Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Waiting for democracy's dividend

Waiting for democracy's dividend
By Marianne Kearney in Jakarta

For many poor Indonesians life has actually got harder since Suharto's fall [GALLO/GETTY]A decade after the upheaval that swept Indonesia's former president Suharto from power, many Indonesians feel that the advent of democracy has brought few positive changes.

Despite 10 years of political and economic reforms – a process known as reformasi – there is a widespread disillusionment among the country's poor.

In depth

Ten years after Suharto's ruleWatch Al Jazeera's Indonesia coverageThe experience of 48 year–old Suni is typical of millions.

In the late 1990s Suni had his own small business selling snacks and cigarettes and earned a respectable wage of between $10 and $30 a day.
Today, working as a motorcycle taxi driver, he rarely makes the equivalent of $5 a day - a sum he says is not enough to eat and pay his rent.

"Since reformasi the prices of everything have just got worse and worse. Everything is too expensive, it's not controlled by the government," he says.

The student-led reformasi movement began as protests against the Suharto government's failure to deal with the effects of the Asian financial crisis.

Anger at perceived high-level corruption remains widespread [EPA]Then the country was wracked by spiralling inflation, food shortages, skyrocketing unemployment and the plunging value of the national currency, the rupiah.

Since then Indonesia has become increasingly democratic; holding fair elections, creating one of Asia 's freest press, providing greater protection for human rights, and reducing the role of the once all-powerful military.

But for Suni, many of these so-called freedoms have just led to more instability, and violence.

He points to frequent media reports of crime, high-level corruption as well as sectarian, ethnic and political violence.

Under Suharto, the tightly-controlled press rarely reported such news.

"Our nation can't be given freedom, because we have minimal education," he says, repeating a line frequently used during the Suharto era.

"If we're given freedom – everyone will do their own thing. Those who benefit are just those with brains."

"In 10 years of reformasi there has been no change, except life is more difficult"
Suryiadi,DriverWhat Indonesia needs, he says, is a strong leader and democracy has failed to produce a leader of Suharto's calibre.

"Since Suharto, there hasn't been anyone like him, no one to replace him."

At a nearby snack stall, 35-year-old Suryiadi also gives a sobering analysis of the economic and political changes wrought by the reform movement.

"In 10 years of reformasi there has been no change, except life is more difficult," he says.

Broken promises

Many of Jakarta's poor need to work second jobs simply to survive [EPA]"This democracy, it's just about promises, and promises, but then the politicians never keep their promises."

Echoing a familiar lament, Suryiadi says that under the former president, known affectionately as Pak Harto, ordinary workers found it much easier to make money and feed their families.

"It was good during the Pak Harto era. Things were cheap then, now everything is expensive," he says.

Back then, Suryiadi had a car washing business in which he employed four people, making at least $10 a day. It was enough to support his family, send his two children to school and pay the rent.

Today he works two jobs – as a driver for a dentist and as a motorcycle taxi driver - but it still is not enough to pay the bills.

The only positive development, he says, is that under the current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the worst corruptors are being prosecuted and jailed.

During the Suharto era corruption was rampant, with the former president's family stealing $35bn, according to Transparency International.

"The price of everything has gone up and us little people have been destroyed"
Khulifah,Traffic "jockey'But on the streets of Jakarta , few people see reason to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Suharto's downfall.

Thirty-year old Khulifah is another part of the army of informal workers that have appeared on Jakarta' s streets over the last decade, struggling to eke out an existence from the most marginal occupations.

A mother of one, she scratches a living as a "jockey" - an occupation that did not even exist 10 years ago.

Every morning she tries to hitch a ride in commuters' cars, so the owners can get around traffic regulations requiring vehicles travelling on main roads to carry at least three people during peak hours.

Jockeying is risky: if Khulifah is caught by the frequent police raids she could be jailed for a month, or forced to pay a fine equal to a month's wages.

Despite the risks, competition is tough. Every evening and morning, hundreds of jockeys line roads leading to Jakarta 's main roads.

With so many jockeys lining Jakarta ’s streets, Khulifah is only occasionally able to hitch a ride.

On a good day she can make $10-$20, but it is not enough to feed herself, she says, and so she, like many other jockeys, has a second job as a maid.

No improvement

A failure to deliver improvements means many have lost faith in government [EPA]Like Suryiadi and Suni, Khulifah can see little benefit from the political freedoms wrought by reformasi, and the direct election of Yudhoyono, popularly known as SBY.

"SBY is the worse, because the price of everything has gone up and us little people have been destroyed," she says.

