Saturday 27 August 2011

Hunger Is A Crime; Not One Less Kid

The Hunger Is a Crime; Not One Less Kid campaign as such has been carried out for several years within the Movimiento Nacional de los Chicos del Pueblo (National Movement of the Children of the People) network as a massive intervention way of raising public awareness and of fostering a critical and conscientious thinking on the condition and position of boys, girls and adolescents, and on hunger as an issue that strikes their lives.

The purpose of the “Hunger Is a Crime; Not One Less Kid” campaign is to raise awareness, in the different members of society, of the magnitude of the problem of hunger in children of Argentina and the urgent need to treat it as a priority within the scope of a current social project that grants a different future to boys, girls and youngsters.

Some of the main achievements have been: the spread and consolidation of the “Hunger Is a Crime; Not One Less Kid” campaign at a national level; the realization of a March for Life every year at the end of each campaign; the training of 100 educators at Escuela de Educadores Populares (School for Popular Educators) per year; and the multiplying action done by Pelota de Trapo News Agency reaching 60.000 subscribers to the electronic bulletin in Spanish, 15.000 to the bulletin in English, and 4.000 subscribers to the magazine.

The 400 organizations that make up this movement managed to consolidate the  Campaign through the realization of national marches, covering more than 4.500 Km each, all across and along the national territory, such as La Quiaca-Buenos Aires (2001),  Misiones-Buenos Aires  (2002), Tucumán-Buenos Aires  (2005) and Misiones-Buenos Aires (2007); and regional marches such as  Rawson,  Bariloche,  Aluminé,  El Dorado,  Mendoza and  Tucumán for children’s rights; acts and local marches that closed with a massively attended March in Buenos Aires (2008); and the Launching Act in Santa Fe and Closing Act at Santa Cruz Parish, B.A.(2009). (

Thursday 25 August 2011

The Stranger and the Gingernuts Story

At the airport after a tiring business trip a lady's return flight was delayed. She went to the airport shop, bought a book, a coffee and a small packet containing five gingernut biscuits. The airport was crowded and she found a seat in the lounge, next to a stranger.

After a few minutes' reading she became absorbed in her book. She took a biscuit from the packet and began to drink her coffee. To her great surprise, the stranger in the next seat calmly took one of the biscuits and ate it. Stunned, she couldn't bring herself to say anything, nor even to look at the stranger. Nervously she continued reading. After a few minutes she slowly picked up and ate the third biscuit. Incredibly, the stranger took the fourth gingernut and ate it, then to the woman's amazement, he picked up the packet and offered her the last biscuit. This being too much to tolerate, the lady angrily picked up her belongings, gave the stranger an indignant scowl and marched off to the boarding gate, where her flight was now ready. Flustered and enraged, she reached inside her bag for her boarding ticket, and found her unopened packet of gingernuts...

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Amazing Grace

Lyrics, by John Newton (1725-1807)
Music video, by Celtic Woman

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Henri Frederic Amiel

Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.

by Henri Frederic Amiel

Who Benefits from Food Crisis by Gambling on Hunger?

By Frederick Kaufman
Harper’s Magazine
July 2010

The history of food took an ominous turn in 1991, at a time when no one was paying much attention. That was the year Goldman Sachs decided our daily bread might make an excellent investment.

Agriculture, rooted as it is in the rhythms of reaping and sowing, had not traditionally engaged the attention of Wall Street bankers, whose riches did not come from the sale of real things like wheat or bread but from the manipulation of ethereal concepts like risk and collateralized debt. But in 1991 nearly everything else that could be recast as a financial abstraction had already been considered. Food was pretty much all that was left. And so with accustomed care and precision, Goldman’s analysts went about transforming food into a concept. They selected eighteen commodifiable ingredients and contrived a financial elixir that included cattle, coffee, cocoa, corn, hogs, and a variety or two of wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known thenceforward as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index. Then they began to offer shares.

As was usually the case, Goldman’s product flourished. The prices of cattle, coffee, cocoa, corn, and wheat began to rise, slowly at first, and then rapidly. And as more people sank money into Goldman’s food index, other bankers took note and created their own food indexes for their own clients. Investors were delighted to see the value of their venture increase, but the rising price of breakfast, lunch, and dinner did not align with the interests of those of us who eat. And so the commodity index funds began to cause problems.

Wheat was a case in point. North America, the Saudi Arabia of cereal, sends nearly half its wheat production overseas, and an obscure syndicate known as the Minneapolis Grain Exchange remains the supreme price-setter for the continent’s most widely exported wheat, a high-protein variety called hard red spring. Other varieties of wheat make cake and cookies, but only hard red spring makes bread. Its price informs the cost of virtually every loaf on earth.

As far as most people who eat bread were concerned, the Minneapolis Grain Exchange had done a pretty good job: for more than a century the real price of wheat had steadily declined. Then, in 2005, that price began to rise, along with the prices of rice and corn and soy and oats and cooking oil. Hard red spring had long traded between $3 and $6 per sixty-pound bushel, but for three years Minneapolis wheat broke record after record as its price doubled and then doubled again. No one was surprised when in the first quarter of 2008 transnational wheat giant Cargill attributed its 86 percent jump in annual profits to commodity trading. And no one was surprised when packaged-food maker ConAgra sold its trading arm to a hedge fund for $2.8 billion. Nor when The Economist announced that the real price of food had reached its highest level since 1845, the year the magazine first calculated the number.

“It’s absolutely mind-boggling,” one grain trader told the Wall Street Journal. “You don’t ever want to trade wheat again,” another told the Chicago Tribune.
“We have never seen anything like this before,” Jeff Voge, chairman of the Kansas City Board of Trade, told the Washington Post. “This isn’t just any commodity,” continued Voge. “It is food, and people need to eat.”

2011 began with food prices as high as they were during the 2007/08 crisis. Erratic weather, speculators, conflicts, trade restrictions, the cost of fuel and the use of food grains to produce bioethanol all play their part in keeping food, including all the major staple food grains, expensive.

Monday 22 August 2011

More than 100.000 People Starved to Death Yesterday

More than 100.000 people starved to death yesterday.

More than 50.000 children are dying of hunger today.

Thousands of mothers will watch their children die of hunger tomorrow.

This daily crime rarely makes headline news!

Nearly one billion people face hunger every day. Hunger is the bellwether of a deeper malaise. Despite huge increases in productivity and incomes over recent decades, global hunger is on the rise.

Powerful elites amass wealth at the expense of impoverished populations. Bloated biofuel lobbies, hooked on subsidies that divert food from mouths to cars. Dirty industries that block action on emissions.  Enormous agribusiness companies hidden from public view that function as global oligopolies, governing value chains and ruling markets.

Just as an example of how evil this system can be, we can read the following extract from the article entitled: Soft Commodity ETFs: Making Profits With Corn, Wheat, Rice, Soy and Agribusiness ETFs: "Buying softs is the order of the day. Prices on commodities like wheat, corn, rice, soy and other agricultural products are expected to continue to rise, so be on the lookout for soft commodities ETFs."

Also, Oxfam reports that the world’s grain trade is a distinct monopoly, with three agribusiness firms (Cargill, Bunge and ADM) controlling an estimated 90% of grain trading between them.

The FAO purports that the world already produces enough food to feed everyone — 6 billion people — and could feed double — 12 billion people.

Hunger is a crime that Humankind
should hang its head in shame at!

Food speculation: 'People die from hunger while banks make a killing on food'

It's not just bad harvests and climate change.

It's also speculators that are behind record prices...

And, it's the planet's poorest who pay.

11 million people across four countries are threatened by starvation in the Horn of Africa for 60 years. The United Nations declared parts of Somalia to be in a state of famine. Aid experts had predicted the emergency but appeals had been ignored and help is still months away, although warning signs were being reported a year ago by the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.

Oxfam accused European governments of "morally indefensible willful neglect"
World Food Programme (WFP) executive director, Josette Sheeran, said: "WFP saw this emergency coming..."

Naming a food crisis a famine does not legally require action in the way that announcing a genocide would, despite the politicization of the term and the gravity of the label. "Morally speaking, famine is a term that must elicit moral indignation," said Bruno Geddo, a representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Just under three years ago, people in the village of Gumbi in western Malawi went unexpectedly hungry. Not like Europeans do if they miss a meal or two, but that deep, gnawing hunger that prevents sleep and dulls the senses when there has been no food for weeks.

Oddly, there had been no drought, the usual cause of malnutrition and hunger in southern Africa, and there was plenty of food in the markets. For no obvious reason the price of staple foods such as maize and rice nearly doubled in a few months. Unusually, too, there was no evidence that the local merchants were hoarding food. It was the same story in 100 other developing countries. There were food riots in more than 20 countries and governments had to ban food exports and subsidise staples heavily.

The explanation offered by the UN and food experts was that a "perfect storm" of natural and human factors had combined to hyper-inflate prices. US farmers, UN agencies said, had taken millions of acres of land out of production to grow biofuels for vehicles, oil and fertiliser prices had risen steeply, the Chinese were shifting to meat-eating from a vegetarian diet, and climate-change linked droughts were affecting major crop-growing areas. The UN said that an extra 75m people became malnourished because of the price rises.

But a new theory is emerging among traders and economists. The same banks, hedge funds and financiers whose speculation on the global money markets caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis are thought to be causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. The charge against them is that by taking advantage of the deregulation of global commodity markets they are making billions from speculating on food and causing misery around the world.

As food prices soar again to beyond 2008 levels, it becomes clear that everyone is now being affected. Food prices are now rising by up to 10% a year in Britain and Europe. What is more, says the UN, prices can be expected to rise at least 40% in the next decade.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Don't Call Me A Stranger

Don't call me a stranger;
I need to feel at home;
Especially when loneliness cools my heart.

Don't call me a stranger;
The soil we step on is the same;
But mine is not “the promised land”

Don't call me a stranger;
The color of my passport is different;
But the color of our blood is the same.

Don't call me a stranger;
The language I speak sounds different,
But the feelings it expresses are the same.