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Saturday, January 19

US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs

The creator of this map has had the interesting idea to break down that gigantic US GDP into the GDPs of individual states, and compare those to other countries’ GDP.

read more | digg story

This is Web power · Challenging Cosa Nostra

PALERMO Comittee Addiopizzo was started by a group of young Italians in Sicily against the Mafia.

They wanted to start a bar, but one of them asked:

“What if they ask us for the pizzo?”
'Pizzo' are the extortion payments made by local businesses for protection. The group says:
We have found a new strategy to fight mafia: critical shopping against pizzo. The campaign “Against pizzo change your shopping habits” wants to create a group of consumers in Palermo and in the region, ready to support businesses who stand up against racket and, overcoming fear, denounce their extorters.

Those businesses are listed on their website. Over 7000 Sicilians have also put their names down.

Safety in numbers and this is the first time this has happened in Palermo.

The local business association, Confindustria, has now signed on - they will expel anyone found to be paying pizzo.

And they now know who many of those businesses are - and how much they were paying - as lists were found when bosses Berndando Provenzano and Lo Piccolo were arrested last year. Half Palermo's businesses are estimated to pay.

Sicilian authorities are now aggressively prosecuting those who refuse to testify against the Mafia in clear-cut cases of extortion, charging them with "aiding and abetting" Cosa Nostra.

"Now it is a bigger risk for us to pay than not to pay," said Ugo Argiroffi, an engineer who recently added his Palermo construction company, C.O.C.I. to Addiopizzo's list

The website is undermining the 'culture of fear', raising real hope of an end to the one a a half century long stranglehold of the 'shadow state'.
"This rebellion goes to the heart of the Mafia," said Palermo prosecutor Maurizio De Lucia, who has investigated extortion cases for years. "If it works, we will have a great advantage in the fight against the Mafia."

`It's a happy coincidence'' that Provenzano's capture corresponds to the banding together of businesses and consumers against the mob, Vittorio Greco, a University of Palermo professor and Comittee Addiopizzo founder said. ``The police forces were able to capture Provenzano just as civil society was able to reach this goal.
Unfortunately, some things are lost forever:

Villa Deliella
, one of Palermo's historical monuments destroyed by Mafia corruption

And Addiopizzo has built on many before it, such as their hero, Libero Grassi, a merchant killed in 1991 for refusing to pay pizzo.
Libero Grassi has not been forgotten. A new station of Palermo's metro (underground) line and a technical school have been named in his honour. Recently a Palermo fashion show televised nationally was dedicated to his memory. He didn't consider himself exceptional.
Other Sicilians are also using the Web to spread the message, inspired by Committee Addiopizzo:
  • Addiopizzo in Catania, Scicily's second-largest City.

TGR SICILIA TV news report

Palermo, November 15, 1983. Benedetto Grado's wife and daughters at the scene of his slaying. The family was already mourning his son Antonio. Mafia violence has felled generations of Sicilians, innocents and implicated.
· [Photoessay] Franco Zecchin: Fifteen Years of Mafia

Friday, January 18

This is Web power · Kenyans need blogs

Back from a break and some new-ish sites to tell you about, all of which show more new tricks and more great uses for the web (and they're truly inspiring). More to follow, first to Kenya.

NAIROBI — Dipping in and out of the headlines but far from resolved, the Kenyan crisis has shown up many media organisations and quite a few journalists in their ignorance about Kenya. Many have actually openly said that they don't 'get' it.

One good example was China's first statement, issued on Monday (14th). They, rightly, criticised colonialism's legacy, but also said:

"The Western 'democracy' transplanted to Africa is unsuited to local conditions and has sowed the seeds of disaster."
African bloggers have already picked this up and called it 'racist' — western media have so far missed it entirely.

What interested bystanders can now do though is get a wide range of Kenyan opinion and reporting 'on the ground' via blogs. If you really want to get some idea of what's happening and why, blogs are your best source.

There are dozens of Kenyan blogs. Some are by white people but most aren't, many are by expats. Some support President Kibaki, many the opposition but most aren't political. Many are religious or business blogs. Across the range you get endless eye-witness accounts and background, including from members of the Kikuyu, and one incredible photo-journalist's blog.

Saying far more in a few photos than yet another news-free monotone sob story from the BBC's Orla Guerin or ITV's Neil Connery (many Kenyan bloggers have praised Al-Jazeera's coverage), Joseph Karoki's blog has been documenting what's happening since the stolen election.

joseph karoki
Joseph Karoki
Karoki has been sourcing photos from all over - I noticed today that a New York Times photographer is now contributing. And linking to others such as this Flickr collection.

He, along with the other bloggers, have managed to build up a fact-heavy network which is trying to talk peace and preach calm. Anything else, particularly 'tribalism', is being shouted down by other Kenyans in their blogosphere - it's great to watch this network evolving, even if the circumstances are appalling.

Kenyan blog Mentalacrobatics, has another positive angle - which, again, I'm not seeing in the MSM:
I have been expecting many of the younger voters to come and express their anger at me for getting their hopes up that their vote was as powerful as anyone else’s vote. Instead what I have seen is very encouraging; people are engaged in the political process as never before.

For example, earlier on Tuesday a group of youth were busy calculating how many votes you need to be elected Speaker of parliament. At petrol stations you hear debates about whether Nominated MPs are nominated before or after the speaker is elected, people come up to me and ask if there is anything that can prevent Kibaki from stealing all the Nominated MP positions for his own party in defiance of tradition which states the nominated positions are given out in proportion to the number of seats won, and the most requested document request I receive by email these days is for the Constitution.

Tuesday’s parliamentary proceedings were broadcast live on TV and the whole country was watching and taking note. When Marende [opposition candidate] was elected speaker we could hear shouts of celebration from Kibera and Kawangware [Nairobi slums]. This engagement is not exclusive to the middle class. It looks like stealing an election is a fantastic way to get the public engaged in civic education. Now that is a massive silver lining!
The exasperation with leaders is constant, as is the demand for fair elections. One sign of blogging's growing power in Kenyan politics is that they've rapidly developed as an avenue for counter-opposition propoganda.

Another rapidly growing angle is the use of video. This has been circulating news of acts of police violence — The following video may disturb you - which have transferred to MSM.

All of which gives the lie to the opinion expressed not just by the Chinese but by many Westerners - that democracy won't work in Africa. Online you can watch Kenyans trying to build their democracy. I find this inspiring and the cynical, sometimes racist, attitudes to their efforts somewhat depressing and lazy.

Karoki and other bloggers are working with Mama Mikes - the big electronic money transfer business - with an appeal for Kenya. There, you can buy a shopping voucher which will be used by Kenya Red Cross for food, water, blankets, clothes, sanitary products, toys for children etc. (And maybe condoms).

There's also another excellent blogger initiative called Usahidi (Swahili word for 'witness') which is recording all acts of violence (on a Google Map).

As many bloggers have explained, what's happening - especially with the continuing total news media blackout imposed by the government - has shown exactly why the Internet is so important for Africa.

Addendum: Wikipedia is a good source on British colonialism in Kenya (stuff you wouldn't know from school). Did you know we (the British) had over a million Kenyans in concentration camps within living memory - during the 1950s uprising?