Fifty thousand refugees have arrived recently in Europe and many more are on the way. They include Palestinians reliving their original catastrophe — the Nakba of 1948 — as they search for shelter. Hundreds, even thousands, have lost their lives in the process.
Until 2011, nearly half a million Palestinian refugees lived in Syria. It was generally understood that they were living the most stable lives compared to their compatriots. Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp outside of Palestine, was described as “the capital of the Palestinian Diaspora”, and it basically became a residential extension of Damascus before it was turned into a scene of ruin, death and hunger by the Syrian conflict.
The tragedy that hit Syria has dispelled all illusions, though, with the realisation that the Palestinian refugee communities are actually extremely fragile and very quickly pay the price for any turbulence and crises in the host countries. This has happened before in Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.
Compared to the masses of refugees now flocking to Europe, the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees fleeing from Syria has its own characteristics. This lies in the fact that they are forced to endure a new “exodus” and suffering as they seek a place of safety, even though their homeland is little more than an hour’s drive from their refugee camps. The Palestinian families must make the long, perilous journey across borders, coasts and mountains, meeting the outrageous demands of the greedy, criminal gangs of human traffickers in order to reach Europe.
However, Europe is so preoccupied by the refugee crisis that it does not care about the essence of the problem that created it. As far as the Palestinians coming from Syria are concerned, the issue is fairly clear, so why doesn’t the European Union work towards the most logical and practical solutions, such as returning them to their own land, at least temporarily? Why is such a discussion missing from Europe’s meetings held to figure out ways to contain the crises on its borders?
Over a third of a million Palestinians, many of whom are refugees driven from their homes and camps, live in Europe. We are witnessing new chapters in their suffering; these human beings whom the Israelis have forbidden from returning to their land from which they were expelled in 1948 and 1967. They are not even allowed to visit their country, in a clear violation of international laws and conventions.
Logic dictates that we empower the Palestinian refugees with their legitimate right to return to their land and homes, which are nearby. If not, they will continue to be forced to look for safe havens across continents after disaster-ridden journeys. There is no doubt that a huge part of the responsibility for this lies with Europe, which created the historical conditions that resulted in the tragedy of the Palestinian people in the first place.
EU officials talk about the importance of linking aid to Eastern European countries with their willingness to accept their share of refugees, and there are even those who call for linking negotiations about joining the European Union to the countries’ treatment of refugees. Isn’t such discourse also required with the “Israeli partner” which benefits from many European economic, educational and military privileges and treaties?
Why is Europe unable to even think about using its influence to put pressure on the Israeli government to activate the Palestinian right of return, which was endorsed by UN General Assembly Resolution 194? The Palestinians, many of whom still have the keys to their homes in occupied Palestine, have the right to live in their homeland. The routes to their cities, towns and villages are well-known to those who want to ask about them, and maps are readily available.
If the European Union and the international community do not address the core of this issue by reviving and implementing the legitimate Palestinian right of return, then thousands will continue to head for Europe and many will die along the way. Which of these two possibilities does the EU and the rest of the world prefer?
France and Germany are pressing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to ensure partial self-rule for the country’s independence-minded east before the upcoming local election there, Ukrainian media reported on Saturday.
Poroshenko refuses to comply, citing legal, political and organizational hurdles preventing the implementation of the law, which would grant broader autonomy to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, the Kiev-based Weekly Mirror newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources in the government.
In keeping with the provisions of the Minsk accords, reached in February 2015, President Poroshenko agreed to grant a special status to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
Article 4 of the 13-point Minsk Protocol outlined the modalities of conducting local elections in particular districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions and their future status.
Article 11 described decentralization of particular districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions and their special status as the key elements of the proposed constitutional reform in Ukraine.
On August 24, President Poroshenko met in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
Briefing the media after the talks, Angela Merkel said that the three leaders had gathered in Berlin to endorse the Misk-2 accords, which she described as pivotal to a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian conflict.
Addressing members of his Solidarity bloc shortly before the August 24 trip to Berlin, Petro Poroshenko said that the proposed constitutional reforms ruled out any federalization or other special statuses for any part of Ukraine.
Long-term intake of the Monsanto’s most popular Roundup herbicide, even in very small amounts lower than permissible in US water, may lead to kidney and liver damage, a new study claims.
The research, conducted by an international group of scientists from the UK, Italy and France, studied the effects of prolonged exposure to small amounts of the Roundup herbicide and one of its main components – glyphosate.
In their study, published in Environmental Health on August 25, the scientists particularly focused on the influence of Monsanto’s Roundup on gene expression in the kidneys and liver.
In the new two-year study, which extended the findings from one conducted in 2012, the team added tiny amounts of Roundup to water that was given to rats in doses much smaller than allowed in US drinking water.
Scientists say that some of the rats experienced “25 percent body weight loss, presence of tumors over 25 percent bodyweight, hemorrhagic bleeding, or prostration.”
The study’s conclusions indicate that there is an association between wide-scale alterations in liver and kidney gene expression and the consumption of small quantities of Roundup, even at admissible glyphosate-equivalent concentrations. As the dose used is “environmentally relevant in terms of human, domesticated animals and wildlife levels of exposure,” the results potentially have significant health implications for animal and human populations, the study warned.
“There were more than 4,000 genes in the liver and kidneys [of the rats that were fed Roundup] whose levels of expression had changed,” the study’s leading scientist, Michael Antoniou, head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London, said, as quoted by the Environmental Health News.
“Given even very low levels of exposure, Roundup can potentially result in organ damage when it comes to liver and kidney function,” he added. “The severity we don’t know, but our data say there will be harm given enough time.”
The results of the study have received mixed reviews in the scientific community, although many scientists have expressed their concern about possible negative health effects from Roundup use.
Taking into account that the team “used very low dose levels in drinking water … this study should have some kind of public health influence,” said Nichelle Harriott, the science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides, a Washington, DC based nonprofit organization, as quoted by the Environmental Health News.
“We don’t know what to make of such changes, they may be meaningful and may not,” said Bruce Blumberg, a professor from the University of California, who did not take part in the study.
“They can’t say which caused what, but what you have is an association – the group treated with a little Roundup had a lot of organ damage and the gene expression findings supported that,” he added.
