Home' InDaily : June 11th 2010 Contents www.independentweekly.com.au
9The Independent Weekly
June 11 - 17, 2010
NEW ORLEANS: All along the bayou, the
canal-like waterway that runs beside
the road from Chauvin to Cocodrie in
Louisiana, the shrimp boats are tied up.
With their twin side nets raised vertically,
high in the air, they remind you of soldiers
surrendering. And they ve certainly given
up the ghost for the time being.
Right across the Gulf of Mexico, shrimp-
ing has come to a halt -- thanks to the BP oil
spill and its pollution danger -- right in the
middle of its most profitable season.
"My best catch?" says Captain Tate
Grossie, "I tell you, I took 11,000lb (5kg) of
shrimp in three-and-a-half days. Filled my
hold. Sold it for $20,000 ($A24,000). Major
part of my income. So," he says, looking out
over the marshes, "if I didn t have this, I
wouldn t have nothin".
"This" being "a vessel of opportunity".
BP, fiercely criticised over the catastrophic
Deepwater Horizon spill, has gone some
way towards mending relations with the
people of the Gulf coast by paying out com-
pensation for loss of earnings to thousands
of landbound shrimpers, crabbers and
other fishermen. It is also offering them
employment working on the water.
Those who have boats suitable for helping
in the oil clean-up and coastal protection
operations are invited to offer them as
"vessels of opportunity", meaning small
craft which BP and its contractors will put
to use, as and when needed.
Captain Tate, who is 44 and has been
a fisherman all his working life, has no
chance of that with his main boat, a big
wooden shrimper called Miss Savannah,
but his three airboats are ideal for the
sensitive work of defending the marshlands
of coastal Louisiana.
Airboats are metal platforms with a large
propeller at the back. They are pug-ugly and
louder than helicopters, but they are also
fast and can cruise over any inlet and then
move seamlessly on to low-lying land such
Captain Tate is operating out of the
remote harbour of Cocodrie, south-west of
New Orleans, which is one of 17 "forward
operating bases" along the Gulf coast
from Louisiana, through Mississippi and
Alabama to Florida.
Between them, these bases are sending
out 2600 "vessels of opportunity" every
day as part of the oil defence and clean-up
Asked how he felt about BP, Tate said he
wasn t angry. "It just happened, it was just
one of those things," he said.
Like many locals, he was paid $6000 last
month for loss of earnings -- by the start of
this week, BP had paid 18,000 individual
cheques totalling nearly $58 million.
While that may be some consolation for
the fishermen, the economic impact of the
spill is now creeping into other sectors.
Florida officials this week announced a
swimming ban along a stretch of popular
lido, while researchers warned of mass
lay-offs in the state s tourism sector this
An initial study into the potential
impact of the oil disaster on that state s
economy concluded that as many as 195,000
Floridians employed in the tourism sector
could be laid off as a result of the spill.
MADRID: Hundreds of Spanish civil
servants blew horns and chanted
protest slogans outside the finance
ministry in Madrid this week during
a one-day strike to protest against
wage cuts aimed at reducing the
country s huge deficit.
The stoppage was seen as a first
test of strength for unions who are
considering calling a general strike
if the Socialist Government imposes
too-severe labour market reforms.
It was called after Prime Minister
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
ordered a five per cent average wage
cut in civil servants salaries as part
of a plan to save $95.75 billion.
"This government is totally
inept," said Alfredo Barrero
Sanchez, 55, who said he earns about
$1580 a month.
He criticised the Government
for previously playing down the
economic crisis and saying no
cutbacks were necessary. "In the
end, look what has happened to this
Spain s two main unions said
the strike was being heeded by
about 75 per cent of workers. The
Government, however, put the figure
at 16 per cent.
Spain has about 2.6 million civil
servants. Those involved in the
strike included workers in govern-
ment offices, schools and hospitals,
but not public transport.
In the protest outside Finance
Minister Elena Salgado s offices,
Pepe Molina, 50, said: "Lowering a
person s salary is the worst thing
you can do to them. If Zapatero is
not capable of getting us out of this
mess he should call early elections."
Mr Zapatero has come under pres-
sure from the EU, the International
Monetary Fund and even President
Barack Obama to take bold action to
ward off a Greek-style debt crisis.
Chiefly, Spain must find a way to
rein in its deficit from 11.2 per cent
of GDP last year to 9.3 per cent in
2010, and to three per cent in 2013.
