Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Twin Explosions Kill 23 in Beirut

By: Kaylyn Hlavaty
Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon

Around 10 a.m., I was at a café sipping my French press coffee when I received a notification on my phone from the BBC saying there were two bombings in Bir Hassan, near El-Jnah. I quickly finished a Skype interview and around 11 a.m.  and rushed to grab a taxi to head to El-Jnah.

I’ve been in Lebanon for two months now, and never seen the aftermath of a bombing. I’ve seen pictures and videos, but you can’t get the full picture unless you’re there. The taxi dropped me off as far as he could go because the roads were blocked at this point. I had to walk a little ways to reach the main area where the bombs exploded. Every street was blocked with security dictating who went through and who didn't. Since I’m a freelancer, I don’t have a press card to show anyone who might ask. They wanted to see one so I had to explain that I'm not with one set media outlet. This hasn’t posed a problem yet for me when getting access to certain places. I usually say I’m a freelancer and I show them my passport and eventually a person lets me through. Also, I guess I’m good at talking my way through things, as long as the person understands my English and American accent.

Debris and blood in front of an apartment building
The guards at the road blockade let me through. Walking up to the scene was an experience I’ve never had. I didn’t know what I was going to see. I just knew I would see destruction. I was walking in the main road of what now was covered with glass, blood and any other debris as result of the blast. On the left and ride side of me all the windows of apartment buildings were shattered. It was like someone individually shot each window out. Almost no window was spared. Every step I took I heard crunch crunch crunch from the amount of glass underneath my boots. Most of the buildings were evacuated because of the fear that there might be a third bomb somewhere. The residents who came back already started the long clean up process.

The guards blocking the road let me through no problem. Walking up to the scene was an experience I’ve never had before. I didn’t know what I was going to see. I just knew I would see destruction. I was walking in the main road of what now was covered with glass, blood and any other debris left as a result of the blast. On the left and ride side of me were apartment buildings with windows missing, concrete gone and furniture dismantled  It was as if some one individually shot each window out. Almost no window or apartment building was spared.

To right is the Iranian Embassy. Photo taken by Kaylyn Hlavaty
 Emergency response teams. Photo Courtesy of Mostapha Raad
Before I arrived, the deceased victims were off the street and the injured taken to nearby hospitals. There were specialists collecting samples of the bomb pieces for evidence. As I was walking around taking pictures, my journalist friend, Mostapha found me in crowd and invited me to go to the hospital with him. We arrived at the hospital and right when we got in the courtyard in front of the hospital, I heard the wailing of what looked liked to be a mother who lost a child in the explosion. Several Red Cross Ambulances passed me with bodies inside. Mostapha and I were able to talk to some of the victims. We talked to people who were either on their balconies or on the street when the bombs exploded. Their faces expressed shock, relief and pain all in one. Most had cuts and small wounds from the glass.
Bomb victim Photo by Kaylyn Hlavaty

A woman named Nadine was on the balcony when the bombs exploded. She told us the air pressure from the second bomb knocked her down to the ground.

As I was leaving, more and more families were gathered outside the hospital after hearing a loved one survived or died. The waiting area had a somber, quiet mood lingering throughout.

We left the hospital after our interviews and headed back to El-Jnah so we could write up our stories at mo5tar news. Around 4 p.m. news crew were still at the scene and the residents started to clean up around the apartments.

My friend Isslam is an expat I met the first week in Lebanon.She was also in the neighborhood since morning. Her in-laws live just one block away from the Iranian Embassy. A left turn off the main road and her husband's parents home is right there. The bombings had a personal relevance to her and her husband because they knew some of the people who died in the blast. They came to know the security man who kept post a block away from the embassy, who is now dead. Also, a friend of the family was missing earlier today, but in the evening they found half of his body. She told me this friend ran out of the factory after the first bomb to see what happened. As he turned the corner, the second one was detonated.

Just being in the same place today as where two bombs were denoted and created chaos and trauma to  witnesses and victims is  beyond sad. It's more than depressing to think about the families who couldn't say goodbye to their loved ones. I still smell the fumes lingering in the air and seeing the Red Cross emergency team rushing to assist those in most harm. Today I saw first hand how the media responds and reports such events and how hospitals respond to causalities and helping the injured. I haven't been in Lebanon for too long, but I know every day that I made the right decision to come here. When I was taking pictures of the bombing areas and interviewing people, I felt excited to be reporting on a breaking news event.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A growing gorilla industry in Rwanda

By: Sandhya Kambhampati                                                                 Produced & Edited by: Daniel Medlock
The tour guide and the soldier use machetes to chop away at the forest. Between swings, the tourists peer through the brush desperately hoping to see gorillas looking back at them.
Each year, more than 20,000 people attempt to see the approximately 290 Rwandan mountain gorillas, a highly endangered species.
A Once in a Lifetime Trip
Betsy Rumer saw the gorillas in the mist in August 2010. While the permit to go see the gorillas was $500 per person, Rumer says the trek up the mountain was worth ten times more than the money she paid.
“We got the last permits for the day, so when you have one shot at this, you think about what you’re going to spend it on,” Rumer said.
The trek began in the Rwanda's capital, Kigali, and then went up through the Volcanoes National Park, where Rumer and her tour group were able to witness the gorillas in their natural habitat. 
Before the tour began, they were instructed how to behave around the animals. Forty-five minutes later, Rumer found herself standing among the gorillas.
“It was like standing in a living room of gorillas,” Rumer said about the gorillas, which she said seemed to be very well protected.
A Collaborative Effort
According to the Chief Warden of the Volcanoes National Park, Prosper Uwigeli, that protection is a collaborative effort of the government, park officials and international organizations.
A Rwandan mountain Gorilla (Andy Rouse/Corbis)
The two biggest threats to the park currently are the illegal poaching and the habitat destruction. Additionally, because of population increase around the parks, the mountain gorillas can be exposed to contagious diseases.
“We need to continue to monitor everything as the gorillas are vulnerable species,” Uwigeli said. “There’s always challenges, so we need to overcome the political instability [in these areas] and work together. We need to make sure we know how to provide for the future.”
Protecting the gorillas requires cooperation with Rwanda's neighboring countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. 
Rwanda and Uganda are the only two countries in the world where people can currently see mountain gorillas safely, according to park officials. 
There are 18 different families of gorillas, some families that are for tourism and others for research purposes. There are currently 480 mountain gorillas in the Virunga Conservation Area, which encompasses Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, according to the 2010 census. Tourists can go visit the park, but there are a limited number of permits that are issued each day.
As of 2010, the number of permits issued was approximately 17,000 per year. Park officials say they are now facing the issue that the demand is higher than the availability of permits. In 1999, 417 people visited the Volcanoes National Park to see the gorillas. In 2008, 17,000 people visited. Today, park officials estimate that number is 28,000. Forty percent of these visitors to the park are from the United States.
Leónce Muhire, ICT director at the Rwandan Tourism University College (RTUC)  believes that while Rwanda has an important tourism plan, they need to be objective with their vision and make the security within the city stronger than the neighboring countries.
“Rwanda needs to overpass Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania in tourism,” Muhire said. “They have a bigger surface to develop and ours is very small, so we have to rely on discipline, security, vision and no corruption to sell our services to our neighbors.”
Tourism and the Genocide
Tour guide David Mugisha of Wildlife Tours-Rwanda said that in his nineteen years of his job, tourists now view tourism in Rwanda as a safe, life enriching experience. The job is a full time commitment for him, but it is all a part of reaching the country’s overall goal.
“In terms of professionals and infrastructure, we are moving to become the number one country in Africa in tourism development,” said Mugisha. “In every service, the more time you spend doing it, the more experience you will get and the more that others will understand you.”
But the tourism industry was not always this way. 
(Via National Geographic)
Before 1983, the gorillas were not used as a revenue source for the tourism industry, according to Frank Keesling, of the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund. Most of the country's money came from coffee or tea production. Permits for the park were just $125.
Following the genocide in 1994, current President Paul Kagame invested in the Rwanda infrastructure to help protect the Volcanoes National Park and the gorillas. Because of these efforts, gorilla tourism is the number one source of income today, bringing in around 10 million dollars. The government has allocated five percent of revenue to go support local schools and water tanks.
“The gorilla industry has changed by better educating the trackers and porters as to how the protect the gorillas,” Keeling said. “Today, the gorilla has a chance at survival but all the stars must stay in alignment for a long time.”
Jean Felix Kinani, a head field veterinarian of the Gorilla Doctors in Musanze, said the country’s revenue is important to his organization and the overall protection of the gorillas.  
“Without the tourists, NGOs cannot get money to perform well,” Kinani said. “We check all the vets and park staff to see what kind of diseases they have and what diseases the gorillas can possibly get. That is why collaboration is important. Gorillas don’t need a passport or visa to move around.”
With this in mind, Julien Niyingabira Mahoro said he is proud to see the tourism industry growing and is excited for the future.
It is true that there are different speeches about how horrible this country is, but when people come from different corners of the world to stay in Rwanda, eat in Rwanda, walk on streets in Rwanda, interact with people in Rwanda, go to clubs in Rwanda... they certainly have more success stories to tell than bad experiences,” Mahoro said. “They say, ‘You never change the history,’ but I like the fact that people identify this country to cleanness and greenness, wonderful people, and a visionary leadership rather than to genocide and other 1994 atrocities."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Students Share Excitement over Winter Break Study Abroad in Ghana

By Cassie Kelly
After reviewing more than 60 applications and completing a rigorous interview process, the Institute for International Journalism selected 20 students for a 2013-14 study abroad program to Ghana. Of the 20, 18 are undergraduates and two are graduate students. The program is administered by Dr. Yusuf Kalyango, director of the institute and Dr. Steve Howard, director of the African Studies program.
 Students expressed excitement for their selection during the orientation sessions for the program.  For several students, their acceptance was a surprise, some even called it fate. Michelle Robinson, a junior interested in broadcast, explained why she was happy that she applied.
“I have anywhere-but-here syndrome. So, when I heard about this program and it’s journalism focus I applied on a whim,” said Robinson.
Zach Bourgraf, a fifth year studying advertising, shared similar sentiments.
“I wanted to travel and I would have been staying in the U.S. during that time anyway. So, I thought, why stay when you can go to Africa?” Bourgraf said.
While some students have the travel bug, others are looking forward to reconnecting with their roots. Adrienne Green, a junior interested in print and magazine, said that she is overjoyed that her first time leaving the country will be to a place as historical as Ghana in Africa.
“Being African American, I always wanted to go to Africa and I never thought I’d be able to go because it’s extremely expensive and dangerous if you aren’t going with a group of people,” shared Green.
Carol Hector-Harris, a graduate student working toward her PhD, has been interested in her heritage since the 70s and sees this trip as a way to “complete the circle.” She hopes to reconnect with her Ghanaian ancestors from her five generations past great grandfather’s side of the family.
She explained that she used her family’s name to connect with a village in Ghana where she believes they are from. Moreover, recent DNA testing completed by Hector-Harris’ brother also connects the siblings to Ghana.  When she arrives in Ghana, Hector-Harris plans to meet with Dr. Osei Bonsu, who has been collecting oral and genetic histories in villages all over Africa.
Hector-Harris described her acceptance into this trip as “serendipity” and like fate. Once she reconnects with her family, Hector-Harris plans on bringing the rest of her family in America to the village for a giant reunion.
“My family is over the moon!” she said.
Students will be earning up to 50 hours of internship credit while on the trip and they can select an internship in one of several organizations. Sarah Kramer, a junior interested in photography, is hoping to work for a local newspaper in Ghana.
“I think it will be interesting to document. It will be different than the kind of stuff you get into in Southeast Ohio,” she said.
In spite of missing Christmas with their families, most students cannot wait to leave in December and are excited to embark on the adventurous endeavor, despite possible cultural differences. 
“I’m so looking forward to getting to know the people that it completely overshadows anything I would be worried about,” said Green.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pakistani Bands Changing Traditional Music Scene

Roadway in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo via Wikipedia Commons

By: Morgan Sigrist
Produced & edited by: Tim Tripp

  Peshawar, a city richly rooted in Pashtun tribal influences, is quickly developing a modern underground music scene. With bands like Khumariyaan, Peshawar’s music scene is transforming with Western influences of the guitar, with a fusion of folk poetry seen from music tradition to the region.
  “Our philosophy is that art for fundamentalism is like water for fire. We believe in being prolific performers and getting this message across. In the underground circuit of Peshawar, no one has performed more than Khumariyaan and no one can for a long time to come,” said Fahran Bogra Khumariyaan manager and rubab player.
   Traditionally, music in South East Asia is rooted in lyrical poetry and instruments such as the rubab, but with Western European influences such as the guitar, the sounds have begun to change. The rubab is “lute-like instrument” similar in construction to a guitar, but with a deep bass which helps to give it a hearty deep strum. 
  Underground bands have been emerging, often groups of university students, performing at local venues building fans across the country and often into neighboring countries.
 “Young singers are blooming in universities,” said music enthusiast Gull Aj. Aj grew up in Peshawar, Pakistan, and watched as music has transformed from the traditional poetic music, into Western infused performances, and is now a Fullbright student at Ohio University. “I like the theme and the poetry,” said Aj, who also enjoys the sounds of Persian music.
Introduction of Stringed Instruments
  One of the interesting developments in Pakistani music has been the introduction of the guitar, thus changing the sound of the traditional music scene. Bands like Khumariyaan work to infuse past and present music traditions to create their own unique sound.
 “The premise for forming the band was to preserve the rubab, our very own stringed instrument, when the guitar started making its way into the youth. We wanted to show that the two can coexist beautifully and metaphorically,” said Bogra. 
A rubab. Photo via Wikipedia Commons

  The current generation of musicians in Pakistan has a heavy contention between the sounds of the rubab and the guitar. To musicians like Bogra, the rubab is an important part of his musical history, and the sounds of his culture.
  Khumariyaan, which means “the intoxicants,” fosters a sound of past and present influences with performances that delight people throughout Pakistan. The band is comprised of four musicians: Fahran Bogra rubab player, Shiraz Khan percussionist, Aamer Shafiq vocalist and guitarist, and Sparlay Rawail guitarist and percussionist, were students from two universities in Peshawar and came together for their love of music.
  Each musician brings their own story to the band, and adapts sounds from their travels throughout Pakistan, thus creating a truly unique sound.
 One of the features that separate Khumariyaan from other groups is their pure use of instruments with little to no lyrics. Instead, the group focuses on creating an instrumental experience for their listeners to get out of their seats to move to the sounds of contemporary instrument fusion.
  The band prides their band on creating an experience for their listeners. “… We bring hyper percussive folk music from the ruins of Pakistan, in an age where there is a song for selling juice boxes to match boxes to shampoos, the folk artists and particularly instrument players, who in fact are the real composers, are suffering, and we believe, it is important for the evolution of folk music to blend it with a contemporary style of guitars and percussion. Folk music is always traditionally listened to live, and we work intensely on perfecting our live act, this is our way of thinking and this is what sets us apart,” said Bogra.

Violence against Youth a Major Hurdle for South Africa

By:Tim Tripp
Produced & edited by: Holly Moody

No matter what country a child lives in, there is a chance he or she will be subject to bullying by his or her classmates.

 However, most students in the U.S. do not ever have to fear their teachers physically abusing them.

There are less than 20 countries worldwide that prohibit corporal punishment of children and the U.S. is one of them. Corporal punishment is illegal in the schools of South Africa, but still legal in homes (if it can be characterized as “moderate or reasonable chastisement” – as according to the 1913 Supreme Court ruling in the R v. Janke and Janke case). In South Africa, corporal punishment in schools as well as the home is generating more attention from the government, education departments and other organizations.

Corporal Punishment Persists in South Africa

Corporal punishment has been illegal in South African schools since 1996, but because violence, especially against women and children, has been an unfortunate part of the country’s culture for a long time, it is going to take more than a law passed to get child abuse out of the schools.

 “The school is a place where all students should feel safe and when teachers use physical acts of violence against their students, it not only creates a lot of distrust between the student and teacher, but the kids learn that if you are bigger and stronger than another person, it’s ok to use physical violence,” said Divya Naidoo, a director at Save the Children South Africa.

 Save the Children South Africa is working hard to implement their seven step program to help teachers move away from using physical punishment and to teach them positive, alternative ways to discipline students that are effective.

 “Most teachers were raised at a time where it was acceptable to hit students so when you take something away from them, you can’t just expect that they won’t use it (physical abuse),” Naidoo said. “The solution – even more than just disciplining the teachers – is to teach them something of value that they can use in its place.”

 Corporal punishment is illegal in South Africa's schools. (via Wordpress)
 Statistics South Africa’s latest survey, 15.8 percent of pupils experienced corporal punishment at school in 2012. The survey also noted that the practice was found in every province, but even more so in the provinces of Eastern Cape (30.3 percent), KwaZulu-Natal (21.4 percent) and Free State (18.4 percent). Naidoo reports that South Africa has always been a very violent society and only in the past decade has school violence become a national concern because of the number of extreme cases that were getting lot of media attention. For example, just this year, a high school student in the Durban province was killed by a stampede of tardy students, who were being chased by a teacher with a cane.
According to

 Gertie Pretorius, director of the Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development at the University of Johannesburg, said that “the mental effects (both long-term and short-term) – of violent behavior towards youth – can range from depression and anxiety to personality disorders.”

Corporal punishment persists in South Africa's schools.(via creative commons)
 Not only do students experience violence from their own teachers, but violence among their peers is also an issue. The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention published the 2012 National School Violence Study which outlines the true extent of school violence across South Africa. The study sample comprised of 5,939 students, 121 principals and 239 teachers. Out of those surveyed, 12.2 percent said that they were assaulted by someone at school, 6.3 percent had been assaulted, 4.7 percent were sexually assaulted or raped and 4.5 percent were robbed by someone at school.
Corporal Punishment Stems from Domestic Abuse in Homes

 Abuse against young people does not stop at the schools though. Domestic violence is a big issue as well.

“There needs to be a whole mindset change when it comes to treating women and children,” said Naidoo.

 She explained that women are not high on the agenda in South Africa and it is hard for men to accept women as successful.

 “A lot of men don’t have very high self-esteem, so they gain it by abuse,” she said.

 Naidoo stressed that parents need to stop seeing their kids as their property and thinking they can do whatever they want to their kids.

 Qunita Brown, a research intern at CJCP, thinks that school violence is an issue that needs to be addressed in the home environment first in order for any real change to occur.

 “It is challenging for teachers and parents to tackle violence against children because many of these children are exposed to violence on a daily basis,” said Brown. “Children are raised in homes where their caregivers or significant others model violent and aggressive behaviors, conveying the message that it is acceptable to use violence to assert one’s dominance over another. This is often exacerbated by the reinforcement of these messages in their communities and schools, which puts them at considerable risk for victimization as well as perpetration of violence.”

Lana Jacobson, an award-winning South African journalist and author, thinks the issue of violence against young people is due to lack of fatherly influence and it can be drawn back to the Apartheid times – when the men left their wives and children behind to find work.

 “They migrated to the big cities and the culture of the lack of responsibility and sharing in upbringing became uncalculated and it still exists; poverty also plays a part,” said Jacobson.

The outlook for severely reducing corporal punishment in the schools and home is looking brighter with the issue now being near the forefront of the public agenda. There are several organizations working closely with the schools and getting information out to the general public to educate the teachers and parents. According to Brown, there is still a long way to go though as many teachers are still ill-equipped to employ non-violent means of discipline in the classroom and many parents are still not educated about the effects of violent behavior on kids.

 “Only by dealing with all aspects of the system will violence ultimately be reduced and eradicated,” she said.

Portugal searching for solutions as citizens feel impacts of The Crise'

By: Daniel Medlock
Produced & edited by: Holly Moody

She was disappointed when the Portuguese government ran out of money to re-hire her. 

 “English is no longer part of the curriculum for first through fourth graders, the state doesn’t have the money,” said Claudia Alexandre, an English teacher. 

Alexandre got back up on her feet quickly and was able to continue her career teaching in the private sector. In addition to tutoring, she quickly found work as a translator for an export company. The real victims became the students, who are not only being denied early English teaching but are now being forced into bigger classrooms. 

Thousands of teachers gather to protest layoffs in Libson. (via Wordpress)

 “The maximum class size used to be 26, that is now the minimum. It is usually 30 even 40, ” she said. “The kids have never been so unruly.” 

 Teacher layoffs and classroom sizes are just a fraction of the difficulties Portugal has been facing as a result of their economic crisis. This period of economic stagnation has shown less economic growth than the United States of America displayed during its Great Depression. 

Economic Decline before the Crisis

 According to Joao Rodrigues, a professor in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Coimbra, Portugal’s economy had been in flux for at least a decade before the crisis occurred. 

“Even before the crisis started in 2007, Portugal was already a country facing huge difficulties in adjusting to the strictures of the Eurozone. Before the crisis, Portugal was one of the countries in the world with the lowest GDP per Capita in the new millennium. Unemployment was already rising before the crisis,” he said. 

 The most obvious stricture of the Eurozone was changing the nation’s currency from the Portuguese escudo to the euro - a change the country did not have the infrastructure in place to make.

 “It (the economic decline) has to be related to that (the introduction of the euro) of course, the current difficulties also have to do with the lack of awareness from the Eurozone. It was not prepared for the economic crisis,” said Dr. Alvaro Aguiar, an economics professor at the University of Porto. 

 “We thought that we were protected, that life would be easy. We didn’t adjust before the crisis, so we had to adjust abruptly during the crisis. Now we’re adjusting dramatically,” he added.

 From 2005-2008, Aguiar served as an economic advisor to the Minister of State and Finance. From 2008-2011, he then served as the Chief Economist, a cabinet member of the Minister of State and Finance. He was a key voice in the decision to accept a 78 Billion-Euro bailout from European Financial Stability Facility, the European Financial Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund – a group better known as the Troika.

 “I was attending the Eurozone meetings at the time (October 2010) and we were discussing the bailout of Greece. I was already envisioning what was to come,” Aguiar said. “We looked at our budget for 2011 and the dynamics were quite clear, only some kind of common action from the Eurozone could make it work.”

Implications of Austerity Measures

Thousands take part in austerity measures protests. (via Wordpress)
 Following the bailout, the government began implementing austerity measures in order to pay back these three lenders. 

 These initial austerity measures included cutting the salaries of state workers who made at least 1,500 Euros a month by 3.5 and 10 percent and freezing their pensions. Mortgage rates on houses passed onto the highest paid tax measure, which at that time was 21 percent. Gas and electricity utilities also raised up from 6 percent to 23 percent.

 The income tax is also rising. From 2011 to 2012, the tax rose from 9.8 to 11.8 percent and rose an additional two percent in 2013. However, there was less money to collect as Portugal’s unemployment rate fell to 17.5 percent – the highest in its nation’s history.

 No group felt this more than young people, 42.5 percent of whom are unemployed.

The Impact of the Crisis

 According to “The Guardian,” 250,000 young people have left the country to obtain work since the country accepted the bailout in 2011. To put that in perspective, that is equivalent to approximately 17.5 million people between the ages of 16-24 leaving the United States.

 Pat Westerheimer, a Baltimore native and resident of Cascais, Portugal for the past 22 years, has experienced this phenomenon first hand through her foster son, Chico. 

 “He dropped out of school in tenth grade and got a job as a security guard making about 700 euros a month, and that was all he was ever going to make. When he was 23, he came to me and said, ‘I want to do more with my life,’” she said. “He went to Holland and he’s making 1400 (euros) a month. The lifestyle isn’t what he prefers - no sunshine and beaches or great Portuguese food - but economically that’s where he is and that’s where he will stay.” 

 On October 15, the government announced even more austerity measures. The news had economists like Aguiar wondering if all of these measures will eventually be worth it.

 “Our external debt is being reduced, but its being done at the cost of the loss of our GDP. The question is whether or not we are getting healthy enough to increase GDP in the future and I hope so,” he said.

One more time, with feeling: Musical culture in Mali rebuilds

By: Julia Norris 
Produced & edited by: Holly Moody

Culture takes generations to build, mere seconds to destroy.

 The musicians of Mali know this all too well, as they pick up the pieces left behind after the 2012 conflict that shook their country and their art form.

 For many years, Mali was a cultural epicenter for musical expression in West Africa. Musicians such as the late Ali Farka Touré captivated a global audience and, events like the Festival au Désert brought tourists and musicians from all over the world to experience Malian music--ever vibrant and ever full of life.

 All of that changed in 2012.

Islamists Ban on Music in Mali

 That year, the amount of foreigners who made their way to Timbuktu for the Festival au Désert had drastically decreased from over 800 to about 150. Among the locals, there was a sense of tension in the air just waiting to break. That was in January. By the end of March, Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré had been ousted in a coup d’état, and the constitution suspended. By summer, an Islamist group connected with Al-Quaida had filled the power vacuum by taking complete control of the northern region of Mali. Democracy was the first to go. Music was next.

JeConte & the Mali Allstars (Provided for academic use)
 “In the north, there was a complete moratorium on music as we know it,” said Joe Conte, harmonica player and vocalist for JeConte & the Mali Allstars, who was in Mali recording when the conflict began.

 The Islamists in the North banned all forms of musical expression, Joe explained, right down to the ring tone of a cell phone. The only exception was the singing of the Qu’ran. Musicians’ homes were ransacked, their gear confiscated and destroyed.

 “Some artists were beaten, jailed,” said Amkoullel, a Malian hip-hop artist. “I heard stories about torture on artists in the North.” 

 Many fled south for their safety and freedom to practice their art, in search of the old Mali, but they found that things had changed there as well.

 Amkoullel himself received three death threats to his mobile phone though he was in Bamako, the southern capital.

 Politically unstable Bamako with its plummeting economy was not the hoped for refuge, even for those who escaped direct threats. 

“For West African people life is music,” said Ben Zabbo, an afrobeat musician from Bamako. “It is a piece of our daily life, a piece of everything in our daily life. “All of our celebrations are with music.” 

Economy Impacts lives of Musicians

 However, with the declining economy, there was no money to hold these celebrations let alone to hire musicians to play them. Every facet of everyday life was interrupted. 

“It was hell for us,” said Zabbo. “That was our only way to survive.” “Clubs shut down, people stopped going out and there was a huge shift in the way that people made a living,” said Conte. “Life that was hard got even harder.” 

According to Abdallah Ag Amano, sound engineer and manager for Tadalat from Timbuktu, at the heart of the northern conflict Malian authorities declared a state of emergency in the South in response to the northern conflict. They prohibited any kind of community gathering. 
Tadalat performs at Festival Au Desert 2012 (Provided for academic use)

 “So, the musicians found themselves banned from practicing together, perspective festivals for artists to make music were canceled,” said Ag Amano. 

 Everything came to a halt. For many musicians, this meant that each day was a struggle to put food on the table. This has been a focus of Paul Chandler, co-founder of the NGO Instruments4Africa, who has lived and worked in Mali for the past decade, integrating himself into the musical culture of the region. 

 “We’ve been in triage mode to some extent in terms of how we are helping artists,” said Chandler. “Musicians waking up and figuring out how they are going to take care of their family that day--that’s been a focus of ours.”

Artists come together to rebuild Music in Mali

 After so much destruction, musicians and their supporters all over the country are starting to rebuild. 

 “I am really happy to tell you that it was one year ago since the crisis and music is not dead in Mali,” said Zabbo. “Music is alive once again.”

 Malian musicians everywhere are coming together to act as a voice for peace and reconstruction. 

 In January of 2013, a super group of Malian musicians, calling themselves “Voices United for Mali,” released a song for peace and Amkoullel with, 12 other artists, recorded the single “Tous un pour le Mali”/”Everyone for Mali.” This single is available on iTunes and all proceeds fromt it as well as his last album, Afrique Soleil Nouveau/Africa Shine Again, go to benefit the Malian Red Cross as it assists people in Northern Mali. In July, JeConte & the Mali Allstars released Mali Blues for peace. Both Sidi Toure (Alafia/ “peace”) and Rokia Traoré (Beautiful Africa) released albums in September. Ben Zabbo is in the recording process. 

“Music, art in general, is fed by any kind of situation, good or bad” said Amkoullel. “As long as a situation generates strong emotion, it inspires. So, I’m sure this trauma will inspire musicians in Mali. I wish it were inspired by something positive but, like we say, life goes on and show must go on.” 

 “The rebuilding process will take time. Lots of things have been destroyed, not just material but people’s trust,” said Amkoullel. “People are waiting for answers and for justice.” Ag Amano sees musicians as key players in the peace building process.

 “People do not necessarily have the same confidence in political leaders while a message through music can be listened to by all, said Amano. 

 Like Amkoullel, he urged Malians to come together for forgiveness, solidarity and, above all else, justice. Ben Zabbo echoed this thought. 

 “No one can stop music in Mali, that is clear,” said Zabbo. “But Mali will never know peace without justice.”

Guatemalan Children without Homes in wake of new Law on Adoption

By: Sarah Volpenhein 
Produced and edited by: Holly Moody
Nearly 3,000 Guatemalan children are spending their youth in shelters, without parents for years because of what some call the country’s “broken” adoption system. 

Alma Castaneda, a doctor in Guatemala City, first set eyes on her daughter Camila this July. Abandoned at birth, Camila spent three years in state custody waiting for her file to pass through the adoption system. 

Adoptable children at the Hogar Luz de Maria. (via Wordpress)
 “The system is really slowed down by bureaucracy,” said Castaneda, who applied to be an adoptive parent along with her husband in 2010. “Camila just arrived in August.” 

 In the five years since Guatemala signed onto the Hague Adoption Convention and enacted a new adoption law amid accusations of baby buying, the country has processed 650 adoptions according to the Guatemala’s National Adoption Council (CNA). Before the new Law on Adoption, Guatemala was rivaled only by China as an “exporter” of children. In 2007 alone, families in the U.S. adopted more than 4,800 Guatemalan children according to statistics from the Hague Convention.

 The private attorneys and judges who authorized adoptions of trafficked children “no longer run the adoption process,” said Sebastian Escalon, a journalist for the Guatemalan news outlet Plaza Pública. 

Implications of the Law on Adoption

The new adoption law created a central authority, the National Adoption Council, to oversee the process of adoption. The law, which prioritizes adoptions made within the country, also halted all international adoptions. 

 Although, the drop in completed adoptions is no fault of the new adoption system, said Rudy Zepeda, spokesperson for the CNA. Instead, the current system is only serving the children who actually need an adoptive family, he said. 

 “The previous system produced children to satisfy the demand of other countries and foreigners,” he said. 

 Before passing the new adoption law, UNICEF estimated that, 1,500 Guatemalan babies were trafficked abroad each year for adoption by couples in North America or Europe.

 “The number of children that actually need and have the right to a family has decreased because we are not producing children,” he said. “The industry ended.”

 Dinora Palacios, the director of the children’s shelter Hogar Luz de Maria, disagrees.
Adoptable children enjoy lunch at Hogar Luz de Maria shelter. (via Wordpress)

 “The shelters are filling up. It’s because they aren’t giving kids up for adoption anymore,” she said, noting that the number of children in her shelter has risen from 25 to 45 in the past year. “Last year there wasn’t one adoption from this shelter. This year we’ve only given up three out of 15 who are adoptable.”

The Adoption Process in Guatemala

 According to Zepeda, the adoption process takes less than nine months. He laid the blame for any backlogs on the courts, which are in charge of locating children’s biological families in cases where they have been abandoned or their papers falsified. Under the previous system, children who were kidnapped or sold were placed in the adoption mill with false documents. 

 If a child cannot be reunited with his immediate or extended family, he is declared adoptable according to Sergio Sanchez of the attorney general’s office. The CNA then matches the child with a suitable adoptive family. 

 In 2012, the attorney general’s office and childhood judges declared 103 children “adoptable” and passed their files on to the CNA according to the council’s annual report. More than 2,000 children were waiting for the courts to declare them adoptable or not as of this September according to Zepeda. 

 But Palacios feels that the number of adoptive families in Guatemala is insufficient.

 According to Zepeda, 98 families were cleared to adopt a child in 2013. About 640 children were waiting to be placed with adoptive families as of September. Castenada shares the same sentiment.

 “There are many abandoned children and many foreigners that are able to adopt a child and that want to adopt a child,” she said. “Just because of the law they can’t do it.”

 “Eso es malo,” she said. That is bad. 

 “Guatemalan families often do not want or are not equipped to take in children with psychological or medical problems,” said Castenada, whose adopted daughter has a respiratory problems.

 “Very few families take them in,” she said. “Everyone wants a healthy child.” Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard professor who specializes in child welfare and adoption and who has written extensively on the subject, believes that shutting out foreign families from adoption is “systematically destroying” Guatemalan youth. 

 The Law on Adoption “closed off the opportunity for thousands of [children] to get homes.

 “They’re going to instead grow up in institutions or one the streets,” she said. 

 She said that shutting children in institutions creates measurable differences in their biological makeup. 

 “You can see the difference in brain scans, and you can measure after a couple of years the differences, in emotional stability, in depression,” she said. 

UNICEF, which was very involved in pushing Guatemala to enact the 2007 Law on Adoption, places importance on children growing up with their biological families when possible. It also encourages governments to establish institutions to regulate adoption so as not to violate children’s human rights. 

 Bartholet doesn’t have faith in Guatemala’s current system. 

 “The kids who grow up damaged…that doesn’t matter in the calculus of these people,” she said. Castenada believes that the system must change, and she thinks international pressure is key. 

 “The time it takes to adopt a child [needs to change],” she said. “Changing all the processes so that children go with a family since infancy.”

Chasing Dreams: Baseball in the Dominican Republic

The Pittsburgh Pirates' baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Photo via Pittsburgh Pirates

By: Steve Uhlmann
Produced & edited by: Tim Tripp

  Every year, hundreds of teenage boys in the Dominican Republic pack their bags and take part in a rite of passage: professional baseball tryouts.
  Before they take the field, the dream seems so real. The fame, the honor, the money are all there for the taking.  As they field grounders and fly balls, only a few scouts watch. Given the stakes, it may seem more like 40,000 screaming fans during a World Series game to these young men.
  If the scouts like what they see, a contract and an opportunity to play in a team-affiliated development camp awaits. If not, it’s time to hitchhike to another locale to give it another try.
  Ever since Cuban immigrants escaping war in the late 1800s brought the game to the small island country, the Dominican Republic and baseball have had a close marriage. Even the poorest of the developing country’s youth learn the game with whatever they can get their hands on. Broomsticks were used as bats, rolled up socks served as balls and old milk cartons become gloves.
  Ozzie Virgil Sr. became the first Dominican to play in Major League Baseball in 1958, and since then many young boys have looked to professional baseball as their ticket out of the slums.
  While adding their name to the ranks with superstars such as David Ortiz, Nelson Cruz and Jose Reyes may appeal to wide-eyed young people, it’s not a very realistic proposition. Dr. Roberto Gonzalez Echevaria, a Cuban native who has devoted his life to studying Latin America culture, has done extensive work exploring baseball’s place in Dominican culture. He feels that this irrational thinking.
 “It’s delusional thinking,” he said. “Hundreds and hundreds of kids sign on to pro teams yet only three or four out of that hundred make the big leagues. What happens to the rest? It becomes a problem.”
 A big part of this problem is that many children out of school in order to pursue baseball. Economics professor Dr. Julia Paxton spent time in the Dominican Republic studying the schooling habits of teenagers in the country. The results she found were alarming.
Shortstop Jose Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic. Photo via Wikipedia Commons

 “The Dominican has high gender disparity for secondary education,” she said. “There were much more girls attending secondary school than males and a lot of that has to do with baseball.”
  MLB rules prohibit teams from signing players until they are 16 years old, but many abandon school before that to train on their own.
  For those young men lucky enough to sign with a professional team, a long laborious road awaits. All 30 MLB teams have training academies in the Dominican Republic where they try to find the best players to bring to their minor league systems in the United States.
 While the word “academy” is used as a title, there is not much learning happening besides baseball.
 “These academies do try to provide a little education, some English, to help them prepare for the U.S.,” Dr. Echevaria said. “But essentially they are baseball factories with cheap labor.”
  Young Players Subject to Outside Dangers
  Besides having to battle every day for their future, there are many other dangers for young players in the Dominican. The threat of buscones, or street agents wanting to take advantage of prospects and their money, is always a concern.
 “There were scandals with these men that were serving as unofficial intermediaries between families, kids and baseball teams,” Echevaria said. “They pay a small sum to cover these kids and then try to pocket all the bonuses.”
 Performance-enhancing drug use is also prevalent. In 2013, 15 of 44 players suspended for PED’s were Dominican. Echevaria said that the desperate circumstances many face cause them to take drastic measures to get an edge.
“You hear the horror stories,” he said. “They try to control it but it’s still a big problem.”
 When Charles Farrell traveled with the MLB to investigate team-owned Dominican baseball academies in 2000, he and the others could not believe what they saw.
“The teams had no idea what was going on at the academies,” he said. “The conditions were poor, poor nutrition and no education.”
 That’s when Farrell and a group of associates decided to move to San Pedro de Macoris to begin the Dominican Republic Sports and Education Academy. The school would give students a safe place to train for baseball, but with a primary focus on post-secondary education.
 “We want to inspire future generations with the power of education,” he said. “They can use their baseball skills to get a college scholarship or have the foundation to study to be a doctor, an engineer. They can have an impact on their country beyond just being baseball players.”
 The pilot class in 2013 has 15 students and the academy is ready to expand to over 100 next year. The complex will feature state-of-the-art dormitories, classrooms and baseball facilities for students to practice. Curriculum consists of English, life skills and financial planning to prepare students for college and beyond.
 The MLB is also drawing out plans for the 98 percent of team academy enrollees that will never get a chance to play in the United States and must re-enter the Dominican workforce. A big problem for most of these youth is that they lack the skills needed to get careers that pay well. They have no choice but taking low-wage jobs that continue the cycle of poverty for many.
 “It’s our responsibility to make sure that these young men become productive members of society,” MLB public relations officer Mike Teevan said. “We’ve retooled the way our teams educate players to make sure they have the tools needed to succeed.”
 Farrell said it’s tough to get parents on board with any long-term education plan given the time commitment.
 “A lot of times it’s the mother and father who push their kids into baseball for a career because that means alleviation from poverty,” he said. “It takes a parent also understanding they need their son an education.”
  He says that reaction has been positive, however, and there are still plenty of kids interested in the program going forward. The goal is to be successful enough to reform the way young baseball talent is treated there.
 “A lot of people call us dreamers, illusionists, but we are succeeding,” he said. “These young men are going to become the heroes of the countries beyond just baseball.”  

Civil struggles overshadow World Cup in Brazil

By: Kevin Noonan
Produced & Edited by: Daniel Medlock

In the nation of Brazil, soccer surpasses its designation as just a game. 

One cannot effectively examine the culture of Brazil without mentioning the role of soccer in society. Even a self-proclaimed “non-football fan” Camila Muniz from Salvador, Bahia, admits the social impact the game has on its citizens.

People in Brazil associate football with their own identity, a piece of their nationality,” Muniz said.

Neymar is seen as a national hero. 
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
“Soccer players like Ronaldinho and Neymar are almost seen as national heroes and many of the kids want to be just like them.”

Given this context, Brazil appears to be a perfect fit for the FIFA World Cup, right? Surprisingly, this question remains unanswered.

The Government's Big Lie

Since Brazil was announced as the host of the 2014 World Cup in 2007, the rights of Brazilian citizens have taken a backseat to funding the worldwide event.

The frustration of Brazilian citizens tends to be directed at the Brazilian government. Despite claiming the six new stadiums required for the World Cup will be funded by private means, the government has burdened its citizens by funding the construction of these venues with taxpayer money.

Milton Lima, an English teacher in Campinas, São Paulo, feels that the government has a level of deceptiveness, which has become commonplace in a nation rife with corruption.

Brazilians knew [funding would be public] all along. Even with the politicians saying that the stadiums would be privately funded, interiorly we knew that it wasn’t true and it was a lie,” Lima said. “I think this frustrating feeling among the citizens is increasing every day.”

Lima notes his frustration that Corinthians, a financially successful club in Brazil, which is located in São Paulo, is getting a new $200 million stadium without having to pay taxes on its construction.

A Nation on Edge

This spending led to protests during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. The choice to fund venues without addressing major infrastructural issues such as transportation and education caused the people of Brazil to take to the streets.

Renan Bortoletto, a business control analyst based out of São Paulo, believes the protests have been a positive thing for the country.

“The protests are an example of the determination of Brazilians,” Bortoletto said. “We love our country and want the best for Brazil. This is why people are trying to change things here and this is the time, because everybody is looking at us.”

While the protests have led to some changes, such as increased salaries for teachers and doctors, Lima believes, “just enough was done to shut us up.’”

Rafael Ortiz Sanchez, an audio technician from Campinas, São Paulo, believes the protests were a good thing for Brazil in principle. However, the behavior of some protesters suggested citizens were not completely united in their cause.

“If the people protesting really cared about things being done right, Brazil would change,” Ortiz Sanchez said, “When I was in the middle of those people, I saw people who thought it was a party. Those people weren’t really thinking about the issues and some people were using the protests as a reason to be violent and break in to places just for fun.”

The protests have shown a violent side of the country that would certainly be a dark mark on FIFA and the World Cup. While violence has been prevalent at a local level for soccer clubs, both Lima and Ortiz Sanchez feel that violence will be a non-issue during the World Cup.

“We have some problems of course, in the past we had a lot, just because of the color of shirt that is being worn.” Lima said. “Today, of course it still happens, but I don’t think that it is something that is very relevant.”

“I don’t think there will be many problems, but it could happen," Ortiz Sanchez said. “If a small group finds another small group, that could start something.”

While Brazilians have a passion for soccer, perhaps their strongest passion lies in receiving fair treatment from their government. Lima’s opinion of his nation hosting the event has shifted since the announcement was made in 2007.

“My idea of the World Cup in Brazil has changed completely,” Lima said. “I had this hope that Brazil would have a once in a lifetime chance to change its infrastructure. I began to realize as time went on that I forgot how Brazilian politicians work here. Today, I have a completely opposite opinion than I did six years ago”

The Defining Hour

With less than 10 months remaining till the first match of the 2014 World Cup, more questions remained unanswered. Five of the World Cup Stadiums are behind schedule and Arena da Amazônia, a stadium being built in Manaus, Amazonas has been proposed to serve as a prison after the World Cup by The Amazonas Court of Justice.
Photo via Fifa.com

Among Brazilians, public opinion varies as to whether or not the World Cup will be a success for the country. Wendel Ozana, a production engineer based out of Campinas, São Paulo, believes that the event will be a success in Brazil.

“In my opinion, the World Cup will be much better than the Confederations Cup,” Ozana said. “This event will be perfect and Brazil will show to the rest of the world, a perfect organization and I expect it from the organization in Brazil.

Ortiz Sanchez, on the other hand, believes that the event might be a disappointment.

“We always hear about these stadiums and big soccer matches and the other World Cups. We have always heard about how these events are organized, secured and perfect,” Ortiz Sanchez said. “I don’t think Brazil is going to be so perfect. I think that the people who have experienced the World Cup in Europe and come to Brazil expecting those things will be disappointed.”

Although soccer is called “the beautiful game," protests and lack of infrastructure will likely be anything but beautiful for FIFA officials.