Monday, April 30, 2007

a couple of things

1. Jacques Ellul's homepage

2. Although I wrote the letters to many Mexican authorities, with regards to the necessity to protect FLOC organizers, etc., I didn't post them here. Here's a link to FLOC's homepage.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Dear Minister of Immigration,

I am contacting you to add my voice to the chorus, reminding you that Abdelkader Belaouni's situation has not been resolved, that 460 days in sanctuary is far too long, and that many individuals and organizations are actively supporting Mr. Belaouni's struggle for status and are unhappy with the government's lack of response.

Please use your discretionary power to grant Permanent Resident status to Mr. Belaouni without delay.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dear Gary Doer,

I am grateful to be informed, via "Province might cede East Side" by Gerald Flood in the Free Press, of the move within Manitoba's government to cede the East Side of Lake Winnipeg to First Nations People. I am very happy to learn that you may actually be doing something good for the Boreal Forest! I think investigating the archaeology and ecology of this land might help protect the forest from being clear-cut.

As you may be aware, our planet is being destroyed for want of carbon sinks such as the Boreal Forest. The Canadian Government, to my knowledge, has shown no leadership whatsoever, up until this point, with respect to the protection of the Boreal Forest. In fact, the Canadian Government has largely been responsible for the sale of areas of the Boreal (which ought to have been protected, for the well-being of us all), into the hands of natural resource transnational corps.

However, this recent concession shines! I would welcome the release of eastern Manitoba to First Nation government. It is finally time to recognize the genius of a people who can manage land to sustain their livelihoods over periods of thousands of years, where euro-colonials deplete the soil and render it all a saline desert over a time frame of decades.

You may encounter claims of overlapping territories, and in this respect I must advise you that territorial overlap is characteristic of powerful predatory animals (such as the mountain lion, and including humans). It is absolutely normal for groups of human beings to share some space in their territories, where the land is particularly abundant.

Please continue to cede the East Side to First Nations.

Thank you,

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rissie Owens, Presiding Officer

Board of Pardons and Paroles, Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78757, USA
Fax: 1 512 463 8120

Dear Ms Owens,

My name is Timothy Schwinghamer. I am a graduate student at the University of Manitoba. I am contacting you because I am very concerned by the imminent execution of James Clark (inmate no. 999095), scheduled for April 11th in Texas. James Clark was sentenced to death in May 1994 for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Shari Catherine Crews in June 1993. James Clark is retarded.

In 2002, in Atkins v Virginia, the US Supreme Court outlawed the execution of people with retardation. In an assessment in April 2003, clinical psychologist Dr. George Denkowski, hired by the state, concluded that James Clark had retardation. He assessed Clark’s IQ at 65 and concluded that he had adaptive skill deficits in three areas: health and safety, social, and work. Dr. Denis Keyes concluded also that James Clark has retardation (and an IQ of 68). He noted that Dr Denkowski’s findings in Clark’s case were credible and correct. Dr. Denkowski and Dr. Keyes conducted thorough assessments, and ruled out malingering.

I am concerned that Texas has still not enacted legislation to comply with the Atkins ruling, and decisions on mental retardation are being made on the basis of temporary judicial guidelines formulated by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has expressed concern at the lack of legislative guidance. The assessment of mental retardation is not an exact science, and that in this regard, executive clemency is an important failsafe against error and inconsistency, especially in the absence of legislation. Therefore, I must ask you for clemency for James Clark.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Timothy Schwinghamer
120 Dafoe Road, Box 524B
Winnipeg MB R3T 6B3

Cc: His Excellency David Horton Wilkins, Ambassador for the USA, 207 Bank Street, Suite 418, Ottawa ON K2P 2N2. Fax: (613) 688-3080 / 688-3101

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Robin Hood

Farmers warned of extremist threat
'They are trying to put you out of business,' consultant tells Ontario Farm Animal Council meeting.
Brian Whitwham, Guelph, April 4, 2007

There's an organized, international underground network of extremists who are targeting agriculture, and Ontario farmers need to beware, a Toronto-based consultant warned yesterday. Leslie Ballentine of Ballentine Communication Group told an audience of roughly 150 farmers at Guelph Place about the threats posed by radical groups who claim to fight agriculture in the name of environmental or animal rights. "They are trying to put you out of business," Ballentine said. "They want to do damage to their targets." Ballentine, who was speaking at the Ontario Farm Animal Council's annual meeting, said extremists started targeting farms in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s and their activities soon spread to the United States and Canada. Today, countries around the world are looking for ways to deal with the criminal incidents hitting farmers, she told the council, which represents Ontario's 40,000 livestock and poultry farmers. Those incidents range from trespassing and minor vandalism to bombs, arson and food supply tampering. Between 1996 and 2004, the United States dealt with about 1,000 criminal acts involving farms, costing about US$110 million, she said. Ballentine said Ontario hasn't had anywhere near that number of problems, but it hasn't been immune. She said extremist groups caused more than $2.5 million damage last year in the agriculture sector. Near Guelph, someone broke into an egg farm in 2005 and published photos allegedly of the chickens there in a University of Guelph publication [i.e., the Peak, U of G's non-hierarchical volunteer-run newspaper] , along with an anonymous account of what was called degrading conditions in the farm. There have also been several acts of vandalism and arson in Guelph urban areas through 2005 and 2006 in which people claimed responsibility through involvement in a group known as the Earth Liberation Front. But none of their targets appeared to be agriculture-related [keep that in mind as you read the rest of this article]. There were fires at the Zellers store on Stone Road, the Church of Our Lady, the Cutten Club and three homes under construction. Police estimate those fires caused more than $500,000 in damage. Ballentine said many of the groups causing damage also wage a public relations war, masking their work in altruistic notions of social justice. "It's amazing the amount of public support they can get by spinning themselves as Robin Hood," Ballentine said. "The bottom line is they're criminals." She said farmers need to realize that some radical networks have become much more advanced than common vandals. She said some groups conduct surveillance [and forays] or even attack third parties -- such as suppliers or financial institutions -- to make their point. "They can find out where you live, where your children go to school [i.e., power mapping] and what your social insurance numbers are," Ballentine said. "The point isn't to scare people, but it's a reminder that there are some bad [and by "bad" she means "good"] people out there. We never know where it will happen next until it happens." She said farmers just need to be more security conscious when it comes to their property, people and the information in their computer records. Paul Mistele, vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said the extremist threat against farming is a growing issue. He said Ballentine was invited to speak so farmers would realize they need to think about keeping their homes and businesses safe. While most farmers seem to worry more about their income and the state of the industry, extremism is another challenge they need to consider, Mistele said. "But if it hasn't hit people in the head like a hatchet, it doesn't occur to them."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Collapsing colonies

[The mite problem has threatened bees in Canada for a few years, at least.]

Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
By Gunther Latsch

A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.

Is the mysterous decimation of bee populations in the US and Germany a result of GM crops?

Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association (DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist's trade, it is practically his professional duty to warn that "the very existence of beekeeping is at stake."

The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.

As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report) with an Albert Einstein quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein's apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee populations throughout Germany are disappearing -- something that is so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

Felix Kriechbaum, an official with a regional beekeepers' association in Bavaria, recently reported a decline of almost 12 percent in local bee populations. When "bee populations disappear without a trace," says Kriechbaum, it is difficult to investigate the causes, because "most bees don't die in the beehive." There are many diseases that can cause bees to lose their sense of orientation so they can no longer find their way back to their hives.

Manfred Hederer, the president of the German Beekeepers Association, almost simultaneously reported a 25 percent drop in bee populations throughout Germany. In isolated cases, says Hederer, declines of up to 80 percent have been reported. He speculates that "a particular toxin, some agent with which we are not familiar," is killing the bees.

Politicians, until now, have shown little concern for such warnings or the woes of beekeepers. Although apiarists have been given a chance to make their case -- for example in the run-up to the German cabinet's approval of a genetic engineering policy document by Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer in February - their complaints are still largely ignored.

Even when beekeepers actually go to court, as they recently did in a joint effort with the German chapter of the organic farming organization Demeter International and other groups to oppose the use of genetically modified corn plants, they can only dream of the sort of media attention environmental organizations like Greenpeace attract with their protests at test sites.

But that could soon change. Since last November, the US has seen a decline in bee populations so dramatic that it eclipses all previous incidences of mass mortality. Beekeepers on the east coast of the United States complain that they have lost more than 70 percent of their stock since late last year, while the west coast has seen a decline of up to 60 percent.

In an article in its business section in late February, the New York Times calculated the damage US agriculture would suffer if bees died out. Experts at Cornell University in upstate New York have estimated the value bees generate - by pollinating fruit and vegetable plants, almond trees and animal feed like clover - at more than $14 billion.

Scientists call the mysterious phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD), and it is fast turning into a national catastrophe of sorts. A number of universities and government agencies have formed a "CCD Working Group" to search for the causes of the calamity, but have so far come up empty-handed. But, like Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are already referring to the problem as a potential "AIDS for the bee industry."

One thing is certain: Millions of bees have simply vanished. In most cases, all that's left in the hives are the doomed offspring. But dead bees are nowhere to be found -- neither in nor anywhere close to the hives. Diana Cox-Foster, a member of the CCD Working Group, told The Independent that researchers were "extremely alarmed," adding that the crisis "has the potential to devastate the US beekeeping industry."

It is particularly worrisome, she said, that the bees' death is accompanied by a set of symptoms "which does not seem to match anything in the literature."

In many cases, scientists have found evidence of almost all known bee viruses in the few surviving bees found in the hives after most have disappeared. Some had five or six infections at the same time and were infested with fungi - a sign, experts say, that the insects' immune system may have collapsed.

The scientists are also surprised that bees and other insects usually leave the abandoned hives untouched. Nearby bee populations or parasites would normally raid the honey and pollen stores of colonies that have died for other reasons, such as excessive winter cold. "This suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is repelling them," says Cox-Foster.

Walter Haefeker, the German beekeeping official, speculates that "besides a number of other factors," the fact that genetically modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of cornfields in the United States could be playing a role. The figure is much lower in Germany -- only 0.06 percent - and most of that occurs in the eastern states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. Haefeker recently sent a researcher at the CCD Working Group some data from a bee study that he has long felt shows a possible connection between genetic engineering and diseases in bees.

The study in question is a small research project conducted at the University of Jena from 2001 to 2004. The researchers examined the effects of pollen from a genetically modified maize variant called "B. t. corn" on bees. A gene from a soil bacterium had been inserted into the corn that enabled the plant to produce an agent that is toxic to insect pests. The study concluded that there was no evidence of a "toxic effect of B. t. corn on healthy honeybee populations." But when, by sheer chance, the bees used in the experiments were infested with a parasite, something eerie happened. According to the Jena study, a "significantly stronger decline in the number of bees" occurred among the insects that had been fed a highly concentrated B. t. poison feed.

According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the University of Halle in eastern Germany and the director of the study, the bacterial toxin in the genetically modified corn may have "altered the surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the parasites to gain entry - or perhaps it was the other way around. We don't know."

Of course, the concentration of the toxin was ten times higher in the experiments than in normal B. t. corn pollen. In addition, the bee feed was administered over a relatively lengthy six-week period.

Kaatz would have preferred to continue studying the phenomenon but lacked the necessary funding. "Those who have the money are not interested in this sort of research," says the professor, "and those who are interested don't have the money."Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan