|Posted by haimdatsawh on January 21, 2013 at 7:05 AM||comments (0)|
Schlesinger mentions that Ted Sorensen, historian, aide and chief speechwriter advised Kennedy to make it one of the shortest inauguration sppeches. So brevity was one of the virtues of this stirring address. The speech was less than 1400 words.
"The inaugural was a special occasion, and there was a special tone in that speech," Sorensen later recalled.
So tone and language structure made that speech one against which all other inauguration speeches are measured.
One line in that address -"ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country"—has echoed across time for generations since 1961.It was a call for service. It has inspired many across the world to search for ways to change society for the better.
For my generation Kennedy represented a new direction in political thinking. He was the youngest elected president,the first Roman Catholic and when he spoke of "the torch [having] been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace…" I believed he was appealing to those who wanted a fresh start in the way world politics and diplomacy were conducted.
Kennedy's statement "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe" makes us sad today when we reflect on the lengthy and terrible Vietnam War.
Many,like me, however focused on his vision of a new paradigm for peace.He proposed a "new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved."
One of the most memorable lines in the speech is "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." It is an ideal that I believe leaders today should seek.
AlphaMax Academy in its DVD 'Great Thoughts, Great Minds, Great moments in Time'-A Portrait of Hope and Peace features excerpts from this inaugural address done by Gabrielle Goedhart. You can view it on You Tube-Portrait of Hope and Peace . The script of the DVD urges all to seek clarity about the highest goals we can set to achieve Peace.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on January 21, 2013 at 7:05 AM||comments (0)|
President Barack Obama 's inaugural on Monday is linked this year with the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King the assassinated civil rights leader. Also this year a movie on Abraham Lincoln is playing at movie theatres nationwide. Both of these leaders are being consciously linked to the inauguration ceremony.
When US President Obama is sworn into office for the second time, he will use the same Bible that President Abraham Lincoln used during his inauguration in 1861 .
A Bible owned by the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr , will also be used at the inauguration.
In his speeches Obama has referred to King and this weekend's inaugural activities began with a national day of service in King's honor on Saturday. Obama and his family also helped spruce up an elementary school in southeast Washington. On each King holiday during his Presidency the Obama Family has done community service work.
When King's monument on the National wall was dedicated President Obama was the featured speaker. King will most likely be spoken about in his inaugural address.
The president has said King is one of two people he admires "more than anybody in American history." President Abraham Lincoln is the other.
Former chief of staff to President Barack Obama and now Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel , compared President Obama’s values and “ability to see a clear road where everybody just sees fog” to President Abraham Lincoln as depicted in the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln.”
He continued, “And I think that’s essential because, in the Oval Office, at the end of the day, all you have are your values, your judgment, and your ability to see a clear road where everybody just sees fog."
Barack Obama has demonstrated strong leadership qualities which are comparable with those of other great leaders throughout history. Obama has often been linked withs Abaraham Lincoln.eenth president.
One area of comparison is the two leader's speaking ability.Obama is an inspirational speaker.Obama has focused on creating a feeling of national unity while setting out the tough issues. Many say this is similar tothe way Lincoln approached his listeners.
Another area where people see similiarities is in the political situation.Like Lincoln, Obama is President in the middle of a crisis. Right now The US is struggling to deal with the most testing economic decisions of its history. The country is deeply divided on the way forward. The cuurent anger and hostilty over the proposed changes to the gun laws reflect this division. In Lincoln's time the nation was bitterly split over slavery and a war was about to take place. Both Presidents have encountered huge challenges. Lincoln’s were overcome. We await history's verdict on Obama's.
See AlphaMax Students present this and other excerpts from great speeches in Portrait of Hope and Peace : 'Great Thoughts, Great Minds, Great Moments in Time'.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on November 9, 2012 at 6:45 AM||comments (0)|
Suriname plans embassies in Germany and Equatorial Guinea
Back To Today's News
Suriname plans embassies in Germany and Equatorial Guinea
Published on October 12, 2012 Email To Friend Print Version
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- Amidst deteriorating ties between Suriname and its former colonizers, the Netherlands, the Bouterse administration is seeking to expand its diplomatic outreach by establishing embassies in key areas of the globe. Two such embassies will be established in Berlin and in Equatorial Guinea next year, according to the foreign affairs minister of Suriname, Winston Lackin.
Suriname recently opened embassies in France and South Africa. Paris is seen as a natural and important partner for Suriname in Europe according to Lackin. French Guyana borders Suriname.
Lackin told the Suriname Times that preparatory work has started on the embassy in Berlin and that an ambassador will be posted there in 2013. And by the end of this year, a Surinamese embassy will be opened in Equatorial Guinea, West Africa. This will be Suriname’s second embassy in Africa.
Lackin disclosed that a technical team from Equatorial Guinea was in Suriname recently to work on getting the embassy up and running. Suriname wants stronger ties with the African continent, he said. There are also plans for additional diplomatic missions in neighbouring Brazil and Guyana. Argentina will also open a diplomatic mission Suriname.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on November 9, 2012 at 6:40 AM||comments (0)|
Argentina Opens Embassy In Suriname
November 01, 2012 12:06 PM
Argentina Opens Embassy In Suriname
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 1 (BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA) -- Argentina announced the opening of an embassy in Suriname to bolster the "ties of friendship and cooperation" between the two South American countries, the Argentinian government said Wednesday in a statement.
The opening of the embassy in Suriname's capital Paramaribo" reflects the mutual interest to strengthen the traditional ties of friendship and cooperation between the two peoples and will allow the expansion of the relationship between the two countries," said a decree signed by Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman.
The move "will reaffirm Argentina's commitment to the system of regional integration," the government said, stressing the fact that "the Republic of Suriname is a full member of the Union of South American Countries, of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and of the Caribbean Community."
Argentina and Suriname established diplomatic relations in July 1977.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on November 9, 2012 at 6:40 AM||comments (0)|
Inequality: The Silly Tales Economists Like to Tell
Dean Baker is a US macroeconomist and co-founder of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research. Some economists don't get paid to know about the economy, but to justify the trickle-up of wealth. Economists are "not rewarded for studying the economy", says Baker, as evidenced by the fact that almost everyone in the profession failed to predict the $8 trillion housing bubble that brought the economy to its knees [REUTERS]CEPR; Books; RSS; Last Modified: 30 Oct 2012 07:36
There is no serious dispute that the United States has seen a massive increase in inequality over the last three decades. However there is a major dispute over the causes of this rise in inequality. The explanation most popular in elite and policy circles is that the rise in inequality was simply the natural working of the economy. Their story is that the explosion of information technology and globalisation have increased demand for highly-skilled workers while sharply reducing the demand for less-educated workers. While the first part of this story is at best questionable, the second part should invite ridicule and derision. It doesn't pass the laugh test. As far as the technology story, yes information technologies have displaced large amounts of less-skilled labour. So did the technologies that preceded them. There are hundreds of books and articles from the 1950s and 1960s that expressed grave concerns that automation would leave much of the workforce unemployed. Is there evidence that the displacement is taking place more rapidly today than in that era? If so, it is not showing up on our productivity data. More germane to the issue at hand, unlike the earlier wave of technology, computerisation offers the potential for displacing vast amounts of highly skilled labour. Legal research that might have previously required a highly skilled lawyer can now be done by an intelligent college grad and a good search engine. Medical diagnosis and the interpretation of test results that may have previously required a physician, and quite possibly a highly paid specialist, can now be done by technical specialists who may not even have a college education.
"Most economists are not paid for knowing about the economy. They are paid for telling stories that justify giving more money to rich people."
There is no reason to believe that current technologies are replacing comparatively more less-educated workers than highly educated workers. The fact that lawyers and doctors largely control how their professions are practiced almost certainly has much more to do with the demand for their services. If the technology explanation for inequality is weak, the globalisation part of the story is positively pernicious. The basic story is that globalisation has integrated a huge labour force of billions of workers in developing countries into the world economy. These workers are able to fill many of the jobs that used to provide middle class living standards to workers in the United States and will accept a fraction of the wage. This makes many formerly middle class jobs uncompetitive in the world economy given current wages and currency values. This part of the story is true. The part that our elite leave out is that there are tens of millions of bright and highly educated workers in the developing world who could fill most of the top paying jobs in the US economy: Doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. These workers are also willing to work for a small fraction of the wages of their US counterparts since they come from poor countries with much lower standards of living. The reason why the manufacturing workers, construction workers, and restaurant workers lose their jobs to low-paid workers from the developing world, and doctors and lawyers don't, is that doctors and lawyers use their political power to limit the extent to which they are exposed to competition from their low-paid counterparts in the developing world. Our trade policy has been explicitly designed to remove barriers that prevent General Electric and other companies from moving their manufacturing operations to Mexico, China or other developing countries. By contrast, many of the barriers that make it difficult for foreign professionals to work in the United States have actually been strengthened in the last two decades. If economics was an honest profession, economists would focus their efforts on documenting the waste associated with protectionist barriers for professionals. They devoted endless research studies to estimating the cost to consumers of tariffs on products like shoes and tires. It speaks to the incredible corruption of the economics profession that there are not hundreds of studies showing the loss to consumers from the barriers to trade in physicians' services. If trade could bring down the wages of physicians in the United States just to European levels, it would save consumers close to $100 billion a year. But economists are not rewarded for studying the economy. That is why almost everyone in the profession missed the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which stands to cost the country more than $7 trillion in lost output according to the Congressional Budget Office (that comes to around $60,000 per household). Few if any economists lost their 6-figure paychecks for this disastrous mistake. But most economists are not paid for knowing about the economy. They are paid for telling stories that justify giving more money to rich people. Hence we can look forward to many more people telling us that all the money going to the rich was just the natural workings of the economy. When it comes to all the government rules and regulations that shifted income upward, they just don't know what you're talking about.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on August 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
Suriname not borrowing from China without thinking, Lackin says
(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – Although China is an important partner in financing the government’s big plans, Suriname will not borrow from that country without thinking. “We are careful with loans,” Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Lackin says, referring to the law on the state’s debts which imposes limits on how much the state can borrow locally and internationally.
Lackin confirmed to the press yesterday that China plays an ‘important role’ with regard to financing the government’s big plans in sectors including infrastructure, energy and mining. “We are also considering other methods that will not burden the economy so much,” he adds. Suriname is also counting on friendly nations including Brazil and India.
Financial experts and international organizations have repeatedly warned the government recently not to be careless with foreign loans. In spite of the current favourable economic times, Suriname should resist this temptation due to the global financial crisis. Chinese Ambassador in Suriname Yuan Nansheng says relations between his country and Suriname have been intensified in the past three years in the areas of the economy, politics and culture. China sees an interest in helping Suriname alleviate its housing shortage. Besides pre-financing 5,000 government houses, China has increased its financial donations to Suriname each year. “Late this year, 24 containers filled with agricultural machinery will come to Suriname as aid,” the Ambassador states as an example of how his country wants to assist Suriname in “actually becoming a food source.”
|Posted by haimdatsawh on August 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
Caricom States Should Be Leery of Uncritical Acceptance of U.S. Drones
July 26, 2012 | Posted by Stan
Tagged With: Caricom, drones, drones in caribbean, obama, u.s. drones in caribbean, War on Drugs
The surprising news about the readiness of the Obama administration to introduce unmanned surveillance drones in the Caribbean in a new strategy to combat the notorious illegal drug trade has come like a virtual fait accompli.
Almost simultaneous with reports out of Washington on Sunday of planned operation of the “drones” project by the US Customs and Border Protection agency, Barbados’ Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, was enthusiastically embracing this latest development in the US war on drug trafficking.
Given the abomination of the drug culture that continues to create havoc with the lives and economies in too many Caricom states, it may be tempting to also uncritically endorse the initiative.
But such official responses ought to be delayed for some prior information-sharing on the modalities of operations of drones with assurances against misuse of intelligence and technology that could result in the loss of lives.
The announcement came after the US seemingly satisfied itself about the effectiveness of the surveillance drones for the Caribbean with secret trial exercises in The Bahamas.
When and where did consultations with regional governments occur? There was no mention about the drones project in the communiqué issued at the recent Caricom Summit in St Lucia.
Nor was there any allusion to it either by the Community’s Secretary General or current Chairman PM Kenny Anthony. There has been no references to it by the Community’s Prime Ministerial Committee on Crime and Security chaired by PM Kamla Persad-Bissesar.
And it has not yet been discussed for approval at the level of the Regional Security System, according to those who should know.
Representative institutions and organisations in the Caribbean will undoubtedly have an interest to learn whether Caricom governments have been briefed on it.
If so, have they satisfied themselves about its usefulness without compromising the region’s political sovereignty and territorial integrity?
The introduction of drones to intensify the US war against drug-trafficking, has now entered public consciousness in the Caribbean at a critical period.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on August 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
Poppycock politics in Guyana
Analysis by Rickey Singh
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
A strange political development took place two days ago in Guyana, where strange political occurrences have become the norm.
The Georgetown-based Caricom Secretariat released to the media on Monday morning a statement that, following "the unfortunate incidents surrounding the protests at Linden on July 18, 2012, which led to the deaths of three citizens of Guyana, the secretariat has been engaged with the Government of Guyana on a continuous basis..."
Further, that at the request of the Guyana Government (of President Donald Ramotar), Caricom "has recommended three distinguished Community nationals to serve on a Commission of Inquiry which is expected to probe and report on matters related to the events of that day..."
The three chosen Caricom nationals, said the secretariat, are Justice Lensley Wolfe, a former chief justice of Jamaica and current chairman of its Police Public Complaints Authority; KD Knight, a senior counsel who held the portfolios of national security and justice, and foreign affairs and foreign trade in the previous PNP Administration; and Dana Seetahal, senior counsel and former independent senator of Trinidad and Tobago, and a columnist of the Trinidad Express.
So far, so good. Hours later, on that same day, a scheduled meeting of representatives of the Government, parliamentary opposition and the Region 10 Council (that includes the bauxite mining town of Linden) was aborted.
The declared intention was to have, on Monday, a formal signing of the terms of reference for ending the month-long "Linden crisis" and pave the way for the work of the Commission of Inquiry to begin. So what happened?
Competing for support
The real reason perhaps resides in the ongoing competitive politics between the two parliamentary Opposition parties — A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), that includes the dominant People's National Congress, and the Alliance for Change (AFC) — for political support in Linden, which has been viewed as a traditional stronghold of the PNC up to last November's general election.
There have been variations in public political posturing between APNU's leadership and the Region 10 Council chairman on the terms of resolving the crisis in Linden.
The three killings of protesters on July 18 have been linked to police shootings and subsequent waves of arson and other criminal activities that have resulted in millions of dollars in losses and with the town's future now seriously jeopardised.
Significantly absent from last Friday's final meeting before the signing event scheduled for Monday afternoon was any representative of APNU's minority opposition partner, AFC. That, however, was not a surprise, especially to those monitoring the behaviour of the AFC's leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, a lawyer and defector from the governing PPP.
He had earlier admitted to involvement in "mobilisation" of protests by Lindeners against the Government's proposed phased hike in electricity tariff for eventual equalisation with the rest of Guyanese consumers.
That was the core issue and was still being used to literally fan flames, even after the Government had put the proposed tariff hike on hold and agreed to a general review of expressed social and economic discontent in Linden, for which the terms of reference and personnel for a special technical committee had been agreed.
However, as recently as August 10, the AFC's Ramjattan had told the local media of his party's rejection of any inclusion in the terms of reference for the independent probe into the killings of the three demonstrators who "may have organised, mobilised or promoted the protest on July 18..."
The harsh reality is that it is difficult to separate the tragedy of three deaths and the injuries suffered by at least a dozen protesters from the related incidents of July 18.
According to the sophistry of the AFC's leader, "even if Ramjattan went up there (in Linden) and organised the thing (the 'thing' being the protest), what's wrong with that? It is the exercise of a constitutional right".
What is most disturbing for Guyana's future political stability and social/economic advancement is not that the lawyer/politician Ramjattan could be so insensitive to the problems affecting Lindeners. Rather, that his self-serving platitudes could have succeeded in influencing the APNU, and, by extension, the PNC, into backing away from Monday's expected signing of the terms of reference for the independent commission of inquiry.
Consequently, there was the amusing scenario on Monday of the Opposition welcoming the announcement of the three distinguished Caricom citizens chosen for the independent probe, while still failing to reach consensus with the Government on the Commission's terms of reference.
As one well-known lawyer reacted when we spoke yesterday about this surprising development, "You simply cannot discuss text without context". Fair enough.
But the trio of identified commissioners for the coming probe, which has been in the making for more than a fortnight, may perhaps need to reflect on the implications of the poppycock politics in Guyana for more than Lindeners.
Currently it is manifesting in ongoing bartering between two opposition parties that together control a majority of one seat in the 65-member Parliament. The bartering involves more than painful political somersaults and is quite costly in its social and economic consequences for more than the bauxite mining town of Linden, which has a population of some 40,000.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on August 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
Suriname will not bow down to Holland – Wijdenbosch
(de Ware Tijd) AMSTERDAM – Suriname will never bow down to the Netherlands just to improve relations with that country. It is the Dutch who are damaging the relationship, so they must take action to make the relationship healthy again, former President Jules Wijdenbosch says in reply to questions from de Ware Tijd shortly after a press conference he held yesterday in Hotel Casa400 in Amsterdam.
He harshly criticized the attitude of the Netherlands towards Suriname, saying, “it is not the Netherlands which decides the legitimacy of Suriname’s rulers.” Wijdenbosch expressed his personal opinions. Lower House member Harry van Bommel (Socialist Party, SP) hopes both countries will deal with the relationship in a “mature way,” so it can be normalized. Wijdenbosch issued a warning to Dutch political parties which expressed the wish to isolate the country during the Lower House’s most recent Suriname-debate. The warning came in view of the upcoming Parliamentary elections on 12 September.
Although he did not mention parties by name during his press conference, Wijdenbosch tells dWT he was referring to the governing parties of CDA and VVD and their partner PVV, as well as PvdA. The former President calls the decision to refuse visa to the suspects of the 8 December murder trial “childish”. In his presentation, Wijdenbosch used many data to show that Suriname’s economy is doing well, adding that The Hague is not pleased with this success. He also criticized the Dutch government’s decision to keep documents secret for 60 years, as these contain information on Suriname in the 1980s and the role the Dutch might have played in developments then. It may be impossible to uncover the truth during the 8 December trial without these documents.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on August 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
Jagdeo- Guyana's Putin
Written by Guest Columnist Wednesday, 08 August 2012 18:42
by Political Oracle
History is dominated with a plethora of acknowledgment and myriad examples of the concept "true power lies behind the throne". Most astute politicians will endeavour to try to achieve the skills to be a “king maker rather than a king". The term "secret president" is not so mundane in our daily political discourse, but the concept was in existence for very long time. However, it still manifest itself regularly in many political systems and nations Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt were the two ladies in recent times, that were famous for executing the duties of a "Secret President" and performed "power behind the throne".
These women were performing the duty for their husbands, who were both USApresidents during World War 1 and II. It is chronicled that they played the role very effectively. The Russian president, Vladmir Putin created a similar scenario and became famous for popularising his version of political puppetry, which universally became known as "Putinism". Vladmir Putin had the absolute power and the final political decisions in Russia during Dimtry Medvedev presidency. It was known in diplomatic circles in every international fora, that Putin is the "power behind the throne" many international experts started to ponder if Dilma. Rousseff of Brazil will be a obsequious president to Lula, as was Medvedev to Putin.
In Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, has emerged as a powerful "secret president" and an undisputed "power behind the throne" In August1999, Janet Jagan stepped down for health reasons and transferred the presidency to Jagdeo. As a Marxist leader of the PPP and the matriarch of the Guyanese nation, Mrs Jagan conceptualized a plan that would enable her to control the young Russian economist. But logics and reality have shown, Mrs Jagan failed in her endeavours. At a cursory look at Jagdeo in 1999,he appeared to display obvious docility. But characteristically, Jagdeo was always judicious in his political ventures and perspicacious in economics. He was also a sincere erudite and a sagacious person. It is noted that from the inception of his presidency, Jagdeo unearthed the dictatorial desires he harboured and revealed the power obsession which he suppressed. One of his initial acts was to read and analyse all the documents and literature on Forbes Burnham and he studied Burnham’s for nation building and political solution in party life. Jagdeo on numerous occasions imitated Burnham, both tactically and strategically. He is a "miniature kabaka"
Jagdeo ingeniously began to consolidate power with the party, the government and the wider society. He surrounded himself with loyalists and ‘yes men’ and the ‘new private sector’ which become the recipient of most of his financial favours. The so called old guard of the party almost became extinct At first his strategies and motives were inconspicuous, but when he won the 2001 election and received national endorsement at the polls, his attitude and antics evolved into a polemic and pugnacious nature. Jagdeo was " lord of the manor" at cabinet meetings. Mrs Jagan was too physical unwell and languorous to take control of the party and government. She once rose to the issue of the withdrawal of the government advertisements from Stabroek News, a matter that Jagdeo did not like and he was contentious in calling her a public citizen. It was an indication that Jagdeo was fearless of any one in the PPP or in the society at large. On one occasion he presumptuously insulted industrial icon Yesu Persaud at the launching of Guyana Times, a newspaper owned by his friend Bobby Ramroop. His behaviour was blatantly supercilious to any who he perceives as political threat. On the death of Mrs. Jagan, Jagdeo became very rancorous and openly disagreeable with his opponents.
On the other hand, he was affable and amiable to those who loved and supported him. On various occasions Jagdeo would be gregarious and he displayed a jocular personality. As time progresses, Jagdeo became indispensable to the PPP because he has a rare managerial skills, he can conceptualise and express himself efficiently and eloquently on fiscal and monetary issues. This enabled him to administer government contracts and state programs to his advantage and with impunity. Over 97 percent of the Guyanese population cannot comprehend Government accounting and national economics principles and procedures. This gave Jagdeo the opportunity to manipulate the economy to his advantage.
The PPP depends on him as their financial Czar and until now he meets with several implementers of major government projects and policies. In essence, two presidents occupy Office of the President on a weekly if not a daily basis.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on June 29, 2012 at 9:15 AM||comments (0)|
Suriname Receives $13.7 Million IDB Loan to Improve Education
June 24, 2012 | 11:22 pm | Print
Above: Suriname (IDB Photo/Willie Heinz)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Suriname will soon receive a $13.7 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to improve the quality of education in the country.
The loan, which has been approved by the IDB, will support Suriname’s plan to strengthen the efficiency and quality of the new basic education system in the country, along with supporting educational outcomes for students from pre-primary through junior secondary.
“Improving the learning outcomes in core subjects of Dutch and mathematics, training all of Suriname’s approximately 5,000 primary school teachers, supporting efforts to streamline the education system and exploring the use of information and communication technologies in schools will dramatically improve graduates’ ability to access the labour market,” said IDB project team leader Annelle Bellony.
The IDB will finance Suriname’s two-phased education programme, with the first phase addressing the curriculum framework for the basic education system and the second addressing the learning outcomes of students in grades 1 to 8.
The loan is for a 20-year term, with a four-year grace period and a LIBOR-based interest rate.
Suriname’s government is contributing $750,000 to the progarmme’s budget.
News Suriname education , inter-american development bank , suriname
|Posted by haimdatsawh on June 29, 2012 at 8:25 AM||comments (0)|
How health care law survived, and what's next
By Richard Wolf, Brad Heath and Chuck Raasch, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — President Obama 's landmark health care law remains standing today because of one Supreme Court justice's unlikely vote and for one ironic reason with huge political implications: Its key provision is a tax.
By Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of President Obama's health care legislation celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
By Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of President Obama's health care legislation celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
In a splintered 5-4 decision with momentous consequences for the nation's health care system, balance of government power and politics, the high court handed Obama a stunning election-year victory. Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal-leaning justices held that the law's insurance mandate represents a tax on people who do not get health coverage — a tax the Constitution gives Congress the power to impose.
Ever since three historic days of oral arguments in March revealed broad skepticism among the court's conservative justices that requiring people to buy health insurance was constitutional, the mandate looked to be in jeopardy. Shortly after 10 a.m. on Thursday inside a hushed courtroom, however, Roberts gave the mandate, the law — perhaps even the president — a new lease on life.
INTERACTIVE: Health care by the numbers
"The Affordable Care Act 's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," Roberts wrote. "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."
Using that logic, the chief justice saved what both sides call "Obamacare" — the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, one that presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton tried and failed to achieve.
Now it's full steam ahead for the law, which already has provided limited benefits for some seniors, young adults and people with pre-existing conditions. By January 2014, unless Congress intervenes, millions of Americans will have to obtain insurance or pay penalties, insurers will be banned from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, states will have to decide whether to expand Medicaid and create new insurance exchanges where people can shop for affordable coverage, and many small businesses will have to cover workers with the help of tax credits or pay penalties.
Videos from the Supreme Court ruling on the health care law.
With a 59-page stroke of his pen, Roberts — a George W. Bush nominee whose 2005 confirmation as chief justice was opposed by one Sen. Barack Obama — sided with the court's four liberal justices in upholding the most consequential and controversial piece of legislation enacted during Obama's presidency.
The law now "survives largely unscathed," said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who like most justices on the court was unhappy about some part of the decision. Four justices, in fact — just one short of a majority — would have struck down the entire law, jeopardizing provisions that are already benefiting young adults, seniors and others.
"The Affordable Care Act now must operate as the court has revised it, not as Congress designed it," lamented Justice Anthony Kennedy on behalf of himself and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito . He called it "a vast judicial overreaching."
Overreaching or not, it's certainly a rewrite. The majority's decision means that Medicaid will be expanded in many states, but with a ban on federal reprisals for states that choose otherwise. And it means most Americans must get health insurance — with some exceptions, based largely on income — but not because Congress has authority over interstate commerce, the government's main argument. The four liberal justices believed that, but Roberts said the Constitution doesn't give Congress power "to regulate what we do not do" or "to regulate the individual from cradle to grave."
How the justices voted
It was hard to tell Thursday which justices were on which side of the decisions on federal health care law without a score card. A look at how they voted:
Uphold the law under the Constitution’s taxing clause, 5-4
Yes: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan
No: Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito
Strike down the law under the Constitution's commerce clause, 5-4
Yes: Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Alito
No: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan
Strike down federal reprisals on states over Medicaid expansion, 7-2
Yes: Roberts, Breyer, Kagan, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Alito
No: Ginsburg, Sotomayor
Claim jurisdiction over the law despite Anti-Injunction Act, 9-0
Yes: All nine justices
Rather, Roberts lent his vote because, he said, Obama and his Democratic allies had enacted a new tax — one that the Congressional Budget Office has projected will raise $4 billion annually by 2017.
Never mind that Democrats avoided the word "tax" in writing the law, choosing to call the levy for failing to buy health insurance a "penalty" or "shared responsibility payment." And never mind that Obama ran for president in 2008 and is doing so again on the promise that he will not tax anyone with household income below $250,000.
"I think it's very clear that Chief Justice Roberts wanted to avoid the outcome of taking the whole law down," said former Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, who filed the first lawsuit on the day the law was enacted in 2010. He called the ruling "very contrived."
Obama was able to stand in the East Room of the White House shortly after noon and claim a sorely needed victory because the law, in 2016, will tax those who decline to buy insurance up to $2,085 per family or 2.5% of income, whichever is larger.
The president, who seemed to have one eye on November and the other on history, tried to defuse the political backlash that began minutes after the court majority's opinion was released.
"The highest court in the land has now spoken," Obama said. "We will continue to implement this law. And we'll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won't do — what the country can't afford to do — is refight the political battles of two years ago."
That wasn't the way Republican challenger Mitt Romney was reading things just a few blocks from the court's marble chambers.
"Our mission is clear," the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said. "If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama."
Limits on federal power
The decision shows once again that the high court is willing to weigh in on legislative issues and influence the political balance of power. Since its 5-4 decision affirming Bush's election as president over Al Gore in December 2000, the justices have tackled issues ranging from affirmative action to campaign finance with equal aplomb.
This case, however, stood out from the crowd — and the ruling was intoned before a crowd that included several members of Congress, spouses of justices and at least one former justice: 92-year-old John Paul Stevens .
"There's no modern precedent for the gravity of (the decision)," said Neal Katyal, who represented the Obama administration in court as acting solicitor general in 2010-11. "You'd have to look all the way back to the New Deal or Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 to find something similar, of comparable dimension."
The legal fallout from the decision and various dissenting and concurring opinions looms large, particularly because the ruling embraces potentially significant limits on the federal government's authority to regulate commerce and spend money.
Roberts joined the court's conservatives in finding that Congress' power to regulate commerce does not give lawmakers the authority to force people to buy insurance. And he joined six other justices in saying that Congress cannot use its checkbook to coerce states into going along with policies they don't like — the first time in more than a generation that the court had put any real limits on the federal government's power to spend money.
Those findings mean nothing for the future of the health care law, because its status as a tax made it constitutional. But lawyers on both sides of the case said they could change the contours of the federal government's authority for years to come.
Although lawyers who challenged the law said they were disappointed that they had not persuaded Roberts — and, by extension, the court — to find that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, many said they were encouraged by his reasoning. As recently as two years ago, many constitutional scholars had dismissed the constitutional objections to the health law as baseless; on Thursday, most of those objections commanded a majority of the justices.
"All of us, of course, are disappointed with the ultimate outcome today, but we cannot lose sight of what we've accomplished," said Pam Bondi , the attorney general in Florida, which led the 26-state challenge to the law. "We learned that there are enforceable limits on Congress' power under the commerce clause. We've always said that is very important."
Similarly, Paul Clement , the former Bush administration solicitor general who argued most of the challenge before the justices, said that "it would be hard to think of a case where more of the arguments we made were accepted by the court" in a lost cause. He said the court's 7-2 tilt for limiting the penalties states could face for opting out of a Medicaid expansion was "really quite significant."
Still, not all of the challengers shared that view.
"You can look for silver linings in the cloud, but it's still a cloud," said George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, who wrote a brief opposing the health law. He said the decision offers Congress a road map to enact similar laws by crafting them as taxes instead of mandates.
The ruling won't mark the end of court action over the law — far from it. Already, religious groups challenging the law's inclusion of contraception among the services to be covered by insurers are vowing more lawsuits.
"People would be mistaken to think that upholding the constitutionality would mark the end of the litigation," said Sheila Burke, a Harvard University health professor who was former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole 's top aide.
States face difficult decisions
The decision is likely to grease the current state of gridlock in many states, particularly those controlled by Democratic proponents of the law.
"It provides a substantial push to accelerate implementation, at the state legislature level in particular," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at theKaiser Family Foundation , a health research organization.
The decision also gives states more wiggle room in how to implement the law by making Medicaid expansion voluntary. The court struck down a portion of the law that would have forced states to accept a major expansion of Medicaid to all Americans earning up to $30,733 for a family of four or risk losing all federal funds under the program.
Roberts called that part of the Affordable Care Act "a gun to the head" by threatening as much as 10% of states' budgets. But states also will be required to comply with the rest of the act, such as by setting up insurance exchanges; only 15 states have done so already.
A uniform pace of action in the states is unlikely. Some governors hailed the decision as an affirmation of changes they have made already. Others called it a misguided ruling and said they would comply only begrudgingly.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder , a Republican, said his state would create a health insurance exchange. But the law, he said, "misses the point on the most important reforms needed in our health care system": cost controls.
Clement, the states' lawyer, acknowledged that their victory in court on the Medicaid language might prove Pyrrhic. Because new federal Medicaid funds will "come from the federal tax revenues that are imposed on all 50 states," Clement said, "there's still going to be real practical incentive for them to take the new money."
Not all of them will, predicted David Merritt , a senior adviser at Leavitt Partners, a health consultancy headed by former Republican secretary of health and human services Michael Leavitt . While the federal government initially will pay for the Medicaid expansion, cash-strapped states eventually will have to kick in at least 10% of the cost.
"Long term, they're going to be on the hook," Merritt said. "They're not going to be on the hook for a lot, but any amount is huge when you're broke."
Next stop: Voting booths
In the wake of the decision, Republicans had one message: November has never been more important. Romney, GOP officials and strategists said the ruling only raised the stakes for the 2012 election and would provide the fuel needed to get their most enthusiastic supporters to the polls.
"What the court did not do on its last day in session I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States," Romney said in a four-minute statement at a building across from the U.S. Capitol . "I will act to repeal Obamacare."
His effort received an immediate fundraising boost. By late afternoon, spokeswoman Andrea Saul tweeted that the campaign had raised $2.5 million in the wake of the ruling. And in those hours, the National Republican Congressional Committee — the party's House campaign arm — issued a series of e-mails that said the health care law would become permanent unless many Democratic incumbents are "replaced" in the fall.
Republican strategists said the Supreme Court decision made sure the GOP's conservative base would be out in full force.
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity announced it would launch a $9 million television advertising blitz Friday in 16 states to highlight opposition to the law.
Within an hour of the decision, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House would vote on a repeal of the law July 11. Nothing new there: The House has voted 30 times already to repeal parts or all of the law, but the measures have gone nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said GOP efforts to push a repeal are just beginning: "There is only one way to truly fix Obamacare, only one way, and that is a full repeal."
Republicans' best chance to make changes in the law, however, lies in the budget process, because they can avoid the Senate's 60-vote threshold. That means everything with a dollar sign — Medicaid expansions, subsidies for the poor, Medicare savings, new taxes — can be attacked now and in future years.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin , an economist and former senior policy adviser for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said Republicans' message should be "framed very carefully" in terms of the law's impact on jobs and the economy.
"If conservatives are to realize their hopes of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the electoral process is their only remaining recourse," said William Galston , aBrookings Institution analyst and an adviser in former president Bill Clinton's administration. "Once the dust settles, expect them to mobilize and work even harder for unified government under Republican control. And expect Mitt Romney to wave the bloody shirt all the more vigorously."
Indeed, in a presidential election year, the court's ruling will only be amplified between now and November.
"The Supreme Court has spoken," said Randy Barnett , the Georgetown University law professor who helped represent businesses challenging the health care law. "Now, the people will decide."
Contributing: Jackie Kucinich, Aamer Madhani and Kelly Kennedy
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|Posted by haimdatsawh on June 29, 2012 at 8:20 AM||comments (0)|
Latin American Leaders Reject Paraguay 'Coup'
Heads of three regional countries say they will not recognise new government after President Fernando Lugo was ousted.
Latin American countries have expressed concern at the ouster of Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo, with leaders of three countries saying they will not recognise its new government. Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez, Ecuador President Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday said they would not recognise the government of newly-installed leader Frederico Franco, who was sworn in by the same senate which, minutes before, had voted out Lugo. Paraguayan lawmakers on Friday impeached Lugo, 61, over his handling of a deadly land dispute. In a 39-to-4 vote, senators found Lugo, a former Catholic priest with a string of outstanding paternity cases, guilty of performing his duties badly during the dispute last week that left 17 people dead. An hour later, to cheers inside Congress and angry clashes outside, 49-year-old vice president Federico Franco was sworn in as the new leader of one of Latin America's poorest nations. A torrent of furious responses poured in from across the region, not just from traditional leftist allies like Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, but also from centrist and right-wing governments Argentina and Chile. "Without any doubt there has been a coup d'etat in Paraguay. It is unacceptable." Argentina's Kirchner said. She said the issue would be discussed next week at a summit of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Even in Santiago, where Sebastian Pinera is Chile's first right-wing president since the late dictator Augusto Pinochet left office, there was disbelief at the move. The impeachment "did not fulfill the minimum requirements for this type of procedure," Alfredo Moreno, Chile's foreign minister, said on national television.
'Worthless, illegal government' Ecuador's Correa meanwhile condemned the unprecedented speed of Lugo's one day impeachment trial. "We're not going to cover up these actions that infringe terrible damage on our democracies and our peoples," he said. "We the Ecuadorian government, independent of President Fernando Lugo Mendez's decision to accept his removal, will not recognise the new government of Paraguay. There will be elections in eight months in Paraguay and the government who is elected in those elections - if they're transparent and democratic - will then be recognised by the Ecuadorian government," Correa added. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said: "In the name of the Venezuelan people and as head of state, Venezuela does not recognise this worthless, illegal and illegitimate government that has been installed in Asuncion." Central American nations issued a joint statement urging the international community to reject Lugo's impeachment. In Washington, a US State Department spokeswoman, Darla Jordan, said: "We urge all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay's democratic principles." The surprise move against Lugo came after clashes last week left at least six police and 11 squatters dead on a huge estate poor farmers claim was acquired by political influence decades ago. While Lugo condemned the trial, saying it was tantamount to a coup, he pledged to accept the verdict that found him guilty of mishandling the situation. Paraguay's constitution only allows one presidential term, so Lugo would have stepped down in just over a year. On taking over, Franco named a new foreign minister and charged him with explaining to governments elsewhere in Latin America that the impeachment drive was constitutional, albeit "a little quick". Meanwhile on Friday, crowds of pro-Lugo protesters took to the streets condemning the impeachment trial and expressing support for the leader. Police in anti-riot gear drove them back on horseback and using water cannon. The last time a Paraguayan leader was impeached was in 1999 when Raul Cubas was accused of failing to fulfill his duties following the murder of the vice president and the killing of seven protesters. Cubas resigned before a verdict was reached.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on June 29, 2012 at 8:15 AM||comments (0)|
The Constitution of Ideas
Dan Hind Dan Hind is the author of two books, The Threat to Reason and The Return of the Public. His pamphlet Common Sense: Occupation, Assembly, and the Future of Liberty, was published as an e-book in March. He is a member of the Tax Justice Network.
Aristotle said that unequal access to information supported all kinds of inequality elsewhere.
London, United Kingdom - The great works of constitutional theory were written when the political world was much smaller. Aristotle's Athens was, by today's standards, little more than a market town. Two thousand years later, revolutionary America was a patchwork of self-governing townships that were, for the most part, little bigger than Athens. Citizens knew one another and knew their representatives. The normal business of life brought them much of the political information that they needed and the rest could be supplied in face-to-face assemblies or occasional pamphlets. The exclusion of women, slaves and men without property further reduced the size of the political nation. The modern, democratic nation-state operates on a vastly different scale. Whereas, in 1688, the English electorate numbered fewer than half a million, more than 45 million people were entitled to vote in the British General Election of 2010. The centres of political decision-making can be hundreds, or even thousands of miles away from the areas affected. The citizens of Los Angeles send their elected representatives more than 2,500miles to Washington DC. Their compatriots in Hawaii are 7,000 miles from the US capital. Not only that, central government has become far more powerful, relative to local and regional jurisdictions. In the United States, for example, the federal constitution was intended to ensure that self-governing communities retained as much power as possible. But in the era of large standing armies and powerful federal agencies, the states and municipalities have steadily lost ground to Washington. Population growth, geographical expansion and political centralisation have all reduced the relative importance of face-to-face communication. Daily life no longer gives us much in the way of politically relevant information. We rely on the media to tell us about the faraway world where politics takes place. Therefore, the mass media, and the technologies that underpin them, have become matters of deep constitutional significance.
A 'media regime' Of course all this has long been recognised in political practice, if not in constitutional theory. As Bruce Williams and Michael Delli Carpini note in After Broadcast News: Media Regimes, Democracy and the New Information Environment, communications systems are political achievements, in the sense that they depend crucially on state subsidy and regulation. Until recently, broadcast news and a handful of large newspapers dominated political communications in the United States. This was a "media regime" that depended on "a relatively stable set of state institutions, norms, processes and actors that shape the expectations and practices of media producers and consumers". These media enjoyed considerable power to determine what we knew about other publicly significant institutions and about each other. They could highlight or downplay corruption and other forms of criminality. More generally, they could decide what should be debated and what should be left undisturbed. In this they held a quite decisive power. Consider, for example, the workings of the economy. As long as the broadcasters and the newspapers stayed silent about the growth of economic inequality and the associated expansion of credit, most of the population in Britain and the United States were left to make decisions about their lives in something approaching perfect innocence.
"Radio - and, later, television - became channels through which central authority could speak to a largely passive national audience."
Over the past two centuries, new technologies - the telegraph, the radio, television, innovations in printing and so on - have disrupted established communication systems and the political arrangements they underpinned. Businessmen and politicians have done what they could to minimise this disruption and retain their power to shape the sum of what was generally known. Though optimists hailed the potential of new media to improve public deliberation, their hopes were often frustrated. Radio - and, later, television - became channels through which central authority could speak to a largely passive national audience. Those who control also understand, and are well placed to ensure that change serves their interests. The internet and other digital innovations are forcing a new round of changes in the political economy of the media. Old business models are failing and the "media regime" of broadcast news is fraying. As Jeremy Hunt, Britain's culture secretary, noted in a memo to the prime minister in 2010, the big media operations are now looking to establish themselves as multi-platform media operators, "available from paper to web to TV to iPhone to iPad". Social media, with its associated market intelligence and education, with its state subsidies, are also emerging as key areas of interest. Twitter and Google are joining the rest of the telecommunications infrastructure as "essential elements in support of US national security policy and strategy" (the phrase comes from a National Security Council Directive written in 1983).
Crossing the media Rubicon A new media regime is being constructed, though you could be forgiven for missing it, given how rarely it is discussed. And the corporations are well aware of the political, even constitutional, implications of what they are doing. News International has helpfully dubbed its plans for cross-platform integration "Rubicon". Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in Italy marks the conventional end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire. The crassness of the analogy is eloquent of a certain swagger.
"Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in Italy marks the conventional end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire. The crassness of the analogy is eloquent of a certain swagger."
That said, there is nothing inevitable about the shape that the new media regime will take. The current patterns of state-corporate cooperation might not survive. The breakdown of old patterns of authority and prestige opens opportunities for far-reaching debate about the kind of media we want and need. As Williams and Delli Carpini put it, "ideas matter during these transitional periods". And there are other reasons to reject fatalism. Though it is important not to exaggerate the reach and significance of independent digital publishing, there are new opportunities to challenge the versions of events that the major media provide. Digital technologies in general, and social media in particular, have an ambiguous quality. On the one hand they allow companies to harvest private data on an unprecedented scale, but on the other they allow individuals and groups to communicate and coordinate with unprecedented ease. Furthermore, thousands of people who want to work as journalists cannot find jobs in the print and broadcast media and will have no place in the new regime that the large conglomerates are eager to establish. These would-be journalists may yet change attitudes to the media, by explaining how the media is structured and how it might be reformed to facilitate democratic self-government. Public subsidies for news journalism are inevitable. The current recipients of these subsidies want to keep quiet about them. A handful of journalists and broadcasters can therefore be relied on to insist that the public aren't interested in the media and have more important things to worry about. It is a description of reality that is also a celebration of the old regime's power to estrange people from consequential matters. But most journalists have little to lose, and much to gain, if they argue instead for a transparent system of subsidy that supports democratic and accountable media.
Who knows what Perhaps most significantly, the breakdown of the old media system is taking place against the background of a much wider political and economic crisis. The assemblies of recent years have usually been discussed by the broadcast and print media in terms of protest. But they are also opportunities to communicate outside the circuits of speech controlled by those same media. The lived experience of debate between equals cannot help but highlight the aridity and artificiality of politics as a mediated spectacle. And as the political struggles intensify, the shortcomings of the established media will become harder and harder to ignore.
"Political philosophy has always been preoccupied by the question of who knows what."
Political philosophy has always been preoccupied by the question of who knows what. At the beginning of the Ethics, Aristotle explains that politics "ordains which of the sciences should be studied in a state, and which each class of citizens should learn, and up to what point they should learn them". As Aristotle well knew, in a democracy organised round assembly, those skilled in rhetoric had important advantages. Unequal access to information supports all kinds of inequality elsewhere. The distribution of knowledge is still central to the conduct of politics. It still determines who really wields power. But the media and communications systems in large nation states play an indispensable role in establishing who knows what, and to what extent. They determine what becomes widely known, and what remains the preserve of a privileged or marginalised few. The current organisation of the media leaves public opinion in private hands and reduces democracy to a sophisticated fraud. In the midst of noisy controversy, the fundamentals of social organisation remain obscure. The systems of communications are integral to the operations of modern politics, and remain inseparable from the current dysfunction. As we turn our attention to constitutional reform in the years ahead, it is important that we bear this in mind.
Dan Hind has worked in publishing since 1998 and is the author of two acclaimed books: The Return of the Public and The Threat to Reason. He is this year's winner of the Bristol Festival of Ideas Prize.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on June 29, 2012 at 8:15 AM||comments (0)|
The Seed Emergency:
The Threat to Food and Democracy Vandana Shiva Activist and author Dr Vandana Shiva is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. Patenting seeds has led to a farming and food crisis - and huge profits for US biotechnology corporations.Last Modified: 06 Feb 2012 17:26
New Delhi, India - The seed is the first link in the food chain - and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty - and consequently no food sovereignty. The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty. Seed sovereignty includes the farmer's rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved - and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good. The past twenty years have seen a very rapid erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty, and the concentration of the control over seeds by a very small number of giant corporations. In 1995
In India, 95 per cent of cotton seeds are reportedly controlled by Monsanto, a US biotechnology corporation [EPA]
when the UN organised the Plant Genetic Resources Conference in Leipzig, it was reported that 75 per cent of all agricultural biodiversity had disappeared because of the introduction of "modern" varieties, which are always cultivated as monocultures. Since then, the erosion has accelerated. The introduction of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the World Trade Organisation has accelerated the spread of genetically engineered seeds - which can be patented - and for which royalties can be collected. Navdanya was started in response to the introduction of these patents on seeds in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - a forerunner to the WTO - about which a Monsanto representative later stated: "In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one." Corporations defined a problem - and for them the problem was farmers saving seeds. They offered a solution, and the solution was to make it illegal for farmers to save seed - by introducing patents and intellectual property rights [PDF] on those very seeds. As a result, acreage under GM corn, soya, canola, cotton has increased dramatically.
Threats to seed sovereignty Besides displacing and destroying diversity, patented GMO seeds are also undermining seed sovereignty. Across the world, new seed laws are being introduced which enforce compulsory registration of seeds, thus making it impossible for small farmers to grow their own diversity, and forcing them into dependency on giant seed corporations. Corporations are also patenting climate resilient seeds evolved by farmers - thus robbing farmers of using their own seeds and knowledge for climate adaptation. Another threat to seed sovereignty is genetic contamination. India has lost its cotton seeds because of contamination from Bt Cotton - a strain engineered to contain the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium. Canada has lost its canola seed because of contamination from Roundup Ready canola. And Mexico has lost its corn due to contamination from Bt Cotton. After contamination, biotech seed corporations sue farmers with patent infringement cases, as happened in the case of Percy Schmeiser. That is why more than 80 groups came together and filed a case to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose seed had been contaminated. As a farmer's seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on patented GMO seed, the result is debt. India, the home of cotton, has lost its cotton seed diversity and cotton seed sovereignty. Some 95 per cent of the country's cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto - and the debt trap created by being forced to buy seed every year - with royalty payments - has pushed hundreds of thousands of farmers to suicide; of the 250,000 farmer suicides, the majority are in the cotton belt.
Seeding control Even as the disappearance of biodiversity and seed sovereignty creates a major crisis for agriculture and food security, corporations are pushing governments to use public money to destroy the public seed supply and replace it with unreliable non-renewable, patented seed - which must be bought each and every year. In Europe, the 1994 regulation for protection of plant varieties forces farmers to make a "compulsory voluntary contribution" to seed companies. The terms themselves are contradictory. What is compulsory cannot be voluntary. In France, a law was passed in November 2011, which makes royalty payments compulsory. As Agriculture Minister Bruna Le Marie stated: "Seeds can be longer be royalty free, as is currently the case." Of the 5,000 or so cultivated plant varieties, 600 are protected by certificate in France, and these account for 99 per cent of the varieties grown by farmers. The "compulsory voluntary contribution", in other words a royalty, is justified on grounds that "a fee is paid to certificate holders [seed companies] to sustain funding of research and efforts to improve genetic resources". Monsanto pirates biodiversity and genetic resources from farming communities, as it did in the case of a wheat biopiracy case fought by Navdanya with Greenpeace, and climate resilient crops and brinjal (also known as aubergine or eggplant) varieties for Bt Brinjal. As Monsanto states, "it draws from a collection of germ-plasm that is unparalleled in history" and "mines the diversity in this genetic library to develop elite seeds faster than ever before". In effect, what is taking place is the enclosure of the genetic commons of our biodiversity and the intellectual commons of public breeding by farming communities and public institutions. And the GMO seeds Monsanto is offering are failing. This is not "improvement" of genetic resources, but degradation. This is not innovation but piracy. For example, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) - being pushed by the Gates Foundation - is a major assault on Africa's seed sovereignty.
Agribusiness The 2009 US Global Food Security Act [PDF] also called the Lugar-Casey Act [PDF], "A bill to authorise appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crisis, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and for other purposes". The amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act would "include research on bio-technological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology". The $ 7.7bn that goes with the bill would go to benefit Monsanto to push GM seeds.
"Royalties for Monsanto are based on debt, suicidal farmers and the disappearance of biodiversity worldwide."
An article in Forbes, titled "Why Uncle Sam Supports Franken Foods", shows how agribusiness is the only sector in which US has a positive trade balance. Hence the push for GMOs - because they bring royalties to the US. However, royalties for Monsanto are based on debt, suicidal farmers and the disappearance of biodiversity worldwide. Under the US Global Food Security Act, Nepal signed an agreement with USAID and Monsanto. This led to massive protests across the country. India was forced to allow patents on seeds through the first dispute brought by the US against India in the WTO. Since 2004, India has also been trying to introduce a Seed Act which would require farmers to register their own seeds and take licenses. This in effect would force farmers from using their indigenous seed varieties. By creating a Seed Satyagraha - a non-cooperation movement in Gandhi's footsteps, handing over hundreds of thousands of signatures to the prime minister, and working with parliament - we have so far prevented the Seed Law from being introduced. India has signed a US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, with Monsanto on the Board. Individual states are also being pressured to sign agreements with Monsanto. One example is the Monsanto-Rajasthan Memorandum of Understanding, under which Monsanto would get intellectual property rights to all genetic resources, and to carry out research on indigenous seeds. It took a campaign by Navdanya and a "Monsanto Quit India" Bija Yatra ["seed pilgrimage"] to force the government of Rajasthan to cancel the MOU. This asymmetric pressure of Monsanto on the US government, and the joint pressure of both on the governments across the world, is a major threat to the future of seeds, the future of food and the future of democracy.
Dr Vandana Shiva is a physicist, eco-feminist, philosopher, activist and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers' rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on May 29, 2012 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
National holiday costs Suriname SRD 50 million
(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – The price tag for every holiday is SRD 50 million, but if the authorities decide to cut back on the number of national holidays, bringing the total from 15 to five, the country would be able to save SRD half a billion a year. Accountant Haroen Karamat, special consultant for the national holidays, calculated that in Suriname there are only 249 productive days. The accountant has made a calculation of the financial consequences of holidays based on the 2010 GDP.
Karamat’s calculations were among the topics discussed at a seminar ‘National Holidays’ held in the Wyndham Garden Hotel yesterday. Bishop Steve Meye of the God’s Bazuin Ministries is convinced that the number of national holidays needs a cut back, but he argues for retaining internationally recognized religious holidays. He proposes the creation of a system that allows special days for the different groups in society. These days do not necessarily have to be a national holiday.
Karamat who represented the Association of Store Owners (VVW) tells de Ware Tijd that if Saturdays and Sundays are added to the 15 national holidays, it would amount to 166 days off per year, which is the equivalent of five months free pay. If the 2010 GDP, SRD 9.9 billion, is divided by the remaining 249 days it comes to SRD 40 million. With a margin of error of 25 percent this would amount to SRD 50 million per day. The accountant proposes to cluster a number of national holidays, cutting back the total to five.
He proposes the first day of Christmas, 1 July as Immigration Day, Independence Day and two other days which the government could determine later on. By restructuring the number of holidays the government will be able to save SRD 500 million. The new measures would not cost the state a cent if implemented, the expert says. “Internationally recognized religious holidays may not be surrendered under any circumstances, because they are celebrated across the globe,” says Meye, referring to mainly the Christian holidays. He proposes a free day for special religious, ethnic and cultural groups without elevating these days to national holidays. The special groups and the country would benefit greatly from this system. He added that if Karamat’s calculations are right Suriname seriously needs to reevaluate its productivity.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on May 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
ACP sides with Suriname on parliamentary assembly with EU
(de Ware Tijd) THE HAGUE – The African, Caribbean and Pacific countries forming the ACP have proclaimed their solidarity with Suriname on the issue of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA).
Suriname was appointed to host the 24th JPA in November, but if the European legislators refuse to come to Suriname the event will not take place. Co-presidents Louis Michel and Musikari Kombo have been given specific instructions on the ACP stance for their meeting with EU legislators.
Tomorrow, the ACP and EU legislators will meet in Horsens Denmark for the 23rd JPA when the issue will be tabled. The European Parliament will then officially declare its stance on holding the 24th JPA in Suriname. The EU had proposed moving the meeting to another Caribbean country, but the ACP has taken a hard stance stating that it is either Suriname or no meeting.
Nieuw Front legislator Asiskumar Gajadien tells de Ware Tijd that the ACP have a unified stance in this matter. Parmessar, who heads the Surinamese delegation, confirms the ACP solidarity. He refrains from a reaction though since the EU has not taken a formal stance yet. ‘But the ACP is ready for them,’ says Parmessar. Gajadien claims that by adopting the Amnesty Act Suriname has been put to shame. ‘I don’t want to get ahead of things, but I don’t think any of the parties will back down, so the JPA will not take place.’
The legislator says the decision to suspend the JPA will not only affect the coalition but the entire country. ‘The hotel and catering industry, taxis, tourism and many other sectors stood to benefit from this meeting. It’s a pity things have come to this.’
Gajadien stresses that the opposition has in no way influenced the decision of the European legislators. He blames it all on adoption of the Amnesty Act. If parties fail to find a solution to the problem on Sunday, a final decision will be taken on Wednesday during the plenary session when the 23rd JPA comes to an end. Parmessar says that when the ACP learnt from informal sources of the EU’s and Dutch plans they met and discussed strategies. ‘We from the ACP have brains too to strategize and analyze,’ Parmessar says mockingly.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on May 22, 2012 at 6:15 AM||comments (0)|
President Bouterse has moved to strengthen his Mega-Combination coalition through a strategic cabinet reshuffling. On Thursday, May 3rd, President Bouterse announced the ministries that would have been affected by his reshuffle. These were: the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs, The Ministry of Regional Development, the Ministry of Justice and Police, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Physical Planning, Land and Forest Management. The President’s move comes from in- depth evaluation earlier this year and months following public speculation of the need for changes on account of performance.
One observer has stated, “it is a demonstration of the Bouterse-Ameerali’s commitment to transparency and good governance in the interest of the nation as a whole.” Following high-level consultation with the other leaders of the Mega-Combination coalition, the President announced the appointments to ensure a better- and smoother-running government machine. New appointments included Mrs. Shirley Sitaldien, Minister of Education and Community Development; Mrs. Abigail. Lie A Kwie new Under-Minister in the Ministry of Public Works and Mr. Mahinder Gopi, the Under-Minister in the Ministry of Regional Developmenti.
This is the first time that a female has been appointed as Minister of Education and Community Development in the Republic of Suriname. Mrs. Sitaldien received the nod from the President and the coalition partners.
The Ministry of Public Health is now under the mantle of Drs. Blokland, also a medical practitioner, like his predecessor. Whereas the latter was trained in Cuba, Drs. Blokland did his studies at the Medical University in Suriname.
Of interest is the detail that the Mega-Combinatie leaders chose to appoint a disciplined straight-talking ex-law enforcement officer Mr. Edward Belfor as its Minister of Justice & Police.
These recent moves meant that one party was excluded from holding ministerial positions: the BEP. The political groups, the BEP and Nieuw Suriname, were weighed and found wanting when it came down to standing firm on principled collective ground. Apart from internal party issues on leadership, the BEP has reduced its representatives in the National Assembly from four to two seats. There has been internal dissatisfaction within that party.
President Bouterse also told the New Suriname Party that he will not be depending on the votes from their two parliamentary representatives. There are also strong fissure lines within the leadership of the New Suriname Party which has been content with critical support for the government. This year the party voted against the government's current budget and it abstained from voting on the Amnesty question.
According to senior party sources these measures are part of Bouterse's new plans to have a more focused, efficient and tightly organized government. In a recent rally President Bouterse emphasized that Suriname needs to work together to maintain its present economic growth and stability. There was a public show of support for the governing mega-combination coalition which also includes Ronnie Brunswick of the A-Combination Party and Paul Somohardjo of the Pertjalah Luhur.
Supporters of the government feel that not much has been lost by the departure of the BEP and the absence of full support from the New Suriname Party. They noted that the BEP faction abstained from voting in favor of the Amnesty Act.
Supporters of President Bouterse feel that he has moved to consolidate his government in the wake of the controversy over the passing of the updated Amnesty Act. The court investigating the 1982 executions of fifteen people has decided to adjourn its deliberations. Judge Cynthia Valstein-Montnor explained that "we adjourn until a new constitutional court is established which will determine whether the law was in accordance with the Surinamese constitution." This constitutional court has yet to be established by the government.
For years, the previous government had failed to appoint the constitutional court. It is now up to the current Bouterse-Ameerali Mega-Combinatie government to make right what was left conveniently unattended by those previously in power.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on April 27, 2012 at 7:05 AM||comments (0)|
Two parties out of Suriname ruling coalition
(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – VHP legislator Asiskumar Gajadien is not surprised the coalition has fewer members now, as this was to be expected. During a coalition conference Monday evening, it was decided to discard partners BEP and Nieuw Suriname, so the governing coalition now has 32 instead of 36 seats in Parliament.
NPS Parliamentarian Ruth Wijdenbosch does not want to comment on the recent developments within the coalition, telling the paper it is an internal matter and she would rather await further developments. Winston Jessurun (DA’91) had speculated earlier that the reshuffling was used as a threat to coalition members to get the Amnesty Act through Parliament. “And now this turns out to be true. Those who did not agree have been cast aside,” he concludes. Gajadien believes everyone within the coalition should agree with the vision and ideas of “one person.” He thinks even more coalition members will be discarded, as “there is no respect for members’ individual opinions.” He suspects it is a direct consequence of the four legislators’ decision to walk away during the vote on the Amnesty Act
|Posted by haimdatsawh on April 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
EU parliament votes against Suriname sanctions
Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:00 am
By BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 0 comments
The Dutch brought the issue to the European Union assembly last week with the aim of punishing those in authority, but other EU nations appeared not to be very interested in the issue, much to the chagrin of the Hague.
The country’s 51-seat Parliament controversially voted 28-12 last month to approve the amnesty, just as a local court was getting ready to hear closing arguments in a mass murder case involving incumbent President Desi Bouterse and more than 20 ex-soldiers and civilians involved in the December 1982 murders. The civilians were executed for allegedly plotting a counter-coup with Western nations.
Bouterse, 66, said the amnesty was not aimed at perverting the course of justice, as the trial will continue, but “to heal the nation” of an open wound that has hung around the necks of its citizens for nearly 30 years.
But opposition parties and civil society groups have been railing against the amnesty and are looking for ways to have it condemned and overturned internationally.
Dutch lawmaker Thijs Berman raised the amnesty issue at the European Parliament, but failed to get the support of other nations to impose economic sanctions on Suriname.
The Hague has already recalled its ambassador and has told local authorities he will not be returning, withholding $30 million in grant aid earmarked for the country.
If the Dutch had had their way, top Suriname officials, mostly the 25 suspects involved in the ongoing trial, would have been banned from traveling through E U countries.
The local De Ware Tijd newspaper quoted Dutch legislator Kathleen Ferrier as saying that she had hoped for the travel ban and other forms of agreed sanctions, but as it is not to be so far, she wants the EU “to engage in harsh dialogue with Suriname.”
Suriname’s Caribbean trade bloc neighbors have so far stayed away from commenting on the issue, perhaps because the amnesty was granted by the nation’s highest constitutional forum or because civil society and other groups have not lobbied them.