“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Jun 30, 2008
Everything – absolutely everything – is sporting higher prices. Name one thing where prices have gone down.
Food, gasoline, electricity, natural gas, oil, medical care, education – UP, up hugely.
Oh yes, the prices of new houses have started to go down a bit – after doubling or tripling in ten years time. But so what, new housing is still priced up in the stratosphere.
As for all those lies and excuses the big companies are peddling – don’t listen to them.
We are not running out of oil – the big oil companies don’t even bother to open up wells in the fields they have, not to mention the fact they have shut down over half the refineries they were running 30 years ago.
As for food prices – don’t look at China and India. They haven’t caused the problem. They export more food than they import, adding to what could be a surplus of food.
The problem is not a lack of food or oil – the problem is the greed of big companies, which have created and are now profiting from this situation.
Every industry in the country is dominated by just a few companies: oil, chemicals, steel, automobiles, health insurance, pharmaceuticals, food processing. A company like ExxonMobil takes in more money, over 400 billion dollars each year, than do the entire economies of most countries – including that of Saudi Arabia!
Shortages? Monsters like ExxonMobil create them. They decide how much is produced and marketed. They create shortages, or at least fictional shortages as an excuse to drive up prices.
Can’t afford to pay these extortionate prices? Can’t even afford to pay for all the bare necessities?
Not a problem, some of these same companies, through their financial arms offer loans, credit cards, and mortgages.
We have been drawn into debt slavery by sharks who get their teeth on our jugular, then never let go.
So, of course, the economy is heading into a down spin. Who can afford to buy the products and services being produced today? Yesterday’s unconscionable high prices are leading directly to all the stores and factories closing down today.
This wealthy class, which enriched itself by pumping up prices, is putting the brakes on the economy. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of workers are being thrown out into the street today. Millions more tomorrow.
Big business uses polite words for all this. They call it the free enterprise system. They call it “democracy.”
No, it’s not democracy and it’s certainly not free – it’s nothing but a war being carried out by the wealthy against the whole laboring population, including the very young, and all those too old or too sick to work.
We have come face to face with big Capital and the tiny minority of people who have made this country their own.
Look at them good and hard – these monsters who are destroying what could be a society beneficial to all.
Take their measure. Because we are going to have to mobilize our forces to take them on.
Jun 30, 2008
The Supreme Court just threw out a Louisiana statute calling for the death penalty for the crime of raping a child.
In so doing, the justices declared in the majority opinion that the death penalty should be reserved “for crimes that take the life of the victim.”
The court based its interpretation on a constitutional ruling about the Eighth Amendment. That ruling said laws are interpreted according to “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”
By those standards, the United States is clearly not progressing toward standards of decency. If this country were evolving as a “maturing society,” it would have eliminated capital punishment altogether. Most countries, and particularly the industrialized ones, abolished the death penalty years and years ago. Even within the U.S. the death penalty was banned by some states, like the state of Michigan in 1848 – that is, 160 years ago.
The death penalty is a throwback to the old desert tribal societies of six thousand years ago. “An eye for an eye,” the code of revenge – which is what the justices were referring to – is the reflection of a society existing on the edge of savagery.
Today, the use of the death penalty is only one more proof of the lack of decency in and the backwardness of the U.S. judicial system.
Jun 30, 2008
The Los Angeles Board of Education voted, 6 to 1, to allow a charter school to stay open, even though it’s clear that the school has put students in danger.
For two years, the Academia Avance charter school in the Highland Park section of L.A. operated in a building contaminated with asbestos and lead. The fire escapes were blocked, and the electrical system was found unsafe.
Not even student performance – usually the excuse for moving away from regular public schools – could justify the vote. Test scores for Academia Avance were among the lowest in California during the school’s first year, and went further down the following year.
Why are regular public schools not given this kind of support? Why is, instead, taxpayer money pulled out of the public school system and put into the private hands that run charter schools?
It couldn’t be clearer that the L.A. school board doesn’t make its decisions based on the best interests of public school students – most of whom are children of workers.
Jun 30, 2008
Two Grand Rapids Michigan policemen on a domestic violence call ran out into an alley looking for a man who had fled the house. Catching up to someone, they held their guns point blank on the kid and slammed him face down on the ground, jerking his arms behind his back.
