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EcoMobility Gaining Ground, Step by Step

CHANGWON, South Korea, Nov 1, 2011 (Tierramérica) - Berlin is a big capital city of a country famed for making excellent automobiles, but it can no longer afford roads and is now moving people by transit, bike and especially through walking.

Berlin is not alone. Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogotá, New York City and other major cities simply cannot afford the cost, the pollution, the noise and the congestion of more cars. They are embracing a new concept called EcoMobility - mobility without private cars.

"EcoMobility is not only walking, cycling and public transportation. It is about these three systems clicking together: connectivity is the key," Gil Peñalosa, former director of parks and recreation in Bogotá, Colombia, told those attending the EcoMobility Changwon 2011 congress.

The congress on Mobility for the Future of Sustainable Cities was organised by the South Korean city of Changwon and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, an association of local government members from more than 1,220 cities in 70 countries.

"The famous Times Square in New York City is now a permanent pedestrian mall. Who would have believed that could happen just three years ago?" Peñalosa commented to Tierramérica.

"Five years ago who would have thought Paris would have over 22,000 bikes as part of a tremendously successful bike sharing system?" added Peñalosa, who is now the executive director of 8-80 Cities, an NGO based in Toronto that promotes walking, cycling, parks and urban trails to improve the public life of cities. MORE
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Yemen women burn face veils to protest attacks

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of Yemeni women have set fire to a pile of female face and body veils on a main street in Sanaa to protest the government's brutal crackdown against the country's popular uprising.

The act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen.

Wednesday's protest comes as clashes intensify between forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and renegade fighters who have sided with the opposition in demands that the president step down.

Medical and local officials say up to 25 civilians, tribal fighters and government soldiers died overnight in Sanaa and the city of Taiz despite Saleh's ceasefire announcement late Tuesday.

Saleh has clung to power in the face of more than nine months of massive protests against his rule.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's president on Tuesday called in the U.S. ambassador and told him he would sign a deal to step down, a U.S. official said. The embattled leader, who has made that pledge several times before, spoke as violence shook his capital.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh informed Ambassador Gerald Feierstein of a new cease-fire, but clashes on the streets threw that into doubt. Activists said seven protesters were killed and 10 wounded.MORE
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Why do we need an Occupy Australia?

Many Australians have questioned the need for an Occupy movement of our own. In contrast to the US, we’re not struggling in quite the same way, economically, having never slipped into recession or been caught up in the Eurozone debt crisis. There are no largescale cuts to public jobs as in Europe or the U.S. At The Referral, Kimberley Ramplin points out that the Australian economy is quite healthy, comparatively speaking:


5.2 per cent unemployment in September 2011. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Measures of Australia’s Progress 2011 report shows, pretty much everything (barring productivity) has improved since 2000. Including unemployment. The bad news? That increase applies to threatened animal species due to climate change. The average weekly income per full-time employed adult is $1,305. The average hourly income is between $29.70 and$33.10 (the disparity? Female wages c.f. men) (Source: ABS)

I’ve lived in Australia and the U.S and I know from personal experience that the substantially lower standard of living in the U.S is something few Australians can truly understand. Things are not perfect in Australia economically – not with the astronomical housing prices – but we can’t say that the middle class has collapsed in the same way as in the U.S.


We do ourselves no favours when we uncritically mimic American models without changing them to suit local conditions. The cultural cringe is no more useful in activism than it is in other areas. The 99/1% slogan is powerful stuff indeed but doesn’t adequately address the income distribution of Australia as accurately in the United States. Activism must respond to local needs to be successful.

So what's wrong with Australia? A lot, as it turns out


But the interesting thing is what she decided to leave out...that awesome economic bubble somehow manages to miss the Aborigines. Apparently this isn't a local need? Of course, that capitalist system was immeasurably boosted by colonization, stealing, killing and otherwise exploiting said Aborigines and their land, which brings up the whole issuetastic problem with the name Occupy and what it reveals about the terms of debate anyway.
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The Montreal Metro System will be fully wheelchair accessible in 2058


I know a lot of people skip titles of posts. Please read the title of this one.

I had an argument with someone at school on Thursday and it's still sitting with me. I think this is because we'd had an earlier argument on a similar subject on Tuesday. As you can probably imagine, it was about disability, or more specifically, about how disabled people have existed and advocated for themselves since long before the mainstream folks started paying attention, and well before I ever started paying attention.

The argument on Thursday was about my colleague's disagreement with the abstract for a master's research paper on disability discrimination in the Montreal Metro System. I'm not from Montreal, so the place this system has in Montreal was a bit much for me to grasp. Apparently it's a big thing, a progress thing. A thing about how Montreal has been advancing into the future. When it was opened in 1966, it was opened to everyone.

Everyone, of course, except people who can't walk up and down stairs.

The presentation and follow-up short video talked explicitly about ableist constructions of public spaces. She called it out very bluntly: this is discriminatory. This has always been discriminatory.

The part that others tend not to get, the part my colleague at the university didn't get, is that the people at the time knew this.MORE from trouble
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But someone needs to explain how a NATO strike killed him when he had been discovered in a drainage hole by rebels.


Graphic footage showing him after his death in Sirte


Muammar Gaddafi killed as Sirte falls: NTC military chief says toppled leader died of wounds following capture near his hometown of Sirte.


Muammar Gaddafi has been killed after National Transitional Council fighters overran loyalist defences in Sirte, the toppled Libyan leader's hometown and final stronghold.

"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed," Mahmoud Jibril, the de facto Libyan prime minister, told reporters on Thursday in Tripoli, the capital.

Crowds took to the streets of Sirte, Tripoli and Benghazi, the eastern city that spearheaded the uprising against Gaddafi's 42-year rule in February, to celebrate the news, with some firing guns and waving Libya's new flag. 

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an NTC military chief, said Gaddafi had died of his wounds after being captured on Thursday.

The body of the former Libyan leader was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, Mohamed Abdel Kafi, an NTC official in the city of Misrata, told the Reuters news agency.

Earlier, Abdel Majid, another NTC official, said the toppled leader had been wounded in both legs.

Sirte captured

The news came shortly after the NTC captured Sirte after weeks of fierce fighting.

 


Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley reports from Sirte

 

Fighters flashing V for victory took to the streets in pick-ups blaring out patriotic music.

"Thank God they have caught this person. In one hour, Sirte was liberated," a fighter said.

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, reporting from Sirte, said Libyans there celebrating the beginning of a "new Libya".


MORE



Who was Muammar Gaddafi? Video


What does Gaddafi's fall mean for Africa? As global powers become more interested in Africa, interventions in the continent will likely become more common.

"Kampala 'mute' as Gaddafi falls," is how the opposition paper summed up the mood of this capital the morning after. Whether they mourn or celebrate, an unmistakable sense of trauma marks the African response to the fall of Gaddafi.

Both in the longevity of his rule and in his style of governance, Gaddafi may have been extreme. But he was not exceptional. The longer they stay in power, the more African presidents seek to personalise power. Their success erodes the institutional basis of the state. The Carribean thinker C L R James once remarked on the contrast between Nyerere and Nkrumah, analysing why the former survived until he resigned but the latter did not: "Dr Julius Nyerere in theory and practice laid the basis of an African state, which Nkrumah failed to do."

The African strongmen are going the way of Nkrumah, and in extreme cases Gaddafi, not Nyerere. The societies they lead are marked by growing internal divisions. In this, too, they are reminiscent of Libya under Gaddafi more than Egypt under Mubarak or Tunisia under Ben Ali.

Whereas the fall of Mubarak and Ben Ali directed our attention to internal social forces, the fall of Gaddafi has brought a new equation to the forefront: the connection between internal opposition and external governments. Even if those who cheer focus on the former and those who mourn are preoccupied with the latter, none can deny that the change in Tripoli would have been unlikely without a confluence of external intervention and internal revolt.

More interventions to come

The conditions making for external intervention in Africa are growing, not diminishing. The continent is today the site of a growing contention between dominant global powers and new challengers. The Chinese role on the continent has grown dramatically. Whether in Sudan and Zimbawe, or in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria, that role is primarily economic, focused on two main activities: building infrastructure and extracting raw materials. For its part, the Indian state is content to support Indian mega-corporations; it has yet to develop a coherent state strategy. But the Indian focus too is mainly economic.

The contrast with Western powers, particularly the US and France, could not be sharper. The cutting edge of Western intervention is military. France's search for opportunities for military intervention, at first in Tunisia, then Cote d'Ivoire, and then Libya, has been above board and the subject of much discussion. Of greater significance is the growth of Africom, the institutional arm of US military intervention on the African continent.
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The Road Not Built: Redefining Progress At Home and Abroad

Local opposition to a proposed road in Trinidad brings new understanding of “progress,” and what it means to be rooted.

Most Americans love roads: Ours is a country of roads with a network of highways that rivals any other. So too does the U.S. government love roads. When the Obama administration passed its epic $787 billion stimulus plan just weeks after taking office, where did much of the money go? Into fixing and upgrading our highways.

When U.S. aid agencies look to poorer nations, they too love to fund the building of roads that can deliver crops to markets and ports and bring “progress” to remote areas. After all, who could be against a road?

In our stay in Trinidad and Tobago, the two-island nation off the coast of Venezuela, we discover that more people than we expected are opposed to a particular road. Their reasons turn the prevailing view of progress on its head and add to our understanding of “rooted” communities.

As we prepare to travel to Trinidad, we notice something strange on maps of the island: The coastal road that goes almost entirely around Trinidad stops for a 17-mile stretch in the center of the northern coast. Our research reveals that government promises and plans to complete the road go back to 1962 when the country gained independence. Some five decades later, still no road.

Not only does the couple not want a road, they want the entire mountain region to be declared a protected area to be stewarded by the people who live around it and in it.

This intrigues us. So we travel to three towns that surround the no-road area in part to see what life is like at the end of the road and to find out the “what,” “why” and “how” of the unfinished project.

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Gold or Water: The Fight Goes on in El Salvador

At this moment, unbeknownst to most of the world, the government of El Salvador is in the midst of a decision that could make it the first country in the world to ban gold mining. Corporate eyes are trained on this tiny nation, hoping it will decide that mining revenues are too lucrative to forgo. So too should those of us who believe that people and their ecosystems come first be doing our part to make sure that corporate interests do not determine what should be a democratic decision among Salvadorans.

Earlier this year, we traveled to El Salvador for The Nation to learn more about how the first progressive government (led by the FMLN party) in El Salvador in decades was deliberating over its choices. As part of its 2009 election promises, the government of Mauricio Funes had announced it would grant no new mining permits during its five-year term and that it was considering a permanent ban. Once elected, the Funes government initiated a major “strategic environmental review” to help set longer-term national policy on mining.

So, we found ourselves at the Ministry of the Economy, which along with the Environment Ministry, is leading the review. (Can you imagine the U.S. Treasury Department and EPA joining forces to do a collaborative review of U.S. policy?) With us was the man overseeing the review process from the economy ministry: engineer Carlos Duarte. Duarte explained that the goal was to do a “scientific” analysis, with the help of a Spanish consulting firm.

We pushed further, trying to understand how a technical analysis could capture the two sides of such a high-stakes issue. On one hand, El Salvador is a country of deep poverty, with people desperately in need of jobs. How could it not be tempted by visions of earnings from gold exports, especially now that gold’s price had skyrocketed from under $300 an ounce a decade ago to over $1,500 an ounce at the time of our meeting with Duarte? This view is perhaps best epitomized by former Salvadoran finance minister and mining company economic adviser Manuel Hinds, who said that “renouncing gold mining would be unjustifiable and globally unprecedented.”

On the other hand, there is the environmental cost. Here we quoted to Duarte from Maria Silvia Guillen, the head of the Salvadoran human rights group FESPAD: “El Salvador is a small beach with a big river that runs through it. If the river dies, the entire country dies.”MORE
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Nobel Peace Prize recognises women rights activists


This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded jointly to three women - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman of Yemen.

They were recognised for their "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work".

Mrs Sirleaf is Africa's first female elected head of state, Ms Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist and Ms Karman is a leading figure in Yemen's pro-democracy movement.

"We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women achieve the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society," said Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo.

Reading from the prize citation, he said the committee hoped the prize would "help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realise the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent".

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Israel's asymmetrical prisoner swap
The Israeli-Hamas prisoner swap is not a measure of life value, but rather an illustration of the asymmetrical conflict.


It doesn't take long to meet a prisoner family in Palestine. With more than 6,000 Palestinians incarcerated by Israel right now and more than 700,000 in jails since Israel's 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories, those stories soon come into the frame - mention of a father, a brother taken away; a swallowing of pain; a distant gaze determined to bring a beloved, absent face into focus.

Now Israel has cut a deal with Hamas to release the soldier Gilad Shalit, five years after his capture, in exchange for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, these figures allude to the reality of mass Palestinian imprisonment.

With 20 per cent of the population jailed at some point, prison is a feature of Palestinian life under occupation.
From the routine night raids that drag family members away, to the opaque military trials, the detention of children (7,000 since the year 2000) and the torture reported by Amnesty to take place in Israeli prisons, it all adds up to a system of control and debilitation.

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MIDEAST Palestinian Refugees Consider a Model for Return
TEL AVIV, Oct 16, 2011 (IPS) - In a new project that has tackled one of the most divisive issues plaguing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a diverse group of academics, architects, urban planners and Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups are examining how the right of return of Palestinian refugees can be implemented on the ground. "Based on the right of return, we developed since 2008 a project of thinking practically about return. It’s not so much about the right itself, but more about the possibilities, once there will be the right, of how it could be implemented," Eitan Bronstein, founder and spokesperson of Israeli organisation Zochrot told IPS.

Working to raise awareness among Israelis about the Palestinian Nakba, the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians before and during the foundation of the state of Israel in 1947-48, Zochrot has launched an exhibit titled ‘Towards Return of Palestinian refugees’ in Tel Aviv. From the re-imagined layout and step-by-step return processes for the Palestinian villages of Kufr Bir’im and Miska, to video testimonials from Palestinian refugees themselves, a handful of detailed models, simulations and other projects were put on display. "We believe that if people would be exposed to such projects this would show Israelis that there are possibilities of return. None of the projects talk about expelling anyone. We’re talking about how to return, but based on the rights of people who are living here to live here, and all the refugees and their descendants to return," Bronstein told IPS. "We are kind of inventing a new language that hasn’t existed until now, of thinking about the return itself and not continuing to say no, it’s not possible."

Palestinians constitute the largest refugee population in the world, with approximately six million refugees and their descendants scattered throughout the Middle East and around the world. Akhram Salhab is the communications officer at Badil, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, which organised workshops with Zochrot to develop the practicalities of return project. He stressed that any discussion about the Palestinian right of return must involve the input of the refugees themselves. "For the past 62 years, most international initiatives related to the refugees have taken place against the will of the refugees. In all respects, the refugees have been left out of planning their own lives. For the project to be successful, it must be viewed as legitimate by them. Our key objective is to include refugees themselves in the planning process," Salhab told IPS. MORE
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The Sticky Situation Surrounding Plumpy'nut


Afro-Leo is pleased to bring you a guest post by Isaac Rutenberg, PhD, Patent Agent at Bozicevic, Field & Francis LLP in San Francisco, CA, USA. If you would like to contact Isaac directly, he can be reached at rutenberg@bozpat.com.

Is intellectual property always harmful to poor people? Plumpy’nut has been cited as an example that supports the case against allowing patent rights in matters of humanitarian aid. On the contrary, Plumpy’nut is a shining example of how proper use of intellectual property protections could have significantly enhanced international aid and development work.
A recent article in the NYTimes describes the row that has developed over Plumpy'nut. In short, Plumpy'nut is a revolutionary peanut-based product with the potential to end or significantly reduce severe acute child malnutrition. Developed by Dr. Andre Briend, a "crusading pediatrician" who became tired of traditional (frequently unsuccessful) solutions to acute malnutrition, Plumpy'nut is a simple product that is remarkably effective and practical.

