Protest accompany G8 summit

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An organization called Jubilee 2000, which advocates debt relief for poor countries, has organized massive protests to be staged during this weekend’s annual G8 summit meeting, being held in Cologne, Germany.

The AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE reports that a massive demonstration is planned for Saturday, which will feature a human chain around the city of Cologne. Turnout is exepcted to number in the tens of thousands. Also, rock star Bono of U2 and Honduran Bishop Oscar Rodriguez, are expected to submit a petition to the G8 demanding debt relief for poor countries. Distributed by Jubilee 2000, which has chapters in many countries, the petition has millions of signatures, including, the group claims, 15 percent of the population of Peru.

Demonstrations coinciding with the G8 summit are planned in cities around the world. The GUARDIAN UK reports that demonstrations in London, dubbed a “Carnival Against Capitalism”, turned ugly on Friday as protesters clashed with police. One woman was reportedly run over by a police van. A McDonald’s restuarant and a Mercedes dealership were damaged.

Debt reduction for poor nations is one of the main topics on the agenda for this year’s summit. Reports are just hitting the wires that an agreement has been reached to forgive up to $100 billion owed by the world’s 33 poorest nations.…


Auto biz misled public on air-bag danger

June 17

A thorough investigative report from Detroit’s alternative weekly, the METRO TIMES outlines how the automobile industry, particularly Chrysler, as well as federal safety regulators, failed to warn customers about the potential threat automobile passenger-safety air bags posed to children and petite women. Patented in the 1950s, the potential for the devices to save lives in otherwise fatal crashes has been known for decades. However, equally clear was that a small percentage of people, mostly children, would be killed each year by air bags which deployed in low speed, and otherwise harmless, accidents. Industry concern about the danger — and thus corporate liability — these incidents would pose, as well as the cost of the new technology, kept air bags out of automobiles for decades.

However, after years of opposition to air bags, in the late 1980s, Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca sensed the new potential of marketing cars based on safety. He made an about-face on air bags, and in 1988 Chrysler became the first major auto manufacturer to make them standard equipment on their passenger cars. The company’s hugely popular minivans included air bags as a standard feature beginning in 1993. Nothing was said of the potential dangers — especially to children — the bags could cause, despite the fact that the industry clearly had been aware of that fact for more than 30 years.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as of May 1 of this year, airbags have killed 76 children and saved none. These sobering statistics have finally prompted the NHTSA to require all air bag-equipped vehicles to include a warning that children and small statured women should never ride in the front passenger seat.


U.S. blocks ban on child soldiers

June 16

We knew Bill Clinton was capable of speaking out of both sides of his mouth, but on Wednesday he managed to talk out of two entirely separate orifices at once.

At the same moment that Clinton was giving a speech at the International Labor Conference in Geneva denouncing “the most vicious forms of abusive child labor” including military service, U.S. representatives at the conference there were still actively blocking a broad ban on child military service of any kind, according to a report from HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH. The U.S. has instead advocated a narrower provision only blocking the compulsory recruitment of children into the military, and not child military service of any kind. In other words, the U.S. is fighting for the right of 8 year olds to voluntarily join their country’s armed services. (The U.S. only allows citizens who are 17 or older to volunteer for active duty.)

“Child soldiers are in terrible danger no matter how they are recruited,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “This narrow provision fails to protect thousands of child soldiers who are lured or coerced into warfare.” Offer a starving kid food, and he’ll gladly take that M-16 in exchange.

Clinton promised in his speech to send the treaty to the Senate floor for ratification as soon as the conference ended. However, if the U.S. negotiators do not agree to the military service provision as it is currently stated, the treaty may never get that far.

So what’s the issue for the U.S. — what’s to gain by blocking such a ban? You got us.

(Another highlight from Clinton’s speech was this: “There are children chained to often-risky machines …” which makes one wonder, if the machines were safe, would the chains somehow be more agreeable?)


Schools quickly resegregating

June 15

Forty-five years after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation stating, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” a new study concludes that schools are resegregating — fast, according to the LOS ANGELES TIMES. The Harvard University study concludes that, in addition to inherent inequality, schools whose student bodies have a majority of non-white students are disadvantaged in many other ways. They are more likely to be underfunded and overcrowded, have fewer honors classes and send fewer students to college.

Segregation is no longer confined to inner cities, researchers concluded, and is spreading to the suburbs. However, the report’s author argued that while inner city segregation is so severe as to be nearly irreversible, planners may still have an opportunity to reverse the trend in the suburbs. The report criticizes President Clinton for failing to act on this critical issue.

One UCLA researcher quoted in the article defended the trend toward de facto segregation, arguing that it is a result of natural housing patterns and immigration. Regardless of segregation’s causes, the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. the Board of Education decision noted that there are benefits of integration that transcend test scores, the most important of which is the promotion of racial harmony. In a country still blighted by persistent discrimination, that message is as compelling today as it was four decades ago.…


Nominee: Dump toxics in third world

June 14

There has certainly been enough drama surrounding President Clinton’s nomination of Lawrence Summers as the new U.S. Treasury Secretary. Senate Republicans have threatened to block all presidential appointments — including Summers’ — in protest over Clinton’s recess appointment of an openly gay San Francisco philanthropist as ambassador to Luxembourg. Some of the controversy actually goes back to 1991, when a memo Summers wrote while he was the chief economist for the World Bank was leaked to the environmental community. The memo advocated exporting rich countries’ “dirty industries” and toxic waste to underdeveloped countries.

Even if you’ve heard about the memo check out the real thing, reprinted with brief commentary in COUNTERPUNCH. The man in line to be the driving force behind the world’s strongest economy asks, “shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [less developed countries]?” Answering his own question with brutal rationality, he essentially argues that the best places to pollute are those with the cheapest wages, because in that scenario financial losses due to “foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality” (because of the pollution) are minimized. According to Summer, “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” Later in the memo he writes “I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted.” And this is the man the Washington Post recently called a “key player in [the] global rescue effort.” Scary.



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