Weekly News Review Archive

19th October, 2001

EU Council’s terrorism definition includes anti-globalisation protestors…and just about anyone else they don’t like

The Council of the European Union, made up of the heads of the 15 member states’ governments, is proposing a broader definition of "terrorism" to that put forward in the European Commission's original proposal. proposal). Most disturbingly, where the Commission would define a "terrorist offence" as, amongst other things, any action seeking to: "seriously alter(ing) or destroying the political, economic or social structures of a country", the Council wants to change this to actions "with the aim of seriously... affecting or destroying the political, economic or social structures of a country or of an international organisation.” This definition would clearly include protests such as those in Gothenburg and Genoa. And in these matters, the Council exerts a great deal more power than the Commission, whilst neither the European Parliament nor national parliaments have any powers whatsoever.

The full text of the European Commission proposal can be found at this website

The Council's statement is at this website

EU governments are also clamping down on civil rights and tightening up on surveillance at the national level. In the Netherlands, proposals have been brought forward which would restrict the use of cryptography, give security services the right to intercept electronic communications on a wider range of grounds, and abolish the requirement that intercepted messages irrelevant to the subject of the investigation to be erased.  Instead, state authorities would be permitted to store all intercepted data for a year, and anything encoded until it could be decoded, however long that might be.

In France, amendments to a draft law on “everyday safety” include increased security control in publicly accessible places, especially ports and airports, fewer restrictions on searches, and enhanced control of electronic communications. French “electronic civil rights” group IRIS issued a statement, backed by a host of organisations and individuals, alleging that the new law will result in an increase in racially discriminatory controls, unacceptable intrusions in private life, weaker judicial control,  strengthening of police prerogatives, and a reversal of the  presumption of innocence. The statement calls on the National Assembly (the French Parliament) to reject the measures, arguing that they are unconstitutional and should be referred to the Constitutional Council.  For those readers who can understand French, the full  statement is available here

On the other side of the Atlantic, US authorities are busy trampling over the country’s Constitution, taking advantage of the atmosphere of panic to take away rights they’ve had their eyes on for years. Read all about it at indymedia . The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded to the passage of the bill by saying that it was “bitterly disappointed.” Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU National Office said "This bill has simply missed the mark of maximising security and, at the same time, minimising any adverse effects on America's freedoms. Most Americans do not recognise that Congress has just passed a bill that would give the government expanded power to invade our privacy, imprison people without due process and punish dissent." Go to this website for more.

Pro-euro arguments answered

A new briefing paper, Pro-euro arguments answered is available on the ‘no’ website, administered by the Uk “No” campaign, an attempt to unite left, right and centre of the political spectrum to combat attempts to “persuade” the British and northern Irish electorate that they should voteto dissolve their currency and join the Euro. To read the paper go to this website

World's People Say "No" To War  

A simultaneous international poll conducted by Gallup International, see it here  has shown that the great majority reject the US-British “war on terrorism”  Support for a non-military approach ranges from 67% to 88% among NATO/Western European nations, from 64% to 83% among Eastern European   nations, and from 83% to 94% in Latin America.  

For more information on America’s latest military adventure and the world’s response to it, check these websites: action la ; w ar is not the answer ; peace.org ; pax.protest ; /www.s29 ; .alternet.org ; altvoices ; peaceful justice ; peace protests ; inkworks ; students no war ; honoring our human goodness. ; peaceflags.org ; http://www.mwaw.org ; stop world war 3

And don’t forget the website of Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper. Issue #467 of GLW, October 17, 2001 features numerous articles on the war and responses to it.

As you have probably either always known or recently realised, this war has about as much to do with fighting terrorism as it does with proving the moon is made of green cheese. To get a little closer to what it’s really about, go to Mother Jones and check out an excellent investigative piece by Brooke Shelby Biggs : “No one wants to be the Taliban's friend now -- but it wasn't so long ago that US energy companies actively courted the Afghan regime.” Shocking, but hardly surprising.  

…and to War in Space

Last  Saturday, October 13 was chosen some time ago as an international day of action against the militarisation of space. As it turned out, most actions integrated the issues of space weapons with protests against the attacks on Afghanistan. Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space counted 115 local actions in 19 countries. Reports and photos here

IMF to meet in Ottawa

The IMF has accepted an invitation from Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin to hold meetings of its International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) and Development Committee (DC), to hold meetings in Ottawa, Canada, on November 17-18, 2001.

