Feb 17, 2006

French Asbestos to South Asia; Enviro/Human Rights Propaganda

So France tried to send over a shitload of asbestos (500 tons) in the shape of the famous ship Clemenceau to the Alang shipyard, off the coasts of Gujarat without anyone being the wiser. Apparently, breaking ships up is a big business for Gujarat. I heard this on BBC news this morning.

Interestingly, a quick search on the BBC news website shows that Dhaka is turning the SS Norway back also. A ship that Greenpeace has listed as one of the top 50 most toxic in the world. 1,250 tons of material containing asbestos.

Wonderful. Send your crap over. Who cares if you kill a few hundred brown shipyard workers over the course of time? Why is there no outcry about the outsourcing of this job to the third world?

Still, dig a little deeper, and you realize the economic impact of environmental regulations that have begun to take hold in India. This piece looks at what's happening in the Alang shipyard - that only 15 of 173 ship breaking yards are even active anymore. This is a particularly poignant quote from a worker:

Gopal Gupta, who traveled Uttar Pradesh to find work at Alang, confirms that times are hard: "I've been coming here for the past six years. Earlier everyone could find work here. Today I can find work only 15 days a month. The rest of the time I have to sell peanuts."
Even though Greenpeace has been pushing for better regulations, as is usual, Greenpeace isn't very welcome by the workers - the work pays, and the money goes to their families. I don't know the details enough to make the analogy to manufacturing jobs from the U.S. sent out to overseas sweatshops, but I'm sure the argument is made by the ship-senders that they are helping out the economy of the poor, brown nation.

Anyway, it's a niche market, and it seems that India is actually losing its position in it to countries with fewer environmental regulations, like neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China. Great - now the ship-cleaning business is going to agitate regional tensions.

But this whole environmental angle lead me to think about rhetoric that I've heard about the tremendous economic growth in India and China, and the projected global environmental impact.

I know that India and China have been under a lot of criticism around issues of sustainable smart growth, emissions, and air pollution. In fact, some projections have stated that China is scheduled to meet the U.S. as the largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world in about 25 years. Then I noticed that the statement is from the U.S. government.

However, another perspective, which really surprised me, is presented here. Interestingly, this particular report says that China is actually reducing its emissions. So what's going on here? I would venture a guess: Just like its selective use of human rights records and nuclear proliferation by China and other countries when it suits its endgame, the United States is using propaganda around environmental concerns to try to ramp up fear and animosity to help quell the competition it sees from places like China and India. Meanwhile, the U.S. walked away from the Kyoto Protocol talks, has its head in the sand about global warming, and doesn't seem to want to move from its obvious oil obsession.

Likewise, the U.S brought the scourge of nuclear weapons to the world, is the only nation to have used them, to devastating effect, upon civilian populations, has the largest arsenal, and clearly doesn't seem interested in standing down. However, it uses the alleged development of nuclear weapons in other nations as justification for preemptive invasion. Well, the grounds for the latest preemptive attack are still up in the air, I suppose.


Returning to the issue of human rights, the sad thing is that Americans, on the whole, actually believe that the United States is a beacon of human rights, based on the innovations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the civil and political rights that are afforded to some of the citizenry here. But they don't realize that the U.S. is shamefully behind much of the industrialized world in the affirmative enforcement of human rights like the rights to housing, to health care, to education, to language, to peace, and freedom from poverty. Not to mention the use of the death penalty, even on juveniles and individuals with mental retardation until very recently. Europe has all but done away with capital punishment.

Can't find a link, but will post one up when I do. Did find this funny thing, though - it's a human rights record report from 2004 that China put out about the U.S., in retaliation it seems, to the United States putting out reports on every country in the world except for itself. It's interesting to see how the language of diplomacy breaks down in this setting (and all the research that went into this compilation of facts!). Of course, China has a strong interest in keeping the U.S. and everyone out of its internal policies, especially where the western provinces, Tibet, Taiwan, and religious minorities are involved.

Some choice quotes (there are quite a few here, and it's really interesting to see a different propaganda machine at work, this time pointing squarely at the US):
As in previous years, the United States once again acted as "the world human rights police" by distorting and censuring in the "reports" the human rights situations in more than 190 countries and regions across the world, including China. And just as usual, the United States once again "omitted" its own long-standing malpractice and problems of human rights in the "reports". Therefore, we have to, as before, help the United States keep its human rights record.

The United States has long been in a violent, crime-ridden society with a severe infringement of the people's rights by law enforcement departments and with a lack of guarantee for the life of people, their freedom and personal safety.

Guns and Criminal Justice
The United States ranked first in private ownership of guns, resulting in drastic rise in gun-related crimes. According to a survey of crime victims, 350,000 criminal cases involving the use of guns were reported in the United States in 2002, and guns were used in 63 percent of the 15,980 killings in 2001. On Aug. 27, 2003, a jobless man carrying a gun broke into a car part supplying company, killing seven of his former colleagues. Statistical figures from US National Center for Health Statistics showed that 56.5 percent of Americans who committed suicides in 2000 with the use of guns, involving 16,586 people (see Gun Violence, Related Facts. www.jointogether.org).

The infringement of lawful rights constitutes a malignant obstinate disease of American society. Random assaults committed by the police resulted in the frequent occurrence of tragedies with heavy casualties. The New York City Police was reported for several willful shooting cases when chasing suspects in January 2003. Four people were killed by the police in the city from Jan. 1 to 5 last year. In Dec. 2003, a black man named Nathaniel Jones was beaten to death by six policemen in Cincinnati, causing a great uproar against police brutality across the country.

