Tag Archives: International reporting

Resilience built by solution reporting to defuse Smerch cluster missile attacks on survival-savvy Ukrainians, save lives globally long-term

This week we were “utterly shocked” by the absence of cluster munition survival videos on the web. Check Google, YouTube. All you can get out of those communications is the utter shock of mutilation, death and devastation the murderers take pleasure in leaving you with. Georgia, Syria, now Ukraine.

Alright, shocked and killed we can easily be by just stepping out on the street. That’s not what we expect from the world wide web, folks! We look for life-saving information, we seek solutions to the problem.

Alright, shocked and killed we can easily be by just stepping out on the street. That's not what we expect from the world wide web, folks! We look for life-saving information, we seek solutions to a problem.
Alright, shocked and killed we can easily be by just stepping out on the street. That’s not what we expect from the world wide web, folks! We look for life-saving information, we seek solutions to the problem.

Staying resilient in the face of unexpected 300 mm missile attacks is as good a problem as washing your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. So why are we flooded by video tutorials about the latter and lack the solution basics of the former?

As our town of Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine was shelled by heavy weaponry earlier this week, we wondered what the public security experience will be for those who survive the deadly attack by Smerch BM30 rockets. And — here and now — should we really care who launched them as long as we know how to dodge them?!

Okay, let the Kyiv- and New York-based journos speculate about geopolitics. From the safety of their homes.

Most messages beamed by the mainstream based-not-in-Kramatorsk media just drummed up the confrontation tune highlighting the — otherwise important facts that — cluster munitions are banned under international law and that Ukraine was shocked by the attack on a community “some 50 km behind Ukrainian lines and [thus] considered relatively safe before the attack.”

Some bits of life-granting solution communication came from the Governor of Donetsk Oblast Oleksandr Kikhtenko. At a press conference hours after the attack, he shed some light on the mechanics and electronics behind the killing power of 300 mm missiles — sure we all wish we knew that information much earlier; and the media is to still stamp the survival drill into our minds.

Some kudos also go to the Odesa Oblast Administration (Southern Ukraine) and the local news outlet here in Kramatorsk named Vostochnyy Proekt for sharing these bomb survival videos:

Ukrainians come out of the cluster munition attacks more resilient, survival tactics savvy
Ukrainians come out of the cluster munition attacks more resilient, survival tactics savvy

Sure thing, Ukrainians start to come out of the cluster munition attacks more resilient, survival tactics savvy. But like in any awareness raising/behavior change campaign having the right communication tools is as important as repeating the vital message a quadrillion times.

Problem reporting is so analog age. In the digital 21st century let’s finally start to think and communicate solutions, not just problems.

To our global reader out there, next time you are “utterly shocked” and think of launching a Twitter campaign — think @clusterbombsurvival not just @banclustermunition.

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Sao Tomean-Estonian Elsa Figueira creates positive role-models, keeps anti-violence discussion going

by Andy Kozlov @KozlovAndy

As one could expect from checking the international calendar, yesterday the internet burst up from an inflow of awareness-raising info against domestic violence. As every year, on November 25 we were reminded that women and children around the world shouldn’t undergo violence in their homes or anywhere for that matter. ‘Thank you!’ you could roll your eyes in exasperation , “As if I didn’t no that hitting my wife’s index finger with a hammer is a savage thing to do.”

Well apparently, such annual reminder campaigns should not go obsolete just yet. Even those who you think are in the driving seat of behaviour change in there respective nations do their best to surprise you.

Elsa Figueira, a Sao-Tomean-Estonian transmedia initiative against gender-based violence
Elsa Figueira, a Sao-Tomean-Estonian transmedia initiative against gender-based violence

A curious press statement was sent out by the South African presidency on November 24. Mail & Guardian associate editor Verashni Pillay @verashni reports:

This year is significant because we’ve been doing this for 16 years. There were a few possibilities the press release could have played around with in terms of phrasing, given this neat numerical coincidence. [Instead the] Presidency celebrates 16 years of ‘raising gender-based violence’

Raising the violence, not the awareness about it. And celebrating the perversity. Really?

Speaking of observances, less than five years from now, the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe lying off the west coast of Africa will be the stage for  a centennial celebration of a revalation that — just like geneder-based violence in our time — was reported in newspapers all over the world as a major story. On 29 May 1919, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, a British astrophysicist and popularizer of science, travelled to the island of Príncipe to watch a solar eclipse that provided one of the earliest confirmations of relativity.

This stamp by São Tomé and Príncipe celebrates the 90th anniversary of the milestone solar eclipse observation by Sir Arthur Eddington
This stamp by São Tomé and Príncipe celebrates the 90th anniversary of the milestone solar eclipse observation by Sir Arthur Eddington

The theory of relativity is an universally accepted episteme today. Brought to its completion during the First World War — that the humanity recalled throughout the whole 2014 — this theory  has successfully superseded a 200-year-old paradigm created primarily by Isaac Newton. Smashing a beer bottle over a woman’s head is somehow still one of those ideas that doesn’t want to vanish in the thin air.

The issue of violence is certainly an universal one, a primordial issue. People everywhere try to figure out a strategy to change violent behaviours in humans.

