Archive | March 9th, 2020

Did U.S. Sanctions on Iran Help Coronavirus Spread Undetected?

Reuters

The U.S. Treasury is now allowing some humanitarian trade but it may not be enough—and the damage is already done.

by Matthew Petti 

The Trump administration is partially reversing course on economic sanctions that have slowed down Iran from importing coronavirus test kits as the country faces down the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak outside of East Asia.

Iranian authorities have confirmed 388 cases of the new coronavirus disease as of Friday afternoon. U.S. sanctions, the Iranian government’s record of dishonesty, and the elusive nature of the virus itself have made it difficult to understand the true extent of the epidemic.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday morning that it was lifting some terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which re-opens a channel for humanitarian trade that had been closed since September 2019. The announcement does not lift the restrictions on humanitarian trade with other Iranian banks under terrorism-related sanctions.

Iran’s healthcare sector has blamed the banking sanctions for a lack of testing equipment to diagnose COVID-19. Thirty-four people have reportedly died from the virus in Iran, suggesting a large number of undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, which scientists believe has a two percent mortality rate. In fact, independent researchers estimate that eighteen thousand Iranians may have been infected already.

“Several international companies are ready to ship the coronavirus diagnosis kit to Iran, but we cannot pay them,” said Ramin Fallah, vice president of the Iranian Union of Importers of Medical Equipment, in a Monday interview with Iranian media. “They also insist that the money should only be sent through banks. Although there are ways to get around [sanctions], it is time-consuming.”SPONSORED CONTENT

Posted in USA, Campaigns, Health, Human Rights, IranComments Off on Did U.S. Sanctions on Iran Help Coronavirus Spread Undetected?

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led Coalition launches large-scale offensive in northern Yemen

In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, fighters against Shiite rebels known as Houthis gather at the road leading to Al-Anad base near Aden in the southern province of Lahej, Yemen. The capture of the Al-Anad base was a significant victory for the forces allied to Yemen’s exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in their battle to reverse the gains of Houthis. (AP Photo/Wael Qubady)

The Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition has started a military operation against Houthi fighters in the coastal village of Salif, in the western province of Hodeidah, Yemen, Al Arabiya reported on Saturday. It also announced the destruction of Houthi sites that were reportedly used for manufacturing explosive-laden boats and drones in Salif.

In late February, Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Air Defence intercepted and destroyed several ballistic missiles launched from Yemen’s capital of Sanaa towards its territory, Saudi Zio-Wahhabi media reported.

Yemen has been engulfed in an ongoing armed conflict between pro-Saudi Zio-Wahhabi forces led by C.I.A puppet Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthis since 2015.

In March the same year, the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition of mostly Gulf state allies began a military operation against the Houthis at Hadi’s request to restore him to power. With the help of the coalition, Hadi managed to recapture the Yemeni south and its capital in the city of Aden from the Houthis, but the country’s north, including the capital of Sanaa, remains under the Houthis’ control.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, UAE, YemenComments Off on Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led Coalition launches large-scale offensive in northern Yemen

Sanders Applauded for Highlighting US Record of Overthrowing Governments Around the World

‘In Chile, In Guatemala, In Iran’: Sanders Applauded for Highlighting US Record of Overthrowing Governments Around the World

“Nobody on the debate stage except Bernie has the guts to say the truth about the legacy of U.S. foreign policy.”

byJake Johnson,

Democratic presidential candidates participate the presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Facing a barrage of attacks from his Democratic rivals and hawkish questions from moderators, Sen. Bernie Sanders said during the presidential primary debate in South Carolina Tuesday night that political leaders must face up to America’s long record of toppling democratically elected governments overseas.

“Excuse me, occasionally it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy,” Sanders, the Democratic frontrunner, said as Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden attempted to slime the senator over his comments on Cuba’s education and healthcare systems and falsely accuse him of being sympathetic to authoritarianism.

“That includes,” Sanders continued, “the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran.”

People for Bernie@People4Bernie

“Occasionally it might be good idea to be honest about American foreign policy, and that includes the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile and Guatemala in Iran.” @BernieSanders #DemDebate32.2K2:36 AM – Feb 26, 2020

While pundits were not pleased with Sanders’ remarks, progressives applauded the senator’s willingness to speak candidly about the United States’ sordid record overseas.

“A golden rule of Beltway orthodoxy is that candidates should never criticize U.S. foreign policy even when the criticisms are both factual and correct,” tweeted Jacobin staff writer Luke Savage in response to CNN commentator David Axelrod’s criticism of the senator’s comments. “One of Bernie’s strengths is his unwillingness to concede to this sort of elite taboo.”

“Nobody on the debate stage except Bernie has the guts to say the truth about the legacy of U.S. foreign policy,” added Nikhil Goyal, a PhD candidate at Cambridge University.

