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An invisible line and two Presidents

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Cote d’Ivoire: The World urging calm

After more than four years of delay, the citizens of Cote d’Ivoire have gone to the polls to vote in the first free and fair elections since the end their ethnoreligious civil war in 2007. After the first round of voting, neither of the two prominent contenders, current President Laurent Gbagbo and the main opposition challenger Alassane Ouattara, gained the percentage needed to avoid a runoff. That second-round election took place on November 28. Since then, the country has moved from pre-election tension to post-election dystopia. As the world watches and springs into conflict-avoidance, the precarity of the political landscape threatens to pull another generation of Ivorians into civil war.

The first dramatic salvo was fired on Thursday when Mr. Gbagbo’s representative at the Electoral Commission grabbed early results from a Commission official, who was about to read them to awaiting media, declared them fraudulent and ripped the result slip to pieces. When the Electoral Commission was able to avoid the reigning President’s political followers (re: lackeys), it certified Mr. Outtara to be the winner. (Confirmed and backed by countries across the world, as well.) Almost immediately, the Constitutional Court (in a preposterously partisan move) challenged the Commissions’s legitimacy and both players, respectively, swore themselves in as the new President of Cote d’Ivoire.

This all leads us, once again, to watching Cote d’Ivoire teeter on the proverbial high wire. From a pragmatic standpoint, it was hard to imagine the country’s return to democracy to be anything less than tumultuous. For all intensive purposes the civil war has never ended. The Forces Nouvelles (New Forces) Rebels still control the northern part of the country and the two most insidious issues, religious marginalization and ethnic tensions, are still simmering below the surface. So have any of these grievances been assuaged since the laying down of arms in 2007? No, not really.

Cote d’Ivoire is divided by an invisible but steadfastly unbreakable fault line. It is drawn between the Muslim, migrant-infused north and the “Ivorian,” Christian South. This election highlights the continued tension surrounding ethnicity and religion. Predictably, President Gbagbo, from the south, is Christian. Mr. Ouattara, from the north, is Muslim. It is problematic dichotomy personified. The mistrust that both sides are seeded with, due to past deeds committed by the villainous “other,” will be exceedingly difficult to overcome peacefully.

The international community, for its part, has not sat on its collective hands as the clock to chaos ticks away.  The African Union immediately dispatched former South African Prime Minister Thabo Mbeki to broker a quick fix solution and the World Bank and African Development Bank have urged calm. Unfortunately, as I sit here, I am unconvinced that there is an expedited, agreeable-to-all solution to the mineral-rich country’s woes. Trust, fair distribution of wealth and equal political access for all will get all Ivorians there. Hopefully, for its citizens’ sake, the country will not get pulled in the opposite direction. That invisible line is looking all but impassable at the moment.

Mining for Reform

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

The safe, dramatic and successful rescue of all 33 Chilean miners this past weekend can be summed up in one word: miraculous. The images of the rescued miners, most of which are now iconic, ascending from the bowels of the Earth moved hearts across the globe. Your own blogger choked up for a minute. Or possibly even two. It was a breathtaking display of teamwork and determination between countries (the rescue plan was devised by a company from Kansas), companies (Oakley donated the sunglasses miners used to transition back to sea level) and average citizens. It was all a joyous sight to behold.

Mining: A deadly industry.

Now rack your brain. When was the last mining accident, before Chile, that you remember with a happy ending? The only one that comes to my mind is the Quecreek Rescue in 2002. In a triumphant display, nine miners were pulled to safety after being trapped for days underground in Pennsylvania. A happy ending; much like those brave men in Chile.

But let’s not try to fool anyone here. That was a long time ago. That was eight years ago.

In 2005, an earthquake triggered a gas explosion in a coalmine in Northern China killing over 200 miners. It was, at the time, the country’s worst mining disaster. In Siberia in 2007, over 70 lives were lost when a buildup of methane reached its breaking point and took the mine with it. In 2009, in Heilongjiang, again in Northern China, there was another mine explosion; it ended the lives of over 100 workers. This April, in West Virginia, 29 miners lost their lives to an accident in the Upper Big Branch mine. It was the worst mining disaster in the United States since the 1950s. In May, 90 Russians lost their lives in another mining calamity in Siberia. This list could go on and on and on…and on… well, you get the picture. The happy ending for the Chilean miners and their families is the exception; not the rule.

I raise these, admittedly morbid, incidents because they illustrate the lack of international mining oversight that is needed to safeguard the lives of workers that keep this world running. Too often facts about accidents are swept under the rug by governments. Too often corners are cut at the expense of safety to bolster productivity. Too often people are dying. The worst accidents, unsurprisingly, are happening in developing nations where oversight and regulation are the least stringent and populations, straddling impoverishment, are willing to work in life threatening situations. These are the places that need substantial reform swiftly.*

I am not naive when speaking to the subject of international implementation of norms. Global mining law would inevitably put restrictions on some free market activities and could be called an infringement on sovereignty by countries that are mostly mined by state run/affiliated entities. (I.e. China & Russia.) Understanding this, it will be near impossible (no, definitely impossibe) to set in place codified safety rules that are internationally enforceable. Maybe even a “pipe dream.” But we have to try. We owe it to all 33 Chilean miners. More importantly, we owe it to all of those who have lost their lives in the depths of the Earth.

Until then, though, we will still be hearing the same old disheartening stories. Like we did this week. This time from Ecuador and China.

*I’m not suggesting that the United States does not need urgent reform as well. I believe it does. But on the scale of need, these other locales take priority.

The Week in Fodder

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Another Friday and another Week in Fodder. Some new formatting, the first Poll of the Week and plenty of scrumptious morsels of knowledge, you’ll be sure to find something to like. Al-Shabaab, the Iranian scientist, the Barefoot Bandit, Eskil Ronningsbakken (You have to read on to find out who he is!), 18th century ships at Ground Zero and the lamest moments in technology… we hope you enjoy!

World Views

Al-Shabaab leaves Somalia.

Ugandan Blasts: Last Sunday, as revelers watched the finale of Africa’s first World Cup, the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab struck, utilizing suicide bombers, two viewing locations in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.  Killing 74 civilians, the attack was the first by the hard-line militia outside of its Somali homeland. Heavily linked to al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the transitional Somali government for over three years. It’s widely believed – disputed by some, however – that Uganda was specifically targeted for its soldiers that are in Somalia protecting the transitional government as part of the larger AU-mandated peacekeeping force. Al-Shabaab is an exceedingly dangerous (perhaps more so than al-Qaeda) militant group. Striking outside of its borders is a truly alarming development.

Argentina Legalizes Same-sex Marriage: On Thursday, the Argentinean Parliament passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Argentina becomes the first country in all of Latin America to pass such a progressive, tolerant piece of gay rights legislation. This is somewhat surprising given the overwhelming Catholicism of the Argentine population; over 90% of the country identifies with the Church. Argentinean dioceses actively tried to sustain opposition to passage of the bill. Despite the organized resistance to the measure, it passed and now gay and lesbian couples can enjoy the same rights at heterosexual couples.

Sharia Women: Earlier this week, Malaysia Islamic officials appointed the first ever women to the country’s Sharia court. Malaysian sharia, the strictest interpretation of Islamic law, cases are tried by judges that are the guides of Islamic law within the country. The fact that two women were appointed to this position is a very big deal. Strict interpretations of the Qur’an call for women and men to be completed segregated from each other’s company outside of the familial home; you can clearly understand the controversy in letting female judges decide the fate of defendants. Although the extent of the women’s powers are still unclear, this is a pioneering step. Watch this, as a possibly model for other progressive Islamic countries, with a keen eye.

Healthcare and Kim Jong-il: This week, Amnesty International released a report on the healthcare system in the People’s Republic of Korea. The results of the report are unfathomable. Findings of doctors working at hospitals without basic medicine, performing surgeries by candlelight and amputating limbs without anesthesia litter the testimonial. Unsettling details about conditions under the world’s most reclusive regime are nothing new; stories of the nation’s food crisis, among other things, have trickled out from defectors. That being said, the international community is not close to putting together a full picture of what life is like under Kim Jong-il. We should cross our fingers and hope it’s not worse that what we know.

Feuding Neighbors: India and Pakistan are officially talking again. After almost two years of ice-cold relations, stemming from the Mumbai terror attacks, the two countries are back at the table trying to iron out their differences concerning the disputed and volatile region of Kashmir. Historical rivals, dating back to Partition, the two countries attitudes towards each other took a turn for the worse when Lashkar-e-Taiba trained militants struck the Indian commercial hotbed of Mumbai killing at least 170. This is a productive step forward for the region and the two countries to be talking about tinderbox issues once again.

American Matters

The CIA and the Iranian: At this point, you have all undoubtedly heard about the rouge Iranian scientist, Shahram Amiri, who went missing for months and only to surface this week in Washington, DC.  Mr. Amiri’s whereabots had been the subject of debate for months. Since his appearance, the story has unfolded at a breakneck pace. He and the Iranian government claim that he was abducted and tortured by the CIA. The Agency asserts that he was a willing defector and informant on the Iranian nuclear program. Reports have confirmed that Mr. Amiri was paid at least $5 million by the CIA for services rendered. He returned to the Islamic Republic to a hero’s welcome. We will probably never know what the truth of this latest international espionage episode is but it provides another reminder of the shadow games continually played by the world’s governments

The Barefoot Bandit's favorite loot.

Double-dip?: Economic news for the past two to three months has been mostly positive; gradual reduction in unemployment, stronger consumer confidence and a slowly growing economy. All of a sudden, however, the US is staring a double-dip housing crisis in the face. Reports this week indicate that foreclosures will hit the 1 million mark in 2010. This high number can be attributed to a backlog of mortgage holders; still, though, it’s a very scary statistic. So faced with this knowledge and the growing stagnation of the nation’s housing market, economists are feeling a bit weary. The whole world will be watching the US housing numbers with bated breath.

Barefoot Bandito: The Barefoot Bandit, otherwise known as Colton A. Harris, was finally caught in the Bahamas this week. A new American folk hero, Mr. Harris had been on the run for over two years, a plethora of states and the Caribbean for a litany of robberies from stealing airplanes to cold, hard cash. After finally yielding to the pressure of law enforcement officials, Mr. Harris was quick to plead guilty. At the age of 19, the Barefoot Bandit and his escapades will be the subject of American lore and pop culture for years, possibly decades, to come. Hats off to you Mr. Harris. You may be a criminal, but you’re a damn good one.

Death of a Hero: Vernon Baker, the only non-posthumous African American recipient of the Medal of Honor, died this week at the age of 90. He received the honor for his service with his platoon in Italy during WWII. He left the military in 1968 as a First Lieutenant. Mr. Baker returned to the United States after his military service and lived the rest of his years in Northern Idaho. In a time of war, it is important to remember those pioneers and heroes that so valiantly served our country. We’re forever indebted to you, Mr. Baker. Thank you.

Henry in America: French legend Thierry Henry is officially a member of the New York Red Bulls. A prolific scorer for both club and country, Henry comes to Major League Soccer (MLS) as the biggest signing in its history. (And YES, this includes David Beckham.) Unlike Mr. Beckham, Henry was made to score goals. He will clinically finish in front of goal and bring Red Bulls’ fans to their feet. It is quite possible Henry is the European star the MLS has been long searching for to bring Americans to its stadiums. Just wait, Henry will have too many Sportscenter Top Plays to count.

Off the Beaten Path

Secrets, secrets.

Mona’s Secrets: This may be only interesting to me and art enthusiasts but I thought it would be a nice little bit of Fodder for all. Using x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, Dr. Philippe Walter has uncovered the nitty-gritty details of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “sfumato” technique. The spectrometry procedure even allowed Dr. Walter to attain the recipes of Da Vinci’s paints and glazes. The glazes, mixed by Leonard himself, were layered in an impressively micro-manner. From the Da Vinci Code to this newest report, it seems that the vaguely smiling Mona will eternally hold a place in the world’s hearts.

Anchors at Ground Zero: Construction workers at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan have found the remains of an 18th Century ship used by traders in the mouth of the Hudson River. Next to the uncovered wooden hull, the excavators also found a 100lb anchor. A truly impressive historical find in the middle of the world’s busiest city. Everyone involved hopes to have the treasure removed by the end of the week. It just goes to show, there is history everywhere; even where you least expect it.

Eskil Ronningsbakken: There is not much to say about Eskil Ronningsbakken. He’s the world’s foremost extreme balancing act. Just check out this gallery and the YouTube video embedded below. As AWC says, “CRAZY Norwegians!” That is all.

Raccoon News: Last week’s Week in Fodder gave you a ridiculous and colloquial story about the Boston area so I’ll return the favor to NYC this week. Earlier this week, a raccoon – channeling his inner burglargot into the basement of the Brooklyn Public Library. Closing the storage area to staff for the week, the raccoon caused quite the nuisance and unfortunately did not get the library card it had applied for. (KNEE-SLAPPER!!)

Too Uncool for School: In our final news synopsis of the week, we offer you your first “Poll of the Week.” The other day, MSNBC ran a story chronicling the “10 Most Uncool Moments in Tech.” Click on that link, take a look at a couple of the videos and tell us which one you think is the LAMEST. It has to be the Sony rap, right?

Idiom of the Week

“Get you knickers in a twist”

Victorian knickers. Insert British accent.

This week’s Idiom of the Week should be said in an English accent at all times. Something about the word knickers makes me immediately think of good ‘ole England. To “get your knickers in a twist:” when you are angry, nervous, or perturbed with a particular situation.

Example #1: “Larry, don’t get your knickers in a twist with this one. Everything will work out.”

Example #2: “Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, recently got his knickers in a twist with the departure of Lebron James. As a result, he was fined 100,000 dollars by the NBA–true story.”

Song of the Week

This week’s song of the week comes from the Scandinavian group Who Made Who. I found this gem while listening to the radio of Nova Planet, a music website from France (http://www.novaplanet.com)

That’s all folks! Until next week, keep on reading the Fodder and living the good life!

Broken Promises

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Gleneagles - Location of broken promises?

At the 2005 G8 Gleneagles Summit, the international community pledged – among other things – a $50 billion ramp up in official development assistance (ODA) to reduce poverty, foster productive governance and fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in the world’s poorest countries; $25 billion was to be specifically earmarked for sub-Saharan Africa. Driven by a renewed sense of urgency to complete the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Gleneagles represented a massive recommitment by the world powers in the fight against poverty and treatable/terminal illnesses. Now we’re five years on from those promises and staring a certain reality in face: the promises made at Gleneagles have not been fulfilled. This is obviously an expansive, convoluted and important topic that will not be done justice by a 500 word blog post; but I will try my hardest to flesh out the most important parts of this undeniably tricky situation.

The BBC ran an article this past week looking at how the Gleneagles commitments have fared in way of their fulfillment. According to the piece, the ODA commitments made at Gleneagles to sub-Sarahan Africa have only been 44% realized; only $11 billion of the $25 billion has made it to ground level. Less than 50% implementation is nothing to be proud of. Last time I checked, in fact, it was a point away from a failing grade. Now this, of course, must be qualified in a couple of ways. First, as we all so intimately know, the past three years have been marred by the newly termed “Great Recession.” Massive job losses, gargantuan governmental bailouts and austerity measures have inevitably cut into the international assistance budgets of G8 countries. This must be considered as a mitigating circumstance. Second, in the past two years, a debate over foreign aid itself has gained new traction on both sides of the Atlantic. Encapsulated most completely in Dambisa Moyo‘s Dead Aid, the question of effectiveness of simply throwing money at culturally sensitive problems – with the added problem of corrupt aid delivery channels – has struck a new cord. Is aid really helping Africa? This is another poignant and important question. I can’t come close to answering it without writing a dissertation so I will spare you. However, I can tell you this: money does provide medical treatment. We know medical treatment works. Understanding that, we come back to one number: 44%.

To be honest, I can’t claim that $11 billion is a number to scoff at; I would hope that no one could be so preposterous. But it is a disturbingly different number than $25 billion. What was the point of promising ODA at such a high level at Gleneagles? It’s level that is, and was, restricted and subjected to economic stability. Was it lip service and an attempt quell our Western guilt over the  suffering “other?” Or was it more hopeful and unintentionally misleading? I’m more inclined, hopeful even, to believe the latter. Either way, it’s unfortunately a broken promise. I’m not laying the blame on any one country or even the whole G8, rather, I’m asking you to think about the motives of ODA and the aid community on whole. Whether you think aid is working to fuel the endemic corruption in a myriad of sub-Sarahan African countries or you believe in the comprehensive development pedagogy of Partners in Health, it is important to remember that this is all about saving people’s lives.

Yes, this is a sticky and torturous situation. That cannot be stressed enough. However, I will leave you with this: at the very least – using the ARV price tag of $295 – the missing $14 billion could have bought 47,457 people triple combination HIV/AIDS therapy. That is a lot of people.

Mugabe’s Diamonds

June 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Western understanding of African conflict, unfortunately generalized, comes through a set of pre-designed hot button words and issues. Corruption. Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Cronyism. Ethnic tension. And of course blood diamonds. Gaining prominence during Sierra Leone’s civil war and solidifying itself in the international psyche with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond, the blood diamond has come to embody the perversion of Africa’s mineral wealth. Once again, they are back in the news. Beginning in January, human rights groups began to raise questions about how Zimbabwean diamonds were being mined. Accusations that the military was using forced labor to extricate the gems began an international campaign to put pressure on Robert Mugabe’s regime to reform their practices. As a microcosm of Mr. Mugabe’s disastrous reign, Zimbabwean’s diamond trade is at a deadlock. As one of the final outlets of wealth in Zimbabwe, does the end of the diamond trade signal a tipping point in the stranglehold of President Mugabe?

Mugabe and diamonds.

As one of Africa’s independence heros, Robert Mugabe assumed the Presidency of Zimbabwe in 1987 and has never looked back. Calamitous land reform acts, ruthless suppression of the opposition and the media and horrendous economic policy have turned Zimbabwe from the African “City on a Hill” to a tragic example of how to ruin unlimited potential. Stuck in a cycle of crippling hyperinflation and with an estimated unemployment rate of 95%, the Zimbabwean economy is in utter shambles without much possibility of improvement. You would think that with such egregious statistics the Mugabe administration would be feeling the pressure to leave office. That has not happened. Other than rampant violence after the 2008 Presidential election, there has been little to shake the confidence of the African big man and his Zanu-PF party.

So what will be the catalyst to drive Mr. Mugabe out of office? It seems counterintuitive that a mechanism of the rich, the diamond, may in fact be a step towards that goal. There may be merit in it though. Mr. Mugabe and his cronies are protected by the military and the elite; those that still have any money at least. Standard neopartimonial theory dictates that “strong man” regimes can only function as long as there is money to keep that strong man’s (Mr. Mugabe in this case.) underlings happy. Reality dictates that Zimbabwe is very close to being completely stripped of the processes in which to accumulate wealth. No wealth, no cronyism. No cronyism, no dictatorship. It is a thought at the very least.

As of today, the Kimberly Process remains at a standstill at what to do about Zimbabwe’s diamonds. Further skewed by the recent arrest of a human rights activist, the trials and tribulations of Zimbabwe’s precious gems and its fallout will have to be followed with keen eye. While this will probably not be the beginning of the end for Mr. Mugabe, it is another step in a road that will eventually lead to his dethronement. Until then, Zimbabwean citizens will have to hope for a better day when they are responsible for their country’s mineral wealth, elections, military, economy and civil society instead of the money hungry, selfish and corrupt Zanu-PF.

The Week In Fodder

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

The end of another week.

The week in review. How many media outlets have such a section? A hundred? A thousand? I’m not sure I can even google that statistic. For that reason, you have to be asking, “why should we turn to the Fodder for our Week in Review?” I’m going to give you a couple reasons, hopefully compelling, as to why you should tune into Cocktail Fodder on Fridays. First, we’re going to bring you the most succinct but far reaching synopsis of international, national and under-the-radar news stories from the past week and those that will be on everyone’s mind come Monday. I bet you’ll engage in conversation about one of the topics we write about within 72 hours of reading our “Week in Fodder”. Second, this won’t be all news. You’ll get the song of the week, quote of the week, idiom of the week, well, anything we think might be of interest. It’s all fluid. Spontaneity will rule. So please enjoy this week’s review and we hope you come back for more Fodder on Monday.

World Views:

Coke Caught: Christopher “Dudus” Coke was, at long last, arrested in Jamaica. Coke, the alleged Caribbean drug lord, has been in international headlines since Jamaican special forces and police stormed the slum in which he was hiding. The operation led to the death of over 70 people. A tactical and human disaster, the Jamaican push for Dudus underestimated the alleged drug lord’s clout and support among the people. After his arrest, he was extradited to the U.S. where he will stand trial for his connections to the American drug trade.

Greek Turmoil: Late last night a bomb in Athens killed an aide to the Greek Counter-Terrorism Minister. This harrowing attack comes after months of protests over austerity measures passed by the Greek government. Unfortunately during that time radical elements have used the unrest to step up attacks and provocation of the administration. Keep an eye out for further developments.

Saddam’s Spies: The Iraqi police state under Saddam Hussien had the most extensive internal spy network this side of the East German Stasi. When the United States entered Iraq in 2003, they destroyed, shipped to America or locked up the files that showed what neighbor turned in who, how intelligence was gathered and shed light on the fates of those lost. This week, NPR ran an intensely interesting piece on the push to bring the files back to Iraq and open them to the public. Read it, see what you think and how it could effect the fragile stability Iraq has achieved.

Pakistani Terror Convictions: A Pakistani court convicted five Americans on terrorism charges. Claiming that they were only there to “help fellow Muslims,” the five traveled to Pakistan in December and were detained by Pakistani security forces. They were all sentenced to ten years. This is only the latest, and possibly most high profile, example of Americans seeking out their own jihadi future; a disturbing societal development.

Burundian Anxiety: After years of civil war, insurgency and general strife, the leader of Burundi’s biggest rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), disarmed in 2009. Since then Agathon Rwasa has become the countries leading opposition voice. Ominously, Rwasa has not been seen since Wednesday stoking fears that he may once again be taking up arms. We’ll follow this story with a keen eye.

American Matters:

General Stanley A. McChrystal

McChrystal Fired: This is all over the news, I know, but this a MONUMENTAL story; one that we will probably write about next week. This week, General Stanley A. McChrystal was dismissed by President Obama over critical remarks he and his staff made in a Rolling Stone interview about his civilian commanders. He will be replaced by General David Petraeus. We’ll leave it at that for the moment. Read these articles if you can and come back for a Fodder op-ed on Tuesday!

Palin’s Illegality: After a formal ethics investigation, former VP nominee Sarah Palin’s legal defense fund was deemed illegal for misleading its donors and ordered to pay back close $400,000. While it seems that the improprieties were in good faith, there are outstanding ethics inquires into the former Governor. This will not be the last we hear of this story.

Ending the Moratorium: On Wednesday, Judge Martin Feldman struck down the Interior Department’s moratorium on deep water oil drilling implemented after the BP disaster. Citing lack of clear evidentiary support, the Judge ruled that drilling could continue and that the Obama Administration would have to make a more compelling case in any future action. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar moved to stay the decision but Judge Feldman denied the petition. A battle, between executive and judicial, as well as Democratic and Republican will inevitably enuse.