The IMF describes the intention of the meetings as to “bring together ministers and central bank governors from around the world to discuss issues of importance to the membership

of the IMF and World Bank, especially including the global economic outlook in the wake of the tragic events of September 11; their impact, in particular, on the poorest; the ongoing work to improve the stability of the international financial system; and preparations for the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Financing for Development.

Following the intimidation of sections of the anti-globalisation movement, and the self-censorship practised by others, it is unclear whether these meetings will be greeted by the sort of mass demonstrations which were planned for the ill-fated Washington summit originally planned for the end of last month. Watch this space.

Former US Surgeon General: “Cuba is better.”

Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, returned this week from a visit to the island, has confirmed that, despite a huge gap in wealth between her country and its relatively poor socialist neighbour, Cuba's health care system is better at keeping people healthy than is the U.S. system.

Shortage of medicines and vital equipment means that many treatments which are commonplace in Europe – and, for those who can afford them, in the US – are unavailable to Cubans. The shortages are caused by the forty year US embargo.

Elders is one of a number of doctors who travelled to Cuba on a visit sponsored by the Disarmament Education Fund, which has sent more than $65 million worth of blockade-busting medicines and medical supplies to Cuba.

Another doctor who made the trip, New York neurologist Robert White, said that as a result of the embargo, "People are dying, and this includes children."

The embargo also costs American lives, as, despite working under considerable difficulties, Cuban researchers have developed a number of drugs which cannot be exported to the US.

Within the Cuban health care system, the whole population is entitled to free treatment. An estimated one in five US citizens has no medical insurance.

Calling the Kettle Black: US-sponsored terror

“Very little of this background on bin Ladin as a creation of the United States  has been brought to public attention during the past two weeks. Most of what we have seen and heard is related to the "solution", which is war. How much  have we read or heard about those voices calling for alternative solutions to the  problem of international terrorism? How much reporting have we seen on  analyses of what has driven these people to such desperation that they carried out those attacks on September 11th?”     Former CIA employee Philip Agee

Read more about US sponsored terrorism and control over the world’s media here

Israeli Peace Activists Condemn Assassination

Following the assassination of far right Israeli tourism minister Reha'am Ze'evi issued the following statement:

"We ourselves have a long history of  firmly opposing Ze'evi, who advocated emptying the occupied territories of all their Palestinian population by way of "transfer". And we would have been happy had he been sent home by the voters. But we very much condemn this assassination which was claimed by "The Popular Front" and was said to be a revenge for that other assassination, in August,  carried out by Israel  - which we also very much condemned - the assassination of  the Popular Front leader Abu Ali Mustafa. If only this round of revenge does not lead to counter revenge (which itself could again lead to counter-counter revenge)... but it is possibly too much to be expected from this government to draw the conclusion that assassinations are just not it, and that we better continue to move towards calm and renewed negotiations. "

Environmentalists investigate El Salvador’s “Human-Triggered Disasters”

On Tuesday an international delegation of prominent environmentalists completed a  three-day mission to assess the impacts of human-triggered environmental disasters in El  Salvador. They are seeking to compare such disasters to those in other developing countries and  highlight solutions to increasingly urgent environmental crises.

“The world’s attention is understandably gripped by the current conflict. However, we believe that natural disasters with unnatural origins are major contributors to global insecurity,” said Ricardo  Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth. “We believe true international security can only be achieved if we live within  environmental limits, and promote just societies and sustainable economies.”

The number of people affected by human-triggered environmental disasters is massive and rising  -- and El Salvador is no exception. A January 2001 earthquake there killed 2000 people, 25% of them buried by a mountain landslide.

“Preventing earthquakes is obviously beyond our control,” said Dr. Navarro, “But if not for deforestation and ill-conceived development of the type we campaigned against for eight years at La Cordillera El Bálsamo, I’m convinced the human toll would have been significantly lower.”

The El Salvadorian situation is echoed around the developing world. According to the 2001 World  Disasters Report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a  major cause of the rising number of people affected by disasters is the increase in the number of hydro-meteorological disasters such as floods, wind storms and droughts.

“Natural disasters, in many cases, are simply manifestations of deeper, structural problems,  namely climate change, unsustainable development, and unchecked economic globalisation,”  said Dr. Otto Sieber, biologist and Director of Switzerland’s well-known environmental organisation Pro Natura, part of the Friends of the Earth network.

Climate change increasingly contributes to natural disasters, including flooding from sea level  rise, forest fires and extreme weather events. Climate research suggests that climate change  makes El Nino events more frequent and severe. In El Salvador, the 1997 El Nino event generated  serious droughts that adversely affected most agricultural areas. It resulted in forest fires that  triggered soil erosion and air pollution, and even forced closure of the international airport due to  reduced visibility from smoke particles. The 1998 Hurricane Mitch, though touching only briefly in  El Salvador, killed 250 people and inundated homes and agricultural areas.

“We are sounding the alarm, but we also have solutions. Our challenge is to communicate them.”  said Dr Sieber. Having visited disaster sites in El Salvador, the delegation will examine solutions in the  form of local and national environmental and social projects that include reforestation and erosion  control, management of solid wastes, sustainable  transport, sea turtle conservation, use of  medicinal plants and promotion of nutritious crops. More information on Friends of the Earth’s ideas for the creation of sustainable economies is at http:/www.foei.org

Mentioning the Unmentionable: ETC Group on Corporate Control of Food and Pharma

ETC Group Communique Issue # 71, entitled Globalization, Inc. : Concentration in Corporate Power: The Unmentioned Agenda looks at the concentration in corporate power is the defining feature of today's global economy. The 'life sciences' industry is converging into new corporate structures that have profound implications for every aspect of commercial food, agriculture, and health.

Corporate hegemony is overwhelming governments and subverting national sovereignty. When governments become subservient to corporations instead of citizens, democracy is undermined, diversity is destroyed, and human rights are jeopardised. The trend in corporate consolidation is mirrored by growing disparities between  rich and poor, both within and between OECD nations and the South.

This issue of the ETC Communique provides a brief, sector-by-sector analysis of the leading companies involved in the closely related fields of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, genomics, seeds, agrochemicals, food and beverage processing, and mega-grocery retailers.

The 'life sciences' industry is converging into new corporate structures that will profoundly affect commercial food, agriculture, and health. New corporate configurations and technologies are blurring the lines between traditional sectors. In the future, it will become difficult to distinguish between agrobiotech, biopharmaceuticals and human genomics, for example. The synergies between biotech, food retailers, and pharma are likely to grow dramatically in the coming decades as a new generation of 'consumer friendly' biotech products debuts. Emerging technologies such as nanotechnology and neurosciences will also play a role in the corporate quest for 'integrated science.'

Heads of State convening at the World Food Summit “Five Years Later” conference, from 5th to 9th November, cannot address world food security without addressing the impact of corporate hegemony. The creation of a new United Nations Centre on Commerce and Technology, with an expanded mandate to monitor and analyse multi-technology and multi-sectoral mergers and alliances, is long overdue. The 'unfinished agenda' for sustainable food security that the International Food Policy Research Institute presented in Bonn, 4th to 6th September, fails to include the 'unmentioned agenda:' ownership, control and consolidation with respect to food security.

Concentration in corporate power is perhaps the defining feature of the global economy at the dawn of the new millennium. Extraordinarily powerful new corporate configurations are replacing governments and engineering new mechanisms of monopoly control over resources and technology.

RAFI (now known as the ETC group) has been monitoring corporate concentration in food, agriculture, and the 'life industry' for several decades. The group promotes actions and policies to counter the erosion of rights and the undermining of democracy.

The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, formerly RAFI, is an international civil society organisation headquartered in Canada. The ETC Group (pronounced Etcetera Group) is dedicated to the advancement of cultural and ecological

diversity and human rights. A new web site, www.etcgroup.org is under construction. All RAFI  and ETC Group's publications are available at www.rafi.org

World Food Programme Guilty of Union Busting

Warehouse workers responsible for distributing the food supplies of the United Nations World Food Programme's School Cafeterias Programme in the north of Haïti have been fired for organising a union. The action is in direct defiance of a Civil Court ruling of August 2000 which both the UN administrators and the Haitian government have chosen to defy. The action follows numerous incidents over the last two years in which union members have been beaten and detained by agents of a private security company, wages massively reduced, scabs hired and court judgements ignored.

Jean-Claude Domingue, Secretary of The Union of World Food Programme Warehousemen in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti,  (STDPO) said “Some of us have worked in the WFP depots for over ten years, even fifteen years. Our rights as workers are guaranteed by all of the conventions of the ILO of which Haiti is a co-founder and, consequently, a signatory. Our claims have been quite modest, but this last tyrannical decision against us apparently stems from our request for compensation for one for our comrades who suffered an accident at work.”

For more information, go to http://www.gn.apc.org/haitisupport