VICE Series on HBO

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VICE is today a media agency that started in Canada, as a magazine called Voice of Montreal. It became VICE when it moved to New York City in 1996. The magazine, which has a presence in 22 countries, was originally about pop culture and the arts, but evolved and now covers more serious and controversial issues, including the war on drugs, mental disorders, economics or the environment. They tell stories from a deeply personal perspective, trying to understand the real reasons and people behind the news that they cover. VICE also produces videos and documentaries which are available, for free, online for their global audience. They now have their very own HBO series. This is the trailer.

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Anderson Cooper

CNN journalist Anderson Cooper has always felt the need to be where the action is and where History unfolds. His personal style is both provocative and emotional, and is probably a result of a life full of unique experiences.

Anderson Cooper is an American journalist who has reported from almost every prominent war zone in the last 15 years, including Burma, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda. He has covered the tsunami damage in Sri Lanka; the Cedar Revolution in Beirut, the death of Pope John Paul II; the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles; the Egyptian Revolution from Tahrir Square, the bombings in London, the violence in Mexico.

 

He is the son of artist, designer, socialite and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, who was especially famous for her jeans collections in the 1970´s, and a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping 19th century tycoon. Born to a wealthy family, he had a priviledged upbringing. At age 10, Cooper was already modelling for the likes of Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein among others. However, as a journalist today he is a celebrity in his own right, with his trademark premature gray hair and his unique emotional, honest and provocative style of journalism.

Adventurous from an early age, at 17 he travelled around Africa where he contracted malaria and had to be hospitalized in Kenya. When he was 21, his older brother commited suicide jumping from the 14th-floor terrace of Vanderbilt’s New York City penthouse apartment, a dramatic event that marked him profoundly. He studied both Political Science and International Relations at Yale University and he also spent two summers as an intern at the CIA.

Despite being today the anchor of his own CNN show Anderson Cooper 360º, and having worked as a correspondent for 60 minutes, and for ABC news, he really has no formal journalistic education. His first correspondence work was in Myanmar, where he entered on his own with a forged press pass and started reporting on the student riots for Channel One, a small news agency where he worked at the time. In the early 1990’s Cooper lived in Vietnam for a year to study the language.

 

Cooper brings a very personal style to his reporting that has been frequently called emo-journalism. This was especially true during his coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Because of his credibility, humanity and authenticity he was once described as the anchorperson of the future.

Recently, while covering the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, a violent fight broke out outside a store and a boy was wounded in the head with a stone. Cooper, who was reporting from the scene, stopped, picked up the bleeding boy and pulled him away to safety before continuing his reporting. The video was seen around the world. It is this kind of actions that set Anderson Cooper apart from traditional war journalists.

 

Dispatches from the Edge”, Cooper’s memoirs about covering the South Asia tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and other news events, recently topped the New York Times Bestsellers List and other bestseller charts. He reportedly earns more than $4 million a year.

-To read my original article: Anderson Cooper

-Anderson Cooper talks to Journalism School

-Anderson Cooper carries boy in Haiti

Prophets in the land of Prophets

In a TED conference some time ago, Wadah Khanfar, who was director general of the Al Jazeera network (today President of the Sharq Forum), recalled a call on his personal phone. He did not know who was calling, or how he managed to get his number, but the voice was from a person in Tahrir Square in Egypt. The voice implored him not to switch off the cameras. “You are protecting us by showing what is happening here. If you switch off the cameras tonight, there will be a genocide.”

Al Jazeera’s cameras did not go off. They amplified the voice of all those protesters and broadcast it to the world. A revolution so unexpected that no one knew well how to interpret. The world was in a state of shock and taken completely by surprise. Al Jazeera’s newsroom in Doha (Qatar) was soon flooded with pictures, with videos and news, most from people in the streets, who had become front-line reporters. The network was there to provide context, amplification and even protection for protesters seizing power from their oppressive regimes.

The world was watching: traffic to Al Jazeera’s online broadcasts skyrocketed 2,500 percent, during the 18 days of the Egyptian Revolution, and roughly half of that traffic was from the United States. Ordinary people fighting to overthrow Hosni Mubarak discovered that ordinary people a world away actually cared. And then, as we were all watching this drama unfold, the spark also ignited in Libya, and then in other countries.

Well aware he was representing the voice of millions of Arabs, Khanfar in his TED conference asked the world to support the young generation that was taking the Middle East into a new era. “The future that we were dreaming for in the Middle East has eventually arrived” he said. He urged the West not to interfere and impose its will and interests on the region in an effort to establish governments that would be friendly to the West’s economic and political interests. He asked that the West accept and support the choice of the Arab people.

Al Jazeera, is headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Over the years it has expanded to what it is today, a network with several outlets, including the Internet in multiple languages. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, provided a loan of QAR 500 million ($137 million) to sustain Al Jazeera through its first five years. The Emir had been contemplating a satellite channel even before he deposed his father. A free press complemented his vision of the emirate as a center of commercial development and progress.

The network was launched in 1996, and even though it was financed in part by the Emir, the network was never about pleasing anybody, it soon was was shocking audiences and governments alike. It presented, for example, the Israeli speaking Hebrew on Arab television for the first time, and some talk shows were a constant source of controversy regarding issues of morality and religion.

But Al Jazeera over the years seems to have finally earned the respect it deserved. It has endured and come a long way. With roughly 45 million viewers around the world today, the network once accused of having sympathy with extremist causes in the past is now invited to TED conferences.

But in what is perhaps the best compliment to date, and clear proof of how far Al Jazeera has come, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on 4 March 2011, saying: “Al Jazeera has been the leader, they are literally changing people’s minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective (…) in fact viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials.”

Wadah Khanfar has left and has been replaced by a member of the Qatar royal family. Will Al Jazeera lose its prestige, objectivity and credibility?

It is hard to be a prophet in your own land, but Al Jazeera’s credibility has been hard earned. It wasn’t out to be just another news channel, it never took the easy route, it struggled to remain loyal to the principles of true unbiased reporting. It has not been an easy ride, and mostly one it made alone, while being attacked from all sides. It was the lone voice that cried in the desert. After all, Al Jazeera does mean “the island” in Arabic.

(To read my original article, published in March 2011: Prophets in the Land of Prophets)

Is There Anybody Out There?

ALMA is the biggest array of telescopes in the world and the largest astronomical project ever attempted, a truly global partnership between scientists from Japan, Europe, Canada, the US and Chile. It is located deep in the Atacama desert of Chile, in an inhospitable region called Chajnantor Plateau. Because of its altitude, dry air (this is the driest place on Earth), nearly non-existent cloud cover (320 clear skies per year), and lack of both light pollution and radio interference, it is probably the best location in the world to conduct astronomical observations. It is largely transparent to the millimeter and submillimeter wavelength range that ALMA is designed to detect. Most of the photons in the Universe are in this wavelength, that lies between what is traditionally considered microwaves and infrared waves. Star formation occurs in dense molecular clouds observable only in the submillimeter range, and most of this radiation is absorbed by atmospheric water vapor. This is why such a dry location is so important.

The rarified atmosphere at this altitude is very demanding for humans, this is why the telescopes are assembled from parts arriving from different parts of the world at a camp at 3000m and then transported to their final position. The final configuration should consist of around 60 antennas. ALMA is by no means alone in the Atacama desert. The European Southern Observatory operates two major observatories in the Atacama: the La Silla Observatory and the Paranal Observatory, which includes the Very Large Telescope. Another impressive piece of equipment, the CCAT, Cornell Caltech Atacama Telescope, currently under construction by an international consortium, will also be located in the area, near the summit of Cerro Chajnantor, about 600 m above and only 5 km from ALMA.

ALMA will give astronomers an unprecedented window on the cosmos, enabling groundbreaking studies into areas such as the physics of the cold Universe, the first stars and galaxies, and even directly imaging the formation of planets. This video shows the ALMA facilities. This second HD time-lapse video was shot around ALMA to celebrate its first observations. It’s 5 marvelous minutes of an strange pleasure…the realization that we live in a rock that spins at 1000km per hour, a tiny speck of dust inside a cloud that travels at 250km per second across the inmensity of the Universe.