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Covering tracks in Sudan

March 19

Due to U.S. and British efforts to bury the matter, justification for the U.S. missile attack on a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan last year has never been established. Last August, following the attack, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the Arab League called for the U.N. Security Council to inspect the plant. The U.S. and Britain however, opposed their request, and to date no UN inspection has taken place.

Buried in a March 17 WASHINGTON POST article on Sudan’s absence from a State Department sponsored conference with cabinet officials from 46 sub-Saharan African nations, a quote attributed to an unnamed Sudanese diplomat captures the irony of the situation perfectly:

“You guys bombed Iraq because it blocked U.N. weapons inspectors,” he said. “We’re begging for a U.N. inspection and you’re blocking it.”ÊÊ

According to U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas R. Pickering, the U.S. position on the matter is that Sudan should first sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, and then allow that body to conduct regular inspections.

Ignored by the U.S. media, this piece from the South African MAIL & GUARDIAN is the only coverage of the story I could find which showed interest in reporting something other than State Department propaganda.

The article reports that the plant was designed by an American and regularly received visitors, including the President of Niger, the British Ambassador to the Sudan, and groups of Sudanese schoolchildren.


Military harassment of gays way up

March 18

Confirming the suspicions of many gay and lesbian service members and their advocates, harassment and discharges of gay and lesbian military personnel has increased sharply since the institution of President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 1994. Pentagon records show that, the year the rule was put into effect, there were 617 discharges for homosexuality; last year, there were a record 1,145 gays discharged, according to a report in the ASSOCIATED PRESS.

The SERVICEMEMBERS LEGAL DEFENSE NETWORK released its report this week revealing that 511 service members were asked, in clear violation of the policy, about their sexual orientation by superiors. It also revealed that anti-gay incidents in the military, including death threats, more than doubled in the past year alone, from 187 in 1997 to 400 in 1998.

The anxiety this culture promotes among gays in the military is also contributing to many more voluntary discharges. The AP report quotes former Navy Lt. Comdr. Jill Szymanski, who resigned in August after 12 years: “It has become an acceptable part of military culture to pick on and demean suspected gay service members and no one is held accountable for these actions.”


Whalers flout international law

March 17

The whaling industry is back with a vengeance. According to a report from the BBC and the WHALE AND DOLPHIN CONSERVATION SOCIETY, whalers from the St. Vincent and Grenadines islands in the Carribean openly flouted international law by wounding a baby humpback whale in order to lure its mother within range of the whalers’ harpoons. Both the mother and calf bled to death.

Mother humpbacks instinctively refuse to leave their offspring while the calves are alive and in distress.

The killings, which occurred on March 6 and were witnessed by a number of British vacationers, violated the International Whaling Commission’s rule forbidding the slaughter of suckling whale calves or of mother whales accompanied by their calves.

While there is presently an international moratorium on commercial whaling, small-scale hunts are allowed when the whalers use the catch to feed their communities (St. Vincent is limited to two humpback whales per year). They are, however, forbidden to sell the whale meat for money. But witnesses who spoke with the whalers said the crew netted the mother whale and then openly admitted it would bring a hefty profit.

St. Vincent’s whalers are closely allied with Japan in that country’s efforts to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling. The report says Japan and the West Indies have been eyeing the Carribean as a prime location for future heavy whaling activity.


Marines practice quashing dissent

March 16

In what would seem to be a blatant attempt by the U.S. Military to
a) bolster support for the Second Amendment and b) scare the shit out of paranoid conspiracy theorists like myself, the United States Marine Corps has been “invading” cities across the country as a part of “Operation Urban Warrior.” The operation is being touted as a practice run that will help Marines provide humanitarian assistance in the wake of a disaster, terrorist attack, or Celine Dion concert. However, as the SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN reports, Urban Warrior isn’t quite the love-fest it’s purported to be.

As Gar Smith reports, Urban Warrior is designed to quash popular insurrections — right here in the good old U.S. of A. Smith states that a “review of hundreds of pages of documents regarding Urban Warrior exercises around the country and in the Bay Area reveals no plans for providing humanitarian assistance. The actual goal of the operation is clearly stated: it is to “penetrate,” “thrust,” and “swarm” into urban settings to seize power plants, TV and radio stations, and food and water supplies, to suppress any local opposition — and ultimately to control the cities.” He further goes on to argue that Urban Warrior is all about keeping the rich safe from the huddled masses of poor people who might rise up demanding extravagances such as food, housing and disease-free living conditions.

Although similar exercises have been staged all over the country — from a Navy Seals invasion of Lowell, Mass., to Marines in ambushing Monterey, Calif., the national press has taken little to no notice of this emerging trend.


The U.N.: Now with scrubbing bubbles?

March 15

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is planning to embark on a controversial partnership with several major multinational corporations, according to San Francisco-based TRANSNATIONAL RESOURCE AND ACTION CENTER and its web site, CORPORATE WATCH.

The group’s Perilous Partnership report, produced in conjunction with The Institute for Policy Studies and the Council on International and Public Affairs, details the creation of a Global Sustainable Development Facility, which would be funded and governed largely by participating corporations. The corporations — so far Dow Chemical, AT&T, and Citibank are among the 16 companies that have signed on — pay $50,000 each to “sponsor” the facility, which has the stated mission of “meet[ing] the goals of sustainable human development and the investment goals of corporations.”

Scary combination? Incompatible objectives? Bullshit pretext disguising a sleazy corporate P.R. strategy — or worse? Some people certainly seem to think so. The report is based on several leaked U.N. documents, like The Global Sustainable Development Facility: 2 Billion People to the Market by 2020, which explains how “a strong relationship exists between sustainable human development and the growth of shareholder value.”

Critics of the plan note that many of the corporate partners, including ABB (a Swiss company that operates nuclear and fossil-fuel power plants), StatOil (Norway’s state-owned oil company), and Rio Tinto PLC (the British mining giant) are already known to have destructive environmental and human rights records.

A United Nations press release counters that, in fact, the goal of the project is to “get corporations to … create projects and investments that uphold universal labor, environmental and human rights standards … we are aiming … to demonstrate that it is possible for corporations to meet these standards, improve the lives of poor people and be profitable.” The press release is not online yet but U.N. reps say it will be posted soon on the UNDP website.

Another interesting note: According to the report, the UN has been pursuing corporate support to make up for a lack of resources, caused largely by the United States’ $1.6 billion in unpaid back dues.



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We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

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