News for progressives

Trump’s Sly Encouragement of Lawless Violence

Counterpunch - Thu, 2019-03-21 15:44

Racism is not natural. Babies — black, brown, white — explore the world and each other with wonder, not hate. Racism has to be taught. It is learned behavior. To assume that a person is inherently superior or inferior to another based upon race is unnatural and ungodly. Racism is used for political manipulation and economic exploitation. In a land founded on the belief that all men are created equal, slavery could not be justified without a racism that depicted slaves as sub-human.

These basic truths need restating in this terrible time. Across the world, we see the rise of racism, anti-Semitism and islamophobia, and its violent expression. Parishioners in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, are gunned down; worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue are attacked and killed. Now the murders in the mosques in New Zealand. Christians, Jews and Muslims must now stand as one and resist the rise of hate, and the hate-filled propaganda that feeds it.

In this, Donald Trump can no longer duck responsibility. When an American president speaks, the world listens. When Barack Obama was elected, it sent hope across the world. Blacks were elected to parliaments for the first time across Europe. Some hoped a new era of peace and reconciliation might begin.

Yet his election incited a harsh reaction as well, a new trafficking in hate, fear and violence. Donald Trump used his celebrity to claim that Obama was illegitimate, literally un-American. He had relished spreading racial fears before. When five young men were falsely arrested in New York City, Trump took out newspaper ads calling for the death penalty, inciting fear of young African-American males. When DNA testing proved their innocence, Trump simply denied the truth. His campaign for president was stained by his race-bait politics: slurring immigrants as rapists and murderers, promising to ban Muslims, denouncing a judge of Mexican descent, born in Indiana, as too biased to rule on the case involving students defrauded by Trump University.

As president, Trump has used his position to continue to foster hatred and racial division: the Muslim ban, the “wall” and the continued slander of immigrants, African nations as “s–thole countries.” In Charlottesville, he equated Nazis marching through the streets with tiki torches, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” with those protesting Nazism and racism; “good people,” he said, on “both sides.”

He’s also fanned the flames of violence. He told his followers at a campaign rally in 2016 that if they beat up a young protester, he’d pay their legal fees. He talked about “Second Amendment people” — gun owners presumably — taking care of liberal judges or of Hillary Clinton, if she appointed them. He encouraged police officers to rough up suspects.

Now, as he appears more and more unhinged, he did an interview with the right-wing Breitbart news in which he suggested that his people “play it tougher,” intimating that if he didn’t get his way, brown shirt violence might follow: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

The American president is fanning the flames of racism, religious intolerance and vigilante violence. Denial — “He doesn’t mean it,” “It’s just his way of talking,” “Just New York bluster” — is simply not credible. We can argue about whether Trump is a racist or an anti-Semite or a wannabe caudillo. But there is no question about the hatred he is stoking here and across the world.

Now is the time for citizens of conscience to act. Church and community leaders, responsible mothers and fathers, pundits and editorialists, scholars and celebrities, those who ride in limousines and those who take the early bus — all now have the responsibility to speak out against racism, to condemn the spread of hate, the sly encouragement of lawless violence. When our president acts irresponsibly to divide us, citizens must act responsibly to bring us together. Our freedoms — of speech, of assembly, of religion — can save us from misrule, but only if we exercise them.

 

Categories: News for progressives

Public Health Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean

Counterpunch - Thu, 2019-03-21 15:30

The dramatic health situation in Venezuela, where the national health system has all but collapsed, invites an assessment on how Latin America and the Caribbean are doing regarding the health status of the population. While in the last decades, Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced measurable gains in several health indicators such as life expectancy, infant survival, and prevalence of infectious diseases, the Venezuelan people’s health status has deteriorated considerably.

Most countries in these regions, however, still face daunting challenges due to sprawling urbanization, environmental problems, and increasing levels of obesity that affect all ages, but particularly children. In the Caribbean, for example, obesity has increased by almost 400 percent in the last two decades, affecting also the infant population.

Prevalence of HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue, tobacco and substance abuse, chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and physical and mental disabilities continue to exact a heavy toll in most countries.80% of NCDs deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Although the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the adult population of Central and South America has stabilized somewhat at 0.6 percent, the Caribbean, with an HIV infection rate of more than two percent, is the second most heavily infected area in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.

With little change in maternal mortality rates during the last decade, the gap in this indicator between Latin American and Caribbean countries, on one hand, and the United States and Canada, on the other, is still substantial. The risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth and post labor is 50 times greater in developing countries than in Canada and the U.S.

Infant mortality, meanwhile, has declined gradually in most countries in the region due to better nutrition and effective public health and sanitation policies. Latin America is now leading the world in terms of decreasing infant mortality rates, which have declined from 43.5 percent per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 14.9 in 2017, according to the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.

Latin American and Caribbean countries, however, still face problems associated with low average income, volatile economic national growth, increasing wealth concentration, and extreme poverty – all manifestations of social and economic disparities.

It is still necessary to increase investment in infrastructure and in basic equipment and supplies, to increase coverage and access to proper health care, to improve the distribution of basic drugs, to make widely available safe blood supplies, and to improve epidemiological surveillance. It is also important to address issues, such as violence, that provoke an increasing number of victims and demand not only a political but a public health approach to be solved.

In many countries, violence against women has reached epidemic proportions. Homicides of women by their partners (called “femicides”) take thousands of lives in Mexico every year. According to the National Statistics Institute (INEGI) An average of nine women are murdered every day. The Mexican city of Juárez has been called “the capital of murdered women in the world.”

This is a crucial time to continue implementing a health-promotion model that addresses the social determinants of health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the social determinants of health are the conditions in which we live, learn, work, and play. These conditions include a broad range of socioeconomic and environmental factors, such as air and water quality, the quality of the built environment, opportunities for employment, income, early childhood development and education, access to healthy foods, health insurance coverage and access to health care services, safety from crime and violence, and public and private policies and programs that prioritize individual and community health in all actions

In this regard, it is critical to adopt new approaches of social protection to reduce the exclusion of wide sectors of the population, particularly the poor and the old, who in many cases are not adequately covered by insurance programs.

In addition, stronger alliances must be forged between the public health sector and the education, agriculture, labor, housing, and water and sanitation sectors. Effective actions aimed at the more disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society can be planned, coordinated, and put into effect.

At the same time, it is important to accelerate the creation of institutional networks and to improve the exchange of health information among countries. These actions will reduce the health, social and economic burden caused by disease, and translate into a better quality of life for the populations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

César Chelala is an international public health consultant and writer. He has carried out health-related missions in over 50 countries worldwide. He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award, and two national journalism awards from Argentina.

Categories: News for progressives

Will United Conservative scandals keep traction once parties start rolling out their policies?

Rabble News - Thu, 2019-03-21 12:41
David J. Climenhaga

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's NDP clearly hopes to make Opposition Leader Jason Kenney's character the ballot box issue for voters in the April 16 provincial election, but will the United Conservative Party's scandals have as much traction now that the election writ has been dropped?

The risk for the NDP strategy, even if daily reminders of the UCP leader's flawed character and his party's problem with extremists continue, is that they will get lost amid the daily policy announcements both parties and their smaller rivals are bound to make during an election campaign.

For a government generally perceived to be campaigning from behind its principal challenger in popular support, the campaign didn't get off to a bad start from the NDP's perspective, with near simultaneous revelations that more fines had been levied in the UCP's "Kamikaze Campaign" scandal and that a high-profile UCP candidate had been forced to quit the race after her apparent white supremacist views became known.

On Tuesday, the day Premier Notley called the election, the Office of the Election Commissioner announced that it had levied two additional fines related to Jeff Callaway's UCP leadership campaign in 2017, which has come to be known as the "Kamikaze Mission," so called in a leaked recording of UCP strategists talking because its intent was allegedly not to win, but to knock off Kenney's main rival, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

The two $4,000 administrative penalties were levied against one Darcy McAllister. One was for contributing funds to the Callaway campaign that were furnished by another person, the other for "furnishing $4,000 to Maja McAllister, for purpose of making contribution to Jeff Callaway."

The same day, it was learned that Caylan Ford, a star candidate personally recruited by Kenney to run in the Calgary-Mountain View riding had abruptly pulled out of the race after a progressive news site revealed she had complained that white supremacist terrorists are treated unfairly by the media compared with Islamic terrorists.

According to the report in Press Progress, Ford also expressed anxiety about "the replacement of white peoples in their homelands" and mused about the violent collapse of Western civilization as a result.

Since then, her uncomplimentary views on LGBTQ Pride Parades have also come to light. They are "a celebration of vice and transgression," she opined, asking: "What are the redeeming values?"

