Saturday, March 11, 2006
As it prepares for the annual meeting of its parliament, China is launching a crackdown on one of its poorest and most vulnerable groups: people infected by the AIDS virus. A growing number of AIDS patients have been among those targeted by police in advance of government meetings in recent years. China officially reports that it has about 650,000 cases of AIDS and HIV, but many independent experts believe that China has at least 1.5 million cases and could have 10 million cases within the next few years if nothing is done. But hey, why worry when you have the fastest growing economy in the world.
The following is an AFP report from the Khaleej Times.
China puts 23 HIV/AIDS patients under house arrest
China has put 23 HIV/AIDS patients under house arrest to prevent them from travelling to Beijing to seek redress during the annual session of parliament, a rights group said on Saturday.
The patients are victims of a blood purchasing scheme condoned by the government in the 1990s which has left tens of thousands infected with the HIV virus and has killed thousands in recent years.
The 23, all in the AIDS-stricken central province of Henan, have been confined to their homes during the National People’s Congress meeting, which opened in Beijing on March 5, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
Police were outside their doors monitoring them around the clock, HRW said in a statement.
“People infected with HIV through unsafe practices at government clinics have routinely been denied medical treatment and compensation,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
“Now they can’t even tell their story to policymakers who might be able to help.”
HRW’s report followed a similar one by the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education.
Members of an organization of people living with HIV in Henan’s Ningling county were also prevented from attending a training session on HIV-prevention strategies because they had been put under house arrest, Aizhixing said.
In Henan’s Suiping county, the director of a home for children whose parents are ill or died from HIV/AIDS has had to close his orphanage because of his house arrest and find other ways to care for the children.
In the 1990s, local officials, with the knowledge of the central government, encouraged poor farmers to sell their blood, from which plasma was isolated and sold to companies that made blood products.
Unsanitary methods were used to collect the blood, causing widespread infections.
Beijing acknowledged the problem and began providing free drugs to patients a few years ago, but many victims lack adequate medical care and need help with living expenses.
Efforts to seek compensation from courts have been unsuccessful as courts turn down such cases.
Meanwhile, Beijing-based AIDS activist Hu Jia remains missing after more than two weeks. He was believed to have been arrested after organizing a hunger strike against police brutality towards rights activists.
This follow up on the article from a few days back is from Marianas Variety.
BIKINI, ENEWETAK TO FILE NUKE LAWSUITS AGAINST U.S.
By Giff Johnson
March 10, 2006
MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, March 10) — Islanders from two
ground zeros for 67 American nuclear tests and a third island that was
engulfed in radioactive fallout in a Chernobyl-style nuclear accident are to
file lawsuits in United States courts seeking more than $1 billion in
Seeing virtually no progress on the Marshall Islands government’s petition
to the U.S. Congress asking for additional nuclear test compensation that
was filed nearly six years ago, the nuclear test affected atolls are
preparing to take their cases back to the U.S. court system for action.
Bikini Atoll will file a claim in U.S. courts this month, the 60th
anniversary of their removal by the U.S. Navy to start the first post-World
War II nuclear tests, according to Bikini Senator Tomaki Juda. The Bikinians’
lawsuit will be an effort to get payment on the $563 million judgment issued
but not paid by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal in 2001, said Bikini official
Jack Niedenthal on Wednesday.
Bikini was the site of 23 nuclear tests, including the 1954 Bravo hydrogen
bomb, which was the largest U.S. weapon ever tested.
Enewetak Atoll, which received the first land damage award from the Nuclear
Claims Tribunal in April 2000, is gearing to file a suit in the next several
weeks in order to beat the six-year statute of limitations for filing a
claim. Enewetak wants to get action on a $386 million Nuclear Claims
Tribunal award. Enewetak was the site of 44 nuclear tests.
Because of a lack of funds, the Tribunal made only two small payments on
these awards in 2002 and 2003, amounting to about $2.2 million for Bikini
and $1.6 million for Enewetak.
Although the Tribunal has not yet ruled on Rongelap Atoll’s land damage
claim, Rongelap is preparing for U.S. court action later this year.
Rongelap’s lawyers and scientific advisors will begin a series of community
meetings next week Tuesday in Majuro to discuss legal strategy. Unsuspecting
islanders on Rongelap, about 100 miles east of Bikini, were engulfed in
radioactive fallout from the 1954 Bravo test. They suffered serious burns
and other radiation-induced illnesses in the days after the test, and have
suffered numerous health problems, including a high rate of thyroid tumors,
in the 50 years since Bravo.
"If we get the Tribunal award by August, then we’ll file (in the U.S.
courts) later this year," said Rongelap Mayor James Matayoshi, adding that
the Tribunal has no funding left to satisfy any awards made.
"We have no other choice," he said. "The message from the United States
government is that ‘changed circumstances’ doesn’t exist."
A provision in a now-expired nuclear compensation agreement between the U.S.
and Marshall Islands governments said that if the Marshall Islands could
show that there were "changed circumstances" that rendered the $270 million
compensation already paid "manifestly inadequate," then the U.S. Congress
would consider additional compensation.
Nuclear test-affected islanders, including officials from the Majuro-based
Nuclear Claims Tribunal, say that the U.S. compensation was clearly
inadequate based on new information about the numbers of cancers that are
arising from people’s exposure and new scientific understanding about the
hazards of radiation. A petition seeking several billion dollars in
additional nuclear test compensation and health care has been pending with
the U.S. Congress since 2000 with little movement.
The Bush administration last year issued a report to the Congress stating
that there is no legal obligation for the U.S. government to provide more
compensation. U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Greta Morris told the
Bikini people at a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of their relocation
last Friday that the U.S. government continues to be "concerned about the
damage done to the Marshallese people and environment caused by the nuclear
tests in the 1940’s and 1950’s." She also expressed the U.S. government’s
"deepest gratitude to the people of the Marshall Islands for your
contribution to security, peace and freedom through your participation in
the nuclear testing program."
But she described the 1986 compensation package as a "full and final
settlement" of all Marshall Islands claims and confirmed that the Bush
administration does not support additional compensation.
"Allow me to stress that nothing in the administration’s report in any way
reflects a weakening of U.S. commitments to the Marshallese people," Morris
said. "Indeed, the United States has no closer relationship with any nation
in the world than it has through the Compact of Free Association with the
Bikini and Enewetak had lawsuits pending in the U.S. courts for land
damages, and thousands of Marshall Islanders had personal injury claims
pending when the first Compact of Free Association with its nuclear test
compensation package came into effect in 1986. The more than $5 billion in
lawsuits were dismissed in 1986 by a U.S. judge on the basis that an
alternative forum — the Compact’s $270 million compensation section, which
included direct compensation payments to four nuclear affected atolls and
established the Nuclear Claims Tribunal to review claims for future nuclear
damages — had been created by the two governments to address the nuclear
test problem problem.
Matayoshi said the nuclear affected atolls spent the last 20 years going
through this process, but that because the Tribunal was not adequately
funded by the U.S. to pay the amounts awarded, the process has failed to
satisfy the claims.
Friday, March 10, 2006
The following article explains itself. It is from the New Standard.
No End in Sight for Miami Janitors’ Strike
by Brendan Coyne Mar. 10
A week-and-a-half-long strike by contracted janitors at one of Florida's wealthiest universities shows no sign of slowing.
Janitors and their faculty and student supporters expanded picket lines to the University of Miami's medical college yesterday and are expected to hold a rally at the Miami airport this afternoon.
The workers went on strike at the end of last month over pay and labor conditions. The janitors say they toil for poor pay in unsafe working environments and they have little opportunity to seek redress from the contracting firm that employs them.
The strike was sparked in part by the firing of one janitor who spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about union organizing efforts at the school, where, according to the paper, the cleaning staff receives no health benefits and many are paid less than $7 an hour. Some of the janitors, who are mainly Haitian and Cuban immigrants, have reportedly been trying to organize a union among the rest of the maintenance staff for over a year.
According to the Service Employees International Union, which has been working to organize the janitors and is assisting in pickets and other strike events, maintenance workers employed by Unicco Service Company at the university earn as little as $51 a day. By contrast, the same Boston-based janitorial services contractor pays its unionized employees at Harvard over $13 an hour, the union noted.
Two weeks ago, janitors gathered at a church on the campus and voted to approve a strike, SEIU said in a statement. The workers have no formal union representation.
Students and faculty at the university have joined in efforts to aid the janitors' campaign for better working conditions. According to statements by Students Toward a New Democracy (STAND), over 100 members of the university community actively support the striking janitors. STAND has been active in both the Unicco organizing efforts and living-wage campaigns at the school.