Economists agree that the reform movement has brought few improvements, with the World Bank reporting almost half the population living on $2 a day or less.

"For common people we don't see much improvement compared to before the crisis," says Umar Juoro, an economics analyst with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta .

"At that time poverty was around 17 per cent and now it's 17 per cent, but food is much more expensive than at that time."

Ten years on from the downfall of Suharto , Indonesia in 2008 looks a lot like Indonesia in 1998.

Food prices are spiralling, rising 15.7 per cent in April, cooking oil has doubled in price, and the cost of tempe , a soya bean cake that is a popular source of protein for the poor, has soared.

Reformasi has not helped the poor, but it has drastically altered Indonesia' s business landscape and created a more competitive business environment, says Juoro.

The country's bloated crony conglomerates, which grew wealthy as a result of Suharto’s patronage, have had their power and influence sharply reduced.

"For the big conglomerates, unless they're good companies it's difficult for them to survive," Juoro says.

Boom time for some

But the government says the opening up of Indonesia 's economy has lured foreign investors back to Indonesia , creating the sharpest economic growth in a decade.

Last year, it says, economic growth hit 6.3 per cent and a million people entered the workforce.

A quick tour around the capital confirms that middle class and upper middle class Indonesians have more money than ever.

The property market is booming, with cranes dotting the skyline building new malls, apartment complexes and office towers.

No less than three new luxury malls have been built in central Jakarta over the past 18 months while sales of cars and motorcycles have hit new highs.

The government also says that its pro-poor policies, which include a planned cash handout to 19 million people this year, as well as welfare benefits for the poor who keep their children in school, have helped reduce poverty levels.

But Fauzi Ichsan, chief economist with Standard Chartered Bank, agrees with the motorcycle taxi drivers.

The political and economic changes of the last decade, he says, have mostly benefited the middle class and upper classes, or foreign investors.

"Reformasi benefited Indonesia politically, benefiting civil society, non-government groups, the media, labour unions," he says. "But on the other hand democratisation has not ensured just, equitable growth."

Economic reforms have attracted foreign investors into the banking, telecom and retail industries, as well as investment in local stocks, he argues. But they have failed to improve the lives of Indonesia 's poorest.

"The problem with reforms they make - they're good for investors, particularly foreign investors - but for poor, the standard of living has not increased dramatically. In fact it has deteriorated
. "

Source: Al Jazeera
http://english. aljazeera. net/NR/exeres/ 4A1C3868- 8FEC-485B- 9637-9FED07B55A4 A.htm

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

----A Military Commissions Cheat Sheet com/mariner/ 20080521. html

Wednesday, May. 21, 2008
In the more than six years since President George Bush first announced the creation of military commissions to prosecute detainees allegedly responsible for terrorism, war crimes, and other misdeeds, there has not been a single full-blown military commission trial. (An Australian prisoner accepted a plea bargain last year and received a short sentence, which he served back in his home country.)

This should change in the next few months. The trial of Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan is now set to start on July 21, with motions hearings beginning on July 14. A few other detainees have already been arraigned; others are awaiting arraignment. In all, thirteen defendants are currently facing trial. (Charges had also been sworn against another defendant, Mohammed al-Qahtani, but he was so badly tortured while in US custody, tainting any statements that he made, that the Pentagon decided to drop his prosecution. )

Former chief military commissions prosecutor Moe Davis has testified to the political pressures that his office faced to push cases forward this year, particularly cases involving defendants implicated in the September 11 attacks. There was a strong feeling, he explained, "that if we didn't get this thing rolling before the election it was going to implode." Davis left the military commissions office last year.

Eight days ago, charges were referred against five detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were among the group of 14 transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006. A sixth so-called high value detainee, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, is also facing charges for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania.
Below is a cheat sheet summarizing basic information about the defendants, the charges against them, and the key developments in their cases.

The First Cases
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 37-year-old Yemeni, was captured by Afghan forces and handed over to the US military in late 2001. He is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism based on claims that he served as Osama bin Laden's driver and transported weapons and other supplies to aid in fighting against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Hamdan was previously charged with conspiracy before a military commission in July 2004, under the original military commissions system established by President Bush. He challenged the legality of the commissions, and won in a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June 2006. Yet three months later, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which authorized a new system of military commissions, under which Hamdan and the other detainees listed here are now being tried.

New charges against Hamdan were referred on May 10, 2007, and he was arraigned on December 5, 2007. (He had been scheduled to be arraigned on June 4, 2007, but at that hearing the judge dismissed the charges against him and another detainee, Omar Khadr (discussed directly below), without prejudice.)

Omar Khadr, a 21-year-old Canadian, was just 15 when he was captured and seriously injured in a firefight in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. The US has accused Khadr of throwing the grenade that killed US Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer and injured two others. He is charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.

Even though Khadr was a juvenile at the time of his capture, the United States has refused to acknowledge his status as a minor, or to apply universally- recognized standards of juvenile justice in his case. Both US and international law allow for detention of juveniles only as a last resort, require juveniles to be provided educational opportunities and housed separately from adults, and mandate a prompt determination of all cases involving children. Yet Khadr has been incarcerated with adults, reportedly subjected to abusive interrogations, and not provided any educational opportunities. In addition, he was detained for more than two years before he was provided access to an attorney, and for more than three years before he was charged. He was initially charged in the first round of military commissions, which were struck down by the Supreme Court. Another two years passed before he was re-charged before the current military commissions.

New charges against Khadr were referred on April 24, 2007, and he was arraigned on November 8, 2007.
Mohammed Jawad, a 23-year-old Afghan, has been in US custody since he was 17. He is charged with attempted murder and intentionally causing serious bodily injury. The US government alleges that while in Afghanistan in 2002 he threw a grenade at a military vehicle, injuring two US soldiers and their interpreter.

As with Omar Khadr, the US has ignored the fact that Jawad was a juvenile at the time of his alleged offense. Whereas other children detained at Guantanamo were given special housing and education programs, and were eventually released to rehabilitation programs in Afghanistan, Jawad was housed with adults, was not provided rehabilitation assistance, and was held for over six years prior to being charged. Jawad has told a panel of US military officers that he falsely confessed after being beaten and tortured by Afghan police when first taken into custody in 2002.

Charges against Jawad were referred on January 30, 2008, and he was arraigned on March 12. At his arraignment he told the judge, "I am innocent and I want justice and fairness."

Other Pending Cases
Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi, a 33-year-old Saudi who has been in US custody since 2002, is being charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and material support for terrorism based on alleged connections to al-Qaeda that date back to 1996.
The issue of evidence obtained through abuse is likely to be a central concern in this case. Al-Darbi was held in the US detention center at Bagram, Afghanistan, for eight months in late 2002 and 2003, during the period when some of the worst abuses took place there. Al-Darbi has said that while at Bagram, US soldiers kicked him, beat him, dragged him around by his calves, and hung him by his wrists for days on end.

Charges against al-Darbi were referred on March 3, 2008, and he was arraigned on March 13. Further proceedings in his case are scheduled for late May.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, a 47-year-old Sudanese national, is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. The US government alleges that from 1996 to 2001 he served as a driver and armed guard for Osama bin Laden, and that from 1998 until 2001 he provided security, transportation and supply services for an al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan. The US also claims that he fought with al-Qaeda as part of a mortar crew.
Al-Qosi has alleged that he was subject to abuse at Guantanamo, including sexual humiliation and brutal interrogation. In a lawsuit filed in 2004, al-Qosi stated that female interrogators rubbed their bodies suggestively against detainees and that US soldiers or interrogators performed sex acts in front of prisoners and displayed hardcore pornography. He also said that detainees were strapped to an interrogation room floor, wrapped in an Israeli flag, and then subjected to "constant pounding of deafening music." An FBI agent in August 2004 reported in an email that he observed a detainee at Guantanamo sitting in an interview room "with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing."
Charges against al-Qosi were referred on March 5, 2008, and he was arraigned on April 20. At his arraignment, he read a statement describing his plans to boycott his trial, explaining that he viewed the proceedings as illegitimate and unjust. Further proceedings in his case are scheduled for late May.

Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, a 37-year-old Yemeni, was one of the first detainees to be transferred to Guantanamo when the facility opened in 2002. He is charged with conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder, attack civilians, attack civilian objects, destroy property, commit terrorism, and provide material support for terrorism, based on claims that he received military training in Afghanistan and acted as a "media secretary" for Osama bin Laden.

During al-Bahlul's initial appearance before the first round of military commissions in 2005 he requested permission to choose a lawyer from Yemen, his home country, but the request was denied. When he appeared again a year later, he requested permission to represent himself, stating that he had no expectation of justice from a system created by his American enemies—that request was also denied.

The first case against him was thrown out when the Supreme Court declared the initial military commissions unlawful, but the US government referred new charges against him in the revamped military commissions on February 26, 2008, and was arraigned on May 7. At his arraignment, Bahlul declared that he would be boycotting his trial. He also indicated that he wanted to represent himself, but it was not clear whether he would participate in future proceedings in any way.

Mohammed Kamin, an Afghan estimated to be about 30, is charged with providing material support for terrorism, based on claims that, among other things, he received arms training at al-Qaeda camps. Charges against Kamin were referred on April 7, 2008, and he is scheduled to be arraigned on May 21.

The Prosecutions for the September 11 Attacks
Charges of involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks were referred against five defendants—all of them former CIA prisoners—a little more than a week ago. The five prisoners are currently scheduled to be arraigned on June 5. Given the enormous complexity of these cases, both factually and legally, the understaffing and lack of preparedness of military defense counsel—and the fact that all of the defendants face a possible sentence of death—it is unlikely that these cases will make great progress this year.

Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, a citizen of Pakistani, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism, based on claims that he ordered flight simulation and training videos and transferred large sums of money to the 9/11 hijackers in the US.

Abdul Aziz Ali was arrested in April 2003, but (like his co-defendants) he was not transferred to Guantanamo until September 2006.

Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek bin 'Attash, a Yemeni national, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. Bin 'Attash is specifically accused of having been instructed by Osama bin Laden to obtain a US visa so he could travel to the US and receive pilot training in order to participate in the eventual hijacking. It is also alleged that he applied for a US visa in 1999 but was denied, after which the government claims he continued to do research for al-Qaeda and facilitated travel for the 9/11 hijackers.

Although bin 'Attash arrested and placed in US custody in April 2003, he was not transferred to Guantanamo until September 2006. In the interim he was held incommunicado in secret CIA detention facilities, where he was effectively "disappeared. "

Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni national, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. The US government claims that Binalshibh was chosen by bin Laden to be one of the participants in the 9/11 hijackings, but was unable to enter the United States because his repeated requests for a US visa were denied.
Although Bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002 and transferred to US custody, he was not sent to Guantanamo until four years later. In the interim he was believed to have been interrogated and held incommunicado in secret CIA detention facilities, where he was effectively "disappeared. " A Jordanian former detainee, who claims that he spoke to Bin al-Shibh in detention, said that Bin al-Shibh was rendered to Jordan for some period of time, where he was badly tortured with electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and other abuse.
Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi, originally from Saudi Arabia, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. The government claims that Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi helped research flight schools for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and administered bank accounts for several of the hijackers.
Al-Hawsawi was reportedly arrested and transferred to US custody in March 2003, but was not transferred to Guantanamo until September 2006. In the interim he was held incommunicado in secret CIA detention facilities, where he was effectively "disappeared. "
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an approximately 44-year-old Kuwaiti, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism, for his alleged role in planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is believed to be the main architect of the attacks, and he admitted responsibility for them in a 2002 interview with Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda.

Mohammed was indicted in New York in 1996 for his alleged involvement in a Philippines- based plot to blow up 12 US-bound commercial airliners in a 48-hour time period. The indictment, which was made public in 1998, and federal arrest warrant provide details of how he operated within al Qaeda.

Mohammed was arrested in March 2003 and held in secret CIA custody for more than three years. During his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) hearing at Guantanamo, held on March 10, 2007, Mohammed claimed that he was tortured while in CIA custody and that as a result, he made false confessions about both himself and others. In addition, he alleged that his young children were detained and abused as well, a story that others have reported.
The details of Mohammed's allegations from the transcript of his CSRT hearing are redacted, but the CIA acknowledged on February 5, 2008, that the agency had subjected him and two other detainees to "waterboarding" in the period of 2002 to 2003. Waterboarding, a torture technique in which a prisoner is made to feel like he is drowning, violates both the federal anti-torture statute and the War Crimes Act. Although the CIA videotaped the interrogations in which terrorism suspects were waterboarded and subjected to other "severe interrogation techniques," the CIA confirmed that at least two videotapes documenting the interrogations had been destroyed in 2005. Several officials said that the tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that the video could expose agency officials to legal liability.

The Embassy Bombing Prosecution
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian believed to be about age 34, has been charged with murder, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property, terrorism, and conspiracy for his alleged involvement in the August 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The US is seeking the death penalty in his case.
Ghailani was previously indicted by US federal prosecutors for his role in the embassy bombings. Four co-defendants were put on trial in federal court in 2001 and sentenced to life without parole, but Ghailani was a fugitive at the time. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004, held incommunicado in secret CIA detention for two years, where he was essentially "disappeared, " and transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006.

He is now slated for trial by military commission. The only new charge contained in the military commission indictment alleges that Ghailani continued to provide material support and resources to al-Qaeda from 1998 until 2004.

Charges were sworn against Ghailani on March 31, 2008, but they have not yet been referred against him (the convening authority of the military commissions has the option of amending or dropping the charges during this period).

Interested readers may also want to consult the Pentagon's military commissions page. – Ed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

World food prices soar as a wealthier Asia consumes more

By Russell Blinch and Brian Love
Monday, March 31, 2008

WASHINGTON: Food prices are soaring; a wealthier Asia is demanding better food and farmers cannot keep up. In short, the world faces a food crisis and in some places it is already boiling over.

Around the globe, people are protesting and governments are responding with often counterproductive controls on prices and exports - a new politics of scarcity in which ensuring food supplies is becoming a major challenge for the 21st century.

Damaged by severe weather in producing countries and plundered by a boom in demand from fast-developing nations, global wheat stocks are at 30-year lows. Grain prices have been on the rise for five years, ending decades of inexpensive food.

Drought, a declining dollar, a shift of investment money into commodities and use of farm land to grow biofuel crops have all contributed to food woes. But population growth and the growing wealth of China and other emerging countries are likely to be more enduring factors. World population is set to hit 9 billion by 2050, and most of the extra 2.5 billion people will live in the developing world. It is in these countries that the population is demanding dairy and meat, which require more land to produce.

“This is an additional setback for the world economy, at a time when we are already going through major turbulence, but the biggest drama is the impact of higher food prices on the poor,” Angel Gurría, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said.
In Gurría’s native Mexico, tens of thousands took to the streets last year over the cost of tortillas, a national staple whose price rocketed in tandem with the price of corn.

Global food prices, based on United Nations records, rose 35 percent in the year to the end of January, markedly accelerating an upturn that began, gently at first, in 2002. Since then, prices have risen65percent.

In 2007 alone, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s world food index, dairy prices rose nearly 80 percent and grain 42percent.”The recent rise in global food commodity prices is more than just a short-term blipping,” the British research group Chatham House said in January. “Society will have to decide the value to be placed on food,” it added, and how “market forces can be reconciled with domestic policy objectives.” Many countries are already facing these choices.

After long opposition, Mexico’s government is considering lifting a ban on genetically modified crops to allow its farmers to compete with the United States, where high-yield, genetically modified corn is the norm.

The European Union and parts of Africa have similar bans that could also be reconsidered.
A number of governments, including Egypt, Argentina, Kazakhstan and China, have imposed restrictions to limit grain exports and keep more of their food at home.

This knee-jerk response to food emergencies can result in farmers producing less food, and it threatens to undermine years of effort to open up international trade.

“If one country after the other adopts a ’starve-your-neighbor’ policy, then eventually you trade smaller shares of total world production of agricultural products, and that in turn makes the prices more volatile,” said Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

In Argentina, a government tax on grain led to a strike by farmers that disrupted grain exports. Vietnam and India, both major rice exporters, announced further curbs on overseas sales Friday, sending rice higher on U.S. futures markets. Other food commodities retreated from record highs in recent days, but analysts attributed that less to fundamentals and more to profit-taking by investors.

In the next decade, the price of corn could rise 27 percent, oilseeds like soybeans by 23 percent and rice by 9 percent, according to tentative UN and OECD forecasts in February.
Waves of discontent are already starting to be felt. Violent protests hit Cameroon and Burkina Faso in February. Protesters rallied in Indonesia recently and media reported deaths by starvation. In the Philippines, fast-food chains were urged to cut rice portions to counter a surge in prices.

Trade Minister Kamal Nath of India said Monday that the government was looking to cut duties on food items to rein in rising prices.
“We are looking to cutting our duties on many products on the food front,” he said, ahead of a cabinet committee meeting to consider ways to contain prices. Earlier this month, the government cut the import duty on crude palm oil to 20 percent from 45 percent, and on refined palm oil to 27.5 percent from 52.5 percent.

Last year, the central bank of Australia - where minds were focused by a two-year drought - asked whether the surge in commodity prices could be one of the few really big ones in world history, like those of the mid-1930s or the 1970s.

Real commodity prices remained flat or even fell during the rapid industrialization of the United States and Germany in the early 20th century. But the industrialization of China, with 1.3 billion people, is on a totally different scale, the Reserve Bank of Australia noted.

“China’s population is proportionately much larger than the countries that industrialized in earlier periods and is almost double that of the current G-7 nations combined,” the central bank said. The emergence of China’s middle class is adding hugely to demand not just for basic commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat, but also for meat, milk and other high-protein foods.
The Chinese, whose rise began in earnest in 2001, ate just 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, of meat per capita in 1985. They now eat 50 kilograms a year.

Each pound of beef takes about seven pounds of grain to produce, which means land that could be used to grow food for humans is being diverted to growing animal feed.
As the West seeks to tackle the risk of global warming, a drive toward greener fuels is compounding global food problems. It is estimated that one in four bushels of corn from the U.S. corn crop this year will be diverted to make fuel ethanol.

“Turning food into fuel for cars is a major mistake on many fronts,” said Janet Larsen, director of research at the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental group based in Washington. “One, we’re already seeing higher food prices in the American supermarket. Two, perhaps more serious from a global perspective, we’re seeing higher food prices in developing countries where it’s escalated as far as people rioting in the streets.”

Similarly, prices for palm oil are at records because of demand to use it for biofuel, causing pain for low-income families in Indonesia and Malaysia, where it is a staple.But despite the rising criticism of biofuels, the U.S. corn-fed ethanol industry enjoys wide political support because it helps farmers, who suffered years of low prices, and that support is likely to continue.
John Bruton, the European Union’s ambassador to the United States, predicts that the world faces 10 to 15 years of steep rises in food costs. And it is the poor in Africa and, increasingly, Southeast Asia, who will be most vulnerable.

The director of the UN World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, is on a global tour in search of donations to fill a $500 million funding gap caused by the rising prices. The largest U.S. aid program, Food for Peace, has seen its commodity prices jump 40 percent and may have to curtail donations.

But aid and many policy options available to governments for helping the hungry distort markets and cause pain elsewhere in their economies, according to proponents of free markets.
“I was involved in a government that introduced food subsidies in Ireland and we had the devil’s own job to get rid of them,” said Bruton, who was prime minister of Ireland from 1994 to 1997.
Others trust that better fertilizers and higher-yielding crops – some of them genetically modified - will keep production in line with demand.

Bruce Babcock, an economist at Iowa State University, said the rising markets were a signal to farmers that they needed to raise production.
“It’s actually the greatest time in the world to be a farmer around the world,” Babcock said. “We are going to see fairly substantial increases in production because farmers have never had such a large incentive to increase production.”

But others note that expensive seeds and fertilizers are out of reach of farmers in poor countries.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, the British political economist Thomas Malthus said population had the potential to grow much faster than food supply, a prediction that efficient farming consistently proved wrong. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, some are revisiting his predictions.

Responses to ‘Fitna’ film

Geert Wilders is a die-hard masochist who enjoys dispensing “Dutch treat”.NENNETH CHENJakarta

Muslims only wonder why Wilders disrupts the quiet of others while he is never interrupted. I think he is just seeking fame for himself by sacrificing the peace. Congratulation, Wilders. See you in hell.HM SABAR SS PRAYAJakarta

In fact the protests against the anti-Islam film have been going on not only at Jakarta’s Dutch Embassy but also at the Dutch Consulate in Medan.

It is not a matter of maturity or immaturity of Indonesian Muslims, but the feeling of togetherness and brotherhood with Westerners, mainly Europeans, as a part of the global community that should be maintained.
The incorrect opinion on Islam must be buried to create a global life of harmony.ABDUL RAHIMTangerang, Banten

The less violent protests against Fitna do not indicate the growing maturity of Indonesian Muslims. It indicates the growing faithless of them.RIZWAN DARMAWANBandung

Being a Muslim, I hate people who humiliate Islam without any knowledge about it. Fitna is mockery, reflecting the producer’s madness for popularity.SUYADIJambi

I’m a Christian and absolutely condemn Fitna as made based on like and dislike. I hope Muslim clerics still continue to give cool and fresh sermons (da’wah).L.L. BIEPurwodadi, Central Java

I think Fitna will hurt Muslims and it may spark conflicts.SETYO DEWI UTARIBandung
The government bans Fitna, but Ahmadiyah followers in many areas like Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara and Kuningan, West Java, still get harassed even by officials of local governments.RIKAJakarta

Until now, seven mosques belonging to Ahmadiyah Muslims, located in Kuningan, West Java, are still closed by the local government, claiming for the sake of safety.
It is ridiculous. While the government and Muslims in this country condemn the film Fitna, they still allow violence against Ahmadiyah followers.GUNAWAN AHMADTangerang

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