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Monthly Archives: June 2011

The new African land grab

Al Jazeera
June 30, 2011
By Joan Baxter

The “town” chief of the village seemed to be in a state of shock.

Sitting on the front porch of his mud and thatch home in Pujehun District in southern Sierra Leone, he struggled to find words that could explain how he had signed away the land that sustained his family and his community.

He said he was coerced by his Paramount Chief, told that whether he agreed, or not, his land would still be taken and his small oil palm stand destroyed. He didn’t know the name of the foreign investor nor did he know that it planned to lease up to 35,000 hectares of farmland in the area to establish massive oil palm and rubber plantations.

Haltingly, he said that without his land, he might as well take his leave of the village. By that he meant that he was as good as dead.

This is a ground-level view of a large land deal in Africa, where in recent years foreign investors have acquired tens of millions of hectares of farmland. In 2009 alone, the World Bank estimates that around the world foreign investors acquired about 56 million hectares of farmland – an area about the size of France – by long-term lease or by purchase. Farmland has become a favourite “new asset” class for private investors; “like gold, only better” according to Capital & Crisis.

The World Bank has its own term for the new global land rush. It calls it “agro-investment” and has developed seven voluntary principles to make the land deals “responsible”.

Critics of the phenomenon – farmers’ movements, human rights, civil society, women’s and environmental organisations, and many scientists – call it “land grabbing”. They say there is no way that the taking over vast areas of smallholder farmland and transforming it into giant industrial plantations and agribusiness operations can ever be “responsible”.

They argue that land grabs are throwing millions of farming families and indigenous peoples off their land. They say that it’s not just land that’s being grabbed, but also precious water resources.

The investors are hedge funds, private equity funds (that are attracting even prestigious American universities with their promises of high returns), pension funds, banks, multinational corporations, and sovereign wealth funds seeking to sow capital and grow profits. They are also Middle Eastern and Asian nations anxious to secure their own future food security in the face of climate change, with dwindling water resources and arable land.

An estimated 70 per cent of the demand for farmland is in Africa, where land is cheap and traditional communal ownership makes people particularly vulnerable. Sometimes this can be done for the cost of a few gifts to traditional chiefs and grandiose promises of bringing “development”.

Since 2009, in the wake of the food, fuel and financial crises of 2007-2008, the rush for farmland has only accelerated. But it’s impossible to know just how much more of Africa’s fertile land has now been taken by investors.

Corruption and profit

Recent in-depth research by the US-based Oakland Institute of land deals in seven African countries found that most of the land deals lack transparency, making it almost impossible to calculate their total area. Lack of transparency is a great enabler of corruption.

Full Article Here – http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/201162884240129515.html

Hundreds of thousands strike in UK pensions row

AFP
June 30, 2011
By Alice Ritchie

Hundreds of thousands of British public sector workers went on strike Thursday to defend their pensions, causing widespread disruption to schools and state-run services.

A third of English schools were closed and another third were affected, officials said, as up to 350,000 teachers, lecturers and education staff took action against plans to make them work longer and pay more into their pensions.

Tax offices, museums and job centres were also brought to a standstill as a further 100,000 civil servants walked out on the first nationwide day of strike action since the coalition government took office last year.


However, airport operator BAA said feared delays at London Heathrow because of a walkout by immigration and customs staff failed to materialise, and ministers said only half the civil servants who could have downed tools actually did so.

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the labour changes are fair and inevitable, warning this week that the pension system is “in danger of going broke” faced with an ageing population.

Francis Maude, the minister who oversees the civil service, told BBC radio on Thursday: “You cannot continue to have more and more people in retirement being supported by fewer and fewer people in work. Long-term reform is needed.”

But the unions say they have already accepted pension reforms over the past decade and accuse ministers of pushing through new changes without negotiation.

Thousands of strikers marched through central London on Thursday, brandishing banners calling for “Fair Pensions for All” and “Education Cuts Never Heal”, and around 80 further demonstrations were held in towns around the country.

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/mass-public-sector-walkout-begins-040031375.html

The Wageless, Profitable Recovery

New York Times
June 30, 2011
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE

Economists at Northeastern University have found that the current economic recovery in the United States has been unusually skewed in favor of corporate profits and against increased wages for workers.

In their newly released study, the Northeastern economists found that since the recovery began in June 2009 following a deep 18-month recession, “corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1 percent” of that growth.

The study, “The ‘Jobless and Wageless Recovery’ From the Great Recession of 2007-2009,” said it was “unprecedented” for American workers to receive such a tiny share of national income growth during a recovery.


According to the study, between the second quarter of 2009, when the recovery began, and the fourth quarter of 2010, national income rose by $528 billion, with $464 billion of that growth going to pretax corporate profits, while just $7 billion went to aggregate wages and salaries, after accounting for inflation.

The share of income growth going to employee compensation was far lower than in the four other economic recoveries that have occurred over the last three decades, the study found.

“The lack of any net job growth in the current recovery combined with stagnant real hourly and weekly wages is responsible for this unique, devastating outcome,” wrote the report’s authors, Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, Joseph McLaughlin and Sheila Palma.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average real hourly earnings for all employees actually declined by 1.1 percent from June 2009, when the recovery began, to May 2011, the month for which the most recent earnings numbers are available.

Full Article Here – http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/30/the-wageless-profitable-recovery/

Irish Gaza aid ship abandons mission

Irish Times
June 30, 2011

An Irish aid ship has been forced to pull out of a flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade after it was damaged while docked in Turkey.

Human rights activists claim the lives of 20 Irish citizens were put at risk by a deliberate sabotage of the MV Saoirse,  which they blamed on Israel.

Dr Fintan Lane, co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, said the damage to the propeller shaft was a potentially murderous act.

If pressure had been put on the shaft, which was weakened by a piece gouged out, it could have snapped, damaged the engine room and flooded the boat at sea, he said.


“This wasn’t designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth. Instead it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and would have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board,” he said. “This was a potentially murderous act.”

Six members of the Irish Ship to Gaza, including Dr Lane and former rugby player Trevor Hogan, plan to join an Italian ship, while seven other members will arrive back in Dublin airport tonight. Others hope to travel on other aid ships.

The damage is said to be identical to damage suffered by the Greek/Swedish ship, the Juliano,  in recent days.

Dr Lane demanded that the Irish and European governments condemn the attacks despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny warning the Irish human rights activists yesterday against trying to break the blockade. “Israel has no right to interdict the flotilla and even less right to carry out attacks against vessels in Greek and Turkish ports,” Dr Lane said.

Full Article Here – http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/0630/breaking44.html 

Hacker attack cripples al-Qaida Web communications

NBC News
June 29, 2011
By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — Computer hackers shut down al-Qaida’s ability to communicate its messages to the world through the Internet, interrupting the group’s flow of videos and communiqués, according to a terrorism expert.

“Al-Qaida’s online communications have been temporarily crippled, and it does not have a single trusted distribution channel available on the Internet,” said Evan Kohlmann, of Flashpoint Global Partners, which monitors the group’s communications.

The attack was carried out within the past few days by unknown hackers targeting al-Qaida’s Internet communications systems. It was “well coordinated and involved the use of an unusual cocktail of relatively sophisticated techniques,” Kohlmann said.

“My guess is that it will take them at least several days more to repair the damage and get their network up and functioning again,” he said.

A year ago, al-Qaida’s Internet communications suffered a similar hacker attack.

British newspapers reported earlier this month that the the UK government hacked into an al-Qaida website last year and inserted recipes for making cupcakes in place of instructions on how to build bombs. The target was the group’s English language magazine, “Inspire,” intended for Muslims in the West. The magazine is the product of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen.

Full Article Here – http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43584213/ns/us_news-security/

Israel passes draft law requiring Palestinians to pay for their own home demolitions

IMEMC
June 29, 2011
By Saed Bannoura

A Committee of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) passed a first draft of a law that will require that Palestinians whose homes are destroyed by Israeli forces pay the Israeli government for the demolition costs.

The law will now be passed to the full Knesset for a final reading, where it is expected to pass due to the current makeup of the Knesset.

Since 1967, Israeli forces have demolished 24,813 Palestinian homes. 90% of these homes were destroyed for ‘administrative’ reasons – because they either lacked a permit or were in an area designated for expansion by the Israeli military. No permits have been issued by Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction in the Occupied Territories since 1967. The remaining 10% of the demolitions have been ‘punitive’ demolitions of the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israel, or of their families’ homes.


In the first five months of 2011, Israeli forces demolished more Palestinian homes than in the entire year of 2010, rendering homeless 706 Palestinians, including 341 minors. This is according to the most recent numbers released by the Israeli Civil Administration.

If the law passes the full Knesset, any Palestinian whose home is destroyed by the Israeli military will have to pay thousands of dollars to cover the cost of the demolition. Already, many Palestinian homeowners, mainly in Jerusalem, have been forced to pay for the forced demolition of their homes.

Full Article Here – http://www.imemc.org/article/61573?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Israel passes draft law requiring Palestinians to pay for their own home demolitions

IMEMC

June 30, 2011

By Saed Bannoura

A Committee of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) passed a first draft of a law that will require that Palestinians whose homes are destroyed by Israeli forces pay the Israeli government for the demolition costs.

The law will now be passed to the full Knesset for a final reading, where it is expected to pass due to the current makeup of the Knesset.

Since 1967, Israeli forces have demolished 24,813 Palestinian homes. 90% of these homes were destroyed for ‘administrative’ reasons – because they either lacked a permit or were in an area designated for expansion by the Israeli military. No permits have been issued by Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction in the Occupied Territories since 1967. The remaining 10% of the demolitions have been ‘punitive’ demolitions of the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israel, or of their families’ homes.

In the first five months of 2011, Israeli forces demolished more Palestinian homes than in the entire year of 2010, rendering homeless 706 Palestinians, including 341 minors. This is according to the most recent numbers released by the Israeli Civil Administration.

If the law passes the full Knesset, any Palestinian whose home is destroyed by the Israeli military will have to pay thousands of dollars to cover the cost of the demolition. Already, many Palestinian homeowners, mainly in Jerusalem, have been forced to pay for the forced demolition of their homes.

Full Article Here – http://www.imemc.org/article/61573?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Israel passes draft law requiring Palestinians to pay for their own home demolitions

IMEMC
June 30, 2011
By Saed Bannoura



A Committee of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) passed a first draft of a law that will require that Palestinians whose homes are destroyed by Israeli forces pay the Israeli government for the demolition costs.


The law will now be passed to the full Knesset for a final reading, where it is expected to pass due to the current makeup of the Knesset.


Since 1967, Israeli forces have demolished 24,813 Palestinian homes. 90% of these homes were destroyed for ‘administrative’ reasons – because they either lacked a permit or were in an area designated for expansion by the Israeli military. No permits have been issued by Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction in the Occupied Territories since 1967. The remaining 10% of the demolitions have been ‘punitive’ demolitions of the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israel, or of their families’ homes.


In the first five months of 2011, Israeli forces demolished more Palestinian homes than in the entire year of 2010, rendering homeless 706 Palestinians, including 341 minors. This is according to the most recent numbers released by the Israeli Civil Administration.


If the law passes the full Knesset, any Palestinian whose home is destroyed by the Israeli military will have to pay thousands of dollars to cover the cost of the demolition. Already, many Palestinian homeowners, mainly in Jerusalem, have been forced to pay for the forced demolition of their homes.


Full Article Here – http://www.imemc.org/article/61573?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter 

Israel passes draft law requiring Palestinians to pay for their own home demolitions

IMEMC
June 29, 2011
By Saed Bannoura

A Committee of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) passed a first draft of a law that will require that Palestinians whose homes are destroyed by Israeli forces pay the Israeli government for the demolition costs.

The law will now be passed to the full Knesset for a final reading, where it is expected to pass due to the current makeup of the Knesset.

Since 1967, Israeli forces have demolished 24,813 Palestinian homes. 90% of these homes were destroyed for ‘administrative’ reasons – because they either lacked a permit or were in an area designated for expansion by the Israeli military. No permits have been issued by Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction in the Occupied Territories since 1967. The remaining 10% of the demolitions have been ‘punitive’ demolitions of the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israel, or of their families’ homes.

In the first five months of 2011, Israeli forces demolished more Palestinian homes than in the entire year of 2010, rendering homeless 706 Palestinians, including 341 minors. This is according to the most recent numbers released by the Israeli Civil Administration.

If the law passes the full Knesset, any Palestinian whose home is destroyed by the Israeli military will have to pay thousands of dollars to cover the cost of the demolition. Already, many Palestinian homeowners, mainly in Jerusalem, have been forced to pay for the forced demolition of their homes.

Full Article Here -

Cyber Attack on Gannett Targets U.S. Soldiers

Reuters
June 29, 2011

BOSTON (Reuters) – Hackers broke into a Gannett Co database containing personal information about subscribers to publications read by U.S. government officials, military leaders and rank-and-file soldiers, the media company said on Tuesday.

Gannett told subscribers via email that it discovered the breach of its Gannett Government Media Corp on June 7. It said it had previously notified subscribers of the breach via a notice on its website.

The attackers accessed subscribers’ names, passwords and email addresses, the company said. They also obtained data on the duty status, paygrade and branch of service of some readers who serve in the military.

The information included subscribers to Defense News — one of the world’s most widely read publications covering the defense industry — as well as publications aimed at soldiers serving in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.


Personal data on government officials and members of the military is highly coveted among cyber criminals because it can be used to launch targeted attacks against computer systems that hold classified information.

Full Article Here – http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2011/06/29/technology/tech-us-cyberattack-gannett.html?_r=1&ref=technology