STAFF & GUEST BLOG
July 27th, 2010, by PETER J. HOTEZ
PeterHotez-RS

In my previous guest blog post for this site I described a hidden burden of poverty and illness resulting from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the world’s poorest countries. In addition to representing the most common infections of the “bottom billion” — people who live on less than $1.25 per day — I revealed that NTDs are also historically connected to slavery. Today, some of the most common NTDs in Latin America and the Caribbean were brought over by captives from West Africa during 400 years of the Middle Passage.

Although these NTDs of slavery are no longer endemic in the United States, we nonetheless have great pockets of poverty here and with it high rates of parasitic infections that resemble the NTDs. In a paper published in 2008 in the Public Library of Science Neglected Tropical Diseases, I reported on surprisingly high rates of parasitic infections among the poor, particularly among minority populations, in the U.S.

Given the upcoming fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is sad to point out that poverty is still very much with us in Louisiana and elsewhere in the Mississippi Delta region. Along with it are high rates of these parasitic infections, which I call the neglected infections of poverty. Almost one million African American women in the American South and inner cities suffer from a parasitic infection of their genital tract known as trichomoniasis. Young African American women are also as much as 50 fold times more at risk for acquiring a viral infection known as cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. When CMV is passed down to the unborn fetus, the baby can be born with severe hearing loss and mental retardation.

(To watch the full episode of Tavis Smiley Reports “New Orleans: Been in the Storm Too Long,” click here.)

More than 20% of poor African Americans show evidence of exposure to a parasitic Toxocara worm transmitted from dogs. The parasitic worm infection, known as toxocariasis when it occurs in humans, has been associated with asthma and developmental delays. The parasitic heart infection known as Chagas disease was also recently determined to occur in New Orleans. And now that dengue fever, and its dreaded complication dengue hemorrhagic fever, is widespread in the Caribbean and Central America, recent observations of a dengue outbreak in the Florida Keys should be a wake-up call that the entire Gulf coast of the U.S. is vulnerable especially in areas with poor housing where Aedes mosquitoes can breed and transmit this disease.

We now believe that millions of African Americans suffer from neglected infections of poverty, but sadly we do not know much more than that. I have worked with Congressman Hank Johnson, Jr. of Georgia and his staff, as well as some other scientists and activists committed to better understanding of these diseases. After a summit held on this topic in Washington D.C., Congressman Johnson is hoping to introduce new legislation for increased research on the subject.

I believe that there is an urgent need to obtain better information about these conditions in terms of how widespread they are in areas of poverty and to determine exactly how they are transmitted. We need new and better insight in how to prevent and treat the neglected infections of poverty in the U.S. In some cases we need better drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics. To address this, I’m working with colleagues in Washington D.C. to develop a new and improved diagnostic method for toxocariasis, which can be made more widely available.

One of the reasons the neglected infections of poverty are so “neglected” is that they disproportionately occur among the poor. While the depth of poverty in the U.S. is not as extreme as it is in Haiti and West Africa, it is still substantial and capable of harboring several important neglected infections. These are not rare diseases; they are just hidden from view because they occur among the poor.

As Gandhi once said, “a civilization is to be judged by the treatment of its minorities.” We need to heed this statement and launch an assault on neglected infections of poverty in the Gulf Coast, our Southern cities and wherever the poor live.

Dr. Peter Hotez is President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Distinguished Research Professor at The George Washington University.  He is also the author of Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
July 19th, 2010, by WESLEY T. BISHOP
WesleyTBishop-RS

After five years of clawing, fighting and working to rebuild our lives, much work still needs to be done to bring back the city that I call home. I wish that I could say that life in the Big Easy is getting easier, but for many of us, it isn’t.

I have spent the last 30 years living in a section of the city called New Orleans East. My parents moved here from the now world-renowned Lower Ninth Ward. At that time, my siblings and I thought we had died and gone to heaven. Here we found new homes, quality schools, vibrant shopping venues and a future that was full of possibilities.

True enough, many things needed to be improved even before August 29, 2005. But never in my wildest imagination did I believe it would take this long to get back up to our knees, let alone our feet.

What a Difference a Storm Makes

Many institutions were severely damaged by the storm. No better example exists than my alma mater, Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO).

SUNO is a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) that is home to nearly 4,000 students who yearn to achieve upward mobility and are pursuing the American dream. As both a graduate and an administrator on the campus, I know firsthand of the destruction. The campus was flooded by 8 feet of water, which closed the institution for an entire semester. Many in the state of Louisiana believed that Hurricane Katrina would be the end of SUNO. However, they underestimated the resolve of my Alma Mater.

In January 2006, SUNO returned home and registered nearly 2,000 students in the dining hall of a local church pastored by a SUNO alum. Classes were held at a middle school, while FEMA constructed a temporary trailer campus for our institution.

(For stories of other residents struggling to rebuild in New Orleans, visit the “Tavis Smiley Reports” web site.)

Faculty and students shared living space at the Marriott Hotel and subsequently moved to 400 temporary housing trailers adjacent to the temporary campus. The students, faculty and staff of SUNO stand as a testament of what it means to be a trouper. While, five years later, the temporary classrooms remain, so too does the fighting spirit of SUNO. The snail’s pace of the recovery of our institution mirrors the condition of many of our residential neighborhoods.

The Tale of Two Cities

Six months ago, my wife and I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. While this was one of the happiest days of my life, it was bittersweet. Why? Because we drove 30 minutes to get to a hospital when there used to be one 3 minutes away. Moreover, my mother spent 30 years at that hospital as a ward clerk. It now sits dormant as a relic of a time gone by.  

As I drove from my home in New Orleans East to the hospital near the Central Business District (CBD), I realized that my city is actually two cities, and I had gone from one to the other — Online New Orleans to Offline New Orleans. While Online New Orleans is fully functional with all of the basic amenities of any modern city, Offline New Orleans is still struggling to get back to normal. Those of us who live in Offline New Orleans have to travel completely outside of Orleans Parish to purchase basic goods and services.

While much of the CBD is bustling with talk of new growth, hotels and restaurants returning to provide the hospitality that this city is known for, much of the city seems to be on an island. As a resident of eastern New Orleans, every day I watch hospitals lie dormant and healthcare needs continue to go unmet. I see parents and kids unsure of where their kids will be educated in the fall because there are too many students and not enough schools.

The Spirit of a Champion

We have survived the storm. What remains to be overcome is the paralysis of analysis that anyone, anywhere near this place realizes must be abandoned. What must be eliminated is this stagnated recovery, or lack thereof, that has a whole section of the city without meaningful access to basic services.

What we need, more than anything else, is for national outlets to invest in our city, particularly New Orleans East. While neighboring Chalmette was equally devastated, it now has all of the amenities that its neighbor to the east longs for. If New Orleans East were a city, it would be the fifth largest city in Louisiana. Surely we merit the presence of national retail outlets, quality schools and adequate health care facilities. Right about now, we would almost take national anything.

Like most New Orleanians, I am a diehard Saints fan. In fact, they first took the field at Tulane Stadium two months before I was born. For the next 40 years, they have been mired in the muck of mediocrity, until last season. With the help of Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper, our city was taken on a ride to the NFL’s Promised Land.

While the boys in Black and Gold have made us peacock proud by bringing a world title to the Crescent City, I — and most WhoDats in New Orleans East — would trade in the Super Bowl trophy in a heartbeat for a Super Wal-Mart, a first-class hospital and quality family entertainment and restaurants. That’s the least that the troupers of New Orleans East deserve. We need both industry titans and ordinary folks to partner with our community to make this great city great again.  

As I recently watched a group of gospel superstars come together to deliver a stirring anthem for the devastated people of Haiti, they asked the question, “Is there anybody out there listening?” I don’t think that Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams would mind if I borrowed their hook for just a minute.

To all who are listening, please hear this. Take a chance on New Orleans East and invest in the most unique city in America. We chose to come back home and we’re here to stay. New Orleans needs New Orleans East to come back bigger and stronger than ever before.

