USA for Africa – Save Paul Salopek

The U.S. media’s attention to the still tender situation in south Lebanon, where UN troops are just now moving into place is waning considerably. Is it finally time to devote concentrated coverage to incomprehensible devastation elsewhere? A proposal to move 20,000 UN troops into Darfur ASAP, amid reports of a new offensive by the Sudanese government.

paul salopekMeantime, Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Paul Salopek is on trial for espionage and related charges in southern Sudan. He is on assignment for National Geographic, and has yet to even PUBLISH a word from his trip, yet he is already in deep.

The Sudanese government has been hard on the media for years, primarily in allowing access to the Darfur crisis, where half a million people have died in a three-year campaign of government-sponsored genocide. But Salopek — winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting (see his award-winning articles from Africa in 2000 and his 1997 reporting on the Human Genome Project), — is not a spy and was not out of bounds for carrying a backup copy of his passport and a publicly available satellite map of Sudan. The Tribune has an article today highlighting Salopek’s accomplishments, sprinkled with high praise from his contacts and associates worldwide here.

Securing Salopek’s immediate release is of utmost urgency, writes Tim Rutten in the L.A. Times.

Salopek was arrested along with his driver and interpreter, both from Chad — which neighbors Sudan to the South. Chad is in the news as well these days and in no small way.

Chad is a big shot with its freshly tapped and abundant oil. Earlier today, they expelled two oil giants — Petronas and Chevron — from the country:

“From tomorrow, the representatives of Chevron and Petronas must leave Chad and close their offices… ChevronTexaco and Petronas must leave Chad because they have refused to pay their taxes,” Chad President Idriss Derby announced.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, is in Kenya encouraging reform and arriving a hometown hero (his father and grandfather are from there). There is plenty I intend to read regarding his trip including Blog coverage from the Sun Times and Tribune and this Time feature. The senator has also been closely tracking the Salopek case, according to this statement captured by the Trib:

“Press freedom is like tending a garden, it’s never done,” Obama said. “It continually has to be nurtured and cultivated and the citizenry has to value it. It’s one of those things that can slip away if we don’t tend to it.”

‘The Hawk of Lebanon’

I finally tracked down the song that I can’t get out of my head. Firkat il-Shamal’s “The Hawk of Lebanon” is catchy as hell, in spite of its lyrics (the translated verse begins: I hail thee, hawk of Lebanon / I welcome thee, Hassan Nasrallah / Here are your men, Hezbollah / Victory, victory with the help of God).

I originally referenced it last week, after hearing it on The World (click here to listen to Aaron Schachter’s piece).

Firkat il-Shamal (Band of the North) consists of The El Haija brothers from Jenin and until this summer was known primarily as a top band on the Palestinian wedding circuit. That is, until they penned the hottest song of the summer in Gaza, and the West Bank. Israeli police are confiscating copies of the song on grounds that it is inflammatory, According to the AP. (The article, published yesterday and written by Sarah El Deeb, carries the bizarro title, “Boy band sings praises of Nasrallah.”)

The World’s Web site has an excellent feature on the song and the El Haija brothers, complete with a translationn of the lyrics and photos. (click here).

Even as the war has let up militarily, it appears that Israeli soldiers continue attacking Palestinians with Nasrallah screen savers on their mobile phones, according to this article by the Palestinian News Network’s Ali Samoudi. Interesting.

One-sided songs of war are nothing new, however, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East contain many examples, including this, of how technology and the Internet is revolutionizing the way war is fought by states and publics. (See my presentation “The Internet is the Machine Gun of the 21st Century” and Jade Miller’s “Hezbollah, Israel, and the U.S.: A Conflict with Far-Reaching Implications.”

I am posting an MP3 of “The Hawk of Lebanon” for educational purposes and with no intent of making a political/cultural statement of any kind. (thx to BBC/PRI/WGBH)

Just Say No… to Downloading

From Boing Boing:

The RIAA has just released a back-to-school propaganda video called “Campus Downloads” that is full of lies, half-truths, omissions, and intimidation aimed at convincing students to stay away from file-sharing.

This is so utterly reminiscent of the Just Say No campaign of the 80’s and the pre-Bush-era policy of educating the youth on the importance of safe sex. I just began taking a grad school course on DRM and copyright in the Internet age, etc, taught by Cory Doctorow, who opened the class by screening the aforementioned video, interspersed with his own p.o.v., the facts and a brief introduction into the saga of DRM and emerging copyright implications and developments in technology and the internet.

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal of all places pointed out the utter ridulousness of these so-called “legal” file-sharing systems to which access is purchased by Universities, and of course then factored into students’ tuition fees.

Assuming you haven’t already seen this scare-piece — produced by the RIAA’s own campus outreach propaganda wing, stylishly named CampusDownloading — at freshman orientation, it is provided below in the spirit of helping the blood-money-hungry RIAA (though they did drop their suit against a dead man) in illegally disseminating their BS.

And just in case they come for you, Grant Robertson recently published “A Layperson’s Guide to Filesharing Lawsuits.”

Smithers: Not Gay?

This breaking news just in from LAist:

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released a study today about the decline of gay characters in network television, the LA Daily News reports, and the results are shocking. Apparently GLAAD does not consider long-time Simpsons regular Waylon Smithers a homosexual man!


Tony at LAist proceeds to list several examples of Smithers flaming homo-mediocrity. Here’s the online guide to Smithers’ sexuality. Quite frankly, I’m shocked… could poor Waylon Smithers be asexual?

The controversy continues here. More Smithers audio here.

Music Got Soul

The Unger Report was brilliant this morning. Brian Unger, who was an original contributor to the Daily Show (pre-Stewart), absolutely railed on the cable news networks for their “breaking news coverage” of what John Mark Karr (the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case) was eating, drinking and wearing on his Thai Airlines flight into LAX yesterday. Listen to it Below.

After making a mix for a friend yesterday, I realized that I have deprived my readers of much great music that has been (or soon will be) released this summer. WOOZradio has had its strongest listenership ever with thanks to some strong music contributions/submissions sent in from around the world. SecretSquirrel has a zip file for you to collect the goods ranging from Kelis to Bob Dylan to Belle and Sebastian to the Roots for your downloading pleasure. Enjoy — and support these artists by seeing them live and buying their music! Check it (90mb)

And now, check out Unger’s madness for the day: Continue reading “Music Got Soul”