brad brace


Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:34 am

Smuggled Chinese Travel Circuitously to the U.S.

A canoe sits on the Rio Hondo River, which runs between Mexico and Belize. Villagers in a border town say goods and people – including many Chinese hoping to make it to America — are smuggled into Mexico from Belize.

Since the late 1980s, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from China’s Fujian province have been smuggled into the United States.

The business of human-smuggling has evolved as security has tightened in the U.S. And the smugglers, called by Chinese as “snakeheads,” have become more sophisticated.

In the summer of 1993, a rusty steamer ran aground off New York City. Nearly 300 passengers plunged into the chilly waters, desperate to touch American soil. Ten would die in the water, within sight of shore.

The boat was called the Golden Venture, and its passengers were immigrants smuggled from Fujian.

The capsize of the Golden Venture became national news. It was the first time many people had heard of people being smuggled from China. The incident was a source of embarrassment for both the Chinese and U.S. governments.

Changes in the Human-Smuggling Business

Fourteen years later, the flow of Fujianese to America continues, but the business of human smuggling has changed significantly. When the smuggling began two decades ago, the cost of coming to the United States was around $15,000. Now, immigrants pay $60,000 to $80,000 to be brought to America.

In one village in Fujian, people gather in the communal area. Old men play cards in the corner; others drink tea and talk. There are very few women and no young people.

Villagers say smuggling is an open business here. One of them says everyone knows how to find a snakehead —but that you need to have the money to go.

People who can go are aided by family, friends and former neighbors who have already prospered in the United States. Sometimes people living abroad lend money to pay for the snakehead.

For the most part, human smuggling is no longer about packing hundreds of people into dangerous ships. Nowadays, smuggling involves airports and cars and crisscrossing the globe on scheduled flights. Snakeheads use methods that mimic legal means of entry.

Getting a Fake ID

Smuggling people through legal points of entry — instead of skirting them — requires fake documents. And Bangkok is one place to get phony papers.

In Thailand’s capital, there is a closed-off street known as Kao Sarn Road. At night it lights up with bright signs advertising tattoo and massage parlors. The air smells of humidity, grilled meat, people and booze.

You can buy fake IDs, driver’s licenses, press cards and even fake degrees. The people who sell these documents set up shop among racks of knock-off Puma T-shirts and fake Chuck Taylors. They sit on cheap, plastic lawn chairs behind card tables.

You won’t find fake passports on these tables, but they’re available if you have the connections and the cash. At the end of Kao Sarn Road, a restaurant owner and part-time stolen passport dealer says the documents are in demand. The man didn’t want his name used.

“Most of them are foreigners. There’s a hotel called Malaysia Hotel at Lumpini that has some people who make fake passports. It is the biggest source of fake passports in Thailand,” he says. “At the hotel, they do everything for you.”

The restaurant owner started dealing passports about 10 years ago. He is a middleman, buying passports and selling them to the next middleman. He doesn’t know who ends up using the passports.

“It’s not that every passport has the same price. For example, the U.S. passport is almost worthless because everything is very strict. It’s the same with the U.K. passport,” he says. “You cannot fake it. There is high demand for passports from Israel and Japan.”

“People will use the same passport. They peel back the cover and switch the picture,” the dealer says. “They change the name, the signature — like how they do it with fake student IDs.”

Newer passports that use photos from digital cameras are made in Malaysia, he says.

Traveling Along the Smuggling Route

For the Chinese who are smuggled through Bangkok, the journey starts out legally. Many of them fly into Bangkok International Airport on legal tourist visas with their own Chinese passports — but these tourists never go home.

In Thailand they get fake documents and then move on to the next stop along the smuggling route.

Once they’re on the road, the Chinese travel a meandering route — through Russia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and Canada — before finally reaching the United States.

Good smugglers — the expensive ones — run a full-service operation. They escort the immigrants each step of the way, providing food, lodging and transportation.

Working through local operators with local nicknames, snakeheads in China work with the “pig daddies” in Thailand who hand off their charges to “coyotes” in Latin America.

On the Belize-Mexico Border

With Mexico to the north, Belize has become a stopover for smugglers traveling by land from Latin America to the United States.

Residents of Douglas in Belize know their village is a popular spot to smuggle goods and people into Mexico. The village lies next to the Rio Hondo River, which divides the two countries.

Belize has a surprisingly large Chinese population, making up more than 3 percent of the country’s total population of 300,000. Those familiar with the trade say the smugglers are local Chinese-Belizean businesspeople.

Two men with bikes and a gaggle of kids show up when they realize someone is at the banks of the Rio Hondo. The river’s edge is lined with trees and sugarcane. The water is still. Tied to the embankment are little canoes that locals say are used to shuttle contraband between Belize and Mexico.

The sun sets, and the light quickly slips into darkness. One of the men, in a white T-shirt and jeans, initially doesn’t seem surprised by the visitor. But after some questioning, he becomes suspicious and says the canoes are used for fishing.

Later that night, one of the men is still out by the water. He leans on his bike as if waiting for something or someone.

Reaching America

After the Chinese cross into Mexico, they travel north and are smuggled across the border into America. Every week, 50 to 100 Chinese nationals are caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border.

Those who make it to the United States are taken to a safe house and handed cell phones. They call home to say they’ve arrived safely. The snakeheads immediately go to the relatives’ homes either in China or the United States to collect payment.

Once they’re released by the snakeheads, these new immigrants fan out across the country, boarding Chinatown buses that take them to every corner of the U.S.

They go to jobs offered by Chinese immigrants who’ve already made it. They seek prosperity — the same prosperity that others who have traveled a similar path before them have found.


Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:27 am

Report Increasing Numbers Dead in Bangladesh Cyclone

Filed under: bangladesh,General,global islands,weather — admin @ 6:27 am

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Aid workers struggled Friday to help hundreds of thousands of survivors of a cyclone that blasted Bangladesh with 150 mph winds, killing a reported 1,100 people, savaging coastal towns, and leaving millions without power in the deadliest such storm in more than a decade.

Rescuers — some even employing the brute force of elephants — contended with roads that were washed out or blocked by wind-blown debris to try to get water and food to people stranded by flooding from Tropical Cyclone Sidr.
The damage to livelihood, housing and crops from Sidr will be “extremely severe,” said John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, adding that the world body was making millions of dollars in aid available to Bangladesh.

The winds wreaked havoc on the country’s electricity and telephone lines, affecting even areas that were spared a direct hit, and leaving the full picture of the death and destruction unclear.

By late Friday, about 24 hours after the cyclone roared ashore, officials were still struggling to get reports from many of the worst-hit districts.

Dhaka, the capital city of this poor, desperately crowded nation of 150 million people, remained without power. Winds uprooted trees and sent billboards flying through the air, said Ashraful Zaman, an official at the main emergency control room.

The government’s most recent announcement put the death toll at 242, but officials in the Dhaka control room had little up-to-date information. Dalil Uddin of the Ministry of Disaster Management said the official toll would go much higher.

The United News of Bangladesh news agency, which has reporters deployed across the devastated region, said the count from each affected district left an overall death toll of at least 1,100.

Holmes said his U.N. agency believes that more than 20,000 houses have been damaged in the hardest-hit districts, and that the death toll is expected to climb beyond the government’s figures.

About 150 fishing trawlers were unaccounted for, he said.

Hasanul Amin, assistant director of the cyclone preparedness program sponsored by the government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, said about a dozen teams had been deployed to the worst-hit areas in the country’s southwest.

But it was slow going. In the village of Sharankhola, some people waited for hours to get dry biscuits and rice, according to Bishnu Prasad, a United News of Bangladesh reporter on the scene.

“We have lost everything,” a farmer, Moshararf Hossain, told Prasad. “We have nowhere to go.”

The cyclone swept in from the Bay of Bengal and roared across the southwestern coast late Thursday with driving rain and high waves, leveling thousands of flimsy huts and destroying crops and fish farms in 15 coastal districts, officials and witnesses said.

Sidr spawned a 4-foot-high storm surge that swept through low-lying areas and some offshore islands, leaving them under water, said Nahid Sultana, an official of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management.

At least 650,000 coastal villagers had fled to shelters where they were given emergency rations, said senior government official Ali Imam Majumder in Dhaka.

Volunteers from international aid agencies, including the U.N. World Food Program, Save the Children and the U.S.-based Christian aid group World Vision, have joined the relief effort.

World Vision is putting together seven-day relief packages for families that will include rice, oil, sugar, salt, candles and blankets, according to Vince Edwards, the agency’s Bangladesh director.

The World Food Program was sending rations for up to 400,000, Holmes added.

Edwards said debris from the storm has blocked roads and rivers, making it difficult to reach all the areas that had been hit.

“There has been lot of damage to houses made of mud and bamboo, and about 60 to 80 percent of the trees have been uprooted,” Edwards said.

An elephant was pressed into service to help clear a road in Barishal, 75 miles south of Dhaka, pushing a stranded bus and moving a toppled tree.

By Friday night, work had resumed at the country’s two main seaports — Chittagong and Mongla — as well at Chittagong and Dhaka airports, authorities said.

The storm spared India’s eastern coast. Weather officials had forecast only heavy rain and flooding in West Bengal and Orissa states.

Bangladesh is prone to seasonal cyclones and floods that cause huge losses of life and property. In 1970, between 300,000 and 500,000 people were killed by a cyclone, and some 140,000 died in 1991. Dozens of other cyclones have taken more than 60,000 lives since 1960.

The most recent deadly storm was a tornado that leveled 80 villages in northern Bangladesh in 1996, killing 621 people.

After the 1991 cyclone, foreign donors and Bangladeshi government agencies began building emergency shelters — concrete boxes raised on pillars, each able to hold anywhere from a few hundred to 3,000 people.

More than 2,000 shelters have since been built.

Cyclone death toll rises to 1,723

The number of people killed by the cyclone, Sidr, that tore through the country on Thursday has run into 1,723, according to armed forces division.

Death toll exceeds 2,000

A massive search and rescue operation went ahead in southern Bangladesh Saturday, revealing decaying bodies tossed by a devastating cyclone that left at least 2,185 people dead and hundreds missing. More than 5,000 people were injured in the worst-affected coastal belt, rescuers said as thousands of soldiers and civilian volunteers went into action.

At least 300 more bodies were located of people killed in Friday’s cyclone which triggered mudslides and flash floods.

Most deaths occurred in the Patuakhali-Barisal zone and offshore islands where nearly 450 people, including children, were found dead, said a spokesperson of the national flood warning and control centre.

Rescue teams have now reached most of cyclone-hit Bangladesh where the
death toll now stands at 2,400. It is thought that around one million
families have been affected by Cyclone Sidr which struck on Thursday.
There are fears the final toll could be much higher. The storm is believed
to have destroyed rice harvests in many areas, as well as the shrimp farms
and other crops. Cyclone Sidr is the most destructive storm to hit
Bangladesh in more than a decade.

Three million people affected, over 270,000 houses destroyed, the need is enormous.

Oxfam today launches a Bangladesh Cyclone appeal, calling on the British public to donate £2m for the cyclone stricken area.

The appeal comes as the scale of devastation and necessary relief effort becomes apparent. Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis are returning to their homes to find complete ruin – an estimated 273,000 homes have been lost, crops are damaged and there are increasing water and sanitation concerns.

“The scale of this disaster is enormous,” says Heather Blackwell, head of Oxfam in Bangladesh. “Up to three million people are affected. We are seeing families who have lost everything. The British public are incredibly generous and we urgently need their support to help us save and rebuild people’s lives.”

Oxfam has been working with local partners since Cyclone Sidr struck on Thursday, with teams in the worst-hit southern districts of Daerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna and Patuakhali assessing and providing urgent relief such as sanitation and food and water. The money raised will be used to continue to provide immediate relief to over 80,000 people – essential sanitation, food and water, shelter, well and latrine cleaning, and debris clearing, as well as helping people get back on their feet.

One of the world’s poorest countries, Bangladesh has already faced huge damage from severe floods in July.

“People here are resilient,” says Blackwell. “However the scale is such that it will take months for people to be able to return to their normal lives. With an estimated 75 per cent of crops in the Southern region destroyed, this disaster will require a long-term relief effort. Oxfam will be here working with our partners in months to come.”

Oxfam is concerned that with an increase in global warming, natural disasters such as the one that has hit Bangladesh are becoming more frequent.

“We have seen an unprecedented number of disasters this year and we have seen time and time again that the world’s poorest people are being hit the hardest. The public have responded generously this year. We need them to dig deep again as we scale up our crucial work here.”

DHAKA, Nov. 20 — The death toll from cyclone which hit Bangladesh last Thursday night reached 3,447 at 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Bangladesh Army disaster management wing.

The number of injured stood at 3,322 and the missing numbered 1,063, private news agency bdnews24 reported quoting the army report.

Meanwhile, the death toll by the Food and Disaster Management Ministry stood at 2,819 till 1 p.m. Tuesday.

An official of the Ministry said, as the army rescue operation has reached more isolated areas and received more information, their figure over the death caused by the cyclone is higher.

The armed forces have reached 90 percent of the affected areas with rescue and relief mission till Monday, and the helicopters covered most of the remote places.

So far, the armed forces have reached 100 percent of affected sub-districts level and 70 percent of village level.

The terrible cyclone hit more than 20 out of the country’s 64 districts, affecting over 3 million people of 900,000 families, leaving nearly 300,000 homeless.

The deadly cyclone Sidr was one of the fiercest cyclones that had hit the region of Bangladesh in the 131 years between 1876 and 2007.

Bangladesh government Monday made international request to assist the cyclone victims and post-cyclone rehabilitation.

So far, the donor countries and agencies have pledged emergency aid of 140 million U.S. dollars.

• • • Relief Reaches All Bangladesh Cyclone-Hit Areas, Donors Pledge Hundreds of Millions in Aid

Relief workers in Bangladesh say they have reached the last remaining pockets of the country devastated by last week’s cyclone that killed some 3,500 people and displaced millions others.

The military is flying helicopters and cargo planes to deliver badly needed food, medicine, tents and clean water.

Relief officials say many victims have lost everything and will need months to recover. They also warned the death toll could climb significantly after all the victims in isolated areas are accounted for.

The World Bank offered up to $250 million to help the nation recover from the deadly storm, while the United Nations said it had authorized almost $9 million in aid.

The director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, Henrietta Fore is in Dhaka to offer more than $2 million in aid.

Two U.S. naval ships, U.S.S. Essex and The Kearsarge carrying some 30 helicopters are scheduled to arrive in the Bay of Bengal by the end of the week to help distribute 35 tons of emergency aid.

The Australian government pledged $3 million toward emergency relief, while the European Union more than $9.5 million.

Cyclone Sidr is the worst natural disaster in Bangladesh since 1991, when a cyclone and storm surge killed around 143,000 people.

The head of Bangladesh’s emergency government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, said the country was facing a national crisis and called on Bangladeshi citizens to help those in need.


Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:59 am


Filed under: art,General,wealth — admin @ 6:58 am

Isabella Stewart Gardner was an heiress and the wife of a rich man. And so she went shopping, buying an eclectic but extravagant collection of artwork on sprees through Europe in the early 20th century. Among her treasures were a Vermeer (“The Concert”) and a Rembrandt (“Storm on the Sea of Galilee”), two certified masterpieces. When she died in 1924, Gardner stipulated that the small but exquisite museum in Boston she had built to house her treasures should have nothing new added to it; nor should any of the art be repositioned. Both rules were violated on March 18, 1990, when two men dressed as Boston cops waltzed into the museum after 1 a.m., tied up the guards, shut off the alarm system and took off with the Vermeer, the Rembrandt and several less valuable pieces. The police at one point estimated the value of the stolen goods at $300 million. It is still listed as the biggest American art robbery on the FBI’s website. That’s because nothing has been recovered. In the 17 years since the theft, there may have been one tantalizing glimpse of the Rembrandt when unknown men brought a Boston Herald reporter to a warehouse where he saw what he believed was the “Sea of Galilee.” But otherwise, the fear is that the thieves grabbed what they could, sometimes crudely, and may now not know what to do with their haul. The Vermeer, one of only 32 known works by the artist in existence, may be worth at least $70 million, and so beautifully famous that it is unsellable on the open market. So the greatest art heist in American history may have been a botch, a tragedy so terrible that the thieves may have to destroy the very treasures they stole in order to conceal their guilt.


Filed under: art,General,wealth — admin @ 6:58 am

Isabella Stewart Gardner was an heiress and the wife of a rich man. And so she went shopping, buying an eclectic but extravagant collection of artwork on sprees through Europe in the early 20th century. Among her treasures were a Vermeer (“The Concert”) and a Rembrandt (“Storm on the Sea of Galilee”), two certified masterpieces. When she died in 1924, Gardner stipulated that the small but exquisite museum in Boston she had built to house her treasures should have nothing new added to it; nor should any of the art be repositioned. Both rules were violated on March 18, 1990, when two men dressed as Boston cops waltzed into the museum after 1 a.m., tied up the guards, shut off the alarm system and took off with the Vermeer, the Rembrandt and several less valuable pieces. The police at one point estimated the value of the stolen goods at $300 million. It is still listed as the biggest American art robbery on the FBI’s website. That’s because nothing has been recovered. In the 17 years since the theft, there may have been one tantalizing glimpse of the Rembrandt when unknown men brought a Boston Herald reporter to a warehouse where he saw what he believed was the “Sea of Galilee.” But otherwise, the fear is that the thieves grabbed what they could, sometimes crudely, and may now not know what to do with their haul. The Vermeer, one of only 32 known works by the artist in existence, may be worth at least $70 million, and so beautifully famous that it is unsellable on the open market. So the greatest art heist in American history may have been a botch, a tragedy so terrible that the thieves may have to destroy the very treasures they stole in order to conceal their guilt.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:44 am

The Garifuna

Filed under: belize,General,global islands — admin @ 6:43 am

As a true melting pot of various cultures, Belize has woven bits and pieces of many ethnicities to make what we know as our beautiful country. With many cultures coming in, tradition and custom sometimes disappear as the days go by. However, a group that is not going silently is the Garifuna. With November 19th, being their special day and designated a national holiday, Garifunas countrywide live up to this year’s theme of Proudly empowering our children in their Garifuna heritage. On May 18th, 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed the Garifuna language, music and dance a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. Belize’s very own Andy Palacio, celebrated musician and singer was honored with the title of Artist for Peace by UNESCO. With much history, culture, tradition, song, food, religion, the Garifunas have certainly left their mark in Belize.

Grappling with the ramifications of the end of slavery, a new ethnic group, the Garifuna appeared. In the early 1800s, the Garifuna, descendants of Carib peoples of the Lesser Antilles and of Africans who had escaped from slavery, arrived in the settlement. The Garifuna had resisted British and French colonialism in the Lesser Antilles until they were defeated by the British in 1796. After putting down a violent Garifuna rebellion on Saint Vincent, the British moved between 1,700 and 5,000 of the Garifuna across the Caribbean to the Bay Islands (present-day Islas de la Bahia) off the north coast of Honduras. From there they migrated to the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and the southern part of present-day Belize. By 1802 about 150 Garifuna had settled in the Stann Creek (present-day Dangriga) area and were engaged in fishing and farming.

The Flag

Any country or entity has a flag which symbolizes their history and what they stand for. The Garifuna have their own with a black strip, which is located at the top. This black band represents the black ancestry of the Garifuna people. The people have always acknowledged the African input into what became the Garifuna people, a phenomenon that occurred in St. Vincent starting in the seventeenth Century.

This colour, at another level, recognizes the hardships and injustices that the people have had to endure, their struggles for survival and the odds that they have had to overcome in the course of their history. As tough as these experiences have been, they helped to strengthen the Garifuna spirit and shaped their spirituality which is based on the principle of reciprocity, mutually beneficial two-way relationship between individuals or nations.

The yellow strip at the bottom of the flag symbolizes the other half of the ancestry of the Garifuna — the Amerindians or Yellow Caribs as they were referred to by Europeans. These were actually a mixture of Caribs and Arawaks and formed the host community in which the fusion of Africa and South America took place to give rise to the emergence of the Garinagu as a distinct group indigenous to the circum-Caribbean region.

In contrast to the hardships experienced in the course of history, the yellow symbolizes the hope and prosperity. Yellow is the color of grated cassava, which is further processed to make ereba, one of the Garifunas’ staple foods. It is the color of cassava juice, a color that is further brought out in the process of turning it into dumari, an additive for enhancing sauces, soups and stews. Yellow is also the color of the rising sun, which brings new promise and much hope for a better life. Yellow, therefore, represents hope, plenty and prosperity, as well as the Carib/Arawak input into the Garifuna identity.

The white strip, located in the middle between the black and the yellow, reminds them of the role of the white man (Europe) in the history and formation of the Garifuna people � the forcible removal and enslavement of the African, the seizure of Garifuna land, which precipitated the Garifuna resistance, and the forcible removal of the people from St. Vincent. Even after the arrival and dispersal in Central America, it was still necessary to deal with the white man.

At another level, white symbolizes the peace that has eluded the Garifuna people for most of their turbulent history – the peace for which they continue to yearn.

Garifuna culture

Garinagu are a resilient tribal people who have survived many years of extreme hardships. Despite these, ethnological studies show that they are the only black people in the Americas to have preserved their native culture. Because their ancestors were never slaves, they have been able to preserve their rich and unique Afro-Caribbean heritage. Also, the Garifunas traditions, deep sense of kinship and participation in community cultural activities have provided them with a sense of solidarity and cultural identity during times of turmoil.

Religion and spirituality

Garinagu are a proud people devoted to their roots and their religion consists of a mix of Catholicism, African and Indian beliefs.

Belief in and respect for the ancestors is at the very core of their faith. The Garifuna believe that the departed ancestors mediate between the individual the external world. If a person behaves and performs well then he will have good fortune. If not, then the harmony that exists in relationships with others and the external world will be disrupted leading to misfortune and illness.

The religious system thus implies certain responsibilities and obligations between the living and deceased. Food and drink should occasionally be laid out for the ancestors who may also appear in dreams. A spiritual leader, a Buyei leads the contact of a family with the deceased. In preparation of these spiritual gatherings with healing, drumming and dancing, a feast of seafood, meat and cassava bread is prepared.

Garifuna spiritualism is creatively expressed through music, dancing and other art forms.


Traditional Garifuna foods are based around fish, chicken, cassava, bananas, and plantains. Most of the meals are rich and hearty.

One of the staples of the diet is cassava. Cassava is made into a bread, a drink, a pudding, and even a wine! The cassava bread is served with most meals. The process of making the bread is very labor intensive and takes several days.

Hudut is a very common traditional meal. Hudut consists of fish cooked in a coconut broth (called sere) and served with mashed plantains or yams. Dharasa is the Garifuna version of a tamale made with green bananas. It can be made either sweet or sour.

The foods are very labor intensive and used to be cooked over an open fire hearth. Today, stoves save time, but some families still prefer the taste of the fire hearth.


Garifuna music is similarly different from the rest of Central America; the most famous form is punta. An evolved form of traditional music, still usually played using traditional instruments, punta has seen some modernization and electrification in the 1970s; this is called punta rock. Traditional punta dancing is consciously competitive. Artists like Pen Cayetano helped innovate modern punta rock by adding guitars to the traditional music, and paved the way for later artists like Andy Palacio, Children of the Most High and Black Coral. Punta was popular across the region, especially in Belize, by the mid-1980s, culminating in the release of Punta Rockers in 1987, a compilation featuring many of the genres biggest stars.

Other forms of Garifuna music and dance include chumba and hunguhungu, a circular dance in a three beat rhythm, which is often combined with punta. There are other songs typical to each gender, women having eremwu eu and abaimajani, rhythmic a cappella songs, and laremuna wadauman, men’s work songs. Other forms of dance music include matamuerte, gunchei, charikawi and sambai. Paranda music developed soon after the Garifunas arrival in Central America. The music is instrumental and percussion-based. The music was barely recorded until the 1990s, when Ivan Duran of Stonetree Records began the Paranda Project. In the Garifuna culture, there is another dance called Dugu. This dance is a ritual done for a death in the family to pay their respect to their loved ones.

In 2001, Garifuna music was proclaimed one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

Steeped in rich traditions and amazing ancestry, we join the Garifunas in celebrating Garifuna Settlement Day. They have joined our country and formed part of it; integrating themselves to our roots and have grown to prominent businessmen, entrepreneurs, teachers and have joined our Belizean workforce with such strength. Their music, their dance, stories, food, history — it all makes them a proud and much welcome addition to ‘Our Belize Community.’


Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:37 am


Filed under: General,global islands,government,nicaragua — admin @ 6:36 am

Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (YATAMA) -or Sons of Mother Earth- is an indigenous party from Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast. YATAMA has its roots in the MISURASATA (Miskito, Sumo and Rama Sandinista Alliance) and the MISURA/KISAN (Nicaraguan Coast Indian Unity) organisations. In 1988, in response to the Central American peace accords, the remnants of MISURASATA and MISURA/KISAN in Honduras, Costa Rica and Miami reorganized as YATAMA, united the traditional Miskitu leaders Steadman Fagoth and Brooklyn Rivera.

YATAMA has participated in several regional elections since 1990. Its best electoral result was in the autonomous elections on the Caribbean Coast in 1990 where they won 26 Regional Council member seat (out of 90).


The eastern part of Nicaragua along the Caribbean,
which is commonly known as the Atlantic Coast, is inhabited
by various native peoples and other populations of the
country. The Miskito, Sumo and Rama are the three indigenous
peoples found on the Atlantic Coast. Others in the region
include the creoles, garifunas and ladinos. The peoples of
the Atlantic coast, each of which has its own culture,
language and traditions, live in harmony. Their traditional
territory is Yapti Tasba (Mother Earth), which was passed to
them over millennia from their ancestors.

Yapti Tasba makes up approximately 38% of Nicaragua’s
territory and is inhabited by around 10% of the country’s
population. The indigenous peoples of the region comprise a
population of some 145,000 people who live primarily in
their traditional communities along the rivers, lagoons and
coastal areas of the region. The creole population is around
40,000 Caribbean-English speaking people who live primarily
in the urban centers in the southern part of the region.

The Garifuna (caribe) live in four communities located
near Pearl Lagoon and are estimated at around 1,500 people.
The ladino population totals some 80,000 inhabitants, is
part of the Nicaraguan Mestizo majority and is concentrated
primarily in the mining areas and in Bluefields.

Yapti Tasba has had an historical development entirely
different from that of the rest of Nicaragua, a factor which
today is manifest by its own cultural, social, economic and
ideological reality. The territory and the indigenous
peoples were not submitted to European colonization during
the 16th through 19th centuries. Instead, the indigenous
peoples enjoyed their self-determination until 1860, when
external forces arbitrarily reduced their territory to a
reserve with political and economic autonomous status. But
even that status was abolished entirely as a result of
military intervention on the part of forces from Managua in

From that time on, the indigenous peoples and the
creoles have been subjected to a long period of
marginalization, ethnocide and internal colonization by the
liberal-conservative governments and the Somocista
dictatorship. Furthermore, the natural resources of the
Yapti Tasba were pillaged during the irrational exploitation
by North American transnational companies acting in concert
with Managua governments.

Nonetheless, our peoples always have resisted all
colonial or neocolonial domination or submission, thus
preserving their survival and historical continuity as the
original peoples of the region. In 1973, ALPROMISU was
founded as the first ethno-political movement for the
defense and the promotion of the indigenous rights of the
Miskito and Sumo to their lands and resources.

With the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979,
the peoples of the Yapti Tasba enthusiastically and with
great expectation participated in the new national process,
promoting their collective aspirations. In November of the
same year, ALPROMISU became MISURASATA with the inclusion of
the Rama and the Sandinista term within the name of the
organization. Although at the beginning it appeared to
tolerate MISURASATA, the Sandinista Front from the start was
in fact intent on substituting itself through mass

Similarly, Sandinistas were not sensitive to the
aspirations of our people nor to the nature of our society.
Instead, they reacted violently against the just claims of
the indigenous peoples in Yapti Tasba. Nonetheless, during
the first eighteen months the Sandinista government was in
power the native peoples participated in various aspects of
the revolutionary process of the country.


Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:52 am

In Nicaragua, a storm brews over aid handling

Filed under: General,global islands,government,human rights,nicaragua — admin @ 6:49 am

As the waters recede following more than 50 days of biblically proportioned rains that claimed more than 200 lives and caused an estimated $392 million in damage, a political storm is gathering over Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega’s handling of the disaster.

Allegations that the Sandinista Front is politicizing the distribution of humanitarian aid for Hurricane Felix has led to rumblings of rebellion on the coast and calls for an investigation by opposition lawmakers in Managua.

On Oct. 31, several hundred Miskito Indians from the northern Caribbean regional capital of Bilwi took over the airport’s storage warehouses in search of relief aid, which they claim is not getting to the communities that were devastated by the Category 5 storm two months ago.

Another group of angry citizens clashed with government sympathizers in front of city hall, while others threatened to ransack church storage facilities in search of food and relief supplies.


Osorno Coleman, a former anti-Sandinista rebel leader still known by the nom de guerre ”Blas,” told The Miami Herald that the situation on the Caribbean coast has become a “time bomb.”

”The government is politicizing the relief aid and the majority of the population is not receiving anything,” said Coleman, who leads an indigenous group called Yatama No Sandinista. “If the government continues this behavior, there could be more uprisings and it could start to get out of control.”

The relationship between Nicaragua’s Caribbean indigenous communities and the Sandinistas has been historically rocky. The Miskito communities suffered innumerable human rights abuses at the hands of the Sandinista government in the 1980s, some of which were outlined in a suit filed by the Miskitos with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Some South Florida aid organizations said that they were aware that some of the aid sent to Nicaragua was not getting through for political reasons, though they added that political meddling with relief aid is common when disasters occur.

”Unfortunately, it’s part of the business. It’s the way governments work everywhere,” said one relief agency representative, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid straining the relationship between the organization and the Nicaraguan government.

The main South Florida organization helping Nicaragua, the American Nicaraguan Foundation, said that it was not facing any problems with distribution of its aid.

”Our aid is getting where it needs to go,” said Federico Cuadra, an ANF spokesman.

Government opponents claim the Sandinistas are using the controversial Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs) — citizen partisan groups that the Sandinista government is creating all over the country — to control the distribution of government aid to party loyalists. Critics claim that the CPCs are using aid distribution to recruit others to join their organization, and thereby strengthen the Sandinista party base heading into next year’s municipal elections.

In the depressed inland region known as the mining triangle, frustration with the Sandinistas’ tactics is also reaching a boiling point, according to opposition party officials and community leaders.


Víctor Manuel Duarte, a Liberal Party lawmaker from the mining town of Siuna, said the Sandinistas are attempting to use relief aid to undermine local government officials and win over voters.

Duarte said he fears the Sandinistas’ meddling and alleged harassment of local officials could lead to a resurgence of small groups of rearmed Contras in a region that was haunted by rearmed groups throughout the 1990s.

The situation is equally grim for the Miskito communities living in the nearby forests.

Nicanor Polanco, a former anti-Sandinista rebel leader who represents 340 demobilized Miskito combatants, says his community has received no government assistance since the hurricane destroyed their village and crops, and now his people are getting sick. Instead of helping, he says, the government is making recovery impossible by prohibiting the indigenous communities from harvesting and selling the fallen timber from trees leveled by the storm.

The government says the logging ban is to prevent uncontrolled cutting and timber trafficking, but indigenous communities like Polanco’s claim that if they can’t sell their wood, they won’t have money to buy seeds to replant basic food crops.

”It’s ugly and now it’s organized,” he said, referring to the growing opposition movement. “This could get violent and who knows where it will lead.”

Hurricane Felix ripped across the northeastern corner of Nicaragua on Sept. 4, leaving 244 people dead or missing and 22,000 homes damaged or destroyed, in addition to obliterating crops and leveling huge swaths of virgin forest. The region’s fishing and lobster industry — one of the main sources of economic livelihood in the region — has been all but wiped out.

Nicaragua is not the only region that suffered from recent natural disasters.

In Hispaniola, Tropical Storm Noel last month killed 142 people. At least 100 communities are still cut off by water two weeks after the storm.

In Cuba, Noel caused more than $500 million in damages to crops, homes and roads, the government reported last week.

Beyond Nicaragua’s northeastern region, six weeks of subsequent rains throughout the rest of the country resulted in thousand of people relocated to shelters, massive crop and cattle loss, and thousands of miles of roads washed out, prompting Ortega to declare a nationwide state of disaster Oct. 19.


The international community has provided millions in relief aid and funding to Nicaragua.

The United States has contributed more than $4.7 million in humanitarian relief, plus helicopter transportation to isolated communities and $7 million in funding for low-interest rate loans for reconstruction.

The World Food Program, which is helping to distribute international aid directly to the communities hit hardest by the storm, said the process is “going fairly well.”

”We have a distribution system that works and we’re confident with it,” said William Hart, resident representative of the World Food Program.

However, Hart said the aid his group is distributing is covering less than half of the 200,000 people affected by the storm.

”As in most emergencies, when people are severely affected and hungry, it’s never fast enough,” Hart said, “and it’s never enough for enough people.”


Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:35 am

Shaving the Heads of State

Filed under: General,global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 6:34 am

In a country that’s nutty about gossip, veteran barbers Cesar Larios and Manuel Rodriguez run the engine room of the national rumor mill — Managua’s landmark Imperial Barbershop. Since this modest three-chair barbershop opened its doors 35 years ago, Rodriguez and Larios have seated, aproned and lathered some of Nicaragua’s most important politicians, bankers and powerbrokers. Right-wing former president Arnoldo Alemin and ex-communist guerrilla leader Henry “Modesto” Ruiz are both on the client list. His Eminence, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, the country’s top religious authority, has been getting the same haircut here for 30 years. Managua’s Sandinista Mayor, Nicho Marenco, comes in for a trim every month, as do the publishers of the two leading opposition dailies, and a flurry of politicians, businessmen and financial leaders.

Once seated comfortably in the red-cushioned barber’s chair, even the most powerful member of the elite becomes just another guy in need of grooming. And it’s a common-man experience whose relaxed intimacy most of them seem to relish. “They come in and gossip and joke around,” says the 61-year-old Rodriguez, as he deftly moves a straight blade around the ears of a lesser-known patron. “The politicians want to know what other people say about them, and what they say about others.”

The politicians, of course, also do some politicking of their own.

“The Liberals says bad things about the Sandinistas, and the Sandinistas say bad things about the Liberals — it’s a crossfire,” says Larios, 56, the barbershop’s founder and owner. “When they are sitting in chairs next to each other, they hug and act like friends. But as soon as one of them leaves, the other starts to say bad things again.”

The Imperial may simply be the elite’s answer to the village barbershop, which has a time-honored role in Nicaraguan society as a place where ideas are exchanged, jokes are tested, names are smeared and rumors are born. All subject matter is open to discussion off the mirror, from politics and sports, to women and weather.

Walking into a Nicaraguan barbershop is a bit like stepping back into the colonial era, and some of the equipment in use is not that much newer. My neighborhood barber gives me a straight-blade shave, proceeded by several rounds of ointments and creams, and then a full facial and head massages with some sort of ancient vibrating contraption that looks like a Thomas Edison prototype. I don’t know what that thing is, but it keeps me going back.

And just as the scuttlebutt at the Imperial is a window into Nicaragua’s corridors of power, my local barbershop is the best place to take the pulse of the street. Here, news rolls easily off the tongues of those who know what they’re talking about, and those who don’t. Sometimes, the barbershop itself becomes part of the news: When legendary newspaper publisher and opposition leader Pedro Joaquin Chamorro was gunned down by unknown shooters in January 1978, the leading suspect — one of Larios’ clients — told the police he had been getting a haircut at the Imperial Barbershop at the time of the murder. Larios later had to testify that the suspect had not in fact been in his chair that day.

Unless served a summons, however, Larios and Rodriguez prefer to respect barber-client privilege, especially with their bigger clients — the ones who have outgrown the chair, so to speak. Arnoldo Alemin, the portly former president convicted on embezzlement charges, now sends a car and driver to fetch Rodriguez to do a home haircut, for which the barber charges double, or $9. Miguel Obando y Bravo, who used to come into the shop when he was just Archbishop of Managua, started sending the car after the Pope named him cardinal in 1985.

“You build up a confidence with the clients,” Rodriguez says, politely declining to discuss any of the really juicy tidbits that have been entrusted to him from the barber’s chair over the years. “You hear so much, it’s hard to remember everything they say,” he adds diplomatically, with a revealing twinkle in his eye. In fact, the reason his clients feel so free to express themselves may be that the whatever they say is carefully swept up with the hair clippings and discarded at the end of the day.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:20 am

King Sparks Pink Shirt Fever in Thailand

Filed under: General,global islands,thailand — admin @ 6:20 am

Thailand is turning pink.

Some people in the Southeast Asian country have begun donning pink shirts as a tribute to their beloved 79-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The trend started when he checked out of a hospital Wednesday wearing a pale pink collar-less shirt and pink blazer.

For about two years, Thais have shown their respect for the monarch by wearing yellow — the color that in Buddhist tradition symbolizes Monday, the weekday he was born. That fashion statement began during the 2006 celebrations of Bhumibol’s 60th anniversary on the throne.

But it looks like pink is becoming the new yellow for Thais.

There was already a trend toward pink because astrologers had declared it an auspicious color for the king’s 80th year. A royal emblem, using pink among other colors, was specially designed for his birthday.

But Bhumibol’s appearance in pink attire has spurred interest in the new color.

The Commerce Ministry is preparing to produce 30,000 pink shirts in coming weeks to meet rising demand, said Yanyong Phuangrat, chief of the agency’s domestic trade department.

“There is a high demand for pink T-shirts because it’s an auspicious color for the king,” Yanyong said.


Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 11:20 am

Seven Eleven

Filed under: General,global islands,government,military,usa — admin @ 11:19 am

O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
Hi. I’m not home right now. But if you want to leave a
message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you
coming home?
Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don’t know me,
but I know you.
And I’ve got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready. Ready to go. You can come
as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go.

And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice.
And when justive is gone, there’s always force.
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me,
Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 7:19 am

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