As I reflect on the past five years, I have come to the realization that the spirit of New Orleans is one grounded in a resolve that will not die. We are storm troupers. Not to be confused with the storm troopers that were specialized German soldiers during World War I, a storm trouper is someone who perseveres in the face of difficulty or hardship; someone who keeps going when logic would suggest that they should throw in the towel.

We recognize the hardships we face, yet we have chosen to rise above it. We represent the best that this city has to offer and are focused on the promise of today and not the problems of yesterday. While we understand how far we still have to go, we appreciate how far we have come. We are troupers in every sense of the word. Always have been…always will be.

Attorney Wesley T. Bishop is an Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Southern University at New Orleans. He is a motivational speaker and author of the upcoming book entitled Come Out Swinging: A Blueprint to Becoming Your Best.

Tune in Wednesday, July 21, at 8/7c for Tavis Smiley ReportsNew Orleans: Been in the Storm Too Long.” 

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
July 15th, 2010, by PAUL GREENBERG
Photo by Laura Straus.
Photo by Laura Straus.

I really enjoyed talking with Tavis today on the show. When you only have ten minutes to explain things as complicated as the oceans, over-fishing and fish-farming, you always kick yourself after the fact.

“Tavis, I meant Atlantic bluefin tuna,” you say. Or, “Tavis, you can have the salmon–but Alaska wild salmon is better for the environment than farmed Atlantic salmon!”

So I’m really thankful to be able to send a little more fish food for thought after the fact.

First off, the burning question: which fish should I eat? The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an excellent program called “Seafood Watch,” which gives ratings of most of the different seafood out there on the market today.

You can even download a “seafood watch” iPhone app that automatically adjusts for your region and the fish you’re likely to find in your particular marketplace.

(To watch the full interview with Greenberg, click here.)

But what about choosing a good fish restaurant? Charles Clover’s superb “Fish2Fork” site  tells you! In addition to posting some of Charles’ great environmental reporting, it rates restaurants in the US and Europe for their overall fish-friendly-ness. Restaurants that serve endangered fish like Atlantic bluefin tuna should be shamed! Shame on you, Nobu.

All that said, I think it’s important that consumers not only choose the right fish but also fight the right fights. When we choose fish that are environmentally sound it is a good ethical choice, but it is not a substitute for sound environmental policy. A few initiatives which I think need to be supported are:

1) Marine Reserves. Just like the U.S. Forest Service keeps millions of acres of forest in reserve for both environmental and commercial purposes, we need fisheries reserves to help protect the important commercial fish species. Fish need safe places to spawn and at least some places where they are not subject to fishing pressure. We protect around 10% of our land in some way but only about 1% of our sea. Let’s treat the ocean with the same respect we treat the land. Information about Marine Protected Areas–or MPAs as they’re called–can be found at NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center.

2) Good fish farming practices. I’m not against fish farming and, in fact, I can’t be. Fish consumption has nearly doubled per capita in the last 50 years, and the overall world catch has nearly quintupled. The U.N. and the World Bank concluded recently that there are twice as many hooks and nets in the water than we need. So we have to farm fish to keep pace with demand. But we have to farm fish in a way that doesn’t hurt wild fish. WWF’s aquaculture dialogues program is trying to set standards for fish farming around the world, and they deserve our support.

3) Reliable information from the Gulf of Mexico disaster. BP’s control over the oil spill sites needs to be questioned and questioned hard. As the great biologist and writer Carl Safina put it “If you put the murderer in charge of the crime scene, the murderer’s going to hide the body.” And that’s what BP has done by spraying oil dispersants like Correxit into the Gulf. Dispersants make oil more toxic to fish, and BP–in their effort to hide the spill–might have caused even more damage. Carl has been doing outstanding reporting from the Gulf. Follow his work at http://carlsafina.org/ and also visit the site of the organization he founded, The Blue Ocean Institute. In addition, for people following the future of seafood in the Gulf, Chef’s Collaborative has just published a useful guide.
 
And, of course, I’m happy to talk with anyone about their fish questions. Drop me a note on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks, and (I’ve always wanted to say this) keep the faith!

Paul Greenberg is an award-winning writer, whose essays, articles and
humor have appeared in
The New York Times Magazine, GQ and
Vogue, among others. His latest book is Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.

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

I hadn’t until today, when news of his arrest in the Bahamas began to spread across the Internet.

Colton Harris-Moore is a 19-year-old Washington native who has been on the run from the police for over two years, evading capture by stealing cars, boats and even airplanes — despite an apparent lack of formal flight training.

Harris-Moore started his criminal career early, with his first conviction at the age of 12 for possession of stolen property. After fleeing a Washington halfway house in 2008, his run from the law took him across the country, including an alleged 1,000-mile flight from Indiana to Florida in a stolen airplane. According to the Associated Press, Harris-Moore’s story has captured the interest of tens of thousands on Facebook, where he has 58,000 fans, many of them now offering encouragement, praise and advice. He’s also got a fan page on the Internet, which sells T-shirts with his face on them and is taking donations for a Colton Harris-Moore defense fund.

With echoes of the blockbuster movie Catch Me If You Can, it’s easy to see why Harris-Moore, a tall, lanky, regular-looking kid, has garnered so much attention. While it’s yet to be seen how he will fare in court, there’s doubtless a book/movie deal in store somewhere down the line.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
July 1st, 2010, by ROBERT PHILLIPS
RobertPhillips-RS

What makes a community healthy?

That was the question posed to teenagers by Youth UpRising in Oakland, CA. The mostly African-American youth responded that it is a place where bullets don’t fly, where their friends are not buried before they’re old enough to vote, where there are fewer liquor stores than there are grocery stores.

Their answers spoke directly to the findings in new research released this week from The California Endowment that found African-American and Latino boys and young men are more likely to experience poor health outcomes as their white counterparts.

For instance, Latino boys and young men are more than four times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than their white peers. Young African-American men are 16 times more likely to die from homicides than young white men.

While these findings aren’t new, what is new is the evidence that points to a dramatic link between poor health and the neighborhoods where these boys live, play and go to school.

Why does place matter?

If you grow up in a neighborhood where you’re not safe, where your school is failing you, and where the nearest park or grocery store is miles away, then you are far more likely to live a shorter life, to earn less money, to be a party or victim of violence. In short, you are far less likely to be healthy.

This is an all-too-common reality for far too many of California’s boys and young men of color.

Yet, when young men suffer from the trauma of growing up in their neighborhoods, their symptoms are interpreted as a sign that they are delinquents or sociopaths, instead of what they truly are: signs of poor physical and emotional health.

Unfortunately, the very institutions that are supposed to help young men succeed in life and stay on track fail them by taking punitive approaches that end up doing more harm than good.

A growing body of research has identified alternative approaches that make it clear that the unequal chances that boys and men of color face are not immutable. 

Place and policy matter. A lot. Particularly policies that encourage community-based solutions that involves the cooperation of all of the institutions that touch and influence these boys’ lives.

The California Endowment is working to do its part with a 10-year strategic agenda — Building Healthy Communities — aimed at improving health outcomes for all Californians, including boys and young men of color, by creating neighborhoods that support health. True to the report findings, a big part of our strategy involves focusing locally on California communities, from Oakland to Fresno to Los Angeles.

If we want strong and thriving communities, we have to make sure that all of the community is healthy. This means that we have to be willing to include boys and young men in our efforts to clean the air we breathe, improve the quality of the food where we shop, and make getting to school or work safer and cheaper.

When we change the place, we change the boy — and the man he’ll grow up to be.

Robert Phillips is the Director of Health and Human Services for The California Endowment.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 21st, 2010, by Staff
Oil burns near the site of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
Oil burns near the site of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

The five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s arrival on the Gulf Coast is just months away, and the region is grappling with one of the largest environmental disasters in American history — the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tavis recently spoke to a former oil company executive, who analyzed BP’s handling of the crisis, a member of Congress, who discussed how the BP oil spill will affect financial regulation, and newly-elected New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Tavis’ conversation with Landrieu came just days after the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig, before Landrieu officially took office.

Be sure to watch their interviews below.

And for more on what life is like in The Big Easy today, be sure to tune into Tavis Smiley ReportsNew Orleans: Been in the Storm Too Long,” which airs Wednesday, July 21, at 8/7c.

