We are right to be horrified by Victoria's toll of dead women
By Miki Perkins
What horror. The vivacious faces of four women beam from photographs at a moment – striding along a beach, sipping bubbles at a party – when they were full of joy, of life.
And yet, these four Victorian women are now dead.
: Samantha Fraser (Supplied)
Another day, another slew of grim stories about women who have been killed. The grind of the police hunts in each case, the incremental criminal trials and the coronial inquests.
Samantha Fraser, 38, Karen Ristevski, 47, Joy Rowley, 60, mothers all. Their traumatised young and adult children left to grieve.
: Karen Ristevski (Seven News) And Snezana Stojanovska, 26, who was three-months pregnant with a child who will never take its first breath.
These women were victims of entirely separate violent crimes, and their killers are yet to be convicted in a court (with the exception of James Martin Mulhall, who has pleaded guilty to murdering Joy Rowley).
Each case will be dealt with separately and The Age is not accusing any individual of guilt. The justice system will take its course, and it would be foolish to jump to conclusions.
But we know these women probably died terrifying deaths. And we know that in the three cases where charges have been laid, the accused men had been their husbands or partners.
At least 39 women have died violently in Australia so far this year, according to Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women project.
: Joy Rowley was murdered in 2011. (Supplied)
But somehow we are so inured to this staggering tally that we need some grisly extra quantum to react. Four women dead, not just one. A god-awful day in court and coroner's court where even seasoned reporters shake their heads. How do we make sense of this? And, more importantly, how the hell do we make it stop?
On Thursday Victoria’s state coroner, Judge Sara Hinchey, released her recommendations on the death of Joy Rowley, a mother-of-three. In 2011 she was murdered by strangulation by Mulhall, who had briefly been her partner.
Judge Hinchey found approximately one-third of family violence homicides involved previously known family violence, including Rowley’s murder, yet there was no review of her case.
Today her bereaved family made a statement: "All our friends think you call the police when you’re in danger and they help you. We know that’s not how it works. It’s like Russian roulette, sometimes you get someone who will help. Sometimes, like mum, you get someone who doesn’t take you seriously."
The coroner recommended a systemic review of family violence homicides where there had been previous family violence. It’s a sensible proposal in a state embarked on a decade-long overhaul of its response to family violence.
: Snezana Stojanovska died at age 26 (Supplied)
In last year’s budget the Victorian government committed $1.9 billion to family violence over four years, to stretch across primary prevention, justice, police, the courts and women’s services.
But this area had been woefully neglected for decades. And the major legislative and policy changes recommended in Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence will take time. We're starting from way back. And cultural change is a slippery beast.
We need to talk – again – about gender. There are distinct gendered patterns in the perpetration and impact of family violence. The overwhelming majority of violent incidents and femicides are perpetrated by men against women.
Women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. And if you are an Indigenous woman, or have a disability, for example, these figures are far worse.
The only answer is gender equality, and respectful and non-violent relationships that will benefit the whole community, including men and boys. Speaking generally, we should be furious that women in our state are still getting strangled, hurt and killed by the men who are supposed to love them. That their precious bodies, their children and their unborn babies, have suffered the brunt of violence. As Fiona MacCormack from Domestic Violence Victoria said to me: “Fundamentally, this is about men killing women and children.”
A disastrous time for abuse of women in this country
By Clementine Ford
It’s rare to find a perfect confluence of events that demonstrate the true depths of gender inequality in this country, but this week has certainly delivered following Senator David Lyonjhelm’s petulant attacks on his colleague, Sarah Hanson-Young.
The Senate had been debating a motion that would "call on the government to encourage women to carry tasers, pepper spray and mace to defend themselves from murderers and rapists".
Hanson-Young was one of the 46 member majority who opposed the motion, arguing that we should instead teach men not to assault women. We know what Lyonhjelm did next. : Sarah Hanson-Young and David Leyonhjelm are on the precipice of a defamation lawsuit. (AAP)
He has since attempted - repeatedly - to justify his misogynist attacks on Hanson-Young by arguing that her call for education on gender violence was actually made using words to the effect of, "all men are rapists" and trotted this absurd fantasy out across almost all of Australia’s broadcast media platforms, where he’s also stated it’s acceptable to call women bitches " when they are bitches", told Richard Di Natale to "grow some balls" and dismissed Malcolm Turnbull’s calls for him to apologise by saying, "The Prime Minister should stop being such a pussy".
"This is about misandry," said the man who organised for Milo "Feminism Is Cancer" Yiannopoulos to have a personal tour of Parliament House and a room with which to address government officials. "This is about criticism of all men. It’s just as bad as criticism of all women".
"Misandry" is the claim made by sexist men and their enablers whenever serious discussions about men’s violence against women arise, because of course being made to feel bad or implicated somehow in the power advantage enjoyed by men is exactly the same as living with an increased statistical likelihood of being beaten, raped or murdered by one.
Women who talk about this reality (even when they adhere to demands to be excessively polite and conciliatory about it) are routinely accused of "hating men", of "doing nothing to help equality" and yes, of thinking "all men are rapists".
Men, on the other hand, feel few ramifications for impotently standing by while sexism is either perpetrated around them or they actively engaging in it themselves. In these cases, it’s "not reflective of who they are as a person" because "no one respects women more than [them]".
Their sexist and occasionally violent "jokes" that position women as objects or rape victims are "just words". Like racism, it’s considered far more egregious to be accused of misogyny (however accurately) than it is to actually perpetrate it.
Here are some of the examples of the gendered violence that’s been perpetrated in Australia in the last month alone.
In Sydney, Qi Yu was murdered and dumped in bushland. Her 19-year-old male housemate has been charged.
In Carlton, Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered and left on a soccer pitch. A 19-year-old man has been charged. Shortly afterwards, a 31-year-old man vandalised the site of her memorial with crude graffiti of a penis. In the days following her murder, he ranted on Facebook about the demonisation of men and later told media he did it "purely as an attack on feminism".
In Newcastle, an 11-year-old girl was abducted and repeatedly raped over a period of five hours. A 47-year-old man has been charged.
In Carlton, only five days after the murder of Eurydice and less than two kilometres away from where her body was found, a woman was dragged into a car and raped. Two men - cricket teammates - have been charged, a 23-year-old and a 26-year-old.
In Queensland, 16-year-old Larissa Bielby was murdered and stuffed into a barrel. A 34-year-old man has been charged with her murder, and also the attempted murder of another woman that allegedly occurred three weeks earlier.
On Friday, police confirmed that two teenagers fatally shot in NSW were murdered by their father, who later killed himself. The murders were described as being "planned", and in the context of a long-standing custody dispute - because there are some men in the world whose rage and hatred for a woman eclipse the love they have for the children they share with her, but both pale in comparison to the entitlement they feel for themselves.
These are just the incidents we know about.
Some of these crimes were opportunistic. Others were perpetrated by men known to their victims. How can we know which one might be coming for us? We can’t. So instead, we spend our entire lives in a low-level state of hyper-awareness, just as we’ve been conditioned to from childhood by a rape culture that teaches us that improperly patrolled bodies deserve whatever invasions slip past the threshold.
This is the real poison in the pudding of Lyonhhelm and his ilk. They rage against conversations that position rape and violence as a largely male problem (#notallmen!) while conveniently ignoring the fact that women are reminded at every avenue that it’s ultimately our responsibility to avoid both. Don’t walk in parks! Don’t walk at night! Don’t walk at all!
And who does Lyonhjelm think women will be using those tasers and pepper spray on? It’s not monsters. It’s men. Men as a group pose the biggest danger to women's health and safety. We have learned this through instruction but also experience. That's the reality.
No, not all men hurt women. But all women have good reason to fear that a man or men might hurt us one day - either for the first time or again. And while it may not be all men who do, it is at least any man who could. It’s men who have done that to women, not "misandry".
We shouldn’t have to keep tiptoeing around their feelings and qualifying we don’t really mean them when we’re talking about this reality, just because the Lyonhjelms of the world find it blisteringly offensive to acknowledge that if you insist on teaching women to guard their bodies against abuse and violence as a matter of "common sense", you can’t then get mad when they decide this list of potential threats includes you.
An unequal power equation prevails in the church which is steeped in patriarchy; and sexually abused nuns find little support
Sexual abuse of nuns is allegedly rampant in churches (PTI)
By Flavia Agnes. Feminist scholar & women's rights activist
THE Christian clergy in Kerala is gripped in a series of sexual scandals where nuns and lay women have come out and lodged criminal complaints of rape and sexual harassment in recent times. At least 13 priests belonging to either the Roman Catholic or the Syrian Orthodox Church are facing police enquiries. The latest is the complaint filed by a senior nun that Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of Jalandhar (which comes under the Delhi Archdiocese of the Catholic Church), raped her 13 times since 2014. This is not the first time that allegations of sexual abuse have been made by nuns or by other women against priests. But this time, a bishop is involved, which makes the offence very serious. A bishop is meant to act as a spiritual guide to the diocese.
