Truly a story for the modern age, with web gurus pitted against drug lords:
An international group of online hackers is warning a Mexican drug cartel to release one of its members, kidnapped from a street protest, or it will publish the identities and addresses of the syndicate’s associates, from corrupt police to taxi drivers, as well as reveal the syndicates’ businesses.
The vow is a bizarre cyber twist to Mexico’s ongoing drug war, as a group that has no guns is squaring off against the Zetas, a cartel blamed for thousands of deaths as well as introducing beheadings and other frightening brutality.
“You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him,” says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous.
“We cannot defend ourselves with a weapon … but we can do this with their cars, homes, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession,” says the man, who is wearing a suit and tie.
“It won’t be difficult; we all know who they are and where they are located,” says the man, who underlines the group’s international ties by speaking Spanish with the accent of a Spaniard while using Mexican slang.
He also implies that the group will expose mainstream journalists who are somehow in cahoots with the Zetas by writing negative articles about the military, the country’s biggest fist in the drug war.
“We demand his release,” says the Anonymous spokesman, who is wearing a mask like the one worn by the shadowy revolutionary character in the movie V for Vendetta, which came out in 2006. “If anything happens to him, you sons of (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5.”
John Kampfner is spot on in the Guardian last weekend:
The death knell of the Commonwealth has been sounded for as long as there have been summits. By accident rather than design, this anachronistic gathering of 54 states may actually say more about the state of global priorities than the participants realise. And the direction of travel is grim.
At their meeting in Perth over the weekend, the leaders rejected many of the recommendations of a report by a team of the great and good, the eminent persons group (EPG), designed to move the Commonwealth’s democratic laggards towards basic norms.
In search of a lowest-common-denominator consensus, the summit accepted some less controversial ideas, such as a charter. The idea of a human rights commissioner, however, proved too much. “There have been a few blips like in any part of the world but I don’t think it demanded a commissioner,” noted Suruj Rambachan, the foreign minister of Trinidad. Under pressure from South Africa and other states, the summit even refused to publish the EPG’s report.
The former prime minister of Malaysia, who chaired the EPG, said the summit would be remembered as a failure. Malcolm Rifkind, the former UK foreign secretary, described the unwillingness to publish the report as a disgrace. This is hardly surprising, as the Commonwealth comprises a veritable who’s who of governments with dubious human rights records – from Nigeria, Cameroon and Rwanda to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Singapore.
The prospect of progress at the next gathering in two years’ time – hosted in, of all places, Sri Lanka – is even more remote. The Colombo government denounces any attempt to call it to account for human rights abuses. In front of their Commonwealth colleagues the Sri Lankans dismissed a UN-commissioned report on massacres against the Tamils as “a travesty of justice and preposterous”. The Canadians, meanwhile, are threatening to boycott the 2013 heads of government meeting in protest.
The Commonwealth’s weakness is specific to its history and its constitution. Any whiff of British lecturing is given short shrift; at the same time, all major decisions have to be taken by consensus, allowing recalcitrant countries to stop changes in their tracks. The only sanction, and one used rarely, is expulsion.
But the problem is far bigger than the institution. It is one that has been exercising policymakers for years. What is the relationship between human rights and economic development? To what degree do they represent western or universal values? In my book, Freedom for Sale, I argued that the trade-off between liberty and prosperity had become more alluring than ever. Regimes that can satisfy what I call the “private freedoms” – such as travelling and making money – can quite easily ensure that citizens leave the public space to them. Singapore is the model in microcosm; China is rolling it out on a far bigger scale, with Russia and others not far behind. Economic growth is the motor; consumerism is the anaesthetic for the brain.
As Serco continues to make money from Australia’s incompetent immigration detention centres, the company comes out swinging, claiming it cares deeply for “these people” (also known as asylum seekers) to Perth’s Sunday Times:
Refugee deaths in detention are just part of the migration service business, according to Serco, the company managing Australia’s detention centres.
In a rare interview, Serco Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia chief executive Bob McGuiness also rejected claims Serco was a secretive organisation.
“To be described as a secretive organisation I was completely gobsmacked, I find that astonishing,” he told The Sunday Times.
The company has drawn criticism for refusing to release many details of how it runs the country’s detention centres, while unions also critcised the WA Government’s decision to award the services contract for the new Fiona Stanley Hospital to Serco, saying privitisation would affect patient care.
Asia Pacific chief executive David Campbell said claims of secrecy were “nonsense” and came about because the company was often “contractually obligated” to not discuss its business.
Serco was in the spotlight last week after the Department of Immigration confirmed the eighth death in detention since August last year a 27-year-old Tamil man.
Mr McGuiness said it was “absolutely tragic”, but inevitable, when detainees died on his company’s watch.
“We do everything in our power to look after these people,” Mr McGuiness said.
“Is it in our power for no one ever to pass away under those circumstances? Actually no, it’s not in our power, we’re not God.”
But he said he got “satisfaction” knowing Serco provided the service because otherwise it “would not be done so well”.
But not everybody agrees.
“If they were a responsible company they should have said, ‘We don’t want any part in this’,” Refugee Rights Action Network spokesman Phil Chilton said.
He said the company had “plenty of other fingers in plenty of other pies around the world”.
To offer quality service, the refugee advocate said Serco would need to provide a psychologist “24/7″ to help deal with the mental- health issues.
United Voice union has argued that Serco also poses a danger to health care in WA because privatising services at Fiona Stanley could result in profits before patient care.
The $4.3 billion contract is Serco’s biggest in its 23-year history in Australia.
Mr McGuiness said he guaranteed cost cutting would not result in service cuts because the company wanted to continue its relationship with the State Government and expand its WA operations.
The hospital contract is being investigated by a parliamentary committee, which held its first public hearing this week and was unsuccessful at getting a variety of documents needed to confirm the deal’s “value for money”.
Serco Group, which is the London Stock Exchange-listed parent company of Serco Australia, recently told shareholders the contract would create $30 million to $50 million in revenue in its “pre-operational phase”.
“From the opening of the hospital in 2014, annual revenues will be approximately $A160million,” it reported.
Mr McGuiness would not stipulate its profit margin, but said Serco like any other business would want to make a “fair return”.
Mr McGuiness said Serco wanted to develop its health care, defence, custodial and transport businesses in the region.
Any illusions about the American empire’s footprint reducing in the Middle East is fictional. Washington is keen to more closely partner with any dictatorship it can. But of course this isn’t meddling, it’s just what empire’s do. Note this irony-free comment in a lead New York Times piece that details the Obama administration’s desire to build a physical presence on the ground in a range of brutal states (all in the name of moving towards democracy, clearly):
“We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Tajikistan after the president’s announcement.
The current issue (Issue 44 Nov/Dec 2011) of Frankie magazine, a magazine aimed at young Australian girls, has on the back page a full page advertisement headed “Israeli Girls”:
The text reads:
Shai and Shelly on a Dead Sea Road Trip
Both girls work at our store in Tel Aviv. Shai is 18 years old and was born and raised there. She loves the beach, playing guitar, doing yoga and watching movies. She’s been working for the company for a few months, and is preparing to serve in the Israeli Defense Force. After the army, she plans to pursue a career in photography. Her favorite American Apparel style is the Flannel Shirt.
Shelly is 20 years old and has been with the company for about two years. She enjoys painting, making clothes and relaxing at the beach. Next year she will begin school to study fashion design. Currently, she’s obsessed with her American Apparel 3D Mesh Jumper.
THAT’S AMERICAN APPAREL ©
Such advertisements play a key role in glamourising/normalising Israel and the IDF while, almost subliminally, linking Israel with the US. Occupation, violence or racial discrimination are ignored.
Write to the magazine’s editor (Jo Walker: email@example.com) telling her that such material shouldn’t fool the readers and depoliticise Israeli actions.
Well, that didn’t take long. Even before Gaddafi was found and murdered, Western businesses were dreaming of the huge profits that could be made. Disaster capitalism on crack.
Now, in a front page New York Times story, the joys continue:
The guns in Libya have barely quieted, and NATO’s military assistance to the rebellion that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafiwill not end officially until Monday. But a new invasion force is already plotting its own landing on the shores of Tripoli.
Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners.
A week before Colonel Qaddafi’s death on Oct. 20, a delegation from 80 French companies arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council, the interim government. Last week, the new British defense minister, Philip Hammond, urged British companies to “pack their suitcases” and head to Tripoli.
When Colonel Qaddafi’s body was still on public display, a British venture, Trango Special Projects, pitched its support services to companies looking to cash in. “Whilst speculation continues regarding Qaddafi’s killing,” Trango said on its Web site, “are you and your business ready to return to Libya?”
The company offered rooms at its Tripoli villa and transport “by our discreet mixed British and Libyan security team.” Its discretion does not come cheaply. The price for a 10-minute ride from the airport, for which the ordinary cab fare is about $5, is listed at 500 British pounds, or about $800.
“There is a gold rush of sorts taking place right now,” said David Hamod, president and chief executive officer of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. “And the Europeans and Asians are way ahead of us. I’m getting calls daily from members of the business community in Libya. They say, ‘Come back, we don’t want the Americans to lose out.’ ”
Yet there is hesitancy on both sides, and so far the talk greatly exceeds the action. The Transitional National Council, hoping to avoid any echo of the rank corruption of the Qaddafi era, has said no long-term contracts will be signed until an elected government is in place. And with cities still bristling with arms and jobless young men, Libya does not offer anything like a safe business environment — hence the pitches from security providers.
Like France and Britain, the United States may benefit from the Libyan authorities’ appreciation of NATO’s critical air support for the revolution. Whatever the rigor of new rules governing contracts, Western companies hope to have some advantage over, say, China, which was offering to sell arms to Colonel Qaddafi as recently as July.
Who says Wikileaks is on the back foot? In fact, the group remains supported by millions of citizens around the world for giving us the information our media and governments should be offering.
Interesting piece in Fairfax today by Philip Dorling on this very point:
A trenchant critic of the influence of corporations on political life around the world, [Julian] Assange has been enthusiastic in his support of the Occupy movement, recently observing that ”the politicisation of the youth connected to internet is the most significant thing that happened in the world since the 1960s. This is something new, a real revolution.”
The organisation has also expressed its support for the protests through its Twitter account, with Assange addressing protesters in Trafalgar Square in London on October 8.
What is not well known, and has gone unreported, is the key role that WikiLeaks supporters have played in igniting the surge of internet-based activism that has so far resulted in protests in reportedly more than 1000 cities in 82 countries.
Most accounts of the Occupy movement focus on the Canadian-based Adbusters Media Foundation’s proposal in July for a peaceful occupation of Wall Street to protest against corporate influence on democracy. Activists from the Anonymous hacktivist collective also encouraged followers to take part in the protest, calling on protesters to ”flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street”.
However, investigations of the pattern of internet activism over the past year indicate the origins of the Occupy movement are to be found earlier, in the wave of activity generated by WikiLeaks last year as it released US Army helicopter gunship footage from the war in Iraq, US military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq and more than 250,000 classified US State Department cables.
Twitter exchanges between WikiLeaks supporters in the US, Australia and elsewhere resulted in the establishment in November 2010 of a WikiLeaks news website – WL Central. Editors and contributors to WL Central included Canadian human rights activist Heather Marsh, New York internet activist Alexa O’Brien, well-known Melbourne-based ”Twitter journalist” Asher Wolf and another, Sydney-based Australian activist known by her Twitter account @Jlllow.
While WL Central focused on support for the transparency website, some of its contributors were more ambitious. By her own account, Marsh hoped to ”encourage and facilitate connection and communication for the revolution, both in Canada and around the world”; while O’Brien looked to ”push … the edge of social media for scalable organisation of civil disobedience and non-violent protest”.
In February, prompted by the WikiLeaks banking embargo, and inspired by the role of online activism in the Arab Spring, O’Brien established ”US Day of Rage”, a website to promote US protests along the lines of the mass movements that were overwhelming despotic political leaders in the Middle East. A US Day of Rage Twitter account was established on March 10. Four days later the account had 1077 followers and was reportedly growing at a rate of three followers every 10 minutes. On March 14, Marsh used the WL Central website to promote the new group’s cause.
”Americans are outraged because they realise that there is something terribly wrong with the way our nation is governed, and the way in which our public discourse is conducted,” she wrote.
”The nation’s institutions, meant to underpin the principles of our democratic republic, do not function effectively in the 21st century. Their failure leaves us prey to rampant corruption, unprincipled and abusive government action, and a demoralised populace.”
Last week’s ABC TV 4 Corners, on the mental trauma suffered by refugees inside Australia’s immigration detention centre network, was a devastating portrait of dysfunction. We are literally breeding individuals who are going mad, if not worse. Locking people up for sometimes years is both unnecessary and unethical.
And who is making money from all this? British multinational Serco (who only feature in the story occasionally, unfortunately).
Corpwatch has just released a detailed report about Serco’s role in Australia and it is scathing:
Some 1,600 miles from the West Coast of Australia; Christmas Island sits alone, surrounded by the Indian Ocean. The cliff-bound territory, with some 1,400 residents on just over 50 square miles, hosts a detention center where thousands of immigrants who tried to enter Australia illegally are indefinitely detained. The policy of intercepting and holding without charge asylum seekers –including more than 1,000 children–has sparked political debate in Australia. But Serco, the UK company contracted to manage the center, has largely escaped scrutiny.
“[Serco's] failure to perform is huge,” says Kaye Bernard, an organizer with the Christmas Island Workers Union. Bernard meets regularly with workers from the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). This year, several centers have teetered on the brink of chaos on numerous occasions, with riots at the Christmas Island and the Villawood IDC located in New South Wales. Unable to deal with the situation, Serco has called in the Australian Federal Police force, which has fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesting detainees. Various human and refugee rights groups have accused Serco guards of brutality including beating prisoners.
The privatisation of Australia’s immigration detention had a troubled history even before Serco’s arrival. Australasian Correctional Management and G4S were awarded contracts, in 1997 and 2003 respectively, to manage the country’s immigration detention centers, and both private companies attracted strong criticism.
Then, in 2009, the federal government awarded Serco a $367 million contract (since increased to $756 million) to manage Australia’s Immigration detention centers.
For Serco, the detention center deal “demonstrates our ability to successfully leverage our world-leading home affairs capabilities to further broaden our presence in Australia,” said Serco CEO Christopher Hyman in a media release announcing the 2009 contract win.
The conduct of the British company was controversial from the start. Serco has been fined for breaches of contract for every month that it has managed IDCs in Australia, according to Bernard. In March, The Australian reported that Serco had been fined a total of $4 million in early 2011. “We cannot detail breaches, fines imposed or other issues related to Serco’s contract as they are considered commercial-in-confidence,” a spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship told CorpWatch.
Indeed, the contract itself is confidential and Serco would not provide details even to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network, which has been established by Federal Parliament to investigate the management of Australia’s immigration detention network.
Think Progress reports on a truly fundamentalist position from the Presidential candidate that will only further isolate the Zionist state:
If Mitt Romney becomes president, there are a lot of important foreign policy decisions that he’d leave up to others. Most notably, Romney often says that whatever the generals decide, that’s the course he’ll take in Afghanistan (although he backtracked on that stance when pressed recently). Now it seems that a President Romney will allow the Israeli government to decide American policy toward that country. The free daily newspaper Israel Hayom — a media outlet closely associated with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — asked Romney if, as president, he would ever consider moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In his answer, Romney made some astonishing claims. First, that his policy toward Israel will be guided by Israeli leaders; second, on the Jerusalem issue, he’d do whatever Israel tells him to do; and third, he does not think the United States should take a leadership role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict