Fourth part of a documentary produced by Béatrice Pignède, with footage shot by Jonathan Moadab, Sylvia Page, Jean-Sébastien Farez and Saber Farzard. Music by Gilad Atzmon.
Click below for other segments of the documentary:
The department store chain Macy’s has stopped carrying Israeli settlement products of SodaStream, according to the Wall Street Journal. Macy’s has been targeted the past year by pro-Palestinian activists, who have called on it and other major chains to stop carrying the SodaStream home carbonation system and soda flavourings due to the company’s role in the military occupation of Palestine.
This news comes amidst sinking share prices of the company, which earlier this month announced preliminary results for the fourth quarter. It projected $125 million in revenue in the quarter and operating income of $8.5 million. That’s well short of the $154.4 million of revenue and $17.6 million in operating income expected by analysts. In the third quarter of last year, the revenue was about the same, but operating income of $18 million was more than double what it expects this year. Its shares have dropped by 45% so far this year.
Jim Charnier, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt, told the Wall Street Journal that he had been expecting a poor quarter when he learned early in September that Macy’s had stopped carrying SodaStream and saw other negative figures from the market.
Macy’s did not respond to questions by North American activists concerning SodaStream.
For more than a year, religious and human rights organizations throughout the United States have urged Macy’s, Target and other corporations to de-shelve SodaStream products because of the company’s complicity with Israel’s occupation and settlements. SodaStream products are largely manufactured in the West Bank Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone.
“We are very disappointed in our recent performance,” said Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream. “Our U.S. business underperformed due to lower than expected demand for our soda makers and flavors which was the primary driver of the overall shortfall in the third quarter. While we were successful over the last few years in establishing a solid base of repeat users in the U.S., we have not succeeded in attracting new consumers to our home carbonation system at the rate we believe should be achieved. The third quarter results are a clear indication that we must alter our course and improve our execution across the board. We have already begun a strategic shift of the SodaStream brand towards health & wellness, primarily in the U.S., where we believe this message will resonate more strongly with consumers….”
SodaStream states that calls for boycott are indeed a “risk factor” and a cause for “rising political tensions and negative publicity”, although this official notice makes no mention of boycott. However, the company has declared in the past that moving its factory out Mishor Adumim would require the expenditure of resources and, more importantly, “limit certain of the tax benefits for which we are currently eligible.” These benefits stem from the fact that the Israeli government provides economic incentives, including tax deductions, for businesses operating in West Bank settlements.
John Lewis in the UK had been the latest retailer to stop stocking SodaStream products and protests forced a SodaStream store in Brighton, UK, to close recently. SodaStream also had to deal with a public relations headache early this year when the U.K. charity Oxfam criticized its brand ambassador Scarlett Johansson for working with the settlement company. Johansson stepped down from her role with Oxfam and defended the company.
Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, also sold its stake in SodaStream this past August.
“Soros Fund Management does not own shares of SodaStream,” Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the fund, told The National, declining to comment further on when and why it sold the shares.
In a May filing with the US markets regulator, the fund said it had bought 550,000 shares of SodaStream during the first quarter. Bloomberg reported that the fund acquired the shares for $24.3 million, with the new holding making up 0.3 per cent of the fund’s $9.3 billion stock portfolio.
“After pressure from Soros partners in the region and the world, they dropped SodaStream and promised, in private letters so far, to issue guidelines similar to those adopted by the EU to prevent any investment into companies that sustain the Israeli occupation and settlements in particular,” said Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement.
The activist group Adalah-NY continues its campaign against SodaStream following the decision by Macy’s, and at the end of October will visit New York stores that stock and sell SodaStream, letting owners and managers know why they should stop. Adalah-NY notes that this planned week of visits will be used to develop its future NYC-based campaign against SodaStream.
Moscow and Kiev have confirmed the price of Russian gas to Ukraine until the end of March at $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, according to both Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“We have agreed on a price for the next 5 months, and Ukraine will be able to buy as much gas as it needs, and Gazprom is ready to be flexible on the terms,” Lavrov said Monday at a public lecture.
Russia’s foreign minister dispelled rumors of two separate prices, one for winter and one for summer.
“At the Europe-Asia summit in Milan, there was no talk of summer or winter gas prices, but just about the next 5 months,” the foreign minister said.
Included in the $385 price is a $100 discount by Russia. Ukraine is still insisting on a further discount, asking for $325 for ‘summer prices’ after the 5-month winter period.
“We talked about how there should be two prices, like how the European spot market has two prices, a winter price when demand is high, and summer when demand is low. Our joint proposal with the EU was the following: $325 per thousand cubic meters in the summer and $385 per thousand cubic meters in the winter,“ Poroshenko said in an interview on Ukrainian television Saturday.
President Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached a preliminary agreement in Milan on Friday for the winter period, but Russia won’t deliver any gas to its neighbor without prepayment.
Gas talks are expected to continue Tuesday in Berlin between the energy ministers of Russia, Ukraine, and the EU. On September 26, the three energy ministers agreed to provide 5 billion cubic meters to Ukraine on a “take-or-pay” contract, to help the country survive the winter months.
The so-called winter plan is contingent on Ukraine starting to repay at least $3.1 billion worth of debt to Gazprom.
Ukraine is still looking for funding to pay for the gas supplies as well as its $4.5 billion arrears to Russia’s state-owned gas company. Moscow reduced the debt from $5.5 billion to $4.5 billion, calculating in the discount of gas, Putin said on Friday.
Moscow believes the European Commission or the International Monetary Fund should provide loans for this purpose.
Russia turned off the gas to Europe via Ukraine in 2006 and in 2009, over similar pricing disputes with Kiev. This poses a risk to Europe, which receives 15 percent of its gas through Ukraine.
I doubt very many people have ever heard or seen a “tank mix.” Simply put, it is a mix of several crop chemicals used together to control a variety of weeds. I have not looked into a swirling mix of chemicals in a crop spray rig for probably 20 years–that’s about how long it has been since we have used any herbicides on our farm.
It may look different now, new chemicals, perhaps new colors and new toxic smells. I remember it as a sulfurous yellow mix of rising spreading plumes of chemicals, circulating and mixing together in the tank. The smell was literally breathtaking and the toxicity likewise. (That’s why it’s recommended that the applicator wear breathing protection and a Hazmat suit.)
When people ask me why we switched to organic farming, that swirling yellow tank mix always reappears in my mind. How did I ever rationalize putting that stuff on my fields?
When genetically modified (GM) crops were introduced commercially in 1996, farmers were told that Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready”(RR) technology would make crop production easier, safer, and “one spray was all they’d ever need.”
Roundup would be a safer, more effective replacement for all those chemicals farmers were currently using their tank mixes, they told us. With Roundup as the cornerstone of GM crop technology, the promise was safety. We’d have no more worries about weeds, and it would be eternally effective, so there would be no more need for tank mixes.
While I really don’t consider any pesticide safe (after all–they are poisons), Roundup was probably less toxic, perhaps less carcinogenic, and perhaps less of an endocrine disruptor than some of the chemicals it replaced. Perhaps.
I specifically remember 2,4-D (one of the components of the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange) being singled out as a “more dangerous” herbicide that would no longer be needed. Who wouldn’t like that–a dangerous herbicide replaced by an easier to use, safer, permanently more effective one? There was sliced bread and then there was RR.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. In 1996, Monsanto was fined by the State of New York for false advertising in its promotion of Roundup as “safe.” According to a 2013 Associated Press article, Monsanto acknowledged that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval “is not an assurance or finding of safety” because U.S. regulations are based on a cost-benefit analysis, which balances the potential of “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment” against the “the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.”
Isn’t that something? EPA approval is not an assurance of safety.
Consider the fact that EPA-approval was based on specific recommended quantities, and then, as these products became less effective, the tendency would be to “add a just little more.” But, even with “just a little more,” nature found a way to survive, and weeds developed resistance to Roundup to the point that even a thorough sousing would no longer kill them. Once again the tank mix became the only hope in killing these new, pesticide-resistant “superweeds.”
To help fight resistant weeds, farmers have also been encouraged to develop integrated weed management strategies. Mark Jeschke, Agronomy Research Manager at DuPont Pioneer, notes that “mechanical weed control and crop rotation are examples of two such tactics available to growers.” (These are tactics organic farmers have always used). But for heaven’s sake, the industry says, don’t stop spraying.
The “new generation” of GM crops are on the way and the first out of the pipeline are corn and soybeans that Dow AgroSciences developed to be used in conjunction with 2,4-D. In September, The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the new seeds, as part of a branded “Enlist Weed Control System” that could be going into the ground as early as spring 2015.
Now remember that in 1996 Roundup was touted as the safe alternative to 2,4-D, a dangerous pesticide. Has 2,4-D become safer than it used to be? No.
My guess is that Dow decided it would be cheaper and easier to engineer seeds to resist the old herbicides rather than develop new herbicides that might be less toxic. And, as Tom Philpott at Mother Jones notes, Dow and Monsanto know that planting seeds that withstand both 2,4-D and Roundup would lead to an increase in herbicide use.
In fact, Dow and Monsanto stand to cash in on 2,4-D and Roundup cross-licensing. We are talking big profit potential. Never mind the fact that an Ohio study pointed out that 2,4-D is potentially potent enough to cause a “17 to 77 percent reduction of the marketable fruit and vegetables” on farms close to those where it is sprayed.
The University of Maryland recommends leaving a 350-foot buffer zone (PDF) between fields sprayed with 2,4-D and grapevines, which–along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, melons, sweet potatoes, beans, and other vegetables–are highly susceptible to 2,4-D drift.
It would be one thing if the farmer doing the spraying was responsible for leaving a buffer strip between their crops and the neighbors’ vegetables. But the guy with the chemicals can spray right up to the property line. Over the last 20 years I have had to leave many acres of my land in buffer strips. Most farmers try to be good neighbors, but they can’t control the wind.
Weeds resistant to 2,4-D were documented as early as 1957, and still, farmers are hoping that 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans, especially a 2,4-D/Roundup resistant combination, will be “the one” solution to their problems. And if weed resistance shows up they can “just add a little more”–at least until this system fails and the next GM crop is introduced.
Civil Eats editor’s note: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today approved Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo herbicide, a new blend of 2,4-D and Roundup (glyphosate) developed for use on new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans, and cotton.
Making Russia change its stance by way of sanctions is outdated thinking in an age when diversity of opinion is supposed to be appreciated, Foreign Minister Lavrov believes. He says Russia is already “doing more than anybody else” to help Ukraine.
Moscow can hardly be accused of non-facilitating the peace-process in Ukraine, as it is exerting all of the authority it can on the anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine to make sure they comply with the September Minsk peace agreements, Sergey Lavrov said in his Sunday interview to the Russian NTV channel. It’s the West, according to him, who could actually do more to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.
“Our Western partners… aren’t really using their influence on Kiev to persuade them that there’s no alternative to the agreements they’ve already reached with the self-defense,” the minister said.
The West is meanwhile ever ready to put additional pressure on Moscow in the form of sanctions, which in Lavrov’s point of view have little to do with the situation in Ukraine.
“You can essentially feel in their statements and actions the true goal of restrictions – to alter Russia, to change its position on key issues, the most fundamental for us, and make us accept the vision of the West. That is last-century, past-epoch, colonialist thinking.”
Whatever economic difficulties the sanctions entail, they are unlikely to divert Russia from its current stance, Lavrov believes.
Lavrov acknowledged current Russia-US relations are “difficult” and has accused Washington of only thinking of American interests when offering solutions to political problems. The Russian foreign minister would like to see more balance in proposals coming from the US.
“This is a common thing for the US – a consumerist approach to international relations. They believe that they have the right to punish the countries that act contrary to Washington’s vision, while demanding cooperation in other issues vital for the US and its allies.”
Balance on the international arena could have come from the EU, if it was more independent from Washington in its decision making, according to Lavrov.
“The EU with all of its current Washington leaning has the potential to act independently. This, however, remains almost totally unused. That’s sad, because the EU’s own voice could have added balance to international discussions and efforts to solve various problems.”
Friday’s talks between Russia and Ukraine in Milan which were mediated by the EU, proved “difficult and full of disagreements,” according to the Kremlin.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “no breakthrough” was achieved.
One of the most essential issues the parties disagree on is gas supply. Kiev owes billions of dollars to Gazprom. There have been fears that the crisis-struck country won’t be able to pay, which could possibly lead to disruptions of gas supplies, including those to Europe via Ukraine.
The Milan negotiations have resulted in some progress on the issue – an agreement for winter supplies was reached, according to the Russian president. A new round of talks has been scheduled for October 21 and the EU will once again mediate the process.
Ukraine might meanwhile soon find itself forced to conduct similar negotiations with Poland. On Thursday, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Pehochinsky expressed disappointment that Ukraine hasn’t yet paid for 100,000 tons of Polish coal.
‘Difficult, full of disagreements’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a breakthrough was not reached in Friday morning’s talks on Ukraine, Reuters reports.
“I cannot see a breakthrough here at all so far,” Merkel said after top EU leaders met with Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of an EU-Asia summit.
“We will continue to talk. There was progress on some details, but the main issue is continued violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she added.
A political solution to the conflict in Ukraine has not yet been found, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy commented after the meeting, according to RIA Novosti.
Rompuy said the participants have all agreed on the need to follow through on the peace agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus at the beginning of September.
“What we agreed was the protocol of Minsk on the ceasefire, and the peace plan is of crucial importance,” Rompuy said.
“We have to implement this. This would guarantee again a future for Ukraine. So implementation, implementation, implementation — those are the key words.”
Earlier Vladimir Putin described his meeting with the Ukrainian president on Friday as “positive.” The Russian president’s spokesman however noted some of the meeting participants were reluctant to understand the true situation in eastern Ukraine.
“It was good, it was positive,” a smiling Putin told reporters after the discussions at the margins of a summit of Asian and European leaders in Italy according to Reuters.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile acknowledged the negotiations were “difficult” ones due to a number of differences and misunderstandings among the participants.
“The negotiations are really difficult, full of disagreements, full of misunderstandings,” Peskov said. “Nevertheless they are still taking place. There’s an exchange of opinions.”
“The participants have discussed in detail the implementation of the Minsk agreements effectively enough,” Peskov said.
“Unfortunately, some of the breakfast participants demonstrated their complete reluctance to understand the real situation in the southeast of Ukraine.”
The presidents of Russia and Ukraine met on Friday morning in Milan. They were joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The meeting was hosted by the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who said that while some progress had been made, “a lot of differences” still remain on the Ukrainian crisis.
There’s a possibility Putin and Poroshenko will hold a bilateral meeting at the summit, Peskov said, adding that Russia would like journalists to participate.
“[Journalist participation] will depend upon our Ukrainian partners. We are open – we hope they are too.”
Putin drew gas figures for Merkel
Russian gas supplies to Ukraine are expected to be one of the most difficult issues on the summit agenda. Kiev is due to pay out $3.1 billion debt to Gazprom until the New Year, according to the latest Russia-Ukraine agreement. There are fears, though, that the crisis-struck country will not be able to make the payment, possibly leading to disruptions of gas supplies, including those to Europe via Ukraine.
The gas issue was among things the Russian president discussed with the German chancellor during their meeting on Thursday.
“Yesterday Putin informed Merkel in detail about the gas issues,” Putin’s spokesman said. “He literally took a pen and drew figures on a piece of paper to explain the situation.”
More gas discussions are to follow, as Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak and head of Gazprom Aleksey Miller are part of the Russian delegation in Italy.
According to Peskov, Thursday’s reports from Poland have shed much light on the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“Our Polish partners have reacted in such a lively way to news of Ukraine wanting to get Polish coal almost free of charge,” Peskov said. “This is the best illustration of what’s going on in the gas sphere. The Poles were greatly impressed and did not conceal their shock. But still they can fully understand the desire to have gas free of charge.”
Sierra Leone has waved the white flag in the face of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Its meager infrastructure has buckled under the onslaught of a disease which could have been curtailed. The announcement that infected patients will be treated at home because there is no longer the capacity to treat them in hospitals is a surrender which did not have to happen. Not only did Europe and the United States turn a blind eye to sick and dying Africans but they did so with the help of an unlikely perpetrator.
The World Health Organization is “the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.” Its very name implies that it takes direction from and serves the needs of people all over the world but the truth is quite different. The largest contributor to the WHO budget is not a government. It is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which provides more funding than either the United States or the United Kingdom. WHO actions and priorities are no longer the result of the consensus of the world’s people but top down decision making from wealthy philanthropists.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may appear to be a savior when it provides $300 million to the WHO budget, but those dollars come with strings attached. WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan admitted as much when she said, “My budget [is] highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests.” Instead of being on the front line when a communicable disease crisis appears, it spends its time administering what Gates and his team have determined is best.
The Ebola horror continues as it has for the last ten months in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The cruelty of the world’s lack of concern for Africa and all Africans in the diaspora was evident by the inaction of nations and organizations that are supposed to respond in times of emergencies. While African governments and aid organizations sounded the alarm the WHO did little because its donor driven process militates against it. The world of private dollars played a role in consigning thousands of people to death.
Critics of the Gates Foundation appeared long before this current Ebola outbreak. In 2008 the WHO’s malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained about the conflicts of interest created by the foundation. In an internal memo leaked to the New York Times he complained that the world’s top malaria researchers were “locked up in a ‘cartel’ with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group.” In other words, the standards of independent peer reviewed research were cast aside in order to please the funder.
Private philanthropy is inherently undemocratic. It is a top down driven process in which the wealthy individual tells the recipient what they will and will not do. This is a problematic system for charities of all kinds and is disastrous where the health of world’s people is concerned. Health care should be a human right, not a charity, and the world’s governments should determine how funds to protect that right are spent. One critic put it very pointedly. “…the Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates, do not believe in the public sector, they do not believe in a democratic, publically owned, publically accountable system.”
There is little wonder why the Ebola outbreak caught the WHO so flat footed as they spent months making mealy mouthed statements but never coordinating an effective response. The Gates foundation is the WHO boss, not governments, and if they weren’t demanding action, then the desperate people affected by Ebola weren’t going to get any.
Privatization of public resources is a worldwide scourge. Education, pensions, water, and transportation are being taken out of the hands of the public and given to rich people and corporations. The Ebola crisis is symptomatic of so many others which go unaddressed or improperly addressed because no one wants to bite the hands that do the feeding.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged an additional $50 million to fight the current Ebola epidemic but that too is problematic, as Director General Chan describes. “When there’s an event, we have money. Then after that, the money stops coming in, then all the staff you recruited to do the response, you have to terminate their contracts.” The WHO should not be lurching from crisis to crisis, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 influenza based on the whims of philanthropy. The principles of public health should be carried out by knowledgeable medical professionals who are not dependent upon rich people for their jobs.
The Gates are not alone in using their deep pockets to confound what should be publicly held responsibilities. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was contributing $25 million to fight Ebola. His donation will go to the Centers for Disease Control Foundation. Most Americans are probably unaware that such a foundation even exists. Yet there it is, run by a mostly corporate board which will inevitably interfere with the public good. The WHO and its inability to coordinate the fight against Ebola tells us that public health is just that, public. If the CDC response to Ebola in the United States fails it may be because it falls prey to the false siren song of giving private interests control of the people’s resources and responsibilities.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
The Russian president has signed into law a bill, which sets the maximum foreign stake in Russian mass media companies at 20 percent.
The law will come into force on January 1, 2016, and media companies must submit reports on their stockholders before February 15, 2016.
The bill was drafted by opposition MPs in September and passed by parliament very quickly. Apart from lowering the maximum share in Russian mass media companies allowed for foreign citizens and firms from the current 50 percent to 20 percent, the draft bans foreigners from being founders of Russian mass media companies. The same restrictions apply to residents without citizenship and Russians who have citizenship of other nations.
There are exceptions for media derived from state-level international treaties, like Mir television, which was founded jointly by several CIS nations.
The sponsors of the motion said the main reason behind it was the desire to provide maximum information security. They also noted that the 20 percent limit was chosen because a 25 percent share would enable a powerful veto possibility, allowing its owners to exert serious influence on the information policy of any media outlet.
“Those who own information own the world. It is obvious that when foreigners enter the mass media market of any country they practically gain access to people’s minds, to forming public opinion. And we must draw a clear line here – what are the reasons behind such purchases? Do they want simply to do business or do they want to enforce their policies and to change the situation inside the country?” asked MP Vadim Dengin of the nationalist LDPR caucus.
Other lawmakers claimed that the need for restrictions became obvious after the recent crisis in Ukraine demonstrated that some sectors of the Russian press can be biased in their coverage of important topics.
The new Russian law is in line with international practice as many countries in the world have already protected their informational space from excessive foreign influence. For example, Australia has set a 30 percent limit of foreign ownership in national mass media and Canada has a law limiting foreign ownership in electronic mass media by 46 percent. The United States allows foreigners to control not more than 25 percent of American TV and radio stations, while Japan has set this limit at 20 percent. France will not allow non-EU citizens and companies to possess more than 20 percent of its mass media. In the UK, the shares of foreign stockholders in mass media corporations cannot exceed those owned by British investors.
Current foreign ownership in Russian mass media is fairly high, especially in the magazine and newspaper business where 60 percent of companies have significant foreign shareholders. Some print media companies are owned by businessmen, who hold dual citizenship, and these individuals will, under the new law, become ineligible to continue as owners.
Street Demonstrations In 21 European Countries Held To Protest Against TAFTA/TTIP; Another ACTA Revolt Brewing?
Last month, the European Commission refused to accept a request to allow an official EU-wide petition called a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to take place. This was a curiously maladroit move by the Commission: it would have been easy to allow the petition against TAFTA/TTIP and CETA to proceed, thank the organizers once it was completed, file it away somewhere and then ignore it. Instead, by refusing to allow it to take place, the European Commission has highlighted in a dramatic manner the deeply undemocratic way in which so-called trade agreements are conducted.
Moreover, those making the request have simply gone ahead anyway, launching what they call the “Self-organised European Citizens’ initiative Against TTIP and CETA“. Even though this was only launched last week, it has already collected over 600,000 signatures from European citizens at the time of writing, and there is every indication that it will go well past the nominal one million signatures that the ECI would have required. The European Commission’s refusal to allow the official petition was doubly stupid, since it came shortly before a Europe-wide day of action against TAFTA/TTIP that took place last Saturday, and doubtless encouraged people to take to the streets in order to make their views felt:
On October 11, 2014, tens of thousands of people and hundreds of organisations in 21 countries are organising actions to reclaim democracy, and stop the negotiations on three far-reaching trade agreements: the EU-US deal (TTIP), the EU-Canada deal (CETA) and the trade in services deal (TiSA).
This decentralised European Day of Action — consisting of over 300 actions, marches, meetings and flash mobs — is being organised by an unprecedented alliance of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions, rights defenders, farmers and grassroots activist groups.
Reporting on the event, Euractiv.com wrote:
Some 400 activist groups marched all over Europe on Saturday (11 October) in protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as the EU-US trade deal crystallises opposition to a wide variety of issues — from shale gas to corporate finance.
That last point is important. Euractiv.com goes on to explain:
The opposition to TTIP has many faces however, and seems to embody a wide variety of concerns. In France, many small demonstrations focused on opposition to shale gas, especially in the South of France, while in Berlin protesters were worried that TTIP would weaken the powers of the German regions, or Länders.
Potentially, that could make the European opposition to TAFTA/TTIP even broader-based than it was to ACTA, where people were largely concerned about a single issue — digital rights. And just as the ACTA demonstrations started off small scale, but grew to hundreds of thousands of people before ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament, so the anti-TTIP movement in Europe could easily swell larger still. Especially if the European Commission continues to conduct the negotiations in secret and without any input from its citizens.
US sanctions against Russia can be considered as economic terrorism, said acting Bolivian President Evo Morales in an interview to RT. He also revealed his secret job aspiration.
“This [US sanctions against Russia] is genuine economic terrorism. The country that thinks it can dominate the world is making a mistake,” says Morales.
“I think that US President Barack Obama doesn’t’ know what is going on in other countries and continents.”
According to Morales, a single country “cannot rule in this multipolar world,” as all the issues should be “settled in cooperation among the states; that’s what the UN is for.”
“Thus I condemn and reject these kind of actions [US sanctions against Russia],” said the president, adding that Bolivia shares “the struggle of the Russian people.”
“I express my solidarity with Russian people and their President [Vladimir Putin],” he added.
Morales recently coasted to victory in the country’s presidential elections. He won the third term, securing 60.5 percent of the vote according to a count released by local TV channel ATB.
“This win is a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists,” Morales announced from the balcony of his palace to thousands of supporters. He dedicated his victory to Cuba’s ex-President Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.
Morales took office in 2006, and after the latest victory will remain the state leader until January 2020.
Under Morales’ term the number of Bolivians living in extreme poverty reduced and he delivered economic growth of more than 5 percent a year.
In an interview with RT, he noted that one of the main political purposes for Bolivia will be fighting poverty.
“I hope that nobody will have the childhood I had: without electricity, telecommunications, drinking water,” said Morales, adding that he often drank water from a pond when he was a child.
According to the Bolivian president, the country has achieved in just nine years what it hitherto couldn’t achieve in 180.
“I want to speak of my experience. How important it was to start from the bottom: poverty. That’s why I always say that my nation is my family. Homeland is my soul. Bolivia is my life.” … Full article
There is good news and bad news of late for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. On the one hand, companies such as Veolia, willing partners in the occupation, are losing out on mega-contracts. Despite plans to withdraw from Israel, the French company just lost a $750 million contract to provide waste management services to Kuwait City. Pleasing for BDS was the explicit reference to Veolia’s association with Israel and a head nod to their campaigning efforts. It comes on top of nearly $24 billion in lost contracts, seemingly over support for Israel.
Likewise G4S are suffering setbacks. Earlier this year, Bill Gates announced a massive divestment, while a report over the summer (by the Financial Times) suggested they would soon end their activities in Israel. Campaigners are rightly cautious – the company have gone back on their word in the past.
Companies like G4S and Veolia are the traditional bogeymen of leftist, progressive, anti-war or anti-globalisation movements. They are big targets, household names, transnational corporations that everyone can relate to – and when I say everyone, I mean the general public, not activists.
I can go down to my local train station and see a G4S security van parked outside. I see a Veolia truck pass my house once a week to collect my rubbish. Companies like Hewlett Packard advertise on television.
With such high profile and controversial brands, in some ways – isn’t this the easier end of the campaign?
After all – how many households would sign a petition against Serco? Quite a few, most people have heard of them.
But what then? There are thousands of British companies trading with Israel. Their names, headquarters and management are constantly changing – the past 12 months alone saw 37 acquisitions, mergers and IPOs of those companies. There are hundreds of thousands more trading from other countries. A tiny proportion are household names.
Raising awareness of each of these companies requires disproportionate effort by a small number of time poor activists.
The BDS movement has put itself into a massive fight. And though there are some successes, figures released this week show that UK-Israel trade actually grew by 28 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2014, now amounting to £2.5 billion. There may be successes here and there, but the machine of modern commerce is an extremely hard one to slow.
And despite the popular narrative of “well, it worked in South Africa”, the uncomfortable truth is that many economists and historians disagree.
“Perversely, South African businesses reaped at least $5 billion to $10 billion in windfalls as Western firms disinvested at fire sale prices between 1984 and 1989,” noted Thomas W. Hazlett, now at George Mason University. The political effect of the sanctions movement saw the white power elite retrench. Apartheid policies worsened – the police and military cracked down even harder.
In truth, the collapse of Soviet Communism, populist black movements in South Africa, white supremacists working with blacks rather than oppressing them, just to keep their families fed – led to the fall of apartheid. It’s nice to think the West played the lead role, but in truth, South Africa did a lot of it itself. Its role is, somewhat patronisingly, rarely acknowledged.
As the BDS movement has grown stronger – the domestic politics of Israel is tipping to the hard right. Attacks on Gaza are becoming more frequent. Knesset hard-liners have advocated genocide against Palestinian mothers, or published detailed plans on their Facebook pages about how the entire population of Gaza should be deported. Attacks on journalists, artists and pro-war activists by far right extremists are on the increase. The Israeli media propagates an us-and-them attitude to not only the Arab world, but also their detractors in the West. Are we already seeing what really happened in South Africa play out? Are the worst parts of Israeli society becoming stronger?
The campaign has some positives with regards solidarity, it contributes to educating the public – but ultimately, we don’t know whether it will make things worse and, as a pro-sanctions or boycott movement, it doesn’t yet have a successful precedent or contemporary model for success – just look at North Korea, Iran, Russia or indeed the porous Arab boycott against Israel.
But aside from the uncertain and potentially dangerous side-effects of BDS, we are ignoring the bigger problem. The crux of bringing the Israeli hawks to heel isn’t so much about corporate investments – it’s about political money, dripping from the campaign coffers of Western politicians bribed and briefed by Jerusalem cronies.
The funding is mysterious, ambiguous and seemingly unimpeachable, protected by anti-Semitism laws which forbid honest discussion of it, or by hasbara attack dogs who discredit any journalist or academic who speaks out.
But imagine the tabloid outcry if hundreds of millions in “Muslim” donations began pouring in to Western politics, Muslims with strong interests in the domestic or foreign policies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Iran.
You don’t have to imagine – last month Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (and Norway) were caught funding influential foreign policy think tanks in Washington. And there was an outcry.
But many feel uncomfortable taking on the Israeli lobby – because it’s scary. It comes with great risk – people have lost their jobs, careers and reputations. Nobody likes to be labelled an anti-Semite, which is their preferred mode of attack.
Assuming for a moment that South African white supremacists had actually wanted to continue with apartheid, if they had had the financial resources and strategic nous to invest millions into Washington and Westminster, a boycott campaign would have stood almost no chance of success.
Campaigning against corporate involvement in morally dubious interests should not be stopped. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Western corporations, pension funds, or governments invested in arms deals with dodgy regimes, or became complicit in mass human rights abuses, and nobody knew about it.
But we should recognise the limits of the BDS movement – both by recognising that the “low-hanging fruit” of corporate targets – international corporations who are already disliked by the public, may only be the warm-up, by better understanding what really happened in South Africa, and by asking – are we really attacking the root of the problem?
BDS, in some ways, detracts from directly dealing with the real problem: the foreign policy of the West has been seriously corrupted by Israeli influence, almost wherever you look.
Dismantling “the Israel lobby” is a tougher fight, but it’s a far more important one.
If we are over-awed by the challenge, or if indeed the BDS movement was itself a function of an inability to crack the lobby directly, there may still be cause for optimism. Removing big money from politics, in general, is an extremely populist movement.
There are very few Westerners who want the status quo to continue, for big corporations and foreign interests to hold such sway on our democracies – on any issue. You don’t have to be pro-Palestinian to recognise this.
A broader coalition of groups, from charities, to environmental campaigners, to trade unions, to newer organisations like Change.org and 38 Degrees could be the key. The influence of the Israel lobby isn’t a unique problem. Perhaps by looking to other marginalised groups who face similar challenges, the pro-Palestinian campaign can find yet more life.
Baby Doc is Dead But His Shadow Lingers Over Haiti
The October 4 death of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in Port-au-Prince has justly garnered world-wide attention. But too much about current Haitian politics has been left out of this round of media coverage.
Duvalier’s father Francois, nicknamed Papa Doc, died in 1971 after years of brutal repression of anyone not in Duvalier Senior’s inner circle. When Papa Doc died in 1971, his 19-year-old son (aka Baby Doc) was soon declared the new President for Life. The elder Duvalier had maintained power in no small part by successfully currying power with Washington, and his son did an even more impressive job of winning essential economic, political, and military support from the U.S. In his essential volume Damming the Flood, historian Peter Hallward explains that in return for that backing, Duvalier “…[provided] the sort of investment climate his patrons had come to expect – minimal taxes, a virtual ban on trade unions, the preservation of starvation wages, the removal of any restrictions on the repatriation of profits.”
But Duvalier’s iron-fisted rule, in which many thousands of people were slaughtered, broke down in the face of a courageous popular uprising of the downtrodden poor masses. This grassroots opposition was largely nurtured by community-based church groups, called ti legliz in Haitian kreyol, which were inspired by liberation theology and its focus on a “preferential option for the poor.”
With the help of the U.S. government, Duvalier and his wife fled with hundreds of millions of dollars for exile in Paris.
Duvalier’s return to Haiti in 2011 was met with gasps of horror from most of the populace but celebrated by his friends in the ruling elite, including the current president Michel Martelly. Duvalier retained a passionate hatred for Lavalas, the movement of the poor majority. Lavalas (which means “flood” in kreyol) was and still is led by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was created to help the poor rise “from misery to poverty with dignity.” Aristide was elected president twice by large majorities but forced from office by U.S.-orchestrated coups in both 1991 and 2004. After a seven year global campaign of pressure combined with sustained grassroots activity in Haiti, Aristide and his family returned to their homeland in March of 2011.
Unlike the chill that greeted Baby Doc’s return, Aristide arrived home to throngs of many thousands of jubilant supporters who lined the road from the airport to his house and filled its courtyard, singing and chanting for hours. Though frequently described in the corporate press as inactive, since 2011 Aristide has thrown himself into promoting education, a key priority of his two presidencies. He has overseen the reopening and expansion of the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA), which welcomed another group of incoming students this week. UNIFA includes a medical school, a nursing school, a law school, and a school of physical therapy (designed to assist victims of the 2010 earthquake).
Though Duvalier has died, his influence remains strong in Haiti. It extends into the current government of Michel Martelly, which came to power in a flawed U.S.-backed election in which fewer than 20% of Haitians turned out to vote. After Duvalier’s death, Martelly eulogized him as “a true son of Haiti.” Duvalier’s son Nicolas is an adviser to Martelly. Other Duvalier supporters include the Interior Minister and the Public Works Secretary of State.
True to its orgins, the Martelly government is currently engaged in a series of attacks on Aristide which have raised concerns in Haiti and throughout the world.
A recent open letter initiated by the Haiti Action Committee and Global Women’s Strike and signed by hundreds of individuals and organizations denounced these attacks: “On Aug. 21, Haitian police wearing black masks and carrying heavy arms appeared in front of the home of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as a Haitian judge issued calls to arrest him. Hundreds of people courageously surrounded the house to protect him.
“One week before, President Aristide was summoned to court on false corruption charges. This is the fourth time since his return to Haiti in 2011 that he has been the target of a politically motivated legal case. (Previous charges were dropped before he could even challenge them in court.) The judge in this case, Lamarre Bélizaire, has been suspended for ten years from practicing the law by the Port-au-Prince Bar Association for using the court to persecute opponents of the present regime. His suspension is due to begin once he steps down as judge.”
Representatives Maxine Waters and Luis Gutierrez have also written open letters to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their grave concern for Aristide’s safety.
President Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, has warned, “The escalation of events against President Aristide are viewed as efforts to see how far Martelly can push without response from the international community. If a loud chorus of disapproval is not heard against the tactics of the Martelly government, both Aristide’s life and the future of democracy in Haiti are at risk.”
To that end activists throughout Haiti demonstrated on Tuesday, September 30 in support of Aristide’s right to continue his work without harassment from the Martelly regime. Thousands marched in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. In the Port-au-Prince demonstration, police cracked down on peaceful protestors. As Maxine Waters pointed out in an October 2 letter to Kerry, police used water hoses and tear gas on the thousands of marchers who were attempting to walk to Aristide’s home. Waters wrote, “These confrontational tactics were used despite reports that the demonstrators were peaceful. It has also been reported that police blocked the route along which the demonstrators had planned to march.”
Speaking to me at a San Francisco rally in support of the marches in Haiti, Robert Roth, co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee, noted: “Despite all the attacks against President Aristide and the Lavalas movement, the UNIFA opened its doors once again this week to 1,000 students. And the people took to the streets in large numbers to let it be known that they will defend the first democratically elected president in Haiti’s history and that they will defend their movement.”
Roth continued, “Little of this has been covered in the U.S. press, so it’s important that we get the word out. If a demonstrator is attacked in Hong Kong, the New York Times runs a front page story. If a demonstrator protesting the Martelly government is attacked by water hoses in Haiti, it doesn’t even make the news. If you read the mainstream press, it never happened. The police tactics being used right now in Haiti harken back to the days of Duvalier. That’s why we have to raise our voices and expose the dangerous level of repression in Haiti right now.”
Ben Terrall can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org