Saturday, January 16, 2010

Slow Distribution of Food, Little Security in Haiti, LA Gangland Tours

Eric Pape & Baby Doc Duvalier
Mohammed Salih

"But after watching Obama in the White House for a year, I have come to believe that he is a typical politician who makes promises in order to be elected and, once elected, starts planning to be reelected. This may explain why he doesn't seem to have the courage to peacefully engage the Muslim world or to end the injustice the United States inflicts on Muslims in the name of its "war on terrorism." - Mohammed Salih

When the first estimate of the number of people who perished in the earthquake that decimated Haiti, I thought that 100,000 was rather high, and was glad to see that reports later were much lower, around 50,000. It seems that the lower number was just for Port au Prince, and once rescuers were able to go out into the surrounding areas, the number has jumped much higher, once 140,000, now to over 200,000. The only good thing I see is that rescue teams from all over the world came to help, especially teams that had experience in digging people out of the rubble when the tsunami hit Asia.

The bad thing I saw on television was that by Friday night, hardly any of the tons of emergency relief food and water items had been distributed, they were piled up at the airport. People who hadn't had anything to eat or drink for three days were getting desperate and violent. Hopefully, today is the day that the bulk of supplies get distributed, but there are problems still being reported, especially with rising violence at the distribution points. Gangs with machetes threaten to take all of the supplies and there isn't enough security to stop them.

"Countries around the world have responded to Haiti’s call for help as never before. And they are flooding the country with supplies and relief workers that its collapsed infrastructure and nonfunctioning government are in no position to handle. Haitian officials instead are relying on the United States and the United Nations, but coordination is posing a critical challenge, aid workers said. An airport hobbled by only one runway, a ruined port whose main pier splintered into the ocean, roads blocked by rubble, widespread fuel shortages and a lack of drivers to move the aid into the city are compounding the problems." Once the Haitian government ceded control of the airport, up yo 200 planes per day could land. Unfortunately, most of those planes were the US military, who were concentrating on getting their infrastructure in place while diverting planes full of food supplies were being diverted to northern Haiti or the Dominican Republic. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, we'll give you what you need, not what you want...

We were too myopic after Hurricane Katrina, but now would be a good time to monitor our response with a critical eye and see how we can streamline the efforts to get aid before thousands of people die in front of the tv cameras....

With the world's focus centering on the Caribbean and countries like Brazil trying to come into the limelight, look for other countries to sneak things and hope they don't get noticed. For example, the upcoming election in Iraq, their elections committee barred over 500 people who wanted to participate as candidates, saying that they all had ties with the former Baath Party, which has been outlawed. Almost all of the 500 are Sunni Muslims, who had boycotted the last election and now want to participate in the upcoming one. One way or another, it may be an all Shiite government, much to Iran's delight. On the other hand, the former prime minister has offered an election slate based on secular choice and not religious, hoping to offer a fairer choice. I can hardly wait to see what Iran will counter with next...

Meanwhile. violence seems to be escalating in Iraq, and especially in poor old Pakistan. Statistics kept for last year have shown that 2009 was the worst year to have been an innocent civilian in Pakistan and Afghanistan, guess you are forced to takes sides and cannot play the neutrality card.

don't feed the OG's...

Many countries have tours where you can go and visit their indigenous tribes and cultures. You can see the aborigines in Australia and take a trek to the hill tribes in Northern Thailand, or boat down the Amazon to have lunch with the Indians. Now, those lucky denizens of Los angeles can take the Gangland Tour: "Passengers paying $65 a head Saturday signed waivers acknowledging they could be crime victims and put their fate in the hands of tattooed ex-gang members who say they have negotiated a cease-fire among rivals in the most violent gangland in America.

If that sounds daunting, consider the challenge facing organizers of LA Gang Tours: trying to build a thriving venture that provides a glimpse into gang life while also trying to convince people that gang-plagued communities are not as hopeless as movies depict." You can purchase tickets here.

Both my parents grew up in Central LA, at that time the influential gangs in the area were Hispanic. My grandmother lived in Compton and worked for social services giving out the neighborhood relief checks. When the Watts riots ripped through the area, her neighbors told her to stay inside her home and that they wold take care of her... People my age were the founders of the Crips and the Bloods, and gang culture has always been a part of the Los Angeles scene for over 70 years. Plus there were the politicized gangs like the Black Panthers and religious Nation of Islam vying for the souls of poor folks. I was always an outside observer, and was even too scared to walk to the liquor store by myself during my brief visits to Compton and Long Beach, and the gangs have evolved into much more organized groups scrabbling over the same crummy territory, with more casual deaths and killing of each other. Good for the cops, I guess, bad for mothers and fathers and abandoned children.

With the popularizing of gang life through music and the large amounts of money to be made by posing as a gangster, while the real ones grind it out in prison, I guess that it was inevitable that Gangland Tours, complete with maps and photo ops, would be the next to be created. After all, we have tours to the star's homes, we have shopping tours on Rodeo Drive, there are the movie studio tours, and don't forget the tours to the most infamous murder scenes. Why not one to the barrios and slums where we can watch re-enactments of fights and drive byes with people in costume as the Crips and the Bloods? What's next, Biker Land?

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