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Moved On

Bag and Baggage was fun while it lasted! But that was only until Jan. 2013. If you're looking for Denise Howell please visit denisehowell.info.

Changing Tech, Changing Law School

I'll be speaking Thursday at the 2013 Chapman Law Review Symposium on how law school (and particularly IP law) curriculum should change to keep pace with technology.  Our moderator is the brilliant John Tehranian (TWiL fans will remember him from Episode 120), and it'll be great to meet David Levine (me = huge fan of Hearsay Culture) and Deven Desai (me = huge and very long-time fan of Concurring Opinions).  

Here are some points I'd like to raise:

From Ruocaled on Flickr (CC/Attribution)Online distribution, licensing, and selective enforcement.  A traditional IP law education probably equips lawyers to help clients address the "Hey, they're using my thing and I didn't say they could" problem.  I don't know if it adequately equips lawyers to help clients with the "Hey, how do I get them to use my thing?" issue, however.  How can clients effectively use Creative Commons?  How can they effectively partner with YouTube and other distribution hubs?  In the case of Psy, thousands of parodies and remixes of an original work turned relative obscurity into global ubiquity.  A modern IP curriculum should give granting rights equal shrift with establishing and preserving them.

IP for all, and terms of service.  IP lawyers are traditionally well equipped to help commercial clients manage IP, but IP is increasingly something that touches people in their daily lives.  Can Facebook sell photos of your kid to AT&T?  What happens to IP you've posted to a social networking site after you terminate your account?  After your death?  Even though people don't read terms of service they care a lot about what rights they may be granting in their online photographs, reviews, tweets, blog posts, etc.  Lawyers should be learning how to draft IP terms of service that are clear and not overbroad.  They should also be learning how to advise clients about their rights in materials submitted to social networks, and about related right of publicity issues. 

From crschmidt on Flickr (CC/Attribution)Globalization.  I don't know how well a traditional IP law education equips lawyers trained in the U.S. to deal with the fact that a business with an online presence or business model is an international one.  Lawyers should be learning about treaties and global policies that effect IP considerations around the world.

IP Policy.  I hope a modern IP law curriculum looks at the state of
IP lawmaking:  recent unsuccessful attempts to extend IP protections
(SOPA, PIPA), the competing interests shaping IP legislation,
copyright and patent reform, etc.

If you're a law student and have any thoughts about what kind of changes you'd like to see in the IP law curriculum, please chime in.  (You'll be doing me a huge favor, as the last time I directly experienced IP law in the law school context, Ronald Reagan was President.)  


Colombia, Day 2: Off The Map

Looking up at the verdant walls of the huge bowl that is Medellín, and hearing the birds squawk "Chicharrón!" at us from the hotel garden, on our second morning in Medellín I felt like we'd already arrived in the jungle.  By nightfall I'd realize how wrong I was about that.  Medellín has more in common with Paris than with the region of Colombia we were about to visit:  the coastal area of the Chocó department, a scant 50 minute flight to the northwest.  

We spent a good, long time that morning at Medellín's regional Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport.  We'd been impressed the day before at the crisp, on-time bus arrivals and departures.  Planes in Colombia, it seems, are another matter.  Our Aerolínea de Antioquia flight's 10:00 a.m. departure time came and went, with no definite new time on the horizon.  A "creeping delay," my pilot friend Lorri advised. There was rain, but not much, and I'm not sure that had anything to do with it.  

Interestingly, our trip window was to have been in Colombia's dry season, but we learned that's been a moving target the last several years, with La Niña extending the rainy season longer than usual.

At one point an English speaking gate agent came over to check on us, leaving Lorri enormously impressed:  "American Airlines would never do that." We also spotted a couple I initially pegged as German who were waiting for the same flight and we decided to follow their lead; when they started packing up, so would we.  In the meantime, there were cappucinos, books, and journals, as well as donuts and Battleship played via bluetooth.  (We thought about lacing the kids' treats with their malaria pills, but opted to wait for later opportunities.  Bad call, that.)

After about a 2-hour delay we were given earplugs to guard against the de Havilland Otter's loud engines and our flight was ready to go.  Walking toward the plane we met the "German" couple, learned they spoke English, and that their destination was the same as ours:  The El Cantil Lodge, an hour's boat ride south of Nuquí.

We took off into a spitting rain, but still got some impressive views of Medellín as we ascended, flying over countless highrises and what looked like a sprawling university.  Most of our short flight was up in the rain clouds, so the ground below us remained a mystery.

When we started to descend, we could see where we were going, but the mystery, if anything, deepened.  Looking down, there was dark green.  No roads, no towns, no signs of human occupation.  Just green.  Then, also, brown, a river, and gray-blue, an ocean.

The plane dipped lower and the green pulled back enough to offer up a landing strip.  We were in Nuquí.

Nuquí was 50 minutes away from Medellín, but might as well have been on the other side of the world for all the resemblance it bore to the city.  You can hear and read over and over that you need to take a boat to where you're going because there are no roads, but you don't grasp what that means until you're there.  In this part of Colombia, "no roads" is more accurately stated "just jungle."  

An abandoned twin engine prop plane was busy becoming more vegetable than mineral.  The terminal interior was open-air, crumbling or under construction (perhaps both), roughly the size of my bedroom, and manned by two young soldiers bristling with automatic weaponry and special forces torsos.  I wasn't brave enough to take their picture, or even broach the subject.  Our eight-year olds were impressed, fascinated, and nowhere near as cowed by them as I felt (but cowed enough to bring their usual exclamations to a dull roar).  The document checking and collection of our strictly weight-limited luggage took just a few minutes, and we turned our attention to finding the boat that would take us to El Cantil.

There were quite a few people milling around the dirt airport courtyard and the gate leading out to the adjacent dirt road, but no one with a sign with our names.  Hmmm.  A tall, broad-shouldered, African-Colombian gent in a t-shirt, cargo shorts and an El Cantil hat came up to me.  His English and my Spanish were at hopeless odds.  It seemed like he was wondering if we needed a ride somewhere, and I tried to convey I thought we were meeting someone else. No one else was presenting themself, however.  Just then, we caught sight of the female half of the not-German couple from our flight and asked for help.  Her name was Nana, and she and her husband, it slowly unfolded, were not only also going to El Cantil, but worked there.  Wait, we still didn't have that right:  the husband's family owned the place.  Ah!  The El Cantil hat fellow worked with them.  We crossed the street to the boat.

I had just enough time to snap a picture of the dock before the sky started pelting sheets of sideways rain.  We'd had to consolidate luggage for this part of the trip, leaving much in Medellín and packing just the jungle essentials, or so I thought. Some rummaging revealed Tyler's rain slicker to be still warm and dry in our Medellín hotel.  Thankfully, the kids could not have cared less.  They stationed themselves in the front of the boat, scorning the offered plastic tarps and letting themselves get soaked through.  They had never seen the likes of Nuquí, and come to think of it, neither had I. 

Soldiers on a dock stopped us one more time to check and log passports as we motored up the channel past town and toward the ocean.  Lorri evinced a degree of calm about these guys and their firearms that I tried (badly) to emulate.  Rationally enough, Lorri told me later she figured a strong army presence meant we weren't likely to be hassled by FARC or other dissidents.  The guns just made me glassy-eyed and skittish.

I didn't have time to dwell on that for the next hour though, as we entered the ocean, opened up the outboards, and headed south.  The wind and rain that was busy slicing at us had churned the ocean into swells which our panga attacked like it was a cigarette boat.  The boys screeched, squealed, and jounced with glee.  "This is better than a roller coaster!" I just barely heard Tyler yell.  Nana, Lorri, and I hunkered down and held on.  From time to time I scanned the shore for signs of anything that wasn't jungle.  But everything was.  About 20 minutes after the bucking panga ride had lost its charm even for the boys, our driver slowed and backed into the tiny boat ramp at El Cantil.

The accommodations were canvas windowed huts that were solidly constructed and well maintained. The huts were divided to house two sets of guests, each side with its own bathroom, and a shared porch.  We hit a snag when Nana told us the four of us were booked into one room (we were supposed to have two), but our hut-mates weren't arriving until our third night, so she gave us the whole unit for the first two nights.  As we unpacked the boys used the porch-slung hammocks in ways I'm sure they'd never before been used.  Rolled up like a taco, upside down, emerged as their favorite posture.

