Category Archives: Asia

Chinese anchor babies, a story of surrogates


Donald Trump has made a big fuss about so-called anchor babies, children born in the United States to parents who aren’t citizens as a means for the family to eventually become permanent residents and citizens.

He’s also declared that Ted Cruz, his one-time rival for the Republican nomination, declaring in January that “Ted Cruz may not be a U.S. citizen, right? But he’s an anchor baby. No, he’s an anchor baby — Ted Cruz is an anchor baby in Canada.”

So we wonder how he’ll react to this story from CCTV America:

Chinese are hiring American surrogates to have US citizen babies  

Program notes:

A growing number of Chinese families are hiring American surrogates to have children. One reason is that a baby born in the U.S. is automatically an American citizen. California is the most popular state for surrogacy because of its relaxed laws. CCTV America’s May Lee reports.

Obama leads global drive to gut the commons


Nations participating in the Trade in Services Agreement. Via Wikipedia.

Nations participating in the Trade in Services Agreement. Via Wikipedia.

Barack Obama isn’t a liberal, isn’t a liberal politician like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who called for the creation of public institutions to help lift the nation out of economic misery.

No Barack Obama is a neoliberal, an heir to the tradition embraced as national policy by Bill Clinton, who pushed ruthlessly for elimination of public assistance programs created under Roosevelt and replacing them with privately owned counterparts.

And now the Obama administration is pushing for the end of a host of public institutions on a global scale, with everything from post offices [and the postal banks embraced in some nations], hospitals, and more up for privatization.

And with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, that agenda is certain to roll forward.

What proof do we offer for our claims?

Consider the Trade in Services Agreement [TiSA], now in final stages of negotiations by representatives of 23 nations, including the European Union.

From Vice News:

WikiLeaks has released a thousands of documents that critics of free trade said shows how officials negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement, or TiSA, could force privatization on public institutions around the world.

The most surprising revelations in the WikiLeaks documents released this week involve state-owned enterprises, or SOEs — government-owned corporations that often operate like private businesses but pursue public goals, experts said.

The United States Postal Service might be considered a SOE. The service has a monopoly on snail mail. But it also competes against private companies by selling money orders, retail merchandise and express deliveries. When the postal service needs more money, it raises the price of stamps and other products or, when times are desperate, goes hat in hand to Congress.

WikiLeaks and others claim that negotiators from the United States and 22 other countries want to erode SOEs to clear the way for multinational corporations to take over their functions. TiSA would seek to lower trade barriers for finance, telecommunications and other service industries. It would cover around 75 percent of the world’s $44 trillion services market, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Here’s the Wikileaks announcement, and the link to the documents:

WikiLeaks releases new secret documents from the huge Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) which is being negotiated by the US, EU and 22 other countries that account for 2/3rds of global GDP.

This release includes a previously unknown annex to the TiSA core chapter on “State Owned Enterprises” (SOEs), which imposes unprecedented restrictions on SOEs and will force majority owned SOEs to operate like private sector businesses. This corporatisation of public services – to nearly the same extent as demanded by the recently signed TPP – is a next step to privatisation of SOEs on the neoliberal agenda behind the “Big Three” (TTIP,TiSA,TPP).

Other documents in todays release cover updated versions of annexes to TiSA core chapters that were published by WikiLeaks in previous releases; these updates show the advances in the confidential negotiations between the TiSA parties on the issues of Domestic Regulation, New Provisions, Transparency, Electronic Commerce, Financial Services, Telecommunication Services, Professional Services and the Movement of Natural Persons. WikiLeaks is also publishing expert analyses on some of these documents.

The annexes on Domestic Regulation, Transparency and New Provisions have further advanced towards the “deregulation” objectives of big corporations entering overseas markets. Local regulations like store size restrictions or hours of operations are considered an obstacle to achieve “operating efficiencies” of large-scale retailing, disregarding their public benefit that foster livable neighbors and reasonable hours of work for employees. The TiSA provisions in their current form will establish a wide range of new grounds for domestic regulations to be challenged by corporations – even those without a local presence in that country.

Wikileaks offers a sobering analysis

Along with the documents Wikileaks posted are analyses of each of the documents. Professor Jane Kelsey, of University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law provided the analysis on State Owned Enterprises [SOEs] provisions, and the document is sobering:

On 6 October 2015 the US proposed an Annex on SOEs for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – two days after the 12 parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), including the US, concluded their negotiations. The TPPA contains a unique Chapter 17 that imposes unprecedented restrictions on SOEs and gives the parties to the TPPA rights to demand information on other parties’ SOEs and to challenge aspects of their operations.

When the TPPA negotiations began in 2010 the US made it clear that it required a chapter on SOEs. The goal was always to create precedent-setting rules that could target China, although the US also had other countries’ SOEs in its sights – the state-managed Vietnamese economy, various countries’ sovereign wealth funds, and once Japan joined, Japan Post’s banking, insurance and delivery services. All the other countries were reluctant to concede the need for such a chapter and the talks went around in circles for several years. Eventually the US had its way.

The US proposal for TISA adopts and adapts key parts of the TPPA chapter that force majority owned SOEs to operate like private sector businesses. The most extreme, complicated and potentially unworkable provisions in the TPPA relating to state support are not included – yet. But there is an extraordinary power for a single TISA party to require the development of those rules if another TISA country, or a country seeking to join TISA, has too many large SOEs. China is the real target of the US’s ‘disciplines’ on SOEs in both TISA and the TPPA, along with any other countries that have a strong presence of state companies in their economy. As President Obama said of the TPPA in October 2015, these agreements are about the US making the rules for the global economy in the 21st century, not China, in ways that ‘reflect America’s values.’

Included in the analysis was this summary:

A snapshot of the TISA annex

  • The TISA Annex is modelled on the US-driven chapter on State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), concluded on 4 October 2015.
  • An SOE must operate like a private business, using purely commercial considerations when it buys and sells services or when it buys goods if it is a services SOE.
  • The SOE doesn’t have to apply purely commercial considerations where it has a public mandate to deliver a service, but it still can’t give preferences to local services and suppliers.
  • Any administrative body that regulates an SOE must exercise its regulatory discretion impartially in relation to all the entities it regulates.
  • If one TISA party thinks that 30 of the largest 100 companies in another TISA member is an SOE, or its SOEs contribute 30% of that country’s overall GDP, it can demand the TISA parties develop further rules that ‘aim to ensure’ it does not provide ‘non-commercial assistance’ (financial support or through goods and services) that cause ‘adverse effects’ to ‘another Party’s interests’. That rule would not apply to domestic services supplied by an SOE, but would apply to its activities that provide services across the border, which are commonly intertwined.
  • The same obligation would be triggered if a country with that proportion of SOEs (such as China or India) wanted to join TISA.
  • In addition to the general transparency obligations in TISA a government must provide specific information requested about a SOE (although this does not go as far as the requirements in TPPA).

Cui bono? Who are the beneficiaries?

Hint: It’s ain’t the workers and it isn’t the poor.

Among the avid supporters of TiSA is an outfit called the Coalition of Service Industries [CSI]. Here’s how they describe TiSA:

The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) is the most promising opportunity in two decades to improve and expand trade in services. Initiated by the United States and Australia, the TISA is currently being negotiated in Geneva, Switzerland with 50 participants that represent 70 percent of the world’s trade in services.

As of July 2015, participants in the TISA include Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union*, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States.

The last major services agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) was established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Since then, the world has evolved dramatically from the result of technological advances, changing business practices, and deeper global integration. The TISA can establish new market access commitments and universal rules that reflect 21st century trade.

And what is the Coalition of Service Industries?

Click on their Members page and here’s what you discover:

BLOG CSI

Headline of the day II: Call to legalize spousal abuse


From the Express Tribune in Karachi, the national Council of Islamic Ideology offers its own proposed national “women protection bill, ” a response to the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015 [PDF] adopted in Punjab, which bars “any offence committed against a woman including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cybercrime.” The CII is an advisory body providing nonbinding recommendations to the natuional legislature:

CII proposes husbands be allowed to ‘lightly beat’ defying wives

The council has proposed that a husband should be allowed to ‘lightly’ beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuses to dress up as per his desires; turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods.

Map of the day: China invests in Cal, 2000-2015


Invests are mapped by Congressional district:

Investments are mapped by Congressional district

From New Neighbors 2016: Chinese Investment in the US by Congressional District, a report from the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations, which notes that:

California is the number one destination for Chinese investment in the US, with aggregate investment of $8 billion since 2000. The state has 452 Chinese establishments that provide more than 9,500 local jobs. These are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area and greater Los Angeles, spread across a wide range of industries but with a particular focus on high-tech and real estate.

Today in climate change: Political ploys & reefs


It’s gonna be a hot time on the Big Blue Marble if the GOP has its way.

We begin the presumptive presidential candidate, via the Associated Press:

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled an “America first” energy plan he said would unleash unfettered production of oil, coal, natural gas and other energy sources to push the United States toward energy independence.

Mr Trump promised on Thursday to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of US tax money to a United Nations fund to mitigate effects of climate change worldwide.

>snip<

He said he would do everything he could “free up the coal” and bring back thousands of coal jobs lost amid steep competition from cheaper natural gas and regulations designed to cut air pollution and reduce greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

And then there’s the second place candidate, whose noxious schemes are no less inflammatory than the first place finisher.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called on the Justice Department to back off the oil industry, joining other Republican lawmakers asking Attorney General Loretta Lynch to drop any investigations into whether oil companies committed fraud in past statements downplaying the science and impact of climate change.

“The Obama administration and its allies in state attorney general offices across the country are threatening to use the power of government to intimidate and ultimately silence companies and researchers who do not agree with the government’s opinions about the allegedly harmful effects of climate change and what should be done about it,” Cruz, an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, said in a statement. “This is an abuse of power and a direct assault on the First Amendment.”

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Next up, two different responses the the fate of the world’s rapidly bleaching coral reefs.

Al Jazeera English focuses on dirty tricks Down Under:

Australia’s government has intervened to have all references to the country removed from a United Nations report examining the effect of climate change on world heritage sites over concern it could have a negative impact on tourism.

The World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate report – released on Friday – has upset climate scientists, who were not informed that their contributions had been removed upon the request from Australia’s Department of the Environment.

Will Steffen, a climate scientist at the Australian National University, who had been asked to contribute to the report, told Al Jazeera from Canberra that the report was scientifically sound and would have had no effect on tourism.

“It simply put out the facts about what the risks were to the reef and what needed to be done to deal with those risks,” he told Al Jazeera.

“So to have that pulled out was quite a shocking event for us scientists down here in Australia. I think very few tourists would pick up a UNESCO report and read it before they decided where to go on their holidays.”

And, finally, the opposite approach, via the Guardian:

Thailand has shut down 10 popular diving sites in a bid to slow a coral bleaching crisis, an official said Thursday, in a rare move to shun tourism profits to protect the environment.

The tropical country’s southern coastline and string of islands are home to some of the world’s most prized white sand beaches and scuba sites, and the booming tourism industry props up Thailand’s lagging economy.

But warming waters and ever-growing swarms of visitors have damaged coral reefs and local ecosystems.

The National Parks department has now indefinitely closed at least 10 diving spots after a survey found bleaching on up to 80% of some reefs.

Philippine president declares war on the church


The former death squad leader has set his sites on Roman Catholicism, and he’s talkin’ tough.

Form Agence France-Presse:

Outspoken incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has launched a series of obscenity-filled attacks on the Catholic Church, branding local bishops corrupt “sons of whores” who are to be blamed for the nation’s fast-growing population.

Duterte also warned the Church, which has a centuries-old tradition of influencing Philippine politics, that his landslide election win this month showed he had more power than its leaders and would defy them by dramatically expanding family planning.

“Don’t fuck with me,” Duterte told senior church figures who had criticised him, delivering his message via reporters at a press conference in his hometown of Davao on Monday night.

>snip<

Duterte last year called Pope Francis a “son of a whore” for causing traffic jams when he visited Manila, a bold tactic in a nation where 80 percent of the population is Catholic.

A fascinating conversation with Oliver Stone


Few American filmmakers arouse more controversy than Oliver Stone, both from his eclectic choice of subject matter to the content of the films themselves.

In his 1986 film Salvador, he explores a repressive regime through the eyes of a U.S. photojournalist drawn to Latin America in hopes resurrecting his fading career. In the much more financially successful Platoon, released in the same year, he captures the deep systemic corruption of a war that would tear two nations apart through the eyes of a naive young solider. In JFK he captures the dark uncertainty at the heart of an epochal event still shrouded in uncertainty.

Most of his other films are similar dissections of the American psyche and the contemporary Zeitgeist, ranging from with two Wall Street films, to Nixon, W, Natural Born Killers, The Doors, Any Given Sunday, and Talk Radio.

His newest film, slated for release 16 Star, is Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role.

In this, the latest episode of Conversations with History, Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, conducts a fascinating conversation with the director, with the topics ranging form Stone’s approach to the cinematic arts to his own views of the American system.

It’s well worth your time.

From University of California Television:

Movies, Politics and History with Oliver Stone — Conversations with History

Program notes:

Published on May 23, 2016

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes filmmaker Oliver Stone for a discussion of his career as director, screenwriter, and producer. Stone describes formative experiences, talks about different aspects of the filmmaking process including working with actors, writing screenplays, and postproduction. He focuses on the themes that have drawn him, and emphasizes the distinction between a historian and dramatist who works with historical materials. He concludes with a discussion of recent works including Alexander and the 10-part documentary on The Untold History of the United States.