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Group G: When the beast comes to town – the US and its World Cup rivals

By Martin Smith | 16 June 2014

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-image35808030Given that the US military machine thinks that Latin America is its back yard, Brazil for them is a home fixture. But I suspect by the time you read this it wont be the US “soccer” team we will be worrying about, US bombers may once again be flying over Iraq murdering innocent civilians.

Group G pits two of the richest countries in the world, the US and Germany, against one of the poorest, Ghana.

And as Voltaire once said, “The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.”

On that note we look at the gross inequalities that can be found in the nations that make up Group G.

Earlier posts in our alternative World Cup series: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F

Group G

Germany

FIFA world ranking: 2

Place in world economic league table: 4

Civil rights issues:

“Several federal states continued to forcibly return Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians to Kosovo despite the ongoing real risk of persecution and cumulative forms of discrimination there.”

“Asylum-seekers continued to be discriminated against in access to social benefits: they received benefits well below subsistence level, 31 per cent lower than those for permanent residents.”

“Although the German government supported a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty, it repeatedly authorised arms transfers that may have contributed to human rights violations.”

Dr. Sabine Schiffer, head of the Media Responsibility Institute, argues that Islamophobia is very widespread in Germany and that attacks on mosques and Muslim women wearing headscarves are not covered by the media.

Germany elected its first Nazi MEP in the 2014 European Parliamentary Elections.

Death penalty: NO

Rich and poor:

More than half of Germany’s privately-owned assets are held by the country’s richest 10%. Meanwhile, less than 1% is owned by the bottom 50% of households, according to a German government report published in 2012.

40% of full-time employees suffered a decline in wages once inflation was factored in between 2010 and 2013.

Resistance:

In March 2014 thousands of German airport struck, around a third of all flights were cancelled. The walkout is part of wider industrial action by public sector workers including local transport staff and child carers.

Trade unions want pay rises of 3.5 percent plus an extra 100 euros ($140) per month for about 2.1 million federal and municipal public sector workers.

The government is now threatening to ban strikes in “sensitive” industries.

Player to watch: Philipp Lahm (defender/midfield)

Ghana

FIFA world ranking: 37

Place in world economic league table: 86

Civil rights issues:

“Violence and unlawful killings by the police and security forces were reported. In June, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern about impunity for police brutality and excessive use of force, and about the authorities’ admission that torture in detention centres was likely.

“In February, the police were accused of firing indiscriminately in an attempt to restore order in the Buduburam refugee camp. One person was reportedly killed.”

“High levels of violence against women and girls continued to be reported throughout the country.”

“Human rights abuses against individuals suspected of same-sex relations continued. On 20 July, Paul Evans Aidoo, the Western Region Minister, ordered security forces to arrest all gay men and lesbians in the west of the country, and called on landlords and tenants to report anyone they suspected of being gay or lesbian.”

Death penalty: YES (but may be abolished)

Amnesty International (2012) reports: “There were continued long delays in police and court procedures. Access to legal aid was inadequate and many prisoners spent years awaiting trial. Prisons were overcrowded and under-resourced.”

Four people, including a woman, were sentenced to be hanged for murder. At the end of the year, 138 people were on death row, including four women. No executions were carried out, and in December the Constitutional Review Commission recommended that the death penalty be abolished.

Rich and poor:

Water Aid UK report. Over 3,000 children under five years old die annually from poor water and sanitation in Ghana. 87% don’t have access to improved sanitation in Ghana. 3.5 million people in Ghana lack access to an improved water source.

Asamoah Gyan (pic credit, Ghanasoccer.net)

Asamoah Gyan (pic credit: Ghanasoccer.net)

18.25% of Ghana’s population live in extreme poverty.

Resistance:
A general strike of public and private sector workers demanding safe, clean water and cheaper electricity rocked the government last October.

Player to watch: Assamoah Gyan (striker)

Portugal

FIFA world ranking: 4

Place in world economic league table: 44

Civil rights issues:

“Widespread use of violence by prison guards on inmates is reported.”

“In February, a video showing prison guards using a dart-firing stun gun against an inmate in Paços de Ferreira prison in September 2010, allegedly to force him to clean his cell, was broadcast on the internet.”

“Roma continued to be denied the right to adequate housing.”

Death penalty: NO

Rich and poor:

Portugal has one of Europe’s widest gaps between rich and poor.

Average salaries in Portugal were €14,662 compared with an OECD average of €17,917, but there is a great gap in wages as the richest 20% earned six times more than the poorest 20%.

Adult unemployment stands at 9.6% and the youth joblessness rate is almost three times as high.

Only 30% of adults between 25 and 64 years of age in Portugal have completed secondary school, well below the OECD average of 74%, the report said.

Resistance

Here is a report from news agency Reuters, about Portugal’s one day general strike in 2013.

“Portuguese trade unions staged a one-day general strike on Thursday against relentless austerity which has deepened the worst economic slump since the 1970s, but support outside the public transport sector was patchy and the government seemed unlikely to back down.

Portugal against austerity 3 March 2013

Portugal against austerity 3 March 2013

“Previous strikes and protests about the tough terms of Portugal’s 78 billion euro ($100 billion) bailout by the European Union and IMF in 2011 have been largely non-violent, unlike unrest in Greece or more recently Brazil and Turkey.

“Thursday’s action also got off to a peaceful start. Nevertheless, public transport came to a virtual standstill as Portuguese, some too hard up to join the strike, expressed their anger and despair about policies which have helped to push unemployment to record levels.

“‘It’s simple – if I don’t work, I don’t eat. The government disgusts me, the austerity is stifling us, but protesting won’t feed my family,’ said Augusto Nery, a 53 year old electrician.

“Unions hope the fourth general strike in two years will force the government to boost economic growth and ease the belt-tightening including the sharpest tax increases in living memory this year.

“Trains were not running, while metro and ferry services halted in Lisbon. Many bus routes were suspended, forcing those who chose to go to work into longer, alternative journeys that were served by fewer buses than usual.

“Refuse removal was stopped in many cities and towns, town halls were shut and the fishing fleet in the southern Algarve region stayed in port. The state-owned airline TAP has warned of possible disruption but not canceled any flights so far.

“The CGTP and UGT unions leading the strike altogether have more than 1 million members.”

Player to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo (striker)

USA

FIFA world ranking: 13

Place in world economic league table: 1

Civil rights issues:

Abu Ghraib (pic credit Barbarakow Gallery)

Abu Ghraib (pic credit Barbarakow Gallery)

The list below covers only domestic civil rights issues. But we must never forget US foreign policy, its invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US bombing raids in at least three other countries, “counter-insurgency” operations and secret rendition missions.

As of May 2014, nearly four years after President Obama’s deadline to close the Guantánamo detention facility, 149 men were still held at the base.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalists reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, (the only available data) indicates that US drone strikes killed up to 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom up to 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured up 1,362 more individuals.

Amnesty International’s 2012 report says:

“There was no accountability for human rights violations committed under the administration of President George W. Bush as part of the CIA’s programme of secret detention and rendition (transfer of individuals from the custody of one state to another by means that bypass judicial and administrative due process).”

“At least 43 people died after being struck by police Tasers, bringing the number of such deaths since 2001 to 497. While coroners have attributed most of these deaths to other causes, such as underlying health problems, Tasers are listed as a cause or contributory factor in more than 60 cases. Most of those who died were unarmed and many did not appear to pose a serious threat when they were electro-shocked.”

Death penalty: YES

“Forty-three prisoners – all of them men – were executed in the USA during the year, all by lethal injection. This brought to 1,277 the total number of executions carried out since the US Supreme Court lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in 1976.”

Rich and poor:

The United States of America — the land of opportunity — has the fourth most uneven income distribution in the developed world.

The Sadoff Investment Research firm of Wisconsin has released the results of a recent report. According to its findings, the top 1% of wage-earning households in the US were reaping $1,264,065 in 2012 — around 41 times as much as the average income for all wage-earners, who pulled in a relatively meager $30,997 that year.

The greatest demonstration of inequality is most evident in the income generated not by the top 1% though, but by the sliver of the US population that makes more than the other 99.9% of the country. According to Sadoff’s research, the top 0.1% of Americans earned around $6,373,782 during that same 12-month span — around 206 times what the average family in the US earned.

US government statistics show over 40 million Americans, including 16,000,000 children, struggling to obtain basic necessities.

The Census Bureau nationwide survey conducted during 2007 and 2011, which encompasses the recession and the immediate aftermath, showed that 43 million Americans — or slightly more than 14% — lived in poverty. But not every group was impacted equally. The poverty rate was 27% for Native Americans, 26% for African Americans and 23% for Hispanic people. Among whites and Asians, less than 12% were poor. The federal threshold for poverty is about $11,500 in annual income for an individual and about $23,000 for a family of four.

Resistance:

American workers and the poor have a fine tradition of resisting their rulers. The US was the home of the sit down strike, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and they did have a revolution to kick out the Brits and a civil war to end slavery.

Player to watch: Michael Bradley (midfield)

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