California high school celebrates date links to Middle East

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East
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Coachella Valley High School changed its "Arab" mascot image after the previous one was deemed offensive. (Screengrab)
California high school celebrates date links to Middle East
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Coachella Valley High School celebrates its historic link to the Arab world. (Screengrab)
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Updated 19 September 2021

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East
  • Coachella Valley High School rebranded it’s Arab mascot after concerns it promoted stereotypes

CALIFORNIA: One hundred years ago Coachella Valley High School adopted the “Arab” as its school mascot after a link was established between that area of California and the Middle East.

“The Department of Agriculture sent out plant explorers all over the world and they were trying to find crops that would be successful here in the US and one of the crops they found were the dates,” said Lissette Santiago, community engagement manager for the Coachella Valley Unified School District.

“That’s how we wanted to honor everything that we had gained from the date industry and obviously that Middle Eastern community.”

But in 2013, complaints that the mascot was promoting racial stereotypes prompted a redesign.

“With the onset of 9/11 in 2001 that might have prompted many people to view the Arab community in a negative way,” she told us. “It was appropriate for us to have this discussion and we were happy that the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee approached us and we were able to have those discussions.”

A year later, they debuted the new “Mighty Arab” mascot, designed in collaboration with and approved by the Arab community, strengthening that 100 year connection between the Coachella Valley and the Middle East.

“To celebrate the Arab world and the Arab community and every year we have a date festival,” Santiago said.

The festival has been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the students and staff are looking forward to next year when they can once again proudly and respectfully wear the symbol of the Mighty Arab and celebrate the date palms they provided.


Iranian man sentenced to be blinded after fight costs neighbor an eye

The use of blinding in the Iranian justice system has a relatively short history. It was first employed in 2008 when a defendant was handed the punishment for committing an acid attack. (Reuters/File Photo)
The use of blinding in the Iranian justice system has a relatively short history. It was first employed in 2008 when a defendant was handed the punishment for committing an acid attack. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 14 October 2021

Iranian man sentenced to be blinded after fight costs neighbor an eye

The use of blinding in the Iranian justice system has a relatively short history. It was first employed in 2008 when a defendant was handed the punishment for committing an acid attack. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • It is unclear whether the 45-year-old man will lose both eyes or just one
  • Blinding is a relatively rare form of punishment in Iran, but it has been carried out intermittently since 2008

LONDON: An Iranian court sentenced a man to be blinded as punishment for leaving his neighbor without the use of one eye following a fight. 

The 45-year-old man, whose name has not been reported, was sentenced on the basis of a legal principle based on retributive justice.

The 2018 brawl took place in Fashan, an area outside of Tehran province, between the guilty party and his 40-year-old neighbor. The victim complained to a Tehran court after he lost vision in one eye. 

Reports by IranWire did not specify whether the man would lose both eyes or just one as punishment.

The use of blinding in the Iranian justice system has a relatively short history. It was first employed in 2008 when a defendant was handed the punishment for committing an acid attack. The victim in that case pardoned the attacker at the last minute. 

But an acid attacker in 2015 had his eye gouged out by Iranian doctors. A year later, another man was given the same penalty because he threw corrosive substances in his 4-year-old niece’s eye, blinding her. 

Post-revolutionary Iran has long been accused by rights groups, along with regional and international governments, of employing cruel punishments to maintain public order.  

Last year, there was an uproar when news emerged that Tehran was planning to remove four fingers from the right hand of four men accused and convicted of robbery following flawed trials.

Rights group Amnesty International said at the time: “Carrying out such unspeakably inhumane punishments is not justice and underlines the cruelty of Iran’s criminal justice system.”


Greenpeace sounds alarm over animal farming in Spain

Greenpeace sounds alarm over animal farming in Spain
Updated 14 October 2021

Greenpeace sounds alarm over animal farming in Spain

Greenpeace sounds alarm over animal farming in Spain
  • The number of farm animals raised in Spain has jumped by more than a third since 2015 to around 560 million in 2020
  • Three-quarters of Spain's water tables have seen pollution from nitrates increase between 2016 and 2019

MADRID: The “uncontrolled” growth of industrial farming of livestock and poultry in Spain is causing water pollution from nitrates to soar, Greenpeace warned in a new report on Thursday.
The number of farm animals raised in Spain has jumped by more than a third since 2015 to around 560 million in 2020, it said in the report entitled “Mega-farms, poison for rural Spain.”
This “excessive and uncontrolled expansion of industrial animal farming” has had a “serious impact on water pollution from nitrates,” it said.
Three-quarters of Spain’s water tables have seen pollution from nitrates increase between 2016 and 2019, the report said citing Spanish government figures.
Nearly 29 percent of the country’s water tables had more than the amount of nitrate considered safe for drinking, according to a survey carried out by Greenpeace across Spain between April and September.
The environmental group said the government was not doing enough.
It pointed out that the amount of land deemed an “area vulnerable to nitrates” has risen to 12 million hectares in 2021, or 24 percent of Spain’s land mass, from around eight million hectares a decade ago, yet industrial farming has continued to grow.
“It is paradoxical to declare more and more areas vulnerable to nitrates,” but at the same time allow a “disproportionate rise” in the number of livestock on farms, Greenpeace said.
Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of one of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons, the Mar Menor in Spain’s southeast, according to a media investigation published earlier this week.
Scientists blamed decades of nitrate-laden runoffs for triggering vast blooms of algae that had depleted the water of the lagoon of oxygen, leaving fish suffocating underwater.
Two environmental groups submitted a formal complaint in early October to the European Union over Spain’s failure to protect the lagoon.


Prince William: Before traveling to space, save the planet

Prince William: Before traveling to space, save the planet
Updated 14 October 2021

Prince William: Before traveling to space, save the planet

Prince William: Before traveling to space, save the planet
  • “We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live," said Prince William
  • William was speaking about climate change ahead of his inaugural Earthshot environmental prize awards ceremony on Sunday

LONDON: Britain’s Prince William has criticized some of the world’s richest men for using their wealth to fund a new space race and space tourism rather than trying to fix the problems on Planet Earth instead.
In comments to the BBC aired Thursday, William voiced his disapproval, a day after the former Star Trek actor William Shatner became the oldest man to fly to space in a rocket built by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,” said William, who is second-in-line to the British throne.
On Wednesday, the 90-year-old Shatner, who is best known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the 1960s television series Star Trek, briefly flew into space with Bezos’ space travel company, Blue Origin. Billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson are also pumping resources into their own space ambitions.
William, who is formally known as the Duke of Cambridge, was speaking about climate change ahead of his inaugural Earthshot environmental prize awards ceremony on Sunday and in the run-up to the start of the UN climate summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow later this month.
During the star-studded ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London, which will see five sustainability projects win 1 million pounds ($1.35 million) each, William will be joined by his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. The awards take their inspiration from the Moonshot challenge that President John F. Kennedy set for the US in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade — a challenge that was met eight years later.
The winners will be chosen by a committee including veteran broadcaster David Attenborough, actor Cate Blanchett and World Trade Organization director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
William, who has been immersed in environmental issues all his life through the strong interest in them of his father, Prince Charles, and his late grandfather, Prince Philip, voiced his worries about the world his own children will inherit.
He said it would be an “absolute disaster” if his oldest son, George, who he said is “acutely aware” of how resources impact the planet, was having to raise the same issues in 30 years’ time.
“Young people now are growing up where their futures are basically threatened the whole time,” William said. “It’s very unnerving and it’s very you know, anxiety-making.”
Echoing comments from his father, William urged world leaders to put words into action at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, known as COP26.
“I think for COP to communicate very clearly and very honestly what the problems are and what the solutions are going to be, is critical,” William said.
The summit is scheduled to take place Oct. 31-Nov. 12. It is being billed by many environmentalists as the world’s last chance to turn the tide in the battle against climate change.


Rolling Stones drop hit ‘Brown Sugar’ from US tour

Rolling Stones drop hit ‘Brown Sugar’ from US tour
Updated 13 October 2021

Rolling Stones drop hit ‘Brown Sugar’ from US tour

Rolling Stones drop hit ‘Brown Sugar’ from US tour
  • "You picked up on that, huh?" Keith Richards told the Los Angeles Times
  • The gritty rock chart-topper officially released in 1971 opens with the lyric "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields"

NEW YORK: The Rolling Stones have cut their popular track “Brown Sugar” from their US tour, at least for now, in the wake of criticism over its lyrics referring to slavery.
“You picked up on that, huh?” Keith Richards told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview, when asked about the song’s absence at the British band’s stadium shows.
“I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they’re trying to bury it. At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts,” the superstar told the paper.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track,” Richards, 77, added.
The gritty rock chart-topper officially released in 1971 opens with the lyric “Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields” and references beating enslaved people, and sex with young enslaved women.
In recent years magazine critics and others in the industry have criticized the song as “racist,” including one writer for New York Magazine who called the track “gross, sexist, and stunningly offensive toward black women.”
“We’ve played ‘Brown Sugar’ every night since 1970, so sometimes you think, We’ll take that one out for now and see how it goes,” frontman Mick Jagger told the LA Times.
“We might put it back in,” he said, adding “the set list in a stadium show, it’s kind of a tough one.”
In 1995 Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine that “I never would write that song now.”
“I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop’. God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go.”
The Stones resurrected their “No Filter” tour in September after a long pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They will play a string of dates into November 2021 including in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Detroit.


Former US President Trump stars in Madame Tussauds branch in Dubai, Middle East’s first

Former US President Trump stars in Madame Tussauds branch in Dubai, Middle East’s first
Updated 13 October 2021

Former US President Trump stars in Madame Tussauds branch in Dubai, Middle East’s first

Former US President Trump stars in Madame Tussauds branch in Dubai, Middle East’s first
  • Not the real Trump but a wax versions of Trump and his wife Melania
  • The lavish waxworks temple located on a small artificial island off Dubai unveiled 60 celebrities and leaders

DUBAI: In the United Arab Emirates, home to the only Trump-branded golf course in the region and rulers who for years cultivated warm ties with the former US president, Donald Trump is back in the spotlight.
Not the real Trump, who has kept a relatively low profile since losing re-election last year, but a wax versions of Trump and his wife Melania. The two are some of the stars of Dubai’s new Madame Tussauds, the tourist-friendly wax statue museum known for its celebrity likenesses that ceremonially opened its first Middle East branch here on Wednesday.
The lavish waxworks temple located on a small artificial island off Dubai unveiled 60 celebrities and leaders, from a sultry Kylie Jenner to a beaming Chinese President Xi Jinping, along with a handful of Bollywood dance stars in various dance poses.
Trump’s figure, sporting his signature red tie, is seated at a desk with the former president looking down and checking out his smartphone, while a sleek wax figure of former first lady Melania stands by his side in a cobalt blue dress, her classic look during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“He looks very real but he’s not quite orange enough,” said 27-year-old visitor Amna Al-Haddad after snapping a selfie.
The wax figures at Dubai’s Madame Tussauds were each created over six months by a team of 20 artists at the London studio, where wax was poured into metal frames, then sculpted with clay. Each strand of real human hair was methodically implanted using needles.
During his presidency, Trump was considered a close friend in the capital of Abu Dhabi. Gulf Arab sheikhdoms welcomed Trump’s policies in the region, including his harder-line on Iran, as he pulled America out of Tehran’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. In Dubai, the flashy Trump International Golf Club, developed by DAMAC Properties, sprawls from the center of a luxurious collection of upscale apartments and villas.
To design the collection, the Madame Tussauds team conducted an extensive population survey to figure out who potential visitors would most want to see. There is no President Joe Biden currently on display, but a company spokesman said he could be featured at some point in the future.