Sunday, May 3, 2009

News of interest 5/3/09

A Workers’ Paradise Found Off Japan’s Coast

HIME ISLAND, Japan — If Marxism had ever produced a functional, prosperous society, it might have looked something like this tiny southern Japanese island.

At first glance, there is little to set Hime (pronounced HEE-may) apart from the hundreds of other small inhabited islands that dot the coasts of Japan’s main isles. The 2,519 mostly graying islanders subsist on fishing and shrimp farming, and every summer hold a Shinto religious festival featuring dancers dressed as foxes.

But once off the ferry, the island’s sole public transportation link to the outside, visitors are greeted by an unusual sight: a tall, bronze statue of Hime’s previous mayor, rare in a country that typically shuns such political aggrandizement. Rarer still is that the statue was erected by his son, who is the island’s current mayor.
-New York Times

The Secret History of Kim Jong Il

I first met Kim Jong Il in October 1959. He was a senior at the elite Namsan Senior High School, and I was a 27-year-old professor of Russian at the Pyongyang University of Education. I also happened to have been chosen as a private tutor for the family of North Korean President Kim Il Sung. One day, the Great Leader remarked that he found his son’s Russian to be very poor and told me to go to his school and evaluate both Kim Jong Il’s proficiency and the quality of Russian education there. Handpicked by Joseph Stalin to rule over North Korea and a fluent Russian speaker himself, Kim Il Sung deemed study of the language essential to relations with the Soviet Union, North Korea’s biggest political, economic, and military patron. At the school, I attended every Russian class, made evaluations, and then summoned the 17-year-old Kim Jong Il into the principal’s office. The principal, one of the school’s Russian teachers, and I, in accordance with Kim Il Sung’s orders, jointly administered an oral Russian exam for Kim Jong Il.
-Foreign Policy Magazine

Drug War Repression Hits Zapatistas and the Other Campaign

In an operation that bears all the marks of drug war-style repression, state and federal police detained six adherents to the Other Campaign, one Zapatista, and one unaffiliated man in Agua Azul, Chiapas. The military was also involved; it shot six warning shots into the air with live ammunition at a protest blockade, and it provided military intelligence that Chiapas state officials say was used to detain the men. The Agua Azul region is an area that in recent years has been the site of violent attacks against Zapatistas perpetrated by members of the paramilitary Organization For Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC). OPDDIC members allegedly participated in the operation
-Narco News

San Francisco May Day: Anarchists Attack Union Square Stores

High-end Union Square stores felt the wrath of a “black bloc” Friday night, just before nine p.m. That’s when, according to witnesses, a herd of about 50 protesters wearing black bandanas over their faces and cloaked in black hoodies tore through O’Farrell and Grant Streets, leaving havoc in their wake.

The group, police believe to be anarchists, may have splintered off from a May Day protest on immigration, before smashing at least 15 storefront windows in the Union Square shopping district. Debeers, Longchamp, Prada, Armani, Tumi, Guess and Montblanc were among the stores hit by the masked mob. Bystanders said the group shot paintballs and burned fake $100 bills while using bricks and sledgehammers to smash-in windows. Their message: down with capitalism.

-SF Law and Politics Examiner

Mike Davis: The swine flu crisis lays bare the meat industry's monstrous power

The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the faecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever. The initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection already travelling at higher velocity than did the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.

Stealing the limelight from our officially appointed assassin, H5N1, this porcine virus is a threat of unknown magnitude. It seems less lethal than Sars in 2003, but as an influenza it may be more durable than Sars. Given that domesticated seasonal type-A influenzas kill as many one million people a year, even a modest increment of virulence, especially if combined with high incidence, could produce carnage equivalent to a major war.

Meanwhile, one of its first victims has been the consoling faith, long preached by the World Health Organisation, that pandemics can be contained by the rapid responses of medical bureaucracies, independent of the quality of local public health. Since the initial H5N1 deaths in Hong Kong in 1997, the WHO, with the support of most national health services, has promoted a strategy focused on the identification and isolation of a pandemic strain within its local radius of outbreak, followed by a thorough dousing of the population with antivirals and (if available) vaccine.

-The Guardian

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