It was the wrong person. The cops were looking for a 42-year-old man. The person the cops had on the ground was an 8-year-old child named Ivan Hawkins, who had been playing with a friend in his backyard.
After Ivan’s mother, Aina Clark, filed a formal complaint with Internal Affairs, the Grand Rapids police department tried to excuse the attack as a simple case of mistaken identity.
Mistaken identity? What lies! No, the only thing the 8-year-old child and the 42-year-old man have in common is the color of their skin: they are both black.
That’s not a “mistake” – it is the most profound racism, which clearly is alive and well in the Grand Rapids police department.
Jun 30, 2008
Since June 2, the State of Michigan has joined states like Texas and New York in offering the “option” of unemployment benefits being paid electronically. Claimants have the “choice” of getting a debit card or having their money direct-deposited into their bank account.
Paper checks will only continue to be offered by mail “for a period of time.”
Wall Street’s J.P. Morgan Chase Bank is “partnering” with Michigan to provide this “service.” The plan is to phase out paper checks by the end of the year.
The poorest of the unemployed will find this new arrangement particularly difficult, since many can’t afford a bank account. Those still able to maintain a bank account may have liens on it.
Those who go the debit card route will find that these highway robbers have a list of fees and surcharges that starts at 95 cents and goes up to $17.50.
For example, with debit cards, it’s notoriously hard to keep track of the precise current balance. Say someone buys milk at the grocery store and accidentally attempts a purchase 1 cent over their current balance -- there is a $1.50 fee for guessing your balance wrong. You can almost hear Chase going, “Gotcha!”
Unemployment checks are too small already. Yet Chase sees a growth industry in taking food from the mouths of the unemployed to feed their own insatiable greed. And the State of Michigan is more than willing to hand the unemployed over to them. Disgusting!
Jun 30, 2008
Market prices for corn and livestock reached record highs last week.
The reason? “Fears that as many as five million acres of corn and soybeans have been lost to flooding,” according to a Reuters news report.
In this world ruled by capital, prices are set by those who sell – and buy and resell – goods. And to those greedy vultures, even an enormous human catastrophe they watch on TV is just another excuse to jack up prices, and run away with even more obscene profits.
Jun 30, 2008
Heavy rains and flooding in the Midwest have left an enormous human catastrophe in their wake: at least 24 people killed, over 38,000 people left homeless, dozens of towns and five million acres of farmland left under water, billions of dollars of damage to people.
As disastrous as the flooding has been, in most places it was actually less severe than the last major Mississippi flood 15 years ago. This time around, however, the flooding will likely end up hitting people even harder – considering the ongoing economic crisis, which has left so many people without jobs, savings or insurance.
The rainfall and flooding couldn’t have been avoided, but some of their worst consequences certainly could – had the federal government followed the recommendations of a study it commissioned after the 1993 floods.
“The study concluded that the 1993 flood was a significant but not unprecedented rainfall-river event, and that such floods would probably occur again,” said Gerald E. Galloway, who led the 1994 study.
“Levees are at the heart of the problem, yet little has been done to determine their location and condition,” Galloway continued. After the Katrina disaster, in 2006, the federal government provided 30 million dollars to improve the levee system, and some work began. “But Congress provided no money in 2007 or this year, and the program stalled,” according to Galloway. Last year, Congress passed the National Levee Safety Act, supposedly to establish an inventory and inspection program. “But once again no funds have been provided to support or even begin the work,” said Galloway.
Talk about politicians putting their money where their mouth is.
Severe rains and flooding are certainly nothing new in this country, nor are endless volumes of studies and books about floods – going back more than 80 years, to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. To this day, however, there is not even a centrally organized, coordinated levee system in place. The levees are considered to be “owned” by all sorts of towns, agencies and even individuals.
The 1994 report, for example, recommended centralizing the management of the levees along the Mississippi and its tributaries under the responsibility of the Army Corps of Engineers – yet another piece of advice, by its own experts, that the federal government ignored. Such a plan would have helped, says Galloway: “Some agricultural levees would still have overflowed, ... but you would substantially have reduced the damage.”
Reduce damage to the population in flood-affected areas? But that’s certainly not a priority for the politicians and officials who run the government. We know it wasn’t in 2005 in New Orleans, and we know it isn’t today in the six Midwestern states affected by this latest flooding disaster.
Will it be different in the future – given all the talk about “change” in this election year?
To be sure, the two presidential candidates have made their media appearances in the flood areas: John McCain visited Iowa, and Barack Obama helped fill sandbags in Quincy, Illinois.
But both candidates have been U.S. senators – members of the same Congress that has been, year after year, denying the money needed for flood protection. That is a pretty good sign as to how much “protection” we can expect from politicians in the future – in the face of all kinds of disasters, natural or man-made.
Jun 30, 2008
During the night of June 21, a ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines was caught in a typhoon in the Philippines archipelago. It burst open on a sand bank and sank in a few minutes. More than 700 drowned, most inside the overturned hull.
Sulpicio Lines put out a press release invoking the “anger of mother nature” and asking God for consolation. In fact the typhoon did change direction in an unpredictable manner, but the coast guard had warned the ferry, ordering it to change course. It wasn’t able to do so because of a motor problem – which had nothing to do with nature, and everything to do with the lack of maintenance and rundown equipment.
Sulpicio Lines, owned by one rich Filipino family, maintains 16 passenger ferries and 16 cargo ships, traveling between the different Philippines islands. It is notorious for being responsible for the most deadly civilian shipwreck. In 1987, one of its ferries sank after colliding with an oil tanker, leading to the death of more than 4,000 passengers. The Philippine office of maritime investigation cleared Sulpicio Lines and the oil tanker of any responsibility. The families of the victims filed several suits which were dismissed in 2007. Then, in 1988, 250 people perished in a shipwreck of another ferry of the same company which went to sea despite a storm warning. The Philippine justice system again cleared the company of responsibility, invoking “an act of God.” In 1998, a new shipwreck took place, causing 150 victims. Finally, last year, a fire broke out on a Sulpicio ferry, without leading to a shipwreck.
Faced with the emotion raised by this new catastrophe, the Philippine government suspended the navigation permit for all the company’s ships. But for how long?
In its advice to tourists, a European government warned, “due to the lack of maintenance and the disregard of safety regulations, shipwrecks and fires aboard ferries are common in the Philippines.” It couldn’t be clearer. But the Filipinos, particularly the poorest, have no other way to travel between islands than to get on such ferries.
Jun 30, 2008
A court of federal appeals in New York has dismissed the case brought by Vietnamese people, victims of Agent Orange, against Dow Chemical, Monsanto and 30 other U.S. chemical companies.
Agent Orange was a defoliant made of dioxin, manufactured by the chemical companies named in the lawsuit. Eighteen million gallons of this deadly chemical was poured over Viet Nam between 1961 and 1971. The American military command explained it needed to kill vegetation in order to starve Vietnamese peasants, forcing them to flee to the cities, in other words, where they could more easily be controlled or bombed.
But dioxin does not attack only vegetation. It’s also extremely poisonous to humans. And those making it, as well as those using it, understood its uses very well.
Faced with the fact that large numbers of U.S. soldiers were affected by the dioxin, even though they were only indirectly in contact with Agent Orange, the U.S. military decided to stop using Agent Orange in 1971. In 1984, some of these chemical companies gave compensation to tens of thousands of U.S. veterans in exchange for dropping further charges. Dow Chemical, Monsanto and the others admitted in fact that Agent Orange was toxic to humans – at least for those with American nationality.
But millions of Vietnamese were affected by Agent Orange and developed cancer. In addition, the poisoning attacked future generations because women in contact with dioxin often gave birth to sick babies or ones with serious birth defects.
These were some of the Vietnamese victims whose case was dismissed in the New York court. In dismissing the case, the judges torturing logic and fact wrote “Agent Orange was used as a defoliant and not as a poison made to affect human populations.” In other words, the Vietnamese were only “collateral damage,” to use the term General Schwarzkopf made infamous during the first Gulf War.
The spokesman for Dow Chemical was said to be “satisfied with the tribunal’s decision.” The makers of this poison will be able to sleep in peace with their profits, and those who ordered the bombings will be able to rest on their laurels. They certainly have the U.S. “justice” system on their side.
Jun 30, 2008
On June 25, the state of California announced that it was adopting a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere that cause global warming.
Of course, the plan falls very short of what it claims to do. First of all, the plan calls for very, very small emission cuts, only 10% of current levels by the year 2020. Besides that, the plan contains almost no specifics of where the reductions are supposed to come from... even though the California Air Resources Board has been working on it for almost two years.
About the only thing specific that the plan does spell out is the new cap and trade system, a brand new market for companies to buy and sell the right to pollute that is supposed to be up and running by 2012. Under this system, the government will set a cap or limit to the amount of greenhouse emissions allowed. Companies that exceed their limits will be able to buy “carbon credits” on a big financial market.
What a great new way for big companies to make a lot of money – buy and sell the right to pollute!
A similar system has been functioning in Europe and Japan since 2005 under the Kyoto Protocol. There, the pollution caps are so high as to be nearly meaningless. Furthermore, there is no effective regulation and enforcement of the caps and the entire market is crooked and corrupt. The Financial Times even published a series of exposes, entitled, “Carbon Trading Plagued by Massive Fraud,” describing some of the schemes.
So, while global warming gets worse, the capitalists make more money. For them, it’s a brand new “green gold rush” – as the Financial Times calls it.
Jun 30, 2008
Global warming is here, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in its first comprehensive analysis of weather patterns in North America. Since the record hot year 1998, six of the last 10 years (1998-2007) have had annual average temperatures that fall in the hottest 10% of all years on record for the U.S.
In its report, the NOAA confirmed that increasing temperatures are creating big weather and climate extremes, more severe droughts and excessive heat, along with more severe downpours and intense hurricanes.
Scientists now predict that the severe flooding along the Mississippi River, the persistent drought in the Southwest and Mexico, the heavy rains and severe thunderstorms in the Midwest – all of which we are experiencing today – will become more common and intense, threatening more lives, destroying more crops, and even wiping out whole communities.
Of course, it is one thing for the NOAA, which is a part of the U.S. government’s Commerce Department, to use science to uncover the cause of global warming and describe and predict its consequences. But it is another thing for the U.S. government to take any practical measures to deal with it, for example, measures to force major corporations to rapidly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming. The government has repeatedly shown it will not force U.S. industry to pay to reduce those emissions. That would reduce profits to big business.
Instead, it issues another report, whose conclusions had already been well-documented. Are we supposed to turn it into a paper fan to cool us down?
Jun 30, 2008
The following is a translation of the editorial from the June 27 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France, discussing recent attacks on undocumented workers there. The situation has many similarities to that in the U.S. The Bush Administration has stepped up workplace raids here and is increasingly tossing undocumented people into prison for long periods, like the 260 packinghouse workers in Iowa who were sentenced to five months on identity theft charges. As in France, detention centers for undocumented persons are growing, with 32,000 locked up in the U.S. on a typical day.
The Vincennes detention center was completely destroyed by a fire on Sunday, June 23. The fire was obviously lit by detainees who wanted to protest against the death of one of them under suspicious circumstances. The police say he died from a heart attack, but the detainees question the conditions of detention, the absence of medical supervision as well as the delay in getting help to him.
This tragic event occurred at a time when workers without papers employed in rehabbing, construction and for cleaning companies had been on strike for several weeks demanding legalization.
This government knows perfectly well that the so-called "undocumented" workers whom they try to criminalize both work and pay Social Security deductions and taxes, whether it's sales taxes or other indirect taxes. A number of them have been in France for years, some of them even used to have residence permits before the new more and more reactionary laws transformed them into "undocumented" people.
This government knows that the existence of a category of workers who can be taxed and worked without mercy suits the bosses' needs, particularly in sectors where wages are lousy and working conditions are difficult.
But precisely all these reactionary laws and the chase after immigrants without papers aim to make their situation shakier. In the same way, it weakens the situation of all immigrant workers. Making family immigration more difficult is aimed directly at immigrant workers who are legal.
The rounding up of the undocumented and, more generally, the succession of measures against immigrant workers, constitutes an inhumane and reactionary policy. Moreover, contrary to the boasts of the government, it doesn't prevent immigration. As long as there is the continuation of poverty where they come from and the hope of finding work here, no matter how badly paid or difficult, those deported will do everything to return.
Laws against immigrants don't stop immigration but only make their lives still harder. These laws are part of all the attacks aimed at the working class. When they weaken one group of workers, they weaken the entire working class.
It's necessary to support the fight of the undocumented for their legalization. This is more than a simple question of solidarity. Workers with a French ID card and immigrant workers with or without papers, we are one and the same social class, which produces the goods we all need, which makes the economy function and also whose exploitation provides business its profits and enriches the bourgeoisie.
When the big social struggles will come to make the big bosses back off their attacks on wages and jobs, forcing the government to back off from its anti-worker measures, we will find ourselves side by side in the same combat.
Jun 30, 2008
Below are a series of articles that appeared in the SPARK Newsletter at the Ford Rouge Truck complex in Dearborn, Michigan, just west of Detroit, the week of June 23rd. Ford had just announced a vast range of production cutbacks and layoffs: shifts cut at three truck plants, as well as closing the Michigan Truck plant in Wayne for nine weeks, and the Dearborn Truck plant for 11 weeks.
Earlier in June, GM had announced it would be permanently closing four truck and SUV plants in the coming year. GM had already taken advantage of the 12-week American Axle strike to cut back inventory. And Chrysler extended its annual plant shutdowns at three truck and SUV plants, from two weeks, to five or seven weeks. Dodge Truck, in Warren Michigan, just north of Detroit, will be shut down through most of August.
Let's get something straight. The Ford executives themselves chose to have most of their North American vehicle operations geared to truck and SUV production.
They consciously decided to discontinue the production of the best selling car, the Taurus.
They created the conditions for crisis when the economy went down and gas prices went up.
This isn't a just a Ford thing. GM and Chrysler have made the same decisions. And contrary to what the media and the companies are crying about now, Ford, GM and Chrysler have made billions over the years. More accurately, WE have made billions for them by our labor over the years.
In the past 11 years, Ford alone spent at least 30 billion dollars to buy up or increase its investments in 22 companies or plants in other countries.
The Big 3 took their profits from auto and used them to buy up military contractors, agricultural implement companies, banks, and finance companies, instead of investing in car production.
We are the ones who made them rich by all the work we have done. And now they are proposing to take away our jobs and our job security?!
It's outrageous. The top five Ford executives can give back the 60 million dollars they raked in in 2007, starting with Mulally giving up his 23 million dollars. All of the top management who are responsible for these stupid business decisions can give back the millions in bonuses they were given.
People who came here from out of state were made false promises. They were uprooted half way across the country, relocated their entire families, and bought homes, because they were told that this was a secure place to be.
In a court of law, this is known as "fraud."
Even as recently as this spring, workers with more seniority than many of the workers here at the Truck plant have come here. And now workers who have been here for years may get laid off.
It's not like other workers came in here to take our jobs. It is the company that has shut plants, cut production, eliminated shifts, and sold Visteon. The company is responsible for taking our jobs. Not the workers from Wixom, or Sheldon Road or Saline or Monroe.
We are all in this together. We all need jobs. And we won't get them unless we stand together.
Jun 30, 2008
ExxonMobil will soon announce their profits for the second three months of the year. They made almost 11 billion dollars – in the first three months.
What does such a large number mean? It means that every day they made 120 million dollars in profit. It means that every minute they made more than $83,000 in profit.
We are told these oil and gas companies must spend enormous amounts in exploring for more oil and gas. So what is ExxonMobil promising to do with its 11 billion dollars in profit?
Half of it will go to buy back shares of the company’s stock, making stock owners even richer.
Jun 30, 2008
The Pentagon reported on June 23, that violence in Iraq is down by “as much as” 80% since January 2007. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared “Iraq’s in a much better position that it was a year ago, across the board, politically, economically, and from a security standpoint.” But then he added, “But we’re not at the sustainable point yet; we’re not at the irreversible point yet. I think we’ve still got a way to go.”
In other words, the war goes on – and for a very long time, judging by Army contracts just awarded to KBR and two other military logistics companies. They are to get 150 billion dollars over the next ten years to provide food, housing and other support to U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ten years! Not ten weeks or ten months. Ten years!
Jun 30, 2008
Nineteen years after destroying parts of the Alaskan coast with an oil spill, Exxon Mobil got the Supreme Court to drastically reduce the penalty it had to pay.
In 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled at least eleven million gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound. The company’s representative immediately promised “If you can show you have a loss as a result of this spill, we will compensate it.” About 34,000 Alaskan, especially fishermen, got compensation from Exxon – about $15,000 each – less than a year’s wage. That is all they got although their livelihoods were permanently ruined. To this day, marine experts don’t agree about how long it will take for the shoreline to be restored.
Alaskans from Prince William Sound then brought a law suit for punitive damages against Exxon, winning a five billion dollar award from a jury in 1994. Exxon immediately appealed and got the appeals court to cut that punitive award in half. But the courts weren’t done screwing Exxon’s victims.
The Supreme Court has now stepped up to cut that lower punitive amount to only five hundred million dollars, equal to about another $15,000 to each of the original victims.
As one Alaskan fisherman put it, “This [ruling] is a knife in the gut.”
And what is five hundred million dollars to a corporation that made 40 billion dollars in PROFIT last year? That’s one and a quarter% of one year’s profit for Exxon.
The U.S. justice system came through – for its friends who own corporate America.
Jun 30, 2008
Ever since the build-up to invade and occupy Iraq, the U.S. government has vehemently denied that the Iraq War was about oil. From the start, everyone knew that it was a lie. But a June 19 announcement is the final confirmation of that fact. Four Western oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP, are in the final stages of negotiations with the Iraqi government to gain the right to run the biggest oil fields in Iraq.
Since the 1920s, these four companies had complete control over the rich oil industry in Iraq, their semi-colony. “We basically had the whole country,” said a “nostalgic” Lee Raymond, the former chief executive of Exxon in an interview in Newsweek magazine last year.
Thus, the most valuable resources of an entire country went to enrich these oil companies and their stockholders. For decades, the Iraqi people fought to overturn this. Finally, in 1972, the Iraqi government nationalized the Iraqi oil fields and those oil companies lost some control.
The bloody U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has thus restored these same companies back to their perch and returned Iraq back to semi-colonial status – at a cost of over a million lives and the destruction of an entire country.
It really is a war of blood for oil.
Jun 30, 2008
Six years after the opening of a prison in Guantanamo, which is leased from Cuba against its wishes, the Supreme Court once again declared that this prison violates U.S. law and constitutional rulings.
In fact, this is the third time the Supreme Court declared itself against the arbitrary regime at Guantanamo prison. Twice before, in 2005 and 2006, it took a similar stance. But each time, Bush got Congress to override its decisions. This time, Bush, widely despised, let it be known he would accept the decision.
From now on, the 270 prisoners still held at Guantanamo have the right to know why they’re imprisoned and contest the charges against them in U.S. courts. The 200-some detainees who tried without success to make such requests can now revive them.
After September 11, the Bush administration established this prison for alleged “enemy combatants” who supposedly belonged to the Al-Qaeda network.
The arbitrary power wielded by the Bush administration was carried out not only by the special regime at Guantanamo, but also by the use of torture at Abu Graib and the kidnapping of Arab nationals simply suspected of being Al-Qaeda cadres. This arbitrary power not only did nothing to stop hostility toward the U.S., it created vast new reservoirs of people who only felt more hatred.
Partisans, resistance fighters or “enemy combatants” – all of whom fight arms in hand against an occupying army – have never been considered equal to regular soldiers, who as prisoners must theoretically be treated with a minimum of respect. People who fight for their own country against an invader are considered to be without rights and therefore can be mistreated, tortured or even executed without the officers responsible for these crimes being held to account.
So today, the U.S. army continues to occupy land in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the Supreme Court tells the U.S. executive to respect legal forms a little more. Perhaps it’s an attempt to blot out an international scandal that draws too much attention to how the U.S. has carried out these wars. But this won’t prevent U.S. imperialism from imposing its rule over these countries.