Boys Club Beneficiary Gives Opinion On Quotas and the Quality Of Women – Written by TRISH CORRY

 
abbott-on-women

This week we have witnessed white people instructing Aboriginal people about what is or is not racism. We have witnessed the Speaker of the House who has been exposed to be a serial breaker of rules, receive backing from the Prime Minister to remain in the job which will decide who else breaks the rules. Now we have Jamie Briggs, Member for Mayo, a former PM staffer elevated into a blue ribbon seat by The Boys Club, giving his opinion on ‘quotas and the quality of women in parliament.’  Has the world gone mad?

Just like Ron Boswell on Q & A last week; Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development – is the perfect example of an ignorant, shouty, self-important, narcissistic male politician who thinks they can either talk over the top of women, or view what women have to say as irrelevant. Politicians such as Briggs think that the only opinion that matters is the opinion of conservative men. Politicians like Briggs believe that politics is the rightful place of men. Such audacity coming from a man who was projected into a safe Liberal seat by the Liberal Party Boys Club. You can read the expose of Briggs’ trashy comments by Max Chalmers here in The New Matilda.  

Politicians such as Briggs take a dig at a Quota system, but he doesn’t stop for a minute to acknowledge ‘jobs for the boys’ as quota based at all.  He must have a short memory or must be extremely ignorant if he believes that Springborg was appointed Leader of Queensland LNP over Fiona Simpson, based on merit. He must amnesia if he can’t remember The Liberal Party Boys Club – the prominent and powerful men who backed his own candidate bid for the seat of Mayo.

Let’s have a quick look at the members of the Boys Club who helped out their mate Briggs:

Downer stepped down from the front bench after the election and announced his resignation from parliament on July 14, 2008, initiating a by-election on September 6. The Liberal preselection was won by Jamie Briggs, whose work in the Prime Minister’s Office as chief adviser on industrial relations linked him closely and perhaps dangerously with the development of WorkChoices. Backed by John Howard, Alexander Downer and state party operative Chris Kenny, Briggs won the pre-selection vote in the seventh round by 157 to 111 over Iain Evans, former state Opposition Leader and member for Davenport. The Australian reported Briggs was pushed over the line by the preferences of third-placed Matt Doman, a former staffer to Right faction warlord Senator Nick Minchin. (Exerpt Courtesy of Crikey)

So there we go, a PM staffer winning a candidate bid over a former experienced State Opposition Leader. I’m sure it is all merit based.  Let’s weigh the candidate bid up: Giving advice to the PM on the worst Industrial Relations Policy Australia has ever had (Briggs) versus experience as a former State Opposition Leader and experience as the Minister for Environment & Heritage, Industry & Trade and Recreation, Sport and Racing (Evans). Yep, checks out as merit based. Nothing Boys-Club-Smelly about that at all.

I often think of ‘jobs for the boys’ like this:

Hubby and his mates are sitting on the couch watching the television. His wife has just cooked a delicious meal which hubby and the boys have just finished. His wife has just baked a chocolate cake for desert and places it on the coffee table in front of them.  His wife goes off to clean up all the dirty plates, wash up, sweep and mop the floor.  When his wife finishes all the work, she goes into the lounge-room for her piece of cake.  There is one piece just sitting there. She steps towards it. Hubby puts his hand over the top of the cake. “Hang on love.” He says.  “Any of you boys want another?” The boys all nod in agreement. Hubby then has a joke and a tussle around with the boys and they all decide which one of boys gets the last piece. It was Dave.

The moral of the story is: No matter how great a woman’s work is, or how much hard work women do, often, when men are in power to decide what women get for their efforts; they will have a woman’s cake and eat it too.

At the ALP National Conference last weekend, the ALP decided to raise the bar and achieve 50% of women in parliament by 2025.  In light of this, some Liberal Party women are also pushing for an increase. This is not a new push for Liberal Party women. Liberal Party women have raised this issue many times before. In light of this fact, I question why this is not a prominent topic for discussion, considering the Liberal Party are in Government and the leader of their party is indeed the Minister for Women.  It could possibly be that the boys are too busy eating cake.

I have outlined some of the reasons why we need to redress the imbalance of women in politics and I have outlined some of the challenges faced by women in the Liberal party.  I have also briefly outlined my personal view, that we need to ensure that we use quotas in a fair and just way.

It is concerning that not only are women under-represented in Australian politics, but Australia is ranked number 44/142 countries for women in national parliaments.  According to UNWomen in Politics 2015; Australia only has 26.7% of women in Parliament.

The Australian Government Office for Women, which is part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; aims to ensure a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women.

However, the analysis by Waring et. al. of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of women in politics; would indicate the Australian Government Office for Women is not well placed to achieve these aims, due to under-representation of women in Parliament, and an absence of a system to redress the imbalance.

I have outlined the reasons below:

  • If women are not present at policy and decision-making levels, there is a democratic deficit. Decisions taken without women’s perspective lack credibility in a democratic context
  • The participation of women leads to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender.
  • A democracy which excludes women, or in which women are represented only marginally, is not a real democracy. Women’s participation in policymaking is a question of justice and equality
  • Women’s greater participation would impact upon the traditional values held by men. Sharing of power and responsibilities would become reality. Political meetings and programmes would be scheduled to take into account domestic responsibilities of both men and women.

In the current Government we are now faced with very little representation of women in Government.  Margaret Fitzherbert’s lecture (APH, 2012) outlines many reasons why the Liberal party lags behind in representation.  The main reasons are:

  • No persistent pressure to pre-select women
  • Liberal party culture – a culture which largely tolerates branch members asking women candidates for preselection questions about their parental and marital status.

Margaret Fitzherbert sums up with, “It’s time for the Liberals to take a lesson from the past – acknowledge the problem, and stop relying on a blind faith in ‘merit’ to somehow provide a sudden increase in numbers of  female MPs.” 

I believe a holistic approach is required.  To achieve equality, it is essential to determine the issues for women electorate by electorate, branch by branch.  Not just review the policies and procedures and place a blanket decision of quotas on all.   What may occur in an inner-Melbourne seat, may not occur in a far north QLD seat for example.  The reasons women may or may not put their hand up for selection, may also differ from seat to seat. To achieve a redress of the imbalance, this issue cannot be looked at in isolation, nor can it be looked at from a top down approach.

