The World’s Richest Man is from Mexico City

March 12, 2010

Carlos Slim was born in Mexico City to a Lebanese immigrant father and a Mexican mother. Carlos was the youngest of 6 children, and early on discovered his talent for making money. By the age of 26 he had already accumulated $40 million.

What is his secret to developing wealth? A focus in the telecommunications industry and investing in the stock market. Recently, Slim’s net worth reached $53.5 billion, surpassing that of Bill Gates, causing Forbes magazine to appoint him as the richest man in the world. This may surprise many who would not assume that given Mexico’s poverty, someone could make so much money.

World Bank data reported that in Mexico an average of around 50% of the population is living in poverty. This leaves many skeptics feeling that Slim has not donated enough of his wealth back into Mexican society. Yet recently he linked up with former US President Bill Clinton and Canadian mining figure Frank Giustra to launch an anti-poverty campaign in Latin America, and in March pledged $6bn for his three charitable foundations.

It seems that Carlos Slim is more invested in learning how to help others make money rather than donating. As he said in a recent interview: “It’s based on my conviction that poverty is not fought with donations, charity or even public spending, but that you fight it with health, education and jobs.”

Worldfocus Broadcast to go off the air April 2

March 9, 2010

Our Worldfocus broadcast will go off the air after April 2 | Worldfocus. This is so sad! One of my favorite sources for international news is going off the air. Check out their website and leave comments on their site if you like what you see. There must be a way to get more funding so that they can stay on the air!

India’s Overworked Elephants

March 7, 2010

In the southern state of Kerala, owning an elephant is a feudal status symbol. The state has a reported 700 domesticated elephants, many rented out for the equivalent of $5,000 for one performance. Yet many elephant owners, which include private owners and temples, claim that the money they make from performances is barely enough to pay for the upkeep of the animals.

This has resulted in overworking the elephants. Senior wildlife officer KP Ouseph stated: “Some of the elephants are paraded at three or four places during the day for 12 or more hours. A lot of these festivals happen at night. The animals don’t get enough rest, and misbehave mainly because of overwork.”

Lately, the amount of elephants misbehaving has increased. According to Mr. Zacharia, one of Kerala’s best known writers, “Not a day passes without the news of an elephant meeting its death in an accident or getting grievously injured or killing the mahout in sheer desperation or running amok because it simply has had enough.”

The animals endure noisy parades, fire crackers, traveling long distances and many time are walking in the scorching sun on tarred roads for hours. Not only are they overworked, but one survey found that half of the keepers had a drinking problem.

To support India’s elephant population with the World Land Trust organization, click here! Any donations made will be matched by a silent donor up to £100,000.

China’s Big Interest in Africa

March 5, 2010

For my Senior Seminar class we read the article China Safari; On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa, by Serge Michel and Michel Beuret, and I was amazed to learn about what has been going on over the last couple of decades in Africa.

The writer was visiting Brazzaville when a group of Congolese children had lined up. Instead of reciting phrases like “Hello mista!” or “Salut Monsieur!” which they learn in their schools to greet foreigners, the children said “Ni hao, ni hao.” It seems these days Congolese children think all foreigners are from China, and for good reason.

Today there are over 50,000 Chinese workers in Nigeria alone. One of them, Mr. Chang, broke down the China’s relationship with Africa: “You Westerners, you’re so patronizing. You come here and talk to the Africans about human rights, copyrights, all sorts of rights. You talk down to them. We get straight to the point. We talk business.”

And business is happening. In Nigeria specifically, the lumber industry has been revamped. In 2009, lumber imports to China had increased by 81% from the previous year. These numbers are a direct link to the business going on in Africa.

But others see this great leap in industry as also cutting corners. The lumber industry in Nigeria, that has been booming under Chinese control, has led to worrisome rates of deforestation. There has also been a case of drilling for oil inside of a national park that is currently receiving funding from the United States for its preservation.

Mr. Chang’s response to this was a reference to an old Chinese proverb: “When a tree is moved, it dies. When a man moves, he can make a fortune.” It seems that the Chinese working force in Africa isn’t going anywhere.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the opening of the China-Africa summit in Beijing.

Witchcraft in the Central African Republic

March 4, 2010

One would think that the days of witch hunts and trials would be a thing of the past, something only referenced to as an example of mass hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts. Alarmingly, more and more cases of witchcraft are being documented in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.).

Every year, hundreds of citizens of the C.A.R. are convicted of witchcraft, with penalties ranging from prison to death. The Catholic mission in Bozoum, located 200 miles from the capital Bangui, often intervenes in witchcraft cases.

“They often accuse the weakest people — people who live alone, the ones who will not cause a lot of trouble and against whom, unfortunately, you can do whatever you like,” said mission priest Father Aurelio Gazzera.

Many times those accused are children and elderly women, but lately there has been a rising trend in the amount of children being accused. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have become active in trying to education the people of C.A.R. of their human rights, raising awareness of legal assistance, and protecting children accused of witchcraft.

A U.N. study found that in the local prison, more than half of those held were accused of witchcraft. To spread more awareness to this dilemma in the communities of the C.A.R., UNICEF is co-sponsoring a documentary film, ‘Witch Trials in the Central African Republic’, to be shown to local audiences in hopes of curtailing this dangerous trend.

As one child recounts, “In the end, I ran away. I had a broken arm and my head was bleeding from the blows of a machete. I’m not a witch. I don’t know what a witch is.”

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: http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/postcards/