Sun 12 Sep 2010
Oliver Stone’s documentary ‘South of the Border’ (trailer). Interesting!
Sun 12 Sep 2010
Oliver Stone’s documentary ‘South of the Border’ (trailer). Interesting!
Thu 16 Apr 2009
Alternet has a short news/analysis piece on the 1,500 farmer suicides in India and the contributing factors. It’s a good read, albeit disturbing.
At the end of the article is a well placed quote from Vandana Shiva, one of the most outspoken and articulate critics of bioengineered crops, and one of the most ardent supporters of honest trade and land rights for Indian farmers. Here’s the excerpt:
A few weeks ago, I was in Punjab. 2,800 widows of farmer suicides who have lost their land, are having to bring up children as landless workers on others’ land. And yet, the system does not respond to it, because there’s only one response: get Monsanto out of the seed sector–they are part of this genocide — and ensure WTO rules are not bringing down the prices of agricultural produce in the United States, in Canada, in India, and allow trade to be honest. I don’t think we need to talk about free trade and fair trade. We need to talk about honest trade. Today’s trade system, especially in agriculture, is dishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers. It’s become a genocide.
Please check out the complete interview that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! conducted with Vandana Shiva (read the transcript or watch the video). I *heart* Vandana Shiva, saw her speak at the World Social Forum in Nairobi and she is a RIGHTEOUS passionate woman who knows her shit. She is NOT one to be messed with. Love her.
Mon 13 Apr 2009
Yesterday I posted K’naan’s written perspective on environmental injustice, post-colonialism, and Somalia and pirates. Today, the one and only Mr Davey D posted two interviews he conducted with musician K’naan. The lessons for me: We are presented with such an unbearably skewed perspective in the West. And in the West our lives are worth more than others, and we can throw our shit wherever we want to, with no regard to the effects on the world. Here’s the 2nd video:
(the first video can be found here).
Sun 12 Apr 2009
Musician K’naan (born in Somalia, grew up during the civil war, proponent of human rights) recently penned a piece on why the pirate situation in Somalia is at best quite complicated. His piece is extremely well-written and shares a perspective we don’t hear from the mainstream media’s reporting on the situation. Check out his piece, published at the Huffington Post. It deals with environmental injustices, the attitude of the west towards lives in post-colonial countries (worthless), and peoples’ self determination. I share it because this is a viewpoint that is completely missing from the general discussion in the West. (Side note: no pirate’s captives have been harmed as of yet).
Great thanks to K’naan, (check out his music website).
Here’s an excerpt from the article, check out the whole piece:
Already by this time, local fishermen in the coastline of Somalia have been complaining of illegal vessels coming to Somali waters and stealing all the fish. And since there was no government to report it to, and since the severity of the violence clumsily overshadowed every other problem, the fishermen went completely unheard.
But it was around this same time that a more sinister, a more patronizing practice was being put in motion. A Swiss firm called Achair Parterns, and an Italian waste company called Achair Parterns, made a deal with Ali Mahdi, that they were to dump containers of waste material in Somali waters. These European companies were said to be paying Warlords about $3 a ton, whereas to properly dispose of waste in Europe costs about $1000 a ton.
In 2004, after a tsunami washed ashore several leaking containers, thousand of locals in the Puntland region of Somalia started to complain of severe and previously unreported ailments, such as abdominal bleeding, skin melting off and a lot of immediate cancer-like symptoms. Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environmental Program, says that the containers had many different kinds of waste, including “Uranium, radioactive waste, lead, Cadmium, Mercury and chemical waste.” But this wasn’t just a passing evil from one or two groups taking advantage of our unprotected waters. The UN envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, says that the practice still continues to this day.
UPDATE (4/13): Johann Hari has a piece in Alternet today that shares a similar perspective: “We’re Being Lied to About Pirates.”
Wed 28 Jan 2009
(cross-posted at Cure This)
William Easterly — author of The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good — is now blogging over at Aid Watch. Aid Watch’s tagline is “Just Asking that Aid Benefit the Poor”. Interesting tagline, eh?
Exactly two years ago, I found a copy of his book at a hostel where I was staying when visiting and working with other doctors in Shirati, a small village on Lake Victoria in Tanzania. It immediately piqued my interest and it was no less immediately relevant. The book bitingly critiqued Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty and railed against multifaceted broad-ranging and top-down foreign aid programs. I only got through half of The White Man’s Burden before leaving Tanzania (and opted not to steal the book from the hostel), but I liked Easterly’s premise and found much of it refreshing (though I cringed at some of what he wrote — too cynical, a shoddy economic analysis, and attacks on some aid programs that were effective). I cannot make any larger comments on it since I haven’t finished the second half, but I just recently bought a copy of the book. Hopefully soon I’ll sit down with both the first AND the second half of it, but his blog will certainly be a space for ongoing discussion — as he’s already responded to several peoples’ comments on his first blog post. Off to a healthy start, I’d say.
Tue 8 Jan 2008
This year, the final stops will be pulled, and NAFTA will be the great train derailing everything in sight. On 90.7FM (KPFK) in Los Angeles, I heard a wonderful interview (can’t remember who it was with) but essentially, this is what’s happening — we’re pulling the final stops on any restrictions (tarriffs, etc) on our huge corporate agribusiness companies’ exports of corn and beans to Mexico, this year.
What does this mean?
In simple terms, we’re putting the rural campesino, the rural farmer who grows and sustains his family on corn or beans, two of Mexico’s staple crops since Aztec and mayan times, IN DIRECT COMPETITION with ConAgra and other huuuuuuuge multimillion dollar multimillion acre American companies.
Mexican rural farmers will be buying our corn and beans from the United States. And they won’t be able to compete because we’re bigger, badder, and yes, our government subsidizes these goods. So not only is the rural campesino pitted against big American corporate business, we’re given the unfair advantage of heavily subsidized (therefore cheaper to the mexican govt than their own farmers’ goods) goods. Yes, yes. And 80% of “illegal immigrants” (for those in america who have the gall to call ANYONE illegal) come from rural parts of Mexico. It’s not so hard to connect the dots.
Oh yes! The show was Connect the Dots — where I heard this interview. NOW it’s all making sense.
I’ve not gone into how NAFTA hurts American farmers, that will be saved for another post. other than the quick mention that more than 1 million US jobs have been lost as a result of NAFTA, wages have stagnated, and outsourcing became the norm because of NAFTA.
But this brings me to this point — who of the leading democratic candidates is passionate about repealing NAFTA’s unfair “free trade” that benefits NEITHER mexicans NOR working Americans (only benefits the corporate elites on either side). Who? ONLY John Edwards. Because he cares about the workers, the middle class.
I’m feeling Obama’s talk and his visions of hope, and yes they’re very moving, but underneath that talk I’m not feeling any commitment to the middle class on issues of “free trade”. Very recently he supported a unilateral USA-Peru Free Trade Agreement. When the US cannot con a whole region into believing the virtues of its free trade, it attempts to create unilateral free trade agreements where other countries can be manipulated a bit more. And this is what happened with Peru. If you look at the details of the US/Peru free trade agreement, it helps NEITHER the middle class in Peru, NOR the middle class in the United States. [of note, and of IMPORTANT note -- Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton didn't even show up for the vote on the US-Peru free trade issue, but they both noted their support for it previous to the vote].
It’s all pretty infuriating. There’s not much making me feel like a vote for Obama or a vote for Clinton would be a vote for the status quo of the democratic party (the party that pushed through NAFTA). Not to say they couldn’t be nudged to the left if one of them wins the dem nomination. But come on, people want change. And change shouldn’t have to be nudged right now.
Is it too much to ask to not HAVE to nudge? To not beg and plead?
Some Edwards love, as I’ve been doing, and will continue to do, as long as he’s in the fight:
Sun 12 Aug 2007
A few days ago, on the eve of the 1 year anniversary of the Olympics (that China’s hosting), a group of activists performed a HUGE banner drop of a Free Tibet banner ON the Great wall of China! My friend Nupur Modi participated in it, and there are videos and other links on the Students for a Free Tibet website. Lhadon Tethong, the executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet was also in China blogging about her experiences there (which I hear is illegal to do in China) during and after the event. She runs a text and video blog at Beijing Wide Open, it’s phenomenal (and she’s hot too). :>
They were all detained after the event, by Chinese authorities, but now are safe and home in the US and Canada. Lhadon writes:
I know we did this and got off pretty easy. And while I appreciate that some people think I did something brave, I’m not sure I did. Bravery is standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. Bravery is getting on a stage in Tibet and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama. Bravery is going to Beijing to petition to get compensation for your confiscated farmland to the very same government that probably took it in the first place. All this, with no protection. No foreign passport, government, or official body that will defend you.
What I did, what we did, it was nothing in comparison. But I hope and I pray that somehow we have made a difference in the battle for human rights and freedom in Tibet and in China. The Olympics spotlight is on the Chinese leadership now and they want the world to believe they are open and free. But they are not. They demonstrated this by deporting me at the very moment that the one-year countdown to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games was taking place in Tiananmen square. Paul and I just wanted to attend. To see it for ourselves and to blog about it like one should be able to in any place that truly enjoys freedom.
Some people have said we got what we deserved. Others have suggested we got off to lightly and should act more responsibly next time. I think it is the regime in Beijing – unelected, unaccountable and tyrannical – that should act more responsibly. I think our government, governments around the world, corporations doing business in China and the IOC itself, should act more responsibly. They are the ones who have clear and direct influence over Beijing. They are the ones who could make a huge impact by doing just a little in the way of speaking up for and promoting human rights and democracy.
Until this happens, we will keep doing what we have to do – challenging China’s control over Tibet and working to make the occupation too costly to maintain. One thing is clear in all this Olympics mess, the Chinese government cares what the world thinks. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to get us all to like them with slogans like “One World One Dream.” Knowing this, we must push them to change. And if our direct actions are seen as stunts by a few, I trust the vast majority will see them for what they really are, nonviolent expressions of dissent and protest to bring positive social and political change to people living under brutal oppression.
For Tibetans, Uighurs, Southern Mongolians, Taiwanese, Falun Gong, Christians, Catholics, farmers, factory workers, lawyers, doctors, journalists and every other person who lives under fear of persecution by the Chinese Communist Party and their goons, I say, we will never give up.
We stand with you.
Definitely check out her blog Beijing Wide Open. She’s inspired a little part of me to start videoblogging. But not yet, i’ve gotta marinate on it a bit.
My friend Nupur Modi, who was one of 6 who actually performed the banner drop, writes this:
We had the glamorous jobs. We were the ones to hang a banner on the Great Wall and make sure the footage got out to the world. I’m not saying that doing the action, and then being detained in China, being interrogated, and facing extreme consequences wasn’t hard and challenging.
But the hardest part is the unknown. And you all had to face the most of that. We were dealing with the situation minute-by-minute in bite-sized pieces. But not knowing what was happening to people you care about and not hearing from them for days, that can be distressing.
I truly appreciate all of your amazing strength, support, thoughts, and prayers through the process.
While we were in police custody trying to find the most comfortable position to sleep and pass the time in old Chinese police station chairs (answer: there is none), we found comfort and strength knowing that folks on the outside were working nonstop: getting media and the word out, pulling strings via diplomatic channels, calling and pressuring the embassies, providing emotional support to friends and family, etc., etc., etc. The six of us weren’t the only ones in that action, it was a whole community effort. I probably will never know about all the people who were involved and all the crucial roles they played, but I owe you all a sincere THANK YOU.
I truly appreciate all of emails and phone calls of commendation for my courage and “bad-ass-ness”. But let us please not forget the issue at hand. I am a US citizen, and with it comes innumerable benefits, resources, and privileges. I had it easy. Tibetans are struggling and taking action every single day, facing constant repression and violent rule. They don’t have freedom of speech or religion, and they are trying to preserve their culture. They are the true heroes.
Thank you, thank you, Nupur and the rest who participated in this action.
Oh I also wanted to add this — check out an interview on Canadian TV with Lhadon — what’s the most phenomenal, i think, is the amount of airtime they devote to this human rights issue. Would you EVER see this much time devoted to Tibet in the US? We’ve gotta break down the mainstream media, it’s brainwashing us all.
Think about supporting Students for a Free Tibet in whatever way you can. Whether that’s being the media (spread the word) or otherwise…
Fri 25 May 2007
In particular, U.S. drug-makers worry that other countries could emulate Thailand’s decision. Brazil earlier this month announced it will authorize a license for the production of an AIDS drugs, PhRMA notes. PhRMA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Tauzin said that in the long term, this move could cost U.S. jobs and cause the entire system of protecting intellectual property “to crumble.”
…World Trade Organization (WTO) rules do grant poor countries the right to issue compulsory licenses authorizing the production of generic drugs to deal with public health crises. But critics feel Thailand is pushing the envelope by announcing a license for Plavix, a cardiovascular disease medication…
Thailand’s actions have received support from some key advocates, including former President Bill Clinton, whose Clinton Foundation has worked with drug companies to lower prices for medicines in developing countries. The Reuters news service this week quoted Clinton as stating that “no company will live or die because of high price premiums for AIDS drugs in middle-income countries, but patients may.”
Slam dunk tactic.
…Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), in a statement released after his meeting with the health minister said the U.S. should respect Thailand’s decision. But some in the pharmaceutical industry believe members of Congress will draw a distinction between drugs for the treatment of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and those for other diseases such as cancer or heart disease. “How can a chronic, slow-acting, non-contagious condition be considered a public-health crisis?” asked one lobbyist. He suggested there could be bipartisan support for actions against Thailand or other countries that issue compulsory licenses for non- AIDS drugs.
Ok, did he just say that? The lobbyist here is employing the idiot tactic. Public health crises are not solely conditions that you breathe on each other or transmit by sexual contact. Childhood obesity in the US is a public health crisis. Diabetes is a public health crisis. Lung cancer is a public health crisis. Lack of fresh food in inner cities, lack of adequate housing, lack of health insurance for many hard working americans, and an utter lack of dignity many neighborhoods provide their residents (through air pollution, fastfood/liquor joints everywhere, and no room for shared urban spaces) are all public health crises. We need to hold those in power (and lobbying to those in power) accountable to the definitions of public health crises (that several trade agreements have allowances for drugs for).
Tue 22 May 2007
Here’s a wonderful visualization of obesity in various countries around the world (ok and it’s super cute too):
“The percentage of the population older than 15 with a body-mass index greater than 30.” We in the United States officially win. It’s interesting that Mexico’s 2nd in the world. Is the fast food industry as hopping in mexico as it is here? Does any of this have to do with NAFTA and cross-border exports into Mexico? Our other neighbor, Canada, is doing much better than both of us. What intuitively about mexico on its own could contribute to this high a rate of obesity? And what’s with the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic both scoring in the top 10? And my dorky comment of the day — Hungary isn’t very hungry.
(though that’s a joking commentary about hungary. I know that food insecurity and food insufficiency are huge in the United States even though we’ve got the most obese people by percentage of total population, in the world).
Thu 17 May 2007
Development groups immediately reacted to the resignation by repeating demands that Washington launch a wider search for a replacement, including the consideration of non-American candidates. Yet U.S. officials suggest the White House is likely to nominate another American to become the 11th bank president since the institution was founded in the late 1940s.
Some names thought to be on the short list are former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who was considered at the time Mr. Wolfowitz got the nod in 2005, and current Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt. Another name that has come up is that of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a heart surgeon who has traveled frequently to Africa…
The bank’s board is a volatile mix of big, single-country seats representing large donors, such as the U.S. and Germany, and a slew of other seats in which countries such as Mexico, Korea, Malaysia and Pakistan act as delegates for a group of countries in their region. The U.S. has the largest single voting share, at 16.4%, while the seat representing many of the Arab states, for instance, has just a 2.9% voting share.
The board’s dynamics made it unlikely a push to fire Mr. Wolfowitz could have won a majority vote. A solid vote against him from nearly all European shareholders, with the exception of Britain, would have added up to less than 25%. The countries that were more clearly supportive either of Mr. Wolfowitz or the Bush administration — including Britain, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Mexico — may have weighed in at more than 45%.
Wolfowitz Quits World Bank as U.S. Relents (wall street journal, may 18, 2007).