No. 201, Nov. 21-27, 2002




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Australians defy ban, march against WTO

Thousands participated in protests in Sydney, Australia, throughout the three days of the WTO ministerial meeting, Nov. 14-16, 2002.

Compiled by Seán Marquis

Nov. 20 (AGR)— The World Trade Organization (WTO) held an “informal” ministerial meeting in Sydney, Australia last week and over 2,000 people met in the streets — despite police bans on demonstrations — to challenge the undemocratic rulemaking and enforcing body.

The trade ministers came from 25 countries, including 17 from the third world, representing 80 percent of world trade.

Lawyers and law students from the University of Technology-Sydney’s Community Legal Center observed police behavior during the demonstrations and were considering lodging a report with the New South Wales (NSW) Ombudsman.

Police arrested over 50 people, including an Associated Press photographer, during two and a half days of protests.

The two-day Sydney WTO meeting was the first by trade ministers since the Doha round of trade talks last year and aimed to smooth the way to the next full WTO conference in Mexico in 2003.

The trade talks took place at a tightly guarded hotel at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Park site. The federal government used anti-terrorism legislation enacted for the Olympics to declare the whole site a virtual exclusion zone.
On Nov. 8, a forum on civil disobedience for some 60-odd academics and activists at the State Parliament’s function room was reported by some mainstream media as “terror groups” infiltrating the state’s power base.

The NSW government also asked the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) to use internet censorship legislation to block access to local web sites like <> and <>, arguing that these advocated violence against the police. The ABA rejected the request last week.

It is not only free trade in goods and services and its impact on society that is at issue, said Penny O’Donnell, journalism lecturer at the University of Technology-Sydney. “The future of free trade in news is one of the great unknowns of the globalization debate.”

Police refused to issue permits for street marches in central Sydney from Nov. 13 to 17.

“It seems that the police want to provoke a reaction from protesters by making it impossible for people to remain in a passive and peaceful demonstration,” said Jim Casey, an organizer with the Direction Action Collective.

Protesters were also banned from using placards or banners or public service announcement systems.

On Thursday a commentary by James Arvanitakis, a board member of the international aid monitoring group AID/WATCH, appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Arvanitakis described how he had turned from a banker into a protester.

Protesters shake the security fence surrounding the
WTO ministerial meeting site in Olympic Park.

“From an economist, banker and someone with financial market experience, I have become a so-called anti-globalization protester… This happened when, after a very successful year working for a financial institution, I traveled through South America. I was continually overcome with the staggering contradictions… The wealth of few sat on the poverty of many,” he wrote.

“I had an epiphany,” Arvanitakis continued. “I realized that for every currency and interest rate speculator, there are millions who are fighting to survive the day. That when I cheered because interest rates would rise (and a bonus was forthcoming), there was someone in my city that would no longer make their mortgage repayments.

“I realized that the real cost of my car is the life lost in [South American] mines because of inadequate safety procedures. And the world’s poorest nations only have two things to trade -- their environment and their cheap labor.”

The first of the public actions coordinated to protest the WTO mini-ministerial meeting focused on Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock and the treatment of refugees by the Australian state.

The demonstration gathered in front of the Town Hall around 5pm on Wednesday with representatives from the No One Is Illegal Collective, Socialist Alliance (Red Bloc), Sydney No Borders, Resistance, Refugee Action Coalition, and a number of other affinity groups associated with the NoWTO network and anarchist groups.

Speakers talked about the conditions refugees face in Australia’s “Detention Centers” -- a government euphemism for guarded concentration camps in the Outback. Protesters defied the police ban on protests and, led by a troop of radical cheerleaders, they filled George Street with bodies and banners including one that read: “Refugees Behind Fences, Workers Behind Borders, Capital Moves Freely.”

Thursday’s march began on Martin Pl. where three women from Melbourne lay naked in front of the US consulate, covered in fake blood, between two banners saying: “End the War on Women” and “We are all responsible for the blood the US sheds.”

Instead of a following a pre-planned route the march took over intersections, dancing and cheering and used a “spin-the-bottle” approach to decide where to head next. “Another World Is Possible,” “Free the refugees,” “Say no to corporate greed,” “Confront the spectacle with its own irrelevance” — activists chalked slogans on streets and even city buses accompanied by enthusiastic chanting of “Bullshit, Come off it, This war is just for profit.”

“Peace Police” with hobby horses, banging together half coconuts, formed the cavalry of the march.

The protest was largely peaceful, although several people were arrested and one woman was trampled by a police horse.

Friday’s rally was full of chanting, banner-waving, and slogan chalking and conga lines swung past police lines with chants of “Who let the dogs out!” while others participated in an “illegal” soccer game.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald a group of the protesters were playing soccer at Olympic Park when an officer snatched the ball away and another warned the protesters to disperse or face arrest.

Officers then formed a wall and charged the crowd, selectively arresting 13 men and three women, who were carried or dragged to police wagons.

Earlier, seven men and two women were led away to two police vans after protesters attempted to storm the three-meter-high steel fence -- part of the summit’s $5million security detail -- around Olympic Park.

Some protesters were arrested by twelve-officer snatch squads of police.

“Police just came out now and grabbed someone who had a drum,” said Damien Lawson, a protester. “That was the sole basis for coming out and arresting him.

“It’s indicative of what this protest is about. Rich people who stop us from having our voices heard.”

Some of the protesters, from an alliance of left wing activists, anarchists, environmentalists, and other causes, blew soap bubbles in the face of police. Others chanted “peace, peace” and “we have a right to demonstrate -- this is not a police state.”

Commercial radio hijacked

A pirate radio broadcast jammed commercial radio signals on Friday morning. The action by the Institute For Applied Piracy disrupted usual programming by blocking commercial signals for 10 minutes with an anti-WTO report.

The transmission explained to listeners that the WTO abuses human rights, world health, worker’s rights, and the environment and increases inequality between rich and poor and gave specific examples of WTO preferring profits over people.

A transcript of the broadcast reads in part: “The World Trade Organization is an international body that exists to promote international free trade, at any cost… their decisions have impact on almost every aspect of your life from your wages and conditions at work to education, health, the food you eat, to indigenous issues and the environment. …In Africa, 11 million people have died of AIDS, yet the WTO discourages them from buying cheaply-produced generic life-saving drugs, insisting the rights of drug companies to protect their profits through patents is more important than saving lives… Commercial media is protecting its own profits by suppressing discussion about the WTO.”

Sources: Aotearoa Independent Media Center, Agence France Presse, BBC, Inter Press Service, Sydney Morning Herald






New, stricter panhandling
ordinance hits Asheville

By Liz Allen

Asheville, North Carolina, Nov. 19 (AGR)— Asheville Chief of Police Will Annarino presented a proposed anti-begging, sleeping outdoors ordinance at approximately 10:30pm at the Asheville City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The ordinance was passed unanimously by city council members despite requests from a vocal majority of citizens at the meeting asking the council to seek more community-oriented solutions to the area’s homelessness problem instead of resorting to legal measures.

All types of solicitation are now illegal in the central downtown area, including those of the Salvation Army, the Girl Scouts, and street musicians with open guitar cases or hats asking for tips. Although inquired about by council members Holly Jones and Jim Ellis, permits are unlikely to be a possible alternative for such groups. According to city attorneys, it is necessary to ban all forms of solicitation to avoid an unconstitutional restriction on speech content.

Bruce Elmore, representing the WNC American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at the council meeting, called the criminalization of begging or sleeping in public an infringement on First Amendment freedom of speech and assembly rights. In the judiciary, restrictions on the content of speech must survive a “strict scrutiny” review — meaning that in order to pass constitutional muster, a compelling government interest must be present. Elmore stated he felt the court would find attractiveness to tourists and the free flow of pedestrian traffic to be important but not compelling governmental interests.

Council members expressed interest in expanding the ordinance to other sections of Asheville, such as Montford and Tunnel road. However, the city attorney felt this would not be legally possible. The ordinance was specifically tailored to only apply to the central downtown area in order to fit current constitutional restrictions on “time, place, and manner.”

Selective enforcement was a concern voiced by members of the public and reiterated by Councilperson Brian Peterson. “I know if the Chief [Annarino] saw a criminal offense he would give a ticket.”

Asheville resident Allie Morris expressed doubt that she would receive a citation if she were caught short of money and asked a stranger for change “because I’m a cute little white girl who appears to have a job and a house and it’s socially acceptable for me to exist.”

In response to predictions of selective enforcement, the city attorney pointed out that the term is “prosecutorial discretion” and it is common police practice.

In supporting the bill, several council members expressed their feelings that the homeless issues should be addressed by organizations such as churches and shelters.

Council woman Holly Jones, in a teary-eyed statement supporting the ordinance, stated that by choosing downtown establishments for dining out and gift-buying she supports downtown with her checkbook. Additionally, she was horrified when she heard that two homeless people died in a fire “two blocks away from my front door.” She asked that in passing the ordinance, initiative should be taken to create a social justice task force, $20,000 should be given to the AHOPE shelter to expand its hours to Saturdays, and that the city create more public restrooms.

The issues of restrooms and money were postponed for further decision.

Council member Joe Dunn expressed doubt and concern over giving the shelter money, saying it could cost money that should be used for public restrooms.

A variety of groups and citizens were represented at the meeting, the majority speaking against the ordinance. Martha Are, co-chair of a local homeless coalition and director of area shelter, the Hospitality House, pointed out that on any given night in Asheville there are a hundred people more than the local shelters can accommodate.

“If this ordinance passes as is, I don’t know what to tell people when we close,” said Are. “The sick joke is Immodium AD and No Doz.”

Are said most people on the street want to be law-abiding but don’t have a choice when it comes to basic bodily functions.

A representative from Helpmate, a local shelter for battered women, compared the ordinance’s rigid control over another person’s right to sleep or relieve themselves to cases of domestic abuse.

“The abuser sets up the rules of the rules such that the rules have elements of living that the abused can’t possibly live up to,” offered the spokesperson.

In presenting the ordinance, Chief Annarino stated that he felt the ordinance is necessary to eliminate street nuisances that impact traffic and tourism. He made the claim that people give panhandlers money because they are afraid of what might happen if they refused. He also expressed the belief that panhandlers have prior criminal records and may use the money to buy drugs or alcohol.

In a phone interview, Annarino explained that the violation of the ordinance is a Class III misdemeanor, not subject to jail time but carries a $50­500 fine decided on by a judge. He said before citations are issued, the APD’s first task is to educate people on the ordinance; talking to homeless advocates, churches, the shelters and the people staying in them. Annario said outreach to the general public is also necessary to “Let those folks know that they are literally contributing to a crime if they give people money.” Other forms of education will include giving individual warnings “which we do a lot of anyway; generally, anyone who is cited has had several warnings.”

“Its time that the silent majority be spoken for,” said Dunn in support of the ordinance.

Councilman Dunn criticized the ACLU as a special interest group, accusing them of being silent on constitutional issues like school prayer and rights to arms and uninterested in the rights of the majority.

“Poverty is not an excuse for disobeying and disrespecting the laws of this country, ” Dunn admonished, claiming those present could vote him and his fellow council members out if unhappy with their decisions.

The council meeting lasted seven hours and was adjourned at 12:15 am on Wednesday morning, the ordinance issue being discussed last, after several public hearings for development issues.

A demonstration was held against the anti-loitering law on Friday, Nov. 15. A group of around 50 people sat on the Buncombe County Courthouse steps for about an hour and then began overusing the crosswalk on College Street to gain attention.





Senate passes Homeland
Security Act

Compiled by Seán Marquis

Nov. 20 (AGR)— The Senate today passed the Homeland Security bill by a lopsided vote of 90-9 after Senate Democrats failed to remove special-interest provisions in the legislation and then overwhelmingly voted for it. The vote was a victory for President George W. Bush, who has been pushing for the creation of the massive new Cabinet-level agency.

The House last week provisionally finished its work for the year, and now can approve minor technical changes in the Senate version without calling lawmakers back to Washington.

The measure will create a massive new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, merging 22 agencies and 170,000 workers into one agency.

The reorganization is the biggest remaking of the federal government in decades, with the new department taking in such familiar government institutions as the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There were seven provisions Democrats had attempted to remove including one aimed at protecting pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits over vaccines they create and their side effects. The protections would be retroactive to lawsuits already in court.

Democrats said that among the lawsuits to be thrown out are those involving claims that mercury-based preservatives used in vaccines cause autism in children.

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-TX argued that liability protections are needed becuase “we are treating smallpox vaccines as an instrument of the war on terrorism.”

The bill also includes liability protections for makers of airport screening equipment and airport security firms and guts an amendment offered by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-MN, that would have barred companies that set up offshore tax havens from getting federal homeland security contracts.

Tucked into the nearly 484-page bill is a provision that permits the creation of university-based centers for homeland security.

It sets 15 standards that a university must meet to qualify for a lucrative federal grant and become a “center for Homeland Security.”

The provision on vaccinations provides liability protections for certain vaccine manufacturers, such as Eli Lilly and Dow Chemicals.

Critics say the language is designed to block lawsuits based on controversial components such as the mercury-based thimerosal, which is used as a preservative in vaccines. Pending lawsuits argue that the preservative is responsible for autism in children and other neurological disorders.

Sellers of “anti-terrorism” technologies would also get liability protections. If an anti-terrorism product fails to provide protection in a terrorist act, the seller would be exempt from punitive damages, and liability would be limited to the seller’s liability insurance.

Also included are provisions that would allow the arming of airline pilots and life prison terms for computer hackers who “recklessly” endanger people’s lives.

The bill also greatly curtails the Freedom of Information Act and would allow the federal government to override state open-records laws and prohibit the release of any information that a state received from the department.

All citizen’s are ‘suspect’

The Homeland Security Act gives federal agencies significant new powers to track what US citizens are reading, writing, and buying online and will enable law-enforcement groups to compel internet service providers to hand over client records revealing everything from their personal e-mail messages to their favorite web sites.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said that the bill “allows the police to go to internet service providers and obtain records of customer activity, without a warrant… that would allow a law enforcement agent with access to your online surfing activities to determine where you’ve been and what you’ve been interested in.”

 Rotenberg took particular exception to the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program – created as part of the new bill — which is to be headed by Adm. John Poindexter. Poindexter is currently director of the Information Awareness Office in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and was national security adviser for President Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal. He was convicted in 1990 on five felonies including lying to Congress and destroying evidence.

 “The problem with many of these systems of surveillance — and this will be particularly true with Total Information Awareness — is that it may be total information for the government, but it’s total secrecy for the people,” Rotenberg said. “There will be no notification of the public when personal information is collected or how it’s being used or whether it’s being added to a profiling system to detect some type of anomaly.”

TIA would be within a new agency — the Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (SARPA), which would be modeled on DARPA, the central research office for the Defense Department. DARPA and SARPA both would be under the supervision of Adm. Poindexter.

 “There is a great danger in this provision. It gives carte blanche to eavesdrop on Americans on the flimsiest of evidence, if any evidence at all,” said Phil Kent, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation.

“I think it’s the most sweeping threat to civil liberties since Japanese-American internment,” Kent said.

Even conservative New York Times columnist William Safire spoke out about the new bill in a Nov. 14 commentary titled “You are a suspect.”

“Here is what will happen to you,” wrote Safire, “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’”

Safire continued, “To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you — passport application, driver’s license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the FBI, your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance — and you have the supersnoop’s dream: a ‘Total Information Awareness’ about every US citizen.”

Backdoor police state

The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) said that one section of the legislation would allow the head of the Health and Human Services (HHS) department to order US citizens to receive potentially deadly vaccines against their will.

AAPS said the dubious medical emergency language is contained in Section 304, titled, “Administration of Counter Measures Against Smallpox.”

The bill gives HHS authority to declare an actual or potential bio-terrorist incident while giving the secretary the power to “administer ‘countermeasures’” – like forced immunizations – to “a category of individuals or everyone.” Also, the bill gives HHS the power to “continually extend” the emergency declaration indefinitely, without Congress’ consent.

“Also, if you are harmed” by the “countermeasures,” “you cannot sue or take any other civil remedy,” AAPS said.

“This section will give the [HHS] secretary unlimited power to define a real or potential threat, to take any measures he decides and to do it for as long as he wants,” said Kathryn Serkes, a spokeswoman for AAPS.

Serkes said the provision dealing with HHS reminds her of similar emergency legislation directed at empowering governors.

The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act gives governors the power to order the collection of all data and records on citizens, ban firearms, take control of private property, and quarantine entire cities, under the auspices of protecting “the health and safety of citizens from epidemics and bioterrorism,” according to one analysis.

Domestic spying: already in a city near you

President Bush’s top national security advisers have begun discussing the creation of a new domestic intelligence agency that would take over responsibility for domestic spying and analysis from the Federal bureau of Investigation (FBI), according to US government officials and intelligence experts.

On Veterans Day, top national security officials gathered for two hours to discuss the issue in a meeting chaired by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George J. Tenet, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, Robert S. Mueller III and six others attended.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge was recently dispatched to London for a briefing on MI5, an British spy agency empowered to collect and analyze domestic intelligence.

Any new agency would not replace the FBI but would have the primary role in gathering and analyzing intelligence about US citizens and foreign nationals in the US.

“We’re either going to create a working, effective, substantial domestic intelligence unit in the FBI or create a new agency,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-AL.), ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The CIA has been expanding its domestic presence, placing agents with nearly all of the FBI’s 56 terrorism task forces in US cities, under a program initiated by FBI Director Mueller.

In many cities, according to local FBI special agents, the CIA employees help plan daily operations and set priorities, as well as share information about suspected foreigners and groups.

Ellen Knowlton, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas field office, called the CIA officers in her office “full and active participants” in day-to-day operations. The exchange of ideas among the FBI, the CIA, and local law enforcement “is very interactive,” she said.

Sources: Associated Press, Knight Ridder Newspapers, NBC, Newsweek, New York Times, MSNBC, Washington Post,
Washington Times,





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