Middle East Eye
28 October 2014
20 October 2014
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported: "In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above its weight."
While the world stood accused of "dragging its feet" following the onset of the epidemic, the Post noted, the diminutive island had "emerged as a crucial provider of medical expertise in the West African nations hit by Ebola".
One hundred and sixty five health care professionals had already been dispatched to Sierra Leone - the largest team thus far sent by a foreign nation - and nearly 300 additional doctors and nurses were being trained for deployment to Liberia and Guinea.
Cuba's response to the Ebola crisis is in keeping with its tradition of accruing international brownie points via contributions to global health. Back in 2009, the New York Times mentioned that, over the past 50 years, Cuba had "sent more than 185,000 health professionals on medical missions to at least 103 countries".
Obviously, this has created many opportunities for pointed comparisons between the Cuban system and that of its imperial neighbour to the north, which prefers a destruction-based foreign policy. A female Cuban doctor based in Venezuela once commented to me on the discrepancy: "We also fight in war zones, but to save lives." READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.
04 October 2014
This summer, various Madrid residents met their demise in a rather unusual fashion: They were killed when rotten tree branches fell on top of them.
In June, a 38-year-old man was wiped out while visiting Retiro park with his two young children. A 72-year-old man was the victim of a falling branch in September. As Spain's English-language publication The Localnotes, the period in between these two incidents played host to "20 other tree-related accidents that have injured Madrid residents in central city streets - including a seven-year-old girl … and [have] smashed cars, terraces and other property".
The article mentions that Madrid's right-wing mayor Ana Botella had come under fire from opponents "for slashing public spending on street and park maintenance", although the fatalities have prompted a different kind of cuts: Botella has now dispatched "a team of specialists and foresters to chop down 'suspicious' trees in Madrid's emblematic [Retiro] park".
Of course, tree branches are far from the only existential hazard facing the inhabitants of austerity-afflicted Spain. Pervasive public spending cuts have spelt acute insecurity for the non-elite - a typical byproduct of the process of securing countries for foreign capital. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.
21 September 2014
While being interviewed on Spanish radio last month, Francisco Javier Leon de la Riva - the mayor of Valladolid, northwest Spain's largest city - announced that he was wary of getting into elevators with women because you never know when they might "tear off their bras or skirts" and then run out of the elevator claiming sexual assault.
In response, Twitter exploded with creativity (see, for example, memes featuring images of women in elevators and the words "Waiting for the mayor of Valladolid"), and Leon de la Riva protested that his statement had been taken "out of context". One is hard-pressed, of course, to think of a context in which such an utterance would not be terribly inappropriate.
As it turned out, the "context" was just as absurdly offensive, and had to do with a list of guidelines for females that had just been issued by the Spanish interior ministry. The subject? How to avoid being raped.
The document reads a bit more like a list of instructions for creating a nation of paranoid recluses. Suggestions include acquiring a whistle, "leav[ing] the lights in two or more rooms on [at night] to make it look like two or more people are at home", and conducting a thorough inspection of the interior of the car before getting in: "An intruder might be crouching in the back." READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.
03 September 2014
A recent Forbes article poses the question-and-answer: "Think The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Stupid? You're Wrong".
The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the modern era's greater marketing coups: a social media-based campaign to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease. The premise is that you either donate money to ALS charities or have a bucket of ice water dumped over your head; some people do both. The dumping is filmed and videos are posted on the internet, while their soaked protagonists nominate others to accept the challenge.
The operation has been celebrity-heavy, drenching the likes of US business magnate Bill Gates and Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima. According to Forbes, the Ice Bucket Challenge "is awesome" and criticisms of it are unfounded, because what ultimately matters is the monetary accumulation (over $100mwas donated in 30 days).
The article concludes that "the people trying to throw cold water on the Ice Bucket Challenge "simply need to warm the icy cockles of their own hearts" - although the predicate of the sentence has been crossed out and replaced with the tamer suggestion that critics "should stop".
An examination of various aspects of the campaign, however, reveals it doesn't exactly merit cockle-warming. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.
30 August 2014
In September 1976, ten high school students were kidnapped in the city of La Plata, Argentina, in an operation coordinated by Argentine police and military intelligence. All were between the ages of 16 and 18.
Secretly imprisoned in abominable conditions, the ten were subjected to torture and abuse. Four were eventually released - following years of torment - while the other six make up but a small fraction of the estimated 30,000 persons disappeared during the Argentine military junta's so-called "Dirty War" of 1976-1983.
What, pray tell, were the magnificent crimes that merited such punishment? It's quite simple: The leftist inclinations of these ten individuals made them a clear threat to the public order. Transgressions included agitating for reduced bus fare for students.
The apocalyptic threat was hardly confined to La Plata.Operation Condor - a collaborative effort of right-wing dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay to combat the communist menace allegedly imperilling the hemisphere - lasted from the 1970s until the early 1980s and dispensed with some 80,000 people .
27 August 2014
In a scene near the beginning of David Burr Gerard’s acclaimed debut novel Short Century, journalist Arthur Hunt attends the assassination-by-drone-strike of "Little Brother," a dictator in a Muslim-African country referred to only as REDACTED. A 1960s leftist-turned-warmongering scribe, Hunt is invited to press the "kill" button by Sheila, a CIA source who has just given him an erection.
“The very model of the modern moral warrior, every inch of her," he recounts. "I imagined lifting her up on to her control panel, spreading her legs, and pushing her clit into the button before impaling her on the joystick, all while I readied my sleepy dick.”
The obliteration of Little Brother ends up taking out a burqa-clad civilian, but Hunt gives the collateral damage a feminist spin, congratulating himself for freeing other, still-breathing women in burqas from the grasp of tyranny. His support for imperial bloodletting doesn’t simply emerge from the humanitarian depths of his soul, however: he’s seeking atonement for a past incestuous relationship with his sister.
It may be a novel, but it's more than just fiction. READ MORE AT VICE.
20 August 2014
10 August 2014
When my friend and I used to hitchhike around Mexico some years ago, truck drivers would occasionally ask to see our passports to verify that we were not Latin Americans trying to smuggle ourselves into the United States. Aside from improvised passport control, obstacles to travel were quite minimal, and the worst thing that ever happened was that I was once trampled by a small bull after drinking too much tequila and deciding to participate in a village bullfight.
Obviously, things aren’t so easy for a lot of folks transiting Mexico. Earlier this year, Amnesty International reported that as many as 20,000 Central American migrants are abducted in the country annually while en route to the U.S. border, often riding atop trains. As many as six out of 10 migrant women are raped.
Crossing the desert into the U.S. on foot, an untold number of migrants perish from dehydration and exposure to the elements. Additional hazards occur in the form of right-wing vigilante groups that have taken it upon themselves to augment the anti-immigrant services offered by the Homeland Security Department. READ MORE AT ALTERNET.