Category Archives: Resources

Launch of a new radical European political party


Yanis Varoufakis, the radical economist the banksters demanded be ousted as finance minister of the Greek Syriza-led government as a condition of further aid, and Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat have launched a new European political party.

Rather than offer our own explanation, here’s the video of the formal announcement, issued this week, via From acTVism Munich:

Press Conference: Yanis Varoufakis & Democracy in Europe Movement 25

Program note:

On the 9th of February, 2016, Yanis Varoufakis & Srecko Horvat launched a movement called Democracy in Europe Movement 25 (DiEM25) in Berlin at Volksbühne.

And for more details, here’s the party’s manifesto.

From the Democracy In Europe Movement — DiEM25:

A MANIFESTO FOR DEMOCRATISING EUROPE

For all their concerns with global competitiveness, migration and terrorism, only one prospect truly terrifies the Powers of Europe: Democracy! They speak in democracy’s name but only to deny, exorcise and suppress it in practice. They seek to co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities.

For rule by Europe’s peoples, government by the demos, is the shared nightmare of:

  • The Brussels bureaucracy (and its more than 10,000 lobbyists)
  • Its hit-squad inspectorates and the Troika they formed together with unelected ‘technocrats’ from other international and European institutions
  • The powerful Eurogroup that has no standing in law or treaty
  • Bailed out bankers, fund managers and resurgent oligarchies perpetually contemptuous of the multitudes and their organised expression
  • Political parties appealing to liberalism, democracy, freedom and solidarity to betray their most basic principles when in government
  • Governments that fuel cruel inequality by implementing self-defeating austerity
  • Media moguls who have turned fear-mongering into an art form, and a magnificent source of power and profit
  • Corporations in cahoots with secretive public agencies investing in the same fear to promote secrecy and a culture of surveillance that bend public opinion to their will.

The European Union was an exceptional achievement, bringing together in peace European peoples speaking different languages, submersed in different cultures, proving that it was possible to create a shared framework of human rights across a continent that was, not long ago, home to murderous chauvinism, racism and barbarity. The European Union could have been the proverbial Beacon on the Hill, showing the world how peace and solidarity may be snatched from the jaws of centuries-long conflict and bigotry.

Alas, today, a common bureaucracy and a common currency divide European peoples that were beginning to unite despite our different languages and cultures. A confederacy of myopic politicians, economically naïve officials and financially incompetent ‘experts’ submit slavishly to the edicts of financial and industrial conglomerates, alienating Europeans and stirring up a dangerous anti-European backlash. Proud peoples are being turned against each other. Nationalism, extremism and racism are being re-awakened.

At the heart of our disintegrating EU there lies a guilty deceit: A highly political, top-down, opaque decision-making process is presented as ‘apolitical’, ‘technical’, ‘procedural’ and ‘neutral’. Its purpose is to prevent Europeans from exercising democratic control over their money, finance, working conditions and environment. The price of this deceit is not merely the end of democracy but also poor economic policies:

  • The Eurozone economies are being marched off the cliff of competitive austerity, resulting in permanent recession in the weaker countries and low investment in the core countries
  • EU member-states outside the Eurozone are alienated, seeking inspiration and partners in suspect quarters where they are most likely to be greeted with opaque, coercive free trade deals that undermine their sovereignty.
  • Unprecedented inequality, declining hope and misanthropy flourish throughout Europe

Two dreadful options dominate:

  • Retreat into the cocoon of our nation-states
  • Or surrender to the Brussels democracy-free zone

There must be another course. And there is!

It is the one official ‘Europe’ resists with every sinew of its authoritarian mind-set:

A surge of democracy!

Our movement, DiEM25, seeks to call forth just such a surge.

One simple, radical idea is the motivating force behind DiEM25:

Democratise Europe! For the EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate!

Our goal to democratise Europe is realistic. It is no more utopian than the initial construction of the European Union was. Indeed, it is less utopian than the attempt to keep alive the current, anti-democratic, fragmenting European Union.

Our goal to democratise Europe is terribly urgent, for without a swift start it may be impossible to chisel away at the institutionalised resistance in good time, before Europe goes past the point of no return. We give it a decade, by 2025.

There’s lots more after the jump. . .

Continue reading

Map of the day: Access to clean drinking water


From the World Health Organization, with the interactive version at the link:

Proportion of population using improved drinking-water sources [%] in 2015

Proportion of population using improved drinking-water sources [%] in 2015

Quote of the day: American infrastrucal collapse


Journalist and author Elizabeth Drew, writing for the New York Review of Books:

The near-total failure of our political institutions to invest for the future, eschewing what doesn’t yield the quick payoff, political and physical, has left us with hopelessly clogged traffic, at risk of being on a bridge that collapses, or on a train that flies off defective rails, or with rusted pipes carrying our drinking water. Broadband is our new interstate highway system, but not everyone has access to it—a division largely based on class. Depending on the measurement used, the United States ranks from fourteenth to thirtieth among all nations in its investments in infrastructure. The wealthiest nation on earth is nowhere near the top.

Congress’s approval last December of a five-year bill to spend $305 billion to improve the nation’s highway system occasioned much self-congratulation that the lawmakers actually got something done. But with an increase in the gasoline tax politically off-limits, the means for paying for it are dubious and uncertain. This was the longest-term highway bill passed since 1998 and the thirty-fifth extension of an authorization of highway construction since 2005. Some of the extensions of the highway program approved by Congress lasted for only three months. The previous extension was for just over three weeks. Such practices don’t allow for much planning of the construction or repair of highways and bridges and mass transit systems.

 Our political myopia has put us in actual physical danger as we go about the mundane business of getting about. We let essential structures and facilities deteriorate or go unbuilt. A politician is more likely get in trouble with constituents for spending federal money than for not spending federal money. Moreover, as a rule Washington politicians, whether in office for two or four or six years, aren’t keen on spending for something that doesn’t have a near-term payoff—perhaps a structure that they can dedicate and even get their names inscribed on.

Jerry Brown completes his corporate sellout


In California the Democratic Party has usually sided with the forces of corporate development, even while hiding behind the pretense that their efforts are all for the common good rather than private profit.

Here in Berkeley, that facade is embodied by Mayor Tom Bates, who built his career on the blue side of the state legislature, then, when forced out by term limits, found his calling as the developer’s friend here in Berkeley.

Bates has run an administration under which he and his allies have purged city boards and commissions of those who either called for restraint or insisted that the city follow its own ordinances and demand that builders of apartments and condos build fixed quotas of units for low-income tenants.

On countless occasions while covered land use politics for the late print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, the saw the city council and the planning and zoning board grant exemptions allowing builders to cut the quotas and substitute funds which wouldn’t begin to cover the actual costs of replacements.

As a result, the city’s poorer residents, many of them people of color, are being driven out, their residences turned over to one percenters and those who aspire to joining their ranks.

Bates and his friends have profited handsomely for their actions, with folks from the development and real estate industries providing the lion’s share of their campaign contributions, as we documented in numerous reports.

And when a specially appointed commission created to propose a new downtown plan came up with proposals that didn’t hand over the keys to developers, Bates and his allies simply tossed it out.

City staff have done well, too. Two of the biggest projects in decades are being headed by the city’s former land use planning manager, who spun through the revolving door with a platinum handshake awaiting him on the other side.

Another Democrat, Jerry Brown stormed onto the scene [albeit with a little help from some shady folks] back in the 1970s, loudly proclaiming himself an apostle of British economist E.F. Schumacher, whose seminal work, Small is Beautiful: A study of Economics as if People Mattered, argued that development needed to be restrained, the environment preserved, and community values nurtured.

Brown’s devotion to Schumacher began to wavered, in large part because his then-girlfriend met with a rebuff from the California Coastal Commission, agency created to protect the natural wonder that is the Golden State’s coastline.

Brown declared the commissioners were nothing less than “bureaucratic thugs” for denying a permit to Linda Ronstadt to expand her Malibu home.

More from the New York Times:

The commission was voted into existence under California’s ballot proposition system in 1972, and it was made permanent when Mr. Brown signed the California Coastal Act of 1976 during his first of two consecutive terms as governor.

But he grew critical of the commission in the late 1970s after it denied an application by the singer Linda Ronstadt, Mr. Brown’s girlfriend at the time, for work on her home in Malibu. Mr. Brown was elected governor again in 2010 and 2014.

And now, with Brown back in the governor’s office four decades later, he’s sitting back contentedly as his now pro-development commission fires its executive director, a man who scrupulously followed the commission’s enabling ordinance and its charge to protect the coastline from rapacious speculators.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The California Coastal Commission’s decision late Wednesday to fire its executive director, Charles Lester, after closed-door deliberations sparked outrage by environmentalists and is expected to leave deep divisions.

Many of the more than 100 Lester supporters awaiting the decision broke into tears or reacted angrily.

During an emotional meeting before the vote, many speakers warned that replacing Lester would send a powerful signal to staff to be more accommodating to development.

“It’s disgraceful that the commissioners voted in secret to fire Dr. Lester,” Steve Jones, oceans communications specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a written statement. “This isn’t over.”

The Sacramento Bee’s Jack Ohman precisely captures the moment in an offering he titled “The Lifeguard”:

BLOG Ohman

So much for Small is Beautiful.

So if you haven’t seen the California coast yet, come quick, before you view is blocked by an endless sprawl of condos.

At least until they’re either leveled by the Big One or drowned beneath rising seas.

Zika update: Findings, continued spread, music


We begin with a moderated caution, via Reuters:

WHO urges precautions in Zika areas but reassures most births normal

  • U.N. health agency issues recommendations for women
  • Most women in Zika areas “will give birth to normal infants”
  • WHO urges safe sex through use of condoms
  • Women should consult doctor if travelling to infected zone
  • Whether and when to become pregnant is “personal decision”

From teleSUR, confirmation:

Experts Confirm Zika Virus Linked to Baby Defects in Brazil

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed this Wednesday afternoon that the Zika virus is linked to defects in thousands of newborn babies in Brazil, the CDC Director Tom Frieden told members of House of Representatives in Washington.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Zika virus found in fetal brain

The Zika virus, thought to be responsible for a surge in birth defects in Brazil, has been found inside the abnormally small brain of an aborted fetus at roughly 29 weeks of gestation, a team of researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

From the Associated Press, a video report:

CDC: Expect ‘Significant Number’ of Zika Cases

Program notes:

CDC Director Thomas Frieden told a congressional committee Wednesday that the U.S. should expect to see “significant numbers” of infections of the Zika virus in territories including Puerto Rico.

On to Dixie with the Birmingham News:

First Alabama resident confirmed with Zika virus

The state Department of Public Health confirms one Morgan County resident has the first travel-related case of the Zika virus in Alabama.

And then to Portland, with the Oregonian:

Oregon has first travel-related Zika case of 2016

The Oregon Public Health Division said the adult woman had visited “an affected country” and has recovered. This is the first such case this year. Three other people in Oregon also been infected, one in 2014 and two in 2015. Those three people had traveled to Polynesia.

Next to Pennsylvania with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Two women in Pa. recovering from Zika

Health Dept.: They pose no health threat

On to the First State with the News Journal in Wilmington:

Delaware woman tests positive for Zika virus

State officials announced late Tuesday that a Delaware woman has tested positive for the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Venezuelan anxiety from the Guardian:

‘Everyone is catching it’: Venezuelans fear the worst as Zika infections rise

The numbers infected with the Zika virus could be as high as 400,000 say experts, and medicine is in short supply as the country’s recession takes a toll

Next, China, via Xinhua:

China detects 1st imported case of Zika virus

The patient, a 34-year-old male from Ganxian county of Jiangxi province, is now recovering with normal body temperature and fading rash. He had traveled to Venezuela and showed symptoms of fever, headache and dizziness on Jan. 28, before returning to his hometown on Feb. 5 via Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

And then to Finland with Yle yhtiönä:

2nd case of Zika virus diagnosed in Finland

The first Zika case was detected last summer in a man who had visited the Maldives

And back to the Golden State with troubling news about a critter called Aedes aegypti from KBAK in Bakersfield:

Mosquito that transmits Zika virus found in Arvin

“We’re finding it in very small numbers in the city of Arvin,” said Gene Abbott, superintendent with Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District.

