On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to Fabian Scheidler about how the global economic machine came to dominate our lives, and with looming social upheavals caused by predatory capitalism, what can be done to blunt its destructive power. Fabian Scheidler is author of The End of the Megamachine: A Brief History of a Failing Civilization, and co-founder of Kontext TV.
By Andy Rowell for Oil Change International - As much of the North American media focuses on the ongoing unprecedented flooding and relief efforts in Texas and now potentially Louisiana, another tragedy is unfolding, which is going largely unreported, in Asia. Whereas the death toll in Texas stands at 20, the estimated death toll in South Asia is estimated at 1,200 after weeks of unusually strong monsoon rains affecting India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The Red Cross estimates that 14 million people have been affected by flooding in India; over 7 million in Bangladesh and 1.5 million in Nepal. The United Nations puts the total number of people affected by floods and lindslides at total nearly double that at 41 million. According to the Red Cross: “Vast swaths of land across all three countries are under water .. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Many medical facilities, schools, markets and other essential services are submerged.” And as the rains continue, many people are worried that the death toll – and the number affected – will rise. Although the monsoon is an annual event, this year’s rains have been seen as far worse than usual, which people are blaming our changing climate for making things much worse.
By John Vidal for The Guardian - Bangladeshi villagers staged further protests on Tuesday after police opened fire and killed at least four people demonstrating against the planned construction of two large Chinese-financed coal-fired power stations. According to police and eyewitness reports, several thousand villagers gathered in the coastal town of Gandamara near Chittagong on Monday, to protest against the two power plants. These are expected to force the eviction of several thousand people in a fertile coastal farming areas and the demolition of temples and schools.
By Samantha Page for Think Progress - Bangladeshi police opened fire on a group of protestors Monday, killing at least four, according to local news reports. Thousands of people were charged with assault and vandalism in connection with the demonstration against Chinese-financed coal plants on the country’s southeast coast. “We demand an immediate, full and independent inquiry into yesterday’s events to hold those responsible to account for the unnecessary murder of at least four people,” two Bangladeshi groups, National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, said in an emailed statement.
By Cindy Carr for Sierra Club - DHAKA, BANGLADESH -- Early this morning, thousands of activists from Bangladesh and India joined together in Dhaka to trek more than 100 miles in protest of the Indian-backed Rampal coal project and adjacent Orion Khulna power station. Rampal and Khulna, the proposed 1,320- and 660-megawatt coal projects, sit adjacent to the Sundarbans, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed mangrove forest. Sundarbans, which means “beautiful forest” in Bengali, is one of the largest continuous mangrove forests remaining in the world.
By Jason Burke in The Guardian - An Islamic militant group in Bangladesh has issued a hitlist of secular bloggers, writers and activists around the world, saying they will be killed if its demands are not met. The list will raise fears that Islamic militant violence within the unstable south Asian country could take on an international dimension. The targets in the list include nine bloggers based in the UK, seven in Germany, two in the US, one in Canada and one in Sweden. Some are Bangladeshi citizens living overseas. Others are dual nationals or citizens of the western nations. The list was issued in a statement on the internet by the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a group that has been blamed for a series of murders of bloggers and activists in Bangladesh over the last 18 months. All those killed have been prominent critics of extremist religious doctrines, especially in Islam.
By International Labor Rights Forum - The International Labor Rights Forum is thrilled to announce that two years of campaigning, with over one million people participating, has succeeded in securing $30 million in compensation for the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse – the deadliest disaster in the history of the global garment industry. “This campaign victory would not have been possible without the hard work of workers’ rights groups and labor unions on the ground in Bangladesh, and activism from a wide array of allies around the world who held more than a hundred store actions and demonstrations at corporate headquarters,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum.
By Beenish Ahmed in Think Progress - The owner of a collapsed garment factory building in Bangladesh that’s 2013 collapse killed more than 1,100 people has been charged with murder. Sohel Rana is among 42 people who face criminal charges for ignoring warnings not to allow workers into the Rana Plaza building the day before it collapsed. Government officials responsible for safety inspections were charged with murder alongside various factory stakeholders. They all face the death penalty if convicted. “It is the biggest industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history,” lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar told AFP. “They [the factory owners] discussed and decided to keep the factory open,” Kar said. “They sent the workers to their deaths with cool heads.”
Marking two years since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, protesters are converging on the country's capital and feminist actions are sweeping the globe on Friday, to honor the lives of the 1,138 people—most of them women—who perished in the tragedy and to demand justice for those they left behind. News outlets are reporting that demonstrators have gathered in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, the city where the Rana Plaza factory was located. Among them are survivors of the tragedy and family members of the deceased, who say that, two years later, they still have not received adequate compensation. "I haven’t received any compensation from the government yet," Nilufar Begum, a worker wounded in the factory collapse, told Euronews. "I can’t support my family, my children can’t go to school. I’m crippled forever."
Bangladesh police have fired tear gas and stormed a garment factory where workers were staging a hunger strike over pay, a union official says. The police, armed with batons, forced 400 workers to flee the factory in the capital Dhaka where they had been holding a 10-day strike to demand back pay and a holiday bonus, the official said. Bangladesh's garment industry, the world's second largest, which supplies top Western retailers such as Wal-Mart and H&M, has a woeful history of poor pay and conditions for its four million workers. "Police fired tear gas and baton charged us, they forced us out of the factory, where we were staging the hunger strike," said Moshrefa Mishu, head of Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee, which represents 15 garment unions. An AFP reporter at the scene saw workers running out of the factory crying due to the tear gas, while others were bleeding from head injuries. Angry at the police action, the workers then took to the streets, vandalising cars and buses and prompting officers to fire more rounds of tear gas, the reporter said. The workers have been on a hunger strike on behalf of 1,500 employees who stitch clothes in five factories belonging to the Tuba Group in Dhaka's Badda district.
When I met Rajina Aktar in February of last year, her eyes were still red and her memory still fuzzy from the toxic smoke that had knocked her unconscious three weeks earlier. The 15-year-old had been sewing pockets onto winter jackets when a fire broke out at Smart Export Garments, an illegal factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Walking through the ruins, I saw what appeared to be handprints and scratch marks on the walls of the stairwell where eight workers were crushed to death as 350 people tried to push through a single locked exit. Someone had managed to carry Aktar to safety. In the dank basement room where she lived, she told me that with four relatives to support and no education, she expected to return to the assembly line as soon as she recovered. “There is nothing else,” she said. Fires in the factories of Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment export industry were occurring an average of two to three times a week then.
April 24 marks the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, where at least 1,138 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured. Known as the worst garment industry catastrophe in history, the building collapsed only months after the deadliest factory fire in Bangladesh’s historydestroyed the Tazreen factory in Dhaka, killing at least 117 people. Both tragedies occurred at facilities manufacturing garments for highly profitable western brands, including Walmart. Many think these tragedies could have been prevented if the companies had enforced stricter safety protocols and improved working conditions. Walmart had previously demonstrated some willingness to take responsibility for the conditions along its supply chain. The company moved $200,000 to Cambodian workers after a supplier abruptly closed down operations without paying them, signed on to the Fair Food Program with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to boost wages for farmworkers in Florida, and cut its contract with C.J.’s Seafood, a Louisiana seafood supplier, after workers there went on strike to protest forced labor conditions.
Thousands of people, some wearing funeral shrouds, staged demonstrations at the site of the Rana Plaza factory complex on Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the Bangladesh disaster that claimed 1,138 lives. The demonstrators – who included injured survivors and the families of the deceased – marched to the ruins of the nine-storey building carrying flowers and chanting slogans including "We want compensation!" and "Death to Sohel Rana!", the owner of the building. Relatives of the 140 workers still unaccounted for also joined in, calling on the government to help find their bodies. They included toddlers holding photos of their missing mothers. "I want my daughter's dead body. At least it would give us some consolation," said Minu Begum, clutching the photo of her missing daughter, Sumi Begum, who worked at one of Rana Plaza's five factories.
A year before Bangladesh was hit with its worst modern industrial disaster, the murder of a trade unionist portended the lethal dangers looming over the country’s booming garment industry. This month, labor advocates are commemorating the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed and injured thousands of garment workers and shook the global fashion industry. And they’re also mourning the two-year anniversary of the death of Aminul Islam, which should have been seen as an early sign of the human rights crisis roiling in Bangladesh’s factories. Islam’s murder was emblematic of the oppression besieging Bangladesh's labor movement, as well as the collusion between the state and the booming garment export industry. He was a prominent advocate for workers in the factories of the Savar and Ashulia areas of Dhaka and an organizer with the internationally-renowned Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS). On the eve of his death, he was helping to organize workers embroiled in a labor dispute with suppliers for global brands like American Eagle.
Millions of workers across Indonesia are joining a national strike this week to press for a higher minimum wage and universal health coverage. This is actually a big deal for Americans, not that any of us are paying a lick of attention. Why does a giant strike in Indonesia matter? Because the United States stands to benefit from the rise of a global middle class that can buy high-end American goods and services, and we also stand to benefit as the cost of labor rises in developing countries, making American workers more competitive.