Currently viewing the tag: "Reactions"

Written by Filip Stojanovski

The Macedonian government’s campaign for “explaining the consequences of abortion”, re-started during the winter holidays, incited reactions by bloggers and civil society organizations, which mainly interpret is as an attempt to take Macedonia back to the Middle Ages.

The first blogger to react was the gender and ethnic studies expert Kristina Hadzi-Vasileva:

I just saw the latest campaign by the Government, using the slogan “Choose life.” The commercials (I saw two) are directed against abortion.

The text at the end of the commercial claims that the campaign is about explaining the consequences of abortion. Horror! The first advertisement explains that abortions bring many consequences, including inflammations, infections, sepsis, consequences of anesthesia (sic), psychological consequences and so on.

During 2010 a number of women died at childbirth (in medical institutions) in Macedonia from-imagine!-the above reasons. Except the last one, of course. When you die, the psychological consequences cannot harm you.

I wonder since when it is the obligation of the Government to warn us about consequences of choosing abortion via public campaigns? As far as I know, physicians have the duty to disclose all aspects (positive and negative) to women who require abortion, and this is common practice. Or the administration does not believe the medical doctors, and decided to their job too?

The second advertisement is even more stupid because it enhances the patriarchal stereotype.

The boyfriend is interested only in football (soccer). The girlfriend tells him that they are going to have a baby, and he responds that they have no [material] conditions to raise it. But look, she manages to persuade him by reminding him that they went out the previous night and spent a thousand Denars (around EUR 16 or USD 20). She then comes out with the key “argument” - that the child will most probably be male and look like him, after which he “lays down his arms.” I am still puzzled as to how exactly this advertisement explains the consequences of abortion? Possibly there will be a sequel with the husband and wife arguing in front of the child about having no money, with him accusing her of blackmailing him to marry her “shotgun wedding“-style. Chances are that such lack of abortion can produce psychological consequences.

In conclusion, it seems the current Macedonian Government challenges the right which Macedonian women (like all women from the other former Yugoslav republics) acquired during socialism, a right denied to millions of other women world over?

Government's population policy boils down to having or not having a child. All other elements are inconsequential. The conditions in which these children are born are irrelevant, the quality of their schools and kindergartens is not important, nor whether the parents are emotionally and psychologically ready to raise children. It is only important to give birth to the kids, no matter what they turn into. They'll be ours anyway.

Prof. Mirjana Najcevska, human rights expert, reacted [MKD] shortly afterwards:

The Government’s feeble-minded campaign to misinform and manipulate the public [MKD] to limit one of the rights that women of the world fought so hard to gain—the right to abort as a right to choose—has to be challenged and opposed by the gynecologists, pediatricians, internists and all other medical professionals who have the (metaphoric) balls and who are not in awe of the [ruling political party] VMRO-DPMNE.

Alongside the “arguments” emphasized about the abortion, the Government needs to inform about all the consequences of pregnancy and birth, like the most frequent complications

[…]

Not to mention that the full anesthesia required for cesarean section, hemorrhoids, permanent sterility, the harmony of hoses for lasting hormonal disorders, chemical changes, hair loss, stretch marks, cellulite, infections during lactation, infections at delivery (10 dead mothers during 2010 [in Macedonia], against zero due to abortion)…

Translator and culture promoter Jasna Shoptrajanova-Vrteva stated via Facebook (reprinted with her permission):

Yesterday I read the statistics from 2009 – there were 24 abortions per every 100 births. What kinds of dullards are so illiterate about contraception?? This shows that instead of stigmatization of abortion or introduction of religious or quasi-religious blabbering (from what I hear from parents-believers whose children choose religious education at school) we need sexual education. Or it does not have to be only about sexuality, let it just be health education – about the importance of proper nutrition, sports, and prevention of STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

Journalist and blogger Biserka Velkovska published an article [MKD] entitled “A thousand for a baby, you get chauvinism for free” in Nova Makedonija daily, relaying reactions from the blogosphere. It included a statement by human rights activist Irena Cvetkovic:

It would be normal not to promote abortion. However, the point of this campaign should be reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, which can be done with another kind of campaign, but also with introduction of sexual education, providing state subsidies for contraceptives, de-stigmatization of oral contraception. Reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies would reduce the number of abortions. Besides, this campaign coincides with the Macedonian Orthodox Church’s request for constitutional changes in regard to defining marriage [as the union of man and woman only – in effect forbidding homosexual marriages], and all this looks like just another campaign to divert the public attention…

Dejan Velkoski offered “expert analysis” [MKD] of the first video from a viewpoint of a fan of Arsenal football club:

…According to parameters from the background sound, we can realize that… it's an Arsenal game. The commentator mentions [Adebayor] and [Flamini] (therefore the game had to take place before latter’s retirement in Italy), and [Al Habsi] as a goalie (meaning, the game was against Bolton). The mention of the 2:2 tie reveals that it was the most exciting game of 2008, Bolton-Arsenal, when the game was decided in the last seconds of the extra time, with final 2:3. Therefore, the amazing drama from the commercial took place on March 29, 2008, Saturday, around 17:30.

It is clear that the kid is already born and by far either malnourished or adopted by some other happy parents, or is in an orphanage. Why? When the girl persuades the guy that conditions are irrelevant, because they spent a thousand Denars in a bar that will be used for diapers, it becomes obvious that besides a lack of amenities, she also lives in a world of her own. Since after going out they had no money to buy condoms, one can deduce that their entire monthly entertainment budget is 1,000 Denars. Maybe they can buy diapers with that, but then the baby doesn’t have to eat, gets vaccinated, go to a doctor, and of course does not need clothes, accessories or toys. (You can estimate how long it can survive with just diapers.)

[…]

Realism in the commercial equals zero. An Arsenal fan cannot be persuaded about anything in such a short time frame. A Gunner can argue with you (even when he’s obviously wrong!) for days, without resolving anything. On the other hand, I can see why they chose an Arsenal fan. If they chose a [Tottenham] fan, they would have him breaking through the door after hearing the words “We’re gonna have a baby.”

I also have a dilemma: why is the girl persuading the guy? As a woman, she has the right to decide whether to have the baby or not. In a natural setting, his opinion is irrelevant. What he has to say is if he would stay by her, whether he would ask her to marry him (for the wrong reasons!) or whether he would switch to Tottenham (i.e., run far away).

If there’s any message to this commercial, than it is that two immature individuals, without any conditions to raise children, as a rule, make a totally wrong decision. First they’ll lock themselves indoors forever (not having the 1,000 Denars to go out once a month), but will ruin the life of the innocent child…

NGO H.E.R.A. and the Macedonian Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians appealed for the government to cease this harmful campaign and

• to raise public awareness about oral contraception
• to improve conditions for safe motherhood
• to continue to guarantee the constitutional right of choice
• to introduce and implement newly presented protocols for safe abortion
• to introduce mechanisms for improved social and economic life of the future parents
• and to introduce sexuality education in schools.

Ping.mk aggregated more reactions [MKD]. Notably, female right-wing bloggers remained largely silent about this campaign, and female politicians from the government coalition also avoided speaking about it in public.

In the meantime, the government's campaign replaced the above videos with clips containing messages such as ‘If his mother aborted baby Beethoven, we would not have the Ode to Joy now.'

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Written by Sasa Milosevic

Serbian daily ‘Alo' suggested that the story about Serbian mercenaries in Libya was true.

According to a Maltese blog Malta CC, Serbian military pilots reportedly took part in the bombing of protesters in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi. This claim was made public after two Libyan pilots fled to Malta, refusing to bomb their fellow citizens participating in the Libya uprising.

Serbian daily Alo reminded readers that Muammar al-Gaddafi had hired Serbian pilots before: in the 90s, in combat operations against radical Islamists, but also in actions against civilians, in support of the ground forces.

In the same article, Alo revealed that Serbian mercenaries were allegedly killing protesters in the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi:

Serbian mercenaries earn tens of thousands dollars for this job… They come from Serbia, but Bosnian and Croatian agencies are involved in recruiting for this kind of work…”Serbian legionnaires” are veterans of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. In addition to former members of the military and police units, the bulk of these forces are the former [”Red Berets“]… Gaddafi pays them as much as they demand! A good number of them had great-paying jobs in various African countries, but this was an offer not to be rejected. It can be expected that in the near future a lot of our contractors go with Gaddafi, who has great confidence in Serbian soldiers.

It appears that Serbian netizens are not too surprised by these allegations and revelations. Krstarica forum is one of the venues rich in debate.

Reg writes:

No wonder, people. Professionals are doing everything for money… No emotions, no morals… Kill for the one who offered more. In the wars in the former Yugoslavia they cooperated with the Croats, Muslims, why now would not work for Gaddafi. It doesn't matter to them at all who the boss is.

Sicilian writes:

It is OK! Gaddafi has always been on the Serbian side…

Soko observes:

It seems that he believes the Serbs most… Libya has not recognized Kosovo, yet another reason to support Gaddafi.

Neca 1977 asks:

How do I apply for Gaddafi's mercenaries?

Mika Egzekutor observes:

Bosniaks and Croats are today finding jobs for those who were shooting them yesterday.

Donald 1408, a Serbian military officer, recalls:

Hey, gentlemen, what is strange about it? I know personally, when I was in military schools, there were also Libyans, Iraqis, Zambians, Palestinians… I know that they were in Russian [military] schools also. Gaddafi's military experts appreciated the school in Yugoslavia… He knew to recruit the best ones to join the Libyan army… Many were coming to help Libyans under special contracts… […] Personally, I have had an offer to go there, and I know many colleagues who went…

Visitors on an ultra-right forum “Stormfront” also analyze the alleged involvement of the Serbian “dogs of war” in Libya.

Iraklija says:

Here are a few things that I've heard from a person who served in the Foreign Legion and later as a solo mercenary. Here is what you get if you're a mercenary in Libya:

1. $ 10,000-$ 20,000 monthly in cash
2. Citizenship
3. Wife and prostitutes
4. Gold medals
5. An opportunity to work at Gaddafi's security sector or for security of a Gaddafi family member

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Human Rights Campaign

“This is a monumental decision for the thousands of same-sex couples and their families who want nothing more than the same rights and dignity afforded to other married couples,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As the President has stated previously, DOMA unfairly discriminates against Americans and we applaud him for fulfilling his oath to defend critical constitutional principles.” Under federal law, the Department of Justice must report to Congress its intent not to defend the statute and it is likely that anti-LGBT leaders in Congress will take up its defense. “Congressional leaders must not waste another taxpayer dollar defending this patently unconstitutional law,” said Solmonese. “The federal government has no business picking and choosing which legal marriages they want to recognize. Instead Congress should take this opportunity to wipe the stain of marriage discrimination from our laws.”

Freedom To Marry

“Freedom to Marry applauds the President and the Attorney General for acknowledging that sexual orientation discrimination has no place in American life and must be presumed unconstitutional, recognizing that discriminatory laws like so-called DOMA must be looked at with skeptical eyes, not rubber stamped. “The Administration today acknowledges that there is no legitimate reason for this discrimination and therefore it cannot be defended under the Constitution. This a momentous step forward toward Freedom to Marry’s goal of ending federal marriage discrimination and fully protecting all loving and committed couples.”

More reactions will be posted as they arrive…

Joe. My. God.

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Written by Silvia Viñas

The video game “Call of Juarez: The Cartel” by game developer Ubisoft has drawn criticism from Mexican and US officials; but netizens are at odds about the game and the local politician's efforts to ban it.

According to the game's official website, “You'll embark on a bloody road trip from Los Angeles to Juarez, Mexico immersing yourself in a gritty plot with interesting characters and a wide variety of game play options. Take justice into your own hands in this modern Western shooter.”

Authorities on both sides of the border are concerned that the game will send the wrong message to young players, as The Latinamericanist reports:

Community leaders and law enforcement officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are unhappy with the upcoming release of “The Cartel”. “Lots of kids say they want to be a hitman, because they are the ones that get away with everything,” said Ciudad Juarez youth worker Laurencio Barraza to Reuters. Though Ubisoft insists that the game is for “entertainment purposes only” the police chief of Brownsville, Texas accused the firm of trying to “capitalize on the violent situation in Mexico.”

Ismael Flores in Vivir México [es] explains that legislators in the state of Chihuahua -where Ciudad Juárez is located- have called on the Secretariat of Governance and the Secretariat of Economy to prohibit the sale of the video game in Mexico. Ismael wonders:

Si Call of Juarez: The Cartel en vez de ser un videojuego fuera una novela ¿Causaría tanta molestia? ¿También se pediría censurarla impidiendo su venta? Yo me sumo a la opinión de que esta clase de contenidos, como muchos otros, deben ser puestos al análisis individual y, en el caso de estar expuestos a niños, sometidos a discusión con ellos. Creo que puede ser más traumático para un infante sentarlo a ver las noticias que jugar un videojuego. Pero ese soy yo… ¿Ustedes qué dicen?

If Call of Juarez: The Cartel were a novel instead of a video game, would it bother people so much? Would they also ask to censor it and prevent its sale? I join the opinion that this kind of content, like a lot of other content, should be analyzed on an individual basis and, in the case that children are exposed to it, discuss it with them. I think it could be more traumatizing for a child to watch the news than to play a video game. But that's just me…What you think?

Pepe Flores in Alt1040 [es] agrees with Ismael’s argument and adds:

Coincido: no es que se trate de hacer una apología del crimen organizado, pero considero que existe una satanización sólo por tratarse, precisamente, de un videojuego. ¿Por qué tanta mala fama? Nunca me lo explicaré, pero tantos estudios cuestionables que pululan y hacer correlaciones forzadas han generado mucha intolerancia hacia los juegos de vídeo.

Vería muy mal que el gobierno federal hiciera caso de esta petición del Congreso de Chihuahua, pues sólo demostraría que están más atentos a la imagen que al fondo. El videojuego, como otras expresiones culturales, refleja y reinterpreta la realidad — por más triste y dolorosa que sea. En lugar de preocuparse por sacar a Call of Juarez: The Cartel de las tiendas, mejor que se enfoquen en lo que en realidad importa: disminuir el clima de inseguridad en la ciudad.

I agree: it is not about making an apology of organized crime, but I think people are making it sound satanic [es] just because it is, precisely, a video game. Why give video games such a bad name? I will never understand, but many questionable studies that make forced correlations [es] have generated much intolerance towards video games.

It would be very bad if the federal government obeyed this request from the Congress of Chihuahua, because it would only show that they are paying more attention to the image than to the content. The video game, like other cultural expressions, reflects and reinterprets reality — however sad and painful it is. Instead of worrying about taking Call of Juarez: The Cartel out of the stores, they should focus on what really matters: reducing the climate of insecurity in the city.

Tim Johnson from Mexico Unmasked gathers several articles and reactions in his post “You, too, can kill like a cartel hit man.” The post begins with the line,

Chalk it up to bad taste, and a strong profit motive.

On Twitter, @PouKii says he wants to play the game, and Drago (@The_Drago) writes:

Yo si jugare Call of Juarez: The Cartel, soy de la frontera con usa y me vale

I will play Call of Juarez: The Cartel, I’m from the border with the USA and I don’t care

José Escalante (@canek34) reacts to the attempts to ban the game in Mexico:

@AnaPOrdorica De que sirve que censuren el videojuego de CALL OF JUAREZ si luego lo van a poder descargar de internet.

@AnaPOrdorica What is the point of censuring the video game CALL OF JUAREZ if they will be able to download it on the internet.

Ian Nájar (@Mr_LinDowsMac) says:

Usualmente estoy en contra de la censura de los videojuegos, pero Ubisoft es inoportuno y políticamente incorrecto lanzar Call of Juarez

Usually I’m against the censorship of video games, but Ubisoft is being untimely and politically incorrect by realeasing Call of Juarez.

Jose Enrique Lixa (@NY_blackdiamond) tweets:

Ke tristeza k a mi pais le dediquen un juego, “Call of Juarez. The Cartel”… Se que es sarcastico, humor negro, pero #not

It’s sad that my country has a game dedicated to it, “Call of Juarez. The Cartel”… I know it’s sarcastic, dark humor, but #not

The game will be released in 2011 during the the Northern Hemisphere's Summer. You can see images of the game and read more reactions on the “Call of Juarez” Facebook Page.

Global Voices in English

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Written by Filip Stojanovski

After the violent inter-ethnic incident involving mass fighting on Skopje Fortress - Kale, social media frequented by inhabitants of Macedonia buzzed with hate speech and reactions to it.

The team of the Metamorphosis Foundation set to a task to document links to discussions about the incident by setting a dedicated group named Kale [MKD] on the interactive aggregator Ping.mk, providing a resource for activists, reporters and researchers.

On Monday, Feb. 14, the civic associations Media Development Center (MDC) and NGO Info-Centre issued an appeal titled “Stop Hate Speech and Inter-Ethnic Tensions and Incidents”:

In the last several days, we are witnessing high presence of hate speech in the traditional and new media, heating up the tension and inciting further violence.

Last Sunday’s incident at the Skopje’s Kale (the Old Fortress) is a serious threat to inter-ethnic relations in the Republic of Macedonia. The use of physical violence is just a representation of a complete lack of public debate and open and civilized dialog.

Media Development Centre and NGO Info-Centre appeal to all involved, political parties, non-governmental organizations, media and all citizens of Macedonia to retire their passions and abstain from further incitement of ethnic intolerance.

We appeal to the press to report and cover the incidents with thoughtfulness and care, and act responsibly in accordance with professional standards.

We ask the responsible institutions to follow the situation carefully and to sanction, according to the law, all calls to violence or ethnic and religious intolerance.

Black Book by FOSIM and MDCIn fact, Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia and MDC recently published the “Black Book” (.pdf), which documents the rise of hate speech in Macedonia during 2009, in an attempt to warn the public about the top-down nature of this phenomenon and its possible consequences. As the book's editor and blogger Roberto Belichanec put it [MKD]:

Documenting of events has been done from the discourse of all participants in the public life… from broadcasting and print media, to participants in the new media and online social networks.
[…] this non-comprehensive collection of “pearls” […] attempts to warn that the level of public debate is problematic and represents a limiting factor in accomplishment of human rights in the country.

The book was promoted last Friday - two days before the Kale incident, alongside a discussion [MKD] about social and legal ramifications (full video available on the website of Citizens for European Macedonia). In an almost prophetic manner, the event was named “Hate Speech - an Announcement for Physical Violence.”

Grassroots anti-hate groups are also becoming more active and numerous on social media. One of them is “A Group Against Religious, Ethnic or Any Other Kind of Hatred” [MKD] with over 470 members advocating for…

…[stopping] of all gatherings on Skopje's Kale due to the possibility of escalation. The government should immediately take measures to prevent any further construction or demolition activity, and to prohibit any kind of gathering in the area.

Informal networks of local activists have also been trying to systematically report hate groups via Facebook's internal mechanism.

Viktor Arsovski informed [MKD] via IT.com.mk that on Feb. 15 the police also decided to address the hate speech issue and appealed to Facebook to close down the “aggressive Facebook groups about the church on Kale”:

MOI [Ministry of the Interior] asked Facebook to delete groups about the Kale church with aggressive content, spreading hate speech and calls for ethnic cleansing. These groups have become an arena for arguing and religious and ethnic bigotry after the recent incident on Skopje's Kale involving a fight between two ethnic groups.

[…] Considering Facebook's policy, one can expect the removal of such groups.

In its official statement, the Ministry of the Interior announced [MKD] that it…

…requested [from Facebook] provision of personal data about the persons, i.e. the IP addresses of the administrators who created these groups and pages.

Computer Crime Department also recorded and documented all members of the groups and their supporters, and profiles of the persons who accepted the invitations to participate in further fights on Kale.

MOI appeals to all social network visitors to refrain from hate speech and stop inciting violence, because it will take all necessary measures for their identification and prevention of their intents.

Some of the groups active until yesterday were indeed closed down, and the FB event scheduled for next Saturday - a gathering on Kale intended to “unite” ethnic Macedonian football fan groups from various cities (who were bitter rivals so far) has been “canceled.”

Facebook continues to serve as the main vehicle for more civilized on-line discussions about various aspects of the situation, but these events also shook up the sleepy Macedonian blogosphere. One of the frequent topics is whether the whole thing is a set-up, a staged performance by the main coalition partners, or a sign of a genuine conflict between them. Both options provide political points by presenting the politicians as defenders of their ethnic (often written as “national”) interests.

Pro-government social media users, such as blogger Kimi, promoted [MKD] a video clip which accuses an A1 TV cameraman for ridiculing ethnic Macedonian football fans during the Kale incident. Some of the comments on this post marked it as an attempt to shift the blame for the incident towards the TV station, which has been under various forms of pressure for some time, and away from the ruling political party.

Some ethnic Macedonian bloggers also addressed a spin-off scandal that involves a local employee of the Dutch Embassy: Artan Grubi, the president of the ethnic Albanian NGO “Wake up!” (Zgjohu!), was among the organizers of the counter-protest group on Sunday and participated in the rumble (caught on camera). This information was first spread by Vecher daily, and later reiterated by Sitel TV. These two media outlets have the same editor (Dragan Pavlovic - Latas) and are owned by the “oligarchs” close to the government, in case of the latter, an MP & leader of the Socialist Party, a member of the ruling coalition.

Blogger Zoriv linked the Sitel article, asking [MKD] whether the event could be considered a “diplomatic incident.” Roboto called [MKD/ENG] for an e-mail campaign, asking the Dutch Ambassador to react. This morning, Kosovo news portal Telegrafi confirmed [ALB] that Artan Grubi was “suspended from his post of a political advisor due to his role in Sunday's clashes.”

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The Washington Post Style section mounted its latest favorite hobby horse again this morning with yet another article devoted to the controversial "Hide/Seek" Smithsonian exhibit, which is closing this Sunday.

NewsBusters sister organization CNSNews.com broke the story in late November that sparked the controversy. You can read that story here.

Shortly after Penny Starr's story, the Gallery removed an offensive video entitled "Fire In My Belly," which featured among other things a depiction of ants crawling on a crucifix. The decision to remove the video was decried as censorship by liberal critics, a criticism magnified by the Post's Style section coverage of the row.

A Nexis search of the term "Hide/Seek"  from November to today shows this is the 16th article in the paper's weekday Style section related to the controversial exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.

In today's page C8 article, Post staffer Jacqueline Trescott focused on comments left in the visitors' log at the National Portrait Gallery.

"The majority of entries in the museum comment books deal sharply with the controversy," Trescott noted. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the comments were left-leaning, including one from a self-described "conservative" who noted he or she was "happy to be here and to experience the true freedom of expression that our country stands for."

Of course, no one disputes the right of artists to free expression. The issue at hand is taxpayer sponsorship of offensive art, particularly art that is offensive to millions of religious Americans.

NewsBusters.org - Exposing Liberal Media Bias

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Written by Andrea Arzaba

On Sunday January 30, Richard Hammond, one of the presenters on the BBC’s popular car show Top Gear, made these comments while talking about the Mexican designed car Mastretta: “Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.” These and other comments during the show have become a big topic of discussion in the national blogosphere.

Top Gear. Image by Flickr user mikkelz, used under an CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

Blogger Alejandro Ortiz Sotomayor from Vivir Mexico [es] explained the situation:

El hecho fue que en dicho programa en vez de analizar al vehículo como tal, solamente se dedicaron a criticar al pueblo mexicano a base de estereotipos ignorantes y mal fundados, llegando incluso a ofender al embajador de nuestro país en Inglaterra.

The fact is that in the program, rather than analyze the vehicle as such, the presenters devoted their time to criticizing Mexican people based on ignorant and ill-founded stereotypes, even offending the ambassador of our country in England.

Jeremy Clarkson, another of the show's presenters, said: “We won't get any complaints about this because the Mexican ambassador's going to be sitting there with a remote control like this.” Mexican Ambassador to the UK, Eduardo Medina-Mora, has written to the BBC asking for an apology.

Blogger “El Enigma” expressed his thoughts on the matter:

¿A quién le dolió y porque las palabras que dijeron en el programa ingles Top Gear?

A MI SI. Pero que quede claro que no estoy siendo patriotero buscando el ser el líder de una noche de los cuchillos con antorchas y demás en contra de los británicos.

A mí me molesta el que sigan los estereotipos encasillando a los mexicanos en el mundo

Who got hurt -and why- with the words they said in the English program Top Gear?

I DID. But let me be clear that I am not being patriotic trying to be the leader of a [revolt] with torches, knives and other things against the British.

It bothers me that they keep stereotyping Mexicans in the world

Later in the post he writes [es]:

Así que si en verdad reviso el cumulo de tonterías que dijeron en TopGear me queda claro que a) el conductor es inútil torpe que no sabe ni siquiera de que habla, b) no puedo darle el título de conocedor si basa su criterio al hablar de autos pro el país de donde vienen y por ultimo c) ni siquiera tiene los pantalones en twitter para dar la cara sino que cierra la cuenta y se va.

Apoyo la queja interpuesta por el embajador Eduardo Medina Mora por esta manera tan absurda e irresponsable de hablar de un “conocedor” pero con el tacto y el criterio de un hipopótamo al tocar el piano.

So if I actually review the bunch of nonsense they said in TopGear, it is clear to me that a) the presenter is useless and dumb and doesn't even know what he is talking about, b) I cannot give him the title of an expert if he bases his approach to discussing cars according to the country they come from and finally c) the presenter does not even have the pants to come forward on Twitter and instead closes the account and leaves.

I support the complaint filed by Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora, for this absurd and irresponsible way of speaking by someone that is “knowledgeable” but has the tact and judgment of a hippopotamus playing the piano.

In the blog Agencia Sinarquista de Noticia, the opinion of writer David Valdez has a different tone [es]:

Lo más sorprende de todo es que esto suceda en un país que se precia de reírse hasta de sus muertos con un humor sabrosón, y sin embargo ahora refunfuña porque alguien le dijo cositas feas similares a las que dicen los niños de primaria.

No deja de llamar la atención que andemos requete indignados ahora que los british nos sacaron la lengua, cuando en los programas de humor de Estados Unidos somos blanco de burlas todos los días, como los son los negros, y los judíos, y los irlandeses, y los white trash… se trata de humor y nada más, no pasa nada.

Como ayer dijo alguien en Twitter: si por cada chiste en el que nos burlamos de otras razas hubiera una reacción como la de México, ya estaríamos fuera de la ONU.

The most surprising thing is that this happens in a country that prides itself on laughing even about their dead with a great sense of humor, and yet now [the country] grumbles because someone said mean little things similar to those that schoolchildren say.

It doesn't cease to call my attention that we are super angry now that the British stuck their tongue out at us, when in comedy programs from the Untied States we are teased every day, as are blacks, and Jews, and the Irish, and “white trash”… it's humor and nothing more, it's not a big deal.

As someone said on Twitter yesterday: if for every joke in which we make fun of other races there was a reaction like Mexico's, we would be out the UN.

Tim Johnson in Mexico Unmasked wrote a post where he reports on the different reactions the comments caused:

Apparently many Mexican internet users didn’t take the kind of offense at the show that the ambassador did, if the remarks posted on the El Universal website are any indication. Many showed the refined sense of irony that I personally find refreshing in Mexicans.

“Why such a scandal?” one poster asked. “How insecure people are to be offended so easily.”

Another said: “This stereotype of the lazy Mexican is so out of date. To make the joke more current, instead of calling the car a ‘tortilla’ it should be called a ‘hit man.’ Instead of ‘lazy’ it should show a high-caliber weapon.”

A Mexican student in London accused Top Gear of racism and asked lawyers “to bring a test case against the show,” as reported by The Telegraph.

The BBC issued a formal apology to Mexico. Here is a part of their statement:

The Executive Producer for Top Gear has written to the Mexican Ambassador and apologised for the comments made about him during the show. On the broader issue of comments about Mexicans as people, the show has explained they were making comic use of a stereotype; a practice with which regular viewers of Top Gear will be familiar.

“We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centred on national stereotyping are a part of Top Gear’s humour, and indeed a robust part of our national humour. Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganised and over dramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organised. When we do it, we are being rude, yes, and mischievous, but there is no vindictiveness behind the comments.

Global Voices in English

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Today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue issued a rare joint statement supporting “Obama’s call to create jobs and grow the U.S. economy through investment in our nation’s infrastructure.” Trumka and Donohue said:

Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy.

With the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO standing together to support job creation, we hope that Democrats and Republicans in Congress will also join together to build America’s infrastructure.

Last night, Trumka said that many of the economic plans President Obama outlined in his State of the Union message showed he “was heading in the right direction” to restoring the health of the economy and the middle class.

Here are some other reactions. Click here to read Trumka’s full statement.

Obama’s call to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure—which Obama described as at the core of “winning the future”—upped the ante in the debate about investing in the nation’s crumbling transportation system and infrastructure, says AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Edward C. Wytkind.

President Obama is in complete agreement with transportation labor in saying that America can no longer afford to fall behind China—with its “faster trains and newer airports”—and the rest of the world in investing in the movement of people, goods and information. He said our infrastructure used to be the best—”but our lead has slipped.” And he talked about the need to “redouble” our efforts to use strategically significant investments to create good jobs. Needless to say, we agree.

Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), says Obama’s focus on innovation, infrastructure and education, as well as his commitment to create the jobs of the future, is the right path. Obama said it’s time for the same kind American innovation that was launched after the Soviet Union beat the United States into space with Sputnik, but the United States eventually won the space race. Says Paul:

This is, indeed, a new Sputnik moment for America, as we have argued. But 50 years ago, America had a trade surplus, a healthy manufacturing base and virtually no global business competition. Our challenge today is as much about rebuilding as it is about innovating.

Obama also called for a long-term investment in children and schools. AFT President Randi Weingarten says those investments “are essential to strengthen our nation, maintain a healthy democracy and help future generations succeed.”

While making these critical investments in our future, we also have to protect those who are less fortunate and support those who are struggling mightily to lead a middle-class life, stay healthy, send their children to college and retire with dignity.

In his call his call for improving the nation’s education system, Obama pointed to students “excelling in our schools who are not American citizens.”

Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation.

Let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses and further enrich this nation.

He also called for comprehensive immigration reform and said he was prepared to “to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.”

The president also urged bipartisanship in strengthening Social Security,

without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who delivered the Republican response, has a far different message on Social Security in his so-called “Road Map for America’s Future.” The Ryan road map calls for cuts in Social Security, raising the retirement age and privatization. In his response, Ryan ducked the Social Security question, but he outlined what the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) called “fear mongering politics of the national debt.”

Bill Merrow (see video above), an Alliance for Retired Americans member from West Deering, N.H., watched Ryan’s response at one of the Alliance’s 46 State of the Union watch parties in 21 states last night. He said Ryan “seemed to have the same old mantra.”

It’s the same lies and B.S. that it seems like the Republicans have been going with all along. They don’t see what it’s going to do to the people, the average people.

EPI said the two speeches offered “quite a contrast of visions for balancing economic recovery and fiscal responsibility.”

We have tried the path of cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating the economy and underfunding key long-term investments—all while running up deficits—as Paul Ryan has proposed; it led to economic meltdown and massive job losses. It is time for a new path that balances job creation, new public investments and long-term fiscal responsibility.

AFL-CIO NOW BLOG

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On today’s edition of Coffee and Markets, Brad Jackson and Ben Domenech are joined by Jim Pethokoukis and Pejman Yousefzadeh to discuss last night’s State of the Union speech.

We’re brought to you as always by BigGovernment and Stephen Clouse and Associates. If you’d like to email us, you can do so at coffee[at]newledger.com. We hope you enjoy the show.

Related Links:

Thoughts on Obama’s SOTU speech
FACT CHECK: Obama and his imbalanced ledger
The laundry list from Obama’s non-laundry-list State of the Union address
Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) Delivers the Republican Address to the Nation
James Pethokoukis on Reuters
Pej at Chequer-Board

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Big Government

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Mark Halperin: “The president’s speech made a down payment on the two biggest political challenges he faces in 2011 and 2012, including his own re-election. First, he delivered one of the strongest efforts yet at explaining his rhetorical theory of the case for how his policies will create jobs in America. And, second, he laid even more of a trap for Republicans, whose challenge to cut spending without damaging valuable programs or raising taxes grows more difficult by the day (and the president knows it).”

Jonathan Chait: “The substance of Obama’s speech was moderate liberalism — we like business, but government has a role too, neither too much nor too little, etc. It’s hard to attach that kind of case-by-case pragmatism to an overarching theme. But I do think Obama pulled it off pretty well. He took a fairly hackneyed idea — the future — and managed to weave it into issue after issue, from infrastructure to energy to deficits to education and even foreign policy.”

Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

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It is a new day and there are a lot more reactions to the publication of the so-called “Palestine Papers” by Al Jazeera.

I will not go so far as some are to dismiss them as forgeries. There are too many details and too many documents. The Guardian claims that they have been authenticated, and while I am no fan of the Guardian they have incentive to validate them - newspapers do not want to be known to fall for hoaxes like the fake Howard Hughes diaries. The downside for the Guardian is simply too great to think that they did not make a good effort to prove that they are really minutes of meetings from the Palestinian Arab side.

I do believe that the papers reflect the PLO viewpoint of the negotiations, and in many details they might be at odds with the Israeli or American interpretations of those same meetings. We have seen many times that the two sides simply speak different languages.

Another important point to remember is that the PLO knows its own political roadblocks far better than the Israelis or Americans do. While America will push the PLO to make concessions - and the PLO cannot stand up to the US in private the way they proudly do in public - the Arabs know very well that some of the concessions will simply not fly; not for their people and not for the Arab League. They could pretend to put forth supposed peace plans secure in the knowledge that there is no real political way to push them through,and then they can go back to the Americans and say that the “Palestinian street” has tied their hands; they must ask for a few dozen more concessions and put the ball back in Israel’s court.

While every Israeli leader across the political spectrum has been relatively honest with the people about the needs for “painful compromises for peace,” the PA and PLO never did that. So it is really amusing to see how they are reacting to the release.

Saeb Erekat says that “Al-Jazeera’s information is full of distortions and fraud.”

Ahmed Qureia, one of the PLO leaders who was involved in the negotiations, said that these were “fabrications” and that Al Jazeera was working for Zionist interests by releasing them.

Qureia is quoted in one of the papers as discussing the Kadima primaries with Tzipi Livni, and telling her “I would vote for you.” It can’t be good for his career to say nice things to the person who was foreign minister during Operation Cast Lead!

Yasser Abed Rabbo, another member of the PLO Executive Committee, is going further and slamming Qatar (al-Jazeera’s home)  for being behind the leaks. He is demanding that the Emir of Qatar come clean on his own contacts with Israel and Iran, and says that Al Jazeera would never have done this without the Emir’s pushing them to.

Abed Rabbo’s statements, incidentally, indicate that the Palestinian Arab (West Bank) media wouldn’t publish anything big without the approval of the PA and PLO!

Finally, one can expect that the leakers will be looking over their shoulders for quite a while, hoping that no bullets are heading their way. They are the ones that had the real agenda, and there are only so many people who should have had access to these documents.

(See also Noah Pollak’s analysis.)



Elder of Ziyon

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President Obama gave one of his best speeches tonight, one that was much more emotional and cathartic than anyone could expect. He rose above the bickering and finger pointing of the last few days and spoke to our higher values.

Most impressively, Obama walked a very delicate line of remembering the fallen while trying to draw broader lessons for the country. Referring to nine year old Christina Taylor Green, who was killed by the gunman last Saturday, Obama noted she “was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.”

“I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us — we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

Well said, Mr. President. That’s exactly what we should do.

Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

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By Sylwia Presley

More than 800 concerts, 1,300 artists performing for free today, 120,000 volunteers, an endless amount of charity activities across the whole of Poland and so far almost 37 million zloty (PLN; approximately 12.3 million USD) are the results of the grand finale of the 19th Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. As we slowly approach the end of the day, we are also looking at on-line reactions to the event.

Most posts are purely informative. Users of Twitter, and the Polish microblogging engine Blip.pl update their audiences under the hashtag #WOSP (an abbreviation of the event's name in Polish: Wielka Orkiestra Swiątecznej Pomocy).

