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April 2019

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More than ever before, we are seeing the inclusion of Latin music in mainstream entertainment. Once a niche, Latin sub-genres like reggaeton and flamenco are weaving themselves into the fabric of pop culture and succeeding. The artists who are leaving their mark by reaching a broad market and topping charts represent an untapped musical vein, one rich with its own melodies and sounds.

The crossover began when a few of these artists found a way blend in the influences of contemporary popular music in a way that didn’t drown out their Latin roots. With the current state of affairs, it’s easy to understand why this is an important time for Latinx artists and influencers to step into the spotlight and tell their stories. Fans all over the world are able to see past the language barrier and connect with the spirit of the music, bringing a mass of people from all different backgrounds together. One of these artists, Colombian singer J Balvin, has become a leader in this wave of pan-Latin music by marrying pop and reggaeton in an smooth, unapologetic style.  

José Álvaro Osorio Balvin, who goes by J Balvin, was born on May 7,1985 to a middle class family living in Medellín, Colombia. Growing up with an interest in American rock music, Balvin was deeply influenced by Nirvana and Metallica. He even went on to cover the Nirvana hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in live sets. Then he discovered reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee and was so inspired by the flows and style that at age 14 he decided to pursue his own career as a reggaeton artist.

When he turned 17, he moved to Oklahoma as part of an English exchange program where he was disappointed to find the experience was nothing like the American movies he had seen as a child. He decided to move back home to Medellín, where he studied international business at EAFIT University before fully committing to music. In his early performance years he was known as J Balvin “El Negocio”, or “The Business.” While rap battling and self-promoting in the clubs of urban Medellín he met DJ, David Rivera Mazo who became his business partner. The two quickly began collaborating on musical projects. By age 20 Balvin signed with EMI Columbia Records. That’s when he released the single that changed everything, a song entitled “Yo Te Lo Dije”. This single put him on the map and within a year he was signed to Capitol Latin. 

Already a star in the clubs of his hometown, he truly broke through in the United States with his Billboard topping song “6 AM” featuring Farruko. In February of 2014, the song debuted at number 43 on the Billboard charts and by that spring had reached number one. Since then, J Balvin has been a pillar in the Latin pop community, collaborating with several other up and coming Latinx artists.

Many credit the success of other reggaeton artists such as Nicky Jam and Farruko to J Balvin’s ability to popularize a new wave of reggaeton and spread it to the masses.

Camilla Cabello also cites Balvin as one of her musical influences. The two have collaborated on the 2017 The Fate of the Furious soundtrack featuring “Hey Ma” with Pitbull. His most famous hit is a collaboration with Cardi B and Bad Bunny on the number one single “I Like It”, which was released in May, 2018. It reached number 7 on the Billboard charts and was named 2018’s Song of the Year by Apple Music. The music video for “I Like It” has over 900 million views on YouTube. 

Now J Balvin is known for his signature minimalist style and gentle delivery, greatly appealing to a wider audience by using pop melodies in his songs and singing over the beats. He stays true to his roots by partnering with Medellin-based writers and producers Alejandro “Sky” Ramirez and Carlo Alejandro “Mosty” Patiño on several of his tracks.  Way to walk the line.

With no resolution in site, the U.K. Parliament has been debating how to leave the EU, with hardline Euro-skeptics pushing for a no deal break from the Union and others including the Labour party pushing for a soft Brexit. Theresa May is negotiating with the EU to extend the UK’s exit date until June 30th, which would require the UK to participate in the EU elections this spring 1.

Hardliners argue that a soft break with the EU would violate the public’s policy intentions that they claim were implicit in their vote to leave. Labour‘s soft Brexit includes a customs union with the EU that would guarantee a no tariff relationship with Europe2 as well as membership in the single market.

A major concern about Brexit is how it will impact the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. How will opportunities across borders remain open? Labour is committed to preventing the return of a hard border between the two. Meanwhile, a record number of U.K. citizens are seeking to become Irish citizens, in many cases in order to continue to be EU citizens3 who have the right to work and live in any country within the Union.

Michel Barnier, the E.U.’s Brexit negotiator, has pledged support for preventing a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland4. He has said that the EU will expect the UK to honor the “backstop” in order to prevent a hard border regardless of whether the UK leaves with an agreement. Republic of Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has thanked Barnier and has said that other EU members understand the need to protect the 1998 Good Friday agreement4, which brought an end to the decades long Troubles between Britain and the North. Northern Ireland and Scotland, in contrast to England, voted predominantly to stay in the European Union5 raising fears of worsening tensions in Northern Ireland. This provides a new reason for seeking independence from the UK in order to join the Republic of Ireland, which remains in the European Union.

Concerns about the economic impact of the UK leaving the EU are rooted in fears that business and jobs will go elsewhere in order to find a more favorable business environment. Citigroup’s CEO Michael Corbat has warned that Brexit may threaten London’s position as a leading financial center6. According to a Bloomberg opinion piece, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Inc., Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will probably shift about $400 billion of assets in total to continental Europe in the coming years6. The same article predicts the US will also benefit from a redistribution of resources away from the UK.

Nigel Farage, an English businessman and politician, has argued in favor of a hard break with the EU in an Oxford Union debate7. In the debate Farage claimed the vote to leave the EU was also a vote to leave the single market and the customs union. His belief is that the people of the UK have already spoken on these issues. Farage also expressed the view that continental Europe is in decline and that the UK would benefit from more independence from Europe.

While Parliament has struggled to find an agreement on how to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May has been trying to craft a compromise agreement with the Labour party8. With time closing in, Parliament has endorsed the Prime Minister’s latest request to delay Brexit until June 30th. Matthew Pennycook, Labour Party spokesperson, said his party would support May’s extension plan9. The question is: since the parties have seen this coming for two years, how will two more months resolve the impasse?

Links

1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/brexit-brief-theresa-may-running-out-of-time-and-options-2019-04-08

2. https://labour.org.uk/issues/labours-plan-brexit/

3. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/07/a-chance-to-redefine-myself-the-britons-fleeing-brexit-by-becoming-irish

4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/08/barnier-eu-support-backstop-ireland-no-deal-brexit

5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/14118775

6. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36616028

7. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-01-23/citigroup-s-brexit-warning-for-london

8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICZ2VkPCDlo

9. https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/06/uk/theresa-may-brexit-compromise-remarks/index.html

Jeff Bezos’ security consultant, Gavin de Becker, thinks that the Saudi Arabian government hacked into Bezos’ cell phone.1  An entire industry exists which could give a government the ability to hack cell phones and collect information. One such company is Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, a billion dollar company that’s been accused of selling to governments that have allegedly misused it’s technology. Now it’s being accused of providing software for Saudi Arabia’s alleged hacking of Bezos’ cell phone in spite of a screening protocol required before they sell software to foreign governments.

NSO Group’s website acknowledges the vetting process while stressing that their company provides software services designed for government opposition to crime and terrorism.

NSO is not alone, there are several other companies putting advanced spying software into the hands of governments around the world including DarkMatter and Black Cube.

An ethical issue to consider regarding the sale of this type of software to governments is the potential corruptibility of otherwise non-corrupt governments. What if a government purchases spyware technology, initially uses it for investigating crime and then new leaders come to power with corrupt intentions?

On the governance page of NSO Group’s website, it says that the company investigates all credible claims of abuse regarding the usage of their products2 implying the company may be willing to retract its services based on the result of such an investigation.

On DarkMatter’s website it is written that society’s usage of digital technology is not catching up with society’s ability to protect itself. In other words, the digital world is a wild west, an untamed frontier. The company’s website claims its purpose is to help governments and businesses protect themselves in the digital world.3 Thus, their stated security purpose would have to include the protection of persons like Jeff Bezos.

Black Cube’s website says that their team is, “A select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.”4 This statement implies a legal dimension to their corporate purpose. Their website also states that they harvest information from the dark web an informal term which references websites that hide the IP addresses of their host servers5 and is commonly associated with illegal behavior.

What does this story tell us about our own lives?

More and more of our lives take place in the digital realm, and because of cell phones, we can take this digital realm with us where ever we like. According to an article from last year by Nielsen Holdings, in the first quarter of 2018 Americans spent about half of their day consuming some form of electronic media.7

And while this new digital way of life brings great intercultural understanding and the freedom to learn from a wide variety of sources, it has brought many security difficulties along with it. Examples: the digitalization of life has made public humiliation and invasion of privacy easier. Just as with previous innovations new dangers have emerged along with the positive benefits.  Fire is warm and romantic in the fireplace, it’s not as good when it’s burning down the house.

Remember, if they can hack Jeff Bezos, someone can come out of the dark web to hack you.  Take care.

Links

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-how-saudi-arabia-could-have-hacked-cell-phone-2019-3/
  2. https://www.nsogroup.com/governance/
  3. https://www.darkmatter.ae/about-us/
  4. https://www.blackcube.com/
  5. https://www.wired.com/2014/11/hacker-lexicon-whats-dark-web/
  6. https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-how-to-how-to-keep-your-personal-information-safe-on-social-media.html
  7. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
  8. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/cyberbullying
  9. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2018/time-flies-us-adults-now-spend-nearly-half-a-day-interacting-with-media.print.html