‘Leave children alone’ – Putin on gay rights in Russia
Published time: January 18, 2014 13:38
President Vladimir Putin explained to Sochi-2014 Olympic Games volunteers the difference between the ban on gay propaganda among underage minors in Russia and criminal prosecution of homosexuals in some countries.
“There is no ban for homosexual relations in Russia, yet propaganda of homosexuality among minors – and pedophilia in particular – are prohibited,” Putin said during a Q&A session with volunteers at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The president stressed that a ban on certain kind of relations and an interdiction on propaganda of such relations are “totally different things.”
“We neither disallow anything [homosexual] nor bust anybody [who’s gay], we have no criminal liability for such relations – as opposed to many other countries of the world,” the president emphasized.
“So you can feel calm and relaxed – but leave the children alone, please,” Putin demanded, recalling that in some countries the issue of legalizing pedophilia has been discussed openly.
“We’re not going to take up that lead towards unknown consequences like weak-willed underlings,” the Russian president stated. “We have our own traditions and our own culture. We treat with respect all of our partners and we anticipate that our traditions and culture are respected.”
The so-called “gay propaganda” law introduces fines for propaganda of non-traditional sex relations to minors, including in the media, on the internet and via viral adverts. The law stipulates fines for giving children propaganda about homosexuality.
Earlier in January, a group of 27 Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to President Putin urging him to repeal the so-called “gay propaganda law” as it “inhibits the freedom of local and foreign” LGBT communities.
But the International Olympic Committee says that Russia’s legislation doesn't violate the Olympic movement’s rules.
Moreover, on Friday a senior Italian member of the International Olympic Committee has urged “not to let politics interfere with the Olympics” and slammed the US for its decision to include openly gay athletes in its official Sochi delegation just to “demonstrate” that in their country gay rights have been established.
Army of international volunteers
Once a contest for volunteer positions of the Sochi-2014 Winter Olympics was announced, nearly 200,000 applications were filed from all regions of Russia and nearly 60 countries.
As a result, 25,000 young people were chosen to work at the Sochi Olympics as volunteers. This makes up over 35 percent of all the personnel at the Games.

 “We rely on you very much. Volunteers create the atmosphere of the Games,” Putin told the volunteers in the Sochi’s Krasnaya Polyana winter sports center. He added that the festive atmosphere at the sporting event and the holiday spirit of sportsmen and guests greatly depends on the volunteers.
“A sports tournament is a festival. Sporting competitions are always associated with emotions, with the inner turmoil of its participants, which one way or another is projected on staff and on you. You need to be aware of this, have a good sense of humor to balance all this within yourself and your soul, to show externally only positive emotions,” the president said.
Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi hosts the Winter Olympics on February 7-23, with the Paralympics to follow on March 7-16.


Fish testing at 124 times over radiation limit caught off Fukushima

Fish with deadly levels of radioactive cesium have been caught just off the coast of Fukushima prefecture, as scientists continue to assess the damage caused to the marine food chain by the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Fukushima's radioactive waste continues to harm ocean life. Credit: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr
Fukushima’s radioactive waste continues to harm ocean life. Credit: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr
One of the samples of the 37 black sea bream specimens caught some 37 kilometers south of the crippled power plant tested at 12,400 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium, making it 124 times deadlier than the threshold considered safe for human consumption, Japan’s Fisheries Research Agency announced.
The samples were caught at the mouth of the Niidagawa river in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on November 17. Two other fish caught there also tested non-safe for human consumption, showing radiations levels of 426 and 197 becquerels per kilogram. The rest of the fish were reportedly within safety limits.
Black sea bream are currently restricted from being fished in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures and sold for human consumption, as scientists from the Fisheries Research Agency say they plan to investigate the source of the contamination further.
After the Fukushima disaster, Japan lowered its threshold for cesium levels in food from 500 becquerels per kg to 100 becquerels per kilo, making the country’s regulations six times stricter than European Union standards. The record cesium reading was recorded last year when a fish caught near the plant carried 740,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram.
Professor Chris Busby from the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk and a member of the UK Department of Health Committee Examining Radiation Risk for Internal Emitters (CERRIE), says that despite a high level of radiation in the marine food chain, Japan so far is the only one dealing with a direct threat.
“The concentrations of radionuclides, which are going to the Pacific or have been injected to the Pacific, by the time they get to the US, and to China and to South East Korea and so on will not be enormously high,” Busby told Voice of Russia.
Yet the scientist warned that nuclear contamination of Japan could result in 400-800 extra cancer cases in Japan in the next fifty years.
“We’ve already seen some effects in infant mortality and thyroid cancer in Japan,” Busby said. “So I think this is just going to get worse. I think we are going to see a major effect on the general health of the Japanese population in Northern Japan. There’s going to be a decrease in the birth rate and an increase in the death rate.”
In the meantime, TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear site, reported radiation levels 8 times government safety guidelines. TEPCO told press that the predominant reason behind the sharp increase in radiation at the plant was X-rays coming from storage tanks holding radioactive water that has been leaking from the Fukushima facility.
This article was posted: Monday, January 13, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Supreme Court hands Monsanto victory over farmers on GMO seed patents, ability to sue

Reuters / Darren Hauck
​The US Supreme Court upheld biotech giant Monsanto’s claims on genetically-engineered seed patents and the company’s ability to sue farmers whose fields are inadvertently contaminated with Monsanto materials.
The high court left intact Monday a federal appeals court decision that threw out a 2011 lawsuit from the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and over 80 other plaintiffs against Monsanto that sought to challenge the agrochemical company’s aggressive claims on patents of genetically-modified seeds. The suit also aimed to curb Monsanto from suing anyone whose field is contaminated by such seeds.
The group of plaintiffs, which included many individual American and Canadian family farmers, independent seed companies and agricultural organizations, were seeking preemptive protections against Monsanto’s patents. The biotech leviathan has filed over 140 lawsuits against farmers for planting the company’s genetically-engineered seeds without permission, while settling around 700 other cases without suing.
None of the plaintiffs are customers of Monsanto and none have licensing agreements with the company. The group argued that they do not want Monsanto’s genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and want legal protection in case of inadvertent contact with the company’s products.
The appeals court decision was based on Monsanto’s supposed promise not to sue farmers whose crops - including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and others - contained traces of the company’s biotechnology products.
In a June 2013 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC said it was inevitable, as the farmers’ argued, that contamination from Monsanto’s products would occur. Yet the appeals panel also said the plaintiffs do not have standing to prohibit Monsanto from suing them should the company’s genetic traits end up on their holdings "because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not 'take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower's land).'"
The panel’s reference to “traces” of Monsanto’s patented genes means farms that are affected by less than 1 percent.
The plaintiffs asked Monsanto to pledge not to sue, but the company rebuffed the request, saying, "A blanket covenant not to sue any present or future member of petitioners' organizations would enable virtually anyone to commit intentional infringement."
Monsanto’s GMO seeds are designed to withstand the company’s own ubiquitous herbicide, Roundup. Recently, questions have begun to arise from the bioengineered seed’s resistance to pestilence, which has caused some farmers to increase their use of traditional pesticides.
"Monsanto never has and has committed it never will sue if our patented seed or traits are found in a farmer's field as a result of inadvertent means," said Kyle McClain, the Monsanto's chief litigation counsel, according to Reuters.
"The lower courts agreed there was no controversy between the parties," McClain added, "and the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case brings closure on this matter."
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association President Jim Gerritsen expressed disappointment that the Supreme Court reaffirmed the previous ruling, refusing to hear the case.
"The Supreme Court failed to grasp the extreme predicament family farmers find themselves in," said Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine. "The Court of Appeals agreed our case had merit. However ... safeguards they ordered are insufficient to protect our farms and our families."
In addition to Monday’s news and the appeals court decision against them, the plaintiffs - many of them non-GMO farmers and who make up over 25 percent of North America’s certified organic farmers - also lost a district court case.
“If Monsanto can patent seeds for financial gain, they should be forced to pay for contaminating a farmer’s field, not be allowed to sue them,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, in a statement “Once again, America’s farmers have been denied justice, while Monsanto’s reign of intimidation is allowed to continue in rural America.”
“Monsanto has effectively gotten away with stealing the world’s seed heritage and abusing farmers for the flawed nature of their patented seed technology,” said Murphy. “This is an outrage of historic proportions and will not stand.”
The case is Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al., v. Monsanto Company, et al. Supreme Court Case No. 13-303.


Fear and Loathing in the EU

Patrick L Young is expert in global financial markets working in multiple disciplines, ranging from trading independently to running exchanges.

It’s not just the eurozone that is increasingly derided as a failure: Now, the very European Union itself is mistrusted by its largest members. And who discovered this gem of Eurosceptic propaganda? The EU’s own statistics agency.
In the heyday of ancient Rome, the Emperor satisfied the citizens with ‘panem et circenses’ (bread and circuses). Alas, the Roman law-based empire the European Union is spluttering through waves of crises thanks to their odd belief that bread and circuses can be replaced by austerity. Nations have been left wearing hair shirts (and worse) in the masochistic belief that they can slim their way to health if sufficiently starved of stimulus.
So it may not be such a surprise that polling conducted by the EU’s own EuroBarometer agency has shown a simply staggering reversal in how major European nations view the EU. In 2007, Germany’s refusal to abide by Euro currency rules was copied by Mediterranean states, economic growth was taken for granted, and various asset bubbles propelled a sense of calmness, confidence and wealth. At the time, polling showed that the EU was widely trusted, except in the UK.
But now, even in Poland, where economic growth has continued, the percentage of people who distrust the EU has catapulted from 18 percent to 42 percent. The pragmatic Poles are wavering in their support of joining the Euro. Indeed, one poll showed some 20 percent suggested fiscally sound Euro nations should join the Zloty!
In five other nations a majority of citizens now clearly distrust the Brussels apparatus. In Britain, this amounts to a remarkable 69 percent, up from 49 percent in 2007, placing them second behind the Spaniards, where post-property-bust distrust has leapt from 23 percent to a resoundingly skeptical 72 percent.
This message from the heart of EU bureaucracy ought to be very clear: The European Union is utterly and completely out of step with the views of its citizens. Some 59 percent of Germans distrust the EU over frustrations at having to transfer billions in bailouts to Mediterranean states, while on the southern fringes of Europe the citizenry who trusted the EU are now being forced to deal with austerity that will deliver significant pain.
AFP Photo / Samuel Kubani

The EU remains an organization with plenty of presidents, but no leadership. The crumbling quasi-imperial edifice fails to appreciate the tectonic shifts shredding its influence. A democratic deficit at the top with limousine liberals on tax-free salaries looks as out-of-touch as the Soviet Politburo in 1985. A genuinely beneficial free trade zone has been hijacked by a crazed group of political integrationists convinced of their divine right to make Europe one big nation.
However, this is not one big happy family. Nor is the opposition a single unitary group. This may permit divide-and-conquer politicking within the EU, but the ultimate fissures will be very hard to paper over to achieve the foolish integrationist ideal. The EU itself may yet collapse.
Yet even though distrust is at record-high levels, the Eurosceptics are anything but harmonized. The Five Star Movement in Italy has little in common with Scandinavian True Finns or Britain’s UKIP. British Euroscepticism is tinged with a right-wing individual determinism and innate distrust of central government. In other places, Euroscepticism may wear the mask of Fascist or other unpleasant socialist extremists. In the Mediterranean, there is incredulity that the EU is not the ultimate lender of last resort there to bail out bankrupt welfare systems. Ironically, such models of patronage and state-assisted folly were not reduced earlier, because the Euro had artificially low interest rates as the ECB sought to keep the German economy healthy.
Brussels, aided and abetted by a generation of political pygmies, has played its cards so badly that while the Euro faces death by a thousand cuts, even the core universal benefits of the EU itself are endangered. Barbaric cures to sustain a flawed currency are being disowned by a formerly Europhile political generation, such as German Socialist Oskar Lafontaine and British Conservative Nigel Lawson. Both formidable finance ministers now see how the Euro threatens European unity at all levels.
Meanwhile, with a perfect demonstration of how his political skills have become more attuned to the Brussels trough as opposed to the problems of ordinary citizens, President Barroso has remarked that the clear path to a better EU is more federalism.
When politicians ignore the people from their position of privilege, the end result is usually upheaval.