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Longshore Union Faces the Grain Monopolies

By JACK HEYMAN | CounterPunch | October 22, 2012

The Oregonian has reported grain talks between the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are heating up.  An “epic showdown” is looming because workers in Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver won’t accept major concessions.

The contract expired September 30 when the grain giants had threatened to lock out longshoremen and hire scabs. A port shutdown was averted only because the employers failed to file required legal paperwork in time, forcing an extension until Oct. 24.  Now negotiations are set to resume Oct. 29, for the first time with a federal mediator. Simultaneously, in another proceeding the ILWU is being hit with Obama’s National Labor Relations Board suing the union in federal for violating a judges’ order, the ostensible crime:  defending the union’s container terminal contract. The Oregonian editorial (Oct. 2, 2012) charges the union with “temper tantrums” for defending contract rights.

The International Business Times (Sept. 4, 2012) reports “Big Grain Companies Reap Profits As Global Food Prices Soar and Poor Go Hungry”. The world’s four largest grain companies–Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus– known as the “ABCDs” who collectively control 75 to 90 % of global grain trade are raking in billions during a worldwide food crisis. (Bunge owns EGT ‘s Longview terminal with partners.)

In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, grain monopolies are boasting record profits, yet they’re demanding major concessions from the longshoremen who do the dangerous work of loading ships. So, who’s the real culprit?

A year ago, members of ILWU protested EGT’s attempt to break their union and impose concessions. Scores were jailed for blocking grain trains including President McEllrath who was following the will of the membership. Coastwide protests occurred on his jailing Oct. 5.

In February, state police and an armed Coast Guard cutter were deployed to escort a grain ship through picket lines at EGT and stop mass protests by ILWU members, labor supporters and Occupy activists caravanning from Portland, the Bay Area and Puget Sound. Under the threat of overwhelming police and military forces, including the Obama administration, union officials succumbed. The ranks succeeded in defending their union jurisdiction but a hugely concessionary contract was imposed without a union membership vote, brokered by Democrat Washington Governor Gregoire.

So now, the other profit-bloated grain companies want the huge EGT concessions that the union ranks fought against. Following ILWU’s democratic tradition, a dozen members and retirees with nearly 300 combined years on the waterfront signed a leaflet which opposed the contract. (EGT-Longview Longshore Contract – Worst Ever!) Their experience of organizing dock protests goes back to the 1978 refusal of Oakland longshoremen to load bombs for the Pinochet military dictatorship in Chile.

The militant 1934 West Coast maritime strike, like other strikes across the country, built the trade union movement which raised standards for all working people—including those not in unions– on wages, safe working conditions and social benefits. Unions fought for and won social security, unemployment insurance and medicare. Now the ILWU is on the front line defending all labor.

Last year when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was attacking public workers, ILWU Local 10 protested by shutting down Bay Area ports. On May Day 2008, ILWU closed West Coast ports to demand an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And in 1984, longshoremen, protesting apartheid, organized a boycott in San Francisco of a ship from South Africa.

Were these “temper tantrums”? Are these the actions of “greedy workers”? Nelson Mandela commended the ILWU for sparking the U.S. anti-apartheid movement. For these solidarity actions, longshore workers were docked pay, but that did not deter them from implementing their time-honored slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Now in Portland and other Northwest ports, the ILWU is faced with an employer-imposed contract or lockout backed by a massive police and Coast Guard mobilization. And in Vancouver, Washington the strikebreaking agency Gettier is already stationed at United Grain. This is the same outfit in 2010 that was successfully used to load scab borax in the Mojave Desert in California during a lockout of ILWU miners by the global Rio Tinto mining conglomerate.

Will intimidation by profiteering grain exporters and their government backers prevail now, or will union solidarity and ILWU unity against EGT concessions win out?

The stakes are high for all working people.

Jack Heyman, a retired longshoreman from Oakland, chairs the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee and writes about labor and politics.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

After First Drug Injures Patients Shameless Drug Company Pursues Follow-up Drug

By Martha Rosenberg | Dissident Voice | October 22nd, 2012

The year 1999 was a good one for the drug company Merck. In its 64 page annual report, it predicted that the arthritis medicine Vioxx (“Our Biggest, Fastest, and Best Launch Ever!”) would also prevent Alzheimer’s disease and colon cancer. It announced it was seeking approval to market the asthma drug Singulair to two-year-olds. And it forecast that 40 million women would take its new osteoporosis drug, Fosamax, as Merck continued to “help educate both doctors and patients” about the bone disease.

It turned out Merck spoke too soon. Vioxx was withdrawn in 2004 for doubling stroke and heart attacks in long-term users; Singulair now carries FDA warnings about “neuropsychiatric events” and Fosamax is suspected of doubling the risk of esophageal cancer, causing bone fractures instead of preventing them and causing heart problems, intractable pain and jawbone death. Oops!

There’s plenty of ka-ching in selling “strong bones” products for the same reason there was plenty of ka-ching in selling “hormone replacement” products: one-half the population is female, and no one wants to look old. Of course, “avoiding hot flashes” really means “still looking hot” in hormone marketing terminology, and “avoiding fractures” really means “still looking hot” in bone product marketing lingo. That’s why attractive women like Meredith Vieira from the Today show and former Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd and actress Sally Field push bone drugs, just as model Lauren Hutton pushed hormone replacement therapy.

To cash in on Fosamax, the first in the bisphosphonate bone drug class, Merck decided to market the dangers of osteoporosis “far beyond ailing old ladies.” It hired researcher Jeremy Allen to whip up fears of “osteopenia,” the risk of osteoporosis, as a health epidemic to sell bone drugs and planted bone scan machines in medical offices across the country, says National Public Radio. Allen created the faux “Bone Measurement Institute” which also maneuvered Medicare reimbursement for the scans. By 1999, there were 10,000 bone scan machines in medical offices, said the Associated Press, when there had been only 750 before Fosamax.

Like its trouble-laden drug Vioxx, Merck’s Fosamax flew out of the FDA. It received only a six month review before its 1995 FDA approval. (The government also helped its promotion with the HHS secretary herself, Donna Shalala, participating in a 1998 rally kicking off free bone density screenings to be offered in 100 cities.)

But the wheels soon came flying off the bone drug. Patients experienced esophageal “irritation”  and the warning to stay upright for one full hour after taking Fosamax, eating or drinking nothing was added after approval. One woman who took Fosamax but remained upright for only 30 minutes, not 60, had to be admitted to the Mayo Clinic with “severe ulcerative esophagitis affecting the entire length of the esophagus” and had to be fed intravenously, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Next, dentists and oral surgeons discovered after simple tooth extractions and other in-office dental work, the jawbone tissue of patients on bisphosphonates would sometimes not heal but become necrotic and die — a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw(ONJ), The necrotic condition did not take long to manifest “even short-term oral use of alendronate [Fosamax] led to ONJ in a subset of patients” — wrote a dental journal, but it somehow slipped through Fosamax’s two, three-year clinical trials on which its FDA approval was based. Doctors, dentists, and pharmacists were enraged at what looked like deliberate obfuscation by Merck.

And there were second, third and fourth opinions about Fosamax! According to an FDA epidemiologist writing in New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 there were 23 incidences of Fosamax-associated esophageal cancer in the US and eight deaths and 27 incidences of cancer in Europe and Japan and six deaths.

Next reports in medical journals linked bisphosphonates to the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, or a chronically irregular heartbeat and to severe bone, joint or muscle pain. “In the most serious cases, the pain was so severe that patients could not continue their normal activities,” wrote the FDA in a press release. “Some patients have complete relief of symptoms after they stop taking the drug, while others have reported slow or incomplete resolution.” Clearly, the FDA was trying hard to avoid the word irreversible.

Finally, in a development that suggests tremendous medical ineptitude if not duplicity, bisphosphonates were found to sometimes cause the very fractures they were supposed to prevent. The thigh bones of patients on bisphosphonates have “simply snapped while they were walking or standing,” after “weeks or months of unexplained aching,” reported the New York Times in an article called “Drugs to Build Bones May Weaken Them.”

It should be embarrassing to the medical establishment that a prominent drug company and the FDA “discovered” severe side effects after years of patient use and that bone scans are still merchandised though they are of no value to 90 percent of women, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. It should be further embarrassing that Merck was allowed to make $3 billion a year off a drug that many say would not have been approved had clinical trials lasted longer. Its patent expired in 2008.

Now Merck is about to launch a new drug for osteoporosis called odanacatib which has already intrigued the money men on Wall Street. “Odanacatib may be a viable alternative for patients who need continued therapy and who want benefits beyond what they received from bisphosphonates,” a senior Merck research executive told Reuters without a hint of irony.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Arrested as Palestinians attacked by settlers and soldiers in Tel Rumeida

By Vicky Blackwell and Elyana Belle | International Solidarity Movement | October 22, 2012
Settlers arrive to the Azzeh family land – Photographs by Vicky Blackwell

Today, a group of settlers from the illegal settlement in Tel Rumeida arrived at Hashem Azzeh’s olive grove next to his house, whilst he and his family were harvesting their olives, yelling for everyone to get off of “their” land.

Hasham and his family were on their land harvesting olives for the first time in 5 years after being granted permission from the District Civil Liaison. He was accompanied by several members of his family as well as activists from the International Solidarity Movement. The situation quickly escalated as settlers pushed the Palestinians in order to try and enter Hasham’s house.

Within ten minutes the soldiers arrived and began to separate the Palestinian family and internationals and siding with the Israeli settlers. Arguments continued with both sides yelling “this is my land,” regardless of the fact that Hashem has the deeds to the land. The settlers were also heard shouting “This is not your land, this is the land of the Jewish people.”

At this point around ten more settlers had come down and joined in, shouting abuse at Hasham and his family. The soldiers pushed the Palestinians and internationals back towards Hasham’s house threatening to arrest anyone who did not obey. The soldiers grabbed a young Palestinian man by the name of Ahmad Al Atrash who was video taping standing behind international activists: pushed him against the wall and zip-tied his arms behind his back.

Then they went after an International activist trying to arrest him for taking video footage. While trying to escape they grabbed another of the International activists standing by, put him in a headlock on the ground and arrested him. Jawad Abu Eisheh who had arrived in solidarity with his neighbors was also captured and arrested.

The two Palestinians and Italian activist have been arrested and taken to a police station in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The district of Tel Rumeida is heavily militarized and contains the homes of both Israeli settlers and Palestinians. Hasham’s family moved to Tel Rumeida in 1950 after being forcibly removed from their homes in what is now Israel. The Tel Rumeida settlement was installed in 1984.

In an attack in 2006 the settlers smashed Hasham’s nephews’ teeth in with a stone. That same year his wife (3 months pregnant at the time) was attacked and subsequently miscarried. Again in 2006 she was attacked, this time 4 months pregnant, and again, suffered from a miscarriage due to the attack.

The settlers living directly over Hasham’s house have also in the past raided his house, (bullet-holes near his front door show when the settlers shot live ammunition at his house), they cut his water-pipes and poisoned his water tank, cut his trees down in his garden and have physically attacked and assaulted him and his family as well as breaking-into and vandalizing his house on several occasions.

Previous reports on settler violence against the Azzeh family:

http://palsolidarity.org/2006/05/report-on-razor-wire-closing-entrance-to-the-track-leading-to-the-al-azzeh-homes/

http://palsolidarity.org/2006/09/hebron-27th-sept/

http://palsolidarity.org/2006/10/olive-picking-tr-settlement/

http://palsolidarity.org/2006/10/tr-harassment/

http://palsolidarity.org/2012/09/hebron-man-walks-down-street-for-first-time-in-years/

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Myanmar Buddhists set Muslim villages on fire, kill 11 Muslims in Rakhine

Press TV – October 22, 2012

At least eleven Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been killed after extremist Buddhists set fire to their houses in two Muslim villages in the city of Sittwe in the western Rakhine state, a report says.

The incident occurred when a number of Buddhists backed by army and border forces set fire to houses of Muslims in the villages of Mamra and Mraut late Sunday, Radio Banga reported on Monday.

Myanmar army forces allegedly provided the Buddhists with big containers of petrol to set ablaze the houses of Muslim villagers and force them to flee their houses.

The silence of the human rights organizations towards abuses against the Rohingya Muslims has emboldened the extremist Buddhists and Myanmar’s government forces.

The Buddhist-majority government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas and has classified them as illegal migrants, even though the Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.

According to reports, thousands of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are living in dire conditions in refugee camps after government forces and Buddhist extremists started burning down their villages on August 10.

Reports say some 650 Rohingyas have been killed in the Rakhine state in the west of the country in recent months. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Iran not to hold “independent” nuclear talks with U.S. outside P5+1: FM

Xinhua | October 21, 2012

TEHRAN — Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi said Sunday that Iran will not hold “independent” talks with the United States outside the framework of nuclear negotiations with six world powers, dubbed P5+1, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

“We don’t have something to be named talks with the United States,” said Salehi when asked about the recent media reports that Iran and the United States have agreed to hold direct talks over Iran’s nuclear issue.

“We will talk (with the U.S.) within the framework of P5+1 … and we don’t have (other nuclear) talks independent from that,” he was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that the United States and Iran had agreed for the first time to have one-on-one talks over the latter’s controversial nuclear program after the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.

The paper said the agreement was the result of intense and secret exchanges between officials of the two countries, which began almost immediately after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

The White House on Saturday denied the press report. “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” Tommy Vietor, spokesman of the National Security Council, said in a statement.

“We continue to work with the P5+1 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally,” he said

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

US Probes South Caucasus’ Attitude to Iran

Nezavisimaya Gazeta | October 18, 2012

Eric Rubin, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, is touring Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia to promote democracy and cooperation and develop partnership on the issues of Syria and Iran.

The media in Azerbaijan reports that Rubin’s visit to Georgia focused on economic issues, civil freedoms and Nagorno-Karabakh.

The US Embassy in Armenia’s press service said Rubin would attend a meeting of the US-Armenian group on economic cooperation to discuss stimulating investment in energy and trade, as well as nuclear power.

The agenda for high-ranking Washington officials’ visits to the South Caucasus seldom varies, and this is not simply because Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia face largely similar problems, but also for ethical reasons. Washington wants to convince them that they are all equal partners. Therefore, if Rubin talked about Iran in Georgia, he did or will do the same in the other two South Caucasus states.

“During the meetings with the President and future Prime Minister of Georgia, we discussed the international community’s efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” Rubin told a press briefing at the US Embassy in Tbilisi as quoted by Azernews. “We are broadly cooperating over the Turkish-Syrian issue, and Georgia is called upon to play a peacekeeping role in the region.”

However, some Georgian experts believe that Rubin met with Mikheil Saakashvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili to probe Georgia’s attitude to Iran, where Washington will want Georgia to play a special role if the situation escalates.

Georgian politician Irina Sarishvili said before Rubin’s visit that many hospitals built in Georgia recently under a presidential program bear an alarming likeness to standard US military hospitals. Considering the speedy modernization and construction of airports for heavy transport planes and other infrastructure improvements, this could be more than straightforward concern for the Georgians.

Eric Rubin also said in Tbilisi, clearly referring to Russian bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that “the US position regarding the obligations that Russia undertook in 2008 to withdraw its troops from the Georgian territory remain unchanged.” He said the US stance on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia is firm and clear.

Commenting on the recent parliamentary election, Rubin congratulated Ivanishvili on the victory and praised Saakashvili’s personal contribution to positive developments in Georgia. He said the world can see that democracy in Georgia is real, and that the country can become a model for the region.

Rubin also met with ministerial nominees, notably Irakly Alasania who is slated to become the Defense Minister. Alasania assured him that Georgia would honor its commitments in Afghanistan. In response, Rubin said that Washington would redouble its efforts to promote Georgia’s rapprochement with NATO.

The US official refused to comment on Ivanishvili’s plans to participate in the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. He said he was pleased with Saakashvili’s assurances that Georgia is committed to strengthening ties with Euro-Atlantic organizations and the United States, and to guaranteeing press freedom.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment