Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fragmentation and pastoralism

"RAMI ZURAYK and HAMRA ABU ‘EID (Beirut) modified this picture for the present situation by presenting a case study on the contemporary livelihoods of two Bedouin groups settled in the Lebanese Bekaa plain. Their data stem from a joint research project at the American University of Beirut, in collaboration with TARIQ TALL (Amman). Zurayk and Abu ‘Eid were able to document that mobile pastoralism continues to be an efficient economic strategy and that Bedouin communities which had been forced to give up livestock breeding were less resilient against shocks such as droughts and price rises and had a lower quality of life than those who continued to keep livestock breeding in their portfolio of resources. According to this study, the greatest obstacle to mobile pastoralism is the fragmentation of landscapes by national borders, roads and agricultural areas."

Iara Lee: Hip Hop as Global Resistance

"Fuck the police coming straight from the underground/ a young nigga's got it bad cause I'm brown/ and not the other color/ so police think/they have the authority/to kill a minority."

These lyrics spoken by Ice Cube, for instance, could just as easily have been uttered by DAM (Da Arab MCs), a Palestinian hip-hop trio forced to live as "Israeli Arabs" in an Israeli slum.

My current film, Cultures of Resistance (out Fall 2010), is an exploration of the variety of activism in a world plagued with war, oppression and poverty. I pay special attention to creative action, specifically, and in my travels throughout the Middle East I encountered a hip-hop reborn through artists like the Ramallah Underground and Shadia Mansour, both Palestinian, as well as London-based Iraqi rapper Lowkey (who are all part of a larger collective known as the Arab League of Hip Hop). Their flows cut deep against the tyranny of Israeli and US occupation of their lands as they call for equality for all people, and reaffirm their Arab identity despite brutal attempts at cultural erasure. The goal, Shadia said, was to tell the world that "Palestine is on the map," and always will remain so."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

السياحة غير العادلة

يفيد تقرير صدر حديثاً عن شركة «Global Blue»، بعنوان «تمعّن في إنفاق السياح»، بأنّ 83% من الإنفاق دون ضرائب (Tax Free Spending). أي إن الإنفاق السياحي كان خلال النصف الأوّل من العام الجاري متركزاً في منطقة بيروت الكبرى، تليها مناطق المتن وكسروان وبعبدا، بنسبة 13% و2% و1% على التوالي، ما يعني أنّ الأطراف البعيدة عن المركز لا تستفيد أبداً من الأموال التي تنساب على الأعمال التجاريّة والخدماتيّة في الداخل.

هل تذكرون

خلال السنوات التي مرّت، شارك وزراء في الحكومات الثلاث السابقة، ونواب بعضهم لا يزال في المجلس النيابي، وموظفون كبار لا يزال بعضهم في الخدمة الفعلية، وقضاة لا يزالون يشغلون مناصب رفيعة، وضباط كبار من الجيش وقوى الأمن الداخلي والأجهزة الأمنية، وكوادر ناشطون في أحزاب سياسية وجمعيات أهلية ومنظمات غير حكومية، وإعلاميون ينتشرون كالفطر في وسائل إعلامية داخلية وخارجية... كل هؤلاء شاركوا في أقذر عمل استهدف النيل من أشخاص ومجموعات بأكملها، ومن دولة وجمهور ومن مقاومة كانت ولا تزال هي الهدف. كل ذلك، ولم يرفّ جفن لأحد من هؤلاء
ابراهيم الأمين

الشرطة الإسرائيليّة تدمّر مساكن بدو بعد ترحيلهم

قال المتحدث باسم المنظمة غير الحكومية «منتدى تشريع» التي تدافع عن حقوق البدو في الدولة العبرية، ياكوف مانورمن، إن حوالى 1500 شرطي إسرائيلي رحّلوا اليوم سكان قرية للبدو قرب بئر السبع بصحراء النقب (جنوب) ودمروا مساكنهم.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My illiterate mother's math: power, hegemony and knowledge

"In 1967, I started to see the practical limits of the education I had been given. The Israeli Arab war started a process that made the real environment and its power relations more visible. My sense of the intellectual, moral, and humanitarian dimensions of math and science gradually gave way to a sense of the central functions of math and science: creating power and generating hegemony. The stunning Israeli military victory in 1967 was a victory of superior math, science, and technology — not a victory of moral superiority or greater personal courage. The message of the highly sophisticated warplanes and bombs was loud and clear. Thus, although it is true that math, science, and technology produce planes, for example, that can transport people for harmless purposes, they frequently produce warplanes whose function is to kill and destroy. In almost every country in the world, the number of warplanes is many times the number of civilian planes. Just as it is misleading to emphasize the protein and other values in meat that has been poisoned, it is deceptive to stress only the technical skills and knowledge one can acquire through education while ignoring its potentially dangerous consequences. In addition to the destructive machinery, certain values and patterns of thinking and behaving that are associated with current models of learning are equally destructive.

My mother’s sewing demonstrated another way of conceptualizing and doing math, another kind of knowledge, and the place of that knowledge in the world. But the value of my mother’s tradition and of her kind of mathematics and knowledge, though not intrinsically disempowering was continually discredited by the world around her, by what Paulo Freire calls the culture of silence, and by cultural hegemony. Although I was not yet ready to question the theoretical bases of positivistic math and science, this discovery allowed me to recognize the need for a different type of education, and to respect all forms of knowledge and their relation to action.
Hegemony is to be understood here as a form that often precedes political and military conquests and continues after them. But unlike military conquest, hegemonic conquest permeates almost all spheres, and those being dominated facilitate their own domination. Hegemony is always linked to an ideology that reflects the manners and interests of the invaders and their culture. This ideology embodies certain conceptions, values, language, relations, and interests that are translated into daily practices. Crucial to the hegemonic relationship is the belief of the conquered that the lifestyle and values of the hegemonic group are inherently, naturally, and objectively superior. Hegemony is successful when the invader’s ideology is taken or even assumed to be universal and superior; when, like the math I valued, it is believed to transcend class, gender, culture, and national boundaries.

Ideology is a worldview that embodies a particular language and certain conceptions, values, relations, and interests that are translated into daily practices and that produce a certain consciousness. Consequently, the role of intellectuals and institutions is of primary importance, since the reproduction of a hegemonic ideology is achieved through them. Intellectual development in a colonial hegemonic context is designed to provide ideology without a basis in power. This allows intellectuals to participate vicariously in the moral, intellectual, humanitarian, and technical aspects of Western culture, as well as in educational, scholarly, and research activities. The training of colonial intellectuals directs them to derive their sense of worth and status from this vicarious participation, alienating them from their own culture, history, and people. The indigenous population, however, often supports this process by giving status to such intellectuals. Generally speaking, hegemonic education produces intellectuals who have lost their power base in their own culture and society and who have been provided with a foreign culture and ideology, but without a power base in the hegemonic society. I personally have seen this process as I have worked with and observed Palestinian intellectuals over the past twelve years. I have observed that, because they lacked a power base at both ends, these intellectuals tend to sharply overvalue symbolic power and tokens—such as titles, degrees, access to prestigious institutions, and awards— associated with the dominant culture.

Ultimately, I found that the power of Western hegemony rests on the claims of superiority, universality, and ethical neutrality of Western math, positivistic science, technology, and education. These claims extend into social, cultural, moral, political, and intellectual spheres. But continuing to accept Western math, science, and education as universal and authoritative is detrimental to creating a healthier and more humane world. Like any other human activity, math, science, and education need a critical analysis, not only at the implementation and application stage but also, and more important, at the level of the basic premises and values that govern their conceptions, practices, and production.

In short, the 1967 war, its aftermath, and the discovery of my mother’s math convinced me that education can do one of two things: it can either introduce hegemony into the community, or it can reclaim and develop what has been made invisible by hegemony.

Education of the second kind, which I refer to in this essay as community education, requires us to use our senses again, to make things visible, and to allow people to speak. Like many other peoples in the Third World, Palestinians have been denied the value of our experience and have been robbed of our voice and sense of self-worth. Value, language, and visibility are at stake here because they have been taken away from people’s fundamental activities. My mother, for example, was unable – and was never given the chance – to articulate her work and her thinking. Meaningful education, or community education, thus reclaims people’s lives, their sense of self-worth, and their ways of thinking from the hegemonic structures, and facilitates their ability to articulate what they do and think about in order to provide a foundation for autonomous action."

This is a very important article on education and knowledge and learning by Mounir Fasheh for which I have to thank dear Marcy...

Free the tabbouleh

"Some dish, that victorious salad. Tabouleh’s usually just an appetizer. Not Abdulhadi’s. His 1,081 kilos of chopped parsley, bulgur wheat, onion, tomato and mint filled a 15-foot plate. What Abdulhadi relished most was the “political victory”: “It took me 18 months to convince Guinness to enter it under ‘Palestine’ - not ‘occupied West Bank,’ not even ‘occupied Palestine,’ simply Palestine.”"

سيدة الخس

عمان نت-نور العمد

افرجت اجهزة الامن  عصر اليوم الاحد عن سيدة الخس بعد ان اعتلقت  لساعات في مركز زهران الامني جراء تنفيذها فعالية غير مرخصة في شارع الرينبو جبل عمان الدوار الاول تحت شعار “دع حب الغذاء النباتي ينمو لديك”.

Let them eat strawberries

"Now, however, Abdulfattah and other farmers in Gaza are being forced by Israel to abandon their crops yet again, although this time there is no recourse in shifting production to another, "safer," fruit or vegetable. Under the current form of the illegal Israeli-imposed closure, farmers in Gaza can no longer export their produce outside the Gaza Strip, and they are facing further restrictions on the types and amounts of products they can grow. The effects have been disastrous. Before the imposition of the total closure of the Gaza Strip on 14 June 2007 -- itself only a more stringent form of a closure policy in place since the early 1990s -- the Gaza Strip produced almost 400,000 tons of agricultural products annually, one third of which was intended for export. Despite the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which set a target for exports for Gaza at 400 trucks per day, only 259 trucks have left the Gaza Strip with goods in the last three years. Accordingly, since 2007, farmers in Gaza have reported a 40 percent decrease in income: in 2008 alone, farmers in the Gaza Strip lost an estimated US $6.5 million."

Israel forced a complete change in the local food systems of Gaza when it occupied it, and now it is destroying whatever remains of it.

Badael-Alternatives بدائل

I was so busy this weekend I didn't have time to link to Badael: Here it is. My editorial was about in cash donations for poverty alleviation, and Rameh Hamiyyeh told us how the bad farming season turned into a bad mouneh season.,18995

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gaza fisherwoman

Sizing up the food movement

"July 17, 2010 -- Socialist WebZine -- How can we change the world? This is the question that socialists face in the 21st century. It certainly offers more possibilities than the one presented in the mid-1990s that asked whether we had reached the end of history. However, capitalism is also attempting to provide an answer to this question by offering individualised ways to change the world. Food is an important arena for this project – corporations insist that eating the right food or drinking the right coffee can really make a difference in the world.

Behind the antiseptic choices offered by the system, lies the storm and stress of capitalism. Corporations chasing each other across the world in search of profits, workers being squeezed for ever lower wages and natural resources being monopolised and spoiled. Old wine in a new bottle – a certified organic 100% post-consumer recycled bottle, but the same old bitter wine. In the process, a world transformed is neatly reduced to an individual act of consumption that serves to substitute itself for any bonds of solidarity or affinity. Personal choices about which corporate products to consume become the only acceptable avenue for “politics”, a term now used to discuss which products corporations offer instead of examining the consequences of the very existence of corporations themselves.

No food item better demonstrates capitalism’s ability to quietly adapt to and create consumption patterns while shielding consumers from the transformative nightmares it engenders than soy. The seemingly innocent jiggly glob of crushed soybeans has caught the attention of North American consumers looking toward a post-meat world. Its pristine white colour radiates goodness, the plastic packaging it arrives in screams about good health and the imaginary hippie-style communal edginess is irresistible to the deeply alienated late capitalist consumer."

Greenwashing the Nakba

"For anyone taking a road trip along the highways of the part of Palestine that became Israel in 1948, one is bound to spot a blue and green structure in the shape of a bird marked with the Hebrew letters KKL, which stands for Keren Kayemeth L'Yisrael, the Hebrew name of the Israeli branch of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). All around the bird one will see expanses of forests planted sometime in the past few decades. A walk through one of these forests will take the visitor past fruit trees, cactus plants, terraced hillsides and the ruins of buildings. In some cases, these ruins are explained in a JNF brochure pointing to their ancient history; in other cases, one is left to the devices of one's imagination. In all cases, these sites are what remains of some of the more than 500 villages depopulated and destroyed through the course of Israel's establishment, the homes of millions of Palestinian refugees struggling to return to them for more than 60 years. By walking through a JNF park or forest, one inhales the fresh smell of the greenwashing of Palestine's Nakba." (Thanks Marcy)

Hazem Jamjoum in EI

USAID calculated deception?

"It is also interesting to observe that the policies of USAID, an instrument that the State Department uses to pursue the US's objectives overseas, also conflict with Washington's official stances. USAID programmes for the Palestinians effectively exclude East Jerusalem. Its green papers and other official reports and statements make frequent mention of "the West Bank and Gaza" as headings for its activities, but rare are references to East Jerusalem. It is as though, for USAID, East Jerusalem is not an indivisible part of the occupied territories, in spite of Washington's official acknowledgement that it is and in spite of the inclusion of East Jerusalem among the final status issues in the US- brokered negotiating process between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, the occupying power. One cannot help but suspect USAID -- and by extension the State Department -- of perpetrating a certain calculated deception through its deliberate and systematic omission of East Jerusalem in its programmes and documents."

Is there life after hummus? ماوراء معركة الحمص بين لبنان واسرائيل

My interview with France 24

اندلعت معركة من نوع جديد قبل عدة أعوام بين لبنان واسرائيل عُرفت بمعركة الحمص. الناظر للقضية من بعيد يعتقد أنها ربما نوع من الشوفينية الجوفاء أومسألة سطحية...المعركة هي في الواقع مزيج من حماية التراث وكسب الاسواق

Can't digest this occuppation

"Nasser's campaign began when he heard from a friend who had flown in from the U.S. that the Israeli national airline, El Al, had served mosakhen, a dish made of bread, chicken and onion spiced with purple summak, as an "Israel national dish".

"That was hard to digest. Everyone knows mosakhen is Palestinian. They've tried that before, with hummous (the famed Mideast chick pea paste), and falafel (fried chick peas in a pitta bread sandwich). It's below the belt," says the Palestinian-born New Yorker, who came back to his homeland in the peace years of the early '90s.

"Israeli chutzpah (cheek) at its worst, I call it," he adds, "I had to ruin their tasteless assault, to cook up something that would instead celebrate our Palestinian national culture and identity in the world."" (Thanks Marcy)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Amazing--Heatmap - Density of fast food restaurants in the 48 contiguous states in the US



Gaza not allowed to bee

"Sa'id has 20 dunams (a dunam is 1000 square metres) farmland in Sheyjayee, east of Gaza city and roughly 400 metres from the Green Line border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Until 2009 the farm had hundreds of trees, and more than 10,000 chickens. "It was all destroyed during the Israeli attacks," Hillis says.

The 2008-2009 23-day Israeli war on Gaza destroyed more than 35 percent of Gaza's agricultural land, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This included chicken and beef farms, and cultivated land.

Oxfam notes that the combination of the Israeli war on Gaza and maintaining of the buffer zone renders around 46 percent of agricultural land useless or unreachable. Since their means of living off the land was destroyed, Hillis's family of 13 has survived off the income that Ramzi, Sa'id's oldest son, brings from driving a taxi.

"We had 250 boxes of bees, but they were bulldozed by the Israelis in 2004," says Ramzi Hillis, 29, at his house, a kilometre from the border.

Walking behind the house, Hillis points out the remains of a family legacy. "After they were destroyed six years ago, we bought more bees and started over." Until the war on Gaza, they had acquired 80 boxes of bees. "Fifteen boxloads of bees died during the bombing," he says. "From phosphorous smoke.""

Bread and tea: hunger and malnutrition

"We have neither food nor money at home, which is why I resorted to work as a day labourer in Sanaa to provide for my six children. My first week in Sanaa ended with only 1,500 riyals [US$7] spare in my pocket. I still need another 1,500 to send my children half a sack [25kg] of wheat," he told IRIN.

He said bread and tea had become standard meals for his family and for many others in his area.

According to Ali al-Khawlani, manager of a health centre in Ans District, it is this diet that is responsible for the high rate of malnourished children in villages. "Poor families can give their children alternatives to tea at a lower cost but higher nutritional value, such as fruits and vegetables," he said. "Water is much healthier and cheaper than tea, but the lack of awareness remains a problem."

"Free" market, speculations and corrupt governments: the ultimate triad. Now add Ramadan to all that

"During the past two weeks consumers were surprised to see locally produced rice -- an essential staple for the majority of Egyptian families -- increase in cost by almost 50 per cent. Best grade rice increased from LE4 to LE5.5 per one-kilo bag while lesser quality rice increased to LE3 per kilo instead of LE2. The increase of rice prices a few weeks before the holy month of Ramadan, a season of high demand for food products, means a heavier financial burden for Egyptian families. Layla Mohamed, a maid and mother of three children, said "I was shocked to buy the rice at LE3 per kilo, but I have to as my children live on rice with vegetables."
There are different reasons behind the price hikes. The government attributed the rise to supply and demand. The Ministry of Trade and Industry told Al-Ahram Weekly in an e-mailed statement that as is the case every Ramadan, commodity prices increase as it is the time of the highest consumption. Moreover, Ramadan starts before the new rice harvest season begins. This is helping to drive up prices with some consumers wrongly believing there is insufficient rice in the market. "Despite the fact that we are at the end of the previous harvesting season, we still have sufficient amounts to cover the needs of the domestic market fully until the new harvest season," said the statement.
On the other hand, some experts blame the government for its policy of reducing rice production while others accuse traders of storing huge quantities to control prices in local markets. Low-income consumers, who do not care who is responsible for the price rises, are getting squeezed in between. While rice prices usually witness an increase during the last two months of the rice season that starts in October, this year's increase is far above usual." (Thanks Marcy)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Love Nestle Boat

"Last month Nestlé announced that it, the world's largest food company, would soon start delivering its products to the far reaches of Brazil. But not in the usual way, through a distributor, which in turn delivers products for sale in actual stores. Rather, the plan is to sell to customers directly from its own ship. As the company explains, "The first Nestlé floating supermarket will set sail on the Brazilian Amazon to extend its reach to over 800,000 customers." The barge is dubbed Nestlé Até Você a Bordo -- or Nestlé Takes You Onboard.

