Copenhagen cook René Redzepi raises appeal funds for Ahmed Jama, owner of Mogadishu Village eatery blasted by IslamistsTwo more different restaurants are hard to imagine. Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, is an oak-floored oasis of calm and elegance that has thrice been ranked the world's best. The Village in war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, is a humbler affair and has just been attacked by Islamist militants, with a suicide attacker and car bomb killing at least 18 people.Yet the community of chefs is strong. René Redzepi, the celebrated founder of Noma, was so shocked at the latest outrage that he launched a fundraising drive to help Somali Ahmed Jama rebuild his establishment. In just four days it has raised €12,000 (£10,090), with donations coming from around the world."He's a cook who has a bigger mission than any of us," Redzepi said. "We all cook for ourselves but he has a bigger agenda. We're from Scandinavia where our struggles are not worth mentioning compared to the things he has to deal with."Jama, who studied catering in Solihull, West Midlands, also owns a Somali restaurant called the Village in Hammersmith, west London. He returned to Mogadishu to demonstrate the country could change for the better and opened the Village in 2008. More recently, he opened a $100-a-night beachside hotel.Redzepi first read about Jama in the Guardian last year and invited him to speak at Noma's recent Mad Symposium food festival where his talk was called War zone cuisine: bringing back peace and life to Mogadishu.Via a Somali interpreter, Jama told the gathering of chefs, cooks and farmers: "In 2008 I decided to open a restaurant in Mogadishu and my fellow Somalis in London thought I was crazy: 'how could I open a restaurant in a dangerous area like Mogadishu?' But when I opened the restaurant I made an opportunity for employing many young people and they were very happy, and have attracted many people to come and eat at my restaurant."Jama won over his audience. Redzepi said: "He talked about his decision to leave the safety net of Europe and address the negative perceptions of Somalia. It was a really touching, inspiring story and he did it in a way that wasn't trying to get sympathy. That's why it was so crazy to read the headline about a guy we'd just spent four days with."Two weeks after the symposium, the Village was attacked for the third time in its history by al-Shabaab, a group linked to al-Qaida. Jama survived, having stepped outside five minutes before the bombings, and vowed to rebuild once again.Redzepi expressed admiration for the Somalian's resolve. "It's close to my heart. I totally get him and his dedication to the table. What he fights for is not Michelin stars or being on some list, but a totally different level of dedication."It's mind boggling that he hasn't quit after being bombed so many times. Most people in that situation would have."He set up an appeal fund, tweeting on Monday: "Guys, lets help out chef Ahmed in Somalia rebuild." It attracted donations from nearly a hundred people from countries including the US, Australia, Britain, Denmark and Lebanon, ranging from €10 to €1,000. "We all said we want to help people. That genuine compassion is what makes the world tick."Since al-Shabaab was driven out two years ago there has been some progress in Mogadishu. A president and parliament have been elected, foreign embassies including the British have reopened and events such as TEDxMogadishu have been staged. But in June the rebel group attacked the main UN compound, killing at least 22, and recently Médecins Sans Frontières announced it was pulling out of Somalia after 22 years.On Wednesday, more than 160 Muslim scholars issued a fatwa against al-Shabaab and called on the government to defend its citizens. The scholars said "it was forbidden that anyone join al-Shabaab" as its extreme interpretation of Islam was damaging to the reputation of Muslims.DenmarkSomaliaEuropeChefsDavid Smith theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Committee Against Bird Slaughter alleges that French authorities illegally protect poachers of tiny endangered bunting songbirdEven by French gastronomic standards the method of preparing the prized – and increasingly rare – ortolan bunting for the table seems somewhat extreme. Vaunted for its delicate flesh and bones, the sparrow-sized bird is eaten whole after being drowned in armagnac.It is not just a matter of questionable taste, however. While eating ortolan is legal, trapping and killing the birds that are officially listed as an endangered species is outlawed in European Union countries.Now a bird protection group has accused the French authorities of turning a blind eye to the slaughter of tens of thousands of ortolan, and harassing its members.The German-based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (Cabs) has lodged an official protest after seven of its members – two Germans and five Italians – including scientists, ornithologists and conservationists – were expelled from a French region where it says trapping ortolan is still rife.Cabs says police in the département of the Landes took the group – volunteers engaged in locating and recording illegal trapping of Ortolan buntings with cages – to the border of the next region, allegedly for their own safety.Andrea Rutigliano said the action proved France was not complying with its claimed "zero tolerance" of ortolan trappers and that police were ignoring the poaching in defiance of European commission regulations."The events show that the authorities deliberately protect the poachers from prosecution," Rutigliano said.The ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana), a small migratory green-grey coloured bird measuring 16cm and weighing 25g (less than an ounce) at most, has the ability to send Gallic gastronomes into raptures.The author Alexandre Dumas was a fan of the rare bird and the former French president François Mitterrand famously enjoyed an ortolan in his last meal with friends before his death from cancer in 1996.Alain Ducasse, France's most Michelin-starred chef, wrote that everyone should taste the bird "at least once in their life"."Like the black truffle, the ortolan has sparked the most crazy, enthusiastic and over-the-top declarations, the most superlative adjectives and the most overblown frenzies," Ducasse wrote.When eating an ortolan, diners usually cover their heads with a linen napkin to enjoy the smell of the dish and, it is said, to conceal their greed from God.The dish is particularly popular and most ferociously defended in south-west France.Axel Hirschfeld, a biologist and spokesman for Cabs, said French poachers were illegally killing "tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands" of ortolan every year."The French argue it's a tradition and their cultural heritage but these birds are a natural heritage and if the French don't stop trapping them there will be none left. Sometimes we have to break with traditions."He added that Cabs had a case against France pending under the European commission's environment directive.Under EU law it is illegal to deliberately kill or capture the birds by any method, but although banned in France in 1999, bird-protection campaigners say the law is often ignored and badly enforced.Patrice Abadie, a spokesman for Claude Morel, prefect of the Landes, said the decision to expel the Cabs "militants" was because their "prolonged presence had become provocative"."They had done nothing illegal, but the prefect's primary role is to guarantee public order and tensions were mounting between them and local inhabitants," Abadie told the Guardian.Among tCabs's most prominent supporters is the writer Jonathan Franzen, whose article for the New Yorker on the annual decimation of migratory birds by hunters and poachers in southern Europe, has been made into a film called Emptying the Skies.FranceConservationEndangered speciesWildlifeFood & drinkBirdsEuropeKim Willsher theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Wolf Richter www.testosteronepit.com www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter The preannouncement came Thursday evening: PSA Peugeot Citroën, France’s largest automaker, would have a write-down of €4.7 billion. On top of a hefty operating loss. It would be colossal. An all-time record. Rumors spread immediately that PSA would need a bailout. The second in four months. PSA passenger car sales in France dropped nearly 17% in 2012 from an already awful 2011. In January they dropped another 16.7%. Sales for all automakers dropped 15%, and PSA’s market share had eroded further. Kia-Hyundai sales jumped 21.2%, the only major automaker with gains. Even Volkswagen Group got clobbered: down 23.9%. PSA isn’t internationally diversified enough. It doesn’t have much in China and nothing in the US, the largest markets in the world, both growing. It’s mired in Europe where auto sales have ground to a halt. It’s bleeding €200 million a month. It’s trying to lay off 8,000 workers and shutter its plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois. And its Banque PSA Finance was bailed out last October with €7 billion in taxpayer money. The government was so worried that it was actively studying a bailout, sources told the Liberation after the losses were announced. It was just hypothetical. “But if a capital infusion would become inevitable, the state could participate,” the source said. Instantly, a cacophony of discord erupted—within the Socialist government. Another chapter in the saga of the deindustrialization of France—a process that has afflicted France, like other developed nations, for decades as manufacturing has wandered off to cheaper countries. But now there’s a near national consensus: the state needs to step in and stop it, according to a poll that CSA conducted for Les Echos and the Institut Montaigne.... The same Institut Montaigne that had shocked the establishment last April with a new French Paradox: employees in France were more dissatisfied with their jobs and more stressed at work than their counterparts in the rest of Europe—despite highly protective, “dense and complex” labor laws that allowed the French to work fewer hours, work less often over the weekend, and have a “less sustained pace of work.” And it dared to wonder if the sacrosanct labor laws were still protective, or if they’d become counterproductive even for employees. Gasps all around. Deindustrialization has been on the front burner since the presidential campaign last year. But now, in the poll, it came down to a single question: Is the decline in manufacturing a phenomenon that can be reversed? The resounding response spread across all professional levels, all ages, and the entire political spectrum—78% of the respondents said yes. The French expect the government to do “the maximum” to prevent plant closures, explained Jérôme Sainte-Marie, director of CSA’s political opinion division—something that those on the extreme right and left had been clamoring for all along. Now they “find themselves comforted” by the survey results, he said. And it puts the government in a quandary. So far, it has shied away from nationalizing troubled plants. A risky path: the phrase by Lionel Jospin that “the state cannot do everything” was “absolutely impossible to maintain,” Sainte-Marie said. “Public opinion doesn’t want to hear it.” He was referring to a Socialists nightmare. Jospin, Socialist Prime Minister from 1997 to 2002, had admitted that he could not prevent layoffs at a Michelin factory, that the state couldn’t do everything (“l’État ne peut pas tout”). A phrase—or a concept, rather—according to some political soothsayers, that contributed to his humiliating defeat in the 2002 presidential election. He was trounced in the first round by right-wing Jean-Marie Le Pen, which forced the left to vote for Jacques Chirac in the second round just to keep the unpalatable Le Pen out. An unforgettable horror story still for the Socialists. For a Socialist government to admit again that the state couldn’t do everything, that some layoffs and plant closures would be allowed, was fraught with perils. During the presidential campaign, they’d promised the “reindustrialization” of France, and “the French took them by their word,” said Sainte-Marie. So what to do about PSA? “This company cannot, must not disappear,” said Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac Friday morning during an interview. “We have to do what we have to do so that it survives.” He’d already worked out the details: the bailout money would come from the state-owned Strategic Investment Fund (FSI). Minutes later, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici disagreed: “Jerome Cahuzac talked about a theoretical scenario and the tools available to the state,” he said. But “such a state bailout is not being considered, is not necessary, and would not add anything.” Sources in his entourage agreed, “A capital infusion by the state is not on the agenda.” By midday, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault jumped into the fray. A bailout was not “on the agenda,” he echoed. PSA hadn’t requested it. Though there was “a tool, the FSI,” that could do it. But “this question hasn’t been raised today. Therefore, there is no question.” But if necessary, he grumbled, PSA would have to “be saved at all costs.” And so continues the saga of the decline of the private sector à la Française. Tuesday morning, the 168 employees of automotive component maker DMI in Vaux, a tiny town near Montluçon in the Department of Allier, smack-dab in the middle of France, rigged about ten gas cylinders throughout the factory they’d been occupying and threatened to blow it up—unless their demands were met. Read.... French Workers Threaten To Blow Up Their Factory.
Qatari Diar, emirate's property arm, puts London's £3bn Chelsea Barracks project under review amid doubts over plan's viabilityQatar has put its biggest single investment in London on hold, citing concerns about the British economy. The gas and oil-rich state has placed the £3bn Chelsea Barracks housing development under review and a source close to the project said that while it could still go ahead, one option was to sell the site without building what has been dubbed a "Gucci ghetto" of 450 luxurious residences and 123 affordable homes.Qatari Diar, the emirate's property arm, has planning permission for the scheme, which includes seven-bedroom mansions as well as one-bedroom flats. But today the £1bn site stands empty with weeds growing through the concrete."It now seems a huge gamble to deliver all of this," a Qatari source told the Guardian. "[The developers] will take their time and see how the numbers stack up in due course." He added that while the scheme could still be built, "they could sell [the site] any time".The rethink of the Qataris' flagship project comes as the latest UK economic data show Britain heading for a triple-dip recession. Qatar is now the richest country in the world per capita and already owns 80% of the Shard, the tallest building in western Europe, all of Harrods and the US embassy in Mayfair and is joint owner of the Olympic village and the Shell Centre on the South Bank.But no office lettings have yet been announced in the Shard, and concerns about the future appetite for luxury homes in London mean the risk of pouring a further £2bn into construction in a stagnant economy has caused concern in Doha. Britain's economic data has also compounded fears that the emirate overpaid when it gave the Ministry of Defence (MoD) £959m for the site in 2007."The strategy is under review," confirmed a Qatari Diar spokeswoman. "[The developer] is taking advantage of the opportunity to review and respond to the context of the prevailing economic environment in preparing for the next stage of the development."Qatar's wariness also stems from its reluctance to cause further controversy in the UK, the Guardian understands. Qatar's purchase of the site in the oligarchs' playgrounds of Belgravia and Chelsea was made for geopolitical gain as well diversifying its wealth – Qatar has said it is part of a strategy of using property investments to "redefine Qatar" and "create a sphere of influence in London".But when Qatar published its original designs by the modernist architect Richard Rogers in 2009, Prince Charles personally wrote to the prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, complaining the scheme was a "gigantic experiment with the very soul of this city" carried out by "brutalists". He urged Qatar instead to "bequeath a unique and enduring legacy to London" and the letter was published as part of a bruising high court battle that was uncomfortably high profile for the secretive emirate.Rogers was fired and the prince's architectural advisers were appointed to help draw up a brief to select a more traditional design, which royal aides have endorsed.With the replacement designs remaining controversial and Qatar counting Britain as an important ally in the politically and militarily volatile Gulf, Doha does not want to cause further problems with powerful neighbours, the Qatari source said.The decision to put the scheme on hold is seen as so sensitive that it has not been communicated to key consultants on the project. Architects commissioned to draw up the masterplan, including the designers of the Royal Opera House, Dixon Jones, have not received instructions for over a year and Westminster city council, which granted planning consent in the summer of 2011, has been kept in the dark.Local and national politicians had hoped the development would help alleviate London's acute shortage of affordable housing. When the site was being sold by the MoD, the then communities minister, Lady Andrews, said affordable housing units would contribute to solving "the enormous housing stresses in London". If the scheme were to be built, the Qataris would also be due to contribute £78m to Westminster city council's housing fund.This week the site was desolate. Instead of bustling construction, buddleia sprouted from concrete and guard dogs prowled behind barbed wire-topped hoardings. "I'm not sure anyone outside the Gulf knows [what's going on]," said a consultant working on the scheme. "When I ask the guys from Qatari Diar [in London], they just shrug their shoulders. It received outline consent in late 2011 and some work was done moving things forward with detailed designs. Those designs were sent to Doha and that was it."They paid about £1bn for the site and maybe that was just pin money to them. It doesn't make sense to me. I look at what is on offer at Chelsea and I think people would snap it up."A source who was until recently working on the project said: "It's odd they're not doing anything because the residential markets are really rolling right now."Located in what estate agents call the "super-prime" SW1 postcode area of west London, many of the flats would sell for more than £10m, a price bracket that has seen a 40% rise in prices from the market upturn in March 2009 to June 2012, according to data from the estate agents Knight Frank. The number of sales in SW1 rose by 29% between 2011 and 2012.The Chelsea Barracks site is in a very wealthy area that has been largely insulated from economic decline. Luxury cars such as Ferraris with Swiss number plates cruise past exclusive furniture boutiques such as Linley, which is owned by the Queen's nephew, and Michelin-starred restaurants.In the last two years a third of properties sold in the SW1 area were purchased by British citizens, while 34% were bought by people from Russia, former Soviet republics and the Middle East.The lack of activity has been a mixed blessing for local opponents of the project, with some delighted that there is no building happening and others concerned at the uncertainty."We're selling London out to the Qataris and they're not coming up with the goods," said Georgina Thorburn, chairwoman of the Chelsea Barracks Action Group, a local group opposed to the development. "A lot of local people have been very stressed out by this project, particularly the older residents, who worry about the impact on their lives."I'm not talking about the rich, but people who have been in the area a long time. They're the ones who want news."RecessionQatarMiddle East and North AfricaRichard RogersArchitecturePrince CharlesLondonHousingCommunitiesHousing marketReal estateThe ShardRobert Boothguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Activists' footage suggests French law broken as force-fed geese unable to moveOne of the country's most prestigious stores has pledged to investigate claims of animal mistreatment at farms linked to a company that has supplied it with foie gras.Activists from Peta, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, filmed undercover at two French geese farms that supply the firm that has sold the delicacy to Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly, London.The two farms belong to a co-operative that uses an abattoir where Peta investigators also filmed. Peta claims the footage, seen by the Observer and which Fortnum's is reviewing, suggests some of the birds were killed without being stunned first, in contravention of French law. The footage also suggests that birds are force-fed to the point of being unable to move freely.Fortnum & Mason declined to identify the two farms belonging to the co-operative, which it says supply its own brand of foie gras, for fear of reprisals from animal rights activists, but it insists it visits them regularly to ensure its high standards of welfare are met.However, the store has until recently sold another brand of foie gras that, according to a representative from the co-operative, captured on video by Peta, can come from any of the 24 farms. It appears that the store, which boasts two royal warrants, removed the brand from its shelves when it became aware Peta had infiltrated the farms.One of the farms infiltrated by Peta featured in a promotional video in which Fortnum's previous managing director, Beverley Aspinall, highlighted the store's stringent welfare standards. Footage taken at the farm shows blood dripping from an injured bird.The Peta footage also appears to show a bird at another farm unable to stand as a result of force-feeding, contrary to assurances provided in Fortnums' corporate social responsibility policy.According to its website, Fortnum's insists "we will never allow our birds to reach a stage where they can't support their own weight and move around freely".Footage from the abattoir appears to show that some geese are not properly stunned and continue to lift their heads for some time after their throats are cut. French regulations state that "the stunning of animals before slaughter is mandatory before killing".Peta intends to release the footage on the internet with a voiceover from Sir Roger Moore, a critic of foie gras production. "We are imploring all Fortnum & Mason customers to keep out of the store until it joins Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Waitrose and others in refusing to sell foie gras, or 'torture in a tin'," a Peta spokesman said.The row between Peta and Fortnum's is the latest battle in a long campaign by the animal rights group to stop the store selling foie gras. The product, which is produced by force-feeding geese so their livers expand, is prized by gourmets.However, in blogs several gourmets have defended the store's right to sell the delicacy and say it has gone to great lengths to ensure the food is produced to the most humane standards.Peta's campaign against Fortnum's comes at a time when foie gras production is under scrutiny. California has banned the sale of foie gras, while the UK catering company Compass Group, which supplies Michelin-star restaurants and Whitehall departments, has dropped the product from its menus.Last year, in response to complaints from Peta about its sale of foie gras, Fortnum's was ordered by Westminster trading standards to amend misleading statements in its corporate social responsibility that suggested all of its meat met the highest welfare standards.A Fortnum's spokesman said: "Fortnum & Mason maintains rigorous quality control procedures and would expect all of its suppliers to adhere to our gold standard production requirements."The spokesman stressed it had not yet been able to prove or disprove Peta's allegations. "We are acutely aware of our reputation as one of the world's leading purveyors of quality foods and have subsequently instructed the appropriate individuals within the business to look into the allegations."However, it's important we do not pre-empt that process in light of the questions that we continue to have regarding the footage in question."Animal welfareActivismAnimalsProtestFoodJamie Dowardguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds