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Archive for March 29th, 2012

 

At least 58 people have been arrested and nine injured in Spain, as thousands take part in a general strike and rally against recent labor reforms. Flag-waving protesters fear the decree will undo employers’ hands and thus rob them of their rights.

The 24-hour general strike began before dawn, along with pickets and sporadic clashes with police. Most of those arrested were detained in the early hours, after trying to stop night shift workers getting to their jobs on public transport, in factories and in wholesale markets.

Demonstrators burnt mattresses, tires and other debris in an attempt to keep workers from their jobs. A Molotov cocktail was even thrown at a police car in the eastern city of Murcia. The car was destroyed and two officers were injured by the flames.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled, several local TV stations went off air, and several factories shut down for the day, including the Nissan and Seat facilities in Catalonia. Hospitals provided only minimal care, while at least a third of public transport was halted.

Major demos took part later in the day, with some protests joined by those who had finished work.

Initially unions claimed over 250,000 people would join the strike and demonstrations in more than 100 towns and cities across the country.

“They want to end labor and social rights and finish off everything,” is the theme of Thursday’s protest in Spain.

Later, unions claimed that 85% of workers had joined the strike.

There were no reports of serious violence during the demonstrations aside from street fires in Madrid and Barcelona, where roads into the city were blocked.

There are also reports that in Barcelona, demonstrators broke windows and lit a bonfire outside the Barcelona Stock Exchange. Several arrests have reportedly been made.

The anger was triggered by a recent labor decree, approved last month as a law taking immediate effect. The Cabinet says the updated legislation will bring flexibility to the workplace and simplify rules for employers.

“For the health of the Spanish economy they have to have these laws renegotiated,” crisis strategist Gonzalo Lira told RT. “These labor laws have to be reformed because they were written when thing were going great in Spain. And they are not obviously going great.”

Lira sees reforms and budget cuts as necessary measures for Spain if it “wants to continue on the path being a part of the eurozone.”

But protesters fear the actual effect will make the sacking of workers cheaper and quicker. They say that with the new legislation, bosses will be able to cut wages or change other working conditions just by citing concerns over profits.

“This is a just response to a brutal reform of our system of labor relations,” said Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, leader of the CCOO, one of the two main trade unions in Spain along with the UGT.

Lira’s prognoses on Spain are not optimistic.

“You are not going to see decreases in unemployment. The unemployment is going to remain at 20 per cent. Youth unemployment will remain at over 50 per cent, if not climbing even higher.”

Nevertheless, many Spaniards are debating whether it is worthwhile to join Thursday’s strike. Walking out would cost them a lost day’s wage, while many salaries have already been cut or frozen due to the financial crisis. This, and a redundancy rate of 23 percent – a eurozone high – make people stick to their jobs closer than ever. In Spain, over 5.3 million people are on the dole, half of them youngsters.

This is the first general strike against the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who took office in December. The PM is said to have expected the labor reform to cost him a general strike, as Spanish media caught him saying on a hot microphone almost two months ago.

The labor decree comes as one piece in a bunch of measures aimed to support Spain’s staggering economy. On Friday, Rajoy is set to announce the country’s budget, including a second package of austerity cuts. The previous reduction measures were some $20 billion (15 billion euro) worth, and new cuts are expected to be as huge. With the new round of belt-tightening, the government hopes to meet the requirements of the EU and other international investors in reducing Spain’s deficit to 5.3 per cent of GDP this year, and to 3 per cent next year.

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Anonymous: Operation Imperva

 

Anonymous has declared a new target: Imperva Inc, a security firm, is now the subject of Operation Imperva.

On 7 March, vatican.va, the official site of the Vatican, suffered a DDoS attack from Anonymous. “Anonymous has now decided to lay siege to your site in response to the doctrines, liturgies and the precepts absurd and anachronistic that your organization is for profit (Roman Apostolic Church) propagates and spreads worldwide,” announced the hacktivist organization, adding “This is NOT intended to attack the true Christian religion and the faithful around the world, but to the corrupt Roman Apostolic Church and all its emanations.”

Less than a week later, a hacker calling himself Agent_Anon hacked catholica.va via a sql-injection vulnerability. Both of these attacks followed an analysis from security firm Imperva (believed to be an analysis of an earlier attack on the Roman Church) which implies that the greater part of Anonymous is not that clever – mirroring a common suggestion that it comprises a few geniuses surrounded by a hive of idiots. In reality, the report says that Anonymous comprises ‘a small group of skilled hackers’ supported by a larger band of ‘laypeople’ whose “role is primarily to conduct DDoS attacks by either downloading and using special software or visiting websites designed to flood victims with excessive traffic,” and whose skill is from ‘very low to modest.’ But more particularly, the report suggests that Anonymous first seeks to breach its targets, and then falls back on DDoS attacks when it fails.

Anonymous has interpreted Imperva’s analysis is damning with faint praise. And it has taken exception. “This is a message to the Imperva security firm,” Anonymous announced last week. “Although we do not see you as any form of threat we have concluded that your interest and views may become a mild nuisance in the future. Therefore you, yourself, will now become a target. You have angered the hive and the hive has spoken. Now you will feel the full fury of Anonymous… Imperva – expect us.”

The problem with any ‘announcement’ from Anonymous is that it cannot be truly verified. If this is genuine, it is a new development – this is revenge rather than hacktivism. Imperva declined to comment on Operation Imperva. But security commentators will be watching with interest to see if anything develops, and how Anonymous fares against a security company.

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Second generation Eezham Tamil youth in Canada strongly criticized the support lent to the pro-LLRC US resolution by some diaspora organizations at a panel discussion organized by the National Council of Canadian Tamils on Saturday about the recent United Nations Human Rights Council meeting. While the older generation on the panel were welcoming the US resolution as a “step in the right direction”, the youth activists criticized it for being a “step backward”. Urging the diaspora leadership to have a “slightly longer memory than the last four weeks,” Krisna Saravanamuttu of the NCCT said that the US resolution was “fundamentally flawed” because it used the LLRC as a basis for achieving accountability and a political solution from the Sri Lankan government guilty of genocide.

Nearly 250 members of the Tamil Canadian community packed the hall of the Canada Kandaswamy Temple in Toronto to hear the panellists provide their thoughts on the US sponsored resolution in Geneva.

The panellists included Dr. Paul Newman (Professor, University of Bangalore), Raj Subramanium (Director, National Council of Canadian Tamils), Krisna Saravanamuttu (spokesperson, National Council of Canadian Tamils/National Executive Representative, Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario), and Suren Surendran (Spokesperson, Global Tamil Forum). Anton Phillip from the Centre for War Victims and Human Rights moderated the meeting.

In their remarks to the community the panellists presented the developments in Geneva and the passing of the US resolution as a positive “step in the right direction.” Raj Subramanium provided a report back to the community on his experience in Geneva, and spoke about the harassment he faced from members of the Sri Lankan delegation. Dr. Newman explained the geo-political issues plaguing the Tamil Freedom Struggle, underling that both China and India are vying for regional dominance, and reiterating that the US resolution is a first step in achieving an international inquiry.

Contrarily, Krisna Saravanamuttu argued that the US resolution is a “step backwards” in achieving justice for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Saravanamuttu further reminded the audience that the LLRC was established to evade international scrutiny for the Mu’l’livaaykkaal genocide and was already rejected by prominent human rights organizations, the Tamil Diaspora, and civil society in the North-East.

He went on to point out that the Sri Lankan government stands accused of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and to expect the accused party to carry out an investigation is against both reason and natural justice. Saravanamuttu pointed out that it was contradictory for the US State Department to ease its restrictions on the sale of weapons to Sri Lanka on the very same day that the US resolution passed in Geneva

Saravanamuttu maintained that what was happening to the Tamil nation for the last 60 years was a protracted genocide, and even three years after the war the Sri Lankan government continues to implement policies to dismantle the Tamils as a distinct nation.

Suren Surendran began his remarks by saying that while Saravanamuttu’s argument was legitimate and could not be refuted, he suggested “young blood boils quickly” and that the diaspora needed to be ‘realistic’. Surendran explained to the audience of his role in Geneva, and the necessity to engage with both diplomats from the International Community and Sri Lanka, in order to convey the aspirations of the Tamils. Surendran, in a presentation, further outlined the GTF ‘strategy’ on the current international situation for the Tamil struggle, and the necessity to work within the established mechanisms of the international community.

During the heated debate that followed many from the audience raised questions with regards to the US Resolution. An elderly person pointed out that in his presentation, Surendran said nothing about genocide or the need for a United Nations referendum on Tamil sovereignty in the North-East of the island. The GTF spokesperson replied that it would be ineffective for Tamils to claim genocide and contended that a legal basis did not exist for a referendum.

Saravanamuttu instead argued that the Sri Lankan government used a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the Tamil nation, and therefore the Tamils had a responsibility to assert the reality of Sri Lankan oppression because no one else would. . He also referenced the historical and earned sovereignty of the Tamils as well as the legal principle of remedial sovereignty as arguments for an international referendum on the Tamil question.

The second-generation Eezham Tamil students were particularly vocal in expressing their dismay with the US resolution. Priyanth Nallaratnam, spokesperson for the TYO-Canada asked how Surendran can confidently suggest that the US resolution is a step forward when one considers the history of the Tamil struggle’s encounter with the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the role of Norway in the failed peace talks, both of which were initially welcomed by the Tamils only to get disappointed later. Surendran replied that the Tamils do not exist on another planet and must therefore adjust to the present circumstances.

Similarly, Samuel Nithiananthan, director with the NCCT, pointed out that the US resolution comes in the backdrop of the US tilting the balance of powers against the Tamil liberation struggle, and the intentional failure to act by the international community during the 2009 massacre, how then could the US motivations in Geneva not be seen without an eye of suspicion to blunt the Tamil national question and the issue of genocide. Instead of directly answering the students question Surendran admonished the student for being “unrealistic”, and asked whether the Channel 4 video would have been as effective had it been taken by a Tamil.

Dhurga Vijay of the TYO asked the panel in general if the Tamil diaspora organizations are losing credibility because it now endorsed a resolution that upholds the very same LLRC that the Diaspora was vehemently opposed to since 2009. While other panel members remained silent, Saravanamuttu agreed with the student and went on to say that the role of the Tamil Diaspora today is to bring attention to the ongoing genocide of the Tamil nation, to internationally advocate for the rights of the Tamils living under military occupation, and to uphold the principles of the struggle.

The public disapproval by the Tamil students in Canada of the pro-LLRC US Resolution comes after the recent declaration made at the ‘Eelam Tamil Youth Conference – Canada 2012’ in Toronto where Tamil students across Canada from high schools, universities and colleges resolved to continue the Tamil liberation struggle and reject the legitimacy of the unitary state imposed on the Tamil nation.

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Caracas, March 26th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – During a telephone call from Cuba last Saturday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that the government would carry out an “economic revolution” within the coming years as he approved more funds for the industrial development of the country.

Speaking to a meeting of Vice-ministers in Caracas, Chavez said that his administration would build a “new industrialised model in Venezuela,” capable of satisfying the collective needs of the nation.

Making reference to Marxist intellectual Ivan Meszaros, Chavez spoke of the necessity to make Venezuela’s transition towards socialism “irreversible”, explaining that the country had experienced a political revolution but that the government “now had to make the economic revolution”.

“Throughout the past few years there is no doubt that we have made a political revolution,” he stated, “but the economic revolution is there, creaking in the background, something unfinished”.

“The political revolution is there following its path, and of course we have to look after it, a revolution based on knowledge, consciousness, revolutionary ethics…the political revolution which has been advancing like a river, we can’t let it be rolled backwards… but if we don’t make the economic revolution, what use is the political revolution?” he concluded.

Although Chavez said that this economic revolution would have to begin in the Venezuelan countryside, he also approved funding for the development of the country’s industrial sector, which he said would also be important in overcoming Venezuela’s rentier and oil dependent economy.

Some of the funding approved by the president include US$100 million to construct iron and steel processing plants as part of state company Ferrominera in Bolivar state, US$2 million to start production at a socialist food factory in Portuguesa, as well as US$24 million for the mixed socialist coco-processing plant in Sucre as part of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).

The Venezuelan president also announced the forced expropriation of the Guanare Sugar processing plant and its associated businesses after a farmers’ collective complained that the factory was affecting the wellbeing of the local population and its workers earlier this month.

During the meeting, Chavez, who is expected to sweep to victory in this year’s October presidential elections, affirmed that the country was currently moving towards the construction of a socially productive economy based on the 5 stages set out by Venezuelan Finance Minister, Jorge Giordani, in his book “Venezuela’s Transition to Socialism”.

These 5 stages are comprised of the modification of the productive forces in the country, a change in the state’s role in relation to the economy, collective self-management in production, as well as a move towards consolidating the country’s independence in the face of the “globalisation of the capitalist system”.

Advances in Agricultural Production

On Sunday, the Venezuelan president also stated that fishing and seafood farming had gone up by 300% since the end of the 1990s.

“Agricultural production is one of our fields of action and one of the lines for strategic development in the 2013-2019 period, and we are already working on this,” he concluded.

Between 1998 and 2010, the Bolivarian government managed to increase national agricultural production by 44%, national cattle farming by 82% and the amount of land used for cultivation by 48%.

The government has attributed these figures to its agrarian programmes, which have benefitted over 168,000 farming families with regulated land since 2003, as well as to the passing of progressive legislation which favours the small producer and state social programmes aimed at stimulating national production through providing training and micro-credits to small scale farmers.

Chavez went on to confirm that increasing national agricultural production would be central to the government’s planned economic revolution and stated that the goal for this year was to further increase agricultural and fishing production by 20%.

“We have to make sure that all the good land produces,” he said, adding that the increase in agricultural output would be achieved through credits for farmers, the Zamora fund, technical support, machinery and training.

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