The United States claim itself as a paradise for free people but the ratio of inmates in the United States has remained the highest in the world. The number of inmates in the country exceeded 2.1 million in 2002, a year-on-year rise of 2.6 percent, according to the statistical figures released by the Department of Justice in July 2003. The jails nationwide receive 700 new inmates every week in the U.S. where 701 out of every 100,000 people are in prison (see Washington Post on July 28, 2003).

The US is the country that has handed most of the death penalties to juvenile offenders and carried out the most executions in the world. According to a report released by the Amnesty International on Jan. 21, two-thirds of the documented executions of juvenile offenders in the world occurred in the US in the past decade and more. Since 1990, there have been a total of 34 documented executions of juvenile offenders worldwide, and 19 of them happened in the US (an AP dispatch from London on Jan. 2, 2004).

Patriot Act and Privacy
The United States issued the Patriot Act in name of land security and anti-terrorism after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and many substantial contents of this act encroached upon rights and freedom of citizens, especially the people of ethnic minorities. Under the authority of the Patriot Act, the government departments are empowered to wiretap phone calls of citizens, trace their online records, read their private mails and e-mails. The FBI is even allowed to keep a watch on people's reading habits.

Voting Rights and Power
The presidential election, often symbolized as US democracy, infact is the game and competition for the rich people. Presidential candidates have to raise money far and wide for their expensive campaign cost and most of the donors are big companies and millionaires.

International Covenants on Human Rights
Although the United States is the world's No. one developed nation, the US government has to date refused to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is apathetic to the rights and interests of ordinary workers in economic, social and cultural aspects, leading to serious problems such as poverty, hunger and homelessness.

Health Care
The situation of health insurance worsened. According to a report released by the US Census Bureau in September 2003, the number of Americans without health insurance climbed by 5.7 percent over 2001, to reach 43.6 million in 2002, the largest single increase in a decade. Overall, 15.2 percent of the Americans were uninsured in 2002 (see Washington Post on Sept. 30,2003).

Race and America
Racial discrimination in the United States has a long history with age-old malpractice. It has been permeated into every aspects of society. According to an investigative report released by the United Nations, the blacks and colored people received twice or three times more severe penalties than the whites for the crimes of the same kind; the number of black people who received death penalty for killing white people was four times that of the white people for killing black people. In state prisons nationwide, about 47 percent of the inmates were black people, and the 16 percent were people of Latin American ancestry. The blacks accounted for 13 percent of the total US population, yet 35 percent of the people arrested for drug abuse crimes were blacks and 53 percent of the people that were convicted for drug abuse crimes were blacks.

Apartheid recurs at school. More than one third of American students of the African origin are studying in schools where over 90 percent of students are non-white people, according to an investigation made by Harvard University in 2004. Since 1988, many schools abandoned the compulsory racial integration in class due to a series of court verdicts and changes in federal policies.

Little can be spoken of the human rights record in the US in view of protecting the rights of women, children, elderly people and other special disadvantageous social groups.

Gender Equity
American women cannot enjoy the equal rights with men to take part in government and political affairs. Statistics from the Center for American Women in Politics indicated that in 2003, women hold 59, or 13.6 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives, and 14, or 14 percent of the seats in the Senate. Despite an increase in the number of women seated in state legislatures in 2003, they made up only 22.3 percent of the total 7,382 state legislators in the US. (Women in Elected Office 2003 Fact Sheet Summaries, www.cawp.rutgers.edu/Facts/Officeholds/cawpfs.html).

There has been serious domestic and sexual violence against women. According to figures released by the White House in October2003, a total of 700,000 incidents of domestic violence were reported in the U.S. in 2001. One-third of women murdered each year are murdered by their current or former husbands or partners (National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 2003, by George W. Bush, www.whitehouse.gov).

International Relations
In recent years, the United States has been practicing unilateralism in the international arena, indulging itself in military aggression around the world, brutal violation of sovereign rights of other nations. Its image has been tarnished by numerous misdeeds of human rights infringement in other countries.

The United States has been active in sabre-rattling and launching wars. It is the No. One in terms of gross violation of other countries' sovereign rights and other people's human rights.The United States has resorted to the use of force against other countries 40 times since 1990s. Well-known US journalist and writer William Blum said in his recent book "Rouge State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower" that since 1945, the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, suppressed over 30 national movements, in which millions of people have lost their precious lives and many more people been plunged into misery and despair.

The US is the nation with the most troops stationed overseas, about 364,000 troops in over 130 countries and regions. The violations of human rights against local people frequently occurred.

For a long time, the US State Department has been publishing "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" every year. It presumes to be the "Judge of Human Rights in the World" and, regardless of the differences and disparities among different countries in politics, economy, history, culture and social development and strong opposition from other countries, denounces other countries unreasonably for their human rights status in compliance with its own ideology, value and human rights model. Meanwhile, it has turned a blind eye to its own human rights problems. This fully exposed the dual standards of the U.S. on human rights and its hegemonism. The human rights record of the U.S. is absolutely not in accord with its position as a world power, which constitutes a strong irony against its self-granted title ofa big power in human rights. The United States should take its own human rights problems seriously, reflect on its erroneous position and behavior on human rights, and stop its unpopular interference with other countries' internal affairs under the pretext of promoting human rights.


Rage said...

Thanks for sharing.

flygirl said...

Erm. Yes, thanks invisble commenter (?)
O, Rage, stop imposing your snooty Westernised notions of fair and safe work pratices. They just want to earn a living, okay? They just want to do their job. Safety is a rarefied, elite notion, for when your stockmarket rises above the 4000 point mark. The poor are grateful, as they should be, dammit.


Amelopsis said...

Yeah I did post a comment a while back - it's either disappeared or has been deleted.