India Air Pollution Crisis Worsens: Government Plans to Spray Capital With Water
EcoWatch 14 November 2017
A four-day old noxious blanket of smog resting on the Indian capital, New Delhi, that officials expect to worsen over the weekend has prompted a plan to spray water over the city.
On Friday, the government announced, in an unprecedented move, it was finalizing plans to spray water from 100 meters above the city, Reuters reported. It remains unclear how much of the densely populated city of 22 million would be sprayed.
Government officials have closed 6,000 schools, banned all but the most essential commercial trucks, and are re-introducing an “odd-even” scheme which allows vehicle with plates ending in an odd number to operate on one day and even-numbered vehicles the next day.
Despite these measures, the air in New Deli has remained “hazardous” for days. Illegal crop burning, vehicle emissions, industrial pollution and dust from sprawling construction sites have contributed to the pollution emergency. By 11 am on Friday, the U.S. embassy air quality data for PM 2.5 showed levels had reached 550, while the safe limit is 50, according to U.S. embassy standards.
PM 2.5 is particulate matter about 30 times finer than human hair that can be inhaled into the lungs and blood stream, causing cardiac arrest, strokes, lung cancer and a host of other respiratory diseases.
Residents in New Delhi are reporting burning eyes, headaches and nausea. The air is filled with heavy metals and other carcinogens at 30 times WHO limits. Medical professionals consider those levels of pollution at least as harmful as 50 cigarettes a day.
Anti-mining Brazilian militants arrested in Zimbabwe
Stop Corporate Impunity 11 November 2017
November 10, 2017, three comrades were arrested in Zimbabwe: Frei Rodrigo Peret, a militant of the Pastoral Land Commission of Uberlandia, Minas Gerais state, Maria Julia Gomes Andrade and Jarbas Vieira, the later two members of the Movement of People Affected by Mining (MAM) and members of the secretariat of the Committee in Defense of the Territories Facing Mining.
There is unconfirmed information that other foreigners are also detained. They are at the central police station in the town of Mutare, which lies 270 kilometers from the capital, Harare, on the border with Mozambique.
The reason for the arrest remains unclear, but some information points that they have been accused of violating a conservation area. The group, which includes at least two other Brazilian women, participated in a community meeting – an action of dialogue of the peoples.
THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY IN ZIMBABWE has already been activated, and is in contact with local police to gather more information. The Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasilia is also following the case. The head of the Africa Department of that ministry has also been notified.
There is great concern with the situation of political instability in Zimbabwe. Several organizations and militants are mobilizing their networks to provide support and solidarity to their peers and the whole group.
Even Conservative Queenslanders Hate The Idea Of Adani Getting Government Handouts
Huffington Post 9 November 2017
Pay your own way, please.
These, as far as we know, were not the exact words Queenslanders used when asked how they feel about $1 billion in taxpayer funds being funnelled to Adani to help the Indian resources giant build its proposed Carmichael coal mine.
But they seem a pretty close approximation of the vibe, if a new poll released this week is anything to go by. And interestingly, coal miners are among those who are most strongly opposed.
The ReachTEL poll, commissioned by the Stop Adani movement, showed that approximately seven out of 10 Queenslanders believe Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did the right thing last weekend when she announced her Labor Government would have “no role in the future” of an assessment of the $1 billion loan to Adani.
In other words, she said “no thanks” and vetoed it.
Another Setback in Brazil
Mario Osava 3 November 2017
The wave of conservativism is testing its limits in Brazil, as reflected by a Labour Ministry decree that seeks to block the fight against slavery-like working conditions, which has been provisionally revoked by the justice system.
The powerful “ruralist” parliamentary bloc that represents agribusiness has been chalking up victories, such as keeping Michel Temer in the presidency, despite the disapproval of more than three-quarters of those interviewed in the latest polls, who see him as corrupt and are calling for his resignation.
According to political commentators, the weakening of the fight against slave labour, by means of the Oct. 13 ministerial resolution, was aimed at ensuring the ruralist bloc’s support for the government in the lower house of Congress which, on Oct. 25, blocked by a vote of 251 to 233, the judicial process against Temer on charges of obstruction of justice and criminal organisation.
The measure could be a fatal blow to the actions of the Mobile Inspection Group which has already freed more than 50,000 modern-day slave labourers, warned Xavier Plassat, a Dominican friar who coordinates the campaign against slave labour in the Catholic Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).
The operations of the group, created in 1995 with Labour Ministry inspectors, federal police officers and prosecutors from the Labour Public Prosecutor (MPT), have already decreased sharply in recent years due to a shortage of budget and staff.
China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown
NPR 23 October 2017
In the gritty industrial town of Yiwu, workers prepare jeans to be dyed in a vivid range of colors.
Two months ago, this factory — and this entire city, located in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang — was a much quieter place. Inspection crews from the environmental bureau had shut businesses down, cutting electricity and gas so that they could determine who was following China’s environmental laws and who wasn’t.
The boss of this factory, who asked that his name not be used for fear of punishment by local officials, says he’s never seen anything like it.
“It had a big impact on our business,” he says. “We couldn’t make the delivery date since we [were] shut down. It’s not just our factory. All the factories out here had this issue.”
This is happening across the country: Entire industrial regions of China are being temporarily shut down, and the unusual sight of blue skies is reappearing as environmental inspectors go about their work. After decades of doing little about the pollution that has plagued much of the country, China’s government may be finally getting serious about enforcing its environmental laws.
Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens
Rachel Botsman (Wired UK) 21 October 2017
The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents
On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System”. In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?
Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.
A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it’s already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance “trust” nationwide and to build a culture of “sincerity”. As the policy states, “It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility.”
Brazil’s Donald Trump?
Mark Weisbrot (US News & World Report) 24 October 2017
Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro, who has been compared to Donald Trump, just finished a visit to the United States, which was cut short as he canceled an appearance at George Washington University in Washington D.C. He is currently polling second in Brazil’s 2018 presidential race.
The cancellation was not surprising (and there were some others in New York City). A letter signed by dozens of academics argued that his appearance at the university “would be helping a racist, sexist, homophobic right-wing extremist to achieve international recognition and solidify the political viability of his candidacy.” This was apparently the purpose of his trip. But opposition and protests here made it clear that he would have to answer questions at GWU that nobody would want to answer.
Bolsonaro greatly upped his international notoriety when he cast his vote in April last year in favor of impeaching then-president Dilma Rousseff. He announced that his vote was dedicated to Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, an army colonel who ran an infamous torture center under the dictatorship. Dilma herself was tortured by Ustra’s unit.
Putin main player in Middle East
Robert Fisk (The Independent) 21 October 2017
After Israel’s victory in the 1973 Middle East war, Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko went on 22 October to see President Brezhnev at his dacha at Zavidovo just outside Moscow. The Israelis were not much interested in accepting a ceasefire set to begin the previous day, and, according to Anatoly Chernyaev, a Soviet official present at the talks, Brezhnev wanted to encourage the Israelis to keep the truce by offering a Soviet guarantee of Israel’s borders. Gromyko replied that the Arabs would take offence – but Brezhnev burst out that “we have been offering them (the Arabs) a sensible course of action for so many years. They wanted war and they are welcome to it … To hell with them.”
It was a view long shared by Soviet military officers. I recall the remaining anger of a former Soviet instructor in Yemen during the 1962-70 civil war, who, showing me Red Square one cold afternoon, made a remark almost as contemptuous as Brezhnev’s. “We helped to train the Arabs [against the monarchists] and they were useless and I think they should be on their own. Let someone else save them. Why should it be us all over again?”
In October 1973, Brezhnev was saying the same thing. He swore at Gromyko, said Chernyaev, for “wanting to keep our flag and bases in the Middle East”. And Brezhnev then shouted out: “We will not let these f***ing people involve us in a world war!” According to author and former British intelligence official Gordon Barrass, who wrote one of the best books on the Cold War eight years ago, the Soviet airlift of military equipment to Syria stopped that very day.
How lucky now are the Arab potentates and dictators to have a Russian rather than a Soviet to talk to, and a fit – some might say almost too fit – Vladimir Putin to rely on, rather than a Brezhnev. A vacillating Obama and a lunatic Trump, of course, do the impossible: they make Putin look like a Roosevelt or an Eisenhower – perhaps even the swashbuckling Theodore Roosevelt with his Rough Riders.
Zuma’s latest cabinet reshuffle and the dead-end of the ruling class
Ben Morken 19 October 2017
President Jacob Zuma’s latest cabinet reshuffle is deepening the troubles of the ANC and could be the prelude to the eventual breakup of the tripartite alliance of the ANC, COSATU and the SACP.
Zuma reshuffled his cabinet for the second time in six months on Tuesday. While he made six changes to the executive, it was basically done to achieve two aims: the first is to consolidate his hold on all leading positions in government. The second is to push through a corrupt nuclear power building program that he is pursuing with Russia.
The latest move by Zuma is another salvo being fired in the factional war in the ANC. The party is polarized and the centre collapsed a long time ago. What we are now witnessing is a fast-paced race to the bottom where every move the factions make has the effect of widening the divisions and tearing the organisation apart.
Russia: Preparing for the fall-out from the presidential election
Rob Jones, Socialist Alternative (CWI Russia) 18 October 2017
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the October revolution in Russia, this world-historic event is largely being ignored by the Putin regime and mass media. If the revolution that ushered in the first workers’ state in the world is mentioned at all, it is usually to condemn it as an historic “tragedy” or “mistake”. This should come as no surprise given character of the pro-capitalist regime, authoritarian Putin government. Nevertheless the legacy of the socialist October revolution hangs over the regime today and poses stark questions about life in capitalist Russia today. Rob Jones looks at these issues, the prospects for new protest movements and the struggle for a new socialist society.
Hong Kong: International solidarity campaign launched as government steps up repression
Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) 24 September 2017
Hong Kong is facing an unprecedented attack on democratic rights orchestrated by its pro-Beijing government. In recent months young activists have been jailed and elected legislators have been ousted from the partially elected local parliament (‘Legco’) on the flimsiest of ‘legal’ pretexts.
Tens of thousands marched against the repression in August, but the pro-government camp is stepping up its vicious attacks on the pro-democracy camp and democratic rights, especially singling out supporters of independence.
Support for independence has become increasingly popular among young people, especially since the 2014 mass Umbrella Movement, as the Chinese dictatorship’s repression intensifies and spills into Hong Kong. A June opinion poll showed 21.9 percent of those aged 25-39 support Hong Kong independence, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016. But clearly, the ferocious campaign by the establishment and mainstream media to demonise independence has only had a very limited effect.
The majority of the pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong oppose independence, while some smaller more radical parties adopt a vague position, listing it as “one of the options”, without putting forward a coherent strategy to realise it.
Nevertheless the independence issue is used incessantly by the pro-government camp to justify greater repression. This is linked to the shrill Chinese nationalism of the Beijing regime.
With the start of the new school term in September, pro-independence banners appeared on the campus of Chinese University of Hong Kong, attracting huge publicity and controversy. Similar banners then appeared at several other campuses. The university authorities, egged on by the Beijing loyalist camp, have taken a hard line against the banners, removing them and vowing to punish those responsible.
Brazil’s Corruption Scandals: No Winners, No End in Sight
The political elite has completely lost control of the situation, but the left is unable to take the reins, says blogger Alex Hochuli, who produces the Aufhebunga podcast
The Real News Network 13 September 2017
A People’s Forum on OBOR and BRICS meets in Hong Kong
Robin Lee 5 September 2017
Over the weekend (2nd-3rd September) more than 100 participants met in Hong Kong for a People’s Forum on One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and BRICS. As BRICS leaders begin to meet for their 9th BRICS summit in Xiamen this week and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council prepares to host its second Belt and Road summit in Hong Kong aiming to attract investors and others in the business community next weekend, civil society members from eight countries and local Hong Kong people came together to share their experiences, offering a counter narrative to the neoliberal agendas usually promoted by the official summits that largely exclude these critical voices. Discussion at the forum showed how globalisation from above, as imposed by BRICS and OBOR, is being carried out at the expense of people and the environment.
Mung Siu Tat, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (photo above), opened the forum speaking of the challenges and repression currently being faced by Hong Kong people in their struggles for democracy and against the government’s top down development projects. Asking whether democratic rights would really solve all the problems affecting people’s lives, he observed common problems faced by people around the world and how even in “democratic” countries, free trade agreements are often concluded through backdoor details without proper democratic consultation, and stressed the importance of international solidarity and the globalisation of struggle.
Clamour grows for Brazil’s President Temer to resign
Katy Watson (BBC) 30 May 2017
It was a miserable day on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. But the heavy fog smothering the normally sunny beaches did not put thousands of people off from heading down to Copacabana to join calls for President Michel Temer to step down.
It was a show of anger typical of Rio – lots of samba and singing mingled with loud calls for political change.
Brazil has got used to political surprises – from major corruption probes to last year’s impeachment of Dilma Rousseff – but the past few weeks here have been tumultuous.
After the leaking of audio recordings where Mr Temer appears to be encouraging bribes, the country’s leader is now under investigation. People are angry.
Well-known Brazilian artists and musicians including the singer-songwriter and political activist Caetano Veloso took part in the concert, joining the people on the streets to make their voices louder.
Brazil’s Spiraling Corruption Scandal Deepens with Temer at the Centre
A political earthquake hits Brazil again as the highly unpopular president Michel Temer is implicated in new corruption allegations and the calls for immediate elections grow stronger, reports Mike Fox from Brazil
The Real News Network 20 May 2017 therealnews.com/t2/story:19132:Brazil%27s-Spiraling-Corruption-Scandal-Deepens-with-Temer-at-the-Centre
China: Regime steps up repression in Xinjiang
Li Yiming (Chinaworker) 11 May 2017
Xinjiang is the vast Muslim-majority region in China’s far west where Turkic speaking Uighur Muslims are the largest ethnic group. Under Chinese rule it has been transformed into a 1.7 million square kilometre prison. Rich in mineral wealth and almost twice the size of Pakistan, Xinjiang has assumed even greater strategic importance for the Chinese ‘Communist’ Party (CCP) dictatorship, as president Xi Jinping’s grandiose ‘One Belt One Road’ rolls out.
This is the regime’s master plan to head off increasing anti-globalisation pressures in the world economy and industrial overcapacity in China by linking 60 countries with a combined 40 percent of the world’s GDP to China’s economy. Xinjiang, as the gateway to the ancient Silk Road through Central Asia to Europe, is a vital piece of this jigsaw puzzle.
Xinjiang is also experiencing an unprecedented escalation of state repression in which every aspect of Uighur culture, religion and sense of a homeland is under attack. In parts or all of Xinjiang, the authorities have banned long beards, Muslim headscarves, fasting during Ramadan, and recently even certain “overly religious” children’s names. The list of proscribed names includes Muhammad, which is the most common given name in the world. Parents that choose these names are warned their children will be ineligible for ID papers, to attend school, get a job or own property.
Service delivery protests explode across SA
Neo Goba‚ Taschica Pillay‚ And Shenaaz Jamal (Rand Daily Mail) 9 May 2017
Service delivery protests caused havoc in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on Monday as residents demanded access to housing.In Durban mayor Zandile Gumede was forced to send a team to meet informal settlement residents who set fire to a school and blockaded roads.
Residents of Banana City‚ the informal settlement on Varsity Drive‚ in Reservoir Hills‚ were protesting after their requests for housing went unanswered.
They demanded that Gumede address them.
On Sunday night two classrooms at Hillview Primary School on Varsity Drive in Reservoir Hills were set alight‚ forcing the school to close.
On Monday morning several roads in the area were closed as informal dwellers burned rubbish and threw stones.
Hong Kong: Ruled by the 0.02 percent
Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) 3 May 2017
On 26 March the Chief Executive (CE) election charade completed its final act. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was chosen by a grand total of 777 votes. Less than 1,200 voters are eligible to cast ballots in the election, including the 70 members of the city’s legislature plus some district politicians, business groups, professional unions, pop stars, priests and professors.
In a city of 3.8 million registered voters the top political post has been chosen by 0.02 percent! Her main rival, the former finance secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah, got 365 votes mostly from the pan-democrats sitting on the elite Election Committee.
Socialist Action strongly criticised the pan-democratic parties not only for lending “legitimacy” to the sham election process but for supporting Tsang – a central establishment figure who, like Lam, stands for neo-liberal and anti-democratic policies.
World Economic Forum-Africa hosts a turf battle
Patrick Bond 3 May 2017
At a time US and South African presidents Donald Trump and Jacob Zuma personify controversies over crony capitalism, corruption, populist rhetoric and self-serving economic strategies, will big business calm down the politicians – or just egg them on?
Business elites are confused, even while mass opinion against rancid rulers consolidates: huge marches against Trump in Washington by scientists on April 22 and climate activists on April 29; and in the central South African city Mangaung, Zuma was forced to rapidly retreat from a May Day speech with his fellow trade union and Communist Party allies (who now demand that he resign) due to mass jeering by the majority of workers there. Collaboration with Zuma and his patronage machinery is now seen as fatal for political longevity.
To be sure, partial business sanctions against both the Zuma and Trump regimes are already well underway. So when global corporate leaders and African rulers visit Durban this week, they might end up tripping into the country’s and world’s political potholes.
South Africa: Mass protests
Patrick Bond 29 April 2017
On South Africa’s political left, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party dominated recent news by leading a mass march on President Jacob Zuma’s office in Pretoria, following a government power shift seen as amplifying corruption. The move also catalysed a ‘junk’ rating by two neoliberal credit ratings agencies. And an impeachment process on the immediate horizon represents the first real parliamentary threat to Zuma’s eight-year reign.
Brazil hit by first general strike in two decades
BBC News 28 April 2017
Brazilian cities went into partial shutdown on Friday as the country observed its first general strike in more than two decades.
Millions of workers, including public transport staff, bankers and teachers, have been urged to take part by trade unions and social groups.
Protesters are taking a stand against the president’s proposed pension reforms.
President Michel Temer says the changes are needed to overcome a recession.
“It is going to be the biggest strike in the history of Brazil,” said Paulo Pereira da Silva, the president of trade union group, Forca Sindical.
Demonstrations are taking place across the country, with organisers saying they would focus attention on disrupting cities rather than small towns and rural communities.
Brazil’s Corruption Investigation Expands to Almost Entire Political Class
The Real News 19 April 2017
The corruption investigation of Brazilian politicians expanded dramatically and is less biased against the center-left. However, the danger is that it will lead to de-politicization and opportunistic anti-politics explains Brazil analyst Alex Hochuli
#AntiZumaMarches hit streets
Johannesburg – Despite some confusion regarding anti-Zuma protests taking place across the cities of Joburg and Ekurhuleni, several pickets had been confirmed for Friday morning.
Residents will be marching, picketing and facilitating human chains in the inner city, Saxonwold, Sandton, Kensington, Wychwood, Park Meadows and Linksfield.
Joburg metro police spokesperson Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said on Thursday several streets would be closed off due to the DA’s March for Change taking place in the inner city on Friday morning.
The BRICS New Development Bank meets in Delhi to dash green-developmental hopes?
Patrick Bond (Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal) 30 March 2017
Will the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc ever really challenge the world financial order? The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) leadership is meeting in New Delhi from 31 March to 2 April with a degree of fanfare unmatched by accomplishments. It is a good moment to assess progress since the BRICS Summit in 2013 when rumour had it that the then host city of Durban would also be the NDB’s home base. (It ended up in Shanghai, launched in 2015.)
BRICS leaders often state their vision of establishing alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Indeed the NDB leadership began with environmentally-oriented loans last year, and in 2017 wants to add $3 billion in new credits.
But looked at it from the South African vantage point, questions immediately arise about key personnel, as well as the willingness of the only local NDB borrower so far – the electricity parastatal Eskom – to support renewable energy, and perhaps most importantly whether the country and the continent can afford more expensive hard-currency loans.
SA bans import of meat from Brazil
Business Report 22 March 2017
Johannesburg – The South African government on Wednesday suspended imports of meat from establishments suspected to be involved in the Brazil meat scandal.
South Africa is joining a chorus of other countries after China, the European Union, South Korea and Chile on Monday announced restrictions of red meat imports from Brazil due to recent evidence showing that Brazilian meat-packers have been selling rotten and substandard produce for several years, especially to export markets.
Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said the government had suspended exports from 21 meat processing units.
In a statement, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said it has requested the Brazilian authority to provide official information and a list of establishments that have been identified in the meat scandal.
“DAFF has also advised the Brazilian authority to ban all exportation of meat from such establishments until the issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of the South African Veterinary Authority” the department said.
“It is not known how many consignments may have already left Brazil and are on their way to South Africa, however, DAFF is in the process of ensuring that the establishments implicated are suspended from exporting meat to South Africa until the Brazilian Veterinary Authority have fully investigated the matter and can give the necessary assurances for compliance to the South African requirements for importation of meat into South Africa.”
Brazil: National day of strikes and protests shows Temer can be beaten
André Ferrari LSR (CWI in Brazil)
15 March was a national day of struggle and paralysis throughout Brazil against anti-worker reforms applied by the illegitimate government of Michel Temer. This was the most important workers’ and popular mobilisation since Dilma Rousseff (PT) was removed from power.
These mobilisations were preceded and stimulated by very important women’s protests on 8 March. The day of struggle on 15 march was called in a united manner by the various trade union confederations and by the ‘People without fear’ front (which includes the MTST, homeless workers movement, which is its main promotor) and the ‘Brazil Popular Front’ (which is dominated by social movements which are closer to the PT and Lula).
In practically every state capital there were work stoppages, road blockades and mass demos. Education workers carried out a 24-hour strike and in some states even went on indefinite strike. Transport workers also went on strike in various cities, including metro and bus drivers in Sao Paolo, South America’s biggest city, which affected millions of people.
BRICS People’s Forum