Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hands Off Iran!: Demonstrations to Take Place in 65 Cities in the United States, August 1-2

PANW Editor's Note: The demonstration in Detroit against the US threats on Iran will take place on Friday, Aug. 1, 4:30-6:00pm at Hart Plaza. Hart Plaza is located at the corner of Woodward and Jefferson near the Detroit River. Participants are encouraged to bring signs, placards and banners.

Abayomi Azikiwe


Published Jul 30, 2008 11:25 PM

Another moment of truth approaches. While Washington finally joined talks with Tehran, Congress is still considering a resolution calling for an air, sea and land blockade of Iran, opening one path to war.

What is the relationship between U.S. imperialism and the Islamic Republic of Iran? Will the talks lead to an agreement or will the U.S. warships in the Gulf— or the Israeli military—unleash a massive air attack against the Iranian people? What is the stake for workers and the oppressed in the U.S.?

The U.S. is the wealthiest, most militarized imperialist state. The Pentagon’s role is to impose U.S. diplomatic and economic policy on the world, to control raw materials, to police worldwide ocean trading lanes, and to impose the power of the U.S.-based multinational corporations to super-exploit workers worldwide, including workers inside the U.S. Washington is the home office of world repression and exploitation. Israel is its branch office.

The Iranian state is the result of a popular revolution in 1979 that overthrew the shah, a monarchic dictator. A CIA-directed conspiracy had re-installed this shah in 1953, deposing an elected government. The shah, armed and backed by U.S. imperialism, had his military and police murder tens of thousands of people in his failed attempt to stop the 1979 revolution. This revolution stopped short of overturning capitalist social relations in Iran, but it broke the grip of the imperialist corporations and opened the door to social development in Iran.

There is no doubt a sovereign and independent Iran has the right to trade with whatever countries it chooses, to explore possible energy supplies, including nuclear energy, and even to prepare for self-defense with nuclear weapons. The U.S. possesses almost limitless nuclear weapons and Israel is suspected of possessing 200; these states are both declared enemies of Iran. Nearby India and Pakistan also possess at least some of these weapons, without U.S. hostility.

Washington has just signed a pact helping nuclear-armed India develop its civilian nuclear power, even though the U.S. excuse for threatening Iran is Tehran’s program for developing civilian nuclear power. Last December, 16 U.S. spy agencies reported that there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Prevention of nuclear proliferation is the U.S. cover story. Iran’s independence from imperialism, its sovereignty and its oil reserves are the real reasons why Washington has targeted the Islamic Republic.

The next question is—despite Bush’s weakened position as the most unpopular president since Richard Nixon in his final days in office, despite Bush’s isolation from not only the U.S. population but sectors of the Pentagon brass who fear the stress and strain on their ground troops after the setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the potential for a disastrous explosion in the Middle East and the entire Muslim world, despite the possibility of a massive increase in the price of oil, despite all these dangers—will the Bush gang use what it believes is overwhelming U.S. air power to attack Iran, perhaps following an initial strike by Israel?

A look at the history of imperialist adventures in World Wars I and II, up to the assault on Iraq in 2003, shows that it would be foolish to rule out the possibility of a new adventure simply because that aggression might become another enormous setback for U.S. imperialism itself—not to mention a horror for 70 million Iranian people. The Bush gang, the oil monopolies and the military-industrial complex might be all too ready to back such a risky move. We cannot rule out that the deepening, unsolvable economic crisis might drive imperialism to another war.

For U.S. workers of all nationalities facing unemployment, foreclosures and evictions, not only would such a war be a distraction from their necessary struggle for economic justice, it would be an additional disaster, no matter the outcome. They must mobilize to stop this new war. It is the responsibility of the anti-war movement and the entire workers’ movement to take this danger seriously and organize the kind of independent struggle that can stop it.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Momentum grows for Aug. 2 protests to ‘Stop War on Iran’

Published Jul 27, 2008 7:59 PM
Special to Workers World

Workers World spoke with representatives of Stop War on Iran, a coalition of groups mobilizing for nationwide demonstrations on Aug. 2 against the Bush administration’s increasing war threats against Iran.

WW: How is the mobilization for Aug. 2 progressing?

SWOI: Momentum is growing for actions in now (July 22) 65 U.S. cities in response to the Emergency Call for Action by StopWarOnIran ( The slogan of “No War on Iran” is being raised by hundreds of groups that do weekly anti-war/peace vigils. In the heat of the summer and in the midst of a national election campaign, when in-the-street activism is hardest, the response shows that the Bush administration will not be able to launch another war without the voice of the people being heard.

WW: Can you give some examples of where organizing is going on?

SWOI: In addition to major cities from coast to coast, organizing work is going on in smaller towns and cities like Westbrook, Maine; Melbourne and Ocala, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Bozeman, Mont.; Salt Lake City; and Tucson, Ariz. Organizers as far away as Hawaii are mobilizing to protest as an attack against Iran is threatened daily. In Washington, D.C., our organizers report that they have gotten a very positive response as they handed out the leaflet and asked people to sign the petition. The people do not want another war.

One of the most gratifying things about this mobilization is the fact that new, young folks are getting involved. For example, high school students from Hicksville, Long Island, N.Y., have organized a 9:30 a.m. protest at the local train station. Then they plan to take a “Peace Train” to the larger regional demonstration at Times Square in New York City. An “Art-in for Peace” is also planned for Aug. 2 in Long Beach, Calif., coinciding with and supporting the regional protest at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

On July 10, the World Can’t Wait organization held a “freeze-in” of about 175 people at Grand Central Station and another July 21 at Penn Station, both in New York. Groups also responded to a call by United for Peace and Justice for actions July 19-21 in various locations.

WW: Are people making the connections between the war abroad and the deepening economic crisis at home?

SWOI: Yes, in fact we got an “open letter” from activists in Highland, Ind., which read in part: “An attack on Iran will be devastating to our economy and the world economy. One-third of the world’s oil is shipped through the Straits of Hormuz and an attack on Iran will surely disrupt that, in addition to setting the entire Mideast aflame. Economists estimate the price of oil will double and a worldwide depression will follow.” In cities like Detroit, “Foreclose the war, not our homes” will be made real as people from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions will be speaking at their StopWarOnIran emergency demonstration.

On July 19 in New York we held an organizing meeting of 90 people at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, where some of the speakers connected the need to defend workers’ standard of living with the struggle to prevent a new war and to end the occupations.

WW: Has there been any international response to the call for the Aug. 2 protests?

SWOI: Definitely. We are hearing from activists around the world who are taking up the cry to “Stop War on Iran.” Anti-globalization forces in Moscow raised that slogan as they picketed the park where U.S. citizens were celebrating July 4th. On July 11, protesters organized by the Anti-Imperialist Camp and other groups demonstrated in Vienna. Their statement read in part: “The U.S. policy of aggression serves only to reinforce the strength of the imperialist world power which now wants to make Iran the next victim.”

We have heard from activists in Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and a number of countries in the Middle East, who are mobilizing to support the Emergency Call. In fact, we got word that there will be a procession in the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, demanding no war on Iran, organized by We the People United. There will also be actions in cities across Canada.

The Aug. 2 Emergency Call to Action has a growing list of Organizing Centers across the U.S. and Canada, and other organizing tools are available from As an activist from Cleveland told us, “Don’t Iraq Iran.”
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Sanctions, diplomacy, missiles: U.S. takes aim at Iran’s sovereignty

By Sara Flounders
Published Jul 24, 2008 5:29 AM

What is the significance of the widely publicized announcement that the Bush administration has finally agreed to talk to Iran?

Have U.S. aircraft carriers, nuclear-armed and powered submarines, destroyers or missiles been pulled back from Iran’s coast? Has Washington renounced its years of sabotage, assassinations and other covert actions inside Iran? Will any of the many sanctions imposed to constrict Iran’s development be lifted or even eased?

On July 19 Undersecretary of State William Burns sat in on a six-nation gathering in Geneva and “observed” nuclear negotiations between Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili and Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The talks are scheduled to resume in August, but Burns will not return for them. The one-time presence of this third-ranking diplomat is supposedly enough to show that Washington has made an effort at a diplomatic solution.

U.S. participation in the meeting came after increasingly frantic appeals from European powers and from the feudal and military regimes in the Persian Gulf region for diplomacy rather than war. They fear the destabilizing consequences of another U.S. attack. Even in top circles of the U.S. ruling class and military command, concern has been expressed about the risks and dangers of a new war.

Following his appearance at the Geneva meeting, Burns and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met in Abu Dhabi with foreign ministers and senior officials of the six Gulf states, along with Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. At the meeting Rice warned that Iran had two weeks to halt its development of nuclear energy or face further “punitive measures.” Iran will also be the main topic at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers the following day.

Washington says its possible next step is to push for an intense level of international sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. If council members don’t go along with its demands, the U.S. is threatening military action.

To reinforce the threat, Rice’s statement was immediately followed by an announcement from Israeli military adviser Amos Gilad that Israel was preparing to attack Iran if diplomacy failed—and that the U.S. would not veto such action.

Although Burns sat in on the Geneva meeting, the U.S. did not give its agreement to a European proposal that, in exchange for an Iranian “freeze” on its enrichment of uranium, a six-week “freeze” be put on more restrictive sanctions against Iran. Lifting the existing sanctions was not even proposed.

U.S. sanctions have been imposed on Iran since the 1978 Iranian Revolution. Soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.N. Security Council imposed three new rounds of sanctions on Iran. Now Washington is demanding new and far harsher sanctions—despite International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) reports that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and a similar conclusion in the National Intelligence Estimate report of December 2007, endorsed by the 17 top U.S. spy agencies.

Iran has every right under international law and treaties to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes. Its nuclear power plants are all under the inspection and safeguards of the IAEA. The IAEA has continually said that there has been no illicit diversion of declared nuclear material.

It is now clear that the State Department’s one-day venture into talks with Iran was merely positioning by Washington to get its allies to agree on far harsher economic sanctions and other efforts to sabotage Iran’s national development.

Iran’s real crime

Iran has a severe energy shortage. Although it is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, its ability to refine crude oil into gasoline and diesel fuel is limited. As a country with a history of underdevelopment, Iran must import more than half its refined petroleum products to fuel its new industries and a modern transportation system. Iran is now the second-largest importer of gasoline and diesel fuel in the world. (Toronto Globe and Mail, July 22)

A bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products and imposing “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” This would amount to a blockade—an act of war—and a threat to Iran’s sovereignty. It is also an example of how U.S. policy is aimed at keeping resource-rich countries underdeveloped and under its control.

At the same time that the U.S. is trying to cripple Iran’s economy, supposedly over its nuclear program, it is pursuing a deal with India to provide it nuclear fuel and technology. India is not yet a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or a member of the IAEA. Iran is both.

Iran’s real crime, in the eyes of the Pentagon and the corporate oil giants who determine U.S. policy, is that it is determined to use its resources for the further development of its own economy. The other oil-producing states in the region are corrupt semi-feudal regimes, each with a compliant and dependent ruling class. These regimes are under the total control of U.S. corporations and banks. The largest portion of their vast revenue from oil sales is wasted in purchases of U.S. weapons systems or invested in U.S. banks.

Millions of Iranian people participated in the 1978 revolution that overthrew the corrupt U.S.-backed shah. Since then, great social advances have transformed Iran. Once the people liberated their oil resources from the control of giant U.S. and British corporations, billions of dollars were available to develop Iranian industries and social services.

In less than two decades, Iran moved from 90 percent illiteracy for rural women to full literacy; more than half the university graduates are now women. Stunning improvements in totally free as well as subsidized health care meant record-breaking improvements in life expectancy, birth control and infant mortality. Even according to World Bank figures, Iran has exceeded the social gains of any other country in the region.

This is what U.S. policy makers are determined to reverse. They want control of the vast wealth that comes from every aspect of exploration, pumping, transport and refining of the planet’s most valuable and needed resource. They are willing to destroy millions of lives and spend hundreds of billions of dollars on war in this struggle.

Past history of U.S. talks

It is important to recall the many rounds of talks between U.S. and Iraqi delegations before the war. The U.S. repeatedly demanded the authority to carry out inspections in Iraq any time, any place, to search for non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” Just before the Pentagon attack, there was the heaviest round of diplomatic talks involving Iraq, members of the U.N. Security Council and Washington’s European allies. The talks were aimed at imposing still stricter sanctions, supposedly to gain Iraq’s total disarmament. This was years after U.N. inspectors had declared Iraq fully disarmed.

It is also important to remember the U.S./NATO “peace talks” with the Yugoslav government in Rambouillet, France. U.S. negotiators gave Yugoslavia an ultimatum: accept total U.S./NATO military occupation and dismemberment or face massive bombardment. When the Parliament of the Yugoslav Federation voted overwhelmingly to refuse the NATO “peace” demand of occupation of their sovereign territory, the Pentagon began 72 days of massive bombardment followed by the NATO seizure of Kosovo.

The U.S. conducted five years of “peace negotiations” with theVietnamese while escalating its bombardment, including carpet bombing.

Secretary of State Rice has announced the U.S. is considering the establishment of an “interests section” in Tehran and compared it to the interests section that the U.S. has maintained for decades in Cuba. “We have an interests section in Cuba, so I wouldn’t read thawing of relations into anything,” she said. Throughout the decades that Washington has maintained an interests section in Havana, the blockade of Cuba, sabotage and attempted assassinations of Cuban leaders have continued.

U.S. “talks” are too often preparation for the next stage of war. It is important for the movement on a global scale to remain on the alert and to understand that U.S. imperialism’s aims and plans have not changed.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Judge Affirms Recommendation That White House E-Mails Be Preserved

National Security Archive Update, July 29, 2008

Magistrate Judge Affirms Recommendation that Court Order White House to Preserve E-mails on Workstations and Portable Media

Concludes Some Missing E-mail May Not Be Preserved on Back-Up Tapes
For more information contact:
Sheila L. Shadmand (Jones Day) - 202/879-3939
Meredith Fuchs - 202/994-7000

Washington, D.C., July 29, 2008 - Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola of the U.S. District Court today denied a motion by the White House to reconsider his earlier recommendations and reaffirmed his recommendation that the court order the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to search individual workstations used between March 2003 and October 2005 and preserve any e-mails located on those workstations or on portable media used by EOP employees.

In finding that the White House must search and preserve e-mails saved on individual workstations, the magistrate judge's report recognizes that some e-mails sent or received between March 1, 2003, and May 22, 2003, may not be preserved on existing back-up tapes. In making that finding, he rejected the EOP's assertions that "substantially all" such e-mails have been saved on those tapes. The magistrate judge declined to order EOP to make forensic copies of workstations that may contain relevant e-mails, however, in light of the fact that the passage of time makes it unlikely that relevant data will still be recoverable from the "slack space" on the workstations.

Magistrate Judge Facciola also determined there was no need for expedited discovery at this juncture because the court's inquiries already have revealed that "there likely are e-mails not currently being preserved on back-up tapes" and additional information has been made available through ongoing congressional inquiries.

"We are pleased that despite the White House's plea for reconsideration, the Magistrate Judge stood his ground and recommended that the White House be ordered to locate and preserve emails that may be missing from backup tapes but were saved on individual workstations and portable media devices," commented Sheila Shadmand, counsel for the Archive. "Each of the Judge's recent rulings in our favor has brought us one step closer to ensuring that the documentary history of this Administration is not forever lost."

The National Security Archive originally filed its case against the Executive Office of the President and the National Archives and Records Administration to preserve and restore missing e-mail federal records in September 5, 2007. A subsequent lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has been consolidated with the Archive's lawsuit.

Visit the Web site of the National Security Archive for more information about today's posting and a complete chronology of the White House e-mail case.


THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

Zimbabwe News Update: ZANU-PF; MDC Talks Adjourned; Minister Attends NAM Summit; ILO Supports Talks, etc.

Zanu-PF, MDC talks adjourned

AFP-Herald Reporters

Talks between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations have adjourned to allow the negotiators to brief their party leaders.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating in the talks, told a news conference in Pretoria yesterday that the negotiations had adjourned, but will resume in a few days.

Reports from South Africa said negotiators from Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations were scheduled to fly home.

"They are adjourning for a number of days so that they could go back to Harare to consult with their principals and then come back," said Mr Mbeki, adding that talks would resume by the end of the week.

"It’s going very well. In the Memorandum of Understanding they said they will try to conclude negotiations within two weeks . . . They are very determined to keep to that commitment."

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai flew into Johannesburg on Monday, but his party said the visit had nothing to do with the talks.

The talks, which are being held at a secret location in the Pretoria area, are meant to be wrapped up within a fortnight of the signing of the initial framework agreement.

Part of the agreement signed by the three parties last week was an undertaking to respect a media blackout during the course of the talks.

Acting MDC-T spokesman Tapiwa Mashakada said the negotiators would be returning to Harare to brief their principals and the talks were expected to resume soon.

He dismissed as false claims by some online new agencies and the international media that there had been a deadlock, which saw the talks collapsing.

"Negotiators have taken a break. It is just an ordinary recess," said Mashakada, who is also the formation’s deputy secretary-general.

"That is not true (that talks have collapsed), negotiators just took a break and they would further be consulting their principals during the break.

"Parties to the negotiations agreed at the signing of the MoU that negotiators would need to brief their parties after a few days of talks."

Mashakada said Tsvangirai had flown to South Africa, but was quick to point out that his presence in that country had nothing to do with the ongoing talks.

He said Tsvangirai would be back in time to get a briefing from his negotiating team.

Mashakada said MDC-T remained committed to the dialogue.

"We are firmly committed to the talks. We want to see them succeed and reach a timeous conclusion," he said.

Spokesman for MDC, Edwin Mushoriwa said the talks had been going on well and there had not been any deadlock.

"People need to understand that when three parties are negotiating, obviously they would come up with different position papers and that does not constitute a deadlock. These are just position papers where they would be saying we would give in to this and compromise on that, and should there be any differences, negotiators would just return to their principals," said Mushoriwa.

"It is normal in any negotiations for parties to bring different positions. We would want to reinforce that we are happy with the way negotiations have been going."

Last night Zanu-PF media sub-committee member Cde Chris Mutsvangwa said he could not comment on the latest developments in South Africa as the party was waiting to be briefed by its representatives in the talks.

As the talks continue, the South African government and party leadership have criticised the West’s stance on Zimbabwe, particularly the imposition of new illegal sanctions and the double standards in dealing with Harare.

President Mbeki has spoken strongly against the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.

Recently, ANC president Jacob Zuma told the Sunday Vision of Uganda in an interview that the West exaggerates the problems in Zimbabwe.

He said there have been problems on the continent but the West does not raise the alarm as it has done with regard to Zimbabwe.

Zuma said millions of people died in Angola, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and northern Uganda, but the West kept silent.

He said the British and the Americans were hypocrites who practise double standards because former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki and other African leaders assumed power following discredited elections but nobody said there must be regime change.

"In Kenya, thousands of people died, more than those who have died in Zimbabwe, but nobody said Kibaki must go," Zuma was quoted as saying.

Zuma said in view of these scenarios "you cannot prescribe for the Zimbabweans and tell them who must be their president".

The ANC leader also made it clear that the Zimbabwe land problem has its roots in the unfulfilled promises made by Britain — the former coloniser — at Lancaster House.

"There are specific agreements that were reached which were not honoured (by Britain) thereafter," he said. — AFP-Herald Reporters.

Minister in Iran for NAM conference

Herald Reporter

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is in Iran attending the 15th Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Cde Mumbengegwi left the country for Teheran on Sunday.

The conference, which began yesterday, was preceded by a senior officials’ meeting that ended on Monday.

It is expected to review progress in the implementation of the Plan of Action adopted at the 14th conference of ministers held in Havana, Cuba, in September 2006.

The ministers are expected to discuss globalisation, regional and sub-regional politics.

They will also look into development, social and human rights issues. The ministry said discussion on global issues follows the realisation that the processes of globalisation and trade liberalisation had produced uneven benefits among and within States.

It also comes at a time when the global economy has been characterised by slow and lopsided growth and instability.

"The conference will therefore address the concern that in its present form, globalisation is perpetuating or even increasing the marginalisation of developing countries," the ministry said.

On regional and sub-regional politics, the ministers will examine progress in the Middle East, African and Latin America regions.

They will also discuss specific topics on development, social and human rights issues including international migration, development, energy supply, fundamental freedoms and humanitarian assistance.

Cde Mumbengegwi is expected back home on Saturday.

ILO supports Zim dialogue

Herald Reporter

THE International Labour Organisation will continue supporting Zimbabwe to enhance the social dialogue process which is central in turning around the economy, the body’s regional director Professor Tayo Fashoyin has said.

He was speaking on Monday night at his farewell cocktail hosted by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the National Social Security Authority in Harare.

Prof Fashoyin, who has been in the country since 1996, was recently promoted to head the Social Dialogue, Labour Law, Labour Administration and Sectoral Activities Department at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva.

"I deserve to be part of the unfolding events. However, I don’t feel any loss. I will continue to serve Zimbabwe. I will see to it that the ILO continues to support Zimbabwe to take social dialogue to greater heights," said Prof Fashoyin.

He commended the Government for its commitment to social dialogue.

He said ILO would continue to support the country with experts in areas such as social protection, small and medium development and in promoting labour market governance.

Prof Fashoyin said the organisation had been instrumental in shaping negotiations between the Government, business and labour.

"The ILO has played a key role in the process of social dialogue in Zimbabwe. I am happy with the process, which is there."

ILO has co-sponsored a number of workshops to assist the social dialogue process, which saw Government and business taking a major step towards stabilising the economy after signing three protocols.

The partners signed the protocols ? the Price and Incomes Stabilisation, Restoration of Production Viability and Mobilisation of Foreign Currency in June last year ? in an effort to work together towards resolving the challenges bedeviling the economy.

Prof Fashoyin however said there was need to speed up the process of setting up a secretariat as envisaged under the founding principles of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.

He said the secretariat would help in the implementation of policies agreed upon by the social partners.

The Secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Mr Lancaster Museka said Prof Fashoyin contributed significantly towards the sustenance of social dialogue in Zimbabwe.

"While others wish to believe that there is no hope for social dialogue in this country, you have actually made known some international best practices drawn from our framework.

"Your fervent belief in the power and influence of social dialogue as a vehicle to build national consensus and to address social and economic affairs is one that will continue to inspire our process as we move forward," Mr Museka said.

Government, he said, would remain committed to upholding tripartism and steer the social dialogue process forward.

"In so doing we look forward to continued support and collaboration with the ILO." Mr Museka also commended Prof Fashoyin for being professional and being able to make a positive impact.

"You have crossed the barriers of prejudice, at a time when our Government was unfairly demonised at the international Labour conference for alleged wrongdoing vis-a-vis the application of international labour standards," he said.

He said the ILO also assisted the ministry with facilitating training of officers on social security and occupational health as well as holding capacity building workshops.

British, Americans hypocrites: Zuma


ANC president Jacob Zuma has accused the British and Ame-ricans of being hypocrites who exaggerate the problems in Zimbabwe.

In a recent interview with Sunday Vision of Uganda, Zuma said there have been problems on the continent, but the West does not raise the alarm as it has done with regard to Zimbabwe.

He said millions of people died in Angola, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and northern Uganda, but the West kept silent.

The British and the Americans were hypocrites who practise double standards because former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki and other African leaders assumed power following discredited elections, but nobody said there must be regime change, said Zuma.

"In Kenya, thousands of people died, more than those who have died in Zimbabwe, but nobody said Kibaki must go," Zuma was quoted as saying.

Zuma said in view of these scenarios "you cannot prescribe for the Zimbabweans and tell them who must be their president".

The ANC leader also made it clear that Zimbabwe’s land problem has its roots in the unfulfilled promises made by Britain — the former coloniser — at Lancaster House.

"There are specific agreements that were reached which were not honoured (by Britain) thereafter," he said. — AFP.

Govt queries exclusion of US, UK firms from sanctions list

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT has questioned the motive behind the exclusion of American and British-owned companies from the expanded sanctions list despite accusations that they were aiding the State through their continued operations in Zimbabwe.

The US last week placed some Zimbabwean companies, both private and State-owned, on the revised sanctions list accusing them of keeping the Government afloat while some British corporations defied calls for them to suspend local operations.

Secretary for Information and Publicity Cde George Charamba said the West wanted to freeze economic activities in Zimbabwe while waiting for a "new Government" of their choice.

"Their companies are in place while they are re-ranging the political deck. Their investments are no longer politically secure and they want a situation of stasis," he said.

Cde Charamba noted that the exclusion of the US and British corporations was despite the fact that some of them supplied the State with its daily needs.

"Unilever is here moulding soap tablets for State House. Why is it not on the American sanctions list if they are so concerned with companies doing business with (President) Mugabe? Caltex is here powering the presidential limousine, why is it not on sanctions list?"

Cde Charamba said the British and Americans were concerned by the re-emergence of the Sino-Russia political power as evidenced by the two countries’ decision to veto a Western-backed resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe at the UN Security Council early this month.

"The Americans fear what they regard as the predatory Sino-Russia capital, which is stalking the globe seeking business deals to sign," he said.

Cde Charamba said the inclusion of some parastatals on the expanded sanctions list was also meant to disable the Government’s Look East Policy by blunting its investment vehicles.

The Government was studying various situations of countries under the US economic embargo like Cuba for a solution to challenges being faced in the country.

Countries under American sanctions such as Cuba and Iran avoid trading in the volatile US currency in preference of such stable currencies like the euro while others have deliberately devalued it against their currencies.

The US department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets last Friday placed 17 companies among them the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe and the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe under sanctions.

It also designated the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, Zimre Holdings Limited, ZB Financial Holdings Limited and its major subsidiaries — ZB Holdings Limited, Intermarket Holdings Limited and Scotfin Limited.

Also included were Oryx Natural Resources, Operation Sovereign Legitimacy (OSLEG), Divine Homes, Comoil (Pvt) Ltd and Famba Safaris.

Yesterday the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries described the move by the US as very unfortunate.

"As CZI we have never supported sanctions of any nature. We are an organisation that believes in dialogue, diplomacy and constructive engagement. Sanctions have repercussions on children, mothers, the elderly, the vulnerable and we do not think it would be in the interest of the international community to jeopardise the lives of men in the street," said CZI president Mr Callisto Jokonya.

"We have no say in politics in Zimbabwe and we feel this is very unfortunate."

Mr Jokonya said business was looking forward to the ongoing talks between Zanu-PF and the MDC formations and urged the nation not to be distracted "from what we consider to be the only solution to our nation’s problems".

"The negotiations would yield the intended objective of peace and joy in Zimbabwe," he said.

Bad Days for Corporate Newsrooms and the Rise of an Independent Press

July 29, 2008

Newspapers Suffer Spate of Layoffs, Decline in Circulation, Ad Revenue, Stock Price: A Roundtable Discussion on the State of the Industry

We take an in-depth look at the state of the newspaper industry. In recent months, more than 6,000 print journalists have lost their jobs, newspaper circulation is down, and so is advertising revenue, page counts and stock prices. We host a roundtable discussion with Bernard Lunzer, president of the Newspaper Guild; former New York Times correspondent, Chris Hedges, now at the Nation Institute; and Linda Jue, director of New Voices in Independent Journalism.

Bernard Lunzer, President of the Newspaper Guild and Vice President of Communication Workers of America.

Chris Hedges, senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He is co-author of the new book Collateral Damage.

Linda Jue, Director of New Voices in Independent Journalism and the past president of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.
Bad Days for Newsrooms - and Democracy

JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today by examining the state of newspapers in this country. Newspapers have been one of the primary sources of news the world over for more than 300 years. They have endured despite onslaughts from radio, television, and, most recently, the internet. But newspapers in the United States, are they now on their final leg?

Nearly 6,000 newspaper journalists across the country have lost their jobs in recent months. The same period has witnessed a sharp decline in newspaper stocks, advertising revenues, page counts and circulation. On Monday, shares in AH Belo Corporation plunged, and the owner of the Dallas Morning News said it would cut 500 jobs.

Job cuts have also been drastic at Tribune-owned newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Newsday and the Baltimore Sun. Real estate mogul Sam Zell took over the Tribune Company six months ago.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that coverage of international as well as national news has suffered as a result of the cutbacks. Nearly two-thirds of American newspapers cover less foreign and national news now than they did three years ago. Only four American newspapers even have foreign desks.

Today, a discussion on the state of the newspaper industry. We’re joined by three guests. Bernard Lunzer is president of the Newspaper Guild and vice president of the Communication Workers of America. He joins me from Washington, D.C. Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and is co-author of the new book Collateral Damage. His latest article for Truthdig is called “Bad Days for Newsrooms and Democracy.” He joins us here in the firehouse studio. And we’re also joined on the telephone from San Francisco by Linda Jue. She is the director of New Voices in Independent Journalism and the past president of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.

I want to welcome all of you to Democracy Now!, and I’d like to begin with Bernard Lunzer. Could you give us a sense, from your perspective as a leader of the major union for newspaper workers in the country, what is happening in the newsrooms right now?

BERNARD LUNZER: Well, there’s just a lot of fear, almost a sense of panic in many places. You know, in two months alone, there will be additional 2,000 cuts with Belo’s announced cuts yesterday. And so, there’s just a lot of fear and uncertainty. People don’t know. Those that can are looking for other jobs. Those that can’t are concerned about the workload that’s left behind and what kind of product is going to actually be produced. So it’s a very scary time. And as the stocks continue to plunge, you know, there’s more fear that—you go through one round of buyouts, and then you end up with layoffs, and then you wait for the next round. So that’s sort of what’s happening right now on the ground.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Bernie, I’d like to get this clear. Most of these newspapers are not actually losing money, right? When the Knight Ridder disappeared and was bought out by the McClatchy Company, it was still getting about a 15 percent return on sales every year. So, why are they going through this enormous, basically, collapse of the industry?

BERNARD LUNZER: Well, the market has put considerable pressure on them, for sure. And it’s a problem. I mean, there’s real concern that the current ownership model is not going to survive and that new forms of publications and new ownership models are going to have to take over. So, clearly, Wall Street is a big part of the problem as the stocks decline. The profitability is still probably fairly healthy in some cases. But you have to remember, newspapers were used to getting 20, even 30, percent profit margins during the heyday, and they were addicted to those profit margins. You know, [inaudible] McClatchy, who was in the McClatchy chain, who said, you know, the problem with newspapers is that they were too profitable. And that continues to be a problem. There’s a legitimate revenue problem. Clearly, in the case of Sam Zell and some of these others, Avista Capital in Minneapolis, they paid too much, they’re over-leveraged, there’s too much debt. But part of it is just the problem with too much belief that they have to get profits that are not there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Linda Jue, I was with you this past weekend at the UNITY Journalists of Color convention in Chicago, and you mentioned especially the impact on the Bay Area in one of your presentations in one of the workshops, the impact on the Bay Area of journalists.

LINDA JUE: Yeah. MediaNews owns twenty-nine newspapers in northern California, and they’ve just gone through their fourth layoff in a year. And the estimate’s that probably over a thousand employees, and we’re expecting more, to be laid off.

So—and I think, you know, more than just the employment issue, the coverage of those communities that—where the MediaNews papers are located have been severely affected. But what they are telling the employees that are remaining is that, you know, the coverage is going to stay the same, even if—and maybe even get better, but they’ll just find different ways to do it. And, you know, what’s surprising to me is that many of the employees actually believe this, or they want to believe this. So the impact is—it’s pretty bad. It’s pretty bad. And I think there’s a kind of a post-traumatic shock syndrome going on now with the employees that have been laid off.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Chris Hedges, what about that, that the coverage is going to get better with all of these reductions in staffs, and especially the foreign coverage—you were a foreign correspondent for many years at the New York Times—and the fact that so many of these operations now, even newspaper operations, have shut down their foreign bureaus? What’s the impact, especially in an increasingly globalized economy like we live in now?

CHRIS HEDGES: First of all, we’ve already seen a deterioration in the coverage, so the notion that it’s going to get better, I think, has just not borne out. You know, increasingly, newspapers in print form are replicating—trying to replicate the web and, to a certain extent, trying to replicate what we see on television, which has been a complete disintegration of serious newsgathering.

But I think the important issue here concerns the internet. There has been an assumption, which I think is false, that newspapers will make the transition to the internet, that the internet is just another delivery system. And it’s not. As Marshall McLuhan understood, every new technology creates its new reality, often an invisible reality. And newspapers, big and small, have long had websites now, but they have not made that transition. Only ten percent of ad revenue goes to the internet. In terms of national figures, it’s about $21 billion a year, which is a very small percentage of revenues. And I think that the crisis that is hitting newspapers across the country, which we’ve just detailed, is at its core, because—is a kind of realization and is a kind of panic that newsprint is dying, at least the large big dailies. We’ll still get those sort of free dailies they hand out on the metro, designed to be read in twenty minutes, which are essentially advertising rags with virtually no reporting. But the large newspapers are dying, and the internet is not going to replace them. They are not going to make that transfer from newsprint to the internet. And that is what is the crisis. And I think that the crisis is one that is severe not only for the newsgathering industry, but for our democracy as a whole.

There’s been a terrible corruption, of course, of the newsgathering industry, in large part because—courtesy, thanks to the Clinton administration, we now have five corporations essentially controlling everything that we read, see, hear and ultimately think. And then, of course, that fusion of entertainment and news is one that has been completely—has been devastating to those of us who care about impartial and honest newsgathering.

So, you know, what we’re seeing is people retreating into sort of these intellectual ghettos in the internet, where people—where very little reporting is done. I mean, I think if you look at the blogosphere, it’s very clear that there’s a parasitic quality. They feed off of the wire services and the newspapers, which probably account for about 80 percent of all newsgathering. When that’s gone, we are just going to descend into kind of packaging and partisanship and propaganda. And what my deepest fear is, that the future of news will end up looking like the Drudge Report.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m sure there’d be lots of people who conduct blogs who would question your use of the word of them as “parasites.” Some people advocate that actually this is the beginning of a new era, very much like the early newspapers in the early 1800s, where you’re basically getting a whole new medium, opening up the opportunity for more citizen journalism, and eventually this will filter itself out into new developed media companies. What’s your sense of that?

CHRIS HEDGES: I could believe that if there was reporting on the internet. You know, most of the bloggers don’t even pick up a phone, much less go out and report a story. Reporting a story, especially doing an investigative piece, is laborious, expensive, time-consuming. And, you know, I don’t want to elevate journalism beyond what it is. It’s a trade, like being a carpenter or anything else. But it does take a certain amount of skill and a certain amount of knowledge. And I—there are few sites—ProPublica, Slate, Truthdig, which I write for—you know, that do this, but, of course, they’re very, very small operations when compared with a city newsroom. Newspapers, at their best—and there has been a steady decline in their quality over the last couple decades—but at their best, they send people out to cover City Hall, local politics, arts, theater, sports. I don’t see that that’s going to be replicated on the internet, and that really frightens me.

LINDA JUE: You know, let me jump in here for a second, if I may.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Linda Jue, yes?

LINDA JUE: I actually—I’m not sure that I agree entirely with what you’re saying, Chris, because I am witnessing, actually, in the Bay Area numerous new enterprises starting to come up, being formed actually by journalists, to find new business models that would be—that will sustain very good journalism, you know, and ethical reporting. And so, right now, I think maybe, you know, I would say that things are up in the air, and yes, the newspaper model is disintegrating, I agree. I think print seems to be on its way out. I wouldn’t exactly—you know, I’m not yet ready to call the last rites on it. But I do think that there are some viable models out there that are coming out that we haven’t heard about. And I would say that, you know, there are actually new services that have been out there for even maybe close to five or six years now that are trying to make up for the loss of reporting and quality coverage that we’ve been seeing decline over the last years. So I wouldn’t totally rule out that the internet can’t fill in that vacuum.

We had—the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California, held an expo, a journalism expo, in Silicon Valley that was co-hosted by Yahoo and brought together a couple of hundred journalists to actually look at that question. And it was quite surprising to see the number of enterprises and the new models of collaboration and new revenue models that they’re cooking up that would not be solely advertising-based. And so, I’m a lot less pessimistic than you are about what’s going on.

CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I’ve got—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Chris Hedges?

CHRIS HEDGES: You know, revenue is the key. ProPublica receives essentially outside donations, funding, the same with Truthdig. You know, and if you can’t—I mean, reporting, especially if you do foreign reporting—I mean, my—the first year I was the Balkan bureau chief during the war in Yugoslavia, my first-year budget for the New York Times was $600,000, and that didn’t include salary. It’s—you know, and to do investigative reporting is—it’s—I just don’t see where the money is going to come from to support it.

LINDA JUE: Yeah, well, you know, actually, foundations are actually beginning to look at that more, and there are new cooperative models that are being proposed right now, business proposals that are being proposed right now that I know of, to deal with the issue of foreign reporting and also to deal with the problems of in-depth investigative reporting. In fact, my program is one of them. My program is actually aimed at developing more investigative reporters of color to pursue public interest journalism. And there are other programs like that that are just, you know, beginning to pop up all over the place. Now, granted, they’re not going to have the kind of scale yet that, you know, larger news organizations have and are used to, but I think the actual—the new theme here, in terms of these new enterprises, is actually smaller, faster and cheaper, sort of like NASA. And I think that’s the way we have to go.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Linda, we’re going to take a break, and when we come back, we’ll continue this discussion. We’re talking with Linda Jue, former head of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter; Chris Hedges, a former reporter for the New York Times and now with the Nation Institute; and Bernie Lunzer, the new president of the Newspaper Guild. We’ll be back in a moment.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re talking about the state of the newspaper industry. Our guests are Bernard Lunzer, the president of the Newspaper Guild and the vice president of the Communication Workers of America—he joins us from Washington, D.C. Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and is co-author of the new book Collateral Damage. His latest article for Truthdig is called “Bad Days for Newsrooms and Democracy.” He joins me here in the firehouse studio. And joining us on the telephone from San Francisco is Linda Jue. She is the director of New Voices in Independent Journalism and the past president of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.

I’d like to get back to Bernie Lunzer. We contacted the Tribune Company to invite them on the program. They declined, but they did send us a statement. Gary Weitman, the senior vice president of corporate relations, writes, quote, “We have gotten a great deal of attention for the actions we’re taking at our newspapers to address the issues we, and our peers, face—declining ad revenue, secular difficulties facing our major advertising groups, and the expansion of media choices available to consumers. Clearly, as you recognize, we are not alone. I would point out, however, that at the end of the day, we have the largest newsgathering staffs in our markets and the 2nd and 3rd largest in the country in Chicago and Los Angeles. That is true even after implementing the staff reductions to which you refer.”

Bernie, your response? You know that Tribune has been at the center, at least in this latest wave, of the various layoffs and buyout programs at the various newspapers.

BERNARD LUNZER: Right. We’re very concerned. And, of course, I’ve watched very closely what’s happened at the Baltimore Sun, the loss of all the international bureaus and that kind of coverage. But it’s important to note that what they’re doing is having a great effect on local coverage, as well—great losses there. We think, in many cases—the other day, Sam Zell made the statement that he’s not going to sell any more newspapers in 2008, but we think in some cases that it might be better if Zell were to consider selling more of the empire and breaking it off.

We hope that local ownership would actually create more responsibility and more response back to the local market and to local communities that really are going to be the ones that are the biggest losers in this. We see—you know, less is less. And we need to say that out loud. Subscribers are not fools. They can see that these products have been diminished. So you have this danger of getting into this cycle. We’re hearing that Tribune Company is going to save journalism through all these cuts. That’s not what we’re seeing. That’s not what we’re feeling. We’re feeling that basically it’s just a self-fulfilling cycle of a downward spiral.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, what about—the old model was that these chains began to grow—Gannett, Knight Ridder, obviously the Hearst and Pulitzer chains earlier on in the century—but then you had these major media conglomerates across platforms. But now, apparently, many of these companies now are in trouble, because they took on too much debt or because their shareholders are demanding a maximum return.


JUAN GONZALEZ: What about—but you’re saying that the return to local—more locally owned companies would solve the problem? What if those are just private venture capitalists, as they are in many of the instances now, private equity groups that are taking over these local publications?

BERNARD LUNZER: Well, we can see that’s not a great solution. Minneapolis is an example of that. Avista is a private equity firm that bought the Star Tribune, and that has not worked out well, and they’re trying to, you know, manage their debt right now. They’ve missed some payments. So there is a problem with the market. And we talked about alternative publications, but there is a, you know, real question of as to whether or not we can build employee stock-owned papers, whether we can build co-op models. There are different models. And some of us are starting to believe that we may have to rescue newspapers from the market itself for these things to survive, for any quality journalism to survive.

LINDA JUE: Yeah, that’s right. I think that’s absolutely right. The ownership model is what the problem is. One of the things that I want to bring out is that the Northern California Chapter of SPJ is beginning to conduct a study on the impact of coverage on the communities as a result of these layoffs from MediaNews, beginning with MediaNews, since that seems to be the most recent and most public layoffs. And we will be looking at other newspapers. But we are looking at the effects on the twenty-nine communities, because there really hasn’t been any documented data on the reduction of quality of coverage.

And, of course, one of the questions that we’re also looking at is whether or not journalists are willing to actually become owners of some of these newspapers themselves. So, you know, I think the ownership question really needs to be addressed. And one of the biggest areas of coverage that is missing is the coverage of the newspaper buyouts and layoffs as a really good, aggressive business story. I think if we had much better coverage on what’s going on with the business by the journalists themselves, we’d have a much more informed public about the actual consequences.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Chris Hedges, on this ownership issue, Frank Blethen, who’s been one of the maverick publishers of the Seattle Times—he’s always been opposed the media concentration—has been recently putting forth the idea that maybe the government should get involved through tax policies in helping to foster the continuation of local newspapers, just as it does in other areas of the economy—not necessarily to get involved in the content, but just to preserve local newspapers and their ability to function. What’s your sense about the ownership issue?

CHRIS HEDGES: Well, that’s the BBC model, where you impose a sort of small tax on everybody to sustain a serious newsgathering as part of a functioning democracy. That’s not a bad model. I think if you look at the family-owned newspapers—the Washington Post and the New York Times, I guess the last two big family-owned papers— you just saw an attempt, essentially a hostile takeover by hedge fund managers. They did get two seats on the board.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That’s with the New York Times.

CHRIS HEDGES: With the New York Times. And the Sulzbergers do have a sense that, you know, this is a business, but it’s also a public trust. Whether that model can be sustained—the New York Times itself is going through difficult times. Its stock is down to about $12. It has gone through layoffs and buyouts, as well. I mean, part of it is ownership. Part of it is just the antiquated nature of newsprint as a conveyor of information. And I think that, just as we saw with the rise of television—had an impact on newspapers—now we’re seeing the internet.

I just—I want to go back just to the internet quickly, because it’s not totally about ownership; it is about the medium itself. The average reader of the paper copy of the New York Times spends forty-five minutes reading the paper. The average viewer of the New York Times website spends about seven minutes. The internet is not designed for a literate society. We are moving into a post-literate society, a society where information and of course a very limited quality is portrayed primarily through images. The internet can make that fusion between print and images. But the medium itself will determine the content. And to somehow look at the internet as simply another delivery system is a mistake. So there are many factors that go in here.

Ownership model—I think that we have to face the fact that the newspapers are no longer efficient, in terms of economic terms and in terms of speed. I mean, you see that soul-searching that was done when I was at the paper, well, everybody already knows what the news story is, so we have to focus on news analysis, we have to focus on investigative pieces, because people no longer get their news, the news event, from the newspaper itself.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Linda, what about this issue that medium is a message, that the internet itself defines a new way, a not necessarily a more complete or comprehensive way, for people to get their information?

LINDA JUE: Yeah. I have to say that, for the longest time, I actually, you know, followed the same line of thinking as Chris. And what I’m slowly coming around to is understanding that, yes, the internet does not—is not a good medium for delivering long-form, in-depth reporting. And I don’t think that we should try to, you know, plug a square peg into a round hole that way. But I think that, realistically, we have to look at ways to generate attention, to use the internet to drive attention to longer-form reporting that can be found elsewhere, including print. And, you know, I think that one of the biggest mistakes being made right now is the rush to try to grab the attention of young people by developing news in short bites so that they can be transmitted over the cell phone. There’s just no way that you can do that and really do justice to the news. So, I agree. I think there are issues around that, but I think we have to come to terms with the fact that the new media exists, and we have to figure out ways to drive people’s attention, you know, capture their attention first using the new media and then driving them back to possibly print or even back to broadcast or other media.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Bernie Lunzer of the Newspaper Guild, what strategies is your union or the Communication Workers of America developing to try to confront this new reality that you’re facing for your members?

BERNARD LUNZER: Well, a couple of things. One, we have been pursuing for some time employee stock ownership strategies, and we’re hoping to actually have an announcement very soon, where we might have finally been able to bring one of these to fruition. I can’t comment on it right now. But we believe there is going to be a future for print, but we’re not naive. We also understand that there has to be innovation. We’ve been willing to bargain concessions where necessary, but we think the biggest mistake is that the owners and the publishers have not been talking to the frontline workers about that kind of innovation. So, what we’re trying to do, where we have to do concessions, we want to trade that for real involvement, real committees that are able to work on a better business model, on the future of the product. We still believe that there’s a place for quality journalism, that people will want it.

I don’t mean to plug a product, but, you know, the Times Reader, which is a software that allows you to view the New York Times online in a whole different way, is an example of just sort of one transition of how longer stories can be read on the internet. There’s a lot of room for innovation, not just in news, but also in advertising. And we think that they have squandered a lot of time.

One plug I want to put in, Juan, is that we also need to fight the push to more consolidation. The FCC changed the rules in December that would allow for more cross-ownership. We’re pushing very hard. There’s a bill in the House right now we’re trying to get pushed through that would reverse those rules. We think if there’s more consolidation, more cross-ownership between broadcast and print, there will be less innovation. And I would tell you that most of the people you talk to in broadcast understand that broadcast is only five or six years behind print, in terms of the effect that the internet is having on the traditional delivery systems.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Alright, well, I think we’re going to have to leave it there, although this is an issue that we’ll continue to cover. I’d like to thank our guests: Bernie Lunzer, the president of the Newspaper Guild and vice president of the Communication Workers of America; Chris Hedges, senior fellow at the Nation Institute, former correspondent for the New York Times; and Linda Jue is the director of New Voices in Independent Journalism. Thanks to all of you.

US Economic Crisis Bulletin: Trade Talks Falter; Record Deficit; IMF Sees No End in Sight, etc.

Global Trade Talks Falter

Wall Street Journal
July 29, 2008 4:34 p.m.

GENEVA -- World trade talks collapsed Tuesday after the U.S., China and India failed to agree on the Asian countries' right to impose emergency tariffs to protect their farmers.

The nine-day meeting, the longest trade summit diplomats in Geneva could recall, aimed at concluding a simple bargain: The European Union and U.S. would lower farm subsidies and tariffs in exchange for China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies opening up their markets for industrial goods like chemicals and cars.

Trade experts said the failure of the talks after seven years of previous negotiations was a sign of huge changes in the global economy since the Doha Round was launched in 2001. Since then countries such as China, India and Brazil have emerged as trading powerhouses.

The talks between the 30-some countries almost collapsed last week, but a midnight handshake on Friday between Brazil and the U.S. kept them going over the weekend. The U.S. agreed to cap its trade-distorting farm subsidies at $14.5 billion and Brazil accepted cuts in its industrial tariffs.

Over the weekend, however, two developing country camps then redoubled their opposition. India's trade and commerce minister, Kamal Nath, and then Chinese diplomats, refused to compromise with the U.S.

In particular, they demanded a rule that would allow them to impose special tariffs if imports surged in certain products like sugar, cotton and rice.

"I'm not risking the livelihood of millions of farmers," Mr. Nath told reporters. The U.S. was asking a price "as high as heaven," a Chinese official complained.

The U.S. hadn't expected such strong opposition over this so-called safeguard clause, which would hurt farmers all over the world, U.S. officials said. U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab refused to budge.

"We were so close to reaching a deal on Friday night," an exhausted Ms. Schwab told reporters after emerging from the final meeting late Tuesday afternoon.

Although more countries were present, most of the negotiations took place within a small group of economic powers: the EU, U.S., Australia, Japan, China, India and Brazil.

The future of the Doha Round now is unclear. Technically, it still is alive, WTO officials stressed. The U.S. remains committed to its completion, Ms. Schwab said. The Doha Round was launched with the goal of lifting people out of poverty by cracking open Western food markets.

Others were more circumspect. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said Monday that a failure this week would be amount to a "burial" for the trade round.

Trade experts cautioned that the round's constant failures-- this was its eighth summit -- might have spelled the end of big multinational trade deals.

"Previous trade rounds picked the low-hanging fruit," says William J. Bernstein, author of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World. "So we may have reached the end of the line for trade deals."

Write to John W. Miller at john.miller@dowjones.com8
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Record deficit of $482bn forecast for 2009

By James Politi in Washington
July 29 2008 01:51

The US budget deficit will widen to a nominal record of $482bn next year, as a slumping economy takes a further toll on the federal government’s fiscal position, the White House projected on Monday.

Driven by dwindling tax receipts caused by the economic downturn and the payment of more than $100bn (£50bn) in stimulus cheques to US consumers, the figure was higher than the Bush administration’s previous estimate of a $407bn gap for the 2009 fiscal year starting in October.

However, the White House lowered its estimate for the budget deficit in the current year from $410bn to $389bn. In 2007, the US budget deficit was nearly half that size, at $162bn.

Democrats in Congress on Monday seized on the projection as further evidence the Bush administration’s economic legacy would be marked by its inability to preserve the budget surplus it inherited in 2001.

“What happened? I thought we could cut taxes, pay for the war, and balance the budget. Today it has become even more clear that Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility,” said Chuck Schumer, New York senator and chairman of the joint economic committee.

If the budget deficit grows as expected, it would exceed a record of $413bn set in 2004. As a percentage of gross domestic product however, the 2009 projection implies a ratio of 3.3 per cent, still below levels experienced both in 2004 and in some earlier years.

Jim Nussle, White House budget director, said the administration was “not happy” with the deficit, but added: “These projected deficits are both manageable and temporary if spending is kept in check, the tax burden remains low and the economy continues to grow.” The administration is still expecting the US to be in a position to post a budget surplus by 2012.

The White House also lowered its forecast for economic growth to 1.6 per cent this year, from a projected 2.7 per cent last November. In 2009, the Bush administration is expecting the US economy to grow by 2.2 per cent, compared with its previous forecast of 3 per cent.

The White House’s budget calculations do not include the possibility the government might have to intervene with a large capital injection to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage companies.

The Congressional Budget Office last week said there was less than a 50 per cent chance the Treasury would have to use new authorities it wants from Congress to invest in Fannie and Freddie, but also said there was a 5 per cent chance this could cost the government $100bn.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

IMF sees no end in sight to credit crisis

By Krishna Guha in Washington
July 28 2008 15:45

Global financial markets are “fragile” and indicators of systemic risk remain “elevated” almost a year into the credit crisis, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday.

The fund warned credit growth in the US could fall further as a result of ongoing financial system stress and warned that emerging markets would be tested as global financing conditions tighten and policymakers grapple with rising inflation.

The IMF also noted that house prices had softened in a number of European economies including the UK, raising the possibility of further problems in those markets.

The assessment came in the July update to the Global Financial Stability Report, led by former Bank of Spain governor Jaime Caruana.

The IMF said that while likely losses on US subprime mortgages have “largely been acknowledged” in the form of writedowns, financial institutions faced a second wave of losses on other loans.

Credit quality “across many loan classes has begun to deteriorate with declining house prices and slowing economic growth.”

The Fund said bank balance sheets were under “renewed stress” and that the decline in bank share prices had made it more difficult for them to raise new capital.

This “increased the likelihood of a negative interaction between banking system adjustment and the real economy.”

With mounting inflationary pressure, the Fund added: “Policy trade-offs between inflation, growth and financial stability are becoming increasingly important.”

The IMF reaffirmed its controversial earlier estimate that total losses in this cycle could total $945bn – a number that combines mark-to-market losses on subprime-related securities and estimates of likely losses on loans.

Relative to April, when the Fund published its last GFSR, it said “systemic strains in funding markets continue” and the “low level of risk appetite remains unchanged.”

Interbank lending rates “remain elevated” while “long term funding costs have risen” for financial institutions.

The IMF said financial institutions globally have written off about $400bn since the crisis began last August, and that while they had raised substantial amounts of capital, the losses “exceeded capital raised.”

Banks also faced problems maintaining their earnings, weakening stock prices, and making it more difficult to raise further capital.

The Fund said that policy interventions – mostly by the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve – had so far succeeded in containing systemic risk.

But it said the “nature of resolution strategies and the extent of support have come into sharper focus” in recent months – a polite way of saying that the authorities in the US in particular have had to intervene further to preserve financial stability.

It in effect endorsed the need for the US to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the short term – saying their failure would have systemic consequences – but said “the policy challenge now is to find a clear and permanent solution” for the troubled government-sponsored mortgage groups.

The US Treasury has tried to deal with the immediate threat to Fannie and Freddie, while postponing discussion of their long term futures to a later date.

US credit crunch set to last for months

By Krishna Guha in Minneapolis
July 27 2008 19:41

The credit squeeze in the US economy is likely to persist for many months and might even get worse, Gary Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, has told the Financial Times.

He said that with interest rates at 2 per cent the Fed was well-placed to cope with any negative surprises on growth. By contrast, he said, it was not as well positioned to deal with any negative surprises on inflation.

Even without any such surprises, the Minneapolis Fed chief also said real interest rates were at levels that, if sustained for too long, would not be compatible with medium-term price ­stability.

Either inflation expectations would have to decline, or the Fed would have to raise interest rates, or both, in order to achieve the required tightening in real rates. However, Mr Stern emphasised the need for the Fed to balance unease about the low level of real interest rates with risks to growth.

There was no suggestion that he thought the central bank should start raising interest rates in the very near future, in the absence of a further negative surprise on inflation.

Mr Stern, the longest serving member of the FOMC, said: “I don’t think the headwinds have diminished. In fact if anything I think they are picking up a little steam.”

He said the economy was set for a protracted period of weakness similar to that of the early 1990s. Growth “over the next several quarters is unlikely to depart significantly on average from the average of the three previous quarters” – roughly 1.5 per cent.

Yet while the fading of the fiscal stimulus could result in a short-term setback to growth, the underlying rate of consumer spending was likely to be resilient, he said.

“I think we are reasonably well placed for some disappointments in the next two or three quarters in terms of growth, because in some sense we have addressed that through policy,” Mr Stern said. “In my own mind it is a little bit more of an open question on inflation.”

The inflation risk could be broken down into two components. First, there was the risk that high rates of headline inflation, driven up by oil and food prices, could become embedded in inflation expectations.

Second, there was the danger that the current level of real interest rates, if sustained for too long, would not be compatible with medium-term price stability.

“Headline inflation is rapid, too rapid,” he said. However, core inflation and inflation expectations were “better behaved”. He said he thought inflation expectations were “reasonably well anchored” and was “modestly confident” that they would stay that way.

He admitted that he was uneasy about keeping real rates so low at a time of high headline inflation. “It does concern me. There is no question about it. All I can say is that it is a challenging policy environment.”

Mr Stern said he would be “quite encouraged” if oil – which has fallen roughly $20 from its peak – stabilised, as that would over time result in headline inflation easing back towards the lower core rate. “Would I be satisfied?” he said. “That is another question.”

Inflation expectations were probably “at least half a percentage point above” the current Fed funds rate of 2 per cent, he said, suggesting that the real interest rate was minus 0.5 per cent.

Taking into account the financial headwinds, the effective real rate was “zero or not much above zero”.

“For price stability purposes – which, by the way, means in the long run for the achievement of both parts of the dual mandate – real rates need to be above that. So for that to occur, either the rates need to go up at some point and/or inflation expectations need to decline.”

Mr Stern said his assessment of the outlook was not “materially different” from his evaluation at the time of the last Fed policy meeting on June 30.

He said there had not been a significant increase in the the tail risks of a very bad economic outcome that he continued to believe were “still with us” but “diminished relative to March”.

He thought there was an “adequate” level of slack in the economy, such that if growth turned out to be stronger than expected it would not immediately result in overheating.

US credit crisis is hitting the wealthy

By Francesco Guerrera and Saskia Scholtes in New York
July 28 2008 19:36

The US financial crisis is spreading from subprime borrowers to wealthier consumers, with evidence mounting that more affluent people are failing to pay their mortgages and credit card balances.

Growing concerns over the financial health of richer borrowers are prompting banks and card issuers to tighten lending practices in moves that could futher dampen consumer confidence and spending more.

Banks such as JPMorgan Chase and credit card groups such as American Express have clamped down on lending to customers that have traditionally been regarded among the safest and most profitable borrowers.

“The crisis is just starting to spread beyond the middle class,” said Curtis Arnold, founder of

“Even folks with good credit-ratings scores are no longer immune from adverse actions from their card issuers.”

Senior bankers say that after the subprime debacle, the worsening outlook of “prime” portfolios shows the crisis is far from over and could inflict substantial losses on financial institutions.

The spreading of the credit crunch to wealthier consumers could hit financial groups, such as JPMorgan and American Express, which have so far avoided the worst of the crisis because of their relatively low exposure to subprime customers. Second-quarter results from financial companies showed rising losses on mortgages and credit cards issued to prime customers as soaring gas prices, the slowing economy and depressed house values took their toll.

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chairman and chief executive, recently told Wall Street analysts that the outlook for prime mortgages was “terrible” and the rate of delinquencies could double or treble from current levels of about 4 per cent.

JPMorgan suffered a $104m loss on its $47bn worth of prime mortgages in the second quarter, more than double its first-quarter loss, and warned that losses on prime mortgages could reach up to $300m a quarter next year.

JPMorgan has already tightened lending standards for prime borrowers – reducing the size and the volume of these mortgages – especially in areas, such as California, where home prices have been falling sharply.

At American Express, which has traditionally focused on high-spending consumers, second-quarter earnings were down 37 per cent year-over-year. Kenneth Chenault, chairman and chief executive, said the company’s most affluent card-holders were feeling the pinch.

“The scope of the economic fall-out was evident even among our longer-term, superprime card members,” he said.

American Express and other card issuers are responding to this deterioration by cutting back on credit lines, and scaling back on new card issuance in the most vulnerable areas.

Bush urged to act now to save homes

By Stephanie Kirchgaessner
July 28 2008 03:00

Democrats have called on the White House to quickly enact the housing legislation passed by the US Senate over the weekend.

The call came after an administration official signalled that it could take as long as a year to implement regulations meant to help some 400,000 homeowners facing possible foreclosures.

Christopher Dodd, the Democratic chairman of the Senate banking committee, called for a meeting on Tuesday with Hank Paulson, the Treasury secretary, the Federal Reserve board and the heads of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the department of Housing and Urban Development, to ensure the bill is quickly enacted. “The idea that HUD is just sort of getting together talking about possibly a year before we’d offer any relief for homeowners is totally unacceptable,” Mr Dodd said.

President George W. Bush is expected to sign the housing legislation into law early this week after it passed the Senate by a 72-13 majority in a rare Saturday vote.

The legislation, which Mr Dodd called “the most important piece of housing legislation in a generation” includes provisions to prop up the government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – giving the Treasury the power, if necessary, to inject capital into them – and creates a new regulator for the troubled lenders.

The bill will allow the government to guarantee up to $300bn in mortgages refinanced at more affordable rates through the Federal Housing Administration, the housing insurer for low income Americans.

However, some critics say that the refinancing plan might falter if lenders decide not to participate and the eligibility criteria for borrowers is too strict.

Non-Aligned Movement 15th Ministerial Conference Opens in Tehran

NAM ministerial conference opens in Tehran

TEHRAN, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The 15th Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) opened here on Tuesday with an inaugural speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"The world is on the verge of change," Ahmadinejad said in his speech. "It is facing frustrating challenges."

Big powers are root of many problems, said Ahmadinejad, adding that poverty is a result of wrong policy of big powers.

He accused big powers of trying to keep a monopoly on technology, saying that nuclear powers are blocking peaceful nuclear work of other states.

He said that the NAM which has the capacity for peace and justice can establish an arbitration council and can defend countries against invasion and discrimination.

The NAM potentials can be tapped to serve global development, Ahmadinejad added.

Representatives from 118 members, 15 observer members and 8 international and regional organizations including 60 foreign ministers attended the conference at the Conference Hall of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The conference is expected to review the developments and implementation of decisions made in the 14th NAM Summit in Havana in 2006, evaluate the latest international developments, particularly those related to the issues of interests for NAM member states, and also assess the achievements made so far in the process of revitalization and strengthening of the NAM since the holding of the last summit.

The NAM, founded in 1961 with 118 members as of 2007, is an international organization of states considering themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. China became an observer to the NAM in 1992 which is made up of mostly developing countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Iranian FM urges change of world order

TEHRAN, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said here on Tuesday that the current world order is no longer valid and should undergo dramatic change, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"The current world order is unfair and therefore should be corrected," Mottaki was quoted as saying in his address to the 15th Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) opened Tuesday morning at the Conference Hall of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Tehran.

Solving world challenges and problems needs "global partnership", he said, adding that grounds have been prepared for accepting a dramatic change in the world order.

"Access to peace and justice is only possible through partnership of all nations," he said.

Mottaki further called for "refraining from unilateralism in order to help settle global crises."

Representatives from 118 members, 15 observer members and 8 international and regional organizations including 60 foreign ministers attended the two-day conference.

The conference is expected to review the developments and implementation of decisions made in the 14th NAM Summit in Havana in 2006, evaluate the latest international developments, particularly those related to the issues of interests for NAM member states, and also assess achievements made so far in the process of revitalization and strengthening of the NAM since the holding of the last Summit.

The NAM, founded in 1961 with 118 members as of 2007, is an international organization of states considering themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. China became an observer to the NAM in 1992 which is made up of mostly developing countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Middle East News: Iran's Ahmadinejad says Non-Aligned Movement could rival UN

Jul 29, 2008, 6:57 GMT

Tehran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that the world was entering a 'new phase' in which the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) could turn into an alternative to the United Nations Security Council.

Speaking at the 15th NAM foreign ministers' meeting in Tehran, Ahmadinejad once again criticized the UN Security Council for serving the interests of world powers rather than all of its member states.

He cited the council's shortcomings with regards to 'crimes committed by the Zionist regime (Israel)' in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon and charged that the world body has so far acted in favour of Israel.

Ahmadinejad also referred to the United States military invasions in Iraq and Vietnam and said that the UN would never condemn the US or issue a resolution against it.

'The Vietnam war was not ended by the UN but through heroic resistance by the Vietnamese themselves,' said the Iranian president, indicating that the Middle East crisis should also eventually be settled through resistance.

'The US even wants a security pact for Iraq which would definitely undermine the rights of the Iraqi nation,' he added, reiterating Iran's opposition to any US-initiated plan to settle the Iraqi crisis.

Despite his anti-US rhetoric at home, Ahmadinejad has several times voiced Iran's readiness to resume contact with its political arch-foe, the US, after more than 28 years of diplomatic estrangement, most recently in an interview with NBC television.

The president, whose country is involved in a nuclear dispute with the West, said that the UN has also failed to implement its own efforts at nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

'We are, however, entering a new phase where the rights of the people could be reserved through love and brotherhood,' he said.

'NAM could now, more than ever, play a significant role in this new phase and settle global differences, block discrimination, create justice and eventually become flag-holder of world peace,' Ahmadinejad added.

Following his presidency in August 2005, Ahmadinejad has adopted an uncompromising policy not only in the dispute over Iran's nuclear projects but also in the Middle East.

His anti-Israeli tirades especially have caused worldwide protests and gradually isolated Iran from the international scene.

Ahmadinejad has since then focused his hope on NAM and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which unlike the UN, are said to approve Iran's civil nuclear programmes and also show a more favourable approach toward Iran's Middle East policies.

'Iran is your home,' he told the more than 100 officials of the NAM member states at the end of his speech while declaring Iran's readiness for the expansion of NAM's role in world affairs.

The Global Economic Crisis and Its Impact in East Africa

The Global Economic Crisis and Its Impact in East Africa

Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are hit hard with food deficits, political and labor unrest

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
News Analysis

With the current economic crisis worsening in the United States and Europe, conditions in the former colonial nations have reached critical proportions. In the eastern region of the African continent, mounting food deficits, a sharp decline in living standards and rising energy costs have intensified ongoing political and labor unrest.

In Somalia, where a US-backed invasion in December of 2006 has been met with continuing resistance, the humanitarian situation inside of this Horn of Africa nation has been described by aid organizations as the worst crisis on the continent.

Mark Bowden, who is the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, has pointed out that although the situation inside the country is quite similar to what exist throughout the region, the overall conditions are far worse.

"The food and livelihood crisis in Somalia is already critical after very poor rains in the southern and central parts of the country this year, combined with violence and limited or no access to the affected populations," Bowden said in a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya on July 23.

At the same press conference, Besida Tonwa, who heads the regional office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that the urban poor were among those at greatest risk.

In specific reference to Somalia, which has not had an internationally recognized government since the collapse of the western-backed Siad Barre regime in 1991, Tonwe said that: "The emergency is exacerbated by the erosion of livelihoods among the landless, pastoralists, internally displaced persons and the urban poor across the regions. Disease outbreaks fuelled by poor hygiene and sanitation in drought-affected areas, and poor health and nutrition services, including low immunisation coverage, are additional risks for mothers and children."

In Ethiopia, where the country's military is occupying Somalia on behalf of US foreign policy imperatives, Smerdon emphasized that some 4.6 million people are in need of emergency food aid between August and the end of 2008, resulting from the drought and political unrest in the southern, central, western and northeastern areas of the country.

Consequently, the pro-western stance of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia has not provided any tangible benefits to the masses of people living in both the urban and rural areas inside the country. Although the Meles' government claims that it has its own security interests at stake in its continuing occupation of Somalia, the intervention only took place after the US declared that this underdeveloped nation constituted a threat to western interests in the region.

Resistance to Occupation Continues in Somalia

Despite the US-backed occupation of Somalia, the people have resisted the Ethiopian military which is supplied with sophisticated weapons from the Pentagon. The progress made by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) during 2006 has been eliminated with the bombing of civilian areas, the destruction of the national infrastructure including the airport in the capital, as well as the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

On July 24-25 a major battle took place between Islamic resistance forces and the Ethiopian military in the town of Beledweyne, located 210 miles north of the capital of Mogadishu. Ethiopian soldiers occupying the town came under attack by the anti-occupation forces. In response to the attacks, Ethiopian units seized a bridge in the center of Beledweyne, however, it was later recaptured by the Somali resistance in a round of heavy artillery shelling.

Ethiopia has continued to support and prop-up the Somali Transitional Federal Government, which has never been able to win large scale support among the masses of the people inside the country. The interim government is viewed as a front for western interests in the region and therefore has been met with fierce opposition.

Earlier in May, rebellions erupted in the capital of Mogadishu in response to rising prices for food and other essential services. The US-backed transitional government had just issued a new currency which was worthless in conducting transactions in the market place.

Just recently the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has issued a warning that a million people could go hungry in Somalia by August unless there are major shipments of food to address the growing shortages. It has been estimated that since the Ethiopian military invaded the country in December of 2006, some 8,000 civilians have been killed and approximately one million others have been internally displaced.

New Developments in Labor Struggles in Kenya

Kenya has also experienced major challenges as a result of the recent economic crisis. Several months after over 1,000 people died in violent clashes sparked by the dispute over the outcome of national elections in December, the ability of the present coalition government, composed of two pro-US parties headed by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, has been severely compromised.

In a report issued by the Inter-regional Information Network (IRIN) on July 24, "Erratic rainfall, soaring farming costs, and a shortage in materials in the western district of Mt Elgon could compromise food security in the region."

The IRIN report quoted a farmer in western Kenya, Wilson Keya, of the Cheptais division of the district of Mt Elgon, saying that: "Right now we are expecting four bags of maize per acre instead of the usual 20 as we could not afford to use any fertiliser."

Prices for fertilizer has doubled over the last year. A 50kg bag of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) fertilizer was selling at US$40, up from US$21.60 during 2007. Other fertilizer such as Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) cost US$68 per bag, up from US$26.60 only one year ago.

A fertilizer shop ran by Bernard Sabila in the same district, reported that as a result of astronomical price increases, the amount of feritilizer being sold had decreased by 60% over the last several months.

Meanwhile, resistance to rising costs and declining living standards has emerged among the dock workers employed by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). The Dock Workers Union has engaged in a work slowdown in response to management's efforts to increase their work load without adequate compensation.

The slowdown began as a portest against a seven-day work schedule that the KPA imposed which denies the employees overtime pay when they work on Saturdays and Sundays.

On Sunday, July 27, the union's secretary-general, Simon Sang, stated that the labor actions would continue until Friday, August 1. On July 23 a meeting between the Dock Workers Union and the Kenya Ports Authority failed to resolve their differences, therefore threatening a full-blown strike.

KPA managing director Abdalla Mwaruwa said on July 23 that the work slowdown was illegal and that management was evaluating individual work performance in order to determine who was responsible for the underperformance.

Mwaruwa said the the Dock Workers' demand for the withdrawal of the seven-day work schedule was "impossible because it came about as a result of a court award." The KPA representative said that the labor action carried out by the 4,000 Dock Workers threatened to paralyze operations at the port.

The controversial schedule came into effect on July 1 where employees must work seven straight days before they can have two days off. The new schedule limits the number of overtime hours for employees and consequently causes a steep decline in their incomes amid rapid rises in the cost of food, fuel and other services.

In response to the labor actions in Kenya, the KPA has threatened to fire employees taking part in the work slowdown which has severely crippled this vital installation that plays a critical role in the overall economy of the country.

Regional Crisis Highlights Failure of Neo-Liberal Agenda

Even though the United States, Britain and the European Union are demanding that African nations in the eastern region of the continent follow their purported "anti-terrorism" and pro-capitalist agenda, the conditions for the masses of working people and farmers are worsening. During the recent G8 summit in Japan, the major pre-occupation of these imperialists states was the total isolation of Zimbabwe and the deployment of more military forces to the Darfur region of Sudan.

When the eight African heads-of-state invited to the G8 meeting reminded the industrialized countries that they had promised to provide US$40 billion some three years ago at the summit in Scotland to assist in industrial, agricultural and health care projects, their questions were dismissed while the imperialists continued to insist on setting the agenda for these developing regions.

Yet it is quite obvious that the legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism in Africa cannot be overcome within the context of the present system. Every attempt to excercise some semblance of independence as it relates to economic and political policies, is staunchly opposed by the Pentagon and its allies. In Somalia, it has taken the form of an indirect US occupation leading to the worst humanitarian crisis on the African continent.

In Kenya, the problems of rising costs and food deficits, are increasing political and labor unrest in criticial areas of the national economy. In Ethiopia, despite the large-scale military and political assistance provided by Washington, the majority of the people are becoming poorer every day.

As the situation unfolds inside the United States as well, the massive drain of the military and security apparatus has had a profound impact on the living standards of the working class and the oppressed. These conditions both inside the western imperialist states and the regions of the so-called Third World provide greater avenues for potential international solidarity among the peoples of the globe.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. Articles published by the PANW have been reprinted in newspapers and web sites throughout the world.