To redress this imbalance, all parties need to have an in-depth look at the culture within each branch and determine branches where this is an issue.  Although there will be branches where women simply will not feel empowered; there will be some branches or electorates for all parties where there may not be a problem for women to feel encouraged to nominate, or be selected.  There is no point going in blind and hitting electorates willy-nilly with quotas.  I’m all for quotas, but quotas need to be used as a respectful tool, to redress the imbalance.  All parties need to understand the underlying constructs of the problem by fixing the imbalance from ground level as well.

We also need to use quotas in a fair and just way so talented men do not get shut out either, or it defeats the purpose. If a tool such as quotas was used as a power-play to politicise the selection of a seat, that is not fair, nor just, nor used for its rightful purpose.  For example, if the tool of quotas was used to keep an Indigenous male out of the race, or a homosexual man out of the race or a male candidate who may champion green energy, where many branch members supported coal based energy; I would feel very strongly that this makes a mockery of all the women who have fought for equality. This is why it is very important to understand this issue from ground level as well.

Prominent leaders and executives cannot lead this change with a laizze-faire leadership style.  They need to roll their sleeves up and meet with women in branches to understand the culture at ground level, as well as revise policy.  A risk management system, along with a system of appeal needs to be put into place.

A review of the 2013 federal election, indicates that The Green’s party ran slightly more women candidates, but no party had more than 50% of women candidates.  The number of candidates run also needs to be contextualised into ‘seats that can be won’ against ‘seats that never will be’  There would be no point increasing the number of women candidates in a left party and allocating them to blue ribbon seats and vice versa.  A holistic approach is required.

Some positive steps are occurring, but I wait in angst in the hope that a fair, well informed and inclusive system is achieved to redress this imbalance.

Jamie Briggs also needs to go check himself if he thinks for one second that women find his opinion on quotas valid or important.

To read more articles by TRISH CORRY

Click on this link    =  https://polyfeministix.wordpress.com/

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Assange: The untold story of an epic struggle for justice – Written by JOHN PILGER

 
Walkley Award winner Julian Assange exposed U.S. war crimes via the shocking: ‘Collateral Murder’ footage. He has been hounded by the U.S. State Department ever since.

With the persecution of Assange about to enter a dangerous stage, John Pilger has updated his 2014 investigation of the unrelenting campaign, in Sweden and the U.S., to deny Julian Assange justice and silence WikiLeaks. 

THE SIEGE of Knightsbridge is both an emblem of gross injustice and a gruelling farce. For three years, a police cordon around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state. It has cost £12 million. 

The quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, a refugee whose only security is the room given him by a brave South American country. His “crime” is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war.

The persecution of Assange about to enter a dangerous stage

The persecution of Julian Assange is about to flare again as it enters a dangerous stage. From August 20, three quarters of the Swedish prosecutor’s case against Assange regarding sexual misconduct in 2010 will disappear as the statute of limitations expires. At the same time Washington’s obsession with Assange and WikiLeaks has intensified.

Indeed, it is vindictive American power that offers the greatest threat — as Chelsea Manning and those still held in Guantanamo can attest.

The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up, and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables.

Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq

WikiLeaks continues to expose criminal activity by the U.S., having just published top secret U.S. intercepts — U.S. spies’ reports detailing private phone calls of the presidents of France and Germany, and other senior officials, relating to internal European political and economic affairs.

None of this is illegal under the U.S. Constiution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”. In 2012, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama boasted on its website that he had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other U.S. presidents combined.

Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had pronounced the whisletblower guilty. Manning was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, having been tortured during his long pre-trial detention.

Few doubt that should the U.S. get their hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. Threats of the capture and assassination of Assange became the currency of the political extremes in the U.S. following Vice-President Joe Biden’s preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a “cyber-terrorist”.

Those doubting the degree of ruthlessness Assange can expect should remember the forcing down of the Bolivian president’s plane in 2013 — wrongly believed to be carrying Edward Snowden.

According to documents released by Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. Washington’s bid to get him, say Australian diplomatic cables, is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has spent five years attempting to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers.

Faced with this constitutional hurdle, the U.S. Justice Department has contrived charges of“espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property),“computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The Espionage Act has life in prison and death penalty provisions. .

Assange’s ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been handicapped by the U.S. declaring his case a state secret. In March, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rosthstein, said it was necessary to show

“appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”.

This is the “justice” of a kangaroo court.  

The supporting act in this grim farce is Sweden, played by the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny. Until recently, Ny refused to comply with a routine European procedure routine that required her to travel to London to question Assange and so advance the case. For four and a half years, Ny has never properly explained why she has refused to come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the U.S. under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington.

In December 2010, The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the U.S.

 

Contrary to its 1960s reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” — including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables.

In the summer of 2010, Assange had flown to Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan — in which Sweden had forces under U.S. command.

‘Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England,”‘wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers facing Assange,

clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.’

Why hasn’t the Swedish prosecutor allowed Swedish court access to so-called “evidence”?

Why hasn’t the Swedish prosecutor resolved the Assange case? Many in the legal community in Sweden believe her behaviour inexplicable. Once implacably hostile to Assange, the Swedish press has published headlines such as: ‘Go to London, for God’s sake.’

Why hasn’t she? More to the point, why won’t she allow the Swedish court access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the misconduct allegations? Why won’t she hand them over to Assange’s Swedish lawyers?

She says she is not legally required to do so until a formal charge is laid and she has questioned him. Then, why doesn’t she question him? And if she did question him, the conditions she would demand of him and his lawyers – that they could not challenge her – would make injustice a near certainty.

On a point of law, the Swedish Supreme Court has decided Ny can continue to obstruct on the vital issue of the SMS messages. This now go to the European Court of Human Rights. What Ny fears is that the SMS messages destroy her case against Assange. One of the messages makes clear that she did not want any charges brought against Assange, “but the police were keen on getting a hold on him”. She was “shocked” when they arrested him because she only “wanted him to take [an HIV] test”. She “did not want to accuse JA of anything” and “it was the police who made up the charges”. (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been “railroaded by police and others around her”.)

Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both have denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, “I have not been raped.” That they were manipulated by police and their wishes ignored is evident – whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they are victims of a saga which blights the reputation of Sweden itself.

For Assange, his only trial has been trial by media. On August 20, 2010, the Swedish police opened a“rape investigation” and immediately – and unlawfully – told the Stockholm tabloids that there was a warrant for Assange’s arrest for the “rape of two women”. This was the news that went round the world.

In Washington, a smiling U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the arrest “sounds like good news to me”. Twitter accounts associated with the Pentagon described Assange as a“rapist” and a “fugitive”.

Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying,

“I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” 

Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, 

“There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.” 

The file was closed.

 

Enter Claes Borgstrom, a high profile politician in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden’s imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in the city of Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically. 

On 30 August, Assange attended a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered all the questions put to him. He understood that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was re-opening the case. Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed, citing one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, “Ah, but she is not a lawyer.” Assange’s Australian barrister, James Catlin, responded,

“This is a laughing stock… it’s as if they make it up as they go along.”

On the day Marianne Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden’s military intelligence service – which has the acronym MUST — publicly denounced WikiLeaks in an article entitled “WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers.” Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its U.S. counterparts that U.S.-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be “cut off” if Sweden sheltered him.

For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the new investigation to take its course. The Guardianwas then on the brink of publishing the Iraq “War Logs”, based on WikiLeaks’ disclosures, which Assange was to oversee. His lawyer in Stockholm asked Ny if she had any objection to his leaving the country. She said he was free to leave.

Inexplicably, as soon as he left Sweden – at the height of media and public interest in the WikiLeaks disclosures – Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant and an Interpol “red alert” normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals. Put out in five languages around the world, it ensured a media frenzy.

Assange attended a police station in London, was arrested and spent ten days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on £340,000 bail, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court.

He still had not been charged with any offence. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned by Ny in London, pointing out that she had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used for that purpose. She refused.

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote:

“The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?”

The Supreme Court made a crucial error over the European Arrest Warrant

This question remained unanswered as Ny deployed the European Arrest Warrant, a draconian product of the “war on terror” supposedly designed to catch terrorists and organised criminals. The EAW had abolished the obligation on a petitioning state to provide any evidence of a crime. More than a thousand EAWs are issued each month; only a few have anything to do with potential “terror” charges.

Most are issued for trivial offences, such as overdue bank charges and fines. Many of those extradited face months in prison without charge. There have been a number of shocking miscarriages of justice, of which British judges have been highly critical.

The Assange case finally reached the UK Supreme Court in May 2012. In a judgement that upheld the EAW – whose rigid demands had left the courts almost no room for manoeuvre – the judges found that European prosecutors could issue extradition warrants in the UK without any judicial oversight, even though Parliament intended otherwise. They made clear that Parliament had been “misled” by the Blair government. The court was split, 5-2, and consequently found against Assange.

However, the Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, made one mistake. He applied the Vienna Convention on treaty interpretation, allowing for state practice to override the letter of the law. As Assange’s barrister, Dinah Rose QC, pointed out, this did not apply to the EAW.

The Supreme Court only recognised this crucial error when it dealt with another appeal against the EAW in November 2013. The Assange decision had been wrong, but it was too late to go back. With extradition imminent, the Swedish prosecutor told Assange’s lawyers that Assange, once in Sweden, would be immediately placed in one of Sweden’s infamous remand prisons..

Assange’s choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the U.S., or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety. Supported by most of Latin America, the courageous government of Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence and legal advice that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the US; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington.

The Labor government of prime minister Julia Gillard had even threatened to take away his passport. 

Gareth Peirce, the renowned human rights lawyer who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd:

‘Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.’ 

It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian Consul-General, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew “only what I read in the newspapers” about the details of the case.

Vituperative campaign against Assange is petty, vicious and inhuman

Meanwhile, the prospect of a grotesque miscarriage of justice was drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks were aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the U.S. threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, to freedom of speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious.

Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive. The editor of theGuardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. It became part of his marketing plan to raise the newspaper’s cover price.

With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the U.S. embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons Parliament reformed the Extradition Act to prevent the misuse of the EAW. The draconian catch-all used against him could not happen now; charges would have to be brought and “questioning” would be insufficient grounds for extradition. “His case has been won lock, stock and barrel,” Gareth Peirce told me,

“these changes in the law mean that the UK now recognises as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit.”

In other words, the change in the UK law in 2014 mean that Assange would have won his case and he would not have been forced to take refuge.

Ecuador’s decision to protect Assange in 2012 bloomed into a major international affair. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act, and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognize the legitimacy of Ecuador’s decision. Ignoring international law, the Cameron government refused to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador. Instead,

Ecuador’s embassy was placed under siege and its government abused with a series of ultimatums.

When William Hague’s Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down. During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate.

Since then, Julian Assange has been confined to a small room under Ecuador’s protection, without sunlight or space to exercise, surrounded by police under orders to arrest him on sight. For three years, Ecuador has made clear to the Swedish prosecutor that Assange is available to be questioned in the London embassy, and for three years she has remained intransigent. In the same period Sweden has questioned forty-four people in the UK in connection with police investigations.

Her role, and that of the Swedish state, is demonstrably political; and for Ny, facing retirement in two years, she must “win”.

In despair, Assange has challenged the arrest warrant in the Swedish courts. His lawyers have cited rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that he has been under arbitrary, indefinite detention and that he had been a virtual prisoner for longer than any actual prison sentence he might face. The Court of Appeal judge agreed with Assange’s lawyers: the prosecutor had indeed breached her duty by keeping the case suspended for years. Another judge issued a rebuke to the prosecutor. And yet she defied the court.

 

Last December, Assange took his case to the Swedish Supreme Court, which ordered Marianne Ny’s boss – the Prosecutor General of Sweden Anders Perklev – to explain. The next day, Ny announced, without explanation, that she had changed her mind and would now question Assange in London.

In his submission to the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General made some important concessions: he argued that the coercion of Assange had been “intrusive” and that that the period in the embassy has been a “great strain” on him. He even conceded that if the matter had ever come to prosecution, trial, conviction and serving a sentence in Sweden, Julian Assange would have left Sweden long ago.

In a split decision, one Supreme Court judge argued that the arrest warrant should have been revoked. The majority of the judges ruled that, since the prosecutor had now said she would go to London, Assange’s arguments had become “moot”. But the Court ruled that it would have found against the prosecutor if she had not suddenly changed her mind. Justice by caprice.

Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as “abnormal” and that she should be replaced.

Having said she would go to London in June, Ny didn’t go, but sent a deputy, knowing that the questioning would not be legal under these circumstances, especially as she had not bothered to get Ecuador’s approval for the meeting. At the same time, her office tipped off the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen, which sent its London correspondent to wait outside Ecuador’s embassy for “news”. The news was that Ny was cancelling the appointment and blaming Ecuador for the confusion and by implication Assange.

The statute of limitations exires 20 August. What next Marianne Ny?

As the statute of limitations date approaches – August 20 – another chapter in this hideous story will doubtless unfold, with Marianne Ny pulling yet another rabbit out of her hat and the commissars and prosecutors in Washington the beneficiaries. Perhaps none of this is surprising. In 2008, a war on WikiLeaks and on Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch”. It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of“trust” which is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”.

Silencing and criminalising such a rare source of truth-telling was the aim, smear the method. While this farce and judicial scandal continue the reputation of Sweden is diminished and the shadow of America’s menace touches us all.

Find out more about the attempted extradition of Julian Assange here. Read more by John Pilger at johnpilger.com or follow John on Twitter @JohnPilger.

For important additional information, click on the following links:

http://justice4assange.com/extraditing-assange.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/assange-could-face-espionage-trial-in-us-2154107.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ImXe_EQhUI

https://justice4assange.com/Timeline.html

https://justice4assange.com/Timeline.html

http://pdfserver.amlaw.com/nlj/wikileaks_doj_05192014.pdf

https://wikileaks.org/59-International-Organizations.html

https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1202703/doj-letter-re-wikileaks-6-19-14.pdf

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jul/23/julian-assange-ecuador-and-sweden-in-tense-standoff-over-interview?CMP=twt_gu

http://assangeinsweden.com/2015/03/17/the-prosecutor-in-the-assange-case-should-be-replaced/

https://justice4assange.com/Prosecutor-cancels-Assange-meeting.html

To read more articles from INDEPENDENT AUSTRALIA

click on this link    =  https://independentaustralia.net/

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Bishop stays. Goodes goes. Abbott is silent. What is wrong with this picture? – Written by NO PLACE FOR SHEEP

eggs

In case you are still in any doubt about what matters and what doesn’t to the Anglo-Saxon hegemony think on this: white Speaker of the House of Representatives and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s personal pick Bronwyn Bishop remains in charge of the House, in spite of decades of financial abuse of taxpayer funds, the obscene details of which are unfolding daily before our disbelieving eyes. The only thing that keeps her in her job is Abbott’s support, because while the Prime Minister cannot actually sack a Speaker, there’s little doubt that if Abbott pressured her to get on her bike, she’d be mad not to obey.

On the other hand, Indigenous football star and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes has been driven from his sport and public life by unrelenting racist attacks every time he shows his face. Goodes’ reaction to a thirteen-year-old girl calling him an ape has been held up by the racist commentariat such as Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt as being the reason footy crowds have taken such a set against him. However, it seems to have escaped the commentators’ collective memory that it was in fact the illustrious Eddie Maguire who at the same time called Goodes “King Kong.”

What also seems to have escaped their racist filter is that Goodes did not know at the time that a young girl was responsible for calling him an ape, and when he did become aware of this he handled the situation admirably, meeting with the girl and her mother, and engaging them  in conversation about the wounding and divisive nature of racist insults.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, normally a man with an opinion on everything no matter how irrelevant, remains conspicuously silent on both matters. Ms Bishop’s shenanigans with helicopters and luxury limos have left rotten egg splattered all over Tony’s face, an ungracious response on her part to the man who, when he won government, rewarded her with the prestigious job of Speaker. Getting rid of Bronwyn will cause Tony to lose egg-splattered face, as it will be an admission of his lack of judgement of a woman he’s known for decades, and indeed, has been heard to refer to as his “political mother.”

But as Freud would have it, an adult man must at some point cut ties with his mother, and this could be Tony’s moment to sever the umbilical cord.

Abbott apparently can’t say anything on the Goodes’ matter either, given his demographic is fundamentally xenophobic and racist, and he can’t risk alienating them. While the country engages in a national conversation about racism, our leader remains unacceptably silent, missing in action. While the indignation and outrage at Bishop’s fraudulent behaviour escalates, our leader remains silent, missing in action. The number of topics Abbott can publicly engage with seems to be shrinking daily: he certainly seems incapable of entering into the energetic debates that will shape and reshape our nation in a most concrete fashion. In other words, he’s useless.

Ideology can do that to a man. Render him useless.

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House Ag Committee Says ‘No’ to GMO Labeling, What’s Next? – Written by KATHERINE PAUL

With no debate and only a voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture today (July 14, 2015) passed out of committeeH.R. 1599, a bill to preempt states’ rights to label GMOs. Within hours, it was announced that the bill will go straight to the House floor, as early as next week, with no vote in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

If we don’t stop it in the House next week, the fight to stop this “Mother of All Monsanto Protection Acts” will take place next in the U.S. Senate, by early fall. In his opening statement this morning, Committee Chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) (who shortly after today’s vote said he will co-sponsor H.R. 1599) couldn’t have sounded more like a Monsanto employee if he’d tried. Conaway nailed the biotech industry’s favorite talking points and mistruths, beginning with this one:

In testimony before this Committee, multiple representatives of the food and agricultural sectors commented on the cost burden that would be placed on our food system if we were to allow the 50 States, more than 3000 counties and nearly 20,000 towns and cities in the United States to establish their own laws regulating interstate commerce.

Time and again, independent experts have stated that the cost of labeling GMO foods and ingredients, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers, would be negligible here in the U.S., just as it has been in the more than 60 countries that already require labeling. GMO labels are costless, as pointed out in this Washington Post article. Companies regularly update their food packaging as they come up with new designs or marketing strategies.

And then there was the ultimate lie about GMOs, that they have been “proven safe:”

We all recognize that the overwhelming consensus within the science community is that these biotech products are safe.  We likewise understand that each and every biotech product in the marketplace today has been reviewed thorough a voluntary food safety consultation process at the Food and Drug Administration.

Wrong. Ever since GMOs were introduced into the food system in the 1990s, without adequate, independent, pre-market safety testing, there have been scientists and an increasing volume of of research indicating that these genetically engineered foods and the toxic chemicals that accompany them are hazardous to human health and the environment. The American Medical Association believes GMO foods should be subjected to pre-market safety testing. And there is surely no consensus, as hundreds of scientists worldwide have confirmed, on the safety of GMOs that have already been approved. That is a flat-out lie.

Conaway spoke instead about the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s “voluntary food safety consultation process” as if that were a valid means of proving safety.

Glaringly absent from Conaway’s statement was any mention of the toxic chemicals used to grow GMO crops, and allowed to remain as residue on GMO foods. Not one word was spoken about the World Health Organization’s recent determination that glyphosate, the chemical used on more than 80 percent of GMO crops, is a probably human carcinogen.

