Obama’s first 100 days

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h/t Peter Kaminski

Whole SJ Mercury News front page today is a nice word cloud/graphic on Obama’s first 100 days: http://is.gd/vnZL #tagcloud #bho100

Peter Kaminski

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Calling Mogadishu, we have a problem!

Boston.com : The crew of the hijacked Ukrainian merchant vessel MV Faina stand on the deck, under the watch of armed Somali pirates on November 9 after a US Navy request to check on their health and welfare, at sea off the coast of Somalia.

The standoff between the U.S. Navy and pirates off the coast of Somalia has generated a fury of debates within the Obama administration over policy toward the Horn of Africa nation.

What the Somali politicians, warlords and religious fundamentalists could not achieve for years, a rag tag bunch of pirates did  …. make the world realize that Somalia is OUR problem too …

P.S/ Boston.com does a great picture essay on the Pirates of Somalia

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Vote Report India, a collaborative citizen-powered election monitoring platform for Indian goes LIVE

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India will hold general elections to the 15th Lok Sabha in 5 phases on April 16, April 22, April 23, April 30, May 7 and May 13, 2009. The results of the election will be announced in single phase on May 16, 2009.

After less than 10 days of incredible behind the scene’s work by some wonderful volunteers, technologists and bloggers, we are proud to introduce VoteReport India – a crowd-sourced collaborative election monitoring platform for the 2009 Indian general elections.

The timing for VoteReport India could not have been better given that the Ushahidi team had spent a weekend geeking about what the next iteration of Ushahidi should look like. Ushahidi, has come quite a way’s since its intial response to track the post election violence in Kenya. Since then it has been launched independently in hosted instance such as the DRC, and through partnerships like the one with Al Jazeera during the Gaza conflict.

The VoteReport India instance is particularly interesting given the complexity and magnitude of the Indian election landscape. Ushahidi’s strength has always been to put the right tools to keep OUR elections honest in the hands of the common man. A citizen with access to the web or at the very least a mobile phone, is empowered to report any improper election conduct and these would cluster on the map. Crowds can do wonderful things when given access to the right tools as seen after the November 26 Mumbai attacks that brought a flood of concerned citizens fourth flooding channels like twitter.

The Ushahidi team has been actively thinking of how a to validate and collate information in near real time — or as Erik Hersman puts it, crowd-source the filter. We are calling this mix of machine analytics + crowdsourcing initiative “Swift River” — and VoteReport India is the first instance where it will be implemented. The Indian Genereal Elections will be a first for the this initiative.

How can you help this effort? Well, I’m glad you asked:)

STEP 1: EVANGELIZE IT

Help us get the word out, Here is where we are on

If you have a blog or a website, please consider writing about Vote Report India and displaying our banners (200X200 and 150X150) on your blog or website.

STEP 2: USE IT

The next step is to actually use the Vote Report India platform. Here is how you can send in reports:

  1. SMS to 5676785
  2. Email to report@votereport.in
  3. Twitter with #votereport
  4. Online via web form

STEP 3: VOLUNTEER

Please participate in this initiative and help us ensure a free, fair and transparent election process in India. To help out contact Vote Report India.

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Introducing the Baraclava; Eat your heart out Shepard Fairey

Nadir Gullu shows off his Obama portrait made of baklava

Nadir Gullu, chef and baklava master of Karakoy Gulluoglu, shows off his portrait of President Obama made of baklava, also known as the Baracklava.

Turks rejoiced when Barack Obama was elected president last November, and he remains a popular figure in predominantly Muslim Turkey. But sentiment has been mixed in Istanbul, as the president winds up his European trip there this weekend.

It’s Obama’s first visit to a Muslim country since his election and perhaps the sweetest expression of Turkey’s attitude toward Obama comes from Istanbul’s famed bakery, Karakoy Gulluoglu. Bakers there have created a portrait of the president out of baklava. Owner Nadir Gullu said it took five chefs working for two days straight to create the pastry portrait, which they’ve taken to calling — yes — Baracklava.

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Danny Boyle, on why we need art in the Congo as well as peace

Children's Paintings, Ameema, DRC - War Child, UK

Danny Boyle, the director of the Oscar winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire writes on how the arts should play a vital role in post-conflict relief for coping with and expressing individual trauma.

Why the Congo needs art as well as food | Danny Boyle – Times Online

For children – and for many adults – art plays a vital role in helping them to express feelings and difficulties that they aren’t otherwise able to articulate. Its importance is never greater than in post-conflict conditions. Of course, water, food, and first aid are essential during a crisis, but none of these things can restore human dignity to a person dying from disease or help a rape victim to cope with their outrage.

To suggest that the only things that maintain our humanity are those that serve our biological needs seems to me palpably incorrect. We are not just what we eat. We are also what we feel, what we fear, what we love and what we hate. Unexpressed tensions find their strength in violence.

For children in conflict nations, “art is not an adjunct to life but can transform it. It has an educative, restorative, reorienting power, not despite but precisely because of their desperate circumstances”, Danny suggests.

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Papal fatigue in Africa

Many of the crowd simply made their own outfits

Many of the crowd simply made their own outfits

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Obama appoints Swahili-Speaking Retired General as Special Envoy to Sudan

Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration

Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration

Mr. Obama will tap Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force officer who grew up in Africa as the son of missionaries, to take on one of the most delicate diplomatic missions of his presidency, according to three administration officials, who were not authorized to discuss the selection before the official announcement on Wednesday.

March, 18th 2008 – New York Times

According to the NYTimes, President Obama plans to appoint Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, a retired general and a close adviser as his Special Envoy to Sudan as the administration turns up the pressures on the Government in Khartoum. This is especially significant given that the International Criminal Court (ICC), issued an arrest warrant for Omar Hassan al-Bashir on 4 March 2009 on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. President al-Bashir responded by expulsion of aid groups.

What makes Major Gration an interesting choice is his past. Beyond just being a Swahili Speaker he has been in a similar situation thrice in his life, according to his Wikipedia entry

Gration grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where his parents worked as missionaries; during the Congo Crisis in the early 1960s, his family was evacuated three times and became refugees.

This also reminds me of a much discussed piece on twitter that was featured in the Huffington Post by Mona Gable on  “Why Obama Needs A Special Envoy to Africa (& not just George Clooney)” http://bit.ly/1SooZn

Hopefully, an envoy to Sudan is a begining for a more engaged Africa policy from this administration …  and in more areas than just conflict resolution and into areas such as balanced trade, renewable energy and education initiatives.



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