Tag Archive | lifestyle

Acupuncture Bill Raises Concerns

Acupuncture Bill Raises Concerns

 

By Aruna Lee and Summer Chiang*
State Sen. Leland Yee, who earlier this year stirred up controversy with his opposition to a ban from sale shark fin, is now embroiled in a similar debate over a bill that would put the word “Chinese” in the name of the state’s acupuncture licensing agency.

Senate Bill 628, which Yee introduced in February [2011], would change the name of the California Acupuncture Board to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Board and would include practitioners who work in traumatology, the treatment of injuries. Chinese medicine practitioners welcomed the bill’s expansion of licensing to fields beyond acupuncture, but the proposal was met with strong opposition from members of the state’s Korean community, who say the name change ignores the fact that many Koreans continue to practice a similar form of medicine.

Yee is running for mayor in San Francisco, a city that is roughly one-fifth Chinese. He lacks the support of influential Chinatown leader Rose Pak, who helped engineer the appointment of interim Mayor Ed Lee and has been trying to persuade Lee to run in November. Yee’s decision in February to side with the Chinese community over environmentalists in opposing a ban on the sale of shark fin drew considerable controversy.

The acupuncture proposal appears to be winning Yee favour among Chinese-Americans. Three hundred supporters, mainly from the Bay Area, attended a hearing in Sacramento Monday when the bill was being discussed. Meanwhile, on Tuesday [May 2 2011], the American Traditional Chinese Medical Traumatology Association hosted a news conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown in support of the legislation.

The measure has already cleared the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. If it passes, California will become the first state to license practitioners of traditional medical traumatology, according to the World Journal.

Ho Ying Heng, president of the American Traditional Chinese Medical Traumatology Association, told the World Journal that Leland Yee had visited China three times to learn more about Chinese traumatology. If the bill passes, he said, it will mean a lot to the Chinese community and the traumatology industry.

Iun Kang Cen, executive secretary of the American Traditional Chinese Medical Traumatology Association, added that the bill would give patients more protection, since the practice of traditional Chinese traumatology would be monitored by a government agency.

But an article in the Korea Times notes that another part of the bill — which would rename “acupuncturists” licensed by the board “Chinese medicine practitioners” — has generated controversy among Korean traditional medicine practitioners.

Soon after Yee’s proposal was announced, the Korea Times reports, the Association of Korean Asian Medicine and Acupuncture of California gathered more than 3,000 signatures statewide to oppose the name change. During a meeting with Yee in early March, the group urged him to back away from the new name, describing it as “offensive” to Korean and other Asian communities.

In-soon Lee, the head of the association’s Northern California branch, runs a private clinic in San Jose that administers traditional Korean medicine to patients. She said there are “over 50 members” in Northern California, all of whom run similar clinics. “They all participated in the petition opposing the name change,” Lee said.

For his part, Yee explained that the existing title of the board does not do justice to the range of treatment administered by licensed practitioners, including herbal remedies, massage therapy and dietary recommendations. Yee called on fellow Chinese-Americans to support the bill “to protect our culture.”

Yee has since backed away from the name-change issue, telling those gathered at the hearing Monday [8 May 2011] that he would reconsider whether or not to change the name.

But some in the Korean community remain skeptical.

In-soon Lee told the Korea Times that while she welcomed Yee’s decision to reconsider the change, she suspects it has more to do with his mayoral ambitions in San Francisco than with her group’s concerns.

“If he makes a similar proposal in the future, we will be there to oppose it,” she said.

State Sen. Leland Yee, who earlier this year stirred up controversy with his opposition to a ban on the sale of shark fin, is now embroiled in a similar debate over a bill that would put the word “Chinese” in the name of the state’s acupuncture licensing agency.

Senate Bill 628, which Yee introduced in February, would change the name of the California Acupuncture Board to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Board and would include practitioners who work in traumatology, the treatment of injuries. Chinese medicine practitioners welcomed the bill’s expansion of licensing to fields beyond acupuncture. But the proposal was met with strong opposition from members of the state’s Korean community, who say the name change ignores the fact that many Koreans continue to practice a similar form of medicine.

Yee is running for mayor in San Francisco, a city that is roughly one-fifth Chinese. He lacks the support of influential Chinatown leader Rose Pak, who helped engineer the appointment of interim Mayor Ed Lee and has been trying to persuade Lee to run in November. Yee’s decision in February to side with the Chinese community over environmentalists in opposing a ban on the sale of shark fin drew considerable controversy.

The acupuncture proposal appears to be winning Yee favor among Chinese-Americans. Three hundred supporters, mainly from the Bay Area, attended a hearing in Sacramento Monday when the bill was being discussed. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the American Traditional Chinese Medical Traumatology Association hosted a news conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown in support of the legislation.

The measure has already cleared the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. If it passes, California will become the first state to license practitioners of traditional medical traumatology, according to the World Journal.

Ho Ying Heng, president of the American Traditional Chinese Medical Traumatology Association, told the World Journal that Leland Yee had visited China three times to learn more about Chinese traumatology. If the bill passes, he said, it will mean a lot to the Chinese community and the traumatology industry.

Iun Kang Cen, executive secretary of the American Traditional Chinese Medical Traumatology Association, added that the bill would give patients more protection, since the practice of traditional Chinese traumatology would be monitored by a government agency.

But an article in the Korea Times notes that another part of the bill — which would rename “acupuncturists” licensed by the board “Chinese medicine practitioners” — has generated controversy among Korean traditional medicine practitioners.

Soon after Yee’s proposal was announced, the Korea Times reports, the Association of Korean Asian Medicine and Acupuncture of California gathered more than 3,000 signatures statewide to oppose the name change. During a meeting with Yee in early March, the group urged him to back away from the new name, describing it as “offensive” to Korean and other Asian communities.

In-soon Lee, the head of the association’s Northern California branch, runs a private clinic in San Jose that administers traditional Korean medicine to patients. She said there are “over 50 members” in Northern California, all of whom run similar clinics. “They all participated in the petition opposing the name change,” Lee said.

For his part, Yee explained that the existing title of the board does not do justice to the range of treatment administered by licensed practitioners, including herbal remedies, massage therapy and dietary recommendations. Yee called on fellow Chinese-Americans to support the bill “to protect our culture.”

Yee has since backed away from the name-change issue, telling those gathered at the hearing Monday that he would reconsider whether or not to change the name.

But some in the Korean community remain skeptical.

In-soon Lee told the Korea Times that while she welcomed Yee’s decision to reconsider the change, she suspects it has more to do with his mayoral ambitions in San Francisco than with her group’s concerns.

“If he makes a similar proposal in the future, we will be there to oppose it,” she said.

*Republished under “Content Exchange” the original can be found on New American Media

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Why the Army Won’t Shoot Protesters

Why the Army Won’t Shoot Protesters

By Mohammed Omer

CAIRO, Feb 2, 2011 – Khalid Ibrahim Al-Laisi has been a soldier in the Egyptian army for 20 years. Today, far from shooting protesters, he says the time has come “to revolt against oppression.”

And as protesters vow to continue to press for President Hosni Mubarak to leave now, rather than at election time later in the year as he offered to do Tuesday, Al-Laisi, 38, is the face of an army that is one with protesters, not against them.

“My monthly wage is 1,100 Egyptian pounds (188 dollars). It’s not enough, and I have to do another job in the evenings.”

He and his wife struggle to bring up their three children, aged 13, nine and four in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood of Cairo.

“No one can afford to live on these wages,” he says.

“There is no joy in life. You bring a child into this world to enjoy life, not to feel trapped. One kilo of meat costs 60 Egyptian pounds (EGP) in today’s market. To eat meat once a week costs me 300 (Egyptian) pounds a month. That leaves no money to go out and do anything else.”

Al-Laisi was promoted recently, and that added 100 EGP to his salary. That went partly to pay for extra tutoring for his son Mohammed. The tutoring costs 300 EGP a month.

The demonstrations have been effective, he says.

“The bullet that does not hit, at least makes some noise,” he says, repeating a popular saying in the army. Nothing comes overnight. But I am going to ask for my needs, because my life, like the life of so many others, has simply become intolerable.”

The army man’s suffering is one with that of the people determined to continue the struggle to get Mubarak out. Mubarak’s declaration that he would leave was a triumph for the demonstrators, but not what many seemed prepared to be satisfied with, although crowds seemed divided on this.

“We still insist he should leave now,” political activist Buthaina Kamel said at Cairo’s Al Tahrir Square after Mubarak’s television address Tuesday. Many demonstrators see their success as a revolution, and don’t want to give up.

Mustapha Al-Iraqi, a young oil engineer said he will not leave the square, and expects more protestors through the week. “President Mubarak is fooling around with our demands,” he said.

A high-ranking Egyptian official confirmed that the Egyptian Army will not shoot at protesting people. The officers are expressing the sentiment of the soldiers, says Al-Laisi.

“Who are we going to shoot? Our brothers and sisters?”

Groups of demonstrators were planning meanwhile to take their protests closer to Mubarak’s presidential palace. Units of the Egyptian Army are surrounding the palace, which has been fortified with barbed wires and checkpoints.

It is still unclear how far the army will let protests go, and at what point at least some units of the army may step in against the demonstrations if the protesters go that far.

Army units deployed so far have been popular among the people, and particularly the demonstrators. “The army and the people are one – hand in hand”, a group chanted. There has been an outpouring of expressions of support for the army.

The regime clearly wants to defuse the situation for now. Yasmine Al- Jayyoshi, among the organizers of the demonstration, said she feared the regime would punish demonstrators. That was only another reason to stay on and protest, she said.

Al-Laisi said the violence was regrettable, and “private and public properties must be protected.” But, he said, “if the demonstrations are too peaceful, officials do not understand the urgency among the people.”

The protests are undoubtedly people driven, and not organized by parties. Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic party whose members won a fifth of seats in the last parliament despite reports of widespread rigging by the ruling party, seems to hold little sway over the thrust of the demonstrations.

The protests seem driven by wages and prices, and less by politics and ideology.

Source:

The Jasmine Revolution

The Jasmine Revolution

Essam al-Amin encapsulates the nature of the young people’s uprising in Tunisia and the external forces at play.

* * * * *

Tunisia: The Fall of the West’s Little Dictator

With mounting protests forcing President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country, the Tunisian people’s toppling of a deeply unpopular regime may well ‘become a watershed date in the modern history of the Arab World’, writes Esam al-Amin. Once a key regional ally of Western governments, Ben Ali’s fall from grace has been precipitated by an extraordinary wave of sustained protest. Time will tell if the ‘Tunisian revolution’ attains lasting change and success, al-Amin concludes.

When people choose life (with freedom)
Destiny will respond and take action
Darkness will surely fade away
And the chains will certainly be broken
(Tunisian poet Abul Qasim Al-Shabbi (1909-1934))

On New Year’s Eve 1977, former President Jimmy Carter was toasting Shah Reza Pahlavi in Tehran, calling the Western-backed monarchy “an island of stability” in the Middle East. But for the next 13 months, Iran was anything but stable. The Iranian people were daily protesting the brutality of their dictator, holding mass demonstrations from one end of the country to the other.

Initially, the Shah described the popular protests as part of a conspiracy by communists and Islamic extremists, and employed an iron fist policy relying on the brutal use of force by his security apparatus and secret police. When this did not work, the Shah had to concede some of the popular demands, dismissing some of his generals, and promising to crack down on corruption and allow more freedom, before eventually succumbing to the main demand of the revolution by fleeing the country on Jan. 16, 1979.

But days before leaving, he installed a puppet prime minister in the hope that he could quell the protests allowing him to return. As he hopped from country to country, he discovered that he was unwelcome in most parts of the world. Western countries that had hailed his regime for decades were now abandoning him in droves in the face of popular revolution.

Fast forward to Tunisia 32 years later.

What took 54 weeks to accomplish in Iran was achieved in Tunisia in less than four. The regime of President Zein-al-Abidin Ben Ali represented in the eyes of his people not only the features of a suffocating dictatorship, but also the characteristics of a mafia-controlled society riddled with massive corruption and human rights abuses.

On December 17, Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed graduate in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in an attempt to commit suicide. Earlier in the day, police officers took away his stand and confiscated the fruits and vegetables he was selling because he lacked a permit. When he tried to complain to government officials that he was unemployed and that this was his only means of survival, he was mocked, insulted and beaten by the police. He died 19 days later in the midst of the uprising.

Bouazizi’s act of desperation set off the public’s boiling frustration over living standards, corruption and lack of political freedom and human rights. For the next four weeks, his self-immolation sparked demonstrations in which protesters burned tires and chanted slogans demanding jobs and freedom. Protests soon spread all over the country including its capital, Tunis.

The first reaction by the regime was to clamp down and use brutal force including beatings, tear gas, and live ammunition. The more ruthless tactics the security forces employed, the more people got angry and took to the streets. On Dec. 28 the president gave his first speech claiming that the protests were organized by a “minority of extremists and terrorists” and that the law would be applied “in all firmness” to punish protesters.

However, by the start of the New Year tens of thousands of people, joined by labor unions, students, lawyers, professional syndicates, and other opposition groups, were demonstrating in over a dozen cities. By the end of the week, labor unions called for commercial strikes across the country, while 8,000 lawyers went on strike, bringing the entire judiciary system to an immediate halt.

Meanwhile, the regime started cracking down on bloggers, journalists, artists and political activists. It restricted all means of dissent, including social media. But following nearly 80 deaths by the security forces, the regime started to back down.

On Jan. 13, Ben Ali gave his third televised address, dismissing his interior minister and announcing unprecedented concessions while vowing not to seek re-election in 2014. He also pledged to introduce more freedoms into society, and to investigate the killings of protesters during the demonstrations. When this move only emboldened the protestors, he then addressed his people in desperation, promising fresh legislative elections within six months in an attempt to quell mass dissent.

When this ploy also did not work, he imposed a state of emergency, dismissing the entire cabinet and promising to deploy the army on a shoot to kill order. However, as the head of the army Gen. Rachid Ben Ammar refused to order his troops to kill the demonstrators in the streets, Ben Ali found no alternative but to flee the country and the rage of his people.

On Jan. 14 his entourage flew in four choppers to the Mediterranean island of Malta. When Malta refused to accept them, he boarded a plane heading to France. While in mid air he was told by the French that he would be denied entry. The plane then turned back to the gulf region until he was finally admitted and welcomed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime has a long history of accepting despots including Idi Amin of Uganda and Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan.

But a few days before the deposed president left Tunis, his wife Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser known for her compulsive shopping, took over a ton and a half of pure gold from the central bank and left for Dubai along with her children. The first lady and the Trabelsi family are despised by the public for their corrupt lifestyle and financial scandals.

As chaos engulfed the political elites, the presidential security apparatus started a campaign of violence and property destruction in a last ditch attempt to saw discord and confusion. But the army, aided by popular committees, moved quickly to arrest them and stop the destruction campaign by imposing a night curfew throughout the country.

A handful of high-profile security officials such as the head of presidential security and the former interior minister, as well as business oligarchs including Ben Ali’s relatives and Trabelsi family members, were either killed by crowds or arrested by the army as they attempted to flee the country.

Meanwhile, after initially declaring himself a temporary president, the prime minister had to back down from that decision within 20 hours in order to assure the public that Ben Ali was gone forever. The following day, the speaker of parliament was sworn in as president, promising a national unity government and elections within 60 days.

Most Western countries, including the U.S. and France, were slow in recognizing the fast-paced events. President Barack Obama did not say a word as the events were unfolding. But once Ben Ali was deposed, he declared: “the U.S. stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold.” He continued: “We will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard. I applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people.”

Similarly, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, not only abandoned his Tunisian ally by refusing to admit him in the country while his flight was en route, but he even ordered Ben Ali’s relatives staying in expensive apartments and luxury hotels in Paris to leave the country.

The following day the French government announced that it would freeze all accounts that belonged to the deposed president, his family, or in-laws, in a direct admission that the French government was already aware that such assets were the product of corruption and ill-gotten money.

The nature of Ben Ali’s regime: Corruption, Repression and Western Backing

A recently published report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI), titled: “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2000-2009,” estimates Tunisia was losing billions of dollars to illicit financial activities and official government corruption, in a state budget that is less than $10 billion and GDP less than $40 billion per year.

Economist and co-author of the study, Karly Curcio, notes: “Political unrest is perpetuated, in part, by corrupt and criminal activity in the country. GFI estimates that the amount of illegal money lost from Tunisia due to corruption, bribery, kickbacks, trade mispricing, and criminal activity between 2000 and 2008 was, on average, over one billion dollars per year, specifically $1.16 billion per annum.”

A 2008 Amnesty International study, titled: “In the Name of Security: Routine Abuses in Tunisia,” reported that “serious human rights violations were being committed in connection with the government’s security and counterterrorism policies.” Reporters Without Borders also issued a report that stated Ben Ali’s regime was “obsessive in its control of news and information. Journalists and human rights activists are the target of bureaucratic harassment, police violence and constant surveillance by the intelligence services.”

The former U.S. Ambassador in Tunis, Robert Godec, has admitted as much. In a cable to his bosses in Washington, dated July 17, 2009, recently made public by Wikileaks, he stated with regard to the political elites: “they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising.”

Even when the U.S. Congress approved millions of dollars in military aid for Tunisia last year, it noted “restrictions on political freedom, the use of torture, imprisonment of dissidents, and persecution of journalists and human rights defenders.”

Yet, ever since he seized power in 1987, Ben Ali counted on the support of the West to maintain his grip on the country. Indeed, Gen. Ben Ali was the product of the French Military Academy and the U.S. Army School at Ft. Bliss, TX. He also completed his intelligence and military security training at Ft. Holabird, MD.

Since he had spent most of his career as a military intelligence and security officer, he developed, over the years, close relationships with western intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, as well as the French and other NATO intelligence services.

Based on a European intelligence source, Al-Jazeera recently reported that when Ben Ali served as his country’s ambassador to Poland between 1980-1984 (a strange post for a military and intelligence officer), he was actually serving NATO’s interests by acting as the main contact between the CIA and NATO’s intelligence services and the Polish opposition in order to undermine the Soviet-backed regime.

In 1999 Fulvio Martini, former head of Italian military secret service SISMI, declared to a parliamentary committee that “In 1985-1987, we (in NATO) organized a kind of golpe (i.e. coup d’etat) in Tunisia, putting president Ben Ali as head of state, replacing Burghuiba,” in reference to the first president of Tunisia.

During his confirmation hearing in July 2009 as U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, Gordon Gray reiterated the West’s support for the regime as he told the Senate Foreign Relations committee, “We’ve had a long-standing military relationship with the government and with the military. It’s very positive. Tunisian military equipment is of U.S. origin, so we have a long-standing assistance program there.”

Tunisia’s strategic importance to the U.S. is also recognized by the fact that its policy is determined by the National Security Council rather than the State Department. Furthermore, since Ben Ali became president, the U.S. military delivered $350 million in military hardware to his regime.

As recently as last year, the Obama administration asked Congress to approve a $282 million sale of more military equipment to help the security agencies maintain control over the population. In his letter to Congress, the President said: “This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country.”

During the Bush administration the U.S. defined its relationship with other countries not based on its grandiose rhetoric on freedom and democracy, but rather on how each country would embrace its counter-terrorism campaign and pro-Israel policies in the region. On both accounts Tunisia scored highly.

For instance, a Wikileaks cable from Tunis, dated Feb. 28, 2008, reported a meeting between Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and Ben Ali in which the Tunisian president offered his country’s intelligence cooperation “without reservation” including FBI access to “Tunisian detainees” inside Tunisian prisons.

In his first trip to the region in April 2009, President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, stopped first in Tunisia and declared that his talks with its officials “were excellent.” He hailed the “strong ties” between both governments, as well as Tunisia’s support of U.S. efforts in the Middle East. He stressed President Obama’s “high consideration” of Ben Ali.

Throughout his 23 year rule, hundreds of Tunisian human rights activists and critics such as opposition leaders Sihem Ben Sedrine and Moncef Marzouki, were arrested, detained, and sometimes tortured after they spoke out against the human rights abuses and massive corruption sanctioned by his regime. Meanwhile, thousands of members of the Islamic movement were arrested, tortured and tried in sham trials.

In its Aug. 2009 report, titled: “Tunisia, Continuing Abuses in the Name of Security,” Amnesty International said: “The Tunisian authorities continue to carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions, allow torture and use unfair trials, all in the name of the fight against terrorism. This is the harsh reality behind the official rhetoric.”

Western governments were quite aware of the nature of this regime. But they decided to overlook the regime’s corruption and repression to secure their short-term interests. The State Department’s own 2008 Human Rights Report detailed many cases of “torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” including rapes of female political prisoners by the regime. Without elaboration or condemnation, the report coldly concluded: “Police assaulted human rights and opposition activists throughout the year.”

What next?

“The dictator has fallen but not the dictatorship,” declared Rachid Ghannouchi, the Islamic leader of the opposition party, al-Nahdha or Renaissance, who has been in exile in the U.K. for the past 22 years. During the reign of Ben Ali, his group was banned and thousands of its members were either tortured, imprisoned or exiled. He himself was tried and sentenced to death in absentia. He has announced his return to the country soon.

This statement by al-Nahdha’s leader has reflected the popular sentiment cautioning that both the new president, Fouad Al-Mubazaa’, and prime minister Mohammad Ghannouchi have been members of Ben Ali’s party: The Constitutional Democratic Party. And thus their credibility is suspect. They have helped in implementing the deposed dictator’s policies for over a decade.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister promised, on the day Ben Ali fled the country, a government of national unity. Within days he announced a government that retained most of the former ministers (including the most important posts of defense, foreign , interior and finance), while including three ministers from the opposition and some independents close to the labor and lawyers unions. Many other opposition parties were either ignored or refused to join based on principle protesting the ruling party’s past.

In less than 24 hours, huge demonstrations took place all over the country on Jan. 18 in protest of the inclusion of the ruling party. Immediately four ministers representing the labor union and an opposition party resigned from the new government until a true national unity government is formed. Another opposition party suspended its participation until the ruling party ministers are either dismissed or resign their position.

Within hours the president and the prime minister resigned from the ruling party and declared themselves as independents. Still, most opposition parties are demanding their removal and their replacement with reputable and national leaders who are truly “independent” and have “clean hands.” They question how the same interior minister who organized the fraudulent elections of Ben Ali less than 15 months ago, could supervise free and fair elections now.

It’s not clear if the new government would even survive the rage of the street. But perhaps its most significant announcement was issuing a general amnesty and promising a release of all political prisoners in detentions and in exile. It also established three national commissions.

The first commission is headed by one of the most respected constitutional scholars, Prof. ‘Ayyadh Ben Ashour, to address political and constitutional reforms. The other two are headed by former human rights advocates; one to investigate official corruption, while the other to investigate the killing of the demonstrators during the popular uprising. All three commissions were appointed in response to the main demands by the demonstrators and opposition parties.

January 14, 2011 has indeed become a watershed date in the modern history of the Arab World. Already, about a dozen would-be martyrs have attempted suicide by setting themselves ablaze in public protest of political repression and economic corruption, in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania. Opposition movements have already led protests praising the Tunisian uprising and protesting their governments’ repressive policies and corruption in many Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, and the Sudan.

The verdict on the ultimate success of the Tunisian revolution is still out. Will it be aborted by either infighting or the introduction of illusory changes to absorb the public’s anger? Or will real and lasting change be established, enshrined in a new constitution that is based on democratic principles, political freedom, freedoms of press and assembly, independence of the judiciary, respect of human rights, and end of foreign interference?

As the answers to these questions unfold in the next few months, the larger question of whether there is a domino effect on the rest of the Arab world will become clearer.

But perhaps the ultimate lesson to Western policymakers is this: Real change is the product of popular will and sacrifice, not imposed by foreign interference or invasions.

To topple the Iraqi dictator, it cost the U.S. over 4,500 dead soldiers, 32,000 injured, a trillion dollars, a sinking economy, at least 150,000 dead Iraqis, a half-million injured, and the devastation of their country, as well as the enmity of billions of Muslims and other people around the world.

Meanwhile, the people of Tunisia toppled another brutal dictator with less than 100 dead who will forever be remembered and honored by their countrymen and women as heroes who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

Source:

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After Cancun: Fair Trade for Africa!?

After Cancun: Fair Trade for Africa!?

By Hwaa Irfan

Being unemployed without social welfare to fall back on is only made easier by the fact that one knows that one has nothing else to fall back on accept for one’s own resources, creativity, and the support of relatives, and neighbors, especially if one does not live in an urbanized area. This may not be the case for those unemployed who do have social welfare, because there the money may only sustain the instinct to survive physically, especially if one lives in an urbanized area.

For consumers the ridiculous increase in prices would be tolerable if the reason behind it was that the money went back to the producers and farmers, but this is not the case, instead we find that the reason for the price increases is to make way for biodiesel fuel of which the only indication is, is to make wealthy the wealthy, and those who make wealthy the wealthy.

So imagine what it is like for farmers, and those who live off what they produce, to have their products sold for less than it’s worth in the global market. The products are either sold high to the consumer, or are sold cheaply, and the producer loses out, while the moneymakers win either way. Meanwhile, the rising prices on life excludes the urban unemployed and rural fully employed both of whom can only afford shelter and the worst kind of food, and not much else for their family are left out of the equation of fair trade.

As the world turns to Africa to save it again with its natural resources, Africa has continually been left out of the equation of global fair trade relegating the black continent and its people to a status of poverty, while the indigenous peoples of South America who also have been placed in the same position, are fighting to be included, with a fight that includes environmental sustainability. Caught within its own legacy of colonialism, Africa will have to regain a sense of self that is unmeasured by neo-colonial dictates, and from that to value what it has in order not to be re-submerged by neo-colonial rules in favor of the multinationals, but what is in favor and just for all both African and its global partners. Until this is done, present and future partners will continue to exploit Africa, and its global consumers.

With all the self praising of the outcome of the climate talks in Cancun, how does a country struggling with the global economic crisis offer to give £37mn sterling of British taxpayers money to aid overseas farmers in climate change? Albeit a pledge, which has yet to be fulfilled and over what time scale and for what actual purpose shall all be revealed, but this is what the U.K. have pledged. Will there be fair trade for the so-called new crops that Africa and other poor countries are expected to provide for flood, drought and storm stricken areas? What are farmers so supposed to adapt to, the agricultural lands did not concede to modern farming without losing its fertility, and who are these new crops for. More research into crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, the environment, and new technologies according to the Department of International Development. From what can be observed, the “new technologies” for that which rose out of the Industrial Revolution has so far remained unsustainable, but if by “new technologies” it is meant the sustainable methods that have been based on the local knowledge of climate, and land fertility, then what more new research is required unless the aim is to facilitate the needs of the West which bought 45 million hectares of fertile African land in 2009 for its own food security! In this equation will it stave off a reoccurrence of the September 2010 food riot for bread in Mozambique, or will it only secure food, and then at what cost to the people who paid for it. Any landowner knows that once one sells land that is it, and to lease land long term also freezes the owner out of the picture. The money earned from that deal from a people who remain unaware to a people who are in need, does not any sustainabel returns for both groups of people. With most governments acting without consultation of the people, with a product in a land where good governancy cannot be guaranteed from year-to-year, the outlook is abysmal. As things stand, according to the World Bank’s report: “Rising Global Interest in Farmland. Can it Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?” the land grabs carried out by Western and Asian governments and multinational companies have already led to smallholders being evicted from what was their land! Most people are fully aware of the level of the level of corruption of certain governments (Western and non-Western), and the frequency with which governancy changes hands in some African countries, so it is far from acceptable to ask after a land grab to question the laws of the nation concerned when there is a living example of  Nigeria’s oil!

 “…becoming dependant on aid is being trapped in a vicious circle of corruption, market distortion and further poverty, therefore the need for more aid.” Dambisa Moyo, in Dead Aid 

What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade means getting a fair deal, which can only transpire if the relationship between the producer and the buyer is a transparent one. There should be no need for a fair trade certificate if there is transparency, and it is a transparency that applies globally, not from negotiation to negotiation. This includes: 

  • Fair price
  • Fair labor conditions
  • Direct trade
  • Democratic and transparent organizations
  • Community development
  • Environmental sustainability

Without these basic conditions in place, those who can afford to wheel and deal should not be dealing. It is in the interest of all parties to ensure a sustainable relationship on behalf of the earth that sustains us all. In Islam, as well as in the traditions of many indigenous people’s the rights of all, including the earth are a binding relationship. By not honoring that obligation, we dishonor not only the earth bequeathed to us, but we also dishonor our children and who come after us, i.e. the future.  However, this is not intrinsic to capitalism, the exploitative system that current global governance is fighting to maintain. 

Transparency in Trade

When the U.S. got stroppy with China about the undervaluing the yen, it disregarded the fact that it has done everything to secure its own place in the global market at the cost of everyone else, and the fear of losing its unearned position in the world as the leading super-power. However, the U.S. is not alone in fixing the market to the exclusion of Africa by subsiding Western farmers. If all was fair in love and war, there would no need to subsidize farmers in the West, because those farmers would benefit from the increasing food prices by receiving their worth and not more than their worth, at least this is the goal for Egyptian farmers, albeit that elements of the food price increase in Egypt have more to do with the middle man, a lack of respect for their own produce, and unnecessary imports. However, it would have been more constructive to engage the public in the understanding of the goal, and to re-balance the situation so that the urban poor can have access to the basic foods that provide good health in a system that has no real health system. However in general, the profits from the astronomical global food prices is instead making the rich richer, and increasing global hunger.

The U.S, the E.U., and China  by subsidising farmers, to the tune of $47.4bn/£29.5bn over the last decade does not only lead to a false economy, but cheapens the produce of farmers when it comes to global trade. In the Fairtrade report “The Great Cotton Stitch Up.” Because of this, 10 million West African cotton farmers remained in a daily struggle to survive. The $47.4bn/£29.5bn subsidy cost 4 West African countries (Benin, Burkino Faso, Chad and Mali) £155mn a year! While global cotton prices doubled this summer and prices are set to increase for European customers, the African supply of cotton remains undervalued, but no less in quality. Malian cotton farmer Douda Samake and secretary of a cotton cooperative told The Independent:

“Cotton is our only income. These [US subsidies] are the reason we’re not producing as much cotton. Mali cotton farmers are hardly able to cover their living costs

“It’s the main export for Mali and the state does not have funds to pay for healthcare and education.”

Unlike the British and American unemployed, and those whose income is just enough to survive, the a Malian cannot afford to be sick, because not only do they have to pay for healthcare and education, but they lose the little income they do get by being ill. Then in the same breath, Westerners and its followers will turn round and blame black Africans for their own plight! Cotton is not food, but it can provide food to the families of the producers, as well as healthcare, education, and increased production.

In an endeavor to reach redefine trade relations, the E.U. has been trying to negotiate with certain African countries an Economic Partnership Agreement, however, old habits die hard. Namibia is one such country that has been involved in a long drawn out negotiation, but one that it is reluctant to acquiesce to. It was made clear in a letter to influential European civil society organizations that:

“The signing of the interim EPA would have serious impacts on agricultural and industrial development in Namibia. Among other consequences the country would have to forfeit the policy option of using export taxes on raw materials and an important incentive for value addition of raw materials and as a potentially important new source of income.” 

If all African countries took this approach it would help the E.U. and other interested parties to reflect on what it means to have a partnership that is in the interest of all parties without being detrimental to the producing country, its environment, and its people. For the International Labor Organization which is concerned with the registered 34 million unemployed (2007 – 09), future development should be built on:

  • Environmental sustainability
  • Social justice
  • Economic efficiency
  • Democratic participation
  • Cultural diversity
  • International responsibility

And it is because the above approach is inclusive and not exclusive it makes perfect sense for future global development. These are not fundamentals that can wait, they have to be built into discussions, negotiations, and agreements from now not when the failing infrastructure has been resurrected as an exclusive network. Climate talks are an exclusive club, that does not have the ability to rise above making charitable steps towards solving the problems that the club members have created. Instead of doling out US$100bn Green Climate Fund by 2020 to poorer countries as agreed at Cancun, the extra effort should be directed towards cutting greenhouse emissions in a shorter time frame as the club members are largely responsible for this, and the increased climatic challenges that poorer countries are being forced to face, and to dismantle and restructure the global basis of trade. This narrow-mined approach which involves the least effort ignores the market reforms of the 1980’s which has been fundamental in impoverishing developing countries further as is the findings of the report: Neoliberal Policy, Rural Livelihoods and Urban Food Security in West Africa: A Comparative Study of The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali  by Oregon State University professor Laurence Becker and others:

“Many of these reforms were designed to make countries more efficient, and seen as a solution to failing schools, hospitals and other infrastructure”

“But they sometimes eliminated critical support systems for poor farmers who had no car, no land security, made $1 a day and had their life savings of $600 hidden under a mattress.

“These people were then asked to compete with some of the most efficient agricultural systems in the world, and they simply couldn’t do it”

“With tariff barriers removed, less expensive imported food flooded into countries, some of which at one point were nearly self-sufficient in agriculture. Many people quit farming and abandoned systems that had worked in their cultures for centuries.” 

These forces have undercut food production for 25 years, the researchers concluded. They came to a head in early 2008 when the price of rice – a staple in several African nations – doubled in one year for consumers who spent much of their income solely on food. Food riots, political and economic disruption ensued”.

This is not the first time this has been stated, but who’s listening. Maybe one day those in power will be forced to listen, to reflect and to do something seriously about it before it is too late for all of us! 

Sources:

Avril, H. “Land Grabs in Poor Countries Set to Increase.” http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52762

“Fair Trade.” http://youaretherevolution.org/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=398&Itemid=476

Becker, L et al. Neoliberal Policy, Rural Livelihoods and Urban Food Security in West Africa: A Comparative Study of The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. Oregon State University. Department of Social Science.

Hickman, M. “West’s Billions in Subsidy Shuts Out African Cotton Growers.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/wests-billions-in-subsidy-shut-out-african-cotton-growers-2134211.html

Martens, J. “Steps Out of the Global Development Crisis.”  http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/steps-out-global-development-crisis

“U.K. Gives £37m to Aid Overseas Farmers on Climate Change.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11913053

Van den Bosch, S. “EU Backs off on EPA.” http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52313 

Related Topics:

The Doctrine of Discovery

The House of Three Rooms

Oil vs. Communities: The Case of the Niger Delta

Oil vs. Communities: The Case of Peru

Al-Biruni’s “Economy of Nature” in Modern Biotechnology

G20 Reasons Why Your Fortune is Not Your Own!

The Echo of Life

Our Africa: Europe’s Debt Pt.1

Increasing Food Insecurity for Short Term Gain

Xenophobia on African Shores and Elsewhere

United Against Hunger – Standing Up For Justice

Do You Like Pineapples?

Eating Away at Our Earth

Finding a Global Balance

Behind the Food Price Crisis!

Self-Awareness: Between Me, Myself and Others

Self-Awareness: Between Me, Myself and Others

 

By Hwaa Irfan

 

If no effort is applied, everything would stagnate, which runs contrary to the Laws of Nature ( i.e. The Law of Three). By not relating to stimuli we regress by making no effort. When we exercise our muscles we increase our bone density, improve our flexibility, burn excess fat, and release built-up negative energy. But when we do not exercise our muscles, we become weak, more vulnerable to ill-health, become lazy, decrease our metabolism, and eventually busy ourselves doing nothing that requires effort, emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically. Everything we do if we want to move from the point where we are at now – this very moment, requires effort, including self awareness.  

 

Without self awareness we prevent ourselves from becoming, from fulfilling our potential, losing balance between our inner world and our outer world, and the reality of now, the potential in now, the gift in the present becomes unavailable to us to change. It is the difference between the person who has no interface between himself and the physical world, and is like flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life because he has excluded the third force, the stimuli, that would help navigate our relationship with our Creator, ourselves, others, and the environment.

 

But What is Self Awareness?

 

Self awareness is a conscious state of one’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, likes and dislikes, sensitivities, words and actions. It is the difference between knowing what is good for one, and what is bad.

 

When we are self aware, we are more able to make better and conscious choices in our lives, when to take risks and accept challenges, and when we act out of fear instead of acting out of love. The following case is an example of acting out of fear:

 

“I have been married for 3 years. I don’t have a kid yet. Sometimes, I wonder what is life? What will happen to my future? I have negative feelings, which I want to delete and to be positive. I think that I think these problems over and over again. How can I stop thinking like this? Is there any solution in Islam? I’m an only child. I don’t have many friends. Anyway I can’t trust my problems with them.

 

“I feel that I had done so many wrong things in the past. When I spoke to my mother she said that they are small sins when compared to others. Are their people who do not do bad things in their life? How can I have a balanced life?

 

This woman was in her mid-twenties at the time, and therefore the foundations of what she had been feeling were put into motion relatively early in her life. She knew that something was wrong with her thinking, but was not aware of how her paradigm was forcing the question “I wonder what is life?

 

We act out of fear when we live in the past, or project ourselves into the future, we abuse/waste the present. We do not accept the present because we do not relate to what we do not accept about ourselves. We do not accept ourselves when we put ourselves into little boxes that contain labels as to how we should think, act, and behave. We in fact separate our whole into pieces, with each piece not bearing any relationship with the other in our conscious mind. But the conscious mind is only a part of the self, not the whole self – it is a way of focusing or projecting our consciousness, the gateway between our  inner and outer world. It only has access to unrepressed memories, leaving the other memories to become a part of our shadow selves – the self we fear. It is how we exist in the outer world, our personal identity, which may be false, and it is the way we organize our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, which become only a reflection of our perception.  Our lungs become burdened with pent-up emotions and thus stands vulnerable to being compromised by the external environment (dis-ease), as a result of our internal environment, and begins by heavy sighs of “Only if,” or “What if…”, as the vulnerable parts of our bodies also become compromised due to the decreased flow of oxygen received through our lungs. We not only incapacitate our self understanding, but in doing so our self worth through poor self awareness:

 

“…Desire that which will bring you benefit, and seek help from Allah and do not give way to incapacity. If something happens to you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such.’ Rather say, ‘The decree of Allah. He does what He will.’ Otherwise you will open yourself up to the action of Shaytan.” (Riyad as-Salihin 11 #100, Muslim).

 

By not accepting the truths about ourselves we become increasingly self unaware. By doing this we also reject aspects of others. We fragment ourselves into reductionist modes of perception that shape a reductionist/materialistic relationship with only our own selves, but also with others, our Creator, and the environment that sustains all creation. By not being self aware we prevent:

 

Self understanding of our own:

 

Self understanding of our own:

  • Values

 

  • Creativity

 

  • Best method of learning

 

  • Beliefs

 

  • Our faith

 

  • Whether we are truly aggressive, sensitive, compassionate, intro/extrovert.

 

  • Can give love and receive love

 

  • Are leaders, followers, or nurturers

 

  • Talents, and skills one could develop

 

  • Suitable friends, marriage partners, interpersonal relations

 

  • Stress threshold

 

  • Challenge threshold

 

  • Need of relaxation
Love Fear
Empathy Refusal to understand
Trust Lies, deceit
Certainity Denial
Confidence Harmful actions
Understanding Blocked communication

 

We are not All Bad!

 

One woman in her late forties had the good fortune to have multiple sclerosis. Her health was deteriorating miserably under the guidance of allopathic/modern medicine. Through a good classical homeopath, and learning the power of positive thinking, she realized her own self image, and her own self awareness was not what it should be. To the point this woman cured herself of multiple sclerosis!

 

One man asked of ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib about his nafs. Talib replied:

 

“Of which nafs are you eager to become aware?”  

 

“Is there more than one nafs?” the man asked. 

 

“Yes, said ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib. “There are four: nafs of growth; nafs of sensibility (animal spirit); nafs of pure intellect; and nafs of wholeness and Divinity. Each one of the nufus (plural of nafs) has powers and qualities of its own”.

 

When we banish parts of ourselves to the skeleton cupboard, those parts do not go away. They are a part of us, and remain with us – there is no disposal unit or paradigm shift fast enough to prevent us from processing ourselves as a whole! Well, God never created us to scapegoat ourselves!  We might recognize when we do it to others, but might not recognize that we do it to others because we do it to ourselves.  When we banish parts of ourselves without coming to terms with it so that it can be liberated into our more wholesome selves we create a Shadow self, waiting to act without our approval. The Shadow self consists of repressed emotions, thoughts, negative experiences, unrealized/unknown qualities (human and spiritual), and our fears. It takes courage to face one’s Shadow self, and in some cases may require an experienced counselor, but it must be done, because it has a habit of influencing what we do. When it impinges on the parts of ourselves we accept, there is a feeling of guilt, shame, unworthiness, fear, and rejection. By not dealing with them they become our personal demons = strong negative emotions that we have a tendency to project onto others through bigotry, racism, oppression, exploitation,  rape, war, humiliation, greed, persecution, sexual objectification, genocide and war. Therefore the qualities and traits we dislike in others, are qualities and traits we dislike in ourselves i.e. The Shadow self.

 

To turn the Shadow Self around one can begin by asking oneself:

 

“What do I dislike about others.” (one can think of particular individuals in order to make the process more meaningful).

 By starting with this question, one can find it easier to identify what one dislikes about oneself by asking “Why” and to keep asking “Why” until one comes to the answer.

 

Then ask one’s self: 

“What do I appreciate about myself?”

 

“What do others appreciate about me?”

Then compare the two. If there is a mismatch, ask yourself why do others appreciate —, and why do I appreciate—-

 

By doing so you define what you do not know about yourself.

 

Then ask yourself:

“What do I like about others?”

This will help you to see a) in which way you compare yourself,  b) if others present good examples in your life, and c) the damage that comparisons do by creating the Shadow self.

 

Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said: “… Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil, and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul, and moves to and fro in the breast even though the people again, and again have given you their legal opinion [in its favor]” (An Nawawi #27|).

 

The more you become self aware, the easier it is to know what to be thankful for, and to accept it with humility otherwise something new could develop which you may not accept, and the easier it is to know what parts of you need some attention, as is the case with all of us! If one accepts the parts of one’s self that need change, need to be liberated, the universe will conspire to find you solutions so that you walk in tune with His laws – the rhythm of the Laws of Nature. Then before you find anything to be unhappy about, at the end of each day, as the sunsets, ask yourself what do you feel grateful for?

 

  • The sunrise, the sunset
  • A child’s laughter
  • Those that love you
  • The roof over your head
  • Food to eat
  • The fact that you do have a choice!
  • You service to a person in need
  • The flu that prevented you from going into work when your boss was in a bad mood!

 

By giving thanks, and really feeling appreciative, you create an energy shift in your mind-body-spirit relationship. You will feel calmer, your mind will slowdown, you will respire more deeply, and you will feel more positive, which will attract the positive in turn – God Willing. And if there is a negative reaction, smile in recognition!

 

Related Topics:

Happiness Doesn’t Grow on Trees!

Night Prayer and the Human Body Clock 

The Ideology of Charisma

Who or What Gave You Life?

The Healing Sounds of Life

When the Waters Were Changed 

Discovering Your Emotional Intelligence

The Brain Says Men and Women are Different When It Comes to Stress

The House of Three Rooms

Society Says Your Body Not Your Mind!

The Law of Three: Concealment and Attraction

Can’t See the British Woods Without the Trees

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Can’t See the British Woods Without the Trees

By Hwaa Irfan

With the reality of the impact of the global economic crisis hit home in some parts of the world more than others, in recent months, there has been a strange declaration to sell off the nation’s forest with the general public assumption that the aim is to reduce the nation’s deficit or simply short-term gain. When the so-called leak was made to sell the forests of Britain, the public outcry at the very the very thought was more than apparent. Along with the dwindling country villages, it seems that there is not much sentimentality for a fading English identity once referred to as the “green and pleasant land.” Throwing sentiment out of the window, the forests of Britain are much more than that.

Can 748 hectares of British woodland, is administered by the Forestry Commission be replaced by holiday villages golf courses, logging companies, and adventure sites to commercial entities that would have profit not nature in mind? That seems to be the general proposal by U.K. Ministers who are either panic stricken with the U.K. debt, or opportunists seeking to line their pockets. Losing seven community forests in the U.K. seem to be of little concern. Situated around the largest British towns and cities, these forest provide a break from the city madness, for those who cannot afford to travel far away from home, and an opportunity for the young to know what nature is all about. This may not be an issue for ministers who can afford to (at least at the moment) to travel out of the country to facilitate relaxation, but as ministers this should be a consideration of the people they have been voted in to represent. The purpose of these community forests is to enhance the cities they are annexed to, and to play a role in “economic and social regeneration,” by giving life to derelict land, as well as the issue of climate change in order to support the idea of healthy living. These community forests established in 1990 arose from a government plan, and a worthy one at that, to only be put asunder 20 years later by ministers who seem to lack that wisdom? Covering over 48,000 hectares of woodland, 16,000 hectares is allocated for leisure activities, routes for cyclists, and have played a role in increasing environmental awareness within the related communities.

The community forests were in addition to those put under the protection of the Charter of Forests of 1217.

“Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and faithful subjects, greeting. Know that out of reverence for God and for the salvation of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, for the exaltation of holy church and the reform of our realm, we have granted and by this present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever, on the advice of our venerable father, the lord Gualo, cardinal priest of St Martin and legate of the apostolic see, of the lord Walter archbishop of York, William bishop of London and the other bishops of England and of William Marshal earl of Pembroke, ruler of us and of our kingdom, and our other faithful earls and barons of England, these liberties written below to be held in our kingdom of England for ever.

“[1] In the first place, all the forests which king Henry our grandfather made forest shall be viewed by good and law-worthy men, and if he made forest any wood that was not his demesne to the injury of him whose wood it was, it shall be disaforrested. And if he made his own wood forest, it shall remain forest, saving common of pasture and other things in that forest to those who were accustomed to have them previously.”

“Men who live outside the forest need not henceforth come before our justice of the forest upon a general summons, unless they are impleaded or are sureties for any person or persons who are attached for forest offences…”

This might removing the legal obligation towards ancient forests to make way for logging, but once all trees are removed what will be the benefit then? A denatured environment leads to denatured people, decreasing the level of well-being. Until the White Paper is released no is the wiser as to actual government intent, but predicting the worst case scenario, the battle must be fought from now. An unnamed source said:

“We are looking to energize our forests by bringing in fresh ideas and investment, and by putting conservation in the hands of local communities.”

 How true this is might be self defeating, considering that private enterprise and community responsibility very rarely today make a cohesive partnership that is supported by the law whether it is 50% of the land to be sold or more, to allow even for 10% is to allow for further incursions into forested land.

Talks, talks, and more talks, just seem to be discussions that blow away in the wind. The world’s first global agreement on forests was made at the Earth Summit in Rio, yet pledging to make more a more sustainable use of forests! That seems like a term in contradiction, and can be taken out of context if the meaning is in contrast to reducing unsustainable use of forests. With the intent of U.K. ministers, unsustainable use is more appropriate. Working towards the intentions of the World Summit of Sustainable Development, WSSD, the U.K. forestry had the following initiatives:

1)      To combat illegal logging – but once it has been made legal, and there is no wood left to log, this will no longer be a problem!

2)      The perception of the forest containing products to “cover the whole wood chain, from growing through to timber processing, including renewable energy

Unless they are referring to another country the above initiatives apply not just England, but Wales and N. Ireland, and are stated in the 2002 report, “UK Forest Partnership for Action.” In other words, the plan has been in the pipelines for a while, and is not a reaction to the current global economic crisis. This initiative is also repeated in “U.K. Forests and Trees,” a 2007 publication of the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology as follows: 

“Sustainable forest management’ aims to provide social and environmental goods, to maintain an economically viable forestry sector and to protect these benefits for future generations…”

The same publication specified:

“Forests and trees can provide economic, social and environmental benefits. Often these are complementary, but trade-offs can be required between economic timber production and aims such as public access or increased biodiversity”.

“…to promote high environmental and social standards in commercial forestry…”

The forestry and wood processing sectors make a significant contribution to the UK economy, producing £7.2 billion in gross value added.”

Large amounts of the forests under the Ministerial proposal will be sold to the Department for the Environment Food, and Rural Affairs, Defra. This would facilitate the above. The U.K Forestry does already produce timber, which is only 18% of the timber that the nation uses, and some of the wood imported to the U.K. is illegally logged from parts of Africa for example. If this is solely an attempt to reduce the U.K. role in the illegal logging market, then these steps is acting with a conscious, but one doubts that very much. Yes, tress can be replanted, but how long does it take for a Yew or an elder tree to grow? They are suggesting that the initiative would help to promote farm diversification, but surely what farms need to do is to reclaim their role in the nation’s supply of food from multinational biotechnological companies.

The same Parliamentary publication acknowledged the following:

Social benefits 

  • 167,000 jobs, many of them in rural areas
  • Public access and opportunities for recreation and tourism, including sports such as mountain biking
  • Opportunities for exercise, contributing to improved health
  • Allowing people to experience nature, view wildlife and ‘get away’ from urban life, contributing to mental well-being
  • Preserving cultural heritage, including ancient ‘veteran’ trees and archaeological sites;
  • Opportunities for outdoor education through initiatives such as Forest Schools;
  • Bring disadvantaged people back into the community).
  • Community forestry

Woodland and trees also perform a variety of valuable natural functions (‘ecosystem services’):

  •  Protect soils from erosionreducing flooding in some catchments by intercepting rainwater and reducing run-off in storm events
  •  Helping to reclaim contaminated land
  • Provide shelter, shade and cooling in urban areas and wind breaks on farmland
  • Conserve biodiversity. Broadleaved woodland contains more than twice as many rare species, listed.

Given the landmass of the U.K. and the spread of towns, and cities, selling 50% (150,000 hectares) for commercial use, will undermine most if not all of the above at a time, when further risks in environmental restructuring in a manner that is not in nature’s favor might be asking for more than can be bargained for, because once the soil is eroded, the current drastic changes in winter weather that the U.K. is facing will get worse. And given the affect of the global economic crisis on the general well-being of the population, any spread in dissatisfaction will increase any dissatisfaction with the government in a society that wants an immediate turn for the better. What the government needs to be honest about though is the steps towards producing biomass for biofuel as the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology see the forests as:

“… contributing to limiting climate change by taking up, and retaining atmospheric carbon (sequestration),  and reducing CO2 emissions by the use of wood as a source of bio-energy”.

The worsening floods, gales, and snow storms may just be the result of deforesting what was once a land full of forests!

Sources:

“Charter of the Forest of King Henry III.” http://info.sjc.ox.ac.uk/forests/Carta.htm

“Community Forests.” http://www.communityforest.org.uk/aboutenglandsforests.htm

Hennessy, P. “Ministers Plan Huge Sell-Off of Britain’s Forests.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/countryside/8082756/Ministers-plan-huge-sell-off-of-Britains-forests.html

Related Topics:

Will the Climate Talks Be Hot Enough

Behind the Food Price Crisis!

Finding a Global Balance

A Victory for Farmers, Consumers and Environment

A Victory for Farmers, the Consumer and the Environment

 

By Hwaa Irfan

 

Sometimes, just sometimes, commonsense prevails, and the hope that benefits us all has a future. December 01 2010 was ushered in with a federal court injunction on Monsanto’s 256 acres of genetically modified, GM beet, ordering for the acreage located in Oregon, and Arizona, U.S. to be destroyed. Judge Jeffrey White saw the illegal crop as a violation of federal law, until the Department of Agriculture completes an environmental impact assessment, which one prays will uphold the laws of nature. The initial lawsuit was carried out by Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety which acted on behalf of a coalition of farmers, and conservative groups. In his court order, Judge White noted:

 

 “… farmers and consumers would likely suffer harm from cross-contamination” between GE sugar beets and non-GE crops. “The likely environmental harm established by Plaintiffs is irreparable.”

 

GM crops require lots of water, which in a country where water shortage is becoming a growing problem, will add to the problem not solve. In addition, GM crops require lots of fertilizers, which contains chemicals that will enter the soil, the water system, and enter the food chain not just via the GM crops but via other crops which will be affected, and the drinking water supply. Half of the sugar supply consumed by the U.S. comes from sugar beets of which 95% is grown by Monsanto, which just happen to be GM. They are tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate that Monsanto uses in its pesticide “Roundup”.

 

Glyphosate was introduced as far back as the 1970s into the food chain. Marketed worldwide as Roundup, Rodeo, or Accord, it is not only used by farmers, but also by home gardeners. In the U.S. it is the third most commonly used pesticide, and the second in the home and garden. Therefore there is accumulative evidence against the use of glyphosate. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Professor Joe Cummins, have argued constantly against GM crops based on evidence, and their findings are coherent with that of the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S.

 

Plants that are not resistant to glyphosate are killed by it, and if not killed many of the valuable nutritional components (e.g. phenols, amino acids, folates, and vitamins) are prevented from forming. Monsanto’s own studies revealed the presence of glyphosate in lettuce, and barley 4 months after being treated with glyphosate.

 

Ho and Cummins also reported that the population on Canada exposed to glyphosate where Monsanto was active doubled the risk of spontaneous abortion as glyphosate is toxic to the human placenta killing placenta cells within 18 hours of exposure to glyphosates. A Japanese study found 9 cases of attempted suicide from consumption of glyphosate products (200 milliliters) – symptoms included intestinal pain, vomiting, excess fluid in the lungs, confusion, and destruction of red blood cells. A Swedish study found that those who worked with glyphosate were three more times likely to get hairy cell leukemia. A Canadian study found that fathers (farmers) who worked with glyphosate increased the risk of miscarriages and premature births.

 

Studies in the U.S. indicate exposure to glyphosate increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, damaging DNA, and suppressing the immune system. A New Zealand study by Temple et al in 1992 found that those who are unintentionally exposed to glyphosate i.e. non-farmers react in one/some of the following ways:

 

        Eye irritation, painful eyes, blurred vision or swollen eyes

 

        Swollen face, facial numbness

 

        Swollen joints

 

        Blisters, skin rash, burning sensation on skin, recurring eczema.

 

        Chest pains, congestion, coughing, headache, nausea

 

In Argentina, glyphosate has been used on the soybean crop leading to malformation of amphibian embryos. It has been found in streams near agricultural and urban, as well as forests in the U.S. It has been established that glyphosate reduces the wildlife population, particularly that of birds, beneficial insects, small mammals and destroys vegetation, which is food for the wildlife that lives.

 

In 2009, 73 food companies argued against GM beet, and the arising problems that would be difficult to resolve.  They vowed to never use or sell GM beet, and signed a pledge on the basis of food safety and the environment with the Institute for Responsible Technology. A success for farmers who have not been listened to, too many times – they have had long battles with the multinational biotechnological industry – a major factor in the upshot of food prices around the world. All that needs to happen is for all those who are interested in the common good, should sign and standby what benefits all, for that to be reinforced by the law, and where possible boycott those who do not!

 

Sources:

Court Orders Uprooting of Monsanto Biotech Sugar Beet.” http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/nov2010/2010-11-30-093.html

Cox, C. Glyphosate Factsheet.” http://www.mindfully.org/Pesticide/Roundup-Glyphosate-Factsheet-Cox.htm

Ho, M-W, and Cummins, J. “Glyphosate Toxic and Roundup Worse.” http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GTARW.php 

Scott-Thomas, C. “Food Companies Pledge to Avoid GM Beet Sugar.” http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Financial-Industry/Food-companies-pledge-to-avoid-GM-beet-sugar

Valente, M. “Scientists Reveal Effects of Glyphosate”. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46516

 

 

Related Topics:

Watch What You Eat!

Meat By Any Means 

GM Foods and Fertility