India Land Grab: Forced Evictions in Orissa

on Jan 27, 2012

Police and security guards forcibly removed people from land earmarked for a Vedanta toxic waste dump.

Research by Amnesty International and other local and international groups documents the serious and continuing pollution caused by the refinery’s operations. Despite the string of decisions against Vedanta, the company has failed to remedy the pollution.

“This decision vindicates the ongoing peaceful protests by the local communities near Lanjigarh to prevent this expansion from going ahead as it would further pollute their lands and water sources,” said Amnesty International’s India researcher Ramesh Gopalakrishnan.

“The Indian authorities have remained silent on the issues of cleaning up the refinery and monitoring the health of local communities. They must act on this now,” he added.

by, January 31, 2012

India’s great land grab continues, with police forcibly evicting tribal villagers in Orissa from land sold to UK-based Vedanta Resources to use as a toxic waste dump, Amnesty International reports.

The evictions come amid a fraught battle between the mining industry and India’s tribal peoples, as well as environmental activists.  Orissa is among India’s poorest and least developed states, but its mineral riches have led to a breakneck race to strip the land of iron, bauxite and other metals needed to fuel the country’s infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.

To gain access to these riches, however, the state government has conspired with industry to run roughshod over the rights of its indigenous peoples, according to their advocates.  Local resentment has also helped to make Orissa one of the flashpoints in India’s simmering Maoist insurgency — a crisis that recently resulted in the deployment of some 50,000 police and paramilitary personnel. Continue reading

Afghanistan: The path from home

Out of Afghanistan: incredible stories of the boys who walked to Europe

The country is so dangerous it’s no wonder so many leave, travelling alone across the Middle East in search of a new life
by Caroline Brothers, The Observer, Sunday 29 January 2012
Behind the security bars of a spartan, white-tiled room, 25 youths are arranging bedrolls on the floor. The workers on the Salvation Army nightshift, who watch over these lone foreign teenagers in a shelter in a gritty corner of Paris, are distributing sheets and sleeping bags; there are a couple of boys from Mali and a contingent of Bangladeshis; the rest have travelled overland, by every conceivable method, from Afghanistan.

The road to peace: 13-year-old Morteza spent five months travelling from Kabul to Paris. His journey took him through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy Photograph: Ed Alcock/MYOP

The youngest are 13 years old, pint-sized cousins from Kabul who arrived that morning after a journey of five months. They take off their trainers and place them at the end of their bedrolls. One of them, Morteza, gingerly peels off his socks. The undersides of his toes are completely white.

I ask what happened to his feet. “Water,” he says. Where was he walking in water? Mohammed, the boy on the next bedroll who knows more English, translates. “In the mountains,” he says. Which mountains, I ask, thinking about the range that forms the border between Turkey and Iran. “Croatia, Slovenia, Italy,” Morteza says. Mohammed intervenes. “Not water,” he clarifies. “Snow.”
Suddenly I understand. Morteza’s feet are not waterlogged or blistered. He has limped across Europe with frostbite.
The next day I run into them watching the older Afghans play football in a park. Morteza’s 13-year-old cousin Sohrab, pale and serious beyond his years, recounts, in English learned during two years of school in Afghanistan, what happened. “Slovenia big problem,” he says, explaining how he and Morteza, “my uncle’s boy”, were travelling with eight adults when they were intercepted by the Slovenian police. Two members of their group were caught and the rest made a detour into the mountains. They spent five days in the snow, navigating by handheld GPS, emerging from the Alps in Trento, in the Italian north.
Morteza acquired frostbite on the penultimate part of a 6,000km journey that detoured through the Balkans: through Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. Their aim is to join their uncle who lives in Europe, the solution their relatives found after Morteza’s father was killed in an explosion. His mother died earlier “in the war”; Sohrab lost his own father when he was 11.

Waiting in hope: boys from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and sub-Saharan Africa line up in the hope of being offered a bed for the night Photograph: Ed Alcock/MYOP

Morteza and Sohrab are among the world’s most vulnerable migrants. Like scores of Afghan teenagers in transit across Europe, they are in flight from violence or the aftershocks of violence that affect children in particularly harsh ways. Those who turn up in Paris have spent up to a year on the road, on the same clandestine routes as adults, but at far greater risk.

No one knows how many unaccompanied Afghan children have made it to Europe. Paris took in just over 300 in 2011 – the biggest nationality among the 1,700 lone foreign minors in its care. Sarah Di Giglio, a child-protection expert with Save the Children in Italy, says that last year the number of Afghan boys – there are almost never girls – passing through a day centre in Rome had doubled from the year before, to 635.
Asylum statistics are another measure, though they give only a rough indication since many children never make a claim. Still, at 4,883, Afghans were the biggest group of separated foreign children requesting asylum in 2010, the majority in Europe.
While some are sent out of Afghanistan for their own safety, others make their own decision to leave. Some are running from brutality, or the politics of their fathers, or recruitment by the Taliban. Others have been pushed onwards by the increasing precariousness of life in Pakistan and Iran, countries that host three million Afghan refugees. Continue reading

Emirates ‘has security links with Israel’

[This is an interesting story from UPI about the economic and military ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates--a rare subject for news reports in the US press.  But don't congratulate UPI for their investigative prowess--a critical read of the article will also find this disingenuous statement, offered by UPI as a reason for these Israeli-Arab Sheik relations:  "They have also found a common adversary in Iran, whose expansionist policies and contentious nuclear program are viewed as a major threat by the Arab states in the gulf and by Israel."  UPI thereby states, without supporting data, that Iran has expansionist policies (and does not mention the truly expansionist Israeli appropriation of Palestinian lands, and the growing Israeli "settlements").  UPI does not report that the Emirates have turned a blind eye to Israeli expansionism.  And that is not all.  The UPI writer cites the "contentious nuclear program" of Iran (focused on nuclear power as energy, not weaponry) as a mutual concern of the Jewish state and the Sheiks, but, once again, they do not mention the hundreds of "secret" Israeli nuclear weapons already in existence, which is apparently not a subject of concern to the Sheiks--nor to UPI. -- Frontlines ed.]

United Press International, Jan. 27, 2012
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 27 (UPI) — The United Arab Emirates, an economic giant and rising military power in the Persian Gulf, is reported to have discreet ties with private security companies in Israel to protect its oil fields and borders.
The Intelligence Online Web site reports that the country’s Critical National Infrastructure Authority has had business dealings with several Israeli firms since it was established in 2007, even though the emirates has no diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
“Trade between the two countries, principally in the area of security, amounted to nearly $300 million last year,” Intelligence Online reported Jan. 12.
CNIA is based in Abu Dhabi, the main oil-rich emirate in the federation. It’s the capital of the United Arab Emirates and handles the federation’s military and security affairs. Continue reading

Rich Greeks balk at financial aid for homeland

["National unity" and "patriotic sacrifice" are urged upon the masses everywhere, as the crisis continues to deepen.  But these words are rejected by the rich, as they and their bank deposits are taken to Swiss banks and other shelters.  Here, that attitude of the Greek bourgeois toward "saving Greece" is described:  "Why should I give my money to people I consider useless?" -- Frontlines ed.]
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Jan 30, 2012

by Gabriele Ochsenbein, swissinfo.ch


Wealthy Greeks living abroad, including in Switzerland, are extremely wary about investing in their cash-strapped homeland to help create jobs and boost the economy.

Switzerland is home to several ultra-rich Greeks, like the granddaughter of the legendary shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, billionaire Spiros Latsis, who made his money through oil, housing and banking, and the heirs to shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation funds a number of social programmes in Greece, including food aid schemes, to help people hit by the financial crisis. But few rich Greeks living abroad are rushing to invest in their homeland.

George Koukis, a successful software entrepreneur who lives on the shores of Lake Geneva, told German television he was proud to be Greek but he was not considering investing in his country.

“Why should I give my money to people I consider useless? Others here think like me, although they might not say so,” he said. Continue reading

Going Underground in Hard Times

[As countries across the world sink deeper into capitalist crisis, and relief, though promised, only leads to more "austerity" measures--cuts in basic services, growing unemployment, higher taxes--growing numbers have moved to the "informal", "underground", "grey market" economy, outside of official and governmental review, regulation, and control.  In many countries this amounts to one-third to one-half of the economy.  This article about the underground economy in Portugal traces such growth in response to official crisis and bankruptcy. -- Frontlines ed.]

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By Mario Queiroz

LISBON, Jan 28, 2012 (IPS) – The underground economy in Portugal is booming thanks to the steep increases in taxation and prices demanded by a “troika” of international creditors to address the country’s economic crisis.

In May 2011, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB) loaned Portugal the equivalent of 103 billion dollars as a financial rescue package.

In return, the troika imposed draconian conditions on middle- and lower-income sectors of the population, and headed by the IMF took on a supervisory role over this southern European country’s economy.

Sheer survival instinct among those most affected by the austerity measures is driving them further into the parallel economy, which according to recent official figures amounted to 24.8 percent of GDP in 2010.

And it is continuing to grow, owing to the severe economic crisis from which there seems to be no way out, a study from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto concludes. Continue reading

Ice News–News from the Nordics: “Class safari shocks Stockholm snobs”

30 January 2012

Residents of a wealthy Stockholm suburb have complained to the police about a tour agency’s plan to run ‘high-society safaris’ in their neighbourhood.

The bus trip, organised by Allt åt Alla (Everything for Everyone), aims to debunk the myth that Sweden is a classless nation by driving through the capital’s most densely populated area, Fisksätra, before taking their passengers to Saltsjöbaden to see how the other half live.

Not all of Saltsjöbaden’s well-to-do residents are happy about being a tourist attraction, however, and one has apparently filed an official complaint with the local police.

Not feeling much sympathy for the well-to-do, Ulla Krogh of Nacka Police told the local newspaper, Näcka-Värmdö Posten, that “Anyone is free to organise something like this”.

Highlights of the tour include a visit to the Grand Hotel, an ogle at the sea views from “Oscar’s” house, which featured in the comedy series Solsidan, and an audience with Rolf, the owner of Sweden’s most expensive home.

On its website, Allt åt Alla describes itself as a “revolutionary organisation” with an aim of developing a hate of the class system in sightseers. The Saltsjöbaden tours are proving popular and selling out quickly, according to the group.

Indian State’s war on the people, Stage Two: Army deployed for combat against Indian People

Announcement of Public Meeting in Delhi by Forum Against War on People

“Let’s Intensify our Opposition to the Indian State’s War on the People”

Speakers:

JAN MYRDAL the internationally acclaimed author will talk on the War on People in India

SUJATO BHADRA will speak on atrocities by Joint Forces in Jangalmahal in West Bengal

The Indian government’s war on people in central and eastern regions has entered its second phase with the deployment of the Indian army. The surreptitiously declared war on the people of this country codenamed Operation Green Hunt (OGH) which was launched in September 2009 by the Indian government is continuing unabated till today. In fact in the recent months, the ruling coalition at the Centre in connivance with political parties of all hues in power in the Central and Eastern states have intensified their brutal war on the poorest, most maginalized and oppressed people of the subcontinent. Contrary to the rhetoric of not deploying the Indian Army in direct combat, the Government of India has increased the number of troops in the region with the intent of crushing the growing people’s resistance against its policies. It is well known that the first batch of 2000 Army personnel were sent by the government to the forests of Narayanpur District in the Bastar on 3 June 2011 with a plan to occupy an area of 600 square kilometres, albeit in the name of Jungle Warfare Training. Just six months later, another 2500 personnel descended on the forests of Bastar on 4 November 2011. Though the Central and Chhattisgarh governments maintain that they have set up this so-called Jungle Warfare Training Centre in Bastar merely to put pressure on the Maoists and to dominate the region militarily, the real purpose is to hand over the vast swathes of mineral-rich forested lands to the Multinational Companies and to evict the people who have stood up to defend their jal-jangal-zameen, their very existence. Continue reading

Syria: Internal violence and the West’s external players

[Amid heavily distorted and censored news accounts of events in Syria--overwhelmingly crafted to support one of the opposing sides--this report explores the maneuverings between the Arab League and NATO, which have not found their way into US/EU media, for the most part.  This tells an important part of the story.  Another part is the ongoing and shifting relations between Syria's Assad regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Lebanon's Hezbollah--their closest allies--and that story is similarly untold.  Finally, the views of Syrian rebels who are largely unorganized and have no affiliation with or allegience to external forces, are not heard in the media which serves Assad, nor in the media which serves the GCC and NATO. -- Frontlines ed.]

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http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA31Ak04.html
January 31, 2012

What is the GCC up to in Syria?
By Pepe Escobar

So the Arab League has a new draft United Nations Security Council resolution to “solve” the Syrian saga. [ 1]

World public opinion may be fooled into believing this is an altruistic Arab solution to an Arab problem. Not really.

First of all this is a draft resolution of NATOGCC – that symbiosis between selected North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and selected petromonarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council. By now, after their “success” in blasting regime change into Libya, NATOGCC should be well known as the axis between the European poodles of the Pentagon and the six monarchies that compose the GCC, also known as Gulf Counter-revolution Club.

This draft UN resolution goes one step beyond a so-called Arab League transition plan laid out over a week ago. Now the spin is of a “political roadmap” that essentially means President Bashar al-Assad voluntarily stepping out, his vice president installed in power for a transition, the formation of a national unity government, and free and fair elections with international supervision.

According to the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, “The president will delegate his first vice president the full power to work with the national unity government to enable it to perform its task in the transitional period.”

Sounds very civilized – except that it masquerades the real agenda of UN-imposed regime change. A quick look at the draft resolution also reveals a two-week deadline for Assad to get out of Dodge; if not, expect hell, “in consultation” with the Arab League.

“Arab” League is now a fiction; what’s really in charge is the Arab Gulf league, or GCC league; in practice, the House of Saud. Even aspiring regional superpower Qatar plays second fiddle. And everyone else, they are just extras. Continue reading

Greek puppet/”minister of economics” signed onto IMF “austerity” plan without reading it

Minister Manolis Chrysochoidis. Photo by Flickr user Piazza del Popolo (CC BY 2.0).

Minister Manolis Chrysochoidis. Photo by Flickr user Piazza del Popolo (CC BY 2.0).

Shock and awe awaited Greek citizens on Monday January 23, 2012, when Louka Katseli, former minister of labour and social security (2010) and minister of economy, competitiveness and shipping (2009), revealed that she had had only three hours to read the IMF memorandum tackling the country’s debt crisis.

Michalis Chrysochoidis, current minister for development, competitiveness and shipping and former minister of citizen protection, admitted on a morning television show interview [el] that he signed the IMF memorandum without having read it at all, arguing that “simply, he had other obligations during that time, as he was fighting against crime”:

Minister Manolis Chrysochoidis. Photo by Flickr user Piazza del Popolo (CC BY 2.0).

News spread quickly on the web reacting to the remarks, including extremely negative comments and derogatory insults from netizens, expressing their disdain for the political system, and mocking the minister’s excuse.

Within one to two hours, the case became a world trending topic via the Twitter hashtag #de_diavasa_to_mnimonio_giati (I didn’t read the memorandum because…):

Uruguay: Landless Peasants with 80 Families Occupy and Take Over Farm in Northern Uruguay

Written by MercoPress PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The landless peasants’ movement has reached Uruguay: the self called “shaggy” ones, with eighty families, have taken over a 400 hectares farm in the extreme north of the country Artigas, and have been occupying the land since.

“We have been through seven years of Broad Front government and very few peasants or paid farm hands have had access to a plot of land”, said Jorge Rodas president of the Union of Sugar Workers from Artigas, (UTAA).

The union was originally founded in the sixties by the Uruguayan urban guerrilla leader Raul Sendic and whose organization now as a political party belongs to the ruling catch-all Broad Front coalition which extends from the conservative Christian Democrats to Communists, Socialists, anarchists, Trotskyites and obviously the former guerrilla, whose current leader was elected in 2009 president of the country, Jose Mujica.

The idea of the ‘shaggies”, very similar to the MST, landless movement in Brazil and who have introduced the 80 families, is to remain for some time to send “a strong message to the government and the people of Uruguay”.

Rodas said that the organization keeps growing in number and is targeting farms minimally exploited or belonging to absentee landlords. “This is to tell government that if we have the strength to occupy private land, we will continue growing in the number of people who support us and are joining our movement” Continue reading

Apple hit by boycott call over worker abuses in China

US writers attack conditions at Foxconn plant and call for consumers to act

in New York

The Observer, Saturday 28 January 2012

[Employees work on the Apple assembly line at the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen in southern China. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty]

Employees work on the Apple assembly line at the Foxconn plant

Employees work on the Apple assembly line at the Foxconn plant

Apple, the computer giant whose sleek products have become a mainstay of modern life, is dealing with a public relations disaster and the threat of calls for a boycott of its iPhones and iPads.

The company’s public image took a dive after revelations about working conditions in the factories of some of its network of Chinese suppliers. The allegations, reported at length in the New York Times, build on previous concerns about abuses at firms that Apple uses to make its bestselling computers and phones. Now the dreaded word “boycott” has started to appear in media coverage of its activities.

“Should consumers boycott Apple?” asked a column in the Los Angeles Times as it recounted details of the bad PR fallout.

The influential Daily Beast and Newsweek technology writer Dan Lyons wrote a scathing piece. “It’s barbaric,” he said, before saying to his readership: “Ultimately the blame lies not with Apple and other electronics companies – but with us, the consumers. And ultimately we are the ones who must demand change.”

Forbes magazine columnist Peter Cohan also got in on the act. “If you add up all the workers who have died to build your iPhone or iPad, the number is shockingly high,” he began an article that also toyed with the idea of a boycott in its headline.

The New York Times’s revelations, which centred on the Foxconn plant in southern China that has repeatedly been the subject of accusations of worker mistreatment, have caused a major stir in the US. Although such allegations have been made before in numerous news outlets, and in a controversial one-man show by playwright Mike Daisey, this time they have struck a chord. Continue reading

1/28/12–Oakland police arresting about 100 Occupy Oakland protesters

CBS News, January 28, 2012

[Police move in on Occupy Oakland protesters on Oak Street and 12th Street as tear gas gets blown back on them in Oakland, Calif. on Jan. 28, 2012. An unlawful assembly was declared as occupiers planned to take over an undisclosed building. (Bay Area News Group,AP Photo/The Tribune)]

OAKLAND, Calif. – Oakland officials say police are in the process of arresting about 100 Occupy protesters for failing to disperse.

Police Sgt. Christopher Bolton says the arrests come after Occupy Oakland protesters marched through downtown Oakland a little before 8 p.m. Saturday, with some of the protesters entering a YMCA building in the city’s downtown.

The arrests Saturday night come after 19 people were arrested in Occupy Oakland protests during the day.

Police used tear gas and “flash” grenades Saturday to break up hundreds of Occupy protesters after some demonstrators started throwing rocks and flares at officers and tearing down fencing.

Three officers were hurt and 19 people were arrested, the Oakland Police Department said in a release. No details on the officers’ injuries were released.

Police said the group started assembling at a downtown plaza Saturday morning, with demonstrators threatening to take over the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center. The group then marched through the streets, disrupting traffic. Continue reading

Interview with “China Labor Watch” activist

January 26, 2012

Questions for Li Qiang of China Labor Watch

By DAVID BARBOZA, http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/q-and-a-with-li-qiang-of-china-labor-watch/?hp
Li Qiang.

Li Qiang, 39, is the founder of China Labor Watch, a nonprofit group in New York City that seeks to improve labor conditions in China. In the late 1990s, while studying law in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, he began supporting striking workers and taxi drivers. Later, he moved south, to China’s biggest factory zones near Shenzhen. He worked at several electronics, toy and shoe factories, where he investigated labor conditions, and tried to expose what he saw as unjust and inhumane conditions.

Now, Mr. Li works from a small office near the Empire State Building, employing a team in China that sneaks into factories, smuggles out photographs and publishes reports of illegal or abhorrent labor conditions at suppliers to some of the world’s biggest corporations. David Barboza, the Shanghai bureau chief of The New York Times, interviewed Mr. Li after doing the reporting reflected in his article, “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad,” written with Charles Duhigg.

Q. For years, labor rights groups like yours have described sweatshops and how factories serving global companies have abused and mistreated workers. What is the situation today?
A. They’ve improved a lot, but labor conditions are still poor. One reason is the local economy is directly related to the well-being of the factories. So the local government regulators don’t want to enforce a high labor standard and force the factories away.
Q. But many big factories are audited by independent firms, hired by multinational corporations. Hasn’t that improved working conditions in China?
A. Every year, 30,000 factories in China are audited. But there’s corruption in the auditing process. The factories need to pass an audit, but fixed factory costs are high, so the factory bosses bribe auditors, that is less costly. If a factory has 500 workers, to improve standards you might need to pay each worker another $20 a month. But 500 workers times $20 times 12 months is $120,000 a year. It’s much cheaper to bribe auditors.

For the international companies that had an audit done, they get what they consider to be an advertisement, or certification that they comply with all the standards. But this isn’t a true reflection of what is happening. Last year, we investigated 100 factories in China. And we found that only about 10 percent of the factories can pass the their own the international labor standards of their clients — the multinational corporations.

Q. What are some of the key problems you see when you visit the factories? What are they doing wrong?
A. The pay is the biggest issue. Based on our investigation, most workers have signed a labor contract so there is some improvement. But then the factories conceal their treatment of the workers, like they’ve shortened the lunch break from one hour to 40 minutes, so the workers lose one day a month.

Another trick for factories to lower the payment is a system called “overall working hour system.” As we know, the normal working hours are 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. If workers work overtime on weekdays, the overtime wage should be 1.5 times the original salary. If they work on the weekends, the wage should be 2 times the original salary. What the factories do is to let the workers work 6.7 hours a day, 6 days a week. So when the workers work on Saturday, they only get the original salary rather than the 2 times salary required by law. And often, they don’t only get paid with the original salary when overtime for working on Saturdays or Sundays, when you should pay double salary to them. This is the way the factories reduce the salary and increase productivity.

Q. What is your impression of Foxconn, which has some of the world’s biggest factories and is China’s biggest export machine?
A. Foxconn is not good. But if we compare all industries, electronics, textile, toys, Foxconn is one of the best. The biggest problem for Foxconn is the workers are working under a lot of pressure. They’re standing 10 to 11 hours a day. Foxconn treats the workers like they are machines.

They think about how many products they can produce, not about giving the workers a rest. But in the electronics industry all the companies are the same.

They say they’ve increased salaries, but Foxconn doesn’t say the workers have to produce more products per hour. So they have to work even harder. And the worst thing is that Foxconn is the biggest company in the industry. So they set the standard in the industry. And the working intensity has already been audited by the multinational companies, thus meeting the standards set by Foxconn’s clients.

Obama Blew a Kiss to Apple

by Jeff Ballinger, Workers Rights Consortium

President Barack Obama blew a kiss to Apple in the State of the Union speech, praising the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, the late Steve Jobs, as the cameras panned to his widow in the audience.

Obama’s timing couldn’t be weirder. In the last month, Apple has released a damning audit which found that almost 100 of Apple’s supplier factories force more than half their workers to exceed a 60-hour week. The company announced responsibility for aluminum dust explosions in Chinese supplier factories that killed four workers and injured 77. Hundreds more in China have been injured cleaning iPad screens with a chemical that causes nerve damage.

Apple was just subjected to a “This American Life” radio special reporting on its abysmal factory conditions in China (Jon Stewart gigged ‘em on the issue, too). Last weekend a front-page New York Times story asked why the company offshored all of its manufacturing, mostly to China. (The answer is found in the what its executives call “flexibility.” Tens of thousands of workers there live in factory dorms on-site, where, the Times reports, they are woken in the middle of the night and forced onto 12-hour shifts when Apple decides a product needs tweaking.)

In the face of all this bad press, the tech darling’s response has been to reveal its supplier factories and to announce a partnership with the Fair Labor Association to do stepped-up factory inspections. The FLA is the partly corporate-funded group that until now only monitored apparel factories, and which Nike helped establish after its own scandals in the ’90s.

In sum, Apple is now doing what Nike has been doing for nearly 15 years: the apology-plus-transparency formula, straight out of the manuals offered by “reputation management” consultants.

This was certainly enough for most mainstream media and even some activists. Some were a bit more dubious but still pinned their hopes for stemming the abuses on the chimera of “consumer pressure.”  For those who may believe that rich-country consumer pressure should not be so summarily dismissed, I believe that it’s useful to turn to Jeffrey Swartz, until mid-2011 the CEO of Timberland, who says that consumers don’t care at all about workers’ rights.  In a late-2009 article he wrote, “With regard to human rights, the consumer expectation today is somewhere in the neighborhood of, don’t do anything horrible or despicable… if the issue doesn’t matter much to the consumer population, there’s not a big incentive for the consumer-minded CEOs to act, proactively.”  In a 2008 interview he mused about his desire to “seduce consumers to care” so that Timberland’s CSR report was not mere “corporate cologne”. Continue reading

Nepal: Land to the Peasants, or returned to the Landlords?

[Feudal landlords and reactionaries have always and everywhere claimed that revolutionary land reform--the seizure of lands for cultivation by landless peasants--is not an expropriation for liberation, but is a criminal theft by undeserving peasants.  It was shocking when the Maoist party in Nepal [(UCPN(M)] abandoned the People’s War and adopted a bourgeois-constitutional path–and then promised to return the peasant-liberated lands, in order to make peace with the landlords and capitalists.  Inevitably, struggle inside the Maoist party ensued, which continues, and which has led to the Party ordering its leadership (which has taken government positions) to reverse its capitulationist deal of returning liberated lands to the landlords.  Prime Minister Bhattarai and Party Chairman Dahal (Prachanda) are juggling the opposing goals of maintaining their influence in the Maoist party, while continuing to make unprincipled concessions to the bourgeois parties in the government.  Revolutionaries have forced the issue out of the smoke-filled back rooms and into the open for all to see–and continue to press the issue.  We shall see. — Frontlines ed.]

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landless squatters

by redstar

Kathmandu, January 26: The secretariat of the standing committee of the UCPN-Maoist urged the government, not to withdraw its decision to legalise land transactions carried out by Maoist-formed ‘people’s government ‘ during the period of people’s war.

In a meeting held at party Supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’s newly residence at Lazimpat on Thursday, they advised the Maoist-led government not to annul January 12 decision.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s Cabinet had decided that all the land and property transactions carried out by Maoist people’s council during the great people’s war, would be given legal status.

Because of the drastic decision of the government, opposition parties the Nepali Congress and the Communist party of Nepal United Marxist and Leninist has condemned it.

As they have been obstructing House since January 17 demanding that the government revoke its January 12 decision, the impending tasks in peace and statute have been severely affected.