Week In Review

Fish, The Wire, Brazil

by by Beatrice Igne-Bianchi

Red herring veto
In an effort to help the Ocean State stay true to its name, Governor Carcieri vetoed legislation last week to impose an annual fee on saltwater fishing, declaring fishing a “Rhode Island birthright.” The General Assembly had approved the $7 annual license fee for oceanic recreational fishing two weeks ago. The Rhode Island licensing fee would have been a precedent-setting law: the first licensing fee for saltwater fishermen in the history of Rhode Island.

However, if the Governor’s aim was to help anglers, it appears his veto was grossly under-researched. The US Congress passed a bill that would require fishers from any state without its own licensing to submit to federal licensing, to curb overfishing and environmental intrusion. Most West Coast and Southern states already had licenses; most Northeast states responded by imposing their own. Rhode Island’s rejected $7 fee would be the cheapest fishing license in the country.

However, without the $7 state license, Rhode Island fishers will have to pay the federal $25, staring in January 2011. Gail Mastrati, the spokesperson from Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, explained that before the fee is imposed, “the state will use this window of time to
explore other option.”

Governor Carcieri used the 10th Amendment to argue his veto; licensing anglers is neither an explicit state right not a federal right. He explained in his veto message, “This is the Ocean State. It is a place where people have been free, up to now, to cast a line into Narragansett Bay without government intrusion.” However, the federal fee is inevitable if Rhode Island doesn’t institute a licensing system.

Stephen Medeiros is the president of the biggest group of recreational saltwater fishermen in the state; the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association represents the estimated 300,000 marine fisherman in the Ocean State. He explained that in a “perfect world, we would want no fee. But, we would much rather have a $7 fee than have to pay for a federal licensing.” His group disagrees with Carcieri and hopes that the law will be overturned next year when the governor’s term is up. Medeiros says the only supporters of the veto were “not educated. But after January 2011, when the $25 fee kicks in, we’ll see how many people will raise a ruckus.”

He explained that the proximity of Rhode Island to Massachusetts and Connecticut makes ocean fishing more complicated. Previously, the states had a “gentlemen’s agreement" to honor each other’s anglers’ rights. Now that Rhode Island doesn’t have a state licensing process the agreement is void.

Medieros said if you start adding up the cost of the federal license, $25, and then either Connecticut’s or Massachusetts’s licenses, this could cost an angler upwards of $60. The requirement to buy a federal license could deter people from visiting Rhode Island. The National Marine Fishing Services estimates that about 60 percent of people fishing in the Ocean State are from out of state. While the numerous marinas, Block Island, Narragansett Bay, and the striped bass previously reeled in anglers, the expensive federal fee might encourage visitors to choose friendlier waters. —Ml

Harvard goes hard
Watching episodes of the 2001-2005 hit HBO series The Wire will be homework for some Harvard undergraduates enrolled in a new sociology course next year.

Last weekend in Cambridge, a panel of Harvard professors and actors from the series discussed how the show’s gritty depictions of Baltimore’s inner-city streets will be used to help students—and the rest of the population—understand and contemplate real-life social issues plaguing America’s cities.

For the new course, Sociology Professor William J. Wilson will use The Wire as a case study for poverty in America, said African American studies chair Professor Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.

During the discussion, Professor Wilson said, “The Wire has done more to enhance our understanding of the systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the poor than any published study,” as reported by The Crimson.

While it may be a first for the Ivy League, using The Wire as central text in a college course is not new.

Both Duke University and Middlebury College have offered classes that prominently feature the series. Professor of African and African American Studies at Duke, Mark Anthony Neal, said in an email that he has used "The Wire" in his courses on black masculinity and hip-hop. His colleague Mark Hansen, a professor of Literature at Duke, taught “Phenomenology of Film and Media” in which students watched The Wire as one of many texts in contemporary media. Last Fall, Professor Jason Mittell, an Associate Professor of American Studies and Film & Media Culture at Middlebury College, offered a course called “Urban American & Serial Television: Watching The Wire".

But Harvard’s strict focus on the sociological dimensions of the series is a first for academia. The Wire has usually been placed in the context of media and writing classes.

Shaundra Crittenden, a senior sociology concentrator at Harvard, believes that “the show is a far less sterile and far more complicated account than much of the research concentrators study in more traditional classes.” Furthermore, she hopes that “with more students intellectually engaging the topic, a more nuanced understanding of urban inequality—one that challenges the widespread notion that social capital and standing are largely individually determined—will emerge.”

The information learned through the new Harvard course is not to be kept within Ivy walls. Actors at the panel discussion encouraged audience members and the Harvard community to not simply sit and contemplate these harsh realities on the show, but to be proactive about finding ways to solve these real-life problems. Sonja Sohn, who portrayed detective Kima Greggs, said that, “these circumstances will not change if you do nothing.” Harvard students have a lot on their plates. —BI-B

Brazilian beaches ain't ballin'
Come December 1, Rio de Janeiro’s sandy white beaches will no longer be venues for pick-up soccer games. Currently, hundreds of police officers are being recruited to enforce a ban on all ball games as part of an effort to curb chaos during the country’s summer months. Authorities plan to prohibit unruly jet skiers and illegal vendors who sell trinkets on the city’s beaches. Around 300 extra police officers are slated to join the regular team of 96 agents for this new plan.

The ball-game ban particularly targets “altinho”—when one skillfully juggles a soccer ball using one’s feet, legs, knees, torso, and head without letting the ball hit the ground. It also includes prohibiting the fast-paced game called “Frescoball” which originated on the beaches of Rio. The game is played with two people who try to keep a small—yet very hard—rubber ball in the air with wooden paddles.

The ban intends to run until mid-March, which marks the end of the summer season in South America. Beachgoers will not be able to play these ball games between 8am and 5pm.

But in a city famous not only for its beaches but also for its soccer stars, the ban has caused a stir among many residents. “It’s absurd,” Gustavo Segala, told the UK's Telegraph. “Playing soccer on the beach is part of our culture.” While that it may be, Rio’s authorities insist that the ban is not attempting to curb a love for the games, but rather to keep beachgoers out of harm’s way. Stray balls often hit bystanders, and those wanting to take a dip in the ocean must run quickly through ongoing matches to get to the water.

Sharon Feder B’13, who is from São Paulo, believes that soccer is representative of Brazilian unity. Feder said that by banning beach soccer during the summer “the government is removing a rare moment of union [among Brazilians], and that right does not belong to them, but rather to the Brazilian population.”

On the flip side, those who prefer to stay stationary on the sand are pleased with the new measure. Ines Lins e Silva, who supports the ban, told the Telegraph that she has been hit “many times” and insists that these “games should be played in an area away from other bathers.”

The controversial prohibition is the latest in a series by Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, who was elected last January.

Brazil is more prominent than ever in the international media, largely due to its widely anticipated hosting of the most coveted events in global sports—the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games—in addition to the 2013 Confederations Cup Final. Paes is working to shed Rio’s tainted image as a lawless city—where drugs, violence, and poverty are rampant—in the next two years before it is time to play host to a plethora of international tourists and sports fans. And his prescription seems to be cutting down on recreational sports.

But Brown freshman and native of Brazil, Jennifer Reis, believes that he should focus his efforts elsewhere. Reis said that if the mayor “wants to make Rio more ‘civilized’ he has to take care of social problems first, not the recreational aspects of the city.” —BI-B