Green shoots in the Caribbean

In my last post I talked about the near-monumental announcement that PLO president Mahmoud Abbas would not seek re-election.  In light of the near- and full-revolutions in that part of the world, his announcement (conditioned and far-off in actual action) seems meek and was duly ignored by most of the world’s press.  I’m happy to see that another similar positive outlook hasn’t been overlooked: the peaceful conduction of a runoff election in Haiti.

Haiti’s initial election was marred by obscene amounts of fraud and scattered violence with the established structure’s candidate “winning” enough to qualify for the runoff, despite being universally disliked (most importantly by actual Haitians).  For whatever reason, a peaceful acknowledgement of the error happened and the two candidates with the most votes eventually were recognized.

The runoff between the singer Michel Martelly and the professor Mirlande Maniget occurred with only a single incidence of violence and widely acknowledged legitimacy.  And with neither candidate being part of any real ‘establishment’ we should fail to see an escalating civil war after the results are announced next month (unlike the Ivory Coast).  Haiti should be able to look forward to a peaceful transition of legitimate power to the hands of one of these right-of-center politicians (similar to what happened in Liberia).

I say “should” because as always there’s a wild card.  Despite his responsibility for the torture and killings of large number of the population, former president Jean-Claude Duvalier has returned to his country.  Somehow he maintains some sort of popularity, with some voters stating that if he had ran they would’ve voted for him.  His far-left politics, which ended up putting a lot of wealth in his hands, stand in stark contrast to the current candidates.

Haiti has a history of deposing leaders via coup, even early in their terms and against high-percentage victories.  What a blow it would be if Baby Doc Duvalier rode into Port-au-Prince a la Napoleon.  The incomprehensible web of NGOs importing money and supplies would instantly dry up and favorable trade deals being arranged for the struggling nation would wither on the vine.  Most likely Haiti would become the pet project of Chavez and Castro, helping it limp by, avoiding total collapse while letting its populace slip deeper into poverty.

This is, in my opinon, a worst-case scenario.  But it is easy to imagine a frustrated nation if rebuilding does not truly show results in the next year, even more so if an all-too-common hurricane happens to worsen conditions.  Still, the spirit in the air is one of hope, that Haiti may become like many of its Latin American neighbors who threw off dictatorships and found economic improvement.

Type of Media: Web news
From: Reuters
Title: UN urges patience in Haiti’s wait for vote result
Read it at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/21/us-haiti-election-idUSTRE72J0O620110321?pageNumber=1

Pandora for podcasts


Apple is a company that makes investors and entrepreneurs alike tremble with envy.  Sleek new smartphones, products that create entirely new markets (iPods, iPads), and an online music store that has found a way to monetize some of movement to online music.  But there is one flaw so glaring on the Apple facade that leaves many increasingly irritated: the inability to sync.

I am lucky enough to have a home laptop, a work desktop, an iPhone and two iPods (mainly for long car trips) and I devour podcasts at a prodigious rate (see aforementioned trips as well as long hours spent at the bench).  Check any one of these devices and you will seldom see any overlap in the podcasts.  I constantly have to re-upload the latest editions, re-connect USB cables, and re-download new subscriptions.  But lately I’ve found stitcher.

Stitcher radio is a bit like Rhapsody and Pandora all mixed together.  It’s web-based podcast radio.  You have one user-generated account and in it you can “favorite” your usual podcasts (searching through my standards only one was not in the stitcher library: NPR 7AM ET News Summary).  It then keeps track of what you’ve listened to, downloads the latest editions, keeps an order, and automatically syncs anytime you log in.  Oh, and there’s an iPhone app.  No more awkwardly transferring from the iPod app to the iTunes store app, waiting for a download, etc.  Since it’s all on-demand, it just starts streaming the podcast just like Pandora!



If you’re like me and always looking for new podcasts, it’s got you covered: click on a single podcast and there’s a ‘find similar’ button.  Or simply go to the playlists of what’s currently most popular, what the staff recommends, etc.  I’ve previously used the iTunes store suggestions or Hunch.com’s “tailored” recommendations to varying degrees of success.  The jury’s still out on this, but so far it’s been interesting.

Of course there are downsides:

  • I’ve yet to figure out how to download older episodes.  For instance ,the Moth is a great live story podcast and there’s no reason why last week’s story is irrelevant, so I’d like to be able to call it up.
  • Like I mentioned, it has yet to offer every podcast.
  • It’d be nice to see it have a recommended list of podcasts to check out based on my current favorites and other podcasts I’ve thumbs upped (undoubtedly this option exists I’m too slow to have figured it out).
  • And finally, there’re ads.  Granted the ads are usually 20-30s promos for stitcher itself, but given that most successful podcasts now start and/or end shows with the hosts plugging audible.com, carbonite.com, or stitcher.com, you may have three annoying bits in a row.
  • My iPhone does not connect to my car’s stereo, but my iPod does (thanks Apple for lack of backward’s compatibility, way to try to shill more money out of me).

Overall, these flaws are exceedingly minor for the service stitcher provides.  Can I guarantee I’ll still be using this app in six months?  No.  But at least for the moment it’s worth playing with and incorporating into my daily life.

Media Type: iPhone App (also available for Blackberry, Android and Palm)
From: Stitcher
Title: Stitcher
Try it at: http://stitcher.com/home.php