Monthly Archives: February 2012

China Proposes Legislation To Outlaw GM Foods

Over the course of a decade, under considerable pressure from Greenpeace China, the government there has moved from prohibiting commercialization to banning outright, now to a proposal to specifically legislate against GM foods. Previously, modified strains were still finding their way into the country through foreign retailers like Walmart.

In the past few years also other Asian countries have said no to GE. India took a ground-breaking decision by putting a moratorium on the approval of Bt Brinjal (eggplant) in 2010 and in 2011 the Thai government decided to keep its rice GE-free.

Other Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Bangladesh are currently in the process of developing and commercializing GE grains and the proposed grain law in China will send a message to decision makers globally that GE is not welcome in Asia, which companies, such as Monsanto and Beyer, regard as a key future market for their GE seeds. [Greenpeace International]

This, combined with recent rejection by Europe, hopefully marks a trend for the decline of GM agriculture.

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India’s 100 Million Strong Worker Strike Ends

Last night at midnight, a nationwide Indian worker strike ended:

The workers are demanding a national minimum wage, permanent jobs for contract labourers, social security for informal labourers, pensions for all workers, intervention by the government to stop the rising costs of living, and to end the sell off of publicly owned companies amongst other demands.

Transport, postal services and banking have all been hit by the strike which involves around a dozen unions, with a ‘complete shutdown’ of banking in Mumbai being reported. Police have been deployed to try to prevent ‘unlawful’ picketing, with 100 arrests made this morning for obstructing traffic. [Libcom]

Hindustan Times has more detail on the locations of the strikes, and their composition.

And so ends one of the largest worker strikes in recorded history. We shall wait to see the effects.

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Microlenders Found Responsible For Indian Debt Suicides

SKS Microfinance, the market leader in microlending, has been implicated by an independent study commissioned by…SKS Microfinance. Debt ridden borrowers were constantly harassed by debt collectors, who were found to encourage suicide as a form of debt repayment. Tens of thousands of impoverished Indians kill themselves every year, often rural farmers who go into debt for “drought resistant” GM seeds that fail.

One woman drank pesticide and died a day after an SKS loan agent told her to prostitute her daughters to pay off her debt. She had been given 150,000 rupees ($3,000) in loans but only made 600 rupees ($12) a week.

Another SKS debt collector told a delinquent borrower to drown herself in a pond if she wanted her loan waived. The next day, she did. She left behind four children.

One agent blocked a woman from bringing her young son, weak with diarrhea, to the hospital, demanding payment first. Other borrowers, who could not get any new loans until she paid, told her that if she wanted to die, they would bring her pesticide. An SKS staff member was there when she drank the poison. She survived.

An 18-year-old girl, pressured until she handed over 150 rupees ($3) – meant for a school examination fee – also drank pesticide. She left a suicide note: “Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.”

Read the rest of the Associated Press article in The Seattle Times

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Ali Abdullah Saleh Steps Down As President of Yemen

The despot responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians after a military crackdown not unlike that of President Assad in Syria has finally resigned, handing power over to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The transfer was part of a Gulf Co-operation Council-brokered agreement.

Under the deal, Mr. Hadi will serve a two-year term and oversee the drafting of a new constitution. Mr Saleh was also granted immunity from prosecution.

Aides to the former president have said that he plans to go into exile, although there have been problems finding any country that will accept him. The Associated Press quoted Yemeni officials on Monday, however, as saying that Ethiopia had agreed.

This article quoted from the BBC.

Recent elections included only Hadi as a candidate. It remains to be seen if this transfer of power within the administration will prove fruitful for the Yemeni people, though we’re not holding our breath.

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Old Footage Shows The CIA To Be Complicit In Media Manipulation

This might have been what JFK was referring to in his 1961 speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association, although his rhetoric was focused largely on the rise of communism.

 The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions.

Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.

That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

Read the full speech here.

Archival footage serves as a sage reminder that our military and intelligence services are way ahead the public eye.

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Italy Seeks To Revoke Tax Breaks For Vatican

The Vatican has enjoyed an operation free from taxes since the policy was enacted by the Bersculoni administration in 2005. Due to public and EU pressure, the current Italian government headed by Mario Monti has told the Vatican it will resume payment of the Ici tax, which are the dues paid on purchased properties.

The Vatican avoids Ici tax on about 100,000 properties, classed as non-commercial, including 8,779 schools, 26,300 ecclesiastical structures and 4,714 hospitals and clinics.

Estimates of its annual saving from avoiding the levy range widely from €600m to €2.2bn. The Church, however, says the tax exemption is worth only €100m a year. Neither is it clear from Mr Monti’s comments how much Ici tax the Church will now have to pay.

The Independent has more.

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Wikileaks Dumps Cache of Emails From Intelligence Contractor Stratfor, CEO Resigns

Stratfor is a global “intelligence” provider based in Texas, now come to transparency after more than 5 million emails were released today by Wikileaks: the communications reveal cozy relationships with both government and private clients, as well as a string of illicit activities not limited to bribery, extortion, money laundering, and illegal surveillance. Stratfor could be likened to the Blackwater, Xe, Academi of information gathering.

“[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase” – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees : “We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either.”

It’s apparent that CEO George Friedman resigned yesterday in lieu of today’s file dump, according to another leaked email obtained by Anonymous.

UPDATE 13:49 EST: Julian Assange has addressed the press concerning this recent leak:

UPDATE 13:22 EST: A document alleging Israel to be behind the destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities has been included:

In one of the emails from November 2011, Startfor officials discuss the explosion at an Iranian missile base near Tehran and quote a source who “was asked what he thought of reports that the Israelis were preparing a military offensive against Iran. Response: I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago.”

One company analyst responded dismissively to the possibility of an Israeli attack having already taken place, asking: “How and when did the Israelis destroy the infra on the ground?”

“Would anyone actually accept that this could let the Europeans forget about the Euro crisis, something they have been experiencing every day for over a year?!” the analyst added, asking: “Do we attribute any credibility to this item at all? I don’t even see what possible disinfo purposes this could serve.”

This reported by Haaretz news service.

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Roundup-Resistant Superweeds Have Dow & Monsanto Reintroducing Component of Agent Orange

Weed adaptation has allowed new varieties to survive herbicidal treatments like RoundUp, leading many agrochemical companies like Dow and Monsanto to consider more drastic alternatives. A chemical known as “2, 4-D” (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), used since the late 1940’s is being reintroduced as a substitute. This more powerful defoliant is one component of Agent Orange, the infamous dioxin cocktail responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and birth defects in Vietnam, which was implemented during the Vietnam war.

To be fair, 2, 4-D made up the less toxic half of the Agent Orange formula, according to this Beyond Pesticides report (PDF) on it. The other half, known as 2,4,5-T, carried most of the dioxin contamination that made Agent Orange such a nightmare for everyone exposed to it in Vietnam.

But 2,4-D isn’t completely off the hook for its role in Agent Orange. Beyond Pesticides reports that “several forms of dioxin have also been found in 2,4-D,” citing both EPA and State of Washington studies. And 2,4-D has quite a dossier of destruction in its own right. Beyond Pesticides points to  both epidemiological and lab-based evidence linking it non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. It’s also an endocrine disruptor, Beyond Pesticides reports, meaning it can “interfere with the body’s hormone messaging system and can alter many essential processes.” It can also act as a mutagen, or a  “substance that induces genetic mutations.” [Mother Jones]

Out of the fire, into the other fire.

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States Draft Bills To Refuse NDAA Enforcement

As The New American reports, a number of state and local governments around the U.S. have begun to pass laws nullifying NDAA sections 1021 and 1022, which state that persons suspected of “belligerent activities” against the U.S. may be detained by the military (indefinitely), and held in military custody under the jurisdiction of a military tribunal.

Concerning the Virginia house bill:

The bill was sponsored by committed constitutionalist Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall. When asked by The New American what prompted him to author this legislation, Marshall referred to his “oath to uphold the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions. “They say this law [the NDAA] is designed to fight terrorists. You don’t defeat terrorists by adopting their tactics.” “I will be faithful to my calling to stand against these predators who would sell their birthright for a mess of pottage,” he added.
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” These words were written by the Father of the Constitution, James Madison. Marshall certainly understands this principle as he is also the author of the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act, which nullified ObamaCare in his state.
Read more from The New American
This is just a start, as most of the proposed legislation merely refrains from enforcing NDAA, rather than actively protecting its constituency from the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement.
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Military Occupation of Afghanistan Saw Over 3,000% Increase In Drug Trade

The United States, since famously waging its “war on drugs” during the Nixon administration, has only seen an enormous boom in drug trafficking around the world. The profits from this black market have gone to fuel oppressive regimes and agencies, often funneled through legitimate American businesses, including large banks like Wachovia.

As David Williams of The Daily Mail reports, the drug war in Afghanistan has fared no differently than the drug wars in Central and South America, as it has generated enormous funding for the Taliban, with whom the U.S. recently has been reported to be negotiating:

The West is losing the heroin war in Afghanistan – ten years after Tony Blair pledged that wiping out the drug was one of the main reasons for invading the country.

Despite spending £18billion and a conflict which has so far cost the lives of almost 400 British troops, production of the class-A drug by Afghan farmers rose between 2001 and 2011 from just 185 tons to a staggering 5,800 tons.

It increased by 61 per cent last year alone.

Such has been the failure to combat the problem that more than 90 per cent of the heroin sold on Britain’s streets is still made using opium from Afghanistan.

Read the full article here.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with Afghanistan’s narcotics history, there is an extremely thorough coverage found at Truth Booth Online. The blog gives a detail of recent history, current to 2007:

The United Nations says Afghanistan’s latest opium harvest is the biggest ever. The harvest was 6,100 metric tons (enough for 610 tons of heroin), an increase of nearly 50 percent from the year before. This is 92 percent of the world total and 30 percent more than global consumption. Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN’s drug office, says, “It is indeed very bad, you can say it is out of control.” He says the Taliban have profited from the drug trade, and they promise protection to growers who expand their operations. 400,000 acres were planted with poppies in 2006; about ten percent of these poppy fields were destroyed by the Afghan government’s eradication program. About five percent was destroyed in the previous year.

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