Read, contemplate, comment, discuss
CANADA – Freshly Sealed
The great Canadian seal hunt picked up lots of media coverage this year, with celebrities such as Pamela Anderson, Paul McCartney and Brigitte Bardot speaking out against the slaughter, and 80s Britrock star Morissey canceling all his Canadian tour dates in protest. This year close to 300,000 baby seals were again killed by being smashed in the head with clubs and hakapiks (a pole with metal spikes on the end). Animal rights groups claim up to 42% of the seals are skinned alive. Protestors tried to interfere with the hunters’ boats, and hunters were reported to respond by throwing seal guts at the activists. Canada is one of only five countries that allow killing of the baby seals, and the celebrity protestors suggested that the brutality is a black mark on an otherwise respectable country.
UNITED STATES – Too Hot in the Kitchen for the Chef
Hit cartoon series South Park pokes fun at everything it possibly can, shrugging off the complaints of offended celebrities and groups. A regular target for laughs has been religion. Jews, Christians, Muslims and Mormons among others have been made fun of over the years. And for nine years, Isaac Hayes, the actor who was the voice for character Chef laughed along. It stopped being funny when the show finally made fun of his “church” of Scientology (conceived by a sci-fi writer in the 1950s). Hayes quit the show in protest claiming “inappropriate ridicule” of religion, which sounds like “I can laugh at you but you can’t laugh at me.” The writers promptly had Chef’s character killed off in an episode where he joins a cult.
SOUTH AMERICA – Getting Rid of the Old Guard
In election after election in South America the political parties that have ruled for a generation are getting kicked out of power. With tight connections to the rich upper classes and often rough histories of getting their way, finally other political parties that claim to better represent the less-wealthy majority of people are winning elections. Chile has elected its first woman President, a single mom and former surgeon who was once imprisoned and tortured by a previous Chilean government. In Peru a popular former military rebel has been elected President. Most surprising of all perhaps, Bolivia’s new President is an Indian farmer of coca (as in cocaine), who promised during his election campaign to be “a nightmare for the government of the United States.”
FRANCE – Cheese, Wine and Protests
Fortunately they haven’t been able to successfully export their protests, so far. Last November, most French cities erupted into violence and flames as Muslim youths rioted to protest their difficulties being accepted into mainstream French society and the workforce. Thousands of parked cars were torched and thousands of arrests were made in clashes with police. Emergency powers and curfews eventually calmed things down and the government went to work on a plan to help ease very high youth unemployment rates. This spring a new law was passed that made it easier to hire (and fire) young workers. However, the firing part set off a new round of protests by youths (joined by workers’ unions). The government scrapped the law but the youth unemployment rate remains a simmering problem.
UNITED KINGDOM – Case of the Missing Sparrows
Common House Sparrows used to be just that: very common in British cities and towns for centuries. In fact, the species has cohabited closely with Europeans for 10,000 years. Now they’ve mostly disappeared from a lot of cities and nobody seems to be sure why. Six years ago a British newspaper put out a reward for $10,000 to anyone who could present a properly accepted scientific answer and no-one has yet figured it out. The best guess so far is that sparrow parents are no longer able to find enough protein-rich small insects to feed their newly-hatched babies. The decline in the population of the sparrows is also being seen in cities throughout Europe and many explanations are being tossed around such as cell-phone signals, pesticides and climate change.
JAPAN – Yakyu Very Much
It used to be called “America’s Game,” but it seems there are lots of countries around the world who play it better than the Americans these days. This spring sixteen national baseball teams came together to battle in the first-ever World Baseball Classic, which now takes place every four years. Countries like Korea, Dominican Republic and Mexico had impressive performances that outshone the host American squad. Even Canada beat the U.S. in an early round 8-6 victory. The exciting final match, played in San Diego, was between the strong Japanese and Cuban teams, and Japan won 10-6. Back home in Japan, where baseball is called yakyu, the team’s victory was a massive source of pride with nearly half of the country tuning in to watch the final.
IRAQ – War is Never Civil
The disaster George Bush and friends created by unnecessarily invading Iraq three years ago keeps getting worse. Despite the thousands of young American soldiers that have died trying to rebuild the country they tore apart, a peaceful outcome looks further away than ever. The main Muslim ethnic groups generally hate each other: the Sunnis (who used to be in power), the Shiites (who are now in power) and the Kurds (who should really have their own country). And lately these rivalries have become what can only be called civil war with well over a thousand Iraqis being killed monthly. Is there a solution? Normally we would invade and try to force U.S. style democracy on them, but that’s actually what caused all this.
AFGHANISTAN – And We’re Helping These Guys?
Want to avoid getting your head chopped off in Afghanistan? Here’s a tip, don’t become a Christian if you’re already a Muslim. In a case that caught the attention of the world, Abdul Rahman, a father of two, faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity. Rahman was ratted out by family members and when arrested he confessed that he had become a Christian sixteen years earlier. According to Islamic and Afghani law it’s a crime punishable by death, and a chorus of politicians and religious leaders called for his execution. Seeing a huge publicity nightmare if the execution took place, the leaders of the country (backed by the Christian West) opted to have Rahman declared insane and unfit to be tried. He was quickly shipped off to Italy.