et sur les sites des déplacés, c'est de ne pas avoir à manger ni avoir la possibilité de se soigner. Les salaires ne sont pas payés depuis 4 mois, et l'aide humanitaire n'est pas suffisante, ou même parfois inexistante. Dans leurs fuites les populations ont laissé derrière elles le nécessaire pour le quotidien et manquent du minimum pour la survie. Ensuite les enfants ne vont pas à l'école… on en est à un tel point que je ne peux pas le décrire.

BE: It's really a very difficult and precarious situation for everyone: the worst can happen at any moment! When we sense danger we look for shelter.

The most difficult thing for the families, and at the internally displaced persons sites, is having nothing to eat and no possibility of taking care of yourself. Salaries haven't been paid in four months, and humanitarian aid is not sufficient and sometimes even non-existent. As they fled, populations left behind things necessary for daily life and don't have the minimum needed to survive. Then children aren't going to school… we've reached such a point that I can't even describe it.

GV: How has the violence between Christians and Muslims increased so quickly in a country that isn't known for religious conflicts?

BE: Effectivement, le pays n'a jamais connu de conflits religieux. Les deux communautés ont toujours vécu ensemble en cohésion. Les familles s'échangent les repas lors des fêtes de Pâques, de la Tabaski, du Ramadan, de Noël et lors des mariages religieux. Lors du coup d’État nous avons vu parmi les rebelles des étrangers, engagés comme mercenaires. Depuis le début de leur progression ils ont utilisé les communautés musulmanes avec un discours de libérateurs des musulmans face aux mécréants qui les maltraitent. Ils ont pu enrôler beaucoup de jeunes qui les ont aidé à s'attaquer aux biens de l’église et faire les exactions que nous avons tous connues. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous avons toujours recherché à vivre en harmonie entre Centrafricains, avec nos différences de confessions ; comme nation, nous avons aussi accueilli beaucoup de personnes et de familles venant des pays voisins.

Cependant, il y a l'attitude de certains agents de l’État face à des concitoyens ou des résidents qu’ils supposent musulmans. Ceux-ci sont freinés dans leur démarche pour un papier administratif ou pour passer un barrage des forces de l'ordre. De même, les populations du nord-est de la RCA proches du Tchad et du Soudan (Darfour), vivant à plus de 1000 KM de la capitale, et majoritairement musulmanes, bénéficient peu du soutien de l’Etat parce que l’administration et les services publics sont quasi inexistants dans cette région, ce qui peut amener les habitants à se sentir laissés pour compte. Ces populations sont plus liées aux populations frontalières des autres pays voisins, ce qui est normal et parlent ensemble la même langue, ont une culture proche, mais ils sont alors perçus comme étrangers et eux-mêmes se sentent loin de la majorité chrétienne du pays. Au cœur du conflit que nous vivons, en ce moment, la grande majorité silencieuse des Centrafricains refusent la violence et beaucoup ont eu a agir pour protéger ou sauver la vie d’autres, souvent d’une autre communauté religieuse qu’eux.

BE: The country has never really known religious conflict. The two communities have always lived together with cohesion. Families exchange meals at Easter, Tabaski, Ramadan, Christmas and at religious marriages. When the revolution happened, we saw foreigners amongst the rebels, taken on as mercenaries. Since they started to advance they've made use of Muslim communities by making speeches about freeing Muslims from infidels who have treated them badly. They were able to recruit many young people who have helped them attack church property and carry out abuses which we've all experienced. Until now, we've always sought a harmonious life between Central Africans with our different faiths. As a nation we've also welcomed many people and families from neighbouring countries.

However, there is an attitude which certain public officials have concerning fellow citizens or residents who they believe to be Muslim. The movement of these people is slowed down by checking administrative documents or going through a security checkpoint. In the same way, populations in the northeast of the CAR close to Chad and Sudan (Darfour), who live more than 1,000 km from the capital and the majority of whom are Muslims, receive little benefit from state aid because the administration and public services are almost non-existent in this region, which can lead to local residents feeling overlooked. These populations are more closely linked to border populations from other neighbouring countries, which is normal, they speak the same language together, have cultural similarities, but then they are seen as foreigners and themselves feel a long way from the country's Christian majority. At the heart of the conflict which we're living in at the moment is the large Christian silent majority refuses violence and many have had to act to protect or save other people's lives, often from a different religious community to their own.

GV: You say that it's critical that the communities talk to each other and have a dialogue in order to solve problems. In your opinion, what conditions are needed in order to set up this dialogue? How can the international community help in this area?

BE: J'estime que parallèlement à la sécurisation du pays il faut commencer la réconciliation entre les communautés.

Tout d'abord, rassurer la communauté musulmane qui est en train de quitter le pays, elle fait partie prenante de la RCA. Il s'agit de réfuter toute idée soit de les chasser, soit de scission du pays. Il faut éliminer dans les mentalités la confusion systématique entre Seleka et musulman.

Inviter à ouvrir un processus de dialogue politique entre toutes les parties prenantes aux conflits, mais aussi avec les acteurs non-armés afin de lancer un processus de réconciliation nationale à même d'apaiser aujourd'hui les populations désemparées et leur redonner confiance dans l'avenir.

Dès la rentrée scolaire, qu'on commence à mettre en place un programme sur le vivre ensemble pour les enfants, et aussi l'élargir dans les quartiers et villages.

Il faut renforcer la sensibilisation déjà initiée par la plate-forme inter-religieuse dans les Églises, les Mosquées et autres Temples, ainsi que d'autres initiatives locales qui concourent à la paix”. Il est vrai que l'idée d'organiser des élections fait partie des priorités de la Communauté internationale, mais cette idée fait certainement peur à la communauté musulmane centrafricaine. C'est pourquoi il serait souhaitable que parallèlement au processus électoral, soit amorcé un programme de réconciliation nationale, une démarche qui assure à chacun qu’il sera reconnu comme centrafricain à part entière.

BE: I believe that parallel to securing the country we have to start the reconciliation process between communities.

First of all, we must reassure the Muslim community, which is in the process of leaving the country, that they are a stakeholder in the CAR. We have to refute any idea of banishing them or splitting the country. We have to eliminate the systematic confusion in people's minds between Seleka and Muslim.

We must encourage the opening of a political dialogue between all parties taking part in the conflict, but also key players who are not fighting, in order to start a national reconciliation process to give comfort to helpless populations and give them back confidence in the future.

Once the new school year begins we must set up a children's program about living together and also extend this to urban areas and villages.

We have to support the raising of public awareness, which has already been initiated by the inter-religious platform in churches, mosques, and other temples, just like other local initiatives which lead to peace. It's true that the idea of organising elections is amongst the priorities of the international community, but this idea also scares the Central African Muslim community. That's why it would be desirable to launch a national reconciliation program alongside the electoral process, an approach which assures everyone that they will be recognised as fully Central African.

GV: What are the other pressing needs for Central Africa at the moment? What solutions can be put forward?

BE: Le besoin le plus pressant pour la RCA c'est d'abord la sécurité pour son peuple. L'idéal serait que les familles rentrent chez elles avant les premières pluies du mois de février, que l'aide humanitaire arrive aux habitants partout où on peut les trouver (alimentation, eau potable, soins, couchages, produits d'hygiène, vêtements…). Ce serait aussi le paiement des salaires aux fonctionnaires.

BE: The CAR's most pressing need is security for its people. Ideally, families would be able to return to their homes before the first rains in February and humanitarian aid would arrive for local people wherever they are (food, drinking water, medical supplies, sleeping bags, hygiene products, clothes..). Also, public officials would have their salaries paid.

