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Musée du Louvre

12 Mar

Ray: Americans are known for being pretty ignorant of anything that goes on outside the Unites States. Fight it as we may, it’s pretty true. I’m willing to admit that I knew nothing of Musée du Louvre until I saw Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. There was a scene when the main character was running around Paris looking for a key object that may have been buried under a glass pyramid. The pyramid looked so intriguing in the movie that I had to look it up. Thus, Musée du Louvre.

According to several sources, the Musée du Louvre is the most visited museum on earth.  It truly is a glorious museum with over 35,000 pieces located over 650,000 square feet. Besides that fact that it holds world famous pieces like Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa”, the other thing that intrigued me was the building’s history. Musée du Louvre was originally a fortress built by French king Phillip II in the late 12th Century (sometime between 1180 and 12oo). However it was the famous King Louis XIV who first decided to use the fortress as a place to store collectibles. Finally, Musée du Louvre became a museum during the French Revolution to showcase the nation’s treasures.

Anyways, I’m sure you can find out much more in person. I just wanted to pique your interest. See you in Paris!


Understanding Darfur – How Did It All Start?

23 Jul

Ray: Seth and I are still fighting apathy. This time, we’re taking our fight global.

First, watch this video explaining the background on the Darfur situation. More than 400,000 have been KILLED. It’s important that we understand why and do what we can to get involved.

Second, decide if you want to support organizations seeking to end the GENOCIDE by signing the petition listed below and click here to do so. You may choose a different way to get involved or you can choose not to do anything. Freedom is a beautiful thing.

Amnesty International USA:

I am writing today to ask you to use your considerable influence with companies operating in Sudan to help alleviate the human rights crisis in Darfur. Much of the revenue fueling this devastating conflict is generated by Sudan’s oil industry. Through your substantial investments in oil companies operating in Sudan (and/or their various spin-offs and majority-owned subsidiaries) you are in a unique and powerful position to help bring security and human rights to the people of Darfur. I am writing today to urge you to join other economic and political actors to press the Government of Sudan to allow the UN-AU peacekeeping force (UNAMID) to fully deploy in Darfur without delay, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1769. This is a step you can take without selling your shares.

United Nations officials have called the situation in Darfur one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world today. Hundreds of thousands of Darfuri civilians have died, two-thirds of the population relies on some form of humanitarian aid, and over 2.6 million Darfuri civilians have been displaced. Multiple parties to the conflict have committed grave human rights abuses, but the Sudanese armed forces and government-backed Janjawid militia bear primary responsibility for the systematic and widespread murder, rape, torture, abduction, looting, and forced displacement that have characterized the Darfur conflict over the past five years.

On July 31, 2007, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1769 authorizing a UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur. While passage of the resolution provided hope to millions of Darfuri civilians, ensuring the full deployment of more than 26,000 peacekeepers requires our vigilant action. The Government of Sudan has a long record of signing international agreements then obstructing their implementation – and with only some 10,000 peacekeepers on the ground more than nine months after deployment began, it is clear that more pressure is needed. Key actors – both economic and political – must take a stand to help ensure Khartoum moves forward and UNAMID is fully deployed as quickly as possible.

These actors include the four oil companies that have come to dominate Sudan’s oil industry: the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Chemical and Petroleum Corporation (Sinopec Corp.), Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas), and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India-Videsh (OVL). Revenues fueling the Darfur conflict are largely generated from Sudan’s oil industry. Ninety percent of Sudan’s export income is derived from oil, and a majority of this revenue goes toward military expenditures; virtually none supports social development.

Ultimately, the Government of Sudan is responsible for ending human rights abuses in Darfur. But companies operating in Sudan cannot ignore the Darfur crisis or pretend they have no influence. As one of the largest investors in these companies, neither can you. Your firm owns holdings in one or more of these four companies (and/or their various spin-offs and majority-owned subsidiaries). I urge your firm to leverage its substantial power as a major investor to ask oil companies in Sudan to press the Government of Sudan to quickly and fully admit UNAMID without impediment.

Over 20 U.S. states, nine cities, 50 colleges and universities, numerous private institutional investors, and countless individuals have adopted Sudan investment policies regarding these companies. Recently, financial industry leaders like Morgan Stanley and T. Rowe Price have joined their ranks. These investors, with hundreds of billions of assets under management, have recognized their unique shareholder risk and responsibility associated with the Darfur crisis. I hope that you will seriously consider doing the same.

Thank you very much for considering this important request. I look forward to hearing from you.


South Africa: Conspiring with Robert Mugabe?

1 Jul

Seth: Hopefully, you are aware of the news coming out of Zimbabwe. I didn’t realize how grave the situation was there until I listened to a reporter who had been on the ground in that African nation.

Thus far, I’vebeen familiar with the initial election, and the tension between the ruling party and the opposition. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat the incumbent, Robert Mugabe, but did not win a majority of votes. Mr. Mugabe has been president since 1987, and the country’s only leader since independence was won and free elections held for the first time in 1980. Elections were held on March 29th, and by all accounts Mr. Tsvangiraiwon, but only his party’s tally (but neither the official or an independent estimate) had him with a majority. I was aware that election results were held an unusually and extremely long time, and that there was much suspicion of fraud surrounding the election. However, I did not know that Mr. Tsvangiraiwas prevented from campaigning in much of the country, or holding rallies or running commercials on television leading up to the run-off election; he was arrested several times in the interim period; the leader of his party (Movement for Democratic Change) was arrested and charged with treason; or there has been vicious attacks on suspected MDC supporters before and after the run-off election. If you aren’t aware of these beatings, rapings, and murders, then do a little research; what you’ll find is quite disheartening.

The African Union met recently and some leaders, including the Vice-President of neighboring Botswana have criticized the election results. Vice-President Merfahe said the election couldn’t be considered legitimate because of the violence that was going on. The rest of the AU was a bit softer, instead calling for a coalition of ruling and opposition leaders to run the government. Mr. Mugabe’s spokesperson rejected the idea saying the situation will be resolved “the Zimbabwean way.” This brings us to South Africa.

South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner. Zimbabwe clearly needs their neighbor to the south, given their wrecked economy (also thanks to Mr. Mugabe). Right now, South Africa is serving their two-year rotation on the Security Council and has shown opposition to any sanctions against Zimbabwe. Russia and China, also, are unwilling to have the U.N. get involved (just as they were strongly opposed to sanctions for Sudan). South Africa needs to join the West in demanding action from Mr. Mugabe or nothing will happen. A while ago I wrote about a movie that depicted South Africa’s struggle against apartheid; I wonder how South African President Thabo Mbeki could forget what it felt like to struggle for freedom from corrupt government. He claims to be currently working on a power-sharing agreement between the two parties, and says he has assurance from them to talk further. The MDC denies this strongly:

It’s almost an elite pact between the leaderships. It doesn’t mean anything to the people. We want a transition that is going to work on a new constitution, demilitarise the institutions of Zanu-PF, reform them, and then have elections. – Mr. Tsvangirai

And this:

Press Statement from Hon Tendai Biti, MP, MDC Secretary-General:

There are recent widespread reports that Zanu PF and MDC are talking and are about to conclude an agreement to form a Government of National Unity (GNU).

Nothing can be as malicious and as further from the truth.

As a matter of fact, there are no talks or discussions taking place between the two parties and most importantly, there is no agreement in the offing.

Whilst the MDC pursued dialogue in a bid to establish a Government of National Healing before the 12th June 2008, the sham and catalyptic election on 27 June 2008 totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement.

It is now the firm view of the MDC that those who claim they have got a mandate to govern should govern.

Whatever the case, action needs to be taken to stop the killing and make progress in this much-maligned country.

A Glance at The Republic of Zimbabwe

  • Population: 12,382,920
  • Life Expectancy: 39.73 Years
  • Adult Literacy rate: 90.7%
  • HIV/AIDS prevalence rate: 24.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 80%
  • Internet Users: 1,220,000