 

We were soaked and chilly after the boat ride, and, though lunch was waiting for us, I stripped for a quick shower.  To warm up.  The bathrooms were spacious, clean, and offered gorgeous open air views to the jungle.  There was excellent water pressure.  But zero hot water.  "Um, Lorri?  There's no hot water,"  I spluttered from under a 60 degree stream.  Silence.  I was fast learning Lorri was a world-class, hardcore, nigh unflappable traveler.  But she loves her some hot water.  Don't we all.

We adjourned for the first of a series of excellent meals at El Cantil.  The menu consists of things they pull fresh out of the ocean and fresh from their garden, and everything we had there was delectable.  Tyler struggles with anything that isn't pasta, so I could tell his intake here would be lean, but knew that if kids are hungry enough, they eat.  Our strategy of burying their malaria pills in ice cream wouldn't work here though, as there was none to be had.  We experimented with melting them in soup (bad) and tucking them into other desserts (better).  

Though it was late in the afternoon, Nana told us we had time for the short hike to a nearby stream with a waterfall, and we grabbed our cameras and children and headed out.  Guiding us was a sweet kid from the village of Termales, an hour's walk south along the beach and home of most of the people who work at El Cantil.  We didn't share a common language, but smiles and hand gestures worked fine.  We found the stream about 10 minutes up the beach.  Our guide showed us some prickly plant pods (they looked like sea urchins) the local monkeys use as brushes.  

Soon we were at the waterfall, and what followed was a couple of hours of the sort of bliss you can only have on vacation in a place like this.  The rain had stopped, and the waterfall had a shallow basin for swimming.  The water wasn't warm, but not frigid either, and while Lorri and the kids explored downstream a bit I ventured in.  As soon as they got back and saw I wasn't getting throttled by anacondas or other submerged nasties, they all came in and we let the waterfall give us a good massage.  It was spectacular.

We picked our way back to the lodge eventually, letting the boys play on the beach and find critters, which they absolutely love.  There were enough hermit crabs to keep them occupied for a month.

When we got back to El Cantil the boys stayed in the ocean and made friends with some girls also staying at the lodge, and Lorri and I began to take the place in.  Coco palms lined the beach, with coconuts lying around in great heaps. Vibrant ginger, hibiscus, and orchids grew in profusion.  Dusk came around 5:30, and with it the housekeeping ladies to light the hurricane lamps:  one on the porch and one inside each room and bathroom.  By 6:00 it may as well have been midnight, the darkness was so thick and complete.  At El Cantil there is electricity only in the communal dining room, and only between the hours of 6-10 p.m.  No Internet.  Marginal and unpredictable cell service.  The boys collected some of our packed flashlights and kept exploring the grounds and wildlife, while we enjoyed wine on the porch with Micheline, mother of one of the boys' new friends.

Dinner that night was again delicious: grilled fish, rice, plantains, salad, a key lime custard for desert.  In some places in the world, travellers converge around a cozy fire for drinks and talk.  At El Cantil, it's the power strips:  a starfish-like profusion daisy chained off the dining lodge's couple of outlets.  Phones, iPads, computers, camera flashes, and sundry batteries all fought for their share of juice to face the coming day, and their owners got to know one another while jockeying for plug space.  There was a Brazilian model/surfer and her film/photography crew.  An extended family on an annual visit.  And Micheline, a D.C. resident who'd adopted a girl from Bogotá. The girl's sister and former foster mother still lived in Bogotá, so Micheline had arranged this trip for them all so the sisters could visit.

Micheline, Lorri, and I reconvened on our porch to finish our wine by lantern while the kids shone their lights into the dark places around us.  Some details of our conversation bore into my subconscious like woodworms.  Micheline had purchased kidnapping insurance from Lloyd's of London to cover her various trips here.  She also thought the small army encampment we'd noticed on a stream right next to El Cantil was stationed there because some tourists had been taken from this area by FARC maybe a year or two ago.

We called it an evening when it started lightly raining again.  Tyler and Ryan had wanted to sleep in the porch hammocks, but Nana was pretty adamant we should sleep in the beds under the provided mosquito nets.  The mosquitos here weren't annoying:  they were few, small, and made pinprick bites, not big red welts.  Malaria didn't seem to be a big issue in the region, but as parents we were trying to be careful and responsible.  So, under the netting we went, with the boys having a sleepover in one room while Lorri and I drifted off watching Water for Elephants on her iPad in the other.

More photos from Day 2 are here and here.

Next time:  I'd make sure I knew who was meeting us at the airport and how we'd know them, and be better informed about the availability of things like power, communications, and hot water. There seemed to be several layers of arrangement-makers between Viventura and El Cantil, so I'd personally reconfirm the number and availability of rooms.  Also, be more mentally prepared for the military.

Next up:  Our second day at the El Cantil Ecolodge.

Please see:  the disclosures at the end of this earlier post.


Colombia, Day 1: 644-Step Program

Yawn, stretch: if it's Tuesday, this must be Medellín!  After about six hours' sleep in Hotel San Lorenzo de Aná, it was time to get moving and see some of Colombia.  We'd been combing over our Viventura itinerary for so long, it was hard to believe we were now about to live it.  Our hotel was small, basic, clean, had TVs in the rooms, and a pretty garden.  The boys were fascinated by the garden's birds, bugs, and rocks.  Though Medellín is not coastal, and sits at elevation 1,495 meters/4,905 feet, it is nevertheless lush, green, and tropical.

At our post-midnight check-in, my pal Lorri and her son Ryan (who'd been there a day, and had stayed up to welcome us), let us know we'd need to leave with our guide Stephanie at 8:30 sharp .  We enjoyed our arepas, eggs, and excellent coffee. Lorri and Ryan had had a great time exploring the city the day before, and Lorri was anxious to see more of Parque Jjeras down the hill.  We liked our little hotel, though Lorri's shower knob was broken or touchy or both, and she'd had a hard time dialing in the right temperature.  (Later in the trip, we'd find ourselves grateful for any semblance of hot water, but we were blissfully ignorant of this as yet.)


Our guide Stephanie arrived and told us we'd be going to the bus station, then a drive up and over the mountains surrounding Medellín to the towns of Peñol and Guatapé.  A tiny car met us in the driveway for the short ride to the bus station, so we put Stephanie up front, stuffed the four of us in the back, and were on our way.

The Terminale del Norte bus station was busy but not packed.  I could tell the boys were impressed by the place, mainly because there were no shortage of opportunities to buy candy and sweets.  There were enough open seats on the bus for Tyler and Ryan to sit together, and for Lorri and I to sit behind them.  The boys were both equipped with app-laden iPads for the long drive and were itching to plunge into them.  Though I'd rather my son appreciate the view more than on-the-road electronics permit, you've got to pick your battles and I enjoy peaceful rides as much as I presumed our fellow passengers did.

As we followed the Río Medellín out of town, Stephanie told us about the elaborate Christmas displays we were passing, and the huge farmer's market, the Central Mayorista.  She was German, but had been living in the city for five years, and was knowledgeable, friendly, and sweet.  Once out of Medellín, the bus stopped every 15 or 20 minutes to let people on and off.  At these stops, and also especially at toll plazas, Extreme Food Vendors would board in front and traverse the length of the bus.  They had mostly sweet snacks wrapped in paper or plastic and dangling from sticks.  Once they'd satisfied everyone's craving for chocolate or coconut filled bread, they'd step lightly out the rear exit — and the fact the bus by then was doing 10-20 MPH didn't phase them a bit.

The drive was fascinating.  There were farms with skinny horses, nurseries, places you could buy pre-fabricated homes, tons of small roadside cafés.  Many of the buildings were made of or used bamboo, and Stephanie told us how a plentiful local species is often used in housing.  The roads were in excellent shape except where they weren't — mudslides are commonplace in the lush, densely vegetated mountains.  (I kept an eye out for Kathleen Turner in her newly macheted flats.)  We had excellent cell signal throughout, so I was able to pull up Peñol and Guatapé in Stuck On Earth and give Lorri a preview of our destination.   

