A Journalist on Vacation Discovers U.S. Involvement in Jamaican Tragedy

Brittany Stevens

Journalist, Mattathias Schwartz, was on vacation in Jamaica with nothing to do when a story that would tell another side of a deadly event fell into his lap. Schwartz caught wind of the story about a raid in a West Kingston, Jamaica community called Tivoli Gardens.

A source revealed to Schwartz that the account of the raid in the news was false. The source told Schwartz many innocent lives were taken in the midst of the raid, despite what was being reported. It wasn’t long before Schwartz jumped into the story, giving a voice to the Tivoli community.

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Soldiers patrol a street in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston on May 27, 2010.

© 2010 Reuters

Tivoli was originally a reconstructed neighborhood set up by government officials in the 1960s’. A corrupt government eventually caused the neighborhood to become one of Jamaica’s first Garrison communities,neighborhoods controlled by drug gangs.  Tivoli eventually fell under the leadership of Don Lester Lloyd Coke, one of the most powerful drug kingpins in Jamaican history.

Throughout the ‘90s, Jamaican street gangs were notorious for drug sells throughout Jamaica, and  Lloyd-Coke led this drug industry with the help of the Jamaican government until his death. The youngest son of the notorious don, Christopher Coke, eventually took over, leading in his father footsteps. Coke created his own penal process that included jail, magistrates, laws, and executioners.

Residents looked to their community leader for tuition, legal aid, loans, and medicine, among other things. Coke was such a powerful leader that under his control a large percentage of the Tivoli community had electricity, while other parts of Jamaica were not afforded the luxury or struggled to afford it.

The “Tivoli Massacre”, as Schwartz refers to the raid in his article title, was a result of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s plan to extradite and arrest Coke for his connection to a drug ring in America. Protected by the community and relationships with Jamaican government officials, Coke resided in Tivoli untouchable to law enforcement until the massacre.

When word spread that he would soon be arrested, thousands of Tivoli women marched in downtown Kingston on Coke’s behalf. Schwartz’s reports say the women wore white and carried signs written in marker on scraps of cardboard.

Signs marked with phrases like “Taking Di Boss Is Like Taking Jesus”; “After God, Dudus Comes Next!”; “Jesus Die for Us. We Will Die for Dudus!”

Schwartz reports that even while Coke prepared Tivoli for war with officials, he was negotiating a surrender in fear of dying like his father. The planned truce quickly turned sour when Coke’s henchmen attacked Jamaican law enforcement. The police commissioner cut off negotiations and declared a state of emergency in Kingston, giving security forces power to search, arrest, and hold residents in detention.

On May 23, 2010, the Jamaican military, with the assistance of U.S. intelligence, entered the community and over a course nearly five days searched for Coke. This attempt to extradite Coke resulted in the deaths of over 70 community residents.

News outlets initially reported the attempt to extradite Coke resulted in a war between the Jamaican military and drug gangs. American news outlets were among those stating that the security forces encountered an armed, organized opposition by Coke supporters. The surviving residents of the massacre seemed to refute those claims, stating when officials were unable to locate Coke, they executed several innocent people. In several instances, witnesses reported seeing soldiers shoot unarmed men at point-blank range.

According to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials,  law enforcement officials should apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials should  use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. According to the United Nations Human Rights website, the law states that basic principles call for an effective reporting and review process, especially in cases of death and serious injury.

The way residents describe the tragic events on that day in Tivoli represents a clear misuse of force under this law. The issue with the accounts of the residents is their word is waged against the account of Jamaican military officials. But, Schwartz reports revealed the U.S., who played a quiet hand in the attack, has video footage that could support the claims of either side.

Flying above the deadly events was The Department of Homeland Security’s P-3 Orion, filming with its on board cameras. A Jamaican photographer snapped photos of it during the massacre. Schwartz, after spending time in Tivoli investigating, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with DHS  and confirmed its presence.

“All scenes were continuously recorded,” a DHS document Schwartz acquired confirmed.

DHS refuses to release the video, accord to Schwartz.

A makeshift burial is located at the end of a road in Jamaica where the bodies of residents  slain in the Massacre lay to rest. The U.S. and Jamaican military forces have never taken responsibilities for innocent lives taken in the drug military operation.

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West Meets Middle East: Israel’s Cultural Diversity Through Music

One of the words most associated with the State of Israel is conflict. In music, Israeli culture shows off a more harmonious side. And while Israelis have adopted an “us against the world” attitude in recent years, the mixture of influences showing through the country’s most prolific artists point to a tradition of cultural assimilation and tolerance.

Les Belles Chansons

From its founding in 1948 to present day, Israel—dubbed “the state of the Jewish people”—has been a destination for immigration for Jews from all over the world.

In the post-Holocaust world of 1948, that meant a large influx of people coming from Western and Eastern Europe. The culture imported by those immigrants influenced the creation of generations of Israeli artists, whether they were descendants of migrants or not.

Some Israeli icons adored that culture so much, they have translated, re-arranged, and reimagined European classics.

 

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Yossi Banai, 1988. (Credit:Wikimedia Commons)

His brilliant translation to the latter’s “Le Chansons Des Vieux Amants” became a cultural cornerstone in itself, having since been covered by dozens of artists. Likewise, Chava Alberstein, another vanguard of the time, took George Moustaki’s “Ma Liberte” into her repertoire early in her decades-spanning career.Yossi Banai, hailing from a lineage of famous sabra (a term used to describe Jews born in Israel) artists, released two full length albums of songs translated from French originals popularized by stalwarts like George Brassens and Jacques Brel.

A few decades later, Yehuda Poliker, once a glam-rock star, used music influenced by his family’s Greek heritage to unpack what was perhaps the most difficult question many in Israel faced—what remained in the aftermath of the holocaust?

His 1988 album, “Efer ve Avak” (Ashes and Dust), became a flashpoint in Israeli culture. For the first time, an artist’s work engaged difficult topics like the holocaust itself, the trauma that remained with survivors and the influence it had on their children.

Poliker’s bouzouki filled, Middle-Eastern twist on rock music came hand in hand with the rise of a different source of influence in Israeli culture: North Africa and other Arab countries.

Coexistence in Sound

The wave of Jewish immigrants to Israel from different Muslim countries across the region came slightly after that of European immigration. As a result, that population suffered from severe cultural, economic and political marginalization for decades.
That all ended abruptly in 1977, when Likud Member of Knesset Menachem Begin harnessed pent up anger and frustration all the way to the office of Prime Minister—the first not to come from the Euro-centric political coalition of the time. On the radio, talk show hosts announced the Mahapach—the revolution. During music programming, a different kind of revolution could be heard.

This social shift brought Mizrachi (eastern) culture to the forefront for the first time. Many of the country’s most popular singers have since hailed from the tradition of Arabic-style music, including Zohar Argov, Eyal Golan, and Sarit Haddad.

Out of this cultural mishmash, a new, uniquely Israeli style has emerged— Middle-Eastern pop and rock. This style of music merges together meter, instruments, and tones from both Western and Eastern musical traditions.

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Dudu Tassa and the Kwaitis. (Credit: Flickr)

Perhaps most representative of this phenomenon is the music of Dudu Tassa and his Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis project. Tassa, of Iraqi descent and a successful musician in his own right, decided in 2011 to retrace the legacy of the family he has never met; His mother’s uncles, Salah and Dowd El-Kuwaiti, were once prominent artists in Iraq, before the family was expelled from the country because they were Jewish.

Tassa took original recordings of the Kuwaiti brothers and superimposed modern rock, guitar-bass-drums based melodies on them. The result was a highly successful, visionary album that took Tassa’s career to new heights.

And the album was sung entirely in the original Iraqi.

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What Makes A City Livable?

Each year the Economist Intelligence Unit puts out a list of the world’s most livable cities. This is based off of a number of factors including infrastructure, culture and environment, education, stability and healthcare. The Economist ranks a total of 140 major cities from around the world and in recent years not one American city makes it on the top 10 list. So what cities take the top spots and how does this affect them?

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Downtown Melbourne, May, 2018 (Credit: Katherine Vasiliev)

Well for the first time in eight years Melbourne, Australia did not take the number one spot on this list. Vienna knocked Melbourne down to number two this year. Otherwise for years Melbourne has been consistently in the number one spot with other well known Australian cities not far behind. Although Vienna may have beat out Melbourne in 2018, Melbourne is still high up there at the number two spot.

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Melbourne, May, 2018 (Credit: Katherine Vasiliev) 

Being known as the world’s most livable city can only do good for the country and the city. This brings in more tourism and opportunity. It makes people become curious as to why and how this city has received this title for so long. No other city has taken the number one spot for so long. When visiting the city, tours are quick to remind tourists about this proud achievement. There is an ongoing rivalry between what Australian city is better: Sydney or Melbourne? Now Melbourne easily points out this achievement when someone is on team Sydney. There are several factors with Melbourne that make it a more livable city. This includes a extensive public transportation system (that also happens to be free within downtown), low crime rates, a great arts scene,  incredible food, and much more. Fun facts with the city include the fact that this is one of the best cities for vegans. Also Melbourne used to be the capital of Australia.

According to CNN, some more reasons why Melbourne is so livable is their love for culture, the street art, international foods, sports, festivals, and more. Although no city is perfect, Melbourne has a lot going for the city.

 

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No market value for understanding with trade war on the horizon

The development of language is part of the development of personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people.

Maria Montessori, 1910

It seems that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi tried to channel Montessori’s words when they agreed to meet in Beijing this month. Recognizing the increasingly tense relations between the United States and China, with references to a ‘trade war’ floating in the ether, Pompeo and Wang likewise realized the importance of communication between their respective countries, and the primacy of their diplomatic relationship.

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Credit: Andy Wong

Although Montessori was correct that words can express thoughts and establish understanding between people, this doesn’t mean that words necessarily accomplish either objective. They surely missed the mark in the most recent meeting between Pompeo and Wang. I would argue that Pompeo and Wang certainly expressed their thoughts; however, establish understanding, they did not.

In what has disintegrated into a “U.S. said, China said” tit-for-tat, media outlets around the world disagree as to who was harsher or more dominant in their choice of words. Far from emerging as tools of understanding, words have become yet another battle ground in which the United States and China are vying for supremacy.

What global media outlets agree on, however, is that both Pompeo and Wang’s remarks were unusually blunt for a senior diplomatic meeting. Secondly, media outlets agree that there is significant confusion about precisely what the United States and China are aiming to achieve in terms of their mutual relationship.

The Global Times, a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, explicitly asks, “What does the United States want from China?” Meanwhile, The New York Times does not understand what Wang meant in accusing the United States of “constantly interfering in China’s internal and external affairs.”

“Such language could refer to Washington’s complaints about what it considers the Chinese government’s unfair subsidies of major industries, particularly technology,” The New York Times reports. “It could also refer to the Pentagon’s recent arms sale to Taiwan…or to the United States Navy’s stepped up operations around islands that Beijing claims in the South China Sea.

In other contexts, American entrepreneur and prominent life coach Tony Robbins has remarked, “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to communication with others.” However, his words would certainly apply to U.S.-China relations and the ongoing disagreement about trade. Likewise, Einstein has asserted, “Peace cannot be kept by force, but achieved by understanding.”

In other words, the verbal exchange between Pompeo and Wang was not an alternative to the ongoing trade war, but a reflection of it: a total breakdown of communication that posed a firm barrier to a genuine trade of understanding, ideas, and perspective.

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Credit: ALiz Linder

The current global conversation about U.S.-China trade relations could benefit from Yo-Yo Ma’s vision in founding the Silk Road Ensemble, an international collaboration of artists who seek to advance global understanding through musical performances, learning, and cultural entrepreneurship.

“Every tradition is the result of successful invention,” Yo-Yo Ma reflects in Oscar-winning Morgan Neville’s music documentary, The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (2015). “Human beings grow by being receptive and curious to what’s around them. A lot of people are scared of change, and sometimes there’s reason to be fearful. But if you can welcome change, you can become a ground for fertile development.”

With so much at stake, the U.S. and China would be wise to follow Yo-Yo Ma’s lead. As Chinese pipa player Wu Man also shares in The Music of Strangers, “To me, the world is one. There is no East/West. It is just a globe.”

 

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Vietnamese President’s Death Amidst Political Turmoil and in the Age of Misinformation

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Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang shown during a meeting with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the Presidential Palace during the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Kham/AP)

Update (Oct. 10, 2018): The National Party’s Chief, Nguyen Phu Trong, has been announced to assume the role of President until the next National Assembly in 2021. He will be the first to hold two of the four highest offices in Vietnam. 

Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang passed away last Friday, Sept. 21, aged 61, of an unknown illness, ending his two-year rule since April 2016. The state funeral took place over Tuesday, Sept. 26 and Wednesday, Sept. 27 as the whole country is in mourning.

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, the late president made his last public appearance, hosting a meeting with China’s chief justice in Hanoi, Vietnam, after a month of absence. Speculations about his health problems started brewing since June 2017, due to his allegedly “unwell appearance” and multiple trips to Japan, allegedly for treatment. According to Former Health Minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu, it was an unnamed “rare and highly toxic virus” that “[had] yet to have any kind of efficient treatment.”

The dubious details surrounding his illness and demise are not surprising to analysts and observers who have been following the Vietnamese news cycle. In Vietnam, misinformation is not new. For most of 2018, Tran and his administration have been steeped in controversies regarding stricter restriction on expression, controversial economic policy proposals, and in-party conflicts.

Some citizens expressed genuine shock at Tran’s sudden death, citing his recent public appearances. Several unsubstantiated conspiracy theories have surfaced on social media, including the possibility of him being poisoned on a recent state visit to China, or a power play within the “four-pillar” leadership.

The “four-pillar” model allows no paramount leader; instead, the country is led by the President, the Prime Minister, the Communist Party’s Chief and the National Assembly Chair. The President’s role is largely ceremonial, as the Prime Minister and Party’s Chief hold most executive and legislative powers.

Controversies have encircled the four pillars since June; nationwide protests erupted as the government proposed to grant Chinese state investors 99-year leases in three strategic Specialized Economic Zones (SEZs) and further restricting cybercrime laws. As Vietnam and China have had a long-standing difficult relationship, citizens took to the streets as they perceived the 99-year leases in SEZs as allowing China to invade, therefore a national and regional security threat. Intense public pressure has caused the leadership to reconsider their economic plans, however, the new cybercrime laws are now in place.

Tran was a vocal advocate for the new cybercrime laws, as well as a well-known hardliner in prosecuting dissidents, human rights bloggers and pro-democracy advocates. Under his rule, one of the most celebrated Vietnamese human rights bloggers Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as Mother Mushroom, was jailed in 2017. According to Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, Tran was a part of “a multi-year crackdown on human rights and putting more political prisoners behind bars in Vietnam than any time in recent history.”

Prior to assuming the presidential office, Tran had been the Minister of Public Security, the police force and central intelligence service of Vietnam for 5 years. He had started his crackdown on dissidents in this role, as the police force has been known for a heavy hand in arrest and prosecution. According to an NPR report, the ministry “[had] been singled out by international critics of Vietnam’s human rights record.”

Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh will assume the presidency temporarily, becoming the first female president of the country. It is also the first time two of the four pillars in Vietnam’s leadership are held by women, the other being National Assembly Chair Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.

However, it is yet a point of feminist pride in Vietnam, as such arrangement will not last long. The National Assembly is expected to come together in October to appoint and vote for a new president to finish Tran’s term, which ends in 2021. There has been widespread speculation that the Party’s Chief, Nguyen Phu Trong, will use this opportunity to replace Tran with someone more in line with Nguyen’s perspective. Tran and Nguyen have been known to clash due to differences in personal politics.

Tran’s death will not be likely to change the country’s existing policies; however, a significant power vacuum has opened up, and subsequent developments will be worth watching.

 

 

 

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