Archive for October 2010

Moroccan State News Agency Fabricates the Death of a Youth in Melilla

October 31, 2010

Today I translated Medios oficiales marroquíes se inventan la muerte de un joven en Melilla, an international report from Spanish newspaper El País.

Background: Melilla is an autonomous Spanish city on the coast of North Africa with a population of 73,460. It has been part of the country since 1497. Morocco, which borders it by land, demands sovereignty, but Spain claims the city is essential to their country as a port. The UN does not consider it a colony. Ceuta is a Spanish city on the Strait of Gibraltar in a similar condition.

Morocco, which has a history longer than Spain’s, was a French and Spanish protectorate from 1912-1956. The Spanish controlled the mountainous northern region of the country, called The Rif.

The Sahrawi are an ethnic group from Western Sahara, estimated population 250,000-400,000. Spain transferred Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975, but resistance from the Polisario, an independence movement backed by Algeria, have confused the country’s governance ever since. Mauritania withdrew its claim in 1979; most the territory is controlled by Morocco with the support of France, the rest by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic backed by Algeria. Neither government is not internationally recognized. The Sahrawi are also ethnic minorities in Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and Spain.

Moroccan State News Agency Fabricates the Death of a Youth in Melilla
The official agency and the television stations falsely report that the Civil Guard killed a Muslim minor in this weekend’s incidents.
Authors: M. Ceberio Belaza and I. Cembrero, reporting from Madrid and El Aaiún, Morocco, October 30, 2010

Various Moroccan media have been airing a false story since Friday night: the death in Melilla of Younes, a 16-year old Muslim adolescent. The national news agency of Melilla’s neighboring country, whose director is appointed by the king, broadcast that the youth was struck at point blank by the rubber bullet of a Spanish Civil Guardsman during disturbances that “devastated the occupied city.” The story, which alluded to unspecified “various media” as its source, is even posted on the agency’s website. The Spanish language version replaces the rubber bullet with a real one. The television stations have echoed the report and broadcast it to Moroccan homes. But it is false.

The Spanish Minister of the Interior, the Government Delegation, and the president of the Autonomous City of Melilla, Juan José Imbroda, have denied that any youth, child, or adult has been killed by Spanish security forces. No families have reported the death of any members at the hands of the Civil Guard. There is neither testimony nor evidence of the death; the cadaver, according to the Moroccan reporters, was taken to an “undisclosed location.” The non-existent Younes is an invention that is very similar to a real tragedy, that of the adolescent Sahrawi Nayem Elgarhi, shot and killed by the Moroccan military last Sunday. According to Spanish diplomats and Sahrawi intellectuals, the story was fabricated to create parallelism between Melilla and the Sahara at a time when Morocco is facing its biggest Sahrawi protests since 1975, when Spain handed Western Sahara over to its neighbor.

On Tuesday, two days after the death of the adolescent Sahrawi, a series of dramatic altercations began in Melilla. Young Muslims set containers aflame and threw stones at the police in three poor neighborhoods. The disturbances supposedly stemmed from the ethnic Moroccan youths’ opposition to the recent employment plans, and they were covered extensively by Moroccan media. A Moroccan chain solicited a Melillan local station, Cablemel, for images from the neighborhoods of La Cañada de Hidum, Montecristina, and Cabrerizas. It was the first time they had asked for material. The interest of the African country’s press was the highest it had ever been.

Was the protest spontaneous? The spokesman for those complaining about the employment plans has been Yusef Kaddur, a representative of Muslim businessmen who had a major role in the conflicts on the border of Beni Enzar last spring, which were organized by Moroccan civil organizations counting on the support of their own country’s police. The same people responsible for that affair have affirmed that this week’s disturbances in Melilla were “organized.” So said Said Chramti, of the Gran Rif Association for Human Rights, one of the principal agitators on the border in August: “the click of an e-mail is enough to provoke something.” Whether he’s correct or not, it’s certain that the Cañada de Hidum neighborhood, where the altercations began, is very poor and easily agitated.

The story about the supposed dead youth in Melilla appeared on the official Moroccan news agency’s website on Friday night. The text was very hazy: it said that “various media” had reported the death of Younes and that the “forces of order” had taken the cadaver to an “undisclosed location.” They also insisted that the young ethnic Moroccans had protested not against the employment plans but also against Spanish “discrimination.”

The diffusion of the false story about the youth coincided, at any rate, with the real one about Sahrawi youth Nayem Elgarhi, provoking suspicions in El Aaiún, Western Sahara, that the two are linked. 15 kilometers east of El Aaiún, about 20,000 people have camped in Agdaym Izik for three weeks demanding homes and jobs while denouncing Morocco’s “pillaging” of the riches of the Sahara.