Initially intended to be short in both target and duration, the strike appears to be gaining momentum as SEIU and others supporting the workers have turned their attention to University of Miami President and former US Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. The union has posted Shalala's contact information online and is urging people to call her office and ask her to support the striking janitors.
Monday, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami issued a statement calling on Shalala to intervene in the job action and work with the janitors and members of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice to resolve the situation. The Bishop's call came after a mass held for the janitors.
The university has remained neutral throughout the janitors' 18-month organizing campaign and has not interceded since the strike began early last week. In a statement released prior to the strike vote, Shalala said the school has not entered into the fray because "Unicco employees are the ones who should make the choice concerning representation, pursuant to procedures established under Federal labor laws."
Instead of taking sides, Shalala announced that she is convening a group to conduct a "thorough review of compensation and benefits accorded to all contract employees working" at the university.
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Vast eucalyptus monocultures are taking over giant swathes of the Brazilian landscape, feeding the pulp/paper and iron industries. Now 'forestry' corporations are claiming carbon credits for these green deserts, giving Western companies a license to burn more fossil fuels, at the expense of the indigenous people with a rightful claim to the land.
One of those "forestry corporations" is Aracruz Celulose. Aracruz Celulose is the world's leading producer of bleached eucalyptus pulp. The Company is responsible for 30% of the global supply of the product, used to manufacture printing and writing, tissue, and high value added specialty papers. It owns about 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of land across Brazil.
Corporate Watch points out, "Yet for some Aracruz is a leading light for 'sustainable development'. Aracruz is the world's largest producer of bleached eucalyptus 'kraft market pulp' and operates the world's largest pulp mill. The company's plantations in Rio Grande do Sul are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and the company won an award for social responsibility from the Brazilian Ministry of Technology, Industry and Commerce. Aracruz is signed up to the UN's Global Compact and has had loans approved by World Bank's International Finance Corporation on the basis of its environmental record, and this is simply more evidence of international bureaucracy's blindness to the local impact of large scale plantations and its deafness to the voices of community activists."
The following article is a couple of days old, but I just found it and thought to pass it along.
The information is from La Via Campesina.
La Via Campesina women occupy a farm in South Brazil
Wednesday, 08 March 2006
About 2000 women from La Via Campesina occupied the plantation of Aracruz Celulose, in Barra do Ribeiro, Rio Grande do Sul (sur de Basil), early this wednesday morning. The purpose of the mobilization is to denounce the social and environmental impact of the growing green desert created by eucalyptus monocuture. The Barba Negra farm is the main production unit of seedslings of eucalyptus and pines of Aracruz. It also has a laboratory for seedlings cloning.
“We are against green deserts, the enormous plantations of eucalyptus, acácia and pines for cellulose, that cover t housandas of hectares in Brazil and Latin América. ‘When the green desert advancesm biodiversity is destroyed, soils deteriorate, rivers dry up. Moreover cellulose plants pollute air and water and threaten human health”, say the woman protestors.
The Aracruz Celulose is a business that owns the biggest green desert in the country. Its plantations cover more than 250 thousands hectares, 50 thousand just in Rio Grande do Sul. Their factories produce 2,4 million tons of whitened cellulose per year, generating pollution in the air and water, besides harming human health.
The women of La Via Campesina also protest in solidarity with the indigenous peoples who had their land invaded by Aracruz Celulose in the state of Espírito Santo. In January of this year, indigenous families were violently evicted by the Federal Police, who used machines from the company itself to carry out the eviction.
Aracruz is an agrobusiness company that receives public funds. It recieved almost R$ 2 billion in the last 3 years. However, a company like Aracruz generates only one job for each 185 hectares planted, whereas small scale farms generate one job per hectare.”If the green desert keeps growing, soon there won`t be enough water to drink and land to produce food. We just can`t understand how a government that wants to do away with hunger sponsors a green desert instead of investing in Agrarian Reform and peasant agriculture”, the manifesto declares.
The La Via Campesina mobilization is also occurring to denounce the environmental impacts of eucalyptus monoculture, that is making strides in Rio Grande do Sul with three large companies: Votorantim, Stora Enso and Aracruz. The eucalyptus deserts wear out the soil and consume too much water: each eucalyptus tree may consume 30 liters of water per day.
The women mobilization of La Via Campesina marks the International Day of Women. “ This March 8th, we express solidarity with rural women and urban working women of the whole world, who suffer violence of various kinds imposed on them by this capitalist and patriarchal society”, the text concludes.
After the mobilization the women of Via Campesina will join the International Women Day march, which starts at 10, in Porto Alegre.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
By June Rostan, ColorLines RaceWire
Anne Braden, long-time activist and civil rights leader, died on March 6 at a hospital in Louisville, Ky. She was taken there over the weekend suffering from pneumonia. She was 81.
Anne entered the civil rights struggle in 1954. At the time, black couples couldn't buy homes in segregated neighborhoods so Andrew and Charlotte Wade asked a white couple, Anne and Carl Braden, to buy a house on their behalf in an all-white area of Louisville, Kentucky. The Bradens bought the house, and the uproar that followed changed all their lives. The house was bombed. No one was hurt, but the perpetrators were never caught. Instead, the state charged Anne and Carl with sedition--Carl was sentenced to 15 years in prison and served eight months. Anne wrote a book about this incident, The Wall Between, in 1958 that was reissued by the University of Tennessee last year with a must-read 40-page epilogue. The bombing catapulted Anne into the freedom movement, and since that time she has been at the heart of anything that has to do with race and justice in the South.
Anne and Carl formed a lifetime partnership of social activism and were so committed to self-determination and leadership for people of color that for years they were regarded as pariahs by white liberals and castigated as Communists. In the late '40s and early '50s, they worked with civil rights and labor groups in Louisville. In the 1960s, they staffed the extraordinary Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), and were central to the civil rights movement. After SCEF broke up in the early 1970s, Anne helped found the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice (SOC) and continued working with them into her 70s. Anne set the benchmark for white, anti-racist organizing in the South for more than 50 years.
The following is a conversation recorded with Anne in 2001.
Q: You have an incredible ability to look at people who opposed you and Carl, to understand where they are coming from and not be judgmental. How were you able to do that?
I never did hate those people who opposed us in the `50s because I knew that I could have been in their position. I was just lucky that I was able to break out of being white in a racist society and privileged in a classist society. The "open sesame" for my generation was race. Once we could understand what racism had done, then everything fell like a house of cards. It opened everything to question: economic injustice, foreign policy. If you don't understand white supremacy, then you do not understand the country. The first thing I had to realize was that the people I loved, my family, my friends, the people running Alabama were wrong. But once you realized that, it was not hard to realize that the people running the national government were wrong too.
Q: What did your generation learn from the civil rights movement of the `50s and `60s?
The '60s were so important because the country had to confront the issue of racism which it was built on. When African Americans began to organize, they were the foundation. The foundation moved and the whole building shook. That is why people were able to organize against the war. That's why women were able to organize. All that happened because of the black movement.
I think our country was moving tentatively in the `60s toward turning its assumptions, policies, and values upside down. Southern whites of my generation who got involved in the civil rights movement turned our lives around. What we did is what this whole country needs to do: turn itself inside-out and upside-down and build a society that is not based on racism. You have to come to terms with this: that the society you live in is totally wrong and that it is destroying you as well as people of color. I have not overcome racism in myself. I have worked at it for 50 years but I still see life through white eyes.
Q: How do we get other low-income and working-class white people to start working to overcome white supremacy?
If you want to get white people involved in the anti-racist movement, the starting point is not to ask them to give up their privileges. That is not a good organizing approach. White people who are struggling economically or living in terrible poverty have a hard time seeing that they have white privilege.
A lot of white working-class people have been turned off to our movements because they have been put down. There is an assumption among white intellectuals who think they are liberals or anti-racists that all working-class and poor whites are flaming racists. They may have been some of the people who joined the Klan, but I have met just as many flaming racists in the country-club set.
Q: Why do you say that white people have to come to their understanding of racism, not just through an intellectual experience, but through something emotional?
Because racism goes so deep. The kind of emotional experience that can make a difference varies with different people. Some get there through personal relationships. I didn't meet just one person, I met a movement. A community has to go through a process of turning itself inside-out. I think of Birmingham--it's not perfect, but it's better than a lot of places in the South today. It went through the turmoil. White people in Birmingham in the `60s had to look at what the heck was going on. You had four little girls killed when the church was bombed; you had dogs and fire hoses turned on black protesters.
Q: Do you think we can build multi-racial social justice and organizing groups in the South?
The South is not black and white any more. We have growing Latino and Asian populations. And the Native Americans were always here, but we didn't know it until that movement surfaced visibly in the `60s. To build multi-racial organizations in a racist society is virtually impossible. Impossible means it just takes a little longer. I tell people not to get discouraged if they try and fail, to try again.
I am part of two organizations that are really interracial, multi-ethnic, and definitely led by people of color. They are the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice (SOC) and the Kentucky Alliance Against Racism and Repression. We need more whites who are willing to take action and to serve in organizations with people of color in the leadership. Those of us who are white have to be careful that we aren't trying to dominate. We are so used to running things.
In the late `40s when it was so repressive, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW), which was started in 1938 as an economic justice group, reorganized into SCEF around a single issue: race. There were other issues but Jim Crow segregation had to be dealt with first. SCEF was bi-racial from the beginning. Its outreach was to white Southerners. We wanted to get them involved in action on picket lines and going to jail, not just sitting around in human relations meetings.
When the movement won the lunch counter battle and voting rights, SCEF began to shift back to more economic justice issues, as the black movement did. But then SCEF broke up in 1973. I came to the conclusion that the basic weakness in SCEF was that it became overwhelmingly white. We got this great influx of whites, after SNCC (the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) told whites to go organize whites. SCEF became a battleground for white people to fight out their quarrels. The real purpose got lost.
I made up my mind then that I would never spend another minute of my life building something that was all or mostly white because it is not going to change anything. It is a waste of time.
We deliberately organized SOC as an interracial group. It has evolved into an organization that is clearly led by people of color.
Q: Do you think it is important to keep bringing in new people?
That is the biggest weakness of our great progressive movement. We are reluctant to reach the people who are not involved. It's worst among whites who consider themselves anti-racist. They don't want to talk to white people who are not involved. Most whites who come into anything interracial go through the stage of working mainly in black communities because it is more comfortable and exciting. That is what I did years ago.
In 1951, I wrote to William Patterson, head of the Civil Rights Congress, about what I was doing, including going to some of the black churches. He wrote me and said, "You don't need to be going to the black churches, Anne. They don't need you to tell them that they are oppressed. You need to be talking to the white churches." That changed my life right then.
That was when I really decided that my mission was to get out and talk to white people. That is why I was startled when all these white folks in SNCC got upset when they were told to go organize white people. Didn't they know that was what they ought to be doing?
My father, a working-class white man, said to me in the late `60s, "There's a revolution coming in this country and I don't have anything to lose from it." Then 10 years later, his attitude was altogether different. He'd gotten this sense that blacks had asked for too much, that they had gone too far. What do you think happened to change his mind?
He did not come to that conclusion by himself. That was the propaganda that was being put out. The people in control knew what to do to keep control. This was what was being said in academic circles, in government, in the media, everywhere else. He heard that. He didn't think that up himself.
There was a campaign for the minds of white people and a campaign of repression against blacks. People don't understand the repression that happened in the late `60s. That movement did not just go away. It was destroyed by repression. They chopped off the black organizers.
It was irrevocably damaging to the country that the movement was blunted at that point. It really was merging the issues. It was taking on economic justice. The unfinished business of the civil rights movement was economic justice.
Q: What is our hope for the future?
I think that there will be a new mass movement. I have been part of three mass movements in my life, times of great drama when things really explode: the upsurge of the `50s and `60s, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the Jesse Jackson campaigns of the `80s. They were movements that really changed things.
At the first meeting of the Jackson delegates in 1984, there were 400 people. People started talking about what was happening in their communities. There were white coal miners from Appalachia, Latinos from New Mexico, people from all over the country. To me, one of the political tragedies of the 20th century is that the grassroots base of the Jackson movement collapsed after 1988. If it had kept going, we'd have a viable third force and an alternative to the two main parties.
Mass movements usually start from a specific struggle. The main thing you do, when you don't see the mass movement you have been hoping for, is work to build struggles around specific issues. We've spent lots of time in Louisville around the police brutality issue. We do the battles at our doorsteps, bringing new people in around specific issues. They are the building blocks. I don't know when this will explode into a movement. Nobody thought that Montgomery, cradle of the Confederacy, would be the place where the movement would break out in the 1950s.
For whites, none of this will change unless we deal with white supremacy. It's fine to sit and talk and get your heart in the right place, but it ain't going to have one bit of impact. Whites need to be visible and engaged. We have to break that solid white wall of resistance.
To find out more about plans for Anne's funeral and a memorial service, or to send a contribution in Anne's name, contact the Kentucky Alliance at 3208 W. Broadway, Louisville, Ky. 40211, 502-778-8130, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a post from the Washington Post (post-post) that should make those of you who eat meat be even more wary. Ugh!
CDC: No Government Recall Despite Outbreak
By LIBBY QUAID
WASHINGTON -- The government declined to alert the public about suspect ground beef or request a recall after a 2004 salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 31 people nationwide, according to a report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report, made public Wednesday by food safety advocates, said the Agriculture Department traced illnesses in nine states _ Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin _ and Washington, D.C., to a national supermarket chain and a single meat processing plant.
The department decided no action was needed because the plant was following federal guidelines. The CDC did not name the plant or supermarket chain. A separate report from the Minnesota Department of Health referred to the chain as a member-only warehouse.
Unlike E. coli and listeria, salmonella in raw meat is not an "adulterant" under federal guidelines. That is because people are expected to cook raw meat before they eat it, and cooking kills salmonella.
Many of those who fell ill said they ate undercooked ground beef or tasted the beef while cooking it.
Department spokesman Steven Cohen said officials did a full investigation and were prepared to act on any problems at the plant. "We didn't find problems," Cohen said.
That's not much comfort for people who got sick, said Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy for Consumer Federation of America.
"Nobody died, but 31 people ... got sick from eating this product, and I can tell you, not one of them thought that it was their best day on earth," Foreman said. "This is not just a bellyache."
Salmonella is a bacteria that causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps and in some cases requires hospitalization.
It can be deadly unless infected people are treated right away with antibiotics. Of the estimated 1.4 million cases of salmonella each year in the United States, about 400 people die, according to CDC.
Foreman and other food safety advocates called attention Wednesday to the report on the outbreak that was issued by CDC late last month. They said the department could have taken steps to prevent more people from getting sick but chose not to.
"They never announced this outbreak," said Donna Rosenbaum of Safe Tables Our Priority. "I would guess there are a number of cases of this that could have been avoided. It ran from August to October, so this was in people's refrigerators and in their freezers."
She noted that many cases of food poisoning go unreported; CDC estimates there are 39 cases of unreported illness for every one case that is reported.
While the department lacks legal authority to recall meat, it can ask companies to do recalls. No company has ever refused a recall request.
The department has issued alerts involving salmonella before. For example, a news release last year said that several salmonella infections in the Midwest were linked to stuffed and breaded frozen chicken entrees. The announcement pointed out the food needed to be fully cooked to be safe.
Alerts have also been issued about drug-resistant forms of the salmonella bacteria.
"Although salmonella is not considered an adulterant in raw ground beef, we do a great deal of outreach to help consumers understand how to handle and cook their meat and poultry to avoid chances of becoming ill," Cohen said.
The Bush Administration likes to lecture the world about the responsibility inherent in being a nuclear power. It would be nice if Bush would live up to our own responsibilities while he is at. How about paying our debt to the people of the Marshall Islands for starts.
The accompanying image is of Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Nov. 1, 1952.
The following article is from Pacific Magazine and was contributed by an Oread Daily reader.
MARSHALL ISLANDS: President Note Calls For Full U.S. Settlement
Wednesday: March 8, 2006
“Fifty-two years after the U.S. Government unleashed the largest nuclear weapon ever tested in the Marshall Islands, we are a nation that is still striving to come to terms with our nuclear legacy," declared RMI President Kessai H. Note during a weekend visit to the island of Kili, one of the island where the people of Bikini were moved 60 years ago by the U.S. Military.
"We are reminded of not only the sacrifice and suffering of those affected by the testing but also of the strength and survival of our people in the face of that suffering,” Mr Note continued. “I am honored to pay tribute to our survivors and to say that this Administration will not rest until the unmet needs of all those affected by the testing are addressed.”
President and First Lady Note joined Bikini Senator Tomaki Juda and the Bikini Mayor and Council Members and the people of Bikini on Kili Island, over the weekend, in commemorating 60 years since they were moved from their home for U.S. nuclear testing purposes.
“I am interested in nothing less than full recovery for our people," Mr Note said. "That is why this Administration began work on a Changed Circumstances Petition when it came into office. That is why we submitted our Petition to the U.S. Congress in September 2000 describing our needs in detail. That is why we put these same issues on the table during the Compact negotiations.
"At the time, the U.S. Executive Branch refused to allow issues related to the U.S. nuclear weapons testing program to be included in our bilateral discussions because it determined that Congress would address the RMI’s Changed Circumstances Petition. Therefore, we pushed and successfully testified at hearings in both the House and Senate. We have not allowed any setback to deter us. It is in the interest of full recovery that we have continued to make our case to the U.S. Government at every opportunity and by every avenue.”
The President was speaking to over 100 people Friday afternoon during his first public address in Kili during his three-day visit.
“The most immediate needs are clear. Our Nuclear Claims Tribunal needs additional funding to pay off all personal injury awards and claims relating to property damage. There is a nuclear waste storage facility – Runit Dome – on Enewetak that must be monitored. Marshallese workers who worked at Bikini and Enewetak under the Trust Territory and those coping with cancers and other radiogenic illnesses urgently need improved healthcare options.”
The President showed appreciation to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s sponsorship of a bill that will include Marshallese in a U.S. worker’s compensation program.
“We look to the U.S. Congress and the Administration to follow Senator Murkowski’s lead in finding creative solutions to the real human needs that we face at home—in these islands. We have already made a request to the U.S. Congress to increase funding for the 177 Health Care Program for fiscal year 2007 and to immediately implement a cancer detection and treatment program. We look to the Department of Energy, Interior and others in the U.S. Administration to support our request.
“It is time that the U.S. Government put words into action,” said President Note. “The U.S. Government constantly assures us that it appreciates that our sons and daughters serve in the U.S. armed services in Iraq and Afghanistan at a time when recruitment in the U.S. is down, our willingness to host the U.S. Army at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Testing Facility on Kwajalein Atoll, and our strong support of the United States and Israel at the United Nations as demonstrated by the RMI’s voting record. We are pleased to be your ally, but no friend likes to be taken for granted; the time has come for action, and our requests for healthcare to assist those injured by U.S. activities must be addressed.
“This is the time for leadership. This is the time for our friends and allies in the US to be courageous in their decisions, creative in their solutions, and compassionate in their support. The people of the Marshall Islands deserve no less.”
The President and First Lady returned to Majuro on Monday.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
It's International Women's Day and violence of all kinds against women seems to be on the increase all over the world. Latin America is no exception. The article to follow comes from the International Relations Center (IRC).
IRC Americas Program Report
Femicide On the Rise in Latin America
By Kent Paterson | March 8, 2006
Americas Program, International Relations Center (IRC) americas.irc-online.org
On the eve of International Women's Day 2006, a delegation of Latin American women made a historic journey to Washington, DC. Rather than celebrating the gains women have made through their many struggles, the group arrived at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States with an alarming message: femicide, the murder of women, is spreading.
“(Femicide) is not only present in Ciudad Juarez and most of Mexico, it's a regional problem,” warns Marimar Monroy, a representative of the non-governmental Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights and one of the delegates to the IACHR.
Joined by grassroots delegates from Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and other nations, Monroy presented a report to the IACHR commissioners that sketched widespread violence against women from multiple causes, rampant failures in the procurement of justice for victims and relatives, the prevalence of impunity, and the absence of standard statistical gathering and record-keeping methods to document gender violence. Monroy and her Latin American colleagues delivered their femicide report as one piece of a campaign aimed at making “the problem more visible in the region.”
Incomplete murder rates cited in the NGO report mention 373 murders of women in Bolivia from 2003 to 2004, 143 in Peru during 2003, and more than 2,000 in Guatemala. In Colombia , a woman is reportedly killed every 6 days by her partner or ex-partner. Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City , Mexico , two cities where the femicide trend was first widely noticed, have suffered the murder of more than 500 women from multiple causes since 1993, according to press and other sources. Dozens more remain missing.
Latin American women's organizations contend that member nations of the Organization of American States are in widespread violation of international treaties and declarations that protect the rights of women , including the American Convention on Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Belem do Para Convention, and others. Appealing to the IACHR to follow-up on previous recommendations the human rights institution has made about eradicating femicide, delegation representatives considered the Washington hearing a positive step.
“Given the kinds of questions (from the commissioners) it opened a door to initiating a process with the participation of civil society,” said Adriana Beltran of the non-profit Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), which facilitated the delegation's U.S. visit. The IACHR conducted previous trips to Ciudad Juarez in 2002 and Guatemala in 2004 to investigate the femicides. Additionally, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Yakin Ertuk traveled to Guatemala in 2004.
Femicide—a Form of Gender Violence
The Mexican Commission's Monroy says a broad debate exists about the definition of femicide, which in her analysis is “gender violence,”—violence specifically directed against a person because she is female. Femicide in Latin America first became a major issue in 1993 after women's activists in Ciudad Juarez raised protests about a growing number of unidentified women discovered raped, tortured, and murdered on the outskirts of this Mexican border city.
A sampling of recent cases reveals how the murder of women has become gruesomely routine in other parts of Mexico as well. In the month of February 2006 alone, Nora Rocio Ruiz, a 16-year-old Internet cafe employee, was found tortured and murdered close to a garbage dump near the drug-infested town of Uruapan , Michoacan. Eighteen-year-old Daniela Martinez, an indigenous Nahua high school student and domestic worker in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, was found shot to death and partially burned on the city's outskirts. Martinez had been holding down a second job at a stationery store and was described as a hard-working student who had dreams of emigrating to the United States . Meanwhile, hundreds of mile north of Guerrero, 17-year-old Fabiola Cuevas Coral was found raped and strangled near Cuauhtémoc , Chihuahua .
Guatemala: Ciudad Juarez South
Angelica Gonzalez, a member of Guatemala's Network to Oppose Violence against Women, says more than 2,400 women have been murdered in Guatemala since the year 2000. Killings have occurred throughout the Central American nation, with most concentrated in and around Guatemala City, Escuintla, and San Marcos, a department bordering Mexico. Despite the establishment of a special prosecutor's office for women's homicides, statistics compiled by WOLA indicate the slaughter is worsening. According to Adriana Beltran, more than 300 women were murdered in 2003, 527 in 2004, and 624 in 2005. Often portrayed in the press as faceless statistics, the victims had names and lives like Claudia Isabel Velazquez, a 19-year-old law student raped and shot to death, or 15-year-old Maria Isabel, a retail shop employee who was found raped with her hands and feet bound together with barbed wire.
A 2005 report by Amnesty International listed housewives, professionals, students, domestic employees, unskilled workers, sex workers, former and current street gang members, and migrants from other countries as among the victims. The human rights group cited class as another common denominator of the femicides. Most of the victims were very young and poor , and many were horribly tortured before their deaths. Like Ciudad Juarez , Gonzalez says sexual aggression, the mutilation of body parts like breasts, torture, and the dumping of victims in empty lots are trademarks of the killings. The cutting of women's skin is a common trait in many crimes throughout the hemisphere, according to Gonzalez. In Guatemala, firearms, knives, and strangulation are the most common methods of killing women, she adds.
Other similarities stand out between the situations in Ciudad Juarez and Guatemala. Amnesty International highlights foot-dragging, poorly-protected evidence scenes, ignoring concrete leads, and failing to gather forensic evidence as characterizing the police investigations. Many crimes have been pinned on the Mara street gangs, but Gonzalez says the real perpetrators aren't always readily identified. The women's advocate criticizes investigators for frequently focusing their probes on family members of victims rather than examining the bigger picture. “There's no clear information about the victimizers of women,” Gonzalez says. Similar to Mexico , police are suspected as being the authors of more than one killing in Guatemala . Only 15 sentences have been handed down for the more than 2,000 murders in Guatemala during the last six years, Gonzalez adds.
The Wars Against Women
The roots of the present gender crimes in Guatemala can be traced back to the civil war that ended in 1996 with a peace agreement between the Guatemalan government and opposition guerrilla groups. A report by the Roman Catholic Church's Project for the Recuperation of Historical Memory said one-fourth of the 200,000 people who disappeared during the conflict were women. As in the former Yugoslavia and the Darfur region of Sudan , government soldiers and pro-government paramilitary groups committed widespread human rights violations against women. “Rape and sexual violence were an integral part of the counterinsurgency strategy,” the church concluded. The present crimes reflect this pattern of hatred and domination of women .
Similar patterns have been observed in Colombia, Peru, and Chiapas, Mexico. In Colombia , suspected right-wing paramilitaries working with the Colombian military raped 16-year-old Omaira Fernandez and tore her unborn child from her womb before tossing the bodies of the teenager and baby into a river in 2003. In Peru , the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified rape as a form of torture during the 1980-2000 armed conflict.
In Guatemala violence against women continued in the years after the war ended, a period when international drug cartels and Mexican transnational corporations moved into the country. After a 2004 visit, the IACHR's Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women said there were indications that some women were being killed by organized criminal bands intent on carving up national territory into zones of influence. Young women who were in a gang's territory and rejected the passes of gang members were at risk, as well as those who resided in rival territory and were sometimes killed and exhibited in a lurid manner to send a “message.”
One former female gang member told Amnesty International: “Such murders can be used to show which gang has the most power. The one that does the most brutal things has the most power—all the more so if nothing happens to them as a result.”
Killing women as a means of projecting power is also evident in the neighboring nations of El Salvador and Honduras, where defiant messages and challenges to politicians have been found scrawled next to murdered (sometimes mutilated) women. South American anthropologist Rita Laura Segato, who has studied underworld sub-cultures, has pointed to the possibility of mafia blood pacts and territorial claims as features of some of the Ciudad Juarez killings.
A Transnational, Parallel State
In a globalized world, femicide is not just a local horror. The social, economic, and political forces transforming the globe and expelling populations across borders likewise put their stamp on the killing of women. Femicides flourish in areas experiencing social upheavals marked by previous or current armed conflicts, violent rivalries between internationally organized criminal groups, the displacement of old economies in favor of new—often illicit—ones, and the corruption and weakening of traditional forms of state power.
At the same time, killers now frequently jump borders. Jose Manuel Torres Yake, a Peruvian national, was arrested in Hiroshima , Japan , last year for raping and murdering a 6-year-old girl. The suspect had a previous criminal record in Peru for raping two other minors.
The assorted, possible transnational paths of femicide are mind-boggling. In recent comments, Alicia Perez Duarte, the newly-appointed federal special prosecutor for women's homicides in Mexico , departed from previous denials by the Chihuahua Office of the State Attorney General and her own agency, the Office of the Federal Attorney General, that organized crime and drug traffickers were not involved in the Ciudad Juarez rape murders. Perez links the murders to the rise of the Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel in 1993, even though evidence exists that the murders began somewhat earlier. The Mexican special prosecutor does not discount a possible link between the Ciudad Juarez murders and international money-laundering, prostitution, pornographic and pedophile rings that use modeling agencies, Internet cafes, and computer education schools as covers.
According to Perez, coincidences exist in the modus operandi of a ring exposed two years ago in Ciudad Juarez that recruited teenagers for sex with prominent businessmen and the international network of pedophiles involving Jean Succar Kuri, the Cancun businessman detained in Arizona. Perez recently said it's within these circles that murder victims “presumably met those who killed them.” Perez added, “There you have the leads. The forms are very similar in the state of Mexico , in Ciudad Juarez , in Cancun , in Tapachula.”
Spanning the globe from Asia to Europe to the Americas, the economic clout of human and sex trafficking networks is estimated by some observers to be only surpassed by illegal drug and arms trading. Latin America is a hot spot in the international sex economy. Recent pedophile investigations in Germany and Spain, for example, traced back to Guatemala where pornographic videos featuring children as young as three years old engaging in sexual acts were produced. Earlier this year, a scandal erupted in the Guatemalan town of Jutiapa bordering El Salvador when a pedophile ring was exposed. Suspects, including the son of an official of the Guatemalan Justice Ministry, were accused of using a high school to recruit 15 youth aged 11 to 16 to act in porn flicks. As in Ciudad Juarez , family members of the youths were threatened after pressing legal action.
In the view of Adriana Beltran, the power of organized criminal groups and the persistence of femicide serve to undermine the democratic transition Guatemala was supposed to experience after the peace accords. In former military dictatorships like Guatemala where civilian government institutions are still fragile, the security threats posed by organized criminal bands and their impunity are paradoxically reviving the former national security state apparatus as the military is being drawn into law enforcement. Beltran believes that this is a temptation that should be resisted at all costs. “We strongly believe that the lines between police and military should be kept separate, especially in countries that had armed conflicts,” she says.
The WOLA is supporting proposals to convene an international commission to investigate clandestine armed groups that grew out of the civil war years, and focus attention on the root causes of rapidly-proliferating organized crime.
Internationalizing the Anti-Femicide Movement
While the bad news is that femicide seems to be spreading throughout the hemisphere, the good news is that growing movements are emerging to counter the violent tide. In Chilpancingo, Guerrero, students of Daniela Martinez's high school demand justice in their slain friend's case. Another movement is being organized around the brutal December slaying of high school student Sara Benazir in Tijuana , linking activists in the Mexican border city with activists in San Francisco , California .
Meanwhile, the pro-Juarez women's movement has gone global. In Holland, activists outraged by the lack of progress in the 1998 Ciudad Juarez murder of Dutch citizen Hestor Van Nierop and other women are organizing to pressure the transnational electronics company Philips, which has maquiladora plants in the border city, to push for action, and has targeted the human rights clause of the free trade agreement signed between Mexico and the European Union as a pressure point for demanding an end to impunity. A growing roster of international celebrities including Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, Joan Manuel Serrat, and the Mexican rock group Jaguares, among others, are giving mass exposure to the issue of femicide.
In the United States, the Mexico Solidarity Network and the Washington Office on Latin America are organizing tours and speaking engagements to educate the public about femicide in Mexico and Guatemala. Last year, U.S. Congressional briefings about the Guatemalan femicide attended by Democratic representatives Hilda Solis and Barbara Lee were held on Capitol Hill. “We're trying to raise the level of awareness, of concern,” says the WOLA's Beltran. “There is increasing concern from members of Congress about the situation,” she says. “Ciudad Juarez sparked interest … this is a situation that affects not only Ciudad Juarez.”
Kent Paterson is a freelance journalist based in Albuquerque, NM, and a frequent contributor to the IRC Americas Program (online at www.americaspolicy.org).
For More Information
Related IRC Americas Program Articles:
Pedophilia and Repression of the Press in Mexico: The Power of Corruption and the Corruption of Power
By Laura Carlsen
Women's Rights Eroding in Latin America
By Laura Carlsen
Mexican Commission for the Protection and Defense of Human Rights
Voice: 011-52-55-5564-2582 or 5564-2592
Center for Legal Action on Human Rights/Network to Oppose Violence against Women (Guatemala)
Washington Office on Latin America (United States)
e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mexico Solidarity Network (United States)
Amigos de las Mujeres (New Mexico)
Nuestras Hijas a Regreso de Casa (Ciudad Juarez)
e-mails: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas (Chihuahua City)
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Spanish-language media with regular coverage of femicides:
www.cimacnoticias.com (Includes special section on Ciudad Juarez and regular reports on Guatemala)
www.nortedeciudadjuarez.com (femicide section)
The image accompanying this post is a copy of a drawing by a thirteen year old. When asked to describe it by someone from Human Rights Watch, here is what he said:
Human Rights Watch: What's happening here?
13-year-old artist: These men in green are taking the women and the girls.
Human Rights Watch: What are they doing?
Boy: They are forcing them to be wife. The houses are on fire.
Human Rights Watch: What's happening here?
Boy: This is an Antonov. This is a helicopter. These here, at the bottom of the page, these are dead people.
Today, by the way, is International Women's Day...
The following is taken from the web site of the Global Sisterhood Network.
In the Spirit of Lysistrata
By Lucinda Marshall
The perpetual war on women’s lives continues unabated. The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows protestors to continue to terrorize women at abortion clinics and South Dakota’s ban on virtually all abortions (with other states threatening to do the same) are the latest assaults on women’s human rights in this country. In addition, almost immediately after signing the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), President Bush promptly turned around and submitted a budget that proposed cutting funds to the vital services that are provided for by this important piece of legislation.
The arrogant disregard for women’s human rights however is a global phenomena. Hundreds of women die every year from AIDS the complications of childbirth because there is no profit in helping them survive. Women throughout the world are also victimized by a perpetual pandemic of sexual violence including infanticide, female genital mutilation, rape and sexual slavery.
And everywhere, women’s lives are used as the battlegrounds of men’s wars. Several weeks ago, the human rights organization Madre reported that an effort was being organized to create an underground railroad in Iraq for women whose lives were in danger of honor killings and other kinds of intimate assaults. Reporter Jill Carroll and aid worker Margaret Hassan have been kidnapped (and in Hassan’s case subsequently killed) and Iraqi women held in jail as leverage by groups of men to pressure other groups of men, whether we call those groups sovereign nations, terrorists or freedomfighters. Aung San Suu Kyi remains in captivity in Burma and the murders of hundreds of women in Mexico and Guatemala go unsolved. In Darfur, women have been subjected to unspeakable violence. The list is simply endless.
It has been said that the health of a society is measured by how it treats its women. By that measure, our human society is very sick indeed.
At the same time, our planet has been plundered and assaulted beyond the tipping point. Our children can barely breathe the polluted air. Our rivers are fouled with pesticides and toxins. Genetically modified seed and depleted uranium threaten us all. Fish are dying in the rising and warming seas and soon the Arctic ice will be no more. The arrogant devastation of our coastal areas, our plains and our mountains in the name of economic progress turns natural disasters into horrific manmade catastrophes. And just as in war, it is always the women and children who suffer the most harm.
As the richest most powerful nation in the world, the U.S. bears significant responsibility for the continued reign of terror against the earth and it’s inhabitants. Because of our privileged position in the world, it is incumbent upon U.S. women to take a stand against this madness. Just as they did in ancient Greece, we must say that we will no longercooperate with the patriarchal madness that is killing us all. It is time to stop participating in a system that is toxic and dysfunctional by its very nature. Neither the planet or her inhabitants are ours to control, we are part of a complex living whole. It is time for women to lead the way and demand an end to the assault on our lives and that of our world.
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Z Magazine , Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse.
More evidence of the impact of global warming keeps popping up. This time it the woods of Minnisota that are acting as the proverbial "bird in a cage." This story comes from Minnesota Public Radio.
Forest changes linked to global warming
St. Paul, Minn. — Lee Frelich has been studying trees in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for the past 18 years. In that time the University of Minnesota hardwoods researcher says he's witnessed dramatic changes.
"There is a lot more red maple," says Frelich. "And red maple's a species that normally would not be part of the boreal forest in the Boundary Waters. The climate used to be too cold for red maple."
It's not just Minnesota's mild winters that are helping the red maple. Summers are different too. They've been wetter. Frelich says that's kept wildfires in check, giving the red maple a chance to flourish.
But the red maple's gain is a loss for the native northern pines.
"The pines which were historically the species that dominated the forest there are just not reproducing very well and red maple is," says Frelich. "Pines need fire and jack pine in particular is a cold weather species."
These changes are happening quickly, according to Frelich. But that's not unusual along the edges of a biome -- a region characterized by its dominant forms of plant life and climate.
Minnesota has three biomes -- the boreal forest in the north, deciduous forests of oak and maple in the central part of the state, and the prairies and savannahs of southern Minnnesota. Even a small change in a biome's climate can cause a big change in the vegetation.
The way Frelich sees it, Minnesota's climate will continue to warm. The real question is whether it will stay wetter or become drier.
If it's wetter, the woods could end up looking a lot more like Ohio where poplar, sycamore and walnut trees are common. If the climate becomes drier, the forests will retreat and the landscape will look similar to the grassland around Omaha.
That's a sobering prospect for scientists and naturalists. It's also worrisome for people like John Rajala, who makes his living off the forests.
"We're concerned," says Rajala. "But we're not overly concerned with what we're seeing."
Rajala is a fourth generation woodsman based in central Minnesota. His family's business owns 30,000 acres of forest land, most of it in Itasca County.
Rajala says success in the wood products business depends on high quality trees, like white birch, which have been more difficult to find in recent years.
"I'm not a global warming expert so I really can't put 10 years of warmer winters into the broader context. But we do see increased stress on the white birch stands, especially the older ones," says Rajala. "And so then we have to ask ourselves, why is that?"
Rajala says the changes could be due to warmer temperatures. But he thinks there may be other explanations that are just as valid, like the age of the trees. He says many of Minnesota's white birch are quite old and nearing the end of their natural lifespan. He also says people are planting fewer of them, because aspen trees are more valuable these days for paper-making.
It's not just the northern Minnesota timber industry that's noticing the effects of the warmer winters. Southern Minnesota fruit tree growers have also noticed changes.
Ralph Yates, who farms 200 acres of apples near La Crescent in southeastern Minnesota, says the mild weather has brought more unwanted pests to his orchards.
"These populations aren't knocked as heavily as they would be in a traditional Minnesota winter," says Yates.
"So the populations are there in greater numbers in the spring, which means we're gonna have to put greater effort into controlling these pests, greater expense, greater use of crop protection materials," he says.
In other words, more pesticides. Still, Yates isn't sure if this all adds up to global warming.
For its part, the scientific community has become more unified than ever that global warming is occuring.
U of M researcher Lee Frelich says most of his colleagues at the university's Center for Hardwood Ecology believe that Minnesota forests are already changing because of the warmer climate.
He recognizes that for many Minnesotans the forest changes aren't so noticeable. But he predicts it won't be long before they will be hard to miss.
"I'd say if the climate stays as warm as it is now or gets warmer, within 50 years anybody would be able to notice a major change in the Boundary Waters -- with much more oak and maple, a lot less spruce and a lot less pine," says Frelich.
He doubts global warming can be reversed at this point. Frelich says people would have had to stop driving cars 50 years ago to make a difference today. But he does believe there is still time to lessen the effects of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
A small group of people representing a whole horde of organizations rallied yesterday in the New Mexico Capitol Rotunda against nuclear weaons, nuclear power, and New Mexico's significant involvement in nuclear projects.
First is an article from the Santa Fe New Mexican about the rally. Following that article is a press release from the Los Almos Study Group concerning the reasons for the rally. Finally, you will find the "Call of Nuclear Disarmament."
100+ NM Organizations, Others Call for Nuclear Disarmament
An Albuquerque nuclear-disarmament group argues the country should dismantle its nuclear-weapons arsenal and spend the money on health care, education and other domestic needs.
The Los Alamos Study Group, founded in 1992, rallied in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday morning to celebrate adding the 100th organization to its membership list. Roughly 15 people attended. Director Greg Mello used the occasion to argue against nuclear weapons, nuclear power and New Mexico’s involvement in those projects. The country today spends about $7,600 per household on the military, he said. “We cannot expect to solve any of our society’s problems with a military burden like that,” Mello said. Instead, according to the group’s “Call for Nuclear Disarmament,” money should be spent on “affordable health care for everyone, better education , renewable energy and economic opportunity for those who have none.”
The federal Department of Energy, which oversees Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories , is expected to spend about $4.4 billion overall in New Mexico this year, the office of U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N .M., has reported.
With that money comes thousands of jobs. University of New Mexico economist Larry Waldman has said Northern New Mexico would go back to “prehistoric times” without that federal funding. Domenici is an advocate of nuclear power as an answer to the world’s energy problems. Mello is not. He argued Monday that the state’s per-capita income has declined relative to other states, even as federal money to the state increased. His group advocates stopping the design and manufacture of all nuclear weapons; dismantling the country’s nuclear arsenal; and stopping nuclearwaste disposal at Los Alamos.
Examples of member organizations include the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, Pax Christi New Mexico and Veterans for Peace, Santa Fe.
Press Advisory 3/3/06
100+ NM Organizations, Others Call for Nuclear Disarmament,
Halt to Nuclear Waste Disposal at LANL
On Monday, March 6, at 11:00 am, the Los Alamos Study Group will host a press conference in the State Capitol Rotunda on to announce achievement of a new milestone in its Call for Nuclear Disarmament campaign: more than 100 New Mexico organizations have endorsed the Call.
Displays will be presented and handouts will be available; there will be plenty of time for questions (see box).
For details of the Call and lists of endorsers, see www.lasg.org.
The Call for Nuclear Disarmament demands: 1) no further production of plutonium bomb cores (“pits;” the U.S. now has about 23,000 of these), 2) that the U.S. achieve mutual nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as required, and 3) that the nuclear waste disposal sites at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) be closed. It also includes a clear rejection of nuclear deterrence as a security doctrine and calls for a different security paradigm, one oriented toward human and environmental security.
In addition to these New Mexico organizations, 286 New Mexico businesses and 80 national and international organizations together with the City of Santa Fe have endorsed the Call. Approximately 2,500 individuals have also endorsed along the way, although the Study Group’s volunteers have emphasized institutional rather than individual endorsement.
The City of Taos and the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Northern New Mexico Citizen Advisory Board (NNMCAB) have formally recommended that LANL’s nuclear dump be closed rather than expanded as planned, an important element of the Call. The Los Alamos County (LAC) Council has likewise expressed its concern about the planned expansion of nuclear waste disposal in Los Alamos.
Prior to this year, approximately 3,840 New Mexicans had petitioned governors Johnson and Richardson to close Area G in the “Can-Paign” to halt nuclear disposal in northern New Mexico, with most paying $3 to convey their wishes on a can of food with a “nuclear waste” label. These petitions included a formal request for nuclear dump closure under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the controlling law under which LANL once held an interim disposal permit for all of Technical Area (TA-) 54, including Area G and other nearby nuclear and chemical waste disposal areas.
Study Group Director Mello: “Passing the important milestone of 100 organizations and nonprofits is primarily an achievement of Study Group volunteers. It’s a testimony to the hard work and initiative of a lot of people and a testimony to their civic engagement and active concern about the future. Other organizations are now looking at the Call with fresh eyes as the reality of the proposed nuclear weapon renaissance sinks in – along with what it would mean for our economic development, our security, and our environment.”
“In the process, we’ve learned some things. One is that it’s harder to get people’s attention in our information- and advertising-choked culture than it is to talk them into strongly condemning nuclear weapons. The fact that these weapons of mass destruction are one of the state’s largest industries doesn’t hold people back as much as I thought it would. The really hard part is getting peoples’ attention.
“Another thing we’ve learned is that leadership on this issue and a few others doesn’t seem to be coming from some of the places you’d expect. So fresh leadership is needed. As our society careens into the converging crises of the 21st century, the field of leadership is very much wide open.”
Fatima Portugal, Study Group Outreach Coordinator commented: “The Call for Nuclear Disarmament paves a path for active citizen involvement. We can do so not only as individuals, but as groups working together to create a future where our environment, our homes, our children, and our families do not have to be threatened by the hazards of nuclear waste dumping nor from the possibility of total mass destruction. Our future lies in what we do now. If we are to live in a civilized world, we must create it by sustaining the values of trust and upholding our promises. The United States signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] where
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and of a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. [NPT, Article VI]
If we expect other countries to disarm, then we must do so as well. We must take the first steps.”
Damon Hill, Study Group research associate, added: “"How is funding a new generation of nuclear weapons really making anybody safer? It shifts not only the focus but the commitment of funding away from providing for real human needs. New Mexico faces persistent problems of poverty and sticking a new pit production facility here is no real remedy. The jobs may look nice at first but the long term costs are greater. Closing the dump is a step in the right direction, and a step that is in sync with the stated desire of numerous northern New Mexicans."
New Mexicans Call for Nuclear Disarmament
The continued possession, further development, and manufacture of nuclear weapons by the United States undermines the ethical basis of our society, breaks treaties our nation has signed, wastes our nation's wealth, and permanently contaminates our environment, while providing no real contribution to U.S. national security.
In fact, implicit and explicit nuclear threats by the U.S. undermine global efforts to halt proliferation of not just nuclear weapons, but all weapons of mass destruction. Neither can our nuclear facilities ever be made fully secure from accident, internal sabotage, theft, or attack.
New Mexico's two nuclear weapons labs lead the world in spending for weapons of mass destruction. But as the labs have grown, our state's relative economic standing has declined and now trails almost all other states.
We therefore call upon our elected leaders to:
Stop the design and manufacture of all nuclear weapons, including plutonium bomb cores ("pits") at Los Alamos and elsewhere.
Dismantle our nuclear arsenal in concert with other nuclear powers, pursuant to Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. As the most powerful nation on earth, the U.S. must take the first steps in this process.
Halt disposal of nuclear waste at Los Alamos, as thousands of citizens and dozens of environmental organizations have already requested.
We demand quite different priorities: affordable health care for everyone, better education, renewable energy, and economic opportunity for those who have none. We call for investment in our people and families, in our economy and environment, instead of in preparation for nuclear war.
If you wish to sign the call go to http://www.lasg.org/DisarmForm/DisarmamentPetitionForm3.htm
A bill proposed by centre-right French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and passed by the Senate late Sunday, would allow companies to fire newly hired workers under the age of 26 without justification within two years of their hiring. In response demonstrations are taking place in more than 120 French communities. They are accompanied by strikes in the country's public transport, air traffic, schools, post offices and public employment centres. More than 20 universities have been shut down by students as well.
Francois Hollande, the secretary general of the opposition Socialist Party, said in a Feb. 21 speech at the National Assembly``The First Employment Contract (CPE) isn't one more tool to create employment: it's a tool to destroy permanent jobs. The CPE will progressively become the only access to the labor market for young people, irrespective of their qualification, their salary or their branch of work.''
Workers and students say the law, the CPE, will make it easier for companies to fire young workers, increasing the feeling of insecurity that was seen as one of the root causes of suburban riots last year.
"I would like to say very clearly that we will not allow it to be written in French law that workers can be laid off at a click of the fingers," said Bernard Thibault, head of the CGT, the largest trade union.
AFP and The Tocqueville Connection bring us the following update.
PROTESTS TEST FRENCH GOVERNMENT RESOLVE ON YOUTH JOBS CONTRACT
PARIS, March 7, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin faced a major challenge from the street Tuesday as students and trade unions staged nationwide protests against a new jobs contract intended to bring down youth unemployment.
Several hundred thousand people took part in demonstrations in all the major cities to demand an end to the First Employment Contract (CPE), a key part of the government's jobs strategy which is supposed to make it more attractive to employers to take on under 26-year-olds.
Several universities including the Sorbonne in Paris were closed, but disruption to rail and air transport was limited.
Claiming more than a million on the streets -- much more than on a first day of action in February -- unions said the mobilisation was a clear success and urged the government to scrap the measure.
Part of a social affairs bill currently being pushed through parliament, the CPE is aimed at cutting France's 23 percent jobless rate among under 26- year-olds -- one of the worst in Europe.
In high-immigration city suburbs, where as many as one in two young people are out of work, joblessness was seen as one of the factors behind last November's riots.
By enabling companies to sack young staff without explanation during the first two years of service, the contract is meant to provide assurance to employers fearful of being lumbered with longterm commitments if a worker proves unsuitable or economic conditions deteriorate.
A similar contract -- but not age-specific -- was introduced for small businesses last year.
But opponents say the CPE will be used by companies as a cheap-rate source of employment, further entrenching job insecurity among the young.
"We are not going to allow the right of companies to fire at the snap of a finger to become entrenched in French law. We are not going to allow France to operate under the same rules as the socially most backward countries," said Bernard Thibault of the CGT trade union.
"We are ready to fight until the CPE is withdrawn. The government is refusing to talk and that suits us fine," said Karl Stoeckel of the UNL students union.
The day of protests was a major test of resolve for Villepin, who after a long political honeymoon since his appointment in mid-2005 has seen his popularity rating fall sharply in recent weeks.
An opinion poll in Les Echos financial daily Tuesday showed that 65 percent of the population believes opposition to the CPE is justified, but the Prime Minister told the newspaper Le Parisien he had no intention of backing down.
"It is time to make decisions and stick by them. I want to convince people so that the country can pass this milestone with confidence. It takes time and perseverance, but the government has both," he said.
According to Education Minister Gilles de Robien "the real worry of the French, and not just the 500,000 who may demonstrate today, is the length of time young people are forced to wait for a job. That is the concern we are trying to answer."
A close ally of President Jacques Chirac, Villepin has been named as a possible candidate to succeed him at next year's presidential elections.
However he has suffered from a number of difficulties, including an unexpected increase in the unemployment rate to 9.6 percent, the health scare over bird flu, and a row over the privatisation of the state-owned gas utility Gaz de France via a merger with the utility company Suez.
By accident, I ran across the article below from Le Monde Diplomatique. It looked interesting so I am posting it here.
Bolivia: the military plan and wait
Evo Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism still have plenty of opponents in and out of Bolivia: the separatist white elite in the rich oil and gas regions, army factions, multinationals, and the government of the United States.
By Maurice Lemoine
ADMIRAL Marco Antonio Justiniano, the commander-in-chief of the Bolivian armed forces insisted last August that “as a citizen, Evo Morales has the right and the freedom to talk to anyone he likes” (1). He was responding to calls for an investigation into links between Morales, the leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), and the governments of Venezuela and Cuba. With Morales expected to win the presidential election in December, the conservatives were extremely active.
Justiniano, questioned about the potential dangers of populism, suggested they depended upon the definition of the term. “If you mean a mass movement seeking to secure better living conditions then there is nothing to fear. But if you mean a movement driven by caprices, it is a danger to the stability of the state.” What he understood by populism remained unclear.
There is a well-established tradition of military interference in politics in Bolivia, which has experienced about 180 coups since it became independent in 1825. Two recent examples leap to mind. In 1964 General Rene Barrientos ended the reformist experiment conducted by the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement. In 1971 General Hugo Banzer seized power with the support of the United States, and of the dictatorships in Argentina and Brazil, inaugurating a long series of authoritarian, repressive regimes that only ended with the fall of the narco-general Luis García Meza in 1981 and the restoration of civilian rule in 1982. A sort of democracy ensued, during which the proponents of neoliberalism plundered the country. For 20 years the poor and underprivileged - the indigenous majority - paid the price.
After decades of support for military involvement, the US began to promote peace and democracy as indispensable to the development of the market. Although it preferred to control the country through political parties rather than through the army, the US made an exception of the fight against narco-trafficking and the eradication of coca cultivation, supervised on the ground by US soldiers. Bolivia’s generals found themselves deprived of influence or room to manoeuvre, but they continued to exploit privileged relationships with the parties in power and some presidents used special funds to buy their loyalty.
In October 2003 the people rose against the policies of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. Protesters built barricades of rubble and burning tyres to seal off the vast working-class township of El Alto, overlooking La Paz. Nestor Guillén, leader of the Federation of Neighbourhood Committees, described what happened when a squad of soldiers managed to enter Villa El Ingenio: “The troops opened fire. There were bullets flying everywhere. Seventeen people were killed - innocent bystanders who were just looking on.”
But despite 67 deaths and 400 people wounded, the crackdown failed. With the “business” to which he had devoted years of care and effort in ruins, Sánchez de Lozada fled to the US. His successor, his vice-president, Carlos Mesa, did no better. He resigned in June 2005, after three weeks of social unrest when 80,000 people took to the streets (2).
Backing into the spotlight
These events dragged the army back into the centre of the debate, although it seemed reluctant at first. Mesa, anxious to avoid bloodshed, had forbidden the suppression of the demonstrations. At the height of the crisis the only call for a military patriot had come from the Bolivian Federation of Labour (COB) and shades of opinion well to the left of Evo Morales. “We need a Colonel Chávez,” asserted Jaime Solares, the COB leader.
In May two obscure lieutenant-colonels, Julio Herrera and Julio César Galindo, had issued a personal statement calling for the resignation of Mesa and putting themselves forward as leaders of a new government. On 3 June several dozen COB representatives made a renewed appeal for military intervention.
The high command deny that that they were contemplating a coup at this stage. But one of Morales’s close associates insists that such a plan existed: “They didn’t approach the right; instead they sought Evo’s blessing. They wanted to stage a coup, but with the support of the social movement.” There would have been a military-civilian pact involving nationalisation of hydrocarbons, calling a constituent assembly, and measures to answer the demands of ordinary Bolivians. Despite their links with the COB, the officers involved were clearly aware that this support was not enough (even Solares did not enjoy the support of the grassroots of his organisation) and that they would have to bring in groups like the MAS with real power to mobilise support. The associate added: “The proposal was rejected. Whatever doubts there may be about the democratic process, the people have paid for it with blood, death and exile. There is no question of halting it. And anyway the military would just have been a brake.”
Mesa’s resignation left Congress with a choice between the president of the Senate, Hormando Vaca Diez, and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Mario Cossío. But there was fierce opposition to these former allies of Sánchez de Lozada. It has been reliably reported that a group of generals met to decide which to support, and that during their deliberations a colonel entered the room, clicked his heels and announced: “I think you should know that many officers regard the MAS as the only fit representative of our nation’s dignity.”
On 9 June Admiral Luis Aranda, then the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said: “Congress must give the clearest possible expression of the will of the people.” This was enough to secure the appointment of the head of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodríguez. But the new president and the heads of the two chambers immediately joined forces to dismiss Aranda, whom they regarded as too sympathetic to popular feeling. This led to the official emergence of Democratic and Patriotic Transparency (Tradepa), a “citizens’ group” founded in Cochabamba a month before by former members of the military and intended to be the political wing of the armed forces, which are forbidden under article 121 of the legal framework governing their operation from engaging in such activities.
A ‘citizens’ group’
Although the initiative came from retired members of the military, the serving top brass - including the commander of land forces at the time, General Marcelo Antezana - were involved in the creation of Tradepa. On 25 August its leaders admitted that several serving officers had been among the 120,000 signatories of documents submitted to the national electoral court in order to obtain legal status. Meanwhile some officers complained of having been pressurised into signing and claimed that the barracks of the second division, at Oruro, were being used as Tradepa’s regional offices.
To counter the corruption of Bolivia’s political parties Tradepa proposes “a revolutionary, independent and humanist nationalism” and “the participation of the armed forces in national development”. There is nothing new about this. The governments of Colonel David Toro (1936-37) and that of his successor, General Germán Busch (1937-39), used a programme of military socialism to introduce, with varying success, a series of social reforms (3). And in 1970, when a far-right junta seized power, leftwing elements in the army under General Juan José Torres established a nationalist and revolutionary government, with a popular assembly designed to radicalise the regime, before being overthrown by General Banzer.
But Tradepa is also reminiscent of the notorious Mariscal de Zepita group, mainly composed of retired soldiers who supported Banzer’s Nationalist Democratic Action during the elections of 1997 and who retained their links with the armed forces when they subsequently occupied important positions in the public services. The presence within Tradepa of such people as Colonel Faustino Roco Toro is alarming. He led the intelligence services under the dictator Garciá Meza and was suspected of involvement in the assassination of the socialist leader Marcelo Quiroga in Santa Cruz in 1980.
On 16 August the deputy defence minister, Victor Manual Gemio, was sacked because of his links with Tradepa. Justiniano, the new commander-in-chief, caused alarm by backing him and announcing that the military would support Tradepa in the constituent assembly.
As part of the judgment against Sánchez de Lozada, the Supreme Court decided to lift official secrecy so that senior and middle-ranking officers involved in the fatal crackdown of October 2003 could be made answerable to the regular courts. The armed forces went on a state of alert; on 19 August General Antezana (one of those who, at the height of the crisis, had conspired against President Mesa) made a statement justifying the formation of Tradepa and attacking the Supreme Court’s decision as an encroachment upon military jurisdiction. Next, the former general Luis Gemio (brother of the sacked deputy defence minister and leader of the Mariscal de Zepita group from 1997 to 2002) made a public threat to use other methods if the military was not allowed to have its own political wing.
As suspicions about Tradepa grew, Morales commented: “It is an alarming development. Tradepa has nothing to do with Chávez. It is a fascist movement involving a section of the high command who are in favour of a coup d’état against the social movement in general and the MAS in particular.”
On 18 December Morales was elected president in the first round, with 54% of the vote. He is in a difficult situation. The upper classes, determined to hang on to all the privileges they derive from the current system, will give him no respite. Neither will the US, the multinationals or the autonomist, indeed separatist, white elite in the rich oil and gas regions of Santa Cruz and Tarija. If there is a showdown, what will the army do?
There are three factions. One, of which Tradepa is a part, is reactionary and capable of attempting a coup. It supports the repression of the social movement.
The second would like to have it both ways, reconciling government and opposition. As the journalist Walter Chávez points out: “There was a time when nobody really minded if you massacred 300 peasants. Now, just 30 deaths are enough to cause worldwide condemnation. That’s one of the effects of globalisation.” The military are weighing up their options. Any open confrontation with the social movement would result in hundreds of deaths. With no guarantee of immunity, who would carry the can? Even General Pinochet has had to answer for his actions.
Finally, there is a progressive faction within the armed forces. The permanent secretariat of the Supreme National Defence Council has said it would be viable to nationalise and industrialise the hydrocarbons sector. As Alvaro García Lopez, now Morales’s vice-president, pointed out: “The right has gone too far. There are many middle-ranking officers who, although conservative by instinct and tradition, are very suspicious of what they regard as the separatist tendencies of Santa Cruz and Tarija. That gives them a degree of sympathy with the social movement.” They must also have been influenced by the former lieutenant colonel Hugo Chávez, who led a Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, and his campaign for social integration across Latin America.
It is difficult to assess the relative strength of these opposing factions, but the US is taking no chances. In October a Bolivian anti-terrorist commando group, Chacha Puma, on instructions from the US embassy and accompanied by US officers, removed 29 Chinese-manufactured HN-5A surface-to-air missiles from the barracks where they were stored. At first Antezana claimed they had been removed because they had reached the end of their operational life. Actually, they had completed only nine years of a 20-year service life. He subsequently provoked a storm by revealing that the US had ordered them to be destroyed “in anticipation of Morales’s imminent victory”. On 18 January this admission cost him his job and forced the resignation of the defence minister, Gonzalo Méndez.
Last July 500 members of the US Special Forces arrived in the neighbouring state of Paraguay to train the army “in the struggle against terrorism and drug-trafficking”. Since August, as well as supervising military manoeuvres, the US army has rehabilitated the Mariscal Estigarribia airport in the Gran Chaco region, just 250km from the border with Bolivia. The 3,800m runway is long enough to take heavy transport aircraft, such as the B-52, the C-130 Hercules and the C-5 Galaxy. It is ideally situated as a base for intervention in Bolivia, if the separatist movement in Santa Cruz should decide that the country had become ungovernable.