Category Archives: Resources

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

IMF issues a call for major Greek debt relief


One of the three members of the Troika administering post-crash debt relief loans to Greece is calling for major concessions to the austerity-wracked nation, including outright loan balance cuts of up to half.

The call comes the day after the Greek government passed yet another round of pay and pension, cuts, tax increases, and further sell-offs of the national commons.

From Greek Reporter:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its preliminary draft Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) on Monday, May 23. the DSA was prepared by the fund staff in the course of policy discussions with the authorities and the European institutions in recent months.

The report, published a day ahead of the crucial Eurogroup on May 24, calls for an “upfront” and “unconditional” debt relief. Without immediate debt relief the recession-ravaged country would deteriorate dramatically over the coming decades. In fact, at the current pace debt would eat up 60 percent of the budget by 2060.

The report states that “providing an upfront unconditional component to debt relief is critical to provide a strong and credible signal to the markets about the commitment of official creditors to ensuring debt sustainability, which in itself could contribute to lowering the market financial costs. An upfront component can also help garner more ownership for reforms.”

The report states that public debt was projected to surge from 115 percent to 150 percent of the GDP because of the expected internal devaluation. A deeper-than-expected recession necessitated significant debt relief in 2011-2012 to maintain the prospect of restoring sustainability. Serious implementation problems caused a sharp deterioration in sustainability that raised new doubts on the realism of policy assumptions from mid-2014 onwards.

More from the ANA-MPA news agency:

The measures recommended included a reprofiling of existing loans, necessary to cut funding needs to 20 pct by 2040. In this framework, the Fund recommends an extension of repaying loans received by the EFSF (130.9 billion euros) by 14 years, another 10 years for the loans received from ESM (186 billion) and another 30 year of bilateral loans from EU countries (52.9 billion).

The IMF also recommends extending a grace period for ESM loans by six years and a 17-20 year extension of EFSF and bilateral loans, respectively. This action would cut the funding needs by 17 pct of GDP by 2040 and by 24 pct by 2060.

The Fund also recommends a reduction in the margin (0.5 pct) added on a floating interest rate in bilateral loans and introducing an 1.5 pct ceiling on interest rates for the other two types of loans by 2040. This would reduce public debt by 53 pct of GDP by 2040 and by 151 pct by 2060 and the country’s funding needs by 22 pct by 2040 and 39 pct by 2060, safeguarding debt sustainability.

The IMF significantly reduced privatization proceed targets to 5.0 billion euros.

As the IMF summary notes:

Greece continues to face a daunting fiscal consolidation challenge. After seven years of recession and a structural adjustment of 16 percent of GDP, Greece has only managed to achieve a small primary surplus in 2015, and this due to sizeable one-off factors. This is still far away from its ambitious medium-term primary surplus target of 3½ percent of GDP. Reaching this target still requires measures of some 4½ percent of GDP. Low-hanging fruit have been exhausted, and the scope for new significant measures is limited.

The full report is here [PDF].

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.’

El Nino brings a massive famine to Africa


The same temperature changes in east/west ocean currents that bring heavy rains to the Western Hemisphere bring drought to Africa and Southern Asia.

And as India swelters under record heat, Africa has been suffering from heat and drought, and with them, crop failures and livestock death on a massive scale.

The end result is famine.

From the Observer:

The scale of the crisis unfolding in 10 or more southern African countries has shocked the United Nations. Lulled into thinking that Ethiopia in 1985 was the last of the large-scale famines affecting many millions, donor countries have been slow to pledge funds or support. More than $650m and 7.9m tonnes of food are needed immediately, says the UN. By Christmas, the situation will have become severe.

Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Angola and Swaziland have already declared national emergencies or disasters, as have seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. Other countries, including Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have also been badly hit. President Robert Mugabe has appealed for $1.5bn to buy food for Zimbabwe and Malawi is expected to declare that more than 8 million people, or half the country, will need food aid by November.

More than 31 million people in the region are said by the UN to need food now, but this number is expected to rise to at least 49 million across almost all of southern Africa by Christmas. With 12 million more hungry people in Ethiopia, 7 million in Yemen, 6 million in Southern Sudan and more in the Central African Republic and Chad, a continent-scale food crisis is unfolding.

“Food security across southern Africa will start deteriorating by July, reaching its peak between December 2016 and April 2017,” says the UN’s office for humanitarian affairs. The regional cereal deficit already stands at 7.9m tonnes and continues to put upward pressure on market prices, which are already showing unprecedented increases, diminishing purchasing power and thereby reducing food access. As food insecurity tightens and water scarcity increases due to the drought, there are early signs of acute malnutrition in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabawe.

More from Der Spiegel:

Meteorologists believe the natural disaster is linked to a climate phenomenon that returns once every two to seven years known as El Niño, or the Christ child, a disruption of the normal sea and air currents that wreaks havoc on global weather patterns. The El Niño experienced in 2015-2016 has been particularly strong.

The German news magazine also published a map of the affected regions:

BLOG Drought

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