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Globalization

New British Empire of the Dammed Bolivia's Water Supply is the Latest Acquisition of Thirsty British Firms in the Service of Uncle Sam

for The Observer/Guardian UK
With the front pages jammed with photos of two dead white farmers in Zimbabwe, the news from Bolivia “Protests claim two lives” was pushed into a teeny “World in Brief” in the Guardian, and unmentioned elsewhere. What a shame. The Zimbabwe murders merely exercised a suppressed nostalgia for England’s imperial past. But Bolivia is the story of Britain’s imperial future.

Postcards From The de-Valuation Carnival

For The Observer/Guardian UK
As Fat Tuesday nears, the political chit-chat above the carnival drums is about the minimum wage, which the nation’s Constitution effectively sets at US$100 per month. With currency devaluation and massive inflation of basic necessities (electricity is up 250%), the minimum should rise automatically to at least 170 REALS from 130.
Regarding this relief for the low-paid, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Latin America’s carrier of the Third Way torch, remains inscrutably befuddled. But his ministers, the chambers of commerce and their academics have filled newspaper columns with arguments for eliminating the Constitution’s ‘inflexibility.’

In the Land of the Free, the Legal Eagle is King

For The Observer/Guardian UK
There are 200 million guns in civilian hands in the United States. That works out at 200 per lawyer. Wade through the foaming websites of the anti-semites, weekend militiamen and Republicans, and it becomes clear that many among America’s well-armed citizenry have performed the same calculation. Because if there is any hope of the ceasefire that they fear, it will come out of the barrel of a law suit.
First, the score. Gunshot deaths in the US are way down – to only 88 a day. Around 87,000 lucky Americans were treated for bullet wounds last year; 32,436 unlucky ones died, including a dozen policemen by their own weapons. In one typical case, a young man, Steven Fox, described feeling pieces of his brain fly from his skull after a mugger shot him. He is permanently paralysed.
But, hey, that’s business for you. And what a business it is. Guns, ammo and accessories are a $6bn-a-year honey pot for several corporations: Browning, Smith & Wesson, Colt and others.
Britain loves stories of gun lust in the US. It is an opportunity for snooty comparisons with America’s crude and lawless society. This drives Elisa Barnes crazy.
Barnes is the lawyer who recently brought a groundbreaking law suit against handgun manufacturers, which were found negligent in the shooting of Fox. “You [European] guys are so smug. Glock, Browning, Beretta have these refined European owners. Smith & Wesson is the number one seller of killer guns – and it’s owned by Tomkins plc, of England.”

Inside Corporate America The Few Cyberati Dial Handouts from the Many

For The Observer/Guardian UK
It’s 2022 and my grandchildren ask, ‘Grandpa, when did the communications counter-revolution begin?’ As we huddle round the cyberfire, they guess it all went wrong in October 1999. That was when MCI WorldCom paid $115 billion for Sprint Corporation which, once it had merged with AT&T in 2002, gave the telephony behemoth 80 per cent of America’s long-distance market.

Jack Straw's Plan to Keep it Zipped

For The Observer/Guardian UK
I am convinced the only person in Britain with a true understanding of the consequences of Freedom of Information is Jack Straw. The home secretary’s critics claim his resistance to FoI is rooted in some pathological distrust of open democracy. That’s quite unfair. His concerns are rational indeed. This government has some very specific information – records of meetings,phone calls, deals – it would hope to keep very un-free.

UK Fat Cats? Mere Kittens

For The Observer/Guardian UK
It’s that time of year again, when executive pay league tables hit the headlines and set off a chorus of union leaders, professors of ethics and the plain jealous who yowl about fat cat pay.
The Monks Partnership issues the most-watched listing and has given The Observer a sneak preview. This year, the finger-waggers won’t be disappointed. The bosses’ pay is up by an average 9 per cent over last year’s 546,000, excluding share options. Take away inflation and that’s three-and-a-half times the percentage pay hike for the average British employee.