Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Orphans in Hungary

By Nari Al-Atrash

Life is not fair. These words come to mind at the sight of so many orphaned children in the world, with more than 10,800 child orphans in state care in Hungary alone, according to a 2006 report by Dr. Judit Forrai. Orphans in Hungary are like any orphans in the world: no parents, no home, no money and no emotional care. What’s more, most of these orphans are from gipsy families, a largely disenfranchised ethnic group. Many of these orphans cannot be adopted because their real parents don’t give the institutions housing then the permission to offer them to other families.

At first sight, you might think that these children are having a good life in a good atmosphere, but there is much pain behind their lovely smiles and laughter.

First contact with orphans is really tough, but not because they are harsh or rude. Rather, they can give you real happiness by cheering you up without expecting any thing in return; the pain stems from the realization that there are so many of them just wanting to feel loved and that there is someone out there thinking of them .

An orphan might come to you and hold your hand to let you closer to them. In other words, they are really nice; most of them are hiding their pain behind their smiles. Szandi was one of those kind girls who allowed me to get closer to her, she needed a person to make her feel loved, beautiful and strong. "She is jealous of her roommate" said Katalin Nógádi, a staffer at the orphanage I visited, the Fővárosi Önkormányzat Általános Iskola És Diákotthon. They want to be the best and the only one in the lives of others, she added.

Getting to know about their lives is not difficult, people just have to be patient with them because they need a huge amount of energy and care. On the other hand, they give such affection back, multiplied many times. Orphans will typically take on their visitors as role models for behaviour, since they don’t have many good examples in reality other than movie stars. They watch people carefully and they might follow your attitudes if they take a liking to you .

Their living conditions

Orphans in Hungary live in houses supplied by the government. There are typically about 16 kids in one house, divided into two groups, supervised by two or three teachers. They go to schools to learn how to read and write but they don't get a diploma and most of them are not interested in studies. They often dream, however, to be rich and famous. They are addicted to movies and fairy stories, but only those with happy endings. When i attended a talent show, I realised that they are lacking in self confidence: the girls were almost naked, a pattern of dress for which they seemed much too and young. Then Katalin told me, "most of them become prostitutes to live in a better condition," while the boys often get involved with drugs and robbery.

Little kids are still so innocent, but you can see how sad their faces are when you play with them.
Most of them behave very gently with their visitors and they are also polite at the first sight. But as soon as they get to know you and feel your love they start to test you to see if you really love them or not by behaving bad or rude.

Orphans are worried about their futures since none of them has a diploma or skill. They are scared of the entire world because they feel that they are from the lowest level; orphans mostly are alone and when they get out of their institutions they might get misled to any number of wrong directions. There is a fear in them that says they can't be loved.

"Who would love me with my ugly face?" said Szandi.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The new man in society - how is the sexual identity of men changing?

The new man in society - how is the sexual identity of men changing? E.g. why have men started shaving their armpits?

By Mona Monsefi

Let’s face it, men’s grooming habits are changing. While many still refuse to shave their armpits, we nonetheless see them wearing bright colors or feminine hairstyles, even plucking their eyebrows. They want to be on their best behavior when they mix with society, but at the same time, do whatever they want. Their biggest problem is that they don’t want to be recognized as homosexuals or accused of not having enough masculinity. But what does masculinity mean? Does it have a universal meaning? Masculinity describes the mentality, attitude and characteristics of men, which have different attributes in different cultures. Men have not physically changed, but the definition of the masculinity is changing and it changes men’s appearance, habits and attitudes.

Changing gender roles in society appear to be influencing men’s sexual identity. We see more and more men interested in such jobs as hairdressing and nursing than before versus women who are becoming more and more interested in historically “manly” jobs.

"Men who enter the profession have a natural flair for it,” said Andrew Parkes, senior hairdressing lecturer at South Tyneside College in the UK. “So it's no coincidence that many of the top stylists such as Toni and Guy, Trevor Sorbie, Andrew Collinge and Nicky Clarke are male.”

Gender roles have changed but society’s view toward women and men still gets hung up on stereotypes. Why do some people respect a woman architect but assume all male hairdressers are gay? Evidence suggests that the stereotype of the female secretary is what prompted the coinage “executive assistant” in order to describe the job in such a way that it would appeal more to men.

Has this legacy of stereotypes and prejudice caused men to fear being viewed as homosexuals?

“When confronted with males and females deviating from society's sex-based gender role prescriptions,” wrote Donald R. McCreary, professor of psychology at Canada’s Brock University, “people tend to respond more negatively to the males' transgressions.”

Maybe this is the reason men are hesitating to do some basic things such as shaving their armpits. On the one hand, men are encouraged to shave their armpits for reasons of hygiene and health. On the other hand, the advertising of men’s beauty products and even the appearance of certain film and media stars may serve to reinforce the stereotype of the gay male, thereby frightening other men away.

Women have their own ideas about men’s armpits.

“It’s their personal hygiene to stay clean,” said a female physiotherapy student. “Also, men without chest and armpits hair are sexier.”

An art student added that, “armpits cause more sweating and bad smell plus big wet circles on the men’s shirts thay are not really attractive.”

Men’s views about armpits are predictably somewhat different.

“To me what makes a man is the body hair,” wrote a gay male on Yahoo! answers. “I know plenty of women who prefer men to have their armpit hair. Why? Cause it makes a man manly! I am a gay male myself and I prefer my men with body hair. If I wanted really smooth skin, especially under the arms, I’d go out with a woman instead.”

How interesting! How can men say that growing armpit hair protects them from the accusation of homosexuality when a gay man says that it’s exactly armpit hair that he likes?

Ask a few straight men and your answers will be different still.

“That’s what is known as stereotyping. I'm straight and I've done it because I think it looks gross. But it didn't make me attracted to men,” said one straight male. Another added: “I don't look at a guy and judge his manliness on how much hair he has! By this reasoning girls would be manly too if they stop shaving. To all you people who are saying that hair makes a man: there's nothing masculine about armpits hair, women get just as much of it naturally”.

As we see, all these ideas are different from person to person and even within the same culture there is no fixed rules about that because people’s minds have been shaped by their believes during their lives. Every single thing can change our attitudes. Religious reasons are sometimes involved in our behaviors. In Islamic culture, both men and women practice the removal of underarm hair for religious guidelines of cleanliness. Fashion also can change our views and behaviors. For example, the Hippies of the 1960s as well as the peoples of primitive cultures, prefer to let their underarm hair flourish. This is common for both females and males of the culture, and often they wear clothing that is loose and exposes the underarm hair as an alternative fashion statement. But now, in 21st century’s fashion we see lots of super models and super stars with hairless bodies. There are also more and more advertisements for men’s hair removal products.

Men are surrounded with contradictory beliefs in the new society and it is hard for them to be whatever they want but some of them have found their own way to face all these things.

Although identifying masculinity and its symbols are differ from culture to culture but these days with mass media every movement that happens can change something in the whole world. We have started to make a homogeneous world. In this new society both men and women’s sexual identity is changing and unbelievably men’s new behavior such as highlighting hair and manicuring their nail are becoming as accepted as Scottish skirts for men.

Roma Man Rises Up Against Discrimination

By Tom Fried

A Roma rights activist recently completed a one-week march from his small village in central Hungary to Budapest in order to draw attention to the latest verbal and physics attacks against their community and also to hand over signed petition to the president.

The latest attacks on the Roma community in Hungary included the murder of families in the middle of the night in villages where there is Roma majority by what appears to be a far right- Neo Nazi group; and racist remarks by a town mayor and member of parliament, which suggested that Roma woman harm their fetuses in order to get more money from social security. In response to these attacks on his community, Roma rights activist Laszlo Kallay, decided to walk from his village, Jaszladany, in central Hungary to Budapest, with the goal of arousing the Roma community and to get the attention of Hungarian people who opposed those attacks and anti-Roma discrimination in general.

After finishing the walk, escorted by four other men and his son, Kallay entered Hero’s Square in the center of Budapest while 500 hundred Roma and non-Roma people were waiting for him, cheering and supporting. Kallay and his men walked carrying the flags of Hungary and the EU together with the Roma flag. After giving speeches and interviews, Kallay led the crowd to the residence of the Hungarian president, Laszlo Soyolm, to hand him a petition which calls for the cancellation of integration in schools and work places.

"We want to cancel the integration, but we also want that the other side will understand why it is important to cancel the integration" with that saying, opened Kallay his speech in front of the crowd. He claims that schools in Hungary don't let Roma pupils to continue their studies in secondary school.
Kallay, a Roma man in his 40s, pointed also to the poverty among the Roma minority in Hungary. He was asked about the condition of the Roma economy in Hungary and what effect the crisis was having on it. "We are in crisis since we were born, economic crisis, but more important soul crisis, those kind of crisis, are not new thing to us, Roma people"

He said he believes that people who lost everything in the recent crisis should be strong and go forward. He also mentioned that the Roma people had survived the holocaust, and they will survive these recent attacks as well, pointing on the murdering of a Roma mother and the injury of her 13-years-old daughter in May and the massacre of a father and son in February of this year in a village 20 Km outside of Budapest. The attacks appear likely to derive from racial hatred. Four men who are recognizes to be part of a far right wing and Neo Nazi group active in East of Hungary, are under detention and being accused by the government of hate crimes.

Kallay is well known figure in the Roma community in Hungary that we could see on the afternoon he marched the Hero Square, holding flags of the EU, Hungary and the Gypsy official flag in one hand and his child with his second hand, back in 2006, few month only before the demonstration in Hungary, Kallay wrote an open letter to the Fidesz leader, Victor Orban after saying he can understand parents who don’t want to send their children to school with Roma pupils. Kallay claimed that poor Roma children are forced to attend separate class would lead to lower education among them.
"I got the idea of the Marching from Gandhi" Kallay says, and claiming that it was only small step in his battle against Roma discrimination in Hungary.

"We are in contact with other Roma civil rights organization abroad, especially in Slovakia" and this March and the petition are only small step but important one, our next step in the future is to march along Slovak Roma directly to Brussels"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Women Offer Tips At Self-Protection On Increasingly Dangerous Streets

By Gabrielle Hollows

Budapest and Hungary on the whole, are relatively safe. But mounting evidence suggests they are becoming more dangerous. Forbes Magazine ranked Hungary number nine in 2008 on its list of “European Crime Capitals,” ahead of Scotland but behind Turkey, Italy and Spain. While total crime is actually down over the past five years, according to the Central Statistics Office, crime against persons hit an all-time high in 2008, with nearly 21,000 such acts indicted.

Much is known, by now, of the case of Ophélie Bretnacher, the 22-year-old French woman whose body was found at the shore of the Danube in February after going missing last December here in Budapest. While police decided not to regard the occurrence as a criminal act, this horrific story nevertheless calls into question just how safe women are on the streets of Budapest. News that a 21-year American woman had been sexually assaulted and beaten that same December raises this question to a higher level of urgency.

Women need to know how to protect themselves from potential attackers. If you know how to protect yourself it is harder for an attacker to get what he wants. By making it harder you are preventing yourself from getting into danger.

Many students have grown aware of the need to protect themselves, developing personal regimens of safety.

“Violent crime is becoming much more common in Budapest,” said Barbara Ürögdi, a PhD student in linguistics who studied previously in New York. “There are very few cases of rape. It's mostly people taking your phone or wallet.”

Barbara usually avoids walking, opting instead for her bike, or a cab if it’s late and especially if she’s been drinking. She suggested carrying a “fake” wallet – an old wallet with a bit of cash and some expired cards – as way to appease attackers. She avoids such areas as housing projects and places devoid of people and commercial activity after dark.

Being aware of your surroundings is one of the most important things that a woman can take with her anywhere she goes. Just by knowing where the dangerous or rough areas are is crucial. However, according to the US-based Women’s Defence Centre, if you think you are being followed, turn around and look at that person. This reminds a potential attacker that you are aware of his actions and are too hard of a target for him. It could also put him off attacking any body else that day and therefore you are helping other possible victims.

Everyday objects can be used as weapons, if absolutely necessaty. The Defense Centre says that you can improvise with pens and pencils. You may even think about your house keys as an “improvised weapon”. Not only would it help with a hard stab to the face. If you are near your home you would be able to get in much faster and out of danger quickly.

Don’t walk home alone is the best rule for young women to follow for preventing a personal attack. Such is the wisdom of myriad law enforcement agencies and universities applied to urban living around the globe. This means walking in the company of trusted friends or returning home by vehicle driven by someone you trust, e.g. in the cab of a well-reputed taxi fleet.

Budapest is fortunate to have efficient and reliable company taxis. Having a list of companies in your phone gives you a wide option for a taxi if one may be busy or unavailable. English-speaking operators gives you the opportunity to ask for a taxi quickly so that you are not waiting on the streets.

Homophobia: in your blood or just your history book?

By Katie Welch

In light of the age-old Assyrian laws against homosexuality, Hungary emerges as a pretty liberal country. The first law against homosexuality was put into action as recently as 1878, forbidding man/man trysts with up to a year behind bars as punishment. In the early 1960’s, homosexual behavior was made legal again, provided that the participants were above the age of twenty (on a side note: England did not legalize homosexuality until approximately five years later). In the late ‘70’s the age bracket was dropped to eighteen. In 2002, when the age for consensual sex was determined to be 14, the decision applied to heterosexual and homosexual couplings alike.

When asked how she felt about homosexuality, Gabi Hollows, a student at McDaniel College Budapest stated, “I haven’t really got a problem with homosexuality. However, I don’t think that it is natural.” Hollows is not the first person (nor the last) to harbor that sentiment – but she might not be correct in her thinking. In 2004, National Geographic News published an article detailing just how natural homosexuality is – listing birds, sheep, fruit bats, dolphins, and orangutans as a few of the species in which same sex romances can be observed. Interestingly enough, there are no examples of homophobia in the animal world, which raises the question of just how natural the fear of homosexuality is.

“Homosexuality in public bothers me as much as any form of sexuality in public,” said Victoria Hurney, a pre-med student. “It's inappropriate.”

Public displays of affection in general may have the gay community receiving a bad wrap for their outward displays of “pride.” Family models that consist of mother, father, and children, sometimes struggle to explain the birds and the bees to young ones, never mind why sometimes the birds skip the bees and just date other birds.

In reference to pride parades, a student who wished to remain anonymous said, “Gay pride parades may take it too far… I don't think that there has to be all this ‘showing off’ about being gay. If you’re gay then you are gay, there is no need to go about telling the entire world. People, I think, would be a lot more open about homosexuality if it wasn't all about rights and being different and being in all in your face.”

But Bodwin Simons, a student at McDaniel Budapest, had some words of advice for those who may not be convinced of the validity of homosexual relationships, "Homosexuality needs to be accepted. It's not going to be something we will ever be able to change. To everyone who is a heterosexual, this is the way you have to see it; If you let homosexuality be, there will just be more straight people for you to pick from later in life!"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tuning in to Black Male Stereotypes

By Segun Esan

Is there a stereotype of the African-American male? This question was put to international students at McDaniel College Budapest, as it was to college students in the US. The results make for an interesting comparison with statistical data and the personal experience of this reporter, a Nigerian studying in Budapest.

Fast, tall, loud, athletic, hair in cornrows, speaking in a different dialect were all stereotypes pronounced by students at a US college and recorded by Youtube contributor Inst322. Savage, violent, amazingly strong and not caring about right and wrong, are all attributes of the “black brute stereotype” recorded by Abagond, a New Yorker who blogs about African-American issues.

Is there some truth to any of these? Reports show that more than 44 percent of the total population of US prision inmates are African American and 1 in 20 are currently incarcerated, according to US Bureau of Justice Statistics. Research was conducted to determine the IQ among European-Americans, African-American and Asian-Americans. African-American came last having the lowest IQ average, according to the American Civil Rights Review.

A report by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard showed that only 43% percent of about 3 black male high school students graduated in 2005, with the rate for college graduates are even lower. With the Hiphop music industry growing daily, and having rappers like Nas, Notorious B.I.G, and 50 Cent (all former drug dealers) as the face of it, no wonder education seems unattractive to African American males says Lily Kun a Hungarian American. A look at some American sports such as basketball, and football, finds the majority of the players black. Young black males watching this all want to grow up to be like Lebron James and Terrell Owens says Richard Ross an African American student in McDaniel college.

Being black in Europe, meanwhile, has its own stereotype. This reporter has experienced a core of three. Black in Europe, you are assumed to play basketball and be good at it. When a black man steps on to a basketball court, every stops to see what the black guy will do. Black friends who know not a thing about basketball get the same attention. Being black in Europe means you must love hip-hop or - better still – be are a rapper yourself. This reporter loves hip hop but can`t rap. Some black friends dislike rap, but love soft rock, and, drum and bass. Lastly, being black in Europe means you smoke weed. Black males report people often approaching them to see if they had weed to sell, or to find out where it could be found. “I`ve never smoked weed before in my life,” is a response that is greeted by expressions of disbelief.

Corruption in Nigeria


Corruption is a major issue in Nigeria. It is common especially in the Nigerian government, but it can even be seen on the streets as policemen extort money from motorists to supplement their wages. It is in politics and government that corruption is most damaging, where it has become so common over the years that its effects are felt in every organisation, institution and office. It has become so pervasive and accepted that if one decides not to take part in it, the result may be loss of job or even life.

Nigeria is a country that has been blessed with a lot of natural resources with crude oil its major source of revenue. Nigeria is the 8th largest oil producing nation in the world and the largest oil producing nation in Africa. Despite all its riches, most citizens are living in abject poverty, as a result of corrupt leaders who are only interested in embezzling money to enrich themselves. Nigeria is currently ranked as the 18th most corrupt country in the world by Forbes Magazine.

“Corruption has become so deep-seated in the country that it has stunted the growth in all sectors and it has been the primary reason behind the country’s difficulties in developing fast,” reads a report by Nigeria-Planet.com. “Nigerians suffer because corruption made it hard to run government transparently, scandals became rife, projects were plagued by corruption which even seeped into so many private areas of people’s lives.”

The oil industry itself appears to be no exception, if a December 17, 2004 report by news agency Reuters is to be believed. Reuters stated that some 100,000 barrels of Nigeria’s oil exports were being stolen on a daily basis. This amounted to four percent of the country’s total oil exports. The report added that 70 percent of Nigeria’s population lives in poverty and that poor economic management and corruption were to blame.

Not surprisingly, corruption is a major issue in Nigerian politics.

In 1999, Olusegun obasanjo was elected president on an anti-corruption platform “Corruption is a cancer,” says Obasanjo, he added “it hinders development in any country”. One of his reforms included the creation of the Economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC), the main aim of the EFCC was to tackle and minimize corruption especially in the government. So far the EFCC has been making a lot of progress although it faces a lot of difficulties and challenges, the commission has arrested about 500 suspects and confiscated $500 million in the first 18months since it began targeting international e-mail scams and other fraud said Ribadu the EFCC chairman.

Campaigners argue that the fight against corruption can only succeed if it goes after the “untouchables”, public office holders who have direct responsibility for handling oil wealth but have broad constitutional immunity from prosecution. “We have a policy of suitable target for maximum impact, we went into e-mail scams and now we are going for public treasury looters” said Ribadu the EFCC chairman, he added “we are challenging the immunity; it is a complete conflict with the spirit of the constitution”.

The other organ also set up by the Federal Government to fight corruption in public office is the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) which too had scored remarkable successes since inception.

The government’s campaign against corruption manifests also in the setting up of the Due Process Office. This office oversees and demands that standard processes be followed in the execution of government activities and projects, thereby plugging avenues for bribery and corruption.

Part of the reasons for granting Nigeria debt forgiveness by the Paris Club is the renewed drive to curb corruption in the land and for transparency in government affairs.
With renewed confidence in the government to combat and reduce financial crimes and other corrupt practices, foreign investors have the guarantee of achieving their objectives in Nigeria.
While the problem of corruption has been around for a while, it is instructive to note that the will to combat it has become more resilient and with the expected co-operation of the international community, it will be reduced if not completely eliminated from Nigeria in due course.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Koch Industries Fails to Disclose Offshore Tax Avoidance

By Daniel Zoltai

The IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program for US persons who have not properly reported their non-US bank and other financial accounts and offshore structures, such as foreign trusts and companies controlled by US persons ended on October 15, 2009.
In the last week, Democrat Senator Carl Levin has offered his Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act as an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare bill, bringing the issue of tax haven abuse back to the table just after the close of the IRS program, a move that is supported by Barack Obama.

With current reports detailing thousands of individuals coming forward to declare their offshore assets, there has been little disclosure made by major corporations. While public corporations are fairly transparent and often show up in examples of tax haven abuse, privately held corporations are much more likely to hide behind a veil of secrecy and employ complex off-shore structures in order to avoid taxes.
Take the example of Koch Industries. This the largest privately held conglomerate on the planet, employing approximately 70,000 people worldwide with annual revenues exceeding $100 billion. Their financials are kept strictly confidential and they do not disclose information about their management structure and activities. Koch is known to be aggressive with their tax avoidance strategies, having sued the IRS for $20 million in 2006 claiming that their tax refund was not correct. Public documents available on the Luxembourg government website, Legilux.lu, reveal that Koch operates a complex system of offshore companies and accounts in order to avoid paying US taxes on huge sums of corporate profits. Out of his Kansas office, Global Tax Director for Koch Industries, Craig M. Munson, manages these offshore corporations with the assistance of a shady Luxembourg company, ATOZ s.a., whose partners are primarily former Arthur Anderson staffers – the tax advisory giant that ceased to exist as a result of their felony conviction in the Enron “off-shore and off-balance sheet” debt scandal of 2002.
With the help of his offshore tax avoidance experts at ATOZ, Mr. Munson has set up a network of companies under the brand name “KoSa” that are used to move and consolidate funds offshore in order to avoid taxes. Some of the companies include “KoSa Foreign Investments” which was formed in June 2009 with over $1.8 billion in capital and “KoSa Luxembourg” which in August of this year declared a capital of over 520 million Euros. There are also vehicle companies such as “KoSa US Receivables Company” which declared a capital of nearly $185 million in August and “KoSa Canada Receivables Company” with a capital of nearly $35 million. These companies, and several others in the “KoSa” structures set up by Mr. Munson and his ATOZ facilitators are shells with no employees or physical operations. They are all incorporated under the “s.a.r.l.” status which has light reporting and governance requirements and is normally used for small businesses. When the sums involved are significant, such as the case here, the use of an “s.a.r.l.” is often cover for money laundering or tax avoidance schemes. In this case, it appears that these companies exist for no reason other than to avoid the payment of taxes. This is not the first time that Mr. Munson’s Luxembourg companies are involved in nefarious activity. In 2002, Arteva s.a.r.l., a Luxembourg company doing business as “KoSa” with Mr. Munson named as manager, was sued by the United States and plead guilty to charges of criminal price fixing.
A government source, wishing to remain anonymous due to direct proximity with the issue, has confirmed that the IRS will be investigating the matter.