Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Hallowe'en 2011!

Related Post:
Happy Hallowe'en! [on background to the holiday]

Share your favourite Hallowe'en stories, experiences past and present!
Did you go out this year (yourself, with children, etc)?
Did you give out candy?
Did you have/attend a costume party?
Do you think ET should phone home? ;)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Social Media and the Arab Spring: From the Mobile Phone to Cyber Warfare

NETWORKED PROTESTS: Egyptian anti-government protesters taking photos with their cameraphones at the demonstration in downtown Cairo. Ghonim, the Google executive and cyberactivist who emerged as a leader of the anti-government protests in Egypt, said social media played a crucial role in the events that led to Mubarak's ouster after three decades of iron-fisted rule. - AP

I just saw, on the CBC's documentary program "The Passionate Eye", the BBC produced "How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring". I must admit, when I first saw the title announced onscreen as "Coming Next" after the news, I was underwhelmed. I decided to watch at least some of it, partly out of curiosity, partly out of "duty" to my own interest in the Arab Spring (Summer, Fall), and partly because otherwise I would have had to put brain to paper in various other forms. As soon as I saw that the documentary came from the BBC and was aired in the context of "The Passionate Eye", I was more enthusiastic.

This documentary not only did not disappoint, it reviewed and contextualized some known events in a way that led to new insight; it expanded my awareness of how various forms of technology and social media were used, including the ingenuity of the rebels as the regimes became more repressive of technologies as well as demonstrators; and, how the mobile phone vs the army became a cyber war of government hackers vs rebel bloggers and cyber activists.

The biggest surprise for me was the deliberate use of what "my Arabs" call "le téléphone arabe"--the Arab telephone, word of mouth, the grapevine--a low tech method infinitely more efficient that unreliable phone lines. This involved reaching non-cyber-connected Egyptians via taxi drivers. Activists in cabs would talk over the phone about plans to rally, and "let" the taxi drivers overhear--highly effective in bringing crowds to Tahrir Square, and other protest sites.

A Cairo taxi drives past a poster of Egyptian President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak in Heliopolis, Cairo. (Dominic Nahr for The Wall Street Journal)

Technology is a toolkit in human hands, and in this documentary diverse human dimensions of the engagement with these tools are highlighted: the street demonstrator with a mobile in one hand and a rock in the other; the ingenious computer wunderkind dodging blocks and transmitting images to the world while being traumatized by them, and by a "profound sense of guilt" for rallying the crowds who became the victims; and, the awakening of the diasporas to the disseminated raw news from their homelands, leading to their demonstrating in Western streets, petitioning Western governments, or paying for the latest in palm-sized devices to record and broadcast the realities Arab dictators didn't/don't want known,

I feel lucky I had the opportunity to see this documentary on the same day as Tunisians voted, and Libyans declared their liberation from Qaddafi (more on those later). The version I saw had addenda updating the events in each country to October 23, 2011. I hope that if you haven't seen the documentary yet, you will take the opportunity to do so.

Below are a number of options: the 1st episode, on Tunisia then Egypt, in 4 fifteen minute segments; or, the 2 full hour long episodes on Tunisia and Egypt, then Libya and Syria. While these 4 countries are the main focus, Bahrainis have posted the 15 minute "Bahrain Part" (between the Egyptian and Libyan segments)--opening with the strategic importance of Bahrain for the West, and the role of the Saudis, and closing with a chilling justification for brutality against doctors and nurses.

How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring--Episode 1 (Tunisia and Egypt) in 4 segments (15 minutes each)

How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring--Episode 1 (Tunisia and Egypt); Episode 2 (Libya and Syria) (59 minutes each)

How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring--The Bahrain Part (between the Egypt and the Libya parts) (15 minutes)

Please share your general impressions of the role of all forms of cyber technology and social media in the Arab Spring (Summer, Fall), and/ or your impressions specifically of this documentary (or parts thereof).

Related Posts:
See the category Arabia History (ArabiaHistory) in the side bar; search by individual country using the Search function in the side bar; see the relevant Doha Debates categorized in the side bar.

Social media sites helped to spark the protests on 25 January. From the BBC article, "Egypt unrest: Bloggers take campaign to Tahrir Square"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16, 2011 Blog Action Day--World Food Day: From the International to the Personal

Thanks to my participation in last year's Blog Action Day the theme of which was water, "Water: From Many Meanings to One--Life!", I received e-mail notification of this year's, the theme of which is Food, to coincide with the simultaneously occurring World Food Day. At first I was underwhelmed with the topic, since though extremely important, it is one where it is easy to fall into well worn albeit true paradigms like the overabundance of food in some parts of the world and starvation in others. Yet, there are certainly multiple dimensions to food in the global context, and even those paradigms take on new urgency and nuance within the changing circumstances across the globe. Within a short time of reading the list of suggestions for Blog Action Day posts, I had a number of ideas, seemingly constantly reinforced by reading the daily news.

Why Food?

This year Blog Action Day  coincides with World Food Day, a time that focuses the world’s attention on food, something we all have in common.
There is so much to say about food.
We use food to mark times of celebration and sorrow. Lack of access to food causes devastating famines, whilst too much is causing a generation of new health problems. It can cost the world, or be too cheap for farmers to make a living.
The way we companies produce food and drinks can provide important jobs for communities or be completely destructive to habitats and local food producers. Food can give us energy to get through the day or contain ingredients that gives us allergic reactions.
Food can cooked by highly skilled chefs with inventive flair, or mass produced and delivered with speed at the side of road. It can be incredibly healthy or complete junk and bad for your health. It can taste delicious or be a locals only delicacy.
Food is important to our culture, identity and daily sustenance and the team at Blog Action invite you to join us to talk about food.

Some topics suggestions for your Blog Action Day post.
  • My favorite food
  • The famine in East Africa
  • To be organic or not to be, that is the question.
  • Hunger and poverty.
  • Best and worst food memory
  • Slow Food, Fast Food: What does it actually mean
  • Malnutrition
  • Conflict over Food: Will new wars be about arable land?
  • Is your hamburger hurting the environment?
    It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe.
  • Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat eater – Which one are you and why?
  • Trading in the future of food. What is the impact of food speculation?
  • Will we be able to feed 9 billion people in 2050?
  • How does Fair Trade food help farmers and communities get out of poverty?
  • Freeganism  – eating the things others throw away.
  • The scandal of food waste.
  • What is the best way to farm food?
  • Growing your own – the joys and heartache of growing what you eat?
  • Too much or too little taking food to extremes.
  • Strangest thing you have ever eaten.
  • What food means to your culture.

Going through a newspaper, whether in print or online, is itself a revelation of the diverse dimensions of food in the human experience and across cultures, around the physical and human geography of the globe.  Food features in the culinary section (recipes, new trends, new imports), the dining around town section (restaurant openings, reviews, recommendations), the health section (nutrition and health or illness, eating disorders--obesity, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, emotional eating, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and supplements), and in the international, national, and local parts of the news section.

Internationally food has been a major topic in the form of the famine in the East Horn of Africa, radiation concerns of food in and from Japan after the Fukushima disaster, and concerns about poor regulation of food imports from China. Many countries struggle with ongoing problems of poverty and nutrition, exacerbated or modified by more recent events: white poverty in South Africa; flooding in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; the US economic downturn resulting in working and middle class families relying on Food Banks; the ongoing after effects of the January 2010 earthquake on Haiti's chronic 4th world status, etc.

Nationally in Canada, there are recalls of contaminated food products grown or produced within Canada, and warnings about those that are a national issue in the US, as there is considerable importation. Locally, there is concern about legislation of junk food advertising and high availability to school children. Sometimes the local becomes national, as with the Toronto mayor's councilman brother serving as (yet again) a negative example, in his desire to put back/keep junk food machines in schools (the ones he and his mayoral sibling decide to keep open) as a big money maker. Financing education by enabling obesity, malnutrition, and lifelong health harmful habits? Indeed.

From left, Randy Ford, Rob Ford and Doug Ford, at the office of the family company, Deco Labels & Tags. On the wall behind them is a portrait of their father, Doug, who founded the company and served as a Conservative MPP from 1995 to 1999. DAVE RIDER/TORONTO STAR

Even more locally, that is personally, I am still struggling with recovering from an iron deficiency seemingly provoked by being female, demands on body outstripping supply by normally adequate dietary iron, too many tannins (in the form of caffeinated drinks) which wash out iron, to keep functioning through unusual demands on my energy (father's illness and death), and not taking usual occasional mild supplementation as recommended by GP. Though some of this was unavoidable, better self-care and self-awareness would probably have prevented this most annoying and lengthy phenomenon. Physician heal thyself--with the help of  the health care system, and regular visits to the family doctor. Same goes for the rest of you! :D

