Saturday 28 January 2012

Be The Change, MC Yogi

"Be the change you want to see in the world", Mahatma Gandhi.


1st verse
Once upon a time not long ago
There was a boy who would grow and become a great soul
He lived in India and his name was Gandhi
He believed in human rights and he felt so strongly
That he made a vow to train himself
Because he realized first he’d have to change himself
He changed his clothes and decided to walk
Some days he practiced silence and refused to talk
When he was young he studied to be a lawyer
And then he became a great spiritual warrior
He read from the scriptures of every religion
Came to the realization that we’re all God’s children
Because he understood that we’re all equal
He became a spokesman for the people
A karma yogi devoted to service to spread truth and peace was his purpose

Be the change that you wanna see in the world, just like Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

Mahatma Gandhi's Biography

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, India. He became one of the most respected spiritual and political leaders of the 1900's. GandhiJi helped free the Indian people from British rule through nonviolent resistance, and is honored by Indians as the father of the Indian Nation.

The Indian people called Gandhiji  'Mahatma', meaning Great Soul. At the age of 13 Gandhi married Kasturba, a girl the same age. The Gandhis had four children. Gandhi studied law in London and returned to India in 1891 to practice. In 1893 he took on a one-year contract to do legal work in South Africa.

At the time the British controlled South Africa. When he attempted to claim his rights as a British subject he was abused, and soon saw that all Indians suffered similar treatment. Gandhi stayed in South Africa for 21 years working to secure rights for Indian people.

If It's Neither Right Nor Wrong. What Is It?

Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it… If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. —Benito Mussolini.

Moral Relativism – What is it? 
Moral relativism is the view that moral or ethical statements, which vary from person to person, are all equally valid and no one’s opinion of “right and wrong” is really better than any other. Moral relativism is a broader, more personally applied form of other types of relativistic thinking, such as cultural relativism. These are all based on the idea that there is no ultimate standard of good or evil, so every judgment about right and wrong is purely a product of a person’s preferences and environment. There is no ultimate standard of morality, according to moral relativism, and no statement or position can be considered absolutely “right or wrong,” “best or worst.”

Moral relativism is a widely held position in the modern world, though it is very selectively applied. As with other forms of relativism, it is only mentioned in a purely defensive way. The principles of moral relativism can only be used to excuse or allow certain actions; they can never be used to condemn them. Moral relativism takes several different forms, from utilitarianism, evolutionism and existentialism to emotivism and situationism. All of these, for the most part, share a single unifying theme: that absolute morals do not exist, and what is “right” or “wrong” is entirely a product of human preference.

Moral Relativism – Is there a fixed standard?
It’s easy to see that the foundations of modern civilization were not built on a philosophy of moral relativism. The very act of passing a law and enforcing it suggests a fixed standard that everyone is expected to adhere to. The reasons for this are obvious: if everyone in a society really, truly acted as though right and wrong were purely matters of opinion, then society would implode into a battle of “might makes right.” In a morally relativistic culture, the only universal reason to do (or not do) anything is to avoid the consequences from one’s peers.

All human laws involve some moral principle being enforced by threat of consequences. Speed limits are enforced on most roads because of a moral conviction that risking other people’s lives is wrong. The same is true for murder, theft, perjury, fraud, and so forth. When moral relativism becomes dominant, however, legitimate moral principles are no longer the foundation of those laws. Since everything is relative, then these laws are just a matter of opinion, and the only universal reason to follow them is to avoid consequences. This strongly encourages people to look for ways to “get away with it”; after all, it’s just one person’s opinion against someone else’s.

Friday 27 January 2012

What is ACTA? How Can It Affect Developing Countries?

More than 1.4 billion people in the world live below the poverty line, defined by the World Bank as 1.25 U.S. dollars per day.  People living at or below the poverty line are vulnerable to disease, starvation, and the natural elements and are deprived of medicines, knowledge, and power over the international laws and economic dispositions that affect their daily lives. However, what does this have to do with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (“ACTA”) —the subject of secretive negotiations by the United States, Europe, and a few close allies? ACTA is, after all, described by its advocates as a trade agreement. Little attention has been paid to its potential impact on the world’s poorest people. This article points to some of the ways in which ACTA will almost certainly threaten their interests.

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW to read about:

Sopa and Pipa might be on hold for the time-being, but there is a greater threat looming. It's called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and it's an international agreement that aims to establish multinational standards on intellectual property rights enforcement.

What is Acta?

ACTA is an international agreement that aims to create international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. The title of the treaty suggests the agreement deals with counterfeit goods, such as medicines and luxury goods. However, the treaty actually has a much broader scope and will deal with tools targeting internet distribution and information technology.

It has been negotiated, mostly in secret, between various countries and the EU over the last four years. Many states have already signed up for Acta, well before the widespread web furor over Sopa. So far, Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the US have all signed up to Acta. The European Union, Mexico and Switzerland have supported the treaty and shown a commitment to signing it in the future. Acta was slipped through the European Council in an agriculture and fisheries meeting in December. Some of its more aggressive language has been removed from more recent iterations of the treaty, particularly concerning "disconnection of internet access". It is expected to be signed by the EU on Thursday, before the European Parliament has a chance to vote on it.


Is it really a trade agreement?

Acta has been negotiated as a trade agreement, which has allowed it certain freedoms from democratic scrutiny. Critics argue that this is copyright legislation being pushed through under the guise of a trade agreement so that it doesn't get debated as much. Unusually for a trade agreement, there are criminal sanctions.

Trade Agreements can usually be agreed in Europe by the European Commission on behalf of the EU. However, the European Commission was not allowed to negotiate over Article 23 -- the controversial part of the treaty which not only insists on criminal penalties for piracy but also for those accused of "aiding and abetting" copyright infringement -- the member states had to be represented at the table. They negotiated these new criminal sanctions behind closed doors

Acta is such an unusual beast that when the European Commission pledged to create a guide about how Acta could be ratified, it took months instead of weeks. It has been described as a "mixed agreement".

Who supports it?

Acta is supported by major copyright holders including pharmaceutical companies, movies studios and record labels. Lobbying organisations include GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Monsanto Company, Time Warner, Sony, Verizon, The Walt Disney Company, the Motion Picture Association of America, News Corporation, and Viacom. It looks like the European Commission supports it but the European Parliament are unanimously against it.

Monday 23 January 2012

Apple report reveals child slavery increase

The Guardian,

Apple's annual report says 91 children worked at its suppliers in 2010, and 137 workers were poisoned by n-hexane

Apple's annual report says 91 children worked at its suppliers in 2010, and 137 workers were poisoned by n-hexane.

Apple found more than 91 children working at its suppliers last year, nine times as many as the previous year, according to its annual report on its manufacturers.

The US company has also acknowledged for the first time that 137 workers were poisoned at a Chinese firm making its products and said less than a third of the facilities it audited were complying with its code on working hours.

Apple usually refuses to comment on which firms make its goods, but came under increased scrutiny last year following multiple suicides at electronics giant Foxconn, one of its main suppliers.

Last month, anti-pollution activists accused the firm of being more secretive about its supply chain in China than almost all of its rivals.

The report says Apple found 91 children working at 10 facilities. The previous year it found 11 at three workplaces.

It ordered most to pay the children's education costs but fired one contractor which was using 42 minors and had "chosen to overlook the issue", the company said. It also reported the vocational school that had arranged the employment to the authorities for falsifying student IDs and threatening retaliation against pupils who revealed their ages.

Apple said it had strengthened its checks on age because of concerns about the falsification of ages by such schools and labour agencies. It also audited 127 facilities last year, mostly for the first time, compared with 102 in 2009.

The report shows a marked decrease in compliance on working hour requirements of a maximum 60-hour week with one day off. In 2009, only 46% met the standard; last year that fell to 32%.

Thursday 19 January 2012

In Time

In Time (2011)

Director: Andrew Niccol

Writer: Andrew Niccol

Stars:  Justin TimberlakeAmanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy

Welcome to a world where time has become the ultimate currency. You stop aging at 25, but there's a catch: you're genetically-engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich "earn" decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day. When a man from the wrong side of the tracks is falsely accused of murder, he is forced to go on the run with a beautiful hostage. Living minute to minute, the duo's love becomes a powerful tool in their war against the system.

There are gaping holes in this setup, from the absence of even a gesture in the direction of an explanation for the origins of this state of affairs to the unworkably insecure technology itself: Everyone walks around with their current time balance showing all the time, and while time can be voluntarily transferred between people, it can also be taken by force, or even simply stolen while you sleep. No society could function like this. People need to be able to lock and unlock their time balances, and turn their readouts on and off. 

On the other hand, In Time offers intriguing fodder for thought on a number of themes: Besides the have/have-not divide and unjust systems that aggravate inequalities, Niccol contemplates our society’s glorification of youth and beauty, fear of death and fascination with immortality, and fear of ennui and the longing for death. Simplistic attempts at bettering the conditions of the poor may backfire, and the movie contemplates whether a sufficiently unjust system may call for direct action against the system itself.

Watch the trailer


Reflection Guide to the Movie: "In Time"



In Time is set in a future dystopia where living zones separate the rich from the poor.

A dystopia (from Ancient Greek) anti-utopia is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state which seems to be ideal. Dystopian societies feature different kinds of repressive social control systems. Ideas and works about dystopian societies often explore the concept of humans abusing technology and humans individually and collectively coping, or not being able to properly cope with technology that has progressed far more rapidly than humanity's spiritual evolution. Dystopian societies are often imagined as police states, with unlimited power over the citizens.

Debate (with the whole class or in teams):

1.   What could happen if we were born genetically-engineered to stop aging at 25 and could live forever? Would we want to? Why?
2.   How would the resulting overpopulation problem be solved?
3.   Would you consider such a world morally acceptable? Why?



Symbolism is the author’s use of an object or reference to add deeper meaning to a story. It is often used to support a theme in a subtler manner. However, in some cases, such as in this film, symbolism may seem too obvious.

Students can do these activities in pairs or teams.

a)    What do the following elements of the film symbolize?

1.   TIME:

2.   GENETIC CLOCK (that stops at the age of 25):


4.   TIME ZONE 12:




8.   SYLVIA:



11.  FORTIS (from the Minutemen):



14.  DARWIN’S BIRTH DATE (the key to unlock the safe) : 

Wednesday 18 January 2012

East Africa's drought: the avoidable disaster

Tens of thousands of lives could have been spared if agencies and governments had heeded the warnings, a report says.

Wed. 18 January 2012  

The deaths of tens of thousands of people during the drought in east Africa could have been avoided if the international community, donor governments and humanitarian agencies had responded earlier and more swiftly to clear warning signs that a disaster was in the making, according to a new report.

Figures compiled by the Department for International Development (DfID) suggest that between 50,000 and 100,000 people, more than half of them children under five, died in the 2011 Horn of Africa crisis that affected Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The US government estimates separately that more than 29,000 children under five died in the space of 90 days from May to July last year. The accompanying destruction of livelihoods, livestock and local market systems affected 13 million people overall. Hundreds of thousands remain at continuing risk of malnutrition.

The authors of the report, published by Save the Children and Oxfam, suggest current emergency response systems, which they believe to be seriously flawed, will soon be tested again as new humanitarian crises loom in West Africa and the Sahel, where growing food shortages are reported.

"Early warning systems in the Sahel region show that overall cereal production is 25% lower than the previous year and food prices are 40% higher than the five-year average. The last food crisis in the region, in 2010, affected 10 million people," the report warns.
A recent Save the Children assessment in Niger showed families in the worst-hit areas were already struggling with a third less food, money and fuel than is necessary to survive.

The report, A Dangerous Delay, concludes that although drought sparked the east Africa crisis, human factors turned it into a disaster.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Victoria’s Secret Revealed and Fair Trade Unmasked

Extract from
Bloomberg Markets Magazine

Clarisse Kambire’s nightmare rarely changes. It’s daytime. In a field of cotton plants that burst with purple and white flowers, a man in rags towers over her, a stick raised above his head. Then a voice booms, jerking Clarisse from her slumber and making her heart leap. “Get up!”

The man ordering her awake is the same one who haunts the 13-year-old girl’s sleep: Victorien Kamboule, the farmer she labors for in a West African cotton field. Before sunrise on a November morning she rises from the faded plastic mat that serves as her mattress, barely thicker than the cover of a glossy magazine, opens the metal door of her mud hut and sets her almond-shaped eyes on the first day of this season’s harvest.

She had been dreading it. “I’m starting to think about how he will shout at me and beat me again,” she said two days earlier. Preparing the field was even worse. Clarisse helped dig more than 500 rows with only her muscles and a hoe, substituting for the ox and the plow the farmer can’t afford. If she’s slow, Kamboule whips her with a tree branch.

This harvest is Clarisse’s second. Cotton from her first went from her hands onto the trucks of a Burkina Faso program that deals in cotton certified as fair trade. The fiber from that harvest then went to factories in India and Sri, where it was fashioned into Victoria’s Secret underwear - like the pair of zebra-print, hip-hugger panties sold for $8.50 at the lingerie retailer’s Water Tower Place store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

Clarisse’s Cotton

“Made with 20 percent organic fibers from Burkina Faso,” reads a stamp on that garment, purchased in October.

Child slavery isn’t new to African farms. Clarisse’s cotton is supposed to be different. It’s certified as organic and fair trade, and so should be free of such practices.

Planted when Clarisse was 12, all of Burkina Faso’s organic crop from last season was bought by Victoria Secret (LTD), according to Georges Guebre, leader of the country’s organic and fair- trade program, and Tobias Meier, head of fair trade for Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, a Zurich-based development organization that set up the program and has helped market the cotton to global buyers. Meier says Victoria’s Secret also was expected to get most of this season’s organic harvest, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its February issue.

Telltale Green Flag

The leader of the local fair-trade cooperative in Clarisse’s village confirmed that her farm is one of the program’s producers. A telltale green flag, given to its growers, flies at the edge of the field she works.

As Victoria’s Secret’s partner, Guebre’s organization, the National Federation of Burkina Cotton Producers, is responsible for running all aspects of the organic and fair-trade program across Burkina Faso. Known by its French initials, the UNPCB in 2008 co-sponsored a study suggesting hundreds, if not thousands, of children like Clarisse could be vulnerable to exploitation on organic and fair-trade farms. The study was commissioned by the growers and Helvetas. Victoria’s Secret says it never saw the report.

Clarisse’s labor exposes flaws in the system for certifying fair-trade commodities and finished goods in a global market that grew 27 percent in just one year to more than $5.8 billion in 2010. That market is built on the notion that purchases by companies and consumers aren’t supposed to make them accomplices to exploitation, especially of children.

Perverting Fair Trade 

In Burkina Faso, where child slavery is endemic to the production of its chief crop export, paying lucrative premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has -- perversely -- created fresh incentives for exploitation.

The program has attracted subsistence farmers who say they don’t have the resources to grow fair-trade cotton without forcing other people’s children into their fields -- violating a key principle of the movement.

The Truman Show

The Truman Show (1988)
An insurance salesman/adjuster discovers his entire life is actually a TV show.

Director: Peter Weir

Writer: Andrew Niccol

Stars:Jim Carrey, Ed Harris and Laura Linney

Storyline: Truman is a man whose life is a fake one... The place he lives is in fact a big studio with hidden cameras everywhere, and all his friends and people around him, are actors who play their roles in the most popular TV-series in the world: The Truman Show.

Truman thinks that he is an ordinary man with an ordinary life and has no idea about how he is exploited. Until one day... he finds out everything. Will he react?

See movie trailer