July 10, 2008
July 10, 2008
An elderly Indonesian woman famed nationwide for supernatural skills in lengthening penises has died, reports said Thursday. Reclusive Mak Erot, famed for penis extension treatment incorporating traditional herbs and Islamic prayer, died last week in Caringin village on the western coast of Java island, the Kompas daily’s website reported.
Mak Erot — who reports aged anywhere from 101 to over 130 — prompted legions of imitations of her famous clinics, many using her famously craggy and birthmarked face to lure in anxious men.
While her legacy has been closely guarded by male descendents intent on maintaining the purity of the treatment, Mak Erot has become a pop-culture icon in everything from advertisements to teenage romantic comedy films.
Reports of he death prompted a flurry of bemused online comments from Internet users in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
User “Jengkol” wrote on news website Detikcom: “Oh no, I didn’t have the chance to go to Mak Erot and now she’s dead. I’ll just have to buy a vacuum. Maybe that could be the solution to my problem.”
July 10, 2008
SPIEGEL ONLINE has compiled a quiz based on the citizenship test soon to be introduced in Germany. If you think you know what “zero hour” means…then don’t be shy
A victim of Mugabe’s thugs tells how she was repeatedly raped and forced to beat other women suspected of supporting the Opposition
When the militia came for the boys, Caroline hid inside. Scores of teenagers from her neighbourhood had already been forced from their homes to become foot soldiers for the Zanu (PF) militia. At night she could hear them scouring the streets for opposition supporters, forcing them to indoctrination meetings where they were beaten and denounced.
But as the election neared, they came for the girls too, desperate to swell their ranks with young recruits. Caroline, 17, was marched to a Zanu (PF) base at a derelict house on the edge of Mbare slum, handed a baton and ordered into the next room.
“They said I had to beat somebody they had caught or they would beat me,” she recounts. “But when I got there, they raped me, one by one.”
Untold numbers of women, old and young, have been raped during weeks of state-orchestrated terror in Zimbabwe, but shame and stigma has prevented most from speaking out.
Several female activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have been dragged from their homes and gang-raped; still more common has been the sexual assault of women abducted in place of their politically active menfolk.
But perhaps the least known and most numerous groups are the young girls forced to join the ruling party’s own militia, who are systematically raped to cow them into submission and forced to carry out acts of violence against their own neighbours or face more brutality themselves.
Whichever group they belong to, the rape victims of Mugabe’s terror campaign continue suffering long after much of the other violence has died down, unaware of what the future holds.
“It was two weeks ago it started and still I am shaking,” Caroline says. “Maybe I am pregnant or maybe I have the HIV now. I do not know what to do now. No one can help.”
The sudden proliferation of youth militias across Zimbabwe was fuelled by the forced recruitment of thousands of underage boys.
David, an opposition supporter from the notorious Epworth township, had his 16-year-old son taken from the house every night for five weeks to join the militias in their rampages around the streets. “He is just a boy but I could not stop him, the big ones would have beat me,” David says. He still cannot bring himself to ask his son what he was made to do.
Caroline knows all too well. “It was a week before the election and the trouble was getting worse,” she said. “The Zanu (PF) chairman said that in the Eighties when there was war, girls fought too so we need them to fight this time too.” So the boys drew up lists of all the teenage girls in their neighbourhood and went to take them from their houses.”
Caroline was led to a house in Adbeni used as a militia base. Opposition supporters were taken there from the pungwes (indoctrination meetings) held elsewhere. Caroline was led into a room by two older militia leaders in their twenties to administer a beating. “But instead they raped me, the two of them, in turn.” Afterwards they took her to another room where a woman was lying face down on the ground. They told her she must beat her with the rope and baton they had given her. “I said ‘How can I beat her, she is older than me? How can I beat someone who is like my mother, my grandmother?’.” The face of her own mother, two years dead from Aids, loomed in front of her. But she remembered the horror of the rape and did what she was told. The next day she ran away from Mbare, to her grandmother’s house in Highfield. But her older brother went looking for her. She had not told him the truth about what happened.
“He said, ‘You have to go back to the base or they will beat us too’,” she recalls. “And I had seen many people badly beaten, who are disabled now from beating, so I had to go back.” When she got there, the militia leader was angry. He took her into the room and raped her again. Then he forced her to drink strong alcohol and sent her to beat the people again.
During the daytime when she was allowed home, Caroline would see the people she had helped to beat hobbling through the streets.
“I’d say, ‘I am sorry, we are forced to do it’,” she said. “And I’d say do whatever they want so they don’t beat you. They don’t know what is in their hearts.” She did not tell them of the rape that she was enduring night after night; the militiamen had told her they would kill her if she told.
The ordeal only stopped when the election was over. “Now they have left us alone, they are happy their president won,” Caroline said. In other parts of the country, the violence has continued, but Mbare is quiet for now. Caroline’s soul is not.
“I do not think I will ever be happy again in my life,” she sobs quietly into her T-shirt. Two weeks after the first rape, it is still too early to know if she is pregnant and it will be months before she can discover whether she has been handed a death sentence too.
HIV is so prevalent in Zimbabwe – 3,000 people die of Aids-related illnesses every week – that rape victims who can afford them are given antiretroviral drugs to fight its onset.
Medical services for the poor, however, have ground virtually to a halt under the month-long aid work ban imposed by Mugabe’s regime.
Caroline can only guess how many other girls are carrying her same burden. “There were so many of them who were taken into the other rooms too and I heard the noises,” she says.
“But nobody will talk of it. It is a great shame. So each of us suffers alone.”
Homeless and hungry
200,000 – number of Zimbabweans internally displaced since the March elections 2,000 number of party militia bases erected in week after the elections 5 million people expected to need food aid in next 9 months
In an unusual Chinese campaign against canine-based cuisine, Beijing has called on local hotels and restaurants to stop serving dog meat during the Olympic Games next month.
The move is part of a broad drive by the Chinese capital to present its best possible face during the games. It reflects concerns among senior officials that the sight of roast or stewed dog might offend visitors from western nations.
In a low-profile order issued recently in the name of the municipal food safety office, the capital’s catering industry association was told to “advocate” to its members that they “suspend use of dog meat dishes during the Olympic period”.
Hotels and restaurants playing a direct role in preparations for the games were targeted for special attention by other government departments, as were those in “key control areas” such as those along the routes to be used by the Olympic flame relay.
The campaign recalls efforts by South Korea – where dog meat is highly popular – to ban its consumption during the 1988 Seoul Olympics after fierce criticism from western animal rights groups.
Though little used in local Beijing dishes, dog meat has long been available in the capital at Korean restaurants and those offering the cuisines of southern Chinese provinces. Though the government has not specified any punishments for defiant dog-servers, the Olympic instruction is having some effect.
Maoxianglou, a restaurant serving food from south-western Guizhou province, said on Thursday it had been ordered not to sell its signature “Huajiang Dog”, a dish reputedly good for people suffering from high blood pressure or frequent night-time urination.
“We are not allowed to sell it during the Olympic period – and it’s not clear what will happen afterwards,” said a restaurant employee.
As in other Asian nations, dog consumption is facing increasing opposition within China, where the custom of keeping canine pets has become popular among newly wealthy urbanites.
Although the current campaign is backed by Guo Jinlong, Beijing mayor, one industry official suggested there were doubts among the bureaucracy about how to enforce it and concerns that visitors from South Korea might be disappointed at not being able to eat dog.
Still, it appears that dedicated dog devourers will not be denied the dish completely during the games, which open on August 8. A manager at Gourou Dawang, a restaurant in southern Beijing whose name translates as “Dog Meat King”, said it was trading as normal.
Alice Waters might not seem like a conservative. A veteran of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, who once cooked a $25,000-a-seat fundraising dinner for Bill Clinton, she eagerly compares her campaign for “edible schoolyards”—where children work with instructors to grow, prepare, and eat fresh produce—to John F. Kennedy’s attempt to improve physical fitness through mandatory exercise. Her dream of organic, locally and sustainably produced food in every school cafeteria, class credit for lunch hour, and required gardening time and cooking classes is as utopian as they come. The name she has given her gastronomic movement, the “Delicious Revolution,” strikes the ear as one part fuzzy-headed Marxism, the other Brooksian bobo-speak. This woman is not, as they say, one of us.
But a closer look tells a different story. In a 1997 talk, Waters quoted from an essay by Francine du Plessix Grey about the film “Kids,” which portrays the sex-, drug-, and violence-crazed lives of a circle of New York teenagers. Du Plessix Grey writes of being haunted by the adolescents’ “feral” and “boorishly gulped” fast-food diet: “we may,” she suggests, “be witnessing the first generation in history that has not been required to participate in that primal rite of socialization, the family meal.” Such an activity “is not only the core curriculum in the school of civilizing discourse; it is also a set of protocols that curb our natural savagery and our animal greed, and cultivate a capacity for sharing and thoughtfulness.” These teenagers “are deprived of the main course of civilized life—the practice of sitting down at the dinner table and observing the attendant conventions.”
Today’s children, Waters goes on to say, “are bombarded with a pop culture which teaches redemption through buying things.” But schoolyard gardens, like the one she helped create at the middle school a few blocks from my home in Berkeley, “turn pop culture upside-down: they teach redemption through a deep appreciation for the real, the authentic, and the lasting—for the things that money can’t buy: the very things that matter most of all if we are going to lead sane, healthy, and sustainable lives. Kids who learn environmental and nutritional lessons through school gardening—and school cooking and eating—learn ethics.” Good cooking, she writes in the introduction to her 2007 cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, “can reconnect our families and communities with the most basic human values, provide the deepest delight for all our senses, and assure our well-being for a lifetime.”
The proposal, put slightly differently, is that our attitudes toward food—which nourishes and sustains us, which binds us most fundamentally to place, family, market, and community—provide a measure of our respect for what Russell Kirk called the “Permanent Things.” We are not just what we eat but how we eat. The cultivation and consumption of our meals are activities as distinctively human as walking, talking, loving, and praying. Learning to regard the meal not merely as something that fills our bellies and helps us grow, but as the consummate exercise of beings carnal and earthbound yet upwardly and outwardly drawn, is a crucial step in the restoration of culture. The suggestion that the inculcation of such values might be an essential part of an adequate education ought to resonate beyond the confines of the doctrinaire Left.
Adopting an alternative view of food does not require rejecting the possibility of a free and prosperous market economy. Indeed, the rise of the New American Diet—meals eaten in a rush and very often alone, made from processed and prepackaged ingredients—was not solely or even primarily the product of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Historian Harvey Levenstein has argued that the spate of government regulations in the wake of early 20th-century food-safety scares played a crucial role in the rise of industrialized agriculture and centralized food processors. Early nutritionists and home economists, many distinctly of the quack variety, found a key ally in their attempts to reform American cuisine in Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration. The goal of reducing consumption of scarce foods and eating in accordance with “scientific” principles was tied to the cause of Allied victory in the First World War.
Official dietary guidelines inevitably became the product of collaboration between government agencies and representatives of the industries that stand to benefit. The substitution of state-sponsored nutritionist technocracy for the collective wisdom of taste, instinct, common sense, and tradition is a perfect example of the triumph of Tocqueville’s feared “immense tutelary power” (“absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild”). The same goes for the extraordinary industrialization and global “flattening” of our culinary economy, which Waters’s focus on community gardening, seasonal eating, and local markets is meant to combat.
Heavily concentrated industries demand expansive and centralized government. The converse is also true: bigger businesses are easier to regulate than smaller ones, and economies of scale are good for economic growth. “Get big or get out,” Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture told American farmers—a directive updated to “bigger” by Earl Butz, the infamous Nixon agriculture secretary who instructed farmers to abandon crop rotation and plant “from fencerow to fencerow.”
Price controls and multibillion-dollar farm subsidies prop up corporate agribusiness and discourage smaller producers from trying to find alternative market niches. Real local autonomy—setting regulatory standards that do not conform to national or international ones, restriction or taxation of imports or exports, and preservation of place-specific forms of agriculture and animal husbandry—is undermined because it makes for economic inefficiency. The natural capacities of location, season, and culture to link people together and shape the ways they farm and eat are countered by artificial measures designed to maximize yield.
But it is exactly these social and cultural dimensions of our culinary economy—the centralization of processing and production into an ever shrinking number of multinational corporations, the incredible distances over which food travels before it reaches our tables (an average of 1,500 miles in the United States), the loss of idiosyncratic foods and food cultures, and so on—that should raise the greatest concerns for traditional conservatives. “Eating is an agricultural act,” writes Wendell Berry. But Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini argues that it is also a political one—a deed no less significant than the ways we cast our votes. Hence even the smallest acts of resistance to the hegemony of the present system, where corporate representatives and industry-funded scientists at public universities collaborate with government officials on regulatory policies and nutritional guidelines, are crucial steps in recovering local culture and reconstituting our “little platoons.” This will nurture the ability to govern—or resist being governed.
The seeds of change are already being sown. Many American cities are transforming blighted urban districts with neighborhood farms that raise food not just for consumption by those who grow it but for sale in local markets. In 2007, a group of teenagers at a community farm in Brooklyn brought in $25,000, and a nonprofit organization that runs a one-acre plot in Milwaukee grossed over $220,000 in local sales.
The website LocalHarvest.org lists over 3,600 farmers markets in the U.S., and the number of Community Supported Agriculture programs, in which supporters pay a set fee in exchange for regular shares of the produce from a local farm, grew from 50 nationwide to over 1,500 between 1990 and 2005. Such efforts give growers and buyers the opportunity to relate to one another—one study showed that shoppers at farmers markets have 10 times as many conversations as those at supermarkets. These local ventures also provide families with fresh produce and allow farmers to diversify their crops and receive a far greater rate of return than when they deal with corporate middlemen.
Many of our best food writers are in full-throated rebellion against the corporate-industrial-governmental nutrition establishment. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food deconstructs the pretensions of “food science” in often hilarious fashion and distills all you need to know about eating into three directives: Eat food (as opposed to things with unfamiliar or unpronounceable ingredients, packaged “food products” that make government-sanctioned health claims, and pretty much anything from the middle aisles of the grocery store); Not too much (go for quality over quantity, and eat at a table, with others); Mostly plants (in unprocessed form when possible). Nina Planck’s Real Food takes the traditionalist counterculture to the extreme by denouncing veganism and extolling the health benefits of everything from cheese, lard, butter, and raw milk to eggs, beef, chocolate, and wine. And Waters’s wonderful new cookbook offers a step-by-step course in keeping a kitchen and preparing a range of dishes that, though simple, require time and effort to put together and are a joy to eat.
There are, of course, elements of leftism and elitism here. Pollan, for example, has a puzzling line in which he condemns as “shameful” the fact that not all Americans “can afford to eat high-quality food.” It is sad, to be sure, and we should strive to remedy it, but life’s inevitabilities do not warrant our shame. And while Bill McKibben, in his brilliant communitarian manifesto, Deep Economy, takes care to insist that his program is not one that can be driven by top-down governance, Petrini very often rails against free markets, suggesting at one point in his Slow Food Nation that contemporary China’s “political homogeneity” and exploitation of labor and the environment are “the embodiment of perfect capitalism.” (The Chinese economic system, he says, is only “nominally communist.” One wonders what he made of the agricultural policies of the Soviet Union.) But that doesn’t alter the value of the Slow Food vision of a world of “gastronomes,” attentive to taste and cognizant of the sources of their food, and of thriving local markets driven by “economies of place.”
Proponents of a new way of eating are on shakier ground when they claim that a widespread turn toward small-scale and deindustrialized agriculture would not affect crop yields. McKibben proudly cites a study in which sustainable farming methods were found to lead, on average, to a near doubling of food production per hectare. He does not mention the many cases in which results have been less impressive. A much discussed study published in the journal Science in 2002 found that switching to organic farming reduced yields by 20 percent, though the possibility of lessening our reliance on petroleum may be worth the investment of some extra land. Reincorporating into the human food chain some of the millions of acres where corn and sorghum are now grown for ethanol production would also make a great difference.
