GMOs

NATO on trade, in Europe and Asia, is doomed

stop TTIPgc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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stop TTIP

Originally published in RT on May 4, 2016

 


The President of the United States (POTUS) is desperate. Exhibit A: His Op-Ed defending the Asian face – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – of a wide-ranging, twin-headed NATO-on-trade “pivoting”.

The European face is of course the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

POTUS frames TPP – as well as TTIP – in terms of a benign expansion of US exports, and private (US) firms having “a fair shot at competing against state-owned enterprises.” “Fair”? Not really. Let’s see how the mechanism works, focusing on TPP’s European twin.

With impeccable timing, almost simultaneously to Obama’s Op-Ed, Greenpeace Netherlands leaked 248 pages of classified TTIP documents that were to be re-discussed last week by negotiators in New York. There have been no less than 13 rounds of TTIP negotiations so far, over nearly three years.

The documents – negotiated in total secrecy since 2013 – represent roughly two-thirds of the latest negotiating text. An array of detailed studies, like this one, had been warning about the state of play. The veil of secrecy ended up being the ultimate giveaway to TTIP’s toxicity. Before the Greenpeace Netherlands leak, EU elected representatives could only examine these documents under a police watch, in a secure room, without access to experts, and on top of it they could not discuss the content with anyone else.

I will crush you with my GMOs

Everything civil society across Europe – for at least three years – has been debating, and fearing, is confirmed; this is a sophisticated, toxic US-led corporate racket, a concerted assault across the spectrum, from the environment and animal welfare to labor rights and internet privacy. In a nutshell; it’s all about the US corporate galaxy pushing the EU to lower – or abase – a range of consumer protections.

Hardball, predictably, is the name of the game. Washington no less than threatened to block EU car exports to force the EU to buy genetically engineered fruits and vegetables. In my travels in France, Italy and Spain over the past two years, I confirmed this to be the ultimate nightmare expressed by practitioners of top-end artisanal agriculture.

Read more

Protesters hold a placard with pictures depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama as they demonstrate against Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement ahead of Obama's visit in Hanover, Germany April 23, 2016. © Kai Pfaffenbach

TTIP-off? Greenpeace leaks confirm protesters weren't kicking up a fuss over nothing

Predictably, the lobbyist-infested European Commission (EC) fiercely defends TTIP, stressing it could benefit the EU’s economy by $150 billion a year, and raise car exports by 149 percent. Obviously don’t expect the EC to connect these “car exports” to a US-led GMO invasion of Europe.

At least some nations have finally woken up from their (corporate lobbyist-induced) slumber. The French Minister for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, said negotiations over a “bad deal” should stop. He went straight to the point, blaming Washington’s intransigence; “There cannot be an agreement without France and much less against France.

Perennially ineffectual President Francois Hollande, for his part, has threatened to block the deal altogether. Three years ago Paris had already secured an exemption for the French film industry not to be gobbled up by Hollywood. Now it’s also about the crucial agriculture front. Hollande said he would never accept “the undermining of the essential principles of our agriculture, our culture, of mutual access to public markets.”

And what is the EC – leading the negotiations on behalf of the EU – doing? Pulling its predictable Trojan horse act; these are all “alarmist headlines” and “a storm in a teacup”. Puzzled EU citizens, en masse, may question if this is really the way for the EC – a bureaucratic Brussels behemoth – to supposedly defend the rights of EU consumers. Yet, infiltrated as it is by corporate lobbyism, the EC simply can’t protect the EU’s environmental and health standards, much more sophisticated than the US’s, from a corporate America bent on meddling with the content of EU laws all along the regulatory line.

I got an offer you can’t refuse

POTUS was heavily campaigning for TTIP last month in Germany. POTUS still hopes he may have a deal in the bag before he leaves office in January 2017. White House spokesman Josh Earnest has tried to put on a brave face, saying the leaks will not have a "material impact" on the negotiations. Wrong; they will – as they are mobilizing public opinion all across the EU.

David Cameron, in the UK, is also in a bind. He’s fiercely pro-TTIP. But Obama has already warned; this means Brexit is a no-no. Club Med nations, for their part, are leaning against. All 28 EU member nations – plus the European Parliament – would have to ratify TTIP if a deal is eventually reached.

TPP, for its part, has been negotiated. But it has not been approved by the US Congress (nor by Pacific nations). The approval process has gone nowhere. In fact it will be up to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Trump arguably is oblivious to TPP’s details; but considering the deal is being heavily championed by Obama, Trump may go against it.

A case can be made that both TPP and TTIP vow to distort markets, in Europe and Asia; prop up (US) monopolies; transfer jobs to slave labor markets (in the case of parts of Asia); trample on intellectual property rights (in the case of the EU); facilitate tax evasion; and ultimately transfer more wealth from the many to the 0.00001 percent.

And this leads us to how Hillary Clinton – the Wall Street/US establishment candidate – views both TPP and TTIP. Well, she supported both NAFTA and CAFTA, approved under Bill Clinton in the 1990s. As Secretary of State, she lobbied for the Panama trade deal. And, crucially, she has always treated the TPP as the “gold standard”. No wonder; this is the trade arm of the “pivoting to Asia” she’s been so fond of – a Pacific trade deal that excludes China, which happens to be the top trade partner of most Asian nations.

Moreover, those by now famous Goldman Sachs speeches are increasingly being seen as payments for services rendered (and promised) by Hillary Clinton to the 0,0001 percent, who are, of course, in favor of global corporate America expansion.

Yet it ain’t over till the November ballot sings. Hillary now faces serious scrutiny by working class voters in the US. So no wonder, in another flip-flopping masterpiece, she’s now leaning towards describing herself as opposing both TPP and TTIP.

Still, TPP at least may be approved during the post-election ‘lame-duck’ session of the US Congress. As for TTIP, it’s now mired in Walking Dead zone. Talk about what it takes for the Obama administration to imprint its trade “legacy” in the history books; to keep blackmailing Europeans and Asians alike as if it was just a lowly Mob extortion racket.  


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Week in Doom June 8, 2014

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 8, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Freda-Right-to-Live-copy-600x637

“The dearest ambition of a slave is not liberty but to have a slave of his own.”

― Sir Richard Francis Burton, 1821-90

‘Twas a week in which a US President made a deal to bring a hostage home and got nothing but criticism for his trouble. The world celebrated the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Obama and Putin spoke privately. Poroshenko, the Willy Wonka of Ukraine, was sworn in as president. Open Carry Tarrant County continued to “educate the public” by dropping in fully armed at restaurants; a Ukrainian jet killed eight in Luhansk; Verizon had a big sad because Netflix told the truth about its bandwidth-throttling; GM recalled another 106,000 vehicles; a Vermont gun store laid off 41 and blamed Obama, who may also be responsible for the resurgence of polio, decreased sunspot activity, an outbreak of genital herpes and a US plague lab in Kazakhstan. Kenyan police seized hundreds of elephant tusks, the Thai military swept the country for weapons, and Brazil’s “love hotels” were refurbished for the World Cup. But we won’t be talking about any of that. Because this is That Was The Week in Doom, where we look for themes, context, and any good excuse for a rant. We’ll look at capitalism’s assault on our food supply, on the very notion of national self-determination, and at the elite’s favored tool for control, “privatization.”

 

GMOs

Last month, Vermont became the first state to mandate that genetic modified organisms be labeled on food sold to consumers. which will go into effect in 2016 The state is already preparing to defend the new law from the legal challenges sure to follow. The Grocery Manufacturers Association has already announced plans to sue, and we’re sure that Monsanto and Syngenta will be close behind. The GMO lobby wants this kicked up to the federal level, where friendly legislators, already on their kness in front of their corporate donors, will quid their pro quo by enacting industry-friendly legislation while slurping up “campaign contributions.”  And with former Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor named head of the FDA, who knows what lucky numbers we’ll pull in the upcoming genetic lottery?

After a stint as a Monsanto attorney, and later working as an FDA regulator, Taylor was in charge of a radical reinterpretation of something called the “Delaney clause,” a 1958 regulation which heretofore had prevented any chemical from being added to any processed food if the agent had been found to be carcinogenic:

As analytical instrumentation increased in power and more and more agents were found to be carcinogenic at very low levels, the agencies had developed a quantitative risk assessment approach to interpreting the Delaney Clause, which stated that if a carcinogen was present at levels less than 1 in 1,000,000 parts, the risk of that carcinogen was “de minimis” and it could be allowed on the market. In the article, Taylor presented arguments in favor of this approach. Advocates in favor of organic food have criticized Taylor for taking this stance and have attributed the stance not to a good faith effort to reasonably regulate, but to an alleged desire to benefit Monsanto financially.

 

Astonishing, yes? Taylor also has his fingerprints on a notice stating that milk from cows treated with BGH did not have to be so labeled.

(If you are unfamiliar with the issues pertaining to GMOs, find an effective summary at the GMO Free USA website. Suffice to say that GMOs, created and patented by chemical and biotech companies, are banned or restricted in over 60 countries.)

GMOs are created through splicing a gene from one species into the DNA of another that would not ordinarily occur in nature. Thus a cold water fish gene can be spliced into a tomato and make the tomato resistant to cold. What could possibly go wrong?

Yet one of the most troubling things that crossed my desk this week was this item:

 

Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov fed GMO soy to hamsters. He had four groups. One was fed real food. The second was fed real food that had been sprayed with the same pesticide associated with the GMO soy. The will third group was fed GMO soy. And the fourth was fed a diet high in GMO soy. The GMO soy diet after three generations produced offspring nearly incapable of reproducing themselves. In the fourth group’s third generation only one female was capable of giving birth and 25% of her offspring died prematurely, Hair started growing in the mouths of her pups, They were stunted and sterile. Their internal organs including the testes, spleen and uterus were smaller than those of the other hamsters. . . Scientists who appeared on TV were flooded with calls from ranchers who had sterile animals which they attributed to GMO feed. An English scientist who reproduced the GMO rat experiments using potatoes was fired within days of announcing his results.

But it gets worse for Americans just entering childbearing years.

In 2001 Mitch Hein was President of Epicyte, a San Diego bio-tech firm that made a protein that sterilized men and women who ate the corn his company had genetically engineered. Epicyte had gone to Mexico and found a rare protein in women that was known as causing immune infertility. The protein attacked sperm and prevented impregnation. When this Epicyte protein was spliced by them into corn and fed to men, it attacked their sperm and made them infertile. In women this protein attacks sperm making normal conception impossible. This protein has spread by normal plant pollination. It would now be a herculean task to remove from our food supply. 

For its part, Monsanto denies ever having worked with Epicyte or its successor, and denies splicing any sperm-killers. This from Ray Dobert, Ph.D., Monsanto’s Biotech Regulatory Policy Lead:

…No, none of our products have ever contained genes encoding for anti-sperm antibodies.  To answer your specific question about Epicyte: we did not have any agreements with Epicyte or Biolex Therapeutics (the company that acquired Epicyte in 2004) to conduct joint research or develop products.  Claims that Monsanto was involved in the research or development of food crops containing antibodies that kill or block sperm are incorrect. 

You be the judge. But if you’re bringing corn to the cookout, make it organic.

 

Implications of Em-pah

Recently in Information Clearinghouse,  Prof. James Petras published, “The Ascent of a New Power Bloc Capitalists, Technocrats and Fanatics.” In it Petras describes how a new power alliance of these three is emerging on a global scale, already flexing its muscles.

Emerging across the globe, far right populism is no longer at the margins of acceptable political discourse, but center stage, much like the American Tea Party. Their energy provides an opening for capitalists to extend their own agenda through the employment of techno-elites to manage, while the enthusiasms of the useful idiots of the right provide electoral access to power.

Here’s how it works:

Today capitalism depends on two seemingly disparate forces.  The irrational appeal of ethno-religious supremacists and narrowly trained elite technocrats to advance the rule of capital. 

Ethno-religious fanatics seek to promote bonds between the corporate-warlord elite and the masses, by appealing to their ‘common’ religious ethnic identities. The technocrats serve the elite by developing the information systems, formulating the images and messages deceiving and manipulating the masses and designing their economic programs.

The political leaders meet with the corporate elite and warlords to set the political-economic agenda, deciding when to rely on the technocrats and when to moderate or unleash the ethno-religious fanatics.

Imperialism operates via the marriage of science and  ethno-religious fanaticism- and both are harnessed to capitalist domination and exploitation. 

 

Petras cites the examples of the recent election of Modi in India, the rule of Erdogan in Turkey, and the Israeli apartheid state. Common elements include links to big capital, police state repression, and endless privatization of public spaces and resources. Sound familiar? Petras further explains how the Euro American Empire will eagerly employ any armed gaggle of fundamentalists  in order to achieve its short-term aims: neo-nazis in Ukraine, Al Qaeda in Libya, fundamentalist terrorists in Syria – bedfellows all. And then, once achieved, these “strategic allies” are expendable:

 

Their tactical alliances with the riff-raff endure until they secure control over the state and eliminate their adversaries.  Then the imperialist seek to demote, co-opt, marginalize or eliminate their ‘inconvenient’ allies.  The falling out comes about when the fundamentalists seek to restrict foreign capital and impose restrictions on imperial control over resources and territory. At first the empire builders seek ‘opportunists’ among the riff-raff, those willing to sacrifice their ‘ideals’ for money and office.  Those who refuse are relegated to secondary positions distant from strategic decision-making or to remote outposts.  Those who resist are assassinated or jailed. 

The disposal of the riff-raff serves the empire on two counts.  It provides the client regime with a fig leaf of respectability and disarms western critics targeting the extremist component of the junta.