So why the row? Turns out that the Plumpy'nut formulation has been patented in 38 countries, including the US, France, and much of Africa. The owner of the patent, the French company Nutriset, appears to be bent on commercializing not just the miracle product but the entire process of combating acute malnutrition. Nutriset and Nutriset's collaborators (including a US for-profit company manufacturing Plumpy'nut in New Jersey for distribution to USAID) have defended their approach and their product, taking steps to prevent others from producing similar products. Criticism of Nutriset has been unsurprisingly harsh: non-profits worldwide say that Nutriset is trying to profit on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable children. Inevitably, there is the claim that intellectual property is to blame for this disaster.

I say, not so fast. The NYTimes article says that Nutriset obtained the patent rights because Dr. Briend "signed a consulting agreement" with Nutriset after developing Plumpy'nut, since he "never knew anything about manufacturing food." This is somewhat vague, but according to a United States Patent and Trademark Office database, Dr. Briend and a co-inventor assigned (i.e., sold) the patent to Nutriset. This left Nutriset entirely in charge of the patent – Dr. Briend has no say in how it is used.

Why didn't he open source copyright the formulation?


You should read the New York Times article. Just be prepared to RAGE. The Peanut Solution
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Chilean girls stage 'occupation' of their own school in education rights protestFor five months, girls demanding free university education for all have defied police to occupy their state school


Sleeping on a tiled classroom floor, sharing cigarettes and always on the lookout for police raids, the students of Carmela Carvajal primary and secondary school are living a revolution.

It began early one morning in May, when dozens of teenage girls emerged from the predawn darkness and scaled the spiked iron fence around Chile's most prestigious girl's school. They used classroom chairs to barricade themselves inside and settled in. Five months later, the occupation shows no signs of dying and the students are still fighting for their goal: free university education for all.

A tour of the school is a trip into the wired reality of a generation that boasts the communication tools that feisty young rebels of history never dreamed of. When police forces move closer, the students use restricted Facebook chat sessions to mobilise. Within minutes, they are able to rally support groups from other public schools in the neighbourhood. "Our lawyer lives over there," said Angelica Alvarez, 14, as she pointed to a cluster of nearby homes. "If we yell 'Mauricio' really loud, he leaves his home and comes over."

For five months, the students at Carmela Carvajal have lived on the ground floor, sometimes sleeping in the gym, but usually in the abandoned classrooms where they hauled in a television, set up a private changing room, and began to experience school from a different perspective.

The first thing they did after taking over the school was to hold a vote. Approximately half of the 1,800 students participated in the polls to approve the takeover, and the yays outnumbered the nays 10 to one.

Now the students pass their school days listening to guest lecturers who provide free classes on topics ranging from economics to astronomy. Extracurricular classes include yoga and salsa lessons. At night and on weekends, visiting rock bands set up their equipment and charge 1,000 pesos (£1.25) per person to hear a live jam on the basketball court. Neighbours donate fresh baked cakes and, under a quirk of Chilean law, the government is obliged to feed students who are at school – even students who have shut down education as usual.

So much food has poured in that the students from Carmela Carvajal now regularly pass on their donations to hungry students at other occupied schools.

Municipal authorities have repeatedly attempted to retake the school, sending in police to evict the rebel students and get classes back on schedule, but so far the youngsters have held their ground.

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NAMIBIA Skulls Repatriated - But No Official German Apology

BERLIN, Oct 4, 2011 (IPS) - A delegation of Namibian government representatives and leaders of the indigenous Herero and Nama people who came to Germany to repatriate 20 skulls of their ancestors were once again disappointed in their hopes for dialogue and an official apology.

The skulls were of victims of the mass murder of 80,000 Herero and Nama between 1904 and 1908, which were stolen by the former colonial 'Kaiserreich' for racial research some 100 years ago.

"When the Great Powers partitioned Africa in 1884, unfortunately we were allotted to the Germans," said Advocate Krukoro of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee, one of the 60 Namibian delegates, during the Sept. 27-Oct. 2 visit to Berlin.

In 1904, some 17,000 German colonial troops commanded by General Lothar von Trotha launched a brutal war of extermination against the Herero and Nama people, after they revolted against the continued deprivation of land and rights. Following their defeat at Waterberg on Aug. 11, 1904, they were hunted, murdered or driven deep into the Omaheke desert where they died of thirst.

Thousands of men, women and children were later interned in German concentration camps, and died of malnutrition and disease. The territories of the Herero and Nama people were seized, their community life and means of production destroyed. The discussion about the mass murder did not start until Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990.

Germany's foreign ministry has routinely avoided the use of the term "genocide" in dismissing the Herero and Nama peoples' claims for compensation, using instead vague phrases such as "Germany's historic responsibility with respect to Namibia."


Cornelia Pieper, the minister of state in the German foreign office, did the same this time around. "Germans acknowledge and accept the heavy moral and historical responsibility to Namibia," she said on Sep. 30 at the Charité University in Berlin, which hosted the ceremony in which the skulls of nine Herero and eleven Nama people were handed over to the Namibian delegation.

The remains of four females, 15 males and one child were part of the Charité anatomical collection. They were used by German scientists in research that had the aim of proving the supposed racial superiority of white Europeans over black Africans.

Now, 100 years later, the president of the executive board of the 300-year-old institution, Karl Max Einhaeupl, deplored "the crimes perpetrated in the name of a perverted concept of scientific progress" and said: "We sincerely apologise".

The treatment of the Herero and Nama people in Namibia – mass extermination on the grounds of racism, extermination through labour, expropriation of land and cattle, research to prove the alleged superiority of white people – is widely seen as a precursor to the Holocaust. MORE
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Secret Cables: Big Pharma's Prints Cover US Foreign Policy


Among the hundreds of thousands of secret US State Department cables recently released by WikiLeaks, the controversial whistleblower website, a cache reveals US diplomats defending the interests of big pharmaceutical companies, even at the risk of the hosting nation’s own public health priorities. The memos dutifully detail the many embassy meetings with local Big Pharma reps, during which US officials are presented with laundry lists of issues to raise with one or another local government ministry. Invariably the goal of the exercise is for pharma to pressure the US to pressure the host country to give favorable treatment to expensive brand name drugs, typically by preventing in-country manufacturing or marketing of far cheaper generic versions.

Separate cables show such industry profiteering tactics threatening to taint US diplomatic relations in emerging nations such as Hong Kong, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and India. Overall, a familiar picture emerges of a diplomatic corps if not held hostage by, at least a captive audience to, the financial interests of the biggest American pharma companies as they come into covert conflict with developing nations that quite naturally prioritize the health care of their people over the high margins that Big Pharma has come to expect. With several hundred drugs and vaccines in development to treat addiction, the scourge of hundreds of millions worldwide, the affordability and accessibility of these innovative (and, no doubt, expensive) medicines will become a pitched battle in global public health over the next decade. The outcome of the skirmishes sketched in the WikiLeaks cables will help decide whether profits or people prove victorious.

The cables by no means paint a uniform portrait of government lackeys doing industry's bidding. Many memos betray a between-the-lines irritation at pharma's monomaniacal self-interest. Still, there is a disturbing silence on the obvious moral or ethical objections to industry demands for high price, long patents, and other protections despite the cost in human lives. Only a single cable—from the outgoing US ambassador to Poland in 2009—lays bare the vast greed that drives these complex, highly technical negotiations.

The developing nations, contrary to what you might expect, in many ways hold the best cards in this political game. Emerging nations have the fastest-growing economies, the most upwardly mobile middle classes, and the biggest untapped markets in the world. And in their impressive pushback against Big Pharma, India has been the 800-pound gorilla over the past decade. A democracy with well-educated but relatively inexpensive brain power, the pharma industry views India not merely as a market but as a potential new hub of drug development and testing.

Aware of its advantage, India has played hardball, starting with its approval of local generic HIV drugs for its hundreds of thousands of citizens with the virus—a defiant challenge to Big Pharma, which had refused to discount its own brand-name AIDS drugs to affordable levels. (In the US, HIV treatment costs as much as $15,000 a year; the Indian generic knocked out knockoffs with a $350 price tag.) In addition, India’s supreme court has been fearless in shooting down foreign pharmas when they sue for patent infringement by Indian generic companies. When an emerging nation's entire legal and legislative apparatus unite to oppose industry interests, the company can either fold its hand or fold up its tent. When drug companies retaliated by boycotting India and refusing to sell new drugs there, they attracted universal opprobrium for denying sick people medicines.


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Revolting Women: Geneviève Pastre



Pastre’s coming-out, at the age of 56, followed successful careers as an academic, theatre practitioner and poet.

...

It was during her time as a [theatre] director that Pastre began gaining recognition as a poet, subsequently publishing ten poetry collections between 1972 and 2005. In 1976, having privately begun to live with a woman, she began agitating for lesbian rights in France. Her official coming-out was a declaration in print: the 1980 essay on female sexuality, De L’Amour lesbien (About Lesbian Love).

By 2000, Pastre had published a further five books, including historical works. As the titles of Homosexuality in the Ancient World and Athens and the Sapphic Peril suggest, Pastre was one of the first feminist theorists to deconstruct classical myths. Challenging the dominance of Foucault’sHistory of Sexuality, she argued that Foucault – and with him the male academy – had misinterpreted both ancient languages and lesbian sexuality.

Pastre’s greatest contribution, however, has undoubtedly been to the transformation of queer rights, and thus queer life, in France. A year before coming out in the pages of De L’Amour lesbien, Pastre co-founded Comité d’Urgence Anti-Répression Homosexuelle(CUARH). Mobilising the smaller, disparate French gay rights groups that already existed – including David et Jonathan (gay Christians), and Beit Haverim (gay Jews) – CUARH organised a massive protest on 4th April 1981. 10,000 French LGBT people and allies joined what has since been recognised as France’s first ever gay rights march, campaigning for homosexual sex (decriminalised since the French revolution) to have the same age of consent as for heterosexuals.

 

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A Contrast in Discourses: Sicilia and the Peace Caravan in Oaxaca

The Annihilating Language of the Left Meets the Language of Humanity of Drug War Victims

This month’s journey by Javier Sicilia, family members of drug war victims and the Caravan of Peace provided a closer look at how different sectors of the Mexican left are receiving the emergence of the country’s first explicitly nonviolent movement on a national scale. The difference between Sicilia’s Gandhian strategy and discourse and those of more strident and militant traditions was especially magnified in the state of Oaxaca, where the caravan traveled September 11, 12 and 13, a majority-indigenous state which has its own deep history of struggle. ...

Oaxaca’s history of popular struggle is among the deepest in the hemisphere. We’ve learned a lot from it, particularly from the Zapotec communities of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, who in the 1980s launched the first resistance against the one-party rule of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials). Much of my own early formation in Mexico came learning from my late friend, the exceptional community organizer and labor lawyer Carlos Sanchez, assassinated in 2003 in Juchitán, at the age of 49, while returning from his daughter’s 15th birthday celebration.

It is not easy to work or live in Oaxaca with a social conscience and not become overwhelmed at times with grief over the sheer volume of political assassination, unjust imprisonment and violence inflicted on good people who have worked to right wrongs and injustices. One day your friend and neighbor are there, fighting the good fight. The next day he and she are gone, forever. Then you watch helplessly as their children are raised fatherless or motherless. You see and feel the gaping holes left in communities throughout the state’s seven regions, and the long term consequences of such political violence, compounded today by the economic violence of the prohibitionist drug policy and its escalating consequences on all of Mexico, including Oaxaca, a key south-to-north funnel in the routes of South American cocaine.

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YES!!!

Oct. 3rd, 2011 07:46 pm
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Supreme Court ruling opens doors to drug injection clinics across Canada Sit DOWN conservatives!!


The Supreme Court of Canada has opened the door to supervised drug injection clinics across the country in a landmark decision on Friday that ordered the federal government to stop interfering with Vancouver’s controversial Insite clinic.

The Court was persuaded by evidence that drug addicts are considerably safer administering their own injections under medical surveillance rather than obtaining and injecting hard drugs on the streets of the city’s troubled Downtown Eastside.

In its 9-0 decision, it said the federal government has the jurisdictional right to use criminal law to restrict illicit-drug use – but that the concerns it cited in an attempt to close Insite were “grossly disproportionate” to the benefits for drug users and the community.

“During its eight years of operation, Insite has been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada,” the Court said. “The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.”

In ordering the Harper government to exempt the clinic from prosecution for its activities, the Court said that the government cannot simply close down clinics based on its own distaste for legally sanctioned drug injections.

It said that the consequences of interrupting the work of the clinic could have such “grave consequences” that only a direct court order can be assured that the spirit of the judgment would not be circumvented. MORE
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DWer [personal profile] deepad has given permission for linkage to some articles she has written about current political events and related thoughts in India.

Un-Violence


It's Gandhi Jayanti, which means that its the International Day of Non-Violence. (NotWorld Ahimsa Day because that's on his death day.)

I think a lot about how to define violence in a philosophical way, especially when we then try to apply it to a socio-political system. And also how do you define the absence of violence?

If violence is the use of force, the resistance of any kind becomes a form of violence. Even a form of physical violence, when it is internalised. A hunger strike seems to be a facet of the same spiritual impulse that responds to an oppressive world with depression, or disassociation. Creative unhappiness, if you will.

I am interested in creative resistance, and in representations of it. There seem to be so few, in comparison with the glorification of violence. It makes for complicated stories, when people argue about how to stay moral and yet try to force a change on the dominant morality. Or, for that matter, are the dominant minority trying to govern and reform.

If we become our enemies when we adopt their methods, and we DO - hegemonic India is today governing its people with the same greedy and autocratic amorality as colonial Britain did - then perhaps we are also setting up replicating patterns of resistance when we make different choices.
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Mee Anna Hazare Azun Nahi Aahe

In case anyone wanted to access the actual drafts of the various lokpal bills
the lokpal debate website here has a comprehensive collection of links.

Aruna Roy's letter regarding the NCPRI position is particularly informative:
The Lokpal discussion has had an interesting trajectory. It began as the stated logical end of a large middle class mobilization on corruption. The stated end of that campaign was the demand for the setting up of a Joint Drafting Committee for a Lokpal bill. In common usage and understanding of corruption, the term casually refers to a range of corrupt practices. The political/governance spectrum is indeed more culpable than others. For it is mandated to maintain integrity in public life, to keep the country on keel with constitutional and other guarantees. This includes preventing the arbitrary use of power and corrupt practices. The Lokpal was too simplistically ordained by the campaign as a solution to all varieties of corrupt practices in our lives.

However the assurance that all solutions to the entire gamut of corrupt practices could be worked out through a strong Lokpal has left us with a great sense of disquiet. Not only because it does not address the arbitrary use of power. But because it is an unrealistic promise to rising expectations that it is an alleviation of all ills through one bill. It is also a question of the contents of the Jan Lokpal draft itself.
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Updates from Koodankulam

Jayalalitha coming to power on an anti-corruption platform after those lavish photo-spreads of that ridonkulous wedding she threw for her adopted son in 1995 with sarkari money means that we have no right to be surprised by how brazen and voluptuous her hypocracy is. Now madam is claiming the Koodankulam protesters are deluded, because everyone knows SCIENCE SAYS those plants are safe. Meanwhile, what sort of fasts is it ok to go on? Ones for communal harmony, if you're Narendra Modi.

This is the 8th day that 127 people have been fasting for.
Today mass prayer is going to be conducted across Tirunelveli and Thothukudi districts. In Kanyakumari today candle procession is to take place in many locations. Villages around Idinthakarai resorted to “Kanji Thotti” protest which involved just making some rice porridge and eating to highlight their plight because of no livelihood for the past 7days. On Sep 19th a solidarity fast will be observed in Kanyakumari. Protest is planned in many places for today and coming days. The villagers have been on night vigil since yesterday fearing the police will try and arrest the fasting people. For the seventh day in succession fishermen, farmers, manual laborers, merchants of the area did not go for their jobs while students continued to boycott schools and all shops remain closed for kilometers around Idinthakarai. The government and some of the media are trying to portray a picture that the fast and protest is carried out only by one community and are trying to create a split and give a communal color to the fast. People of Hindu, Muslims and Christian faiths and all major caste groups are involved in the hunger strike and the relay fasting by tens of thousands of people. No political party or NGO or INGO is involved either directly or indirectly in the protest.

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In pretty much any other Canadian jurisdiction, Alison Redford would be a Liberal. Her candidate website talks about “strong and accessible public services,” including subsidized daycare, more affordable higher education and an abrupt end to the last guy's public education cuts, and better funding of the public healthcare system with no forays into private care. So how did she become leader of a thirty-year political governing “conservative” political dynasty and head honcho of what is most certainly the most right-leaning Canadian province last night? Basically, it comes down to the nuttiest voting system I’ve ever heard of determining the result of her party’s leadership race.

Read the rest here.
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Libya’s Girl Executioners and Gun-Brandishing Newscasters

Gender roles are nowhere more prominent than in war, as we see male political and military leaders taking the most visible roles in armed conflicts, promoting the tendency to see the capacity to inflict violence as inherently male. During the six months of Libya’s revolt, amid stories of women working in hospitalsand sending food to the fighters, the stories of women who have ventured into the frontlines, likeFawzia Al Ferjani, have been few and far between. Tellingly, the fact that women were again out on the streets in Tripoli, including coming out in force for a celebration in the renamed Martyrs Square, were reported as signs of normality.

Since the opposition entered Tripoli, however, there have been a number of interviews with women formerly employed as guards and fighters by the Gaddafi regime, reports previously limited to the evidence of women’s IDs at the frontlines and rumours of female snipers and mercenaries.

A few days ago Al Arabiya interviewed Amira, a young woman who studied at the police officers academy before joining Gaddafi’s Revolutionary Guards, and her sister Inaas, who studied at the same academy and appeared wearing niqab. Amira, who resigned from her post before the uprising began, said that the job attracted poorer women who wanted a policewoman’s salary, and said she had decided to join the Guards because: “I wanted to work and do something, so I had to join the Revolutionary Guards after I could no longer get into the police academy.” In a longer version of this interview, Amira pointed out the irony of promoting equality through military training, given Gaddafi’s obsession with classifying people by tribe, race and region, and gave an account of being one of only 4 women among 600 men at the academy which comments on the failures of the strange form of feminism Gaddafi espoused.

The prosaic Amira is a contrast to the seeming ideological fervor of one of the most visible faces of Gaddafi’s regime, Hala Misrati, a newscaster on state TV. In an Asharq Al-Awsat article on “The rise and fall of Gaddafi’s mouthpiece,” Khaled Mahmoud noted that Misrati was not

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No Birds Sing in Monoculture 'Forests'


MONTEVIDEO, Sep 24, 2011 (IPS) - Artificial single-species forests are expanding fast in countries of the developing South, fuelled by low production costs and incentives from governments, and causing severe social and environmental impacts, warned experts from around the world who met this week in the Uruguayan capital.

The so-called "green deserts" are encroaching on the fertile soil of South America and other regions, with the proliferation of plantations of fast-growing and high water-demanding trees to be used to produce pulp and paper, and for other industrial uses, displacing local communitiesand threatening native ecosystems.

Many governments in the global South support this model of investment, production and consumption, which is replicated from the North, said the participants in the International Symposium on Forestation, held Wednesday Sep. 21, the International Day of Struggle against Tree Plantations.

"Some 350 kg of paper per person a year are consumed in Europe, half of which is packaging, while in Brazil and Uruguay the average is 50 kgs per person annually," Brazilian activist Winfridus Overbeek, international coordinator of the Uruguay-based World Rainforest Movement(WRM), told IPS.

Overbeek said that in Europe as well as North America, there is no longer enough space to plant the trees required for that high level of consumption, so companies are shifting production to countries of the developing South.

He also pointed to the different opportunities found by transnational corporations in the developing world, where fertile land abounds and production costs and wages are lower than in the industrialised North.

In several countries of Latin America, as well as in southern Africa and in Asia, monoculture eucalyptus and pine plantations are advancing, to supply paper pulp factories. Plantations of oil palm, first established in Indonesia, are also expanding in those areas.

Meanwhile, "to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, false solutions to protect the planet have been created," said Overbeek. "The production of biofuels, produced with palm oil, for example, is promoted, even though the processing and transportation releases into the atmosphere the same amount of carbon that it is supposed to reduce."

Moreover, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the "flexibility" mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol, allows developed countries to continue emitting greenhouse gases while investing in projects that supposedly boost local development and cut emissions in the developing world as offsets for their own polluting. 

"One of those activities is, precisely, planting trees on a large scale," Overbeek complained. 

Guadalupe Rodríguez, a member of the Germany-based Rainforest Rescue, told IPS that "monoculture forests tend to be seen as a good thing
, because they are green and pretty. But if you approach them, you won't hear a single bird, because there is nothing there, just silence. 

And then there is the murdering of the people who protest
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Kenyan Nobel laureate Maathai dies

(CNN) -- Kenyan Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize, died Monday of an unspecified illness. She was 71.

"It is with great sadness that the Green Belt Movement announces the passing of its founder and chair, Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai, after a long illness bravely borne," her organization said.
Maathai, an environmentalist, had long campaigned for human rights and the empowerment of Africa's most impoverished people.

More than 30 years ago she founded the Green Belt Movement, a tree-planting campaign to simultaneously mitigate deforestation and to give locals, especially women and girls, new purpose. They have since planted more than 40 million trees.

In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was the first woman from the continent to win the prize.

"Her departure is untimely and a very great loss to all of us who knew her—as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine—or those who admired her determination to make the world a peaceful, healthy, and better place for all of us," said Karanja Njoroge, executive director of the Green Belt Movement.

Born in Nyeri, Kenya, on April 1, 1940, Maathai blazed many trails in her life.
She was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. In December 2002, she was elected to Kenya's parliament with an overwhelming 98% of the vote.MORE

YES!!!!!

Sep. 20th, 2011 12:59 pm
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Chevron loses latest stage of Amazon pollution battle


New York appeals judge unfreezes $18bn damages award over contamination of indigenous tribe's land in Ecuador.


A US court has dealt oil giant Chevron a severe blow after lifting a ban on an $18bn judgment against the firm for contaminating the Amazon.

A New York appeals court has reversed an earlier order freezing enforcement of the record damages award. It is the latest reversal in a nearly two decade-long legal battle over pollution in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

In February, a judge in Ecuador ordered Chevron to pay damages to the plaintiffs, but both Chevron and the residents appealed, and the case has yet to make its way to Ecuador's highest court.

In anticipation of the judgment, however, Chevron had filed court papers asking district judge Lewis Kaplan to freeze any possible enforcement of payment anywhere outside Ecuador. Kaplan, who presides over a chunk of the litigation in Manhattan federal court, issued the now-reversed preliminary injunction in March.

Karen Hinton, spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, said the appeals court order meant it had recognised that Kaplan had acted too fast in issuing an injunction. "Chevron abused the law, and Judge Kaplan rushed to judgment without considering the overwhelming evidence against the oil giant," she said in a statement.

"We can now at least dream there will be justice and compensation for the damage, the environmental crime, committed by Chevron in Ecuador," lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Pablo Fajardo, told the Associated Press.MORE
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'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Is Done; What Now?

"Don't ask, don't tell" is over Tuesday.

The ban against gays serving openly in the military has been repealed. Starting Tuesday, gay service members cannot be discriminated against for their sexual identity. But the policy has affected the lives of thousands of people during the 18 years it was in place. NPR spoke with two of them: one who was discharged from the military under the law eight years ago; the other a gay Marine who has been keeping his sexual identity a secret for 14 years. MORE
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MEXICO Peace Movement Meets Zapatistas


PALENQUE, Mexico, Sep 19, 2011 (IPS) - The Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, headed by Mexican writer Javier Sicilia, travelled through southeastern Mexico and reached the heart of the territory controlled by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), bringing a message of solidarity.

Sicilia and other relatives of victims of the wave of violence triggered by the militarisation of the war on drugs by the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderón visited the "autonomous community" of Oventic, in the southern state of Chiapas, Friday Sep. 16.

The community is part of the territory under the influence of the EZLN, guerrillas who took up arms in 1994 in Chiapas to demand democratic reforms and greater recognition of indigenous rights. After two weeks of skirmishes with the army, a truce was agreed. The barely-armed group remains in political and administrative control of part of the state, where communities are organised autonomously under local councils.

No Zapatista commanders took part in the meeting, but the peace movement activists were welcomed by the Junta de Buen Gobierno (Council of Good Government). The meeting lasted for over three hours. Five EZLN representatives listened to the victims' testimonies, but made no statement.

"They have their own methods and sense of timing. The main thing is that it was possible to hold this meeting," one of the coordinators of the peace movement, Pietro Ameglio of the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ), told IPS.

On May 8, when a national march convened by Sicilia arrived in the Zócalo, Mexico City's central square, the Zapatistas held a demonstration in the southeastern town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in support of the peace movement.


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MEXICO Peace Caravan 'Has Made Us Feel Stronger'

OAXACA, Mexico, Sep 13, 2011 (IPS) - With a huge hug, Olga Reyes from Chihuahua, who has lost six family members in Mexico's wave of drug-related violence, greets Araceli Rodríguez from Mexico state, the mother of a young federal police officer who "disappeared" in Michoacán two years ago.

They are both travelling with the Peace Caravan, heading for Mexico's southern border with Guatemala.

Reyes and Rodríguez then embraced Rosario Ocampo, the niece of Lucio Cabañas (1939-1974), a rural schoolteacher and leader of the insurgent Partido de los Pobres (Party of the Poor). Her family were displaced from their home and forced to flee from the southern state of Guerrero after the legendary guerrilla fighter's widow was murdered two months ago.
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MEXICO
Peace Caravan Tells Migrants 'You Are Not Alone'


TECÚN UMÁN, Guatemala, Sep 16, 2011 (IPS) - Lucía and her family left their village in Guatemala village at 8:00 am to join the Peace Caravan, but they had to wait for six hours at the Rodolfo Robles bridge between Ciudad Tecún Umán, in Guatemala, and Ciudad Hidalgo, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

When the motorcade, led by writer Javier Sicilia and activist Julián Le Barón, of Mexico City and Chihuahua state, respectively, finally arrived at the Guatemalan border, Lucía had held her one-year-old son in her arms for ages. Tired out by the wait, he was fast asleep, oblivious of the commotion on the international bridge.

"We came to represent our organisation (the Campesino Unity Committee), because there is a lot of crime, a lot of poverty, and many people are being killed or are victims of extortion in Mexico," the young mother told IPS.
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