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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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Free Trade Area of the Americas

Another bump in the road toward globalization:

In a blow to corporate-driven agenda, the U.S. has been forced to complete a scaled-down CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) without Costa Rica

The agreement remains a threat to workers, environment, public health, faces uphill battle in Congress, according to the Citizens Trade Campaign  [12-20-03]

More on Miami and the shrinkage of human rights in the USA

Police actions against mostly peaceful demonstrators in Miami have drawn more attention and analysis as an example of the continuing expansion of government power against dissent - and against basic human rights.

Sojourners points to three good sources, while the LA Times on Nov. 23 published a provocative opinion piece under the headline, "Mission Creep Hits Home: American armed forces are assuming major new domestic policing and surveillance roles"

Miami Roundup: What you may not have read about the FTAA protests

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into police tactics during last week's Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings here, joining a swelling chorus of complaints that the police used unwarranted violence to stifle mostly peaceful demonstrators.
Read more from the New York Times

"Until Thursday, I respected the badge," says a 71-year-old retired airline pilot and police officer's son - now outraged after seeing Miami police shoot seniors with rubber bullets, harrass young people who were doing nothing illegal, and pepper spray peaceful demonstrators. He was in Miami to protest the FTAA with other members of the Alliance for Retired Americans.
Read more from the Miami Herald 

"After receiving $8.5 million in federal funds from the $87 billion Iraq spending bill, Miami needed to have a major combat operation. It didn't matter if it was warranted."
Read more from CommonDreams

Source: Sojourners 2003 (c)

Police repression of protests in Miami took on a military style

Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, and Robert Weissman, editor of the Multinational Monitor, reported on the military-style police repression of mostly nonviolent protests against the FTAA meeting in Miami on

Leif Utne, managing editor of Utne Reader, provided reports of the conference, and also of the actions in the streets, where "Miami police suppressed peaceful protesters with a shocking display of force."

Updates on the FTAA negotiations in Miami

US backs off of early hopes

Food First reports from Miami that, as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations wee beginning, the United States had already retreated from its hard-line position of signing a binding agreement with a draft proposing a "flexible" process, recognizing that countries "may assume different levels of commitments."

This is considered a big victory for those opposing the FTAA, even as the negotiations began, yet Food First expects that the US will try to spin the negotiations as a success.

Negotiations end early with a scaled-back, more flexible plan

Agence France Presse reported early on Nov. 21 that trade ministers from the hemisphere working on the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement have wrapped up work one day ahead of schedule, with a deal that scales back the original plan for a free trade bloc of 34 nations.

Latin American nations work together to shift away from "free trade" to aid

The Washington Post reports that Latin Americans are seeking to shift FTAA plans from trade to aid, in light of their experience that "free trade" hurts them and their people far more than it helps.

Free trade or fair trade: the struggle moves to Miami

The Free Trade Area of the Americas is being negotiated this week in Miami, with expectations (now a bit shaky, perhaps) that this extension of "free trade" to the whole of North and South America (except for Cuba, of course!) would be put into effect in 2004. Here are a few reports that will give some background and analysis of this important event.

bulletWhy the protests in Miami?

Mother Jones reports on the protests planned for this week's FTAA gathering - and more important, examines some of the reasons for the protests, especially concerns over agricultural production and labor.
bulletThe U.S. is downgrading its ambitions for the FTAA negotiations, partly in response to Brazil's resistance to "free trade" as a threat to its own economy and sovereignty.

See the report in Britain's Financial Times.

The Toronto Globe and Mail carries a similar report.

bulletWhy is Brazil saying No?

The Nation provides details on "Lula," otherwise known as Luiz Ináácio Lula da Silva, the new left-wing president of Brazil. According to this report, " He wants to create a global coalition speaking for the not-rich countries--reminiscent of the 'nonaligned nations' that decades ago tried to stand between the cold war's two superpowers. And he wants to push the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations to become more democratic."

Hmm. More democratic? Pretty radical stuff, this!

bullet Constitutional guarantees suspended for the sake of "free trade"

As delegates gathered for the FTAA meeting, the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court announced the suspension of such basic American rights as guarantees for speedy trials and court hearings.

bulletFood First is providing reports on the FTAA discussions, beginning with a general argument against the whole project, largely on the basis of experience with NAFTA.

They promise daily updates, beginning November 17th - though nothing has shown up yet.

bullet NAFTA's failed promises - or rousing success (for big business!)?

Jonathan Tasini, the national director of American Rights At Work, shows how the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was passed by the House just 10 years ago, "has been a disaster for our nation and its workers." The U.S. has lost jobs, not gained them; the U.S. trade deficit has grown; Mexico has gained more poor people, not a new middle class.

This offers lessons, he says for this week's negotiations moving toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

bulletWe posted an earlier commentary on the collapse of the WTO talks in Cancun last September, seeing that as a real step forward for global justice.

bullet More on the very helpful "failure" in Cancun

Foreign Policy in Focus offers another - and lengthier - analysis of the "failure" of the Cancun meeting. Authors Mark Ritchie and Kristin Dawkins in fact see that meeting as offering a new way forward for global trade, based on three things that were learned there:

"First, that equitable and effective global trade agreements can't be negotiated when the balance of power rests exclusively with the wealthiest nations. Second, that civil society has a legitimate and useful role in these discussions. And third, that fair trade, trade that ensures that producers are paid a fair price and workers are paid fair wages, is the world's best hope for a sustainable trading environment."

bullet Globalization may not be so new - or so bad.

Writing in The Nation, Doug Henwood traces a long history of international/global commerce, and argues that many of our current economic woes (both in the U.S. and in other nations) really cannot be blamed on global trade.

If you like to hear thinking that critiques commonly held "liberal" views, from within a generally progressive framework, take a look at this.

Latin American bishops call Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) a neo-colonialist trap     [9-8-03]

The Catholic bishops of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, along with Bolivia and Chile, met recently in Montevideo, Uruguayan capital, to discuss the challenges of integration in Latin America and the "ethical and moral" aspects of the creation of the FTAA.

The report summarizes their statements thus: "The main objections to the FTAA raised by the bishops were that it will benefit the richest countries -- like the United States and Canada -- at the expense of the less competitive members, and that it will consolidate the hold of 'unfettered neo-liberalism' on the entire region."


GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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