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Tag Archives: Social Responsibility Interest Section

From May 16th to 20th several thousand people in Australia will be trying to see if they can get by on $2 a day. For students it shouldn’t be too difficult as we are often on the financial fringes of society.

Sign up with Live Below The Line! i’ll be signing up and following from a distance as a distance ed student. This should be interesting. You’ll have to forgo those ridiculously expensive cups of joe at “Fivebucks”.  Have fun.


The blood on the streets of Egyptian cities isn’t even dry yet the naysayers and doubting Thomases are already coming out of the wormwood. What Khalaf Al Habtoor’s op-ed piece in today’s Gulf News lacks in accuracy it gains in paranoid delusions.

Al Habtoor initially praises the “young, educated” people who started the ball rolling by calling for a public demonstration on January 25th. He fails to mention that Asmaa Mahfouz, the vlogger who originally posted the call to rise up, is currently under virtual house arrest having been warned that if she goes out she’ll be taken by security services. He also does not discuss that Wael Ghonim, the blogger who started the We are all Khaled Said facebook page, is currently being detained by secret police at and undisclosed location and is presumably being tortured.

Al Habtoor correctly states that Mubarak has “maintained stability” but he does not detail at what cost: hundreds, if not thousands, of political dissenters imprisoned; rampant corruption and a hugh disparity in income distribution. The climate for foreign investment he “cultivated” is one which investors knew they only had to pay a 20% cut to the powers that be.  Al Habtoor disingenuously claims that Mubarak wasn’t aware that those around him were enriching themselves. This is laughable. Recent conservative estimates put the value of his family’s wealth in land, investments and cash at over US$40 billion held in offshore holdings and secret accounts.

While he does detail the recent evidence of lawlessness in Egypt, Al Habtoor does not properly accredit it to Mubarak, a dictator clinging to power with the only tools he knows: police brutality and overt violence directed at peaceful demonstrators. That Mubarak withdrew police off the streets and simultaneously emptying four prisons is indisputable. At the same time bands of thugs (many with police identification or poor people who admitted to being paid the equivalent of US$75 by NDP party hacks) came on the scene and chaos erupted. This was not a coincidence.

It is also not a coincidence that the military were brought in once the police had been beaten off the streets. Unfortunately for Mubarak they lacked the stomach to do the dirty work that he wanted them to do. After several days of watching the protests, however, they effectively turned a blind eye and deaf ear on the NDP thugs and secret police who tried, once more, to defeat the citizens of Egypt and silence the journalists there to record history in the making.  This resulted in the over 48 hours of unparalleled bloodshed on the streets on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

Ridiculously Al Habtoor states that Mubarak “immediately responded to protestors demands”.  Either Al Habtoor has problems with short-term memory or he wasn’t watching events on the ground in Egypt over the past 13 days. Mubarak only spoke to the Egyptian people from the secure confines of his Presidential Palace on the morning of Day 5 of the popular uprising. By then the initial demands were a thing of the past. Having endured days of attacks by thousands state security police, countless rounds of tear-gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition the ante had been seriously upped: the Egyptian people demanded his immediate ouster. Al Habtoor claims Mubarak has fulfilled their demands. This simply is not the case. Changing one crew of thugs for another is hardly the sweeping constitutional and legal change that Egyptians are demanding. They want basics freedoms and dignity: the rights to assemble, freely associate and elect a democratically representative government. Under the current one party state and constitution they get no such guarantees.

Al Habtoor claims the youth uprising has been hijacked. He fails to flesh out his accusation with any names or substantiation. He insinuates that Islamic fundamentalists will be out to suborn what ever democracy comes out of the revolution. He states that the Muslim Brotherhood should be excluded from the political equation. He fails to realize that in a democracy everyone is equal: everyone has one vote. Halas.

Tellingly, Al Habtoor calls the ignition of democratic ideals in the MENA region a “contagion” and warns of it spreading. He then uses the royal “we” when discussing what he does and doesn’t want. One can’t be sure who he is referring to but it’s probably himself and the rest of the well heeled board members of the Al Habtoor Group since his essay was originally posted on his company’s website the day before being published in the Gulf News. i’m sure the spreading of democracy in the region’s collection of paternalist autocracies shakes the very foundations of their privileged positions.

At the end of the day what matters is not what Al Habtoor wants but what the people of Egypt want or don’t want. It is patently obvious that they want a new constitution, one that allows fundamental freedoms recorded in the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. The current Egyptian constitution needs to be torn up and a new one written. It is also patently obvious the Egyptian people do not want Mubarak. A return to stability will be best engendered by Mubarak’s immediate departure to one of his posh properties elsewhere in the world.

i was just contacted by a former colleague who asked why i hadn’t posted anything about the situation in the MENA region. This is my response:

Hi P,

the problem with blogging about it; state agencies can target you if you do:  

i know that in Syria and Iran the state has used blog and social media postings to target activists. So i’m trying to keep a bit of a low profile. i track my twitter feed and feel overwhelmed. 

security here is Oman is up: yesterday, for the first time ever i’ve seen, armed soldiers with fully automatic weapons in the guard towers around the Sultan’s farm that i cycle past every day… i wave and flash the peace sign, they wave back.
things are happening bizarrely quickly and won’t happen here or there in the UAE, count on it.
In Oman the Sultan is genuinely revered. In his 40 years in power, since he told his father to stay home, he’s single handedly brought Oman from a 3 primary school state to a nation which now has universal primary and secondary education. There are several public and private universities which Ss are able to attend many on full govt scholarships. About the only thing i hear Ss complain about is internet access: how expensive it is; how slow it is; and how VOIP services like Skype and Gtalk are all blocked. i’ve been trying to teach them how to use the internet to improve their writing and teaching skills and it’s been an uphill battle as getting a steady internet connection on campus is a daily struggle.
In the UAE, Emiratis make up only about 20% of the population; all the expats, from the lowly paid labourers to the fat-cat expat executives are all there for the pay check. They’re not about to rock the boat.  And virtually every Emirati family has at least one family member earning a fat government salary and perks like a free house when they marry another Emirati so they don’t have anything to gain by tipping over the canoe either.
Things i do know about what is currently happening in Egypt:
It is not Islamist in nature; the Muslim Brotherhood came to the party late and have been shouted down by crowds when they try and get people chanting their slogans. So the crap on Fox News by O’Reilly is a total paranoid appeal aimed at getting the rednecks in the Ozarks scared about the Islamic boogyman.
The looting, featured in western media reports: much of it is being carried out by “thugs” police officers dressed as civilians (who first attacked protesters) and prisoners released from prisons yesterday to sow chaos. People are defending themselves and their neighbourhoods with the help of some honest police and military.
The people that have the most to worry about by events in Egypt are the Israelis. If the protesters succeed the status quo that has kept the population of Gaza bottled up will be gone. It will be a whole new ball game.
What will happen next? As i write this it is apparent that the protesters are settling in for the duration, if need be. A general strike has been called and is happening; the Cairo Stock Exchange has been closed indefinitely. Men are taking the night shift, manning road blocks, protecting museums and neighbourhoods and in the public squares. Women have decided they will take the day shift while their men rest. Women are an integral part of this popular uprising, they want a real future for their children.
the best view of what’s happening i’ve read is by an Egyptian twitter friend:
i’ve a couple of colleagues living and working in Cairo and haven’t been able to get in touch with them since the internet was cut there. i hope and pray they are ok.
interesting that many of Egypt’s fat cats fled to Dubai yesterday. i can imagine the parking lot at the end of the runway is now crowded with their private jets.
i’ll leave you with this video:
stay well
pax et amare,
On 30 January 2011 08:30, P wrote: 

Hi Rob,
i just checked your blog to see what you’ve to say about recent events in Egypt.  I was disappointed not to read a well articulated analysis.  K says you’ve been following events closely.  Hope you’re well,

In 1985 i shared a house on the SMK Lawas, Sarawak school compound with a Buddhist colleague. During that year i was a vegetarian save for the occasional FishHead Curry when ever Swee Hiang scored a spare fish head from the school’s kitchen.  At the end of that year i went into the interior, to Ba’Kelalan to celebrate Christmas. On Christmas day they were serving a communal dinner in the SIB (Borneo Evangelical Church) church in the kampung and a big feature was 5 cm cubes of pork fat (kinda like the Inuit eating beluga fat). i just could not manage the cubes of pork fat…

Fast forward to Christmas 2009 when Santa left a copy of J.S. Foer’s EATING ANIMALS under our Christmas tree in Ajman. i read it over 3 weeks. It then took Kim more than 3 months to read. She’d read a page or a paragraph and have to put it down. While she was reading it we discussed our diet and about the idea of changing it. At the same time, January 2010 we became members of PETA and watched the video on the horrors of being a Kentucky Fried frier. Prior to viewing that video i’d buy KFC once a year when travelling. Quick and convenient but, now i know unspeakably cruel. So a year ago i determined i would never darken the doors of a KFC again.

Once Kim had finished reading Foer’s book we decided to become vegetarian. Becoming vegan isn’t an option as Kim’s lupus means she does need some forms of animal protein so we still eat eggs and dairy products. The transition was fairly smooth; we didn’t eat all that much meat anyway in the normal course of a week. Once the decision was reached we just stopped buying meat and slowly emptied our freezer.

Going back to Kuching for the summer was interesting.  Our new diet causing a bit of a stir amongst our friends who wondered what they could serve us for meals when they invited us over. And Kim’s dad’s idea of vegetarian cooking did not preclude sneaking in minced pork or prawns… We actually managed to order a totally vegetarian meal at the Sarawak Club when we hosted a meal for friends and family. Took a parley with the chef but it was successful and even Kim’s mum said it was OK.  We also discovered a delightful vegetarian stall in one of Kuching’s food courts that serves up vegie versions of all the trad hawker food treats like quay teow and laksa so we were in vegie heaven.

do i miss eating meat? Yes and no. Christmas minus the turkey was novel but then so were the pumpkin and mushroom in sage potpies that we served up as the alternative. They were scrumptious. i guess i miss not cooking the traditional Quebecois fare of Tortiere and Cretons also but i can live without them, no problem.  Both Kim and i have lost weight so there is also that bonus.

The following was recently posted on the TAP e-list. i thought it was too good not to pay it forward

Avatar, despite all the negative publicity, seems to be garnering some positive feedback. This could easily become a classroom activity:  Ask Ss to determine how many of their colleagues have seen Avatar… Ask them to ask each other how they interpret it?

  1. read the article
  2. which interpretation strikes a chord and why?
  3. elaborate in writing / pictures / multi-media…
  4. present to the class…

Check out the link, it’s amazing…

Salaam, Shalom, Paix, Peace, Pax,


A Palestinian "Na'vi"

“Avatar” Director James Cameron may have been thinking about the US in Iraq, but apparently many Palestinians have adopted the movie as a metaphor for their cause. In a rather bizarre demonstration, people in the West Bank town of Bil’in have been dressing up as blue Na’vi to protest at the border barriers. The image is striking, gets media attention, and certainly exemplifies the power of popular film.

Here’s an interesting list of how “Avatar” has been interpreted around the world, from China to Bolivia to Russia: “Avatar: an all-purpose allegory

David Bedell

Kudos to David for posting this on the TEACHERS AGAINST PREJUDICE e-list.

Yesterday the war on terror claimed the life of Michelle Lang, a gifted and award winning Calgary Herald reporter.  She was killed by an IED in Afganistan as she was travelling with a group of Canadian soldiers on a routine patrol outside their base in Kandahar.  Four soldiers also died with her in the same blast.  Given that a further eight Americans also died yesterday in Afganistan it makes for a rather terrible day for the body bag counters and, once again, begs the question: “What are we doing there?”

Time and history have proven that attempts to control Afganistan are doomed to failure.  Foreign troops should just be pulled out.  Let the Afganis sort themselves out.  No amounts of soldiers, good intentions or patronage will be able to change the outcome in Afganistan.  We can not mediate peace from the barrel of a gun or the blade of a bayonet.

i’m reprinting the entire editorial and using the heading given in this morning’s Gulf News published in Dubai.

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

Asia: 16 papers from 13 countries and regions

Economic Observer, China Chinese

Southern Metropolitan, China Chinese

CommonWealth Magazine, Taiwan English

Joongang Ilbo, South Korea Korean

Tuoitre, Vietnam Vietnamese

Brunei Times, Brunei English

Jakarta Globe, Indonesia English

Cambodia Daily, Cambodia English

The Hindu, India English

The Daily Star, Bangladesh English

The News, Pakistan English

Daily Times, Pakistan English

Gulf News, Dubai English

An Nahar, Lebanon Arabic

Gulf Times, Qatar English

Maariv, Israel Hebrew

Europe – 20 papers from 17 countries

Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany German

Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland Polish

Der Standard, Austria German

Delo, Slovenia Slovene

Vecer, Slovenia Slovene

Dagbladet Information, Denmark Danish

Politiken, Denmark Danish

Dagbladet, Norway Norwegian

The Guardian, UK English

Le Monde, France French

Libération, France French

La Reppublica, Italy Italian

El Pais, Spain Spanish

De Volkskrant, Netherlands Dutch

Kathimerini, Greece Greek

Publico, Portugal Portuguese

Hurriyet, Turkey Turkish

Novaya Gazeta, Russia Russian

Irish Times, Ireland English

Le Temps, Switzerland French

Africa – 11 papers from eight countries

The Star, Kenya English

Daily Monitor, Uganda English

The New Vision, Uganda English

Zimbabwe Independent, Zimbabwe English

The New Times, Rwanda English

The Citizen, Tanzania English

Al Shorouk, Egypt Arabic

Botswana Guardian, Botswana English

Mail & Guardian, South Africa English

Business Day, South Africa English

Cape Argus, South Africa English

North and Central America – six papers from five countries

Toronto Star, Canada English

Miami Herald, USA English

El Nuevo Herald, USA Spanish

Jamaica Observer, Jamaica English

La Brujula Semanal, Nicaragua Spanish

El Universal, Mexico Spanish

South America – three papers from two countries

Zero Hora, Brazil Portuguese

Diario Catarinense, Brazil Portuguese

Diaro Clarin, Argentina Spanish

The Charter for Compassion is an initiative which, i think, could be a powerful tool in assisting us to mediate intolerance and prejudice in our lives and in this earthly realm.  i ask you listen to the video, read the Charter and then, if you agree with it, affirm it.  Then get any organization you belong to to affirm it and become a partner.

Are you on board or would you derail this move to make us come together and understand each other despite our differences?