In addition to the Moroccan press’s extensive coverage of the altercations in Melilla, said to be similar to a siege, there have been other accusatory stories from the official agency against Spain. It assures that the police in Ceuta harassed a Moroccan radio journalist and that this was a violation of the “freedom of the press.” As it happens, this is the same complaint reporters have made in recent days against Morocco, which has impeded journalists from traveling to the Sahara and has forbidden them access to the site of the Sahrawi protests.


聯考訪問 ~ Entrance Exams in Taiwan

October 30, 2010









Entrance Exams in Taiwan
Author: James Smyth
Editor: Huang Xin-hui

I talked to a vocational school student and three college graduates about their entrance exams.  They all went to different high schools and colleges, but they all made it into the schools they wanted.

I learned that exams are graded on a bell curve.  So if you do well, but other students do better, you’re out of luck, but if you do poorly and the others do even worse, then you actually did well.  That’s why the exams are so competitive: if some people bury themselves in books for an entire year, the others have to do the same to keep up.  My friends went to several different cram schools for different subjects.

Before going to high school, all the students in the country have to take the Fundamental Examination.  Math, English, Chinese, Science, and Social Studies are all worth 60 points.  There’s also an essay, but it’s only worth 12 points, 1/31 of the total.  My friend at vocational school earned 250 points, good for the 84th percentile.  She loves English, and she did very well in that part of the exam.  Now she’s going to the National Taipei College of Business and focusing on languages.  She’s very bright: she’s studying English, French, and Japanese at the same time.

Before going to college, high school students have to list their preferred universities and departments for their counselors.  After the test, the counselors compare their students’ scores with other students with the same preferences to decide who is admitted to which department in which university.  Departments give more weight to students’ scores in subjects relevant to their field: for example, the Math Department pays the most attention to a student’s Math score.  Some students “choose a department.”  They put more importance on getting into a certain field than on getting into a certain school.  So on their application, they list the same department, such as Math, at several different schools.  Other students “choose a school.”  They’re more concerned with being at their dream university than with what they study there.

My friend set her heart on National Taiwan University.  That, however, is the most competitive school in the country.  Since many students with the same preferences as her fared better on their exams, she ended up going to her eighth choice: NTU’s Department of Agricultural Chemistry.  After a couple years, she realized her interest isn’t science; it’s language.  A couple years after graduating, she went to England to study Interpreting for a year.  She’s just returned to Taiwan, and she’s looking for a job while working at city hall.  But employers ask her, “Why did you major in Agricultural Chemistry instead of English?”  She thinks that Taiwanese students lack adequate career counseling, so some aren’t careful enough with their choice of department, and as juniors or seniors realize they can’t do anything with their major or don’t want to spend their lives doing that kind of work.

Listening to my friends’ experiences was very interesting.  I think Taiwanese people have to decide on their futures earlier than Americans.

Photo Album: Mostly Christian T-Shirts

October 29, 2010

Mostly Christian T-Shirts
Today’s album is more offbeat. As a student, I received a lot of T-shirts for events and teams. To put it SAT style,
Students : Free T-Shirts ::: Iron Man : Magneto
There are some clever designs and good messages herein. Posting them online is easier than lugging my dresser all over the world. Maybe you’ll see something you like!

雙十節 (10/10/10) Taiwan National Day Parade Album

October 28, 2010

Taiwan National Day Parade

雙十節 (10/10/10) Taiwan National Day Parade Album

This fun 3-hour event featured students, community organizations, businesses, and the most tongue-in-cheek military in the world. At night, I saw fireworks from atop my dormitory. Take a look!

公館裡最擠的地方 ~ The Busiest Place in Gongguan

October 27, 2010

羅斯福路和基隆路的交叉點 – Roosevelt & Keelung








The Busiest Place in Gongguan
Author: James Smyth
Editor: Huang Xin-hui

Many people wait for buses in front of Gongguan MRT Station to take them to and from work and school. It seems like you can get anywhere from there. But the busiest place in Gongguan doesn’t have that many people and bicycles. Because there are so many cars at the Roosevelt & Keelung intersection, pedestrians find it dangerous.

It’s a roundabout. Cars and motor scooters pass through it in packs. Two policemen and a hoard of stoplights direct traffic. The policemen use batons to restrain offending vehicles. Pedestrians can walk around the intersection, but even though it doesn’t take that long to cross because the lights alternate so quickly, you don’t see very many of them. On the MRT Station’s side of Roosevelt Road, there’s also an underground walkway.

Two big roads and two small ones, 27 lanes in all, go into and out of the roundabout. In addition, the Keelung Elevated Highway passes over it and a bus-only street goes under it. Keelung Elevated Highway stretches from the other side of Xindian River to Xinhai Road. The entrance and exit for the tunnel are right in the middle of Roosevelt Road, on either side of the roundabout, for vehicles to pass straight through it. Also, the subway line, which is not visible, follows Roosevelt.

