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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 24 2014

A Day to Strengthen Portugal's Open Data Community

A typical rabelo boat from Porto carrying the open data flag for the #OpenDataDay. Banner by Transparência Hackday.

A typical rabelo boat from Porto carrying the open data flag for the #OpenDataDay. Banner by Ana Carvalho / Transparência Hackday.

[Disclosure: The author of this post was one of the organizers of the event.]

Pro-transparency and tech for citizenship enthusiasts from different cities in Portugal joined in the global Open Data Day celebration with a gathering in Porto hosted by the Transparência Hackday collective on February 22, 2014.

Designers, programmers, hackers, communicators and public servants dedicated a Saturday afternoon to sharing their experience with transparency issues as well as to opening some data to the public.

Hands-on tasks included the Local Open Data Census by Open Knowledge Foundation, which aimed at putting together data sets at the local level, from transport timetables to annual budgets and air quality:

We know there is huge variability in how much local data is available not just across countries but within countries, with some cities and municipalities making major open data efforts, while in others there’s little or no progress visible. If we can find out what open data is out there, we can encourage more cities to open up key information, helping businesses and citizens understand their cities and making life easier.

By the end of the day, the cities of Coimbra and Porto had quite a full range of information available in a collaborative document that will be used to update the Open Knowledge instance for Portugal once it has been setup by the international organization.

A different group took on the yogurt cataloging challenge launched by Open Food Facts, a free, open and crowdsourced food products database. The idea behind “What's in my yogurt?” project was to gather nutrition facts, ingredients and other dairy data from as many countries of the world as possible in just one day. So did the Portuguese

Data ‘visualinspiration’

The cherry on top for this fourth anniversary of the International Open Data Day was the presentation of the designer and researcher Pedro Cruz from the University of Coimbra of his work on data visualization.

The association for cultural intervention Maus Hábitos (Bad Habits) opened its door for the open data venue.

The association for cultural intervention Maus Hábitos (Bad Habits) in Porto opened its door for the venue of the #OpenDataDay in Portugal.

The journey started with Pedro's data visualization of the evolution of the decline of the maritime empires of the 19th and 20th centuries by land extension. In the timeline of events, British, Portuguese, French and Spanish empires dissolute in a fluid way as “some kind of soft bodies”. Other works by him include the traffic of Lisbon condensed in one day – or portrayed as a metaphor of living organisms with circulatory problems – as well as text analysis, public transport exploration, and much more.

“An ecosystem of corporate politicians“ - interactive visualization at pmcruz.com/eco.

“An ecosystem of corporate politicians“ – interactive visualization at pmcruz.com/eco.

But his most recent deed, the interactive visualization ”An ecosystem of corporate politicians” – on the relationships between members of Portuguese governments and companies for the period of 1975 to 2013 – was the one sparking more debate.

The powerful visualization shows the companies where ministers and secretaries of state have had positions and allows for the exploration of what appears to be a parasite ecosystem, given the form of the designed organisms:

Data is approached as an ecosystem, where each set of interdependent relations are regulated by physical conditions—each politician has a sequence of companies to visit, chasing them and jumping between them, in order to restart the sequence each time it is completed.

The data was collected from a study on politics and business carried out for the documentary “Donos de Por­tu­gal” (Owners of Portugal).

Getting to know the community

Improve Coimbra was another project from the third main city of Portugal that participants had the chance to meet on #OpenDataDay in Porto. Alike the organizer in Porto, Transparência Hackday, Improve Coimbra promotes monthly meetings that anyone can join to help solve the problems of the city. In little more than one year of activities, Improve has already created several websites and mobile apps for the citizens of Coimbra, such as a platform for crowdsourcing home rents, a map of cafes with available wifi, and Burocracia which makes the minutes of Coimbra's city government assembly available and easy to search. 

Also the northern municipality of Alfândega da Fé was represented in this #OpenDataDay. Ranked in second place in the Index of Municipal Transparency [pt] launched in October 2013 by the watchdog Transparência e Integrigade, Associação Cívica (TIAC), this small municipality of the region of Trás-os-Montes, with less than 6,000 inhabitants, has been showing positive signs of willingness to open local governmental data

That was the ultimate aim of the event, after all, to encourage governmental data openness, and thus the #OpenData in Portugal has grown a bit stronger with more grassroots organizations and individuals dialoguing with each other and the world.

You can check out the agenda of the #OpenDataDay in a pad available in Transparencia Hackday's blog, and read more about the global event in the official website [all links in Portuguese]. 

February 20 2014

Parlez-vous français? Learning French According to Global Voices Translators

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa.

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I never fully understood the challenges of learning French until my girlfriend decided to take up the language. She would ask me – a native French speaker – questions that I had no answer for. 

My girlfriend speaks Mandarin and English, and as she asked more questions, I began to realise the extent to which the language I had grown up with in Madagascar is loaded with exceptions. Learning a new language can be a daunting prospect for beginners, but for newcomers to France who are starting from scratch, learning French can be especially challenging. 

French was important as a lingua franca until the middle of the 20th century, but its influence has since waned. Some experts blame the relative decline of French worldwide on the the complexity of the language. 

There have been several attempts over the years to reform and simplify the French language, notably at the level of orthography, but they were mostly ignored. A policy introduced in 1990 put forward general rules and lists of modified words, though institutions have been slow to adopt them

Still, the global influence of French language influence in the world should not be dismissed. French, spoken as a first language in France, Monaco, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, and some parts of Canada and the U.S., has an estimated 110 million native speakers. 190 million more speak French as a second language, and it's registered as an official language in 29 countries. The largest numbers of French second-language speakers reside in Francophone Africa, the largest contingent being from the Democratic Republic of Congo (32 million) and Cameroon (7.2 million). 

A good example of its influence is the scope of Alliance Française, an international non-profit organization that aims to promote French language and culture around the world. Each year, 450,000 people of all ages attend French classes at Alliances Française in 136 countries.

The question remains: how does learning French compare with other languages? We posed the question to a few members of the Global Voices family, and also asked them to share any tips they had for beginners. Here's what they said:

 Carol Bidwell 

As an English native speaker who has learnt both French and German, I have to say both are tricky for different reasons. French pronunciation can be quite tricky if you aren't coming from an Romance language background, and I have found that in some situations (mainly dealing with official/ government stuff) French people can be quite dismissive if your pronunciation isn't perfect, which can be demoralizing. In terms of grammar too, French is full of exceptions to rules, so as soon as you feel like you've learnt something there is more to learn! I don't want this to sound too negative though, because it does get easier and sticking at it is definitely worth it!

 Andrew Kowalczuk

French is one of the most idiomatic languages, and there are thousands of them, too many to study, so you have to learn gradually from context.

Thalia Rahme : 

French is my second language after Arabic. In Lebanon, at home or in the streets, Lebanese people speak basic French. Nevertheless, I think that my Lebanese English-educated friends training have had some difficulties because they only start taking French as a third language in schools when they are 11. 
 
But I notice many don't retain much of what they have learned [and they] also tend to feel embarrassed when speaking in public [especially] the pronunciation…Still, the French taught in schools in Lebanon is the formal one,so if you go to France you will feel as if in another planet when hearing some of the local idioms or slang. Also we have developed our Lebanized French i.e. by turning some of the Lebanese expressions into French 

 Alison McMillan quotes from a blog that explains the struggle of learning a new language:

You speak your native language. It is organized in certain ways: the grammar with its subject, verb and object in a certain order; different levels of politeness; and your culture mirrored in this structure as well as in idiom and metaphor. You express yourself in terms of it; you came to yourself through it; in effect, you are it. When you learn another language, you learn a different way to organize reality. When you grow fluent in this new language, you can say and even do things in ways you could not previously; certain new aspects are highlighted, and some things that you originally could more precisely formulate are now missing.

