Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Few Nations Declare War on Books

Throughout the Ages, governments feared the written word not under their control. Today, Books still disappear and reappear as if by Custom's magic. Others have supreme court proclamations stating a book fair is a violation of human rights and causes pollution. Putting words together in a provocative manner has inspired and challenged authors from scribing in antiquity on precious papyrus to this current version of modernity where one reads on super cool electronic devices.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting or The Unbearable Lightness of Being seems to have displeased critics in Egyptian officialdom. Seems literature geared toward women of the Gulf is what is making the hummus stick in the craw. Anything being confiscated from a government entity called the State Information Services is rich with irony.

Egypt is having the largest book fair, 40th Cairo International Book Fair in the Arab region. Egyptian customs agents took books hostage first, but later relented with a wide variety of books from Lebanese, Czech and Saudi Arabian writers arriving fashionably late for the opening of the book fair. The content of the books seem to be the issue as many of the authors do not shy away from tough subjects or strict rules that some would like to govern the publishing trade. Censorship and the tyranny of bungled bureaucracy plaguing weary writers rears its ugly head.
Germany's Al-Jamal publishers said the authorities had returned copies of Moroccan author Mohamed Choukri's "For Bread Alone," which contains references to teenage sex and drug use and is banned in several Arab countries.

Other publishers also said their books had been released from customs at Cairo airport.
Malaysia's Internal Security Ministry just outright decreed, then banned almost a dozen published books for misrepresenting Islam. The Quran Publications Control and Text Division made their findings in accordance to a 1984 law. Eight of the books came from the US publishers with the remainder published locally in the Malay language. Just under two thirds of Malaysia is Muslim. In Indonesia, the government or Administration of Central Jakarta is forcibly moving Senen's Kwitang book market that as resided in a slapdash manner since the 1960's to a more modern venue so they can tax the 300 vendors rather than unregulated the spirited bargaining and low prices for books that happens now.

In India, the venue for the 33rd Kolkata Book Fair was taken away by order of the Calcutta High Court for potential human rights violations and pollution after seven year court battle. Publishers from all over the world had shipped thousands of books, now with no certain place to display them for sale after the legal ruling. The Indian Army raised the biggest objections based on environmental concerns. The pseudo replacement fair was to be held in an urban setting amidst hospital and nearby university on the Park Circus Grounds called the Kolkata Maidan. The army is demanding the holes dug for structures be filled in - now.

With the fair this year cancelled at Park Circus ground, a symbolic fair was inaugurated by aggrieved intellectuals as city's literary patriarch Sunil Gangopadhyay hammered a gong and kicked start the event at the Maidan Wednesday, without any permission of the army.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, an avid book lover, and Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty are making last-ditch efforts in finding an alternative site for the book fair.

"It is totally unauthorised and acceptable. No permission was taken from us for holding the symbolic fair on the Maidan," defence spokesman Group Captain R.K Das said told IANS.

"We have sent a letter to the police and Booksellers and Publishers' Guild, the organisers of the Kolkata Book Fair, not to hold the fair on the Maidan," Das said.

Books that upset various Bureaucratic Powers that be enough to be hidden, found and scorned. From some of the affected authors, Milan Kundera and Mohamed Choukri.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shrove & Fat Tuesday on International Parade

The Festival of Venice, inaugurated in 1268, and revived in 1980, brings out a collection of rigid masks created by master artisans possessing exquisite details and mystique. En vogue, elaborate Victorian Costumes disguise the wearer since Italy's various rulers got their knickers twisted enough that these celebrations of debauchery in a refined atmosphere caused heartburn and vicious crackdowns. Maybe they were never invited to the grand palazzos.
In the Louisiana French Quarter, Mardi Gras, gorgeous Fran├žois that translates into Fat Tuesday; is a soulful celebration with mystic krewes and bedecked saints marching in with crowds of swarming tourists wanting to be in any number to grab the gold, green and regal purple plastic doubloons thrown from feathered floats. Haiti brings symmetry with their identical chicken masks.
Brazil's Carnival has a storied samba history audaciously worn to show off skin sparkles in the shimmy parade. Only Japan has more Japanese, as these Japanese-Brazilians get their 2008 dance party on in fine fashion flash. Denmark embraces the slathered buns or delish danish at Fastelavn qnd works them off at parades and parties across Bavaria.

In Sao Paulo, the city with the biggest concentration of the 1.5 million Japanese descendants living in the country, the carnival parade will include a 1,000-strong contingent of Japanese samba dancers -- led by a native Japanese woman, Yuka Sugiura, 36.

He enthused that Sugiara, who moved from Nagoya, Japan to Brazil eight years to indulge her passion for samba, was "a great dancer -- and really beautiful as well."

Preparing for consequences from too much partying in Recife, Brazil; once again, the Catholic Church is scandalized and threatening excommunication at the lack of upholding the missionary position with some of the preparations involving condoms and morning after pills. Rio de Janeiro's mayor,Cesar Maia, got things off to a rollicking start by calling it "Earth's biggest party", other nations and participants may beg to differ.

From "Twelfth Night" it takes 47 full days to get worked up for the final night of circus atmosphere and celebrating mostly the same thing around the world for centuries. In the international spirit, braided rapper and hip hop artist "Coolio" was the master of ceremonies in Venice.

A grand story of fiction around a choice in the election of the Brazilian president makes for a great read with real insight into the nation's culture at every level. Brent Alan James is a new author bringing Carnival King: The Last Latin Monarch to great audience applause.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Barack Obama Gets Keys to 21st Century Camelot

Lifting spirits with poignant prose and shedding white light on the elegant daughter of the King and Queen of Camelot's decision to graciously support and generously endorse Barack Obama for president, appeared for the entire world to see Sunday in the New York Times. Caroline Kennedy, like the rest of us in America, wants to Believe again by voting for an inspirational president like her father. Let Her Words Go Forth, The Torch has been Passed.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Her endorsement will reverberate around the world. Tirelessly and without public fanfare, she works in her communtity and thinks long and hard before she bestows the Profiles in Courage Awards on recipients that showed political valor under great duress. On the heels of her eloquence comes one of the great senatorial orators, Ted Kennedy, to make his choice known in this historic Age of American political renaissance. Now, the last living brother of John F. Kennedy, the poetic silver maned liberal Lion of the US Senate is coming out to make one of the greatest endorsements for president in his lifetime. (EPA Photo)

Caroline Kennedy is an attorney and accomplished author/scholar in her own right on the right to Privacy and other constitutional matters. She has her mother's love of words and gifts for composition. Her latest release is A Family of Poems.

Bling Impossible to Find in the Dark

High end jewelry is the end product borne from corporations seeking to send low paid workers and miners in to go find the dangerous and perilous gems and minerals hidden deep within the Earth. It is next to impossible to do that if the miners are working without electrical energy because the South African government is out of power - mainly electrical. Gold and platinum mining came to an abrupt blackout in South Africa even while erstwhile tourists were stranded dangling atop Table Mountain in cable cars chugging uphill from Cape Town. Paved in darkness are South Africa's neighbors, as they all rely on Eksom as their main provider of energy.
Cape Town & Table Mountain
Eskom described the electricity supply
position as an "emergency or force
majeure," which will likely last from two to four weeks.

The utility has asked its 138 biggest
industrial customers to reduce their electricity usage to the minimum level possible.

"The impact extends beyond the mining sector, which now only contributes around 5.5% to GDP, although, as a key exporter, is crucial for the current account position," Davies said. Almost all business sectors have been affected in some way, with small businesses particularly hard-hit, he said.

Eskom has also reduced power supply to neighboring countries, which are some of South Africa's major trading partners. (Reuters photo)
Last week's power outages made the raw materials for the bling soar on the open markets with an ounce of gold worth almost $925USD and platinum hitting the $1700 mark. Bling is worth more while the destruction to the South African economy is without a fixed monetary value due to lost wages, missed productivity and soaring energy costs. A riot almost ensued when South Africans found they were still charged for down time. Traffic already awful in J-burg and elsewhere is now sit and wait, wait some more as they call into local radio shows to complain, then wait as road rage builds. Wasting time is not the worst of it, the power goes off with out warning affecting patients dependent on breathing machines, restaurants have food spoilage and people become stuck in lifts. Farmers need water for pumps. Black townships are accustomed to the random outages, the white South African population is seeing a new energy reality disrupt their lives.

Restaurants have been particularly hard-hit.

"We're without power up to four times a week, often at our peak time in the early evening," says Lizaan Joubert, the manager of the Orient Restaurant at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.

"It puts enormous pressure on our kitchen, and it affects the menu. Our customers remain loyal to us, but from a business perspective, this is the worst thing that's happened to us."

Mrs Sonnenberg, who is in a wheelchair, says it is especially worrying when the power goes off without warning at night.
The power issue will not subside soon. It is slated to be a two year fix with heavy emphasis on conservation. The two year mark is non-negotiable because South Africa is due to host World Cup Soccer with an expected attendance of over a quarter of a million people to descend to upon the venues and use power for showers and shopping. Soccer or football is a sport beloved by most of the civilized world and yawned at by most Americans. It is now a national emergency with no other priorities to take its place.

More about South Africa's regional economic alliances and resources are found inside inside this comprehensive offering by James J. Hentz. The title of this body of work discussing the changes of economic realities from being a conquest of colonialism to apartheid to a functioning democracy with economic interests is South Africa and the Logic of Regional Cooperation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

China Moves Yellow River for 2008 Olympics

Befitting a concerned host, Beijing has nowhere near enough water for the upcoming special few weeks when the world focuses its attention on running, no-splash dives, and backflips. Problem "solved" - divert the second largest river in eastern China to gush towards Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics too. Only a nation worried because its international prestige is on the line with an economic motive to profit first from tourists followed by multi-national corporations eager to chain smoke, feed and drink on China's capitalist boom would disregard Mother Nature's pending Vengeance to reroute a cultural icon of a river into a dying lake almost fifty miles away. Like the mighty Mississippi in the US, there are a series of locks and gates on the silt-filled Yellow River that will be opened, allowing rushing water at 70 cubic meters per second to fill what's left of China's largest freshwater lake in just under 120 days.
At the same time, four reservoirs that naturally feed Baiyangdian, northern China's largest freshwater lake, will instead provide additional water for Beijing, which suffers chronic shortages, according to the paper.

The lake, about 70 kilometres from Beijing, has been decimated by environmental degradation for more than a decade as both water use and pollution has skyrocketed in tandem with China's booming economy.

It would then largely flow along the ancient "Grand Canal," one of China's earliest water projects, built nearly 1,400 years ago.
Regardless of the Olympics, Beijing is exploding in size from construction, displaced people, a robust tourist industry and being the center of government. Due to drought striking Lake Baiyangdian, feeding China's capital, water is at a premium with no real replenishment in sight. The city needed a longer term water solution, but this engineering fait accompli also harms agriculture productivity gravely needed in a billion and half person China, deprives farmers and others who relied on the river for centuries. Not that the Yellow River's water is all that clean with any number of manufacturers and others using it as both a toxic refuse dump and fresh drinking water.

Northern China is wracked with water shortages due to soaring demand, an ongoing drought and global warming. Per capita water usage in Beijing is already far below national averages.

Meanwhile, a separate project to divert Yellow River water to the Shandong city of Qingdao, where Olympic sailing events will take place, was completed last week, the paper said.

From 8 August to 24 August 2008, The Games of the XXIX Olympiad will go on making memories in a striking and colorful fashion with The Fuwas or good luck dolls, floral tributes and an incredible architectural vision in the main stadium. It's the after effects as China goes in to a rainy season and the landscape is no longer a natural barrier to the coming flash floods and erosion caused by the Yellow River's Diversion.

The Three Gorges Dam Project was built to solve a power issue by leveraging and harnessing the Yanghtze River, but it has had a stunning lack of consistent success in providing electricity from this decades long enterprise while displacing millions of China's indigenous people. Special and exclusive for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China is altering the natural flow of the Yellow River for a new long march. The Yellow River also has bears two informal names, China's Pride and China's sorrow as the Chinese Cradle of Civilization or Mother River.

From late 2007, comes a beautiful book, Yellow River: The Spirit and Strength of China authored by Aldo Palvan.

Coming in May is the 2008 Edition of The Complete Book of The Olympics by David Wallechinsky, son of acclaimed author Irving Wallace, who attended his first Summer Olympiad in Rome, now enthralled with all things Olympic.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Amazing Shrinking Amazon Forest

Imminent is an area the size of France will be devoid of valuable trees, further ruining the ecosystem in the Amazon with just one of the consequences leading to more wild and violent weather in the decades ahead. By 2030 will anything be left to champion or shall the mighty Amazon region become the barren landscape we all so richly deserve? The oh-my-we-are-hapless-bureaucrats in Brazil, decided in the wake of world condemnation to announce an official effort to stop the clear cutting by sending out a press release on their economic sanctions and mentioning a pending military engagement. Er, what took so long - pretty sure anybody over the age of three with the gift of one working eyeball could tell that half of Mato Gr0sso no longer had trees. Instead, the blinded world needed the aid of a space satellite to beam back pictures showing a gaping forest hole of 1, 280 square miles before alarm bells went off. (EPA Photo)

The situation may also be worse than reported, with the environment ministry saying the preliminary assessment of the amount of forest cleared could double as more detailed satellite images are analysed.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is due to attend an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss new measures to tackle deforestation in the Amazon.

The latest figures will be an embarrassment for the Brazilian president, says the BBC's Americas editor, Warren Bull.

The high price of corn and other cash crops like soy plus beef is fueling the need for farming and grazing land. What mass short term critical thinking from Brazil as they attempt to get their too costly share of the biofuel market right now while mortgaging the future of the nation and the world. Reaping immediate economic benefits for so few versus planning for longterm survivability of everyone, was the absolutely known trade off since last century's reports on the devastation of deforestation in the Amazon region. Rich and long dead are the exploitative capitalists, before the effects are visited upon their surviving beloved grandchildren who are not swept out to sea in a surfeit of flash floods, blown about in tropical storms, suffering severe droughts or poisoned water supplies from Ecoli and other water borne diseases brought about to pad someone's bank accounts including cash strapped governments.

According to the Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes, there’s no need for deforestation as there is plenty of land for farming and cattle.

He said: "It's not necessary to cut a single tree to produce soy or raise cattle. There's plenty of land outside of the Amazon to increase the production of soy and beef." (old photo)

What makes this a true travesty is that for the last ten years much of the science and analysis around deforestation, climate change and global warming focused on the Amazon and the consequences of this continuing to happen. Its as if the last tree in the forest fell crashed to the ground, spontaneously combusted into a megaton mushroom cloud and no one noticed.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is a must read at least five times book by Jared Diamond that details the end of civilizations and what the preceding causes look like before the annihilation. Imagine being the person on Easter Island who chopped down the last tree when trees were necessary to preserve a way of life or even to survive. A prescient 2007 book release delineating the Amazon deforestation devastation is also in this post.