Oct 28, 2009


Did you ever heard about it on CNN, on the New York Times, on the Washington Post? They might have mentioned it briefly but they haven't make any noise about it. It seems it takes a French an a Spanish journalists to try to go deep into a an issue that seems too frightening for the US media: rape in the US army. Pascale Bourgaux was in New York this week for the premiere of 'Rape in the ranks: the enemy within', a short documentary that she directed and that was born after Mercedes Gallego's idea.

'The rape of Cassandra', a detail from The fall of Troy,
Greek pottery, c. 480 BCE

Gallego is the New York correspondent for the Spanish daily El Correo, great journalist and a good friend of mine. She was embedded with the American troops during the Iraq invasion in 2003 and she witnessed how the female soldiers feared going alone to the toilet at night. All of them knew that chances of being sexually assaulted were too many. All of them knew that being raped in the army it was too common. All of them knew that perpetrators were left unpunished and all of them knew that the victims were usually advised by their superiors to shut up and let it go. She wrote about it in her newspaper and also in her book Más allá de la batalla (Beyond the battle). She was astonished by the lack of information related to the problem in the American media and six years later nothing seems to have changed.

Bourgaux, who also spent sometime covering the Iraq war, partnered with Gallego to research the subject and this week their 29 minutes documentary finally premiered in American soil -so far only the French tv has screened it-. The film explores the issues through the testimonies of some of those women. It's very disturbing to listen to somebody like Jessica Kenyon, raped twice, once in the US and once in Korea. She quit the army because "it was the only way to escape", in her own words. Her rapists are free and have never being punished. Now she is a counselour for other veterans who have been raped, has a help line (1888 483 8725) and receives about 30 calls a week. It's equally disturbing to listen to a mother whose daughter died in Iraq in her sleep. The army says Tina Priest killed herself with her own gun. Her family doesn't believe it: weeks earlier the 21 years old girl came forward with a rape accusation and she feared for her life. The rapist is still free. In this clip from Democracy Now you can watch some of the film footage:

The statistics speak for themselves: A Pentagon report earlier this year found one in three female service members are sexually assaulted at least once during their enlistment. 63% percent of nearly 3,000 cases reported last year were rapes or aggravated assaults. It's anybody going to do anything about it? At least Pascale and Mercedes did but women in the army need much more than foreign press attention, they need big American headlines and real action. (a note to Spanish readers: Pascale was the only reporter who interviewed the soldiers in the tank that killed Spanish reporter José Couso at the Palestine Hotel). Beyond the crisis of the press, journalists that are still willing to do real reporting are doing it, even without money.

Here a series of links related to the subject:
Study of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine about the estimate of sexual abuse in the US Army (pdf)

U.S. Military Violence Against Women

Helen Benedict, “The Private War of Women Soldiers", Salon.com

Oct 25, 2009


Eldridge and Broome

Christie and Broome

Broome and Christie

It took about three months of careful preparation, but this time art didn't win as easily as the last time. Five people arrested and an extremely brief life for most of the pieces of art that went up on New York streets it's the balance of today's NYSAT action. About a 100 artists and activists were involved in the second New York Street Advertising Takeover, a pacific, smart, creative and uplifting initiative organized by Public Ad Campaign. Under its umbrella operates a very brave group of citizens that are tired to see their city decorated only with ads.

I reported about them back in April, when artists were able to replace about forty ad billboards with their own creative projects for a whole day. They didn't choose billboards casually, they only attacked those belonging to NPA, a company that according to Public Ad Campaign doesn't pay the city a dime to have their ads up. NPA only pays building owners. Then, why should we endure the visual attack of those ads if our city doesn't even get any money in exchange? Art should be on those billboards instead! Why not?

That thought brought NYSAT back to the streets today but, according to Jordan Seiler, one of the brains behind the project, "police and NPA found out about it very early on so they were very aggressive towards us, they arrested five artists and they were really fast at covering the billboards with ads again". By 3 pm I saw an employee of NPA covering one of the white washed billboards with new ads on Mulberry st... This time, though, Seiler is ready to suit the NPA and even the city because "the way they operate is not legal and now we know who they are". All the artists arrested will plead not guilty in court tomorrow.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to follow the project all day long like I did last time but my good friend Xavi did and we will have more pictures later on. I'm sure the Public Ad Campaign web and the wooster collective will have some pictures too. I'm also editing a short video.

Oct 19, 2009


Lately I feel as the unpaid spokesperson of these guys but I can't stop talking about them if they don't stop doing great things. This morning The Yes Men made the US Chamber of Commerce look very stupid. As it's been reported, more and more business (from Apple to Pacific Gas & Electric included) are quitting this institution in protest for its aggressive opposition to climate legislation, currently in Congress. Among the many surreal things the chamber defends their unsustainable position calling for the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' to prove the science of climate change... (and that is not a hoax!)

Well, this morning DC journalists found on their desktops an invitation to attend a press conference in which the chamber, one of the most influential institutions in Washington DC, was suppose to announce that it was dropping its opposition to climate-change legislation. Of course, everybody showed up, from Reuters to The New York Times and even tv networks got excited about it:

Unfortunately it wasn't true. It wasn't the chamber, it were The Yes Men, impersonating officials from the chamber and and leading the press conference in their name. Everybody followed until a real Us Chamber of Commerce official showed up and screamed at everybody. This reporter from the Washington Post was there. His article tells it all. It seems there was a very funny fight between the real chamber's official and a fake one. In any case, now everybody knows that the US Chamber of Commerce is one of the main obstacles to get a real climate change law passed in this country. Thank you again Yes Men (and Avaaz Action Factor, an activist group who team up with them in the prank). Amazing video of the hoax:

Oct 18, 2009


Today I came across The City of Memory, a website that it's a gift for either new yorkers or tourists and that helps to rethink our way to use the web to enlarge and share information, knowledge or just beauty. Just go and check it out. I won't say anything else about it.

(Actually, what it's fair to say is that I found out about it through this interesting discussion about the future of Arts Journalism that was part of the first ever National Summit on Arts Journalism that was organized a couple of weeks ago by the USC Annenberg School of Communication. If you are a journalist, I strongly recommend to check that out too, specially this video (the whole summit is online) and this magazine called flypmedia, one of the finalists in a contest about how to rethink our way to do arts journalism).

Oct 10, 2009


I didn't even know there was a philosophical theory called The Fun Theory. According to the blog Less Wrong which is run by the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, the fun theory "is the field of knowledge that deals in questions such as "How much fun is there in the universe?", "Will we ever run out of fun?", "Are we having fun yet?" and "Could we be having more fun?".

Forget about 'to be or not to be'. The theory of fun is definitely more... fun! and it's no joke! It poses wonderful philosophical questions that actually are part of "a very serious business" according to its followers. "The prospect of endless boredom is routinely fielded by conservatives as a knockdown argument against research on lifespan extension, against cryonics, against all transhumanism, and occasionally against the entire Enlightenment ideal of a better future. Many critics (including George Orwell) have commented on the inability of authors to imagine Utopias where anyone would actually want to live. If no one can imagine a Future where anyone would want to live, that may drain off motivation to work on the project".

So, there is actually people out there thinking how to theoretically improve our lives using fun as the main engine! (for anybody interested in the whole theory look here). I guess Volkswagen heard about it and in their obsessive quest to look green-friendly, like every car company out there that wants to change their 'polluted/pollutant/ image' into something eco-responsible, they organized a contest using "fun" as way to change people's behavior. No matter what do you think about the automotive industry, the results are... inspiring: