1.) Tomorrow's a big day down here in Chile, as President-elect Sebastián Piñera will be assuming office. Numerous heads of state from all over the continent (and even the Prince of Spain) arrived today and Valpo will be abuzz mañana as they will all be coming to the Congreso Nacional for the inauguration ceremony, despite the fact that parts of the city and neighboring Viña are without water. Earlier this afternoon I watched on tv as Colombian President Álvaro Uribe's jet landed, while Piñera and Bolivian president Evo Morales had a friendly soccer match. Only in Latin America, right?
2.) Despite leaving office on the dour note of the earthquake and the widely criticized governmental response, outgoing President Michelle Bachelet's popularity numbers are as high as ever, with an utterly astonishing 84% approval rating. Of course, as Greg Weeks points out, keep in mind the fact that the hardest-hit areas could not be reached by telephone...
3.) While the Chilean economy will certainly continue to suffer the social and economic effects of the earthquake (One of the headlines I saw the other day read "TURISMO EN EL SUELO"- Tourism [industry] on the floor), Piñera himself is sure to be pretty comfortable. In the latest rankings of the richest people in the world, the Chilean magnate jumped 260 spots up to number 437 on the list. Latin American tycoons were well represented this year, as Mexican Carlos Slim claimed the top spot by knocking off Bill Gates, and Brazilian mining head Eike Batista made the biggest financial gains.
4.) Regarding the other serious earthquake in this hemisphere in the past year, the indomitable Noam Chomsky on Haiti in Counterpunch.
4.) Back in the United States, Glenn Greenwald lays open the brutality employed by the US government while torturing suspected terrorists. The chilling facts of what our "democratic" government did and continues to defend calls to mind the title of a previous article Greenwald wrote on this subject: "What Every American Should Be Made to Know [About the IG Torture Report]."
5.) Johann Hari has an excellent article in The Nation regarding the "selling out" of major American environmental organizations to corporate interests, and especially some of the most dangerous pollutors in the world. He also appeared with Christine MacDonald, a former member of one of the most widely-criticized such organizations Conservation International, on Democracy Now! I found this to be particularly interesting as I spent several summers canvassing for a grassroots environment organization in Indiana called the Hoosier Environmental Council. The last summer I worked there our canvass and several policy people was cut in what was a very peculiar cost-cutting move for a members-based advocacy organization. Many of my colleagues and I believed that there were shadier motives at heart, and was a result of pressure from the more moderate aka "business-friendly" members of the board of directors...
6.) And back home in the Hoosier State, Indiana Governor (and 2012 Presidential hopeful? Ha!) Mitch "The Blade" Daniels and his private sector goon squad have come under intense criticism for inflating Indiana's job creation numbers by 40%. (The statistics look so much better when you make them up!) I guess cutting the jobs of social workers and replacing them with private call centers isn't merely cruel and legally objectionable, but a bad economic policy as well!
7.) Finally, I encourage you to check out "Exiled in the Land of the Free," a benefit album for Native American activist and US political prisoner Leonard Peltier that was originally supposed to be released in 1995, but was instead shelved. 15 years later, a sympathetic recording assistant came across the tracks and has put them on the internet for free. Even better than the music is the cause, which you can become familiarized with and take action upon on the link above, and which I was first introduced to while reading the liner notes in Rage Against the Machine cds in high school and doing my own personal research on COINTELPRO. And yes, even the United States is guilty of holding political prisoners and sheltering terrorists.