Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

The protests in Libya are being drowned in blood. Yet, somehow people all around the world get inspired to protest. A victory for democracy? A triumph of human desire for freedom and human rights? Or no...
I still cannot quite form my opinion on the issue, yet there is some troubling bias in the official media coverage on those protests. For example, for Egypt, everyone focused on the lack of civil rights and the dictatorship of Mubarak. However, I found only in one (Bulgarian) article clearly stating what was merely hinted in others. That the real ruler of Egypt has always been the army. The army owns approximately 1/3 of Egypt economy directly. They chose Mubarak while he was a general, he became civilian and while he was behaving, he was ok. When Mubarak tried to steal the power from them by choosing his son to succeed him (thus creating a monarchy), the army took him down. Did you read that anywhere? I didn't. So, if the army was behind the protests, is this a real victory for the people, or as usually, they were merely used by a minority with vision and money? I think in the case of Egypt the answer is "yes". And I wonder why nobody commented this on the main stream media. Why they keep on repeating how the protests were organized in Facebook, when in reality "Egypt Cuts Off Most Internet and Cell Service" :
 " Friday, when the government of a country with 80 million people and a  modernizing economy cut off nearly all access to the network and shut down cellphone service. 
The shutdown caused a 90 percent drop in data traffic to and from Egypt, crippling an important communications tool used by antigovernment protesters and their supporters to organize and to spread their message.
“The government has made a big mistake taking away the option at people’s fingertips,” he said. “They’re taking their frustration to the streets.” ."
I also agree it was a mistake to cut down the internet. Because if anything can make everyone go to a protest, that's it. Million people without access to farmville or some other idiot FB game.
That's not very serious, but anyway, don't you feel a little cheated? Everyone keeps on talking about how useful is FB in fighting for civil rights, but the reality is that it's not Facebook or Twitter, it's Internet which allows people to contact each other and to organize event much better. Yet it sounds much better when you say "It was Facebook.". Somehow it makes you ignore the inconvenient fact that any small group can become huge using Internet and that it's not very clear who protested for what. True, probably most people fought for their rights, but is this what they will get? I doubt so. Reading: After Long Exile, Sunni Cleric Takes Role in Egypt or Next Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics points in another, not very pleasant direction. That in these fragile times, all those happy but confused people, will be easy pray for religious groups. And fear is very bad advisor as we know. Note that in both Egyptian and Libyan case, the dictators were in extremely good relations with the West, which will automatically make people angry or at least upset with the latter. Thus opening a huge door for extremism. In Tunis that could be harder, but it's not impossible. Because again, fear is very dangerous weapon.
 I guess this is precisely why Western reactions are that...limited. It's not that there are not enough soldiers to send, it's the mere complexity of the situation. If you remember in the case of Egypt, Western authorities were extremely slow to react. At first, they wanted to make peace with the crowd, and suddenly, as if they finally figured the options out, they said "Mubarak must go". As if they didn't know about the police brutality in Egypt? As if they didn't use secret prisons in Egypt to conduct their shady anti-terrorists interrogations? I think we all know how well USA and Mr. Mubarak understood each other.
Anyway, now in Libya - do you hear any serious reactions against protesters or foreign mercenaries who kill protesters. Today I read that there are even Serbian and Russian ex-soldiers hired to kill protesters on the streets of Tripoli. Where's the public condemnation, where are the serious reactions?! I can tell you where they are - in Western pockets. Because Libya is in billions-worth contracts with most of the Western world. Not to mention the good relations of Gadaffi with Berluskoni or other leaders. I'm sure everyone is very confused about how to react so that the situation peacefully calm down. Well it won't calm down. The whole Arab world is on fire. You can read about protest in Bahrain. The last drop will be Saudi Arabia if that doesn't soon stop. And yet, everyone is so quite. They were so quick to send fighters to bomb Serbia, but when it comes to real money, they are very careful not to make the wrong step. Not that their soldiers did any good to Africa - in Kongo thousands of people are killed or raped, pirates take ships, all kind of gangs kidnap people. Not to mention the extremely unsuccessful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. One would wonder why the hell do we have all those armies when they cannot win any war. Not without erasing the whole place from the map and from Earth.
Whose side I am on? I don't know. From the one side people do have the right to choose their rulers - no matter if their choice will be for good or for bad. But from the other side, there are already extremists in "free" parts of Libya. And religious extremists and Islamic republic is what I fear the most. Because even the best example - Turkey - is actually a place where women and human rights get more and more repressed by the day. Sure, they don't kill women with stones (yet), but more and more women do wear the veil. Why? Because it's so nice? It isn't. It's because of social expectations. And I think in 21st century that is unacceptable. It is a step back for everyone. So as much I like people being in power, I'm very unsure what good that will bring. It will certainly have some interesting effects on world economy, but will this bring good to the people there? Or they are once again being used.
Because what we see right now are oil money switching their owner. I seriously doubt that could happen at random. This is planned. By whom? I don't think that Western countries have any profit from that. What's more, I don't think Russia will want something like that - mostly because the risks for their integrity are much bigger than any oil/gas profit. The real winners so far have been Saudi Arabia, but somehow I don't think they provoked that. It's too dangerous. The other winner is Iran, but the same goes for them - again, such protests are dangerous. And they won't earn too much because of international embargo on them. And if it's not them, the only possible reason for all this could lie to the East. And now this is where it gets scary.

Hopefully I'm wrong, but we can only wait and see what will happen. Whether the fire will subdue or it will grow. Whether the whole thing will lead to something "good". The big question is how do you define "good". Because I'm sure people fight for what they believe in. While fights are ugly and sad, they are only part of the whole war. The real battle is afterwards - who get what and why. And this is something it's hard to predict. Because the "fire" is unpredictable by definition.




Egyptians’ Fury Has Smoldered Beneath the Surface for Decades

By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
January 28, 2011
Standing before a joint session of Parliament in 2006, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt told lawmakers what most in attendance had already assumed: He planned to stay in power until the day he died.
The speech was not offered as a threat or boast, but as comfort, because in Mr. Mubarak’s Egypt it had become an article of faith for his allies that stability required his continued stewardship.
Now five years later, as Egypt quakes beneath the fury of a huge public uprising and tanks roll through its cities, that compact between Mr. Mubarak and his subjects has broken. His focus on stability, which relied heavily on police powers and support from the West, has proved to be his greatest liability. The litany of complaints against Mr. Mubarak is well known. The police are brutal. Elections are rigged. Corruption is rampant. Life gets harder for the masses as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. Even as Egypt’s economy enjoyed record growth in recent years, the number of people living in poverty actually grew.
(..) “People do believe that Mubarak is the absolute dictator.”
But it is the fault of the government he built, where all power ultimately rested in his hand, political scientists said.  Mr. Mubarak, 82, came to power with a vision — and a mandate — to try to preserve stability. It was the perfect calling for a military man schooled in the former Soviet Union who made one of his first acts the imposition of an emergency law. The law gave his government the ability to fight the extremists who killed Mr. Sadat and for years after would violently threaten the state.
The anger was compounded by speculation that Mr. Mubarak planned to have his son Gamal succeed him. source



Mubarak family fortune could reach $70bn, say experts

Phillip Inmanm Friday 4 February 2011
President Hosni Mubarak's family fortune could be as much as $70bn (£43.5bn) according to analysis by Middle East experts, with much of his wealth in British and Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast.

After 30 years as president and many more as a senior military official, Mubarak has had access to investment deals that have generated hundreds of millions of pounds in profits. Most of those gains have been taken offshore and deposited in secret bank accounts or invested in upmarket homes and hotels.
His sons, Gamal and Alaa, are also billionaires.
Amaney Jamal, a political science professor at Princeton University, said the estimate of $40bn-70bn was comparable with the vast wealth of leaders in other Gulf countries.

Al Khabar said it understood the Mubaraks kept much of their wealth offshore in the Swiss bank UBS and the Bank of Scotland, part of Lloyds Banking Group, although this information could be at least 10 years old.
Christopher Davidson, professor of Middle East politics at Durham University, said Mubarak, his wife, Suzanne, and two sons were able to accumulate wealth through a number of business partnerships with foreign investors and companies, dating back to when he was in the military and in a position to benefit from corporate corruption.
He said most Gulf states required foreigners give a local business partner a 51% stake in start-up ventures. In Egypt, the figure is commonly nearer 20%, but still gives politicians and close allies in the military a source of huge profits with no initial outlay and little risk.
Hotels and land around the Sharm el-Sheikh tourist resort are also a source of Mubarak family wealth. source

Oil Soars as Libyan Furor Shakes Markets

By CLIFFORD KRAUSS and CHRISTINE HAUSER
Published: February 22, 2011
HOUSTON — The political turmoil sweeping the Arab world drove oil prices sharply higher and stocks much lower on Tuesday despite efforts by Saudi Arabia to calm turbulent markets. 

