I have the following articles available for assignment.
AFTER THE THUNDER SLEEPS: Seasons of Ceremony Among the Navajo
Ceremonial season among the modern Navajo.
AMONG THE PEOPLES OF THE BOOK: A Journey of Study and Prayer
Work with Sant’Egidio, study at Jewish Theological Seminary, reside in Muslim school.
A BELLROPE IN THE WIND: A Bellrope in the Wind: Poet & Screenwriter Jimmy Santiago Baca Steps into the Light
In a little over twenty years. Jimmy Santiago Baca has gone from convict to husband and father, from junkie to poet, from illiterate to Wallace Stevens Fellow at Yale, “detribalized Apache” to screenwriter, from some petty thief to a dominant voice in Chicano writing.
BURJ AL ARAB
Space-age superhotel in Qatar.
BERLIN: What I Saw
The novelist Joseph Roth is regaining his reputation posthumously as one of the shining stars of journalism. His “feuilletons” of Berlin in the twenties were like a map of the subsequent 25 years; prescient and intuitive, Roth captured the telling detail and adventive moment like perhaps no one else before or since. I would like to reexamine contemporary Berlin in terms of Roth’s columns from the twenties. The collection of these observations, “What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933” was reissued last year. How much do cities change over time? Is a city’s ‘spirit’ a permanent thing? Are we as much type as individual?
BUSINESS & POETRY
From the Romans to the Romantics to the radicals, poetry and commerce have usually been presented as mutually exclusive. However, from Catullus to Chaucer to Stevens this antagonism has been proven more theoretical than real. Not only are poets not separate from their environments (a significant aspect of which is economics) but are frequently in a better position to value considerations of profit and loss than many around them, as making a living from poetry is precarious at best.
For this story I can interview Dana Gioia, currently the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, a poet and critic and formerly an executive at RJR Nabisco. I can also interview the English scholar T.P. Wiseman, whose 1984 reappraisal of Catullus makes a convincing case for this poet—commonly thought of as the bete noir par excellance (pardon my French) of “the establishment”—as a competent, commerce-concerned man from a line of businessmen born in a place famous for its commerce.
CATCHING A CAB: Car Culture in Cuba
Riding a cab in Cuba and reporting on the car in the country’s culture.
CENTAM CORRUPTION MAKES A COMEBACK IN THE EXECUTIVE
It’s an Enron-style Wild On episode featuring practically every Central American leader past and present:
In late October, an association of Honduran prosecutors criticized a suspension of an investigation against former president Rafael Callejas on the misappropriation of some 20 million dollars, along with other members of his government. They created a petition, signed by 399 prosecutors.
Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos admitted to having received 326,000 dollars from Nicaraguan businessmen living in the United States. Central American leaders banded together on Saturday to demand the Organization of American States (OAS) stop Nicaragua’s legislature from impeaching Bolanos.
Former OAS secretary general Miguel Angel Rodriguez quit his post recently to defend himself on corruption charges dating back to his presidency of Costa Rica, 1998-2002. Costa Rica’s current president, Abel Pacheco, is also suspected of taking some 490,000 dollars from the government of Taiwan.
Guatemala’s former president, Alfonso Portillo, recently applied for a visa to work in Mexico, where he lives, beyond the reach of prosecutors who want to question him about an alleged misappropriation of 3.7 million dollars. Former Guatemalan vice president Francisco Reyes has been in jail since July for fraud, as are two former ministers, Eduardo Weymann and Byron Barrientos.
Panama’s recently installed government, under President Martin Torrijos, sought to overturn a decision by outgoing president Mireya Moscoso to exempt Hutchinson Wampoa, a Chinese company that manages the country’s two main ports, of 22.2 million dollars in taxes. Over the 50-year life of the management contract, Panama loses 1.5 billion dollars.
CENTRAL AMERICAN TERRORISTS
Honduras’s Security Minister Oscar Alvarez has proclaimed that Al-Qaeda is recruiting Central American gang members. He says they are planning to use (may already be using) north-moving migrant routes to put terrorists in the US.
Others believe the minister is simply bumping against “terrorism” as a way to gain more support for his extraordinary crack-down not simply on gang members, a legitimate undertaking, but former gang members, young people in general and anyone who looks “weird.”
But Mexico’s immigration authority has announced they’ve caught a number of people from the Middle East trying to move into the US through Mexico.
CIRCUMAMBULATING THE STUPA: A Journey Around Iceland
Circumnavigating Iceland, cultural archaeology: how does modern Iceland connect to the sagas. It is possible, though extremely difficult, to circumnavigate Iceland in a four-wheel drive. Frequent fordings and extraordinary isolation characterize this drive, though it also features breath-taking waterfalls, seascapes, ancient crofts, horse herds, geysers and hot pools. This would be a chance to find out how modern modern Iceland is – a country with near 100% literacy rate and extraordinarily low mortality — and how closely related to the sagas – with its language that has changed so little in 1000 years that modern Icelanders can read the sagas in the original without translation, with the oldest standing parliament in the world.
EURAFTA: THE NEW RUSSIAN BLOC. Eurafta, or the Eurasian Free Trade Agreement, has been negotiated and signed by Russia and the Central Asian states. It is a huge expanse of territory, a lot of trade, but virtually nothing has been written about it outside of the Russian and Central Asian press.
“It’s probably not accurate to think of this as a ‘Eurafta’ although that is something that some of us were calling it for a while,” said Greg Gleason, a University of New Mexico economist currently traveling on an American Councils field research grant through Central Asia. “The Russians have something very much different it mind. It definitely is a trade area, but it is also more than that. It is a trade bloc that is intended to develop political resources as well as have economic effects.”
According to Gleason, the institution that is now responsible for this is the “EvrAzEs,” the Eurasian Economic Community, based now in Moscow, and the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS, based in St. Petersburg.
What are the implications, both economic and political, of a Russian-led politico-economic bloc of such immensity and possessing such a richness of natural resources? How will it effect American business and joint-ventures in the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union?
THE EVANGELICAL WAVE IN LATIN AMERICA – AN INTERNAL REVOLUTION
In Latin America the big movement these days is not oligarch vs. communist or state religion vs. liberation theology but rather evangelical vs. Catholic. The evangelical movement is huge and continues to gain ground in Central America.
In Central America as a whole, the percentage of Protestants is on average 16%, up from virtually nothing 20 years ago. That’s a total of about 82 million out of a total population of 513 million. In Guatemala, the most Protestant of the historically Catholic countries of Central America, the percentage is much higher, 35% of all Guatemalans are Protestant. The growth rate of evangelicalism in Latin America is on the order of 10% per year. Worldwide there has been a greater than 6,500% increase in evangelicalism, from 73 million in 1970 to 480 million in the mid-90s. That’s giving Islam a run for its money and is beating the stuffing out of Catholicism, which has increased in the same time frame only 40%.
In remote areas of the Guatemalan highlands you will see evangelical preachers, clad in worn dungarees and blue work shirts preaching after dark at roadside open-air chapels, concrete plattes with corrugated tin roofs, supported by metal columns, holding a Bible in one hand and with the other gesturing underneath the fluorescent lights to the congregation of Mayan Indians, sitting on plank benches. The charismatic Protestantism has high-profile adherents as well, including former Guatemalan dictator and current presidential candidate, Efrain Rios Montt. But most of its devotees are the poor and dispossessed.
It indicates a dissatisfaction, but with what? I think it would be an interesting trend to explore — how has evangelicalism replaced secular philosophies of rebellion? Why the turn away from liberation theology to a theology of internal, personal, non-political salvation? How is the Catholic church responding? It would shine a light not just on Central America but on the role of religion in general among those who’ve endured too much political strife to no apparent good end. How different are the dispossessed that choose evangelicalism from those who choose fundamental Islam? Where are they the same? South America is also experiencing this growth — along with parts of Africa and East Asia.
What is it that Evangelicalism provides that is missing from the dominant religious traditions of these areas? As well as assessing the “what” and the “whys,” the article would turn on the “what now?” In other words, not only what does this change tell us about the past and present of Central America (as well as Latin America, Africa and east Asia), but what can it tell us about the future? Possible causes (these are merely avenues of investigation, not theses): A belief on the part of the practitioners that historical “faiths,” from liberation theology Catholicism to communism, have born little fruit. A desire on the part of practitioners to hitch their wagons to the dominant faith (and “work ethic”) of richer countries, specifically the US. An exhaustion, by decades of violence, that has driven people to a more internal, less political spirituality.
FIVE IN THE AFTERNOON: In Spain, the Bullfight is More Than a Relic
In sports, every game represents a battle. But only one sport is a battle. Only one sport has as its end-goal the death of one of its participants. That sport is bullfighting. And it’s more popular than it’s ever been.
The first time I ever saw a bullfight was on the television. I was sitting in a bar on the Plaza Nueva in Granada, Spain. Just a workaday bar full of construction workers and waiters from other cafes, Spanish men moving aimlessly around the ugly bar drinking anis and cognac. I sat at the end of the bar eating olives and pistachios and drinking Aguila listening to the bells from San Miguel Bajo, trying to shake the heat, the yellow light shining in from outside like parchment withering in fire.
On the old television bolted to an arm above the bathroom door on the other side of the bar a bullfight broadcast out of Málaga was playing. The ideal of bullfighting is, above all, composure and grace, especially regarding the blood (as little as possible) and the killing (as clean as possible). It became evident quickly however, that this bullfight had gone wrong. The bullfighter had been bloodied. He and the picadores were in full flight like pigeons. They had wounded the bull in the worst possible way, enraging him without weaking him, leaving the bull strong, angry and slick with black blood and the matador, unseated, unmanned, gave up all thoughts of killing.
Gradually, the disappointment and empathy of the men in the bar turned to anger and then disgust, a real viable, Hedda Gabbler-type moral nausea. They screamed for the bartender to turn it, turn it, turn it! And he did, to a rerun of “Miami Vice.” All the men turned back to their drinks and tried to shake the evil of it out of their heads.
I propose a story on the modern bullfight in Spain. In the sport of bullfighting there is the same drama, hero worship, star power and the rest that you get in any more familiar sport. But you also get history. Baseball was created in the mid-19th century? Bullfighting was created in the mid 10th century – BC. Football is played in $50 million dollar stadiums? Bullfights are staged in 2000 year old amphitheatres. And bullfighting, which has always been an international sport, spreading from Spain and Portugal to Mexico and Brazil, has further spread to the US, where especially in California’s Central Valley, the sons of Iberia stage bloodless bullfights in between ranch and farm chores.
Death is in the air all over the world these days. This is one of the few living customs designed specifically as a moving memento mori. As a way of structuring the story, I could focus on one bullfighter – I suggest El Juli, one of the top ranked bullfighters in Spain – through a number of corridas at Las Ventas, Maestranza and others.
FLAMENCO FUNDING: Spain to Invest $58 Million in Flamenco
In October of 2003, Carmen Calvo, Minister of Andalucia province’s Cultural Advisory Board, unveiled the “Flamenco Porvenir” plan. This plan, which lasts from 2004 through 2011, creates the official Agency of Andalusia for the Development of Flamenco and guides the foundation of a museum dedicated to the distinctly Spanish music and dance art in Jerez de la Frontera, as well as the expansion of the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco, and the creation of a flamenco television channel.
One of the principal branches of said agency will be the Corporation for the Promotion and Commercialization of Flamenco, giving an economic boost to the sector, relying mainly on public funding and capital coming from some private companies. An “Economic Observatory of Flamenco” will compile data and analyze the economic effect of flamenco.
The plan was introduced in Seville at an event attended by numerous flamenco personalities, such as Manolo Sanlúcar, Esperanza Fernández, Matilde Coral, Mario Maya, Juan Peña El Lebrijano, Cristina Hoyos, and Mayte Martín.
Coinciding with this plan is UNESCO’s addition of flamenco to its list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”
According to Calvo, the plan provides “an agile and autonomous instrument to provide to all the initiatives undertaken by this institution.” UNESCO’s declaration will contribute to “the process of reaffirmation of the diversity and creativity of this unique patrimony, as well as an increased consciousness of its importance as a channel for the collective practice of the people of Andalusia.”
This is a monumental shift in governmental thought and action regarding flamenco, which has long been considered the Iberian equivalent of “nigger music.” From its formation in the early 18th century (based on roots and trends going back hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years further), it has been relegated to the despised minorities and borderline characters of Spain – Gypsies, Jews, poor Andalucian farmers – and regarded with embarrassment or, at best, indifference.
Among the most unique, artistically penetrating and subtle art forms, Spain is finally giving its own art a proper place in the priorities of the nation. In an era of homogenization, largely as a result of globalization, in which first each US state, then each international airport and finally almost every high street in the Western world is beginning to look the same – with Starbucks, Nike stores, banks – and all the music vetted by MTV, this is one art form that fails with homogenization, that becomes less palatable as it is diluted. To say the readers of Newsweek could use a reminder that whiskey still exists in this age of small beer would be to state the obvious.
GUATEMALA-UN CRIME FIGHTING AGREEMENT
Guatemala and the United Nations have signed a pact to allow a UN-appointed commission to prosecute organized crime groups and clandestine security organizations in Guatemala.
