Archive for February, 2010

Porque te vas…

February 21, 2010

For my Spanish Cinema course, I watched the film Cría Cuervos by Carlos Saura (1976). Although the film is rather sinister, one of the songs that was played throughout the film really grabbed my attention: Por que te vas by Jeanette.

Por que te vasJeanette (Janette Anne Dimech) was born in London in 1951, then lived in the United States in both Chicago and California. At age 12 her parents divorced and she went with her mother, a native of Spain, to live in Barcelona. At first she only spoke English, but she quickly learned Spanish and began her musical career. She styled her music around American folk but continued to sing in Spanish.

Some of her other famous songs include: Soy rebelde, El muchacho de los ojos tristes, Estoy triste, Corazón de Poeta, Frente a frente and Un día es un día. Something about her voice, in my opinion, has a timeless quality to it. Check it out below:


What Killed King Tut?

February 19, 2010

Scientists in Egypt have spent the last two years examining the remains of the 19 year old King Tut, who died in mid-January, 1343 B.C. King Tut’s worldwide recognition is due to the discovery of his tomb in almost perfect condition — the most complete ancient Egyptian royal tomb ever found. But what has scientists most interested recently is what caused his premature death.

Recent DNA evidence has supported the theory that the King could have had Kohler disease II, as well as a club foot and a curvature of the spine. This would explain the amount of walking sticks and staves that were found in his tomb. Before his death, there is also evidence that he sustained a broken leg which did not heal right, leaving it susceptible to infection. But the ultimate thing that DNA is theorizing could have been a determining factor to King Tut’s death is Malaria. Scientists found traces of the malaria parasite in the pharaoh’s blood – the oldest mummified genetic proof for malaria in ancient populations that we have.

Yet many scientists are skeptical of this theory. Dr Bob Connolly, a senior lecturer in physical anthropology at Liverpool University believes: “Just because he had the parasite in his blood does not necessarily mean he suffered from malaria or died from it. It may not have caused him any trouble. I still think he died from a fall from his chariot. His chest cavity was also caved in and he had broken ribs.”

A stela discovered at Karnak and dedicated to Amun-Re and Tutankhamun indicates that the king could be appealed to by those in a deified state for forgiveness. King Tut is also know for his rejection of the radical religious innovations introduced by his predecessor and father, Akhenaten.
Dignitaries ring the entrance to King Tutankhamun’s tomb during a visit in 1922 by the Egyptian sultana.

Attack on Human Rights Defenders in Columbia

February 18, 2010

In Colombia, right-wing militias are targeting human rights workers that impede on their ability to maintain power and fear over the people of Columbia. These right-wing militias date back to the late 1960’s, when the Colombian government enacted legislation allowing the military to arm civilians as a form to fight guerrilla warfare. The Colombian government claims to have demobilized these ‘privatized armies’, yet it seems they have only taken on a new form, which the government more or less tolerates.

This new paramilitary is responsible for massacres, targeted killings, rapes, and threats to anyone that gets in their way, including human rights defenders, trade unionists, and community leaders.

Basic human rights standards need to be met in Columbia by dismantling these paramilitary groups. Check out the video below to see how three men are being affected by the lack of effort from the government to crack down.

French Wine Scandel Could Be Good for China

February 17, 2010

A massive scam has been uncovered in the French Wine Industry; a dozen French winemakers and traders have been found guilty of trying to sell 18 million bottles of fake Pinot Noir to a leading US buyer. In court, the judge sentenced the group for damaging the reputation and credibility of wine from the Langedoc region. The scammers were caught by French Customs officers who recognized that the amount of Pinot Noire being sold was far from what the region could produce.

One country that this news could be good for is China. As of now, China is the 4th largest producer and most of the wine growing is done by the government. Experts predict that in the next 50 years, China is going to become the world’s largest wine producer. Somehow I am not surprised by this news!

From “Born into Brothels” to NYU

February 17, 2010

Months ago, I came across the documentary Born into Brothels by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, that followed the lives of eight children born to sex workers in the red light district of Calcutta, India. Zana Briski, a New York photographer, started a program during the documentary called Children with Cameras, that allowed the children the opportunity to use photography as a way see the world in a new light.

At the film’s end, one of the boys, Avijit Halder, had truly developed a gift for photography and seemed set, with help of Kids with Cameras and his own talent, to be able to get out of the brothel. Today, I came across an article about Avijit Halder, now age 20, and found out that with financial help from Kids with Cameras and a grant from NYU he is now pursuing his degree at the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television.

In Avijit’s own words: “Born into Brothels changed my life. In 2005, I watched the film for the first time, after it had won the Oscar. And it was the most memorable day of my life. It was for the first time I realised that I had a voice and people want to know about my life story.”

Check out his latest work in film below:

I also found a website where you can buy postcards and artwork taken by the kids to support their education and to help more kids like them get the chance to see life outside the brothels of Calcutta! Check out the link:

The American University in Cairo

February 15, 2010

Recently, with the end of my studies in sight, I have been looking into new ways to see more of the world and go abroad to countries I have never visited before. I got an email through my school about the Presidential Internship Program at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and thought it looked amazing. The opportunity to be in Egypt, learn Arabic and be able to work all at once seemed too good to be true! This aroused my interest and inspired me to do more research about the actual university and see what the school was all about.

Other than the campus being absolutely breathtaking, the mixture of cultures within the student population is something I admire. Founded in 1919, AUC was the first English-language university in Egypt to promote the ideals of American liberal arts, professional education and life-long learning. AUC wanted to cultivate in students an appreciation of their own culture and heritage and their responsibilities toward society while at the same time sharing this culture with a small percentage of international students.

According to AUC’s website, 17 percent of the student body is coming from 70 different countries. Cairo, which has been historically described as the center of Middle Eastern culture, could be the location of my next international adventure!

AUC’s downtown campus in Cairo

New Campus in New Cairo

Valentine’s Day Around the World

February 14, 2010

All the hype of Valentine’s Day in New York made me wonder… how do other countries around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day?

In Japan and South Korea, Valentine’s Day has become a time where women give chocolates, known as giri-choco, to all of their co-workers on 14 February.
Also in Japan and South Korea, primarily women give presents to the men on February 14th. One month later, on March 14th known as White Day, the chosen men are supposed to acknowledge their feelings for the woman who gave them a present a month earlier by giving them a present.

In Japan, the man gives the women the gift she gave to him back and in South Korea the men give white chocolate or marshmallows, hence the name White Day.

In South Korea one month after White Day, there is Black Day for all the unfortunate men who did not receive a gift on Valentine’s Day. They come together and eat jajangmyun, a Chinese-style black noodle dish. If they aren’t sad about not having a Valentine, they might be sad about having to eat this dish. Doesn’t look too appealing!

Check out more traditions for Valentine’s Day around the world at

Buy Some Flowers and Support Kenya!

February 14, 2010

In Kenya, the rose business usually brings in a lot of money from December to March, incorporating Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. But this year, with the financial crises and the erratic weather conditions, the industry is struggling. Jane Ngige of the Kenya Flower Council said, “when winters are heavy people don’t go out shopping for flowers”. Or maybe this year consumers have a case of the Valentine’s Day Blues.

The European Union is the main market for Kenyan flower growers, which takes 65% of the produce grown, followed by Japan and the east European market. 40,000 people are employed by the flower industry in Kenya, and the drop in sales is causing a sense of anxiety for workers.

“Labour has been scaled down but we are hoping things will improve,” Jane Ngige says.

“We try to keep workers with us as long as possible,” she adds.

Buy some flowers and support Kenya!

Saudi Call to Boycott Male Staffed Lingerie Stores

February 13, 2010

Saudi Arabia is known for following a Wahhabi form of Islam, an interpretation of Islam that is particularly opressive to women’s rights. There is complete separation of the sexes who are not related, and physical contact between men and women is prohibited. This makes it nearly impossible for women to not only shop for undergarments but to be measured for them, being that most of the staff hired to work in shops are men.

Reem Asad, an economics teacher from Jeddah, is pushing through her facebook page a 2-week boycott of male staffed lingerie shops. Protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia, therefore facebook was her only option.

The Religious police of Saudi Arabia said that they were not against the idea of women working in the lingerie stores, as long as the shop was located in women-only malls.

Hopefully lots of women will hold out lingerie shopping for 2-weeks to support the cause!
“I just hope that many respond and boycott.” -Reem Asad
Saudi woman shopping for lingerie.
Male worker at Lingerie store in Jeddah.

Somalia in Conflict

February 13, 2010

Somalia has been the center of ongoing violence for over 20 years, with government troops fighting against the Islamist group al-Shabab. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Somalia has been a safe haven for terrorists due to its weakened state. Since 1991, Somalia has lacked a stable central government due to military coups, warlords, and divisions within the state.

This week, civilians have been fleeing the capital Mogadishu because of the fighting. Spokeswomen for the UN Melissa Fleming stated: “We are stepping up our preparedness to intervene and deliver emergency relief to the affected population as soon as the security situation permits.”

Somalia is viewed as a failed state and the only hope the country has for a chance at stability is through building infrastructure. Yet will cells of Al-Qaeda and decentralized jihadis flurishing under lack of governmental security, it will be an uphill battle to pull resources away from fighting terrorists to building a government.

“Unfortunately, they have had to spend time and resources trying to stop the violent attacks by extremists who oppose all their attempts to bring normality back to the country.” -Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah
al-Shabab in Mogadishu
Insurgents in Mogadishu Pro-government Somali militiamen in the capital Mogadishu
Refugees flee to Yemen
Somalian refugees