Monday, November 29, 2010

Haitians Vote Today

A woman walks past election posters for Jude Celestin, considered the leading candidate in Haiti’s Presidential election. Amidst the rubble of the earthquake and still raging cholera epidemic Haitians voted today. 

Some of the presidential candidates wanted to postpone the elections because of the ongoing chaos wrought by the earthquake and now cholera. Public security is still iffy, the presence of about 12,000 “blue helmets” or United Nations peacekeepers and police help keep the gangs in check. (During my trip to Haiti earlier this month, I had to hire a “security detail” to watch my back while I photographed the cholera epidemic in the Cite Soleil slums, this is the first time I’ve ever had to hire bodyguards to work.) 

People started voting Sunday morning and by late afternoon most of the candidates (12 of 19) were already calling for the nullification of the election because of widespread vote fraud. It was reported that people were not able to find their polling places in Port-au-Prince and that demonstrations were breaking out in some parts of the capital. The Los Angeles Times called it “chaos.” 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fear of Government Groping

About 30 people, including the gentleman above, picketed the entrance to Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix Wednesday to protest against the Transportation Security Administration’s use of relatively new body scanner x-ray machines and more aggressive, intrusive “pat downs” for people who either decline or fail the body scans. The protest was prompted by a customer who allegedly warned a TSA agent not to “touch his junk.” 

There were supposed to be protests across the country but they largely fizzled out. In Phoenix, a few people picketed the concourse and a few more picketed the front of the terminal. The protesters didn’t delay any flights or cause any backups at security checkpoints. But the semi-nude ones did amuse some travelers. 

There are more photos from the “opt out” protest in my archive or available fromZUMA Press.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oops, She Did It Again

Sarah Palin has penned another tome. Less than a year after “Going Rogue” broke into the best seller ranks, the reality TV star, ex-governor, FOX News commentator and losing Vice Presidential candidate released her latest, “America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag.” 

She kicked off her book tour at the Barnes & Noble store in Desert Ridge in north Phoenix. Hundreds of people lined up to get Palin’s autograph. Photographers were given a few minutes to make photos Palin but reporters weren’t allowed to ask questions nor did she make any comments for the media. 

There are more photos of Palin in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Waiting for Treatment

Women and their children wait in line for treatment at a Medecins Sans Frontieres(MSF - Doctors Without Borders) cholera treatment center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Cholera is a scourge that has claimed millions of lives in just the last 200 years. It originated on the Indian subcontinent thousands of years ago and spread to Russia in the early 1800‘s. From Russia it spread to the European mainland and North America. Cholera is spread by contaminated water and inadequate sewage treatment. The last major cholera outbreak in the US was 1910-1911.

Cholera can kill a healthy person within hours. The disease causes uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea, the sudden dehydration brings on shock and rapid electrolyte imbalance. Death follows. Despite the savage nature of the disease, cholera is almost ridiculously easy to prevent and treat.

Water treatment and sound sanitation practices prevent the disease. The cholera bacterium is killed by chlorine bleach and boiling. Treating cholera in a patient requires little more than a course of antibiotic treatments and rapid rehydration, frequently through IVs. 

A disease that kills so many is thoroughly understood and easy to stop.

Now cholera has come to Haiti. Many public health specialists have been predicting an epidemic of water borne diseases since the earthquake last January. For 10 months there were none. Then in October reports of a budding cholera epidemic started coming out of rural northern Haiti, near a Nepali United Nations Peacekeepers’ base. Disease detectives determined that the strain of cholera in Haiti more than likely originated in South Asia. Many Haitians immediately blamed the Nepali troops but the official source of the disease hasn’t been found.

The disease has spread across Haiti and into neighboring Dominican Republic. More than 1,300 Haitians have died from cholera in just six weeks. In Port-au-Prince, which has yet to recover from the earthquake, cholera victims have been left in the streets. The UN is reporting that a shortage of hydration supplies and body bags is slowing efforts to contain the epidemic. 

It would seem that a disease spread by contaminated water and poor sanitation would be right at home in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. But that’s not the case. Up until last month, cholera hadn’t been seen in Haiti in at least 100 years. Now the fear is cholera will be in Haiti forever.

I was in Haiti working on a story about an earthquake survivor for the Arizona Republic. I worked on the cholera story in my downtime. There are more photos of the cholera epidemic in my archive

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On The Campaign Trail

Terry Goddard, Democratic candidate for Governor of Arizona, takes a call from a reporter in the kitchen of the Wyndham Hotel in downtown Phoenix on election night. 
I love election season. Some photographers love sports playoffs, others prefer to cover crime and hard news stories. For me it’s elections. This year, I “embedded” with Terry Goddard’s campaign for a story that ran in today’s Arizona Republic. Both his campaign and his family were incredibly gracious and gave me unfettered access. 
The premise was a look at the campaign from the inside. It’s something I’ve done in the past for the Republic - embedding with both sides with the understanding that I was there as a photographer to keep a visual record of the campaign and that I would not share confidences I heard from one campaign with the other. It’s always worked well for me. This year the Republic approached both Goddard’s campaign and the campaign of his Republican rival, Jan Brewer. 
Goddard instantly, and without hesitation, said yes. Brewer, instantly and without hesitation said absolutely not. 
Goddard was frustrated by Brewer’s refusal to debate him. She turned down almost all requests from organizations like the AARP for joint appearances. She wouldn’t campaign in the traditional sense and distanced herself from local media (although she made several appearances on national FOX News). It was as frustrating for me, as a journalist, to cover a campaign that seemed to be run by a mysterious man behind a curtain, as it was for Goddard to campaign against. But despite the campaign run by his rival, whether it was a good campaign or bad campaign or a non campaign, this simply wasn’t the year to be a Democrat, especially in Arizona. Goddard lost by about 13 points. Statewide, the Democrats were shellacked. They didn’t win any statewide offices and their presence in the state legislature will be greatly reduced. 
Arizona, once a reddish purple state (Democratic governor and attorney general, four of eight congressional seats held by Democrats, Republican controlled legislature, two GOP senators) is now a fiercely, raw meat, red state. All statewide elected officials are Republican, both senators and six of eight in congress Republican and overwhelming GOP control of the state legislature. 
There are more photos from the campaign in my archive. I have a multimedia piece on the campaign on Documentary Podcasts page. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Get Your Goat Meat Here

Ibrahim Swara-Dahab skins a goat before butchering in his shop south of Phoenix. He owns the Goat Meat Store. Swara-Dahab came to the United States from Somalia in 1998. He has built a thriving business as a Halal butcher and provides freshly butchered goats and sheep killed following the precepts of Muslim tradition. 
His business is a microcosm of immigrant America and caters not only to Muslims in the Phoenix area but also to refugees and immigrants from Africa and Asia. While I was there he had customers come in from Liberia, Sudan and Bhutan. His small butcher shop is on the Gila River Indian Reservation, about 100 yards from the Phoenix city limits and doesn't have either running water or electricity, which means no refrigeration. All of his meat is butchered on the spot and sold fresh to his customers. 
There are more photos of the goat meat butcher in my archive and available from ZUMA Press