I believe the main revelations of the Wikileaks cables are not the diplomatic gossip but rather the exposure of state complicity in corporate – if not crimes – questionable practices. This is truly what we must not be allowed to know and see, especially in the context of unrest in major European countries as the costs of the failing excesses of the wealthy are now being passed on to the lower rungs of the social ladder (see French retirement reform demonstrations, the UK students protests, and other protests movements in Greece).
“Les ministres européens des affaires sociales et de l’emploi, réunis à Bruxelles, ont catégoriquement rejeté lundi 6 décembre la proposition du Parlement européen visant à allonger la durée minimale du congé de maternité à 20 semaines et à instaurer le principe d’un congé de paternité rémunéré. “La très, très grande majorité des Etats membres considère que le Parlement est allé trop loin en proposant l’allongement du congé de maternité à 20 semaines, avec une rémunération à 100 % du salaire, ce n’est pas une base de négociation”, a estimé la ministre belge de l’amploi, Joëlle Milquet, dont le pays assure actuellement la présidence de l’Union européenne.
Fin octobre, le Parlement européen avait voté en faveur d’un texte allant dans cette direction. Les élus avaient aussi demandé que les Etats qui ne le font pas encore reconnaissent le principe d’un congé de paternité d’au moins deux semaines continues, payées aussi à 100 %. Actuellement, la durée minimale du congé de maternité est de 14 semaines dans l’Union européenne. De nombreux pays vont au-delà, mais les conditions d’indemnisation sont très variables d’un Etat à l’autre.
Mme Milquet a indiqué en revanche que les gouvernements européens étaient ouverts à l’idée d’instaurer un congé de maternité minimal de 18 semaines, comme proposé à l’origine par la Commission européenne, ce qui correspond aux recommandations de l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT). Toutefois, ils refusent l’idée d’une indemnisation à 100 % du salaire.
Les pays opposés à un allongement à 20 semaines, au premier rang desquels la Grande-Bretagne et la France, font valoir que cela induirait des coûts supplémentaires importants, en pleine période de disette budgétaire en Europe.”
Well, of course there is no money to extend maternity leaves, create paternity leaves and compensate them properly, because of budget shortfalls after massive bailouts of failing banks and financial institutions.
Having to deal with a crisis of legitimacy on one front (mostly through repression), they probably do not want to open another front, hence the demonization of Wikileaks.
“The world’s biggest pharmaceutical company hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial drug trial involving children with meningitis, according to a leaked US embassy cable.
Pfizer was sued by the Nigerian state and federal authorities, who claimed that children were harmed by a new antibiotic, Trovan, during the trial, which took place in the middle of a meningitis epidemic of unprecedented scale in Kano in the north of Nigeria in 1996.
Last year, the company came to a tentative settlement with the Kano state government which was to cost it $75m.
The cable claims that Liggeri said Pfizer, which maintains the trial was well-conducted and any deaths were the direct result of the meningitis itself, was not happy about settling the Kano state cases, “but had come to the conclusion that the $75m figure was reasonable because the suits had been ongoing for many years costing Pfizer more than $15m a year in legal and investigative fees”.
In an earlier meeting on 2 April between two Pfizer lawyers, Joe Petrosinelli and Atiba Adams, Liggeri, the US ambassador and the economic section, it had been suggested that Pfizer owed the favourable outcome of the federal cases to former Nigerian head of state Yakubu Gowon.
He had interceded on Pfizer’s behalf with the Kano state governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau – who directed that the state’s settlement demand should be reduced from $150m to $75m – and with the Nigerian president. “Adams reported that Gowon met with President Yar’Adua and convinced him to drop the two federal high court cases against Pfizer,” the cable says.
But five days later Liggeri, without the lawyers present, enlarged on the covert operation against Aondoakaa [the Attorney General].”
The lawsuits were withdrawn after confidential settlement.
“A scandal involving foreign contractors employed to train Afghan policemen who took drugs and paid for young “dancing boys” to entertain them in northern Afghanistan caused such panic that the interior minister begged the US embassy to try and “quash” the story, according to one of the US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.
In a meeting with the assistant US ambassador, a panicked Hanif Atmar, the interior minister at the time of the episode last June, warned that the story would “endanger lives” and was particularly concerned that a video of the incident might be made public.
The episode helped to fuel Afghan demands that contractors and private security companies be brought under much tighter government control. However, the US embassy was legally incapable of honouring a request by Atmar that the US military should assume authority over training centres managed by DynCorp, the US company whose employees were involved in the incident in the northern province of Kunduz.”
Ha, the dancing boys, another wonderful tradition… never forget that “tradition” usually means oppressive practices that the beneficiaries do not want questioned.
Of course, the interior minister has nothing to fear of the US media. This is how they report the prostitution of young boys to elders:
“He insisted that a journalist looking into the incident should be told that the story would endanger lives, and that the US should try to quash the story. But US diplomats cautioned against an “overreaction” and said that approaching the journalist involved would only make the story worse.
“A widely-anticipated newspaper article on the Kunduz scandal has not appeared but, if there is too much noise that may prompt the journalist to publish,” the cable said.
The strategy appeared to work when an article was published in July by the Washington Post about the incident, which made little of the affair, saying it was an incident of “questionable management oversight” in which foreign DynCorp workers “hired a teenage boy to perform a tribal dance at a company farewell party“.”
In both cases, national interest is defined as protecting a corporation engaged in questionable practices, against the interests of the locals.
And for those who are not clear on what the dancing boys “tradition” really involves, there is the Frontline program on this: