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December 4, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | Leave a comment

Bold Statements in Fashion

Each year, fashion week comes and goes, with little distinction from past years. Streaks of bright lights fill the runway, as the world looks towards top designers in an attempt to define their own fashion sense.

However, this year as the US presidential election heats up, political banter has made it onto the runway, catching the attention of both the fashion world and the real world.

The New Function of Fashion

Notable designers such as Sonia Rykiel, Versace, Stella McCartney and Jean Charles de Castelbajac are making waves both on the runway and also in the political world. Putting their designs where their mouth is, European designers are not afraid to express their support for their favourite candidate.

According to MSNBC, Donatella Versace described Barack Obama as “the man of the moment,” dedicating her spring/summer 2009 line to political front runner. Versace describes the style of here newest line for “a relaxed man who doesn’t need to flex muscles to show he has power.”

Meanwhile, Jean Charles de Castelbajac’s models are gracing the runway with Obama inspired garments. The Andy Warhol-like designer has placed an image of Barack Obama on the front of a dress, with the back featuring the words “I have a dream today”.

Courtesy of The Telegraph Newspaper

Courtesy of The Telegraph Newspaper

Castelbajac told the Telegraph, “I made it because for me, Barack Obama is the most charismatic leader in politics today,” he went on to explain, “He is incarnate of hope, changes and youth. The ovation the dress received amazed me – as did the amount of insulting letters I have received from the United States. But I’m pleased to see that fashion has become such a powerful medium.”

Other Statements in Fashion

Prior to the start of this year’s election, fashion has long contributed to societal commentary.  In the year 2005, Dior launched a “Dior not war” and “Dior for peace” campaign, sending models down the runway with John Lennon’s song “Imagine” playing in the background.

Courtesy of Google Images

Additionally, music icons such as P-diddy have created affordable clothing lines with the Vote or Die slogan. Marie Claire has teamed up with Armani Exchange to create a political t-shirt saying “Think fashion makes a statement… Try Voting.” Although in the end it is up to the voter to decide, these bold and moving iconic statements are ingenious in creating buzz.

Chai C


November 6, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bold Statements in Fashion, Background

The Changing Face of Fashion

Fashion shows in Paris, London, Milan and New York each year are graced with glittering lights. Industry icons, alongside the rich and famous gather together in hopes of celebrating a renewed sense of style and glamour often absent of diversity.

Aside from Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks, few top models of ethnic origin have the privilege to grace international catwalks during fashion week. The process of elimination often begins well before a model walks through a fashion house’s front door.

Breaking the Trend

Famous photographer Steven Meisel, and Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani have crossed race barriers in order to create the first Vogue Italia All Black Issue. Debuting in July 2008, the All Black Issue was available in four collectors covers featuring Liya Kebede, Naomi Campbell, Jorden Dunn, and Sessilee Lopez.

Vogue All Black Issue Covers, Courtesy of Google Images

Vogue All Black Issue Covers, Courtesy of Google Images

The issue sold out nearly instantly, causing the publisher Condé Nast to reprint and distribute 40,000 additional copies. Those possessing a coveted issue of the July 2008 Vogue Italia could turn over a 60dollar plus profit on Ebay.

Edward Enninful, a black Notting Hill-born Vogue editor told the Guardian newspaper, “for years, the excuse proffered by advertising agencies for not signing black models to lucrative contracts, and by magazine editors who failed to feature women of colour on their covers, was a supposedly factual, ‘they don’t sell’.”

A New Era in Modeling

Tyra Banks told “when I look at young black models today, I hope they can just walk through the doors like everyone else”. According to Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2 fashion, the type of models often wanted for a show is usually predetermined prior to castings. Some of Dsquared2’s shows have broken the mould by featuring Rhianna and Channel Iman.

In previous years, established designers often create a standard definition of beauty. Gucci, Chanel, Prada, etc. have long chosen models identical in shape, height and colour, with very little consideration for diversity.

However, with the influx of new faces such as Jordan Dunn and Chanel Iman, it seems the old ways of fashion forgetting diversity have started to change.

Naomi Campbell, a high fashion runway veteran has decided to personally combat racism in fashion. Campbell is vowing to set up her own modeling agency in her home country of Kenya. According to the Telegraph Newspaper, Naomi has “attacked the fashion industry and glossy magazines for sidelining black beauty in favour of fair-skinned models”. The opening of her new agency will be an attempt to redress the balance”.

In an interview with the New York Times, Vogue Italia visionary Meisel conceded, “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination. It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, race – every kind of prejudice.” As a decade in this new century has nearly ended, there is renewed hope that barriers in the fashion industry will also soon pass.

Photographer Steven Meisel, Couresy of International Center of Photography

Photographer Steven Meisel, Couresy of International Center of Photography

Chai C

Sources: Issue_W0QQ_nkwZItalianQ20BlackQ20IssueQQLHQ5fBINZ1QQ_dmptZUKQ5fMagazinesQQ_trksidZp3286Q2ec0Q2em301?_trksid=p3286.c0.m301,-Iman-and-Jourdan-Dunn-grace-Vogue-Italia%27s-all-black-issue.html

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3rd World Aid During the Recession

Courtesy of Google Images

As economies worldwide struggle to regain financial footing during the recession in the ever competitive global marketplace, the repercussions will likely trickle down to third world nations- ultimately minimize aid.

In the western world, finances typically meant for civil services are now striped down to support a weakening economy.

After governments of western nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom tap into taxpayers’ pockets to back big name banks and save an ailing economy, what will be left for poorer nations?

Bailout Plan                                                                                         Courtesy of

After a reportedly 700 billion dollar US bailout and the 400 billion dollar UK bailout was issued, General Jacques Diouf of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization urged western governments “not to reduce aid to developing countries or introduce protectionist trade measures amid the current global financial crisis”. He warned that doing this could spark a food crisis in the coming year.

Similarly, according to The Associated Press, the Bush administration stated, “the United States and other developed countries must honor their commitments to foreign assistance.”

Given the growing size of the world’s population, disparity between the rich and the poor continues to grow. This phenomenon will most likely spiral downwards if developed nations lose focus of their international commitments during a time of national crisis.

G8 Commitments

In times of prosperity, during the 2007 G8 Summit a global commitment to ending poverty was at the top of the agenda. Then Prime Minister Tony Blair helped to enact a pledge of 50 billion US dollar to African countries in need of assistance. With full aid dispersements planned by 2010.

Almost two years after the pledge was made and the R-word or recession already uttered by top western leaders, the prospects of Africa ever receiving the finances is lessening.

The Future of the Third World

According to the Guardian almost two years after the G8 promise of assistance, the Africa Progress Panel headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says rich countries were only 10% of the way to their target.

This means, organizations committed to eradicating disease and poverty in third world nations such as Africa Aid may now have to push harder to ensure that promises of funding are being met.

Chai Collins


October 25, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3rd World Aid During the Recession Background, G8 Summit

Each year, leaders of the annual G8 summit gather together in hopes of making the world a better place. Meetings last just over two days, covering issues ranging from human rights to energy efficiency.

Courtesy of Google Images

Complete with pomp and circumstance, the G8 Summit consists of leaders primarily from Canada, France, Germany, The United States, The United Kingdom, Russia, Japan and Italy.

What the G8 Attempts to Accomplish

Speaking during July’s G8 Summit in Hokkaido Toyoko, then Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said, “world leaders will discuss the world economy, environmental concerns, African development and other pressing issues that must be tackled”.

During the summit, leaders’ portray the image that they are seeking unity and prosperity for the nations involved in the meetings and consequently for the rest of the world. However, how big of an impact do the meetings really have on foreign policy and the overall welfare of the estimated 6 billion people worldwide?

During the 2005 summit and repeatedly in 2007, G8 leaders agreed to end world poverty. This means making sure that poor nations such as Africa have enough money in their nation’s reserve to feed and medicate millions of less fortunate individuals living in the third world.

From the outside, the G8 summit may appear to be a win-win situation for countries in need, however although large sums of money are promised, there have been substantial complaints about its distribution.

Opposition to the G8

Courtesy of Google Images

Each G8 meeting is met with some progress, but also much scrutiny. Consensus among the general public has been positive, as third world nations are hopeful that aid will pour in, yet negative as some view the event only as a spectacle.

This year alone, thousands protested at the G8 conference in Japan. According to BBC News, “$280 million” was spent on the security budget alone or roughly $35 million per world leader. Around 20,000 police officers were in deployed in order to keep watch.

Aid organizations and celebrities such as Bono have previously “warned G8 backsliders” asking for aid to be delivered quickly according to the Guardian Newspaper.

The success of the annul G8 summit weighs heavily on member nations setting a realistic plan of action for today’s most pressing issues. As the world’s most prosperous nations come together, they must not leave the rest of the world behind.

Chai Collins


October 24, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

California’s Deep Secret

Courtesy of

Below the City of Angeles lies a deep secret. Los Angeles and the rest of the Golden State, sits atop ground that according to seismologists will undoubtedly be tested within the next 30 years.

Residents living in the state of California face danger from an impending earthquake that will rock the rector scale. According to Science daily, the impending quake may be large enough to visually change the landscape of the state, displacing thousands of Californians or perhaps millions.

Cities in Danger

A recent finding by Science Daily reveals, “California has more than a 99% chance of having a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake within the next 30 year” with, “the probability of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake striking the greater Los Angeles area 67%, and in the San Francisco Bay Area 63%”.
According to the United States Census Bureau, California is home to some 36,457,549 million people. Some live directly in harms way near or above the San Andreas or Hayward faults.

Future Impacts of the Quake

Experts warn that the San Andreas and the Hayward faults are two of the most dangerous geological faults in the state of California.  The San Andreas Fault nearly spans the entire state, stretching from Eureka to the Desert Hot Springs. While the Hayward fault is concentrated in the densely populated northern portion of the state, extending from Berkley to San Jose.
The U.S. Geological Survey indicates that only an estimated 10-percent of the Bay Area’s population is ready for the “big one.” Highlighting that if the earthquake hits along the Hayward fault, it could leave “100,000 people homeless, 58 buildings destroyed and more than 200 buildings heavily damaged.” Total losses are expected to exceed $28 billion dollars and several thousand deaths are likely to occur.

Current Preparation
As resident’s brace for the “big one”, scientists are working to better understand the seismic activities occurring under the state of California. For the next 15 years they plan to monitor each tremor by drilling a two-mile hole into the San Andreas Fault. The highly active fault is described by The Independent Newspaper as an “800-mile crack in the Earth’s crust where the Pacific Ocean plate grinds past the North American plate.”

Earthquake Progression Simulator

Chai C


October 19, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

California’s Deep Secret, Background

Dubbed the next disaster comparable to Hurricane Katrina, the impending California earthquake lies freshly on the minds of residents following the disastrous Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 that measured a 6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale.

As Californians fear the coming of the “big one” within the next thirty years, there are many ways for residents to brace for the coming quake.

Organizations such as ShakeOut and Protecting America have been set up to inform state residents of issues related to earthquake preparedness and safety. According to ShakeOut, the severity of the next quake “depends on the actions that individuals, schools, businesses, organizations, communities, and governments take to get ready.”

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Practical Preparation

There are several different ways to prepare for the coming quake. According to Protecting America, there are a few simple steps to take.

Each family in the state of California is recommended to develop their own personal earthquake plan of action.This includes a disaster preparedness plan, identifying potential hazards in the home and fixing them, purchasing or creating disaster kits, and predetermining a post quake meet-up location.

The ShakeOut organization is currently working to prepare southern Californian residents, helping them put their plans into action. At 10am on 13 November, 2008 the organization will stage a drill according to their website, will be the “largest earthquake preparedness activity in U.S. history”.

Millions of people in their homes, schools, businesses, government offices, etc. all over southern California will voluntarily “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”

Statewide Preparations

Rather than unsafe now and sorry later, over hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent in an effort to earthquake proof California. The US Geological Survey reported, that the northern California cities of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, etc. have issued bonds to upgrade schools, emergency shelters, command systems and search and rescue capability, etc.

Additionally, corporations such as IBM, Chevron, Hewlett-Packard, etc. have strengthened vulnerable structures, improving employee safety and the likelihood of damage occurring in an earthquake.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Since California’s last big quake, engineers have been working to improve the durability of structures. José Restrepo a professor of structural engineering at UCSD has told the university’s news that “intelligent design strategy” plays a large part in reducing damages and the amount of reinforcing steel required.

Only time can tell whether or not the state of California is properly prepared for the next big quake. Personal preparation and guided planning has played an important part in the past earthquakes and perhaps future ones as well.

Chai C


October 19, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , | Leave a comment

Background on Russia’s Oil

In the wake of an intense political conflict between Russia and Georgia, the Western world has to stop and think about their relationship with Russia, particularly in regards to oil.

With high levels of Europe’s daily oil consumption originating from Russia, a new level of doubt and scrutiny has risen over the appropriate relationship the west should have with the former Soviet Union.

Russia’s Oil Power

In the past, when Russia was meet with opposition from former Russian territories, Russia responded by

Courtesy of ABC News

Courtesy of ABC News

cutting off oil supplies without warning. According to The Independent, in 2007 Russia halted supplies to several eastern countries, after a dispute with Belarus over exports through the Druzhba pipeline.

This forceful demonstration of power has sent a strong shockwave through Europe and the rest of the west- saying Russia is resolved to remain independent of pressures from the outside world.

However, since the conflict in Georgia began, questions have arisen about the possibility of political sanctions. If the west because truly intolerant of Russia and one day imposed sanctions on the nation, would they retaliate and withdraw their supply of oil?

Strengthening the Global Community

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, the chairman of Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft, suggests that the energy relationship will continue, despite the possibility of a rocky relationship. “Even during the Cold War, regardless of political or any other circumstances, the Soviet Union always fulfilled its contractual obligations to supply Europe with energy, and Russia, a responsible and reliable partner, adheres to the same principle”.

Although Russian oil companies may seek to reassure Europe of their strong energy commitments to the west, perhaps it is logical for the EU to evaluate with some caution, the depth of their future relationship and energy agreements with Russia and increasingly look into alternative energy options.

Right now, it is in the best interest of the west to continue supporting positive relations with Russia and other eastern nations, in hopes of continuing in this time of peace. Anti- Russian sentiment seems to be low in Europe, however this can only last if ongoing conflicts are handled with care and political differences are to some degree respected.

By Chai C,


October 15, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jet-setters, Moscow welcomes you

If you’re a big spender, Moscow is the emerging place to be. According to Anton Doroshev of Reuters, investments in Russia’s booming luxury real estate market may soon make destinations such as London, New York or Dubai a thing of the past.

Newly built luxurious multi-million dollar homes are sprouting up all across Russia’s capital city. Changing the skyline from old world military to new world chic.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Real Estate Boom

Now, quick to make a rouble, Russia’s top real-estate moguls are eager to put their city on the map. Marketing to domestic and international investors alike. These high-tech, high fashion houses are in the heart of a city with contrasting wealth.

Moscow’s luxury home market welcomes buyers of residential homes and penthouses selling for upwards of $99 million dollars or 2.5 million roubles

Apart from the jet setters, most of the country barley gets by on an average monthly income of 700 US dollars. According to Moscow’s Institute of Social and Economic Studies of Population, statistics say that only “70% of the general population receives a salary high enough to support the basic necessities needed to live”.

This is due in part to the Russian tax system, which allows the rich and poor to pay an identical tax rate of 13%.

Standards of living are even lower for pensioners than the average citizen. Many live below the line of poverty and receive on average a monthly pension of 100 US dollars. Meanwhile, immersed in oil, Russia is home to an estimated 58 billionaires, making the disparity between the rich and the poor even more massive.

Russia’s Rich

Forbes’ says Russia’s top ten wealthiest citizens are successful in either the metals or oil industry. With ongoing sales of oil to Europe and possibly Asia, it seems likely that Russia’s rich will continue to be power players on the worldwide stage.

With money to burn, lavish properties that trump the likes of skylines in New York City have become popular investments.

Traditionally known as a post world communist country, Russia has struggled to become a respected world player. Given the country’s track record in unfriendly relations and geographical segregation, Moscow’s luxury property boom may be just what they need to put them back on the map.

By Chai Collins


October 14, 2008 Posted by | Chai- Int'l Current Affairs | , , , , , , | Leave a comment