Meanwhile, Greece, which is
nearly bankrupt, is moving to
rebuild its economy by tapping the
deep pockets of China.
Spurred on by government incen-
tives and bargain-basement prices,
the Chinese are planning to pump
hundreds of millions -- perhaps
billions -- of euros into Greece even
as other investors run the other way.
The cornerstone of those plans
is the transformation of the
Mediterranean port of Piraeus into
the Rotterdam of the south, creating
a modern gateway linking Chinese
factories with consumers across
Europe and North Africa.
The port project is emerging as
a bellwether for Greek plans to pay
down debt and reinvent its broken
economy by privatising inefficient
government-owned utilities, trains
and even casinos.
This week, the Chinese shipping
giant Cosco assumed full control of
the major container dock in Piraeus,
just south-west of Athens.
In return, the Chinese have
pledged to spend $700 million to
construct a new pier and upgrade
The Greek Government, for its
part, is taking on the powerful
unions in a bid to ensure the Chinese
can introduce dramatic changes to
increase efficiency and productivity.
That effort has ironically turned
the Greek Communist Party -- which
is closely aligned with the labor
unions -- into the fiercest critic of
China s economic march on Greece.
The Greek Government is also
courting China for a bevy of other
projects, including a sprawling new
distribution centre in the industrial
wastelands west of Athens, a
monorail line, five-star hotels and a
new maritime theme park.
Greek hotels are wooing Chinese
tour operators as never before. The
whitewashed island of Santorini has
started selling itself as the ideal spot
for "Big Fat Mandarin Weddings".
Including The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Independent and AAP
PHNOM PENH: Six years after an
outspoken trade union leader
was assassinated in daylight
on the streets of Phnom Penh,
Cambodian authorities have
banned a new documentary
that asks probing questions
about his murder and the role
played by the highest levels of
the country s political establish-
The charismatic Chea
Vichea, who campaigned for
better wages and conditions for
Cambodia s 300,000 garment
workers, was shot in the head
and chest at a newspaper kiosk.
Amid an international outcry,
two men widely believed to have
played no role in his death were
charged with his killing. They
have since been freed on bail.
American journalist and
activist Bradley Cox, who was
living in Phnom Penh and had
previously met the union leader,
carried out his own investiga-
tion and concluded the two men
charged were innocent.
He also decided that Mr
Vichea s killing could not have
been carried out without the
knowledge of the highest levels
of the political establishment.
Cambodian authorities have not
welcomed Cox s film, Who Killed
Chea Vichea?, which premiered
last month at the Cannes Film
When trade union members
last month tried to show the
film in Phnom Penh, riot police
arrived and tore down the
Speaking this week from
Thailand, where he is currently
based, Mr Cox said: "I gave a
copy to the trade union people
in Cambodia and they wanted
to show it on Labour Day at the
very place Chea Vichea was
"But the police showed up
and stopped it from happening.
Depending on what day it is,
the government has since given
different reasons why the film
is banned -- that it has not been
officially authorised, that it s an
illegal import, that the Ministry
of Culture has not seen it."
Mr Vichea, 36, was leader of
the Free Trade Union of Workers
of the Kingdom of Cambodia
and also had close links to the
opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
At the time of his killing,
Amnesty International said he
was "a prominent and interna-
tionally respected trade union
It said his death was the
latest in a string of politically
motivated killings and that the
investigation was inadequate.
The banning of the film
comes as the country s ruling
Cambodian People s Party and
the Prime Minister Hun Sen
have been accused by human
rights groups and opposition
politicians of abusing a
parliamentary majority to push
through laws that limit freedom
FLORENCE: A finger and a
thumb belonging to Galileo
have gone on display in a
Florence museum named
after the astronomer.
In 1737, admirers of
Galileo Galilei removed
three digits, plus a tooth and
a vertebra, from his body
as it was being moved from
storage to a tomb (above)
in Santa Croce Basilica in
The thumb and middle
finger of the right hand
turned up at an auction last
year and were identified as
belonging to the scientist,
who died in 1642.
The second finger was
already on display in the
Soldiers construct a barrier to stop oil reaching
Spanish workers are angry over wage cuts.
Unions flex muscles
Shrimpers surrender to
oil spill's widening grasp
Museum pulls a finger
out on Galileo exhibit
Links Archive June 10th 2010 June 15th 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page