Category Archives: Corpocracy

Map of the day: Some of what’s at stake in Brazil


While the government of suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had blocked attempts to clear yet more of the Brazilian rain forest, the measure is moving forward under acting President Michel Temer, sponsored by a senator who is also the nation’s leading soybean producer,.

From the Washington Post, a map of what’s already been lost between 1988 and 2013:

BLOG Deforested

Pesticides, monoculture, climate threaten bees


And a threat to bees is a threat to some of the most nutritious foods we consume.

A timely warning from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization:

Bees make a priceless contribution to agriculture and are a bellwether for environmental health, working without pay while both delivering and reflecting biodiversity.

“A world without pollinators would be a world without food diversity – and in the long run, without food security,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said Saturday during a visit to Slovenia that ending at the national beekeepers’ festival.

Slovenia, a promoter of declaring May 20 the World Bee Day, has sought assistance from FAO in this endeavor and has already received its support and that of 53 countries at the last Regional Conference of Europe. The next steps include the technical committees of FAO and the FAO Conference in 2017. It would be one of the first concrete actions after the important agreement on Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change Agreement and  in line to achieve the Goals of Agenda 2030, stated Graziano da Silva.

Honeybees are the most famous of the pollinators, a group of species whose members fly, hop and crawl over flowers to allow plants – including those that account for over a third of global food crop production – to reproduce. Their absence would remove a host of nutritious foods from our diets, including potatoes, onions, strawberries, cauliflower, pepper, coffee, pumpkins, carrots, sunflowers, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa, he said.

Yet despite their critical role, we are courting collapse by increasingly exposing bees to ever-more numerous hazards, warned the Director-General.

Threats to bees include land-use change, pesticide use, monoculture agriculture and climate change, which can disrupt flowering seasons.

“Bees are a sign of well-functioning ecosystems,” Graziano da Silva said, adding: “To a great extent the decline of pollinators is also a sign of the disruptions that global changes are causing to ecosystems the world over.”

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day: Winners declared in Iraq war


From Mint Press News:

After Iraq War, Monsanto, Cargill & Dow Chemical Took Over Iraqi Agriculture

According to one environmental activist, under U.S. diplomat Paul Bremer’s orders, ‘Iraqi farmers are not allowed to save seeds, they are not allowed to share seeds … and they are not allowed to replant harvested seeds.’

Brazil’s acting president hews to neoliberal line


Michel Temer, Brazil’s acting president and chief neoliberal, is setting about the most ruthless privatization of the nation’s commons since the Portuguese colonialist first arrived.

And just as with the Portuguese, the nation’s indigenous peoples are shapping up to be the first victims of the relentless drive to turn everything public into a center of private profit.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Brazil’s interim government is moving ahead with plans for a constitutional amendment that would weaken indigenous land rights and pave the way for new plantations and dams to encroach on lands inhabited by native peoples, a United Nations official said.

Erika Yamada, a member of the U.N’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a human rights advisory body, said the proposed constitutional change would result in Brazil moving backwards on indigenous land rights.

The procedures used to identify and indigenous territories could be altered to give lawmakers more power to decide which territories belong to native peoples, she said.

>snip<

“They (lawmakers) will try and move forward with changes to the constitution that would make it much harder to defend indigenous rights,” Yamada told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview this week.

“I think they will also weaken the process of authorization for large development projects with great social and environmental impact for traditional communities.”

And it’s not just the land and water of the indigenous that are marked for the auction block

From Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer is studying the sale of state assets to shore up public accounts, as well as an audit of the country’s largest savings bank, said a government official with direct knowledge of the matter.

A government task force will consider selling stakes in companies such as power utility Furnas Centrais Eletricas SA and BR Distribuidora, a unit of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil producer known as Petrobras, said the official, who asked not to be named because the plans haven’t been made public. The intention is to help plug a near-record budget deficit and improve the efficiency of state-owned enterprises.

Petrobras’s preferred shares rallied as much as 1.6 per cent on the report, after posting losses during most of the morning.

The plans are the clearest sign yet of a policy shift since the Senate’s suspension last week of President Dilma Rousseff, who had increased the role of the government and state companies in the economy.

Temer has also take the first steps to privatizing the national public broadcaster, reports teleSUR English:

Michel Temer, head of the coup government in Brazil, fired the head of the Brazil Communications Company, the public firm that manages the country’s public media outlets.

The action was rejected by the firm’s board of directors on the grounds that the law that regulates the company prohibits political interference.

“The notion that the president-director of the company should have fixed term, that does not coincide with a presidential mandates, was enshrined precisely to ensure the independence, impartiality and guiding principles of public outlets,” read a statement by the board of the Brazil Communications Company.

“The aim is to ensure autonomy from the federal government and protect the right of Brazilian society to free and public communications, which ensures the expression of diversity and plurality — foundations of a modern and democratic society,” added the statement.

The head of the company, Ricardo Melo, was appointed by democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff for a four year term earlier this month.

The coup government, however, ignored the concerns of the board.

Melo was replaced by Laerte Rimoli, who served as spokesperson for Aecio Neves, the right-wing candidate defeated by Rousseff in the 2014 presidential election. He also previously served as press officer for Eduardo Cunha, the embattled former head of the Chamber of Deputies who was recently suspended by the Supreme Court.

There’s much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Rallies across the world: March Against Monsanto


Narch agagaist Monstanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

March against Monsanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

Monsanto, the folks who brought you Roundup and all those patented Roundup Ready genetically modified crops they peddle, was the target and marches and rallies in more than 400 cities across the global today by folks angry at the firm’s control of so much of the world’s food supplies.

Big Agra’s been in a state of flux of late, with major mergers in the offing, as BBC News reported Thursday, when Bayer announced it wanted to buy the company:

There has been speculation for some months that Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, could become a target for either Bayer or BASF.

Bayer, which has a market value of about $90bn, is the second-largest producer of crop chemicals after Syngenta.

Monsanto, which has a market capitalisation of $42bn, attempted to buy Swiss rival Syngenta last year.

However, Syngenta ended up accepting a $43bn offer from ChemChina in February, although that deal is still being reviewed by regulators in the US.

Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto is expected to be bigger in value than the ChemChina-Syngenta deal.

More from Reuters:

Deutsche Bank analysts said a deal could shift Bayer’s center of gravity to agriculture, accounting for about 55 percent of core earnings, up from roughly 28 percent last year excluding the Covestro chemicals business Bayer plans to sell.

That would have a negative impact on sentiment among Bayer’s healthcare-focused investor base, the bank said.

Bayer, which has a market value of $90 billion, said the merger would create “a leading integrated agriculture business”, referring to Bayer’s push to seek more synergies from combining the development and sale of seeds and crop protection chemicals.

Most of the major agrichemical companies are aiming to genetically engineer more robust plants and custom-build chemicals to go with them, selling them together to farmers who are struggling to contend with low commodity price.

And, just for the fun of it, some voideos from around the world and an image or two.

First, the march in Saarbrücken, Germany, from Heidi Schmitt:

March against Monsanto, 21.05.2016 in Saarbrücken

On to Paris, via Ruptly TV:

France: Parisians rally against Monsanto

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Paris on Saturday for the ‘March against Monsanto,’ in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation. Protesters held banners reading: “GMO/Pesticides = the next sanitary scandal” and “GMO no thanks.”

The activists are protesting against Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products and the alleged monopoly that Monsanto has in the food supply market.

Saturday’s march will mark the fourth annual ‘March against Monsanto.’ The march is set to take place in over 400 cities in more than 40 countries around the world.

Then off to Innsbruck, Austria with Klaus Schreiner:

2016 Monsanto Marsch Innsbruck

And then back to France and a march in Bordeaux from Gilbert Hanna:

Contre Monsanto and CO à Bordeaux marche internationale

Next, Amsterdam, via kafx:

March against Monsanto

And an image from Basel, Switzerland, via GM Watch:BLOG Monsanto Basel

Then to Toronto, via SupportLocalScene:

March Against Monsanto 2016 at Yonge & Dundas

Program notes:

Yonge and Dundas sees the Millions March Against Monsanto 2016 marching in downtown Toronto, Canada, May 21st 2016.

Next, an image form New York by Alex Beauchamp:

BLOG Monsanto NYC

Then to Japan with Ruptly TV:

Japan: Thousands protest against Monsanto in Tokyo

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Tokyo for the ‘March against Monsanto’ on Saturday, in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation.

Finally, via GM Watch, a scene from China:

BLOG Monsanto Taipei

Uber spies on your cell phone battery; charges vastly more if it’s dying


Of all the nasty forms of predatory capitalism we’ve heard of lately, this one ranks almost up there with Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli‘s cynical boosting of the price of a a drug used to treat an otherwise-lethal AIDS-related illness by 5,550 percent after buying the company that made it.

But this time it’s Uber, another outfit that’s taken predation on the desperate to new levels, and CBC News has the story [emphasis added]:

It’s no secret that Uber uses surge pricing at peak periods, such as New Year’s Eve, when demand is high.

But what many may not know is that when you download the Uber app, the company can track your smartphone battery life — and it’s studying how that influences your price point.

The company has determined that customers are more willing to accept surge pricing if they know their phone is about to lose power.

The ride-hailing service is alerted when a customer’s phone battery is running low because the app switches into power-saving mode.

In a recent NPR podcast titled This is Your Brain on Uber, Keith Chen, the company’s head of economic research, said people with fading batteries are less inclined to wait “10 to 15 minutes” to see if demand for drivers drops, along with pricing, because with a low battery, they may not get a ride at all.
You’re willing to pay more

The behavioural economist at UCLA said users are willing to accept surge pricing increases as high as 9.9 times the normal price of a ride if their smartphone’s battery is close to dying.

As for Pharma Bro, he had a birthday in March while awaiting trial on securities fraud charges unrelated to the drug price hike. Britain’s Pink News got a picture of the birthday cake cake Shkreli tweeted [yes, it’s really the cake served at his bash]:

BLOG Pharma Bro

Israle veers harder Right with change at the top


Following a blistering criticism of Israel increasing hard Right turn, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was removed for his post, and he, in turn, has removed himself from Israel politics, resigning from both his political party and the national legislature.

His replacement comes from a small party that’s to the Right of Likud, the party of both Ya’alon and the man who deposed him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The result will be a heating up of tensions both within and without Israel, given that the new defense minister is avowedly bloodthirsty and in the past has called for military strikes against Iranian facilities suspected of processing fuel for nuclear weapons.

From Vice News:

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon resigned on Friday, saying that “extremist and dangerous elements” had hijacked the nation after the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved to replace him with the leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

In a televised speech outside the defense ministry a grim-faced Yaalon, who spent four years in the post, said he was stepping down following “difficult disputes over matters of principle and professionalism” with Netanyahu and several members of the cabinet.

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence, and racism in Israeli society, which are threatening its sturdiness and also trickling into the IDF [Israel Defense Forces],” he continued. “Sadly, leading politicians in this country chose the path of inciting and dividing between parts of Israeli society, instead of uniting and joining [them].”

The Washington Post has more from the press conference:

In a press conference Friday, Yaalon, a fellow member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, warned that Israel was drifting dangerously toward extremism.

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society, which are threatening its sturdiness and trickling into the armed forces, hurting it already,” he said.

Yaalon appeared to be referring to widespread support by Israeli leaders for a combat medic who shot to death a wounded Palestinian attacker as he lay on a street in Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv and proclaimed the soldier a hero. Israeli human-rights activists called it a cold-blooded execution. The killing was captured on video.

More from the London Telegraph:

Mr Ya’alon said he had spent his career fighting extremism, violence and racism, but that they were threatening the “sturdiness” of society and trickling into the IDF.

“The state of Israel is patient and tolerant toward the weak among it and minorities,” he said. “But to my great regret extremist and dangerous elements have overrun Israel as well as the Likud party, shaking up our home and threatening harm to those in it.”

He added that he had “recently found myself in strong disagreement on moral and professional issues with the prime minister, a number of ministers and several MPs”.

Mr Ya’alon’s dismissal as defence minister came after months of disagreements with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

From the Independent, terms of agreement:

Yaalon is also a Likud politician who shares Netanyahu’s dim views on the prospects for a long-term accord with the Palestinians. But they clashed this month over the trial of a soldier who shot dead a wounded and supine Palestinian assailant, with Yaalon coming out against public calls for clemency while Netanyahu took a more circumspect position.

A poll aired by Israel’s Channel 10 television on Thursday found that 51 percent of Israeli Jews saw Yaalon as best suited for defence minister. Twenty-seven percent preferred Lieberman.

U.S. officials have declined comment on the prospect of dealing with Lieberman as Israeli defence minister, but one Egyptian diplomat told Reuters on Thursday that Cairo was “shocked” at the idea.

Defense News translated Ya’alon’s resignation speech, and here’s a key section:

“[T]o my great regret, extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud party and are shaking our national home and threatening to harm its residents.

“This is not the Likud movement that I joined — the Likud of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. And it is proper that the decisive majority of Likud voters and the sane public and responsible governing establishment understand the deep rifts and gathering ominous winds that are seizing the movement.

“I hope that also the public at large — from the right and the left — will understand the grave significance of the extreme minority overtaking the center and will fight against this phenomenon.

“To heartsick regret, senior politicians in the country have chosen a path of attack and separation from parts of Israeli society rather than uniting them.

“It is intolerable in my eyes that we will disintegrate into cynical and power-lusting factions. I’ve expressed my opinions on this subject out of candid concern for the future of Israeli society and generations to come.”

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading