April 17, 2009
Terminating Food Sovereignty in Ecuador?
President opens door to Terminator seeds
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On February 18, 2009, the Ecuadorian Congress approved a new Law on Food Sovereignty, which, among other important points, declared the country “free of transgenic crops and seeds.” However, in spite of vocal popular opposition, the legislation left the door open to approvals of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in “exceptional” cases. Now, President Rafael Correa has proposed several changes to the legislation – in what is known in Ecuador as a partial-veto – and sent it back to the Congress. The president's changes dangerously weaken the law and open the door to Terminator seeds.
Terminator technology is designed to make “suicide seeds,” genetically engineered to be sterile in the second generation. The technology has been widely rejected around the world by farmers' movements, governments, research institutions and UN agencies as dangerous, immoral and undesirable.
Alarmed by President Correa's proposals, civil society is now calling on him to drop his amendments and to explicitly ban Terminator technology.
“It's very disturbing that a law that aims to affirm food sovereignty could instead clear the way for a technology that was designed to prevent it,” said Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the companies that designed suicide seed technology did so explicitly to replace what they called peasants' 'old seeds.' Since 2000, when a de facto moratorium against Terminator technology was agreed at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD], these companies have re-branded Terminator as a 'biosafety' tool. This is the interpretation reflected in the president's amended text. Ribeiro adds, “We're worried that this kind of language is showing up in several countries in the global South and we see it as a new push by the biotech industry to overturn the moratorium on Terminator at the CBD's meeting next year in Japan.”
Article 26 of Ecuador's Law on Food Sovereignty, entitled “Regulation of biotechnology and its products,” allowed for the import and processing of “raw materials containing transgenic inputs, provided they meet the requirements of health and safety, and that the reproductive capacity of the seeds is disabled by breaking [of grains] (…)”
The explicit clarification of “seed disabled by breaking” was included to ensure that if transgenic seeds were imported through food aid, or for processing, accidental gene flow from these grains would not contaminate crops in Ecuador, as has tragically happened in Mexico and other countries.
The partial-veto of President Correa removes the phrase “by breaking” from this article, arguing that breaking the grains would mean increased costs. The result is that the amended wording now allows for the importation of GM materials provided only that the “reproductive capacity of seeds is disabled.” Such language equals an acceptance of grains with Terminator technology.
Elizabeth Bravo of Acción Ecológica, an internationally-respected environmental civil society organization in Ecuador, comments, “Unfortunately, the president's changes to the legislation reflect the influence of his biotech industry-friendly advisors. Terminator is an experimental technology that has never been proven. Scientific reports submitted to the CBD demonstrate that the complexity and instability of Terminator seeds mean that, in practice, there will still be leakage of GM traits. We could face a worst-case scenario: Ecuador enabling both GM contamination and suicide seeds. That is a direct threat to agricultural biodiversity, an essential basis for food sovereignty in Ecuador.”
Bravo added, “This text works against the provisions of article 73 of Ecuador's Constitution, which 'prohibits the introduction of organic and inorganic material that can alter in a definitive way the national genetic heritage.'”
Maria José Guazzelli from Brazil and the international Ban Terminator Campaign (made up of hundreds of organizations throughout the world), also voiced concern. “It would be outrageous for Ecuador, which always supported the international moratorium against Terminator, to open the gate to this terrible technology at the national level. Instead, Ecuador should legislate a ban on the import, development, trials and commercialization of Terminator seeds, as Brazil has already done.”
For more information:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (México) firstname.lastname@example.org, tel +52 (55) 5563 2664
Elizabeth Bravo, Acción Ecológica (Ecuador) email@example.com, tel + 593 (2) 254 7516
María José Guazzelli, Ban Terminator Campaign, (Brazil), firstname.lastname@example.org
 The second paragraph of article 26 of the Law on Food Sovereignty approved February 18th 2009, by the Ecuadorian National Assembly said : Las materias primas que contengan insumos de origen transgénico únicamente podrán ser importadas y procesadas, siempre y cuando cumplan con los requisitos de sanidad e inocuidad y que su capacidad de reproducción como semillas sea inhabilitada por trozamiento, respetando el principio de precaución, de modo que no atenten contra la salud humana, la soberanía alimentaria y los ecosistemas. (…)
The text proposed by President Rafael Correa on March 19th says: Las materias primas que contengan insumos de origen transgénico únicamente podrán ser importadas y procesadas, siempre y cuando cumplan con los requisitos de sanidad e inocuidad y que su capacidad de reproducción como semillas sea inhabilitada, respetando el principio de precaución, de modo que no atenten contra la salud humana, la soberanía alimentaria y los ecosistemas.(…)
Monday, May 4, 2009
The Voca People is an international vocal theater performance that combines vocal sounds and an A Cappella singing with the art of modern beat-box.
Artistic Director: Lior Kalfo
Musical Director: Shai Fishman
Producers: Revital & Lior Kalfo
(NaturalNews) If you read the stories on H1N1 influenza written by the mainstream media, you might incorrectly think there's only one anti-viral drug in the world. It's name is Tamiflu and it's in short supply.
That's astonishing to hear because the world is full of anti-viral medicine found in tens of thousands of different plants. Culinary herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary are anti-viral. Berries and sprouts are anti-viral. Garlic, ginger and onions are anti-viral. You can't walk through a grocery store without walking past a hundred or more anti-viral medicines made by Mother Nature.
And yet how many does the mainstream media mention? Zero.
[ ... ]
Tamiflu comes from an herb
To live in a world that's saturated with natural anti-viral medicine and then not even acknowledge it in the media is beyond bizarre. It's Twilight Zone-like. It's like we've been teleported to an alternate universe where anti-viral plants have disappeared... or at least everyone is pretending they have.
Where do you think Tamiflu comes from, by the way?
It's extracted from the Traditional Chinese Medicine herb called Star Anise. It's one of hundreds of different anti-viral herbs found in Chinese Medicine, not to even mention anti-viral herbs from South America, North America, Australia, Africa and other regions.
I find it downright comedic that Big Pharma and the world's health authorities extract their "champion" anti-viral drug Tamiflu from a Chinese Medicine herb, and then they go out of their way to announce to people that herbs and natural remedies are useless against influenza. If that's the case then why are they using herbs to make their own medicine?
How many stories have you read that bother to tell you Tamiflu is made from the star anise herb that's been used for over 5,000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine? Virtually none. The powers that be don't want anybody to know they could actually grow their own medicine in a garden or a windowsill. If you can grow cilantro, you can grow medicine. If everybody figured that out, Big Pharma wouldn't be reaping the enormous profits it's making right now from Tamiflu sales, and the governments of the world wouldn't be able to scare and control people by promising to distribute Tamiflu (but only if you behave).
The Tamiflu scam is global
H1N1 influenza is not a hoax. But the way it's being reported by health authorities and the mainstream media certainly is. The scam in all this is what they leave out of the stories -- the fact that human beings live among a huge natural medicine chest of anti-viral drugs found in every city park, every forest, every swamp and every open field.
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(FluNews Satire) With mandatory vaccines suddenly being forced onto parents by doctors and so-called "health authorities" in places like Maryland, New Jersey and Texas, you might think that doctors being full of bunk is a new phenomenon. But no, it's nothing new. Doctors have been full of bunk for more than a hundred years! What follows is a short timeline of the nonsense, junk science, negligence and harmful advice peddled by medical doctors over the last 150 years or so: (see the end of this article for serious follow-up comments describing the intent behind this satire piece)
Ignaz Semmelweis, an Austrian-Hungarian obstetrician working in a clinic that delivers babies, is labeled "insane" by his fellow doctors for having the audacity to suggest that doctors should wash their hands between delivering babies. He's fired from his job, ostracized by the medical community and later dies in an insane asylum and is only vindicated long after his death when it is realized that, indeed, infections are spread from one patient to another by physicians who are too lazy, stubborn or egoistic to simply wash their hands. (A lack of hand washing continues to be the primary reason why MRSA and other superbugs are spread in hospitals today...)
Don't breastfeed your babies! Use infant formula instead. It's more "high-tech." Cow's milk is obviously healthier for your babies than mother's milk, right? That's what the doc says... Result: Tens of millions of mothers stopped breastfeeding their babies, resulting in widespread nutritional deficiencies that impacted those children for life. The pushing of infant formula onto mothers continues today in hospitals across the country which are paid by infant formula manufacturers to give free samples of infant formula to new mothers, hoping they will stop breastfeeding and start buying formula. (Saving grace: A few courageous pediatricians now speak out forcefully about the importance of breastfeeding...)
Smoking while pregnant? No problem. Doctors recommend Camels more than any other cigarette! Result: Massive chemical toxicity of the bodies of newborns. Increased cancer risk, reduced brain development and a lifetime of immune system disorders. (Cigarette ads routinely appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association for well over a decade.)
Need a new pair of shoes for your kid? Go size 'em up with the fluoroscope X-ray machine at your local shoe store! Never mind the radiation exposure of 20 - 75 rems per minute! See wikipedia article here. Result: Massive increase in cancer among parents and children who visited the shoe stores. Doctors remained silent on this significant health risk for decades while millions were harmed -- even after strong evidence pointed to the fact that X-ray radiation caused cancer.
Hey pregnant women, take thalidomide for your cancer! Don't worry about your unborn children. This chemical is perfectly safe! Result: 10,000 children born with physical deformities. Doctors continued to use infants and pregnant women in pharmaceutical experiments for the next fifty years. See Vaccines and Medical Experiments on Children, Minorities, Woman and Inmates (1845 - 2007).
Feed your children processed foods! White bread is good for them, don't you know? And monosodium glutamate is perfectly healthy for children, which is why food companies add it to baby food! So is saccharin, hydrogenated oils and sodium nitrite in processed meat. Result: Massive malnutrition, liver damage, and the beginnings of the diabetes and obesity epidemics that would sweep the nation over the next generation.
Place mercury into the mouths of your little children by having their cavities filled with "silver" fillings (made with 40% mercury, a potent neurotoxin). Result: Widespread mercury toxicity in children, resulting in a sharp increase in neurological conditions, including behavioral disorders, infertility and autism. Ignorant, obstinate dentists continue to use mercury fillings today, and the American Dental Association remains in full support of this extremely dangerous heavy metal that results in the mass poisoning of children.
Your kid have a cold? It's probably because their tonsils need to be removed! Tonsils have no biological function anyway, doctors claimed. Result: Over the last several decades, surgeons have removed tens of millions of tonsils, maiming children with a medically useless procedure that has now been proven virtually worthless. But it sure did raise funds to pay for the luxury German sedans driven by those surgeons!
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Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band; directed by Don Van Vliet (with much uncredited assistance from producer Ken Schreiber), cinematography by Daniel Pearl (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre); Don Van Vliet (vocals, harp), Gary Lucas (guitar), Jeff Tepper (guitar), Rick Snyder (bass), Cliff Martinez (drums); filmed on location in the High Mojave Desert near Lancaster, California; clip rejected by MTV USA as "too weird" upon release, now in the Permanent Film and Video Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
April, 2009 — The U.S. has an AIDS death rate (adjusted for population) 59 times that of Canada, according to 2007 AIDS mortality statistics taken from both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Canadian equivalent.
Canada had 28 AIDS deaths in 2007 compared to almost 15,000 for the United States. Since Canadians test to have HIV antibodies at half (1/2) the rate of their U.S. neighbor, and with adjustment for this, Canadians judged “HIV–positive” die from AIDS at 1/30 the rate of their U.S. HIV–positive counterparts.
Canada's 28 deaths from acquired immune dysfunction syndrome (AIDS) now occur at virtually the background rate before the term 'AIDS' was coined, and come from a variety of health conditions and drug addictions that have been with mankind forever. What is new is the acronym created in 1985.
In fact, Canada is not alone in conquering AIDS deaths. Western European countries (and Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Rim including Japan and the Philippines) are all averaging AIDS mortality rates similar to Canada's.
So, how and why does the U.S. have such a stupendous AIDS mortality discrepancy?
The answer is simple: In 1993, the United States Health Authorities created a new category of AIDS, comprising but two cofactors: The combination of a person being;
1) “HIV–antibody positive,” and
2) Having a low white blood cell count below an arbitrary threshhold (a threshhold that many completely healthy people, including superb athletes, would fail, in part because white blood cells normally reside in interstitial tissue and not in the bloodstream).
Since 1993, this unique U S. category has risen to be over 90% of AIDS diagnoses.
All other western nations: Canada, and European countries, Australia, etc., refused to adopt the unique U.S. AIDS definition that depends on low white blood cell counts. Since 1995, with the most risky anti–HIV drugs steadily discarded, these countries have had AIDS mortality falling steadily toward zero (For instance, Germany with 81 million people had but 73 AIDS deaths in 2007, echoing Canada).
The result is that, even though many other nations have populations testing similarly to having 'HIV antibodies,” few are determined to have “AIDS.” Thus, few are prescribed the strongest antiretroviral regimens, in contrast to the U.S.
Springing from the unique U.S. category of AIDS, the treatment drugs inevitably bring side effects, unavoidably linked to the U.S. death toll. Corroborating these drug risks, a recent study by Danish health authorities was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and reviewed all those HIV+ in Denmark. This study found that 25% refused the offered anti–HIV regimens but nevertheless had the lowest mortality rates, with projected life expectancies close to the average Dane, despite being HIV+.
The bottom line: Those in the U.S. deemed to have AIDS have only to cross into Canada for a second opinion. AIDS diagnoses, and deaths will dive towards zero. It's that simple. And that evident.
David M. Burd
Medical Technology Consultant/Writer
~ Rethinking AIDS ~
...EU-PNR: EU endorses idea of collecting air passenger data (euobserver, link). EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers say they have "reached an agreement on the principle of the European PNR". In fact, they have abandoned discussions on the Commission's proposal for an EU-PNR scheme and are going to start again drawing up their own proposal because a number of EU governments want to go much further. With the UK in the lead a number of member states want:
- the system to cover not just flights in and out of the EU but also flights between EU countries plus all flights within each country;
- the system to cover not just all flights but all sea and land travel as well;
- the data and information gathered to be used not just for entry-exit but also for any law enforcement purpose.
See: Note from the Austrian delegation: EU doc no: 11724/08 Council Presidency Note: EU do no: 11281/08 and Council Presidency Note: 11772/09 plus penultimate draft of the proposal during discussions in the Council's Multidisciplinary group on organised crime: EU doc no: 7656/08 Rev 2
EU-PNR: Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on the use of Passenger Name Record (PNR) for law enforcement purposes - State of play (pdf)
EU-PNR: UK House of Lords' European Union Committee: The Passenger Name Record (PNR) Framework Decision (89 pages, pdf). A very useful report which considers amongst other issues the scope of the proposed EU-PNR Framework Decision which primarily rests on tackling terrorism:.
"Most significant of all, Ms Hillier's [Home Office Minister] letter contains no reference to terrorism, and none of the examples she lists bears any relation to terrorism.
Likewise, in oral evidence she was unable to give an example of the successful use of PNR in relation to a terrorist-related offence. She did assert that PNR “has absolutely been a tool in tackling terrorism”, and explained the problems of sharing information about this in public (Q 28). However such a statement is unpersuasive when not accompanied by even a claim that PNR has succeeded in preventing, or assisting in the prevention of, a single terrorist attack, or bringing to justice the perpetrators of such an attack.
Similarly, Mr Hustinx told us that when the US Secretary of Homeland Security was addressing the European Parliament “he was careful to annex a list of some 20 or so examples to his speech and it was all about drugs and people evading paying taxes and things like that, but there was very little in terms of precision on terrorism” "
In this context it is interesting to note that in the UK Border & Immigration Agency: e-Borders: Friends of Presidency Group meeting presentation, Brussels, 27 March 2008 (pdf) it is stated that:
"The UK does not profile terrorists using PNR. In that respect we believe we are different to other governments who do use profiling techniques..." (emphasis added)
EU-UK: UK Border & Immigration Agency: e-Borders: Friends of Presidency Group meeting, Brussels, 27 March 2008 (pdf) This presentation took place as discussions are underway on a proposal to set up an EU-PNR scheme (see story below). It describes the UK timetable for checking all airline passengers against watchlists to "identify known persons of interest" and that it will eventually cover "all routes in/out on all modes of transport" (air, sea and land). See also: UK: Code of practice of practice on the management of information shared by the Border and Immigration Agency, Revenue and Customs and the Police (March 2008, pdf); Draft Regulatory Impact Assessment: Police and Justice Bill: Data Capture (pdf) and Police and Justice Act 2006 extends data gathering to passengers travelling inside the UK (pdf)
EU-PNR: Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on the use of Passenger Name Record (PNR) for law enforcement purposes (EU doc no: 7656/2/08, pdf) and later Discussion of the Council's position on EU-PNR (EU doc no: 9514/08). The Council is driving a "coach and horses" through the original proposal including increasing its scope beyond terrorism and organised crime. Although "Passenger Information Units" (PIUs) who will vet passengers are to some extent limited in their use of data national "competent authorities", to whom all the data can be passed, are to be allowed to further process the data if they come across "other offences" (ie: any crime, see Article 4.5). European Data Protection Supervisor: EDPS expresses serious concerns about EU PNR proposal (Press release and Opinion, pdf)
EU-PNR: Reactions: European Airline body dismayed at proposal for EU-PNR system (Association of European Arlines, press release, pdf) Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, Secretary General of the Association of European Airlines said:
"Commissioner Frattini's proposed decentralised system means that our carriers will have to comply with 27 different national data collection systems. We are talking about an operational and technical nightmare – and the Commission totally ignores the financial implications for the airline industry, which we haven't even started assessing yet."
The Association is also calling for the EU-PNR system to be "applied to all transport modes, so as to avoid discrimination and comptetitive distortions" (that is, to sea, rail and land travel).
Green group in the European Parliament: Civil liberties: New anti-terror measures seem unnecessary and incoherent (link) Dutch Green and civil liberties spokesperson Kathalijne Buitenweg said the:
"proposal on the retention of air passenger data in the EU seems unnecessary and incoherent. The Commission has made no attempt to justify why these measures are necessary and why the existing legislation is not sufficient - an existing Directive on passenger data from 2004 has yet to be fully implemented! (1) It is also incoherent to propose a European-level decision on data storage, while leaving the issues of data protection and how the data should be processed fully to national legislators."
ALDE (liberal group) in European Parliament: New EU anti-terrorism measures will further erode our civil liberties (link) Sophie In't Veld (D66, Netherlands) and EP rapporteur on PNR issues for the committee on Justice and Civil Liberties said:
" We should not be compounding the mistakes of the July PNR agreement with the US by introducing our own - at least until there is serious and irrefutable proof that such mass exchange of personal data is resulting in the arrest of terrorists.I remain adamant that PNR data should not be used as an indiscriminate form of data profiling."
EU-PNR: Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:
"Unless stopped in its tracks it is just a question of time before the scope of the EU-PNR scheme is extended to cover all crime, flights inside and between Member States and sea, land and rail travel as well."
European Commission PNR proposal: Summary of impact assessment (SEC 1422) (pdf) The EU-PNR scheme plans for the personal data of all travellers by air in and out of the EU to be checked against "watchlists". The terminology in this Impact Assessment at times refers to "terrorism and organised crime" and at other times to "terrorists and criminals" suggesting that the intended scope of the measure may be changed in the near future. This impression is confirmed when the assessment speaks of:
" a wider application at a later stage. It should be left to member states to extend the scope of the proposal to other modes of transport at this point.... the majority of consulted parties agree the scope of the proposal should be limited to air transport as a first step, with the possibility of extending it to other forms of transport at a later stage...At this stage, it is thought disproportionate to extend the scope of the proposal to flights from one Member State to another Member State and to internal flights within a Member State"
On data protection the assessment is equally confused. First, it refers to the draft Framework Decision on personal data in police and judicial matters which has yet to be agreed but which offers little or no protection - and anyway, only covers the transfer of data between member states not national laws. The assessment goes on to states that member states should:
"the Convention 108 for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of the Council of Europe. In practice, all Member States should also already have national legislation in place to cover data processing by law enforcement authorities."
The term "should" tells us that the Commission does not know. Moreover, the failure to fully incorporate of Council of Europe's Convention 108 of 1981 plus Recommendation 15 of 1987 and its two Additional Protocols in the proposed Framework Decision is highlighted by EU Data Protection Commissioners...
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EU-MIDIS is the first ever EU-wide survey of immigrant and ethnic minority groups' experiences of discrimination and victimisation in everyday life. Addressing the lack of reliable and comparable data on minorities in many EU countries, the survey examines experiences of discriminatory treatment, racist crime victimisation, awareness of rights, and reporting of complaints. EU-MIDIS involved face-to-face interviews with 23,500 persons from selected immigrant and ethnic minority groups in all 27 Member States of the European Union. 5,000 persons from the majority population were also interviewed to compare the results.
Project outputs The results of this major survey will be released throughout 2009 in a series of “Data in Focus Reports” on specific minority groups as well on key issues examined in the survey. The full results of the survey will be presented at the FRA Fundamental Rights Conference in December 2009 in Stockholm, held under the auspices of the Swedish Presidency of the EU.
From Part of my life as a doctor :
At this stage I was totally disillusioned with medical practice. And the lure of instant riches was tempting. Early in 1965 Bill and I teamed up with a Kytherian, Jack Cassimatis, and two non-Kytherian Greeks and became opal miners in Coober Pedy.
For a while all went well. We even found opal, and it was beautiful. Then my world fell apart.
Violence was something that I thought my family had left behind many generations before I was born, But this was not so. There was a terrible fight – wild-west style. With six fractured ribs and a ruptured kidney I was certainly a sight to behold. Disillusioned and bitter I drove out into the desert one night – where there was nothing – not even a road – until I was forced to stop and sleep. When I awoke it was daylight. By coincidence (or was it guidance?) I was near a camp of semi-tribal Aborigines. For the first time in my life I was able to talk to such people and gain an insight to their problems. One elderly woman was particularly impressive. When I asked her about infant deaths she said something like, 'We do not know why our children get sick and die. Before the white men came they never died'.
That night I slept under the stars. Those who have never experienced a central Australian night cannot appreciate what a wonder this is. It is as close to God as any living person can get. And it made my tormented brain work. . I recalled what the Aboriginal woman had said, and what Dr Harbison had observed. There was one possibility – when the kids get sick they need more Vitamin C than normal. When they get sick they need blood levels of Vitamin C that can only be achieved by administering Vitamin C by injection. I had not seen any literature suggesting that this could be so. It was just an idea.
The idea saturated me. It had to be right. Unknown to me, there were doctors working in other parts of the world who had observed something similar.
So, it was back to Collarenebri and back to the practice of medicine.