Well, so much for the Caylan Ford campaign, for the moment anyway.

This in turn prompted an understandable debate on social media about Kenney's own views, particularly on race and LGBTQ rights, and, whatever they are, what it is about the UCP that seems to attract such characters from the dark fringes of the right.

And the evening and the morning were the second day.

No time like an election to talk politics? Not at the U of A!

One would think there'd be no time like an election to talk about politics, especially at a university.

But as it turns out, not everyone agrees. Leastways, certain folk appear to be uncomfortable with the idea of a brisk discussion that might lead to a critical consideration of the consequences of implementing some of the policies being proposed by the Opposition in the upcoming Alberta election.

A memorandum yesterday from the director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta's Augustana Campus in Camrose, for example, announced that a coffee and conversation event about Alberta politics planned for today would be cancelled because … wait for it … an election has been called!

"As you probably know, yesterday an election was called in Alberta," wrote an apologetic-sounding Ian D. Wilson to the centre's friends and supporters. "Now that campaigning has officially started, the U of A President's Office has asked all units at the University to ensure that our activities do not influence the election in any way." (Emphasis added.)

Say what?

"The goal of this Ronning Centre event was to facilitate an informed discussion about the interrelationship of religion and politics in the Alberta context, not to influence anyone's political position during the election season," Wilson said. "But in this case, given the timing of the election call, we think it is best to follow the President’s advice with due diligence and to cancel the event."

Hmmmmm. For those of you who think an election might be an ideal time to talk about politics and policy, perhaps the explanation is that U of A President David Turpin took enough of a beating from the UCP over that honorary degree for environmentalist David Suzuki last year.

Well, there's no point beating him up again this time, as the former University of Victoria president has already announced he'll be outta here after June 2020. So, whatever the reason for his typically Albertan excess of election caution, he's only going to have to put up with one more typical Alberta winter.

Chester Ronning, after whom the centre is named, would certainly not have had a problem with a briskly critical discussion of policy during an election, especially the kind of policies put forward by the UCP.

Born in 1894 in Xiangfan, China, to Christian missionaries, Ronning graduated from the University of Alberta in 1916 and returned to China in 1922 to continue his parents' mission. He came back to Alberta in 1927 to serve as principal of the Camrose Lutheran College, which occupied the site that is now the U of A's the Augustana Campus. Like Suzuki, he was awarded many honorary degrees.

Ronning served Canada as a diplomat in China, Norway and India, and led an attempt to bring a negotiated end to the Vietnam War in 1966.

In politics, he was elected as a United Farmers of Alberta MLA in 1932 and served as leader of the Alberta branch of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the predecessor to the NDP, from 1940 to 1942.

He died on the last day of 1984.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau's budget misleads pensioners whose companies go bankrupt

Rabble News - Thu, 2019-03-21 01:39
March 20, 2019Trudeau's budget misleads pensioners whose companies go bankruptBudget 2019 seems to say it guarantees payments to retirees even after bankrupt companies wind up their pension plans. Sounds too good to be true -- and it likely is!
Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau's budget misleads pensioners whose companies go bankrupt

Rabble News - Thu, 2019-03-21 01:11
Karl Nerenberg

The Trudeau government's last budget before the fall election has produced a scattershot series of measures designed to burnish its progressive credentials. It has everything from aid for first-time home buyers to the beginnings of a national pharmacare program to more generous loan repayment terms for students.

But the budget is a big-time fail for one group the government promised to help: workers and pensioners for companies that go bankrupt.

When Sears Canada folded its tent in 2017, its non-Ontario pensioners lost 30 per cent of their income. That is because, as it stands now, if a company goes bankrupt the workers and pensioners are at the back of the line when it comes to dividing the spoils. The preferred creditors are the banks and other financial institutions that have lent the company money. Those businesses often get everything that's owed them, plus interest. Pensioners and active workers who have contributed to pension plans get the leftovers, sometimes nothing at all.

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and seniors' groups such as the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) have long urged the government to make pensioners preferred creditors, to give them "super-priority status" in the event of bankruptcy or insolvency. That would put them at the front of the line. The government has chosen to not heed that advice.

Nor have the Liberals taken up the suggestion that they institute, federally, what Ontario has provincially: mandatory pension insurance to look after pensions and benefits in cases of bankruptcy. It is because of that insurance plan that Sears' retirees in Ontario were protected.

In last year's budget, the Trudeau Liberals promised to do something about situations such as that of the Sears Canada bankruptcy.

They bemoaned the fact that we see "companies, such as Sears Canada, entering the insolvency process with substantial unfunded pension liabilities. As a result, workers and pensioners … are faced with unexpected financial losses that impact their retirement security …"

The Liberal promise of 2018 was to seek "feedback" from pensioners, workers, and companies, and take a "whole-of-government, evidence-based approach" towards what it called "assuring retirement security."

Interested groups came up with some robust suggestions, including Ontario-style mandatory pension insurance and front-of-the-line treatment for workers and retirees.  

Tinkering, but no real change for pensioners, despite confusing language

Budget 2019 does not deliver either of those or any other effective solutions. In fact, it does very little to protect pensioners and employees in the event of bankruptcy. It offers some micro-measures that play around on the edges of the problem. But nothing in the Liberals' 2019 budget will prevent another Sears fiasco.

However, if you were to read the relevant section of the budget document, on page 67 to be exact, you could be forgiven for believing it tells workers and retirees the exact opposite -- that the government intends to fully protect them in the case of bankruptcy.

The relevant section of the budget document is called "Protecting Canadians' Pensions." It states, in black and white, that the government "will protect Canadians' hard-earned benefits by clarifying in federal pension law that if a plan is wound-up, it must still provide the same pension benefits as when it was ongoing."

That sentence seems to mean: Do not worry, pensioner, if your company declares insolvency or goes bankrupt, we, the government, will make sure you continue to receive exactly the same pension and benefits you have been receiving.

Sadly, that is not the case.

That statement in the budget does not, in fact, enunciate a new policy on bankruptcy. It only affirms what is already the case for companies and employee groups that jointly and voluntarily decide to wind up their defined benefit pension plans. (Defined benefit plans are those that provide a guaranteed pension payout to retirees, as opposed to defined contribution plans which are, in essence, glorified retirement savings plans, which do not guarantee any specific level of pension benefit.)

Current federal law provides that all retirees and workers who are part of a defined benefit plan at the time of a voluntary wind-up must continue to get exactly the payments and benefits provided by the plan. Any new regime only applies to those who are hired after the wind-up.

But here's the rub. This law only governs companies that are a going concern, not those that are going bankrupt.

When bankruptcy happens, we do not get an orderly, rules-based wind-up of a pension. We get something grimmer: termination. And in such case, bankruptcy law, not pension law, applies. Without belabouring the point -- federal bankruptcy rules put workers and retirees at the end of the line, after all of those preferred creditors, who must be paid first.

Salutary small measure, but a 'missed opportunity' according to the CLC

What the 2019 budget does provide for is more openness and transparency in the bankruptcy process, and more flexibility for companies going bankrupt.

There is, for instance, a specific measure that will give bankruptcy courts the "ability to review payments made to executives in the lead-up to bankruptcy." That might prevent outrages like the Sears case, where executives got generous bonuses, while the company stiffed retirees.

The budget also allows company pension plans to "transfer the responsibility to provide pensions assets to an insurance company through the purchase of annuities." This measure, the 2019 budget says, will better protect retirees' pensions from the risk of employer insolvency.

Those measures do not get at the heart of the issue, which is the fact that those receiving pensions and those contributing to pension plans have scant protection in the event of bankruptcy.

The CLC has praise for a number of the budget's measures, such as one that will allow low-income seniors who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement to earn up to $5,000 rather than the previous $3,500 before any of their pension income is clawed back. But the labour group considers the paltry and minimalist announcement on bankruptcy and insolvency to be a "missed opportunity."  We can expect groups representing Canada's seniors to concur, once they have had a chance to study what the government is offering.

The budget does make vague reference to planned but non-specified changes to several  pieces of legislation that govern bankruptcy. However, the cruel fact for workers and retirees whose companies might go bankrupt is that there will be little time to make any of those changes before the October election.

Bankruptcy law is of great interest to big banks and other major financial players, and you can be sure the government will tread very lightly indeed when those powerful institutions are affected.

Any changes to the bankruptcy regime will certainly raise alarm bells on Bay Street and throughout the halls of financial power in Canada and elsewhere. If and when this or any future government looks at even tinkering with bankruptcy law, in any way that could have an impact on the "rights" of lenders and investors, you can be sure there will be many, many months of consultation first.

What is most disappointing about the measures in budget 2019 that deal with bankruptcy and pension plans is not their minimalist nature. What is most disturbing is the misleading way the government has announced them.

When the budget states that the government will "clarify" federal pension law, it means just that -- clarification of what exists, not creation of something new. The government plans to reaffirm that in cases where going-concern (not bankrupt or insolvent) companies move from a defined benefit pension plan to another regime, all those inside the plan must be protected. That's all the Liberals plan to do: reaffirm what is already the case.

The current law does nothing to protect workers and retirees in cases of bankruptcy. For those folks, there are only some marginal, minimalist measures in this year's budget, despite the confusing language that might lead some to think the government is doing a lot more than it is.


Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.


Photo: jasonwoodhead23/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

War Crimes in Yemen?

Counterpunch - Thu, 2019-03-21 00:31

Categories: News for progressives

The Expanding Global Footprint of U.S. Special Operation

The Expanding Global Footprint of U.S. Special Operation   Written and produced by SF Team: Brian Kalman, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson This video is based on the text anlysis entitled “The Expanding
Categories: News for progressives

WaPo Gives Campaign Space To Main Sponsor Of ISIS Who Also Jails More Journalists Than Anyone Else

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan uses the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand to whip up support for local elections in Turkey: It begins with dramatic music, edited in for effect. Then stills of the manifesto posted by the...
Categories: News for progressives

Caregivers express concerns about new Liberal immigration pilot programs

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 22:49
Marites N. Sison

Confusion and uncertainty about the Liberal government's new caregiver program prompted about 50 migrant care workers to gather Sunday, March 17 in Toronto, looking for answers at a closed-door information session at the Caregivers' Action Centre (CAC). 

"I'm not sure what to do, that's why I'm here," said Jhoelyn Cruz, who arrived from the Philippines in 2016 under the current "Caring for Children" stream. 

On February 23, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced two new five-year caregiver immigration pilot projects and an interim permanent residency program for care workers already in Canada. 

Under the new program -- set to replace the current one which would expire in November -- care workers will be assessed for eligibility as permanent residents before they come to Canada. If eligible, they can bring their children, spouse or common-law partner to Canada, and would be granted a "pathway to permanent residency" after two years of work experience.

The program would give care workers open work permits, allowing them to change employers quickly. Current work permits are tied to employers, making it hard for workers to leave abusive employers or change jobs if their services are terminated or if elderly employers die.

Hussen also announced an interim, three-month program -- from March 4 to June 4, 2019 -- allowing care workers who arrived in Canada after the Live-In Caregiver program closed in 2014 to apply for permanent residency if they have completed one year of service, instead of the previous two years. 

Although migrant worker groups across Canada welcomed the announcement of open work permits, they said the program still doesn't end exploitation since it denies workers landed status upon arrival. 

The new program "keeps the temporary nature of the system in place, despite evidence that the lack of permanent resident status is the primary reason for migrant worker exploitation," the Coalition of Migrant Care Workers and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change said in a statement.  A study they conducted last year documented cases of unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, long hours, poor living conditions, sexual violence, and harassment involving care workers across Canada. Most care workers came from the Philippines, Indonesia and Latin America.

The lack of details about the new program has caused some workers to panic, said Kara Manso, who heads the CAC. 

There are fears that it will set higher standards for education and English or French proficiency, in which case "a lot of people are going to be left out," including those who have historically been able to come to Canada under past caregiver programs, she said. 

Manso also believes that the three-month period to apply for the interim permanent residency is too short. 

Cruz, who could be eligible for this program, agreed. For someone like her who's earning minimum wage and sending most of it to family back home, three months is a short time to find thousands of dollars to pay for an application fee for her and her family members ($1,040 each) and other related costs like the language proficiency test ($300) and education assessment ($300 to $2,000).

But Cruz worries that if she lets this opportunity pass, she may not get another chance.  

Mathieu Genest, spokesperson for Hussen, has told Canadian Press that details will be provided closer to the launch of the new programs.

Manso said some care workers will be unable to meet the one-year work requirement for permanent residency under the interim program "because the system didn't allow them to continue working." 

This includes workers who lost their jobs and may have found another employer but lost time waiting for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) that is required before a work permit can be issued. Workers can lose 13 months waiting for the LMIA and work permit to be issued.

Also excluded are those who became undocumented because they were unable to find another employer and secure a work permit. 

"A lot of care workers are here and they are contributing to the country. They're making sure that Canadian families are taken care of, but they don't even know what's going to happen to them," said Manso. "We've been trying to make sure that no one is left behind."

She said there are no assurances that the program will be implemented since it hinges on whether or not Trudeau's Liberal government is re-elected in October. "Whatever happens in the election, we want to make sure the program will actually work for care workers." 

The CAC and other migrant workers' groups have launched an email petition reiterating their call for care workers to get landed status upon arrival, and for further support and rights for all migrant care workers. 

Marites N. Sison is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. 

Photo: Marites N. Sison

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Categories: News for progressives

Challenging media to do better covering climate breakdown

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 22:29
EnvironmentMedia Matters

The Extinction Rebellion chapter in Ottawa, inspired by the example of Extinction Rebellion in the U.K., recently called on the CBC to do better in its reporting of the existential issue of our time: climate breakdown.

That's because mainstream media plays a significant role in shaping public awareness as well as framing political narratives on key issues.

What media covers, what it chooses not to cover, how stories are reported, and the relative priority a story is given are all critical factors in public engagement.

On December 21, 2018, Extinction Rebellion organized coordinated actions at BBC offices in central London, Bangor, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow, Sheffield, Truro and the bureau in Berlin.

Their letter to the BBC stated that the national broadcaster should place "the climate and ecological emergency as its top editorial and corporate priority…"

It said the BBC should give climate change the same "level of urgency the corporation placed on informing the public about World War Two."

The letter also called on the BBC "to take a lead on encouraging other national and global media corporations to join the global efforts to save humanity/nature from existential crises."

Canada's national broadcaster

The action in the U.K. came a couple months after the CBC was criticized for running a piece by CBC News senior writer Chris Arsenault headlined, "What a far-right Bolsonaro presidency in Brazil means for Canadian business: Miners could benefit from relaxed regulations, as environmentalists fear growth plans will destroy the Amazon."

The last line in that October 2018 piece stated, "With nearly 60 per cent of the world's public mining companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, losses for the Amazon rainforest under Bolsonaro could spell big gains for Canadian investors."

In contrast, a National Geographic article on Bolsonaro quoted a Brazilian tropical ecologist studying the effects of climate change on Amazonian trees, with the warning: "We are already in a very critical situation in terms of climate change. If we mess up with the Amazon, carbon dioxide emissions will increase so massively that everyone will suffer."

And in a CBC News article last month with the headline, "Canada's forests actually emit more carbon than they absorb -- despite what you've heard on Facebook," CBC reporter Robson Fletcher wrote, "You might have heard that Canada's forests are an immense carbon sink ... so we don't have to worry about our greenhouse gas emissions."

Fletcher adds, in what sounds like a casual dismissal of the carbon impact of the tar sands and proposed pipelines, "This would be convenient ... if it were real. Hitting our emissions-reduction targets would be a breeze."

He then notes, "Trees don't just absorb carbon when they grow, they emit it when they die and decompose, or burn."

That is true. But while he acknowledges "forest fires and insect infestations" are largely to blame, he misses critical context in his report.

Climate change, drier conditions and higher temperatures have worsened wildfires and allowed beetle outbreaks in forests once too cold for them. As the National Observer reported last November, "These massive and growing forest emissions are a result of destructive logging, beetle outbreaks and wildfires."

"The growing loss of carbon from our forests is signaling how severely climate impacts are already damaging the natural life support systems we depend on," the article adds.

While the CBC likens this situation to a Facebook rumour, the National Observer concludes, "B.C. forest management is making climate change worse -- an alarming situation when our forests should instead be our best ally in the fight against climate change."

It is also notable that the CBC as a standard practice uses the industry-friendly term "oil sands" without quotation marks, but when it needs to reference the term commonly used by environmentalists, that appears in quotes as "the tar sands."

Payments from Big Oil

The CBC has also been criticized over several of its on-air personalities receiving payments to speak at Big Oil events in Canada.

In 2012, then-CBC News chief correspondent and national news anchor Peter Mansbridge spoke at a Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer (CAPP) event, reportedly for a fee of $28,000. There's even a photo of Mansbridge speaking at a lectern with a CAPP logo on it.

The Huffington Post has reported that Rex Murphy gave "numerous speeches at events hosted by oil and gas groups" when he was the host of a popular CBC Radio program.

And in February 2014, Vice reported, "Ian Hanomansing, another CBC News anchor, was a featured speaker at Oilweek Rising Stars alongside characters like Jim Carter, the former president of Syncrude Canada, and Doug Jackson, the Vice President of Gas and Mining Operations for TransAlta."

By April 2014, after a public uproar, the CBC prohibited its full-time journalists -- like Mansbridge and Hanomansing -- from accepting requests from "political parties or other groups which make a significant effort to lobby or otherwise influence public policy" and required that freelance contributors (like Murphy) disclose when they accept paid speaking engagements.

Mansbridge retired in July 2017 but now writes commentary for the CBC; Murphy (who is unabashedly pro-tar sands) is still a regular commentator on the CBC; and Hanomansing was named the co-anchor of the CBC's The National in August 2017.

'Our media can do better'

Last week, Green Party leader Elizabeth May tweeted, "I just went to @CBCNews website -- no mention of hundreds of thousands of Canadian kids marching. @globeandmail only mentioned other countries' #climatestrike. Our media can do better."

Yes, there were a few local stories and if you dug deeply enough you could find one overview story on the CBC website, but the point about relative priority and visibility still holds.

A study by non-profit aid organization DARA International has calculated that 400,000 deaths worldwide each year can be linked to climate change. The World Bank says climate change will transform more than 143 million people into "climate migrants."

Last year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said we only have 12 years to stop a global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius; otherwise the impacts of climate change on hundreds of millions of people will significantly worsen.

Surely an issue of this magnitude merits consistent, front-page, above-the-fold coverage that is thoughtful, critical and informative.

Brent Patterson is an activist-blogger who writes this monthly column on inspiring stories of global resistance to neoliberalism and climate change.

Photo by Brent Patterson.

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Climate Changecanadian mediaCBCBrent PattersonMarch 20, 2019Indigenous land defenders and anti-fascist activists challenge United We Roll convoyThe Stand Up for Land Defenders direct action brought Indigenous and anti-fascist activists together to occupy an intersection in front of Parliament Hill that the United We Roll convoy had set up.Canadian pipeline push promotes false and misleading claimsThere's no real discount on Canadian product, nor are other countries clamouring for our bitumen. The lower price is because it’s costly to extract and process, and must be diluted before shipping. University of Calgary influenced by Big Oil in 2015 controversy, academic report concludesA new paper by two B.C. academics doesn't mince words about the role of the University of Calgary and corporate media in a 2015 controversy about corporate influence in the academy.
Categories: News for progressives

Student organizers report back on March 15 climate strike

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 20:36
Maya Bhullar

Many of us supported and were heartened by students coming out on March 15 to demand that local and federal government take real steps to combat climate change. There were many great interviews and news stories which talked to kids out on the street. The Activist Toolkit, however, decided to take a different approach. I contacted all the local organizers I could find and asked them:

1. How did your local climate strike go?

2. What worked and what did not?

3. What will you be doing for the national day of action in Canada on May 3?

4. What did some of the students that participated say?

5. What are you trying to win in your communities?

I am posting edited versions of the responses I received below. If you would like to connect about your experience organizing the strike in your community, please send it my way. The Activist Toolkit will continue stay in touch with organizers and continue to help support the demand for real action on climate change.

The reports below are the personal feedback of respondents. Here are some of the great photos and videos which were shared with us by the strike organizers in Regina and Halifax.

From Reuben in Victoria, B.C. on unceded Lekwungen territory

The event very well-attended, with high energy and enthusiasm, and potential for ongoing mobilizations.

What worked well was:

Pre-event and outreach

  • Mentorship of the youth organizers who did not have much experience by older grassroots activists
  • Outreach done by youth spreading word through their own networks word-of-mouth and through Instagram
  • Several more established grassroots groups helped with amplifying message and getting the word out
  • The official endorsement from the Greater Victoria Teachers association (GVTA) who sent teachers from each school and executive delegates
  • Older activists helped with networking and connecting lead youth organizer with key contacts in the community
  • Youth and older activists were on the organizing committee

Event design

  • Youth were the only speakers at event for the first hour, adult supporters spoke during the second hour
  • Organized a street procession/march halfway through event
  • Combined speakers with live music
  • Included indigenous people, people of colour, youth and seasoned activists as speakers
  • The action plan was able to change two days before event with fluidity and minimum confusion
  • The route was "easy/beginner level" -- e.g. minimal traffic disruption or potential for tense conflict and right length for first-time marchers
  • Engaging speakers, good length of speeches, well-facilitated/emceed; spirit remained high
  • Lots of colourful, homemade signs
  • Police barricades at corners of streets were helpful for ensuring safety of marchers, even though they were not requested

What didn't work well:

  • Action plans changed two days before the event as a result of misreading the comfort level of youth participants
  • Youth were not aware of their rights to protest and were being manipulated by police into seeking permits and police escort and were subtly threatened with rumour of arrests originated by Victoria Police Department
  • Sound system was inadequate and staging was poor so that speakers could not be seen by people in the back; marshals did nothing about it, to avoid moving youth away from the centre of the action near speakers
  • Marshals had trouble staying together and even seeing one another
  • Marshalling plan changed when police decided to close street for safety concerns and hence marshals were not needed as they said they would be.  There were also not enough vests for marshals
  • Media did not speak to all the media spokespeople
  • Route could have been longer, next time and with more disruption of business as usual

From Spencer at University of British Columbia, B.C.

1. How the events went

At UBC we had a lot of students come check out our pre-demonstration for the big demonstration in downtown Vancouver after. People were super into it and engaged, we made sure to bring the climate strike movement into a Canadian context so we addressed how settler-colonialism is not only causing Indigenous genocide but also climate catastrophe. The speakers were amazing and we brought up what we can do on our campus to fight for climate justice, I will discuss that more in point 3.

2.  What worked and what did not

What worked was bringing the international movement into our campus as many were aware already of the climate strikes in Europe and we saw lots of people who do not generally go to protests at our action which was cool. Places to improve is coordination with student groups on campus, for May 3 I would like to see campus leaders like myself and big environmental groups on campus like UBCC350 organize with other climate/Indigenous/social justice/leftist groups on campus to bring more people into the movement.

3.  What will you be doing for the national day of action in Canada on May 3 and most importantly what did some of the students that participated say and what are you trying to win in your communities?

In the student paper, Sophia Liang said, "I was so angry because I was seeing all the progress and all the information young people had, but big corporations and big oil money and industry and also government officials were not interested in speeding up the pace of what needs to be done."

On our campus we need the Board of Governors to divest its $85 million in fossil fuels. I tried to run for the student union presidency, and unfortunately lost, in an attempt to accelerate the progress. However, from the bottom-up, we can still demand our student union launch a lawsuit against the Board. Also, our student union building should be plastic-free and cut down on waste. For May 3 I will be doing everything I can to organize the most amount of UBC students to join in the Vancouver action, as summer school is happening there will not be as much action on campus so but I think we can reach people nonetheless.

From Aidan in Kelowna, British Columbia

First off thank you so much for helping to amplify our national movement. The planning group for the national day has been absolutely buzzing, especially since Friday!

In Kelowna, our event went very well. It was better than expected. We had roughly 350 youth and community members come out to support the strike. The speakers incuded the Kelowna Deputy Mayor, Loyal Wooldridge, Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr, and CEO of Green Step Solutions, Angela Nagy. We also had a climate ribbon activity (based on this) where we asked all in attendance to write something they do not want to lose to climate change or why they marched. After the climate ribbon, we marched. Near the end of the event we invited everyone to take a ribbon. It could be a friend's or a stranger's but that it would be a reminder as to why this fight matters and why we marched.

We found that, overall, our event was very successful. Our biggest problem was underestimating the turnout for the volume that we had. For us, the march was very successful as it brought us down the main street of downtown Kelowna past businesses and offices and we gained lots of attention from that. We felt that the climate ribbon activity was one of our most well-received portions of the event as it was so interactive and reminded people why this fight needs to not stop on March 16, 17, 18, or any day afterwards, until we achieve our goals.

In terms of what our goals were, they were mostly in line with the national goals. For Kelowna, specifically, we really wanted to focus on raising awareness of how climate change is already impacting the Okanagan and what is happening in the Okanagan to address climate change. To accomplish this we brought in local speakers involved in policy and environmental sustainability. Another important aspect for us in Kelowna was to recognize the importance of building a better relationship with Canada's Indigenous peoples to address the issues we all have in the face of climate change in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Our big takeaway message, which we really tried to instill in people, was that we need to limit warming to 1.5 degrees to stay alive and continue to have a similar quality of life. For May 3, plans are just starting to form and we hope to have an even bigger event than we did on March 15.

From Shanon in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

The Regina strike on March 15 was awesome! It went better than any of the organizers were expecting. It was our first school climate strike and we had over 350 people attend. It was shared widely on multiple social media platforms and by word of mouth. Students of all ages attended, as well as community members. Things we did well: made sure the students were the ones brainstorming ideas for the event and voting on all decisions. The main thing that could be improved: making sure students take the lead on all aspects of planning the rally (while providing whatever support they need to be successful). The March 15 event was planned very quickly and we'll have much more time for planning the May 3 event.

Students have planned another rally/march for this Friday (March 22) again at the Saskatchewan legislature. At the end of that event, they will be starting to make plans for additional future events, including May 3. The students at the rally gave speeches and some of them had previously created a list of demands from the provincial government. The students were really motivated and energized as a result of the successful March 15 event.

From Alexis in Lindsay, Ontario:

The climate strike in Lindsay went well, for a small town. Although 70 people isn't much, for Lindsay it's pretty good. Perhaps walking slower next time would help -- we accidentally left some people behind us. The students, coming from Lindsay, Uxbridge and Fenelon Falls, said that they enjoyed taking part in activism and were excited to have a strike nearby them.

On May 3, a couple of my friends and I plan on convincing the principal to have the whole school walk out on lunch break. Community members would be welcomed. All we're really trying to achieve is immediate action on climate change.

Is it really much to ask for, if all we're asking for is a future?

From Sophie in Brighton, Ontario

My name is Sophie and I am a climate activist from Brighton, Ontario. I have organized one strike so far and have another coming up March 29. Unfortunately I was away for the March 15 strike so I could not organize anything although I showed my support as best I could. I am however organizing a strike on May 3 with all of Canada. We are hoping to get our community involved as we are small as it is. Our goal is to get our government to declare a national emergency. We are starting to put together smaller programs within our school such as getting composts and finding ways to reduce greenhouse gases. We plan on continuing our strikes monthly until the world is officially aware of this crisis. Thank you for supporting our cause.

From Julia and Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change in Kingston, Ontario

Here is an article about the Kingston event and the full report from Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change. The climate strike had one of the biggest turnouts for a public event of its kind in Kingston. See the full report for a complete list of what worked and didn't and what participants said they wanted to do.

How did it go?

  • We received overwhelmingly positive post-rally feedback. It had one of the biggest turnouts for a public event of its kind in Kingston. Overall, it went smoothly and had a variety of presentations/activities. We encountered minor issues involving sound
  • We spent the first hour at a main intersection on our university campus, with a small 1-ft stage and speaker/microphone setup. We sprinkled the hour with short speeches, musical performances, slam poetry, chants, and a few minutes to mingle/visit a booth with snacks/participate in a Climate Ribbon activity. At Kingston City Hall, we encountered a minor sound issue (transportation and setup of the speaker system could have been better organized), and two of the city councillors droned on for a rather long time..

What worked?

  • Having two weeks of pre-rally sign-making. We set up paints and poster boards in public spaces/buildings on our university campus (which helped promote the strike), and invited people to make a sign. We compiled 60+ signs to hand out during the rally, which made it look and feel more alive.  
  • More fun for everyone to have a variety of presenters/entertainers (not just speech after speech) – eg. speakers (students, faculty, community members, politicians), musicians, poets, magicians, with chanting during the transitions.
  • Organizers were fairly prepared for media, brushed up on main messages/ talking points beforehand. I definitely want media training now, though -- could have been better.
  • Handed out a small piece of paper with chant lyrics, "What can I do at this rally?" and march route. It also had a QR code for folks to sign the Queen's fossil fuel divestment petition, which collected more than 250 signatures on rally day.
  • One volunteer took a video of the entire rally and made a shorter edit of it -- great idea to have a two-minute video for promotion of the next rally.
  • We plastered the campus and surrounding community with posters during the 2-3 weeks before March 15. Distributed posters to YMCA, hockey rinks, libraries, high schools, farmers markets, bathroom stalls, people's workplaces, stores and cafes, etc.
  • Promoted a Facebook event 3 to 4 weeks before rally day, which amassed 1,200 "interested" or "going" commitments. Shared posts about Greta Thunberg, sign-making, chant lyrics, etc., to keep people excited and engaged.  

What didn't work? 

  • We found the Climate Ribbon activity to be fairly successful, but next time we will consider an alternative execution (or a different activity) for such a large group.
  • Stage was slightly too low for some people to see speakers.
  • Speaker system could have been arranged better so entire crowd could hear clearly.
  • Speech through megaphone was not very clear.
  • Volunteers on rally-day did not have very clear roles and could have engaged more with rally-goers.  
  • I should have been more prepared with introductions and what I was saying during the transitions. Schedule of the rally should have been distributed earlier, and gone through step by step with team. Next time we will do a dry run of the rally -- make sure everybody knows what's going on.
  • Arranged a parade permit with Kingston Police much too late -- apply at least a month in advance. It worked out in the end, but contributed to unnecessary added stress days before the rally.
  • Next time, set up a tent that compiles emails of rally-goers.
  • Next time, have more time to mingle/get to know each other/visit booths (one booth provided tea and snacks, which worked well).
  • Have more than one megaphone.

What are we trying to win in our community?

  • Queen's must take aggressive action with its building codes, energy supply, and investment portfolio. We demand that Queen's stop investing in fossil fuel companies, as over 1,000 institutions have done already, to show that they are protecting our future rather than selling it off to the highest donor and destroying it.
  • Kingston must implement aggressive, meaningful, action-oriented climate goals in the wake of its climate emergency declaration, to further reduce its emissions and live up to its sustainability claim.

1. Reduce emissions to be compatible with a global 1.5°C temperature rise

2. Recognize and respect Indigenous rights

3. Proactively address housing crisis (low-income/vulnerable populations are most severely affected by local climate change effects like more intense & frequent weather events, flooding, etc.)

4. Electrify and expand public transportation

5. Protect local natural and agricultural areas from development. Prevent urban sprawl. Adjust zoning by-laws to allow for tiny homes, smart social housing.

Plan for May 3

As this was a university-led event, we do not have a plan for May 3, as most students will be home for the summer. However, I am keen on helping high school students in Kingston plan for an event, and am in communication with youth strikers across the country.

At the moment I am taking a break from planning the next event, and am focusing my energies on creating a national structure for the climate strike movement with other youth representatives.

Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change will plan another climate strike for September 27.

From Halifax, Nova Scotia

In my opinion, the protest went well for a first time Fridays for our Future event.  It was well attended with people from all ages participating. I am working with the Extinction Rebellion Canada and we will continue to organize together in Nova Scotia.

Maya Bhullar is rabble's Activist Toolkit Coordinator. The Activist Toolkit Blog is the place to catch up on what's new with the Toolkit. With roundups of newly added tools, highlights of featured tools and extra multimedia content, you'll get up to date info on grassroots organizing.

Photo Credit: Angela N. Riley, Extinction Rebellion Halifax. Used with permission.

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Categories: News for progressives

Justice for Indigenous land and water defenders killed in Mexico

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 20:11
March 20, 2019Justice for Indigenous land and water defenders killed in MexicoIsidro Baldenegro Lóperz, Juan Ontiveros Ramos, and Julián Carrillo Martínes died defending their ancestral territories from extractavist industries.
Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau continues Canada's war in Iraq with little critical media coverage

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 20:08
Brent Patterson

There has been little mainstream media attention -- or context -- given to the Trudeau government's announcement earlier this week that it would extend the deployment of Canadian troops in Iraq until March 2021.

A quick historical recap.

On February 15-16, 2003, an estimated six to 11 million people in 60 countries marched against the imminent invasion of Iraq. That invasion began 16 years ago this week on the evening of March 19, 2003 (at 5:34 a.m. Baghdad time on March 20).

By September 2004, then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that the invasion was not sanctioned by the UN Security Council and that the war was illegal.

A study released in October 2013 found that at least 405,000 people died between 2003 and 2011 due to the war and occupation of Iraq.

Those casualties have continued to mount.

Furthermore, the United Nations reported in January 2016 that "3.2 million people have been internally displaced since January 2014, including more than a million children of school age."

As of January 10, 2016, the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Australia and several other countries had carried out 6,341 airstrikes in Iraq.

By July 2016, a British inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot found that the legal basis for the war was "far from satisfactory," peaceful alternatives to the war had not been exhausted, and that the lack of post-war planning significantly contributed to the emergence of ISIS.

In other words, this was arguably an avoidable war that spawned increased violence.

That's critical context missing from the Government of Canada media release this week highlighting that Canada has spent more than $2.1 billion since 2016 on "security, stabilization and humanitarian and development assistance needs in response to the crises in Iraq and Syria and their impacts on Jordan and Lebanon."

The Trudeau government has reshaped Canada's military engagement in Iraq several times since it won the October 2015 federal election.

In February 2016, Trudeau announced that six CF-18s would be withdrawn from bombing missions in Iraq and Syria, but among other actions, tripled the number of special forces troops in Iraq, maintained two surveillance aircraft there that helped identify targets to bomb, and provided a refuelling plane for continued allied bombing missions.

By June 2017, the Trudeau government announced that Canadian troops would stay in Iraq for another two years.

At that time, Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom wrote, "Ottawa's hope is that if Trump thinks Canada is pulling its weight militarily, he will order his negotiators to go easy on this country during the upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement talks."

By January 2019 the Trudeau government withdrew the CC-150 Polaris refuelling aircraft but only after, as reported by iPolitics, it had "delivered more than 65 million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft during its deployment."

In terms of the present deployment, Global News reports that "Canada has about 500 military members in Iraq, including 200 who are part of a NATO training mission and 120 special forces who have been helping Iraqi forces root out Islamic State insurgents around the northern city of Mosul."

It's only in the closing paragraphs of a Canadian Press article that we see the point that "Questions and concerns have been raised in the past about the conduct of some Iraqi security forces, which includes allegations of torture, kidnappings and extrajudicial killings…"

Even there though, that sentence ends with, "…but [Maj.-Gen. Peter] Dawe said the units that his troops are partnered with have been carefully screened."

In February 2016, the Trudeau government announced it would be spending $1.6 billion in Iraq over the following three years. It now boasts in a media release that it has spent "more than $2.1 billion" in the region.

Where's the critical and contextual media coverage that says many continue to suffer and that billions of dollars continue to be spent in the aftermath of an illegal and avoidable war that killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more?

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

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Categories: News for progressives

Moveable Feast Cafe 2019/03/20 … Open Thread

2019/03/20 10:00:01Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
Categories: News for progressives

Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 16:10

Photograph Source DOD Updater Private • CC BY-SA 4.0

The US is formally committed to dominating the world by the year 2020. With President Trump’s new Space Directive-4, the production of laser-armed fighter jets as possible precursors to space weapons, and the possibility of nuclear warheads being put into orbit, the clock is ticking…

Back in 1997, the now-re-established US Space Command announced its commitment to “full spectrum dominance.” The Vision for 2020 explains that “full spectrum dominance” means military control over land, sea, air, and space (the so-called fourth dimension of warfare) “to protect US interests and investment.” “Protect” means guarantee operational freedom. “US interest and investment” means corporate profits.

The glossy brochure explains that, in the past, the Army evolved to protect US settlers who stole land from Native Americans in the genocidal birth of the nation. Like the Vision for 2020, a report by the National Defense University acknowledges that by the 19th century, the Navy had evolved to protect the US’s newly-formulated “grand strategy.” In addition to supposedly protecting citizens and the constitution, “The overriding principle was, and remains, the protection of American territory … and our economic well-being.” By the 20th century, the Air Force had been established, in the words of the Air Force Study Strategy Guide, to protect “vital interests,” including: “commerce; secure energy supplies; [and] freedom of action.” In the 21stcentury, these pillars of power are bolstered by the Cyber Command and the coming Space Force.

The use of the Army, Navy, and Air Force—the three dimensions of power—means that the US is already close to achieving “full spectrum dominance.” Brown University’s Cost of War project documents current US military involvement in 80 countries—or 40% of the world’s nations. This includes 65 so-called counterterrorism training operations and 40 military bases (though others think the number of bases is much higher). By this measure, “full spectrum dominance” is nearly half way complete. But the map leaves out US and NATO bases, training programs, and operations in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine.

As the US expands its space operations—the fourth dimension of warfare—the race towards “full spectrum dominance” quickens. Space has long been militarized in the sense that the US uses satellites to guide missiles and aircraft. But the new doctrine seeks to weaponize space by, for instance, blurring the boundaries between high-altitude military aircraft and space itself. Today’s space power will be harnessed by the US to ensure dominance over the satellite infrastructure that allows for the modern world of internet, e-commerce, GPS, telecommunications, surveillance, and war-fighting.

Since the 1950s, the United Nations has introduced various treaties to prohibit the militarization and weaponization of space—the most famous being the Outer Space Treaty (1967). These treaties aim to preserve space as a commons for all humanity. The creation of the US Space Force is a blatant violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of those treaties. In more recent decades, successive US governments have unilaterally rejected treaties to reinforce and expand the existing space-for-peace agreements. In 2002, the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972), allowing it to expand its long-range missile systems. In 2008, China and Russia submitted to the UN Conference on Disarmament the proposed Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects. This would have preserved the space-as-a-commons principle and answered US claims that “enemies” would use space as a battleground against US satellites.

But peace is not the goal. The goal is “full spectrum dominance,” so the US rejected the offer. China and Russia introduced the proposed the treaty again in 2014—and again the US rejected it. Earlier this year, the US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Last month, President Trump sent an unclassified memo on the new Space Directive-4 to the Vice President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, NASA, and the Secretaries of Defense and State.

The document makes for chilling and vital reading. It recommends legislating for the training of US forces “to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.” Crucially, this doctrine includes “peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict.” As well as integrating space forces with the intelligence community, the memo recommends establishing a Chief of Staff of the Space Force, who will to join the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memo also says that US space operations will abide by “international law.” But given that the US has rejected anti-space weapons treaties, it is barely constrained by international law.

In late-2017, Space.com reported on a $26.3m Department of Defense contract with Lockheed Martin to build lasers for fighter jets under the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments program. The report says that the lasers will be ready by 2021. The article links to Doug Graham, the Vice President of Missile Systems and Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. In the original link Graham reveals that the Air Force laser “is an example of how Lockheed Martin is using a variety of innovative technologies to transform laser devices into integrated weapon systems.”

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) states in a projection out to the year 2050: “Economies are becoming increasingly dependent upon space-based systems … By 2050, space-based weapon systems may also be deployed, which could include nuclear weapons.” But this is extremely reckless. Discussing technologies, including the artificial intelligence on which weapons systems are increasingly based, another MoD projection warns of “the potential for disastrous outcomes, planned and unplanned … Various doomsday scenarios arising in relation to these and other areas of development present the possibility of catastrophic impacts, ultimately including the end of the world, or at least of humanity.”

“Full spectrum dominance” is not only a danger to the world, it is a danger to US citizens who would also suffer the consequences, if and when something goes wrong with their leaders’ complicated space weapons.

Categories: News for progressives

Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 16:06

Photograph Source Detail of 1591 map of Florida and Cuba
User: SEWilco • Public domain

Embarked upon overthrowing Venezuela’s socialist government, the U.S. government now renews efforts to squash Cuba. The U.S. record of implacable hostility features terror attacks, military invasion, germ warfare, internal subversion, and almost 60 years of U.S. economic blockade. Devoid of natural resources ready for U.S. plunder, Cuba offends by having defended socialism and national independence. Now Title III of the U.S. 1996 Helms Burton Act joins an arsenal of weapons employed in what Cubans regard as genocidal aggression.

Helms Burton is complex but centers on tightening the economic blockade; preparing for a transition government; and by means of Title III, inflicting suffering and destabilization.  The latter is taking place now in Venezuela, by other means.

Title III opens the door for the former owners and the heirs of properties nationalized by Cuba’s revolutionary government to bring actions in U.S. courts to gain compensation for what they lost. Persons or companies presently occupying such properties, or profiting from them, and who are located in third countries, would be required by the courts to pay off the aggrieved parties. These live in exile, mainly in the United States. The courts would lack enforcement capabilities.

In 1966, when the law was introduced, the European Union and other critics insisted that the U.S. government delay implementation of Title III. It did so and for the next 23 years, at six month intervals, the United States did announce one six-month delay after another. But a new era dawned on January 16 when the State Department declared that this time suspended implementation would end at 45 days. Something was up.

On March 4 the State Department indicated that in 30 more days Title III would be applied to the foreign and Cuban “traffickers” in nationalized properties. Also Title III would, as of March 19, be extended to 200 Cuban enterprises controlled by Cuban security forces or state agencies, many of them connected with Cuba’s tourist industry. The U.S. government in November, 2017 had already put those facilities off limits to U.S. tourists.

As of early April, international investors, aid agencies, and business-persons active or looking to be active in Cuba will be facing vast uncertainties. The former owners of nationalized properties may be suing them in U.S. courts. Concerned about a slippery slope of U.S. disfavor, they may cease involvement with Cuba.  And what with unsettling news, foreign lenders may shy away from possibly risky loans for projects in Cuba.

