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’Black ops’ strengthen resolve of Reilly and European Commission to push through tobacco reforms


 

Did the Tobacco Industry Arrange for European Commission headquarters in Brussels to be Burgled?

On the night of October 17th/18th last year, burglars targeted three offices housed in an eight- storey office block near the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. They entered through the windows, disabled outdoor sensors and then waited for 45 seconds. They knew where the internal alarm was situated.

They took several laptops, although significantly not the chargers. Clearly it was not the laptops they were after, but the information inside them.

The three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which were targeted were the Smoke Free Partnership, the European Respiratory Partnership and the office of the European Public Health Alliance.

All those organisations have one thing in common – they are all engaged in the business of tobacco control.

Qui bono? Who benefits? Who would be interested in breaking into the offices of NGOs involved in tobacco control and why would the burglars be interested in laptops which had information only of interest to those in the tobacco industry?

In a recent interjection at the Oireachtas committee on health, the Minister for Health James Reilly gave a colourful if not altogether accurate description of the “black ops” involved in that break-in.

Disabled alarms

“The intruders abseiled down from the roof to the seventh floor of the building, cut holes in the plate-glass window, disabled the alarms and got into the offices.

“There were a number of offices and they went straight to the Office of Tobacco Control and removed all the hard discs from the computers.

“Who could afford to launch such an operation?”

Who indeed? Florence Berteletti Kemp, the director of the Smoke Free Partnership, said those who carried it out were “top professionals” and knew exactly what they were looking for. “I cannot say who did it, but I will leave it to the public imagination,” she said.

Kemp was one of the speakers at last week’s European Week against Cancer conference in the Aviva Stadium.

She said the break-in “delayed our work for at least a week or two”, but was ultimately a futile act because the most critical information was backed up.

The day after the health commissioner John Dalli resigned over a scandal which involved the tobacco industry.

It had been alleged that a friend of his in Malta had sought a large bribe from a Swedish company which makes a tobacco product called Snus citing his influence with Dalli. Dalli has denied any impropriety.

Coincidentally, Dalli was a stern advocate of the tobacco directive which is currently with the Irish presidency of the EU.

Rightly or wrongly, the tobacco industry was blamed for both events but the actions had the opposite effect, according to Kemp.

“I would say that it redoubled our efforts. It has brought the subject of the power of the industry to the parliament. It was a bad idea. It totally backfired on whoever did it.”

Advancing the directive is now in the gift of the Irish presidency and our fiercely anti-smoking Minister for Health Dr Reilly.

He said the break-in made the European Commission aware “that there was a real danger that the tobacco industry had the upper hand on them and clearly the commission is not going to allow that.”

The tobacco directive has a number of main provisions. The first is to outlaw cigarettes such as those flavoured with, for example, menthol or vanilla; the second is to ensure that health warnings cover at least 75 per cent of the pack face, although some countries want it smaller than that; and the third is to ban so-called slim cigarettes which are mainly marketed at women.

It does not include provision for plain packaging which will be brought in by Ireland unilaterally.

While there is broad agreement on the need for tobacco control, tobacco manufacturing is a big industry in countries such as Greece, Spain, the Czech Republic and Poland.

Agreed position

Dr Reilly acknowledged that there was “very serious” opposition from certain countries, particularly Poland which has Europe’s second largest tobacco industry.

He said the goal of the Irish presidency was to get an agreed position on the directive at European Commission level and then take it to the parliament for approval.

“I’m a great believer in doing what is pragmatic and doing what is quick rather than try to hold out for the perfection that never comes your way,” he said. “There is a real sense that this is an important initiative and it has to be done.”

The Lithuanian presidency, which takes over from Ireland in July, will now be charged with bringing the directive forward.

“The Lithuanian presidency is very supportive of this and they are determined to lead the charge, but it is very difficult to know when it will come into force,” the Minister concluded.

via ’Black ops’ strengthen resolve of Reilly and European Commission to push through tobacco reforms – Health News | Irish Medical News | The Irish Times – Tue, Jun 04, 2013.

Russia Warns Obama: Global War Over “Bee Apocalypse” Coming Soon


The shocking minutes relating to President Putin’s meeting this past week with US Secretary of State John Kerry reveal the Russian leaders “extreme outrage” over the Obama regimes continued protection of global seed and plant bio-genetic giants Syngenta and Monsanto in the face of a growing “bee apocalypse” that the Kremlin warns “will most certainly” lead to world war.

According to these minutes, released in the Kremlin today by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation (MNRE), Putin was so incensed over the Obama regimes refusal to discuss this grave matter that he refused for three hours to even meet with Kerry, who had traveled to Moscow on a scheduled diplomatic mission, but then relented so as to not cause an even greater rift between these two nations.

At the center of this dispute between Russia and the US, this MNRE report says, is the “undisputed evidence” that a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically related to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, are destroying our planets bee population, and which if left unchecked could destroy our world’s ability to grow enough food to feed its population.

So grave has this situation become, the MNRE reports, the full European Commission (EC) this past week instituted a two-year precautionary ban (set to begin on 1 December 2013) on these “bee killing” pesticides following the lead of Switzerland, France, Italy, Russia, Slovenia and Ukraine, all of whom had previously banned these most dangerous of genetically altered organisms from being used on the continent.

Two of the most feared neonicotinoids being banned are Actara and Cruiser made by the Swiss global bio-tech seed and pesticide giant Syngenta AG which employs over 26,000 people in over 90 countries and ranks third in total global sales in the commercial agricultural seeds market.

Important to note, this report says, is that Syngenta, along with bio-tech giants Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and DuPont, now control nearly 100% of the global market for genetically modified pesticides, plants and seeds.

Also to note about Syngenta, this report continues, is that in 2012 it was criminally charged in Germany for concealing the fact that its genetically modified corn killed cattle, and settled a class-action lawsuit in the US for $105 million after it was discovered they had contaminated the drinking supply of some 52 million Americans in more than 2,000 water districts with its “gender-bending” herbicide Atrazine.

To how staggeringly frightful this situation is, the MNRE says, can be seen in the report issued this past March by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) wherein they warned our whole planet is in danger, and as we can, in part, read:

“As part of a study on impacts from the world’s most widely used class of insecticides, nicotine-like chemicals called neonicotinoids, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has called for a ban on their use as seed treatments and for the suspension of all applications pending an independent review of the products’ effects on birds, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife.

“It is clear that these chemicals have the potential to affect entire food chains. The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise significant environmental concerns,” said Cynthia Palmer, co-author of the report and Pesticides Program Manager for ABC, one of the nation’s leading bird conservation organizations.

ABC commissioned world renowned environmental toxicologist Dr. Pierre Mineau to conduct the research. The 100-page report, “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds,” reviews 200 studies on neonicotinoids including industry research obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act. The report evaluates the toxicological risk to birds and aquatic systems and includes extensive comparisons with the older pesticides that the neonicotinoids have replaced. The assessment concludes that the neonicotinoids are lethal to birds and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.

“A single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid can kill a songbird,” Palmer said. “Even a tiny grain of wheat or canola treated with the oldest neonicotinoid — called imidacloprid — can fatally poison a bird. And as little as 1/10th of a neonicotinoid-coated corn seed per day during egg-laying season is all that is needed to affect reproduction.”

The new report concludes that neonicotinoid contamination levels in both surface- and ground water in the United States and around the world are already beyond the threshold found to kill many aquatic invertebrates.”

Quickly following this damning report, the MRNE says, a large group of group of American beekeepers and environmentalists sued the Obama regime over the continued use of these neonicotinoids stating: “We are taking the EPA to court for its failure to protect bees from pesticides. Despite our best efforts to warn the agency about the problems posed by neonicotinoids, the EPA continued to ignore the clear warning signs of an agricultural system in trouble.”

And to how bad the world’s agricultural system has really become due to these genetically modified plants, pesticides and seeds, this report continues, can be seen by the EC’s proposal this past week, following their ban on neonicotinoids, in which they plan to criminalize nearly all seeds and plants not registered with the European Union, and as we can, in part, read:

“Europe is rushing towards the good ol days circa 1939, 40… A new law proposed by the European Commission would make it illegal to “grow, reproduce or trade” any vegetable seeds that have not been “tested, approved and accepted” by a new EU bureaucracy named the “EU Plant Variety Agency.”

It’s called the Plant Reproductive Material Law, and it attempts to put the government in charge of virtually all plants and seeds. Home gardeners who grow their own plants from non-regulated seeds would be considered criminals under this law.”

This MRNE report points out that even though this EC action may appear draconian, it is nevertheless necessary in order to purge the continent from continued contamination of these genetically bred “seed monstrosities.”

Most perplexing in all of this, the MRNE says, and which led to Putin’s anger at the US, has been the Obama regimes efforts to protect pesticide-producer profits over the catastrophic damaging being done to the environment, and as the Guardian News Service detailed in their 2 May article titled “US rejects EU claim of insecticide as prime reason for bee colony collapse” and which, in part, says:

“The European Union voted this week for a two-year ban on a class of pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, that has been associated with the bees’ collapse. The US government report, in contrast, found multiple causes for the collapse of the honeybees.”

To the “truer” reason for the Obama regimes protection of these bio-tech giants destroying our world, the MRNE says, can be viewed in the report titled “How did Barack Obama become Monsanto’s man in Washington?” and which, in part, says:

“After his victory in the 2008 election, Obama filled key posts with Monsanto people, in federal agencies that wield tremendous force in food issues, the USDA and the FDA: At the USDA, as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center. As deputy commissioner of the FDA, the new food-safety-issues czar, the infamous Michael Taylor, former vice-president for public policy for Monsanto. Taylor had been instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.”

Even worse, after Russia suspended the import and use of an Monsanto genetically modified corn following a study suggesting a link to breast cancer and organ damage this past September, the Russia Today News Service reported on the Obama regimes response:

“The US House of Representatives quietly passed a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 last week – including a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.

The rider, which is officially known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, has been derided by opponents of biotech lobbying as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as it would strip federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns.

The provision, also decried as a “biotech rider,” should have gone through the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees for review. Instead, no hearings were held, and the piece was evidently unknown to most Democrats (who hold the majority in the Senate) prior to its approval as part of HR 993, the short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a federal government shutdown.”

On 26 March, Obama quietly signed this “Monsanto Protection Act” into law thus ensuring the American people have no recourse against this bio-tech giant as they fall ill by the tens of millions, and many millions will surely end up dying in what this MRNE report calls the greatest agricultural apocalypse in human history as over 90% of feral (wild) bee population in the US has already died out, and up to 80% of domestic bees have died out too.

via Russia Warns Obama: Global War Over “Bee Apocalypse” Coming Soon | EUTimes.net.

Small and mighty – why nanoscience is booming in Ireland


NANOSCIENCE IS THE the study of materials on the nanoscale, or one million times smaller than a grain of salt. By studying materials at their most basic and modifying the ‘building blocks’ from which they are made, nanoscience researchers can vastly improve the properties of those materials. Plastics can become extremely thin, but incredibly strong. Metals can become thoroughly flexible and malleable, but hugely conductive and light. That process of change opens up a world of possibilities for manufacturing in technology, medicine, energy, pharmaceuticals, transport, bioengineering and more.

CRANN (the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructure and Nanodevices) is Ireland’s leading nanoscience institute, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and based at Trinity College Dublin. In the past ten years, our researchers have leveraged State funding to bring in over €50 million of non-Exchequer investment from international and European sources and have filed over 50 patent applications.

Today, CRANN celebrates its 10th anniversary.

This research is crucial to the economy

It was in 2003 that the then Government decided to prioritise nanoscience research, and established CRANN, as part of Science Foundation Ireland’s CSET (Centre for Science Engineering and Technology) programme. Since then, the Centre has grown from having just six researchers to employing over 300 and from working with 4 companies to over 100 companies, in Ireland and internationally. If Government is looking for an example of an ambitious policy decision that is now paying dividends for the Irish economy, they do not need to look any further than CRANN.

Ranked sixth in the world for nanoscience research and eighth for materials science research, Ireland is now recognised as a leading nanoscience nation. With over 90 per cent of the world’s medical multinationals and 70 per cent of the world’s technology multinationals having a base in Ireland, our national research credentials are extremely attractive, and crucial to the economy.

It is estimated that nanoscience is linked to €15 billion, or 10 per cent, of Ireland’s annual exports and supports 250,000 jobs nationwide. The Government has targeted 20,000 more manufacturing jobs in Ireland by 2016 and undoubtedly, Ireland’s leading nanoscience research can help to create those jobs.

As part of CRANN’s 10-year celebrations, the team created the world’s smallest birthday cake – measure 2,000 times smaller than the full stop at the end of this sentence.

Ireland is now experiencing a ‘brain – gain’

Irish researchers are awarded the highest number of European Research Council Starting grants for nanoscience research in the European Union. Following the Euroscience Open Forum in 2012, Dublin has again been chosen to host the EuroNanoForum, Europe’s largest nanoscience event in June this year, an event which will attract 12,000 delegates. In addition, Ireland is now experiencing a ‘brain – gain’, attracting researchers from abroad, to complement our indigenous research base.

Ireland’s nanoscience credentials are strong and they are growing.

At CRANN, we are working with over 100 companies in Ireland and internationally, using our research expertise to help those companies develop novel products and solutions. For example, over the past decade, we have partnered with Intel, working on innovative methods to constantly improve their technologies. We work with Sab Miller, a brewing and beverage company, helping them to improve their packaging to extend the life-span of their products. These partnerships deliver significant mutual benefit for both CRANN and for our partners and will continue to do so for the next decade and beyond.

Smaller, better, faster, stronger

Nanoscience is changing the face of manufacturing, leading to smaller, smarter, more durable and more efficient products and it is a strong linkage between academia and business that is driving that progress. It is nanoscience that is allowing smart devices to become smaller and smaller, yet to store more information. It is nanoscience that is leading to smaller, more sophisticated medical devices like heart stents, with greater lifespans.

Nanoscience is leading to lighter, yet stronger aeroplanes that consume less fuel. It is leading to technological developments like computers with advanced memory and facial recognition, laptops and smart-phones that can be rolled up like newspapers, bathroom mirrors and windows that can become television screens. It could lead to sensors that detect diseases from a person’s breath, or to coatings for ships and tankers that cannot rust.

These are advances that are happening now and they are happening worldwide. By investing in nanoscience; our health, our environment and our communications will be vastly improved.

Nanoscience is the future

Europe has recognised this. This year, the European Commission has invested €1 billion in the Graphene Flagship Project, identifying graphene, one layer of graphite found in pencil lead, as a ‘product of the future’. Ireland has a leading role in that project. The Irish Government has recognised this too, protecting science investment, even in difficult economic times. Science Foundation Ireland must be commended for its commitment and vision, in recognising that protecting scientific funding can also protect and grow the Irish economy.

Ten years ago, the global market for nano-enabled materials was €420 million. In 2015, it will be $2.5 trillion. Nanoscience is the future. Ireland is very much part of it.

I look forward to another ten years of success.

Professor John Boland is Director of CRANN, Ireland’s leading nanoscience institute based at Trinity College Dublin.

via Column: Small and mighty – why nanoscience is booming in Ireland.

Bee Health: EU-wide restrictions on Pesticide use to enter into force on 1 December


Some good newsimages (9)

Bee Health: EU-wide restrictions on Pesticide use to enter into force on 1 December

A restriction on the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family was today adopted by the Commission. These pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) were identified as being harmful to Europe’s honeybee population. This restriction will enter into force as from 1 December 2013 and will be reviewed, at the latest, within two years. It targets pesticides used in the treatment of plants and cereals that are attractive to bees and pollinators.

