Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cotton comes a-calling in Dubai

Thinking of starting a cotton cottage industry in Dubai?
I have just the place and plant for you in the beautiful residential area of Jumeirah.
One of the many pleasures and advantages of walking a dog is to observe the plants, flowers and nature in general along the way in all seasons.
Admittedly, the seasons in Dubai are muddled, with no spring or fall and a warm and short winter. Still, the natural word follows its own rhythm.
My Habibi, Kenzo
Due to work hours, I only walk my friends’ dog on Friday evenings these days. It is an hour walk I treasure for the time spent with the “little one” and the time we share one-on-one outdoors. You can meet “Habibi of Dubai” in a post I wrote a couple of years ago.
It is on one of these walks a couple of months ago that I spotted a strange shrub with some yellow-whitish flowers. A few weeks later, the flowers had disappeared and were replaced with large bolls. This kindled my curiosity further.
I kept passing by this shrub, mingled with other bushes, to see how it was developing.
A couple of weeks ago, the bolls had opened to reveal cotton!
Cottonseeds are usually planted in the spring, and I don’t know how these landed on the side of a villa’s fence, across from the road.
The flower buds take about three weeks to come out. The plant, like this one, grows between two and five feet tall.
When the flower dries and falls off, the boll -- or seedpod -- is formed.  Each branch of the cotton plant might grow several bolls. Inside the seedpod, there are 20-40 seeds plus white fibers. When the pod dries and splits open, the fibers and seeds are ready to pick. 
Cotton, the soft, fluffy staple fiber grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose.
Cotton was independently domesticated in the Old and New Worlds.
The English name derives from the Arabic qutn قُطْن, which began to be used circa 1400 CE. The Spanish word, "algodón," is likewise derived from Arabic.
The use of cotton for fabric is known to date back to prehistoric times; fragments of cotton fabric dated from 5000 BCE were excavated in Mexico and the Indus Valley Civilization (modern day Pakistan).
Although cultivated since antiquity, it was the invention of the cotton gin that so lowered the cost of production and led to its widespread use.
It is the natural fiber textile that is most widely used in clothing today.
China is the world's largest cotton producer, but most of this is used domestically. The United States has been the largest exporter for many years.
The Greeks and Arabs were not familiar with cotton until the Wars of Alexander the Great. His contemporary, Megasthenes, told Seleucus I Nicator of "there being trees on which wool grows" in "Indica."

So how about it? Shall we start a cottage cotton industry in Jumeirah?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

“Safe to Speak?” Not yet…

The UN General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day in 1993. I marked its 20th anniversary this year as every year – recalling that 17 years earlier I was pining for such a marker after my soulmate and colleague was assassinated on 16 January 1976 during the Lebanon Civil War.
Yesterday, May 6, Lebanon also marked its Press Martyrs' Day.
The campaign against the Lebanese press throughout the civil war – the Internet didn’t exist – was relentless and cruel.
For emphasis, the cutting of victims’ fingers or hands often marked the killings. These were mostly executed by none other than the Syrian regime of Assad the father, whose son now carries on with the “craft” of killing journalists!
The gagging and atrocities against the media are something I lived with first hand. The fear was always there.
This is why, at Mich Café, I write about journalists, citizen journalists, bloggers and prisoners of conscience gone missing, jailed, tortured, raped and killed in Syria today.
“Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media?” is this year’s WPFD theme.
Not a chance!
Wth Najib Azzam and Koko Ohannes
The assassination in 1976 of Najib Azzam, who I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, was alas not the only one to affect me deeply.
Krikor Ohannes, who I worked closely with for 15 years at Monday Morning magazine, was another.
He was killed in 1986. Koko was our photographer and we went everywhere together, including to Amman for the wedding of Jordan’s King Hussein to Queen Noor in June 1978.
Most recently, and again at the hands of the Syrian regime, we lost Marie Colvin. We used to meet often on assignments in Tunisia and at various conferences. On our last meeting, we cooked spaghetti together. It remains one of the best.
The late Riad Taha, Salim al-Lawzi, Janet Stevens and Kamel Mroue
These assassinations are well documented in a series in my friend’s blog, ArabSaga.
He wrote a six-part series last year on “The cost of gagging Beirut”:
“Safe to Speak?” No.
There is no free press. It is difficult to get objective opinion and analysis. Maybe this is where blogs take over from traditional media in that you can read native writers on the ground, who understand a region, a culture, the language and can report on it.
World Press Freedom Day on May 3 celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
May 3 was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day at the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation by African journalists in Namibia and adopted, as the Windhoek Declaration, at the 26th session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991.
WPFD informs of violations of press freedom -- a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered, UNESCO writes.
WPFD is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
The Windhoek perspective applies equally today to broadcasting and digital media platforms as mobile phones, the Internet and satellites are becoming more central to all communications.
In 2012 alone, UNESCO condemned the killings of 121 journalists -- almost double the annual figures of 2011 and 2010.
In addition, it says, there continues to be widespread harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and online attacks on journalists in many parts of the world.
To compound the problem, the rate of impunity for crimes against journalists, media workers and social media producers remains extremely high.
World Press Freedom? Not yet, but we keep fighting for it.
We keep fighting for it to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and have lost their lives to relay the message.
Thank you, your words will stay alive.

Related posts:
Ambassador Tom Fletcher and Minister Alistair Burt marked World Press Freedom Day in a video message from Beirut