Sunday, June 17, 2018

Africa and Cuba United by Friendship and Solidarity
There are 95 Cuba solidarity associations working to strengthen ties of friendship with the island, across 45 countries in Africa and the Middle East, according to José Prieto Cintado, vice president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), speaking with Granma International about the work undertaken by these groups last year

Nuria Barbosa León |
June 11, 2018 17:06:57

There are 95 Cuba solidarity associations working to strengthen ties of friendship with the island, across 45 countries in Africa and the Middle East, according to José Prieto Cintado, vice president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), speaking with Granma International about the work undertaken by these groups last year.

In particular, Prieto, with a degree in International Political Relations, highlighted the Fifth Cuba-Africa Friendship and Solidarity Encounter, held June 5-7, 2017, in the city of Windhoek, Namibia.

“One hundred and eighty three delegates from 19 countries attended, including a group from the United States. An action plan was approved, which features strategic initiatives for the 2017-2019 period. We hope to hold the Sixth Continental event in Nigeria next year,” stated the ICAP official.

He went on to note that Cuba solidarity organizations from the continent center their efforts on demanding an end to the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by United States government on Cuba, with protests outside U.S. embassies and consulates across the region, taking place on the 17th of every month.

Activists also continue to call for the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, and show their support for other just causes around the world, in particular the struggles of the people of Western Sahara and Palestine, as well as the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Prieto noted that although Africa and Cuba are geographically distant, the two share close historic ties which have continued to be strengthened ever since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

In this sense he noted that visits by head of state and senior officials from the continent have helped promote and expand relations, while the significant number of African youth studying on the island is another expression of Cuba’s close ties with the region.

Prieto went on to explain that groups publish articles in news outlets and share information on social media about Cuba’s reality and medical collaboration in their part of the world, in order to refute defamatory media campaigns against the Cuban Revolution.

“The solidarity movements have undertaken various initiatives and we provide them with information,” noted the ICAP official, who praised the efforts of African students who have graduated from Cuban universities in defense of the island.

He explained that many African professionals who studied in Cuba are now working in their countries of origin and hold fond memories of the years they spent on the island.

“They represent reinforcements within solidarity organizations, while recent graduates breathe new life into associations and help to strengthen their work,” explained Prieto.

These young people support the work of Cuban officials at the island’s embassies and consulates on the continent. Many also volunteer as translators for Cuban collaborators serving on medical and educational missions in their countries, accompanying and supporting their work in remote areas.

Unlike solidarity brigades from other continents which travel to the island every year to undertake voluntary work at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp in Caimito, there is no such collective from Africa. However, many individuals from the region visit Cuba as members of International May Day contingents or delegations wanting to honor the legendary Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara.

Given a lack of direct flights between Havana and nations of the continent, many of those traveling to the island must make connections in third countries, some as far away as Europe or the United States, he highlighted.

Visas also represent another issue, as individuals from Africa and the Middle East are prohibited from making flight connections in certain countries, making it difficult for persons from the region to visit Cuba as tourists.

Nonetheless, various delegations of parliamentarians and political party members from Africa visited Cuba in 2017, where they expressed their willingness to continue strengthening exchanges in the fields of trade, healthcare, and education, noted the ICAP official.

Prieto went on to add these groups have also been working to pass parliamentary motions condemning U.S. interventionism and the blockade of Cuba.

“The delegations that visit ICAP pay tribute to the independence leaders of their countries in the Park of Africa’s Founding Fathers in the capital,” he noted, adding that Cuba has a long history of supporting African independence struggles.

Prieto likewise explained that there are many in the Middle East who not only support and work in solidarity with Cuba, but also defend the island against any and all manifestations of imperialist aggression.

“Iran is a nation that has carried out notable solidarity work, while Palestinians always show us love, despite the difficult conditions they live in and harassment they are subjected to. Sometimes you find a Cuban symbol in a tent in the desert, showing that Cuba solidarity is present, not only as an expression of appreciation for what we have done, are doing, and will continue to do for them, but because the Cuban Revolution is also an example,” stated Prieto Cintado.

Meanwhile, Yahimí Rodríguez Flores, coordinator for Africa and the Middle East at ICAP, stated, “The solidarity movement is heterogeneous and includes government members, workers linked to industry and trade, professionals, doctors, trade unionists, and teachers, with varying political positions. However, they are all united by a common factor: their sympathy, respect, and love for the leaders of our Revolution, especially Fidel Castro,” stated the young specialist.

Last year Rodríguez Flores travelled to Mali and Guinea where she witnessed “the difficulties our friends face, who share their scare resources with us and maintain a space to support Cuba,” stated that ICAP official, who also holds a degree in History.

“Just walking through the streets and someone realizes that you’re Cuban, they immediately associate you with the name Fidel Castro. The love the people of Africa feel for Cuba gives me goose bumps. Things like this would happen to me in the airport, in a market, at a ministry or organization. Someone would hear you speaking in the street and all of a sudden say to you: I love Cuba, I love Fidel Castro.”

Cuba solidarity organizations in Africa, key lines of action:

- The lifting of the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba
- The return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo
- Disseminating information on Cuba’s reality and combating defamatory media campaigns against the island
- Supporting the people of Palestine and Western Sahara in their struggles for independence and sovereignty
- Supporting social initiatives offering an alternative to capitalism, above all in Venezuela

Cuba Solidarity Associations in Africa:

-Sub-Saharan Africa: 78 in 36 countries
-The Middle East: 17 in 9 countries

Associations of graduates from Cuba

- Sub-Saharan Africa: 30 in 23 countries
- The Middle East: 6 in 5 countries
A Model Revolutionary
On the 90th anniversary of Che’s birth, Granma presents excerpts from Fidel’s speech given October 18, 1967, during the memorial ceremony for Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución

Fidel Castro Ruz |
June 14, 2018 10:06:49

Excerpts from Fidel’s speech delivered during the memorial ceremony for Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, October 18, 1967

“Che was one of those people who was liked immediately, for his simplicity, his character, his naturalness, his comradely attitude, his personality, his originality … the type of man who, when a difficult mission must be completed, doesn’t wait for you to ask him to take on the mission …”

“This was one of his principal characteristics: his willingness to instantly volunteer for the most dangerous mission. And naturally this aroused admiration - and twice the usual admiration, for a fellow combatant fighting alongside us who had not been born here, a person of profound ideas, a person in whose mind dreams boiled of struggle in other parts of the continent, and who nonetheless was so altruistic, so selfless, so willing to always do the most difficult things, to constantly risk his life.”

“Che was an incomparable soldier. Che was an incomparable leader. Che was, from a military point of view, an extraordinarily capable man, extraordinarily courageous, extraordinarily aggressive. If, as a guerrilla, he had his Achilles’ heel, this Achilles’ heel was this excessively aggressive quality, his absolute contempt for danger.”

“Che was a master of war… Che was an artist of the guerilla struggle…The artist may die - especially when he is an artist in a field as dangerous as revolutionary struggle - but what will surely never die is the art to which he dedicated his life, the art to which he dedicated his intelligence.”

“He was a man of profound thought, of visionary intelligence, a profoundly cultured man… Che, as a revolutionary, possessed the virtues that can be defined as the fullest expression of the virtues of a revolutionary: a man of total integrity, a man with a supreme sense of honor, of absolute sincerity, a man of stoic and Spartan living habits, a person in whose conduct not a single stain can be found. He constituted, given his virtues, what can be called a truly model revolutionary.”

“…That is why we say, when we think of his life, when we think of his conduct, that he constituted a singular case of a most extraordinary man, able to unite in his personality not only the characteristics of the man of action, but also of a man of thought, of immaculate revolutionary virtues, and of extraordinary human sensibility, joined with an iron character, a will of steel, indomitable tenacity.”

“Che’s writings, Che’s political and revolutionary thought, will be of permanent value to the Cuban revolutionary process and to the Latin American revolutionary process. And we do not doubt that his ideas… have and will continue to have universal value.”
Ernesto Guevara: The Man Who Gave Himself
Che’s ideas continue to find followers 90 years after his birth

Yisel Martínez |
June 13, 2018 12:06:28

There are figures who never die, who cease being mere mortals to remain inevitably in history. People of thought, of character, of passion and sacrifice, who exalt human nature and attest to how much we can do as a species. Ernesto Che Guevara de la Serna is one of these figures.

It was no coincidence that his life should turn out like that. His asthma always accompanied him and made him a fighter. His father got used to sleeping up against the headboard of his bed, and Ernesto learned to control the asthma attacks lying on his father’s chest.

He didn’t always go to school, and was taught at home. However, he became independent and determined. He practiced sports and studied medicine. The books written about his life note that he attended practice with a fever, that he was never absent or stopped working.

For a long time he observed, and also suffered, the Latin American reality. His travels in the region helped him to know which side he was on, and to which purposes he should dedicate his political thought. He saw the fall of President Jacobo Arbenz’s Guatemala (1951-1954), overthrown by a coup d’état orchestrated and financed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He took an interest in the revolution in Paraguay and visited Bolivia, among other countries in the area. In Mexico he met Cuban revolutionaries. He traveled on the Granma yacht and landed on the island. He fought in the Sierra Maestra and became a Comandante. He was already known as Che by that time, and also as a revolutionary leader, with terribly strict discipline, those who were there assure us.

His mother was notified of his death on three occasions. “Three times we received the refutation and some reassuring lines. We aged in those two years. Every time I was relieved knowing that he was still alive, I became desperate again, remembering that the news was slow to arrive.”

But the guerrilla lived many more years, at least enough to become Minister of Industries, the advocate of voluntary work in Cuba, an expert in economics, a father, a politician and, above all, a transformer of the global left.

He defended everything he believed to be just, and was able to guide those who saw him as a leader. He went to the Congo because that war of national liberation was also his. His experiences served him in the revolutionary struggle in Bolivia and even so, it may not have been enough to him to have done everything he did, having decided to dedicate his life to others.

Today, 90 years after his birth, Ernesto Che Guevara is not simply a symbol of the twentieth century. He is the writer who left anecdotes of his travels and experiences in Latin America and the world. He is the economist, the politician, the Marxist, the son, the father, and friend. He is the man who is remembered for his ideas, his convictions, and his internationalism. The man to whom his followers have dedicated countless songs and poems. He is the paradigm that embodies selflessness, because, as Eduardo Galeano said: “He never kept anything for himself, nor ever asked for anything. Living is giving oneself, he thought; and he gave himself.”
The draft mining charter conceded to the “once empowered always empowered” principle which was not the case in the past version.

Qaanitah Hunter
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG – Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe says the draft mining charter is substantially different to the contentious version drafted by his predecessor Mosebenzi Zwane.

He says while the public can submit their comments until 27 July, they are hoping that there won’t be any major changes to it.

When the past mining charter was published a year ago, the industry and government were locked in fights that spilled over into court.

The Minerals council, formally known as the Chamber of Mines, argued at the time that there was little consultation by Zwane.

Now Mantashe says after widespread consultation, all concerns have been considered.

“If you compare this charter and the other one that was taken to court by the chamber, very different animals and the reason for that is that we’re serious about listening to the concerns of all the stakeholders.”

In the previous version of the mining charter, mining companies had a year to comply with the 30% black ownership requirement, now the new document gives them up to five years to comply.

The draft mining charter conceded to the “once empowered always empowered” principle which was not the case in the past version.

This means South African companies will be credited for past black-empowerment deals even when their investors later sold their shares to whites or foreigners.
US, UK, France Block Central African Republic's Request For Chinese Arms
02:01 PM, June 15, 2018

The US, France and the UK have put on hold, a request from the Central African Republic for UN Security Council approval of Chinese Weapons deliveries for its national forces.

All the three nations have raised concerns about the use of lethal equipment CAR requested that include Chinese-made armored vehicles, machine guns, tear gas grenades and other weaponry for its army and police.

The CAR’s defense minister has asked UN sanctions committee on June 5 to grant an exemption to an arms embargo and allow the shipments, AFP reported Friday.

France said it had "concerns concerning some lethal equipment included in this exemption request," citing anti-aircraft weapons and ammunitions, according to a document obtained by AFP.

The French mission to the United Nations requested "additional justifications concerning this lethal equipment in order to be able to take a decision."

The United States noted that there was "no threat of an air attack in CAR" and questioned deliveries of eight grenade launchers, four anti-aircraft machine guns as well as anti-personnel grenades and rockets.

Britain said it was concerned that the shipments would pass through Cameroon unescorted to the border with CAR.

The council imposed an arms embargo on the Central African Republic in 2013 when the country descended into bloodshed but its sanctions committee last year gave the green light for Russia to supply weapons to the national forces.

China wants to donate military equipment which includes 12 armored vehicles and four assault vehicles, 50 pistols, six sniper rifles, ten submachine guns with silencers and some 30 machine guns of various calibers.

