Tag Archives: global

Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

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Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

by Jamasb Madani, April 09, 2013

 

Four years ago, President Barack Obama quoted the beloved 13th century Persian poet Sa’di in his first Nowruz message to the Iranian people. The address, with its veneer of peace and diplomacy, was a well-received gesture to both civil society and the leadership in Tehran, recognizing the Islamic Republic and celebrating the country’s ancient culture and history.

In this year’s Nowruz message, on March 18, 2013, President Obama recited more medieval Persian poetry, this time a famous 14th century poem from Hafez about friendship.

An informal and casual survey of public opinion on the heels of this address suggest that Obama’s renewed efforts to tap the well of goodwill failed to resonate with many Iranians. This time around, Obama’s speech has been received a somewhat negative response.

Over the past few years, U.S. hostility and pressure toward Iran has reached a critical level. As a result of draconian sanctions and a resulting drastic drop in oil revenues, Iran’s economy, currency, and people are hurting.

Many essential and non-essential goods have been subject to sanctions, both old and new. Measures preventing the sale of spare airplane parts to Iran have long made air travel unsafe, threatening the well-being of civilian passengers. More recently, unilateral sanctions imposed by certain Western countries have cut Iran off from the international banking industry, resulting in severe shortages in medicines and rising food prices that place the lives of millions of Iranians at risk.

While Obama’s Nowruz messages represent an attempt to achieve a sort of ‘cultural connectedness’ between Americans and Iranians, the U.S. government seems unaware of how its policies and actions toward Iran cut against these efforts.

During Iran’s post-reform years in late 1990′s, certain key terms became central to the Reformist discourse. Concepts such as ‘pluralism’, ‘tolerance’ (tasahol/tasamoh), and especially the term “violence” (khoshoonat’garaee) took on a deeper and more comprehensive meaning.

Based on a wider reading of the concept of violence, Iranian civil society has not only viewed the assassination of its scientists as a direct form of violence, but has also considered unilateral and crippling sanctions to be instruments of violence against the Iranian people.

These and other similar measures undermine the administration’s attempts to appeal to Iranians’ cultural sensibilities. Ironically, as President Obama delivered his first Nowruz message in 2009, urging Iran’s government to “unclench” its fists, his administration was accelerating a covert, cyber warfare initiative launched by the Bush administration, codenamed “Olympic Games.”

In the years that followed, as Obama delivered other Nowruz messages, the United States conspired with Israel to develop and launch additional attacks of cyber-terrorism against Iran, such as Stuxnet and Flame.

In the Iranian public psyche, cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities are not mere technological sabotage, but rather instill collective fear and anxiety about damage to nuclear installations that threaten the safety of the Iranian population.

And let’s not forget the looming threat of direct military attack. With each passing year, and with every Nowruz message, the level of both real and potential American violence against Iran and Iranians has escalated.

As the targets of these threats, victims of collective punishment and the bearers of U.S.-imposed hardship, Iranians feel that Obama’s actions coupled with his recitation of the poetry of Sa’di or Hafez make for a disturbing juxtaposition.

In Hafez’s poetry and ethos, duplicity, hypocrisy, and pretense are considered major sins. It is fitting then that a group of democracy activists in Iran, in conversation with this writer, have suggested Obama reflect on the message of another Hafez poem:

Preachers who lecture others in the pulpit
in private, away from the public gaze, they do otherwise.
I have a concern; ask this question from the wise one in the group
those who order us to repent; they, themselves don’t consider any repentance?

Daryoush Mohammad Poor, an opposition activist who has translated the statements of former Iranian presidential candidate and reformist politician Mir Hossein Mousavi into English, was similarly offended by Obama’s Nowruz message this year.

In a critical essay posted in both Persian and English on his website, “Malakoot,” Mohammad Poor writes that the American-Iranian impasse is not binary. For instance, as he explains, just because he is connected with the Iranian opposition, does not mean he will be silent about the devastating and lethal effects of Obama’s policies on the people of Iran.

Mohammad Poor addresses Obama directly, writing, “Remember, Hafez was – and still is – a great social critic of the conditions of his time. His strength lay in his being outside the circle of power. He was the voice of the powerless. He was never a two-term president of a superpower nation. If he lived today, he would probably be highly critical of you, too, as he would be critical of the leaders of Iran.”

With few exceptions, the opposition in and outside Iran explicitly opposes both unilateral and UN Security Council sanctions against the country. The anti-imperial legacy of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was ousted during a CIA-led coup in 1953, still permeates the present Zeitgeist and ethos in Iran. As such, despite economic hardships and the relative popularity of Voice of America among some opposition members, so far the American/French/British axis has failed to cultivate any notable support for either foreign intervention or collaboration. As things currently stand, Iranians across the political spectrum blame the United States, and less, their own government, for their economic woes.

U.S. hegemonic domination has its internal contradictions and cannot avoid double standards, inconsistencies, and half-truths. But Hafez, the ‘elder of kharbat’, is precisely the antithesis of duplicity (riya). The term kharabat in Hafez’s poetry symbolizes a tavern, a gathering place where there is no pretense (tazvir), only the opportunity to be true to one another.

Those who threaten others with military aggression and destruction, those who unleash economic war and hardship and instill fear in the hearts of their victims, those who manipulate international organizations for their own ends, and make life difficult for so many people should not reference Hafez. In fact, Hafez is perhaps the last poet they should invoke, since his central message is to condemn hubris and selfishness (a’een khod’parasti).

A substantial number of Iranians believe that Barack Obama, who has relatives in Kenya and Indonesia, studied progressive politics at Columbia University and broke bread with public intellectuals like Edward Said, is a worldly, decent and dignified person.

But in the context of American hegemony, as the executor of oppressive policies toward Iran, Obama has become a perplexing puzzle for Iranians. For four years, Obama’s Nowruz messages have led the Iranian collective psyche to compartmentalize his various actions. The orchestrated hostility of the “American Regime,” the pain and suffering directed by the United States toward Iran are all changing this approach.

At the same time, the symbolism and dichotomy of Obama’s Nowruz messages, coupled with the history of U.S. structural violence against Iranian society, may provide a glimpse into the bigger picture behind Obama’s inconsistencies. In his capacity as president, Obama may have no choice but to bow to long-term American policies toward Iran. Many Iranians, in fact, maintain that the real culprit is not Obama, but rather an institutional form of thinking and worldview to which Obama himself is bound.

Unfortunately, it seems the president’s ideals are also victims of this power structure.

Rather than trying to appropriate Persian poetry to blunt American aggression, Obama would do well to heed the words of Hafez himself. Only then may he truly begin to pursue peace instead of issuing ultimatums. As Hafez poignantly observed,

Engage in love (of humanity) before it is too late; or the life-purpose given to you by the world will be wasted.

*Jamasb Madani is an architect and writer. His grandfather was an activist and strong supporter of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq.

This piece was originally published at Mufta.org

 

http://original.antiwar.com/jamasb-madani/2013/04/08/obama-talks-peace-to-iran-but-dishes-out-violence/

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Africa’s Woes Triggered By Power-Hungry Presidents

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Africa’s Woes Triggered By Power-Hungry Presidents

By Tapiwa Kapurura

This piece is meant to corroborate Professor George Ayittey’s recent contribution on the problems bedeviling Africa. My thesis excavates the point that Africa has everything to re-establish herself as a dignified and self-sustaining continent but has been run down by selfish Fathers who are busy chasing power and wealth as the continent bleeds and suffers. In the face of inevitable failure, blame has been embarassingly apportioned to the erstwhile 1884 Scramble For Africa.

Africa’s current problems are linked to historical imbalances caused by Europe. Slavery, resource exploitation, segregation and land apportionment legislation unduly sidelined overpowered Africans in their own home. With independence, every African was supposed to enjoy economic and political independence, freedom and peace. Sadly besides flag independence, the majority of Africans remain poor, diseased and disgruntled. The leaders have even pushed citizens into the scary abyss. Social injustice, corruption, greed, government arbitrariness and use of force have driven Africans into sunken dark holes and anyone who raises the head is bashed to lie down by the evil hand of security forces. Besides calls for economic independence, the benefits have mainly been felt by a few as the majority raises endless questions in the ditches of poverty. In frustration, many continue to jump onto the refugee train because the future remains bleak at home as other continents present jobs, better healthcare and enticing infrastructure.

While economic imbalances remain an urgent issue, there is still need for re-grouping and getting organized in Africa. A redress of economic imbalances does not per se demand that a handful prosper as the majority suffers, neither does it mean that national assets and resources be channeled to Western markets as profits are diverted to offshore accounts for the benefit of a handful government leaders. Such public fraud, mismanagement of resources and corruption makes Africa poorer than ever because as the majority gets trinkets, the minority scoops real stuff and forcefully defend their gains in face of criticism and opposition. Despite her being the global basket of unique rich minerals, wildlife and other lucrative resources like oil, the majority of Africans continue to suffer and their infrastructure is now worse than during colonial days. Resultantly many have been forced to try other promising nations for jobs and social security.

As the leadership continues to blame century-old colonialism, the challenge still remains to see where the current leadership is heading and what they have done to demonstrate a sense of responsibility in resource management, good governance and public benefits. It makes a mockery of an oil or diamond-producing nation to have its environment damaged by marauding western companies swooping in to extract and leave without any sense of community giving back as African environmental activists risk being persecuted. It also defeats the cause for the African resources to be entrusted to exploitative foreign companies that extract and leave locals suffering as a handful stands to gain through foreign banked profits shared between mining companies and African leaders.

It also does not make any sense for Africa’s rich nations to continue begging for foreign aid like food and elections money yet they stand amid historical deposits of minerals on demand. A mineral-rich country should stand firm, feed its people and cater for their welfare. All profits should be publicly accounted for through a prudent fiscal policy implemented for the public good. Skilled human capital must be entrusted with the management of funds for the benefit of the nation at large. A self-help approach on national resources and assets simply works to expose how challenged, disorganized or backward we are as a continent. A clandestine management of national resources and entrusting of some foreign partners without public approval has seen some leaders becoming defensive, arbitrary and reckless in the pursuit of wealth. In some cases, blood has been spilt. The end result has been a blame game of critics labeled western apologists.

The world views Africa with admiration based on natural resources on her lands. Africa’s main issues have been the failure to organize the local and possible technical assistance to harness the resources for public benefit. The issues of private jets landing and taking off with heavy packages of unknown valuables for foreign markets speaks volumes of where Africa stands on resource management. The very people blaming the West are the champions of private deals and nocturnal arrangements for self-gain. If Africa managed her resources well, there could be an impressive Gross Happiness Index to usher peace, comfort and trust from among the citizenry. Sadly many are disgruntled due to joblessness,
poverty and hunger underlined by wanton use of force to silence them during bread riots or questionable public policies.

Despite failure to lead well, many African leaders have the appetite to hang on to power for life. Whoever expresses disgruntlement with certain policies in government becomes an enemy of the state. A challenge on rule of law and democracy simply means one is starting to align with the West. The West never tells any African leader to rape, kill or maim. Instead of buying food, many African governments would rather invest
in guns and tear smoke. The West never drags anyone by the collar to imprison local human rights activists; neither does it force Africa to have dilapidated infrastructure, more disease and arbitrariness. The problem lies with the selfish African leader who has forgotten about those under his chin.

