Jul. 29th, 2011

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Israel Erupts in Protest, Tens of Thousands Chant 'Revolution'


Approximately 30,000 protesters marched in Tel Aviv last night, with social justice activists blocking central streets and chants of "Mubarak. Assad. Netanyahu" filling the air.

Tel Aviv police arrested 42 activists, which is an extremely rare number, "if not unprecedented," according to +972 Magazine, which has been closely following the circumstances surrounding the sudden rise of Israel's progressive left

The protests are part of a larger movement that began as opposition to rising housing prices, and indeed is still centered around that issue, but has spread to other social justice and progressive causes.

These protests are being described as "the greatest challenge PM Netanyahu faces on the home front," and show that the progressive left in Israel has awoken.

Change in Israel may be coming.

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Facebook is driving Israel's protests

But the role of Facebook is not limited to news updates. The protesters on Rothschild Boulevard hold meetings where everyone can have a say. On Facebook, one status update can provoke a flood of responses and turn into a heated public debate.

Facebook is what radio was in the early days of the state, what television was when the Iron Curtain crumbled, what the newspapers were during the Spring of Nations. The protests over the price of gas, cottage cheese and, of course, housing, would not have accelerated as they did without Facebook.

It's even possible that without this platform, where people can call for a boycott and get infinitely more exposure for their views than they would by standing in the town square, these protests would have never taken place.

These are crazy times in the virtual world of Facebook. One strand of civil action meets another, 1,000 more people join a protest and a chain reaction that began with nothing in the morning can build up into a demonstration that is thousands strong by evening.

"What's happening tonight?" a friend asks. "Go to Facebook, all the details are there," I tell her. "I told you I'm against Facebook, I want to maintain my privacy," she says. But the wall of opposition is slowly but surely cracking; "perhaps today I will join," she finally says. MORE



Massive Housing Protests Shake Israel Government Into Action Demonstrators Reject Netanyahu's Plan as Inadequate


Tel Aviv — In a speech from his office July 26, Netanyahu announced that for the first time in Israeli history, the government will give contractors incentives to build housing for long-term private rental at low rates.

Netanyahu’s speech came as 350 tents lined Tel Aviv’s fashionable Rothschild Boulevard, filled with people demonstrating against high housing prices. More than 500 protest tents were pitched elsewhere in the country. A few hours before Netanyahu’s speech, Haaretz released a poll finding that 87% of Israelis supported the protests. Three days previously, about 30,000 Israelis marched for the cause in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu put other political business on hold and tried to quell the anger.

“In Israel protests by specific groups happen daily, but this has brought in many groups and become massive,” said Ben Gurion University historian of social economics Efraim Davidi. “It is the most important protest in a generation.”

Under Netanyahu’s proposal, the government will offer free state-owned land to contractors willing to compete to build homes for long-term rental at the lowest prices. Netanyahu’s program will also offer half-price land for sale where contractors compete to promise the lowest sale price. Young couples, graduates, and people finishing military or civilian national service will have priority when these homes reach the market. MORE


Free state owned land, eh? Wonder where this land came from? Either way...I watch this development with interest...
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NEPAL Religious Practices Oppress Women


KATHMANDU, Jul 28, 2011 (IPS) - The recent gang-rape of a Buddhist nun and her expulsion from her sect have sparked a debate about the deep-rooted religious traditions and biases that foster discrimination and violence, especially against women, in this South Asian state.

The public outcry against the nun’s expulsion forced the Nepal Buddhist Federation to reconsider, saying now that once she recovers, the victim can return to her nunnery.

But it is only a minor triumph. While public debate on a discriminatory socio-religious practice led to its retraction, thousands of women continue to be victims of other religious rituals in Nepal.

The expulsion debate started after the 21-year-old nun was attacked on June 24 while travelling in eastern Nepal. Bad weather disrupted the journey and the young woman, easily recognizable as a nun by her shaved head and red robes, was persuaded by the bus driver to spend the night in the vehicle.

...

But more suffering awaited the victim. A joint statement supported by 15 organisations— including Nepal Tamang Lama Ghedung, an organisation of Buddhist monks, Nepal Buddhist Federation, and Boudha Jagaran Kendra (Buddhist Awakening Centre)— condemned the attack but said she had lost her celibacy and her religious status. The rejection triggered widespread debate, with Buddhist groups from across the world criticising it.

"There is a great deal of shock and disbelief at the very idea of such an action by both Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the U.S. and abroad," wrote Matthew Frazer, an American who established the Yeshe Tsogyal Foundation to defend Buddhists targeted by violence or abuse. "Such an action reflects badly not only on Nepal, but on Buddhists in general to the rest of the world. It will set a very perilous precedent that can be used to take similar actions against future victims."

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For reals? She got raped and therefore she can't be a nun because her celibacy was TAKEN FROM HER??!?!?? How about NO.

Hope...

Jul. 29th, 2011 12:28 am
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PAKISTAN After the Flood, Green Homes


KARACHI, Jul 28, 2011 (IPS) - Subhan Khatoon’s brand new home is nothing like the one that got washed away, along with all her worldly goods, in the 2010 monsoon floods that submerged a fifth of Pakistan and left 2,000 people dead.

Before that deluge, Khatoon, 45, could not have dreamed of owning a well-ventilated house with such luxuries as an attached toilet and a clean kitchen.

Khatun was lucky that the district administration of Khairpur identified her village Darya Khan Sheikh, on the banks of the Indus in Sindh province, as one of the worst affected, and her house as one that had been completely destroyed and, therefore, merited replacement.

Paperwork over, architects and engineers from the voluntary Heritage Foundation (HF) began designing Khatoon’s new home using locally available materials under its ‘Green Karavan Ghar’ initiative, which runs a similar rehabilitation project in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The vision behind the HF initiative is the use of local materials and a workforce backed by students from schools of architecture and engineering.

Established in 1984 by Yasmeen Lari - incidentally Pakistan’s first woman architect - the HF basically documents historic buildings and works for their conservation, but came forward to help with post-disaster reconstruction.

"These young professionals must learn to respect the traditional ways of building and also get hands-on training both technical and humanitarian in nature," Lari told IPS.

They have already handed over 104 homes in two villages in Sindh, all built with bamboo, lime (as opposed to cement) and mud. Not only can these be made speedily, they are cost-effective at Pakistani Rs 55,000 (647 US dollars) and have a low carbon footprint.
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U.S. Key Committee Slashes Foreign Aid, Warns Palestinians



WASHINGTON, Jul 27, 2011 (IPS) - Amidst growing fears of a new fiscal crisis sparked by a possible U.S. debt default next week, a key Republican-led Congressional committee Wednesday approved deep cuts in foreign aid and contributions to the United Nations and other multilateral institutions next year.

While leaving some eight billion dollars in President Barack Obama's requests for non-military aid to Iraq and Afghanistan relatively untouched, the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House of Representatives cut bilateral economic and development assistance to the rest of the developing world by an average of around 25 percent.

It also made major cuts in U.S. contributions to multilateral agencies, including the U.N. and some of its specialised agencies, and some international financial institutions (IFIs).

It sliced a total of 600 million dollars from the administration's 3.5-billion-dollar request for the U.N. and its peacekeeping operations, for example.

It also halved Washington's 143-million-dollar 2012 pledge to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), and zeroed out U.S. contributions to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and rejected proposed capital increases for IFIs that are providing support for developing countries still struggling with the fallout of the 2008-9 financial crisis.

It cut the operating budgets for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by 35 percent, essentially reversing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's efforts to build up the ranks of both agencies.

Moreover, it made significant cuts to major programmes designed to help some of the world's most vulnerable people.

It cut 18 percent – to just over seven billion dollars – from Obama's request for global health projects, which had been one of former President George W. Bush's signal foreign-policy achievements.

It cut Obama's requested family-planning programmes worldwide by 40 percent, from 770 million dollars to 461 million dollars, and reinstated the highly contentious "Gag Rule" that bans U.S. aid to clinics or groups in developing countries that perform or even provide information about abortion services.

And it cut development assistance by 12 percent, from 863 million dollars this year to 758 million dollars in 2012, and emergency refugee and migration assistance by 36 percent, from 50 million dollars to 32 million dollars. ...

On the Middle East, the bill calls for 1.3 billion dollars in aid to Egypt, provided that the secretary of state can certify that its government is adhering fully to the 1979 Camp David peace treaty with Israel and that no part of its government is controlled by a "Foreign Terrorist Organisation".

The latter condition also applies to Lebanon, Libya and Yemen, while any Palestinian government that forms an agreement with Hamas would not be eligible to receive U.S. aid. Lowey, the ranking Democrat, indicated support for the Middle East provisions of the bill. Earlier this month, she co-signed a letter with Granger to PA President Mahmoud Abbas warning him that his pursuit of recognition for Palestine at the U.N. would likely cost him all of the nearly 500 million dollars Washington provides to the PA. MORE

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