But no reasonable person wants to remake the world or do away with modern agricultural technologies all together. The best solutions will come through honest, case-by-case engagement with the subtle demands of specific situations. As the UC Berkeley agroecologist Miguel Altieri puts it, a sound approach to agriculture “does not seek to formulate solutions that will be valid for everyone but encourages people to choose the technologies best suited to the requirements of each particular situation, without imposing them.” (That this could just as well be the summary of the ideal domestic or foreign policy ought to argue in its favor.) Respect for tradition and social and ecological responsibility can work together with technological innovation and capitalist resourcefulness to respect the ridges and valleys of regionalism in an increasingly flattened world.
Efforts to realize this vision ought to figure centrally in the projects of social and cultural renewal that traditional conservatives see as essential precedents to meaningful political reform. Neighborhood gardens, cooking classes in schools and church basements, and the promotion of local and co-operative markets are the kinds of projects that will build community; revitalize regional economies; encourage stable, healthy families; and instill the kinds of civic attitudes that make centralized government appear burdensome. These are not merely aesthetic or gustatory concerns, nor are they essentially private or familial ones: eating is part of our politics, too.
But things will have to take root in our kitchens first. It is here that Waters’s cookbook, which begins with the basics and consistently encourages the reader to modify recipes and vary ingredients with the seasons, provides as good an introduction as one could hope for. Each Friday, my wife and I walk with our 1-year-old son to a house down the street where we pick up a box of just picked produce and pastured eggs from a nearby farm. Nigel Walker, who runs the farm and also has a stand at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, was involved in a nasty public spat with Carlo Petrini after an essay in Slow Food Nation called the prices at the Ferry Plaza Market “astronomical” and “boutique-y” and its clientele “extremely exclusive.” But at $24.50, my family’s haul this week—lettuce, mixed leafy greens, arugula, potatoes, beets or summer squash, lemon verbena, cherries, peaches, carrots, strawberries, and chard—will cost us about $8.50 less than similar (but non-organic, less fresh, and markedly lower-quality) produce from the local Safeway.
As with many CSA’s, our farm box comes with a newsletter that suggests recipes for some of its more exotic contents. But of late we’ve been making a point to turn to The Art of Simple Food whenever possible. So carrot soup, summer squash gratin with homegrown herbs, marinated beet salad, and wilted chard with onions are likely candidates for the days ahead. Obviously this is especially easy to pull off in the hometown of Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, the birthplace of Chez Panisse and California cuisine. It is, however, increasingly within the reach of anyone who wants to try.
Renewing the culinary culture, and restoring the kinds of values that are necessary for the proper functioning of a healthy republic, is not the sort of thing that can be left to activists, environmentalists, and government bureaucrats. This is a conservative cause if ever there was one, and it is going to have to begin at home. The revolution is coming. And it’s sure to be delicious
July 10, 2008
A MUSLIM leader believes knife attackers should be locked up for 42 days like terror suspects.
Sarfraz Sarwar, 60, said he couldn’t see the difference between the knife crime epidemic and those accused of plotting and carrying out terror attacks.
Mr Sarwar, of Gordons, Pitsea, also backed calls for Sharia law to be introduced in Britain and said public flogging should be carried out in town centres.
His comments follow those made by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, who said aspects of Sharia could be used to settle Islamic disputes, but not in the courts.
Mr Sarwar said: “What’s the difference between knife criminals and suicide bombers?
“They should do exactly what they do with terrorists, “They should hold them for 42 days, question them and put them in prison and solve the problem.”
He said Sharia law would act as a deterrent in solving crime in Britain.
He added: “If anybody is caught with a knife then give them ten lashes in the town centre.
“Sharia law is not controversial. It’s a deterrent. Muslim countries don’t have half the problems we have because Sharia law is there.”
Aspects of Sharia law involve stoning, lashings and cutting off hands.
Mr Sarwar continues to run a minorities support group in Basildon. He was the leader of the Basildon Islamic Centre, in Laindon, before it was burnt down in 2006.
Mr Sarwar is also very concerned for the safety of Muslims today and says racial abuse has increased since the 7/7 London bombings in 2005.
He said: “What is happening is mainly to do with misunderstanding. Maybe there is just a fear of the unknown.
“It is very difficult to work out why this is. I thought we were living in a modern European country, but it is like Victorian times. There is a lot of hate.”
Mr Sarwar appears in a Channel 4 documentary tonight on the anniversary of the 7/7 terror attacks.