We reached El Peñón de Guatapé, a black monolith rising out of the landscape between two small towns about 55 miles NE of Medellín, at about 11:00 a.m.  A brick stairway switchbacks its way to the 7,000 ft/2,000 km summit.  We opted for a quickie cab ride from the main road to the base, during which the boys asked Stephanie, who translated and asked the cabbie, what the rock is made of.  He didn't know, but said many locals think it's a meteorite — which the boys found very cool.  Before tackling the steps to the top we made a restroom stop.  This is where I learned the Colombian rule of toilet paper:  you either bring it with you, pay for it, or marvel that you didn't have to bring it with you or pay for it.  Having been in the country already a day, Lorri performed TP management and brought me up to speed.  

The walk up looked more daunting than it was.  The stairs dip in and out of sunlight and shadow, and the view across the adjacent valley and reservoir improves with each turning.  Bromiliads spring from the rock's sheer sides, and the shrine to Mary halfway up makes a nice resting spot and view point.

The top rewarded us for our efforts.  There was ice cream, a little rain, and spectacular vistas.   The boys ran around and took pictures of us, each other, the view.  We chatted with Stephanie about the hydroelectric dam that had formed the reservoir in the 1960's, and the farms, buildings, and churches that are now under water.

On the way back down, Tyler doggedly counted every step.  He got 606, but that didn't include the ones to the topmost observation tower at the summit.

With El Peñón under our belts, it was time to think about lunch so we grabbed a quick cab into Guatapé.  We dined on the lakeside patio of La Fogata, and had yummy trucha (trout) and other local fare.  We were happy we arrived when we did, because about five minutes after we got settled at a prime lakeside table, a tour bus full of Colombians on holiday arrived and took every other seat in the place.  The woman at the table next to us did an impromptu, operatic duet with the musicians serenading the diners.  For dessert, we snagged ice cream from the spot next door for the boys and successfully got them to take their malaria pills (which we were taking in anticipation of the jungle portions of the trip) by burying them inside.  This was to become a daily challenge:  how to transform adult malaria pills into something kids would actually ingest.  

We spent the balance of the afternoon touring the Guatapé Reservoir in a tiny boat.  Remarkably, the reservoir and its gorgeous, glassy water were devoid of water sports lovers.  There were only small boats such ours and one or two larger tour boats.  The shores were forested, green, and dotted with fincas (vacation home estates). There was also an eerie artifact of Colombia's Pablo Escobar days.  His former, once luxurious finca, still juts into the reservoir on a commanding piece of property, but today it's a charred and graffitied shell.  Stephanie told us there are several of Escobar's erstwhile homes in similar condition throughout the country, left this way as a cautionary tale and reminder of his ill-fated end.

We stopped nearby at Puerto de la Cruz, once the colonial-style home of a doctor, now a café and museum. Photos and exhibits tell how people nearby were relocated to Guatapé when the dam was built and the reservoir flooded their land.  We took our time there, enjoying some cervezas. cappucino, hot cocoa, and spectacular views. 

Too soon, it was time to get back to Guatapé and catch the bus back to Medellín.  We enjoyed the boat ride back and more strolilng through the picturesque town of Guatapé. Guatapé is full of dazzlingly colored buildings, many of which include bas-relief artwork between the sidewalk and about hip level.  The town has a beautiful church, packed for mass on a Tuesday afternoon, and a conveniently located wine bar where we provisioned up for the ride home.  It also has a wild-looking canopy ride over the lake.  We were tempted, but our kids were a bit young for that particular adventure (I think the minimum age for riders was 15).

After a long and crowded bus ride back, we had a few minutes to freshen up and go meet our Viventura host Matt Dickhaus for dinner.  Tex-Mex in Medellín?  Yep, at T-Bar Restaurante.  I think you can find just about every cuisine imaginable around Parque Lleras.  Over our first shot of aguardiente (the national drink; a little like ouzo), we discussed the rest of our trip.  We had a flight the next morning to Nuquí for 3 nights on the Pacific Coast. Then, back to Medellín with time, we hoped, for sightseeing and shopping, and off again to the Caribbean coast, this time with Matt coming along for the ride.  Lorri and I were a little nervous about the Nuquí leg of the trip, where, during the transit portion, we'd be left to our own devices without a guide.  But someone from the lodge was to meet us at the airport, so we weren't too worried.  

We talked too about the Hotel Charlee across from where we were dining.  It looked like the local equivalent of the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas.  Lorri and Ryan had taken the full tour before we arrived.  The art ("naked people!") and rooftop club/lounge/pool had made quite an impression.  

All in all, a great end to an exhausting but fun day.

More photos from Day 1 are here and here.

Next time:  I'd take private transportation to Guatapé and Peñol.  The bus was efficient and a good window into the culture, but long and crowded.  I'd also make sure to save enough time for the Canopy ride, and probably spend a night or two in Guatapé.

Next up:  Flying to Nuquí, and on by boat to the El Cantil Ecolodge.

Please see:  the disclosures at the end of this earlier post.


You're Awfully White: Getting To Colombia

Tyler and I left at the crack of dawn to make our 9 a.m. flight from L.A. on the one day it rained in December.  Some day in my life I'll be early for a flight. This wasn't the day — but I did manage to slap on a coat of mascara just before running out the door.

En route to Miami I did mental victory laps about finishing Christmas wrapping, tree trimming, and otherwise clearing the decks so we wouldn't return to a mess of holiday stress and activity.  (By the way/groan:  as I write this, our tree is still up.)  I read our itinerary, Spanish vocabulary cards, and the Lonely Planet guide, and tried not to re-read the part about how few visitors bring young children to Colombia. 

Early evening in Miami, we traversed the airport by train and foot to make our connection to Medellín.  We've been through Miami airport before, and Tyler reminisced loudly about trips gone by as we trotted along.  I gave serious consideration to cutting, running, and re-routing our journey to the Florida Keys.  

In the departure lounge for Medellín, I perused our fellow travelers discreetly.  Lots of U.S. business people with sensible polos, khakis, and rollerboard carry-ons.  Lots of families returning home.   Very vanilla; I felt like we blended right in.  But no amount of swiping could make the electronic boarding passes on our iDevices work (though they'd gotten us to Miami without a hitch), so it was out of line, get paper boarding passes, try again, board late, and scramble to our cramped aft seats.

Enter Damien.  Damien was tall and broad-shouldered, sporting dark glasses in the already dark cabin, and a blonde, ungelled mohawk flowing down across his shoulders.  His thick arms wore only a series of intricate, reptile skin tattoos.  Boarding just before the cabin doors shut, Damien stashed his bag in a first-class overhead bin, then combat-booted it back to our row in the cheap seats. Apparently Tyler and I had accidentally taken window-middle instead of middle-aisle.  (Doesn't A-B-C usually mean window-middle-aisle?)  I offered to move but Damien let us stay put — after dropping an f-bomb, p-bomb (i.e., "If I weren't such a f****** p****..."), and making it clear I knew it was a good thing he wasn't an a-hole.  (Which had something of the opposite effect.)  Tyler would have thoroughly enjoyed Damien's "sentence enhancers" (as Spongebob would put it), but was deep in an audio book and oblivious.  [Update:  in the comments, Damien swears — heh — no f-bombs were dropped, and I'll take his word for it.  My memory may have embellished.]

Once seated, Damien looked us over.  "You're awfully white to be going to Colombia,"  he deadpanned, despite the fact he himself was clearly of Viking stock, with snowy white skin but for his scaly green forearm flexors.  I told him what we were up to, and Damien and I had a great chat for the next 2 1/2 hours.  He's from Toronto and lives most of the year in Medellín.  He's been to L.A. but not Newport Beach, which I tried to describe:  shopping malls, law firms and stock brokerages, gated communities (though saying you don't live in one is like Clinton proclaiming he didn't inhale).  "Coach bags and SUVs?" he asked.  "Bingo."   