Danielle Martineau:  

French has its quirks like all languages. I started learning French when I was 9 and like anything else it's just commitment and practice and pushing through the hard part in the beginning. I do recommend this video. It is a TED talk by the Fluent in three months guy, Benny Lewis. He says something that I think is really accurate about people learning a new language. Usually they are shy and afraid to make mistakes so they never really jump right in from the beginning for fear of being judged. They think other people will be offended by their imperfect language skills when most people are just thrilled that you are making an effort and taking an interest in their culture and language. Also a lot of French people will correct you when you make mistakes in speech – it's not considered rude, and I actually really love it.  Nothing like making a mistake to learn how to do things right!

Suzanne Lehn

As a French person, my experience with the issue is an indirect one. I know a Chinese lady who married a Frenchman and they live in the US, so the language they have in common is English. [..] The big difference between Chinese and French languages: the grammar, it seems! Almost non-existent in Chinese and cumbersome in French. Also one must be aware that one can/should learn the oral language first. I know a lady who speaks perfect oral French from having lived in France for 2 years, but still cannot write it at all.

Georgia Popplewell

I come from staunchly Anglophone Trinidad and Tobago, but I enjoy learning languages, and didn't find French particularly difficult. After studying it for three years in secondary school, I changed to Spanish, then somehow decided to major in French at university. I don't think I'd still be speaking French fairly fluently today, however, if I hadn't spent five months living and working in Martinique shortly after graduating. Having to communicate exclusively in French for that period seems to have locked the language into my brain.

I also have a far larger vocabulary in French than in Spanish, and I attribute that to the fact that I've read more widely in French. Gaining a solid grasp of a language, in my opinion, entails engaging with both living, contemporary examples of the language, such as you encounter in films, newspapers and magazines, and the more formal kind of language you'd find in literary works as well.

Jane Ellis:

French is a language where, the more you know, the harder it gets. One of the hardest things is definitely the grammar. In particular, I have found the passé simple very hard to use, as well as the subjunctive. I am getting a lot better at the subjunctive, but it is very difficult for a British person who has never even been taught about the existence of the subjunctive in English (!) to compute/process a whole new way of theoretical thinking.

Also, for me, the speaking is definitely the hardest. I freely admit to being hopeless as speaking French! I am confident on paper, but not orally. Lack of practice since I have been living in a Spanish-speaking country for the past three years and learning the local lingo, plus, I have to say, also due to rebuffs when trying to speak French to French-speakers.
As a result, although my Spanish is garbled and pretty hopeless, I am MUCH more confident about trying to speak it because the locals are so encouraging and friendly.

Lova Rakatomalala is Global Voices’ editor for the Francophone region. When he first arrived from Madagascar to the US as a freshman at Tulane University, his fear of speaking English with a French accent was so overwhelming that he selected classes on the sole basis that they not require him to speak in public. He tweets—in French, Malagasy and English!—at @lrakoto.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Recap of the Blog Carnival ‘Do You Love the Internet?’

logofest2

[All links lead to Spanish language pages.]

As we announced a few days ago, the moment has arrived to present the results of our Blog Carnival, this time a whirlwind event of only five days. The theme was I Love the Internet, and how to express this idea was left up to the imagination and creativity of the participating bloggers. The idea emerged in support of the online campaign #YoAmoInternet (I love the Internet).

So let's see what our blogger friends had to say. We'll start with Milton Ramirez, an Ecuadorian living in New York, who posted on Geek's Room that “at first it seems like a grammatical mistake” to talk about loving the Internet, since love is normally something that occurs only between people. But he later explains that “the point is to value the uses of the Web. Express your gratitude in the context of Valentine's Day for the benefits that the Internet offers you.” Finally, he concludes:

Amo el internet porque sin él no estuvieran leyendo estas líneas y porque nos ha servido para conocer millones de personas en miles de áreas. No más expertos y no más restricciones sobre la información.

I love the Internet because without it, you wouldn't be reading these lines, and because it has enabled us to meet millions of people in thousands of places. No more experts and no more restrictions on information.

Ángeles Estrada of Nicaragua, posting from France on her Blog de Ángeles, begins her post with the comment: “It seemed funny to think of the Internet fondly. Like that… with affection everywhere for the day of love and friendship.” After telling us about her journey on the internet, she confesses why she loves it:

Internet me ha dado otra vida. Una vida virtual que se adiciona a mi vida real y suma, llena y complementa. Abre puertas a mi curiosidad y apacigua la inquietud de mi espíritu inquieto, explorador, aventurero, quizás vagabundo. Mi vida hoy es una fusión entre lo real y lo virtual, intima y durable. Una simbiosis perfecta, hongo y árbol.

The Internet has given me another life. A virtual life in addition to my real life, which adds to it, fills it, and complements it. It opens doors to my curiosity and calms the restlessness of my inquisitive, exploring, adventurous, and sometimes vagabond spirit. My life today is a fusion of the real and the virtual, intimate and durable. A perfect symbiosis, like a fungus living on a tree.

Nscap, ciudadana del mundo (2.0) is the blog of Isabel Garnica of Spain, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She gets straight to the point, stating:

Yo Amo Internet porque: aprendo, enseño, trabajo, comparto mi trabajo, viajo, blogueo, juego, hago amigos, conozco personas, porque #InternetCambiaTodo, porque me siendo una ciudadana global, reivindico derechos, difunde proyectos sociales, nos empodera como ciudadanos, ayuda a caer dictadores, por muchas muchas muchas más razones… y sobretodo porque me permite soñar un mundo mejor.

I Love the Internet because: I learn, teach, work, share my work, travel, blog, play, make friends, meet people, because #InternetCambiaTodo [the Internet Changes Everything], because it makes me feel like a citizen of the world, because it enables us to defend rights and share social projects, because it empowers us as citizens, helps bring down dictators, and for many, many, many more reasons… and above all, because it allows me to dream of a better world.

Gabriela García Calderón writes her blog Seis de enero from Lima, Peru. She reminds us of what it was like when communication took place via letters written on paper, and how things have evolved thanks to the Internet:

¿Por qué amo internet? Porque nos comunica, nos conecta, nos contacta, nos acerca y más con apenas un clic. Y porque además permite que la magia del correo real siga existiendo, espero que por mucho tiempo.

Why do I love the Internet? Because it links us, connects us, puts us in contact, brings us together, and more, with just a click. And because, for that matter, it allows the magic of regular mail to continue existing, hopefully for a long time.

On the blog Creatividad Rezumante, Alicia Cortés of Extremadura, Spain describes her love for the Internet in an inspired poem:

Internet, te amo
por tí navegaría
toda la noche y el día
prendida a tu mano…

Volaría sin tiempo
en tus redes de viento

Internet, I love you
I'd surf with you
All night and all day
Hand in hand
I'd fly, timeless
On the winds of your networks

On her blog Veo y escribo, Daniela Gallardo, of Loja, Ecuador, tells us about her typical day on the internet and her favorite sites to visit, but first gets honest:

Debo amarlo demasiado para dedicarle un post (algo que ni siquiera lo he hecho con mi novio) por San Valentin. La verdad es que #YoAmoInternet porque, básica y sencillamente, me tiene conectada al mundo. Es fascinante si no lo llevamos al extremo, claro.

I must love it too much, if I'm dedicating a Valentine's Day post to it (which I haven't even done for my boyfriend). The truth is that I love the internet because, plain and simple, it keeps me connected with the world. It's fascinating, if we don't take it to the extreme, of course.

Gina Yauri, also of Loja, tells us about her relationship with the Internet in her blog Ximealito, concluding:

Internet es un mundo de información abierto que tiene varias puertas, solo debes saber cómo utilizarlas y bajo tu responsabilidad sabrás llevar una vida plena con una pasión por el internet.

The Internet is an open world of information that has various doors. You just need to know how to use them responsibly, and you'll be able to live a full life with a passion for the Internet.

Iván Mejía, blogger of Tantas Cosas, writes a letter recounting his history with the Internet and reflects:

A veces de tan cotidiano parece difícil procurarle amor al internet, como la electricidad el internet ( o será la internet?) pareciera algo que solo se aprecia cuando se va.

 Sometimes it seems difficult to feel love for the Internet, since it's an everyday thing. Like electricity, the Internet seems like something that only gets appreciated once it's gone.

Israel Rosas of Mexico also writes a letter to the Internet on his self-titled blog:

Dicen que ya no eres aquella a quien solíamos conocer, que los ataques te han hecho cambiar y que las cosas ya no serán como antes. Hoy te escribo convencido de que mantienes esa naturaleza abierta e innovadora con la cual te conocí y que tanto me gusta.

They say that you're no longer who I used to know, that people's attacks have made you change, and that things can't go back to the way they were before. Today I'm writing to you convinced that you still have that open and innovative nature that you had when I met you and that I like so much.

Writing her blog Cosas del Alma from her native Medellín, Colombia, Catalina Restrepo lists the reasons why she likes the Internet, from access to information to sharing with others, and then declares:

a usar internet. A usarlo bien. El problema no es la herramienta, si no su uso. Y es uno el que decide lo que hace con lo que le dan. Creo que yo lo usé para encontrarme con el mundo.

Use the Internet. Use it well. The problem is not the tool, but the way it is used. And it's the individual who decides what to do with what they are given. I think that I used it to meet up with the world.

Madame Web, from the Colombian city of Pasto, writes the blog La lógica de mi Papá. She tells us that this isn't the first time that she's going public about her love for the Internet, but adds:

Debo decir que este amor ya no es el mismo que al principio, ha ido cambiando a medida que la red ha crecido y como en toda relación ahora hay cosas que, pequeños detalles, me molestan…como la propagación de virus, spam y troyanos…pero es algo inevitable, aunque tomando las medidas correctas se pueden prevenir estos males y otros relacionados con la seguridad online. [...] Ahí les dejo esa inquietud, ¿Qué tan buenos usuarios somos?

I have to say that this love isn't the same as it was at the beginning. It has changed as the Internet has grown, and like in any relationship, there are now things, little details, that bother me… like the spread of viruses, spam, and Trojans… but it's inevitable, though you can prevent these and other problems by taking appropriate measures with online security. [...] So I'll leave you with this concern: As users, how good are we?

The people of the Mexican collective blog Sursiendo explain the Internet and why we should love it:

Internet es lo que queramos que sea, por eso lo amamos, porque en nuestras manos  (mentes, corazones…) está darle forma y comprometerse con él/ella(ello), para que no desaparezca, no lo mutilen, no lo neutralicen, no lo desvirtúen o no lo controlen. No lo dejemos en otras manos. Amemos Internet.

The Internet is what we want it to be. That's why we love it. Because in our hands (minds, hearts) lies the responsibility to give it form and commit to it, so that it doesn't disappear or get mutilated, neutralized, distorted, or controlled. Let's not leave it in the wrong hands. Let's love the Internet.

José del Sol writes Buscando el optimismo from Irún, Spain. He recounts how at first it was love at first sight, but now:

De vez en cuando reflexionamos sobre cómo hemos evolucionado. Mis kilos siguen ahí, no como mi pelo, y ella ya no es aquel mundo inocente e ilusionado de cuando nos conocimos. A veces fría y comercial -hay que vivir-, otras enfrascada en luchas políticas, los dos tememos qué le pueda llegar a pasar. Últimamente ha crecido el peligro de que de artesana autónoma pase a ser funcionaria sin identidad de un estado policial o empresaria libertaria sin respeto por la privacidad de nadie. No sabemos qué camino seguirá, pero como con una persona, creo que no podré abandonarla a su suerte.

From time to time we reflect on how we have changed. My extra pounds are still here, unlike my hair, and she [the Internet] is no longer the innocent and hopeful world that she was when we met. Sometimes she's cold and commercial – one must survive – and other times she's caught up in political fights. We both fear what might happen. Lately the fear is growing that she might transform from an independent artist into a faceless servant of a political state or a libertarian business with no respect for anyone's privacy. We don't know which path she will follow, but like with a person, I don't think I could abandon her to her fate.

Mexican activist Jesús Robles Maloof explains his position in a post on his blog:

Defenderé un internet libre porque me ha permitido conectarme con otros y luchar por la libertad de las personas. [...] No me imagino su libertad sin internet y en este sentido amo a internet. La vigilancia masiva de la red amenaza esta capacidad de movilización al dar a los gobiernos la posibilidad de anticiparse.

I will defend a free Internet because it has allowed me to connect with others and fight for people's liberty. [...] I can't imagine their liberty without the Internet, and in this sense, I love the Internet. The massive network surveillance threatens this capacity for mobilization by giving governments the opportunity to forestall action.

Bolívar Loján Fierro writes the blog Ni lo uno ni lo otro, más bien todo lo contrario from Loja, Ecuador. He tells us about the procedure that was necessary to make a phone call 40 years ago and compares it with the immediacy of modern tools like Skype. In a science fiction plot twist, his last paragraph is written from the year 2020:

Estoy a mis 72 años liderando en el mundo una campaña de “Derecho a la privacidad”, mi compañera llamada “Internet”, en una pequeña pelea que tuvimos colocó mis datos a disposición del mundo. Me birlaron lo poco de mis ahorros y de privacidad. Me fui a vivir en la montaña, donde queda un poco de agua, elemento vital que perdimos mientras todos estábamos sentados asumiendo que el mundo se podía construir desde un teclado, cosas táctiles y realidades aumentadas. “Amo a internet”, era mi grito de guerra, ahora es “Amo a mi privacidad”, mientras los analfabetas digitales que viven en el campo felices con sus sementeras y ancestros en la ciudad andan como locos buscando algo que llaman comida virtual. Ya la privacidad poco importa.

I'm 72 years old, leading a campaign called “The Right to Privacy.” During a fight we had, my companion, named “Internet,” posted all my information for the world to see. My meager savings and privacy were stolen. I went to live in the mountains where there was a little water left, a vital element that we had lost while we were all sitting around assuming that the world could be constructed via keyboards, touch screens, and augmented realities. “I love the Internet” was my war cry. Now it's “I love my privacy,” like the digital illiterates who live in the countryside happy with their crop fields, while their ancestors in the city run around like crazy people looking for something that they call virtual food. And privacy matters little.

So, although the Carnical was only 5 days in length, we were pleased to see that various bloggers participated. We recommend following the links in each participating post so that you can read the bloggers’ full opinions. I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude (and that of Global Voices en Español) to all the bloggers for their effort and dedication in contributing their valuable time to this initiative.

And, of course, Happy Valentine's Day!

Spain's Love-Hate Relationship With The New York Times

A news stand in Madrid. Photo by Flickr user Juanedc. CC BY 2.0

A news stand in Madrid. Photo by Flickr user Juanedc. CC BY 2.0

When The New York Times reports on Spain, Spanish media report on The New York Times. The American newspaper's coverage of the country throughout the crushing economic crisis of the last several years has routinely made headlines, and a February 18, 2013 story about the relative lateness of Spain's national schedule was no exception.

The article, titled “Spain, Land of 10 P.M. Dinners, Asks if It’s Time to Reset Clock“, profiles a small movement that wants to bring the country's traditional schedule – with its late bedtime, long lunches and even longer workdays – in line with the rest of Europe in the hopes of boosting productivity. 

The Gray Lady's story, which ran on the front page of the print edition below the fold, made its way into the Spanish news cycle throughout the day, appearing on more than a dozen news sites. Criticism was heaped on reporter Jim Yardley for evoking the stereotypical siesta, or midday nap, a thing of the past for most working people in Spain and a sore spot for Spaniards fed up with skewed foreign coverage. 

Some outlets used headlines claiming that The New York Times “criticizes the Spanish lifestyle” or was outright “against the siesta and Spanish schedule.” A poor translation of the story's own headline that traded “Spain [...] Asks if It's Time to Reset Clock” for the more accusatory “Spain, [...] Ask Yourselves if It's Time to Change Schedules” (“España, el país de las cenas a las 10 P.M, preguntaos si no es hora de cambiar los horarios“) further fanned the flames.

While some Spaniards got behind the idea of dialing back their country's clock, others took to social media to defend Spanish culture.

And we're all bullfighters and play the guitar

It seems that to work at The New York Times it's essential to hate Spain and its customs

Totally in favor of changing our schedule habits, but I prefer dinner at 10 than having a handgun at home

Kick ‘em when they're down

It's not the first time during the economic crisis that The New York Times or other American and British media have acted as a rallying point for Spaniards who see the reporting as sensationalized or arrogant. British newspaper The Telegraph ruffled feathers with a similar report in September 2013 (“Time's up for siestas, delayed meetings and late nights, Spaniards told in effort to make them work better“) on a Spanish parliamentary commission's call to reform the working schedule. A photo of a shirtless pot-bellied man sleeping upright in a chair outdoors originally accompanied the story, but was swapped after the paper received complaints for a less crude shot of a man in a button-up shirt and newsboy cap napping in a horse-drawn carriage. 

Much more outcry followed another front-page, below-the-fold story published in The New York Times in 2012 that featured a black-and-white photo of a man rummaging through a dumpster. The article detailed the problem of hunger against the backdrop of Spain's high unemployment – about a quarter of all Spaniards are out of work, while the number is closer to 50 percent for young people – and cited Catholic charity Caritas’ report that it had provided meals for nearly one million Spaniards in 2010, more than twice the number in 2007 before the crisis. A slide show of photos capturing scenes of protest and poverty was published online alongside it.  

The story and accompanying photos sparked heated discussions online. An Internet campaign #paraNYTimes countered the narrative by collecting more positive snapshots of daily life. One user on Reddit-like website menéame wrote:

Sensacionalista, podría poner fotos similares sobre los EEUU, en blaco y negro y todo, y hacerlos parecer un país tercermundista.

Sensationalized, you could find similar photos about the US, in black and white and everything, and make it seem like a third-world country

In a different discussion thread, user “josejon” argued

El reportaje da una imagen parcial de España: realidad cierta, pero no completa. Es comprensible que media docena de fotos no pueden abarcar todo un país, y que el fotógrafo tiene derecho a escoger y mostrar una parte del todo, según su interés o el tema que desea reflejar, pero después nos encontramos con la opiníon generada por ello en quienes, desde el desconocimiento y la distancia, juzgan el todo por la parte, lo unifican y España entera somos los de las fotos. No es así, y lo sabemos.

The report gives a partial image of Spain: true fact, but not complete. It's understandable that half a dozen photos can't cover the whole country and that the photographer has the right to choose and display only a selection according to his interests or the theme that he wishes to convey, but afterward we are left with the opinion that it generates in people who, in ignorance and from a distance, judge the whole by the part and put it together that all of us in Spain are those in the photos. It's not like that, and we know it.

Holding up a mirror

Others saw the story as confirmation that the situation in Spain had indeed gone from bad to worse. Responding to an analysis published by online news site eldiario.es, “What happens when the most influential newspaper on the planet gives you the third degree,” commenter “kio” wrote:

Muy de marca españa eso de invertir más energía en preocuparse más por la imagen que se da al exterior, “el que dirán”, que de arreglar las cosas de casa. No importa que haya gente que pase o se muera hambre, lo importante es que no se enteren los de fuera. Patético.

Very much in line with the Spanish brand, all this investment of energy in worrying more about the image being broadcast to the world, “what they will say”, than about fixing things at home. It doesn't matter that there may be people starving or dying of hunger. The important thing is that those abroad don't hear about it. Pathetic.

When it was revealed last summer by an ex-Popular Party treasurer that current Spanish President Mariano Rajoy had received payments from a secret slush fund for years, the international media coverage was taken by some as an important echo of the corruption in the country's politics. 

Shameful…even the New York Times says that Rajoy should beat it. How pitiful Spain is, damn…

Even the Financial Times is talking bad about Rajoy, let's see if he has a little bit of dignity left, I doubt it, and steps down once and for all

And a New York Times piece from May 2013 detailing the culture of corruption in local and national politics – about 1,000 officials were under investigation at the time, according to the article – stirred up similar reactions.

“I hope the damage that this New York Times article causes to this rotten system makes it so that there are more and more people who are ready to change this terrible reality of corruption, abuse and power,” a menéame commenter wrote.

The power of foreign coverage 

But why is so much attention given to foreign media's editorial choices? With tourism a major driver of the Spanish economy, accounting for 10.9 percent of the country's economic output in 2012 according to Spain's National Institute of Statistics, many worry about the marca España, or Spanish brand, being portrayed to the rest of the world.

Positive coverage can certainly have an impact. After The New York Times included Burgos in its list of “46 Places to Go in 2013,” the northern Spanish city saw a staggering 145 percent jump in American tourists, what one local paper dubbed “the New York Times effect.” And the level of confidence that potential overseas investors have in the stability of a country can make or break their decision to put money there. 

But with foreign coverage sticking to its largely negative focus and the country's political and economic struggles still ongoing, #MarcaEspaña has become go-to sarcastic commentary on social media for Spaniards unhappy with the current state of affairs.

Still, others recommend ignoring the coverage. For better or worse, foreign media will continue to report on Spain how they want.

The New York Times writes an article about Spain and we get upset. When we stop getting worked up about what others think we will be better off

L. Finch is a journalist, translator, lead Global Voices sub-editor and Spanish-language lover. Originally from the US Midwest, she now calls Madrid home.

February 18 2014

SmartNomination, a Counter to the Binge Drinking Game Neknomination

The online drinking game Neknomination that promotes binge drinking for teenagers has outraged many people around the world. Neknomination asks participants to film themselves drinking an alcoholic beverage in one gulp, upload the footage to the web and nominate others to do the same. Julien Voinson, a young frenchman from Bordeaux, decided to counter the drinking game with a more positive initiative called SmartNomination [fr]. The idea is to film oneself doing charity work and then nominate a friend to do the same. Created on February 12, the facebook page has already close to 9,000 likes. In the following video,  Voinson explains the details of his project  [fr]:

February 15 2014

Gold Medal Winner's Touching Gesture with Peruvian Skier at Sochi 2014

Swiss skier Darío Cologna was awarded the gold medal on the 15-kilometer freestyle cross country ski race in the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. But in Peru he made the news due to a moving and exemplary scene: he waited for more than 20 minutes at the finish line for Peruvian Roberto Carcelén to shake his hand and hug him, for he knew Carcelen had competed although he had two broken ribs.

Carcelén broke two ribs during training, and nonetheless he decided to participate in a 15 kilometer race because he had already announced these would be his last Winter Olympics.

On Twitter, the news  didn't go unnoticed:

HURRAY for the Olympic spirit! Broken rib and he made it all the way to the finish line, Roberto Carcelén from Peru. Who do you think was waiting for him at the finish line?

A moment so sweet that the snow almost became snow cones. Roberto Carcelén competed today in Sochi – Russia.

February 14 2014

Protests Against Death of Immigrants in Ceuta, Spain: “No One Is Illegal”

Image from Fotomovimiento taken at the Barcelona protest

Image from Fotomovimiento taken at the Barcelona protest. Used under CC License.

A group of 200 people tried to enter Spain from Morocco by swimming around the fence at Ceuta, and some 14 sub-Saharan African migrants were crushed to death or drowned. The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) has been condemned by the immigrants and by a number of civil society organisations alike that argue that the security forces neither assisted [es] the immigrants nor alerted the coastguard to rescue those who were at sea. They also condemn the use of rubber bullets and tear gas against the immigrants in an attempt to prevent them from crossing the border.

The Guardia Civil has denied the accusations and created confusion by daily changing their version [es] of the events of Thursday 6th February.

Map of the border zone between Morocco and Spain - Wikipedia

Map of the border zone between Morocco and Spain – Wikipedia

A week after the tragedy, protests were convened in 15 Spanish cities to condemn the immigrants’ deaths. At the citizen gathering in Madrid, the most popular slogans [es] were: “They didn't drown, they were murdered”, “Natives or foreigners, we're all the same working class”, “No one is illegal” and “Where are the pro-lifers now?”, the latter in reference to those who support the controversial reform of the Abortion Law that the Spanish conservative government is currently preparing. 

The Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz finally acknowledged the use of riot gear by the security forces, although he claimed that it was used “only as a deterrent” to prevent the migrants from crossing the border. While the minister was appearing in the House of Representatives and facing the questions and accusations of the opposition parties, Twitter was transformed into a vehicle for people to express their indignation via the now trending topic #muertesCeuta [#Ceutadeaths]:

It seems that when prospecting for oil the borders are a lot wider than when for saving lives #muertesceuta

— Leire Iglesias (@leireis) February 13th, 2014

The minister acknowledges that rubber bullets were fired but not at people… what were they firing at then, the seagulls? #muertesCeuta

— Lorena Sainero (@Anerol27) February 13th, 2014

There are some things which we should never allow to happen. #muertesCeuta
— Ani ツ (@Vaquesinmas) February 13th, 2014

Shooting into the water near people who are desperate and can't swim isn't deterring them “for humanitarian reasons”, it's something entirely different #muertesCeuta

— Juan Luis Sánchez (@juanlusanchez) February 13th, 2014

There are still many questions to be answered: 

Autor Dani Gago - DISO Press

Photo by Dani Gago – DISO Press. ‘More bridges, no walls’

What is the existing protocol for managing the entry of immigrants in Spain? Did the Guardia Civil's actions in Ceuta show respect for the law and the immigrants’ human rights? Were some of the immigrants who did manage to reach Spanish territory returned to Morocco, in spite of the illegality of such an action? 

One Twitter user briefly summarises the need for accountability: 

Why should the minister provide answers to the mysteries surrounding the #Ceutadeaths? Above all, for them: http://t.co/TzhPH6zS9M

— Gabriela Sánchez (@Gabriela_Schz) February 13th, 2014

February 12 2014

Opponents of France's School Gender Equality Initiative Wage Misinformation War

13 January 2013 -

13 January 2013 – “We want sex, not gender.” A sign in French at a protest for family values. Photo by Mon_Tours via Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

[This post was co-authored by Jean-Pierre WetzelsElise Lecamp and Suzanne Lehn. All links forward to French-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

A recent pilot study in France about gender equality in schools has encountered heated opposition from those who view it as an attack on traditional family values and gender roles.

Called “ABCD de l'égalité” (the ABCD of gender equality), the initiative aims to break down gender stereotypes in schools, and French education authorities launched a pilot study in a few select schools over the course of four months to see how new teaching tools and materials would work with children.

But opponents see the initiative as an affront to what they call the natural differences between boys and girls and argue that the state should not be teaching children about private matters. A strong anti-ABCD campaign to stop it has been mounted on blogs and social network platforms and protets were organized in several cities under the moniker “Day of Anger“. Text messages encouraged parents to pull their children from schools on designated “School Boycott Days“.

logo_abcdegalite

Logo for France's ABCD of gender equality initiative

Public debate on the issue has been polluted by “untruths” to such an extent that the French education minister ordered information sessions at schools for parents to combat the rumors. Daily newspaper Le Monde also attempted to debunk some of the misinformation in an article called “Five rumors about the gender theory debate” published on 28 January 2013. The report highlighted several inaccuracies being cited by opponents, including a misquoted statement by French senator Laurence Rossignol that “children do not belong to their parents, they belong to the state”.

The second part of the sentence has proven to be entirely fictional, as shown by the following video posted by the website “Arrêt sur images”

In fact, the whole quote goes as follows:  “Children do not belong to their parents, the school must provide them with tools so that they can make choices for themselves later.”

In an interview, Rossignol explained that she never said the words “children belong to the state” and that she will take to court anyone who claims otherwise:

Another misconception about the gender equality initiative was the notion that teaching gender theory will be made mandatory in schools. Gaëlle Dupont wrote the following about that rumor:

Deuxième intox : l'enseignement de la « théorie du genre » devient obligatoire: Ce climat d'hystérie autour des questions d'égalité hommes-femmes ou de lutte contre l'homophobie débouche sur des phénomènes assez dramatiques, comme cette vague de SMS appelant les parents à retirer leurs enfants des écoles un jour donné pour dénoncer cet « enseignement obligatoire » du « genre ». Derrière ces rumeurs, on trouve l'extrême droite. Plus précisément, des militants proches de l'extrême droite qui ont monté un « jour de retrait de l'école », assurant que « l'Etat, sous couvert de lutter contre l'homophobie, introduit à notre insu la théorie du genre à l'école : homosexualité, bisexualité et transsexualité entrent dans tous les programmes scolaires ».

Rumour number 2: Teaching of  “gender theory” will be mandatory:  The current atmosphere of hysteria surrounding the issues of equality between men and women or the fight against homophobia has given rise to somewhat dramatic phenomena, such as the deluge of text messages inciting parents to withdraw their children from school on a specific day in order to protest this “obligatory teaching of gender”. The far-right wing is again behind these rumors. Or to be more precise, campaigners with far-right sympathies who have initiated this “School Boycott” day. Thet claim that “under the cover of addressing homophobia, the state is introducing gender theory at school without our approval: the notions of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality are being introduced in school curricula”

Armed with this misinformation, opponents invoked the spectors of gender theory and government intrusion on social media and blogs to mobilize those against the initiative.

How Facebook and text messages are used to whitewash the wild rumour about “gender theory”

Spearheading the campaign against the ABCD of gender equality is Farida Belghoul [en], who once was an immigrant rights activist in the early 1980s. She set up several “information meetings” and called on parents to keep their children home as a boycott of the initiative and the supposed teaching of gender theory that the initiative implies.

The website Journée de Retrait de l'Ecole (School Boycott Day) was set up to document and organize the movement, and in just a few weeks, the Facebook page for the website, JRE2014, received 18,000 hits. Created on 19 December 2013, the page now counts 20,000 likes. Comments from parents who received text messages requesting them to remove their children from school are posted on the page. Céline Violette writes on the page [fr] :

Y-a-t-il une PETITION OFFICIELLE pour l'interdiction de l'INTRUSION de la théorie du genre à l'éducation nationale? Afin de permettre de compter tout le monde, père ET mère, et tous les citoyens qui n'ont pas d'enfant et qui sont conscients de ce qui se passe.

Is there an official petition to prevent the introduction of gender theory in school  ? It would allow to determine how many people, mother, father and citizens without children but who are aware of the risk at hand.

Statements from parents’ associations highlighted the links between the organizers of these boycott days and far-right movements and dispelled the rumor that gender theory would be taught at kindergarten level. Still, instructions were being given to parents by the “Boycott School Day” movement that these “Boycott School” days take place in private locations and not on public roads. 

The more irrational the rumor, the more the public seems drawn to it. In an article published on 1 February entitled “Day of anger, night of darkness”, journalist Jean Birenbaum expressed his concerns:

Pour le moment, ce compagnonnage avec un sombre nihilisme condamne les collectifs colériques à l'impuissance politique. Mais c'est aussi lui qui les rend si difficiles à combattre pour les partis traditionnels, de droite comme de gauche. […] Il y a ici un cauchemar pour quiconque demeure attaché à une éthique de la rationalité, qu'elle soit religieuse ou politique.
[…]
Par-delà les slogans politiques, la galaxie de la « colère » représente donc un défi lancé aux pratiques d'enseignement et aux institutions démocratiques. Si ce défi n'était pas relevé, alors le « jour de colère »pourrait bien devenir la nuit pour tous.

At the moment, this affinity for dark nihilism condemns these angry groups to political impotence. But it is also what makes the fight with them so difficult for traditional parties, be they right-or left-wing [...] This is a nightmare for those who remain faithful to an ethic of rationality, be it religious or political.
[…]
Over and above political slogans, this constellation of anger constitutes a challenge to both teaching methods and democratic institutions. If this challenge is not met, then the ‘Day of anger” could quite well become a dark night for us all.

In a somewhat reassuring turn of events, a humoristic page called the “Children's Plea” was created on the parody website Gorafi.fr. The Children's Plea demands that adults put a stop to the rumor fabrication and start acting as, well, adults [fr]:

Les enfants demandent donc que cessent ces rumeurs et fausses informations, qu’on les laisse retourner à l’école. Quant à la théorie du genre, ils estiment qu’elle n’a pas lieu d’être. « Des fois, les filles elles sont fortes comme les garçons, et même que hier Joachim il a perdu toutes ses billes contre Sofia de la classe de madame Dumas, on a bien ri » 

The children ask for an end to the rumors and false information so that they may be allowed to return to school. As for the whole gender theory issue, the children don't think that it means anything: “Sometimes, girls are as strong as boys. Just yesterday Joachim lost all his marbles to Sophia from Mrs. Dumas's class and we all had a good laugh”

Other initiatives have also pushed back against the campaign's rumor-mongering. Seeing how easy it was for rumors to take root in some disenfranchised areas with a large minority population, Kaissa Titous asked her former colleague and now campaign leader Farida Belghoul, who is of Algerian descent, to stop her School Boycott movement movement:

Tu voudrais qu’aujourd’hui nous faisions des alliances avec des forces politiques qui n’ont pas arrêté de prospérer sur la haine de nos quartiers et de ses habitants, qui nous agitent comme repoussoirs à chaque élection, qui nous accusent d’être des envahisseurs, qui arrachent les pains au chocolat et le pain de la bouche des Français de souche

Today you would want us to make alliances with political forces that have thrived on hating our people [minorities] and our neighborhoods. They are pointing at us as the culprits for France's aches at every elections, calling us invaders, who take away chocolate croissants and bread from the mouths of the “real” French people

February 11 2014

Remembering Dr Alison Jolly, Lemurs of Madagascar Expert

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist  1937-2014- Public Domain

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist 1937-2014- Public Domain

After leading a distinguished career as a primatologist at the Berenty Reserve of Madagascar, Dr. Alison Jolly has died at home in Lewes, East Sussex, aged 76. Dr. Jolly, a PhD researcher from Yale, made her name as the first scientist to do an in-depth account of the behaviour of the ring-tailed lemur, L. catta, beginning field work in 1962. David Attenborough recently wrote : ‘not only they but the people and land of Madagascar captured her heart’. 

February 10 2014

In the Information Age, the End of Status Quo for Morrocan Media

Hicham Lasri is a film maker from Casablanca, Morocco. In his second movie called “C'est eux les chiens” (They are the dogs”), Lasri talks about the evolution of media in Morocco [fr] with the expansion of information technology:

Moi j'ai grandi dans un pays où les informations à la télévision expliquent que tout se passe bien, qu'on est géniaux [..]Forcément c'est une information qui ne dérange pas, qui ne crée pas de troubles, qui permet d'anesthésier la nation. Le film raconte deux événements : les émeutes de 1981 et trente plus tard, en 2011, c'est le printemps arabe. La première révolte en 1981 n'a pas marché parce que l'information ne circulait pas. En 2011, il y a une chaîne de solidarité qui s'est créée. Les gens sont interconnectés. Quand on tape sur quelqu'un tout le monde est au courant et l'indignation va gagner en ampleur. C'est la fin du statu quo.

I grew up in a country where tv news told us that everything was OK, that we are doing great [..] It was the type of information that did not bother anyone, did not create any troubles and anesthetized the nation. The film tells the story of two events: the riots of 1981 and 30 years later, in 2011, the Arab Spring. The first revolution in 1981 did not succeed because the information could not be shared. In 2011, a chain of solidarity has been created. Now people are interconnected. When someone is being beat up, everyone knows and outrage will rise. It's the end of the status quo.

Here is an interview of Lasri  talking about the movie [fr]:

February 08 2014

What Do the Streets Sound Like in Spain?

el sonido de las calles

“The sound of the streets”

What do the streets sound like? This questions opens “The sound of the streets” [es], a documentary that portrays the work and life philosophy of five street musicians — Manuel Marcos, El Terraza de Jeréz, Pedro Queque Romero, Little Boy Kike, including two singers, and a group, Los Milchakas, who work outdoors.

Produced by BuenaWille [es] – a space that promotes cultural projects – the documentary was released in May 2013 under a Creative Commons license. As a nonprofit, its goal is to promote street music and expose these musicians’ testimonies to the public. 

“I play for the love of music and because of necessity,” says Abdul Yabbar, singer and guitarist on the streets of Granada, who after losing his job saw no other option but to use his talent to “get by.” The film's protagonists live and offer their art in southern Spain, where the weather is warm and the people are more receptive, according to them. Most of them report the most positive aspects of their work, but also talk about the difficulties that come with this lifestyle, like the indifference of pedestrians, low tolerance from authorities, economic insecurity, and even complaints from neighbors that sometimes go as far as throwing objects and food at them because they consider them annoying, which is what happened to Abdul. 

Here is the complete documentary [es]: 

There are also people who appreciate musicians who try to enliven the streets. A YouTube user posted a video from a group called Milchakas, which appears in the documentary, getting over 7,000 visits. The following comment is in the description: 

This wonderful group in Granada, Spain brings so much joy and happiness to the constant stream of tourists and locals that pass them on the way to Alhambra or perhaps, Sacromonte. Their music is a blend of Spanish, reggae and a few other styles.

These artists are united by their talent and love for music, but most dream of promoting themselves, gaining visibility, and being able to play in bars. The streets are not easy and working in them seems increasingly difficult. This is how it is, for example, in the Spanish capital where the Madrid City Council has restricted their job. Whoever wants to play in the streets of the capital must pass an audition to have a license that authorizes them to work in the Central District. Artistic street activities that have passed the test still face a series of restrictions [es] on schedules, distance between each musician, width of the streets where they are permitted to play, and the level of noise pollution, among others. 

These new measures have generated criticisms, above from the artists. One video in particular in which two musicians criticize the impositions of the city council. Both the media and social networks have embraced the humorous and critical video that already has had over 350,000 views on YouTube [es]:

Here is a snippet of the song starring a group that called itself the Potato Omelette Band: 

Ay mi Madrid, pobre ciudad mía, que quitan artistas para poner policías, tú que eras toda alegría, ahora gris color ceniza, no hay mejor jurado que el de la gorra, a veces no hay nada, a veces te forras …pobre músico que no se ha vendido, esta ciudad no es para artistas.

Oh my Madrid, my poor city that removes artists to be replaced with police, you who used to be all joy now are the color of gray ash, there is no better jury than the one in the cap, sometimes there is nothing, sometimes you make a killing… poor musician that has not sold himself, this city is not for artists. 

February 07 2014

The French Expatriate Perspective on France's Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Total of french citizens abroad as compiled by the Foreign Affairs Ministry - Public Domain

Total of French citizens abroad by continent as compiled by the Foreign Affairs Ministry – Public Domain

The immigration debate has increasingly polarized public opinion in France over the past few years. The rise of the far right, such as the National Front party, in recent elections catalyzed an anti-immigration rhetoric that seems to permeate into the more moderate conservative parties. The most notorious stories involved the “pain au chocolat” [fr] (chocolate croissants) affair, in which the leader of the opposition JF Copé stated that he was distraught knowing that children in some districts get harassed by Muslim youngsters [fr] for eating chocolate croissants during Ramadan.

The push for more restrictive immigration policies that would limit unqualified (without high school diploma) candidates to migrate to France has found echoes [fr] in the current progressive government. In fact, a book published by philosopher Alain Finkelkraut called “L'idendité malheureuse” (The Unhappy Identity) attempts to justify imposing more strict regulations on immigration in order to protect the French identity [fr]:

Les autochtones ont perdu le statut de référent culturel qui était le leur dans les périodes précédentes de l’immigration. Ils ne sont plus prescripteurs. Quand ils voient se multiplier les conversions à l’islam, ils se demandent où ils habitent. Ils n’ont pas bougé, mais tout a changé autour d’eux. […] Plus l’immigration augmente et plus le territoire se fragmente.

The “original” French people have lost the status of cultural reference, a status they held in earlier periods of immigration. They are no longer the normative reference. When they see increased conversions to Islam, they wonder where they live. They have not moved, yet everything has changed around them. [...] The more immigration increases, the more the nation becomes fragmented.

Frederic Martel, director of IRIS, a research institute on international relations, explains why Finkelkraut's discourse is misguided [fr]: 

 Il y a, c’est certain, une forte anxiété dans la France d’aujourd’hui. Mais pourquoi caricaturer tous les «étrangers» comme s’ils ne voulaient ni s’intégrer ni accepter le passé de la France? Que sait-il des Français de deuxième et troisième génération? De leur langue, de leur culture? De l’énergie créatrice des quartiers? [...] L’identité française, pourtant, n’est pas malheureuse. Elle bouge, elle change, elle se cherche, elle fait des allers-retours avec son passé. Et tous ceux qui pensent qu’exalter «l’identité nationale» permettrait de sortir des difficultés sociales et économiques que nous traversons se trompent.

There is certainly a lot of anxiety in France today. But why caricature all foreigners as if they do not want to fit in nor accept the history of France? What does [Finkelkraut] know of France's second and third generation of immigrants? Their language and their culture? The creative energy they bring to their neighborhoods? [...] The French identity is not an unhappy one.”It moves, it changes, it goes forward, backward towards the past, then forward again. Anyone who thinks that exalting  ”national identity” would solve our social and economic challenges is just kidding themselves.

The natural counterpoint to the rising anti-immigration policies is the fact that there is a rising number of French citizens who have chosen to live abroad. Christian Lemaitre from think tank Français-Etranger (French Abroad) points out that the total number of French citizens outside of France is quite important and might be larger [fr] than the official total shared by the French Foreign Affairs Department: 

En dix ans, la population française établie hors des frontières se serait accrue de 40% soit une augmentation de 3 à 4% par an et un total de plus de 2 millions de Français installés à l'étranger. Estimation seulement car l'inscription au registre mondial n'est pas obligatoire. Le think tank francais-etranger.org pense que ce chiffre serait beaucoup plus proche de 3 milions. Pourquoi sont-ils partis ? 65% des expatriés affirment rechercher une nouvelle expérience professionnelle et près du tiers, une augmentation de revenus. Le désir de découvrir un nouveau pays est évoqué devant les motivations professionnelles ou linguistiques.

In ten years, the French population abroad have seen an increase of 40 percent, an increase of 3 to 4 percent per year, and a total of more than two million French now live abroad. This is only an estimate because sign up in the consulate's register is not mandatory. The think tank French-etranger.org thinks that number would be much closer to three million people. Why have they left France? 65 percent of expatriates say that they were looking for new work experience and nearly a third of them wanted a better income. The desire to discover a new country is also mentioned first, before any professional or linguistic motivations.

Indeed, the viewpoint on immigration differs when seen from French citizens outside France. 

In fact, despite the popular belief that French citizens living abroad were mostly conservatives, their votes have increasingly leaned towards the left in the past decade. Cécile Dehesdin [fr] explains:

Depuis 1981, elle a gagné plus de vingt points chez les Français de l'étranger, et l'écart avec son score national y était de moins d'un point en 2007 (46,01% contre 46,94%)  

Since 1981, [the left] has won more than 20 points in French from abroad voting and the gap with the national score there was less than one point in 2007 (46.01 percent against 46.94 percent). 

Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, an analyst, adds [fr]:

C’est un public qui est plutôt au centre-droit qu’à droite et pas du tout à l’extrême-droite, plutôt droite humaniste que Droite populaire, et l’écart avec la gauche est de moins en moins important

This is a voting group that is more center-right and right, but not attracted at all to far-right views; it is rather leaning towards progressive right than radical right, and the gap with the left has become less and less important

Additionally, the experience of living abroad seem to have given many French citizens a different perspective. Etoile66, in Toronto, opines [fr]:

Ma France pourrait regarder vers ces pays où les habitants parlent plusieurs langues sans aucun problème et circulent à l'aise dans le monde, alors qu'elle a dressé ses habitants à avoir peur de ce qu'ils appellent la “mondialisation”. La peur ressentie pas bon nombre de mes compatriotes devant “l'étranger” en général et la “mondialisation” en particulier, ne serait plus s'ils avaient confiance en eux. Celui qui a confiance n'a pas peur de l'autre ni de l'étranger, ni du monde, bien au contraire, il échange dans le respect mutuel. 

The France I want to see should look to those countries where people speak different languages ​​without any problems and move at ease in the world. So far, France has only taught its people to be afraid of what they call “globalization”. The fear felt by many of my countrymen of “foreigners” in general and “globalization” in particular, would vanish if they had confidence in themselves. People who have self-confidence do not fear the “other”, “foreigners”, nor the world. On the contrary, they interact with them with mutual respect.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

When Genocide is, apparently, a Laughing Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 04 2014

Apply for Development Reporting Grants

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) is calling for applications for a new round of grants for innovation in development reporting. So far the EJC have funded 28 projects worth a combined 550,000 Euros in grants. The next deadline for applications is February 26, 2014. Visit Journalismgrants.org to apply online.

February 03 2014

A “Freedom Train” for the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women in Spain

Tren de la Libertad

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Minister of Justice in Mariano Rajoy’s government, is spearheading a bill that seeks to repeal the existing standard in Spain—the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Law (VIP) and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) 2010— by promoting a reform that would mean a 30 year setback in the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights in that country.

A campaign opposing this bill, which has not yet been approved, has been spearheaded by feminist movement of Asturias, specifically the Tertulia Feminista les Comadres [es] led by the florist Begoña Piñero Hevia. Named by its creators “The Freedom Train” [es], the initiative was launched through social networks on January 2:

Las mujeres de la Tertulia Feminista les Comadres y de Mujeres por la Igualdad de Barredos consideramos que la reforma de la ley del aborto planteada por el Gobierno de Rajoy constituye un ataque injustificable a la libertad de decidir de las mujeres.

Invitamos a la sociedad asturiana a sumarse a las acciones que se organicen desde los distintos grupos, asociaciones y colectivos de mujeres para conseguir la retirada de ese Anteproyecto de Ley.

The women of Tertulia Feminista les Comadres and Women of Barredos for Equality believe that reforming the abortion law proposed by Rajoy’s government constitutes an unjustified attack against the free will of women.

We invite Asturian society to join actions organized by various groups, associations and women’s collectives to achieve the withdrawal of this proposed law.

Leaving from Asturias and arriving in Madrid on February 1st, the “Freedom Train” comprises a series of actions and activities, and the creation of supporting materials such as banners and bibs, all  created and run by the participants themselves.

Imagen tomada del sitio de la iniciativa

Begoña Piñero Hevia wearing the Freedom Train bib

From the start, the initiative has found support in several countries, and has inspired other activities and collateral actions. The text “Because I Decide” [es], which has been translated into seven languages, will be delivered to the Spanish Council of Deputies. One of the paragraphs says:

Porque yo decido, soy libre y vivo en democracia exijo del gobierno, de cualquier gobierno, que promulguen leyes que favorezcan la autonomía moral, preserven la libertad de conciencia y garanticen la pluralidad y diversidad de intereses.

Porque yo decido, soy libre y vivo en democracia exijo  que se mantenga la actual Ley de salud sexual y reproductiva y de interrupción voluntaria del embarazo por favorecer la autonomía moral, preservar la libertad de conciencia y garantizar la pluralidad de intereses de todas las mujeres.

 

Because I decide, I am free and I live in a democracy, I demand that the government, any government, enact laws that promote moral autonomy, preserve freedom of conscience, and ensure plurality and diversity of interests.

Because I decide, I am free and I live in a democracy, I demand that the current law on sexual and reproductive health and abortion is maintained, fostering moral autonomy, preserving freedom of conscience and ensuring the plurality of interests of all women.

Activists from 13 Spanish communities will come together to take the text to the Council.

Tweeted from Galicia:

We’ll see you on February 1 in Atocha. Not one step back. I’m going, are you?

And from Granada:

Coming with us on the Freedom Train? We're leaving on February 1 at 6 a.m. We'll expect you there!

A group of women filmmakers [es] (directors, producers, photographers) joined the mobilization to film and record the events of February 1st, when the “Freedom Train” arrived at the Atocha terminal in Madrid. Some of these women artists are: Inés París, Gracia Querejeta, Chus Gutiérrez, Ángeles González-Sinde, Iciar Bollaín and Isabel Coixet.

At the same time, a group of approximately 1500 intellectuals, at the initiative of Yo Decido Tren de la Libertad Pilar Aguilar, analyst and critic, have signed a manifesto [es]. Writers Mercedes Abad, Lola Beccaria, Isabel Cienfuegos, Laura Freixas, Rosa Montero and university professors Carmen Valcárcel and Almudena Hernando are among the supporters of this manifesto.

The Freedom Train also features a song, expressing the dissatisfaction of women with the law promoted by Mariano Rajoy's government:
  
Compinchado con Rajoy y sus muchachos  
ha tomado nuestro cuerpo de rehén  
con una aberrante ley demoledora  
que pretende sin empacho denigrar a la mujer.  

Rajoy in cahoots with his boys
have taken our bodies hostage
with a devastating, abhorrent law
which aims to shamelessly denigrate women.

The initiative has also had an impact in Latin America, mainly Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, noted in the publication of several messages on the social network Twitter. In Ecuador, through the Slut Walk, the plan is to go to the Spanish Consulate in the capital city of Quito and demand that the permanence of current law on sexual and reproductive health.

From the Caribbean:

Also, there have been petitions for asylum based on health issues linked to abortions by a group of people at the French Embassy in Spain:

More than 200 petitions for abortion asylum at the French embassy. This Saturday we get on the Freedom Train.

Besides the Gallic nation, other European nations will be protesting, among them Belgium and Italy. In Brussels, on January 30 a demonstration was held against the so-called Gallardón reform, with thousands in attendance.

Support from Italian and French women

Here, the The Freedom Train theme song:  

 

February 02 2014

Korean Comfort Women Issue Explained by Cartoon

A special exhibition on ‘comfort women‘- young Koreans girls forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese army during the World War 2 era- was featured at one of the leading cartoon festivals in France. It made several headlines as the Japanese government tried to block it, but failed. Korean net users have shared an English translation of Park Gun-woong's cartoon ‘Tattoo- A Story of a Comfort Woman'. (The cartoon- which is based on a true story- depicts violent assault, torture and rape. Viewer discretion is strongly advised) 

January 30 2014

According to Google Autocomplete ‘Colombia is Passion’ and ‘Mexico is Culture’

Colombian blogger Javier Moreno typed “[Name of country] is” on Google search to see auto-complete suggestions for each country in Latin America and Europe. He modeled his experiment after the English version of the Google search “Why [country] is.”

From his search in Colombia he got results like “Ecuador is dangerous,” “Brazil is a Latin country”, “Bolivia is God's people,” “France is socialist,” “Belguim is expensive,” and “Spain is different.”

He added his results to two maps in his blog Rango Finito [es].

 

January 28 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

INNOVATION: Containers as Student Housing at European Universities

“Containers” at DTU Campus Village in Kongens Lyngby, Denmark via wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0

In order to alleviate the lack of student housing available across Europe, a few universities in Denmark, Germany, France (Le Havre) [fr] and Spain have tried to turn containers into student dorms. Containers appear to be the structure of choice because they are less costly and readily adaptable to include the necessary amenities. However, a few associations have already raised a few issues [fr] regarding thermal isolation and safety in the containers. 

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