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Yesterday UIC undocumented students came out at their campus to “denounce lingering fear as well as defy a culture of silence that disregards student voices.” This is Lulu Martinez’s story. Lulu was part of the DREAM 9 activists who started the Bring Them Home campaign at the border. My name is Lulu and I am […]

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The Guardian on the absurdity resulting from one Central American country’s absolute ban on abortions:

El Salvador has one of the world’s strictest abortion laws, with abortion a crime even when a woman’s life is at risk. Human rights activists say this has created a system of persecution in the country’s hospitals as well as its courts, where any woman – and particularly a poor, young woman who loses her baby – is suspect. …

According to the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Abortion), 129 women were prosecuted for abortion-related crimes in El Salvador between 2000 and 2011, with 49 convicted (23 for abortion, 26 for homicide).

In a report published with the Centre for Reproductive Rights, the Agrupación says: ‘Enforcement of the country’s abortion law has had serious consequences in hospitals and healthcare centres, where any woman who comes to an emergency room haemorrhaging is presumed to be a criminal.’

Which is why people should never think in absolutes.

The Miami Herald highlights the recent jailing of a Havana journalist as a testament to the lack of a free press in Cuba:

Juliet Michelena Díaz, 32, was arrested April 7 because of her reporting on ‘a case of ordinary police violence she had witnessed in Havana,’ and should be freed, said Lucie Morillon, RWF director of investigations.

Michelena was initially accused of threatening a neighbor, but the charge was raised to attacking the woman on the day her report was published, indicating ‘a desire to silence her and put a stop to all her critical reporting,’ Morillon said.

RWF, a non-governmental organization, ranked Cuba 170th out of 180 countries in its 2014 freedom of the press index. Cuba’s communist government controls all newspapers and radio and television stations on the island of 11 million people.

Sufficed to say, freedom of speech and of the press are the prerequisites of any true democracy.

Last Friday Latin America analyst Geoffrey Ramsey over at The Pan-American Post called attention to a new bill that could potentially limit the rights of protesters in Argentina:

In reality the bill cannot be easily pigeonholed as an uncompromising attack on freedom of speech. Like similar U.S. laws, it would prevent demonstrators from blocking vehicular traffic. Specifically, it would require that protests allow at least one lane open, and — most controversially — to register with authorities at least 48 hours prior to the event. But still, as La Nacion notes, the [ruling Front for Victory party's] sponsorship of the law demonstrates a ‘profound change’ for a government that has striven to be seen as an ally of mass mobilizations.

For critics of the Fernandez administration, the timing of the bill is no coincidence. As both El Pais and the Associated Press point out, the bill comes amid growing discontent with inflation and economic stagnation, and may be an attempt to brace for potentially escalating protests in the coming months.

Perhaps Pres. Fernández senses a storm coming and wants to make sure she doesn’t wet.

While many Americans spent Easter Sunday enjoying the smell of charred meats, citizens in Venezuela’s major cities got another whiff of something burning:

Though millions of Venezuelans have headed for Caribbean beaches and family gatherings over the Easter period, student demonstrators have sought to keep a nearly three-month protest movement going with religious-themed demonstrations.

After a barefoot walk and a “Via Crucis” march in the style of Jesus’ tortured walk towards crucifixion earlier in the week, hundreds of demonstrators began Sunday with a rally denominated ‘Resurrection of Democracy.’ …

Chanting ‘Liberty!’, the youths threw petrol bombs, fired stones from slings, tore down advertising hoardings, and placed wires across streets blocked by debris.

Seems anti-government protesters aren’t willing to turn the other cheek just yet.

At least 80 immigrants suspected of entering the United States illegally have been arrested in a makeshift encampment in South Texas…Some told authorities they had been there sleeping on pieces of cardboard with little food or water for at least a week.

Juan Cristobal Nagel over at Caracas Chronicle makes an excellent point about how the current protests in Venezuela are a direct extension of the 2013 election:

With everything that has gone on since, it is easy to forget what preceded the April 14th election. After Hugo Chávez died and millions participated in a cathartic funeral, an election was called. It was supposed to be a mauling for the opposition. …

Its official result, a razor thin margin of victory for Maduro, was completely unexpected.

Elections are supposed to settle things, and this one settled something alright: politics in Venezuela would never be the same again. …

None of what we see now would be happening if Maduro had romped to a twenty point victory, as was expected. None of this would be happening if the election had been close, but if both sides had accepted its results.

Nonetheless, the opposition — led by Capriles and López — represents two alternatives, not one. Even if Maduro had lost last year, chavismo would still be the plurality.

On Sunday The Washington Post published a story on how Mexican Pres. Enrique Peña Nieto’s popularity is skyrocketing in Washington and elsewhere, but not “in the only place it really counts: Mexico”:

The biggest problem, analysts say, has been Mexico’s feeble growth. Last year, the country’s economy expanded at just 1.1 percent, far below the goal of 5 percent growth Peña Nieto set when he ran for president.

His most widely touted move, a constitutional amendment opening Mexico’s state-controlled energy sector to private and foreign investment, was advertised as a catalyst for faster growth. But it may take years for the benefits to materialize. …

‘Peña Nieto is taking on the big issues that most economists would agree have been holding Mexico back, so the view of Mexico has been quite positive,’ said Shannon O’Neil, a Mexico expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

At the same time, O’Neil said, ‘the reforms have yet to make life better for the average Mexican.’

While Peña Nieto and the PRI are playing the long game, they might not have that much time to convince the Mexican people they’re worth keeping in office.

After being criticized for the mishandling of an 8.8-magnitude earthquake in 2010, Mother Nature is apparently testing Chilean Pres. Michelle Bachelet again:

A voracious fire that spread through the hills of the port city of Valparaíso left at least 12 people dead and more than 500 families homeless on Sunday, a day after it forced the evacuation of thousands of others.

The fire began on Saturday in a forest on one of the city’s many steep, heavily populated hills. Strong winds and high temperatures quickly turned it into an uncontrollable blanket of flames that covered the colorful maze of wooden shacks and houses on the city’s hilltops. …

Ms. Bachelet declared a state of emergency for the Valparaíso region on Saturday night, putting the military in charge of public security and the evacuation.

This is the second catastrophe that Ms. Bachelet has faced since she took office more than a month ago. On April 1, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck northern Chile, leaving six dead and much devastation.

With an agenda as ambitious as hers, the last thing the president needs is to be dealing with natural disasters.

At least two of the Republicans expected to run for president in 2016 seem to be empathetic on the immigration issue:

Paul’s comment was in response to a question about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) recent statement that undocumented immigration was ‘an act of love,’ and not a felony. Bush’s remarks were quickly criticized by conservatives who oppose immigration reform.

Paul was not among those critics, however. ‘I don’t want to say [Bush] is terrible for saying this,’ Paul told ABC’s Jonathan Karl. ‘If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people. However, we can’t invite the whole world.’

Paul and Bush candidacies could make things interesting come debate time.

The Atlantic has an interesting story on the high rate of C-sections among Brazilian women:

Doctors and activists here say Borges’s experience is fairly common among women who give birth in the country’s private hospitals, where 82 percent of all babies are born by C-section. Brazil has a free, public healthcare system, but many of its wealthier residents–about a quarter of the population–use a private insurance scheme that functions much like the U.S. medical system.

With the higher price of the private system comes better amenities and shorter wait times, but also all of the trappings of fee-for-service medical care. C-sections can be easily scheduled and quickly executed, so doctors schedule and bill as many as eight procedures a day rather than wait around for one or two natural births to wrap up.

It seems they don’t make them like they used to.

“Hi kids! Do you like violence? Wanna see me stick Nine Inch Nails through each one of my eyelids?” -My Name Is

Violently smooth riffs and beautifully melodic hooks from the core of The Mars Volta, singer/songwriter Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitar virtuoso Omar Rodriguez-Lopez  just can’t get enough of each other and their drummer Dave Elitch. Their musical genius keeps bringing them back into each others’ projects, which currently means a new full-time collaboration with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist, Flea, that, from the initial rehearsal sessions sounds like fans of punk, The Mars Volta, and RHCP are in for a treat. Hell, those who just love a tasty jam will get into it. Flea’s custom magical bass from Damien Hirst gives Antemasque a new edge.

Long gone are the days of At the Drive-In (and apparently The Mars Volta), but as long as these guys have a musical pulse on the scene, we’ll keep getting new names. But the core remains the same while the songs push the boundaries of psychedelia, experimentation, noise, and good old rock and/or roll.

New song has already been leaked to several radio stations, and we can probably expect an album and tour in the coming year…

“I take a breather and sigh…Either I’m high or I’m nuts, ‘cuz if you ain’t tilting this room, neither am I.” -Role Model

 

This is maddening in so many ways, yet the activism opposing it now officially has absolutely no chance at success. Remember when this country not only supported its farmers, but celebrated them? Remember when organic food was just…food? Please educate yourself on the potential negative effects of GMOs (that’s genetically modified organism) before the world literally cannibalizes itself.

Rolling Stone has published the first in a two-part series exploring the Millennial Generation’s approach to sex and monogamy:

Termed ‘The New Monogamy’ in the journal Psychotherapy Networker, it’s a type of polyamory in which the goal is to have one long-standing relationship and a willingness to openly acknowledge that the long-standing relationship might not meet each partner’s emotional and sexual needs for all time. Or, more specifically, that going outside the partnership for sex does not necessitate a forfeiture of it. … in this, Millennials realize that they’re pushing the boundaries of the sexual revolution beyond what their parents might have expected and their grandparents could even conceive.

This isn’t even your parents’ type of love.

The Atlantic has a beautiful commentary written by Noah Berlatsky on how James Baldwin’s 1976 book-length essay on film criticism is proof that art criticism can be art itself:

The themes of race, film, and truth circle around one another throughout the essay’s hundred pages, as Baldwin attempts to reconcile the cinema he loves, which represents the country he loves, with its duplicity and faithlessness. In one memorable description of the McCarthy era midway through the essay, he marvels at ‘the slimy depths to which the bulk of white Americans allowed themselves to sink: noisily, gracelessly, flatulent and foul with patriotism.’ It’s clear Baldwin believes that description can often be applied to American cinema as well—whether it’s the false self-congratulatory liberal Hollywood pap of The Heat of the Night or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner or the travesty made of Billie Holiday’s life in Lady Sings the Blues, the script of which, Baldwin says, ‘Is as empty as a banana peel, and as treacherous.’

One more book for the ol’ Amazon wish list.

The New York Times has published an op-ed penned by Nicolás Maduro, the beleaguered president of Venezuela, in which he blames the U.S. media for distorting the nature of the protests currently wreaking havoc in his country:

The claims that Venezuela has a deficient democracy and that current protests represent mainstream sentiment are belied by the facts. The antigovernment protests are being carried out by people in the wealthier segments of society who seek to reverse the gains of the democratic process that have benefited the vast majority of the people. Antigovernment protesters have physically attacked and damaged health care clinics … This is why the protests have received no support in poor and working-class neighborhoods. The protesters have a single goal: the unconstitutional ouster of the democratically elected government. Antigovernment leaders made this clear when they started the campaign in January, vowing to create chaos in the streets. Those with legitimate criticisms of economic conditions or the crime rate are being exploited by protest leaders with a violent, antidemocratic agenda.

Pres. Maduro recently accepted UNASUR’s offer to mediate talks between the government and protesters.

World-renowned Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez revealed on Tuesday that her new digital newspaper should be up and running no later than early May:

Distribution will rely on cell phones and emails because Cubans have more mobile phones than computers — a meager 74 per 1,000 according to the latest official figures, she said — and easily available memory devices such USB flash drives, DVDs and CDs. The staff is also working on several backup ways of distributing the reports and getting around government censors, Sánchez added. … Government officials will likely try to crack down on her digital newspaper, Sánchez told a news conference after the award luncheon, perhaps by blocking its distribution, slandering its staffers or feeding them false information. Arresting the writers would be ‘clumsy,’ added the author of the blog Generación Y, although several independent journalists have been charged under Law 88, known as the Gag Law, with ‘publishing false news against world peace.’

Sánchez also commented on the political unrest in Venezuela, which provides up to $10 billion a year in subsidies to Cuba, saying that she couldn’t see a similar anti-government movement springing up on the island due to the political and social conditions enforced by Havana.

In Brazil, even remembering the 21-year dictatorship can be dangerous:

A session of the Chamber of Deputies to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the military coup started over an hour late on Tuesday morning and was even suspended for a few minutes due to protests from MPs … When the event finally started, [right-wing Congressman Jair] Bolsonaro opened a banner in the gallery with the words: ‘Congratulations Military – March 31, 1964. Thanks to you Brazil is not Cuba.’ One audience member responded with cries of ‘murderer.’ From there, a riot formed in the chamber and the director of the National Union of Military Wives of the Armed Forces, Ivone Luzardo … was shoved to the floor.

This doesn’t bode well for the country hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a tournament meant to be bring the international community together under the banner of peaceful athletic competition.

Earthquake experts say the 8.2-magnitude temblor that occurred just off the northern coast of Chile and left at least six people dead last night was nothing compared to what’s to come:

‘Could be tomorrow, could be in 50 years; we do not know when it’s going to occur. But the key point here is that this magnitude-8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting for this area. We’re actually still expecting potentially an even larger earthquake,’ said Mike Simons, a seismologist at the Geological Survey. Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries because just off the coast, the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes. Nowhere along this fault is the pressure greater than in far northern Chile, an area known as the ‘Iquique seismic gap.’

Newly-elected Pres. Michelle Bachelet, now in her second nonconsecutive term, probably thought she was suffering a terrible case of déjà vu, a 8.8-magnitude earthquake having hit Chile just days before she left office in 2010. More than 500 people lost their lives that time.

Frankie Knuckles, known worldwide as the “godfather of house music,” died on Monday at the age of 59. The Chicago Tribune has published a loving tribute to the man who made Chicago the epicenter of modern dance music:

He championed house music that wasn’t just about rhythm, but that embraced humanism and dignified struggle. It was in keeping with his belief that the dancefloor was a safe haven for the gay, African-American and Hispanic communities that first embraced him. ‘God has a place on the dancefloor,’ he once told the Tribune. ‘We wouldn’t have all the things we have if it wasn’t for God. We wouldn’t have the one thing that keeps us sane – music. It’s the one thing that calms people down. Even when they’re hopping up and down in a frenzy on the dancefloor, it still has their spirits calm because they’re concentrating on having a good time, loving the music, as opposed to thinking about something negative. I think dancing is one of the best things anyone can do for themselves. And it doesn’t cost anything.’