tagged w/ Immorality
While Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million to resolve a civil fraud lawsuit filed by the SEC, Goldman has not been held accountable for many of its other questionable investment practices. A new article in Harper’s Magazine examines the role Goldman played in the food crisis of 2008 when the ranks of the world’s hungry increased by 250 million. We speak to Harper’s contributing editor Frederick Kaufman.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Goldman Sachs.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, while Goldman Sachs agreed Thursday to pay $550 million to resolve a civil fraud lawsuit filed by the SEC, Goldman has not been held accountable for many of its other questionable investment practices. A new article in Harper’s Magazine examines the role Goldman played in the food crisis of 2008, when the ranks of the world’s hungry increased by 250 million. The article is titled "The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It."
AMY GOODMAN: The author of the article, Frederick Kaufman, joins us now. He’s a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine.
Well, explain. We’re talking about Goldman Sachs today, this—they call it a landmark settlement, but they made more after-hours in trading last night than they will have to pay. So let’s look at Goldman Sachs and its record overall.
FREDERICK KAUFMAN: Yeah, this is really—it’s really outrageous. And on a certain level, this reform bill is really a sham, because it does not cover, in any way, shape or form, what Goldman Sachs—and really, let’s be honest here, it wasn’t just Goldman; it was Goldman, and it was Bear, and it was AIG, and it was Lehman, it was Deutsche, it was all across the board, JPMorgan Chase—what these banks were able to do in commodity markets, really which reached its peak from 2005 to 2008, in what is now known as the food bubble. And as Juan points out, this is unconscionable what happened, in the sense that their speculation and their restructuring of these commodity markets pushed 250 million new people into food insecurity and starving, and brought the world total up to over a billion people. This is the most abysmal total in the history of the world.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, what were these commodities markets like before the Wall Street firms got involved? And you have a haunting picture, especially of the Minneapolis Exchange, what it was before, what it was like. Could you talk about how things operated and then what Goldman Sachs did precisely?
FREDERICK KAUFMAN: The wheat markets, in particular, in this country are the outcome of a process of development of over 150 years. And that is why, from about 1903 to 2003, the real price of wheat in this country has gone down. And this was one of the great reasons for America’s great twentieth century, the fact that we had cheap food, we had cheap bread. And Goldman, in 1991, came up with a new idea and a new product, which, as I said before, completely restructured this market and completely threw it out of whack.
But before we go there, we just have to maybe review for a second a little bit about how these markets worked and what kept that wheat price stabilized. And Juan, you mentioned the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, this kind of obscure syndicate in the Midwest, which is where the price of this particular kind of wheat, hard red spring wheat, which is the most widely traded wheat in the world, and it’s the most widely exported wheat from the American continent—we kind of set the world price on this wheat. This is where it happens. What’s the history of that price being stabilized is you have, traditionally, in the wheat futures market, two kinds of players: one of the farmers and the millers and the warehousemen—right? And this, of course, includes players like Domino’s Pizza and Sara Lee and General Mills, very large business, capitalist stakes are in this wheat market, right? And they are called bona fide hedgers, because they’re actually buying and selling real wheat. As the price fluctuates in the futures markets, you also traditionally have speculators in this market, people who don’t want wheat, who wouldn’t have any place to put it if they bought it, but they’re making money off buy orders and sell orders, as the price fluctuates each day, and hopefully they’re bringing in some money for themselves every day. That’s the idea.
Now, the key here is that both the bona fide hedgers and the speculators, every time they buy, they’re also selling, and every time they sell, they eventually buy. So their positions are cleared off at the end of the day, OK? Goldman, we have to understand, and a lot of these banks, are not interested in the particular structure of any of these markets. I think it’s a lot of mistake people make when they think about how these bankers are working. We think that they’re actually interested in the markets. We think that they’re—no. What they’re after are very large pools of cash for themselves. They’re after accumulating huge pools of money that they can do with whatever they like on a day-to-day basis. Right? And so, Goldman, in 1991, came up with this idea of the commodity index fund, which really was a way for them to accumulate huge piles of cash for themselves. It wasn’t really about the markets, anyway. The market was just an excuse. And so, the fact that they threw these wheat markets out of whack didn’t really matter to them.
How did this work? Instead of a buy-and-sell order, like everybody does in these markets, they just started buying. It’s called "going long." They started going long on wheat futures. OK? And every time one of these contracts came due, they would do something called "rolling it over" into the next contract. So they would take all those buy promises they had made and say, "OK, we still—we’re just going to—we’ll buy more later. And plus we’re going to buy more now." And they kept on buying and buying and buying and buying and accumulating this unprecedented, this historically unprecedented pile of long-only wheat futures. And this accumulation created a very odd phenomenon in the market. It’s called a "demand shock." Usually prices go up because supply is low, right? That’s the idea. There’s not a lot of supply, so the price goes up. In this case, Goldman and the other banks had introduced this completely unnatural and artificial demand to buy wheat, and that then set the price up. Now, a lot of people are saying, "Oh, it was biofuel production. It was drought in Australia. It was floods in Kazakhstan." Let me tell you, hard red wheat generally trades between $3 and $6 per sixty-pound bushel. It went up to $12, then $15, then $18. Then it broke $20. And on February 25th, 2008, hard red spring futures settled at $25 per bushel. This is completely beyond the pale, particularly at a—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Almost ten times its historic price.
FREDERICK KAUFMAN: Yeah. It was just completely out of control. And, of course, the irony here is that in 2008, it was the greatest wheat-producing year in world history. The world produced more wheat in 2008 than ever before.While Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million to resolve a civil fraud lawsuit filed... more
Nombulelo Siqwana-Ndulo (PhD)
FoodFirst, April 15 2010
Multinational seed and chemical companies looking to gain a new customer base in Africa are facing increasing resistance from both farmers and consumers. Nonetheless, they are making inroads by partnering with African institutions and governments that are eager to ‘modernize' their agricultural sectors. South Africa is of particular importance in this regard. The country has gone against the grain of general distrust of GMOs in Africa to become a gateway for the distribution of GM food aid; the commercialization and export of GM seeds; and experimentation with GM crops not approved elsewhere.[i]
But here too, they face mounting opposition. In July 2009, for instance, the South African government rejected the commercial release application for GM potatoes after the Executive Council, a government licensing body, concluded that the toxicology studies were "inadequate, scientifically poorly designed and fundamentally flawed." It was also reported that, in 2008/2009, 80% of Monsanto's GM maize in South Africa failed to produce a crop, leading critics to call for urgent investigation and a ban on all GM foods.
In 2002, the South African government, in partnership with U.S.-based biotech firm Monsanto, launched the so-called Massive Food Production Program (MFPP) in the country's Eastern Cape Province. The Eastern Cape is characterized by a dual economy in which the western half of the province (previously white South Africa under apartheid) is dominated by commercial agriculture while the eastern half consists of subsistence agriculture. After the advent of democracy in 1994, there was tremendous pressure to develop the rural economy here.
MFPP is a "flagship program" of the South African government designed to bring about agrarian transformation through a "green revolution."[ii]The program operates by granting subsidies (which are phased out over time) and credit to small farming communities to purchase fertilizers, pesticides and GM or hybrid seeds. Through MFPP, Monsanto has essentially been elevated to the status of a government "extension agency" responsible for educating and training farmers about GM seeds and technologies. Of course, as a private company, they are unlikely to share with farmers the potentially disastrous effects of planting their land with GM crops. Rather, they advise farmers to buy and use the recommended agrochemicals. They also instruct them to plant only GM maize, as a monoculture, instead of intercropping with beans or pumpkins as they have done for centuries to ensure their food security.
A white farmer interviewed by GRAIN, paid to mentor an MFPP community, acknowledged that the cost of the inputs was just too high for small farmers to afford on their own,without continuing to amass debt. He was quoted saying he was "tempted to tell farmers to just buy food with the money" as their losses would be less than growing the food themselves through MFPP.
South African farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the deception that GM seeds and technologies will bring development and pull them out of poverty, as their experiences have not born out these claims. In populations with low literacy levels, the farmers are given little or no information about the effects of planting GM seeds, until it is too late, that is. It is not surprising that western consumers who are largely literate and have access to information are wary of GM foods.
Tragically, even the government officials in charge of co-implementing the MFPP program are ignorant of GMOs. A number NGOs and Human Rights organization have taken on the responsibility of educating the farmers about the effects of planting GMOs.
The constitution of South Africa, hailed as one of the most progressive in the world, obligates the government to take steps to protect its citizens. As part of the Consumer Protection Act, the government is indeed drafting policies to regulate GMOs, but many NGOs say it is unclear who will implement and monitor these regulations.
What's more, the South African NGO Safeage reports that the U.S. seed company Pannar and the Swiss firm Syngenta are partnering with local businesses to introduce a program of their own called AfriCan, targeting the poor farmers inthe Eastern Cape who have yet to be reached. The project incorporates farmers into a contract-farming scheme linking them to credit, GM seeds and chemical inputs-much like MFPP. The pilot project, which hopes to be reproduced throughout Africa, was launched in March 2010 with 500 farmers (with .5 to 4 hectare plots) and will run for 18 months.[iii]
Despite claims that there have been no substantiated threats to human and animal health caused by GM crops, subsistence farmers who participated in the MFPP project testified to the contrary in a workshop held by the NGO Biowatch (SA). A farmer from the organization Siyazakha expressed her dismay of the quality of "mielies" (maize), a staple food, produced with"free" seeds from the project. She stated, "the mielies produced are making us sick; they break easily and are bad quality. When we give it to our chickens it affects them, we want to grow our own seed and protect them". Another small-scale farmer from Siyazakha, pointed out that using fertilizers destroys the soil after just a few years and food can no longer be grown on it. He stressed that they want use manure and produce crops using traditional farming methods.[iv]
cont.Nombulelo Siqwana-Ndulo (PhD) FoodFirst, April 15 2010... more
Have you ever wondered what would happen if our life cycles were reversed, that is if we were born old and died young? Well, there’s one animal that comes close and has achieved immortality in the process, just to top it off. Meet the Turritopsis nutricula, a small saltwater animal or hydrozoan related to jellyfish and corals... (continued at link)Have you ever wondered what would happen if our life cycles were reversed, that is if... more
A woman is faced with having to get pregnant in order obtain life saving health care that she can't afford; a compelling story and not an uncommon situation that women find themselves in. Though more often it is just a matter of getting health care for less critical needs. But health care is important and letting things go, as we keep seeing, makes it worse for everyone. People are then forced into going to an emergency room when things get bad enough and we all end up paying much more than we would have had there been universal insurance coverage. We know things work better with universal coverage because every other industrialized country has it, and every one of them spend thousands less per capita than the US does on healthcare.
Special thanks to Melonie Magruder, reporter for the Malibu Times, for telling us this story.
Portions of this clip will be used in an upcoming documentary "Got Healthcare?"
See http://outinthestreetfilms.comA woman is faced with having to get pregnant in order obtain life saving health care... more
As the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15) gets closer, a new agreement has to be signed for the period after 2012. It is becoming clear how agribusiness attempts to gain profits from the massive carbon credits market. Under the term "Conservation Agriculture", Monsanto and other biotech allies have penetrated the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aiming to get carbon credits for agribusiness. A voluntary 'responsible' label for Roundup Ready soy sponsored by World Wild Life Fund (WWF), and a newly approved Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) methodology are important steps for Agribusiness to get access to this three billion dollar business.
Proposals to include agriculture in carbon offsetting focus on changes in tillage practices and reductions in methane and nitrous oxide emissions. All these practices are included in the concept of "Conservation Agriculture", which is based on three principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations . However, in the name of Conservation Agriculture and with the explicit consent of FAO and UNFCCC, very different agricultural methods are included. Under this label a range of systems from biological agriculture to No-till GM industrial agriculture can be labelled as sustainable and so receive carbon credits.
No-till is an agricultural technique that requires no ploughing or digging of the soil. When sowing, seeds are drilled into the soil. In general, No-till is considered a conservation practice that increases levels of soil organic matter and reduces soil erosion, but in RR soy industrial monocultures it part of this technique is used in conjunction with very harmful environmental practices.
In practice, Carbon credits for No-till could mean a massive economic support for Genetically Modified (GM) soy monocultures in South and North America and a promotion of this agribusiness model in other Southern Hemisphere regions.
GM soy monocultures are a production model which is not sustainable in any way. In South America, soy production of this kind is one of the main drivers of deforestation, land use change, biodiversity destruction and human rights violations . Moreover, these monocultures sustain the industrial feed industry which is a main cause of climate change as well. To label these agricultural production models as “sustainable” only because they involve less ploughing (no tillage or No-till) means falling into a trap of absurdly reductionism and blindness.
The report "Agriculture and Climate Change: Real Problems, False Solutions" presented in June 2009 reveals the main agriculture-related proposals in the negotiations for a post -2012 climate agreement. It provides an informative panorama on how current and proposed agricultural practices for the post Kyoto agreements really impact on climate change. However, in this article we will focus specifically on some cases related to soy monocultures.
And the current climate bill in Congress aids their scheme which discredits it right from the start.As the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15) gets closer, a new agreement has to... more
Michael Moore's Capitalism, A Love Story has revealed a deep dark secret to the intrepid reporters of ABC News - so-called Dead Peasant Insurance, the practice of companies taking out secret life insurance policies on their low-level employees, with the benefits paid out to the company upon the employee's death, even if they no longer work at the company.
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How would you like it if, when you die, your family gets nothing but your employer gets millions?Michael Moore's Capitalism, A Love Story has revealed a deep dark secret to the... more
Can you believe that this is now going on in America. What the hell is happening to our country?Can you believe that this is now going on in America. What the hell is happening to... more
Where is the outrage about the toxic pollution being spread by these vipers? Did it die with Rachel Carson? I know it didn't die in me, and I am getting very tired of reading article after article about Monsanto getting its way to not only pollute our water, but to pollute our food, our land, and the future of our children. This isn't about what THEY WANT.
As it races to replenish phosphate supplies for its weed-killing cash machine Roundup, Monsanto Co. insists its history of polluting southeastern Idaho’s high country shouldn’t prevent it from digging fresh open pits here.
Three of the St. Louis-based chemical company’s previous mines in this region of broad valleys and forested ridges are under federal Superfund authority; a fourth is now violating federal clean water laws. In all, several companies are responsible for polluting at least 17 sites southwest of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
With its current mine in the region nearly played out, Monsanto now wants federal regulators to let the company open a new one by 2011, contending safeguards on the project will keep poisons out of the Blackfoot River. The trout stream just a few hundred yards away is among 15 southeastern Idaho waterways where selenium that leaked from mines exceeds legal state levels.
David Farnsworth, Monsanto mining manager, walked the 1,400-acre Blackfoot Bridge site in late July, describing a liner meant to stop pollution. Even if it fails, he said, vast containment ponds below will keep poisons out of rivers downstream.
"The best laid plans show that Mother Nature changes the game plan," Farnsworth said. "The water shouldn’t become contaminated, but if it does, there are the means to handle it."
Marv Hoyt, of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Idaho Falls, counters Monsanto and fertilizer makers J.R. Simplot Co. and Agrium Inc. have squandered all trust with their past pollution.
At J.R. Simplot’s Conda site, hundreds of sheep died in the 1990s after eating toxic forage. Nearby, Canada’s Agrium is spending $500,000 at its North Maybe Mine to control selenium discharges blamed by state wildlife officials for killing all aquatic life in a creek.
Haven't they gotten away with enough with DDT, Agent Orange, and PCBS?
WAKE UP AMERICA.Where is the outrage about the toxic pollution being spread by these vipers? Did it... more
The other week saw people climbing the walls of the “twittersphere” with some claiming that Twitter—the brief blogging platform—makes us immoral.
The controversy was a good example of the danger of popculture references when explaining science. You’ve got to make sure it’s accurate in these days of Susan-Boyle-instant-stories.
The research in question, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that emotions of compassion and admiration are triggered deep within the brain, where anger and fear resides. The study also found that the brain takes four to six seconds longer to process compassion for social pain, than for physical pain.The other week saw people climbing the walls of the “twittersphere” with... more
A Taliban firing squad killed a young couple in southwestern Afghanistan for trying to elope, shooting them with AK-47s in front of a crowd in a lawless, militant-controlled region, officials said Tuesday.
The woman, 19-year-old Gul Pecha, and the man, 21-year-old Abdul Aziz, were accused by the militants of immoral acts, and a council of conservative clerics decided that the two should be killed, officials said.A Taliban firing squad killed a young couple in southwestern Afghanistan for trying to... more
Huge profits for pharmaceutical and condom manufacturers, bottomless grants for researchers and NGO’s, publicity and money for research foundations, six-digit salaries for advertising executives and increasing fame for big name celebrities are creating a disincentive to actually stop the disease say some AIDS activists.Huge profits for pharmaceutical and condom manufacturers, bottomless grants for... more
A prominent Ugandan AIDS activist says that those who are attacking the pope for his stand against the use of condoms in the fight against the disease have "no credibility."A prominent Ugandan AIDS activist says that those who are attacking the pope for his... more
Pope Benedict XVI embarked on his first missionary journey to Africa, and had not yet touched down in Cameroon when headlines flashed around the world screaming; "Pope says condoms won't solve AIDS." Quickly, the pundits and commentators went to work vilifying the Holy Father.Pope Benedict XVI embarked on his first missionary journey to Africa, and had not yet... more
The Roman Catholic pope has come under renewed criticism after saying that condoms are not the solution to Africa's HIV epidemic.
Pope Benedict XVI made the remarks as he started a seven-day tour of the continent on Tuesday.
An estimated 22 million people in Africa have HIV, the virus that leads to Aids.
Three-quarters of all Aids deaths in 2007 were in sub-Saharan Africa.
"You can't resolve it [Aids] with the distribution of condoms," the pope said. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."
He will later travel to Angola on a tour that aims to raise awareness of Africa's key problems - famine, poverty and armed conflict.
Pope Benedict XVI's ignorant comments also raise awareness of Africa's other key problem, religion.The Roman Catholic pope has come under renewed criticism after saying that condoms are... more
QUESTION: What does a Palestinian Conflic Resolution Expert say on Middle-East Peace?
ANSWER: Nothing. See linked article. Palestinians launch 60 rockets into Israel, but only manage to kill two Palestinian terrorists and injure 3 Palestinian civilians, including one who works for a conflict resolution center. Ta-Da
http://ph.news.yahoo.com/ap/20081224/twl-ml-israel-palestinians-38359fb.htmlQUESTION: What does a Palestinian Conflic Resolution Expert say on Middle-East Peace?... more
Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit on Sunday attacked Hamas, saying the group had prevented people wounded in the Israeli offensive from passing into Egypt to receive medical attention.
"We are waiting for the wounded Palestinians to reach Egypt. They aren't being allowed to go through," he said. Asked who was to blame for the dire situation in Gaza, the foreign minister replied: "Ask the party that controls Gaza -- Hamas"
He added that the meeting of Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo Wednesday should call on Hamas to extend the truce.Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit on Sunday attacked Hamas, saying the group had... more
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY BLAMES HAMAS FOR MILITARY CONFLICT
Hamas could have prevented Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday in Cairo. PA President Abbas said Hamas could've prevented current escalation in violence if it did not end truce. Abbas called on Hamas to renew the cease-fire with Israel to avoid further bloodshed in Gaza.
"We spoke to them and told them 'Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,'" Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don't want it to be destroyed."PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY BLAMES HAMAS FOR MILITARY CONFLICT Hamas could have prevented... more
This video shows the results of abuse and torture of Hamas men by Fatah security forces in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Pictures of torture victims and corpses are shown among scenes which seem to show Fatah gunmen attacking Hamas's supporters. The audio is an Arabic-language interview with a Hamas spokesman.
More: http://current.com/items/89655036/human_rights_groups_palestinian_committing_torture.htmThis video shows the results of abuse and torture of Hamas men by Fatah security... more