Connect the World or Capture It? Critics Raise Alarm Over Facebook’s Spurious – Lauren McCauley

May 6, 2015

Privacy rights and open internet advocates are sounding the alarm after Facebook on Monday announced changes to its “free” Internet for the developing world, dubbed, which critics say threatens to make the social networking company the de facto Internet “gatekeeper” for hundreds of millions worldwide. Branded as an initiative to “connect the two thirds of the world that doesn’t have internet access,” will reportedly work with local telecom providers to provide free Internet access to a handful of pre-selected websites—including Facebook—as well as others related to “health, education, communication, finance, jobs and local information.” The application has already launched in a number of African and Southeast Asian countries, as well as Colombia in South America. has previously come under fire for violating the principle of net neutrality because it only offers access to certain websites. In India, a number of major publications including the Times of India media group have withdrawn from the site in protest. In response to that critique, in a video address on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg announced a new platform model, under which Facebook will offer “an open program for developers” to create “very simple and data efficient” sites to be among those offered to users. “Giving

Half of India’s groundwater is poisonous – Akash Vashishtha

May 6, 2015

Already grappling with the Ganga cleaning project, the government seems to have a bigger problem at hand as the groundwater in more than half of the country’s districts is contaminated with poisonous substances.Groundwater in at least 387 districts has high nitrate levels The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has come up with a shocking assessment, according to which 276 districts have high levels of fluorides in their groundwater. At least 387 districts in 21 states, of the 676 districts in the country, have nitrate above permissible levels and 87 areas have high arsenic content which is a slow poison. The permissible levels of fluorides prescribed by Bureau of Indian Standards is 1.5 milligram per litre (mg/l) but groundwater exceeding the limit was found across the country from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar to Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. According to experts, if heavy metals enter the groundwater, they cannot be removed. At best, they can be diluted but they remain stuck to the aquifers forever. “The report only reveals the utter failure of pollution boards and committees that have existed only in name during the past three decades. Lack of control on effluents, which have polluted the basins as

Move Over Mexico: China Now Sends Most Immigrants to US – RALPH TURCHIANO

May 6, 2015

China has replaced Mexico as the top country of origin for immigrants to the United States, according to a new review of 2013 immigration data. The American Census Bureau study, conducted primarily by statistician/demographer Eric Jensen, was based on annual immigration data collected from the years 2000 through to 2013. It found that of 1,201,000 immigrants in the US, 147,000 came from China, while 129,000 came from Mexico. Also topping Mexico is India, from which 147,000 US immigrants originated. The study identifies immigrants as any foreign born individuals who said they previously lived abroad. According to Jensen, the new findings follow a “decade where immigration from China and India increased while immigration from Mexico decreased.” Indeed, in 2012, China and Mexico were nearly tied in terms of how many immigrants they sent to the US; China sent 124,000 and Mexico sent 125,000. The changes come as India and China, both of which boast the largest populations in the world, are sending more people to the US for work, study, and to join other family members. Other Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, have seen an increase in US-bound emigrants as well. Meanwhile, the improving economy in Mexico

Thousands of Farmers in India Rise up Against Monsanto – Christina Sarich

May 5, 2015

Some have said that India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, arrived at the nation’s pro-GMO position with the help of generous campaign funding from a GMO lobby, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of Indian farmers from demonstrating against Monsanto and their biotech cronies in a massive grassroots movement that shuns anti-farmer practices and genetically modified crop farming. Shri Rakesh Tikait, National Spokesperson for the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) explains: “The government is exhibiting its pro-industry stance by pushing for unneeded, unwanted and unsafe GMOs in our farming. We want all open air field trials of GM crops stopped immediately in the country since such open air trials pose not only a risk of contamination but also risk of trade rejection. Further, any moves towards trade liberalization in agriculture whether through the WTO route or through free trade agreements are unacceptable to us.” The farmers recently organized and occupied the streets in a Kisan Maha Panchayat (farmer meeting) in Delhi, India, in protest at the Modi government’s anti-farmer policies. Among the demonstrators were hundreds of women recently, as well, who have resolved to stay put on Parliament Street in India’s capital until the government engages them in a dialogue to resolve various burning issues, among them: GMOs

Nepal Death Toll Could Reach 10,000: Millions Starving, Entire Mountain Villages Flattened

April 29, 2015

Death toll in the Nepal earthquake could reach 10,000 as rescue teams have started reaching isolated mountain villages. Entire mountain villages have been razed to the ground and millions of people are starving as they are cut off from all food supply and communication. Wet weather and cold are making life intolerable. An estimated 8 million people have been affected. Moreover, in the earthquake, 61 people died in India, and China reported 25 people died in Tibet. Survivors are telling: “We have no shelter, no food and all the bodies are scattered around.” Now, for days, survivors are struggling under open sky with fear of epidemic looking larger. Media reports said: The official death toll from the Nepal earthquake has soared past 4,000 people by noon of April 28, 2015. The Nepalese prime minister Sushil Koirala has warned the toll could reach 10,000. People are still being pulled from the rubble more than 50 hours after the tragedy. Water, food and electricity are in short supply and there are fears of outbreaks of diseases. People are growing increasingly frustrated by what they say has been a slow government response. Huge numbers of people facing another night in the open or

Corporate Power, Grassroots Resistance, and the Battle Over the Food System – ELIZABETH FRASER AND ANURADHA MITTAL

April 29, 2015

For most of history, farmers have had control over their seeds: saving, sharing, and replanting them with freedom. Developments in the course of the 20th century, however, have greatly eroded this autonomy. Legal changes, ranging from the Plant Variety Protection Act (1970) in the United States to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), have systematically eroded farmers’ rights to save seeds for future use. By the end of 2012, Monsanto had sued 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in the United States for patent infringement, winning over $23 million in settlements. Here, we describe some of the key developments further intensifying corporate control over the food system. It is not, however, all bleak news. Civil society groups are using everything from grassroots protest to open-source licensing to ensure that the enclosure and privatization of seeds comes to an end. Corporations Have Consolidated Their Control of Seeds and Agrochemicals In 2011, just four transnational agri-businesses—Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Syngenta, and Vilmorin (Groupe Limagrain)—controlled 58% of the commercial seed market. Four—Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, BASF, and Dow AgroSciences—controlled 62% of agrochemicals worldwide. The top six companies controlled 75% of all private plant breeding research, 60% of

China is a “major driver” of environmental degradation in Latin America – Robert Soutar

April 21, 2015

China’s increased trade and investment in Latin America over the past decade has resulted in powerful social and environmental impacts such as job losses and pollution, although the growing relationship has also brought some benefits, says new research published today. The high concentration of Chinese activity in Latin America’s agriculture and extractive sectors has placed a heavy strain on water supplies, increased deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and is aggravating local concerns about resource use and job creation, the study coordinated by Boston University’s Global Economic Governance Initiative (GEGI) concludes. But the paper, entitled China in Latin America: Lessons for South-South Cooperation and Sustainable Development also highlights the potential for cooperation on renewable energy projects. Read

India and the Globalization of Servitude

April 9, 2015

Angus Maddison has noted that India was the richest country in the world and had controlled a third of global wealth until the 17th century. The village was the centre of a rural economy that was an economic powerhouse of entrepreneurialism. The British Raj almost dismantled this system however by introducing mono crop activities and mill made products, and post independent India has failed to repair the economic fabric. If anything implies that India’s social and economic fabric requires restoring, it is the findings of the 2014 global MultidimensionalPoverty Index. Out of its 1.2 billion-plus population, India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan. Some 640 million poor people live in India (40% of the world’s poor). Just 20 years ago, India had the second-best social indicators among the six South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan). Now it has the second worst position, ahead only of Pakistan. Bangladesh has less than half of India’s per-capita GDP but has infant and child mortality rates lower than that of India. What is going wrong? Former Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram once claimed that his government’s economic neoliberal policies were pro-growth and pro equity and envisaged 85% of India’s population eventually living in well-planned cities. That would mean at least 600 million moving to cities. He stated that urbanisation constitutes

Traditional rainwater harvesting could be used to combat the effects of climate change across the world.

April 8, 2015

School textbooks in India have been telling children for generations that Rajasthan is an inhospitable state in the northwest of the country, constrained by the hot, hostile sands of the Thar Desert. But the driest state in India has a softer, humane face as well – that of Rajendra Singh, known as the “Water Man of India”, whose untiring efforts in water conservation in arid Rajasthan have led to him being awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize for Water. Singh did not attempt to design a new technology to address Rajasthan’s water problems. He began simply by de-silting several traditional surface level rainwater storage facilities – called “johads” in the local Hindi language − that fell out of use during British colonial rule. And, in doing so, he has quenched the thirst of villages that were dying. Thousands of villages followed his example, and so much water was captured and soaked into aquifers that dry rivers have begun to flow again. Water wars Singh believes that water conservation is vital to combat the effects of climate change and to avoid “water wars” in the future. And such is his reputation on water issues that

Journalism as Subversion

March 24, 2015

The assault of global capitalism is not only an economic and political assault. It is a cultural and historical assault. Global capitalism seeks to erase our stories and our histories. Its systems of mass communication, which peddle a fake intimacy with manufactured celebrities and a false sense of belonging within a mercenary consumer culture, shut out our voices, hopes and dreams. Salacious gossip about the elites and entertainers, lurid tales of violence and inane trivia replace in national discourse the actual and the real. The goal is a vast historical amnesia. The traditions, rituals and struggles of the poor and workingmen and workingwomen are replaced with the vapid homogenization of mass culture. Life’s complexities are reduced to simplistic stereotypes. Common experiences center around what we have been fed by television and mass media. We become atomized and alienated. Solidarity and empathy are crushed. The cult of the self becomes paramount. And once the cult of the self is supreme we are captives to the corporate monolith. As the mass media, now uniformly in the hands of large corporations, turn news into the ridiculous chronicling of pseudo-events and pseudo-controversy we become ever more invisible as individuals. Any reporting of the truth—the
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