"A fabulous Easter gift," commented Monsanto Director of Development Initiatives Elizabeth Vancil. Nearly 60,000 seed sacks of hybrid corn seeds and other vegetable seeds were donated to post-earthquake Haiti by Monsanto. In observance of World Environment Day, June 4, 2010, roughly 10,000 rural Haitian farmers gathered in Papaye to march seven kilometers to Hinche in celebration of this gift. Upon arrival, these rewarded farmers took their collective Easter baskets of more than 400 tons of vegetable seeds and burned them all.[i] "Long live the native maize seed!" they chanted in unison. "Monsanto's GMO [genetically modified organism] & hybrid seed violate peasant agriculture!"
According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, coordinator of the Papay Peasant Movement (MPP), "there is presently a shortage of seed in Haiti because many rural families used their maize seed to feed refugees."[ii] Like any benevolent disaster capitalist corporation, Monsanto extended a hand in a time of crisis to the 65 percent of the population that survives off of subsistence agriculture. But not just any hand was extended in this time of great need, rather: a fistful of seeds. The extended fist was full of corn seeds, one of Haiti's staple crops, treated with the fungicide Maxim XO. With similar benevolence, not just any tomato seeds were donated to the agrarian peasants, but tomato seeds treated with Thiram, a chemical so toxic the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled it too toxic to sell for home garden use, further mandating that any agricultural worker planting these seeds must wear special protective clothing.[iii] Happy Easter! Monsanto's web site's official explanation for this toxic donation is that "fungicidal seed treatments are often applied to seeds prior to planting to protect them from fungal diseases that arise in the soil and hamper the plant's ability to germinate and grow. The treatments also provide protection against diseases the seed might pick up in transfer between countries."[iv] However, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, "repeated exposure [to Thiram] can affect the kidneys, liver and thyroid gland. High or repeated exposure may damage the nerves."[v] Why would Monsanto be so eager to donate seeds that could potentially compromise the health of so many famished people?
"The Haitian government is using the earthquake to sell the country to the multinationals!" stated Jean-Baptiste. Welcome to the new earthquake.
"[It's] a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds ... and on what is left of our environment in Haiti." - Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, executive director of the Peasant Movement of Papay.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Duane R. Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.
Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.
Hatching schemes that are something of a cross between a Graham Greene novel and Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy,” Mr. Clarridge has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say.
Mr. Clarridge, 78, who was indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal and later pardoned, is described by those who have worked with him as driven by the conviction that Washington is bloated with bureaucrats and lawyers who impede American troops in fighting adversaries and that leaders are overly reliant on mercurial allies.
His dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck.
For all of the can-you-top-this qualities to Mr. Clarridge’s operation, it is a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.
It also shows how the outsourcing of military and intelligence operations has spawned legally murky clandestine operations that can be at cross-purposes with America’s foreign policy goals. Despite Mr. Clarridge’s keen interest in undermining Afghanistan’s ruling family, President Obama’s administration appears resigned to working with President Karzai and his half brother, who is widely suspected of having ties to drug traffickers.
Japanese entertainment company Sega has taken Japanese toilets to an entirely new level by installing urine-controlled games in Tokyo urinals.
Four types of "Toylets" games are available to be played during a test period ending this month in four male bathrooms in pubs and game arcades.
The project is aimed at drawing attention to digital advertisements.
Each urinal is fitted with a pressure sensor and a small digital LCD display that is placed at eye level.
Digital advertisements are shown after the games.
One of the games included is "Graffiti Eraser," in which a user tries to aim at the pressure sensor in the urinal to erase virtual graffiti on the display.
The game "Mannekin Pis" measures the volume of the user's stream.
Another game known as "The North Wind and The Sun and Me" uses the strength of a urine stream to determine the extent to which a virtual girl's skirt gets blown up by a digital wind.
"Splashing Battle!" puts two users against each other in terms of stream strength.
Players who are proud of their high scores are able to download them onto a flash drive.
Full-time foreign visitors to Japan are often baffled by the complexity of Japanese high-tech toilets. Some of the high-tech toilets feature computerized control panels, usually with Japanese language instructions as well as pictograms.
The "Toylets" will be available at limited locations until January 31.
A Sega spokesman said in a statement that they have "no concrete plans to make them into actual products."
Lame: Supreme Court justice fails to report wife's $680K income from conservative think tanks.
Yipes: Chemical caused nerve damage to military base workers.
Lame: Scalia, Thomas may have had conflicts of interest in landmark case that now allows corporations to sway elections.
WTF: Police refuse to charge drunk teen who terrorized family.
Duh: Facebook blamed for marriage breakups as cheaters are caught online.
Malaysia says its navy commandos have foiled an attempted hijacking of a ship in the Gulf of Aden, rescuing 23 crew and capturing seven Somali pirates.
It says the commandos injured three pirates during a gun battle on board the Malaysian-flagged MT Bung Laurel chemical tanker on Friday.
The navy was alerted by a distress signal from the vessel's crew.
Kuala Lumpur is now considering whether the pirates should face trial in Malaysia.
"We will determine what we should do, whether we are going to bring them here to be tried or take any other appropriate action," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
He also said he was "proud of our navy, which acted with full efficiency and demonstrated courage".
The Malaysian Royal Navy said an attack helicopter was also involved in the rescue operation about 555km (300 miles) east off the coast of Oman.
No-one among the commandos or the crew was injured.
Seven retired admirals and generals hired by the military as consultants will end their advisory roles rather than comply with new regulations requiring them to divulge outside income to avoid a conflict of interest.
The former officers are among 158 Pentagon retirees known as “senior mentors” who have been identified stories as getting as much as $440 an hour to offer advice on war plans and weapons systems.
A USA Today investigation found that 80 percent of the mentors had financial ties to defense contractors that they were not required to reveal to the public.
The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have used the services of about 30 senior mentors. Most of the other mentors advise Pentagon departments that do not fall under the main service branches.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that seven senior mentors declined this month to file financial disclosure forms and bowed out of the mentors program because they said the requirement is too intrusive.
“We don’t think the requirements are onerous,” Whitman said. “These are appropriate salary caps as well as necessary transparency.”
A busty Big Brother star who got viewers in a lather when she soaped up other housemates' boobs has died after a breast enlargement op went wrong.
Porn star Sexy Cora - real name Carolin Berger - died yesterday afternoon following a massive brain haemorrhage, reports the UK Sun.
She had been in a coma for nine days at a clinic in Hamburg, Germany, after the op to boost her boobs to a 34G.
Her family were called to the hospital last week where they were told that Cora had been without oxygen during the procedure for 15 minutes and was in a "serious condition."
Cora died on Thursday at the Hamburg University Hospital, leading to an investigation into the plastic surgery clinic where she received the operation.
Husband Tim said: "The brain damage was too great. Her blood pressure dropped steadily, physiological functions gave out - then she went to sleep quietly.
German police are investigating the 54-year-old anesthesiologist and the 49-year-old surgeon who performed the operation on suspicion of negligent homicide.
Stern magazine said Sexy Cora's death also raised serious questions for the TV executives who seek out wannabe stars prepared to go under the knife for their art, saying the case "casts a harsh light on the trash industry."
It added: "How far are the stars of reality TV prepared to go in order to gain attention for themselves and their bodies? What dangers are they taking on?"
Cora recevied a Best Amateur 2010 award at the Venus erotic industry trade fair.
The tattooed porn star shook up the German version of Big Brother when she stripped off in the showers and sprayed soap suds all over other female contestants.
A 13-year-old Norwegian boy scared off a pack of wolves - by playing them heavy metal group Megadeath on his mobile phone.
Walter Acre was walking home from school in Rakkestad when he found himself encircled by the four snarling beasts, reports website Zvuki.ru.
Just as they seemed set to attack, the petrified youngster pulled out his phone and cranked out a song by Megadeth.
Walter had previously been told not to run away from wolves but to face them and attempt to scare them away.
And sure enough, the tactic worked as the sound of heavy metal music sent the animals scattering in confusion.
The website reports that Walter made it home safely, using one final blast of music to see off a stray wolf that was prowling close to his front porch.
A communist version of the ultimate capitalist game - Monopoly - has been made in Poland.
Instead of buying streets, houses and hotels, players will get a list of 10 essential items like bread and loo paper and have to travel around the board joining queues to get into state-owned shops.
And instead of Chance and Community Chest, players can draw wild cards that get them sent to the front because of a Communist Party connection or see a shop closed down for "decadence."
The game - called Queue and created by the country's National Remembrance Institute - is designed to show schoolchildren what life was like under the old Soviet era.
"The game not only makes players understand shopping in Poland under communism," said the game's creator Karol Madaj.
"It also teaches them what queueing is like - something people seem to have forgotten."
Just days after Comcast was given the green light to take a majority stake in NBC Universal, MSNBC and Countdown host Keith Olbermann are parting ways.
The news network's biggest draw, Olbermann on Friday night abruptly announced that his time at MSNBC had come to an end. While he offered no insight into why he was leaving his post, Olbermann thanked viewers for supporting his "anti-establishment" show.
"There were many occasions, particularly in the last two-and-a-half years, where all that surrounded the show was just too much for me," Olbermann told viewers before signing off. "But your support and loyalty...required that I keep going."
In a statement issued by MSNBC, network president Phil Griffin confirmed that tonight's program would be Olbermann's last, before going on to wish the commentator well in his future endeavors.
Beginning Monday, the 10 p.m. show The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell will move into Olbermann's 8 p.m. time slot. Ed Schultz' program will jump to 10 p.m., and The Rachel Maddow Show will remain in its regular 9 p.m. slot.
Olbermann still had nearly two years remaining on his contract, as both sides had come to terms on a four-year, $30 million extension in November 2008. Per terms of his buy-out, Olbermann is prohibited from accepting a full-time post at a rival network for the near term.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The newly-inaugurated governor of Alabama caused controversy at a church meeting with an evangelical speech declaring that people who had 'not accepted Jesus as their saviour' are not his brothers and sisters.
Speaking to the congregation at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church just moments after his official inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, Robert Bentley made comments which were later described by The Anti-Defamation League as 'shocking'.
Bentley told the crowd in Birmingham that he considered anyone who believed in Jesus to be his brothers and sisters regardless of color, but anyone who isn't a Christian doesn't have that same relationship to him.
He said: 'Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother.
'If the Holy Spirit lives in you that makes you my brothers and sisters.
'Anyone who has not accepted Jesus, I want to be your brothers and sisters, too.'
He made the speech in Birmingham, Alabama, the home of Martin Luther King's campaign for civil rights with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1963.
The Anti-Defamation League, which fights discrimination against Jewish people, said it sounded as if Bentley was using the office of governor to advocate for Christian conversion.
'If he does so, he is dancing dangerously close to a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government from promoting the establishment of any religion,' said Bill Nigut, the ADL's regional director.
'His comments are not only offensive, but also raise serious questions as to whether non-Christians can expect to receive equal treatment during his tenure as governor.'
Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, said he wasn't sure how Bentley's remarks were intended.
'Does it mean that those who according to him are not saved are less important than those who are saved?' said Taufique.
'Does he want those of us who do not belong to the Christian faith to adopt his faith?
'That should be toned down. That's not what we need.
'If he means that, I hope he changes it. We don't want evangelical politicians. They can be whatever in their private life.'
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Björk is staging a three-day karaoke marathon -- but not for fun, y'alls. It's a protest against a Canadian energy firm taking over an Icelandic one, which Björk says amounts to a sell-off of her country's natural resources. (Oh snarf!)
This account from Agence France-Presse reads like a Saturday Night Live sketch:
The captain of the Icelandic handball team, a 70-year-old environmental campaigner, and an Icelandic pop star and gay icon were among those who karaoked on Thursday.
The comedian-turned-mayor of Iceland's capital Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, also took part in the event with the other half of his former comedy duo.
Wow. (Who knew "karaoked" was even a verb?)
Canadian company Magma Energy will soon have a 98.5 percent stake in HS Orka, the Icelandic company that produces about a 10th of the country's electricity. And Magma would be entitled to use geothermal energy fields for the next 65 years. That is, unless you fly to Reykjavik right now and put in your bid for "It's Oh So Quiet." (Singing continues 'til Saturday night.) Icelanders are pissed because they don't want their energy sources sold off; plus, the political party behind the deal contributed to Iceland's major economic collapse in late 2008.
Björk hopes the karaoke-fest will get 35,000 people (about 11 percent of Iceland's population) to sign a petition urging the overturn of the Orka sale. She has roughly 28,000 signatures so far. Iceland Review quotes a press release inviting all manner of mystical people to sing: "Elves, hidden people, sportspeople, hobby musicians and professionals ... everyone who cares for Iceland, come and join forces and perform a powerful ode to the nature of Iceland. Let's bring our natural resources back to us with song."
Björk has karaoked several songs so far, including a cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart." (Video)