A salesgirl waits for customers as she sells cows for the upcoming Eid al-Adha festival at a cow showroom in Depok, an outskirt of the Indonesian capital Jakarta Tuesday, September 30, 2014. The cow showroom has adopted a unique way of selling cattle for Eid al-Adha by employing salesgirls to attract customers. According to the owners of the showroom, this has led to an increase in sales since they started employing salesgirls three years ago, having sold around 400 cattle in 2012, 440 in 2013 and 510 this year. Many Muslims around the world will commemorate Eid al-Adha by sacrificing cattle and distributing the meat to the poor. Muslim Indonesians make up around 88 percent of country’s population of 252 million. (Photograph credit: Beawiharta/Reuters)
Kurdish refugees from northern Syria sit next to their belongings in a desert field where they spent the night near Mursitpinar border crossing in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Tuesday, September 30, 2014. (Photograph credit: Murad Sezer/Reuters)
A couple riding a motorcycle, pass in front of a drawing depicting Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, and rival candidate Marina Silva kissing each other, made by artist Cela Luz, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, September 29, 2014. The first round of Brazil’s presidential election is on Sunday, October 5. According to the latest opinion polls, no candidate is expected to win more than 50 percent of the valid votes, which would trigger a runoff round between the top two vote-getters on October 26.
(Photograph credit: Silvia Izquierdo/AP photo)
A demonstrator holds up a corn cob near farmers and activists protesting against Monsanto Co. during an event commemorating “Día Nacional del Maíz 2014” (National Corn Day 2014) in downtown Mexico City, Monday, September 29, 2014. Mexican farmers, activists and the NGO called Sin Maíz no hay País (Without corn, there is no Country) commemorated National Corn Day, as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of the problems of small farmers and to support banning the planting of genetically modified corn, the seeds of which Monsanto is a major provider. (Photograph credit: Henry Romero/Reuters)
From Mexico City, journalist Gabriel Stargardter reported for Reuters: Global seed technology giant Monsanto said on Monday it has launched a global center in Mexico for developing new hybrid and genetically modified strains of corn, part of the company’s push to boost output of the planet’s most widely produced grain. “The aim is to create new varieties tolerant to diseases and the stresses that affect maize cultivation all over the world due to growing negative conditions caused by global climate change,” the company said in a statement. US-based Monsanto is among several multinational agricultural firms seeking permission for widespread planting of corn that harnesses genetically modified organisms (GMO) to boost desirable characteristics of the staple crop in Mexico, where the issue is highly controversial. Proponents of GMO corn say studies show that output will rise and costly inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers will fall, and say that GMO crops have proven safe for human consumption. Opponents of GMO corn contend that large-scale plantings will contaminate native strains of the grain and harm biodiversity. They also point to toxins that protect GMO corn against pests that may be linked to elevated insect mortality, which could undermine pollination. Last year, in a victory for opponents of GMO corn, a federal judge in Mexico City ordered a temporary halt to the government’s ability to issue any new GMO corn permits. The judge’s order remains in effect.
4,077 migrants have died already this year crossing deserts and seas worldwide, three-quarters of them in perilous journeys across the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Monday. In a 216-page comprehensive report entitled “Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration” [.pdf], the IOM said 40,000 migrants worldwide are believed to have perished since 2000, 22,000 of them seeking a better life in Europe. “Limited opportunities for safe and regular migration drive would-be migrants into the hands of smugglers, feeding an unscrupulous trade that threatens the lives of desperate people,” IOM Director-General William Lacy Swing said in a statement. “We need to put an end to this cycle. Undocumented migrants are not criminals. They are human beings in need of protection and assistance, and deserving respect,” he adds. Turmoil in the Middle East and parts of Africa have sparked an exodus of desperate people trying to reach Europe. “The going price for crossing the Mediterranean is between US$2,000 and US$4,000 a person, and smugglers are believed to have earned US$500,000 on a single voyage,” IOM’s spokesman Joel Millman said.
The Associated Press photographer Muhammed Muheisen, after a short visit in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, returned to his base in Pakistan to continue his long-time documentary work, photographing Afghan refugees as they live in the slums outside of Islamabad. Here, Afghan refugee children gather in an alley of a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad on Monday, September 29, 2014. (Photograph credit: Muhammed Muheisen/AP photo)
Workers make garlands of marigold flowers at a wholesale flower market ahead of the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata, the capital of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, Monday, September 29, 2014. The Durga Puja festival will be celebrated from September 30 to October 3, and is the biggest religious worship of Hindu goddess Durga for Bengali Hindus. Goddess Durga in Hindu mythology symbolises power and the triumph of good over evil. (Photograph credit: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)
Monks from Buddhist organization Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force, BBS) attend a speech by Ashin Wirathu at a BBS convention in Colombo September 28, 2014. (Photograph credit: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Ashin Wirathu, a radical monk who heads a movement accused of stirring violence against Muslims in Myanmar, has announced a partnership with BBS, a hardline Buddhist group in Sri Lanka to defend their religion. The declaration by Wirathu, who once called himself “the Burmese bin Laden”, was the clearest signal to date of a push to spread the ideology of his controversial 969 movement beyond Myanmar to build a front against Islamist militancy, Reuters said. “Today, Buddhism is in danger. We need hands to be firmly held together if we hear alarm bells ringing,” Wirathu told a convention that was held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in the Sri Lankan capital on Sunday. In his eight-minute speech, Wirathu thanked Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for granting him a visa, despite protests by some Muslim groups in the island nation. BBS Secretary-General Galagodaatte Gnanasara, in his speech, urged Sri Lankan leaders of all the major political parties to come together to resolve the issues faced by the country. “It is high time you stop creating divisions among your own people and come together for the sake of the country,” he said. Gnanasara also urged moderate Muslims to join in the process of bringing about peace in the country. “We know that there are peaceful Muslims in this country who denounce extremism and we urge all of them to join us in ushering in peace to this nation,” he said.
Sri Lanka continues to be a polarized and fragmented society at various levels — economic, social, religious and political, more than five years after the country’s 26-year civil war officially came to an end. This has led to a lack of communication and acute mistrust between parties on different sides of various divides, including Buddhists and Muslims. On June 14, deadly riots — in which four people have been killed — broke out between Muslims and hardline Buddhists of the BBS group in two Muslim-majority towns on the Sinhalese-dominated southern coast of Sri Lanka. The riots are the latest in a series of religious clashes to hit the island. Muslim Sri Lankans, who make up around 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 21 million, are accused by Sinhalese ultranationalists of having undue influence in the Buddhist-majority country, in which Buddhist Sinhalese account for 70 percent of the population.
Disabled table tennis champion Ibrahim Hamato, 37, attends a training session at a club in the port town of Domiat, some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northeast of Cairo, Sunday, September 28, 2014. Having lost both his arms in an accident when he was 10, the Egyptian uses his mouth to control his table tennis bat. Living by the motto “nothing is impossible as long as you work hard”, Hamato, who has won various tournaments, earned an invitation to the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo. A video shows the armless Egyptian table tennis player, playing against top international players at the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Table Tennis Championships, has exceeded 2 million YouTube views. (Photograph credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)
The Israel-Hamas war, which lasted 51 days, inflicted extremely significant losses on the production, agricultural and livestock sectors in the Palestinian territories, affecting the food supply to the markets. The agricultural sector losses reached an estimated US$550 million, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture’s Policy and Planning Director Nabil Abu Shamala. “This figure includes US$350 million of direct losses and US$200 million of indirect ones,” he said during a news conference earlier this month. “Israel directly targeted more than half of the agricultural areas in the sector, which are estimated at 140,000 dunums, while the remaining areas were more or less damaged as a result of the inability of the farmers to reach their crops, which caused the lands to suffer from drought,” Abu Shamala further noted.
The Israeli military operation in Gaza has devastated the enclave’s food production process, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement released on August 14. “Some 28,600 people in Gaza rely on farming (19,000 people), livestock raising (6,000) and fishing (3,600) for their livelihoods,” FAO says, highlighting that the prices for basic food products have increased since the war began. “Under the most recent ceasefire many farmers and herders are now able to access their lands, however resumption of food production faces serious obstacles given the damage sustained and shortage of water, electricity, inputs and financial resources, as well as ongoing uncertainty regarding the possible resumption of military activities,” said Ciro Fiorillo, head of FAO’s office in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. FAO estimates the losses to the fishing sector to be 234.6 tonnes over the period of July 9 – August 10, or “equivalent to 9.3 percent of local fishers’ yearly catch.” In the livestock sector, “around 64,000 head of small ruminants are in need of animal feed and water in order to avoid further animal deaths and the additional erosion of herders’ productive assets,” FAO said, adding that recovery in the agriculture sector, “will require significant external assistance over the long term.”
People cook a traditional caldoza soup in the street during the celebration of the 54th anniversary of the creation of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, September 27, 2014. The nationwide festivity celebrated with cooking in the streets, music and dance on the night of the 27th to the 28th of September. The CDRs system, formed by Fidel Castro on September 28, 1960 following the 1959 Cuban Revolution which overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista, are a network of neighborhood committees across Cuba aimed to provide medical assistance, if needed, and guarding neighbourhoods by monitoring people’s movements and activities. As of 2010, nearly 8.4 million Cubans of the national population of 11.2 million were registered as CDR members.
(Photograph credit: Ramón Espinosa/AP photo)
VENEZUELA TAKES OVER FACTORIES LEFT BY U.S. FIRM CLOROX
On September 22, the Oakland, California-based Clorox company — a multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer products, with around 8,400 employees worldwide and US$ 5.6 bn of net sales last year — announces that its affiliate, the Corporación Clorox de Venezuela S.A., was ending operations in the country and looking to sell its assets. Clorox Venezuela has been operating in the South American nation since 1990 and is a major seller of home cleaning products to Venezuelans. Its facilities include two administrative offices in Caracas, two manufacturing sites in Santa Lucía and a third manufacturing facility in Guacara. After Clorox abruptly left the country, many of the firm’s workers occupied two of its plants. On Friday, September 26, the Venezuelan government announced the “temporary” takeover of the abandoned Clorox factories with the country’s Vice President Jorge Arreaza calling an assembly of the company’s 475 workers to reactivate the plant’s activities. “Here’s the workers’ government of President Nicolas Maduro temporarily occupying these installations together with the workers,” Arreaza said with officials at the Valles del Tuy plant on Friday evening. “They [the workers] worked until last Friday, completely normal, and when they came in on Monday the doors were closed. Five minutes later, they received voice messages on their cell phones on behalf of the company’s president, Oscar Ledezma, where he tells them, ‘we are leaving Venezuela, we deposited your liquidation package in your account … The factory will not operate anymore’,” detailed Arreaza. In a statement released on Friday the US-based company said: ”For nearly three years, Clorox Venezuela was required to sell more than two-thirds of its products at prices frozen by the Venezuelan government. During this same period, Clorox Venezuela experienced cumulative triple-digit inflation resulting in massive increases in Clorox Venezuela’s input costs, including packaging, raw materials, transportation and wages. As a result, Clorox Venezuela had been selling its products at a loss, causing ongoing operating losses.” Clorox also says in the statement that Venezuela’s decision to seize the company’s shuttered facilities may pose safety risks for workers and nearby residents due to “a highly specialized and technical process” in the production of the cleaning products.
Photos: Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza visiting the Clorox Venezuela’s plant in Santa Lucía on September 26, 2014. (Credits: Vicepresidencia de Venezuela)
Children hold flowers near the “Tragedy of Peoples” monument by sculptor Zurab Tsereteli during a rally organized by supporters of self-proclaimed republics of Donbass and Luhansk to commemorate victims of the military conflict in eastern regions of Ukraine at the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park in Moscow, Russia, September 27, 2014. Participants demanded to launch an investigation into possible war crimes, as they said, committed by Ukrainian government forces after mass graves containing civilians had been recently discovered in Donetsk region, according to organizers and local media. (Photograph credit: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)
A man eats a sandwich in front of riot police while attending a demonstration at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Saturday, September 27, 2014. Police cleared dozens of protesters who had been holding out at government headquarters on September 27 after storming the complex overnight, as a week-long protest against Beijing’s refusal to grant the city unfettered democracy turned angry. (Photograph credit: Xaume Olleros/AFP/Getty Images)