Monsanto, the U.S. agribusiness giant that controls a quarter of the entire global seed market, could soon be even bigger and more powerful than it already is, following renewed speculation over its interest in Swiss agrichemicals firm Syngenta. The logic behind the deal is clear: Monsanto ranks as the world’s largest purveyor of seeds while Swiss-based Syngenta is the world’s largest pesticide and fertilizer company.
A Monsanto-Syngenta tie-up would “deliver substantial synergies that create value for shareholders of both companies”, said Monsanto president and COO, Brett Begemann, adding that cash from these side deals would make an acquisition easier to finance. It would also be the largest-ever acquisition of a European company by a U.S. rival.
The target, Syngenta, seems somewhat less enthusiastic. It is the second time in as many weeks that Monsanto has tabled an unsolicited offer for its Swiss competitor. The first time, on May 8, Syngenta politely but firmly rebuffed Monsanto, saying that the offered price of $45 billion undervalued the company. In response to the latest offer Syngenta said a sell-off of its seeds business would not be enough to allay regulators’ concerns about the tie-up.
The 2 C’s: Consolidation and Concentration
If the deal is consummated, the two companies combined would form a singular agribusiness behemoth that controls a third of both the globe’s seed and pesticides markets, as Mother Jones reports:
To make the deal fly with US antitrust regulators, Syngenta would likely have to sell off its substantial corn and soybean seed business, as well its relatively small glyphosate holdings, in order to avoid direct overlap with Monsanto’s existing market share, the financial website Seeking Alpha reports.
By all measures you would think the global seeds market is already concentrated enough. According to Silvia Ribeiro, a researcher for the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (Grupo ETC), never before in the long history of human agriculture and food have we faced such heightened concentration of power and ownership of the global seed industry, the primary link of the global food chain:
In 2014, just six American and European companies – Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer and Basf – control 100% of the GM seeds planted in the world. All of them were originally chemical manufacturers.
It wasn’t always that way. Indeed, such concentration of the seed industry is a wholly new phenomenon. Thirty-five years ago, there were thousands of seed manufacturers and not a single one of them controlled more than 1% of the global market. Fifteen years later, the top ten companies had captured 30% of the market, yet Monsanto was not among them.
Now Monsanto alone, after having acquired a huge portfolio of seed companies such as Agroceres, Asgrow, Cristiani Burkard, Dekalb, Delta & Pine and the seeds division of Cargill North America, controls 26% of the entire global market of all seeds, not just GMOs. Monsanto, second-placed Dupont, and third-placed Syngenta combined control 53% of the market.
Such concentration of ownership has granted a handful of Western corporations and the governments with which they are inseparably intertwined vast control over one of the world’s primary resources, food. And now Monsanto wants to strengthen that control.
On the Back Foot
The irony is that just weeks ago Monsanto was on the back foot. Facing an unprecedented global consumer backlash, the company decided to roll out a social media and marketing campaign in a bid to win over consumers in key international markets, including China, France, India, Argentina and Brazil.
Here’s more from Reuters:
The “discover Monsanto” campaign encourages consumers to “be part of the conversation,” ask questions and learn about the company’s genetically engineered seeds and its key herbicide products. A corresponding television advertising campaign, underway since November, declares that to Monsanto “food is more than just a meal, it’s love.”
The outreach effort comes as the company’s key products face heightened regulatory scrutiny and a consumer backlash in Monsanto’s top market, the United States. Some U.S. states are mulling mandatory genetically modified labeling laws and advocacy organizations are pressuring regulators to restrict glyphosate use.
Monsanto’s glyphosate-induced headaches began when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the UN’s World Health Organization United Nations, declared that the chemical, one of the active ingredients in Monsanto’s flagship product Roundup, is “probably carcinogenic”. Roundup is the world’s biggest selling weedkiller. According to some estimates, Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds account for as much as half of the corporation’s revenues.
Matters were not helped when Patrick Moore, a high-profile GMO advocate, botched an interview with French media outlet Canal+ in spectacular foot-in-mouth fashion (here’s the link). Moore insisted that Roundup isn’t remotely toxic, arguing that you can “drink a whole quart of it” without it hurting you. However, when invited to put his words to the test by downing a glass of the liquid weed killer, Moore replied that he was not stupid – not once but twice!
The Global Pushback
The fallout has been relentless. The company has been implicated in litigation cases as far away as China, the world’s second largest market for seeds. Even before the scandal, the Chinese government had already begun blocking GMO imports, while Russia has effectively banned all GMO products. In Germany, a number of states have called for a blanket EU-ban on Monsanto’s Roundup.
As for Latin America, one of Monsanto’s fastest growing markets, the rural resistance continues to intensify. As I reported last year in Seed Wars: Latin America Strikes Back Against Monsanto, rural communities are rising up against government legislation that would apply brutally rigid intellectual copyright laws to the crop seeds they are able to grow.
And thanks to the glyphosate scandal governments finally have reason to act. Just yesterday Colombia’s National Drug Council voted to suspend glyphosate spraying on illicit coca cultivations. According to Food & Water Watch, since 2003 Colombia and the US together have spent an estimated $100 million purchasing the chemical from Monsanto for the destruction of coca crops.
In Argentina, one of the world’s largest producers of genetically modified soy bean and corn, 30,000 Argentinean doctors and healthcare professionals signed a letter demanding the prohibition of glyphosate. As the BBC reported last year, in the northern province of Chaco, the minister of Public Health wants an independent commission to investigate cases of cancer and the incidence of children born with disabilities.
