National Outrage

The Conversation About Race
& Police Brutality Has Started

Thousands of protesters took New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, and other major U.S. cities to demand a stop in the all too apparent racist tinge by which law enforcement agents have been consistently targeting black youth in this country.
Americans seem to have finally reached a break point this week, after two white cops, who killed two unarmed black young men, Michael Brown, of Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, of New York’s Staten Island, will not be indicted for their acts.
Acknowledging the growing, widespread mistrust on police departments everywhere, the Justice Department has ordered a review of both cases, but haven’t been able, so far, to dispel the public perception that it’s already behind the curve.
While both cases share similarities aside their obvious racial overtones, there are also glaring differences between them. While witnesses may have offered diverse accounts of how Brown was shot, the fatal chokehold that asphyxiated Garner was captured on video.
Their deaths come at the tail of a long, disturbing string of police killings of unarmed black teenagers, that predates Garner‘s death on July 17, and includes the seven who were killed since August 9, when Brown was shot. To dare saying that this is not about race is just downright absurd.
Obviously, other factors should be also taken into account, from an unprepared and ill trained police force, to an increasing contingent of dispossessed and impoverish minorities in the U.S. Yes, income inequality is a big element underlining these tragedies.
But there’s also a need for a real hard, honest, and open-minded look at race relations in America, circa 2014, which is resembling every day more like the 1960s. We could as well take a page from that book on Civil Rights and check how much that we take for granted, we’ve actually forgotten.
Americans may have finally awaken to the shame of living in the richest country in the world while it’s being turned into a playground for the very wealthy, and a holocaust for those at the bottom, with the shrinking middle class Continue reading

Cold Cups II

The Fan Who Sold His Honor & the
World Cup Coach Who Can’t Drive

Even if Fifa were a model of probity, which recent allegations have shown it clearly is not, or street rallies against its costs had cooled off with the start of the games, which they haven’t, the World Cup in Brazil has already provided a whole plethora of political drama.
From the multicultural bleachers to the quarrels over refereeing, from the quality of the grass drainage to antiaircraft artillery on civilian buildings, matches and goals have been thrilling, for sure, but what’s going on beyond the pitch may as well upstage it all.
As Brazilians protest the money bacchanal, brokered by Fifa and funded by its mega sponsors, and the competition heats up with record goals and relatively few surprises so far, one wonders whether there’s even space on the coverage for anything else. As it turns out, we make room for just that sort of thing.
For appalling mistakes committed by field officials are as much a part of the game as its players’ cheap theatrics, and with all certainty, will remain the theme of late night, heated discussions over tears and beers for years to come. It’s what’s not so obvious, though, that we’re most interested.
Thus, while that Barcelona star may be executing a perfect curvy free kick, out of sight and in the middle of a sea of multicolored tribute jerseys, someone may be giving a whole country a black eye, or a sympathetic one, by just flicking their wrist. At times, cameras may capture the moment but mostly, they may miss it.
And, just as life itself, the so called ‘teaching moments’ go beyond the walls of these temples of football, or through another march against high ticket prices on a street nearby. World Cup-related news, not so breaking but weird just the same, may be happening right across from the stadium, atop some apartment building.
The reach of this tournament may have a surprising sway both at the confluence of sports and morality, and as far as some court decision across the ocean. Coming July 13, regardless of who’ll lift the trophy, we’ll have gone through a common experience of such a planetary scale that each of these stories may count as much as the goals scored.
And you may thank your lucky shirts for we’re skipping altogether anything about the tragic Nigeria blast, that killed several people (in a replay of Uganda four years ago, remember?) or the Mexican drugpin who got nabbed by the Feds after he bought a ticket to the World Cup… on his own name. Smart.

GREED & CIVILITY AT THE STANDS
Speaking of most Brazilians, they may be fighting the good fight against corruption, but apparently José Humberto Martins is yet to get the memo. Last week in Natal, he was one of the thousands wearing a plastic poncho during the rain soaked Mexico vs. Cameroon game.
According to his own account, at some point, he was approached by a drenched tourist who offered to buy his cheap garment, unaware it was on sale for $14 elsewhere at the stadium. Not one to let the chance to make a buck pass, torrential pouring notwithstanding, José agreed to sell it on the spot: for $200!
The good name of soccer fans everywhere was rescued from the mud the following day, though, Continue reading

Body Building

Corpse Raiders & the
Market for Spare Parts

The FBI is investigating an underground network of human organ sales. Greece has been accused of illegally allowing the ‘harvesting’ of the heart of a dead U.S. Marine. And there’s suspicion that a black market is now a rising global reality. What’s going on?
Welcome to the brave new world of what you don’t like to think about the future. The flip side of modern medical research, which is developing ways to grow and regenerate cells, organs and limbs, is the gruesome traffic of body parts, with or without consent.
Guess who is more vulnerable to selling their bodies (not that way, you perv) for what can never be enough? the poor, naturally. Some would even say that, before its ban, the sale of human blood was a common form of earning cash for skid row denizens everywhere.
Well, even those heartless souls who’d invoke such a grim precendent are finding the mechanics of this new trade too much to stomach. But abstracting the heavy ethical implications, we may not be too far of such a nauseating prospect, in this age of everything has a price.
Not that everyone who could eventually afford such revolting trade would do it, let’s be clear. Morals have no particular attachment or relation to material wealth or lack thereof. Still, it’s unlikely that such a gruesome market would be able to flourish cash free.
Because, face it, money and privilege are the obvious candidates to at least entertain such a possibility. But before we go to far down this rotten route, let’s praise the less Frankenstein-tinged use of medical technology which has, in reality, made great strides.

BIOLOGIC SCAFOLDING
For over 100 thousand Americans, the prospect of a brand new industry focused on developing organs and other ‘components’ of the human flesh and blood machine from stem cells, for instance, is not just exciting, but a source of hope for a radically better life.
Research into nursing cells that will grow to build different organs is far advanced, and has fortunately crossed the phony moral threshold of religious concerns. Demand is overwhelming, which shouldn’t surprised anyone: the U.S. needs more than any other country fresh new organs.
The reason: war, of course. In fact, a considerable percentage of Veterans returning from tours of duty – courtesy of the Pentagon and its steady shipment and deployment of American troops all over the world – are in desperate need for limbs and reconstructive surgery.
As it turns out, restoring at least partially their physical integrity is the relatively easier stage of their lifelong rehab process. And medical Continue reading

Not Food

Think Things Don’t Change?
Try a 14-Year Old McDonald’s

Not many corporations convey so well both the state of the economy and our social mores as McDonald’s, the world’s former biggest restaurant chain. And for its product’s poor nutritional value and the environmental impact of its business practices, it’s doing just fine.
Or so it seems. For news about a 1999 burger looking eerily ‘fresh,’ and of a CEO making $8.75 million, while the average patty-flipper earns $8.25 a hour, were both received with jaded nonchalance. No wonder an artist made a life size mummy out of McDonalds.
It’d be stupid to blame solely the economy on the company’s success. Granted, its origins are in fact linked to the Great Depression, and it’s no wonder that now, during such an extended reenactment of those empty pocket years, it remains the compulsory choice for those who can’t afford to embrace the organic, cage-free craze of the era.
It may also be the power of its muscular business model, the 1980s expansionary pull through emerging economies, what may have guaranteed its staying appeal. Such aggressive strategy made possible for McDonald’s to become more popular (read, cheaper) than Indian food in India, for instance.

But who can deny that other element that the most American of all corporations possesses, to which only a overused and detested word can be applied: iconic. The red and yellow colors, the rings, and that obnoxious clown are so infused in urban culture, that artists such as Andy Warhol had no choice but to incorporate it into their work.
As for those who see signs of hope, since McDonald’s no longer the world’s No. 1 food chain, let’s keep things in perspective. Researchers Continue reading

The Hunted

The Haunted Beauty of Albinos
& the Bigots Who Can’t Bear it

After months of relative peace, the brutal chase seems to be on again. Last week, a seven-year old Tanzania boy had his hand hacked off by thugs disguised as spiritual healers. That false beliefs and carnage never cease to fester in such impoverished land is no surprise.
As it’s nothing new that a supernatural being is ‘ordering’ the murder and dismemberment of innocent humans, exacted in the hands of their ignorant priests. But it’s still staggering that what’s essentially a medical condition would incite such unconscionable acts for so long.
We could spend the day here discussing this and many other cases, with their particularly gruesome patterns and all the gory details. Instead, we choose to celebrate what’s considered the ‘otherness’ of albinos who, after all, have to put up with all the limitations of their own condition.

The work and lives of South African models Thando Hopa, and Refilwe Modiselle, Tanzania Albino Society’s Ernest Kimaya, Afro-Brazilian Rosemere de Andrade, the India’s Pullan family, documentarian Harry Freeland, Brazilian photographer Gustavo Lacerda, plus a cadre of highly successful artists and thousands others, only assert the power of their dignity as human beings.
We offer today’s post as a solidarity gesture to albinos everywhere and their plight, not a repulsive patronizing pat on their scared backs, because it’s clear that neither such condition is an impediment to greatness, nor that to stand with Albinos requires preaching and outraged diatribes.
We hope the boy, Mwigulu Magessa, recovers, of course, he being only the latest in what appears to be an increasing series of savage attacks for their supposedly ‘magical‘ flesh. Let’s hope too that TAS gets the resources it needs to go after the culprits and those who cover up for them. In the real world, ignorance should never be a bliss.