Skouries: an ancient forest is Greece’s latest battle-ground

26 March, 2013

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By Theodora Oikonomides and Zoe Mavroudi, Hellenic Mining Watch – Resistance to destructive mining in Greece

Skouries is the most important Greek story you’ll rarely hear about. It’s an ancient forest in northern Greece, where a mammoth Canadian gold-mining company is staking its claim.

Gold-mining, environmental concerns, state repression, police violence and a sturdy and organized local anti-mining movement have made Skouries a veritable battle ground in Greek politics, one that has received very little international coverage, clearly overshadowed by the escalating Greek crisis.

Greek company Hellas Gold and its main shareholder, Canada’s Eldorado Gold are working towards establishing a gold and copper mine in the ancient forest of Skouries in the northern region of Halkidiki but residents of the area’s 16 villages are strongly opposed to the project and have held several demonstrations against it over the past year, many of which have turned violent. Riot police have made excessive use of tear gas even inside the forest and in the villages, while residents have accused police of detaining people on trumped up charges, physically abusing them and even taking DNA samples from them against their will. Continue reading

Wikileaks Was Just a Preview: We’re Headed for an Even Bigger Showdown Over Secrets

by Matt Taibbi, Taibblog, Rolling Stone magazine,  March 22, 2013

Bradley Manning
[Photo:  U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning –  Alex Wong/Getty Images]

I went yesterday to a screening of We Steal Secrets, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s brilliant new documentary about Wikileaks. The movie is beautiful and profound, an incredible story that’s about many things all at once, including the incredible Shakespearean narrative that is the life of Julian Assange, a free-information radical who has become an uncompromising guarder of secrets.

I’ll do a full review in a few months, when We Steal Secrets comes out, but I bring it up now because the whole issue of secrets and how we keep them is increasingly in the news, to the point where I think we’re headed for a major confrontation between the government and the public over the issue, one bigger in scale than even the Wikileaks episode.

We’ve seen the battle lines forming for years now. It’s increasingly clear that governments, major corporations, banks, universities and other such bodies view the defense of their secrets as a desperate matter of institutional survival, so much so that the state has gone to extraordinary lengths to punish and/or threaten to punish anyone who so much as tiptoes across the informational line.

This is true not only in the case of Wikileaks – and especially the real subject of Gibney’s film, Private Bradley Manning, who in an incredible act of institutional vengeance is being charged with aiding the enemy (among other crimes) and could, theoretically, receive a death sentence.

There’s also the horrific case of Aaron Swartz, a genius who helped create the technology behind Reddit at the age of 14, who earlier this year hanged himself after the government threatened him with 35 years in jail for downloading a bunch of academic documents from an MIT server. Then there’s the case of Sergey Aleynikov, the Russian computer programmer who allegedly stole the High-Frequency Trading program belonging to Goldman, Sachs (Aleynikov worked at Goldman), a program which prosecutors in open court admitted could, “in the wrong hands,” be used to “manipulate markets.” Continue reading

Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa: BRICS and the new Scramble for Africa

fadjbjaeXi Trip Highlights China’s African Influence

China’s new president Xi Jinping heads to Africa as his country’s influence on the continent soars, but with its big money is provoking resentment.

21 Mar 2013 08:21 – Kelly Olsen

Xi will visit Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo as part of his first overseas trip, which begins in Russia on Friday and will include an emerging economies summit in Durban, South Africa. Continue reading

Brazilian megaproject in Mozambique set to displace millions of peasants

UNAC, Via Campesina Africa, GRAIN | 29 November 2012

The Brazilian government and private sector are collaborating with Japan to push a large-scale agribusiness project in Northern Mozambique. The project, called ProSavana, will make 14 million hectares of land available to Brazilian agribusiness companies for the production of soybeans, maize and other commodity crops that will be exported by Japanese multinationals. This area of Mozambique, known as the Nacala Corridor, is home to millions of farming families who are at risk of losing their lands in the process.

brazil-mozambique-slide-1-638The Nacala Corridor stretches along a rail line that runs from the port of Nacala, in Nampula Province, into the two northern districts of Zambézia Province and ends in Lichinga, in Niassa Province. It is the most densely populated region of the country. With its fertile soils and its consistent and generous rainfall, millions of small farmers work these lands to produce food for their families and for local and regional markets.

But now ProSavana proposes to make these same lands available to Japanese and Brazilian companies to establish large industrial farms and produce low cost commodity crops for export. Through ProSavana, they intend to transform the Nacala Corridor into an African version of the Brazilian cerrado, where savannah lands were converted to vast soybean and sugar cane plantations.

Large numbers of Brazilian investors have already been surveying lands in northern Mozambique under the ProSavana project. They are being offered massive areas of land on a long-term lease basis for about US$1/ha per year.

GV Agro, a subsidiary of Brazil’s Fundação Getulio Vargas directed by the former minister of agriculture, Roberto Rodriguez, is coordinating the Brazilian investors.

Charles Hefner of GV Agro dismisses the idea that the project will displace Mozambican peasants. He says ProSavana is targeting “abandoned areas” where “there is no agriculture being practiced”.

“Mozambique has a tremendous area available for agriculture,” says Hefner.  “There is room for mega projects of 30-40,000 ha without major social impacts.”

But land surveys by Mozambique’s national research institute clearly show that nearly all the agricultural land in the area is being used by local communities.

“It is not true that there is abandoned land in the Nacala Corridor,” says Jacinto Mafalacusser, a researcher at the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM). Continue reading

Indian Land Grab in Africa

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This is a guest post by SPUTNIK KILAMBI

The rise of China and India in Africa has important implications for the continent’s development. While the two Asian giants provide a much needed alternative to the old and until now sole paradigm of dependence on the West, both countries are accused of being part of the global land grabbing club. Many African governments are complicit in this whole sale plunder of their land, which the FAO has compared to the ‘wild west’.  India’s role in the land take-over underway in Africa raises serious questions about the direction of south-south relations.

Just before the 2010 World Cup of soccer in South Africa, the Indian food and beverages giant Parle Agro ran an ad campaign to promote its new lemon drink LMN. One spot showed a couple of Bushmen digging in the sand for water when their stick breaks. Suddenly, they see a tap and wrench it off.

Fortunately, the Advertising Standards Council of India forced the company to make changes because the spot was racist and made fun of water scarcity, an acute problem in Africa and India.

The Parle ad is an apt metaphor for growing fears in Africa about India’s seemingly insatiable demand for the continent’s land and water. Water scarcity at home and global fears of a looming water and food crisis are among the reasons India has joined the club of land predators. Continue reading

Judge Tashima (WW2 ethnic Japanese internment camp victim) upholds Arizona ban on Chicana/o studies

The long history of US racial oppression is challenged by ethnic studies in schools. Such critical studies are now illegal in Arizona

The history of US racial oppression is exposed and challenged by ethnic studies in schools. Such critical studies are now illegal in Arizona

Arizona on our mindsRacism Legalized

by Rodolfo F. Acuña,  March 18, 2013

U.S. Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima has made his decision to uphold disparate treatment of Mexican Americans, and the constitutionality of HB 2281. The purpose of this law was to destroy Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Program. In doing so, Tashima returned us to the times of Joseph McCarty.

The Arizona law broadly banned courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, foster racial resentment, were designed for students of a particular ethnic group or that advocated ethnic solidarity.

The penalty if Tucson did not comply was that the district would lose 10 percent of its annual funding — some $14 million over a fiscal year.

Tashima ruled that the plaintiffs “failed to show the law was too vague, broad or discriminatory, or that it violated students’ first amendment rights.” On the positive side, he held that courses made-to-serve students of a particular ethnic group were not unconstitutional, which seems to imply that it is alright to ban ethnic studies programs.

building chicanaThe ruling raised more questions than it answered. The judge’s legal reasoning and wording was not consistent with his previous decisions, and it left me with the feeling that it had been written by law clerks and that the decision was not properly vetted by Tashima who has been more precise in previous rulings. A survivor of the Japanese internment camps, he had been expected to be sensitive to the rampant racism in Arizona.

Tashima noted that Attorney General Tom Horne’s anti-Mexican American Studies ardor bordered on discriminatory conduct, saying that Horne’s “single-minded focus on terminating the MAS (Mexican-American Studies) program” raised concerns.

Then Tashima engaged in mental gymnastics: “Although some aspects of the record may be viewed to spark suspicion that the Latino population has been improperly targeted, on the whole, the evidence indicates that Defendants targeted the MAS program, not Latino students, teachers or community members who participated in the program.” This conclusion is mind boggling.

This wrongheaded logic would condone the bombing of a village as long as the villagers were not targeted. Continue reading

The US War on Iraq: a Criminal Enterprise — But Where Will Justice be Found?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A decade after the US attempt to “shock and awe” humanity and usher in its new “American century” more than a million Iraqis are dead, and trillions of dollars have been squandered, while the high ranking architects and enablers of these monstrous crimes are still riding high…

War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: The story of U.S. Exceptionalism in Iraq

by Ajamu Baraka, in Black Agenda Report

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. attack on Iraq, one of the most egregious expressions of naked power and imperial ambition since the Second World War. The attack defied both an outraged world opinion — expressed by global mass demonstrations — and the United Nations charter. It also marked a change from the previous veiled decorum of supposed adherence to international law that defined post-war international relations. The Bush administration, armed with the ultimate expression of the arrogance of U.S. exceptionalism – legislation passed by the U.S. Congress – unleashed a murderous assault on the people of Iraq dubbed “Operation Shock and Awe.”

Ten years later, the awesome consequences of that criminal assault are clear. More than a trillion dollars spent, almost five thousand American lives lost, more than 32,000 Americans wounded, estimates of a million dead Iraqis and almost five million displaced, an epidemic of Iraqi birth defects from “depleted” uranium, daily bombings, devastated public services and the dismemberment of the country. Yet, ten years later, no one, not one government official, has been held accountable. The obvious question is: how is it that, in light of one of the most heinous crimes ever committed by a State, there have been no investigations, prosecutions or convictions of the officials responsible for this assault?

The lack of accountability is even more incomprehensible in light of the fact that it is now widely acknowledged that the real reason for the Western invasion of Iraq had little to do with its concern about weapons of mass destruction and everything to do with its desire to steal Iraq’s oil. Continue reading