STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 10th, 2010, by JENNIFER LONDON
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Along a dusty highway, 18 miles or so outside of Caracas, Venezuela, you’ll see the gates of La Villa del Cine. It’s not a prison. It’s not a strip mall. It’s a movie studio that looks, well, like a prison or a strip mall. But La Villa isn’t just any movie studio, it’s the movie studio in Venezuela; created, funded and run by President Hugo Chavez’s government. The official slogan of the state-run studio: Lights! Cameras! Revolution! Look out Hollywood — this is Hugowood!

In a country where nearly everything is controlled by the government, including the media, Hugowood appears to be Chavez’s last endeavor to control the minds of the masses, this time, through the magic of movies. The government controls all aspects of La Villa, from script approval to the movie’s promotion and premiere.

And while the studio doesn’t look like much from the outside — two large, boxy buildings sit low on the horizon blending in with the gray, sparse landscape — Hugowood is a source of pride for Chavez’s government and they were more than happy to show it off.

My tour guide was a perky little woman, from the P.R. department, who didn’t speak any English. Still she knew the names of a few Hollywood A-listers and quickly rattled off Danny Glover and Kevin Spacey — apparently name dropping is just as important at Hugowood as it is in Hollywood.

First stop on the tour was one of the two sound stages. My name-dropping tour guide tells me, through my producer (who is expertly also playing role of interpreter), that almost all of the movies from La Villa have been filmed here. But nothing was happening — both sound stages were empty, the back-lot was deserted and the only cameras rolling were ours. Same story in the carpenter’s shop, the upholstery shop and the costume department.  

In fact, I saw more mangy dogs roaming around than movie directors. Not to worry, my tour guide tells me, nothing is being filmed right now, so you’re not missing anything. But it sure feels like I am. Where are all of the Lights? Cameras? Revolution?

Oil money and booming economy helped bankroll Hugowood in 2006, but times are very different now, and the studio isn’t immune. Last year, Hugowood only released two films compared to 14 in 2006.

Chavez has said Hugowood is his answer to what he calls the dictatorship of Hollywood.
But Venezuelan filmmaker, Jonathan Jakubowicz, likens Hugowood to a major box office bomb.

“They created all this infrastructure for propaganda movies that has been a complete disaster,” he told me during an interview at his loft in Los Angeles, where he now lives full-time. ” I mean, first of all, you see movies that cost $4 million, which for us is a fortune and are being watched by 7,000 people. Nobody wants to be told the government is great when you go to a movie theater.”

In 2005, Jakubowicz directed and produced the independent thriller Secuestro Express. The movie tells the story of an express kidnapping in Caracas, shining an unflattering spotlight on crimes and corruption on the streets of the capitol. It was distributed nationwide in Venezuela by Miramax and, in a matter of weeks, the film generated a record 2.4 million dollars at the box office — making it the country’s highest grossing movie of all time, beating the Venezuelan releases of Passion of the Christ and Titanic. The film not only struck a nerve with audiences, it got the attention of Chavez’s government — and not in a good way.

“The vice president of Venezuela started talking about the movie, saying it’s a miserable film with no artistic value. Everybody started attacking the movie, attacking me,” Jakubowicz told me. “Then a lawyer sued me and was asking for 6 to 10 years of jail for portraying the authorities under a negative light and promoting the use of drugs. And then Chavez, in his state of the union address, said that he didn’t understand why I was still roaming the streets in freedom. That was at 9 a.m. And at 12 a.m. I was flying out of the country.”

Jakubowicz tells me that Hugowood was created in response to the runaway success of his film.

“When we released our movie, there were no government movies. They started making movies because of my movie. It was sort of a response because they were like ‘wow, so a movie can be this successful, maybe we should get into movies,’ he said. “So they never realized that movies could be part of their propaganda machine. Here goes this little guy, makes a small little Venezuelan movie and it beats Titanic? You know their dream is to beat Hollywood.”

Is Hugowood a legitimate endeavor to further the arts in Venezuela and put the country on the movie-making map, or is it the ultimate propaganda machine?

Jennifer London is an award-winning broadcast journalist who is currently working as a correspondent for World Report on HDNet. Her report on Venezuela’s ‘Hugowood’ will air on World Report, Tuesday, June 15. 