Africans have been perceived as war mongers mainly because of poverty, hunger and anger. Disgruntlement has driven many to start questioning the legitimacy of their own governments. If all African leaders were considerate of their people’s wishes and welfare, there could be peace in Africa. To date the history of modern Africa is mired by dictators suppressing any voices of disgruntlement and changing the laws to strengthen
their reign. In all that arbitrariness, many of the African leaders have been hypocrites in that they denounce the West before the world media yet they partner with individual Western parties to find markets for African resources so as to promote a self-enrichment agenda.

Such a wanton pursuit of selfish interests, corruption and greed has killed Africa. History has always been the trump card for screaming expletives against Western ideologies. Whenever democracy has been questioned, the West has been heavily criticized as interfering with African
affairs. Many overlook the countless refugees fleeing independent Africa into Europe and America by the day as if a killer disease is about to wipe the continent. The West becomes concerned on some of the government practices due to shifted burdens on leadership responsibility. That carefree stance by African heads has triggered the West to set some conditions for Africa to follow. In any case the Bretton-Woods, World Bank and IMF have been run through the Western block and for there to be some co-ordination; there must be control measures established to guard against public fund abuse and profligacy. When such malfeasance has been challenged, our African Marjodomos have been quick to
scream abuse and told the West to mind their own business, lest colonialism is planted into the conversation.

Most African leaders need help and advice even from the young African minds. The resource abuse, defiance of the rule of law, absence of democracy, creation of military states, despotism and corruption have been concerning to the world yet our African leaders have remained impervious to advice and quick to point fingers. Ultimately we have continued to be labeled the “Dark Continent” because some of the deeds of our leaders are jaw-dropping in this modern day as manifested by genocides, internecine wars and tribal purging.

Independence meant African leaders taking personal responsibility to re-define their people’s needs. It also meant the establishment of new democratic institutions premised on majority rule and vibrant economies. Resource management and utilization demanded prudence. Poverty, disease and illiteracy would have to be eliminated. Justice and rule of law would have to prevail. Unfortunately, among the African
leadership, such values are as useless as used lasagna. Once one tastes power, he forgets about all forms of a civilized order. It is worse in that despite the existence of organizations like the Africa Union, ECOWAS, SADC and various others, their impact in resolving African issues has been as good as non-existent. Their focus has been on theories, workshops and conferencing as they have not yielded much milestones. To date the world is yet to experience one solid achievement especially from the Africa Union agenda.

Resultantly, concerned, hopeless and frustrated African citizens have wound up as refugees in other nations in search of peace and greener pastures. Unless African leaders reform to comport with the civilized global order, the world will still perceive Africa as a cauldron
of corruption, poverty, dictatorships and chaos. In any case it is the poor workman blaming his own tools. A peaceful, well-fed, comfortable and happy nation will never disobey or question an accountable and transparent government.

http://www.zimeye.org/?p=76831

Mayans and Tibetan Monks Join Forces in the Name of Peace, Harmony and Freedo

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Mayans and Tibetan Monks Join Forces in the Name of Peace, Harmony and Freedom

The 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter concluded activities in the environmentally friendly Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park 

 

Cancún, Quintana Roo (PRWEB) September 27, 2012

In a call for peace, harmony and freedom for all people, the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery as well as Mayan representatives concluded their participation in the 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter, held at Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park.

In the presence of a number of tourists, special guests and those who enjoy these two cultures, the Tibetan monks destroyed the Tara Blanca Mandala, which was crafted during the five days of the encounter. This action was carried out as the final activity of the encounter to symbolize the transitory nature of life.

Deputy Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Hacienda Tres Ríos, Daniel Arroyo emphasized that the encounter met with all expectations to transmit a message of peace and respect of nature that is so lacking in our world today.

Arroyo also disclosed that because of the success of the second edition of event, there will be a third bicultural encounter in September 2013. The program will include more conferences, meditations and teachings that are sure to fill participants with good vibes and positive thoughts.

From September 12 to 16, the 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter brought together a group of nine Tibetan monks, Mayan dancers and representatives, the founder of Casa Tibet, Tony Karam, as well as a number of researchers and speakers of both cultures, who spoke on the principle teachings and philosophies of these two incredible civilizations.

The encounter included a presentation of Sacred Mayan and Tibetan Music and Dance in the Teatro de Cancún, as well as a photo exhibit, rituals and healing and meditation ceremonies (both group and individual). There were also meditations involving positive energy and the search for peace and harmony through ancient techniques.

As part of the closing activities of the encounter, Tony Karam, founder of Casa Tibet, presented a conference on Buddhism which covered relaxation and meditation techniques, as well as the principle doctrines of this religion.

Daniel Arroyo thanked the Tibetan monks, Mary Coba of Producciones Arte Maya, as well as the hotel collaborators who helped make this event a total success, accomplishing the objective of sending a message of love and hope to all of humanity.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/9/prweb9947130.htm

Peace is the way

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1. Change doesn’t start on the surface. It’s generated from consciousness. This has been true throughout history. If both Buddhism and Christianity could begin with one person, let us not think in terms of numbers and odds. It may sound grandiose to compare ourselves to great spiritual guides, but we act collectively, as an alliance. Our strength comes from critical mass.

2. We aren’t here to make the world evolve. We are here to evolve as individuals and then to spread that influence. In the wisdom tradition of Vedanta, the stream of evolution is known in Sanskrit as Dharma, from a root verb that means ‘to uphold.’ This gives us a clue how to live: the easiest way for us to grow is to align ourselves with Dharma. We don’t have to struggle to grow–that would be unproductive, in fact. The Dharma has always favored non-violence. If we can bring ourselves to a state of non-violence, and connect with others who are doing the same thing, we have done a huge thing to reinforce Dharma.

3. Societies get into the grip of their own self-created story. It’s helpful to realize that we can choose not to participate in that story. Realize that national and tribal stories are limited, self-serving, based on the past, reinforced by orthodoxy, Imagine Peaceand therefore opposed to real change. Stories are incredibly persuasive. Wars are fueled by victimization that runs deep, for example. So let us not try to change anyone’s story. Let us only notice and observe ourselves when we buy into it and then let us back away from participating in it.

4. Let us not demand of ourselves that we alone must be the agent of change. In a fire brigade everyone passes along a bucket, but only the last person puts out the fire. None of us know where we stand in line. We may be here simply to pass a bucket; we may be called on to play a major role. In either case, all we can do is think, act, and say. Let us direct our thoughts, words, and actions to peace. That is all we can do. Let the results be what they will be.

5. Let us realize that engagement and detachment aren’t opposite—the more engaged we become, the more detached we will have to be. Otherwise, we will lose ourselves in conflict, obsessiveness, anxiety over the future, and feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Keep in mind that we are pioneers into the unknown, and uncertainty is our ally. When our minds want closure, certainty, and finality, let us remind ourselves that these are fictions. Our joyous moments will come from riding the wave, not asking to get off at the next station.

6. Since most misery is born of failed expectations let us learn to minimize expectations so that we will feel far less guilt and disappointment.

7. We aren’t here to be good or perfect. We are here as the antennas for signals from the future. We are here to be midwives to something that wants to be born. Good people have preceded us. They solved some problems and created others. As one wise teacher said, “You aren’t here to be as good as possible. You are here to be as real as possible.”

8. I know this sounds difficult, but let us try to be tolerant of intolerance. This is a hard one at times, but if you try the opposite—showing a hard heart against those with hard hearts of their own—all we’ve done is expand the problem. HandsIt’s helpful (but often difficult) to remember that everyone is doing the best they can from their own level of consciousness. Trying to talk a terrorist out of his beliefs is like trying to persuade a lion to be a vegetarian. All we can realistically do is seek openings for higher awareness.

9. Let us resist the lure of dualities. These include us versus them, civilized versus barbarians, good versus evil. The good, civilized people of Europe managed to kill millions of themselves, along with millions of “them.” In reality we are all in the same boat of human conflict and confusion. Sometimes it helps to admit that the doctor is not far from being a patient.

10. Let’s create an atmosphere of peace around ourselves. Imagine that we are like a mother whose children come home crying about fights at school. Would it be her job to soothe their wounds or to arm them for fighting back tomorrow? Simplistic as it may sound, the male principle of aggression can only be healed by the feminine principle of nurturing and love.

Love,
Deepak

Mario Balotelli’s agent criticises Michel Platini over racism

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Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli’s agent criticises Michel Platini over racism

Mario Balotelli‘s agent has criticised the Uefa president, Michel Platini, for his stance on racism and made it clear the Italy international remains determined to walk off the pitch if he is targeted at Euro 2012, amid evidence that the striker was subjected to such abuse during his country’s 1-1 draw with Spain.

Mino Raiola had not discussed the alleged abuse with Balotelli on Monday but was indignant about Platini’s declaration that the Manchester City striker would receive a yellow card if he carried out his threat to leave the field.

“I have to say that the reaction of Uefa to what Mario said was very strange and I would have expected a different reaction,” he said. “Mario has had this problem before and in Italy we have a saying: racism is ignorance.

“Mario is the kind of lad where this kind of abuse glides off his back. But I was very disappointed with what Michel Platini said and a lot of people are with me on that. I can’t say I’m surprised by the reaction, though. I don’t believe Platini has done anything to improve the game or help the position of players – as his reaction to Mario shows.”

The Italian Football Federation is not planning to making an official complaint about the alleged monkey chants from Spain’s fans, as heard by British cameramen at pitch level.

Raiola said: “I have had some meetings with the English FA about dealing with racism and the FA have been very proactive. They are ahead of other countries in Europe.”

The Italian federation’s president, Giancarlo Abete, said he believes Balotelli will recover from his disappointing display against Spain. “Balotelli made his contribution but he must try to understand the reality of playing in a major international competition in which there is no forgiveness,” Abete told Italy’s Radio Anch’io Sport. “He nevertheless put the Spanish defence under pressure. Balotelli will not allow himself to be disheartened.”

The Italy coach, Cesare Prandelli, claimed Balotelli’s substitution was not a “punishment” for a missed chance when clean through against Iker Casillas. “I had already decided to bring on [Antonio] Di Natale before the error, so it was not a punishment,” he said. “I don’t know what happened to Mario when he was alone in front of their goalkeeper. He probably had two options and in these cases a striker should only have one. He should have passed it to [fellow striker Antonio] Cassano.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/jun/11/euro-2012-mario-balotelli-michel-platini?newsfeed=true

In Venezuela’s prisons, inmates are the wardens

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In Venezuela’s prisons, inmates are the wardens

There’s always a party, everyone is armed, and prisoners sometimes engage in gladiatorial fights to the death.

May 14, 2012 06:22

 

CARACAS, Venezuela — A cloud of marijuana bounces along with the bass line from a stack of six-foot high speakers in the corner of this large hall, its smell infused with that of urine.

Through the darkness, noise and the bustling crowd, it takes a moment before you notice that everyone here is carrying a machine gun, a rifle or pistol — not slung over their backs or tucked into their pants, but menacingly prone. Others toss grenades up and down or sharpen knives while enjoying the cocktail of drugs and music.

Outside the makeshift club, the Venezuelan sun bathes a small soccer field. Supporters are armed and one player even goes in for tackles with a pistol in hand. Corridors in the building are lined with gunmen, smiling and joking, seemingly unaware of their own terror.

Prison guards are nowhere to be seen here at La Planta, a typical Venezuelan jail that often sees gunfights and riots.

“If the guards mess with us, we shoot them,” says one prisoner, asking not to be identified. “I’ve seen a man have his head cut off and people play football with it.” Others who have spent time inside, as well as videos that appear online, corroborate his stories.

Last year, about 500 people were killed in Venezuela’s prisons, according to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory. Inmates frequently clash with each other, prison guards and soldiers who are sent in to maintain control during riots.

And now the guns inside La Planta are going off. The government is now trying to shut down the prison, though a group of inmates refusing to leave have kept authorities at bay for nearly two weeks. Troops are gathered outside along with hundreds of worried relatives.

Read more: In-depth series on Latin America’s prison problems

An identical situation took place last June when more than 5,000 troops spent a month trying to quell an uprising at El Rodeo jail, just outside Caracas.

“We face a truly serious prison crisis in which the state has not shown up with solutions and this has led to chaos,” said Carlos Nieto, a lawyer and university professor who runs Window to Freedom, a local prison watchdog.

“There are huge problems with the prisons here in Venezuela,” he said. “The inmates do absolutely nothing; they don’t study, work or anything. On top of this is the access to weapons, drugs and alcohol.”

A deficient and corrupt staff as well as severe overcrowding, Nieto added, contribute to an “explosive cocktail,” which detonates frequently. Indeed, the day GlobalPost visited the human rights specialist, the front page of the country’s national newspaper, El Nacional, published a story about 18 deaths that took place the previous weekend inside several jails.

The country’s 30 prisons are designed to hold 12,500 inmates. But in reality, they house just under 50,000, according to Window to Freedom. In La Planta — built to house 350 in 1964 but now housing about 2,500 — many inmates sleep in the corridors, with rats scurrying in between them.

“The conditions are deplorable, inhumane,” Nieto said.

There are reports of gladiatorial contests in the country’s other complexes, fights organized by gang leaders in which contenders battle to the bloody end for the entertainment of inmates. It was one of these bouts that left two dead and 128 injured in February at a jail in Uribana, western Venezuela.

La Planta itself saw a fire break out in 1996 after authorities fired tear gas inside. Local newspapers reported that 25 prisoners burned to death, their bones glued to the prison furniture. Two years earlier, 130 inmates were burned or hacked to death at a prison in the country’s western state of Zulia.

More from GlobalPost: Peru prison — from pot smoke to pottery class

It is not only weapons that are easy to obtain within prison walls. Mobile phones and computers, hooked up to the internet, are commonplace. With such access to the outside, inmates can control and partake in gang activities that no doubt exacerbate Caracas’ already troubled streets — with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Gangsters, who have worked their way up the prison hierarchy, control the sites and therefore the flow of weapons. Nieto blames “functionaries of the state” for the weapons inside, adding that it is a “big business run by an internal mafia.” The type of weaponry, Nieto said, indicates a high level of corruption. “They have the types of weapons that can only be obtained by the country’s armed forces. … No one else has these.”

Last year, after President Hugo Chavez went silent before announcing that he was suffering from cancer, the El Rodeo riots became a major political issue for the country. On the president’s return to action, Iris Varela was appointed as new prisons minister and she quickly came up with a quick-fix solution.

Some 20,000 inmates would be released onto the streets of Caracas, which already has a murder rate comparable to that of Baghdad during the Iraq War.

“In prison, there are people that do not pose a danger to society,” she said. “They can be handled outside prison.”

The murder rate in Venezuela last year averaged 67 per 100,000 people, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which labelled it “the most violent year in the nation’s history.”

Nieto blames the country’s prison problems on Chavez, who has not succeeded in his pledge to revamp the system.

More from GlobalPost: The Argentine economy’s fuzzy math problem

Chavez himself was locked up after the 1992 coup attempt that launched his career. Despite failing, the coup turned Chavez into a national icon, standing up against what many saw as the corrupt rule of then-President Carlos Andres Perez.

In his biography of Venezuela’s president, author Bart Jones writes that Chavez was horrified as guards failed to intervene when a man was raped and murdered in a cell above him.

“Today, the prisons are much worse than before Chavez arrived,” Nieto said.

In the long line to leave La Planta, visitors are numbed to the horror of what they have witnessed inside. They see it every weekend.

Going the other way are two young men, carrying duffel bags and — no matter what their crime — an innocence they will almost certainly lose in order to survive inside.

Paper Recycling Facts

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Paper Recycling Facts

Bullet To produce each week’s Sunday newspapers, 500,000 trees must be cut down.
Bullet Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees.
Bullet If all our newspaper was recycled, we could save about 250,000,000 trees each year!
Bullet If every American recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, we would save about 25,000,000 trees a year.
Bullet If you had a 15-year-old tree and made it into paper grocery bags, you’d get about 700 of them. A busy supermarket could use all of them in under an hour! This means in one year, one supermarket can go through over 6 million paper bags! Imagine how many supermarkets there are just in the United States!!!
Bullet The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year!
Bullet The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.
Bullet Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
Bullet Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year; about 680 pounds per person.
Bullet The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most is packaging and junk mail.
Bullet In 1993, U.S. paper recovery saved more than 90,000,000 cubic yards of landfill space.
Bullet Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution!
Bullet The 17 trees saved (above) can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Bullet The construction costs of a paper mill designed to use waste paper is 50 to 80% less than the cost of a mill using new pulp.

http://www.recycling-revolution.com/recycling-facts.html

Charity: Which fosters greater charity?

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Charity: Which fosters greater charity?

CON

  • Capitalism has a systemic bias against helping others. Since third parties are externalised from prices in capitalism, it is economically inefficient to consider the effects that something has on others. And since this exclusion of third parties leads to the overpricing of positive externalities and the underpricing of negative externalities, it is cheaper to exploit someone than it is to be fair towards them (see the section on market prices for more detail). This is compounded by the selfish pursuit of profit that capitalism encourages (see the section on individual desires for more detail) . These combine together to mean that it is economically inefficient in capitalism to consider others and so charity and solidarity is punished, whereas anti-social behaviour is rewarded with profits. A perfect example of this is fair-trade: since workers are treated equitably in fair trade products, they become more expensive (the overpricing of positive social costs) and are thus rare and often unaffordable except for the well-off.
  • Socialism provides motivation of aiding fellow man. The impulse to share wealth and material amongst the community, to support all, leaving none behind, is one of the purest among humankind. Socialism harnesses this impulse effectively, whereas capitalism tends to squash it in favor of individualism and competition.
  • Charity is not meaningful in a capitalist system. Charity is invalidated in capitalism because if you steal a million pounds from someone and then give them a pound of charity because they are starving then that is not increasing their living standards.

PRO

  • Capitalism fosters, does not prevent, charity. There are lot of rich people in capitalist society who provide grants for charity funds, student fellowships etc. After all, anybody in a capitalistic society can take some of his own money or goods today, out of his/her free will, and go and give them to other (poorer) people, if he or she feels it’s the right thing to do. Capitalism doesn’t prevent that; nor does it prevent you from keeping your earned goods/money if you want to. Some examples of rich people who donated to charity are Bill Gates, Oprah, and others. On the other hand, socialism actively and rather aggressively restricts the amount of riches one can have. So, out of the two, capitalism clearly offers more choice.
  • There is less charity in a socialist society. Every resource considered by the majority to be either necessary or highly desirable is supplied through government. Government acquires these resources via taxation. Taxation does not require consent. Therefore, the resources used and provided to members of a society are not obtained through voluntary giving, which is the definition of charity. Since the majority in a socialist society believes that everyone has access to all necessary and highly desirable resources, then they have little motivation to sacrifice their personal resources to benefit another member of that society. They believe that it is not their responsibility to help others, rather, responsibility exists within government.

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