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  • ARMS CULPRITS
    On May 20, Amnesty International issued a press advisory in which it accused the world's wealthiest countries yesterday of arming some of the worst abusers of human rights despite their assurances to the contrary.
          The London-based human rights group released a report—just prior to the Group of Eight summit in Evian, France—that showed at least two-thirds of all global arms transfers between 1997 and 2001 came from five of the G8 members—the US, Russia, France, Britain and Germany.
          Amnesty is calling for an international arms trade treaty to strengthen and harmonize national controls on the flow of arms to countries it describes as human rights abusers such as Israel, Colombia, Afghanistan and Senegal.
          The report, entitled "A Catalogue of Failures: G8 Arms Exports and Human Rights Violations," says the US accounted for 28 per cent of global arms transfers from 1997 to 2000, making it the world's top supplier of weapons.
          Russia was second at 17 per cent, while France supplied 10 per cent, Britain 7 per cent and Germany 5 per cent.
          These countries, along with fellow G8 members Italy and Canada, have agreed under various international accords not to export weapons if there is a risk they will be used in the abuse of human rights, and have laws requiring military exports to be licensed. Japan, the remaining G8 member, officially prohibits military exports. "Yet in each case, [the] report shows how these controls have been ineffective, or bypassed," the report charges.
          Amnesty has called on the US, Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China to make public the names of companies that supplied chemical, biological and other weapons technology to Iraq. It also says evidence emerged during the build-up of the US-led war against Iraq that members of the current United Nations Security Council supplied arms and related materials to Saddam Hussein's government.

  • NUCLEAR SHIELDS
    According to El Nuevo Topo, a South American news service, the provincial government of Tierra del Fuego (at the southern tip of Argentina) has granted land to the US government for building a base for nuclear testing "for peaeful purposes.” The base, according to the report, will be built in the city of Tolhuin. The provincial decree is in accordance with a law passed in 1998 by the National Congress which "permits nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes." The governor of Tierra del Fuego, Carlos Manfredotti, signed decree No. 1369 in July 2002, authorizing the installation of a base, but the agreement did not become public until September.
          According to the report, the US has already built such bases in Ecuador and the Dutch Antilles, and is planning another in El Salvador.
          Several Latin American governments, including Cuba, Venezuela and Brasil, view such installations as “an extension of Plan Colombia, which threatens militization and extension of the conflict in Colombia throughout all of Latin America,” according to the report.
          The citizens of Tierra del Fuego have formally demanded the cancellation of Decree 1369. Visit lasolidarity.org for more information.

  • VOTE WARNING
    Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) president Martin Luther King III and investigative reporter Greg Palast have organized a nationwide petition drive through Working Assets in order to oppose what they call the "Florida-tion" of the 2004 Presidential election.
          To read the full petition and for more information on past and potential threats to American democracy, please go to: gregpalast.com. To sign the petition, go here.

  • HEAD START IN DANGER?
    The Bush Administration has sent a "dear colleague" letter to all Head Start programs in the US that, according to critics, “appears to create a ‘new and broad’ interpretation of the Head Start Act to threaten local Head Start programs with legal action if they speak out against proposals to dismantle the program.
          National Head Start Association (NHSA) Chairman Ron Herndon revealed what his organization views as an “attack on the First Amendment right of Head Start educators and parents” during NHSA’s 30th annual training conference.
          The letter was sent to all local and state Head Start organizations by Windy Hill, associate commissioner, Head Start Bureau, US Department of Health and Human Services. NHSA sent a formal response to Ms. Hill. Both documents can be viewed by the general public on this webpage.
          In the absence of satisfactory clarification by Bush Administration officials, the Association plans to seek legal redress, according to Herndon.
          At the national rally, Herndon said:  "Head Start has been around for 38 years and no previous Administration has ever seen fit to twist and contort the federal laws in order to justify what appears to be an unconstitutional attempt to silence the critics of its proposal. These scare tactics are designed to achieve one thing and one thing only: to intimidate into silence the very people who know the best about what Head Start does and what it takes to make sure that America's most at-risk children are made ready to learn in school."
          House legislation was introduced on May 22 that, if passed, would dismantle Head Start and turn its funding over to cash-strapped states that, according to Herndon, “are manifestly unprepared to do our work.”

  • LOBBYISTS & MONEY
    The Center for Public Integrity has issued a new report, “Hired Guns: Lobbyists spend loads of money to influence legislators--and in many states, with too little scrutiny. The report states that, while lobbyists and their employers in 39 states spent more than $715 million seeking to influence state lawmakers in 2002, many details about how those dollars were spent remain hidden from public view. More than half the states received a failing grade for their
          registration and spending disclosure requirements filed by legislative lobbyists. To read the full report, visit public-i.org.

  • BIG SPENDERS
    Despite a poor economy and security concerns while traveling, Americans are planning to spend 9.5% more on summer vacations this season according to Myvesta, a nonprofit consumer education organization. Myvesta’s study found that the average summer vacation will cost $2,378, up from $2,172 in 2002. Of those taking a trip, 78.2% plan to pay for all or part of their getaway with credit cards and 28.5% plan on taking three or more months to pay off their vacation charges.
          The survey also showed that while 48.5% of Americans will be taking a summer vacation, 48.4% will not, with the remainder undecided.
          Those in the Northeast plan on spending the most—an average of $2,710.
          The Myvesta Summer Vacation Survey was conducted May 16-18 in a random telephone survey of 1,000 adult Americans. For info, visit Myvesta.org.

  • WAR CARDS
    The Ruckus Society is offering a deck of “War Profiteer Cards” at warprofiteers.com. The cards feature “the real war criminals in the US’s endless War of Terror” instead of “terrorists” on another deck of topical cards being offered for sale. “These are individuals and institutions that stack the deck against democracy in the rigged game of global power,” says the activist group. “Exposing their place in the house of cards illuminates the links among corporations, institutions, and government officials that profit from endless war. The US War of Terror is not about liberation, democracy, or UN resolutions. Plainly put, the War of Terror—whether in Iraq, Colombia, Afghanistan, or the USA—is about subjugation, resource extraction, and opening markets: a practice once referred to more honestly as colonialism.”
          Each suit in the deck represents a category of war profiteers: Oil, gas, and energy companies; certain US government officials; military and defense contractors; and certain heads of industry, finance, media, and policy groups.

  • HEAD COUNTING
    Over the past 18 months, the US government has bought access to data on hundreds of millions of residents of ten Latin American countries—apparently without their consent or knowledge—allowing various US federal agencies to track foreigners entering and living in the US. ChoicePoint has received the contract to collect the information abroad; it sells the data to US government officials in three dozen agencies, including federal immigration investigators who have used it to arrest illegal immigrants. While laws vary from country to country, privacy experts in Latin America question whether sales of national citizen registries have been legal. They say government data are often sold clandestinely by individual government employees. Most of the data files, they say, appear to originate in agencies that register voters or issue national IDs and drivers’ licenses. ChoicePoint's contracts require data sellers to declare they obtained the information legally. Source: nicanet@afgj.org on May 5.

  • SUV BOONDOGGLE
    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on May 19 that the recently-passed tax cut bill includes a substantial loophole for businesses. It will allow a business to write off completely up to $100,000 in one tax year for a vehicle—a truck or SUV weighing at least 6,000 pounds (can you say “Hummer”?). Current law allows a $25,000 first-year write-off, but the Senate bill increases the tax deduction to $100,000. No one is admitting who slipped this item into the legislation. The House version contains a similar proposal. The paper reports, “Lawmakers are also crafting a new energy bill—and one proposal calls for the elimination of a $2,000 tax deduction for fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrid vehicles.” See the paper’s op-ed here!

  • SPENDING PRIORITIES
    Dollars & Sense magazine (May/June 2003) carries a story, “Which Path to a Safer World,” which contrasts what federal spending means if it goes toward peace, or toward war. Examples:
    • 11 blankets for refugees=11 hand grenades; associate degree for 29 RNs=1 Bunker-buster guided bomb;
    • rent subsidies for 1,000 families=1,000 M-16 rifles;
    • annual salary & benefits for 15 RNs=1 minute of war on Iraq;
    • improve, repair, modernize 20 schools=1 hour of war on Iraq;
    • WIC program nutrition for 200,000 families=7 unmanned Predator drones;
    • 7,000 units of affordable housing=1 year military aid to Colombia;
    • annual salary & benefits for 38,000 elementary teachers-1 Stealth bomber;
    • double federal funding for mass transit=1 year cost of 2001-2003 war in Afghanistan;
    • save 11 million lives worldwide fighting infectious diseases=1 month current US military spending;
    • prevent cuts to education programs for FY 2003=1 day of war on Iraq.
    For a complete source of this info, visit: warresisters.org

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This story was published on June 4, 2003.
  
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