Oxford Trinity College High Table. I doubt these professors have anything to fear from a food tax. By Winky from Oxford, UK (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A group of researchers in Oxford University, England have suggested that imposing a massive tax on carbon intensive foods – specifically protein rich foods like meat and dairy – could help combat climate change.
Pricing food according to its climate impacts could save half a million lives and one billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions
Taxing greenhouse gas emissions from food production could save more emissions than are currently generated by global aviation, and lead to half a million fewer deaths from chronic diseases, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford and the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington DC, is the first global analysis to estimate the impacts that levying emissions prices on food could have on greenhouse gas emissions and human health.
The findings show that about one billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be avoided in the year 2020 if emissions pricing of foods were to be implemented, more than the total current emissions from global aviation. However, the authors stress that due consideration would need to be given to ensuring such policies did not impact negatively on low income populations.
“Emissions pricing of foods would generate a much needed contribution of the food system to reducing the impacts of global climate change,” said Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, who led the study. “We hope that’s something policymakers gathering this week at the Marrakech climate conference will take note of.”
Much of the emissions reduction would stem from higher prices and lower consumption of animal products, as their emissions are particularly high. The researchers found that beef would have to be 40% more expensive globally to pay for the climate damage caused by its production. The price of milk and other meats would need to increase by up to 20%, and the price of vegetable oils would also increase significantly. The researchers estimate that such price increases would result in around 10% lower consumption of food items that are high in emissions. “If you’d have to pay 40% more for your steak, you might choose to have it once a week instead of twice,” said Dr Springmann.
The results indicate that the emissions pricing of foods could, if appropriately designed, be a health-promoting climate-change mitigation policy in high-income, middle-income, and most low-income countries. Special policy attention would be needed in those low-income countries where a high fraction of the population is underweight, and possibly for low-income segments within countries.
The abstract of the study;
Mitigation potential and global health impacts from emissions pricing of food commodities
Marco Springmann, Daniel Mason-D’Croz, Sherman Robinson, Keith Wiebe, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner & Peter Scarborough
The projected rise in food-related greenhouse gas emissions could seriously impede efforts to limit global warming to acceptable levels. Despite that, food production and consumption have long been excluded from climate policies, in part due to concerns about the potential impact on food security. Using a coupled agriculture and health modelling framework, we show that the global climate change mitigation potential of emissions pricing of food commodities could be substantial, and that levying greenhouse gas taxes on food commodities could, if appropriately designed, be a health-promoting climate policy in high-income countries, as well as in most low- and middle-income countries. Sparing food groups known to be beneficial for health from taxation, selectively compensating for income losses associated with tax-related price increases, and using a portion of tax revenues for health promotion are potential policy options that could help avert most of the negative health impacts experienced by vulnerable groups, whilst still promoting changes towards diets which are more environmentally sustainable.
This proposal, from a group of people who have probably never missed a meal in their lives, is totally obscene. High income countries often have a lot of poor people who would be hard hit by increases in the price of food.
Needlessly exacerbating the risk poor people don’t get enough to eat, especially children and pregnant mothers, who are especially vulnerable to adverse health impacts from lack of protein in their diet – if this ghastly proposal is ever implemented, future generations will look upon it as a crime against humanity.
Eight years of legislative constipation suddenly ends when it comes to Congress’ preferred constituency
Apparently American Jews, although they comprise only about 2% of the American population, send so many shekels to Congress that when a bill benefiting them comes up, Congress drops everything else to pass the bill immediately. And the reason I say it is that I am stunned at how after eight years of Congressional do-nothing grid-lock, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act was introduced into the Senate last Thursday, December 01, and passed the very same day. Unanimously, without amendment.
And what is even more impressive is the way American Jews pushing this bill — we’re talking the usual suspects: AIPAC, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federations of North America, Simon Wiesenthal Center, according to co-sponsor Bob Casey (D, PA) — were able to get the Senate to sign off on it in spite of it being a pernicious thought-control bill. But you really have to wade through the wording carefully to see that, which is what makes it so pernicious.
The bottom (and very ironic) line is that this “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” is an example of the many reasons antisemitism is becoming such a problem in America, and it is an example of why Americans mistrust of Congress is more justified now than at any time in history. The Act actually promotes the very perception of Jews that it punishes.
So let me unpack this IED very carefully because, first, it is contorted, and, second, it presages the fetid dystopia that America is fast becoming.
“Antisemitism” defined as including “the definition of antisemitism”
I am looking at the Senate version of the Act that was passed on December 01. It’s bill S.10 as shown by its style, above.
Section 4 – the directive of the bill, requires that when investigating a Title VI violation, the Department of Education “. . . shall take into consideration the definition of anti-Semitism.” Hold on . . . what definition???
Well, Section 3, titled “DEFINITIONS,” seems like a good place to look. It says:
“For the purposes of this Act, the term ‘definition of anti-Semitism’ —”
and then it doesn’t give a definition at all, but, rather, provides two paragraphs that say what the definition of anti-Semitism “includes.” You don’t have to be the brightest bird on the branch to see that defining a word is a different process from articulating a couple of concepts that a definition includes. And, as a result, there is no actual definition in this law for “antisemitism,” only an opinion of what the definition of “antisemitism” includes.
As an analogy, if you asked me for a definition of “baseball” and all I gave you in response was “Baseball includes three strikes,” you would not be that much closer to the definition than before you asked. You would, in fact, have been jerked around. It seems to me to be axiomatic that Congress has an ethical and moral obligation not to jerk Americans around like this. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA), who introduced this feculent bill, I’m looking at you.
Be that as it may, let’s look at what the Act says the definition of “antisemitism” includes to see where Scott and Casey are going with this.
Paragraph (1) of Section 3 says the “. . . definition of antisemitism. . . (1) includes the definition of anti-Semitism set forth by the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism of the Department of State in the Fact Sheet issued on June 8, 2010 . . .”
OK, so . . . the definition of “antisemitism” includes the definition of “antisemitism.” IOW, the word as used in this Act “includes” the definition of same word as set forth in a Fact Sheet. The Act provides no link to this “Fact Sheet” but you can find the thing on the Department of State website here.
Here comes the mind-control part
Here is that Fact Sheet’s definition of “antisemitism” (bold added):
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which [sic] may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” — Working Definition of Anti-Semitism by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia
(In addition, Paragraph (2) of Section 3 says the definition of antisemitism also “includes” the rest of the content of the Fact Sheet, which includes “Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism” and additional material that is relevant to comments and criticisms directed at Israel.)
The legal/constitutional problem is that by this sleight of hand the Act defines antisemitism to include “a certain perception of Jews.” And so what is being made illegal is a mental process or thought process. (Experts may disagree on the semantics of whether perception itself is a “thought process,” but not on whether it is a “mental process.” In my view it is safest to consider perception to be a mental process that includes thought. Not all thought includes perception, but all perception includes some degree of thought.)
And note that the prohibited mental process is described not by any harm it does and not by the way the mental process is expressed, but by the way in which the mental process MAY BE EXPRESSED. In other words, according to this Act, merely having a certain perception about Jews is prohibited or punished so long as it is possible to express that perception as hatred toward the Jews — and, “Jews” includes Israel, pursuant to Paragraph (2).
More specifically, according to this Act, if one engages in the mental activity of perceiving Jews and/or Israel in any way that could be expressed as hatred, then that mere perception, regardless of whether or not it is actually expressed as hatred, gives rise to a complaint under Title VI.
The Act, in other words, is an example of the government making a certain class or category of purely mental activity illegal and punishable under (here comes the irony) the Civil Rights Act. This is an attempt at governmental thought-control, or, more precisely, perception-control under the rubric of “civil rights.” But then a lot of political correctness is really a warped manifestation of “civil rights.”
I admit that I don’t know the 52 titles of the U.S. Code word for word; after all there are nearly 5,000 criminal statutes alone. Nevertheless, I am not aware of any other federal statute, or act, or bill, or regulation in which Congress or an agency assumes to itself the authority and power to punish, control, or in any way sanction a mental process. We’re breaking new ground here, with the assistance and for the benefit of our Jewish friends at AIPAC and ADL.
You have, no doubt noticed by now an edge in this post. It’s there because as a neuroscientist and lawyer, when the government begins passing legislation that controls or in any way attempts to affect individuals’ mental processes, it frightens me. And as an ex-Marine with a Purple Heart it pisses me off.
As a society we need to think and talk about the way politically-privileged Jews in America and Israel are given special consideration by, and access to, Congress. More importantly, we need to think and talk about the way politically-privileged Jews are using their special access to Congress to turn the country into a mind-control police state, as is clearly indicated by the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.
- Anthony L. Fisher, Reason, Proposed ‘Anti-Semitism Awareness Act’ is an Unconstitutional Mess
- Alex Emmons, The Intercept, Senate Response to Trump-Inspired Anti-Semitism By Targeting Students Who Criticize Israel
- Stephen Lendman, SteveLendmanBlog, Disgraceful US Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.
Denis O’Brien has been a member of the Virginia State Bar and registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office since 1998. His PhD (University of Virginia,1980) and his post-doc (Havard Biolabs) were in the field of neurosciences, primarily neuropharmacology. Denis is the author of Murder in the SunMorgue, available online, a pharmacological investigation of the 2013 Ghouta massacre.
December 10, 2016 Posted by aletho | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | AIPAC, Anti-Defamation League, Bob Casey, Human rights, Jewish Federations of North America, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Tim Scott, United States | 4 Comments
We all know that people differ mentally in a great many ways: some are reflective, others impulsive; some are sympathetic, others are sociopathic; some are creative, others seem never to have a witty or imaginative thought; some are sensible, others are flighty, fanatical, or prone to panic; and some are smart, whereas others cannot do a simple arithmetical calculation in their head or solve an elementary logical puzzle.
So how do we measure the human intellect? Among educators and psychologists, the most common procedure is to conduct a test of reasoning ability that yields a result called an intelligence quotient, or IQ.
Some people think IQ’s are terrifically important and that people can be ranked from dumb to brilliant according to their IQ. Moreover, it is widely believed that one’s IQ is largely genetically determined at birth.
Thus to many, IQ is a mark of inherent social rank.
A problem with this idea is that IQ’s seem to vary according to experience and culture. Sub-Saharan Africans, for example, are widely said to have IQ’s averaging 20 to 30 points lower than the average of about 100, which is typical of most European populations. Trouble is, when Africans migrate to Europe, their IQ’s rise. Same with country folk versus city folk. The former seem to have lower IQ’s until they migrate to the city, then they, or their children, match the IQ’s of the city-born.
There’s also the effect known as test sophistication, which means that the more IQ tests you take the better you get at them. So IQ is not quite so firmly fixed by the genes as many people seem to believe. Moreover, there are generational differences in IQ, with IQ’s of most populations rising by five to as much as 30 points per generation since the beginning of the 20th Century, this phenomenon being known as the Flynn Effect.
But if people differ in intellect in ways other than reasoning capacity, what value is there in judging intellect by IQ?
For example, does IQ measure creativity, judgement, diligence, responsibility, or empathy?
Obviously not. Moreover, very little is knows about the effect of environment, diet, or culture on the many facets of human intelligence.
So why is so much attention given to the measurement of IQ?
Such a narrow view of human mentality seems not very intelligent, really.
Almost anyone with adequate schooling can learn to observe carefully, perform basic logical processes, make comparisons, draw more or less obvious logical inferences, and perform all the other operations that underlie appropriate responses to IQ test questions.
But not everyone is creative, sound in judgement, socially responsible, mentally vigorous, or possessed of the power of empathy.
And without those other qualities of mind, how useful is an abnormally high IQ?
In most circumstances, not very.
In fact, the idea of rating intellect on a single linear scale seems neither sensible nor useful, whereas it is almost certainly seriously misleading and, therefore, harmful.
Hillary Clinton called half of Trump voters “a basket of deplorables”. In all the discussions I have had with American “liberals”, they explained to me that Trump supporters were mostly uneducated white men.
However, I am old enough to remember an era when the all the leftwing parties, socialist or communist, and even American Democrats, were based on the workers or the “working class” or the “common man”. Nobody thought to inquire whether they had university degrees or to investigate whether or not their opinions were politically correct on issues such as racism, sexism or homophobia.
What defined the workers as progressive subjects was their economically exploited condition and not some ideological orthodoxy or moral purity.
At the end of the 1970s a great change took place within leftwing parties. They were increasingly dominated by academics and their ideology changed radically from that of the classical left.
Far from aiming to establish some form of socialism, or merely of social justice, the left turned into the champion of the fight for equal opportunity, against discrimination and prejudice, and – with the rise of globalization – the opening of markets.
The more or less mythical hero of the left was no longer the proletarian but the marginal, the migrant, the foreigner, the dissident, or the rebel – even if he happened to be a religious fanatic that no leftist intellectual would have anything to do with. One recalls how Jean-Jacques Rousseau made fun of those who pretend to love the Tartars in order to avoid loving their neighbors.
Little by little a new class alliance formed: the one percent as it is called, or more realistically the richest ten percent who benefit from globalization are allied with the middle class intelligentsia to sell us globalization in the name of “openness to others” and which flaunt the specter of racism or sexism to attract minorities and certain feminists (for although women are not a minority, certain feminist demands are similar to those of minorities).
But that alliance was extremely unnatural in socio-economic terms, because the main victims of globalization are the least qualified workers, often women or members of minorities.
The left’s pro-globalization bias led it astray step by step. First it gave up all effort at regulating the economy, satisfying itself with claiming to share the fruits of growth fairly by ensuring “equal opportunity”. But in the real world, inequalities grew far more than the economy.
They also imagined that international law could be abolished and that a certain “international community” – in practice the United States and its allies – would maintain world order by military means. Again, in the real world that only created chaos, refugees and resistance to that American order. In fact, in the long term, the American population itself came down with a strange disorder, “war fatigue”. Except for a minority of ideologues, hardly anyone in the United States wants to bear the costs of an empire (see the Boston Globe for a lucid analysis of those costs).
The protests of the victims of globalization had to be dealt with. The trick was to use the ideology of tolerance: any objection to globalization was labeled racism, xenophobia. Intellectuals took up the “fight against racism” with enthusiasm, with an eye to preserving their own privileged social position, sheltered from the economic storms of globalization.
In the United States, it was enough to stigmatize bad thoughts; in Europe, they were taken to court.
All that had to explode sooner or later, just as the Berlin Wall came down and the USSR collapsed, and for the same reasons: a self-satisfied but fairly incompetent elite, isolated from social realities, which claims to do what is best for the people without consulting them, and which finally doesn’t even deliver the promised benefits, ends up provoking rebellion against itself.
First the Brexit, then Trump. Whatever one may think of that individual, the worse the things said about him by American “liberals”, the more they expose the enormity of their defeat. After years of political correctness and sermons on feminism and antiracism, what can be more humiliating than the election of someone as demonized by feminists and antiracists as Trump?
For ardent supporters of the European Union, globalization and humanitarian wars, the victory of Trump has an effect comparable to that of the Polish worker strikes on the ruling Communist Party; they exposed the discontent even in the proletariat that theoretically exercised its dictatorship. The election of Trump shows the revolt of the American population in the very citadel of free markets and imperialism.
It remains to be seen whether Trump will carry out the progressive aspects of his program; protectionism and peace with Russia. Those are the aspects that most infuriate the oligarchy, much more than his rude remarks and contradictions. Those are thus the aspects that will require the most intelligence and determination if they are to be realized.
A left which dares take a close look at its past errors should do all it can to push Trump in that direction, rather than to alienate the population still more by once again mounting its high horse of moral superiority and selling its soul to the leaders of the Democratic Party responsible for their own defeat.
A french version of this article was previously published.
 Sanders seems to go in that direction : « To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him » http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-statement-on-trump
So, there it is: Brexit, as I had earlier suggested, was no extraneous “flash in the pan,” but a manifestation of wider and deeper discontents in Western society. Let us be clear: not only did 60 million Americans vote for Donald Trump, but a further 13 million, who voted for Bernie Sanders (in the primaries) similarly voted for strategic change – albeit from within a different political orientation.
I do not intend, here, to attempt any post-mortem on the U.S. election, but rather to try to see what may stand hidden behind the Brexit and Trump events – obscured for now by their overly prominent presence on the forestage of the media and politics.
The first concerns Donald Trump: Unsurprisingly, his personal foibles and his billionaire background have become the focus of a hostile media who question whether he has the ability to bring about strategic change, or not. This is an important question, but still it misses the point. The point here is that there are few – very few – opportunities for elected officials to challenge the status quo – especially when Western centrist parties have patently conspired to offer voters mere nuanced variants of the same “progressive,” liberal, globalized agenda.
In short, there evidently has been a constituency building up, so exasperated at the imperviousness of the elites to the true situation of this constituency, that they want the status quo gone, by whomsoever’s hand is there. Whomsoever: that is the point. It was never some sort of chief executive beauty contest: Would Bernie Sanders have been an ideal President? Would Nigel Farage have been one? Will Trump be able to deliver a new era? — we do not know (but should not foreclose on that possibility). The Whomsoever aspect rather speaks to the depth of alienation that lay latent in American society.
But the message that is in danger of being obscured by the outsize focus on the outsize personality of Mr. Trump is precisely that the “discontents” at democracy, at cultural “identity” politics, at globalization and its sufferings, will not simply disappear now. Mr. Trump will succeed or fail, but the uprising will persist in one form or another – and is likely to spread to other parts of Europe, leaving the latter in turmoil and politically incapacitated.
It represents a profound alienation. We should not expect any early return of the liberal world, should Mr. Trump somehow fail.
Nor should Mr. Trump be viewed as some sort of outlandish political freak. In fact, he fits quite closely to one of the mainstream orientations of American conservatism. It is an orientation that is, by instinct, doubtful of grandiose schemes of political or social re-engineering, preferring to take human nature as it is; it is more inclined to focus on domestic needs, rather than uncertain foreign adventures; is financially conservative; is not economically determinist; and tends to see the family as the indispensable building-block of society. It is a Zeitgeist that sees other countries (say Russia or China) as normal countries with whom one should talk, and to pursue common interests.
That Trump should be regarded as some bizarre oddity, rather than as being in the line of Burke and thrice Presidential contender Pat Buchanan (who admits to a certain paternity, as it were) – speaks more to the success of the neoconservative hijack of American conservatism beginning in the 1960s than reflects the historic spectrum of this intellectual current.
One might say that the neoconservatives were never Conservative, in the sense that neoliberals were never Liberal, in the traditional understanding of these terms. What is new is that the President-elect seems to have put together a new Republican constituency of half the American electorate. And this new constituency is not just one of “red-necks” (white, blue-collar workers). It has cut across social classes and ethnic divisions. Even Wall Street traders (supposedly aligned with the Clintons) reportedly were enthusiastically yelling “lock her up” during Mrs. Clinton’s concession speech – and college-educated women only gave Mrs. Clinton a 6 percent edge over those who voted Trump.
It is possible “that this election [originally] was intended to facilitate the triumphant return of the neoconservative-neoliberal paradigm all wrapped up in ‘new packaging.’ For various reasons, the decision was made to assign this role to Hillary Clinton,” according to the Oriental Review.
Perhaps this was because she was viewed as well placed to fuse the liberal-interventionist and the neoconservative trends to the Clintonite “cultural identity politics” base – or possibly, simply because it was “her turn” at the Presidency. If so, it has failed spectacularly.
The Clinton Failure
Why did it fail? One aspect of the discontent (as I have outlined before – see here) relates to the slow demise of our financialized, neoliberal, debt-driven growth model. For many in America and Europe, the reality has not been one of economic prosperity, but one of anxiety – and for the first time in the post-World War II era – a sense that the next generations’ prospects will be much tougher, and worse, than ours were.
Here (no friend to Trump) is Naomi Klein’s assessment: “They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame ‘Bernie or bust’ and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry.
“But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves … [financialized] neoliberalism. Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatization, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present.
“At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cozy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness.
“For the people who saw security and status as their birthright – and that means white men most of all – these losses are unbearable. Donald Trump speaks directly to that pain. The Brexit campaign spoke to that pain.”
Here it is represented visually:
Of course, this was not the case for the urban élites:
The second aspect to the present discontent has been cultural oppression (or, in the rhetoric of the Democratic Party, “identity politics” – one of the mainstays of the Clintonite electoral base). Its roots are complex, and lie with philosophic currents emerging out of Germany during WWII that somehow fused with American Trotskyist intellectual thinking (which then migrated to the Right). But, in gist, this current of political thought borrowed from the emerging discipline of psychology the concept of clearing the human mind – shocking it, or forcing it into becoming the “clean slate” on which a new mental program could be written by the psychiatric (or political) therapist respectively.
The political aim here was to eliminate totalitarian thinking, and fascist mental “programming,” and to replace it with a liberal-democracy circuit board.
Indeed, the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was promoted by this intellectual group precisely in furtherance of the notion that concepts such as “national culture” would become meaningless as a result of immigrant cultural dilution. By the 1970s and 1980s, the objective had evolved to implant the idea that there was really no politics to modernity (Fukuyama’s End of History) since all governance somehow had boiled down to technocracy: ensuring effective liberal market functioning — a matter best left to experts.
In political terms, the “clearing” of the mind’s inherited cultural clutter was to be achieved by cultural wars of political correctness. The class war had become discredited, but there were other “victims” on whose behalf war could be waged: the war on gender discrimination, on racism, on denial of gay rights and sexual orientation stereotyping, on verbal micro-aggressions, on sexist language, or any ideas or language which disturbed the individual’s sense of “safe space” were used as tools to clear away old cultural “brush” of inherited national culture, and open the way for an American-led, globalized world.
The ostensible factor linking all these notions of victim “wars” was that their antonym amounted either to fascism or authoritarianism. The problem with this has been that any white American blue-collar worker who attended church, who believed in family life, and was patriotic, became potentially a fascist, a racist, a sexist or a bigot.
Many ordinary Americans (and Europeans) disdain this “cultural” war which places him or her (according to Hillary Clinton), in the “‘basket of deplorables’ Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, islamophobic, you name it,” and who looked upon his or her community as representing nothing more than a “fly-over” state in the view of the U.S. coastal élites.
The deplorables have now risen up. Donald Trump’s salty language was no liability – it was an electoral asset by thumbing his nose at this correctness, and at so-called ”snowflake” sensibilities. Trump’s ‘incorrectness’ touched on a deep vein of resentment within American traditional society.
Not only does “flyover America” resent being termed “deplorables,” they feel too clearly the disdain in which the American and European elites hold them – and dislike their arrogance in suggesting that there is only one rational, sensible way of doing things, and that they – the elites, being the experts and a part of the Davos set – should tell the rest of us what it is: (despite their decades of failures).
Emotions are high on both sides. To gain a sense of how bitterly the cultural war will be fought, listen to this from the partly-Soros-funded populist mobilization movement Azaaz (linked to America’s Move On organization): “Dear Mr. Trump: This is not what greatness looks like. The world rejects your fear, hate-mongering, and bigotry. We reject your support for torture, your calls for murdering civilians, and your general encouragement of violence. We reject your denigration of women, Muslims, Mexicans, and millions of others who don’t look like you, talk like you, or pray to the same god as you. Facing your fear we choose compassion. Hearing your despair we choose hope. Seeing your ignorance we choose understanding. As citizens of the world, we stand united against your brand of division.”
