As if the recent string of high-profile scandals over Benghazi, AP phone records and the IRS weren’t enough to land the Obama administration in political hot water, the controversial news of the National Security Agency’s top secret PRISM program has now raised major privacy concerns for Americans.
While civil liberties continue to face erosion by heightened security and surveillance programs, there are many other areas where the American reality doesn’t match the hype. Here are seven metrics that show US citizens’ quality of life isn’t as high as many imagine:
In his first speech since the election, Iran‘s President-elect Hassan Rouhani said his country would be “happy to build trust and repair relations with the United States,” if only the United States would stop meddling in Iran’s domestic affairs, including its nuclear plans. The template Rouhani put forward Monday as a possible framework for future talks was a deal that he had discussed with then French President Jacques Chirac in 2005.
SALEM TWP. — Failure to report potentially debilitating medical conditions of nuclear plant operators — ranging from sleep apnea to cardiac and respiratory problems — in a timely fashion could result in federal enforcement actions against PPL, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said Monday. According to the press release and an accompanying report, inspectors found multiple cases in which operators were diagnosed with “medical conditions that involved permanent disabilities and/or illnesses but were not reported within 30 days as required.” More on this…. Courtesy: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/607574/Nuke-plant-medical-issues-faulted
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin said they would sign an agreement on securing and destroying nuclear material to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, replacing a 1992 deal that expired on Monday. Obama and Putin met privately at the G8 summit to talk about pressing security issues and agreed to work together to protect, control and account for nuclear weapons. (More on this… Courtesy: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/18/us-g8-usa-russia-nuclear-idUSBRE95H00720130618
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes any dialogue between the United States and North Korea should focus on the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, a U.N. spokesman said Monday. U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said that Ban also believes inter-Korean dialogue is key to defusing tensions and ensuring peace on the peninsula. (More on this.. Courtesy: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/un-us-nkorea-talks-must-include-nuclear-issues
Sipri sees increase in nuclear proliferation, reduction in global peacekeeping.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIRPI) has observed a global reduction in the number of peacekeepers and an increase in the proliferation of nuclear weapons in some regions of the world, according to its recently released Yearbook.
Global Day of Action
1. Freedom of association for all McDonald’s workers world-wide
2. End abuse and retaliation against international contract labour at all McDonald’s Restaurants world-wide
In Delhi-NCR, Supported by
Society for Labour
Global Day of Action on McDonald’s
We express our solidarity with the Global Day of Action on McDonald’s (initiative of National Guestworker Alliance, USA), which is being organized in more than 20 countries on 6th of June, 2013. Over 45 Unions and Organizations from across 30 countries have signed up for the Global Day of Action against McDonald’s. McDonald’s agents recruit low-wage temporary international workers (on J-1 visas) from the poor and developing countries to come to work in McDonald’s franchises in the United States. These international migrant workers are provided employment erratically with as few as 4 hours of work a week at $7.25 an hour, with exorbitant housing deductions that have brought their net pay far below minimum wages. They live in treacherous conditions in employer owned basements with 8-10 students to a room and often face threats of deportation if they resist. Most of these workers have invested around $3000-4000 to come to the US. On March 6, these workers went on a strike to expose severe exploitation and retaliation at McDonald’s restaurants in the United States. They joined U.S. workers and union leaders in demanding that the fast food giant take responsibility for labor abuse at its restaurants.
We demand an end to abuse and retaliation against the contract labor in all the McDonald’s restaurants worldwide. We also demand that McDonald’s guarantee Freedom of Association and recognize the Right to Organize for all McDonald’s workers worldwide. It is imperative that McDonald’s ensures fair wages, decent working conditions and rights of international migrant workers both at the workplace and at the community level. There is a need to instate strict labour codes of conduct within retail food chains and ensure mandatory implementation at the global level.
In India, FDI in food retail and entry of global food giants into the domestic market has created negative impact in at least 3 spheres; employment, food security and nutritional diet. An unregulated spread and entry of giant global food chains like McDonald’s destroys the growth and spread of indigenous vendors, small food chains, and restaurants. This has adverse impact on employment generation and in fact leads to loss of jobs in small restaurants. On the other hand, these global fast food chains have failed to ensure that employment in this sector is inclusive and long term. There is no scope for building a career for employees within the retail food sector. Moreover, the contract farming to supply food materials in such big restaurant chains pose a danger to India’s food security as aspect of sustainability of agricultural land is deliberately neglected. Several researches have shown that food items in global fast food chains are causing several ill-effects on the consumers’ health. It is time for the policy-makers to pay serious attention to all these issues. We appeal to all to support in raising these issues at the national and global level.
Society for Labour and Development
US Cities Which Banned GMOs
Below are U.S. counties, cities and states which ban or call for restrictions on GMOs:
Mendocino County, California – The ordinance, Measure H, was passed by referendum on March 2, 2004.
Marin County, California
Santa Cruz County, California
Trinity County, California
Florida – GE Fish Regulation – State legislation restricting local control of GMOs: HB1717 Passed in 2005. Bt Cotton Geographic Restriction Passed in 2005.
San Juan County, Washington – Initiative Measure No. 2012-4, bans the growth of genetically modified organisms within the county.
Maryland has banned GE fish
Alaska – Bill (SB25) passed enacting a ban on GE fish, and also requires labeling of all GE fish and fish products in 2005.
City of Arcata
City of Point Arena
Hawaii – Ban on GE kalo/taro
Consumers and farmers across the whole of the U.S. have been taking action over the past years to protect their local communities from genetic pollution by passing local, city, and county ordinances banning genetically engineered (GE) crops. Cities, counties and townships have passed such laws to assure the health, safety, and welfare of their communities, while exercising their democratic right to local control.
At this point nearly 20+ states (the count was 16 6 months ago) are discussing GMO-related legislation, including moratorium bills in New York, Massachusetts and several others.
There is one caveat: Preemption. Preemption is a legislative action in which higher levels of government (state or federal) strip lower levels of government of their control and regulatory authority over a specific subject matter.
The Connecticut General Assembly is considering a bill, bill S.B. 244, to overturn the state’s preemption laws and allow municipalities to ban and regulate the use of lawn care pesticides. If the bill is passed, Connecticut will join the other 9 states that allow cities and towns to ban the use of pesticides on private property.
About 25 activist representatives, researchers, environmental specialists, policy analysts, lawyers and health professionals from a wide range of social and environmental action groups, peoples networks and movements of Karnataka, forced the closure of The World Bank’s ‘consultation’ on the review of its environmental and social safeguards in Bangalore today (08/04/2013). The ‘consultation’ was slammed as a ‘complete sham’ which ‘must be denounced by anyone genuinely concerned about the nature of democracy and broad based public interest, and committed to the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), climate justice, sustainable development through democratic decision making and the Principle of Intergenerational Equity’. Moreover it was made into an occasion to denounce the various projects that have destroyed the environment and various communities, and to demand that for the World Bank to quit India.
Stephen F. Lintner, Senior Advisor, Operational Policy and Client Services of The World Bank had flown in from Washington DC (USA) to hold the ‘consultation’ at Hotel Atria in Bangalore, along with Preeti Kudesia, Senior Operations Officer of the Bank. The meeting was supposed to have been facilitated by Anubrotto Kumar (Dunu) Roy, Honorary Director of Hazards Centre, New Delhi.
Of those invited by the Bank, about 5 represented various civil society and research organisations, and a dozen or so officials represented various agencies of the Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments. The consultation was held barely a stone’s throw from the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, and yet, shockingly, not one Parliamentarian, Legislator, Municipal Councillor or Panchayat member from anywhere had been invited. This amply demonstrated what a mockery of democracy the exercise was.
The invited gathering of about 20 odd ‘representatives’ of ‘civil society organisations’ and Governments of various Central and Southern States of India were probably invited by the Bank to accord a certain legitimacy to the review exercise. Were it not for the intervention of progressive social and environmental action activists, this charade of ‘consulting’ the ‘public’ would probably have been passed of as a successful process, and the exercise possibly used to legitimise the weak safeguards of the Bank.
Clifton D’ Rozsario of the Alternative Law Forum read out a detailed statement (attached) which strongly critiqued the World Bank’s ‘consultation’ process and also its investment policies. He attacked the Bank’s double-speak on claiming belief in democratic decision making, when, in fact, all it does is talk to an elite section of society and claim such opinion gathering held in classy hotels as peoples’ sanction to the Bank’s investment policies. He also reminded the World Bank of its responsibility in regard to the devastation heaped on the lakhs of adivasis and farmers in the Narmada Valley due to Sardar Sarovar dam, which it fails to own up to even today. He also decried the so-called ‘knowledge production’ by the World Bank as methods to monetise and commodify all resoucres and even relationships.
Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group criticised the flawed process of the Bank’s consultation mechanisms and said it amounted to ritualising the FPIC Principle. He demanded that the Bank cancel the charade being passed of as a ‘consultation’ as it was against the jurisprudence that had evolved in India which required deep application of FPIC Principle in decision-making. The current process seriously compromised people’s right to know and participate in decisions that affect them and exposed the Bank’s vacuous claim of being a ‘change maker’ in developing progressive environmental and social safeguards.
Kshitij Urs of Action Aid slammed the Bank for being satisfied by this charade of a ‘consultation’ held amongst selected ‘stakeholders’ that especially excluded elected representatives. He said the Bank had over the decades succeeded in creating a perception of being progressive, when in fact it had structurally damaged national economies and devastated communities everywhere it lent. The Bank’s interests were too strongly aligned with imperialist designs of the US and other Northern economies and this was seriously compromising India’s sovereign power to decide its developmental process. Quoting Obama, he said, ‘Enough is Enough’, and asked the World Bank to please leave.
Speaking on behalf of the Janaarogya Andolana Karnataka (JAAK) Akhila Vasan said the World Bank’s policies have fragmented and progressively weakened the public health system through introduction of various forms of contractual arrangements. Under the influence of the Bank’s ‘universality’ policies, Karnataka is aggressively pushing numerous insurance schemes and ‘managed care’ models that are leaving people to the mercy of the exploitative, predatory private health sector, and resulting in further impoverishment and destitution. ‘User fee’, introduced by the Bank’s investment policies, is blatantly anti-poor, and an unscientific policy that has its roots in the larger structural adjustment process initiated by the World Bank. She accused the Bank of arm-twisting governments into pursuing several privatization models, including Public Private Partnerships, which enabled Corporate/for profit agencies to enter the ‘health care’ market in various ways with disastrous consequences on livelihoods and survival of several communities.
Madhu Bhushan of Vimochana in an impassioned intervention said the World Bank’s policies and lending patterns have deeply affected the lives of women in India and particularly the poor women. As a Bank it can only perceive every relationship as an economic transaction – women are commodified and reduced to being consumers and led towards greater indebtedness. New vulnerabilities have resulted as a consequence, she said, which not only increased violence in private and public spaces but also greater social and economic violence. The classic example of this is the microfinance project of the Bank – supposedly initiated as a means to increase self-reliance and reduce the dependence on exploitative local money lenders amongst rural and poor women. The number of documented cases of suicides of women who are unable to repay has dramatically increased wherever the Bank promoted ‘self-help group’ loans, and caused divisiveness within rural communities, Bhushan said. “If this is not an agenda of Genocide, what is?” she enquired. Reacting strongly to Lintner’s intervention that these facts would be taken on record, she asked him to stop patronising by offering to take concerns on record, thus reducing people to mere footnotes in a Bank document.
Vinay Sreenivasa of Alternative Law Forum perturbed by the Bank holding the consultation in Bangalore when no effort whatsoever was made to communicate in local languages demanded the ‘consultation’ must immediately be abandoned and the process revisited only after all the policies were translated to local languages and effectively disseminated publicly. He pointed out not one of the Bank’s officials knew any of the languages spoken in the region, and yet the institution had the gaul to hold a ‘consultation’ in South India claiming it was an opportunity for local people to engage with proposed revisions of the critical environmental and social safeguards.
Rajendra Prabhakar of the Campaign Against Water Privatisation attacked the Bank as an agent of neo-liberal colonisation. The so-called development programmes of the Bank were undermining democracy as it created debt traps, that attacked the very idea of sovereignty, citizenship and genuine progress of people, he said. Bhoga Nanjunda of CIEDS Collective joined issue and said the Bank was not in India to promote genuine people’s development, but to pursue its business of lending. He asserted that India is a not a market for promoting the World Bank’s business.
Bhargavi Rao of Environment Support Group presented a nuanced analysis of the careless disregard the World Bank cultivated for its own environmental and social standards. She attacked the International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank, of massively financing the expansion of the West Coast Paper Mills in Dandeli (North Karnataka) even after it had been officially informed that the company had for decades violated all environmental norms and discharged its waste into the Kali river devastating its ecology and the lives of downstream communities. Bolstered by the Bank’s lending and promotion of ‘industrial farming’ practices, the company was now colonising local forests with pulp-wood plantations on the dubious claim they were degraded.
Similarly, Nitin Rai of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) presented his experience of the World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility funded Eco-Development Project implemented by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, which he said was done without any adherence to the Bank’s social and environmental safeguards. He expressed his deep shock and dismay that the World Bank had chosen to hold a ‘consultation’ in such an intransparent manner.
Arati Choksi of People’s Union of Civil Liberties attacked the World Bank’s ‘pro-poor’ policies as reeking of a plan to make profit out of the poverty alleviation programmes. What is particularly worrisome, she said, is the insidious and coercive manner of World Bank in implementing the ten point agenda of the Washington Consensus, of not just fiscal profit, but placing its own partner stake holders firmly in control of all public sector enterprise and resources – water, energy, transport, health, and education – for continual and perpetual financial extraction.
Despite repeatedly being urged to speak, not one of the officials representing various Government agencies chose to spoke. Mr. S. M. Jamdar, a senior bureaucrat of the Karnataka Government who recently retired, also did not speak. He, however, spoke to media persons where he is reported to have said that he shared all the concerns being aired, and said it is critical that these messages reached senior politicians and bureaucrats of the Government who were complicit in perpetuating such systemic problems.
In the face of such informed criticism of its actions, policies and ‘consultation’ procedures, Stephen Lintner decided finally that the ‘consultation’ had ended without any adherence to the Agenda the World Bank had proposed.
The organisations that participated were Peoples Union for Civil Liberties – Karnataka, Environment Support Group, Alternative Law Forum, Peoples’ Campaign Against Water Privatisation, Janaarogya Andolana – Karnataka, Vimochana, Katyayini Chamaraj, (in her independent capacity or as CIVIC?)