Weekly News Review Archive

12th October, 2001




Transatlantic Business Dialogue cancelled

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) has hugely scaled down its annual ‘Chief Executive Officer Summit’, scheduled to take place in  Stockholm this weekend. Instead of the planned gathering of around 300 business leaders and some 100 high-level government representatives from the EU and the US, only the 12-person TABD Leadership Team will meet with a small number of officials in Washington D.C.

The Stockholm Conference would have been the sixth major annual TABD event, and was gearing up to provide new momentum to the TABD process. This has been characterised by the downward harmonisation of EU and US regulations to the most business-friendly common denominator, through a close working relationship between business and government. However, despite the continued far-reaching commitment and involvement of the European Commission and the US government, the TABD’s ‘success rate’ has diminished in recent years. Among the reasons for the loss of momentum is the growing opposition against key TABD goals such as free trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and a new round of trade and investment deregulation talks in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  For a full account of TABD’s activities and aims, go to the Corporate Europe Observatory To read an open letter to EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, as well as Mr Lamy's reply, go to this website

[Thanks to Olivier Hoedeman for this information ]

EU Plans Constitutional Convention

European Union member states have agreed to hold a constitutional convention on a date as yet unfixed during 2002. The convention will bring together MEPs, national parliamentarians and government ministers, as well as representatives of candidate countries.  The idea is the latest step in the drive to transform the EU into a militarised superstate, a project which the current crisis situation can only benefit.

EU Court of Justice upholds controversial biotechnology patent law

The EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) this week rejected an attempt led by the government of the Netherlands to overturn an EU directive governing biotechnology patents. The Netherlands, Italy and Norway (which, though not a member of the EU, takes part in the European Economic Area, which obliges it to follow EU law in certain cases) argued that the 1998 directive undermined human dignity by allowing patents on human body parts.  The ECJ disagreed, insisting that the law referred to techniques rather than actual parts, and that it was important to remove legal obstacles to biotechnological research and development.  In addition to the three countries bringing the action, France, Germany and Belgium all object to the law and have failed to implement the directive, which under normal EU rules they should have done last year.

Democracy or Carbocracy?

Many environmentalists cheered last July 23 when an international agreement on how to tackle climate change was reached in Bonn. But is the agreement a step forward or a step back for climate politics? The latest Corner House Briefing, Democracy or Carbocracy? Intellectual Corruption and the Future of the Climate Change Debate argues that the "carbon market" approach which the agreement champions is largely incoherent. No one knows how to value the goods on display in this market, or even who they belong to. As a result, the market is set to subsidise further climate change, and ultimately is likely to collapse. A fresh start is needed which builds on a better understanding of property rights, of the full range of the relevant science, of economics, and of existing resources for climate care and climate adaptation. Standing in the way, however, is a growing, well-funded global climate technocracy committed to an obsolete approach. Democratic challenges to the power this "carbocracy" exercises will be crucial in opening up the climate debate and combating the scientific fraudulence now rife in the mainstream discussion.  Go to this website for full pdf and text versions.

What works? Public services publicly provided

UK centre-left think-tank Catalyst has produced an interesting paper on privatisation.  Written by Colin Leys, What works? Public services publicly provided, the paper discusses  the way in which the profit motive is eroding universal service provision and looks at the possible alternatives to neoliberal globalisation. A shorter version can be read at RedPepper but if you want the full text go to this website where you can download it as a pdf file.

British MPs: US should stop harbouring terrorists

Six Members of Parliament and a member each of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly wrote this week to their government demanding justice for Cuba in it fight against US-backed terrorism. The letter, published in the Guardian on Cuban Independence Day, October 10, protested the inclusion of Cuba on the US State Department's list of "terrorist states." Cuba, the eight pointed out, had never, since the Revolution of 1959 "advocated, supported or harboured terrorists." On the contrary, the letter continued, "Cuba has been the victim of hundreds of terrorist attacks emanating from the US itself in which more than 3,000 innocent people have been killed. Five Cubans are currently being held in a Miami jail awaiting sentence after being convicted of spying on the United States when in fact they had been spying on the network of anti-Castro paramilitary groups that have been domiciled in Florida for 40 years. Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerro, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonazalez, were convicted in a flawed trial, using tainted evidence and by a jury that was selected from among the most anti-Castro districts in the United States.

One of the individuals they were investigating was Orlando Bosch who is still wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner with 73 passengers on board." The letter concluded by calling on Blair's government, "to immediately call on the US to cease harbouring wanted terrorists and request the immediate release of the 'Miami Five.'"

Prisoners in Britain call for Solidarity Action with Turkish Hunger Strikers

On 30th June, 22 year old Zehra Kulaksic died following 221 days without solid food. She was the fifth person to die on the hunger-strike being staged by TAYAD (the Association of Families and Friends of  Political Prisoners) in solidarity with Turkish political prisoners.

By 11th of September the total of those who have either died on the death-fast or were murdered by the Turkish State during its vicious onslaught against protesting prisoners on 19 December 2000 rose to 64. The prisoners are continuing their protest against the regime’s attempts to destroy them by confining them to isolation cells in the new repressive F-type prisons.   Prisoners across Europe (Germany, Holland, France, Austria, Greece, Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland...) are increasingly showing  their solidarity with the on-going struggle of the Turkish prisoners. At the end of  June 2001, Mark Barnsley (then at HMP Wakefield) and John Bowden (HMP Bristol) issued a statement in support of the prisoners’ struggle in Turkey. You can read the full statement on this web site

Resistance/The WiTChhunt goes on/Casualties of War: a roundup of war news

Protests: Many cities in the US, Europe, Asia and elsewhere have this week seen sustained protests against the war. In twenty Dutch towns groups ranging from a handful to hundreds gathered. A further major protest march is planned for October 20 in Amsterdam, where around 7000 marched last weekend. In Brussels, Sunday’s march of around 5000 was followed by a rally of 700 outside the US embassy on Monday, with perhaps half that gathering again the following evening. Geneva, Amsterdam and Barcelona all saw protest rallies at the weekend, whilst following the US air strikes, demonstrations occurred in Stockholm, Helsinki, Rome, Turin, Milan, Athens (where the US embassy was sealed off by hundreds of riot police), Dublin, Paris, Strasbourg, London, Birmingham, and Glasgow and Edinburgh. In Pakistan, large crowds gathered at Quetta, near the Afghan border, where a police station and UNESCO offices, as well as some private businesses, were attacked and set on fire. Police opened fire on the crowd, killing one and injuring several others. Around 75 people were arrested.  Three people, including a child of 12, were shot dead by police in the nearby town of Kuchlak, including a 12-year old boy, when police opened fire on a crowd of some 1,500, mainly Afghan refugees, protesting the US air strikes.  Police also fired on crowds in Peshawar, injuring at least 10 people. Effigies of Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair were burned. Armoured personnel carriers were used to block roads around the US Consulate to prevent demonstrators approaching. All students were ordered home indefinitely. Protests also occurred in Karachi, Islamabad, and several smaller towns and cities, as well as over the Indian border in Srinagar and in Calcutta. In Bangladesh Islamic organisations protested in the capital, Dhaka.  In Egypt, around 20,000 students marched through Cairo. In Jordan, security forces carried out a major clampdown against potential protestors as soon as the US raids began, arresting at least 10 Islamic students from the University of Jordan.  In the Sultanate of Oman, where British forces are engaged in a major military exercise, police broke up a small anti-war protest, mainly involving students.  In Indonesia, smaller demonstrations in various prts of the country were attacked by police using water cannon and tear gas.  Japan also saw small anti-war demonstrations, including a gathering of a few hundred outside the US Embassy in Tokyo.  In Chicago, 700 people joined a march chanting "No more victims," and "Justice not war."  The Chicago rally was one of the larger of a handful of protests across the country.

                                               

European Parliament




Every political group except the GUE-NGL, the United Left, supports the US/British terrorist attacks on Afghanistan. GUE/NGL President Francis Wurtz, while stressing that the fight against terrorism "must succeed at all costs", expressed his scepticism as to whether the American military operation "takes this fight forward", and his fears that "the contrary may be true". Recalling that former NATO boss and now EU High Representative Xavier Solana had said that "the fight against terrorism is not a fight of a military nature", Wurtz pleaded with "Europe not to go down that path". Co-presidents of the Green Group, Ms. Hautala and Paul Lannoye, argued that the military intervention "must be strictly limited to destroying the terrorist network", recalling the essential dishonesty of their group’s approach to previous military adventures in Yugoslavia and Iraq.

New Imperialism




Martin Wolf, who writes in the Financial Times, has actually come right out and said it: what we need is a new imperialism. This “entails a transformation in our approach to national sovereignty” – for which, of course, the United States and its allies have previously shown the deepest respect. (Are you still with us Nicaraguans, Chileans, Cubans, Colombians, etc. etc.?)  What we are faced with, Wolf says, is “failing states” such as Afghanistan, and any such state becomes “a cradle of disease, source of refugees, haven for criminals or provider of hard drugs.” Arguably true, but what Wolf doesn’t mention is that in virtually every case states have failed because of the attentions paid to them by powerful countries, and not despite that fact. It is the network created by the USA in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 that has now turned against its previous financiers. It was the at best irresponsible response of the west to the Soviet Union’s collapse which has created a series of failed and almost-failed states in parts of the former superpower’s territory. It is a century of exploitation and deliberate fostering of repression and violence in Latin America which has led to the failure of states in the region. And so on.  The highlight of Wolf’s article is this description of a “failed state”:  “Those in power use their positions for personal enrichment. Corruption is pervasive. There is neither an independent judiciary nor an honest police force. Generals are greedy politicians…” This would be the kind of country run by the son of the former head of the state security service, who acquired power as a result of a “disputed” election in a region run by his brother, a result confirmed by a court packed with appointees of his own party, wouldn’t it?

Respect for national sovereignty, U.S. style



U.S. officials warned Friday that the leftist Sandinista party, seeking to regain power in presidential elections next month, at one time had links to groups that "support terrorism."  State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States would "respect the results of a free and fair vote that reflects the will of the Nicaraguan people" However, he added, "we have serious concerns about the Sandinistas' history ... of confiscating properties without compensation, destroying the economy and maintaining links with those who support terrorism." Throughout the decade of Sandinista government which began in 1979, the United States armed and financed terrorist groups, known as the Contras, which murdered thousands of people and destroyed vital infrastructure. The defeat of the ruling FSLN in the 1989 election represented a surrender to US terror.

Goodbye 'due process'?



 

US Judge Sandra Day O'Connor says that she foresees unprecedented restrictions on democratic rights in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Speaking to a meeting at a New York university she said:"We're likely to experience more restrictions on our personal freedom than has ever been the case in our country. It is possible, if not likely, that we will rely more on international rules of war than on our cherished constitutional standards for criminal prosecutions in responding to threats to our national security." O'Connor warned that the attacks would "cause us to reexamine some of our laws pertaining to criminal surveillance, wiretapping, immigration and so on."

Killer Food Drops




Twenty-first century war, it's different. Fluffier. Sure, they drop bombs - War's war, after all - but they also drop food.  Isn't that nice? So there you are, bomb just missed you, and there's a package that hit some way off just after it, and it says "This is a gift from the people of the USA." In the unlikely event you can read English, you're supposed to be reassured by this?  The Afghans are lucky, however - with the Blairites on board, they're lucky they don't have "Post-bombing trauma counsellors" dropped in straight after the raids. Blairites stay all fluffy even when they're killing people. They probably insist on strict gender quotas when they plan their hecatombs.

As Laura Flanders wrote this week,  "Here's the half of the story that the media and the Bush team bring you: Under cover of darkness, U.S. food packets rained from the sky like manna upon the hungriest parts of Afghanistan.  Here's the other half -- which requires some independent research and imagination: unguided crates crash to ground in the pitch black. Hungry Afghans rush to gather them up. Too late. Another explosion, then another. Parents watch in horror as the brightly colored packets tempt their children onto landmines." Read the rest at this website

Cuba Condemns War



 

"Yesterday, at 9:00pm Afghanistan time, the war began, or rather themilitary attack against Afghanistan began. The word "war" suggests a conflict between more or less similar parties, where the weaker has, at least, a minimum of technical, financial and economic resources todefend itself. However, in this case, one of the parties has absolutely nothing. Still, let us call it a war. That is what he who ordered the beginning of the military operations called it. This is really a sui generis war. An entire country is being turned into a testing ground for the most sophisticated weaponry ever invented. The experts and specialists at the research centers and military workshops, who have invested tens of billions of US dollars in the creation of deadly devices, will attentively follow every detail of their products' performance. Whatever the pretexts, this is a war, in which the most sophisticated technology will be used against people who cannot read or write. A country whose Gross Domestic Product is $20 billion a year will be fighting another with approximately one thousand times less. Therefore, for economic, cultural and religious reasons this will be a war of previous colonizers against the formerly colonized; of the most developed against the least developed; of the richest against the poorest; of those who call themselves civilized against those they consider to be ignorant and barbaric. It is not a war against terrorism, which should and could have been defeated by truly efficient, swift and enduring means." Read more here   For the full text of Fidel Castro's speech to the huge Havana rally on 6th October, go to this website

[NB These two sites from Cuba are currently off-line -13, 10, 01 - We suggest you keep trying them]

Whose paying what price?




"Now the Taliban will pay a price'' vowed President George W. Bush as American and British fighter planes unleashed missile attacks against major cities in Afghanistan. The US Administration claims that Osama bin Laden is behind the tragic events of the 11th of September. A major war supposedly "against international terrorism" has been launched, yet the evidence amply confirms that agencies of the US government have since the Cold War harbored the "Islamic Militant Network" as part of Washington's foreign policy agenda. In a bitter irony, the US Air Force is targeting the training camps established in the 1980s by the CIA. The main justification for waging this war has been totally fabricated. The American people have been deliberately and consciously misled by their government into supporting a major military adventure which affects our collective future.  Read  Osamagate by Michel Chossudovsky Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa on the website of the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG)

Chomsky reacts



So far, the US-UK response is about what had been expected. What has been reported is attacks by cruise missiles and high-altitude bombers, accompanied by some food drops outside of Taliban-controlled areas (most of the country), such a transparent PR gesture that there is no attempt even to conceal it. The attacks appear to have been based entirely outside the Muslim world, presumably because of fear of protests. It is far too early, and we have much too little

information, to say anything with confidence, but it is not unlikely that the mood is captured by story from Cairo in the Boston Globe with the headline "Protests, horror greet US assault," quoting an Egyptian waiter as saying "I give you food and I kill you? It makes me crazy to think about that."  Read the rest here

Dresden declaration by German Left



 

The German PDS really did just happen to be holding its congress in Dresden, scene of an earlier war crime, last weekend. Read its declaration on peace and security here

Americas.org




is running a new section of original essays, photographs and resources, "The Mourning After: The U.S. War Against Terrorism Bodes Ill for Latin America," at their website

The Office of Homeland Security




nice ring to it, hasn't it? Read about why it really is just about as scary as it sounds here