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Stories from Quick Reads

Using Mobile Phones to Connect Pregnant Women and Midwives in Timor Leste

ligainanLiga Inan is using mobile phones to connect pregnant women and health workers in Timor Leste. The innovative program provides mothers with vital information and health advice to ensure the safe delivery of babies. Since its launch, almost 2,000 mothers have been already enrolled in the program.

How Entrepreneurship Helped a Bangladeshi Girl Avoid Child Marriage

Bangladeshi blogger Raad Rahman tells the story of a girl in rural Bangladesh who avoided a forced child marriage after she started a grocery shop using a small grant from a local non-government organisation. She was going to be married off to her neighbour's son because her family could no longer support her financially.

Covert Surveillance ‘Project Speargun’ Fires Up New Zealand Election

ANNA MAJAVU of Pacific Media Watch reports for The Daily Blog on an extraordinary event in Auckland on 15 September 2014:

NEW ZEALAND Prime Minister John Key has been accused of allowing the secret installation of equipment that would enable spooks to tap into New Zealand’s undersea fibre optic cable as part of a covert mass surveillance system of citizens.

This was the word from globally acclaimed whistleblower Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (both speaking via video link), Kim Dotcom and US Pulitzer prize-winner Glenn Greenwald last night at a packed meeting of more than 2000 people in Auckland.

An Urgent Call for the Protection and Preservation of Tibetan Language

Khenpo Tsultrim Lodoe is an influential Buddhist teacher at Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Tibet. His article which addresses the relation between language and identity and urges for the preservation of Tibetan language was posted on an official educational website for Tibetan middle schools on July 4, 2014. High Peaks Pure Earth translated the reflective piece.

Trinidadians Concerned Over “Largest Ever Budget”

As the Trinidad and Tobago government, in anticipation of national elections next year, serves up a massive budget, two political bloggers take the country's leaders to task.

Afra Raymond, whose blog keeps a close eye on politics, corruption and transparency, provided some disturbing financial context:

The Minister of Finance has just met cynical expectations by announcing Trinidad & Tobago’s largest-ever budget for 2015, with estimated revenue of $60.351 Billion in support of estimated expenditure of $64.664 Billion. This expenditure is $4.313 Billion more than the expected revenue, with 2015 being the sixth consecutive year of deficit budgets with a nominal total of just under $34 Billion in excess expenditure in that period.

While Raymond was not surprised at the “high-stakes election budget”, he maintained that there were a few key issues to be considered – the importance of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property law being passed, the government's exclusion of a billion dollar water recycling project in the country's accounts, continued ambiguity about the specific output of the state housing programme and the issue of campaign finance reform, to name a few.

Over at This Beach Called Life, the blogger had additional concerns, such as the intolerable traffic situation between south and north Trinidad (most corporate offices and state agencies are concentrated in the island's capital, Port of Spain, with nothing being done to alleviate the problem), as well as the government's latest controversial crime-fighting gimmick, the purchase of armoured vehicles that has been one of the hot topics of discussion on social media, with many netizens getting the sense that the concept of community policing has been traded for an approach that could potentially endanger civilians. The blogger summed up the situation this way:

Naturally, Kamla’s [Persad-Bissessar, the Prime Minister] amusing and often childish sounding chant ‘serve the people, serve the people, serve the people’ can no longer be heard as the Government buys fifty two armored vehicles to ‘blow up the people’ should they step out of line. Are we a nation on the verge of revolt?

Yes, a revolt might be near simply because when the Government [...] removes the unsustainable subsides on gasoline, water, electricity [...] all hell will break loose in paradise and whether party financiers get their contracts and the appropriate kickbacks paid will be the least of the Government’s concerns.

Bamboo, Launch, Compound and Other English Words Borrowed from Malaysia

Writing for Coconuts KL, Lai Chee Seng listed 10 common English words which have Malaysian roots. For example, bamboo derived from the Malay word mambu or samambu, compound came from the Malay word kampung which means village or a group of buildings, and launch was borrowed from the Malay word lanchar.

Search and Destroy Mission for the 80 Million “Bombies” in Laos

Al Jazeera's 101 East episode tackles the efforts of women workers in Laos to find and destroy unexploded cluster bombs dropped by the United States during the Vietnam War era. The U.S. dropped 260 million bombs in Laos but about 80 million bomblets did not detonate which posed a continuing threat to the lives of millions of Lao residents.

Sri Lanka's Slow LLRC Implementation

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was a commission of inquiry mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances which led to the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. After an 18-month inquiry, the commission submitted its report to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa almost three years ago, on 15 November 2011. The Sri Lankan citizen journalism website Groundviews recently posted an infographic released by Center For Policy Alternatives, a think tank, showing the slow progress of implementing the LLRC's recommendations.

LLRC-implementation-JPG1

It is noteworthy how Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe in March 2013 claimed that 99% of the LLRC Action Plan had been implemented, with President Rajapaksa claiming in May 2014 that only 30% had been implemented. These discrepancies highlight the lack of clarity across the GoSL [Government of Sri Lanka] on reconciliation efforts.

China's New Regulations on Instant Messaging Tools Explained

Hu Yong, associate professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication, explained the issue at stake regarding China's latest regulations on instant messaging tools on Chinafile. The regulations forbidden public account holders, except from registered media organizations accounts, to republish articles on current events. The result is a highly selective enforcement of law as any comment can fall under the category of “news commentary”.

A Meteorite Causes a Scare But No Damage in Nicaragua's Capital

Meteorito El Chaco. Imagen en Flickr del usuario  Scheihing Edgardo (CC BY 2.0).

Meteorite, Imagen on Flickr by user Scheihing Edgardo (CC BY 2.0).

A strong blast shook the northern area of the Nicaraguan capital city Managua around midnight on Saturday, September 6, 2014. The cause was a meteorite's impact. No one was injured nor was damage caused.

The loud noise alarmed the families that live nearby. Some fled from their houses fearing an earthquake.

A meteorite struck Nicaragua's capital.

The impact of a meteorite causes an explosion in Managua.

Trinidadian Diaspora Blogger Appeals to Domestic Violence Victims After Seeing Rice Viral Video

Once the video of Ray Rice (the American football player for the Baltimore Ravens) hitting his wife went viral, Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella couldn't get the incident out of her mind. “The video where he spits and hits the woman who would go on to be his wife, where he knocks her unconscious and drags her out of the elevator,” she says, “It’s enough to give you nightmares.”

She was also not impressed by the public's response, citing distasteful hashtags on Twitter that made light of a distressing situation and a general bent towards blaming the victim. The blogger, Patrice Grell-Yursik, expressed her concern for the plight of Janay, Rice's wife, and their daughter – but in her effort to understand her situation, she realised that Rice is one of many women stuck in the cycle of domestic abuse:

The more I [...] considered this story [...], the more I kept thinking about my best friend from childhood. Her name is Carys Jenkins, and she works as the manager of the independent domestic violence advisory service (IDVA) at RISE. She’s been working closely with women dealing with domestic violence for years and years. When I mentioned how sick seeing the Ray Rice video made me, she simply responded, ‘I see lots of videos.’

Jenkins shared with her the “cycle of abuse” and the psychological tactics women use to survive. The post also offered practical advice to women who may be contemplating leaving an abusive union, with the blogger noting that “one of the few good things to come out of this story is the sharing and honesty by people who have experienced domestic violence themselves [...] For anyone who’s stuck in an abusive relationship, please know there’s a way out. Please know that a healthy, loving relationship isn’t one that diminishes you as a person or threatens your health and happiness. You can break the cycle of abuse.”

Interview With the Author of ‘Chinese Turkestan', a Photographic Documentary of Xinjiang

Far West China interviewed Ryan Pyle, a Shanghai-based photographer who recently published a photographic documentary of Xinjiang titled “Chinese Turkestan”:

The news is so segregated and so focused on conflict areas that places like Xinjiang get left off the map. When the spotlight does turn there, it’s all about the violence that is happening there. It’s had its problems, sure, but there is so much more of a story to tell.

Before I first went to Xinjiang in 2001, I was sitting in a hostel in Beijing and people were saying “Don’t go to Xinjiang” and the Chinese and other foreigners were saying “Don’t go to Xinjiang.” But I went out there, and I had the most amazing time. It was such and eye-opening experience.

Migrant Children from Central America Are Not Mere Statistics

Niños migrantes en clase. Imagen en Flickr del usuario pies cansados (CC BY-ND 2.0) .

Migrant children in a schooclass. Image on Flickr by user pies cansados (CC BY-ND 2.0).

In an opinion piece for the American newspaper Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Global Voices contributor Jamie Stark wonders, “What kind of parent would pay $10,000 for a stranger to bring a child 1,400 miles through gangland and hostile border crossings? A good parent, perhaps.”

As a concerned citizen about the crisis of migrant children, Stark reflects:

What do we do with these kids? An important decision, to be certain, but one that overlooks the humanity, the story, of each child crossing our border.
[...]
When a parent from Central America hears the rumor that children are being allowed to stay in the U.S., it's not so hard to imagine spending life savings of $10,000 to $15,000 for a stranger to guide a son or daughter north.
[...]
These kids are not mere statistics. Many never wanted to be here in the first place.

Global Voices has published stories on this issue in the past:
- The Humanitarian Tragedy of Children Emigrating Alone
- An Open Letter to Salvadoran Migrant Children
- Trafficked Ecuadorian Children Pass Through Hell on the Way to the US

Why One Trinidadian Father Will Never Hit His Kids

Corporal punishment has, for a long time, been ingrained into the fabric of Caribbean societies, with some making the connection between the region's harsh colonial history and its modern day bent towards violence. In many cases, the recipients of such beatings are the most defenseless members of society – children.

In Trinidad and Tobago, this year alone, there have been two high-profile cases in which videos, one of a mother beating her daughter with a belt and the other of a mother repeatedly hitting a child with a shovel, went viral, prompting a national discussion on the fine line between discipline and child abuse.

Discipline, in its truest sense, is nothing more than an opportunity to teach, and judging from the findings of modern scientific research, you can't connect with children – or anyone for that matter – when they're scared, because the fight or flight instinct takes over.

In reality, though, it can be difficult for parents to walk away from old ideas, especially if the rod was not spared during their own childhood – which is why it was especially refreshing to come across this blog post by a Trinidadian father, living in the United States, detailing exactly how he came to change his mind about corporal punishment:

I used to think spanking a kid was okay – necessary, even. I come from a culture where it is accepted, even expected. I no longer think that it is any of those things.

If you think that a stronger, more physically powerful person hitting a woman is wrong under all circumstances, then you must accept that hitting a weaker, much less powerful human being is equally as wrong – if not more so.

The idea that ‘well, I got hit as a kid and I turned out okay’ is, I think, a fallacy. Because I think that if you think that hitting a kid is okay under [insert circumstances here], you, in fact, did not ‘turn out okay'.

Hitting a kid, especially a young kid, is pure laziness. It’s ‘I can’t be bothered to understand what’s driving my kid to do X so I’m going to revert to my base instinct and lash out.’ It’s lazy, and it is wrong.

I was spanked as a kid. Not often [...] but I got spanked. I love my mom, and she is my hero for how she brought us up – but on this, she was wrong [...] If I am half the parent to my children that my mother was to us, I’ll be an excellent parent. But I will never hit my kids. That’s one thing that stops with me.

Togolese Bloggers Poke Fun at President for Over the Top BillBoard

Someone sure wanted people to know that he was thankful for Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé generosity. This week, a giant billboard was raised in Lomé, Togo that praised the president's action in favor of providing lunch for school children. The billboard seen below reads in french :” Thanks Daddy Faure for the children's school lunch“. Togolese citizens were taken aback by the message and its exuberance. They took to twitter to poke fun at the Billboard and create the hashtag #merciPapaFaure (Thank you Daddy Faure). 

OK, how about some fun with the hashtag #mercipapaFaure ? 

The photo above has been shared widely on twitter. Adzima provides some background on the state of the affair for the Togolese children at school.

Unusual Uniform for Colombian Women's Cycling Team Sparks Social Media Chatter

The Bogotá Humana female cycling team's uniform has been the target of criticism and jokes because of its unfortunate color scheme that gives the illusion of a nude body. The red and yellow uniform, to be word at the road bicycle race Giro di Toscana, contains a beige strip that goes from the waist to the groin.

Twitter users have commented on the uniform:

Interesting Colombian female cyclist uniform.

For the uniforms of the female Colombian cyclists, did they take a picture for each one or a generic pussy was used?

The reaction to the uniform of Colombian cyclists is astonishing. The scandal is global. They are not naked, don't be that lurid.

Building Sustainable Peace in The Central African Republic

As the UN launchs its peace keeping mission with the arrival of 1,500 troops in the Central African Republic (CAR), a few observers were wondering why it took so long given the extent of the casualties. Les Cercles nationaux de Réflexion sur la Jeunesse (CNRJ) is an NGO in Bangui, CAR that strives to build the foundation for sustainable peace in the country in partnership with the University of Bangui. Here is a video that illustrates the work in process :    

5 Tips to Prevent Threats of Cyber Snooping in China

Want to prevent threats of cyber snooping in China? See the details of the following five tips given by Sean Maples on ChinaHush:

1. Upgrade your operating system
2. Remove extra data
3. Bring a simple cellphone
4. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
5. Reformat your digital device

An NGO in Peru Feeds Pelicans to Prevent Them From Starving

Pelícanos blancos. Foto en Flickr del usuario  jacinta lluch valero (CC BY-SA 2.0).

White pelicans. Photo on Flickr by user jacinta lluch valero (CC BY-SA 2.0).

At the estuary of Moche river in the northern Peruvian province of Trujillo, members of the NGO Corazones Bondadosos (Generous Hearts) fed more than 400 pelicans with fresh fish to prevent their starvation.

Collective ‘Corazones Bondadosos’ (Generous Hearts) feeds pelicans in Trujillo. Noble gesture. They ask authorities to support them.

Dead pelicans are a health hazard.

In late August, about 120 dead pelicans were buried at the beach Las Delicias, located in the same area. They were buried six feet under the sand and then covered with lime to prevent potential illnesses.

Trinidad & Tobago Needs to Pass the Public Procurement Bill

Trinidad and Tobago's Finance Minister yesterday delivered what many are calling a “welfare budget”, but prior to its unveiling in Parliament, blogger Afra Raymond had hoped that “a more restrained approach might be taken.”

In examining the country's national budgets since 2005, Raymond found it telling that “many of the key issues identified a full decade ago are still at the fore of the more recent budgets.” There have been recurring themes: the need for economic diversification, better infrastructure, more effective crime fighting and tactics to help reduce the incidence white-collar crime. The figures revealed a tendency towards increased expenditure, with only occasional surpluses, leading him to conclude:

The reality that we are on the verge of a national election which is sure to be strongly-contested, leaves me in little doubt that the 2015 budget is also likely to be a deficit budget, with the State spending more than it earns.

Making the point that “the extent to which our Treasury is protected from being plundered by criminal elements is a serious question which should concern every citizen”, the blogger notes that adding insult to injury is the fact that corruption goes virtually unpunished in the country.

But how to stem the tide? Raymond is convinced that passing the long overdue Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Bill “would play an important part in greatly reducing the scope for waste and theft of Public Money.”

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