By Winnie Liang, Grade 12
That Albert Einstein — brilliant scientist, social activist, and humanitarian — was a refugee is a well-known fact. Aside from him, however, an incalculable number of people have fled their homelands in the face of rampant human rights violations and armed conflicts. A couple notable examples are British playwright Tom Stoppard, who fled from the imminent Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia as a child refugee, and Somali Canadian musician and activist K’naan, who left his home country to escape from the raging civil war.
Likewise, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled to neighbouring China for survival. Whether the number of defectors is 30,000-50,000 (as estimated by the State Department) or 300,000 (as estimated by some non-governmental organizations), they are all refugees as defined by the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Unfortunately, unlike the very few lucky individuals who have successfully gained asylum, most of them must live underground to avoid being captured by Chinese authorities. Anyone who has ever so unfortunately been caught is to be repatriated to North Korea, where they may face imprisonment, torture, and even execution. The Chinese government’s action is a clear violation of international law.
By Winnie Liang, Grade 12
How much do you know about ACTA? It wouldn’t come as any surprise if you never heard of ACTA before, because the lack of transparency since the beginning of its negotiations prevented it from garnering public attention. In fact, the majority of the world’s population weren’t aware of its existence . . . until now.
You may have used some of your favourite music and photos to put together a trailer video for a school project before. Unfortunately, there‘s a chance you may not be able to do this again, as the rigorous enforcement of ACTA makes it an illegal act of copyright infringement. So, what exactly is ACTA?
Written by Editors of the Word
The U.S. Congress has done it again! It is not the first time that the Congress has frustrated the American people. But instead of doing so by spending almost $1.3 trillion on wars, the brouhaha they’ve caused this time stems from the passing of a bill that blocks regulations of tomato paste, potato, and salt in school meals. The law now declares the tomato paste used on pizzas as a viable replacement for vegetable as a source of nutrition. So, does that mean that the Congress is affirming that pizza is a vegetable?!
For the sake of argument, Tammy and Max have each taken a side. As for me (Winnie), I am going to sit back, relax, eat some popcorn, and watch them fight for a win.
What a twist! How will our hero get out of this one? Go to the front page of the Word Website and vote for one of the two options below:
A) BARGAIN FOR HIS FREEDOM
B) FIGHT HIS WAY OUT
By Winnie Liang, Grade 12
“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.“ - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Every year, on the 11th day of the 11th month, many people worldwide make a special effort to commemorate those whose lives were cut short by war. In a little over one week, we will do so once again. Sadly, remembering the brutality of previous wars doesn’t seem to change the fact that ever more meaningless and devastating armed conflicts are taking place, right here and now.
Historically, Remembrance Day marked the end of the First World War, which was declared official at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918. Sparked by an assassination in a small corner of a long-forgotten European empire, World War I spread throughout the entire world, causing over 35 million military and civilian atrocities. However, those 35 million souls would be all that we are memorializing today if “The War to End All Wars” had not revolutionized the way wars were fought. In the years that followed, regardless of all the ‘remembrance’, the world had put together a history of appalling violence.
As human beings, our ability to learn and transform sets us apart from other animals. We all know how important it is to learn from past mistakes and not repeat them in the future, yet reality tells us otherwise. (more…)
On November 19, 2011, Vancouverites will cast their votes in to choose 1 Mayor, 10 Councillors, 7 Park Commissioners, and 9 School Trustees in the municipal election. With the big event just about a month away, the Word’s editors have interviewed two great individuals, both of whom are candidates of this fall’s election. From Vision Vancouver, we have Kerry Jang, a Professor of Psychiatry at UBC and a current City Councillor, as well as a Windermere alumnus from the 1980s! On the other hand, we have Bill Yuen from the Non-Partisan Association (NPA). He is an engineer and a former school trustee whose children both graduated from Windermere. Both Jang and Yuen are residents of our neighbourhood, and it has been a pleasure meeting them. We would like to thank them for making time for us in their busy schedules to create this segment!
So, without further delay, let’s get right into our interviews!
Kerry Jang on September 21, 2011:
A: There are two roles to my position as a City Councillor. First of all, all Councilors are essentially responsible for things like city budget, making sure the roads are clean, and ensuring that police and fire departments have money. But, more specifically, Gregor Robertson asked me to look into the issues of homelessness because that’s what I’ve been trained in. So a lot of my work is to do with homelessness, as well as the sex trade and how to protect women and young girls who might be lured into the trade.
Q: Why did you decide to become a City Councillor?
A: Because of my interest in mental illness. I got involved through working with homeless people. I set up the Saturday Breakfast and Shower Program at the Collingwood Neighborhood House to address homelessness in our area. It was unique for its time because we looked at what the homeless people needed instead of what we thought they needed. We asked, “What do you actually want?” and a guy answered, “I’ve got kind of a place to live but don’t like sleeping here. What I really want is a place to come and shower – because I stink – and a place to wash my clothes and have breakfast.” The whole point of the breakfast program was to create a place where they could be found. We made sure all the healthcare and mental health workers were there on Saturdays to see what they needed. So, that’s how we got them treated. It was great! Sometimes we could see people from the healthcare saying, “I finally found him. I’ve been looking for three months! He can finally take his medication today!” *High five!* Also, we made sure that a homeless count would be done in the city every year. Windermere students have helped with that, I believe. This tells us what kinds of services are needed. Why would I build a big, fancy healthcare centre if they’re not even here? We have now reduced homelessness by 83%. There had once been 1,000 people living on the street, and now there are only 145 left. It’s amazing!
Q: Is there any way students like us can become more involved in our city’s politics?
A: Absolutely! We have the Vancouver Youth and other advisory groups in the city. The Youth Justice Council and Restorative Justice are both very good examples. Also, there are a lot of community consultations where youth can come and leave their comments, which are the most important to me. I’m just a few years away from reaching fifty years old now, so I’ll be seventy when the stuff I’ve been planning comes to fruition! On the other hand, you guys will still be at the prime of your lives, so you will be the ones to take the actions and carry out the initiatives. If any students want to get involved in the city’s politics, they can contact me directly and I’ll hook you up. In January, if I get re-elected, I’ll be happy to take applications from students who want to sit on our advisory boards.
Q: What was Windermere like in 1980?
A: We were just coming out of the Disco era, so lots of guys were walking around with afros. Girls didn’t wear makeup – t-shirt and jeans were all they wore. We had a reputation as a tough school; my teeth actually got punched out one time. We were really mouthy, really street-smart. There was a real spirit in the school, though, and the teachers were fantastic! They really worked to make sure we focused on what was important. They also understood that a lot of us came from a poor background – I did. They tailored programs to help us out because we couldn’t afford tutors. In fact, we all had to work and give money to our families. Right after school – bam – a lot of us would head out to our jobs. It was a very different time economically.
Windermere was our place and we wanted to protect it. It had been a good experience here. I joke about the fights a lot, but they only happened once in a while; it wasn’t a warzone in here. When I went to my 30th high school reunion, I saw that everyone was doing really well. They owned businesses, they were professional, and one was a stand-up comedian! Despite the reputation we had when I was here, everyone turned out really well.
Q: Where did you go after graduating from Windermere?
A: I graduated from Windermere – barely – with a GPA of C-. My teachers told me to go to Langara for a year or two. There, I found something I really wanted to do, which was psychology, and from there I went to SFU, then to the University of Western Ontario, where I did my PhD, and afterwards I went to UBC. Now, I’m a full professor with tenure. It’s really all because people gave me time and understood my background, and that’s what Windermere was about. We were all tough kids. You guys are in a better place, I think, and you’re a lot smarter.
Q: Earlier this year, Vision’s creation of the bike lanes downtown was scrutinized for being rather inefficient, and a waste of space. What are your thoughts on that?
A: The bike lanes have been on the city’s transportation plan for 30 years. We finally decided to implement them because we noticed from data that car trips had decreased about 50% and more people were riding bikes than ever before. Without bike lanes, cyclists slowed down traffic. By creating dedicated bike lanes, we’ve actually increased traffic flow throughout downtown. Businesses thought that they would be impacted, but none of that happened. Instead, their profits went up because people without cars are now willing to go downtown. My favorite argument was that it destroys parking, but we did a study and there are more than ten thousand excess spaces along Hornby Street’s bike lane alone. I drive downtown and I’ve never had a problem finding parking, so I don’t buy any of those arguments. What we’re actually seeing is an increase in the number of bikers – it has skyrocketed. North American culture, though, is that we love our cars. This is why we need youth to change our perspective.
Q: Any advice for the Windermere students?
A: Do what you love! The money will come with it.
Q: Can you introduce yourself to readers of the Word?
A: I’ve been in Canada for almost forty years and Vancouver is very special for me. I met and married my wife of thirty-five years and raised my family here. I’m also glad that I’ve had the opportunity to help the community for the past twenty years. I had been a school board trustee; on the city of Vancouver’s Planning Commission; on the board of the Vancouver Public Library; and a council member with the Ministry of Children and Family Services. I also headed the PAC of Windermere at one point. I have done volunteer work at community centers and all sorts of fundraising for several public organizations.
Q: Your children went to Windermere, right? What do you think of the school?
A: I think it was one of the smaller schools in Vancouver, but it’s pretty close-knit and a pretty good school Both of my children got into UBC and one of them became a lawyer.
Q: If you were to be elected as a City Councillor, what would your responsibilities be?
A: Well, certainly I would be responsible for providing services to Vancouverites and for dealing with issues that come up within the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Taking care of various orders and supplies and Translink – that is part of the City Council’s responsibilities.
Q: So, you want to direct your main focus to the engineering aspect of the city?
A: Well, no, actually. I would probably have to look into the all the different aspects. I find that Vancouver needs to be more than just a green city; it has to be competitive and affordable in order to survive. What I see with young people nowadays is that it is getting tougher and tougher for them to live in Vancouver, which makes holding down taxes one of my aims. If you look at the last three years, they raised taxes by 8% in the first year with an increase in the price of houses. Just coming into the market has become an issue for them. The second area that I can work on is streamlining cumbersome regulations to improve services. My experience over the last twenty years as an industrial engineer has shown that different processes and programs can be streamlined. This way, I can make it easier for the small businesses in our city.
Q: Gregor Robertson was elected in 2008 on the platform that he would make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020. What is your take on the environmental issue?
A: I support Vancouver in becoming a green city – we all want to live in a green city – but it needs to have a balanced approach. You need to balance the needs of other constituencies. For instance, bike lanes are being built on existing sidewalks and some citizens did complain to me. Once, I saw an 84-year-old with a walker having to walk past the bike lane down a hill before he can get to the car parked beside the street. I see the current government really stuffing this down our throats, saying that “this is [their] way and this is the only way.” As a matter of fact, I talked to some nearby residents and they came up with really good alternative ideas, but there hasn’t been any meaningful consultation with citizens like them.
Q: What about the store owners along the bike lanes? Have they encountered any problems?
A: Like I said, you have to look at the overall impact. Something can’t just be implemented for a special interest group. It has to be inclusive; you need to look at the interests of all Vancouverites. Going green is a good initiative, but it can’t be carried out at the expense of others.
Q: What should be the number one issue for a City Councillor?
A: I would say it’s accountability at this point. It’s important that we are accountable to our citizens and willing to find out what they need. From what I heard from people in Vancouver, affordability is number one and they don’t want to see any tax hikes, as well as money being spent unwisely. Why expand the mayor’s office or create a new lunchroom? Why would they spend millions of dollars on secret bailouts? Why spend money to make shelters for homeless chickens?
Q: Homeless chickens?
A: The government created a shelter for homeless chickens – chickens that, say, people raised but then released. That’s something the current City Council is building. Citizens don’t want us to waste money like that. That’s why I’ll certainly go for more financial transparency if I get elected. Right now, there’s just too much money spent on things that people don’t know about.
Q: Recently, parking has become an issue in Vancouver. There have been areas on Kingsway, for instance, where they have suddenly included parking meters. Is this actually a good thing for the city or just a way for them to exploit the citizens?
A: I will say that it will definitely have some impact on local businesses and I don’t think that’s the way to go. It comes back to the bike lanes downtown. They have taken away the parking there and they have to get parking fees elsewhere, so they pick places that have good businesses and a busy traffic. The bike lanes were put in so fast that there wasn’t time for any good consultation.
Q: Do you have any advice for our readers still in high school?
A: Well, hard work! I think there’s no substitute for hard work. The real world is tougher than school, you have to be educated and be prepared. No matter what your post-secondary plans are, hard work always pays off. You have to work in the community, do volunteer work, and help others. Be a good citizen!
Welcome to the 2011-2012 School Year! We hope everyone had a restful and fun-filled summer break as it is time to get back into the swing of school!
After 68 days of relaxation, you might notice that quite a few people are finding school to be anything but smooth. Without a doubt, the start of a new school year is a big transition for most, if not all, of the students. This is especially the case for those who have been oversleeping and feeling lackadaisical almost every day over the last couple of months. However, there is no need to worry at all! Hundreds of students around you feel the same way too. And like any other high school year, you will soon find yourself enjoying the time you get to spend with your friends – both old and new – and looking forward to your favourite classes.
By Editors of The Windermere Word
On August 6th, a large riot broke out in Tottenham, North London, and the disturbances quickly spread to other areas of England, such as Bristol and the Midlands. The scale of chaos was unlike anything the city had ever seen. The riots lasted for five days, during which five people were killed, another two hundred injured, and more than $300 million worth of property was stolen or destroyed. Nonetheless, tragic as the riots were, they shed light on a number of social justice issues the citizens face daily.
By: Winnie Liang, Grade 11
While we focus on the U.S. Military’s next move in Afghanistan and Iraq, most of us tend to forget the agony suffered by many in other bloody political and military conflicts around the world. Just a few hundred kilometers away, the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is anything but peaceful. The Israeli government and Palestinian leadership have long been fighting with each other over territorial disputes. And as is the case with all struggles of power, the innocent civilians and peaceful protestors are the ones who have to pay the price.
On Thursday, April 14, an Italian peace activist named Vittorio Arrigoni (age 36) was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip, part of the Palestinian territories, by members of a small extremist group. Shortly after the abduction, a video was released, showing Vittorio bounded, blindfolded, and bloodied, one of his captors gripping his hair. The group claimed to be representing a group called “Monotheism and Holy War,” who oppose the Hamas government for not enforcing strict Islamic law and for refusing to a ceasefire with Israel. They vowed to execute Vittorio unless the Hamas government (the Palestinian Islamist political party that has been governing Gaza since 2007) promised to free the group’s imprisoned leader and two other members. Then, on Friday, April 15, Vittorio’s lifeless body was found in an abandoned apartment. The Hamas police who found him said his body had “signs of strangulation and hanging around his neck,” as well as marks of handcuffs on his wrists and marks of beating on his face.
For 10 years before his death, Vittorio committed himself fully to campaigning for the recognition of Palestinian human rights under Israeli occupation in Palestinian territories. He came to Gaza in 2008 with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led advocacy group that uses nonviolence to oppose the Israeli occupation and help Palestinians in the impoverished coastal territory. According to Huwaida Arraf, Vittorio’s dear friend of his and the co-founder of the ISM, he was an unstoppable force with “a beautiful soul, and a big heart” to all who knew him. Despite several arrests and his deportation from West Bank (another Palestinian territory) by Israeli forces, his passion kept him in action. He felt deeply that he had to do whatever he was capable of to help bring about equality and human rights to Palestinians and help educate the outside world about what torment the Palestinians were going through. His book, Gaza Stay Human, reported on the pain and horror he witnessed and went through during Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli military response to Hamas’ rocket fire in Operation Oil Stain, which broke a ceasefire between the two sides.
