Monday, November 21, 2011

Brazil 2010 census shows changing race balance

Brazil 2010 census shows changing race balance

16 November 2011 Last updated at 20:48 ET
Women and children from Brazil's "Roofless Movement" in an empty building they have occupied in Sao Paulo Despite a decade of progress, poverty is still widespread in Brazil

For the first time, non-white people make up the majority of Brazil's population, according to preliminary results of the 2010 census.

Out of around 191m Brazilians, 91 million identified themselves as white, 82m as mixed race and 15m as black.

Whites fell from 53.7% of the population in 2000 to 47.7% last year.

The once-a-decade census showed rising social indicators across Brazil as a result of economic growth, but also highlighted enduring inequalities.

The census was conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

"It is the first time a demographic census has found the white population to be below 50%" it said in its report.

The number of people identifying as black rose from 6.2% to 7.6%, while the number saying they were of mixed race rose from 38.5% to 43.1%.

Among minority groups, 2m Brazilians identified themselves as Asian, and 817,000 as indigenous.


Much of the census data released reflects the progress Brazil during a decade of sustained economic growth and government policies aimed at reducing poverty.

Between 2000 and 2010:

  • Adult illiteracy fell from 13.6% to 9.6%. Among children aged 10-14, illiteracy fell from 7.3% to 3.9%
  • The proportion of children not attending school fell from 5.1% to 3.1%
  • The fertility rate fell from 2.38 children for each woman to 1.86
  • Access to mains drinking water, electricity and sanitation increased nationwide

However, in almost all fields of human development the census revealed enduring inequalities between north and south Brazil, between urban and rural areas, and between rich and poor.

The IBGE highlighted "acute income disparity" in Brazil, with the richest 10% of the population gaining 44.5% of total income compared to just 1.1% for the poorest 10%.

It said more than half of the population earned less than the minimum wage and, on average, white and Asian Brazilians earned twice as much as black or mixed-race Brazilians.

Brazil is one of the most ethnically-diverse countries in the world and many Brazilians regard their nation as a "racial democracy" where there is little overt racism.

Nonetheless black Brazilians - the descendants of African slaves brought over during Portuguese colonial rule - are much more likely to be poor and rarely reach the top levels of business or politics. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brain scans measure racial bias

Brain scans measure racial bias

Researchers at Yale Law School have discovered that brain scans may better predict jurors' racial bias than previously established methods of testing.

In a new study published in the journal Social Neuroscience last week, Yale researchers studied the correlation between compensation in employment discrimination cases and brain activity during tests for racial bias. The study concluded that functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans may better predict verdict size than the traditional tests. The results may be significant to the developing field of neurolaw in providing a way to ensure an unbiased jury — a Constitutional requirement — but outside psychologists said the study's significance is limited by its small sample size.

"This is a novel result, obtained with novel methods," Tony Greenwald '59, professor of psychology at University of Washington, wrote in an email to the News. He added that the researchers established a new method to analyze the fMRI results which looked at the entire brain instead of just specific "regions of interest."

Researchers asked study participants to match images of black and white faces with positive, negative, and neutral adjectives, according to varying sets of rules. For example, they might be told to match all "black faces and positive adjectives" as quickly as possible.

In the Implicit Association test (IAT), which has been used since the 1990s to reveal subconscious biases, researchers measure the reaction speed with which participants match the faces and adjectives such as "good" or "bad", with a longer reaction time signifying a bias against associating the two terms. For example, a subject biased against blacks might take longer to match a black face with a positive adjective.

The fMRI measured the neural activity of participants while taking the test, tracking changes in blood flow across brain regions. Researchers then correlated these results with the money subjects awarded victims of employment discrimination in theoretical cases.

The study found that the variation in fMRI brain imaging results had a higher correlation with the verdict sizes than the IAT test result variation did.

"Our study demonstrates that fMRI measures might have more predictive value than commonly used behavioral measures such as the implicit association test." Marvin Chun, professor of psychology and co-author of the study, said in an email to the News.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on racial grounds and provides discrimination victims a judicial means of redress through the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which can file lawsuits on behalf of employees. The monetary compensation is often determined by a jury, and the verdict size may be influenced by the conscious and subconscious biases of the jurors, said Harrison Korn '11 LAW '14, a co-author of the study. Korn is a former associate managing editor for presentation at the News.

