Goats ‘n Charcoal – Somalia’s Booming Export Industry

Thanks, Somalia. (Image by M. Minderhoud, Wikimedia Commons)

I love barbecue. I really do. Nothing beats the sweet smell and taste of tenderly roasted, succulent beef chops – of course from the charcoal grill (sorry George Foreman, e-grills just ain’t doing the trick!). Many people in the Gulf States and in meat-loving Kenya share my passion for sizzling delights. The somewhat unlikely main supplier for all that’s needed for a decent BBQ both at the Gulf and the Horn – charcoal and lamb, beef and goat meat – is Somalia.

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On democracy and complacency

Apologies for the delay in posting this, I have been having wordpress issues! This relates to the UK elections and referendum on May 5th 2011.

I voted last Thursday (May 5th). I love voting, queuing up in the little provincial church hall, using the tiny pencils to mark your paper. I get a little surge every time I get to participate in the democratic process. But this time, it was different. In the United Kingdom (UK), we weren’t just voting in an election, we were having a referendum. This is only the second national UK referendum ever held. Referendums feel like a very special part of democracy, as direct a line from public opinion to policy as is possible. In fact, this referendum was a vote on democracy, about whether the UK should change its voting system. Currently, the UK uses the First Past the Post (FPTP) system to elect MPs and the referendum was asking whether we should switch to using the Alternative Vote (AV) system. Unfortunately, for an event that would, at face value, appear to be pretty much the purest form of democracy possible, that is, voting on how to vote, it wasn’t about democracy at all.

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Taming Volatile Commodities Markets

People go hungry not because the world does not produce enough food, but because poor people cannot afford the food they need. This is why soaring food prices, which this year reached the highest level since the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) started monitoring them twenty years ago, are so distressing.

People in poor countries spend the majority of their income on food and are thus especially vulnerable to price increases. Governments of poor countries are doubly challenged: not only do they face the costs of emergency aid programmes, but because many poor countries are net importers of commodities they face higher import bills and are forced to draw from their international reserves.

So what is being done? Until recently, things looked pretty grim. Continue reading

Thoughts On The Death of Osama Bin Laden

My generation has been called a lot of things- Generation Y, Millenials, the Facebook Generation. We’re known for our furious typing skills, facility with social media, and ambiguous relationship arrangements. We’re also known for our concurrent ambition and notorious delayed departure from the nest, for our frequent drunkenness, and for speaking brand like it’s an English dialect. We’re a generation of casual sex, increasingly self-selected communities, and pop-culture worship. Our Gods are innovative peers you’ve never heard of and do-gooder celebrities: our religion, working towards the better tomorrow we’ve been promised we can deliver, just as long as we get a little side dish of scandal, or at least fashion.

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The Goldstone report revisited and some thoughts on the normative power of states.

Two days ago, Judge Goldstone published in the Washington Post an article in which he regrets the content of the “Goldstone Report” issued 18 months ago investigating the war crimes of Israel and Hamas in the Cast Lead operation in Gaza. In a quite brave step, Goldstone admits that the report was distorted and one-sided and that actually Israel (as opposed to the militant branch of Hamas) has never intentionally aimed to hurt civilians. More than that, he argues that Israel did not commit any crimes according to international law and the ICJ treaty.

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