We asked the producers of a São Toméan-Estonian film Elsa Figueira about how replicable their project’s model could be in other countries.

Pekagboom says:

This project started with the Humanist vision that my musical style is spreading in the world, rapping with a social intervention message with constructive criticism. Through life stories we see happen to us every day around us. We started by a conversation about musical art and visual art in the capital city of STP. Me and the filmmaker Kris Haamer I had a talk about a track from my album that is coming out.

During our conversation I told Kris I’d like to make a video about domestic violence in Sao Tome and Principe because it’s something of great concern to society, because of the cases of deaths that have happened in the country, so I invited him to make a music video with a high quality, let’s say a super production to call the attention of people around the world.

So we decided to unite and do something more than a simple video clip but a short film using the story from my music. That’s where Elsa Figueira came to life.

As we all know to make quality requires investment and we know that Elsa Figueira has everything to be a world reference. To inspire women in a similar situation to gain courage to report these cases of crime. That’s why it’s very important to have the funding to complete this project with help from all around the world we can make a positive difference so it’s a chance to be proud of saying that together with Elsa you’re helping women around the world to combat domestic violence.

Vivalda Cravid Dos Prazeres adds:

Making this film to a broader audience will help raise consciousness of a range of problems, raise questions and promote discussion about the current level of knowledge about domestic violence and the gaps that still need to be addressed.

From the beginning, comprehensive evaluation has been seen as an important part of this movie, since the moment it was conceived to the moment it was last edited as a way to maximize the ability for learning from the diverse strands of the initiative and to guide future activities to address and prevent domestic violence in Sao Tome and Principe and in other countries.

Global Estonian Kris Haamer @krishaamer, a transmedia expert , explains:

Elsa Figueira isn’t easily replicable because she’s a unique a personality. We don’t know how to make copies of her, so we’re trying to make herself spreadable. The approach we’re taking is to create a fictional character that people can interact with, talk to, on Facebook. At one point she might learn to speak other languages, for now she’s just speaking Portuguese and subtitled in the film to languages like Estonian and Norwegian, Italian, Spanish, English, etc.

She’s someone who should inspire women all over the world to realize that if they are in an abusive relationship, there’s a way out and you can empower yourself and take that way. That is kind of universal.

What could be possible ways to cluster the awareness raising and behavior change solutions through media in the context of the domestic violence issue?

There’s hashtag activism and there are social media movements and there are examples of this working. Common signs that members of the movement recognize and gives each one more courage to keep moving forward towards the goal, which in the case of domestic violence obviously is a future without violence.

Looking around and seeing other people who care about this helps all of us remember the goal. This film isn’t going to stop violence or stop anyone from abusing his or her partner. When that happens, it’s already too late. What it may do, is use popular media to get a discussion going and create positive role-models that influence people earlier in their youth, so they don’t grow up to be someone abusive.

Please consider supporting the film here.

Let us know your ideas about making behaviour change campaigns stick.

Andy Kozlov can be reached on a.kozlov@steppesinsync.com

Support Elsa Figueira via Kickstarter
Support Elsa Figueira via Kickstarter

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5 Global Russians, their media investments, Moscow’s own highest shelter in Europe

Previously we talked about the short-sighted attitudes by both sides of the Foreign Media in Russia show.

Now let’s turn around and scrutinize the foreign media assets of Mother Russia’s not-so-poor: some of them promoters of the Global Russian concept, some — literary-minded Russians around the corner from our London-based readers.

And again the lines of loyalty, the stresses are quite blurred, as far as media agendas of Russia-backed enterprises in the EU and US are concerned.

Are the Western-operating companies we will now talk about pro-Kremlin or pro-poor?

The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones' Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians' MONOCLE
The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones’ Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians’ MONOCLE

11,510 ultra high net wealth individuals — those with net assets of US$30 million and above — called the UK home in 2014. These are worth US$1.45 trillion in total

Self-confessed avid reader of high-quality literature in Russian and English, Russian billionaire Alexander Leonidovich Mamut shelled out £53 million to acquire London-headquartered book retailer Waterstones in May 2011.

London counted 100,000-strong Russian-speaking community in early 2012

Alexander Leonidovich, an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin, appointed James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books, as managing director of the company that serves UK, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands.

UK publishing industry generated £4bn in 2011

Number two in our list of global Russians with a penchant for media investments abroad is Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, former KGB staff and currently publisher of four UK newspapers, including the one that has called his book chain-owning namesake “an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin.” Alexander Yevgenievich reportedly stated that during his time as a spy in London, he used the Evening Standard to find information.

Lebedev used to own the Moskovski Korrespondent, but closed it down “for political reasons after it published a spurious article about Vladimir Putin having an affair with an Olympic gymnast half his age”

On 25 March 2010, Alexander Lebedev bought the loss-making The Independent and Independent on Sunday for £1.

Accompanying two Sashas on the Olympus of Russians with preference for foreign media assets is Sergei Polonsky @Spolonium, himself an Olympus-builder.

The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)
The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)

Alexander Yevgenievich knocked Russia’s real estate developer Sergei Yurievitch Polonsky from his chair as both men were appearing as guests on a show about the global financial crisis that was being recorded in Moscow for the Gazprom-owned NTV channel in September 2011.

A blow that did not connect cleanly was prompted by a dispute over Sergei Yurievitch’s project named Башня Федерация.

Expected to be completed in 2015, the Federation Tower is said to be able to withstand a direct hit of an aircraft [as you guessed what they meant here]. The building is a hit with extreme sports people, as well as film and TV people.

Awarded a Prix d’Excellence in the Office Property category by FIABCI, the International Real Estate Federation, the Federation Complex is to become the tallest building in Europe. China State Construction Engineering Corporation was the first in Russia to pour self-compacting B90 concrete into the complex steel concrete and high density reinforcement structures of the Federation Tower’s outrigger and technical levels.

Notorious for his stance and public pronouncements, Sergei Polonsky has often introduced creativity-laden ideas into Russia’s otherwise parvenu post-Soviet elites.

In November 2011 his international investment and development company Potok∞ launched a reality project named Большой дом. Using Youtube, Twitter and Alexander  Mamut-owned blogging service Livejournal, Polonsky’s team boosted business by revealing to the rest of us the behind-the-scenes of the Federation Tower construction process, including brain storming sessions, corporate parties, desicions on hiring and firing.

Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015
Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015

Exiled on his own collection of eight islands in Cambodia — where he recently launched Polonium, a business training program — Mr Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015.

Polonsky has set a goal of earning not less than USD1bn through his jungle-based business education venture.

From New York magazine:

Another set of projects invariably bears the hallmark of his older sister, Irina, a patron of arts and literature. In private life, Mikhail and Irina form an unusual, closed-off unit. Until recently, they lived together in a relatively small Moscow apartment, well after Mikhail had become a billionaire. Most likely at Irina’s urging, Mikhail has endowed a lavish literary award, a publishing house, an arts festival, and, finally, Snob [a magazine for the “Global Russian”].

The Mikhail in question is Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, politician, and owner of the ONEXIM Group and the US basketball team the Brooklyn Nets.

A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two's cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)
A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two’s cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)

With an initial distribution of 20,000 in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco and some 700,000 Russian speakers living in the United States (as of 2010), Snob originally launched in Russia in 2008 with a USD150 million investment from Mikhail Dmitrievitch. In London, “the magazine bought up billboards in the Underground and elsewhere and slapped Russian-language ads on them, perplexing Brits and embarrassing local Russians.” For New York, they imagined “something that speaks to Snob’s globalist brand, and something that shows that the Russians actually understand contemporary New York.”

Yuri Milner has described his time at the World Bank as his “lost years”, due to watching from afar the privatization of government holdings during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin

Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner wraps up our overview of Global Russians on a shopping spree for media assets, with his investments in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Groupon, Alibaba, and Planet Labs via the Mail.ru Group and Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global).

At one point in the 1990s, Yuri Borisovich worked for Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now an émigré. A meeting through mutual friends resulted in Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest person, becoming a shareholder of Mail.ru Group in 2008. In January 2007, 30% of shares of Mail.ru were bought by Cape Town, South Africa-headquartered Naspers, an e-commerce and pay TV company, with assets like MultiChoice, DStv, MWEB and M-net.

Milner envisages that the advent of the Internet of things and ever increasing use of social media and participatory systems will increase our collective intelligence

An acronym of sostoyavshiisya, nezavisimyi, obrazovannyi, blagopoluchnyi (accomplished, independent, educated, thriving), Snob magazine under deputy editor Maria Alexandrovna Gessen   some years back “made a turn toward social activism, battling, for instance, the Putin administration’s revisionist sugarcoating of Joseph Stalin.”

She was dismissed from her position as the chief editor of Russia’s oldest magazine, Vokrug sveta, a popular-science journal, in 2012 after she refused to send a reporter to cover a Russian Geographical Society event about nature conservation featuring President Putin, because she considered it political exploitation of environmental concerns

So if the Global Russian “aggressively adopts traits of other cultures without betraying his own” — he ‘cooks like a Frenchman, entertains like an American, and forms friendships like a Russian’ in American nonfiction author Masha Gessen’s words — and if he/she is not 100% pro-Kremlin how many percentage points is he/she pro-poor? What do you think?

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People familiar with the matter have no doubt that Russians will eventually learn to live with Ukraine in the EU. No-one will, though, tell you when exactly Ukraine will graduate to the EU member status and when Russia will come to appreciate such a combination in its neighborhood.

Shot in Berlin, during a pro-Russian rally in support of March 2014 Crimean “referendum”, The Wall is a reflection film directed by the Ukrainian filmmaker Sergii Volkov. The German capital is one of those places that dramatically influenced the whole past century. Will Ukraine’s Kyiv — with its recent Euromaidan events — prove to be a protagonist of the dramatic and, admittedly, much needed change in the rapidly globalizing world?

A Swedish-Ukrainian documentary, The Wall is free from any built-in comments, voice over. Everything is built on observing the events. You will have a sense that you are there, amidst those events.

We can only hope that your government and state media will allow you to choose which side you take.

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