Weekly News Review

16th November 2002

"Bush, Blair, Belusconi - they don't speak for the people. We speak for the people. And we the people are going to stop this war." - Speaker at European Social Forum, Florence.


Last Saturday over half a million people marched through Florence in Europe's biggest demonstration yet against the forthcoming US invasion of the Middle East. Maybe it was a million as some reports have said, but SchNEWS ran out of fingers and toes to count on after four hours of seeing people stream along the well-reclaimed city bypass that was the only road in town big enough for the protest.  Read the rest here

US Groups Stand Up for EU Chemicals Policy Call on Bush to 'Cease and Desist' Undermining Reform

A wide range of environmental, public health, and labour groups in the US have joined together today to denounce their government’s efforts to derail proposed environmental reforms underway in the EU. In a letter to "President" George W. Bush, more than 50 organisations applauded EU efforts to protect against hazardous chemicals.

“This letter is evidence of broad grassroots support in the US for government policies that protect people, wildlife, and ecosystems from chemical contamination,” said Michael Warhurst, WWF’s Senior EU Toxics Programme Officer. “Instead of lobbying to slow environmental progress in Europe, the US should take some lessons from overseas and begin to tackle this global threat.”

The European Commission has proposed a new chemicals policy called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) to address the large gaps in public health and environmental protections against chemicals. The proposals would shift the burden of proof on industry by requiring adequate scientific data as a precondition for selling chemicals - and products - and includes a mechanism for systematically eliminating the most hazardous chemicals in favour of safer alternatives.

Echoing the position of the chemical industry, the Bush Junta has disseminated documents critical of the EU reform proposals, claiming that cost of increased scrutiny would burden US businesses and hinder competitiveness. The public interest groups maintain that the cost of reforms is minuscule compared to billions spent on health care, pollution control, and clean-up from chemical contamination.

"The European chemical industry would have us believe that the new EU chemicals management REACH harms their competitiveness, while the US government argues that it would harm their competitiveness. There is something obviously wrong. More likely is that EU’s chemicals policy reform will create new markets for companies that employ cleaner processes to create cleaner products", said John Hontelez, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau.

“It is clear that the US government is not acting in the general public-interest, but is narrowly focussing on the self-interests of its chemical industry”, said Mary Taylor from Friends of the Earth. “It is heartening that these diverse organisations in the States stand ready to fight for the EU reforms. From labour unions to children’s health advocates to conservation organisations, these groups represent millions of Americans who demand protection from chemical contamination.”

"Don´t let big business rule the world"

As the United Nations (UN) met this week for the first time to pick up the pieces after the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), environmentalist NGO Friends of the Earth International accused governments of "betraying people and the planet in Johannesburg."

The UN General Assembly met to adopt the Johannesburg "Plan of Action". But Friends of the Earth International called on governments to abandon the neoliberal trade agenda which dominated negotiations in Johannesburg and instead deliver on the promise to develop and implement global rules for big business.

"The Plan adopted is a scandalous Plan of Inaction," said Daniel Mittler, Earth Summit Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International.

"Bush and his cronies turned the Earth Summit into a Trade Fair. But they did have to concede on one point. The Johannesburg declaration provides an opportunity to deliver rights for communities to hold big business to account. Governments must act now to halt bad business practices," he added.

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) also accused governments of misleading the public as they portray the results of the World Summit as a positive step forward. In practice, Johannesburg was a massive missed opportunity. Industrialised nations failed to acknowledge their massive ecological debt to the developing world. The Summit failed to set the necessary social and ecological limits to economic globalisation.

An FoEI spokesperson said "The energy agreement was a scandalous betrayal of all those affected by climate change, which sets no target for the expansion of renewable energy, but instead endorses the further development of fossil fuels, dangerous nuclear power and socially disastrous big hydro dam projects. Instead of using the World Summit to respond to global concerns over deregulation and liberalisation, governments sought to rebrand the World Trade Organisation (WTO)´s free trade agenda as sustainable development. FoEI will continue to show that corporate-led globalisation is a major cause of unsustainability, rather than the


FoEI pledged that its campaign "Don´t let big business rule the world" would continue until and beyond the WTO meeting in Mexico in September 2003. The campaign demands a review of the impacts of the current global trade regime to deliver trade justice and the development of a global mechanism to deliver rights to communities and rules for big business. Further details here

Miami Five - Motion for a new trial filed in the US Olga Salanueva to speak at campaign meeting in London

On Tuesday, November 12, 2002, civil rights attorney Leonard Weinglass filed a motion for a new trial in Miami’s federal district court. Weinglass said today that the basis of the motion was his discovery of new evidence of "deliberate misrepresentations of fact and law" by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

According to Mr Weinglass, "One year after the conclusion of the trial of the Cubans, the same U.S. Attorney's office that had argued that Miami was such a cosmopolitan community it was possible for the Five to receive a fair jury trial there, then argued the opposite position in a second case, claiming it was 'virtually impossible' to have a fair trial in Miami in a civil suit against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft."

Mr Weinglass added that, "When the defendants were Cubans charged with espionage, the government asserted they could receive a fair trial in Miami-Dade, despite the pervasive hostility of the community. But when the defendant was the Attorney General of the United States, charged in a civil proceeding, the same pervasive hostility made a fair trial ‘virtually impossible.’"

Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzalez - one of the ‘Miami five’ is to visit London on 14th and 15th November. She will be meeting with MPs, Lawyers and the press as part of the ongoing campaign for the release of her husband and the four other prisoners. (see Action page for details - For the latest information on the case see www.cuba-solidarty.org.uk

Enron, Capitalism and the Reckless Terrorism of GATS

GATS is the General Agreement on Trade in Services, an agreement of the powers launched in Geneva, Switzerland, just a few months after the smoke cleared from the Battle of Seattle (December 1999). The powers first broached GATS in 1994 and hoped to get it into place by the end of 2002 - they are on track.

But what is GATS? Early in the deliberations, the US specified, "The mandate of the negotiations is ambitious: to remove restrictions on trade in services and provide effective market access, subject to specific limitations. Our challenge is to accomplish significant removal of these restrictions across all service sectors." Or, in English, to open all those areas hitherto protected for the public good to the profit motive."  Vijay Prashad's explanation of why "The Enron Stage of Capitalism is represented by GATS" at


Pilger interviewed by US magazine

Corporate journalism in the United States preaches "objectivity" and scorns those who take the side of the dispossessed and disenfranchised. But the mainstream media in Britain makes a few allowances. John Pilger, the Australian-born, London-based journalist and filmmaker, is one.

"I grew up in Sydney in a very political household," Pilger told me, "where we were all for the underdog." His father was a Wobbly, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Like Orwell, whom he admires, Pilger has a direct style. For example, he uses the term "imperialism" and does not hesitate to attach it to the adjective "American.". Read the interview

Decoding the New UN Resolution on Iraq

The Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy has released a detailed "myth-shattering" analysis of the new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. The assessments feature conclusions of several legal and political analysts. The multifaceted critique is available at: http://www.accuracy.org/un2