Archive for the 'Journalism' category

Portrait of Foreign Service: PBS

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Labor and Media in China

I spent the past five days meeting people and learning about conventions, practices, international agreements and organizations, etc that are consequential to labor, both in the United States and around the world. Today, at the Solidarity Center, the focus was on the international labor movement, especially how labor activists in the US were not only forging and maintaining bonds with communities of workers in other countries but how they are supporting labor movements in countries where labor standards are not as well enforced as they are in places like the US, Canada, and many others.

China was always an interesting caveat in these discussions, since the government controlled union is one of the world’s largest and because it is illegal to form private unions. While this poses challenges to the broader community of workers seeking solidarity with the workers of China, that is not to say that labor plays a small role in the country. On the contrary, despite the controlled nature of much of China’s news media, labor activists that I talked to today said how prominently workers issues, working standards, and worker actions against unacceptable work conditions were featured in Chinese media.

Even Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping remarked recently on the importance of labor unions in the country – see “China’s labor unions play unique role: Vice President” in The People’s Daily, a national English Language news source from China.

U.S. in a Migrant’s Age

Jason DeParle’s article in the Sunday, June 27th NYT’s struck a note this morning, complementing the chord (or discord) that is gaining in strength like so many vuvuzelas in South Africa. He writes,

“As heirs to an immigrant past, Americans may have an edge in a migrants’ age. As contentious as the issue is here, the Americans’ capacity to absorb immigrants remains the envy of many Europeans (including those not inclined to envy Americans). Still, today’s challenges differ from those of the (mythologized) past. At least five differences set this age apart and amplify migration’s effects.”

I wish I had something to bring to the table that was neither a cliche statement on the modern composition of the United States as an immigrant nation or that has not yet been said, but I can certainly that the effect on our society, economy and every other aspect of our lives from immigration becomes more obvious to me each day.

Xenophobes in every county are becoming more vocal about guarding what they have from “outsiders.” The fallacy of these arguments should go without saying, but it is evident that actions, such as Arizona’s destructive new law, speak more loudly than rational thought. A fear of mine is that America will no longer be a place of final destination, a society that people around the world wish to join. That day will be the last day of a great America.

A key question, as noted by DeParle, is the effects of transnationalism on the sustainability of a nation state that experiences a high degree of transnational movement/immigration. A society has a lot to gain from sharing a common language, a common understanding of law and justice, a standardized education that, theoretically, puts the masses on an equal footing. A transnational world is, indeed, an intriguing and even exciting concept, one driven by technology and the freedom of people and money to move across physical and political boundaries; but what would be the destructive consequences?

Dudus: caught

Suspected Drug Lord Taken in Jamaica

Michael Kamber for The New York Times
In May, Jamaican soldiers patrolled the streets of Denham, a neighborhood in Kingston, where fighting took place over several days.

Published: June 22, 2010
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CloseLinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink MEXICO CITY — A reputed gang leader wanted in the United States on gun and drug charges was taken into custody by Jamaican authorities on Tuesday as the furious search for him, which set off violent clashes in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, entered its second month.

Times Topic: Christopher Coke

Jamaica Constabulary Force, via Reuters
Christopher Coke
Owen Ellington, commissioner of the police, the Jamaican Constabulary Force, later told reporters that the reputed gang leader, Christopher Coke, had been peacefully taken into custody while in a vehicle with the Rev. Al Miller, an evangelical preacher who helped arrange the recent surrender of Mr. Coke’s brother and sister.

Mr. Miller told reporters that Mr. Coke had contacted him Tuesday and asked for help in turning himself in at the American Embassy in Kingston. The two men were en route to the embassy when the police stopped the car and arrested Mr. Coke, he said. Mr. Coke is willing to forgo an extradition hearing and face trial in the United States, said Mr. Miller, of the nondenominational Whole Life Ministry.

Although Reverend Miller was released at the scene, Mr. Ellington later called on him to turn himself in to the authorities for questioning.

“I would like to appeal to the family, friends and sympathizers of Christopher Coke to remain calm and to allow the law to take its course,” Mr. Ellington said. “I would also like to reassure the citizens of Jamaica that the situation remains normal, there is no need for alarm and they can get about their business in the usual way.”

