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Trinidad & Tobago, U.S.A.: Change? Really?

Fri, 02/20/2009 - 10:53am

“He has taken several steps back from the openness he once showed, the willingness to talk to anyone without preconditions. He proposes to send 17,000 more troops into Afghanistan…dampening down one war only to refuel another”: Notes from Port of Spain is “still cynical about Barack Obama.”

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Clinton visits Indonesia

Fri, 02/20/2009 - 1:02am

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Indonesia last Wednesday. She affirmed “Indonesia’s role in handling global problems, including terrorism, protectionism, climate change and the economic crisis.” Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world and the third largest democracy.

Aside from meeting the leaders of Indonesia, Clinton found the time to visit a slum community in Jakarta. She also appeared in a teen-oriented TV show.

Everything Indonesia believes Clinton's visit to Indonesia starts a new era in American foreign policy:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Indonesia starts a new era in American foreign policy. A lot less unilateral arrogance, a lot more inclusiveness and so-called smart power.

Mbak Rita observes that Clinton looks younger today:

“I really think that she looks younger and more goodlooking, maybe it was because of her constant smile she gave during her visit here…Some people on some boring TV talkshow mentioned previously that Jakarta is a little overreacted with her visit. I am glad that I was wrong about that.”

Devi Girsang was surprised about Jakarta’s traffic on the day Clinton arrived:

As a Jakartan who used to stuck in traffic, I tend to be panicky if the streets are quiet and deserted look-alike. There are only two things popped in my mind in that case; there's a bomb terror or rampages. Remember 1998 Jakarta riots or 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing? Then you must know what I mean

Around 2 PM today, it turned out to be US Secretary of States Hillary Clinton's arrival in Jakarta that stopped the traffic! Lucky for me, there's still battery power remained on my digital camera to take a few snapshots.

Therry, in a comment, wonders if the US sent a fake Clinton:

I saw the speech Hillary made on television and I don't know whether it's just me but that woman doesn't look exactly like Hillary.

I'm starting to think the US government sent a fake one to us, because that woman looks too old and motherly to be Hillary!


Not everybody was cheering the visit of Hillary Clinton in Indonesia. Picture from Jakarta Today

Andreas Harsono wanted Clinton to raise the issues of religious freedom, impunity, and military reform during her visit:

“(Clinton) should be careful not to say that Muslims in Indonesia are “moderate,” as most diplomatic visitors like to say. For members of persecuted religious groups in Indonesia, it is a useless and inaccurate cliche.

“Concern over rising religious intolerance is not the only human rights issue Clinton should raise with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Freedom of expression is also a huge problem on islands where ethnic minorities show their resistance toward the Indonesian state. But in Indonesia, even peaceful acts like a flag raising can land you in jail for a long time

“Clinton may be tempted to gloss over issues like religious freedom, impunity, and military reform, in favor of closer Indonesian-US ties. But if she does, she’ll miss a golden opportunity to transform the lives of many people in Indonesia who need pressure on the government to recognize their rights.”

Via Twitter, below are some reactions to the Clinton visit:

waxinglyrical: someone asked who is Hillary Clinton??

mirageinblue: saw hillary clinton at the lobby. awesome

oplet: Obama Fans Club stages protest against Hillary Clinton in Jakarta, saying they're just not that into her since presidential race


Picture from Flickr page of US Department of State

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Caribbean, USA: Where in the World is Allen Stanford?

Thu, 02/19/2009 - 1:06pm

UPDATE: Barbadian diaspora blogger Keltruth Corp. links to mainstream media reports confirming that Mr. Stanford has been located in Virginia. He has not, at the time of this posting, been charged with any criminal violations.

It's one thing for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to lay fraud charges against Texas billionaire-cum-Caribbean cricket magnate Allen Stanford - but first, authorities have to find him. As panicky investors flock to Stanford-owned banks from Antigua to South America to try and withdraw their funds, speculation is rife as to where Mr. Stanford might be.

Live in Guyana, on hearing the news that “billionaire investor and cricket financier Allen Stanford has gone off the radar”, says that he has “done a Dataram”, comparing his flight tactics to those of “Guyanese drug accused and US fugitive, Barry Dataram”. This is not the only talk of this nature in the regional blogosphere - Barbados Free Press says:

Current and past allegations include drug money-laundering by Stanford’s companies.

…and goes on to post another entry which suggests that:

United States federal authorities are putting out the word that as well as the Ponzi-scheme fraud charges, Sir Allen might be facing the music for money-laundering for a Mexican drug cartel and bribing public officials.

Living in Barbados views these developments as “a very good reason to argue for politicians to disclose their assets…to remove as much as possible the taint of possible conflicts of interest.”

He continues:

The recent financial troubles befalling CL Financial Group's Trinidad operations and now the leveling of fraud charges against Allan Stanford and his Antigua-registered Stanford Financial Group point to one aspect of the possible conflicts in our own back yard. To what extent are politicians personally tied to the ailing institution or those who run them? To the extent that such ties exist, how has it affected or will it affect political and policy decisions? The Antiguan government was very cozy with Mr. Stanford, and with elections now set for next month, that may have a very bad bearing on the outcome for the ruling party. Barbados' former central bank governor is on the Board. With Mr. Stanford going AWOL (reportedly in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands), the trail to find him and his assets may lead to some unwelcome doors.

Barbados Money Laundering Advisory meanwhile, sees parallels with “the ‘Lord Conrad Black' story” but some bloggers' main concern is still the potential effect of the fraud charges on the future of West Indies cricket. B.C. Pires writes from Barbados:

WEST INDIES TOOK all morning to remove the English night watchman. At blogging time, with lunch looming, England were nearly 400 ahead with seven wickets in hand. Will Captain Strauss hold the declaration until after lunch? Until Cook makes a century? Until the Allen Stanford lynching?

West Indies fans – such a misleading word for the miserable clutch still left doing their best to support the rump of what was once a fine team – know the real debate is when the collapse will come. Before tea? Before stumps today? Lunch tomorrow? Before the end of this sentence?

Once again, it’s not so much a case of Ye of Little Faith as much as We of Much Firetrucking Experience.

The Caribbean has had much experience of late with the debilitating effects of collapsing financial empires - how the Stanford story will play out remains to be seen.

The thumbnail image for this post, “Globe”, is by nickwheeleroz, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit nickwheeleroz's flickr photostream.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Egypt: Ayman Nour Released

Wed, 02/18/2009 - 11:50pm

Egypt has just released political dissident Ayman Nour, who has spent more than three years in prison. Bloggers welcomed the move, but were left wondering about its motives and timing.

Nour, who ran against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections, was arrested on January 29, 2005, after being charged with forging Powers of Attorney to secure the formation of Al Ghad Party - charges which he denied.

His arrest, said to be politically motivated, sparked an internal and foreign outcry calling for his release. Nour was released Wednesday following an order from the Public Prosecutor for “health reasons.” And now his release is being described by bloggers and the international Press as “unexpected” too.

The Arabist explains:

There is no further information as to why now, or why previous appeals to release him on medical ground were denied, but this appears to be a political decision. Rather strange timing that this happens a couple of days after the Washington Post urges the Obama administration not to deal with Hosni Mubarak unless Nour is freed.
Let’s assume - with all due respect to the integrity of the Egyptian legal system - that this is a political decision. What’s the rationale? I think the most plausible explanation is that it is not just an overture to Obama that Mubarak wants to change the negative dynamic in the US-Egypt relationship. It is a clear message that says, “look: Bush tried for four years to pressure me. But I do things on my own timing
and any pressure is counterproductive.” The message is, before Obama and his administration settle into a clear approach on Egypt (I don’t think the NSC staffer on Egypt has even been appointed yet), that if the same US approach to Egypt continues, it will only generate headaches.

Writing at Egyptian Chronicles, Zeinobia welcomed Nour's release, and she too speculates that it was pressure from Washington which has prompted it. She explains:

The Washington Post was speaking from two days ago that Mubarak wanted
to meet with Obama in the first 100 days and the White House put some conditions : The Release of Ayman Nour and the Return of Saad El-Din Ibrahim.

Here is the first condition fulfilled but what about Ibrahim !!?? We Shall see ;)

Zeinobia zooms in on the mood around her following Nour's release and reports:

I am really happy despite I am not a member in his party or a supporter but I am so happy.
Everybody is Happy ,even my grand ma is happy , she thanked God. 
Ayman Nour is free again and what is better than that is he said that he will continue his political career again ;)

In a follow up post, Zeinobia discusses Nour's appearance on a popular television show.


Per Bjorklund
, a Swedish journalist in Cairo, notes:

Not surprisingly these sudden developments has led to speculations in media and blogs that Nour's release was “a gesture of goodwill to the Obama administration.”

The blogger continues:

It's possible. Adding my own wild conspiracy theories to the speculations, I can't help but wonder if there is any relation between the release of Nour and the probable detention by state security of a party activist last week. Was the “disappearance” of Hossam Shahata some kind of revenge for the administrative court decision? Or a signal that even as Nour is released in order to appease Obama and easen the pressures for “reform”, the security apparatus will persist in it's harassment of party activists in order to prevent al-Ghad from capitalizing on Nours release to broaden it's support base? Or (most likely) was the kidnapping just “business as usual,” part of the daily routine
repression that Obama is now going to ignore because one of thousands of political prisoners was released?

Afreet doesn't camouflage his confusion and writes in his usual sarcastic tone:

??? ????? ???? ???? ????? ???? ?? ?????? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ???? ????????? ???? ???? ?????? ??
??? ????
????
??????? ??????
????????????????????????????????????????
???? ???? ???? ?????? ???? ????? ?? ????? ?? ???
????? ??? ??????? ???? ????? ???? ????
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

???? ???? ?? ??? ????? ????? ?????? ??? ???? ???? ???? ????
?? ?? ???? ???? ???? ???? ??

A friend called me out of the blue and told me that they have released Nour. I thought he was joking with me and switched on the television and released that what he said was true.
Fine. How?
And why?
And why now?
Now one understands anything and no one understands how those people think.
And of course they are happy, because no one understands anything!
Could this be one of the first blessings of Obama son of Hussein? Perhaps. Only God knows.
If anyone understands anything, please let me know.

And although Nour's criminal record means that he cannot run in elections in Egypt, Egyptian Stories is ecstatic at the news of his release and writes:

Dearest Ayman, I know to whom will I vote next elections. I know to whom I will listen and whom I will trust. for my eyes only see hope in your movement towards the future of our nation.

Stay tuned for more reactions from the Egyptian blogosphere as this story unfolds.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Ukraine: Obama's and NATO Membership

Wed, 02/18/2009 - 9:41pm

Ukrainiana notes that Obama seems to no longer support “NATO track for Ukraine” - and posts this comment: “If the Obama administration opts for a ‘Chicken Kiev' foreign policy, it's not just Ukraine that may get fried.”

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Caribbean, USA: Stanford Charged with Fraud

Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:41pm

Fresh on the heels of the latest regional financial meltdown comes another: news that U.S. billionaire Allen Stanford has been slapped with charges for investment fraud - more than 8 billion dollars' worth. Stanford has become a household name in the Caribbean over the last few years, thanks to his high-profile involvement in the region's favourite sport - cricket - and the potential fallout for the sport (the England and Wales and West Indies Cricket Boards have already suspended sponsorship negotiations with him following the fraud charges) appears to be concerning Caribbean bloggers as much as the economic ramifications.

Guyana Providence Stadium links to the story and asks:

Does this mean no 20/20 this year? How deh ass Guyanese cricketers will make a living now?

But his compatriot, Living Guyana, has bigger issues to think about as he quotes the text of the Securities and Exchange Commission's complaint against Stanford (“improbable, if not impossible” returns) and draws a link between the alleged fraud and Guyana's 2009 Budget - the contents of which lead him to believe that “the government of Guyana is ignoring reality.”

More north of the archipelago, in Jamaica, Stunner acknowledges the Texas billionaire as “the man who brought excitement and a lot of money to the game of Cricket, West Indies Cricket especially”, and goes on to say:

There is no doubt that the West Indies Cricket Board and West Indies Cricket have benefited from the monetary inputs of Stanford. Standford's 20/20 Tournament brought something new to West Indies cricket and was seen by many as a last ditch hope to revive the dwindling love of Cricket in the region and to pump some well needed money into the coffers of the WICB. However, with this new development, it seems that all this heavy funding will come to a screeching halt. Does this mean even more bad times for Cricket in the region?

He then considers the economic effects:

Putting Sport aside though, this charge has serious implications for many of his investors around the world and even closer to home, here in the Caribbean. This leads us to wonder who is next? Which financial entity will be next? How many other companies and their heads have been playing around with our hard earned savings? I see a very frightening trend, and now I'm wondering if my money is just safer under my mattress.

The mattress method, incidentally, is something that Trinidad and Tobago blogger This Beach Called Life says he can get on board with.

Over in Bermuda (a territory that may well have to redefine itself in the context of U.S. President Obama's crackdown on offshore tax havens), Vexed Bermoothes calls the fraud charges a potential “death knell for offshore banking in the Caribbean”, adding:

The tax clampdown is one thing, but allegations of large scale fraud will bring an entirely different set of pressures to bear on offshore jurisdictions.

Barbadian bloggers are also eager to weigh in on the debacle. Barbados Free Press compares Stanford to the great American swindler Charles Ponzi, saying:

For the last few weeks, desperate people have been trying to get their money out of Standford’s schemes: lining up every morning near the airport in Antigua without much success. Sir Allen will probably not go to jail. Very few of his wealth do. And you can bet that he and his friends had plenty of warning to sock away twenty or thirty million or more against the day.

I find that after the last six or eight months, I look differently at all the flamboyant high-flyers.

I also look very differently at their friends in governments everywhere who allowed this to happen, and who are so reluctant to hold any of these crooks accountable.

BFP's cynicism - or is it realism? - is echoed by Gallimaufry as she asks:

Is anybody in the Caribbean surprised by this? ‘Cause I’m sure as hell not.

Neither, apparently, is Cheese-on-bread!:

Wuhloss. I always knew there was something shady about Stanford and how he threw his cash around the Caribbean. I hope Suleiman Benn and the other cricketers who became instant millionaires in the recent Twenty-Twenty cricket tournament don't have to give the money back. And you know the Queen's taking back his knighthood…

Meanwhile, Barbados Underground wonders if there are parallels between Stanford and CL Financial:

Following on the news of the CLICO Affair should we conclude that the tumultuous global financial markets maybe starting to unload on the ‘quiet’ region of the Caribbean region?

Unlike the CLICO Affair which has direct implications for several economies across the Caribbean, the Stanford International Bank probe is restricted to the Antigua market. Some BU family members may challenge the fact that the Caribbean maybe tarred with the same brush given the tendency by outside markets to view the Caribbean region as one area.

He continues:

The possible demise of Sir Allen Stanford’s financial empire will have serious implications for the Antigua economy. Peter Wickham may even suggest that it could affect the outcome of the upcoming general election. It may prove an expensive lesson for the Antiguan authorities to be reminded that one should never build a house on sandy ground.

The thumbnail image for this post is by EricGjerde, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit EricGjerde's flickr photostream.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Armenia: Obama and the Genocide

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 8:16am

Onnik Krikorian in Armenia wonders whether U.S. President Barack Obama will fulfill his campaign promise to recognize the 1915 massacre and deportation of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. While many believe that he will, the blog examines the risk in doing so of damaging efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Japan: Hetalia Axis Powers and the limits of parody

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 2:29am

Hetalia (a combination of the words “hetare”, lit. useless, and Italia), a satirical manga created by Hidekaz Himaruya (?????) [HH’s official blog, jp], set mainly during the Second World War and featuring national protagonists of that era, has drawn attention among both domestic and international audiences. Originally born as a webcomic [jp] out of the mind of a Japanese expatriate living in New York, Hetalia was published as a manga in 2008 by Gentosha Comics Inc. and was subsequently made into an animated series [eng. sub.] in January 2009, drawing more than 200.000 views on internet alone.


Hetalia-episode 01[RAW](Japanese only)

The story and the characters

Hetalia: Axis Powers [jp] (complete name) caricatures everyone without exception. Germany, Japan, France, U.K., U.S.A., Poland, Russia, the Baltic countries, Spain, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Poland, China, Korea and, above all, Italy, personified by boyish characters in the style typical of the Japanese manga, are portrayed exaggerating their (stereotypical) features, and are all pilloried with the same level of ironic intensity.

Yorozu Haki (???) suggests that this manga should be seen as a fictional product and as representative of a subcultural movement that, in recent times, has been spreading among the Japanese manga world, one in which many authors have started dealing with political or social themes, within the limitations of the artistic medium:

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????[…]
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The setting is the Second World War, and the alliance between Japan, Italy and Germany. [The manga] is filled with historical information, which makes it of great interest to world history enthusiasts. […]
Some have criticized the manga because of its superficial historical understanding, but it's just fiction after all. On the other hand, today's manga subculture is regaining its voice, and it may be that prejudices are setting in. It is generally true that Japanese people do not voice strong opinions in international social contexts, but it is also true that this fact has been somewhat overemphasized. Also, this kind of social-cultural interest, more and more frequently expressed through elements of subculture [such as manga], is a very modern [phenomenon].
It would be good if the international conflicts were settled as they are depicted in this manga, with its goofy atmosphere, but the problem is that nations are in reality dreadful monsters and they are not something that can be reduced to a single character.

Blogger Roko reflects on how such manga, despite not being meant to act as a historical reference, can nonetheless act as an opportunity to stimulate in the reader a curiosity to learn more about the world:

?????????????????????????????????????????
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
??????????????????????????????????????????

I read the Hetalia people are talking about. The relationship between characters personifying different countries was pretty amusing.
Good-for-nothing Italy that can think about nothing but good food. The Soviet Union, happy to be Germany`s prisoner. Greece, who takes a very long time in everything he does. Cheapskate Austria. The United States, who was so cute when he was little but then grew up to be so arrogant. Forever angry and serious Germany.
The personality of each country is ridiculed without exception. Perhaps all of them in the end are just “good for nothing”, no?

[…]

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????1×2?2?2×2?4???????0????????0????????????????????????

This may be a silly comic but I think it's one way to learn about world history. Because after all, they don`t teach us these kinds of things at school, do they? The number of people who are completely disinterested in the world is increasing nowadays, and this in my opinion is a dangerous [trend].
While it is wrong [for Japanese] to blindly consider foreign countries to be wonderful, it is a much more worse thing to deny [history] without even knowing anything about it.
The more I learn about world history, the more I want to learn about Japanese history. As soon as I learn a new thing I become interested in a world of other things. But if from the start you are not granted the possibility to access that first piece of new information, then that knowledge will not spread.
After all, 1 times 2 makes 2, and 2 times 2 makes 4, but whichever number you multiply by 0, the answer is always 0. Ignorance is a scary and sad thing.

As its title suggests, the most ill-treated country in Hetalia is Italy. Descending from a glorious stock (his grampa is the Roman Empire), Italy seems to have shown signs of weakness since his childhood, being bullied by his European friends. Both in the manga and the anime, Italy is represented as always whining, lazy, keen on catching girls, and a lover of good food. Although many Italian enthusiasts of Japanese anime are looking forward to watching the fansubbed version, some of them questioned the “good taste” of the subjects selected.

In a thread dedicated to Hetalia [it] in Shinforum, a forum of Japanese culture fans, Agarsen, for example, writes:

Dopo aver letto buona parte dei capitoli, posso dire che, sebbene abbia trovato parte del manga divertente, ho trovato anche parte del manga di cattivo gusto; non offensivo, ma di cattivo gusto, proprio per la superficialità con cui certe affermazioni sono proposte al lettore. Se noi prendessimo la cultura giapponese e decidessimo di sbeffeggiarla “per quello che ci sembra” io non credo che i giapponesi ne sarebbero divertiti…

After having read a great portion of the chapters, I can say that although I found the manga very funny on one hand, on the other I also found it of bad taste; not offensive but of bad taste, just for the superficiality of some statements as they are proposed to the reader. If we took the Japanese culture and decided to mock it “for what it looks like”, I don’t think that the Japanese people would be happy with that…

[…]

Ogni cosa può essere fatta sembrare idiota se letta superficialmente.
Il problema è che deve esistere anche una consapevolezza, una lettura più approfondita dei fatti che ti dice “Un momento, va bene riderci sopra, ma nella realtà dei fatti c'è poco da ridere”. Insomma, dovrebbe essere un riso amaro più che uno sbellicarsi. Io già m'immagino certa gente che penserà di capire la storia dopo avere letto Hetalia, esattamente come pensa di conoscere la società guardando la televisione…

Everything can be made to look idiotic if read superficially.
The problem is that there must be some awareness, a more deep reading of the facts that tells you “Wait a moment. Laughing at it is fine but, actually, there is not much to laugh about”. In short, it should be more of a bitter laugh than roaring with laughter.
I can already see some people thinking that they now understand history after having read Hetalia, in the same way that they think they know society just because they watch TV…

Trovo difficile ridere al pensiero di gente che scappa dal fronte o si arrende senza combattere; gente pescata da ogni dove, che voleva solo farsi gli affari propri e vivere tranquilla, mal equipaggiata, mandata a combattere nel deserto… si dovrebbe ridere di questa gente?
Che si ridi di Mussolini e dei fascisti, ma loro..

I find it very difficult to laugh when I think of people escaping from the front or surrendering without fighting; people randomly chosen from everywhere, whose only desire was to care for their own business and live a peaceful life, ill-equipped and sent to fight in the desert… should we laugh at these people?
Let's laugh at Mussolini and the fascists, but at them…

Polemics and protests

As mentioned above, the broadcast of the animated series inspired by the manga was scheduled for the 24th of January on Kids Station (a Japanese TV channel for kids), but it was officially suspended after 16.000 messages of protest arrived from Korean netizens, resulting in the anime being viewable only on the Internet and on mobile phones.


News about Hetalia in South Korea?(English sub.)

That such a controversial subject as WW2, and the way in which countries were mocked and ridiculed, could result in some polemics, is not so surprising in itself. What struck many Japanese bloggers, however, was the fact that Korea, mentioned only in the comic and even there only as a minor character, considered its depiction a national insult, yet one more provocation from arrogant Japan.

In his analysis, Korean blogger no_tenki explains [jp] that the Korean reaction, which may seem extreme to many, is not in fact extreme but rather a consequence of anti-Korean messages constantly spread on the Japanese web, especially in some rightist bulletin boards or websites. These messages are what alarm Koreans living in their homeland as well as those living in Japan:

??????????????[…]???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????…?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Speaking of Hetalia, […] I haven`t read it so I can't evaluate it, but the fact that it has become so popular means that it has been created with good sense.
However, regarding Korea [and how it is depicted in the manga], I do agree with those who say that, more than just being superficial, it is a mockery, and I also wouldn't mind if Korea wasn't depicted at all. As a Korean myself, however, I cannot help but feel concerned.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????…?

The Korean character has been drawn according to the image of Korea as it appears on the Internet. It perfectly reflects the image that Japanese netizens have of Korea. Compared to Nidaa [a character that 2channelers came up with, drawn as ASCII art with the intent to disparage Korea and named after the Korean suffix -mnida], it is good-looking, silly but it doesn`t look malicious. So it is different from Nidaa because it is conceived of as a friendly character.
Or, at least, this is what they would say. However, the basic image of Korea, be it Nidaa or mr. Korea, is the same. They are arranging the anti-Korean sentiment shared among netizens in a different way, but the ingredients are the same (I mean the ideology, because I actually like the drawing).

[…]

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Consequently, [in Korea] Hetalia has the reputation of a rightist anime in which Korea is depicted according to an anti-Korean point of view, and this may turn into a factor worsening the perception of the Japanese among Koreans. This worries me a great deal.
Categories: U.S. News Feed

USA: Native Americans, “Yes we can”

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 7:07pm

Kept invisible for centuries, Native Americans in the United States are increasingly using blogs and online citizen media to promote and preserve their rights and traditional ways of life. With the election of President Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish (Barack Obama’s adopted Crow Tribe name) indigenous peoples see new reasons to be optimistic.

Reznet - Reporting from Native America

One project that gives voice to indigenous worldviews is Reznet, a Native American news, information and entertainment website of the University of Montana School of Journalism that also trains and mentors American Indian college students around the country as they prepare for journalism careers.

Reznet features both articles, blogs, and multimedia. Pointing to modern-day applications of indigenous belief systems, particularly in respect of the Earth, one article says that “a Native owned and operated solar energy company” will be producing clean energy products for the U.S. government.

Another post, in the blog section triBaLOG, explains how popular media misrepresentations of Native peoples in Westerns are being challenged by a new wave of animated films like ‘Stories From the Seventh Fire‘ created by Native Americans directors who tell contemporary and traditional tribal stories more accurately.

Rezkast - A native music sharing and video site

Rezkast is a smaller website, created by the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Technology Center that seeks to spread Native American multimedia messages, as an alternative to YouTube. Many of the videos exchanged here are about activism, culture, language and inspiration.

One video that appears on the site takes the popular song by will.i.am based on the words of an Obama speech, and remixes it to show old and new photographs of Native American lives. The video lists the challenges facing America’s indigenous peoples – such as protecting sacred sites and preserving ancient cultures – and concludes, “Yes we can return to tribal greatness.”

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Global: Appointment of Saudi Arabia's First Female Deputy Minister Makes Waves

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 11:53am

As millions of women the world over marked Valentine’s Day with gifts from their loved ones, one woman - in a country that has banned the holiday and labels it a ‘sin’ - has good reason to never forget February 14, 2009.

Meet Noura Al Fayez, teacher extraordinaire, a product of the US education system, who last Saturday became the first ever woman deputy minister in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Bloggers around the globe were abuzz as soon as the news of Al Fayez broke, with thousands of ‘Twitterers’ microblogging about the new official literally minutes after networks, including Saudi state-run Channel One, reported it on Saturday.

Briton @lizaquincy wrote:

She added in a later tweet:

“For sure it's a giant step for ‘womankind' in Saudi Arabia, but really —- how can it work when women's right are often violated there?”

American @jeffwarrens responded to Liza’s ‘tweet’ by saying:

Another American Twitter user @Jacob1207 said simply:

King Abdullah on Saturday also dismissed the chief of religious police and a cleric, who condoned killing the owners of TV networks that broadcast ‘immoral’ content.
What has been widely reported as “the shake-up”, the king’s first since coming to power in August 2005, included Al Fayez’s appointment as deputy minister for girls’ education – by far the highest government position any Saudi woman has attained.
But as the news of the kingdom’s first ever female minister continued to sink in, global bloggers are fast expressing their concern for Al Fayez.
They are quick to question whether or not she would have any influence in a country, where women still face severe discrimination in many aspects of their lives – including education, employment and the justice system.

Eman Al Nafjan, the woman behind Saudi Woman’s Weblog hailed Al Fayez’s new appointment calling it a leap of progress for her country.

“Today is definitely a happy day. Saudi Arabia has made a leap of progress. King Abdullah surprised everyone yesterday morning with major overhauls to the judicial and educational system. And the biggest bombshell of all was that a woman was appointed as head of girl’s education. This is a position that has always belonged to the longest bearded most conservative muttawa possible and now to have a woman in it is FANTASTIC, notwithstanding the fact that the woman who was chosen is a moderate Muslim, educated and a highly qualified woman. She has extensive experience in girl’s education. I doubt that that they could have found anyone more qualified.”

Eman, who herself is a teacher in Riyadh, also noted that Al Fayez’s photograph in a local newspaper shows her face uncovered.

“Now there’s a lot of buzz that of course she wouldn’t be this progressive unless she was a non-tribal woman, probably originating from Jordan or Palestine and she definitely is divorced because no “real” Saudi in his right mind would allow his wife to appear publicly with her face uncovered. I am very proud to say that actually she belongs to one of the biggest tribes in Saudi, Bani Tameem from Al Nawayser part of it and she is from Al Washim here in Najd. Her husband very much supports her and is proud of her.”

Blogger, Rasha, who is also from Saudi Arabia, expressed her hope on MidEastYouth.com that this would be a turning point for her country.

“King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia surprised the nation with a shakeup that is considered the biggest change that happened in this country in 20 years.

“Noura Al-Fayez, an official at the Saudi Institute for Public Administration, was elevated to the new post of deputy minister of women’s education; the first time a woman has been appointed a deputy minister in the history of this country. Al-Fayez’s appointment appeared to be the king’s response to increased lobbying from women’s rights groups against discrimination.
“Other changes have been done in several ministries and hopefully this will be a turning point for this country. However, actual changes do not happen overnight. yet this is a step in the right direction I believe and I hope to see the fruits of all positive changes in my lifetime ..”

Reme Ahmad, whose blog OpEd took a break from Malaysian politics to write about Al Fayez in his post Saudi Appoints First Woman Minister.

“Alright, so she is a DEPUTY Minister. OK lah. Better than nothing. I wonder whether the Saudis would soon allow women to drive…

“As for women ministers, in other Muslim countries, I am glad to say this is a non-issue. We had two Battling Begums in Bangladesh, both of whom were prime ministers. One of them is now back as PM, fighting off the other. In Pakistan, Benazir (Bhutto) is still a top name despite her demise a year ago. In Southeast Asia, we have ministers-in-bujakurongs (different from bananas-in-pajamas) in Indonesia and Malaysia for a long time.

“Still, hurray for Saudi Arabia, the country that guards the two holy mosques.”

American Merv Benson, author of Prairie Pundit, believes the shake-up was necessary.

“(Sheik Ibrahim al-Ghaith, former head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) and his thugs were a continuing source of embarrassment to the Saudis. They arrested a business woman for having coffee at a Starbucks with a business associate. In another case they arrested an immigrant who was assisting a sickly neighbor.

“Perhaps their most heinous act led to the death of girl students who were not allowed to escape a fire in a dormitory because they did not have escorts or “proper” attire.

“This appears to be a wise move by the Saudi King.”

The Cylinder noted that King Abdullah’s shake-up represented “tiny baby steps”.

“Saudi Arabia has appointed the kingdom’s first woman minister in a cabinet reshuffle that also saw the dismissal of four ministers and heads of the powerful religious police and judicial bodies. King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz appointed Noura Al Faiz as deputy minister for women’s education, in a move considered a milestone in Saudi Arabia.

“Really tiny baby steps … and such a long way to go!”

Sabha999 wrote on Religion Compass that the world is definitely going to keep a close eye on women’s rights following the latest appointment of Al Fayez.

“While the religious police were busy with detaining salesmen for selling Valentine gifts, King Abdullah removed the chief of the religious police on the banned holiday.

“Educational changes too are expected, with the appointment of Al Fayez, the first woman ever to serve on the Saudi cabinet, as deputy for girl’s education. All of this is believed to shake up the religious establishment.”

It is a known fact that it is against the law to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia. Each year, religious police make their rounds to make sure that no one marks the banned holiday.
Officers randomly check stores for gifts and other items that are red or suggest the holiday and have them removed from shelves. Each year, a number of sales personnel are detained for days for breaking the said law.
Valentine's Day, banned because of its origins as a celebration of the 3rd century Christian martyr, is also targeted because unmarried men and women cannot be alone together.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Taiwan: Sovereignty on trial

Sun, 02/15/2009 - 11:30pm

A recent case heard in the US Court of Appeals is based on the claim the US is the legal occupying power of Taiwan. Michael Turton dismissed the case as “a crank lawsuit”. Taiwan Echo believes the case is important. Also on the topic of sovereignty, Talk Taiwan discusses a recent Liberty Times opinion piece and says the ROC should leave Taiwan.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

USA: Marrying for Love and Country

Sat, 02/14/2009 - 10:13am

Whether for love or for visa, deciding whether to marry is never an easy thing. In the United States, where more than 12 million people live as “undocumented” immigrants, falling in love and getting married to an American is one way legal status can be resolved.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security 1,052,415 people obtained “legal status” in the United States in 2007. Of these, 274,358 people obtained it by marrying U.S. citizens.

On the website of anti-immigration advocacy group Center for Immigration Studies, David Seminara questions how many of these thousands of marriages were really for love, and highlights examples of mail-order brides, arranged marriages, and money exchanging hands.

Plenty of immigrant bloggers discuss their own thoughts on marriage and documents in the United States.

Marriage of inconvenience

El Random Hero in California writes that as an undocumented migrant, friends and family have suggested marriage to him as an option, but that he finds the idea too far-fetched:

“It's one of the hardest things to do for me personally really. Being of illegal status in this country I feel that this is a burden I should carry alone. Of course countless friends have joked and suggested that I get married to an American girl and get my papers. 9-11 changed the world forever and its affects are still being felt in waves. Getting married is no longer a viable option because immigration has seriously started preventing and prosecuting individuals involved with green card marriages. Then there are the moral ramifications of spitting on the sacred act that is marriage so I'm left at a cross road.”

In another blog, Damn Mexicans, the blogger discusses a newspaper article about Julia and Gustavo, two siblings who came to the United States at age 11 and 18. Gustavo married an American citizen, but Julia remains undocumented as she works her way through college.

“…too many people think it's as easy as marrying an American citizen. Julia is 18 and has never had a boyfriend. Think back and try to remember who you were dating at the age of 18. Think if you married that person. shudders. For most of us, it's a scary thought. 18 is too young to get married and Gustavo being married at the age of 21 was too young as well but forced into it by his situation.”

“Till death do us part”

According to the organization, Surviving Spouses Against Deportation, some people are threatened with deportation when their “legal” husband or wife dies.

“Because of a flaw in the law, legal spouses of American citizens face automatic denial and threat of deportation when their spouses die during lengthy bureaucratic green card processing. There are over one hundred eighty of these cases across the country affecting women, mothers and children.”

Blogger My life as an Alien discusses one case.

“Dahianna Heard, the widow of Jeffrey Heard, killed in March 2006 when the Army soldier was shot in the head by insurgents while delivering equipment to U.S. troops in Iraq. Dahianna Heard, a citizen of Venezuela who lives in Florida, now could be deported even though she and her husband had applied for her residency permit and were awaiting completion of the paperwork. They also had a son who is a U.S. citizen but faces an uncertain future if his mother is deported.”

The blogger writes that she has gone through all the “hurdles” to gain citizenship but can understand how the spouses must feel.

“It is hard to move to a new country, it is a big adjustment. And after you make this new place a home, the old country is not home anymore. I can’t imagine losing my husband and then my home.”

Broken dreams, strong hearts

Amy is a U.S. citizen living in Chicago, Illinois while her husband Carlos, once an undocumented migrant, is now living in Monterrey, Mexico. Amy writes in their shared blog, Destinazione Paradiso that because Carlos migrated from Mexico to the United States “illegally” as a teenager, he faces legal problems that even a marriage can't fix.

“You see, contrary to popular belief (blog post on THAT coming soon), people brought into the US illegally can't simply fix their status by returning to their home countries and asking for a visa. Nor can they fix it automatically by marrying a US citizen. And while generally, crimes committed as a minor are viewed differently than those committed as an adult, in the immigration world, age doesn't matter: you can be held to the same penalties whether you entered illegally at age 8 or 58.
Carlos' immigration story just happens to cross not one, but TWO grey areas of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996. It happens that while the law forgot to specifically address minors in certain areas of the Act, the US consulate in Mexico has recently decided to apply its own rules and treat minors identically to adults.”

In October 2008, Carlos was given the verdict that he could no longer legally enter the United States. His wife Amy wrote:

“Well, sadly, our year-long immigration adventure has experienced a violent and devastating collision with the reality of immigration law. After nearly 11 months, two humiliating Mexican jobs, thousands of dollars, 9 international flights, endless hopes and dreams, and tons of prayers, we are left empty-handed. As things stand right now, Carlos is banned from entering the US for life, and there is no opportunity for a waiver. This was always a possibility, sort of the worst-case scenario, but this is now our only scenario.”

Nevertheless, Amy writes that the fight continues.

Photo of wedding ring above is shared under Creative Commons license by Pictr30D on flickr.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Azerbaijan: GONGOs

Sat, 02/14/2009 - 9:50am

Blogs dealing with democracy across the globe continue to discuss last week's controversial visit to Azerbaijan by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. Democracy Digest is the latest and says that the embarrassing event at least exposed the existence of government-organized NGOs (GONGOs) in authoritarian countries. The blog also says that there are suggestions that some of Plouffe's $50,000 speaker's fee should be donated to the families of imprisoned journalists in the country.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Mexico: Cartel Violence Affecting Phoenix

Fri, 02/13/2009 - 3:28pm

The drug cartel violence in Mexico is affecting the city of Phoenix, Arizona, which is now the world city with the second most kidnappings. Latina Lista writes that the US government should move to address the situation in Mexico.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Bermuda: Economic Plan?

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 10:10am

“It’s two weeks to go until Bermuda budget day”: Vexed Bermoothes wants to know what the plan is.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Haiti, U.S.A.: She's My Daughter

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 10:04am

“Does our obvious bond seem fake? How could she be anyone other than my daughter?”: Designer Mama relates an unsettling incident at the Canadian border as agents question the legitimacy of her adoption of a little girl from Haiti.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Trinidad & Tobago: Transitioning

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 9:57am

“We have created a rich and wonderful culture that is unique to Trinidad and Tobago…but sometimes I wonder if we are just waiting for the bottom to drop out”: Trin ruminates on education, crime and government policy in the wider context of international politics.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Barbados: Supporting Rihanna

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 9:34am

Living in Barbados says that Rihanna's assault “is deeply felt here as a personal beating up on many individuals”, while Cheese-on-Bread! learns that “Rihanna is back home to recover from the trauma of the past few days.”

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Russia: The Washington Post Coverage

Wed, 02/11/2009 - 4:07pm

The Ivanov Report reviews and critiques the coverage that Russia received from the Washington Post in January.

Categories: U.S. News Feed

Syria: Obama ends Embargo

Wed, 02/11/2009 - 12:54pm


News from Syria
announces that US President Barack Obama has lifted an embargo on Syrianair, enabling the airline to purchase parts for two of its jumbo jets, which have been grounded for years. “And it seems this is just the start of the new era between Syria and America, with a whole range of sanctions being lifted,” writes Saroujah.

Categories: U.S. News Feed