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polly7

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Member since: Sat Jul 9, 2005, 11:46 PM
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It's Time For A Global Minimum Wage

By Jason Hickel

Source: Aljazeera

Friday, June 14, 2013

The real problem has to do with the way the global labour market works. Because of neoliberal economic policies imposed over the past few decades, companies now have the power to rove the globe in search of what CEOs refer to as the "best investment conditions". Poor countries like Bangladesh have to compete with other poor countries to attract much-needed foreign capital by offering the lowest minimum wages, the flimsiest safety standards, the cheapest taxes, and so on. Most economists justify this destructive "race to the bottom" under the banner of "comparative advantage".

As part of this deal, companies no longer have to bargain with local workers - they can opt out of the social contract whenever it suits them. If workers in Savar, say, got together to demand better wages or safety standards, the companies that use them would just start sourcing from somewhere else, leaving them unemployed. Such a move wouldn't take more than a mouse-click at the headquarters of Gap or Wal-Mart.


To put it bluntly, the global labour market is rigged in the interest of multinational companies; it is designed to allow them to pump value out of human bodies - mostly poor, brown, female bodies - as efficiently as possible. Those bodies generate the enormous wealth that flows into corporate coffers, but only a fraction of it goes back to them in wages - the vast majority gets pocketed as profits and CEO bonuses.

This process of appropriation - or theft, really - helps explain the shocking trends in global inequality that we have seen over the past few decades, to the point where the richest 200 people now have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion - more than half of the world's population.


Full article: http://www.zcommunications.org/its-time-for-a-global-minimum-wage-by-jason-hickel

The IMF’s “Mistakes” On Greece Are Nothing New

By Jérôme Roos

Source: Roarmag.org

Friday, June 14, 2013

Three years since its first bailout, the IMF has finally gathered the courage to admit that it made major mistakes in its handling of the Greek debt crisis. In an official report released last week, the Fund states that, while its basic policy prescriptions were correct, it underestimated the negative effect of austerity on growth and therefore ended up making economic prognoses that were much too optimistic about Greece’s debt sustainability. Where the IMF predicted a contraction of 5.5% of economic output between 2009 and 2012, the Greek economy actually lost 17%, and where the IMF predicted 15% unemployment by 2012, the actual rate was 25%. So much for the supposed neoliberal “success story” of draconian austerity that European leaders have been raving about in their delirious collective debt delusion.

And yet, while these seemingly shocking admissions hit media headlines as if they were some kind of profound revelation, the sad truth is that they actually tell us nothing new. In fact, the Greek Labour Institute and the think tank IOVE made forecasts that were frighteningly close to the actual outcome. The IMF now argues that Greece should have had debt cancellation as early as 2010 or 2011, but claims that this policy response was politically unpalatable to those countries — i.e., Germany, France and the Netherlands — whose banks had a large exposure to Greek debt. Again, this is nothing new: the IMF is merely repeating the exact argument that hundreds of thousands of outraged Greeks made in 2011, when they occupied Syntagma Square to contest a parliamentary vote on the EU/IMF-imposed austerity memorandum. Back then, the protesters were dismissed as fringe extremists. Now even the IMF proves them right.

But there is another — more sinister — way in which the IMF’s belated mea culpa is nothing new. The fact of the matter is that these type of self-critical reports by the Fund have been a permanent feature of its management of international financial crises ever since the 1980s. For some reason, every time a debt crisis strikes, the IMF moves in to impose the same short-sighted bailouts, austerity measures and market reforms — and then, several years later, comes to the conclusion that it made major mistakes in its handling of the crisis. Yet it never changes tack: when the next crisis hits, it simply reproduces the same old script: stabilization, privatization, liberalization. Nothing else will do to satisfy the markets, and so the debtors simply have to bend over backwards to satisfy the orthodox neoliberal prescriptions of structural adjustment.

During the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Fund also made overly optimistic growth prognoses in a context of austerity. Back then, these predictions also served to legitimate a policy response that narrowly served the interests of the big banks by preventing early debt write-downs. Just as today, the IMF was also forced to admit — in hindsight — that it “failed to foresee” the depth and duration of the crisis. As official IMF historian James Boughton noted in his extensive study of thirty years of IMF crisis management, the Fund suffered from a “lack of foresight from optimism in assessing the growth prospects of Latin American countries.” Indeed, its austerity programs “were predicated on forecasts of a rapid resumption of economic growth” that failed to materialize. This led Karen Lissakers, a future IMF executive director, to conclude that “the Fund is acting as enforcer of the banks’ loan contracts.”


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-imf-s-mistakes-on-greece-are-nothing-new-by-j-r-me-roos

Koch Brothers' Activism Protects Their 50 Years in Canadian Heavy Oils

By David Sassoon at InsideClimate
Thu May 10, 2012 4:30am EDT

Long involvement in Canada's tar sands has been central to Koch Industries' evolution and positions the billionaire brothers for a new oil boom.

By David Sassoon, InsideClimate News

Over the last decade, Charles and David Koch have emerged into public view as billionaire philanthropists pushing a libertarian brand of political activism that presses a large footprint on energy and climate issues. They have created and supported non-profit organizations, think tanks and political groups that work to undermine climate science, environmental regulation and clean energy. They are also top donors to politicians, most of them Republicans, who support the oil industry and deny any human role in global warming.

What is less well documented are the many Koch businesses that benefit from the brothers' efforts to push the center of American political discourse rightward, closer to their own convictions. At the top of the list are the Koch family's long and deep investments in Canada's heavy oil industry, which have been central to the company's initial growth and subsequent diversification since 1959.


http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/10/idUS427145980520120510

Trailer - Watch A Brave Little Girl Take On Her Rapists, Her Village, And Her Culture

In Pakistan, it's not uncommon for rape victims to be treated more harshly than their rapists, even by their own families and the justice system. This teenage girl demanded otherwise.




ORIGINAL: "Outlawed in Pakistan," a film by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann. Frontline is airing the full-length film on PBS and it's terrific. Check your local listings for times.

The Globalization of Hypocrisy

By Paul Buchheit

Source: Common Dreams

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Excerpts:
In this dream world of global capitalism, young people are going from zero income on the farm to a few dollars a day on a 12-hour factory shift, and as a result, based on the World Bank's poverty threshold of $1.25 per day, they're no longer "in poverty." So the media piles on praise for free markets. The Economist proclaimed that "poverty is declining everywhere." The Washington Post gushed that "a billion people have been lifted from poverty through free-market competition."

But the reality is very different. Inequality continues to grow, both between and within countries. Poverty levels haven't changed much in 30 years, with almost half of humanity, up to three billion people, living on less than $2.50 a day. A quarter of the world's children - over 170 million kids under age five - are growing up stunted because of malnutrition.


It may be time to update the company's quote: "We don't have an obligation to solve the world's problems."

Even if there were no obligation to help solve the world's problems, there IS an obligation to pay for global energy consumption and infrastructure usage and industrial pollution. Yet a review of 25 multinational companies shows clear negligence in meeting that responsibility. The 25 companies, with almost a half-trillion dollars in 2011-12 income, paid just 8% in taxes to the U.S. and 9% to foreign countries. A 35% tax -- paid to ANY country or countries -- would have generated another $90 billion over two years, four times the amount needed to battle malnutrition.


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-globalization-of-hypocrisy-by-paul-buchheit

Protests held against 'Barbie Dreamhouse' in Berlin

May 16th, 2013 by David von Blohn

Around 250 protesters demonstrated against the "Barbie Dreamhouse", a life-sized theme house about the famous fashion doll which opened in Berlin City, which some protesters have called plastic and sexist to women.



http://www.demotix.com/news/2058367/protests-held-against-barbie-dreamhouse-berlin#media-2058300



Cambodia Shoe Factory Collapse Kills 2

Source: AlterNet - AFP / By Tang Chhin Sothy

KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia — A ceiling collapse at a Cambodian shoe factory killed two workers Thursday, spurring a government vow to inspect all garment plants amid heightened safety fears after last month's disaster in Bangladesh.

Local rescue teams, helped by soldiers, scrambled to search through the rubble of the fallen structure early Thursday, which appeared to have been on a mezzanine level laden with crates of trainers and canvas shoes.

Khem Pannara, district police chief for the area in the southern province of Kampong Speu, said two staff members were killed and at least 11 injured, some seriously, adding that the rescue operation had ended.

He said the concrete ceiling had likely collapsed because it could not hold the weight of equipment stored on it due to "poor construction".



Read more: http://www.alternet.org/world/cambodia-shoe-factory-collapse-kills-2



Israel, Hawking and the Pressing Question of Boycott

By Ramzy Baroud

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It is an event “of cosmic proportions”, said one Palestinian academic, a befitting description of Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott an Israeli academic conference slated for next June. It was also a decisive moral call which was communicated by the Cambridge University, where Hawking is a professor, on May 8.

Hawking is a world-renowned cosmologist and physicist. His scientific work had the kind of impact that redefined or challenged entire areas of research from the theory of relatively, to quantum mechanics, to other fields of study. This towering figure is also wheelchair-bound – suffering from complete physical paralyses caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease. For Hawking, however, such a painful fact seems like a mere side note in the face of his incredible contributions to science, ones that are comparable to only few men and women throughout history.

What is considered a prestigious scientific conference in Israel is hosted by President Shimon Peres, most remembered by Lebanese and Palestinians for ordering the shelling of a United Nations compound near the village of Qana in South Lebanon in 1996. The compound was a safe heaven, where civilians often sought shelter during Israeli strikes. Not that time around, however. 106 innocent people, mostly children and women were killed and 116 wounded, including UN forces. That harrowing event alone would have sent Peres, then Israel’s prime minister to serve his remaining years in jail. But of course, Israel is above the law, or so the Israeli government believes and consistently behaved in the last 65 years at a price tag of uncountable lives, untold destruction and protracted suffering of entire nations.

Hawking’s response to the boycott call was immensely important. The man’s legendary status aside, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has proved more durable and successful than its detractors – mostly Israel’s apologists – want to believe. Hawking’s decision was also a testament that reason and morality should and must go hand in hand. Israel’s boasting of its scientific accomplishments should mean zilch if such technology is put to work to advance state violence, tighten military occupation, and make killer drones available to other countries, thus exporting violence and mayhem. That very ‘science’ was used in abundance in Israel’s latest two wars on Gaza (2008-09 and 2012) which claimed thousands of lives between dead and wounded.


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/israel-hawking-and-the-pressing-question-of-boycott-by-ramzy-baroud

Why Europe Can’t Just “Fix” Youth Unemployment

By Jérôme E. Roos

Source: Roarmag.org

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In recent weeks, European leaders somewhat belatedly seem to have become mightily interested in the issue. Italy’s new Prime Minister Enrico Letta called youth unemployment the most serious problem facing his country and called for an EU plan to “combat” it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, flag-bearer of the European austerity movement, similarly considers youth unemployment to be “Europe’s biggest challenge.” Meanwhile, a new campaign by Big Think somewhat naively asks “what’s causing youth unemployment and what can fix it?”


The real reason European leaders are suddenly so concerned about youth unemployment — while they remain unmoved by the plight of Greek AIDS patients, for instance, who now can’t get their anti-retroviral drugs — is simply that they are terrified by the prospect of social unrest. As the New York Times reported today, “it is clear that policy makers are seriously worried that millions of frustrated young job seekers pose as much of a threat to the euro zone as excessive government debt or weak banks.” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble literally admitted that “We will have to speed up in fighting youth unemployment, because otherwise we will lose the support, in a democratic way, in some populations of the European Union.” What they fear, in other words, is a continent-wide youth uprising. At its worst, their plans to “fix” youth unemployment serve to distract us from the obvious class dimension at play, promoting the illusion that the social crisis we face is just a series of economic problems that can be fixed without radical changes to the political status quo.

The inconvenient truth is that unemployment is an integral element of the neoliberal policy response to the crisis pursued by the European Union and the IMF. This, in itself, is nothing new. IMF austerity programs in the developing world have long involved dramatic reductions in wages and rises in unemployment. Careful quantitative analysis of the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s has shown that “the most consistent and statistically significant impact of Fund programs in Latin America … was the reduction in labor share of income.” Even official IMF studies recognize that its austerity programs “boost unemployment and lower paychecks.” Most importantly, the authors of a 2011 IMF report, Painful Medicine, conclude that austerity causes not just short-term but “particularly long-term unemployment.”

In other words, asking for austerity measures without youth unemployment is like insisting on the medieval practice of blood-letting without the blood-loss. It is not only brutal, but also practically impossible. Austerity and unemployment are like Siamese twins, conjoined at the hip, designed to strengthen and reinforce one another. As long as the EU and IMF keep imposing these highly destructive adjustment measures, unemployment will keep on rising. The only genuine “solution” to unemployment, therefore, would be to break free from the shackles of austerity and to default on the foreign debt. This is the reformist vision pursued by SYRIZA in Greece, and despite the lack of revolutionary imagination of this quasi-Keynesian approach, there is certainly something to be said for it from a humanitarian point of view.


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/why-europe-can-t-just-fix-youth-unemployment-by-j-r-me-e-roos

Their Instruments May Be Garbage, but the Music Will Bring Tears to Your Eyes

In a Paraguay slum, a children's orchestra makes do with what it's got—with inspiring results.

—By Zaineb Mohammed | Mon May. 13, 2013 2:30 AM PDT

Close your eyes and listen to Juan Manuel Chavez launch into the Prelude of Bach's Cello Suite No. 1, and you would never guess that, instead of spruce and maple, his instrument is crafted from an old oil can, a beef tenderizing tool, and a discarded pasta making device—all of it scavenged from the landfill that surrounds his home in Paraguay.

Chavez is a cellist in the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra in Cateura, an Asunción slum where bottle caps, door keys, and paint cans have been given new purpose. Under the supervision of local musician Favio Chávez, these utterly impoverished kids make beautiful music on instruments constructed almost entirely out of materials reclaimed from the dump.

Filmmaker and Asunción native Alejandra Nash first heard about the phenomenon back in 2009, and decided to produce a documentary about the kids—she and her co-producers are aiming for a 2014 release. She'll have plenty of support. The teaser she posted online last November quickly went viral, with 2 million views on Vimeo, and nearly 1 million on Youtube. It's inspiring. Check it out...


Now her project's Facebook page has more than 125,000 likes. And a Kickstarter campaign Nash launched in April to help fund the film's completion has raised almost $200,000, well over the $175,000 she'd asked for. Beyond funding post-production work, the additional money will help finance a world tour for the orchestra, and an expansion of what has come to be known as the Landfill Harmonic Movement.




http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/05/landfill-harmonic-trash-orchestra-documentary
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