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Saturday, August 31, 2002

Massive Demonstration Underway at the Summit

Reports are coming out that at least 30,000 and upwards of 50,000 people have formed a massive, multifaceted anti-globazation protest and marched on to the Convention Center in Sandton. With news coming last night that the summit was essentially near collapsing due to U.S. pressure that the E.U. cave into its demands, social justice activists, environmentalists, anti-statists and capitalists, indigenous peoples and the poor of the region now feel legitimated in holding this expensive bureaucratic get-together hostage and venting their displeasure.

The South African government, which has already acted quite repressive in dealing with the relatively small protests in the days pre-summit, with estimates of marchers at 3,000, has called in the army and additional riot police. Bomb dogs are sniffing the streets and water canons surround the summit center.

The latest word is that the march started slowly this morning but has grown powerful and the energy has been excited as the protesters have reached their destination. South Africa says that it does not want the spirit of Genoa or Seattle present, where things turned militant and violent. As I said yesterday, the U.N. and the South African leadership will ultimately determine the nature of the rally. The true spirit of anti-globalization -- in which a more authentic world congress can be seen to be convened -- is peaceful and postive in character, while critical and negative in its ideological denunciations. Violence only ensues after military forces attack the rank and file. Often, with little or no way to retreat (for the police have closed down the various streets and alleys behind them), protestors fight back -- usually led by the anachistic black brigade who are the self-appointed guardians of the group.

I pray that the Summit will have enough sense to not compound their errors so far by mis-handling today's event. Not only should they face it squarely and directly, make it the focus of talk and negotiations, but they should answer its charges and welcome it as the moral voice of the planet they hope to serve. If they turn a blind eye, continue with sustainable business dealings and allow the police to crack the skulls of the poor and the environmentally-concerned then the summit will have reached an unprecedented level of failure and it may indeed be time to demand for its abolition entirely.

Posted by Richard
8/31/2002 08:05:28 AM | PermaLink

Johannesburg Summit disarray as EU officials walk out; revanchist "Rio Minus 10"

(UK) Times. 31 August 2002. Summit disarray as EU officials walk out.

Johannesburg -- The Earth Summit in Johannesburg approached collapse yesterday when European Union officials walked out of talks after failure to agree with the United States on the 14 pivotal issues, and the coalition of charities involved in the negotiations pulled out.

Tempers among delegations were fraying last night, and there was growing speculation that the summit was in peril.

Developing nations said that they would prefer not to sign any accord rather than agree to what was on offer.

Charities said that the agreement being negotiated was a step backwards, and urged European governments not to sign.

No agreement has been reached on any of the central issues, including access to sanitation, boosting renewable energy, protecting wildlife, reducing farm subsidies in the developed world, climate change, ensuring that trade and globalisation do not put poor countries at a disadvantage, and improving human rights.

Increases in aid and debt relief have been ruled out.

****Even principles agreed at the Rio Earth summit ten years ago -- such as that rich countries have more responsibility to tackle global environment problems than poor ones -- may be dropped in the face of bitter American opposition.****

The only firm agreements reached are to stop over-fishing and the banning of toxic chemicals, but the wordings used are so qualified with phrases such as "if possible" that the agreements are increasingly seen as meaningless.

The Eco-Equity Coalition, a group of charities including Oxfam and the World Wide Fund for Nature that are involved directly in the negotiations, wrote a letter to ministers explaining their withdrawal: "Although designed and billed as a conference that would serve to put sustainable development at the heart of international governance, we must squarely face the fact that, overall, no significant progress has been made -- especially when it is held up to the urgent needs of poverty reduction and environmental protection."

Tony Juniper, director-designate of Friends of the Earth said: "Most of these talks are simply going backwards. Key pledges have been made meaningless by weasel words. ***Governments can't even agree to reaffirm the principles of the Rio Summit*** ten years ago. This summit could easily be remembered as Rio minus ten rather than Rio plus ten."

Barry Coates, of the World Development Movement, said that if the agreement was not improved, it should not be signed.

"There has been an abject failure of vision. As things stand, not one person's life or the environment will be improved. A bad agreement is as much a step backwards as no agreement at all."

Victor Menotti, of the International Forum on Globalisation, a US pressure group, said:

"Americans wonder why the world hates us, but the US is arrogant, bullying, selfish, not accepting we're part of the problem. George Bush is unravelling things that even his father agreed ten years ago."

Posted by Richard
8/31/2002 07:48:17 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, August 30, 2002

Bush Administration Seeks to Repeal Crucial Environmental Law, Says It Needs "Modernization"

Washington D.C. -- The Bush administration is reviewing a landmark environmental law both reviled and praised because it requires lengthy studies before foresters cut a tree or developers start to dig.

White House officials say they want to modernize the 32-year-old law they blame for bureaucratic gridlock, but environmentalists fear it's a move to roll back crucial protections.

"Given this administration's past record on the environment, it's hard to imagine they are up to any good," said Maria Weidner of Earthjustice, an environmental law firm and advocacy group.

At issue is the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Signed by President Nixon in 1970, the law requires developers, loggers, and others to describe in detail the impact a proposed project will have on the environment and come up with measures to minimize them.

A typical environmental impact statement includes detailed analysis by several federal agencies and extensive public comment.

Environmentalists consider it a fundamental law and rely on it to limit development on public land and block projects that threaten endangered species, including the spotted owl and steelhead trout.

Critics say the law has burgeoned into a swamp of regulations and logistical hoops that stall federal action for years at a time.

"The simple fact is, [NEPA] has been used and abused by those who want to obstruct activities" such as logging in national forests, said Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group.

"As more and more agencies can weigh in and make stipulations and requirements, the process in many cases has become much more costly and has proved to be an obstacle to development," said Darren McKinney, spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers.

The review was launched last month by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which says the law needs to be updated after three decades of being essentially unchanged. A nine-member task force is accepting public comment through Sept. 23 and expects to issue a report by early next year.

"We're not out to gut" the law, task force director Horst Greczmiel said. "We're out there to try to make it better. In common parlance, we want to cut the fat if there's fat out there and we want to beef up the beef."

Environmentalists are not convinced. They point to the president's Aug. 22 proposal to step up logging in national forests to prevent wildfires as an example of the kind of changes the administration wants to pursue under a watered-down NEPA. A key element of the plan would make it more difficult for environmentalists to appeal federal decisions that allow logging.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, pushed a similar measure in July to exempt some logging in his home state of South Dakota from the law to prevent wildfires. Republicans are seizing on Daschle's maneuver to underscore the need for change.

Environmentalists also worry about a recent Justice Department decision that NEPA and other U.S. environmental laws do not apply in waters more than three miles (five kilometers) off U.S. shores. The policy would give less protection to whales, dolphins, and other marine life, environmentalists say. It also could bar lawsuits such as one recently filed over the Navy's use of ocean sonar, which environmentalists say can harm some marine mammals.

"On every level in every area they are taking steps backward instead of forward," said Weidner, citing administration proposals to roll back protections for some endangered species, increase use of public lands and change clean air and water standards.

While the forest plan has attracted more media attention, the NEPA review is potentially even farther reaching, environmentalists say.

"Efforts to waive laws like NEPA are particularly egregious," said Amy Mall, a forest policy specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "NEPA was intended to ... balance competing public needs by increasing public input."

But some Western lawmakers call the review long overdue.

Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig said he hopes the task force "will bring some sanity and common sense back to the process." Environmental review has "come to represent nothing but gridlock in the West," he added.

Environmentalists are gearing up for a fight.

"More people than ever before care about the environment, and people want to get involved in governmental actions that are going to affect environmental quality," said Chris Wood, director of public lands and watershed programs for Trout Unlimited.

By Matthew Daly, Associated Press

Posted by Richard
8/30/2002 08:54:59 AM | PermaLink

Countdown to Saturday Demonstrations at Summit, Talks Still Blocked

Anti-globalisation militants and poor South Africans readied themselves Friday to raise their voices at the UN Earth Summit in Johannesburg, where talks on plans to cure chronic poverty and save the planet's resources remained largely deadlocked.

British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott warned that a breakdown of the talks on protecting the environment and alleviating poverty worldwide would threaten the UN-based system of multilateralism.

"If we fail here, things would unravel on a scale that we have not seen before in international negotiations," he said in an interview published in the Independent newspaper of London.

As many as 20,000 protestors are expected to join several marches, due to take place on Saturday, on a route that will take them to the negotiation venue -- a convention centre in the plush, predominantly white Johannesburg suburb of Sandton. The complex, which has been declared UN territory for the duration of the 10-day summit that began last Monday, has been turned into a fortress, ringed by steel and concrete barricades and patrolled by thousands of armed police and soldiers, with guard dogs, anti-riot trucks and bomb-squad teams in reserve.

One of the marches will start from the slums of Alexandra, the poorest township in all South Africa.

Alexandra lies only five minutes from Sandton, but the difference between the two could be a light year.

In one, there are tin shacks, sewage-ridden streets and chronic poverty; in the other, the streets are tarmacked, the glitzy shopping malls sell the latest European fashions, and posters advertise anti-wrinkle treatment.

The summit's declared goal is to ease such gross inequalities by hauling as many as two billion of the Earth's six billion population out of poverty.

"We are two years into the 21st century," Carol Bellamy, executive director of the UN Children's Fund UNICEF, said on Friday.

"Yet each year in the developing world, 11 million children under the age of five fall victim to the vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation, their lives in most cases snuffed out by easily preventable causes like diarrhoea, measles and acute respiratory infections."

Negotiators -- already bleary-eyed, even though the summit is only at its half-way point -- said a wide gap remained on most of the big issues in the summit's draft Plan of Implementation.

"There has been no headway on all the main points," a European delegate said.

The source listed discord over market access for developing countries' products in developed markets; the phasing-out of farm subsidies in North America and Europe; and providing sanitation and electricity for the world's poorest.

On these issues, the big squabble has been over setting a date and other details for achieving the goals, rather than a vague commitment.

The United States has fiercely opposed a timetable, although on farm support its position is shared by the European Union.

Other blockages centre on text references to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which has been abandoned by the United States; to the need for governments to be efficient, democratic and corruption-free; and the "precautionary principle," which indirectly touches on the right of countries to bar genetically-modified food.

The principle, adopted at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, means that no new technologies should be introduced if scientists are unsure about any harmful effects.

The last three days of the summit, from Monday to Wednesday, are at the level of heads of state and government.

About 100 leaders have pledged to attend, but the big absentee will be US President George W. Bush, who is sending his secretary of state, Colin Powell.

Deeply sensitive to its isolation at the summit, the United States on Thursday unveiled more than 1.1 billion dollars in poverty and environmental programmes that will seek to act as a magnet for corporate funds and know-how.

But none of the money was new.

The funds will be drawn from existing and proposed commitments in the US federal budget, a senior US official said.

"The United States is masquerading as saviour of the world, when they are single-handedly striving to prevent any binding action being agreed at the summit," said Kate Hampton of Friends of Earth.

The EU, in what many at the summit see as a beauty show between the world's biggest trade powers, said it would launch two big public-private partnerships at the summit, one on water and the other on energy.

By Richard Ingham, Agence France Presse

Posted by Richard
8/30/2002 08:23:43 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, August 29, 2002

U.S. Anti-war Delegation at Areas Bombed by U.S. and British Warplanes in Iraq

The American left has been trumpeting that Tony Blair isn't kosher with the Bush administration's plans on Iraq and doesn't want to partner with the U.S. if it means going it alone from the E.U. In Germany, for instance, both the progressive and conservative parties are now officially anti-war with Iraq and will not sign on to help the U.S. But as Islamic countries, under the leadership of Egypt, voiced united concern to the United States yesterday about the consequences of attacking in the region, the British and Belgians took the opportunity to caution Iraq. This has caused some to wonder if Blair's strategy won't be to use the neutrality of the U.N. to legitimate British cooperation with Bush and co.

As attacks continue on unabated into Iraqi space, Israeli military sources leak of U.S. warplanes and special forces activity already active in the North, I really wonder if the left that thinks Blair is anti-U.S. on this issue is living in the same world as I am. It seems quite clear that the U.S. and British war partnership is as strong as ever and that whatever disputes the leaders may have with one another, this is not playing out in a withdrawl of troops or armaments.

But it is possible that Blair and allied friends, faced with the inevitable U.S. incursion into the heart of Iraq, could use the U.N. as a political tool to shelter themselves from widespread criticism at home. Regardless, let me ask this question: as the WSSD continues forming partnership after partnership that seeks to do with the integrated problems of society and the environment, where is the question of WAR and STATE VIOLENCE in the agenda? Is there any more horrible desecration of humanity, the environment, and social progress in modern times than global warfare? As long as the U.N. dances around the issue by ignoring it whenever possible and framing it as "peacekeeping" when not, I find myself deeper and deeper in the camp that the only good purpose for the U.N. is as a research and fact-finding body.

-----------------------------

*More Bombings in Iraq as U.S.-British Warplanes Hit Mosul and Suburb of Baghdad on Tuesday*

A U.S. anti-war delegation traveling through Iraq has visited areas that have been targeted by this week's U.S. bombing campaign. The delegation -- stationed at Baghdad's Al-Rasheed hotel until the end of the week -- was in Basra on Tuesday. Basra is Iraq's second largest city and suffered a major bomb attack on Sunday morning August 25th. Eight people died and many civilians were injured, some seriously.

The U.S. delegation, which is led by Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general will be inspecting Mosul airport in Northern Iraq tomorrow August 29. The airport and its radar tower that guides civilian air traffic were hit by U.S. missiles on August 27.

On behalf of the delegation, Ramsey Clark issued the following statement:

"We came to Basra to visit the hospitals and interview doctors and patients about the state of health care in Basra. We had planned to come to Basra because the region is suffering stunning cancer rates. This area in Iraq was the site of the greatest use of depleted uranium weapons by U.S. air force in the Gulf War eleven years ago."

"Two days before we arrived in Basra U.S. war planes struck again killing and wounding more than twenty people. We visited one of the wounded at the Basra Training Hospital and we interviewed workers in the area who saw and heard the gigantic explosion at approximately 11:00 am Sunday morning August 25. While we were in Basra, U.S. war planes carried out two more major bombing attacks against the airport in Mosul and against civil and service installations in Al-Nukhayb, located south of Baghdad. We will inspect the airport at Mosul tomorrow.

"People in the United States must recognize that the war against Iraq goes on every day as the Bush administration prepares for a major land and ground war. The economic sanctions are a central part of the decade-long war waged against Iraq by the United States. Bombing and sanctions constitute an integrated strategy designed to overthrow the government in Iraq and replace it with a proxy regime similar to what exists in Afghanistan. The U.S. government falsely declares that its campaign against Iraq is motivated by a concern over Iraq's potential possession of non-conventional weapons. The real goal is to dominate this strategic and oil-rich region and to destroy any government and people that desire to maintain their independence."

"We witnessed in Basra the care provided to the large number of adults and children who are suffering high rates of cancer. Certain childhood cancers, for instance, have increased by a huge factor in the last few years. While they can be treated by combination drug therapy protocols, Iraqi hospitals are unable to effectively import all of the medicines needed for the protocol. As a consequence, almost all the children with these cancers perish. It is the U.S. imposed sanctions that makes access to the full protocol impossible. Deliberately obstructing sick people's access to medicines that would keep them alive otherwise must be understood as murder."

"It is urgent that this country be allowed to trade, buy and sell all the products necessary to sustain and improve life. U.S. imposed sanctions have killed more than a million Iraqis. The near-daily bombing since 1998 has killed hundreds if not thousands of people. The U.S. government is guilty of violating the basic tenets of international law as a wages aggression against Iraq. We are urging all progressive people in the United States and elsewhere to take immediate action to end the criminal campaign against Iraq."

The delegation also includes Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice-LDEF and member of the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition steering committee; Johnnie Stevens, co-director of the People's Video Network; Kadouri al-Kaysi, coordinator of the Committee in Solidarity with the Iraqi People; and Brian Becker, co-director of the International Action Center and member of the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition steering committee.

Telephone interviews with Ramsey Clark and other members of the delegation can be arranged through Tony Murphy at 212-633-6646.

Posted by Richard
8/29/2002 08:37:38 AM | PermaLink

What the WSSD Must Act Upon

Quick Facts from the UN Population Fund, The State of World Population 2001 – Footprints and Milestones:  Population and Environmental Change.
• Today’s world population is 6.1 billion.  The US population is 286 million.  In 1960, the world population was three billion.  By 1999, it doubled to six billion.   It is projected to grow to 9.3 billion, by 2050.
 
• Nearly all the projected growth will take place in today’s developing countries. The 49 least-developed countries will nearly triple in size in the next 50 years, from 668 million to 1.86 billion people and will account for 85% of global population in 2050.
 
• Poverty, population and pollution are inextricably linked.  In today’s $30 trillion annual economy, 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day, and most of them do not have access to basic sanitation or clean water.  One in three people lacks access to basic sanitation.  More than a billion (one in six) lack adequate housing and almost as many have no access to basic health services.
 
• By 2025, 70% of all available fresh water will be harnessed to meet basic needs for drinking, sanitation and cooking.  Today, a third of the world receives less than the 50 liters of water needed per person to meet daily cooking needs.  By 2050, four billion people will not be able to get the water they need to function.
 
• In developing countries, 90-95 per cent of sewage and 70 per cent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into the surface waters of rivers, lakes and oceans.
 
• One in six people around the world lacks access to safe and nutritious food needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Some 800 million – or the population equivalent of three United States of Americas – are chronically malnourished.  Food production increased at a rate slower than population growth from 1985-1995.  In order to feed at adequate levels the 8 billion people anticipated in 2025, food production will have to double from current levels.  But 70% of all commercial fish stocks have been fully exploited, over fished or seriously depleted.
 
• Emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming gas, increased 12-fold during the 20th century.  Richer, developed countries are about 20% of the population and they account for 65% of global greenhouse gas emissions; the poorest 20% account for only 2%. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the atmosphere will warm by as much as 5.8 degrees Celsius over the coming century, and sea level will rise about half a meter.
 
• The world’s richest countries, with 20% of global population, account for 86% of total private consumption of resources, whereas the poorest 20% account for just 1.3%. A child born today in an industrialized country will add more to consumption and pollution over his or her lifetime than 30 to 50 children born in developing countries.
 
• During the past century, humans have introduced more than 100,000 chemicals into the environment.  Many of these chemicals are harmful to human health and little is known about the environmental and health affects of the majority of these substances.
 
• Nearly 60% of the people in developing countries lack basic sanitation, almost a third do not have access to clean water, one quarter lack adequate housing, 20% do not have access to modern health services, and 20% of children do not attend school through grade five.
 
• Environmental conditions contribute significantly to communicable diseases, which account for 20-25% of deaths worldwide. An estimated 60% of global diseases related to acute respiratory infections, 90% from diarrhea, 50% related to chronic respiratory infections and 90% from malaria could be avoided by simple, well-known environmental interventions.
 
• Current financial resources for reproductive health and population programmes are well below the $17 billion the ICPD agreed would be needed in 2000. While developing countries are providing most of their two-thirds share of needed resources, support from international donors is less than half  the $5.7 billion called for in 2000.


Posted by Richard
8/29/2002 08:15:05 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Summit is a "Useless Talk-fest" Says Sierra Club of Canada

One of Canada's leading environmentalists says she's not going to the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development because it's a "useless talk-fest" that won't accomplish anything.

"I'm not going to jet off to every useless talk-fest that occurs just because it's happening and I'd get to see a bunch of old friends," said Elizabeth May, president of the Sierra Club of Canada. "I think the world would be better off and the climate would be better off if we could have avoided all the greenhouse gases from people flying there, and all the money."

The United Nations summit, which bills itself as the biggest-ever international meeting on the environment and development, will bring together more than 100 heads of state, 5,000 governmental delegates, 15,000 delegates from public-interest organizations, and 2,000 journalists. Another 50,000 unofficial delegates are expected to show up at various side-events organized around the main meeting, which began Monday and ends next Wednesday. The city of Johannesburg alone estimates it will spend $9 million Canadian to host the summit, while the UN is kicking in $1.3 million.

Canadian officials refused to disclose the amount Canada expects to spend in sending its delegation of approximately 200 people, saying it is against policy to disclose figures until the conference is over. The Canadian delegation will include Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Environment Minister David Anderson, International Co-operation Minister Susan Whelan and Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa Denis Paradis.

Speaking at a background briefing yesterday, a Canadian government official said the summit will produce a political declaration, a raft of "partnership agreements" between governments and businesses on sustainable development projects, and about 50 "targets and timelines" to achieve goals in such areas as biodiversity, education and fisheries.

However, the official admitted that there is no penalty for failing to meet the goals, and that some of the goals have already been set in other international declarations.

May is not alone. Louise Comeau, director of the centre for sustainable community development with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said the federation was offered two seats on the official delegation, but turned them down.

"We were asked if we wanted to be on the delegation ... I said: would we be contributing to key decisions that would affect Canadian communities? And we were told no. There are no key decisions being made," she said. "It's just a fight over a communique and we don't have time any more."

Comeau works with towns and cities on practical environmental projects like setting up recycling programs, converting gases from landfills into green energy sources, and treating sewage water. She estimates it would cost $10,000 to send one person to the summit.

"You've got to feed them, you've got to put them in a hotel. And you've got to fly them there. And they've got 200 people coming. Imagine what we could have done with that money," she said.

May said the original concept of the Johannesburg Summit was as an accountability session - to hold countries to account for promises kept and promises broken since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

At the 1992 summit, industrialized countries made three major promises: to reduce the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change; to protect wilderness areas and the plants and animals that inhabit them; and to increase foreign aid to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product.

Canada has not performed well in keeping those promises: the Species at Risk Act is still awaiting passage in the Senate, greenhouse gas emissions have risen 16 per cent since 1990, the Kyoto accord on climate change is still not ratified, and foreign aid stands at 0.25 per cent of GDP, down from 0.48 per cent in 1990.

The United States has also failed to fulfill its promises, allowing greenhouse gases to increase and abandoning the Kyoto accord. Yet the Johannesburg Summit will not evaluate the past performance of nations, and the Kyoto accord is not even on the agenda.

"The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg has been designed not to be offensive to the United States," May said. "To have a summit that doesn't even discuss Kyoto is a scandal. I feel it borders on fraud. Personally, I could not bear to go, I just could not bear to go. It would be too soul-destroying."

Posted by Richard
8/28/2002 09:47:41 AM | PermaLink

War is Just a Racket by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC (1933)

In thinking about the Bush administration's plans for war against Iraq, it may be useful to reflect upon the following excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933 by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC. General Butler was twice awarded the ongressional Medal of Honor (1914, 1917). General Douglas MacArthur described Butler as "one of the really great generals in American history."
War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man, to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 . I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
Courtesy of www.wagingpeace.org
A streaming 28 minute radio program on Smedley is here.

Posted by Richard
8/28/2002 06:59:32 AM | PermaLink

Britain and U.S. in Summit Clash on Farm Aid

A rift has opened up between Britain and America over the key issue of farm subsidies, it emerged at the Earth Summit yesterday.

Tens of thousands of delegates from 190 counties are gathered in Johannesburg in ten days of talks aimed at trying to save the world and its people from environmental destruction and stagnating development.

According to one member of the British delegation, paying farmers to produce expensive food is 'simply a waste of taxpayers' money'.

And the U.S. policy of spending billions propping up its farmers was called 'unhelpful'. After a gloomy start to the summit, there was at least one halfway-positive note which emerged yesterday - a watered-down deal to protect the world's fish stocks.

But it is the issue of subsidised farming that has roused the anger of delegates from poor countries.

At the moment, the average cow in the West is subsidised by two U.S. dollars a day - double the amount the world's poorest billion people have to live on.

The West spends about GBP 650million every three years topping up its farmers' incomes.

George Bush's recent Farm Bill, which massively increases subsidies to America's biggest food producers, has been greeted with dismay by African, Asian and South American delegates.

Together with heavy import tariffs, subsidies mean that poor farmers in Africa, say, simply cannot compete.

But British delegates, led by Margaret Beckett, claim the UK is set against farming subsidies in principle and a member of the negotiating team - which will be joined by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott today - indicated there was a growing rift opening up on the issue.

'We are free marketeers. Our view is to phase out export subsidies and reduce export tariffs,' the delegate said.

'The U.S. farm bill is somewhat disappointing. They have introduced new subsidies at a time when everyone else is reducing them - this is not helpful.'

On a more harmonious note, the summiteers claimed their first success yesterday with a deal to protect dwindling fish stocks.

With scientists warning that within a couple of decades anyone wishing to dine on seafood would be forced to consume jellyfish and plankton rather than cod and haddock, doing a deal to protect sealife was a priority.

The deal pledges to reduce catches to a level where they can continue indefinitely without harming stocks.

But vitally, it is watered down by the key words 'if possible' - at the insistence of the U.S.

There are fears of a similar fudge on the key issue of renewable energy.

The summit was supposed to give a boost to wind, water and solar power but sources close to some of the greener European negotiating teams hinted that any extra commitment to renewable energy would be negligible.

Nevertheless there is with the fisheries agreement now a deal of sorts and that has cheered up the mood of an apparently aimless and incoherent summit.

Perhaps the dirtiest word in Johannesburg this week is 'globalisation', invoked by charities, environmental groups and political Left-wingers to describe the growing pervasiveness and power of giant Western firms.

Some claim that, with the likes of McDonald's and BMW entering into partnership agreements with UN bodies designed to help the poor, the summit is descending into little more than a corporate branding exercise.

'The resources of mother Earth are being sold off,' said Anuradha Mittal, of the Indian group Food First. 'This is the Earth Summit, not a trade summit.'

Corporate power is certainly evident. While charities and campaign groups are relegated to a stadium 20 miles from the summit site, the centrepiece display is a huge inflated globe, which looks like a typical Greenpeace exhibit. It is there courtesy of BMW.

By Michael Hanlon, London Daily Mail

Posted by Richard
8/28/2002 06:56:23 AM | PermaLink

Earth Summit Mired by Wranglings Between Haves and Have-nots

Interminable squabbles between big business and environmentalists and divisions between the haves and have-nots have so far dominated the UN Earth Summit which has eight days left to formulate a panacea to reduce global poverty and protect the environment.

Green groups claimed a minor victory Tuesday with the return of text in the summit's draft action plan calling for businesses to account for damage they cause to the environment.

The wording on corporate accountability had been dropped from the draft of the summit's Plan of Implementation. The proposed text backed a "global reporting initiative," a scheme already floated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in which large companies are encouraged -- but not required -- to report annually on activities that affect the environment, such as greenhouse-gas pollution.

Oxfam spokesman Tom Sayer said that the text had "popped out" but "now it is back."

However, others were not as pleased.

The World Bank's chief scientist Robert Watson complained the summit had totally overlooked global climate change, partly to appease US President George W. Bush, and warned that freak floods and droughts devastating parts of Asia and Europe could become the rule.

Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian activists demonstrating against "Israeli occupation" briefly clashed with Israeli students showcasing the widespread use of solar energy at a fringe event of the Johannesburg summit, forcing police intervention.

In Cairo, a Palestinian delegation leaving for the summit said it would present evidence of Israeli environmental damage to the occupied territories.

Faruq Qaddumi, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's political department, said Israel had stolen Palestinian water, uprooted orchards, and bulldozed agricultural land and promised to "give the summit participants a picture of the agony."

Subsidies provided by rich countries to local farmers was another contentious issue.

An architect of the so-called Green Revolution, whose bounty has saved millions of lives, M.S. Swaminathan, said the farming world was being dangerously polarised.

"One is production by the masses, the other is mass production," the Indian said. "Agricultural production is the best safety net against poverty and hunger in most developing countries."

According to the World Bank, subsidies to farmers in Europe and the United States total nearly a billion dollars a day, seriously undermining the lot of producers in developing countries.

Summit negotiators have admitted to making scant progress in resolving differences pitting the United States against the European Union, and both against the developing world.

They include farm subsidies, levels of development aid, development and environment targets and energy.

Conservation group WWF said renewable energy targets being negotiated behind closed doors at the UN Earth Summit were meaningless.

"Apparently one of these options will have a target and the other will have no target," WWF spokeswoman Jennifer Morgan said rejecting both as "utterly unacceptable".

Countries like Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the "biggest polluter of all", the United States, are blocking any targets for renewable energy in the first option, she said.

The second option proposes increasing the global share of all renewable energy sources to 15 percent by 2010 and is supported by the European Union, Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland.

"This means nothing. It is one percent higher than the current 14 percent," Morgan said.

Only South African Trade Minister Alec Erwin appeared optimistic about the summit's outcome.

He said he believed agreements on trade, investment and agriculture would emerge by next Monday, the eve of a three-day summit by government chiefs.

"We are still in the early stages," Erwin said. "We are making good progress and I am confident we will have an agreement."

By Abhik Kumar Chanda, Agence France Presse

Posted by Richard
8/28/2002 06:54:06 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Day 2: Summit Talk -- Let the Games Begin?

There's plenty of energy in Jo'burg these days -- thousands of delegates from nations and organizations from all across the world and plenty of interested bystanders too. And don't forget the press and the police! All told it's sort of an olympic city of institutions -- the world games of global politics.

The Olympics, as we all know, relies on heroic acheivements of selfless athleticism and, more recently, on administrative and financial scandal in order to cement its hold upon the popular mind as an important event. The question is as Day 2 unfolds at the W.S.S.D.: who will step out from amidst the endless caucases of policy blather and sub-committee findings to strike the political and moral note necessary to gather both public and private support and create social action? Or, will the Summit unfold only as the largescale failure to do anything more than provide a theater for transnational business, a den for bureaucratic corruption, and a place for "pay offs" to put a humane face on their dirty dealings?

At this point it remains hard to say. Reports are coming out that the event, despite its own attempts to promote itself as "sustainable" is going to be anything but and is already on its way to spending and consuming more then planner's had imagined. Activists are being repressed and those whose tongues are not being cut off are holding theirs in the name of giving the Summit its fair chance to prove itself. But, so far, as I look across the various committee summaries, it looks more like party politics then heroic accord.

The United Nations Development Programme has released a document focusing upon the world's low-cost energy needs and this has gathererd a little media steam. It fits in nicely with the move, as I noted yesterday, by developing regions to move the conference away from "sustaining the environment" and towards discussions of development that will sustain them and by developed regions to want to broker deals that will allow for the further extension of their industry markets into the Third World.

The UNDP paper demonstrates, I think correctly, that as over a billion people in the world live without electricity, it is unthinkable that we can talk about equality with such widely disparate lifestyle conditions between advanced capitalist countries and those most threatened by poverty. But the UNDP does not theorize that making the Third World electric both has tremendous environmental costs associated with it and real socio-economic costs because the very corporations and governments who will ultimately be responsible for laying the electricity grid throughout impoverished regions are those with the most to gain by doing so. It is not surprising, then, that the UNDP is the same group that has spent the last year championing the Internet throughout the Third World.

Again, it's a nice idea in theory (to some more than others), but how is such a plan to be instituted along lines that are truly sustainable and egalitarian! This is the question that the numerous global conferences over the last 30 years have dropped in the lap of Earth Summit II. And as rumors abound that attendees are thinking that it may be wise to drop talk of Kyoto and climate change from the agenda, rather than risk having to back down from the language that has already been fashioned and widely agreed to because of U.S. pressure, one wonders if it isn't time to begin wrapping up the crowns of laurel already. The Earth may find no champion here this year...

Posted by Richard
8/27/2002 10:14:04 AM | PermaLink

Wolves Shot in Idaho

Two wolves were shot dead by federal officials for infringing upon civillian territory and killing a couple sheep. The federal government is no longer committed to relocating wolves in Idaho that run afoul of society because they claim that the territory for replacing them is all claimed by other packs. Could this really be so?

In any event, the wolf killings cut to the chase and expose the insanity of what this policy is about. Millions of dollars have been spent in restoring wolves to traditional hunting grounds in the name of a more biodiverse and ecologically sound environment -- large carnivores play a necessary role. But the moment a wolf does what it is suppossed to do, form a pack, extend its territory and hunt, it runs the immediate risk of being shot dead and the pack destroyed.

This is a very humane policy that the government has come up with. Breed an animal that is bound to exploit the threshold between town and country and then kill it for doing so. It's sort of like training a plant -- it sends out shoots in all directions and then you lop off the one's that you feel aren't advantageous to the partnership.

Unfortunately, however, when this type of social engineering is applied to humans we recoil in horror, call such societies totalitarian and deeply repressive of basic human rights! Now, a highly sentient and emotive species such as Canis Lupus, do you weigh the wolf as being closer to the society of persons or the kingdom of plants?

While I am proud to be alive in the generation that successfully restored wolves to the American wilderness (what's left of it), I cannot help but feel that wolves are the ultimate victim of a bureaucratic initiative that is experimenting with policy directives on the fly as much as it is committed to any underlying agenda of conservation. What is happening now with the wolves in the West, now that they have begun to "fill" their territories and the money has run out for the various re-patriation programs, is akin to an environmental Vietnam. The government is in too deep to pull out effectively, but they are involved in a war that they have started and which no one can ultimately win. The rules of the game are bent on conflict and, for wolves, death.

Posted by Richard
8/27/2002 08:15:45 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, August 26, 2002

Ecological Decline Far Worse Than Official Estimates

The real level of world inequality and environmental degradation may be far worse than official estimates, according to a leaked document prepared for the world's richest countries and seen by the Guardian. It includes new estimates that the world lost almost 10% of its forests in the past 10 years; that carbon dioxide emissions leading to global warming are expected to rise by 33% in rich countries and 100% in the rest of the world in the next 18 years; and that more than 30% more fresh water will be needed by 2020.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldsummit2002/story/0,12264,780730,00.html

Posted by Richard
8/26/2002 10:22:49 AM | PermaLink

The Heart of the Matter

The W.S.S.D. has begun amidst a mixture of global anticipation and media hoopla, fiery cries from social justice and globalization-from-below protestors, and U.S. apathy. UNEP has issued a statement begining Day 1 that underlines the findings from their GEO-3 report that the Earth stands in a moment of crisis and that while some environmental gains have been made in the advanced industrial nations within the last 10 years, losses far offset them, and environmental and social conditions for the global poor and underpriveleged have never been more dangerous. UNEP therefore has issued a call that the Summit not retreat from 1992's accord in Rio that linked environmental protection with the social protections necessary for the billions of people who now live in constant jeopardy.

However, signs are pointing that this Summit may in fact be backing away from environmental protections in favor of the question of development of the Third World. As was the case in 1992, leaders of the poorer nations fear that concentration upon the issue of environment can be an attempt to block the largescale development of their countries that would be necessary for the style of living enjoyed by advanced capitalist regions and an attempt to move the rhetoric of policy away from issues of human need and justice. Leading Western and Northern nations, for their part, appear equally happy to move away from environmental accords -- accords which both highlight the failure of these nations to acheive anything resembling a true commitment to the stipulations of Rio over the past decade and which create a policy language that is more difficult for transnational capital through its emphasis upon the limits of development and the present danger in today's over-production and consumption.

The U.S., in particular, as the leading capitalist nation remains cold to the idea of an Earth Summit altogether. While Bush, sr. essentially refused to acknowledge (much less institute) most of the recommendations of the Rio Summit in 1992, Bush, jr. has matched his father's apathy by announcing that he will forego the week long series of meetings -- the only major world leader who will fail to appear. In his stead, he has sent the presently powerless Sec. of State Colin Powell, whose credibility on issues dealing with either the environmental or social justice is virtually nil. Further, word from the Summit proper has it that Powell's mission is to seek to block any language that has to do with limiting the world power that energy companies now maintain -- essentially an Enron lobbiest -- and rumor has it that he may also use the week to conduct meetings with the various world leaders on hand in an attempt to forge secret, low-profile consent for Bush, jr.'s upcoming Gulf War II...the former Sec. James Baker just published an open memo in the New York Times calling for this administration to gather such consent for a multi-national attack upon Iraqi oil.

