Tuesday, 29 April 2008
New from GRAIN
28 April 2008
A new report by GRAIN - http://www.grain.org/2/?id=39
The world food crisis is hurting a lot of people, but global agribusiness
firms, traders and speculators are raking in huge profits.
Much of the news coverage of the world food crisis has focussed on riots in low-income countries, where workers and others cannot cope with skyrocketing
costs of staple foods. But there is another side to the story: the big
profits that are being made by huge food corporations and investors.
Cargill, the world's biggest grain trader, achieved an 86% increase in
profits from commodity trading in the first quarter of this year. Bunge,
another huge food trader, had a 77% increase in profits during the last
quarter of last year. ADM, the second largest grain trader in the world,
registered a 67% per cent increase in profits in 2007.
Nor are retail giants taking the strain: profits at Tesco, the UK supermarket
giant, rose by a record 11.8% last year. Other major retailers, such as
France's Carrefour and Wal-Mart of the US, say that food sales are the main
sector sustaining their profit increases. Investment funds, running away
from sliding stock markets and the credit crunch, are having a heyday on the
commodity markets, driving prices out of reach for food importers like
Bangladesh and the Philippines.
These profits are no freak windfalls. Over the last 30 years, the IMF and the
World Bank have pushed so-called developing countries to dismantle all forms
of protection for their local farmers and to open up their markets to global
agribusiness, speculators and subsidised food from rich countries. This has
transformed most developing countries from being exporters of food into
importers. Today about 70 per cent of developing countries are net importers
of food. On top of this, finance liberalisation has made it easier for
investors to take control of markets for their own private benefit.
Agricultural policy has lost touch with its most basic goal: that of feeding
people. Rather than rethink their own disastrous policies, governments and
think tanks are blaming production problems, the growing demand for food in
China and India, and biofuels. While these have played a role, the
fundamental cause of today's food crisis is neoliberal globalisation itself,
which has transformed food from a source of livelihood security into a mere
commodity to be gambled away, even at the cost of widespread hunger among
the world's poorest people.
GRAIN, Making a killing from hunger: We need to overturn food policy, now!
"Against the grain", April 2008, http://www.grain.org/2/?id=39 and in PDF
Thursday, 24 April 2008
The London-wide top-up seats
Again, we aren't recommending tactical voting in this election, but if you
must, the key consideration in the vote for the London-wide top-up seats
is whether the party you are considering supporting is likely to clear the
5% hurdle to get one Assembly member elected. If it isn't likely to, then
in tactical voting terms (your vote's effectiveness in determining the
result), you have wasted your vote.
So which left of New Labour parties are likely to clear the 5% hurdle?
Polls are difficult to come by, as the mainstream media focuses solely on
the Mayoral race. At LSV our guess is that both the Lib Dems and the
Greens will clear the hurdle comfortably, but that Left List, Respect
(George Galloway) and Unity for Peace & Socialism will struggle to do so.
The Greens won 2 top up seats in 2004 (Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones) on
8.37% of the vote, down from 3 on 10.52% of the vote in 2000. The Greens
are going out and out to win 3 seats, which would put lovable Noel Lynch
back into the London Assembly. If they can win four, then this would put
Sian Berry into the Assembly.
The Lib Dems won 5 top-up seats on 16.5% of the vote in 2004, up from 4 on
14.05% in 2000. London Strategic Voter's view is that the trade of two
fairly anonymous Lib Dem Assembly members for Noel Lynch and Sian Berry
would certainly be an excellent, as both would be excellent Assembly
members and would make an infinitely greater positive impact on the
Assembly than the LibDems.
Respect just missed out on a seat in 2004, getting 4.57% of the vote, just
0.43% short of the threshold. If Respect hadn't split, then there would
have been an excellent chance of getting Lindsey German, their top of the
list candidate, elected. But now it is hard to see how a split vote, that
will leave both Left List and Respect (George Galloway) well short of the
5% threshold, can be avoided. In many ways this is a private battle
between the two halves of Respect to determine who has the most support
following the split. The manifesto policies of Left List and Respect (GG)
are pretty much the same as each other (whilst refreshingly different from
those of the other parties - underlining the daftness of splitting).
The prospects for Lindsey German and the Left List look bleak. Meanwhile,
Respect (George Galloway) have thrown their biggest gun, George Galloway
himself, into the fray. Can George get over the 5% threshold? Given his
huge - and richly deserved - popularity amongst the Muslim community in
London, and his very high recognition factor amongst all Londoners
(admittedly mostly as a tabloid hate figure, but increasingly as a "top
cat" Talk Radio phone-in host), it perhaps cannot be ruled out. Galloway
is asking Londoners the question, can you name a single London Assembly
member? And there is no doubt that they would be able to if he was
elected. As a former Parliamentarian of the Year, elected by other MPs
most of whom hate his views, George Galloway would bring a class of
heavyweight political talent, skill and rhetorical flourish to the task of
holding the Mayor to account that has never before been seen on the London
Is George Galloway worth voting for? Of course, theoretically, but the
problem is, how many Londoners know he is running for the Assembly, given
the media focus on the Mayoral race? In tactical terms, the problem for
London progressive voters is whether a vote for George Galloway would be a
wasted vote that could cost the Greens an extra seat on the Assembly.
Views and feedback are sought at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Thursday, 17 April 2008
"The Green Party will be looking to pick up one or both of the seats that One London will probably lose. The recent increase in environmental concerns should ensure this happens, as well as the strong performance of the Green Party on the London Assembly over the past term."
"Noel Lynch returns to the Assembly as Green member, four years after he lost his seat, alongside Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson, whose influence in the Assembly will depend hugely on whether Ken Livingstone wins a third term."
A similar report for the 2006 Local Elections correctly predicted six Green gains in Lewisham. It says the mayoral race is too close to call. The full 2008 report is available at http://www.londoncommunications.co.uk/html/hello.lasso
In 2000 Tony Travers was the first to predict that the Green Party would gain seats in the Assembly.
QUESTION: Who kicked off the "biofuels" boom that's triggered soaring food
prices and a whole host of other unintended consequences?
ANSWER: George W. Bush.
QUESTION: Who lobbied for this disastrous policy?
ANSWER: Big agribiz, the biotech industry, big oil and the motor industry.
QUESTION: Who have been the principal beneficiaries of this disastrous
ANSWER: Big agribiz and Monsanto.
QUESTION: Who warned against such a policy and predicted the consequences?
ANSWER: Many in the environmental movement. GM Watch started publishing
warnings about the dangers of the GM industry's promotion of so called "biofuels"
as far back as 2005. Groups like Friends of the Earth warned about the
dangers of biofuels right from the start.
The obvious conclusion that governments should be drawing from the
"biofuels" debacle is that there are very grave dangers in being swept away by
industry lobbying and adopting policies based on hyperbole about simplistic
technofixes *ahead of the evidence*. This has very clear implications for GM.
BUT pro-GMers are trying to exploit the current crisis to argue exactly the
opposite by totally inverting the truth.
THE CRAZY WORLD OF THE GM PROMOTERS
QUESTION: Who's responsible for the "biofuels" fiasco?
ANSWER: "The greens" who "joined forces" with George Bush to create a food
shortage that today threatens millions in poor countries with hunger and
QUESTION: Who paved the way for this disastrous policy?
ANSWER: "The greens" who "demonized the consumption of petroleum and
genetically modified foods, and crusaded against carbon". (Both Bush and Greens Fuel
QUESTION: How do we deal with this disaster?
ANSWER: GM is "the swiftest path to higher productivity" and solving the
problems of hunger andf starvation. (The cost of green tinkering is hunger and
CONCLUSION: "Environmentalists are now the biggest threat to the environment
and the hungry."
COMMENT: The quotes above may be particularly extreme but there are a
disturbing number of opinion pieces appearing that attempt to associate "biofuels"
(read: agrofuels) with environmentalism, and/or hail biotech as the solution
to all possible crisies - based on unsubstantiated claims that GM crops
increase productivity, provide drought-resistance and can solve a myriad of other
The current crisis atmosphere, in other words, seems to be actually boosting
the promotion of policies based on hyperbole about simplistic technofixes
ahead of the evidence.
If so, those who stand to gain most from this mess could be the very people
who created it.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Advance stills attached, and at http://www.flickr.com/photos/votegreen/
The Green Party's visually stunning broadcast for the local elections
airs tonight at 18.25 on ITV and 18.55 on both BBC1 . The film,
produced by Contaminant Media and animated by sought-after Shroom
Studios, uses no actors; instead real people were invited to discuss
their concerns, making a compelling argument for Green solutions for a
more affordable and fairer society.
Recent polling has suggested that the Greens could continue to
increase their representation on councils throughout England,
including Norwich Greens moving to within a handful of seats of the
ruling Labour Party. Green councillors have been able to introduce
ideas and policies that put communities first, that support local
businesses and campaigns for affordable housing, that provides free
insulation that saves householders money - wide-ranging policies
reflected in the broadcast that the Greens are delivering and changing
lives for good:
-- Free insulation for every home
-- More affordable housing
-- Free School Meals
-- Safer speed limits
-- Low-cost loans for renewable energy devices like solar panels, and
council led renewable energy and energy efficiency drives
14 April 2008
HAVING conducted over 2000 sales, freelance auctioneer Noel Lynch is used to standing on a platform. But on May 1, he will be looking for votes rather than bids as he aims to win a seat in the London Assembly for the Green Party.
A swing of just 1.5 per cent would see Mr Lynch returned as the party's third candidate. He sat in the assembly for 13 months before losing out in the 2004 election where the Greens took 8.5 per cent of the vote.
But with environmental issues now taking greater prominence and with the Green Party averaging 13.5 per cent across the
Mr Lynch told ATG that as a member of the London Assembly he would do all he could to support small shops including art and antiques traders. He described the threats to the
"Every bit of individuality in our city is being hammered away," he said. "If we don't do something now
He also pointed out that the antiques trade could make more of its green credentials as it has been a cornerstone of the recycling industry for centuries.
When not on the campaign trail, Noel Lynch conducts sales for Hornsey Auctions and other salerooms on a freelance basis. He also runs a collectors' charity shop in
Having originally trained as an auctioneer in his native
He spent 12 years running The Bargain Centre in
"Small businesses are essential to a thriving local community," he said. "They are the glue of a community. It has even been shown that where there are many small businesses, there is less crime
Monday, 14 April 2008
The yields of all major GM crop varieties in cultivation are lower than, or at best, equivalent to, yields from non-GM varieties.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said: 'GM chemical companies constantly claim they have the answer to world hunger while selling products which have never led to overall increases in production, and which have sometimes decreased yields or even led to crop failures. As oil becomes scarcer and more expensive, we need to move away from oil dependent GM crops to producing food sustainably, using renewable energy, as is the case with organic farming.'
Sunday, 13 April 2008
Saturday, 12 April 2008
It is with great sadness that I learned of the death
on Tuesday of Tim Beaumont, Lord Beaumont of Whitley.
Tim was the sole Green Party representative in Parliament. He will be sorely missed.
He was a man of great charm and quite determination. I will miss his yearly ‘Tim Beaumont’s gleamings for the year’ which were always filled with quite humour.
A memorial service will be held at 2.30 pm on Friday 18th April at the
Church of the Holy Spirit,
The Green Party's only peer, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has died aged 79.
He was chairman of the Liberal Party when he joined the Lords in 1967 but then defected to the Greens in 1999.
His opposition to the Liberal Democrats' support for an increase in free trade around the world was a factor in his decision to switch.
He was "a pioneering spirit in green politics" who would be "enormously missed", said Green principal speakers Caroline Lucas and Derek Wall.
They also praised him as "a passionate defender of human rights and civil liberties".
"He worked tirelessly to put sustainable development higher up the political agenda and, in particular, to promote sustainable energy," they said, in a joint statement.
Lord Beaumont died on Wednesday at
Long obituary in The Daily Telegraph:
Here is the Wikipedia entry:
Timothy Wentworth Beaumont, Baron Beaumont of Whitley (born 22 November 1928) is a politician in the
He was created a Liberal Life peer as Baron Beaumont of Whitley, of Child's Hill in Greater London in 1967. He was chair of the Liberal Party 1967-8 and President 1969-70. In 1973 he resigned his holy orders, but resumed them in 1984, becoming Vicar of All Souls,
He is married to Mary Rose Wauchope, with whom he has had two sons and two daughters named Hubert, Aleric, Atalanta, and Ariadne and has a total of ten grandchildren: Amelia, George, Richard, Felix, Michael, Oliver, Milo,
In May 2006 Lord Beaumont put forth a bill to "draw up a plan to prohibit piped music and the showing of television programmes in the public areas of hospitals and on public transport; and to require the wearing of headphones by persons listening to music in the public areas of hospitals and on public transport." 
He strongly supported the current Green Party system of having Principal Speakers rather than a leader, saying that "in 60 years in politics I have only known one good party leader"[
Sunday, 6 April 2008
Thursday, 3 April 2008
A police drive aimed at thousands of low-level teenage offenders lies behind an apparent surge in youth crime figures, according to an analysis published today. Police figures suggest reported minor offences by young people soared by 38.9% from 2003-2006, and detected serious offences rose by 19%.
But research by the charity Nacro says this rise has more to do with police criminalising minor teenage misdemeanours - previously they would have been dealt with by an informal ticking off.
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
2) The following article appeared a few weeks ago on The Irish Post. Only the last bit is about the GP:
All to play for in Mayoral election by paul donovan
The battle for who will be elected as Mayor of London on May 1 has been warming up over recent weeks with some knives out for incumbent Ken Livingstone.
First, there were a series of articles written by Evening Standard reporter Andrew Gilligan pointing out possible irregularities concerning the conduct of the Mayor's race and policing advisor Lee Jasper. The accusations against Jasper refuse to go away and look set to be investigated by the Greater London Assembly (GLA).
A less significant attack came in the form of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme fronted by New Statesman political editor Martin Bright. The programme was so one sided against the Mayor that few seem to have taken it seriously. More significant has been the drip drip effect of the various allegations against Livingstone.
The Evening Standard has been implacably opposed to Mayor Livingstone since its present editor Veronica Wadley took over from Max Hastings. In the past, the Mayor has been able to offset the Standard's opposition by courting coverage on BBC and ITN local news programmes. There though have been signs of these outlets and bigger players like Radio 4's Today programme beginning to join in an anti-Ken crusade.
There are no doubt some serious accusations to be answered by the Mayor. One concern for many Londoners will be the steadfast way in which he has stood by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Ian Blair and his handling of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. But these concerns are minor compared to the very real achievements.
The imposition of the congestion charge first in central London and then extended to the wider western zone was a bold political move. It was widely opposed at the time but the Mayor had the courage and vision to push the policy through. This move has taken traffic out of the centre of London and improved air quality. More recently the Mayor has imposed a £200 a day charge on polluting lorries coming into London. From October, polluting cars - mainly of the 4x4 variety - will be charged £24 in the congestion zone. Environementally friendly cars will incur no fee.
The Mayor has massively improved the bus network, while a central plank of Conservative opponent and cyclist Boris Johnson has been his opposition to bendy buses.
Significantly, Mayor Livingstone has proved himself to be a politician who has not only seen the danger that global warming represents but is also prepared to take action to counter it - no matter how unpopular.
The Mayor was central to winning the bid for the 2012 Olympics which will bring prosperity to much of east London. There are also opportunities for Irish construction companies to profit from the work available as a result.
A day after the successful Olympic bid was announced the Mayor proved himself a good leader at the time of London bombings of 7 July 2005, managing to pull together all the different communities of the capital. He also reached out to the Muslim community and its leaders by hosting the visit of of Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi's to London. Unpopular in many quarters, the Mayor's actions regarding the visit were in many ways reminiscent of his initiative in the 1980s when as leader of the GLC he invited Gerry Adams over to speak. Groups representing the Muslim community have already pledged their backing for Livingstone and there will be few among the ethnic minorities generally opposing the incumbent come 1 May.
Mayor Livingstone has been good for the Irish community in London. The St Patrick's Day celebrations have become one of the biggest events in the London calender. The Mayor also commissioned research into the true nature of the Irish community in the capital and the challenges it faces. This threw up important data such as an under reading of the number of people of Irish orientation resulting from the last census. There was also data showing Irish people more likely to be among the long term ill that others in London. The Irish were also found to have lower rates of home ownership than average with higher proportions in social rented accomodation.
The main opposition to Livingstone comes from Conservative candidate Boris Johnson and Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick. Both Johnson and former Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Paddick are strong on the need for more police on the streets, the buses and everywhere else. Johnson also wants to cut paper work for the police very much along the lines of the recommendations made in the recent report from Royal Ulster Constabularly Police Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan. Paddick believes that Sir Ian Blair should go as Met Police Commissioner.
Johnson does make some good points such as the scandal of healthcare in London that means that "a child born in Haringey is three times more likely to die at birth than a child born in Richmond, and that if you travel eight stops on the Jubilee Line, from Westminster to Canning Town, the average life expectancy of the surrounding communities declines by eight years." The Mayor's office though does not have power over healthcare provision.
The Tory candidate also commits to affordable housing but is weak on delivery just saying that he will seek to "work in partnership with local councils." There is also nothing said about the rented sector.
Among the other parties, the Greens have some good ideas such as free insulation for homes, more use of renewable energy sources and cutting fares on public transport. Mayoral candidate Sian Berry though has little chance of winning.
Of more consequence for the Irish community would be to secure the election as a Green Party member of the GLA of Limerick born Noel Lynch. Lynch did a good job for the Irish community when last elected but he lost out in 2004. This time Lynch is hopeful that he can get elected and serve the Irish community at City Hall. Lynch has also significantly urged Green Party supporters to put Mr Livingstone as their second preference in the vote for Mayor.
So it is all to play for in the elections for London Mayor and membership of the GLA. Mayor Livingstone has a good record and no doubt will get many Irish people's votes. There are though other good ideas coming forth from different parties, especially some of the smaller groupings like the Greens. The May elections certainly seem likely to stimulate some interesting debates over the next few months.