Tag Archives: Trafigura

Re-learning Spanish, Super-Injunctions, and UK hearts Obama

Thousands of kids from the United States are enrolling in Mexican schools. The reason: their Mexican parents are moving back from the United States. There are many reasons for this. Among them: deportation, fear of deportation, the poor economy in the U.S.  Some of the children were born in Mexico, some in the United States. But now they are in Mexico after years of English-language education, they are  struggling to learn or re-learn Spanish. We have a report from the border city of Nogales, Mexico.

The language  of the border and immigration has long been politicized. Whether you call someone who has jumped the border an illegal alien or undocumented worker depends on your politics. Neither term works for children whose families sneak them across the border. We have a report on these expressions, and many more from Michel Marizco of the Fronteras desk, run by several public radio stations based in the US South West.

Then, the pod travels to the UK, where British gag orders known as supin-injunctions aren’t working, thanks to Twitter. British judges can prohibit British newspapers and websites from talking about certain topics, but they can’t prohibit people tweeting from say, the United States. Britain isn’t China: it can’t maintain an internet firewall around its citizens. So politicians have concluded that the laws on injunctions will have to change. The lesson of this episode may be that it’s no longer possible to keep a secret about a public figure.  And if you try, you may well find that the secret rapidly becomes  subject to the Streisand effect.  (Yes, that’s Barbra).

Staying in Britain, we ask this: does Obama heart Britain as much as the Brits heart Obama? It’s not clear, even after the President’s recent trip to the UK, where he spoke many fine and admiring words about British institutions.

However, it seems that the so-called Special Relationship, held dear by British politicians and journalists, may no longer be  so special.

When it comes to its relationship with Downing St,  the White House appears not to want to be pinned down to an exclusive dating arrangement. Instead, the Americans are trying to balance multiple partners: Israel, China, Russia, India, Afghanistan and others. None of these partnerships is a candidate for a new special relationship; most are based on geopolitics and expediency rather than trust. But it’s nonetheless galling for Britain. After all, Tony Blair risked his political future on the Special Relationship when he stood by George W. Bush and sent British troops to war in Iraq, for better or worse.  So soon after cementing the Special Relationship, the Brits are now watching it fade into relative insignificance.

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Twitter freedom, a zeitgeisty Chinese word, and Lakota immersion

rusbridgerQuestion: what happens when a court gags a newspaper? Answer: The gag sags, 140 characters at a time. That’s what happened this month when microbloggers tweeted what The Guardian couldn’t report. Plus, they tweeted that The Guardian couldn’t report that it couldn’t report, thus making this a “super-injunction“. The case invovled multinational oil company Trafigura, which has been accused of dumping  toxic waste at various sites in Ivory Coast. Trafigura secured a ruling in a British court enjoining The Guardian from reporting on the issue in the event that it come up in parliament. The issue did come up, and The Guardian duly didn’t report on it. But editor Alan Rushbridger (pictured) did let the blogosphere know that it was being gagged from reporting on a parliamentary matter. That’s when human rights activist Richard Wilson got to work online. He and then thousands of others microblogged about this. And low and behold the gag order was broken, and then lifted. Which goes to show that in the age of the social networking,  it’s much tougher to suppress speech. Or put another way, if a government or judiciary wants to suppress speech, it has to suppress the internet.

In the days after the twitter-outing of Trafigura’s gag order, many members of the British parliament voiced outrage over this attempt to block public access to parliamentary speech. Now Gordon Brown’s government is  moving to put a stop to the most egregious super-injunctions.

cou huoNext in the podcast, a group of Beijing and expat artists discover a Chinese word that seems to convey the state of China today. The word is 凑合 or in pinyin, cou huo. It means…well, it’s difficult to translate. But it conveys construction on-the-go, assembling something through improvisation, making do. It has both positive and negative attributes, and the artists explore both.  The exhibit traveled around Beijing in an appropriately makeshift tent, as artistically rendered above.

Finally, two segments on endangered languages. First an interview with French linguist Claude Hagège who’s written a book about the death of languages. Then a report on the near-death of the native American Lakota language;  its potential rebirth comes with an assist from a German rock star.

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