The American and the Russian: In his first official state visit to the United States, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Obama shared a hamburger and hailed a new era of amiable relations between the historic antagonists. Presumably the Presidents will not catch any flak for their choices of mustard or cheese and this will simply signify an important bond between the two influential lawmakers.

Mexico vs. Arizona: Yesterday, the Mexican foreign Ministry filed a court brief against the newly passed Arizona immigration law. The lawsuit is seeking to overturn the borderline-police state law. Follow this story as it picks up momentum. We may be looking at a future Supreme Court case.

Harboring toxic secrets.

Off the Beaten Path:

Unfortunate Whales: A report released yesterday, discussing the findings of marine researchers, has found that, almost universally, Sperm whales have dangerously elevated levels of lead, chromium, mercury, aluminum, cadmium and basically every other dangerous chemical you can think of. Using samples taken with a dart gun from over 1,000 whales, the study is extensive and compelling. You can rest assure that Paul Watson will have something to say about this.

Hacker-Croll: The Frenchman who hacked into President Obama’s Twitter account was given a suspended two year prison term yesterday. There are so many strange aspects to this story. One, is French President Nicolas Sarkozy so uninteresting at this point that one of his own citizens wouldn’t want to hack into HIS Twitter? Two, what does it say about today that our President has a precious Twitter account? Three, it’s TWITTER. Anyway, check it out.

British Obesity: You read that correctly, British obesity, NOT American obesity. Novel thought, I know. Researchers have found that British children are currently becoming obese at twice the rate of American children. Even with a government push to cut obesity levels, the rise in statistics has not been stymied. Not an encouraging sign.

$800? No Thank You: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and….. wait there was a third Apple, Inc. cofounder?  Yes, there was. Ron Wayne. Given a 10% stake in Apple at it’s inception, he had early misgivings about the company and was bought out by Jobs and Wozniak for $800 (!!!!!!!!!!). That is not a typo. I won’t even ruin the surprise of how much that 10% stake would be worth today. You need to read the article for yourself. Make sure you’re sitting. So I say to Steve Jobs, no thank you, I’ll take that 10%. (I really am not trying to rag on the guy, hindsight is 20-20.)

Youtube and Marriage: Popular trend: marriage proposals on youtube. Actual proposals, proposal mishaps and everything in between. I guess this is the natural progression, like everything else in the tech age, of asking someone to marry you. I’m undecided on how I feel about this. Either way, here are some to initiate you.

Quotes of the Week:

Blago's future residence?

“It was a 10-minute photo op. Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

– An advisor and aide to Gen. McChrystal. That folks, will get someone fired.

“Patti Blagojevich: ‘… The best option is that you, oh, you know, appoint the African American woman that Obama wants and then you’re happy, the blacks are happy and he’s happy and then you get some nice appointment for that.’

Rod Blagojevich: ‘Right that’s what, that’s the, that’s exactly right. That’s, that would be the best, that would be one of the best scenarios.'”

– Quotes from audio tapes released yesterday by the Justice Department in the former Govenor’s ongoing corruption trial. That folks, will land someone in prison. (Find the whole, ludicrous transcript here.)

And Finally…. the Song of the Week:

Franco and Sam Mangwana- \”Cooperation\”

This week’s Song of the Week comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Franco is a legendary guitarist that few people have actually heard of. Franco and his T.P.O.K Jazz Band were fabled and revered African dance and musical artists for close to 30 years from the 1950s to the 1980s. Sam Mangwana is one of the big hitters of the Zairian Rumba (zoukous) vocalists. He performs to this day and continues to produce quality music. From the first chord of this song you will find it hard to stop listening to. I like to put this on in the morning when I have time to make my eggs and yogurt with granola. It’s a perfect way to start the day. I hope you think so too.

Enjoy!

…Well that’s it. That completes our first week at Cocktail Fodder. I hope you loved it and come back for more on Monday. Until then, keep talking, learning, loving life and remember to enjoy the fodder. Oh yeah, the cocktails too.