There Will Be No Peace in Colombia Without Women

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where noted otherwise.]

The documentation centre No habrá paz sin las mujeres [There will be no peace without women] enables female leaders, professionals and survivors of the armed conflict in Colombia to express themselves and share their experiences so that, according to the website, “the lifework they have dedicated to peace is not forgotten.” Their testimony is offered through an online photography exhibition and video interviews.

Historiadora, documentalista e integrante del colectivo H.I.J.O.S. Afiche del proyecto No habrá paz sin las mujeres.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, historian and documentary filmmaker. Poster for the project “There will be no peace without women”. 

All peace processes should actively involve women.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, a historian and documentary filmmaker, also works for justice and memory as part of the H.I.J.O.S. cooperative. She is the orphaned daughter of Francisco Gaviria, a student leader murdered along with 4,000 militants and sympathizers of the Unión Patriótica by State agents and paramilitaries between 1985 and 1994 in a campaign of political genocide.

The project, created by the Asturian Cooperative Development Agency, gives voice to Colombian women so they can ”learn from each other's experiences and strategies, be empowered in the fight to build a more just society, and advance their own proposals for peace in the process of reconciliation, reconstruction, reparation and justice.

No habrá paz sin las mujeres began with the experiences of Colombian women during the armed conflict [en] that has endured for more than 50 years. The group maintains that, although there are signs of hope in ongoing peace talks [en] taking place in Havana, Cuba, between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) [en] and the Colombian government, “women are noticeably absent from the peace process: neither the issues crucial to them nor their claims or proposals for peace are being listened to.” 

The website goes on to explain that talks have not taken into account United Nations Resolution 1325 [en], which calls attention to the issue of gender in conflict resolution. 

Y precisamente son las mujeres las que más sufren las consecuencias de la guerra: la violencia sexual ha sido empleada por los tres actores de la guerra, los paramilitares, el Estado y la guerrilla; el reclutamiento de menores ha afectada a las niñas como combatientes pero también como esclavas sexuales; son el mayor porcentaje de población desplazada y la mayoría con cargas familiares…

It is women who suffer most from the consequences of war: sexual violence has been used by all three factions, the paramilitary, the State and the guerrillas; the recruiting of minors has damaged girls both as combatants and as sex slaves; displaced persons are disproportionately women, most of whom have families…

Efforts to help redress the situation are publicized on the website's home page through video interviews and testimonials.  

One of these videos is about the artist Patricia Ariza, who found a way to express the Colombian reality through her work. Patricia also uses artistic expression to exorcize the injustice she sees in her country and of which she herself is a victim, her family having been displaced because of the violence. 

</p> <p>Another video shows a campaign where Colombian women are committed to safekeeping their land and not allowing the multinational&nbsp;<a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/AngloGold_Ashanti">AngloGold Ashanti</a>&nbsp;to set up gold-mining operations. The<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2013/12/campesinas-contra-la-fiebre-del-oro/">&nbsp;following video</a>&nbsp;is an interview with a local woman, Judith P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez, who lives on a country road in the municipality of Cajamarca, Tolima; and it speaks to the dedication of women to protecting their surroundings.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, the interview reveals the fear and anxiety of P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez and her neighbours&#8212;the vulnerability and lack of support they feel at the hands of Colombian authorities, as evidenced by the&nbsp;<a href="http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article10730">serious confrontations they have had with security forces</a>:</p> <p></p> <p>Ester Carmen Mart&#237;nez, a teacher in <a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitalito">Pitalito</a>, Huila, [a major coffee-producing area] tells her personal story and that of her neighbours, who were murdered, evicted or displaced by paramilitary groups.&nbsp;</p> <p></p> <p>The project also publishes texts&nbsp;<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2014/01/mas-mujeres-en-riesgo-por-reclamar-derechos-de-ley-de-victimas/">such as this one</a>, which explains some of the dangers faced by women who choose activism:</p> <blockquote><p>En Bajo Cauca por lo menos otras cuatro l&#237;deres han sido amedrentadas y obligadas a abandonar la regi&#243;n en los &#250;ltimos cuatro a&#241;os. La restituci&#243;n no avanza, y el miedo hace que ni siquiera re&#250;nan las mesas de v&#237;ctimas.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;Las v&#237;ctimas estamos arrinconadas&#8221;, dijo el testigo consultado. &#8220;Hay muchas amenazas. La &#250;ltima fue contra una mujer que fue v&#237;ctima de desplazamiento forzado y se fue para el barrio Par&#237;s. All&#225; lider&#243; la junta de acci&#243;n comunal y los pillos la amenazaron nuevamente y hasta iban a atentar contra su vida y se tuvo que ir del municipio. Lo m&#225;s triste es que ni la Administraci&#243;n Municipal ni la Fuerza P&#250;blica atiende nuestras peticiones. &#191;Usted cree que alguna de nosotras, pese a las amenazas, tiene esquema de seguridad?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <blockquote class="translation"><p>In Bajo Cauca at least four other leaders have been intimidated and forced to abandon the region in the last four years. Restitution is no further ahead, and fear means the victims don't even dare meet together anymore.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;We victims are cornered,&#8221; said the witnessed we consulted. &#8220;There are many threats. The last was against a woman who was a victim of forced displacement and went to the Par&#237;s area. There she led the committee for communal action and the thugs threatened her again, they were even going to try to kill her, and she had to leave the town. The saddest part is that neither the municipal government nor public security paid attention to our petitions. Do you think that any of us, despite the threat, receives any protection?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <p><span>The project </span><a target="_blank" href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/descargate-las-postales-y-posters/">has several posters</a><span>&nbsp;depicting the reality of the many ways women suffer, in particular sexual violence.</span></p> <div id="attachment_226940" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Superviviente de la matanza de El Salado (Foto: Patricia Sim&#243;n)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/sexual-afiche.png" width="723" class="size-full wp-image-226940" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga, survivor of the massacre in El Salado (Photo: Patricia Sim&#243;n)</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>I suffered sexual violence but it did not defeat me.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga was raped by ten paramilitaries in front of her husband, who was later murdered, in a massacre that claimed the lives of 100 people in five days in the town of El Salado in 2000. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war by all three factions in the conflict: guerrillas, paramilitaries and the State.</p></blockquote> <p>The posters also highlight the work of women who have dedicated their lives to peace and activism.&nbsp;</p> <div id="attachment_227006" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="991" alt="Defensora de derechos humanos (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-22.38.57.png" width="710" class="size-full wp-image-227006" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Mari La Negra, defender of human rights (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Words motivate, examples convince.</strong></p> <p>Mari La Negra began her career as an activist for workers and human rights when she was 14 years old. Not long afterwards, she was raped by State agents and jailed for three months, where she was tortured because of her efforts on behalf of organized labour. At 40, she has survived many attempts on her life and continues to be threatened by paramilitaries because of her fight for the rights of those most marginalized in society.</p></blockquote> <div id="attachment_227008" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Feminista e investigadora integrante de Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-23.16.17.png" width="724" class="size-full wp-image-227008" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Marta Restrepo, feminist and community organizer (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Freedom for women means removing the right to take advantage of them.</strong></p> <p>Marta Restrepo, a member of&nbsp;Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Antimilitarist Feminist Women), has dedicated her life to exposing the murder of women, a plague that claims the lives of more than 1,100 victims a year in Colombia. She also militates against the use of women as sex slaves, which in many cases leads to them becoming prostitutes in Spain, and the exploitation of women as a form of currency in the war economy that rules her country.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>For more information, videos, and posters, visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nohabrapazsinlasmujeres">Facebook</a>&nbsp;and Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/Nopazsinmujeres">@nopazsinmujeres</a>.</p> <p class="gv-rss-footer"><span class="credit-text"><span class="contributor">Written by <a title="View all posts by Lully" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/author/lully-posada/">Lully</a></span> &middot; <span class="contributor">Translated by <a title="View all posts by Victoria Robertson" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/author/victoria-robertson/" class="url">Victoria Robertson</a></span></span> &middot; <span class="source-link"><a title="View original post [es]" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/18/no-habra-paz-sin-las-mujeres-en-colombia/">View original post [es]</a></span> &middot; <span class="commentcount"><a title="comments" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/21/there-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women/#comments">comments (0) </a></span><br /><a title="read Donate" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/donate/">Donate</a> &middot; <span class="share-links-text"><span class="share-links-label">Share: </span> <a target="new" title="facebook" id="gv-st_facebook" href="http://www.facebook.com/share.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">facebook</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="twitter" id="gv-st_twitter" href="http://twitter.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;text=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women&#038;via=globalvoices"><span class="share-icon-label">twitter</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="googleplus" id="gv-st_googleplus" href="https://plus.google.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">googleplus</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="reddit" id="gv-st_reddit" href="http://reddit.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">reddit</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="StumbleUpon" id="gv-st_stumbleupon" href="http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">StumbleUpon</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="delicious" id="gv-st_delicious" href="http://del.icio.us/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">delicious</span></a></span> </p>

PHOTOS: Humans of the Caribbean

Following in the footsteps of photographer Brandon Stanton's blog Humans of New York series, professional and amateur photographers alike have been creating their own versions of the project across the world. Via blogs and Facebook pages, they are collecting images and stories of people from all walks of life. Here is a glimpse into some of the pages that make up the Caribbean's contribution, featuring the work of regional photographers who want to showcase their country or city through portraits of its diverse people.

Humans of Aruba, by Vanessa Paulina, was one of the first regional projects:

“As I was approaching the ladies got intimidated by my camera and fled the scene. He greeted me nicely so I stopped and asked if I could take his picture and explained to him what the purpose was.
He was okay with it so I asked ‘Fransisco Bennet’ what he was up to and if he could tell me what according to him the secret of a good life was. “
Photo by Vanessa Paulina. Used With Permission.

 

Humans of New York inspired Corrie Scott to start Humans of Barbados in Sept 2013. According to her, these types of projects are “…a wonderful way for us all to get to know us humans around the world.”

“How long does it take you to make these hand crafted palm brooms?”
“About 10 minutes not counting the collecting of the palm leaves, shredding them, gathering the wood for handles and more.”
“How long have you been making them? For me they are an art form in their beauty and the best broom I have ever used.”
“40 years.”
“Make lots of sales?”
” Some, but only to older people as the young generation always asking me what they are for.”
Photo by Corrie Scott, Used with Permission.

 

Humans of St. Croix was started in October 2013 by Charlene Springer:

“The Almighty Creator create all of us and then he give us a way of life. He guides the human beings with prophets to teach these human beings how they should live, how you should worship. This is why I color my beard because of our holy prophet, (peace be upon him, and peace be upon all of the holy prophets), he used to color his beard so I just do that to follow him. It is not for style or beauty, just to follow him. My prophet is Mohammed born in Saudi Arabia and his teaching are spread all over the world. His teachings does not deny any teachings of the previous prophets and actually all the previous prophets teach the same thing, it is the people that keep messing with the prophet's teachings. This is why the Almighty keeps sending different prophets to remind them that this is my way don't go astray.”
Photo by Charlene Springer. Used with Permission.

 

John Manderson started the Humans of Bermuda page back in November:

1397911_567566716646232_479817562_o

Johnny Barnes (born John James Randolf Adolphus Mills, June 23, 1923) is a Bermuda native found waving to passing traffic at the Foot of the Lane roundabout in Hamilton, Bermuda, from roughly 3:45 am to 10 am, every workday, rain or shine. A Bermuda institution mentioned in several guidebooks and profiled in a documentary film, he is known for waving and saying ‘I love you, God loves you,’ to passing commuters during the morning rush hour into Hamilton.” Photo by John Manderson, Used with permission.

 

Nathalie Tancrede also created Humans of Haiti last November. This month, she is launching the page and hopes to “bring attention to the beauty and resilience of the Haitian people.”

“My parents could not afford to send me to school. I now live in the streets with a few other guys.”
He acts tough with the others but told me privately that all he wants is to go to school and learn like the other kids
Photo by Nathalie Tancrede. Used With Permission

 

Edward Russell III started Humans of the Bahamas when he discovered the Humans of New York project, soon after he left his job at a local newspaper, where he'd been a photojournalist for five years.

I looked at this man smiling.

I looked at this man smiling.
“You want to take a picture ey?”
I nodded.
“Go ahead then.”
Took the shot.
“That will be two dollars please!”
Photo by Edward Russell III. Used With Permission.

 

Bobby Ramroop runs the page Humans of Georgetown (Guyana):

1377982_437442436359741_2091216032_n

“If you own a chiney resstrawnt, sell actual chicken for once. And if you and somebody fall out, forgive them and wish them the best. Don't send them christmas cards threatening to stick a corncob around the first 2 corners of their large intestine. If you follow that we’d have a better society.”
Photo by Bobby Ramroop. Used with Permission.

The thumbnail image used in this post is by Corrie Scott, used with permission.

Interview With Fula-Language Blogger Balde Mamadou Tafsir for Mother Language Day

Fula is the language of the Fula (Fulani) people. Few African ethnic groups exhibit such a wide range of political and economic integration in the West African region. Fula people number among Africa's greatest writers, professors, filmmakers, artists, politicians, and businessmen. Yet Fula nomads, representing the largest migratory ethnic group in the world, live in extremely precarious conditions as they travel with their livestock in the Sahel savannah. They are called Fulɓe (singular Pullo) in the Fula language, Fula or Fulani in English, and peul in French. The geographic distribution of the population extends from West Africa to Central and East Africa.

The Fula language varies significantly between countries:

Le peul, ou peulh ou fulfulde, ou pularpulaar, est une langue parlée dans une vingtaine d’États d’Afrique occidentale et centrale, des rives du Sénégal à celles du Nil. C'est la langue maternelle des ethnies peules, et aussi une langue seconde employée régionalement comme langue véhiculaire, par d'autres ethnies.

Fula (also known as peulh, fulfulde, pular, or pulaar) is a language spoken in some twenty West and Central African countries, from the banks of the Senegal to those of the Nile. It is the native language of ethnic Fulas and is also spoken as a second language and lingua franca by members of other ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, this language, despite being taught in several universities outside of Africa, is rarely taught in school systems on the continent.

African culture and languages researcher Balde Mamadou Tafsir writes two blogs in Fula, his native language. For the first, Misiide [ful], he uses the Latin alphabet, and for the second, tafsirexpress.blogspot.com [ful], he posts using the Arabic alphabet. His goal is to promote all facets of Fula language and culture. For International Mother Language Day, a UNESCO initiative celebrated every February 21st since 2000, he agreed to answer a few questions for Global Voices.

Balde Tasfir facebook photo profile with his permission

Balde Tasfir facebook photo profile with his permission

What do you think of International Mother Language Day?