The unrest that has spread from Tunisia to Libya pushed oil prices to a two-year high and has spurred an increase in gasoline prices. The specter of rising energy costs and accelerating inflation in turn unsettled investors.
Oil is now at a price not seen since the recession began, and it is more than $20 above goals set in recent months by Saudi officials as strong enough to satisfy the top producers but not so strong they might suffocate the global economic recovery.
Although there are still plentiful supplies of oil and gasoline in the United States and in much of the world, American consumers are now paying an average of $3.17 a gallon for regular gasoline, a steep rise of 6 cents a gallon over the last week, according to the AAA daily fuel gauge report.
Saudi Arabia’s oil minister sought to reassure the markets on Tuesday, saying that OPEC was ready to pump more oil to compensate for any decline. At least 50,000 barrels a day of output has already been halted in Libya. That is only a fraction of the country’s production, but with foreign oil companies beginning to shut down operations and evacuate workers and with local ports closing, more output could be lost.
Europe appears most immediately vulnerable to the strife in Libya, which produces almost 2 percent of the world’s oil. More than 85 percent of its exports go to Europe; more than a third goes to Italy alone. Libya sends only a small fraction of its oil to the United States, but because oil is a world commodity, Americans are not immune to the price shock waves.
While Libya has been the immediate cause for the spike in oil prices recently, oil experts said traders were driving up prices because of concerns that a long period of instability in the Middle East was just beginning. They identified the protests in Bahrain in particular as a disturbing sign that neighboring Saudi Arabia might not be immune to the spreading political contagion.
Bahrain produces little oil, but it is connected to the oil-rich eastern region of Saudi Arabia by a 15-mile causeway. The island nation has a majority Shiite population with cultural and religious ties to the Saudi Shiite minority that lives close to some of the richest Saudi oil fields.
 source

Facebook Pages Upgrade, 2011

I'm pissed! Very pissed. Facebook made a major upgrade to Pages yesterday. As a result, nothing works on my Page anymore. I'm an admin for the Facebook page of Department Theoretical Physics for Sofia University. This was supposed to be an official page to attract young people to physics and science. Since yesterday, I'm not able to post new links, nor to comment on the statuses, nor to edit the Page view, nor to switch back to my normal user. It's a MAJOR failure. And the worst is that the Page was just gathering fans and likes. We were in front of major promotion for the Faculty. And now, I cannot pot anything on it!
I'm so so pissed. Because it took me months and months to develop that page and to get people to visit it regularly. And now I have to just watch it crumble?!
I don't understand Facebook. They do their best to attract the business to Pages and then they release an upgrade that simply doesn't work. Is this aimed to show us how dependent on Facebook we are?! It did the job. Now I'm trying to figure out and alternative news feed. But let's face it, this was a great promotion tool. And now it's NOT WORKING! GRRRRRRRRRR!
Did I say how pissed I am?!
FACEBOOK SUCKS!

Another GMO approved, 2011

Just when you think that the GMO controversy is obvious and the authorities must be more careful, you see new cultures approved just like that. Because the authorities couldn't take the pressure! And the same authorities don't even bother to deny there are problems. It's just that they find the possible (but not probable) benefits to outweigh the problems. Wrong! So wrong!
Recently, a person told me - my education is such that I don't fall for the paranoia over GM foods. I was about to tell him something deeply meaningful but then I told myself "why bother". The truth is that people are so eager to take a side, they rarely seriously question their choice. It's almost a matter of belief - just not in religion, but in your knowledge and your ability to make the right choices. It's never a good idea to compromise that belief.
So I decided not to argue. I'm not going to argue here either.
But I want to make a distinction. An important one.
GM foods and crops may or may not produce cheaper and more healthier products. The environmentalist in me think "healthier? WTF? we barely scratched the surface of Nature's own production". But the scientist in me will always say - as long as we're careful, the more we try, the better we're about to become. So I don't argue with that.
I argue with one simple thing. The choice. Do the GM companies leave us a choice? No! They claim they do, but we all know they don't. Monsanto, BASF, those are GIANTS! Corporations that easily can swallow any complaints, any arguments, any efforts to put organic, normal and GM producer on equal footing. It's not about the science, it's about the choice. And choice is regulated by authorities. In the case of GM stuff, however, the authorities receive millions in various forms just to make sure that choice does not exist! It was US government who paid for the first GM crops on the market! Isn't it odd to regulate your own production?
Again, it's not about science. I doubt it was about science ever. It's all about money. It's about a product which requires very serious investments to research and develop that should be sold on any cost! I do believe scientists did they job the best they could. I do not believe authorities they can regulate that production in the fairest way for everyone. I don't believe normal producers are given the same protection as GM ones. I don't believe that people who want to consume non-GMO products are given the same rights as those who want to consume them. And they should. So if you're one of those "believers" in free markets or in science, ok. You say it's unfair to stop progress. Well, is it fair to be forced to consume something? I think not. But thanks to such hard-core believers, soon none will have a choice. We all will eat what they serve us.
Happy new approved cultures. Note the last article - there are insecticides in the water around GM production fields. But don't worry - I doubt they are more dangerous for humans than all the other nasty substances we leave as a waste in our waters. But Nature is very intelligent when it comes to survival. So who knows what the next super bugs will be...And it's all because of us.

GM salmon may go on sale in US after public consultation

US authorities today began the process to approve the first GM animal for human consumption. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a 60-day period of consultation and public meetings over whether to permit a GM strain of salmon to be eaten by humans, even though it has been called a "frankenfish" by critics. The approval process could take less than a year, and if it gets the green light the fish could be on the market in 18 months.
Environmentalists and scientists see the decision as marking a threshold. If it is approved it is likely to open the door to a large range of GM animals being raised for consumption. If not, scientists say that will have a negative effect on research, in part because there will be no money to be made from it.
Among the considerations by the FDA is whether, if the fish is approved for consumption, it must be labelled as genetically engineered. source

U.S. Approves Genetically Modified Alfalfa

By ANDREW POLLACK, January 27, 2011

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Thursday that he would authorize the unrestricted commercial cultivation of genetically modified alfalfa, setting aside a controversial compromise that had generated stiff opposition.
In making the decision, Mr. Vilsack pulled back from a novel proposal that would have restricted the growing of genetically engineered alfalfa to protect organic farmers from so-called biotech contamination. That proposal drew criticism at a recent Congressional hearing and in public forums where Mr. Vilsack outlined the option.
Mr. Vilsack in recent months has been calling for coexistence among growers of genetically engineered crops, organic farmers and nonorganic farmers growing crops that have not been genetically altered.
Organic farmers can lose sales if genetic engineering is detected in their crops, which occurs through cross-pollination from a nearby field or through intermingling of seeds. And exports of nonorganic but nonengineered crops to certain countries can be jeopardized if genetically engineered material is detected in significant amounts.
The genetically modified crop — developed by Monsanto and Forage Genetics, an alfalfa seed company that is owned by the Land O’Lakes farming and dairy cooperative — contains a gene that makes the plant resistant to the herbicide Roundup. That allows farmers to spray the chemical to kill weeds without hurting the crop.
Alfalfa is grown mostly to make hay fed to dairy cows and horses. More than 20 million acres are grown in the United States; it is the nation’s fourth-largest crop by acreage, behind corn, soybeans and wheat, with a value of about $8 billion. About 1 percent of alfalfa is organic.
In deciding whether to approve the genetically engineered alfalfa, the Agriculture Department was considering restricting areas where the crop could be planted.
But the proposal ran into considerable opposition in Congress and from some farm groups and biotechnology companies.
Organic farmers and food companies said they were not pleased with the decision on Thursday.
The partial restriction would have prohibited growing the biotech alfalfa on about 20 percent of current alfalfa acreage nationwide, and about 50 percent in Western states, where most alfalfa seed is produced, according to Forage Genetics.
source

Insecticides from genetically modified corn present in adjacent streams

September 27, 2010 
In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cary Institute aquatic ecologist Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall and colleagues report that streams throughout the Midwestern Corn Belt are receiving insecticidal proteins that originate from adjacent genetically modified crops. The protein enters streams through runoff and when corn leaves, stalks, and plant parts are washed into stream channels.
Genetically-modified plants are a mainstay of large-scale agriculture in the American Midwest, where corn is a dominant crop. In 2009, more than 85% of U.S. were genetically modified to repel pests and/or resist herbicide exposure. Corn engineered to release an insecticide that wards off the European corn borer, commonly referred to as Bt corn, comprised 63% of crops. The tissue of these plants has been modified to express insecticidal proteins, one of which is commonly known as Cry1Ab.
Following an assessment of 217 stream sites in Indiana, the paper's authors found dissolved Cry1Ab proteins from Bt corn present in stream water at nearly a quarter of the sites, including headwater streams. Eighty-six percent of the sampled sites contained corn leaves, husks, stalks, or cobs in their channels; at 13% of these sites corn byproducts contained detectable Cry1Ab proteins. The study was conducted six months after crop harvest, indicating that the insecticidal proteins in crop byproducts can persist in the landscape.
Using these data, U.S. Department of Agriculture land cover data, and GIS modeling, the authors found that all of the stream sites with detectable Cry1Ab insecticidal proteins were located within 500 meters of a . Furthermore, given current agricultural land use patterns, 91% percent of the streams and rivers throughout Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana —some 159,000 miles of waterways—are also located within 500 meters of corn fields.
 source

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