Category Archives: Resources

Africa’s ‘Green Revolution’ helps only the richest


As for the poor, forget about it.

In reality, the set of practices endorsed by neoliberals in Washington and Europe, is a cover for driving the poorest farmers into debt as they are driven to buy fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, and pesticides from Big Agra companies in the North.

driven into debt and foreclosed when they can’t pay because of crops failures and poor yields, the only beneficiaries are large landholders.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Rather than alleviating poverty, a farming revolution aimed at increasing and modernising agricultural production in Africa could be harming the poorest, according to a new study.

The University of East Anglia research details how changes brought on by modernisation programmes disrupt subsistence practices, deepen poverty, impair local systems of trade and knowledge, and threaten land ownership.

The “green revolution” of the 1960s and 70s – when policies supporting new seeds for marketable crops, sold at guaranteed prices, helped many farmers and transformed economies in Asia – has also become increasingly popular in Africa where up to 90 percent of people in some countries are smallholder farmers.

In Rwanda, government, donors and development institutions such as the International Monetary Fund have hailed the strategy as a success for the economy and in reducing poverty.

But in interviews with villagers in Rwanda’s mountainous west the researchers found only a relatively wealthy minority had been able to keep up with modernisation, while the poorest cannot afford the risk of taking out credit for the seeds and fertilisers required for modernised agriculture.

Here’s the summary from the study from the report, Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications of Imposed Innovation for the Wellbeing of Rural Smallholders, which is available free in its entirety from the journal World Development, under a Creative Commons agreement sponsored by  Natural Environment Research Council:

Green Revolution policies are again being pursued to drive agricultural growth and reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. However conditions have changed since the well-documented successes of the 1960s and 1970s benefitted smallholders in southern Asia and beyond. We argue that under contemporary constraints the mechanisms for achieving improvements in the lives of smallholder farmers through such policies are unclear and that both policy rationale and means of governing agricultural innovation are crucial for pro-poor impacts. To critically analyze Rwanda’s Green Revolution policies and impacts from a local perspective, a mixed methods, multidimensional wellbeing approach is applied in rural areas in mountainous western Rwanda. Here Malthusian policy framing has been used to justify imposed rather than “induced innovation”. The policies involve a substantial transformation for rural farmers from a traditional polyculture system supporting subsistence and local trade to the adoption of modern seed varieties, inputs, and credit in order to specialize in marketable crops and achieve increased production and income. Although policies have been deemed successful in raising yields and conventionally measured poverty rates have fallen over the same period, such trends were found to be quite incongruous with local experiences. Disaggregated results reveal that only a relatively wealthy minority were able to adhere to the enforced modernization and policies appear to be exacerbating landlessness and inequality for poorer rural inhabitants. Negative impacts were evident for the majority of households as subsistence practices were disrupted, poverty exacerbated, local systems of knowledge, trade, and labor were impaired, and land tenure security and autonomy were curtailed. In order to mitigate the effects we recommend that inventive pro-poor forms of tenure and cooperation (none of which preclude improvements to input availability, market linkages, and infrastructure) may provide positive outcomes for rural people, and importantly in Rwanda, for those who have become landless in recent years. We conclude that policies promoting a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa should not all be considered to be pro-poor or even to be of a similar type, but rather should be the subject of rigorous impact assessment. Such assessment should be based not only on consistent, objective indicators but pay attention to localized impacts on land tenure, agricultural practices, and the wellbeing of socially differentiated people.

Quote of the day Ted Cruz in a nutshell [Nut’s hell?]


From journalist and author Gary Leech, writing for Counterpunch:

Perhaps nothing captures the imperialist arrogance of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz more succinctly than his campaign’s statement declaring, “What is best for America is best for the world.” In addition to the obvious fact that billions of people around the world might disagree with Cruz on this point is the fact that it is not at all clear that the Republican presidential candidate’s proposed policies are even best for most Americans. But given his victory this past week in the Iowa caucus, Cruz’s ultra-conservative views can no longer be ignored while mainstream and progressive pundits busy themselves dissecting the bombastic rhetoric of the far less scary Donald Trump.

In contrast to most candidates that run for president, Ted Cruz has a clear vision for the future of the country. The problem for many Americans is that it is a terrifying vision. It is a vision that is imperialist, racist, sexist, classist and homophobic. For instance, Cruz proposes building a giant wall across the US-Mexico border in addition to using high-tech measures to keep out “illegal” immigrants while allowing corporate labor needs to dictate the flow of “legal” immigrants into the country. In addition to strengthening the military to ensure US hegemony around the globe, he also vows to boost US military support for Israel and to withhold funding from the United Nations if it “continues its anti-Israel bias.”

On the domestic front, Cruz is calling for a flat tax that will benefit the rich and gut government social spending. He has also vowed to curtail women’s rights by stating that he will order the attorney general to investigate Planned Parenthood on his first day as president. And he opposes same-sex marriage, declaring that “marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman.” Finally, Cruz would not only fail to address climate change, which he views as a hoax, he would promote expanded oil and gas production. Given that these policy proposals make Cruz one of the most conservative presidential contenders in decades, it would behoove us to take a closer at them.

Class cleansing, history, race, and the Super Bowl


A short but notable segment from Democracy Now! how issues of the issues of class and race are integral to America’s most iconic sporting event.

No Super Bowl in recent decades has evoked their spectral present more than the game’s 50th extravaganza, held in San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive city to inhabit, yet a city haunted by the issues of race and class.

It was, after all, San Francisco that brought the nation its first drug law, created in 1875 to repress a hard-working Chinese population by banning the use of opium, the drug which helped numb the pain brought on by long hours of physical exertion.

The San Francisco ordinance, quickly adopted by most other California cities with large Asian populations, didn’t halt sales of the drug; instead driving it underground and causing the price to spike.

Nor, as any visitor to modern San Francisco can attest, did it succeed in driving out its Chinese residents.

[The nation’s prohibitions of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin were all based directly on overt racist hysteria, as noted here.]

The San Francisco Bay Area was also the birthplace of the most prominent African American militants of the mid-20th Century, the Black Panthers.

And it was the Panthers who were, remarkably, celebrated in Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show by one of the nation’s most popular singers.

But before the game was held, another cleansing of San Francisco took place, this time one based on class and not race.

And with that by way of preface, from Democracy Now!:

Beyoncé Wins the Super Bowl: Pop Legend Invokes Black Panthers, #BlackLivesMatter at Halftime Show

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin joins us from Washington, D.C., sports columnist for The Nation. His latest article, “The Streets of San Francisco: ‘Super Bowl City’ Meets Tent City.”

Thanks so much. His books include The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, which he co-wrote with John Carlos. Your response to all that happened last night, Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, there’s on the field and off the field. I mean, on the field, you had the Denver Broncos exhibit one of the great defensive performances in Super Bowl history. Off the field, what you had was really an unprecedented sweep of the homeless before a Super Bowl contest. And, you know, every Super Bowl in the host city has a narrative that exists outside the game. In New Orleans, it was “How will the city recover after Hurricane Katrina?” In New York, if you remember—we discussed this, Amy—it was the sweep and harassment of sex workers before the big game that took place in the Meadowlands.

And in San Francisco, it’s the fact that you have this city of only 800,000 people that has a homeless population of 10,000. Sixty-one percent of the homeless in San Francisco were working at the time they lost their homes. And one-third of these 10,000 people are children. And yet, the response from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was: You better get off the street. You better get gone, because we’re about to have a party for the 1 percent. We’re about to have a Woodstock for the wealthy and celebrate the Super Bowl and celebrate our conspicuous consumption. There’s no greater symbol of this year’s Super Bowl, to me, than the fact you could go to the game and buy a delicious hot dog with real gold flakes sprinkled on top, so you could eat gold with your hot dog while people are literally hungry outside the most unequal and, by some metrics, the wealthiest city now in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about what happened inside, at halftime, Dave Zirin? Can you talk about not only what Beyoncé—

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —did there with her song, the homage to the Black Panthers—

DAVE ZIRIN: It was too short.

Zika update: Actions, fears, and more questions


We begin with the most newsworthy action of the day, via Al Jazeera America:

Obama seeks $1.8 billion in emergency funds to combat Zika

President aims to counter spread of mosquito-borne virus in US and abroad as it continues to spread rapidly

Details of Obama’s plan may be found in this White House fact sheet, Preparing for and Responding to the Zika Virus at Home and Abroad:

From Reuters, a precautionary action:

Exclusive: U.S. athletes should consider not attending Olympics if fear Zika – officials

The United States Olympic Committee told U.S. sports federations that athletes and staff concerned for their health over the Zika virus should consider not going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.

Another form of action, via CNBC:

Zika virus putting Americans off vacations in Latin America, Caribbean: Poll

The rapidly spreading Zika virus is discouraging many Americans from traveling to Latin America and the Caribbean, with 41 percent of those aware of the disease saying they are less likely to take such a trip, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows.

From WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas, action in the Lone Star State:

Dallas to test pregnant women for Zika

As the U.S. prepares to spend more money to fight the spread of the Zika virus, local officials are also taking the threat seriously.

WFTV in Orlando, Florida, covers action in the Sunshine State:

Florida declares public health emergency over Zika virus

Twelve cases of the Zika virus have been found in Florida, and the state has declared a public health emergency. No local mosquitoes have been found with the virus, and all of the reported cases are travel-related.

From PressTV, action in Paris:

Zika forces restriction on blood transfusions in France

France has restricted blood donations for travelers who recently came from places affected by the Zika virus, the French health minister says.

The European Medicines Agency reports another action:

EMA sets up task force on Zika virus

European experts to provide support to global response on the emerging epidemic

Meanwhile in Brazil, action of another via the Sydney Morning Herald:

Brazil’s Carnival roars ahead despite Zika health scare

The worst health scare in recent history is not keeping Brazilians from their annual carnival revelry as millions of people fill the streets and some make fun of the mosquito that spreads Zika and other viruses.

From the Washington Post, consequences:

Zika prompts urgent debate about abortion in Latin America

Across Latin America, calls to loosen some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world in the face of the Zika virus outbreak are gaining momentum, but encountering strong and entrenched opposition.

And from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a noteworthy question:

Zika virus: Brazilian survey calls into question cause of microcephaly

UPDATE: Another reason for questions, via Outbreak News Today:

Cape Verde: 7,000 Zika cases, No microcephaly

Officials with the Cape Verde Ministry of Health are reporting 7,164 Zika virus cases since first being confirmed in the capital city of Praia last October, while at the same time reporting no occurrences of microcephaly.

From CCTV America, a report with more questions and some answers from the World Health Organization’s regional affiliate:

Dissecting Zika with Dr. Marcus Espinal of PAHO

Program notes:

In a matter of weeks the Zika virus has gone from a concern to an all-out global crisis. In fact, the World Health Organization recently declared it a public health emergency of international concern which will bring more money and resources to fight it. Health officials are investigating a potential link between the mosquito-borne disease and hundreds, perhaps even thousands of babies born with abnormally small heads. There is no cure, no vaccine and each day it seems the warnings are getting worse. “Americas Now” anchor Elaine Reyes sits down with Dr. Marcos Espinal from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), to discuss what is known and what is not known about the Zika virus. Dr. Espinal is the Director of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis at PAHO, in charge of disease prevention and control.Dr. Espinal gives his honest assessment of the virus and tells us what we can expect to see next.

From Singapore, the Straits Times covers a correlation:

Climate change linked to Zika outbreak

Record-high temperatures last year in Brazil, Ecuador and other South American countries created ideal conditions for the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus, which is suspected of causing birth defects, scientists said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.

The Times of India reports on a successful countermeasure:

Maharashtra villages can show world how to beat Zika

At a time when the world is reeling under an outbreak of the Zika virus, several villages in Nanded district of Maharashtra have successfully drowned out the mosquito buzz with underground soak pits that suck in waste water.

While the Los Angeles Times covers another:

Fighting mosquitoes with mosquitoes: Biological weapons target Zika virus

Maureen Coetzee, an entomologist at the University of Witwatersrand and international expert on mosquito control, is conducting research on an anti-malaria strategy that involves breeding male mosquitoes, sterilizing them with radiation and releasing them into the wild.

Finally, via the Independent, the inevitable:

Zika virus: Conspiracy theories about GMO mosquitoes and intentional infection spread as fears of disease grow

Many of the conspiracy theories are wild and obviously untrue — but they could still lead to people dying

Map of the day: The Trans Pacific Partnership


A look at the people and financial clout of the member states of the massive and highly controversial just-signed trade agreement of Pacific Rim nations, via Agence France Presse:

BLOG TPP

Zika outbreak spreads, with high anxiety in Asia


We begin with the latest map, issued Friday by the  Pan American Health Organization showing the countries of Latin America where Zika virus has been contracted locally:

BLOG Zika regional map

Next, from euronews, a report on the latest news from the nation at the epicenter of the crisis:

Brazil in crisis as Zika fears mount

Program notes:

In exactly six months, the summer Olympic Games will open in Rio de Janeiro. Even though some 500 millions de dollars have been axed to balance the budget, the installations are between 80 and 90 percent complete.

But there are other dangers, beyond financial, are threatening the first South American city to host the event.

Since May last year the Zika epidemic has spread from Brazil’s north-east bringing fear in almost equal measure because of the number of microcephaly cases.

From RT, more news from Brazil:

Olympic organizers deny Games under threat due to Zika virus

Brazil’s Sports Minister George Hilton issued a statement on Thursday in which he criticized the press for suggesting South America’s first-ever Olympics may be called off.

UPDATE: And there’s reason for that anxiety, as the Independent reports:

Zika: Pregnant British holidaymakers with bookings to Caribbean and US face uncertainty amid risk of virus spreading

Airlines and holiday companies allowing pregnant women to switch destinations, but only if they are booked to one of the affected countries

From the San Francisco Chronicle, would-be U.S. travelers are having second thoughts:

Zika fears spur rash of calls to clinics about travel safety

Medical experts in the Bay Area say they’ve been fielding calls from residents inquiring about the safety of traveling to countries primarily in South and Central America and the Caribbean, where Zika is widespread.

VOA News covers the latest warning from the Centers for Disease Control:

New Warning From CDC on Zika Virus Transmission

Program notes:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new warning for men about transmitting the Zika virus, which is spreading rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean, creating a crisis for pregnant women. VOA’s Carol Pearson reports very little is actually known about the virus.

More from Agence France Presse:

US urges condoms or abstinence to avoid Zika virus

US health authorities on Friday urged people to use condoms or refrain from sex if they live in or have travelled to areas where the Zika virus is circulating

From Reuters, troubling news from another country:

More than 3,100 pregnant women in Colombia have Zika virus: government

 More than 3,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday, as the disease continues its rapid spread across the Americas.

UPDATE: The latest from Colombia via teleSUR English:

First Abortion in Colombia Possibly as Result of Zika

A woman struggled to find a doctor willing to provide an abortion after it was discovered her fetus suffered from microcephaly

Channel NewsAsia covers Aussie angst:

Australia to step up Zika testing as two new cases reported

Australia will intensify testing for the Zika virus in Queensland state where Aedes mosquitoes are found, authorities said on Saturday, adding that two new cases among local residents were the result of travel to affected countries.

Kiwi worries from the New Zealand Herald:

Kiwi teen may have Zika virus after holiday

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is suspected of causing serious birth defects in unborn babies. The World Health Organisation has declared the latest outbreak a public health emergency and there have been 10 confirmed cases – all contracted overseas – in New Zealand this year.

And here in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control maps states where Zika cases have been reported:

Laboratory-confirmed Zika virus disease cases reported to ArboNET by state or territory — United States, 2015–2016 [as of February 3, 2016]

Laboratory-confirmed Zika virus disease cases reported to ArboNET by state or territory — United States, 2015–2016 [as of February 3, 2016]

Next, Zika concerns in Arkansas, via KATV ABC 7 in Little Rock:

CDC testing two new possible Zika cases from Arkansas

  • The Arkansas Department of Health reports it has sent two additional samples to the Centers for Disease Control to test for the Zika virus.
  • One case of the Zika virus has already been confirmed in Arkansas.
  • In Florida, a fifth county has been added the state of emergency list after 12 confirmed cases.

On to Illinois with ABC7 Chicago:

Zika virus cases expected to rise in IL after spring break

Three cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Illinois, and doctors expect more as people travel to the Caribbean on spring break.

WPDH radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, covers cases in the Empire State:

Breaking: Another Zika Virus Case Discovered in Hudson Valley

The Zika Virus was reported in another Hudson Valley individual today. This brings the total number of New Yorkers with the virus up to 11, with two of them right here in our area.

Finally, from CCTV English, another development:

Indian firm developing two possible Zika vaccines

Zika update: Spread, sex, abortions, and more


We begin with a video report from CCTV America:

Latin America Steps Up Efforts To Fight Zika

Program notes:

With growing fear surrounding the spread of the Zika virus, “Americas Now” brings together CCTV correspondent’s from across Latin America to report on how South American countries are being affected by the epidemic.They also tell us what’s being done to stop the transmission of the disease and what to expect next.“Americas Now” has reports from Stephen Gibbs in Caracas, Venezuela; Joel Richards in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Michelle Begue in Bogota, Colombia; Michael Voss in Havana, Cuba; Paulo Cabral in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Grace Gonzalez in Managua, Nicaragua; Dan Collyns in Lima, Peru.The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. The virus originated in Uganda in 1947. Recently, Latin America has experienced a major outbreak.

The disease hits another country, from El País:

First Spanish Zika virus case involving pregnant woman diagnosed

The infected patient, who lives in Catalonia, contracted disease on visit to Colombia

Outbreak News Today covers an escalation:

Zika emergency declared in Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rican government declared a public health emergency due to the Zika virus after Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order Friday, according to a Diario de Puerto Rico report

Again from Outbreak News Today, advice is given:

Samoa added to Zika travel advisory

The South Pacific island of Samoa is one of several countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added to their interim travel guidance related to Zika virus Friday.

From the World Health Organization, another island hit:

Zika virus infection – United States of America – United States Virgin Islands

On 25 January 2016, the National IHR Focal Point for the United States of America notified PAHO/WHO of the first laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in St. Croix, one of the three main islands in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI).

And from RT America, preparing for the inevitable:

Florida prepares for statewide emergency over Zika Virus

Program notes:

Health officials in Florida have declared a state of emergency in four of the state’s counties over the Zika Virus outbreak, asking people to refrain from having unprotected sex or suggesting to abstain altogether. RT’s Marina Portnaya reports from Miami and takes a look at the government’s response to the crisis.

From Reuters, bodily fluids:

Brazil finds Zika in saliva, urine; expert warns against kissing

Scientists identified the Zika virus in the saliva and urine of two infected patients, a top Brazilian biomedical research institution said on Friday, prompting its president to urge pregnant women not to kiss strangers just as local carnival celebrations begin.

Sky News covers mortality:

Zika Kills Three As Carnival Revellers Warned

Three people have died in Colombia after contracting the Zika virus, which is spreading across South America and has emerged in Europe and the US.

More from the Associated Press:

In Brazil, pregnant women urged to be cautious with a kiss

In a sign of mounting global concern over the Zika virus, health officials on Friday warned pregnant women to think twice about the lips they kiss and called on men to use condoms with pregnant partners if they have visited countries where the virus is present

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control here in the U.S. have issued new guidelines for sexual conduct to visitors to Zikaland:

New recommendations for pregnant women, and men with pregnant sex partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Pregnant women and their male sex partners should discuss the male partner’s potential exposures and history of Zika-like illness with the pregnant woman’s health care provider (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/). Providers should consult CDC’s guidelines for evaluation and testing of pregnant women.
  • Men with a pregnant sex partner who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission and their pregnant sex partners should consistently and correctly use condoms during sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy. Consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of sexual transmission of many infections, including those caused by other viruses.

New recommendations for non-pregnant women, and men with non-pregnant sexual partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Couples in which a man resides in or has traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus may consider using condoms consistently and correctly during sex or abstaining from sexual activity.
  • Couples may consider several factors when making this complex and personal decision to abstain or use condoms:
    1. Zika virus illness is usually mild. An estimated 4 out of 5 people infected never have symptoms; when symptoms occur they may last from several days to one week.
    2. The risk of Zika infection depends on how long and how much a person has been exposed to infected mosquitoes, and the steps taken to prevent mosquito bites while in an affected area.
  • The science is not clear on how long the risk should be avoided. Research is now underway to answer this question as soon as possible. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may consider testing in discussion with your health care provider.

El País covers concerns:

Zika virus could trigger illegal abortions spike, experts fear

Lack of contraception and strict laws may force women to seek unsafe procedures

From Al Jazeera America, a response:

UN calls for Zika-hit countries to loosen abortion restrictions

UN asks how countries can ask women to avoid pregnancies but not offer ways to end them; Puerto Rico declares emergency

More from teleSUR:

Men: No Sex to Avoid Spread of Zika!

Up until now, guidelines for avoiding the virus have focused on women

Another concern from CBC Radio:

Concerns over clinical trials with pregnant women could delay a Zika vaccine

Dr. Peter Hotez, one of the world’s leading experts on the Zika virus and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine Baylor College of Medicine, says safety concerns for drug tests on pregnant women will prolong the search for Zika vaccine. He estimates it is possible a vaccine could be created in about two years but not in time to be used for this round of infection.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

French researcher says Zika link to Guillain-Barré Syndrome is ‘almost certain’

  • The correlation between paralysis and the Zika virus was first seen in French Polynesia two years ago
  • Didier Musso wrote then that Zika appeared responsible for a 20-fold increase in the condition
  • Microcephaly, now tied to Zika, was not noted in the 2013 outbreak

From Al Jazeera America, a class-based cause for concern:

In Brazil, stigma and poor care afflict microcephaly sufferers

Costs of caring for children with the condition, which is linked to the Zika virus, are often prohibitive