Of course, with the previous Gulf War having been the cause of one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in modern times -- the burning of the oil fields, the total pollution of the Persian Gulf, and the widespread release of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons throughout the region -- that Powell would plug for war during the Summit is reprehensible.

The Gulf War was also quite a landmark event for the desecration of social justice. From the U.S. war crimes upon civillians there, such as the total annihiliation of the city of Basra to the Iraqi and Allied betrayals of the Kurds of the northern mountains and the Shia of the southern marshes, some of the regions most at-risk peoples were not only further isolated but, in some cases, exterminated. Additionally, the previous decade of U.S.-led policy that prevents humanitarian aid from reaching the peoples of Iraq, save for the small amount that the West lets through in exchange for keeping Iraqi oil on the market, has had terrible consequences and resulted in what is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. Even more have been forced to the point of starvation amidst conditions that can only be described as shamefully inhumane. Finally, as UNEP has pointed out, the social cannot be separated from the environmental and so the war conducted there over a decade ago continues to leave its mark upon the region, playing out a tale riddled with toxicity, disease, and suffering amidst what amounts to "the cradle of civilization."

Already, then, numerous protests have erupted within Jo'burg itself and all around the world in the name of getting down to the heart of the matter and putting feeling and compassion where Summit bureaucrats can only supply economic figures and policy initiatives. Vandana Shiva and Naomi Klein have been fired upon by the police as they took part in a mass demonstration and arrests of leading figures has taken place even prior to the Summit's beginning! Now, today, South African and Jo'burg officials have condemned the protests, calling them visions of anarchy and chaos and U.N. officials too are suppossedly very unhappy that the protesters have begun the event by setting a tone of dis-satisfaction and unrest with global leadership.

But, as if to prove that while this unrest may be very real but that it is not nihilistic and chaotic, anti-globalization/social-justice groups have wisely targeted Aug. 31st as the go ahead day for a major rally. They have made their point and set the tone for the conference's beginning, capturing media attention and letting it be known that what may pass here is little more than a charade in the name of further cementing the extension of neo-liberal regimes throughout the planet. Now, the various leaders of states and the large NGOs have the week to produce even one or two momentous, implementable accords and to convince the people's of the planet that their leadership is sound.

If it does not happen, as it appears that it will not, expect something massive come the month's end in the home of Apartheid.

Posted by Richard
8/26/2002 08:40:53 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, August 25, 2002

Bush Forest Plan Faces Challenges

Hopefully, the intensity won't die down and citizens everywhere will veto this attempt at large scale industry deregulation. The case has not been made that "doing nothing" is "harming forests" by either the timber industry or the Bush administration. The whole language of unhealthy forests is being taken out of context by a larger argument about ecological sensitivity and biodiversity that the "common sense logging" plan neither voices nor cares to voice. And this is primarily because the plan's call to log the big trees to offset the costs of clearing out the small ones is simply trading one threat for another.

Personally, after having monitored numerous discussions by ecologists on the issue of forest health, two things are quite apparent:
1) Ecologists, save those working for right-wing organizations, tend to agree that logging companies do more harm to forest regions with their equipment, road building, and excavation techniques than the good they could do even if they really only did clear out underbrush and left large trees behind, and
2) The "science" behind forest ecology is tentative at best. It is a young science and there are numerous competing theories and points of view on the matter. Thus, even the figures that point toward a vision of forestry that I would condone -- a pristene vision -- are not definitive or beyond argument.
In other words, that the timber industry has retreated to a "scientific" mantra that declares that its for the forests own good (as well as the good of society, and the logging companies!) that they be cleared is just bogus. If they would like to legitimate their ventures with science, let them provide the large-scale scientific argument that involves climate-change data and drought figures -- and the industry-related practices that are involved in the same. If they are only interested in doing what is "scientifically" sustainable then let them produce the team of scientists whose research is beyond question.

Finally, if the Bush administration is so concerned about the health of the national forests, then let them ease some of the billions of dollars that they have put into military expenditures into maintaining and managing the countries "natural resources." Let the government fund "cleaning" ventures in the name of forests for America's future instead of handing loggers prized (and illegal) old growth trees for the dirty job of clearing underbrush.

It won't happen, of course, and that's all the science you really need to know to have a clear picture of what's going on here...
----------------------------------

Grants Pass, Ore. (AP) - President Bush's proposal to thin the nation's forests to prevent forest fires won cheers from fellow Republicans in timber country.

But the high costs of thinning forests and the strong political opposition to both cutting old growth trees and suspending environmental laws could prove formidable obstacles.

The president's forestry plan, and other issues, drew hundreds of protesters when he spoke in Portland last week. And the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on forestry says the plan will face a fight in Congress if it goes beyond the goal of reducing fire danger and tries to overturn environmental laws that let the public challenge federal timber sales. [Read more]

By Jeff Barnard, Associated Press Writer

Posted by Richard
8/25/2002 01:59:48 PM | PermaLink