Archive for March, 2012
Mar 29

Comedy Central Joins Election App War

For those who are fans of satirical commentary during the election season, Comedy Central allows you to join with like-minded folk and some of the top people in the news-as-comedy business with their new app.  The “Indecision Election Companion” has a live “Peanut Gallery” that allows you to vote on how a speaker or guest is doing and add your 2-cents during an on-air appearance.  There are also the popular “Snap Shots” that are constantly updated pictures of political figures with clever captions.  Like something so much it made you laugh?  You can of course share it with your friends via social networks Facebook and Twitter.
In the battle for space in election coverage, Comedy Central has become popular with show hosts like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert using campaigns as comedy fodder.  2012 will prove to be no exception, and the Indecision team is giving people a chance to chuckle while on the go.
Check out the review from Mashable and download the free app here.
Mar 23

How to Cut Down the Illegal Logging Mafia

As originally seen on the World Bank Blog by Ted Greenberg

“Every two seconds, across the world, an area of forest the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers.” This is not the work of poor people trying to find wood to cook a few grains of rice to sustain life. No. This is the work of the illegal logging mafia – aided and abetted by corrupt government officials – from forest rangers to ministers of government. They do this for greed and with the arrogance of those who have no fear of arrest or prosecution.

There are many honest forest rangers, police, prosecutors and judges who want to save the forests and wildlife from extinction. They need the help of senior officials in their government’s who can exercise the political power necessary to provide sufficient resources to investigate and prosecute those who destroy the forests.

The objective is to stop the criminals before they cut the trees. Law enforcement will not always be successful in detecting illegal logging before the trees are cut. In all situations law enforcement officials need basic tools. Many times forest rangers have old weapons, few bullets, no vehicle or gas to set up roadblocks to stop or chase illegal loggers. On the other hand, criminals have new automatic weapons and vehicles. In one typical and notable case the rangers had to use wooden chairs to set up a roadblock but had no vehicle to give chase when the loggers drove around the chairs. Under these circumstances interdiction will never work.

To have any chance of saving the forests law enforcement must use proactive targeting techniques to prioritize their efforts. Targeting techniques requires interagency and interdisciplinary cooperation within and between law enforcement agencies – involving all actors in the forestry sector, intelligence collection, analysis, sharing of information and coordination of enforcement actions.

Today the World Bank published “Justice for Forests: Improving Criminal Justice Efforts To Combat Illegal Logging”.  This paper sets out several important steps that countries – with the help of NGOs – can take to combat illegal logging. Among the most important are tools to “follow the money” and confiscate the bribes paid to corrupt officials as well as the criminal proceeds generated by illegal logging.

Anti-money laundering laws exist in 150+ countries. Corruption and environment crime are recognized predicate offenses for money laundering. The UN Convention against Corruption, the Un Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the FATF 40 Recommendations, regional conventions and agreements contain tools that can be used to identify, trace, freeze and confiscate the proceeds of criminal acts associated with illegal logging. Using these tools in source, transit and destination countries effectively will help prevent the destruction of the forests. And they need to start doing it today.

The use of Special Units, Task Forces or multidisciplinary teams is highlighted in the World Bank paper. These are important techniques – having proven their impact in detecting, investigating and prosecuting  organized crime.

The point is to join forces, skills and expertise. This calls for bringing together forest rangers, investigators, prosecutors and experts on financial intelligence and  tracing of financial transactions.  How does it work? In one jurisdiction the loggers cut the trees and floated the logs down river. The illegal logs were discovered by rangers and confiscated for sale at auction. Using information from an NGO and other sources, the police got tipped that the criminals intended to buy back the logs at low cost, using funds wire transferred into a local bank at the auction site. Although the police knew this would happen, they did not know how to identify the wire transfer. If an financial intelligence expert had been part of the team, they could have identified the transfer and traced the money back to “Mr. Big” for investigation and prosecution.

Will this always work? No. But, without using, at a minimum, the techniques set out in the World Bank paper, chances of success will be much lower.

Mar 22

Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards brings Millions to Maryland

Sets are under construction in and around Baltimore for the filming of the Netflix drama series, “House of Cards,” which will begin rolling next month. The city, just an hour north of the Capitol, has already seen a boost in production thanks to tax incentives and new productions. Two HBO political-themed shows, “Game Change” starring Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Ed Harris and “VEEP” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus have just wrapped in Baltimore and ended a long drought of film and television production since “The Wire.”

The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik chronicles the increase in production and jobs, along with an approximate $70 brought to the state in his piece “‘House of Cards’ brings Hollywood to Harford County.” He details the massive undertaking of shooting two seasons (26 episodes) with big names attached, including, Oscar winners and nominees Kevin Spacey, director David Fincher and executive producer and screenwriter, Beau Willimon (The Ides of March).

Mar 16

Women in the World Summit features Hilary Clinton and Sarah Brown

International Women’s Day finally has a global powerhouse to champion, Tina Brown,  editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and Newsweek and one of the greatest women’s voices in the United States and around the world.   The Women in the World Summit was launched by Brown and joining with her were Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Sarah Brown, wife of former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and maternal health advocate, Meryl Streep and Diane von Furstenberg.  The gathering included women of all generations talking about issues that rarely make it into the headlines.

Juju Chang led the “Girls Can Change the World” panel with Sarah Brown, Dr. Ida Odinga, wife of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and Shelly Esque discussing the need for a global education plan for all children, especially girls.  During the panel, Sarah Brown, a global patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, spoke on the recent release of her campaign launched with her husband to reduce the number of child brides. The report shows that 1.5 million girls are married at age 15 or younger every year but “if that girl is in school, she’s not out there married or facing… any of the other things that might come her way,” says Brown.

Dr. Odinga and Brown also talked about their new initiative, Educators Without Borders, which looks “at the 300,000 children who are coming as refugees across the Somalian border into Kenya [and sets up] an early pilot program to create essentially pop-up schooling” for children who will be there for many years.” They are working with government and non-profits to raise the rates of girls education in post-conflict zones. “Some [children] are as old as 13 years and have never seen the inside of a classroom” said Odinga when talking about the young refugees.

Watch the video of the panel below:

The last day of the conference included an exciting keynote by Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton who was surprise-introduced by Oscar winner, Meryl Streep.  Also in attendance were Angelina Jolie, former house speaker Nancy Pelosi, Oprah, Chelsea Clinton, Barbara Bush, Lauren Bush Lauren, Kim Cattrall, Desiree Gruber and many more!

Check out photos from the exciting events below:

Mar 9

Game Change Premieres in DC

John Heilemann, Sarah Paulson, Julianne Moore, Mark Halperin

Mike Allen reported in today’s Politico Playbook, that while New Yorkers (who had their premiere two nights ago) thought the new HBO Film Game Change “was a sit-com,” Washington watched it as a documentary.  The Newseum was packed with reporters and 2008 campaign staff eager to see the much buzzed about Game Change film based on the book by the same name by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.  Walking the red, or blue rather, carpet were the authors, screen writer Danny Strong, director Jay Roach, and the star of the film, Julianne Moore, who plays Sarah Palin and Sarah Paulson who plays staffer Nicolle Wallace. Also in attendance were veteran producers Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks, as well as McCain senior campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt who was portrayed by Woody Harrelson in the film.

The film takes place five years ago starting in 2007, following the John McCain campaign through selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate and the struggles and victories within the race.  Viewers such as Wolf Blizter praised Moore’s performance - “She did an amazing Sarah Palin. She looked like her, she sounded like her — she was Sarah Palin,” as reported by Politico. Ed Harris as John McCain and Harrelson as Schmidt were also highlights of the film as they played characters carrying the emotional weight of a presidential campaign having to make difficult decisions.  The film mixed real news footage of reporters and then candidate Obama with film footage which gave Blitzer, Gwen Ifill and Katie Couric cameos.

Check out more photos from the premiere below: