Both will profit at expense of small-scale African farmers
Farmers and civil society organizations around the world are outraged by the recent discovery of further connections between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and agribusiness titan Monsanto. Last week, a financial website published the Gates Foundation’s investment portfolio, including 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated worth of $23.1 million purchased in the second quarter of 2010 (see the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission). This marks a substantial increase from its previous holdings, valued at just over $360,000 (see the Foundation’s 2008 990 Form).
“The Foundation’s direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two primary levels,” said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering. “First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests.”
Monsanto has already negatively impacted agriculture in African countries. For example, in South Africa in 2009, Monsanto’s genetically modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers were devastated. According to Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, some farmers suffered up to an 80% crop failure. While Monsanto compensated the large-scale farmers to whom it directly sold the faulty product, it gave nothing to the small-scale farmers to whom it had handed out free sachets of seeds. “When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is not very promising,” said Mayet. Monsanto’s aggressive patenting practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue—and bankrupt—farmers for “patent infringement.”
As we noted last week, the Gates Foundation is harming Africans not just with Monsanto but also with banking institutions it works with (to increase debt like Elliott Associates does). “Gates Foundation [...] added the Goldman Sachs Group and Monsanto to its portfolio,” says IP Watch, repeating what we covered a week ago and adding:
According to civil society organisations, the addition of Monsanto into the Gates Foundation’s portfolio also brings concern about Monsanto’s patenting practices and monopoly over seeds. Civil society is worried that Gates’ interest in Monsanto will worsen the conditions of small farmers in developing countries, and might represent a conflict of interest, according to the Community Alliance for Global Justice.
The Gates Foundation is used to conflicts of interest. In many other areas of operation (e.g. polio [1, 2] and smoking/tobacco [1, 2]) there are conflicts of interest where Gates invests in the very same things he pretends to battle against. Now is a good opportunity to watch the following interview which explains this rather well. █
BLOG post which was published last month went under the “news” radar (Google News syndicates mostly mainstream sources), but a reader brought it to our attention yesterday. “Marketing as charity” is what he called the Gates Foundation. Is this foundation rogue when it comes to education? Ravitch, a respected author, sure seems to think so [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].
“If you don’t already have this one, it’s worth noting,” wrote a reader to us, quoting this very recent blog post titled, “Is The Gates Foundation Involved In Bribery?”
“If he loses money buying control or sabotaging the established market, then it’s just charity rather than anti-competitive or predatory business.” –AnonymousIt says that “Gates has opened the door to an manifestly corrupt approach to government where a handful of well funded groups and individuals override the democratic legislative process by the prospect of funding or the threat of losing it. If you can’t go to jail now for doing this, there should be laws that make it clear that you do from here on out.”
That is a very concise summary of what has been happening.
“It’s actually more corrupt than that,” explained our reader, “because as a “charity” he can also evade the oversight and scrutiny a company would. If he loses money buying control or sabotaging the established market, then it’s just charity rather than anti-competitive or predatory business.”
To name some previous posts on the subject of education (in chronological order):
These fairly recent posts (from the past year) contain many links to a lot of articles where people do complain about the Gates Foundation and its intervention in education. But with a massive legion or PR people, it’s almost untouchable to critics. It built a moral shield.
As FurnaceBoy shrewdly put it, “how can the law pierce the Foundation veil? You’d have to hate starving Africans”
As a general remark, pedagogues tend to believe that children and adolescents are there in the school system to be indoctrinated, or be prepared to get “skilled” for the “real world” (as in carrying out a particular task in a business). They are often teaching them that ultra-rich people is what they should strive to become, but education is supposed to shape one’s personality to become a good member of society, too. Here is a good new article on the subject:
The Big Lie (Thoughts on Why School Is Not Only About Workforce Development)
Teaching kids that hard work in school will mean more money is a shortcut and an example of the shoddy logic that doesn’t ring true to many kids. Teaching kids that hard work in school will help them develop skills that will help them be a more fully realized citizen and person is a harder argument to make, but it stands a much better chance of being true.
For people like Gates — those wanting to see their own agenda implemented at the expense of taxpayers — there are barriers such as people with a clue. More people should rise and protest against this threat to democracy, known as “Gates Foundation”. It does far more than advertised.
Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) declined to say whether it has opened an investigation following allegations of an elaborate kickback scheme that involved an Apple employee and at least six Apple suppliers, including three Singaporean companies.
Apple is trying to distance itself from this man (how convenient a policy to adopt after the act) and this arrested Apple manager pleads not guilty (who wouldn’t?).
Monday, a former Apple manager pleaded not guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. Paul Shim Devine was arrested last week after officials discovered he received more than $1 million in kickbacks from certain Apple suppliers in Asia in exchange for information that enabled them to beat their competition and win Apple contracts.
In addition to the federal charges, Devine also faces a civil racketeering lawsuit filed by Apple. Although there’s no indication how Apple was alerted to the scheme, the story says the company began investigating in April when it found e-mails and other communications between Devine and the suppliers on his company-issued laptop.
Here is some more coverage about it [1, 2]. It’s newer than the links we gave before.
THE HOPE that Apple could flog its products in the massive Chinese market at the same high prices that it gets away with in western countries has proven fruitless.
It’s not surprising. These gadgets which are made by Chinese people are overpriced. It’s because the California-based company likes to triple or quadruple the originally spent cost in order to elevate margins. Some rich people don’t care about price tags. They choose by brands and labels.
Censorship of application is not the only problem at Apple though; the company is said to be suffocating an entire product right now [1, 2, 3]. “Apple has decided to shut down the Quattro Wireless mobile ad network that it bought in January for $275 million,” says one report. hypeAd (sounds like hypePad) is Apple’s way to go and some Quattro clients are likely to suffer from it:
Apple sent a letter to current Quattro clients this week announcing that the mobile advertising network will be shut down effective September 30. From that point forward, Apple will focus its mobile advertising efforts exclusively on the iAd platform.
Can advertisers trust Apple, which cannot even manage transactions on hypeTunes [1, 2]. One of those two news headlines says: “Apple Can’t Stop Ongoing ITunes Charge Scam”
Why should people trust Apple with advertising-related transactions then?
Apple’s iPod flame-out woes continue. The latest victims: Tokyo commuters.
On Friday, Reuters reports, smoke from what turned out to be a self-immolating iPod caused passengers to alert transit officials on a commuter-train line, who quickly shut down the system.
“When a member of staff went to investigate inside the train,” a rail spokesman told Reuters, “a passenger came over showing him that the iPod she was listening to had burst apart.” There were no reports of injuries, and after an eight-minute delay, the system was restarted.
Who would have thought that just posting warnings about Apple’s products being defective would not resolve the issue? All that Apple sells is a ticket into a club of hype and elitism. If the Chinese can ignore Apple’s products, so can everyone else.
Apple as a replacement for Microsoft is not progress; Free software is progress, it’s a paradigm shift.█
“We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.”
Summary: For purposes of publicity and hype Microsoft is up to the usual tricks, calling its own action a “leak” and pretending it was all just an accident
SO FAR this year we have given many examples of fake ‘leaks’ from Microsoft (Apple's fake hype and other fakes are a another related thing). Microsoft does not seem to mind when the ‘leaks’ are exposed as just Microsoft marketing stunts. To the Microsoft Pinocchio, lying is a lifestyle and bogus hype is means to an end.
How did it happen? How does this sort of thing always happen. But in this case there’s a twist: It seems the powers that be–not some felonious bottom-rung employee–placed it in lockdown on a public file server, then handed out keys.
Should GameTuts have been fiddling around (shamefully and illegally) in Microsoft’s business? Of course not. But should Microsoft have made Halo: Reach–however bristling with security measures–available via what amounts to a public file server? Live and learn, and since keeping pirate copies off the market prior to launch day is considered commercially critical, I doubt we’ll see Microsoft make this particular mistake ever again.
Microsoft keeps faking ‘leaks’ for the known allure of taboo or exclusivity. Microsoft is also doing this with Internet Explorer right now [1, 2]. The headlines say “Microsoft Russia leaks IE9 beta” and “Microsoft leaks Internet Explorer 9 screenshot” (implying that Microsoft itself is doing the ‘leak’, which means that it is not a leak at all). It is designed like marketing material, not an arbitrary ‘leak’/screenshot and Mary Jo Microsoft is seeding it, along with other boosters of the monopoly. IDG’s Microsoft boosters (like Robert Mullins) have used that as an excuse, trying to generate buzz like a marketing company and pretending this is “news”, not Microsoft a “puff story”. █
“After sixteen months spent seeding the trade press, it was time to think of the end users. For this, Waggener Edstrom leaked exclusive Windows 95 puff stories to all of the important newspapers and publications. The PR firm fed the New York Times a story with a marketing twist, the Wall Street Journal received a more technical angle, and People magazine got an exclusive revealing that NBC’s Friends sitcom stars Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry would be doing a twenty-five-minute video, educating people on the wonders of Windows 95.”
–Barbarians Led by Bill Gates, a book composed by the daughter of Microsoft’s Pam Edstrom
How could they be so tactless and not foresee the backlash? It’s probably one of those cases where in a very large organisation the left hand did not communicate with the right hand. To Microsoft, this is a serious PR problem. All those years promoting the image that it’s respectful to women (we gave examples of this PR line last week) sometimes go down the drain, but Microsoft keeps choosing female faces to represent the company while giving that whole “equal opportunity” and “cultural diversity” feel-good sensation. Steve Ballmer is even married to one such PR person. She worked for Waggener Edstrom. Speaking of which, Pam and Jennifer Edstrom came up again because this PR-related blog post linked to Techrights some days ago.
It was also the video that saw Microsoft tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion. In minutes, the hard work on building Bill Gates’ reputation put in by Pam Edstrom (first as Microsoft’s director of PR and then as a senior executive at Waggener Edstrom) was eviscerated. This was when the fear stopped.
This links to an old article from the New York Times and it’s about Waggener Edstrom. It turns out that this AstroTurf/marketing firm of Microsoft was by no means pleased by the work of Jennifer Edstrom.
In the acknowledgments of her new book, ”Barbarians Led by Bill Gates: Microsoft From the Inside,” the author, Jennifer Edstrom, thanks her mother for encouraging her to write, ”even though this isn’t particularly what she had in mind.”
Since 1982, Ms. Edstrom’s mother, Pam, has helped shape the public image of the Microsoft Corporation’s chairman, first as a Microsoft employee and then as an executive of the public relations firm that represents him. When she learned about preparations for her daughter’s book, a behind-the-scenes account co-written with a former Microsoft software developer, Marlin Eller, she tried, the daughter said, to dissuade her from writing it.
”My mother had commented in Fortune in January that it put her in an awkward position,” Jennifer Edstrom said from her home in Portland, Ore. ”She made it completely clear she wanted no part of it.”
Parental disapproval did not carry the day. ”It’s hard enough to control Gates,” the elder Ms. Edstrom said, ”much less your daughter.” She responded with a terse ”no comment” when asked about the book.
Yin thinks that a slowing global economy and weakness in the company’s legacy products also were contributing factors to the weak results. He cuts price target on the stock to $5, from $6, and writes that a potential takeover of the company now appears “less likely.”
Office 2010: Microsoft spent $80 million to launch its latest version of Office this year, using mostly online advertising. However, sales were reportedly lagging a month after the launch, with many critics saying it was due to the availability of so many free online tools.
Like Google’s? This relates to our previous post about Microsoft exploiting Internet companies. Facebook will help Microsoft keep its cash cow afloat. Let’s not forget the role of Free/libre office suites such as OpenOffice.org (mostly notably). Microsoft prefers never to mention these. █
Summary: Microsoft’s apparent AOL entryism is recalled and AOL’s CTO jumps over to Microsoft while Yahoo! continues to disintegrate after Microsoft took over
EARLIER this year we wrote about possible Microsoft entryism at AOL, with an alleged intent to buy the company [1, 2, 3, 4]. Microsoft is desperate to breathe life into its online business, which continues to lose billions of dollars.
Cahall had joined AOL three-and-a-half years ago from United Online’s Classmates.com, where he was chief operating officer. He initially headed up what was then the company’s platforms unit, which included AOL Search and MapQuest, and later got additional responsibility for the company’s technology infrastructure. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong promoted him to CTO a year ago.
Microsoft’s online services division has also hired Marc Davis, the former chief scientist for mobile at Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), as a partner architect.
Titus, who has been at Yahoo (YHOO) since 2004, was reportedly considered a key exec by CEO Carol Bartz in her attempts to revive the company.
Yahoo confirmed the move when BoomTown asked for comment.
Sources said Titus wants to take time off and has no plans to move to another company.
Michael Curtis, a close and well-regarded colleague of Titus, will take over as interim head until a replacement is found.
Microsoft would love to exploit any Internet company that’s left. Microsoft wants to stop Google, which distributes a lot of GNU/Linux and also threatens Microsoft's other cash cow, Office. More on that in the next post. █