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December 3, 2008
Tijuana police chief fired after bloody weekend

After 37 people were killed in Tijuana the past weekend, police chief Jesus Capella was fired and replaced with an army officer.

Over 300 people have been killed in the border city in just three months, marking an upturn in violence. Rival drug cartels have turned Tijuana into their battleground.

Rodolfo de la Garza of Columbia University joins Martin Savidge to discuss the risks of using the military to fight the drug war, corruption in the Mexican government and the role of the U.S. in combating the violence.

Below, read what bloggers in Tijuana and elswhere had to say about the city’s turn for the worse.

A blogger at “Stairs to Nowhere” writes from Tijuana about her efforts to retain normalcy amid the violence.

Blogger Deborah Bonello of “Mexico Reporter” writes that in addition to cartel members and police, journalists have been targeted.

The “Across the Border” blog speaks with conflict photographer Eros Hoagland who compares and contrasts violence in Baghdad to that in Tijuana.

In Iraq, it’s estimated that 148 civilians were killed last month, while in Mexico, some 700 people were killed last month.

Blogger “Hugh Hewitt” says that while Iraq is moving towards stability, Mexico is moving away from it, deploring the lack of media coverage of Tijuana.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brymo under a Creative Commons license.

December 3, 2008
Canadian coalition moves to unseat prime minister

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, who would become the interim prime minister if the coalition gains power.

Canada’s major opposition parties signed an agreement to form a coalition on Monday and now sit poised to overthrow Stephen Harper’s conservative minority government. The coalition members cite government inaction on Canada’s suffering economy as a motivator for their mobilization.

Harper argues that installing a coalition government without electoral approval would be undemocratic. On Thursday, he won approval to suspend parliament from Governor General Michaëlle Jean, who holds the power to call for elections, dissolve parliament or appoint a new government.

The last national election was a mere six weeks ago.

Canadian bloggers have voiced their opinions about what the “Unambiguously Ambidextrous” blog calls “one of most interesting times in Canadian history.”

That blogger also argues that if the coalition were to take power, it would be undemocratic.

The “World Politics News” blog provides an overview of Canada’s political upheaval.

Blogger “Polly” argues that while liberal leader Stéphane Dion may not make a strong leader, the coalition movement is democratic — a result of Canadian votes at work, since Harper’s government is a minority.

Canadian conservatives have set up a virtual campaign office that asks visitors to “stand up for Canada” and reject the coalition.

A conservative blogger at “Angry in the Great White North” writes about a proposal that conservatives members of parliament resign if the coalition takes power, assessing the effectiveness of the plan.

Scott of “Scott’s DiaTribes” writes that he has joined a coalition of bloggers from several opposition parties in support of the coalition’s efforts.

The “Deliberative Dialogue” blog supports the coalition, claiming that it has a real plan for economic leadership.

A blogger at “NowPublic” writes that the argument has now moved to Facebook, where people may join groups supporting either side.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user BM Design under a Creative Commons license.

December 1, 2008
Mumbai attacks provoke blogger response


Firemen near the Taj Mahal hotel.


A memorial in Mumbai for victims of the attacks .

The Internet has played a role in the coverage and understanding of the recent attacks on Mumbai, as Worldfocus previously reported: Tweets, texts and chats change coverage of Mumbai.

Bloggers from all corners of the globe have weighed in on the attacks from a variety of angles and perspectives.

On the ground

Listen to survivors talk about their experiences here and here.

The “Arun Shanbhag blog” live blogs from the Taj Mahal hotel, the site of one of the attacks.

The “Mumbai Help” blog provides links to emergency information for those in need.

The “ALittleTooFast” blog in Mumbai mourns the death of friend Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, a New Yorker whose religious and educational headquarters in Mumbai came under attack.

“The Rydes in Mumbai” blog, written by members of an American family in Mumbai, writes about the situation of Americans in the city, some of whom were targeted.

Foreign involvement

Initially, a little-known group called the  Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the group may be a front for another organization.

India now claims the perpetrators were all from Pakistan, heightening tensions between the two countries.

The “Teeth Maestro” blog, written by a Pakistani dentist, expresses solidarity with Indian victims but frustration at the “blame game” played by the Indian government.

Blogger “Adil” writes that he is a Mumbaikar in solidarity with those in India.

The “Pakistan Policy Blog” writes that India should look in the mirror and come to terms with its own failing security.

The “2point6billion” blog writes that India and Pakistan must work together to diffuse terrorism.

Pakistan has also seen violence in recent days, and dozens have died in riots in Karachi.

Looking forward

Blogger “Mohyna” in Mumbai writes about lessons learned from the attacks.

A blogger at “An Indian Muslim” doubts that political change will occur, saying no one will look into police reforms.

Blogger “Juan Cole” writes about possible economic ramifications of the attacks.

Photos courtesy of Flickr useres USELESSNANO and zeeble under a Creative Commons license.

November 26, 2008
Travelers stranded as Thai protests persist

Protesters crowded the streets of Bangkok this week.

The Suvarnabhumi airport in Thailand halted departing flights in response to anti-government protesters.

Thousands of anti-government protesters continue to occupy Bangkok’s international airport, clamoring for Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to resign. Protesters took over the airport on Wednesday and have refused to leave. The protesters have also called for new elections.

The airport is evacuating stranded travelers and halted departing flights.

The halts come as a blow to Thailand’s tourism industry, which has already suffered from the effects of the global financial crisis.

Blogger “Surawat” was at the airport picking up a friend when the protesters arrived and describes the siege.

Blogger and tourist “PJM” is trapped in Thailand due to flight cancellations, while blogger “Storynature” contemplates canceling a trip to the country because of the unrest.

The anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is campaigning against Wongsawat, contesting that he is a puppet for his brother-in-law and ousted Thai leader, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Blogger “Mackensie” writes from Uttaradit, Thailand to provide a background of the conflict, arguing that the airport siege will have massive economic repercussions.

The protesters used open firearms for the first time on Tuesday during street rallies, and some have labeled this the PAD’s “final battle.”

Twitter user “kofty” in Bangkok posts updates about the situation.

A recent announcement from the PAD apologizes for the inconvenience created by the airport closure, but calls the siege “crucial.”

The “ThaiXpatWriter” blog calls for Prime Minister  Wongsawat to step down, proclaiming “Fight on yellowshirts!” ( a reference to the PAD’s yellow garb).

The “Aventures d’un métis” blog says the PAD should change their title to TAD — “Thais Against Democracy.”

The “Meaw & More” blog argues that by not preventing the airport siege, the government has allowed the PAD to self-destruct by creating negative public sentiment.

A blogger at “Our Thailand Adventure” writes about possible end-game scenarios to the airport siege and other protests.

Listen to Patrick Winn’s report from Bangkok about the airport siege and Simon Montlak’s report on the impact of protests on the Thai tourism industry.

Photos courtesy of nicolas and LookatLao under a Creative Commons license.

November 25, 2008
South Africa treats Tuberculosis patients at home


AUDIO: Elizabeth Shelburne of GlobalPost discusses South Africa’s efforts to deal with tuberculosis.

A tuberculosis patient at the Botsabelo Hospital in Lesotho.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis (TB) infection worldwide and has declared a national emergency in response to the disease.

TB is a source of stigma in the country, which forcibly quarantines patients.

Countries must weigh the civil liberties of patients infected with the airborne disease against the greater public’s health interests.

Blogger “Peter” writes about the new home care for patients with Extreme Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB).

The “Encyclopedia of Earth” blog argues that environmental risk factors must be addressed to solve the TB problem, saying that one group has helped families pay for an additional room to house the infected patient — thus lessening the chance of spreading infection.

Blogger “Rick Stark” criticizes South Africa’s practice of dumping infected migrant workers across the border, arguing that the “cruel” tactic only augments the spread of the disease.

For more on migrant labor’s role in South Africa’s tuberculosis problem, read a recent report: The mining sector, tuberculosis and migrant labor in Southern Africa [PDF].

Blogger “Ethan Zuckerman” posts the work of photographer James Nachtwey, who chronicled the lives of XDR-TB patients in Southern Africa in an effort to raise awareness and put a human face on the disease.

South African blogger “Ridwan” despairs at the average life span in his country, made worse by TB prevalence and poor medical care.

Drug-resistant TB dominated U.S. headlines over a year ago, when one infected man flew to and from Europe and another was imprisoned for failing to wear a protective mask in public.

In the 1950s, New York confined uncooperative TB patients to Rikers Island to prevent the spread of the disease.

In 2006, about 9.2 million new cases of TB were reported — a 40 percent increase from 1990. The United Nations fears that the global financial crisis will limit medical research and the rate of infection will worsen still.

For more on the global health challenge that tuberculosis presents, see the World Health Organization’s 2008 report on tuberculosis control.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Open Society Institute under a Creative Commons license.

November 25, 2008
Malaysian Islamic body bans yoga

Muslims in Malaysia are prohibited from practicing yoga, which is said to be at odds with Islam.

Islamic leaders in Malaysia have banned yoga, claiming the practice combines physical exercise with chanting and spiritual elements that are at odds with Islam.

The fatwa, or edict, angered some Muslims, including a Malay sultan.

A post at “Islam Web” explains the reasons for the fatwa, writing that yoga goes beyond physical exercise and is an atheist form of worship.

Malaysian blogger “Ahmad” writes that many Muslims in the country will continue to practice yoga, minus the mantras and chantings.

Blogger “Nuraina A. Samad,” a self-professed fitness lover and Muslim in Kuala Lumpur, writes that she is aware of the un-Islamic elements of Yoga but finds the ban insulting, saying, “Am I that weak or stupid to go astray?”

The “Footsteps in the Mirror” blog asks that people respect the edict, arguing that yoga is part of a belief system and even Christian denominations in Malaysia have warned against yoga.

A blogger at “Blogpastor,” a Christian who abstains from yoga, writes that opposition to yoga does indeed have roots in Romans 14:23, though the Christian church has been less firm in forming an official position.

Malaysian blogger “Praba Ganesan” disagrees with the fatwa but tries to assess why Islamic leaders would issue such a divisive ban.

Blogger “Gabriele,” an anthropologist studying Muslim communities, writes that such fatwas are becoming political tools to appeal to the electorate, pointing to their increased frequency.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user j / f / photos under a Creative Commons license.

November 24, 2008
India’s outsourcers look to outsource

In the last 10 years, India has become a global hub for foreign companies looking to outsource. After all, costs are about 40 percent cheaper compared to operating in the U.S. In 2007, outsourcing brought India about $11 billion in business, though the sector has suffered from the recent credit crisis.

As operating in India has become more expensive, companies like Quattro, an Indian business process outsourcing (BPO) company, have opened offices in countries like Singapore or Mexico.

So when a U.S. company outsources work to an Indian BPO, that same BPO could in turn outsource the job to workers from Mexico.

Worldfocus correspondent Daljit Dhaliwal and producers Mary Lockhart and Ara Ayer report from India, where Quattro executive Raman Roy talks about his company’s ambitions.

Below, bloggers discuss India’s role in the global workforce.

A guest blogger at the “Vikas Rikhye” blog writes about the effect of the global financial crisis on BPOs in India.

The “Outsourcing BlogShots” blog writes that outsourcing is going beyond India as world economies decline, and that Chinese and Latin American markets are getting more attention.

American blogger and IT assistant “Rita Cartwright” outlines some disadvantages to outsourcing.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire” blog takes a look at the Indian outsourcing industry’s thoughts about Barack Obama, who criticized outsourcing during the 2008 U.S. election campaign.

November 24, 2008
Venezuelan elections validate Chávez and opposition


Sara Llana Miller of The Christian Science Monitor was in Caracas for the elections and speaks to Martin Savidge about the Venezuelan reaction.


People wait in line to vote in Sunday’s local elections in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez claims the results of Sunday’s state and local elections are a validation of his socialist policies, as his supporters held on to governors’ posts in 17 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

However, Chávez’s opponents won in five states and in the two biggest cities, making gains.

Bloggers in Venezuela and around the world weigh in about the elections and the future of Venezuela after “23n” — the tag used to designate election coverage online (based on the date of the Sunday elections).

Hector Palacios at “Rayas y Palabras” posts videos from an online campaign that encouraged Venezuelans to talk about the elections using citizen media.

Twitter users in Venezuela and elsewhere post snippets about “23n,” and Flickr users post “23n” images.

A software developer at the “Venezuela and Europe” blog writes about election technology in Venezuela and incidences of corruption.