Witnesses outside a police station in St. Catherine Parish said Mr. Coke was wearing a bulletproof vest, and was seen being escorted to a helicopter.

Mr. Coke’s legal predicament strained relations between Jamaica and the United States and led to dozens of deaths over several days in late May as Jamaican security forces forced their way into Tivoli Gardens, the poor neighborhood that Mr. Coke controlled, in a futile effort to apprehend him.

Known as Dudus,Short Man and President, Mr. Coke, 42, was indicted last August in New York on charges that he had controlled an international drug ring from his Kingston stronghold. Prosecutors say Mr. Coke’s confederates in New York sent him part of their drug proceeds and shipped guns to him that he used to bolster his authority.

Mr. Coke’s case shed light on the longstanding practice in Jamaica of politicians and gang leaders sharing power, for the benefit of both. The gang leaders help turn out the vote at election time. In exchange, they are afforded government contracts for various jobs and protection from the law.

Mr. Coke’s father was a gang leader with considerable influence in the Jamaican Labour Party. The son followed in his footsteps as leader of the so-called Shower Posse, law enforcement officials said. When Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who represents Tivoli Gardens in Parliament, was elected in 2007, Mr. Coke’s influence seemed to grow and his business interests, including an entertainment company and a construction company, received sizable government backing.

But the indictment from the United States interrupted the arrangement.

At first, Mr. Golding fought the extradition, arguing that it was based on flawed evidence. The United States responded furiously. “Jamaica’s delay in processing the U.S. extradition request for a major suspected drug and firearms trafficker with reported ties to the ruling party highlights the potential depth of corruption in the government,” said a State Department counternarcotics report released in March.

But when criticism grew to the point that Mr. Golding’s government hung in the balance, he backed down and agreed to send Mr. Coke to New York.

That is when Mr. Coke’s backers began barricading streets and wielding weapons to keep the police and soldiers at bay in Tivoli Gardens, leading to one of the most violent episodes in the country’s recent history. Jamaican security officials were accused of using excessive force in their search for Mr. Coke, resulting in dozens of deaths that have not been not fully explained.

Marc Lacey reported from Mexico City, and Kareem Fahim from New York. Ross Sheil contributed reporting from Kingston, Jamaica.

Facing Reality, Even on a Sunny Sunday

“Americans have long had an unswerving belief that technology will save us — it is the cavalry coming over the hill, just as we are about to lose the battle. And yet, as Americans watched scientists struggle to plug the undersea well over the past month, it became apparent that our great belief in technology was perhaps misplaced.” (NYTimes)

On a Sunday morning in a Washington, DC isolated from so many of the externalities that it itself creates, melancholy words of an imperfect world show the power and importance of journalism.

“Listen to the people!!!”

“Listen to the people!” The woman in the cowboy hat hoisted, in one hand, a sign reading “kill the bill,” and shook, in the other, an American flag. Gathered outside the South steps of the US Capitol building was a relatively homogeneous group of people protesting the imminent passage of the health care reform legislation being debated inside.

If, however, the Congresspeople inside the Capitol heeded the protesters’ advice, they would have heard the more than 200,000 voices calling out from the National Mall just down the Hill. The gathering, a rally for immigration reform in the United States, began at the White House, parading down 15th Street and ending in front of the Natural History Museum, in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol.


Embassy of Iraq

The sun was shining brightly on the P Street entrance of the Iraqi Embassy today.

We can hope this is an auspicious sign. Hope.

The county’s Embassy, surprisingly easy to miss, is located on P Street, just East of the bustling Dupont Circle. This area of DC has the highest concentration of embassies of foreign governments – North of Iraq’s is what is called “the African Row,” and on the other side of Dupont Circle is a majority of the EU, stretching up Massachusetts Ave on Embassy Row.

Given the prime location of this embassy, and the fact that the US and Iraq must have not had diplomatic relations until only relatively recently (though I don’t know for sure), the history of this building must be worth exploring.

What is striking, as well, is the near complete anonymity of the Iraqi Embassy. There is not wall, no huge gate. Tall trees obscure the plain looking windows on the second floor. The nation’s flag hangs limply on the yard on P Street, and a small plaque hangs on the wall outside, hoping not to be noticed by the outside world. Apparently you don’t go there unless you have a good reason to.

