News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 4

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“His issues are alright. But his answers are wide off the target. Just like the people who vote for him.”

“His comments about Islam are no different than comments Muslims make about us.”

— Respondents to a Radio Netherlands survey on right-wing politician Geert Wilders’ new film, which is critical of Islam (see “Top Stories,” below).


*Top Stories*
Indigenous rights wend a legal labyrinth
Genetically engineered trees cut down
Dutch ponder a free-speech powder keg

Malaysia ban on “Muslim” words sparks furor

Biodiesel road proves bumpy in Southeast Asia


* Indigenous Rights Wend a Legal Labyrinth

Armed with a U.N. declaration on indigenous rights, an activist coalition is working to stake out new legal protections for indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere.

Indian Country Today reports that the coalition met in mid-December in Quito, Ecuador, to discuss democracy, “autonomy,” land rights, natural resources, economic development and cultural heritage.

Activists said their goal was to enact the U.N. declaration as law in their home countries.

Yet they also criticized it for failing to guarantee the right of indigenous groups to organize politically across state and national boundaries, and for overlooking claims on mineral rights and other natural resources in their traditional territories.

The newspaper also noted that the conference comes at a time of rising political fortunes for leftists in Ecuador and Bolivia, who harnessed the indigenous vote to win electoral majorities.


“Indigenous leaders take steps to make U.N. declaration law”
Indian Country Today, January 21, 2008

* Genetically Engineered Trees Cut Down

An electric fence wasn’t up to the task of protecting a field of genetically engineered trees in New Zealand.

Twenty of the modified pine trees were cut down last week, and a spade left behind bearing a telltale “GE Free New Zealand” sticker.

The New Zealand Herald reports that a hole dug under the Scion Research fence was all it took for the attackers to gain access to the field, which was planted to investigate tree reproduction.

An activist group, the Soil and Health Association, had previously called for the trees to be cut down, but said it was not responsible for the attack.

A spokesman for the group told the Herald that Scion’s security measures were inadequate, leading not only to the incursion by humans, but also to the potential removal of experimental genetic material from the site by rabbits.


“Attack on genetically modified trees”
New Zealand Press Association, January 16, 2008

* Dutch Ponder a Free-Speech Powder Keg

Geert Wilders, one the Netherland’s most notorious right-wing politicians, is set to make headlines around the world with the debut of a new film that criticizes the Koran, Islam’s most revered text.

A Radio Netherlands report on Dutch expatriates living in Muslim nations finds widespread concerns about a backlash over the film.

A majority, recalling the murder of Theo Van Gogh by a religious extremist over his film “Submission,” which criticized Islamic treatment of women, also say that Wilders’ film project will put his own life in danger.

And almost half of “Dutch citizens in Islamic nations” said they are already facing “problems or even danger” due to Wilders’ activities.

Despite this, a majority supported Wilders’ right to free expression, and blamed the Dutch government for failing to adequately deal with pressing immigration issues at home.


“Wilders and his film worry Dutch expats”
Radio Netherlands, January 23, 2008


* Malaysia Ban on “Muslim” Words Sparks Furor

Long simmering religious tensions are heating up as Malaysia prepares for national elections.

In recent weeks, the Muslim-led government of the Southeast Asian nation has fought over the use of Arabic words such as “Allah” by non-Muslims.

According to Hong Kong’s Asia Times, the Malaysian government has forbidden the use of “Allah” and three other Arabic words and phrases which have been in common use among the nation’s Christian, Sikh and Hindu communities for centuries.

Asia Times quoted deputy minister for internal security Johari Baharumas as saying, “Only Muslims can use (the word) Allah. It’s a Muslim word. It’s from the Arabic language. We cannot let other religions use it because it will confuse people.”

Sikhs, whose religion blends elements of Islam and Hinduism, and who routinely use the word “Allah” for God, are outraged by the ban.

However, late last month, the Associated Press reported that the government backed down from a publishing ban on a Christian newspaper that used the word.

According to Asia Times, observers believe the politically vulnerable government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has been trying to shore up support among its Muslim voters ahead of elections scheduled for next month.

Malaysia is about 60 percent Muslim, with significant populations of Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups who practice other religions.

–Will Crain/


“Abdullah’s finger on Malaysia’s election trigger”
Asia Times, January 19, 2008

“Words of faith inflame Malaysia”
Asia Times, January 10, 2008

“Malaysia backpedals on Allah ban for Christian paper, renews its permit”
Associated Press, December 31, 2007


* The Biodiesel Road Proves Bumpy in Southeast Asia

It’s heralded as the clean-burning alternative to petroleum, but biodiesel’s baggage has made a smooth roll-out seem unlikely.

The challenges come into sharp focus in Southeast Asia, where economic, environmental and industrial concerns find themselves at odds.

THAILAND In Thailand, where new laws mandate the use of biodiesel, fears are emerging over the effects of increased demand for palm oil, which is a cooking staple in private and commercial kitchens across the country.

Now, with prices for palm oil spiking, government ministers are pondering an export ban, and also the important of 30,000 tons of palm kernel oil to meet growing demand.

A palm oil industry spokesman told the Bangkok Post that the bans would negatively affect local farmers, and called for better management of existing supplies.

PHILIPPINES In the Philippines, a legislative battle is playing out between biodiesel advocates and detractors.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri claimed last week that oil companies are financing a lobbying campaign against the Arroyo government’s plan create a biodiesel industry around the jatropha plant.

At issue are pending laws that would mandate the use of biodiesel by “transport vehicles,” and concerns that doing so would reduce food production on an island that already is a net food importer.

Boosters claim that the jatrophs plant doesn’t require the same sort of high-quality soil conditions and intensive management as food crops.

Critics assert that food crops in the Philippines are already under pressure, and that biodiesel is a bad investment because it produces less energy than other renewable sources, such as wind power.

–Josh Wilson/


“Zubiri: Oil firms funding drive vs biofuels”
Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 16, 2007

“Biodiesel squeezes palm supply”
Bangkok Post, January 16, 2008

Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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One thought on “News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 4

  1. Scientists Estimate That Pesticides are Reducing Crop Yields by ONE-THIRD Through Impaired Nitrogen Fixation – July 2007
    Drawing on their recent work and other published studies, the team projected that pesticides and other contaminants are reducing plant yield by one-third as a result of impaired SNF. This remarkable conclusion suggests one mechanism, or explanation of the yield-enhancing benefits of well-managed, long-term organic farming systems.
    Furthermore this is all about monopoly not science :

    On 17th December 2007 Monsanto was found guilty of contempt of the South African Advertising Authority (ASA) for publishing false claims about the safety of GM foods.

    In January,2007, Monsanto was fined 15,000 euros (US$19,000 ) in a French court for misleading the public about the environmental impact of herbicide Roundup.

    A former chairman of Monsanto Agriculture France was found guilty of false advertising for presenting Roundup as biodegradable and claiming that it left the soil clean after use. Monsanto’s French distributor Scotts France was also fined 15,000 euros.

    In 2005 Monsanto was caught smuggling South African produced GM Bollgard cotton seed into Indonesia disguised as rice. Monsanto was fined for bribing Indonesian officials.

    In 2006 Monsanto suppressed evidence of serious damage to the liver and kidneys of rats in their MON 863 GM maize trials until ordered to release this evidence by a German Court.

    In June, 2007, a second peer-reviewed case involving another variation of Monsanto’s GM maize, namely, NK 603, has been shown by studies to be potentially toxic to humans. NK 603 has been approved for food, feed, processing, and propagation in Europe and the Philippines The new research, carried out by the French scientific research institute CRIGEN, involves biotech firm Monsanto’s NK 603 GMO corn (marketed commercially under the name Round-up Ready).

    Rats that were fed GM maize showed significant differences in measurements, as well as significant weight differences compared to those fed with normal maize. Almost 70 statistically significant differences were observed and reported – 12 for hematology parameters, 18 for clinical chemistry parameters, nine for urine chemistry parameters, six for the organ weights (brain, heart, liver), 14 for body weights and body weight changes, and eight for food consumption. toxicity, The most alarming was the diminished brain size. Scientists warned that diminished brain size sent out a urgent danger warning for growing children fed `GM food.