Blogger “Daniel” live blogs from Caracas, describing long lines and confusing voting procedures. In the aftermath, he expresses happiness about the opposition’s gains.

A blogger at’s “Devil’s Excrement” blog says the gains are “about the right amount,” hoping that Chávez will be in power and in place to shoulder the blame as the economic crisis hits.

The “Caracas Chronicles” blog writes about significant implications of the elections, including Venezuela’s urban/rural divide, potential changes for the oil industry and new opposition leaders in Caracas. The blogger also posts a final electoral map.

The opposition movement has capitalized on rising inflation and accusations of corruption. Chávez is expected to seek approval to abolish presidential term limits, which would enable a 2012 run.

Photos courtesy of Flickr user LuisCarlos Diaz and M@fe under a Creative Commons license.

November 21, 2008
Tibetan youth call for shift in strategy

Tibetan monks study in Karnataka, India.

A group of exiled Tibetan leaders are partway through a week-long meeting in northern India that may chart a new course in Tibet’s struggle against decades of Chinese rule.

Years of failed attempts at conciliatory relations with China and recent statements by the Dalai Lama have left some Tibetans in search of a new, more aggressive strategy — including a possible declaration of independence that many youth support.

But this week’s meeting has highlighted a generational gap between Tibetans. The older generation prefers a more moderate approach.

A blogger at “” examines calls for new thinking on Tibet in the context of China’s changed motivations since the struggle began. The blogger argues that leaders must focus on Tibet’s economic assets rather than religious freedom or human rights.

Another blogger reposts analysis by a Tibetan Chinese person who expresses sadness at Tibetan riots and trumpets Chinese communism and its economic rewards.

Blogger “Mathieu Vernerey” writes extensively about differences and similarities between the “middle way” approach and those who call for Tibet’s complete independence, suggesting that both approaches can be reviewed and adapted.

The “Potala Times” Web site posts a letter from a Tibetan who believes the meeting in India will not see a full agreement, but who hopes Tibetans can retain their culture with or without autonomy and on a local level.

Watch events of the meeting in India here.

As the meeting commenced, China tighted controls on Tibet and a Chinese official stated that Tibetan separatism is “doomed.”

China has even taken the battle online, where the country has used Google ads to spread its own version of the conflict.

Tibet was essentially an independent country prior to invasion and occupation by China’s People’s Liberation Army in the 1950s.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user bluemoondream under a Creative Commons license.

November 20, 2008
Mexico City divided over legalized abortion

Over a year after Mexico City legalized abortion, women may still find it difficult to abort during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Eighty-five percent of doctors in the city’s public hospitals have declared themselves conscientious objectors and the medical costs are high.

The controversial move to legalize abortion has been challenged in the Supreme Court and upheld. Ninety percent of Mexico’s population is Catholic.

Martin Savidge travels to populous Mexico City, where the abortion debate rages on.

Below, bloggers in Mexico and elsewhere voice their support or opposition to the city’s legalization of abortion — a rarity in Latin American countries.

Reverend Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International writes about his organization’s trip to Mexico, where they prayed in front of an abortion clinic. He calls Mexico City’s law “cruel and inhumane.”

The “Guanabee” blog argues that abortion is much more than a religious issue, writing that it also involves class, gender politics and culture issues.

“The Unapologetic Mexican” blog writes that media coverage of the legalization was biased and virtually ignored women’s voices, but calls the new law “a good start.”

The “South Chicagoan” blog writes that Mexico City’s decision to provide free Viagra to elderly men reflects gender bias when it comes to sexuality, since it is still so difficult to get an abortion.

The “Ciudad de Mexico” blog (in Spanish) wonders why Mexico City’s legislators did not engage in public debate on the issue prior to the legalization. (See Google’s English translation of the entry)

Blogger “Jo Tuckman” writes that it is amazing how far Mexico has come in such a short period of time.

For more on the abortion debate in Latin American countries, see what a Worldfocus contributing blogger had to say about the Urguayan president’s veto of a bill that would have legalized abortion in that country.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user emilyjmc06 under a Creative Commons license.

Blogwatch summarizes what bloggers and news sources are saying about the international news of the day. We’ll link to informative and bold voices that place the headlines in the context of the global conversation.

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