Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Stories

Stories fished out from troubled waters, on a cold rainy Saturday.

Slave nation’s lucrative export of freedom monuments: A North Korea-based company is being increasingly tapped by African nations to build cut-rate large statues devoted to the theme of freedom. The WSJ has the story on the 164-foot tall statue currently nearing completion in Senegal:

North Korea is mainly known for a totalitarian regime overseeing economic failure. But it has also produced a successful export business—building monuments to freedom and independence. The statues' selling point: They are big, simple and cheap.
Over the past decade, Mansudae has built dozens of statues and monuments for cash-strapped African countries. Botswana cut the ribbon on a memorial to three tribal chiefs in 2005. Neighboring Namibia boasts a bronze of its founding president wielding an AK-47.

The statue depicts a father holding a baby in his left arm. The man's right arm is around the waist of the baby's mother. The three are reaching out to the sky and out to the ocean.
"Its message is about Africa emerging from the darkness, from five centuries of slavery and two centuries of colonialism," says [Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade].
…[T]he statue has been a beacon of discontent, sparking angry newspaper editorials and protests from religious leaders. The statue's sultry mother figure, dressed in a wisp of fabric that reveals part of a breast and a bare leg, has offended imams in this majority-Muslim country.
... Financing details for the project have been murky, and some taxpayers are outraged by the very idea of it when power outages occur daily and university students strike over rising fees. Mr. Wade had no budget for the African Renaissance, so instead offered a prime chunk of state-owned land in exchange, which North Korea has since resold at a large profit, he says.

After all the criticism, Mr. Wade is now getting some compliments. He says he recently received a letter from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi asking how he could get a similar statue.

I wonder if Senegal’s freedom monument is visible to neighbors living in the Islamic republic of Mauritania, a country that still continues its pre-colonial tradition of chattel slavery...

Inclusive Britain: The city of Portsmouth now makes its taxi-driver license applications available in braille! Prompting Daily Mail reader Peter from Gloucester to remark:

Should I ever be in Portsmouth, I think I'll just take the bus.
Egypt-Algerian Soccer War: Last year Egyptian football fans launched firebombs at the Algerian Embassy in Cairo, following Algeria's win over Egypt in a World Cup qualifying match. France has been seeing similar spill-over violence between fans of the rival teams, violence which flared up again dramatically this past week.

Le Parisien reports that last Thursday night, a mob of 30 Algerian youths went on a rampage after Algeria lost to Egypt 4-0 in the Africa Cup of Nations final. The youth vandalized an Egyptian bar/club the paper names as the Cultural and Social Association Center for western youth, on Rue Joseph-Dijon. (A photo of the damage can be seen at Le Parisien) "They arrived a bit after the end of the match", said one of the Egyptians who was in the bar Thursday night. "We saw the window shatter... they even threw a firebomb. We were very scared. But since we didn't say anything things didn't get out of control."

The police were called to the scene but were not able to catch the youth, who left with the cash register.

The manager's son says, "I just do not understand what happened. Here, everyone lives side by side, Algerians, Egyptians... There are never any problems." An Algerian passerby seemed despondant at the sight of the local club's smashed window: "It's true [that since the start of the Africa Cup three weeks ago], relations have been tense. At Boulevard Ornano's market, some were not willing to buy vegetables from Egyptians. Stupid things like that. It's a real shame!"

[Translated from the French account at Le Parisien]

Rescued By Faith: A Haitian teenage choir singer is pulled from her cousin's home two weeks after the earthquake, when rescue teams were no longer supposed to be still searching for survivors. "We are very surprised at the fact that she is still alive," says the French doctor treating the rescued 16-year old:
[O]n Wednesday -- 15 days later -- neighbors heard a voice weakly calling from the rubble and alerted authorities, who brought in the French rescue squad. The team dug a hole to give her oxygen and water, and within 45 minutes they managed to remove her.

"They should not have been working anymore," said French Ambassador Didier le Bret. The Haitian government had declared an end to the search phase, but the French team was stubborn. "They felt that some lives still are to be saved," he said.

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