Related Posts:
Braving Mogadishu to Provide Medical Aid to Somalia: Canadian and Saudi Arabian Teams
Ramadan and the 2011 Somalia Famine: A Great Need for Zakat, Sadaqa, Charity; A Reluctant Response
Tim Hortons to Open in the GCC: A Primer for Neophytes
Fun with Food Art--Foodies and Photographers Do Your Thing!
Cross-Cultural Culinary "Catastrophes": True Confessions of Chez Chiara Readers
Halal French Cuisine: Gastronomic Integration by French Muslims
Saudi Arabia's Needy and Winter--"Warmth": The National Winter Initiative دفء: المبادرة الوطنية للشتاء

See Also:
World Food Day,16 October:"Food prices - from crisis to stability". A post from earlier this month by Saudi blogger Wafa' of My World and More, and Wafa Is Reading who has also done a number of very moving posts on the crisis in the East Horn of Africa.
Hungry in North Korea
Haiti revisited
White Poverty in South Africa
A simple day in the life...
Food Fight: Tomatina festival 2011
Horn of Africa: on the brink of a humanitarian crisis
Japan: three months after the quake
Pakistan: daily life
Haiti, one year later

Specifically on Saudi Arabia See Also:
the other face of saudi Arabia
“Poverty in Saudi Arabia Revisited”
Escaping poverty by suicide is prevalent in Saudi Arabia
تدوينات موسومة 'Poverty in Saudi Arabia'
in Arabic, with video and pictures
Saudi Arabia: Data [Economic] from the World Bank

How would you address any of the topics proposed for Blog Action Day 2011-Food?
Fess up, was your worst food experience one of your own making? :D

*This post was back dated by 5.5 hours to be sure it appeared as October 16, 2011 in its usual time zone.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

George Galloway Eviscerates the "Holocaust Justification" vs Palestinian Statehood (Arabic subtitles لماذا لا يمتلك الفلسطينيين حقاً في الأرض الموعودة؟)

George Galloway leading Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy, London, 2009

After the post, "Obama's Diminution on Palestinian Demand to UN", I was reflecting on the fact that Israel came into existence by a 1947 UN vote (33 for, 13 against, 10 abstentions) on its statehood, after the British handed responsibility for its troublesome mandate--Zionist terrorism against the British, clashing Jewish (Zionist) and Arab nationalisms--to the UN. This fact is neglected in all the talk against Palestine submitting to a UN vote its motion for full (or partial) membership status at the UN. As is the fact that the Arab nations' appeal to the International Court of Justice was also put to a vote, which they also lost.

  In favour
  Switched to in favour
  Not UNO member

The result of the 1947 vote was "UN Resolution 181", United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine (adopted November 29, 1947), which included the United Nations Partition Plan--2 states, one Jewish [a religion, and an ethnicity or race, depending on your definition], the other Arab [an ethnicity or race, depending on your definition] for Palestine, with detailed definitions of their borders. Resolution 181 also included provisions for religious and minority rights, and economic unity between the two states. This plan further provided a non-European state which would receive European Jews displaced during the Holocaust and WWII. Outsourcing one's refugee problem, if you will.

The timeline of this 1947 plan was: November 29, 1947 beginning of UN transitional powers; August 1, 1948-withdrawal of British troops; UN transitional government; October 1, 1948-the 2 independent states established; ongoing UN governance of Jerusalem.

This proposed timeline was interrupted by: the November 30, 1947 beginning of the 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine (between Jewish and Arab forces in Jerusalem while the withdrawing British forces looked on), lasting until the British Mandate ended May 14, 1948; the May 14, 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence announced by David Ben-Gurion; the May 14, 1948 beginning of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War; the 1949 Armistice agreements between Israel and neighbouring Arab countries, which resulted in greater territorial gains for Israel, the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza,the Golan Heights (Syria) and the Sinai Peninsula (now returned to Egypt), and the drawing of armistice lines (the Green Line, modified after the 1967 Six-Day War or Naksah, "setback") since debated as or considered permanent borders.

While I was reflecting on all this, a Saudi friend sent me the video below--much to my delight! I admire George Galloway's stand on and actions for Palestine, and his verbal abilities. I first became aware of this (now former) British MP when he participated in a 2007 Doha Debate. I have followed his (mis-)adventures in attempting to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza despite the Quartet supported Israeli embargo, Canada's refusal of entry to him for a speaking tour because of it (while on his way to speak at the UN, ie with entrance into the USA), and his successful court case against the Canadian Harper government in response.

In the short video below, Galloway politely but persistently undoes the logic of the Holocaust justification for the existence of Israel at the expense of the existence of Palestine, and the sacrifice of the Palestinian people(s).

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Related Posts:
Obama's Diminution on Palestinian Demand to UN
A terrorist by any other name is: a freedom fighter, a liberator, a martyr, a prime minister,... [1946 Zionist Bombing of the British Headquarters at the King David Hotel; Timeline of Palestine for the last 130 years]
An‑Naksah (The Setback) June 5-June 10: The 1967 Pre-Emptive Israeli War on Palestine that Reset Borders
Israel...Boarding...Humanitarian Flotilla...At A Loss For Words--Almost
Rachel Corrie in Israeli Custody--Again: When Does the Occupation End?

Israel Apartheid Week 2010--1-4 weeks focused on Palestine
Canada's Budding Norman Finkelstein; Who is Silencing Her; and Why I am Verklempt

Calling on Obama: Get Tough on Israel--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
The Pro-Israel Lobby: Defending Israel or Stifling Debate including of the Saudi Peace Initiative--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Nuclear Warheads: If Israel, why not Iran, Saudi, the GCC, or MENA? The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Peace in the Middle East: Will Obama Do Any Better?--Doha Debates Chez Chiara

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Turkey: Turning West, or East, or Both?

Geographically, modern Turkey is Eurasian, with its west in the West, ie Europe, and its east in the Middle East. Most of its sits on the region called Anatolia, extending from the Mediterranean Sea past the Black Sea. It borders Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Historically, Anatolia has been Aeolian, Ionian, Armenian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine, all before the Turkic peoples arrived in the 10th century from the eastern steppes. Afterward it was part of Turkic empires notably the Seljuk Empire, then part of the Mongol Empire, until the Ottoman Empire emerged in the 14th century, peaked in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, and then began a long decline until it was fully dismantled by the Treaty of Sèvres (1920).

At its peak, the Ottoman Empire extended well into Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The official religion was Islam, and Ottoman Turkish was a hybrid language of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian written in Arabic script. After its demise, and the reforms of Ataturk, it became a single nation state, officially secular, and a constitutional republic. Turkish, now written in Roman script, is the official language.

Turkey has been in the Western news a lot more than usual in the last few years. First, it was because of its proposed full entry into the EU. This proposal elicited a lot of debate about whether Turkey was part of Europe at all, or part of West Asia/ the Middle East. It also engendered more direct commentary about the "perils" of admitting a Muslim majority country, even a long "modernized", "progressive" one, where laws already existed against women wearing the hijab.

In the last two years Turkey has been in the news for its humanitarian aid to Gaza, which resulted in Israeli attacks and the loss of Turkish life. Earlier this year Turkey was seen as a mediator and a buffer against a negative impact on Western interests of the Arab Spring. However, since the decision by Israel to disculpate its own troops in the international incident against Turkish based humanitarian ships, Turkey has responded against Israel in ways that are unsettling to the West, or at least to the US. There are also economic issues inflaming old rivalries: Turkish exploration for oil and gas near Cypress, and the European Union's economic implosion, making the Middle East seen as a more reliable partner.

The article below raises the spectre of a conservative turn in Turkey, emphasizing external pressures more than the acknowledged internal ones. After all, Mr Erdogan was democratically elected, by a populace who presumably knew of the conservatism attributed to him.

Patrons sit outside a bar in Beyoglu, in the heart of Istanbul, where authorities have banned tables and chairs in the street since mid-July. Charla Jones for The Globe and Mail

Istanbul’s public drinking dispute is bigger than tables and chairs
ISTANBUL— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Oct. 04, 2011 7:57PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 05, 2011 6:08AM EDT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently toured the Middle East, touting his government as a new model of Islamism – progressive, modern and tolerant – for a region at a political crossroads.

That kind of talk drives people crazy in the heart of Istanbul’s Beyoglu nightlife district.

Bar and restaurant owners say thousands of workers have lost their jobs after a decision in July that swept patio tables off the streets, and they speculate that the pious Mr. Erdogan may be trying to hide the most visibly hedonistic side of his country at this sensitive moment of outreach to the Arab world.

“We are turning East, politically and economically,” said Tahir Berrakkarasu, director of a local business association. “Today’s administration is against alcohol, basically, because they think it’s immoral.”

Much of the speculation focuses on a visit by the Prime Minister during a religious holiday this summer, which left the bar owner with the uncomfortable feeling that the patio dispute involved more than the usual bickering over municipal rules.

Istanbul still has a more rollicking bar scene than any Canadian city, and Mr. Erdogan has never admitted a role in the squabbles over its regulation. Tables and chairs in pedestrian walkways technically fall under the mandate of the local mayor. Supporters of the Prime Minister argue that the ruckus over patio tables could not have been linked with his foreign policy, or his religious views, by pointing out that the mayor’s men have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with restaurant owners for years.

Local officials set limits on how much of the sidewalk could serve as a seating area for eating and drinking, and establishments merrily thwarted those rules with a mix of bribery, trickery and brazen disobedience. The municipality’s failure to control the tables spilling into the streets gave the old neighbourhoods of Beyoglu a bohemian charm that attracted an estimated 2.6 million visitors on busy summer weekends.

The Prime Minister himself was among the recent visitors, although he wasn’t stopping for a beer. Witnesses saw a convoy of five or six black sedans roll into the neighbourhood on July 15, part of a three-day religious holiday. It’s rumoured that Mr. Erdogan was marking the occasion with a visit to the Galata Mevlevihanesi, an historic hall founded by Sufi Muslims in 1491.

A bar owner, who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation against his business, said he saw the convoy leaving Beyoglu, slowly creeping down a hill. It was a typical Friday afternoon, he said, with patrons jam-packed at small tables that occupied the entire sidewalk, forcing throngs of pedestrians into the cobblestone street. The scene would have reflected the cosmopolitanism of this urban enclave, with local Muslim girls in short skirts often indistinguishable from tourists.

Somebody who appeared to be a bodyguard poked his head out of one of the black sedans and started screaming at people blocking the convoy’s path, the bar owner said. He cast doubt on a widespread rumour that patrons had lifted their beer and wine glasses to salute the Prime Minister, but added that it may have happened when he wasn’t looking.

If one of Mr. Erdogan’s bodyguards did lose his temper, it wouldn’t have been an isolated incident. A United Nations guard was hospitalized with bruised ribs on Sept. 23 after a fight with the Turkish Prime Minister’s entourage.

Nor would it have been unusual for Mr. Erdogan to make policy spontaneously: Last January, upon seeing a pair of concrete statues built in eastern Turkey in the name of peaceful relations between Turkey and Armenia, the Prime Minister reportedly called the sculpture “a monstrosity” and ordered it destroyed.

Whatever the impetus, municipal authorities scrambled to clear away the patios. A series of raids began on July 20, with swarms of security officers removing tables – at times, locals say, while patrons were eating. The head waiter at one restaurant recalled chasing after the trucks that removed his patio furniture; after long negotiations, he obtained a permit to recover the items from a municipal yard, only to discover that the security forces had smashed them.

A similarly crushing response quelled some of the demonstrations that sprang up against what became known as the “Table Operation.” In Galata Square, a teenager played saxophone while his friends sang protest songs; plainclothes security officers shoved their way into the crowd and arrested the ringleaders, amid scuffles.

A local business group, Beyder, says it has collected 30,000 signatures on a petition against the operation. The group estimates that 2,500 staff have lost their jobs, as the dispute drags into its third month, but a quick resolution seems unlikely.

“The problem is bigger than the tables and chairs,” said Aydin Ali Kalayci, an executive member of Beydar, who runs a popular restaurant. “The problem is that the money is flowing now from the Middle East, so they want to make changes in our society. Time is running out for us.”

More related to this story

* Turkish military ship raises hackles in oil and gas hunt
* Off Cyprus, the hunt for oil and gas threatens to rekindle an old conflict
* Turkey asserting itself on the world stage
* Israel's flotilla raid was ‘cause for war,’ Turkey PM says
* Turkey threatens to send warships to escort future Gaza aid boats
* Turkey backs Palestinian statehood; notifies Israeli diplomats to leave country


Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Mourners chant slogans as they wave Palestinian flags during the funeral ceremony of a Turkish activist who was killed when Israel seized the Gaza-bound 'Freedom Flotilla,' at Beyazit square in Istanbul, Turkey Friday. Murad Sezer/Reuters. From the Christian Monitor article, "Turkey-Israel crisis: Why the formerly obscure IHH is playing a key role". See also In Pictures: The Gaza flotilla and the aftermath of the Israeli naval raid


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