DNA from genetically modified maize.

1st February, 2002



French prepare powerful eye in sky

Engineers in France are putting the finishing touches to what they say will be the most powerful civilian observation satellite ever. Spot 5 will be able to pick out an object the size of car from over 800 kilometres above the earth's surface when it is launched in April.  Authorities claim that the satellite will be used to track the effects of natural disasters, to survey crops and forests and for other benign purposes. Read more at the BBC Monitoring website

Thanks to Viviane Lerner for drawing this to our attention.

Mussolini returns

ALESSANDRA MUSSOLINI, the grand-daughter of Italy's wartime fascist leader, is to challenge fellow fascist Gianfranco Fini, recently appointed to the decide on a new set of constitutional arrangements for the EU, for the leadership of the far-Right National Alliance party.

Mussolini, a former “actress” and porno model, now a member of Italy’s parliament, finds Fini too “moderate”. She accused him of wanting their party to become "like the Socialists” adding “Then perhaps he will go and ask us to all become circumcised."

Fini and Mussolini’s fascists are pro-EU, so the fact that they form part of Italy’s governing coalition has not provoked the same hypocritical furore as was evident when Jorg Haider’s far right (but anti-EU) OVP formed a coalition with Conservatives to rule one of the Union’s newest member states.  Support the glorious Union, and you can make any anti-semitic remark that happens to come into your head.

George on tour

British Labour MP George Galloway has just completed a seven day tour of North America where he averaged a speech a day against the western war and sanctions on Iraq.

Mr Galloway was the guest of the Campaign to End Sanctions Against the People of Iraq (CESAPI) and attracted large audiences to three meetings in Vancouver, including one to the city’s Labour Council where delegates representing the city's heavily unionised workforce gave him a standing ovation.

He spent three days in the British Columbia capital Victoria, a garrison town and home to Canada's Pacific Fleet (currently in the Arabian Gulf) where at the University of Victoria he addressed one of the town's largest ever public meetings with many hundreds sitting and many standing.

Back in Vancouver, Galloway spoke at the end of a huge and enthusiastic rally of more than 1000 Canadian anti-sanctions activists which marched, led by a huge black mock-coffin on top of which lay hundreds of little toy dolls, symbolising the slaughter of Iraq's children under sanctions.

The MP, who has campaigned relentlessly against his government’s support for the series of US-led wars which began with the attack on Iraq over a decade ago, also crossed the border to speak in Seattle.

The tour concludes a set of speaking engagements on Iraq undertaken by Mr Galloway in which in just the last six weeks he has addressed meetings in London, Birmingham (three times), Oxford, Cambridge, Yorkshire, Glasgow, Dublin, Tripoli, Cairo, Amman, Baghdad, Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle.

If you missed the lot, go to this website   or this for more news of George’s activities and the broader campaign of which he forms part.

Greenwash + 10: environmentalists unimpressed by plans for Earth Summit

Kenny Bruno of CorpWatch writes: “The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro…led to a series of challenging negotiations whose purpose was to protect the earth and improve life for its most impoverished inhabitants. Unfortunately, that purpose was undermined by the Summit's failure to confront corporate power in any meaningful way. The 2002 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development is an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to the goals of Rio and to avoid the mistakes made since the first Earth Summit. With a highly respected Secretary-General in place, it is a chance to strengthen the UN as an institution that can monitor global corporations and hold them accountable. But the Johannesburg meeting takes place as the UN is increasing its commitment to corporate partnerships, a situation that threatens the success of the Summit.” Read about how “business influence over its design has riddled the Global Compact with weaknesses and contradictions” at CorpWatch’s site,   

GM corn may have contaminated vital maize seed collection

Both the Mexican Ministry of the Environment and an article in leading science weekly Nature confirm that farmers' maize varieties in Mexico have been contaminated with

There are conflicting opinions on whether GM pollution extends into the gene bank operated by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the world's most important storage facility for endangered maize seed diversity. CIMMYT has undertaken its own investigation and insists that they have found no contamination. Read more at http://www.etcgroup.org/

American Communists: Enron “ranks with Watergate”

“This scandal is going to keep unravelling for the rest of Bush's term in office. It ranks with the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate, the Iran-Contra conspiracy, and the Savings and Loan debacle in criminality and corporate venality. It could eclipse these previous scandals in its long-term effects on the economy and our monopoly-ruled political system.” Read the rest of this analysis by Tim Wheeler, Editor of Communist Party USA paper the People’s Weekly World at this website

Interview with former US diplomat alleges CIA links to S11 attack

Michael Springmann was a US diplomat for twenty years. Speaking on Canadian state radio (CBC) recently, Mr Springmann said that he had been personally involved in a large scale CIA operation that brought hundreds of people from the middle east to the US, issued them passports and trained them to be terrorists. You can listen to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation interview at this website

Bombies: new video tells story of America’s barbaric cluster bombs

"Bombies is not soft entertainment. It shows interviews with angry, impoverished Laotian villagers. It follows a seemingly endless trail of brightly-colored unexploded bombs -- a kind of perverse Easter egg hunt -- in bamboo trees, school playgrounds, rice paddies, under houses, everywhere...There is a final message in Bombies...It is that the story of cluster bombs has been replicated across the globe...in Kuwait, Iraq, the Falklands, Ethiopia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Chechnya, and Kosovo. Today, the United States is also using them in Afghanistan." Tamara Straus, AlterNet.org

Writing in the New York Times, Anthony Lewis called the bombing of Laos, "The most appalling episode of lawless cruelty in American history.” Whilst it has some stiff competition for that accolade, the Laos bombing was indeed an astonishing atrocity, especially as it seemed to have no military objectives.  Straightforward terror, it was conducted in part through the medium of cluster bombs, small explosive bomblets carried in a large canister that opens in mid-air, scattering them over a wide area. The CBU (cluster bomb unit) 26, which was widely used in Laos, is an anti-personnel fragmentation bomb that consists of a large bombshell holding 670 tennis ball-sized bomblets, each of which contain 300 metal fragments. If all the bomblets detonate, some 200,000 steel fragments will be propelled over an area the size of several football fields, creating a deadly killing zone.

Because cluster bombs disperse widely and are difficult to target precisely, they are especially dangerous when used near civilian areas. In addition, they are prone to failure: if the container opens at the wrong height, or the bomblets don't fuse properly, or their descent is broken by trees, or they land on soft ground - they may not detonate. With a high dud rate estimated to be 10 to 30 percent, unexploded cluster bombs lay on the ground becoming, in effect, super landmines, and can explode at the slightest touch. They have proven to be a serious, long-lasting threat, especially to civilians, but also to soldiers, peacekeepers and bomb clearance experts. Children, who are sometimes attracted to the bomblets' bright colours and interesting shapes, represent a high percentage of victims. In Laos, nearly every day people are still being killed from bombs dropped 30 years ago. With an estimated 10 million (or more) unexploded cluster bombs, it could be many decades - or even centuries - until the killing is over.

Their current use in Afghanistan is helping to focus the world's attention on cluster bombs. Many feel that their impact on civilians is unacceptable and a breach of international humanitarian law. More than 50 international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Mennonite Central Committee, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Committee to Ban Landmines have called for a moratorium on cluster bomb use. And, in spite of the fact that cluster bombs are one of the favourite and most deadly weapons in the U.S. and NATO arsenals, on December 13, 2001 the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for an immediate global moratorium on their use to be followed by an outright ban.

To read about the film Bombies, which tells the story of these horrific devices, go to this website Several other websites carry more information about the weapons and the campaign to ban them. See

http://www.mcc.org

http://www.alternet.org

http://www.hrw.org

The Web site of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines is at http://www.icbl.org

Quote  of the week

"I define globalization as the freedom of our corporations to invest where and when we want, to produce what we want, to buy and sell where we want, and to keep all the restrictions through labour law or other political regulations as slight as possible."  Percy Barnevik, Vice President of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum

Thanks to the Green Party USA for bringing this disarmingly honest little outburst to our attention. To read their own take on the WEF go to  www.greenparty.org

 

In Brief

No boost for euro: After a brief rally greeted the introduction of euro notes and coins at the beginning of the year, the currency has continued its relentless decline, falling in value by 4% in the three weeks following January 2nd.

Empires don’t come cheap: If, as anticipated, ten countries join the EU in 2004, the cost will be 5.6bn Euros, according to an estimate by the European Commission. Most will go on farm subsidies, even though new members will not be given full access to these payments until 2013.

Green MEPs bush sanctions: Euro-MPs Caroline Lucas of the Green Party of England and Wales and Didier Rod of Belgium’s Ecolo sold Iraqi dates before a meeting of the European Parliament’s Development Committee last week. Dr Lucas explained that the action was symbolic and said that sanctions, which made the sale illegal, “have not worked and have hit the ordinary people of Iraq hard. The country’s infrastructure, health service and water supplies are in tatters.”

Best government money can buy:

The Blairites were up to their necks in Enron’s corrupt empire, with £36,000 being received by their party between 1997 and 2000.  The money bought Enron a series of meetings with government ministers. Following the meetings, Labour lifted restrictions on construction of gas-fired power stations. It has also been revealed that Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt was formerly a research director for Andersen, the accounting firm which has been accused of wrongdoing in the Enron affair. Andersen acted as advisor to the UK government when it privatised the country’s air traffic control.

No means no in Norway:

Norway’s Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has ruled out another referendum on EU membership. Rumours that this was on the cards were rife after recent opinion polls pointed to an increase in pro-EU sentiment.  Mr Bondevik has, however, stated his categorical opposition to any new vote being held during his government’s 4-year term, even going so far as to suggest that unless the pro-EU Conservatives, a minority party in the ruling coalition, could live with this the government would be dissolved.  Norwegians voted against joining the European Community in 1972 and again in 1994.