North Korea 101: Are We Really Primed for War?


Salon,  By Tim shorrock, Alternet

America’s current policy toward North Korea is an utter failure — here’s how we got here.

We all know it’s a crisis. Every night this week, NBC, CBS and every other media outlet in the country have led their evening newscasts with increasingly grim news out of Korea.

It’s gone like this. A state of war has been declared between North Korea and the United States by Kim Jong-un, the North’s 27-year-old hereditary dictator. North Korea has battle plans to attack Washington and other U.S. cities, including, of all places, Austin, Texas, with atomic weapons. The Kaesong Industrial Zone, the last demonstration of North and South Korean cooperation just above the DMZ, has been temporarily shut down after the North refused entry to South Koreans who work there. Pyongyang has threatened to restart its Yongbyon nuclear power plant, mothballed since 2007 under a nuclear proliferation agreement with Washington and other regional powers, and begin producing bomb-ready plutonium again. And on Thursday, North Korea was allegedly moving missiles to its east coast facing Japan.

The sense of hysteria and impending doom has been magnified by the Obama administration and the Pentagon. In a show of force not seen in East Asia for decades, the United States, as part of a series of war games with South Korea, dispatched B-52 and stealth B-2 bombers capable of devastating nuclear and tactical strikes screaming across Korean skies. F-22 warplanes, perhaps the most advanced in the U.S. arsenal, are there too, along with two guided-missile destroyers. A new THAAD portable missile defense system is being deployed to nearby Guam as a “precautionary” measure against possible North Korean missile strikes, and plans are underway for a massive expansion in U.S. missile defense systems in Alaska and the West Coast. Meanwhile, U.S. and South Korean troops practice simulated nuclear attacks and even regime change in their massive military drills, which both governments described as “defensive.”

The rhetoric has ratcheted up too – to alarming levels. “We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed” by “cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK,” a spokesman for the Korean Peoples’ Army (KPA) declared this week, using the formal name for the North – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel responded in kind, calling the DPRK a “real and clear danger and threat” to the United States and its allies. “They have nuclear capacity now,” he added. “They have missile delivery capacity now.”

And then, out of the blue, President Obama and his military leaders came out on Thursday and sought to calm the waters – and the skies. “The White House is dialing back the aggressive posture amid fears that it could inadvertently trigger an even deeper crisis,” the Wall Street Journal reported in Thursday’s editions. It quoted a “senior administration official” explaining that the concern was “that we were heightening the prospect of misperceptions on the part of the North Koreans, and that that could lead to miscalculations.” U.S. officials, the Journal added, didn’t believe the DPRK had “any imminent plans to take military action.”

What the hell is going on? Are we really as close to war as this sounds? Why all the buildup if North Korea was bluffing? What’s up with the “dialing back” of U.S. forces? And what brought us to this point?

Before getting to those questions, everybody should take a deep breath. First, as anyone familiar with North Korea knows, any attack by the DPRK on the U.S. or its allies would be suicide for the country of 30 million: It would be met by a relentless counterattack by the most powerful military force the world has ever seen. Threats sound ominous, but at this point that’s all they seem to be: threats, designed to trigger a response in Washington that, in the mind of Kim and his military advisers, might lead to direct talks. (Remember his plaintive request to Dennis Rodman? “Obama should call me.”)

Second, contrary to Hagel’s assertion about DPRK’s nuclear and missile capabilities, there is no evidence that North Korea has the means to lob a nuclear-armed missile at the United States or anyone else. So far, it has produced several atomic bombs and tested them, but it lacks the fuel and the technology to miniaturize a nuke and place it on a missile (many of which have failed in tests anyway). North Korea’s problems in this area were clarified this week by Siegfried Hecker, one of America’s preeminent nuclear scientists, who has been invited to visit the DPRK’s nuclear facilities several times.

“Despite its recent threats, North Korea does not yet have much of a nuclear arsenal because it lacks fissile materials and has limited nuclear testing experience,” Hecker said this week on a website run by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, according to the Associated Press. And whatever U.S. intelligence knows about the actual capabilities of North Korea – which is more closely watched by U.S. spy satellites and planes than any country on earth – is highly classified.

Beyond that, the answers to our questions about the current situation lie deep in the history of U.S. involvement in Korea, which dates back to 1945 and the terrible war that engulfed the peninsula from 1950 to 1953. That war, in which over 3 million Koreans and some 60,000 Americans were killed, ended in an armistice, not a peace agreement (signed, incidentally, by the United States and the DPRK). North Korea also remembers it as a hellish time when the U.S. Air Force bombed the country into cinders – literally.

But for now, let’s go back just a few years. We’ll start in the waning days of the Clinton administration.

It’s hard to believe today, but in 2000, Kim Jong-il, dispatched his second-in-command, Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, to Washington. There, Jo met in the White House with President Clinton as well as the secretaries of State and Defense. At that time, Clinton officials later said, the United States and the DPRK were on the verge of an agreement in which North Korea was going to end its missile production and testing program in return for guarantees from Washington that the United States would recognize the DPRK and respect its sovereignity. Those talks grew out of Clinton’s 1994 accord with Kim Il-sung – the current leader’s grandfather. North Korea shut down its Soviet-era nuclear power program and the United States, South Korea and Japan agreed to help build a light-water reactor for civilian use and supply fuel oil to fill the gap.

The 1994 agreement, in turn, set the stage for South Korean President Kim Dae-jung – at one point that country’s most famous dissident – to initiate a broad “Sunshine Policy” with the North designed to build political and military trust and lead eventually to normalization and a form of unification. During the sunshine era, Kim’s successor as president, Roh Moo-hyun, reached an agreement with Kim Jong-il to build the Kaesong industrial zone – now the only thread remaining of this brief period of glasnost on the Korean Peninsula. The warming was symbolized in late 2000, when Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flew to Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong-il in the highest-level meeting in U.S.-North Korean history.

But Clinton’s missile agreement was never completed, and in 2000 incoming President Bush declared that North Korea could not be trusted as a negotiating partner and stopped all talks with the DPRK. Then, after the 9/11 attacks, Bush decided to place North Korea in the company of Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as partners in the “Axis of Evil.” That ended any chance of rapprochment. The hostility only deepened when Bush invaded Iraq and installed a pro-U.S. government – a move that Pyongyang understood as a clear statement of Bush’s intentions in Korea. This was followed in 2002 by U.S. accusations, denied at the time by the DPRK, that it was running a secret uranium facility to build bombs. After that, the earlier Clinton agreement completely unraveled. In 2006, North Korea shocked the world by testing its first atomic bomb (for a detailed timeline of North Korea’s program, click here).

By 2007, however, Bush began to rethink his policies as the costs of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan escalated. Prodded by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was edging out Dick Cheney as Bush’s chief foreign policy guru, the administration participated in a series of negotiations involving China, Japan, Russia and North and South Korea. The so-called six-party talks ended in an accord that extended Clinton’s 1994 agreement, shut Yongbyon for good, and set a timeline for deepening U.S.-North Korean ties. That agreement ended what historian Bruce Cumings called at the time “the most asinine Korea policy in history.” The DPRK even broadcast video of the Yongbyon cooling tower being blown up (those images were replayed on U.S. television this week when the North threatened to restart that plant).

A year later, Barack Obama, running in part on a platform that promised U.S. talks with countries like North Korea and Iran, was elected president. Shortly into his administration, a new Korea policy began to evolve under the stewardship of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was called “strategic patience,” and was designed on the premise that Kim Jong-il was about to die and that the Kim dynasty, torn by internal power struggles, was bound to collapse. Clinton and Obama also made it clear that they would not reopen any talks with the North until it turned away from nuclear weapons and opened itself to change. That policy turned out to be a strategic miscalculation: Kim did die last year, but the transition to his third son, Kim Jong-un, has gone smoothly. The regime is still there, as strong as ever.

One incident from 2010 underscores how little Obama was interested in negotiations. That fall, a delegation of former high-ranking U.S. officials visited Pyongyang and met with senior officials in Kim Jong-il’s government. As I reported shortly after their return, the delegation was told “that Pyongyang is prepared to ship out all of its nuclear fuel rods, the key ingredient for producing weapons-grade plutonium, to a third country in exchange for a U.S. commitment to pledge that it has ‘no hostile intent” toward the DPRK.”  Joel Wit, a former State Department official who was part of the delegation, recalled last week that the offer “would have been a first step toward permanently disabling the [Yongban] facility, making sure the reactor would never again be a threat.” The offer, he added, “was dutifully reported to the Obama administration in briefings for the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community.” But the Obama White House “didn’t even listen,” Wit said.

There was another complicating factor in Obama’s policies. After 2008, South Korea’s president was Lee Myung-bak, a conservative. Lee strongly opposed the “sunshine” policies of his predecessors and began to take a much harder line on military issues with the North. Relations across the DMZ took a nose-dive in March 2010, when Lee’s government blamed the North for blowing up a South Korean warship off Korea’s west coast, killing 46 sailors. The DPRK denied it, but a South Korean commission and an international team of investigators held the North responsible (many in the South still question those conclusions).

That incident kicked off the last big confrontation that had the Koreas and the United States talking of war. In November 2010, the United States and South Korea staged another major naval exercise on the west coast near where the Korean warship had gone down. The DPRK issued a series of warnings, saying that if any shells landed on their side of a disputed North-South maritime border, they would retaliate. Some did, and the North struck back ferociously by shelling the island of Yeonpyeong, killing several civilians.

South Korea, stung by this cruel attack on a non-military target, vowed to continue the exercises; the North issued more strong warnings. With several dozen U.S. soldiers on Yeongpyeong as observers and thousands more participating in the exercises, any clash was bound to draw in the United States. For a few days the world held its breath to see if war would break out. Lights were on 24/7 at the crisis center at the Pentagon (I explained what led up to that crisis in a long interview on “Democracy Now”).

Then something unusual happened. At the height of the crisis, on Dec. 16, 2010, Gen. James Cartwright, the outspoken vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he was deeply concerned about the situation escalating out of control. In words designed to be heard in Seoul, he made it clear that the Pentagon wanted to ratchet down the situation. If North Korea “misunderstood” or reacted “in a negative way” by firing back, he said, “that would start potentially a chain reaction of firing and counter-firing.  What you don’t want to have happen out of that is for the escalation to be — for us to lose control of the escalation.” Cartwright, and the Pentagon, had no desire to be drawn into a war that was not of their own making.

Few noticed the significance of these words – but I did. Four days later, I tweeted: “When Gen. Cartwright warned of a ‘chain reaction’ that would cause the United States to ‘lose control of the escalation,’ he was talking to SK -not NK.” The morning the military drills were scheduled to restart, many reporters and Korea-watchers on Twitter were predicting that a second Korean War was about to begin. Then, as the time came close for the first live-firing to commence, the South Korean military put out the word that the exercises would be “delayed” because of weather. They were – and then were scrapped altogether. Cartwright’s warning apparently worked. The crisis ended. But a year later little had changed – except that Kim Jong-un was now in charge of the DPRK.

The current crisis began last December, when Kim’s military defied global warnings against his weapons program and successfully launched a rocket that actually placed a satellite in orbit. The move was quickly condemned by the United States and South Korea, but this time the criticism also came from China and Russia. Then, in February, North Korea carried out its third test of a nuclear weapon that was nearly twice as large as its last one. A few days later, the U.N. Security Council imposed deeper sanctions on North Korea. Its government lashed out again, but this time the rhetoric had changed. In the past, the North had always blasted South Korea as its primary antagonist, but early in January it began to frame its problems in the context of its decades-long confrontation with the United States.

As I explained to “Democracy Now” on Feb. 12, in recent weeks North Korea has “increasingly been focused on the role of the United States, the role of the United States military in South Korea and the whole Asian region. And they’ve been talking a lot about these massive war games that the United States and South Korea take that take place almost every year, and which one took place last week. And they see the United States and these war games as very hostile and as a threat to their sovereignty, as they put it.”

In other words, their “primary enemy” had shifted from the South to the United States. Since then, the DPRK has said again and again that Washington is to blame for the ongoing tensions in Korea, and that until those tensions are resolved, the region will remain in crisis. That position was summed up by the KPA official quoted earlier. “The U.S. high-handed hostile policy toward the DPRK aimed to encroach upon its sovereignty and the dignity of its supreme leadership and bring down its social system is being implemented through actual military actions without hesitation,” he said. “The responsibility for this grave situation entirely rests with the U.S.”

And that’s basically where we are today. The Obama administration has a choice: It can continue a policy of sanctions, military pressure and no talks until North Korea agrees to abandon its nuclear weapons; or it can try something that’s been tried, with varying success in the past: negotiate, possibly with the assistance of China and other regional powers, toward a peaceful solution that benefits everyone in the region, including the DPRK. But two things are clear. One: America’s current policy toward North Korea is an utter failure. Two: Another Korean War is unthinkable. With the latest statements from the Pentagon today about “dialing back” tensions, those lessons may be sinking in.

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Where Virginity Is For Sale in India #Vaw #devdasi


 

By Joanna Sugden, http://blogs.wsj.com/

Joanna Sugden for The Wall Street Journal
Bheemakka, 11, in ‘Bandhavi’, Koppal, Karnataka.

In Koppal, an impoverished district in Karnataka, virginity is for sale.

When girls dedicated in local temples under the illegal devadasi system hit puberty, their virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Traditionally girls in this district in south India undergo an 11-day purification ceremony following the onset of menstruation. The “first maturity” ceremony, as they call it in Koppal, marks the transition into womanhood.

Bheemakka, who doesn’t have a surname because she doesn’t know who her father is, went through the puberty ritual in March, but she wasn’t sold.

The 11-year-old’s mother and grandmother are both devadasis, which means female servants of god. They were dedicated to the Hindu deity Yellamma as children and sold off after hitting puberty. They have been used by the men in their village for sex since their early teens.

Bheemakka says she was covered in turmeric and sandlewood paste as part of the purification process. After washing off the concoction, she was kept indoors for 11 days. Afterwards, her neighbors came over for a party.

“I enjoyed the attention,” says Bheemakka, wearing a bright pink shirt stretched tight over her chest and a red wilting flower clipped into her black braided bunches. “But I’m not going to become one of them.”

She means a devadasi. “Society looks down on them and they are labeled as prostitutes.”

Some say the original devadasi system of giving over females in service or marriage to a deity dates back to the ninth Century, but others believe it has existed in some form since 2500 B.C.

Their role and status have changed over the years.

In their heyday, between the 13th and 16th centuries, devadasis were high caste, educated women — sometimes from royal families — who performed dances for Yellamma, the deity, and looked after the temple precinct. They were forbidden from marrying mortals.

Historians record that by the 16th Century the role of devadasis had become sexualized and they were regarded in the community as auspicious high-class mistresses who men could visit for sex with impunity. Successive legislation to ban the practice since the 19th Century however meant that their status declined and lower caste women began to take their place.

The system was outlawed in Karnataka in 1982 but it is still widely practiced, mainly by poor, illiterate Dalit women in the northern parts of Karnataka, in places like Koppal, according to charities working in the region.

Many devadasis in Koppal have one partner who is usually already married and regards the devadasi as his “second woman” but not a legal wife. Other devadasis who don’t have the support of one man, known as a mallik (master), have many partners.

The penalty for anyone taking part in a devadasi dedication is up to five years imprisonment.

Joanna Sugden for The Wall Street Journal
Girls at ‘Bandhavi’ revised for their exams.

Government rehabilitation programs for ex-devadasis offer 400 rupees ($7.25) a month as a “pension” for the 46,000 women they have identified in Karnataka who say they have given up the role. Local NGOs working with both devadasi and ex-devadasi women say that amount is a pittance and not enough to deter women from continuing as devadasis with quasi-support from a partner.

“Every time they get paid the pension they have to give some back as a bribe,” said Nazar P. Sainudheen, an advocacy co-ordinator for Visthar, an NGO working with devadasi women and their children in Koppal since 2005. “They aren’t empowered enough to take a stand,” he added.

Nagar Raj, general manager of the Karnataka government’s Women’s Development Corporation, says sometimes there is a delay in getting the money to the women. “But we have not received any complaints about bribery,” he said.

Mr. Raj added that the devadasi system was “not existing” in Karnataka now because of better education. “If anyone is practicing they can be arrested,” he said.

But David Selvaraj, founder and director of Visthar, says programs and legislation have failed to eradicate the devadasi practice.

“You can go to temples where there will be a plaque on the wall saying that dedication of daughters is banned and round the back there will be a room where those dedications still take place,” Mr. Selvaraj says.  “It’s an abuse of women with a religious sanction.”

In 2010, his organization set up a free school and residential home called Bandhavi (meaning “friend” in Kannada, the local language) for the daughters of devadasi women who are at risk of being dedicated into the system.

Bheemakka is one of its pupils. After her 11 days of purification she returned to the school, located on a copper-orange patch of land in the village of Chikkabidanal, just beyond Karnataka’s fertile cotton belt.

The 11-year-old left her job working as an agricultural laborer to join the school in 2011 after a team from Visthar arrived in her village asking if anyone wanted to have a taster day at the school.

“If I didn’t come to school my brain wouldn’t grow and I wouldn’t get to know what is right and what is wrong,” she says. Above her on the classroom wall is a portrait of perhaps India’s most famous Dalit, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who drafted the country’s constitution.

“He was a poor boy like us,” says Bheemakka before rattling off his achievements in enshrining freedom of religion and equality in the constitution.

There are 100 girls at the school. Mr. Selvaraj says he could fill it many times over with the daughters of devadasi in the area.  Some have entered child marriages or been rescued from child labor. Most, according to Mr. Selvaraj, were at risk of being made devadasis.

It costs $24 a month to look after a pupil at the school. Around 80% of the funding comes from Kindernothilfe, a German NGO.

Around half of the pupils, like Bheemakka, don’t have enough education to go straight into mainstream school so they join the Bandhavi bridge school where they learn the basics as well as lessons on current affairs and human rights.

Another pupil at Bandhavi, 15-year-old Jyothi, says one of the best things about the school is not being teased about her parents.

“Outside, other children used to say to me, ‘We don’t know how many men your mother has slept with and then you were born.’ Here that doesn’t happen,” Jyothi says.

Both Jyothi and Bheemakka say their mothers are happy that they have joined Bandhavi. But money worries can sometimes tempt them to remove the girls from the school.

“Our mothers’ dreams are very small,” said Bheemakka.

These small dreams mean their mothers believe it may be easier to put them to work in the fields and eventually as devadasis, she added.

“It’s not because our mothers are our enemies,” Bheemakka says. “The situation and the cost of daily life make them think that we shouldn’t be here… But it’s only for a short time and we can bring change because of our learning.”

Bheemakka says she hopes to become a teacher and help others enjoy their childhood and education.

“I’m expected to do the same as my mother and go down that channel,” she says. “But I’m going to break the chain.”

Joanna Sugden is freelance journalist living in Delhi. Before coming to India in 2011 she spent four-and-a-half years as a reporter at The Times of London, covering religion and education. You can follow her on Twitter @jhsugden.

#India- Growing Up With The Struggle #Koodankulam #mustread


 

By Anitha S

05 April, 2013
Countercurrents.org

We are the children of the Porattam ( struggle) against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu in Southern India. As we write this it will be 588 days since we have been holding the porattam in the stage of the Lourde Matha church in the Idinthakarai village.

We have gone through many phases in the past one and a half years. The Fukushima disaster and the terrible sound of the trial run in the Nuclear power plant so close is what made all of us really think about the disaster which might befall us. Since then we have been asking the Government many questions regarding the impact of the Nuclear Power plant on our health, on the ocean life, air and soil that sustain us, on our livelihoods, on the safety of the region which has been areas with tremors, subsidence and tsunami… all to no avail! We have stood in the sea, walked the beaches, held press conferences, buried in the sand, danced, sung and shouted slogans, travelled to many places and spoken but there has been no answer.

We have been chased, beaten and injured by tear gas shells. We have been held captive in our own villages with no bus or regular transport facilities. We have stayed for days either in our own homes or unable to go home as Police surrounded us. We have had Section 144 declared for months on end- now too it is on till April 9th after we had the siege on March 11 when more than 1000 boats went to sea. Our dear Uncle Ganeshan has been taken away ten days back from his village Koodankulam and locked up. Our fathers and brothers have stayed away from fishing for days. We have stayed away from school for weeks. Our mothers and aunts have been locked up for months in jail.

All because we asked some questions and questioned the Nuclear Power Plant. We raised many doubts about the intense and cruel suppression of our democratic rights to pursue our own lives in the homeland that belongs to us. We proclaimed we are not illiterate and stupid, but capable of understanding the hideous and unjust face of the representatives of people ( as they are called).

It has been a great learning experience growing up with the Porattam. We have met so many interesting people involve in true life struggles from all over the country. We have had activists, journalists, poets and film makers from Japan, Australia and UK visiting us with stories from their own country. We have seen so many films and pictures of the disasters connected to Nuclear Energy. We have been supported by students from various schools and colleges. We have met great people like Mahasveta Devi and V.R.Krishna Iyer, Aruna Roy and Medha Patkar all of whom have spoken for us and about us.

Today has been a happy day for us. We realize more than ever that Knowledge is the greatest power in the world. The fact that each one of us in the struggle have been made aware of the various details of the Nuclear lobby is what has gained us the true strength to pursue our goal. From the 8 year old to the 80 year old, we speak with clarity about why we are staying steadfast with the movement against Nuclear Energy.

Today we sat in the new Reading space that has been created in the stage – the real stage of our simple lives. The Reading space was formed with contributions that was made by people towards the book No: Echoes Koodankulam. We know that many of us are characters in the book and it has taken the message of our porattam far and wide. We are so thankful to all who gave their contributions so that this space was made possible. On the day the book was released, 2 of our close friends, Labika and Ignesh travelled all the way to Kochi to receive the book from Mahasveta Devi. She told them that is easy to say Yes, but we should learn to say No. The porattam has shown us the way to say No boldly and non-violently, persistently and continuously. We have heard that there has been small but very intense discussions about the anti-nuclear movement in our village in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and many parts of Kerala centering around No: Echoes Koodankulam. It has been heartening to hear about travels with the book.

We love to read and write. Today Melrit auntie who is in charge of the library gave us each a book and we all sat out in the sand and read. It was nice to see that many of the books had writings in both Tamil and English. Some of the mothers in the courtyard were reading it out to the younger ones. Many of the books had colourful illustrations that attracted the attention of the tiny tots. While reading and imagining the stories, many of us forgot the tension that has been pervading our lives for 580 days. We became children, with fantasies and dreams, with free thoughts and wild imaginations. This is real childhood. But some of us also know that we have to gain knowledge and excel in our studies so that the message of our dear porattam days will be always a source of inspiration. We have been tempered and seasoned by its power. We want to give back to these villages what it has given us- the sense of belonging and space, the self esteem and independence that our hard working forefathers have left us, the power of honesty and dedication that this coming together has taught us. For this we all are glad today- for the diverse spaces, including the Reading space this Porattam has given us.

Anitha.S ( catastrophe64@gmail.com) after travelling to Idinthakarai with second set of books for Reading space bought with Contributions to NO: Echoes Koodankulam. Conversations with Ignesh, Labisha, Labika, Shobhana, Selja, Shyamili, Pinochio, Anselvam, Sundari, Chellamma, Mary, Leela ,Rani, Meera ,Udayakumar, Milton, Pushparayan, Kebiston.

Thanks to Tulika team ( Chennai ) and the Sudarshan Book Centre, Nagercoil for their help and support.

 

 

#India- Wages for dead show Rs 55,000 cr loot in NREGA scheme #scam


Wages for dead show `55,000cr loot

New Delhi, DNA, April 6: The corpse of Bengali Singh was burned to ash atop a funeral pyre in 2006.Five years later, the dead man was recorded as being paid under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to dig a canal in Bishanpur in Godda district of Jharkhand.

Officials in his village and the surrounding region used at least 500 identities, including those of a physically-challenged child and a 94-year-old blind man, to fake work logs and to steal wages, according to police reports.

District administrators and village heads across the country have used tactics such as ghost workers, fake projects and over-billing to embezzle about Rs55,000 crore from the world’s largest workfare initiative, an investigation by Bloomberg News shows. Only 42-56% of the employment reported by the jobs programme is confirmed by data from the national sample survey office, a joint study by Princeton University and the Paris School of Economics shows. That suggests that about half the work is genuine. 

The Union rural development ministry also estimates 30% of the Rs1.8-lakh crore spent nationally since the programme began has been lost through graft.
Embezzlement remains an intractable issue in the rural employment push, said D H Pai Panandiker, president of the RPG Foundation, an economic research group.
“The bulk of the spending is a complete waste of money.”
Bloomberg compiled hundreds of pages of police documents and interviewed dozens of people from January through March across three states to examine the looting in the flagship welfare programme.
The police are probing more than 2,000 cases of corruption spanning 100 projects in just one district of Jharkhand.
They include funds for a well to be used by only one landowner and payments toward an irrigation canal that was never constructed. Dry eart h covers the area where the channel was supposed to be.
At least 60% of the expenditure in Jharkhand under the NREGA has been pilfered, said Nishikant Dubey, a BJP MP from Godda. That amounts to more than Rs630 crore in the last fiscal alone.
“It’s happening everywhere.” I keep telling my officials that this is money for the poor. So, please don’t steal from it, but they don’t listen,” he said.
About 30% of India’s 16.8 crore rural households have been provided with employment under the initiative each year since 2008. 
The scam in Godda used fake job cards to claim wages for imaginary labour, according to the police report.
One of the identities stolen was of 94-year-old Akal Sah, who is deaf and blind and uses a stick to walk.
The records of the jobs programme have Sah spending eight hours a day for a week in 2011, shovelling earth from a pit. One of his co-workers was a physically-challenged eight-year-old child, Suvitha Devi. Frail and malnourished, Dev i struggles to lift her right arm or speak clearly after a bout of meningitis at an early age.
The police accused Ghulam Rasool and his wife, Zubeida Khatoon, the village headwoman, of orchestrating the fraud in Bishanpur.
Post-office workers created the job cards and a village secretary and a computer operator also aided the scam, according to the charges.
The charge sheet says the pair ordered postal staff to withdraw money in the name of dead or fake workers. False finger and thumbprints were used in payment receipts to enable the fraud. -Bloomberg


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Don’t stifle professors’ academic freedom #censorship


Posted on Friday, 04.05.13

The “Jesus-stomping incident at Florida Atlantic University has been grossly mischaracterized and poorly explained by the administration.

The assignment from the textbook Intercultural Communication states:

“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings. Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

Academic freedom serves as the linchpin of the university. According to FAU’s faculty handbook: “Academic freedom and responsibility are essential to the full development of a true university and apply to teaching, research and creative activities. An employee engaged in such activities shall be free to cultivate a spirit of inquiry and scholarly criticism and to examine ideas in an atmosphere of freedom and confidence.”

Although it is never the intention of a faculty member to offend students, at times controversial material might unintentionally do so. As a result, we then use the classroom to discuss the controversy in a forthright and honest manner. But offense alone never justifies immediate censorship of the material and/or the pedagogy. Galileo offended critics by claiming the Earth was not the center of the solar system. Some groups continue to be offended by evolutionary theory. Offense, although to be avoided, sometimes accompanies the advancement of knowledge.

We find it outrageous that critics of Dr. Deandre Poole immediately condemned his exercise without fully knowing the facts. When the university administration unilaterally claims that such an assignment will not be taught again without the consultation of the faculty member involved as well as the faculty at large, they shred the principles of academic freedom that legitimate the existence of the university and guide genuine scholarly inquiry.

If Dr. Poole is dismissed from his teaching position for this incident, more is lost than simply a stellar instructor who has routinely received high praise from his students and supervisors. Also lost will be the good faith of the faculty who placed their trust in an administration to defend the academic freedom that defines the university.

Lost will be freedom of speech in the classroom to “present and discuss academic subjects, frankly and forthrightly, without fear of censorship,” as is enshrined in our collective-bargaining agreement. Lost will be the future scholars who will no longer want to work at an institution whose credibility has been tarnished. Lost will be the current scholars who leave our institution for others that respect academic freedom.

It is time to defend academic freedom through the maelstrom of uninformed attacks since the controversy will eventually pass, but the institution will remain. And the type of institution that remains will largely depend upon whether the core principles of academic freedom are preserved or not.

Chris Robe, president , United Faculty of Florida-Florida Atlantic University Chapter, Boca Raton

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/05/3325952/dont-stifle-professors-academic.html#storylink=cpy

 

Gujarat HC issues notice to state over Sanjiv Bhatt’s plea


Sanjiv Bhatt
Saeed Khan, TNN | Apr 6, 2013, 01.49 PM IST

Sanjiv Bhatt, who was posted as SP in Porbandar then, along with a constable Vajubhai Chau is being tried for the custodial a known historysheeter Naran Sudha Jadav.

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AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court has issued notice to the state government on a plea filed by suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who has sought permission to place a case diary of the RDX landing case to defend himself in a custodial torture case in Porbandar.

Bhatt, who was posted as SP in Porbandar then, along with a constable Vajubhai Chau is being tried for the custodial a known historysheeter Naran Sudha Jadav. The inmate was taken to Porbandar from Sabarmati central jail in Ahmedabad in 1998 in connection with investigation of a Tada case related to the RDX landing. Jadav later filed a complaint accusing Bhatt and Chau of custodial torture.

A case in this regard began in Porbandar’s magisterial court. Last year, the high court vacated a stay from the trial. As the trial began, Bhatt argued that all three witnesses in the trial were prisoners and the investigating officer should be made an independent witness and his case diary should be placed before the court as evidence in his defence.

The Porbandar court rejected Bhatt’s application, and this led him to move the HC. During a proceeding, Justice S R Brahmbhatt questioned whether the state government was interested in the case against the suspended IPS officer. Bhatt has alleged that in order to fix him, the state government has been defending Jadav, who is a security suspect and has been implicated in various serious offences of murder, waging war against the nation and a Tada case.

The court has sought the state government’s reply by Monday, when further hearing is scheduled.

Bhatt is also facing trial in a custodial torture case in Jamnagar district.

Bhatt implicated chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots by giving a statement before the special investigation team (SIT) and b

 

Gujarat’s burden highest ever as ‘debt-free’ as Narendra Modi plans flight to Delhi


, TNN | Apr 6, 2013,

  •  Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread
AHMEDABAD: Chief minister Narendra Modi‘s supporters may feel that he has served Gujarat enough and now wants to repay the debt to ‘Bharat Mata‘, but Gujarat’s actual debt has mounted from Rs 45,301 crore in 2001-02, when he first came to power, and is projected to touchRs 1.76 lakh crore by 2013-14, when he plans his flight to New Delhi.As on 31-03-12, the revised estimates of total debt stood at Rs 1,38,978 crore. While two other states –West Bengal (Rs 1,92,100 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (Rs 1,58,400 crore) – have a higher debt, they aren’t claiming they are a “model state”. Besides, if Modi leaves for Delhi after “settling his debt” with Gujarat, he is leaving behind the highest ever per capita debt of Rs 23,163 – if the population is taken at exactly six crore.

The Gujarat government is paying a mind-boggling interest of Rs. 34.50 crore every day. By 2015-16, the debt would mount to Rs 2,07,695 crore as per the state government’s budget estimates. A large chunk of the state’s revenues go towards debt servicing. The state’s total debt was less than Rs 10,000 crore when the BJP first came to power in Gujarat in 1995.

Critics have pointed out that much of the spending is on show-piece infrastructure projects, while overall spending on key areas like health and infrastructure remains low. The debt has mounted despite Gujarat having one of the highest VAT on petrol and also being the one of the few states to have VAT on fertilizers.

The latest CAG report tabled in the assembly last week stated, “As of 31 March 2012, the government had invested Rs 39179 crore in areas where the average return on investment was just 0.27 per cent in last five years while the government paid an interest of 7.75 on its borrowings during the same period.” It said continued use of borrowed funds to fund investment which do not have sufficient returns will lead to an unsustainable financial position.

#India – How Narendra Modi rules by changing the laws #Gujarat


 

MODI1
Last updated on: April 5, 2013 11:00 IST

Gujarat Chief Minister Modi has started changing laws that go against him. In last state assembly session he introduced three bills to change the prevailing legal provisions that were inconvenient to him, says Vidyut Joshi.

They say that an autocrat changes the law if it does not suit his political goals. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has started doing the same by changing laws that go against him.

In last state assembly session he introduced three bills to change the prevailing legal provisions.

They are: The Common Universities Act, Gujarat, The Irrigation Act and the Gujarat Lokayukt Act. All these three acts had provisions that were detrimental to his absolute rule.

Let us start with the Lokayukt Act.

The Modi government did not appoint a Lokayukt for nine years .Finally the governor, after due consultation with the chief justice, the chief minister and the leader of opposition appointed Justice R A Mehta as Lokayukt.

Mehta is known for his anti-corruption attitudes. Modi went to the high court against the governor’s decision. He lost there. He then went to the Supreme Court and lost.

Everybody thought that Mehta will now be able to take charge. But Mehta was not given such an indication by the state government. The office premise of Lokayukt is closed for last nine years.

Modi filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court and before hearings could take place, he carried out necessary amendments in the Lokayukt Act and deleted the provision indicating the Governor’s role in the appointment of the Lokayukt.

Now a committee will recommend the Lokayukt and the chief minister will ratify and appoint the Lokayukt. The upper age limit is 72 and justice Mehta is 76. No chance for Justice Mehta to investigate charges of corruption in the state.

Another such amendment is in the Irrigation Act.

Gujarat has provisions for irrigation through water users’ Associations. In the Narmada projects there should be 3,300 water users associations. They have been formed on paper. None is functional.

Same is the case of peoples’ participation in other projects. You do not find real participation. In the year of partial drought, there were chances of big scale opposition by farmers.

To meet with this situation, Modi brought an amendment to the Irrigation Act and changed the provision of people’s participation to water contractors. Now water is state property and the government will appoint water contractors to manage resources.

Now nobody can dig a well without a license from the government. One who draws water from any water resource without permission will be fined or jailed.
Irrigation studies clearly indicate that irrigation efficiency remains at 30 percent where government manages water resources, where as it rises up to 65 percent if people manage their water resources. After all true democracy lies in peoples’ participation. Modi has done away with that.

The third case is that of higher education.

Higher education is always a powerful democratising lobby in Gujarat. Remember the Nav-nirmaan agitation in 1974.

The Chimanbhai Patel ministry had to go because of this agitation. This time also the discontent in higher education is simmering. At two universities, Modi could not appoint a vice-chancellor of his choice.

At one place, the VC appointed by him had to resign because of court charges of corruption. The earlier vice-chancellor of Gujarat University, a Modi devotee had also to face court cases. That matter is still pending.

The newly appointed VC, again a Modi devotee, had to face charges of corruption and alcoholism. Opposition to the authorities of Universities is increasing. There have been several strikes.

The last senate meeting of Gujarat University was acrimonious, where the VC could not attend.

The meeting ended with clearing many agenda items. Now every university in Gujarat has its own act and provisions with its own autonomy.

Modi brought a common Universities Act and brought every state university under a single act. He did away with elections in University authority bodies and introduced a provision of appointment by the Government.

Now the role of education department of the government is predominant. Universities will take orders from the state department. The education commissioner will be the de facto vice chancellor.
Changing rules of the game to suit you is the character of an autocrat.

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant leaking contaminated water


Reactor control room at Fukushima 1 nuclear po...

Reactor control room at Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant in Japan This photo was taken on June 23, 1999 during a tour of the plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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(Reuters) – As much as 120 tons of radioactive water may have leaked from a storage tank at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, contaminating the surrounding ground, Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Saturday.

The power company has yet to discover the cause of the leak, detected on one of seven tanks that store water used to cool the plants reactors, a spokesman for the company, Masayuki Ono, said at a press briefing.

The company plans to pump 13,000 cubic meters of water remaining in the tank to other vessels over the next two weeks.

Water from the leaking tank, which located 800 meters from the coast, is not expected to reach the sea, Kyodo news wire reported, earlier, citing unidentified officials from the utility.

The company did not say how long the tank had been leaking.

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant has faced a range of problems with controlling ground water and maintaining the massive cooling system built to keep the reactors stable.

The power company said on Friday said it lost the ability to cool radioactive fuel rods in one of the plant’s reactors for about three hours. It was the second failure of the system to circulate seawater to cool spent fuel rods at the plant in the past three weeks.

The facility was the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in March 2011 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that destroyed back-up generators and disabled its cooling system. Three of the reactors melted down.

The storage tanks, pits excavated at the site in the wake of the disaster, are lined with water proof sheets meant to keep the contaminated water from leaking into the soil

Work to decommission the plant is projected to take decades to complete.

 

Meet the GOPer Who Worked With Monsanto to Sneak the “Monsanto Protection Act” into Law


Roy Blunt, member of the United States House o...

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Salon / By Natasha Lennard

Big Ag friend Sen. Roy Blunt has said he introduced the biotech rider and “worked with” Monsanto to do it.
April 5, 2013 |
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Anger at the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” — a biotech rider which protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks — has been directed at numerous parties in Congress and the White House for allowing the provision to be voted and signed into law. But the party responsible for anonymously introducing the rider into the broad, unrelated spending bill had not been identified until now.

As Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott notes, the Senator responsible is Missouri Republican Roy Blunt — famed friend of Big Agrigulture on Capitol Hill. Blunt even told Politico’s David Rogers that he “worked with” Monsanto to craft the rider (rendering the moniker “Monsanto Protection Act” all the more appropriate). Philpott notes:

The admission shines a light on Blunt’s ties to Monsanto, whose office is located in the senator’s home state. According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt’s campaign war chest by $64,250.

… The senator’s blunt, so to speak, admission that he stuck a rider into an unrelated bill at the behest of a major campaign donor is consistent with the tenor of his political career. While serving as House whip under the famously lobbyist-friendly former House Majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) during the Bush II administration, Blunt built a formidable political machine by transforming lobbying cash into industry-accomodating legislation. In a blistering 2006 report, Public Citizen declared Blunt “a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency.”

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