May. 13th, 2011

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SIERRA LEONE
First Fruit Juice Company Adding Value to Farming



FREETOWN, May 12, 2011 (IPS) - Crate loads of lush ripe mangos are stacked up, a sweet fragrance filling the air. Factory workers wait for their instructions, decked out in protective coats, rubber boots and hairnets. As they see each other kitted out for the first time, they break into giggles. This is a big week for Sierra Leone as its first fruit- processing plant goes into production.

The mangos move around a mesh of steel tubes and eventually, as if by magic, a smooth golden nectar pours out from a spout.

For this tiny West African country, the arrival of Africa Felix juice manufacturing company is a momentous occasion, not just because this is a state-of-the-art plant but also because, unlike with the country's other abundant natural resources, value addition will be happening inside its borders this time round.

Much-needed foreign exchange will be generated as the company targets regional and European markets. MORE



We need some good news, dammit!
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Egyptian Activists Gear Up For Third Intifadah


CAIRO, May 10, 2011 (IPS) - Following the February ouster of Egypt’s longstanding President Hosni Mubarak, calls have been circulating in Egypt and throughout the region for a ‘Third Intifadah’ to begin May 15.

"Unlike the first two Palestinian uprisings, the proposed Third Intifadah is meant to involve the entire Arab world," Egyptian journalist and political analyst Abdelhalim Kandil told IPS.

...


An Arabic-language website called the ‘Third Palestinian Intifadah’ (www.3rdintifada.com) appeared soon afterward, providing a general plan of action. The site calls for peaceful protests on Friday and Saturday (May 13 and 14) at Israeli embassies and consulates worldwide, including those in western capitals, "to express our rage about the ongoing occupation of Palestine and the expulsion of millions of Palestinians from their rightful homes".

On May 15, dubbed the "Sunday of Liberation", the site had initially called for multiple million-man marches to advance on "historical Palestine" - in reference to Israel - from starting points in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. This was later scaled down, however, to the staging of demonstrations outside Israeli embassies in Jordan and Egypt (the two Arab states that have diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv), along with simultaneous marches near Israel’s borders in Syria, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories.

According to Mounib Mohamed, 26-year-old activist from Cairo and administrator for the website’s Egypt branch, the initial plan was scrapped "because of the difficulties associated with implementing it, and in order to avoid friction with local authorities in the countries involved".

"As for Egypt, we’re calling for million-man gatherings to be held in cities countrywide on May 13," Mohamed explained. "Participants will then head to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where prominent political figures are scheduled to speak about the Palestinian cause."

...

Notably, Palestinian faction Hamas, which governs the strip and espouses a policy of armed resistance to Israel, has not publicly endorsed calls for a ‘Third Intifadah’. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, who heads rival Palestinian faction Fatah and supports a discredited ‘peace process’ with Israel, has voiced downright opposition to the idea.


MORE



Well then. I hope the protests go off peacefully.
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Europe moves to end passport-free travel in migrant row:European interior ministers agree to 'radical revision' of Schengen amid fears of a flood of migrants from north Africa


European nations moved to reverse decades of unfettered travel across the continent when a majority of EU governments agreed the need to reinstate national passport controls amid fears of a flood of immigrants fleeing the upheaval in North Africa.

In a serious blow to one of the cornerstones of a united, integrated Europe, EU interior ministers embarked on a radical revision of the passport-free travel regime known as the Schengen system to allow the 26 participating governments to restore border controls.

They also agreed to combat immigration by pressing for "readmission accords" with countries in the Middle East and north Africa to send refugees back to where they came from.

The policy shift was pushed by France and Italy, who have been feuding and panicking in recent weeks over a small influx of refugees from Tunisia. But 15 of the 22 EU states which had signed up to Schengen supported the move, with only four resisting, according to officials and diplomats present.

The issue will be discussed at a summit of EU prime ministers and presidents next month. But the "reforms" of the Schengen system also need to go through the European parliament, where there is likely to be strong resistance to empowering national governments to reinstate controls.



...

The border-free region embraces more than 400m people in 22 EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. It extends from Portugal to Russia's borders on the Baltic, and from Reykjavik to Turkey's border with Greece.

The move to curb freedom of travel came as the extreme nationalist right, which is increasingly influencing policy across Europe, chalked up a notable victory in Denmark, which announced it would unilaterally re-erect controls on its borders with Germany and Sweden.

The centre-right minority government in Copenhagen capitulated to the fiercely anti-immigrant nationalists of the Danish People's party to secure parliamentary backing for long-term budget, welfare and retirement policies. "I have worked hard for this," said Pia Kjaersgaard, the far-right leader.MORE



Denmark's populist border controls reintroduced but many remain sceptical

The rightwing Danish People's Party (DPP) laid on a spread of bacon crisps and pink champagne to celebrate the agreement on tighter border controls. But many Danes refuse to toast legislation they see as damaging to the country's reputation around Europe.

"It is an expression of xenophobia," said Carl Carstensen, a history teacher from Vejle, an hour's drive just north of the German border. "I guess Pia Kjaersgaard [the DPP leader] is scared of all the people who will come flooding up from the Arab countries. Presumably, the idea behind this is to catch criminals but it is border control officers who are at the borders, not police. Unless the officers have police privileges it doesn't make any sense."

The DPP is a key supporter of Denmark's Liberal-led coalition, and has been criticised for making concessions on the government's new financial plan in order to secure a populist deal on border control.

"Kjaersgaard has a phobia about foreign people and she knows she can win lots of votes this way, especially among the older population," said Carstensen. "The idea behind the EU was European integration. This is the complete opposite and I think that we have been noticed. But not for anything good."

Immigrants and their descendants make up about 10% of Denmark's 5.5m population, and the number of residence permits granted rose by more than 50% between 2004 and 2009. Many believe the Danes have become steadily more opposed to immigration in recent years, reflected in the rise in DPP support.


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Glencore’s Economics Lessons


What does it take to make the food speculators at Goldman Sachs look like they’re playing for lunch money? A secretive Swiss-based company, and one of the world’s largest commodity trading firms, knows. With its initial public offering announced on Thursday,Glencore – a multibillion-dollar mining, energy and food trader that will soon list in London and Hong Kong – is the envy of Wall Street. When Goldman Sachs was floated, the then CEO Hank Paulson made off with $219m. Glencore’s chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, has already earned the moniker “The Ten Billion Dollar Man” for his share of the bonanza.

 

Glencore will be the first company in 25 years to make the FTSE 100 on its first day of trading, with an estimated valuation of about $60bn. The company has had an average return on equity of 38% (compared to Goldman Sachs’s 12%). Its base in the Swiss town of Baar has freed it of even the minimal regulation US-based companies entertain. Not by accident does Glencore find itself in Switzerland. Like the mining and oil trading companyTrafigura, Glencore is a descendant of the Marc Rich group. Rich fled the US in 1983 after being indicted by a federal prosecutor, Rudolph Giuliani, for tax evasion and trading with Iran (though he was pardoned by Bill Clinton). As Marcia Vickers reported in a Businessweek exposé: “Rich’s philosophy is that no law applies to him.”

In exchange for going public and raising money for further acquisitions, Glencore will now have to submit to the bared gums of UK regulators – whose rules are far less onerous than their US counterparts. With the funds from its flotation, the company looks set to dominate the fields in which it chooses to operate. Although primarily a mining and energy company, it has substantial interests in food – controlling around a quarter of the global market for barley, sunflower and rape seed, and 10% of the world’s wheat market.

In the weeks before flotation, Glencore allowed us a glimpse of the kind of power it wields. Last year Russia, the world’s third largest wheat exporter, experienced a drought the like of which had never been recorded; fires damaged tens of thousands of acres of cereal.

MORE
Hoo-fucking RAY.

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