Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Machines of war - Blackwater, Monsanto, Gates

Silvia Ribeiro and La Jornada, Pravda Ru
Monday, 18 October 2010 21:17
A report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation (Blackwater's Black Ops, 9/15/2010) revealed that [Monsanto bought the services of] the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (now called Xe Services) ... Blackwater was renamed in 2009 after becoming famous in the world with numerous reports of abuses in Iraq, including massacres of civilians. It remains the largest private contractor of the U.S. Department of State "security services," that practices state terrorism by giving the government the opportunity to deny it.

Many military and former CIA officers work for Blackwater or related companies created to divert attention from their bad reputation and make more profit selling their nefarious services-ranging from information and intelligence to infiltration, political lobbying and paramilitary training - for other governments, banks and multinational corporations. According to Scahill, business with multinationals, like Monsanto, Chevron, and financial giants such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank, are channeled through two companies owned by Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater: Total Intelligence Solutions and Terrorism Research Center. These officers and directors share Blackwater.

One of them, Cofer Black, known for his brutality as one of the directors of the CIA, was the one who made contact with Monsanto in 2008 as director of Total Intelligence, entering into the contract with the company to spy on and infiltrate organizations of animal rights activists, anti-GM and other dirty activities of the biotech giant.

Contacted by Scahill, the Monsanto executive Kevin Wilson declined to comment, but later confirmed to The Nation that they had hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and 2009, according to Monsanto only to keep track of "public disclosure" of its opponents. He also said that Total Intelligence was a "totally separate entity from Blackwater."

However, Scahill has copies of emails from Cofer Black after the meeting with Wilson for Monsanto, where he explains to other former CIA agents, using their Blackwater e-mails, that the discussion with Wilson was that Total Intelligence had become "Monsanto's intelligence arm," spying on activists and other actions, including "our people to legally integrate these groups." Total Intelligence Monsanto paid $ 127,000 in 2008 and $ 105,000 in 2009.

No wonder that a company engaged in the "science of death" as Monsanto, which has been dedicated from the outset to produce toxic poisons spilling from Agent Orange to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, hormones and genetically modified seeds, is associated with another company of thugs.

Almost simultaneously with the publication of this article in The Nation, the Via Campesina reported the purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than $23 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which with this action completed the outing of the mask of "philanthropy." Another association that is not surprising.

It is a marriage between the two most brutal monopolies in the history of industrialism: Bill Gates controls more than 90 percent of the market share of proprietary computing and Monsanto about 90 percent of the global transgenic seed market and most global commercial seed. There does not exist in any other industrial sector monopolies so vast, whose very existence is a negation of the vaunted principle of "market competition" of capitalism. Both Gates and Monsanto are very aggressive in defending their ill-gotten monopolies.

Although Bill Gates might try to say that the Foundation is not linked to his business, all it proves is the opposite: most of their donations end up favoring the commercial investments of the tycoon, not really "donating" anything, but instead of paying taxes to the state coffers, he invests his profits in where it is favorable to him economically, including propaganda from their supposed good intentions. On the contrary, their "donations" finance projects as destructive as geoengineering or replacement of natural community medicines for high-tech patented medicines in the poorest areas of the world. What a coincidence, former Secretary of Health Julio Frenk and Ernesto Zedillo are advisers of the Foundation.

Like Monsanto, Gates is also engaged in trying to destroy rural farming worldwide, mainly through the "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" (AGRA). It works as a Trojan horse to deprive poor African farmers of their traditional seeds, replacing them with the seeds of their companies first, finally by genetically modified (GM). To this end, the Foundation hired Robert Horsch in 2006, the director of Monsanto. Now Gates, airing major profits, went straight to the source.

Blackwater, Monsanto and Gates are three sides of the same figure: the war machine on the planet and most people who inhabit it, are peasants, indigenous communities, people who want to share information and knowledge or any other who does not want to be in the aegis of profit and the destructiveness of capitalism.

* The author is a researcher at ETC Group
Translated from the Spanish version by:
Lisa Karpova, Pravda.Ru

NY Rep wants 50% discount for fresh produce bought with food stamps

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has an interesting idea: instead of paying the poor to buy cheap, processed foods that make them sick, offer a discount -- and thereby more food -- if they purchase fresh produce.

It's an innovation to welfare that does much more than maintain the status quo. The congressman argues that his program could even result in a significant savings on the total amount Americans spend annually on health care.

Under legislation Rep. Weiner has proposed, food stamp recipients would get a 50 percent discount for every government dollar they spend on fresh fruit and vegetables. Grocers who sell produce to food stamp recipients would still get the full sticker price.

The congressman hopes his bill would lead to more adults choosing to eat healthier foods from local sources, instead of centering their diets around mass-produced, processed food products that tend to be cheaper and more readily available.

With more than 72 million Americans currently considered obese, the proposed front-end investment of nearly $2.6 billion seems modest when compared to the government's annual obesity-related health costs, estimated to be approaching $168 billion a year. A media advisory from Weiner's office estimated that the initial investment in the program represents about 3.8 percent of the total spent on food stamps in 2009.

“We think this is a good way to incentivize good behavior and also to save tax payers a lot of money because obese citizens wind up costing the treasury an enormous amount,” the congressman told CBS New York.

Weiner's move follows a proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who asked the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to forbid the use of food stamps to purchase sugary sodas in New York, as part of what he called an "experiment". The mayor's suggestion, while seemingly well-meaning, was largely viewed as unworkable in that the USDA does not have the authority to change federal law, which is rather particular about how to define "food" -- and soda is not omitted.

According to The New York Times, the law permits that food stamps be used to purchase "any food or food product for home consumption except alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption."

The USDA also rejected a similar proposal from Minnesota in 2004, the Times noted.
Weiner's proposal, on the other hand, seems like it would have a better chance at accomplishing its goals, but only if Democrats can get it through Congress.

"On average, persons who are obese have medical costs that are $1,429 more than persons of normal weight," Rep. Weiner's office said in its advisory. "According to the [National Institutes of Health], American life expectance will drop by as much as 5 years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity."

A recent Colombia University study placed life expectancy in the US at 49th when compared to other industrialized nations. The study's authors posited that high rates of obesity, smoking, homicides and traffic fatalities may have contributed to the decline.

"We know Americans will make healthy food decisions when they have the means to do so," Rep. Weiner said. "This program will help curb obesity, cut health costs and provided much needed financial relief to 41 million Americans."