Sexual abuse and humiliation which nuns and others who serve in church institutions are subjected to has been spoken about in hushed tones. There have been some instances of nuns leaving the religious order, and speaking or writing about their experiences of humiliation and sexual abuse. But most often, the victims do not talk about it for fear that they will be ostracised since the priest is too powerful.
Since the abuse is reportedly rampant and seldom addressed, some Christian women activists and associations of various religious orders, including the Indian Christian Women's Movement (ICWM), the Conference of Religious India (CRI) Women's Section, the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace (FORUM), have been prevailing upon the Roman Catholic Church to address the issue and bring in remedial measures. But the church authorities have been dragging their feet over it.
The Roman Catholic Church was quick to follow the dictates of Rome regarding the clergy's abuse of young children after various legal cases were filed in the US and elsewhere regarding the abuse of young male children by the clergy where the church had to pay heavy damages and penalties. A child protection policy has been put in place and it is applicable to all church institutions and church-administered schools.
But when it came to sexual abuse of women, the Church hesitated as the authorities felt that it might tarnish its image and that it would be like accepting that sexual abuse is prevalent within churches. But due to efforts of various women activists within the church, a sexual harassment policy was finally implemented. However, it seems to be locked up in a secret chamber and vulnerable persons who need to be aware of its existence are kept in the dark.
In this setting, the alleged sexual abuse by the Jalandhar was a time bomb waiting to explode.
An unequal power equation prevails. In addition, church institutions are steeped in patriarchy which is difficult to dislodge. Religious women (nuns) do not have the power to manage church affairs or church institutions. These continue to be male bastions. Change is extremely slow and women continue to be treated as subordinates and handmaidens at the service of the male hierarchy. Within such lopsided power structures, it is not surprising that women are abused. Very little rights discourse takes place within these institutions.
Where the victims/survivors are concerned, there is apprehension that their superiors also will not support them and a complaint may result in the complainant having to leave the convent and she may not even get social acceptance outside.
But this time, the victim nun has withstood the pressure. When her initial complaints were ignored, she boldly approached the police. The accused is the Bishop of Jalandhar and the abuse allegedly took place in Kerala. Both the victim and abuser hail from Kerala. Hence, the investigations are being carried out in Kerala.
But even this time, sadly, the church's stand has been evasive and Catholic newspapers have put out a narrative blaming the victim. The bishop has asked several lay people to write letters supporting his stand and making the nun look like a manipulator. He has stated that her complaint was an act of revenge. While the nun's statement has been recorded, the bishop, who has dismissed the allegations as baseless, is yet to be questioned. The victim's family says that despite a complaint to the Delhi Archbishop about the abuse, nothing was done. The police have also registered a case against the nun and her relatives on a complaint from the bishop. They say that they received the bishop's complaint first and the nun filed her complaint a day later.
Kochurani Abraham, a women's rights activist in Kerala, says that the cases have opened the floodgates and not just of sexual abuse but also general issues concerning the community. Gender justice, priesthood, confession are now discussed on TV channels, which is a positive outcome.
Virginia Saldanha, Secretary, ICWM, says the earlier interventions have been within the ecclesiastical boundaries in order to save the face of the church. But now things are in the open. She hopes that truth will prevail and it will encourage other nuns to come out and speak about abuse, if any, and that the church leadership will wake up to the reality of women's state in churches.
Christian women's organisations have written to the president of the church hierarchy in India as well as to Pope Francis to take up the issue and ask the bishop to step down "so that the Church is seen to actually practice the 'zero tolerance' it professes to observe in abuse cases". "If the bishop continues to remain in his position, it will erode the faith of the people in the credibility of the Church." The letter is also signed by around 175 individuals. They hope that with their backing, the nun will be able to withstand the pressure exerted on her from the bishop and the church authorities.
Letters urge Catholic officials to remove Indian bishop accused of rape
By Catholic News Service
Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, India, is pictured in an undated photo. ( CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Jullundur.)
NEW DELHI, India - Catholic and other leaders have urged that a bishop accused of raping an Indian Catholic nun be removed from his position.
Ucanews.com reported that in a July 12 letter to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, and another of the same date to Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, apostolic nuncio to India, 168 people asked for action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.
The unidentified nun, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, complained to police June 29 of being raped in May 2014 and then sexually abused multiple times over the following two years by Mulakkal, ucanews.com reported. The bishop is patron of the congregation.
The letter asked Diquattro to "advise Pope Francis to relieve the bishop concerned of his pastoral responsibilities so that the Church is seen to actually practice the zero tolerance it professes to observe in abuse cases."
The signatories include representatives of the Indian Theological Association, a forum of Catholic theologians; the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group for women religious; the Indian Christian Women's Movement, a national conference of women religious and others; and the interdenominational United Christian Forum for Human Rights.
The accused continuing in his position as bishop of Jalandhar "will erode the faith of the people in the credibility of the Church to implement its policy of zero tolerance and act justly in abuse matters," both letters said.
Police have begun to investigate the bishop over the alleged assault that was said to have occurred when he visited a convent in the Diocese of Palai in Kerala state, in southwest India.
The nun alleged that the bishop harassed her when she resisted sexual abuse. She and her family claim that Church authorities have ignored their complaints.
Mulakkal told media the accusation arose only after Church authorities began disciplinary action following allegations that the nun was having sexual relations with her cousin's husband.
The signatories said they are "concerned about the mud-slinging" between the bishop and priests in his diocese and the nun and her family. This has "turned the Church into an object of ridicule," causing "a lot of harm ... to the faith of the people of God" as well as to the "integrity and mission" of the Church, they said.
The letter to Gracias said the representations made by the nun to the bishops "have brought no response, raising issues about the credibility" of the bishops' guidelines on dealing with sexual harassment.
It asked the cardinal to ensure that dioceses "publicize and create adequate awareness" about the guidelines and "institute the structures and procedures" to address allegations of sexual misconduct without delay.
"Sexual abuse is ultimately not about sexuality or celibacy, but about the gross misuse of the disproportionate power assigned to clergy," the signatories said.
"Pope Francis has shown the way by holding accused bishops accountable even at risk to the reputation of the Church. We look to our bishops to follow his example," they said. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Special Correspondent KOTTAYAM: Tells police no written complaint was given
The investigation into the alleged rape of a nun by Bishop Franco Mulakkal, head of the Jalandhar diocese of the Catholic Church, is nearing completion with the police on Saturday recording the statement of Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, head of the Pala diocese of the Church. The bishop's statement was recorded as the nun had said that she had complained to him about the issue earlier.
According to the investigation officer K. Subhash, Dy.SP, Vaikom, the bishop's statement corroborated the nun's complaint. The bishop informed him that the nun had complained to him about the issue. She had met him on the advice of Fr. Joseph Thadathil, the vicar at the Martha Mariam Forane Church at Kuravilangad to which the Mission House of Missionaries of Jesus was attached. The complaint was made verbally and there was no written complaint, Bishop Kallarangatt had said. The statement was recorded at the Bishop's House at Pala.
Priest's statement The statement of Fr. Thadathil was also recorded by the police on Saturday. According to Mr. Subhash, his statement also corroborated the complaint of the nun recorded earlier. The statement of the priest was recorded at the office of the Dy.SP, Vaikom.
The police are also trying to record the statements of two nuns from the mission who had left the congregation, allegedly because of mistreatment by Bishop Mulakkal. The statement of a relative of the nun will also be recorded. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sunday July 15 2018
Rape case: Kerala cops to question Bishop in Jalandhar
By Deepkamal Kaur/Tribune News Service
Jalandhar: A team of the Kerala police will be visiting the city next week to interrogate Bishop Franco Mulakkal, Catholic Bishop of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, against whom they had registered an FIR for allegedly raping a nun.
Now based in Kerala, the victim was earlier superior general of a congregation, Missionaries of Jesus, Jalandhar Cantonment. Confirming the development over the phone, Hari Sankar, District Police Chief, Kottyam, said: "We have already been working on collecting evidence in the case. The 13 occasions, mentioned by the nun regarding abuse by the Bishop, tally with his visitor log book entries at the convent. We have been told that the Bishop was also sending her indecent messages."
The Kerala police have taken the mobile phones of both the nun and the Bishop into custody. When contacted, Bishop Franco said: "I have never sent any personal message to the nun. I always made calls for official works whenever I had to. My relation with her was limited only to work. The complainant has smartly filed the complaint after checking dates from the log book. I will be glad to give my version to the Kerala police."
With cross-FIR filed by the Bishop against the nun, there are allegations and counter-allegations between the two.
The Bishop said: "How can I rape her 13 times over two years (2014-16) and she would still be happily accompanying me to religious programmes?"
The Tribune talked to Father Sebastian Pallasery, a cousin of the nun in Kerala. He said: "The victim is under depression. She is a nun and he was the authority. She kept bearing it till she finally gathered courage to say no. That was in 2016 and the Bishop never went there after that."
Cervical cancer prevention in Thailand a model of success
On June 23, the Provincial Health Office of Roi Et, Thailand, received the 2018 UN Public Service Award for its cervical cancer prevention programme and promoting gender responsive public services.
Just two decades ago, cervical cancer was the most common cancer for women in Thailand and the country struggled to provide the standard cytology and referral approach due to lack of infrastructure, accessibility, and an organised screening programme. The trajectory changed in 2000 with the Safety, Acceptability,
Feasibility and program implementation Effort (SAFE) study, which was developed by Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, and led by Thailand-based Khunying Kobchitt Limpaphayom and colleagues. Tested in a rural northeastern province, this single visit approach combined a visual inspection of the cervix using acetic acid (VIA) with cryotherapy. Unlike cytology screening, this approach is low-cost, does not require sophisticated equipment, and can be made available in under-resourced areas. Over 7 months, 5999 women were screened for precancerous lesions. After 1 year of follow-up, 94·3% of the women who received treatment after screening tested negative.
The SAFE study, published in The Lancet in 2003, subsequently informed WHO's recommendations for cervical cancer prevention. 32 provinces have since implemented the approach, providing free VIA and cryotherapy services to women. Among Thailand's five leading causes of cancer death for women, cervical cancer has seen the largest decline in incidence over the past decade. Key to the programme's success was task-shifting to nurses to perform cryotherapy, a crucial allowance in a country where there is only one doctor for every 60…000 people. Partnership between Jhpiego, the Ministry of Public Health, and local organisations ensured the sustainability of the programme and national policy change despite political upheavals between 2001 and 2015.
The programme is an inspiration for other countries striving to implement low-cost, evidence-based public health interventions and shows how partnership efforts can advance women's health and equality.
Argentine Activists, Campaigners Face New Battle as Abortion Bill Heads to Senate
Women celebrate partial approval of legal abortion bill. (EFE)
by Camilo E. Mejia
According to preliminary counts, the bill has the support of 28 senators, it is opposed by 30, and 14 have not announced their position.
After claiming victory in the lower chamber of Argentina’s Congress, women's rights activists now face the uphill task of getting the bill passed in the Senate even with several of the country's senators pledging support for the law, which legalizes abortions up to 14th weeks.
On Thursday, Argentines who support legal, safe and free abortions celebrated the bill’s approval by 129 legislators. However, the law still needs approval in the Senate, and widespread support in the streets will play a key role as it did in the lower chamber.
The Senate, which has historically been more conservative than the lower chamber, will decide the bill’s fate since president Mauricio Macri has already announced he will respect the decision made by the legislative and will not veto the law.
According to a preliminary count by Argentine newspaper Pagina 12, there are 28 senators in favor, 30 against and 14 who have not announced their position. Miguel Pinchetto, leader of the Federal Argentina parliamentary bloc, told reporters he is confident the bill will become law in a less than a month. Support for the bill comes from all parties along the ideological spectrum.
Members of the governing party Cambiemos have also declared support for the bill, and the Front for Victory party, which has nine senators, announced they would vote for the law as a united bloc, confirming former president Cristina de Kirchner has reconsidered her opposition to legalizing abortion. The leaders of the two governing parties, Humberto Schiavoni of the Pro, and Luis Naidenoff of Cambiemos have expressed their support for the bill.
Naidenoff told local newspaper La Nacion “we are not facing a debate on faith, but rather on public health.”
Dates for the debate in the Senate remain unknown, but Pinchetto said it could happen after winter recess, in July. Analysts believe it will be essential to maintain the momentum and push for a prompt vote. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Thursday June 14, 2018
IWHC Welcomes Argentina’s Historic Lower House Vote to Legalize Abortion
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 14, 2018
The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) welcomes today’s vote by Argentina’s lower house of parliament in favor of a bill that would decriminalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
“When Argentinian feminists organize, they are an irresistible force! We salute their brilliant, strategic activism. The women of Argentina won’t be true citizens until they have full control over their bodies,” said Françoise Girard, president of IWHC. “The Senate must now listen closely and respond to the demands and needs of Argentine women.”
Current Argentinian law only permits abortion when the woman’s life or health is in danger, or in the case of rape. The most recent bill, which would reduce clandestine abortions, has renewed the hopes of feminist activists in the country, not least because the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion played a vital role in shaping the bill. In a country where religion plays an important role, Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir-Argentina (CDD-Argentina), a longtime grantee partner of the IWHC, is one of the leaders of the National Campaign.
A recent survey conducted by Amnesty International and IWHC’s grantee partner Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad (CEDES) in partnership with Quiddity shows that more than half of the population fully or partially supports decriminalization. According to data from Argentina’s Ministry of Health, between 370,000 to 522,000 clandestine abortions are performed each year, many of them unsafe.
Bayer to ditch Monsanto name after mega-merger with US corporation
A Bayer plant in Wuppertal. (DPA) German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer will discard the name Monsanto when it takes over the controversial US seeds and pesticides producer this week, the group said on Monday.
"Bayer will remain the name of the firm. Monsanto will be discontinued as the name of the business," the Leverkusen-based group said in a statement, adding that it expects to close the €54 billion deal on Thursday.
Bosses plan to name the merged agrichemical division Bayer Crop Science once the buyout is complete, German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported, citing "industry sources".
Bayer's takeover bid for Monsanto targets the St Louis-based company for its high-tech genetically modified seeds, many designed to produce crops resistant to its proprietary pesticides.
The mammoth deal will produce a global giant with 115,000 employees and revenues of some €45 billion.
Bayer has put massive resources behind it, raising $57 billion in financing including a new share issue worth €6 billion announced Sunday.
It will also sell large parts of its existing agrichemical and crop seeds business to BASF in concessions to competition authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.
Environmentalists are unhappy with the Bayer-Monsanto tie-up, fearing that it will give too much power to the world's leading manufacturers of genetically modified crops and the controversial weedkiller glyphosate.
In a letter to the European Commission before its March approval of the merger, Friends of the Earth Europe said more than a million people signed petitions calling on EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager to block "this merger from hell".
Last month, some 200 people demonstrated against the Bayer-Monsanto merger outside the German firm's annual general meeting.
One woman wearing a wedding dress and a skull mask brandished a sign warning of a "deadly wedding" between the two firms.
"We can't allow gigantic companies to have control over our food system," said Christian Rollmann of protest group "Wir haben es satt" (We're fed up).
When launching the Monsanto takeover bid, Bayer promised it would not introduce genetically modified crops in Europe. ~~~~~~~~~~~ 24 May 2016
Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
An anti-Monsanto activist at a protest in Brandenburg in 2014. (DPA) A proposed tie-up between Bayer and Monsanto may still face numerous hurdles but it has already inflamed opinion in Germany where most people oppose genetically modified foods.
German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, a household name thanks to its painkiller Aspirin, said this week that it is offering $122 per share in cash for Monsanto, or €55 billion in all.
It would be the biggest takeover by a German group of a foreign company and would create a new world leader in seeds, pesticides and genetically modified (GM) crops.
But the US agrochemical giant, Monsanto, already under fire in Europe over the possible health risks connected to its pesticide glyphosate, has long been a red rag to environment groups worldwide because of its work in altering the genetic make-up of crops to make them more resistant to disease.
"Monsanto couldn't be more unpopular in Germany," said Anne Isakowitsch, a Berlin-based activist for the environmentalist campaign group, Sum of Us, who has launched a petition against the tie-up.
A combination of the two groups would be "disastrous and diabolical," she told AFP.
"The biggest fear is that Bayer is seeking to buy Monsanto to inundate the European market with GM crops."
Isakowitsch is not alone in expressing such concerns.
A study published by the Environment Ministry in April estimated that 76 percent of Germans feel that the ban on GM crops is justified.
Individual members of the Social Democrat, or SPD party, junior partner in the ruling coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel, are critical of the tie-up. New lobbying heavyweight "I am very, very critical about the deal. Monsanto has an extremely bad reputation in Germany in the area of genetics," said Elvira Drobinski-Weiss, who is in charge of GM issues within the SPD.
Opposition is so deeply ingrained that BASF, Germany's other agrochemicals giant, moved its GM research activities to the US in 2012 and halted development of GM seeds for the European market.
The prospect of a tie-up between Bayer and Monsanto is therefore likely to rekindle the whole GM debate in Germany, observers said.
"I hope it will," said Drobinski-Weiss, who wants to harness the debate to campaign for a nationwide ban on GM crops in Germany. Currently, it is up to each regional state to ban them. The new giant "would have enormous lobbying power on both sides of the Atlantic," said Marco Contiero, policy advisor for agriculture and genetic engineering at Greenpeace.
Bayer is already under fire from environmental activists for manufacturing pesticides that are blamed for the decline in the world's bee populations.
The European Union has placed a moratorium on sales of those chemicals, which are classed as neonicotinoids, since the end of 2013.
But Bayer is contesting the ban.
Its chief executive Werner Baumann conceded that the company would have to "decisively address the point of reputation and challenges of Monsanto in Europe", insisting that "our brand stands for responsibility, transparency and openness".
'Wrong signal’ Critics also argue that a marriage between Bayer and Monsanto would give the two dangerous dominance in the world's agriculture sector, which is already undergoing a wave of consolidation.
US groups Dow Chemical and Dupont are planning to tie the knot, China's ChemChina is taking over Swiss player Syngenta.
And a combined Bayer and Monsanto would be the world leader in seeds and pesticides with market shares of 29 percent and 24 percent respectively, according to Greenpeace. nment," said Renate Künast, member of the environmentalist Green party and a former agriculture minister.
Bayer "is going in the opposite direction to current global discussion," she told AFP.
The EU last week failed to agree on the re-approval of the glyphosate weedkiller in Europe amid fresh fears the product could cause cancer.
Monsanto markets glyphosate under the brand name Roundup. And Künast suggested that if the product becomes a Bayer brand, German politicians could even be persuaded to drop their opposition to it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ September 22, 2016
Bayer-Monsanto merger can’t erase Nazi chemists’ past
By Victor Grossman
With news of Bayer’s merger with Monsanto, our correspondent in Berlin explores Bayer’s troubled past and its links with the Nazis’ most notorious death camp – Auschwitz.
Bayer’s new deal to buy Monsanto breaks records not only due to its size but because of its evil smell – and not only due to Monsanto’s reputation for deadly trails of everything from disappearing wild flowers and butterflies to poverty-stricken family farmers forced to buy its seeds and pesticides.
Bayer, perhaps best known for its aspirins or other useful medicines, also has a trail marked with death, but in far, far greater numbers. It was Bayer, together with two other chemical giants, BASF and Hoechst, which developed the terrible chlorine gas used in World War I. In 1925, the three formed a giant cartel, IG Farben, which became the world’s leader in pharmaceuticals, dyes, and chemicals.
During the early 1930s, IG Farben became the single largest donor to the election campaign of Adolf Hitler. Although it was slightly reluctant at first, because some of its key scientists were Jewish, in the decisive year before Hitler won power, IG Farben donated 400,000 marks to him and his Nazi party. This was amply rewarded. IG Farben, with Bayer, became the single largest profiteer of German conquests in World War II.
Hitler’s partner In a letter to IG Farben manager Fritz ter Meer in early 1941, Dr. Otto Ambros praised IG Farben’s friendship with the SS in speeding construction of its Auschwitz-Buna plant and wrote of a banquet given by the camp management where “all measures were worked out for utilizing the truly outstanding management of the concentration camp to the best advantage of the Buna factory.”
Although Auschwitz was the largest, most fearful site in history for annihilating human beings, its basic goal had been the creation of a giant IG Farben complex to produce synthetic petrol and rubber as part of Germany’s plans to conquer Europe and the world.
IG Farben was not only interested in fuel and rubber, however. Correspondence between Bayer managers and the Auschwitz commander included such exchanges as:
“With a view to the planned experiments with a new sleep-inducing drug we would appreciate it if you could place a number of prisoners at our disposal,”
“We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 RM [reichsmarks] per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 RM per woman. If this is acceptable to you, the women will be placed in our possession. We need some 150 women,”
“We confirm your approval of the agreement. Please prepare for us 150 women in the best health possible,”
“Received the order for 150 women. Despite their macerated condition they were considered satisfactory. We will keep you informed of the developments regarding the experiments,”
“The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment.”
IG Farben also had another interest in Auschwitz. For those too old, too small, or too weak to work, it had Zyklon B, designed and produced by an IG Farben subsidiary, Degesch.
When their conquest plans collapsed and their genocide was ended, the world expected that such men would be punished, and in August 1947 the U.S.-organized Nuremberg War Criminal Tribunal against IG Farben began, with U.S. prosecutor Telford Taylor stating: “These IG Farben criminals, not the lunatic Nazi fanatics, are the main war criminals. If the guilt of these criminals is not brought to light and if they are not punished, they will represent a much greater threat to the future peace of the world than Hitler if he were still alive.”
But the atmosphere in Germany had changed; old foes were replaced by new ones. In July 1948, after nearly a year, 10 of the 24 defendants were acquitted and 13, though found guilty on some of the charges of mass murder, slavery, and crimes against humanity, were sentenced to mild prison terms of one-and-a-half to eight years, including time already served.
Back to business IG Farben was also split up. But its three main components, now separate again, and urgently needed in a quickening cold war, grew until each one became 20 times bigger than IG Farben as a whole was at its height in 1944, the last year of the war.
By 1952, the new West German government of Konrad Adenauer had amnestied and released the last of those imprisoned, who were soon back in leading positions in the world of chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
As for the two men quoted in the letter above, Fritz ter Meer, a managing board member at IG Farben from start to finish, and as wartime manager responsible for IG Auschwitz, said at the trial, defending himself: “Forced labour did not inflict any remarkable injury, pain or suffering on the detainees, particularly since the alternative for these workers would have been death anyway.”
A few years after his release from prison, Fritz ter Meer was reinstated as a managing board member of Bayer. All three sibling firms BASF, Bayer, and Hoechst (which later merged with the French company to form Aventis) soon filled their highest positions with former Nazis.
The man who wrote the above letter, Otto Ambros, who had been responsible for the choice of location, planning, building, and running of IG Auschwitz as operations manager, got – for enslavement – the “toughest” sentence, eight years. After his release in 1952 he became, one after the other, deputy chairman, chairman, or member of the board in a dozen chemical companies.
Best-known was Chemie Grünenthal, which was guilty of selling the thalidomide drug (or Contergan) long after it seemed evident that, if taken by pregnant women, their babies could suffer from missing limbs or other deformities. Until 1959, it was sold in 46 countries with a label that it could be “given with complete safety to pregnant women and nursing mothers.” Up to 10,000 children were affected.
In 2008, researchers in England discovered a link between thalidomide and drugs researched during the war, quite probably one of those developed under the leadership of Otto Ambros during nerve gas research. Until then the company always claimed that previous research data had been lost, presumably during the war.
Untroubled by doubts, the U.S. Department of Energy (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission), hired Ambros as a consultant on coal hydrogenation based on IG Farben research. Asked about hiring a convicted war criminal, the department insisted that all relevant paperwork had been lost.
When a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle asked Ambros in a telephone interview about his 1948 conviction at Nuremberg for mass murder and slavery, he answered: “That happened a very long time ago. It involved Jews. We do not think about it any more.”
Today’s Bayer Those wartime IG Farben men are all dead, but their companies flourish. And Bayer has been accused in recent years of unethical medical experiments, selling drugs shown to be risky, hindering developing countries from developing vital medications, and using imported materials produced by child labour.
The most serious charge, perhaps, is that a Bayer subsidiary, H.C. Starck, was partly responsible for the long, bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which involved the winning of various minerals but above all the valuable coltran, of which it is the main producer.
Until now, sibling BASF was the largest chemical firm in the world. If the deal holds, it will now be overtaken by Bayer-Monsanto.
Any hopes that Bayer will somehow be bettered in its ways under the influence of Monsanto seem at the least unrealistic.
Photo: The IG Farben plant in Monowitz, near Auschwitz. | Holocaust Research Project
CONTRIBUTOR Victor Grossman is a journalist from the U.S. now living in Berlin. He fled the U.S. in the 1950s in danger of reprisals for his left-wing activities at Harvard and in Buffalo, New York. He landed in the former German Democratic Republic (Socialist East Germany), studied journalism, founded a Paul Robeson Archive and became a freelance journalist and author. One of his books is available in English: “Crossing the River. A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany” (2003, University of Massachusetts Press).