UK activists shut down Israeli arms factory

Via Mondoweiss.net:

“A group of activists from the London Palestine Action network have today [August 5, 2014] chained the doors shut of an Israeli weapons factory based near Birmingham in the UK and are now occupying the roof. As part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) and in response to calls for action from Palestinian movements, we are demanding the permanent closure of the factory and an end to all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel.[…]

Elbit Systems markets its drones as ‘field tested’ – by which it means that their drones have been proven to be effective at killing Palestinians. The UK government is importing technology that has been developed during the course of Israeli massacres.
Activists occupying rooftop of weapons factory, pink smoke and banners that say "UK Stop Arming Israel"

UK prime minister David Cameron and the UK government have Palestinian blood on their hands. In order to end their deep complicity with Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against Palestinians, they must take steps to impose a full military embargo on Israel and close the Elbit Systems factory immediately.

It is more important than ever that the solidarity we build with the Palestinian struggle is effective and impactful. Israel does not act alone but is supported by governments and corporations across the world that have names and addresses. It is time for the international solidarity movement to escalate its direct actions against those that support and profit from Israeli apartheid to take action that can lead to a genuine isolation of Israel.”

Read full article and see more photos here.

 

Prying native people away from their lands: how narco-traffickers assist with corporate land/resource grabs in Honduras

“[…] Honduras is now infamous for its staggering rates of drug-related violence, but links between drug trafficking and Lobo’s resource-grabbing agenda are rarely made. In fact—especially in La Mosquitia—it is narco-traffickers who act as shock troops in the assault on native homelands, ruthlessly dispossessing residents and rapaciously converting forest commons to private pasture primed for sale. And traffickers simply do not care who owns what. If they want it, it’s theirs. Many observers consider most of the Mosquitia—including the newly titled areas—to be effectively controlled by drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs). But the narcos are not in the land-grabbing business for themselves alone; in the Mosquitia region, they represent the thin end of the corporate wedge prying native peoples from native lands. […]

A landing strip used by drug traffickers near a native community in Honduras, 2011. Photo by K. McSweeney.
A landing strip used by traffickers near a native community, 2011 (Photo by K. McSweeney)

Cocaine has been smuggled along the Mosquitia’s remote coastline since the 1970s. But the region’s trafficking importance grew after 2006, when Mexican DTOs shifted their operations southward after anti-drug crackdowns at home. Then, in 2009, the Honduran coup was followed by a brief suspension of U.S. military aid, temporary withdrawal of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents, and a political vacuum within the country. DTOs pounced on the opportunity to further entrench themselves in Honduras. Cocaine flows through eastern Honduras subsequently skyrocketed. By 2012, it was estimated that 86% of drug flights from South America landed first in the Mosquitia.

Traffickers are drawn to the Mosquitia for its strategic location and convenient isolation. Cocaine shipments (by sea and air) are sent to airstrips cleared from interior savannas and forests near indigenous communities. The DEA and Honduran military monitor these “cocaine movements” from three new forward-operating bases. But they rarely reach the ever-shifting landing sites in time to intercept drug shipments, which are quickly transferred to dugout canoes, boats, or 4x4s for transit to inland redistribution hubs.

The flow of drugs leads to land dispossession because traffickers have to secure and control these transit zones, to launder their vast illicit profits, and to legitimize their presence under the guise of frontier cattle ranching. Buying up land accomplishes all three. Where there are pre-existing land titles, local bureaucrats are bribed to falsify title deeds and manipulate tax payments in order to separate long-time residents from their ancestral lands. Traffickers also saturate regional and state bureaucracies with payments to ensure impunity for their illegal land purchases. Those who dare to speak out about the process face death threats and violence. Once-crusading indigenous leaders have been silenced. When they petition state prosecutors for protection or help, their claims are lost or permanently postponed.

If the land is not already in pasture, traffickers pay local residents to clear the very forests they have long used and defended. This “improvement” greatly enhances the land’s value in the Honduran market. Narcos can then profit from the speculative land market that they create. In the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, for example, we saw the narco land rush drive land values up by 300% between 2002 and 2010. In some areas, locals report that the low-level traffickers who are buying and clearing these lands are selling to, or are contracted by, foreign narcos (from Mexico, Spain, Colombia, the United States) keen to invest in the Honduran land market. It seems quite possible, then, that the narco-driven enclosure of the Mosquitia is at least partly coordinated and/or financed by external DTOs. If so, this exemplifies a pattern of DTO diversification into rural economies (especially through agribusiness and mining) seen in Mexico and elsewhere.

In the Mosquitia, the result is widespread dispossession, impoverishment, and ecological devastation. Entire communities have scattered; families that stay often survive as hired hands for rancher-traffickers (narcoganaderos). Residents speak under their breath about the climate of fear. As one Tawahka man told us, “There’s too much money, too many weapons—people are scared, I mean, to open their mouths. They’ve killed people!” A Miskitu resident put it simply: “We are afraid of them because they carry guns and threaten to kill us. There is no one here to stop them.”

Satellite imagery attests to this dispossession. The Mosquitia has long been an agricultural frontier, where settlers have chipped away at forest along the region’s western and southern edge. But since trafficking intensified after 2006, pasture clearing has accelerated sharply. Time-series satellite images reveal how the biodiverse patchworks of field, fallow, and forest—characteristic of native landscapes—are giving way to a narco-scape marked by massive, hastily cleared pastures proliferating cancer-like in the heart of indigenous homelands.

If destroying indigenous lives, lands, and livelihoods were not enough, narco-trafficking also intensifies social inequalities within native communities. The very few native families who are complicit in drug trafficking have grown conspicuously wealthy, with lavish homes and consumer luxuries (flat screen TVs, generators, motorboats). Many act as brokers for their own community’s land—consolidating their neighbors’ smallholdings on behalf of narcos further up the chain. As they are enriched at the expense of their neighbors, the governance norms on which indigenous political solidarity is built are profoundly undermined. One villager told us: “the community has disintegrated…everybody fled…All of this conflict is related to the conflicts over land…[Narcos] want to create conflict and division within the communities to continue amassing lands in our area.”

In short: narcos are paving the way for corporate investment in the Mosquitia. In many ways, the Lobo administration could not have engineered a more effective process for quickly and quietly converting biodiverse indigenous commons into ecologically simplified private holdings “open for business.” Narco-trafficking has, after all, been astonishingly efficient at weakening once-powerful indigenous political coalitions, silencing once-outspoken indigenous leaders, and creating a climate of fear in which land is grabbed with impunity. Already, narco-led forest-to-pasture conversion has created a booming (if entirely illegal) land market, attracting outside (criminal) investors. Further, the presence of traffickers justifies militarized intervention in the region. According to many natives, the military presence is used as much to “secure” elite interests in indigenous lands as it is to deter traffickers. The predictable result is an intensification of violence overall: indigenous residents are now killed and intimidated by both narcos and anti-narcotics forces. […]

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Read the full article at: http://nacla.org/news/2014/2/4/prying-native-people-native-lands-narco-business-honduras

Bank of America employs 20 full-time social media spies, watches anarchists and Occupy protesters

Bank of America works with fusion centers, the FBI, state and local police, and campus security to monitor public protest in the United States, newly disclosed documents confirm.

A Washington state public records request has unearthed an email chain which includes a message from a Vice President of Global Corporate Security for Bank of America, describing efforts to combat economic justice organizing. The official explains that the powerful financial institution employs a staff of 20 full-time social media spies, and references public-private surveillance efforts directed at activists who aim to hold banks accountable for social crises like the foreclosure disaster.

The bank official, Kimberly Triplett-Kolerich, says she is a former Washington State Patrol officer with 25 years of experience in law enforcement. On September 23, 2013, Triplett-Kolerich wrote:

“I am [now] the Operational Criminal Intel Analyst for Bank of America for the 14 western states and also am the NW Executive Protection Market Manager. From time to time I will see items that I believe will be of use to my friends at WSP–especially during session. May Day I will pick your brain for intel and I will give you a lot also–the Public-Private Partnership worked great last year and hopefully being ahead of the Anarchists will protect all of you from protests/arrests/injury. If you find any intel on Anarchists or Occupy Protesters please let me know–I will most likely find it first as Social Media trolling is not what the WSP does best–Bank of America has a team of 20 people and that’s all they do all day and then pass it to us around the country!!” […]

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Read full article, and download the released documents at:http://privacysos.org/node/1293

America’s Illegal Drug Complex: Another Capitalist Racket

via David Rosen (Counterpunch):

American capitalism consists of a constellation of rackets.  The Occupy Wall Street movement has focused a spotlight on the banking and financial-services racket.  Others have exposed the military-industrial complex, the extraction industries, the insurance, pharmaceutical and healthcare system, the agriculture and food combine and the communications trust.

Each racket is distinguished by the self-serving, intimate interrelation of private corporate interests and the public government, whether at the federal, state or local level.  Each racket consist of a host of distinct businesses elements, organized through both vertical and horizontal operations, no matter whether the business is conducted “legally” or not.  Each is charged with maximizing profit.

Rackets succeed by enabling private corporations to exploit the power and wealth of the public trough, the state.  Rackets do this in different ways, combining direct contracts, subsidies and tax breaks that further engorge the corporate bottom line.

One racket involves direct federal contracts to private companies, often with cost-plus agreements; in 2010, an estimated $180 billion went to the top 20 contractors.  This is the model of the military-industrial complex.

A second racket is characterized by the transfer or “externalization” of the social costs associated with a company’s product to consumers and taxpayers.  This is most evident in role of government subsidies and lax breaks associated with the (indirect) health-related costs that underwrite the extraction (e.g., air & water pollution) and food (e.g., obesity) industries.

A third type of racket involves the use of the legal system to maximize private gain and exemplified by the prison-industrial complex.  The criminalization of “illegal” drug taking as an unacceptable practice, like alcohol during Prohibition, has enabled many third parties, including government agencies, banks and private contractors, to profit from other people’s suffering.

Shedding moral pretenses, one needs to look at the illegal drug business in America as just another capitalist racket.   No better, no worse.  The street dope dealer is just another version of the day stock trader, the only difference is their legal status, although their social status, clothing and marketing message might be the same.

[…]

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Read the rest of the article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/11/america%E2%80%99s-illegal-drug-complex/print