Meanwhile, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the use of glyphosate in herbicides has increased by more than 250 times in the United States in the last 40 years.
Research conducted in 2014 and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health linked the use of Monsanto’s Roundup to widespread chronic kidney disease that took the form of an epidemic in Sri Lanka. Another study showed that Monsanto agrochemicals may have caused cellular and genetic diseases in Brazilian soybean workers.
Additionally, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently determined that Roundup’s glyphosate is ‘number one’ among carcinogens, “possibly” causing cancer.
However, Monsanto has continuously and consistently insisted that its products are safe, citing other research supporting their claims. The latest such study was conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR) and deemed that Monsanto’s Roundup was safe.
So far, Monsanto has made no comment concerning the research conducted by the group led by Michael Antoniou.
Over 1 million people have moved to Russia from southeast Ukraine since the beginning of the armed conflict and about 600,000 of them decided never to return home, the head of the Federal Migration Service says.
Konstantin Romodanovsky said in an interview with Interfax that about 114,000 Ukrainian refugees took part in the government program of resettlement and received material aid and a short track in getting Russian citizenship.
Romodanovsky also said that the influx of refugees from Ukraine had led to improvement of Russians’ attitudes towards migrants in general. According to a recent poll conducted by the independent Levada research center, 41 percent of Russians hold that the best way to tackle illegal migration was to help the refugees find jobs and receive legal status – twice as many as the 19 percent who gave the same answer just one year back.
In the same interview, Romodanovsky said that his agency was actively fighting illegal migration and over the past 2 1/2 years they have managed to detain and send back about 1.5 million people who tried to get in to Russian territory by bypassing the rules.
In mid-June this year the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that in 2014 the influx of Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge on Russian territory put the Russian Federation in first place in the world by number of asylum applications.
The UN confirmed that the military conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region was the main reason for the surge in asylum applications. Over 271,000 requests came from Ukrainian citizens, making 99 percent of the total number, the report reads. The report also stated that Russian authorities proved to be much more tolerant in their approach to Ukrainian applicants than their colleagues from Western countries.
Russia and Belarus fulfilled 90 percent of the asylum requests while nations such as the UK, France, Poland or Finland accepted no more than 10 percent of Ukrainian asylum seekers. The US, Canada and Germany proved to be more hospitable, fulfilling between 35 and 65 percent of requests, but these numbers are still far lower than the Russian figures, wrote the UN researchers.
The report also stated that in 2014 Ukraine surpassed the previous years’ leader, Syria, by number of people who wanted to flee their homeland. About one-fifth of a total 1.47 million asylum requests was made by Ukrainians and 94 percent of these requests were made in Russia.
The US Air Force said its F-22 Raptor stealth fighters will be sent to Europe to show “commitment to the security and stability” of its allies. The Air Force Secretary tied the move to the US’ “approach to Russia,” linking it to the crisis in Ukraine.
The deployment, slated to occur “very soon,” was described as part of the “European Reassurance Initiative,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a Pentagon briefing on Monday. She added that it was “to support combatant commander requirements” in the region.
James said Russia’s “military activity” in Ukraine continued to be of great concern to the US and its European allies, and that the deployment of the F-22s was “certainly on the strong side of the coin.” She also quoted Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who said last week, “Our approach to Russia needs to be strong and it needs to be balanced.”
James told reporters that, for operational security reasons, “we cannot share with you the exact dates or locations of this deployment.”
The F-22 stealth fighter is a fifth generation aircraft capable of dropping precision bombs on targets from up to 15 miles away.
A reporter asked if the announcement was a message the Air Force was delivering to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
General Mark Welsh said the deployment to Europe was “just a continuation of deploying the F-22s everywhere we can to train with our partners,” and that it “was primarily for a major exercise, training with our European partners.” However, he added that the deployment would put F-22s “into facilities that we would potentially use in a conflict in Europe.”
The F-22 fighter’s deployment in Europe was first floated in June, when Secretary James listed Russia as the “biggest threat on my mind” when asked about the greatest threat faced by the US Air Force by a reporter at a Paris Air Show.
In February and March, the Air Force sent two units of A-10 and F-15C jets to Europe along with about 300 airmen to spend six months flying missions across the continent, according to airforcetimes.com. The US currently has 65,000 active-duty service members stationed in Europe, with the majority made up of airmen and soldiers.
News of the deployment comes as the US military is engaged with 11 NATO member states in a month-long war game. About 5,000 soldiers are participating in simultaneous airborne operations. One of the most anticipated drills will take place on August 26, when NATO planes will drop more than 1,000 paratroopers in the Hohenfels training area in Germany.
In Moscow, a member of the Russian Duma’s defense committee, Franz Klintsevich, said the Russian military is “closely monitoring” the situation and is ready to react in the case of any aggression. He said Moscow has been taking note of NATO’s buildup up of forces, as well as all of the West’s rhetoric concerning “Russian aggression.”
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, meanwhile, told The National Interest in an interview last week that “breaking Russia has become an objective [for US officials]; the long-range purpose should be to integrate it.”
“If we treat Russia seriously as a great power, we need at an early stage to determine whether their concerns can be reconciled with our necessities,” he said.
Kissinger laid blame for sparking the Ukrainian conflict at the door of the EU, which he said had proposed a trade deal in 2013 without considering how it would alienate Moscow and divide the Ukrainian people.
In the latest atrocity in Yemen, Saudi warplanes bombed a residential area, killing at least 65 people. Most of the victims are reported to be civilians from the Salah district of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city.
The apparent war crime committed has tragically become an almost daily occurrence during five months of relentless aerial bombardment of Yemen by a Western-backed coalition of foreign powers.
In recent days, there were similar air strikes on civilian centers in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida and the northern province of Saada. In the Hodeida strike, which killed several dock workers, the British charity Save the Children said it believed the attack was a deliberate bid by the Saudis to sabotage aid supplies to the civilian population.
Surely, this should be front page news, with CNN, the BBC and France 24, among other big Western media outlets, splashing it as their top story. The onus is on them because their governments are implicated in grave crimes. However, there has been no news coverage of the tragic events. Aside from some brief, vague reports of a generalized humanitarian crisis, there has been a wall of silence as to how the Western-backed Saudi-led coalition is pulverizing Yemeni civilians and creating the crisis. That suggests a deliberate blackout by Western media.
To date, the death toll in the country has reached near 4,500, according to the World Health Organization. This week, the United Nations put the total number of children who have been killed at 400. Yemeni sources say the civilian casualties are much higher, but can’t verify because of the widespread mayhem.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Program say the country is on the brink of cataclysmic famine, with over 50 percent of the 24 million population at immediate risk.
Yemen was already the Arab region’s poorest country even before the US-backed and Saudi-led military coalition began bombing on March 26. In just five months, the country is crumbling into a “Syria-level crisis,” according to the ICRC.
What’s happening in Yemen cannot be described as anything less than “foreign aggression” on a sovereign country, where civilians are being slaughtered by American-supplied “precision bombs” and F-16 fighter jets. The systematic starvation of people by denying them food, water and medical aid as a result of an air and sea blockade on the country adds to the barbarity. This is genocide by any legal definition of the word.
Despite the horror and complicity of Western governments in that horror, the Western news media avoid providing informative reports on the carnage in Yemen. When the media do give occasional brief reports, they routinely distort the nature of the violence as if it is being perpetrated by two warring sides: on the one hand, “Saudi coalition forces”; and on the other, “Iranian-backed Houthi rebels”.
Let’s quickly dispense with that self-serving distortion. The Houthi rebels are not Iranian-backed. How could they be when Yemen is blockaded by Saudi and American forces? The Houthis are in alliance with the Yemeni national army and other rebel groups, called Popular Committees. Earlier this year, the revolutionary front kicked out the US and Saudi-backed puppet-president Abded Rabbo Mansour Hadi, taking over much of the country’s territory, including the capital Sana’a.
That is why the Saudis and their Persian Gulf Arab dictator cronies, plus the Egyptian dictatorship of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, joined forces to bomb Yemen. They claim to be defending the “legitimate government of Yemen” represented by Hadi and his corrupt clique who are exiled in the Saudi capital Riyadh. No doubt the region’s dictatorships fear the spread of revolutionary contagion, as do the Western patrons of these despotic regimes.
Washington, along with Britain and France, is supporting the Saudi-led bombing coalition, not just politically and diplomatically, but with the supply of warplanes, missiles and logistics. The US has set up a fusion center in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of coordinating the Arab-piloted F-16s.
Germany is also implicated as, according to Der Spiegel, it is the fourth biggest arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, after France, Britain and Italy.
On the ground in Yemen, there are remnant supporters of the deposed Hadi regime. Clashes between these loyalists and the revolutionary forces have indeed contributed to the civilian death toll. But, again, Western media attempts at portraying the conflict as some kind of civil war are grossly misleading.
Among the pro-Hadi forces are troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Several Saudi and Emirati soldiers have been confirmed killed in recent battles in the southern areas around the port city of Aden, as well as in fire fights across Yemen’s northern border with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition has expanded its involvement in the ground war over the past month with the arrival of artillery and armored vehicles and up to 3,000 Saudi and UAE troops, according to the Financial Times.
Also among the pro-Hadi forces are Jihadist mercenaries from across the region that have been trafficked into Yemen by the Saudis, according to Yemeni civilian and military sources. This is the same strategy that the Saudis and the Persian Gulf Arab regimes have been using in Syria over the past four years to overthrow the Assad government, along with covert support from Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Western governments.
Western media have, of course, given copious coverage of the Syrian war, with false narratives about “moderate rebels” fighting against a “despotic regime”. Syria gets covered because Washington, London and Paris want to implement regime change there for strategic reasons to do with undermining Assad’s allies in Russia and Iran. Whereas in Yemen “regime re-installation” of a corrupt exiled clique doesn’t quite have the same story appeal. Therefore, the Western media just ignore Yemen.
The jihadists fighting in Yemen are linked to the Sunni extremists of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State network, specializing in suicide bomb attacks on mosques frequented by the Shia Houthis.
Washington and its Western allies are thus heavily involved in an illegal war of aggression against Yemen, prosecuted by Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictatorships working in collusion with Islamist terror networks. Adding “efficacy” to this state-sponsored terrorism is the humanitarian siege imposed on the population.
What is happening in Yemen is truly a heinous crime against humanity committed by Western governments. It is an unspeakable crime. And that is why the Western media will not dare talk about it. The Western media are obliged to ignore, obfuscate and distort the shocking truth of what their governments are committing in Yemen.
This makes the Western media just as complicit in the appalling criminality.
From Regional War, “Regime Change” to Global Warfare
2015 has become a year of living dangerously.
Wars are spreading across the globe.
Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity.
Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.
These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.
There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders. Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.
Now major nuclear powers face off in Europe and Asia: NATO versus Russia, US-Japan versus China. Will these streams of blood and wars converge into one radiated wilderness drained of its precious life blood?
Living Dangerously: The Rising Tide of Violent Conflicts
There is no question that wars and military threats have replaced diplomacy, negotiations and democratic elections as the principal means of resolving political conflicts. Throughout the present year (2015) wars have spread across borders and escalated in intensity.
The NATO allies, US, Turkey and the EU have openly attacked Syria with air strikes and ground troops. There are plans to occupy the northern sector of that ravaged country, creating what the Erdogan regime dubs a ‘buffer zone’ cleansed of its people and villages.
Under the pretext of ‘fighting ISIS’, the Turkish government is bombing Kurds (civilians and resistance fighters) and their Syrian allies. On Syria’s southern border, US Special Forces have accelerated and expanded operations from their bases in Jordan on behalf of the mercenary terrorists – funded by the monarchist Gulf States.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled their homes as refugees and over 200,000 have been killed since the US-EU-Turkey-Saudi-sponsored war against the secular Syrian government was launched four years ago.
Dozens of terrorist, mercenary and sectarian groups have carved up Syria into rival fiefdoms, pillaged its economic and cultural resources and reduced the economy by over ninety percent.
The US-EU-Turkish military intervention extends the war into Iraq, Lebanon and…. Turkey – attacking secular governments, ethnic minority groups and secular civil society.
The feudal, monarchist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invaded Yemen with tanks, launching air strikes against a country without any air defenses. Major cities and towns are devastated. Saudi ground troops and armored carriers are killing and wounding thousands – mostly civilians. The brutal Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen’s ports have led to a humanitarian crisis, as ten million Yemenis face starvation deliberately imposed by a grotesque and obscenely rich monarchy.
The Yemeni resistance fighters, driven out of the major cities, are preparing for prolonged guerrilla warfare against the Saudi monsters and their puppets. Their resistance has already spread across the frontiers of the absolutist Saudi dictatorship.
The brutal Israeli occupation troops, in collaboration with armed ‘settler’ colonists, have accelerated their violent seizure of Palestinian lands. They have stepped up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Christian inhabitants replacing their communities with racist ‘Jews-only’ colonial settlements.
Daily assaults against the huge ‘concentration camps’ of Gaza accompany an armed blockade of land, air and water, preventing the reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes, schools, hospital, factories and infrastructure, destroyed by last year’s Israeli blitzkrieg.
Israel’s continued annexation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territory precludes any diplomatic process; colonial wars have been and continue to be Israel’s policy of choice in dealing with its Arab neighbors and captive populations.
Africa’s wars, resulting from earlier US-EU interventions, continue to ravage-the Continent. Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Libya are riven by bloody conflicts between US-EU backed regimes and armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.
Throughout North and Sub-Sahara Africa, US-EU backed regimes have provoked armed upheavals in Libya, Nigeria (Boko Harem), Egypt (ISIS, Moslem Brotherhood et al), Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Imperial client Egyptian and Ethiopian dictators rule with iron fists – financed and armed by their EU and US sponsors.
Imperial wars rage throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Hundreds of experienced Baathist Iraqi military officers, who had been expelled or jailed and tortured by the US Occupation army, have now made common cause with Islamist fighters to form ISIS and effectively occupy a third of Iraq and a strategic swath of Syria.
There are daily bombings in Baghdad undermining its US client. Strategic advances by ISIS are forcing the US to resume and escalate its direct combat role
The US-Baghdad retreat and the defeat of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of the Baathist-Islamist offensive is the opening salvo of a long-term, large-scale war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish air-war against the Kurds in Iraq will escalate the war in Northern Iraq and extend it into southeast Turkey.
Closer to ‘home’, the EU-US-backed coup (‘regime change’) in Kiev and the attempt to impose dictatorial-pro-West oligarchic rule in Ukraine have detonated a prolonged civil-national war devastating the country and pitting NATO’s proxies against Russian-backed allies in the Donbas.
US, England, Poland and other NATO powers are deeply committed to pushing war right up to Russia’s borders.
There is a new Cold War, with the imposition of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions against Russia and the organizing of major NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorsteps. It is no surprise that these provocations are met with a major counter-response – the Russian military build-up. The NATO power grab in Ukraine, which first led to a local ethnic war, now escalates to a global confrontation and may move toward a nuclear confrontation as Russia absorbs hundreds of thousands of refugees from the slaughter in Ukraine.
The US puppet regime in Afghanistan has faced a major advance of the Taliban in all regions, including the capital, Kabul.
The Afghan war is intensifying and the US-backed Kabul regime is in retreat. US troops can scarcely advance beyond their bunkers.
As the Taliban military advances, its leaders demand total surrender of the Kabul puppets and the withdrawal of US troops. The US response will be a prolonged escalation of war.
Pakistan, bristling with US arms, faces a major conflict along its borders with India and permanent war in its semi-autonomous Northwest frontier states with Islamist and ethnic Pashtu guerrilla movements backed by mass regional political parties. These parties exercise de facto control over the Northwest region providing sanctuary and arms for Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Armed ethno-religious conflicts persist in western China, Myanmar and northern India. There are large-scale popular resistance movements in the militant northeast Thailand opposed to the current military-monarchist dictatorship in Bangkok.
In the 21st century, in South and Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, war and armed conflicts have become central in resolving ethnic, social, tribal and regional differences with central states: diplomacy and democratic elections have been rendered obsolete and inefficient.
Latin America – On the Verge
Burgeoning violent extra-parliamentary right-wing movements, intent on overthrowing or ‘impeaching’ elected center-left Latin American governments face major confrontations with the state and its mass supporters.
In Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, US-backed opposition groups are engaged in violent demonstrations, directed toward ousting the elected regimes. In the case of Ecuador, ‘popular sectors’, including some indigenous leaders and sectors of the trade union movement, have called for an ‘uprising’ to oust President Correa. They seem oblivious of the fact that the hard-right oligarchs who now control key offices in the three principal cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) will be the real beneficiaries of their ‘uprisings’.
The resurgent Right envisions violent ‘regime change’ as the first step toward ‘wiping the slate clean’ of a decade of social reforms, independent regional organizations and independent foreign policies.
‘Civil war’ may be too strong a word for the situation in Latin America at this time – but this is the direction which the US-backed opposition is heading. Faced with the mess and difficulty of dislodging incumbent regimes via elections, the US and its local proxies have opted for the choreography of street violence, sabotage, martial law and coups – to be followed by sanitized elections – with US-vetted candidates.
War and violence run rampant through Mexico and most of Central America. A US-backed military coup ousted the popularly elected, independent President Zelaya in Honduras. The ensuing US-proxy regime has murdered and jailed hundreds of pro-democracy dissidents and driven thousands to flee the violence.
The 1990’s US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ in El Salvador and Guatemala effectively blocked any agrarian reform and income redistribution that might have led to the rebuilding of their civil societies. This has led to over two decades of mass disaffection, the rise of armed ‘gangs’ numbering over 100,000 members and an average of six to ten thousand homicides a year with El Salvador becoming the ‘murder capital of the hemisphere’ on a per capita basis. The annual murder toll under the US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ now exceeds those killed each year during the civil war.
The real ‘carnage capital’ of the hemisphere is Mexico. Over 100,000 people have been murdered during the decade-long, US-backed ‘war on drugs’ – a war which has become a state-sponsored war on the Mexican people.
The internal war has allowed the Mexican government to privatize and sell the crown jewels of the national economy – the petroleum industry. While thousands of Mexicans are terrorized and slaughtered, the US and EU oil companies are curiously shielded from the drug lords. The same Mexican government, its police, officials and military, who collaborate with the drug lords in dividing up the billions of drug dollars, protect foreign oil companies and their executives. After all, narco-dollars are laundered by banks in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and London to help fuel the speculation!
From Regional to Nuclear Wars
Regional and local wars spread under the shadow of a looming world war. The US moves its arms, planes, bases and operations to the Russian and Chinese borders.
Never have so many US troops and war planes been placed in so many strategic locations, often less than an hour drive from major Russian cities.
Not even during the height of the Cold War, did the US impose so many economic sanctions against Russian enterprises.
In Asia, Washington is organizing major trade, military and diplomatic treaties designed to exclude and undermine China’s growth as a trade competitor. It is engaged in provocative activities comparable to the boycott and blockade of Japan which led to the Second World War in Asia.
Open ‘warfare by proxy’ in Ukraine is perhaps the first salvo of the Third World War in Europe. The US-EU-sponsored coup in Kiev has led to the annexation of Western Ukraine. In response to the threat of violence toward the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and the loss of its strategic naval base on the Black Sea, Russia annexed Crimea.
In the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany annexed Austria. In a similar manner the US-EU installed a puppet regime in Kiev by violent putsch as its own initial steps toward major power grabs in Central Asia. The military build-up includes the placement of major, forward offensive military bases in Poland.
Warsaw’s newly elected hard-right regime of President Andrzej Duda has demanded that Poland become NATO’s central military base of operation and the front line in a war against Russia.
Wars and More Wars and the Never-ending Torrents of Refugees
The US and EU imperial wars have devastated the lives and livelihoods of scores of millions of people in South Asia, North and Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, Mexico, the Balkans and now Ukraine.
Four million Syrian refugees have joined millions of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, Somali, Libyan, Palestinian and Sudanese refugees fleeing US-EU bombs, drones and proxy mercenaries ravaging their countries.
Millions of war refugees escape toward safety in Western Europe, joining the millions of economic refugees who have fled free market destitution in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Balkans and other EU satellites.
Panic among the civilian population of Western Europe sets in as hundreds of thousands cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Balkans.
Droves of refugees perish each day. Tens of thousands crowd detention centers. Local labor markets are saturated. Social services are overwhelmed.
The US builds walls and detention camps for the millions trying to escape the harsh consequences of imperial-centered free markets in Mexico, narco-terror and the fraudulent ‘peace accord’-induced violence in Central America.
As Western wars advance, the desperate refugees multiply. The poor and destitute clamber at the gates of the imperial heartland crying: ‘Your bombs and your destruction of our homelands have driven us here, now you must deal with us in your homeland’.
Fomenting class war between the refugees and ‘natives’ of the imperial West – may not be on the agenda . . . for now, but the future for ‘civil’ society in Europe and the US is bleak.
Meanwhile, more and even bigger wars are on the horizon and additional millions of civilians will be uprooted and face the choice of starving, fleeing with their families or fighting the empire. The ranks of seasoned and infuriated resistance fighters are swelling in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.
The US and EU are becoming armed fortresses. US police deal with the marginalized citizenry as an occupying army, assaulting African-Americans, immigrants and dissidents – while looting poor communities . . . and protecting the rich…
War is everywhere and expanding: No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.
Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle. There are no real diplomatic success stories! There are no enduring, viable peace accords!
Some pundits may protest this analysis: They point to the recent US – Cuba rapprochement as a ‘success’. They conveniently forget that the US is still subverting Cuba’s biggest trading partner, Venezuela; that Washington’s major regional proxies are demanding regime change among Cuba’s allies in Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia and that Washington is increasingly threatening Cuba’s alternative markets in Russia and China. The vision of the US flag flapping in the breeze outside its embassy in Havana does little to cover Washington’s iron fist threatening Cuba’s allies.
Others cite the US – Iran peace accord as a major ‘success’. They ignore that the US is backing the bloody Saudi invasion of neighboring Yemen and the massacre of Shiite communities; that the US has provided Israel with a road map detailing Iran’s entire defense system and that the US [Israel] and EU are bombing Iran’s Syrian ally without mercy.
As for the US – Cuba and Iranian agreements– are they enduring and strategic or just tactical imperial moves preparing for even greater assaults?
The war epidemic is not receding.
War refugees are still fleeing; they have no homes or communities left.
Disorder and destruction are increasing, not decreasing; there is no rebuilding the shattered societies, not in Gaza, not in Fallujah, not in the Donbas, not in Guerrero, not in Aleppo.
Europe feels the tremors of a major conflagration.
Americans still believe that the two oceans will protect them. They are told that placing NATO missiles on Russia’s borders and stationing warships off China’s shores and building electrified walls and laying barbed wire along the Rio Grande will protect them. Such is their faith in their political leaders and propagandists.
What a packet of lies! Inter-continental missiles can ‘rain down’ on New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
It is time to wake up!
It is time to stop the US – EU headlong race to World War III!
Where to start? Libya has been irrevocably destroyed; it is too late there! Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are aflame. We are being plunged deeper into war while being told we are withdrawing! Ukraine sucks in more guns and more troops!
Can we really have peace with Iran if we cannot control our own government as it dances to the Israelis tune? And Israel insists on war – our waging war for them! As the Israeli war criminal General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told some worried American Zionists: “Trouble with the US? We lead them by the nose…!”
Just look at the terrified families fleeing carnage in the Middle East or Mexico.
What is to be done?
When will we cut our losses and shake off the bonds of these war makers – foreign and domestic?
‘Could be.’ ‘Might be.’
‘Can’t show or prove anything, but maybe.’
Is there any wonder that with such language coming lately from the “official” but secretive investigation of the July 17, 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, there is little reason for confidence in a final report? And lots of reason for concern of what a flawed or reckless final report could spark?
On August 11, the Dutch Safety Board and the ‘Joint Investigation Team’ investigating the MH17 crash issued a speculative statement saying they have discovered pieces among the debris they collected from the fields in eastern Ukraine where the plane came down that “possibly originate” from a spent Buk missile.
They say they can’t be sure. “At present, the conclusion cannot be drawn that there is a causal connection between the discovered parts and the crash of flight MH17.” And they can’t show us anything. But they are making the statement anyway.
The statement was reported widely by Western media along with predictable spin and wild interpretation. Western media has reported all along that the thinly-equipped self-defence forces in eastern Ukraine are the “likely” culprits in bringing down the MH17, “possibly” with backing coming from ‘somewhere’ in the Russian military command.
Manipulation and misreporting of the known fact of the crash of the plane is disrespectful toward the victims and their loved ones. Much more troubling is the fact that it disregards the deadly context of events surrounding the investigation, including the string of military exercises upon which NATO is embarked in eastern Europe and now the latest news that Ukraine is moving heavy artillery back to the front line of its war in eastern Ukraine, to be unleashed on the civilian population.
Here is how the European correspondent of Canada’s daily Globe and Mail, Mark MacKinnon, reports the Dutch investigators’ statement in a special, center-spread article in the newspaper on August 12:
“The recovery of the missile fragments adds to the bulk of evidence implicating pro-Russian fighters in the downing of the passenger jet, which killed 298 people. Moscow, which accuses the Ukrainian military of shooting MH17 out of the sky, recently used its veto at the United Nations Security Council to block the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to prosecute the case.”
Who needs an official investigation with such an apparent, open and shut case? The implications of such thinking and writing are becoming unthinkable considering the exceptionally dangerous context reported in the opening of the very same Globe article:
“War between Russia and the NATO alliance should be unthinkable. But a new study of recent military exercises suggests both powers are preparing for just that possibility.
“Researchers at a European think tank [the European Leadership Network] warned that while there was no evidence that either side intended to go to war, the increasing frequency and size of military exercises on both sides [sic] of the NATO-Russia border heighten the possibility of an unplanned incident that could spark a wider conflict (Read the report PDF). The finding raises the spectre of a continent-wide clash of conventional armies, the sort not seen since Russia and the Western allies combined to defeat Nazi Germany in the Second World War.”
The British government is piling on by announcing that it will double the number of Ukrainian soldiers and extremist militia members that it plans to train this year, from 1,000 to 2,000. Presently, Britain says it has 75 soldiers in the country.
Speaking in Kyiv on August 11, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon described the conflict in eastern Ukraine as “red hot”.
Rebel forces in eastern Ukraine have been receiving vital humanitarian aid from the Russian government and from widespread citizen initiatives. They have also received important political/diplomatic support from the Russian government.
The Russian government makes the utterly evident argument that Kyiv should respect the terms of the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement it co-signed signed on Feb. 12, 2015 and negotiate the grievances which the population of eastern Ukraine has expressed over Kyiv’s radical, extremist turn to a pro-Europe, anti-Russia and pro-austerity orientation for Ukraine.
The issuance of another unfounded, speculative accusation by the Dutch-led MH17 investigation, then seized upon and manipulated by reckless journalists and editors, is another reason why this investigation cannot be taken seriously.
The Dutch government is refusing demands by Dutch media that it release documentation pertaining to its response to the crash last year. A formal request to this effect was made by RTL Nieuws.
The government defends its refusal by saying that documents contain the names of individuals and that the release of the documents could have negative consequences for relations with other countries.
RTL Nieuws has said the following in response to the government’s decision:
“We think it unfortunate that the minister does not work harder to disclose more information. Of course, we understand that not every piece of information can be thrown into the street. But withholding basic facts and decisions? We will study the decision and decide if going to the courts is desirable and useful.”
Late last year, the Dutch news magazine Elsevier revealed some details of the secret agreement signed on August 8, 2014 by the four countries composing the so-called Joint Investigation Team investigating the disaster. The four are Holland, Belgium, Ukraine and Australia. (Malaysia was added to the JIT late last year following pressure and protest over its initial exclusion.) The secret agreement said that any one of the member countries of the JIT can veto release of any information gathered by the investigation.
The implications of an official report that ‘goes rogue’ by leaving vital questions unanswered and throwing anti-Russia speculation and prejudice to the wind are very serious.
The words ‘Russia’ and ‘Buk missile’ have been pounded out in tandem so frequently by Western governments and media during the past year that any speculative report of a “Buk” missile in relation to the MH17 crash just reinforces the ‘blame Russia narrative’ they have worked to establish.
A survey of the circumstances of the crash and the composition of the investigation underlines the danger of the situation.
The armed forces of Ukraine and quite possibly the extremist, right-wing militias allied with it possess the Buk missile system. The government in Kyiv failed to close the airspace over eastern Ukraine when it launched a war there in the spring of 2014. This flew in the face of decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States and major international airlines months before the MH17 crash to prohibit passenger planes from flying there.
Following the crash/shoot down, Ukraine ignored the July 21, 2014 resolution at the Security Council demanding that the investigation be given unfettered access to the crash site. Investigators were forced in and out of the area, according to the exigencies of the war which Kyiv declined to put on hold. To the point where parts of the plane and parts of bodies are still being randomly discovered today by visitors to the scene.
The circumstances of the crash should easily argue in favour of excluding Ukraine from the official, international investigation, or at the very least, they argue for including Russia since its border lies only a few dozen kilometers away from the crash site. But no, the JIT investigation is being conducted by governments that are hostile to Russia and to the pro-autonomy rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
Malaysia showed its colours last month when it introduced a resolution at the UN Security Council on July 29 proposing that a witchhunt-style tribunal be established by the Security Council to investigate matters. The resolution was a win-win for the anti-Russia crowd. A special tribunal could conduct an investigation without having to go through the motions of impartiality required of the JIT. The terms of the Dutch-led investigation is that it establish the facts, not search for guilt.
Russia vetoed the resolution. The Russian government argued that with two investigations already taking place, what was the purpose of adding a third? Russia’s suspicions were already on high alert given the fact that its offers to cooperate with the investigation have been rebuffed or treated at arm’s length.
Russia’s ambassador to Britain explained his country’s vote: “Our partners preferred to conduct a vote that is impossible to explain by any other motive than seeking a fresh pretext for pointing a finger at Russia.”
“Progress towards justice must be seen. So far, we have seen nothing.”
The vetoed Security Council resolution looked for all the world as a staged ‘aha’ moment. As in, ‘Aha, what is Russia trying to hide by vetoing a tribunal?’ That’s exactly how much of Western media and Western governments reported the veto.
Moscow-based writer John Helmer has been following and reporting the MH17 story closely and provided a comment about the latest developments:
“So far, as I have reported, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) stands out for an investigation that has failed to bring to light and analyze the most obvious sources of data or explain why the Board, the Dutch police and prosecutors have failed to do this.
“For example, in public disclosure so far, there has been no analysis of U.S. satellite images, including infrared images, of the MH17 site just before, during, and just after the strike and crash, and no disclosure of whether the Dutch investigators requested this data, what they were told, or if the Dutch believe the data exist and is being withheld from the investigation.
“I’ve seen no DSB analysis of the silence on the last four seconds of the Cockpit Voice Recorder, and no explanation of how this is possible. There has been no published analysis of the Ukrainian air traffic control radar and radio tapes or confirmation of whether Kiev handed them over to the Dutch, and if they haven’t been handed over, why not. So far, too, there has been no disclosure of evidence from the autopsy and post-mortem data collected from the victims’ bodies.
“What is missing is obvious. So what to make of particles of evidence whose provenance, authenticity and authority of disclosure are far from obvious? The Dutch want to be thought of as careful, methodical, clean. Why so careless all of a sudden?”
MH17 – ‘Buk plume’ burns witness – Part I, by Max van der Werff, July 26, 2015
Black boxes and black holes in the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 investigation, by John Helmer, July 17, 2015
The website New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond contains an extensive dossier of articles on the July 17, 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. These include the extensive writings on the subject by U.S. journalist Robert Parry.
Roger Annis is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. On June 12, he gave a talk in Vancouver, Canada reporting on his visit to Donetsk, eastern Ukraine in April 2015 as part of a media tour group. A video broadcast of that talk is here: The NATO offensive in eastern Europe and the class and the national dynamics of the war in eastern Ukraine.
Six years after the so-called “Twitter Revolution” which ousted the ruling communist regime in Moldova and brought pro-Europeans to power, and one year since the ratification of the country’s association agreement with the EU, the country has found itself on the brink of ruin and in the tight grip of the oligarchs, according to a European official.
Six years of pro-European rule in Moldova has done little good for the country. Even though last year it signed and ratified an association agreement with the European Union, “corruption [in Moldova] remains endemic” and the state is “still in the hands of oligarchs, while punishingly low incomes have propelled hundreds of thousands of Moldovans to go abroad in search of a better life,” according to Thorbjorn Jagland, a former prime minister of Norway, who is the current secretary-general of the Council of Europe.
“The value of the Moldovan currency, the leu, has dropped, interest rates have rocketed and a recession looms,” he adds in his article in The New York Times.
The high-ranking politician however suggests that the remedy is “outside financing”.
“If the authorities fail to do what is needed to restore external support — and quickly — the country will face serious economic turmoil. Social programs for the poor and vulnerable will be cut just before the harsh winter months,” he therefore predicts.
“Alongside the urgent measures needed to fix the banks, the government must immediately begin purging corrupt officials from public bodies. As a start, the dozens of judges — some very high-profile — who have been accused of egregiously abusing their power should be investigated. Law enforcement agencies must also do everything they can to arrest the individuals responsible for the massive bank fraud.”
“In order to give people confidence that justice will be served in these cases, murky political interference must be eliminated from the judicial system. Legislation currently before Parliament that would guarantee the impartiality of state prosecutors should be implemented without delay. And to prove that no one is above the law, the current blanket immunity from prosecution enjoyed by members of Parliament should be reduced.”
It yet remains to be seen what reforms Moldova, which the politician calls a “captured state” will introduce in the nearest future.
On August 3, President Obama declared that “under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, renewables will account for 28% of our capacity,” and “will save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030.”
In the accompanying EPA rule, the word renewables is not used consistently. Sometimes it includes hydroelectric power, sometimes not. Sometimes the focus is on wind and solar power, sometimes it is broader. As the readers are aware, capacity is not the same thing as generation, and for generation, prices vary widely during the day. This makes it unclear how we get from a 28% capacity to $85 in annual savings. It is common for energy analysts to use levelized costs to compare different sources, but a residential consumer is paying for 24/7 access to a working grid, not for electricity from individual sources.
Without any enabling legislation, President Obama plans to force the United States to make an enormous capital investment, of the order of a trillion dollars, in wind and solar power and the associated grid infrastructure. Politicians often talk about investments when they mean forced transfers, but this really would be an investment, and the goal of this post is to estimate the return for the consumer. The post was inspired by a post by Willis Eschenbach at What’s Up With That. I will not consider the health and climate impacts of the plan. Judy Curry started the discussion of these in her August 3 post.
If the residential electricity bills actually do go down $85 a year as President Obama promised, then that $85 would be the return on our investment. To evaluate an investment, we divide it by the annual return to get a payback time. The situation is different if the electricity bills go up. The return is negative. We are never paid back and we have also lost our investment. One can still calculate a payback time using the same formula but we get a negative payback time, which is worse than any investment with a positive payback time. The readers who are scientists and engineers may appreciate the analogy to negative-temperature systems that are hotter than any system with a positive temperature. Among those awful investments with negative payback times, the smaller the negative payback time the worse the investment.
One complication in assessing a return on wind and solar investments is that the primary subsidies for renewables in the United States are the 30% federal tax credit and the 2.2¢/kWh producer tax credit for wind. These subsidies are effectively paid for by the people who pay income taxes. The toll falls heavily on the upper 1% in income who pay 46% of net US income taxes. Another problem in assessing a possible return is that the US has not gotten very far in wind and solar power. They accounted for only 4% of the electricity generation in 2013.
Europe is a better place to evaluate an investment in wind and solar power. The primary subsidy in Europe is a feed-in-tariff. Who pays in the end is different from the US. The people who are well off enough to buy solar arrays effectively are paid by the people who are not well off enough to buy solar arrays. I will leave the question of whether this is good social policy or not to the Europeans, but for this post it is useful because it means that the residential electricity bills reflect the wind and solar installation costs. It also helps that Europe has installed more than twice as much wind and solar capacity as the US.
Our starting point is Figure 1, which shows a plot of residential electricity prices compared with the residential component of wind and solar capacity for OECD-Europe countries. The data and the figures for this post are available as an Excel file. Willis Eschenbach and Jonathan Drake also made price plots for EU countries. Our emphasis will be on the higher-income European countries that are members of the OECD. Some countries, like Norway and Switzerland, are in OECD Europe but not the EU, while Romania is in the EU, but not the OECD. BP deems that Estonia, Iceland, Luxembourg, and Slovenia are not significant enough to include in their electricity spreadsheets, and I omitted them also.
The residential component of the wind and solar capacity is calculated from the residential share of the final consumption reported by the IEA. At 15¢/kWh, Norway is an outlier, well below the other countries. It has a very large per-person residential consumption of electricity generated by hydroelectric power. Norway also provides profitable balancing services to the continent, consuming wind and solar electricity when the price is low and providing hydroelectric power when the price is high. Roger Andrews has an excellent post on this balancing. The trend line is calculated without Norway. Incidentally, the US residential price is 12¢/kWh, even lower than Norway. The US has low-cost natural gas and coal and the US emphasizes tax credits rather than feed-in-tariffs to subsidize wind and solar power. As Willis noted, higher wind and solar capacities are associated with higher prices. For European consumers the return on their wind and solar investment is negative.
Figure 1. Residential electricity prices vs the residential component of the per-person wind and solar capacity for OECD Europe Countries. The electricity prices are taken from the IEA, the capacities from BP, and the populations from the UN. Data are for 2013, except for the Spanish price, where I filled from 2011. The IEA prices are converted at the market exchange rates.
How negative is the return? I propose that we interpret the y-intercept of the trend line, 18.8¢/kWh, as the price of electricity without any wind or solar capacity. As a check, in Germany in 2000, when the wind and solar capacity were negligible, the price was 16.3¢/kWh, expressed in 2013 dollars with BP’s deflator. The difference between the actual price and the zero-wind-and-solar price becomes a per kWh surcharge for the wind and solar capacity.
If we multiply this by the annual residential consumption we get an annual per-person wind and solar surcharge. These are shown in Figure 2. Again there is a clear trend. More capacity is associated with a greater surcharge. The slope of the trend line in the figure is $1.14/y/W. If we divide this by the average cost of the cumulative wind and solar capacity, we get the return on the investment, which will be negative. I will take the average cost to be $4/W. Expressed as a negative payback time, this is 3.5 years. Expressed as a negative return, it is 29% per year.
Figure 2. Calculated annual per-person wind and solar surcharge vs the residential component of per-person wind and solar capacity for OECD Europe Countries. Hungary (11W/p, –$7/p/y) is omitted from the graph, but included in the trend calculation. The trend is constrained to go through the origin.
As investments, these are inconceivably bad and we would expect large opportunity costs at the national level. It is interesting that if we start on the right in our graphs and move left past Denmark and Germany, the big spenders are the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) that have been in the financial doghouse in recent years.
For consumers, the high electricity prices discourage the use of electricity for increasing safety. During the great European Heat Wave of 2003, 70,000 people died, most of them indoors. This is a horrible way to die. The people who were indoors could have been saved by a $140 Frigidaire window unit, but only if they could afford to pay for the electricity.
Dave Rutledge is the Tomayasu Professor of Electrical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology.
Scotland says it will ban genetically modified crops on its soil. According to officials, the move will protect the environment. They are also taking advantage of new EU laws, allowing member states to decide whether they want to grow the crops or not.
Although the EU imports large quantities of GM crops from abroad, it is less sure about growing them on their own soil. Some environmental groups are worried about the impact they could have on the countryside, while there are also concerns over health issues for humans, despite producers of the crops insisting they are safe.
Only Monsanto’s maize MON810, which is cultivated in Spain and Portugal, is currently on sale for human consumption within the EU.
“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” Richard Lochhead, the Scottish government’s minister for the environment, food and rural affairs, said in a statement.
The politician also added there was no public demand for introducing GM crops.
“There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion ($22 billion) food and drink sector,” Lochhead added.
‘GM not the answer to food security’
The decision was taken by Scotland’s devolved parliament, with the UK’s legislative body in London having no say in the matter.
The move was welcomed by the Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone. In a statement on the party’s website, she said, “Opting out of growing genetically modified crops is the right move for Scotland. Cultivation of GM crops would harm our environment and our reputation for high quality food and drink.”
“GM is not the answer to food security, and would represent further capture of our food by big business. Scotland has huge potential with a diverse mix of smaller-scale producers and community food initiatives, and we need to see those grow further.”
However, the decision has not proved to be universally popular, with farmers saying they will lose out to competitors due to the ban being introduced.
“There is going to be one side of the border in England where they may adopt biotechnology, but just across the River Tweed farmers are not going to be allowed to. How are these farmers going to be capable of competing in the same market?” the National Farmers Union of Scotland vice-president Andrew McCornick told the Scotsman newspaper.
In April, the European Union gave the green light to start importing 10 new types of genetically modified crops for the first time since 2013. The crops, which include maize, soybeans, cotton and oilseed rape will be authorized for human food and animal feed for the next 10 years, the European Commission announced.
The ongoing construction by Ukraine of a separation wall on its border with Russia is sheer profanity, the head of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said on Thursday.
“The impenetrable wall [Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk is building to “defend Europe against Russia” has always been a profanation and the West agreed to finance this ditch,” Alexei Pushkov wrote on his Twitter account.
The Ukrainian government had earlier approved a major new program to isolate the country from Russia by constructing an enormous barrier, equipped with anti-tank ditches and remote- controlled weapons stations.
The plan includes a project initially called ‘The Wall’ or ‘European bulwark’.
It’s estimated to be worth 4 billion hryvnias (about $200 million) and involves the construction of a barbed-wire fence with 17-meter high steelwork turrets.
There will also be four-meter wide, two-meter deep antitank ditches, a lateral route and a drag road, remote combat modules, fortified sectors, observation posts, CCTV cameras, communication towers and alarm systems.
Meanwhile, Kiev remains in negotiations over USD 19 billion in external debt, and is demanding that its creditors write off 40 percent of the principal value as well as freeze interest payments for 4-5 years.
Ukraine’s creditors have offered to write off 5 percent of Ukraine’s debt, according to Reuters, although this offer was rejected.