“Last month, I pledged that, based on the number of risks identified by the European Food Safety Authority’s scientific opinion, I would do my utmost to ensure that our honeybee population is protected. Today’s adoption delivers on that pledge and marks another milestone towards ensuring a healthier future for our honeybees, as bees have two important roles to play: not only that of producing honey but primarily to be a pollinator. About 80 % of all pollination is due to the activity of bees – this is natural and free of costs” said Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

Today’s measure forms part of the Commission’s overall strategy1 to tackle the decline of Europe’s bee population. Since the publication of the Commission’s bee health strategy in 2010, several actions have been taken or are underway. These include: the designation of a EU Reference Laboratory for bee health; increased EU co-financing for national apiculture programmes, co-financing to carry out surveillance studies in 17 voluntary Member States (€3.3 million were allocated in 2012) and EU research programmes such as BeeDoc and STEP which look into the multifactorial aspects that could be attributed to Europe’s bee decline.

Next steps

Member States must withdraw or amend existing authorisations to comply with the EU restrictions by 30 September 2013. They can allow the use of existing stocks until 30 November at the latest. National authorities are responsible for ensuring that the restrictions are correctly applied.

As soon as new information is available, and at the latest within 2 years, the Commission will review this restriction to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.

Background

Following the absence of an agreement (qualified majority) between Member States during the appeal committee of 29 April 2013, the Commission announced that it will proceed with the restriction as foreseen.

The restriction applies to the use of 3 neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on plants and cereals (with the exception of winter cereals) that are attractive to bees. The remaining authorised uses are available only to professionals. Exceptions will be limited to the possibility to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses, in open-air fields only after flowering.

Pesticides have been identified as one of several factors which may be responsible for the decline in number of bees. Other factors also include parasites, other pathogens, lack of veterinary medicines or sometimes their misuse, apiculture management and environmental factors such as lack of habitat and feed and climate change.

For more information:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/bees/neonicotinoids_en.htm

EFSA’s website:

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/beehealth.htm?wtrl=01

via EUROPA – PRESS RELEASES – Press Release – Bee Health: EU-wide restrictions on Pesticide use to enter into force on 1 December.

UK TABLOID COVERAGE OF ALLEGED PRICE FIXING AT THE PUMP


EXAMPLES OF UK TABLOID COVERAGE OF ALLEGED PRICE FIXING AT THE PUMP

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pdf file of above pages

Posted in: BPBusiness PrinciplesOil Prices.
Tagged:  ·  ·  · 

VIA

http://www.royaldutchshellplc.com/

Price fixing is in the Shell DNA


With Royal Dutch Shell, price fixing is not a matter of conjecture, but normal operating procedure. Its in the company DNA. Shell has a disgraceful history of price fixing/cartel activity stretching back over a century, including a cartel operated with its Nazi partner, I.G. Farben, found guilty of war crimes. Shell’s history of market manipulation, stretches back almost to its inception, including cartel participation, price fixing,  fictitious trades, monopoly, securities fraud etc. Shell was a founding member of the “Seven Sisters“, the first global oil cartel.

By John Donovan

The news media is giving huge coverage of the EU investigation into alleged price-rigging by oil companies, including Shell and BP.

It remains to be seen whether Shell is guilty on this occasion.

With Royal Dutch Shell, price fixing is not a matter of conjecture, but normal operating procedure. Its in the company DNA. Shell has a disgraceful history of price fixing/cartel activity stretching back over a century, including a cartel operated with its Nazi partner, I.G. Farben, found guilty of war crimes.

Winston Churchill attacked Shell for secret oil price rigging. Even if not well founded at that time, Churchill’s instinct was bang on.

Shell’s history of market manipulation, stretches back almost to its inception, including cartel participation, price fixing,  fictitious trades, monopoly, securities fraud etc. Shell was a founding member of the “Seven Sisters“, the first global oil cartel.

The Royal Dutch Shell Group was built on price-fixing.

Some more recent examples.

New York Times: “Shell to Pay $180 Million” (Price fixing case): 3 Jan 1987

New York Times: “California Oil Price-Fixing Case Settled”: 17 August 1991

New York Times: Settlement for Coral Power: 15 November 2003

Bloomberg: Shell, Unipetrol, Bayer Are Sued Over Rubber Cartel (Update2): 20 May 2008

May 20 (Bloomberg) — Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., the second- largest U.S. tiremaker, and 25 other companies sued Unipetrol AS, units of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Bayer AG, and as many as 20 others over an alleged rubber cartel in Europe.

Unipetrol and units of Shell, Dow Chemical Co., Eni SpA and Trade-Stomil Sp were fined a total of 519 million euros ($813 million) in a 2006 European Union antitrust case over material used to make tires and shoes. The companies are appealing.

The Times: Supermarkets and tobacco firm are fined £173m for price fixing: 12 July 2008

Reuters: EU fines “paraffin mafia” wax makers’ cartel: 1 October 2008

The Times: ‘Paraffin mafia’ comes unstuck after €676m fines: 2 October 2008

Guardian: ‘Paraffin mafia’ firms given £500m fines for price-fixing: 2 October 2008

Financial Times: Brussels fines paraffin wax cartel: 2 October 2008

The Wall Street Journal: Wax Price-Fixing Is Alleged: 2 October 2008

Occupational Health & Safety: Merit Energy and Shell to lower emissions after clean air violations: 4 October 2008

Financial Post (Canada): GREECE FINES BP, SHELL $80M FOR PRICE-FIXING: 26 November 2008

ChannelNewsAsia: Greece fines BP, Shell for price-fixing: 26 November 2008

International Herald Tribune: Greece: BP, Shell fined for competition breaches: 25 November 2008

Bloomberg: Chevron, Total, Exxon, Shell Fined on Air France Fuel: price fixing cartel: 4 Dec 2008 (Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Chevron fined 41.1 million euros ($52 million) by the French antitrust authority for fixing the price of fuel for certain Air France-KLM Group flights.)

Shell, Dow lose court challenge to EU antitrust fine: 13 July 2011: Reuters

Extracts

(Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and Dow Chemical (DOW.N) lost a court appeal on Wednesday against a fine levied by EU regulators five years ago for taking part in a cartel…

…the Court upheld the 160.88 million euro fine on the Royal Dutch Shell group.

Shell settles South Africa cartel case: 21 February 2012

via Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com.

via Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com.

Collusion Course: Machinations of the Double-Headed Beast


Would would have thought that oil barons — of all people! — would be involved in dirty back-room dealings to gorge their gobs with even more swill from the trough? From the Guardian:

“The London offices of BP and Shell have been raided by European regulators investigating allegations they have ‘colluded’ to rig oil prices for more than a decade. The European commission said its officers carried out ‘unannounced inspections’ at several oil companies in London, the Netherlands and Norway to investigate claims they may have ‘colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency [PRA] to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products … It warned: ‘Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers.'”

Of course, these manipulations of “self-policing” mechanisms for setting prices are endemic across the economic heights commanded by our most illustrious financial and industrial elites, as Matt Taibbi noted last month. And I’m sure the dastardly deeds of the oil companies in fixing prices will be dealt with just as harshly and thoroughly as the recent Libor scandal was: with a few chump-change fines that put not the slightest crimp in the criminals’ operations nor impeded their ready access to the inner circles (and outer fundraisers) of government power.

So while continuing a fierce vigilance against the relentless encroachments of an unhinged, unrestrained and openly murderous government, let us also recognize that the “free market” — often posited as some kind of purer alternative to the state, a mystic realm where the free play of individual desires and activities combine ineffably to produce the best of all possible worlds — is, and always has been, a rigged game where vicious predators seek tyrannical control, by hook, crook and vast corruption, shackling the “free play of individual desires and activities” in every way possible to squeeze out more unjust advantage for themselves.

Of course, the “state” and the “free market” are simply two halves of the same rough beast. The modern “free market’ is the result of massive, continual and pervasive state intervention on its behalf — that is, on behalf of the vicious predators exercising tyrannical control of economic activity — while the state is in practice little more than a vehicle for elite aggrandizement. (Yes, even in America, even from the very beginning. For more, see this piercing piece by Arthur Silber, in which he points us to the remarkable book by Terry Boulton, Taming Democracy: “The People,” the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution,  which I highly recommend .) If they don’t get you with one head, they’ll get you with the other.

Or as the old song says: “nobody save you now.”

via OpEdNews – Article: Collusion Course: Machinations of the Double-Headed Beast.

via OpEdNews – Article: Collusion Course: Machinations of the Double-Headed Beast.

A thousand days of austerity


It is now three years since Europe-imposed cutbacks were first imposed on Spain

With rampant unemployment, the country’s suffering has never been more acute

Rereading John Williams’ novel Stoner recently, I was struck by the author’s description of the years between the end of World War I and the start of World War II. Williams describes the widespread feeling of desperation that he had seen as a child, before the Great Depression hit in 1929: the men and women whose lives had been destroyed, walking the streets aimlessly, reduced to begging for a crust of bread.

Williams’ description of the years leading up to the Great Depression will be increasingly familiar to many Spaniards. This week, in the early hours of Thursday to be exact, marks the third anniversary of the beginning of what might be called Spain’s age of austerity, the moment when European economy and finance ministers pressured the Socialist Party administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to change its economic policies: from the combination of growth and fiscal consolidation that Zapatero had been trying to apply to a policy of rigor mortis and constant sacrifice that continues to this day and shows no sign of abating. More than 1,000 days of worsening unemployment, reduced spending power and social protection, and a weakened democracy.

Three years ago, Spain’s public deficit was 11.2 percent of GDP, and unemployment was 20 percent of the workforce, or 4.6 million people. The EU communiqué outlined an agreement to create a European Financial Stability Mechanism to help countries in difficulty, in exchange for which, Spain and Portugal would intensify their fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. Three days later, a bruised and battered Zapatero appeared before Congress and left deputies speechless by announcing a series of unprecedented spending cuts: public sector workers’ salaries would be reduced and pensions frozen; the 2,500-euro payment to new parents aimed at increasing the birth rate would be stopped; state investment slashed, some of the payments to families caring for dependents ended; and huge savings imposed on regional governments, among other measures.

Zapatero was desperately trying to save Spain from the fate of the PIG nations of Portugal, Ireland and Greece, where the EU had sent in the men in black from the so-called troika of the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission to run things, or would soon do so. These states would be subject to deep-rooted adjustment programs in return for money to keep their near-bankrupt economies functioning. Spain’s economy would be spared this indignity, but only at the cost of Zapatero having to apply the same policies. It would cost him the leadership, and his party the next election in a defeat from which it is still struggling to recover.

A battered Zapatero appeared before Congress and left deputies speechless

More important for millions of Spaniards is that on May 9, 2010, an age of austerity was ushered in that has changed the way that most people live and see the world: an economy based on fear (on uncertainty, economic insecurity, being left behind in an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, of being made permanently unemployed…) has morphed into one based on suffering (unemployment, impoverishment, no social protection and the demise of countless businesses…).

The nearest thing to the constraints imposed on Zapatero three years ago this week took place 19 years before, when French President François Mitterrand, after winning elections amid a kind of collective ecstasy during the high point of Socialist Party hegemony, was obliged by the markets to change his leftwing policies based on increasing demand and forced to backtrack on minimum wage promises, an increase in the deficit to pay for more public investment, a shorter working week, the nationalization of 36 banks and other reforms. Mariano Rajoy would sum up his country’s position in 2012, shortly after winning the general election, by telling Congress: “Spaniards cannot choose; we do not enjoy that freedom.”

The second stop in the “authoritarian austerity” program (so called because it has been imposed) took place one year later. The summer of 2011 was a time of speculative attacks on the Spanish economy, sending borrowing rates to dizzying heights. The volatility of the international markets made the cost of financing Spanish debt ever more expensive, and made life harder for businesses and households denied credit by the banks.

Three important events took place during this long, hot summer. First of all, Zapatero would call elections for November that year. The idea was that the winner (which from the outset was clearly going to be Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP), and by a landslide, giving it an absolute majority) would have the parliamentary and moral authority to continue the austerity program. Next, the ECB would send a still largely secret letter to Zapatero and another to Silvio Berlusconi, then prime minister of Italy (who made no bones about revealing its contents), obliging them to take bolder steps toward adjusting their respective economies and implement further reforms. In Spain’s case, this would be the second turn of the screw in as many months. In its missive, the ECB, an institution that has always defended its independence, told the Spanish government that it would have to implement a root-and-branch reform of the labor market, eliminate wage increases in line with inflation, impose further fiscal restrictions, and reform the energy, property, and professional services markets.

Rajoy: “Spaniards cannot choose; we do not enjoy that freedom”

What makes the letter particularly special is that it is signed by Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, then governor of the Bank of Spain and a member of the board of the ECB. The next signature is that of ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet. Fernández Ordóñez, obsessed with labor reform, was writing to Zapatero from Frankfurt to demand of him what he could not in his capacity as governor of the Bank of Spain. In exchange for the cuts and reforms, Spain would receive the ECB’s help in resisting the international markets’ repeated attacks, which Zapatero had described thus: “The speculative bombardment that Spain is suffering is comparable to that suffered by the Americans at Pearl Harbor.”

Zapatero’s third measure aimed at calming the markets was the most controversial: the reform of the Constitution. In a country like Spain, where two main political parties have been unable or unwilling to reach agreement on updating constitutional issues, the Socialist Party and the Popular Party did just that, and with little fuss, limiting the structural deficit, putting a ceiling on public debt, and above all, prioritizing the payment of loans to meet interest on government borrowing above any other obligation, whether that be health, education, pensions, unemployment or other welfare spending. This had long been a demand of Europe’s rightwing parties: handing over the weapon of fiscal policy, and was undertaken by Spain’s Socialist government without any debate.

The most recent austerity measure has been with us without interruption since 2012. One might say that the first 18 months of PP government in Spain has been a kind of permanent May 9, 2010. When Rajoy took up residence in the Moncloa Palace, he threw out the electoral program that had won him an absolute majority, and began applying the policies dictated by Brussels. He abandoned each and every one of the six pillars of his “Join the change” platform: economic growth and employment creation; education; protecting the welfare state; modernizing the public sector; strengthening the country’s institutions and re-establishing Spain’s international credibility. From December 31, 2011, when Rajoy approved the biggest spending cuts in the country’s history along with a major tax hike, the country has been headed in the same direction. Rajoy’s goals are the same as Zapatero’s: to prevent the troika from sending in the men in black.

We have now seen two Spanish governments unable to apply their own policies to deal with the crisis, and who are subject to outside pressure – governments that, de facto, are not governing on the basis of the programs they were elected on. Spain’s membership of the European Union and the single currency means that whoever is in power is obliged to ignore the wishes of the people. As EL PAÍS columnist José Ignacio Torreblanca notes in a survey on Spain’s democracy commissioned by the Fundación Alternativas think-tank, there is a widespread perception that national governments’ room for maneuver has now been reduced beyond the point where it is democratically acceptable. Voters throughout the EU feel that the policies and decisions that affect their lives are no longer subject to the democratic process. Institutions such as the ECB, which are not elected, are imposing harsh conditions in order to keep the markets happy, while democratic national governments have no alternative but to apply the technocratic policies cooked up in Brussels, Frankfurt or Washington.

If all parties apply the same recipes, the electorate can vote, but not choose”

This has led to unprecedented levels of disaffection among the electorate. At the start of the crisis, in 2007, some 65 percent of Spaniards said they trusted the EU, with just 23 percent unhappy with it. At the end of 2012, that figure had grown to 72 percent, with barely 20 percent of those surveyed saying they still had faith in the EU. In December 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a non-elected multilateral body, suggested that Spain increase sales tax, make it cheaper to sack workers, limit tax breaks for home buyers, and make it harder to claim unemployment benefit. If any government, regardless of its political affiliation, has to apply such measures, even if it does not agree with them, the main political parties supporting it will end up like Tweedledee and Tweedledum: arguing with each other over trivialities; they will be seen like Pepsi and Coke, or Tintin’s Thomson and Thompson.

In his book Las promesas políticas (or, Political promises), sociologist José María Maravall notes: “Representative democracy requires that the electorate be able to decide between two genuinely different alternatives and that parties with different proposals on important issues compete with each other. If the differences between the parties were to disappear, if they promise different things, but can only apply the same recipes, the electorate can vote, but not choose.”

The street protests organized by the myriad organizations and associations that make up the so-called Indignant Movement are an expression of the former. Slogans such as “they don’t represent us,” or “they call it democracy but it isn’t” reflect a widespread feeling among the electorate that their vote no longer counts for anything and that economic power (which cannot be punished through the ballot box because it is not democratic) will always prevail over political decisions. In the book Democracy’s Intimate Enemies, Bulgarian writer and thinker Tzvetan Todorov argues that the main threats to democracy today do not come from without, from those who openly declare themselves as its enemies, but from within, from ideologies, movements and acts that are supposed to defend those values: “In the fight against totalitarianism, democracy faced forces that impeded the individual’s freedom. This was a kind of hypertrophy of the collective to the detriment of the individual, and the collective itself was subject to a small core of tyrannical leaders. But in the present-day West, one of the main threats to democracy does not come from the uncontrolled expansion of the collective, but has to do with the unprecedented rise of certain individuals who suddenly endanger the wellbeing of the whole of society.”

While some talk about a three-year “dictatorship of austerity,” Pierre Moscovici, the French Minister of Economy and Finance, had redefined the concept: “Austerity is when they kill the patient.” The outcome so far of these 1,000 days of cuts, adjustments and sacrifices is one of increased poverty and inequality: Spain’s per capita income is around the same as it was in 2002: based on that piece of data alone it is now possible to talk in terms of a lost decade. According to Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistics office, Spanish society is now the most unequal in the EU, alongside Portugal, Bulgaria and Latvia. The fall in living standards has been far more extreme than in most other EU member states; poverty is more widespread and deeper. People’s expectations have fallen, hit hard by the lack of any hope that these reforms will have any impact in the short or medium term. Much of the country seems in the grip of a collective psychological malaise, and which has reduced spending on consumer goods; the negative impact on salaries and labor conditions (spurious objectives within an aggressive labor reform) is hard to overestimate.

Beyond a certain point, there is no return. One day the ruin will collapse

Novelist and essayist Antonio Muñoz Molina warns in a recent piece entitled Todo lo que era sólido (or, All that once was solid) that it is not possible to reduce spending on education and health, legal aid and emergency services indefinitely without destroying society as we know it. Beyond a certain point, there is no return. Things deteriorate little by little, and then suddenly, one day, instead of continuing along lines that we have grown used to, the whole thing collapses, without transition, in the same way that a house that seemed to be an eternal ruin collapses overnight.

Long-term austerity programs imposed on societies with growing needs due to their economic difficulties do not reduce poverty, and instead generate further inequality. The way out of the crisis imposed on Europe until now has meant a hugely regressive distribution of income, wealth and power: from below upwards, a kind of Robin Hood in reverse.

The economist Joseph Stiglitz’s explanation of the widespread rejection of such policies is hardly surprising: most people see that the markets are not working, and particularly the labor market; they see that the political system we have created (democracy) does not correct the market’s faults; and as a result, there is growing disaffection with democracy and the market economy, something that sadly reminds us of less happier times.

No end in sight: a timeline of Spain’s crisis

  • 02-05-2010. Greece accepts an EU/IMF bailout, followed in July by a second. In November, Ireland asks for help, and in April of the next year, Portugal’s economy is put under Brussels’ control. In March 2013, Cyprus requests a bailout.
  • 12-05-2010. Prime Minister Zapatero announces spending cuts of 15 billion euros.
  • 15-05-2011. The 15-M “Indignant” movement is born.
  • 25-08-2011. The PP and the Socialist Party agree on changes to the Constitution limiting the public deficit to 0.4 percent of GDP from 2020. In August the European Central Bank (ECB) decides to buy Italian and Spanish debt, and sends a letter to both countries listing reforms they must implement.
  • 20-11-2011. Rajoy wins a landslide election victory.
  • 30-12-2011. The new government announces cuts of 8.9 billion euros, saying that the previous administration had under-calculated the true size of the public deficit.
  • 10-02-2012. Labor reforms pushed through by decree.
  • 29-03-2012. First general strike against Rajoy’s policies.
  • 09-04-2012. The government announces further cuts of 10 billion euros to education and health.
  • 09-05-2012. Failed lender Bankia is nationalized.
  • 10-06-2012. The government asks Brussels for up to 100 billion to bail out Spain’s banks.
  • 24-07-2012. The risk premium on borrowing reaches an unprecedented 638 basis points.
  • 26-07-2012. ECB president Mario Draghi says he will take all necessary measures to save the euro. Spain’s risk premium falls 50 basis points in response.
  • 11-07-2012. The PP imposes unprecedented spending cuts of 65 billion euros over two years.
  • 29-09-2012. The government brings forward the 2013 budget, with yet more cuts.
  • 14-11-2012. Second one-day general strike against the government’s economic policies.
  • 30-11-2012. Government says it will not increase pensions in line with inflation.
  • 25-04-2013. Unemployment hits 27.2 percent. There are 6.2 million people officially registered as being without work, and 1.9 million homes have only one wage earner. More than 52 percent of unemployed are aged under 25. The government admits that there will be 1.3 million fewer jobs when its term finishes in 2015 than when it took office.
  • April 2013. The government says that there will be no economic growth until at least 2016, two years later than it had previously forecast. It maintains income tax hikes, and says that public debt will be around 100 percent of GDP in 2016. GDP for 2013 will fall by 1.3 percent, three times the figure previously forecast.

via A thousand days of austerity | In English | EL PAÍS.

via A thousand days of austerity | In English | EL PAÍS.

Pesticides against pollinators


Private letters reveal Syngenta and Bayer’s furious lobbying against EU measures to save bees

The crisis of dramatic bee population decline has been a top issue in media and political debate in Europe. A wide variety of culprits are under scrutiny, including certain parasites, viruses, pesticides and industrial agriculture. But new scientific evidence from British and French research institutions, published in Science in early 2012, suggests that neonicotinoids pesticides in particular might be one of the main drivers. Syngenta and Bayer, two companies producing these substances, are waging an all-out lobbying war against the proposed partial ban of these substances by the European Commission following EFSA’s (European Food Safetey Authority) opinion warning of the risk they pose to bees. Will the pesticide lobby succeed in convincing Member States to vote no to a ban?

syngenta_bee

New scientific evidence triggers EU concern

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that came onto the market in the mid 1990s and early 2000s. Many crops such as corn, soy, wheat or rapeseed are now treated with them. They are normally applied directly to seeds or in soil treatments, in an attempt to preserve seeds and plants from insect attacks at an early stage. As systemic pesticides, once in the seed, they enter the whole plant through its vascular system and are found in every plant tissue (leaves, flowers, pollen…); but they can also remain active in the soil for a long time (up to three years). Particularly controversial among the neonicotinoids are Thiametoxam, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, substances patented by biotech and pesticide companies Syngenta and Bayer.

The French scientific study reported the loss of honeybee foragers caused by exposure to low doses of Thiamethoxam (Syngenta). The British study reported that low doses of Imidacloprid (Bayer) affected the colonies of bumblebees, reducing their development and their reproduction, including a dramatic loss of queens. Authors stated that, “given the scale of use of neonicotinoids, we suggest that they may be having a considerable negative impact on wild bumble bee populations across the developed world.”

In March 2012 the European Commission mandated the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to deliver a scientific opinion on a report that led Italy to temporarily suspend the placing on the market of maize seeds treated with neonicotinoids. In April 2012 the Commission broadened its request to include the new scientific evidence published in Science. In addition to Italy, Slovenia and Germany had already applied protective measures, including temporary suspensions or bans in certain uses of neonicotinoids.

A furious lobbying campaign

In June 2012, the French Government announced its intention to withdraw the registration of Thiamethoxam. The pesticides industry immediately started putting pressure on the Commission. This was the beginning of a furious lobbying campaign; a series of letters sent by Syngenta, Bayer and the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA, the pesticides producers’ lobby whose members include Bayer, Monsanto, BASF, Dow, and DuPont / Syngenta) to the European Commission and EFSA, seen by CEO, have enabled us to reconstruct its story. Here are the main arguments used by these two companies:

  • It’s farmers’ fault. Bayer, in a letter addressed to Commissioner Dalli, claims that past incidents of pesticide poisoning that affected honey bees were the result of inappropriate use and/or lack of precaution in applying the substance, thus they offload responsibility onto farmers rather than the product itself.
  • Just a small group of activists and hobby beekeepers. Syngenta made the accusation that some Member States, “driven by a small group of activists and hobby beekeepers” are lobbying to suspend, “their insecticide and all other neonicotinoids. And they urged the Commissioner to “resist this pressure” for the sake of the credibility of the EU’s regulatory process.
  • Me and my friend Obama. Syngenta’s CEO, Michael Mack, personally wrote to Commissioner Dalli to remind him that just two weeks before he had lunched at the G-8 summit with US President Obama, President of the European Council Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission Barroso and France’s President Hollande, discussing the contribution of the private sector to global food security and the money Syngenta was committed to spend in Africa.
  • Keep calm, and use neonicotinoids. In another letter sent in November to Commissioners Ciolos (Agriculture) and Geoghegan-Quinn (Research) in November, and to all EU Agriculture Ministers, Syngenta called for a comprehensive review, that they insisted was necessary to avoid “wrong conclusions from a rushed process that could have disastrous implications for agriculture and ironically for bee health”. This, added to the fact that it was only three neonicotinoids (including Syngenta’s Thiamethoxam) being singled out, was “desperately disappointing” for Syngenta.
  • “Independent” analysis show that Europe can’t survive without neonicotinoids. According to Syngenta, who didn’t provide any references to back up the claim, “the loss of this technology will cost farmers and consumers up to €1 billion and undermine the production of safe and affordable food”. In a letter they sent in November they stated that according to “independent analysis” there would be significant damage to European agriculture if their product was banned (more than €17 bn over the next five years) as well as the risk of relocation of corn production. In addition, ECPA claims potential yield losses of up to 10% in oilseed rape and cereals, 30% in sugarbeet and 50% in maize as a result of a potential ban.Another study promoted by industry was research carried by the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, that concluded that neonicotinoid pesticides make a significant socio-econonomic and environmental contribution to European agriculture and the wider economy. The support and partners of this Institute include BASF, Bayer CropScience, E.ON, KWS and Nestlé. The study was supported by Copa-Cogeca (the big farmers’ lobby group in Brussels), the European Seeds Association (mainly representing the largest companies in the seed industry) and the European Crop Protection Association, and financed by Bayer and Syngenta. This, however, was not mentioned in Syngenta and Bayer’s letters.
  • ‘Science’ is on my side. For decades, industry’s strategy has been to advocate for a science-based policy. But which science exactly? This particular lobbying campaign provides helpful insights into the sort of science industry favours, and the sort it doesn’t.Firstly, a comment can be made about the role of EFSA. Industry usually pushes for decisions to be made by scientists and experts rather than politicians, the latter having to justify themselves in front of voters; it was therefore not a surprise to read the pesticides lobby ECPA write to the Commission that “as an industry, we welcome the fact that EFSA is carrying out a detailed evaluation on the use of these seed treatments”. In the meantime, they lobbied the European Commission with scientific studies backing their commercial interests: Bayer explained to the Commission that neonicotinoids were not responsible for bee decline as other experts maintained that pathogens and parasites were the main problem. Meanwhile, Syngenta questioned the conditions in which the studies with critical findings were performed, claiming that the exposure in these studies significantly exceeded any real situation found in the field. According to them, France was taking decisions in the absence of “any validated science”. The company also delivered to the Commission a costly GLP (Good Laboratory Practice)-compliant study on bees exposed to corn treated with thiamethoxam it had sent to the private analysis lab Eurofins. This study concluded that “no effect in terms of mortality, honeybee activity and brood development and behaviour of the honeybees” could be observed1.

    However, EFSA’s opinion,published on 16th January, was not the one the companies had hoped for: it was very critical of the use of these pesticides, although the agency was not able to finalise the assessments in some cases due to shortcomings in the available data (remember: EFSA usually doesn’t do any research and merely assesses others’ work). EFSA and its scientific experts found risks to bees associated with neonicotinoids pesticide exposures from pollen and nectar contaminated with pesticide, from pesticide dust, and from exposure from guttation (plants exudating drops of sap on the tips or edges of their leaves).

    Bayer immediately counter-attacked: they commissioned another analysis of EFSA’s conclusion by “an independent panel of bee scientists”: in fact, the company Exponent®, which specialises in defending products from regulation. Exponent® came to the conclusion that “EFSA risk assessments use unrealistic exposure values, make inappropriate comparisons to toxicity threshold levels, fail to consider critical bee behaviour, and inappropriately discount monitoring and field studies”, and therefore “overstates the risks to honey bees”. Exponent®’s modus operandi is reanalysis of scientific studies detrimental to industry to cast doubt on their conclusions in order to prevent their use for regulatory purposes, but their production, tailored for litigation, has been described as “more legal pleadings than scientific papers”.2

  • You don’t like my science? You will hear from my lawyers. Syngenta had access to EFSA’s press release before its publication. They immediately sent an extremely aggressive letter to the agency, claiming that the press release was “incorrect in a major and highly relevant aspect but EFSA also moves out of its area of responsibility and mandate”. Syngenta even threatened to take legal action and set a deadline: “we ask you to formally confirm that you will rectify the press release by 11 o’clock. Otherwise you will appreciate that we will consider our legal options.”Syngenta’s anger increased when the press release was published without major changes. In several letters to EFSA they insisted that the press release is “inaccurate and contrary to the EFSA conclusion”. And the company requested access to documents such as all the draft versions of the press release, internal correspondence and the preparatory meeting notes that led to the draft.

    After analysing the documents provided by EFSA, they then targeted EFSA’s Director, accusing her of not including Syngenta’s comments on the draft press release in harsh terms: “you took the personal responsibility to overrule the internal EFSA proposal to rectify the incorrect press release”. Therefore, “Syngenta would appreciate further explanations from you” before “deciding on the legal options available to it and the identity of specific defendants in any possible court action”.

    Syngenta wanted to find culprits, and therefore requested more documents, including handwritten notes of internal EFSA meetings as well as all the correspondence regarding their attempts to change the draft press release.

  • Mr. Politician, please help me against these ignorant scientists. Threatening EFSA having proved ineffective, Syngenta and Bayer are now putting maximum pressure on the Commission and Member States, and publicly blaming EFSA. Syngenta for instance counterattacked that “EFSA has limited practical knowledge of agriculture” and that if this sort of risk assessment was repeated “it would be impossible to maintain the registration of any existing insecticides or to register any new ones”. According to Syngenta, the methodology used by EFSA to conduct the review was “questionable because it was based on a highly theoretical and extremely conservative scientific opinion”.Beyond direct pressures to politicians, Syngenta launched a fierce campaign in various national media to avoid Members States approving the proposal, claiming for example in the UK media that EFSA had been “nobbled”. The pesticides association ECPA has also been really active, promoting the Humboldt Institute study in the European and national media and scaremongering the public with the prospect of disaster should the proposal be approved.
  • I’ll solve the problem myself, no need to regulate. The two companies have launched a charm offensiveto be seen as part of the solution rather than of the problem, and for this are launching an upgrade of Syngenta’s PR sting “Operation Pollinator”. This consists in paying a few farmers so that they grow flowers and other plants beneficial to bees on their farms. But how many farms exactly? No figures have been provided.

The battle for Member States’ vote

The battleground is now at the European Member State level. On 15th March, at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, the European Commission put to the vote a proposal that would restrict for two years the use of Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiametoxam to crops not attractive to bees and to winter cereals, starting 1st of July (meaning this year’s crops would not be affected). It would also prohibit the sale and use of these pesticides to “amateurs”. This proposal was limited and criticised by farmers group and beekeepers for not being ambitious enough, but still failed to reach a qualified majority. It was supported only by 13 member states (Slovenia, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Denmark, Cyprus, Belgium, Italy, Latvia and Malta), while nine countries (Slovakia, Romania, Czech Republic, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Lithuania, Ireland and Greece) rejected the proposal. The UK, Germany, Finland, Bulgaria and Estonia abstained.

The proposal will be retabled by Commissioner Borg at the Appeal Committee in the coming weeks, with a vote likely to occur probably on the 26th of April or the 2nd of May. If Member States again fail to reach a qualified majority supporting the proposal, the Commission would have the power to approve it. Meanwhile, the pesticides industry is lobbying Member States hard to try to reach a qualified majority to reject the proposal outright and thus block the ban. The coming weeks’ battle will be crucial: will industry interests prevail against bees’ survival?

  • 1.Thiamethoxam – Monitoring of Potential Effects of the Drilling of Thiamethoxam FS Treated Maize Seeds on Honeybees, Guttation Monitoring of Maize Seedlings under Agronomic Use Conditions and Assessment of the Relevance of Guttation for Honeybees in Alsace (France) – Final Report. 15 November 2012, Eurofins Agroscience Services EcoChem GmbH.
  • 2.See “Doubt is their product”, D. Michaels, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.46.

Do we Need the IRA to Fight the War Damage of Austerity?


We don’t have a leader to fight the war against austerity and given that we have no alternative should we ask the IRA to take up the cause on behalf of the citizens

I have no doubt that Kenny and Noonan have good intentions but can you see these men throwing down the gauntlet to force radical change to IMF/ECB policy… no these guys will not rock the boat for the are bonded to their masters

We are a country blitzed by the imposition of austerity…no credit, mounting household debt, high unemployment, plummeting standards right across the broad spectrum of education/social services  and finally the Government selling off the what remains of the family silver. Light at the end of the tunnel I don’t think so all I see is devastation and more ruin. Given the level of mounting Government debt at some stage we are going to reach the point of no return and what then. Do we have to wait until the bitter end to face face reality.

Public Sector

Cutting public sector jobs means higher unemployment and fewer people in work paying taxes

Freezing public sector pay and higher unemployment means less disposable income to be spent in the private sector, with a knock-on effect on private sector jobs
Cutting business taxes means less revenue to close the deficit and pay off our debt.

The government is presenting its plans as simply ‘dealing with the deficit’, but that is a smokescreen for another agenda. The government wants to cut and privatise public services because it believes in a market for even essential goods and services; that business should be free to extract profit from any public service, even schools, hospitals, welfare ETC.

The government’s policies are failing because the public sector is not the real problem.

Instead of solving the crisis, these policies are making it worse.

Austerity is not working
It’s not just in the Ireland that austerity isn’t t working. Just look at Greece,Italy, Portugal, UK and Spain

In Spain the unemployment rate is now 25%, while youth unemployment is over 50%.

Why inequality has to be addressed

We are the 99% – and as an end game harassing the 99%  cannot not work.

Wages have disportionately . Inflation has been higher than the annual increase in pay. This fall in real wages means we are able to buy less with our money than before, as we have less disposable income.
. . . .
Redistribution: to the 1%
Why is this happening and where is the money going? At the same time that wages and other income has been squeezed for the majority of people, a few people at the top are doing better than ever A few at the top are getting very rich by cutting pay and pensions for the rest.

Freedom of information

The very fundamentals of democracy are build on freedom of information and yet on a worldwide basis it appears to be politicians want to squeeze the information been fed to its citizens. Why will the Irish/EU not release the full details of the bailout agreement to its people.

Education

Cutbacks In in education will mean will mean we revert to being a nation of unskilled factory workers.

What next immigration to Bangladesh?

Education is one of the few remaining life lines open to the country

No sell off of public utilities

Everywhere this has happened it has been an unmitigated disaster

  
A banking system that works for people not profit

Some of the banks that were bailed out by the government are still using loopholes to advise their corporate and wealthy clients how to avoid paying tax.

They have also laid-off thousands of their own staff to maintain the greed at the top. It feels like we have nationalised the debts while the profits are privatised.

The banking collapse, which caused such economic damage , means the finance sector has lost the right to carry on as before. It must now act in the public interest; publicly owned and controlled.

The money, real money, that is held by the finance sector is ours anyway: our pension funds, our savings, and the cash in our current accounts. The rest of it is credit – electronic money (as over 90% now is) created out of thin air by the banks to lend. The banks are given the right to create credit by governments.

We therefore need the government to ensure that when banks create credit, or lend or invest with our savings or pension funds, they are doing so in our collective interest.

That means investing in infrastructure like new council housing  not lending recklessly and creating a housing bubble (and inevitable crash). It means investing to create new jobs in renewable energy rather than speculating on food prices to profit from starvation. And it means investing in new businesses and ideas, not getting windfall dividends and bonuses for merging existing businesses and laying-off staff.
Conclusion

Essential public services are being cut back and privatised, and people’s living standards have been falling , both for those in work and even more so for those unemployed.

There are social consequences too, which have clear financial costs.

Research from previous recessions shows that the increased financial pressures push more people into depression and substance abuse, means couples are more likely to separate, and suicide rates increase.

Politics is about choices – and there is always a choice and always an alternative. Because there always is an alternative but yet we are continually fed the mantra there is no alternative to austerity.

There is an economic crisis – one of rising unemployment, inequality and economic stagnation. Austerity isn’t working, and is not producing the economic growth that the government promised it would. But it is not just growth that matters. If we value people’s lives as more important than simply making more transactions, then the relevant tests for judging an economic recovery are:

Is unemployment falling?

Are people’s living standards rising

Is inequality reducing

Is the tax gap closing?

These are the tests against which we should measure the government’s economic strategy and proposals.

Also the government we have appear to be incapable of showing any leadership whatsoever. They sheep like continue to follow the dictate of their masters…Ollie Rehn.  “the eurozone has shown a degree of resilience and problem-solving capacity that many observers and policymakers would not have predicted even a year ago”…Commission chief Jose Barroso  insisted that the policy(austerity) is “fundamentally right” and working in Ireland, a risible statement if ever.

We need a leadership that knows how to play rough and this was familiar territory for the IRA. The lesson learnt was once the financial heart of London was bombed peace was in the making.

If the politicians do not heed the wishes of the electorate what then, protest marches …if they still do not listen…civil disobedience… if they still remain deaf well the options narrow. Revolution,guns , violence bombes I hope not.

May common sense prevail

 

Gender Equality in European Research


In April, the European Commission released its latest snapshot of the representation of women in science. The message that emerges from the oddly named report, She Figures 2012: Gender in Research and Innovation, is hardly surprising: Women are still underrepresented in science. The gap appears to be closing—slowly—but more needs to be done if it is to close completely anytime soon.

Some of the report’s main findings:

On average, in 2009 in the 27 E.U. countries, 33% of all researchers were women. There was a very wide range, however: Women were the least well-represented in Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands (21%, 25%, and 26%, respectively) and best represented in Latvia and Lithuania, which in 2009 had (and presumably still has) more female researchers than male researchers. In Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Estonia, Slovakia, and Poland, at least 40% of researchers were women.

Between 2002 and 2009, the number of female researchers grew more quickly (5.1% annually) than the number of male researchers (3.3%) in the E.U.-27. “[W]omen seem to be catching up with men over time,” the report says. Yet, “it must be remembered that the growth rate for women is on a smaller base than that for men so that if it is merely sustained and not radically increased, it will still take a long time to significantly improve the gender balance in research.”

In the E.U.-27, 40% of researchers in both higher education and government were women, but only 19% of researchers in the for-profit sector were women. There are signs that the gap is closing in all three sectors. For example, in 2002, 35% of researchers in higher education were women, but by 2009 that number had risen to 40%.

In 2010, across the E.U.-27, women earned 46% of the Ph.D. degrees across all scientific fields (which, according to the report’s definitions, include not just the natural and social sciences but also the humanities). Between 2002 and 2006, the number of female Ph.D. graduates increased faster than the number of male Ph.D. graduates—but in 2006, the number of women earning those degrees stopped growing and the number of men earning degrees started to decline.

Women accounted for 64% of all 2010 Ph.D. recipients in education, 56% in health and welfare, and 54% in the humanities. Among Ph.D. graduates, gender was approximately balanced in social sciences, business, and law (49% women), and in agricultural and veterinary sciences (52% women). But just 40% of Ph.D. graduates in the natural sciences, mathematics, and computing were women, and in engineering, just 26%.

The report found that 44% of entry-level academic researchers were women—just below the percentage of Ph.D. graduates. For intermediate-level academic positions that number fell to 37%. Just 20% of senior professors were women. And while the representation of women in the professoriate increased at all levels between 2002 and 2010, “[t]his positive progress is nevertheless slow and should not mask the fact that, in the absence of proactive policies, it will take decades to close the gender gap and bring about a higher degree of gender equality.”

Zooming in, similar trends could be found in the natural sciences and engineering, which the report lumps together. In these fields, the representation of women was 35% at the Ph.D. level, 32% in entry-level faculty positions, 23% in intermediate-level positions, and just 11% among full professors. While the proportion of female scientists and engineers went up between 2002 and 2010, the rise was less pronounced in these fields than it was overall.

The report’s authors calculated a “glass ceiling index” (GCI) for various countries, an indicator of how hard it is for academic women to reach full-professorship. (A value of 1.0 would indicate full equality with men.) On average, throughout the E.U.-27, the GCI was 1.8 in 2010—slightly more favorable to women than in 2004, when the GCI was 1.9. Romania was the closest to gender equality with a GCI of 1.3. Cyprus had the worst GCI (3.6), followed by Lithuania and Luxembourg.

Across the E.U.-27 in 2010, just 10% of universities had a female rector.

In 2010, 36% of E.U. scientific and management board members were women. The data seem to show that gender-based quotas work: Sweden, Norway, and Finland, where the share of female board members was 49%, 46%, and 45%, respectively, have such policies. In contrast, in Hungary, Cyprus, Lithuania, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic, less than 20% of board members were women.

In most countries, men had a higher success rate than women in securing funding. The gender gap varies from 1% (Belgium and Portugal) to 11% (Austria). In Slovenia, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Iceland, and Norway, women had higher success rates than men.

The report’s authors conclude that continued and expanded measures are necessary if progress is to continue. “There is no evidence of spontaneous reduction of gender inequality over time. All these policies, and many more, are needed to ensure that constant progress is made towards gender-equality in research and scientific careers.”

“Some people think that if we just wait, it will get better, and that’s one way in which the She figures are extremely important,” says Curt Rice, vice president for research and development at the University of Tromsø in Norway, an E.U. associated country. “They show us that … if we believe it’s important to have women at the top, then we must act.” Rice led an initiative at the University of Tromsø that contributed to boosting the number of women in professorship positions from 9% to 30% in a decade. (You can read our Q&A with Rice here.)

The 159-page report was put together by the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission in collaboration with the Helsinki Group on Women and Science. Since 2003, the report has been published every 3 years.

The complete She Figures 2012 report is available on the European Commission’s Web site.

via Gender Equality in European Research | Science Careers.

via Gender Equality in European Research | Science Careers.

Minister calls shale gas a “game changer” for Ireland


This article is a  good indication of  where our Government stands on Fracking

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The Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte called the advent of unconventional gas a “game changer” which must be considered here when he spoke on fracking at an information session at the Royal Academy in Dublin last week. His comments have been welcomed by Tamboran Resources but refuted by local anti fracking group Good Energies Alliance Ireland.

The Minister said “I believe that there is considerable genuine concern about the potential environmental and health considerations related to this activity and that the nature of the debate so far has tended to exacerbate these concerns,” he explained that “decisions taken must be based on transparent assessments of solid evidence. We need to study more of the science and less of the propaganda – on both sides of the argument.”

“The advent of unconventional oil and gas has been a ‘game-changer’ on the US energy market with global repercussions. As the EU is likely to remain a “higher” energy cost region in the future, it is unavoidable that we consider the impacts that unconventional oil and gas production will have on security of supply, energy prices and competitiveness,” he stated.

He said in Ireland we import all our oil and more than 90% of our gas and are vulnerable to interruptions in supplies, “The shale revolution is indeed a game-changer the effects of which must be considered on this side of the Atlantic.”

Speaking about the EPA study he said it will be 2014 before we have the geological and ground water data, impacts and mitigating measures and regulatory issues to inform the policy options here.

He noted that “our shared goal is to maximise the benefits to Ireland from our indigenous oil and gas resources. But we need to ensure that both exploration and production – conventional or unconventional, on land or at sea – are conducted safely and on an environmentally sound basis.”

This week, as President of the EU Council, Pat Rabbitte will host an informal meeting of the EU’s Energy Ministers in Dublin. The meeting will include an initial discussion on unconventional gas and oil.

Tamboran Resources, the company seeking to develop shale gas in North Leitrim welcomed the above comments. A spokesperson for Tamboran told the paper, “Energy costs are hurting households and businesses. Shale gas is one of the few game changers that can truly address these rising costs. The Minister’s reference to the impact of shale gas in the US, where it has resulted in a major boost in competitiveness and energy self-sufficiency, are noteworthy, particularly how shale gas is giving an advantage to America over Europe. The debate in Ireland about shale gas will continue, but we are now starting to see serious consideration of the issues based on science and economics.” The company said they are looking forward to the completion of the EPA study.

Ballinaglera’s Aedin McLoughlin of Good Energies Alliance Ireland said, “The EPA study, as described appears to be an exercise designed to pave the way for fracking.” She said the Minister’s speech “confirms that, despite 1,300 submissions being made to the EPA, the majority of which demanded a study of the health impacts of fracking, Minister Rabbitte confirmed that the study is confined to identifying “best practice in respect of environmental protection for the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques”.

She said it is “extremely disturbing that no health study is mentioned despite the clear wishes of the people.” Disputing that the shale revolution is a “game-changer,” GEAI said “Shale gas does not change the game of burning fossil fuels; it is not clean energy, despite the propaganda of the oil/gas industry; it is not a sustainable source of energy, disappearing once the gas is extracted; the gas produced would belong to the industry, not to the people, and would be sold on the international market at market price. Fracking will not bring cheap gas to Ireland, nor will it make us energy-secure.”

No Fracking Ireland called on the EU Ministers meeting in Dublin Castle this week to join with campaigners to work towards imposing an EU wide ban on hydraulic fracturing. In a statement the anti fracking group called on them to make it clear “that the citizens of the EU will not accept a technocratic imposition of extreme energy policies on the continent.”

A recent survey conducted by Eurobarometer at the request of the European Commission has shown that less than one in ten EU citizens think that unconventional fossil fuel extraction should be prioritised by the EU. Seven out of ten citizens, think that the EU should be prioritising the development of renewable fuels.

The group stated “Thousands in Ireland have already signed petitions calling for a ban on the process and campaigns are growing all over Europe against the development of such an industry. Moves to impose such an industry on the citizens of Europe in an anti-democratic manner by the EU Commission and by national governments will only serve to fuel the rapid development of the anti-fracking movement.”

via Minister calls shale gas a “game changer” for Ireland – Local – Leitrim Observer.

via Minister calls shale gas a “game changer” for Ireland – Local – Leitrim Observer.

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