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Forum Post: Arundhati Roy: Another World Is Not Only Possible, She Is on Her Way

Posted 6 months ago on April 18, 2014, 3:04 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5797)
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Arundhati Roy: Another World Is Not Only Possible, She Is on Her Way

Friday, 18 April 2014 09:55
By Arundhati Roy, Haymarket Books | Book Excerpt

http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/23155-arundhati-roy-another-world-is-not-only-possible-she-is-on-her-way

Arundhati Roy's trenchant analysis of the destructive impact of global neoliberalism on India is available directly from Truthout by clicking here. Capitalism: A Ghost Story is a passionate, detailed journey through the injustices of systemic inequality.

As an epilogue for Capitalism: A Ghost Story, Roy offers an eloquent tribute to the Occupy movement after it was evicted from Zucotti Park. Despite Roy's scathing analysis of the injustices and ravages of capitalism and its political puppets, she is filled with hope that "another world is not only possible, she's on her way."

Speech to the People's University of the Occupy Movement

Yesterday morning the police cleared Zuccotti Park, but today the people are back. The police should know that this protest is not a battle for territory. We're not fighting for the right to occupy a park here or there. We are fighting for Justice. Justice, not just for the people of the United States, but for everybody. What you have achieved since September 17, when the Occupy Movement began in the United States, is to introduce a new imagination, a new political language, into the heart of Empire. You have reintroduced the right to dream into a system that tried to turn everybody into zombies mesmerized into equating mindless consumerism with happiness and fulfillment. As a writer, let me tell you, this is an immense achievement. I cannot thank you enough.

We were talking about justice. Today, as we speak, the army of the United States is waging a war of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. US drones are killing civilians in Pakistan and beyond. Tens of thousands of US troops and death squads are moving into Africa. If spending trillions of dollars of your money to administer occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan is not enough, a war against Iran is being talked up. Ever since the Great Depression, the manufacture of weapons and the export of war have been key ways in which the United States has stimulated its economy. Just recently, under President Obama, the United States made a sixty-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. It hopes to sell thousands of bunker busters to the United Arab Emirates. It has sold five billion dollars' worth of military aircraft to my country, India - my country, which has more poor people than all the poorest countries of Africa put together. All these wars, from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Vietnam, Korea, Latin America, have claimed millions of lives - all of them fought to secure "the American way of life."

Today we know that "the American way of life" - the model that the rest of the world is meant to aspire toward - has resulted in four hundred people owning the wealth of half of the population of the United States. It has meant thousands of people being turned out of their homes and jobs while the US government bailed out banks and corporations - American International Group (AIG) alone was given 182 billion dollars.

The Indian government worships US economic policy. As a result of twenty years of the Free Market economy, today one hundred of India's richest people own assets worth one-fourth of the country's GDP while more than 80 percent of the people live on less than fifty cents a day. Two hundred fifty thousand farmers driven into a spiral of death have committed suicide. We call this progress and now think of ourselves as a superpower. Like you, we are well qualified, we have nuclear bombs and obscene inequality.

The good news is that people have had enough and are not going to take it anymore. The Occupy Movement has joined thousands of other resistance movements all over the world in which the poorest of people are standing up and stopping the richest corporations in their tracks. Few of us dreamed that we would see you, the people of the United States, on our side, trying to do this in the heart of Empire. I don't know how to communicate the enormity of what this means.

They (the 1%) say that we don't have demands ... they don't know, perhaps, that our anger alone would be enough to destroy them. But here are some things - a few "pre-revolutionary" thoughts I had - for us to think about together.

We want to put a lid on this system that manufactures inequality.

We want to put a cap on the unfettered accumulation of wealth and property by individuals as well as corporations.

As cap-ists and lid-ites, we demand:

One: An end to cross-ownership in businesses. For example: weapons manufacturers cannot own TV stations, mining corporations cannot run newspapers, business houses cannot fund universities, drug companies cannot control public health funds.

Two: Natural resources and essential infrastructure - water supply, electricity, health, and education - cannot be privatized.

Three: Everybody must have the right to shelter, education, and health care.

Four: The children of the rich cannot inherit their parents' wealth.

This struggle has reawakened our imagination. Somewhere along the way, Capitalism reduced the idea of justice to mean just "human rights," and the idea of dreaming of equality became blasphemous. We are not fighting to tinker with reforming a system that needs to be replaced.

As a cap-ist and a lid-ite, I salute your struggle.

Salaam and Zindabad

Copyright (2014) by Arundhati Roy. Not to be republished without permission of Haymarket Books.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

On Climate, Business as Usual

Friday, 18 April 2014 10:13
By Eugene Robinson, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23164-on-climate-business-as-usual

Washington - The world's predicament on climate change reminds me of an old saying: "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."

Despite mounting evidence that global warming is an urgent crisis, emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases grew faster between 2000 and 2010 than over the previous three decades, according to an authoritative new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Some governments have instituted policies to try to hold down emissions of carbon dioxide -- by far the biggest contributor to climate change -- but these measures do not go nearly far enough. We're doing a Michael Jackson moonwalk, appearing to move ahead while actually sliding backward -- toward what scientists fear is an abyss.

Between 1970 and 2000, according to the new report, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions rose at an average rate of 1.3 percent a year. But between 2000 and 2010 -- a period when no one could claim ignorance of the problem -- emissions rose at 2.2 percent annually.

Given the fossil fuels we have already burned -- the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increased by an incredible 40 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution -- some further warming is inevitable. Most climate scientists believe humankind can avoid calamity if we limit the temperature rise to about 4 degrees by 2100. But at present, according to the new report, we are on track for an increase of up to 8 degrees.

Wave bye-bye to low-lying island nations and coastal cities. Say so long to what we think of as "normal" weather patterns and growing seasons. Get ready to welcome tropical pathogens as they migrate into formerly temperate zones.

"There is a clear message from science," said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German climatologist who is co-chair of the working group that produced the new report. "To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual."

And there you have the problem.

As Edenhofer noted in a statement released with the report, climate change is a problem affecting the "global commons." But for leaders around the world, "business as usual" means acting in national self-interest.

Someday, perhaps, the effects of climate change will be so overwhelming that governments see the need for shared sacrifice. It's time to acknowledge, however, that we're not there yet.

In Germany, for example, Chancellor Angela Merkel has an ambitious plan to fill more than 40 percent of the nation's energy needs from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, by 2025. But Merkel has had to temper her policies because of the fear that industries would migrate to countries where energy produced from fossil fuels is less expensive. Indeed, BMW recently announced a new $1 billion investment that will make its South Carolina plant the carmaker's biggest factory in the world.

The United States has reduced its carbon emissions by roughly 10 percent since 2005. President Obama's push for tougher automobile fuel economy standards is helping, but the decrease is largely due to two factors beyond government's control: the Great Recession, followed by an unusually slow recovery; and a shift by power plants and other industries from coal to natural gas, which emits less carbon when burned -- and which is cheap and abundant because of the drilling technique known as fracking.

Other countries where fracking can reach previously inaccessible deposits of gas and oil will surely follow suit. To the extent that global industry shifts from coal to gas, the planet will benefit. But burning natural gas, too, sends heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- just not as much as other sources.

And in any event, progress here and in Europe to limit greenhouse gases is overwhelmed by the increase in emissions by rapidly industrializing countries. China is the world's biggest carbon emitter by far, and if officials continue to fuel the Chinese economy by burning coal, incremental progress by the rest of the world hardly matters.

Ironically, the choking smog that darkens the skies over Beijing, Shanghai and China's other big cities may be the world's best hope.

In a generation, hundreds of millions of people have left rural poverty in China for jobs in the big cities. These migrants quickly develop middle-class expectations of a healthy environment in which to raise their children. Popular anger over pollution is so widespread, and so deep, that I believe the government will have to respond.

If China's autocratic leaders come to see renewable energy as being in their national -- and personal -- self-interest, the world has a chance.

© 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

The Resegregation of American Schools

Friday, 18 April 2014 11:13
By Jaisal Noor, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23169-the-resegregation-of-american-schools

More at The Real News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=B0f0jyvdl98

TRANSCRIPT:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

There's a brand new story out detailing how one of desegregation's success stories in the South has become one of the nation's most racially and economically segregated schools. Today, a third of black students attend schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that look like the 60-year-old Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that said separate schools for black and white students is unequal never happened.

Writing for ProPublica, Nikole Hannah-Jones writes, quote:

"Tuscaloosa's school resegregation--among the most extensive in the country--is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes. It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of white flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city's black elites. And it was blessed by a U.S. Department of Justice no longer committed to fighting for the civil-rights aims it had once championed."

We're now joined by the story's author, Nikole Hannah-Jones. She's a reporter for ProPublica, where she covers civil rights with a focus on segregation and discrimination, housing, and schools.

Thank you so much for joining us.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Thank you for having me on the show.

NOOR: So, Nikole, you really get into this story by talking about Central High in Tuscaloosa. It was an all-white school before Brown v. Board of Education. It was desegregated over, you know, a fairly decent, long period of time, and it became, when it was desegregated, one of the top schools in the whole state. Tell us the story of how it went from being desegregated to re-segregated now and what the impact has been on the students.

HANNAH-JONES: Well, Central High School was actually created by a federal court order. Before Central existed--came to existence in 1979, there were two high schools in Tuscaloosa. One had been the historic black high school, and one had been the historic white high school. And even in 1979, 25 years after Brown v. Board, they were still segregated. So a federal judge ordered the merger of the two high schools into one, and they created Central High School.

So Central High School became a city-wide high school, meaning any public high school in the city, no matter their race, no matter where they lived, all went to the same school. And it became a true powerhouse in the state. It was the second-largest high school in the state. It was a school that swept up academic competitions, math competitions, just as easily as athletic competitions. And it really became the pride of the town and kind of a story of how integration in the South could be successful.

But what happened is there were white parents who had been turned off by desegregation. And as we've seen across the country, there was white flight from the school district. And city officials decided that the court order that had created this school was the problem and that they needed to break this school apart in order to bring white parents back to the district. So in 2000, when a federal judge dismissed Tuscaloosa from its federal desegregation order, immediately the school board voted to break apart Central High School. It created three new high schools, and it turned Central High School into a 100 percent black, almost entirely poor high school.

NOOR: And so talk about what that impact is for the students that go there.

HANNAH-JONES: Well, I think, one, we should make it clear that white--black kids don't have to sit with white kids in order to learn. But what we also know is never in the history of this country has separate been made equal. So, in Tuscaloosa, once these kids were separated off from the rest of the kids in the district, they were then kind of ignored. These kids spend their entire education, starting in kindergarten through graduation, in entirely segregated schools. These schools were once called the dumping ground for bad teachers. A teacher could be let go from a school that was an integrated school and could be hired on to work at Central or the other all-black schools in Tuscaloosa. Or, until last year, Central High School didn't even offer physics to the students. There were many years where it didn't offer advanced placement courses. So the most integrated high school in the city offered 12. So these kids were not given the same education opportunity as other kids, and they suffered for it.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

NOOR: And this story of resegregation is not just happening at Central High or Tuscaloosa; it's really happening all over the South. Talk about how--talk about its broader impacts.

HANNAH-JONES: Okay. I mean, first I think we should note that the reason that I focus on the South was in 1954 the South was completely segregated, and it was the most segregated part of the country, but because of these court orders, by the early '70s the South had become the most integrated part of the country, far more integrated than the Northeast or the Midwest, and it actually remains the most integrated part of the country. So I wrote about the South because the South has the most to lose. It educates more black students than anywhere else in the country. And because it had actually desegregated, where, as we know, many northern cities never have, this is the one place we got traction.

And what we're seeing is, as the school districts--hundreds of school districts have been released from their court orders to integrate in the last ten to 20 years. And as they release, within a few years these districts almost always start to take actions that resegregate black students. And so we're seeing a rise in the number of black students that are attending intensely segregated schools, which are schools that are less than 10 percent white. And a large number of students, black students, are now attending what some scholars call apartheid schools. And those are schools that are 1 percent or less white. And as a result, we're seeing the achievement gap that had started closing during the height of desegregation has widened, and it has remained wide.

NOOR: And, you know, this is not--as you mention in your story, this is not limited to the South. In fact, the Northeast has a really high number of schools. And according to a new report out by the UCLA's Civil Rights Project, it's actually New York State and New York City itself that has the highest number of these apartheid schools that you just mentioned. And I worked at a Museum in New York and I taught at public schools across New York City, and it'd be an ordinary experience for me for one day, for example, to teach in the upper West side, often children of investment bankers, people that worked on Wall Street, very wealthy, and the next day I'd teach at a school in West Harlem, just a few miles away, where, you know, all the families there were African-American and, you know, lived in the projects. And, you know, you could see the resources were different. In New York City, you know, each school gets the same amount of funding, but, you know, for example, the schools in the Upper West Side, the parents of those students would raise $1 million every year for extra resources and extra funding, and even extra teachers. So you could see--and I would teach kids, you know, as young as kindergarten, but then all the way up to high school and college, and you could see what the long-term impact of the lack of resources and the isolation and segregation are.

HANNAH-JONES: Absolutely. And I think even outside of additional funding that these schools are able to raise, you have to look at--districts make very clear which students they prize, and those students tend to be middle-class students, and they also tend to be white students, I think largely because people believe that those are--their parents are more influential in the community.

So what happens is black schools and Latino schools, not just in terms of additional resources, but they don't get the same quality of teachers. They tend to get the least experienced teachers. They don't--for instance, I live in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brooklyn, which is an almost entirely black neighborhood, and there's not a single talented and gifted program in the schools in my neighborhood. So these kids aren't even getting access to the same types of courses, the same types of rigor. And those are resources that school officials are providing, and it has nothing to do with the wealth of parents.

NOOR: Right. And, you know, with--ever since No Child Left Behind, and now Race to the Top, teachers in schools are evaluated by their student performance. And, you know, we know that the biggest predictor of student performance is your socioeconomic background, so there's no incentive for teachers to really teach in the most challenging schools, because they know that they'll be held accountable for their students' performance.

HANNAH-JONES: That's right. Teachers will be penalized for the way that school districts have allowed high poverty to be concentrated in certain schools. So there is a disincentive. That's why you tend to see young teachers right out of college teaching in these schools. And once they get experience, they move on to more integrated schools.

NOOR: And so, you know, we're almost out of time for this segment, but what's being done in places like Alabama, and even in New York City, to challenge these policies, if anything? And do you see any hope of re-segregating these schools? You know, we're talking about 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education.

HANNAH-JONES: I mean, to be honest, very little, very little is being done. I think we've seen very little national will to deal with this issue. Even President Obama, while the administration says that they support integration, if you look into how they fund school, they offer no financial incentive and really no larger incentive for districts to voluntarily integrate. And, in fact, some of the biggest incentives are for charter schools, which, of course, research shows in many places are more segregated than traditional public schools.

So I think we don't have a lot of will about this. I think we're still trying to make separate equal. That's what No Child Left Behind does, that's what Race to the Top does, is it tries to say, okay, we have these high-poverty black and Latino schools, let's bring them up to par, instead of doing what everyone knows can have a great impact on achievement, which is: why don't you break up the racial and economic isolation of these schools? But we're not really willing to talk about that.

NOOR: Worth mentioning: all these policies are supported by Democrats and Republicans.

HANNAH-JONES: That's right.

NOOR: Nikole Hannah-Jones, thank you so much for joining us.

HANNAH-JONES: Thank you for having me.

NOOR: And we'll link to your story in ProPubica at our site, TheRealNews.com. And you can go to The Real News for all of our coverage of public education around the country.

Thank you so much for joining us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5797) 5 months ago

Ralph Nader on TPP, GM Recall, Nuclear Power and the "Unstoppable" Left-Right Anti-Corporate Movement

Monday, 28 April 2014 11:28
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

Former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader joins us to discuss his latest book, "Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State." Nader highlights the common concerns shared by a wide swath of the American public, regardless of political orientation, including: mass government surveillance; opposing nebulous free trade agreements; reforming the criminal justice system; and punishing criminal behavior on Wall Street. Nader also discusses the U.S. push for the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact; General Motors’ new bid to escape liability for its deadly ignition defect; the revived nuclear era under President Obama; and challenging U.S. militarism through the defense budget.

TRANSCRIPT:

http://truth-out.org/news/item/23356-ralph-nader-on-tpp-gm-recall-nuclear-power-and-the-unstoppable-left-right-anti-corporate-movement

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5797) 5 months ago

Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Unraveling?

Monday, 28 April 2014 11:37
By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/23358-trans-pacific-partnership-unraveling

More at The Real News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WviiQzdCB50

TRANSCRIPT:

CROWD: Flush the TPP right now!

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Flushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is what these protestors are aiming to do. They staged a demonstration in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because they say the Chamber is looking to ram through the trade agreement.

JILL STEIN, SPOKESPERSON, GLOBAL CLIMATE CONVERGENCE: --in the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is very much a--it's sort of the ultimate in an attack on American sovereignty, American democracy, and our ability as American citizens to make laws and regulations that reflect our needs as a people.

DESVARIEUX: But most people have never even heard of the TPP. That's largely because the negotiations have been held in secret. And what the public actually knows about the deal comes from leaks posted on WikiLeaks.

DESVARIEUX: On President Obama's four-nation tour in East Asia, the TPP was high on his agenda. However, the president failed to come to an agreement with Japan over a bilateral deal which would have accelerated. Japan is one of the 12 countries a part of the TPP. If the TPP goes through, these countries make up 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

But with a deal this big, how will it affect everyday Americans? So in another round of Real News myth-busting, let's take a look at what's been said about the TPP by the lead negotiator of the TPP, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Myth 1: the TPP is all about trade.

AMB. MICHAEL FROMAN, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: And that's what the trade agreements we're negotiating are all about: lowering tariffs on made-in-America products, breaking down barriers to our goods and services, and setting standards

higher to level the playing field for American workers and firms, American farmers and ranchers, American entrepreneurs and investors.

BEN BEACHY, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, PUBLIC CITIZEN'S GLOBAL TRADE WATCH: There are 11 countries we're negotiating with in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP, and six of those 11 countries the United States already has a free trade agreement with, and for most of those we're not even discussing tariffs. It's just not even on the table.

DESVARIEUX: Ben Beachy is the research director at Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. We sat down with him to understand what the language of the leaked drafts actually say about trade.

BEACHY: Most of the other chapters impose rules on broad swaths of domestic policies, what most people do not think of as trade, you know, the public health policies that affect the costs of medicines, copyright policies that affect internet freedom, the ability of corporations to sue a sovereign government over its environmental policies, etc. These are broad, sweeping rules that most people would say have no place in a trade agreement. And so really this is not principally about trade.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5797) 5 months ago

DESVARIEUX: Myth 2: the TPP protects American labor.

FROMAN: We've also been working to raise labor standards, raise environmental standards, raise intellectual property rights standards around the world so that our workers are not put at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis others. We can't--without raising these standards, there's going to be a race to the bottom. And we don't--that's not a race we can win. That's not a race we want to run. Our job is to create a race to the top, where groups of countries come together and say, here are the standards we want to live by, and by doing so, we will attract investment and become the magnet for economic activity.

BEACHY: We've seen a race to the bottom in which, agreement after agreement, we're pitting United States workers against lower-paid and lower-paid workers abroad. So we saw this with NAFTA, signing an agreement in which [it was] well known what was going to happen, that many factories were going to relocate to Mexico, or at least face steeper import competition from Mexico. And since NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost, about 900,000; even under the narrow program administered by the Department of Labor, they calculate about 900,000 people have lost, and it's a very difficult program to qualify for, so it probably under-counts the number. So, many people have lost their jobs.

That matters not just in terms of job loss, but it also matters in terms of wages, even for those who don't lose their jobs. Many of the people who have been fired have been decently paid manufacturing workers in the United States. The average manufacturing worker takes about a 20 percent pay cut, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And so you take a 20 percent pay cut working in a service sector job, you know, working for a hotel or a food industry. That's not bad just for the manufacturing workers, but it's bad for those service sector workers as well, because as this glut of manufacturing workers enters the competition for their jobs, it drives down wages and keeps the minimum--it keeps middle-class wages stagnant, as they've been under the NAFTA era. And that's really a major contribution to inequality. Another contribution is that it just--it gives the extra power--it gives a--it puts another card in the deck of the employer in companies that are looking to offshore in that if a union organizes and tries to organize for better wages, the employer can threaten more easily, more plausibly, that they would offshore their production to a country with which we've signed one of these deals.

DESVARIEUX: Myth 3: the TPP protects the environment.

FROMAN: We're asking our trading partners to commit to effectively enforce environmental laws, including those laws implementing multilateral environmental agreements, and we're committed to making sure our partners follow through. It encourages them to take a more sustainable approach to development, and it levels the playing field for those companies, including American companies, who maintain high standards for their workers and the communities in which they operate.

DESVARIEUX: But according to Ben Beachy, he says that the investment chapter related to the environment tells a different story.

BEACHY: It empowers foreign corporations to directly challenge a sovereign government over environmental, public health, or other public interest policies, not in any domestic court, but before an extrajudicial tribunal of three lawyers that sit outside of any domestic populace or the legal system. This is--you know, it really is incredible. It allows a foreign corporation to just completely circumvent our own domestic court system. It's, unfortunately, not a theoretical threat.

DESVARIEUX: Its not theoretical, since it's currently happening in Peru. The American company Renco Group, which is owned by billionaire Ira Rennert, is tangled in a battle with the government of Peru.

BEACHY: Renco, a corporation owned by one of the wealthiest men in the United States has launched a case against Peru. Renco operates a metal smelter in one of the ten most polluted towns in the world in Peru. And that metal smelter is responsible for a good degree of the pollution. So Peru signed a contract in which the corporation, Renco, committed to clean up the environment, to remediate a lot of the pollution itself was creating. You know, they missed the deadline for complying with that obligation. The Peruvian government said, okay, we'll extend the deadline. Then they missed the second deadline, and the Peruvian government again said, we'll extend the deadline. And then they requested one a third time: can you please extend the deadline for us to remediate our own pollution? And the government said no. And because of that, Renco is now using the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement to file an $800 million claim against the people of Peru or the government of Peru for essentially forcing Renco to do what it committed to do under contract.

DESVARIEUX: But the main argument behind the United States moving towards this Asia pivot is that if the U.S. doesn't lead, then China will.

FROMAN: We're not the only country out there. There's a lot of activity going on around the Asia Pacific, to take as one example. There are bilateral agreements being signed, trilaterals. There are other regional agreements being signed. And those regional agreements that are being negotiated, you know, they don't focus on labor and environment and intellectual property rights and state-owned enterprises and the free internet. You know, they don't try and raise the bar in a way that levels the playing field for our workers and our firms. It creates a real opportunity for us to compete in what is the fastest-growing region of the world.

DESVARIEUX: But Beachy says that if you look at past trade deals, this idea of containment is not accurate.

BEACHY: We've found that, time and again, those very threats came true even though the free trade agreement was passed. That is, Venezuela's influence in Central America increased after the Central America free trade agreement was passed. Japan-signed free trade agreements and China's exports to Mexico both increased after NAFTA was passed with Mexico [sic].

DESVARIEUX: The TPP is not just being fought in the United States, but all over the world, in countries like the Philippines and Japan. Organizers in the U.S. say that they will be continuing to fight as well.

DR. MARGARET FLOWERS, ACTIVIST: We've been very successful so far in stopping the first round of fast track in Congress, and we expect that that's going to be a dead issue, because election season is upon us. The next earliest time we expect it to come up would be in a lame-duck session in November. So in the meantime what communities are doing is they're passing resolutions at the local level, at the city level, at the county level, basically saying that if the TPP is signed into law, that it's a secret agreement, you know, it's an agreement that was passed using a non-democratic, non-transparent process that will actually change our laws at the community level so that we can't know what's in our food, we can't protect our environment, we can't buy American, all these things that are really important. And so, basically, these resolutions are saying we won't obey these illegal laws if they're passed, we're going to continue to protect ourselves. So that's a very important phase. It helps people to understand that TPP affects us right at home.

DESVARIEUX: The TPP will be making its way to Congress this week, as Ambassador Froman will be testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on April 30 to make the case for the president's trade policy. Activists say they will be watching closely their elected officials to see if they're willing to trade democracy and transparency for the TPP.

For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

The Strangelove Effect - or How We Are Hoodwinked Into Fighting a New Cold War

Friday, 18 April 2014 10:04
By John Pilger, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23152-the-strangelove-effect-or-how-we-are-hoodwinked-into-fighting-a-new-cold-war

I watched Dr. Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major T.J. "King" Kong goes "toe to toe with the Rooskies" and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it's left to General "Buck" Turgidson to reassure the president. Strike first, says the general, and "you got no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops."

President Merkin Muffley: "I will not go down in history as the greatest mass-murderer since Adolf Hitler."

General Turgidson: "Perhaps it might be better, Mr. President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books."

The genius of Stanley Kubrick's film is that it accurately represents the cold war's lunacy and dangers. Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today, because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant; yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same "invisible government," as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Strangelove was made, "the missile gap" was the false flag. In order to build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John F. Kennedy approved the CIA's propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the United States in the production of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. This filled front pages as the "Russian threat." In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in the production of ICBMs, the Russians never approached them. The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its "NATO Enlargement Project." Reneging on the Reagan administration's promise to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that NATO would not expand "one inch to the east," NATO has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucuses, NATO's military build-up is the most extensive since the Second World War.

In February, the United States mounted one of its proxy "colour" coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists. For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly anti-Semitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital. No Western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism on the border of Russia. Some 30 million Russians died in the invasion of their country by Hitler's Nazis, who were supported by the infamous Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the OUN, responsible for numerous Jewish and Polish massacres. The OUN inspires today's Svoboda party.

Since Washington's putsch in Kiev - and Moscow's inevitable response in Russian Crimea, to protect its Black Sea Fleet - the provocation and isolation of Russia have been inverted in the news to the "Russian threat." This is fossilised propaganda. The US Air Force general who runs NATO forces in Europe - General Breedlove, no less - claimed more than two weeks ago to have pictures showing 40,000 Russian troops "massing" on the border with Ukraine. So did Colin Powell claim to have pictures of WMDs in Iraq. What is certain is that Obama's rapacious, reckless coup in Ukraine has ignited a civil war and Vladimir Putin is being lured into a trap.

Following a 13-year rampage that began in stricken Afghanistan, well after Osama bin Laden had fled; then destroyed Iraq beneath a false flag; then invented a "nuclear rogue" in Iran; dispatched Libya to a Hobbesian anarchy; and backed jihadists in Syria, the US finally has a new cold war to supplement its worldwide campaign of murder and terror by drone.

A NATO Membership Action Plan or MAP - straight from the war room of Strangelove - is General Breedlove's gift to the new dictatorship in Ukraine. "Rapid Trident" will put US troops on Ukraine's Russian border, and "Sea Breeze" will put US warships within sight of Russian ports. At the same time, NATO war games throughout eastern Europe are designed to intimidate Russia. Imagine the response if this madness was reversed and happened on America's borders. Cue General "Buck" Turgidson.

And there is China. On 24 April, President Obama will begin a tour of Asia to promote his "Pivot to China." The aim is to convince his "allies" in the region, principally Japan, to re-arm and prepare for the eventual possibility of war with China. By 2020, almost two-thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific area. This is the greatest military concentration in that vast region since the Second World War.

In an arc extending from Australia to Japan, China will face US missiles and nuclear-armed bombers. A strategic naval base is being built on the Korean island of Jeju, less than 400 miles from the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the United States. Obama's "pivot" is designed to undermine China's influence in its region. It is as if world war has begun by other means.

This is not a Strangelove fantasy. Obama's defense secretary, Charles "Chuck" Hagel, was in Beijing last week to deliver a menacing warning that China, like Russia, could face isolation and war if it did not bow to US demands. He compared the annexation of Crimea with China's complex territorial dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. "You cannot go around the world," said Hagel with a straight face, "and violate the sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation." As for America's massive movement of naval forces and nuclear weapons to Asia, that is "a sign of the humanitarian assistance the US military can provide."

President Obama is currently seeking a greater budget for nuclear weapons than the historical peak during the Cold War, the era of Strangelove. The United States is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass, stretching from China to Europe: a "manifest destiny" made right by might.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass

Saturday, 19 April 2014 09:18
By Robert Parry, Consortium News | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23179-ukraine-through-the-us-looking-glass

Exclusive: As the post-coup regime in Ukraine sends troops and paramilitaries to crack down on ethnic Russian protesters in the east, the U.S. news media continues to feed the American public a steady dose of anti-Russian propaganda, often wrapped in accusations of "Russian propaganda," Robert Parry reports.

The acting president of the coup regime in Kiev announces that he is ordering an "anti-terrorist" operation against pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine, while his national security chief says he has dispatched right-wing ultranationalist fighters who spearheaded the Feb. 22 coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

On Tuesday, Andriy Parubiy, head of the Ukrainian National Security Council, went on Twitter to declare, "Reserve unit of National Guard formed #Maidan Self-defense volunteers was sent to the front line this morning." Parubiy was referring to the neo-Nazi militias that provided the organized muscle that overthrew Yanukovych, forcing him to flee for his life. Some of these militias have since been incorporated into security forces as "National Guard."

Parubiy himself is a well-known neo-Nazi, who founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991. The party blended radical Ukrainian nationalism with neo-Nazi symbols. Parubiy also formed a paramilitary spinoff, the Patriots of Ukraine, and defended the awarding of the title, "Hero of Ukraine," to World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, whose own paramilitary forces exterminated thousands of Jews and Poles in pursuit of a racially pure Ukraine.

During the months of protests aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych, Parubiy became the commandant of "Euromaidan," the name for the Kiev uprising, and – after the Feb. 22 coup – Parubiy was one of four far-right Ukrainian nationalists given control of a ministry, i.e. national security.

But the U.S. press has played down his role because his neo-Nazism conflicts with Official Washington's narrative that the neo-Nazis played little or no role in the "revolution." References to neo-Nazis in the "interim government" are dismissed as "Russian propaganda."

Yet there Parubiy was on Tuesday bragging that some of his neo-Nazi storm troopers – renamed "National Guard" – were now being sicced on rebellious eastern Ukraine as part of the Kiev government's "anti-terrorist" operation.

The post-coup President Oleksandr Turchynov also warned that Ukraine was confronting a "colossal danger," but he insisted that the suppression of the pro-Russian protesters would be treated as an "anti-terrorist" operation and not as a "civil war." Everyone should understand by now that "anti-terror" suggests extrajudicial killings, torture and "counter-terror."

Yet, with much of the Ukrainian military of dubious loyalty to the coup regime, the dispatch of the neo-Nazi militias from western Ukraine's Right Sektor and Svoboda parties represents a significant development. Not only do the Ukrainian neo-Nazis consider the ethnic Russians an alien presence, but these right-wing militias are organized to wage street fighting as they did in the February uprising.

Historically, right-wing paramilitaries have played crucial roles in "counter-terror" campaigns around the world. In Central America in the 1980s, for instance, right-wing "death squads" did much of the dirty work for U.S.-backed military regimes as they crushed social protests and guerrilla movements.

The merging of the concept of "anti-terrorism" with right-wing paramilitaries represents a potentially frightening development for the people of eastern Ukraine. And much of this information – about Turchynov's comments and Parubiy's tweet – can be found in a New York Times' dispatch from Ukraine.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

Whose Propaganda?

However, on the Times' front page on Wednesday was a bizarre story by David M. Herszenhorn accusing the Russian government of engaging in a propaganda war by making many of the same points that you could find – albeit without the useful context about Parubiy's neo-Nazi background – in the same newspaper.

In the article entitled "Russia Is Quick To Bend Truth About Ukraine," Herszenhorn mocked Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev for making a Facebook posting that "was bleak and full of dread," including noting that "blood has been spilled in Ukraine again" and adding that "the threat of civil war looms."

The Times article continued, "He [Medvedev] pleaded with Ukrainians to decide their own future 'without usurpers, nationalists and bandits, without tanks or armored vehicles – and without secret visits by the C.I.A. director.' And so began another day of bluster and hyperbole, of the misinformation, exaggerations, conspiracy theories, overheated rhetoric and, occasionally, outright lies about the political crisis in Ukraine that have emanated from the highest echelons of the Kremlin and reverberated on state-controlled Russian television, hour after hour, day after day, week after week."

This argumentative "news" story spilled from the front page to the top half of an inside page, but Herszenhorn never managed to mention that there was nothing false in what Medvedev said. Indeed, it was the much-maligned Russian press that first reported the secret visit of CIA Director John Brennan to Kiev.

Though the White House has since confirmed that report, Herszenhorn cites Medvedev's reference to it in the context of "misinformation" and "conspiracy theories." Nowhere in the long article does the Times inform its readers that, yes, the CIA director did make a secret visit to Ukraine last weekend. Presumably, that reality has now disappeared into the great memory hole along with the on-ground reporting from Feb. 22 about the key role of the neo-Nazi militias.

The neo-Nazis themselves have pretty much disappeared from Official Washington's narrative, which now usually recounts the coup as simply a case of months of protests followed by Yanukovych's decision to flee. Only occasionally, often buried deep in news articles with the context removed, can you find admissions of how the neo-Nazis spearheaded the coup.

A Wounded Extremist

For instance, on April 6, the New York Times published a human-interest profile of a Ukrainian named Yuri Marchuk who was wounded in clashes around Kiev's Maidan square in February. You have to read far into the story to learn that Marchuk was a Svoboda leader from Lviv, which – if you did your own research – you would discover is a neo-Nazi stronghold where Ukrainian nationalists hold torch-light parades in honor of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

Without providing that context, the Times does mention that Lviv militants plundered a government weapons depot and dispatched 600 militants a day to do battle in Kiev. Marchuk also described how these well-organized militants, consisting of paramilitary brigades of 100 fighters each, launched the fateful attack against the police on Feb. 20, the battle where Marchuk was wounded and where the death toll suddenly spiked into scores of protesters and about a dozen police.

Marchuk later said he visited his comrades at the occupied City Hall. What the Times doesn't mention is that City Hall was festooned with Nazi banners and even a Confederate battle flag as a tribute to white supremacy.

The Times touched on the inconvenient truth of the neo-Nazis again on April 12 in an article about the mysterious death of neo-Nazi leader Oleksandr Muzychko, who was killed during a shootout with police on March 24. The article quoted a local Right Sektor leader, Roman Koval, explaining the crucial role of his organization in carrying out the anti-Yanukovych coup.

"Ukraine's February revolution, said Mr. Koval, would never have happened without Right Sector and other militant groups," the Times wrote. Yet, that reality – though actually reported in the New York Times – has now become "Russian propaganda," according to the New York Times.

This upside-down American narrative also ignores the well-documented interference of prominent U.S. officials in stirring up the protesters in Kiev, which is located in the western part of Ukraine and is thus more anti-Russian than eastern Ukraine where many ethnic Russians live and where Yanukovych had his political base.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland was a cheerleader for the uprising, reminding Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their "European aspirations," discussing who should replace Yanukovych (her choice, Arseniy Yatsenyuk became the new prime minister), and literally passing out cookies to the protesters in the Maidan. (Nuland is married to neoconservative superstar Robert Kagan, a founder of the Project for the New American Century.)

During the protests, neocon Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, took the stage with leaders of Svoboda – surrounded by banners honoring Stepan Bandera – and urged on the protesters. Even before the demonstrations began, prominent neocon Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, had dubbed Ukraine "the biggest prize." [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com's "What's the Matter with John Kerry?"]

Indeed, in my four-plus decades in journalism, I have never seen a more thoroughly biased and misleading performance by the major U.S. news media. Even during the days of Ronald Reagan – when much of the government's modern propaganda structure was created – there was more independence in major news outlets. There were media stampedes off the reality cliff during George H.W. Bush's Persian Gulf War and George W. Bush's Iraq War, both of which were marked by demonstrably false claims that were readily swallowed by the big U.S. news outlets.

But there is something utterly Orwellian in the current coverage of the Ukraine crisis, including accusing others of "propaganda" when their accounts – though surely not perfect – are much more honest and more accurate than what the U.S. press corps has been producing.

There's also the added risk that this latest failure by the U.S. press corps is occurring on the border of Russia, a nuclear-armed state that – along with the United States – could exterminate all life on the planet. The biased U.S. news coverage is now feeding into political demands to send U.S. military aid to Ukraine's coup regime.

The casualness of this propaganda – as it spreads across the U.S. media spectrum from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times – is not just wretched journalism but it is reckless malfeasance jeopardizing the lives of many Ukrainians and the future of the planet.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

"We Are Not Beginning a New Cold War, We Are Well Into It": Stephen Cohen on Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Friday, 18 April 2014 11:23
By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

As negotiations over the crisis in Ukraine begin in Geneva, tension is rising in the Ukrainian east after security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in the city of Mariupol. Ukrainian officials said the pro-Russian separatists had attempted to storm a military base. The killings came just after the unraveling of a Ukrainian operation to retake government buildings from pro-Russian separatists. Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the authorities in Kiev of plunging the country into an "abyss" and refused to rule out sending forces into Ukraine. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has announced a series of steps to reinforce its presence in eastern Europe. "We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land," Rasmussen said. We are joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. "We are not at the beginning of a new Cold War, we are well into it," Cohen says, "which alerts us to the fact 'hot war' is imaginable now. It’s unlikely, but it’s conceivable — and if it’s conceivable, something has to be done about it."

TRANSCRIPT:

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23171-we-are-not-beginning-a-new-cold-war-we-are-well-into-it-stephen-cohen-on-russia-ukraine-crisis

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5797) 5 months ago

Thinking Big: The Global Minimum Wage

Thursday, 24 April 2014 09:57
By David L. Wilson, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23273-thinking-big-the-global-minimum-wage

Let's finally get globalization to work for people and begin - perhaps with anti-sweatshop campaigns - to organize for a global minimum wage.

After years of neglect, the minimum wage has suddenly become a major national issue. President Obama has proposed an increase in the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour, fast food workers are agitating for $15, and candidates who back a higher wage floor, including an avowed socialist in Seattle, are winning local elections. In February, the retailer Gap Inc. announced that it was implementing a nationwide minimum wage for 65,000 of its own 90,000 employees (although only $9 an hour).

The minimum wage is an important issue in other countries as well, although we rarely hear about these cases.

● Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers took to the streets last September, blocking roads and setting factories on fire as they demanded an increase of the monthly minimum wage to about $104.

● Haitian workers staged a two-day walkout from Port-au-Prince's apparel plants in December, shutting down the country's assembly sector as part of a continuing struggle for a minimum of $12 a day.

● Hundreds of thousands of apparel workers went on strike at the end of December in Cambodia around a call for a monthly minimum of $160. At least five people were shot dead on Jan. 3 when police attacked a massive workers' protest; this was the first time Cambodian police had fired into a crowd since 1997.

A Use for the WTO?

For workers in Bangladesh, Haiti, and Cambodia there's one hurdle that most of us don't face here: if they win, they stand a good chance of losing their jobs.

The combination of neoliberal trade agreements and technical advances in transport and communications has made it easy for garment manufacturers and retailers to move production from one country to another. "(L)arge multinational companies systematically search the globe for the most advantageous conditions for their production facilities," British journalist and activist Tansy Hoskins wrote in The Business of Fashion in January. "(I)f factors like rising wages or the expansion of unions threaten profits, companies can simply source their labor elsewhere. For workers, this constant threat of replacement makes fighting for higher standards risky because if things do shift, companies just up and leave for other locations."

For Hoskins, the author of the recently released Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, the solution is obvious: Remove the incentive to relocate to countries with lower wages. If the apparel industry can globalize production, the producers need to be able to globalize the minimum wage.

The idea may seem startling, but it's hardly new. A number of respected economists and analysts have made similar proposals: Muhammad Yunus, the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize; Thomas Palley, a fellow at the DC-based New America Foundation; and London School of Economics lecturer Jason Hickel. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, an umbrella group for unions and labor rights activists, is already looking at ways to implement an international minimum living wage for garment workers.

The proposal presents technical difficulties, but they aren't insurmountable. A minimum wage that would work across different countries could be based on a certain percentage of each country's median wage, or on the minimum cost of the basic needs of an average family in each country. Establishing a global minimum wage would require a high level of international cooperation, but governments have managed to cooperate on trade agreements that benefit multinationals - why not on an agreement that benefits people?

Contacted by email, Hoskins suggested that the system could be organized by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which she said "would be a better use of its time, rather than forcing countries into devastating structural adjustment programs."

An Awareness-Raising Tool

In any case, a push for a global minimum would have important benefits long before the wage itself could become a reality. "The campaign would be a powerful educational and awareness-raising tool," according to Bjorn Skorpen Claeson, a former grassroots anti-sweatshop organizer from Maine who is now a senior policy analyst at the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), a DC-based nonprofit that has played a leading role in fighting sweatshop conditions. "It would place workers from different parts of the world side by side," he wrote when asked for his appraisal, "and help us make connections to each other and to institutions and decisions that impact all of our lives."

The apparel industry would be an obvious place to start. Garment workers are on the move in several parts of the Global South, and people here have become more aware of the issues as a consequence of the series of factory disasters in Bangladesh that culminated in the April 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza outside Dhaka, with a toll of 1,133 deaths.

"I think there is currently a strong desire among citizens in advanced capitalist countries for clothes not based on severe exploitation and poverty wages," Hoskins says. "People are looking for solutions for poverty that are not those of the dead end of individualized shopping choices. Arguing for a global minimum wage is a way of showing that there is something that can be done to alleviate poverty and that it is not a natural state of affairs."

The potential for a campaign is especially strong in the United States, and not just because the minimum wage is finally getting attention here. Until the last few decades, this country was a major apparel producer. The jobs now outsourced to the Global South used to pay the US minimum or more to workers in New York and Los Angeles. The same neoliberal globalization that has condemned Bangladeshis, Haitians and Cambodians to "dark satanic mills" has left people here scrambling for part-time positions at McDonald's, or other jobs that can't be shipped abroad.

Posing the Question

The ILRF's Claeson warns that "with such a wide scope the campaign would have to creatively define achievable victories along the way towards a global minimum wage. I think any social movement has to be sustained by victories, concrete achievements for the people who put their energy, creativity, and resources into the work."