The brutal murder of Vittorio Arrigoni strikes the hearts and minds of many, especially those who are equally dedicated and passionate about the world’s humanitarian causes. He was a brave man, and a beautiful soul. He gave his all to what he believed to be the right thing to do, and he lost his life in the process. However, he will be remembered, and his dreams carried on by others. About these things, one can be certain. The question is: how will the rest of the world view this tragedy? Is it just a sad event that we should grieve and mourn, and move on from afterwards? Or should we remember it as a representation of how many people are striving for fundamental human rights? Compared to the people living in third-world countries and war zones, our lives seem absolutely perfect. But we are not the only ones who deserve that kind of life. Everyone does, and we have the ability to help those who don’t. It doesn’t mean we have to all be Vittorios and sacrifice ourselves; it merely means that we have the power to change things and to help others, and if everyone is willing to give a little support, together we can turn the impossible into reality.
By: Winnie Liang, Grade 11
Canada is one of the five countries that have promised to “phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that lead to wasteful consumption” at the G20 Leaders Summit in Philadelphia back in 2009. No real action has been taken since then. Instead, Canada’s debt has rocketed to $56 billion, which means there will definitely be a serious cut-back on government spending. And who is going to suffer from it? The answer is us, the average citizens. The Conservative Party has never been a big fan of social spending, so budgets on healthcare and social welfare are the most likely to be cut to deal with the government deficit.
While the country’s debt continues to rise, the federal government is subsidizing oil companies with $1.4 billion per year. This number increases even more if other fossil fuels, such as coal, are factored into the calculation. Along with provincial subsidies, the amount of subsidies provided to fossil fuel companies reached up to $2.84 billion in 2008, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). However, over half of it ($1.59 billion) is taken in by the Alberta tar sands, the world’s biggest environmental disaster. This is larger than the combined 2008 budgets of Environment Canada ($1.1 billion) and Alberta Environment ($403 million). Annually, the tar sands brings in above $1.2 trillion, yet more than $1.1 trillion of the revenue does not belong to Canadian companies but to foreign-owned companies, five of which are ranked by Fortune magazine in 2010 as being among the top 10 largest in the world.
Most of the aforementioned subsidies are given in the forms of special tax breaks and royalty reductions. However, the Government of Alberta is also planning to subsidize oil and gas producers by protecting them from legal liability in the event of accidents. Right now, the protection is only provided to those in the nuclear industry. By given such a privilege to them, operators of nuclear power plants cannot be held financially responsible for the full cost of accidents they cause. Instead, taxpayers like us are going to be paying for a bulk of the cleanup costs.
“This government’s irresponsible support for the fossil fuel industry is leaving Canada behind – and costing us billions,” said Nathan Cullen, New Democrat Energy and Natural Resources critic. “There are a lot of Canadians still hurting from the recession, and given the choice, I really don’t think they would agree to donate to the world’s most profitable oil and gas companies – a gift that works out to $75 a piece from every single Canadian.”
So what would if Canada stopped giving billion-dollar hand-outs to the fossil fuel industry, as it had promised in the G20 Leaders Summit? An economic modeling done by Greenpeace found that:
Deficits would go down: Without having to give away huge amounts of money, government revenues would certainly go up. For instance, there would be a rise of 5% in Alberta, 4% in Saskatchewan, and 1% federally.
Pollution would go down: The government is encouraging greenhouse gas emissions by providing subsidies to fossil fuel companies. Currently, Canada’s emissions are projected to rise by about 2% by 2020. In Alberta, there would be a 5% increase in provincial emission, contributed to by a 12% increase in emissions from the tar sands. By removing the subsidies, the amount of environmental pollution would significantly decrease.
Employment would not be affected negatively, but rather positively: Although the stopping subsidies to fossil fuel companies would affect the total employment in the industry, by transferring subsidies to environmental and social programs, more labour would be employed in those areas. For instance, the government could restart the EcoENERGY program that offered grants to homeowners who weatherized their drafty houses. Weatherization is the practice of modifying and protecting a building’s interior in a way that it reduces energy consumption and optimizes energy efficiency. Besides reducing 23% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, such program provides work to local businesses and contractors, therein increasing the need for workers.
“From an economic perspective, eliminating oil and gas subsidies just makes sense,” said Thomas Mulcair, the New Democrat Finance critic. “Since 2004, Canada’s fossil fuel industry has nearly doubled its revenues – it simply doesn’t need tax-payer funded handouts. And even worse, those subsidies only drive up our Loonie, over-price our exports, and discourage development of the green energy sector.”
This is why organizations and citizens need to voice their opinion by writing letters or signing a petition to leaders such as members of parliament, finance minister, or even the prime minister to urge the immediate phase out of fossil fuel subsidies. The pledge Canada made to the world nearly two years ago in Philadelphia remains unfulfilled, and it is up to the people to make sure it will be in the near future.
By: Winnie Liang, Grade 11
As if the “Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch” isn’t bad enough already, similar garbage patches can be found in the Mediterranean Sea, the historic heart of western civilization. Plagued by trash for years, the Mediterranean is now covered with more than 250 billion pieces of plastic. This is equivalent to nearly 500 tonnes of garbage. Yet, the body of water that carries so much garbage also forms the northern and western borders of a number of Middle-eastern countries, and from which many people depend on to earn their livelihoods from fishing, tourism, and other activities.
The research work is completely done by Mediterranean EnDangered (MED), an international organization dedicated to the protection of the Mediterranean Sea. Its marine biologists surveyed the water off France, northern Italy, and Spain to a depth of up to 15 centimeters in July, 2010. Most of the plastic particles found were microscopic, each weighing 1.8 milligrams or less. These particles of micro-debris are smaller than 5 millimeters in size and are often missed in coast clean-ups. As these particles mix in with plankton, they are ingested by small fish which in turn are consumed by larger predators. And by this I mean that they could very well wind up in our own dinner plates.
When you throw out your garbage, you want it gone. Yet, the garbage is now coming back to haunt us, poisoning us by hiding in the food we eat. Floating between Japan and Hawaii is an island of plastic materials the size of Texas. In the Mediterranean Sea is the storehouse of 250 billion pieces of equally poisonous plastic waste. They were both created by the human addiction to plastic. We have reached an era when it dominates our daily lives. It now seems plastic is as important to us as air and water. Sure enough, this magical creation of man brings much convenience to us by providing us with plastic food wrappers, plastic bags, plastic water bottles, etc, etc. However, more than 180 marine species, including seals and tortoises, are paying for our unconstrained use of this unsustainable material. Their absorption of plastic debris can cause death by suffocation or starvation because their breathing or digesting system is blocked.
MED’s research last year had only focused on the surface waters. New research missions in 2011 are expected to give scientists a better understanding of the plastic crisis. Meanwhile, there is already some progress in lowering people’s dependency on plastic; Italy has recently made a decision to completely abolish the use of plastic bags. This sets an example for the other Mediterranean countries and the rest of the world. If all come together in this movement, the amount of plastic going out to the sea will significantly reduce.
By: Winnie Liang, Grade 11
What is food? To us, food is something that provides us with nutrients, energy, and life; to Monsanto, a U.S.-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, the food that we consume every single day is a new form of poison that can provide the corporation’s high echelon with virtually limitless amount of wealth.
“Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” On Monsanto’s homepage, this excerpt introduces the corporation with great rhetoric… and with zero truth.
Monsanto is well-known for products called genetically engineered seeds, which are modified using insertion or deletion of specific genes to make the crops resistant to the Round-Up herbicide. This allows farmers to spray Round-Up – another product from Monsanto – to kill weeds and all other unwanted plant life while preserving their crops. With these genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Monsanto has linked itself to “life sciences”. Already, about 90% of the plant gene pool in America is genetically modified.
Five pure myths that Monsanto designed for its GMOs to gain public interest are: 1) they are needed to feed the world’s huge population; 2) they have been thoroughly tested and proven safe; 3) they increase crop yield; 4) they reduce the amount of agricultural chemicals that is used; and 5) they can be contained, therefore capable of coexisting with natural crops. As fantastic as the words might sound, every single one of the five has been proven to be false. For instance, a former Monsanto employee named Kirk Azevedo was recruited in 1996 to sell GM cotton, mostly fed to cattle. When he found out that no safety studies were conducted on the new, unintended proteins in Roundup Ready cotton plants, he stressed the necessity of either conducting safety tests or destroying the GM cotton due to possible toxicity. To his utter astonishment, people shunned him and paid no mind to the issue. That was when Kirk Azevedo, feeling disgusted, resigned. “I am not going to be part of this disaster,” he said.
You may ask, “Isn’t the government supposed to protect us?” Contrary to our common belief, this protection is not guaranteed. To get government approvals to sell GM products in countries worldwide, Monsanto, with mountains of cash, coerced and bribed government officials, and even successfully infiltrated the upper echelons by placing former corporate officials into government positions. In Indonesia, at least 140 officials were bribed or given questionable payments for an approval of GM products in the country. In India, official report on Monsanto’s Bt cotton was falsified to show increase in crop yields. Moreover, faces that once appeared in the Monsanto administration continually reappeared in important government positions in America, India, Brazil, Europe, and other countries. In the U.S., GM foods were declared to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA in 1992 without undergoing the required testing procedures. The policy of self-policing, in which products are believed to be safe in the FDA as long as Monsanto “says so,” was overseen by the Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Michael Taylor, who just “coincidentally” happened to be a former outside attorney for Monsanto and the Food Biotechnology Council.
When it comes to scientific research, Monsanto is definitely brilliant in creating flawed experiments to avoid showing negative effects that would otherwise be present if correct scientific methods were used. Flaws in duration, tested subjects, and amount of variables such as the amount of digestive enzymes are common. For instance, the GM protein in Monsanto’s high-lysine GM corn was labeled as safe because its presence in the soil was consumed as tiny residues in regular human diet. However, the company neglected to mention that the corn’s protein amount is actually 30,000,000,000 to 4,000,000,000,000 times more of what is consumed by an average U.S. citizen, meaning that 22,000 pounds of soil are eaten every second of every day. Do you think 22,000 pounds is the weight of the small, hardly detectable soil residues that a fruit or vegetable has?
Nowadays, desperate farmers in India are forced to buy GM products due to the elimination of non-GM cotton seeds in many regions. No matter how hard they work, the high interest rates of four times the original price only add to a debt that is impossible to pay off, especially when the farmers’ bodies are weakened by the large amount of pesticides used. The number of Bt cotton-related suicides in India exceeds 125,000, often committed by drinking unused pesticides. Although in our much more comfortable lifestyle, we do not handle deadly chemicals everyday, GM foods still affect our health if consumed regularly. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) testified that consuming GM foods, which is hard for us to identify with the lack of labels, can cause health issues such as infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
After reading about the negative effects of Monsanto’s products, I returned to its homepage and read the so-called Monsanto Pledge under the “Corporate Responsibility” section. What I saw immediately was several bolded key words such as integrity, transparency (of information), sharing, and benefits (to customers and the environment). Any one of these words would contradict the truth of Monsanto’s lack of care for anything other than financial profit. After being proven guilty of covering up a 50-year-long poisoning of a town in Anniston, Alabama, on February 22, 2002, Monsanto’s documents were released to the public. One of the corporation’s best quotations is: “We can’t afford to lose one dollar of business.” Way back in 1991, Monsanto had already been planning for its goal of achieving industrial dominance in a world where there are virtually no natural seeds, but over 100 GM and patented foods. They hope to realize this future around 2015 or 2020. Their goal is very difficult to achieve, but not impossible, especially considering they know controlling global food sources is more powerful and more destructive than nuclear weapons. By controlling what we eat, they control us.
By: Winnie Liang, Grade 10
In 2009, the number of suicides committed by American soldiers rose to such an extent that we can no longer ignore the psychological damage of warfare that affect the people involved, including civilians.
In 2001, at the beginning of the Afghan war, there were 52 suicides committed by the serving soldiers. The numbers rose year after year. Last year, the suicide number reached 197. In 2009, there were 140 on-duty soldiers that took their own lives, along with another 71 National Guard and Reserve personnel. On a daily basis, one out of five soldiers attempts suicide. And out of 100,000 soldiers, more than 20 succeed. This might not be a very big percentage, but consider this: those who don’t end their own lives struggle with nightmares and flashbacks of the terror they’ve seen in war, for the rest of their lives. As for the suicide rate among the Navy and Air Force, they are still roughly the same as 2001.