What happened is now history. There were no more strange infant deaths. No longer would I be haunted by the wailing of women in the camp. There would no longer be a need for so many tiny little coffins – just a need to learn more and know more, and teach more.
Now I know why the liver changes referred to earlier are there. And I know how to prevent them. I know a great deal that was hidden to me when I first went into practice. And I am a much better doctor. But I am sadder too, because most of my colleagues will not listen.
On April 27th, without prior warning, the indigenous land owners of the villages surrounding Barrick Gold's Porgera open pit mine were violently evicted by a police and military operation with 200 troops. “Operation Ipili” was launched during the middle of the day to allegedly make way for the expansion of a Barrick gold mine. This effective State of Emergency in Porgera was motivated by situation reports presented by Barrick (PNG) Limited, according to Laigap Porgera Member of Parliament Phillip Kikala.
Households of third generation landowners were purposefully razed to the ground, causing residents to flee for fear of their lives. According to eyewitnesses, eighty houses in Ungima, two houses in Yokolama and four houses in Kulapi had been torched within the first 2 days of the operation. By April 30, community reports put that number at close to 600.
According to the Akali Tange Association, a human rights organization in Porgera, none of the residents were given time to gather any of their possessions. Anyone who spoke up was reportedly physically attacked by the security forces and some were arrested.
Increasing numbers of people are reporting injuries, as are those who are being detained. Although the landowners received no formal warning that they were to see their houses destroyed – according to the ATA – Barrick Gold had demanded that the land be cleared of local villagers, some of whom are small scale artisanal miners eking out a living beside the mine.
Barrick Gold's personnel claim the land owners are 'illegal' and last week, issued a memorandum calling on them to stop their subsistence activities and leave their homelands. The chief landowner, Nixon Mangape, recently alerted their local Member of Parliament as well as media outlets about the impending threats from the mining company. To date, there has been no acknowledgement that villagers have been demanding compensation from Barrick if the confiscation of their land was to move forward, given their resulting loss of livelihood, possessions and ancestral territory. Now, these communities are suffering from brutal attacks by security agents and faced with the situation that their homes – with all their possessions – have been burned to the ground, in clear violation of national and international legal precedents.
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By Vincent Boland in Milan (Financial Times)
28 Apr, 2009
Police in Milan said on Tuesday they had seized €476m ($622m) in assets from four international banks, in a dramatic escalation of an investigation into controversial municipal bond issues.
The city's financial police began the investigation last year into a €1.6bn bond issue the city of Milan launched in 2005, and were probing the role of four banks – Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, UBS and Depfa, a German bank specialising in public finance – in that and other transactions.
In a statement on Tuesday, the financial police said they had taken control of €476m in assets from four banks, though they did not name them. The assets seized included the banks' stakes in Italian companies, real estate and accounts.
The move marks a sharp escalation of the probe into the bond issues. Milan, Italy's financial capital and one of its wealthiest cities, is already suing the four banks, claiming that derivatives contracts linked to the bond issues allowed the banks to earn around €90m in “hidden commissions”. It also complains that the bond issues were not in the city's best financial interests.
None of the banks had any immediate comment on Tuesday.
The case is being watched closely by cash-strapped Italian local authorities who issued billions of euros of bonds with similar contracts until the Bank of Italy stopped the practice in 2007. The municipalities now face deteriorating fiscal positions as the global financial crisis begins to bite.
Many of the derivatives contracts exposed the authorities to rising debt service costs between 2005 and 2008, when eurozone interest rates rose from 2 per cent to 4.25 per cent. Estimates of the losses facing Italian authorities vary. The government has denied speculation that the losses could reach €30bn, but analysts say a more conservative estimate of up to €10bn may be more accurate.
At issue in the Milan case are provisions in the bond issue that enabled the city to set aside sums at regular intervals towards repayment of the principal. But as interest rates rose, the authorities found that funds earmarked for the sinking fund were being eaten up by debt servicing. The municipality claims the banks argued that the structure of the bond would reduce debt service costs.
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