Title III promises what Cubans call “extraterritorial” effects. It further universalizes application of the U.S. blockade which, potentially involving all countries, violates their sovereignty.

But in a Machiavelliantwist, the State Department will apparently wield the “trafficking” charge selectively. Cuban analyst Reinaldo Taladrid Herrero explains:“The road to Havana passes through Caracas.” Specifically, “They are going to exempt all businesses of countries allied with the United States, above all Canada and the European countries …. Implementation will be centered on adversary countries like Russia, China, and Venezuela.” Others share his views.

Title III violates international law, according to Russia; Cuba solidarity groups have protested. A few business-oriented U.S. groups oppose Title III out of concern that future U.S. commercial ventures in Cuba would be vulnerable.

Cuba’s government argues that nationalization was and is legal according to international norms and court decisions in the United States.  Cuba has sought satisfaction from the United States for deaths and destruction due to U.S. assaults. Negotiations taking place briefly during the Obama era looked at balancing Cuba’s claims with U.S demands stemming from nationalization.

Title III means major trouble for Cuba. The government there is presently mounting an effort to bolster the nation’s economy. Foreign investors will asume a major role in the project. They would provide $2.5 billion annually toward building or refurbishing Cuban institutions, companies, and infrastructure. But any good will on their part may well evaporate once threats loom as to court actions in the United States.

The availability to the Cuban people of food, health care, schools, building supplies, medicines, and transportation rests on loans and export income from abroad and on income from joint ventures with foreign entities. By 2014 Cuba needed $2.5 billion annually in direct foreign investment. The fact that food imports alone currently require an annual outlay of $2 billion suggests that current requirements are greater.

Title III contains the seeds for havoc in the event that Cuba’s government is no more and the United States takes charge. According to Cuba’s Granma newspaper, Cubans “would be forced to return, reimburse or pay U.S. claimants for the house in which they live, the area on which their communities are built, the arable land where they cultivate produce, the school where their children are educated, the hospital or polyclinic where they receive medical assistance.”

Cuban Journalist Lázaro Barredo, formerly editor of Granma, summarizes“Helms Burton literally has no precedents in the legal history of the United States. [It] constitutes an attack on sovereignty within the international community [and] represents political terrorism.” Helms Burton would “extend U.S. jurisdiction to other countries in an extraterritorial manner with the perverse intention of frightening, scaring, blackmailing, or dissuading persons interested in investing in Cuba.” We see a decision “to repossess the island, annex it, and move it toward total subordination to the United States.”

This report closes with a condemnation of the generalized cruelty and cynicism that is rooted in the strategic thinking of U.S. power brokers.For example, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, presiding at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on March 7, heard testimony from “Cynthia Arnson of the US-funded Wilson Center.” She “agreed with Rubio that ‘widespread unrest’ is useful, but cautioned that … ‘starving people don’t get out in the streets.’” In other words, a little starving is OK, but not too much.

Categories: News for progressives

Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 16:02

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Margaret Thatcher was very good at telling tall tales. Ukania’s tragedy is that far too many Brits fell for these tales.

Probably the biggest of these tales concerned the notion of a share-owning democracy.

The idea here was simple, but utterly misguided – sell off the publicly-owned enterprises, and everyone will be able to buy shares in the newly privatized companies. By buying however many shares you want, you will become a part of Thatcher’s great British share-owning democracy.

Many of us knew at that time that it was never going to be like this at all. As Marx noted, the stock exchange, where the shares of the newly privatized companies would of course be traded, is “where the little fish are swallowed by the sharks and the lambs by the stock-exchange wolves”.

The wealthy have always used their resources to acquire a monopoly on company shares. So when the public enterprises were put on sale at rock-bottom prices by Thatcher and her cronies, the wealthy rushed to collar the majority of the share offerings, the ensuing demand drove-up the price of the shares, and in so doing put nearly all of them beyond the reach of Joe and Jill Normal.

So what actually happened to the “great British share-owning democracy”?

The state bureaucrats so excoriated by Thatcher have been replaced by private bureaucrats, albeit ones paid astronomical salaries when compared to those received by their counterparts in the annihilated state sector.

The newly privatizedstate enterprises were never going to be owned by the likes of Joe and Jill Normal, or even John and Jane Bull—instead large foreign corporations and foreign governments now own nearly all these companies.

Indeed the supreme Thatcherite irony is that many of the enterprises privatized by her have now returned to government ownership, but alas for Brits these are foreign governments.

Take the town of Romford, in the London borough of Havering, which had the distinction of being named as the most Eurosceptic place in the country in a 2016 YouGov survey.

The Brexit motto is “take back control”, but at Romford station there’s a choice of trains into London: you can travel on one run by the Dutch, or one run by the Chinese. Someone going to neighbouring Basildon has to change at Upminster and buy a ticket from the Italian firm that operates C2C. Here’s the fuller picture.

ScotRail is operated by Abellio, which is wholly owned by the Dutch national rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Abellio also owns 60% of Greater Anglia trains (the remaining 40% is owned by the Japanese company Mitsui).

West Midlands trains is 70% owned by Abellio, the remaining 30% is shared between Mitsui and another Japanese company JR East.

Arriva Rail London is operated by Arriva, which is owned by the German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Arriva also operates Chiltern Railways and CrossCountry, Grand Central, and Northern.

The already-mentioned C2C is owned by the Italian government’s Trenitalia.

Eurostar is operated by EIL, which is owned by the French government’s SNCF (55%), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) (30%), Hermes Infrastructure (10%) which is majority-owned by a US investment fund, and NMBS/SNCB (5%) which is the state railway company of Belgium.

The Chinese corporation MTR owns TfL rail and 30% of South Western Railway.

Transport for Wales is owned by Keolis, a Franco-Québécois private operator of public transport.

In fact, European state railways now own more than quarter of the UK’s passenger-train system.

The same situation exists with regard to the UK’s energy, water, and telephone companies.

London Electricity, SWEB, Seeboard and British Energy are owned by EDF Energy, a subsidiary of the French Government-owned energy company EDF (Électricité de France) Group.

Powergen is owned by the German group E.ON.

Calortex, Independent Energy and Midlands Electricity are owned by Npower, a subsidiary of German energy company RWE Group.

ScottishPower is a subsidiary of Spanish company Iberdrola, which also owns Manweb, the energy company supplying Merseyside and North Wales.

Anglian Water is owned by a consortium consisting of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Colonial First State Global Asset Management (owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia), IFM Investors (an Australian investment management firm), and 3i. The same consortium also owns Hartlepool Water.

Northumbrian Water is owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (Hong Kong). Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings also owns Essex and Suffolk Water.

Wessex Water is owned by YTL Corporation (Malaysia)

Affinity Water is part owned by Morgan Stanley (USA).

South East Water is owned by Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund/Utilities Trust of Australia.

Sutton and East Surrey Water is owned by Sumitomo Corporation (Japan).

Level 3 Communications (USA) owns a national optical fibre network.

O2 runs a GSM-900 network and is owned by Telefónica (Spain).

EE runs a GSM-1800 network and is a joint venture of Orange (France) and Deutsche Telecom (Germany)

The UK’s bus and airport companies are also largely foreign owned.

Arriva buses is owned by the German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Bus and coach companies are also owned by ComfortDelGro (Singapore), RATP (France), and Transdev (France).

Heathrow, Glasgow, and Southampton airports are owned by the Spanish Ferrovial (25%), Qatar Holding (20%), and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (12.62%).

Gatwick airport is owned by Global Infrastructure Partners (USA).

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns 48.25% of Birmingham airport.

IFM Investors (Australia), in addition to part-owning Anglian Water, also owns Manchester airport, the MM6 tollway, and the telecommunications company Arqiva.

All this has been the consequence of asset-stripping undertaken on a massive scale.

Assets belonging to the British public were thrown (literally) into the laps of foreign companies and governments.

London, for most excellent reasons, decided recently against erecting a statue of Margaret Thatcher.

Given that she was the architect of so much largesse extended to the corporations and governments of other countries, there might be a slightly better chance of having this statue put up in any number of western European cities, as well as those in Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, the US, China, and in Qatar and Singapore.

The Iron Lady initiated an act of daylight robbery from which the owners of private wealth and the governments of other countries benefitted immensely.

The British public, which owned these assets, got stiffed.

All this has taken place in a context where the wealth-gap between the Have-Lots and the JAMs (Just About Managing) has grown to levels not seen since the 1930s.

Categories: News for progressives

“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 15:55

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Like an annoying rash that could become dangerous, the Wall Street and war wing of the Democratic Party is back for yet another reprise in its run in the 2020 presidential primary and election. Think these representatives of wealth and war and power went away with the mid-evening swing toward doom of the New York Times polls on election night 2016? Think again… Hillary Clinton has been supplanted by Joe Biden. Power and wealth will not give up because those forces have an almost psychopathic hold on a wing of the Democratic Party, like an out-of-control vehicle careening to certain doom down a mountainside.

In the 1970s, Biden was a fierce opponent of school busing toward the end of eliminating segregation in schools (”As Joe Biden Hints at presidential Run, Andrew Cockburn Looks at His ‘Disastrous Legislative Legacy,’” Democracy Now, March 13, 2019).

During the 1980s and 1990s, Biden became a law and order legislator, teaming up with none other than Strom Thurmond and Bill Clinton to put people away and fueling the epidemic of mass jailing. Readers know the result that those “crime” fighting sprees had on the black community.

Then, during the confirmation process of Clarence Thomas, Biden refused to call witnesses that would have supported Anita Hill’s testimony about Thomas.

Biden made it impossible for students to discharge student debt, a move that saddles students with a lifelong burden of indebtedness as the price of a college or technical education, especially if students have not struck it rich in a global economy.

Biden loves the banks and credit card companies, many that make their corporate homes in Biden’s tax-lenient state of Delaware. And in holding those accountable, who tanked the economy in 2007-2008, Biden let them off on a free ride while ordinary people suffered and the housing debacle exploded.

In an opinion piece masquerading as fact, the Guardian reports in “Joe Biden faces tough choices on fundraising for potential 2020 run,”(March 14, 2019), that “middle-class Joe” faces hurdles because of his ties to Wall Street in an increasingly progressive Democratic Party.

And here’s Joe Biden on the war for regime change in Iraq in “Biden’s votes, words on Iraq become hurdle in 2020,” (The Hill, February 8, 2019): “Biden backed the resolution giving former President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq, and he also praised the president in a Senate floor speech at the time for his handling of the case for war.” For decades, Democrats in Congress (and in the presidency) have almost universally supported war and the preparations for war. Whether this policy position changes with the Congressional Progressive Caucus remains to be seen, but the vast majority of Democrats have a really bad record on war. Besides the nationalistic chauvinism involved in war, there is the fealty to war industries among Democrats.

It remains to be seen if Democrats, and especially the Wall Street and war fans in the Democratic Party can muster anything like the pushback in Congress to Saudi Arabia’s immoral and illegal war in Yemen. The history of the two-party duopoly and their ties to the military-industrial-financial complex do not bode well. The Democrats’ record on war predates the attacks of September 2001.

With Biden’s record on war, integration, “crime,” a woman’s right to work unmolested, the Great Recession, and banks and credit card companies, readers might think Joe Biden is a throwback to the worst tendencies of neoliberal Democrats, and they’d be right on the money!

Categories: News for progressives

Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 15:54

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

From childhood we learn that you can know somebody by his or her company. Our present president, Donald Trump, values loyalty.  He favors people who like what he likes and who think like him.  For his closest helpers, he has chosen people who have appeared devoted (or related) to him and who have endorsed goals he has championed. Many, however, have landed in jail and more may be on the way to the same destination, including even the man for whom they were backers or fixers.

Now in the third year of the Trump presidency, we can tote up some of the results.  Many of Trump’s cabinet picks have been accused of serious ethical breaches such as using government planes for private entertainment ventures.  It now appears that the current EPA administrator, then lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, consulted secretly with then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017 on omitting areas rich in coal and uranium (plus sacred Native American sites and unique dinosaur fossils) from the redrawn borders of two national monuments in Utah.

Whether those whom Trump gave major jobs were actually competent for their assigned task seems to have been irrelevant.  The only apparent rationale for choosing a  brain surgeon to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development was that he had lived in one or more homes. As HUD secretary, Dr. Ben Carson has done little except to sign off on some expensive office furniture allegedly ordered by his wife. On the other hand, some appointees do know their assigned domain, if only from the perspective of an industrial owner or lobbyist.  The ex-governor of carbon-rich Texas, Rick Perry, was notorious for vowing to demolish the Department of Energy even before Trump asked him to head it.

But here is the crux:  the Special Counsel’s probe has indicted six individuals associated with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and deputy chairman Rick Gates; also, some twenty-six Russians whose hacking and social media campaigns probably hurt Hillary Clinton and helped Trump to win the electoral college. The president’s daughter and son-in-law may also be charged with criminal abuses of power. Trump’s personal lawyer and long-time fixer says that just before the election, acting on Trump’s instruction, he paid two women to be quiet about their intercourse with The Donald. Using the language of a Mafia don, Trump denounced Michael Cohen for being a “rat.”

The man has an almost unerring faculty for bad judgment. His first choice for National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, let go early in 2017,  has just finished working in March 2019 with Justice Department investigators looking into Russian electoral interference, and will soon be sentenced for lying to the FBI and other offenses. Meanwhile, the president says that all seventeen U.S. government intelligence agencies are wrong about Russia, North Korea, and China.

We do not know yet if Russian agencies have blackmail or other leverage over the current U.S. president. But Trump’s frequent apologias for Kremlin actions and his secrecy about one-on-one meetings with Putin suggest he owes something to Moscow.   Besides,  the U.S. and Russian presidents seem to like at least two of the same tough guys, Xi Jinping and Rodrigo Duterte, though they part ways on Nicolás Maduro and Bashar al-Assad.

Where there is this much smoke, there is surely fire.  The fire comes from the president himself.  Apart from possible conspiracies with Russia, still being examined, there is considerable evidence that Trump has broken campaign finance laws; bribed possible accusers; obstructed justice; and violated the emoluments clause of the constitution.  The president’s practice of spouting false or misleading  information several times a day is surely unethical if not criminal.  In the next two years or soon thereafter, Trump too will probably face justice over his actions. He and his birds of a feather may not stick together,  but they may soon sing a jangling cacophony of recitatives.

Categories: News for progressives

Failing Students on Climate Change

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 15:54

Photograph Source Leonhard Lenz

Last Friday hundreds of thousands of students around the globe walked out of classrooms to demand that our political leaders take concrete steps to address the deadly threat of climate change. They are right, of course, that the generations of their elders, from millennials to baby boomer grandparents, have failed in our responsibility to preserve a livable future for our ever more crowded, ever more polluted and ever more endangered planet.

And while that’s a sad statement to make, it is an undeniable truth and a shameful guilt that should cause every one of the “elders” to think long and hard about whether they’re making the world better or worse for our young people.

The movement, characterized by various identifiers such as #fridaysforfuture#schoolstrike4climate and #climatestrike, is vast and growing. The strikes by young people staring an unlivable future in the face are now massive, but were inspired by a 16-year old Swede, Greta Thunberg, who has now been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. As Thunberg famously addressed the United Nations climate conference in Poland earlier this year: “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

Truer words were never spoken. Just look at what these young people are up against. Here in the United States, the second-largest producer of greenhouse gasses in the world, we have a president who not only doesn’t believe 97 percent of the world’s scientists who acknowledge human-caused climate change, he demands that we exert “energy dominance” by drilling, fracking, pumping and burning more fossil fuels than any nation on the planet.

For decades our citizens have been told it was necessary to exploit every manner of fossil fuel because our national security relied on “energy independence” from foreign sources. It was bogus then and it’s bogus now. Had we spent a fraction of what has gone into subsidizing fossil fuel production on renewable resources, we would have true national security with independent distributed energy from solar panels, tidal generators and wind power. Instead, we got massive coal-fired power plants hooked to vast electrical grids that are susceptible to interruption and destruction by even the most primitive of means, to say nothing of their vulnerability to the sophisticated hacking of utility computer systems.

Despite the fact that we know this, look at the latest budget proposal from delusional President Trump. What gets increased funding? The military. Apparently Trump thinks more than $2 billion a day going into the so-called “defense” industry isn’t enough — despite that it comes out to a shocking $1.4 million a minute.

In the meantime, Trump’s budget slashes funding for renewable resources and environmental programs. This head-in-the-sand approach to the future thinks it’s prudent to increase pollution and concurrent deaths and illnesses of the population while chopping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by a whopping 30 percent. And here in Montana, our legislators continue to try to maintain Colstrip’s outdated and massively polluting coal-fired power plants.

The young people are right to be outraged. But it’s also time for those who left youth behind to join them in demanding climate action by our so-called leaders. And if they feed us more of the same excuses, remind them that the 2020 elections are knocking on the door and we can do ourselves, our children, grandchildren and the beautiful blue planet we call home a great favor by sending the scoundrels packing. For more information, check out www.youthclimatestrikeus.org — and then demand the change we and they desperately need.

Categories: News for progressives

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