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September 24 2014

Ebola – die unterschätzte Katastrophe: ein Spendenaufruf [Gesundheits-Check]

Täglich sind jetzt Meldungen über den Ebola-Ausbruch in Westafrika in den Nachrichten. Zu Recht. Der Ausbruch wurde lange unterschätzt. Die WHO geht davon aus, dass es bis Anfang November mehr als 20.000 Infizierte gibt (derzeit sind ca. 6.000 erfasst, mit unbekannter Dunkelziffer), die CDC befürchten sogar, dass es bis Anfang 2015 mehrere hunderttausend bis 1,4 Mio. Fälle geben könnte. Das halten die Gesundheitssysteme und die Staaten Westafrikas insgesamt nicht aus. Wenn die Seuche nicht gestoppt wird, wird es eine humanitäre Katastrophe geben, deren Folgen für die Region und darüber hinaus noch gar nicht absehbar sind.

In den Medien wird gerade angemahnt, auch das zu Recht, die Bundesregierung möge hier endlich der vom Bundespräsidenten bis zur Verteidigungsministerin pathetisch beschworenen größeren Verantwortung Deutschlands in der Welt gerecht werden. Vielleicht haben die anderen Katastrophen, die derzeit die Welt heimsuchen, der Gazakrieg, der Krieg in der Ostukraine und der Vernichtungskrieg des Islamischen Staats, die Aufmerksamkeit der Regierung und unser aller Aufmerksamkeit zu lange vom Ebola-Ausbruch abgezogen, vielleicht haben wir uns auch nur angewöhnt, den immer neuen Elendsmeldungen aus Afrika nicht mehr so aufmerksam zuzuhören. Wie dem auch sei, die Regierung soll jetzt handeln. Dass die Verteidigungsministerin Ärztin ist und zudem Public Health studiert hat – es wäre schön, in diesem Krisenfall mehr davon zu sehen.

Man kann aber auch selbst etwas tun, z.B. spenden und in den eigenen Organisationen und Verbänden für Spenden werben. Wer nicht weiß, wohin: Die Ärzte ohne Grenzen sind auch in Westafrika aktiv und sie brauchen Spenden. Es geht ganz einfach mit ein paar Klicks im Internet:

https://www.aerzte-ohne-grenzen.de/

Reposted from02mysoup-aa 02mysoup-aa

February 27 2014

One Third of Pregnancies Are Unintended in Burkina Faso

Social Researchers at L’Institut supérieur des sciences de la population (High Institute of Population Science) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso published a report entitled “Grossesses non désirées et avortements au Burkina : causes et conséquences” (The causes and consequences of Unintended Pregnancies and Abortions in Burkina Faso). The report highlights a few important statistics [fr]: 

  •  Un tiers de toutes les grossesses ne sont pas intentionnelles, et un tiers de ces grossesses non intentionnelles se terminent par un avortement.
  •  La taille de la famille désirée est en moyenne, de 6 enfants dans les zones rurales, contre 3 à Ouagadougou. 
  • Entre la moitié et les deux tiers de l’ensemble des femmes qui avortent sollicitent des praticiens traditionnels sans compétence particulière

-A third of all pregnancies are unintended, and one third of these unintended pregnancies result in an abortion.
-The size of the desired family is on average of 6 children in rural areas, against 3 in Ouagadougou.
-Between half and two thirds of women who seek abortions are going to traditional practitioners who do not have the required medical skills. 

February 26 2014

Mushrooms, France's Latest Food Trend

Comestible? Pas sûr! licence creative commons Pavlinajane sur Flickr

Edible mushroom? Who knows. Pavlinajane on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

[All links lead to French-language websites unless otherwise noted.]

As a result of both the economic crisis and the need to eat healthier, the worldwide trend of eating local products has also gained ground in France, and at the center of the movement is the mushroom.

A Google blog searched returns 708,000 hits for the word “mushroom”, proof of the blogosphere's fascination for the fungus. Cristau de Hauguerne, an early pioneer of the trend, waxes poetic about her affinity for mushrooms: 

Dès que la neige eut fondu, que la pluie cessa et que le soleil put enfin réchauffer les pentes, les cèpes d'été en surprirent plus d'un dans la hêtraie-sapinière. Quelques sujets en prélude fin juin, mais, loin de faiblir, sans l'ombre d'un orage, l'activité mycélienne s'intensifia graduellement dans le courant du mois de juillet, aestivalis entrainant même pinophilus dans sa fureur de vivre. Après deux années d'indigence, au faîte de l'été, de par leur abondance ces cèpes conférèrent finalement aux sous-bois de hêtres l'allure de la grande pousse automnale. 

As soon as the snow had melted, the rain had stopped and the sun had finally warmed up the slopes, the summer porcini mushroom showing up in the beech-fir forest came as a surprise to many. An early smattering appeared towards the end of June, but, with no hint of a storm in sight, mycelial activity thrived and proliferated uninterruptedly, intensifying gradually throughout July, pinophilus kind bringing the aestivais kind with it in its eagerness to spread out. After two years of acclimatization, at the height of summer the abundance of porcini lent the beech woods the appearance of a full autumn flush.

Although the mushroom has had its longstanding enthusiasts, it has recently acquired a more significant status among the general public: like wine or seasonal fruit and veg, it is highly valued both in the mind and on the plate, associated with a better lifestyle and close proximity to local farmers. 

The most recent edition of the magazine We Demain published on 13 February even argued that “mushrooms are the new elixir of life“.

Local vs. imported

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) licence creative commons Kozumel sur Flickr

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) photo by Kozumel on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

However, this movement sometimes contradicts itself. On the one hand, it emphasizes local cultivation, whilst on the other hand, it glamorizes the exotic promise of imported mushrooms. These days, Asian mushrooms, such as shiitake or enokiadorn the shelves of French supermarkets alongside the common or garden variety button mushroom.

Shitake carries all the virtues usually associated with mushrooms: anti-aging and anti-cancer properties, the source of three different B-vitamins, etc. The Réseau Biloba blog expounds on the numerous virtues attributed to this fungus:

Le shiitake est riche en fibres alimentaires; substances qui ne sont pas digérées par l’organisme. La majorité des fibres du shiitake sont sous forme insoluble, fibres qui contribuent particulièrement à maintenir une bonne  fonction intestinale. De plus, une alimentation riche en fibres peut participer à la prévention des maladies cardiovasculaires et du cancer du côlon, ainsi qu’au contrôle du diabète de type 2 et de l’appétit.

Shitake is rich in dietary fibre: substances that are not digested by the organism. The majority of the fibre contained in shitake are insoluble, thus contributing to maintaining a healthy transit. In addition, nutrition that is rich in fibre may help prevent heart disease and cancer of the colon, as well as control of type 2 diabetes and appetite.

So is this mushroom consumption just a fad, a con or a fabulous discovery? Absolutely Green blog published a pertinent post:

A l’origine, on suppose que ce sont les Chinois qui ont découvert ce champignon, il y a plus de 6 000 ans. (…) Et pourtant, ce sont les Japonais (…) qui le diffusèrent à travers l’Asie, à partir du 11ème siècle. Plus qu’un aliment, le shiitake était envisagé comme une sorte de végétal miracle, augmentant la longévité, améliorant vigueur sexuelle et endurance physique. Encore de nos jours, cette réputation lui colle à la peau et fait débat. 

En comparaison, les Occidentaux se sont initiés tardivement à cette culture : il a fallu attendre les années 1970, alors que les Etats-Unis décrétaient un embargo sur les champignons vivants en provenance d’Asie, pour que des producteurs s’y attèlent. Et, encore de nos jours, les Européens restent frileux : quelques initiatives en Hollande et en France se comptent sur les doigts de la main.

It is thought that this mushroom was first discovered in China more than 6,000 years ago. But the Japanese are responsible for its propagation throughout Asia, from the 11th century onward. Far more than a mere aliment, shitake was considered to be a sort of herbal miracle, promoting longevity, improving sexual performance and physical endurance. To this day, it is stuck with this much-debated reputation. 

Westerners, in comparison, were introduced to this culture much later: It wasn't until the 1970s when the United States placed an embargo on live mushrooms imported from Asia, that production really took off. Even today, Europeans are still hesitant and there are only a handful of ventures in Holland and France.

Note that shitake does not come cheap, as demonstrated in the detailed comparative study published by Virginie on the same blog post. Nonetheless, for those who have had the chance to taste it, shitake is particularly tasty, especially if simply sauteed with a splash of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

The art of picking and preparing mushrooms

Cèpe de Bordeaux

Boletus edulis – Cèpe of Bordeaux. Photo by caitphil on Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Closer to home, there are many mushrooms within reach for any would-be hunters. Hunting for chanterelles, morels and Bordeaux porcini belongs to the same back-to-earth, back-to-basics movement as the pursuit of shitake's benefits.

The occasionally hunter, however, would be well advised to read up on the subject in order to avoid great or even disastrous inconvenience. According to the Ministry of Health, 546 cases of mushroom poisoning were registered in 2013. Pickers must also beware of the areas they forage in, which are sometimes regulated.

Furthermore, mushrooms are known for their surprising capacity to concentrate environmental pollution, explained in this French-language video: 

Hand-picked wild mushrooms become the centerpiece of a meal for guests, and can be prepared in a large variety of ways, ranging from the very simple to the very complicated. In her blog Papilles et pupilles, Anne shares the quintessence of the Bordeaux porcini:

C’est le roi des champignons locaux, à côté de lui nul n’est à la hauteur. (…) Les coins à champignon comptent parmi les secrets les mieux gardés que l’on ne partage que sur son lit de mort. 

No other mushrooms can compare to this one, it is the king of all local mushrooms. The best mushroom spots are among the most fiercely guarded secrets, shared only on one's deathbed.

Top chefs recommend scores of recipes for wild mushrooms. From cream of morel and white mushrooms to pig trotter pancake with shallots and black truffle, there is something for all tastes, for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Here is a simple recipe for raw porcini from a famous chef: 

The chef explains the process as follows:  

Separate the heads from the tails of the porcini and chop into fine slices.
Put the chopped porcini in a bowl and season with olive oil.
Add salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and if you have it, truffle juice. DO NOT use truffle oil.  
Add the basil leaves and stir. The salad should be bright.
Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.

For Cristau de Hueauguerne, one burning question remains, even in the middle of winter:

Alors que nous sommes rendus au milieu d'un hiver méconnaissable, se dessine en sous-sol la future saison des champignons, qui ne connaît pas de trêve, et, quoi que cela s'avère fort difficile et hasardeux, nous sommes déjà nombreux à nous demander quelle sera la teneur du millésime 2014. 

Whilst we are in the middle of a unprecedented winter, the next mushroom season is taking shape in the subsoil, and even though this may seem risky or even rash, many of us are wondering what the 2014 millesime (year of harvest)  has in store.

February 25 2014

Bahamas: The Cerasee Cold Cure

Forget the cold relief, time for the cure.

Blogworld's Nicolette Bethel turns to “bush medicine” for healing.

February 23 2014

First Open Heart Surgery in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

The health international network La Chaîne de l’Espoir (The Link of Hope) reports that 7 Congolese children in critical conditions benefited from open heart surgeries [fr] on February 14 in Brazzaville, Congo. With the help of the Congo Assistance Fundation as well, Prince Béni and Maya, both suffering from cardiomyopathy were operated for several hours as told in the following report [fr]:

Elle a dix ans et ne pèse que quinze kilos. Son cœur fonctionne mal. Il l'empêche de s'alimenter et donc de grandir. La petite fille doit être opérée le plus vite possible. L'intervention dure six heures.

(Mayala) is ten years old and weighs fifteen pounds. Her heart is malfunctioning. It prevents her from getting nutrients to all her cells and therefore growing. The girl needed an operation as soon as possible. The procedure took six hours.

February 22 2014

#EuroMaidan Medic Shot in Neck Lives to Tweet: “I Am Alive!”

Volunteer medics attend to the wounded

Volunteer medics attend to the wounded on the morning of February 20, 2014 when snipers indiscriminately took aim at protesters from the roof of Hotel Ukraine. Photo by Alan Turgutoglu © Copyright Demotix

As snipers fired at EuroMaidan protesters on February 20, 2014 one young medical volunteer was hit in the neck, but managed to write on Twitter: “I am dying”. Her message was shared by thousands of people until finally, two hours later, she tweeted that she had survived.

A tense truce between protesters and the Ukrainian government was broken that morning and sniper shots were fired at up to a hundred people in the square. Many shots were aimed at the head or neck, apparently for the purpose of killing. [There are photos and videos - WARNING graphic content].

As the shooting began, medical volunteers rushed to the scene despite the danger. Among them was a 21-year old volunteer from Ternopil, Olesya Zhukovskaya.

Olesya has been volunteering on Maidan for over three months. According to the administrator of a Facebook page about Maidan activists called “Єлюди – maidaners”, she had caught the attention of other volunteers for her bravery. On February 19, the day before shooting, one person had written to the Facebook page encouraging them to take note of Olesya and write something about her.

Олеся Жуковська з Тернополя (Кременець) на Майдані з першого дня. Їй 21 рік, працює за 250 км від дому медиком-фельдшером. На Майдан поїхала як медик-волонтер. Що вона там тільки не бачила. На Грушевського їй згорів одяг, поруч граната впала…..але вона нікуди не пішла, а лишилась допомагати людям. За 3 місяці перебування на майдані захворіла, мала страшну ангіну і лежала в лікарні. кілька днів тому поїхала додому до мами, бо матуся плакала і просила показатись їй живою, а Олеся одна єдина в сім'ї. Поїхала на кілька днів додому. Але вчора, коли побачила, що коїться на Майдані, попри сльози мами, переживання тата та родини, вночі поїхала на Майдан автобусом, в якому були тільки чоловіки, 18 людей і вона сама……Зараз вона на Майдані в медпункті біля йолки. я горджусь такими як вона, думаю, що Олеся варта того, щоб Ви про неї написали».

Olesya Zhukovskya is from Kremenets, in the Ternopil region and has been on Maidan [central square in Kyiv] from day one. She is 21 years old, and works as a medical assistant 250km away from home. She came to Maidan as a medical volunteer. She has experienced everything there. On Hrushevskogo [street where the first clashes took place] her clothing was burned when a grenade fell next to her… but she has not left, she stayed to help people. After three months on Maidan, she fell ill, had a terrible angina and had to stay at the hospital.

A few days ago she went home to see her mother, because her mother prayed and pleaded for her only child to show up at home alive. She stayed at home for a few days. But yesterday, when she saw what was happening on Maidan, despite her mother's tears, and the concerns of her father and other family, she took a night bus to Maidan with 18 people, all men…. Now she is on Maidan, at the medical aid point next to the “Christmas tree”. I take pride in people like her and beleive Olesya deserves to be written about [on your page].

The next day snipers opened fire on protesters. Here's what Olesya tweeted that morning:

EVERYONE COME TO KYIV URGENTLY, IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE! Your support is needed! If a massacre has begun in the morning, there will be horror by evening! Especially when Russian troops arrive aiming to shoot Western extremists [as protesters are called in Putin's official statements].

According to the timestamp, about 20 minutes later she was shot in the neck, despite wearing a bright medical volunteer uniform. Already wounded, Olesya tweeted [uk]:

I am dying

Her tweet went viral immediately. Media even reported Olesya's death:

However, Olesya did not die, but was taken to a hospital and received an operation. Just as Maidan was trying to come to terms with the unprecedented loss of life, she tweeted again [uk]:

I am alive! Thank you to everyone who's supporting and praying for me! / I am at the hospital. My state is stable so far.

Many have referred to Olesya as “Maidan's heroine” [uk]. She gained around 8,000 new followers on her twitter account in one day. People from all over the world sent their messages of support:

Olesya, get well! We are in Moscow, but we are with you and worry for you. You have done great.

In recognition of Olesya's service and sacrifice, Hungarian Red Cross held an action of solidarity for her:

February 19 2014

Human Waste Scavenging a Reality in India Despite Sanitation Laws

Manual scavenging is illegal in India. Yet, the practice continues to exist in pockets. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging is illegal in India but the practice continues to exist. This lady in Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh is carrying human waste for disposal. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging, or the manual removal of human waste from non-flush toilets, continues to exist in pockets of India despite the Indian government's stringent laws agaisnt it [pdf]. A team of bloggers, including a member of Global Voices, visited a few villages in the Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India and learned more about this continuing illegal and dehumanizing practice.

The Indian government in partnership with UNICEF India has been actively pushing an ambitious, community-led total sanitation program – the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which aims to end open defecation by 2017. An earlier Global Voices post reported how UNICEF India's #poo2loo campaign has been using innovative methods to engage the urban populace and create awareness about the issue of open defecation.

However, apart from influencing cultural norms to end open defecation and building of toilet infrastructure across the country, the NBA program also deals with hygienic methods of solid and liquid waste disposal. And it is in this context that the blogger team learned how traditional “dry toilets” were unhygienic. Plus, given that these areas lacked proper sewage system for waste disposal, these toilets encouraged the illegal waste disposal method – manual scavenging.

A traditional dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that requires manual scavenging to clean. Image by author

A dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that needs manual scavengers to clean. Image by Aparna Ray.

The district panchayat officer of Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh India explained why, according to him, dry toilets (toilets without a flush or wash-away system) were worse than open defecation. He pointed out that open defecation in villages generally took place in open fields and wooded areas away from human habitation, but in traditional dry toilets the waste lays open within the confines of the home, spreading diseases faster within the community (as the waste attracts flies, which then sit on foodstuffs, etc.).

In fact, this was one of the reasons that many families preferred not to have a toilet within the house. Plus, these kinds of dry toilets also require manual scavengers for waste disposal, a job that is “without dignity and illegal”.

Mayank Jain from Youth Ki Awaaz was one of the bloggers on the field visit. He wrote about his experiences:

dry toilet is probably the gravest thing I have encountered in my life. Those who feel shy or don’t want to go out choose this means where they leave their fecal waste in one corner of the house and in the morning, a human scavenger comes to clean it and carries the whole waste on their head to dump it anywhere away from their home. This is done in return for a sum of just 30 rupees for 6 months! This is an inhuman crime being carried out all over the villages and it is a massive source of diseases and health issues. People don’t realize how unhygienic it is to live with their own waste in the house and those who carry on their heads find themselves perpetually ill with diarrhea or poisoning and they still choose to do it for that extra money

Mayank further commented:

The story gets worse once you talk to them about their children and you discover this profession gives birth to huge discrimination and people don’t dare touch them or talk to them nicely because of what they do in the morning. Story of human scavengers brings to light the vicious cycle of poverty and misery but the web is intermingled with shades of caste-ism, religious sentiments, traditions and cultural hierarchies that have grown to this level now.

It is a crime as per Indian law and the women who do it ran away when we tried to talk to them thinking they will be caught or punished and I could only wonder where this country has reached so far.

Three scavenger ladies

Three scavenger women in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, huddled together, a little away from the rest of the villagers. Image by Aparna Ray

Bloggers Ajay Kapoor from Halabol and Sonal Kapoor from the NGO Protsahan have also blogged and tweeted about what they learned from these manual scavenging women, whom they met on the field trip.

Ajay blogged:

Scavengers from a village. No dignity, no respect and worst of all they get pennies for this humiliating work and some stale food.

And Sonal (@ArtForCause) tweeted:

The women complained that they were ill much of the time but when it was pointed out that it was because of the work they did, they said that they could see no other viable and respectable alternative open to them.

The Indian government, along with organizations such as Sulabh International which are working in the field of sanitation are pushing for societal change a) by trying to get people to convert their traditional dry toilets to a more hygienic option that does away with the need for daily scavenging and b) trying to create alternative livelihoods for these scavengers.

Conversion of traditional dry toilets

The government along with its sanitation partners is pushing for conversion of these unhygienic dry toilets into flush toilets. However, keeping in mind the lack of proper sewerage systems as well as the impracticality of advocating expensive flush systems, especially in poorer or rural areas, they are opting for technologies such as the self-composting, twin-pit pour flush system.

A dry toilet being converted into a twin pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

A dry toilet being converted into a twin-pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

This toilet technology involves building a toilet which is connected to two pits, any one of which is used at a time. Water-flushed waste collects in a pit and when it is filled, the other one is used. The waste gets converted into compost, which can then be used as manure.

Other innovative, alternative sanitation systems are also being explored across India, for example,this ecosan squat toilet system, supported by UNICEF.

A more contemporary format of a waterless flush system was also recently exhibited in India.

Rehabilitating manual scavengers

As more toilets get converted and as opportunities are created for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers by providing them alternative livelihoods, there is cause for hope, though a lot still remains to be done in this area. Be it through the government sponsored “100 days guaranteed work” scheme or self-employment schemes or even NGO-led training and employment generating initiatives, we hope that the manual scavenging community will get reinstated in the mainstream society and be able to live with dignity and dream of a better future for themselves as well as their children.

In this YouTube video, Sulabh International's Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak talks about his organization's initiatives in this direction, saying that the resulting glimmer of change is a “candle in the darkness, a beginning of the beginning”.

In the next post in the series, we will look at how some brave “toilet warriors” are working within their communities to bring about change in attitudes to scavenging, sanitation and hygiene.

February 18 2014

YouTube Chefs Are Cooking Up a Storm in Indian Kitchens

YouTube Chefs are cooking up a storm and gaining celebrity status in India and abroad

YouTube chefs are gaining celebrity status in India and abroad.

Recipes are no longer just about cookbooks or top professional chefs hosting cooking shows on TV. A new breed of Indian culinarians are cooking their way to celebrity – via YouTube. As they demystify Indian cuisine and offer step-by-step guidance to creating mouthwatering Indian dishes, these talented men and women are inspiring a whole host of Indians to pick up their ladles and try out various yummy recipes in their own kitchens.

Move over recipe books, the YouTube chefs are here. No longer does the amateur home chef have to flounder with trying to understand what exactly the recipe instruction meant when it said things like, “the batter should be of pouring consistency”. Now you can see the chef demonstrate on video what exactly “pouring consistency” ought to be like. 

VahChef

Sanjay Thumma, more popularly known as VahChef, is the founder of food website vahrehvah.com. His prolific recipes channel on YouTube, which he launched in 2007, has catapulted him to culinary stardom.

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's YouTube channel

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's VahChef YouTube channel

Over the years, VahChef Sanjay has put up over 1,100 easy-to-follow videos demonstrating mainly Indian (and some international) recipes. Currently, his YouTube channel has about 234,985 subscribers and has clocked 159,266,645 views. On Facebook too, he has garnered about 164,405 likes. Sanjay is also currently hosting cooking shows on a regional TV channel in India.

Food Blog Wandering Spoon notes:

It’s refreshing to watch someone demonstrate mouth-watering dishes with uninhibited joy, a matter-of-fact globalism and minimal make-up. It helps that I love so many cuisines in India, but what immediately appealed to me is his stance as a teacher.

In the video below, VahChef Sanjay demonstrates how to cook fennel and pepper chicken:

Manjula's Kitchen

Manjula Jain grew up in a North Indian vegetarian family. Though she married and relocated to the US in the late 1960s, her family and she remained vegetarians as they were Jains by religion. Since 2006, Manjula has been blogging recipes and creating cooking videos on YouTube that offer “simple and practical recipes” to authentic Indian vegetarian cuisine. Her recipes include vegan and gluten-free dishes as well.

Manjula's Kitchen website and blog

Manjula's Kitchen on YouTube has 146,873 subscribers and has racked up 73,769,313 views. Her Facebook page has 260,833 likes. Recently, Manjula has also published her first book, ”Manjula’s Kitchen: Best of Indian Vegetarian”which is available on Amazon.

In the video below, Manjula shows us how to prepare a tasty snack which is also a popular street food in Mumbai, India: Batata Vada or Aloo Bonda (fried potato dumplings):

Nisha Madhulika

It's not only English-language recipe videos that are doing well online. Meet 55-year-old Nisha Madhulekha from Delhi. After she retired from a full-time job, Nisha grew restless and turned to her passion for cooking to keep herself occupied. She started posting recipe videos online in Hindi with English subtitles for the non-Hindi audience. With over 800 videos uploaded to date, plus tonnes of recipes on her Hindi website (there is also a subset English version here), Nisha Madhulika is quite a culinary force.

nishamadhulika.com - the Hindi website featuring Indian vegetarian recipes

Hindi website nishamadhulika.com features Indian vegetarian recipes

In the following YouTube video, Nisha shares her story about how she started her journey as a YouTube chef:

As of today, Nisha Madhulika's YouTube food channel has 114,339 subscribers and has nabbed 33,236,034 views. Her Facebook page has close to 40,000 likes.

In the video below, Nisha Madhulika shows us how to make sweet puffed rice balls (somewhat similar to Rice Krispies Treats, but with jaggery instead of marshmallows):

Some of the other popular YouTube home chefs who post videos of Indian and/or South Asian recipes include Bhavna with her “exotic vegetarian cuisine recipes from all around the world with a hint of Indian flavor” at Bhavna's Kitchen (134,091 subscribers, 52,497,677 views) and the Hetal-Anuja team with their “step-by-step and practical approach to South Asian Cooking” at ShowMeTheCurry.com (120,696 subscribers, 65,979,089 views).

Screenshot of India Food Network page

Screenshot of India Food Network page on YouTube

In fact, YouTube video tutorials and recipe demonstrations have become so popular that a group of home chefs and food bloggers got together in 2012 to create the India Food Network on YouTube. According to the description on their Facebook page:

India Food Network is your step by step guide to simple and delicious home cooking. From regional Indian cuisine to popular dishes from around the globe, our focus is to make cooking easy

So next time you want to cook your way into someone's heart, don't reach for a cookbook. Log on to YouTube and let some of these new-age celebrity chefs show you the way.

February 17 2014

The Millenium Development Goal for Safe Water Is Still Beyond Reach for Many African Countries

Point d'eau du village de Mwamanongu, en Tanzanie. CC-BY-2.0

Water source in Mwamanongu, Tanzania. CC-BY-2.0

Virgil HOUESSOU, a Benin-based reporter for the African association for clean water,  is pessimistic about the Millenium Development Goal with respect to safe water. He writes  on the collective blog Wash Journalists [fr]: 

A quelques mois de l’échéance de la réalisation des OMD [Objectifs du millénaire pour le développement],  beaucoup de défis restent à relever dans le secteur de l’eau et de l’assainissement. De nombreux pays africains trainent encore le pas et ne sont pas sûrs de les atteindre

A few months removed from the deadline for reaching the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], many challenges remain in the area of ​​water and sanitation. Many African countries have yet to fully get going on this topic and therefore are quite unsure of reaching their objectives.

February 16 2014

One Nepalese Doctor's Hunger Strike Wins Action From Officials

After an assurance that Prof Dr Prakash Sayami would be reinstated as the dean of Institute of Medicine following Dr Shashi Sharma's dismissal, senior orthopaedic surgeon Prof Dr Govinda KC is ending his 3rd hunger strike in Kathmandu. Image by Narayan Maharjan. Copyright Demotix (24/1/2014)

After an assurance that Dr. Prakash Sayami would be reinstated as the dean of Institute of Medicine following Dr. Shashi Sharma's dismissal, senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Govinda KC is ending his third hunger strike in Kathmandu. Image by Narayan Maharjan. Copyright Demotix (24/1/2014)

Dr. Govinda KC, a senior orthopedic surgeon of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Nepal who has earned the nickname Crusader KC, ended his fourth fast-unto-death [ne] on 15 February 2014. Dr. KC, who was fighting to end political interference in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Nepal, has once again proven that victory can be won without resorting to violence.

The doctor had only ended his third hunger strike for the same reasons on 25 January after officials had assured him they would meet his demands, but he resumed the strike in early February, accusing them of dragging their feet.

He had been demanding to appoint a new dean at the Institute of Medicine (IoM) on the basis of seniority, stop granting affiliation to medical colleges in urban areas, autonomy for IoM and action against Tribhuvan University (TU) vice-chancellor, rector and registrar, who according to him were corrupt and influenced by “medical mafia”.

Medical students taking care of Dr KC during the fast offered juice to him to end the latest eight-day strike, online portal Onlinekhabar reports. An agreement was signed among Dr. KC, the education secretary and the newly appointed Dean of the Institute of Medicine (IoM) Dr. Rakesh Prasad Srivastav, according to The Himalayan Times.

Dr. Sudhamshu KC, a liver specialist, researcher and traveler from Kathmandu, tweeted:

Very happy to know that Dr. KC ended the fast. But the pest of TU [Tribhuvan University] is still to be killed. May the new council of ministers use effective pesticide.

Dr. KC enjoyed widespread support from the public during all of his four fasts-unto-death in 2010, August 2012, January 2014 and February 2014.

One of his fans, Manohar, a graduate of life science and biotechnology, tweeted:

Hey,
Those who say you will eat when it falls,
Those who say you will eat when it dies,
KC won’t feel tired
KC won’t retire
Your palace of black property will surely burn down
KC’s dreams will never burn down.

Popular Nepali blog Mysansar [ne] wrote about the doctor's heroics quoting an earlier write-up on him by journalist Surendra Paudel of Nagarik Daily, who has covered the KC extensively:

It’s been 17 years, he packs his bags with medicines and sets off for the remote villages in Nepal, at least twice a year. He has been to the mountains, hills and terai, to serve his countrymen, free of charge. He has served the needy of 72 districts out of the 75 districts in Nepal. And his journey is continuing.

He has not only served Nepalis but has been a helping hand to the survivors of major catastrophes in recent times. He was in Bangladesh after the devastating cyclone in 1993, in India’s Gujarat after the major earthquake, in Pakistan after the earthquake in 2005, in Myanmar in 2008 after the cyclone, and in Haiti after the disastrous earthquake in 2010. He spent several weeks in these countries treating the survivors.

While he treats, distributes medicines, he doesn’t charge anything. He does not accept donation from organisations. It’s his own hard-earned money that he spends in cure of the needy.

Screenshot from the Facebook page

Screenshot from the Facebook page “Save IOM, Save Dr. Govinda K C”

Dipak Bhattarai discussed on his blog an anecdote shared on his Facebook by Paudel:

Just after resigning from the premiership, the Maoist supremo Prachanda aka Pushpa Kamal Dahal had invited Dr KC for his health check-up. Dr KC rejected the request and said that he has never gone to anybody’s residence for the check-up due to his busy schedule treating the poor and needy at the hospital. The messenger had to give in to Dr KC’s principles. He also had to abide by the rules. Prachanda had to come to the hospital and wait in queue for the check-up. And he had to do away with his entourage of bodyguards, as suggested by Dr KC only three of them came to the hospital.

While many Nepalese were supportive of his strike, some were irritated by his fourth fast.

Jigyasu Mahesh tweeted:

Dr KC’s ways of not letting work amplifies the politics. [They are] collapsing the system.

Ramen Adhikari wrote.

To which Milan Bagale replied:

Hope the mafia loses the battle. From the deepest of my heart. Victory be with us.

With Dr KC’s ending of the fast, the medical fraternity hopes that this will mark the end of the rule of medical mafia and political interference at the IoM in Nepal.

February 12 2014

An “Increasingly Uncertain” Future for Central Asia's Fergana Valley

On the Caravanistan blog, Cycloscope writes about radioactive landfill sites in the Fergana Valley, a region “absurdly divided between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan”:

Unaware of the dangers of radioactivity, the locals take the equipment in the old abandoned mines and sell them as scrap, risking not only their own lives but also the spread of radioactivity. A further problem is the use of rock from landfills as a building material for houses and roads.

The threat coming from radioactive waste is aggravated by unsettled borders, water scarcity, and a history of ethnic riots, making the future of the region “increasingly uncertain”.

February 11 2014

South Korean Film About Samsung Worker's Death Slowly Winning Over Moviegoers

A film about the tragic death of a Samsung worker is slowly gaining traction in South Korea, the birthplace of electronics giant Samsung and a country notoriously nicknamed “The Republic of Samsung“ for the corporation's enormous power and influence there. 

“Another Promise” faced many hurdles from the very beginning. According to an extensive interview with local media [ko], the director recalls getting countless rejections from investors and production houses, adding that without the help of many generous citizens, the movie would not have been possible.

Poster Image of movie Another Promise, Fair Use Image

Poster for the film “Another Promise.” Fair use.

The film, which depends entirely on crowdfunding and small, private donations, tell the story of a Samsung worker who died from acute leukemia and her father's draining legal battle with the corporation as he struggled to prove that disease was linked with the company's harsh and unsafe working conditions. A series of legal fights continue between Samsung and labor groups who allege that employees suffering from leukemia and other rare diseases contracted them because of working at the company's factories.

Amid rising suspicions [ko] that some multiplex theaters are too afraid to expand the number of screens showing the movie even without pressure from Samsung, the movie seems to have deeply touched and inspired moviegoers, many of whom took their reviews to Twitter and popular South Korean online venues, encouraging other users [ko] to see the movie. 

After his daughter died in the back seat of his own taxi, the father calls the labor attorney and says, “Yumi has just passed away. There is no one around I can tell this.” No one to complain to, no one willing to take their side. There are over 58 cases of similar deaths. Watching this movie is listening to those voices.

It's my second time watching the movie. Since it is so realistic, it almost felt like watching a documentary, especially since I witnessed that particular scene with my very own eyes – where people blocked with the bus. But back then, I merely found that people's cries coming from inside were just bit too noisy. Why did I not take interest in what was going on in this society back then?

After watching a romantic film, people wish it would happen in their real life. However, after watching movies depicting ugly facts of reality, they wish to keep them where they were, as something that exists only on the screen. But actually, when these responses are reversed, people can bring positive changes to the real world. “Another Promise” is a reality which needs to be changed outside a movie theater.

Many of the comments were about the seemingly unfair treatment that the movie is getting – less active promotion by distributors and not many screens are showing the film. People also mentioned that the title of the movie, “Another Promise”, is a satirical use of Samsung’s famous advertising slogan “Another Family”. 

That ad slogan “Another Family” – they would have never imagine this would come back to bite them like a boomerang. I really hope they pay the full price for taking advantage of their “family” in the ad without really taking responsibility for the customers, labor workers and victims.

With members of my group “Power to the People”, I watched the movie “Another Promise”. I've tried to take a confirmation photo proving that we watched it, but there was no movie poster displayed inside the theater, and not even one banner stand. And they say the movie is screened only twice a day. What a pathetic situation. 

February 10 2014

Remembering the Jamaican Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall

Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall has died at the age of 82 in England; netizens and academics all over the globe were shocked by the news, though Hall had been ailing for some time. He reportedly died of complications arising from kidney failure.

The UK Guardian's obituary described Hall as an “influential cultural theorist, campaigner and founding editor of the New Left Review”. One of the founders of British Cultural Studies, he regarded popular culture as capitalist and dominated by the ruling class. He studied media and its impact on ideology, becoming a major proponent of reception theory and expanded the scope of cultural studies to deal with race and gender. His work was particularly meaningful to black West Indian immigrant communities, as he explored ideas of cultural identity, race and ethnicity, especially as they related to the diaspora experience. Rather than viewing identity to be determined by history and culture – and therefore fixed – he saw it as fluid, ongoing and subject to change.

Facebook was overflowing with status updates that reflected the respect and admiration people had for the man and his work. Upon hearing the news of Hall's death, Rhoda Bharath said:

I can't even begin to describe how bereft I feel about Hall's passing… What a loss!

Arc Magazine posted a striking portrait of Hall by Antonio Olmos, adding:

We have just learned of the passing of Stuart Hall, champion of cultural studies and one of the Caribbean's leading intellectuals.

Our condolences are extended to those whose lives he touched with his generous work.

Rest well in peace Sir.

Arc's Facebook update directed readers to its website, where it posted about Hall's life and work in greater detail.

From Jamaica, Annie Paul referred to his death as “horrible news”, and proceeded to post a series of links and photos about his life and work as part of her mourning process, including this video of Hall speaking with C.L.R. James:

In another update, Paul admonished the Jamaican media for not picking up on the significance of his death:

Have yet to hear any announcement on local media of the passing of Stuart Hall…

Stuart Hall (R) reading a copy of The Caribbean Review of Books at at Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; June 2004.  Photo by Annie Paul.

Stuart Hall (R) reading a copy of The Caribbean Review of Books at at Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; June 2004. Photo by Annie Paul.

In a blog post that was published soon after the 2012 debut of John Akomfrah‘s film about Hall, “The Unfinished Conversation”, cultural studies professor Nick Mirzoeff wrote:

It’s a remarkable piece of visualizing theory and history. Shown on three screens simultaneously, the film visualizes, in a sense, what it must have been like to be Stuart Hall in his earlier career. The three screens would be showing personal photographs, filmed interviews from various periods, archive film and photography, news footage and so on. Meanwhile the sound would blend music, often jazz, with Hall’s commentary and radio interviews and other sound, such as the sea or machinery. It was a polyphony, edited so that all the sounds and images reinforced rather than disrupted each other.

There were powerfully revelatory moments throughout. It turns out–did I somewhere know this?–that Stuart has Sephardic-Jewish in his family tree. In the film, we see his mother and that lineage is visibly apparent–it’s mine, too, so I’m allowed to say this. Was there some affinity that I had felt, having worked with Hall when I was a young activist and editor on Marxism Today, and always taking his thought to be a lodestone? Perhaps.

He commented on other revelations in the film:

It turns out that Hall was part of a group that opened a radical coffee shop in Oxford in the crisis of 1956. The Soviet invasion of Hungary changed a generation away from orthodox Marxism-Leninism and cultural studies would not have happened as it did without this break. At the same time, Britain and France invaded Egypt over the nationalization of the Suez canal, their last imperial folly.

Sitting in the coffee shop called The Partisan, with its sign designed in impeccable lower-case sans serif font, Hall was interviewed about his views. Time and again, he calmly stressed that he was angry, angry over the invasions, angry over the disregard for young people in Britain, angry that

for fifteen years at least we have been without any kind of moral or political leadership.

Out of that anger came the New Left Review.

Mirzoeff continued:

Watching it now, over fifty years later, I felt intensely that we had somehow let this young man down, that it would be entirely possible for another such young man or woman to sit down today and say exactly the same thing. And it is indeed what we have been saying this past year. The spectre that entered the room was this question: will this demand still be unmet in fifty more years from now? Or was leadership perhaps the wrong thing to ask for? Reflecting back on 1956, a moment he felt “defined” him, Hall noted in terms so familiar to us:

Another history is always possible.

The film ends with this caption

For Stuart Hall. In gratitude. And respect.

My eyes filled with tears. In the crowded screening room, I was not alone.

On Twitter, condolences streamed in from all corners of the globe:

Some Twitter users shared the aspects of Hall's work that affected them the most:

Others suggested what they felt were the most appropriate ways in which to honour his memory:

Some just admitted that the world – and its intellectual space – felt emptier without him:

Gerry Hassan acknowledged Hall's astute analytical powers:

One Twitter user, Sean Fernyhough, quoted director John Akomfah:

Akomfah's latest documentary about Hall, The Stuart Hall Project, can be viewed here. A shorter clip is here.

@cfidelmorris acknowledged the great impact of jazz music in Hall's life – specifically the music of Miles Davis:

Professor Nicholas Mirzoeff summed up the general feeling with this tweet:

The photograph of Stuart Hall used in this post was taken by Annie Paul; uploaded by Nicholas Laughlin and used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. Visit Nicholas Laughlin's flickr photostream.

February 08 2014

Legalizing And Regulating The Sex workers in Sri Lanka

Shilpa Samaratunge, a development worker, discusses in Groundviews about the problems surrounding the sex workers in Sri Lanka. Instead of abolishing and criminalizing them, which is the path Sri Lanka currently is on, she suggests to legalize the profession and impose regulation and provide health-services for the sex workers.

Patients in Uzbekistan “Have Nobody to Rely on Except for God”

On Registan.net, Gulnoza Saidazimova paints a bleak picture of the healthcare system in Uzbekistan (part onepart two):

[The system is so inadequate and outdated that] a wealthy few head to foreign countries for medical treatment, drawing on their own savings and often those of their close relatives, whereas the majority poor can only hope not to get sick. They have nobody to rely on except for God.

February 05 2014

Caribbean Diaspora Blogger Makes Meatless Monday Meaningful

Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella usually blogs about all things glamourous – fashion, beauty, fitness – but occasionally, she will wax poetic about food, which, of course, has a glamour of its own. Her culinary interests lie Caribbean food, usually, and the challenges she faces finding the right West Indian ingredients while living in a North American metropolis. She manages, though, and today she shares her recipe for a Rainbow Pizza recipe that does something extraordinary, at least in Caribbean menu terms: It offers a tasty meal – without meat – which is perhaps the most loved staple of West Indian diets.

Her post begins by acknowledging the genesis of the Meatless Monday concept:

[It] dates back to conservation efforts during World War 1, but regained popularity in the last decade as a public health awareness initiative. The idea behind it is to improve public health by going meatless once a week, to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease and diabetes while reducing your carbon footprint and improving the environment.

She continues:

I love the idea, and have been wanting to eat less meat and more veggies for a while. My husband is totally not cool with it and wants to eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. It makes things challenging for me. It means that I have to try that much harder to create something delicious and healthy that we’ll both enjoy.

Afrobella succeeds, though – after checking out a few recipes on Pininterest, she gives the pizza dish her own special flair by “up[ping] the ante and add[ing] some roasted veggies”:

When I shared the photo on my Instagram and Facebook pages, the response was huge! Everyone’s asking me for the recipe. And it’s SO EASY. Like, stupid easy. Let me share it with you!

Rainbow Pizza, a la Afrobella.

Rainbow Pizza, a la Afrobella.

You can check out the recipe and follow the method here. Then, add the veggie ingredients in the sequence of rainbow colours:

Decorate in rainbow stripes! Like I said, I used the following, in order from right to left – mushrooms, broccoli, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, roasted tomatoes, and red onion. Some of my veggies were roasted veggie leftovers…so effortless and delicious every single time!

Then you taste the rainbow (sorry, I couldn’t help it)!

There was one challenge with the pizza, though:

Because it’s in veggie based stripes, depending on how you arrange your veggies, your slices probably won’t include all of them. The next time I make this pizza, I’m making it on a circular crust so I can get all my veggies on one slice.

It was yummy, easy, and if you have kids, they’ll probably love it.

Here's hoping that meat-lovers, or as they're called in the Caribbean “meat-mouths” will agree. Enjoy!

The image used in this post is by Afrobella, used with permission.

February 04 2014

Jamaica: Third World Front Man Dies of Cancer

Jamaican View notes that Bunny Rugs, leader of the reggae band Third World, has passed away after a long battle with cancer.

February 03 2014

Searching for Solutions to Open Defecation in Ghana

Open defecation is a huge health problem facing Ghana. Sixteen million people in Ghana use unsanitary or shared latrines, while 5.7 million have no latrines at all and defecate in the open. This has led to outbreak of diseases such as cholera when human excreta and urine pollutes water bodies. Open defecation costs the nation a whopping sum of 79 million dollars per year.

An article published by SpyGhana indicates that:

Although Ghana has chalked tremendous progress in some of the eight areas of the development goals including MDG 7, Target 7c, which is to: “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation”, whereas it has already surpassed its target of 78% for water, the country has failed woefully in increasing access to improved sanitation.

Crawling at a snail’s pace of one percentage point increase each year, access to improved sanitation in Ghana is now at 15% according to the latest Multi Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) report released few days ago.

This means only 15 out of 100 Ghanaians now have access to improved sanitation, which is 39% short of Ghana’s sanitation MDG target of 54% that expires in 2015.

To further compound Ghana’s unenviable sanitation status, the open defecation rate in Ghana has now increased from 19 per hundred Ghanaians to 23 per 100, according to the MICS report.

But Clean Team Ghana is a sanitation company in Ghana that is working to change that by providing innovative and affordable in-house toilet facilities to urban communities. The YouTube video below shows how Clean Team is improving urban communities in Ghana by helping households have access to safe and clean toilet in their homes:

The company organised a Twitter debate on the 24 January 2014 to engage sanitation experts, government, social enterprises and the online community to deliberate on how open defecation can be eradicated in Ghana. The debate was organised using the hashtag #OpenDefecationGh.

In response to why people defecate in the open, Green Ghanaian (@GreenGhanaian) tweeted:

Naomi Kokuro (@Naamsb) commented:

Valeries Labi (@ValerieLabi) agreed:

Naomi Kokuro (@Naamsb) emphasised:

How can open defecation be eradicated in Ghana? Ghana Wash Project (@Gwashproject) suggested:

Naomi Kokuro (@Naamsb) argued:

   Edu Afrique (@EduAfrique) tweeted: 

Gameli Adzaho (@Gamelmag) pointed out that:

Asante Pious (@Asantep2005) noted:

Delali Kumapley (@DKumapley) remarked:

Valeries Labi (@ValerieLabi) wrote:

Francis Kumadoh (@Kumadorian) commented:

Replying to Francis Kumadoh (@Kumadorian) tweet, Ghana Wash Project (@Gwashproject) wrote:

MIT Environmental Engineering student J Knutson (@JKnoot) advised that:

Co-founder of Clean Team Andy Narracott (@AndyNarracott) wrote:

Nii Kwade (@Niikwade) emphasised the need for collaboration:

Grace Aba Ayensu (@Aba_Ayensu) complimented the effort of Clean Team:

Victoria Okoye (@Victoria_Okoye), media and communications expert, noted:

Peter Jones (@HCPeterJones), British High Commissioner to Ghana, tweeted:

A “Freedom Train” for the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women in Spain

Tren de la Libertad

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Minister of Justice in Mariano Rajoy’s government, is spearheading a bill that seeks to repeal the existing standard in Spain—the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Law (VIP) and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) 2010— by promoting a reform that would mean a 30 year setback in the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights in that country.

A campaign opposing this bill, which has not yet been approved, has been spearheaded by feminist movement of Asturias, specifically the Tertulia Feminista les Comadres [es] led by the florist Begoña Piñero Hevia. Named by its creators “The Freedom Train” [es], the initiative was launched through social networks on January 2:

Las mujeres de la Tertulia Feminista les Comadres y de Mujeres por la Igualdad de Barredos consideramos que la reforma de la ley del aborto planteada por el Gobierno de Rajoy constituye un ataque injustificable a la libertad de decidir de las mujeres.

Invitamos a la sociedad asturiana a sumarse a las acciones que se organicen desde los distintos grupos, asociaciones y colectivos de mujeres para conseguir la retirada de ese Anteproyecto de Ley.

The women of Tertulia Feminista les Comadres and Women of Barredos for Equality believe that reforming the abortion law proposed by Rajoy’s government constitutes an unjustified attack against the free will of women.

We invite Asturian society to join actions organized by various groups, associations and women’s collectives to achieve the withdrawal of this proposed law.

Leaving from Asturias and arriving in Madrid on February 1st, the “Freedom Train” comprises a series of actions and activities, and the creation of supporting materials such as banners and bibs, all  created and run by the participants themselves.

Imagen tomada del sitio de la iniciativa

Begoña Piñero Hevia wearing the Freedom Train bib

From the start, the initiative has found support in several countries, and has inspired other activities and collateral actions. The text “Because I Decide” [es], which has been translated into seven languages, will be delivered to the Spanish Council of Deputies. One of the paragraphs says:

Porque yo decido, soy libre y vivo en democracia exijo del gobierno, de cualquier gobierno, que promulguen leyes que favorezcan la autonomía moral, preserven la libertad de conciencia y garanticen la pluralidad y diversidad de intereses.

Porque yo decido, soy libre y vivo en democracia exijo  que se mantenga la actual Ley de salud sexual y reproductiva y de interrupción voluntaria del embarazo por favorecer la autonomía moral, preservar la libertad de conciencia y garantizar la pluralidad de intereses de todas las mujeres.

 

Because I decide, I am free and I live in a democracy, I demand that the government, any government, enact laws that promote moral autonomy, preserve freedom of conscience, and ensure plurality and diversity of interests.

Because I decide, I am free and I live in a democracy, I demand that the current law on sexual and reproductive health and abortion is maintained, fostering moral autonomy, preserving freedom of conscience and ensuring the plurality of interests of all women.

Activists from 13 Spanish communities will come together to take the text to the Council.

Tweeted from Galicia:

We’ll see you on February 1 in Atocha. Not one step back. I’m going, are you?

And from Granada:

Coming with us on the Freedom Train? We're leaving on February 1 at 6 a.m. We'll expect you there!

A group of women filmmakers [es] (directors, producers, photographers) joined the mobilization to film and record the events of February 1st, when the “Freedom Train” arrived at the Atocha terminal in Madrid. Some of these women artists are: Inés París, Gracia Querejeta, Chus Gutiérrez, Ángeles González-Sinde, Iciar Bollaín and Isabel Coixet.

At the same time, a group of approximately 1500 intellectuals, at the initiative of Yo Decido Tren de la Libertad Pilar Aguilar, analyst and critic, have signed a manifesto [es]. Writers Mercedes Abad, Lola Beccaria, Isabel Cienfuegos, Laura Freixas, Rosa Montero and university professors Carmen Valcárcel and Almudena Hernando are among the supporters of this manifesto.

The Freedom Train also features a song, expressing the dissatisfaction of women with the law promoted by Mariano Rajoy's government:
  
Compinchado con Rajoy y sus muchachos  
ha tomado nuestro cuerpo de rehén  
con una aberrante ley demoledora  
que pretende sin empacho denigrar a la mujer.  

Rajoy in cahoots with his boys
have taken our bodies hostage
with a devastating, abhorrent law
which aims to shamelessly denigrate women.

The initiative has also had an impact in Latin America, mainly Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, noted in the publication of several messages on the social network Twitter. In Ecuador, through the Slut Walk, the plan is to go to the Spanish Consulate in the capital city of Quito and demand that the permanence of current law on sexual and reproductive health.

From the Caribbean:

Also, there have been petitions for asylum based on health issues linked to abortions by a group of people at the French Embassy in Spain:

More than 200 petitions for abortion asylum at the French embassy. This Saturday we get on the Freedom Train.

Besides the Gallic nation, other European nations will be protesting, among them Belgium and Italy. In Brussels, on January 30 a demonstration was held against the so-called Gallardón reform, with thousands in attendance.

Support from Italian and French women

Here, the The Freedom Train theme song:  

 

January 31 2014

Have Acne? South Korea Will Tax Your Treatment

Who has the right to tax your pimple outbreak? In South Korea, it is the finance ministry.

Beginning of February, a new tax system that imposes a 10-percent tax on surgeries having to do with appearance and beauty will go into effect in South Korea. This so-called beauty tax not only includes well-known plastic surgeries such as nose job, double-jaw surgery or lip augmentation, but also ordinary skin care, such as acne treatment.

New taxation which was introduced last summer claims that it would rein in the country's rampant cosmetic surgeries, but it has been widely unpopular from the moment of its proposal. Critics argue [ko] that the scheme is simply a plan to increase tax revenue decorated as a public health law. Several web users pointed out [ko] that the tax won't tackle society's obsession with looks and people who have the means or who desperately want such procedures will not be affected. 

One the eve of the plan going into effect, one tax – 10 percent on pimple treatments – seems to have rekindled people's opposition to the bill. Below are some tweets from frustrated net users: 

As if it is not bad enough to have acne and hair loss. Now, we have to pay a tax for having those.  

The hyenas prowling, looking for things to tax, finally found the item – pimples!

To @mosfkorea [the official account of Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance]: Who do you think you are to tax my pimples? 

So the Ministry of Strategy and Finance's logic is this: Since they don't think acne is a serious case of skin disease, whatever that cure the acne problem is categorized as a “beauty-related” surgery, it will be taxed. It was ridiculous enough to hear about the tax on cosmetic surgery and now this! Whatever the reason you give, will you just please stop taxing more? 

The medical community seems enraged by the news as well. The Korean Medical Association circulated the poster below explaining their frustration. The first sentence in bold letter laments that it is not the medical professionals, but the finance ministry who is making a judgement call on how to understand acne – not as a serious skin condition, but as a beauty-related inconvenience. Net users shared the image via Twitter and made fun of the current government's economic motto of “Creative Economy”, one user even invoking current President Park Geun-hye's notorious nickname “chicken”:

Taxing pimples… That is indeed “Creative”. 

Imposing an additional tax on skin treatment is bit too much. Acne patients are already paying considerable amounts of money to get proper treatment. And most of them are either teenagers in puberty or in their early 20s. It turns out that the chicken administration's “creative economy” actually means “creative ways to tax things”.

There is no country like ours where society is completely obsessed with looks. And the ones who helped shaped our society into how it this now tax each item related to enhancing ones look. This is ridiculous. 

Wow… How far will they go? Will the next step be taxing nail care and body slimming? It is not a sin to have some pimples. 

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