News: UN calls impact of biofuel on food crisis "criminal"

Jean ZieglerJean Ziegler, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, said the United States and the European Union have taken a "criminal path" by contributing to an explosive rise in global food prices by using food crops to produce biofuels.

Ziegler stated that last year the United States used a third of its corn crop to create biofuels, while the European Union is planning to have 10 percent of its petrol supplied by biofuels. He called for a five-year moratorium on the production of biofuels.

Ziegler also said that speculation on international markets is behind 30 percent of the increase in food prices. (Full)

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that setting aside farmland to produce biofuels like ethanol may be partly to blame for driving up world food prices. "There has been apparently some effect, unintended consequence from the alternative fuels effort". (Full)

Meanwhile President Bush President George Bush confirms he is deeply concerned about high food prices but believes ethanol production is responsible for only a small part of food inflation. "And the truth of the matter is, it's in our national interest that we - our farmers - grow energy, as opposed to us purchasing energy from parts of the world that are unstable or may not like us." (Full) (Ed: Oil first, food second?)

biofuel or food?

More posts on The Road about biofuel and the global food crisis.

Picture courtesy FAO, cartoon courtesy Carlson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Universal Press Syndicate

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News: UN troops smuggled gold, ivory and 'armed Congo rebels'

An 18-month BBC investigation for Panorama has found evidence that:

- Pakistani peacekeepers in the eastern town of Mongbwalu were involved in the illegal trade in gold with the FNI militia (described by Human Rights Watch as "some of the most murderous individuals that operate in eastern Congo"), providing them with weapons to guard the perimeter of the mines.
- The Indians traded gold, bought drugs from the militias and flew a UN helicopter into the Virunga National Park, where they exchanged ammunition for ivory.

A UN investigation concluded that one officer had been responsible for dealing in gold - allowing traders to use UN aircraft to fly into the town, putting them up at the UN base and taking them around the town. But the UN decided that "in the absence of corroborative evidence" its investigators "could not substantiate the allegation" that Pakistani peacekeepers supplied weapons or ammunition to the militia.

It did, however, identify "an individual who seemed to have facilitated gold smuggling".

The BBC allegations were confirmed by militia leaders. UN insiders close to the investigation told the BBC they had been prevented from pursuing their inquiries for political reasons. (Full)

My comments:
This is despicable and a slap in the face of those UN humanitarians who do try to make a difference.
It is not the first time the UN peacekeeping (UNDPKO) troops have been discredited by scandals (see the post Sometimes I am ashamed to work for the UN). A lack of consequent leadership in UNDPKO, a lack of accountability, direct and clear lines of command, proper supervision, proper screening of the troops, justice for those offending the rules, transparent and public auditing... and above all a lack of political will to structurally make a change to avoid similar scandals from happening again and again.

Update May 2: Human Rights Watch claims UN investigators in Congo ignored misconduct (Full)

Via International Aid Workers Today

Picture courtesy Marco Longari (AFP), BBC

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Picture of the day: Drawing from Darfur.


This picture was drawn by a young Chadian boy in a camp for displaced persons in Eastern Chad. His drawing describes the attack on his village by Janjaweed militias from Sudan. On the top left hand corner of the drawing is written ‘ataque village’ (French for ‘attack of the village’). The attackers, wearing military uniforms and on camels are shooting civilians with machine guns and burning their houses. Bullets are coming from all over. Next to each civilian that is shot is the word ‘Morts’ which is the plural of ‘dead’ in French.

More posts on The Road about Darfur.
More "Pictures of the Day" on the Road.

Picture courtesy

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News: The Global Food Crisis Map

Der Spiegel published a good overview of the current food crisis, depicting the raising food prices, and the countries limiting food exports, and where all of this sparked unrest. (click on the picture for a higher resolution)

going hungry der spiegel - small

There are however some "food unrest" locations which were forgotten: Morocco, Philippines, Bangladesh, Jordan, Mexico... Paints an even worse picture.

More articles on the Road about the global food crisis.

Picture courtesy Der Spiegel.

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Picture of the day: Bio-Spill

oil spill

A big stain of palm oil invades the shore of Taganga beach in Colombia after 10 tons of oil was spilled from the production plant of Terlica. Residents complained seeing about the dead fish but the spokesperson of Terlica said the oil is biodegradable and won't harm the environment.

More Pictures of the Day on the Road.

Picture courtesy AFP

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News: The World According to Monsanto: The Horror of Commercial GM Crops.


Reading through all the news about the global food crisis, I lacked one thing: the solution to this problem or even the slightest hint to one.

In many discussion fora and through comments on social bookmarking sites, it was often suggested that genetically modified (GM) crops, said to yield a higher production, and to be more pest-resistant, could mean the solution to world hunger.

I started to search around for more info on genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO), and came across several posts referring to a video called "The World According to Monsanto" by a French independent filmmaker, Marie-Monique Robin.
The movie researches the credibility of (or rather lack thereof) US based Monsanto, one of the biggest chemical companies in the world and the provider of the seed technology for 90 percent of the world’s genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Here is what Greenpeace has to say about the movie, and the company:
The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”.

One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.
Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety.

Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market. Monsanto’s long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects.

Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence.

Monsanto's background
Monsanto was founded in 1901 as a chemical company. Its history is intimately linked to the production and promotion of highly toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange (used as a chemical weapon in the Vietnam war) and PCBs (widespread toxic pollutants).
Robin’s movie reveals that Monsanto already knew about the “systematic toxic effects” of PCBs for decades, but instructed its salespeople to stay silent because, “we can’t afford to lose one dollar.”

More recently Monsanto received a bad reputation for the promotion of growth hormones from GE organisms known as rBGH, which the company sells in the US under the brand name Posilac.
Monsanto claims that Posilac holds, “benefits to consumers”. The reality is that, rBGH growth hormones were banned in Europe and Canada after the authorities found out about the health risks resulting from drinking milk from cows treated with rBGH hormones.

Monsanto's way of "addressing" this problem was to sue the Oakhurst dairy company in the state of Maine (US) - attempting to force them, and other dairies, to stop labelling diary products “rBGH-free” and “rBST-free”.

Global reach, control
Over the last decade, Monsanto aggressively bought up over 50 seed companies around the globe. Seeds are the source of all food. Whoever owns the seeds, owns the food.
The process of genetic engineering allows companies, such as Monsanto, to claim patent rights over seeds. Ninety percent of all GE seeds planted in the world are patented by Monsanto and hence controlled by them. Patents on seeds give companies like Monsanto unprecedented power.

Monsanto prohibits farmers saving patented GE seeds from one crop to replant the next season, an age-old practice. To ensure that farmers do not reuse seeds, Monsanto created its own 'gene police', and encourages farmers to turn in their neighbors.

Even farmers that do not use GE seeds are not safe. According to an investigative report by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) farmers have even been sued for patent infringement after their field was contaminated by pollen or seed from someone else’s GE crop.

But Monsanto’s influence doesn't stop at the US border. “The world according to Monsanto”, documents the devastating impact of Monsanto's malpractices around the world. Among others, it includes the real-life stories of cotton farmers in India that ended up in hopeless debts after using Monsanto genetically engineered (so called Bt) cotton, and of a family in Paraguay, South America whose dreams have turned to nightmares after their farm became surrounded by fields planted with Monsanto’s GE soya.

A much needed expose
Monsanto wouldn’t address these issues on camera for Robin, instead referring to the "Monsanto Pledge" posted on their website (which we debunk here).

The movie was shown for the first time on ARTE TV (in German and French) on Tuesday 11 March. You can order a DVD of it (in English, French and Spanish) here.

I went out to look for the video on the Internet, and came across many dead links. It looks like the video was uploaded to many video and file sharing sites, but later revoked. I did find an upload which had the movie broken down in 12 parts. I show the first one, and the links to the following ones on Youtube.

Update 9-Sept-2010:
I have updated the links again as YouTube keeps on removing the links, so here is...

(after part 1, it will autostart the 2nd).

You can also find the video on BitTorrent

After watching the video, I hope you will agree with me that commercially modified GM or GE crops are not the solution to world hunger nor the current food crisis, but probably the cause for much more damage than we can expect. Certainly when left in the hands of large corporations like Monsanto, and without proper government regulation and monitoring for the sake of profit.
I would say there are ways (either through natural selection or through gene manipulation) where we can change seeds to an extend they produce healthier plants and products, but then we should have different goals and means in mind:
  • the purpose would be to help in the battle against world hunger, and towards a cleaner environment;
  • the second generation of the seeds should be fertile, and free to use in the conventional way to increase the permanent independence of small farmers on the seed providers;
  • the price should be regulated versus the standard seeds;
  • proper and independent verification of the impact and risks on humans, plants and animals should be done by a panel of experts. The monitoring data should be made available for public scrutiny;
  • there should be no intellectual property rights on the seeds;
  • there should be no random hybrid offspring possible between natural and GM crops;
  • ... any more ideas?

If you are in Europe, you can join Greenpeace's action against the introduction of the current commercial GM crops in Europe, by writing a postcard to Mr Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for the Environment.

Picture courtesy Greenpeace

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News: Like a Perfect Storm, the Global Food Crisis Now Heads For Canada, US.

stacks of food at Costco

Since several months, I have been reporting on the food crisis sparking hunger and riots in different parts of the globe.

Like in a perfect storm, different factors contributed to a disaster scenario: increased fuel prices, an artificial push for biofuel crops, adverse weather phenomena, changing food habits, increased demand and financial speculation on the futures markets (see this summary)

As expected, the storm first hit the poorest countries, where food constitutes easily 40% of a family's budget. But now the bad weather has reached closer to home: the US and Canada.

While the first news articles only started to appear one or two days ago, and the symptoms are still scattered and early to detect, it does ring an alarm bell. An overview of what I have picked up so far:

In the US, rationing of some food commodities seems to be just around the corner:

- At the Costco in San Francisco, rice is all the rage. Not long after the 10 a.m. opening on Apr. 24, the warehouse was well on its way to selling out the day's supply of Thai jasmine rice. Within an hour, customers cleared three pallets loaded with 50-lb. bags of Super Lucky Elephant brand jasmine rice from Thailand. (More)

- In a dramatic development for U.S. consumers this month, shoppers and Asian and Indian restaurant owners started panic-buying two of the highest-premium varieties of rice—Thai jasmine and Indian basmati. That led many grocers to run out of the rice, and warehouse clubs including Costco and Sam's Club imposed limits on how much rice shoppers can buy. (More)

- The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is restricting sales of rice. Sam's Club, Wal-Mart's cash-and-carry division, says customers can buy a maximum of four bags per visit. The prices of soybeans, corn and wheat have also soared and are currently near their all-time peaks.(More)

- The owner of one restaurant in Oakland told a local television station that the price of a typical sack of rice had risen from $20 to $40 in a matter of weeks. A Vietnamese restaurant owner said his stockpiles were dwindling - and that the price of some vegetables had also risen by as much as 50%. (More)

- Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks. An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. (More)

- "It's fascinating; I don't recall anything like this in modern food-retailing and supermarket history in the U.S.," said Benjamin Senauer, co-director of the University of Minnesota's Food Industry Center. "You have to go back to World War II to see this." (More)

- Ken Jarosch, president of the Chicago Area Retail Bakers Association and owner of a bakery in Elk Grove Village, said white rye flour, used to make rye, pumpernickel and marble bread, is in short supply, as is gluten flour, a binding ingredient. (More)

In Canada, news bulletins headlines shout "Food panic hits Canadian stores" and "Food inflation the 'monster' around Canada's corner":

- Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers Association of Canada said he was getting calls in British Columbia that store shelves were being emptied of rice by panicked buyers. (More)

- Maple Leaf Foods Inc., one of Canada's largest food processors, reported a loss on Thursday due to soaring costs for grain used in its bakeries and hog barns. (More)

- David Wilkes, a spokesperson for The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, couldn't say how much Canadians can expect to see prices jump on grain staples such as rice and flour, he said the prices will begin to steadily climb. "I do believe that these changes are with us to stay." (More)

- Soaring fuel and grain prices have some economic researchers warning of catastrophic food inflation and political unrest within a year, the likes of which hasn't been seen in Canada since the 1970s. (More)

- However, rising food and energy costs will push overall inflation to more than double the March rate by next year, Toronto-based CIBC World Markets Inc. predicted in its most recent quarterly forecast. (More)

- "Canadians aren't experiencing the same price hikes as the rest of the world. Having said that, it is coming," said David Wilkes, the council's senior vice-president of trade and development. (More)

More articles on the Road about the global food crisis.

Picture courtesy Justin Sullivan (Getty)

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Picture of the day: Pakistan food queues

Islamabad food queues

People queueing for food at the entrance of a shop near Islamabad. The cost of food and fuel increased significantly in Pakistan, forcing more and more people to turn to public aid.

Check for more "Pictures of the Day" and other posts about the global food crisis on The Road.

Picture courtesy AP/Morenatti, Source: Le Figaro

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News: Louis Vuitton Sues Darfur Fundraiser

The Paris based fashion house Louis Vuitton has filed charges against Nadia Plesner, a Dutch 26 year old student artist for selling posters and t-shirts of a Darfur victim, holding a designer bag inspired by a Louis Vuitton design. All of the profits were going to charity.

Nadia said: “I started this campaign because of the distorted way the media prioritizes between big and small world news. How can Paris Hilton make more front covers than the genocide in Darfur? So, I “pimped” a victim, to see if it worked. And it did!”

Louis Vuitton now demands $7,500 (5,000 Euro) for each day she continues to sell Simple Life products, $7,500 for each day their letter is published on the website and $7,500 a day for using the name “Louis Vuitton” on her website. In addition they want her to pay their lawyer costs and $15,000 to cover other expenses they have incurred in protecting their ‘intellectual property’. (Full)

More posts on The Road about Darfur.

Source: Torrent Freak
Picture courtesy
Nadia Plesner.

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News: When Green Goes Commercial: Bio-Corn Fuels Gulf of Mexico's "Dead Zone"

Satellite image of the northern Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi Delta showing deoxygenated (hypoxic) coastal water (light blue).

"Dead zones" are areas in the world's oceans where marine life can not be supported due to depleted oxygen levels. Fish can flee potential Underwater video frame of the sea floor in the Western Baltic covered with dead or dying crabs, fish and clams killed by oxygen depletion.suffocation by migrating to other areas, but they are often quickly rendered unconscious and die. Even if they survive studies show a decrease in size of reproductive organs causing low egg counts and lack of spawning. Slow moving bottom-dwelling creatures like clams, lobsters and oysters are unable to escape. All colonial animals are extinguished. (More)

In other words: a "dead zone" is a vicious circle turning an ocean into a desert, incapable of supporting any marine life.

Map showing the concentration of dead zones in the GulfThe most notorious dead zone is a 22,126 square kilometer (8,543 square mile) region in the Gulf of Mexico, the size of the State of New Jersey. The area has about doubled in size since scientists began studying it in 1985, a good enough reason to be alarmed.

Where fertilizer run-off meets the oceanOne of the main causes of the Gulf's dead zone is the Mississippi River's dumping of high-nutrient runoff from the heart of U.S. agribusiness: the Midwest.

The principle is very simple: Agricultural fertilizer byproducts like nitrogen are running off farms into the Mississippi River, which then spills out into the Gulf of Mexico. While those chemicals help feed crops on land, the run-off builds up in the still, warm waters of the Gulf, feeding an excess growth of algae. When algae dies and decomposes, the process sucks much of the oxygen out of the water.
A sea without oxygen is little different from the surface of the moon — nothing can live there. Fish and other sea life flee, or suffocate. That creates the Gulf's dead zone.

Research in 2004 showed the Gulf's dead zone was getting smaller (More), but this hopeful cycle has now been reversed: Last year's nitrogen-fed algae bloom was the third largest in history.

The sudden expansion of the Gulf's Dead Zone is related to a recent peak in the nitrogen run-off, due to an increased use of fertilizers in the Mid West. Why was there a sudden increased use of fertilizers? After all, men has grown crops in the Mid West for decades...

Well, farmers plant increasing amounts of corn, a crop that requires heavy fertilizer, to meet the not only the growing global demand for grain but mainly to meet the demand for ethanol, a mainly corn-based biofuel. (More)

Fish starvation in the Gulf of Mexico due to hypoxiaAccording to a separate study published by University of British Columbia and University of Wisconsin researchers in the Proceedings of the National Journal of Sciences, corn based ethanol production is directly linked to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. If farmers produced enough corn to meet the congressional goal of producing 15 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, nitrogen runoff into the Gulf would increase by 10% to 19%, further expanding the Gulf's dead zone. (More)

It would be a poor trade off if we killed the seas to fuel our cars.

For more information, check out this Powerpoint presentation.

More posts on The Road about biofuel, pollution, global warming and the environment.

Pictures courtesy NASA, NOAA, Uwe Kils (GFDL),, Hans Paerl (University of North Carolina), AP.
Slide presentation courtesy Dianne Lindstedt (

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Picture of the day: World Malaria Day

world malaria day

Indian flood victims suffering from malaria lie on hospital beds in Alindra (India) after the 2004 floods. Malaria kills 1 million people every year. Today is World Malaria Day. (Full)

More "Pictures of the Day" on the Road.

Picture courtesy Amit Dave/Reuters

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News: When Green Goes Commercial: The Waste of Biofuel Production

biofuel slush

Biofuel is all about blue skies and clean water, a world with less pollution. An ideal like so many, which turns foul when the commercial world gets hold of it. Once the chase for profit comes primary, even the cleanest biofuel turns out to be a culprit to nature.

When the Black Warrior River in Alabama got covered with an oily, fetid substance, the source of the pollution was traced to the Alabama Biodiesel Corporation plant, the state's biodiesel plant, a refinery turning soybean oil into earth-friendly fuel. The spills, resembling Italian salad dressing, were 450 times higher than permit levels allow and are similar to others that have come from biofuel plants in the Midwest.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, a trade group, biodiesel is nontoxic, biodegradable and suitable for sensitive environments, but scientists say that position understates its potential environmental impact: As with most organic materials, oil and glycerin deplete the oxygen content of water very quickly, and that will suffocate fish and other organisms. And for birds, a vegetable oil spill is just as deadly as a crude oil spill.

Proof of the matter: in the summer of 2006, a Cargill biodiesel plant in Iowa Falls improperly disposed of 135,000 gallons of liquid oil and grease, which ran into a stream killing hundreds of fish.

Iowa leads the US's biofuel production, with 42 ethanol and biodiesel refineries in production and 18 more plants under construction. The US biodiesel plants doubled in numbers over the span of a year: from 90 plants in 2006 to 160 plants in 2007. (Full)

Bird in the Exxon Valdez spillTo put things into perspective:
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster off the coast of Alaska spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil. If one biodiesel plant - like the Iowa Falls plant - is able to dispose 135,000 gallons of waste, the current US biofuel plants have a "capacity" to release 21,600,000 gallons, having potentially at least twice the impact of the Exxon Valdez disaster. On a repetitive basis...
The potential impact: The Exxon Valdez spill covered 11,000 square miles (28,000 km²) of ocean, killing an estimate of 250,000-500,000 seabirds. Almost twenty years later, 26,000 gallons of crude oil remain in the sandy soil of the contaminated Alaska shoreline, declining at a rate of less than 4% per year. (Source)

Without proper legislation regulating the pollution caused by the biofuel plants, biofuel will do more harm than good.

More posts on The Road about biofuel, pollution, global warming and the environment.

Thanks to Elizabeth for the link.
Pictures courtesy Nelson Brooke (New York Times) and

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News: The Pentagon's dirty media war.

Pentagon Embedded in the Media (Video)

Journalists were (and still are) embedded in the US military forces in Iraq. But it was also the other way round: the Pentagon proves to be far more embedded in the US media than the public was to know.

How one thing lead to another: In spring 2006, several retired US generals started to speak up against the -then- US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the Iraq war, calling for his resignation. In a desperate counteroffensive, the Pentagon called in the support of its "media embedded army" of military retirees hired by the US media as "analysts". This was done in such a flagrant way ignoring any sense for honesty and decency, that a number of the so-called analysts spoke up and opened up an even bigger can of worms:
They revealed just how much the Pentagon had a grip on the media, where retirees eating out of the Rumsfeld's hand repeatedly used US government issued talking points as their own "expert" opinion, adding direct credibility to misinformation the Pentagon was spreading. (Full article)

You have to see this New York Times video, which baffled me.

This all reminds me of what I wrote in this post: "Even if you feel helpless in the power of people whose un-true intentions are obvious to you, trust that bad luck will turn against them, one day..."

Picture courtesy New York Times

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News: High fuel price makes planes fly slower

Despite a hike in fuel prices, Brussels Airlines decided not to increase its fuel tax, but rather to slow its Avro planes by about 10km/h (from Mach 0.7 to Mach 0.69) on European routes. This would cut its annual fuel bill by 1 million euros ($1.6m), adding an average minute or two to flight times. (Ed: Flying to Rome, that does not matter, as minimum waiting time for luggage at Fiumicino airport is one hour anyway...)

Other measures taken are to use lighter seat covers (saving 50 kg per flight), and to monitor the amount of water taken onboard to flush the toilet. They are also considering taking out all of the ashtrays, which are unused anyway. (Full article in English or in Dutch)

More posts on the Road about Brussels Airlines, flying and Belgium.
Picture courtesy

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Picture of the day: Old uses New facilities

Rome parade

This weekend, Rome celebrated the anniversary of its legendary foundation. The step back in history did not extend to the toilet facilities used by the parading Roman soldiers.. ;-)

Picture courtesy AP/BBC. Thanks to "E" (not that one, but the other "E") for the link!

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Rumble: Help! I am Paypal-ing! Help!

Last Saturday I had a problem with my Paypal account. Someone had sent me money, but Paypal did not allow me to accept the transfer for one reason or the other.

Here is the factual exchange of Emails so far, in which I blanked the sensitive data.

April 19. Message from [name client] via the Paypal website

Subject: personal account: did not reach receiving limit, yet paypal tells me it does

I recently received a payment of £###, and when 'accepting' this payment, Paypal states I have reached my monthly limit of $1000, which is not correct. Please check -

Thank you.

April 20: Email from Paypal to [name client]

Dear [name client],

Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns. I am happy to assist you further.

Mr. [name client], I have reviewed your account but I can not find any receiving limits on your account. Please inform us where and how we have told you that you have reached your receiving limits.

Please let me know if you need further assistance.

PayPal, an eBay Company

April 20: Email from [name client] to Paypal
Attachment: error message screen dump

Dear Jasper,

I do not see any reason for a receiving limit. However, when I log into my paypal account, I can see a payment for me, pending acceptance:

“Payment From [name] [amount]GBP [date] Unclaimed”

When I click on "accept", I get a screen (screen dump attached) stating: [paste of error message]
I have not reached that limit, so it seems i can not accept this payment...

Could you please have a look.

Thank you.


April 20: Email from Paypal to [name client]

Dear [name client],

Thanks for contacting PayPal. I appreciate the opportunity to assist you
with your questions.

Unfortunately, the email address that you have written to us from is not a confirmed email address within our system. In order to protect the security and integrity of your account information, it is our policy to only send information specific to your account to an email address that is confirmed on your PayPal account. To answer your query, please follow the steps below and we will be happy to assist you.

[step details]

April 21: Email from [name client] to Paypal
Attachment: error message screen dump

Dear Jesper,

answering this now from a different Email account. This one *is* registered with Paypal.

OK, here is where we stand:

1/ I received a payment Payment From [name] £[amount] GBP [date] Apr. Unclaimed

2/ When accepting the payment, your system gave me an error message:
"Accept Credit or Debit Card Payments: You can accept $1000 USD monthly and up to 2 credit or debit card payments annually with a Personal account. You've reached your limit and should upgrade to Premier account to accept more payments."
See also attached screen shot.

3/ The only way I could accept the amount was to upgrade to a Premier account.


April 22 Email from Paypal to [name client]
Dear [name client],

Thanks for contacting PayPal. I appreciate the opportunity to assist you with your questions.
With a Personal PayPal account you can only receive a certain amount of money on your PayPal account. If you receive more then you will be asked by the system to upgrade to either a Premier or a Business PayPal account.

Please let me know if you need further assistance.


April 22: Email from [name client] to Paypal:

Dear Zohir, Jasper, Adil or Josephine,

You have NOT read my message. Please read my message containing an error report, and answer appropriately.

Let me give you a hint: I did *not* reach the monthly receiving limit, as I did not receive anything yet that month.

Thank you.

A customer in need of support and not in need of a
'I-will-now-try-to-shuff- you-off-as-i-have-thousands-of-these-to-answer emails'

April 22: Email from [name client] to Paypal:

Dear Zohir, Jasper, Adil, Josephine, or Sandra

Have you actually looked at my account and at the transaction?

Hint: the transaction number I refer to is [refnr] for the amount of [amount] pounds. The transaction type is “Instant”, NOT credit card.

I hope you will send me an answer which is based on actuals, and not a pre-cooked support cut and paste

Thank you.

Peter Casier
A customer in need of support, and not in need of a
'I-will-now-try-to-shuff- you-off-as-i-have-thousands-of-these-to-answer emails'

April 22: Email from Paypal to [name client]
(in Dutch, translated here)

Dear [name client],

On 04/20/2008 I answered an email regarding your Paypal account. As part of Paypal’s promise to provide excellent service, I would like to know if I helped you adequately during our conversation (ed: we never spoke). Do you have a few minutes to answer the following questions so I can know how I performed?

[http link]

After filling in the 5th page in the customer satisfaction poll:

There has been a problem displaying your survey. This may have happened for various reasons, including: etc etc etc.

Oh well..

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News: Zimbabwe's Mugabe not letting go without a fight?

Zimbabwe's president Mugaba, demanded a recount of the recent voting, in the hope the apparent victory of the opposition could be overturned.

"Just in case", three days after the Zimbabwean elections, the paperwork for a shipment of Chinese weapons aboard the vessel "An Yue Jiang", was finalised in Beijing. The ship docked in Durban, South Africa a few days ago.
The RSA High Court ruled the cargo could be offloaded in the Durban port, but it could not pass over South Africa roads to get to Zimbabwe. Durban's dockworkers however said they would not handle the cargo, fearing the arms would be used by the Zimbabwean government against its own people.
In the mean time, the An Yue Jiang left Durban, and is now enroute to Luanda, Angola. (Full)

Update April 24th:
The shipment on the "An Yue Jiang" contained three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes according to copies of the inventory published by a South African newspaper. (Full)
More on April 24th: In a sign of the growing international pressure on Mugabe, China said a shipment of arms for the country was being recalled after South African workers refused to unload the vessel and other regional countries barred it from their ports. (Full)

Due to these logistical problems, and to avoid more press visibility, a second shipment of Chinese weaponry destined for Zimbabwe will be transported by plane from China to Harare within the next week. (Full)

Meanwhile Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and African leaders to intervene in his country's post-election crisis, saying the military were terrorizing the people. (Full)

More posts on The Road about Zimbabwe

Picture courtesy AP/BBC

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Picture of the day: Escaping Zimbabwe

escaping zimbabwe

A Zimbabwean woman with her child on her back crawls under the razor wire marking the border with South Africa.
One thousand people are fleeing Zimbabe per day in search of food and safety.

Source: Human Wave Flees Violence in Zimbabwe (New York Times)
Picture courtesy Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

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News: Russia - Elections rigged. Zimbabwe - Elections to be rigged.

From Russia with fraud.
Ahead of last month's presidential election in Russia there was widespread suspicion the poll was fixed in advance. Last week, physicist and computer expert Sergei Shpilkin posted his analysis of the official results, showing some strange anamolies: a disproportionate number of polling stations returned round numbers - numbers ending in a zero or a five - for both voter turnout and Medvedev's percentage share.
His conclusion: local election officials had been told in advance what percentages to "deliver" for Medvedev, Putin's handpicked successor, and for how many people needed to "vote". (Full)

Zimbabwe's Mugabe follows the 2000 Florida example:
"Recount until we get what we want!"
Zimbabwe’s election officials, at the government’s behest, began a partial recount on Saturday of the disputed presidential election results, while a human rights group accused members of the ruling party of running “torture camps” to punish opposition supporters.
Opposition leaders went to court on Friday to try to block the recount, arguing the government had not applied for it within 48 hours of the vote, as prescribed by law. It comes as no surprise they lost their case. (Full
Let's make a prediction, shall we? Hmmmm, we are predicting [wet finger in the air], hmmmm... Mugabe will win after the recount. Wanna bet?

Pictures courtesy AFP/Getty and

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Rumble: Living in Italy - Part 3: Coffee


It would be hard to think of Italy without coffee. "Caffè" (with the accent on the last part and with the 'è' pronounced as in the English "head") is part of the national heritage, much like the Colosseum or Pisa's tower.
Italy is home to a range of coffee drinks which took the rest of the world by storm. Without Italy, Starbucks or Second Cup probably would not exist.
Without coffee, Italy would grind to a halt. A day can not start without coffee, and a good meal often ends with it. Many companies have their own inhouse coffee bar including waiters and all. So just to make sure you understand: The Italians do take their "Caffè" seriously.

The coffee culture arrived from the Middle East via Istanbul to Venice, in the 1570's. Coffee would remain a luxury and mostly medicinal drink until the 17th century saw the opening of the first European coffeehouse in Venice. This new fashion statement quickly spawned over two hundred other similar establishments along the Venetian canals and into the major cities of Italy.

Brewing coffee at home
While in many parts of the world, we perculate coffee (pouring hot water onto the grind), in Italian homes the Mama's use a "Moka" (or caffettiera). Coffee is put into a grind holder (needs to be full, right "E"? - That is not "E" but the "other E", ha!) which fits onto the part holding the water. After the top is screwed onto it, the whole is put on a stove. As the water starts boiling, steam from the bottom is forced through the grind into the top part. Work of a genius, this is.

Commercial espresso machines
Once we found an original espresso machine in Venice: a large complicated copper and brass complex set of boiler and pipes which works in principle the same as the caffettiera.
The modern version of the espresso machine has gone through a number of changes. Lately, it has all kinds of sensors and computing power combined with the "steam engine" to ensure the water holds the right pressure and temperature. Technology in function of traditions aside, it does feel strange to see espresso machines with digital displays on it.

Italian coffee etiquette
In most places in the world, you would go and take a table in a coffee bar, and patiently wait... to be waited upon. This is not the habit in Italy. Most people here drink their coffee standing at the bar on their way to work. Tables are mostly used in the weekends, when you go and have your coffee with the family. In most busy coffee bars you need to pay for your coffee at the cashier before proceeding to the bar to show your receipt before ordering. This confuses tourists who queue up at the bar before paying. I have seen many an American turned back direction of the cashier after queueing up politely for five minutes.

Once the barman holds you in favour as you showed your receipt, to order an espresso in Italy, you simply ask for a "caffe". You drink it as it is hot, in two or three sips at most.

It is a habit, no, more a culture, strong: a religion, in Italy, not to drink any coffee with milk in it after breakfast. Cappuccino or Caffe Latte orders after 11 am are often laughed at or joked with.
While coffee bar tenders in the big cities will frown when you order a Caffe Latte in the afternoon, and exchange a glance of "Ah, tourists!" with the people standing at the bar, they will still serve you - all be it - reluctantly.

In restaurants, though, you might get occasions where the waiter will simply not serve you a coffee with milk in the afternoon or evening. The more remote the place, the more "mama and papa"-type the restaurant, the more chance of getting accused for "sacrilege", turning that 'friendly hospitable waiter' into a rude tiran who wants nothing better than to see your backside as you walk out of the restaurant, while all you wanted was a "Cappuccino".

In Italy even just the evil thought of "coffee with milk" is an eternal sin, equal to ask for Parmiggiano cheese to go on your Spaghetti Con Vongole, but more on that later.

Oh, and before I forget: "Coffee to go" is a "no go" in Italy. No such thing as serving coffee in a foam cup with a lid a la Starbucks...
If you ask for a "Caffe Via", the best you will get is a coffee in a plastic cup, which often melts in your hands as you walk out of the establishment.
Just to give you how foreign the idea of "coffee to go" is in Italy: Laura, my neighbour owns the coffee shop below my appartment. The kids once went to get a "Caffe Latte Via" for Tine, and Laura tried to accommodate them the best she could: She rinced a small plastic fruit juice bottle, poured the "Caffe Latte Via" into it, and put the lid on it.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee. Which is your vice?
A handful of Italian coffee servings:
  • Caffe: Is known as "espresso" in other countries. This is the "normal serving" of coffee in Italy. Caffe, served in a small cup, is strong in taste with a rich bronze froth known as a crema on top.
  • Caffe Ristretto (or "Ristretto", "Stretto"): More concentrated than a regular espresso, as it is made with less water.
  • Caffe Lungo (or "Lungo"): An Espresso with more water – opposite a Ristretto. Often referred to as Caffe Americano, not to be mistaken with perculated coffee, which is typically how Americans (and many others for that matter) normally take their coffee.
  • Caffe Macchiato ("Macchiato" in short): Espresso "marked" with a dollop of steamed milk on top.
  • Caffe Corretto ("Corretto"): Espresso with cognac, grappa, or sambuca liquor.
  • Cappuccino (or "Cappuccio"): Espresso partially steamed and foamed milk.
  • Cappuccino Chiaro: Cappuccino prepared with more milk (but less than a caffe latte) and is lighter in color.
  • Caffe Latte: Espresso made with more milk than a cappuccino but only a small amount of foam. In Italy this is the usually a breakfast drink.
  • Latte Macchiato: Steamed milk with a small "dot" of espresso coffee.
  • Caffe Freddo: iced coffee
  • Caffe Hag (or "Caffe Decaffinato"): decaffeinated coffee
  • Caffe Marocchino: Espresso with a bit of hot milk and cacao powder.
  • Granita di caffè (con panna): Frozen, iced similar to a slush, with ice shavings make it authentic, often "con panna" (with whipped cream)
  • Caffe d'Orzo: barley coffee, a non-caffeine coffee substitute (not actually coffee)
  • Caffe Shakerato: An iced and sweetened espresso drink, call it a "Coffee Shake".
Coffee Adjectives:
  • Scuro: (e.g. Cappuccino scuro or Caffe Latte scuro) Cappuccino prepared with less milk and is a darker color.
  • Doppio: (e.g. Caffe Doppio, Caffe Latte Doppio) serving with a double shot of espresso.
  • Senza Schiuma: (e.g: Caffe Latte Senza Schiuma) is served with no foam.
  • Bollente: (e.g. Cappucino Bollente) extra heated refers to the milk in the coffee and not to the temperature of the coffee itself.
So what is my thing, my "Caffe"?
In the morning, I drink a "Caffe Latte Doppio Scuro", at noon it is time for a "Caffe Lungo Macchiato", and after-dinner, a simple "Caffe" goes down well.

turkish coffee shop

More posts on "The Road" about Living in Italy

Pictures courtesy, Text inspired by,

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Rumble: Living in Italy - Part 2: Italian Breakfast


What is a typical Italian breakfast? People pass by a coffee shop on the road to work, and get a coffee and a cornetto (croissant). Not necessarily the healthiest of breakfasts, but it surely tastes good.

More posts on the Road about Living in Italy.

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Rumble: Breaking news - Winter is over!

Fregene 20-april

Fregene-Italy (Breaking News): Winter is over!
It is 10 am and I am sitting in shorts, T-shirt and sandals in the sun on the terrace of the coffee shop below my apartment. The sun stings and the sky is as blue as a sky can get. This is the moment many of us have been waiting for, after the moody weather we had in Italy in the past months. Gone are the memories of rain, wind and dark loaded clouds.

And by coincidence (there are no coincidences in life), our favourite spot in Fregene, Singita on Miracle Beach, is opening after their winter break. What more proof does one need to have that winter is over!


Picture courtesy Matteo Cocco

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News: Italian court: "Women can lie to hide an affair.."

Italy's highest appeal court ruled that married women who commit adultery are entitled to lie about it to protect their honour.
The court gave its landmark ruling after hearing the case of a 48-year-old woman, convicted of giving a false testimony to the police by denying she had lent her mobile phone to her lover.

The appeal court did not agree that she had broken the law. It said bending the truth was justified to conceal extra-marital relationships. (Full)

More post about Italy on the Road to the Horizon.

Picture courtesy

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News: US school book: "Global warming will avoid high heating bills"...

Friends of the Earth is calling via an email campaign on one of the US largest textbook publishers to correct a school book containing a discussion of global warming "so biased and misleading it would humble a tobacco industry PR man."

"American Government", 11th edition is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and approved for use in high school Advanced Placement courses in the United States. On page 559, the textbook's authors write that "it is a foolish politician who today opposes environmentalism. And that creates a problem, because not all environmental issues are equally deserving of support. Take the case of global warming. (..) On the one hand, a warmer globe will cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal communities; on the other hand, greater warmth will make it easier and cheaper to grow crops and avoid high heating bills." (Full)

Whether or not global warming is a proven scientific fact (see this post), I can not imagine what a simplistic mind would even think of putting this in a student's text book.

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Songs for me - Leaving on a Jet Plane

sunset in Brindisi with trails of planes

All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standing here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

But the dawn is breaking
It’s early morning
The taxi’s waiting
He’s blowing his horn
Already I’m so lonesome
I could die…

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go

cause I’m leaving on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go.

On several occasions, I have told you music plays an important part of my life. Music picks me up when down, makes me float when on a high, calms me down when enerved and inspires me when too deflated for any inspiration. Music pumps me up when low on energy, soothes me when sad.

Many individual memories are linked to music. Hearing a certain song brings back the image, scent, vibe and mood of a certain event or period. I can be talking with people, and just like a remote perfume of a person walking by, a few seconds of a song can snap me out of the discussion, out of the present, and just have me float on the feeling of that memory for a few minutes… Gone are discussions, or conversations, or anything in the present. This is the moment where my partners in conversation think I am nuts. These are the moments where I completely loose my way, while driving, dreaming with a song on the radio, while ending up in quarters of town previously unknown.

“E” brought “Leaving on a Jet Plane” back into my memory. Not the original by John Denver, but the remake by Chantal Kreviazuk (listen to the song) which was also the title song for the movie Armageddon in 1998.
This song was always there, in my mind, with memories hidden behind a wall of time. Once hearing Chantal Kreviazuk’s version, scents of memories picked over… It took a while until I had all of the pieces of memory:

- When I was 20, I hitchhiked through France and Spain. I crossed the Pyrenees via Andorra. I bought my first walkman there, with a few music tapes. John Denver’s Greatest Hits was one of the tapes, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was one of the songs. (and yes, mum, this was the summer of the two girls in the one hotel room in Benidorm. But I never confessed the whole story!)
- I saw Armageddon for the first time on an Air France plane, crossing the Atlantic on the way to Honduras for the Hurricane Mitch emergency. That was the first mission, and the proof of concept of the UN fast intervention team we had just started then.
And Armageddon shone through Liv Tyler, with a face and above all a shape of hands that.. anyway..
- “Leaving on a Jet Plane…” has a special meaning for me, as I lead a life where I am often leaving on a Jet Plane, leaving loved ones behind. Close the door, close my heart, and climb the steps into a plane. Sit down, buckle up, close my eyes and just get on with it. Knowing I can not stay, but hate to leave. Knowing I love, but have to feel the missing too, otherwise I stop appreciating, knowing that love is the only thing that keeps me going.

Liv Tyler

Picture Liv Tyler courtesy

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Rumble: Lunch at the beach


This is the view from the restaurant, where we had lunch yesterday. It lays right at the rocky beach in Brindisi, built at the end of the airport runway, next to the yacht harbour, and facing the sea. It stands by itself, just in the middle of nowhere... No frails, only sober tables and plastic chairs in a square room, with an overall Balkan's feel to it.

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Rumble: Just a building....

brindisi building

I am back in Brindisi for a few days. Stayed an extra day as I can think much clearer while not sitting in a crowded office in our Rome headquarters, allows me to take a distance and re-evaluate some of the stuff we work on...

Despite the fact it is still pretty cold for the time of the year (and certainly at 7:30 in the morning), I had my morning coffee and cornetto outside, on a terrace. I was looking at the building in the picture.

Nothing extraordinary. Just a building, out of the thousands in Brindisi, probably millions similar ones in Italy. Just a window, of just a house, in just a street, of just a town. And yet, that image, at that moment, grabbed me.
I know, when that happens to me, it means something.. It is a sign on the road of life. I sat back, with my coffee and cornetto, at 7:30 in the morning, and let my mind run free for a while.
Different thoughts came up:

- It is strange how there is beauty in ordinary things... This is just a window, just a wall, and yet the colours, shades are so beautiful.
- there is more to life than only work... Let's just sit here and enjoy this view for a moment.
- We do not enjoy life enough. We do not enjoy the moment enough. We don't see enough the beauty of simple things around us. And how much beauty there is in simple things. Things we normally just walk past, and don't even notice...
- And my practical mind. The physical work environment often defines how people work. We lack - chronically lack - space at work, so we start to face issues mainly due to lack of proper work space, which creates disfunctional communications. It is my task as a manager to ensure the proper work space is created.

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News: Global Warming: Global Scam or not?


Before you read this post, a disclaimer: I firmly believe we are grossly raping the environment and make only minimal progress to protect and respect the earth as the soil for our children. Punto. (as they say in Italian: Full stop!).

Last year, "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal," concluded a report by 600 scientists from governments, academia, green groups and businesses in 40 countries. Worse, there was now at least a 90 percent likelihood that the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels is causing longer droughts, more flood-causing downpours and worse heat waves, way up from earlier studies.

For the first time, "Global Warming" was no longer the "Inconvenient Truth". It became "The Mainstream Truth".

And forgive me, but when something becomes mainstream, and certainly when "Green goes Commercial" and "carbon credits" become one of the most profitable investments (covered amongst others in this post), I just *have* to question it, even if the Non-Global-Warmers are all accused of being paid by bad-bad-baaad companies, I want to listen to their arguments.

Sooo, for the sake of "listening to the other side", eat this:
Lawrence Solomon published "The Deniers", a book listing "The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so".

Here are some leading "deniers":

Dr. Edward Wegman – former chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Sciences demolishes the famous "hockey stick" graph that launched the global warming panic.

Dr. David Bromwich – president of the International Commission on Polar Meteorology – says "it's hard to see a global-warming signal from the mainland of Antarctica right now."

Prof. Paul Reiter – Chief of Insects and Infectious Diseases at the famed Pasteur Institute – says "no major scientist with any long record in this field" accepts Al Gore's claim that global warming spreads mosquito-borne diseases.

Prof. Hendrik Tennekes – director of research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute – states "there exists no sound theoretical framework for climate predictability studies" used for global warming forecasts.

Dr. Christopher Landsea – past chairman of the American Meteorological Society's Committee on Tropical Meteorology and Tropical Cyclones – says "there are no known scientific studies that show a conclusive physical link between global warming and observed hurricane frequency and intensity."

Dr. Antonino Zichichi – one of the world's foremost physicists, former president of the European Physical Society, who discovered nuclear antimatter – calls global warming models "incoherent and invalid."

Dr. Zbigniew Jaworowski – world-renowned expert on the ancient ice cores used in climate research – says the U.N. "based its global-warming hypothesis on arbitrary assumptions and these assumptions, it is now clear, are false."

Prof. Freeman Dyson – one of the world's most eminent physicists says the models used to justify global-warming alarmism are "full of fudge factors" and "do not begin to describe the real world." (Full)

Interested in global warming? Check out my other posts about global warming or environment issues.

Cartoon courtesy The Blue State and Cagle Cartoons. Picture courtesy Whittier College.

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News: Berlusconi - Part III.

Last weekend, I wrote about Italian politics, as the first part of the series "Living in Italy", predicting ex-premier and current-billionaire politician Berlusconi would win. And he did.

Berlusconi's block takes 47% of the vote, compared with 38% for Mr Veltroni's centre-left, in both the Senate and the lower Chamber of Deputies. That translates into a 101-seat lead in the Chamber, and a 38-seat advantage in the Senate. (Full)

This means two things:
One- the political spectrum has shifted solidly to the right.
Secondly- last weekend's balloting wiped out the small parties. This might have been good as it eliminated the need for the governing party to make a fragile coalitions with several small parties. The latter haunted Italy's infamously unstable politics for 60 years as they had the power to make, break and paralyze the governing coalition.

I am saying "this might have been a good thing", as on one hand, a more solid step towards a two party deal, could bring more political stability. If only it was run by a "decent politician"..

garbage naples

Anyway. One thing caught my eye: In post-elections campaigning, Mr B announced "I will be in Naples three days a week" to solve the garbage crisis which left piles of stinking rubbish uncollected since December, due to incompetent governance and interests of the Comorra, the Mafia's local variant.
And today the Italian newspapers headlettered "Major Camorra sweep, 52 arrested" in Naples... A convenient coincidence?

Pictures courtesy CBC, Chris Warde-Jones, Bloomberg and Time magazine.

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Rumble: Working from home

I was working from home yesterday… Too crowded in the office. And it was such a nice day.. Worked from a table, facing the windows.

And with a view like this, what could go wrong? No wonder I got much more work done than when I work from the office. The setting in which I work, defines my productivity.

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Rumble: Stop the Clash of Civilizations.

The video is made by, a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. The aim of is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decisions.
Because the public opinion is the most powerful tool.

Thanks to "E" for the link.

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News: Sudan - From the 1994 famine to five years of Darfur. What is the solution?

This photo by Kevin Carter won the “Pulitzer Prize” in 1994 and became a symbol of the Sudan famine at the time. The picture depicts stricken girl crawling towards an United Nations camp, located a kilometer away. The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat her.
This picture shocked the whole world. No one -including the photographer- knows what happened to the child.

Here is the story behind the picture:

In 1993 Carter headed north of the border with [his colleague] Silva to photograph the rebel movement in famine-stricken Sudan. To make the trip, Carter had taken a leave from the Weekly Mail and borrowed money for the air fare. Immediately after their plane ) touched down in the village of Ayod, Carter began snapping photos of famine victims. Seeking relief from the sight of masses of people starving to death, he wandered into the open bush. He heard a soft, high-pitched whimpering and saw a tiny girl trying to make her way to the feeding center. As he crouched to photograph her, a vulture landed in view. Careful not to disturb the bird, he positioned himself for the best possible image. He would later say he waited about 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle. Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried. "He was depressed afterward," Silva recalls. "He kept saying he wanted to hug his daughter." (Full story)

Three months later Kevin Carter committed suicide.

This was Sudan in 1994. We are now 2008. Five years into Sudan's Darfur conflict. The humanitarian situation is just as desperate. Maybe with less famine, but with just as much despair, as I wrote in several posts about Darfur over the past year.

Many, including celebrities like George Clooney (watch his video diary), Mia Farrow (Pictures and video), Angelina Jolie (Articles), Steven Spielberg (Article) and others have done efforts to raise the awareness over the problems in Darfur.

There are groupings like the "Save Darfur Coalition", an alliance of over 180 advocacy and humanitarian organizations representing 130 million people, and the Darfur Genocide movement. Amesty International created Eyes on Darfur.

Numerous fundraising websites (like The Darfur Wall), campaigning, video advocacy and education , awareness sites and Online Info Centers were created.

Musicians made songs like Living Darfur. And there is even a game (Darfur is Dying) created to advocate the Darfur issues.

Public pressure was raised against the countries in alliance with the Sudan government, focusing lately on China and its hosting of the Olympics.

Athletes, normal citizens, students, food lovers and bloggers on a global and a local level united to raise awareness and increase pressure on the Sudanese government.

You can buy items online through Yahoo! to show your support and you can even see how each US legislator scores on his or her support for Darfur.

Many governments responded with pressure on Sudan and several UN resolutions condemned the Darfur genocide (Overview).

The African Union sent troops, and UN Peacekeepers were deployed, eventually merging into one, called UNAMID.

And still, despite all of this, peace talks have failed to get off the ground, the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission will not be fully deployed for months to come, and two-thirds of Darfur's population is dependent on the world's largest aid operation.

"The situation is not better than it was five years ago," says Auriol Miller, head of Oxfam in Sudan. "We would still say the situation is getting worse. Humanitarian workers are being targeted and attacked (see this post) in a way that has got increasingly worse over the last few years."

A BBC reporter recently wrote:

"When I last visited the remote, arid region in November, destitute refugees lined up at the Abu Shouk camp, desperate to tell their stories so the world could find out what had happened to them.

They spoke of toddlers being burnt alive in villages as men on horseback razed their houses to the ground; of women being raped as they fled their homes looking for safety in the early stages of the conflict.

At night, people said they still found it hard to sleep - terrified of being killed while in their beds. (Full)

So, if everything else fails, what helps? What is the solution for Darfur? What is the solution for Sudan?

Darfur refugees

More posts on The Road, about Darfur and Sudan.

Pictures courtesy and WFP.
What set me thinking: Iqbal Latif

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News: The world in pictures: Food Riots

In case you think the raising food prices are not really a problem... Here are the pictures from just the last few weeks:

food riots haiti
Food riots in Haiti

food protests mexico
Food protests in Mexico

food riots india
Food riots in India

food protest argentina
Food riots in Argentina

food riots egypt
Food riots in Egypt

food riots mozambique
Food riots in Mozambique

food riots bangladesh
Food riots in Bangladesh

Philippines Protest
Food protest in the Philippines

Pictures courtesy AFP, Reuters, Daniel Garcia (AFP-Getty Images), Al Jazeera, BBC.

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