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Donald Trump's remedy for America: Oil from Iraq to 'pay ourselves back'

© Pete Marovich/ZUMA Press/Corbis
Donald Trump at CPAC: 'If Mitt Romney made one mistake, he didn't talk enough about his success.'
Friday's CPAC keynote speaker gives rambling address, from the evils of immigration reform to an exhortation to re-invade Iraq

Every conference needs a good troll. And Donald Trump seemed happy to play the part at CPAC with a rambling speech on Friday that ranged from the evils of immigration reform to an exhortation to re-invade Iraq.

Trump gave the first keynote of the second day of the biggest annual gathering of conservatives in the US. He used it run against the tide of Republican opinion on immigration, to call for the expropriation of Iraq's oil, and to complain that the Obama administration turned down his offer of building a ballroom in the White House grounds.

In what would have been a damaging revelation if it had come from a more credible source, Trump said "high-level officials" told him before the Iraq war that the US was "going for the oil". The trouble was, it didn't get any. Trump's remedy: go back for it.

Eye 2

Monsanto continues expansion in Argentina


Cristina Kirchner, President of Argentina, has continued her husband's pact with the devil (a.k.a. Monsanto)
Community opposes the construction of transgenic seed factory

"It changed our lives," the people of Malvinas Argentinas are saying. They are referring to the arrival of the multinational agribusiness Monsanto, which announced the construction of a seed production plant that will be the "largest in the world," less than a kilometer (0.6 mile) away from this town in the central province of Córdoba. There is a fear of environmental damages, and through the Asamblea Malvinas en Lucha por la Vida, or the Malvinas Assembly Fighting for Life, the community is looking to stop the company's progress locally. Monsanto has been operating in Argentina since 1956. In 1980, the company started bottling the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup in Zárate, in the province of Buenos Aires, and in 1996 got government approval for RR soybeans, which are Roundup-resistant. Last June, Monsanto announced it would build a new plant to produce transgenic corn seed in Córdoba.

Argentina produces 20 percent of the world's soy crop, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, which reflects the company's expansion at a global level. Started in 1901, US-based Monsanto has 400 locations in 66 countries. It's number one in the sale of seeds (with 27 percent of the global market) and fourth in agrochemicals. The company sells 90 percent of soybean seeds, according to the March 2012 report "Combatting Monsanto," by La Vía Campesina, an international coordinator for rural organizations.


Argentina, the GMO Soy Republic of Monsanto

The country's soya industry is booming, but what is the impact on Argentinians and their land?

Filmmakers: Glenn Ellis and Guido Bilbao
For much of the past decade Argentina has seen a commodities-driven export boom, built largely on genetically-modified soy bean crops and the aggressive use of pesticides.

Argentina's leaders say it has turned the country's economy around, while others say the consequences are a dramatic surge in cancer rates, birth defects and land theft.

People & Power investigates if Argentina's booming soy industry is a disaster in the making.

Cristina Kirchner, president of the Republic of GMO Soy
As I flew in to Buenos Aires to make this film, all the talk was of President Cristina Kirchner's latest gambit. Her foreign minister had pulled out of a meeting with the British foreign secretary to discuss the Falklands (or the Malvinas depending on your outlook). And for the people I rubbed up against in Argentina's smart and chic capital, on discovering I was English, this, along with Maradona's 'hand of god' moment, was the topic on everybody's lips. "We won the war", they would say. "After the fighting we got rid of our dictators but you had another 10 years of Thatcher."

When I explained I was in the country to cover the soya boom, which has given Argentina the fastest growth rate in South America, but also allegedly caused devastating malformations in children, there was a look of disbelief. "Here, in Argentina? Why haven't we heard about it?"

A good question: why had not anyone heard about it? And when I ventured a little further explaining I also wanted to cover what is best described as a dirty war in the North of the country where campesinos are being driven off their land, and sometimes killed, to make way for soya plantations - the bemusement increased. "That's historical" people would say, "it's been going on since the time of the conquistadores." So when I arrived with my crew at Argentina's second city, Cordoba, 700 kilometres North West of the capital, to meet Alternative Nobel Laureate Professor Raul Montenegro, I was not quite sure what to expect.

Comment: For more on humanity's imminent destruction due to agriculture (and today, Big Agribusiness a.k.a. the Biotechnology GMO industry), check out our latest SOTT Talk Radio show on this topic.

Bad Guys

Chinese authorities crack down on 18-day village uprising over landgrabs

© Reuters
An upturned car lies beside Shangpu's Communist party headquarters, with a slogan on the roof calling for a 'harmonious society'.
Nine arrested and dozens injured as security forces storm the village of Shangpu in southern Guangdong province

Chinese authorities have violently cracked down on an 18-day uprising over landgrabs in a southern Chinese village, arresting nine people and hospitalising dozens.

This weekend, security forces stormed the village of Shangpu, a farming community of 3,000 in southern Guangdong province, cut the electricity supply and phone service, beat demonstrators and fired tear gas into crowds, injuring 30 to 40 people.

According to wire reports and microblog posts, the confrontation between Shangpu residents and the authorities began last month when the village's Communist party chief, Li Baoyu, leased a 33 hectare (81 acre) plot of land to his friend, the owner of an electric cable company, without the villagers' consent.

The authorities have arrested Li and eight other people, reported Agence France-Presse, and are still pursuing another 21, including the company owner. County-level authorities overseeing the village have agreed to nullify the land deal, village authorities told the agency. Two officials have been removed from their posts.


Jaw-dropping crimes of the big banks

© William Banzai
Preface: Not all banks are criminal enterprises. The wrongdoing of a particular bank cannot be attributed to other banks without proof. But - as documented below - many of the biggest banks have engaged in unimaginably bad behavior.

You Won't Believe What They've Done ...

Here are just some of the improprieties by big banks:
  • Shaving money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide. Details here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here

Take 2

Iran to sue Hollywood over a series of films, including the Oscar-winning Argo

© Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who said: 'I’ll be defending Iran against films that have been made by Hollywood to distort the country’s image, such as Argo.'
Tehran hires French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre to bring case over Hollywood 'distorting image' of Islamic republic

Iran has hired a controversial French lawyer to file a lawsuit against Hollywood over a series of films, including Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning Argo, that have allegedly portrayed the Islamic republic in a distorted and unrealistic manner.

Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, described by the Iranian media as an "anti-Zionist" lawyer, has travelled to Tehran to meet the authorities in order to lodge a case in an international court against Hollywood directors and producers that officials say have promoted "Iranophobia".

Coutant-Peyre is the wife of the notorious Venezuelan-born terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, whom she is also representing. Ramírez, a self-styled international revolutionary, is serving a life sentence for the killings in 1975 of two French policemen and a suspected informant. Coutant-Peyre and Ramírez married in a ceremony held in jail in 2001 after she converted to Islam.

"I'll be defending Iran against films that have been made by Hollywood to distort the country's image, such as Argo," she said, according to quotes carried by the semi-official Isna news agency


Venezuela to probe Chavez cancer poisoning accusation

© REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Venezuela's acting President, Nicolas Maduro, gestures to supporters after he registered as a candidate for president in the April 14th election outside the national election board in Caracas March 11, 2013
Venezuela will set up a formal inquiry into claims that the late President Hugo Chavez's cancer was the result of poisoning by his enemies abroad, the government said.

Foes of the government view the accusation as a typical Chavez-style conspiracy theory intended to feed fears of "imperialist" threats to Venezuela's socialist system and distract people from daily problems.

Still, acting President Nicolas Maduro vowed to open an investigation into the claims, first raised by Chavez himself after he was diagnosed with the disease in 2011.

"We will seek the truth," Maduro told regional TV network Telesur. "We have the intuition that our commander Chavez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way."

Foreign scientists will be invited to join a state committee to probe the accusation, he said.


EU unveils new air passenger rights


New rules should make it easier for passengers to complain about delays and cancellations
New rights for airline passengers have been unveiled by the European Commission.

They include rerouting travellers with rival carriers if a flight is delayed for more than 12 hours.

The rules also clarify what are considered exceptional circumstances for compensation.

For example, mechanical failures on board the aircraft do not count, but natural disasters and traffic control strikes do.

The Commission says the new rules, which are not likely to become law until 2014, will give a lot more certainty to airlines and passengers.

"It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper," said EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas.

"We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most - when things go wrong."


Washington gun control bill fails in State House

A contentious proposal to expand background checks on Washington state gun sales failed Tuesday in the state House, where supporters said they were just a handful of votes short.

In a final effort to pick up a few extra votes, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, had proposed a referendum clause that would have allowed the public to vote on the measure. He initially believed that would draw enough support to corral the 50 votes needed to pass the bill but conceded Tuesday night that others had dropped their backing because of that shift.

"It was too big of a stretch for this year," Pedersen said.

Pedersen said he was disappointed by the result, and several Democrats departing for the night were emotional about the collapse of a bill they'd spent two days intensely working to finalize. The week had included lobbying from former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was wounded in a January 2011 mass shooting, and Gov. Jay Inslee.


Iraq war killed 116,00 civilians and cost $800 billion, study estimates

© AFP Photo
At least 116,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 4,800 coalition troops died in Iraq between the outbreak of war in 2003 and the US withdrawal in 2011, researchers estimate.

Its involvement in Iraq has so far cost the United States $810 billion (625 billion euros) and could eventually reach $3 trillion, they added.

The estimates come from two US professors of public health, reporting on Friday in the British peer-reviewed journal The Lancet.

They base the figures on published studies in journals and on reports by government agencies, international organisations and the news media.

"We conclude that at least 116,903 Iraqi non-combatants and more than 4,800 coalition military personnel died over the eight-year course" of the war from 2003 to 2011, they said.

"Many Iraqi civilians were injured or became ill because of damage to the health-supporting infrastructure of the country, and about five million were displaced.