Local media reports say that murders, assaults and kidnappings increased by more than 150% during 2003.
The agreement, which will run for two years, was signed Wednesday, January 7, by Guatemalan Foreign Minister Edgar Gutierrez and Kieran Prendergast, the UN under-secretary general for political affairs.
It is still subject to approval by the Guatemalan parliament.
The new commission will have powers to investigate, arrest and prosecute illegal armed groups, who are blamed for much of the violence in Guatemala.
Under the agreement, its chief would be appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and would choose a team experienced in human rights and organized crime.
Guatemala’s 36-year civil war ended in 1996. But it is estimated that there are 1.5 million guns in circulation in this nation of 12.3 million people.
In the last decade, US Naval Base Guantanamo Bay has been big news. It has housed Haitian and Cuban refugees, it is the prison complex for thousands of Afghan and Iraq war detainees, as well as “enemy combatants” with US citizenship. It has at the same time lost several tenant commands and been the fictional subject of a feature film. One of the last things most people think about when they think of “Gitmo” is a place of hundreds of millions of dollars in new development. But it is just that.
The base has undertaken, starting June 2003, a 300 million dollar make-over, to be designed, built and maintained by Haliburton subsidiary Brown & Root. Haliburton was led by Vice President Dick Cheney until his assumption of that office in 2001.
The work to be performed includes new facilities for traffic control checkpoints (main and secondary checkpoints), troop bed-down facility, troop dining facility and destructive weather improvements to detention facility structures. The project will also include site work, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical work, as required for the various facilities.
This contract has been criticized for being non-competitive and open-ended. The original contract, of which this is technically a “modification to Task Order 0038,” was awarded to Brown & Root in February of last year.
At that time the company beat out 44 other bidders for an initial $7 million contract to build steel detention cages. The current “modification” has been described as a “cost-reimbursement, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity construction contract.” The auditing arm of Congress itself strongly recommended that new bids be solicited for the contract.
At the time the contract was awarded as a “modification,” Haliburton was under investigation by federal authorities in California for fraud. The company had been accused of inflating costs during a job at the now-closed Fort Ord. It settled with government for $2 million.
Although this is the extent of the Navy contract at Guantanamo, the other current Brown & Root contracts tie in.
From 1992 through 1999, the Army paid Brown & Root $1.2 billion to support U.S. troops, mainly in the Balkans. An extension of that contract from 1999 through 2004 is projected to cost $1.8 billion.
On another similar contract, the Army has paid Brown & Root $13.7 million since the contract began Feb. 1 to provide food, laundry and other support services to U.S. troops in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Uzbekistan.
The full extent of the Brown & Root contracts, including, most recently, those for troop support in Iraq, further deepens the picture.
What is needed is a story with the “modification” contract as its hook and Guantanamo as its frame, but that touches on the other similar contracts in order to fully explore the pattern (if it exists in fact) and its ramifications.
A great deal of money is changing hands, a great deal of work is being done, in a place of military importance and minimal transparency. It is part of a much larger and very consistent pattern of open-ended contracts that the government, through the military, has entered into. The possibility for fraud at worst, and unaccountability at best, could lead to great cost overruns at a time when the government — and the business environment — can least afford them.
Drug Deaths Increase. Crackdown on growing pot has produced upsurge in meth use among teens, increased crime and drug-related deaths.
From Seed to Smoke. Follow a crop of dope from planting through cultivating, wholesaling and stateside retail. From the first seed in the ground on one of the islands to a joint in the hand of a kid in LA.
Hawai’ian Enclaves. The privately-owned island of Niihau advertises itself as a Hawai’ian cultural enclave, but it is in private, non-native hands and is increasingly bringing in tourists. What is its future? Also explore Kaho’olawe and other enclaves.
Outrigger. Work with an outrigger canoe team – perhaps witness the outrigger world championship.
Hiking in Hawai’i. Survey of hiking, from 1 mile family outings to cross-island multi-day hikes and peak ascents.
Religions in Hawai’i. An investigation into the indigenous religion of Hawai’i via a tour of heiau with elders; the special challenges of Judaism and Islam in the islands; the state of things within the Catholic community; history of introduction of non-indigenous religions to the state.
Hidden History. Series on the history of the Hawai’ian islands, from pre-history, through Cook and the unification, through the wooly days of WW II up to the present, focusing on finding revealing stories hidden in the archives and overgrown in the woods, staying off the beaten path to illuminate the state’s present with a fresher light from the past.
Hawai’i, Real & Imagined. An in-depth article on the image of Hawai’i in pop culture, outlining where it meets, and where it diverges from reality and from tradition.
Chris McKinney. A portrait of the powerful, Hawai’an novelist and two-time K Pala Pala Po`okelo award-winner, author of the magnificent “The Tattoo” and “The Queen of Tears.”
Police Divers. A feature on the Honolulu Police Department’s Special Services Division’s forensic diving unit. (I smell TV series.)
Hawai’i Dances. A survey of dance companies, dancers and choreographers working in the islands, as well as those from Hawai’i working abroad. The same can be done with actors ( Hawai’i Acts), writers ( Hawai’i Writes), painters, and any other art.
Feral chickens. Wild and free + hurricane – mongoose = republic of chickens.
HONOR ET FIDELITAS: The Swiss Guard in the New Millenium
History and reportage on the Swiss Guard, modern stories and history of secret org. A profile of an organization that is never written about: the Swiss Guard in Rome. The Swiss Guard is, in essence, the military of the Vatican state. They’re not newsworthy in general but a few years ago a young recruit went berserk and killed his commander and his commander’s wife. All Swiss Guard must have the following qualifications: Swiss citizenship, under 25 years of age when entering the service, single when entering the service, and Catholic. So, a bunch of testosterone-blinded young Catholic men with guns and halberds. These guys are supposed to be taught a great deal of military skills: hand-to-hand, martial arts, SWAT strategy, small arms, marksmanship, etc. But they are not highly regarded among military people. The security of the Vatican State, it is said, is no longer a result of the Swiss Guard, but the Vatican Police, in conjunction with the Roman Police. What is the future of this force that has become, perhaps, more historical and useful?
INTIFADA VS. ARCHAEOLOGY
I’d like to write about the effect of the Intifada on archaeology in Israel, on the actual ground work, on cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists, on the use by politicians from those two groups of archaeological findings for political and ideological purposes, on how that effects the work of the archaeologists from the two groups, etc.
JEWS IN CUBA
In the last ten years Cubans of Jewish heritage have rediscovered their cultural heritage and religion. The struggle to reconnect, as the post-Soviet Jews in Russia and Israel experienced, is hard; a lot gets lost, though perhaps much is gained that was absent.
But as a counter-point there is a possible over-enthusiasm for “rediscovering” the so called crypto-Jews. Some rediscoveries are probably correct (Portugal) and some are probably not (New Mexico).
The Jews of Cuba aren’t crypto-Jews — their family histories are neglected though often not forgotten — The point is, those enthusiastic about their religion, whether evangelical Christians or Jews, can have an effect on the converts. If one group gives a lot of money, as we found out with the Saudi madrassas, that group’s goals and beliefs often take primacy.
Come to think of it, an article on crypto-Jewry would be interesting. How much of it is wishful thinking and how much of it is true?
Set amid the shelves, draws and canyons of the 600,000-acre Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Central Oregon is the hub for an exploration of Indian culture, as well as hiking, fishing, golfing, horseback riding and much more, all in the most magically remote-feeling landscape in the West.
Past the silver-green band of the Deschutes River, through the felted, juniper-encrusted landscape, past the Agency in its soft down of cottonwoods and up the hill the visitor drives. Here, overlooking the Warm Springs River and the 18-hole golf course that hugs its banks, perches the Indian Country modernism of the lodge’s 140 rooms, four-star restaurant, natural hot springs, hiking trails, horse-riding barns and golf course.
Directly behind9 the lodge is some of the most astonishing hiking around. A two-hour walk up the buttes behind the lodge will put you face to face with Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters and several other glaciated peaks in the Cascade Range. The whispering pine and fire in the slots and breaks of the hillsides almost seem to speak. Whether it is the robin’s egg blue daytime sky you walk under or the magnified bowl of diamonds at night, whether it is the glassy, cricket-creaking summer you visit during or the clean, sharp winter, it is that personal conversation with the land that makes the visit different than visits to larger, louder lodges.
All native-run, the Warm Springs folks offer awesomely beautiful golfing, excellent fishing, large, well-kept hot springs, outdoor salmon bakes, horse riding, a rodeo, a First Foods festival and other activities. There is a bar, heated pool, and an elegant small casino with table games and slots, set off from the regular run of the house (if you are not interested in the casino atmosphere, you might not even notice it was there).
The Juniper Room restaurant is the equal to any in San Francisco or New York due to a combination of top-flight culinary know-how and the judicious use of local Oregon native (and I do mean native) ingredients, including salmon, venison, huckleberries and hazelnuts. For those willing to cast further afield than the reservation, there is wind-surfing on the Columbia river, the spectral remnants of Shaniko’s ghost town and mountaineering.
KAUA’I FERAL CHICKENS
Kauai is awash with feral chickens. It always had a higher presence of them due to it being the only island that had not had mongooses introduced. But with 1991’s Hurricane Iniki, thousands of chicken yards were breached and now the image of a rooster crowing in the red dirt of a cane road or the blacktop on a corner is commonplace.
Feral chickens have effected native birds by spreading disease, pecking seabird eggs and competing for nesting habitat.
“I think the problem (of feral chickens) is fairly widespread,” said Eve Holt, the Hawaiian Humane Society’s spokeswoman. “A lot of people call wanting to borrow traps.”
LATIN AMERICA’S BACKLASH AGAINST GLOBALISM
Brazil’s Lula has vowed to resettle 400,000 landless poor on redistributed land. This is the latest in a series of South American presidents on the left trying to pull back against globalism and free trade areas. Lula is also the one responsible for throwing the FTAA out of whack.
Earlier this year the president of Bolivia (I think) pulled out of an agreement to process and sell natural gas. Whether globalism is evil or not these actions seem to be more political than philosophical and seem frequently to be based on myth and fear than on coherent economics. It may also be the right thing to do, I don’t know.
So here’s an idea: Latin American backlash against globalism. We’re not talking about ‘activists’ protesting. We’re talking about presidents withdrawing.
MODERN-DAY EXPATRIATES IN PARIS
Once upon a time Anglophone writers descended on Paris because its atmosphere of tolerance was matched by its cheapness. Now, Paris is one of Europe’s most expensive cities and other places, once considered Puritanical and parochial like London and New York, are more important and arguably as expansive. Yet writers, American, English and others, still come to Paris. Why? I’d like to paint a portrait of modern expatriate writers and artists in Paris, with the romantic veneer of the past stripped away, what kind of a picture would emerge. I can talk with Harry Matthews, David Applefield (of Frank), the literary flies buzzing around Shakespeare & Co.. and its owner, George Whitman, among others.
MOSQUE IN SPAIN
The first mosque in 600 years has just opened in Spain, in the city of Granada, where the last Islamic kingdom ended in 1492 after 800 years of Arabic presence in the Iberian peninsula. There was a great deal of controversy but it has finally gone up. In the midst of this fundamentalist Islamic terror time this is unbelievable. But Islamic Spain had a history of convivencia, or cross-cultural, cross-religious tolerance.
Under the provisions of NAFTA, any signatory that feels it’s been treated unfairly by another signatory’s judicial system can appeal to a NAFTA tribunal, which can overturn even a supreme court decision. This has been done in the US twice, to the tune of $500 million for one case and not-guilty in the other.
“This is the biggest threat to United States judicial independence that no one has heard of and even fewer people understand,” the NY Times quotes John D. Echeverria, a law professor at Georgetown University, as saying.
In the awarded case, although the NAFTA tribunal found that the US businesses being sued were worth no more than $8 million, a jury awarded the plaintiff 62 times that much in damages. The claim was reduced to $175, which has inspired the Canadian plaintiff to refile charges in the tribunal, for $775 million.
One judge, who has served in the tribunal system said, “If Congress had known that there was anything like this in Nafta,” he said, “they would never have voted for it.”
NATIVE AMERICAN VENTURE CAPITAL FIRM
The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation have been traders since before Europeans hit the continent. Their business savvy has led to, among other things, a company corporation with revenues in excess of $80 million annually. Their latest initiative is Warm Springs Ventures, a company that is a combination of VC firm, business incubator and financial consultancy. In 18 months they have acquired majority stakes in Kibak Tile, complete ownership of software firm Cort Directions, assumed management of the tribes’ construction company, created GEO Visions, a natural resources software company, commissioned a retail market analysis and an industrial lands assessment and master plan for the reservation. They are currently engaged in very hush-hush negotiations aimed at enticing a Fortune 500 company to relocate to the Warm Springs Reservation in Central Oregon.
Remittances, money sent home by foreign workers, totaled $30billion in the U.S. in 2003. Worldwide, they total $70 billion, a figure that exceeds the amount of worldwide aid to developing countries. In Nicaragua, remittances constitute 29% of GDP, for El Salvador, the figure is %15 and for Tonga, 39%. It is an acknowledged source of wealth for many countries.
Cities in the Philippines and El Salvador, among other places, rely on remittances for public works projects, including schools, sewers and monuments. Mexico even offers matching funds in some cases. Some cities that provide a great many remittance-men have grown relatively wealthy. (Here is one of the on-the-ground reporting and photo opportunities for the article; another might be the place in the U.S. from which much of the remitting is going on, L.A., for example.)
The industry that allows workers to make remittances is a $50 billion one. It is so lucrative that Yahoo has now introduced a function that allows foreign workers to send home money online. They can choose to have the recipients pick up the money at one of 60,000 “MoneyGram” locations in more than 155 countries or they can choose to have the recipient receive an ATM card with which money from the account can be withdrawn.
The negatives in this trend include the removal of economic development from the remitted-to countries, with all the entrepreneurial energy in many places going into the migration and remittance cycle instead of in making money in the place of origin. In the U.S. and other countries the money is remitted from, that money, clearly, does not remain in place and therefore does not add to the local and national economy it is taken from.
The Church of England’s (relatively) new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has been called “liberal” and even “radical.” He ordained a gay priest and has spoken out urgently against the war in Iraq. But this Welshman is primarily a pastor and theologian. His book “Resurrection” was an eloquent apologia for the function of absence in metaphysics and Christian thought. I would like to write a profile of this intellectual wolf in sheep’s clothing and attempt to capture his humanity, love of conversation and subtle mind.
SOUTH AFRICA BUSHMEN REMOVAL
Expulsion of Bushmen by Botswana from Kalahari Game Reserve, The government of Botswana has just completed its expulsion of the Gana and Gwi bush people from the central Kalahari game reserve, on the grounds that their hunting and gathering has become “obsolete” and their presence is no longer compatible with “preserving wildlife resources”.
To get rid of them, as Survival International has shown, it cut off their water supplies, taxed, fined, beat and tortured them. Bushmen have lived there for some 20,000 years. The wildlife is not threatened by them, but the freedom of the diamond mining and the tourism industries might be. Having expelled the bushmen from their ancestral lands, the government now invites tourists to visit what its website calls “the last Eden”.
SHINING ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND
What about a piece on the resurgence of Peru’s homegrown Marxist nutjobs, the Shining Path? The Peruvian army recently captured the number #2 honcho of the remaining guerillas, Jaime Zuniga. But while Peruvian leaders may characterize this as the “last stand” of the Shining Path, evidence suggests it may not be. With virtually nothing done on the economic front by the Peruvian government since they put Guzman in jail (and a couple of thousand other Sendero members), the Path is getting antsy again. In the last two years some say 400 criminal acts, including the 2002 bombing near the US embassy in Lima that killed 10 and the taking of 71 Argentine oil workers hostage.
Some analysts believe (the poison phrase of journalism but it’s what I got now…) that the fairly weak-in-numbers Shining Path (perhaps in the hundreds of members) has partnered up with Columbia’s FARC, which has 18K members and plenty of dope money.
Considering the ostrich-like way the government has acted regarding the root source of insurrection, you have to wonder if SP isn’t simply going to build and build again. Guzman is in a weird Magneto-esque prison built for him but some say he is still able to get his message out to the folks in the field. Important to remember that this was one murder-lovin’ bunch — an entire army of sociopaths, so it’s particularly nasty the idea that the Khmer Rouge of the Western Hemisphere is on a comeback trail. Bonus: What about a Q&A with ol’ Prof. Abimael? That would be creepy to conduct. Nothing like a charismatic cult leader who thinks he’s a genius to make your hands clammy.
SCORPIONS: PROSECUTE YOU LIKE A HURRICANE
South Africa’s Directorate of Special Investigations, popularly known as “the Scorpions” are a modern-day Untouchables. The unit’s impressive 85% conviction rate over the past two years partially explains why it enjoys such huge popular support. The fact that this fraud-busting national prosecuting authority has a Hollywood-style panache also contributes to its prestige.
It consists of over 3,500 staff and has a fast-rising budget, worth 950m rand. Made up of body armor-clad, submachine-toting assault troops, briefcase-wielding prosecutors and ink-stained forensic CPAs, the Scorpions have now turned their sights on deputy president, Jacob Zuma, who is accused of (and denies) asking for 500,000 rand (now $68,000) from a foreign arms company.
Their willingness to investigate someone in a position of great power makes them unique in Africa and unusual in the world. This combination of effectiveness, drama and integrity has made the Scorpions one of South Africa’s most solidly supported and influential law enforcement authorities.
Leroy Hood is the Kyoto and Lemelson-MIT prize-winning biologist whose development of the DNA gene sequence and synthesizer, and the protein synthesizer and sequencer, comprise made it possible to map the human genome. He was a primary developer of the Human Genome Project, in fact.
Hood is one of those “radical generalists” whose cross-over, back and forth between the academy, the lab and the boardroom have inspired a generation of scientists. He is the co-founder of half a dozen companies, including Amgen and Applied Biosystems. His latest undertaking is the Institute for Systems Biology, a cross between a 65,000-square foot think tank, lab and business incubator on the shore of Lake Union in Seattle.
Hood has designed this “discovery research laboratory complex” to be a physical expression of his cross-disciplinary systems biology. He defines systems biology as approching “a complex biological system (to) interrogate it to understand how the system works.” It is an approach that is likely to result in both scientific discoveries, particularly in the area of gene therapy (in which the interrelationships of genes to produce a disease is particularly appropriate target of systems biology), as well as patents and processes and companies.
Both his history as one of the most important scientists of the 20th century, as well as his role as bio-business pioneer indicate that this facility and approach is worth covering.
A TOOL FOR TRUTH: Forensic Exhumation in Global Conflicts
El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, Haiti, Peru, Sri Lanka, Argentina, South Africa, Rwanda and Bosnia. These are countries that have had prolonged civil conflict in which competing armies, rebel groups, governments and death squads fought and killed each other, as well as non-combatants, members of the clergy, rights workers, journalists and others. These are countries where mass graves and non-judicial executions were not uncommon.
These are also countries that, in the wake of peace agreements, are relying on forensic exhumation of bodies to determined what exactly happened, to whom and who is responsible.
To this end, various groups, including governments, truth commissions and survivors groups, have begun to employ forensic examiners and anthropologists. These specialists, including American, Argentine and Serbian doctors and academics, have come under fire, both politically and literally. Sites of exhumation in Guatemala and El Salvador have been shot up, for instance, and the specialists menaced.
Forensic exhumation can help to determine how many people were killed in an area, how they were killed and who they were. Naturally, this can be a threat to people who might be implicated in the investigations. But truth commissions in particular have relied on and continue to rely on the work of these specialists to establish the facts.
The article I propose will outline the work of forensic anthropologists and medical examiners in theatres of conflict across the world, focusing on El Salvador and Guatemala, South Africa and Rwanda and Bosnia. How are truth commissions using the findings of these specialists? What conflicts are created by their use? Which ones are resolved? How will their activities effect policy in these countries as they try to heal and move forward?
The story has a global scope and a very human appeal. Science, politics, war and justice meet in the graves and courtrooms where forensics has become a tool of historical and political truth.
Article: “True Believers” on new, young, leftist movements cropping up in Latin America.
Hook: “The Motorcycle Diaries,” the new Redford-produced movie on the life of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, starring Gael Garcia Bernal.
The University of Santa Clara in Cuba is known as “Che University” after the revolutionary Che Guevarra; I recently saw a travel show that interviewed young people there who truly believed in Che and his revolution. Additionally, as you know I visited the FMLN headquarters in San Salvador. There I saw many young people from all over Central and South America talking and exchanging information in the bougainvilla-decked garden out back.
I have also continued to read in the news (or between the lines anyway) about leftist movements and activities — victorious presidential candidates in Brazil and Venezuela; anti-globalism movements in southern Mexico, Bolivia and Argentina — that have continued, that are thriving and filled with young people and that are having a pronounced effect on not just local or national but — glory to the interconnectivity — regional (maybe world?) politics and economics.
The article, titled “True Believers” would center on Che U and the activities around the FMLN headquarters. It would examine through the lense of youth the world of the True Believer and contrast it with the hold-overs from the earlier leftist movements of the 70s and 80s. Are there conflicts there?
What strikes me in all this is that there would be True Believers left after the “bankruptcy” of world communism. It seems counter to common sense, but it endures. Why? The article would also examine the increasing identification of these movements with “indigenous” movements, even when few to none of the people involved come from a surviving “indigenous” culture.
This “new leftism” in Latin America has just begun to be recognized as such. Earlier this year, the University of Wisconsin had a conference entitled, “The New Latin American Left: Origins and Future Trajectory.” Communism did not end with the Sandinistas. We believe it did, we wind up with a compromised view, of an entire continent, the one closest to us.