One approach would be to build on existing anti-sweatshop campaigns. Last November, apparel manufacturers Gildan and Fruit of the Loom responded to pressure from Haitian, Canadian and US activists by announcing that they would require their suppliers in Port-au-Prince to pay at least Haiti's legal minimum wage. Activists could extend this partial victory by pushing the two companies to back a higher minimum in Haiti and make the same pledge for other countries. Gap Inc. would be another good target. The company may generate some good publicity by raising the minimum for its workers here, but will it do the same for workers in Bangladesh, where Gap contracts with nearly 80 factories? This demand would directly link the struggles of South Asian apparel workers with those of retail workers in the United States.

And what about the politicians and commentators who claim sweatshop labor is a motor for economic development in countries like Haiti? Up to now these assertions have gotten a free ride in the US media. Suppose activists challenged people like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to back a global minimum wage: posing the question would start the process of changing the public debate, just as activists' questions and demands have brought the national minimum wage to the forefront.

April 24 marks the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, one of the worst industrial disasters in all of history. The multinationals think big, and they think globally. Can we really do less for the people who make our clothes?

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5797) 6 months ago

US Tribe Looks to International Court for Justice

Sunday, 20 April 2014 09:49
By Michelle Tullo, Inter Press Service | Report

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23191-us-tribe-looks-to-international-court-for-justice

Washington - An indigenous community in the United States has filed a petition against the federal government, alleging that officials have repeatedly broken treaties and that the court system has failed to offer remedy.

The petition was filed by the Onondaga Nation, a Native American tribe and one of more than 650 sovereign peoples recognised by the U.S. government. Onondaga representatives are calling on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), the human rights arm of the pan-regional Organisation of American States (OAS), to intervene.

In 2005, the Onondaga Nation filed a case against New York State, stating the state government had repeatedly violated treaties signed with the Onondaga, resulting in lost land and severe environmental pollution. Yet advocates for the trips say antiquated legal precedents with racist roots have allowed the courts to consistently dismiss the Onondaga’s case.

They are now looking to the IACHR for justice.

“New York State broke the law and now the U.S. government has failed to protect our lands, which they promised to us in treaties,” Sid Hill, the Tadodaho, or spiritual leader, of the Onondaga people, told IPS.

Hill and others from the Onondaga Nation gathered outside the White House, located near the IACHR’s Washington headquarters, on Tuesday. Hill brought an heirloom belt commissioned for the Onondaga Nation by George Washington, the first U.S. president, to ratify the Treaty of Canandaigua, affirming land rights for the Onondaga and other tribes.

In their petition to the IACHR, the Onondaga quote sections from the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790. Signed by George Washington, this law assured the Onondaga that their lands would be safe, and if threatened, that the federal courts would protect their rights.

Yet since then, tribal advocates say, their 2.5 million acres of land has shrunk to just 6,900 acres. And rather than helping the Onondaga, the courts have ignored their case.

“We filed the original case in 2005,” Joe Heath, the attorney for the Onondaga Nation, told IPS.

“We did not sue, did not demand any return for original land. It was more aimed at protecting sacred sites and environmental issues … Our case was dismissed in 2010, so we appealed to the Second Circuit.”

The Second Circuit, and finally the Supreme Court, dismissed the case.

Landmark law

Since 2005, the U.S. courts have designed a new set of rules, called “equitable defence”. This now arms New York with a two-part defence in the Onondaga case. First, officials are able to argue that too much time has passed since the 1794 treaty was signed to when the case was filed, in 2005.

Second, equitable defence also states that the court is able to determine on its own whether the Onondaga people have been disturbed on their land.

“The legal ground on which [the Onondaga] claims rest has undergone profound change since the Nation initiated its action,” the District Court concluded. “The law today forecloses this Court from permitting these claims to proceed.”

The Onondaga Nation and other Native American nations are now fighting to change Native American land laws.

Current legal precedents go back to the 1400s, when Pope Alexander VI issued a papal decree that gave European monarchs sovereignty over “lands occupied by non-Christian ‘barbarous nations’”. In a case in 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court applied this principle to uphold the possession of indigenous lands in favour of colonial or post-colonial governments.

The Supreme Court again revived this doctrine as recent as 2005, when another New York tribe, the Oneida Nation, refused to pay taxes to the United States, citing its status as a sovereign nation.

“Under the Doctrine of Discovery … fee title to the land occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign – first the discovering European nation and later the original States and the United States,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the 2005 decision.

This doctrine still underpins Indian land law and the dismissal of the Onondaga Nation’s case.

“This is the Plessy v. Ferguson of Indian law,” Heath told IPS, referring to a notorious landmark judicial decision that, for a time, upheld racial segregation in the United States.

Most polluted lake

Heath and others say the goal in “correcting” the U.S. legal system would be to provide the Onondaga Nation and other tribes more say in environmental decisions. Front and centre in this argument is the travesty they say has been visited on Onondaga Lake.

“Onondaga Lake, a sacred lake, has been turned into the most polluted lake in the country,” Heath says. “Allied Corp. dumped mercury in the lake every day from 1946 to 1970.”

In 1999, Allied Corp., a major chemicals company, purchased Honeywell, a company popularly associated with thermostats, and adopted its name, to try and shed its association with pollution. However, this merger has made it more difficult for the Onondaga Nation to get the company to clean up the lake.

“Before the Europeans got here, we had a very healthy lifestyle,” Heath said.

“All the water was clean and drinkable … With the loss of land, pollution of water, and loss of access to water, health has been impacted negatively.”

Another problem is salt mining.

“Only one body of water flows through the territory, Onondaga Creek, and this creek is now severely polluted as a result of salt mining upstream,” Heath says. “The salt mining was done over a century, and so recklessly that it severely damaged the hydrogeology in the valley.”

Heath says elder members of the Onondaga community can remember clear waters that supported trout fishing.

“Now you can’t see two inches into the water, it looks like yesterday’s coffee,” he says.

The Onondaga Nation is now waiting to see whether IACHR will hear the case.

This normally takes several years, however. And even if the court hears the case, it has no formal enforcement mechanisms, but can only make recommendations to the United States.

“We understand that the U.S. does not adhere to the OAS,” Onondaga leader Hill said. “But I don’t know where we go. We’ve exhausted our avenues.”

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization.

[-] 1 points by Andalusia (15) 5 months ago

How lucky we are to have such women of strength, intelligence and courage, as Arundhati Roy in our World-wide struggle for social and economic justice.

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