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Some news first, then a couple of articles from today on ZNet. The October Issue of Z is Online. ZNet Sustainers or those who aren't sustainers but subscribe to the online version can see the full issue. To check out our Sustainer program please visit http://www.zmag.org/Commentaries/donorform.htm -- There is a free article, as well: "5 to 4: The Unclear Future of Abortion," By David Mikhail. Mikhail discusses the often-ignored swing vote of Justice Kennedy, and future scenarios for abortion rulings, from the rapidly evolving Supreme Court, at http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Images/mikhail1005.html There are also two new videos in our online store which is at: https://www.zmag.org/store/ZStore.cfm Is It Time for a New Rainbow Coalition? A Talk by Ron Daniels Daniels looks at the degraded state of the U.S. political system, particularly around race, by recounting the history of the Rainbow Coalition. (Daniels was Jesse Jackson's campaign manager and a former presidential candidate himself.) He argues for the real potential today to create a new diverse coalition based on "rainbow" principles. Race-ing Justice: Black Resistance & the Politics of Mass Incarceration, A Panel Discussion Speakers on this 2005 Left Forum panel in NYC panel discuss the racist framework of the bloated and corrupt U.S. prison system, and the cultural and media stereoptypes which continue to obfuscate its bleak realities. Manning Marable, Keesha Middlemass, Laurent Alfred, Adolphus Belk, & Reverend Sekou speak. And here are a couple of articles from today's postings on ZNet.... Asda Wal-Mart: Cutting Costs at any Cost by Joe Zacune Wal-Mart is the world's largest retail company and is more familiar in the UK as the supermarket chain Asda. Wal-Mart has built a global empire of supermarket stores on an image of 'always low prices'. This obsession with prices has led to poverty wages, ever-worsening sweatshop conditions and the destruction of local businesses and communities. These policies are well known but now new evidence has emerged on how Asda senior management are planning to deliberately "chip away" at workers' rights and working conditions in the UK. War on Want has seen a leaked document titled "Warehouse Chip Away Strategy 2005" that outlines how Asda senior management are planning to drastically undermine labour standards. Asda management plan to breach these rights despite openly acknowledging the risks of trade union opposition and health and safety violations. Work breaks are to be cut, grievance mechanisms removed and health and safety conditions weakened. The document also proposes removing the right to take individual grievances to external arbitrators. Asda management plans to include "single man loading" despite the fact that their own "risk assessment says 2 men (are) required for loading". Line managers are advised to "lead by example, not taking all the breaks that hourly paid colleagues get" in order to "take credence away from breaks". Of the ten richest people in the world, four are members of the Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. Wal-Mart documents released in April 2005 reveal that the company's CEO Lee Scott was paid over $17.5 million in total during 2004. Not content to pay its employees wages that are on average 20% lower than the industry standard, Wal-Mart seeks to cut costs through the routine violation of workers' rights. Wal-Mart requires that labour costs be kept to less than 8% of each store's sales. In addition, managers must reduce the labour costs at their stores by 0.2% each year. This drives managers to stretch their workforce to cover chronic staff shortages, and to break the law by employing children and undocumented migrant workers. One internal audit of 25,000 employees in 128 Wal-Mart stores in the USA found 1,371 violations of child labour laws, including minors working too late, too many hours a day and during school hours. It also found 60,000 instances where workers were forced to work through breaks, and 16,000 where they worked through meal times. Wal-Mart's model is fast becoming the industry standard, as other firms slash employee wages and benefits in an attempt to compete with the retail giant. Wal-Mart is vehemently anti-union. Its anti-union policy is a central part of its obsession with minimising costs. Wal-Mart provides managers with its infamous 'Manager's Toolbox to Remaining Union Free' that states: "Staying union free is a full time commitment. Unless union prevention is a goal equal to other goals and objectives in the organization, management will not devote the necessary day in, day out attention and effort." If there is any evidence of moves towards unionisation, managers are ordered to phone the Wal-Mart Union Hotline immediately. In the UK too, workers at Asda have come up against Wal-Mart's anti-union culture. Following Wal-Mart's 1999 take-over of Asda, the company has sought to restrict the role of general union GMB. After four years of negotiations, a new agreement between Asda and the GMB came into effect in 2004, which does not provide for collective bargaining. In the words of GMB senior manager Harry Donaldson, "We believe that, since the take-over, Wal-Mart has tried to stifle union activity at Asda." Managers at a unionised Asda distribution depot offered workers a new terms and conditions package which included a 10% pay increase and the requirement that workers give up collective bargaining representation by the GMB. When workers rejected the proposal, Asda withdrew the 10% pay increase. Wal-Mart's ability to slash prices at its retail stores is based on its power to drive down wages and working conditions at the factories which produce its products. As the largest retail corporation in the world, Wal-Mart has immense power over suppliers and uses this to dictate everything from prices to precise delivery schedules. Wal-Mart is leading the race to the bottom by relentlessly squeezing cost efficiencies out of the supply chain. Wal-Mart frequently requires its suppliers to open their books for Wal-Mart inspection and tells them exactly where to cut costs. When national labour or environmental standards create a barrier to cost cutting, suppliers are encouraged to relocate to a labour market that will enable them to produce at the low price Wal-Mart requires. Even where wages are rock-bottom, Wal-Mart insists that its suppliers drive prices ever lower. Qin, a factory worker in China, explains: "In four years they haven't increased the salary." Isabel Reyes, a garment worker in Honduras, tells the same story: "There is always an acceleration... the goals are always increasing, but the pay stays the same." In August 2002, Asda sparked a banana retail price war with lasting effects on the banana industry and banana workers worldwide. Asda specifically targeted key items such as milk and bananas as part of its strategy to brand itself as Britain's low-price supermarket. In the end, consumer prices were lowered by 25%. Asda's exclusive deal with Del Monte, contracted at what industry experts describe as a "ridiculously low price", means that it is supplied with bananas grown and harvested under the worst labour and environmental conditions in the world. Independent growers in countries with adequate worker and environmental protection, such as Costa Rica, can no longer sell to Asda and other British supermarkets without making a loss. War on Want is encouraging Asda employees in the UK to contact GMB if they wish to find out about their rights or start a union. More generally we are calling on the UK government to support a binding framework of corporate accountability to regulate the activities of corporations such as Wal-Mart. In the global economy huge multinationals are only accountable to their shareholders. If we are concerned about workers' rights throughout the world, corporations like Wal-mart need to be reined in and unions need to be strengthened. For more information and to join War on Want's campaign to rein in global corporations go to: www.waronwant.org/asda or email [EMAIL PROTECTED] Imperialists in Democratic Clothing Ken Sanders With his ratings in the tank and desperately in need of a boost, not to mention a distraction from the sudden impotence of his administration, this week President Bush fell back on what worked so successfully for him in the past: fostering fear and promoting war. Originally scheduled to mark the anniversary of 9/11, but postponed so that Bush and his cronies could ignore Hurricane Katrina, Bush delivered his latest pro-war screed to the ludicrously misnamed National Endowment for Democracy. A government-funded, semi-private organization (which happens to be free of Congressional oversight), the NED is a darling of the neo-conservatives and shares membership with the Project for a New American Century. Created by Reagan in the 1980s, ostensibly to promote "free market democracies" through "the magic of the marketplace," the NED's interests and practices are anything but democratic. As can be gleaned from its stated goals, the NED's notion of "democracies" are countries friendly to U.S. corporate interests. If a country isn't "democratic" enough already, the NED uses U.S. taxpayer money to subversively fund and instigate regime change. Examples abound of the NED's fondness for interfering with the elections and democratic processes (however imperfect) of other nations. In the 1980s, the NED funded militaristic and dictatorial candidates in Panama, as well as opposition candidates in such stable democracies as Costa Rica (the opposition candidate in Costa Rica also had the endorsement of that champion of democracy, Manuel Noriega). In the 1990 elections in Haiti, the NED provided significant funding to former World Bank official Marc Bazin in a failed attempt to oust the leftist Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Bazin, seen by most Haitians as a "front man for military and business interests," received only 12% of the vote. Displeased with that result, the NED funded anti-Aristide groups, culminating in the violent political instability in Haiti that left dozens dead and ultimately resulted in Aristide's exile. In the 1990s, the NED supported Skender Gjinushi, speaker of the Albanian parliament and former member of the Stalinist Politburo in Albania. Gjinushi was a principle organizer of the unrest that led to the 1997 fall of the democratic government in Albania, not to mention the death of over 2,000 people. In Slovakia, the NED funded several initiatives that ultimately resulted in the defeat of Slovakia's freely-elected government. The NED-backed "reformers" who took over in Slovakia were largely leading officials in the Communist regime of then-Czechoslovakia. Additionally, and most notoriously, backed and funded the aborted coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Determined to install a pro-U.S. leader in Venezuela, the NED funded a subsequent recall referendum and then forged exit polls declaring Chavez' defeat. Venezuela, like Iraq, possesses huge oil reserves estimated at 78 billion barrels, making it the world's seventh largest oil resource. Chavez, however, is staunchly anti-American and even publicly called Bush an "asshole." The NED's motivation to "democratize" Venezuela should be abundantly clear. Regardless of how one feels about Chavez or Aristide or any other leader or government of a sovereign nation, it is antithetical to the principles of democracy to interfere with and influence the election processes of other nations. It is particularly appalling when the goal is not to foster democracy so much as to further enrich U.S. corporations. At any rate, speaking before the NED, Bush preached to the converted his sermon of a never-ending and self-perpetuating war on terror. Invoking a romanticized vision of the 9/11 attacks ("... a proud city covered in smoke and ashes ... a fire across the Potomac ... passengers who spent their final moments on Earth fighting the enemy"), Bush once again pimped the war in Iraq as a glorious exercise, necessary for making America safe from the scourge of terrorism. A nice thought, but completely without foundation. Aside from the fraudulence of Bush once again tying Iraq to 9/11, it was utterly false for Bush to claim that the invasion of Iraq was ever necessary for protecting America's national security. In fact, all indications are that our glorious invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have only managed to increase the threat of terrorism, not only to the U.S., but to the rest of the world, as well. By invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. has managed to radicalize the Arab and Muslim worlds to join the terrorist cause. As revealed by a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the occupation of an Arab nation by non-Arabs has radicalized hundreds of previously non-militant Saudis, prompting them to join the anti-American insurgency in Iraq. In other words, in direct contradiction to Bush's claim that "[t]he hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue," the invasion and occupation of Iraq has converted non-militant Muslims to jihad and terrorism. Bush attempted to refute this fact by reminding those who believe "that our presence in [Iraq] has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals," that "we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and Al Qaeda attacked us anyway." Touche'. That's right. We weren't "in Iraq" when Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11. We were, however, starving Iraqis through sanctions, and had been for a decade. Additionally, while we weren't "in" Iraq, we were "in" Saudi Arabia, which we now know was particularly offensive to Osama bin Laden and a primary motivation for the 9/11 attacks. In addition to U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and other Muslims deeply resented the U.S. for staging a proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, relying almost exclusively on Muslims to do its fighting, and then abruptly abandoning Afghanistan and its "freedom fighters" once their purpose had been served. Thus, Bush is correct: terrorists' hatred of the U.S. did not begin with Iraq. It merely grew. In a similar vein, Bush argued that "Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet militants killed more than 180 Russian school children in Beslan." While Bush's facts may be right, his logic is specious. The horrible events in Beslan were carried out by Chechen terrorists as part of their war against Russian occupation of oil-rich Chechnya. Thus, while the atrocities in Beslan had nothing to do with Iraq, they also did not occur in a vacuum. What was most notable about Bush's speech to the NED was his tacit admission that his so-called war on terror is really a war for imperial dominance. Bush accused the terrorists of seeking to "overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia." Is that not precisely what the U.S. seeks and has long sought to accomplish both overtly through force and surreptitiously through groups like the NED? Does not the U.S. seek to establish a military-corporate empire that spans the globe? How else to explain the hundreds of U.S. military installations around the world? How else to explain subversive groups like the NED, which deliberately interfere in other countries' affairs with the goal of creating regimes friendly to U.S. business interests? What other explanation is there for orchestrating coups in oil-rich countries like Iran (successful) and Venezuela (unsuccessful)? What other explanation can there be for installing and/or supporting tyrannical regimes in Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Chile (to name but a few)? What other reason is there for the invasion and occupation of a nation that never did the U.S. any harm and had absolutely no proven ability to do so? Why? Whether anyone really wants to admit it, the U.S. has committed and continues to commit such irrefutably undemocratic acts to establish and protect its hegemony. Its empire. How appropriate, then, that Bush celebrated his Iraqi venture before a crowd of like-minded champions of "free market democracies." How appropriate, considering that both the speaker and his audience advocate spreading "democracy," but only through such undemocratic means as war, coups, and illicit influence. http://www.politicsofdissent.blogspot.com ===================================This message has been brought to you by ZNet (http://www.zmag.org). 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