ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

The military council presiding over Egypt's transition forms an eight-member panel to recommend revisions to the country's Constitution.

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie


*The military council presiding over Egypt's transition forms an eight-member panel to recommend revisions to the country's Constitution. "The armed forces want to hand over power as soon as possible," said Sobhi Saleh, a former Muslim Brotherhood MP, a lawyer and member of the panel.

*Labor strikes continued across the country. "The Supreme Council is aware of the economic and social circumstances society is undergoing, but these issues cannot be resolved before the strikes and sit-ins end," the council said in a statement. "The result of that will be disastrous," it added.

*Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit called on the international community to assist Egypt financially, as the economy "was severely affected by the political crisis that has shaken the country." EU finance ministers are debating an Egyptian request to freeze the assets of former government ministers from the Hosni Mubarak administration.

*The Muslim Brotherhood announced its intention to form a political party that will participate in the next, as yet unscheduled, legislative elections.


*The unofficial anthem of Egypt's revolution has become Voice of Freedom, sung by a group of Egyptian singers with accompanying footage shot in the streets at the peak of the protests. A sample of the lyrics: The most important thing is our rights … We broke all taboos … For a long time, we've been waiting… (chorus) In all the streets of the country is the sound of freedom. Freed Google executive Wael Ghonim showed the clip to a 60 Minutes correspondent, saying it embodied the spirit of Egyptians and the moment they are living.


*An Al Arabiya article today highlighted a new facebook group called "The Man Standing Behind Omar Suleiman," a group created to wonder about the angry-looking man standing behind Egypt's new vice president as he read the announcement of President Hosni Mubarak's resignation last Friday. The mission of the group: "Of course none of us denies the critical role played by the Admiral/Guy Who Stood Behind Omar Suleiman, who was steadfast and solemn throughout all recent events while remaining behind Omar Suleiman. In this, we fully recognize the strength of our conviction and hereby nominate the Admiral/Doctor/Engineer/ Guy Who Stood Behind Omar Suleiman to the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt."

*The creators of that group link to another called "Obama: Shut Up. We can solve our own problems," which pretty much speaks for itself.


*Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave a live interview with Al Jazeera in which he expounded on the meaning of the word "democracy," much to the amusement of the host and audience.

"There is a new trend in the world – the system of ruler and ruled is finished," said Gaddafi in the clip that has already racked up 39,000 views on YouTube. "Democracy is an Arabic word – demo, meaning "to stay" in Arabic, and cracy, meaning "chairs' in Arabic." The word "kurasy" in Arabic usually refers to the thrones or seats of power of ruling dictators, who are meant to "sit on the chair" for life. Gaddafi, who has been on the chair himself since 1969, seems to understand that democracies are meant to be dictatorships, and vice-versa. "A system where you have a party, a president and a government is ridiculous," he said. People, he concluded, should rule themselves through committees, as they do in Libya.

The leader ended with the usual plug for his book, The Green Book ("all this is in The Green Book," he concludes) – a manifesto for government based on the Third Universal Theory, which proposes a solution to economic and social problems for humanity. If followed correctly, governments and societies would look much as Libya does.

Those commenting on the clip do not appear to be clamoring for the spread of the Third Universal Theory. Reactions included: "Swear to God, this is the funniest president in the universe," and "I have no idea how this idiot became president." In fact, Gaddafi is not technically president, and insists instead on being referred to as the Leader, or Guide, of the Libyan revolution. Of course, there is also plenty of room for debate on the meaning of ‘revolution."

Feb. 15, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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Feed The Future

COP26 Should Mark A Turning Point In Solving The Climate Crisis

Slow Food calls for an action plan to significantly reduce and improve the production and consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs by 2050.

A new dawn?

If, as the saying goes, we are what we eat, the same also goes for the animals that end up on our plate. How we feed our own food can have knock-on effects, not just for our own health but also for the planet. We are now aware of the meat and dairy industry's significant carbon footprint, responsible for more than a third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Large-scale cattle productions that favor pure profit over more sustainable practices also add to environmental woes through biodiversity loss, deforestation and pesticide use — with some of the world's richest countries contributing disproportionately: The five biggest meat and milk producers emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as the oil giant Exxon.

The good news is that we could meet — if we would — some of these challenges with an array of innovative solutions, as the fields of farming, breeding and nutrition look at ways to shift from centralized intensive agro industry toward a more localized, smaller-scale and more organic approach to production.

Cows fed corn and grain-based diets may grow larger and are ready to be processed at a younger age — but this requires significant energy, as well as land and water resources; in contrast, grass and hay-fed cows support a regenerative farming model in which grazing can contribute to restoring the health of soil through increased microbial diversity. Compared to highly processed GM crops, natural-grass diets with minimal cereals also lead to more nutrient-rich livestock, producing better quality meat, milk and cheese. Farmers have started focusing on breeding native animal species that are best adapted to local environmental contexts.

This new approach to agricultural practices is closely linked to the concept of agroecology, where farming works in tandem with the environment instead of exploiting it. If mowed a few times a year, for instance, natural meadows produce hay that is rich in grasses, legumes and flowers of the sunflower family, like daisies, dandelions, thistles and cornflowers. These biomes become reservoirs of biodiversity for our countryside, hosting countless species of vegetables, insects and birds, many of which are at risk of extinction. Until recently, these were common habitats in meadows that were not plugged or tilled and only required light fertilization. Today, however, they are becoming increasingly threatened: in the plains, where the terrain is used for monocultures like corn; or in hills and mountains, where fields are facing gradual abandonment.

It is worth noting that extensive agriculture, which requires smaller amounts of capital and labor in relation to the size of farmed land, can actually help curb climate change effects through carbon dioxide absorption. Researchers at the University of California, Davis determined that in their state, grasslands and rangelands have actually acted as more resilient carbon sinks than forests in recent years. Through a system of carbon uptake, these lands provide a form of natural compensation, going as far as canceling the farms' impact on the planet, rendering them carbon "creditors."

In the meantime, grasslands and pastures allow animals to live in accordance with their natural behavioral needs, spending most of the year outside being raised by bonafide farmers who care about animal welfare. A recent study by Nature found that allowing cows to graze out of doors has both psychological and physical health benefits, as they seem to enjoy the open space and ability to lie on the soft ground.

Some might worry about the economic losses that come with this slower and smaller business model, but there are also opportunities for creativity in diversifying activities, like agro-tourism and direct sales that can actually increase a farm's profit margin. This form of sustainable production goes hand-in-hand with the Slow Meat campaign, which encourages people to reduce their meat consumption while buying better quality, sustainable meat.

Others may assume that the only environmentally-conscious diet is entirely plant-based. That is indeed a valuable and viable option, but there are also thoughtful ways to consume meat in moderation — and more sustainably. It also should be noted that many fruits and vegetables have surprisingly large carbon footprints: The industrial-scale cultivation of avocados, for example, requires massive amounts of water and causes great hardship to farming communities in Latin America.

But forging a broad shift toward more "biodiversity-friendly" pastoralism requires action by both those producing and eating meat, and those with the legislative power to enact industry-wide change. It is urgent that policies be put into place to support a return to long-established agricultural practices that can sustainably feed future generations. Although no country in the world today has a defined strategy to decrease consumption while transforming production, governments are bound to play a key role in the green transition, present and future.

In Europe, Slow Food recommends that the Fit for 55 package include reducing emissions from agriculture activities by 65% (based on 2005 levels) by 2050. Agriculture-related land use emissions should also reach net-zero by 2040 and become a sink of -150 Mt CO2eq by 2050. But these targets can only be met if the EU farming sector adopts agroecological practices at a regional scale, and if consumers shift to more sustainable diets. If we are indeed what we eat, we should also care deeply about how the choices we make impact the planet that feeds us.

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