Just another WordPress site https://www.museumpirates.com Just another WordPress site Thu, 21 Oct 2021 23:27:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.1 Ten Things for US to Understand about Latin America https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/ten-things-for-us-to-understand-about-latin-america/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 23:27:18 +0000 https://dissidentvoice.org/?p=122395 The United States — the land and people — will be a lot better off when the idea of US supremacy is dropped. Toward that end, and toward the goal of a better world, here are ten things for US to understand about Latin America. This piece has a special focus on Nicaragua, a country […]

The post Ten Things for US to Understand about Latin America first appeared on Dissident Voice.]]>
The United States — the land and people — will be a lot better off when the idea of US supremacy is dropped. Toward that end, and toward the goal of a better world, here are ten things for US to understand about Latin America. This piece has a special focus on Nicaragua, a country whose sovereignty needs respect, especially during this election season, from US critics both Right and Left.

1. Threat of a good example. That is the main reason countries get on the “bad lists” of the US, not oil since not all maligned countries even have oil. The reason is that the countries do not “have the interest of the United States at heart,” as CIA director George Tenet said during the US-backed 2002 coup against Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. The bad lists include Trump’s “Troika of Tyranny” — Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — and the 30-plus countries around the globe suffering from the deadly effects of US sanctions. The US justifies sanctions by saying that they are based on matters people care about deeply, such as human rights abuses and trafficking, and that they are less damaging than war. Meanwhile, sanctions are lethal, and the United Nations charter clearly prohibits “unilateral coercive measures” taken by one country against another.

2. Sovereignty YES, Sanctions NO. Latin American countries are sovereign nations. They are not a “backyard” requiring US protection or interference. They have many leaders, in government and not in government, who are very intelligent with in-depth knowledge of history. They are not, as the US government and media call them, dictators, regimes, strong-men, or tyrants. To repeat, they are sovereign nations capable of choosing their own leaders. Certainly anyone familiar with US elections can believe it is possible to find improved, more easily verified electoral systems outside the US, for example, Venezuela’s system, which is computerized and has paper ballots that allow for audits.

3. Constitutions get updated. Most Latin American nations are among the more than 90 countries in the world with proportional representation. PR is the key to having multiple parties, which allow voters to actually affect their governments because they can vote for the candidates most aligned with their values, not just against the worst candidates. It is said that it’s virtually impossible to eliminate from the US constitution even the based-on-slavery Electoral College, which installed two recent presidents who lost the popular vote, both Bush and Trump.

4. Term limits are not a solution. Term limits are not the great electoral reform many people believe them to be. Nicaragua and some other “bad list” Latin American governments have dispensed with them. When Venezuela held a vote to remove term limits, there were loud cries that “Hugo Chavez wants to be dictator for life!” but significantly, those accusers did not point out that Venezuela joined other nations without term limits, like the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan, and most Scandinavian nations. When facing term limits, elected officials tend to be less focused on their current duties and more focused on positioning themselves and their campaign contributors for their next move. Terms limits came in after FDR and stopped voters from being able to re-elect presidents they still wanted. More effective electoral reforms are proportional representation, free and fair media coverage, and open debates.

5. Nicaragua’s healthcare system is free. A major hospital has a huge sign telling people, “All services are free. If anyone tries to present you with a bill, report it.” That certainly constitutes a “threat of a good example.” When a poor country like Nicaragua can provide healthcare to its residents, then there is no excuse for the US, the wealthiest nation the planet has ever known, to have the worst healthcare system — in terms of cost, access, and results — of the 30 wealthy, industrialized (OECD) countries. People question statistics with good reason, but it is clear Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela have dealt with the COVID pandemic better than the US. The Nicaraguan government had plans in place as early as January 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID, but did not impose quarantines. Most Nicaraguans could not have worked from home on their computers. Quarantines would have been an economic death knell to the majority of the population that work in very small businesses including farms and the informal economy of open air stands selling everything from food to furniture.

6. Food sovereignty is key to Nicaragua’s resilience. Nicaragua produces about 90% of its food, primarily on the small farms of the campesinos. This represents a beneficial change from the mono-cropping agribusiness model that took over so much land in Latin America, and from the abandonment of farming that happened in oil-rich Venezuela in the 1900s. The ability of Nicaraguans to feed themselves locally helps them survive despite the pressures of US sanctions, the COVID pandemic, and yet another 2020 disaster: two hurricanes, category 4 Eta and then category 5 Iota, two weeks apart in November 2020.

7. Devastating hurricanes — climate crisis is real. Wawa Bar is a small community in Nicaragua that was hit by both hurricanes. It is in a semi-autonomous region on the Caribbean Coast that has afro-descendant and indigenous populations. The devastation was heart-breaking — huge trees that had survived decades of hurricanes were uprooted, 700 head of cattle were killed; crops were ruined, and the soil had become too salty from the flooding to replant — but not one person died, everyone was evacuated in time, and all community members are moving back. Food was provided and within weeks the Nicaraguan government restored electricity and sent roofing supplies so everyone again had a roof over their head. Among the first buildings the community restored was the school. The hurricanes had destroyed their textbooks, bilingual in both Spanish and the indigenous Miskito language, but education will continue for their children. How can the US continue illegal sanctions in the face of such devastation? Sanctions, in the process of trying to effect “regime change,” greatly hurt ordinary people. Sovereign nations have the right to choose their own presidents, governments and economic systems.

8. Nicaragua has the fifth highest gender equality in the world. It is not surprising the first four countries are Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, but how many people would guess Nicaragua to be fifth? The reason is that they have a mandate to have 50/50 in their legislatures, and if, for example, a president or mayor is male, then the vice-president or vice-mayor will be female. Or vice versa.

9. Daniel Ortega is in for the long haul. President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega is a controversial figure particularly outside of Nicaragua, where media and official stories are not countered by people’s direct experience. Ortega was president in the 1980s when the Sandinista revolution ended the 45-year dictatorship of the Somoza family. The Sandinistas lost the 1990 elections, as the opposition promised peace from contra violence if elected. However, support for the Sandinistas remained strong in the popular neighborhoods and much of the countryside, so in 2006, Daniel Ortega was elected president again with 38% of the popular vote, re-elected in 2011 with 62% of the vote, in 2016 with 72.5% of the vote, and has the same level of popular support leading up to the elections in November 2021. Nicaraguans approve of their healthcare system, literacy programs, free higher education, expanded and improved roads and electricity — and they remember how those gains were reversed during the 1990s when the Sandinistas were out of power, and services including water were privatized. The large rural population likes land reform, which enables them to work their own small farms. They have hope for a good life for their families. That is why Nicaraguans re-elect Daniel Ortega, and why Nicaraguans are not joining the caravans migrating to the US the way many other Central Americans are trying to do.

10. Power of a good example. It’s an American tradition to end with hope and this piece follows that tradition. There is hope for improvement in the US and the world, although it’s unclear whether the US will change significantly through a people’s revolution or a capitalist collapse. Even though, unfortunately, US media from FOX to PBS line up with the military-industrial-complex, people can still learn how the US affects the world, through compelling writings by authors such as Smedley D. Butler, Noam and his daughter Aviva Chomsky, John Perkins, and Naomi Klein.

Life can certainly be better for people in the US, with better healthcare, housing, jobs, justice, education and environment, and less student debt, incarcerations, and wasteful military spending. What is needed is to raise expectations, increase pressure on politicians — including Biden/Harris, who have not shown signs that they will reduce Trump’s ramped-up sanctions — and find ways to stop believing the lies.

The post Ten Things for US to Understand about Latin America first appeared on Dissident Voice.

This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by Laura Wells.

‘People Right Now Are Absolutely Feeling the Climate Emergency’ https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/people-right-now-are-absolutely-feeling-the-climate-emergency/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 23:17:38 +0000 https://fair.org/?p=9024452 "The president actually has the ability to use the Defense Production Act to jumpstart our renewable energy industry."

The post ‘People Right Now Are Absolutely Feeling the Climate Emergency’ appeared first on FAIR.


Janine Jackson interviewed the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jean Su about People vs. Fossil Fuels for the October 15, 2021, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.



Janine Jackson: Media sometimes say that “we” are dawdling on climate change, that “we” need to take it more seriously. That language is worse than lazy. It obscures the fact that many people are shouting at the top of their voices about making the changes today needed to avert further climate disaster. And some others are resisting, and pretending, and indeed profiting from the inaction.

Just as we aren’t all affected the same way by floods and fires, heat waves and hurricanes, the fight for action on climate is also about race and class and power. It’s still pretty simple, though—as reflected in the name given to the five-day mobilization of Indigenous, faith-based, and advocacy groups currently going on in Washington, DC: People vs. Fossil Fuels. Hundreds of people have been arrested in the protests, which will wrap up Friday with a march from the White House to Congress.

Our next guest is part of this mobilization. Jean Su is director of the Energy Justice Program and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. She joins us now by phone from DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Jean Su.

Jean Su: Great. Thanks for having me, Janine.

JJ: This week’s actions are something more than sounding an alarm about climate disruption. There’s an urgency, and there are concrete demands. And I would say, these are things the White House can do without Mitch McConnell. Isn’t that right?

JS: Correct. Without Joe Manchin, as well.

JJ: Yeah. Right, right. So what are the demands, and what is the spirit of this mobilization?

JS: So as you said, it is really obvious what the spirit of the mobilization is. It’s a real call for anyone in power to listen and heed the demands of people who, all across the United States and the world, are literally suffering, physically being harmed, by the climate emergency.

What was really compelling in the past, I don’t know, decade, it feels like, of being in the Covid pandemic, is the lumbering presence of the climate crisis on our everyday lives. Whether you are in Oregon facing the heat domes out there, or the horrific, fatal hurricanes sweeping everywhere from Puerto Rico to New England to the Southeast, people right now are absolutely feeling the climate emergency in ways that I think a lot of folks did not comprehend before, and that a lot of folks in the Global South absolutely have felt for decades.

So this is a call right now to stop the delay, stop the BS, and act, seriously act, on real, bold climate initiatives that can both slash our fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions, but also address the really deeply hurtful and racial components of our energy systems that have led to a racist electricity system that we have today.

JJ: Let me ask you, because these actions are targeted to some degree at the White House, which is something in particular, and there’s a sense of betrayal, almost. So I want to ask you, what did candidate Joe Biden say that President Joe Biden has not done? And what’s the concern there?

JS: Yeah, so candidate Biden made some pretty important statements about the climate, about how it is a crisis that needs to be dealt with, and generally about addressing certain aspects of fossil fuel production. And certainly in his initial speeches as the president, really emphasizing this idea of a renewable future that generated an amazing amount of good-paying, union green jobs. I think that is the overall push that the Biden administration has put forth.

But in the eight months that Biden has been in power, we haven’t seen much actually getting done on the ground on this. For instance, he absolutely has the power right now, he and Secretary [of the Interior  Deb] Haaland have the absolute power, to deny and stop the fossil fuel leasing program in this country. People will be shocked to know that one-fourth of our fossil fuel emissions in the United States are generated from public lands that we all own together. And those are being drilled and fracked and extracted for fossil fuels, to profit oil and gas companies and utility companies in this country, against the public interest and the planet.

So one of the very initial things and simplest things that Joe Biden can do is put a halt to our fossil fuel lease sales and permits. He has not done that yet. With a stroke of a pen, he and Secretary Haaland could end that. They could, with the stroke of a pen, end Line 3, which so many people, hundreds of Indigenous leaders, are here on the streets, demanding those two things.

Separately, one of the other crucial fossil fuel moves that the Biden administration can do is reinstate the crude oil export ban. So in 2015, under the Obama administration, the Senate actually overturned a decades-long embargo, essentially, on the export of crude oil. But in a stunning turn of events, that ban was lifted. And that has really caused the huge fracking shale boom that we have seen in this country. And with that, the horrific amounts of pollution and harm that have come to communities that live in fracking states.

So he could absolutely, single-handedly, the Congress gave him the ability to reinstate that crude oil export ban. That is totally within the presidential powers, and he absolutely has the authority to do it, and we are urging him to do so this week.

Guardian: Prince Charles says he ‘totally understands’ frustrations of climate protesters

Guardian (10/11/21)

JJ: I want to direct people to PeopleVsFossilFuels.org, where you can get more details on the demands of this mobilization.

Well, nobody’s looking to him for cutting-edge criticism. But Prince Charles just recently said that he understands why climate activists take to the street to demand action. But he said he’s calling for “more constructive rather than destructive” methods, and he’s talking about protesters blocking streets. Besides the patrician nature of all of this, activism around climate actually works, doesn’t it?

JS: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve seen that it works with Keystone XL. We have seen political movement shift because people are here participating in a democracy to make our voices heard.

This is still a democracy. I know under the Trump administration, we were all wondering whether it is. But it is now, and especially for the Biden election, droves of our Black communities rolled out to support Joe Biden and elect him. He actually has to fulfill the promises to environmental justice communities, and he has not.

And it is absolutely incumbent on the administration to listen to the people who actually voted them in. Black communities right now are suffering from poisonous gases and air pollution coming out of dirty oil and gas facilities. The president, if he were to truly fulfill his commitments to his voter base, he would stop the pollution, and actually get us on the transition that we need to 100% renewable energy.

Jean Su

Jean Su: “The president actually has the ability to use the Defense Production Act to jumpstart our renewable energy industry.”

You know, I think that one of the pieces that Prince Charles can elaborate on is this idea of having a constructive solution. The Biden administration right now actually has powers like the Defense Production Act at its fingertips. The Defense Production Act is a wartime footing statute that has been mobilized during wartime to basically revolutionize private industry to deal with the emergency at hand. Right now, it is very obvious that the climate is an emergency, and the president actually has the ability to use the Defense Production Act to jumpstart our renewable energy industry in a way that it is lackluster right now. He has the ability to actually coordinate industry to get our solar panels, our transmission lines and all of our clean-energy infrastructure in line to be built.

He also has the ability to leverage financial pockets that the administration has to give loan guarantees and direct grants, so that communities, especially communities of color who have been historically poisoned by our racist energy system, can have access to community solar and rooftop solar, and be climate resilient with batteries and microgrids.

These are not only issues of climate. But they are sincerely issues of racial justice in this country. And if we really want to tackle both, which we absolutely have to, we can’t solely be looking at decarbonization; we have to be looking at solutions that respect and honor and restore and build justice in our communities that have been so disproportionately harmed by our fossil fuel system.

JJ: Yes, absolutely, the putting forward of a positive vision is part of the role that I think journalists could play.

And I just want to ask you, finally, media have generally stopped giving serious platform to climate change deniers. They’ve even begun to mention climate disruption in their coverage of extreme weather events. But keep it in the ground, stop burning fossil fuels, is still presented as one view among others. And we’re very aware of how powerful the fossil fuel industry is, how captured many regulators are, how influenced many lawmakers are. But media have a role here.

And yet when it comes to change, when it comes to policy, it seems to become this Beltway, partisan—you mentioned Joe Manchin—it becomes this story like it’s horse trading over a sales tax or something.

And so I just want to ask you, finally, what role would you like journalists to play in this fight? Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of?

JS: Absolutely. I think journalists should cover the facts. And the facts that we are dealing with is that we have a ticking time bomb on our hands. The IPPC has been very clear that we have until 2030 to make extreme shifts away from fossil fuels, toward renewable energy. People looking at those facts will see science very plain and clear. Yet, for some reason, media and politicians will obscure the facts, and say that’s not feasible, we can’t do it, let’s do another slower-walk type of approach. And if you look at the facts and the science, we don’t have that option if we truly are going to try to beat this climate crisis, and really respect, in a lot of ways, the rest of the planet who has suffered from what has happened in the United States and other Western countries, who have been the biggest emitters over time.

It’s fascinating to see how people believe that climate activists are radical when, in fact, climate activists are actually just looking and following the science. And I think that’s absolutely something that needs to be clear and front of mind, in terms of journalists who are here to report the facts.

I think another thing that journalists can absolutely do is really reveal and go deep into the stories that make the climate crisis so devastating. And especially in the United States, the stories are so abundant, because they are really wrapped up in Jim Crow laws and in racial injustices that at the same time are ravaging the country, and have done so since the beginning of slavery in this country.

If you look at places like North Carolina, or different parts of the Southeast, you’ll see communities of color, Black families, brown families, really ravaged by an electricity system that is choking them, and giving their kids asthma and eventually cancer. You will see that they are also being ravaged, at the same time, by horrific hurricanes that cut off electricity and access to lifesaving medicines all in the same go. And if they just had access to rooftop solar, to batteries, to microgrids, they actually would essentially end the need for that fossil fuel plant three miles away from them, as well as have the access to clean and affordable and renewable energy that won’t be cut off when a climate disaster hits them.

These are stories, one and the same, of the same communities that receive the harm. But they should also be the same communities that are prioritized in terms of a renewable energy future. And I think those beautiful stories, that address both the climate crisis and racial injustice together, create a story of potential restorative justice on both the climate and racial and social fronts.

I would really encourage our journalists to go after those types of stories, and stop the inside-the-Beltway nonsense, where Joe Manchin and the Biden administration and Congress right now are considering implementing a “clean electricity payment program” that would allow for gas to perpetuate and continue to poison communities across the states.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity. They’re online at BiologicalDiversity.org. You can also check out PeopleVsFossilFuels.org. Jean Su, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

JS: Thanks for having me, Janine.

The post ‘People Right Now Are Absolutely Feeling the Climate Emergency’ appeared first on FAIR.

This content originally appeared on FAIR and was authored by Janine Jackson.

NZ government unveals its ‘traffic light’ covid-19 protection framework https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/nz-government-unveals-its-traffic-light-covid-19-protection-framework/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 23:16:08 +0000 https://asiapacificreport.nz/?p=65055 RNZ News

The New Zealand government has announced details of its Covid-19 Protection Framework, involving the roll-out of a “traffic-light” system once all district health boards hit 90 percent full vaccination rates.

A vaccine certificate will be central to the new framework.

The system will involve three settings – green, orange and red.

“If you want to be guaranteed that no matter the setting that we are in, that you can go to bars, restaurants and close-proximity businesses like a hairdresser, then you will need to be vaccinated,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media today.

She was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare as the government also announced enhanced:

  • financial support for businesses and those families struggling under restrictions, and
  • a new $120 million fund to boost Māori vaccination rates and protection of communities.

Ardern said the vaccination certificates would allow businesses to be able to open and operate at any level.

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare outlines the $120 million plan today to boost Māori vaccinations as part of the new national covid-19 protection framework. Image: TVNZ screenshot APR

Targeted local lockdowns
If cases start to climb in areas with lower vaccination rates in lower-income communities, much more highly targeted and localised lockdowns could be used if needed, she said.

The red setting would allow hospitality to open with vaccine certificates, but gathering limits and physical distancing, masks and other public health measures would be used.

“This will still feel like a huge amount of freedom relative to what Auckland has now,” Ardern said.

Watch the announcement

Today’s covid-19 strategy announcement. Video: RNZ News

Auckland will move into red as soon as the Auckland district health boards (DHBs) hit the 90 percent vaccination target, rather than wait for the rest of the country.

The rest of the country will move all at the same time to “orange” when all DHBs around the country reach the 90 percent target.

At orange, gathering limits can lift. Places that choose not to use vaccination certificates will either be closed or have public health measures in place.

Green is when there are some covid-19 cases in the community but at low levels. Fully vaccinated people can enjoy all events and hospitality and gatherings by showing a vaccine certificate.

Premises choosing not to use certificates will face restrictions similar to the current alert level framework.

New tools system
Ardern said the reason for changing from the current alert level system was because the country needed a system that made use of the new tool of vaccines and vaccine certificates.

“On 29 November, Cabinet will review the progress that Auckland has made and the rest of the country to see if anything needs to change. We are open to moving the South Island before the rest of the country if all DHBs in the south hit their targets before others,” she said.

Ardern emphasised covid-19 cases in the community would rise.

“But because we won’t take this step until we are at 90 percent vaccination, we will also have higher levels of protection that limit covid’s impact,” she added.

The PM said that if any member of the public was not vaccinated, there would be things they would miss out on and people who wanted to get out and enjoy summer should do so.

Detail would be progressively added to the system as time went on. The country would move all at the same time to “orange” when all DHBs around the country reached the 90 percent target.

Ardern said the focus on elimination had kept New Zealand free from covid-19 for much of the past 18 months when the population was vulnerable.

World-leading response
“We can rightfully be proud of what our world-leading response has achieved, but two things have changed since then,” she said.

“The first is that delta has made it very hard to maintain our elimination strategy … but as our long-standing strategy was challenged we also had a new tool.

“That tool is the vaccine. The vaccine we are using in New Zealand is safe and effective … it also helps protect everyone. The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for covid to spread through communities quickly.

“Protection means that we won’t just treat covid like a seasonal illness, we will protect people from it with vaccination, management, and a response that focuses on minimising the health impacts.”

Financial support
An enhanced business support package was also unveiled. It included a significantly boosted Covid-19 Resurgence Support Payment.

It will rise from $1500 per eligible business and $400 for each full-time employee (50FTEs maximum), to $3000 per eligible business and $800 per FTE. This will apply from 12 November.

The enhanced support will be paid fortnightly until Auckland has been able to move into the new protection framework.

The wage subsidy will continue to be available on the current criteria while areas of the country are still in alert level 3.

A $60 million fund for business advice and mental health support in Auckland was also announced. Businesses will be able to apply for up to $3000 for advice and planning support, and up to $4000 to implement that advice.

There will also be support for low-income households.

From 1 November income limits for assistance will rise to 40 hours at the minimum wage, or $800 per week and $1600 per week for a couple with or without children.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told media the approach New Zealand had taken had, along with sustaining one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, also led to strong economic growth, low unemployment and one of the lowest levels of government debt in the world.

But said he was acutely aware of the impact of restrictions on businesses.

“To date we have paid out about $4.8 billion in support … that exceeds the new operating spending we would have for the whole year for the whole country in most Budgets.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.

North Korea sends farmers to labor camps for hiding corn amid food shortages https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/north-korea-sends-farmers-to-labor-camps-for-hiding-corn-amid-food-shortages/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 22:42:53 +0000 https://www.rfa.org/english/news/korea/farm-10212021184028.html Authorities in North Korea have sentenced five farmers to disciplinary labor for hiding corn meant for redistribution to state supplies, sources in the country told RFA.

With an expected meager autumn harvest looming, farmers are nervous about the annual grain redistribution this year. The government takes 60 percent of the harvest from every farmer, leaving them with the remaining 40 percent.

In most years, their share is not enough to live on, but with yields about 20 percent smaller than expected in some areas, this year could be worse. For this reason, many farmers are looking to cheat the system, a resident of the northern province of Ryanggang told RFA’s Korean Service.

“A few days ago, five farmers were caught hiding corn during an unexpected inspection. Each of them was sentenced to five months in a disciplinary labor center,” said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“Since each farm receives distribution based on yield, the amount of distribution for farmers will inevitably be reduced,” said the source.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization predicted in June that North Korea would be short about 860,000 tons of food this year, or about two months’ supply.

The smaller yield this year could mean that farmers will only get five- or six-months’ of food for next year, a source in the agricultural industry in the country’s northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA.

“Since the beginning of October, farms nationwide have been estimating how much of the harvest the farmers are going to get. They expect their distribution will be smaller than usual, and they are worried about how they will live next year with very little food,” said the second source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

“The farmers’ livelihood is intimately tied to the redistribution, because they are working on the farm all year,” said the second source.

In North Korea’s nascent market economy, most people have secondary jobs because a government salary is not enough to live on. Farmers, however, do not have the time to work anywhere else, so they live or die by the harvest.

Plans by the government to take more of the crop this year could potentially leave the farmers with only two months’ worth of food, while soldiers and other grain recipients will get their full distribution.

“Grain silos and outdoor warehouses are already empty… so the situation is frustrating, it’s eating them inside,” said the second source.

The coronavirus pandemic has had profound negative effects on the agriculture industry and the food situation in North Korea, according to the second source.

When Beijing and Pyongyang closed off the Sino-Korean border and suspended all trade at the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, North Korea was left to its own devices to produce enough food, without Chinese imports to cover shortfalls and with no access to imported fertilizer or farming equipment.

The shortage of farming materials increased prices and farmers went into debt, agreeing to pay back their creditors with food from the fall harvest, the second source said.

“This is going to reduce the redistribution to the farmers even more. They worked hard all year to produce as much grain as possible, but what they are going to get back this fall is going to be a trivial amount, so they are beyond frustrated.”

The food situation in North Korea is dire.

UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights Tomás Ojea Quintana warned in a report in March that the closure of the border and restrictions on the movement of people could bring on a “serious food crisis.”

“Deaths by starvation have been reported, as has an increase in the number of children and elderly people who have resorted to begging as families are unable to support them,” said the report.

RFA reported in April that authorities were warning residents to prepare for economic difficulties as bad as the 1994-1998 famine which killed millions, as much as 10 percent of the population by some estimates.

Reported by Myung Chul Lee for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Claire Lee and Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.

Top US regulators agree: Climate change is a major threat to the economy https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/top-us-regulators-agree-climate-change-is-a-major-threat-to-the-economy/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 22:35:52 +0000 https://grist.org/?p=550267 For the first time in its 11-year history, a top U.S. financial regulatory body has formally recognized climate change as an “emerging threat” to the nation’s economic stability. 

In a 133-page report released Thursday, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, or FSOC, noted that climate-fueled disasters are “increasing and already imposing substantial economic costs.” These costs are “expected to increase further” and climate change “will likely be a source of shocks to the financial system in the years ahead,” the report added. It highlighted that the effects of global warming will be most acutely felt by communities of color and financially vulnerable populations. 

“It’s challenging to predict the future impacts of climate change, but we know that climate change has already started causing an array of economic harms,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who is also the chairperson of FSOC. “Failure to address climate-related financial risks will only allow them to grow larger.”

After the 2008 financial crash left the U.S. economy in shambles, lawmakers recognized that regulators were uncoordinated and too narrowly focused on threats to individual institutions. To better assess systemic risks to the economy, Congress established FSOC in 2010. 

Composed of 15 members, FSOC is headed by the chair of the Treasury Department as well as the heads of a slew of powerful financial regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Federal Housing Finance Agency. While it doesn’t have direct regulatory authority and cannot force agencies to comply with its recommendations, it plays a crucial role in identifying and heading off major financial crises.

With Thursday’s report, the Council has four broad recommendations for regulatory agencies: invest in staff and resources to analyze climate threats, fill in gaps in climate data, improve public disclosure of climate-related risks, and conduct scenario analyses to identify risks that can threaten the stability of the financial system. The report also announces that the Council plans to create two committees — an external panel to advise the council and a committee composed of Council staff — to coordinate work on climate risks across agencies. 

During a press briefing, senior Treasury officials told reporters that the recommendations consisted of two key building blocks: data and analysis. They characterized the report as a significant first step, given that it represents a consensus from the entire U.S. financial community. They said the report was a precursor to further action by regulatory agencies in the future. 

The report’s recommendations come as no surprise. Indeed, many of the regulatory agencies that serve on the Council have already been collecting information and considering rules to better protect the financial sector from climate risks. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been targeting companies making dubious claims about their sustainability. The Federal Housing Finance Agency has been collecting information on climate risks to the mortgage industry. And the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has established a “climate risk unit.” 

Steven Rothstein, a managing director at the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, said that agencies must begin disclosing how they plan to follow through on the report’s recommendations. “With a very small window to prevent the next climate disaster, each agency must now provide specific timelines when they plan to put in place measures to protect the safety and soundness of our financial system, our institutions, our savings and our communities,” he said.

While some initial steps have been taken, Yellen underscored that much of the work lies ahead. “It’s important to note that this report is not exhaustive, nor is it the final word from this council on this urgent priority,” she said. 

“Our most financially stable future is our most environmentally sustainable future — one where we have transitioned to a low-carbon economy,” Yellen added. 

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Top US regulators agree: Climate change is a major threat to the economy on Oct 21, 2021.

This content originally appeared on Grist and was authored by Naveena Sadasivam.

Medical worker, grieving her two daughters’ deaths, helps refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/medical-worker-grieving-her-two-daughters-deaths-helps-refugees-on-the-thai-myanmar-border/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 21:36:00 +0000 http://www.radiofree.org/?guid=84159676b302e165b6ad1395f8a78efa
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.

Dread among Tibetans as ‘butcher of Xinjiang’ named new Tibet party boss https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/dread-among-tibetans-as-butcher-of-xinjiang-named-new-tibet-party-boss/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 21:29:00 +0000 https://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/ccp-wang-10212021171253.html The newly appointed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) boss in Tibet, a hardline apparatchik under multiple international sanctions for severe human rights abuses in neighboring Xinjiang, is expected to apply to Tibet’s Buddhists the same harsh policies carried out against the Muslims in Xinjiang, Tibetans and experts said.

Wang Junzheng, deputy CCP boss and security chief in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), has overseen atrocities against the Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in the XUAR that have been labeled genocide in Western capitals.

Tibet advocates greeted the announcement Monday of the promotion of the 58-year-old Wang with concern that he will take the repression Tibetans have known for decades to a higher-level, and they called for the continuation of coordinated sanctions on him by Britain, Canada, the European Union and the U.S.

“Wang Junzheng’s appointment as head of the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Committee indicates that the Chinese authorities intend to continue using an iron fist to control the Tibetan people,” said the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group with offices in Washington, D.C. and Europe.

“ICT expects Wang to bring his experience to Tibet as part of the party’s Tibet-Xinjiang feedback loop. Chen Quanguo, his boss in Xinjiang, took his Tibet experience as the party secretary from 2011 to 2016 to Xinjiang, where he has led the Chinese government’s ongoing, horrifying genocide of the Uyghurs,” the group said in a statement.

Chen moved to the XUAR capital Urumqi in August 2016 after five years as party boss in Tibet, where he built up security measures and surveillance, suppressed support for the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader whom Beijing accuses of being a separatist, and criminalized many ordinary religious and cultural activities.

Wang’s promotion, part of a slate of new CCP leaders appointed in seven provincial-level governments across China ahead of a party congress next year,  comes five years after Chen took over as XUAR party boss and locked up some 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of internment camps in the name of fighting terrorism and extremism.

“Wang Junzheng’s reign promises to be for Tibetans as bad as Chen Quanguo’s, or worse,” the online religious freedom website Bitter Winter said in an analysis.

“Indeed, his appointment in Tibet is a slap in the face of the United States and democratic countries in general. The ‘butcher of Xinjiang’ not only is not reined in by Beijing, he is promoted to higher office,” the Italy-based website said.

Newly appointed Chinese Communist Party chief Wang Junzheng, in undated Chinese state media photo.
Newly appointed Chinese Communist Party chief Wang Junzheng, in undated Chinese state media photo.
'Sinicization of the Tibetan Buddhism'

In a speech in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) capital Lhasa on Tuesday, Wang did little to dispel the fears of Tibetans.

“I will consider myself a Tibetan from now onwards. My main role and responsibility is to create a harmonious society that is inevitable and will resolutely strike against separatist activities,” he said, according to state media.

“It is necessary to actively guide the Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to the socialist society and promote the Sinicization of the Tibetan Buddhism."

Wang was among XUAR officials hit with travel bans and asset freezes in March by Britain, Canada, the EU and the U.S., The quasi-military Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps’ Public Security Bureau, where Wang served as political commissar, was also penalized.

“I need to stress that I have no interest at all in travelling to the European Union, the United States, Britain or Canada,” Wang told state media at the time.

“I don’t have a cent of savings in these places.”

XUAR party boss Chen, architect of the detention camp system, was sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a move that followed the enactment last year the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which provides for sanctions on the Chinese officials who implement arbitrary incarceration, forced labor, and other abuses.

“The United States stands with the many Tibetans oppressed and imprisoned by the PRC for the exercise of their human rights,” a State Department spokesperson said in response to an RFA question about Wang’s transfer.

“Tibet remains a priority for this Administration.  We will consider the use of all appropriate tools to promote accountability for PRC officials responsible for human rights abuses in Tibet,” the spokesperson told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

A facility believed to be an internment camp located north of Kashgar, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, June 2, 2019. Credit: AFP
A facility believed to be an internment camp located north of Kashgar, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, June 2, 2019. Credit: AFP
'Genocide under his watch'

While the spokesperson did not address Wang’s appointment, Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, an advisory body in Washington, told RFA he is “deeply worried about the promotion of Wang.”

“Wang Junzheng was security chief in Xinjiang when the U.S. government determined the Chinese government was committing genocide under his watch," he said.

“Whether his promotion shows defiance of the U.S. sanctions placed upon him is less important than the worries we have about what he may impose upon Tibetans as party boss in the TAR,” McGovern told RFA.

In Washington on Wednesday, President Joe Biden's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, did not mince words on China at his Senate confirmation hearing.

"The PRC's genocide in Xinjiang, its abuses in Tibet, its smothering of Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms, and its bullying of Taiwan are unjust and must stop," Burns said, listing points of conflict between Washington and Beijing.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan and Uyghur Services. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi.

This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.

For the $10 Billion It Gave Shareholders, John Deere Could Have Given Each Worker $142,000 – Workers made a fortune for shareholders over the last six-year contract. They should demand that they get paid their true worth before shareholders get a penny. https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/for-the-10-billion-it-gave-shareholders-john-deere-could-have-given-each-worker-142000-workers-made-a-fortune-for-shareholders-over-the-last-six-year-contract-they-should-demand-that-th/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 20:52:00 +0000 https://inthesetimes.com/article/john-deere-strike-shareholders-workers-contract On October 14, 10,000 John Deere workers in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia went on strike after overwhelmingly rejecting the new contract negotiated between John Deere and their union, the United Auto Workers (UAW). “When you factor in the pandemic, being deemed essential workers, and in our case, having a company turning a record profit, the CEO giving himself a 160 percent raise, and giving a 17 percent dividend raise, we kinda feel like we’re left to kick rocks,” a striking UAW member and worker at Iowa's Davenport Works (who requested anonymity) recently told Labor Notes.

John Deere’s profits and CEO pay are, indeed, worth pointing out. But it also is worth taking a look at where John Deere has spent the bulk of its profits since the last contract with the UAW was signed in 2015.

From fiscal year 2016 through the first nine months of fiscal year 2021, John Deere earned more than $16 billion in profits. The company spent roughly $5 billion on dividends and $4.95 billion on share repurchases; nearly $10 billion in total was given to shareholders during the six years of the previous contract.

What does this mean for the workers at John Deere? With the money John Deere gave to shareholders, it could have paid each of its 69,600 worldwide employees an additional $142,000 over the past six years.

It’s difficult to come up with a typical yearly salary for a UAW member at John Deere because of multiple pay rates (12 pay levels, each with six steps), and because some workers are subject to Deere’s “continuous improvement pay plan” with lower hourly base pay but the potential for productivity-based bonuses. However, for the sake of argument, if we assume someone is paid for 2,080 hours during a full year (8 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 52 weeks), the highest guaranteed annual salary under the proposed contract was $66,227, up from $62,483 in the final year of the last contract.

Over the course of the last six-year contract, workers with the highest hourly wage received cumulative wage increases of $13,488. John Deere could have increased workers’ wages 10 times that amount instead of giving handouts to shareholders.

Since the early 1980s, workers have received a shrinking share of the wealth they create. You may have seen some version of the Economic Policy Institute’s graph showing that private sector wage growth matched productivity growth between the end of World War II and around 1980. Since then, productivity has risen more than three times as much as workers’ wages.

The widening gap between worker pay and productivity means that the wealth created by workers is going to the richest 10 percent of Americans who own 84 percent of the value of the U.S. stock markets. While executive compensation has also skyrocketed during the past 40 years, CEO pay is a drop in the bucket compared to the money companies are giving to shareholders in the form of share repurchases and dividends. Not coincidentally, the beginning of the productivity-pay gap happens to coincide with the 1982 issuance of a new rule by the Securities and Exchange Commission that allowed publicly-traded companies to repurchase shares.

While there are some regulatory actions the federal government can take to limit these public company payments to shareholders—outlawing share repurchases again or raising taxes on capital gains and dividends, for example—truly reversing the upward distribution of wealth from workers to shareholders will only happen through worker militancy like the John Deere strike.

Workers have an opportunity to demand that they get paid their true worth before shareholders get a penny. Deere has taken $36,000 created by each worldwide employee just this year and put it into shareholders’ bank accounts. UAW members should keep their hands in their pockets and stay on strike until they get a significant chunk of that money back.

YearDividendsShare RepurchasesTotal to ShareholdersTotal Per Current Worldwide Employee
2016$761 million$205 million$966 million$13,879
2017$764 million$6 million$770 million$11,063
2018$806 million$958 million$1,764 million$25,344
2019$943 million$1,253 million$2,196 million$31,551
2020$956 million$750 million$1,706 million$24,511
2021 to Aug 1$761 million$1,780 million$2,541 million$36,508

This content originally appeared on In These Times and was authored by Colleen Boyle.

After Getting ‘Stealth Bailout’ During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/after-getting-stealth-bailout-during-pandemic-us-corporations-try-to-kill-proposed-tax-hikes/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 20:15:59 +0000 /node/331592
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Jessica Corbett.

‘Disgraceful’: Just 9 Republicans Join With Dems to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt https://www.museumpirates.com/2021/10/21/disgraceful-just-9-republicans-join-with-dems-to-hold-steve-bannon-in-criminal-contempt/ Thu, 21 Oct 2021 20:15:53 +0000 /node/331594
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Jon Queally.