Flotsam & Jetsam
George W. Bush: Closet Francophile!, Peace Groups Finds Missing WMDs, Peru Oil Pipeline would Benefit Bush's Buddies, Sanyo Builds an Arc Light, My Acre of Africa, Seacology: 'Seek and Ye Shall Fund', Oakland Declares Judi Bari Day, and more...
August 22, 2003
George W. Bush: Closet Francophile!
US - George W. Bush took obvious glee in leading the patriotic pack in howling attack on the galling Gauls who failed to support Washington's agenda for pre-emptive war. "Freedom fries" quickly appeared on the Washington's lunch trays. Jokes flew about Freedom cuffs, Freedom dressing and Freedom kisses. What no one knew at the time was that the Chief Executive was holding secret trysts with a Frenchman by the name of George de Paris, for Chirac's sake! Mr. Paris is Mr. Bush's French tailor! According to a recent tell-all column in USA Weekend, Monsieur Paris is "summoned to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue regularly" to fine-tune George de Crawford's wool and cashmere duds. The sordid truth is out: The Emperor has French clothes. Please, Mr. Bush. Stand up for America! Buy Brooks Brothers!
| What a girl wants is not necessarily what the Brothers Warner will tolerate. This movie poster was censored during Bush's pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. The "peace sign" was deemed "unAmerican." ©Warner Bros.|
Peace Groups Finds Missing WMDs
USA - The sly sleuths at PeaceAction have prepared an ad campaign to let the world know that "We Found the Weapons of Mass Destruction.... They're in the President's Budget." Sure enough, while George W. Bush's budget stiffs working (and non-working) families, it allocates billions of dollars for a "new family" of nuclear weapons to be used in "certain battlefield situations." (PeaceAction's first ad showed an embarrassing archival photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein. The ad pointed out that George W Bush's father had no problem dealing with the Iraqi dictator at the same time Hussein was "gassing his own people.") The three-part ad campaign is designed to promote a New American Foreign Policy. The NAFP would ban US military aid to dictators and human-rights abusers. To learn more about PeaceAction's campaigns and/or to contribute to the grassroots effort that funds these powerful ads, go to: http://www.californiapeaceaction.org.
Peru Oil Pipeline would Benefit Bush's Buddies
Peru - George Bush's plan to fund construction of a gas pipeline through Peru's pristine Amazon rainforests would devastate fragile ecosystems and indigenous populations. One the other hand, the $2.6 billion Camisea natural gas project stands to enrich some of Bush's closest corporate campaign contributors including two Texas energy companies with close ties to the White House, Hunt Oil and Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Vice-President Dick Cheney's old firm, Haliburton.
Construction is already ripping up the Peruvian Amazon and disrupting the indigenous communities in the Nahua-Kugapakori Reserve. A planned export terminal on the coast would disturb the Buffer Zone around Peru's Paracas National Marine Reserve, the country's only marine sanctuary for endangered birds and mammals.
On August 5, 2003, mounting pressure from environmental and human rights groups persuaded the Board of Executive Directors of the US Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to cancel a scheduled vote on the Camisea Gas Project. Both organizations subsequently dropped the project from their agendas.
A coalition of groups fronted by Amazon Watch and Friends of the Earth applauded decision to delay action, noting that "the Camisea project as it currently stands is fundamentally flawed" since it involved "drilling inside an indigenous reserve, massive threats to tropical forests and rivers, and an export terminal next to the internationally recognized Paracas Marine Reserve."
US Newswire reports that, while the IDB's European and Japanese boardmembers are "growing increasingly concerned with the project, it is anticipated that the project be will brought back for votes within a month." Environmentalists hope that Peruvian President Toledo will "hear the voices of Peruvian civil society and push back deadlines for project completion."
For the latest updates on the Camisea battle (including background information, videos, photos, and action opportunities) see:
http://www.amazonwatch.org, http://www.bicusa.org, http://www.foe.org.
Sanyo Builds an Arc Light
Japan - Playing a trip to Japan? There's a bright new tourist attraction on the horizon. Sanyo has erected a massive boomerang-shaped building near Gifu that appears to float above a series of lagoons and waterfalls. The Solar Arc is encased in more than 5,000 solar-battery panels that kick out a maximum 630 kW. When the sun goes down, the Solar Ark turns into the world's biggest electrical billboard. More than 77,000 red, green and blue LED lamps, controlled by computers, flicker to life, casting intricate moving images over the length of the 315-meter structure.
|Sanyo's solar-powered educational center floats above the ground like an inverted rainbow. At night it becomes the world's biggest illuminated billboard. ©Sanyo|
The 3,000-ton building is supported on just four columns, creating the impression of "an ark embarking onto a journey toward the 21st century." An impressive working monument to the promise of clean solar power, the Solar Ark saves the equivalent of nearly 34,000 gallons of oil each year. Mark your tour maps for the Sanyo Electric CO., Ltd. Gifu Plant, 180 Ohmori, Anpachi-cho, Anpachi-gun, Gifu. [http://www.solar-ark.com]
My Acre of Africa
South Africa - A new educational campaign aims to preserve Africa's wilderness by inviting sponsors to "buy a brick" to raise funds for conservation. Each brick purchased represents an acre of the 4.7 million-acre Kruger Natinal Park. Nelson Mandela, patron-in-chief of the My Acre of Africa campaign has stated: "If we do not do something to prevent it, Africa's animals - and the places in which they live - will be lost to our world, and her children, forever. Before it is too late, we need your help - to lay the foundation that will preserve this presiocus legacy... long after we are gone." For more information, go to: http://www.myacreofafrica.com/
Seacology: 'Seek and Ye Shall Fund'
US - The California-based Seacology foundation specializes in saving island ecologies and their living communities. In July, the Seacology board voted to fund nine new projects that will protect 485,472 acres of coral reefs ad marine habitat. The new projects include creation of a forests reserve and two marine reserves in Fiji, a seven-acre park in the Grand Caymans and a coral-reef restoration project in the Philippines. Todate, Seacology's projects have saved 804,475 acres of marine habitat and 38,310 acres of critical land holdings. For more information, contact: http://www.seacology.org.
Oakland Declares Judi Bari Day
US - Oakland, California must be one of the most sporting cities in America. On July15, the City Council agreed to pay $2 million to settle a wrongful arrest lawsuit brought by two Earth First! activists who were nearly killed in an Oakland car bomb assassination attempt in 1990. Darryl Chermey and Judi Bari successfully sued the Oakland Police and the FBI for falsely accusing them of planting the bomb, for spreading lies that defamed them in the media and for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights. Bari, who was nearly killed in the explosion and left crippled, died of breast cancer in 1997 but Judi and Darryl were vindicated in a 2002 victory in US Federal Court. The FBI must hand over another $2 million. What really makes Oakland the world's most fair-minded city is that, in addition to the settlement, the City Council has declared that every May 24 will henceforth be celebrated as "Judi Bari Day" in Oakland.
Mighty Monsanto Sues Tiny Dairy
US - It seemed like a simple matter when Oakhurst Dairy, a small milk farm in Portland, Oregon, printed a notice on its labels that its milk contained no artificial growth hormones. But nothing is simple when it comes to defending the profit margin of a multinational corporation. Monsanto, the Missouri-based biotech giant, pounced on the little dairy and sued to stop Oakhurst from telling consumers that it was providing hormone-free milk. Monsanto is the US' largest manufacturer of bovine growth hormone (BGH). Monsanto contends that, because there's no scientific evidence that BGH causes health problems, no dairy should be allowed to suggest that the absence of BGH is a virtue. Oakhurst President Stanley T. Bennett II, responded that his customers had asked for certified BGH-free milk and he had the right to provide them with a product they demanded. "We're in the business of marketing milk, not Monsanto's drugs," Bennett huffed. Monsanto accused Oakhurst of "unfair competition." The charge seems ludicrous in light of the fact that Monsanto's 2002 net sales topped $4.7 billion while Oakhurst's sales were a mere $85 million. "It strikes me as very odd that somebody could conceivably prohibit a company from telling people what's not in their product," says Bennett. In addition to the obvious "free speech" issue, Bennett thinks it's just plain silly for anyone, especially a multinational, "to prohibit you from trying to do the right thing."
An Environmental Charter? Viva la France!
Paris - On June 25, the French Cabinet gave a big Oui! to plans to incorporate environmental protection as a right guaranteed under the French Constitution. President Jacques Chirac hailed this "an historic advance" in recognizing environmental quality as a human right. The ten-part "charter" promises that "everyone has the right to live in an environment that is balanced and healthy." The charter would enforce the "precautionary principle" to insure that products, laws and actions are proven harmless to the environment before they are introduced. The charter also enshrines the "polluter pays" principle, which requires that polluting companies (not taxpayers) must pay all clean-up and restoration costs. If the bill passes this fall, the preamble of the French Constitution would be changed for the first time since the advent of the Fifth Republic in 1958. The charter would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the historic 1789 "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen."
Unocal on Trial for Burma 'Abuses'
London (BBC) - The American oil giant Unocal must stand trial in California for alleged human rights abuses in Burma, a court has ruled. A lawsuit, filed almost three years ago, accuses the company of allowing troops guarding one of its pipeline projects to rape, murder and enslave villagers.
The Los Angeles court rejected Unocal's request to have the case removed to Burma, where the alleged abuses took place, or to Bermuda, where the subsidiaries allegedly involved are registered. A lawyer for Unocal - which is based in California - rejected the allegations and said that the company was considering whether to appeal immediately or to wait until after the trial, which is due to start September 22.
Unocal is accused of being complicit in forced labor, rape and torture allegedly carried out by troops guarding the $1.2 billion Yadana pipeline during its construction in the 1990s. According to court documents, two of the firm's Bermuda-based subsidiaries were part of the consortium that planned and built the pipeline.
"There is nothing about California involved in this case other than the parent companies that the plaintiff chose to sue being located in California. The parent companies did not invest in the project," Daniel Petrocelli, leading lawyer for the oil firm, said.
In documents released on Thursday, Los Angeles judge Victoria Chaney said: "Prior to its involvement in the pipeline project, Unocal had specific knowledge that the use of forced labor was likely and nevertheless chose to proceed."
The International Criminal Court Debuts
Geneva - The International Criminal Court (ICC), envisaged since the 1948 Genocide Conventions and formally described in the 1998 Rome Statute, is now a reality. Based on the model of universal human rights, the ICC was created from a recognition that states are often so decimated or intimidated by mass criminal acts that they are unable to respond with the enforcement of justice. The ICC is an international mechanism to hold individuals accountable for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes when their national judicial system is either unable or unwilling to do so.
Despite resistance from the United States, the Rome Statute was ratified by the requisite 60 states in half the time anticipated. The ICC came into effect in July 2002. The ratifying states have elected a lead prosecutor and a panel of judges from around the world. Two weeks ago, the prosecutor announced the focus of his office's first examination.
The US played a central role in the Nuremberg trials, the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and the Sierra Leone court. Yet the US government always demanded a high degree of control over the Court and resisted its authority to prosecute US military and government officials. President Clinton authorized signing - but not ratifying - the Rome Statute on December 31, 2000, just before leaving office and on the deadline set by the statute.
In May 2002, the Bush administration nullified the United States' signature on the Rome Statute and withdrew support for the creation of the ICC and asserted the exclusion of US citizens from the ICC's jurisdiction. http://www.icc-cpi.int
For more information contact: