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PostSubject: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:05 am


US loses popularity in Latin America


12. Oktober 2008, 11:56 Uhr

In a matter of weeks, a Russian naval squadron will arrive in the
waters off Latin America for the first time since the Cold War. It is
already getting a warm welcome from some in a region where the
influence of the United States is in decline.


Foto: REUTERS

Members of faction groups write "Criminals out of Palmerola" on a wall
during a protest against the militarization in Latin America, outside
the U.S. Palmerola military base near Comayagua.

"The U.S. Fourth Fleet can come to Latin America but a Russian fleet
can't?" said Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa. "If you ask me,
any country and any fleet that wants can visit us. We're a country of open
doors."
The United States remains the strongest outside power in Latin America by most
measures, including trade, military cooperation and the sheer size of its
embassies. Yet U.S. clout in what it once considered its backyard has sunk
to perhaps the lowest point in decades. As Washington turned its attention
to the Middle East, Latin America swung to the left and other powers moved
in.
The United States' financial crisis is not helping. Latin American countries
forced by Washington to swallow painful austerity measures in the 1980s and
1990s are aghast at the U.S. failure to police its own markets.

"We did our homework – and they didn't, they who've been telling us for
three decades what to do," the man who presides over Latin America's
largest economy, President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva of Brazil, complained
bitterly.
Latin America's more than 550 million people now "have every reason to
view the U.S. as a banana republic," says analyst Michael Shifter of
the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington. "U.S. lectures to
Latin Americans about excess greed and lack of accountability have long rung
hollow, but today they sound even more ridiculous."
From 2002 through 2007, the U.S. image eroded in all six Latin American
countries polled by the Pew organization, especially in Venezuela, Argentina
and Bolivia. (The others were Brazil, Peru and Mexico.) People surveyed in
18 Latin American countries rated President Bush among the least popular
leaders in 2007, along with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and just
ahead of basement-bound Fidel Castro of Cuba, according to the
Latinobarometro group of Chile.


READ MORE:http://www.welt.de/english-news/article2565304/US-loses-popularity-in-Latin-America.html
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PostSubject: Re: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:12 am

Egypt: We are All Laila



Saturday, October
11th,
2008 @ 01:30 UTC


by Amira Al Hussaini




We are all Laila
,
echo Egyptian female bloggers in one voice. Who is Laila and why do
Egyptian girls and women associate themselves with her? Read on to
learn how Egyptian bloggers are working to break the gender barrier and
make their voices heard.
The story starts
in September, 2006, when a group of bloggers decided the time has come
for them to speak up and share their own stories and experiences, as
well of those of other women, with injustice.
The initiative was launched as follows:

<blockquote>بدأت فكرة “كلنا ليلى” بليلى/ واحدة منا تشكو و تبوح ل/ليلى أخرى ليزيد
العدد لثلاثة فخمسة فأكثر من خمسين فتاة و سيدة، لنكتشف أنه على اختلاف
خلفياتنا و أفكارنا و أولوياتنا كلنا في النهاية ليلى.
و ليلى هي بطلة رواية بعنوان ” الباب المفتوح” للروائية لطيفة الزيات وقد
تحولت تلك الرواية إلى عمل سينمائي يحمل نفس الاسم - قامت ببطولته فاتن
حمامة . ليلى هي نموذج للفتاة المصرية التي تتعرض لمواقف حياتية مختلفة في
مجتمع يعلى من شأن الرجل ويقلل من شأن المرأة، ولا يهتم لأحلامها أو
أفكارها أو ما تريد أن تصنع في حياتها.
ومع ذلك فقد استطاعت ليلى التي تعرضت منذ طفولتها لأشكال مختلفة من
التمييز أن تحتفظ بفكرتها الأصيلة عن نفسها وتظل مؤمنة بدورها كإمراة لا
تقل أهمية بأي حال من الأحوال عن الرجل سواء في البيت أو في العمل أو في
الدراسة أو في العمل العام.</blockquote>


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PostSubject: Re: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:13 am

The idea behind ‘We are all Laila
started with with Laila, a woman who was confiding her concerns to
another Laila. Soon the two Lailas became three, then five and then
more than 50 women, who discovered that despite the differences in
their circumstances, ideas and priorities, they were all Laila at the
end of the day. Laila is the heroine of The Open Door, by novelist Latifa Al Zayat, which was later made into a movie, starring Faten Hamama.
Laila is your contemporary Egyptian girl, who faces different
circumstances in a society which elevates the station of men and
overlooks women. No one cared for her dreams and ideas and what she
wanted to achieve in her life. Despite all this, Laila, who was
subjected to discrimination from her childhood, was able to maintain
her belief in herself, and her role as a women equal in importance to
men - whether at home, in the work place, at school or in society at
large.

كانت ليلى هي اختيارنا لأنها قصة مصرية، تحمل في طياتها الكثير من الروح
التي تعيش بداخلنا وتتعرض لنفس الضغوطات التي تولدت في مجتمعنا المصري بكل
تقاليده وأرائه عن المرأة عبر الأزمان، و لا ينفي هذا مشاركة مدونات من
بلاد عربية معنا في هذا اليوم فالثقافة التي تظلم ليلى موجودة هناك أيضا.

We selected Laila because it is an Egyptian
story, which reflects a lot of what we go through and the pressures
accumulated in our Egyptian society, and its traditions and views of
women throughout history. This does not mean that bloggers from other
Arab countries cannot take part in this initiative, as the culture
which oppresses Laila exists there too.

هدفنا من هذا اليوم إعطاء فرصة لكل ليلى لتتحدث بصوت مسموع و تسمع من
أخريات مختلفات عنها و تعلم أنها ليست بمفردها في رفض ومواجهة الظلم
الواقع عليها. هدفنا أن يكون لنا صوت يعبر عنا بعدما سأمنا من محاولات
التحدث باسمنا. و هدفنا الأكبر هو أن نشارككم جزء مهم و جوهري من عوالمنا
المختلفة، جزء مخبأ بعناية في أحايين كثيرة بداخل أختك أو زوجتك أو زميلتك
في العمل…جزء قد تشارك في تكوينه بوعي أو بدون وعي أحيانا.

Our aim on this day is to give Laila the
opportunity to speak up and hear about others speaking about her, and
for her to know that she is not alone in refusing and confronting the
injustice she is being subjected to. Our goal is to have a voice which
expresses our suffering as we are fed up of having others speak on our
behalf. Our bigger goal is to share with you an essential aspect of our
existence, a part which is carefully hidden inside your sister, wife
and colleague at work .. and a part you are contributing to consciously
or subconsciously sometimes.

Since then, the campaign has continued annually with huge success -
with female bloggers opening their hearts and pouring out their woes,
and surprisingly getting support from men.
The following year, We are all Lailawrote:

مرت سنة على يوم “كلنا ليلى
الأول… وكانت فكرته ببساطة تجميع أكبر عدد من المدونات –بكسر الواو-
للكتابة عما يواجههن من مشاكل من وجهة نظرهن، كمحاولة لطرح المشاكل على
وسيط مفتوح فيه قدر معقول من الحرية و الوعي. وكان ذلك بهدف البوح و
التشارك والخروج من خندق الإحساس بالوحدة في مواجهة هذه المشاكل. كذلك كان
الهدف الاستفادة من موقعنا ومصداقيتنا على ساحة التدوين في طرح ما نراه
مشاكل ليراها الجنس الآخر من نفس الزاوية التي نراها بها، في محاولة أخرى
ليفهم الطرف الآخر طبيعة ما نشعر به ويحاول معنا تغيير ما نراه مجحفا ولو
على نطاق ضيق يشمل فقط نفسه وبيته..

A year has passed since the first We are all
Laila day.. the idea was simply getting the largest number of female
bloggers writing about the problems they faced, in a bid to discuss
these issues in an open medium, which enjoys a certain level of freedom
and awareness. The aim was to open up and share as well as getting us
out of the feeling of loneliness in confronting these problems. Another
aim was using our credibility in the blogosphere to express the
problems we face for the other gender to see them from our perspective.
It was an opportunity for us to understand one another and how we feel
and try to change the discrimination facing us, even on a narrow level,
which would include himself and his home.

The result was a different format of posts to mark the day, as well as including men in the conversation.
We are all Laila explains:

ومع نجاح فكرة اليوم العام الماضي، لام علينا البعض عدة نقاط، من أهمها
إهمال مشاركة الرجل، وعدم تحديد الموضوعات. وعلى هذا حاولنا قدر المستطاع
تلافى هذه الأخطاء. واخترنا هذه المرة تجديد طريقة العرض بطرح مجموعة من
الأسئلة –شارك في اختيارها العديد من الأصدقاء- تمس وضع المرأة والفتاة
المصرية بشكل خاص والإنسان المصري بشكل عام، بهدف أن تخلق الإجابة عليها
حوار يقودنا نحو فهم أفضل لأنفسنا ولمن حولنا.

Despite the success of the day, we were
criticised over a few points, the most important was ignoring men, and
not specifying the topics. This year, we will try and overcome all
those mistakes. This time, we elected to mark the day in a different
format, by asking specific questions, carefully selected by a few
friends, which concern the status of Egyptian girls and women, in
particular, and Egyptians, in general. The objective is to develop a
dialogue stemming from the responses to better understand ourselves and
those around us.

This year's We are all Laila day will be commemorated on Egyptian blogs on October 19. Stay tuned for coverage on the day.


http://globalvoicesonline.org/2008/10/11/egypt-we-are-all-laila/
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PostSubject: Re: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:17 am

The Editors’ Blog
The First World Debt Crisis





Posted by David Ransom
on Friday, October 10, 2008 1 comment




I’m tired of listening to pundits who seem quite happy to admit that
they have no idea what’s going on. For me, the inescapable cliché is déjà vu all over again. Here are some random jottings of my own - please feel free to add yours…So
the Masters of the Universe and their attendant professional
politicians don’t recognize the world they were trying to create in
their own, incredibly mean and parochial image. Poor souls. A
little humility, a little less confidence that by renaming them they
could replace their debts with ‘leverage’, and we’d all stand a
slightly better chance of enlightenment.What I can’t help seeing
is a relentless migration of ‘debt crises’ from the ‘Third World’
(primarily Africa and Latin America) in the 1970s and 1980s, via the
‘Second World’ (primarily the former Soviet Union, Japan and Southeast
Asia) in the 1980s and 1990s to the ‘First World’ (primarily Europe and
the US) in the 2000s and beyond. I really don’t want to go there.For
a start, the migration has run out of worlds to go to. And since the
earth is beset by closely related ailments - finite resources and
accelerating climate change - it might be worth glancing, straight in
the eye for once, at the ugly truth.Unsurprisingly, the saga begins and ends with oil. The first oil shock in the 1970s generated vast quantities of windfall cash for the oil-producing OPEC
countries (or rather, their rulers). This cash had to go somewhere. So
‘petro-dollars’ were recycled by fledgling Masters of the Universe on
Wall Street and in the City of London. Much of it went to a
motley crew of like-minded despots, chancers and oligarchs in the
Majority World. They duly squandered it on themselves. When it came to paying the money back, between them all they precipitated the ‘Third World Debt crisis’. This
first ‘debt crisis’ established the principle that debts incurred for
private gain - not least, by the private banks of the Minority World -
should at some point be transferred, via governments, to the public
at large.The growing world empire of private finance thereby
took control of the economies of Africa and Latin America, via its
agents in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Politically, this meant subjecting these regions to whatever form of repression might best serve their purpose. Economically,
it meant subjecting them to ‘structural adjustment’ and the
privatization of everything. To pay back their oppressors’ debts, the
people of these countries were required, all at once, to export
whatever they could, which in good measure turned out to be commodities
like copper or oil. The resulting ‘fool’s glut’ of commodities on world
markets made them incredibly cheap.At much the same time - and
particularly with the end of history after the Cold War - corporate
globalization twigged that cheap commodities could be matched with
cheap labour, in places like China or Mexico, to produce cheap
consumer goods. Together, these two cheap things could remove
the threat of price inflation in the Minority World and give birth not
just to a globalized consumer society but to low interest rates and
cheap money. With this money, the Masters of the Universe
‘leveraged’ and bought anything that came to hand, including money
itself. In this way they levitated into a fantasy of wealth based on
(insider) ‘knowledge’ and (profitable, private) ‘services’ which knew
the price of everything and the value of nothing. In this world, the crude realities of trade and budget deficits (particularly in the US and Britain) mattered not at all.But
the scarcity of oil in particular and finite resources generally
(including fertile agricultural land) grew along with their
consumption, so that their cheapness could no longer be assured.
Countries with trade surpluses (notably China) began to accumulate vast
‘Sovereign Funds’. For a while they might underwrite the debts of the
Minority World, but at some point the deal would go sour. That is what has now happened - places like China won’t lend to private banks any more.Deceit, bewilderment and mistrust had replaced ‘confidence’. And, all the while, the accelerating pace of climate change highlighted the self-destructive instincts of prevailing orthodoxy.Quite
where this will take us no-one with a loud voice seems to know. Those
who currently shout the loudest are those who made the mess. The idea that ‘regulation’ devised by them will now clean it up is fatuous. Anyone for privatization now? A spot of ‘stuctural adjustment’ from the IMF and World Bank (how strangely quiet they are!)? Why,
the British Government could have acquired the British banking system
in its entirety for less taxpayers’ money than it is spending on
propping it up.What is the point of having a private banking system that can only function with the backing of public funds?How
secure can depositors in banks sensibly feel when the ‘guarantees’
offered by governments are backed by the expectation of future revenues
from a worldwide ‘tax consensus’ that promotes tax havens and is
grossly regressive and unjust? Iceland may not be the last government to go bust.Whatever else, the neoliberal ‘model’ is in ruins - the empty, deformed, valueless shell it always was. ‘Regulation’
is not a technical fix but an act of supposedly democratic control. How
far this can accompany a retracing of the ‘debt crisis’ saga so far -
in which control is now shifting to the trade-surplus countries of the
‘Second World’, and from there may yet shift back to the resource-rich
countries of the ‘Third World’ - remains to be seen.But we could do worse than listen to those who live where it began, particularly in Latin America. When
recession hits jobs, you don’t have to walk away - you can take over,
occupy, form co-operatives. When banks don’t work, or steal your money,
you’re better off with a credit union, a mutual society (all the
building societies that ‘demutualized’ in Britain have now vanished).
When trade is desirable, the most trustworthy agreements may have less
to do with freedom than with fairness. When the political process is
out of your control, you take it back.For me, the most useful clues to the future lie in sustainable self-reliance, not cancerous growth. Self-reliance refers not so much to individuals as to neighbourhoods, communities, cultures. Some people call this the post-carbon society. It may not be cheap, but it’s the only one on offer.Debt does, after all, mean living beyond your means.

http://blog.newint.org/editors/2008/10/10/economic-crisis/
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PostSubject: Re: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:21 am

The privatization of Patagonia


Fences are marching across the Patagonian wilderness,
displacing indigenous peoples and turning pure water into private
property. Tomás Bril Mascarenhas reports on another conquest, this time by foreign investors.




‘If we don’t stop this
intrusion we will live in exile in our own land,’ says Adolfo Pérez
Esquivel, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his
struggle to defend human rights in Argentina. He is now worried about
the impact on the country’s indigenous peoples of massive sales of land
in Patagonia.
His fears are well founded. In the 1990s Argentina privatized almost
every public asset and became the International Monetary Fund’s model
student. Now investors have started to diversify, buying thousands of
hectares of land that contain not only native peoples’ memory and
ancient woodlands but also lakes and rivers with some of the purest
water on the planet.
In the last 15 years, clothing magnate Luciano Benetton has bought
900,000 hectares – equivalent to half the area of Wales. CNN’s Ted
Turner was more modest and acquired a mere 55,000 hectares. Joseph
Lewis, based in Barbados, was satisfied with even less: 14,000
hectares. Douglas Tompkins, founder of the North Face apparel company
and a self-proclaimed ‘environmentalist’, got 800,000 hectares in Chile
and Argentina. Some of his lands surround the largest freshwater river
in Patagonia.
El Bolsón, a town that used to be the destination of choice for
Argentinean hippies, has become a place where young backpackers drink mate
in the handicraft fair while dozens of real-estate agents and financial
advisors offer uninhabited, virgin lands and exclusive access to green
and blue lakes.
‘The land was given away as a gift,’ says Marta Maffei, an
opposition leader and the former Vice-President of the Parliamentary
Committee for Natural Resources and Human Environment Conservation.
‘The State was auctioned off, while national companies and lands were
sold at a bargain price. Our country has extremely flexible laws and
inefficient government control. Some economic groups have got enormous
properties for nothing. They have come here to do easy business.’
For the Spanish conquerors, South America ended at the Patagonian
border. Travelling in this region, the homeland of indigenous peoples,
was considered dangerous. Even after independence the southern frontier
was almost impassable. ‘The Indian problem,’ as it was called by the estanciero
(rancher) oligarchy that dominated politics from Buenos Aires, was one
of the few obstacles to building the European-style state they had in
mind.
In 1878 General Julio Roca, using British money and an army equipped
with Remington repeating rifles, headed for Patagonia in what was
euphemistically called the ‘Conquest of the Desert’. The indigenous
peoples, ancestral inhabitants of this ‘desert’, could not resist
Roca’s army and were forced to retreat. Many died. In 1882 the
Argentinean Embassies in Paris and London duly began to sell new estancias as large as 40,000 hectares.
That was the first privatization of Patagonia – it was not to be the
last. Until 1989, when Carlos Menem became President, the Government
had some degree of control. Since then official policy has been to
welcome foreign investment of any kind as the best means of achieving
economic development. The extranjerización (‘foreignization’) of land accelerated at a dizzy pace.
‘In Argentina there is no property register of fiscal [public]
land,’ warns Pérez Esquivel. The boundaries between private and public
property are ‘wire fences that walk, fences that estancieros put up wherever they want, and say: “This is mine. Period!”’
Following the 2001 economic collapse, the 300-per-cent devaluation
of the currency and the bankruptcy of thousands of small landowners
that followed, the price of land in Argentina fell sharply. Foreign
investors were quick to take advantage of one of the weakest land
regimes in Latin America.



In the last 15 years, clothing magnate Luciano Benetton has bought 900,000 hectares –
equivalent to half the area of Wales


According to the Constitution, indigenous peoples are the legitimate
owners of the southern lands where their ancestors were born. ‘There is
sort of an unwritten law that says property rights are above all other
rights,’ comments Maffei. In 2004 she presented a Bill to Parliament
aimed at halting further evictions of indigenous peoples. Even though
the laws protecting them have been renewed, judges in the courts still
act as if their rights did not exist. ‘Neither the Constitution nor the
laws are respected in Argentina and, because of that, land continues to
be sold with Indians on it,’ says Maffei.


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PostSubject: Re: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:23 am

Judicial rulings invariably privilege big estancieros. ‘The police are allowed to evict indigenous people by force and with absolute impunity,’ says Pérez Esquivel.
He intervened directly in one dispute. In 2002 Rosa Nahuelquir and
Atilio Curiñanco made a formal request to reclaim the land where they
and their ancestors were born, in a Mapuche community in the province
of Chubut. The land is now owned by Benetton, the biggest landowner in
Patagonia.
After waiting several months for a response, Rosa and Atilio decided
to occupy 385 hectares on which to build a house, sow crops and raise
animals. Atilio recalls that he wanted to ‘go back to the place where I
was born, because my family, my mother, my father, spent their whole
lives there. I wanted to return to that place too’.
But his return did not last long. Ten days later the police evicted
Rosa and Atilio following an order from a provincial judge, who based
his verdict on a title deed issued in 1886. That had been acquired by a
British company after the Conquest of the Desert.
Atilio and Rosa feel that they belong to their land – but they do
not have any title deed to prove it. In 2004 Pérez Esquivel published
an open letter that read: ‘Mr Benetton… I would like to inform you that
the people from whom you took 385 hectares of land, with the complicity
of an unfair judge and using the weapons of money, are a humble Mapuche
family with their own identity, with a heart and life that are fighting
for their rights… You act with the same mentality as the conquerors.’
Luciano Benetton, worried about the impact that these words might
have on his image as a ‘United Colours’ entrepreneur, announced that he
would offer Pérez Esquivel 2,500 hectares of land elsewhere in
Patagonia. The announcement came two days before a meeting of Nobel
Laureates in Rome.
‘I never asked for that land,’ says Pérez Esquivel. He decided not
to accept Benetton’s ‘gift’, arguing that the land had always belonged
to the Mapuche community and that he did not have any right to act in
their name.
Soon afterwards, Pérez Esquivel, Atilio and Rosa met with Benetton
in Rome. Benetton rejected any possibility of giving up his rights to
the 385 hectares of occupied land, so the Mapuche couple rejected the
offer of the other 2,500 hectares and returned to Argentina.
‘Benetton says that he uses the land claimed by the Curiñancos to
raise his sheep,’ Pérez Esquivel now recalls in the Buenos Aires office
of his Foundation. In October 2005 Benetton, the multicultural
entrepreneur, raised his offer to 7,500 hectares on another estancia he owns in the province of Chubut, but repeated that the Curiñancos’ ancestral land was non-negotiable.
For the Mapuche the location of land is very important. Claudia
Briones, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires,
clarifies the point. ‘The best way to understand the deep meaning that
land has in Mapuche culture is to say “not only”. For Mapuches, land is
“not only” the ground, it is “not only” a means of production and it is
“not only” the material reality that one knows, because land has its
own spiritual or supernatural forces – nehuenes.’
For Rosa and Atilio, as for thousands of displaced indigenous
people, land is not just about a plot on which to plant pine trees,
raise animals and find a way out of poverty. More importantly, it means
returning to their origins and meeting again the nehuenes which Benetton has not yet been able to understand.
The degree of incomprehension is such that the new landowners have
resorted to symbolic acts verging on the absurd. In 1997 the Benetton
Group invested $800,000 in the Leleque Museum, which ‘narrates 13,000
years of history and culture in a mythical land’. Ana Ramos, from the
National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, says the
museum’s narrative describes the arrival of foreigners after the
Conquest of the Desert as ‘The Age of Progress’. ‘It presents the
Mapuche as invaders who came from Chile,’ says Ramos, ‘and thus
indirectly tells the visitor that there are no legitimate indigenous
people.’
Rosa and Atilio are still waiting for their little plot to be given
back. Their story is just one among many that tell of police evictions,
absent entrepreneurs and deaf judges. Most lawsuits ignore indigenous
rights, and most estancieros – unlike Benetton – feel no need to cultivate a global image of tolerance.
The conflict is just one aspect of a much deeper process that
affects this land of blue lakes and transparent rivers, endless
plateaus, snow-capped mountains and thousands of kilometres without a
trace of human beings.
Mining, commercial forestry and oil exploration have all been adding
to the despoliation of this place. A relatively new issue has now
joined this familiar litany of destruction.
‘Generally speaking, the sale [of Patagonian land] relates to a
desire to control water sources or lakes,’ says Marta Maffei. She and
other legislators were detained by private, armed security guards
employed by Joseph Lewis when they tried to access Lago Escondido
across his private land – even though the lake itself is formally in
public ownership.
The Patagonian problem reveals how private property is invading
public space. Can one person have exclusive access to freshwater
rivers? Can a lake or an ancient woodland be inherited like a bank
account? Can indigenous people’s memory and identity be privatized?
Politics can still provide answers. Just as there was once a
consensus of the powerful in favour of privatization, so in Argentina
today, after the 2001 collapse – the worst crisis in the country’s
history – it is much more possible to articulate an alternative
discourse; one where native cultures and land resources prevail over
speculative investors and individualistic environmentalism.





Tomás Bril Mascarenhas is an Undergraduate Research Fellow at
the University of Buenos Aires, where he is carrying out a project on
the transformation of politics in Argentina’s capital district. He is
an undergraduate teaching assistant at the Department of Political
Science and a former volunteer with the New Internationalist.




  1. Mario Rapoport (ed.), Historia económica, política y social de la Argentina (1880-2000), Ediciones Macchi, Buenos Aires, 2003.
  2. Pv Weche Lafkenche, ‘Entrevista a Rosa y Atilio: “Así debe ser...”’, 27 May 2004. See http://argentina.indymedia.org/news/2004/05/199036.php
  3. To read the correspondence between Luciano Benetton and Adolfo
    Pérez Esquivel, visit the Patagonia Talk section of Benetton’s site http://www.benettontalk.com/
  4. See: http://www.benettongroup.com/en/whatwesay/culture_society.htm



http://www.newint.org/columns/essays/2006/08/01/patagonia/
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PostSubject: Re: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:27 am

South Korea links Web slander to celebrity suicides



Yonhap/The Associated Press

Choi
Jin Sil, known as South Korea's "national actress." Her suicide this
month followed that of other celebrities, and officials have blamed
anonymous Internet slanderers for the deaths.

By Choe Sang-Hun

Published: October 12, 2008


SEOUL:
Choi Jin Sil, a movie star who shed maudlin tears on screen but fought
like a tigress in a messy real-life divorce from her baseball-player
husband, was the closest thing South Korea had to a national sweetheart.
So when the actress was found dead in her apartment on Oct. 2 in
what the police later concluded was a suicide, her grief-stricken
homeland sought an answer to what drove its "national actress"
to suicide.
The police, the media and Parliament immediately pointed fingers at
the Internet, claiming that her death highlighted the perils of being a
celebrity in a country that takes pride in and at the same time decries
its online community, one of the world's most vigorous and unruly.
Choi, 39, apparently succumbed to a suicidal impulse provoked by
malicious online rumors, the police said after studying memos found at
her home and interviewing friends and relatives.
Those online accusations claimed that Choi - who once won a
government medal for her saving habit and whose name, Jin Sil, means
"truth" - was a loan shark. They claimed that an actor named Ahn Jae
Hwan, who gassed himself in his car last month, was driven to suicide
because Choi pressed him relentlessly to repay a $2 million debt.


Choi's death followed a string of high-profile suicides attributed
to cyberspace harassment. Two young female celebrities, one a singer
and the other an actress, killed themselves last year after insulting
comments about their alleged plastic surgery flooded the Web.
"Internet space in our country has become the wall of a public
toilet," said Hong Joon Pyo, a senior politician in the governing Grand
National Party. Widespread verbal abuse on the Web has become a growing
social problem, and efforts to stamp it out has become a
government priority.
The police questioned four brokerage employees who had circulated
the rumors about Choi. But their efforts to find the originator of the
online rumors led them nowhere.
Meanwhile, in a monthlong crackdown on online defamation, 900 agents
from the government's Cyber Terror Response Center are scouring blogs
and online discussion boards to identify and arrest those who
"habitually post slander and instigate cyber bullying."
At the National Assembly, which is now in session, Choi's suicide
set the rival parties on a collision course over how to regulate the
Web. The governing party is promoting a law to punish online insult,
but the opposition parties accused the government of trying to "rule
cyberspace with martial law."
"The government wants to blackmail Internet users so that they will
not post anti-government comments," according to a statement by eight
opposition lawmakers who are members of the National Assembly's
Communications Committee, where the bill is pending.
The opposition says that cyberspace violence is already dealt with
under the existing laws against slander and public insult. But the
government says that a tougher, separate law is necessary to punish
online insult, which causes quicker and wider damage to the victims
than traditional slander.
Public outrage over Choi's suicide gave ammunition to the government
of President Lee Myung Bak, which had long sought to regulate
cyberspace, a major avenue for anti-government protests in South Korea.
In a speech in Parliament in July, Lee condemned what he called
"'infodemics,' a phenomenon in which inaccurate, false information is
disseminated, prompting social unrest that spreads like an epidemic."
At the time, the Lee government was reeling after weeks of protests
against imports of U.S. beef. Vicious anti- government postings and
rumors about the danger of lifting the ban on U.S. beef, spreading
through the Internet, fueled the political upheaval, which led the
entire cabinet to resign. One rumor held that South Koreans had a
special gene that makes them particularly susceptible to mad
cow disease.
For years, whether and how to regulate the Internet has been a hot
topic in South Korea, where almost 80 percent of the households have
broadband access. Here, most Web portals and online news sites have
discussion boards where users can post uncensored, anonymous comments.
Some news articles attract hundreds of feedback entries, ranging from
thoughtful comments to raving obscenities.
So many teenagers are addicted to online games that the government
runs "Internet rescue" boot camps to help them rehabilitate. Last week,
prosecutors raided the offices of the country's two biggest Web
portals, Naver and Daum, which were accused of abetting the illegal
downloading of music among their blog users.
Choi's death showed a disturbing link between the Internet and
suicides in the world's most wired country, which also has the highest
suicide rate among the world's industrialized nations. Volunteer
counselors troll the Internet to discourage people from using the Web
to trade tips about suicide and, in some cases, to form suicide pacts.



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PostSubject: Re: MONDAY TOITEEN OCT.   Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:28 am

"We have seen a sudden rise in copycat suicides following a
celebrity death," said Jeon Jun Hee, an official at the Seoul
Metropolitan Mental Health Center, which runs an anti-suicide hot line.
"Following Choi's suicide, we get twice as many calls, over 60 a day,
from people who have suicide in mind."
While online rumors can prove fatal for some celebrities, he
continued, "if politicians think they can fight suicides in general
with a law against cyberslander, they are avoiding the root of the
problem," he said. "They are just using Choi's case as an excuse to
regulate the Internet."
To battle online harassment, the government's Communications
Commission last year ordered Web portals with more than 300,000
visitors a day to require its users to submit their names and matching
Social Security numbers before posting comments.
After Choi's suicide, the commission said it would expand the
requirement to Web sites with more than 100,000 users a day. It also
seeks to impose financial penalties on Web portals that do not respond
quickly to a complaint about online libel.
Under a new edict from the Education Ministry, teachers must spend more time teaching online ethics, starting in primary school.
The police reported 10,028 cases of online libel last year, up from 3,667 reported in 2004.
Kim Myong Jae, 32, an accountant in Seoul, had to quit his job after
rumors that he drove his former girlfriend to suicide inundated the
Internet in 2005. Web users bombarded his employer, the food and
beverage company Doosan, with calls demanding that it fire Kim or face
a boycott.
"Those who hounded me believed they were doing justice," Kim said.
In August, a court fined 50 journalists and Web users up to 2
million won, or $1,500, each for spreading the defamatory rumor about
Kim. A separate court recently fined the four largest Web portals in
the country for helping spread the same rumor by advertising the
sensational item as a most-clicked-on element.
One of the most famous cases of malicious online rumors involved Nah Hoon Ah, a 61-tear-old singer and sex symbol.
For weeks last year, Nah suffered online rumors that he had had
affairs with two young female celebrities and had had his genitals
removed by the boss of a Japanese yakuza who got jealous.
In a nationally televised news conference in January, Nah attacked
"yellow journalism" spread through the Internet and picked up by
newspapers. Then he stepped on a desk, unzipped his pants and said:
"It's your call. Either you believe me or I can drop my pants and show
them for five minutes." The nation gasped and the rumors died down.
Choi did not have that bravado. She starred in a series of
successful movies and TV drama series in the 1980s and 1990s. In South
Korea's male-dominated society, she both endeared herself to men and
inspired women with a famous remark in a TV commercial: "Men, their
behavior depends on how women treat them!"
Choi made headlines when she married a baseball star, Cho Sung Min,
in 2000. But tabloids and Web bloggers badgered her as the marriage
quickly soured and she fought for custody of her two children. The
couple officially separated in 2004.
TV producers and commercial sponsors dropped her in a society still
biased against divorced women. The popular wisdom was that her career
was over.
Then, in 2005, she made a comeback with a hugely popular TV soap
opera called "Rosy Life." There, she abandoned her cute-girl image and
played the role of a deserted wife who aims kicks at her errant husband
but reconciles with him when she learns she has terminal cancer.
This year, she broke another taboo by successfully challenging a court to change the surname of her two children to her own.
But in an interview with MBC-TV in July, which was broadcast after
her death, she said she "dreaded" the Internet, where insults about her
single-mother, divorced-woman status dogged her. The police said she
had been taking antidepressants since her divorce.
On the night before her suicide, according to the police, Choi sent
cellphone text messages to her makeup assistant, asking her to look
after her two children. She also reportedly called a journalist friend
to say good-bye.
And a woman who said she had spread rumors about Choi told a South
Korean newspaper that Choi had called her twice, but the calls did not
get through.
The next morning, her mother found Choi in the shower, hanged by a rope made out of medical bandages.


http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/10/12/technology/kstar.php?page=2
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