None of these statements, coming from a lawmaker with ties to Big Ag, were particularly surprising. But what should concern any consumer ,voter, citizen or just plain common-sense thinking human being, is that Conaway’s statement clearly focused on how to promote the profits of corporations, rather than on how to protect people from foods that have not been proven safe, and the arsenal of toxic chemicals used to grow them. It was all about “marketing,” and how we need a government program for food producers who want to voluntarily label their products as GMO-free, or containing GMOs.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has long been in the business of assisting producers to develop programs and tools to take advantage of market opportunities. The Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee recently examined the programs of the Agricultural Marketing Service.  The Subcommittee concluded that the agency has the resources and expertise to develop and administer a robust marketing program for those wishing to notify consumers of the presence or absence of genetically engineered ingredients in their food products.  What the agency doesn’t have is the law to make it work uniformly across the country like we did 25 years ago when we passed the Organic Foods Production Act.

Not one word on the devastation to the environment. Not on word on how chemical-intensive, fossil-fuel-intensive industrial agriculture is one of the largest contributors, if not the largest contributor, to global warming—and how if we don’t fix this system, we can’t be serious about averting a climate disaster.

As Pope Francis said recently, on the topic of genetic engineering and its use of toxic pesticides:

It creates a vicious circle in which the intervention of the human being to solve a problem often worsens the situation further. For example, many birds and insects die out as a result of toxic pesticides created by technology, they are useful to agriculture itself, and their disappearance will be compensated with another technological intervention that probably will bring new harmful effects… looking at the world we see that this level of human intervention, often in the service of finance and consumerism, actually causes the earth we live in to become less rich and beautiful, more and more limited and gray, while at the same time the development of technology and consumerism continues to advance without limits.

H.R. 1599 is an assault on consumer rights, an assault on democracy and states’ rights. And if passed, it will only escalate the assault on our health, and the health of Planet Earth.

Please help us continue to fight this disastrous and undemocratic piece of legislation.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

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More letters returned from Manus Island – Written by JULIAN BURNSIDE

returned letters

This is a photo of about 300 letters posted to detainees on Manus Island have been returned unopened.

Some of them, no doubt,  were addressed to people who have left Manus and returned to their country of origin.

The objective of the detention system as it operates on Manus is to break the spirit of people held there so they will give up any hope of protection and prefer to  face persecution at home than face persecution at the hands of Australia and its contractors:

TRANSFIELD SERVICES

WILSON SECURITY

IHMS (International Health & Medical Services)

Those companies – Australian companies – are collaborating with the Australian Government in one of the most shameful operations this country has ever been involved in: the deliberate mistreatment of asylum seekers who have sought protection in Australia.

Any group of people who (innocent of any offence) are locked up indefinitely in appalling conditions are eager to receive friendly messages from outside.  Common sense suggests  this, and experience shows it.  The Australian government simply says that asylum seekers do not want to receive letters.

The government is lying when it says  this.

The Department of Immigration is lying when it says this.

The greatest threat to Australia is not terrorism, but people like Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton, who are willing to inflict misery on innocent people in order to hold on to political power.

Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton both deserve to go down in history as the worst people ever to hold high office in this country.

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Ten Questions for Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong – Written by TRISH CORRY

LATEST POSTTen Questions for Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong

cory penny

Yesterday, along with many others I watched the much anticipated marriage equality debate between Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.  I found some of the questions from the press gallery quite predictable. I felt the questions did not really challenge what marriage equality may mean for us as we progress as a nation. I have put together ten questions I would have liked to have asked Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.   

Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong Same-Sex Marriage Debate ABC TV 29 July 2015

Question 1 – Twelve Year Olds
Many young people dream of their wedding.  Even at twelve years old I dreamt of my wedding and would often gaze at a good looking boy in my class and wonder if it would be him.  If marriage equality becomes the norm, how will the world change for all twelve year olds?

Question 2 – Is it time to really scrutinise marriage?
Marriage as currently defined, has no specific parameters of what that actually means, besides the union of a man and a woman.  If a man and a woman are married, they can live a life as a sham. They do not need to sleep in the same bed or even live in the same home or even town.  They do not have to share parenting, or be good parents or even be parents and there is always a contentious argument of if and when the housework is actually shared equally.  Heterosexual married couples do not even have to treat each other with respect or endearment. They do not even have to be in love.

My question is, if we do not question the validity of what marriage means, outside of the bringing together of gender opposites, then why is the anti-marriage equality side constantly debating the morals, scruples and behaviour of the LGBTQI community who would like to be married? If this is such a strong area of concern, how do we redress the imbalance here if the anti-marriage equality advocates do succeed? Should we have more scrutiny of heterosexual married couples?

Question 3 – Gender Transformation
If an individual who is married decides to undertake the journey of gender transformation; what do the current laws mean for the married couple if they want to stay together, if both individuals identify and are legally recognised as the same gender?  How will marriage equality have an impact on individuals who undertake the journey of gender transformation,and their spouse?

Question 4 – Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a very prominent issue in Australia at present.  Domestic violence is often discussed in terms of between a man and a woman, rather than between two people. There is now a shift in reports and language surrounding intimate partner violence, which includes same sex relationships.  How will marriage equality assist Governments to legislate for protections for all people in domestic violence situations and enable Governments to fund programs inclusive for all victims of domestic violence?

Question 5 – Atonement
Because it is 2015 and Australia still does not have marriage equality, there may be some LGBTQI people in our community who have felt they could not just ‘be who they are’ and may have chosen to live a life married in a heterosexual relationship for whatever reasons they decided this was best for them.  If marriage equality is achieved, is it fair to say that there may be some resentment from those who feel they have been forced to make decisions they would not have had to? Is it fair to say that by not recognising marriage equality earlier, we have not allowed people to live a full life with freedom of individual expression and decision making and how do we as a nation atone for this?

Question 6 – A parent’s perspective
As a mother to a newly engaged daughter, my excitement is over-whelming awaiting the wedding. Weddings are something which do bring family and friends together for such a celebration of love and happiness. Weddings are seen as a key milestone for so many.  I see myself as someone who is privileged to enjoy this excitement and my heart pains for mothers and fathers who do not have this privilege. From the perspective as a parent, how does a Government see their role in interfering in such a personal, individual celebration of love which is only afforded to mothers and fathers given this privilege? This question is particularly for Senator Bernardi, considering his Government favours small Government and is supposed to favour distancing themselves from interference in the private sphere.

Question 7 – Our social fabric
One of the biggest arguments for marriage equality is that it will end discrimination and enable equality for all.  As per my last question, marriage is currently for those privileged to do so under our laws.  If we do not allow same-sex couples to ‘be’ as heterosexual couples are allowed to just ‘be’ then our social fabric will always be woven from those in a position of privilege.  How can our social fabric ever be complete when we are unconscious of a discourse that is currently silent about love, understanding and togetherness for all? How will marriage equality assist to weave our social fabric or in Senator Bernardi’s case destroy our social fabric?

Question 8 – Regional and Rural communities
I live in a regional community and I am aware that as I have aged over the years, many friends from my younger days have moved on to live in capital cities where communities are generally more supportive of LGBTQI Individuals, as regional and rural communities have not been very supportive in their experience. Some studies also cite very harsh treatment towards LGBTQI people who reside in regional and rural communities with some contemplating suicide or sadly, taking their own lives. What impact will marriage equality have on LGBTQI individuals living in rural and regional communities and what impact will marriage equality have in shaping these communities as a whole?

Question 9 – A Government’s responsibility to understand all groups in society
Although liberal feminism has achieved some great progress for women; liberal feminism was criticised by women of colour for excluding their lived experiences of discrimination and their need to redress areas of discrimination. This is because liberal feminists made assumptions from the perspective of middle class white women. Feminism has evolved to now women of colour having a much stronger voice and leading the issues in many areas of feminism. Including more experiences from a broader range of individuals can only result in better informed legislation.  There are many areas of social policy and statistics collections where research assumptions are made on research and data collected from a heteronormative viewpoint.  For example, there is little data to understand issues for single mothers who were previously in a same-sex relationship.

As it is the Government’s responsibility to develop social policies and legislate for same; isn’t it also the Government’s responsibility to ensure they have an understanding of all groups in society? How will marriage equality impact on the development of social policy and legislation of same? If Cory Bernardi believes these groups should be excluded by default by not having marriage equality legislation to redress this imbalance, does he support ill-informed legislation and policies?

Question 10 – Tolerance and conscience vote versus binding vote.
Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June indicated in his response to a question about marriage equality and a conscience vote, is that we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us.  We have many different pieces of legislation which already make discrimination unlawful. Therefore, the battle against discrimination and inequality has been won on many fronts with political parties or Governments coming together to legislate for change to enable equality.

My question is about a conscience vote versus a binding vote. I question whether a conscience vote is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear.  The same class of people who use religion, ignorance and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress.   As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.

So my question is: How do Governments or even political parties make the decision about what is characterised to be morally and ethically sufficient or insufficient to determine whether a binding vote or conscience vote will be used?  Also, to truly progress, how tolerant should we be of all views?

Stay, Adam; resign now Bronwyn – Written by JOHN PASSANT

Adam Goodes is a great Australian Rules footballer. He was won two Brownlows (best and fairest) and two premierships with the Sydney Swans. He is a former Australian of the Year. He is proudly Aboriginal. For that, for the very fact of proclaiming his aboriginality, he is now being booed by many opposing football fans.

David Pope Cartoons's photo.

The history of Australia is the history of the genocide of the Aboriginal people. This is a genocide whose results not only echo down the ages to today in the form of third world living standards, ill health and early death, high imprisonment rates, poverty and unemployment. The genocide is ongoing today with the Northern Territory intervention, closing down remote communities, deaths in custody and the stealing of children.

This genocide and the racism that flows from it is institutionalised. It is also driven from on high. The rhetoric of Tony Abbott, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs,  about remote communities and lifestyle choices demonises and denigrates Aboriginal people. His silence about the booing of Goodes exposes his moral and political decrepitude.

Couple that with the government’s attacks on the other – Muslims, refugees, the poor ‘entitled’- and the creation of a climate of fear and it is no accident that we have a Reclaim White Australia movement rising from the swamp to give voice to every racist fear about the other – the way ‘they’ dress, eat, worship.

The eternal other for the Australian ruling class has been Aboriginal people, the constant ‘enemy within.’  This has alternated with and reinforced at various stages in Australia’s colonial settler history the immigrant other, the Irish, the Chinese, the Japanese, Asians, reds, and now Muslims and ‘the Daesh death cult coming after us.’

Underlying this is an alienated working class whose existence has become less secure over the last 30 years and a middle class lost in a sea of constant change.

One result is that working class fans are booing a great football player for being a proud Aboriginal person and standing up against racism and for his people.

Adam Goodes is a hero to many for not just his football prowess but for his pride in his heritage. His very success and tenacity challenges the myths that hide Australia’s racist history and the reality of its systemic racism. He challenges the stereotype of the quiet uncomplaining Aboriginal who should just be grateful for all ‘we’ have done and just get on with it – a racist trope born of a ruling class victorious in driving Aboriginal people off their land.

Bronwyn Bishop is no hero. This sleazy, alleged entitlement abusing politician, is the speaker in the House of Representatives thanks to the largesse of Tony Abbott, a man whose attachment to the born to rule elite is today best shown by his support for Bishop. She is the epitome of everything working class voters hate in politicians. She may well keep her job thanks to the patronage of Tony Abbott.

Not so Adam Goodes. He has been badly affected by the booing and has taken the week off from football. He may retire. It would be the ultimate victory for the crimson thread of racism that runs through the veins of Australian society from the top down that he is forced out of the grand job he loves and does so exceptionally well.

Aboriginal and other footballers have rallied to his side. They are planning various actions to show their support. Goodes needs to know that despite the large numbers booing him and the racists defending them, he is not alone. Let’s organise an outpouring of support. Indeed already unions and union councils have been expressing their solidarity and support. You are not alone Adam.

I suggest one option be that players from all teams announce they will walk off the field if Goodes returns to the arena and is booed again. End of game.

It says much about the state of Australian society today that we have a great footballer very possibly being hounded out of his job because he is black while a sleazy untrustworthy and biased politician who has allegedly abused entitlements for decades will in all probability keep her job of throwing Labor politicians out of Parliament.

A strong socialist current in society would help combat the jump to more overt racism we have witnessed under the influence of Labor and Liberal governments.  Help me build that current. Defend Adam Goodes.

Christine Anu's photo.

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Can the AFP continue to ignore this? – Written by ROSS’S RANTING

INTROUBLEBRONWYNBISHOP

Posted: July 28, 2015 in Ranting
Tags: ,

Emailed to the Commissioner of the AFP, Andrew Colvin

Dear Commissioner

Re: Speaker of the House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop

I am writing to draw your attention to significant discrepancies in formal and public statements by Speaker Bishop in regard to claims she has made in respect of a publicly funded trip to the city of Albury in 2006.

The visit to Albury has previously been well documented in the media with then-MP Bishop and MP Tony Abbott attending the wedding of their parliamentary colleague, Sophie Mirabella. While in 2013 Mr Abbott repaid the $1,000 he had claimed for that trip, Speaker Bishop has consistently refused to do so, stating that she was on ‘official business.’ In light of recent revelations in the media, I would draw the following points to your attention.

  1. Speaker Bishop’s office has advised that Bishop was in Albury on official committee chair business at the time in question.
  2. It has now been reported that in 2006 the only committee that Bishop was chair of was the standing committee on family and human services.
  3. It has further been reported that at no time in 2006 did that committee have any official meetings or hearings in Albury.
  4. The former Secretary of the Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal has confirmed that for an MP to be able to claim such expenses for ‘committee business’ it is necessary for there to be ‘official, organised and documented meetings.’
  5. It has also been reported that Bishop lodged this claim in documents in her own handwriting.
  6. Speaker Bishop has repeatedly and consistently refused to provide any details of her ‘official business’ in Albury.
  7. It was only late today, in the wake of increased media and public pressure, that Bishop has now claimed to have been attending ‘secret meetings’ in Albury, yet despite this matter having been in and debated within the public arena for a number of years, this is the first time that any reference has been made to ‘secret meetings’ making this sudden excuse suspect at best.
  8. Bishop has not offered any detail or confirmation of the ‘secret meetings’ to substantiate this sudden defence.

There appears to be increasing circumstantial evidence of potential fraudulent conduct by Bronwyn Bishop MP.

I would also draw your attention to a statement yesterday by Prime Minister Abbott in which he advised that the matter had previously been examined by the Department of Finance. I note the use of the past tense. Consequently the Minchin protocols have already been applied and there would be no grounds for referring the matter back to the Department for further consideration.

In the circumstances, given the increasing appearance of fraudulent conduct by one of the highest elected offices in the nation, I submit that the Australian Federal Police have no justification for failing to commence an immediate investigation.

Yours sincerely

Ross Hamilton

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Earth’s sixth mass extinction has begun, new study confirms – Written by JAMES DYKE

June 20, 2015 4.25am AEST

How long before the rhino joins the list? Gerry Zambonini, CC BY-SA

We are currently witnessing the start of a mass extinction event the likes of which have not been seen on Earth for at least 65 million years. This is the alarming finding of a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

The research was designed to determine how human actions over the past 500 years have affected the extinction rates of vertebrates: mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians. It found a clear signal of elevated species loss which has markedly accelerated over the past couple of hundred years, such that life on Earth is embarking on its sixth greatest extinction event in its 3.5 billion year history.

This latest research was conducted by an international team lead by Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Measuring extinction rates is notoriously hard. Recently I reported on some of the fiendishly clever ways such rates have been estimated. These studies are producing profoundly worrying results.

However, there is always the risk that such work overestimates modern extinction rates because they need to make a number of assumptions given the very limited data available. Ceballos and his team wanted to put a floor on these numbers, to establish extinction rates for species that were very conservative, with the understanding that whatever the rate of species lost has actually been, it could not be any lower.

This makes their findings even more significant because even with such conservative estimates they find extinction rates are much, much higher than the background rate of extinction – the rate of species loss in the absence of any human impacts.

Here again, they err on the side of caution. A number of studies have attempted to estimate the background rate of extinction. These have produced upper values of about one out of every million species being lost each year. Using recent work by co-author Anthony Barnosky, they effectively double this background rate and so assume that two out of every million species will disappear through natural causes each year. This should mean that differences between the background and human driven extinction rates will be smaller. But they find that the magnitude of more recent extinctions is so great as to effectively swamp any natural processes.

Cumulative vertebrate species recorded as extinct or extinct in the wild by the IUCN (2012). Dashed black line represents background rate. This is the ‘highly conservative estimate’. Ceballos et al
Click to enlarge

The “very conservative estimate” of species loss uses International Union of Conservation of Nature data. This contains documented examples of species becoming extinct. They use the same data source to produce the “conservative estimate” which includes known extinct species and those species believed to be extinct or extinct in the wild.

The paper has been published in an open access journal and I would recommend reading it and the accompanying Supplementary Materials. This includes the list of vertebrate species known to have disappeared since the year 1500. The Latin names for these species would be familiar only to specialists, but even the common names are exotic and strange: the Cuban coney, red-bellied gracile, broad-faced potoroo and southern gastric brooding frog.

Farewell, broad-faced potoroo, we hardly knew ye. John Gould

These particular outer branches of the great tree of life now stop. Some of their remains will be preserved, either as fossils in layers of rocks or glass eyed exhibits in museum cabinets. But the Earth will no longer see them scurry or soar, hear them croak or chirp.

You may wonder to what extent does this matter? Why should we worry if the natural process of extinction is amplified by humans and our expanding industrialised civilisation?

One response to this question essentially points out what the natural world does for us. Whether it’s pollinating our crops, purifying our water, providing fish to eat or fibres to weave, we are dependent on biodiveristy. Ecosystems can only continue to provide things for us if they continue to function in approximately the same way.

The relationship between species diversity and ecosystem function is very complex and not well understood. There may be gradual and reversible decreases in function with decreased biodiversity. There may be effectively no change until a tipping point occurs. The analogy here ispopping out rivets from a plane’s wing. The aircraft will fly unimpaired if a few rivets are removed here or there, but to continue to remove rivets is to move the system closer to catastrophic failure.

This latest research tells us what we already knew. Humans have in the space of a few centuries swung a wrecking ball through the Earth’s biosphere. Liquidating biodiversity to produce products and services has an end point. Science is starting to sketch out what that end point could look like but it cannot tell us why to stop before we reach it.

If we regard the Earth as nothing more than a source of resources and a sink for our pollution, if we value other species only in terms of what they can provide to us, then we we will continue to unpick the fabric of life. Remove further rivets from spaceship earth. This not only increases the risk that it will cease to function in the ways that we and future generations will depend on, but can only reduce the complexity and beauty of our home in the cosmos.

  1. PREVIOUS ECCENTRIC ORBITS POST

    June 4, 2015‘Global Apollo’ programme for renewables cannot take off without political power

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Keep health-damaging weed killer out of our bread! – Written by NATASHA COLLINS-DANIEL/SOIL ASSOCIATION

GLYCOSOPHATEONBREAD

Natasha Collins-Daniel / Soil Association

23rd July 2015

 
Soon UK farmers will begin to spray their fields of wheat, barley, oats and peas with weed killer to make crops easier to harvest, writes Natasha Collins-Daniel. But the chemicals – including glyphosate, a probable carcinogen – can end up in our bread and other food. Let’s put a stop to it now!
The glyphosate pre-harvest spraying season starts now, and in the interests of human health and the quality of British bread, the government needs to call an immediate halt to it now!

Spraying weed killer on food crops to kill them so they can be harvested faster – it sounds ridiculous!

But it’s happening all across the UK on the wheat that makes our bread, flour, cake pasta and biscuits.

It gets worse. The weed killer in question, glyphosate, was recently classified by the World Health Organisation’s IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) as probably carcinogenic to humans. And new data analysis shows it’s appearing more and more frequently in our bread.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely sold weed killer – you might know it as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide – used in farming, in public places like parks, streets and schools and also by people in their back gardens.

Many farmers routinely use Roundup and other herbicides to clear their fields of weeds before crops emerge in the spring. But what’s more alarming is that farmers also use herbicide on crops shortly before they are harvested, in order to ‘dessicate’ the plants – that’s dry them out – and make them easier to harvest.

Some glyphosate with your bread, madam?

Glyphosate-based herbicides are among those that can be used as pre-harvest herbicides or ‘dessicants’. For example, Monsanto’s ‘Roundup with MAPP Number 12645‘ is licenced for use on wheat, barley, oats, durum wheat, combining pea and field bean, just seven days before harvest. It can also be used on oilseed rape and linseed 14 days before harvest and on mustard crops eight days before harvest.

The aim is to kill any parts of the crop that haven’t ripened evenly so combine harvesters can move more quickly and cover more ground during harvest. It also means that the seeds tend to be drier at harvest, which may reduce drying costs.

So maybe it’s not such a surprise that glyphosate is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread – appearing in up to around 30% of samples tested by the Defra committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).

Figures analysed by the Soil Association from government data show glyphosate use in UK farming has increased by 400% in the last 20 years. A recent European study on city dwellers found that in the UK, 7 out of 10 people had traces of glyphosate in their urine.

Roundup may be 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate itself

The food industry claims the level of glyphosate in food poses no danger to the British public. But the WHO findings and the chemical cocktail often found in bread sold in the UK call this into serious question.

Unlike other reviews, IARC panel looked at what farmers are actually using. Farmers never use glyphosate alone – they use a ‘formulation’ or mixture like Roundup that includes other chemicals to do things like make the weed killer stick to the crop, and not wash off in the first shower of rain.

The research the IARC looked at included data on the impact of commercially available glyphosate-based herbicides, like Roundup, to determine that it is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Also, IARC only takes into account published, peer reviewed data and scientific studies.

The pesticide regulators in Europe and elsewhere only look at scientific data about glyphosate on its own – and often place faith in unpublished industry studies that aren’t publicly available and have never passed peer review or been exposed to expert critique.

The amount of glyphosate in bread sits well below the level deemed unsafe by the EU but this level has not been revised since the WHO’s ‘probable carcinogen’ ruling.

In addition, the accepted levels for glyphosate residues have always been a matter of controversy – if glyphosate is an endocrine disrupter, as some scientists suggest, there is no safe lower level for human consumption.

We should not have to ‘go organic’ to avoid eating weed killer

Unless people are eating organic food exclusively, it’s almost impossible to avoid ingesting this potentially dangerous chemical.

However, farmers could responsibly choose not to use glyphosate as a pre-harvest spray on wheat crops. And in fact, the industry funded Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s advice to farmers indicates that using glyphosate pre-harvest is often a bad idea in the first place:

“Trials in England and Scotland showed no advantage – in terms of grain and straw moisture content, harvest efficiency or grain quality – where weed-free wheat crops were treated”, the company warns.

“Serious yield losses can occur when much of the grain is well above 30% moisture content“, the advice continues. “This highlights the potential risk of using pre-harvest glyphosate to ‘even up’ harvesting. Residues are likely to be higher if glyphosate is applied to such moist grain.”

But the fact that glyphosate is regularly found in bread suggests that some farmers are applying the chemical in ways that allow it to enter the food chain. This is why the Soil Association is calling for an immediate end to the use of these sprays on wheat destined for use in bread – a call made at a scientific briefing we held on this last week.

The call was  backed by a panel at the briefing that included Professor Christopher Portier, a co-author of the IARC report, Dr Robin Mesnage of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Kings College in London, and Claire Robinson, editor of GMWatch.org.

Revise glyphosate herbicide licences now!

The chemical industry has accused the WHO of classifying glyphosate as a probable carcinogen along with things like coffee and bacon. This is rubbish for two reasons.

Firstly, the IARC has a number of categories for classification. Coffee appears in category 2B, ‘possible carcinogen’, meaning there is limited evidence in humans and less than sufficient evidence in animals.

But glyphosate is in category 2A – the same category as human papillomavirus type 68, inorganic lead compounds and dry cleaning fluid: there is limited evidence in humans and sufficient evidence in animals; there is strong enough evidence to conclude it probably causes cancer in humans.

Secondly, people can choose not to drink coffee or cook their bacon in a way that means it’s safe to eat – the choice has been taken away from them when it comes to glyphosate. One expert at our scientific briefing remarked that glyphosate is literally everywhere in our food chain – throughout our water and food – there’s no escape.

Outside the United Kingdom, the reaction to the WHO IARC report has been dramatic. Some retailers in Switzerland and Germany have removed glyphosate products from their shelves and France has committed to do so by 2018.

Meanwhile, German states are calling for an EU-wide ban, and the Danish Working Environment Authority has declared it as a carcinogen. El Salvador and Sri Lanka have banned it, and the Colombian government has banned aerial spraying on coca crops.

The glyphosate pre-harvest spraying season starts now, and in the interests of human health and the quality of British bread, the government needs to call an immediate halt to it now!

We can’t rely on regulators alone to protect our health. The battle will be won by consumers insisting that their food doesn’t contain glyphosate.


Sign our petition to tell bread manufacturers, including Hovis, Warburtons and Allied Bakery, that we don’t want glyphosate in our bread.

Natasha Collins-Daniel is a campaigner at the Soil Association.

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