Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mosaic News - 4/22/08: World News from the Middle East

Inside Story - Iraq talks

Iraq's neighbours met Tuesday in Kuwait to discuss assisting the Iraqi government.

William Clinton and Monsanto – a Team for Mutual Profit

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By Siv O'Neall

Crossposted from Axis of Logic

How did we come to this state of the world where we don’t know what we eat or drink, where there is nothing but secrecy as far as what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is plotting with the gigantic Monsanto corporation? Secrecy for the purpose of making Monsanto immune to legal suits, secrecy to make people unaware of what risks they are running when they drink rBGH milk, which is not labeled as coming from cows injected with the dangerous Bovine Growth Hormone. Yes, you read this right. U.S. dairy products are not even labeled as originating from rBGH milk. Incredible? Shocking? You bet.

There is no more any freedom to choose what we eat, what kind of seeds farmers sow, or even what cultures we are going to grow in our own fields. There is no more freedom. Individual freedom has been replaced by control. Giant corporations like Monsanto decide how we live and die. They put our health in danger and since the governments have sold out to them, are working hand in hand with them, there are no legal means of putting an end to this unethical and life-threatening control by Big Brother. Big Brother runs the world, Big Brother is going to drive the world into ever increasing poverty and starvation – under the pretense of solving the problems of world-wide hunger.

If Big Brother decides that you should grow corn to produce ethanol, so be it, but where goes the culture you used to grow to produce food and not fuel?

How did this whole sordid business start?

It was a clever plan by biotech companies to increase food production under the pretext of saving the world from hunger. In reality, it was intended to make biotech companies filthy rich, to own the world. Today it’s the giant Monsanto corporation that controls 90% of all the genetically engineered products world wide. Genetically Modified (GM) products are planted, sold and eaten all over the world, without, lots of the time, the public being aware of what they are consuming.

"The United States Government has been financing research on a genetic engineering technology which, when commercialized, will give its owners the power to control the food seed of entire nations or regions. The Government has been working quietly on this technology since 1983. Now, the little-known company that has been working in this genetic research with the Government’s US Department of Agriculture-- Delta & Pine Land-- is about to become part of the world’s largest supplier of patented genetically-modified seeds (GMO), Monsanto Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri." (William Engdahl)

"Bill[Clinton]’s FDA gave Monsanto permission to market rBGH [dairy products] in 1993 (a GE bovine growth hormone), the first genetically engineered product let loose on us (or did tomatoes with fish DNA get there first?)." (Linn Cohen-Cole)

The Rose Law Firm, the corporate law firm of which Hillary Clinton was a partner from 1977 is home to Industrial Agriculture and genetic engineering. [1]

Why is the public not informed?

In the U.S. dairy farmers for over a decade were not allowed to label their products as non rBGH, free from synthetic growth hormones. How come Monsanto can get away with their secrecy policy, with criminal acts such as banning the correct labeling of dairy products? Instead of being sued themselves for lack of transparency, Monsanto sued the farmers who labeled their milk non rBGH. Does that sound pretty much like the upside-down world to you? Yes, probably it does, because it is.

The truth behind this shocking state of things is the fact that Monsanto and the Food and Drug Administration have been working very close together ever since the Clinton era. Michael Taylor, formerly legal advisor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Deputy Commissioner for Policy at FDA (1991-94), had also previously worked as a lawyer for Monsanto. "One of Taylor’s duties was to represent Monsanto’s efforts to get its bovine growth hormone approved by the FDA." (Political Friendster) [2]

"[Michael Taylor was the] Attorney for Monsanto who rewrote the "regulations" for Genetically Modified foods. His brilliant addition is the "substantial equivalence" measure which says if the nutrition measures are the same … [as its conventional counterpart...]" (Political Friendster).

Since they were now declared to be "substantially equivalent", there was no more any need for proof as to their harmlessness for human consumption.[3]]

The Clinton administration even attempted to alter the organic food standards to include genetically engineered foods, irradiated foods, and sewage sludge as fertilizer for organic crops.

Quote from ZMag (Cashing in on the organic market – by Signe Waller)

"Among the most egregious USDA proposals are ones that would allow genetically engineered and irradiated foods to carry the organic label. Other alarming features concern guidelines on the use of raw manure and toxic sludge. The proposed federal regulations would allow meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal products to be labeled "organic" even if the animals were kept in intensive confinement."

Comment from Linn Cohen-Cole (via

"Had the FDA not refused to comply, rBGH-containing milk and irradiated food could have been labeled "organic" and drug, chemical, vaccine and antibiotic-containing animal waste from factory farms, a pollution nightmare for Tyson [Foods – poultry corporation] and others, could have been sold as "organic" fertilizer."

Monsanto’s attack on no-BGH labels – March 12, 2008

"Monsanto, the maker of recombinant bovine growth hormone (scientific name, recombinant bovine somatotropin or rBST; trade name, Posilac), is embarked on a national state-by-state campaign to get legislatures to rule that food products cannot be labeled that they are rBGH-free or rBST-free. In his weekend column, The Feed, Andrew Martin details how Monsanto has organized its very own “grass-roots” group, Afact, to campaign on the company’s behalf. As Martin puts it, “consumer demand for more natural products…has certainly interfered with Monsanto’s business plan for Posilac.” As I discuss in my book, Safe Food, Monsanto’s aggressive stance (in this and so many other issues that concern its products) has elicited much suspicion of its motives and of genetically modified foods in general. In 1994, Monsanto worked hard to convince the FDA that GM foods did not have to be labeled as such. Now, this company has only itself to blame for consumer resistance to its products." (Marion Nestle)

From Food Democracy:

"In 2006, the FDA announced that cloned meat and dairy products are safe for human consumption, and [the food may be marketed] without any label identifying how it was made."

It’s the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) that are the lunch ladies who won’t share the recipe. Fortunately, the recipe isn’t too difficult to find:

One part cloned meat: Last month, the California legislature passed the first law mandating labels that disclose cloned meat or dairy products. The bill is now marinating on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk. As for the rest of us, we may be stuck eating Dolly. In 2006, the FDA announced that cloned meat and dairy products are safe for human consumption, and may market the food without any label identifying how it was made.

One part genetically modified (GM) food: Just because your box of cornflakes is void of a GM notice doesn’t mean it’s not a frankenfood. The FDA refuses to label food that has been genetically modified, so consumers have no clue when they’re ingesting something that’s been altered. What’s more, the FDA may not even know which food contains GM ingredients; the agency only requires companies developing GM food to voluntarily submit to an evaluation process. (my emphasis)

FDA scientists went to Congress to report that the results of the studies on rBGH milk had been altered to fit in with Monsanto’s claims. They were fired.

BGH Manufacturer Acting Like a Bully
Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) manufacturer Monsanto, continues to use fear and intimidation tactics to push its product on the U.S. market. The biotech company has been rallying "pro-market" forces within the federal government and using them to trash existing laws that would benefit those fighting the industrial use of BGH.

BGH is a bio-engineered additive injected into dairy cows in order to stimulate their milk production. One year after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Monsanto permission to market BGH, its use continues despite nationwide reports of the hormone causing illness and death in cows injected with it. Most befuddling, the FDA is allowing Monsanto to go on producing BGH and wield influence over federal regulations regardless of a very angry, very vocal nationwide consumer base that has repeatedly come out against the use of such chemicals.

The latest victory for the biotech company occurred when US agriculture officials warned all dairy companies labeling their products "BGH Free" that they could have their products confiscated from store shelves. FDA officials maintain such labels give these companies "an unfair market advantage." Threats such as this have caused many dairies, and dependent companies such as Ben & Jerry’s of Vermont, to remove the "safe" labels from their products.

Interesting side note: USFDA Deputy Commissioner, Michael Taylor, a proponent of BGH, was formerly counsel to Monsanto and other biotech firms. (Humane Farming Association)

Quotes from Linn Cohen-Cole (via

"Grains: Forty-nine percent of U.S. corn acreage was planted in Bt corn in 2007. A French study proved Monsanto’s Bt corn (Genetically Engineered) causes kidney and liver toxicity. Soft drinks and candy have highly concentrated Bt corn, in the form of high-fructose Bt corn syrup. The U.S. food system depends most on two crops, soy (90 percent GMO, 90 percent of traits owned by Monsanto) and corn, the largest crop (60 percent GMO, nearly 100 percent Monsanto traits). "Essentially our entire food supply is genetically modified, to the benefit of one company."

Further quotes from Proliberty:

"Cohen-Cole explained that she saw a News Hour piece on Maharastra, India, about farmers committing suicide because Monsanto had used Bollywood [India’s equivalent to "Hollywood"] actors to "sell" illiterate farmers on the idea they could get rich from the big yields that come with planting Monsanto’s Bt (genetically engineered, or "GE") cotton seeds. "The expensive seeds needed expensive fertilizer and pesticides (Monsanto, again) and irrigation. There is no irrigation there. Crops failed. Farmers had larger debts than they’d ever experienced," Cohen-Cole explained.

"The farmers could not collect seeds from their own fields to try again the following season because Monsanto "patents" its DNA-altered seeds and the company has a $10 million budget to prosecute patent-violating farmers. According to Cohen-Cole, "Since the late 1990s (about when industrial agriculture took hold in India), 166,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide and 8 million have left the land." "

See also ’The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation’ By Vandana Shiva

The Indian peasantry, the largest body of surviving small farmers in the world, today faces a crisis of extinction.

Two thirds of India makes its living from the land. The earth is the most generous employer in this country of a billion, that has farmed this land for more than 5000 years.

However, as farming is delinked from the earth, the soil, the biodiversity, and the climate, and linked to global corporations and global markets, and the generosity of the earth is replaced by the greed of corporations, the viability of small farmers and small farms is destroyed. Farmers suicides are the most tragic and dramatic symptom of the crisis of survival faced by Indian peasants. (Vandana Shiva)

Cows treated with the Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)

The bovine growth hormone is designed to boost growth rates and increase body mass and the quantity of milk they produce. More meat, more milk, more money for Monsanto. However, problems surfaced with rBGH milk and also grave problems concerning the animals treated with the growth hormone.

In the documentary I refer to in my recent essay ’The World According to Monsanto – A documentary that Americans won’t ever see’[4] Marie-Monique Robin shows us the unnaturally and painfully enlarged udders of cows treated with rBGH.

During the Clinton administration Monsanto employees were appointed to run the FDA. They of course approved their own product, the first genetically engineered product ever approved.

This was in spite of the fact that severe health problems in the cows had been found, resulting from the growth hormone injections. Cows were getting sick and some were dying. There was also found to be pus in the rBGH milk. Other countries were banning U.S. dairy products and in 1996 there was a press conference of scientists who indicated a possible link to breast and colon cancer in humans and rBGH dairy products.

Excerpt from the press conference of scientists - National Press Club Washington D.C., January 23, 1996

"rBGH poses an even greater risk to human health than ever considered," warned Samuel Epstein M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, author of the new report. "The FDA and Monsanto have a lot to answer for. Given the cancer risks, and other health concerns, why is rBGH milk still on the market?""[5]

The Story Behind the Rush To Bring rBGH to Market

"Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone: Alarming Tests, Unfounded Approval revisits Rural Vermont’s 1991 report on animal health in the Monsanto/University of Vermont (UVM) test herd, and traces what has been learned as a result of the initial report. Our 1991 report exposed many animal health problems, including an alarming number of dead and severely deformed calves." [6]

The continued role of the biotech industry in today’s politics

"Mark Penn, CEO of Burson-Masteller [one of the largest PR companies in the world, also representing Blackwater, Exxon Mobil, Dow ...] has been Hillary Clinton’s long-term advisor, and until very recently, her campaign strategist. The Clinton campaign paid Burson-Masteller over $10 million for their services. The people replacing Penn (who is not necessarily gone) are also associated with the biotech industry. (Linn Cohen-Cole)

"Instead of information, we have laws banning labeling, farmers sued for being "misleading" in saying honestly that they do not use rBGH (or BST), farmers making raw milk (just plain ole milk) facing jail, and then we have the incredible reality that a citizens’ petition to the FDA in 2007 reported that 30 scientific journals showed an up to 7 times increased risk of breast cancer from rBGH milk (also increased risk of colon, lung and prostate cancer)." (Linn Cohen-Cole)

Instead of science, we have public relations

More from Linn Cohen-Cole:

"rBGH is a genetically engineered product and genetic engineering itself is sorely untested. And the tests - those that are independent of the biotech industry itself - coming back are beyond worrisome. A French study of Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn last year showed it caused kidney and liver toxicity. That is the main crop in the US. Scientists are now saying it may cause diabetes.

"But banning labeling of rBGh is not just keeping a label off something. Because the thing being kept unlabeled is genetically engineering itself, which is potentially dangerous. By not labeling it, millions of people are being exposed to a vast human experiment without being able to escape being part of it. The Nuremburg Code said that to have human experiments, one must have "informed consent." We have neither information nor consent. And where people have found their own information, there is actual resistance of which Monsanto is aware. So, this is an enforced experiment which we are all trapped in. This isn’t just some restraint of trade issue or even, much more seriously, a freedom of speech issue. These are crimes against humanity."

Pennsylvania Bans rBGH-Free Labels on Dairy Products – December 13, 2007 (Dr Emily A Kane)

"Apparently, Governor Rendell has decided to step back and reconsider the state’s new ban on the voluntary labeling of BGH free milk. The implementation of the regulations (originally scheduled for January 1) has been delayed at least a month for the Governor’s review."

In fact, what happened in Pennsylvania was just Governor Rendell temporarily taking off the table the legal problem of labeling or no labeling, very likely to void the politically charged issue of any significance, at least before the primaries in that state. We yet have to see if the ban will be reinstated after the election, or even after the primaries.

There are today numerous states that allow the labeling of rBGH dairy products, but the fight is continuing on the part of the public who demand transparency and on the part of Monsanto who insists on secrecy and on a continuation of the "substantial equivalence" policy to free them of all responsibility of labeling their genetically engineered products.


Genetically modified seeds and products are threatening the world’s ecosystems, the health of the entire population of the planet and the lives and livelihoods of thousands and thousands of small farmers, not just in India but in the U.S. and all over the world.

It is generally not known to the American public how their food is controlled by Monsanto, the biotech company that produces 90% of the world’s genetically modified seeds. Monsanto is responsible for the production and sale of not just genetically engineered foods, but lethal products such as Agent Orange, PCBs (a dioxin-like compound, highly toxic and cancerous) [7], pesticides and herbicides, such as the world’s most sold and most dangerous agricultural herbicide, Round-Up.

The general secrecy in matters of GMOs has been made possible through the close links between Monsanto and the governments, which began with Bill Clinton’s policy of appointing Monsanto employees to run the FDA. Of course they declared their own products legal and harmless through multiple twisted policies. The United States Department of Agriculture has also turned a deaf ear on public demands for information and labeling of products.

Once again, people don’t matter, only the big corporations and their profits matter. The Corporatocracy that runs the planet is doing their very best to destroy the land that our forefathers cultivated with sweat and age-old organic methods. But the outcome was a healthy life for their families and the great pleasure in seeing their land produce healthy food.



[1] In 1991, 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton took home over $200,000 from her Senior Partner position in the Rose Law firm.

[2] [Michael Taylor], Monsanto attorney at Burson Marsteller who rewrote the food laws for "substantial equivalence" policy at USDA, now at PEW Biotech group.

[3] "...In March 1994, Taylor was publicly exposed as a former lawyer for the Monsanto corporation for seven years..." In addition, he served as Administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service from 1994 to 1996. RFF’s (Resources for the Future, Washington think tank) Director of Risk, Resource, and Environmental Management is Michael R. Taylor, Monsanto’s former vice-president for public policy who was at the centre of a major controversy over conflicts of interest in relation to Monsanto’s genetically engineered drug rBGH

[4] The World According to Monsanto – A documentary that Americans won’t ever see

[5] New Study Warns of Breast and Colon Cancer Risks from rBGH Milk - Press Release, Press Conference, National Press Club Washington D.C., January 23, 1996

[6] Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone: Alarming Tests, Unfounded Approval - The Story Behind the Rush To Bring rBGH to Market (ANDREW CHRISTIANSEN / Rural Vermont Jul95)

[7] The use of PCBs is banned in most countries today, but George W. Bush has recently ended a 25-year-old ban on the sale of land polluted with PCBs. The sale of PCBs is still banned.

Authors Bio: Siv O’Neall was born and raised in Sweden where she graduated from Lund University. She has lived in Paris, France and New Rochelle, N.Y and traveled extensively throughout Europe. Siv retired after many years of teaching French in Westchester, N.Y. and English in the Grandes Ecoles (Institutes of Technology) in France. In addition to her own writing, Siv has also provided Axis of Logic with translation services. She has been living in France, first Paris, then Lyon, for 30 years. In addition to her political activism and writing, her life is filled with family, music, animals, reading, traveling and "anything that pleases the eye or the palate".

U.S. to Insist That Travel Industry Get Fingerprints

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By Spencer S. Hsu and Del Quentin Wilber

The U.S. government today will order commercial airlines and cruise lines to prepare to collect digital fingerprints of all foreigners before they depart the country under a security initiative that the industry has condemned as costly and burdensome.

The proposal does not say where airlines must collect fingerprints -- at airport check-in counters, departure gates or kiosks somewhere in between. But the government estimates the undertaking will cost airlines $2.3 billion over 10 years, a U.S. homeland security official said.

The overall economic impact on companies, passengers and the government is expected to exceed $3.5 billion, industry lobbyists said, at a time when carriers are struggling with safety concerns, high fuel costs and passenger complaints.

Formal announcement of the plan to track the departure of foreign visitors, as part of the Homeland Security Department's US-VISIT program, comes after an extended battle between the security agency and airlines.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff linked the effort to enforcing the nation's immigration laws recently, saying airlines were obstructing the measure for commercial reasons.

"If we don't have US-VISIT air exit by this time next year, it will only be because the airline industry killed it," Chertoff said recently. "We have to decide who is going to win this fight. Is it going to be the airline industry, or is it going to be the people who believe we should know who leaves the country by air?"

Doug Lavin, regional vice president for the International Air Transport Association, which represents major U.S. and international carriers, said the government, not airlines, should collect fingerprints. "This is ludicrous," Lavin said. "We can't afford anything in the billions to support a program that should be a government program."

Fingerprinting an estimated 33 million departing foreign passengers a year will result in "delayed departures, missed connections here and around the world," Lavin said.

Launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, US-VISIT is intended to automate the processing of visitors entering and exiting the country, using fingerprints and digital photographs to help find criminals, potential terrorists and people who overstay visas and join the nation's illegal immigrant population.

While the program has succeeded in recording nearly 100 million people entering the country since 2004, the DHS has struggled to implement the exit portion. Frustrated at the department's slow pace, Congress last year set a June 2009 deadline for DHS to collect fingerprints from departing air passengers in a law to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Otherwise, Congress said, the government cannot expand the Visa Waiver Program, under which residents of 27 friendly countries can visit the United States without a visa. Inclusion is a priority for nations including South Korea and Greece, and the tourism industry has also targeted South America for expansion.

The proposal will be open for a 60-day comment period. DHS could decide after that time where fingerprinting must be conducted, or it could leave the decision up to airlines, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the proposal has not been formally announced.

Load Up the Pantry

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I don’t want to alarm anybody, but maybe it’s time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You’ve seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they’re a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street’s top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn’t going to happen here. But I don’t know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)

Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you’ll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to And those yields are before tax.

Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.

And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They’re all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.

These are trends that have been in place for some time.

And if you are hoping they will pass, here’s the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

The reason? The prices of many underlying raw materials have risen much more quickly still. Wheat prices, for example, have roughly tripled in the past three years.

Sooner or later, the food companies are going to have to pass those costs on. Kraft saw its raw material costs soar by about $1.25 billion last year, squeezing profit margins. The company recently warned that higher prices are here to stay. Last month the chief executive of General Mills, Kendall Powell, made a similar point.

The main reason for rising prices, of course, is the surge in demand from China and India. Hundreds of millions of people are joining the middle class each year, and that means they want to eat more and better food.

A secondary reason has been the growing demand for ethanol as a fuel additive. That’s soaking up some of the corn supply.

You can’t easily stock up on perishables like eggs or milk. But other products will keep. Among them: Dried pasta, rice, cereals, and cans of everything from tuna fish to fruit and vegetables. The kicker: You should also save money by buying them in bulk.

If this seems a stretch, ponder this: The emerging bull market in agricultural products is following in the footsteps of oil. A few years ago, many Americans hoped $2 gas was a temporary spike. Now it’s the rosy memory of a bygone age.

The good news is that it’s easier to store Cap’n Crunch or cans of Starkist in your home than it is to store lots of gasoline. Safer, too.

Write to Brett Arends at

UN cuts school children's meals

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By Jeremy Lovell

A "SILENT tsunami" unleashed by costlier food is threatening 100million people, the United Nations has warned, revealing that its World Food Program has begun cutting the provision of school meals to some of the world's poorest children as the global food-price crisis worsens.

Aid bodies said there was enough food to go round but the key was to help the poor afford it, and urged producing nations not to curb exports to stockpile food at home.

In London, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said Britain would seek changes to EU biofuels targets if it was shown that planting crops for fuel was driving up food prices - a day after the bloc stood by its plans to boost biofuel use.

Britain has also pledged $US900million ($947 million) to help the UN World Food Program alleviate its immediate problems and address longer-term solutions to "help put food on the table for nearly a billion people going hungry across the world".

In a meeting of experts which Mr Brown called on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, the head of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, said a "silent tsunami" threatened to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger.

"This is the new face of hunger; the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are," she said.

Riots in poor Asian and African countries have followed steep rises in food prices caused by many factors: rising demand from consumers in developing countries such as China and India, the effect of climate change on food production, dearer fuel and the conversion of land to grow crops for biofuel.

Rice from Thailand has more than doubled in price this year.

Ms Sheeran said artificially created shortages, such as those caused by countries that have slowed or stopped exports, were worsening the problem.

The major food exporters Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Cambodia have closed their stocks to safeguard supplies.

"The world has been consuming more than it has been producing for the past three years, so stocks have been drawn down," Ms Sheeran said.

"The world knows how to produce food and will do so. But we will have a couple of challenging years."

Rising prices meant the UN food program was running short of money to buy food.

A program providing meals for 450,000 Cambodian children has been suspended and Ms Sheeran said a similar program in Kenya, serving 1.2 million children, was facing cuts of nearly 50per cent.

She said the cutbacks reflected "heartbreaking decisions" and were the biggest challenges of the program in 45 years.

"The era of cheap food is over," said Rajat Nag, managing director general of the Asian Development Bank.

He urged Asian governments not to distort markets with export curbs but use fiscal measures to help the poor.

"We want to temper what we think is a bit of an over-reaction. There is still enough supply," he said.

Mr Brown raised further doubts about the wisdom of using crops to help produce fuel, an idea whose recent popularity in the United States and Europe has been dented by fears that it harms the environment and makes food dearer.

"We need to look closely at the impact on food prices and the environment of different production methods and to ensure we are more selective in our support [for biofuels]," Mr Brown said.

Will the CIA Kill or Oust Ecuador’s President?

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By Jacob G. Hornberger

Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa may not be long for this world, both in a political sense and in genuine life-or-death sense. He recently fired his defense minister, army chief of intelligence, and commanders of the army, air force, and joint chiefs.

Why might those firings cost Correa his job or even his life? Because the reason he fired them was that Ecuador’s intelligence systems were “totally infiltrated and subjugated to the CIA.” As other rulers around the world, including democratically elected ones, have learned the hard way, bucking the CIA is a real no-no that sometimes leads to coups and assassinations.

What’s the CIA doing infiltrating Ecuador’s military intelligence systems? Good question! Maybe it’s because the CIA still fears the threat of communism. Don’t forget that that was the apparent rationale for the U.S. government’s support of Operation Condor, the campaign of assassination and torture co-sponsored by the brutal regimes in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru during the 1970s. Don’t forget also that many of the brutal military personnel in those regimes received their training at the U.S. Army’s infamous School of the Americas, famous for, among other things, its torture manuals.

To make matters worse for Correa, he promises to throw the U.S. military out of his country when the U.S. government’s lease at its base in Manta expires in 2009. The U.S. government spent $60 million to build the base in 1999, securing a 10-year lease that provided no rent to be paid to Ecuador.

So, why does the U.S. military have a $60 million military base in Ecuador? The base is part of the U.S. government’s much-vaunted 30-year-old war on drugs, one of the U.S. Empire’s never-ending wars around the world. The base houses Awacs surveillance planes whose purported mission is to search for international drug smugglers.

What irked President Correa is that apparently his CIA-infested intelligence services fed classified information to Colombian officials that led to a Colombian military attack on a Colombian rebel camp that was located inside Ecuador. One big problem was that when Correa’s intelligence services leaked the information to Colombia, they left Correa (their boss) out of the loop.

The final nail in Correa’s coffin might be the fact that he is an ally of Venezuela’s Marxist president Hugo Chavez, who himself is a likely target of CIA ouster or assassination.

The good news for Americans in all this is that the Ecuadorian people are doing their best to rid their country of the CIA and the U.S. military. Maybe the Ecuadorans will start a trend in which all other countries will do the same. While it would obviously be best if the American people were to dismantle their government’s overseas empire themselves, having foreigners do it instead by throwing the CIA and the Pentagon out of their countries would be just as effective and beneficial — to both the United States and the people of the world.

United Airlines' parent posts $542-million loss

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By Martin Zimmerman

UAL shares fall sharply on the news. The company, which blames the loss mostly on rising fuel costs, says it will eliminate 1,100 jobs and reduce flight schedules.

Skyrocketing fuel costs have plunged U.S. airlines into a sea of red ink -- and travelers can expect higher air fares and fewer flights from which to choose as a result.

United Airlines on Tuesday became the latest victim of the industry's woes. The airline's parent company reported a larger-than-expected loss in the first quarter, sending its stock into a tailspin.

Analysts and industry executives said that ticket prices needed to rise significantly just as the peak summer travel season takes off to help airlines weather the recent surge in oil prices, which is pushing up the price of jet fuel to record highs.

"There needs to be a minimum 15% across-the-board hike in fares to offset higher fuel costs," said Vaughn Cordle of AirlineForecasts in Washington. "This problem is going to devastate the industry -- in fact, it already has."

Such a boost would increase a typical round-trip economy fare from Los Angeles to Dallas-Fort Worth, for example, to nearly $280 from $242.

Although the higher prices would be painful for travelers, some industry watchers say they are essential to rescuing the airlines. Some analysts said the industry's financial pain was reaching levels not seen since the aftermath of 9/11, when a slump in air travel drove several big carriers into bankruptcy.

The industry estimates it will spend almost $60 billion on jet fuel this year, up from $15 billion in 2003.

"An airline ticket has got to reflect the full cost of fuel," Richard Anderson, chief executive of Delta Air Lines Inc., told reporters Tuesday in Washington, suggesting a fare increase of 15% to 20% was needed.

United's parent, Chicago-based UAL Corp., posted a first-quarter loss of $542 million. The airline, the No. 2 carrier at Los Angeles International Airport, blamed the loss primarily on a $618-million jump in fuel costs -- 50% more than a year earlier -- as well as the slowing U.S. economy.

"The pressure of high energy prices and a weakening U.S. economy are a wake-up call that the pace of change must accelerate," said Glenn Tilton, CEO of UAL. "The path to sustainable profitability requires us to fundamentally overhaul every facet of our business."

United's loss was bigger than Wall Street expected and rattled investors. UAL shares plunged 37%, falling $7.88 to $13.55. American Airlines parent AMR Corp. fell 14%, and Continental Airlines Inc. slid 17%. Oil jumped $1.89 to $119.37 a barrel in New York trading Tuesday.

Airlines have been cutting flights and raising fares recently. By some estimates, there have been 11 industrywide fare hikes since late last year. Just a week and a half ago, most major carriers raised the price of a round-trip ticket by as much as $30.

Airlines are also looking for other ways to raise money. Last weekend, for example, the fee United charges to change a reservation on a domestic flight was raised from $100 to $150.

Analysts say the fact that most of the increases are being matched industrywide -- ensuring that they will stick -- is both unusual and a sign of the carriers' financial distress.

"In some cases, there is sticker shock at the new air fares and the myriad fees," said Wido Schaeffer, president of TravelStore, a travel service headquartered in Brentwood.

Schaeffer said his business clients have started to cut back -- his sales were off 6% in March and are down this month.

Leisure travelers seem to be defying the trend, however, fare expert Terry Trippler said.

"These higher fares just aren't deterring travelers," said Trippler, who runs travel website "They may go to Orlando instead of Paris, but they're still going to go."

United was the fourth airline in recent days to report losses because of high fuel costs, along with American, Continental and JetBlue Airways Corp. Delta and Northwest Airlines Corp. report first-quarter results today.

Several smaller carriers have filed for bankruptcy protection, most recently Frontier Airlines, which has continued flying.

Consolidation is another option. Delta and Northwest announced a proposed merger this month. United is reportedly talking about a marriage with Continental.

United's $4.45-a share first-quarter loss compared with a loss of $1.32, or $152 million, a year earlier. Revenue rose 7.7% to $4.71 billion.

To cut costs, United said it would lower its planned 2008 spending by $400 million and eliminate 1,100 employees by the end of the year.

UAL also said it would cut capacity by 9% this year, on top of a 5% reduction in the fourth quarter of 2007, and remove as many as 15 more narrow-body aircraft from its operating fleet, for a total of 30 grounded planes.

Heavily traveled "shuttle" markets, such as L.A.-San Francisco and New York-Washington are prime targets for schedule cuts, analysts said.

Excluding flights by its commuter affiliate, United has 89 daily departures from LAX, 14 from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, six from Ontario Airport, four from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and one from Long Beach Airport.

Said Jim Corridore, an airline analyst at Standard & Poor's Corp.: "We are reaching a point where we have to talk about survival of the industry again, just like we did after 9/11."

Broadcom to pay $12 million to settle SEC fraud suit

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By Kim Christensen and E. Scott Reckard

The complaint alleges that the Irvine chip maker's top officials -- namely Henry Nicholas and Henry Samueli -- backdated stock options.

Broadcom Corp. on Tuesday agreed to pay $12 million to settle allegations that its top executives backdated stock options, but the Securities and Exchange Commission complaint did little to put the matter behind the billionaire co-founders of the Irvine chip maker.

Without referring to them by name, the SEC lawsuit singled out Henry T. Nicholas III, who stepped down as chief executive in 2003, and Chairman Henry Samueli, a major Orange County philanthropist who owns the Anaheim Ducks professional hockey team.

"The backdating scheme at Broadcom was orchestrated and carried out by Broadcom's most senior executives, including its co-founder and former chief executive officer [Nicholas], its co-founder and chairman and chief technical officer [Samueli]" and others, the complaint said.

Federal prosecutors also have identified Samueli and Nicholas as "unindicted potential co-conspirators" in a criminal investigation of the backdating allegations. That investigation is continuing, and the settlement with the SEC does not preclude a separate action by the Justice Department.

Neither Samueli nor his attorney could be reached for comment Tuesday. A Broadcom spokesman said the company had agreed with the SEC that no employees would comment.

Nicholas -- who last week checked into the Betty Ford Center for an alcohol-rehabilitation program -- said through his lawyer that he did not benefit personally from the backdating.

"At all times he believed he was complying with company rules, as well as accounting and legal requirements," attorney Brad Brian said.

The settlement was the second-largest growing out of more than 200 stock option backdating cases investigated by the SEC. The largest settlement, for $28 million, was with Mountain View, Calif.-based Mercury Interactive Corp., a software company that was accused of overstating its revenue and making fraudulent loans. Mercury was acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2006.

The SEC lawsuit alleged that other former senior Broadcom employees, including the general counsel and chief financial officer, participated in the fraud.

Nancy Tullos, a former vice president of human resources, has agreed to pay $1.4 million to resolve claims against her, the SEC said last month, and has pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice.

Broadcom, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to settle the SEC lawsuit for $12 million and consented to a permanent injunction against further federal securities violations.

"We are pleased that the SEC's investigation of our historical stock option grant and accounting practices has concluded as to the company," Broadcom said in a statement. "This is a major step in the process of closing this chapter as we remain focused on the company's business today and for the future."

An option is a right to buy shares at a set price in the future, and the price is typically the closing price of the company's stock on the date the option is granted. But Broadcom and many tech companies, especially, backdated options to take advantage of lower closing prices. That increased their value to employees at the expense of shareholders.

Broadcom, which makes computer chips used in Nintendo's Wii game console and other consumer products, saw its shares rise 9% to $25.68 in extended trading Tuesday after reporting unexpectedly strong earnings. It had closed the regular session at $23.55, down 27 cents.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, the SEC's civil complaint contains new details of the backdating scheme, including allegations of a cover-up that involved falsifying corporate records, which is a federal crime

The illegal backdating occurred from June 1998 through June 2003 and involved as many as 88 options grants during a time of "tremendous growth," for the company, the complaint said. After Broadcom went public in April 1998, it expanded from about 300 employees to about 3,000 by 2002.

"Broadcom operated in the highly competitive high-tech market where recruiting and retaining talented employees was a top priority," the complaint noted, as was preserving cash. "As a result, Broadcom relied heavily on stock options to recruit and retain employees."

The SEC complaint does not allege that Samueli or Nicholas profited from the backdating. Many Broadcom employees made little money on stock options because the stock price already had begun a long descent by the time the options could be cashed in.

But as a result of the fraud, Broadcom restated its financial results in January 2007 and reported more than $2 billion in additional compensation expenses, the SEC said.

Defense attorney Jan Handzlik, a former federal prosecutor who now represents white-collar defendants but is not involved in the Broadcom case, said the facts in the SEC's complaint seemed more like "civil wrongdoing" than "willful criminal fraud."

"There is still no suggestion that company executives sought to enrich themselves through these practices," Handzlik said.

"Instead of alleging a willful scheme to defraud, the complaint says that the officers were 'reckless in not knowing' that their actions would 'trigger accounting consequences.' This is a far cry from the smash-and-grab behavior at a company riddled with fraud," Handzlik said.

Broadcom granted employees options to purchase 238 million shares of common stock from June 1998 through May 2003. For the 95% of the options that went to employees other than top executive officers, the options committee consisted of Nicholas and Samueli; the alleged improper dating of those options was the basis for most of the company's restatement of its earnings.

But 5% of the awards went to other corporate officers, including then-Chief Financial Officer William Ruehle and David Dull, Broadcom's general counsel at the time. Those grants should have been made by two independent directors, but instead were made by "top officers -- not the compensation committee," the SEC said.

According to the complaint, Dull directed the preparation of false board and compensation committee written consents to conceal some of these grants.

Dull's attorney, James Asperger, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Dull has not been charged by federal prosecutors

Neither Dull nor Ruehle was identified by name in the SEC complaint.

"Should the SEC pursue an action against Bill, he will vigorously defend against the charges," said Ruehle's lawyer, Richard Marmaro. "When all of the facts are heard, it will be clear that Bill Ruehle was never on the company's board of directors or stock option committee; he never had authority or responsibility to grant stock options, or to select grant dates, and he never did so."

At Broadcom, Nicholas was known for challenging colleagues and rivals to match his work hours and hard-partying habits. His recent life has been marred by divorce proceedings, allegations of drug abuse and accusations by former contractors that he sought to build a secret "sex lair" for prostitutes beneath his former home.

Nicholas blamed the most egregious allegations on disgruntled former employees he contended were trying to wring major financial settlements out of him.

Last year, Nicholas pledged to provide $100 million to charity. Banners for an educational foundation were soon hanging from buildings he rented across the street from the federal courthouse in Santa Ana, and he pledged funds to youth sports, medical research and troops in the Middle East.

Nicholas has been "deeply distressed" by a custody battle with his estranged wife and was devastated by the recent death of his stepfather, his lawyer, Bill Hake, said last week after the billionaire checked into the Betty Ford Center for a monthlong alcohol treatment program

For all his prominence as a sports team owner, Samueli is perhaps best known as a philanthropist. His family foundation has given more than $200 million to support education, youth services, health and Jewish cultural causes.

Israel escalates offensive against Palestinians with Egypt’s assistance

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By Jean Shaoul

Within days of Israel mounting a weeklong civil defence exercise, Israeli armed forces invaded Gaza, killing about 40 Palestinians and injuring many more. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened Gaza with further attacks.

For the last six months, Israel has cut fuel supplies to 30 percent of its previous level as part of its strategy of starving the Hamas-led Gaza Strip into submission. This has led to low power supplies, long power cuts, sporadic running water, and 30 million litres of sewage a day being dumped onto Gaza’s beaches. Even the most basic food items are not getting through fast enough and rubbish is piling up in the streets.

The latest killings follow a Palestinian attack on the Nahal Oz fuel crossing and the shooting of two Israeli workers. Israel launched a number of assaults on Gaza and terminated all fuel supplies. Travel became all but impossible and the four main universities closed as students were unable to attend. Some limited fuel supplies for cooking have now restarted.

On April 11, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians, including six civilians. On April 15, the military moved into northern Gaza and then struck at various points in the Gaza Strip during the night, killing at least 20 Palestinians in battles that went on for hours. Troops killed at least 11 Palestinians in the Bureij refugee camp, including five children. They fired four shells and numerous bullets at Gaza’s El Wafa hospital, the only rehabilitation centre in Gaza, knocking out its generator and water tank.

In another attack, troops killed a clearly marked Reuters cameraman, Fadal Shana, and three Palestinian civilians, including two teenage boys on a bicycle, in an area where there was no military activity by Palestinian militants.

The New York based human right group, Human Right Watch (HRW), said its investigation showed that an Israeli tank crew fired “recklessly or deliberately” at the cameraman and his soundman. Joe Stark, HRW’s Middle East director issued a statement saying, “Israeli soldiers did not make sure they were aiming at a military target before firing, and there is evidence suggesting they actually targeted the journalists.”

HRW also called on Israel to stop using flechette shells which explode in the air, releasing thousands of metal darts. These weapons indiscriminately kill civilians, particularly in Gaza which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Physicians for Human Rights went to Israel’s High Court in October 2002 to get the flechette shells banned, but the High Court upheld their use.

During the raids, three Israeli soldiers were killed and three were injured when they were ambushed by Palestinian gunmen. This was the highest toll suffered in one day by Israel since the 2006 Lebanon war and brings to seven the number killed this year, more than in the whole of 2007.

Israel has also mounted operations on the West Bank, raiding the Qabatiya refugee camp near Jenin and killing two Palestinians, an Islamic Jihad militant and a 16 year old boy. On April 15, Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered a general closure of the West Bank, scheduled to last for 10 days over the Passover, starting April 17, when exit and entrance to Israel would be closed to Palestinians.

Over this past weekend, Israel killed seven Hamas militants in a series of air strikes after militants drove an armoured personnel carrier and two jeeps packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives at the Kerem Shalom crossing point into Gaza and pounded the border area with mortar fire. The suicide attacks wounded 13 Israeli soldiers, eight of whom were hospitalised. The four Hamas suicide bombers died in the explosion.

Hamas said its attack was part of a campaign to break the ten-month long economic blockade of Gaza. Israel and Egypt, which shares Gaza’s southern border, have closed off Gaza from the rest of the world. Barak warned that Hamas would “bear the consequences” for the suicide attacks.

Israel’s ability to carry out its remorseless actions depends first of all on the unqualified military and economic support of the United States and secondly on the complicity of Arab governments—uniformly despotic, corrupt and despised by their own people and dependent upon Washington—which have not lifted a finger to defend the Palestinians.

A crucial role is played by Egypt, which has been instrumental in isolating the Palestinians ever since it signed the Camp David Accords in 1979.

In the aftermath of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” from Gaza in 2005, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak signed two agreements with Israel to police Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.

The first, an extension to the 1979 agreement, is a military protocol limiting the number of Egyptian troops to 750 whose task is to prevent any Palestinian attacks on Israel, smuggling in general and the transport of arms in particular. The second permits only those with a Palestinian ID card and registered in Israeli records to cross, with the result that many Palestinians living abroad as well as Egyptians and citizens of other countries are unable to enter Gaza from Egypt. The Egyptian side of the border is under the constant surveillance of Israel via video cameras, while on the Palestinian side crossings are subject to European Union approval.

The US has locked Egypt into the Camp David Accords via military aid and some economic aid, although this is both small relative to military aid and declining, and a trade agreement in which goods with an 11 percent Israeli content and produced in Egypt’s Qualified Industrial Zones may be exported to the US without facing a tariff.

The Egyptian regime’s dependence on Washington and support for the US occupation of Iraq and Israeli suppression of the Palestinians has fostered popular opposition to Mubarak’s military-backed government. This has been exacerbated by rocketing inflation and high food prices, particularly for bread.

Much of the population relies on subsidized food and 40 percent live below the poverty line. At the end of March, there were two days of riots over low wages and high food prices, the worst unrest since 1977 bread riots, resulting in the deaths of several workers. Unofficial estimates of unemployment range between 17 and 25 percent. Conditions are so bad that lawyers, doctors and engineers work in unskilled jobs, such as taxi driving, to supplement their income. Marriage has become an unaffordable luxury.

Mubarak and the ruling military clique around him view Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt’s own Muslim Brotherhood, as a threat to their own position. The Brotherhood, although officially outlawed since 1954, is by far the largest opposition party in Egypt. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, despite all the obstacles to standing candidates in its own name and campaigning openly, it managed to win 20 percent of the seats.

Mubarak ensured that there would be no repeat performance of this in the local elections on April 8 by arresting more than 1,100 members of the Brotherhood, intimidating their supporters and preventing almost all their 10,000 potential candidates from qualifying for ballot status. The Brotherhood boycotted the elections in protest, and Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party were returned unopposed on a three percent turnout.

Without the backing of local councillors, under the recent constitutional amendments it will be impossible for a member of the Muslim Brotherhood to run for the presidency.

Mubarak has also sought to outdo the Brothers by fostering the turn to religion. Whereas a generation ago, few young women covered their heads and few Egyptian men went to the mosque for the five daily prayers, now the hijab or headscarf is widespread and there is one mosque for every 745 people—compared to one mosque for every 6,031 Egyptians in 1986.

In January, the breach of the Egyptian border by tens of thousands of Gazans created a major political crisis for the Mubarak regime. While Mubarak has long policed the border with Gaza on behalf of Jerusalem and Washington, he did not want to be seen as directly aiding Israel against the desperate Palestinians who lacked food and basic provisions due to the Israeli blockade. But he feared that Palestinian militants from Hamas would move into Egypt and link up with their sister party, and that many undocumented Palestinians would make their home there, thereby exacerbating the already tense social relations within Egypt.

The breakout also raised the possibility of attacks on Israel launched from the Sinai desert, which would endanger Egypt’s increasingly fragile and unpopular relations with Israel. Mubarak, after a few days of prevarication, therefore decided to re-seal and strengthen the borders, making it clear to everyone that he was totally dependent on and subservient to Jerusalem and Washington.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said, “Egypt won’t allow the border to be breached a second time. Anyone approaching the border will have his legs broken.”

The Egyptian police arrested hundreds of Palestinians, including 115 Hamas militants, during the breakout. While 34 Hamas activists were later released, at the end of March Hamas said that some were still in custody, leading to demonstrations on the Egyptian-Gaza border. Demonstrators set up a protest tent at the Rafah crossing with banners condemning Arab and Muslim nations for not doing more to lift the siege of Gaza. They also set up a symbolic cemetery designated “the Arab silence graveyard”.

Since then, all but one of the Hamas prisoners, whom Egypt claims was planning to assassinate a senior Fatah member in Egypt, have been released.

At the beginning of April, after Israel terminated all fuel supplies to Gaza in the wake of the attack at Nahal Oz, Egypt intensified its side of the siege. It stopped large trucks from taking goods—food products, fuel and motorcycles—into the border town of Rafah to ensure that Palestinians would have no reason to breach the Gaza-Egypt frontier. It also despatched 1,200 security forces to Sinai to reinforce the border following an announcement by a Hamas leader that the border, which militants demolished in January, could soon be breached again.

The Egyptian government warned Palestinian groups not to try to breach the border or take advantage of what the foreign ministry described as “fabricated” domestic troubles in Egypt. It issued an official statement saying, “Any attempt to violate the sanctity of the Egyptian border by force or to illegally encroach on the border line will be met with the appropriate seriousness and firmness to protect the border and its sanctity.”

As Israel continued its attacks on Gaza, Hamas officials went to Egypt to meet former US President Jimmy Carter who is visiting the Middle East to move the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians forward.

But President Bush’s restart of the peace process after Annapolis is a charade. Fully 40 percent of the West Bank is off limits to the Palestinians due to the Security Wall, as well as the numerous military installations and roads linking the settlements to Israel proper. Israel is continuing to build this security wall, withhold tax and electricity payments from the Palestinian Authority, expand the settlements and tighten the siege of Gaza. It refuses to discuss the substantive issues of the borders of any future Palestinian state, the question of the refugees or Jerusalem, the three key issues in any peaceful resolution of the long running conflict.

Supreme Court Reviews "Millionaire's Amendment"

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Washington - Chief Justice John Roberts, author of last year's decision striking down a campaign finance measure, could play the pivotal role in the Supreme Court's consideration of a law that allows candidates to receive larger contributions when their wealthy opponents spend heavily from their personal fortunes.

The court heard arguments Tuesday about the "millionaire's amendment" that kicks in to help candidates stay financially competitive against wealthy opponents.

It is being challenged by Jack Davis, a New York Democrat who has so far spent nearly $4 million of his own money in two losing campaigns for Congress and says he will spend another $3 million this year.

Davis says the law unfairly rewards his opponents by allowing them to exceed campaign fundraising limits simply because Davis has chosen to dip into his personal funds.

Andrew Herman, Davis' lawyer, told the court Tuesday that the law, in effect, says "we're going to make it easier for your opponent to beat you." Davis claims the provision unfairly protects incumbents who can easily tap campaign contributors for larger donations.

Roberts voiced some skepticism about the measure Tuesday, but he sounded far less hostile to the law than in his opinion a year ago that ruled unconstitutional the limits Congress placed on corporate- and union-financed television ads.

"There is no restriction whatsoever on the wealthy candidate. He can spend as much of his money as he wants," Roberts said.

While it seemed probable that the other justices would align the way they did in last year's 5-4 decision - split along ideological grounds - a shift by Roberts could allow the law to be upheld.

A decision is expected by late June, and could affect campaigns for Congress this year. "If the statute is declared unconstitutional, the ability of candidates to obtain stepped-up contributions will be ended," said Michael Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Toner said it is hard to predict how the decision would affect specific races.

The millionaire's amendment is part of the 2002 campaign finance law, but has come into play in relatively few races. Its most prominent beneficiary so far has been Sen. Barack Obama, who was able to attract additional contributions for his Democratic senatorial primary campaign in Illinois because an opponent spent nearly $29 million of his own money.

Davis lost in 2004 and 2006 to Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds, who spent more than $5 million in winning re-election two years ago 51 percent to 49 percent.

Reynolds chose not to solicit increased contributions after Davis triggered the millionaire's amendment by putting at least $350,000 of his own money into the race. Reynolds could have received $6,900 from individual donors, triple the limit otherwise. Reynolds is retiring at the end of this term.

Roberts' conservative colleagues questioned the law's validity to varying degrees.

Justice Antonin Scalia said he is "deeply suspicious" of the provision. "Do you think we should trust our incumbent senators and representatives to level the playing field for us?" he said.

Justice Samuel Alito said he found it hard to reconcile the higher contribution limits with the law's goal of reducing corrupting influences in politics. "How is it that...Congress doesn't think there is a serious corruption problem when this statute kicks in and somebody gives $6,900 to a candidate?" Alito asked.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said he was troubled by the part of the law that allows a political party to spend more money to help a candidate facing a wealthy opponent, while the party of the wealthy candidate must abide by stricter limits.

"It puts this court, it puts this statute, in the position of preferring one kind of speech over another. And we simply do not do that," Kennedy said.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the FEC, said there may have been just one campaign in which a political party took advantage of the limits being removed.

The court's liberal justices, who dissented from last year's ruling, seemed more favorably inclined toward the millionaire's amendment.

Reacting to Herman's contention that the law makes it less likely that candidates will finance their own campaigns, Justice David Souter said, "It didn't deter your client. There is no indication that it would deter anybody else and I have to say I don't see why it would."

The case is Davis v. Federal Election Commission, 07-320.

Report Calls Bush SCHIP Rules Illegal

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By Mike Lillis

Non-partisan agency blasts restrictions on access for kids health program.

The Bush administration has no immediate plans to rescind controversial guidelines restricting enrollment in a popular children's health-care program, despite a recent legal finding that they were administered illegally.

The administration's position could leave the issue to the courts, where several states have already sued the White House over their right to expand coverage under the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. It could also lead to a showdown with Congress, though legislative efforts to expand SCHIP were twice vetoed by President George W. Bush last year. Perhaps with that in mind, congressional critics of the enrollment guidelines are clinging to the unlikely hope that the new legal opinion will inspire the administration to scrap the rules voluntarily.

The long-running debate over SCHIP highlights the sharp differences between the White House and a Democratic Congress over Washington's role in providing health care. With medical costs skyrocketing and employers dropping more and more coverage benefits, many lawmakers are pushing to expand that role into higher income brackets. The Bush administration has fought that push, claiming such expansions nibble away at private insurance markets.

In limbo are tens-of-thousands of kids whose health coverage hinges on their eligibility for the state-federal program.

At issue are controversial eligibility guidelines - issued directly to state health officials in an Aug. 17 letter - that prohibit states from using federal SCHIP funds to cover children in families earning more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or $53,000 for a family of four, until they have covered 95 percent of kids living under 200 percent of poverty, or $42,400. Supporters in and outside of the White House say the rules ensure that SCHIP dollars go to the lowest income kids.

But on Thursday, the Government Accountability Office challenged the guidelines, charging that the administration broke the law when it bypassed Congress in issuing them. Under a 12-year-old law, the GAO says, the changes have to be reviewed by both Congress and the GAO before they could take effect.

The legal opinion is being cheered by children's health-care advocates and state health officials. But they might not want to hold their breath waiting for change: The GAO opinion has no teeth, and the Bush administration has already issued a statement saying it will ignore it.

"GAO's opinion does not change the department's conclusion that the 8/17 letter is still in effect," Jeff Nelligan, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in an Apr. 18 statement.

The issue boils down to a difference in legal interpretations. The Bush administration claims the Aug. 17 letter is just a non-binding statement of general policy - a clarification of existing law. The GAO, on the other hand, argues that the letter constitutes a policy change significant enough to require congressional and GAO perusal under the Congressional Review Act.

"The August 17 letter from CMS to state health officials is a statement of general applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret or prescribe law or policy with regard to [SCHIP]," GAO writes. "Accordingly, it is a rule under the Congressional Review Act. Therefore, before it can take effect, it must be submitted to Congress and the Comptroller General."

The Congressional Research Service, another nonpartisan investigative research body, reached a similar conclusion in a January report.

Meanwhile, a number of states have already felt the effects of the allegedly non-binding policy. State officials in both Wisconsin and Louisiana, for example, passed SCHIP expansions last year taking eligibility up to 300 percent of poverty, or $63,600 for a family of four. In both cases, the administration knocked that ceiling down to 250 percent. Researchers at Louisiana State University estimated the change prevented 6,000 kids from joining the program in Louisiana alone.

In New York, state officials passed an expansion pushing eligibility to 400 percent of poverty, or $84,800, but the administration rejected it, citing the Aug. 17 waiver. State officials say the change would allow for coverage of 70,000 more kids under the program.

New York has sued the administration, charging it did not have the authority to install the guidelines without congressional review. The GAO report bolsters that argument, though there's no indication that the court will reach its verdict in the near future.

Timeliness could pose a problem for states that currently cover kids living above 250 percent of poverty. The Bush administration has given states a year to comply with the conditions in the Aug. 17 directive. Afterward, states would have to drop those kids or pick up 100 percent of their health-care costs. With many state budgets already pinched due to the ailing economy, officials contend the latter option is virtually impossible.

That would force the issue to Congress, where critics of the Aug. 17 directive remain strangely hopeful that the administration will heed the GAO criticisms. "CMS now has a critical choice to make: rescind the rule or continue to spend taxpayer money defending a growing list of lawsuits it is unlikely to win," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), who requested the GAO report, said in a statement.

"It would be in the best interest of all parties involved, but particularly children, if CMS voluntarily withdrew the August 17 letter," Rockefeller concluded.

That, however, could reopen the floodgates for state SCHIP expansions - an unlikely scenario at the hands of an administration that threatened to veto any legislation confronting the expansion restrictions.

Global Food Crisis: Hunger Plagues Haiti and the World

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By Stephen Lendman

Consumers in rich countries feel it in supermarkets but in the world’s poorest ones people are starving. The reason - soaring food prices, and it’s triggered riots around the world in places like Mexico, Indonesia, Yemen, the Philippines, Cambodia, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Guinea, Mauritania, Egypt, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Peru, Bolivia and Haiti that was once nearly food self-sufficient but now relies on imports for most of its supply and (like other food-importing countries) is at the mercy of agribusiness.

Wheat shortages in Peru are acute enough to have the military make bread with potato flour (a native crop). In Pakistan, thousands of troops guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. In Thailand, rice farmers take shifts staying awake nights guarding their fields from thieves. The crop’s price has about doubled in recent months, it’s the staple for half or more of the world’s population, but rising prices and fearing scarcity have prompted some of the world’s largest producers to export less - Thailand (the world’s largest exporter), Vietnam, India, Egypt, Cambodia with others likely to follow as world output lags demand. Producers of other grains are doing the same like Argentina, Kazakhstan and China. The less they export, the higher prices go.

Other factors are high oil prices and transportation costs, growing demand, commodity speculation, pests in southeast Asia, a 10 year Australian drought, floods in Bangladesh and elsewhere, a 45 day cold snap in China, and other natural but mostly manipulated factors like crop diversion for biofuels have combined to create a growing world crisis with more on this below. It’s at the same time millions of Chinese and Indians have higher incomes, are changing their eating habits, and are consuming more meat, chicken and other animal products that place huge demands on grains to produce.

Here’s a UK April 8 Times online snapshot of the situation in parts of Asia:

-- Filipino farmers caught hoarding rice risk a life in jail sentence for "economic sabotage;"

-- thousands of (Jakarta) Indonesian soya bean cake makers are striking against the destruction of their livelihood;

-- once food self-sufficient countries like Japan and South Korea are reacting "bitterly (as) the world’s food stocks-to-consumption ratio plunges to an all-time low;"

-- India no longer can export millions of tons of rice; instead it’s forced to have a "special strategic food reserve on top of its existing wheat and rice stockpiles;"

-- Thailand is the world’s largest rice producer; its price rose 50% in the past month;

-- countries like the Philippines and Sri Lanka are scrambling for secure rice supplies; they and other Asian countries are struggling to cope with soaring prices and insufficient supply;

-- overall, rice is the staple food for three billion people; one-third of them survive on less than $1 a day and are "food insecure;" it means they may starve to death without aid.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported that worldwide food costs rose almost 40% in 2007 while grains spiked 42% and dairy prices nearly 80%. The World Bank said food prices are up 83% since 2005. As of December, it caused 37 countries to face food crises and 20 to impose price controls in response.

It also affected aid agencies like the UN’s World Food Program (WFP). Because of soaring food and energy costs, it sent an urgent appeal to donors on March 20 to help fill a $500 million resource gap for its work. Since then, food prices increased another 20% and show no signs of abating. For the world’s poor, like the people of Haiti, things are desperate, people can’t afford food, they scratch by any way they can, but many are starving and don’t make it.

Haiti - the World Hunger Poster Child

The Haitain crisis is so extreme it forces people to eat (non-food) mud cookies (called "pica") to relieve hunger. It’s a desperate Haitian remedy made from dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau for those who can afford it. It’s not free. In Cite Soleil’s crowded slums, people use a combination of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening for a typical meal when it’s all they can afford. A Port-au-Prince AP reporter sampled it. He said it had "a smooth consistency (but it) sucked all the moisture out of (my) mouth as soon as it touched (my) tongue. For hours (afterwards), an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered." Worse is how it harms human health. A mud cookie diet causes severe malnutrition, intestinal distress, and other deleterious effects from potentially deadly toxins and parasites.

Another problem is the cost. This stomach-filler isn’t free. Haitians have to buy it, and "edible clay" prices are rising - by almost $1.50 in the past year. It now costs about $5 to make 100 cookies (about 5 cents each), it’s cheaper than food, but many Haitians can’t afford it:

-- 80% of them are impoverished in the hemisphere’s poorest country and one of the world’s poorest;

-- unemployment is rampant, and two-thirds or more of workers have only sporadic jobs; and

-- those with them earn 11 to 12 cents an hour; the country’s official minimum wage is $1.80 a day, but IMF figures show 55% of employed Haitians receive only 44 cents daily, an impossible amount to live on.

Here’s what it’s like for poor Haitians. They have large families, live in cardboard and tin homes, there’s no running water and little or no electricity, and life inside and around them is horrific. Bed sheets can be thick with flies, there’s no sanitation, and outside garbage is everywhere. Children are always hungry, there’s never enough food, often it’s for one meal a day, illness and disease are common, life expectancy very low, and so-called Blue Helmet "peacekeeper" and gang violence plague communities like Port-au-Prince’s Cite Soleil.

Now with a food crisis, Haitians are in the streets over prices for essentials that tripled in the past year and a president, prime minister and government doing practically nothing about it. For days, they were everywhere, throughout the country, and numbered in the thousands. They protested in Port-au-Prince, carried empty plates to signify their plight, smashed windows, set buildings and cars alight, looted shops, looked for food, tried to storm the presidential palace, shouted "we are hungry," and demanded President Rene Preval resign.

UN Blue Helmets (MINUSTAH) responded viciously the way they always do against peaceful or protest demonstrations. They shot and killed at least five Haitians (some reports say more), wounded many others, and that was just in downtown Port-au-Prince.

In Les Cayes (Haiti’s third largest city) in the southwest, demonstrators stormed and tried to burn the local MINUSTAH offices. Others barricaded streets, looked for food, and shouted "Down with the high cost of living." Similar protests went on throughout the country:

-- in northern cities like Cap-Haitien and Gonaives;

-- Jacmel in the south;

-- Jeremie in the southwest where at least two deaths were reported; and

-- smaller towns like Petit Goave, Miragoane, Aquin, Cavaillon, Saint-Jean du Sud, Leogane, Vialet, Anse-a-Veau and Simon.

It’s a familiar pattern in Haiti. Anger over injustice builds and then explodes with Haitians reacting in the streets en masse against intolerable conditions that are compounded by a repressive and hated UN occupation. It’s there to protect privilege, not secure peace. It’s the first time ever that the UN Security Council authorized so-called "peacekeepers" to enforce a coup d’etat against a democratically elected president (by a 92% majority).

Haiti’s current president can’t deal with the situation and has gone along with the state of things. He’s been ineffective since his February 2006 reelection, hasn’t alleviated the present crisis, instead ordered protests to stop, and here’s how he put it in a shameful April 9 televised address: "The demonstrations and destruction won’t make the prices go down or resolve the country’s problems. On the contrary, this can make the misery grow and prevent investment in the country" that, of course, does nothing for most Haitians and Preval knows it.

After a week of protests, an uneasy calm followed, but things can break out any time without relief that’s not forthcoming beyond some far too small proposed measures. Dismissively, Preval’s prime minister, Jacques Edouard Alexis, blamed the problem on "global forces" and the high cost of oil saying there’s no "quick fix," case closed. He also claimed the protests were manipulated by provocateurs, including angry drugs dealers reacting to a supposed closure of one of their transshipment points.

Alexis is now out, elitists debate over who’ll replace him, Haitians in the meantime are starving, the IMF keeps extracting $1 million a week in mandated tribute to the rich, and only countries like Cuba (training Haitians to be doctors) and Venezuela (donating money, cheap oil, and over 600 tons of food aid sent April 13, more than first reported) seem to care. Chavez cares about all Latin America and last year donated about $8.8 billion in aid or four times the amount America provides the region.

For its part, the World Bank pathetically plans $10 million in "emergency aid" for a country with over eight million starving people. It also plans to double its African agricultural lending next year to $800 million and thus make a bad situation worse. It’ll go to hugely indebted nations, unable to help feed their people as a consequence, and World Bank policy always is opposite of what these countries need.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon barely commented, made merely pro forma statements about the crisis and its seriousness, was as dismissive as Alexis, offered no remedial aid, is as uncaring as World Bank officials, and never forgets that his bosses are in Washington. Instead of doing his job and helping, he called on Haiti’s leaders to restore stability because the country’s security is threatened. Starving poor people aren’t his concern. Let ’em eat mud cookies.

That’s apparently Rene Preval’s solution as well. Belatedly (on April 12), he announced a plan to cut rice prices 15%. It will do nothing to relieve the crisis, and Reuters (on April 15) reported that vendors still demand the higher price for supplies already in stock. It provoked new clashes on the streets, Haitians continue to starve, and "government officials were not immediately available for comment."

Raj Patel’s new book explains the state of things today. It’s titled "Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System." In an April 14 statement, he said: "What’s happening in Haiti is an augury to the rest of the developing world. Haiti is the poster child of an economy that liberalized its agricultural economy and removed the social safety nets for the poor...." Two conditions create food riots:

-- "price shocks (and) modern development policies" (tariffs, corporate subsidies, grain reserve policies) make food unaffordable for many millions; and

-- "riots (then) happen when there are no other ways (to make) powerful people listen...." They’ll continue to happen "with increasing frequency until governments realize that food isn’t a mere commodity, it’s a human right."

World Hunger - A Growing Problem for All Nations

The situation is so dire, protests may erupt anywhere, any time, and rich countries aren’t immune, including America. Poverty in the world’s richest country is growing, and organizations like the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and Economic Policy Institute (EPI) document it. They report on a permanent (and growing) underclass of over 37 million people earning poverty-level wages and say that official statistics understate the problem. They note an unprecedented wealth gap between rich and poor, a dying middle class, and growing millions in extreme poverty.

It affects the unemployed as well in times of economic distress, but official government data conceals to what extent. If employment calculations were made as originally mandated, the true rate would be around 13% instead of the Department of Labor’s 5.1%. The same is true for inflation that’s around 12% at the retail level instead of the official 4% that’s hooey.

Under conditions of duress, hunger is the clearest symptom, it’s rising, and current food inflation threatens to spiral it out of control if nothing is done to address it. It’s the highest in decades with 2007 signaling what’s ahead - eggs up 25% last year; milk 17%; rice, bread and pasta 12%, and look at prices on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT):

-- grains and soy prices are at multi-year highs;

-- wheat hit an all-time high above $12 a bushel with little relief ahead in spite of a temporary pullback in price; the US Department of Agriculture forecasts that global wheat stocks this year will fall to a 30 year low of 109.7 million metric tons; USDA also projected US wheat stocks by year end 2008 at 272 million bushels - the lowest level since 1948;

-- corn and soybeans are also at record levels; soybeans are at over $15 a bushel; corn prices shot above $6 a bushel as demand for this and other crops soar in spite of US farmers planting as much of them as possible to cash in on high prices.

Growing demand, a weak dollar, but mostly another factor to be discussed below is responsible - the increased use of corn for ethanol production with farmers diverting more of their acreage from other crops to plant more of what’s most in demand. Forty-three per cent of corn production is for livestock feed, but around one-fifth is for biofuels according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). Other estimates are as high as 25 - 30% compared to 14% two years ago, and NCGA estimates one-third of the crop in 2009 will be for ethanol, not food. It’s fueling US and world food inflation with five year forecasts of it rising even faster.

In the world’s poorest countries, people starve. Here, they go on food stamps with a projected unprecedented 28 million Americans getting them this year as joblessness increases in a weak economy. However, many millions in need aren’t eligible as social services are cut to finance foreign wars and tax cuts for the rich, with poor folks at home losing out as a result. A family of four only qualifies now if its net monthly income is at or below $1721 or $20,652 a year. Even then, it gets the same $542 monthly amount recipients received in 1996 to cover today’s much higher prices or around $1 dollar a meal per person and falling.

This is the UN’s World Food Program (WFP)’s dilemma worldwide at a time donations coming in are inadequate. Its Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, said "Our ability to reach people is going down just as needs go up....We are seeing a new face of hunger in which people (can’t afford to buy food)....Situations that were previously not urgent" are now desperate. WFP’s funding needs keep rising. It estimates them at $3.5 billion, they’ll likely go higher, and they’re for approved projects to feed 73 million people in 78 counties worldwide. WFP foresees much greater potential needs for unseen emergencies and for far greater numbers of people in need.

People (who aren’t poor) in rich countries can manage with food accounting for about 10% of consumption. In ones like China, it’s around 30%, but in sub-Saharan Africa and the poor in Latin America and Asia it’s about 60% (or even 80%) and rising. It means food aid is vital, and without it people will starve. But as food prices rise, the amount forthcoming (when it’s most needed) falls because not enough money is available and too few donors offer help.

Agencies that can are doing less with ones like USAID saying it’s cutting the amount of food aid it provides but won’t say why. It’s mission is to help the rich, not the poor, or as it states on its web site: as a US government agency, it "receives (its) overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State (and its mission is to) further America’s foreign policy interests (in the areas of) economic growth, agriculture and trade...." That leaves out the poor.

Oxfam worries about what USAID ignores. It called for immediate action by donors and governments to protect the world’s poor against rising food prices. One spokesperson said: "Global economic uncertainty, high food prices, drought (and other factors) all pose a serious threat to (the) vulnerable." Another added: "More and more people are going to be facing food shortages in the future. (Because of) rising food prices we need to think (of its) impact on (the world’s poor) who are spending up to 80% of their incomes on food."

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, also expressed alarm. In comments to the French daily Liberation he said: "We are heading for a very long period of rioting, conflicts (and) waves of uncontrollable regional instability marked by the despair of the most vulnerable populations." He noted that even under normal circumstances hunger plagues the world and claims the life of a child under age 10 every five seconds. Because of the present crisis, we now face "an imminent massacre."

Besides the usual factors cited, it’s vital to ask why, but don’t expect Brazil’s Lula to explain. Biofuel production is the main culprit, but not according to him. Brazil is a major biofuels producer. Last year it signed an R&D "Ethanol Pact" with Washington to develop "next generation" technologies for even more production.

In an April 16 Reuters report, the former union leader was dismissive about the current crisis and rejected criticisms that biofuels are at fault. In spite of protests at home and around the world, he told reporters: "Don’t tell me....that food is expensive because of biodiesel. (It’s) expensive because" peoples’ economic situation has improved and they’re eating more. It’s true in parts of China and India, but not in most other countries where incomes haven’t kept pace with inflation.

Biofuels - A Scourge of Our Times

The idea of combustible fuels from organic material has been around since the early auto age, but only recently took off. Because they’re from plant-based or animal byproduct (renewable) sources, bio or agrofuels are (falsely) touted as a solution to a growing world energy shortage with a huge claimed added benefit - the nonsensical notion that they’re clean and green without all the troublesome issues connected to fossil fuels.

Biofuel is a general term to describe all fuels from organic matter. The two most common kinds are bioethanol as a substitute for gasoline, and biodiesel that serves the same purpose for that type fuel.

Bioethanol is produced from sugar-rich crops like corn, wheat and sugar cane. Most cars can burn a petroleum fuel blend with up to 10% bioethanol without any engine modifications. Some newer cars can run on pure bioethanol.

Biodiesel is produced from a variety of vegetable oils, including soybean, palm and rapeseed (canola), plus animal fats. This fuel can replace regular diesel with no engine modifications required.

Cellulosic ethanol is another variety and is made by breaking down fiber from grasses or most other kinds of plants. Biofuels of all types are renewable since crops are grown in season, harvested, then replanted for more output repeatedly.

In George Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address, he announced "It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply (and we) must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol (to) reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20% in the next 10 years. (To do it) we must (set) a mandatory fuels (target of) 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 (to) reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Congress earlier passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that mandated ethanol fuel production rise to four billion gallons in 2006 and 7.5 billion by 2012. It already reached 6.5 billion barrels last year and is heading for nine billion this year.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act gave added impetus to the Bush administration scheme with plenty of agribusiness subsidies backing it. Its final version sailed through both Houses in December, and George Bush made it official on December 19. It upped the stakes over 2005 with one of its provisions calling for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 to replace 15% of their equivalent in oil. It represents a nearly fivefold increase from current levels, and new goals ahead may set it higher as rising oil prices (topping $117 a barrel April 21) make a case for cheaper alternatives, and some in the environmental community claim biofuels are eco-friendly.

Hold the applause, and look at the facts. In a nutshell, organic fuels trash rainforests, deplete water reserves, kill off species, and increase greenhouse emissions when the full effects of producing them are included. At least that’s what Science Magazine says on the latter point. It reviewed studies that examined how destruction of natural ecosystems (such as tropical rain forests and South American grasslands) not only releases greenhouse gases when they’re burned and plowed but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon emissions. Cropland also absorbs less carbon than rain forests or even the scrubland it replaces.

Nature Conservancy scientist Joseph Fargione (lead author of one study) concluded that grassland clearance releases 93 times the greenhouse gases that would be saved by fuel made annually on that land. For scientists and others concerned about global warming, the research indicated that biofuel production exacerbates the problem and thus should be reconsidered. Others disagree and so far the trend continues with Europe and America both setting ambitious goals that pay little attention to the consequences they ignore.

Eric Holt-Gimenez, executive director of the Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, pays close attention and wrote about it in an article published last June by Agencia Latinoamericana de Informacion (ALAI) and thereafter widely distributed. It’s headlined "Biofuels: The Five Myths of the Agro-fuels Transition." As he puts it: "the mythic baggage of the agro-fuels transition needs to be publicly unpacked."

1. Agrofuels aren’t clean and green. As cited above, they produce far greater greenhouse gas emissions than they save and also require large amounts of oil-based fertilizers that contribute even more.

2. Agrofuel production will be hugely destructive to forests in countries like Brazil where vast Amazon devastation is well documented and is currently increasing at nearly 325,000 hectares a year. By 2020 in Indonesia, "palm oil plantations for bio-diesel (will continue to be) the primary cause of forest loss (in a) country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world."

3. Agrofuels will destroy rural development. Small farmers will be forced off their land and so will many thousands of others in communities to make way for Big Oil, Agribusiness, and Agribiotech to move in and take over for the huge profits to be extracted in the multi-billions.

4. Agrofuels increase hunger. The poor are always hurt most, the topic is covered above, and Holt-Gimenez quotes another forecast. It’s the International Food Policy Research Institute’s estimate that basic food staple prices will rise 30 - 33% by 2010, but that figure already undershoots based on current data. FPRI also sees the rise continuing to 2020 by another 26 to 135% that will be catastrophic for the world’s poor who can’t afford today’s prices and are ill-equipped to raise their incomes more than marginally if at all.

5. Better "second-generation" argofuels aren’t around the corner. Examples touted are eco-friendly fast-growing trees and switchgrass (a dominant warm season central North American tallgrass prairie species). Holt-Gimenez calls the argument a "bait and switch-grass shell game" to make the case for first generation production now ongoing. The same environmental problems exists, and they’ll be hugely exacerbated by more extensive GMO crop plantings.

Holt-Gimenez sees agrofuels as a "genetic Trojan horse" that’s letting agribusiness giants like Monsanto "colonize both our fuel and food system," do little to offset a growing demand for oil, reap huge profits from the scheme, get them at taxpayers’ expense, and that’s exactly what’s happening with Big Oil in on it, too, as a way to diversify through large biofuel investments. More on this below.

The Ghost of Henry Kissinger

Kissinger made a chilling 1970 comment that explains a lot about what’s happening now - "Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people." Combine it with unchallengeable military power and you control everything, and Kissinger likely said that, too.

He said plenty more in his classified 1974 memo on a secret project called National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) for a "world population plan of action" for drastic global population control. He meant reducing it by hundreds of millions, using food as a weapon, and overall reorganizing the global food market to destroy family farms and replace them with (agribusiness-run) factory ones. It’s been ongoing for decades, backed since January 1995 by WTO muscle, and characterized now by huge agribusiness giants with monstrous vertically integrated powers over the food we eat - from research labs to plantings to processing to the supermarket and other food outlet shelves around the world.

But it’s even worse than that. Today, five agribusiness behemoths, with little fanfare and enormous government backing, plan big at our expense - to control the world’s food supply by making it all genetically engineered with biofuels one part of a larger scheme.

By diverting crops for fuel, prices have exploded, and five "Ag biotech" giants are exploiting it - Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agrisciences, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience AG. Their solution - make all crops GMO, tout it as a way to increase output and reduce costs, and claim it’s the solution to today’s soaring prices and world hunger.

In fact, agribusiness power raises prices, controls output to keep them high, and the main factor behind today’s situation is the conversion of US farmland to biofuel factories. With less crop output for food and world demand for it growing, prices are rising, and rampant commodity speculation exacerbates the problem with traders profiting hugely and loving it. It’s another part of the multi-decade wealth transfer scheme from the world’s majority to the elite few. While the trend continues, its momentum is self-sustaining, and it works because governments back it. They subsidize the problem, keep regulations loose, give business free reign, and maintain that markets work best so let them.

As mentioned above, about 43% of US corn output goes for animal feed, but growing amounts are for biofuels - now possibly 25 - 30% of production compared to around 14% two years ago, up 300% since 2001, and today the total exceeds what’s earmarked for export, with no slowing down of this trend in sight. The result, of course, is world grain reserves are falling, prices soaring, millions starving, governments permitting it, and it’s only the early innings of a long-term horrifying trend - radically transforming agriculture in humanly destructive ways:

-- letting agribusiness and Big Oil giants control it for profit at the expense of consumer health and well-being;

-- making it all genetically engineered and inflicting great potential harm to human health; and

-- producing reduced crop amounts for food, diverting greater quantities for fuel, allowing prices to soar, making food as dear as oil, ending government’s responsibility for food security, and tolerating the unthinkable - putting hundreds of millions of poor around the world in jeopardy and letting them starve to death for profit.

This is the brave new world neoliberal schemers have in mind. They’re well along with their plans, marginally diverted by today’s economic distress, well aware that growing world protests that could prove hugely disruptive, but very focused, nonetheless, on finding clever ways to push ahead with what’s worked pretty well for them so far, so they’re not about to let human misery jeopardize big profits.

If they won’t reform, people have to do it for them, and throughout history that’s how it’s always worked. Over time, the stakes keep rising as the threats become greater, and today they may be as great as they’ve ever been.

What better time for a new social movement like those in the past that were pivotal forces for change. Famed community organizer Saul Alinsky knew the way to beat organized money is with organized people. In combination, they’ve succeeded by taking to the streets, striking, boycotting, challenging authority, disrupting business, paying with their lives and ultimately prevailing by knowing change never comes from the top down. It’s always from the grassroots, from the bottom up, and what better time for it than now. It’s high time democracy worked for everyone, that destructive GMO and biofuels schemes won’t be tolerated, and that "America the Beautiful" won’t any longer just be for elites and no one else.