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November 4th, 2001




EU fails to ratify environmental convention

The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in environmental matters came into force this week; but so far, the European Union, along with thirteen of its member states, has failed to ratify the convention – a failure that the Environmental Bureau (EEB) – the environmentalist umbrella group that brings together EU-based NGOs - has described as “a major embarrassment”..

Although the EU signed up to this Convention in 1998, it does not belong to the group of 17 countries which have since ratified. In a letter to top EU politicians and the EEB has called for a rapid completion of the ratification process and highlighted the need for proper implementation.

“We are concerned in particular because we see the Convention as an essential tool to promote an active role for citizens in designing, monitoring and enforcing environmentally sound policies on the local, national and international levels,” said EEB Secretary-General John Hontelez.

The Aarhus Convention was set up in response to pressure from environmental groups  in Europe,  but the final text represented a greatly weakened version of what was originally planned.  Compromises were introduced to allay the fears of a number of countries, including China, with serious reservations about committing themselves to something which in their view might result in unwarranted interference in their domestic affairs. Whilst many are quick to point out that participatory democracy is not the most obvious aspect of China’s political system, a large number of countries which pride themselves on being liberal democracies, including all but two EU member states, have failed to ratify. Not surprisingly, the rogue United States refused to sign the agreement in the first place.

Despite the weaknesses, environmental organisations consider the Aarhus Convention a step forward in giving people the right to influence decisions affecting their environment.  This is seen as particularly important in view of EU enlargement. See last week’s Spectre News for more background on this issue, or go to www.participate.org or www.unece.org/env/pp for more information.

Indivisible

“The EU should consider giving states the right to leave the Union.” Michel Barnier, European Commissioner.  Is this the first time we’ve been officially told they have no such right?  The right to leave a Union has led to civil war in the past, but fortunately the EU, unlike that other glorious Union, has no army of its own – yet.

Sixty million below poverty line in EU member states

Almost one in five inhabitants of the EU live in poverty, according to a report published recently by the European Commission, which defined the poverty line as 60% of each member state’s average income.  Using this measure, which allows for the wide variety in cost of living, expectation and actual need across the fifteen countries, Portugal had the highest poverty rate (23%) with Greece and the UK hot on their heels at 22%. The report concluded that there is a clear correlation between the extent of state spending on social protection and the extent of poverty, with countries “with the most developed welfare systems and…high per-capita social expenditure” being “the most successful in both ensuring access to basic necessities and keeping the numbers falling below relative poverty levels well below the EU average.”  Perhaps the Commissioner responsible for the report, Anna Diamantopolou, could have a word with her colleagues. The EU’s monetary union, with its strict monetarist rules laid down in the “Convergence Criteria” incorporated into the Union’s guiding treaty at Maastricht, effectively prevent member states from increasing levels of social expenditure and bear a large share of the responsibility for persistent and in some cases increasing levels of poverty.

EU aircraft noise legislation dropped in face of US threats

The EU has once again backed down in a dispute with the United States over the rights of member states to determine their own environmental standards. Proposed legislation would have banned older, noisier aircraft from flying into EU airports from April, 2002.  EU officials were putting a brave face on the climbdown, which will allow US airlines to continue to use noisy old planes. References to alternative noise control arrangements were laughed at privately by US negotiators, who described them as a face-saving exercise: “They didn’t want to say that they lost and we won,” as one put it.

As usual, however, it was a Belgian government official who took the Brave Face Award for her claim that “This is a victory for Europe because the US will withdraw their complaint and the threat of economic sanctions.” This is rather like claiming that having handed over your pocket money to the school bully was “a victory, because now he won’t beat the living daylights out of me.” 

Claims that the proximity of USAF bases to numerous European civil airports made EU negotiators especially compliant can be dismissed.

Catch ‘em young: Euro propaganda focuses on schools

Britain’s “Minister for Europe” Peter Hain this week officially launched the second year of a pro-euro initiative on behalf of the Orwellian-titled Institute for Citizenship. The initiative, called “Speak Out! On European Citizenship”, is funded by the Foreign Office and the European Commission.

“Speak Out!” is also supported by a range of corporate interests including Cable and Wireless, WH Smith, Adamson BSMG Worldwide, Bass, and the Levi Strauss Foundation, as well as the European Parliament. It includes a special teachers’ guide, produced by the Institute for Citizenship. The guide focuses almost exclusively on the supposed economic benefits of the euro, arguing “The key benefit of EMU is exchange rate stability creating a more complete and competitive single market bringing benefits to business, consumer and EU competitiveness. Trade and investment flows will be stimulated by the removal of so-called ‘exchange rate risk’. Cross border trade will be cheaper with no currency transaction costs between these countries. Price transparency across the EU will intensify competitive pressures thereby bringing down prices; and a single EU capital market should allocate funds more efficiently and at lower cost, making it easier for business to invest”.


Although the guide acknowledges that there may be problems with a single interest rate across the Eurozone, it states that “this is one of the reasons that a number of criteria for EMU membership were established to ensure that member states achieve certain levels of economic performance”.  UK-based readers who come across examples of pro-euro propaganda paid for with public money, or the funds of organisations who have not balloted their members on the issue, are asked to send details to propaganda@no-euro.com

Meanwhile the AEEU union of engineers and electricians, whose leadership is rabidly pro-euro and has published a new document by Eurofanatic front Britain in Europe this week. The AEEU admits to receiving Commission funding, or “Brussels gold”.


Britain in Europe’s website, just in case you were hoping to visit, has been temporarily shut down on legal advice. The move came after BiE compared opponents of the euro to Nazis.. BiE, however, claims the shutdown is due to “technical problems”. We at Spectre would like to say quite sincerely that this explanation is true. If we are accused of being Nazis we’d rather defend ourselves than rely on a bunch of suits to do it. Libel laws are for the rich. “Free speech, one each” as Roy Harper once put it.  We will go to our graves for the right to sling mud.

For more information about the anti-euro campaign in Britain, go to  www.no-euro.com

COP out?

Climate Change negotiations began this week in Marrakech, with governments attempting to put flesh on the bones of the so-called “COP 6” accord signed last July in Bonn. On the important issue of “compliance” – i.e. making governments keep their promises - Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia (part of the so-called Umbrella Group of countries) have put forward a proposal to weaken the agreement that governments signed up to in Bonn. Under the Bonn agreement, governments declared that the Kyoto Protocol meant that if a country failed to meet its targets, mandatory consequences would automatically follow.



Under the Kyoto Protocol, legally binding consequences can only be imposed with an amendment to the treaty, and an amendment can only be adopted once the treaty has entered into force. The Bonn deal set out what the amendment would include but Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia are now requesting that the nature of the compliance regime should not be prejudged in any way. Japan, Russia and Australia have also been trying to limit the ability of any country to trigger investigations into the compliance status of any other country, instead preferring to rely on the slow machinations of the compliance system itself.



It was also recognised in Bonn that the decision to include reforestation and afforestation in the Clean Development Mechanism might lead to disastrous impacts as it could encourage the replacement of natural forests and other natural ecosystems by monoculture tree plantations.

Clear definitions were promised, but negotiators at Marrakech have so far to come up with any.



So far, in fact, governments have shown little interest in adopting an effective initiative on climate. For the fourth year in a row, the issue of the overall adequacy of the Kyoto Protocol (in relation to the Convention objective of preventing dangerous climate change) has been dropped from the agenda. The developing country bloc, G77 and China, is concerned that any discussion of adequacy will allow rich nations to demand that poorer countries take on emissions reductions before committing to significant reductions themselves.



Commenting, Friends of the Earth International Climate Campaigner Kate Hampton said:



"So far, Russia, Japan and Australia have been using the Marrakech talks to wriggle through ever larger loopholes in the Kyoto Protocol. This is not what the watching world expects. Kyoto was only a first step to preventing dangerous climate change. Governments need to go further and faster, not sit around squabbling about the details and hunting for ways to evade their responsibilities. European and developing countries must continue to stand firm against the attempts of this influential minority to undermine the Kyoto Protocol from within"










EU/Developing Countries Joint Parliamentary Assembly Condemns War

A parliamentary assembly which brings together elected politicians from across the European Union with those of the member states of the ACP – made up for the most part of countries once colonied by European powers – voted by a large majority this week to support an anti-war amendment brough forward by the European Parliament’s United Left Group (GUE-NGL). Despite this, the Assembly’s powerful Christian Democrat used a procedural device to prevent the adoptuon of the resolution as official policy.  GUE-NGL official Paul-Emile Dupret explained that “although it’s little used, it’s possible to demand that the two sides – the EU parliamentarians, and those from the ACP countries – vote separately. IF you add the two groups together the motion was clearly carried, because it won a huge majority on the ACP side and won support on the EU side from ourselves, most greens, and some social democrats.”

The amendment, headed “The fight against terrorism”, described the anti-terrorist struggle as an “urgent priority” but declared its opposition to “the aerial bombardment conducted during the last few weeks” as these were “shown to be ineffective and do nothing but increase the suffering of the civilian population, fuel nationalism and fundamentalism”. It also rejected the claim that Article 51 of the UN Charter could be interpreted as authorising the attacks.

 

Mexican Human Rights Lawyer Murdered

Internationally known human rights attorney Digna Ochoa y Plácido was assassinated in her office on Friday, October 19. Ochoa worked with the Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights Center (PRODH) in Mexico City until a year ago when she formally separated from the Center after receiving death threats. She represented some of the most difficult and politically charged human rights cases in Mexico, many involving torture or murder by Mexico's military and security forces, including the widows of the Aguas Blancas massacre, the campesino ecologists of Guerrero, and, most recently, the Cerezo brothers who are accused of setting small bombs in front of CitiBank offices. Fellow attorney Gerardo Gonzalez discovered the body in her office at about 5:30 pm with gunshots to the head, apparently from a .22 caliber weapon. Mexico City's Attorney General characterized the crime as "without a doubt" political in nature.

Next to Ochoa was a letter containing death threats directed against members of the Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights Center. The note read, "Sons of bitches, if you continue, this will also happen to another. You have been advised. This is not a trick." Edgar Cortez, Director of PRODH, demanded a thorough investigation. The Center began receiving death threats in 1996. In October of 1999, Ochoa was kidnapped in her own home, tied up, and interrogated for nine hours about contacts in Oaxaca, Guerrero, Hidalgo and Puebla, about EZLN and EPR safe houses, and about members of the ERPI. The perpetrators opened gas valves in the apartment, then left, apparently with the intention of killing Ochoa in a gas explosion. She was able to free herself and escape without life-threatening injuries. In September of 2000, Ochoa left Mexico for the U.S., waiting for "the danger to pass," and returned to Mexico in April of this year.

During her years as a human rights activist, the 38-year-old Ochoa received numerous death threats, including a number of recent letters. Jose Lavanderos, a close colleague of Ochoa, said, "When she told me that she had received new threats I suggested that she file a formal complaint, that she publicize the letters. But the deception she felt from the justice system was overwhelming. 'Why?' she told me, 'nothing ever happens, a formal complaint won't accomplish anything.'" Edgar Cortez affirmed the disposition of the Fox administration: "The official reaction has always been to treat us, the ones who are threatened, as the suspicious ones. They never followed up with any sort of investigation."

The assassination appears to be part of a pattern of attacks on human rights activists throughout the country. Edgar Cortez called the killing "an ominous sign" that impunity continues to undermine justice. Cortez cited several recent incidents of assaults on human rights activists in Chiapas, including a lawyer whose home was set on fire and another who was nearly run down by a speeding vehicle. Mr. Cortez said that law enforcement agencies conducted only half-hearted investigations into such attacks. The Federal District Department of Justice (PGJDF) conducted several inquiries over the years, which led nowhere.

The assassination calls into question President Fox's campaign commitments to investigate human rights violations by government officials and to root out government corruption. Ten months into the Fox presidency, his promise to create a truth commission remains unfulfilled, and his appointment of a military general as federal attorney general was widely criticized.

Government officials are widely suspected of complicity in the assassination.

The assassination ends any Mexican pretence of democratic reforms. Vicente Fox assumed Mexico’s presidency last year, ending 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, with promises to clean up the nation’s corruption, in particular the impunity of security forces. Ten months after assuming power, Fox’s promises ring hollow. Amid widespread criticism, he appointed a former army general as Federal Attorney General. He failed to implement a promised “truth commission” which would investigate past abuses of power, including over 500 disappeared. And his administration ignored repeated pleas for protection from human rights activists, including Digna.

Over the years the Justice Department of Mexico City have conducted several half-hearted investigations, which lead nowhere. This is not surprising, given an ex-army officer as Federal Attorney General. The army is widely recognised as among the worst violators of human rights, and Digna broke much new ground exposing army abuses. Recently she defended two campesino environmentalists, Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, whose grassroots activism forced the trans-national forestry company, Boise Cascade, to abandon clear-cutting of old growth forests in the southern state of Guerrero. Montiel and Cabrera received the prestigious Goldman Award for their environmental work, but are now serving jail terms of eight and ten years on fabricated weapons and drugs charges. Digna exposed the use of torture by the army to extract “confessions” from the environmentalists, a common practice in Mexico. However, the Federal Attorney General refused to admit medical reports prepared by internationally recognised experts proving torture. Apparently his loyalty to the army out-weighs his commitment to justice.

In Mexico, it is widely assumed that government security forces are complicit in the assassination of Digna, perhaps directly but at least through wilful ignorance.

Go to our Action page for more information, suggestions as to how you can contribute to a response to Digna’s killing, a petition and links.

 “Millions of Afghans will starve to death this winter”

While more and more civilians are killed by the US/British terror campaign in Afghanistan, experts who have visited the region are agreed that this “collateral damage” will be as nothing compared to the possibly millions of deaths from starvation which will occur if the bombings do not let up for long enough to allow food to reach people who have none.

Sarah Zaidi, research director of the US Center for Economic and Social Rights http://www.cesr.org has warned that "Relief officials on the ground are warning that millions - literally millions - of Afghan civilians will starve to death this winter unless the US military suspends its attacks and allows the UN to re-establish effective food distribution. We are talking about women, children and the poorest of the poor, who have no means to access food in this war zone."

Jim Jennings, President of humanitarian aid group Conscience International, who visited Afghan refugee camps a few months before the bombing began, a humanitarian aid organisation,  confirmed Zaidi’s fears: "This is a race against time and we are losing,” Jennings said. “Even before September 11, there was a major humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, with millions of people facing severe food shortages. And even before the bombing began, Afghanistan had the largest number of refugees in the world. And refugees depend on aid for survival. The interruption of vital food deliveries and the withdrawal of the staff of humanitarian agencies because of the bombing have created a dire situation for the already vulnerable population. 70% were already malnourished. The Pentagon is claiming progress, but it has acknowledged the food drops are minuscule and it is dragging out its bombing campaign. Distribution and timing are crucial.  You could have food in Kabul and not distribute it to the people who need it in the countryside. Time is of the essence: we must act now before winter. The bombing has to halt, we need to get food in or Afghan people will begin starving in great numbers at about the same time Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving feast."

Christian Aid spokesperson Dominic Nutt, who recently returned to London from Islamabad, added that: "The simple fact is that less than 20 percent of what needs to is getting into Afghanistan and even less is getting distributed. The only way to deal with this is to have a pause in the bombing to stockpile food for the winter. The UN is estimating that 7.5 million people need food aid. People are starving now in some areas, according to our source of information from within Afghanistan. It was actually starting when I was in Afghanistan this August, in Herat and Ghor Province. Every village I went to had been affected by drought. Camps were having deaths from hunger and hunger-related diseases. There are coping mechanisms, but after three years of drought they run out. People have eaten the seed stock. About 85% of the people live in rural communities.  The roads are bad enough when the weather is good, you can't get food to those rural areas in the winter. It's going to get worse and worse; you could see entire villages wiped out. Governments have effectively sponsored the Taliban regime; it's a bit hypocritical, we think, for them to say that now it's crucial that they bomb the Taliban. Can't you wait four weeks for us to feed millions of innocent people at risk of starvation?"

Never Forget

The grinning killer who heads the US puppet government in London made one of his “stirring” speeches this week, telling us all that it’s important that we “never forget” various things: “…watching the planes fly into the trade towers…those answerphone messages…how we felt imagining how mothers told children they were about to die…” and so on. You get the picture. Well, here’s our list: all the people who’ve already died in Afghanistan so that US control of future supplies of rapidly-diminishing oil can be guaranteed. The half million or more Iraqis who’ve died as a result of the embargo. The people of Yugoslavia, caught between state terrorists at home, and state terrorists in the air. The names of the people who destroyed Yugoslavia, who financed the establishment of bin Laden’s network, who brought Saddam to power. The fact that Bush did not win last year’s presidential election. The fact that the right have used the tragedy of September 11th to push every point of its political agenda, from trade liberalisation to the erosion of democratic rights.  The words of Article 5 of the UN Charter, and the fact that anyone who reads it can see that it does not authorise this illegal war. And there’s more, much more. Maybe we won’t ever get you into the international war crimes tribunal where you belong, Blair, but neither will we forget.

Paying the piper

Democracies have laws obliging political parties to publish the details of any donors and their gifts. Britain does not. So hats off to the assiduous research which has gone into listing the good citizens who have bankrolled smiling boy and his bunch of uglies at this website

US Greens Condemn “Suppression of Debate”

The Green Party of the United States has described the growing suppression of open debate about their country’s response to the September 11 attacks as “anti-democratic, anti-American, and unacceptable.”

"Prudent measures to keep knives off airplanes is one thing," said Starlene Rankin, Illinois Green Party Media Coordinator. "But allowing the FBI, CIA, or other police agencies to spy on American citizens is quite another. The Greens absolutely oppose any restriction on civil political dissent. We must remain free to question and challenge the political status quo and to hold our elected officials accountable."

Annie Goeke, chair of the party’s International Committee who is also active in the Women in Black peace organisation, see this website, which has been targeted for investigation by the FBI, commented that it was “profoundly ironic…that as we claim to be defending the freedom for democracy, we are silencing the voices of women and others that are part of the growing movement for peace.” Only nine months ago Women in Black was awarded the UN Millennium Peace Award and was also nominated for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

Greens across the US continue to join others in protesting against the military attacks on Afghanistan. The Green Party issued a statement in early October, see this website, calling for international cooperation in treating the September 11 attacks as a crime against humanity, with the perpetrators indicted and tried in an ad hoc international tribunal in accord with treaties such as 1971 Montreal Sabotage Convention, which both the U.S. and Afghanistan signed.

Greens were also amongst those attacked by police and arrested during a peaceful protest against the war in Hartford, Connecticut. Now locked up and facing outrageous bail demands, they are appealing for help. Go to this website for more information.

WiTChhunt

Contrary to what you may have read in media outlets desperate to extend the circulation-boosting war, respected UK weekly the New Scientist revealed last week that the bacteria used in the anthrax attacks did not originate in Iraq, and was not first isolated as part of the Soviet biological war programme. In fact, “it is either the same strain the US itself used to make anthrax weapons in the 1960s, or close to it.” (NS, 27/10/01)

Following the Bush junta’s claims that giving the “President” dictatorial trade was a necessary response to September 11, and European Commission President Romano Prodi’s assertion that it made more rapid EU integration urgently necessary, former socialist and now Blairite minister Peter Hain has waded into this surreal territory by stating that terrorism made Britain’s EU membership a positive boon. Speaking at the beginning of a tour to promote the “benefits” of being in the glorious Union, Hain claimed that the fact that “the EU is acting to fight terrorism”. It certainly is. Principal amongst them is giving foreign police forces the right to order your arrest without British courts, or anyone whom, as a voter, you can have any hope of influencing, having the right to query it. Thank goodness our freedoms are being defended.

Blair’s puppet regime has also been busy setting up a new system of detention for asylum seekers. Announcing the suspension of Article v of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is permitted in a situation deemed to be an “emergency”, Home Secretary David Blunkett outlined his plans for anyone suspected of posing a threat to British security. If they cannot be removed, newly built detention centres, additional to the existing Gulag, will be used to imprison them. It is not clear what will be considered reasonable grounds for suspicion, or whether indeed reasonableness is any longer required.

The government of Spain’s prime minister Aznar, which vies with Blair’s for the title of most right wing administration in the EU, is hoping to use September 11 to suppress “domestic” dissent, planning to have Batasuna, a fully legal political party which is allegedly the “political wing” of the armed Basque separatist organisation ETA, and youth organisation Segi, as well as the radical newspaper Gara, listed as terrorist groups under the EU’s new “EuroPatriot Act”.  A spokesperson for the ruling right-wing Basque nationalist party, which opposes any such ban, asked whether “Aznar is planning to build a prison to house 150,000 Basque voters” – Batasuna’s tally in the last election.  Batasuna’s attempts to instigate an Irish-style peace process have so far failed, when the government’s failure to pursue serious negotiations resulted in ETA’s returning to arms.

“The scale of the crime or offence is…very broadly defined. Not only murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, hostage taking and torture but also theft and the destruction of or damage to public property, such as buildings or vehicles is included. Someone who paints graffiti on a post office or tram, or a demonstrator who, in protest at the Afghan war could therefore be summarily extradited to a foreign country without any kind of reliable judicial process.”

G.Spong, lawyer, writing in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.  Spong’s article was entitled “Fight against terrorism leads to attack on constitution”

You probably don’t waste your time wondering why Blair’s puppet government does what it does. Clearly, it does what it does because the people who masterminded last year’s US coup d’etat tell them to do what they do. Nevertheless, new defence orders pouring in as a result of the attacks on Afghanistan would surely be reason enough to start another nice little war.  “…the business is expected to be worth about £50 bn/$72bn to the British economy over the next 30 to 50 years.”  And that’s just for one fighter plane project. Tasty. FT estimates 3,400 jobs will be “safeguarded or created in the design and development phase, while production will bring a further 8,400 jobs.”  So, at last the Blairite government is prioritising British workers jobs. But then dead Afghans don’t have votes. (FT, 29/10/01)

“…researchers have just learned through the Freedom of Information Act that the US government expressly destroyed Iraq’s sewage and water treatment facilities, knowing full well the result would be widespread disease and epidemics. In short, biological warfare. The US refuses to allow Iraq to import chlorine to purify water. According to the UN, 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children, have died from disease and malnutrition caused by US sanctions…When asked about this huge toll, then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright memorably replied, ‘the price is worth it.’”

                                                Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun, 21/10/01

Ex-British Army officer James Thorne stripped naked in the centre of Manchester, northern England, last weekend to protest against the war in general and the use of cluster bombs in particular. Former tank regiment Captain Thorne carried a placard which read “A British soldier is telling you: This is a war of rich against poor”. Despite the placard, he was arrested for public indecency. In England, showing your bum in public is regarded as indecent, whereas dropping bombs on the poorest women, men and children in the world isn’t.

“For the west, there is much at stake. As well as combating the threat of terrorism, it wants to secure the Caucasus as a route for the export of Caspian oil and gas. The current tensions in the Islamic world make it all the more important to diversify supply sources.”        (Financial Times, 28/10/01)

Apologies to the tens of thousands of people who took part in the demonstrations in Gent, where EU ministers gathered the weekend before last, for our failure to cover the event.  Demonstrations passed off peacefully and, as the evening progressed, metamorphosed into a party. Whether the fact that Flanders has the world’s best beer plays any role in this, our planned news coverage disappeared somewhere in cyberspace and was last seen heading for Alpha Centauri. We will carry an eye witness account and analysis in the near future, to add to our popular features on what-it-was-like-to-be-at Gothenburg and Genoa.

The European Commission is having to move with uncharacteristic speed to stop plans by US airlines to use the $5 bn aid provided by the US government since September 11 as a subsidy on fares.  Several European airlines have complained that their US rivals have been showing their deep respect for the victims of the terrorist attacks by offering deep discounts on transatlantic routes. Touching, isn’t it?

Klein: “Crumbling public sector makes US vulnerable”

What’s making the United States most vulnerable to terrorist attacks, especially bioterrorism, is not a depleted weapons arsenal or the country’s claimed commitment to an “open society” but the fact that the public sector is dropping to bits, argues Naomi Klein in a recent article. Klein, author of anti-globalisation classic No Logo, points out that half the states in the US  have no-one trained to deal with biological terrorism such as the recent spate of anthrax-laced post.  At the national level, “The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are buckling under the strain of anthrax fears, their underfunded labs scrambling to keep up with the demand for tests. Little research has been done on how to treat children who have contracted anthrax, since Cipro -- the most popular antibiotic -- is not recommended.” Read the rest at this website

Anthrax tends to be presented in the media as an indiscriminate little bug, ideal for a terrorist who wants to get everyone looking over his or her shoulder. But apart from the fact that nobody seems to be considering the special threat to children, anthrax’s egalitarianism is not shared by the people in charge of responding to its threat.

If you're a US Congressman, or work for one, for instance, and there's a whiff of anthrax

in your building, you get antibiotics immediately.  Your building is "swept" for the bug.  And you get a week off from work, too. But if you're a postal worker, you can wait your turn, with the result that two Washington area postal workers died because their employer was in no rush to test them for anthrax or give them antibiotics. William Smith, president of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, speaks for most US postal employees when he expresses dissatisfaction with the US Post Office’s  offer to do some random testing of postal workers who might have been exposed.  Smith said all workers who have been at a post office through which anthrax-infected mail may have travelled in recent weeks should be tested for exposure to the disease. Any positive finding should prompt the Postal Service to close an office for cleanup, he said.  "They did it for the senators, the congressmen," Smith said. "They should do it for us just the same."

Meanwhile postal workers are growing increasingly concerned, and not only in the USA. Read Canadian postal workers’ demands, for example,  at this website  One US union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, had posted its own response to the crisis at http://www.nalc.org

Full coverage of the anthrax crisis can be found here on the LabourStart website

United States abolishes vestiges of democracy

The Bush junta which took power in a coup d’etat last December has now moved in on a number of rights and freedoms apparently (to the casual reader, at least, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights appended to the US Constitution.  While self-styled “President” Bush tries to compare September 11 with December, 1941 and Pearl Harbor, this looks more like Berlin, 1933. If you don’t believe us, read the details of the Patriot Act yourself at this website

US think tank says trade agreements have cost three million jobs

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute argues that trade deals cost US workers three million jobs from 1994 to 2000. The  states suffering the highest rates of job losses, in order, are: Rhode Island, North Carolina, Maine, Tennessee, Indiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, and South Carolina. The report is available at http://www.epinet.org/

EU Commission: Sex toys safe!

Whether or not this news will come as a relief to any Spectre readers, the European Commission has now completed its extensive programme of, well, research and announced that, following studies conducted in Germany, PVC sex toys have been shown to be safe, though Spectre presumes it depends on what you do with them. The toys contain phthalates, plastics banned in small children’s toys because they could be harmful if the toys are chewed. The study showed, however, that even though they contain much higher levels of phthalates, they are safe. Provided you don’t chew them. It’s nice to know that our tax euros are being well-spent.