However, even as myriad nations line up to ban Monsanto’s GM products, you can be sure that Monsanto will not take it lying down. As its recent history shows, the company is doggedly persistent. It is also ruthlessly resourceful.
For the moment everything hinges on the success of its hostile takeover of Syngenta. If the deal goes through, the company will expand its influence across myriad new markets. It will also get much closer access to Europe, a market that it had publicly (though certainly not privately) given up on in 2013. By resettling in Switzerland, Monsanto will also be able to significantly reduce its U.S. tax bill as well as hold greater sway over Brussels, which recently authorized 17 new GMOs for food and feed purposes.
According to research by Corporate Europe Observatory, no industry has lobbied the European Commission more fiercely for the passage of the EU-US trade deal (TTIP) than the agribusiness sector, which many rightly fear will open the floodgates to GMOs. In other words, growing public opposition to GMOs may not be enough on its own to stop GMO markets from growing.
As Ulson Gunnar reported in the NEO article Monsanto’s Covert War on European Food Security, Monsanto and friends continue to use covert means to expand their less popular markets, most recently launching GMO operations in war-ravaged Ukraine, which in 2013 was ranked third in global corn production and sixth in wheat production:
With the EU itself relaxing some of its regulations regarding GMOs, likely without the consent of a population increasingly conscious of the risks and actively seeking organic alternatives, biotech conglomerates hope to make GMO products spread from what will be the completely unregulated fields of Ukraine, into Europe and to become as ubiquitous and unavoidable as they are in America.
On Sunday masses of people in hundreds of towns and cities across the world turned out to vent their frustration against a company that has come to symbolize so much that is wrong with today’s world. Meanwhile Monsanto will continue to go about its business, pulling the strings of government and striving to impose its will in the world’s markets and on the world’s people.
There is a common misconception in the West that there is only one war in Ukraine: a war between the anti-Kiev rebels of the East, and the US-backed government in Kiev. While this conflict, with all its attendant geopolitical and strategic implications has stolen the majority of the headlines, there is another war raging in the country – a war to crush all dissent and opposition to the fascist-oligarch consensus. For while in the West many so called analysts and leftists debate whether there is really fascism in Ukraine or whether it’s all just “Russian propaganda,” a brutal war of political repression is taking place.
The authorities and their fascist thug auxiliaries have carried out everything from physical intimidation, to politically motivated arrests, kidnappings, torture, and targeted assassinations. All of this has been done under the auspices of “national unity,” the convenient pretext that every oppressive regime from time immemorial has used to justify its actions. Were one to read the Western narrative on Ukraine, one could be forgiven for believing that the country’s discontent and outrage is restricted solely to the area collectively known as Donbass – the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as they have declared themselves. Indeed, there is good reason for the media to portray such a distorted picture; it legitimizes the false claim that all Ukraine’s problems are due to Russian meddling and covert militarization.
Instead, the reality is that anger and opposition to the US-backed oligarch-fascist coalition government in Kiev is deeply rooted and permeates much of Ukraine. In politically, economically, and culturally important cities such as Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Kherson, ghastly forms of political persecution are ongoing. However, nowhere is this repression more apparent than in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. And this is no accident.
Odessa: Center of Culture, Center of Resistance
For more than two centuries, Odessa has been the epicenter of multiculturalism in what is today called Ukraine, but what alternately was the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. With its vibrant history of immigration and trade, Odessa has been the heart of internationalism and cultural, religious, and ethnic coexistence in the Russian-speaking world. Its significant populations of Russians, Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Greeks, Tatars, Moldovans, Bulgarians and other ethnic and national identities made Odessa a truly international city, a cosmopolitan Black Sea port with French architecture, Ottoman influence, and rich Jewish and Russian/Soviet cultural history.
In many ways, Odessa was the quintessential Soviet city, one which, to a large extent, actually embodied the Soviet ideal enumerated in the state anthem – a city “united forever in friendship and labor.” And it is this spirit of multiculturalism and shared history which rejects the racist, chauvinist, fascist politics which now passes for standard political currency in “Democratic Ukraine.”
When in February 2014, the corrupt, though democratically elected, government of former President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in a US-backed coup, the people of Odessa, just as in many other cities, began to organize counter-demonstrations against what they perceived to be a Western-sponsored oligarch-fascist alliance seizing power over their country. In the ensuing weeks and months, tens of thousands turned out into the streets to air their discontent, including massive rallies held in February, March, and April.
This inchoate movement against the new dispensation in Kiev, handpicked by the US and its European allies, culminated in two critical events: the establishment of an anti-Maidan movement calling for federalization and greater autonomy for the Odessa region, and the massacre at the Trade Unions House carried out by fascist thugs which resulted in the deaths of more than fifty anti-fascist activists and demonstrators. As a protest organizer and eyewitness recounted to this author, “That was the moment when everything changed, when we knew what Ukraine had really become.”
The brutality of the pogrom – an appropriate word considering the long and violent history of this region – could hardly be believed even by hardened anti-fascist activists. Bodies with bullet wounds found inside the burned out building, survivors beaten on the streets after their desperate escape from the flames, and myriad other horrific accounts demonstrate unequivocally that what the Western media dishonestly and disgracefully referred to as “clashes with pro-Russian demonstrators,” was in fact a massacre; one that forever changed the nature of resistance in Odessa, and throughout much of Ukraine.
No longer were protesters simply airing their grievances against an illegitimate government sponsored by foreigners. No longer were there demonstrations simply in favor of federalization and greater autonomy. Instead, the nature of the resistance shifted to one of truly anti-fascist character seeking to get the truth about Ukraine out to the world at large. Where once Odessa had been the site of peaceful demands for fairness, instead it became the site of a brutal government crackdown aimed at destroying any semblance of political protest or resistance. Indeed, May 2, 2014 was a watershed. That was the day that politics became resistance.
The Reality of the Repression
The May 2, 2014 massacre in Odessa is one of the few examples of political repression that actually garnered some attention internationally. However, there have been numerous other examples of Kiev’s brutal and illegal crackdown on dissent in the critical coastal city and throughout the country, most of which remain almost entirely unreported.
In recent weeks and months, the local authorities have engaged in politically motivated arrests of key journalists and bloggers who have presented a critical perspective on the developments in Odessa. Most prominent among them are the editors of the website infocenter-odessa.com, a locally oriented news site that has been fiercely critical of the Kiev regime and its local authorities.
In late 2014, the editor of the site, Yevgeny Anukhin, was arrested without any warrant while he was attempting to register his human rights organization with the authorities. According to various sources, the primary reasons for his arrest were his possession of video evidence of illegal shelling by Ukrainian military of a checkpoint in Kotovka, and data on his computer which included a compilation of names of political prisoners held without trial in Odessa. With no evidence or warrant, and in breach of standard legal procedures, he was arrested and charged with recruitment of insurgents against the Ukrainian state.
In May 2015, the new editor of infocenter-odessa.com Vitaly Didenko, a leftist, anti-fascist activist and journalist was also arrested on trumped up charges of drug possession which, according to multiple sources in Odessa, are entirely fabricated by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) secret police in order to create a pretext upon which to detain him. In the course of his arrest, Didenko was seriously injured, incurring several broken ribs and a broken arm. He is currently sitting in an Odessa jail, his case entirely ignored by Western media, including those organizations ostensibly committed to the protection of journalists.
Additionally, just this past weekend (May 24, 2015) there was yet another sickening display of political repression on the very spot of the May 2, 2014 massacre. Activists and ordinary Odessa citizens had been taking part in a memorial service for the victims of the tragedy when the demonstration was violently dispersed by armed men in either military or national guard uniforms (see here for photos). According to eyewitnesses, the military men instigated violence at the gathering and broke it up, all while both local police and OSCE monitors stood aside and watched. Naturally, this is par for the course in “Democratic Ukraine.”
Aside from journalists, a large number of activists have been detained, kidnapped, and/or tortured by Ukrainian authorities and their fascist goons. Key members of the Borotba (Struggle) leftist organization have been repeatedly harassed, arrested, and beaten by the police. One particularly infamous example was the detainment of Vladislav Wojciechowski, a member of Borotba and survivor of the May 2nd massacre. According to Borotba’s website, “During the search of the apartment where he lived, explosives were planted. Nazi “self-defense” paramilitaries participated in his arrest. Vladislav was beaten, and it is possible that a confession was beaten out of him under torture. Currently, he is in SBU custody.” He was ultimately charged with “terrorism” by the authorities after having been beaten and tortured by both Nazi goons and SBU agents.
Upon his release more than three months later in December 2014 in a “prisoner exchange” between Kiev and the eastern rebels, Wojciechowski defiantly stated, “I am very angry with the fascist government of Ukraine, which proved once again with its barbaric acts that it is willing to wade through corpses to defend its interests and those of the West. They failed to break me! And my will has become tempered steel. Now I’m even more convinced that it is impossible to save Ukraine without defeating fascism on its territory.” Wojciechowski was also the editor of the website 2May.org, a site dedicated to disseminating the truth about the Odessa massacre.
It should be noted though that Wojciechowski was arrested along with his comrades Pavel Shishman of the now outlawed Communist Party of Ukraine, and Nikolai Popov of the Communist Youth. These arrests should come as no surprise to observers of the political situation in Ukraine where all forms of leftist politics – the Communist party, Soviet symbols and names, etc. – have been outlawed and brutally repressed.
Kiev is not only engaged in an assault on political freedoms, but also a class war against the working class of Odessa and Ukraine generally. That the events leading up to the massacre took place at Kulikovo Field – a famous staging area for Soviet era demonstrations of working class politics – and the massacre itself took place in the adjacent Trade Unions House, there’s a symbolic resonance, the significance of which is not lost on the people of Odessa. It is the attempt to both erase the legacy of working class struggle and leftist politics, as well as the sacrifices of previous generations in a place where historical memory runs deep, and the scars of the past have yet to heel.
Aside from these shameful attacks on leftist formations, multicultural institutions too have been repressed under the pretext of “Russian separatism.” A multiethnic, multi-nationality organization known as the Popular Rada of Bessarabia (PRB) was founded in early April 2015 in order to push for regional autonomy and/or ethnic autonomy in response to the legal and extralegal attacks on minorities by the Kiev authorities. It was reported that within 24 hours of the founding congress, Ukraine’s SBU had detained the core leaders of the organization, including the Chair of the organization’s presidium Dmitry Zatuliveter whose whereabouts, according to this author’s latest information, remain unknown. Within two weeks 30 more PRB activists were arrested, including founding member Vera Shevchenko.
While the Western media and its armies of think tanks and propaganda mouthpieces steadfastly deny that an organization such as PRB can be anything other than “a project of Russian political consultants,” the reality is that such moves have been a reaction to repressive legislation and intimidation by the US-backed regime in Kiev which has done everything from outlawing the two most popular political parties of the Russian-speaking South and East (The Party of Regions and the Communist Party), to attempting to strip the Russian language of official status within Ukraine, a move interpreted by these groups as a direct threat against them and their regions where Russian, not Ukrainian, is the lingua franca.
As Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation and former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (read CIA front) contributor Vladimir Socor wrote last month in an article entitled Ukraine Defuses Pro-Russia Instigations in Odesa Province, “In the spirit of preventive action, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have arrested some 20 members of a centrifugal organization in Odesa [sic] province.. The timely intervention also stopped the publicity bandwagon that had just started rolling from Moscow in support of the Odesa [sic] group.” Interestingly, the author deceptively frames his apologia for so called “preventive detention” as merely a “timely intervention,” conveniently glossing over the blatant illegality of the action by Kiev, which has eschewed the rule of law in favor of brute force and repression.
And what is the PRB’s great crime in the eyes of Mr. Socor and the US interests for which he speaks? As he directly states in the article with typical condescension:
[BPR’s program and manifesto] include demands for: greater representation of ethnic groups in the administration of Ukraine’s Odesa [sic] province; promotion of the ethnic groups’ cultural identities and schools; conferral of a “national-cultural special status” to Bessarabia; a free economic zone, with specific reference to local control over Ukraine’s Black Sea and Danube ports; no integration of Ukraine with the European Union, the “enslavement practices of which would ruin the region and its agriculture”; and reinstatement of Ukraine’s [recently abandoned] international status of nonalignment, or else: “In the event of Ukraine moving close to NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization], we reserve the right to implement the self-determination of Bessarabia.”
A careful reading of these demands reveals that these are precisely the demands that any right-minded anti-imperialist position should espouse, including rejection of NATO integration, rejection of EU integration, rejection of opening up Ukraine’s agricultural sector to the likes of Monsanto and other Western corporations, and protection of ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities, among other things. While Socor writes of these demands derisively, the reality is that they constitute precisely the sort of program that is essential for defending both Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the rights of the people of Odessa and the region. But of course, for Socor, this is all just a Russian plot. Instead, he kneels to kiss the chocolate ring of Poroshenko… and perhaps other parts of Victoria Nuland and John Kerry, while vigorously cheer-leading further political repression.
A Message for the Left
The question facing leftists internationally is no longer whether they believe there are fascists in Ukraine, or whether they are an important part of the political establishment in the country; this is now impossible to refute. Rather, the challenge before the international left is whether it can overcome its deep-seated mistrust of Russia, and consequent inability to separate fact from fiction, and unwaveringly defend its comrades in Ukraine with the conviction and aplomb of its historical antecedents.
There is a whole history that is under assault, a whole people being oppressed, a leftist tradition being ground to dust under the heel of an imperialist agenda and comprador oligarch bourgeoisie. Some on the left choose to snicker derisively at this struggle, aligning themselves once again with the Empire just as they so often have in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. And then there are those who, like this author, refuse to be cowed by the baseless slur of “Russian apologist” and “Putin puppet”; those of us who choose not to look away while our comrades in Ukraine are beaten, kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned, and disappeared.
For while they speak out in the face of reprisals, in the midst of brutal repression, under threat of prison and death, the least we can do is speak out from our comfortable chairs. Anything less is moral cowardice and utter betrayal.
Russia won’t try and get its ill-fated Mistral helicopter carriers from France, a Russian official has announced. Moscow and Paris are set to discuss damages to be paid by France for welching on the deal.
“Russia won’t be taking them [the Mistral vessels]. That’s a fact. There’s just a single discussion underway at the moment – on the amount of money that should be returned to Russia,” Oleg Bochkarev, a deputy chairman of the Russian governmental Military-Industrial Commission, is cited as saying by RBC.
The negotiations have been “transferred into the commercial field” and “major efforts are being made today” for Russia to receive damages, Bochkarev told RIA Novosti.
France reportedly offered €748 million as compensation, but Russia turned down the proposal, calling it “laughable.”
The official also said that Russia would build its own helicopter carriers, in place of the Mistral warships, which Paris refused to supply Moscow.
“We have such vessels planned, they’re on the drawing board,” Bochkarev stressed, adding that they will be of a different class to the French-built ships as “there’s no point copying the Mistrals.”
Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion contract to build two Mistral class amphibious ships in 2011.
Under the deal, Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, the Vladivostok, in October 2014 and the second, the Sevastopol, in 2015. But the mood in Paris went through a sea change.
In mid-2014, the French side postponed delivery indefinitely due to pressure from the US and the EU, which have imposed a set of sanctions against Moscow over the accession of Crimea and Russia’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
In late April, French President Francois Hollande acknowledged that Russia should get a refund if it doesn’t receive the Mistral ships.
Earlier this month, an article in the Le Point weekly magazine said the French government could end up having to pay “between €2 billion and €5 billion,” if it doesn’t fulfill its contractual obligations with Russia.
The French Navy repeatedly stated that it doesn’t need the Mistrals as they are built according to Russian standards.
Reports have emerged that the cheapest solution for France would be to scuttle the two newly-built ships as maintaining them costs an estimated €2 to €5 million every month.
Under pressure from the U.S. and agrochemical industry lobbyists and amid ongoing negotiations for a controversial trade deal, the European Union dropped planned rules that could have led to the banning of 31 pesticides containing hazardous chemicals, a new investigative report has revealed.
The probe, led by the Brussels-based research and watchdog group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and French journalist Stephane Horel, exposes how corporate lobby groups like the American Chemistry Council, CropLife America, and the American Chambers of Commerce, mobilized to stop the EU from taking action on hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals (EDCs)—known to have significant health and environmental impacts.
“Hundreds of documents … show unambiguously how science is being manipulated to defend vested interests, manufacture doubt and delay a pioneering regulation.”
—Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory
According to the report—titled A Toxic Affair: How the Chemical Lobby Blocked Action on Hormone Disrupting Chemicals (pdf)—the examination of evidence “sheds light on how corporations and their lobby groups have used numerous tactics from the corporate lobbying playbook: scaremongering, evidence-discrediting, and delaying tactics as well as the ongoing [TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP] negotiations as a leverage.”
Specifically, the Guardian reports: “Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push.”
The newspaper adds:
On the morning of 2 July 2013, a high-level delegation from the US Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.
The TTIP is a corporate-friendly trade deal, currently being negotiated between the U.S. and the European Union, that is already opposed by environmental, food safety, and labor groups for its lack of transparency, corporate concessions, and negative implications for people and the planet.
Common Dreams has previously reported on efforts by pesticide lobby groups to use ongoing trade negotiations to align regulatory standards by lowering them to U.S. levels rather than increasing them to the stronger safeguards in the E.U.
The new revelations only add fuel to the fire.
“This is yet further evidence that the European Commission is more than willing to trade off, weaken, or delay much needed regulation and protections for the sake of completing this TTIP trade deal,” Samuel Lowe, of Friends of the Earth, told The Independent.
“This investigation tells the story of a major ongoing lobbying battle,” added Nina Holland, CEO campaigner and co-author of the Toxic Affair report. “Hundreds of documents released by the European Commission following freedom of information requests show unambiguously how science is being manipulated to defend vested interests, manufacture doubt and delay a pioneering regulation.”
EU proposals to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer, fertility problems and diabetes were allegedly dropped following pressure from US trade officials amid talks on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Draft EU criteria could have banned some 31 pesticides containing dangerous endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), but according to documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe and cited by The Guardian, they were cast aside amid fears of a trade backlash by a powerful US lobby.
According to the report, a high-ranking delegation from the US Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited European Union trade officials in July 2013 in a bid to urge the EU to drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. The TTIP trade deal was at stake, and the EU allegedly agreed to the US demands.
TTIP is a highly controversial proposed EU-US free trade treaty that has been criticized for its secretiveness and lack of accountability.
AmCham representatives allegedly “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances. The US trade representatives reportedly suggested taking a risk-based approach to regulation, and “emphasized the need for an impact assessment” instead.
The secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, allegedly sent a letter to the environment department’s director, Karl Falkenberg, telling him to drop the draft criteria, suggesting that “as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals” instead.
“We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances,” she allegedly wrote.
The result, according to The Guardian, was that legislation planned for 2014 was “kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism – a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.”
On top of this, ahead of the meeting, AmCham had allegedly warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria came to be approved. According to The Guardian, AmCham wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.
Bas Eickhout, a Green member of the European Parliament, told The Guardian : “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak.”
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of the UK House of Commons is currently carrying out an inquiry into the proposed TTIP and its impacts on the environment and the developing world.
“We are very concerned that the US government has a long history of lobbying against EU action on chemicals, and that TTIP could provide a method for them to institutionalise this,” EAC wrote in January, adding that the US approach to chemicals regulation is generally acknowledged to be “outdated and ineffective.”
“Our strong belief that the inclusion of chemicals within TTIP will lower protection in the EU, and will further slowdown efforts to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals,” the committee warned.
Earlier this year, CHEM Trust (a UK charity whose aim is to prevent manmade chemicals from causing long-term damage to wildlife or humans) and around 150 other civil society groups signed up to a joint statement against regulatory cooperation in TTIP.
“Civil society groups denounce ‘regulatory cooperation’ in the TTIP negotiations as a threat to democracy and an attempt to put the interests of big business before the protection of citizens, workers and the environment,” the statement said.
According to the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012 report, many endocrine-related diseases and disorders are currently on the rise. Global rates of endocrine-related cancers (breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, testicular and thyroid) have been increasing over the past 40-50 years, researchers say.
“Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion. However, only a small fraction of these chemicals have been investigated in tests capable of identifying overt endocrine effects in intact organisms,” the report stated.
Scientists warn that while numerous laboratory studies support the idea that chemical exposures contribute to endocrine disorders in humans, the “most sensitive window of exposure to EDCs is during critical periods of development, such as during fetal development and puberty.”
Four major banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland—have agreed to plead guilty in a Connecticut federal court to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the foreign currency market. But instead of sending those responsible for the crimes to prison, various government entities are fining the institutions a total of about $5.5 billion, the cost of which the banks will pass on to shareholders.
“For more than five years, traders in ‘The Cartel’ used a private electronic chat room to manipulate the spot market’s exchange rate between euros and dollars using coded language to conceal their collusion,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in announcing the settlements Wednesday morning.
In one of the chatroom conversations, a Barclays employee said: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
Lynch said the currency manipulation “inflated the banks’ profits while harming countless consumers, investors and institutions around the globe — from pension funds to major corporations, and including the banks’ own customers.”
The Justice Department also announced that a fifth bank, Switzerland’s UBS, pleaded guilty to manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and will pay a total of $545 million in fines, according to USA Today.
Legally, guilty pleas such as these would mean the banks would be restricted from conducting certain kinds of business, according to ThinkProgress. However the banks, as they have consistently in the past in other cases, received waivers from the Securities and Exchange Commission to continue business as usual.
The settlement by Lynch’s Justice Department follows the pattern of her predecessor, Eric Holder, who was criticized for not punishing Wall Street enough for its greedy and reckless behavior that caused the 2008 financial crisis.
