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Africa's Frankenfoods, Monsanto and the Gates Foundation

dead maize
© Paige Aarhus/The Indypendent
In the sprawling hills of the Kangundo district in Kenya's Eastern Province, just a few hours outside of capital city Nairobi, Fred Kiambaa has been farming the same small, steep plot of land for more than 20 years.

Born and raised just outside Kathiini Village in Kangundo, Kiambaa knows the ups and downs of agriculture in this semi-arid region. He walks up a set of switchbacks to Kangundo's plateaus to tend his fields each morning and seldom travels further than a few miles from his plot.

Right now, all that remains of his maize crop are rows of dry husks. Harvest season finished just two weeks ago, and the haul was meager this time around.

"Water is the big problem, it's always water. We have many boreholes, but when there is no rain, it's still difficult," he said.

Kiambaa and his wife, Mary, only harvested 440 pounds of maize this season, compared to their usual 2,200. They have six children, meaning there will be many lean months before the next harvest, and worse: Though March is Kenya's rainiest month, it's been mostly dry so far.

"The rain surely is not coming well this year. Rain is the key. We can only pray," he said.

Wonder Crops?

Farmers like Kiambaa are central to a push to deploy genetically modified (GM) technology within Kenya. In recent years, donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have invested millions of dollars into researching, developing and promoting GM technology, including drought-resistant maize, within the country - and have found a great deal of success in doing so through partnerships with local NGOs and government bodies.

Wall Street

Indentured Servitude for Seniors: Social Security Garnished for Student Debts

man on leaning tower of quarters graphic
© n/a
"Security program...represents our commitment as a society to the belief that workers should not live in dread that a disability, death, or old age could leave them or their families destitute."
-- President Jimmy Carter, December 20, 1977.

"[This law] assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half century ago...[The Social Security Amendments of 1983 are] a monument to the spirit of compassion and commitment that unites us as a people."
-- President Ronald Reagan, April 20, 1983.

So said Presidents Carter and Regan, but that was before 1996, when Congress voted to allow federal agencies to offset portions of Social Security payments to collect debts owed to those agencies. (31 U.S.C. §3716). Now we read of horror stories like this:
I'm a 68 year old grandma of 2 young grandchildren. I went to college to upgrade my employment status in 1998 or 1999. I finished in 2000 and at that time had a student loan balance of about 3500.00.

Could not find a job and had to request forbearance to carry me. Over the years I forgot about the loan, dealt with poor health, had brain surgery in 2006 and the collection agents decided to collect for the loan in 2008.

At no time during the 6-7 year gap did anyone remind me or let me know that I could make a minimum payment on the loan. Now that I am on Social Security (have been since I was 62), they have decided to garnishee my SS check to the tune of 15%.

I have not been employed since 2004 and have the two dependents . . . . I don't dispute that I owed them the $3500.00 but am wondering why they let it build up to somewhere around $17,000/20,000 before they attempted to collect.
Her debt went from $3500 to over $17,000 in 10 years?! How could that be?


Italian Anarchists Kneecap Nuclear Executive and Threaten More Shooting

© Paolo Rattini/AFP/Getty Images
Italian police carry out investigations at the site where Roberto Adinolfi, a 53-year-old nuclear engineer, was shot in Genoa.
An anarchist group claimed responsibility on Friday for kneecapping an Italian nuclear engineering executive and warned it would strike another seven times at the firm's parent company, Finmeccanica.

In a four-page letter sent to an Italian newspaper, the group, calling itself the Olga Nucleus of the Informal Anarchist Federation-International Revolutionary Front, said two of its members had shot Roberto Adinolfi, the CEO of Ansaldo Nucleare, in Genoa on Monday.

The firm is owned by Italian state-controlled defence and aerospace group Finmeccanica, which operates 16 sites and employs 10,000 people in the UK.

The letter, which was deemed credible by investigators, said the cell named itself after Olga Ikonomidou, one of eight Greek anarchists it listed as currently jailed in Greece. Seven further attacks would be carried out, one for each of them, the letter stated.

Che Guevara

Third Intifada imminent as multiple Palestinian hunger strikers on verge of death

© Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Palestinian men protest in solidarity with hunger strikers at the International Committee of the Red Cross HQ in Gaza.

Tony Blair urges action and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas fears potential 'disaster that no one could control'

Demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza in support of about 2,000 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike are escalating amid efforts by Egyptian mediators to broker a deal to avoid protests spiralling out of control if a detainee dies.

Two prisoners, who have refused food for 77 days, are thought to be close to death with another six in a critical condition, say Palestinian groups. The Israeli prison service (IPS) says no one's life is at risk.

In an unusual intervention, Tony Blair, the representative of the Middle East quartet, urged Israel to "take all necessary measures to prevent a tragic outcome that could have serious implications for stability and security conditions on the ground". He said he was "increasingly concerned about the deteriorating health conditions" of hunger strikers.

"Our revenge will be the laughter of our children." ~ Bobby Sands

Che Guevara

New left leader Tsipras tells Greek status quo to shove EU-IMF deal where the sun don't shine

© Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images
The Greek president, Carolos Papoulias, centre, with (left to right) the Pasok leader, Evangelos Venizelos; the New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras; and the Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras.
Alexis Tsipras says he will not be 'partner in crime' with mainstream leaders, who criticise his stance as irresponsible

Hopes of producing a government to end the political deadlock in Greece were dashed on Sunday as last-ditch talks between the president and party leaders became mired in rancour and mutual recrimination.

Efforts to fill the increasingly worrying power vacuum floundered as leaders rounded on Alexis Tsipras, head of the radical leftist party Syriza, whose anti-austerity coalition emerged from inconclusive elections as the most popular force in the country. He was accused of being more interested in party politics than a way out of the quagmire.

"Syriza doesn't accept the formation of a viable government, or even to agree to support a government which would undertake to renegotiate the terms of the loan agreement," said Antonis Samaras, the conservative New Democracy leader, after discussions at the neo-classical presidential palace ended abruptly.

Light Saber

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld Convicted of War Crimes in Absentia

© SOTT.net
Kuala Lumpur - It's official; George W Bush is a war criminal.

In what is the first ever conviction of its kind anywhere in the world, the former US President and seven key members of his administration were yesterday (Fri) found guilty of war crimes.

Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo were tried in absentia in Malaysia.

The trial held in Kuala Lumpur heard harrowing witness accounts from victims of torture who suffered at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They included testimony from British man Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee and Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi who was tortured in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.


Over 200,000 to lose unemployment benefits in US this weekend

This weekend, more than 200,000 unemployed workers in eight US states will be abruptly cut off from extended federal unemployment benefits, the result of an agreement between President Barack Obama and the Republican Party earlier this year. Many of these workers will be thrown directly into poverty, without even minimal cash assistance.

These ruthless actions occur amidst a continued jobs crisis in the US, with near-record long-term unemployment and stagnating job growth. While the official unemployment rate has fallen - which has been used to justify the elimination of extended benefits - this is due largely to the fact that hundreds of thousands of long-term unemployed are no longer counted as part of the labor force.

The biggest cuts will take place in the country's most populous state, California, where 95,300 people will lose their benefits, according to an estimate produced by the National Employment Law Project. Other states cutting off extended benefits include Texas (22,700), Illinois (26,100), Florida (29,400), Pennsylvania (20,000), North Carolina (20,100), Colorado (11,100) and Connecticut (10,700).


We Live to Survive: One Week with Lakota People on an American 'Reservation'

"We live to survive." That is what many of them say. In the 19th century, the Lakota people were among the most successful fighters for freedom in the USA. But their land was eventually stolen, their language for years was forbidden to be taught in schools, and their freedom existed only on paper. This story was filmed during the first week of August in 2011 on the territory of Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. This is official land of the Oglala Lakota Nation nowadays.

Every year in August, Lakota people come to Pine Ridge from all over the world to celebrate their culture and traditions at the annual powwow. On the contrary of joy and happiness even during holiday there is a place for grief and misery. Many people have alcohol problems, there are no jobs or good housing. Lakota people are still fighting for their rights. But that gets harder to do every year.

Che Guevara

Thousands of Israelis protest against social inequalities


A protester speaks slogans into a megaphone during a protest march in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) against the high costs of living and social inequality, Saturday, May 12, 2012.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Israel to protest against the high costs of living and social inequalities.

About 5,000 protesters gathered at central Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening in the largest demonstration held since last summer.

At least nine people were arrested for blocking roads in Tel Aviv.

Similar demonstrations were also held in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), Haifa, Eilat, and other major cities.

Some 1,000 protesters converged in an intersection near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in East al-Quds, marched toward his residence and protested in front of the gate of the compound.

Che Guevara

South Korean media workers on strike over censorship

In South Korea, thousands of media and non-media workers have taken part in a rally against what they call media censorship, demanding their right to freedom of expression, Press TV reports.

Protesters rallied from the KBS to MBC broadcasters' headquarters in Seoul to bring attention to South Korea's pro-government media bias.

This is while media workers as well as unionists continue a national strike against censorship.

Those on strike have called for the resignation of the three CEOs of South Korea's major broadcasters, KBS, MBC, and YTN. The protesters say the three are close associates of South Korean president Lee Myung-bak.