Former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister
“This is a tragedy. This is an environmental disaster. But to shut down the entire industry as if they are all guilty of the same human factor misjudgment that may have led to this particular accident I think is premature and ill-advised. So we have to have both more energy to keep our economy going and we need to have safety and reliability.”
Watch interview

 

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA)
“Democrats have to understand that that MMS, that office, Mineral Management Service, truly needs to be divided and I know they’re about to do it, but how could they ever have permitted over the years past to let oil companies fill out the inspection forms? How could they permit them to have $80 billion in tax loopholes?”
Watch interview

 

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
“It continues to highlight to the nation how important our economic security and national security is based on the drilling that we do here, which goes to the issue of the coast…It’s very important that if we’re going to drill, we do so safely and that we protect…the places where the people in the southern part of the country live.
Watch interview

 

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 17th, 2010, by PETER J. HOTEZ
PeterHotez-RS

Most Americans are surprised to learn that the most common causes of illnesses among poor people living in the Western Hemisphere are caused by a group of parasitic infections known collectively as the neglected tropical diseases or “NTDs.”
  
Worldwide, approximately one billion people live on either no money or next to no money — below the World Bank poverty figure of US$1.25 per day. Most of these people are the families of subsistence farmers and urban slum dwellers. Approximately 100 million of the “bottom billion” live in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region; most of them are likely either African Americans or Native Americans (indigenous populations).

Recent studies published in the Public Library of Science have shown that most of the bottom 100 million living in the LAC region are afflicted with one or more NTDs. For instance, almost all are infected with parasitic whipworms — a condition known as trichuriasis — which is associated with colitis and other forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Approximately 50 million people living in poverty have hookworms, which cause intestinal blood loss; 2-7 million people have schistosomiasis — a parasitic worm infection associated with flatworms in the blood vessels, while almost one million people have lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, a disfiguring condition of the limbs and genitals. The health consequences of these huge numbers of poor people infected with NTDs is significant.
 
Our studies indicate that even though the NTDs are not well known by the lay community or even by many health care providers, their chronic disabling health impact actually exceeds much better known conditions such as HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the NTDs have been shown to actually cause poverty because of their ability to impair child development and intellect (hookworm reduces future wage earning by 40% or more), worker productivity, and pregnancy outcome. Indeed, the NTDs represent a stealth reason why the bottom 100 million in LAC cannot escape poverty.
 
Where did the NTDs come from? Based on recorded history, the NTDs were introduced into the LAC region, especially in Brazil and the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, through the Atlantic slave trade. Through 400 years of the Middle Passage, the NTDs previously and currently endemic to West Africa established in the LAC region. The medical historian Todd Savitt, as well as my colleagues at the CDC and the Pan American Health Organization, have pointed out that the NTDs also represent a historic legacy of slavery.
 
The good news is that today we can forever wipe out some of these legacies of slavery through low-cost treatments, which can be provided on an annual basis. In many cases, the treatments delivered through mass drug administration can be provided for only 50 cents a person per year. For that purpose we have established the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to provide large scale support for NTDs treatments.
 
In the LAC region, these treatments are delivered through a hemisphere-wide initiative supported jointly with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Pan American Health Organization. In addition, we have established mechanisms for treating the poorest people in sub-Saharan Africa where the greatest number of people with NTDs live.
 
What about the United States? No surprise to anyone, the U.S. still has major pockets of poverty in areas such as the Mississippi Delta and our inner cities. Today, millions of African Americans who live in these areas also suffer from parasitic infections — we call them neglected infections of poverty or NIoPs — although they differ from the ones in the LAC region. For instance, an estimated 3 million African Americans, mostly children, suffer from toxocariasis — a parasitic worm infection associated with asthma and developmental delays — while almost a million African American women have trichomoniasis in their genital tract. Many Hispanic Americans living in poverty also suffer from Chagas disease associated with heart defects and cysticercosis — a brain parasitic infection associated with seizures.

Dr. Peter Hotez is president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Distinguished Research Professor at The George Washington University. He is also the author of “Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 10th, 2010, by JENNIFER LONDON
JLo2-RS

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?”

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