Bangladesh: A Study in Western Colonial Exploitation

Scrapped

RT (2015)

Film Review

Scrapped is a documentary about the shipbreaking industry in Chittagong, which dismantles and reclaims the vast majority of the world’s ships. The second largest industry in Bangladesh, it produces enormous profits, given the country has no metal resources of its own.

Located in the poorest region in Bangladesh, the industry pays an average wage of $3 a day. Owners seem oblivious to national child labor and workplace safety laws, with 13 workers killed on the job in 2013 and 12 in 2015. As the mayor of Chittagong runs his own shipbreaking yard, the city is quite lax about legal enforcement.

After paying a yard manager a substantial bribe, cameramen are allowed to film inside one shipyard for three minutes.

Otherwise filmmakers rely on a local “human rights” activist for most of their information. The latter receives a €2,500 annual grant from the European Union to monitor worker safety in his city’s shipbreaking yards.

 

London: The Deadly Effects of Air Pollution in Low Income Children

Living, Breathing, London

Directed by Ross Field (2019)

Film Review

With the mainstream media totally focused in carbon emissions, it’s easy to lose sight of the deadly effects of particulate pollution, ie dirty air. This mini-documentary summarizes some alarming research about its devastating health effects, especially in children.

Most of the pollution described consists of tiny carbon particles released in car exhaust. Once these enter the lungs, they are absorbed into the blood stream and cross into the brain.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2014 one out of eight people died as a direct result of air pollution. Most were children. Studies also show that high levels of air pollution also cause depression, child conduct disorder, dementia, low birth weight, abnormal fetal development, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

In the UK, which has been in breach of EU clean air rules for two years, up to 36,000 die annually from air pollution. Families in low income neighborhoods, which are always closest to freeways and busy thoroughfares, always show the highest level of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other air pollutants.

On a commercial note, the UK’s growing air pollution problem translates into fantastic business opportunities, creating a lucrative market for innovative safety masks, crib filters and jars of fresh air.

The filmmakers feel a better solution is to lobby the UK government to phase out fossil fuel cars by 2025 (instead of 2040) and to reduce public transport fares (instead of increasing them like the present government).

Although Britain’s electric vehicle fleet is growing fast, it still represents only 1-2% of the country’s total automobile market.

 

Buyer Beware: Faulty Medical Devices Can Be Fatal

Out of Control: The Dangerous Health Business

DW (2019)

Film Review

In this documentary, DW investigates the EU’s medical device industry. The filmmakers maintain that medical complications caused by defective devices have increased by 300% in the EU and 1500% in the US, where regulation is even more lax.

The principal devices DW looks at are pacemakers, replacement hips, breast implants, insulin pumps, transvaginal mesh stabilizers and plastic spinal disk replacements. Reported complications include the failure of pacemakers to prevent fatal arrythmias, insulin pumps that accidentally overdose patients on insulin, and breast and orthopedic implants that rupture, leading to cancer, severe chronic pain and other serious complications.

The EU fails to rigorously enforce companies’ reporting requirements when patients and doctors discover defects in their products. Worse still, the EU allows some companies to bring medical devices to market without any clinical trials at all.

A German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has recently introduced a bill that would create a government certification program for all new medical devices. At present the EU allows manufacturers to hire private certifying companies to approve the safety of their products.

Italy: The Mafia and the Migrants

Italy: The Mafia and the Migrants

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns Mafia ties to Italy’s privately run immigrant reception centers. In the last four years Italy has admitted 600,000 migrants, who have crossed the Mediterranean by boat from Turkey and North Africa. The European Union pays the Italian government to operate emergency reception centers to provide migrant accommodation, food, clothes, medical services, “processing” (ie assistance in applying for refugee status), language training, employment referral and other integration services.

The Italian government, which pays these centers $35 per day per migrant, makes little effort to monitor them. Many are unsafe and unsanitary and so overcrowded that residents are forced to sleep in kitchens and showers. Likewise many reception center managers have little or no management or social service experience. Even more ominous, many are openly contracting with Mafia-run businesses.

In the eyes of the Italian Mafia, “migrants are worth more than drugs.” Although it’s illegal for any company convicted of Mafia affiliations to receive government contracts, generous kickbacks ensure local officials (and clergy) look the other way. In one reception center, a mob-run catering company routinely charges for 500 more meals than it serves.

A state prosecutor investigating the catering company estimates the mob has already made more than $1 billion of the refugee industry.

The “Troubles*” in Northern Ireland: The Whitewashed BBC Version

 

The Story of Ireland Part 5

BBC (2011)

Film Review

Caveat: I have serious problems with the BBC’s portrayal of the 30-year civil war in Northern Ireland as a battle of “religious identity.” This analysis conveniently whitewashes a longstanding pattern of social and economic discrimination against Northern Ireland’s Catholic underclass.

Part 5 of the Story of Ireland covers 1900 to the present – including the “Troubles*” in Northern Ireland from 1969 until the Good Friday Peace Accord negotiated under Tony Blair in 1998.

The filmmakers attribute the early 1900s rise in Irish nationalism to global nationalistic fervor that simultaneously gave rise to the African National Congress, the Chinese nationalist movement led by Sun Yat Sen (1911) and the Serbian nationalist movement that triggered World War I.

In 1913, the British parliament was preparing to grant home rule for Ireland, which was violently opposed by the protestant Ulster Volunteer Force. The latter feared losing their autonomy to a majority Catholic Ireland.

On Easter Sunday 1913 (Bloody Sunday), Irish revolutionaries seized the post office in Dublin and declared an Irish Republic. The brutal British reprisals radicalized many civilian nationalists into joining the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

After winning a sweeping majority in the 1918 elections, Sinn Fein** declared an independent Irish republic. In 1921 Sinn Fein leader Michael Collins negotiated a peace treaty with Prime Minister Lloyd George granting southern Ireland and the six protestant counties of Ulster the status of free states within the British union.

Because it stopped short of home rule for Ireland, the civil war continued until Ireland won full independence in 1923. Northern Ireland would remain part of Great Britain.

Although Sinn Fein remained committed to the reunification of the two Irelands, for 40 years Irish heads of state opted for peace and political stability over political union. During World War II, Ireland declined to join the allied forces and remained neutral. It also supported Red China’s application to join the UN in 1949.

Thanks to membership in the Common Market and European Union, Ireland was one of the richest countries in Europe by the late 90s. Yet according to the filmmakers the so-called Celtic Tiger was accompanies by skyrocketing inequality and massive political corruption.


*”The Troubles” is a euphemism for the conflict between Northern Ireland Catholic paramilitaries fighting for greater civil rights and eventual reunification with southern Ireland, protestant paramilitaries and British troops deployed to suppress the Catholic insurgency.

**Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party formed in 1905 in support of Irish independence and unification.

 

 

Pipelinistan: Is the Novichok Psyops an Effort to Shut Down Nord Stream 2?

Politics, Power and Pipelines – Europe and Natural Gas

DW (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, due for completion by the end of 2019. The EU, the UK and the US have been working hard to shut down Nord Stream 2, and various commentators believe the current Novichok psyops is an effort to pressure Germany to back out of their agreement with Gazprom.

The Nord Stream 2 project is a partnership between Russian state-owned Gazprom and five private energy companies from Britain, Germany, France and Netherlands. It will transport natural gas directly across the Baltic Sea to Germany. The existing Nord Stream 1  pipeline system transports Russian gas to western Europe mainly via Ukraine.

Since the 2014 US-sponsored coup in Ukraine, there has been considerable conflict between Russia and Ukraine over Nord Stream 1 – involving Ukraine’s non-payment of fuel charges, their failure to maintain the pipeline and illegal diversion of gas supplies. Russia totally shut down gas supplies to Ukraine in 2009 and 2014 for non-payment, resulting in very cold winters for Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary at the other end of the pipeline.*

Two prominent Germans are part of the Nord Stream 2 consortium, former German Chancellor and Social Democratic Party leader Gerhard Schroder and former Stasi member and Putin friend Mattias Warning. The latter serves as the company’s Managing Director.

Despite their determination to become more independent of Russian gas and oil, Poland and other Eastern European states are dismayed that Nord Stream 2 will bypass them. Ukraine is distraught because it stands to lose $2 billion annually in transit fees.

The EU is trying to stop Nord Stream 2 by claiming regulatory authority, **which Russia and German dispute, as both Nord Stream 1 and 2 are external pipelines.

The US also opposes the pipeline, as it prefers both EU countries to buy its more costly fracked LNG (liquified natural gas). They have threatened economic sanctions on countries that sign new energy agreements with Russia.

The US also opposed Nord Stream 1 (completed in 1973), fearing it might lead to a closer relationship between West Germany and Russia. Former German chancellor Willy Brandt strongly championed Nord Stream 1, over US objections. He believed trade and detente*** were a preferable strategy for bringing down the Iron Curtain. It now appears he was right.

The filmmakers raise legitimate concerns about Russia investing so heavily in yet more fossil fuel pipelines (Gazprom is also building a pipeline via Turkey to Italy and Greece) in a period when the planet urgently needs to end fossil fuel use altogether.


*On March 3, 2018, Russia announced it was ending fossil fuel contracts with Ukraine altogether, raising grave concerns for countries at the other end of the pipeline. See Russia’s Gazprom to Terminate Gas Contracts with Ukraine

**Detente is a cold war term referring to the easing of strained relations.

 

How Elites Use Mass Immigration to Suppress Wages and Destroy Unions

The Making and Breaking of Europe

Al Jazeera

Film Review

The Role of the CIA in the Formation of the EU

This is a fascinating documentary tracing the political forces leading to the formation of the EU and the rise of right wing nationalist movements that threaten to break it up. I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn of the role the CIA played in the formation of the EU, via the millions they spent on the Action Committee for the United States of Europe (1955-1975). The CIA’s main goal was to create the false impression that European unification enjoyed wide popular support. There’s never been any doubt in my mind that the EU and the state-like bureaucracy it has created in Brussels mainly serves the interests of banks and corporations seeking to undermine and/or control the democratic process.

Working Class Communities Bear the Brunt of Mass Immigration

This film also takes a refreshingly honest look at mass immigration, a policy European elites championed to support the post-World War II economic boom – it was far cheaper than investing in technological innovation or retraining domestic workers. In fact, this is the first acknowledgement I have seen in mainstream media acknowledging that 1) working class communities have always born the brunt of mass immigration policies and 2) the massive influx of people from other cultures creates immense tensions in any community.

The Use of Immigrants to Crush Unions

In the late 1970s, Thatcher and other neoliberal leaders deliberately used mass immigration in strike breaking and other strategies aimed at crushing unions. The de-industrialization of northern Europe and the loss of good paying jobs would only amplify the tensions this created. As would the 2001 war on terror, the targeted Islamophobia propagated by US and British intelligence and ultimately the painful austerity cuts resulting from 2008 global economic collapse.

There seems to be strong agreement among the four “expert” panelists* that the anti-immigrant backlash should have been predictable – there is no possible way for the EU to accommodate the millions of refugees resulting from the US proxy war in Syria.

Since 2015 the strength of this backlash has fueled electoral victories for right wing nationalist groups in nearly all EU countries. All have campaigned on a dual anti-immigrant and anti-EU platform. In Britain, the rise of the United Kingdom (UKIP) party would lead to Brexit (and a 52% vote to leave the EU) in 2016.


*The panelists include a former Greek prime minster, a member of Hungary’s ruling party and Dr Alina Polykova, research director at the Atlantic Council and co-author of the 2015 The Dark Side of European Integration.