In short, with Brexit and the Trump victory, we are witnessing an historic point of inflexion. As I noted in mid-October (quoting British political philosopher John Gray): “If the tension between [the globalization project on one hand] and the [sovereign] nation state, [on the other] was one of the contradictions of Thatcherism … From Bill Clinton and Tony Blair onward, the center-left embraced the project of a global free market with an enthusiasm as ardent as any on the right. If globalization was at odds with social cohesion, society had to be re-engineered to become an adjunct of the market. The result was that large sections of the population were left to moulder in stagnation or poverty, some without any prospect of finding a productive place in society.”
“If Gray is correct that when globalized economics strikes trouble, people will demand that the state must pay attention to their own parochial, national economic situation (and not to the utopian concerns of the centralizing elite), it suggests that just as globalization is over – so too is centralization (in all its many manifestations).”
Well, the global trend does not seem to be going in the Avaaz direction. It seems rather to be heading toward prioritizing the recovery of the state, of state sovereignty, and of state engagement in the pursuit of economic policies appropriate to the particular circumstances of the state, and in the state’s ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the community as a whole.
The question is what does this mean geo-strategically? And, secondly, can and will, Trump be able to deliver the new era? The short answer is that this new era seems to presage a period of political volatility, financial volatility and in Europe and the Middle East, the prospect of continued political “shock.”
It is clear that Mr. Trump is not a globalist. It is also clear that he is aware of some of the dangers of the present global monetarist policy. He has spoken of the U.S. Federal Reserve creating “big ugly bubbles” and that the next economic and financial crisis has been “kicked down the road” by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen – and clearly awaits whomsoever becomes U.S. President on Jan. 20, 2017.
Painted into a Corner
But three decades of debt-led, financialized “growth policies” leave the President-elect effectively painted into a corner: global debt has spiraled; the bubbles are there still (kept afloat by Central Bank coordinated intervention), and bubbles are infamously difficult to deflate gently; zero or negative interest rates are undermining many a business model, but cannot easily be foregone, without crashing the bond market; and QE (printing money) is systematically eating away at consumer purchasing power through the dilution of its newly created purchasing power, and the latter’s re-direction from “main street” into the financial sector – lifting nominal asset values – but creating no tangible wealth.
America and Europe effectively are in debt-deflation. How then to grow incomes so that producers of goods and services can also afford then subsequently to purchase these goods and services? Trump’s answer is to spend on domestic infrastructure projects. This may help a bit, but is unlikely – in itself – to lift and float the entire U.S. economy.
The reality is that there is no obvious global engine of growth (now that China’s “industrial revolution” has stalled at best). Every nation now is in search of new engines of growth. And it is not easy to imagine that Europe or America will succeed in retrieving all those jobs lost through globalization. Indeed, the attempt so to do – in, and of itself – might just precipitate a further deceleration of world trade, and a consequent decline in output.
In brief, the global economy may see a brief “honeymoon period” thanks to a likely spurt of U.S. fiscal indulgence and a concomitant psychological lift, stemming from – at least – the U.S. construction sector enjoying something of a boom. But ultimately the very economic crisis which Mr. Trump anticipates may prove to be the only way to cut the Gordian knot in which three decades of unprecedented debt and money printing have fettered us.
And if he is to steer through the expected crisis, Mr. Trump will have to eschew the Siren voices of the present elites telling him “TINA” (there is no alternative, but to continue as before).
Where Mr Trump might look for an early (and relatively easy) success however, may be in foreign policy. As “Nixon went to China,” so Trump can go to Russia and China, and begin to treat them as normal nations with whom it is possible to find an intersection of interests (as well as areas of disagreement).
This would be revolutionary. It could change the geo-strategical map. And as President Putin keeps repeating … the door is open (at least for now). Nothing is forever in politics.
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, which advocates for engagement between political Islam and the West.
Political establishments in Washington and Europe are in shock over Donald Trump’s US presidential win. And it’s far from over. Europe is bracing itself as elections loom in several member states.
Germany and France could be next big shocks. If their pro-EU governments should fall, then the European bloc as we know it is over.
The era of popular revolt is upon us. Disaffected and defiant, the mass of citizens are fed up with unresponsive, unrepresentative governments, on both sides of the Atlantic, that seem to only serve an unelected oligarchy.
First we had the Brexit vote to leave the European Union earlier this year. Now, we have the election of the “anti-politician” business tycoon Donald Trump who becomes the 45th president of the US with no prior experience of elected office.
Britain’s Daily Express called his election this week a “Trump Tsunami” – a monumental wave now heading across the Atlantic to the shores of Europe. “EU braces for ‘revolution’ amid Austria, Italy, France and German elections,” reports the Express.
Trump’s stunning victory – which overturned all mainstream media predictions – was greeted with jubilation by populist parties across Europe. Nigel Farage, who led the Brexit campaign for the United Kingdom Independence Party, said he was gratefully “passing on the mantle” to Trump.
There were similar ecstatic congratulations from France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and from a raft of other populist leaders in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. Le Pen hailed Trump’s victory as proof that “anything is possible for the people”. While Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban called it a “great day for democracy”.
The glee among populist parties was in sharp contrast to the sombre response from the two incumbent governments that might be viewed as the pillars of the European Union – Germany and France.
Trump’s breakthrough election came as a complete shock to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande.
France’s ambassador the United Nations Gerard Araud expressed it most succinctly when the tweeted on news of the result: “A world is collapsing before our eyes.” The diplomat quickly deleted the post, probably realizing he would later reap recriminations. But the sense of trepidation in his brief words was palpable.
While other European leaders, such as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, kept to polite protocol of offering perfunctory congratulations to President-elect Trump, Merkel and Hollande adopted a bizarre condescending sniffiness.
Merkel said she would work with the new president provided he “adhered to the values of democracy and equality”. Hollande said he respected the choice of the American people but that he would be “vigilant” in future relations with a Trump administration. The French president called for a “united Europe of values” to challenge Trump.
The conceited European view of the Trump election was echoed by foreign affairs commissioner Federica Mogherini, who said that the EU must now be a “superpower for peace”, standing up for democratic principles.
Critics would riposte that the EU hasn’t done much standing up for democratic values in its supine dealings with Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his latest crackdown against his country’s independent media. Nor has the EU been a beacon of virtue in its support for US-led regime-change machinations across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as indulging the Saudi and other Gulf Arab dictatorships with copious arms exports.
What is really unnerving the German and French leaders is that the Trump victory lends momentum to similar populist opposition parties within their borders. Both countries are holding national elections over the next year. Already, in regional elections during the past year, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) and National Front have made major inroads against the governing parties.
In the wake of Trump’s breakthrough, it is now being reported that Marine Le Pen may even win the French presidency – a result that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago. With Socialist president Hollande’s public approval rating languishing at record lows, few people would exclude a shock upset.
Merkel’s fourth bid for the chancellery as head of the Christian Democratic Union might be a little more secure, but in the coming months the “Trump Effect” – as her advisers are warning of – might translate into another landmark defeat.
Merkel and Hollande’s pious reaction to Trump’s presidential win shows that these two leaders and their ruling circles still don’t get it. The implicit moralistic tone deprecating Trump’s supporters as “right-wing rabble” shows that the incumbent European rulers are missing the plot of what is happening.
True, elements of support for Trump and populist parties across Europe are tinged with reactionary racist and xenophobic views. But it is a grave mistake to simply dismiss them. The rise in opposition to economic globalization that has enriched the few while impoverishing the masses is correlated with opposition to rampant immigration of cheap labor. Economic globalization as ordained by the oligarchy is also correlated with illegal wars overseas for elite-driven regime change, which, in turn, has fed into an influx of refugees from war-torn countries.
To be anti-immigrant is not necessarily an expression of racism or xenophobia. It is more fundamentally a legitimate opposition to political and economic disenfranchisement that has been imposed on societies by a self-serving, self-enriching elite who control political parties like puppets.
The European Union has for years been subservient to Washington’s “Atlanticism” whereby supposedly sovereign European states have become nothing more than vassals to US hegemony. Washington dictates neoliberal capitalist globalization, Europe obeys. Washington dictates criminal regime-change wars in the Middle East, Europe obeys. Washington dictates reckless NATO expansion and hostility towards Russia, Europe obeys.
The popular revolts sweeping the US and Europe are thus far amorphous and characterized in the establishment media as “right-wing”. But what is underway is perhaps best understood as a pent-up revenge by the masses against pampered and decadent elites who for too long have denied people a fair livelihood. The elites are only too willing to wage wars in foreign countries allegedly for “democracy and human rights” while depriving their own people a modicum of living.
Donald Trump has tapped into that groundswell of popular discontent. He may not deliver on his promises of economic renewal for the masses, but what he gets right is that ideologically driven hostility against Russia and “liberal crusades” for democracy in the Middle East have become repugnant to a Western public oppressed by an effete oligarchy.
Trump promises a radical new beginning in Washington. One which no longer pushes Atlanticist projects of economic globalization, wars and NATO expansionism.
In this new global outlook, Atlanticist politicians in Europe like Germany’s Merkel and France’s Hollande are suddenly left without geopolitical moorings. The tide of history is changing and they are being left high and dry.
With Brexit and Trump there seems to be a long overdue renewal of democracy – albeit reactionary in some forms to date.
The old order with its pretensions of “liberal values” is being assailed. And Merkel, Hollande and their Atlanticist ilk sound uncannily like the ill-fated Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI.
As months of protest and civil unrest hurl Ethiopia into a severe political crisis, a new report from the Oakland Institute debunks the myth that the country is the new “African Lion.” Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia exposes how authoritarian development schemes have perpetuated cycles of poverty, food insecurity, and marginalized the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
A key government objective is to make Ethiopia one of the largest sugar producers in the world. Several sugar expansion plans are underway, including the colossal Kuraz Project in the Lower Omo Valley, which will include up to five sugar factories and 150,000 hectares of sugarcane plantations that rely on Gibe III Dam for irrigation. Studies show that Gibe III could reduce the Omo River flow by as much as 70 percent, threatening the livelihoods of 200,000 Ethiopians and 300,000 Kenyans who depend on the downstream water flow for herding, fishing, and flood-recession agriculture.
Miracle or Mirage? offers lessons from the deadly impact of sugar and cotton plantations in the Awash Valley in the Afar Region, established in the 1950s. The projects drastically reduced land and water availability for people and cattle, undermined food security, destroyed key drought coping mechanisms, and stirred up violent conflicts between different groups over the remaining resources. The establishment of plantations was a critical factor in the 1972-1973 famine, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200,000 Afar people. These findings raise serious questions about the government’s logic behind sugar expansion, with $11.2 billion to be invested by 2020, and much more for irrigation schemes and dams – Gibe III alone cost Ethiopia $1.8 billion.
Using quantitative evidence, the report also details how plantations established in the Awash Valley have been far less profitable than pastoralist livestock production, while carrying massive environmental costs including the depletion of vital water resources.
Download PDF (size: 0.73 MB) Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia
October 22, 2016 Posted by aletho | Civil Liberties, Deception, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Africa, Ethiopia, Human rights | Leave a comment
Brussels, Belgium – The first thing to say about the U.S. presidential elections is that they are extremely anti-democratic. And here I’m not even talking about the manipulations that may have enabled Clinton to beat Sanders or about the fact that mainstream media spend their time deriding one candidate and covering up for the other. The most fundamentally anti-democratic aspect of the American elections is that a small fragment of humanity gets to elect someone who has an enormous influence over the rest of the world, someone who takes decisions that can drag us all into a generalized war, or at very least can aggravate tensions with Russia, Iran, and China, not to mention Syria, which are contrary to European interests.
From that point of view, Trump has an advantage over Clinton. That is, he says he wants to be President of the United States and not of the whole world, whereas she insists that the United States must exert world leadership.
Trump is berated as the latest incarnation of Evil (after Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, the Brexiters): racist, sexist, Islamophobe, a friend of dictators, etc., in short the embodiment of all that arouses the righteous indignation of the human rights defenders.
I would like to suggest a different way of seeing Trump. He is above all a capitalist, almost a caricature of the sort of man capitalism produces, encourages and celebrates. He makes money and is proud of it. For him, the bottom line is cost-benefit. Everything comes down to that ratio. Defend the Baltic States? What does it cost, what do we gain? Defend Japan? What does it cost, what do we gain?
In his way, he is also patriotic. Of course, not enough to pay taxes, or to pay his subcontractors if he can get out of it. But he is no doubt seriously worried about the de-industrialization of the United States (a rational worry for a capitalist). He fancies he can solve the problem, in a capitalist way – making deals with the Chinese or with companies that take their jobs abroad.
As a capitalist, Trump succeeded. Of course, he didn’t start from nothing, but he considerably enlarged the fortune he inherited. He did so by all sort of morally and legally doubtful methods. So what? Are there many capitalists who get that rich otherwise?
It is almost laughable to see the horrified reaction of the respectable left (human rights defenders, feminists, anti-racists) to the sight of this phenomenon. After all, the respectable left is itself totally pro-capitalist, but it uses its own vocabulary to designate the system: free market, open society, liberalism. But it accepts capitalism as essentially the end of history. It directs its criticism solely against “exclusion”, whether due to supposed prejudice or rejection of immigrants, or against unfair competition. But perfect competition would be a capitalist dream come true.
When the respectable left is faced with such a pure product of the system it defends (in its own way), that is, someone who is very calculating, vulgar, who says what comes to mind without concern for what is politically correct, all of which is fairly typical of a successful capitalist pleased with himself, we hear cries of dismay.
For that well-mannered left, the pro-capitalist discourse must be wrapped in sweet words, such as freedom, human rights, equality of opportunity, whereas the system as it is produces something quite different. Trump, for example.
The point at which the conflict between Trump and the pro-Clinton left, including the lesser-evilists, becomes interesting is the issue of war and peace.
Here too, Trump calculates: almost six trillion dollars spent on wars in the Middle East. And what do we have to show for it? Practically nothing! Chinese companies among others exploit Iraqi oil without having spent a penny on those wars. The chaos in Libya or Syria is not profitable to anyone, notably not to oil companies (which profit from stability), while all reasonable capitalists are itching to do business with Iran and Russia.
Incidentally, even the anti-war left tends to get things wrong by attributing those wars to rational economic calculation. In reality, those wars are motivated by a mixture of human rights ideology, determination to destroy Israel’s enemies and American ambition to exert world hegemony.
However, that ambition is not rational in economic terms. It is expensive. If you neglect the costs, it can seem rational. But Trump, as a genuine capitalist, doesn’t neglect them, and figures the whole enterprise is not worth it. And there, he is absolutely right. By the same token, he doesn’t see any good reason to launch a jihad against Russia, which is what is being done by the same ideologues who support the Middle East wars. Russia is a capitalist country and someone like Trump can perfectly well make deals with the Russians.
What is fascinating about the Trump phenomenon is that those who denounce him as vulgar, dishonest, racist, and so on, have nevertheless to admit that his support comes from ordinary folks, inasmuch as all the media are against him, along with Wall Street, the Pentagon, and the left from Sanders to Chomsky. But the more violent that denunciation is, the more obvious becomes the total failure of the “third way”, or the “second left” (the Clintons, Blair, Zapatero, Schroeder, Jospin, Hollande, Renzi) which has totally lost popular support, and can now only rely on the support of the elites.
That “second left” has lost out because it is unable to solve economic problems due to its blind obedience to economic liberalism and because its international policy of endless interventions has only resulted in gigantic chaos, both in the Middle East and increasingly in Europe, by causing the refugee crisis. Intensifying tension with Russia or insisting on overthrowing the Syrian government, no matter what the price, can only make matters worse.
Finally, that “third way” finds nothing better to do than to insult the people as being a mass of “deplorables”, as Hillary Clinton put it, thus digging itself deeper into a hole.
However “deplorable” he may be, the Trump phenomenon is a current form of “the revolt of the masses” faced with the failure of Western elites, supported by the “third way” left.
As for those of us in Europe, the issue is not to support either Trump or Clinton, since there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We need to wake up to our submission to the United States and try to free ourselves, which requires a long term effort at cultural, psychological and political liberation. From that angle, an eventual election of Trump could have a positive effect, at least in the short run, by the shock it would provoke among our America-idolizing media and political elites. But it’s up to ourselves to recapture our own independence. That never comes from outside.
Translated by Diana Johnstone.
An elitist, nationalist, bias dominates all areas of Canada’s paper of record.
On the front of last weekend’s Style section the Globe and Mail profiled Sonja Bata on turning 90. Business partner and wife of the deceased Thomas Bata, the Globe lauded Sonja for the “many contributions she has made to Canada”, including the Bata Shoe Museum and various other establishment “cultural, environmental and social causes.” The article touched on the shoemaker’s early history and described how she “traveled the world building a shoe empire – between 1946 and 1960, 25 new factories were built and 1700 Bata stores opened.”
While the three-page spread included an undated photo of Sonja and her husband on the “African continent”, it ignored how the Toronto-based shoe company took advantage of European rule to set up across the continent. By the end of the colonial era Bata had production or retail facilities in Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Senegal, Congo, Tanzania, Rhodesia and elsewhere. In the 1940s and 50s, notes Shoemaker with a Mission, “the organization’s expansion was especially great in francophone Africa. As Mr. Bata himself noted, there was no country in that part of the world where his company was not established as the number-one supplier of footwear.” While “Mr. Bata” may not be the most objective source on the shoemaker, a government study just after independence found the company controlled 70% of the footwear market in British East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania).
In a 1974 Saturday Night article titled “Canadians Too, Can Act like Economic Imperialists”, Steve Langdon describes the company’s operations in Kenya: “Bata seems to be undercutting decentralized rural development in Kenya, to be blocking African advance in other areas, and to be throwing its weight around politically — all at a handsome profit.” In a bid to subvert the establishment of a domestic competitor, the Toronto-based multinational wrote its overseas suppliers to discourage sales to its challenger and asked Kenyan government officials to intervene on its behalf.
Bata’s mechanized production methods squeezed out indigenous footwear producers all the while increasing imports of plastics and machinery, which came at the expense of local materials (leather) and employment. In the 1975 article Canada’s Relations with Africa Robert Matthews notes that Bata drained “money and opportunity from poor rural areas” to the benefit of a small group of locals and the Toronto head office.
When the post-independence Tanzanian government announced that it would acquire a 60 percent share of a multitude of major foreign firms Bata was the only hold out. The Toronto firm attempted to sabotage Tanzania’s push to acquire a controlling interest in the local company’s operations. In Underdevelopment and Nationalization: Banking in Tanzania James H. Mittelman explains: “Bata Shoes (a Canadian-based concern), for example, ran down stocks, removed machinery, supplied imperfect items, and later withdrew all staff, supposedly closing down for annual repairs! The Company refused to relinquish more than 49 per cent of its controlling interests, tried to set up a new wholesaling operation dependent on its firm in Kenya, and urged other foreign investors to fight.”
Bata’s aggressive reaction to Tanzania’s efforts aimed to dissuade other newly independent African countries from following a similar path. The shoemaker no doubt feared for its significant operations across the continent.
Bata received Canadian government support as well. In mid-1973 the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi visited Uganda to ask Idi Amin if he would attend the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place in Ottawa. But, the primary objective of the high commissioner’s meeting was to convince Amin to reverse his nationalization of Bata. A cable published by WikiLeaks read: “CANADIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER OLIVIER MET WITH PRESIDENT AMIN JUNE 29 TO DISCUSS GOU TAKE-OVER OF BATA SHOE FIRM. AMIN REVERSED EARLIER DECISION AND ORDERED THAT A NEW PARTNERSHIP ARRANGEMENT (51 PERCENT BATA, 49 PERCENT GOU) BE WORKED OUT.”
Through the 1970s Bata worked under the white regime in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). It broke sanctions against Rhodesia by exporting goods manufactured there to South Africa. Even more controversial, it operated in apartheid South Africa until the late 1980s. The company broke unions and blocked black workers from semiskilled, skilled and executive positions. Listed among the “hardline defenders of investment in South Africa” in Ambiguous Champion: Canada and South Africa in the Trudeau and Mulroney years, Bata faced an international boycott campaign. During this period Sonja Bata was quoted in the Canadian media justifying the company’s South African policy and Thomas Bata proclaimed “we expanded into Africa in order to sell shoes, not to spread sweetness and light.”
The Globe and Mail is exposing its elitist, nationalist, bias in ignoring Bata’s unsavory history.
Yves Engler’s latest book is Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.
With Brazilian Senators preparing to vote this week on whether to oust President Dilma Rousseff from office, interim President Michael Temer’s unelected government last week has axed a popular nationwide educational program that has shaved nearly a quarter from the country’s illiteracy rate in little more than a decade.
The Ministry of Education confirmed that it had discontinued the literacy initiative to a citizen who requested an update on the program through the country’s Access to Information Act, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported Sunday.
The initiative, known as Literate Brazil Programme, was launched in 2003 in the first year of the President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva–popularly known simply as “Lula”– of the Workers’ Party or PT. Brazil is historically one of the world’s most economically and social unequal countries in the world and the program was one of several redistributive efforts undertaken by Lula’s administration in his two terms in office.
But the interim Education Ministry, headed by right-wing politician Mendonca Filho, who faces investigation over major accusations of corruption, has dissolved the program, cutting off funding to state and local governments, even while continuing to deny publicly that the program has been revised in any way. State and local officials, however, say that they’ve been unable to enroll anyone in the literacy program, Folha reported Sunday.
Since it began in 2003, the literacy initiative has served an average of 1.3 million learners aged 15 and older, managing to reduce illiteracy rates from 11.6 percent to 8.3 percent in 2014. The Unesco Institute for Statistics estimated the 2015 adult illiteracy rate at 8.2 percent, while less than 2 percent of youth are illiterate.
According to Unesco, the program has shown “real-life success stories” of how literacy skills can improve “future prospects” for Brazilian citizens.
Despite the improvements in the literacy rate, Brazil still ranks behind many countries in the region, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, among others.
There also remains a great regional disparity in Brazil’s overall literacy rate, which ranges from 2.7 percent in the Federal District and 3.2 percent in the state of Rio de Janeiro to 22 percent and 20.2 percent in the poor, service-economy states of Alagoas and Piaui, according to government data reported by Folha.
Immediately after his administration was installed in May, Michel Temer’s all-male, corruption-ridden cabinet of neoliberal ministers moved swiftly to roll back social programs and implement an aggressive state austerity program that includes sweeping privatization efforts. Lula’s protegee, the twice-elected Rousseff is scheduled to testify Monday in her impeachment trial, with a final vote expected Tuesday.
Temer government’s has also cut other key programs and ministries, including the Ministry of Culture, which was absorbed into the purview of Minister of Culture, Mendonca Filho. The move represents the re-joining of the culture and education ministries for the first time since 1985, following the fall of the country’s brutal military dictatorship.
Filho is being investigated for receiving millions of dollars in bribes and illegal donations to fund his successful 2014 reelection campaign to represent the state of Pernambuco in Congress. If convicted, Filho would likely be forced to step down from his post, which would make him the fourth member of Temer’s cabinet to resign following accusations of bribery or fraud. Temer and his Foreign Minister Jose Serra are also embroiled in bribery scandals linked to fraud in the state oil company, Petrobras.
In just three months of “interim” government, Temer’s administration has moved toward privatizing state oil reserves, making cuts to popular social programs including the housing initiative Minha Casa Minha Vida, and hinted at plans to chip away at the country’s longstanding and cornerstone universal health care program. The country has also pivoted away from its left-wing allies in South America toward the United States and conservative governments in the region.
This heartbreaking story made headlines in all American newspapers and television channels. When American swimmers were robbed at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro, the reports about the incident appeared as “breaking news” in most of US publications. It has been recently revealed, however, that the Americans initiated the robbery and accused the Brazilian police of violence.
Lochte’s legend about the criminal police
Olympians Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz reported to the police, that “police officers” stopped their cab at a gas station in Rio on August 14. According to Lochte, one of the men put a gun to his head, took the money ($ 700) and personal belongings. However, the police, having studied surveillance camera videos, concluded that it was the Americans themselves, who broke the door to the bathroom and came into conflict with gas station personnel. Being in a state of alcoholic intoxication, the US athletes damaged equipment inside the station. After the gas station employees demanded the athletes should pay for the damage that they caused, the Americans tried to escape. One of the guards, threatening with a pistol, forced the swimmers to stay and called the police.
The court prohibited the four athletes from leaving Brazil for the time of the investigation of the incident. However, Lochte, who is said to be the one who started it, had already escaped. On Friday, Bentz and Conger got permission to leave Brazil. Feigen left the country too, having paid $10,000 in donations to “institutions”. In accordance with the law of Brazil, one can make donations (charity) to avoid criminal prosecution for minor offenses. Yet, the case is far from being closed. False alarm and the destruction of property is pending – both offenses are punishable with up to six months in prison or a fine.
The Americans had a party in Rio
Brian Winter, an expert at the Research Center of the Americas in Washington, DC (Council of the Americas) told BBC Brasil that the story would be forgotten in a few days, but it was important to reveal all the facts.
It would be sad if Brazil forgets the story indeed. The story has affected the image of Brazil as a democracy with strong legal and security agencies. A variety of Western publications have been doing their best to stain this image throughout the Rio Olympics. The story started a lot earlier, when the case for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff was opened six months ago. One must admit that Washington has a habit of overthrowing objectionable governments during Olympic periods – suffice it to recall Georgia’s aggression or the Ukrainian Maidan.
“There is no sin below the equator”
The goal of such campaigns is to dramatically reduce the self-esteem of the people and their faith in their own values. Green water in pools, Zika virus, street crime, dirty cities, bad builders, “police impotence” and so on – anything comes in handy. In fairness, it should be said that the Americans accommodated Olympic athletes in Lake Placid prison in 1980 (the reconstruction of sports facilities, as well as the construction of the Olympic Village had not been completed in time). The Americans pollute their cities (Detroit, Chicago) and experience ecological disasters on a regular basis (the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico). What right do the “exceptional” Americans have to educate other nations on violence? Have they forgotten the Boston marathon bombings, or Black Lives Matter, or mass school shootings, or the Orlando gay bar massacre, etc, etc?
In the XVII century, Caspar Barlaeus, a Dutch national, said when describing excesses of colonial policy: there is no sin below the equator. According to Barlaeus, any act of dishonesty committed there does not stain gentleman’s name, especially if there is a need to topple the leftist regime that integrated itself into the economic bloc with Russia and China (BRICS) and established regional blocs (MERCOSUR, SELAC) on the basis of independent Latin American states. This country has huge reserves of shelf oil, and the new government of CIA informer Michel Temer intends to bring it all to the US of A.
Will the Brazilians answer? Will they prove that they live in a legal state, where one should not insult the police? If the story had happened in the USA, the athletes would most likely have been jailed. Yet, it all happened in Rio, so they are certain that they can get away with it, because “there is no sin below the equator.”
We would like to note here that the Brazilians have the complex of the American backyard (sindrome vira-lata): the gringos are a model of democracy, and in Brazil everything is bad, the Brazilian police is bad and corrupt, but all American sheriffs are honest and respectable people.
Perhaps, some prefer sadomasochism. They do not mind others calling their country a land of the monkeys and the whole region – a latrine (América Latrina).
As for the behavior of the American swimmers, this is an example of how “respectable” Americans behave. And these “exceptional” individuals are convinced that their arrogance and impudent behavior contributes to the image of the police state, where they come from. We doubt so.
The recent Nobel laureates’ letter accusing Greenpeace of a “crime against humanity” for opposing genetically modified (GMO) golden rice reveals a deep division not only between civil societies and some science circles but also within the science community – a division in the visions for our common future and which path to take for our joint development. A division we see growing and escalating. A strong indication of this division is that among the Nobel laureate signatories, there seems to be hardly anybody with a solid scientific track record in agriculture, food production, development, or the socio-ecological and political causes of poverty and hunger. Others with notable competence – at least in the economic and social domains of development, poverty, and hunger – are not among the signatories. Signs of escalation also include the emotional, accusing language in the letter and the ample use of scientifically unsubstantiated claims. What is missing in the letter and among the supporters and developers of GMOs is the recognition and scientific analysis of some tough facts.
Fact no. 1: Still no functioning vitamin A rice despite unlimited resources
No functioning vitamin A rice has been produced in over 20 years of research. This is despite full support at every level: financial, institutional, political, and corporate. By ‘functioning’, we mean farmer’s rice varieties that reliably and stably express sufficient amounts of beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A, the precursor of Vitamin A) over many generations of seed saving. These seeds must continuously express beta-carotene at a level that has been documented to be efficiently convertible to Vitamin A in mammals and, most importantly, can (statistically) significantly relieve the symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency in hungry people. None of this is scientifically trivial but that’s what has been promised.
The first golden rice, GR1, was unsuccessful and is long gone. Golden rice 2 (GR2) is a patented pro-vitamin A GM rice developed from scratch by the multinational biotech firm Syngenta and still in the field trial stage at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at least one decade after it’s creation.
The vast majority of scientists in the world will never see such comprehensively generous support for their research – yet they still deliver, and must deliver if they ever want to renew funding for their research. This is more than can be said for the golden rice project.
Fact no. 2: Lack of recognition of real reasons for failure to deliver
A quick evidence check is sufficient to reveal the simple reason why golden rice is not in farmer’s fields: it is still not ready because it is not performing agronomically. Furthermore, it is far from being medically documented to relieve symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency. Neither Greenpeace nor the destruction of a test plot in the Philippines by local activists can be held responsible for this lack of scientific achievement.
Fact no. 3: Questionable conceptual underpinning
Leaving aside its scientific aspects, the very concept of golden rice – and all other similar conceptual approaches as solutions to malnourishment – remain doomed from the start as similar approaches have failed repeatedly. The problem lies in the underlying reductionist (disembedded) approach. Combating hunger and malnutrition one vitamin and mineral at a time is a failed ideology, no matter which vitamin or mineral one starts with and which kind of delivery system one chooses. Malnourished people do not suffer from single-vitamin-deficiencies added up. They suffer from hunger, as in ‘lack of food’. This is compounded by poverty and a myriad of contributing factors working simultaneously together. That means they lack regular access to real foods containing the necessary variety of ALL essential nutrients, which, in conjunction, make up a healthy diet.
These contributing factors differ according to culture, place and time. There exists a huge amount of research and analyses to read for anybody who cares about the real causes of hunger and the real solutions (we list some old and new references at the end – or just check out the United Nations World Food Program website. For the golden rice project, we recommend for starters, the recent analysis by Stone and Glover who locate its failure in its ‘disembeddedness’ and ‘placelessness’.
Consequently, hunger and malnutrition with its complex, ‘place-based’ causes cannot be battled by a uniform, de-contextualized and placeless one-vitamin-at-a-time approach which is what GMO golden rice has to offer.
This reductionistic approach to hunger is matched by similar reductionism in the genetic engineering world where organisms are viewed as the sum of their genes and proteins. Genes are added one at a time as blueprint construction instructions for lego-like products and many more projects of this kind are underway, e.g. vitamin A banana and cassava, or iron-fortified cassava, or whatever lies within their technical reach. Stone and Glover describe this as “a preoccupation with the molecular scale” that “favors a form of reductionist thinking that conceives of traits of interest as being governed primarily by genetics rather than through interactions with the environment or management” (Stone and Glover 2016).
Supplying vitamin A or any other nutrient in isolation only works for a transitional period of time, curing a symptom at best, while work progresses on the underlying place-based causes of hunger – lack of access to food, money, education and secure living conditions. Under those circumstances, as in parts of the Philippines, cheap vitamin A pills do the job much better, in a more targeted, controlled, and effective way than any patented GM crop could ever do.
Fact no. 4: A missing roll-out plan
But even if the golden rice researchers do eventually manage to get some GM pro-Vitamin A rice varieties to perform agronomically, there seems to be no roll-out plan to ensure that it gets to those who need it. Those reasons have nothing to do with regulations and everything to do with logistics, institutions and finances.
Will the golden rice developers truck their harvest into the urban slums and remote rural areas of Asia or Africa, or at least the Philippines, every day? Will they bring with them also the fat that malnourished people need to eat along with the rice to ensure they absorb the beta-carotene and convert it to vitamin A? And if they can do that, why aren’t they bringing existing foods into those areas already? Why wait until a patented GM food is ready for delivery? There is no shortage of vitamin-rich foods on this planet and beta-carotene is one of the commonest molecules in nature.
Frequently, vitamin A-rich food exists in abundance and rots in storage or under trees not that far away from the places where people suffer from malnutrition. An alternative already in the field is, for example, a non-GMO orange sweet potato, a root crop compatible with improved crop rotations whose developers have been awarded the 2016 World Food Prize. Without a massive and expensive roll-out plan, golden rice will not even leave the field station of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is overseeing the golden rice project.
If their plan is to cross the pro-vitamin A trait into the rice varieties that farmers grow in hunger-stricken areas, they face an uphill logistic, financial, scientific and institutional battle. How will they get the transgenic trait reliably expressed in all of these varieties at the necessary concentrations over many generations of rice plantings and seed recycling? Who will pay for this epic endeavour?
If they decide instead to only put the pro-vitamin A trait into a handful of, say, IRRI rice varieties (which we believe is the most likely plan – if there is a plan in the first place), many will fail because they will not perform in different local conditions and they typically require fertilizers and pesticides. If the plan is to switch farmers to growing a handful of patented biofortified varieties all over Asia and Africa, how will this be implemented? Who will deliver the seeds and accompanying chemicals to farmers – year after year, everywhere where it’s needed, for free? And is this a sustainable solution?
And what will happen to the thousands of existing ecologically and culturally well adapted varieties? The genetic diversity of crops and animals is our life-support system.
Furthermore, have they asked the rice producers and consumers of Asia and Africa if they want many of their rice varieties to be yellow forever – even in times when the food shortages and nutrition deficiencies are over?
Unresolved patent and ownership issues
According to the website www.goldenrice.org., a resource-poor farmer will be allowed to grow golden rice without license fees as long as his/her income is less than $10,000 per year. But, in practice, who decides which farmers are eligible? Who decides which income limit is appropriate in what country or region, and who enforces it on what authority and criteria? What about those farmers whose incomes exceed $10,000 per year? Who will decide when to collect fees, from whom, and for how long? How will the finances be arranged between Syngenta, which owns GR2, the seed multipliers and distributors, and the government? And if all this can be settled with Syngenta – how about the next-in-line patented, biofortified GM crops? In case of dispute, will there be free access to lawyers for the resource-poor farmers?
In their weekly column Schaffer and Ray (2016) reported about a meeting with an employee of the US State Department and discussing the benefits of GM crops for farmers and consumers in the Global South and whether or not farmers would have to pay a technology fee and purchase, for example, the golden rice seed each year. The State Department representative stated that the companies that own the patents would be willing to make the golden rice (or virus-resistant cassava) available at no cost provided that the countries adopted US patent regimes to protect other GM crops. From a policy perspective, such a ‘humanitarian’ license agreement would thereby present a highly profitable transaction, a means to ‘encourage’ developing countries that often do not even have patent laws of their own to accept the US patent regime and so ensure the profits of US companies and patent holders in perpetuity. In corporate agriculture it seems, nothing is really for free.
These are just a few of the tough questions that have never been addressed or even acknowledged by promoters of golden rice or any other such projects. Shooting genes into nuclei and getting a few varieties to express a transgene is the easy part – although even that has proved elusive so far for GR2.
Fact 5: Colonial mindset
Blaming Greenpeace for the failure of not only golden rice but other patented products of genetic engineering has been an irrational (or maybe calculated) obsession of some proponents and developers since the discussion began decades ago. Yet, it also reveals more subtle issues. Farmers and indigenous people are outraged when gene technology proponents accuse them of being instructed or manipulated by big Western NGOs like Greenpeace. They say that promoters of golden rice and other techno-solutions offered by developed countries rarely ask for or listen to their views and, thereby, reveal their lack of respect and comprehension.
This attitude towards peasant farmers and indigenous peoples is typical of the still prevailing colonial, Western mindset – hidden or open. It assumes that the peasant farmers are ignorant people without the relevant knowledge entitling them to make informed decisions based on their own values and visions for their future. Sadly, the letter signed by Nobel laureates appears to be a continuation of this way of thinking. It reveals an attitude of supremacy over, and disrespect for, traditional and indigenous knowledge and peoples who want to have a say in their lives and communities and which path to take to ‘development’.
Take-home message: Hungry (and poor) people deserve better. And Nobel laureates can do better!
Dr Angelika Hilbeck is Chair, European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER). She is a researcher and lecturer on biosafety and agroecology at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) who has worked closely with farmers and civil societies in many developing countries for more than two decades, including the Philippines, the country targeted for the rollout of GM golden rice. She is a member of the Board of Directors of ‘Bread for All’. She was a lead author of the International Assessment of Agricultural Sciences, Knowledge and Technology for Development (IAASTD)
Dr. Hans R Herren, Agronomist/Entomologist (ETHZ) who worked in agricultural research and development for 27 years in Africa. Member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, President and Founder Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development www.biovision.ch, president and CEO www.Millennium-Institute.org.
Laureate: Sustainability Prize, Germany 2016, Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize 2013; One World Award 2010; World Food Prize 1995; Kilby Award 1995; Brandenberger Prize 2002; Tyler Prize 2003.
Foreign Associate of the US Academy of Sciences 1999; Member of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) 2005
Co-Chair International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), Member CGIAR Science Council (2005-2010)
 “On 13 August 2013, after farmers had got nowhere in their arguments with the Philippine government, they uprooted an experimental field of Golden Rice in Pili, Camarines Sur, where trials were taking place. By taking this action, they sent a clear signal that they would not tolerate the advance of GMOs. However, the Filipino farmers were outraged when the media, accusing them of ‘vandalism’, made it appear that the uprooting had been orchestrated by international NGOs which had supposedly made use of the farmers to uproot the rice. Farmers explained that it was their decision to turn to civil disobedience to defend rice, a crop that is central to their diet, their livelihood and their culture. While the funders and supporters of Golden Rice carry on with their goal of commercialising the crop in the Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh in the near future, Filipino farmers continue to mobilise and protest, vowing that they will go on opposing the advance of GMOs.”
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Many mainstream media websites helped a fake video go viral this month. The video showing a young Syrian boy running through sniper fire to save a little girl, was exposed as a fake when the Norwegian producer Lars Klevberg made the fact public. One of the stated aims of the Norwegian film makers was to “see how the media would respond to a fake video.” This article examines how that experiment went.
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