Damien has a place in Medellín, where life is good and real estate prices are, he told me, very attractive.  His local knowledge was far more interesting and potentially useful than the guide book's.  I learned:
  • Manicures and pedicures cost the equivalent of $4 U.S. in Medellín and are awesome.  Colombians love to have well-groomed nails.
  • Wedding bands are worn on the right hand.  (I moved mine.)
  • Damien said Colombian men were "10 times worse than Italians" when it comes to hitting on unaccompanied women.  To stop unwelcome advances, he told me the culturally appropriate tack is to cock your head to one side, give the offender a narrow-eyed once-over, then flash the thumbs-down.  Damien said this would instantly convert any would-be suitor to a harmless best friend/big brother.  (Thankfully I never had to try this, and don't know if I would have had the chutzpah to pull it off.)
Completing our tourist cards, Damien borrowed my pen and I borrowed his brain.  Viventura's itinerary didn't include the name and address of our Medellín hotel, but Colombia wanted this information.  "Put down 'Poblado.' You're definitely in Poblado."  El Poblado turned out to be an upscale, touristy part of the city, and Damien turned out to be absolutely right.     

Though our seat mate's offer of a chiva party bus ride into town was tempting, we spotted Bernardo, who had a comforting sign with our names on it, in the throng of humanity outside customs.  It was close to midnight and we still had a 40-minute drive to the hotel.  Tyler and I thus slipped quietly down the mountainside into Medellín, enjoying the city lights views, 4-bar cellular service, kamikaze motorcyclists, and road signs reminding us we weren't remotely near Kansas any more.

Next time:  I'd take the red-eye to Miami with upgraded seats, grab some sleep on the plane, get to Medellín the next morning and make that a non-tour, rest-and-get-settled day.  Our friends flew in the day before us, went to the science museum (modeled after S.F.'s Exploratorium; there's also a bug museum the kids would have loved), and really benefitted from the buffer day.
Next up:  La Piedra del Peñol y La Reserva de Guatapé (The Peñol Rock and The Guatapé Reservoir), and dinner in El Poblado.

Please see:  the disclosures at the end of this earlier post.
(Amazon links above are affiliate links.)

The Six Stages Of Colombia

On August 4, 2011, I'd never thought of visiting Colombia.  I didn't even have a precise idea where it was in South America.

However, I'd joined Google+ the month before, had been using the service, and at that time I think about 10,000 people had me in circles.  (The growth on Google+ has been remarkable.  On Twitter, some 8,000 people follow me and that's been constant for awhile.  On Google+ at the moment, 245,590 people have me in circles, up from 10K in early August and 0 in early July.  I have no idea why there's such rapid uptake on Google+ or why the huge disparity with Twitter, which I've used for five years.)  For this reason, 26-year old Matt Dickhaus, head of U.S. marketing for Viventura, emailed and asked if I wanted to "participate in a South American tour," possibly for free.

With apologies to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, thus began my Six Stages of Colombia.

Stage 1 - Incredulity.  People don't offer me trips to South America every day.  I was intrigued but skeptical.  I don't stay at "free" hotels that require a time-share pitch, and this seemed like a possible branch of that tree.  Also, I have an 8-year-old, Tyler, who, when you pick him up and shake him, feels only somewhat ready for international travel - not quite ripe, in other words.  Leaving him home wasn't an option, nor did I want to. 

Stage 2 - Excitement.  Matt and I started emailing and speaking by phone.  Tyler adores animals, and has been obsessed with the rainforest since age 3.  We honed in on Colombia.  Viventura had never had young children join a tour (they generally recommend travelers be at least 14), but Matt and his team began putting together a new itinerary:  "a kid friendly journey with a focus on the beautiful beaches and extraordinary wildlife Colombia has to offer."  Plus, what Viventura wanted from me was something I'd want to do anyway:  post pictures, share the experience online.  Viventura could accommodate up to 9 people on a tour, so I started asking friends with kids if this was something they could see themselves doing.  I offered to spread my "free" trip across all the travelers so what it would amount to was a slightly deeper discount than the 10% off they would already receive.  I asked local friends.  I asked relatives.  I asked Evan Brown.  I asked Rick Klau.  Many were interested but it's a lot for people to drop everything and haul their kids to South America, and our travel dates were right up against the holidays.

Stage 3 - Panic.  By October 3, I was serious enough about the trip to be looking into nitty-gritty details, like air fare (expensive and indirect, from Los Angeles), and safety.  Our anchor city for much of the trip was Medellín, which no North American adult can hear without also immediately inserting the words "Drug Cartel."  U.S. State Department advisories about Colombia are somewhat encouraging ("Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years" and "The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak at the beginning of this decade"), but also chilling:

[T]errorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. Kidnapping remains a serious threat, with two kidnapping cases of U.S. citizens reported since August 2010. One kidnapped citizen was rescued within 4 days and the other case resulted in the murder of the victim. Kidnapping in rural areas is of particular concern. On July 2, 2008, the Government of Colombia rescued 15 hostages, including three U.S. citizens, who had been held for more than five years. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to or strike deals with kidnappers. Consequently, the U.S. government's ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited

[Link mine.]  Matt and I emailed.  He's originally from Florida.  He has lived and traveled in Colombia without incident for two years.  They've been running tours for 5 years with non-U.S. customers (primarily Germans) without a single issue:  no thefts, let alone a kidnapping.  Matt's the poster child for the country's official tourism campaign, The Only Risk Is Wanting To Stay:  he went there on vacation and decided to stay on. 

At this point, the exponential growth of Google+ was starting to creep me out.  I was now in over 50,000 people's circles.  I told Matt that if we did this, I didn't want to post during the trip.  Someone could readily follow along with our online itinerary and have an unpleasant surprise waiting at our next destination.  No problem, Matt completely understood, and sent me more information about Colombia, crime, drugs, and kidnapping.  Bottom line:  I was reassured.

Stage 4 - Excitement.  This trip was sounding amazing.  Pacific beaches, Caribbean beaches, the historic city of Cartagena, a mud volcano, probably more animal and plant species than in any other country on the planet regardless of size?  Tyler and I were so in.  And, it turned out, so were were my great friend and neighbor Lorri Megonigal, and Tyler's best pal on earth, her son Ryan.  We started organizing.  Rick Steves travel satchel?  Check.  Packable beach toys?  Check.  Shots and pills...?

Stage 5 - Dread.  The next U.S. government Web site to throw cold water on the proceedings was the CDC.  You don't go to the beach and jungle regions of Colombia without innoculations for yellow fever, typhoid, and Hepatitis A and B.  And with malaria, of course, there's no vaccine (have you read State of Wonder?), you have to take preventative pills.

Ugh, two 8-year-olds and a battery of shots and pills.  It was a testament to how much the kids wanted to go that they sucked it up and did it.  Not without tears and trauma, but they did it.  My son had never swallowed pills before, and we learned that capsules (assisted by water through a straw) are easier than tablets, and tablets (even foul tasting ones) are easiest with peanut M&Ms.  Yellow fever shots make your arm sore.  They make a little kid's arm considerably more so.

The sales clerk at my local Ace Hardware is a dead ringer for Sofia Vergara, a decade or so from now.  I asked her where was she from.

"South America." 

"What country?"

"I don't talk about that."

"Is it Colombia?  Because we might go to Colombia."

"Djyehs."

End of discussion. 

We spent Thanksgiving with good friends, one of whom travels often to Medellín and Bogotá for business.  While there, he is constantly accompanied by armed private security and uses armored ground transport.

There are land mines in various parts of the country, we learned.  Not on our itinerary.  But still.

Stage 6 - Excitement.  We paid our initial deposit, bought travel insurance, checked our existing insurance for what it covered, bought international phone and data plans.

I started cruising Clicker.com for Colombia videos.  Anthony Bourdain did a great one on Medellín and Cartagena.  Music Voyager made me want to salsa, and further assured me visits could be fun and safe.  Globe Trekker showed gorgeous Cartagena and described its pirate past.  I shared these with friends (including my travel companion) and family to help them feel better about our decision; nearly everyone I told about the trip expressed something between surprise and alarm.  I read about smuggling subs in Wired, saw that the FARC leader had been taken out, and noted the myriad videos about drug and FARC violence were mostly out of date. 

I met a sweet woman with no English, and her daughter, my son's age, with some, at a fall craft fair.  She was a talented artisan and made beautiful leather goods.  They were from Colombia.

Another friend is from Colombia, Barranquilla.  At their holiday party, her sweetheart of a mother gushed about the country and offered to teach me some salsa. 

Someone reminded me to dig up Romancing The Stone.  (I've yet to see Colombiana.)

By November 12, we'd booked air fare, paid deposits, and were definitely going.  If we didn't know anything else, we knew it would be an adventure.

Disclosures.  I've been following the discussions begun several years ago by Jeff Jarvis and renewed this month by Rafat Ali and Jeremy Head, about bloggers, travel, exposure, and junkets.  I'm also well aware of my obligations under the FTC Endorsement Guides and regulations.  As I think you'll see in coming posts, the arrangement between me and Viventura wound up being more of a beta test than a junket.  I traveled, I gave feedback, and now I'm writing.  In order for you to assess my objectivity, or lack thereof, for yourself, here are all the benefits and incentives Viventura provided.

  • 1 tour package, ordinarily priced at $1,745.00 U.S.,
  • 10% discount for those traveling with me (children priced same as adults),
  • 2 surprise Salsa lessons in Cartagena,
  • 1 surprise 1-night hotel upgrade, following some flight arrangements gone awry,
  • 2 small wooden boxes of coffee candy as farewell gifts, and
  • 4 days traveling with Matt Dickhaus as interpreter, guide, all-around good guy, and child-whisperer.

Other than the meals included in my complimentary tour (4 dinners and what wound up being 7 breakfasts, for 1 person), we paid for all our own food and drink, our air fare to Colombia, hotel incidentals, some taxis, entrance fees for Tayrona and El Piedra del Peñol, and horse rental fees in Tayrona.  For more on what is and is not included in the tour, go here.

Next up, our first day in Colombia:  staying in Medellín, and traveling to La Piedra del Peñol y La Reserva de Guatapé (The Peñol Rock and The Guatapé Reservoir).

(Amazon links above are affiliate links.)


Back From Colombia

At the behest and hospitality of Matt Dickhaus and Viventura,  I've just gotten back from a trip to Colombia, where I was joined by my son Tyler (8), good friend Lorri Megonigal, and her son Ryan (8), on an amazing adventure.  We went to Medellín and its environs, the Pacific coast, the Caribbean coast, and one or two unexpected places along the way. 

Over the next couple of weeks as the holiday dust settles, I'll tell you much more about how we decided to go to Colombia (it unfailingly raises eyebrows), where we went, the people we met, the animals who ate our food and pooped on us, our impressions along the way, the mud we wore (voluntarily and otherwise), and what's on my list for our next visit. I can't wait to narrate and re-live our experiences, as it was alternately magical, frustrating, eye-opening, and once-in-a-lifetime fun.

As you know I'm a technology lawyer, not a travel writer. But I have a medium-ish online footprint, and Viventura would like U.S. travelers interested in South America to know they're there. I've never opted in to a subsidized trip like this before (and don't know if I would again, or even be asked), but the good thing about being tapped to beta-test Viventura's program is it got me and my son off our keisters and on the road. We weren't looking to go to South America but I'm so glad we did.

Viventura comped the expense of my tour (otherwise $1,745 U.S.), and gave a 10% discount to everyone traveling with me. We paid for our own international airfare (pricey) and most of our food while there (cheap). I'm under no obligation to say good things about the experience or the company, and when I write it up in detail I'll let you know what was spectacular and what was less so. 

I look forward to telling you more soon about our time in Colombia! In the meantime, a warm and tranquil holiday to you and your family. (For our part, we have a renewed appreciation for hot showers and sane drivers.)


TWiL 134 - 139

Thanks to our wonderful panels on the last several episodes of This WEEK in LAW!

134 Siri: Sony? Sunny.

135 Spouses Bearing iPhones

136 Patent Thickets And Words With Friends

137 iLaw: Justice Inside.

138 A Face For Booze

139 Strike The Pose

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Just days after the ceasefire in Gaza ended 11 days of bombing, The Listening Post spoke with two Palestinians who have tilted international attention towards their struggle. Contributors: Muna al-Kurd - Sheikh Jarrah resident and activist Hosam Salem - Gaza Palestinian photographer On our radar Richard Gizbert and producer Tariq Nafi discuss Israelas crackdown on reporters in East Jerusalem, and the international journalists calling out their own media operations for sanitising the oppression of Palestinians. How to cover apartheid: A human rights perspective with Hagai El-Ad Human rights groups are reframing the discussion about Israel's domination of Palestinians. Richard Gizbert interviews Hagai El-Ad, executive director of Israeli human rights organisation, BaTselem. Contributors: Hagai El-Ad - Executive director, BaTselem - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

Keyword Selected: media

Sudan's military coup and the stifling of speech | The Listening Post

Sudanas flirtation with democracy ends in a coup daetat - how far will its leaders go to control what we know about the story? Contributors: Mohanad Hashim - journalist Jonas Horner - deputy director, Horn of Africa, Crisis Group Yassmin Abdel-Magied, writer and broadcaster Raga Makawi - editor, Africa Arguments On our radar: As Myanmaras military courts sentence journalists arrested after the coup that removed democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi, producer Nicholas Muirhead talks Richard Gizbert about the release of American journalist Danny Fenster. Eric Zemmour: The political rise of Franceas far-right polemicist Far-right French journalist Eric Zemmour has yet to declare himself a presidential candidate - but has he already set the tone for next yearas election? Contributors: Rokhaya Diallo - contributor, C8 and The Washington Post newspaper Christophe Deloire - secretary-general, Reporters Without Borders Aurelien Mondon - associate professor of politics, University of Bath

Hate speech and misinformation in Ethiopiaas war | The Listening Post

As Ethiopia stares down the barrel of all-out civil war, a government-imposed communications blackout is allowing hatred and disinformation to thrive. Contributors: Berhan Taye - Digital researcher Nima Elbagir - Senior international correspondent, CNN Claire Wilmot - Research officer, LSE On our radar: This week, a routine news conference in Athens turned into a shouting match between a Dutch journalist and the Greek prime minister. Meenakshi Ravi tells Richard Gizbert about the media furore that ensued. War and PiS: An attack on Polandas biggest news channel: Back from the brink, still on the air - the Polish 24-hour news channel that remains in the governmentas crosshairs. Contributors: Brygida Grysiak - Deputy editor-in-chief, TVN24 Tomasz Lis - Former anchor, TVN & editor-in-chief, Newsweek Poland ElA1/4bieta Rutkowska - Journalist, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna Beata Tadla - Former anchor, TVP & host, Onet.Pl

Climate crisis: Can journalists make the world care? | The Listening Post

Climate change: News organisations, fossil fuel companies and audiences all need to do better on the story that could mean the end of us. Contributors: Meera Selva - deputy director of the Reuters Institute Genevieve Guenther - founder and director, End Climate Silence George Monbiot - author and columnist David Gelber - co-founder, The Years Project On our radar: A year after war broke out in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedas government has declared a six-month state of emergency. Producer Flo Phillips joins Richard Gizbert to discuss the effect it is having on freedom of expression. The hate crimes going viral in India: Violence against Muslims, filmed by the perpetrators, is the latest ugly trend among Indiaas Hindu vigilantes. Contributors: Alishan Jafri - journalist, The Wire Hate Watch Angana Chatterji - anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley and co-editor of Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism is Changing India Saba Naqvi - author of Shades of Saffron 00:00 Intro 02:15 The climate crisis 11:29 Ethiopiaas ongoing conflict 13:42 Violence against Muslims in India 23:48 End note

Arrests & defamation: Bollywood in the dock in Modias India | The Listening Post

Aryan Khan, the son of one of Indiaas biggest movie stars, Shah Rukh Khan, was charged with possessing and trafficking drugs. We take a look at the drug bust that tells a story of the conflict between the Indian authorities and Bollywood. Contributors: Namrata Joshi - Journalist and film critic Vivek Agnihotri - Film director Sucharita Tyagi - Film critic Tejaswini Ganti - Assistant Professor, Anthropology and Film Studies, NYU On our radar: Facebook is again in our news feeds, and once again for the wrong reasons. Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Nic Muirhead about the continuing fallout from the whistleblower that has a consortium of news outlets on the companyas case. Alarm Phone: The refugee hotline and lifeline We discuss Alarm Phone, the hotline for refugees at sea that is helping to get their stories heard. Contributors: Jacob Berkson - Activist, Alarm Phone Giorgos Christides - Reporter, Der Spiegel Giorgos Kosmopoulos - Greece researcher, Amnesty International Notis Mitarachi - Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum 00:00 Intro 02:12 Bollywood in the dock in Modias India 11:17 Facebook whistleblower fallout 13:45 Alarm Phone: The refugee hotline & lifeline 24:05 End Note

The Beirut blast probe: A tale of distrust and disinformation | The Listening Post

Accountability for the blast that destroyed Beirutas port proves elusive in Lebanon and journalists are not helping. Contributors: Lara Bitar - Editor-in-Chief, The Public Source Alia Ibrahim - Co-founder and CEO, Daraj Jad Shahrour - Journalist and writer; Communications Officer, Samir Kassir Foundation On our radar: Obituaries of former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell have been too kind. 'Foreign agents' and 'undesirables': Kremlin's media labels Authorities in Russia have been systematically clamping down on journalism with the help of so-called apatriotica activists. Contributors: Vitaly Borodin - Federal Security & Anti-Corruption Project Roman Badanin - Founder & Former Editor-in-Chief, Proekt; John S. Knight Senior International Fellow, Stanford University Lilia Yapparova - Special Correspondent, Meduza

What this year's Nobel Prize says about the global media climate | The Listening Post

For the first time in 85 years, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two journalists. What does this tell us about the state of global journalism? Contributors: Rana Ayyub - Journalist Agnes Callamard - Secretary General, Amnesty International Julie Posetti - Global director of research, International Center for Journalists Ilya Yablokov - Lecturer in Journalism and Digital Media, Sheffield University On our radar: Singaporean authorities have passed a new "foreign inference" law that has put journalists there on alert. Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Nic Muirhead about the law and its worrying implications. Just a game?: The US military-gaming complex War is not a game. But it is for the video games industry and it is proving to be a useful ally for the United States military. Contributors: Nick Robinson - Associate Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds Matthew Gault - Reporter, VICE Rami Ismail - Video game developer

Outages, leaks and bad headlines: Facebook's nightmare week | The Listening Post

A whistleblower, a system crash and the United States Congress on its case; Facebook goes under the microscope, yet again. Contributors: Pranesh Prakash - Co-founder, Centre for Internet and Society; affiliated fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School Siva Vaidhyanathan - Professor, University of Virginia; author, Antisocial Media Marianne Franklin - Professor of global media and politics, Goldsmiths, University of London Mahsa Alimardani - Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute On our radar: The Pandora Papers - the largest investigation in journalism history - are reverberating through the financial world of the rich and powerful. Producer Flo Phillips tells Richard Gizbert about the biggest ever leaks of offshore data and who they have exposed. The case of Egyptas jailed TikTok stars The Egyptian government has been progressively tightening its grip on cyberspace and female social media influencers are the new targets. Contributors: Yasmin Omar - Egypt legal associate, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy; human rights lawyer Joey Shea - Non-resident scholar, Middle East Institute Dalia Fahmy - Associate professor, Long Island University, Brooklyn

Kidnap or Kill: The CIAas plot against WikiLeaksa Julian Assange | The Listening Post

An exposA(c) detailing the CIAas war on WikiLeaks - a Trump administration plan to silence Julian Assange and the organisation - has been published. But like so much of the Assange story, it's got nothing like the media coverage it deserves. Contributors: Michael Isikoff - Chief investigative correspondent, Yahoo News Kevin Gosztola - Managing editor, Shadowproof.com Carrie DeCell - Staff attorney, Knight First Amendment Institute Rebecca Vincent - Director of international campaigns & UK bureau director, Reporters Without Borders On our radar: Project Amplify - Facebookas PR initiative - backfires. Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about the scrutiny Facebook is under, yet again. Lost in translation: How texts change as they travel The translation of literature - from one language to another - is a tricky business. Translators become cultural mediators, balancing faithfulness to the original with the needs of a new audience. When translators fail, context can be sacrificed, and stereotypes can get reinforced. Contributors: Layla AlAmmar - Author, Silence is a Sense & Academic, University of Lancaster Susan Bassnett - Translation theorist & emeritus professor, University of Warwick Muhammad Ali Mojaradi - Translator & founder, @persianpoetics Leri Price - Literary translator End Note: And, after 16 years of leading the country as its chancellor, Germany is saying goodbye to Angela Merkel. Puppet Regime - a comedy series produced and published by GZERO Media - pays tribute to her work, Kraftwerk style.

Drone exposA(c): The journalism that forced the Pentagonas mea culpa | The Listening Post

United States drone warfare is finally being exposed. But why did it take American news outlets so long to get to such a big story? Contributors: Emran Feroz, Founder, Drone Memorial Christine Fair, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University Spencer Ackerman, Author, Reign of Terror Vanessa Gezari, National Security Editor, The Intercept On our radar: Producer Tariq Nafi and host Richard Gizbert discuss a voting app that was developed by Russian opposition activists to fight Vladimir Putin in the recent elections - but was censored by Big Tech. 100 Years Too Late: Canadaas Residential School Reckoning Months after the story of mass graves at so-called residential schools in Cananda broke, the nation is still reckoning with the trauma of mass graves. Contributors: Cheryl McKenzie, Director of News and Current Affairs, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada Connie Walker, Host, Stolen: The Search for Jermain Wab Kinew, Leader, Manitoba New Democratic Party

China: Regulating superstars, superfans and big tech | The Listening Post

Xi Jinping's China has embarked on a campaign that could transform the country's technology, entertainment and media industries. Contributors: Chris Buckley - China correspondent, The New York Times Kaiser Kuo - Host, The Sinica Podcast and editor-at-large, SupChina Bingchun Meng - Associate professor, Department of Media and Communications, LSE Rui Zhong - Program associate, Wilson Center, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States On our radar A month of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Meenakshi Ravi and producer Johanna Hoes discuss how the Taliban is already leaving its mark on the countryas news industry despite initial promises to the contrary. Structures of oppression? Colombiaas falling statues Indigenous Colombians have been toppling statues of European colonisers - challenging how the countryas history is remembered. Contributors: Didier Chirimuscay - Misak community leader Rodolfo Segovia - President, Colombian Academy of History Amada Carolina Perez - Historian, Javeriana University

Reporting the aenda of the Afghan war 20 years after 9/11 | The Listening Post

Two decades on from the 9/11 attacks, American news coverage of the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan reveals how much has changed - and how much has not - in the mediaas approach to US wars. Contributors: Alexander Hainy-Khaleeli - Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter Catherine Lutz - co-director, Costs of War project; professor of International Studies, Brown University Fariba Nawa - author, Opium Nation; host, On Spec Azmat Khan - contributing writer, The New York Times Magazine; assistant professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism On our radar: Meenakshi Ravi speaks to producer Flo Phillips about the latest developments in the Afghan media space, including the Talibanas mistreatment of journalists covering this weekas protests. Afghan journalists under threat A report on the past, present and future of the media in Afghanistan, as told by three Afghan journalists. Contributors: aNa - Journalist & media safety specialist aMa - Photojournalist aLa - Regional radio & TV reporter

The Forever War: 20 Years After 9/11 | The Listening Post

Twenty years after the 9/11 attacks, this special edition of The Listening Post looks at the climate of fear that undergirded the so-called "War on Terror" and how the US news and entertainment industries helped produce it. Contributors: - Chris Hedges - Former foreign correspondent for The New York Times; author of Collateral Damage - Sinan Antoon - Co-editor at Jadaliyya; poet and writer; associate professor at New York University - Jill Abramson - Former executive editor of The New York Times - Deepa Kumar - author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire; associate professor at Rutgers University - Robert D Kaplan - Former contributing editor at The Atlantic - Lexi Alexander - Movie and TV director

Pegasus: Flying on the wings of Israeli acyber-tech diplomacya? | The Listening Post

A global cyber-surveillance scandal - spyware developed in Israel - has put the government there under the media microscope, and its story does not add up. Contributors: Jonathan Klinger - Cyberlaw lawyer Marc Owen Jones - Assistant professor, Hamid Bin Khalifa University Omer Benjakub - Tech & Cyber Reporter, Haaretz Marwa Fatafta - Policy Analyst, Al Shabaka On our radar: Tunisia is in political turmoil after the president declared a state of emergency - or what critics are calling a coup. Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Flo Phillips about how journalists there are feeling the heat. Africaas PR Push: How governments manage the message: Handling public relations for governments is lucrative work - and for Western PR firms, Africa has emerged as a new hunting ground. Contributors: Alex Magaisa - Former adviser, prime minister of Zimbabwe Alexander Dukalskis - Author, Making the World Safe for Dictatorship Kathleen Ndongmo - Communications specialist

Pegasus Project: Malware used against journalists and dissidents | The Listening Post

A global consortium of media outlets blew the lid off a huge surveillance scandal revealing how the hacking tool Pegasus has been used by governments around the world to spy on dissidents and journalists via their mobile phones. Contributors: Rohini Singh - Reporter, The Wire Bradley Hope - Co-founder, Project Brazen Laurent Richard - Founder, Forbidden Stories Eva Galperin - Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation On our radar: American media outlets have been feasting on a story a the billionaire space race. Richard Gizbert and producer Meenakshi Ravi discuss how the mass of coverage squares alongside another story about the planet that is far more consequential - climate change. Bild's battle for political influence in Germany There is a crucial election coming in Germany, and its biggest tabloid, Bild, is trying to preserve its place at the heart of German politics. Contributors: Julian Reichelt - Editor-in-chief, Bild GA1/4nter Wallraff - Investigative journalist & author, The Lead Moritz Tschermak - Editor-in-chief, BILDblog & author, How Bild divides society with fear and hate Margreth LA1/4nenborg - Professor of journalism, Free University Berlin - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

Cuba: Protesters move from social media to the streets | The Listening Post

Cuba is witnessing something historic - the biggest anti-government demonstrations in 60 years - and the authorities have imposed temporary blocks on the internet, making credible media coverage and reliable information that much harder to find. Contributors: MA3nica Rivero Cabrera - Cuban journalist Tracey Eaton - Cuba Money Project Angelo R Guisado - Center for Constitutional Rights JosA(c) JasA!n Nieves - Editor-in-chief, El Toque On our radar: Whether they are taking penalty kicks or taking a knee, Black footballers playing for England are dealing with online abuse. Richard Gizbert and producer Tariq Nafi discuss the debate that has resulted - about racism in the United Kingdom. Sports activism in the era of social media On tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields and in hockey rinks, athletes are putting their political and social activism out there for sports fans to see. Contributors: Shireen Ahmed - Journalist & writer Musa Okwonga - Co-founder, Stadio Football & author, One of Them Frank Guridy - Associate professor, Columbia University Khalida Popal - Former captain, Afghanistanas womenas football team

Hong Kong: Broken promises | The Listening Post

Twenty-four years since Britain handed Hong Kong back to China, the city has undergone a transformation. In recent years, Beijing has intensified the silencing of political dissent and the squeezing of media freedom - through new laws drawn up in the name of security, the jailing of critics, and the reigning in of adversarial journalism. Contributors: Chris Yeung - Chairperson, Hong Kong Journalists Association Bao Choy - Freelance journalist, RTHK Linda Wong - Journalist, Citizen News Keith Richburg - Journalism and Media Studies Centre, Hong Kong University; president, Foreign Correspondents Club Holden Chow - Vice chairman, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong Hong Kong: The assault on free speech Three Hong Kongers talk about the shrinking space for freedom in their city, and the way it has affected their lives and work. Contributors: Lee Cheuk-yan - Founder, June 4th Museum Wong Kei Kwan (Zunzi) - Political cartoonist Nathan Law - Democracy activist - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

Iranas new president: What's next for the countryas media? | The Listening Post

Iranas new president-elect is heading into the job carrying some baggage from the past that neither he nor the countryas state-friendly news outlets care to talk about. Contributors: Mahsa Alimardani - Iran researcher, Article 19; researcher, Oxford Internet Institute Ghanbar Naderi - Iranian affairs analyst Pardis Shafafi - Anthropologist and researcher, ERC Off-Site Project Arash Azizi - Author of Shadow Commander On our radar Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about the targeting of female social media influencers in Egypt as two more women are jailed for their TikTok videos. The struggle for freedom of expression in post-Castro Cuba From protests to viral videos, Cuban activists test the limits of dissent as they demand greater cultural freedoms. Contributors: Amaury Pacheco - Poet and activist, Movimiento San Isidro Fernando Ravsberg - Journalist; former correspondent, BBC Fernando Rojas - Cuban Deputy Minister of Culture Marta Maria Ramirez - Independent journalist - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

Nigeria: The tweet that got Twitter banned | The Listening Post

The tit-for-tat in Nigeria that saw Twitter banned by the government. Contributors: Mercy Abang - Journalist Lai Mohammed - Nigerian minister for information and culture Gbenga Sesan - Executive director, Paradigm Initiative Fisayo Soyombo - Editor-in-chief, Foundation for Investigative Journalism On our radar It's election time in Algeria and the government is feeling the heat on the streets. Richard Gizbert and producer Flo Phillips discuss its response - arresting journalists, and taking broadcasters off the air. A snapshot of empire: The racist legacy of colonial postcards How the golden age of postcards left behind a legacy of racism that continues to shape perceptions of Africans today. Contributors: Sarah Sentilles - Writer and critical theorist Olubukola Gbadegesin - Associate professor, Saint Louis University Stephen Hughes - Senior lecturer, SOAS Julie Crooks - Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

From Sheikh Jarrah to Gaza: Journalism under apartheid | The Listening Post

Just days after the ceasefire in Gaza ended 11 days of bombing, The Listening Post spoke with two Palestinians who have tilted international attention towards their struggle. Contributors: Muna al-Kurd - Sheikh Jarrah resident and activist Hosam Salem - Gaza Palestinian photographer On our radar Richard Gizbert and producer Tariq Nafi discuss Israelas crackdown on reporters in East Jerusalem, and the international journalists calling out their own media operations for sanitising the oppression of Palestinians. How to cover apartheid: A human rights perspective with Hagai El-Ad Human rights groups are reframing the discussion about Israel's domination of Palestinians. Richard Gizbert interviews Hagai El-Ad, executive director of Israeli human rights organisation, BaTselem. Contributors: Hagai El-Ad - Executive director, BaTselem - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

Lab leak reloaded: The media brings back COVID origin debate | The Listening Post

A year and a half into the pandemic and people are still asking where the COVID-19 virus originated. The so-called lab-leak theory is gaining momentum among some scientists and journalists who contend this story has the makings of a mass cover-up. Contributors: Nicholas Wade - Former science reporter, New York Times James Palmer - Deputy editor, Foreign Policy Amy Maxmen - Senior reporter, Nature Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz - Epidemiologist, University of Wollongong; columnist, The Guardian On our radar One journalist in Pakistan is beaten up. Another is being censored. Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Tariq Nafi about the countryas red lines that you cannot cross. Forced to forget, determined to remember: The Tiananmen massacre Chinese officials have tried to erase the Tiananmen Square massacre from the countryas history but dissidents outside the mainland are doing what they can to keep the memory alive. Contributors: Lee Cheuk-yan - Founder, June 4th Museum; chairman, Hong Kong Alliance Wuaer Kaixi - Tiananmen protest leader Yaqiu Wang - China researcher, Human Rights Watch

Israel-Palestine: The double standard in American newsrooms | The Listening Post

News coverage in the US of the Palestine-Israel conflict has always favoured Israel but that is beginning to shift. The question is - to what extent and will it last? Contributors: Linda Sarsour - Executive director, MPower Change; Author, We Are Not Here to be Bystanders Omar Baddar - National Policy Council, Arab-American Institute Lara Friedman - President, Foundation for Middle East Peace Philip Weiss - Founder and senior editor, Mondoweiss On our radar Belarusian authorities went to extreme lengths to arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich. Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi to find out why. Slovenia: The prime ministeras awar with the mediaa Another European leader shows his authoritarian side; Sloveniaas prime minister, Janez JanA!a, says he is at "war with the media". Contributors: Marko MilosavljeviA - University of Ljubljana, Chair of Journalism AnuA!ka DeliA - Editor-in-chief, OA!tro BlaA3/4 Zgaga - Reporter, Nacional.hr and investigative journalist Boris TomaA!iA - Host and chief editor, Nova 24 - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

Deadly Games: Algeria and Tunisia's ultra football fans | Al Jazeera World

"Somebody said that footballas a matter of life and death to you. I said, listen, it's more important than that." When the legendary Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly came out with his now-famous quote on TV in 1981, he might have been talking about the Algerian and Tunisian fans in this documentary. For many, football really is much more than a game. Some see themselves as not just supporters but part of a wider movement. They say that on the terraces, they find a sense of belonging and a camaraderie otherwise absent from their daily lives and that as supporters they also represent the dispossessed of the poor suburbs of Tunis and Algiers. Sometimes, however, football passions can have life-changing consequences. In March 2018, 19-year-old Omar Labidi from the southern suburbs of Tunis clashed with police outside a busy stadium. The victimas brother claims that police used tear gas to force Omar into a nearby river where he drowned. Three years after his death, his family continues to seek justice. In Algeria, Raouf Zerka has only vague memories of the game that changed his life in November 2016. In the 70th minute of a local derby match in Algiers, a burning flare hit him in the face. After eight days in a coma, he discovered he had lost his left eye. This film follows Tunisiaas and Algeriaas most passionate fans, buying tickets on the black market, travelling vast distances to away matches, and doing whatever it takes to support the teams they love. But it also highlights the price of football passion and asks if the cost of extreme fandoms is worth the risk.

Incite and inflame: Israelas manipulation of the media | The Listening Post

Ceasefire in Gaza: As journalists in the Strip stop to catch their breath, Israel's media stand accused of inciting violence against Palestinians. Contributors: Yara Hawari - Academic and writer; senior analyst, Al Shabaka Tareq Baconi - Senior analyst, International Crisis Group Joshua Leifer - Assistant editor, Jewish Currents Rami Younis - Palestinian journalist On our radar In Qatar, a Kenyan who blogged under the pen name "Noah" about his life as a migrant worker in the Arab Gulf state finds himself in custody. Richard Gizbert and producer Johanna Hoes discuss the case of Malcolm Bidali. The Xinjiang whitewash Meet the white Western influencers helping China contest claims of genocide in Xinjiang. Contributors: Mareike Ohlberg - Senior fellow (Asia Program), German Marshall Fund Sophie Richardson - China director, Human Rights Watch Amelia Pang - Author of Made in China Shelley Zhang - Writer, China Uncensored

#Palestine: Videos of violence, images of death on social media

Gaza under assault. Bloodshed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Social media is the place to go for the coverage of this story except when the platforms take issue with what is being posted. Contributors: Marwa Fatafta - Policy analyst, Al-Shabaka Yossi Mekelberg - Associate fellow of the MENA Programme, Chatham House Mariam Barghouti - Writer and activist Rami Khouri - Professor of journalism, American University of Beirut On our radar Three Myanmar journalists have been arrested in Thailand. Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Flo Phillips about their possible deportation back into the hands of Myanmaras military government. Mammy, Jezebel, Sapphire: Stereotyping Black women in media We discuss the stereotyping of Black women in the media and the push for change in an industry where diversity and inclusion have been too long in coming. Contributors: Kovie Biakolo - Culture writer and multiculturalism scholar Francesca Sobande - Lecturer of digital media studies, Cardiff University Naeemah Clark - Professor of cinema and television arts, Elon University; author, Diversity in US Mass Media Babirye Bukilwa - Actor and playwright - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

'Foreign agents and extremists': Russia's attack on critics | The Listening Post

In Russia, the political stakes are rising in the run up to election season - journalists are being branded as "foreign agents" and an opposition figure is labelled an "extremist". Contributors: Ilya Yablokov - Academic, Leeds University Lisa Alexandrova-Zorina - Journalist, Team 29 Ivan Kolpakov - Editor-in-chief, Meduza Uliana Pavlova - Journalist, Moscow Times On our radar After months of deliberation Donald Trumpas Facebook account remains suspended. Richard Gizbert asks producer Meenakshi Ravi to explain the decision. The Turks turning to YouTube Independent journalists in Turkey, like CA1/4neyt Azdemir, are taking refuge online. Azdemiras daily YouTube program has become a staple for Turks, especially among younger viewers looking for journalism of a different kind. Contributors: CA1/4neyt Azdemir - Creator and host, CA1/4neyt Azdemir Show Cansu Aamlibel - Editor-in-chief, Duvar English Emre Kizilkaya - Turkish vice chair, International Press Institute; author, The New Mainstream Media is Rising - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

India: Smothering critique amidst the second COVID wave | The Listening Post

While Indiaas healthcare system lies in total collapse, the government is leaning on social media companies to protect its own image. Contributors: Vineet Kumar - Author and media scholar Pratik Sinha - Co-founder, Alt News Pragya Tiwari - Political and cultural commentator Sangeeta Mahapatra - German Institute for Global and Area Studies On our radar Having imprisoned leading opposition figure Alexey Navalny, Russian authorities are now looking to put his entire organisation out of business. Producer Johanna Hoes tells Richard Gizbert why the group is being targeted by the state. Paul Rusesabagina: The trial of the 'hero of Hotel Rwanda' Dissident or "terrorist"? The many-sided story of hotel manager turned Hollywood hero, Paul Rusesabagina. Contributors: Michela Wrong - Author, Do Not Disturb Gatete Nyiringabo Ruhumuliza - Political analyst Tom Ndahiro - Genocide scholar Terry George - Director, Hotel Rwanda - Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe - Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish - Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera - Check our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/

Indiaas COVID crisis: Navigating bad stats and government spin | The Listening Post

COVID-19 has brought India to its knees and, in many ways, the mainstream news media are failing to do their job. Contributors: Atul Chaurasia - Executive Editor, Newslaundry Paranjoy Guha Thakurta - Journalist & Author Sandhya Ravishankar - Journalist, India Ahead News Kapil Komireddi - Author, Malevolent Republic On our radar Host Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Flo Phillips about doctored footage coming out of Russia. Kremlin-backed channels would have you believe it is not just Ukrainian and Russian forces building up at the border but American as well. Attacked on the streets, typecast on TV: a media history of being Asian in America How Asian Americans have been othered in the media; the tropes and the rise in hate. Contributors: Kimmy Yam - Reporter, NBC News Takeo Rivera - Assistant Professor, Boston University Amanda Nguyen - Civil Rights Activist & Founder, Rise

Brazil: Battling Bolsonaroas COVID misinformation | The Listening Post

Some of Brazilas biggest media companies have come together to combat COVID-19 misinformation a a lot of which is coming from President Jair Bolsonaroas office. Contributors: Luciana Coelho - Head of COVID task force, Folha de Sao Paulo Cristina TardA!guila - Associate director, Poynter Laura GuimarAPSes CorrAaa - Associate professor, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais Marcelo Lins - Journalist, GloboNews On our radar Nicholas Muirhead and Richard Gizbert discuss a curious case of photo colourisation (and distortion) that has landed American media outlet Vice in hot water. Wikipedia: The internetas unlikeliest experiment turns 20 How has a free online encyclopedia built through crowdsourcing, open editing and volunteers managed to maintain its relevance and preserve its credibility? We look at what makes Wikipedia tick. Contributors: Katherine Maher - CEO, Wikimedia Foundation Sandister Tei - Co-founder, Wikimedia Ghana User Group Shane Greenstein - Professor, Harvard Business School

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