Has Big Food already run out of customers in cities and other locales that are more readily accessible by land? And "supermarket" isn't really the right term, as such stores usually sell a variety of food, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, even the processed foods sold by supermarkets are not all made by the same multinational conglomerate whose signature products include Raisinets and Sno-Caps.

So, what will the floating supermarket carry? Surely, necessary food items for these hard-to-reach residents, right? According to an article on "The vessel will carry 300 different goods including chocolate, yogurt, ice cream and juices." Yup, all the essentials. But wait, maybe Nestlé is taking care of the poor's nutrition needs after all: "The company often adds nutrients such as iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A to address deficiencies among the poor," the article reports. How heartwarming."

Deceptive? Who? Nestle? Noooooo

"According to a recent Nestlé ad campaign aimed at parents, a drink called Boost Kid Essentials was so good for children that it could keep them from getting colds and missing school.
But on Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission said the ads were deceptive and announced that Nestlé had agreed to stop making the claims."

Badael-Alternatives بدائل

In Badael yesterday, I wrote my editorial on the latest move to encourage farmers to take loans from private banks. Rameh Hamieh wrote about the poor mouneh season in the Beka, and Abbas Abou Rahhal on the best tabbouleh dish ever.,18972

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Free labor market: workers in bondage عمّال القرن الحادي والعشرين ينتحرون في مصانعهم

Kudos to Al Akhbar and to Sabah Ayoub for the coverage of the Foxconn workers serial suicide story in Taiwan. When we speak of modern slavery we mean it.

A ninth employee has jumped to his death at Taiwanese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn, China's state media reports.
Xinhua said 21-year-old Nan Gang leapt from a four-storey factory in China's Shenzhen in the early hours.
Shortly after, it emerged that the death of a worker at a Foxconn plant in China's Hebei province earlier this year was also a suicide.

هي الرواية السوداء «النموذجية» لما يحصل في مصانع الشركات المتعددة الجنسيات، منذ هبّتها في تسعينيات القرن الماضي، وانتقال مصانعها إلى دول اليد العاملة الرخيصة الأجر: عمّال بالآلاف يُحشرون في غرف أشبه بمعتقلات التعذيب، دوام عمل مكثّف، وساعات إضافية تفوق الحدّ المسموح به، أمّا الأجر، فدولار واحد وربما أقلّ. في التسعينيات كانت فضيحة شركة «نايكي»، التي كشفت عن عمالة الأطفال، واليوم جاء دور «فوكسكون»: الشركة التايوانية المصنّعة للإلكترونيات، التي فضّلت إرضاء زبائنها على حساب أرواح عمّالها. عمّال «فوكسكون» الصينية لم يتحمّلوا وحشية الاستغلال، وقرّروا أن «يستقيلوا»... فانتحروا!

Hussein Madi حسين ماضي

من دون عنوان (أكريليك على كانفاس ــ 80 × 120 سنتم، 2009 ــ تصوير: المختار زياد)

Flush with money

"Lebanese farmers will be qualified for the first time to obtain soft loans thanks to a deal signed Thursday between Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan and Fransabank.

Hassan and CEO of Fransabank Adel Kassar inked the agreement in the presence of the Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and the president of the Association of Banks in Lebanon Joseph Torbey.

The soft loan for farmers will range between LL3 million (close to $2,000) to LL25 million and the debt can be settled up to a period of 36 months.

The other important aspect for this new program is that the bank will not ask for any collateral for a loan application from farmers.

Salameh said before the signing ceremony that the Central Bank would always support any soft loans for this vital sector, adding that the bank will exempt commercial banks from the mandatory reserves if they provided soft loans to productive sectors in Lebanon.

“We at the Central Bank are working on measures to encourage lending to productive sectors,” Salameh said.

Flush with money, Lebanese banks are now seeking new avenues to invest the huge deposits especially since the interest rates in Lebanon and the international markets have fallen drastically."

The last statement is of course the most important...

Must see: BDS World Cup

Vuvuzela from John Greyson on Vimeo.

Land and People on Green Planet

Land and People

For little Lebanon, geography is a source of both pride and suffering. Its Mediterranean coastline, to the west, is as beautiful as any in the world. Forested mountains along its spine — rustic villages throughout — are a visual delight. Further east, the Bekaa valley is among the world’s most fertile.
However, to the north and east sits Syria, Lebanon’s self-appointed big brother, shaping/manipulating Beirut politics. Israel, to the south, has invaded Lebanon three times in the last thirty years, occupying southern Lebanon for an eighteen-year stint.
Most recently, in response to a July 2006 attack on a group of its soldiers by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah (and the capture of two), Israel launched a thirty-three day aerial bombardment of southern Lebanon. In the final 72 hours of the conflict — after a tentative cease fire had been arranged — Israel covered southern Lebanon with tens of thousands of cluster munitions. These munitions continue to pose a major hazard. They hamper the field work of Lebanese farmers, restricting their harvests and placing them in an even more precarious situation (given the scant support they receive from Lebanon’s clannish, corrupt and neoliberal elite).
I traveled to southern Lebanon in the company of Rami Zurayk, a professor at the American University of Beirut. Zurayk’s Land and People group provides strategic marketing and technical services to Lebanese farmers, helping them carve out a niche, effectively brand their unique farm products and earn more money, whilst sustaining natural resources and strengthening Lebanons rural social fabric.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

إنها قصة «عصابات»

في 16 أيار 2010، حاولت شركة تعمل من لبنان إدخال نحو 100 طن من أدوية «منظِّمات النمو الزراعي» عبر مرفأ بيروت، لكن عبر تعبئتها بعبوات أخرى تحت مسميات «مواد كيميائية». وكانت هذه المواد في المستودع الرقم 14 في المرفأ. ولأن الشركة المستوردة كانت محور شكوك منذ فترة، ونتيجة عمل وزارة الزراعة منذ نحو ثلاثة أشهر على مراقبة دخول «منظِّمات النمو» إلى لبنان، أرسلت كميات من هذه الأدوية إلى مختبر كفرشيما للتدقيق في سلامتها، وهناك ظهرت عملية التزوير والغش! أما القضية الثانية، فهي رفض إدخال كمية 6000 طن من القمح الفاسد، وإلزام المستوردين بإخراجها من لبنان، بعدما بيّنت الفحوص أنها تحتوي على نوع من الفطريات الضارة. وهكذا، يستكمل لبنان حلقات الفساد التي تشمل خصوصاً المواد الغذائية، بعدما شهد خلال الأشهر الماضية عمليات ضبط متعددة لمواد وأغذية وحبوب كانت ستدخل إلى السوق اللبنانية وتعرّض صحة المواطنين للخطر

Milk demo

"Brussels (12/07/10): Over one thousand milk producers from many European countries demonstrate in Brussels today against the proposals of the HLGM trying to avoid that they will influence the reform of the dairy market significantly. „These proposals do not yield a solution for the current crisis and will worsen the situation of European milk producers even further.” says Lidia Senra, board member of ECVC. Romuald Schaber, president of the EMB, adds: “The report says that the existing safety net was sufficient. That is, however, not true. The extremely low prices that we saw in 2009 can reoccur anytime and the existing measures cannot prevent it.”

Another problem is the contractualisation - i.e. direct contracts between producers and dairies- that the HLGM has proposed. These contracts would lead the producers to be total dependent on the dairy industry, who, as stronger market player, would dictate the conditions."

This is why the contract farming projects put forward by development organizations and the UN for the milk sector in Lebanon fails to improve small farmers livelihood: it plays them directly into the hands of a few large buyers who control the prices. The problem is with capitalist markets, again. 

Love at first sight

"Stonyfield Farm is slapping its familiar cow logo on more than just containers of yogurt these days. The New Hampshire-based organic food maker is one of more than 50 local companies to lend its corporate name to a political lobbying campaign aimed at persuading Congress to support climate and energy legislation on Capitol Hill.

The green-friendly businesses — including many young tech companies not yet household names — are the regional face of a multimillion dollar lobbying effort aimed at key senators across the country. Their effort is backed by some of the world’s most recognizable consumer brands and Fortune 500 companies, and guided by experienced political hands with deep connections to the Obama and Clinton administrations."

The article forgets to mention that Stonyfield was bought by Danone many years ago and is not a "local" company anymore. Capital meets capital: love at first sight. And that is exactly the problem with climate change action: neutral, apolitical, not a social justice least not this kind of climate change lobbying.

One really wonders

“Show me one American —just one — climbing a picker’s ladder,” said María Cervantes, 33, a former Gebbers Farms worker from Mexico who gave her name because she was recently approved as a legal immigrant.

After completing a federally mandated local labor search, Gebbers Farms applied to the federal guest worker program to import about 1,200 legal temporary workers — most from Mexico. The guest workers, who can stay for up to six months, also included about 300 from Jamaica.

“They are bringing people from outside,” Ms. Cervantes said, perplexed. “What will happen to those of us who are already here?”

Immigrant advocates said they are surprised and frustrated with Mr. Obama, after seeing an increase in enforcement activity since he took office. “It would be easier to fight if it was a big raid,” said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica, a group in Seattle. “But this is happening everywhere and often.”"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Les sans culottes en auraient ete fiers

An unequal world

"A new study on The World Distribution of Household Wealth by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University was launched earlier this week. The study shows the richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth. The most comprehensive study of personal wealth ever undertaken also reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. In contrast, the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. The research finds that assets of US$2,200 per adult placed a household in the top half of the world wealth distribution in the year 2000. To be among the richest 10% of adults in the world required US$61,000 in assets, and more than US$500,000 was needed to belong to the richest 1%, a group which — with 37 million members worldwide — is far from an exclusive club."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You know the Empire is going bankrupt when...

it start to openly and shamelessly act like any repressive failed state

Britain's ambassador to Lebanon has said she regretted "any offense" caused by a controversial blog post in which she praised late Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.
"I am sorry that an attempt to acknowledge the spiritual significance ... and the views that he held in the latter part of his life has served only to further entrench divisions in this complex part of the world," Frances Guy wrote on her official Foreign Office blog.
"I regret any offense caused," Guy said in the blog entry, dated July 9 and entitled "The Problem with Diplomatic Blogging."
The British government said Friday it had taken down Guy's original blog posting in which she hailed Fadlallah as "a true man of religion," saying her views clashed with official policy.

And of course there is also the Octavia Nasr affair with CNN. That's what you get for being a lackey of the Empire during 20 years.

By the way, Frances Guy is a great person. I really like her. I met her over lunch once and I was really impressed. And she is a runner too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Meanwhile in the Orient

Stop press: my kids just called to tell me they went to the Museum of Science in Boston and were subjected to a movie called Arabia which they described as the lousiest film they have seen about the Arab world, essentially a propaganda production for Saudi Arabia, the kingdom of democracy, equity and freedom. But then again, Saudi Arabia is the US's best friend and Obama has been known to value King Abdullah's "wisdom and insights".

