Red Reading: Spectrezine's latest picks from recent publications

Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice by John Laughland is to be published by Pluto Press next month. Laughland is the author of three previous books: The Death of Politics (1994), The Tainted Source (1997) and Le tribunal penal international (2003). John Laughland, who writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator (both UK) was one of the last Western journalists to meet the former Yugoslav president before his death last year in prison in The Hague, where he was being tried for crimes against humanity. Laughland followed the trial from the beginning and wrote extensively on it, challenging the legitimacy of the Yugoslav Tribunal and the hypocrisy of ‘international justice’, in the Guardian and The Spectator. In this short book he gives a full account of the trial - the longest criminal trial in history - from the moment the indictment was issued at the height of NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia to the day of Milosevic’s mysterious death in custody. Laughland argues that international justice is an impossible dream and that such show trials are little more than a propaganda exercise designed to distract attention from the war crimes committed by Western states. ‘International justice’ is supposed to hold war criminals to account but, as the trials of both Milosevic and Saddam Hussein show, the indictments are politically motivated and the judicial procedures are irredeemably corrupt. The book will be published on February 12th and can be had for £14.99.
It would be interesting to hear Laughland debate the principle of international justice with activists who want to see war criminals like Donald Rumsfeld get their just deserts. "In Search of a Criminal: Donald Rumsfeld's Name Tops the List of Accused of War Crimes" by Alexia Garamfalvi was published (oddly enough) on Christmas Day by US magazine Legal Times. "No one thinks that Donald Rumsfeld will end his days in a German prison," Garamfalvi laments."Or that there is any real chance he will have to face trial in Germany over allegations that he authorized policies leading to the torture of prisoners at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But that doesn’t mean that a complaint filed in Germany last month won’t have some ripple effects. The complaint asks a federal prosecutor there to begin an investigation, and ultimately a criminal prosecution, of the former secretary of defence and other U.S. officials, for their roles in the abuses. Rumsfeld is no longer untouchable,” says Wolfgang Kaleck, the German lawyer who filed the complaint along with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights. “He is now deeply connected with claims of abuses and torture. We have taken the first step to begin the legal discussion on his accountability.” The complaint against Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet, and other senior civilian and military officials, was filed in mid-November on behalf of 11 Iraqis who had been detained at Abu Ghraib prison and Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi detained at Guantánamo. It alleges that the defendants ordered, aided, and abetted war crimes and failed to prevent the commission of war crimes by their subordinates. In international law, war crimes, including torture and inhuman treatment, are defined as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions,. Read the rest here
“How Breaches in the US Nuclear-Weapons Program Endanger You”: Recently, Heather Wokusch reports, “the US watchdog Project on Government Oversight discovered that workers at Pantex, a Texan nuclear-weapons plant, had almost accidentally detonated a W56 warhead in the spring of 2005. A W56 has 100 times the Hiroshima bomb’s yield. A similar incident occurred there in 2004 when workers discovered a crack in a W56 warhead; they ended up patching it together using "the equivalent of duct tape." BWXT, the Texan plant operator, paid safety-violation fines totalling less than $125,000 in each case. Unfortunately, the sloppiness and lack of oversight demonstrated at Pantex characterize the running of many US nuclear-weapons facilities.” Dodgy storage of WMDs is just one of the life-threatening practices of government and business revealed in Heather Wokusch's must-have book for US activists. The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now, Volume1 . Wokusch doesn't just tell scary stories, leaving you with no better reaction than to reach for something more cheerful from your bedside reading pile to while away the hours until we all go up in smoke, she tells you what you can do about it. Contact her at her website, where you will find a linked version and 3-minute podcast of each article.
American readers should consider that if they want to live long enough to be blown up by a carelessly-detonated A-bomb, they should take a look at their working hours. This isn't just for the obvious reason that overwork is as big a killer as tobacco, but because it's bad for the environment. According to a paper by the Washington, DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), if the world worked as many hours as Americans currently do, it would consume 15-30% more energy by 2050 than it would by following Europe's model. "Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption," by researcher David Rosnick and economist Mark Weisbrot, looks at the potential environmental effects of European and other countries adopting the US norm of longer work hours. The authors find that the implications for global climate change could be significant. "Old Europe" currently consumes about half as much energy per person as does the United States. If Europe were to adopt U.S. practices and increase annual work hours to American levels, the paper shows, they could consume some 30 percent more energy than they do at present. Not only could that impact fuel prices worldwide, but the resulting carbon emissions would make it far more difficult for the EU to meet its commitments to the Kyoto Protocol.
"The implications of adopting the US model of longer work hours and more energy usage extend beyond Europe," said Mark Weisbrot, CEPR co-director and co-author of the paper. "There could be an even greater environmental impact since as the economies of developing countries grow, those nations look to either the US or to European economic models."
The report outlines how worldwide energy patterns could be dependent on which model developing countries choose in the next few decades. If all countries worked as many hours per week as U.S. workers do, the additional carbon emissions could substantially increase the pace of global warming.
Alternately, there is the possibility of the reverse outcome: that the United States could move more in the direction of Europe's fewer work hours, which would significantly reduce energy consumption. Also, the tooth fairy might come to save us all.
A more general look at the state of the environment comes in the form of the latest annual report from the World Watch Institute State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future. "In 2008, half of the Earth’s population will live in urban areas, marking the first time in history that humans are an urban species. State of the World 2007," the publishers explain. "Our Urban Future will explore the myriad ways urbanization is affecting our lives and the global environment—with a special focus on the ideas that can make our cities environmentally sustainable and healthier places to live."
An encouraging success story for the left and environmental movements comes from Brazil, where the city of Porto Alegre is world renowned for its use of participatory budgeting and other democratic reforms to achieve universal access to clean water. But Porto Alegre is not alone - similar approaches are used in many other cities in Brazil, often leading to a rapid expansion of access to water and sanitation for the poorest communities. A book presenting twenty examples of successful public water delivery in large and small, wealthy and poor municipalities across Brazil - “Successful Experiences in Municipal Public Water and Sanitation Services from Brazil” now available. The case studies show that public water utilities can achieve universal access, even in very difficult socio-economic circumstances, when there is "social control": reforms that boost citizens’ involvement and democratic control over public services.
"Renewing Europe around Solidarity: Theses for a European Policy Memorandum" is the latest European Policy statement from German trade union IG Metall, the world's largest labour organisation.

Freethought Solidarity Bulletin #7 is available free of charge from US activist Fred Whitehead of the International Committee to Protect Freethinkers (ICPF, an organisation which concerns itself with the rights of the reality-based community, i.e. those of us who don't believe in powerful sky fairies. This issue contains reports from Bangladesh, where Salah Choudhury is about to be tried for blasphemy and treason. You can sign a petition against the adoption of Sharia law in the constitution of Kurdistan and read about German students' solidarity campaign to stop the stoning of women in Iran. Read that again:"stop the stoning of women in Iran". This is 2007, by the way. In Afghanistan last year, 198 schools were burned down by the particular brand of religious loony found in that country, who of course rely on ignorance, as they do everywhere. Twenty teachers were murdered. There are also reports from Italy,France and Mexico.
A useful new blog from India is International Post which describes itself as “People's media, international news digest from a people's perspective, for helping people have a better understanding of what is happening around the world, targetted news and views for the empowerment of the masses, a compilation of news and analysis from international, national, regional and local medias." The first one we received confirms this decription, with a large variety of articles on international and Indian affairs from mainstream, left and specialist sources.