@yinasshi has done great job in documenting the event on Twitter today:

Go check out http://www.en.wosp.org.pl/. We're playing for children with urological and nephrological diseases! #wosp

@elelontko posted information about the amount of money raised during the day:

Almost 8 mln PLN!! Gooo Owsiak !#WOSP

Others, like @AshleyRobertsTM, suggested ways of donation through on-line channels:

Please guys support WOŚP (GreatOrchestraofChristmasCharity) on facebook. every click is 0,50zł for ill children http://www.facebook.com/wosp

Some posted in languages other than Polish or English. @Drakisnaba mentioned [ES]  the event in Spanish:

Este año, 30 millones de corazones, 120 000 voluntarios, 1300 artistas, 800 conciertos en toda Polonia! ~>http://www.wosp.org.pl/

This year, 30 million hearts, 120 000 volunteers, 1300 artists, 800 concerts across entire Poland! ~>http://www.wosp.org.pl/

Apart from the official on-line transmission, many posted updates on various aspects of the charity day. mmwarszawa posted [PL] on Blip a photo from one of the activities:

For #wosp they tried to hit the record of people squeezed into one Ikarus bus…they managed 307. Not bad, don't you think? ;-)

Students in Lódź designed a heart made of small coins to be donated to charity, as mmlodz updates [PL] on Blip.pl:

In #Łodz they built a heart for #WOŚP 2011.

mmpoznan documents [PL] people giving blood at the event:

Blood - gift more precious than money - it's the 19th final of #WOŚP in #Poznan

Most reactions are full of support, enthusiasm and great dedication to the event. The conversations contain a lot of feedback on personal involvement of the Poles today. Volunteers, like @haftus, express [PL] their happiness at being a part of this great day:

after fundraising for WOSP, I collected 100zł - next year we will do better :] but it was superb. the atmosphere amongst the volunteers was extremely positive.

Some, like @mrskuza, post about items they purchased to support charity (here [PL], referring to the little hearts - traditional items sold by WOSP every year):

I already have two WOSP little hearts

Others thank the buyers for purchasing their donations. @marekskorupa is [PL] one of them:

Thank you for betting for VOIVODE'S ARMCHAIR on the auction :) 550pln goes to WOŚP:) #wosp #owsiak #dolnyslask

There were also a few comments on the importance of this charity event for the entire country. Some, like @DilvishPL, see [PL] it as a great educational tool for the Polish youth:

WOSP has one more important meaning, which other actions lack: it teaches, very effectively, the youth to be charitable and to understand the need for solidarity.

Some point out that the charity event proves faults in the Polish economy. @bornin1984 wrote [PL]:

It's good to have #WOSP, but the fact of it (and other charitable actions) proves the weakness of the economy and the country.

@wlochatypl also implies [PL] the lack of proper funds from the Polish Health Fund (NFZ):

Send an sms saying “serce” [Polish for “heart”] to 75565 (6,15zl brutto) for WOSP. Help collecting money for everything NFZ should provide!

@arturpl points out [PL] the same, using an international comparison:

There is no WOSP in Belarus, but they have the equipment. Strange, isn't it?

Generally, the reactions in microblogging services are positive today. The event was culminated by a series of fireworks all across the country at 8 PM GMT, also documented in social media. @yinasshi posted:

The night sky will be bright tonight in Poland at 8 PM from fireworks and our love! http://www.en.wosp.org.pl/ #wospPlaying for the kids!

jbkp4group documented the show hosted in Warsaw on YouTube:

The total amount of money raised will be posted on the main site, Facebook and Blip of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.

Global Voices in English

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We at Eyeblast.tv at the Media Research Center hit the streets of Alexandria, VA to ask people their opinions on the Republicans effort to repeal Obamacare, a vote which they expect to take place on January 12. On the flip-side, we wanted to know what they thought of the Democrats vowed effort to block the repeal.

Here is what they had to say:

You can watch more ‘Eyeblast Hits the Streets’ videos here. If you would like to follow Eyeblast.tv on Twitter just click here, or to follow us on Facebook click here.


Big Government

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By Betsy

Jordan's government announced year-end fuel price hikes. The cost of gas, referred to as benzine, was raised 9 per cent, while the price of diesel and kerosene was raised by 6pc. Many Jordanians expressed their ire through sarcasm and humor.

Muneer Saifi referenced the end-of-year timing:

Happy new year with 9% raise in feul prices, enjoy 2011 #JO

Zalmasri tweeted:

End of year present from the government. More than 9% increase on fuel prices. Happy new year #jo

To which Basem Aggad responded:

A well deserved 1, we earned no better! #JO RT @zalmasri End of year present from the government. More than 9% increase on fuel prices..

Loia Taha discussed possible, humorous alternatives to fuel:

9% fuel prices raise!! I bet we'll see lots of horses and donkeys down the streets.. much cheaper, I may get one myself very soon #jo

Janabi suggested another option:

Bye Bye Octane 95, hello Octane 90 :( #JO

To which Loai Taha responded:

Bye Bye Benzine… hello water: RT @janabi: Bye Bye Octane 95, hello Octane 90 :( #JO

Ali Dahmash, though, launched serious criticism of the government's decision:

@YasserBurgan @primeministry the calculation of the Oil prices in Jordan seems anonymous and unreal, it's not justified

Yasser Burgan responded:

@AliDahmash We are energy importing country. This is only a reflection of the international oil prices. @PrimeMinistry #Jo

And continued:

@AliDahmash Nevertheless, prices at the pump in #Jo is less than 50% of prices in #Greece. @primeministry

Global Voices in English

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