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While it seems that the Haitians elections have turned out to be the kind of mess many commentators were expecting it would become, we would like to turn our attention to what is going on with WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange.

Suddenly he is becoming the most wanted man on the planet. Sarah Palin deems him a terrorist while the international police organization, Interpol, has placed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on its “most wanted” list at the request of Sweden, which wants to question him about sex crime accusations.

The media are in a frenzy about the potential for the leaks to provide succulent material for publication for months if not years to come, but Governments are not so happy about it.

The Guardian is one of the 5 news outlets that has received the leaks directly and has an extensive section about it.

It seems that the next target of Mr. Assange’s group will be that business and banking world. Which will get him less detractors, we believe. Today’s resistance towards the leaks has a lot to do with how we have all been raised to believe that “our” governments have the right to lie to us, to each other and get away with it; with the fact that there is a degree of untouchability that should not be questioned, because the governments have the monopoly over secrecy and so forth. It will not be the same for banks and big business, not after 2008.

But in the meantime both the man behind the publication of the leaks and the organization are moving targets and may not be able to get to continue walking the walk. An enormous amount of hackers have attacked the organization servers and cables. An Hacktivist claims he is doing it for patriotism… Sweden wants the man for alledged sexual harassment…

In the meantime a collaborator of Assange has created a new leak site. We believe this is a very positive development as the monopoly of information distribution is bad when it’s in the hands of a Berlusconi or a Murdoch, but also if it is only Mr. Assange who decides when and how to leak.

Poor Haiti. Poverty, political violence, earthquakes, cholera, flooding—the deck is really stacked against this small republic. After the earthquake last January, Haiti has been in the news and at the front of people’s minds. With the Haitian elections yesterday, we decided to give a cultural digestif, of sorts, to ourselves and our readers to soften the blow of the ensuing chaos.

The modern formal history of Haitian art is fairly short. It began in 1943, when DeWitt Peters moved to Haiti from America to teach English. In addition to being an English teacher, he had a passion for painting, particularly watercolors, and was surprised that there was no place for art exhibits or any art galleries. Seeing the poverty of the people and the lack of opportunity, he had a vision to offer a place where talented, local Haitians could further develop these natural talents and at the same time provide a respectable alternative way to make a living besides manual labor.

It only took a year for him to start bringing his dream to fruition. He convinced the Haitian government to donate a local building to his cause. He opened Le Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince, which served as both an art school and an art gallery. It did not take much searching to find local talent. Particularly, Peters focused on local primitive art, in which he saw huge potential. Talented artists, or potential artists, arose from everywhere: Voodoo priests, taxi drivers, factory workers, and even the art school’s yard boy.

After only three years, in 1947, it was time take the art to the world, and this was done in a large way (literally) by painting murals on the sides of buildings. These murals attracted world wide attention, and slowly the demand for Haitian art began to grow. Many early Haitian painters have become internationally known because of the attention these murals attracted.

In spite of all of the resulting chaos, the art—brilliant colors, lush landscapes, fantastical imagery—still pours out of Haiti. “Saving Grace, a celebration of Haitian Art” has just closed at the Affirmation Arts Gallery (www.affirmationart.com) on 37th Street, NYC.  This riotous collection of papier-mâché animals heads, fabulous oils on canvas, and large sculptures flood the room with light, color, and power. Yes, power.

So feel sad for all that Haiti is going through. Know that they need help, and help them any way you want. But do not classify the Haitians only as vicitims. Look at this artwork. Only a strong culture can create work like this. I for my part am going to buy a painting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Artists featured in above slideshow:
Just Rice #13, Rejin Leys
The Pot on the Fire, Jacques Enguerrand Gourgue
Rara, Wilson, Bigaud
Etoile d’Haiti, Préfète Duffaut (2 shots)
Lévé Kanzo Ritual, Gérard Valcin
Flying Kites, Gesner Armand

Posted by Rochelle and Kristina

Who are you looking to?

On 28 November, 2010 Haitians will take to the polling stations to elect a new president. The importance of the elections may be best understood through the $10 billion dollars in foreign donations that have flooded into Haiti’s coffers for post-quake recovery, not a paltry sum for a country that is considered to be the poorest country in the hemisphere characterized by towering rates of illiteracy, high infant mortality and low life expectancy. The newly elected president will have a large say in how this money is spent in the coming years and the opportunity, say some, to chart a new and more prosperous path for a country that has suffered from both physical and perceptual poverty for much of its recorded history.

In the lead-up to the election and in the context of the ravenous earthquake that shook Haiti in January in which an estimated 230,000 lives were lost and a further million were left homeless, international media attention focused on Wyclef Jean as a potential Presidential candidate. Jean, 40, a hip-hop star born in Haiti had nevertheless spent the past thirty-one years in New York and New Jersey, gaining fame as a frontman for the hip-hop group, The Fugees. In announcing his candidacy, Jean proclaimed “I am being drafted to serve my country” with the Guardian newspaper stating that Jean’s bid had “galvanized the Haitian political scene” and served as a “symbol of home-grown hope” for ordinary Haitians.

While the countries electoral council eventually rejected Jean’s candidacy on the grounds that he failed to meet residency requirements a more practical consideration would be to question what qualifications the hip-hop star brought to a nation reeling from the massive loss of human life, the further degradation of the nations infrastructure and the continuing systematic failure of its institutions to provide a decent standard of living for its citizens. In this light, the international media’s focus and seeming endorsement of Jean for Presidential candidate is best understood as a misguided belief that only outsiders can lead Haiti towards the salvation it so desperately requires.

However, when Haitians go to the polling station on 28 November, 2010, they will take with them over 300 years of direct foreign interference in the political and economic affairs of their country. This includes periods of colonization by the French and Spanish in which the population was enslaved in order to serve foreign economic interests and a period of American occupation and the subsequent American role in reestablishing the Haitian military which resulted in the considerable suffering of the population and the deposing of a number of democratically elected presidents including President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This election is therefore about more than a way forward for a country still coming to terms with the destruction that the January earthquake wrought. It is also about attempting to reclaim the dignity and potential of a nation that can still claim its place in history as the world’s first black republic and not simply a test case for a foreign hip-hop star looking for a new and salient challenge.

My Media, not yours!

How has media shaped our notion or perception of the events unfolding in the Middle East?  According to Tony Karon, the answer is plenty and not in a good way.  As a reporter for the Times and who currently teaches a course on the media and the Middle East for the Graduate Program at the New School University, Tony brings up how that media in general have not been asking the tough questions.  The media have in many ways brought into the rationale argued by former President George W. Bush’s administration. The main argument here is what next?  What will happen if the U.S. and allies didn’t invade or attack Iraq now instead of waiting for diplomacy?

While this point of go in first and ask questions later was debated much more in-depth after the war began and especially after no weapons of mass destructions was found, it seems to be déjà vu all over again.  Only this time the focus is now on Iran. While Tony credits the media would asking more tough questions than last time, the same problem is still occurring with the reporting.   It is following the assumption of the ticking clock; if we don’t act now, when will the fireworks go off?

This ticking clock references is  important in this discussion.  The same thing that gives media its influences and power also creates the problem in the first place.  Because of the 24/7 news cycle where images are constantly replayed over and over again, the debate becomes one-sided.  Therefore this sort of environment won’t allow for any form of discussion.  Yes, the recycling allows for the news to be more accessible to a general public that has limited time and often even more limited attention span.  But the end result however in this instance could be the loss of nuance in a story and hence some of the more important points in it.  The public will believe what all the news is telling them.

Illustrating potential conflicts of interest in news media has been the controversy surrounding New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner.  As the Jerusalem bureau chief for the newspaper, he has tremendous influence in what makes it to print on the reporting of Israel and Palestine. The problem here is that his son is serving in the Israelis military.  Since he has obvious personal stake in the outcome, will this affect his reporting?   With Bronner having been embedded with the Israelis army, should the question all alone: what he ever impartial to begin with?

In an ideal world, news would be delivered in a vanilla favor, straight down the line without any sort of bias in either direction.  But as we can see, this is not the case.  Yet, this also presents a learning opportunity.  The value in partisan broadcast allows views from all political stripes, economic or social backgrounds to see and hear different points of view.  In the end this is not an entirely bad thing.

 

photo supplement

As an accompaniment to the video shot by Colin at the Rally to restore Sanity in Washington D.C., I took some photos of the people interviewed in the piece. It was crowded but overall there was a positive vibe.  People wanted to show the other side of the coin in the political spectrum.

On October 30, 2010 I traveled to Washington DC  with my camcorder to observe John Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity. It was too crowded to see much of the show, but I got to chat with a few interesting people about comedy, politics, religion and the media.

save who?

The Save Darfur Campaigns began as a grassroots movement to bring about awareness to the conflict in Sudan.  With over a hundred of religious based groups, human rights organizations and individuals joining in on the movement, the campaign has succeeded in defining the narrative.  Since adding celebrities to their cause, it has pushed it into the mainstream consciousness and discourse.  We chose to interview a few students to find out how much they know about the issues surrounding Sudan.

We showed a series of photos and ask if they could identify each person in the picture. The people in the picture were George Clooney, Don Cheadle, basketball player Tracy McGrady, Mia Farrow, John Pendergrass of Darfur Now and Omar Al Bashir, president of Sudan.

We also ask a few questions:

What do they know about Darfur?

Who sang the song “Waka Waka” at the opening of the World Cup:

Which Hollywood celebrity has twice had the chance to brief President Obama on the situation in Darfur

Which Hollywood celebrity threatened to go a hunger strike until the US government intervenes in Darfur

Who is the President of Sudan?

Check out the results for yourselves!

Videos by Alessandro, Kwok and Rochelle.

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