Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

KLM starts flying on used cooking oil

Beginning in September, KLM flights between Amsterdam and Paris will run on used cooking oil. (Not of McDonalds but of Dutch Febo) The move is an important new step towards aviation sustainability, the airline announced Wednesday.
“KLM has again shown it is stimulating the development of biokerosene,” said Managing Director Camiel Eurlings. “The route to 100 percent sustainable energy is enormously challenging. We  need to move forward together to attain continuous access to sustainable fuel.”
More than 200 KLM flights will operate on biokerosene, biofuel derived from used frying oil and tested to meet the same technical specifications as traditional kerosene.
The move is part of the airline's efforts to secure a positive recommendation from the Dutch Sustainability Board. It is also an expression of support for World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) research suggesting alternative fuels from biomass are the only replacement for fossil fuels used in the airline industry.

Day Opening - June 22

Ukraine, on the beach

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Paranoia in the Muslim world; Christian minorities "spying for the crusaders"

Christians in Islamic countries often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They are regarded as accomplices of the West but the West itself tends to ignore them. Western politicians and activists argue about whether there should be another special attention paid to persecuted Christians.
Egyptian woman Maria (surname withheld, since she has already been subjected to threats) fled from Egypt years ago. She says the situation in Egypt is becoming increasingly dangerous for Christians:
"Some people say 'if you're not a Muslim you should go and live in America or Canada or Europe'. But Egypt is the homeland of the Copts. They have no other country, they have been born and raised there since ancient times."

Western crusade
Dutch political scientist Hala Naoum Nehme, who is of Syrian extraction, is not surprised that seven Islamic nations appear in the top ten of countries which persecute Christians. She accuses Dutch politicians and media of systematically looking the other way whenever the topic of Christians in Islamic countries is raised. She believes the situation has deteriorated significantly during the past decade:
"The most recent historic low point was after the 9/11 attacks when US President George W. Bush announced his 'war on terror' on television. A Western crusade against the Muslim world. That's when Christians were once again seen as offspring of the Christian West, as stooges of the West. They were told quite clearly: you are not longer welcome."
In 2001 the Middle East Quarterly predicted that the number of Christians in the Middle East would decrease from 12 million to 5 million by 2025. This was partly to do with low birth rates but mostly the result of emigration. The exodus is likely to be stimulated by the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring which seem to be marginalizing Christians even further.

Double standards

But should we put so much emphasis on the fate of Christian minority? During a debate in Parliament about human rights, Labour Party MP Frans Timmermans had this to say:
"There are other religious minorities too, and I can assure you that concentrating on Christians too much will not improve the situation of those Christians. They will become the target of people who claims that we operate a double standard when it comes to human rights policy. You will have heard Christians themselves saying: be careful you don't put us in the forefront all the time, that just makes us more vulnerable in some situations."

Hala Naoum Nehme says the fear of accusations of double standards is pointless. Christians are already subject to close scrutiny and that's never going to change. And because "the West is the only civilisation in living memory that has stood up for human rights and human rights are a Western invention" it seems to her only reasonable that the West should accept its responsibilities and defend the Christians in the Middle East. "Just as it defends non-Christian minorities like the Kurds and the Palestinians."

Day Opening - June 21

sunset at a small city in Portugal

Monday, June 20, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The virginity test dispelled

Female virginity and the ability to prove an unmarried woman is a virgin are still vital to a family’s  ‘honour’ in many countries, but the members of the Myth Dispelled campaign group in the Netherlands say it’s actually impossible to prove by medical means whether a woman is still a virgin. They also say that virginity testing - highlighted by recent controversial cases in Egypt and India - is a powerful tool when it comes to oppressing women and actually violates their human rights. 
The whole issue of virginity made headlines recently with the humiliating testing of a number of alleged rape victims in India and 17 Egyptian women who took part in the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo. In the latter case, the aim of the tests appears to have been to ‘protect’ members of the Egyptian army against possible rape accusations.

Writing in a Dutch newspaper, Ineke van Seumeren – a gynaecologist at the UMC teaching hospital in Utrecht - and fellow Myth Dispelled (Mythe Ontkracht) member and chairperson Ines Balkema argue that virginity testing is pointless:  
“In many countries it’s still not known that female virginity cannot be medically proven. Even in the modern Netherlands many people are convinced that you can see or feel whether or not a woman is a virgin. The medical facts are different.”
The way such tests are carried out is often extremely primitive – one of the most common being the method of inserting two fingers into the vagina. Two fingers are said to be equal to the width of a penis. If the fingers enter ‘easily’, then the woman in question is assumed to have had sex before.
The Myth Dispelled foundation explains that the flexibility or tightness of a vagina and the condition of the hymen – the membrane that ‘closes’ the entrance to the cervix – say and prove nothing about the sexual activity, or lack thereof, of a woman.
In the opinion piece, the two women write: “The hymen is not a sealed membrane. In most cases it is a small, flexible lip; sometimes it’s hard and inflexible […].  It varies from woman to woman […]. A vagina is made to allow a baby to pass through; it’s an illusion to think that a vagina will expand because of something small like a penis.”
They argue that virginity testing is, in fact, a powerful tool when it comes to the continued oppression of women and they cite what happened in Cairo: “When the female protestors in Egypt underwent the virginity test, completely undressed, military personnel were there taking photographs. The result of practices like this is that women will think twice about demonstrating or filing a rape charge. This is a serious violation of women’s human rights…”
On a more positive note, the authors write that the recent cases have sparked debate about abolishing these mediaeval tests in both India and Egypt, adding that it’s now important to keep an eye on whether this actually happens and to keep on stressing that virginity isn’t something that can be proven or disproven by medical means.

Day Opening - June 17

bad, bad boy..))

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turkey PM and Turkish minister of EU affairs make weird accusations

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Dutch media that he is opposed to radical politics. Without mentioning anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, Mr Erdogan said, "Radicalism brings misery over the people and the country."
The Turkish Prime Minister, who usually shuns foreign media, was interviewed by Holland's public broadcaster NOS and daily NRC Handelsblad on the eve of Sunday's general elections in Turkey. Campaigning on a ultra nationalistic militaristic national pride theme, which Mr Erdogan's AK party won with 48.8% of the votes.
European Union
Geert Wilders' Freedom Party is opposed to Turkey's entry into the European Union. With 15 percent of the popular vote, the nationalist Freedom Party is a key supporter of the Netherlands' minority government. Brussels has been considering Ankara's membership application since 1987.
Explaining Turkey's position, Europe Minister Egemen Bagis later told the Dutch press that his government is dealing with the Netherlands' government, not with Geert Wilders' Freedom Party. "We're assuming that the Dutch population is not interested in the anti-Islam position of Mr Wilders," the Turkish minister said, thinking that those 15% of simple 1.5 million can be ignored like he ignored the rights of Kurds. Anyway, Bağis never made a clever statement, always controversial.

Dangerous man
Geert Wilders reacted in characteristic fashion, not mincing his words: "Mr Erdogan is a dangerous Islamist of the worst kind. If he wins the elections, Turkey will definitively turn its back on Europe. As far as we're concerned they will never get into the EU anyway, but in any case normal relations will become complicated when he is involved. A dangerous man, himself an Islamic radical."
A member of the Dutch opposition Socialist Party, Sadet Karabulut, a Turk, said on Twitter, "Turkish premier Erdogan may be concerned about a radicalisation in Dutch politics. I'm concerned about Mr Erdogan's radical politics."
Erdogan and its team face huge economical problems. But their bragging starts to irritate.

Day Opening - June 14

waiting for my beer