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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Concentrated POWER causing death, poverty

Re-reporting, editing, brief comment by Carolyn Bennett

The same entrenched power that brought the latest financial crisis is bringing farm families to their knees. 

Investigative reports released June 7 by the Oakland Institute think tank reveal that hedge funds and other foreign speculators are increasing price volatility and supply insecurity in the global food system. Speculators are “taking over agricultural land,” says the institute’s policy director Frederic Mousseau, small farmers are being cast as ‘squatters’ and, with no compensation, they are being forcibly removed from their land.

Driving starvation

Largely unregulated land purchases are “forcing millions of small farmers off ancestral lands and small local food farms in order to make room for export commodities, including biofuels and cut flowers.”

The same financial firms that plunged the world into global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial maneuvers, says Oakland Institute executive director Anuradha Mittal, “Are now doing the same with the world’s food supply.”

African Chiefs, Ivy League 
never together in public

Research exposes investors commenting on the ease of landing land deals with developing countries: usually with “a poor tribal chief,” an exchange of “a bottle of Johnny Walker.” However, investors’ promises to local chiefs of progress and jobs never materialize, OI says; what ensues is “no progress” and people relocated from their homes.

Among financial players cashing in on people’s misery are “U.S universities and pension funds” lured by high returns and conveniently ignoring the theft of land and displacement of people. Investing in these deals are reportedly such prestigious institutions of higher learning as “Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Spelman College (Atlanta, Georgia) and Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee).”

Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia says, “These investors are not there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security.”  Land-grab deals and agreements — many of which could be in place for 99 years — “lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors.”

Worse than ‘terrorism’
Speculators under cover creating, deepening poverty

“The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.”  These deals happen under cover of darkness (are generally “lacking in transparency”) — despite the profound implications posed by financial firms’ “consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources.… More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger.”

Insecurity in the global food system brought on by speculation, the Oakland Institute concludes, “could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism.”

Unrelenting pain of U.S.-led Wars

Civilians bombed in LIBYA — ‘Sorry’
Nine dead, 18 wounded

Libyan officials showed reporters five bodies, including two toddlers, they said were among nine civilians killed. Speaking for the Libyan government, Mussa Ibrahim told the press that four passersby also died, bringing the death toll to nine and the injured to 18 people.

Today NATO voiced responsibility for having killed the civilians during a Tripoli bombing raid. Pressure is mounting on NATO “to allow a political solution.”


Missing are $17 BILLION the United States Government shipped to Iraq in 2003 after having destabilized and otherwise destroyed that country and overthrown its government.

News wires reporting today from Baghdad said, “Iraq’s parliament is chasing about $17 billion of Iraqi oil money it says was stolen after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and has asked the United Nations for help to track it down. The missing money was shipped to Iraq from the United States to help with reconstruction after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.”

Speaking for the current government in Iraq, Ali al-Dabbagh today reportedly told Al Jazeera television, “‘No one on the Iraqi side was controlling the work of Paul Bremer at that time so I think the administration of the United States needs to give the answers for where and how this (money) was being used.… [However] We do understand that Iraqis are also engaged in such lack of transparency and corruption related to the Paul Bremer time in Iraq.’”

Wasting more $billions
Saving women

Heading into campaign season, U.S. legislators a decade on raise the curtain on theater complaining that Pakistan’s cooperation remains unreliable despite an “aid package” since 2001 exceeding $20 BILLION.

In Afghanistan, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combine persistently to imperil women.  Afghan women are hurt repeatedly by “violence, dismal healthcare and brutal poverty,” according to results of a survey conducted by TrustLaw, an arm of Thomson Reuters. Afghanistan takes ranking as the most dangerous country in the world for women.

Two hundred and thirteen (213) gender experts from five continents ranked countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks. The risks were health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking. In rank order following Afghanistan are Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia.

Sources and notes

“Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa” (Oakland Institute Press Release— Hedge Funds Create Volatility in Global Food Supply with Land Grabs across Africa), June 7-8, 2011, http://media.oaklandinstitute.org/press-release-understanding-land-investment-deals-africa
OI’s reports are based on the actual materials from land deals and include investigations of investors, purchase contracts, business plans, and maps never before released. New reports and materials on these deals examine on-the-ground implications in several African nations including Ethiopia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Sudan; and expose contracts that connect land grabs back to institutional investors in these nations and others. These reports and briefs on other aspects of land grabs are available at http://media.oaklandinstitute.org.

Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time. OI’s mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues in both national and international forums. Contributions fund Oakland Institute’s (P.O. Box 18978, Oakland, CA 94619) independent research, analysis, and advocacy to facilitate democratic participation in critical policy decisions affecting quality of life. http://media.oaklandinstitute.org/about

Between the Lines
 “Hedge Fund-Financed Land Grab in Africa Triggers Global Food Price Spike, Rise in Hunger” Scott Harris interview with Anuradha Mittal, executive director of The Oakland Institute, June 15, 2011, Between the Lines at http://btlonline.org/2011/seg/110624af-btl-mittal.html

“NATO admits civilian casualties in Libya raid,” June 19, 2011, http://sg.news.yahoo.com/world/

“Iraq hunting $17 billion missing after U.S. invasion,” June 19, 2011, http://sg.news.yahoo.com/iraq-hunting-17-billion-missing-u-invasion-183002114.html;_

“‘Pressure’ on Pakistan army head over U.S. ties  — General Kayani reportedly fighting to keep his job after killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in May,” June 16, 2011,

“Afghanistan ‘most dangerous place for women’— Survey says war-torn nation worst place for women while Congo, which has ‘horrific levels of rape.’ is ranked second,” June 15, 2011,


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