To Learn More:
Banks to Pay Billions to Settle Charges (by Lorraine Bailey and Dan McCue, Courthouse News Service )
5 Banks Guilty of Rate-Rigging, Pay More than $5B (by Kevin McCoy and Kevin Johnson, USA Today )
Rigging of Foreign Exchange Market Makes Felons of Top Banks (by Michael Corkery and Ben Protess, New York Times )
Megabanks Fined $2 Billion For Criminal Activity, Will Be Able To Continue Business As Usual (by Alan Pyke, ThinkProgress )
Five Major Banks Agree to Parent-Level Guilty Pleas (U.S. Department of Justice)
Big Banks Fined Billions in Foreign Currency Scandal (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )
World’s Biggest Banks in Fresh Crosshairs of U.S. Justice Department…But Will Anyone Go to Jail? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )
On Tuesday, May 12, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was asked at a press conference in Sochi Russia, to respond to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s recent statements promising renewed war against Donbass, which were made first on April 30, “The war will end when Ukraine regains Donbass and Crimea,” and which were repeated on May 11th, by his saying, “I have no doubt, we will free the [Donetsk] Airport, because it is our land.” In other words, Poroshenko had repeatedly made clear that he plans a third invasion of Donbass, and, ultimately, also to invade and retake Crimea. (The Western press, however, had not reported any of these threats that were being made by Poroshenko.)
I have not had a chance – I have not read the speech. I haven’t seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today [which would be shocking if true]. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.
None of this was reported by Western ‘news’ media. Even Russia’s own Sputnik News, which was Russia’s main English-language medium reporting on Kerry’s comment, ignored this shocking assertion by the U.S. Secretary of State contradicting the nominal leader of the Ukrainian Government that the U.S. itself had installed in February 2014.
The Obama Administration now had slammed Poroshenko down on the key issue of whether to resume the war against Ukraine’s former Donbass region, and also slammed him on whether Ukraine should invade Crimea, which is Russian territory and would therefore mean a war against the Russian armed forces. America’s stooge-regime in Kiev was here being publicly taken to the woodshed about the advisability of yet another Ukrainian invasion of Ukraine’s former southeastern breakaway regions, Donbass and, even Crimea.
Sputnik didn’t quote any of this from Kerry. Instead, they headlined, “Kerry: Poroshenko Should ‘Think Twice’ Before Using Force in Donbass,” and they opened their news-report by saying: “Following an extensive six hour discussion between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and President Putin, Kerry stressed that any Ukrainian efforts to seize the Donetsk Airport through force would violate the Minsk Protocol and would face strict opposition from Washington.” That assertion was true, and important, but all that was quoted from Kerry was the nondescript: “What is important is to make sure that both sides are moving forward in implementing the Minsk accord in its full measure.” Even Kerry’s stunning “think twice” statement, which was actually Washington’s first-ever verbal slam-down of the stooge-regime the U.S. itself had installed in Ukraine in February 2014, in an extremely bloody coup, wasn’t being quoted at all by Sputnik. (Only that two-word phrase was in the headline, but it — and its surrounding passage and context — were entirely absent from the report itself.) Nor was the significance of Kerry’s remark there discussed, at all. Their news-report was a total botch.
Western ‘news’ media were far worse than a botch; they were outright dishonest. Typical was BBC, which headlined on May 12, “Ukraine Crisis: Kerry Has ‘Frank’ Meeting with Putin,” and their article said nothing whatsoever about Kerry’s shocking slam-down of his Ukrainian stooge. To that ‘news’ report was also appended an “Analysis: Bridget Kendall, BBC News, Sochi,” which simply blathered, and concluded, “There was no breakthrough on anything.” That statement was the exact opposite of the truth.
The one good, and, really, brilliant, news-analysis on this important matter, was from the legendary specialist on “the Empire’s [Washington’s] War on Russia,” the anonymous blogger who goes by the name, The Saker. His was not really a news-report, because he, too, failed to quote Kerry’s path-breaking and shocking statement. He didn’t even quote the insignificant squib that Sputnik itself had quoted from Kerry’s remarks. Instead, he merely paraphrased Kerry, which is far less reliable than a quotation, and also far less informative than the packed shocker that Kerry actually delivered. Saker’s paraphrase was far briefer than was Kerry’s statement which is quoted here; it was merely: “Kerry made a few rather interesting remarks, saying that the Minsk-2 Agreement (M2A) was the only way forward and that he would strongly caution Poroshenko against the idea of renewing military operations.” That’s all there was to it. So, The Saker failed to provide a news-report on Kerry’s shocker. But his news-analysis of its significance was superb, and it’s extremely worth reading. That analysis was dated May 13, and it was bannered, “Yet Another Huge Diplomatic Victory for Russia.”
But also there was just a slice of real news in The Saker’s article, when he said, only in passing (as if it were insignificant, which it was not), “Then, there was the rather interesting behavior of [Victoria] Nuland, who was with Kerry’s delegation, she refused to speak to the press and left looking rather unhappy.” Nothing more than that, but that’s plenty. In other words: Nuland, the agent whom President Obama had placed in charge of arranging the February 2014 coup in Ukraine, and of selecting the leader of the junta that would be imposed upon Ukraine (“Yats” Yatsenyuk), and who told the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine what to do and how to do it, was now exceedingly disturbed to find herself overridden at this late date in her Ukrainian escapade, publicly overridden by her own immediate boss, Secretary of State Kerry.
In other words: she is now sidelined. That’s important news, but The Saker there merely hinted at it, and only in passing. So, as a news-report, The Saker’s article was poor but perhaps the best around; but as a news-analysis, it was excellent, and by far the best.
Nuland now knows that she has lost, and that Obama has thrown in the towel on the original plan for Ukraine, which had been for an all-out military conquest of the region, Donbass, where the people had voted over 90% for the man whom Nuland’s team had overthrown on 22 February 2014, Viktor Yanukovych, and so Obama had wanted those people to be either killed or else expelled from Ukraine (so that they’d never again be able to vote in a Ukrainian national election and thus possibly restore a neutralist leadership of Ukraine, such as had existed under the man Obama deposed, Yanukovych).
Consequently, clearly, now, Obama is on-board with the “Plan B” for Ukraine, which Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel had put into place, the Minsk II Agreement, which brought about the present ceasefire, which now has become clearly the utter (even accepted by Kerry) capitulation of Obama’s Plan A on Ukraine, which plan Nuland had been carrying out. Kerry’s public statement there was a public slap in the face to his own #2 official on Ukraine; and it could not have been asserted by him if he were not under Obama’s instruction that the previous plan, to exterminate or drive out all the residents of Donbass, was no longer worth trying, and that the Hollande-Merkel plan would be America’s fall-back position.
Obama’s message in this, through Kerry, to Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, and indirectly also to Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk (the leader whom Nuland herself had selected), is: we’ll back you only as long as you accept that you have failed our military expectations and that we will be stricter with you in the future regarding how you spend our military money. We’re getting in line now behind the Hollande-Merkel peace plan for Ukraine.
Dmitriy Yarosh, and the other outright Nazis who had been threatening to overthrow Poroshenko if he doesn’t renew the war against Donbass and seize Crimea; Dmitriy Yarosh, who was the man who had led the Ukrainian coup for the U.S., and whose thugs had dressed as Yanukovych’s security forces when gunning down both police and demonstrators in the February 2014 coup, in order for Yanukovych to become blamed for the bloodshed on that occasion; is now, in effect, being told: if you will try another coup, this time to overthrow our own stooges in Ukraine, then you’re finished, Mr. Yarosh. Don’t do it.
Merkel and Hollande thus won. Putin had decidedly won. Obama and the Nazis he had empowered in Ukraine have now, clearly, been defeated. But the mess that Obama’s people have created in Ukraine by their coup and subsequent ethnic-cleansing to eliminate the residents of Donbass, will take decades, if ever, to repair.
Western ‘news’ media can cover it all up, but they can’t change this reality, which, increasingly as time goes by, will expose the press’s failure to have even reported on this historically important U.S. coup in Ukraine and its ultimate failure. As a story about the press, it is about yet another system-wide press-deceit upon the public, comparable to their ‘news coverage’ of ‘Saddam’s WMD,’ and other lies, in 2002 and 2003.
More and more people are coming to know what utter rot the Western press are. The news-report that you are now reading here, has been submitted to all of them, but they’ll probably all reject it like they’ve all refused to report the truth that it and its predecessors report and reported about Obama’s Nazi (i.e., racist-fascist) takeover of Ukraine. How the Western press will get out of their cover-ups and outright lies, yet again, is hard to imagine. But maybe they’ll just not report it at all — yet again. Obama has thrown in the towel on Ukraine, and still the press hasn’t yet reported it. But now I have, and you’re reading it here, perhaps for the first time, even though Kerry’s sensational remark was made a week ago.
Thus, major historical events (like Kerry’s statement here) occur, in broad daylight, which never were even reported by the Western press — they were instead covered-up, not covered at all, by ‘our’ ‘free’ press.
A high-profile group of former European political leaders and diplomats has called for the urgent reassessment of EU policy on the question of a Palestinian state and insisted Israel must be held to account for its actions in the occupied territories.
In a letter to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, the group, known as the European Eminent Persons Group, also questioned the ability of the US to lead the negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
In a damning assessment of EU policy, the letter reads: “Europe has yet to find an effective way of holding Israel to account for the way it maintains the occupation. It is time now to demonstrate to both parties how seriously European public opinion takes contraventions of international law, the perpetration of atrocities and the denial of established rights.”
Signatories to the letter include Hubert Védrine and Roland Dumas, former foreign ministers of France, Andreas van Agt, former prime minister of the Netherlands, John Bruton, a former prime minister of Ireland, Michel Rocard, former prime minister of France, Javier Solana, former Nato secretary general and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UK ambassador to the UN.
On Friday, the European United Left group of MEPs demanded an abolition of partnership agreements with Israeldemanded an abolition of partnership agreements with Israel.
The European United Left group of MEPs has demanded the abolition of partnership agreements with Israel due to its indiscriminate aggression against the Palestinians, Arabs48.com reported on Friday. The demand was made in the wake of the acknowledgement by dozens of Israeli soldiers who took part in the last summer’s Israeli offensive in Gaza that they targeted civilians intentionally; some claimed that they targeted Palestinians “for fun“.
In a statement issued on Friday, a spokesperson for the EU group, Angel Vaina, demanded that Europe’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini answer several questions regarding the Israeli human rights abuses. Beside the witness statements of the Israeli soldiers, he noted, there is a UN report which proves that Israel killed 44 civilians and wounded 227 others in UN shelters during the Israeli war against Palestinian civilians.
Vaina said that the Geneva Conventions ban aggression against the offices of humanitarian organisations. “As such, we demand an end to economic preferences and dealing with this aggressive state.”
He pointed out that Israel signed an agreement in 2000 that guarantees human rights, but violates it repetitively. As an example, he cited Israeli violations in respect of 26 foreign activists on 3 May, when police cracked down on a peaceful demonstration in Tel Aviv against institutional violence and racial discrimination targeting Ethiopian Jews.
French President Francois Hollande has confessed that the country delivered various kinds of weapons, including lethal ones, to foreign-backed militants fighting in Syria, a new book reveals.
“We began when we were certain they (weapons) would end up in the right hands. For the lethal weapons it was our services who delivered them,” Hollande told author Xavier Panon in an interview in May last year.
The book, titled “In the corridors of French diplomacy,” is coming out in France this month.
According to Hollande, France sent canons, machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles to the militants fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2012 despite an arms embargo.
The European Union’s arms embargo on Syria’s foreign-sponsored militants was in place from March 2011 to May 2013.
The book also discloses a series of diplomatic and military measures against the Syrian administration by the French government both under Hollande and previous president Nicolas Sarkozy.
One of the moves was a series of planned August 2013 air raids against the Syrian government allegedly for its use of chemical weapons, which Washington and its Western allies rescinded after a diplomatic deal, under which Syria agreed to eliminate its stockpile of chemical weapons by mid-2014.
The planned attacks had two objectives, to change the “political order” in Syria and to destabilize Russia, which supports Damascus, in order to pressure Moscow into changing its approach to the crisis, a political advisor told the author.
Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. The US and its regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – have been supporting the militants operating inside Syria since the beginning of the crisis.
The violence fueled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of over 222,000 people, according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says over 7.2 million people have been internally displaced, and more than 3 million have been forced to flee the country.
A German lawmaker has condemned the European Union and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s anti-Russia policy, saying the EU bans are destroying the country’s businesses, with dozens of reported bankruptcies.
Franz Wiese, a Brandenburg lawmaker and member of the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party, made the remarks on Monday.
“Approved by the European Union and conducted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the anti-Russian sanctions policy is destroying small and medium businesses in Brandenburg as well as in the rest of the country,” said Wiese.
According to Wiese, Merkel’s anti-Russia policy has so far resulted in the bankruptcy of 90 German companies.
Wiese’s remarks came a day after neighboring Czech Republic’s President Miloš Zeman criticized the Western sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, describing the policy as counterproductive and provocative. Zeman also called for the immediate abandonment of such bans.
Western powers have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over accusations that Moscow is involved in the deadly crisis in neighboring Ukraine, which broke out when Kiev launched military operations against pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine last year. Russia has denied the allegation.
In a tit-for-tat measure, Moscow imposed yearlong food bans on the United States, the EU, Australia, Canada and Norway in August last year.
The move is estimated to cost European agricultural industries millions of dollars in damage. Prior to the food ban, Russia received a quarter of its produce from the EU nations.
On April 27, Russia said it will tighten an existing ban on the import of fruits and vegetables from Bulgaria over concerns that Sofia may be attempting to send European products into Russia, using false documents.
On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell. The last Americans fled the country. Vietnam was reunited, as it was supposed to have been twenty years earlier according to an international agreement sabotaged by Washington. The Vietnam War, which had been going on for thirty years ever since France began its attempt to reconquer its lost Indochinese colonies, finally came to an end.
For the Vietnamese who died in that war, there will be no minute of silence, no solemn commemoration, no “duty to remember”, no vows of “never again”. After all, the millions of Vietnamese who died are not considered victims of “genocide”. They were merely killed by years of massive bombing and the systematic slaughter of a people who wanted to be independent. What’s so special about that?
In old Europe we are warned every day against repeating the crimes of Nazism, a phenomenon that has been dead for over half a century. In contrast, the sources of the slaughter in Vietnam have remained alive and active, whether through U.S. policy in Central America or Southern Africa and now for several years in the Middle East. The “war against terror” has already cost over a million lives and is far from over.
What do our great European humanitarians have to say on this subject? Do those who deplore the rising number of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean see the connections? Do they realize that the same United States military drive to remake the world is the fundamental source of these ongoing disasters? How many calls do we hear to leave the sinking ship of U.S. imperialist wars? To make a real peace with Russia and Iran? To end our policy of perpetual intervention as obedient auxiliaries of the United States?
At the time of the Vietnam war, enlightened European leaders, Olaf Palme in Sweden and De Gaulle in France, openly stood up against U.S. policy. Intellectuals like Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre mobilized public opinion against war. Demonstrations took place even in countries that were far from the conflict. And today? Nothing. Public opinion was almost entirely in favor of the war that destroyed Libya, notably on “the left”.
The end of the war in Vietnam was the end of an era, the era of national liberation struggles which no doubt constituted the most important political movement of the 20th century. In the West, it marked the start of the reconstruction of imperial ideology under the cover of “human rights”. Instead of stopping liberation struggles, the emphasis would be on subverting and destroying countries that had gained independence. The media-savvy campaign to arouse “solidarity” with the plight of Vietnamese boat people and victims of the Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia enabled a large sector of the French and U.S. intelligentsia to drop any effort to understand the causes and effects of events. After all, the Khmer rouge would never have taken power without the combination of U.S. bombing of the Cambodian countryside and regime change in Phnom Penh. Analysis was shoved aside in favor of immediate emotional reaction to unexplained events. A moralism without context favored the invention of “the right of humanitarian intervention” in order to destroy national sovereignty, international law and the United Nations Charter.
In France, the anti-communist “new left” that emerged from May ’68, influenced by the intellectual bluff of Bernard-Henri Lévy and cohorts, completely reversed the position of the old left. Whereas the traditional left defended international peace and opposed U.S. interventionism, the “new left” welcomed every uprising regardless of political content and showed no concern for the underlying relationship of forces. All that mattered were the “human rights” as defined and highlighted by mainstream media.
Today that new left is at a dead end, whether in the Middle East or in relations with Russia or China, along with the American policy that it has helped to disguise ideologically. Forty years after Vietnam gained its freedom, it is high time for new evaluations and drastic changes. But who has the courage to meet these challenges?
Translation by Diana Johnstone.