Others echoed Savage and Goyal:

Azadeh Shahshahani@ashahshahani

Thank you Bernie. I so appreciate your honesty about the fact that US foreign policy has wreaked havoc in so many places around the world for so long, including #Iran.

Time for a fundamental change. #Bernie2020 #DemDebate2352:49 AM – Feb 26, 2020

Collin Rees@collinrees

Bernie just gave the most honest assessment of American foreign policy that’s been heard on a presidential debate stage in more than a decade — possibly ever. #DemDebate442:44 AM – Feb 26, 2020 · Washington, DC

After Republican Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin tweeted that Sanders was “digging his grave” by “blaming America” for overthrowing governments, progressive foreign policy analyst Elizabeth Beavers replied, “Imagine thinking ‘blaming America for overthrowing governments’ is anything other than historical fact.”

“Guatemala, Iran, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and many, many others would like a word,” Beavers added.

Posted in USAComments Off on Sanders Applauded for Highlighting US Record of Overthrowing Governments Around the World

First US Coronavirus Death Near Canada, But Trump Confirms Closing Mexico Border Under Consideration

“Why isn’t Donald Trump focused on our northern border? I’ll give you three guesses but you’ll only need one.”

by: Jon Queally,

US President Donald Trump takes questions during a press conference on the COVID-19, coronavirus, outbreak at the White House in Washington, DC on February 29, 2020. - The number of novel coronavirus cases in the world rose to 85,919, including 2,941 deaths, across 61 countries and territories by 1700 GMT on Saturday, according to a report gathered by AFP from official sources. (Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump takes questions during a press conference on the COVID-19, coronavirus, outbreak at the White House in Washington, DC on February 29, 2020. – The number of novel coronavirus cases in the world rose to 85,919, including 2,941 deaths, across 61 countries and territories by 1700 GMT on Saturday, according to a report gathered by AFP from official sources. (Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

While the first death tied directly to the coronavirus in the United States was confirmed as taking place overnight in Washington state, which shares a border with Canada, critics say President Donald Trump on Saturday again revealed his racist and xenophobic obsessions by confirming earlier reports that his administration is considering closing the U.S.-Mexico border as a way to stem the spread of the virus.

Aaron Rupar@atrupar · Feb 29, 2020Replying to @atrupar

REPORTER: You used the word “hoax” to talk about this last night. Do you regret that?

TRUMP: “No no no. ‘Hoax’ referring to the action [Dems] take to try and pin this on somebody, because we’ve done such a good job.”

Aaron Rupar@atrupar

“We have received a lot of power on the southern border over the last couple years from the courts” — Trump says he’s considering closing the southern border in response to coronavirus (no cases have come from Mexico)4947:22 PM – Feb 29, 2020

“There are five times as many confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Canada as Mexico,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). “Why isn’t Donald Trump focused on our northern border? I’ll give you three guesses but you’ll only need one.”

Yamiche Alcindor@Yamiche

President Trump says he is thinking very hard about possibly closing the southern border of the United States with Mexico in response coronavirus.

Note: Trump didn’t mention possibly closing the northern border with Canada.

Reuters reported early on Saturday, citing a pair of U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials, that the Trump administration “is considering imposing entry restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border to control the spread of the coronavirus” into the country. According to Reuters:

Mexico’s government said on Friday it had detected three cases of coronavirus infection in three men who had all recently traveled to Italy, making the country the second in Latin America to register the fast-spreading virus.

The concern over containing the virus at the southern U.S. border comes as the Trump administration also weighs possible restrictions on the entry of travelers from South Korea, Italy and Japan.

Asked by a second reporter at the White House press conference why he was focusing on the Mexico border, Trump said he would consider closing any border that was necessary and acknowledged that the threat of coronavirus coming from Mexico did not appear to be a significant problem at this time.

At a rally in South Carolina on Friday night, Trump connected the threat of coronavirus into what he calls the “open border” policies of the Democrats, who have continued to criticize Trump over his handling of the virus as well as his history of cruel border policies and racist comments aimed at people from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

“Whether it’s the virus that we’re talking about, or the many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of all Americans,” Trump said.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

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Posted in USA, Canada, Health, MexicoComments Off on First US Coronavirus Death Near Canada, But Trump Confirms Closing Mexico Border Under Consideration

‘Against Colonial Violence and Land Theft,’ Indigenous Activists and Allies Target Mining Industry Convention in Toronto

Demonstration held “in solidarity with every community that has found itself staring down the barrel of a gun for daring to oppose Canada’s ongoing colonial project through resource extraction.”

by: Jon Queally,

"From coast to coast we are rising up in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en nation and against colonial violence and land theft," said Vanessa Gray, Anishinaabe Kwe Land Defender from Aamjiwnaang First Nation and one of the organizers of Sunday's demonstration. "It's clear that Canada is a state built on the removal of Indigenous people for resource extraction."

“From coast to coast we are rising up in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation and against colonial violence and land theft,” said Vanessa Gray, Anishinaabe Kwe Land Defender from Aamjiwnaang First Nation and one of the organizers of Sunday’s demonstration. “It’s clear that Canada is a state built on the removal of Indigenous people for resource extraction.” (Photo: Mining Injustice Solidarity Network/@mininginjustice)

Hundreds of people led by Indigenous land defenders and a coalition of environmental groups worked to shut down a large mining industry convention in downtown Toronto on Sunday, blockading the entrances to the building where the meeting was taking place as they protested against “the extractive industry’s violence, ongoing colonization, and complete disregard for the future of life on this planet.”

Sunday’s action—aimed at the Prospectors and Developers of Association of Canada (PDAC)—is the latest solidarity demonstration aligned with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation nation that remains locked in a fierce battle with the Canadian government over the controversial “Coastal Gas Link” fracked gas pipeline through unceded territory in northern British Colombia.

“From coast to coast we are rising up in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation and against colonial violence and land theft,” said Vanessa Gray, Anishinaabe Kwe Land Defender from Aamjiwnaang First Nation and one of the organizers of Sunday’s demonstration. “It’s clear that Canada is a state built on the removal of Indigenous people for resource extraction.”

Organizers said the convention deserves to be targeted as the biggest one of its kind in the world, with PDAC drawing an estimated 25,000 people each year as it brings people from resource extraction companies together with funders and suppliers as well as law firms, politicians, and diplomats engaged in the industry. “The conference,” said Mining Injustice in a statement, “is sponsored by mining giants known for their significant human rights and environmental abuses around the world.”

According to Gray, “The very companies and people who provide the economic and political support for Coastal Gas Link are inside PDAC this year, and so are representatives from hundreds of other companies that are enacting violence around the world.”

Not just for the Wet’suwet’en, she said the direct action was “in solidarity with every community that has found itself staring down the barrel of a gun for daring to oppose Canada’s ongoing colonial project through resource extraction.”

As the demonstrators attempted to blockade the entrance to the convention center, Toronto police stepped in:

“We want to make our voices heard and our presence seen because there are communities that this conference is directly impacting,” Gray said. “The industry is doing mare harm than good for our future, our environment.”

Kirsten Francescone, a member of MiningWatch Canada, told reporters ahead of the action: “I think, every day, the ecological crisis gets worse.”

“We definitely cannot think that more destructive mines that violate human rights and destroys people’s environments is our way out of that ecological crisis,”  Francescone added. “I am really concerned that the mining industry is using this space to say that we need mining to save us from climate change. We’re here to say that shouldn’t be the case. We want other kinds of ways forward for a better future for all of us.”

While Francescone warned that the world is in “a moment of global ecological crisis, and unchecked resource extraction is a major cause,” her fellow activist Rachel Small, who works with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, said the tide is turning.

“More and more people are seeing the colonial violence all around us for what it is, and recognize that PDAC and everything it stands for is fundamentally incompatible with the world we need to build,” said Small. “From coast to coast people are also recognizing our collective power to fight back.”

Along with First Nation allies and others, Small said: “We won’t let Canada and the extractive industry at its helm continue to propel us towards a planet that is unlivable. We demand an end to all extractive violence that enables colonization of Indigenous land, forced displacement, violent repression, and wide scale contamination of land, water, and air. And that starts with disrupting PDAC today.”

Posted in CanadaComments Off on ‘Against Colonial Violence and Land Theft,’ Indigenous Activists and Allies Target Mining Industry Convention in Toronto

“So-Called ‪’Peace Deal’ Is Anything But”: Critics Warn US-Taliban Deal Exposes Fallacies of Endless War Paradigm

The agreement, warned Rep. Barbara Lee, “leaves thousands of troops in Afghanistan and lacks the critical investments in peacebuilding, human-centered development, or governance reform needed to rebuild Afghan society.”

byJon Queally,

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29, 2020. - The United States signed a landmark deal with the Taliban, laying out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months as it seeks an exit from its longest-ever war. Pompeo called on the Taliban to honour its commitments to sever ties with jihadist groups as Washington s

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29, 2020. – The United States signed a landmark deal with the Taliban, laying out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months as it seeks an exit from its longest-ever war. Pompeo called on the Taliban to honour its commitments to sever ties with jihadist groups as Washington signed a landmark deal with the Afghan insurgents. (Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images)

While President Donald Trump bragged Saturday about an agreement signed by the U.S. government and the Taliban as a milestone towards ending the war in Afghanistan that has raged now for the nearly two decades—devastating the Afghan people and the wider region—Rep. Barbara Lee, one of the staunchest anti-war voices in Congress, denounced the deal as a little more than a sham.

“After nearly two decades of endless war, it’s become clear that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” Lee said in a statement. “But this so-called ‪’peace deal’ is anything but.”

The Guardian reports:

At a signing ceremony in Doha on Saturday, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Taliban deputy leader Mullah Baradar took turns to address a crowd of senior dignitaries. Although the deal was signed by the US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, it was the first time a U.S. cabinet member had met members of the insurgency.

The Taliban have agreed to sever ties with al-Qaida and other international terror groups and sit down for peace talks with other Afghans, including a government they have always denounced as a US puppet. In return, Washington will start a phased withdrawal of troops.

Troop levels will be cut to 8,600 over the next 135 days and five bases will be closed. If both sides keep to their commitments, all U.S. military forces could leave Afghanistan by spring 2021, although Washington is thought to want to keep intelligence operatives on the ground fighting Isis and al-Qaida.

According to Lee, nobody should be fooled into thinking that this is a “peace” agreement.

“It leaves thousands of troops in Afghanistan and lacks the critical investments in peacebuilding, human-centered development, or governance reform needed to rebuild Afghan society,” the Congresswoman said.

As peace advocates have been saying since even before the U.S. invasion took place in 2001, following the attacks of September 11, there was never a military solution to the situation in Afghanistan. That remains true today.

Stephen Wertheim@stephenwertheim

“America’s fantasies of what it could achieve in the war, even after it became a Washington cliché that the war had no military solution, consigned thousands to needless deaths.” https://twitter.com/attackerman/status/1233737230453219328 …Spencer Ackerman@attackermanNEW: Had the US and its Afghan clients not been so hubristic, they might have had today’s peace deal with the Taliban in 2001, 2003 or 2011-12 — except with greater US leverage. Thousands might have been spared death, maiming, displacement & destitution. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-afghanistan-taliban-peace-deal-might-have-been-had-many-years-and-thousands-of-lives-ago?via=ios …531:24 PM – Feb 29, 2020

“Two decades of trying to bomb our way to peace have made clear: there is no U.S. military solution in Afghanistan,” said Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, in a statement. 

While the reduction in U.S. military presence “is a welcome step,” Miles said, the agreement “utterly fails to confront the underlying logic of military occupation, lacks any strategy for long-term peace, and falls far short of accountability and justice. It is no ‘peace deal.'” 

Like Lee, Miles said a deal that leaves nearly two-thirds of current U.S. forces in Afghanistan for ‘counterterrorism’ purposes—”bringing levels down to about where they were when Trump entered office”—cannot be considered a peace deal. While the drawdown can be considered a positive development, he said, the agreement “is far from an end to endless war—and further still from anything that would ensure stability, peace, and justice after decades of violence.”

Vijay Prashad, foreign policy expert and director of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, put the absurdity of the situation this way:

Vijay Prashad@vijayprashad

United States went to war against the Taliban, and then almost two decades later, handed Afghanistan back to the Taliban.2375:38 PM – Feb 29, 2020

And the anti-war veterans groups About Face tweeted:

About Face: Veterans Against the War@VetsAboutFace

On the peace agreement signed, as others have said, it’s essentially the identical position by the Taliban going all the way back to ‘09. Withdrawal troops in exchange for not hosting terrorist groups. 11 yrs later, no significant change, only TRILLIONS of $$$, COUNTLESS DEAD.636:00 PM – Feb 29, 2020

Lee called the agreement “a step forward as we work to stop endless war,” but said it remains critical to recognize that “there’s still a long way to go,” including the repeal of two Authorizations for Use of Military Force—one from 2001 and another from 2020—under which U.S. overseas war and military operations continue in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere continue to be waged.

Members of Congress, said Lee, must “reassert our Constitutional duty over war and peace.”

Posted in USA, AfghanistanComments Off on “So-Called ‪’Peace Deal’ Is Anything But”: Critics Warn US-Taliban Deal Exposes Fallacies of Endless War Paradigm

Activists Urging Barclays to ‘Stop Funding the Climate Emergency’ Shut Down Nearly 100 Branches Across UK

“It’s time Barclays pulled the plug and backed away from funding fossil fuels for good,” said a local Greenpeace campaigner.

by: Jessica Corbett,

staff writer

Greenpeace UK shuts down Barclays branch

Greenpeace activists shut down Barclays branches across the United Kingdom on March 2 to pressure the bank to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. (Photo: Tim Morozzo/Greenpeace)

In a coordinated action to pressure Barclays to stop financing climate destruction, Greenpeace activists on Monday morning shut down 97 of the British investment bank’s branches across the United Kingdom.

“Barclays must stop funding the climate emergency; that’s why we’ve taken action today,” Morten Thaysen, climate finance campaigner at Greenpeace U.K., said in a statement. “From floods to bushfires and record heat in Antarctica, the impacts of this crisis are staring us in the face. Yet Barclays keeps pumping billions into fossil fuel companies at exactly the time we need to stop backing these polluting businesses.”

“Banks are just as responsible for the climate emergency as the fossil fuel companies they fund, yet they’re escaped scrutiny for years,” Thaysen added. “We’ve shut down branches across the country to shine a spotlight on Barclays’ role in bankrolling this emergency. It’s time Barclays pulled the plug and backed away from funding fossil fuels for good.”

Activists across the country disabled the doors at Barclays branches and plastered the buildings with photos of campaigners holding signs that declared: “Stop funding the climate emergency,” “Climate criminals,” and “Stop funding fossil fuels.”

Greenpeace UK@GreenpeaceUK

Thanks to our fantastic friends at @Peopleandplanet, who helped us take the #ClimateEmergency message to @Barclays branches across the UK today. https://twitter.com/peopleandplanet/status/1234451766604898304 …People & Planet@peopleandplanetBrilliant actions across the UK from our friends at @GreenpeaceUK, shutting nearly 100 @Barclays branches

Banks are actively driving the climate crisis – together, we can stop them #BarclaysShutDown #DivestBarclays
273:17 PM – Mar 2, 2020

View image on Twitter

Greenpeace U.K.’s #BarclaysShutdown action was welcomed by fellow climate advocacy groups and activists who praised the group for fighting for a habitable planet:

Greenpeace UK@GreenpeaceUK·Mar 2BREAKING: Greenpeace activists have shut down over 95 @Barclays branches up and down the UK. Banks are continuing to fund fossil fuel companies & Barclays is the worst in Europe. Globally, banks put up $1.9tn for fossil fuels between 2016-2018. #BarclaysShutDown

Image

According to the Rainforest Action Network’s latest fossil fuel finance report card, published nearly a year ago, Barclays poured over $85 billion into coal, oil, and gas companies from 2016 to 2018, and was the sixth largest funder of the fossil fuel industry worldwide. Climate action campaigners and Barclays shareholders alike have urged the bank to phase out its support for dirty energy firms.

In a series of tweets Monday, Greenpeace U.K. showed the impacts of the human-caused climate crisis and pointed out Barclays’ role in funding fossil fuel companies that significantly contribute to global heating:

Greenpeace UK@GreenpeaceUK

Banks like @Barclays are backing the companies wrecking our planet & then denying their actions have consequences.
For them shareholder value comes first – even if it means cashing in on the climate crisis. #BarclaysShutdown
[1/3]

View image on Twitter

202:22 PM – Mar 2, 2020

In response to Monday’s protests, a Barclays spokesperson told BBC News that “we recognize that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, and are determined to do all we can to support the transition to a low carbon economy, while also ensuring that global energy needs continue to be met.”

“Greenpeace has a view on these issues to which they are completely entitled, but we would ask that—in expressing that view—they stop short of behavior which targets our customers, and our colleagues, going about their lives in communities around the country,” the bank spokesperson added. 

Although some Barclays customers were reportedly frustrated with Greenpeace’s action, some Twitter users who self-identified as bank customers turned to social media to express support for the group’s decision to shut down bank branches, given the scale of the threat posed by the climate emergency.

“As an ‘old dear’ I am content for the minor inconvenience of temporarily losing access to a bank that invests in the destruction of my grandchildren’s and their grandchildren’s future. Well done, Greenpeace,” tweeted Dianne Woodward, a scientist and educator.

Verity Pabla, founder of the music company I’m Not a Machine, directed her tweet at the bank, writing: “I’m a new Barclays customer, and I fully support this action by Greenpeace U.K. It’s time to shape up your business with immediate effect. Stop funding fossil fuel companies.”

The action also won support from Alan Watson Featherstone, an ecologist, nature photographer, and founder of the conservation charity Trees for Life, which aims to restore the Caledonian Forest in Scotland:

American author and activist Bill McKibben responded on Twitter to the Barclays action, highlighting upcoming protests to pressure the U.S. investment bank JPMorgan Chase, the biggest funder of fossil fuels, to divest from projects wrecking the planet. The actions planned for April 23 are part of the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign launched in January by multiple advocacy groups, including Greenpeace USA and 350.org, which McKibben co-founded.

JPMorgan is a top target of the campaign, which has also set its sights on asset managers and insurance companies. Although JPMorgan announced last week that the bank will stop funding certain fossil fuel extraction projects, McKibben confirmed that it will still “retain the title of the doomsday bank” and face demonstrations by climate activists next month.

Posted in Campaigns, Environment, Health, UKComments Off on Activists Urging Barclays to ‘Stop Funding the Climate Emergency’ Shut Down Nearly 100 Branches Across UK

A Moral Flaw in the Process of Capitalist Economics

If we cherish political democracy as a fundamental principle in our country, then we must adhere to a form of economic democracy as well.

byBruce T. Boccardy

A Pew Center poll in December 2011 reported that younger people were more favorable  toward socialism than capitalism. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A Pew Center poll in December 2011 reported that younger people were more favorable  toward socialism than capitalism. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“Socialism” on the Agenda

The presidential campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders opened up a serious discussion of the word “socialism.” In fact, it tore a band aid off a festering historical sore that those in power and privilege seek to maintain. Can’t blame them for that. When working folks begin articulating about a “democratic economy,” all that power and privilege can be up for grabs.

That discussion continues today replete with a relentless descant of misinformation by those at the top of the economic ladder who wish to preserve the structure of the economy. That never seems to change. However, it is quite remarkable today that a candidate identifies himself as a “democratic socialist” in the United States and is still being taken seriously-very seriously.

 Prior to the Sanders phenomenon,  the various “Occupy” movements beginning in Sept. 2011 initiated the discussion in terms that gave much publicity to the phrase “The One Percent.”  It was the first time in a long time that the dominant economic group in our country was identified as pejoratively distinct from the rest of us.

“The One Percent”

The identifier “The One Percent” asked Americans to consider that there was an “us” and  a “them” in our economy. There was a whole lot of “us” and a tiny group of “them” that made it starker in contrast.

 Moreover, the sparse but ubiquitous “them” appeared to be responsible for an economy that was dramatically increasing the economic burdens of the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Concomitantly, polls also showed attitudes toward “socialism” were changing.

A Pew Center poll in December 2011 reported that younger people were more favorable  toward socialism than capitalism.

Even CBS conducted a poll also in 2011 that reported  43% of Americans “agreed with the views of the Occupy Movement.

Fast forward to 2019 and a Harris poll for Axios reported a favorable change in attitudes toward “socialism.”

Unsurprisingly, “socialism” means different things to different people along the political spectrum whether secular or spiritual.

One element particularly ignored by the corporate media is the role of Christian socialist theology as well as the historical traditions of JewishMoslemBuddhist , Islamic and

 Confucian  socialist theologies.

Pope John XXIII wrote:

“ We therefore consider it Our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage which allows them to live a truly human life and to fulfill their family obligations in a worthy manner.” Mater et Magistra May 15, 1961

Martin Luther King asserted:

“We are saying that something is wrong … with capitalism…. There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism. Call it what you may, call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children”-1966

One has to ask what is it about capitalist economics that would cause many people of faith to question it.

For this review,  I define “socialism” as a form of “economic democracy;” It is a generic challenge to the prevailing capitalist economic processes.

Results

The conversation of the economic conditions of working folks rarely presents an explanation of  what is inherent in the capitalist process that results in chronic crises for many millions of Americans  approximately every four to seven years. Jobs  disappear or are replaced by lower paying ones with no benefits.

Moreover, there are the grimly increasing disparities in wealth and income between “the one percent” and the overwhelming majority of Americans.  There is considerable evidence documenting those worsening economic conditions of all working peoples in the United States. We should determine if there a component in the basic capitalist economic process that contributes to these unfair burdens.

Capitalist Process

The following is a simplified model that may offer some light on the hidden process in basic capitalist economics.

The primary purpose of capitalist economics is to return a private profit to the business owner.

This is what drives each business.

There are two primary types of capital:

We begin with “constant” capital. Constant capital is the amount of resources which the business owner spends on plant, machinery, tools, hardware, software, technological advances, raw materials or anything similar. Constant capital is often inherited by a business owner.

Next is “variable” capital. Variable capital is that which is spent by the business owner to purchase the physical or mental efforts of the employees. It is simply the wages and salaries paid to the employees who create the products that the owner sells on the market. Wages and salaries  enable them and their families to maintain their lifestyles. It is usually a paycheck.

It is important to note here that it is the employees alone who create the products that the business owner sells in the market. It takes considerable social effort of many employees to create the products offered by the business owner.  Some employees will be more skilled or efficient at producing the products. It averages out to what is defined as “socially necessary labor time’ to produce the products.

In spite of the delusional grandiloquence on the part of some business owners, no one business owner creates those products alone.

Here, though, the process pivots. If the business owner paid the employees in salary and wages  the amount equal to the value of the products the employees created, there would be no profit.

That would mean there would be no reason to continue with the business. Moreover, the business owner must compete with other business owners to sell as much product as possible and minimize costs.

In order to obtain the essential profits, the business owner must sell the products created by the employees at a price or value above the amount spent on wages and salaries that maintain those employees in their lifestyles.

Because of this fact, it appears that the products now being sold by the business owner have somehow increased in value i.e. a new value. How can that be? Actually it cannot.

The “new value” is not new at all. It’s there, we just have to peel back the layers to find it.

For example, suppose we have a male employee who works a typical nine to five work day with an hour lunch break. Parenthetically, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong union with contract provisions guaranteeing healthy work conditions like a full hour lunch break. Regardless, this is the workday for the employee in this example.

Here it becomes very serious for both the business owner and the employee.

In that seven hours of work, this fellow will work for the amount of wages or salary that will allow him to maintain his family. That amount of pay will vary primarily according to the cost of living in different regions of the country.

However, inside that seven-hour work day is the key to the exploitation and moral flaw in this fundamental economic process.

While it appears that the employee is being paid for working seven hours, this is not really the case.

The business owner must calculate the amount he pays to the employee based on how much is required for a private profit. 

In effect, the employee is working some hours to maintain his family by receiving wages or a salary, and some hours to provide a profit for the owner. However, the value the employee is creating by his labor is for the full seven-hour work day.

It is strictly the business owner who decides how to divide up the value of the product of the seven—hour day created by the employee into how much the employee will be paid and how much he puts in his own pocket. Again, competition with other business owners largely determines this calculation.

In our example, say in one work day the business owner totals $50.00 an hour for the building, the materials, machinery and technology to create one product. This would be “constant” capital mentioned above. Then the employee must be paid to create the product. By the calculation of the business owner, it is say $10.00 an hour. That would be the ‘variable” capital also mentioned above.

Now the business owner must sell the product on the market. He must charge an amount above what has been spent already to produce the product. The product was created for $50.00 plus $10.00 equals $60.00. Now, though the business owner must sell the product each for $70.00 to obtain a profit of $10.00 on each product. The “new” value is $70.00

Clearly if the employee created a product that is worth $70.00 it is inescapable logic that the employee is not being compensated for the value he has created in the seven-hour day he is working. This is simple exploitation and in most spiritual belief systems-immoral.

It is the sine qua non fundamental work relationship of the basic capitalist work process. More importantly, the business owner must continually try to reduce the amount paid to the employee in order to compete with other business owners.

Some prominent historical leaders, secular and spiritual have commented on the process.

Abraham Lincoln stated:

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”- First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861.

 Surely, if we cherish political democracy as a fundamental principle in our country, then we must adhere to a form of economic democracy as well.

Posted in USAComments Off on A Moral Flaw in the Process of Capitalist Economics

The World’s Waste-Pickers Under Threat

New waste management policies undermine the informal recycling sector in the Global South.   
by: Barcelona Research Group on Informal Recyclers

Waste pickers oppose policies that exclude them from their source of livelihood: recyclable waste. (Photo: Global Alliance of Waste Pickers)

Waste pickers oppose policies that exclude them from their source of livelihood: recyclable waste. (Photo: Global Alliance of Waste Pickers)On the occasion of the Global Waste Picker Day (March 1st), the Barcelona Research Group on Informal Recyclers—in collaboration with EnvJustice, the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and WIEGO—releases a thematic map of socio-environmental conflicts in the Global South related to informal recyclers, whose livelihoods are put at greater risk due to a global policy shift towards waste management privatization that limits their access to recyclables.

This map (below) documents socio-environmental conflicts involving waste pickers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is a selection of over 50 conflicts from the Environmental Justice Atlas in which waste pickers, citizens and civil society groups are resisting and fighting for social and environmental justice. The map gives visibility to the growing injustices in the waste management sector resulting from wider public policy trends related to privatization, incineration and access restriction in urban space. The conflicts visualize who loses and who benefits from these policy shifts – showing how profits are privatized and how costs are socialized. Waste, once a commons of the poor, is rapidly being converted into a commodity. The social and environmental impacts of this process are closely intertwined, notably pollution and loss of livelihood.

The world is continuously producing more and more waste, with consequent serious health and environmental impacts. In urban areas, domestic waste is accumulating at an even faster pace and landfills fill up quickly. Public authorities, in a desperate attempt to manage the unmanageable, implement new waste management models that are capital-intensive and technology-driven at the cost of more socio-ecologically sustainable alternatives provided by waste pickers. 

Historically, waste pickers have been confronted with dangerous working conditions, social marginalization and persecution. This map shows how this precarious situation is now being worsened by a number of threats that, often as a result of global policy shifts, limit their access to recyclable waste. In what follows, we detail, first, the environmental and social contributions of waste pickers, second, the threats that undermine their livelihood, and third, their forms of resistance to these socio-environmental injustices. In times of crisis, threats to waste pickers are threats to humankind

Waste pickers’ social, environmental and economic contributions

Waste pickers contribute to local economies and the inclusion of socially marginalized groups, to public health and safety, and to environmental sustainability. The informal recycling sector in the Global South sustains a livelihood for about 19 to 24 million people, according to the ILO1. Although historically invisibilized, waste pickers around the world contribute to protecting the earth by collecting, sorting, and selling discarded materials found by door-to-door collection, on the streets, in containers and landfills. Their skills and knowledge about different materials such as metals, plastics, and paper enables them to re-valorize, re-use and extend the life of items cast aside. Their recycling rates are typically high, in the range from 20 to 50 percent, often higher than those achieved by municipal or private companies. In countries like Brazil or South Africa waste pickers do 90 percent of all recycling. In some countries, they are strongly organized in cooperatives and associations, enabling them to voice their claims towards the broader public, engage with civil society and even formally take up municipal waste services. In brief, despite the fact that they provide services to society completely free of cost, their work and rights often only remain insufficiently recognized.

Waste pickers are under threat

In the last decade, threats to waste picker livelihoods in the Global South have been triggered by capital-intensive and technology-driven public policy shifts towards privatization and formalization of the urban waste management sector. We can identify three main types of conflicts: incineration, privatization and urban space restrictions. 

First, technologies such as incineration are typically proposed as “sustainable” solutions to unsolved waste management problems, with large public subsidies from the Clean Development Mechanism. The first incinerator in Africa was built in Ethiopia in 2018 with Chinese investment and Danish technology. National bans on incineration are being challenged from the Philippines to Mexico. Incinerators are popping up like mushrooms, but they might be toxic ones. In cities like Delhiwaste pickers protest against them because they do not want to see their livelihood burnt, while citizens fear air pollution. In terms of climate change, while waste pickers cool down the earth, incinerators warm it up.

Second, companies are now realizing that waste has a monetary value – something that waste pickers have been aware of for decades. This, for example, results in privatization of landfills that displace waste pickers, sometimes leading to violent attacks and repression like in Johannesburg. The closure of problematic landfills has often led to the simple shifting of environmental damage (e.g. Belém and Rio de Janeiro). In general, privatization and the imposition of formal criteria in the public contracting for municipal waste management services have made lives harder for informal waste pickers (e.g. Cairo and Cape Coast). 

Third, restrictions in urban space result into discriminatory impacts on waste pickers such as the prohibition of animal- or human-drawn vehicles (e.g. in Porto Alegre and Montevideo) or the installation of “anti-poor”, “smart” containers (e.g. Buenos Aires and Bogota). In the name of modern, beautiful and hygienic city centers, waste pickers are denied access to certain urban areas, like in Phnom Penh

Resistance and mobilisation for social and environmental justice 

Waste pickers oppose policies that exclude them from their source of livelihood: recyclable waste. They struggle for social rights and the formal inclusion into municipal waste management to escape from precarious and dangerous conditions. They collectively organize to vizibilize their environmental services due to recycling, to fight discrimination and to empower their community. The largest mobilizations can be found in Latin American countries, but also in South Africa and India, among others.

The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, supported by the NGO WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), is committed to support and strengthen organizations of more than 28 countries that form part of the network. Their aim is to include waste pickers as “actors in decision-making processes, with the goal of improving working conditions for their community, developing knowledge and capacity-building activities, and seeking the recognition and professionalization of their work”. Struggles against incineration have led to the emergence of civil society groups, many of them networked in the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, which has also been supportive of waste pickers and communities fighting against incineration.

While recognition for waste pickers’ contributions is growing in some places, most continue to face social marginalization and highly unsuitable working and living conditions. They often get little support from local governments, who in many cases fail to formally recognize the work and contributions of waste pickers, and instead further restrict their access to waste. Waste picker struggles for social and environmental justice hence continue at various fronts.

Posted in Environment, Health, Spain, WorldComments Off on The World’s Waste-Pickers Under Threat

Reaction to the Release of US-UK Trade Negotiation Objectives Today


For Immediate Release

 Global Justice Now

Contact: Jonathan Stevenson, media officer
Tel:  +44 (0)7711 875 345 or +44 (0)20 7820 4913
Email: jonathan.stevenson@globaljustice.org.uk 

WASHINGTON – Commenting on the release today of negotiating objectives for a trade deal with the United States, Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now said:

“These objectives show that the government is living in cloud-cuckoo land. While some of the language on the NHS and food standards sounds very nice, in fact this trade deal will allow US multinationals to challenge and change our regulations, potentially even creating a corporate court to allow US multinationals to sue the British government in a secretive parallel legal process.

What’s more, the objectives aren’t based in reality – it is not at all clear why the US would offer Britain greater access to its food markets without meeting the US’s own core demands around food and medicines. This will not end well, and the fact the government is risking our standards for a mere 0.07%-0.16% of GDP is astonishing.”

Posted in USA, UKComments Off on Reaction to the Release of US-UK Trade Negotiation Objectives Today

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