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 1st, 2010, by Staff

A former Arizona state senator calls it “the second coming of the civil rights movement.” Arizona’s Pima County Sheriff calls it a “travesty.” And New Mexico’s governor calls it an “unconstitutional human rights-violating law.” They are referring to Arizona’s SB 1070 — a controversial new law that makes the failure to carry immigration documents illegal and gives police the authority to question and detain individuals suspected of being in the United States illegally.

Here’s a round-up of their recent conversations with Tavis.

Former Arizona State Senator Alfredo Gutierrez
“Some of us went directly to support President Obama because frankly we thought that the son of an immigrant, who spoke to us in such clear language, would keep his promise, would understand the courage that it would take for an issue of civil rights to be resolved in America. It only comes about when men of courage, when women of courage forge that consensus, and that’s what’s lacking in this White House. What’s lacking in this administration and this presidency is the courage to forge a consensus.”
Watch interview

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik
“If I woke up the day after this bill was passed and I was Hispanic, I would feel like somebody kicked me right square in the teeth. I would feel like I was now a second-class citizen and that I was going to be stopped any time I left my house. That is a realistic possibility. It just turned them into second-class citizens and it doesn’t make any sense, because it doesn’t accomplish anything.”
Watch interview

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
“This is not just a law that affects Hispanics. It affects Haitians, it affects Central Americans, it affects Europeans. We need to have more family reunification with Irish, with English, with many that want to come here, but our immigration system is broken. They don’t have enough resources. It’s too bureaucratic, so a complete overhaul is what’s needed.”
Watch interview

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 1st, 2010, by RICK SANTOS
RickSantos_RS

An hour before the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, January 12, I had just finished a meeting at the Hotel Montana on neglected tropical diseases.

I was with two IMA World Health staffers — Sarla Chand and Ann Varghese — and we were waiting to meet three of our colleagues from another organization.

Our colleagues arrived moments before the earthquake hit, and just as the six of us were walking through the lobby we heard a huge noise. The entire building collapsed on us.

We called out to each other and realized there were five of us in an area that was about five feet wide, eight feet long and three feet high, and two of us were seriously injured. Sarla was alive and in another space close to us.

It was completely dark. That first night, it was clear that no one was going to get to us, and we also knew that Port-au-Prince was most likely in very bad shape.

We were in shock. We had no food, no water and only the light from our cell phones. We comforted one another by talking, joking and saying prayers. I constantly thought about my wife and my kids.

During one of my darkest moments, I put my passport in my shirt pocket for easy identification. In case someone found me dead, they would know who I was and who to contact.

By Thursday night, we had been under the rubble for 50 hours. It was close to 7 p.m. when the first sign of help arrived. Sarla said, “I hear voices,” and I could hear people shouting “What is your name?”

Read More »»

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
May 11th, 2010, by Staff

Despite an ongoing and fruitful debate about the significance of American poetry in “the nation’s civic, democratic, political, and public
life
,” the literary art form remains an important part our show at least.

During a recent appearance, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker read a poem for Tavis — “The World Has Changed.”

So we thought we’d honor all of you poetry lovers out there by rounding up a few readings from the show.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Alice Walker
Excerpt from “The World Has Changed”: Wake up and smell the possibility. The world has changed. It did not change without your prayers, without your faith, without your determination to believe in liberation and kindness, without your dancing through the years that had no beat. The world has changed. It did not change without your numbers, your fierce love of self and cosmos. It did not change without your strength.
Watch interview

Poet, Playwright and Activist Sonia Sanchez
Excerpt from “10 haiku (for Max Roach)”: One. Nothing ends. Every blade of grass remembering your sound, your sound exploding in the universe. Return to Earth in prayer. As you drummed, your hands kept reaching for God. The morning sky so lovely, imitates your laughter.
Watch interview

 

Award-winning actor John Lithgow
Excerpt from “No Doctors Today, Thank You,” by Ogden Nash: They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful. Well, today, I feel euphorian. Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetite of a Victorian. Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes. Today, I am a swashbuckler – would anybody like me to buckle any swashes?
Watch interview

Also, be sure to watch Wednesday’s show, when Tavis talks to best-selling author Isabel Allende.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
May 10th, 2010, by Staff
LenaHorne_RS

She was admired for her talent and activism and considered one of the most beautiful women in the world.

Praise for Lena Horne extends to the strength of her convictions, as she changed the image of African American women in Hollywood by refusing to be cast in stereotypical roles as a maid.

The 92-year-old singer, actress and activist died Sunday (Mother’s Day) at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Be sure to share your favorite Lena Horne songs, films, facts and anecdotes, and check out the tribute Tavis pays to Horne on tonight’s show.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
May 6th, 2010, by SHEILA WILEY
LA-BW-Photo_RS

Regardless of what happens in the economy, healthcare continues to be one of the most important, most popular, and fastest-growing industries.

Healthcare is one of the country’s largest industries, providing  14.3 million jobs in 2008 alone. And the industry is expected to generate 3.2 million new jobs between 2008 and 2018 — more than any other industry.

In addition, 10 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are healthcare-related, and most positions require less than four years of college education.

Despite that, there is still a shortage of qualified workers to fill many of the available healthcare openings, and that gap is expected to worsen with time.

Even if you don’t want to be a nurse or doctor, if you’ve ever thought about getting into the healthcare field, now is the time to do so.

The healthcare industry needs all types of workers — x-ray technicians, gift shop employees, food service workers, cleaning staff, accountants and public relations professionals.

And May is a great time to learn about the industry because several healthcare professions and organizations have dedicated awareness weeks:

(May 2 – 8) North American Occupational Safety & Health Week;
(May 3 – 9) National Mental Health Counseling Week;
(May 6 – 12) National Nurses Week;
(May 9 – 15) National Nursing Home Week;
(May 9 – 15) National Hospital Week;
(May 16 – 22) National EMS Week;
(May 17 – 23) National Medical Transcriptionist Week.

Chances are, the type of job you want to pursue has a place in the healthcare field. Good luck!

Sheila Wiley is Community Relations Director for Jobing.com.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
April 27th, 2010, by Staff
Immigrant rights activists express opposition to Arizona's law during an April 27 protest in New York.
Immigrant rights activists express opposition to Arizona's law during an April 27 protest in New York.

Apparently, you can boycott an entire state if it passes a law that really makes you angry.

The target? Arizona.

The controversy? A new Arizona law that makes the failure to carry immigration documents illegal and gives police authority to question and detain individuals suspected of being in the United States illegally.

Critics have been outspoken. Protests have begun. The federal government says it may challenge the state law, which is the nation’s toughest against illegal immigration. And the backlash continues to grow.

But the backlash also now includes calls for a boycott of the Grand Canyon State.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, for instance, has banned official city travel to Arizona. Immigrant rights groups have asked baseball fans to skip Arizona Diamondbacks games. The California Senate is considering a boycott of businesses from Arizona and a Los Angeles City Council member introduced a resolution that will call for the city to “end any and all contracts with Arizona-based companies and to stop doing business with the state.”

There’s even a Boycott Arizona 2010 Facebook page.

What do you think? Do you agree with the law? Do you agree with calls for a boycott? Would you boycott the state?

Previous Posts in ‘Immigration’
VIDEO | Investigative journalist, Gabriel Thompson
BLOG  | Fast for Our Future
BLOG  | Let Us March in Unity

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
April 22nd, 2010, by Staff

Earth Day turns 40 today. So we thought we’d honor the day by giving you a roundup of past conversations from the show about our wonderful planet.

Environmentalist Annie Leonard
“All of the stuff in our lives has this whole life before it comes to us
in the metals where it’s mined, in the forests where the trees are
felled, in the oceans where the fish are drawn, in the factories where
children and women are working hard to make this stuff…
Then it comes to us. We have it for minutes sometimes, throw it away,
and then it goes to some dump or incinerator, often back overseas.”  Watch interview

Green Jobs Advocate Van Jones
“We need jobs in America, and right now if you want the jobs of tomorrow
you have to make the products of tomorrow… I do not want to see this country go from importing dirty energy from
the Middle East to importing clean energy technology from China and skip
all the jobs in the middle. So to me, that’s the common ground, and the
reason that this green jobs movement I think is so important.”  Watch interview

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
“Still today… some people think that the environment is
not an issue for people of color, and I hope that if nothing else I’m a
very vibrant symbol of the fact that people of color should see
themselves in the environmental movement. It’s extraordinarily important
to them and their families.
Watch interview

Also, be sure to watch tonight’s show with economics journalist Steven Solomon, who warns that access to fresh water will replace oil as the primary cause of global conflicts.

Previous Posts in ‘Environment’
BLOG  | Freshwater Scarcity: The Greatest Crisis Most Americans Have Never Heard Of
FEATURE | Going Green

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
April 21st, 2010, by STEVEN SOLOMON
StevenSolomon_Show_RS

“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water,” Benjamin Franklin
quipped wisely over two centuries ago, long before it seemed conceivable
that freshwater could become scarce across the planet or anyone
imagined the need for an Earth Day.

Today, for the first time in human history, the global well is starting
to go dry — and we are all about to learn the painful lessons of what
happens when societies run short of history’s most indispensable
resource.

Freshwater is overtaking oil as human society’s scarcest
critical resource. And just as oil transformed the history of the 20th
century, freshwater scarcity is starting to re-define the geopolitics,
economics, environment, national security, and daily living conditions of the 21st century.

What is happening,
essentially, is that under the duress of the voracious demand of our
global industrial society that uses water at twice the rate of our rapid
population growth, there is simply not enough available, sustainable supplies of freshwater in more and more parts of
the world on current trajectories and practices, to meet the needs for
food, energy, goods and accessible safe drinking water for our 6.7
billion, much less the 9 billion we’re becoming by 2050. Due to the uneven distribution of population pressures
and water availability, global society is polarizing into water “Haves”
and “Have-Nots.”

The impending water crisis presents two great challenges — one
environmental and one political. Because we’re drawing more water from
the environment than is replenished through the natural water cycle,
vital freshwater ecosystems are becoming seriously degraded across the globe, according to the first comprehensive audit of
the planet’s environmental health, the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment.

For the first time since the dawn of civilization, we must
consciously allocate water  to sustain the health of the ecosystems that provide the source of water for all
society’s fundamental uses.

So much water is withdrawn from over 70 major rivers, including the
Nile, Indus, Yellow, Euphrates, and Colorado, that their flow no
longer reaches their deltas and the sea. Nearly all the world’s major
rivers have been dammed. Half the world’s wetlands — nature’s protective sponges — have vanished. Agrochemical and
industrial pollution is devastating fish life, and contaminating human
drinking supplies. Mountain glaciers from the Himalayas to the Andes are
melting at rates never before seen in history, drying up the sources of great rivers and threatening the
stability of the nations that depend upon its waters: the Indus River,
vital lifeline of nuclear-armed, Taliban-besieged Pakistan, is expected
to lose 30% of its flow as its Himalayan source glacier vanishes even as its population relentlessly increases by
a third over the next generations.

To make up shortfall of freshwater,
India, Pakistan, northern China, and California, among others, are
mining groundwater — creating “food bubbles” that are starting to burst as the pumps hit the bottom of the
aquifers.

As the environmental crisis worsens, the political perils
become more explosive. Freshwater scarcity is a key reason why 3.5
billion people — including those in current grain exporter India, as well
as throughout the bone-dry Middle East — are projected to live in countries that cannot feed themselves by 2025 and will depend
increasingly on volatile imported food prices for their well-being and
survival. Humanitarian and health crises are likely to emanate from the
2.6 billion without adequate sanitation and the 1 billion who lack safe, accessible drinking water.

Climate change is the water crisis in hyper-drive: It wreaks its damage
through unpredictable, extreme water-related events like droughts,
floods, mudslides, rising sea levels, and glacier melts that overwhelm
critical water infrastructures built for traditional weather patterns; within a decade there are likely to be 150
million climate (really water-crisis) refugees wandering within and
across borders seeking new livelihoods and homes.

(Watch Solomon’s conversation with Tavis.)

Failing states become
breeding grounds for regional instabilities, wars and international terrorism, such as came out of water-famished
Yemen in last Christmas’ failed airplane suicide bomber attempt in
Detroit, or sea piracy such as the rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia in the
Horn of Africa. 

China’s breakneck growth bid to become an economic superpower hinges partly on whether it can
overcome critical water scarcity challenges that are its economic
Achilles Heel — with only one-fifth the amount of water per person as the
U.S, it has had to idle factories and abandon major energy projects, and faces water pollution so severe that its waters
can’t even be used for agriculture.

From the irrigated agricultural revolution at the dawn of civilization
in Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus, to the steam-powered Industrial
Revolution, to the 20th century’s giant dams pioneered at the Hoover
Dam, control of water has been a key axis of power and wealth. 

Major breakthroughs have been associated with the
rise and decline of great states and turning points of human
civilization. And so it is again today, with the impending freshwater
scarcity crisis.

History teaches that a difficult adjustment lies ahead, just as it has
whenever population levels and key resource bases have gotten
unsustainably out of balance. The chief question is how much suffering
the adjustment will entail, and which societies make the nimblest adaptations and emerge as world leaders and which will
not and decline.

There are two basic choices: 1) To boost the
productivity of existing water resources through difficult political
changes and improved efficiencies or 2) to buy time by mining groundwater or building long pipelines that transfer
water from regions with temporary surplus to those with current scarcity
in the hope that a new silver bullet technology akin to the 20th
century’s giant dams will emerge in the meantime to save the day.

In the main, societies have been following the path of least political
resistance and choosing the latter. Yet the savior
technologies — desalination, genetically-modified crops, recycling
wastewater  are most often mentioned — do not seem likely to arrive in time or sufficient scale to cover the growing global shortfalls.

Former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali famously
predicted a quarter century ago that the “wars of the 21st century will
be fought over water.”

While nations so far have found more reasons to
cooperate than go to war over water, pressures are mounting rapidly with rising population and absolute scarcity levels.
The greater, imminent risk today is failed states, and all the fall-out
they will spread. To its credit, the Obama Administration recently
recognized that the global water crisis is a vital threat to U.S. national security and diplomatic interests, and is
elevating water security as a central objective of State Department
foreign policymaking. Yet it is not enough.
      
The Earth, like ourselves, is 70% water. So nothing is more
important on Earth Day than taking care of our water — which is also to
say, ourselves.

Steven Solomon is an economics journalist who has written for The New York Times, BusinessWeek, The Economist, Forbes and Esquire. He is the author of Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
April 21st, 2010, by SEAN BROOKS
SeanBrooks_RS

This is an excerpt from a post first published at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Millions of Sudanese have just finished voting in their country’s first multiparty elections in 24 years. Election officials estimate that, in a relatively peaceful process, turnout of registered voters exceeded 70 percent nationwide, including up to 55 percent in one state in war-ravaged Darfur.

The voting period was extended from three to five days due to a host of technical problems and irregularities. Sometime this week, the National Election Commission will announce the
results.

Yet despite the higher than expected estimated turnout, the election should hardly be a cause for celebration among advocates for democracy. At the top of the ballot, Sudanese leader and indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir’s name appeared as his party’s candidate for president.

Bashir took power via military coup in 1989. In the years since, his regime prosecuted a war in the south from 1989 through 2005 and, more notoriously, has conducted a deadly policy of mass murder and displacement in Darfur since 2003.

On the surface, the Bashir government has made all the right moves, urging all Sudanese parties to participate and asking the international community to observe the process. But the facts on the ground show a government that has engaged in political repression and intimidation, and an election that fell short of international standards.

Citing the restrictive environment, in the last week of the campaign period leading opposition parties announced a general boycott of the elections. As the results from the election are counted up, one thing is clear: A “democratically elected” Bashir government will be no less ruthless and oppressive than the Bashir military dictatorship.

Yet since last fall, the Obama administration has avoided directly challenging the credibility of Sudan’s elections, despite being heavily engaged in mediation efforts across Sudan. Many analysts feel that the U.S. merely wants to get past the elections in order to focus on the critical referendum for south Sudan scheduled for January 2011 — a vote that many expect will lead to the south’s secession from Sudan. It’s an outcome that the U.S. favors, predicting that the south will be a reliable, oil-producing ally in restive East Africa.

(Click here to learn how you can take action.)

In a bid to set the table for next year, the administration has seemed ready to accept the legitimization of the Bashir regime in this month’s vote in exchange for his cooperation on the referendum.

But with the election’s legitimacy in tatters, President Obama must be clear that the election of Bashir will have no effect on how the U.S. views those in power in Khartoum — as an unrepresentative clique that refuses to loosen their firm grip on the country.

And regardless of the results, the administration must continue to pressure all parties to bring comprehensive and durable peace to Darfur, implement the final stages of the north-south peace agreement that mandates the 2011 referendum, and carry on the long process of democratization that serves as the most solid foundation for durable peace.

Sean Brooks is a policy analyst at the Save Darfur Coalition. He recently returned from a month-long  trip to Sudan.

Previous Posts in ‘Africa’
VIDEO | Team Darfur co-founder, Joey Cheek
BLOG  | War Child
BLOG  | Leaders Look Away, but Students STAND

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