The Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our America (Spanish: Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra AmÃ©rica or ALBA – which also means ‘dawn’ in Spanish) is an international cooperation organization based upon the idea of social, political, and economic integration between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The agreement was initially proposed by the government of Venezuela as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA or ALCA in Spanish) proposed by the United States. While the ALBA itself has not yet become a hemispheric-wide trade agreement, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia have entered into a Peoples’ Trade Agreement (Spanish: “Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos” – TCP) which aims to implement the principles of ALBA between those four nations. However, Nicaragua is also a member of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
The adjective Bolivarian refers to general SimÃ³n BolÃvar, who is revered as a hero throughout much of Latin America for his leadership of independence movements in South America against Spanish colonial power. In addition, BolÃvar is a major figure in Venezuelan President Hugo ChÃ¡vez’s hemispheric ideology Bolivarianism.
Unlike neoliberal free trade agreements, the ALBA represents an attempt at regional economic integration that is not based primarily on trade liberalization but on a vision of social welfare and mutual economic aid.
The Cuba-Venezuela Agreement, which was signed on December 14, 2004 by Presidents Hugo ChÃ¡vez and Fidel Castro, was aimed at the exchange of medical resources and petroleum between both nations. Venezuela delivers about 96,000 barrels of oil per day from its state-owned petroleum operations to Cuba at very favorable prices and Cuba in exchange sent 20,000 state-employed medical staff and thousands of teachers to Venezuela’s slums.
President Evo Morales of poor but gas-rich Bolivia joined the TCP on April 29, 2006, only days before he announced his intention to nationalize Bolivia’s hydrocarbon assets. Newly elected President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, signed the agreement in January 2007; Venezuela agreed to forgive Nicaragua’s $31 million debt as a result. On February 23, 2007 Ortega visited Caracas to solidify Nicaragua’s participation in ALBA. Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, signed a joint agreement with Hugo ChÃ¡vez, to become a member of ALBA once he becomes president, but as of 2008 Ecuador has not joined the organization.
The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, has hailed the signing of the trade agreement with Venezuela as a significant historical milestone in relations between the Caribbean and Latin America. He along with the Prime Ministers of Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed onto ALBA.
In January 2008, Dominica, a small island in the Caribbean, joined ALBA.
Five men who claimed they could solve any problem through supernatural powers and genies they had “domesticated” have been arrested by Bangladesh’s elite security force, an official said Wednesday.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) took the five into custody in a day-long operation on Tuesday after they were accused of swindling people out of large sums of money, captain Rezaul Karim said.
“Every day, these genie-powered godmen place ads in the newspapers claiming they can solve any problem on earth through supernatural powers and genies that they have captured and ‘domesticated,'” Karim said.
“They took large amounts of money from jilted lovers promising they would bring back the ones they love. They claim to have power to reunite separated couples in just 72 hours, win lotteries as far away as in Germany or boost sexual powers,” he said.
The RAB, the country’s top security force, which is normally assigned to fight Islamic terrorists or top Maoist outlaws, stormed dens of other alleged godmen, but many had gone into hiding, Karim said.
The so-called godmen have been flourishing in impoverished Bangladesh, and some of them have millions of followers. The arrests marked the first time the government has sought to rein in their activities.
The emergency government ruling Bangladesh has vowed to stamp out corruption before it holds national elections by the end of the year.
Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: Canada Council Club ref no 3215-06-0101 (fwd)
After 35 years, I knew damn-well that you creepy,
conspiring, incestuous, artworld-acolytes wouldn’t fund my
media project (even in this time of urgent-need), but
returning my audiovisual support material with a snotty
letter stating that the application was incomplete due to
missing audiovisual support material–and so wouldn’t even
be adjudicated, is a new low. Do you actually get paid (with
my tax-dollars) for this disservice?!
To: The Canada Council Arts Club
350 Albert Street POB 1047
Ottawa ON K1P5V8
1) given your refusal of even marginal funding and hostile rejection of applications for over 35 years, subsequent applications will be filed only upon receipt of a $50,000 fee in advance
2) given your refusal of funding/validation (and consequently, employment and exhibition opportunities), for 35 years, your oppressive/restrictive current application requirements cannot possibly be entertained
3) a written apology and explanation of your past corrupt behaviour is also demanded
4) failure to reply within seven (7) days and submit fees may result in legal restitution procedures
Progress on food security issues will only come when we begin to ask the right question and challenge the myths that trap us.
by Frances Moore Lappe
News broadcasts report a horrific â€œworld food crisis.â€ But there is no food shortage. In fact, thereâ€™s more than enough food to make us all chubbyâ€”even counting only the â€œleftovers,â€ what remains after turning more than a third of the worldâ€™s grain and fish catch into feed.
The forecast for world cereal production in 2008 stands at a record 2,164 million metric tons, says the U.N.â€™s Food and Agriculture Organization. Thatâ€™s an increase of 2.6 percent over last year, the previous global high.
Again: The shortage is not of food. It is one of democracy. At its heart, democracy means power distributed so that citizensâ€™ interestsâ€”our values and our common senseâ€”show up in policies.
Yet, can you imagine citizens anywhere setting things up so that just one company, controlling a huge share of the entire worldâ€™s grain trade, could enjoy a 65 percent profit surge last year, while at the same time food price hikes are pushing 100 million more people into poverty and hunger? (The most recent quarterly Archer Daniels Midland profit surge came largely from the companyâ€™s financial division that makes money on price volatility via commodity futures trading.)
Or think about this: In a world where even before this historic price climb almost a billion people couldnâ€™t afford enough to eat, what citizen would say, â€œWhy donâ€™t we start shifting prime farmland into agrofuel production and push prices still higher!?â€
Neither could happen if citizens had real power. Each violates our common sense and our hardwired human need for fairness.
So this crisis makes me ask: Why are we playing Monopoly when we could be living democracy? In todayâ€™s deadly global Monopoly game, the biggest money players get ever bigger while most others get progressively knocked out of the game. Weâ€™ve seen it in the housing market and now weâ€™re seeing it in the food market. In this game, what does growth mean? The 1990s saw considerable economic expansion, but for every $100 in growth only 60 cents went toward ending poverty. In Monopoly, after many long hours the game finally ends, and all but one player goes to bed â€œbroke.â€ Everybodyâ€™s had fun. But in real life, itâ€™s not fun. The outcome is premature death for millions of our fellow humans.
FOR 40 YEARS Iâ€™ve been asking why it is so hard for humans to see the needless misery weâ€™re generating. Gradually I came to see that in large measure the answer is the power of ideas. One very dangerous idea perpetuating our global democracy crisis is this: We humans are so flawed that we have to turn over our fate to an infallible, almost mystical force: The Market. The danger is that this idea leaves us feeling powerless. Weâ€™re blind to the obvious fact that left to its own devices, unguided by democracy, a market inexorably concentrates wealth and power so tightly that it infects political decision-making. So we end up with, in effect, â€œprivately heldâ€ government.
The result? Hunger-generating policies that no assemblage of real citizens would dream up.
For several decades, for example, countries in the Global South were encouraged by international lending, aid, and trade agencies to let go of the goal of food independence. While in the North many extol the goal of oil independence, comparable food independence was somehow deemed a bad idea. Aid was often proffered on conditions that undermined local producers. In 1986 John Block, Ronald Reaganâ€™s agriculture secretary, called the idea of poor countries feeding themselves an â€œanachronism of a bygone era.â€
Within a generation, countries in the Global South that had been food exporters became massive food importers. And today, as food prices jumped by almost half in nine months, poor people are livingâ€”or, more accurately, dyingâ€”from the consequences of this disastrous policy.
Peeling away the layers to grasp the roots of needless hunger, we find them in peopleâ€™s lack of powerâ€”the lack of capacity to act on our values and in our interests. If hunger results from extreme power imbalances in human relationships, the questions before us are:
How do we empower more and more people, starting with ourselves?
How do we reshape relationships so everyone has the power to live in dignity and to meet their needs?
Through this new lens, removing the influence of money in political decision-making is not a separate political matter; it is essential to ending hunger on this abundant planet. In the past decade, for example, U.S. agribusiness spent almost $1 billion lobbying our government for policies, including massive farm subsidies, that are in many cases undermining poor peopleâ€™s capacities to feed themselves. Such subsidies, for example, undermine smallholders, from corn growers in Mexico to cotton growers in Mali.
Many Americans have given up on reclaiming democracy from moneyed interests. They should not. It can be done; it is being done. We must crack open the best-kept secret in America: that public financing of elections is working statewide in three states. We can take that success national. (Visit www.just6dollars.org.) SimultaÂneÂously, we can get behind candidates in this election year who commit to shifting support to family-scale sustainable farmers in all aid and trade legislation, domestic as well as in foreign, and who are willing to halt the deadly agrofuel program. (One third of U.S. corn production will go to ethanol this year.)
Through the lens of remaking power relationships, we also see food as a right of citizenship, one now inscribedâ€”either for all citizens or for childrenâ€”in 22 national constitutions. We know how to make this right real. And we can build on the proven anti-hunger policies of progressive taxation, a legal minimum wage that is a living wage, anti-monopoly enforcement, and protection of the rights of trade unions. In the same vein, we can back policies that encourage producer and consumer cooperatives, the kind that already create more jobs worldwide than do multinational corporations.
To prevent future crises, we can embrace the goal of food independence, as much as possible, at both the local and national levels. For how can any people feel free if they remain at the mercy of international market vagaries and maniÂpulation?
Todayâ€™s food price rises are predictable outcomes of policies flowing from decades of anti-democratic decision-making. Each of us can explain to our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and legislators that our crisis is human-made. Food scarcity is a myth; the deeper scarcity is of democracy. And we can spread the good news, too, that we each have the power to be part of creating real, living democracy.
Frances Moore LappÃ©, cofounder of the Small Planet Institute, is the author of 16 books, including, most recently, Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, & Courage in a World Gone Mad.
The perils that African immigrants face as they try to cross the unforgiving Atlantic have again been highlighted. At least six lost their lives as a boat carrying 59 people tried to reach the Canary Islands last Friday. They were found dead as their boat docked on the Santiago beach in Alajero on La Gomera. The previous Wednesday, 15 immigrants, includng nine children, lost their lives off the Almerica coastline.
The authorities believe there could be as many as 6,000 immigrants waiting to do the crossing in search of a better life despite the treacherous conditions they would have to face. Another cayuco boat carrying 66 immigrants was also intercepted just a short distance from Puerto ColÃ³n on Tenerife. Three of the occupants had to be taken to hospital. There were two children among the 66 passengers, as well as three women.
Two days before, a small boat packed with at least 148 African migrants landed on a beach on the south coast.
The flimsy fibreglass vessel arrived at La Tejita beach as windsurfers were preparing to take to the sea. They, and tourists, alerted the police.
The occupants had tried to run inland when spotted but were rounded up and detained. One man, who was dehrydrated and suffering from hypothermia, collapsed on the beach and was taken to hospital.
Guardia Civil sources and several Non-Governmental Organisations have estimated that there are as many as 6,000 people from the Sub-Sahara area who are waiting; 2,000 in Mauritania and 4,000 in Morocco, to find an illegal crossing on a boat to Spain.
The travellers journey starts in countries such as Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria or Mali, and the longer Mauritanian route is favoured by some as there is no repatriation agreement in place with Spain.
Nearly 100 people have fallen victim to mass hysteria, a temporary psychiatric illness, in Bangladesh, the Independent newspaper reported Tuesday. The endemic illness broke out in the southwestern district of Jessore, 164 km southwest of the capital, between July 2 and July 7.
A total of 70 students were admitted to hospital.
Mass hysteria became rampant in the country last year with several hundred people suffering from it. Most of them were students.
Mass hysteria usually affects specific groups, mostly students aged between 13 and 25, and is usually accompanied by headache, convulsion and loss of consciousness.
The disease spreads quickly from one person to another.
Experts say anxiety and worry are the two main precipitating causes of the psychological problem, which is aggravated by malnutrition, tension and lack of tolerance.
A girl accuses the officer who killed a 20-year-old Irishman during a recent burglary call.
A cop from Silverton who fatally shot an Irish national while making a burglary call two weeks ago was jailed early Sunday on charges that he sexually abused an underage girl.
The allegations surfaced Saturday, when a woman and her daughter dropped in to the Keizer police station, accusing Silverton officer Tony Gonzalez, 35, of sexually abusing the girl on multiple occasions.
Authorities declined to identify the girl, other than to say she was younger than 18. They provided no details about when or where the sexual incidents allegedly occurred.
Gonzalez was held on two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, a felony that carries a 75-month minimum sentence, and three counts of third-degree sex abuse.
The officer remains on administrative leave from the Silverton Police Department pending the outcome of an investigation into the June 30 shooting of Andrew “A.J.” Hanlon. The 20-year-old Irishman, described by family members as mentally disturbed, had lived with his sister for about a year in the town east of Salem.
Gonzalez was responding to a burglary call when he spotted Hanlon, yelled a warning, then shot him to death. Authorities have declined to release details of the incident.
Hanlon’s brother-in-law, Nathan Heise, has said the young man had a habit of banging on their door when he wanted to be let in. Heise and his wife believe that Hanlon had mistakenly gone to the wrong house, startling the residents and prompting the call to police.
Marion County Deputy District Attorney Matt Kemmy, the prosecutor handling the official investigation of the shooting, said he expects to present the case before a grand jury in the next two weeks. That panel will decide whether the shooting of Hanlon was justified.
Kemmy, who suddenly found himself looking into the sex-abuse charges against Gonzalez on Saturday night, said the two cases are unrelated. It was happenstance, he said, that the girl stepped forward with her allegations against Gonzalez after news media carried accounts of Hanlon’s shooting.
“It will be more clear as time goes on,” he said, but the two cases “are independent.”
Silverton police declined comment Sunday about the allegations Gonzalez faces, but police are expected to issue a statement today.
Hanlon’s family, intrigued by news of Gonzalez’s arrest, referred comments about the development to their Portland lawyer, Kelly Clark.
“It would be odd to say this morning’s developments don’t change anything, because they raise all kinds of questions,” Clark said on Sunday. “But we just think now is not the time for us to be asking questions or making public comments.”
Hanlon’s family, which wept through his funeral in Silverton on Saturday afternoon, will wait until the district attorney’s office and Silverton police conclude their investigations of the young man’s shooting, Clark said.
“Let’s assume the officer is charged with some sort of a crime in the shooting of A.J.; that’s going to leave them — the family — with one set of reactions,” Clark said. “If nothing happens, or the response comes back that the authorities believe he was fully justified, then the family will be probably in a completely different frame of mind.”
Gonzalez was held for a little more than an hour in the Marion County jail early Sunday before he was taken to Polk County and booked into jail there.
“It was for his safety,” said Polk County communications supervisor Ian Wilson. “He had made arrests in that county and it wouldn’t be safe for him to be in Marion County Jail.”
Kemmy said he will file a district attorney’s information against Gonzalez today, which will formally charge him with sex abuse. The prosecutor said he expects to take the allegations before a grand jury sometime before July 22.
Gonzalez will be arraigned Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court and “will not have an opportunity to make bail until arraignment,” said Marion County Sheriff’s Office Commander Jason Myers.
Just two days ago, Gordon Brown was urging us all to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions.
But yesterday the Prime Minister and other world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis.
The dinner, and a six-course lunch, at the summit of leading industrialised nations on the island of Hokkaido, included delicacies such as caviar, milkfed lamb, sea urchin and tuna, with champagne and wines flown in from Europe and the U.S.
But the extravagance of the menus drew disapproval from critics who thought it hypocritical to produce such a lavish meal when world food supplies are under threat.
On Sunday, Mr Brown called for prudence and thrift in our kitchens, after a Government report concluded that 4.1million tonnes of food was being wasted by householders.
He suggested we could save up to Â£8 a week by making our shopping go further. It was vital to reduce ‘unnecessary demand’ for food, he said.
Last night’s dinner menu was created by Katsuhiro Nakamura, the first Japanese chef to win a Michelin star. It was themed: Hokkaido, blessings of the earth and the sea.
But Dominic Nutt, of the charity Save the Children, did not approve.
‘It is deeply hypocritical that they should be lavishing course after course on world leaders when there is a food crisis and millions cannot afford a decent meal,’ he said.
‘If the G8 wants to betray the hopes of a generation of children, it is going the right way about it. The food crisis is an emergency and the G8 must treat it as that.’
In 2005, at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, world leaders promised to increase global aid by Â£25billion a year by 2010 and raise aid to Africa, the world’s poorest continent, by Â£12.5billion. But the bloc of rich nations is only 14 per cent of the way towards hitting its target.
Britain is meeting its commitments in full, but other countries are understood to be dragging their feet – and there are fears the figures on global aid could be watered down.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, who face pressure to cut spending at home, are understood to be leading the charge to weaken the Gleneagles proposal.
Tory international development spokesman Andrew Mitchell said: ‘The G8 have made a bad start to their summit, with excessive cost and lavish consumption.
‘Surely it is not unreasonable for each leader to give a guarantee that they will stand by their solemn pledges of three years ago at Gleneagles to help the world’s poor.
‘All of us are watching, waiting and listening.’
A World Bank study released last week estimated that up to 105million more people, including 30million in Africa, could drop below the poverty line because of rising food prices.
Yesterday the European Union agreed to channel Â£800million in unused European farm subsidies to African farmers, as part of its response to the global food crisis.
‘The EU really can give a boost to agriculture in developing countries,’ Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, told the meeting.
The money will be used to buy seed and fertiliser and fund agriculture projects in Africa.
The meal was served at the Windsor Hotel, on the shores of Lake Toya, where the presidential suite costs Â£7,000 a night.
Japan has spent a record sum of money and deployed about 20,000 police to seal off the remote lakeside town of Toyako for the three-day talks.
Cases of what doctors call hysteria, and which Coast residents believe are ghost attacks, have increased.
Last year, ‘ghosts’ attacked Mbaraki Primary School. Then Mombasa Mayor Sharrif Shekue rushed to the school with two goats – a black and a white, which were sacrificed in the school compound to ‘appease the spirits’.
But Muslim and Christian parents opposed this, saying only superstitious people allowed sacrifices in schools. The incident made many parents withdraw their children from the school, leading to suspension of learning for some days.
At least two to four cases of ‘ghost attacks’ that lead to indefinite closure of schools have been reported every month this year.
Belief in superstition
Experts, however, say apart from biological and environmental factors, the disturbances in schools by ‘unseen forces’ could be due because Coast Province abounds in superstitious beliefs.
Every time ‘ghosts’ attack a school, parents rush to ‘rescue’ their children. The latest was at Star of the Sea High School last week, which is reported to have affected students and parents.
Being a Catholic school, a priest was summoned and a doctor called in to assess the situation.
However, they left without a solution as students cried, made noise and fell on the ground, while others got angry and demanded that the gates of the school be opened to set them free.
Dr Jennifer Othigo, who is the chief administrator of the Coast General Hospital and a guidance and counselling expert, says several factors are responsible for the incidents in girls’ schools.
She says lack of guidance and counselling for adolescents, was largely the problem.
“Such situations cause anxiety in the young girls and when they do not get the right guidance at the right time by the right people, it can be chaotic,” says Othigo.