Most of the vehicles entering the roundabout turn right or go straight, but those with patience can also go left. A car that misses its exit can circle around and try again. Though there are over a hundred vehicles passing through at any one time, I haven’t seen an accident there or even a spot of trouble. However, my Taiwanese friends tell me it’s a dangerous intersection. Cars certainly have to be careful there. Perhaps they’re cautious because they don’t want to make tens of thousands of people late for work.

Some interesting buildings alongside the streets are two Taipower Buildings, a general office building, a police station, and a public junior high school. The students there must hear the traffic all day long. Because crossing the road isn’t easy, volunteers come before and after school to help the students. Also, there’s a breakfast stand. Motor scooters often stop in front of it to buy egg cakes, dumplings, and other Taiwanese breakfast.

It’s an impressive intersection with a creative design.

What I’ve Learned in the Karaoke Box

October 27, 2010

I’ve been to karaoke dozens of times now. When I first heard the word, I imagined standing on a stage and serenading hundreds of strangers. But that’s only happened once twice three times: at the city hall party, where the ALTs and a couple hundred bureaucrats joined shoulders to sing “We Are the World”; on a ferryboat in Nagasu, when we teachers sang “Let It Be” to the students as we pulled into shore; and at my neighborhood festival, when a guy I’d never met asked me to sing “Hotel California” with him. I sang at the Orange Garden with the small children sometimes. A college student was there once, and he loved Oasis and The Beatles, so we sang snatches of a dozen tunes together. He exclaimed, “NO MUSIC, NO LIFE!”

I went in Hong Kong with a friend’s family and realized they were all accomplished singers. It was like a free concert. Others use instrumentals to drink and say “Those were the good old days!” but they were rushing to work out three-part harmony before the chorus repeated. I went in Kyoto with my own family. We had a good time! (I could have sworn we sounded better in person than we do in the recording, though.) I went with my classmates in Taipei last Friday. (By the way, the karaoke box we visited here had a buffet in the lobby, and you got 4 hours of music for $10 a person!)

Most of my trips were with Japanese teachers or other foreign teachers after dinner, in a private room seating between a dozen and two dozen people. Snack bars have machines, too, and the waitresses there seem to know all the songs so they can help out someone who needs a lift or a duet partner. The best deal in Tamana was all-you-can-drink for 2 hours with the option of ordering snacks on the side, and the second-best pizza I had in Japan was at Karaoke 55 (“Go-Go“), the 4-story box with shining neon lights that’s visible from anywhere in Tamana. 55 also had a tall Surprise Birthday Sundae; sometimes we’d order it and then figure out whose birthday was closest before it was brought in with the candle sparking.

I taught elementary school. I can burst into song at any time. I’ve already done it three or four times here, as a student. So I love karaoke. Whenever I go dancing I end up talking too much, but when I go to karaoke I sometimes melt into song after song after song. I learn about people by what they choose to sing. I’ve had marathons where teachers requested every English song they knew and expected me to follow along. I’ve seen hilarious performances and had disturbing conversations. I’ve had many uplifting moments, where we realized that different as we were, we loved the same song and had had the same emotion before, or a song reminded us of something beautiful we’d experienced together. Here are some things I keep in mind when I go:

I can’t drink and sing. I don’t like getting drunk in general, because unlike most other people, I lose my edge and get quieter when I go under, but my voice also goes flat, as if my throat’s a guitar and I just loosened the strings.

I support everyone who’s singing. If you think someone’s goofy or a bad singer, going quiet or negative will kill the mood more than the culprit would have himself. Let live, and the moment will pass with everyone still in good spirits. So I clap or chat or sing along instead of hating, and soon I’m enjoying how individual the other person is.

When selecting songs, I try to pick things everyone knows. I know I’m not going to change anyone’s life with my voice. It’s better if we all relive a moment or a performer together.

I make an exception to sing one song in a language that no one else knows, to shake it up and let people revel in my strangeness an exotic foreign culture for a few minutes. I redeemed myself at the Partridge Family Karaoke Night I mentioned before by singing in Japanese. Specifically this song, which is better known in Hong Kong as this song.

I think if you’re keeping it cool at karaoke you’re missing the point. Dancing, interpretive or otherwise, is welcome. I like to sing along and Santa-laugh the whole time, and to chat with people who are sitting alone.

However, people want to fly solo sometimes. I knew a father who could sing in falsetto, and when he ordered up The Lion Sleeps Tonight, people asked me to keep it down because he was so good, even though I was the person who introduced that song to him the year before! I had another friend who brought down the house with “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” every single time, so we let him spread his wings and fly.

Finally, if you don’t have an embarrassing photo of yourself at karaoke, you haven’t been there enough. Guess what song this was?

Let’s go there some time! I promise I won’t bite.


October 25, 2010