Hundreds of campesino, indigenous and African-descended Hondurans demonstrated in Tegucigalpa on March 6 after marching 200 kilometers from the northern town of La Barca to protest new laws on mining and the Special Development Regimes (RED), better known as "model cities." Entitled "For Dignity and Sovereignty, Step by Step," and sponsored by 47 organizations—including the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), a group that fights against corruption and for the defense of natural resources—the march started on Feb. 25, with more people joining as it passed through their communities. Protesters said they would remain in the capital in front of the National Congress until March 8.
Juan Orlando Hernández, the president of Honduras' National Congress, introduced a bill the evening of Jan. 14 to create Special Development Regimes (RED), semi-autonomous jurisdictions that proponents say would attract international investment and stimulate the country's economy. The proposed special regions are similar to the "model cities," autonomous zones to be managed by North American corporations, that Hernández and Honduran president Porfirio ("Pepe") Lobo Sosa pushed for last year; these were called Special Development Regions (RED), with the same acronym as the new entities. The Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) ruled the earlier proposal unconstitutional on Oct. 17.
Talk of former Republican Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel's imminent nomination as Obama's new Secreaty of Defense has sparked all the predictable reactions—but they don't neatly break down along lines of right and left. MondoWeiss says the pick is "setting up a battle between the left and right flanks of the Israel lobby and between realist supporters of Hagel and his neoconservative detractors." We have, of course, pointed out that "realist" or "pragmatist" is a euphemism for what is more properly termed "paleocon." While the neocons harbor hubristic dreams of re-making the Middle East (and the rest of the world) along lines favorable to the US and Israel, the paleocons favor stability under authoritarian regimes. Neither position is even remotely progressive, and it is frustrating to see ostensible leftists get caught up in a Beltway intrigue between rival currents within the political right.
Following up on an exposé last April of bribery by Wal-Mart de México, the Mexican subsidiary of US retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Dec. 18 edition of the New York Times provided details on how the company used payoffs to get around community opposition and building and environmental regulations that might slow down its campaign to build more stores. Reporters David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab wrote that by reviewing tens of thousands of documents they had identified 19 Wal-Mart stores whose construction was aided by corruption.
The US National Intelligence Council (NIC) has issued a new report, "Global Trends 2030: Potential Worlds," that emphasizes the rise of China and the risk of catastrophic climate change. An Associated Press summary Dec. 10 says the report finds global terrorism will recede along with the US military footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan, but cyber-attacks will be a growing concern. "The spectacular rise of Asian economies is dramatically altering...US influence," said NIC chairman Christopher Kojm. While the report sees the potential for US-China cooperation on global security, it also warns of resource struggles leading to instability. Under the heading "Stalled Engines," in the "most plausible worst-case scenario, the risks of interstate conflict increase," the report said. "The US draws inward and globalization stalls." The section "Black Swans" foresees extraordinary events that can change the course of history—such as a severe pandemic that could kill millions in a matter of months, or more rapid climate change. The report is optimistic, however, on the prospects for US energy independence. "With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come," it predicts.
A Dec. 5 public hearing on the proposed re-route of the Keystone XL Pipeline at the Boone County Fairgrounds in the central Nebraska town of Albion was unexpectedly packed with nearly 1,000 people who showed up to sound off on the project. The lone hearing was hosted by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality—the only opportunity for impacted residents to weigh in on the DEQ's findings on TransCanada's revised plan for an oil pipeline through the state on its way to Gulf Coast refineries. Oglala Lakota Nation vice president Tom Poor Bear was among those who expressed concerns about groundwater contamination from the project. TransCanada says it has altered the pipeline's path through Nebraska to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills and some town water wells.
US-incorporated energy firm Lone Pine Resources is challenging Quebec’s moratorium on fracking under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and demanding more than $250 million in compensation. The company—headquartered in Calgary but incorporated in Delaware—officially notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission that on Nov. 8 it filed a notice of intent to sue the Canadian government under NAFTA's controversial Chapter 11. Quebec lawmakers in June approved legislation, Bill l8, that imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing pending further study on its environmental impacts. Lone Pine cites Chapter 11's Article 117, on investor damages, in its claim for the loss of what it calls a "valuable right...without due process, without compensation and with no cognizable public purpose."
In a landslide victory, Montana voters approved an initiative on Nov. 7 Election Day stating "that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings." The initiative directly challenges the US Supreme Court's now infamous Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money for campaign groups know as "Super PACs" and "shadow money" organizations. Initiative 166 will likely win by 75% according to a projeciton by the Billings Gazette. The initiative states: