Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

HOW “OPEN SOURCE” SEED PRODUCERS FROM THE U.S. TO INDIA ARE CHANGING GLOBAL FOOD PRODUCTION

Around the world, plant breeders are resisting what they see as corporate control of the food supply by making seeds available for other breeders to use.

Frank Morton has been breeding lettuce since the 1980s. His company offers 114 varieties, among them Outredgeous, which last year became the first plant that NASA astronauts grew and ate in space. For nearly 20 years, Morton’s work was limited only by his imagination and by how many different kinds of lettuce he could get his hands on. But in the early 2000s, he started noticing more and more lettuces were patented, meaning he would not be able to use them for breeding. The patents weren’t just for different types of lettuce, but specific traits such as resistance to a disease, a particular shade of red or green, or curliness of the leaf. Such patents have increased in the years since, and are encroaching on a growing range of crops, from corn to carrots — a trend that has plant breeders, environmentalists and food security experts concerned about the future of the food production.

A determined fellow dedicated to the millennia-old tradition of plant breeding, Morton still breeds lettuce — it just takes longer, because more restrictions make it harder for him to do his work.

Inside Russia’s new Gulag

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My husband was humiliated, beaten and tortured in Russia’s penitentiary system. Here are the stories that I’ve collected from his prison.

One year ago, Ildar Dadin, a well-known Moscow activist (and my husband), was sent to prison: the court sentenced him to three years for carrying out solitary pickets. After a lengthy imprisonment in a Moscow investigation prison, Ildar was transferred to a prison colony — and disappeared. His family wasn’t told where he’d been sent. A month and a half later, Ildar was found in Karelia, in Prison Colony No.7 in the town of Segezha, where he told his lawyer how prison officers were torturing and beating prisoners. This story caused a scandal both in Russia and abroad.

When you talk about torture in Russia, the hardest thing is explaining why it’s so hard to deal with. For instance, someone asked me today: “Nastya, if the prisoners in Karelia Colony No.7 have been tortured for several years now, why haven’t they complained?” My response that letters from prison rarely make it to their intended recipients, and that the state prosecutor is a good friend of the colony director (the head sadist), meets with an iron logic: “But they should…”

East Africa’s Largest Solar Plant Starts Operations

Honorable D’Ujanga Simon, Minister of State for Energy, together with representatives of Access Power (www.Access-Power.com), EREN RE (www.EREN-Groupe.com) and donors celebrated today the inauguration of the solar power plant in Soroti.

Made up of 32,680 photovoltaic panels, the new 10 megawatt facility is the country’s first grid-connected solar plant and will generate clean, low-carbon, sustainable electricity to 40,000 homes, schools and businesses in the area.

The project was developed under the Global Energy Transfer Feed in Tariff (“GET FiT”) (www.GetFiT-Uganda.org), a dedicated support scheme for renewable energy projects managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA) and funded by the governments of Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union. The GET FiT programme helps renewable energy sources become more affordable and therefore more accessible in Eastern Africa.

Kyrgyzstan: Investigators Declare War on Facebook

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Authorities in Kyrgyzstan have lashed out at social media and, in particular, how it is being used to say mean things about President Almazbek Atambayev.

In recent days there have been two reports of Facebook users being called in for a stern talk with the security services for things they have written — or might have written — about Atambayev. Nobody has been charged, yet.

There was a surge of hubbub on social media last week when news broke of one man being reportedly grilled over suspicions he is the mind behind Murch, an anonymously run Facebook account that serves as a repository for lowbrow political humour.

UN General Assembly recognises ongoing concerns over health risks from depleted uranium

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151 countries at the UN General Assembly have sent a clear message that the concerns of affected states and communities over the health risks from depleted uranium must be properly addressed.

The UN General Assembly has backed a new resolution on DU weapons by 151 votes to 4. The resolution, which highlights the ongoing concerns of affected states and communities, health experts and civil society over the potential health risks from DU exposure, is the sixth to be adopted since 2007. The text also recognises that countries affected by the use of DU weapons face considerable technical and financial barriers in dealing with DU contamination to internationally recognised radiation protection standards.

Paolo Gentiloni Picked to Replace Matteo Renzi as Italian PM

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Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s foreign minister, has been chosen to replace Matteo Renzi as prime minister amid signs of a quick solution to the political crisis that has convulsed the eurozone’s third-largest economy during the past week.

After three days of consultations with parliamentary leaders of all stripes, Sergio Mattarella, Italy’s president, on Sunday summoned Gentiloni to the presidential palace in central Rome and asked him to form a government.

“I consider this a high honor, which I will carry out with dignity and responsibility,” Gentiloni said, according to the Financial Times.

Tax avoidance: the damage done

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A worker from Peru’s state-run oil company tries to hammer a piece of wood into a gaping hole in the country’s northern pipeline. He fails. Repeatedly. The oil continues to gush with alarming speed and force. Dead fish float belly-up in the black slime.

By the time the spills were stopped this August, over 4,000 barrels of oil had poured into a tributary of the Peruvian Amazon – source of a fifth of our planet’s fresh water. Dozens of indigenous villages were left without drinking water and children were covered in angry rashes.

Leonardo Tello, director of a local radio station, produced a report illustrating these horrific images. He is angry, frustrated and heart-broken. Over the past 19 years the government has registered 190 spills, most affecting the Amazon rainforest.

There Are Many Organizations in Caracas Trying to Change Things for the Better

On the travel and lifestyle site Matador Network, journalist Adriana Herrera has gathered examples of the work that organizations in Caracas are doing to offer up some optimism in the midst of the economic and political crisis that is clouding the outlook of many Venezuelans.

Some organizations encourage residents to go out and participate in events around the city — a rather significant act in itself, given the high levels of crime in Caracas — while others find ways to awaken their artistic creativity. This is a clear illustration of how everyday actions, done collectively and with common goals, can provide a counterbalance to adversity.

250,000 DEMONSTRATE IN SUPPORT OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN TAIPEI

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WITH UP TO 250,000 demonstrating in support of marriage equality in Taipei yesterday, the ball is back in the DPP’s court regarding efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan. In previous months, the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan was previously seen as only a matter of time, given campaign promises of the Tsai administration to legalize marriage equality and widespread social support for the legalization of gay marriage. Demonstrations yesterday may have been the largest protests that Taiwan has seen since the 2014 Sunflower Movement, which saw 500,000 demonstrate in the streets of Taipei on March 30th, 2014, the day now commonly referred to in shorthand as “330.”

But large demonstrations by Christian groups opposed to marriage equality would later allow the DPP to backslide on campaign promises, seeing as the DPP is very probably divided on the issue of gay marriage internally. The DPP has in the past month reversed course, suggesting that it would push for “separate but equal” civil partnerships instead of gay marriage, despite that marriage equality legislation proposed by the DPP is under discussion in legislature. The widespread panic provoked by this possibility, when it previously seemed all but certain that marriage equality would become a reality in Taiwan, is what has led to a renewed push by LGBTQ activists to put pressure on the Tsai administration to live up to campaign promises.

BBC Just Used the Islamic State’s Website as a Source. But Why?

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Jets carrying out air strikes missed an Islamic State target and instead hit residential buildings. Dozens of people including women and children are assumed to have been killed.

Witnesses believe the strike was aiming for a Mosque frequently used by IS as a headquarters, but missed and instead hit residential buildings. It is likely that the strike came from the Iraqi Air Force (who are supported by the United States coalition). But it cannot yet be confirmed who is responsible.

What is interesting though is that BBC used the Islamic State’s news agency– Amaq– as a legitimate first-hand source. In fact, they even used a screenshot from a video on the group’s website. Here’s a screenshot from the BBC article:

Trump’s victory could push the human rights movement to transform

Donald Trump’s victory is a threat to human rights, but could it also push the movement to transform and strategize with greater urgency?

Donald Trump’s victory creates serious risks and challenges for human rights globally, but this victory could have an unexpected positive effect: to push the human rights movement to carry out transformations in its architecture and changes in its strategy that were imperative even before Trump, and that are now urgent.

Before the decline of the global Anglo-American order, reflected in Brexit, Trump, and the proliferation of illiberal nationalisms across the world, the answers that many analysts and practitioners in the human rights movement offered tended to be grouped in two extremes: skepticism and defensiveness. The skeptics announced the “end times” of the international project of human rights, based on a view that human rights were imposed by Euro-America. Given this view, the end of Pax Americana will also be the end of the movement, as Stephen Hopgood writes. His work is thought provoking and inexact in equal parts, and it forgets that this regime was built in part with the ideas and the pressure of states and movements of the global South, from those who created the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man in 1948 to postcolonial nations that pushed for treaties against racial and religious discrimination in the sixties.

Parliament approves law to fight human trafficking

The National Parliament has approved proposed law no. 26/III/2015 on the prevention and fight against human trafficking.

Of the 64 MPs, 34 were present, with 32 voting in favor, two abstentions and none against.

Deputy President of Commission A (responsible for constitution, justice, public administration, local authorities and anti-corruption) Arao Noel de Jesus Amaral said the law would provide a legal basis to fight against human trafficking in the country.

“So far we have no law and so it is hard for the judges in court and the prosecution to take preventive action in human trafficking cases,” he told parliament.

He said the law would criminalize the trafficking of people in and out of Timor for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor.

The Coming Fracture of Saudi Arabia

The Bible’s book of Galatians, VI teaches, «as you sow, so shall you reap». And for Saudi Arabia, which has overtly and covertly supported rebellions in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ethiopia, Philippines, and Lebanon that have led to civil wars and inter-religious strife, the day of reckoning may soon be at hand. The present Saudi king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, is the last of the sons of the first Saudi king, Abdul Aziz al Saud, who will ever sit on the Saudi throne. After Salman dies, Saudi leadership will pass to a new generation of Saudi royals. But not all the descendants of the first Saudi king are happy about how the future succession may turn out.

Salman named his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince after firing his half-brother, Mugrin bin Abdul Aziz, as crown prince after the death of King Abdullah in 2015. For good measure, Salman also named his son, Mohammad bin Salman, who is little-known outside the kingdom, as deputy prime minister. The 30-year old Mohammad bin Salman is seen by some as the eventual crown prince after King Salman figures out some way to ease Mohammad bin Nayef, the Interior Minister and close friend of the United States, out of the position of heir apparent to the throne.

Gambia’s Leader Jammeh Refuses to Accept Presidential Election Loss

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Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has rejected the outcome of the presidential election in the country, in which he lost to opposition’s Adama Barrow.

Jammeh, who ruled the country for 22 years, surprisingly lost the latest election, gaining 36.7% of votes against Barrow’s 45.5%.

“After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process,” Jammeh said on Friday, as quoted by The Guardian.