Monthly Archives: November 2008

Who Owns Nature?: Monsanto & Biotech Corporations Move to Monopolize Seeds & Biodiversity

New report warns of corporate concentration, commodification of nature; highlights global resistance grounded in “Food Sovereignty”

ETC Group today releases a 48-page report, “Who Owns Nature?” on corporate concentration in commercial food, farming, health and the strategic push to commodify the planet’s remaining natural resources.

In a world where market research is becoming increasingly proprietary and pricey, ETC Group’s report names names, discloses market share and provides top 10 industry rankings up and down the corporate food chain. Not all the corporations identified in ETC Group’s new report are household names, but collectively they control a staggering share of the commercial products found on industrial farms, in our refrigerators and medicine cabinets.

An international advocacy organization based in Canada, ETC Group has been monitoring corporate power in the industrial life sciences for the past 30 years. The report reveals that:

From thousands of seed companies and public breeding institutions three decades ago, 10 companies now control more than two-thirds of global proprietary seed sales From dozens of pesticide companies three decades ago, 10 now control almost 90% of agrochemical sales worldwide From almost 1,000 biotech start-ups 15 years ago, 10 companies now account for three-quarters of industry revenues The top 10 pharmaceutical companies control 55% of the global drug market

With collapsing systems – eco, climate, food and financial – as the backdrop, Who Owns Nature? warns that, with engineering of living organisms at the nano-scale (a.k.a. synthetic biology), industry is setting the stage for a corporate grab that extends to all of nature.

“About one-quarter of the world’s biomass has already been commodified,” explains ETC Group’s Pat Mooney. “With extreme genetic engineering, we’re seeing new corporate strategies to capture and commodify the three-quarters of the world’s biomass that has, until now, remained beyond the market economy.”

Advocates of synthetic biology – the creation of designer organisms built from synthetic DNA – are promising a post-petroleum future where fuels, chemicals, drugs and other high-value products depend on biological manufacturing platforms fuelled by plant sugars. In the 21st century “sugar economy,” industrial production will be based on biological feedstocks (agricultural crops, grasses, forest residues, plant oils, algae, etc.) whose sugars are extracted, fermented and converted into high-value products. Synthetic microbes will become “living chemical factories” that require massive quantities of plant biomass. ETC Group warns that corporations are poised to appropriate and further commodify biological products and processes in every part of the globe – as well as destroy biodiversity, deplete soil and water and displace marginalized farmers.

ETC Group’s report highlights similarities between the current financial and food crises. “Corporate-controlled food systems, suffering from decades of deregulation, have resulted in a cornucopia of calamities making us sicker, fatter and more vulnerable,” says ETC’s Research Director Hope Shand. Ongoing food contamination scandals, the global obesity burden and ocean “dead zones” caused by fertilizer pollution are among the food chain disasters cited in Who Owns Nature? “Unhealthy and hazardous food products are constant reminders of a corporate food chain broken to bits,” adds Shand.

Governments are working hand-in-hand with corporations to deny the root causes of the crises and sidestep structural reforms. “Despite the implications for democracy and human rights, no international body exists to monitor global corporate activity and no UN body has the capacity to monitor and evaluate emerging technologies,” says ETC Group’s Kathy Jo Wetter. “The ongoing food emergency and imploding global economy testify to the need for monitoring and oversight of corporations, as well as social control of powerful new technologies.”

Who Owns Nature? reports on daunting trends in corporate concentration and technology convergence, but it also points to a very different reality and a powerful contrast to the corporate-controlled life sciences. Although a single company – Monsanto – accounts for almost one-quarter of proprietary seed sales, about three-quarters of the world’s farmers routinely save seed from their harvest and grow locally-bred varieties. Wal-Mart may be the world’s largest buyer and seller of retail food, but 85% of global food is consumed close to where it is grown – much of it outside the formal market system.

“There is vast and growing resistance to the dislocation and devastation caused by the agro-industrial food system,” points out Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group. “In the global struggle for Food Sovereignty, the playing field isn’t level, but the scope of resistance is massive – peasant farmers, fisher people, pastoralists and allied civil society and social movements are fighting for locally controlled and socially just food and health systems.”

To download the full report:
For more information, contact: Pat Mooney, ETC Group, mobile: +1 613 261-0688

Hope Shand, ETC Group, +1 919 960-5223

Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group, +1 919 960-5223

Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, +52 55556326 64

ETC Group is an international civil society organization based in Ottawa, Canada. We conduct research, education and advocacy on issues related to the social and economic impacts of new technologies on marginalized peoples – especially in the global South. We look at issues from a human rights perspective but also address global governance and corporate concentration. All ETC Group publications are available free of charge on our website:

Big Brother, May I? Soon, You’ll Need Uncle Sam’s Permission to Travel Almost Anywhere

Last year, I wrote that if Uncle Sam gets its way, we’d all be on no-fly lists, unless the government gives us permission to leave—or re-enter—the United States. That day has now arrived, but in addition to obtaining Big Brother’s permission to travel internationally, a final rule pursuant to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s “Secure Flight” initiative says we must now get it to travel from state-to-state.”

For now, permission to travel applies only to air transport. However, the TSA could of course extend it to train, bus, or auto travel anytime. (Just imagine TSA checkpoints on interstates at every state border.) And, while the TSA hasn’t announced the effective date of the rule, it did reveal what information it would need in order to leave, say, San Francisco, to fly to Las Vegas for a weekend on the Strip.

At some point in the future, you’ll need to reveal your name, gender, and date of birth when you make a domestic airline reservation. The airline will contact TSA to determine if you’re cleared to board. If you’re on any of TSA’s watchlists (which include such deceased “terrorists” as Saddam Hussein, along with live ones such as Sen. Edward Kennedy), you’ll need to provide an official document acceptable for federal identification purposes in order to travel. Examples of acceptable identity documents are passports and the “enhanced” driver’s licenses required under the ill-fated “Real ID Act.” If you can’t produce such a document, you can’t board the plane.

This is the first time the U.S. government has restricted the right of sovereign citizens to travel inside the United States since the Civil War. And the TSA is imposing this restriction, despite numerous rulings from the Supreme Court indicating that you have a Constitutional right to travel. According to the court, the right to travel is “not a mere conditional liberty subject to regulation and control under conventional due process or equal protection standards,” but “a virtually unconditional personal right.” International travel is specifically protected as well, for “Travel abroad, like travel within the country, may be necessary for a livelihood…Freedom of movement is basic to our scheme of values.”

Further, the U.S. government has reiterated in its most recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee that, “…[I]n the United States, the right to travel—both domestically and internationally—is constitutionally protected.” Perhaps it’s time the government amend this declaration!

What this amounts to is essentially a reprise of the infamous “internal passport” system in effect in the former Soviet Union. In 1933, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin introduced “internal passports” that prohibited Soviet citizens from leaving their place of residence without permission. Over time, the internal passport became the prime instrument of Soviet oppression over its citizens.

It’s bad enough needing to ask Uncle Sam for permission to leave the United States, and to reenter it. But an internal passport is a blueprint for totalitarianism.

Copyright © 2008 by Mark Nestmann

Since Sept. 11, 2001, it’s become difficult to travel without subjecting yourself to intrusive surveillance. However, it’s still possible to travel privately, and in some cases, virtually anonymously. Click here to learn how.

Blackwater likely to be fined millions in Iraq weapons case

WASHINGTON — The State Department is preparing to slap a multi-million dollar fine on private military contractor Blackwater USA for shipping hundreds of automatic weapons to Iraq without the necessary permits.

Some of the weapons are believed to have ended up on the country’s black market, department officials told McClatchy, but no criminal charges have been filed in the case.

The expected fine is the result of a long-running federal investigation into whether employees of the firm shipped weapons hidden in shrink-wrapped pallets from its Moyock, N.C. headquarters to Iraq, where Blackwater is the State Department’s largest personal security contractor.

Since the arms shipment allegations first became public 14 months ago, Blackwater, which has received $1.2 billion in federal contracts, according to the Web site, has consistently denied involvement in illicit arms trafficking.

However, the State Department found that Blackwater shipped 900 weapons to Iraq without the paperwork required by arms export control regulations, one department official said. Of that number, 119 were “particularly … erroneous,” he said. He and the other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision hasn’t been announced.

Federal laws require obtaining a license before exporting military hardware, including automatic weapons, overseas.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Wednesday that the company had “not been informed of an intent to impose a fine, however … we have been cooperating with the government to respond to inquiries into our export processes.”

The State Department’s “resolution of export matters with other significant defense contractors, such as Boeing, L-3, Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics has typically resulted in some payment” to the government, she said in an e-mail exchange.

Blackwater last month announced what it billed as a major new initiative to ensure that the company complies with rules for exporting military hardware.

Saying that “our company has experienced remarkable growth in the last few years,” Blackwater CEO Erik Prince said: “This growth, our work for the U.S. Government around the world, and the nature of the services we offer have created compliance challenges.”

Blackwater said it created the position of Vice President of Export Compliance and created a three-person independent oversight committee whose members include former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark.

The amount of the planned fine couldn’t be learned, but one State Department official said it was “way in the millions.” The official said the fine could be announced as early as this week. A second official, however, cautioned that it’s not imminent.

Jay Greer, a spokesman for the State Department Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, which implements defense export controls, declined comment.

The weapons case became public in September 2007 as part of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee inquiry into then-State Department inspector general Howard Krongard.

The Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer, a McClatchy newspaper, first reported that two former Blackwater employees, Kenneth Wayne Cashwell and William Ellsworth “Max” Grumiaux, had pleaded guilty to weapons charges and were cooperating with federal prosecutors in North Carolina.

What became of the weapons may never be known.

Iraq has a brisk black market for weapons. Pentagon probes have found that Defense Department-supplied weapons intended for Iraq’s security forces were diverted. The Turkish government has complained that some ended up in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which Washington and Ankara consider a terrorist group.

Blackwater employees are also the subjects of a Justice Department probe into the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007. That incident sparked outrage over the actions of private military contractors and forced the State Department to impose tighter rules on the contractors.

A federal grand jury is weighing whether to indict the Blackwater guards who were involved in the killings.

George Bush’s 90 New Patriot Act Regulations For A Final Blow To Liberty From Administration

The Bush administration has been planning since last spring to issue a final burst of federal regulations just before leaving office. It was recently announced that over 90 new regulations would be finalized before November 22 — 60 days prior to the end of Bush’s term — making them difficult, though not impossible, for President Obama to reverse.

Although many of the regulations have to do with energy and the environment, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted on Tuesday that there’s also “one that’ll kick opponents of the Patriot Act right in the teeth.”

The proposed regulation “would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to collect intelligence on individuals and organizations even if the information is unrelated to any criminal matter,” Maddow explained. She added, “Even if they weren’t already watching you — they soon could be.”

Maddow was joined by the Nation’s sports correspondent, Dave Zirin, who began by complaining about Bush, “Hemorrhoids are more popular than this man. Why is he making laws?”

Zirin described how he had been involved in an episode where “the Maryland State Police sent people to infiltrate meetings I was in — a very seditious organization called the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, where we planned such horrifying acts like tabling at the local farmer’s market or planning rallies.”

“Why were they spying on us?” Zirin continued. “Because the governor at the time, Bob Ehrlich — a right-wing Republican who makes Sarah Palin look like Emma Goldman — I mean, he’s somebody who saw us as political opponents. He was for the death penalty, we were against the death penalty, therefore in his mind we deserved to be spied upon.”

“We were entered into a database the heading of which was ‘Terrorists/Anti-Government,'” Zirin noted angrily. “The person who organized all of this, the head of the Maryland State Police … called us ‘fringe people’ in the hearings. He said we deserved it because we were fringe people.'”

Zirin pointed out that the final report which exposed the state’s anti-constitutional behavior recommended future safeguards but held no one accountable. “We either have a Constitution or we don’t,” he stated. “Either our rights were violated or they weren’t.”

“They’re talking about expanding this nationwide,” Maddow commented, “and what they will say in order to argue for it is, ‘Oh, what’s the harm done?'”

“Here’s the harm,” Zirin replied. “It has a chilling effect on the Constitution. It has a chilling effect on our ability to assemble. … We need to be welcoming new people into community activism, welcoming new people into struggle. And what you have instead is people looking at each other in Maryland as if, ‘Is that person an enemy? Is this person a plant?'”

“And it has a horrible effect,” concluded Zirin, “right at a time where in the wake of the Obama victory we should be talking about solidarity, we should be talking about expanding our forces, we should be talking about fighting for the change that we all waited on line to vote for.”

This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Nov. 11, 2008.

Download video via

Australian Web Filter To Block 10,000 Internet Sites

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson

November 13, 2008 12:32pm

AUSTRALIA’S mandatory net filter is being primed to block 10,000 websites as part of a blacklist of unspecified “unwanted content”.

Some 1300 websites have already been identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Communications Minister Senator Conroy revealed details of the Rudd Government’s proposed web filter as he called for expressions of interest from internet service providers (ISPs) for a live trial of the technology, the Courier-Mail reports.

ISPs will test ways to filter the web using volunteer subscribers. The trial will start before Christmas and is expected to last six weeks.

What’s the best way to control inappropriate web content? Comment below

“The pilot will specifically test filtering against the ACMA blacklist of prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content,” Senator Conroy told Parliament today.

“While the ACMA blacklist is currently around 1300 URLs, the pilot will test against this list – as well as filtering for a range of URLs to around 10,000 – so that the impacts on network performance of a larger blacklist can be examined.”

A spokesman for Mr Conroy later said: ”The pilot will provide an invaluable opportunity for ISPs to inform the Government’s approach.

”The live pilot will provide valuable real-world evidence of the potential impact on internet speeds and costs to industry and will help ensure we implement a filtering solution that is efficient, effective and easy for Australian families to use.”

An ACMA trial of web-filtering technology this year found it could slow internet access by as much as 87 per cent and by at least 2 per cent.

Electronic Frontiers Australia board member Colin Jacobs said his civil liberties group was concerned at what would be deemed “unwanted content”.

“It is unclear how ACMA will scale up their blacklist to 10,000 websites and what will go on the list,” he said.

“Conroy said the list would contain illegal and unwanted content but we still have to see what would end up on that list.

“Under the current mandate that includes adult material, which would mean most material that could be rated R and, in some circumstances, material rated MA15+.”

More Than 500,000 U.S. Jobs Lost In One Week

More than half a million workers in America lost their jobs this past week according to the latest unemployment report from the government.

It’s the fastest rise in joblessness since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks seven years ago. And the total number of people on benefit rolls jumped to the highest level since 1983, according to Bloomberg.

The New York Times reported that the new figures are likely to push the U.S. unemployment rate from its current level of 6.5 percent to 7 percent by January 2009.

Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy and is affected by rising joblessness. A protracted downturn could result, economists said.

Obama’s Message To The World: We Will Act Quickly On Climate Change

It’s going to be busy 2009, says president-elect’s aide • Judges reject ban on navy exercises to protect sealife

by Suzanne Goldenberg

Barack Obama, who has spent much of the time since his election closeted with his advisers in Chicago, sent a strong signal yesterday that he plans a decisive break with George Bush on environmental policy once he moves into the White House.

[US President-elect Barack Obama waves as he leaves his first press conference following his election victory in Chicago, November 7, 2008. Obama will act against climate change early in his presidency, an environment adviser said on Wednesday amid doubts that a U.S. carbon-capping program will be in place before 2010. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)]US President-elect Barack Obama waves as he leaves his first press conference following his election victory in Chicago, November 7, 2008. Obama will act against climate change early in his presidency, an environment adviser said on Wednesday amid doubts that a U.S. carbon-capping program will be in place before 2010. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The move was part of a carefully coded series of messages from Obama meant to reassure America and the world about the shape of his administration, which does not assume power until January 20.

Also yesterday, Obama appointed Madeleine Albright, who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, and Jim Leach, a former Republican member of Congress from Iowa who endorsed his campaign, to meet international delegations visiting Washington for the G20 summit at the weekend. Obama will not attend the summit, and aides have repeatedly noted that Bush remains president until January 20.

But while Obama and Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, have been elusive since the election, the Democrat has delivered a number of messages intended to heighten anticipation of changes to come.

In one such signal the president-elect sent Jason Grumet, a policy adviser mentioned for a possible energy post, to an environmental conference in Washington to offer reassurances that there would be swift movement on climate change legislation. “The whole transition team felt it important to be here,” Grumet said. “I think it is going to be a very very busy 2009, and I think we are going to need all of you to be on top of your game.”

However, Grumet did not offer policy specifics, and his optimism was not shared by others at the conference, organised by the consulting group Point Carbon and the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change.

Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico senator who chairs the Senate’s energy and national resources committee and another possibility for a post in the administration, said it was highly unlikely that Obama could sign into law cap and trade legislation next year. “I think the reality is that it may take more than a year to get it all done,” he said, pointing to 2010.

Grumet’s brief appearance was widely seen as a signal that Obama, who for nearly two years of campaigning warned of a “planet in peril”, was serious about following through on a 30-point environmental agenda that called for creating green jobs, cutting US oil consumption, and moving to renewable sources of energy,

It was the second time in 24 hours that Obama had tried to reassure the world that he wanted a radical departure from Bush’s policy on the environment. Obama has said repeatedly that the global economic crisis remains his top priority, but John Podesta, part of the troika overseeing the transition, said on Tuesday that the environment was at the top of the Democrats’ agenda. “I anticipate him moving very aggressively and very rapidly on the whole question of transforming the energy platform in the United States from high carbon energy to low carbon energy,” he said.

For campaigners, change cannot come soon enough. Yesterday the supreme court rejected environmental protections for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals imposed on US navy sonar training exercises off southern California. Environmental groups had argued that intense sound waves could hurt or even kill some 37 species including sea lions and endangered blue whales by interfering with their ability to communicate and navigate. At one stage Bush intervened by citing the national security necessity of the training.

The hiatus between election and inauguration has led to intense speculation about cabinet appointments and policy breaks with the Bush White House.

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Obama intended to replace the two top intelligence officials early in his administration. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and General Michael Hayden, the CIA chief, are associated with the Bush administration’s most controversial policies, including monitoring the email and phone calls of US citizens without court oversight.

Some of the Obama camp’s efforts to stoke anticipation have been countered with caution – and at times frustration. Yesterday Bingaman warned that Obama urgently needed to appoint his cabinet secretaries. “The idea that the transition team develops policies and then gets new people in place … that is not the way I have seen it in Washington,” he said.

Halliburton Sub Company KBR Wins $75 Million Contract By The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers

KBR Inc. has been awarded a $75 million disaster relief contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for emergency power.

The Houston-based engineering company will be supplying the power to the Western region of the United States.

The five-year contract was created by the Army to respond immediately to power emergencies caused by natural or manmade disasters.

KBR (NYSE: KBR) will provide labor, transportation, equipment, materials, supervision and required internal logistics support to perform generator set activities.

Masonic Global Fraternal Network Displays Illuminati All Seeing Eye

By Michael Difensore

Global Fraternal Network – Click here to view new Freemason website

The Freemasons always claim that the Illuminati all seeing eye is not part of their symbolism. However it is always displayed on their various buildings, logos, art, etc. For example look at the picture above for the Masonic Global Fraternal Network.

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