The new Pepsi generation

ScienceBlogs, a widely read website about science sold advertising space to Pepsico disguised as just another science blog...Under pressure from readers and contributors, the ScienceBlogs editor finally gave in and backtracked, but this, along with Pepsico popping up in the latest US obesity report to inform us of Pepsico's concern with people's waistlines, says a lot about the new strategy of big food in taking over the science and academic space. Below an extract from a Guardian report on the issue.
"Much consternation over at the home of science bloggingScienceBlogs. The forum for the brilliant OracPharyngulaMolecule of the Day, and countless other insightful, funny and informative blogs has decided upon a bizarre new strategy in sourcing new posts. As of yesterday, the platform will host a new blog written by food giant PepsiCo, all about the company's specialist subject of refreshing sugary drinks and their benefits for dental and dietary health.
Sorry, no, PepsiCo's scientific staff will be writing about nutrition on the new Food Frontiers blog. I'll give you a moment to get back on your chair.
ScienceBlogs editor, Evan Lerner, writes:
Live blog: quote
As part of this partnership, we'll hear from a wide range of experts on how the company is developing products rooted in rigorous, science-based nutrition standards to offer consumers more wholesome and enjoyable foods and beverages. The focus will be on innovations in science, nutrition and health policy. In addition to learning more about the transformation of PepsiCo's product portfolio, we'll be seeing some of the innovative ways it is planning to reduce its use of energy, water and packaging.
Underneath the introductory post, a growing list of comments is already slamming the decision to let PepsiCo onto a blogging platform that has rightly built a reputation for allowing scientists to say exactly what they want. And, boy, are they saying it. Craig Holman comments:
Live blog: comment
A corporate-sponsored blog has no place in ScienceBlogs.
It can't be taken seriously and drags down the legitimate blogs by association.
If this blog is not closed prompty, I hope the other blogs leave ScienceBlogs as quickly as possible.
Shame on you.
Shame on the ScienceBlogs management.
ZenMonkey says:
Live blog: comment
I visit ScienceBlogs for viewpoints on science from scientists. I do not come here for information about all the awesome things Pepsi does. I receive that data from advertisements, which is what this blog promises to be, only made to look "scientific" by SB's unfortunate cooperation.
Pepsi can have its own blog where it can wax rhapsodic about all the good it does to counter all the junk food it peddles. With this move, SB has really damaged its credibility with me."

How about a food safety bill to reduce the prevalence of sugar and fats food (pun intended)?

"President Obama said in a statement on Wednesday: “A year ago today, the Food Safety Working Group, chaired by Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, announced key findings on how to upgrade the food safety system. Since then, my Administration has taken steps to reduce the prevalence of E. coli, implemented new standards to reduce exposure to Campylobacter, and issued a rule to control Salmonella contamination. Among other accomplishments, the FDA has conducted a pilot study on a tracing system, and HHS, in collaboration with USDA, has rolled out an enhanced and updated site to provide consumers rapid access to information on food recalls."

Not so strange bedfellows

"Cargill has announced a new partnership with the World Wildlife Fund-US (WWF) to assess its Indonesian palm oil suppliers on the back of continued concern about palm oil sustainability.

Palm oil is used in a wide range of food and personal care products, but there are serious concerns about the effect of the industry on the environment, as intensive plantations have cleared habitats for endangered species like tigers and orangutans in South Asia, while also adding to carbon emissions."

Transnational environment corporations are increasingly becoming like transnational food corporations. It's the "corporation" bit that counts...

المزارعون يدخلون دوّامة المصارف .

خطة الحاج حسن: زيادة عدد المقترضين من 4 إلى 40%

رشا أبو زكي
فقط 4 في المئة من المزارعين في لبنان يستعينون بالقروض المصرفية لتطوير أعمالهم! السبب لا يعود إلى نمو القطاع وعدم حاجة المزارعين إلى القروض، بل إلى امتناع معظم المصارف عن إقراض هذه الفئة الإنتاجية لأسباب تعود إلى نسبة المخاطر في استرداد الدين، وعدم وجود ضمانات مالية وعينية لدى معظم المزارعين. انطلاقاً من هذا الواقع، أعلن وزير الزراعة، حسين الحاج حسن، إطلاق برنامج تيسير إقراض الأعمال الزراعية والتسليف الزراعي، وذلك من ضمن محاور خطة وزارة الزراعة الخمسية 2010 ـــــ 2014، أمّا الهدف، فهو رفع المشمولين بالاقتراض إلى 30 و40 في المئة، بالتزامن مع تقديم الوزارة حزمة من الخدمات المواكبة والمشورة لطلب القرض، والدعم الفني لتطوير الإنتاج الزراعي، وبالتالي المساهمة في ضمان ربحية المشروع.

Badael-Alternatives بدائل

In Badael this week, my editoria: the orphans of the state, or why do the powerful in Lebanon despise the peasantry? Maya Yaghi wrote about the Aytaroun coop...,18954

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Public Lecture: Food and Farming in the Formerly Fertile Crescent

EcoGastronomy Scholar Addresses Food, Farming in Formerly Fertile Crescent July 13

By Beth Potier, Media Relations
July 7, 2010
Rami Zurayk, a visiting scholar teaching in the EcoGastronomy summer program, will present a lecture on the state of food and farming in the so-called Fertile Crescent of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The lecture, free and open to the public, is Tuesday, July 13, 2010, in Pettee Hall Room G10.

Who: Rami Zurayk, associate dean at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and visiting scholar in UNH’s EcoGastronomy summer program

What: Free public lecture: “The Empty Breadbasket: Food and Farming in the (Formerly) Fertile Crescent”

When: Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 7 p.m.

Where: Pettee Hall G10

For information: Elisabeth Farrell in the University Office of Sustainability or 2-5040

Zurayk will present an overview of the state of food and farming and landscape in the Arab countries of the Fertile Crescent (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan), where about 80 percent of the food calories consumed are currently imported. He will give a brief historical overview of the evolution of food production in the region, followed by an analysis of the current trends and an identification of the driving forces, in their political, ecological and economic dimensions, focusing on the post-Ottoman period (colonial and post-colonial).

Zurayk, who is writing a book of the same name, will draw here on ongoing research that looks at the compounded effects of landscape fragmentation, politics, markets and environmental change on the livelihoods and food economy of the mobile pastoralists of the Arabian steppe, the Bedouins.

Zurayk’s lecture is sponsored by the dual major in EcoGastronomy, College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, NH Agricultural Experiment Station, Carsey Institute, and University Office of Sustainability.

UNH’s groundbreaking EcoGastronomy program, launched in 2008, takes students to the field, the kitchen, the lab and Italy to study the complexities of sustainable food systems. The EcoGastronomy dual major is the first such program at any U.S. university – a one-of-a-kind learning experience that links the fields of sustainable agriculture, hospitality, and nutrition – and is part of the university’s leadership in sustainability.
Learn more at

The future of farming: charming!

Amy sent me  a link to this interview of Dr. Roger Beachy, chief scientist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Smart Planet, in which he talks about the new plans for the USDA. Among these is what I see as an increased reliance on GMOs.

"[In the scope of] maximizing food production and reducing the use of agrochemicals, biotechnology is a piece of the toolbox. The bigger question is, how do you fight the challenge if nature doesn’t give you all the diversity you need? If you can’t find the right variety of crops to withstand a drought or to fight a virus, do you stop growing the crop? It’s been largely the purview of the agrochemical companies. At the same time, some scientists are under the conviction that this can be done through genetics.

With a greater number of people, we’re going to have to have more crop yield per acre. If we don’t, we’ll have to expand [agriculture] to our parks, forests and golf courses. When you increase production, plants are closer together and you have to adjust their genetics to be more resistant to diseases or drought or flood. We need to be ready to use safe and effective technologies and genetic engineering."

Here's what I had to say about it (I sent this to Amy in an email)

 I was recently amazed that people in the UK like Tim Lang who does a lot of work on sustainability and sustainable food systems see no problem with GMOs, except, as he put it, corporate control. Corporate control is of course the front line, as it has tremendous implications on local food production and especially on the control of seeds and other inputs, but there is another problem, aside of the obvious bio-ethical one of manipulating genes across species. Claiming that the solution to so-called food scarcity lies in putting more (marginal) lands into production with higher yielding cultivars in order to feed Africa is a way of saying that the food problems of the world are purely technical, and that the ingenuity of scientists (funded by corporations) will solve everything. Food problems of the world are deeply political, and have to do with local and global politics closely enmeshed with economic power.

And I also have to add that the Obama tenure has been characterized by tremendous contradictions. He has appointing people from all over the place, often with conflicting agendas and ideologies. O. himself has contradictory ideologies: look at the way he dealt with offshore drilling.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Labneh, loubieh and mana'eesh

Since the end of June, I have been at the University of New Hampshire teaching a course in the Ecogastronomy Program. My students are from the Slow Food University in Pollenzo, Italy, and are here on an exchange program. I am teaching about the role media and advertising play in shaping global food choices. But I am also teaching about food from the Mashriq (Levant), and I am learning from my co-teacher Amy Winans, who is a great chef/cook about food of the US. Yesterday, Amy introduced the students (and me) to southern food, and we also made a dish of loubieh bi zeit, which I cooked from memory as I do not have recipes and anyways, cooking is not an exact science. Today we made mana'eesh and cheese sambousek in the cafeteria's oven. I had brought the zaatar, and Amy made labneh at home from some excellent organic raw milk yogurt. She also brought parsley from her garden for the sambousek, for which she also prepared the dough. The students, who are a great bunch and are so passionate about food, made their own mana'eesh in 2 varieties, with or without onions (the onions are so sweet here). Then we had a session during which we talked about the history of food in the Mashreq, and I gave them the recipe for loubieh bi zeit using my own units (such as about half a cm of olive oil in a deep pan...) Tomorrow am back to teaching about advertising and food, but next Wednesday we're cooking sheesh barak. I love sheesh barak.

I will have more to say about the US and about my stay there. But I need to fully take it in first. It takes a while. One quick note though: for my kids, this was a kind of homecoming. which is weird because they have never been here. But they know everything already: the supermarket aisles contain almost the same products in Lebanon. The street signs they know from the tv channels. It struck me that this is exactly how I felt when I visited France for the first time at 15. I was in a French school, and Lebanon had been under French mandate for 3 decades. Has Lebanon moved to the US cultural mandate since?

Really? The US government seeks to end settlements?

"The result is a surprising juxtaposition: As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them."

Where oppression is an ideology

"At least 250,000 foreign laborers, about half of them illegal, are living in the country, according to the Israeli government. They include Chinese construction workers, Filipino home health care aides and Thai farmhands, as well as other Asians, and Africans and Eastern Europeans, working as maids, cooks and nannies.

“Israelis won’t do this work, so they bring us,” said Wang Yingzhong, 40, a construction worker from Jiangsu Province in China who arrived in 2006.

But even as foreign workers have become a mainstay of the economy, their presence has increasingly clashed with Israel’s Zionist ideology, causing growing political unease over the future of the Jewish state and their place in it.

The government has lurched through a series of contradictory policies that encourage the temporary employment of migrants while seeking to impose tight visa and labor restrictions that can leave them vulnerable to abusive employers, advocates for the workers say.

Those who overstay their visas and try to remain in Israel live in fear of the Oz Unit, a recently created division of immigration police officers who hunt down illegal migrants and assist in their deportation."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coming soon: Global Takeover

"The globe’s biggest food company Nestle is to invest €112.33m (CHF 150m) in the Equatorial African Region (EAR) over the next three years to grow its revenue from emerging markets.

New factories are planned for Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique and the capacity of existing factories will be expanded.

The company also plans to increase its distribution capacity in the region by opening 13 new distribution facilities and more than double its work force by creating 750 new jobs within the next two years."

It's a matter of scale...

"What makes Pitts' situation untenable is that he earns just $7 an hour -- even though he is well respected in farming and culinary circles and praised in the pages of Gourmetby the likes of Alice Waters, the doyenne of the local, organic movement. It's no secret that local small farmers charge more than the supermarket chain, and Windfall's prices fit the caricature of well-grown food as a high-end niche market: His eggs sell for $14 per dozen while some of his greens go for more than $40 per pound.
But, as George W. Bush's before it, President Barack Obama's Department of Agriculture is doing little to ensure the survival of Pitts and thousands of other holistic local farmers. Obama is making some changes at the USDA, but they're the type of improvements that appear larger than they really are. Sustainable agriculture proponents don't want to complain because finally they're getting something. But these incremental changes won't be enough to ensure farmers can stay on their land and sell their produce at reasonable rates. Neither will they clear the path for a new generation of farmers to participate in remaking the food system." (Thanks Marcy)

Every act of boycott is a statement against the status quo.

ُExcellent article by Maya Mikdashi in Sawt al Niswa, a feminist blog. (Thanks Samah)

"The questions that the debate whether we, in Lebanon, should join the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel engenders have nothing to do with liking music, being fanatical, or censorship. The issue is not a band that played a concert in Tel Aviv, had a stopover in Cyprus, and continued on to Beirut. It is not that this same band performed the week the Israeli state attacked a flotilla of peace activists trying to break the criminal blockade of Gaza, an area of land that is home to over 1.3 million Palestinians and has been placed under siege for over three years. The question is not whether or not we can, or should, empathize with Palestinians living within a settler colony. The question is not if we have to be political. The question is: Can we afford not to be political? Can we absolve ourselves of responsibility towards each other as citizens and residents of Lebanon, as Arabs, or as human beings in the name of music and a good time? And if and when we do absolve ourselves of responsibility, what kind of politics are we engaging in? When we surrender politics to the politicians, what are we doing?

The political permeates every aspect of our lives. From the moment we wake up in particular neighborhoods in, for example, Beirut to the moment that our maid brings us our evening snack and puts our children to sleep, we are engaged in politics. This engagement continues as each of us drives in his or her car to locations that are close by, when we pass by the myriad unkempt children and disabled adults standing in highways selling their sadness, maneuver through a security checkpoint in a politician’s neighborhood, and as we sweat in long pants during the hot summer in a failed attempt to avert the unwanted verbal and physical advances of men on the Manara who know they are not accountable to anyone. Politics is about the struggle over life, how we live it, where we live it, who gets to live a livable life, and who gets to live. We are political because we are alive. Depoliticization is a political process, it is a tactic of a power that aims to separate the messiness of shared life into compartments such as “culture,” “government,” “economy,” “personal life,” “government,” and, my personal favorite, “civil society.” Once segregated into neat, independent packages, we are told that our “political” involvement begins, and ends, at the level of government. Depoliticization comes with neoliberalism, an ideology that masks its praxis being claims to be a “way of life.” The idea that Liberalism is a way of life or that it is simply “good values” has historically fuelled capitalist expansion, colonialism, and the imperial notion that western history is at once the telos and the unfolding of world history. More recently, neoliberalism has been the ideology driving the perversion of human rights discourse to justify the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the banning of the headscarf in France, and the reinvigoration of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world."

جردة ابراهيم

ليس أمراً عادياً أن يخرج الفريق السياسي المحلي المندمج في خطة الغرب ليشنّ حملة على ما يسميه «التحرّشات المنظمة» ضد قوات اليونيفيل، وليُظهر المزيد من العنصرية بالقول: «في الجنوب هناك حزب الله ولا شيء اسمه أهالٍ»، علماً بأن هذا الفريق نفسه، كان قد أقام الاحتفالات وكتب المطوّلات عن «الانتفاضة الشيعية البلدية ضد أمل وحزب الله» قبل أسابيع عدّة. لكن، طالما أنه لا أحد يحاسب هؤلاء غير «مصرف فيلتمان لتنمية العداء للمقاومة»، فإنهم لا يأبهون بما يقولونه، أو يقال عنهم. ويعتقد هؤلاء أنّ ما فشلت الآلة الحربية الإسرائيلة والحرب الدبلوماسية الأميركية والفرنسية في فرضه عام 2006 سوف يتحقق الآن استجابةً لنداءات القائد الملهم سامي الجميل، أو المفكر المبجّل فارس سعيد، أو مانشيتات ومقالات «النهار» و«المستقبل» و«الحياة» و«الشرق الأوسط»... علماً بأنّ الأمور واضحة، لأنّ ما يريد أن يسمعه قادة الميدان من قوات اليونيفيل 
سمعوه في الجلسات المغلقة، أو قرأوه في البريد الدبلوماسي، أو تعرّفوا إليه في وجوه من تصدّوا لهم على الأرض

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Eating synthetic animals. Want some?

"Kate McMahon, who represents Friends of the Earth, complained to CNN that "At a time when hundreds of small-scale, sustainable farming operations are filing for bankruptcy every day, it is unethical to consider purchasing petri dish meat." Unethical! Slow Food USA is skeptical for reasons that defy easy summation, but here's president Josh Viertel's take on "test-tube flesh": "The problems with cruelty to animals are born of that gap [between producer and consumer]. I see [test tube flesh] as a solution that just increases that gap ... This is a technology that's just going to give more to companies and create a larger distance between us."

Frankly, these responses boggle my noodle. Both McMahon and Viertel seem to forget that an integral aspect of animal cruelty is not just how an animal is treated while it's alive but also the inconvenient truth that—no matter how they are raised—the animals we eat ultimately succumb to a violent death, one that they are smart enough to anticipate, sentient enough to suffer through, and, were they given an option, wise enough to avoid. On some (philosophical?) level, the humanity of the treatment is compromised the moment the death blow lands—this is certainly "one of the problems with cruelty to animals." In fact, dare one interpret that gruesome moment as penultimate to anything else, consider the reaction of a man as cold-steeled and tough-minded as Anthony Bourdain who, after witnessing the slaughter of a six-month-old hand-fed pig, left this unforgettable response in Kitchen Confidential:

For a guy who'd spent twenty-eight years serving dead animals and sneering at vegetarians, I was having an unseemly amount of trouble getting with the program. I had to suck it up. . . It took four strong men, experts at this sort of thing, to restrain the pig, then drag and wrestle him up onto his side ... With the weight of two men pinning him down, and another holding his hind legs, the main man with the knife, gripping him by the head, leaned over and plunged the knife all the way into the beast's thorax, just above the heart. The pig went wild. The screaming penetrated the fillings in my teeth ... With an incredible shower of fresh blood, the pig fought mightily ...They finally managed to wrestle the poor beast back up onto the cart again, the guy with the mustache working the blade back and forth like a toilet plunger ...
Anyone who has seen anything remotely like this intuitively understands the truth of the matter: the pig does not go gently for the very basic reason that the pig does not want to go." (Thanks Bert)