#155 Disaster Response for VIPs Only
Recent fires, floods, and oil spills have exposed a gutted and dismantled government disaster-response infrastructure despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security was established in the wake of 9/11 to secure the homeland and lead national disaster response efforts. American taxpayers have collectively funded $billions in DHS first-responder grants. For-profit disaster response contractors, whose job is to protect only those who can afford the luxury, are replacing under-resourced public firefighters, medical responders, and National Guard, whose jobs were to protect the nation as a whole. Privatization of core state functions is creating disaster apartheid as companies offer levels of private VIP disaster response insurance, and people are increasingly expected to take personal responsibility for their own safety in event of national disaster—rather than expect heroic “favors” from a less-than-functioning government. More importantly dangerous is the powerful vested interest in assuring that disasters are not avoided but instead welcomed as the ultimate market opportunity.
“Rapture Rescue 911: Disaster Response for the Chosen” Naomi Klein, the Nation, 11/19/2007
“‘Shock Doctrine’ Author Naomi Klein on State-Sanctioned Torture and Disaster Response for the Chosen”Democracy Now! 11/7/ 2007
#137 US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America
Researched by Erica Elkington and April Pierce
A resurgence of US-backed militarism threatens peace and democracy in Latin America. By 2005, US military aid to Latin America had risen to 34 times the amount spent in 2000. In a marked shift in US military strategy, training that used to just take place at the School of the Americas—including torture and execution techniques—is now decentralized. The 2008 US federal budget includes $16.5 million to fund International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA) —one in El Salvador, another in Peru. Each, with provision of immunity from charges of crimes against humanity, will train an average of 1,500 police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement officials throughout Latin America per year in “counterterrorism techniques.” With many like training facilities, including Medical Readiness Training Exercises in Paraguay, the US is creating a wave of militarization across Latin America, aimed at internal populations opposed to the US neo-liberal agenda.
“Is George Bush Restarting Latin America’s ‘Dirty Wars’?” Benjamin Dangl, AlterNet, 8/31/07
“Exporting US ‘Criminal Justice’ to Latin America” CISPES, Upside Down World, 6/14/07
“ILEA Funding Approved by Salvadoran Right Wing Legislators” CISPES, 3/15/07
#048 Water Privatization in El Salvador and the Global War on Terror
Researched by Andrea Lochtefeld
Salvadoran police violently captured community leaders and residents at a July 2007 demonstration against the privatization of El Salvador’s water supply and distribution systems. Close range shooting of rubber bullets and tear gas was used against community members for protesting the rising cost, and diminishing access and quality of local water under privatization. Fourteen were arrested and charged with terrorism, a charge that can hold a 60 year prison sentence, under El Salvador’s new “Anti-terrorism Law,” which is based on the US Patriot Act. While criminalization of political expression and social protest signals an alarming danger to the peace and human rights secured by Salvadorans since its brutal 12-year civil war, the US government publicly supports the Salvadoran government and the passage of the draconian anti-terrorism law that took effect October 2006.
“Salvadoran Activists Targeted with US-Style Repression” Chris Damon, Peacework, 9/07http://new.peaceworkmagazine.org/authors/chris-damon
“El Salvador: Water Inc. and the Criminalization of Protest” Jason Wallach, NACLA-Upside Down World 8/24/07http://news.nacla.org/2007/07/24/el-salvador-water-inc-and-the-criminalization-of-protest/
“El Salvador: Spectre of War Looms After 15 Years of Peace” Raúl Gutiérrez, IPS, 8/19/07http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/07/19/2636/
“GWOT: El Salvador” Wes Enzinna, The Nation, 12/31/07
#011 Presidential Directive For Dictatorial Power in Continuity of Government
Researched by Dan Bluthardt and Bill Gibbons
A New National Security Presidential Directive gives the President dictatorial powers when dealing with a “catastrophic emergency.” Under the plan Bush entrusts himself with leading the entire federal government, not just the Executive branch and he gives himself the responsibility for ensuring “continuity of constitutional government.” National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51’ and “Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20” defines a “catastrophic emergency” in vague terms, which could include an event like a 911 attack or an earthquake in California, for the takeover of government by the Executive. The White House literally has given itself dictatorial power over the government, bypassing the US Congress and obliterating the separation of powers. The document hollowly emphasizes the need to ensure the Constitution, yet in clear breach of the constitution assurance of checks and balances, says the President shall lead all activities of the Federal government. The secretary of Homeland Security is also placed in charge of domestic “security.” This directive has been given no scrutiny by Congress and very little by the press.
“Bush Anoints Himself as the Insurer of the Constitutional Government in Emergency” Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, 5/18/2007
“National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive Establishes “National Continuity Policy” Larry Chin,Global Research, 5/21/2007
#171 NATO’s Nuclear Option
Researched by Stephanie Smith and Sarah Maddox
The West must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the imminent spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new NATO by five of the West’s most senior military officers and strategists. In a 150-page blueprint for urgent, root-to-branch reform of NATO and Western military strategy and structures, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that, “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.” The manifesto was presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to NATO’s secretary general in mid-January 2008. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a NATO summit in Bucharest in April.
“Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike a Key Option, Nato Told” Ian Traynor, Guardian, January 22, 2008
#032 Iraq Whistle Blowers Pay
Researched by Kat Pat Crespan
Those who have stepped forward to report corruption in the “rebuilding” of Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted. Navy veteran Donald Vance was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad for 97 days and subjected to harsh interrogation methods “reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.” His only offense was telling the FBI about the common practice of guns, land mines, and rocket-launchers being sold for cash to buyers such as Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees—no receipts necessary.
“Steep Price Paid by Those Who Blew Whistle on Iraq Fraud” Deborah Hastings, AP, 8/25/07
#025 The Raytheon 9
Researched by Christina Long and Marie Daghlian
Nine members of the Derry Anti-War Coalition (the Raytheon 9) occupied and “decommissioned” offices of Raytheon in Derry, Ireland in August 2007, after evidence surfaced that Raytheon had produced military products on Irish soil, in breach of assurances to the contrary, and that Raytheon weapons had been used in the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. The Raytheon 9 plan to use their day in court to highlight US and UK war crimes involving Raytheon.
“Solidarity with the Raytheon 9” Shaun Harkin & Sandy Boyer, Z Magazine Online, July/August 2007
#061 Wal-Mart Evades 2.3 Billion in Taxes
Researched by Marie Daghlian
Wal-Mart evaded $2.3 billion in state income taxes from fiscal years 1999 to 2005 through a real-estate investment trust (REIT) loophole. According to a report released by Citizens for Tax Justice and labor coalition, “Change to Win,” Wal-Mart has used the REIT structure to set up the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust, which has enabled Wal-Mart to effectively double as both landlord and tenant, recycling real-estate funds to itself and then deducting that cost from its tax bill. Twenty states, including California and Illinois, have moved to close the REIT loophole by adopting so-called “combined reporting” laws.
“Loophole Let Wal-Mart Evade $2.3B in Taxes” Michelle Chen, The New Standard, 4/18/07
#086 Soil Erosion Crisis
Researched by Cristina Wilson and Marie Daghlian
Soil erosion is the “silent global crisis” undermining food production and water availability, as well as being responsible for 30 percent of the greenhouse gases driving climate change. Every year, some 62,000 square miles of land loses its vegetation and becomes degraded or turns into desert. A Cornell University study, which pulls together statistics on soil erosion from more than 125 sources, finds that the US is losing soil 10 times faster—and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster— than the natural replenishment rate. As a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world’s arable land has become unproductive.
“Dirt isn’t so cheap after all” Stephen Leahy IPS, “Asheville Global Report, 8/30/2007
#082 Starbucks in Ethiopia
Researched by Jennifer Routh and Marie Daghlian
Starbucks’ eco-friendly sales pitch masks the fact that its $26/lb box of Ethiopian coffee contains arabica beans grown on a plantation in a threatened mountain rainforest by workers who make less than a dollar a day. Starbucks, a master at marketing, won’t disclose what it pays for Ethiopian coffee, instead including it in its global average, which was $1.42/lb in 2006, 16 cents more than the Fair Trade minimum. Much of that money goes to middlemen while workers receive 77 cents to $1.10/day. Starbucks currently sources 6% of its beans from Ethiopia and plans to double production. While Starbucks gave the estate’s beans its own C.A.F.E. practices approval last year, signifying that the plantation protected the environment, paid workers fairly and provided them with decent housing, no one from Starbucks ever inspected the Gemadro plantation for C.A.F.E. certification compliance.
In May 2007 Ethiopia won a battle with Starbucks over trademark entitlement, which could help the country’s coffee growers to earn some $88 million more per year.
“Promises and Poverty” Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee, 9/23/2007
“In trademarking its coffee, Ethiopia seeks fair trade” Matthew Clark,The Christian Science Monitor, 11/9/07