Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wall Street Journal Parody — With A Topless Ann Coulter — Rankles Murdoch In Real Life And On YouTube

My Wall Street Journal, a parody of the Wall Street Journal on newsstands this week to mark the April 15 tax deadline, has rankled News Corp executives so much that they're trying to make sure no one sees it. The New York Times' Richard Perez-Pena reports that a WSJ representative attempted to snatch up all the copies in the Los Angeles area, where they made public a bit ahead of schedule:

It was not supposed to go on sale until this week, but some newsstands began selling it early. Last Thursday, Alexander Laurence was working at one such stand in Los Angeles, chatting with a customer, David Metz, when, both of them say, a man in a shirt with a Journal logo asked if anyone had seen a paper that looked sort of like The Journal.

"This guy comes by all the time to bring promotional stuff for The Wall Street Journal -- bags, coin trays, stickers," Mr. Laurence said.

Sure enough, they found what he was looking for. "He grabbed them all, said, 'I need to buy all of these,' " Mr. Laurence said. "He had been going around to different stands, buying them."

The man paid with a corporate American Express card. "At first he's saying they have to make a correction or it's not supposed to be out yet," Mr. Metz said. "But then he said these are not published by The Wall Street Journal."

Highlights of the My Wall Street Journal parody — brought to you by the same team that created the 1982 Off The Wall Street Journal, led by editor-in-chief Tony Hendra — a full-page spread of a topless Ann Coulter (in WSJ stipple-style), a gossip section called "Page Sex," headlines like "Cleaning Lady Sees Virgin In Merrill Lynch Q4 Loss," and "Obitcharies," wishful-thinking obituaries for people vilified by the far right, including Susan Sarandon and Paul Krugman.

Distinguishing the 2008 go-around from its 1982 counterpart is the parallel YouTube campaign its creators are running. Below, watch their video, which shows a fake Rupert Murdoch reacting to the My WSJ news:

To learn more, visit wsjparody.com">www.wsjparody.com.

Original here

School fire kills Uganda children

Rescue workers at Buddo Primary School
It is not clear how many children were in the room, which had 63 beds

An overnight fire in dormitory at a Ugandan junior school near the capital, Kampala, has killed at least 19 girls.

The BBC's Joshua Mmali at the scene says distraught parents are wailing as rescuers work to retrieve bodies.

"Preliminary investigations indicate that it was homicide," Police Inspector General Kale Kaihura said, reports AP news agency.

Our reporter says it has been established that the hostel's doors were locked from the outside.

Two adults are also reported to have died in the fire, which police say started at 2200 local time (1900 GMT) on Monday.

It is not clear how many children were in the room, which had 63 beds.


A Red Cross worker told the BBC that it is difficult to identify the bodies as sometimes only pieces of bodies are being found.

Our reporter says it is possible that more than 70 girls were in the building as sometimes pupils sleep on mattresses on the floor.

"Several students who survived the incident have been taken to hospital with minor injuries but we are yet to know how many were in the dormitory at the time of the fire," police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba told the BBC News website.

Our reporter says Buddo Primary School, 12km from Kampala, is one of Uganda's top performing private schools.

School staff had recently been on strike over unpaid salaries.

This is the third deadly school fire in Uganda in two years.

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Pope Begins U.S. Visit; Says He Is Ashamed of Sex Scandal

Pope Benedict XVI landed at Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday afternoon, beginning a six-day visit after a flight in which he told reporters aboard his aircraft that he was “deeply ashamed” of the Roman Catholic Church’s child sexual-abuse scandal in the United States.

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Doug Mills/The New York Times

Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed by President Bush, the first lady and Jenna Bush upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base.

A Papal Discussion

PhotoTimes reporters and experts discuss Benedict XVI’s papacy and his visit to the United States.

The Papal Visit

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Back Story With Laurie Goodstein (mp3)

Video: Pope’s Arrival
Dario Pignatelli/Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI, with Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy at right, waved before boarding a plane for the United States on Tuesday in Rome.

The pope, who turns 81 on Wednesday, was greeted at the air base by President Bush, his wife Laura and his daughter Jenna. Cheered by an enthusiastic crowd of invited guests, Pope Benedict shook hands with a line of dignitaries before walking with Mr. Bush into a visitors lounge at the base. A large motorcade under tight security shuttled the pope and his entourage into Washington.

In his first visit to the United States, Benedict is scheduled to make a series of appearances between his arrival and departure on April 20, including a mass at Yankee Stadium and an address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The pope began his visit by addressing an issue that has wounded the Catholic Church in the United States, telling reporters on his aircraft that the sexual abuse of children has caused “great suffering” for the church and “me personally.” The scandal has produced thousands of sexual abuse victims and about 5,000 accused priests since it erupted in 2002 and has cost the church more than $2 billion in settlements.

“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen,” he said. “As I read the histories of those victims, it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way. Their mission was to give healing, to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future.”

Apparently drawing a distinction between priests with homosexual tendencies and those inclined to molest children, the pontiff said: “I would not speak at this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, which is another thing. And we would absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.”

“Who is guilty of pedophilia cannot be a priest,” he added.

The pope said church officials were going through the seminaries that train would-be priests to make sure that those candidates have no such tendencies. “We’ll do all that is possible to have a strong discernment, because it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests,” he said.

“We hope that we can do, and we have done and will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.”

The pope is not new to issues involving abusive priests. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was responsible for deciding whether to discipline priests accused of sexual abuse.

He read dossiers on the cases forwarded to him from bishops around the world. Aides said he was deeply distressed reading the accounts of victims whose trust in the church was betrayed by the priests who violated them.

In a homily he gave just before he was elected pope, Cardinal Ratzinger decried the “filth” in the priesthood, which many interpreted as a reference to the abusers. As pope, he ordered the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, to be removed from his ministry and to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penitence. Father Maciel died in January.

But as pope, Benedict has done or said or done little publicly about the abuse issue until now.

Advocates for victims have criticized the church for failing to call to account bishops who allowed abusive priests to remain in the ministry.

Peter Isely, a national board member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he was glad to hear the pope acknowledge the sexual abuse problem more clearly than before, but that words alone are not enough.

“If you don’t reprimand, discipline and sanction bishops that know about sex crimes against children, then no matter else what you do, you are not getting at where the real problem is,” Mr. Isely said.

Victims advocates are looking for the pope to change canon law to enable dioceses worldwide to remove abusive priests from ministry and eventually the priesthood, a change that was granted to the church in the United States after the scandal broke in 2002.

“Our alarm is that many of these clergy offenders are operating in countries that do not have the civil laws that we have in the United States, and in dioceses that don’t have the requirements to remove abusive priests that the church in the United States does have,” Mr. Isely said.

One of the repercussions of the child abuse scandals in the United States is that lay Catholics across the country are demanding more financial accountability from their bishops and more control over decisions, particularly when it comes to parishes.

Pope Benedict, who spoke for about 15 minutes during his flight to the United States, answered four questions from reporters that were submitted in advance and selected by the Vatican. He also talked about immigration and said he would discuss the issue with President Bush.

“I have seen the breadth of this problem above all the grave problem of the separation of families,” Benedict said about the issue of immigration. “This really is dangerous for the fabric social, moral, human of these countries.”

He said it was important to think about both long-term and short-term solutions: “The fundamental solution is that there would be no need to emigrate because there would be sufficient jobs.”

Asked if the United States could serve as a religious model Europe and other areas of the world, the pope replied, ”Certainly Europe can’t simply copy the United States. We have our own history. We all have to learn from each other.”

But he said the United States was interesting because it “started with positive idea of secularism.”

“This new people was made of communities that had escaped official state purges and wanted a lay state, a secular state that opened the possibility for all confessions and all form of religious exercise,” he added. “Therefore it was a state that was intentionally secular. It was the exact opposite of state religion, but it was secular out of love for religion and for an authenticity that can only be lived freely.”

The pope plans to spend several days in the Washington area before traveling to New York on Friday to hold services, address the United Nations and visit a synagogue.

Original here

Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket

(CNN) -- Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday.


Bangladeshi demonstrators chant slogans against high food prices during weekend protests.

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"This is the world's big story," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute.

"The finance ministers were in shock, almost in panic this weekend," he said on CNN's "American Morning," in a reference to top economic officials who gathered in Washington. "There are riots all over the world in the poor countries ... and, of course, our own poor are feeling it in the United States."

World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.

"While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day," Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers. Video Watch what world leaders are doing to solve the problem »

"The international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap identified by the U.N.'s World Food Programme to meet emergency needs," he said. "Governments should be able to come up with this assistance and come up with it now."

The White House announced Monday evening that an estimated $200 million in emergency food aid would be made available through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"This additional food aid will address the impact of rising commodity prices on U.S. emergency food aid programs, and be used to meet unanticipated food aid needs in Africa and elsewhere," the White House said in a news release.

"In just two months," Zoellick said in his speech, "rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family."

The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.

"This is not just about meals forgone today or about increasing social unrest. This is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth," Zoellick said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, also spoke at the joint IMF-World Bank spring meeting.

"If food prices go on as they are today, then the consequences on the population in a large set of countries ... will be terrible," he said.

He added that "disruptions may occur in the economic environment ... so that at the end of the day most governments, having done well during the last five or 10 years, will see what they have done totally destroyed, and their legitimacy facing the population destroyed also."

In Haiti, the prime minister was kicked out of office Saturday, and hospital beds are filled with wounded following riots sparked by food prices. Video Watch Haitians riot over food prices »

The World Bank announced a $10 million grant from the United States for Haiti to help the government assist poor families.

In Egypt, rioters have burned cars and destroyed windows of numerous buildings as police in riot gear have tried to quell protests.

Images from Bangladesh and Mozambique tell a similar story.

In the United States and other Western nations, more and more poor families are feeling the pinch. In recent days, presidential candidates have paid increasing attention to the cost of food, often citing it on the stump.

The issue is also fueling a rising debate over how much the rising prices can be blamed on ethanol production. The basic argument is that because ethanol comes from corn, the push to replace some traditional fuels with ethanol has created a new demand for corn that has thrown off world food prices.

Jean Ziegler, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, has called using food crops to create ethanol "a crime against humanity."

"We've been putting our food into the gas tank -- this corn-to-ethanol subsidy which our government is doing really makes little sense," said Columbia University's Sachs.

Former President Clinton, at a campaign stop for his wife in Pennsylvania over the weekend, said, "Corn is the single most inefficient way to produce ethanol because it uses a lot of energy and because it drives up the price of food."

Some environmental groups reject the focus on ethanol in examining food prices.

"The contrived food vs. fuel debate has reared its ugly head once again," the Renewable Fuels Association says on its Web site, adding that "numerous statistical analyses have demonstrated that the price of oil -- not corn prices or ethanol production -- has the greatest impact on consumer food prices because it is integral to virtually every phase of food production, from processing to packaging to transportation."

Analysts agree the cost of fuel is among the reasons for the skyrocketing prices.

Another major reason is rising demand, particularly in places in the midst of a population boom, such as China and India.

Also, said Sachs, "climate shocks" are damaging food supply in parts of the world. "You add it all together: Demand is soaring, supply has been cut back, food has been diverted into the gas tank. It's added up to a price explosion."

Original here

Woman Arrested for Dancing at the Jefferson Memorial

The D.C.-based libertarian blogosphere is up in arms today over the Saturday night arrest of D.C. resident Brooke Oberwetter at the Jefferson Memorial. The story goes like this: a group of about 20 nerdy libertarian wonk types gathered at midnight on Saturday for a sort of flash mob at the memorial to celebrate the birthday of their favorite founding father. They gathered at the memorial, each with an iPod, to dance together while wearing headphones.

In the video above, you can watch the group as they quietly danced around the memorial (which, to be clear, is open to the public 24 hours a day, according to its web site). A U.S. Park Police officer can then be seen approaching the dancers and telling them to leave.

The second video, posted below, shows the dancers arguing with Park Police officers about why they're being asked to leave. They say they were quietly dancing with headphones on to celebrate Jefferson's birthday, and that they weren't breaking any laws (which, as far as we can tell, they indeed were not). Toward the end of the video, you can see Oberwetter, 28, being handcuffed and taken into custody. Where was Kevin Bacon when they needed him?

Oberwetter's compatriots have been quick to cry foul, and to point out the arrest's inherent ironies. Radley Balko writes:

Of course, the real irony here is that all of this happened at the Jefferson Memorial, in observance of Jefferson's birthday. Go out to celebrate the birth of the most hardcore, anti-authoritarian of the Founding Fathers, get hauled off in handcuffs. The photo's almost poetry, isn't it? One of history's most articulate critics of abuse of state authority looks on as a park police cop uses his elbow to push a female arrestee into one of said critic's memorial pillars.
Naturally, much of the local libertarian crowd is seriously, vocally upset about what they see as an abuse of police power against one of their own. Especially disturbing is the part of the story that Oberwetter seems to have been arrested mostly because she asked the officer who told her to leave which rules or laws she and her friends were breaking. A Facebook group called "Free the Jefferson 1!" has already popped up. Julian Sanchez has the most sane response we've seen so far:
But they could have anticipated mayhem! There could have been droves of other revelers on the way! They might have been plannign to vandalize the monument! Uh, I guess that's possible. But it seems like like reasonable people could have walked up to someone, asked "Hey, what's going on here?", then rolled their eyes at the weird kids and let them finish with their fifteen minutes of silliness.
Exactly. It may have a frivolous event thrown together by a group of people who were more likely to overreact to being told to move along by police than others. But it was also just a group of people who were quietly dancing while wearing headphones, and there just wasn't call for the way park police reacted, either. All they wanted to do was dance!

Oberwetter was released after being held for several hours.

Original here

Stolen Military Equipment Found on EBay

WASHINGTON -- Stolen and sensitive U.S. military equipment, including fighter jet parts wanted by Iran and nuclear biological protective gear, has been available to the highest bidder on popular Internet sales sites, according to congressional investigators.

Using undercover identities, investigators purchased a dozen defense-related items on the auction site eBay and the online network Craigslist from January 2007 through last month and received the items "no questions asked."

The Defense Department regards much of the stolen equipment to be on the U.S. Munitions List, meaning there are restrictions on their overseas sales, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

The equipment could land in international brokers' hands or be transferred overseas, said the GAO, Congress' investigative arm.

"Many of the sensitive items we purchased could have been used directly against our troops and allies, or reverse engineered to develop counter measures or equivalent technologies," investigators said in their report.

Among the items purchased include two components from F-14 fighter jets, bought from separate buyers on eBay. The warplanes, now retired by the military, could easily be purchased and transferred to the Iranian military, which is seeking its components, the report said. Investigators couldn't determine where the sellers had obtained the F-14 parts.

They also purchased from a Craigslist seller a used Nuclear Biological Chemical protective suit, other protective accessories as well as an unused chemical-biological canister, which contained the mask filter used to guard against warfare agents. The property was likely stolen from the Defense Department, the report said.

Investigators also purchased military stolen goods that were sold for personal profit. The Defense Department regards sale of certain items issued to military personnel, such as body armor, theft of government property, the report said.

"Although not all of the stolen property items available on eBay and Craigslist were sensitive, each item was purchased with taxpayer money and represents a waste of resources," investigators said.

The Army recognizes that the U.S. military has had "property accountability and visibility challenges," said Sarah H. Finnicum, director of supply at the Office of Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army, in testimony to a House subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

To correct the problem, the Army started a program in 2006 to account for all of its inventories. To date the Army has accounted for more than 20,000 items worth more than $135 million, she said.

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., chairman of the subcommittee, said he was startled by the fact "that it took the Army and DoD six years to get the system in place that probably should have been in place by 2001."

Original here

The Fury of the Poor


Around the world, rising food prices have made basic staples like rice and corn unaffordable for many people, pushing the poor to the barricades because they can no longer get enough to eat. But the worst is yet to come.

Fort Dimanche, a former prison in the hills above the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, is a hell on earth. In the past, it was home to the torture chambers of former dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier's death squads, the Tontons Macoutes. Today thousands of impoverished Haitians live in the prison's grounds, digging through piles of garbage for food. But even dogs find little to eat there.


Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (10 Photos)

On the roof of the former prison, enterprising women prepare something that looks like biscuits and is even called by that name. The key ingredient, yellow clay, is trucked in from the nearby mountains. The clay is combined with salt and vegetable fat to make dough, which is then dried in the sun.

For many Haitians, the mud biscuits are their only food. They taste of fat, suck the moisture out of the mouth and leave behind an aftertaste of dirt. They often cause diarrhea, but they help to numb the pangs of hunger. "I'm hoping one day I'll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these," Marie Noël, who survives with her seven children on the dirt cakes, told the Associated Press.

The clay to make 100 of the biscuits costs $5 (€3.15) and has risen by $1.50 (€0.95), or about 40 percent, within one year. The same is true of staple foods. Nevertheless, the same amount of money buys more of the mud cakes than bread or corn tortillas. A daily bowl of rice is almost unaffordable.

The shortages triggered revolts in Haiti last week. A crowd of hungry citizens marched through Port-au-Prince, throwing stones and bottles and chanting, "We are hungry!" in front of the presidential palace. Tires were burned, and people died. It was yet another of the rebellions that are beginning to occur with increasing frequency worldwide, but which are still only a harbinger of what is yet to come.

Food is become increasingly scarce and expensive, and it is already unaffordable for many people. The world's 200 wealthiest people have as much money as about 40 percent of the global population, and yet 850 million people have to go to bed hungry every night. This calamity is "one of the worst violations of human dignity," says former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Graphic: Consequences of the global food crisis

Graphic: Consequences of the global food crisis

Should we be surprised that despair often turns into violence? The food crisis afflicts the world's poor -- in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East -- like a biblical plague. Prices for staples like rice, corn and wheat, which were relatively stable for years, have skyrocketed by over 180 percent in the last three years. A bottleneck is developing whose consequences are potentially more severe than the global crisis in the financial markets. With nothing left to lose, people on the brink of starvation are more likely to react with boundless fury.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) addressed this global crisis at a joint meeting last weekend. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that exploding food prices threaten to cause instability in at least 33 countries, including regional powers like Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan, where the army has had to be brought in to protect flour transports. The crisis is helping radical Islamic movements gain strength in North Africa. There has been unrest in recent weeks in Mauritania, Mozambique, Senegal, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, where the violence has already claimed about 100 lives.

There are several reasons for the food crisis:

  • The world population is growing constantly, while the amount of arable land is declining.
  • Climate change is causing a loss of agricultural land, irreversible in some cases, as a result of droughts, floods, storms and erosion.
  • Because of changing eating habits, more and more arable land and virgin forests are being turned into pasture for livestock. The yield per acre in calories of land given over to pasture is substantially lower than that of arable land.
  • The World Bank wants developing countries to introduce market reforms, including the abolition of protective tariffs, a move that often causes massive damage to local agriculture.
  • Speculators are driving up the prices of raw materials. The resulting high oil price leads to "energy crops" being cultivated instead of grain for food or animal feed.
  • Millions of people displaced by civil wars need food, and yet they themselves are no longer capable of producing food.

What we are beginning to face is not just an acute bottleneck, but a worldwide, fundamental food crisis. It affects most of all the poor, who spend a disproportionately large share of their income on food and water. The crisis is so dire that it is obliterating any progress made in recent years in fighting disease and starvation.

With too many people and not enough agricultural land, a struggle for the distribution of the best farmland is taking shape that could turn into a new North-South conflict. "These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis," wrote US economist Paul Krugman recently in his regular column in the New York Times. "But there’s another world crisis under way -- and it’s hurting a lot more people."

Mexicans were the first to take to the streets, when they protested against higher prices for cornmeal, the basic ingredient in tortillas. Mexico can only cover a portion of its demand with domestic production. It imports the rest, mainly from the United States. Meanwhile, more and more farmers in the US are selling their corn to biofuel producers, who pay a higher price for the grain.

To avert further protests, Mexican President Felipe Calderón decided to increase government subsidies for corn, which were already high to begin with. But only countries that are relatively strong financially can afford this. In other countries, like Haiti, Bolivia, Algeria and Yemen, the lower classes have been hard hit by food-price inflation.

Part 2: 'People Are Dying Before Our Eyes'

In the Middle Eastern country of Yemen, people get by on an average of €1.18 ($1.86) per day. The government faces the challenges of a wave of refugees from Somalia, tribal warfare in the north and the constant threat of terrorism. Since February, wheat prices in Yemen have doubled and the price of rice and cooking oil has increased by a fifth. And since the end of March, people have died in Yemen in unrest over bread prices.

Within the last quarter, food prices have increased by 145 percent in Lebanon and 20 percent in Syria. "Even parsley, for which we paid almost nothing in the past, has suddenly tripled in price," complains one resident of the Syrian capital Damascus.

Iraq and Sudan, once the "bread baskets" of the Arab world, are nowadays dependent on the World Food Programme. More than a million people in Iraq and 2 million in Sudan's Darfur region require food aid. Life in Darfur, Sudan's western province, has always been difficult. The Sahara has shifted southward in the last four decades, while rainfall has declined dramatically. Yields of sorghum, the area's most important grain crop, have dropped by two-thirds.

The civil war in Sudan has made more than 2 million people in refugee camps completely dependent on food aid. Fields in the region have not been farmed for years. "People are dying before our eyes, while the world looks on," says Johan van der Kamp of the German aid organization Deutsche Welthungerhilfe.

Developing countries faced a similar challenge more than a generation ago, which led to the advent of the so-called Green Revolution. Through the use of fertilizer, pesticides and hybrid seed, farmers in developing countries were able to boost their harvests considerably. Some now believe that it is time to launch a second green revolution. The heads of research at agricultural conglomerates are convinced that genetic engineering could be the answer to the world's food problems. But the question is: how long would it take?

Food shortages have even become an important issue in affluent areas, like Dubai, where supermarkets have pledged not to raise the prices of 20 staple foods for at least one year. The goal, clearly, is to prevent dissatisfaction within the city's legions of Indian and Pakistani construction workers. Without them, the enormous hotels, museums and artificial islands with which Dubai is making such a stir in the world would not exist. Foreign workers are paid their meager wages in the local currency, the dirham, which is tied to the falling dollar.

The beneficiaries of globalization on the Gulf can ill afford food riots in the shadow of their skyscrapers and shopping malls. "The consequences of discontent, anger in the Middle East can be more geo-political than they may be elsewhere," Robin Lodge of the United Nations World Food Programme recently told the news agency Reuters. Nowhere is this truer than in Egypt.

Saad Ibrahim owns a small snack shop in Cairo in a neighborhood behind the Al-Azhar Mosque. He sells dishes like noodles and chickpeas in tomato sauce, and his shop is in a good location. Nevertheless, most of the faithful now walk quickly past his shop after Friday prayers. "I have fewer customers every day," says Ibrahim.

Last fall a ton of noodles cost about 1,500 Egyptian pounds, or a little more than €175 ($276). Since then, prices have tripled. Ibrahim blames the government for the price hike. "As an agricultural country," he says, "we could grow everything ourselves, instead of importing it for a lot of money."

Thirty-two million of Egypt's population of 80 million get by on €1 ($1.58) a day, and 16 million on even less. The price of cooking oil alone has risen by 40 percent within the last year. Inflation jumped to above 12 percent in February, and the higher cost of wheat has had an especially adverse impact.

"Aish baladi," a soft, round flatbread, is a mainstay of the Egyptian diet. The state has subsidized it for decades, which has helped to preserve calm. But for how much longer can this system function? The lines are getting longer in front of bakeries that sell the subsidized bread, as more and more Egyptians depend on government aid. Riots in recent weeks claimed at least 11 lives after corrupt bakers sold inexpensive, subsidized flour at high prices on the black market, triggering an angry response from the public.

Meanwhile, the government has slated $2.5 billion (€1.58 billion) of its new budget for bread subsidies. But providing cheap bread comes with its own bizarre consequences. Some farmers are already feeding bread to their livestock because of the exorbitant cost of animal feed.

Raising cattle is a profitable business because rising incomes in some developing countries mean that more and more consumers can afford to eat meat. The new middle class in Delhi and Beijing is no longer satisfied with traditional diets high in foods like rice and lentils. But it takes seven kilograms of feed and vast quantities of water to produce just one kilogram of beef, which only drives up prices.

In Jordan, which has a modern system of agriculture, the cost of staple foods has increased by 60 percent within a year. "I can hardly sell my vegetables anymore," says Hussein Bureidi, a vendor who operates a stand near the Grand Mosque in the Jordanian capital Amman. "How can this go on?" King Abdullah fears a return of the 1996 food riots, when angry citizens clashed with police in the city of Karak.

In Algeria, the prices of cooking fat, corn oil, sugar and flour have doubled within six months. With the exception of an inadequate, 15-percent increase in salaries for civil servants, the government has done little to fend off what Radio Algiers called an "attack on our standard of living." Until now, oil and gas revenues have not been used to fund additional food subsidies. If this were the case, the government might find itself no longer able to service its foreign debt on time.

But India has the largest number of underfed people, about 220 million. Aptly enough, two international conferences on the food crisis took place in New Delhi last week. Jacques Diouf, the Senegalese head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), blamed the dilemma on rapid growth in demand in both China and India. The crisis, Diouf said, could expand into an unprecedented catastrophe.

China has close to a quarter of the world's population to feed, but only 7 percent of its farmland. A similar situation applies in India. This means that both countries must import food on a large scale, prompting many exporting countries to impose export quotas so that their own citizens are not suddenly forced to go without.

When Haiti's hungry poor went on a rampage last week, the United States closed its embassy there as a precaution. The incidents also alarmed British Prime Gordon Brown, who wrote a letter to his Japanese counterpart, Yasuo Fukuda, the current chairman of the G-8 nations. In the letter, Brown recommended that the international community endeavor to prepare a "fully coordinated response" to rampant hunger.

It would not come a moment too soon.


Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Original here

Wikileaks releases over 150 censored videos and photos of the Tibet uprising

n the last week Wikileaks has released over 150 censored photos and videos of the Tibet uprising and has called on bloggers around the world to help drive the footage through the Chinese internet censorship regime — the so called "Great Firewall of China"

The transparency group's move comes as a response to the the Chinese Public Security Bureau's carte-blanche censorship of youtube, the BBC, CNN, the Guardian and other sites carrying video footage of the Tibetan people's recent heroic stand against the inhumane Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Wikileaks has also placed the collection in two easy to use archives together with a HTML index page so they may be easily copied, placed on websites, cd's, emailed across the internet as attachments and uploaded to peer to peer networks.

Censorship, like communism, seems like a reasonable enough idea to begin with. While 'from each according to his ability and to each according to his need' sounds unarguable, the world has learned that these words call forth a power elite to administer them with coercive force. Such elites are quick to define the needs of their own members as paramount. Similarly 'from each mouth according to its ability and to each ear according to its need' seems harmless enough, but history shows that censorship also requires an anointed class to define this "need" and to make violence against those who continue talking. Such power is quickly corrupted.

The first ingredient of civil society is the people's right to know, because without such understanding no human being can meaningfully choose to support anything, let alone a political party. Knowledge is the driver of every political process, every constitution, every law and every regulation. The communication of knowledge is without salient analogue. It is living, unique and demands its rightful place at the summit of society. Since knowledge is the creator and regulator of all law, its position beyond law commands due respect.

James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and other Enlightenment framers of the US Bill of Rights understood this well when they began the First Amendment's constitutional protections of speech and of the press with 'Congress shall make no law....'.

As knowledge flows across the world it is time to sum great freedoms of every nation and not subtract or divide them. Let us then unite in common purpose for the surest way to protect the freedoms of any nation is to protect the freedoms of every nation.

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