Balde Mamadou Tafsir (BMT): C’est un moment de partage de joie, de satisfaction, de se sentir intégré dans la diversité culturelle. En ma qualité de développeur web de langues et cultures africaines je considère la Journée Internationale de la Langue Maternelle comme une merveilleuse occasion de maintenir ce noble objectif.

Je pense qu’il faut soutenir la résolution de L’UNESCO [ résolution 37 adoptée en 1999 par  la Conférence générale de cette institution du système des Nations Unies basée à Paris] qui affirme cette reconnaissance de la diversité culturelle de par le monde, cette journée nous encourage à multiplier nos efforts dans le développement de nos langues nationales.

Balde Mamadou Tafsir (BMT): It's an occasion to share joy and satisfaction, to feel integrated in cultural diversity. As a web developer working on African languages and cultures, I consider International Mother Language Day to be a wonderful occasion to further this important objective.
I think we need to support the UNESCO resolution [resolution 37 adopted in 1999 by UNESCO's General Conference of the United Nations System in Paris], which reaffirms recognition of cultural diversity throughout the world. This day encourages us to redouble our efforts in the development of our national languages.

What do you blog about?

BMT: Je blog le plus souvent sur la culture, les langues africaines, tout comme sur les activités socioculturelles.

I blog mainly about African culture and languages, as well as social and cultural activities. 

What do you find gratifying about blogging?

BMT: Tout d’abord, ça me rassure que bon nombre de mes lecteurs apprécient mes billets, mais aussi les questions/thèmes que j’aborde sur mes blogs. Ça m’encourage à plus écrire dans ces domaines.

First of all, it's reassuring that a good number of readers appreciate my posts, as well as the questions and themes that I bring up on my blogs. That encourages me to write more on these subjects.

What have you been working on since starting the blog Misiide?

BMT: Quelque mois après sa création, Misiide a lancé une version en arabe du blog pour ses lecteurs utilisant les caractères arabes. Tout récemment,  j’ai enregistré un album de poèmes poular (ou peul) qui sortira bientôt. Actuellement, je travaille sur la traduction des logiciels en peul. J’ai aussi traduit pas mal de livres en poular comme j’ai réalisé un petit lexique (poular-français, français-poular, et poular-arabe). D’autres projets sont en route.

A few months after its creation, Misiide launched an Arabic version for its readers who use the Arabic alphabet. Just recently, I recorded an album of Fula language poems, which will be released soon. I'm currently working on translating software into Fula. I've translated quite a few books into Fula and have also created a little glossary (Fula-French, French-Fula, and Fula-Arabic.) Other projects are on their way.

What kinds of difficulties do you come across?

BMT: Ce sont entre autres les mêmes difficultés que rencontrent nombre de bloggeurs à savoir : Problèmes financiers et techniques, l’entretien du blog… Sauf que nous avons plus de difficultés que celui qui blogue dans une des langues les plus utilisées, qui ont facilement accès au web. En outre quant à nous bloggeurs en langues africaines, le nombre de nos lecteurs est rès limités par rapport aux bloggeurs dans les langues les plus courantes. 

For the most part, I encounter the same difficulties as other bloggers, such as financial and technical problems and blog maintenance issues. However, we face more difficulties than bloggers who write in more widely spoken languages and who have easy access to the internet. Plus, African language bloggers have a very limited number of readers compared to bloggers in more common languages.

What do you think about teaching native languages in the school system?

BMT: L’enseignement des langues nationales dans le système scolaire mérite d’être encourager comme stratégie pour une amélioration de la réussite des élèves. Car elle joue un grand rôle dans la formation et l’affirmation de l’identité culturelle des individus, par conséquent leur valeur comme instruments de communication.

D’après les études, notamment celles menées conjointement par l’UNESCO et l’UNICEF, les élèves des pays où la langue maternelle est aussi la langue d’enseignement, surpassent les autres dans la plupart des secteurs d’étude.

Teaching national languages in the school system should be encouraged as a strategy for improving students’ success. It plays an important role in the formation and affirmation of individuals’ cultural identity, and, therefore, has value as a means of communication.
According to research studies, especially those conducted jointly by UNESCO and UNICEF, students who are taught in their native language outperform other students in a majority of subjects.

What are the results of mother tongue education in schools in Guinea?

BMT: La Guinée a mené une expérience originale dans l’enseignement des langues nationales a l’école ; comparativement aux autres pays de la sous région, mais elle a obtenu des résultats critiques et peu déterminants, dont le plus important a été la baisse du niveau des élèves dans les langues d'importance mondiale (arabe, français, anglais).

Compared to other countries in the subregion, Guinea has led an original experiment in teaching national languages at school. But Guinea has seen disappointing and inconclusive results, most importantly a decline in students’ performance in major world languages (Arabic, French, and English).

What caused this failure?

BMT: A mon avis, cet échec est dû au manque de préparation de l’opération, mais aussi au fait que les langues nationales étudiées à l’école étaient trop nombreuses par rapport à un petit pays comme la Guinée. Sans oublier le manque de motivation de parts et d'autres (enseignants, élève et parents d’élèves).

In my opinion, this failure is due to a lack of preparation for the undertaking, but also to the fact that the national languages studied in schools are too numerous for a small country like Guinea. Not to mention the lack of motivation of the various parties (teachers, students, and parents).

At what age do you think mother tongue education should begin?

BMT: Les études nous ont toujours démontré que l’introduction des langues nationales dans l’enseignement permet incontestablement d’obtenir une plus grande scolarisation des enfants de bons résultats scolaires. Cependant, la scolarisation en langues nationales doit absolument commencée dès les premières années de l’école.

Studies have always shown that the introduction of national languages in education unquestionably allows children to perform better in school. However, mother tongue education absolutely must begin in the first years of school.

Do you use your native language every day? In what context?

BMT: Oui ! Cela dépend de mes activités journalières, mais étant un étranger dans le pays ou je vie, l’utilisation de ma langue se focalise le plus souvent sur les moyens de communications (téléphone, internet…).

Yes! That depends on my daily activities, but as a foreigner in the country I live in, the use of my native language mainly revolves around means of communication (telephone, internet…).

What do you predict for the future of your language?

BMT: En se basant sur les différents travaux réalisés pour cette langue afin qu’elle soit plus intégrée dans la vie publique en général me rassure que celle-ci sera un jour l’une des langues de science et de technique.

Judging from the various projects undertaken to better integrate this language in public life, I generally feel reassured that one day it will become one of the languages of science and technology.

Anything else you would like to add?

BMT: Je profite de cette occasion pour saluer la résolution de l’UNESCO qui affirme que la reconnaissance et le respect pour la diversité culturelle dans le domaine du langage inspirent une solidarité basée sur la compréhension, la tolérance et le dialogue, et que toute action qui favorise l’utilisation des langues maternelles sert non seulement à encourager la diversité linguistique et l’éducation multilingue. Cette résolution, vise aussi à sensibiliser davantage à la multiplicité des traditions linguistiques et culturelles dans le monde.

Je lance un appel a tous mes amis bloggeurs à travers le monde, à s’associer à cette Journée pour prendre part à cette journée pour bloguer dans les langues nationales parce que nos langues sont  menacées d’extinction.

I'll take this opportunity to acknowledge the UNESCO resolution, which affirms that recognition and respect for cultural diversity in language inspire solidarity based on comprehension, tolerance, and dialogue. This resolution advocates that any action promoting the use of native languages should serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also to increase sensitivity to the multiplicity of linguistic and cultural traditions in the world.
I urge all my blogger friends across the world to take part in this day by blogging in their native languages, because our languages are at risk of extinction.

 

February 19 2014

PHOTOS: Venezuelans Abroad Support the Protests in Venezuela

Thousands of Venezuelans that now live outside of Venezuela have organised demonstrations to support the actions on the streets in the South American country. The images of these gatherings have been shared widely on social networks.

On Facebook the page SOS Venezuela [es] collects a large number of photos, which are also published with the tags #iamyourvoicevenezuela #SOSVenezuela and #PrayForVenezuela on Twitter and Instagram.

My cousin sent me this photos of Venezuelans and foreigners protesting today in Malta.

Some Venezuelans abroad took advantage of the protests to deliver documents to international organisations or to the Parliaments of the countries where they live. This was the case with a group of citizens who demonstrated in The Hague.

Venezuelans in The Hague, Holland. We presented a document to Parliament. We denounced human rights violations in Venezuela

Gaby Silva published a video on Instagram [es] of the demonstration by a group of Venezuelans in Madrid. The video shows citizens calling for justice, peace and dialogue.

The newspaper TalCual [es] shared a photo of protestors in Times Square in New York City.

PROTESTS IN NEW YORK. Hundreds of Venezuelans protested in Times Square.

There were even demonstrations in Australia:

Venezuelans in Sydney show their solidarity with the student marches

Meanwhile, in Venezuela the opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the authorities and President Nicolás Maduro assured that he will faces charges of sedition and “unawareness of the Constitution”.

Independent Music from Puerto Rico That Will Define 2014

Imagen

Image “Mapa Glitch” courtesy of Puerto Rico Indie

[All links lead to Spanish language pages.]

They say that when times get rough, the music gets better, so today we're bringing you good news for your ears, hips, and feet. While 2014 may well be a year of great challenges for Puerto Ricans, the country's independent music scene shines with an energy and excitement that are not only tangible, but contagious.

In the same week that one of our most beloved veteran musicians succeeded in raising thousands of dollars via crowdfunding for the production of his new album, another is hanging out with the Shakiras and Enrique Iglesiases of the world on the iTunes Store best-seller lists. But that's not all: La Macha Colón will travel to Sweden to play with Los Okapi; vinyls of Macabeo‘s albums are being released in Spain and Germany; and the lineup for Austin Psych Fest includes Fantasmes among the best groups in the genre. The good news just keeps coming, and Moody's doesn't suspect a thing.

Years of growth – slow but continuous, against wind and sea – have resulted in this fertile period for the indie music scene, marked by constant record releases and weekends packed with events. The truth is that in the five years that I've been writing about our artists, it hadn't occurred to me to write an article like this before, if it even would have been possible. But the volume and quality of work you'll hear in 2014 deserve it. The world is already listening to us. It's time to spread the word in Puerto Rico.


AJ DávilaTerror Amor
February 18th

AJ Dávila, bassist and main composer of Dávila 666, is back with a masterpiece of pop sucio, full of attitude, energy, and catchy choruses. His album features an impressive list of guest artists, from Fofe Abreu (Circo, Fofe y Los Fetiches) to Alex Anwandter of Chile and our favorite Cadillac, Sergio Rotman (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, El Siempreterno).

Terror Amor will be released on February 18th by Nacional Records, one of the most influential Latin music labels in the United States. Judging by the critical response to the album, AJ can expect a year full of success – and increased attention to the independent music coming out of our country.


Campo-FormioHere comes… Campo-Formio!
March 15th

After releasing four EPs on their own label, Dead Mofongo Records, this impressive trio of musicians polishes their sound to perfection with their eagerly anticipated debut album. On Here comes… Campo-Formio!, the group shows off their encyclopediac knowledge of the history of rock, expertly blending an infinite spectrum of musical influences from Puerto Rican punk to surf, prog, and post-punk in the same song.

Campo-Formio also stands out by virtue of the attention to detail that goes into their releases, this time producing a colored double vinyl limited edition. One might call it overkill for Puerto Rico to offer another new jewel of Ibero-American rock, less than a month after Terror Amor – but I would call us all very lucky.


Alegría Rampante
Summer 2014

Charasmatic singer-songwriter and performer Eduardo Alegria threw himself into the challenge of creating a new musical identity after the breakup of his former group, Superaquello, one of the most influential and important bands in the history of Puerto Rican rock. The result, Alegría Rampante, debuted in 2011 and took form before our eyes on the stage of La Respuesta via the ambitious and magical conceptual concert series “desde el Hotel Puercoespín.”

The group has been releasing various singles online in past years, but only now are they preparing to complete their debut album, produced with Nicolás Linares at Little Big Audio. To help achieve their goals, Los Rampantes launched a crowdfunding campaign that will serve as a pre-sale for the album.


Check out the rest of the year's most-anticipated releases at Puerto Rico Indie.

Human Waste Scavenging a Reality in India Despite Sanitation Laws

Manual scavenging is illegal in India. Yet, the practice continues to exist in pockets. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging is illegal in India but the practice continues to exist. This lady in Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh is carrying human waste for disposal. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging, or the manual removal of human waste from non-flush toilets, continues to exist in pockets of India despite the Indian government's stringent laws agaisnt it [pdf]. A team of bloggers, including a member of Global Voices, visited a few villages in the Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India and learned more about this continuing illegal and dehumanizing practice.

The Indian government in partnership with UNICEF India has been actively pushing an ambitious, community-led total sanitation program – the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which aims to end open defecation by 2017. An earlier Global Voices post reported how UNICEF India's #poo2loo campaign has been using innovative methods to engage the urban populace and create awareness about the issue of open defecation.

However, apart from influencing cultural norms to end open defecation and building of toilet infrastructure across the country, the NBA program also deals with hygienic methods of solid and liquid waste disposal. And it is in this context that the blogger team learned how traditional “dry toilets” were unhygienic. Plus, given that these areas lacked proper sewage system for waste disposal, these toilets encouraged the illegal waste disposal method – manual scavenging.

A traditional dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that requires manual scavenging to clean. Image by author

A dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that needs manual scavengers to clean. Image by Aparna Ray.

The district panchayat officer of Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh India explained why, according to him, dry toilets (toilets without a flush or wash-away system) were worse than open defecation. He pointed out that open defecation in villages generally took place in open fields and wooded areas away from human habitation, but in traditional dry toilets the waste lays open within the confines of the home, spreading diseases faster within the community (as the waste attracts flies, which then sit on foodstuffs, etc.).

In fact, this was one of the reasons that many families preferred not to have a toilet within the house. Plus, these kinds of dry toilets also require manual scavengers for waste disposal, a job that is “without dignity and illegal”.

Mayank Jain from Youth Ki Awaaz was one of the bloggers on the field visit. He wrote about his experiences:

dry toilet is probably the gravest thing I have encountered in my life. Those who feel shy or don’t want to go out choose this means where they leave their fecal waste in one corner of the house and in the morning, a human scavenger comes to clean it and carries the whole waste on their head to dump it anywhere away from their home. This is done in return for a sum of just 30 rupees for 6 months! This is an inhuman crime being carried out all over the villages and it is a massive source of diseases and health issues. People don’t realize how unhygienic it is to live with their own waste in the house and those who carry on their heads find themselves perpetually ill with diarrhea or poisoning and they still choose to do it for that extra money

Mayank further commented:

The story gets worse once you talk to them about their children and you discover this profession gives birth to huge discrimination and people don’t dare touch them or talk to them nicely because of what they do in the morning. Story of human scavengers brings to light the vicious cycle of poverty and misery but the web is intermingled with shades of caste-ism, religious sentiments, traditions and cultural hierarchies that have grown to this level now.

It is a crime as per Indian law and the women who do it ran away when we tried to talk to them thinking they will be caught or punished and I could only wonder where this country has reached so far.

Three scavenger ladies

Three scavenger women in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, huddled together, a little away from the rest of the villagers. Image by Aparna Ray

Bloggers Ajay Kapoor from Halabol and Sonal Kapoor from the NGO Protsahan have also blogged and tweeted about what they learned from these manual scavenging women, whom they met on the field trip.

Ajay blogged:

Scavengers from a village. No dignity, no respect and worst of all they get pennies for this humiliating work and some stale food.

And Sonal (@ArtForCause) tweeted:

The women complained that they were ill much of the time but when it was pointed out that it was because of the work they did, they said that they could see no other viable and respectable alternative open to them.

The Indian government, along with organizations such as Sulabh International which are working in the field of sanitation are pushing for societal change a) by trying to get people to convert their traditional dry toilets to a more hygienic option that does away with the need for daily scavenging and b) trying to create alternative livelihoods for these scavengers.

Conversion of traditional dry toilets

The government along with its sanitation partners is pushing for conversion of these unhygienic dry toilets into flush toilets. However, keeping in mind the lack of proper sewerage systems as well as the impracticality of advocating expensive flush systems, especially in poorer or rural areas, they are opting for technologies such as the self-composting, twin-pit pour flush system.

A dry toilet being converted into a twin pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

A dry toilet being converted into a twin-pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

This toilet technology involves building a toilet which is connected to two pits, any one of which is used at a time. Water-flushed waste collects in a pit and when it is filled, the other one is used. The waste gets converted into compost, which can then be used as manure.

Other innovative, alternative sanitation systems are also being explored across India, for example,this ecosan squat toilet system, supported by UNICEF.

A more contemporary format of a waterless flush system was also recently exhibited in India.

Rehabilitating manual scavengers

As more toilets get converted and as opportunities are created for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers by providing them alternative livelihoods, there is cause for hope, though a lot still remains to be done in this area. Be it through the government sponsored “100 days guaranteed work” scheme or self-employment schemes or even NGO-led training and employment generating initiatives, we hope that the manual scavenging community will get reinstated in the mainstream society and be able to live with dignity and dream of a better future for themselves as well as their children.

In this YouTube video, Sulabh International's Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak talks about his organization's initiatives in this direction, saying that the resulting glimmer of change is a “candle in the darkness, a beginning of the beginning”.

In the next post in the series, we will look at how some brave “toilet warriors” are working within their communities to bring about change in attitudes to scavenging, sanitation and hygiene.

February 18 2014

Adapting to Extreme Climate Change in Mali and Madagascar

Forest in the Kayes Region in Mali CC-NC-2.0

Forest in the Kayes region of Mali CC-NC-2.0

Mali and Madagascar have faced many similar challenges over the past five years. Political turmoil punctuated by coup d'états that saw the removal of their president-elects before the end of their terms. As a consequence, both economies had steep dives in terms of GDP. Today, Madagascar and Mali are both trying to rebuild their broken political systems via newly elected executive branches.

A lesser known challenge that both countries face is their struggle against extreme climate change. Fragile countries are often more vulnerable to extreme weather, but that adage could not be more evident than in the recent evolution of the ecosystem in Madagascar and Mali.

An undeniable impact

In Mali, the forest is slowly given way to the Sahara desert in the north. The Kayes region is symptomatic of the seemingly unstoppable progression of the desert in a region that used to host a buoyant forest and is now home to vast areas of sands and rocks.

Adrien de Chaisemartin and his colleagues from the McKinsey's Johannesburg office reported on the impact of climate change in the Malian region:

Mali is a mostly dry nation, subject to frequent droughts. Increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall tell of a shift in climate zones as the desert moves south over productive land. In these regions, farmers dependent on agriculture and livestock already face trying periods of drought and have few options to overcome them. Many are moving to the cities, others to the country’s less arid south.

Kayes region  in Mali at the border with Senegal via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Kayes region in Mali at the border with Senegal via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Here is how they assess the current situation and the potential economic loss for the country:

The climate zone shift—the combined effect of rising average temperatures and declining average rainfall—has already pushed the country’s agroecological zones to the south over the past 50 years, with average rainfall down by about 200 millimeters and average temperatures up by 0.5°C over the same period. [..] The pessimistic high-change scenario could involve losses of about $300 million annually (some 15 percent of the value of agriculture and livestock); the optimistic scenario, losses of $120 million annually (6 percent)

In Madagascar, the impact of climate change was even more dramatic. Following two consecutive cyclones (Giovanna in 2012 and Haruna in 2013) that made landfall on the island and displaced at least 100,000 people, the southern region was plagued by a locust invasion. How those events are related is explained by Emmanuel Perrin on maxisciences [fr]:

Le cyclone Haruna a touché l’île de Madagascar. Or, son passage a créé les conditions d'humidité favorables à la prolifération de criquets migrateurs. Les autorités n’ont pas réagi à temps et, aujourd’hui, leur population atteint 500 milliards d’individus, estime une récente mission de comptage.

Cyclone Haruna hit the island of Madagascar and its landfall has created the humid conditions that favors the massive proliferation of locusts. The authorities did not react in time, and today their population reached 500 billion in the most recent estimates.

Locust invasion in down town Fianaratsoa, Madagascar

Locust invasion in downtown Fianaratsoa, Madagascar

The World Food Programme states that 60 percent of rice production will be affected by the locust invasion. Cyclone Haruna's direct impact was also dramatically felt by southern farmers as 6,351 hectares of their crop fields were flooded. Raw footage of the floods can be seen in this video from YouTube user ongbelavenir:

How to adapt

So what can local population do to withstand the climate assault on their way of life? Here are a few ideas by Michael Kleine and his fellow scientists or researchers from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations solutions (IUFRO):

New modes of governance should enhance effective stakeholder and community participation, transparent and accountable decision-making, and the equitable sharing of benefits. And strategies for adapting forests to climate change must be coordinated with those of other sectors and integrated into national and regional development programmes and strategies.

In the field, new strategies are dependent on the local context and the type of activities in the region. For instance, declining crop yields can be countered with the following measures: increase crop diversification and plant early maturing crop varieties such as the NERICA rice variety. 

Dr. Balgis Osman Elasha emphasized the importance of grasping the local context and gaining buy-ins from community leaders to implement the new measures:

The same policy could yield contrasting results ,for different sectors or different activities in the same sector, e.g. removing subsides on inputs, from agriculture produced positive impact on traditional rain fed sector (using minimum inputs), and negative impacts on mechanized irrigated agriculture (using intensive inputs) [..] Community Leaders are key players in the policy process , they possess a wealth of indigenous knowledge regarding the wise use and conservation of natural resources, moreover, customary rules and orders issued by them , are considered sacred by their local community. 

February 17 2014

Dancing and Rising for Justice in Southeast Asia

Filipino activists hold a 'One Billion Rising' dance protest near the Philippine presidential palace to push for greater subsidy to social services.

Filipino activists hold a ‘One Billion Rising’ dance protest near the Philippine presidential palace to push for greater subsidy to social services.

The ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign was supported by many groups and individuals in the Southeast Asian region. This year, the theme was broadened to include the call for justice aside from the particular demand to end violence against women.

In Cambodia, the violence inflicted on striking garment workers was highlighted during the preparation of the event:

…there have been crackdowns and violence on garment factory workers who demonstrated for better working conditions which resulted in many (casualties). Other female land rights activists had also been savagely beaten, arrested and detained without investigation. Reparations have never been made for the victims and until (today) the perpetrators have not been brought to justice

But the biking activity on February 14 was blocked by the police since it was seen as a threat to peace and order.

Cambodia's bike event was blocked by the police

Cambodia's bike event was blocked by the police

In Indonesia, ‘One Billion Rising’ activities were held in seven cities across the country.

The 'One Billion Rising' dance was performed in seven cities in Indonesia

The ‘One Billion Rising’ dance was performed in seven cities in Indonesia

'Rise for Justice' in Indonesia

‘Rise for Justice’ in Indonesia

Members of the Women in Hai Hau in Nam Dinh province, Vietnam led a practice session for the ‘One Billion Rising’ dance event. Below is a video of their rehearsal:

In Thailand, students of Chiang Mai University supported the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign. Below is a video of their practice session:

Another 'One Billion Rising' photo in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Image from Facebook page of Lisa Kerry

Another ‘One Billion Rising’ photo in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Image from Facebook page of Lisa Kerry

In the Philippines, the women’s group Gabriela coordinated the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign and they were able to mobilize thousands of women in various parts of the country. Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela, explained the importance of the campaign to eliminate all forms of violence against women:

Sometimes, because of the impunity of poverty, human rights violations, violence against women and children, people tend to be desensitized. We need to realize that such situations must not be the norm and that these have to change. We need to act collectively and make our call for justice stronger because things could only get worse when we keep silent and just watch idly by.

In the city Davao located in the southern part of the country, the issue of corruption was underscored in the fight for meaningful justice:

With the state of the country marred by corruption especially with the anomalous use of the public funds, then all taxpayers should be with us in dancing to call for justice

'Justice' is the theme of this year's 'One Billion Rising'

‘Justice’ is the theme of this year's ‘One Billion Rising’

'Rise, Release, Dance' activity in Davao City, located in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines

‘Rise, Release, Dance’ activity in Davao City, located in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines

'Justice for typhoon Haiyan victims' is one of the demands of the campaign

‘Justice for typhoon Haiyan victims’ is one of the demands of the campaign

Workers called for a wage hike as part of the campaign for social justice

Workers called for a wage hike as part of the campaign for social justice

From Facebook to the Street: Activism on Cusco's Walls

In the days of Facebook we sometimes forget that there are many real-world walls available to play host to messages, expressions and opinions. The virtual doesn't always replace the real, and in the Peruvian city of Cusco there is a special wall which is used as a point of connection between virtual and “real” action. While this wall is sometimes employed as an art gallery or for exhibitions, at other times it becomes a space in which to generate awareness and debate.

In a recent trip to Cusco we found this wall, located in Cusco's central Plaza de Armas, a much visited part of the city, and displaying only a single invitation:

El Muro del Cusco

The Cusco Wall: “Say it out loud.”

Throughout several days it remained untouched.  However, in an online search for its virtual counterpart, we found two related Facebook pages. One called Colectivo El Muro Cusco [The Cusco Wall Collective, es], most recently updated on the 22nd April 2011, day it was founded. There, we found this photo:

 

El Muro del Cusco:

The Cusco Wall: “Are we free?  We're like you, outraged by neoliberal politics.  For this reason, this space of free expression [exists] to tell the truth, denounce and create awareness.  Get involved!

On the second Facebook page – Colectivo Muro Cusco [Cusco Wall Collective] founded on the 9th February 2012 and still active today – we discovered that photos and activist events spanning diverse issues such as national politics to environmental themes, and many more, are shared. There's also a register of a range of activities that the collective has organized and been a part of, as well as those in which the physical wall has been a recipient for allusive posters and messages, such as [translator's note: the following links all lead to Spanish language pages] “521 años y seguimos resistiendo” [521 years [later] and we continue resisting,” informative activity about the situation of the “uncontacted” villages in the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti Reserve, “Fighting for the defense of water and life,” “Vigil in support of Cajamarca and Espinar,” “Miscommunication Media and its Network of Lies and Smokescreens,” and “What are We Celebrating?” (a critique of the current government stemming from the events of the previous national holiday celebrations).

 

El Muro del Cusco

The Cusco Wall: “End death, pollution and sacking!” Vigil in support of Cajamarca and Espinar.

Throughout later days, we saw activity on the wall.  Stuck to it, we found a series of drawings and photos. The drawings belonged to Rafael Ginzburg [es], an Argentinian artists passing through Cusco making use of his stay, and the space, to exhibit and sell his art:

El Muro del Cusco

The Cusco Wall: Drawings by Rafael Ginzburg

Beside them, there was a small photography exhibition, belonging to Lima visual artist Neptunia Asesina [es].  She told us that she didn't have to carry out any paperwork in order to display her photos on the wall; she simply used the space. The staff of the auditorium of Cusco's Natinoal University of San Antonio Abad, to whom the wall legally belongs, don't seem to have a problem with the situation.

El Muro del Cusco

The Cusco Wall: Photos by Neptunia Asesina.

Days later, we found another type of activity, this time an exercise in generating awareness about the problems currently affecting the people of Cusco – such as bullying, harassment, corruption, domestic violence, gang activity, stress, junk food, rubbish television, etc. – created by students from the National University of San Antonio Abad.

El Muro del Cusco

The Cusco Wall: “Be aware and don't wall yourself in – Gang Activity”.

This time we spoke with two of the exhibitors about the exercise. In the following short video, Bryan Mijail Romero Baca from the National University of San Antonio Abad explains how it is that these types of initiatives came about in his studies:


In order to understand more, we turned to Marco Moscoso [es] a communicator and cultural promoter in Cusco, to tell us more about “The Cusco Wall.”


Claudia, a member of the Colectivo El Muro Cusco [es] responded to our queries via email, and among other things, told us:

Con el colectivo buscamos informar aunque sea un poquito de lo que gran parte de la prensa calla, y que la gente que circula por las calles también se exprese, conozca, se solidarize y vea que lo que sucede nos afecta a todos [...] también intentamos apoyar a otros hermanos sobre todo de las comunidades con información ágil y sencilla a través del muro o folletos informativos, ya que al parecer muchas veces la información desean que este en manos de unos pocos y se pone lo más compleja posible y en medios no muy accesibles para todos (como es el internet en comunidades campesinas) [...] ya que nuestras autoridades, periodistas no quieren hablar… hagamos que los muros del pueblo hablen.

The collective aims to inform, even if only a little, about the great part of what the media silences, and also [hopes that] people who transit through these streets express themselves, are informed, show solidarity and see that what's happening affects us all [...].  We also try to support other brothers, particularly from communities, with agile, simple information using the wall or informative flyers.  It seems that often times, the idea is that information stays in the hands of a minority, in a complicated format and using media which isn't very accessible for everyone (like the Internet in rural communities) [...] and since our authorities and journalists don't want to talk… let's have the walls in our communities to do the talking.

The initiative, both at the University's end and that of collectives such as Muro del Cusco, takes advantage of physical space to raise awareness in people about important issues which are sometimes manipulated or made to seem smaller by the mass media. The collectives use them [physically], however, those who add the ingredient of “virtuality” in these modern times are necessary in order to connect people, spaces and initiatives.

The above is a valid and a very necessary strategy to locate issues for debate in the public sphere, making use of both virtual and non-virtual tools, which in turn, serves to give significant light to the variety of world visions that inhabit a city as culturally rich and diverse as Cusco.

This post was originally published in the blog Globalizado [es] by Juan Arellano.
Eva Bravo and Sonia Ordóñez transcribed and subtitled the first video.
Carmen Palomino and Sonia Ordóñez transcribed and subtitled the second video.

The Millenium Development Goal for Safe Water Is Still Beyond Reach for Many African Countries

Point d'eau du village de Mwamanongu, en Tanzanie. CC-BY-2.0

Water source in Mwamanongu, Tanzania. CC-BY-2.0

Virgil HOUESSOU, a Benin-based reporter for the African association for clean water,  is pessimistic about the Millenium Development Goal with respect to safe water. He writes  on the collective blog Wash Journalists [fr]: 

A quelques mois de l’échéance de la réalisation des OMD [Objectifs du millénaire pour le développement],  beaucoup de défis restent à relever dans le secteur de l’eau et de l’assainissement. De nombreux pays africains trainent encore le pas et ne sont pas sûrs de les atteindre

A few months removed from the deadline for reaching the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], many challenges remain in the area of ​​water and sanitation. Many African countries have yet to fully get going on this topic and therefore are quite unsure of reaching their objectives.

February 16 2014

Togolese Skier Petitjean, from Facebook to the 2014 Winter Olympics

Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean, Togolese cross-country skier via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean, Togolese cross-country skier via Africa Top Sports CC-BY-2.0


Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean is a cross-country skier who competes for Togo at the 2014 Winter Olympics Game. The president of the Togolese Ski federation explained that they reached out to Togolese abroad via Facebook to recruit some athletes.After finishing her first olympian race, Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean said[fr]:

Merci tout le monde pour tous ces encouragements tout au long du mois qui à précédé les jeux, de la semaine et même de cette journée, ils m’ont tous vraiment touché et je pense même qu’ils m’ont permis de m’accrocher jusqu’au bout de la course.

Thanks everyone for all the encouragement throughout the months prior to the race and especially today, they all touched me and I think they even pushed me to hang on until the end of the race.

PHOTOS: Protests Continue Across Venezuela

Protesta en Valencia, Venezuela, el 13 de febrero, 2014. Foto de Luis Turinese, copyright Demotix.

Demonstration in Valencia, Venezuela, on February 13, 2014. Photo by Luis Turinese, copyright Demotix.

In various Venezuelan cities the demonstrations led and organized mostly by students have not ceased. Protesters are demanding the release of students arrested by Venezuelan security forces. They have received the support of a group of citizens and opposition leaders, who also demand solutions to many socio-economic problems affecting the population. 

Since early February the capitals of some Andean states in the country [es] have been the epicenter of student demonstrations which, at the beginning, called for more security in universities. Additionally, national political personalities were promoting street assemblies [es], also known as #LaSalida (the exit), aiming to “promote debate and dialogue to attain a democratic exit to some of the problems affecting our nation”.

By February 12, these political leaders decided to convene a national day of protests, enlisting the support of thousands of students and citizens across the country. The consequences of that day have led to extending the popular demonstrations. Cities across the country are joining the call to protest, even though many of these demonstrations have resulted in violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

Social networks, specially Twitter, have been flooded with photos documenting the protests in each region, taking the place of the regular mass media in Venezuela, which is going through a blackout due to the government's threats to fine media who cover the protests.

During Thursday's night, on February 13,  user @yirli4ny_ shared an image of a 180-meter flag being hoisted in an important highway in Puerto Ordaz, in the Guayana region: 

What a picture!

Journalist Mariángela González in Barquisimeto, in the Lara state, captured a demonstration organized by medical students from the Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado (UCLA), the main university in this region:

“People: listen, join the fight” 5:08 pm 13/02

In Barcelona, Anzoátegui state, Gabriel Bastidas reported student demonstrations blocking some important avenues of the city in the early afternoon on Friday, February, 14:

3:08 pm, students demonstrate forming an SOS. The Intercomunal Avenue is blocked.

In Maracay, the capital city of Aragua state, Mare informed about the call that spreads until the night in that city:

In unison: mom, dad, support your child in this fight. 7.07 pm.

Young Venezuelans have also remained very active in Valencia, Carabobo state, as Angel Morales reported:

Students in the Bolívar Avenue walking to the Bolivar Square

According to an image published by José Meza (@josegremeza), in Maracaibo students were demanding a dialogue with police officers who arrived at the square where they were protesting: 

Police overreacting in De la República square, young people force them to dialogue. 5:00 pm.

Among the reasons behind these protests are insecurity and violence, which have claimed the lives of thousands of Venezuelans. This is depicted in many banners in Mérida, as documented by Sonia Camacho:

a touching banner! [Banner reads: "I fight for my niece's future; criminals in Venezuela took her father away from her."

And in San Cristóbal, capital city of Táchira state, the clash between university students and the Venezuela National Guard forces still continue. Moreover, citizens from this city came out of their homes to support protesting students who were sheltered in the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira (UNET) headquarters. Zuleik Meneses thanks them for this:

Thanks to the citizens for their support in the UNET

Finally, El Periodista Cívico [es] (The Civic journal) has been curating information about the national demonstrations, highlighting regular updates about protesters who are under arrest in various Venezuelan regions. 

 

Tourists Killed in Terrorist Attack in Sinai, Egypt

A bomb blast ripped through a bus carrying 30 tourists in Sinai, Egypt, today, killing at least two South Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver. According to reports, the tourists had completed touring St Catherine's Monastery and were on their way to Israel, when the bomb exploded.

Netizens were left scrambling for information.

According to journalist Kristen McTighe:

She adds:

Firas Al-Atraqchi says:

ABC News Middle East Correspondent Alexander Marquardt has other information:

And Hamdy Kassem concludes [ar]:

Those of us who are not journalists will not know what happened in the Taba bus blast because of the contradicting information and casualty figures. It is a struggle for journalists to get information in a country which denies all information

And if this is not enough, The Big Pharaoh claims the Muslim Brotherhood Twitter account is spreading more mis-information:

Soon enough, photographs surfaced online.

Fatima Said shares this photograph of the remains of a charred bus:

Egyptian blogger and journalist Muhamed Sabry remarks on the photograph saying:

And Amro Ali shares the photograph of the Egyptian bus driver, said to be killed in the blast:

Zeinobia, on Egyptian Chronicles, is alarmed tourists are being targeted. She blogs:

We are back to the days of the 1990s where tourists were a main target. Actually we are back to the 2000s where South Sinai had its share from several terrorist attacks.
Now the attacks moved to South where tourism industry began to catch up.
I am concerned that after targeting the tourists in Taba in 2000s , the security forces unleashed hell abusing locals there affecting their relationship with the state till this day in addition to whatever happening in the North now from military campaign against the terrorist groups things will go from bad to worse to worst.

Meanwhile, Egyptian netizens are kissing their tourism industry goodbye.

Nasry Esmat bitterly tweets [ar]:

We as a nation are not effected with a number of people killed … all we care about is tourism for economic reasons

Mohamed El Dahshan notes:

Ashraf Khalil adds:

And Mona Eltahawy fumes:

[Photos]: Birds Of Bangladesh

A Cuckoo (Kokil in Bangla) sits on branch of a tree and eats fruit. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image by Mehedi Hasan. Copyright Demotix (14/2/2014)

A Cuckoo (Kokil in Bangla) sits on branch of a tree and eats fruit. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image by Mehedi Hasan. Copyright Demotix (14/2/2014)

For a foreigner it’s hard to identify birds in Bangladesh as local books often have the wrong names in English, and Western books don’t have the Bangla names. The Face of Bangla blog and Jacob and Sanna's blog tried to help by posting popular birds’ pictures with both Bangla and English names.

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