Monday, December 7, 2009

Video Assignment

This is the link to my video assignment. It's about different Christmas celebrations in other countries.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blog 55: Is This Really the 21st Century? Racism in Northern Italy

Time magazine has a story regarding how well racism is doing in northern Italy. It saddens me to see how little progress some people have made over time regarding race.

In this case it seems to be pushed by the Northern League Party: "The latest swipe by the Northern League attempts some kind of holiday spirit. The league-led city council in Coccaglio, a small town east of Milan, has launched a two-month sweep — from Oct. 25 to Dec. 25 — to ferret out foreigners without proper residency permits. It has been dubbed Natale Bianco, or 'White Christmas.'"

At least they are aware of the irony of preaching hate during the Christmas season, as this quote from the story illustrates: "For me, Christmas isn't the celebration of hospitality, but rather of Christian tradition and our identity," told Claudio Abiendi to the daily La Repubblica. Abendi is the brain behind the initiative and a longtime Lega Nord member.

Blog 54_Politics is easy to understand

I have never read the constitution of my own country. I try not to judge myself too harshly on this: the wordings are too complicated and well, it's long! And I bet this problem is universial.

Recently, the officials of Madagascar has come up with a solution: why not explain in with cartoon drawings?

The cartoon features images of locations where lives of normal citizens take place, such as bus stations. The idea aims at raising awareness of the changes in the country's constitution and engaging citizens, especially young people, to deepen their understanding of politics in the country.

Tahina Ramaromandray, a resident interviewed by the BBC, admitted that the cartoon book "did give young people a chance to develop their own understanding of their rights as Malagasy citizens."

"I'm not saying that I understand [the constitution] fully, but at least I got the points, the key points," he said.

"And as a citizen I think it's very important. In the end we as Malagasy people, and we as taxpayers, we do not often realise that we have so much powers. Until you read this book you never know that. So I'm really happy."

Although the idea of the project is to convey, simply, the changes of the constitution, it is difficult to explain the alternations if the country changes its constitution with every change of government. For instance, work started last year but before it was completed, there was a military-backed coup and the constitution was to be rewritten. Yet, the core of the constitution remains more or less the same.

"For example, the constitution talks of the unity of the state - and that is the same in the text for the first republic, the second republic and the third republic." Mr Jean Amie Raveloson, the head of the project explained.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blog 53_Swiss voters said No to minarets

Earlier last month, our blog featured an entry about a referendum that was to take place in Switzerland to ban the building of minarets. On Sunday, 29th November, the Swiss voters had spoken: more than 57% of the voters and 22 out of 26 provinces voted in favour of the ban.

The proposal was brought by the Swiss People's Party (SVP), which is also the largest party in the parliament. They claimed that the shape of minarets reminded them of missels and is a symbol of Islamisation.

Martin Baltisser, the SVP's general secretary, told the BBC. "This was a vote against minarets as symbols of Islamic power."

Many are surprised by the result and feared of what happened in this often-neutral country in the heart of Europe would start a trend on the continent. Although it accepted and respected the decision, the Swiss government did initially oppose the ban, saying that it would harm the country's image, particularly in the Muslim world.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told the BBC, "Concerns [about Islamic fundamentalism] have to be taken seriously. However, a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies."

She then reassured Swiss Muslims that the decision was not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture. Despite her optimistic clarification, many believe that Islamaphobia has increased intensively.

"This will cause major problems because during this campaign mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland."The president of Zurich's Association of Muslim Organisations, Tamir Hadjipolu, told the BBC

Observers believe that the referendum result will act as a catalyst to speed up the identity search of many European countries, as a result of immigrations.

Germany is considering a new "contract" idea to bind immigrants to the country's fundamental values, such as gender equality and basic human rights.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blog 52: Vacation Spoiler: Sunscreen kills coral

As I spend my Thanksgiving holiday visiting some family in Hawaii, I can't help but try to balance my health and the planet's well-being with a lot of frustration. You see? while I need sunscreen to protect me from the sun, the sunscreen that goes into the water is killing the corals.

National Geographic published a story on this. First I thought that maybe the sunscreen was preventing the coral to get the sun that it needed to flourish, just as it prevents the damaging rays to burn my skin, but it is not that simple:

"Four commonly found sunscreen ingredients can awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live inside reef-building coral species.
The chemicals cause the viruses to replicate until their algae hosts explode, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, where they can infect neighboring coral communities.
Zooxanthellae provide coral with food energy through photosynthesis and contribute to the organisms' vibrant color. Without them, the coral "bleaches"—turns white—and dies."

The bad ingredients, if you want to read your sunscreen label are: paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative.

One researcher says that banning sunscreen won't be necessary, and recommends two things swimmers can do to reduce their impact on coral: "Use sunscreens with physical filters, which reflect instead of absorb ultraviolet radiation; and use eco-friendly chemical sunscreens."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Blog 51_Goalkeeper got yellow card after saving cat

Goalkeeper Ivan Banovic received a yellow card after rescuing a lost cat on the pitch during a match in Croatia.

It was reported that the referee's decision has upset a lot of fans, who supported Banovic's kind act.

Ivan Banovic "picked up the wandering feline after it strayed on the pitch 20 minutes into his team's match at Sibenik." the AFP reports.

He then put it safely near a scoreboard but was penalised by the referee for leaving the pitch without permission.

Banovis's team, Sibenik, won 1-0.