On a whim

"It's not about my politics. Something happened way to quick. A bunch of men who played it sick. They divide and conquer" -- Husker Du

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bomaanslag in Filippijns parlement: chauffeur Gabriela Women's Party komt om

Het nieuws uit de Filippijnen wordt er niet beter op. Na een bomaanslag tegen de Glorietta shopping mall in Makati van enkele weken geleden was het vandaag de beurt aan het parlementsgebouw.

Elly, die voor ons in de Filippijnen werkt, schrijft op haar blog:

"Vandaag, rond 8 uur lokale tijd is er een zware explosie gebeurd vlak voor het filippijns Congres. Onder de gewonden zijn Luz Ilagan, de 2e verkozene van Gabriela Women's Party en haar bodyguard. Haar chauffeur Masial 'Bong' Taldo stierf ter plekke. Hij was vader van 2 kinderen, waarvan de oudste 2 jaar geleden overleed in Mindanao door militair geweld."

Intussen zijn er al drie dodelijke slachtoffers geteld, waaronder ook een volksvertegenwoordiger.

Telkens ik zoiets hoor vraag ik me af of ik het slachtoffer ken. Waarschijnlijk ken ik Bong niet persoonlijk, maar hij was de echtgenoot van een van de leidsters van Gabriela, onze lokale partnerorganisatie. Terwijl zijn vrouw zich in haar wijk inzette bij de vrouwenorganisatie, werkte hij als chauffeur voor de vrouwenpartij die eruit voortkomt. Het is een verlies voor de progressieve beweging, dat spreekt.

Bovendien is een bomaanslag op het terrein van het parlement een bedreiging van politieke aard. Het is een statement. Zeker als je weet dat gisteren een afzettingsprocedure werd ingezet in het parlement tegen presidente Gloria Arroyo door o.a. Gabriela Women's Party.

Bij zo'n nieuws moet ik ook onwillekeurig terugdenken aan die dag in maart 2003 toen ik in Davao, op het eiland Mindanao, zelf getuige was van zo'n bomaanslag. Ik was in de lokale luchthaven toen buiten een zware bom afging. Het beeld dat ik toen door het raam zag staat op mijn netvlies gebrand. 22 doden waren er toen, op nauwelijks enkele meters van me vandaan. Zoiets vergeet je niet. Het blijft je bij. En het maakt je alert voor mensen die er niet voor terugschrikken om dergelijke middelen in te zetten om hun gelijk te halen.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Worldmapper and inequalities in health

Last February, when I first wrote about it, Worldmapper was still stuff for nerdy blogs (like mine :-). Today, the site is featured in an academic journal as a tool to visualize inequalities in health.
According to an article in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, seeing the world shaped by how many babies are born in a year is a more reliable and rapid way of communicating these numbers, than through tables or maps with different colors.
That is exactly what Worldmapper does. It creates a map where the sizes of countries represent the proportion of all children worldwide who were born there. A country that is quite small but with many births increases in size, while a territory with a large area but few births shrinks. Each birth is allocated the same amount of space, and thus country borders are stretched and crumpled around these adjusted areas.
Worldmapper's software has produced already 366 similar maps reshaping the world according to different indicators. What attracts me to these (apart from my fascination with maps) is that they inherently refer to social justice. The mere fact that inequality "distorts" the usual shape of countries makes you aware that something is wrong. Indeed, what else can we say about a world where the probability of a child to die before its fifth birthday varies between 5 and more than 300?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How does the EU prepare trade negotiations with Africa?

This year, 11.11.11 campaigns against the Economic Partnership Agreements. These new free-trade agreements are currently negotiated between the European Union and 75 former European colonies known as the African, Caribbean and Pacific group (ACP). The new TV infomercial seems to cover a preparatory meeting somwehere in the European Commission's headquarters here in Brussels. Funny it is not but the mix of humor and irony, not to mention sarcasm, is quite shocking and will, hopefully, make people think about the issue.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How serious is Mandelson?

Last Tuesday, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council found a solution for the standoff among the three institutions about the issue of Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities. The parliamentary vote clears the way for EU member states to ratify the amendment to the WTO Agreement onTRIPS agreed by the global trade body in December 2005. This happened after EU Commissioner on Trade Peter Mandelson assured the parliament that in the Economic Partnership Agreements and "in other future bilateral and regional agreements with poor developing countries, the Commission is not asking and will not ask for provisions which could affect access to medicines or undermine the TRIPS flexibilities contained in the Doha declaration on the TRIPS agreement and public health."

It remains to be seen how sincere Mandelson is. Earlier this year he wrote two letters to Thailand admonishing it for making use of compulsory licenses -- the very same TRIPS "flexibilities" Europe pledged never to undermine.... Moreover, the reference to "poor developing countries" makes me wonder whether he wants to make a distinction between the poorest countries and those that are classified by the World Bank as middle-income countries, like for example... Thailand. Is Mandelson really serious? Wait and see...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bad Brains: Still got that attitude

When a friend told me some weeks ago that the Bad Brains were coming to Brussels I didn't hesitate to buy a ticket. It would have been unforgivable to forsake this occasion when the Brains are playing just 500 meters from my home. And apparently I was right because last Sunday the Hallen van Schaarbeek were packed with people from all over Europe, as the band played only four concerts this side of the ocean on their mini-tour.

It's not unforgivable not to know the Bad Brains. They never broke through in the mainstream. There aren't many bands who have invented their own genre though. The Brains did when, in the late 1970s, these jazz musicians toyed around with punk, significantly jacking up the speed, until hardcore was born. They were the first and probably also the best hardcore band ever, becoming an inspiration for every generation that has played rock and punk ever since. And if that wasn't enough to make them stand out, they tend to alternate hardcore with reggae during live shows and on their records.

Las time I saw the band must have been about 20 years ago. I had just discovered "Rock for Light", an album that is still on my favorites list (and should be on yours if you care for some pretty intense music), and I was blown away by their frantic live show.

Last Sunday singer HR, known to be extremely unpredictable, was not really with us and his performance was downright dull--hands in his pocket and his head covered with a scarf. The music was great though. The rhythm section is still rock solid at breakneck speed and Dr. Know's guitar playing hasn't lost any of its genius after all those years. The gig was way too short but still it was worthwhile. Even if their new album doesn't live up to the recordings of the early years, the Bad Brains' live shows are still an experience.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Satur was here

Anyone who has ever been able to work with Satur Ocampo can understand what an honor it is to welcome him in Brussels. In Philippine activist circles Bayan Muna congressman Ka Satur is an institution. "My life is the struggle and the struggle is my life," he said in an interview he did with Belgian newspaper De Morgen while he was here. And I swear that in the mouth of Ka Satur these words don't sound hollow.

We visited several European and Belgian Parliamentarians and paid a visit to the representatives of the European Commission. That last visit is what he talked about later on BBC World as you can see in the clip someone posted on youtube.

We had less than 48 hours in Brussels and there wasn't much time to unwind. Last year when he was in Brussels we had some more time and I will always remember how, after three long days of meetings and speaking engagements, he opted to spend time with his compatriots for some light talk. It was already past midnight and he must have been dead tired (at least I was!) but he didn't think twice and immediately accepted the invitation of some Filipinos who were so excited to see a congressman who actually showed interest into their lives. They met Ka Satur, a congressman like no other.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How much of the Philippines have you visited?

Tonyo's blog pointed me to a cool tool that allows you to visualize the places you've visited in the Philippines on a map. Here's my Lakbayan map. Not bad, I guess, for a foreigner.

My Lakbayan grade is B-!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

How about you: How much of the Philippines have you visited? Take the quick test today and post the results on your blog.