"Lost" Tribe Discovered in Brazilian Amazon

Splashing across headlines all over the internet, and capturing the imagination of people around the world is the story of the "discovery" of an uncontacted tribe deep in the Brazilian Amazon near the Peruvian border. The story is actually based on a series of dramatic photographs showing excited men with drawn bows and arrows, tribe members in full body paint, thatch buildings, evidence of gardens, and other random items of everyday life. This BBC link has a nice close-up of one of the pictures, with accompanying explanations of the various aspects of the picture.
The BBC also has a series of seven pictures taken from the Brazilian helicopter that came across the tribe.
This is believed to be one of about 100 uncontacted tribes in the world, although half of them are believed to be in the Amazon. According to officials in Brazil, there are no plans to make further contact with the group, although that does not mean they will be left alone. Historically, uncontacted groups in the Amazon have not fared well after being contacted. Contacting groups tends to introduce illnesses that typically wreak havoc on the groups that have no previous exposure - even to simple things like the common cold. Post-contact, many groups are pressured off of their land, and what amounts to a forced move to assimilation with the national culture. This does not tend to work out so well either. According to Sydney Possuelo, a former official with Brazil's Indian protection agency who founded its isolated tribes department, "In 508 years of history, out of the thousands of tribes that exist none have adapted well to society in Brazil." Certainly, the ethics involved in making the decision of whether to proceed with further contact or leave the group alone are not so clear cut. Leaving them alone now leaves them vulnerable to less than noble corporate interests that actively search the area for oil and logging sites. Making physical contact may introduce illnesses that could decimate the small group, and introduce changes that may erode customs and traditions.
An article by Pedro Fonseca and Terry Wade explains many of the issues that make contact with such groups so complex.
Also check out the Discovery Channel coverage for a little more info.

We also found some video footage with commentary posted on youtube:

An Inconvenient Convergence

Appearing in mainstream media more and more frequently is coverage of the food riots that are breaking out across the globe. These sometimes violent riots reflect the food crisis that was, not long ago, a future prediction. Now, the global food crisis is upon us and is spurring debate, and creating very real consequences, about crop diversity, gas prices and biofuels, urbanization, global warming and environmental changes, and the concentrated food market. To put this numerically, the number of people who will suffer from the convergence of these factors is expected to rise from 850 million to 950 million. Food prices globally have seen an 83% increase. What follows are short overviews of some articles that seek to clarify the influence of these factors and what can be done to lessen their impact.

Two very important factors in the crisis are crop diversity and the reliance on imported food. Less crop diversity makes countries vulnerable to problems of supply and demand, which is playing out now in Latin and South America. Compounding the problem is the reliance of many countries on imported food, which was cheap, but only until recently.People are now calling for the recovery of crop diversity, and, in the process, preserving knowledge and improving nutrition. Read the full article here.

Many compartmentalize the food crisis into these neat categories: the conversion of land from food production to fuel production, the effect of global warming on small farmers, and the dangers of a concentrated food market. The world has witnessed the collapse of Haiti’s rice market, resulting in headline-making food riots. In Mexico, we have seen the rise of corn and gas prices and the concentration of the corn market due to NAFTA policies. Recent events in Myanmar have brought into focus the need for getting to the root of the global food crisis. One of the lesser talked about factors in the market changes is “the hike in speculation as investors search for new opportunities to make money out of money.” With that said, people are moving to make changes. Instead of seeing signs of food crisis as ominous, one writer argues, they “should be seen as wake-up calls to fix our most vital link to each other and to life itself—the food system.” Read the full article here.

In a Working Paper for the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Laurie Garrett uses the cyclone in Myanmar as a springboard to address the mistakes in humanitarian food polices, and offers insights for a better way forward. Read the full article here.

Also see the petition circulating by One: The Campaign to Make Poverty History, “Stop the Hunger Crisis.”

The Great Colombian Laptop Fraud

Back in March we posted an article about an incursion into Ecuador by the Colombian military to bomb/attack an alleged FARC rebel camp. Then we brought to light the presence of Mexican college students there conducting research who were killed in the raid - of course this did not get covered by the major news outlets in the U.S.. Instead, the discovery and siezure of three laptop computers that were alleged to belong to the FARC made headlines around the world. After 2 days in Colombian custody, the computers were claimed to have proof of contact between Venezuela's President Chavez and the Colombian FARC rebels. After being turned over to Interpol for an "official" investigation, it was not clear that the computers were corupted - or uncorupted - but no matter, the link between the head-of-state and a terrorist organization was established in the popular media, as well as the popular mind. One step closer to justifying an attack on the leftist regime of Venezuela.

Here's a video from the Real News Network that offers a slightly less biased analysis of the Great Laptop Fiasco:

Job Hunting in the Near Future?

I'm not sure where this came from, but it certainly gave me a chuckle...

I have to say, it seems only fair that things come around that way not only in the U.S., but in all of the imperialist, profit-driven capitalist countries out there. And while laughing is a healthy and necessary part of life, the reality that this clip mocks is all too real for far too many people. And these people are not fighting each other for high-paying jobs - we're talking about less than minimum wage for physically demanding, high-risk jobs. It's the quasi-legal manipulation of the illegal immigrant labor force that keeps the U.S. and other nations running.

Urban Organic Gardens in Cuba

Check out this clip from the BBC's Around the World in 80 Gardens (2008) that introduces the urban organic food gardening revolution in Havana, Cuba. It would be nice to see these types of projects proliferate and flourish in cities around the world, bringing fresh food to populations that have little access to such. It could also cut into fuel costs that are incurred by getting produce into the cities in the first place. Projects like these begin to address a multitude of issues in a surprisingly simple and very real way.

I came across this video on LINKS: the International Journal of Socialist Renewal - an interesting site worth perusing.

Happy Mother's Day!

Want some evidence of how complete the corporate takeover of yet another one of the great American holidays is? Check out these figures from an article by Sandy Haksi and Katherine Dodds:

Estimated Mother’s Day Spending 2008:

Dinner/Brunch – $3 B
Jewelry – $2.7 B
Electronics – $1.2 B
Flowers – $2 B
Clothing & Accessories – $1.4 B
Spa, Salon & Personal Services – $1.1 B
Gift Cards/Certificates – $1.6 B
Home & Garden – $696 M
Greeting Cards – $672 M

Source: National Retail Federation

Surprised? Read the entire article on GNN about the history of this important day.


No Free Refills on Fast Food Plantations

A North Carolina-based marketplace activist group called Dogwood Alliance has recently issued their 2008 Fast Food Industry Packaging Report. Their mission centers on deforestation in the southern U.S. caused by the fast-food industry--the competitiveness, the pressing need for branding, and, of course, the often-thoughtless habits of a consumer society. Some highlights from their report:
  • Sales for the 400 largest US-based fast food chains were $277.2 billion last year, up 6.8% from the year before
  • 300 lbs. of packaging waste is generated each year for each person in the U.S. (with 300 million people, that's 90,000,000,000 lbs. per year)
  • U.S. consumers use 15 billion disposable hot cups per year
  • 32% of the domestic waste stream is packaging and containers
  • Fast food packaging makes up 20% of litter, while another 20% consists of other snack waste (soda bottles, candy bar wrappers, etc.)
  • In the south, 43 million acres of forests have been converted into paper and pulp plantations to nourish these habits
That's why Dogwood Alliance has formed NoFreeRefills.org, a campaign to "educate the public and the marketplace about the negative environmental impact on southern forests caused by the business as usual fast food packaging," calling for fast food giants to move toward more responsible paper practices. Read the full report HERE.

And to put the U.S.'s habits in perspective, check out this article about recent food riots in Somalia.