What You Missed While the U.S Media Slept-April/May 2014

In light of the massive media hubbub and eye-rolling over the Donald Sterling saga, a dear friend suggested that it might be time for a second installment of “What You Missed While the U.S Media Slept.” I couldn’t agree more.  Enjoy–feedback is welcome, as well any other news that both I and the U.S media overlooked.

Missed Media Flag 2

(DISCLAIMER:That’s not to say that these news items haven’t been covered at all in the U.S media–far from it. But they don’t dominate the headlines as they shouldNor do I want to make light of the Donald Sterling matter. Racism is offensive, and obviously, there are serious issues when a man like  Sterling owns a team comprised of largely African American players. But when this old man’s face is on the homepage of every single major news outlet while 234 Nigerian girls remained in captivity–then that sends a very strong message about press in the U.S. And not in a good way.)

1. Migrant Deaths on U.S Soil and DNA Tests to the Rescue-CNN

It’s the invisible issue, one that even the immigration reform debate has chosen to neglect: migrant deaths on the U.S-Mexico border. The journey through Mexico and the scathing Arizona desert–one of the most common routes for undocumented immigrants to reach the U.S–is perilous, and over 2,000 migrants’ corpses have been found dead over the past four years, many lacking identification.  Regardless of your stance on undocumented immigrants, it would be hard for anyone to deny that allowing migrants to perish on U.S soil is a grave injustice. The price of immigration is just too high–in all respects.

While the past cannot be changed and these migrants cannot be brought back from the dead, some brave individuals in the U.S are trying to bring closure to the victims’ loved ones back in Central America and Mexico by identifying deceased migrants through the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), headed by Mercedes Doretti.

 

Paula Ivette Martinez waits for news of her brother and sister's deaths after submitting her DNA to the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team.  She is one of more than 1,000 people involved in the project. Image credit: Carlos Perez, CNN

Paula Ivette Martinez waits for news of her brother and sister’s deaths after submitting her DNA to the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team.
She is one of more than 1,000 people involved in the project.
Image credit: Carlos Perez, CNN

The deadliest trip in America? 

2. Violence in Copacabana (Rio de Janieiro) with less than a month until the World Cup-The Telegraph

Brazil, the site of the upcoming World Cup, is a country of extremes: extreme beauty and rapid development, but immense poverty and rampant inequality as well.

The poor are largely marginalized subjected to police brutality, as was the case when protests recently erupted in a favela or slum in Copacabana, Rio De Janeiro in response to the police killing of TV dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira (the police mistook him for a drug dealer). Police gunned down the area and set Copacabana under lockdown, instilling fear in the hearts of residents.

However, this is hardly a new issue for most of Rio’s poor. Excessive policing and brutality in the favelas of Copacabana has been a reality of the poor for their entire lives. And in less than two months, thousands of tourists will be flocking to hotels in Copacabana to watch the World Cup. Does this situation call into question the judgment of those who allowed Brazil to host the World Cup? Maybe, but if Russia can be allowed to host the Sochi Olympics, then clearly, human rights don’t matter when it comes to hosting multibillion dollar sporting events–just the pocketbook and a blank check.

A Brazilian Special Force police officer takes position during a deadly riot in Copacabana.  Image Credit: The Telegraph

A Brazilian Special Force police officer takes position during a deadly riot in Copacabana.
Image Credit: The Telegraph

Copacabana in lockdown after violence breaks out in favela close to tourist beach

3. Situation in Egypt Worsens as Hundreds Sent to Be Slaughtered-New York Times

The spotlight’s been off Egypt since the tumultuous coup and fall of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood last year, but unrest continues to spiral out of control all the same. In perhaps one of the most outrageous and horrific court decisions in recent history, an Egyptian judge mass-sentenced 529 defendants to death for the murder of a police officer, allegedly in anger over the the toppling of Egypt’s Islamist president. That’s a little excessive.

Nine months ago, when the military declared a coup and threw out the legitimately elected President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood–a political party largely comprised of Islamist religious ideologues–many liberals around the world were applauding the move, believing that the Muslim Brotherhood would drag Egypt back into the 19th century with its views on Islam. Fast forward to the present-day: Not so many people are cheering now, and for good reason.

A relative of one of the convicted Egyptians faints outside a courthouse in Matay, Minya Province.  Image credit: Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

A relative of one of the convicted Egyptians faints outside a courthouse in Matay, Minya Province.
Image credit: Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

Hundreds of Egyptians Sentenced to Die in Killing of a Police Officer

4. Things Are Getting Real in Thailand: Popular Protests, Military Coups, and All That Jazz-Al Jazeera

The dispute in Thailand is hardly new if you’ve been paying attention at all to the international media. Sadly, Thailand has often taken a backseat to more immediate matters of urgent concern in the popular media. Like the fact that Jennifer Lawrence puked at a party after the Oscars. Celebrities getting drunk and behaving badly? Noooo, that’s waaayy more important than political unrest in Thailand. As long as you can still get Pad Thai and Sriracha sauce readily available at your favorite Thai restaurant, then who really cares about the country itself? But I digress.

A bottle of Sriracha sauce, a Thai condiment created by Vietnamese American David Tran and beloved by spicy food lovers. Image credit: Joshua Bousel, Seriouseats.com

A bottle of Sriracha sauce, a Thai condiment created by Vietnamese American David Tran and beloved by spicy food lovers.
Image credit: Joshua Bousel, Seriouseats.com

Thailand has been wracked with popular protests between the Red Shirts, or rural supporters of the democratically elected government, and the Yellow Shirts, urban elite supporters of the Thai monarch that want to depose the democratically elected government because they believe it’s corrupted by various foreign influences, including the exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This has gone on for months, with some bloodshed and a lotta turmoil, including the courts kicking Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra out of power less than two weeks ago. For the past few months, the military had been strangely silent. For a country that’s had more military coups than I have fingers on both hands, that should’ve been a good sign. But it wasn’t.

On Tuesday, May 20, the military proclaimed martial law to bring order to the streets of Bangkok, but firmly maintained that it was not, in fact, declaring a coup. Less than 48 hours later on Thursday, May 22, after the military failed to bring about a consensus between the two opposing parties in government and end the political unrest, the military stated that it had a change of heart and was, in fact, detaining leaders of the current government, suspending the Constitution, censoring the press, and indeed declaring a coup.

In the words of Ron Burgundy:

Thai military leaders dissolve Senate

Also, does the situation in Thailand ring a bell to anyone? If you thought of Egypt, then ding-ding! You are correct. Yet for some reason, the U.S has reacted very differently to the coup in Thailand versus the political situation in Egypt. Read more about why in Adam Taylor’s great article in the Washington Post.

5.  Shabab Rebels Unleash Terror into the Heart of Somalia-Reuters

In the latest spate of terrorist violence to wrack Africa, Al Shabaab militants laid siege to the Somalian Parliament building in the capital of Mogadishu on May 24 and killed 10 people in the bomb and gun assault.

Sadly, this is not the first round of such violence to be perpetrated by Al Shabaab. The Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab took credit for at least 13 deaths between February and April of this year, and has long ruled (AKA terrorized) large swathes of the country in the absence of a strong central government in Somalia since the toppling of dictator Mohamed Sid Barre more than two decades ago.

Somali government soldiers take their positions during a clash with Al Shabaab militants outside the Parliament buildings in the capital Mogadishu. Image credit: REUTERS/Omar Faruk

Somali government soldiers take their positions during a clash with Al Shabaab militants outside the Parliament buildings in the capital Mogadishu. Image credit: REUTERS/Omar Faruk

Al-Shabab attacks Somali Parliament, at least 10 dead

6. Vietnam and China Clash as Protestors Take to the Streets-Los Angeles Times

Vietnam and China have long feuded over waters in the South China Sea, with both parties claiming the maritime territory as their own and the battle in the high seas becoming symbolically linked to the national identity of the two countries.

However, things have quickly heated up over the past month, as Vietnamese citizens have had enough of China’s bullying, particularly after China brazenly moved an oil rig into the disputed seas. However, irate Vietnamese individuals unfortunately took to the streets against innocent Chinese living abroad in Vietnam, setting establishments on fire and singling out Chinese communities with threats and actual use of violence, injuring and killing several people. Over 200 businesses in Vietnam suffered severe losses to their companies in the biggest protests in recent history in this tightly-controlled communist nation.

The Chinese government has already evacuated thousands of Chinese individuals living in Vietnam back to China for safety purposes. Sad times for Vietnam and China. President Obama has talked to great length about the importance of the Asia Pacific, particularly Southeast Asia, to the U.S, yet it seems the U.S media hasn’t really picked up on that–or doesn’t really care.

 

Anti-China protestors set fire to more than a dozen factories in Vietnam. Image credit: VNExpress / AFP/Getty Images

Anti-China protestors set fire to more than a dozen factories in Vietnam.
Image credit: VNExpress / AFP/Getty Images

Vietnam mobs torch foreign factories in anti-China protests

7. Teen Eagle Huntress from Mongolia out-Katnisses Katniss Everdeen-BBC

On a more light-hearted note: How awesome is 13-year-old Ashol Pan, a 13-year-old Mongolian huntress who trains golden eagles to swoop on prey? Ashol is among the last of a dying breed of falconers (rumored to be only 400 in total), and one of the few–perhaps only–girls to practice the trade in the modern day. A hunt can last for days on horseback in minus-40 degrees C weather; a team of riders hunt together, charging at an animal once its been spotted to lure it into the open, after which, they release the show-stopper: the golden eagle.

Lately, Katniss Everdeen, the main protagonist from The Hunger Games, has become the iconic ‘tough teen’ role model for many young girls around the world, but I think we might have a real-life contender for Katniss Everdeen in Ashol Pan. Like Katniss, she’s learning to support her family through hunting–albeit, through an avian intermediary–and she seems to be tough as nails, though with a warm smile on her face. Impressive archery skills or a deadly golden eagle? That’s a tough one.

13-year-old Ashol Pan, an eagle huntress from Mongolia, uses a golden eagle to hunt for foxes and hares. Image Credit: Asher Svidensky, taken from BBC

13-year-old Ashol Pan, an eagle huntress from Mongolia, uses a golden eagle to hunt for foxes and hares.
Image Credit: Asher Svidensky, taken from BBC

A 13 Year-Old Eagle Huntress in Mongolia

 

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Real Talk Book Review: “First They Killed My Father”

FTKMF_bookcover

The book cover of “First they Killed my Father” by Loung Ung. Image from loungung.com.

First they Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers: What a fiercely powerful, gripping book. Loung Ung makes a bold move by revealing a massive spoiler in the book title, but even with that knowledge, this book remains heart-stopping and horrifically compelling until the very last page. Revealing the brutal Khmer Rouge through the eyes of a middle-class, five-year-old Chinese Cambodian girl from Phnom Penh is the perfect lens to understand the terrible impact of a totalitarian, repressive regime upon generations of Cambodians from 1975-79, during which nearly a quarter of the country’s population perished as a result of execution, torture, and oftentimes, starvation.

Loung Ung is an incredible storyteller, and you as the reader can vividly understand all the emotions and tactile senses she experiences–the overwhelming, scorching heat of the Cambodian sun as she labors in the rice fields, the terror as she awkwardly shoots into the darkness at Vietnamese soldiers (Youns) and phantoms after becoming a child soldier, and of course, the ever-present, terrible aching hurt that comes from a belly that is never full.

I am impressed and moved by her honesty, particularly the way she describes herself, such as the guilt she feels after stealing a bit of the family’s meager share of rice to quell her hunger as she looks on at her utterly malnourished younger sister Geak, as well as the all-consuming rage and desire to kill those responsible for harming her family and shattering her innocence. She makes no effort to sugarcoat her own human failings, which become amplified during the Khmer Rouge regime; her courage is admirable and it helps us understand the unromantic realities of the human condition during starvation and oppression.

Loung Ung occasionally transitions to the point-of-view of her separate family members, as if she were a bird flying high above her family members, witnessing their suffering but completely unable to alter their tragic fate. This may seem jarring at first, but it quickly becomes a powerful rhetorical device to demonstrate a five-year-old’s all-encompassing love for her family and sense of injustice at those who would take them from her.

Loung Ung, author of "First They Killed My Father." Image taken from loungung.com.

Loung Ung, author of “First They Killed My Father.” Image taken from loungung.com.

You may cry, you may be angry, but whatever the case–this book is entirely unforgettable. In both the best and worst sense of the word.

Go buy it today. You won’t regret it.

Check out Loung Ung’s website for more information about this book, and also Lucky Child: a story of Loung’s assimilation to  American culture alongside the parallel life of her sister Chou, who endures hardships in Cambodia.

 

9 things you missed while the U.S media slept-Mar 30, 2014

From mysterious planes disappearing off into a new Bermuda Triangle (or the bottom of the Indian Ocean) to naked tourists at Macchu Picchu, CNN and other such U.S-based news sites have been doing an outstanding job of keeping Americans abreast of news that really matter. That being said, I think there have been some noticeable oversights regarding some pretty weighty international matters that haven’t been getting their fair share of airtime.

(DISCLAIMER: That’s not to say that these news items haven’t been covered at all in the U.S media–far from it. However, are they front and center like Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which has been literally been covered to the depths of the ocean? No, and that’s why they’re being featured here).

1. Venezuela went up in flames and entered its sixth week of anti-government protests 

A national guard holds a bottle of molotov cocktail at Altamira square in Caracas

A national guard holds a bottle of molotov cocktail at Altamira square in Caracas March 17, 2014.
PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS/CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS

Venezuela unrest toll rises as soldier is shot in head

2. A civil war rages on in Syria after three years

March 15 marked three years since start of the civil war in Syria in 2011. When President Obama’s short-lived plan to intervene in Syria after President Bashir al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people fell through, Syria largely dropped off the public’s radar. Again. As of now, almost half of Syria’s chemical weapons have been removed and the Syrian army seized control of the historic Crusader Castle (a UNESCO World Heritage site) in a symbolically potent victory over the divided rebels. As always, the number of refugees and dead continues to grow by the day.

 

The Syrian government's army seized control of Crusader castle from the divided rebel factions. PHOTO CREDIT: Al Jazeera

The Syrian government’s army seized control of Crusader castle from the divided rebel factions. PHOTO CREDIT: Al Jazeera

 

3. France intervened in the Central African Republic to stop a civil war in 2013, and troops remain to this day. Mali suffered from internal terrorist threats, and France has lent its support there as well .

The U.S isn’t doing much on the humanitarian intervention front, but that’s okay, because France is doing enough to compensate for pretty much every single Western power. The former colonial power decided last year to intervene in the Central African Republic with the intent of stopping a brutal civil war between Muslims and Christians, deploying troops in December 2013. French president François Hollande plans to send an additional 2,000 troops shortly. However, the French may have overestimated their ability to patch things up quickly in the war-ravaged country.

France risks long stay after misjudging Central African Republic

French troops deployed in the Central African Republic to quell fighting in June of last year. PHOTO CREDIT: Emmanuel Braun, Reuters

French troops deployed in the Central African Republic to quell fighting in June of last year. PHOTO CREDIT: Emmanuel Braun, Reuters

At the behest of Mali, France also sent 5,000 troops to the West African nation a little over a year ago to counter Al-Qaeda-linked rebels and quell terrorist threats, an effort that has been widely hailed as a success. It’s looking to settle down though as a force of 12,000 UN peacekeepers readies to deploy to Mali.

 Mali, one year later: France’s mission accomplished–but much left to do

4. Darfur. It’s still an issue.

Remember how the U.S used the word ‘genocide’ for the first time with regard to a bloody conflict and mass killing in sub-Saharan Africa after a government-backed Arab militia began plundering and raping villages in Darfur and southern Sudan? And then the U.S still did nothing to quell the ethnic unrest or intervene on humanitarian grounds? Well, 10 years down the line, even after South Sudan seceded and formed its own independent nation in 2011, things aren’t exactly sunny in Darfur (which is still part of northern Sudan, or Sudan proper).

Civilians rest at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur. There are an estimated 2 million IDPs in Sudan. PHOTO CREDIT: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP

Civilians rest at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur. There are an estimated 2 million IDPs in Sudan.
PHOTO CREDIT: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP

Darfur conflict: civilians deliberately targeted as tribal violence escalates

5. 20 years later: Rwanda

Nearly 20 years after a genocide which brutally massacred 75% of Rwanda’s Tutsi population and devastated the nation, Rwanda is doing quite well for itself (well, relatively speaking). The country under the rule of President Paul Kagame now prides itself on the safety of women, and you can frequently find ladies walking the streets of Kigalia at nighttime with little worry. It’s also reputed to be one of the less corrupt states in the region. Victims of the genocide live side-by-side with their perpetrators and individuals are still being brought to bear before war crimes tribunals,  so obviously the wounds are still fresh and suspicions linger. But it’s a start.

Messages written on streamers by visitors. Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Rwanda. PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Scourfield

Messages written on streamers by visitors. Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Rwanda. PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Scourfield

A story, old and new, of Rwanda

6. Continued slaughter of the Rohingya Muslim people in Myanmar

Myanmar may be the darling of the media, having rapidly opened up to trade liberalization and to the West in the past two years, but wait just a minute before you slap a gold medal on its chest: It is allowing the mass slaughter of its minority Rohingya Muslim population by the Buddhist majority in the state of Rakhine, and the world (and sadly, longtime human rights activist and Burmese political leader Aung San Suu Kyi) is standing by idly while it happens. As a result, several thousand Muslims have attempted  to flee Myanmar into Thailand, a journey which often costs them their lives.

The graves of Rohingya Muslim men, found dead of sepsis in a smuggler's camp. They were abandoned because they could not afford to pay for the final stretch of the trip to Malaysia. Credit: Adam Dean, New York Times

The graves of Rohingya Muslim men, found dead of sepsis in a smuggler’s camp. They were abandoned because they could not afford to pay for the final stretch of the trip to Malaysia.
PHOTO CREDIT: Adam Dean, New York Times

For Myanmar Muslim Minority, No Escape from Brutality

7. Greece. Oh Greece.

After suffering a somewhat humiliating default  (then again, it was pretty darn embarrassing for the U.S too, given that we caused the worldwide financial crisis in the first place), Greece is back in the news! This time, for…well, pretty much the exact same reasons they were the stars of every T.V screen in ’08. Financial woes, oh my. The Mediterranean nation agreed to its toughest round of negotiations yet with the hope of repaying 10 billion euros worth of bonds in May.

A Greek and an EU flag float in the breeze next to the temple of the Parthenon, during the takeover ceremony of the six-month rotation of Greece's EU Presidency. PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

A Greek and an EU flag float in the breeze next to the temple of the Parthenon, during the takeover ceremony of the six-month rotation of Greece’s EU Presidency. PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Greece, lenders clinch deal on new aid after toughest review

8. The brutal slaying of Pakistani grandmother Mamana Bibi. Cause of death: drone strike.

Somewhat old news, but it still bears repeating: Much ado was said and done when the brilliantly courageous and inspirational Malala Yousafzai came to the U.S, wowing John Stewart and the American with her conviction and poise as she spoke about girls’ right to education and terrorism. But how about a much less well-known Pakistani girl who was received by almost dead silence in the media upon arrival to Washington last November? Her grandmother, Mamana Bibi, was horrifically killed by an accidental U.S drone strike while was plucking vegetables from her garden in Pakistan.

A photograph of Mamana Bibi, a Pakistani grandmother slain by an accidental  U.S drone strike while standing outside her home last year.

A photograph of Mamana Bibi, a Pakistani grandmother slain by an accidental U.S drone strike while standing outside her home last year. PHOTO CREDIT: Naming the Dead project

Naming the Dead: A project tracking drone deaths in Pakistan-Bibi Mamana

9. To end on a lighter (yet still kinda depressing) note:

Climate change–that’s still a thing?

Apparently, increased carbon dioxide from climate change may be linked to larger poison ivy leaves. Uh oh! Better break out that anti-rash ointment if you plan to take a stroll in the woods anytime within the next 50 years.

Apparently, increased carbon dioxide from climate change may be linked to larger poison ivy leaves. Uh oh! Better break out that anti-rash ointment if you plan to take a stroll in the woods anytime within the next 50 years. PHOTO CREDIT:  Flickr (tvnewsbadge)

According to the U.S Congress, apparently not.