"We are not suggesting that people go out and start scanning jurors, but it does raise the issue that unconscious bias is a problem and we should be looking for ways to counteract it," Korn said.

He added that the high cost of fMRIs — almost $1,000 per participant in this study ­— and the perception of neural scans as invasive make it impractical to scan each potential juror in the jury selection process.

The study emphasizes, however, that the American legal system must provide unbiased juries in order to ensure due process of law. In an email to the News, Director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, Owen Jones LAW '91 said that the while the results of the study will not revolutionize juror selection, they may help researchers to develop better understandings of human bias. For example, in a 2007 New York Times article, Jones suggested that lawyers could use brain scans of potential jurors to exclude those who were unlikely to be sympathetic to their argument.

"Anything that helps us to understand the mechanisms of racial bias might help us to develop better systems for identifying it, combatting it, and minimizing its effects," Jones wrote in the email.

Brian Nosek GRD '02, associate professor of psychology at University of Virginia, said he questioned the "predictive validity" of fMRI studies due to their limited sample sizes, which are often a result of the high cost of brain imaging. After eliminating six subjects because of technical difficulties, the Yale study was comprised of 19 white, non-Hispanic subjects between 18 and 26 years of age.

Other scientists were similarly wary of extrapolating from the results before they were confirmed by larger studies.

"It's a result that needs corroboration by further research before one should venture any confident interpretations." Greenwald wrote.

In fiscal year 2010, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received almost 100,000 reports of employment discrimination.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Uganda's first electric car proves the potential of Africa's universities

Uganda's first electric car proves the potential of Africa's universities

In an age of technological marvels, it may not be earth-stopping news that young engineers at Uganda's Makerere University have made an electric car. But, as a university professor reminded me, this is big news for Uganda.

Last week, the College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology at Makerere conducted a 4km test-drive on its Kiira EV, a two-seater vehicle that runs on rechargeable lithium batteries instead of petrol. Its makers say that in motorway conditions, the Kiira EV can attain a speed of 100km/h and cover 80km (50 miles) before it needs recharging.

Although the technology has been around for decades, this is the first time anyone in Uganda has been able to part-assemble and part-manufacture a purely electric car, conspicuously green in colour to symbolise its environmental credentials.

However, despite this achievement emanating from one of the world's poorest countries – Uganda ranked 161 out of 187 countries in the 2011 human development index – it has not been without its sceptics and critics. Questions have been raised about priorities, viability and the possibility of prestige projects that have little impact on the lives of the majority.

Nevertheless, at a time when academics and the World Bank continue to urge states to put research at the heart of the African university, Kiira may be a reminder that given the right conditions, great things can flow out of Africa, just like the river Nile, after which the car is named.

"Our training in institutions of higher learning has not brought out a lot of research products. I think this vehicle is a manifestation of a changed paradigm of training in our institutions, to go beyond just lectures and laboratory experiments," said Sande Stevens Togboa, an electrical engineering professor who is overall head of the Kiira project.

Togboa, a deputy vice-chancellor of the university, said the idea for Kiira EV came out of Makerere's participation in the Vehicle Design Summit, an inter-university initiative to build the car of the future. Led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the summit culminated with the building, in 2008, of the prototype Vision 200, a hybrid fuel-electricity car, in Turin, Italy.

"The performance of our students [at the summit] was good," Togboa told me from Kampala. "So we announced that we would come home and build our own car."

But, now that the car has been built –at a cost of $35,000 – what happens next? One of the obstacles to Africa's universities churning out solutions to the continent's many problems is lack of funding, which has stifled ambition. In the case of Kiira EV, it took a combination of that "paradigm shift", and a visit to the university by President Yoweri Museveni two years ago. At a follow-up meeting, Museveni announced a grant of around $10m for the college's research projects over five years. If it had not been for that grant, Togboa said, Uganda's green car might have stalled at the design stage.

"Our funding situation is very poor; funding is the largest part of the problem," Togboa said of the university as a whole. "Another problem is the generations that have gone through university without active research; the younger generation needed to be reoriented."

With nearly 40,000 students, Makerere university's official research budget is about UShs 1.4bn ($540,000) a year, half of which goes to running the school of postgraduate studies, the professor said. However, specific projects in areas such as health sciences, food science and technology, and agriculture are currently benefiting from $3.1m research grants from donor countries such as Norway and Sweden.

