Daily Archives: 18/02/2011

( Killing of demonstrators in Bahrain and violence in Libya threaten an escalation of regional unrest

Arab capitals are expecting further violent clashes after the killing of three demonstrators in the Gulf state of Bahrain, and the reported death of 15 people in violence in Libya, threatened an escalation of regional unrest in the wake of the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Fresh protests are expectedon Friday after Friday prayers in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, in Cairo (in celebration of Hosni Mubarak’s departure a week ago), and in Sana’a, capital of the Yemen, and perhaps elsewhere.

Britain announced a review of licences granted for arms exports to Bahrain which it would “urgently revoke” if the sales criteria had been breached in their use, after it emerged that types of crowd-control weapons similar to those used in the crackdown were supplied by British companies. Despite concerns among activists over Bahrain’s rights record, British firms were last year granted licences, entirely unopposed, to export crowd-control weapons that can lead to fatalities in use.

Meanwhile the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, telephoned her Bahraini counterpart to express “deep concern” after riot police stormed a protest camp in central Manama, killing three people in what the opposition called a “massacre”. Bahrain is situated in the Gulf near Iran and is home to the US Fifth Fleet and also to the UK command which supports Royal Navy warships in the region. The island has a history of volatility because its Shia Muslim majority is ruled by a Sunni monarchy. William Hague, the foreign secretary, told MPs: “We have conveyed our concern about these events and the level of violence.”

Last night Egyptian authorities arrested the former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, and two other former ministers who are under investigation for corruption, security officials said.

Authorities also arrested steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, once a prominent member of the ouster leader Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic party.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states signalled their alarm at the unprecedented regional unrest at a meeting of foreign ministers held in Manama.

The sectarian aspect of Bahrain’s violence could add to discontent among the Shia minority in oil-producing areas of east Saudi Arabia, which is linked to the island state by a 15-mile causeway.

Bahrain’s anti-government protesters vowed to avenge three of their number who had been killed by riot police. Demonstrators spent the day regrouping inside the grounds of a hospital after being ousted from their nearby camp on the Pearl Roundabout in the capital’s centre by up to 500 officers who attacked shortly after 3.15am local time. Their numbers rose to 4,000 by late afternoon, and plans for a rally on Friday were in full swing.

At least 300 people were wounded in the assault, several dozen seriously. A trauma surgeon from Salmaniya hospital was in an intensive care ward after being attacked at the roundabout camp, then handcuffed and repeatedly kicked in the head.

Bahrain’s interior ministry produced images that it said were of police officers recovering from knife wounds and beatings that they had received during the clashes. The claim were denied by the protesters who said they had had no weapons and were attacked as they slept. Doctors were leading the calls for revolt, with an overwhelmingly Shia audience urging them on in front of the hospital as they chanted anti-regime slogans. Several doctors and surgeons were at one stage hoisted on to shoulders and given loudhailers, which they used to urge demonstrators to take to the streets again.

Bahrain’s foreign minister was due to give a statement after saying earlier in the week that the deaths of two protesters on Monday and Tuesday was “catastrophic” for the regime. That caused palpable resentment among the hordes of demonstrators who sat vigil outside the hospital and morgue following the casualties.

Bahraini demonstrators say they want constitutional democracy, the release of political prisoners, more jobs and housing, and removal of the prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the king’s uncle, who has been in office for 40 years.

According to the Foreign Office’s records and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the UK has supplied Libya with similar weapons and ammunition to those sold to Bahrain.

by Martin Chulov in Manama and Ian BlackMiddle East editor


( Starbucks baristas across the United States for the first time this year will begin receiving a time-and-a-half holiday premium for working on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The move comes after a spirited three-year initiative of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) which Photo: Tom Good, Next Left Notes Baristas march on MLK Day, 2008 in New York. made public the company’s second-class treatment of Dr. King’s birthday and called on the coffee giant to pay the same premium that it pays workers on six other federal holidays. After Starbucks refused to change its policy, union workers and their supporters launched a determined campaign of grassroots actions in Starbucks stores and communities all across the country in support of equal treatment for MLK Day.

Starbucks union members say this is an especially emotional victory, given that the SWU has long-cited the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a major inspiration. Dr. King, who was assassinated in Memphis while supporting the effort of striking sanitation workers to form a union, was a staunch and outspoken defender of workers’ rights, including the right to a living wage and the right to join a labor union.

“We’re deeply moved to have been able in our modest way to increase respect for Dr. King’s legacy while ensuring that Starbucks employees who work on his holiday are fairly compensated,” said Anja Witek, a Starbucks barista and SWU member in Minnesota. “This is a great example of what baristas and all low-wage workers can achieve by getting organized and taking direct action in support of workplace justice issues.”

While Starbucks claims to “embrace diversity,” it doggedly resisted the SWU’s call for equal treatment of MLK Day for three years. The company based its refusal on the claim that its holiday policy was in line with the (abysmally low) standards of the food service sector. The SWU made the case that Starbucks’ commitment to diversity was illusory, citing the disproportionate number of workers of color in the lowest-paid positions in the company and its intense exploitation of coffee farmers including the Ethiopian workers who grew some of Starbucks’ most expensive beans but received just 2.2 percent of the retail price.

“This is a great step forward and a moving victory yet we’re mindful that there is much work to be done to make Starbucks a living wage employer that offers reliable work hours and respects the right of workers to join the union,” said Daniel Gross, a former Starbucks barista and SWU member in New York City. “We’re thrilled to continue building the SWU and demonstrating just how compelling a model solidarity unionism is for fast food workers and all working people.”

Commonly misunderstood by the news media and denounced by corporate executives frightened by its effectiveness, solidarity unionism is a simple and powerful method of organizing outside of the government certification bureaucracy. In a solidarity union, workers simply self organize and come to an agreement on workplace justice issues to pursue like fair raises, affordable health care, and respectful treatment from management. The workers’ group then creates a strategic plan and leads workplace actions, community solidarity, and grassroots advocacy to win the desired job improvements.

The Industrial Workers of the World union effort at Starbucks is the first time a labor organization in the United States has succeeded in building a base of organized baristas at the company. With over 300 worker-organizers across the country and growing, the SWU has consistently chalked up victories at Starbucks including across-the-board raises, more secure work hours, and respectful treatment from previously abusive managers whose conduct improved due to union pressure campaigns. The SWU has repeatedly prevailed against Starbucks in the legal arena across multiple cities including in a lengthy New York City trial over pervasive illegal unionbusting, the first time the company had to square off against baristas in open court regarding unfair labor practices.

By the Starbucks Workers Union
Industrial Worker – January – February 2011


( Reporters Without Borders criticised today as “inadequate” the response of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes to Hungary’s controversial new media law and urged the country’s MPs to amend the measure.

It said Croes’ demands to the Hungarian government were “in the right direction” but “not enough to remove all the threats to media independence and freedom” since the law was passed on 23 December last year.

“The Commission has recognised that certain points of EU law are being complied with and has challenged the law’s dubious notion of ‘balanced news,’ but is strangely silent about the crucial setting up of a media council and the powers it will have,” the worldwide media freedom organisation said.

“The new law allows foreign media to escape penalties but threats will still hang over local journalists and bloggers. Threats to the privacy of sources, which is vital to investigative journalism, also remain.”

“The Commission is however offering the Hungarian government and parliament a face-saving way out and a last chance to make substantial changes in a law which is still in large part totally unacceptable.”

“We call on Hungarian MPs to assume their responsibilities and remove all aspects of the law that conflict with EU directives. Setting up a media council with all the powers it will have must be cancelled.”

“We deplore the ‘official’ silence of the European Parliament, which has simply debated the issue and not passed a resolution clearly condemning a law which tarnishes the EU’s good reputation for defending media freedom.”

“The credibility of the European Parliament’s media freedom resolutions depends on its ability to react quickly and coherently. We also urge all the European Parliament’s political groupings to contact their Hungarian colleagues and persuade them to hold serious discussions with all those concerned by the new law.”


(AlJazeera) A loosely organised group of hackers has been targeting oppressive regimes and has said this is just the beginning.

The tendency to relate past events to what is possible in the present becomes more difficult as the scope of the geopolitical environment changes. It is a useful thing, then, to ask every once in a while if the environment has recently undergone any particular severe changes, thereby expanding our options for the future.

Terminology, let alone our means of exchanging information, has changed to such a degree that many essential discussions in today’s “communications age” would be entirely incomprehensible to many two decades ago.

As the social, political and technological environment has developed, some have already begun to explore new options, seizing new chances for digital activism – and more will soon join in. It is time for the rest of the world to understand why. Read More

(Partnership for Civil Justice)

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her speech at George Washington University yesterday condemning governments that arrest protestors and do not allow free expression, 71-year-old Ray McGovern was grabbed from the audience in plain view of her by police and an unidentified official in plain clothes, brutalized and left bleeding in jail. She never paused speaking. When Secretary Clinton began her speech, Mr. McGovern remained standing silently in the audience and turned his back. Mr. McGovern, a veteran Army officer who also worked as a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, was wearing a Veterans for Peace t-shirt.

Blind-sided by security officers who pounced upon him, Mr. McGovern remarked, as he was hauled out the door, “So this is America?” Mr. McGovern is covered with bruises, lacerations and contusions inflicted in the assault.

Mr. McGovern is being represented by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). “It is the ultimate definition of lip service that Secretary of State Clinton would be trumpeting the U.S. government’s supposed concerns for free speech rights and this man would be simultaneously brutalized and arrested for engaging in a peaceful act of dissent at her speech,” stated attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the PCJF.

Mr. McGovern now works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.