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As the overall national economy seems to be slightly on the rise, South Florida didn’t seem to get to notice it that much during Thanksgiving weekend, despite Black Friday deals.

By Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti

Lincoln Rd. and Collins Ave. had some tourists and locals walking around in warm weather, sure. But, as shoppers in other parts of the nation, such as Washington, D.C., couldn’t wait to get into the stores on Black Friday, things were not quite the same in Miami Beach.

“The economy is getting stronger, with the nation’s gross domestic product growing at its fastest clip so far this year,” The Washington Post  reported on November 10th.  However, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’ news release this year still places Florida in a low ranking: the second quintile –the second to last- for 2010.

Off the wall store in Miami Beach expected more crowds on Black Friday

Natalie Demanoe, the manager at Off the wall, a bikini store located near the South Beach strip, says they were expecting more buyers this past Friday, especially, because prices of their items were as low as $10 dollars.

“It was very busy on Thursday and Friday but we were expecting more people, like last year,” Demanoe said.

This Thanksgiving weekend wasn’t particularly busy for Five 5 napkin burger restaurant either. At about 6:00 pm, usual dinnertime for many, the outside tables were full but the ones inside remained empty.

Courtney Gomes, the hostess at Five 5 napkin burger, that has been working in South Beach for at least seven years, said they were expecting a bigger crowd of tourists from the United States, but that it was filled with foreigners.

“Not that many Americans, but we got a lot of tourists, mostly Europeans,” she recalled. “I guess because of the economy, it’s been really slow.”

Lincoln Road in Miami Beach didn't have as many American tourists as expected

Still, according to the South Florida Business Journal  in September, the region’s economy mirrored state GDP growth, which climbed 1.4 percent, year-over -year, in 2010.

It might simply be a matter of a slow-speed recovery.

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By Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti

The United States is walking a fine line with China, according to Michael Swaine, analyst in Chinese security studies. He says that the current dynamic is not sustainable during an event held in Washington, D.C. by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Listen to the story here:


By Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti

Every Tuesday night DJ Adrian Loving spins some records at Lost Society, a restaurant and club located on the corner of U St. and 14 St. Washingtonians can expect classic soul, house and funk music starting at 9:00 pm.


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Content regulation should stay out of it, but many believe that broadcast laws are obsolete

By Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti

Some experts say that a reform in Communications Law is necessary. The Mercatus Center, research institute for George Mason University held a meeting Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.  to discuss broadcast and Federal Communications Commission, also known as the FCC, regulations.

Raymond Glifford, a lawyer for the Mercatus Center, published The continuing case for serious communications law reform this month, in which he discusses that as technologies change, laws need to keep up.

The FCC controls radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in the United States.

The law that regulates broadcast is the Communications Act of 1934, along with an amendment, the Telecommunications Act in 1996.

He says that these changes should not regulate content but rather focus on topics such as regulatory framework, universal service, spectrum forum and institutional reform.

Glifford’s paper is a proposal called the Digital Age Communications Act, or DACA, which is meant to guide legislators as they move forward with changes. It summarizes the bill that experts proposed since 2005, but has yet to be approved.

He insists that the reform should come through a law of general applicability.

“I think laws of general applicability do two things: they create less rent-seeking pressure, where special interest will tend to try and come into an agency and capture it,” he says. “And secondly, it’s a more transparent process.”

Politics and laws

Howard Shelanski, Georgetown University professor, and Jeffrey Eisenach, managing director of Navigant Economics, agree that content should not be an issue in the reforms, but that changes are most needed.

“There has been a colossal waste of resources trying to regulate content,” Shelanski says.

He also says that there are partisan politics that have to be overcome in order to get this issue addressed since Democrats and Republicans haven’t been able to agree so far.


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The snow didn’t make them leave. On October 29th, New York City and most of the East Coast were hit with the first snowfall of the season, but the occupants stayed outdoors

By Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti

Saturday was an unusually cold, wet and stormy snow day for New York City. “We froze,” said Stevie Wonder or maybe Marvin Gaye –depending on how many times he gets asked his name- one of the vocal members of the Occupy Wall Street movement) in Zuccotti Park, also known as Liberty Square by the occupiers.

It was the first time that the five week-old protest had suffered such bad weather conditions since it started.  More than an inch of snow covered sidewalks and streets of the Big Apple.

Michael Rodriguez, from the Bronx, says he is here because wants to be supportive. Photo by Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti

Those protesting have been camping out for more than a month, and had enjoyed a rather nice fall so far.

“A lot of people stayed in their tents but the people that were outside tried to stay as protected as possible,” Michael Rodriguez said. “There were a lot of people bringing hot food all day, there were a lot of people donating things to keep us warm.”He is 24 years old, from the Bronx and joined the movement on Day 8.

“The best part, I’ll say, was experiencing all those elements at once: pouring rain with falling snow, really heavy winds lighting and thunder, it was just amazing,” Rodriguez said. “My feet were in plastic bags.”

He said being prepared is what matters the most in this type of situation.   Unfortunately, there is no place to anchor tents in the park, he pointed out.

“All day, all week, occupy Wall Street,” he yelled out following the rhythm of the drums.

“What do you want me to do?”

Wonder or Gaye played a song with the chorus “This ain’t living”. He joked that he escaped and spent Saturday in a warmer climate.

“My feet was freaking frozen, what do you want me to do? Die? Burn Wall Street to stay warm?,” he asked. “No, I’m just joking, I’m not an arsonist.”

Known as Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder, he says they froze during Saturday's snowfall

He joined the movement after one week because he is concerned about jobs and is against the government bailout of banks.

After the snow storm, the sun came up in New York City on Sunday. They came out of their tents and went back to singing, dancing, playing music, selling movement’s mementos, holding up signs and protesting in the park located half a block from the American Stock Exchange.

It was cold but they were dry.


By Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti

Things could get messy in Guatemala if presidential election’s results are too close, according to Eduardo Stein, former Vice President. Stein spoke at a meeting of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. about the second round of the race for the presidential office in Guatemala.

The two remaining contenders are former general Otto Perez Molina, of the right-winged Patriot Party, and Manuel Baldizon, of the centrist LIDER party.

Stein said that the weakness of the Guatemalan Electoral Tribunal has to be taken into account when analyzing the outcome, whichever one it may be.

“If the election is close, I don’t think the population will accept it easily”, Stein said. “Guatemalans have identified members of the Electoral Tribunal as representatives of political parties, that’s what they’re up against.”

As the November 6th runoff approaches, polls show very close percentages between Otto Perez Molina and Manuel Baldizon.

Perez Molina leads the latest polls, published by Prodatos, with 55.8 percent approval, while Manuel Baldizon has 44.2 percent of voter intent. In the first round, Perez Molina obtained 36 percent of the vote and Baldizon got 23 percent.

The survey had a 2.8 percent margin of error, which would still give Perez Molina a comfortable lead. However, polls also show that his approval has been slowly decreasing since June, whereas Baldizon’s has been slowly increasing.

In order for these numbers to make sense in context, it must be taken into consideration that Perez Molina had 50.6 percent of approval in June and Baldizon had 5.6 percent in May.

Security and money are paramount

The former Vice President –who held the position from 2004 to 2008- said what will most likely determine the election results is how the population considers each one will deal with the two main issues that worry Guatemalans: security and economics issues.

“[Security] is the prominent issue for Guatemalan voters, who could solve the insecurity problems of the country,” said Stein. “But it’s being a much more complex issue, it has also to do with income opportunities, job opportunities, and in general, and in general the situation of the economy which is the second.”

He said that even though Perez Molina defends the “mano dura” approach on security issues, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The “mano dura” policy is known to restrict civil liberties as an attempt of the military to control crime and drug cartels.

 

Stein said that this policy could also be a way to strengthen democracy through the justice system and the law enforcement forces.

Including half the country

Stein also mentioned the indigenous population in Guatemala, which makes up about 50 percent of the nation.

According to the United Nations there are 21 different Maya groups in Guatemala, which make up an estimated of 51 percent of the national population.

He noted that they are as divided among themselves as the non-indigenous population, which makes Guatemala a complicated country to analyze when it comes to elections.

Stein said that, ironically, the Patriot Party –considered as a highly conservative one- presented the most amount of indigenous candidates in the last election.

 

What’s on the table for the next president?

Stein said that even though he cannot predict election results, whoever gets elected would have to deal with budget and foreign policy issues.

However, he said he has seen consistency in Otto Perez Molina’s promises regarding indigenous reforms and the foreign policy agenda; whereas Manuel Baldizon would probably not be able to uphold his promises due to the budget situation in Guatemala.

“There is 3 percent deficit in the public budget and the foreign debt increased by 30 percent, which amounts to 4.5 billion dollars,” said Stein. “It grew to levels never expected of experienced before.”

“There is always an element of hope that is not reasonable,” said Stein. According to him, people need to believe that someone will change things.


Sept. 11 receives less attention and sympathy overseas as its 10th anniversary approaches.

By Arushi Sharma, Nadya Batson, and VanessaHacesGonzatti

While America prepares to commemorate the event, the world is more concerned with natural disasters and social uprisings than the day that forever marked American history. The aftermath of the London riots and the European Union economic crisis consumes the Europeans’ attention; earthquakes and floods are Asia’s concern, while the Middle East struggles with political changes.

9/11 ‘touched a fiber in all of humanity’
Despite being miles away from the events of 9/11, most foreigners can vividly recall how they felt when they heard the news, including Tulio Gavidia, 26, a dentist in Caracas, Venezuela. Gavidia woke up after the first airplane hit one of the towers; he remembers most networks tuning into CNN en Español.

“It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life because it didn’t affect me directly, but I think it touched a fiber in all of humanity,” he said.

Europe’s eyes were fixed on the news as well.

“I was shocked because innocent people suffered,” said Olga Kuchura, a doctor from Belarus. “But if my relatives were affected, I would be much more hurt.”

Similarly, Adrian Sanchez, a young broadcast journalist in Venezuela, remembers the devastation he experienced upon receiving the news.

“It was such a shock because we had to come to terms with the fact that any country is vulnerable to terrorism, even the first world power,” he said.

“That’s what the World Trade Center was- a symbol of modernity, progress, civilization and strength.”

– Adrian Sanchez, broadcast journalist in Venezuela
However, some people were not as affected.

Jessica Mavare, 24, a Venezuelan entrepreneur, doesn’t believe her life changed after the attacks. She was in Florida and did not understand the magnitude of what was happening but remembers stores being closed and people crying.

But when she went back to Venezuela, people around her saw it as a distant problem.

“My boyfriend was at the beach, and he barely even found out,” she said. “We are a land of forgetting about big issues, and we have a very short-term historic memory. Venezuela is basically women and alcohol. We can’t face the hard stuff; we tend to focus on other things to make reality bearable.”

According to the New York Times, Venezuela is the most dangerous country in the Americas. In 2009 alone, 16,000 civilians were killed, more than the number of people killed in Iraq and Mexico combined. Mavare admits that in her country, people tend to avoid problems and focus on fun instead.

“I’ve heard people talking about conspiracy theories, and I agree,” she said. “It makes sense so that Bush could have access to Arab lands and oil.”

In some areas of the world, ‘people face violence … almost everyday’

There are a number of people around the world whose lives were unaffected by the attacks. When compared to the economic, political and social situations their countries had faced, people were confused about the United States’ reactions towards the Middle East.For instance, as the aftermath of the riots consume media attention in London, England, Siddart Singh, a student at the University of London, believes that it is important to focus on current events.“I didn’t even think about it ’til just now,” said Singh. “Especially with everything that’s going on here, I don’t see them [the media] covering it a lot.”Financial, social and economic issues make it hard for people abroad to share American sentiments.

“As devastating as 9/11 was, I think our media is more focused on what we’re facing,” said Singh. “Also, if we started remembering everything we’d been through, we’d have an event almost every day of the year.”

Similarly, Bhagyalakshmi Daga, 22, in Hyderabad, India, remembers her initial shock, but thinks that the United States overreacted.

“I think it’s different because the U.S. hasn’t really gotten attacked before,” said Daga. “I mean in India, especially Kashmir, people face violence by Pakistani terrorists almost everyday.”

Kashmir has been a historically disputed region between India and Pakistan. According to statistics from the Council on Foreign Relations, more than 47,000 people have been killed since 1987; suicide bombings and religion-based violence is an everyday occurrence.

“From a global perspective, the United States should’ve considered its attack strategy more carefully before initiating a full-on attack,” said Daga. “There is something to be said about turning the other cheek. They should’ve waged a war on terrorism, not Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Rick Rockwell is the director of the International Media program at American University and is the co-author of “Media Power in Central America.” He has also worked as a correspondent in Central America and Mexico.

He said this reaction abroad is not unusual.

“We were a target, and it became the start of two wars,” he said. “We squandered the goodwill in how we processed those wars.”

According to Rockwell, certain countries’ leaders like Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez found a way to portray the United States as “the bad guy.”

“Did we win the cultural war? No. That is a great failing of the Bush administration,” he said.

He also admitted that even thought it’s an important date that is worth remembering for Americans, he pointed out the U.S. expects the rest of the world to care about this anniversary as well.

“It doesn’t receive as much TV time as it did on the day that it happened, but that refers to any piece of news.”

– Irina Venduzen, Voice of America
On the other hand, the international media plans on covering 9/11 from a variety of perspectives.

Irina Vendunzen, a foreign correspondent for Voice of America, believes that they will cover the 10th anniversary extensively.

“We have a lot of reports and analysis devoted to this topic,” she said. “It doesn’t receive as much television time as it did on the day that it happened, but that refers to any piece of news.”

Simon Wilson, bureau editor for BBC News in Washington, D.C., said that on top of the day-to-day news, the network has a team working on the coverage of the anniversary in New York and D.C. They will devote time to it, he noted, to reflect on how America has changed since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“British citizens lost their lives that day as well,” Wilson said.

Overall, international media has little coverage of events commemorating the date, and most news websites plan on only publishing wires that mention the proximity of the anniversary.

Renata Karciauskaite, 24, is currently a student in Lithuania, but was in Germany on 9/11. She remembers thinking it was a movie at first; as soon as she realized it wasn’t, shock and sadness followed. But she admits that it’s a thing of the past.

“The memories are fading out,” she said. “It is like the Holocaust —it was terrible, but you have to move on. Current events are more important for people.”