Cooperative Child Care: Social and Economic Empowerment

Washington, DC’s childcare market is eternally under-served, and the services that are being provided often fail to recognize unfulfilled needs of the community. While that could be said about a vast swathe of markets in this and other cities, especially when it comes to lower income and immigrant communities, I am writing about child care in this, our Capital, because I can attest to something being done about it.
A diverse group of certified child care providers and early child hood education/ development professionals in North West DC, mostly bilingual immigrants from all over South and Central America, have joined together to start their own child care and early childhood education service, choosing for the cooperative business model as the most suitable model for their entrepreneurial endeavor. When Republicans and Democrats alike speak of “Main Street” and the small business as the “engine of American growth,” this is what they are talking about. As a cooperative, the child care center will have a multi-layered and exponential positive impact on the community, increasing its economic and social welfare.

18 of the potential worker members of the child care cooperative voted unanamously to move forward with the business

18 of the potential worker members of the child care cooperative voted unanamously to move forward with the business

Individually, the members of the cooperative are limited in their ability to grow their business, by a lack of resources, inadequate certification or education, insufficient capacity (some have higher degrees in childhood education and run their own child cares, but are restricted by law in the number of children they can serve in their homes), while others are caught in low paying positions in existing businesses. Together, however, they have the capacity and can mobilize the resources to grow their business, combining their education, talents and experiences to offer a variety of services to suit any client’s need, and guaranteeing full ownership, more economic security, and a good wage for all the owners/ members.

The group heard presentations on possible sources of startup capital, an essential element and perennial challenge of the small business venture

The group heard presentations on possible sources of startup capital, an essential element and perennial challenge of the small business venture

Besides empowering the members of the coop themselves, leaders in their own circles, the business will also have a positive impact on the community. As a cooperative, the child care is owned by a range of community members, not by an outside entity or single business person, ensuring that the services provided are a reflection of that community’s real needs. Since the business is motivated not by profit but by the services it provides (as the members are the child care workers, the coop will provide good jobs and the ability to control the philosophy of the child care), quality and attention to the market’s needs will not be sacrificed in the name of extra profit.

Members of the Steering Committee made presentations on business strategy and market analysis

Members of the Steering Committee made presentations on business strategy and market analysis

The coop initiative, receiving training and technical assistance from the Latino Economic Development Corporation, is in the currently preforming a market analysis and constructing a business plan. The steering committee, nominated and elected by the entire group, will present their findings and propose a business plan at the first general meeting this April.

21 Shots of the Cannon, and Here We Go

The Capitol lawn, Purple Ticket Section, Inauguration Morning

Reported as the largest event in Washington DC’s history, with an official number of 1.8 million people in one place at one time, the swearing in ceremony on the steps of the American Capitol had without a doubt an important impact on the psyche of the nation. If one succeeds at tuning out the constant chatter of paranoid and soul sapping cable news and the punditry that can be so cluttered and cyclical as to rob itself of all meaning, one would be rewarded with an uncertain and anxious but, indeed, optimistic chorus of people, citizens of this country and others, touching the sands of a new shore after what could have been a very long and story voyage through dark waters.

Shannon and I, taking advantage of the fact that we are both from rural Minnesota, were honored with tickets from Congressperson Collin Peterson, giving us access to an area just behind the seated section at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and the stage where the ceremonies were conducted. We stood on the north side of the lawn, nearby the canons, which we became well aware of when the 21 gun salute surprised us, rumbling through the silence just after the weight of the recitation of the Oath of Office effectively put a hush over the entire National Mall and its millions of enraptured visitors.

The Capitol Comes to Perham, MN

Not only was I lucky enough to attend the Inaugural ceremonies on the lawn of our Nation’s Capitol last Tuesday, feeling the pulse of the 21 canon salute vibrate through my core, I was also honored to have my thoughts on the event published in the Perham Enterprise Bulletin, the weekly newspaper of Perham, Minnesota and surrounding areas. “The Whole World Is Celebrating Together” was published in the January 22nd edition of the paper.