According to a 2010 World Bank report, financing for research in Africa has plummeted over the decades. As enrolment in universities has surged, priority has shifted to bottom-line teaching, enough to see one cohort through the gates so another can come in.

"The inadequacy of funding has limited institutions' ability to offer adequate remuneration or to invest in infrastructure, research facilities and equipment, thereby hindering overall research capacity," the report says, pointing out that many universities are steadily losing senior research-oriented staff like Togboa to the private sector.

Some countries, among them South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Ghana, have supplemented conventional state funding for universities with competitive grants earmarked for research.

For Uganda's ambitions to be sustainable, however, it will require a well thought-out policy, rather than the personal curiosity of a leader, as happened with the electric car.

Some critics have questioned the rationale for spending research money on an electric car in a poor agrarian country with an ailing public healthcare system, and where electricity outages are the norm. One cartoon showed the Kiira being pushed by two men apparently because there was no electricity to charge it.

One commentator wrote in the Sunday Monitor newspaper of "white elephants", suggesting the car may be just another prestige project. Makerere will be out to disprove that. It is reportedly already planning to produce a 37-seater electric van.

Another charge is that the Makerere team may simply have got parts and assembled them, which would raise questions of how much of the car was actually made in Uganda.

Togboa admitted that "standard components" like the headlights, wheel, motor and batteries were imported, but, he explained, the chassis was designed and produced locally, as were other parts, such as the firmware, which controls the computerised vehicle's operations. As Makerere's vice-chancellor said at its launch, the Kiira EV is a sign of the university's great potential – making the case for long-term research funding.

• This article was amended on 11 November 2011. In the original, a sentence in the last paragraph read: "Togboa admitted that 'standard components' like the headlights, wheel, mortar and batteries were imported". This should have read "motor". This has now been changed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

France Is Sending North African Graduates Home

France Is Sending North African Graduates Home

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO — Nabil Sebti, a 25-year-old Moroccan graduate of HEC Paris, one of the best and most competitive business schools in Europe, has started two businesses in France, one while still a student and one just after graduation. Yet he found himself catapulted back to Morocco this year after being denied a work permit.

"What is going on is unthinkable for a country like France, one that encourages republican and extremely strong humanist values," said Mr. Sebti, who studied in Paris on a student visa and graduated in June and who had also attended a French secondary school in Morocco. "At a time of crisis, France deprives itself of contributors to its economic growth. We are not asking to stay in France forever. We just ask for the opportunity to get a first experience in France, which will allow us to contribute to the development of our countries."

They speak French as a mother tongue, pepper cafe conversation with Sartre and Camus and are educated at some of the most elite schools in the country. And yet, a tightening of French immigration rules is forcing many recently graduated foreign students back home to North Africa, where few jobs await, potentially depriving France of productive, highly trained labor.

On May 31, Interior Minister Claude Guéant and Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand of France sent a memo — now called the "May 31 Circular" — to all prefectures in France, demanding a stricter application of the law regarding the status of foreign students applying for work permits and demanding a tightening of the number of permits issued.

"The government has set a goal to adapt to the legally set immigration needs," the circular reads. "Given the impact of the most severe economic crisis in history on employment, this implies a reduction of the flow."

As a result, foreign students say, obtaining a work permit after graduation has become a major challenge, and, since June, hundreds of them have returned to North Africa to economies offering little or no employment prospects.

"It was never easy to change status, but there clearly is a before May 31 and an after May 31. Today, it's not difficult but almost impossible," said Mr. Sebti, spokesman for the Collectif du 31 Mai, a group he started on Facebook to assist students in the same position to organize protests and to inform the news media about actions against the memo. "Before, when someone fulfilled all the requirements, within three weeks, they would get an answer from the prefecture. Today, students wait months to almost systematically get a no."

Mr. Sebti said that at the Val d'Oise prefecture in the Paris region, "they say at the entrance the waiting time is 12 to 18 months" and that they have so far refused all permits. The two companies Mr. Sebti set up in France were the publishing and marketing of mobile applications for smartphones and a small consulting firm supporting entrepreneurs launching their start-up.

"For foreign students, the 'Circular Guéant' is like a surprise storm passing through, that sweeps away all professional projects, " said Youssef, 25, from Morocco, a recent graduate with a master's degree in economics from Paris-Dauphine University, another top school, who requested his last name not be used to avoid compromising a pending work visa application.

With the global economy in crisis, "it would be naïve to believe that Morocco will not be affected," he said. "I am concerned over the ability of my country to absorb the flow of these graduates.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, the Interior Ministry's spokesman, said that while the objective was clearly to control legal immigration, it was not to systematically refuse work permits to foreigners. The new regulations would ensure that students were in France for serious studies and did not abuse education visas as a backdoor immigration route, he said.

"This circular simply asks officials to enforce an immigration law that was passed in 2006," Mr. Brandet said in a phone interview. "Students eligible for a change of status must get a job in line with their studies. We are also concerned about not plundering the elites of others countries — these elites who are trained in France can contribute significantly to the development of their nations."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Elizabeth Palchik Allen: Why Obama’s War In Uganda Isn’t Just About Humanitarianism | The New Republic

Why Obama's War in Uganda Isn't Just About Humanitarianism

Despite lingering concerns about the cost and scope of the mission, President Obama's recent decision to send 100 combat-equipped Special Forces to quell the Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA—a group of insurgents marauding around Central Africa—was met with a decent display of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill this past month. Senator Jim Inhofe is on board. So is Obama's old nemesis, John McCain, albeit with reservations. (As for Rush Limbaugh—well, he's getting plenty of pushback from his own side of the aisle.) And cooperation on this issue is nothing new: Last year, in May of 2010, Obama signed into law the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, a piece of legislation which had overwhelming bipartisan support, and which gave the White House the mandate it needed for the current deployment.

It's no accident that conservatives and liberals alike feel compelled to intervene in this conflict. For years, they've been hearing reports about the terrible crimes perpetrated in Uganda by the LRA. (The country is a favorite destination of evangelical missionaries, many of whom have publicized the crisis in D.C.) Over the past several decades, the militia—whose purported goal is to overthrow the Ugandan government and create a Christian theocracy ruled by its long-time leader Joseph Kony—has displaced millions from their homes and murdered tens of thousands. The LRA has also specialized in particularly heinous acts of brutality: grotesque mutilations (the routine slicing off of victims' lips and ears), pre-pubescent child soldiering, forced fratricide, and the widespread massacres of entire villages—all done with the goal of cowering civilians into submission and swelling the ranks of its forced conscripts.

And yet, while U.S. activism has largely been couched in the language of humanitarianism, there are also important, and surprising, strategic issues at stake. Of course, eliminating the LRA will bring a measure of peace to Central Africa. But the Obama administration's deployment is also intended to counter the regional ambitions of the rogue state of Sudan, and to maintain stability in the newly independent country of South Sudan. In that way, the humanitarian rhetoric in Washington has deflected attention from some of the major rationales for the military mission—and it may confuse how we eventually evaluate its success.


FOR MOST OF SUDAN'S post-colonial history, the country has been in the throes of civil war, pitting different regions against one another, but especially the South against the North. Historically, Uganda, which was Sudan's southern neighbor, had backed the South in these conflicts.

When Uganda's current president, Yoweri Museveni, swept the state in 1986, he made a renewed commitment, both logistical and material, to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, which at the time was only the latest in a string of southern rebels fighting a quasi-secessionist war against the Sudanese government in Khartoum. (Today, the SPLM/A is the main governing party in the newly independent Republic of South Sudan.) President Museveni had a strategic rationale for intervening in Sudan, but he was also motivated ideologically—that is to say, by the perceived racism of Sudan's Arab-dominated government. In an official Ugandan government profile, Museveni proudly declares himself "a lone figure in speaking out against the human injustice meted out on the Black people of Southern Sudan by racial bigotry."

In the early 1990s, though, Khartoum retaliated against Uganda's sponsorship of the SPLM/A by becoming a patron of the Lord's Resistance Army just across the border in northern Uganda. If Uganda was motivated to support the SPLM/A for ideological reasons, Sudan's support for the LRA was tactical. As far as Khartoum was concerned, the LRA was basically a quasi-mercenary force for hire—a group whose longevity and relevance depended on its ability to attach itself to a well-resourced patron. It should go without saying that Khartoum's support for the LRA is one reason why the group has survived for so long.

This support waned in the years after 9/11, given the Sudanese government's desire to avoid being blacklisted as a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism. (The LRA made the U.S. State Department's Terrorist Exclusion List, which was created in 2001 by the Patriot Act.) But with relations between the U.S. and Sudan fraying in recent years—because of the Darfur crisis, the subsequent ICC arrest warrant for Sudan's president, Omar al Bashir, and the U.S.'s strong diplomatic and financial support for a viable South Sudan—Washington is concerned that it no longer has the influence over Khartoum it once did. Indeed, many policymakers worry that the LRA could, once more, serve Khartoum's purposes, this time in destabilizing an already weak South Sudan, or wrecking havoc along the disputed border between the North and the South.

Indeed, there are suggestions that this is already happening. When I recently met with the spokesman for the Ugandan military, Col. Felix Kulayigye, he noted, "We don't have any proof of direct involvement [between the Sudanese government and the LRA], as of now, although Khartoum still runs an office that was coordinating the LRA with the Sudanese armed forces. We have no clear evidence that the cooperation is active. That said, among those of us who know Joseph Kony [the leader of the LRA], we believe he's been buying time, hoping that one day he's going to get another godfather to sustain him."

In addition to this strategic rationale, there are sound tactical reasons for Washington to strike against the LRA right now, and eliminate it for good. For starters, the group is weaker than it's ever been. Reportedly, it only has a few hundred fighters scattered throughout the region (primarily in Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan; the Ugandan military managed to expel the group from its borders back in 2005, and will lead the current military operation). Multi-nation peace talks involving the militia, which were held between 2006 and 2008, have also failed—although most agree that they were flawed. In any case, the fact that three of the senior-most leaders of the LRA, including Joseph Kony himself, all have ICC arrest warrants hanging over their heads means that a negotiated settlement of any kind is highly unlikely. During the peace talks, the group's leaders intimated that they had no intention of standing trial at The Hague.

That said, the specter of another military offensive against the LRA raises some uncomfortable questions about Washington's intentions and capabilities. Back in December of 2008, the U.S. provided intelligence and logistical support for an offensive code-named Operation Lightning Thunder, which targeted the LRA's camps in eastern Congo. The initial attack, however—which was led by the Ugandan military, but involved the armies of Congo and South Sudan—was severely botched. Not only did the LRA's top leaders escape unharmed, but the three regional armies failed to secure the civilian communities surrounding the camps. Shortly after the initial incursion, the LRA went on a murderous rampage, attacking several Congolese villages and killing almost 900 people in a span of just a few weeks. Given this recent history, it's fair to ask how, exactly, this current deployment will be any different—aside from the fact that more U.S. troops will be offering intelligence. As Norbert Mao, a well-respected politician out of northern Uganda, told me: "If this is going to be Operation Lightning Thunder Part II, then it may be costly to the reputation of the U.S."

But ultimately, while military force is necessary to stabilize this corner of Central Africa, it won't be sufficient. Currently in northern Uganda alone, tens of thousands of repatriated ex-combatants are roaming around the countryside, most without employable skills or a way to make a living. The government's Peace, Recovery and Development Plan, meanwhile, is poorly managed. And the United States's own "recovery" component of the LRA Disarmament Act has yet to be articulated. All this matters because the LRA itself emerged from the ashes of earlier rebel groups in Uganda that the government thought were demobilized and disbanded. As Mao put it, "If people are not reaping the peace dividends, another Joseph Kony could always emerge. It has happened before."

But that relative neglect may itself be an indication of American priorities. Whatever else happens in northern Uganda and the greater region after the mission is complete, the Obama administration will celebrate what else they've accomplished—namely, eliminating a threat to South Sudan, and dealing a blow to Khartoum. That's not the stuff that humanitarian interventions are made of, necessarily, but it may be enough for Washington to call a victory.

Elizabeth Palchik Allen is a freelance writer and research associate at the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment in Kampala, Uganda. Follow her one Twitter @alleneli.

Senators: US losing sway in Africa as China rises

Senators: US losing sway in Africa as China rises

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators voiced concern Tuesday that the United States has lost influence with African governments as China has emerged as the continent's main trading partner and a major source of investment for infrastructure development.

Sen. Chris Coons, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said that U.S. goals of promoting open societies in Africa was being challenged by China offering no-strings-attached investment for repressive regimes.

Coons, a Democrat, said about 70 percent of Chinese assistance to Africa comes in the form of roads, stadiums and government buildings, often built with Chinese material and labor, while 70 percent of U.S. government spending there goes on crucial but less visible support for people, particularly to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases.

