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February 26 2014

February 24 2014

February 20 2014

February 18 2014

February 15 2014

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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