And to close, a little bit of music from the hot zone via AJ+:

Anti-Zika Anthem For Brazil’s Carnival

Program notes:

As the mosquito-borne Zika epidemic rocks Brazil, marching band Os Nazarentos is rocking Carnival with their anti-mosquito anthem “Shoo Mosquitão.”

About damn time: Call for open science on Zika


One of our pet peeves here at esnl has been the almost complete privatization of scientific research, even when the work is done at public universities on the public payroll.

Scientific journals have, with a few notable exceptions, been walled off behind prohibitive paywalls, and we’ve seen costs to read a single article running as high as $100. [With the open access journals, there’s still one problem: Researchers must pay as much as $4,500 or more to make their work openly available].

University and libraries who want to provide access to faculty and students have been extorted for exorbitant sums, the antithesis of what the scientific community, with its emphasis on sharing of information, is supposed to be all about.

But with the Zika pandemic surging, a call has been issued to open up all research on the disease and its effects to free and open access.

It’s a good start, but only that.

From the Wellcome Trust:

Global scientific community commits to sharing data on Zika

10 February 2016

Leading global health bodies including academic journals, NGOs, research funders and institutes, have committed to sharing data and results relevant to the current Zika crisis and future public health emergencies as rapidly and openly as possible.

Organisations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, the US National Institute of Health and the Wellcome Trust, along with leading academic journals including Nature, Science and the New England Journal of Medicine, have signed a joint declaration and hope that other bodies will come on board in the coming weeks.

The statement is intended to ensure that any information that might have value in combatting the Zika outbreak is made available to the international community, free of charge, as soon as is feasibly possible. Journal signatories provide assurance that doing so will not preclude researchers from subsequently publishing papers in their titles.

It follows a consensus statement arising from a WHO consultation in September 2015, in which leading international stakeholders from multiple sectors affirmed that timely and transparent pre-publication sharing of data and results during public health emergencies must become the global norm.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust and a signatory of the statement, said: “Research is an essential part of the response to any global health emergency. This is particularly true for Zika, where so much is still unknown about the virus, how it is spread and the possible link with microcephaly.

“It’s critical that as results become available they are shared rapidly in a way that is equitable, ethical and transparent. This will ensure that the knowledge gained is turned quickly into health interventions that can have an impact on the epidemic.

“It’s extremely heartening to see so many leading international organisations united in this unprecedented commitment to open science, reinforcing the decision by  the WHO to declare Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

Statement on Data Sharing in Public Health Emergencies:

The arguments for sharing data, and the consequences of not doing so, have been thrown into stark relief by the Ebola and Zika outbreaks.

In the context of a public health emergency of international concern, there is an imperative on all parties to make any information available that might have value in combatting the crisis.

We are committed to working in partnership to ensure that the global response to public health emergencies is informed by the best available research evidence and data, as such:

  • Journal signatories will make all content concerning the Zika virus free to access. Any data or preprint deposited for unrestricted dissemination ahead of submission of any paper will not pre-empt its publication in these journals.
  • Funder signatories will require researchers undertaking work relevant to public health emergencies to set in place mechanisms to share quality-assured interim and final data as rapidly and widely as possible, including with public health and research communities and the World Health Organisation.

We urge other organisations to make the same commitments.

This commitment is in line with the consensus statement agreed at a WHO expert consultation on data sharing last year whereby researchers are expected to share data at the earliest opportunity, once they are adequately controlled for release and subject to any safeguards required to protect research participants and patients.

Signatories to the Statement

Academy of Medical Sciences, UK
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
The British Medical Journal (BMJ)
Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India
The Department for International Development (DFID)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
eLife
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
F1000
Fondation Mérieux
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz)
The Institut Pasteur
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED)
The JAMA Network
The Lancet
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
National Academy of Medicine
National Institutes of Health, USA
National Science Foundation, USA
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
PLOS
Science Journals
South African Medical Research Council
Springer Nature
UK Medical Research Council
Wellcome Trust
ZonMw – The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development

Days of Revolt: Trouble in Steinbeck’s country


Monterey County, California, is one of the world’s richest agricultural producers, as the county Farm Bureau notes:

[C]rops grown in Monterey County supply large percentages of total national pounds produced each year:  61% of leaf lettuce, 57% of celery, 56% of head lettuce, 48% of brocolli, 38% of spinach, 30% of cauliflower, 28% of strawberries, and 3.6% of wine grapes.

In other words, if it’s green and on your dinner table, there’s a good chance it came from Monterey County.

And just how much do all those agricultural commodities bring in? Consider this graphic from the latest annual report [PDF] from the Farm Bureau:

BLOG MontereyAccording to the latest [2012] U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture [PDF], all those riches are produced on 1,179 farms with an average size of 1,076 acres, and each selling crops worth $2,527,341.

That’s a lot of wealth.

But Monterey County is also the home a tremendous income inequality, with some of California’s richest living it Carmel and Monterey, as well as in lavish homes along some of the state’s most spectacular coastline.

Head inland to Salinas — where many of the farm laborers live who produce all that wealth — and things are different, giving rise to high levels of poverty, as evident in these two charts from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

Estimated Percent of People of All Ages In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 17 percent

Estimated Percent of People of All Ages In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 17 percent

Estimated Percent of People Age 0-17 In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 25.2 percent

Estimated Percent of People Age 0-17 In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 25.2 percent

When there is great disparity of wealth, political tensions are inevitable.

And that brings us to the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the weekly series for teleSUR English by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, focusuing on the political struggle in Salinas:

Days of Revolt: Company Town

From the transcript:

CHRIS HEDGES: Joining me in the studio is Jose Castaneda. He is an independent radical city councilperson who big business has made war against. And Anthony Prince, an attorney who has been working with groups in Salinas to fight back against the power of big business, and all the ways that they are distorting life within the city, including of course going after what has become a large homeless population. Thank you, Jose, and thank you, Anthony.

>snip<

HEDGES: What do they produce, primarily?

CASTANEDA: This is lettuce, iceberg lettuce. We have strawberries, as well.

HEDGES: Driscoll is there, right, which is huge.

CASTANEDA: Driscoll’s one of the major ag-business as well, Taylor Farms, Tanimura and Antle. There’s a long list of these agriculture–what I call agriculture empire within the county. And it’s an international market, now.

HEDGES: Whole parts of your city have, in essence, been destroyed by these corporations. Perhaps you can give us a picture of what’s happened and what it looks like.

CASTANEDA: I can tell you, the $8 billion industry has controlled, directly and indirectly, the politics. We can go into history. For example, John Steinbeck’s writings of In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath, Mice and Men, Tortilla Flats, just pick any novel and you’ll see how the, the Depression, as well as oppression in regards to the worker–.

HEDGES: We should be clear that Steinbeck was based in Salinas, right?

CASTANEDA: That is absolutely right. Until Steinbeck was banned, and his books were burned and he had to come to New York, as well, and finish a lot of his work there. That same lineage has continued to control the, the governance system as well, as a state. And it continues to be the case in 2015. I have experienced that myself, even running as an independent.

HEDGES: We should be clear, when you were elected, it used to be under the old rules that any city council member could bring an issue to be discussed at the council. And because they knew that you would be bringing issues that they did not want discussed they just rechanged–changed the rules. Perhaps you can explain what happened.

CASTANEDA: Sure. You’re absolutely correct. And the last time there was any type of rule change it was 1994. Once I defeated two candidates that were part of the status quo horses in this race, we had a 30-day waiting period, which was a certification of election results.

So one week before I took the oath of office at the city council, those rules were already being changed, with the action of the old council. And that’s implemented as rules of the quorum. It was a buddy–so-called buddy system, where you needed at least two council members at a minimum to agree to put any item on the agenda. Of course, what has affected, historically, my district area, which is considered the East Salinas, or the Alisal, as drawn and depicted in John Steinbeck’s books, where you have more–half of the major–half of the population in a concentrated five-mile radius. And that’s where you have the housing issues, water issues, crime.