Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Public Inquiry for Ian Tomlinson

Activists have called for a full public inquiry into the death of a man during the G20 protests.

Ian Tomlinson was returning home from his work at a nearby newsagents when he collapsed near the Bank of England in the City where protesters had gathered.

Post-mortem tests showed the 47-year-old suffered a sudden heart attack.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is looking into Mr Tomlinson's death, but protestors insisted this would not be enough.

In a statement, a group calling themselves G20 Witnesses said: "We call for a full public inquiry to look into Mr Tomlinson's death and the police tactics used throughout the G20 protests."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said at the time that officers treating him had bottles thrown at them by protesters.

But there were also claims his treatment was delayed by the presence of the police cordon around the protest area.

More than 120 people were arrested during demonstrations near the Docklands, east London, where the G20 summit was held and in the City on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

G20: Actions Better than Words

The G20 has always been just a star-studded cast strutting their stuff, telling the world that everything is within control. With each show, they take money from the IMF again and again. Big words, so what G20?


The just-concluded Group of 20 (G20) summit in London has won oceans of applauds from the world as it is believed to have harvested positive and practical results by formulating effective measures to heal the ailing world economy.

Participants are believed to have made due contributions to the success of the summit, by jointly working out a package of agreements and commitments, including a 1.1-trillion-U.S.-dollar global rescue deal, and taking a landmark move of tighter financial regulation.

Although the commitments are indeed encouraging, it is more important to fulfill them through solid actions.

Just as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the summit, "these commitments made by G20 leaders must be translated into concrete action."

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday called on the international community to make concerted efforts to ride out the crisis when he addressed the summit. "The only right choice is for all of us to work together and deal with it," he said.

China, the largest developing country, has spared no efforts to implement its proposed measures and played a conducive role in the world in building up confidence, maintaining stability as well as pushing for an economic revival at an early date.

At the summit, China also announced it would contribute 40 billion dollars to the International Monetary Fund, highlighting its role as a responsible member of the United Nations.

The United States, the world's leading economy, also pledged to turn words into actions.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday that while the United States is a world power, it is prepared to listen and learn as well as lead.

He said he will ask Congress in the next few days to provide an immediate 448 million U.S. dollars to help the poorest countries.

Nonetheless, the "Buy American" measures in the newly adopted stimulus package by the Obama administration, which bar the use offoreign iron, steel and manufactured goods in public works projects, have aroused concerns among other countries about the U.S. protectionist moves.

Similarly, French President Nicolas Sarkozy once said publicly that it was unjustifiable that French car brands made abroad, for instance in the Czech Republic, should be sold in France. His remarks had rung alarm bells in Europe for a tendency of protectionism.

At the summit, the G20 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to resist protectionism and push for an ambitious conclusion of the Doha Round global trade talks.

Looking back, they committed themselves to free trade at the Washington summit last year, but not all of them have kept their words.

This time, they said in a joint statement that "by acting together to fulfill these pledges we will bring the world economy out of recession and prevent a crisis like this from recurring in the future."

If the world's major economies, in particular the G20 member states, put their promises into practice, confidence will be restored that the political leadership is capable of meeting difficulties and challenges, and pulling the world economy out of mire.

It is not picky to demand to see tangible actions and deeds, even though the world media and the public save no words to hail the G20 summit. Instead, we should remain sober and critical.

The G-20 leaders announced Thursday they agreed to meet again by year's end to check on the progress and effectiveness of the measures. We need to wait and see.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

A G20 Meeting for Naught

Police. Resources wasted to facilitate the sham of a meeting


The G20 summit meeting in London from April 1st onward was loudly announced and publicized. Those 20 industrialized and emergent countries (G20) are meeting to find solutions to the crisis. But long before the end of the summit, it is clear that they will not rise to the challenge.

The G20 was not created in order to provide genuine solutions; it was hastily summoned a first time in November 2008 to salvage the powers that be and try and to plug the breaches in capitalism. It is therefore impossible for this body to opt for measures that are sufficiently radical to save the day.

Public opinion will be told to look in the two directions that are expected to focus aggravation: tax havens and the CEOs’ incomes.

Tax havens have to be abolished, that goes without saying. To achieve this it should be easy enough to make it illegal for companies and residents to have any assets in, or relationships with partners located in, tax havens. The EU countries that function like tax havens (Austria, Belgium, the UK, Luxembourg…) as well as Switzerland must do away with bank secrecy and put an end to their outrageous practices. Yet such is not at all the orientation chosen by the G20: a couple of emblematic cases will be cracked down on, minimal measures will be required from those countries, and a black list of non-cooperative territories eventually made public will have been carefully vetted (the City, Luxembourg or Austria have already been promised they will not be on it).

On the other hand CEOs’ incomes, including golden parachutes and other bonuses, are indeed outrageous. In time of growth the employers claimed that those who brought in such benefits to their companies had to be rewarded to prevent them from moving to another. Now that we live in a time of crisis and those companies have to admit to increasing losses, the same executives still claim similar rewards. The G20 will try to regulate their incomes for a limited duration. The logic of the system is not questioned.

Apart from tax havens and CEOs’ superbonuses, which will not be hit by any specific penalties anyway, the G20 countries will further bail out their banks. Though globally discredited and de-legitimized, the IMF will be put back at the hub of the political and economic game thanks to a new provision of funds which will have been made available by 2010.

The G20 strategy is to put a fresh coat of paint on a world which is collapsing. Only a strong popular mobilization will make it possible to lay solid foundations to build another world in which finance is at the service of people, and not the other way round. The 28 and 30 March demos were big ones: 40,000 people in London, thousands and thousands in Vienna, Berlin, Stuttgart, Madrid, Brasilia, Rome, etc. with the common motto “Let the rich pay the crisis!” The week of global action called for by the social movements from all over the world at the WSF at Belém last January thus had a gigantic echo. Those who had announced the end of the movement for another globalization were wrong. It has proved that it is able to bring large crowds together, and this is only the beginning. The success of the mobilizations in France on 29 January and 19 March (three million demonstrators were in the streets) is evidence that the workers, the unemployed and young people all want other solutions to the crisis than those which consist in bailing out bankers and imposing restrictions on the lower classes.

As a counterpoint to the G20 summit, the president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, has called a general meeting of Heads of States and Governments in June and asked the economist Joseph Stiglitz to chair a commission that will draft proposals to meet the global crisis. The suggested solutions are inadequate because too timid, but they will at least be discussed at the the UN general Assembly.

A new debt crisis is looming in the South, it is a consequence of the real estate private debt bubble bursting in the North. The recession that now affects the real economy of all countries in the North has led to prices of raw material plummeting, which considerably has reduced the strong currency revenues with which governments of countries of the South repay their external public debts. Moreover the current credit crunch has induced a rise in borrowing rates for countries of the South. The combination of these two factors has already resulted in suspensions in debt repayment by those governments that are most exposed to the crisis (starting with Ecuador). Others will follow suit within one or two years.

The situation is absurd: countries of the South are net creditors to the North, starting with the US whose external debt is over US$ 6,000 billion (twice the total external debt of all the countries of the South). Central banks in countries of the South buy US Treasury bonds instead of setting up a democratic bank of the South to finance human development projects. They should leave the World Bank and the IMF, which are tools of domination, and develop South-South relations of solidarity such as those which exist between countries that are members of ALBA (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Dominica). They ought to audit the debts they are asked to repay and put an end to the payment of illegitimate debts.

The G20 will see to it that the core of neoliberal logic is left untouched. Its principles are asserted again and again, even though they have blatantly failed: the G20 maintains its attachment to a global economy based on an open market. Its support to the god of free market is non-negotiable. Everything else is hocus-pocus.

Eric Toussaint, PhD in political sciences, is president of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt – Belgium www.cadtm.org ), author of A diagnosis of emerging global crisis and alternatives, Mumbai, India, Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, 2009, 139p.; The World Bank: A Critical Primer, London, UK, Pluto Press, 2008

Damien Millet, a mathematician, is spokeperson for CADTM France (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt,).

Joint authors of 60 Questions 60 Answers on the Debt, the IMF and the World Bank, English version to be published in 2009.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Are the Police Protesting Too Much?

A man lost his life yesterday. PUT PEOPLE FIRST!!!! Those of you in London, do keep lending your voice and keep safe.


The trouble-makers are out in force again. Dressed in black, their faces partly obscured, some of them appear to be interested only in violent confrontation. It's almost as if they are deliberately raising the temperature, pushing and pushing until a fight kicks off. But this isn't some disorganised rabble: these people were bussed in and are plainly acting in concert. There's another dead giveaway. They are all wearing the same slogan: Police.

The police have been talking up violence at the G20 protests for weeks. They briefed journalists and companies in the City of London about the evil designs of the climate campaigners intending to demonstrate there, but refused to let the campaigners attend the briefings and put their own side of the story. They also rebuffed the campaigners when they sought to explain to the police what they wanted to do.

The way officers tooled themselves up in riot gear and waded into a peaceful crowd this afternoon makes it look almost as if they were trying to ensure that their predictions came true. Their bosses appear to have failed either to read or to heed the report by the parliamentary committee on human rights last week, about the misuse of police powers against protesters. "Whilst we recognise police officers should not be placed at risk of serious injury," the report said, "the deployment of riot police can unnecessarily raise the temperature at protests."

But there has always been a conflict of interest inherent in policing. The police are supposed to prevent crime and keep the streets safe. But if they are too successful, they do themselves out of a job. They have a powerful interest in exaggerating threats and, perhaps, an interest in ensuring that sometimes these threats materialise. This could explain what I've seen at one protest after another, where peaceful demonstrations turn into ugly rucks only when the police attack. The wildly disproportionate and unnecessary violence I've sometimes seen the police deploy could scarcely be better designed to provoke a reaction.

If this is so, they lose nothing. They might get the occasional rap over the knuckles from MPs or the police complaints commission. It doesn't seem to bother them. By planting the idea in the public mind that the streets could erupt into catastrophic violence at any time, were it not for the thick blue line thrown around even the mildest protest, they establish the need for a heavy police presence. While the public lives in fear, no government dares to cut the policing budget.

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