Category Archives: Asia

Fidel Castro speaks out about the duty to prevent nuclear war.

Fidel Castro has broken a long self-imposed silence in the Cuban journal “Granma” by drawing attention to the consequences of a nuclear war starting on the Korean peninsula. He speaks as a friend of North Korea and reminds them of ” a duty” to prevent that happening. Castro similarly spoke out when another potential threat to humanity, as Castro sees it, was under discussion: the environment.
Few politicians I can think of have the understanding, authority and wisdom shown by Castro. The United States still mark him out as a danger to the world.
As for understanding the two Korean states we have little chance of doing that from press reports, any more than we have been unable to see what underlies Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Israel and so on. We only begin to understand when it is too late so that Sunni and Shia communities are at each other’s throats following the intervention of dominating world powers have intervened. The legacy of imperialism and empire are not buried and dead, they are very much with us. Humanity as a concern is way down the priority list for them, so to see Castro speaking out comes as cool refreshment. Clearly he is addressing North Korea as much as the United States and all who could play a part should conflict break out.

Who are suffering most in this new world without compassion?

Recent reports have shown levels of violence against individuals at a high level, sickening in their reporting. That they are reported at all, how and why remains a topic of debate.
On Friday, 4th January 2013, a meeting is to be held by the Indian Worker’s Association. A response came as follows:
MBugi Bugi Bugiandassociates: this just came from the walls of Mr Das Gupta of DELHI–our senior friend—————–Candles in the wind—————–
In a few hours, a special flight will reach New Delhi with the body of Nirbhaya, the gang rape victim, from Singapore.
If she had lived, Nirbhaya, which translates into the fearless, would have returned from that same city with a diploma in the course she was pursuing – physiotherapy.
It was the wish of her father, a poor handler at Delhi’s T3 airport, who sold his small, fertile land in Megrakalakhur village (Thana: Narahi) in Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia district and traveled to Delhi to support his daughter’s education.
A foreign educated daughter would have been the biggest pride of the family, the father had told his family members.
There would be more cash in the home. It would supplement his Rs 5000 a month salary, he had told his wife and sons.
A few days ago, as top government officials told him the government’s decision to take his daughter to Singapore for treatment, the distraught father – aware of Nirbhaya’s precarious condition – told them it was the same city she wanted to go to acquire a specialized diploma.
How could he take her there? he asked.
And seconds later, he broke into a paroxysm of sobbing.
Standing close, a former government employee who once worked in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) during the four month tenure of Chandra Shekhar told Nirbhaya’s father to gather courage and accept the government’s request.
The family – claimed the former PMO official – was surprised to see the abundance of India’s official machinery that remains woefully inadequate to protect the poor.
Two ambulances with patients were set up as decoys and the third carried Nirbhaya and her family. Their travel documents were made in a record time.
In Singapore, the family checked into the swanky Mandarin Orchard. Then, they all rushed at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital to be with their daughter.
The doctors switched on a ventilator to perform the work for Nirbhaya’s near-defunct lungs. The doctors sedated her to prevent the pain from being felt by her damaged brain and tortured innards.
Nothing worked. At 0445 hours Singapore Time, Nirbhaya died without opening her eyes on the island nation.
Without seeing an inch of the hospital she would have worked if she had managed the diploma in Singapore.
In the Indian Capital, prime time television anchors rushed to their studios on Sunday morning and handled shows with moist eyes and heavy tones.
Radio stations and television channels also urged many to send text messages. Those who did were blissfully unaware that such messages only meant cash for the service provider and news organizations.
Candles, placards and flaming torches hit the fog-filled Capital where politicians and celebrities started their usual blame game that continued till late evening hours.
No one asked the city’s transport minister, Arvind Singh Lovely, why his department never took action against private buses with dark windows illegally plying in the city.
The bus in which the rape took place was impounded six times and let off with a minor warning. The owner had 11 such illegal vehicles. The Transport Department wanted the buses to be impounded and had ever referred the case to the top authority.
But no one budged.
Was it because the masters of all illegal buses in the city are politicians, both from the ruling and opposition parties?
No one asked, hence no one answered.
In India, the safety of the poor has never merited any attention or action.
But on Sunday, the rulers were genuinely worried about their very own safety.
The heart of the city, where the rich and famous live, was cordoned off and a special rule – Section 144 – imposed by the authorities. It resembled a fortress, with armed police and riot troops maintaining a heavy presence.
Those in power probably feared a revolution on Sunday could rattle their citadel, which sociologists have described as the Geographical Centralization of Power. After all, the zone is home to the ruling Cabinet and members of opposition politicians.
It has brains, lungs and arteries but no heart.
The candles are still burning, so is a nation with rage.

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The Nuclear Lobby

Information on the latest of incidents in Japan in the history of nuclear panic is emerging slowly and in a variety of versions. The Japanese government is advising people to close to the stricken power stations to stay indoors and to close windows. People of Tokyo are said to be unconcerned. Is that so? Governments of other countries such as UK and France are advising nationals to leave pronto. What do they know?
Much about Chernobyl was kept under wraps so as not to discredit the nuclear industry elsewhere. An earlier “accident” at the former Windscale plant in the UK in Cumbria was reported as a minor problem at the time. Although the British government went as far as renaming the reactor to help air brush memories away. The truth has taken longer to emerge. The “incident” was close to a major disaster.
We know that politicians past and present are involved in the “revolving door” joining powerful multinationals as advisers. We don’t want nuclear power, it’s dangerous for us and for our children. Those we elect are soon bought off with lucrative offers to exert influence on governments. The nuclear lobby is alive and well. You bet it will put a gloss on Japan.

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Once more the European Union shows it is about protecting corporations not people

India produces cheap drugs which are life savers to vulnerable people. They can’t afford the prices imposed by the drug industry in western countries -as is the case with many living there. The European Union is about to stop all this by getting India to agree to stop supplying cheap copies and to accept licensing which helps the giant pharmaceutical industry amass their huge profits.
Industry revenues (Wikipedia)
For the first time ever, in 2006, global spending on prescription drugs topped $643 billion, even as growth slowed somewhat in Europe and North America. The United States accounts for almost half of the global pharmaceutical market, with $289 billion in annual sales followed by the EU and Japan.(pdf) Emerging markets such as China, Russia, South Korea and Mexico outpaced that market, growing a huge 81 percent.
US profit growth was maintained even whilst other top industries saw little or no growth.[18] Despite this, “..the pharmaceutical industry is — and has been for years — the most profitable of all businesses in the U.S. In the annual Fortune 500 survey, the pharmaceutical industry topped the list of the most profitable industries, with a return of 17% on revenue.”
Pfizer’s cholesterol pill Lipitor remains a best-selling drug world wide. Its annual sales were $12.9 billion, more than twice as much as its closest competitors: Plavix, the blood thinner from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis; Nexium, the heartburn pill from AstraZeneca; and Advair, the asthma inhaler from GlaxoSmithKline.
IMS Health publishes an analysis of trends expected in the pharmaceutical industry in 2007, including increasing profits in most sectors despite loss of some patents, and new ‘blockbuster’ drugs on the horizon.
Teradata Magazine predicted that by 2007, $40 billion in U.S. sales could be lost at the top 10 pharmaceutical companies as a result of slowdown in R&D innovation and the expiry of patents on major products, with 19 blockbuster drugs losing patent.

Enjoying your cuppa

Enjoyed a good cup of tea this morning? I did until I read this. Conditions on this Bengal plantation are appalling with workers exposed to health risks without protection. A worker dies after spraying chemicals on crops. How these poisons might have affected the tea I’ve just drunk I can’t say.
The plantation belongs to a large multinational concern. The pastoral images on its web site lull us into a sense that this is a benevolent caring concern who spend time supporting the poor and dispossessed. They also trade on their long establishment which gives an air of respectability:
“Amalgamated Plantations’ origins date back to the pioneering days of tea, when James Finlay in 19th century, played a dominant role in the Indian tea industry.
A century later, in 1976, Tata and Finlay joined forces to form Tata Finlay. This partnership, opened up new frontiers of growth and business. Some years later, Finlays divested their share to the Tata Group.
In 1983, a newly energized company was formed – Tata Tea.”
As we know Tata also makes cars along with everything else imaginable.
This is the company’s vision:
“The most trusted provider of quality teas and differentiated agricultural product supply solutions.”
Their mission:
“Enduring partnerships with customers and suppliers.
Agricultural productivity in the regions where we operate.
The quality of life in the communities we serve.
Value for all stakeholders.
An organisation which fosters innovation and empowerment.”

Their values:
“Fairness and respect.
Celebrate successes / Recognise achievements.
Reward meritocracy.
Promote work-life balance.
Close to ground empowerment.
Discuss, decide and then support.”

Elsewhere we find the company extending its interests “beyond tea” with agriculture claiming “the hottest chilli (don’t say if it’s genetically modified or if they’re into that), aquaculture (fisheries). (Don’t know what effect it has on fresh water supplies here) and dairy.

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All for the sake of the Dynasty

The attempt by the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to ensure the maintenance of a political dynasty was at the very least inept. Protesters in Birmingham made it clear that they thought his absence from flood devastated regions of Pakistan was totally unacceptable with shoe throwing in evidence. Even one of his supporters, sporting a rosette with Benazir Bhutto’s picture, said so.
Zardari himself came to power amid the massive outpouring of grief from the former supporters following Bhutto’s assassination. Their son, supposedly the beneficiary of Zardari’s efforts. absented himself from an embarrassing situation by remaining in London to launch a relief effort for flood victims. It seems that this was a damage limitation exercise if ever there was one.
Meanwhile back in Pakistan things are going from bad to worse as flood waters advance along the valleys of rivers like the Indus and Brahmaputra.

Guantanamo Bay Mark 2

After all the hype and fuss about Guantanamo closing you’d think there would be second thoughts on secret prisons. What a stupid thing to think. We hear that the new “shock and awe” tactic to deal with the Taliban is to “win hearts and minds”. ‘Tis shock and awe you feel when you see your family lying dead and mutilated. Are you impressed as I assume you are supposed to be by this obscene language and strategy? Hm. It’s certainly shocking.
The first thing to do is to kill a dozen or so civilians. Another good ploy is to kidnap suspects so that everyone is sending our search parties for them and send them away to a secret location. No not Guantanamo Bay but somewhere inside Afghanistan. For goodness sake!
The once notorious Bagram prison has cleaned up its act according to the article in the Nation. The dirty work of torture, which continues, goes on elsewhere. No Bush in sight now but the man Obama who promised us the longed for change and hope. Don’t look for it here.

Copenhagen and the blame game

According to an eyewitness account Obama was on a hiding to nothing taking on the Chinese. The writer believes It was a deliberate ploy to discredit the US and leave the President empty handed while making it look like it was the fault of the US.
Presidents Chavez and Morales of Venezuela and Bolivia were also present and commented on the way documents were being circulated without allowing the possibility of discussion. Morales, who had arrived early in Copenhagen, referred to the lack of democracy being displayed at a high level. Chavez refers to this in his report back on the summit.
Does this let global Capitalism off the hook? At the conference I attended in Cuba in 2008 on Marxism in the 21st Century the question was asked whether China was following a socialist path or not. The consensus believed it was not. Interestingly Chinese delegates there appeared to come from marginal parts of the nation. They dodged the question.
What I saw of China in Zimbabwe and Botswana made it seem like a new colonial power. What was being offered to African countries in return for the loot seemed to be more destruction of the environment. Regrettably governments encouraged the Chinese imperial alternative.
The Latin American states included in ALBA had put climate change high on their agenda and President Lula of Brazil spoke of his frustration as the talks unfolded. So the refusal of China to accede to any formal agreements put forward at the last minute, including by Obama, were clearly against the wishes of the ALBA countries. Yet China is conspicuous by its absence from analyses of their spokesmen. The question of whether China is adopting a socialist course or copying the imperialism of the west is not being addressed.
Whether the blame rests with the USA, China or elsewhere is a matter of debate. In any case climate change will not be answered by vested self interest of western capitalism or a Chinese variant is painfully clear.

Blackwater still at large

Erik Prince the chief of Blackwater is a known for his crusade against Islam and Muslims in Iraq, yet here us the firm operating with the US military in Pakistan.
Officially the US does not have military operations in Pakistan, but the Nation report speaks of Blackwater operatives in Karachi. It is believed that work includes snatch squads to hunt down and kidnap suspected members of Al Quaeda, including Osama Bin Laden himself.

We will never …….

Gordon Brown’s latest words, those uttered so often by political leaders in the face impending disaster. “we will never…” – in this case “appease the Taliban”. In this case the alternative is “we will appease the (self-apparently fraudulent) government of Mohammed Karzai”. And David Milliband is off to do just that as he is installed for a further term.
Who is the “Taliban” is a moot point since those inside Afghanistan see it as a very inexact term which can cover diverse groups and interests, including those who don’t care much for Karzai’s way of operating. Difficult to criticise them isn’t it?
I had thought that the British Government had already noted a difference between “good” and “bad’ Taliban with the intention to “reintegrate”, but if these are groups willing to compromise with a government admittedly corrupt perhaps they are the wrong ones to work with!