"We may be winning the war on disease, while losing the battle for hearts and minds in Africa," he told a subcommittee hearing on China's role in Africa and its implications for U.S. policy. The panel oversees U.S. government policy but does not set it.

Coons' comments echo a common theme among U.S. policymakers, that China's rise as an economic and political power challenges America's global predominance.

Lawmakers criticized China's state-backed support for governments with poor human rights records. "China is interested in their own goals and has very little concern about the governance of the countries that they deal with," said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.

But experts told the panel that by supplying loans for infrastructure development, often in return for exports of commodities China needs for its own economic growth, the Asian power was responding to what African governments want, and filling a need unmet by Western nations.

David Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, gave the example of Angola, which had unsuccessfully sought Western investment after its civil war, and instead turned to China which helped develop infrastructure in return for the promise of oil exports.

Deborah Brautigam, a professor at American University, said that Chinese investment was often perceived to have a negative impact on human rights and democracy, principally because of Beijing's support of Zimbabwe and Sudan. But she said there was no evidence that political rights and freedom had declined in general across the continent.

Shinn, however, believed Chinese investment had to some degree undermined Western goals of promoting democracy, good governance and human rights. He said there also was evidence of Chinese companies importing technology to enable certain governments, such as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, to restrict the flow of information on the Internet.

He said China passed the United States as Africa's most important trade partner in 2009. In 2010, China-Africa trade totaled $127 billion, compared to U.S.-Africa trade of $113 billion. China also possibly is investing more in Africa than any other single country, he said.

Stephen Hayes, president of the Corporate Council on Africa, a group representing U.S. businesses in Africa, told the hearing that U.S. embassies should do more to advance American commercial interests. He also wanted the U.S. aid program to promote U.S. businesses as a partner in African development.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

'Whites only' restaurant in Ghana closed down | Local News

'Whites only' restaurant in Ghana closed down | Local News

Government has closed down a seafood restaurant in Osu, Accra for breaching Ghana's tourism laws.

The Atlantic Lobster and Dolphins Ltd is also alleged to be operating a policy of racial discrimination.

Elizabeth Okoro, a young woman with Ghanaian and Nigerian parentage accused the Italian owner of the restaurant of making racist comments.

According to her, she visited the restaurant with her Spanish friend but was shocked to learn that the restaurant was opened to whites only.

She explained the owners of the restaurant were operating a new policy in which only whites were allowed to register and become members of the club.

When she attempted to register to become a member on her second visit, she was told only whites were allowed to become members.

Elizabeth Okoro said she was stunned by the utterances by the restaurant official and vowed to resist any attempt to discriminate against blacks in Ghana or any other part of Africa.

She then blew the alarm through social network sites in a bid to raise awareness.

It appears her steadfastness has yielded dividend with government taking a prompt action against the restaurant, albeit with a different reason.

Deputy Tourism Minister James Agyenim Boateng has visited the restaurant and told Joy News' Israel Laryea the restaurant has been closed down.

He said the Atlantic Lobster and Dolphins Ltd is operating as a catering service and should have registered with the Ghana Tourism Board.

He said the closure is not premised on the allegations of racial discrimination but failure by the company to adhere to legislative instrument.

According to the deputy Minister, the Italian owner confirmed making the racial comments but described it only as a joke.

James Agyenim Boateng said that joke cannot be made at our own backyard.

However, the Italian owner in an interview with Joy News' Araba Koomson denied being racist.

Anthony Daliou said he is married to a Ghanaian wife who has a Ghanaian baby and could not have made such a racist comment.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Afro Latinos: Everywhere, Yet Invisible

Afro Latinos: Everywhere, Yet Invisible

Struggles with self-image, assimilation mirror Black American experience

By Cynthia Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

Last year, during a discussion on increasing the number of African Americans in Major League Baseball, Angel's centerfielder Torii Hunter in a USA Today interview called the dark-skinned Latino baseball players "imposters" and said they are not Black.

Hunter's comments strike at the heart of an issue that is one reason scholar Miriam Jimenez Roman is undertaking a three-day conference called "Afro Latinos Now! Strategies for Visibility and Action," on Nov. 3-5 in New York that will be the biggest such effort her organization, The AfroLatin@ Forum, has undertaken.

"This is the first time we have done such a comprehensive event where we discuss Afro Latinos specifically. We're going to look at the state of the field and where we want to be, and there is going to be a heavy emphasis on youth, especially those in middle school years."

Jimenez Roman says the confusion Hunter demonstrated about the connection between Africans born in Latin America and those born in the United States is particularly acute for U.S.-based 11- to 15-year-old Afro Latinos. In the context of a racist society like America, they are not only struggling to figure out how they feel about themselves, but also how they connect in relation to others, especially African Americans.

There are millions of Afro Latinos in America who live their lives in what is essentially a "Black" context but identify themselves as White, because of the perceived stigma of being African American, said Jimenez Roman, who last year came to the West Coast promoting her newly released book "Afro-Latino Reader," co-edited with Juan Flores. The 584-page publication, which grew out of the notes the two professors always pulled together for classes they taught, explores people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean.

"In the Latino community, we tend not to talk about race; it's in poor taste to bring up race and racism. It's the notion of complaining. If you make a big deal out of it, you are the problem, and they say you're playing the race card," explained Jimenez Roman, who is of Afro Puerto Rican background, and noted that during book events, African Americans were much more receptive to the reader than were Afro Latinos.

She attributes that to a dichotomy about race many Afro Latinos experience in their countries of origin.

"There is the idea that Latino culture is Mestizo and European and Indian, and Black people don't belong," said the race and ethnicity professor about how many Latin American countries think about themselves. In fact, Latinos of African descent have been in many countries for at least 200 years.

If they do acknowledge their Black citizens, Jimenez Roman said officials will say "they all live on the coast."

"This isolates them. Or in Bolivia, for example, there are Black communities in the mountains. They are totally isolated and ignored."

But in reality, Afro Latinos are everywhere in Latin America as they are in the United States, says the head of the AfroLatin@ Forum.

In Los Angeles, there is large community of Garifuna people and many Afro Mexicans in Pasadena.

The Garifuna are found primarily in Central America along the Caribbean coast in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, and are descendants of shipwrecked slaves who intermarried with the Carib Indians on the island of St. Vincent.

Both the British and French tried to colonize the island, but were initially rebuffed by the inhabitants. By 1796, however, the British were victorious in gaining control and shipped Black-looking Caribs to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. Only about 2,500 survived the voyage.

Because the island was too small and infertile to support their population, the Garifuna, originally called the Garinagu, petitioned the Spanish authorities to be allowed to settle on the mainland.

New York has the largest Garifuna population, heavily dominated by Hondurans, Guatemalans and Belizeans. Los Angeles ranks second and is populated by the Belizean Garifuna.

The City of Angels is also home to a growing number of Afro Mexicans who have both a contemporary and historical space in the city.

According to Alva Stevenson, program coordinator with the UCLA Department of Special Collections, who has spent the last 12 years researching and lecturing about Afro Mexicans, there were some Afro Mexicans in California in the early days prior to statehood, including the Pico family.

Two of the most prominent members of the Pico clan, Pio and Andres were intimately involved in the development of the region and the state. Both were businessmen who amassed fortunes from their various ventures, including a hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Both also served as key political figures—Pio as the last Mexican governor of California and Andres as a member of the Assembly once California gained statehood. Reminders of their presence today include a major thoroughfare, Pico Boulevard, named in honor of Pio.

Their paternal grandmother, María Jacinta de la Bastida, was listed in the 1790 census as mulata.

Stevenson said what is important to note is that the Pico family originated from a town in Mexico, Sinaloa, where two-thirds of the inhabitants were of African descent. And that sort of mixing was not unusual.

"In fact, a professor did a DNA study (in the last 20 years) in Northern Mexico and found that two-thirds of the people living in the region have African ancestry," Stevenson said.

Sinaloa was also one of the areas where the 44 Mexican settlers who helped found Los Angeles came from. About half of those pobladores, as they were called, were of African descent.

Contemporary Afro Mexicans have migrated to the Pasadena area. Trying economic times have also prompted many younger Afro Mexicans to migrate northward to the U.S. seeking work, and Stevenson said they have landed in locations like Santa Ana in Orange County and the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., region.

Jimenez Roman adds that while Afro Latinos are everywhere in the United States, there are larger pockets in regions like California's Bay Area, Louisiana (helping rebuild New Orleans), Florida, Detroit, Chicago, other parts of the Midwest and the Carolinas.

"There is a small community of Afro Mexicans who migrated across the border and are now working in processing plants in the Carolinas," said Jimenez Roman pointing out there are African-descended people from Colombia, Panama, Guatemala and Brazil in the United States.

For Afro Brazilian artist Bakari Santos, his arrival in Los Angeles was a just stopover during a backpacking journey to Europe 33 years ago; he visited a friend who is now the U.S. ambassador to Niger. He laughingly says, "I'm still on my way to Europe."

"I came here and had a tourist visa, and I found a job at the Brazilian Consulate," said Santos, who ended up in America after graduating college in Brazil with a biology degree. "I spent 10 years with the consulate, then after 10 years, I was tired of working for the government."

So, Santos drew on his longtime artistic bent and began to focus on making a living with his art.

"There were very few Brazilians in town at the time; the community who really helped me and gave me a good start was the African Americans," recalls Santos, who at that time in the '60s was still wearing his Afro.

Santos, is an example of the types of Afro Latinos that will typically immigrate to America, said Jimenez Roman—middle or upper class with the resources to travel. Many Afro Latinos are relegated to the bottom of the economy in Latin America and just do not have the resources to do much more than subsist.

They are often ignored, added the scholar, and she said that invisibility traditionally follows those who are able to immigrate to the United States.

That's one reason why it is so difficult to actually pinpoint exactly how many Afro Latinos are in the U.S. It's also a reason that the AfroLatin@ Forum partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to promote a campaign that urged Afro Latinos to check both the Latino and Black boxes.

"In the 2000 Census, there were 3 million Latinos who said they were Black; almost 2 million of them live in New York," said Jimenez Roman.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Understanding the reality of living as an Afro Latino in a very Black and White America means recognizing and talking about the fact that the lighter a person is, the more likely that individual is to say they are White and downplay, underplay or even ignore their African roots.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the darker Afro Latinos, who Jimenez Romano say often live with or next to African American communities, intermarry with them and take on the African American identity.

And then there is a third reality that is explored in a one-hour documentary, "The Neo-African Americans," by Ghana-born filmmaker Kobina Aidoo that questions ethnic identification in the context of rapid, voluntary immigration from Africa and the Caribbean (and Latin America) to the United States that is transforming the "African American" narrative. From Somalis in Minnesota, to Trinidadians in New York, to Afro Cubans in Miami, to Nigerians in Maryland, the term "African American" means something unique to everyone. But the film asks if these individuals are considered African Americans.

Uganda’s first electric car is plugged in, ready to go

Uganda's first electric car is plugged in, ready to go

"The car is ready," exclaimed Mr Paul Isaac Musasizi, the Project Manager of the Vehicle Design Mission at Makerere University, which has produced Uganda's first electric car.

The Kiira EV was yesterday tested for road and drive performance, ability to climb steep areas and ability to pick up speed, among other parameters. "The vehicle can pick speed very fast, the motor stands strong, the reverse is perfect, it properly climbed a 55 degrees incline, the performance is good," Mr Musasizi said after driving the vehicle for 4km reaching a top speed of 65km/hr.

More adjustments, however, still need to be done when the car is gaining speed as it tends to jerk. More power also needs to be added to the steering wheel and a horn installed for the vehicle to be fit.

The making of Kiira EV started in August 2009 with a handful of students at the College of Engineering Art and Design, formerly the Faculty of Technology.

"It was not easy; all we had was faith and no money but luckily in December 2011, President Museveni gave us a grant and we immediately started the work. Getting people onto the project was not easy either," said Mr Musasizi. They eventually had a team of 25. Bureaucracy to buy certain parts of the vehicle was another challenge the students faced and it delayed the making of the vehicle.

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The success of the car draws a lot of lessons both for the University and country, according to principal investigator of the Project, Prof. Sandy Tickodri-Togboa.

"Because the entire staff of a faculty is not often involved in such projects, it would help if all academicians got involved. This will improve methods of training at the University so that we are able to produce high caliber graduates," he said. 

Kiira EV is a two-seater electric vehicle. Its battery system consists of lithium-ion batteries, its maximum speed is 200km/hr and needs a recharge after running 80km.

Although some components of the car like the steering wheel and other minor accessories were imported from manufacturers outside Uganda, most parts of the car including the core body and combustion system were designed and built locally.

A thrilled Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba said: "A breed of youngsters with a nerve for technological inventions and innovations has been assembled." As the world targets reducing carbon emissions students and faculty at Makerere University are keen to show they are up to speed.