A Seat at the Table: a Twitter-ful list of women crucial to foreign policy

Elmira Bayrasli gave “Levo her (expansive) list of women who are deeply ingrained in critical foreign policy issues, and how to follow their travails and their progress.” Among the women in that list, you will find some (if not most) of my all-time favorite lady tweeters: @texasinafrica, @scarlettlion, @meowtree, @bonniekoenig, @saundra_s, @nancymbirdsall….

That Elmira included in me in her list is such an honor; I’m truly grateful for that “tip of the hat” from her, and really pleased to be associated – if only through this list – with some of today’s leading female thinkers, journalists, politicians, artists, activists and generally awesome women.

You can find the full list here, on the Levo League website, or click the image below

Côte d’Ivoire: Le couple Gbagbo inculpé de “crimes économiques”

This post was originally published on UN Dispatch. C’est le premier billet en français que l’éditeur m’a commandité, donc c’est un essai. Amis francophones, j’aimerai beaucoup savoir ce que vous en pensez.

C’est un premier pas pour la justice en Côte d’Ivoire: Laurent et Simone Gbagbo – assignés à résidence dans le nord du pays depuis leur capture dramatique et médiatisée du 11 avril dernier – ont été inculpés hier par le procureur de la République d’Abidjan. L’inculpation porte sur les “crimes économiques” commis par l’ancien président et sa femme. Le procureur a annoncé le jeudi 18 août lors d’une conférence de presse que les chefs d’inculpation contre Mr. Gbagbo concernaient notamment “vol aggravé, atteinte à l’économie nationale, détournement de deniers publics, pillage.

Continue reading Côte d’Ivoire: Le couple Gbagbo inculpé de “crimes économiques”

Sachal Studios is amazing

Listening to The Strand on late night BBC world last week, I heard a segment about Lahore-based Sachal Studios orchestra. These guys are mind blowing. This Pakistani jazz orchestra recorded jazz classics with traditional Pakistani instruments and flavor. The final product is seriously awesome. The Washington Post writes:

Stop what you’re doing and listen.

Sachal Orchestra, a new jazz supergroup made up of Pakistan’s master musicians and the brainchild of U.K.-based investor, philanthropist and jazz fan Izzat Majeed, has just recorded the album of year.

Sachal Jazz: Interpretations of Jazz Standards & Bossa Nova,” is the first album by Sachal Orchestra and is already No. 1 on iTunes in the jazz genre.

The group has a video for “Take Five”, the Dave Brubeck masterpiece:

I downloaded their album, and I’m listening to their take “This Guy’s In Love With You” on repeat.

The Little Peacekeeper

The Little Peacekeeper - photo by Sebastian Rommair

On a recent trip to New York, I was introduced to The Little Peacekeeper. Created by Sebastian Rottmair, The Little Peacekeeper “believes that we live in a world that needs a lot of small and big peacekeepers.” TLP goes around the world, taking photos of his various adventures, raises awareness about issues such as malaria or landmines, and symbolizes the efforts of peacekeepers around the world. He’s a small, endearing character. Sebastian says that he does not have any particular intentions with this project, but I think it would be a fun tool to educate young children about peacekeeping. While TLP doesn’t carry out actual peacekeeper duties (and doesn’t officially represent UN Peacekeeping), I find his simplified, poetic manners engaging. There’s something charming about this little fella, who travels to faraway places, reminding us of the role and importance of peacekeepers, with both gravitas and a good dose of lightheartedness.

You can follow him on Twitter/Facebook – he’s a very “web 2.0” peacekeeper.

I particularly love this video of him training:

Democratizing energy policy

I should have posted this yesterday to mark Earth Day, but since we should be thinking about these issues every day – not just on an arbitrary Friday in April – here is a short video made by a German group, PowerShift, which offers a quick overview of some issues related to energy policy. The video focuses on the use of biomass (like trees) from developing countries to produce energy in the West, using the example of a German company which purchases rubber trees from a Liberia-based company, Buchanan Renewables (which is actually a cool company, worth checking out their work), to use in a power plant in Berlin which uses gas and biomass. The idea they present is that instead of perpetuating a cycle whereby rich countries use up resources of poorer countries to support their unbridled energy consumption, we should turn to smaller-scale, decentralized models of energy production.

Video is in German, with English subtitles (click “CC” at the bottom right of the screen to enable them)

I am not an expert in energy policy by any means – but I instinctively agree with the notion that we need to rethink our models of energy production. We are hooked on oil, gas and coal, and have developed unsustainable energy consumption practices. I fully support the efforts of those who are committed to thinking about new and innovative means to produce energy.

As individuals, I believe we have a responsibility to curb our own energy consumption as much as we can – it’s not so hard to turn off power bars connected to the wall, drive a little bit less, buy at least some of your food from local sources. Every bit makes a difference. Furthermore, we can also support the efforts of companies like the one presented in the video. Even simply talking about these alternatives, raising awareness among friends and family that a different way is possible, can go a long way toward shifting paradigms.

Green Books Campaign: Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on “green” books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

When fellow blogger Tom Murphy suggested I participate in the Green Books campaign, I was drawn in by the idea of promoting books printed on sustainable material. As an avid reader, I tend to buy – instead of borrow – the books I read. At the same time, my eco-conscious self realizes that, in this day and age, conservation is important. The book I selected is printed on a mixture of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified material, recycled material, and controlled material – a small (too small, IMO) FSC Mixed Sources label in the front pages of the book identifies it as such. When I heard of the campaign, I didn’t really care what book I was going to review – I was just happy to participate in what I believe is a timely and important initiative. But my selection proved to be a wise one: Sunray – The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Captain Nichola Goddard

I’m new(ish) to Canada. I moved here in 2008, two years after twenty-six year old Captain Nichola Goddard lost her life as the first Canadian female soldier to die in combat. Valerie Fortney’s account was my first exposure to this exceptional woman’s story. In addition to bearing the infamous honor of being the first woman to perish during combat operations, Nichola was also the first Canadian officer to call artillery fire against enemy combatants since the Korean War – quite an accomplishment for such a young woman, whose experience in the battlefield only lasted a few months. But above and beyond these facts, Nichola’s story is not about being the “first”. It’s not merely about how she conquered gender barriers, or served her country with genuine commitment and enthusiasm. Her story is about idealism and dedication, searching and finding a path in life. Mostly, though, her story, as told by Fortney, is an intensely personal and intimate one; the portrait of a young, thoroughly modern, cosmopolitan woman whose life was cut short because a piece of shrapnel hit the base of her skull.

Nichola was born in Papua New Guinea, where her parents were working as educators, helping strengthen the local school system. Her parents’ work took their family to various places across Canada, and, as a child, Nichola lived in First Nations communities, learning new languages and discovering cultures most Canadian children only ever hear of in passing. Fortney interviewed over 80 people to paint this picture of Nichola, and it shows: from family friends in Papua New Guinea to teachers in the various towns she lived in and friends she made over the years, the author delivers an incredibly detailed and vivid portrait. Nichola’s parents were humanistic; her background and education, liberal. Her decision to attend Canada’s Royal Military College (RMC), and later, pursue a military career, was not an obvious one.

Through Fortney’s account, though, we understand how this intelligent, open-minded and caring young woman rationalized this decision. Over the course of the book, the reader comes to know Nichola almost as a friend. Some of the details – such as how she  met her husband on the first day of training at RMC, and how their courtship unfolded – could have been found in a diary. Her reflections on her education at RMC, her first posting as an officer in Manitoba, her constant efforts to overcome gender barriers are told in an intimate and engaging way. Sunray, though, never feels voyeuristic or prying, in spite of this level of detail. Instead, you come to know and appreciate Nichola, the “warrior poet who could dance, sing, write, fight, run and jump.” (p.282)

Reading this book in early November, as Remembrance Day activities are taking place and every person I see on the subway is wearing the red poppy, made it even more significant. It reminded me of all the young women and men that our governments send to the frontlines of wars we’re not sure we should be fighting. Regardless of one feels about war, we need to acknowledge and pay tribute to the people who are out there, like Nichola, trying to do the right thing and putting their life on the line in the process. We don’t live in a perfect world, and not every soldier is as exemplary as Captain Goddard was. If, like me, you feel disillusioned by the politics of war, Sunray is a book for you. It’s a powerful reminder of the human dimension of war, as well as an exceptionally intimate glimpse into the life of a fascinating woman.