Hump Day Art

The Art 

2016 has been so good. Amen to kicking out the snakes in my life ✨ I don’t believe in the need to keep people in life coz of good ol’ days. If the vibe is off and the energy turns negative, end it there and then. It has improved my work and mindset so much. Unfortunately in today’s world, there is no room for the timid, trusting heart. It hurts to think I no longer can see some people the same way, but so grateful for their departure. Its gonna be a bittersweet journey. Aiming high with the little positivity left within. 

More Cuban Refugees Expected

HIDALGO – At least 7,000 Cuban refugees are expected to come to the border in the next coming days. 

The activity at the Hidalgo International Bridge continues. For 40 years, Jose Angel Rodriguez has made his living driving a cab. 

He said he’s seeing more Cubans crossing the port of entry. “They get here every night, in the morning, and at night they get here. 

They go to Laredo, too,” Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez remembered taking a few to a hotel or store. It gets busier each week that passes by. 

Down the road from the bridge were a handful of 15-passenger vans. They had Florida license plates. 

Giovanni Acosta is one of them. 

“In Cuba, there’s nothing. There’s no freedom. We came from Cuba because the pressure that we have there,” Giovanni Acosta said. 

Acosta said he’s waiting for his wife to come to the bridge so he can take her back to Miami. 

She’s taking the same track as he once did. “I did the same path, like all the Cubans did. I came from Ecuador. I walked for 27 days on the road,” he said. 

Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office said Cuban refugees are coming to Laredo’s Point of Entry every day and the numbers are increasing. 

They’re coming from Central America through Mexico to the border. 

Acosta’s van can take more than just his family. He said he can help the Cuban refugees, but his goal is to pick up his family, to bring them safely back home. 

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to see if they were prepared for the influx. 

They released a statement that said in part, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is prepared to process the expected increase in Cubans applying for admission at South Texas ports of entry. CBP officers will process Cuban nationals in accordance with established procedures as expeditiously as possible while maintaining requirements and standards for individuals in our care."

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and is charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs, and immigration. 

CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. It has a workforce of more than 45,600 sworn federal agents and officers. It has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

While its primary mission is preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, CBP is also responsible for apprehending individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally including those with a criminal record, stemming the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband, protecting United States agricultural and economic interests from harmful pests and diseases, and protecting American businesses from intellectual property theft.


Police Shot Dead

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, (Reuters) - A rogue policeman collaborating with insurgents in southern Afghanistan shot dead 10 colleagues recently after first poisoning their food, an official said.

The latest in a long series of so-called insider attacks took place at a checkpoint in the Chenartu district of the volatile southern province of Uruzgan, district chief Faiz Mohmmad told Reuters.

He said security forces were looking for the policemen and the presumed Taliban allies who joined him in shooting his colleagues in the early hours of Tuesday.

"After the shooting, the policeman and Taliban stole their weapons and burnt the checkpoint and a police vehicle," Faiz Mohmmad said.

The Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Uruzgan, which borders the traditional Taliban strongholds of Helmand and Kandahar provinces, was the scene of a similar incident last week when four police shot and killed nine colleagues before joining the Taliban with weapons and equipment.

Insider attacks have been a major problem among security forces struggling with low morale and high desertion rates and there have been repeated instances of police and soldiers going over to the Taliban.

The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan currently waging war (an insurgency, or jihad) within that country. 

From 1996 to 2001, it held power in Afghanistan and enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, of which the international community and leading Muslims have been highly critical.

Until his death in 2013, Mullah Mohammed Omar was the supreme commander and spiritual leader of the Taliban.

The movement originated in the early 1990s, but was not fully unified until its 1994 capture of Kandahar. 

Under the leadership of Mohammed Omar, the movement spread throughout most of Afghanistan, sequestering power from the Mujahideen warlords, whose corruption and despotism Afghans had tired of. 

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was established in 1996 and the Afghan capital transferred to Kandahar. 

It held control of most of the country until being overthrown by the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in December 2001 following the September 11 attacks.

The race is on...

China Stocks Tumble

Chinese shares plunged more than 6 percent to 14-month lows recently after oil prices dropped again, reviving concerns about global growth and prompting a sell-off in the world's equity markets.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended down 6.4 percent after a late selling frenzy at 2749.79 points, its lowest close since Dec. 1, 2014.

The Shanghai index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen dropped 6 percent to 2940.51, also its lowest since the beginning of December 2014.

After a rebound, crude prices fell back below $30 a barrel, not far from last week's 12-year lows, ending a couple of days of gains for Wall Street stocks.

China's fickle stock markets have now slumped about 22 percent so far this year on concerns about the slowing economy and confusion over the central bank's foreign exchange policy.

Many investors have lost the stomach for the market after a wild ride since last summer, when shares crashed 40 percent. 

Beijing intervened to stem that rout and orchestrate a recovery of sorts, but anyone who mistook that for a bottom and bought in will have lost their shirt again in January.

"We've seen another stampede driven by panic," said Yang Hai, analyst at Kaiyuan Securities.

"There's no good news in sightwhile investors are being affected by the global 'risk-off' mood."

The slump has triggered a lot of forced liquidation, he added.

Indeed, China's outstanding margin loans - money investors borrow to buy stocks - declined for 16 consecutive sessions to Jan. 22, the longest losing streak on record, with 209 billion yuan ($32 billion) worth of leveraged bets unwound during the period.

"Volume is getting very thin, as there are hardly any fresh inflows, and the process of deleveraging is continuing," said Chang Chengwei, analyst at brokerage Hengtai Futures.

Investors remain wary about further weakness in the yuan, too, despite assurances from Beijing that it has no intention of pushing it lower to gain a competitive advantage.

Chastened by the market's bearish reaction to an early January depreciation in the yuan, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) has since kept the yuan's daily midpoint fixing little changed. Read more


Hating More Than Ever

A handful of industries are those "love to hate" types of businesses, such as cable-television companies and Internet service providers. 

The federal government has joined the ranks of the bottom-of-the-barrel industries, according to a new survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. 

Americans' satisfaction level in dealing with federal agencies --everything from Treasury to Homeland Security -- has fallen for a third consecutive year, reaching an eight-year low. 

The declines represent some backsliding for the U.S. government, given that satisfaction saw some improvement in 2011 and 2012, which may have been the result of spending in the wake of the recession. 
While the comparison with private enterprise isn't apples to apples given the nature of government services, the findings have some implications for bureaucrats.

"Satisfaction is linked to broader goals in the political system that it wants to maximize, like confidence and trust," said Forrest Morgeson, director of research at the ACSI. "It's much more difficult to govern if the entire population dislikes you."

Although satisfaction is down for the federal government as a whole, the research found that consumers have vastly different views of specific agencies. 

The department that received the highest score was the Department of the Interior, which received a ranking of 75 points. 

That could reflect Americans' positive feelings toward national parks, which many visit while on vacation, Morgeson noted.

The lowest-ranked department may not be much of a surprise to taxpayers: Treasury, which received a score of just 55 points, or 20 points below the Department of the Interior. 

Treasury, as a reminder, oversees the IRS. 

"If you think about the most contacted government agency, it'll be the IRS," Morgeson said. "If you think about what the IRS does, which is take money from citizens, you'll have low satisfaction."

Despite the overall lower score for the government, there were some signs of improvement in citizens' experiences, with the feds earning improved scores in customer service and information, which means many citizens believe agencies are delivering information in a clearer way than a year ago. 

The government report is based on surveys with more than 2,000 people who were surveyed late last year.

Living in a Digital Age

It is the fifth anniversary of the so-called "January 25 Revolution" of 2011, which led to the removal from power of Egypt's authoritarian President, Hosni Mubarak.

In the years that followed Mubarak's compelled resignation (followed by his arrest, trial and conviction), Egypt has seesawed between a democratically-elected Islamist President, Mohammed Morsi, and the reemergence of an authoritarian secular military dictatorship in the person of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, an Egyptian general who orchestrated a coup d'├ętat in 2013 that removed Morsi from office, and who later resigned from the military and was subsequently elected as Egypt's President in 2014.

The only constancy in American policy toward Egypt during this time was the absolute lack of any discernible policy in the aftermath of the "January 25 Revolution." 

This dearth of policy stands in stark contrast to the role played by an influential State Department policy maker turned Google executive, Jared Cohen, in formulating and facilitating a form of "soft" regime change policy in Egypt during the "January 25 Revolution" known as "digital democracy."

(It should be noted that Cohen was not operating in a complete policy vacuum; "digital democracy" was enthusiastically embraced at that time by the then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

It was actually the administration of President George W. Bush that took the lead in creating "digital democracy." Jared Cohen was hired by the State Department in September 2006 and subsequently assigned to the Policy Planning Staff to work on issues pertaining to counter-terrorism and counter-radicalism. 

Cohen had turned two years of personal tourism experiences in the Middle East into a best-selling book titled Children of the Jihad, where he postulated that the youth of the Middle East were sophisticated enough to distinguish between people, politics, and religion, and that, having been socialized by satellite television, mobile phones and the internet, were well aware of the realities of the world they lived in; they rejected the conservative politics of their parents, and wanted the same things as American youth did -- freedom (which Cohen somewhat naively couched in terms of access to music, recreation, and members of the opposite sex.)      Read more:

No go yet...

Brazil is Losing the Battle

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazil's health minister says the country will mobilize some 220,000 troops to battle the mosquito blamed for spreading a virus suspected of causing birth defects, but he also was quoted recently as saying the battle already is being lost.

Marcelo Castro said that nearly 220,000 members of Brazil's Armed Forces would go door-to-door to help in mosquito eradication efforts ahead of the country's Carnival celebrations, according to Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper. 

It also quoted Castro as saying the government would distribute mosquito repellent to some 400,000 pregnant women who receive cash-transfer benefits.

And all major Brazilian dailies quoted Castro as saying the country is "badly losing the battle" against the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

"The mosquito has been here in Brazil for three decades, and we are badly losing the battle against the mosquito," Folha de S. Paulo newspaper quoted him as saying as a crisis group on Zika was meeting in the capital, Brasilia.

Emails to Castro's office for comment were not immediately answered.

A massive eradication effort eliminated Aedes aegypti from Brazil during the 1950s, but the mosquito slowly returned over the following decades from neighboring nations, public health experts have said. 

That led to outbreaks of dengue, which was recorded in record numbers last year.

The arrival of Zika in Brazil last year initially caused little alarm, as the virus' symptoms are generally much milder than those of dengue. 

It didn't become a crisis until late in the year, when researchers made the link with a dramatic increase in reported cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect that sees babies born with unusually small heads and can cause lasting developmental problems.

Worry about the rapid spread of Zika has expanded across the nation, and the hemisphere beyond. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant women to reconsider travel to Brazil and 21 other countries and territories with Zika outbreaks.

Officials in El Salvador, Colombia and Brazil have suggested women stop getting pregnant until the crisis has passed.

Repellent has disappeared from many Brazilian pharmacies and prices for the product have tripled or even quadrupled where it's still available in recent weeks since the government announced a suspected link between Zika virus and microcephaly


T. G. I. F. Solitude

An Egyptian Eye

Thousands of Egyptians poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square on Jan. 25, 2011, to participate in mass demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak's long regime. 

The day would come to signify the start of dramatic changes in Egypt’s sociopolitical structure, and it would also spark hope in everyday citizens, young and old, who had become frustrated with the widespread corruption, persistent unemployment and police brutality that were so common under Mubarak.

A young graphic designer and artist who uses the name Ganzeer for his artistic work found himself among those in the heart of the revolutionary moment. He armed himself with the power of art and a newfound sense of purpose. 

"It just felt like the most important thing in the world," the artist told The WorldPost.

With his massive murals on the walls of Cairo --most notably his portraits of people who died in Tahrir Square-- and political posters available online to download and distribute, Ganzeer quickly became a public figure in the movement and acquired a large following.

Ganzeer's often-satirical artwork, which unabashedly criticizes Egypt's leadership and challenges the moral codes of traditional Egyptian society, also gained international attention. 

The artist saw his work featured in exhibitions around the world and his name splashed on the pages of many media outlets, including The New York Times, The Nation and Vice.

Ganzeer moved to the U.S. in 2014, living first in New York City before relocating to Los Angeles. 

He won't return to Egypt for now because he's concerned for his safety, but he has continued to stay politically active through his work -- his recent focus on police brutality and the New York City Police Department being a prime example.

"I feel the need to make sure, when I spend time doing something, that it is something that needs to be done," he said. 

Ganzeer talked to The WorldPost to reflect on the Arab Spring, Egypt's future and his own journey from a graphic designer to an artist who helped rally people wanting to bring down an autocratic regime. 

Let's go back to the beginning of the 2011 protests, when people were first taking to the streets. 

What was going through your mind?

To be honest, I thought the kids that gathered in public spaces were going to get their asses kicked. That’s as far as my thinking went. I didn’t think it would go any further at all.


Confiscating Valuables

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's parliament passed measures on Tuesday aimed at deterring refugees from seeking asylum, including confiscating valuables to pay for their stay, despite protests from international human rights organizations.

The measures, which also include extending family reunification among refugees from one year to three years, are the latest sign that the Nordic welcome for refugees is waning as large numbers flee war in Africa and Middle East for a better life in Europe.

The "jewelry bill" is the latest attempt by Denmark's minority center-right government to curb immigration to a country that took in a record 20,000 refugees last year.

Under the bill, refugees could keep possessions amounting to 10,000 Danish crowns ($1,450), raised from 3,000 crowns after criticism from human rights organizations. 

Valuables of special emotional value such as wedding rings will be exempt.

The Liberals Party government has just 34 out of 179 seats in parliament and depends on support of rightist parties, including the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DF), to pass laws.

During a three and a half hour debate, dissenting voices from small left wing parties were heard including from Red Green Alliance.

But the bill passed with an overwhelming majority, backed by the main center-left opposition party Social Democrats, highlighting a shift to the right in Denmark's political landscape thanks to DF's popularity and rising concern over refugee numbers.

"I wouldn't say that I have become racist or anything," said Poul Madsen, a taxi driver, before the bill was passed. "But I may be more aware of the fact that this has some downsides and may be a potential problem for our society and our economy."

Denmark is not the only one Nordxic country trying to shut its doors to migrants. 

Sweden, which took in over 160,000 refugees last year, the most per capita in Europe, introduced checks on its border to Denmark at the start of the year.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven promised on Monday more resources for police after an employee was stabbed to death at a refugee center for unaccompanied minors. 

A minor was arrested on suspicion of murder or manslaughter after the incident in western Sweden, local TT news agency reported.