Sometimes the rabble have their own ideas and decline to be used by the empire builders, preferring to run things themselves. As in Libya with the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, or the Right Sector riots against the Kiev junta, they refuse to give way and take matters into their own hands. The “Benghazi” story is actually much deeper than right wingers trying to damage Hillary Clinton, and deeply pernicious in what it says about Empire. Petras’ article is worth a read.

 

 The Privatization Scam

Privatization is a necessary tool of the corporate state. An article from Nation of Change exposes the damages done by five different privatization scams being imposed on taxpayers. And scams they are. And guess who’s behind them?

For years we’ve been told that privatization is The Answer.  That government is too inefficient, too expensive, too hidebound and resistant to change. If we would only “privatize,” “outsource,” or otherwise find ways to funnel our tax money into private hands, then magic efficiencies will occur, hungry children will miraculously be fed, and choirs of angels will chirp on every corner.

Utter bullshit. Privatization is late stage capitalism’s scheme to return a profit in an era when legitimate profits can no longer be made due to limited growth. So there’s money to be made in selling off the common inheritance of the people, if only you can manage to get your grubby hands on the peoples’ boodle.

The authors have identified five privatization stories gone horribly wrong. Would you be terribly surprised to learn that the names of several Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks, plus the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are prominently mentioned? Thought not. The long–story–short of it is that nonprofits and government are organized to serve a mission, whereas private enterprise is organized to deliver a profit to the owners/shareholders. Guess who guarantees that profit?

In Virginia, urban transportation needs have languished unfunded for a number of years, held hostage by a Republican controlled legislature who prefer “holding the line on taxes” to spending tax dollars on Democrat-controlled cities. The solution? Privatization. In 2011, the regime of disgraced former Republican Governor Bob “Transvaginal Ultrasound” McDonnell succeeded in leasing the bridge tunnels linking Norfolk and Portsmouth to a foreign third-party for 58 years in return for $2.1 bn in construction. The agreement also conveys the ability to set tolls and rates to the private entity.  The contract even stipulates that if the private company suffers losses because Virginia builds another crossing, they will be made whole. Guaranteed profits, and built in risk mitigation. Beautiful if you’re a crony, but it sure sucks to live in Portsmouth.

Be assured that any local pol who proposes “privatization” of some government function is intent on selling off the public trust in return for compensation. This is what capitalism looks like when legitimate growth will not deliver expected returns; you’ve got to steal from somebody. “Starve the Beast,” indeed.

 

Short takes from the week:

And yes, the US is apparently running a bubonic plague lab in Kazakhstan.

This week, the CIA made its first tweet and attempted to reveal a sense of humor. Reviews were mixed: 


Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 3.22.21 PM

Church Billboard Quotes Hitler On the Importance of Educating the Kids

Department of you can’t make this stuff up.

Photo credit: Julie Burns/Ledger-Enquire

Pity the youth ministry. It’s a real struggle recruiting kids to your cause. You know who else struggled to recruit the young people? Life Savers Ministries of Opelika, Alabama, sure does.

Via the Columbus, Ga., Ledger-Enquirer:    A billboard at the Village Mall in Auburn, Ala., features five smiling kids beneath a quote from Adolf Hitler: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”   

According to Lamar Advertising’s Montgomery office, the billboard was rented out by Life Savers Ministries, based in Opelika, Ala.Worse still, the quote—with an attribution, in red, to der führer—sits just above the well-known Bible verse from Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The billboard went up Friday and will be taken down Tuesday, per LSM’s request.   

“We are pulling the billboard and certainly never intended to cause confusion. … Herbert Hoover would have been a far better one to quote when he said, ‘Children are our most valuable resource,'” founder James Anderegg told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Ya think?  Know who else had honorable intentions?

***

Ohio police seek man after kindergarten fight

CINCINNATI (AP) — One man hit another while newly graduated kindergarten students were celebrating with punch and cookies, triggering a melee that involved up to 20 people and resulted in the lockdown of an elementary school near Cincinnati, authorities said Tuesday.

Mount Healthy Schools Superintendent Lori Handler ordered the lockdown because parents were panicking and school officials wanted to make sure no one else wandered into the fight scene. She said some 150 children were with their families in the school cafeteria when the fight broke out over an apparent domestic dispute.

“People never cease to amaze me,” Handler said. “It was a beautiful ceremony, with grandparents, parents, the 5-year-olds … then out of the blue, the man hit another man in the face. I was absolutely shocked.”  Police were seeking Raymond Walker, 33, on charges of assault and inducing panic. No other arrests were made.

“We’re going to prosecute to the fullest extent possible,” Handler said. “We are sending a strong message that you cannot act that way around 5-year-old children.”

Right. Unless you want to act like a five-year-old and show up with your AR-15.

***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of women both young and young at heart.

 

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