Sep 14 2012
Our weekly edition is a nationally syndicated one-hour digest of the best of our daily coverage.
This week on Uprising:
* US-made Anti-Islam Video Sparks Global Protests
* Chicago Teachers Continue Their Strike
* Activists Denounce Secret Trade Talks Over the Trans Pacific Partnership
* Analyzing the National and Global Food Crisis
* * *
US-made Anti-Islam Video Sparks Global Protests
The deaths of the US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other consular staff on Tuesday September 11th has sparked a strong reaction from Washington, with the deployment of US Marines, warships, and unmanned drones to the area. The US Embassy in Benghazi was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade leading to the deaths, possibly by asphyxiation, of Ambassador Stevens and others. The protests were in response to a 14 minute US-made anti-Islam film posted online. Earlier that same day, there were protests against the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where portions of the film were aired on Television.
The film, called “The Innocence of Muslims,” whose origins are still shrouded in mystery, is supposedly the work of an American Los Angeles based business man originally thought to be Jewish Israeli American, now known to be a Coptic Christian, operating under the pseudonym of Sam Bacile. His film depicts Prophet Mohammad as a philanderer, child molester, womanizer, and murderer. YouTube has now taken down the offending video but clips of the film are still showing up online. Bacile has been reported in an interview as saying “Islam is a cancer.” The actors in the film allege that they had no idea the film was about the Prophet Mohammad and in fact it is clear that post-production editing has been used to insert in references to the Prophet.
The protests have now spread to a number of countries with Muslim populations, including Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Sudan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Malaysia, Pakistan and even Indian-controlled Kashmir. The US Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen was stormed later in the week with protesters burning American flags – at least two people were killed in the protests. US diplomatic missions in the broader Middle East region are on high alert for more violence.
While the Obama administration has been strong in its condemnation of the Libya Embassy attacks, it has also denounced the video. The day after the attack, Obama said “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack… make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the film “disgusting and reprehensible,” and added “[t]he U.S. government had absolutely nothing to do with this video.” Meanwhile GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come under fire for his criticism of Obama’s response. He said it was “disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
GUEST: Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies
Chicago Teachers Continue Their Strike
Twenty five thousand teachers in Chicago, Illinois are still in the middle of a major strike. Three hundred and fifty thousand students who were less than a week into their new school year in the US’s third largest school district, have had to stop attending classes. Negotiations have been going on since June between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). But the talks finally broke down last Monday.
Pay concerns are actually a smaller part of the points of contention, while bigger issues on the table include such things as the increasing number of non-union charter schools and the use of merit pay and teacher evaluations based on students’ standardized test scores. So far, only 6 of 49 issues in the contract have been negotiated. Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who was formerly President Obama’s Chief of Staff, campaigned on a promise to lengthen the school day and increase the number of non-union charter schools.
Soon after being elected, Emanuel removed 4 percent raises for teachers. Later, he reopened teacher contracts and allowed 2 percent raises in exchange for adding 90 minutes to the school day.
Journalist and author Chris Hedges, has put the Chicago teachers strike in the bigger context of the war against unionized workers and called the strike, “arguably one of the most important labor actions in probably decades.”
Diane Ravitch, one of our guests today says, “If anyone thinks this strike is just another union ‘ploy’ for higher pay or less “working time” they are sorely mistaken.”
GUESTS: Diane Ravitch, Education Historian. She is the author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Valerie Metar, a union member and teacher at Charles Evan Hughes School in Lawndale, a low income African American community
Activists Denounce Secret Trade Talks Over the Trans Pacific Partnership
A series of highly secretive meetings took place in Leesburg, Virginia this week between the United States and 8 other Pacific rim countries. The negotiations concern a trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP, which would, according to Bloomberg, “create the biggest trade zone in US history.” With an agenda focused on furthering corporate interests, the trade negotiations have had virtually no involvement from any public groups, although 600 pro-business lobbyists have been given passwords to view online versions of the negotiations.
Amnesty International, the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO are among many public interest groups that have voiced serious concerns over the issues being covered in the negotiations and over 130 members of Congress have signed a letter calling for more transparency in the negotiations.
Most of the public’s knowledge about what is being drafted in the TPP has come from leaked documents. Analysis of these documents, shows how the TPP may possibly limit the production of generic drugs and affect free speech on the internet. The closed door talks could also potentially move more American jobs overseas as well as allow foreign corporations to appeal to an international tribunal rather than subject themselves to U.S. laws.
While legislators in Japan are reluctant to join the TPP, Canada and Mexico will become part of the group starting next month and China is currently deciding whether or not to join the group. U.S. officials are promising a public comment period and a congressional review once the talks are complete.
GUEST: Melinda St. Louis, Campaign Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Visit www.tpp2012.com for more information.
Analyzing the National and Global Food Crisis
The number of Americans suffering from hunger and “very low food security” grew by 800,000 people in 2011 to a total of 17 million, according to a Department of Agriculture report released last week. Food insecurity is defined as a person’s inability to consistently feed him or herself on a daily basis. The numbers are a grim complement to a recent government admission that a record 46.7 million Americans are now enrolled for food stamps, one the nation’s largest anti-hunger programs.
Recent warnings by three United Nations agencies point to a spike in global food prices in what could be a repeat of the 2008 food crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organization points to a significant increase in food prices in July, linked to rise in commodity prices of corn, wheat and soybeans as a result of a severe US drought.
A new report by the human rights group, OXFAM, points out that climate change will lead to greater instability in food production, and hence, prices. The report also predicts that by 2030 the average price of staple crops like maize, wheat, and rice will double. These increases, they say, will punish the world’s poor, who in some countries, spend up to 80% of their income on food.
Experts say the problem of food affordability will likely be compounded by the rising affluence of China, where the demand for environmentally costly meat and dairy products is expected to grow with its burgeoning middle class.
Discussion of the food crisis often raises the issue of population growth, implying that there is not enough capacity to produce food for the planet. But in reality, according to out guest Raj Patel, we are producing more calories per person today than ever before, and that it is a matter of food distribution rather than production.
GUEST: Raj Patel, food justice activist, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for African Studies, and a fellow at Food First. Raj is also author of the acclaimed book Stuffed and Starved: the Hidden Battle for the World Food System
Sonali’s Subversive Thought for the Day
“We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist, one-third rich and two-thirds hungry.” — Jimmy Carter