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(en) SchNEWS 417, Friday 8th August, 2003

From Jo Makepeace <webmaster@schnews.org.uk>
Date Fri, 8 Aug 2003 07:41:48 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

It was hailed by the economists as the organisation that would bring
about global prosperity (where have we heard that before). Where the
weakest nations of the world would be put on the same footing as the
most powerful. But the WTO's rulings have produced a 'race to the
bottom' with every environmental, health or safety policy it has had
to rule on deemed an illegal barrier to trade. Now with its fifth
Ministerial meeting approaching next month in Cancun, Mexico, the
World Trade Organization is in crisis and heading for deadlock.

America continues to block an agreement for access to cheap medicines
for developing countries, while a new agreement on agriculture is
nowhere in sight as the US and the European Union defend their
multibillion dollar subsidies. Brussels is on the verge of imposing
sanctions on Washington for giving tax breaks to exporters, while
Washington is threatening Europe with a trade war over their plans to
label genetically modified foods.

Yet despite this the European Commission and Japan, egged on by
massive corporate lobby groups such as the International Chamber of
Commerce, the Transatlantic Business Dialogue and the European
Services Forum, are pushing for a new Multilateral Agreement on
Investment (or MAI - see SchNEWS 141). With backing from such big
business free market fundamentalists alarm bells should start
ringing, and most developing countries and NGOs are either opposed
to, or remain highly suspicious of a new MAI.

The first MAI proposal was defeated in 1998 in what some have hailed
as the first bloody nose dished out by the emerging new global
protest movement. A year later massive protests led the WTO talks in
Seattle to collapse (see SchNEWS 240). But, once the MAI had been
rejected, Western governments simply went on to negotiate mini
versions on a nation by nation basis - with a staggering 450 being
signed. When the protestors get a victory, big business and
governments simply shift the goalposts and carry on regardless. Some
argue that it is better to have a WTO type body to keep an eye on
than a corporate free-for-all, but that is no better than asking
people around the world if they would prefer to have their legs cut
off or their arms.

Corporate Conquistadores

Together Walt Disney, Nike and McDonalds spend more on advertising
each year than the poorest 18 countries spend on health and
education. The top ten companies worldwide already make over £1000
billion a year - far more than the combined wealth of all the
countries in Africa and South Asia. But that's not enough for the
corporate fat cats. Behind the scenes multinationals are busy working
together in their corporate clubs, lobbying and twisting the arms of
governments to agree new trade rules that will give them even greater
wealth and influence.

>From the corporate perspective, the 'ideal' MAI would be one loaded
with rights for the companies without any responsibilities. For
example it would become an offence under WTO 'barrier to trade' rules
for a country to protect local companies or show favour to those
involved in ethical or sustainable practices. In any case the power
of multinationals makes a mockery of any so-called level playing
field. Business conditions are loaded in their favour, technical
development monopolised and when recession bites - they simply pull

Worse still, an MAI would make 'liberalisation' permanent - that is,
once a public service has been sold to the lowest bidder, there'll be
no turning back without breaking WTO rules. Public protest, change of
government - tough - under the MAI privatisation is forever.

But what's the problem with foreign investment? A new report
'Unlimited Companies' by ActionAid shows how often big business is
allowed to trample through the developing world, pissing on peoples'
rights; evicting them from their homes, squeezing them out of
business and refusing to allow workers to join unions or get a decent

In India, hundreds of 'untouchable' Dalit have been protesting
outside a new Coca Cola bottling plant since April last year. The
protestors say the factory is in breach of India's laws, has offered
few local jobs and has contaminated water supplies. "Ever since the
Coke factory came up, I cannot run the pump even for one hour due to
depletion of water in the well. As a result, there was total crop
failure during the past two to three years," says Shahul Hameed, a
local farmer who used to grow rice, coconut, mango, and groundnut on
land adjacent to the bottling plant.

In Brazil, thousands of local dairy farmers have gone bust or been
squeezed out of the market after multinationals Nestles and Parmalat
gained control of over 50% of the Brazilian dairy sector in the late
1990s. Prices fell by 50% for farmers in Minas Gerais state and
70,000 poor producers had to stop supplying the largest companies
"Parmalat punished us for two years, paying lower and lower prices
for our milk, so we had less and less to pay our bills," says Renat
Hildt, a family farmer from Rio Grande do Sul.

The report concludes that a WTO investment agreement would make
things even worse. As Luke Eric Peterson, a Canadian researcher,
explains "The only MAI that these countries really need is a Massive
Aid Influx - serious new flows of public monies from the West to
support basic public goods in the developing world." But then that's
the sort of do-good nonsense that's not gonna make anyone rich and

* Join the protests to derail the talks

* Check out Corporate Europe Observatory's essential
www.investmentwatch.org for up to date news and analysis on the MAI
and WTO.

* For copies of the ActionAid report - 020 7561 7561

"I expect developing countries are pretty tired of coming along to
World Trade Organisation meetings, only to watch the trade cake be
cut up by richer world, with the poorer world being left crumbs." -
Tony Baldry MP
In July the United Nations Development Program released its annual
Human Development Report. During the economically prosperous 1990s 54
countries ended the decade poorer than when they started.


Crap Arrest of the Week

For Firing A Water Pistol
A man in county Durham was CS sprayed and arrested after a policeman
driving a vehicle was caught in the crossfire of a vicious water
pistol fight. When the copper was squirted 'at close range from a
pressurized water gun' into his car he thought he'd join in the fun -
with a can of CS. A police spokesperson claimed the officer was
'temporarily blinded' by the water, justifying the charges of a
Public Order offence, resisting arrest and causing danger to a road



On Tuesday, more than 40 Palestinian, Israeli, and international
human rights activists were detained while attempting to block the
demolition of part of a Palestinian family's home, near the village
of Mas'ha. The building was to be demolished by the Israeli Military
because it lay in the path of the Apartheid Wall that Israel is
constructing on occupied Palestinian land. Two internationals were
beaten; one, a US citizen from Los Angeles, was repeatedly kicked in
the stomach and may have sustained broken ribs. Bulldozers moved in
immediately to demolish part of the family home.

This is the latest in a string of events relating to the construction
of a separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank. The
officially stated reason for building the 'security fence' (which is
three times higher and longer then the Berlin wall) is to prevent the
unauthorised passage of Palestinians out of the West Bank. However,
the route of the wall does not follow the internationally recognised
pre-1967 borders of the State of Israel, and the authorities refuse
to publish the official path of their 'security fence'. However,
research carried out by the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem,
shows that the planned route for the fence will isolate a number of
Palestinian villages and rob a great many more of their farmland,
enabling the acquisition of even more Palestinian land.

* Next saturday (16th) the Israeli army will be descending on
Brighton! Checkpoints will be set up around the town centre by the
International Solidarity Movement in protest at the continued
occupation of Palestinian land. Call 07977204334 for more details or
to join us on the day

* More anti-border action. Last month more than 100 activists
peacefully invaded the "First Hospitality Centre" in Bari Palese,
Italy, with some migrants managing to escape. This was preceded by a
first demo on 24 July, followed by a 1000 strong demo on 26 July.
See: www.noborder.org/news_index.php

* In mid-October a Palestinian hip hop act called DAM are coming
across to the UK for a short tour and are looking for sympathetic
groups/collectives to help put them on. The tour is to raise
awareness of current Palestinian issues. www.freesaj.org.uk or
info@enlighten-palestine.org 07919134144.


SchNEWS In Brief

** Cardiff Anarchist Network are holding a 'Disarm the Arms Trade'
benefit next Tuesday (12th) at the Toucan club, St Mary St £/2,
8-late. www.geocities.com/bozavine/can

** For the latest on DSEI - Europe's largest arms fair coming to
London next month check out www.dsei.org The next planning meeting is
this Sunday (10th) 2pm at LARC, Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel. With
a month to go, people are needed to make this day happen and to shut
down the death fair. If you can't make meetings there is also a
discussion list. To subscribe send a blank email to

** The Anarchist Trade Union Network Discussion Group is a temporary
resource set up to discuss the re-launching of the Network, hoping to
reach practical and concrete ideas/proposals to take to a re-launch
meeting at the Anarchist Bookfair in October. Join the discussion via
the website: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/atundiscussiongroup

** Want to extract yourself from the evil grip of Microsoft? Seeds
for Change are running a workshop for activists this weekend in
Lancaster for those who want to switch to Linux, a free and
easy-to-use alternative to Windows, created through sharing and
co-operation. All levels of skill are welcome. 01524 383 012

** Corporate Watch have released an excellent set of extensively
researched documents covering the GM industry and individual
companies. Well worth checking out - www.corporatewatch.org

** Variant magazine are investigating casualised immigrant labour and
the UK companies that profit from it (fruit farms, sweatshops and so
on). If you have any experience of this sort of casualised slavery
let them know at cheaplabour@btopenworld.com

** People in Cambridge are holding an information action this
Saturday (9th) 10am at Tesco in Newmarket Road against the
introduction of RFID chips (see SchNEWS 415) on trial in the
supermarket. A chip triggers a camera to photograph anyone who picks
up a packet of Gillette razors, which is then stored in a database.
Gillette have already cancelled trials in the US after customer
complaints. http://indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/cambridge

** Statewatch have just published a critical report into the new
UK-US Extradition Treaty signed without any parliamentary debate.
Under it, the allegations of the US government will be enough to
secure the extradition of people from the UK. However, if the UK
wants to extradite someone from the US, evidence to the standard of a
"reasonable" demonstration of guilt will still be required. For a
copy call 208 802 1882 or read it at

** Sherwood Forest Camp have organised a Beech party for this
Saturday in support of their campaign to save ancient trees from
developers. Meet under the Major Beech and bring beech clothes and
beech balls, bucket and spades etc, and stay and camp if you can. Go
to Mansfield Woodhouse train station and call Cookie on 07890165727

** For more events see Party & Protest


Inside SchNEWS

Sherman Austin, webmaster of RaisetheFist.com was sentenced to one
year in federal prison, with three years of probation, for creating
an anarchist web site with links to sites on how to build bombs. On
top of his year inside, the stipulations of his probation read more
like a facist regime. Check this:

1. He cannot possess or access a computer of any kind without prior
approval. (Whoa... don't point that mouse at me!!)

2. Any equipment he owns is subject to monitoring, search and seizure
without notice.

3. He must surrender his phone, DSL, electric, and satellite bills.

4. He cannot associate with any person or group that seeks to change
the government in any way (be that environmental, social justice,
political, economic, etc.)

5. He must pay over $2,000 in fines.

All this, mind you, for simply publishing some information that is
probably available at your public library, and without otherwise
committing any kind of violence.

Austin is in effect bindfolded and gagged while the US military are
free to use explosives as they see fit, as they have done for years.

Judge Wilson also ruled that Austin can't associate with anyone from
a group that "espouses physical force as a means of change"...as if
Austin wanted to hang out with the US government anyway...

To send support to Sherman Austin e-mail: keepthefistraised@yahoo.com
before September 3rd


Positive SchNEWS

In case you were sleeping in a fridge, Wednesday was the hottest day
of the year so far. Climate change experts are saying that global
warming is happening quicker than forecast. The Centre for
Alternative Technology (CAT) has come up with the Carbon Gym for
kids. The Gym includes interactive theatre performances and science
workshops to explain the tools and techniques being developed to
reduce our carbon emissions e.g. eating local food, energy
efficiency, renewable energy and green transport. Visit the Gym at
CAT's visitor centre. Contact them at CAT, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20
9AZ, Wales. 0845 330 8373 www.cat.org.uk

* Yesterday, Daniel Blackburn set out to drive from Land's End to
John O' Groats - but instead of filling up his car with diesel at
petrol stations, he'll be buying vegetable oil at ordinary shops and
using that instead. Vegetable oil, taken from plants such as rape,
sunflower, linseed and hemp, is carbon neutral. This means that the
carbon dioxide released in combustion is re-absorbed from the
atmosphere when the crop is grown again. Mr. Blackburn said: "Many
people do not know that vegetable oil is a better fuel than diesel
for car performance and it is perfectly legal if you pay duty on the
cooking oil. Being from a farm I also know how farming needs new
ideas to survive. If vegetable oil becomes a fuel for the future,
farmers and rural economies could, for a change, benefit from the
results of our nation's addiction to motoring." 07976903637

* If you want to get involved in climate change campaigning contact
Rising Tide 01865 241 097 www.risingtide.org.uk

* A new website has been launched by green groups campaigning to
increase the amount of energy supplied by wind power in the UK.

* Treesponsibility is a local climate action group, based in the
Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire that's been busy reforesting
steep, eroded hillsides as a natural means of flood defence. In the
past two years they've planted 11 hectares of new woodland, which
will absorb roughly 5,000 tonnes of CO2. But now all their work could
be wiped out by plans for an open cast mine. Local councils have
already rejected the proposal but the developers are appealing saying
their project offers "the only hope" of repairing this badly damaged
land. Treesponsibility beg to differ and have set up a fund to create
a new community woodland. If you can help financially call 01422
843222 www.watershedappeal.org.uk


...and finally...

A South African hospital cleaner bit off more than she could chew
when enjoying her employer's canteen goulash.

Sophie Matlala sat down to her lunch and ate a few spoonfuls before
"tackling the meat". She found she couldn't cut it with her knife, so
picked it up and tried to bite through it, but still failed. On
closer inspection Ms Matlala and her colleagues noticed that it was a

The hospital confirmed this, but said that - as it had been cooked -
they couldn't identify whether it was human or animal. Following the
incident Ms Matlala said she vomited all day, became a vegetarian,
and sought psychiatric help. A judge recently ruled that she could
not sue the hospital for this distress as the incident occurred 3
years ago.


SchNEWS warns all readers - don't be caught napping during the
corporate takeover. Honest.


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