Archive for November 7th, 2005

Avian flu: who’s really at fault

This morning, I stumbled across this article on avian flu and the US poultry industry’s response to it:

Asian governments must provide financial incentives and shut down as many backyard poultry farms as possible to halt the spread of bird flu, a leading U.S. poultry industry official said.

“We cannot control migratory birds but we can surely work hard to close down as many backyard farms as possible,” [Margaret Say, Southeast Asian director for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council] told Reuters. “And we can do that only if backyard farmers are given an alternative source of living — some incentive to close down.”

Very convenient, I think, for the US poultry industry — which, as we all know, has been a paragon of healthy practices and good treatment of workers and animals alike — to be advocating for the elimination of an important part of the economy and way of life in Asia. Pinning it on the small guys is always easier than fessing up to the wreck that’s been created by the big guys. Additionally, these backyard farmers that the industrial poultry industry would like to shut down just happens to be their competition. But that’s just a coincidence, of course.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Democracy Now, on which Amy Goodman was interviewing Mike Davis, author of a new book on avian flu entitled The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. He had this to say about the poultry industry, backyard farmers, and culpability in the resurgance of avian flu:

…the ecology of influenza, like other diseases, has changed dramatically in the last 10 or 15 years because of economic globalization, because of the breakdown of biological barriers between animal and human populations, because of air travel, because of urbanization, but in this case, above all, because of something called the “livestock revolution.” And that’s been the generalization around the world of the American model of poultry production, the Tyson model. Tyson is the giant poultry producer, one of the most exploitative corporations in the United States with just an appalling record of working conditions. Tyson kills several billion chickens a year. It’s created huge conurbations of chickens, unprecedented concentrations of chickens …

The corporate poultry industries have undertaken an international offensive, claiming that the fault resides entirely with the backyard producers, the tens of millions of small farmers across the world who have free-range chickens in constant contact with ducks and wild birds and children playing amongst them. And although this is part of the ecology of avian flu, the thing that has changed the way that flu emerges, that has amplified, I think, the danger and the speed with which it evolves, are these huge industrialized concentrations.

An almost perversely lighthearted PS given the subject matter above: I love Democracy Now. Though I heard about it constantly, I’d never listened to the show until a few weeks ago, and now it’s on my iPod almost every day on my way home from work. Not only is the news delivered by Goodman and Juan Gonzalez incredibly on-point and insightful, but, I must admit, I think Amy Goodman’s voice and delivery are totally hot. Yes, I’m a huge weirdo.

More Lies from BushCo

From Reuters AlertNet:

A captured al Qaeda operative who told U.S. authorities that Iraq had trained al Qaeda members to use unconventional weapons was identified as a probable liar months before the Bush administration began using his claims to make its case for war …

“Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control,” the excerpts [of a Defense Intelligence Agency document dated February 2002] said.

Add another one to the pack of lies that the Bush Administration used to send this country to war (not that many of us ever believed any of it.) That last bit is especially telling, given that Iraq and al Qaeda have so often been depicted by our government and the mainstream media as being oh-so-similar, obvious allies in a radical Islamist plot against the West. No, not quite. For all of the many problems with Hussein’s regime, Iraq was a secular state prior to the US invasion – not a fact reflected in the rhetoric of the Bush regime, other pundits, and some of the mainstream media, all of whom continuously lump Iraq, Iran, al Qaeda, the rioting youth of France, and other groups together into one great big Muslim bogey-man, by virtue of their shared religion alone.

Legislating love

From my friend Dex: He looks too ‘aloof’ in photographs, so Immigration rejected his wife. This is a Canadian incident, but similarly racist, xenophobic, and just plain heartbreaking applications of immigration laws occur in the US every day. As Dex put it, “this is what happens when the government tries to legislate love.”

Speaking of legislating love, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Latino/a Coalition for Justice recently released this report about queer Latina couples, based on the 2000 census (thanks to Julie for the link). Some of the findings: Latina queer couples earn less and are less likely to own a house than white queer couples, which is not very surprising – racism and classism affects queer Latinas just as it affects all Latinas.

What was particularly interesting to me were findings that about two-thirds of Latina queer couples are raising kids, and nearly half of Latina queer couples include someone who is not a US citizen, both statistics indicating that gay marriage could have very important affects on Latina queer folks – and that a lack of gay marriage can have very negative affects, when it comes to raising children and immigration struggles.

I often hear (and often agree with) arguments that the mainstream gay movement leaves many people out by focusing so singularly on gay marriage, that gay marriage is not priority number one for many low-income queers and queers of color, and that gay marriage is all about legitimizing certain kinds of queer relationships (monogamous between two people) and delegitimizing others. But it’s important to remember that gay marriage really could have an important and beneficial impact on many queer immigrants and queer people of color.

The Bush Administration speaks from both sides of its mouth on torture

From Reuters AlertNet: Bush vows “we do not torture” terror suspects:

“We do not torture and therefore we’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it more possible to do our job,” Bush said.

And by working with Congress, they Bush Administration apparently means sending in Cheney to fight efforts by Congress to outlaw federal agencies from using torture. Because yeah, whatever, they don’t torture. But they just want to be able to. You know. Just in case.

At least Condoleezza Rice is making a whit of sense, for once.

In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department’s rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England. On a trip to Canada last month, Rice interrupted a packed itinerary to hold a secure video-teleconference with Cheney on detainee policy to make sure no decisions were made without her input.

… Rice has emerged as an advocate for changing the rules to “get out of the detainee mess,” said one senior U.S. official familiar with discussions. Her top advisers, along with their Pentagon counterparts, are working on a package of proposals designed to address all controversial detainee issues at once, instead of dealing with them on a piecemeal basis.

One might wish that Rice wanted to change the rules in order to uphold human rights and some notion of true justice, rather than to “get out of the detainee mess.” But we’ll take what little we can get, I suppose.