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FijiTonga relations – Wikipedia

Posted: December 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm

FijiTonga relations are foreign relations between Fiji and Tonga. These neighbouring countries in the South Pacific have a history of bilateral relations going back several centuries.

Though relations between the two countries had been good since they both became independent in the 1970s, they deteriorated considerably in early 2011.[1]

By the early 13th century, Eastern Fiji(Lau group) was a province of the Tongan empire. The Empire subsequently declined, but Tonga remained an influential neighbour in Fiji affairs. In 1848, Tongan Prince Maafu settled in Lakeba, establishing a new foothold in Eastern Fiji. He was accompanied by Tongan Wesleyan missionaries, who consolidated the earlier introduction of Methodism to Fiji by English Wesleyan missionaries.[2][3] Today, Methodism is the primary religion of indigenous Fijians.[4]

Maafu’s influence in Fiji expanded during the 1850s, threatening Seru Epenisa Cakobau’s attempts to establish himself as king of all Fiji. Ultimately, Maafu and Tonga’s support at the 1855 Battle of Kaba was instrumental in enabling Cakobau to cement his leadership over Fiji, temporarily consolidating the Tongan Prince’s status and role in the country. Tonga’s direct influence faded, however, after Cakobau ceded Fiji to British sovereignty in 1874.[5]

Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama received “cheers and thunderous applause” from the Tongan public when he attended a Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga in October 2007; the crowd’s “enthusiastic reception” of Fiji’s leader was likened to “that accorded to a rock star”[6]Radio Australia noted that he had been “the star of this year’s meeting, for the people of Tonga”,[7] while TVNZ reported that he had been “given a hero’s welcome”.[8]

In terms of inter-governmental relations, Tonga has generally avoided pressuring Fiji’s “interim government” into holding democratic elections. However, Tongan Prime Minister Dr.Feleti Sevele has urged Bainimarama “to produce a credible roadmap to the election according to the Constitution and law of Fiji”.[9]

Tonga’s “soft”[10] approach to Fiji’s unelected government during the regional meeting in October 2007 was in line with the approach chosen by other Pacific Island nations, but contrasted with the much harder stance adopted by Australia and New Zealand.[11] The Tongan government rejected “several […] attempts by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to lobby for Commodore Bainimarama’s exclusion from the meeting”.[12]

In August 2008, Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Sevele said at a Pacific Islands Forum meeting [13]

Unfortunately, the Forums relationship with the interim government of Fiji has now deteriorated from the apparent, promising situation at the Forum last year in Tonga, to one of disappointment and of an uncertain future. As Forum Leaders, we are all extremely disappointed at the interim Prime Ministers decision not to attend this Forum meeting. As Chair of last years Forum Meeting in Tonga and Chair of the last 12 months, let me place on record the fact that the commitments that Commodore Bainimarama made at the Leaders Retreat were not forced on him, as has been claimed. He agreed with and accepted the 7-point communiqu on Fiji, and so told all the Leaders present at the Retreat. Sir Michael Somare and I certainly did not pressure him into making those commitments. We, and all the Leaders, were, and are, keen on helping Fiji move forward, but Fiji has to play its due part. The interim Prime Minister has an obligation to explain in person to the Forum Leaders as to why he could not fulfill those commitments, and we were all looking forward to his doing this at this Forum in Niue. That he chose not to do this is most unfortunate and most disappointing.

In May 2009, however, Sevele questioned the purpose of Fiji’s suspension from the Forum (which had taken place on May 2), and suggested it was “pointless” to “ostracise” Fiji. TVNZ described Tonga’s position as “a crack […] in the hard line being taken against Fiji” by the Forum.[10]

In February 2011, Sevele’s successor, Lord Tuivakan, stated that Australia and New Zealand’s pressure on Fiji was counter-productive, and that the more they “bother[ed]” Bainimarama, the more likely he might be to do the opposite of what they sought. He added: “Maybe just go easy and they will come around. What you need to remember is that it is an opportunity for other countries, maybe China will step in. […] There’s a lot of other countries looking in and Fiji’s said ‘We don’t want Australia, we don’t want New Zealand, these are the people that’s going to help us.'”[14]

In December 2005, Fiji welcomed Tonga’s accession to the World Trade Organisation.[15]

In 2001, the Fijian Government banned the import of mutton flaps from Tonga.[16] The Tongan Ministry of Labour said in response on this issue that “Tongas experience with Fiji is an example of the difficulties encountered by small developing nations in protecting their interests”. The Tongan Ministry said this “illustrates the difficulty and huge onus that the multilateral trading system places on small and vulnerable developing countries, which lack the necessary resources, capital and institutional means to fully implement the WTO agreements.” [17]

In August 2007, the Fijian Government called for a review of the Fiji/Tonga Air Services Agreement to allow for increased capacity on the route from 350 to 1000 passengers in each direction.[18][19] By March 2008, a new aviation agreement had been reached. The Fijian Government said [20]

This has been factored into the agreement reached by the two states in March 2008 to increase the seat capacity from 350 to 1000 per week with no restrictions to aircraft types or frequencies and both countries had agreed to this. This new provision will certainly assist or facilitate the movement of tourist between Tonga and Fiji.

Beginning in late 2010, and escalating in early 2011, diplomatic tensions opposed Fiji and Tonga over two partially simultaneous issues. Though they are presented separately here for clarity, they were being referred to simultaneously by May 2011.

Both Fiji and Tonga lay claim to the Minerva Reefs, which lie between the two countries. Historically, the reefs are said to have lain in the fishing grounds of the people of Ono-i-Lau, in Fiji. In 1972, Tonga annexed the reefs, which had not formally been claimed by any State, but Fiji has not recognised the annexation, and has stated it considers the reefs to lie within its territory. In late 2010, Fiji responded to news that Tonga had begun construction of a lighthouse on one reef, by saying Fiji reserved the right to take any means necessary to preserve its territorial integrity.[21]

In February 2011 the Fiji government said there was “no official dispute” between the two countries on the issue, but that officials from the two sides were discussing the matter of the reefs’ ownership and usage. A Fiji government official added: “The government of Fiji reiterates its position, that as far as its concerned Minerva Reef is a reef. And as such it lies within the economic, exclusive economic zone of Fiji. And the government of Fiji reserves its right within its directory.”[22] Fiji Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Solo Mara clarified that there was no “conflict”, but merely “overlapping claims” on the countries’ maritime boundary, in the context of “claims for an extended continental shelf beyond the 200 mile Exclusive Economy Zone – as provided for under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”. Officials from the two countries would hold discussions to determine their maritime boundary.[23]

In late May 2011, during the tension over the Tevita Mara affair (see below), “Fiji navy vessels visited Minerva and ordered New Zealand bound yachts out of the lagoon. They then destroyed navigation beacons” which had been set up by Tonga. The Tongan government issued a statement in protest.[24] Fijis Deputy Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Sila Balawa subsequently told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation that Tonga remained “one of Fijis closest friends”, and that, although Fiji clearly owned the reef as it was located within the countrys exclusive economic zone, Fiji hoped the disagreement would be resolved through “peaceful dialogue”.[25]

In early June, two Tongan Navy ships were sent to the Reef to replace navigational beacons destroyed by the Fijians, and to reassert Tonga’s claim to the territory. A Fijian Navy ship in the vicinity reportedly withdrew as the Tongans approached, leading New Zealand’s One News to comment that a military conflict between the two countries had narrowly been averted.[26][27] A press release from the Tongan government described Fiji’s destruction of Tongan navigational beacons as “an act of vandalism” posing “real danger to international shipping”, adding that Tonga and “the Fijian military junta” could and should resolve their territorial dispute “under International law for the settlement of disputes between civilized societies”.[28] Simultaneously The People’s Daily, citing “Fiji intelligence sources”, reported on June 13 that “three Fijian naval ships” were “on their way to Minerva Reef” to confront the two Tongan navy ships there.[29]

In May 2011, Lieutenant-Colonel Tevita Mara, a former Fiji army officer, who had just been charged with plotting an attempt to overthrow Bainimarama, fled Fiji by boat, and was picked up by a Tongan patrol boat and taken to Tonga. The Tongan authorities issued a statement saying they had picked him up after responding to a distress signal, and that in Nuku’alofa “arrangements have been made for his accommodation by the royal household office in deference to his rank”. Bainimarama issued a statement saying the Royal Tongan Navy ship had entered Fijian territorial waters without authorisation to carry out an “illegal extraction” of the wanted man; he added that his government took “strong exception to such breaches of Fiji’s sovereignty”. He announced he would issue a formal protest to Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano, and would seek Mara’s extradition back to Fiji to face charges.[30] Tui’vakano replied that Tonga’s independent judiciary would hear Fiji’s case for extradition, without interference from the Tongan government, and added that Tonga had no wish to interfere in Fiji’s domestic affairs.[31]

Akilisi Pohiva, leader of the Tongan opposition, described the entry of a Tongan Navy vessel into Fiji waters to pick up a fugitive as a clear breach of relations between the two countries, but added that it was justifiable on humanitarian grounds.[32]

On May 21, four days after the first reports on the incident, the Tongan government issued a statement saying it had received no request for Mara’s extradition, only a note from the Fijian authorities containing what it called “unsubstantiated assertions” and “a personal statement by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama”.[33] Subsequently, having acknowledged receipt of an extradition request, the Tongan government indicated “it will have to go through the proper channels for legal advice before we can proceed any further”; the authorities would not interfere with the judicial process. In early June, however, the authorities granted Mara Tongan citizenship, along with a passport.[34]

Radio Australia reported that relations between the two countries has “soured dramatically” as a result of the incident.[35]

On June 10 as Tongan Navy vessels moved to occupy the Minerva Reef, an unsigned press statement on the website of the Fiji government denounced “the presence of the Tongan Navy boats within Fijis EEZ at Minerva Reef”, the “issue of Tongan passport” to Mara and “the Tongan Governments inaction on extradition papers”, describing them as “a web of deceit, collusion and a complete lack of disregard [sic] of legal extradition processes”. Blaming Australia and New Zealand, the statement said “the Tongans as seen with their presence at the Minerva Reef will be manipulated through offerings of gifts and aid to try and turn up the ante”, adding: “As far as Fiji is concerned there is no Mara or Tonga/Fiji situation. It is a Rudd and McCully spreading their wings to save face situation”, in reference to Australian and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministers Kevin Rudd and Murray McCully.[36]Stuff.co.nz described the statement as an “unprecedented attack” on New Zealand, Tonga and Australia, remarking: “The statement on the website is so completely out of kilter with previous Fiji Government statements that it raises questions over who now is in control in Suva.”[37]

In late June, the Tongan government formally informed the Fiji government that Tongan law made it impossible to extradite Mara.[38]

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Ron Paul Wants a Spot on Federal Reserve Board of Governors

Posted: at 4:43 pm

Ron Paul’s group, “Campaign for Liberty,” is trying to get him a spot on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, a senior politics editor with the Huffington Post reports.

Paul, a former GOP member of Congress from Texas, earlier this week criticized the Federal Reserve, saying it was manipulating the economy.

“We do not work on a free-market principle, we do not have sound money, it’s all manipulated,” he told Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network.

“Prices are going to go up and the money’s going to be so bent according to political reasons and not because of business decisions, so we want the government out of it, we want people to save money, create capital, but capital cannot come from the Federal Reserve working with a computer, that’s the fallacy and that’s why zero rates of interest didn’t work because they weren’t realistic.”

The Board of Governors oversees the work of the Federal Reserve Banks and plays a major role in crafting U.S. monetary policy. There are seven members, all appointed by the president of the United States.

Paul established “Campaign for Liberty,” his nonprofit political organization, during his presidential run in 2008 with the purpose of spreading his idea that the government should be limited in its role.

Paul also has run for president as a Republican and as a Libertarian.

2016 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Genetically modified food – Wikipedia

Posted: December 21, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Genetically modified foods or GM foods, also known as genetically engineered foods, are foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering techniques allow for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits than previous methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.[1]

Commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its unsuccessful Flavr Savr delayed-ripening tomato.[2][3] Most food modifications have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton. Genetically modified crops have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and for better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have been developed, although as of November 2013 none were on the market.[4]

There is a scientific consensus[5][6][7][8] that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food,[9][10][11][12][13] but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction.[14][15][16] Nonetheless, members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe.[17][18][19][20] The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.[21][22][23][24]

However, there are ongoing public concerns related to food safety, regulation, labelling, environmental impact, research methods, and the fact that some GM seeds are subject to intellectual property rights owned by corporations.[25]

Genetically modified foods, GM foods or genetically engineered foods, are foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering as opposed to traditional cross breeding.[26][27] In the US, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) favor the use of “genetic engineering” over “genetic modification” as the more precise term; the USDA defines genetic modification to include “genetic engineering or other more traditional methods.”[28][29]

According to the World Health Organization, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology’, sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering’. … Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.”[26]

Human-directed genetic manipulation of food began with the domestication of plants and animals through artificial selection at about 10,500 to 10,100 BC.[30]:1 The process of selective breeding, in which organisms with desired traits (and thus with the desired genes) are used to breed the next generation and organisms lacking the trait are not bred, is a precursor to the modern concept of genetic modification (GM).[30]:1[31]:1 With the discovery of DNA in the early 1900s and various advancements in genetic techniques through the 1970s[32] it became possible to directly alter the DNA and genes within food.

The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant.[33] Genetically modified microbial enzymes were the first application of genetically modified organisms in food production and were approved in 1988 by the US Food and Drug Administration.[34] In the early 1990s, recombinant chymosin was approved for use in several countries.[34][35] Cheese had typically been made using the enzyme complex rennet that had been extracted from cows’ stomach lining. Scientists modified bacteria to produce chymosin, which was also able to clot milk, resulting in cheese curds.[36]

The first genetically modified food approved for release was the Flavr Savr tomato in 1994.[2] Developed by Calgene, it was engineered to have a longer shelf life by inserting an antisense gene that delayed ripening.[37] China was the first country to commercialize a transgenic crop in 1993 with the introduction of virus-resistant tobacco.[38] In 1995, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Potato was approved for cultivation, making it the first pesticide producing crop to be approved in the USA.[39] Other genetically modified crops receiving marketing approval in 1995 were: canola with modified oil composition, Bt maize, cotton resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil, Bt cotton, glyphosate-tolerant soybeans, virus-resistant squash, and another delayed ripening tomato.[2]

With the creation of golden rice in 2000, scientists had genetically modified food to increase its nutrient value for the first time.[40]

By 2010, 29 countries had planted commercialized biotech crops and a further 31 countries had granted regulatory approval for transgenic crops to be imported.[41] The US was the leading country in the production of GM foods in 2011, with twenty-five GM crops having received regulatory approval.[42] In 2015, 92% of corn, 94% of soybeans, and 94% of cotton produced in the US were genetically modified strains.[43]

The first genetically modified animal to be approved for food use was AquAdvantage salmon in 2015.[44] The salmon were transformed with a growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon and a promoter from an ocean pout enabling it to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer.[45]

In April 2016, a white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) modified using the CRISPR technique received de facto approval in the United States, after the USDA said it would not have to go through the agency’s regulatory process. The agency considers the mushroom exempt because the editing process did not involve the introduction of foreign DNA.[46]

The most widely planted GMOs are designed to tolerate herbicides. By 2006 some weed populations had evolved to tolerate some of the same herbicides. Palmer amaranth is a weed that competes with cotton. A native of the southwestern US, it traveled east and was first found resistant to glyphosate in 2006, less than 10 years after GM cotton was introduced.[47][48][49]

Genetically engineered organisms are generated and tested in the laboratory for desired qualities. The most common modification is to add one or more genes to an organism’s genome. Less commonly, genes are removed or their expression is increased or silenced or the number of copies of a gene is increased or decreased.

Once satisfactory strains are produced, the producer applies for regulatory approval to field-test them, called a “field release.” Field-testing involves cultivating the plants on farm fields or growing animals in a controlled environment. If these field tests are successful, the producer applies for regulatory approval to grow and market the crop. Once approved, specimens (seeds, cuttings, breeding pairs, etc.) are cultivated and sold to farmers. The farmers cultivate and market the new strain. In some cases, the approval covers marketing but not cultivation.

According to the USDA, the number of field releases for genetically engineered organisms has grown from four in 1985 to an average of about 800 per year. Cumulatively, more than 17,000 releases had been approved through September 2013.[50]

Papaya was genetically modified to resist the ringspot virus. ‘SunUp’ is a transgenic red-fleshed Sunset papaya cultivar that is homozygous for the coat protein gene PRSV; ‘Rainbow’ is a yellow-fleshed F1 hybrid developed by crossing ‘SunUp’ and nontransgenic yellow-fleshed ‘Kapoho’.[51] The New York Times stated, “in the early 1990s, Hawaiis papaya industry was facing disaster because of the deadly papaya ringspot virus. Its single-handed savior was a breed engineered to be resistant to the virus. Without it, the states papaya industry would have collapsed. Today, 80% of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered, and there is still no conventional or organic method to control ringspot virus.”[52] The GM cultivar was approved in 1998.[53] In China, a transgenic PRSV-resistant papaya was developed by South China Agricultural University and was first approved for commercial planting in 2006; as of 2012 95% of the papaya grown in Guangdong province and 40% of the papaya grown in Hainan province was genetically modified.[54]

The New Leaf potato, a GM food developed using naturally occurring bacteria found in the soil known as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), was made to provide in-plant protection from the yield-robbing Colorado potato beetle.[55] The New Leaf potato, brought to market by Monsanto in the late 1990s, was developed for the fast food market. It was withdrawn in 2001 after retailers rejected it and food processors ran into export problems.[56]

As of 2005, about 13% of the Zucchini (a form of squash) grown in the US was genetically modified to resist three viruses; that strain is also grown in Canada.[57][58]

In 2011, BASF requested the European Food Safety Authority’s approval for cultivation and marketing of its Fortuna potato as feed and food. The potato was made resistant to late blight by adding resistant genes blb1 and blb2 that originate from the Mexican wild potato Solanum bulbocastanum.[59][60] In February 2013, BASF withdrew its application.[61]

In 2013, the USDA approved the import of a GM pineapple that is pink in color and that “overexpresses” a gene derived from tangerines and suppress other genes, increasing production of lycopene. The plant’s flowering cycle was changed to provide for more uniform growth and quality. The fruit “does not have the ability to propagate and persist in the environment once they have been harvested,” according to USDA APHIS. According to Del Monte’s submission, the pineapples are commercially grown in a “monoculture” that prevents seed production, as the plant’s flowers aren’t exposed to compatible pollen sources. Importation into Hawaii is banned for “plant sanitation” reasons.[62]

In 2014, the USDA approved a genetically modified potato developed by J.R. Simplot Company that contained ten genetic modifications that prevent bruising and produce less acrylamide when fried. The modifications eliminate specific proteins from the potatoes, via RNA interference, rather than introducing novel proteins.[63][64]

In February 2015 Arctic Apples were approved by the USDA,[65] becoming the first genetically modified apple approved for sale in the US.[66]Gene silencing is used to reduce the expression of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), thus preventing the fruit from browning.[67]

Corn used for food and ethanol has been genetically modified to tolerate various herbicides and to express a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills certain insects.[68] About 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. was genetically modified in 2010.[69] In the US in 2015, 81% of corn acreage contained the Bt trait and 89% of corn acreage contained the glyphosate-tolerant trait.[43] Corn can be processed into grits, meal and flour as an ingredient in pancakes, muffins, doughnuts, breadings and batters, as well as baby foods, meat products, cereals and some fermented products. Corn-based masa flour and masa dough are used in the production of taco shells, corn chips and tortillas.[70]

Genetically modified soybean has been modified to tolerate herbicides and produce healthier oils.[71] In 2015, 94% of soybean acreage in the U.S. was genetically modified to be glyphosate-tolerant.[43]

Starch or amylum is a polysaccharide produced by all green plants as an energy store. Pure starch is a white, tasteless and odourless powder. It consists of two types of molecules: the linear and helical amylose and the branched amylopectin. Depending on the plant, starch generally contains 20 to 25% amylose and 75 to 80% amylopectin by weight.[72]

Starch can be further modified to create modified starch for specific purposes,[73] including creation of many of the sugars in processed foods. They include:

Lecithin is a naturally occurring lipid. It can be found in egg yolks and oil-producing plants. it is an emulsifier and thus is used in many foods. Corn, soy and safflower oil are sources of lecithin, though the majority of lecithin commercially available is derived from soy.[74][75][76][pageneeded] Sufficiently processed lecithin is often undetectable with standard testing practices.[72][not in citation given] According to the FDA, no evidence shows or suggests hazard to the public when lecithin is used at common levels. Lecithin added to foods amounts to only 2 to 10 percent of the 1 to 5 g of phosphoglycerides consumed daily on average.[74][75] Nonetheless, consumer concerns about GM food extend to such products.[77][bettersourceneeded] This concern led to policy and regulatory changes in Europe in 2000,[citation needed] when Regulation (EC) 50/2000 was passed[78] which required labelling of food containing additives derived from GMOs, including lecithin.[citation needed] Because of the difficulty of detecting the origin of derivatives like lecithin with current testing practices, European regulations require those who wish to sell lecithin in Europe to employ a comprehensive system of Identity preservation (IP).[79][verification needed][80][pageneeded]

The US imports 10% of its sugar, while the remaining 90% is extracted from sugar beet and sugarcane. After deregulation in 2005, glyphosate-resistant sugar beet was extensively adopted in the United States. 95% of beet acres in the US were planted with glyphosate-resistant seed in 2011.[81] GM sugar beets are approved for cultivation in the US, Canada and Japan; the vast majority are grown in the US. GM beets are approved for import and consumption in Australia, Canada, Colombia, EU, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russian Federation and Singapore.[82] Pulp from the refining process is used as animal feed. The sugar produced from GM sugarbeets contains no DNA or proteinit is just sucrose that is chemically indistinguishable from sugar produced from non-GM sugarbeets.[72][83] Independent analyses conducted by internationally recognized laboratories found that sugar from Roundup Ready sugar beets is identical to the sugar from comparably grown conventional (non-Roundup Ready) sugar beets. And, like all sugar, sugar from Roundup Ready sugar beets contains no genetic material or detectable protein (including the protein that provides glyphosate tolerance).[84]

Most vegetable oil used in the US is produced from GM crops canola,[85]corn,[86][87]cotton[88] and soybeans.[89] Vegetable oil is sold directly to consumers as cooking oil, shortening and margarine[90] and is used in prepared foods. There is a vanishingly small amount of protein or DNA from the original crop in vegetable oil.[72][91] Vegetable oil is made of triglycerides extracted from plants or seeds and then refined and may be further processed via hydrogenation to turn liquid oils into solids. The refining process[92] removes all, or nearly all non-triglyceride ingredients.[93] Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) offer an alternative to conventional fats and oils. The length of a fatty acid influences its fat absorption during the digestive process. Fatty acids in the middle position on the glycerol molecules appear to be absorbed more easily and influence metabolism more than fatty acids on the end positions. Unlike ordinary fats, MCTs are metabolized like carbohydrates. They have exceptional oxidative stability, and prevent foods from turning rancid readily.[94]

Livestock and poultry are raised on animal feed, much of which is composed of the leftovers from processing crops, including GM crops. For example, approximately 43% of a canola seed is oil. What remains after oil extraction is a meal that becomes an ingredient in animal feed and contains canola protein.[95] Likewise, the bulk of the soybean crop is grown for oil and meal. The high-protein defatted and toasted soy meal becomes livestock feed and dog food. 98% of the US soybean crop goes for livestock feed.[96][97] In 2011, 49% of the US maize harvest was used for livestock feed (including the percentage of waste from distillers grains).[98] “Despite methods that are becoming more and more sensitive, tests have not yet been able to establish a difference in the meat, milk, or eggs of animals depending on the type of feed they are fed. It is impossible to tell if an animal was fed GM soy just by looking at the resulting meat, dairy, or egg products. The only way to verify the presence of GMOs in animal feed is to analyze the origin of the feed itself.”[99]

A 2012 literature review of studies evaluating the effect of GM feed on the health of animals did not find evidence that animals were adversely affected, although small biological differences were occasionally found. The studies included in the review ranged from 90 days to two years, with several of the longer studies considering reproductive and intergenerational effects.[100]

Rennet is a mixture of enzymes used to coagulate milk into cheese. Originally it was available only from the fourth stomach of calves, and was scarce and expensive, or was available from microbial sources, which often produced unpleasant tastes. Genetic engineering made it possible to extract rennet-producing genes from animal stomachs and insert them into bacteria, fungi or yeasts to make them produce chymosin, the key enzyme.[101][102] The modified microorganism is killed after fermentation. Chymosin is isolated from the fermentation broth, so that the Fermentation-Produced Chymosin (FPC) used by cheese producers has an amino acid sequence that is identical to bovine rennet.[103] The majority of the applied chymosin is retained in the whey. Trace quantities of chymosin may remain in cheese.[103]

FPC was the first artificially produced enzyme to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.[34][35] FPC products have been on the market since 1990 and as of 2015 had yet to be surpassed in commercial markets.[104] In 1999, about 60% of US hard cheese was made with FPC.[105] Its global market share approached 80%.[106] By 2008, approximately 80% to 90% of commercially made cheeses in the US and Britain were made using FPC.[103]

In some countries, recombinant (GM) bovine somatotropin (also called rBST, or bovine growth hormone or BGH) is approved for administration to increase milk production. rBST may be present in milk from rBST treated cows, but it is destroyed in the digestive system and even if directly injected into the human bloodstream, has no observable effect on humans.[107][108][109] The FDA, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association and the National Institutes of Health have independently stated that dairy products and meat from rBST-treated cows are safe for human consumption.[110] However, on 30 September 2010, the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, analyzing submitted evidence, found a “compositional difference” between milk from rBGH-treated cows and milk from untreated cows.[111][112] The court stated that milk from rBGH-treated cows has: increased levels of the hormone Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1); higher fat content and lower protein content when produced at certain points in the cow’s lactation cycle; and more somatic cell counts, which may “make the milk turn sour more quickly.”[112]

Genetically modified livestock are organisms from the group of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, birds, horses and fish kept for human consumption, whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. In some cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the animals which does not occur naturally in the species, i.e. transgenesis.

A 2003 review published on behalf of Food Standards Australia New Zealand examined transgenic experimentation on terrestrial livestock species as well as aquatic species such as fish and shellfish. The review examined the molecular techniques used for experimentation as well as techniques for tracing the transgenes in animals and products as well as issues regarding transgene stability.[113]

Some mammals typically used for food production have been modified to produce non-food products, a practice sometimes called Pharming.

A GM salmon, awaiting regulatory approval[114][115][116] since 1997,[117] was approved for human consumption by the American FDA in November 2015, to be raised in specific land-based hatcheries in Canada and Panama.[118]

The use of genetically modified food-grade organisms as recombinant vaccine expression hosts and delivery vehicles can open new avenues for vaccinology. Considering that oral immunization is a beneficial approach in terms of costs, patient comfort, and protection of mucosal tissues, the use of food-grade organisms can lead to highly advantageous vaccines in terms of costs, easy administration, and safety. The organisms currently used for this purpose are bacteria (Lactobacillus and Bacillus), yeasts, algae, plants, and insect species. Several such organisms are under clinical evaluation, and the current adoption of this technology by the industry indicates a potential to benefit global healthcare systems.[119]

There is a scientific consensus[120][121][122][123] that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food,[124][125][126][127][128] but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction.[129][130][131] Nonetheless, members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe.[132][133][134][135]

Opponents claim that long-term health risks have not been adequately assessed and propose various combinations of additional testing, labeling[136] or removal from the market.[137][138][139][140] The advocacy group European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), disputes the claim that “science” supports the safety of current GM foods, proposing that each GM food must be judged on case-by-case basis.[141] The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment called for removing GM foods from the market pending long term health studies.[137] Multiple disputed studies have claimed health effects relating to GM foods or to the pesticides used with them.[142]

The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.[143][144][145][146] Countries such as the United States, Canada, Lebanon and Egypt use substantial equivalence to determine if further testing is required, while many countries such as those in the European Union, Brazil and China only authorize GMO cultivation on a case-by-case basis. In the U.S. the FDA determined that GMO’s are “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) and therefore do not require additional testing if the GMO product is substantially equivalent to the non-modified product.[147] If new substances are found, further testing may be required to satisfy concerns over potential toxicity, allergenicity, possible gene transfer to humans or genetic outcrossing to other organisms.[26]

Government regulation of GMO development and release varies widely between countries. Marked differences separate GMO regulation in the U.S. and GMO regulation in the European Union.[148] Regulation also varies depending on the intended product’s use. For example, a crop not intended for food use is generally not reviewed by authorities responsible for food safety.[149]

In the U.S., three government organizations regulate GMOs. The FDA checks the chemical composition of organisms for potential allergens. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supervises field testing and monitors the distribution of GM seeds. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for monitoring pesticide usage, including plants modified to contain proteins toxic to insects. Like USDA, EPA also oversees field testing and the distribution of crops that have had contact with pesticides to ensure environmental safety.[150][bettersourceneeded] In 2015 the Obama administration announced that it would update the way the government regulated GM crops.[151]

In 1992 FDA published “Statement of Policy: Foods derived from New Plant Varieties.” This statement is a clarification of FDA’s interpretation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to foods produced from new plant varieties developed using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology. FDA encouraged developers to consult with the FDA regarding any bioengineered foods in development. The FDA says developers routinely do reach out for consultations. In 1996 FDA updated consultation procedures.[152][153]

As of 2015, 64 countries require labeling of GMO products in the marketplace.[154]

US and Canadian national policy is to require a label only given significant composition differences or documented health impacts, although some individual US states (Vermont, Connecticut and Maine) enacted laws requiring them.[155][156][157][158] In July 2016, Public Law 114-214 was enacted to regulate labeling of GMO food on a national basis.

In some jurisdictions, the labeling requirement depends on the relative quantity of GMO in the product. A study that investigated voluntary labeling in South Africa found that 31% of products labeled as GMO-free had a GM content above 1.0%.[159]

In Europe all food (including processed food) or feed that contains greater than 0.9% GMOs must be labelled.[160]

Testing on GMOs in food and feed is routinely done using molecular techniques such as PCR and bioinformatics.[161]

In a January 2010 paper, the extraction and detection of DNA along a complete industrial soybean oil processing chain was described to monitor the presence of Roundup Ready (RR) soybean: “The amplification of soybean lectin gene by end-point polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was successfully achieved in all the steps of extraction and refining processes, until the fully refined soybean oil. The amplification of RR soybean by PCR assays using event-specific primers was also achieved for all the extraction and refining steps, except for the intermediate steps of refining (neutralisation, washing and bleaching) possibly due to sample instability. The real-time PCR assays using specific probes confirmed all the results and proved that it is possible to detect and quantify genetically modified organisms in the fully refined soybean oil. To our knowledge, this has never been reported before and represents an important accomplishment regarding the traceability of genetically modified organisms in refined oils.”[162]

According to Thomas Redick, detection and prevention of cross-pollination is possible through the suggestions offered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Suggestions include educating farmers on the importance of coexistence, providing farmers with tools and incentives to promote coexistence, conduct research to understand and monitor gene flow, provide assurance of quality and diversity in crops, provide compensation for actual economic losses for farmers.[163]

The genetically modified foods controversy consists of a set of disputes over the use of food made from genetically modified crops. The disputes involve consumers, farmers, biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organizations, environmental and political activists and scientists. The major disagreements include whether GM foods can be safely consumed, harm the environment and/or are adequately tested and regulated.[138][164] The objectivity of scientific research and publications has been challenged.[137] Farming-related disputes include the use and impact of pesticides, seed production and use, side effects on non-GMO crops/farms,[165] and potential control of the GM food supply by seed companies.[137]

The conflicts have continued since GM foods were invented. They have occupied the media, the courts, local, regional and national governments and international organizations.

The literature about Biodiversity and the GE food/feed consumption has sometimes resulted in animated debate regarding the suitability of the experimental designs, the choice of the statistical methods or the public accessibility of data. Such debate, even if positive and part of the natural process of review by the scientific community, has frequently been distorted by the media and often used politically and inappropriately in anti-GE crops campaigns.

Domingo, Jos L.; Bordonaba, Jordi Gin (2011). “A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants” (PDF). Environment International. 37: 734742. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2011.01.003. PMID21296423. In spite of this, the number of studies specifically focused on safety assessment of GM plants is still limited. However, it is important to remark that for the first time, a certain equilibrium in the number of research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was observed. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that most of the studies demonstrating that GM foods are as nutritional and safe as those obtained by conventional breeding, have been performed by biotechnology companies or associates, which are also responsible of commercializing these GM plants. Anyhow, this represents a notable advance in comparison with the lack of studies published in recent years in scientific journals by those companies.

Krimsky, Sheldon (2015). “An Illusory Consensus behind GMO Health Assessment” (PDF). Science, Technology, & Human Values. 40: 132. doi:10.1177/0162243915598381. I began this article with the testimonials from respected scientists that there is literally no scientific controversy over the health effects of GMOs. My investigation into the scientific literature tells another story.

And contrast:

Panchin, Alexander Y.; Tuzhikov, Alexander I. (January 14, 2016). “Published GMO studies find no evidence of harm when corrected for multiple comparisons”. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology: 15. doi:10.3109/07388551.2015.1130684. ISSN0738-8551. PMID26767435. Here, we show that a number of articles some of which have strongly and negatively influenced the public opinion on GM crops and even provoked political actions, such as GMO embargo, share common flaws in the statistical evaluation of the data. Having accounted for these flaws, we conclude that the data presented in these articles does not provide any substantial evidence of GMO harm.

The presented articles suggesting possible harm of GMOs received high public attention. However, despite their claims, they actually weaken the evidence for the harm and lack of substantial equivalency of studied GMOs. We emphasize that with over 1783 published articles on GMOs over the last 10 years it is expected that some of them should have reported undesired differences between GMOs and conventional crops even if no such differences exist in reality.

and

Yang, Y.T.; Chen, B. (2016). “Governing GMOs in the USA: science, law and public health”. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 96: 18511855. doi:10.1002/jsfa.7523. PMID26536836. It is therefore not surprising that efforts to require labeling and to ban GMOs have been a growing political issue in the USA (citing Domingo and Bordonaba, 2011).

Overall, a broad scientific consensus holds that currently marketed GM food poses no greater risk than conventional food… Major national and international science and medical associations have stated that no adverse human health effects related to GMO food have been reported or substantiated in peer-reviewed literature to date.

Despite various concerns, today, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, and many independent international science organizations agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques, genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, less likely to create an unexpected outcome.

Pinholster, Ginger (October 25, 2012). “AAAS Board of Directors: Legally Mandating GM Food Labels Could “Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers””. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved February 8, 2016.

“REPORT 2 OF THE COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND PUBLIC HEALTH (A-12): Labeling of Bioengineered Foods” (PDF). American Medical Association. 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2016. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.

GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous application of safety assessments based on the Codex Alimentarius principles and, where appropriate, adequate post market monitoring, should form the basis for ensuring the safety of GM foods.

“Genetically modified foods and health: a second interim statement” (PDF). British Medical Association. March 2004. Retrieved March 21, 2016. In our view, the potential for GM foods to cause harmful health effects is very small and many of the concerns expressed apply with equal vigour to conventionally derived foods. However, safety concerns cannot, as yet, be dismissed completely on the basis of information currently available.

When seeking to optimise the balance between benefits and risks, it is prudent to err on the side of caution and, above all, learn from accumulating knowledge and experience. Any new technology such as genetic modification must be examined for possible benefits and risks to human health and the environment. As with all novel foods, safety assessments in relation to GM foods must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Members of the GM jury project were briefed on various aspects of genetic modification by a diverse group of acknowledged experts in the relevant subjects. The GM jury reached the conclusion that the sale of GM foods currently available should be halted and the moratorium on commercial growth of GM crops should be continued. These conclusions were based on the precautionary principle and lack of evidence of any benefit. The Jury expressed concern over the impact of GM crops on farming, the environment, food safety and other potential health effects.

The Royal Society review (2002) concluded that the risks to human health associated with the use of specific viral DNA sequences in GM plants are negligible, and while calling for caution in the introduction of potential allergens into food crops, stressed the absence of evidence that commercially available GM foods cause clinical allergic manifestations. The BMA shares the view that that there is no robust evidence to prove that GM foods are unsafe but we endorse the call for further research and surveillance to provide convincing evidence of safety and benefit.

The literature about Biodiversity and the GE food/feed consumption has sometimes resulted in animated debate regarding the suitability of the experimental designs, the choice of the statistical methods or the public accessibility of data. Such debate, even if positive and part of the natural process of review by the scientific community, has frequently been distorted by the media and often used politically and inappropriately in anti-GE crops campaigns.

Domingo, Jos L.; Bordonaba, Jordi Gin (2011). “A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants” (PDF). Environment International. 37: 734742. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2011.01.003. PMID21296423. In spite of this, the number of studies specifically focused on safety assessment of GM plants is still limited. However, it is important to remark that for the first time, a certain equilibrium in the number of research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was observed. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that most of the studies demonstrating that GM foods are as nutritional and safe as those obtained by conventional breeding, have been performed by biotechnology companies or associates, which are also responsible of commercializing these GM plants. Anyhow, this represents a notable advance in comparison with the lack of studies published in recent years in scientific journals by those companies.

Krimsky, Sheldon (2015). “An Illusory Consensus behind GMO Health Assessment” (PDF). Science, Technology, & Human Values. 40: 132. doi:10.1177/0162243915598381. I began this article with the testimonials from respected scientists that there is literally no scientific controversy over the health effects of GMOs. My investigation into the scientific literature tells another story.

And contrast:

Panchin, Alexander Y.; Tuzhikov, Alexander I. (January 14, 2016). “Published GMO studies find no evidence of harm when corrected for multiple comparisons”. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology: 15. doi:10.3109/07388551.2015.1130684. ISSN0738-8551. PMID26767435. Here, we show that a number of articles some of which have strongly and negatively influenced the public opinion on GM crops and even provoked political actions, such as GMO embargo, share common flaws in the statistical evaluation of the data. Having accounted for these flaws, we conclude that the data presented in these articles does not provide any substantial evidence of GMO harm.

The presented articles suggesting possible harm of GMOs received high public attention. However, despite their claims, they actually weaken the evidence for the harm and lack of substantial equivalency of studied GMOs. We emphasize that with over 1783 published articles on GMOs over the last 10 years it is expected that some of them should have reported undesired differences between GMOs and conventional crops even if no such differences exist in reality.

and

Yang, Y.T.; Chen, B. (2016). “Governing GMOs in the USA: science, law and public health”. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 96: 18511855. doi:10.1002/jsfa.7523. PMID26536836. It is therefore not surprising that efforts to require labeling and to ban GMOs have been a growing political issue in the USA (citing Domingo and Bordonaba, 2011).

Overall, a broad scientific consensus holds that currently marketed GM food poses no greater risk than conventional food… Major national and international science and medical associations have stated that no adverse human health effects related to GMO food have been reported or substantiated in peer-reviewed literature to date.

Despite various concerns, today, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, and many independent international science organizations agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques, genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, less likely to create an unexpected outcome.

Pinholster, Ginger (October 25, 2012). “AAAS Board of Directors: Legally Mandating GM Food Labels Could “Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers””. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved February 8, 2016.

“REPORT 2 OF THE COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND PUBLIC HEALTH (A-12): Labeling of Bioengineered Foods” (PDF). American Medical Association. 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2016. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.

GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous application of safety assessments based on the Codex Alimentarius principles and, where appropriate, adequate post market monitoring, should form the basis for ensuring the safety of GM foods.

“Genetically modified foods and health: a second interim statement” (PDF). British Medical Association. March 2004. Retrieved March 21, 2016. In our view, the potential for GM foods to cause harmful health effects is very small and many of the concerns expressed apply with equal vigour to conventionally derived foods. However, safety concerns cannot, as yet, be dismissed completely on the basis of information currently available.

When seeking to optimise the balance between benefits and risks, it is prudent to err on the side of caution and, above all, learn from accumulating knowledge and experience. Any new technology such as genetic modification must be examined for possible benefits and risks to human health and the environment. As with all novel foods, safety assessments in relation to GM foods must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Members of the GM jury project were briefed on various aspects of genetic modification by a diverse group of acknowledged experts in the relevant subjects. The GM jury reached the conclusion that the sale of GM foods currently available should be halted and the moratorium on commercial growth of GM crops should be continued. These conclusions were based on the precautionary principle and lack of evidence of any benefit. The Jury expressed concern over the impact of GM crops on farming, the environment, food safety and other potential health effects.

The Royal Society review (2002) concluded that the risks to human health associated with the use of specific viral DNA sequences in GM plants are negligible, and while calling for caution in the introduction of potential allergens into food crops, stressed the absence of evidence that commercially available GM foods cause clinical allergic manifestations. The BMA shares the view that that there is no robust evidence to prove that GM foods are unsafe but we endorse the call for further research and surveillance to provide convincing evidence of safety and benefit.

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The scary ghost of Ayn Rand looms over the Trump cabinet

Posted: December 16, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Ayn Rand was a terrible person who wove a philosophy of selfishness and greed out of the threads of her own psychopathy. Rands writings and speeches should be recognized as rantings suited for an audience of a well-trained therapist, instead of inflicted upon millions of English students.

Rand, whodeclared altruism a national disease, wroteadmiringlyof child-murderer William Edward Hickmans callous indifference toward others and his immense, explicit egotism. Her contempt for the poor and middle-class are pronounced byanti-Robin Hoods who brag about stealing from the thieving poor to give to the productive rich. Rand defended Native American genocide and murderous white supremacy, once stating any white person who [brought] the elements of civilization had the right to take over this continent. Objectivism, Rands refutation of basic human decency in favor of pathological self-interest and ruthless capitalism, was correctly identified as perfect in its immorality by Gore Vidal more than half a century ago. Today its the prevailing ethos of the GOP, embraced by Republicans going back to Ronald Reaganand especially beloved among the incoming Trump administration.

As James Hohmann of the Washington Post notes, Trump pledged his affection to Rand in an interview earlier this year with Kirsten Powers. Trump, who proudly admits he doesnt readneither books nor intelligence briefings that might slow his roll toward starting a nuclear wartold Powers he relates to Howard Roark, the architect protagonist ofThe Fountainhead. Roark espouses the warped belief that selfishness is a virtue (Mans first duty is to himself) and commits a violentsexual assault. Without specifics, its hard to know precisely where Trump thinks the resemblance begins and ends.

Trump shares an affinity for Rand with several other members of his cabinetthough thats not the worst thing you can say about them, considering the group is a motley assortment of Islamophobes, white supremacists, alleged wifebeaters, and anti-worker .1 percenters.

Hohmann writes that Trumps labor secretary pick Andy Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which is owned by Roark Capital Group, a private equity fund named after Howard Roark. When the New York Times asked for a few personal insights about Puzder from one of his business cohorts, the fast-food titan was described only as an avid reader who love[s] Ayn Rand. Puzder recently told the Wall Street Journals Jennifer Grossman that hes advised all six of his kids to read The Fountainhead, in the hope theyll lead the kind of lives of achievement, integrity and independence that Ayn Rand celebrated in her novels.

Trumps choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, whos as famous for being the CEO of ExxonMobil as for hiscozinesswithVladimir Putin, is also a Rand adherent. Hohmann discovered the oil baron listed [Atlas Shrugged] as his favorite book in a 2008 feature for Scouting Magazine. Trumps choice to head the CIA, Mike Pompeo, previously indicated to theWashington Post that many of his political views are the result of a long interest in libertarian and conservative thought, first formed at age 15 when he read Ayn Rands novel The Fountainhead. John A. Allison IV, the former CEO of BB&T Bank and Cato Institute who had a closed-door meeting with Trump late last month, reportedly gave his executive staffers copies of Atlas Shrugged, calling it the best defense of capitalism ever written. Paul Ryan and Donald Trump have had some friction, but maybe now they can now bond over their mutual love of Rand and the beliefthat money is the creation of the best power within you. After years of saying Rand inspired his whole career, Ryan has more recentlyclaimedhe no subscribes to objectivist philosophy. His policy proposals beg to differ.

The fact that all of these men, so late in life, are such fans of works that celebrate individuals who consistently put themselves before others is therefore deeply revealing, Hohmann writes. They will now run our government.

Ayn Rand finally hit a wall through which her delusions could no longer pass; by the time of her death in 1982, she was enrolled in both Medicare and Social Security. After a lifetime of pushing a fever-dreamed philosophy, she was forced to reconcile with reality by old age, illness, and the boundaries of her own personal wealth. The GOP was all too happy to pick up the torch. Trumps team of millionaires and billionaires, bonded by a philosophy of cruelty, are now running with it.

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Fountainhead of bad ideas: Ayn Rands fanboys take the reins …

Posted: December 15, 2016 at 12:13 am

For a man who ran for president on a supposedly populist platform, Donald Trump sure has appointed a lot of extremely wealthy businesspeople to his administration.He explains to his followersat his ostentatious victory rallies that hes doing this because he wants people that made a fortune because now theyre negotiating with you, adding, Its not different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.

The truth is that nobody really understands why Trump is choosing the people hes choosing, not even him. Reports indicate thatits a capricious process,and no one is sure if theres even a cursory vetting of the choices. Because so many of these people have no government experience there is little sense of the worldviews and philosophies that guide them.

On Tuesday, however,James Hohmann of The Washington Post identified a common threadamong the businessmen, including Trump, which should have been obvious from the beginning. They are fanboys of Ayn Rand, the patron saint of selfish adolescents and titans of industry. Hohmann reported that Trumps choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who bears a Randian name if there ever was one, is a big fan of the Objectivist magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, whichhe told Scouting magazine was his favorite book. Tillerson explained that he believes volunteering is not just good for the individual but good PR for acompany,a notion thatRands manly hero John Galt would undoubtedly approve of.

Andy Puzder, the nominee to be secretary of labor, is also a Rand fanatic who reportedly reads the bodice-ripping novels over and over again in his spare time. The parent corporation of his fast food restaurant company, CKE Enterprises, is calledRoark Capital Group, in tribute to Howard Roark, the hero of Rands The Fountainhead.

And Rep.Mike Pompeo, Trumps choice to head the CIA, has said, One of the very first serious books I read when I was growing up was Atlas Shrugged, and it really had an impact on me.

Then there is Trumps new BFF, House Speaker Paul Ryan,a well-known Rand acolytewho makes all his staffers read Atlas Shrugged when theygo to work for him.

Finally, Trump himself has claimedto be a Rand follower, as he discussed with Kirsten Powers in aUSA Today interview:

Trump described himself as an Ayn Rand fan. He said of her novel The Fountainhead, It relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to . . .everything. He identified with Howard Roark, the novels idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.

The macho architect-builder and anti-Establishment hero also rapes the female protagonist. So you can see why Trump would relate to him.

You will have to pardon my skepticism that Trump has ever read that book. Its not just the puerile description, but the fact that there is no sign anywhere in his homes or offices that books even exist except forthe story that Paramounts Marvin Davis once gave him a volume of Hitlers speeches,which his first wife claimed he kept by the bed. (Id still bet that he never read them.) The only thing he reads are stories about himself in the newspapers. That doesnt mean, however, that he doesnt subscribe to Rands philosophy; its just unlikely that heknowshe does.

Hohmann also mentioned that Trump has huddled with one of the most important Rand propagandists in the country, John A. Allison IV, chief executive of the banking company BB&T Corp. The Wall St Journal blandly describedAllison as distributing copies of Atlas Shrugged to his senior officers and funding classes about the moral foundation of capitalism at various colleges. In fact,Allison has given more than $30 millionto various academic institutions, with the demand that they include Rands turgid fiction as part of the required curriculum. What role Allison might play in the Trump administration is unknown, but you can be sure that he will bring his dog-eared copy of Atlas Shruggedto the office with him.

Of course, Ayn Rand aficionados are hardly unknown in the high reaches of government. The most powerful one of all was the man who bears much of the responsibility for the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed, former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan. He was even a member of Rands inner circle in his youth andfamously wrote a letter to The New York Timesduring that period expressing his anger at a negative review of Atlas Shrugged:

Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.

Many young people are taken with Rands books when they first read them, for obvious reasons. Her novels offer a romantic glorification of self-centered narcissism, a perfect adolescent worldview. Some people never grow out of that and quite a few of them end up running businesses.

Rand believed that the government was basically an evil force that stood in the way of mans destiny and only existed to take from the creators to give to the parasites and moochers. A businessperson who has imbibed that philosophy can want to join the government only in order to destroy it from within.

Paul Ryan is a perfect example of someone who is systematically working to dismantle the redistributive functions of government and end all regulations that protect the common good.He once declared, The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.

As I said earlier, I seriously doubt that Donald Trump is really a fan of Ayn Rand. Her books may be juvenile and shallow, but theyre way too deep for him. Still, Trump is definitely narcissistic and almost pathologically self-confident hes like John Galts id, without knowing it. He certainly subscribes to Ayn Rands personal credo: What is good for me is Good! It appears hes found a group of like minds to help him ruin the country.

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Fountainhead of bad ideas: Ayn Rands fanboys take the reins …

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Liberty – Wikipedia

Posted: December 11, 2016 at 7:54 am

Liberty, in philosophy, involves free will as contrasted with determinism.[1] In politics, liberty consists of the social and political freedoms to which all community members are entitled.[2] In theology, liberty is freedom from the effects of “sin, spiritual servitude, [or] worldly ties.”[3]

Generally, liberty is distinctly differentiated from freedom in that freedom is primarily, if not exclusively, the ability to do as one wills and what one has the power to do; whereas liberty concerns the absence of arbitrary restraints and takes into account the rights of all involved. As such, the exercise of liberty is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others.[4]

Philosophers from earliest times have considered the question of liberty. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121180 AD) wrote of “a polity in which there is the same law for all, a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed.”[5] According to Thomas Hobbes (15881679), “a free man is he that in those things which by his strength and wit he is able to do is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do” (Leviathan, Part 2, Ch. XXI).

John Locke (16321704) rejected that definition of liberty. While not specifically mentioning Hobbes, he attacks Sir Robert Filmer who had the same definition. According to Locke:

John Stuart Mill (18061873), in his work, On Liberty, was the first to recognize the difference between liberty as the freedom to act and liberty as the absence of coercion.[7] In his book Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin formally framed the differences between these two perspectives as the distinction between two opposite concepts of liberty: positive liberty and negative liberty. The latter designates a negative condition in which an individual is protected from tyranny and the arbitrary exercise of authority, while the former refers to the liberty that comes from self-mastery, the freedom from inner compulsions such as weakness and fear.

The modern concept of political liberty has its origins in the Greek concepts of freedom and slavery.[8] To be free, to the Greeks, was to not have a master, to be independent from a master (to live like one likes).[9] That was the original Greek concept of freedom. It is closely linked with the concept of democracy, as Aristotle put it:

“This, then, is one note of liberty which all democrats affirm to be the principle of their state. Another is that a man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality.”[10]

This applied only to free men. In Athens, for instance, women could not vote or hold office and were legally and socially dependent on a male relative.[11]

The populations of the Persian Empire enjoyed some degree of freedom. Citizens of all religions and ethnic groups were given the same rights and had the same freedom of religion, women had the same rights as men, and slavery was abolished (550 BC). All the palaces of the kings of Persia were built by paid workers in an era when slaves typically did such work.[12]

In the Buddhist Maurya Empire of ancient India, citizens of all religions and ethnic groups had some rights to freedom, tolerance, and equality. The need for tolerance on an egalitarian basis can be found in the Edicts of Ashoka the Great, which emphasize the importance of tolerance in public policy by the government. The slaughter or capture of prisoners of war also appears to have been condemned by Ashoka.[13] Slavery also appears to have been non-existent in the Maurya Empire.[14] However, according to Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, “Ashoka’s orders seem to have been resisted right from the beginning.”[15]

Roman law also embraced certain limited forms of liberty, even under the rule of the Roman Emperors. However, these liberties were accorded only to Roman citizens. Many of the liberties enjoyed under Roman law endured through the Middle Ages, but were enjoyed solely by the nobility, rarely by the common man.[citation needed] The idea of inalienable and universal liberties had to wait until the Age of Enlightenment.

The social contract theory, most influentially formulated by Hobbes, John Locke and Rousseau (though first suggested by Plato in The Republic), was among the first to provide a political classification of rights, in particular through the notion of sovereignty and of natural rights. The thinkers of the Enlightenment reasoned that law governed both heavenly and human affairs, and that law gave the king his power, rather than the king’s power giving force to law. This conception of law would find its culmination in the ideas of Montesquieu. The conception of law as a relationship between individuals, rather than families, came to the fore, and with it the increasing focus on individual liberty as a fundamental reality, given by “Nature and Nature’s God,” which, in the ideal state, would be as universal as possible.

In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill sought to define the “…nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual,” and as such, he describes an inherent and continuous antagonism between liberty and authority and thus, the prevailing question becomes “how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control”.[4]

England and following the Act of Union 1707 Great Britain, laid down the cornerstones to the concept of individual liberty.

In 1166 Henry II of England transformed English law by passing the Assize of Clarendon act. The act, a forerunner to trial by jury, started the abolition of trial by combat and trial by ordeal.[16]

In 1215 the Magna Carta was drawn up, it became the cornerstone of liberty in first England, Great Britain and later, the world.

In 1689 the Bill of Rights grants ‘freedom of speech in Parliament’, which lays out some of the earliest civil rights.[19]

In 1859 an essay by the philosopher John Stuart Mill, entitled On Liberty argues for toleration and individuality. If any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.[20][21]

In 1958 Two Concepts of Liberty, by Isaiah Berlin, determines ‘negative liberty’ as an obstacle, as evident from ‘positive liberty’ which promotes self-mastery and the concepts of freedom.[22]

In 1948 British representatives attempt to and are prevented from adding a legal framework to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (It was not until 1976 that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force, giving a legal status to most of the Declaration.) [23]

The United States of America was one of the first nations to be founded on principles of freedom and equality, with no king and no hereditary nobility[citation needed]. According to the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence, all men have a natural right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. But this declaration of liberty was troubled from the outset by the presence of slavery. Slave owners argued that their liberty was paramount, since it involved property, their slaves, and that the slaves themselves had no rights that any White man was obliged to recognize. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott decision, upheld this principle. It was not until 1866, following the Civil War, that the US constitution was amended to extend these rights to persons of color, and not until 1920 that these rights were extended to women.[24]

By the later half of the 20th century, liberty was expanded further to prohibit government interference with personal choices. In the United States Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut, Justice William O. Douglas argued that liberties relating to personal relationships, such as marriage, have a unique primacy of place in the hierarchy of freedoms.[25] Jacob M. Appel has summarized this principle:

I am grateful that I have rights in the proverbial public square but, as a practical matter, my most cherished rights are those that I possess in my bedroom and hospital room and death chamber. Most people are far more concerned that they can control their own bodies than they are about petitioning Congress.[26]

In modern America, various competing ideologies have divergent views about how best to promote liberty. Liberals in the original sense of the word see equality as a necessary component of freedom. Progressives stress freedom from business monopoly as essential. Libertarians disagree, and see economic freedom as best. The Tea Party movement sees big government as the enemy of freedom.[27][28]

France supported the Americans in their revolt against English rule and, in 1789, overthrew their own monarchy, with the cry of “Libert, galit, fraternit”. The bloodbath that followed, known as the reign of terror, soured many people on the idea of liberty. Edmund Burke, considered one of the fathers of conservatism, wrote “The French had shewn themselves the ablest architects of ruin that had hitherto existed in the world.”[29]

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics, liberalism is “the belief that it is the aim of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximize freedom of choice”. But they point out that there is considerable discussion about how to achieve those goals. Every discussion of freedom depends of three key components: who is free, what are they free to do, and what forces restrict their freedom.[30] John Gray argues that the core belief of liberalism is toleration. Liberals allow others freedom to do what they want, in exchange for having the same freedom in return. This idea of freedom is personal rather than political.[31] William Safire points out that liberalism is attacked by both the Right and the Left: by the Right for defending such practices as abortion, homosexuality, and atheism, by the Left for defending free enterprise and the rights of the individual over the collective.[32]

According to the Encyclopdia Britannica, Libertarians hold liberty as their primary political value.[33] Libertarian philosophers hold that there is no tenable distinction between personal and economic liberty that they are, indeed, one and the same, to be protected (or opposed) together. In the context of U.S. constitutional law, for example, they point out that the constitution twice lists “life, liberty, and property” without making any distinctions within that phrase.[34] Their approach to implementing liberty involves opposing any governmental coercion, aside from that which is necessary to prevent individuals from coercing each other.[35] This is known as the non-aggression principle.[36]

According to republican theorists of freedom, like the historian Quentin Skinner[37][38] or the philosopher Philip Pettit,[39] one’s liberty should not be viewed as the absence of interference in one’s actions, but as non-domination. According to this view, which originates in the Roman Digest, to be a liber homo, a free man, means not being subject to another’s arbitrary will, that is to say, dominated by another. They also cite Machiavelli who asserted that you must be a member of a free self-governing civil association, a republic, if you are to enjoy individual liberty.[40]

The predominance of this view of liberty among parliamentarians during the English Civil War resulted in the creation of the liberal concept of freedom as non-interference in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.[citation needed]

Socialists view freedom as a concrete situation as opposed to a purely abstract ideal. Freedom involves agency to pursue one’s creative interests unhindered by coercive social relationships that one is forced to engage in in order to survive under a given social system. From this perspective, freedom requires both the material economic conditions that make freedom possible alongside the social relationships and institutions conducive to freedom. As such, the socialist concept of freedom is held in contrast to the liberal concept of freedom.[41]

The socialist conception of freedom is closely related to the socialist view of creativity and individuality. Influenced by Karl Marx’s concept of alienated labor, socialists understand freedom to be the ability for an individual to engage in creative work in the absence of alienation, where alienated labor refers to work people are forced to perform and un-alienated work refers to individuals pursuing their own creative interests.[42]

For Karl Marx, meaningful freedom is only attainable in a communist society characterized by superabundance and free access, would eliminate the need for alienated labor and enable individuals to pursue their own creative interests, leaving them to develop their full potentialities. This goes alongside Marx’s emphasis on the reduction of the average length of the workday to expand the “realm of freedom” for each person.[43][44] Marx’s notion of communist society and human freedom is thus radically individualistic.[45]

“This also is remarkable in India, that all Indians are free, and no Indian at all is a slave. In this the Indians agree with the Lacedaemonians. Yet the Lacedaemonians have Helots for slaves, who perform the duties of slaves; but the Indians have no slaves at all, much less is any Indian a slave.”

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Liberty – Wikipedia

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Micronation | Fifth World Wiki | Fandom powered by Wikia

Posted: December 9, 2016 at 6:05 am

According to pedestrian wisdom, a micronation sometimes referred to as a model country or new country project is an entity that apparently intends to replace, resemble, mock, or exist on equal footing with a recognised and/or sovereign state. Some micronations are created with serious intent, while others exist as a hobby or stunt. Scholarly research shows, however, that a real micronation must be at least an empirical tribe or community, or it simply isn’t a micronation. Actually, most so-called micronations are more of a mocking of real nations than real states it is intellectually dishonest to classify something, as the Wikipedia does in its article about micronations, based not on what it actually is, but rather on what it isn’t, and a micronation is, first and foremost, a very small nation by size and/or population.

The term micronation, which literally means small nation, is a neologism. The first reference in English to the word micronation in a popular book appears in the 1978 edition of The People’s Almanac #2, where David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace write:

The term has since come to be used also retrospectively to refer to earlier unrecognised entities, some of which date to as far back as the 17th century.

According to micronational scholars, the term micronation is synonymous with the term Fifth and Sixth World nation. The more mature micronations (Fifth World nations) can also be social identity or irredentist groups.

Supporters of micronations often use the term macronation to describe any real sovereign nation-state. However, macronations are more appropriately medium- to large-sized nations that do not enjoy significant recognition, and according to micronational scholars they are Fourth World nations. The term macronation is also synonymous with the term self-determination or secessionist group.

Micronations should not be confused with legitimately recognised, but geographically tiny nations such as Fiji, Monaco, and San Marino, for which the term microstate is more accurate and descriptive.

Micronations generally have a number of common features:

A criterion which distinguishes micronations from imaginary countries, eco-villages, campuses, tribes, clans, sects, and residential community associations, is that these latter entities do not usually seek to be recognised as sovereign.

The Montevideo Convention was one attempt to create a legal definition distinguishing between states and non-states. A few micronations meet this definition, while most do not. Some micronational scholars find the Montevideo Convention unenlightened, or at the very least deceptive, with its emphasis on a state possessing a defined territory, since it has been discovered that states do not necessarily have to possess a territory to exist and be functional.

The academic study of micronations and microstates is termed micropatrology, and the hobby or activity of establishing and operating micronations is known as micronationalism.

The world’s oldest and longest living micronation was probably the Indian princely state of Pudukkottai. From the 6th to the 14th century AD, Pudukkottai was successively ruled by the Pallavas, the Cholas, and the Pandyas. Then Pudukkottai came under the rule of Muslim sultans, who held power for about 50 years before being vanquished by the Vijayanagar kings. When the Vijayanagar kingdom disintegrated, Raghunatha Kilavan wrested the country from them in 1680, and appointed Raghunatha Tondaiman, his brother-in-law, as viceroy. The kingdom eventually acceded to the independent Dominion of India in August 1947, and merged with the Madras state in the following year.

The 19th century saw the rise to prominence of the nation-state concept, and the earliest recognisable micronations can be dated to that period. Most were founded by eccentric adventurers or business speculators, and several were remarkably successful.

The oldest extant micronation to arise in modern times is the Kingdom of Redonda, founded in 1865 in the Caribbean. It failed to establish itself as a real country, but has nonetheless managed to survive into the present day as a unique literary foundation with its own king and aristocracy although it is not without its controversies; there are presently at least four competing claimants to the Redondan throne.

Another very old extant micronation is relatively obscure to Anglophiles: Parva Domus. Parva Domus today is a cultural and recreational civil association based in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was founded on 25 August 1878, when Jos Achinelli raised the new nation’s flag on a mast in front of a farmhouse. The Republic is reminiscent of a secret society, and its membership is restricted to men. Females are actually allowed entrance twice a year, for a special dinner. [1]

The 1960s and 1970s saw a micronational renaissance, with the foundation of a number of territorial micronations. The first of these, the Principality of Sealand, was founded in 1967 on an abandoned World War II gun platform in the North Sea, and has survived into the present day. Others were based on schemes requiring the construction of artificial islands, but only two are known to have risen above sea level.

The Republic of Rose Island was a 400 square metre platform built in international waters off the Italian town of Rimini, in the Adriatic Sea in 1968. It is reported to have issued stamps, minted currency, and declared Esperanto to be its official language. Shortly after completion, however, it was destroyed by the Italian Navy.

The Republic of Minerva was set up in 1972 as a libertarian new country project by Nevada businessman Michael Oliver. Oliver’s group conducted dredging operations at the Minerva Reefs, a shoal located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji. They succeeded in creating a small artificial island, but their efforts at securing international recognition met with little success, and near-neighbour Tonga sent a military force to the area and annexed it.

On April Fools’ Day in 1973, John Lennon and Yoko Ono announced the birth of Nutopia, the world’s first country where all people are ambassadors. Nutopia was described as “a conceptual country” with no boundaries and “no laws other than cosmic.” At the time, Mr. Lennon was being threatened with deportation because of a 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain. As Nutopian ambassadors, Mr. and Ms. Lennon asked for diplomatic immunity and United Nations recognition, and they gave “One White Street” as the embassy address. Neither of them ever lived at that address.

On 1 April 1977, bibliophile Richard Booth, declared the UK town of Hay-on-Wye an “independent republic” with himself as its king. The town has subsequently developed a healthy tourism industry based literary interests, and “King Richard” (whose sceptre consists of a recycled toilet plunger) continues to dole out Hay-on-Wye peerages and honours to anyone prepared to pay for them. The official website for Hay-on-Wye, however, admits that the declaration of independence, along with the later claim to have annexed the United States and renamed it the “US of Hay” were publicity stunts.[2]

Micronational activities were disproportionately common throughout Australia in the final three decades of the 20th century. The Hutt River Province Principality started the ball rolling in 1970, when Prince Leonard (born Leonard George Casley) declared his farming property independent after a dispute over wheat quotas. The year 1976 witnessed the creation of the Province of Bumbunga on a rural property near Snowtown, South Australia, by an eccentric British monarchist named Alex Brackstone, and a dispute over flood damage to farm properties led to the creation of the Independent State of Rainbow Creek in northeastern Victoria (Australia) by Tom Barnes in 1979. In New South Wales, a political protest by a group of Sydney teenagers led to the 1981 creation of the Empire of Atlantium, and a mortgage foreclosure dispute led George and Stephanie Muirhead of Rockhampton, Queensland to secede as the Principality of Marlborough in 1993.

Yet another Australian secessionist state came into existence on 1 May 2003, when Peter Gillies declared the independence of his 66 hectare northern New South Wales farm as the Principality of United Oceania after an unresolved year-long dispute with Port Stephens Council over Gillies’ plans to construct a private residence on the property.

Micronational hobbyists received a significant boost in the mid-1990s when popularisation of the Internet gave them the ability to promote their activities to a global audience. As a result, the number of online and fantasy micronations expanded dramatically. The majority were based in English-speaking countries, however a significant minority arose elsewhere in Portuguese-speaking countries as well.

In the 21st century micronationalism has taken on a less quixotic character, especially through the more mature micronations (Fifth World nations).

There are now micronationists who have been elected to an Official World parliament; micronationists who have been honoured with a MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire); micronationists who have developed new languages in working use; authentic micronational navigators/explorers; and there are even micronational athletes who have appeared on a world championship podiums.

There are also micronations that run alternative Internets with great sophistication; micronations which have issued gold coins; micronations which have co-sponsored a major cultural events; micronations which have been recognised by international organisations; micronations which have launched significant political petitions; and there are even micronations which have sent their flag into the vacuum of space.

But the list of real achievements doesn’t end with specific micronationalists or micronations since there are, or have been, academic conferences on micronations; micronational travel guides; micronational bishops; micronational saints; micronational educational systems; micronational sports; micronational astrologies; micronational races; micronational meridians; micronational legal systems; micronational intellectual property; micronational archaeological findings; micronational virtual invasions with non-virtual consequences; micronational religions; micronational health discoveries; micronational environmental philosophies; and even micronationalism itself has developed into a real protoscience.

In the present day, eight main types of micronations are prevalent:

Micronations of the first type tend to be fairly serious in outlook, involve sometimes significant numbers of relatively mature participants, and often engage in highly sophisticated, structured activities that emulate the operations of real-world nations. A few good examples of these includes:

These micronations also tend to be fairly serious, and involve significant numbers of people interested in recreating the past, especially the Roman or Mediaeval past, and living it in a vicarious way. Examples of these include:

With literally thousands in existence, micronations of this type are by far the most common. They are ephemeral, and tend to be Internet-based, rarely surviving more than a few months, although there are notable exceptions. They generally involve a handful of people, and are concerned primarily with arrogating to their founders the outward symbols of statehood. The use of grand-sounding titles, awards, honours, and heraldic symbols derived from European feudal traditions, and the conduct of “wars” with other micronations, are common manifestations of their activities. Examples include:

Micronations of this type include stand-alone artistic projects, deliberate exercises in creative online and offline fiction, artistamp creations, and even popular films. Examples include:

These types of micronations are typically associated with a political or social reform agenda. Some are maintained as media and public relations exercises, and examples of this type include:

A number of micronations have been established for fraudulent purposes, by seeking to link questionable or illegal financial actions with seemingly legitimate nations. The best known of these are:

A small number of micronations are founded with genuine aspirations to be sovereign states. Many are based on historical anomalies or eccentric interpretations of law, and tend to be easily confused with established states. This category includes:

New-country projects are attempts to found completely new nation-states. They typically involve plans to construct artificial islands (few of which are ever realised), and a large percentage have embraced or purported to embrace libertarian or democratic principles. Examples include:

Seasteading is a lifestyle of making the oceans, or at least water-borne craft, one’s home. Most seasteads historically have been sailing craft, whether perhaps demonstrated by the the Chinese Junk, modified canoes of Oceania, or even the famous Pirates of Libertaria. In modern times in the west the cruising sailboat has begun to be used in the same manner. The term seasteading is of uncertain origin, used at least as early as the turn of the century by Uffa Fox, and others; many feel that catamaran designer and historian James Wharram and his designs represent ideal seasteads. More recently, American sailor and ecological philosopher Jerome FitzGerald has been a leading and effective proponent of seasteading, mostly teaching the concept through the environmental/sailing organization “The Oar Club”. The Seasteader’s Institute in Hilo, Hawaii offers classes, boat-building opportunities, education in forage foods, diving, and other aspects of a Seasteading lifestyle.

Some theoretical seasteads are floating platforms which could be used to create sovereign micronations, or otherwise serve the ends of ocean colonization. The concept is introduced in a paper by Wayne Gramlich, and later in a book by Gramlich, Patri Friedman and Andy House, which is available for free online. Their research aims at a more practical approach to developing micronations, based on currently available technology and a pragmatic approach to financial aspects.

The authors argue that seasteading has the potential to drastically lower the barrier to entry to the governing industry. This allows for more experimentation and innovation with varying social, political, and economic systems. Potential business opportunities include data havens, offshore aquaculture, and casinos, as well as the gamut of typical business endeavors.

There has been a small but growing amount of attention paid to the micronation phenomenon in recent years. Most interest in academic circles has been concerned with studying the apparently anomalous legal situations affecting such entities as Sealand and the Hutt River Province, in exploring how some micronations represent grassroots political ideas, and in the creation of role-playing entities for instructional purposes.

In 2000, Professor Fabrice O’Driscoll, of the Aix-Marseille University, published a book about micronations: Ils ne sigent pas l’ONU (“They are not in the United Nations”), with more than 300 pages dedicated to the subject.

In May 2000, an article in the New York Times entitled “Utopian Rulers, and Spoofs, Stake Out Territory Online” brought the phenomenon to a wider audience for the first time. Similar articles were published by newspapers such as the French Liberation, the Italian La Repubblica, the Greek “Ta Nea”, by O Estado de So Paulo in Brazil, and Portugal’s Viso at around the same time.

Several recent publications have dealt with the subject of particular historic micronations, including Republic of Indian Stream (University Press), by Dartmouth College geographer Daniel Doan, The Land that Never Was, about Gregor MacGregor, and the Principality of Poyais, by David Sinclair (ISBN 0-7553-1080-2).

In August 2003 a Summit of Micronations took place in Helsinki at Finlandia Hall, the site of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). The summit was attended by delegations such as the Principality of Sealand, NSK, Ladonia, the Transnational Republic, and by scholars from various academic institutions.

From 7 November through 17 December 2004, the Reg Vardy Gallery at the University of Sunderland (UK) hosted an exhibition on the subject of micronational group identity and symbolism. The exhibition focused on numismatic, philatelic and vexillological artifacts, as well as other symbols and instruments created and used by a number of micronations from the 1950s through to the present day. A summit of micronations conducted as part of this exhibition was attended by representatives of Sealand, Elgaland-Vargaland, New Utopia, Atlantium, Frestonia and Fusa. The exhibition was reprised at the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York City from 24 June29 July of the following year. Another exhibition about micronations opened at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo in early 2007.

The Sunderland summit was later featured in a 5-part BBC light entertainment television series called “How to Start Your Own Country” presented by Danny Wallace. The series told the story of Wallace’s experience of founding a micronation, Lovely, located in his London flat. It screened in the UK in August 2005.

Similar programs have also aired on television networks in other parts of Europe.

On 9 September 2006, The Guardian newspaper reported that the travel guide company Lonely Planet had published the world’s first travel guide devoted to micronations, the Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations (ISBN 1741047307).

The Democratic Empire of Sunda, which claims to be the Government of the Kingdom of Sunda (an ancient kingdom, in present-day Indonesia) in exile in Switzerland, made media headlines when two so-called princesses, Lamia Roro Wiranatadikusumah Siliwangi Al Misri, 21, and Fathia Reza Wiranatadikusumah Siliwangi Al Misiri, 23, were detained by Malaysian authorities at the border with Brunei, on 13 July 2007, and are charged for entering the country without a valid pass.

In 2010, a documentary film by Jody Shapiro entitled “How to Start your Own Country” was screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary explored various micronations around the world, and included an analysis of the concept of statehood and citizenship. Erwin Strauss, author of the eponymous book, was interviewed as part of the film.

Adapted from the Wikipedia article, “Micronation” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micronation, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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Let’s Turn Nauru Into Transtopia – blogspot.com

Posted: December 2, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Here’s an off-the-wall idea that has some appeal to me … as a long-time Transtopian fantasist and world traveler….

The desert island nation of Nauru needs money badly, and has a population of less than 15,000

There are problems with water supply, but they could surely be solved with some technical ingenuity.

The land area is about 8 square miles. But it could be expanded! Surely it’s easier to extend an island with concrete platforms or anchored floating platforms of some other kind, than to seastead in the open ocean.

The country is a democracy. Currently it may not be possible to immigrate there except as a temporary tourist or business visitor. But I’d bet this could be made negotiable.

Suppose 15,000 adult transhumanists (along with some kids, one would assume) decided to emigrate to Nauru en masse over a 5-year period, on condition they could obtain full citizenship. Perhaps this could be negotiated with the Nauruan government.

Then after 5 years we would have a democracy in which transhumanists were the majority.

Isn’t this the easiest way to create a transhumanist nation? With all the amazing future possibilities that that implies?

This would genuinely be of benefit to the residents of Nauru, which now has 90% unemployment. Unemployment would be reduced close to zero, and the economy would be tremendously enlarged. A win-win situation. Transhumanists would get freedom, and Nauruans would get a first-world economy.

Considerable infrastructure would need to be built. A deal would need to be struck with the government, in which, roughly,

To ensure employment of the relocated transhumanists, we would need to get a number of companies to agree to open Nauru offices. But this would likely be tractable, given the preference of firms to have offices in major tech centers. Living expenses in Nauru would be much lower than in, say, Silicon Valley, so expenses would be lower.

Tourism could become a major income stream, given the high density of interesting people which would make Nauru into a cultural mecca. Currently there is only one small beach on Nauru (which is said to be somewhat dirty), but creation of a beautiful artificial beach on the real ocean is not a huge technological feat.

It would also be a great place to experiment with aquaculture and vertical farming.

What say you? Let’s do it!

P.S.

Other candidates for the tropical island Transtopia besides Nauru would be Tuvalu and Kiribati; but Kiribati’s population is much larger, and Tuvalu is spread among many islands, and is also about to become underwater due to global warming. So Nauru would seem the number one option. Though, Tuvalu could be an interesting possibility also, especially if we offered to keep the island above water by building concrete platforms or some such (a big undertaking, but much easier than seasteading). This would obviously be a major selling point to the government.

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Prison abolition movement – Wikipedia

Posted: at 12:27 pm

The prison abolition movement is a movement that seeks to reduce or eliminate prisons and the prison system, and replace them with more humane and effective systems.

It is distinct from prison reform, which is the attempt to improve conditions inside prisons; however, relying on prisons less could improve their conditions by reducing overcrowding.[1]:3

Some organizations such as the Anarchist Black Cross seek total abolishment of the prison system, not intending to replace it with other government-controlled systems. Many anarchist organizations believe that the best form of justice arises naturally out of social contracts. However, many supporters for prison abolition intend to replace it with other systems, reducing prisons to a smaller role in society.

Prominent social activist Angela Davis, outspoken critic of the prison-industrial complex, openly supports prison abolition.[2] “Mass incarceration is not a solution to unemployment, nor is it a solution to the vast array of social problems that are hidden away in a rapidly growing network of prisons and jails. However, the great majority of people have been tricked into believing in the efficacy of imprisonment, even though the historical record clearly demonstrates that prisons do not work.”[3] Her relevancy in this movement is attested by her close involvement with groups moving to abolish the PIC.[4]

Critical Resistance, co-founded by Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, is an American organization working towards an “international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.”[5] Other similarly motivated groups such as the Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC), a group “committed to exposing and challenging all forms of institutionalized racism, sexism, able-ism, heterosexism, and classism, specifically within the Prison Industrial Complex,” [6] and Black & Pink, an abolitionist organization that focuses around LGBTQ rights, all broadly advocate for prison abolition.[7] Furthermore, names such as the Human Rights Coalition, a 2001 group that aims to abolish prisons,[8][9] and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, a grassroots organization dedicated to dismantling the PIC,[10] can all be added to the long list of organizations that desire a different justice system for our world.[11]

Every other year after Ruth Morris organized the first one in Toronto in 1983,[12] The International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA) gathers activists, academics, journalists, and “others from across the world who are working towards the abolition of imprisonment, the penal system, carceral controls and and the prison industrial complex (PIC),”[13] to discuss three important questions surrounding the reality of prison abolition ICOPA was one of the first penal abolitionist conference movements, similar to Critical Resistance in America, but “with an explicitly international scope and agenda-setting ambition.”[14]

Anarchists wish to eliminate all forms of state control, of which imprisonment is seen as one of the more obvious examples. Anarchists also oppose prisons because the vast majority of inmates are non-violent offenders. Numbers show incarceration rates affect mainly poor people and ethnic minorities, and do not generally rehabilitate criminals, in many cases making them worse.[15] As a result, the prison abolition movement often is associated with humanistic socialism, anarchism and anti-authoritarianism.

In October 2015, members at a plenary session of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) released and adopted a resolution in favor of prison abolition.[16][17]

Proposals for prison reform and proposed alternatives to prisons differ significantly depending on the political beliefs behind them. Proposals and tactics often include:

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published a series of handbooks on criminal justice. Among them is Alternatives to Imprisonment which identifies how the overuse of imprisonment impacts fundamental human rights, especially those convicted for lesser crimes.

Social justice and advocacy organizations such as Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) at the University of California, San Diego often look to Scandinavian countries Sweden and Norway for guidance in regards to successful prison reform because both countries have an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment.[18] According to Sweden’s Prison and Probation Service Director-General, Nils berg, this emphasis is made popular among the Swedish because the act of imprisonment is considered punishment enough.[19] This focus on rehabilitation includes an emphasis on promoting normalcy for inmates, a charge lead by experienced criminologists and psychologists.[20] In Norway a focus on preparation for societal re-entry has yielded “one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world at 20%, [while] the US has one of the highest: 76.6% of [Americans] prisoners are re-arrested within five years”.[21] The Scandinavian method of incarceration seems to be successful: the Swedish incarceration rate decreased by 6% between 2011 and 2012.[22]

In place of prisons, some abolitionists propose community-controlled courts, councils, or assemblies to control the problem of social crime.[23] They argue that with the destruction of capitalism, and the self-management of production by workers and communities, property crimes would largely vanish. A large part of the problem, according to some, is the way the judicial system deals with prisoners, people, and capital. They argue that there would be fewer prisoners if society treated people more fairly, regardless of gender, color, ethnic background, sexual orientation, education, etc. This is proven with the creation of private prisons in America and corporations like Correction Corporation of America (CCA). Its shareholders benefit from the expansion of prisons and tougher laws on crime. More prisoners is seen as beneficial for business.[24]

Opponents of the abolition argue that none of the arguments above address the protection of non-criminal population from the effects of crime, and from particularly violent criminals.

Prison abolitionists such as Amanda Pustlinik take issue with the fact that prisons are used as a “default asylum” for many individuals with mental illness.[40] One question that is often asked by some prison abolitionists is:

“why do governmental units choose to spend billions of dollars a year to concentrate people with serious illnesses in a system designed to punish intentional lawbreaking, when doing so matches neither the putative purposes of that system nor most effectively addresses the issues posed by that population?” [40]

This question is often one of the major pieces of evidence that prison abolitionist claim highlights the depravity of the penal system. Many of these prison abolitionists often state that mentally ill offenders, violent and non-violent, should be treated in mental hospitals not prisons.[41] There are more people with mental illness in prisons that in psychiatric hospitals.[42] By keeping the mentally ill in prisons they claim that rehabilitation cannot occur because prisons are not the correct environment to deal with deep seated psychological problems and facilitate rehabilitative practices.[41] Individuals with mental illnesses that have led them to commit any crime have a much higher chance of committing suicide while in prison because of the lack of proper medical attention.[43] The increased risk of suicide is said to be because there is much stigma around mental illness and lack of adequate treatments within hospitals.[43] The whole point of the penal system is to rehabilitate and reform individuals who have willingly transgressed on the law. According to many prison abolitionists however, when mentally ill persons, often for reasons outside of their cognitive control, commit illegal acts prisons are not the best place for them to receive the help necessary for their rehabilitation.[41] For many prison abolitionists, if for no other reason than the fact that mentally ill individuals will not be receiving the same potential for rehabilitation as the non-mentally ill prison population, prisons are considered to be unjust and therefore violate their Sixth Amendment and Fifth Amendment Rights, in the U.S., and their chance to rehabilitate and function outside of the prison.[40][40][41][44] In America, by violating an individual’s rights as a citizen, prison abolitionists see no reason for prisons to exist, and again, offer another reason people within the movement demand for the abolition of prisons.[40][41][44]

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Prison abolition movement – Wikipedia

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Abolition of the ESA Work-Related Activity Component …

Posted: at 12:27 pm

The Welfare Reform and Act 2016 legislated for the abolition of the Work-Related Activity Component (WRAC)of ESA for new claimants from April 2017. Based on 2016-17 rates, this equates to a reduction of 29.05 a week for claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG). Alongside this, the Government announced “new funding for additional support to help claimants return to work”

ESA is an “income replacement” benefitfor people who have a health condition or disability which limits their ability to work. As of February 2016 there were around 2.4 million ESA claimants in Great Britain, including450,000 in the Work-Related Activity Group.

There are two forms of ESA:

Income-related ESA will be replaced by Universal Credit; contributory ESA will remain as a separate benefit. The Government currently expects the introduction of Universal Credit to be fully complete by 2022.

A person must undergo a Work Capability Assessment to be eligible for ESA. There are three possible outcomes of a Work Capability Assessment;

Following the assessment, successful ESA claimants receive a standard rate plus an additional amount.

The standard rate of ESA is currently 73.10 a week, plus either:

These additions are known as the Support Component and the Work-Related Activity Component, respectively.

In the Summer Budget 2015, it was announced that the Work-Related Activity Component paid to those in the WRAG would be abolished for new claims from April 2017. The equivalent element in Universal Credit will also be abolished. This will be a reduction of 29.05 a week (based on 2016-17 rates) and aligns the rate of payment with those claiming Jobseekers Allowance (2016-17 rate: 73.10 a week). Existing claimants will not be affected, while there will be protections for those who may move into the WRAG or Universal Credit equivalent from the Support Group.

The changes were introduced to remove the financial incentives that could otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work. 640 million a year of savings were initially forecast by 2020-21; this was later revised to 450 million a year.

The changes were widely criticised by disabled charities. The idea that the WRAC incentivises claimants to not look for work has been particularly disputed.

The proposals were opposed by opposition parties. Amendments to retain the component (and equivalent in Universal Credit) were tabled and agreed at the Lords Report Stage of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. The Lords vote followed the publication ofa review initiated by Members of the House of Lords and supported by disability charities; the “Halving the Gap?” review. The review recommended that theGovernment should not proceed with the removal of the Work-Related ActivityComponent.

These amendmentswere overturned by the Commons. A further amendment requiring the Government to provide analysis of the impact of the changes before introducing them was also proposed by the Lords, and subsequently overturned by the Commons.

Alongside the changes to the WRAC was an announcement to provide new funding for additional support to help claimants return to work. The Government has since announced a series of measures and funding to deliver this, including;

60 million per year rising to 100 million per year for practical employment support, including an additional 15 million in 2017-18 directed at the local Jobcentre PlusFlexible Support Fund, to be set asidespecifically forthose with limited capability to work

Further detail of the additional employment support has been set out in the Government’s October 2016 Green Paper, Improving Lives. This was published instead of a previously announced White Paper.

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Abolition of the ESA Work-Related Activity Component …

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