Saturday, January 09, 2010

Recent Events from Around the Horn

Over the last few months, weeks or days I've been following a few stories from afar. These include:

Riots in RosarnoThe riots by and attacks on undocumented African migrant workers in Rosarno, Calabria, southern Italy (photo at left, EPA). The workers, paid almost nothing for their work and living in slave-like conditions outside the town, protested by rioting after a Togolese immigrant was shot at, with a pellet gun, by an unknown gunman or gunmen. A number of the immigrants, as well as many locals, were injured in the subsequent conflagration, which rocked the streets of Rocarno. Some locals beat the protesters with tire irons, and another tried to run over an immigrant with a bulldozer. (Rosarno is just across the Straits of Messina and up the Italian coast from where C and I were in Sicily.)

Update: The Africans have either fled or been out of the town to immigrant detention centers, and locals are celebrating. According to the New York Times, the mafia are suspected culprits.

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Emmanuel AdebayorThe deadly attack by separatists against the Togolese soccer team, in Cabinda, an oil-rich breakaway region of northwestern Angola (that I have written about in some of my fiction, strangely enough), just before the start of the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, which has not been canceled. (The World Cup will take place in neighboring South Africa later this year.) Three Togolese have died, and eight members of the team have been injured in the attack, in which separatists machine-gunned the Togolese buses as they were passing through the area. Team captain and international star Emmanuel Adebayor, pictured above, was not injured but was badly shaken along with the rest of his teammates. Bizarrely, the CAF (African Football Federation), along with Angola's president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, are saying that tournament games will still be held in the Cabinda region.

Update: The Togo team has, unsurprisingly, withdrawn from the tournament, which will neither be postponed nor canceled. According to NBC Sports, "In a telephone interview with AP on Sunday, Tiburcio Tati Tchingobo, minister of defense in the self-declared Federal State of Cabinda, denied his Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda forces, or FLEC, were responsible for the ambush. He said that whoever was responsible was sparked by a level of frustration that could lead to more violence."

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Unde the current economic crisis the funding situation for higher education is increasingly grave at a number of institutions, especially public ones, which has led some academic officials to push for increased privatization and neoliberal policies. Faculty and students have not taken it sitting down.

-Faculty members were on strike at Oakland University.
-UC Berkeley faculty and students led a 3-day strike that faculty and students across the UC system signed onto and the Governator's threats against California's once trend-setting system are being taken very seriously.
-Students at UC Santa Cruz occupied a building to protest tuition hikes and budget cuts.
-Protesters occupied a building at San Francisco State University.
-Graduate students went on strike at UIUC.
-There is a New School in Exile site to address ongoing problems at the New School University

In addition, students at the University of Maryland protested the ouster of a popular diversity official; Howard University students protested slow paperwork that has led to problems; University of Pittsburgh students protested the G20 summit taking place in their city; and students and faculty at the University of Vienna have protested funding and other issues, sparking solidarity protests across Europe.

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This drama about Harry Reid's reported comments on Barack Obama's candidacy. Though inartfully stated (off the record, no less), I don't think Reid was being racist nor was he incorrect, and certainly I had heard many black people I know say similar things. ("Negro dialect" is a bit antiquated, though, Senator Reid.) Seriously and unfortunately for me to put it so bluntly, but if Obama spoke even like Jesse Jackson, say, and were dark-skinned, I think he'd have had a harder time as a candidate. I should add, however, that I think the larger issue of Americans' increasing comfort with politicians of color, especially black and mixed-race politicians, and Obama's political and oratorical skills, cannot be understated, and it's a tribute to the American people that we took a tremendous leap throughout the 2007-8 primary season and, most importantly, in November 2008. As to where it's gotten us is another question.

Update: Of course now the GOP's chosen and currently out-of-control minstrel, Michael Steele, is trying to exploit these remarks. As did Liz Cheney this morning. I say consider these rancid sources; no more needs to be said.

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Commercial real estate in New York is finally meeting Great Recession reality. There are "920 football fields" worth of office space sitting unused. Meanwhile, as I witnessed all fall, longtime stores and restaurants (including the 92-year-old Café des Artistes and Manhattan's oldest soul food restaurant, The Pink Tea Cup) are being shuttered because landlords refuse to lower rents or cut deals. New York has been through this scenario before: some refuse to learn.

Also, the Stuyvesant Town boondoggle has collapsed. What was to be the transfer of Manhattan's largest pocket of middle-income housing into the hands of the luxury market is now an official FAIL. My questions include what is going to happen to the 20,000 tenants now?

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iTable/iSlate
Buy me, I'm going to be better than the rest!

Apple very well may be launching yet another pace-setter with its iSlate (iTablet?), which is allegedly slated to appear on January 27. There are all sorts of predictions about what its specs are, what it'll look like and what software it'll possess, and though it's unlikely I'll be getting one anytime soon, both because I usually like to wait until Apple gets these things right, cool as they always are, and because I can't afford another new gizmo, I am dying to see one up close. By which I mean, pick one up, play with the screen, and be mesmerized by yet another offering from the Apple product family. Given the suggested debut date of this delightful device, I'll have to go to the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue before my graduate class that night to inspect one, though something tells me that store will be more mobbed than it usually is. That is, if it really does appear in Apple Stores that day. We can hope, can't we?

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