‘New Zealand’ Category Archives
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class, Challenging the Corporate Media, New Zealand, The Global Economic Crisis
(This is the second of two posts about a “classified” free trade treaty called the Transpacific Partnership and a Chinese-friendly alternative the Regional Comprehensive Economic plan. As I outlined in my last post Will the RCEP Kill the TPP?, the TPP will virtually obliterate the right of member countries to protect labor rights, enforce environmental and food safety standards and otherwise protect their citizens from amoral and rapacious corporate profit-seeking.)
Who Hasn’t Joined TPP Negotiations?
In November 2011, New Zealand antiglobalization lawyer and activist Jane Kelsey was the first to first to alert activists to Obama’s real objective in promoting the Transpacific Partnership (TPP): namely to totally isolate China economically. Originally limited to eight pacific rim nations and the US, the countries currently participating in TPP negotiations include Australia, Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma, Philippines, Singapore, New Zealand, Peru, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico Darussalam.
Both Japan and Korea have been invited to join TPP but have declined. In general, Japan prefers signing free trade agreements with non-agricultural exporting countries, rather than trying to compete with agricultural powerhouses like Australia, New Zealand and the US. (See Why Japan is lagging on the TPP)
Korea, which already has or is negotiating free trade agreements with all potential TPP participants, has no incentive to join and worries that with TPP membership would cost them concessions they have already won from these countries (see South Korea’s regionalism)
Thailand has been reluctant to join out of concern the US would use the TPP to protect big American pharmaceutical companies and block availability of low-cost medicines, a major pillar of the Thai healthcare system. (See Why Thailand reluctant to join TPP/)
Obama’s China Bashing
The Obama administration has deliberately excluded China, Asia’s largest (and the world’s second largest) economy, from TPP negotiations. As Kelsey notes in her article, The TPP as A Lynchpin of US Anti-China Strategy, Obama’s real agenda was obvious from Hillary Clinton’s speech to the November 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Honolulu. In it, she talks about “managing the relationship with China, economically and militarily” and employing TPP “as the economic limb of “American statecraft” to “lock in a substantially increased investment – economic, strategic and otherwise in the Asia Pacific region.”
As Kelsey points out, Obama underscored his efforts to remilitarize the Asia Pacific (and isolate China militarily) during a visit to Australia later that month. He chose this occasion to announce the US troop build-up in Australia, Singapore and the Philippines. Kelsey goes on to give numerous examples of overt China-bashing by US officials and corporate heads during the 2011 APEC summit. None of this was lost on Chinese representatives.
Why ASEAN Nations Prefer China as a Trading Partner
In Post-US World Born at Phnom Penh, David P Goldman (author of Why Civilizations Die and Why Islam is Dying Too), outlines why potential TPP members are flocking to sign up for the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-initiated RCEP instead. First and foremost is declining US influence in Asia, in contrast to China’s rising importance. In 2002 China imported five times as much from Asia as from the US. Ten years later the value of Chinese imports from Asia is ten time the value of their US imports. Meanwhile Chinese exports to Asia have jumped 50% since 2007. Exports to the “moribund” US economy are virtually stagnant.
Why? As Goldman elaborates, with the decline of American manufacturing (US orders for manufactured goods are 38% below their 1999 peak), the US has stopped investing in the sort of high-tech, high-value-added industries providing the type of manufacturing Asia requires to build their industrial capacity.
It’s also of note that RCEP negotiators are putting special emphasis on “the spirit of openness” (potential partners aren’t obliged to keep the RECP negotiations secret from their citizens) and doesn’t limit the number of participants. Moreover the overall vision for RCEP (“trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues”) is less narrow and corporate-friendly. It’s also more committed than the pro-corporate TPP to honoring the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to end poverty in 3rd world countries.
Is the TPP Dead?
Given all the advantages of the RCEP for most Asian countries – and for Australia and New Zealand – it’s no surprise that the corporate media is keeping ASEAN’s new and improved alternative to TPP a secret. I know Australia and New Zealand, whose economies both depend heavily on exports to China, will definitely be at the table when RCEP negotiations start next year. Whether they continue to participate in US-led TPP negotiations remains to be seen. Despite the outcome of this week’s TPP talks in Auckland, I strongly suspect Obama’s secret negotiations to use TPP to undo fifty years of hard won labor, environmental and health and safety protections may be dead in the water.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, New Zealand, The Global Economic Crisis
(This is the first of two posts regarding an extremely dangerous free trade treaty, known as the Transpacific Partnership, that is being negotiated in total secret – and a new treaty, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, that China and some ASEAN nations are promoting)
If video won’t play, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtBUL_rgG1k
Unless you subscribe to Public Citizen or the Kucinich Report (from retiring Congressman Dennis Kucinich), you won’t have heard of the top secret trade negotiations related to the Transpacific Partnership (TTP), aka the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The TPP is a “free” trade agreement like NAFTA or GATT (the treaty which created the WTO) but much worse. A major goal of US multinational corporations for the TPP is to impose on more countries a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious “investor-state” system. This system allows foreign corporations to challenge, at international tribunals, health, consumer safety, environmental, and other laws and regulations that affect both domestic and foreign firms. If a corporation “wins”, the taxpayers of the “losing” country must foot the bill. (See Investment rules harm public health). Thus TPP will virtually obliterate the right of member countries to protect labor rights, enforce environmental and food safety standards and otherwise protect their citizens from amoral and rapacious corporate profit-seeking.
RCEP stands for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. This is a newly proposed free trade treaty coming out of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at their recent summit in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Negotiations on RCEP are expected to start in earnest in 2013 (see ASEAN leaders begin RCEP negotiations). Outside of the Asian and Australian press, the RCEP has been virtually invisible in the corporate media.
The New (Old?) Trade War with China
The most important difference between the two free trade treaties is that TPP excludes China, Japan and Korea. RCEP would include all fifteen Asia countries comprising ASEAN, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and exclude the US (See post-US world born in Phnom Penh). In other words, half the world’s population.
Both Korea and Japan have been invited to join TPP but are waffling, owing to harsh TPP provisions that potentially undermine their sovereignty and their economies.
Obama has deliberately excluded China, the world’s second largest economy, from TPP. Why? Because the US is engaged in a trade war with China and doing everything possible to isolate China economically and militarily (see Trade war in the Pacific).
With many Asian countries, especially Korea, Japan and Thailand, showing a clear preference for the less restrictive RCEP, the President’s end run around China, Congress and the American public may have backfired.
The TTP Treaty is Classified
The main reason you haven’t heard of the TPP is that the text of the secret trade treaty being negotiated on your behalf is classified top secret. Even though 600 corporations are allowed online access to the entire text, access is denied to the public members of Congress. Moreover the draft treaty contains specific provisions prohibiting its release to citizens of member countries until three years after ratification. Fortunately enough of the text has been leaked for numerous Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate (which must approve all treaties) to be extremely hacked off about being denied input into TPP provisions. While NAFTA and GATT were being negotiated, former President Clinton kept Congress fully informed and even allowed them limited input.
Kiwi antiglobalization activists are gearing up in a big way for the latest round of TPP negotiations that started December 3rd in Auckland. We wouldn’t know about TPP in New Zealand, either, if Nicky Haggar, one of our foremost investigative journalists, hadn’t visited Julian Assange in London in December 2010 (see Wikileaks cloak and dagger) just before he surrendered to the London police. As people will recall, Assange released hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables just before he was taken into custody. He gave Haggar a preview of the US-New Zealand cables, which is how we learned of the conditions US corporations sought to impose on New Zealand as part of the TPP.
According to prominent antiglobalization attorney and activist Jane Kelsey, “The cables confirmed that US firms have our GM (genetic modification) regulations, restrictions on foreign ownership of land and mineral resources, and intellectual property laws, including Pharmac, squarely in their sights.” (see Wikileaks exposes government duplicity). Pharmac is the semi-autonomous government agency that negotiates bulk discounts with pharmaceutical companies for drugs used in New Zealand’s National Health Service.
The American public also has really strong reasons to oppose the TPP. According to Public Citizen, the new treaty is likely to move a million more US jobs overseas, further reduce government oversight of banks, ban Buy American policies designed to promote the greening of the US economy, flood the US with unsafe food and products, empower corporations to attack US health and safety standards and reduce or eliminate Americans’ access to cheap generic drugs. The Electronic Frontier Foundation believes TPP copyright provisions will lead to wholesale Internet censorship. Another big concern for antiglobalization activists worldwide is that specific TPP provisions would allow corporations to directly sue governments. Presently, under NAFTA, the WTO and bilateral free trade agreements, only governments can file suit against countries that supposedly interfere with the ability of their corporations to conduct business.
To be continued, with a discussion of TPP as a lynchpin of Obama’s anti-China strategy
by stuartbramhall in Inspiring Moments in Resistance, New Zealand
Learning that Goldman Sachs is being sued for insider trading for their role in misleading investors about Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO) is raising a lot of red flags here in New Zealand. Goldman Sachs is one of three investment banks New Zealand’s National government has chosen to manage the IPO of our publicly owned energy companies and Air New Zealand.
Just to be clear: insider trading is a federal crime the US. However given Obama’s extremely poor track record when it comes to prosecuting investment banks, the move by Facebook investors to file civil lawsuits against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the banks who managed the IPO was a good call. It has prompted the state of Massachusetts, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee to launch investigations. In addition Morgan Stanley, one of the investment banks being sued, has announced that it will reimburse “some” investors who were ripped off by the insider trading. But according to analysts StarMine, Facebook shares are still overvalued and the stock price could drop as low as $9.59 a share (see Facebook IPO).
Why Facebook and Their Bankster Friends Are Being Sued
US mainstream coverage of this high profile crime has been somewhat sketchy. For example, most reports refer to the banks being sued as “Morgan Stanley and others.” You have to read the business or international press to learn that Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, as well several smaller banks, were also among the perps. The reason Facebook et al are being sued and investigated is that they shared information about an anticipated drop in Facebook revenue growth with “insiders” (Facebook and institutional investors), but not with the general public. As a result public investors lost more than $2 billion when Facebook stock lost more than 17% of its original value ($38 per share) in its first day of trading. The Nasdaq exchange is also being sued, as much of this drop occurred in the first 17 seconds of trading, when Nasdaq software malfunctioned and investors were unable to buy, sell or cancel trades. (Facebook investor sues Nasdaq).
In my view, Goldman Sachs is a particularly important player in this debacle. Goldman Sachs and funds they manage already owned $850 million in Facebook shares. They sold 28.7 of their 65.9 million shares at $38 per share for $1.9 million. According to my calculations, that works out to approximately 500% profit.
Public Opposition to the Privatization of State-Owned Assets
Even before this latest scandal broke, a lot of New Zealanders were really unhappy about our government’s plan to pay Goldman Sachs and two other investment banks $150 to manage the IPO of “a partial sale” of five of our state owned companies (see Oral Questions to Ministers). A lot of people view the decision to privatize our extremely profitable state owned energy companies as “ideological” (i.e. benefiting investment trusts and wealthy New Zealanders who are Prime Minister John Key’s major backers). Key himself is a former investment banker and a former member of the New York Federal Reserve (NZ Parliament John Key).
It sure makes no economic sense to sell companies providing an average 7.6% return to New Zealand taxpayers – at least not when the cost of overseas borrowing is 4-5%.(see 10 myths about asset sales). A recent study shows that past privatization of publicly owned companies by the Labour government made the New Zealand economy worse off. Not only did the loss of revenue necessitate an increase in overseas borrowing, but ever since these companies wound up in foreign hands, there has been a steady loss of our country’s wealth in profit/dividend transfers to foreign investors (see Ganesh Nana study).
Organized Opposition to Asset Sales
There is a particularly strong opposition to the asset sales in the Maori community, which they feel violate the Treaty of Waitangi some of their chiefs signed with the British in 1840. The New Zealand Maori Council has filed a legal challenge with the Waitangi Tribunal.
On May 12th, a coalition of other groups (Grey Power, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU), the Labour Party and the Green Party) launched a petition demanding a Citizens Initiated Referendum on state assets sales. As a member of both Grey Power and the Green Party, I’ve been out in the streets nearly everyday collecting signatures. Nearly everyone I approach signs. They already know the people who run Goldman Sachs are crooks – and don’t want them anywhere near our public utilities or Air New Zealand.
Hall of Shame
Below is a list of the Facebook inside traders who cashed in big by selling their shares before the stock price plummeted:
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO
Shares sold: 30.2 million
Value: $1.13 billion
Accel Partners, venture capital investor
Year invested in Facebook: 2005 for $12.7 million
Shares sold: 49 million
Value: $1.86 billion
Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder
Year invested in Facebook: 2004 for $500,000
Shares sold: 16.8 million
Value: $640 million
DST Global Ltd, investment firm based in London and founded by Russian oligarch
Year invested in Facebook: 2009 and late 2010 for $200 million
Shares sold: 45.7 million
Value: $1.74 billion
Goldman Sachs, investment bank
Year invested in Facebook: 2011 for $450 million
Shares sold: 28.7 million
Value: $1.09 billion
Elevation Partners, private equity firm with Bono as spokesman
Shares sold: 4.6 million
Value: $176 million
Greylock Partners, venture capital investor
Year invested in Facebook: 2006 for $27.5 million
Shares sold: 7.6 million
Value: $289 million
by stuartbramhall in Medical Censorship, New Zealand
(This is the last of four blogs about the government cover-up of major health problems related to the production of dioxin-related chemicals at Dow AgroSciences in New Plymouth between 1948 and 1987.)
“I have long dreamed of buying an island owned by no nation and of establishing the world headquarters of the Dow company on truly neutral ground of such an island, beholden to no nation or society.” Dow chairman Carl Gerstacker 1972 (Exporting Environmentalism).
The above comment by the head of Dow in a1972 speech is extremely illuminating. His company came pretty damned close, in essence buying New Zealand, when they bought into Ivon Watkins Dow in 1964.
Beyond the statistical manipulations and ethical flaws, the infamous 2004-2005 study in which the New Zealand government proved that dioxin doesn’t cause cancer and birth defects, had serious underlying design flaws:
1. The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) study diluted any measurable effect size by analyzing cancer, mortality and birth defect rates for all of New Plymouth, rather than limiting their analysis to the 500 families living adjacent to Ivon Watkins Dow. In fact the records they examined only included a tiny cohort of residents with heavy dioxin exposure. The seventies, eighties and nineties saw a substantial number of Paritutu/Motorua residents leave New Plymouth – and New Zealand. Neither Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) nor the Minister of Health made any effort to trace them and investigate their health outcomes.
2. Both Ministry of Health and TDHB studies (and a 2008 University of Otago study) used residents from other areas of New Zealand as a control. It has already been well established that all Kiwis experienced massive dioxin exposure (through a largely meat and dairy-based diet) in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, which was accompanied by record birth defect and cancer rates and fertility problems. Surely a more appropriate control group would have been Kiwi urban vegans or residents in developed countries that didn’t employ massive amounts of 2,4,5-T to grow food.
Marginalizing and Harassing Local Activists
The deliberate marginalization and demonization of local dioxin activists is also a largely untold story. Both complaining residents and members of the Dioxin Investigation Network (DIN) were repeatedly attacked by the Taranaki Daily News (Taranaki News Ltd coincidentally owned 1300 shares in Ivon Watkins Dow) as paranoid alarmists. They also came under attack from New Plymouth District Council and Taranaki Regional Council members for threatening to New Plymouth’s reputation as a “clean, green” tourist destination.
This repeated portrayal of local activists and the demands they were making on TDHB as paranoid is evidenced by the ambush visit by the TDHB crisis team to DIN president Andrew Gibbs and a diagnosis of obsessive paranoid schizophrenia.
The Government Compromise: Free Health Checks
Gibbs, who has recently had his diagnosis officially reversed by a Canadian psychiatrist, continues to fight to get Dow and the New Zealand government to acknowledge the health problems of Paritutu and Motorua residents. Ironically one month after the University of Otago released a second flawed study “proving” that dioxin exposure wasn’t responsible for their health problems, the government granted Paritutu survivors three free health checks as of July 1, 2008. Gibbs dismisses the government move as a PR ploy, mainly because it denies, without any investigation, the possibility of intergenerational effects (i.e. birth defects in subsequent generations). This directly contradicts a 2006 study showing that New Zealand veterans had DNA damage as a result of dioxin (Agent Orange) exposure in Vietnam (see DNA Injury Confirmed).
The Cover-up that Cost More Than the Truth
The question yet to be answered is why the New Zealand government was so determined to cover all this up. Why spend millions of dollars on PR consultants, a “financial risk” management unit, flawed research and a vexatious Broadcast Standards Authority (BSA) complaint, when it would have cost far less to acknowledge and treat the health problems of the 500 New Plymouth households who experience dioxin exposure between 1960-1973? The ParitutuIWD website (http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/ suggests that government admission of dioxin-related health problems would open them to liability – both from New Zealand veterans and Vietnamese civilians exposed to Agent Orange. Because the New Zealand government was a share holder, as well as subsidizing 2,4,5-T production from 1969 on, they are co-liable with IWD.
I think the motivation for the cover-up is much more complex. The US government faces exponentially higher financial liability for spraying tens of thousands of US vets and Vietnamese veterans with Agent Orange. Yet they acknowledged back in the early nineties that dioxin was responsible for major health problems in Vietnam veterans and their children and grandchildren. The New Zealand government, in contrast, continued to suppress the truth and demonize and harass activists for another twenty more years.
As a newcomer to new Zealand, I think the actions of successive governments (both National and Labour) in the dioxin scandal stem from a mindset typical of small countries that depend on volatile industries, such as agricultural exports and tourism, to drive their economy. In addition to extreme weather events and novel pests (such as pseudomonas synringae actinaedae, which threatens to wipe out our kiwifruit industry), New Zealand is subject to the heartbreaking effects of the speculative global commodities market and a high New Zealand dollar. The former can suddenly, and without warning, drop the price of milk and other exports below the cost of production. The latter can wipe out entire markets, in favor of countries with a more favorable exchange rate.
All industrialized countries face massive pressure to allow corporations to externalize (i.e. pass them on to someone else) the costs of the environmental degradation and human health problems they cause. In large economies like the US, there is still scope for the public (usually the federal government) to assume some of these externalized costs. This is far more difficult in small countries like New Zealand, which are desperate for foreign investment to meet the growth targets that will stabilize their overseas debt. Believing our country’s very economic survival is at stake, the government response to ordinary Kiwis who are harmed by foreign companies has become more or less automatic: deny, spin, marginalize and demonize.
(For additional background and sources, see http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/?q=node/2).
by stuartbramhall in Medical Censorship, New Zealand
- Mar 6 2005 protest at Dow AgroSciences – I’m in the Green Party tee shirt behind the woman in the wheelchair
(This is the third of four blogs about the government cover-up of major health problems related to the production of dioxin-related chemicals at Dow AgroSciences in New Plymouth between 1948 and 1987.)
In 1987, in response to local pressure and scores of studies documenting dioxin-related health problems in Vietnam veterans, Ivon Watkins Dow (IWD) shut down all 2,4,5-T production. It’s of note this occurred without Dow or the New Zealand government acknowledging any negative health effects from dioxin exposure. Former IWD employees and Paritutu and Motorua residents in close proximity to the plant were left with a legacy of chronic health problems and nowhere to turn for help. In New Zealand, all specialist care is free under the national health service. However Kiwis can only access specialty care via their GPs. Patients pay privately for GP visits, which have yet to be incorporated into the national health scheme.
The Public Relations Firm that Got Rich Off Dioxin
The battle to obtain government recognition of the major health problems of dioxin-exposed Paritutu and Motorua residents first began in 1973 and escalated in 1980, when Friends of the Earth launched the first campaign to halt 2,4,5-T production at Ivon Watkins Dow. Instead of attempting to understand and address residents’ health problems, IWD and the New Zealand government, IWD’s partner though major share holdings and subsidization, became the first clients of New Zealand’s first public relations firm (Consultus). Records show that Consultus was hired to ensure the ongoing availability and use of 2,4,5-T. A 1981 case study from the international journal PR News – about Consultus’ first PR campaign – is entitled “Countering an Activist Campaign to Have a Product Banned from Use” (http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/PDF/C1a.pdf). This “media management” reassurance response seems to be very typical of New Zealand’s approach to toxic waste management. In the words of one Paritutu survivor, the goal is to “delay and deny until we die.”
In the mid to late nineties, a friend and local activist named Andrew Gibbs helped found a new research group, the Paritutu Dioxin Investigation Network. When his de facto partner, a long term resident of Paritutu, developed chronic fatigue syndrome and unexplained anemia, her family and friends informed him of widespread reproductive and immune problems of families living near IWD. Gibbs, alarmed by 1985 Paritutu studies showing dioxin residues as high as in Vietnamese regions sprayed with Agent Orange, tried to get the government to test her blood and that of other Paritutu residents. However both National and Labour were still more interested in managing public opinion about dioxin than in helping New Plymouth residents with major health problems.
The Government Gives in to Grassroots Pressure
In 1998 the Dioxin Investigation Network persuaded local MP (and now mayor) Harry Duynhoven to ask the Minister of Health (under a National-led government) to investigate the health problems of former Paritutu and Motorua residents. His request was declined. In 2000 a similar request to the Minister of Health of the newly elected Labour government was also dismissed.
In 2001, Minister of Health Annette King finally agreed to test the serum levels of 100 Paritutu survivors. When many were found to have elevated dioxin levels, the Labour-led government responded by setting up a Ministry of Health unit to manage “financial risks” related to potential government liability (see http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/PDF/01.PDF).
Spin, Cover-up, and Statistical Manipulation
They subsequently commissioned a 2004-2005 study by Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) to “analyze” Taranaki District Health Board cancer and birth defect records for a possible link to dioxin exposure. The researchers the Minister of Health engaged subjected the data to a number of bizarre statistical manipulations to produce the desired conclusion: that high rates of cancer and birth defects in Paritutu and Motorua households were totally unrelated to dioxin exposure. For example, the Ministry of Health (MOH) deliberately re-targeted the study design to focus on residents living in Paritutu between 1974-87, who were known to have lower exposure levels on the basis of initial serum results and production changes between 1969 and 1973 that reduced dioxin contamination. The MOH also altered 2005 data reporting to make it appear ongoing exposure occurred between 1974-87, as well as using inaccurate half-life figures to skew pre-1974 results. Moreover they excluded high rates of diagnosed cancer between 1970-74 as being too close to the period of toxic exposure, which they misreported as occurring between 1962-87 (diluting the effect by including 14 years in which residents experienced minimal dioxin exposure), rather than between 1960-73. See (*) below for actual data.
When these statistical manipulations were challenged in a 2006 TV3 documentary entitled “Let us Spray,” the government and their risk management unit dismissed the bulk of the alleged misrepresentations and blamed others on “typographical” errors. The government subsequently laid a (successful) complaint with the Broadcast Standards Authority (BSA) about the documentary, which had won a Qantas Television Award. It subsequently came out that the Minister of Health omitted the statistically manipulated data when they subjected their study for peer review. The only peer review conducted in conjunction with the offending data was ignored. The peer reviewer, Dr Marie Sweeney from the (US) National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health, recommended several corrections to the text and tables which were never made.
After New Zealand health officials repeatedly ignored recommendations by ESR and the local ethics review board that they undertake a geo-spatial study of families with elevated dioxin levels, Gibbs himself undertook a study on residents living within 500 meters of IWD between 1963-66. He achieved his primary goal – proving that a historical cohort could be identified – at a total cost of $1000. This was in contrast to the hundreds of millions of dollars the New Zealand government had paid Consultus, ESR, their “financial risk” management unit and the legal team that filed their vexatious BSA complaint.
*A look at the Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) 2002 data reveals a large increase in neural tube birth defects in Moturoa and Paritutu residents between 1965 and 1972. It also reveals that New Plymouth rates of hydrocephaly, hypospadias, spina bifida and anencephaly recorded at New Plymouth Maternity Hospital between 1965 and 1971 were respectively 3.2 times, 3.8 times, 4.2 times and 9.7 times the crude rates found in offspring of US Vietnam veterans:
“The 1966-1972 rate of still-births was 1 in 7 versus the expected N.Z rate of 1.1 still-birth in 100 births. The 1966-72 rate of linked NTD (neural tube development) defects was 1 in 10.5 vs the N.Z range of 1 NTD in 222 to 1 NTD in 400. The 1966-72 rate of birth defect cases was *1 in 7 versus the N.Z expected rate of 1 case in 50 births This conservative rate is based on the 2002 TDHB review of addresses for only 17 of 167 birth defect cases 1965-70 so does not include the other 150 defects or three defects reported by Zone A mothers.” See http://www.nzbdmp.ac.nz/assets/FILES/Birth%20Defects%20in%20the%20New%20Plymouth%20District.pdf and http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/PDF/B38.PDF.pdf).”
The TDHB data also reveals a significant increase in 1976-85 cancer rates living within 500 meters of IWD in 1963-1966:
“Study of 165 Paritutu Zone A 1963-1966 residents living within a 500 metres of Ivon Watkins Building 03 plant: 1976-85 rate of 0-64 year age group cancer mortality was 4.5 times expected. Five deaths where 1.1 was expected based on mean of 1976 and 1985 NZ census rates. Four of the 5 deaths were in 1981 and 1982. Two in five NZ 1976-85 cancer deaths were in 0-64 ages. All five Zone A cancer deaths were in 0-64 ages. Two 1981 cancer deaths were parents aged 35 and 48 of 1969 and 1970 miscarriage and still-birth cases. There were 13 deaths 1976-85 for Zone A 1963-66 residents with 13.4 all cause deaths expected, 5 were cancer deaths with 2.9 expected and there were 3 lung cancer mortalities where less than 1 was expected (see http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/PDF/60.pdf/).”
(For additional background and sources, see http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/?q=node/2).
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in Medical Censorship, New Zealand
Images from New Plymouth Maternity Hospital
(This is the second of four blogs about the government cover-up of major health problems related to the production of dioxin-related chemicals at Dow AgroSciences in New Plymouth between 1948 and 1987)
It’s fairly common for the US and other European countries to ask New Zealand, owing to our lax environmental regulations, to manufacture and or test hazardous substances that are too controversial in their own countries. In 2005 the former MP and current mayor of New Plymouth claimed to have leaked documents revealing that New Plymouth’s Ivon Watkins Dow (IWD) plant secretly manufactured 2,4,5-T and 2,4 D for the Pentagon for use as “Agent Orange” in Vietnam. When combined, the two chemicals form large amounts of 2,3,7,8 TCDD, also known as dioxin. In 1969, around the same time the US embassy complained about high dioxin residues in beef and lamb exports, the US ended their use of Agent Orange to defoliate Vietnamese jungles. Contrast New Zealand, where the Government introduced a subsidy (in 1969) to encourage increased production and use of 2,4,5-T
Birth Defects: An Early Warning Sign
Meanwhile all kinds of alarm bells should have been going off, owing to a staggering increase in severe birth defects in families downwind of IWD. In the early 1970s, the New Plymouth Maternity Hospital Matron informed the local health department that between 1965 and 1971, one out of thirty newborns hospital had birth defects. These included a strikingly high proportion of neural tube defects commonly associated with dioxin exposure, such as anencephaly (the absence of a brain), hydrocephalus and spina bifida.
During the same period, New Plymouth officials noted that (illegal) liquid emissions had a corrosive effect on drain pipes, and residents who got the stuff on their skin developed orange blisters that never healed. Downwinders complained that the veggies they grew were misshapen. While, as in Love Canal, there was a spate of miscarriages, stillbirths, deformed newborns and kids with chronic health problems.
Declining Sperm Counts and Toxic Breast Milk
During a period that New Plymouth had the highest rate of birth defects in the country, the overall rate in New Zealand was one of the highest in the world. Everyone ingesting New Zealand meat and dairy products during the sixties and seventies accumulated substantial blood and fatty tissue concentrations of dioxin, owing to the massive amount of 2,4,5-T Kiwi farmers used to clear gorse and scrub. There is a presumptive link between this exposure and declining sperm counts and spiking cancer rates Kiwis experienced in the decades that followed. Even more alarming, a 1972-73 study of Dunedin infant published in the Lancet suggested that breast milk (which also accumulates dioxin) was less healthy than formula. In a survey of 1000 children, those breastfed four weeks or longer were twice as likely to suffer from allergies or asthma in later childhood.
The US Bans 2,4,5-T in All Crops But Rice
In 1969, IWD upgraded their 2,4,5-T plants “rudimentary” emission controls to reduce dioxin levels in their air emissions and the herbicide they produced. From 1973 on, after the US banned 2,4,5-T in all food crops except rice, the NZ government required IWD to treat their herbicide with a solvent that reduced dioxin levels levels even further. The fate of the dioxin IWD extracted between 1973 and 1987 remains unclear. Both national and regional agencies were charged with monitoring the dioxin content of IWD’s incinerator emissions. However according to available records, monitoring was sporadic, if it happened it all.
Cancer Rates Climb
Meanwhile studies continued to be published overseas linking dioxin exposure to many of the health problems residents of Paritutu and Motorua (the suburbs closest to IWD) were describing. In addition to birth defects, miscarriages, crib deaths and chronic childhood illnesses, downwind families were experiencing unprecedented levels of brain and spinal tumors, sarcomas, lymphomas, prostate and respiratory cancers and multiple sclerosis, as well as neurodevelopmental (mainly autism, Asperger’s disorder, mental retardation and ADHD) problems in their kids
Economic Viability Trumps Health
In 1972 an explosion at IWD (resulting in a massive ash emissions release), coupled with the documented increase in birth defects, led the Environmental Defense Society to call for a total New Zealand ban on 2,4,5-T production. Following a campaign by Residents Against Dioxin and a second explosion in 1986, a Ministerial Committee of Inquiry was convened. Unfortunately the Inquiry ignored the report by the Health Department of Regional Air Pollution Control officer who performed soil testing in Paritutu and Motorua. His 1985 report concluded that airborne IWD emissions during the sixties had resulted in soil dioxin residues comparable to those of Vietnamese regions sprayed with Agent Orange.
The conclusion reached by the Committee of Inquiry: that New Zealand had no “economically viable” alternative to 2,4, 5-T.
(For additional background and sources, see http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/?q=node/2).
To be continued
by stuartbramhall in Medical Censorship, New Zealand
(This is the first of four blogs about the government cover-up of major health problems related to the production of dioxin-related chemicals at Dow AgroSciences in New Plymouth between 1948 and 1987)
When is corruption not corruption? The anti-corruption campaign in India has received substantial international coverage. Likewise complaints of extensive government corruption in debt-ridden Spain and Greece. Yet massive electoral fraud by Republican-controlled states in 2000 and 2004 goes virtually unreported, even in the so-called alternative media. Likewise allowing corporations to bribe elected officials by paying for their election campaigns is rarely referred to as corruption. Neither is the CIA’s involvement in narcotics trafficking. Nor rewarding banksters with billion dollar bailouts rather than jailing them. Surely any government that openly engages in such activities is deeply corrupt. So why does the world media point the finger at India, Greece and Spain and not the US?
This paradox seems to revolve around the specific nature, not severity, of corrupt practices. What passes for corruption in India, and to some extent Spain and Greece, is major tax avoidance and the expectation that applicants for passports, visas, drivers and business licenses and construction permits will pay a bribe on top of the application fee. All relatively minor stuff, compared to American-style corruption, but fairly common in poor countries where government bureaucrats don’t earn enough to live on.
Since coming to New Zealand, I’ve learned there is a third variety of corruption typical of struggling second world countries. Numerous safeguards make electoral fraud very difficult here. Likewise public officials who accepted bribes would be harshly punished, owing to the disastrous effect it would have on foreign investment. In fact, New Zealand is widely promoted in the global community as being corruption-free. It also enjoys the dubious distinction of being the most regulation-free for overseas corporations, especially when it comes to hazardous corporate waste.
This is the conclusion I have come to: what the corporate media refers to as “corruption” are extra legal activities that interfere with the ability to conduct business. Corruption that results in environmental degradation or destroys the lives or health of ordinary people doesn’t count.
New Plymouth: the Dioxin Capitol of New Zealand
The whole issue of chemical trespass and inadequate toxics regulation is of particular concern to me as a New Plymouth resident. I have numerous friends and former patients who have had their health and lives ruined by the government;s total refusal to oversee or regulate the activities of Dow AgroSciences (formerly known as Ivon Watkins Dow).* The latter produced extremely hazardous dioxin-related compounds between 1948 and 1987. After World War II, chlorinated hydrocarbons (aka organochlorines), such as 2,3,7,8 TCDD (dioxin), 2,4,5-T and 2,4 D were developed as herbicides (weed killers). Dioxin, also known as Agent Orange, was extensively sprayed during the Vietnam War to expose guerrilla positions by defoliating the jungles. The damaging health effects of these compounds were noted in many returning GIs and Vietnamese civilians and their children and grandchildren.
New Zealand, which has long had an economy driven by agricultural exports, relied heavily on the toxic petroleum-based insecticides and herbicides that came out after the war. As early as 1957, the New Zealand Royal Society cautioned that these chemicals needed to be thoroughly investigated, owing to the potential hazard they posed to human health. The warning went unheeded. In the 1950s and 1960s New Zealanders experienced the highest per capita exposure to DDT and related pesticides and 2,4,5-T in the western world. This appears to be the major culprit in the doubling of New Zealand’s cancer rate between 1960 and 2012 – and the halving of Kiwi sperm counts between 1987 and 2007. This drop is the most dramatic fall in the developed world. Neither Australia nor the US experienced a comparable decline in sperm counts during the same period.
The New Zealand government got their first wake-up call regarding their heavy use of these chemicals in 1961, when the US issued a ban on New Zealand beef exports, owing to excessive residues of chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, and BHC, which were used extensively as soil insecticides to combat ‘grass grub’. In 1969 the US notified the New Zealand government of their intention to test beef and lamb exports for TCDD (dioxin), based on research showing that dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T had caused birth defects in animal studies. A confidential 1960s Dow internal memo reveals that Dow knew TCDD contaminated 2,4, 5-T was hazardous to human health: “The material presents a definite hazard. It shouldn’t be sold until animal tests show these products to be free of significant hazard from dioxin-related materials.” (For additional background and sources, see http://paritutuiwd.hostzi.com/?q=node/2).
*While Ivon Watkins (incorporated in 1944) prided itself on research and development geared towards New Zealand conditions, several major international chemical firms had substantial financial interests in the company including Monsanto (USA), the American Chemical Paint Company (USA), Geigy (Switzerland), Cela (Germany) and the Union Carbide Corporation (USA). Solidifying such connections, the company became Ivon Watkins-Dow Ltd (IWD) in 1964 after Dow Chemicals USA bought a 50% interest (Sewell 1978 – see http://www.dioxinnz.com/pdf-NZ-RAD/RAD-Thesis-BWC.pdf).
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in New Zealand
The US and its English-speaking allies have embarked on a dangerous trend of arresting (or targeting for assassination) political activists on the basis of what they allegedly say or intend or who they associate with, as opposed to actual criminal acts. Anwar al-Awlaki, for example, was targeted with a drone strike on the basis of statements he made in his mosque and on the Internet. His sixteen year old son, who Obama killed with a second drone two weeks later, was a target solely because he was the son of an alleged terrorist.
We are fortunate in New Zealand that we still arrest and try our so-called terrorists, rather than allowing our government to target them with drones. Yet the six year saga culminating in yesterday’s hung jury (on “participation in a criminal group” charges) in the Urewera 4 case suggests New Zealand has learned some bad habits from the Bush and Obama administration. Not only have there been serious violations of the New Zealand Bill of Rights, but it’s clear the New Zealand government, like the US, is using anti-terrorism legislation to harass and intimidate activists engaged in lawful protest.
The Two Taranaki Defendants
The case hits pretty close to home, as two of the defendants, Emily Bailey and Urs Signer, are friends and local activists, as well as founders of Climate Justice Taranaki. All four defendants were found guilty on weapons charges and face sentencing in May. This is despite a New Zealand Supreme Court ruling last year that the police evidence was illegally obtained and couldn’t be used in prosecuting the Arms Act charges.
The Police Terror Raids
On Monday, October 15th 2007, hundreds of New Zealand police terrorized Ruatoki in eastern New Zealand, with dawn raids in which Tuhoe women and children were held at gunpoint for nine hours, while searches were carried out through the entire community. Although the original defendants involved both Maori and environmental activists, there has never been any question that the charges were racially motivated. This comes out loud and clear, both from court testimony and the media coverage. Operation 8 (http://uncensored.co.nz/2011/05/05/operation-8-deep-in-the-forest/), a film released last year, documents the illegal police state tactics involved in the 2007 raid.
Police Evidence Ruled Illegal
Due to lack of evidence, the Solicitor-General (the representative of the Queen) refused to give the police permission to bring terrorism charges. In the end eighteen people were charged with Arms Act violations (possessing illegal and/or unlicensed weapons), with five additionally charged with “participation in a criminal group.” In September 2011 the New Zealand Supreme Court ruled that the police investigation had been illegal (owing to illegal video and audio surveillance on private land) but was admissible on the more serious charge of “participation in a criminal group.” This ruling resulted in thirteen defendants being discharged from the case. In July 2011, one of the five remaining defendants, Tuhoe Lambert, died from stress-related illness.
Trial by Media
When it came to the actual trial, which began February 13, the prosecution attempted to prove the Urewera 4 were conducting a guerrilla training camp in Urewera National Park. The Crown’s case was based mainly on illegal choppy video surveillance, showing some of the defendants in camouflage outfits and/or holding weapons. Even mainstream commentators have pointed out that the video evidence shows an appalling amateurishness and lack of competence for a supposed paramilitary operation.
The Crown also submitted a massive amount of testimony from undercover agents who followed the defendants around for two years as they visited shops, cafes and petrol stations and made note of the videos they watched and the books they read and the comments they made in Internet chat rooms. The actual purpose of the camp is somewhat unclear. According to one defendant, the goal was to train local Tuhoe to provide security for forestry operations. The only prosecution witnesses to participate in the camps (who were age 14 and 16 at the time) talked about attending on the advice of their personal trainer to get advice on nutrition and healthy exercise.
The main weapon the prosecution used against the defendants was selective leaking of the illegal surveillance evidence to the press, resulting in their virtual conviction by the media long before they went to trial.
The Real Goal: Intimidating Activists
The aspect of the case I find most chilling is that the New Zealand police and security services conducted close (and illegal) surveillance for two years on several dozen known activists, in the hope of concocting a criminal case that would take them off the streets. All this at a total cost to the New Zealand taxpayer of $8 million, to say nothing of the immense personal toll on the defendants. Six years is a long time to have your movements restricted, to say nothing of the stress of long drawn out legal proceedings and having your reputation destroyed by a hostile media fed selective leaks of illegally obtained evidence.
In spying on, harassing and illegally prosecuting these activists, the New Zealand government is violating a fundamental right in a free a democratic society – the right to peaceful dissent and protest. All governments, no matter how enlightened, sometimes get it wrong. Historically the New Zealand government seems to have a particular problem with infringing on Maori rights and ignoring international environmental protection standards.
The Crown still has the option of requesting a new trial on the more serious “participation in a criminal group” charges. Let’s hope they are sufficiently embarrassed by what came out at trial to make the correct call.
(See http://www.3news.co.nz/Urewera-verdict-Tame-Iti-guilty-on-six-firearms-charges/tabid/423/articleID/247385/Default.aspx and http://www.october15thsolidarity.info/legal for additional background on the Urewera 4 case)
by stuartbramhall in New Zealand
There is growing suspicion in New Zealand that this country, like American Samoa and Puerto Rico, has become an American colony. Sadly, the unfolding Kim Dotcom saga seems to confirm this. On January 20th, a New Zealand assault team consisting of helicopters and special defense forces and police armed with automatic weapons invaded the private Auckland home of Mega Upload founder and CEO Kim Dotcom. The reason for Dotcom’s arrest? In New Zealand such treatment is normally reserved for international terrorism suspects and drug dealers. However the purpose of the January 20th assault was an FBI extradition order for Internet piracy.
Dotcom, who is out on bail, gave his first media interview last night on TV 3 Campbell Live. People have to see this. Americans especially need to watch the interview, as this type of hard hitting investigative reporting has become extremely rare in the US. The twenty-three minute segment leaves absolutely no doubt that the FBI Indictment is nothing but lies and fabrication. If, due to massive legal bungling, some New Zealand judge agrees to extradite this guy, he will undoubtedly be found innocent in US federal court.
The FBI Has Knowingly Violated US Law
The FBI has no case. If Dotcom is guilty, so are dozens of other “cloud” Internet providers (for example YouTube) that provide bandwidth for uploading and sharing large files. It appears that, once again, the FBI has knowingly violated US law. I suspect they have done this on the assumption that Dotcom is an easy target because either 1) the New Zealand legal and judicial system is (in their view) made up of ignorant hicks or 2) our current (conservative) National government are such obsequious lapdogs that they will introduce some weird retroactive law in Parliament to alter the rules of evidence (this is legal in New Zealand, owing to the absence of a written constitution).
Protected by the Same Laws as YouTube
John Campbell is a very skillful interviewer. The first point he brings out is the elaborate precautions (based on millions of dollars of legal advice) that Dotcom built into Mega Upload to protect the motion picture and music industry against illegal file sharing activities. The first is the Terms of Service Agreement all Mega Upload users were required to tick. In it they agreed not to share copyrighted material, but only files that they themselves had produced. The second was file deletion rights Mega Upload granted their 180 partners, which included every single member of the Motion Picture Association and many music studios. As Dotcom points out, this is not a legal requirement (YouTube doesn’t grant automatic deletion rights) but something he did voluntarily. This is in addition to the 15 million files Mega Upload has deleted at the request of copyright holders.
The Mega Upload founder goes on to outline the US laws that protect “cloud” servers, which legally are categorized as Internet service providers (ISP’s). The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is very explicit that ISP’s are in no way responsible for copyright violations of third party users, other than to take down illegal files that are reported to them. Because of privacy protections in the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, ISP’s are forbidden from examining files posted by their patrons. Thus they have no way of knowing of copyright violations unless content providers notify them.
Why the FBI Doesn’t Go After YouTube
The CEO of Mega Upload acknowledges that Internet piracy is an enormous problem for all cloud/file sharing providers, including YouTube (now owned by Google, Media Fire, Rapid Share and Shy Drive (run by Microsoft). He asks why the FBI doesn’t go after any corporate cloud/file sharing servers and answers his own question: Google has $50 billion to defend themselves.
Dotcom is surprisingly nonchalant that the FBI has destroyed his billion dollar business. I suspect this may have been their intention all along – in order to intimidate other solo entrepreneurs keen on entering the lucrative cloud/file sharing industry. The FBI, Hong Kong and New Zealand have frozen all his financial assets. He indicates his attorneys presently are working without pay, owing to their concern about the blatant miscarriage of justice by both the FBI and the New Zealand government. Dotcom is clearly relieved to be out of jail, as Mrs. Dotcom is expecting twins in April.
Implications for Cloud Users
The case also has ominous implications for cloud users. When the FBI shut down Mega Upload on January 20th, all their patrons (numbering in the hundreds of thousands) lost all their data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is preparing to file suit if the FBI fails to retain and return these files to their rightful owners.
Jacob Appelbaum’s Take on the Dotcom Case
People should also view Jacob Appelbaum’s commentary on the Dotcom case, in a speech at Occupy Melbourne. Appelbaum is the Internet freedom activist who, owing to his association with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, was detained at both Newark and Seattle airport and had his laptop, cellphones and other electronic equipment confiscated. Appelbaum makes the point that the law has never held the FBI back in harassing law abiding citizens. He believes they have chosen to make an example of Dotcom owing to the failure of The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in Congress – that they want to make the case they don’t really need SOPA to arrest Internet pirates. This is a common strategy. As any activist over fifty can attest, the FBI has long engaged in illegal surveillance activities that only became legal in 2001 under the Patriot Act.
 Kim Dotcom was born (in Germany) Kim Schmitz and changed his surname by deed poll.
 Cloud computing refers broadly to a range of Internet services that allow files to be stored, backed up and/or shared on-line.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on Civil Liberties, Attacks on the Working Class, New Zealand
My fifth and final post about the antiglobalization movement – and why it’s more important than ever in 2011.
Activists mustn’t be lured into a false sense of security by the collapse of Doha round of WTO negotiations. Globalization is very much alive and well. WTO tribunals continue to meet secretly in Geneva enforcing trade provisions that have already been agreed. Moreover after a two year hiatus, an informal meeting at the May G20 Summit in Paris has resulted in the scheduling of a WTO ministerial in Geneva in December 2011. The goal of the December meeting is to try to reach a “partial” agreement on the Doha round.
Even more ominous are efforts by corporately-controlled governments in the industrial north to coerce concessions out of smaller countries with bilateral “free trade” (see * definition below) deals that strip citizens of their democratic rights and force subsistence farmers off their lands in Africa and Southeast Asia (to enable their sale to multinational agrobusinesses).
The TPPA: Say Goodbye to Generics
At present, both the US and New Zealand are at highest risk from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a nine country (US, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam) free trade treaty currently being negotiated with the US. Up till now, the US has been unwilling to negotiate a “free trade” agreement with New Zealand, owing to this country’s antinuclear policy, which denies US naval vessels access to our harbors. I find it frankly embarrassing to see our new National (conservative) government tart themselves up like a cheap hooker in order to trade away New Zealand’s sovereignty, economic sustainability and public health.
Dr Jane Kelsey, New Zealand’s foremost anti-globalization lawyer and activist, was among the protestors at the Chicago anti-TPPA kick-off rally over Labor Day. Other high profile TPPA opponents include Public Citizen, Knowledge Ecology, and Health Gap (international HIV-AIDS campaigners). The last two groups are extremely concerned about TPPA provisions increasing the monopoly rights of pharmaceutical companies, which will make it virtually impossible for low income patients (especially in developing countries) to access low cost life-saving generic drugs.
Kelsey has written and spoken extensively about the TPPA, which first came to public attention in New Zealand thanks to a December 2010 Wikileaks cable. Although New Zealand’s National-led government still refuses to release the full text of TPPA, enough has been leaked by various sources to reveal that its bad news for New Zealand’s democratic system of government. Like the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), it guarantees special rights to investors and forces the repeal of laws that interfere with the ability of multinational corporations to do business in this country. This includes scrapping PHARMAC, our world-famous bulk drug purchasing agency (pharmaceutical companies hate PHARMAC because it forces them to discount their brand name drugs), as well as restricting New Zealand’s ability to put warning labels on cigarette packs and content labels on genetically modified foods. It would curtail their ability to regulate dodgy finance companies, as well as forcing us to allow mining in our forest reserves, fishing in our marine reserves and high rise hotels on our pristine beaches.
To follow TPPA negotiations and get involved in the anti-TPPA movement go to http://tppwatch.org/
*Free trade – describes an approach to international trade that allows traders to trade across national boundaries without any interference from respective governments.
*Fair trade – is closer to the original “free trade” concept (abolishing protective tariffs and quotas) promoted by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations. Smith advocated that wealth should flow naturally from richer to poorer nations, as a way of increasing innovation and productive capacity in both rich and poor countries. Fair trade is an organized social movement around a market-based approach that advocates for third world producers to be paid a fairer, higher price for their products, as well as higher social and environmental standards.