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In Corrupt Global Food System, Farmland Is the New Gold

African woman & child
© UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran
More than 100 billion dollars has been invested in buying farmland since 2008, mainly in Africa by foreign companies and state entities.
Famine-hollowed farmers watch trucks loaded with grain grown on their ancestral lands heading for the nearest port, destined to fill richer bellies in foreign lands. This scene has become all too common since the 2008 food crisis.

Food prices are even higher now in many countries, sparking another cycle of hunger riots in the Middle East and South Asia last weekend. While bad weather gets the blame for rising prices, the instant price hikes of recent times are largely due to market speculation in a corrupt global food system.

The 2008 food crisis awoke much of the world's investment community to the profitable reality that hungry people will do almost anything, even sell their own children, in order to eat. And with the global financial crisis, food and farmland became the "new gold" for some of the biggest investors, experts agree.

In 2010, wheat futures rose 47 percent, U.S. corn was up more than 50 percent, and soybeans rose 34 percent.

On Wednesday, U.S.-based Cargill, the world's largest agricultural commodities trader, announced a tripling of profits. The firm generated 1.49 billion dollars in three months between September and November 2010.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Bills pay a return of less than one percent.


At least 50 prisoners killed in Tunisian prison inferno

© Unknown
Smoke billows from market on January 15, 2011 near Tunis.
Reports say scores of inmates have been killed in an inferno at a jail in eastern Tunisia as violence continues in the North African country.

Medical sources say at least 50 prisoners have been killed in the fire at the prison in the resort town of Monastir, 160 kilometers south of the capital Tunis.

"The whole prison is on fire, the furniture, mattresses, everything," Reuters quoted one witness as saying.

In the wake of the unexpected ouster of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali, a new wave of mayhem and disorder has swept across the capital Tunis.

The blaze started when an inmate set fire to a mattress in a dormitory in an attempt to escape.


Blast kills 4, injures 5 in Dagestan

© Unknown
Russian security forces in Dagestan
The explosion of a car parked near a cafe in Russia's troubled southern republic of Dagestan has claimed the lives of four people, the country's Investigation Committee says.

Five other people were severely injured during the blast that hit the cafe in the city of Khasavyurt on Friday at 7.30 p.m. local time (18.30 GMT).

"According to preliminary data, two people working in the cafe and two customers were killed; five were taken to hospital in critical condition," the Russian RIA Novosti quoted the committee as saying in a statement.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast yet.

Sporadic attacks and militant clashes are common in Russia's North Caucasus republics, especially Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia.


Russian Duma ratifies new START treaty

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Russia's State Duma
Russia's lower house of parliament has voted in favor of ratifying the new START treaty with the United States, albeit with conditions.

The State Duma set its terms for approving the Russian-American Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on the second reading on Friday, the state-run Ittar-Tass news agency reported.

According to the head of the State Duma foreign relations committee Konstantin Kosachev, the conditions include circumstances that would push Russia to withdraw from the new START treaty as well as the possibility of further Moscow-Washington talks on similar treaties.

The draft law was adopted by a 349-57 vote with two abstentions.

The Russian lower house of parliament had, on December 24, 2010, voted 350-58 against the new START treaty, which was signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama last April.

Earlier on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was "absolutely" opposed to US Senate additions to the treaty, which denies the link between missile defense and strategic arms.

"We are absolutely not in agreement with this. This is an arbitrary interpretation of the principles of international law," he told the State Duma.


US: Forget Cellphones; Casinos Say Poker Is Answer to State's Budget Woes

© unknown
California voters may have decided that marijuana was not the answer to the state's budget woes but what about gambling?

A group of California casinos say they could raise about $1 billion over the next decade if the state legalized Internet poker.

The problem is California is facing a $25 billion shortfall right now. But with Gov. Jerry Brown cutting costs wherever he can -- see his $20 million cell phone savings earlier this week -- $100 million a year could go a long way.

Star of David

How Terrorists took control of Israel

God chosen terrorists were the Irgun which was a political predecessor to Israel's right-wing Herut (or "Freedom") party, which led to today's Likud party. Benjamin Netanyahu is the present leader. Likud has led or been part of most Israeli governments since 1977.

Star of David

Take a course on 'Zionist editing' to make Israel look good on Wikipedia!

Interviews with Hasbera trainees on how to edit Wikipedia to make Israel look good.


Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaks

© Rene Soobaroyen/Guardian
Rudolf Elmer in Mauritius
Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaks

He will disclose the details of 'massive potential tax evasion' before he flies home to stand trial over his actions.

The offshore bank account details of 2,000 "high net worth individuals" and corporations - detailing massive potential tax evasion - will be handed over to the WikiLeaks organisation in London tomorrow by the most important and boldest whistleblower in Swiss banking history, Rudolf Elmer, two days before he goes on trial in his native Switzerland.

Eye 2

Canada's double standards

illegal israeli settlement
© ActiveStills
The Canadian tax system subsidizes Israel's illegal settlements.
Canada's tax system currently subsidizes Israeli settlements that Ottawa deems illegal, however, the Conservative government says there's nothing that can be done about it.

In June of last year, Guelph activist Dan Maitland emailed Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon concerning Canada Park, a Jewish National Fund of Canada initiative built on land Israel occupied after the June 1967 War. Three Palestinian villages (Beit Nuba, Imwas and Yalu) were demolished to make way for the park.

A few weeks ago Maitland received a reply from Keith Ashfield, Minister of National Revenue, who refused to discuss the particulars of the case but provided "general information about registered charities and the occupied territories." Ashfield wrote that "the fact that charitable activities take place in the occupied territories is not a barrier to acquiring or maintaining charitable status."

This means Canadian organizations can openly fundraise for settlements Ottawa (officially) deems illegal under international law and get the government to pay up to a third of the cost through tax credits for donations. To justify the government's position, Ashfield cited a September 2002 Federal Court of Appeal case (Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel v. Minister of National Revenue), which reversed the Canadian Revenue Agency's previous position.


"Doomsday Seed Vault" - Bill Gates, Rockefeller and the GMO giants know something we don't?

© Unknown
One thing Microsoft founder Bill Gates can't be accused of is sloth. He was already programming at 14, founded Microsoft at age 20 while still a student at Harvard. By 1995 he had been listed by Forbes as the world's richest man from being the largest shareholder in his Microsoft, a company which his relentless drive built into a de facto monopoly in software systems for personal computers.

In 2006 when most people in such a situation might think of retiring to a quiet Pacific island, Bill Gates decided to devote his energies to his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest 'transparent' private foundation as it says, with a whopping $34.6 billion endowment and a legal necessity to spend $1.5 billion a year on charitable projects around the world to maintain its tax free charitable status. A gift from friend and business associate, mega-investor Warren Buffett in 2006, of some $30 billion worth of shares in Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway put the Gates' foundation into the league where it spends almost the amount of the entire annual budget of the United Nations' World Health Organization. So when Bill Gates decides through the Gates Foundation to invest some $30 million of their hard earned money in a project, it is worth looking at.

No project is more interesting at the moment than a curious project in one of the world's most remote spots, Svalbard. Bill Gates is investing millions in a seed bank on the Barents Sea near the Arctic Ocean, some 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole. Svalbard is a barren piece of rock claimed by Norway and ceded in 1925 by international treaty (see map).

© Unknown