News: Drinking and driving... I mean flying (hic).

Civil aviation rules specify that pilots and cabin crew cannot consume alcohol 12 hours before taking a flight.

A flight operated by private airline Jetlite to the central Indian city of Patna was grounded after the pilot was found to be drunk.
Around 50 pilots are grounded each year because they had consumed alcohol before taking a flight, according to India's civil aviation authorities.

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), a body controlling airline operations in India, said dozens of pilots are found to have consumed alcohol during routine pre-medical tests every year. (Full)

More posts on The Road about flying

Picture courtesy

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News: Pilots fell asleep on Air India

An Air India flight headed for Mumbai from Dubai overshot its destination and was halfway to Goa before its dozing pilots were woken out of a deep slumber by air traffic control.

The high altitude nap took place approximately two weeks ago. Some 100 passengers were on board the state-run flight that originated from Dubai and flew to the western Indian city of Jaipur before heading south to Mumbai when both pilots fell asleep, a source told the paper.

The plane flew to Mumbai on autopilot, but when air traffic there tried to help the aircraft land, the plane ignored their instructions and carried on at full speed towards Goa. (Full)

More posts on The Road about flying

Picture courtesy

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News: Afghanistan's poor. The Brick Maker.

A simple and down to earth video about life in Afghanistan, featuring the brick makers in the vicinity of Kabul.

More articles on the Road about Afghanistan.

Video via The Real News

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News: Iraq no longer news-worthy...

Here is some news: Iraq is no longer news-worthy for US media.

News about the 1 million killed, and the 5 million displaced Iraqis, are not worth more than two minutes per week on US television....

More articles on the Road about Iraq.

Video via The Real News

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News: Richard Gere driving from Hollywood to Tibet. Fiat ad upsets China.

This month, The Road we have Italy in the spotlight. Italy as in "the place I live in", as in "the place I love", but also as in "the place that makes me chuckle".
Here is an example why:

Italian car maker Fiat apologised to China for a television commercial starring US actor Richard Gere. Fiat acknowledged it "could disturb the sensibility of the Chinese people".

The ad shows Gere, a long-time supporter of the Tibetan Independence Movement, drive the group's new Lancia Delta model from Hollywood to Tibet, where he and a child dressed as a Buddhist monk plunge their hands into fresh snow.

The slogan that runs with the ad is "The power to be different".

The Italian car maker stressed that its advertising had "never been driven by or based on political choices or by a desire to interfere with the internal political system of any country, especially the People's Republic of China".

More posts on The Road about Italy.

Video via

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Picture of the day: Ethiopia in food crisis - once more

ethiopia hunger

A relative carries the body of four-year-old Michu Mohamed who died of malnutrition near Sheshemene, southern Ethiopia.

Recent crop failures, drought conditions and the current high price of food have plunged Ethiopia into another food crisis, reminiscent of the famines of 1984-85 which killed over 1 million. People have become so desperate for food, they are eating their next harvest's seeds. 4.5 million Ethiopians are in need right now. (Full)

More Pictures of the Day on The Road.

Picture courtesy Radu Sigheti (REUTERS)

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News: In case you still doubt the Iraq war was pre-planned

The full 2004 CBS "60 Minutes" interview of Paul O'Neil (the former Secretary Of Treasury) and reporter Ron Suskind discussing Bush's politics.

Specifically interesting is the mention of "the Commander in Chief" asking his National Security Council to "find a way" to invade Iraq during their first meeting in January 2001. That is 8 months before 9/11.

More articles on the Road about Iraq.

Video via

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News: Italian royals forgot one thing: they lost their kingdom 62 years ago.

Victor_Emmanuel meeting Garibaldi

I am living in Italy, so forgive me for continuing with the series of "odd Italian news":

Italy has been a republic since 62 years. But still the (ex-)royal family is battling for the right to be called "the head of the country's royal family".

Prince Victor Emmanuel (70) has ruled over the House of Savoy since the death of his father, Umberto II, in 1983. His cousin Amedeo (63) the Fifth Duke D'Aosta, strenuously maintains it is he, not Victor Emmanuel, who is the true heir to the defunct monarchy.

Last summer, Amedeo declared that he had changed his name to Savoy and would assume power. However, his attempt to seize control will be fiercely fought by Victor Emmanuel in a closed hearing at a court in Arezzo at an undisclosed date this month.

Amedeo believes his cousin gave up the right to call himself Umberto II's heir when he married a Swiss biscuit heiress and champion water-skier without his father's permission in 1971.

The quarrel between the two men has raged for several years. Three years ago, Victor Emmanuel punched Amedeo twice in the face during a dinner given by King Juan Carlos I of Spain. (Full)

More posts on The Road about Italy.

Picture courtesy Wikipedia

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News: US-sponsored Middle East TV station reaps little success

US propaganda

Al-Hurra, or "The Free One" in Arabic, is what US media call "the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East".

$350 million and four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world where it has struggled to attract viewers and to "overcome skepticism about its mission". [ed: ahum]
It has also been embarrassed by journalistic blunders. One news anchor greeted the station's predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, "Jesus is risen today!"
Al-Hurra also covered a December 2006 Holocaust-denial conference in Iran and aired an unedited hour-long speech by the leader of Hezbollah. (Full)

Source: The Road Daily
Cartoon courtesy

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Rumble: Sexism sells but we're not buying it.

"From the reporter’s desk to the executive suite, men are overwhelmingly the ones making the decision about what we see in the media." (Women's Media Center)

Thanks to Liz for the link.

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News: June 20 - World Refugee Day

School pupils look at a representation of a Darfur village supposedly destroyed during the war, in central London's Trafalgar Square, build by UNHCR as part of global commemorations of World Refugee Day later this week

Tents, sacks of food and a replica of a burnt-out village hut appeared in Trafalgar Square today as a tourist hotspot became a refugee camp to highlight the plight of millions of people displaced in Darfur and elsewhere.
The display, set up to mark World Refugee Day this week, came as the U.N. refugee agency reported a record 11.4 million people were driven from their home countries last year.

In its annual report released Tuesday, the UNHCR said 11.4 million people were forced to leave their countries in 2007, compared to 9.9 million in 2006. Another 26 million were displaced within their own countries by conflict or persecution, up from 24.2 million the year before.
Nearly half the world's refugees are from war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq.

UNHCR said there are 3.1 million displaced Afghans, most in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, and 2.3 million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan. Another 2.4 million Iraqis are internally displaced, an increase of 600,000 since the start of 2007.

The number of internally displaced people grew last year in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Yemen, as well as in the Central African Republic and Chad, where thousands of refugees have crossed the border from the Sudanese region of Darfur. (Full)

Picture courtesy Lefteris Pitarakis (AP Photo)

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News: Palestine - 60 years on...

Palestinians fleeing their homes in Jaffa (1948)

It has been 60 years since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes and property as a result of the 1948 hostilities. Those Palestinians have remained refugees until today.

The unresolved question of Palestine continues to prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their inalienable rights, namely the right to self determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced. (Full)

Read the untold stories by individual people, people like you and me, which were effected by the events, now 60 years ago.

Picture courtesy UNRWA

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News: Italian dentist "will work for intimate favours"


Continuing with our series of odd Italian news:

A dentist in the northern Italian city of Genoa is offering his services on the Internet in exchange for sex.

"Dentist, 40, offers free dental care of the highest order to attractive and laid-back single or married women who know how to make the most of their qualities," says the ad posted by Driver5000cc on the bulletin board.

A journalist from a local paper replied to the ad and secretly filmed a meeting in a bar. She learned he had only had one reply so far. (Full)

More posts on The Road about Italy.

Picture courtesy Tricks and Illusions

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News: Italian couple "caught" during morning mass.

In our series of "odd Italian news":

An Italian couple who were caught having sex in a church confessional box while morning Mass have repented and made peace with the local bishop.

The couple, in their early 30s, were detained by police earlier this month after being caught making love in the confessional box in the cathedral of northern Cesena. They were cautioned for obscene acts in public and disturbing a religious function.

Their lawyer said they had been drinking all night and realized they had gone too far. The couple met with the local bishop and asked for his forgiveness.

Last week the bishop celebrated a "Mass of reparation" in the cathedral where the confessional box incident took place to make up for the sacrilege. (Full)

[Ed: I guess the couple took the church's "Message of Love" too literal.]

More posts on The Road about Italy.

Picture courtesy The Candle Locker

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News: Court rules Italian Carabinieri can not have affairs


Italy's Carabinieri policemen can't have extramarital affairs because they besmirch the honour of the corps, Italy's highest appeals court ruled today.

Upholding a four-month jail term for a Carabiniere who threatened a superior officer after being told to break off a relationship, the Cassation Court said the officer's order was "legitimate".

It said Carabinieri, like other members of the Italian military, were duty bound to "show in all circumstances exemplary conduct which safeguards the prestige of the armed forces". (Full)

Read more on The Road about Italy

Picture courtesy Pensieri e Parole by Simone

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News: Venezuela: ‘Capitalism behind biggest food crisis known’

Venezuela, along with Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia, criticised the final declaration of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Summit in Rome on June 5, arguing that the document failed to identify the true causes of rising food prices, such as agricultural subsidies and unequal trade policies imposed by developed countries.

Venezuelan ambassador to the FAO, Gladys Urbaneja Duran, objected to the document saying it lacked a “genuine humanitarian spirit” and aimed to present world hunger as merely a circumstantial crisis, when in reality it reflects a structural problem linked to the capitalist system and its mode of production and consumption.

Urbaneja rejected the position of the US delegation, which claimed the reason for the current food crisis was rapidly increasing demand from India and China, stating “The main reason is that food has been turned into yet another object of market speculation.”

According to FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, between $11 billion and $12 billion a year is spent on agricultural subsidies and restrictive tariff policies. In the absence of “clear commitments”, the Venezuelan delegate feared that the final declaration could become a “significant setback.”

“We missed an opportunity to take a firm and clear step in the struggle against the scourge of hunger”, Urbaneja concluded. (Full)

More posts on The Road about The Global Food Crisis

Source: The Road Daily
Picture courtesy
Handicap International, A.Sutton

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News: Iraq: Largest war profiteering ever (BBC)

Iraq war addiction

A BBC investigation estimates around US$23bn may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

The BBC's Panorama programme has used US and Iraqi government sources to research how much some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding.

A US gagging order applying to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies, prevents any discussion of the allegations.

Henry Waxman, who chairs the House committee on oversight and government reform, said: "The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, it's egregious. "It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."

As an example, in the run-up to the invasion, one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth $7bn that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president. Unusually only Halliburton got to bid - and won.

The BBC aired the programme on Panorama. The video was posted on Google Video, but later removed. (Full)

More articles on the Road about Iraq.

Cartoon courtesy People's Geography

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News: No WMD in Iraq? No problem, the US will use its own...

fallujah bombing

Babies born in Fallujah (Iraq) are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say. The new cases, and the number of deaths among children, have risen after "special weaponry" was used in the two massive bombing campaigns in Fallujah in 2004.

After denying at first, the Pentagon admitted in November 2005 that white phosphorous, a restricted incendiary weapon, was used a year earlier in Fallujah. In addition, depleted uranium (DU) munitions, which contain low-level radioactive waste, were used heavily in Fallujah.
The Pentagon admits to having used 1,200 tonnes of DU in Iraq thus far. Many doctors believe "DU" to be the cause of a severe increase in the incidence of cancer in Iraq, as well as among U.S. veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War and through the current occupation. (More)

Pictures of babies deformed after the parents' exposure to ammunition using Depleted Uranium can be found here. WARNING: the pictures are very graphic.

The use of White Phosphorus in Iraq is the second part of this hot debate. White Phosporus is not listed in the schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention, as it can be "legally" used as a flare to illuminate the battlefield, or to produce smoke to hide troop movements from the enemy. But it becomes a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against people. A chemical weapon can be "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm". (More)

More articles on the Road about Iraq.
Why I feel that strongly about the US invasion in Iraq? Read the short story "M"- Requiem for Baghdad.

Picture courtesy APTN, Pool (AP)

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News: Military takes over Naples garbage

naples waste

Living in Italy, I am always interested in the local news. Not only for the contents, but also to get a feel of how people over here think and live their lives...

I reported in an earlier post about the garbage problem in Naples which left piles of stinking rubbish uncollected since December, due to incompetent governance and interests of the Comorra, the Mafia's local variant.

In January, the army started clearing up the piles of waste. Local waste dumps, however, were not able to handle the amounts of garbage people generated, and train loads of Napolitana trash went all over Europe. Germany is taking 200,000 tonnes of rubbish from Naples. Every day of the week a 56-wagon freight train full of rotting tomatoes and stinking nappies makes its way across the Alps to Hamburg, in northern Germany.

italian army takes over Naples waste managementThat was not a permanent neither a cost efficient solution. In a new phase to the Naples waste saga, the Italian army has now opened up its own waste dump near the city. 2,500 armed soldiers are sent in the further clean up the garbage and control the 'public order'. (Full)

If one would by cynical, the question could be asked: the lack of local waste dumps made "waste management" a lucrative income for the local Mafia. Is the army now found a new potential source of income? Smart move! :-)

More posts on The Road about Italy.

Picture courtesy Ciro de Luca (Reuters) and EPA (Al Jazeera)

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Rumble: Italian soccer and flight delays

watching football at the airport

Yesterday evening, I was flying out of Brindisi, South Italy. After passing airport security, I found a group of people clustered around the window of the airport police's office. I thought something was wrong, and had a look..

Inside the office, the police officers were watching the Italy-Romania soccer match, and a small crowd was following the match through the window, shouting and commenting as if they were in a pub.
At the other end of the departure hall, two other guys had hooked up their laptops to watch the game via internet, drawing a small crowd around them too. I could even hear the luggage handlers next to the departure lounge cheering and shouting as the match went along.

Nobody seemed to mind the plane was late. Not even as the plane handlers were getting out of their office, at the last minute to prepare the flight for take-off. Every passenger understood that in Italy, they had their priorities straight: soccer first, plane later..

Eventually we took off, and when landing in Rome, the passengers did get annoyed though: the car bringing in the chocks to block the aircraft's wheels, was late, so neither the stairs nor the luggage handling equipment could be connected to the plane. Even after the chocks eventually arrived, all plane handlers took their time to engage into a lively discussion about the match, before they opened the plane.

Or would the passengers have been annoyed that in the mean time, the match ended in a 1-1 draw?

More posts on The Road about Italy

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Rumble: Airport confusion

Fiumicino airport

I flew to Brindisi again, this evening. Rome to Brindisi is served by Alitalia ("Always Late In Take-off, Always Late In Arrival") or AirOne ("Air-One, Baggage-Zero"). This evening, I was booked on AirOne (and no, I did not risk to check any baggage in, otherwise I had 75% chance to spend the next day speaking to the lady at the lost luggage counter).

A bus was taking us from the terminal to the plane at Fiumicino airport. The bus zigzagged in-between parked planes, stopping here, and stopping there, until it parked itself next to an empty AirOne plane. Driver got out, talked to some guy next to the plane, who pointed to a Blu-Express plane a bit further on the tarmac. The driver was lost, did not know which plane to drive us to.

The bus drove to the Blu-Express plane. The passengers got off but were confused. "We were supposed to fly AirOne, not Blu-Express. Blu-Express does not fly to Brindisi", they mumbled. Some went up the stairs, came back down, and finally we boarded after it was clear the Blu-Express plane was chartered by AirOne.

It was funny to see. Italy at its best, shining through confusion.

More posts on The Road about Italy.

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Rumble: If you had only one more lecture to give.

"If your time here had come to an end, and you had one more lecture to give, one more message to bring, what would it be?".
Randy Pausch, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, put "The Last Lecture" challenge into practice. The video moved me, and it will move you.

You can follow Randy's moments on his site. The actual full lecture, you find here.

I am saddened to inform you Randy passed away due to the complications of pancreatic cancer on the morning of July 25th 2008, two months after I posted this video (Full). May his story be an inspiration to us all.

Added to "My Inspirational Videos" on The Road

With thanks to Worldman and Pumuckl

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Rumble: Kalidasa, a walk and flowers.


My apartment is part of a several two story houses, clustered together. All apartments are on the first floor, and underneath, there are several small shops.
As of 6:30 am, I hear Laura, my neighbour, opening the coffee bar downstairs. By 7 am, Valentina opens up her newspaper shop, followed by Theresa and her dry cleaning shop half an hour later. Around 11, Antonio and his family open up the restaurant.

For miles around, there are no other shops nor restaurants, so come winter, come summer, come rain, hail or sun, the community congregates around this small area, from early morning to late in the evening.
There is always laughter from children playing in the street, chatter from the people sitting on the terrace, greeting the passers-by "Ciao, caro!" "Come stai, bella?"..

This afternoon, I was sitting on my terrace, reading in the sun, engulfed by the background chit-chattering, kids laughter and the scent of the flowers blooming all around. I went for a gelato, and walked up to the beach, 500m further, and back. The flowers blooming along the road caught my eyes:

flowers around the house

It all reminded me of a Sanskrit poem by Kalidasa, the other "E" once shared with me:

Look to this day, for it is life
The very life of life
In its brief course lie all the realities and truths of existence,
The joy of growth, the spendor of action, the glory of love
For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision
But today well lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope
Look well, therefore, to this day.

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Rumble: Discovering Puglia

As I was in Brindisi two weeks ago, I spent the weekend discovering Puglia, the South-Eastern tip of Italy, driving around the "heel of the Italian boot".

This part of the country, filled with vineyards and olive tree farms is more or less left aside by international tourists, even tough it features an unspoiled nature, sand beaches as well a rocky coastline dotted with cliffs. While in the summer this region must be scorched by the sun, this time of the year, the temperature is just right.

Many parts of Puglia either remind me of the Balkans, or of Greece. Exotic enough to make one dream.

Early morning views in St. Maria de Leuca:


Midday in Gallipoli:


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Rumble: Be the Change You Want to See

"Be the change you want to see" by singer/songwriter Kat Edmonson.
Now added to "My Inspiration Videos" on The Road.

Inspired by Positive Communications

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News: Sandinista priest presides UN General Assembly

Former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann is elected president of the U.N. General Assembly. His bio is more interesting than merely "being a US born Roman Catholic priest".

He backed the revolution in Nicaragua, joining Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega's government as foreign minister, a period sprouting fierce US under cover opposition in the so-called "contra-revolution".

D'Escoto's anti-American past includes successfully taking the US to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for arming Contra rebels and staging a hunger strike against U.S. policy.
In 2004 he told a U.S. news program former President Ronald Reagan was "the butcher of my people" and called President George W. Bush Reagan's "spiritual heir". (Full)

In his acceptance speech, he said "(..) love is what is most needed in this world. Selfishness is what has gotten us into the terrible quagmire in which the world is sinking, almost irreversibly, unless something big happens."
d'Escoto spoke out against what he called "acts of aggression" in Iraq and Afghanistan — without mentioning the US by name: "The behavior of some member states has caused the United Nations to lose credibility as an organization capable of putting an end to war and eradicating extreme poverty from our planet," he said. (Full)

The only thing, I can say is: "Hear, hear!"

Source: The Road Daily
Picture courtesy Isidro Hernandez (La Prensa)

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Picture of the day: Hindering the Hungry

bangladesh boys

Poor Bangladeshi boys share a bowl of rice while in Rome, the world leaders assembled at the UN summit in Rome to find a solution for the food crisis.
The Guardian published a critical look at the summit titled "Hindering the Hungry".

Source: The Other World News
Picture courtesy Rafiqur Rahman (Reuters)

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Rumble: No fish today: Italian fishermen on strike.

port fiumicino

Often, in weekends, I stroll along the port of Fiumicino near Rome, a base for the local fishermen. Today, there was something different: there was no activity by the fishing trawlers, they were on strike.
Banners on the boat said in Italian (and strangely enough, also in Arabic): "High Fuel Prices Kill the Fishery", "High Fuel, On Strike" and "Fuel Prices Kill Us. Only Imported Fish Today."

Fiumicino Fishermen on strike
Fiumicino Fishermen on strike
Fiumicino Fishermen on strike
Fiumicino Fishermen on strike

More posts on The Road about Rome.

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News: Expensive Food, Poor Farmer.

Work in rice paddy

1. The global export food prices have been skyrocketing since months (Post)
2. Combined with the raising fuel prices, it has caused - what is called - "A Global Food Crisis", urged by world leaders to be tackled urgently. (Post)
3. The crisis has sparked the question if the world can produce enough food to feed itself and how we can find ways to increase crop yields. (Post)

Yet, something is wrong with this picture... Take the case of Thailand:

1. 3 billion people worldwide rely on rice as a staple food (Source)
2. Thailand is one of the world's main rice exporters (Source)

thailand export

3. The price of Thai B grade rice, a widely traded variety, reached $795 per ton in April, an increase of 147 percent from a year earlier. Source)

rice price

4. And yet, Thai rice farmers are getting a lower price for their produce, because of the highly successful crop this year (Source), urging the Thai government to bring in a subsidy scheme buying up 2.5 million tons of rice at a higher-than-market price. (Source)

Do you see the disparity?
- The world rice market soars, and yet the Thai rice farmers are getting less and less for their crop. Who picks up the profits of the high world market prices then?
- Even if the world would produce sufficient food to meet the demand, would that cause the food prices to drop? Or are they artificially kept high because of international profiteering on the financial markets?

You might think this is only the case in Thailand, but not so. Even in the US, farmers are complaining they only get 20 cents of every food dollar spent by consumers. Distribution and retailing account for 80 percent of retail prices. No surprise the world's farmers feel bypassed at the UN food summit. (Full)

More articles on The Road about the global food crisis

Graphs courtesy FAO and International Herald Tribune
Picture courtesy Wikipedia

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News: Zimbabwe suspends aid agencies

Zimbabwe's government has indefinitely suspended all field work by aid groups and non-governmental organisations.
The suspension of all field operations by private voluntary organisations (PVOs) and NGOs ordered by Zimbabwe's government comes nearly a week after President Robert Mugabe banned some aid agencies from the country.
One of the largest organisations, Care International, was forbidden to work after being accused of campaigning for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of the presidential election run-off on 27 June. Care has denied the accusation. (Full)

More posts on The Road about Zimbabwe.

Source: The Road Daily
Picture courtesy

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News: Food crisis: Who will win the battle for fertile land?


In The Global Food Crisis - A Perfect Storm, I outlined some causes of the global food crisis. One of them was the struggle for arable land, either through the increase 'need for food' to feed the increasing world population, and the decrease of available land through climate change and desertification.

Already several years ago, the "food crisis" alarm bells started ringing fearing the world is running out of fertile land.
Back in 2005, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison combined satellite images with agricultural data from every country in the world to create detailed maps of global land use. The maps showed roughly 40% of our planet was used for either growing crops or grazing cattle. By comparison, only 7% of the world's land was being used for agriculture in 1700. The research indicates that there is now little room for further agricultural expansion. (Full)

Amplified by the current food crisis, food-deficit countries (countries that can not produce sufficient food for their own production), are now looking beyond their borders for fertile or arable land, so they can grow their own crops abroad:

China has been eying leasing land in Russia (Full), and buying in Africa, Latin America, Cuba and Australia (Full)

Also Libya - eye-ing land in the Ukraine - and Saudi Arabia are scouting for arable land. (Full)

The United Arab Emirates is preparing to launch a large-scale agricultural project in Sudan to develop more than 70,000 acres of land to secure food supplies. Sudan has about 100 million acres of arable land, of which only 20 million is being ­utilised. (Full). Somewhere that begs to wonder why Sudan is still so dependent on food aid, but that is another question...

Makes you wonder if fertile land will soon become a precious commodity. My prediction is that soon, international land brokers will play on this market, fueled by the food crisis, and the prices of foreign fertile land will spiral up.

Somewhere I look at this with argus eyes: at what point will poorer countries give up their own land -and their own food production- for the short term cash gain in sales or leases of the little fertile land they have, to the decrement of their own food security?

Who - in the end - will be the winners and who will be the loosers in this battle for fertile land?

More articles on The Road about the global food crisis

Source: The Road Daily

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News: Cost of solving the food crisis: $30 billion/year.

food crisis

"Resolving the global food crisis could cost as much as $30 billion a year and wealthier nations are doing little to help the developing world face the problem", UN officials said at the Food Summit in Rome.

Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), opened the summit by sharply criticizing wealthy nations cutting back on agriculture programs for the world's poor and ignoring deforestation — while spending billions on carbon markets, subsidies for farmers and biofuel production.

"The developing countries did in fact forge policies, strategies and programs that — if they had received appropriate funding — would have given us world food security," Diouf, said, adding that international community finally began to mobilize to help after images of food riots and starvation emerged in the media. He said there had been plenty of meetings on the need for anti-hunger programs and agricultural development in poor nations in the last decade but not enough money to make them a reality. (Full)

More figures were slammed at the Food Summit:
$20 billion/year: cost of over-consumption by obese people in the world
$100 billion/year: indirect costs resulting from premature deaths and associated diseases, related to obesity.
$1.2 trillion: the world's spending on weapons in 2006
from $8 billion/year to $3.4 billion/year: the drop of aid in agriculture between 1984 and 2004. (Full)

It looks to me the food crisis is heading more and more towards a confrontation of North and South, Rich Nations and Poor nations. The world has a number of critical decisions to make if it wants not only to feed the hungry, but also wants to end hunger and poverty. Something it has tried to do in vain for the past half century...

More posts on The Road about the food crisis.

Picture courtesy Pedro Ugarte (AFP)

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News: Dunkin' Donuts, a scarf and extremism.

Only in America... On May 7, Dunkin’ Donuts began running an ad, featuring local celebrity chef Rachael Ray wearing a black-and-white fringed scarf.

The ad has now been revoked due to protest that Ms. Ray’s scarf resembled "to the type typically worn by Muslim extremists". (Full)

Apart from thinking "Only in America!", the whole story truly saddens me. Even if the scarf was a keffiyeh, the traditional scarf of Arab men, then why does this have to be automatically associated with extremism, or seen as a symbol of support to terrorism? Is this a sign of the depth of the world's polarization into Arab and non-Arab, Muslim and non-Muslim?

I have lived in Dubai for five years. I don't think I ever lived in a more tolerant society with respect for other cultures, religions and opinions. Far more tolerant than back home in Belgium, and certainly far more than the US. Sometimes I am ashamed on behalf of us, Westerners.

Picture courtesy

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