The list of equipment from China's Poly Technologies also includes 300 rockets, 500 anti-tank grenades, some 725,000 rounds of ammunition of various types and 15,000 tear gas grenades.
Terrorists Fire Shells at al-Baath City in Quneitra
17 June، 2018

Quneitra, SANA – Terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra on Sunday fired shells at al-Baath city in Quneitra province, causing material damage.

SANA’s correspondent in Quneitra said that al-Nusra terrorists located in al-Hamidiye village fired rocket and mortar shells at al-Baath city, causing material damage to properties, but no injuries were reported.

The correspondent said that the Syrian Arab Army’s artillery responded by targeting the sources of the attack, destroying shell launchers and inflicting losses upon the terrorists.

Hazem Sabbagh
US-Led Coalition Aircraft Bombs Syrian Military Positions - Reports 
01:27 18.06.2018

A US-led coalition aircraft has bombed one of Syrian military positions, local media reported citing a source in the military.

Syrian SANA news agency reported, citing a military source that one of US-led coalition aircraft had made an airstrike on the positions of the Syrian troops in al-Harra settlement, which is southeast of Al Bukamal, killing several servicemen and injuring others.

The Syrian city of Al Bukamal is apart of Deir ez-Zor Governorate and is situated near the border with Iraq.

Previous month, Iran's Fars news agency cited sources as saying that a new US military base was being set up in the Deir ez-Zor province. The base, which, according to reports is located in the Badiyeh al-Sha'afa area, was to be equipped with "advanced military tools and systems".

The US-led coalition has been making airstrikes against what it calls Daesh* targets in Syria since 2014. The coalition's mission was approved neither by Damascus nor the UN. Currently, about 2,000 US troops are deployed in Syria.

*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), a terrorist group banned in Russia, the United States and many other countries
Libya Violence: Fighting Escalates in Key City of Derna
The latest battle for control of the besieged city in eastern Libya has cost the lives of at least 16 fighters.

11 Jun 2018

Sixteen fighters have been killed and 11 others wounded in the eastern Libyan city of Derna.

Fighting has intensified between forces loyal to renegade Gaddafi-era General and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Khalifa Haftar and local militias.

Haftar's forces say they have taken about 75 percent of Derna, which is the last eastern city out of their control.

Thousands of evacuees have fled the city over the last few weeks.

Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed reports from Tripoli.
Libya's NOC Warns of Environmental Disaster Amid Clashes Near Oil Terminals 
07:07 17.06.2018

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said in a statement that further activities of militants near the oil terminals in the towns of As Sidr and Ras Lanuf could result in an environmental disaster.

On Thursday, militants affiliated with al-Qaeda terrorist group* attacked the oil terminals. Troops from the Libyan National Army (LNA) repelled the attack, however the militants continued their activities in the area.

"National Oil Corporation (NOC) confirms that storage tank No. 12 of the Harouge Oil Company in Ras Lanuf has been significantly damaged as a result of the armed incursion of the Ras Lanuf and Es Sider port terminals. NOC calls for the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of the militia operating under Ibrahim Jadhran to prevent an environmental disaster and further destruction of key infrastructure," the statement said on Saturday.

According to the NOC, further violence could result in more damages and consequently have negative impact on the economy.

"NOC also calls on all parties not to use the oil sector, NOC and associated petroleum facilities in a political game and to remove them from all possible conflict. Any act that endangers life and sheds Libyan blood should be condemned by all. These facilities belong to the Libyan people and are crucial to the future prosperity of the country," the corporation added.

Libya has been torn apart by conflict since its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011. The eastern part of the country is governed by the parliament, backed by the LNA and located in Tobruk. The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, operates in the country's west and is headquartered in Tripoli.

In 2016, the LNA units drove the militants from the oil terminals controlled by radicals and later handed control over the facilities to the NOC.

*al-Qaeda is a terror organisation banned in Russia and many other countries
Pentagon Bombing of Libya Kills Targeted Individual
The attack was the second against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in recent months


WASHINGTON – US forces working in coordination with the Libyan government carried out an air strike against an al-Qaeda affiliate group southeast of Bani Walid this week, killing one fighter, US military said in a statement on Thursday.

US forces are still assessing the results of the strike, which was undertaken in an effort to disrupt al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and deny the organisation’s fighters freedom of action, US Africa Command said. It did not identify the slain fighter.

It said no civilians were killed in the attack on Wednesday, which took place about 80 km southeast of Bani Walid, which is about 160 km southeast of Tripoli.

The attack was the second against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in recent months. A US strike on 24 March killed Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking member of the group, the military said.
CIA Asset Haftar Forces Launch Push Against Militias in Libya Oil Crescent
Agence France Presse

BENGHAZI, Libya: The self-styled Libyan National Army loyal to strongman and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Khalifa Haftar announced Sunday a "major offensive" to drive rival groups from the country's northeastern oil crescent.

Armed groups on Thursday attacked the Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra terminals held by Haftar's forces around 650 kilometers east of Tripoli.

"We have launched a major offensive supported by the army and air force to drive out the militias of [Ibrahim] Jadhran and his allies", LNA spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari told AFP.

Jadhran's Petroleum Facilities Guard controlled the terminals for years following the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, but were eventually forced out by the LNA.

The LNA controls most of eastern Libya and is opposed to an internationally recognized government based in Tripoli, which has itself condemned Thursday's militia attacks.

On Thursday, Jadhran said in a video that he had formed an alliance to retake oil terminals seized by Haftar's forces in September 2016.

The LNA's air force on Sunday told residents in the oil crescent to stay away from "areas where the enemy gathers, munitions stores and sites with military vehicles".

"Fighter [planes] are carrying out raids against terrorist positions and gatherings in the operational military zone stretching from Ras Lanuf to the edge of the city of Sirte," the air force said on its Facebook page.

The Red Crescent in Ajdabiya, 150 kilometers east of Ras Lanuf, on Friday said it received 28 bodies, without specifying to which group they belonged.

The NOC on Saturday said a storage tank had been "significantly damaged" due to the armed incursions into Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra.

It called for the "immediate and unconditional surrender" of Jadhran's militia to "prevent an environmental disaster and further destruction of key infrastructure".

The NOC on Thursday said it had halted oil exports from Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra because of the violence.

NOC chief Mustafa Sanallah warned that if oil exports from these terminals remain at a standstill it could cause a "national disaster".

The oil firm warned on Friday that output could fall by up to 400,000 barrels per day if the export shutdown continues.

Libya's economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under Gadhafi.

The 2011 imperialist-engineered counter-revolution that ousted and killed Gadhafi saw production fall to about 20 percent of that level, before recovering to over one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ebola Vaccine Brings Hope, and Challenges, to the Democratic Republic of Congo
In our weekly news roundup: a vaccine for Ebola in the DRC, confronting sexual harassment in the sciences, and more.

BY Jane Roberts

As the Democratic Republic of Congo battles its ninth outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first discovered four decades ago, public health officials are hopeful that faster testing and an experimental vaccine will help stave off the type of devastation that befell West Africa in 2014.

That epidemic, the largest outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic disease on record, killed thousands of people across Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Back then, health workers had to wait days to get lab results that would detect the Ebola virus, during which time people could unknowingly spread the infection.

Now armed with a genetic test that takes just hours, health personnel have confirmed 38 cases so far, including 14 deaths — and the spread of the disease seems to be slowing. Still, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cautioned this week that it’s too early to declare the outbreak under control. While more than 2,000 people have been vaccinated and health workers are carefully tracking who may have come in contact with those infected, many barriers to stopping the spread remain.

In the city of Mbandaka, for example, where four cases of Ebola have been confirmed, motorcycle taxi drivers argue that they should be vaccinated, as they’re often the ones called to transport patients to the hospital. “It’s not fair that only doctors and nurses are considered to be on the red line,” Benjamin Leli, president of the city’s taxi association, told the Associated Press. “We’re on the red line too, and I don’t want our people to get Ebola.”

While tracking down these drivers presents its own set of challenges, there’s also the issue of getting the vaccine to people in more rural areas like Iboko, where two new suspected cases were recently reported. Health workers there have encountered a lack of paved roads and cold storage, along with a general mistrust of the vaccinations being provided.

The Ebola vaccine isn’t guaranteed to stop the outbreak, of course, but the WHO decided it’s the best option after experiencing promising results when trialed during the 2014 outbreak. And once you’ve convinced people to get the vaccine, Dr. Alhassane Touré, the WHO vaccination coordinator in Congo and Guinea told the AP, “you’ve tackled 90 percent of the problem.”

Also in the news:

• The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine this week released its first report on the subject of sexual harassment at universities — and noted that academia’s track record has long been dismal in this regard; one study cited in the report found that up to 58 percent of academic employees have experienced some form of sexual harassment while at a university. In science, the problem appears to be the worst at medical schools, a finding that held up across the country. The 311-page report, titled “Sexual Harassment of Women”, noted that the number of women in academia had been rising steadily in recent decades, an achievement that put them in conflict with a system that the NAS described as far too tolerant of abusive behavior.”Despite significant attention in recent years, there is no evidence to suggest that current policies, procedures and approaches have resulted in a significant reduction in sexual harassment,” the authors concluded. The report was commissioned more than two years ago, when the #MeToo movement was revealing a series of scandals at universities. While the NAS report recommended some radical changes to the university system in order to combat such ongoing problems, the Academy itself faces criticism for retaining members found guilty of or facing accusations of sexual harassment, including astronomer Geoff Marcy, who resigned from the University of California-Berkeley in 2015, and cancer researcher Inder Verma, who resigned from the Salk Institute for Biological Research last week. (New York Times)

• The gene-editing technique called CRISPR has been widely hailed for its promise in fighting diseases from cancer to Lyme. In essence, it works by injecting a cell’s nucleus with molecules that can find disease-causing genes and either eliminate them or replace them with healthy ones. That’s the theory, anyway, but two papers published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine make clear that there’s much to be learned before promise becomes reality. Researchers from Novartis and the Karolinska Institute, using different types of cells, discovered that CRISPR was running afoul of a cancer-fighting gene called p53. The gene either prevented CRISPR from working effectively or killed healthy cells when it was switched on by CRISPR. The news caused the stocks of CRISPR companies to plummet, but scientists — whether involved in the studies or not — said that the results were preliminary and that there might well be work-arounds to avoid the p53 problem. (STAT)

• Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate, one steadily increasing year after year, according to a comprehensive analysis published this week in the journal Nature. Since 1992, the continent has lost close to 3 trillion tons of ice, nearly half of which was shed in the past five years alone. Using satellite data that relied on three different methods — measuring the ice’s volume, its flow over the landscape, and the velocity of the moving glaciers — the researchers found that ice loss has already raised global sea levels by about a third of an inch. They predict that level will rise to 6 inches by the end of the century. Their findings paint a particularly bleak picture for much of North America, and the East Coast in particular. That’s because a rapid acceleration of ice sheet loss is concentrated in the western part of Antarctica, a vulnerable and unstable region of the continent whose melting glaciers directly impact the East Coast’s sea levels. “For every centimeter [of sea-level rise] from West Antarctica, Boston feels one and a quarter centimeters,” said Rob DeConto, a professor of climatology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who was not involved with the study. “And that extends down the East Coast.” (The Atlantic, New York Times)

• Eighteen states permit parents to opt their children out of school immunization requirements for non-medical reasons. And a new study finds that in two-thirds of those states, the number of unvaccinated children entering kindergarten is rising. The study, published on Tuesday in PLOS Medicine, designates several predominately rural counties across the country as hot spots, at heightened risk for outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, and other infectious diseases. Eight of the counties with the highest vaccination exemption rates were in Idaho. In Camas County, in the south of the state, 27 percent of kindergarteners were not vaccinated during the 2016-2017 school year. Fifteen major urban centers, including Seattle, Portland, and Salt Lake City also were found to have communities with increasing numbers of unimmunized children, representing the potential for rapidly spreading epidemics in densely populated areas with busy international airports. Overall, vaccination rates nationally remain high, but the number of communities with vaccination rates falling below 90-95 percent, the range widely acknowledged by epidemiologists to prevent the return of vaccine-preventable illnesses, is increasing. (Washington Post)

• Nearly 10 million Americans have had laser eye surgery since the procedure was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s. Drawn in by the allure of doing away with glasses and contact lenses, there is a widespread belief among patients that the surgery — which involves reshaping the clear outer layer of the eye, known as the cornea — is infallible. While the procedure is often touted as successful when patients achieve 20/20 vision, research and personal accounts suggest that many suffer from new problems including dry eyes, blurred vision, and light sensitivity. Indeed, a recent FDA clinical trial showed that about half of patients undergoing Lasik developed these sorts of issues. And a survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2013 found that more than half of patients still had to wear glasses or contacts. In response to rising concerns about the procedure, the FDA said this week that it plans to issue new guidance detailing the risks. (New York Times)

• And finally, while Costa Rica enjoys a reputation for uncompromising environmental stewardship, that distinction is being questioned by activists working to force utilities in the Central American country to insulate their overhead power lines. The issue? Hundreds of rainforest critters that travel across the wires — including monkeys, sloths, and squirrels — are being electrocuted every year. A meeting last month resulted in an official proclamation recognizing the problem, which sees even those animals that survive coming away with missing limbs and severe burns. Still, it remains far from clear whether that will translate into government action. Said one former power company engineer: “I do not think that there will be significant changes in wildlife electrocution incidents.”  (Undark)
DR Congo's Parliament to Consider Legal Protection for Ex-presidents
16 June 2018 - 11:52
South Africa Sunday Times

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila addresses a news conference at the State House in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 26, 2018.

Democratic Republic of Congo's parliament will, at President Joseph Kabila's request, hold a special session to consider legislation providing legal protection for former presidents, lawmakers said.

The announcement could be a further sign that Kabila intends to step down after an election in December despite speculation that he is trying to circumvent term limits that forbid him from running again.

Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala told Reuters this week that Kabila would not be a candidate, the clearest declaration yet from a senior government official on the matter.

But Kabila himself has refused to publicly commit to leaving office and some of his supporters have in recent weeks floated a legal rationale that would allow him to stand again.

"At the request of the president of the republic, an extraordinary session will be convened," lower house speaker Aubin Minaku told deputies on Friday at the close of the latest parliamentary session.

"We will examine several items including the law on the status of former chiefs of state, the designation of a new member of the constitutional court and the law on the tax to promote industry," he said.

It was not immediately clear when that session would take place.

Under the constitution, former presidents already receive broad immunity from prosecution as senators for life.

Modeste Mutinga, a senator from an opposition party, introduced legislation in 2015 to reinforce those protections in an effort to encourage Congo's first ever democratic transition.

It stipulates that former presidents and their aides will not be liable for arrest for common law violations committed in the exercise of presidential functions. It also provides for bodyguards for ex-presidents and increases in their pension.

However the bill never came up for a vote.

"As the initiative for taking up this law during the extraordinary session comes from those who blocked the law, we think that this time we are really going to examine (it),” Mutinga told Reuters.

Kabila succeeded his assassinated father as president in 2001. He was required by the constitution to step down in December 2016 but the election to replace him has been repeatedly delayed.

Since then, security forces have killed dozens of anti-Kabila protesters while surging militia violence has raised the spectre of a repeat of civil wars around the turn of the century that cost millions of lives.

The special session will also select a new Constitutional Court justice to replace Felix Vunduawe Te Pemako, who was named president of a separate court this week.

Last month, Kabila and parliament named two close Kabila allies to the court in moves analysts say could be geared either at securing a judgment that allows him to run again or bolstering the chances that his preferred successor will win.

- Reuters
Somalia, Ethiopia to Jointly Invest in Four Seaports on the Red Sea
Somalia and Ethiopia announced they were jointly investing in four seaports to attract foreign investment to their two countries, the latest move in a tussle for access to ports along one of the world’s most strategic waterways.

After Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo hosted Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed for a meeting at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, the two leaders issued a joint statement of pledges to cooperate on everything from the development of infrastructure including roads linking the two countries to expanding visa services to promote cultural exchanges.

The statement did not elaborate on which ports the two countries would develop.

The leaders further agreed to invest in logistics and service provision specially to leading ports in the continent that can serve both the Indian ocean and the Red Sea.

Ethiopia’s thirst for access to the sea
The Horn of Africa’s Red Sea coastline extending north of Somalia through Djibouti and Eritrea toward the critical Suez Canal is already dotted with ports owned or run by countries locked in a regional struggle: the United Arab Emirates and its ally Saudi Arabia on one side, and Turkey which backs Qatar on the other.

Landlocked Ethiopia, which has a population of 100 million, has been led since April by 41-year-old former intelligence officer Abiy, who has moved swiftly to assert his nation’s interests on the international stage.

“The leaders further agreed to invest in logistics and service provision specially to leading ports in the continent that can serve both the Indian ocean and the Red Sea,” the statement read.

UAE deals in the Horn of Africa

The day before Abiy’s visit to Somalia, the United Arab Emirates pledged to give $3 billion to Ethiopia in aid and investments, in a major show of support for the new leadership in Ethiopia.

The strengthened partnership between Ethiopia and the oil-rich Gulf monarchy is significant in the context of Addis Ababa’s ties with Mogadishu.

Somalia and the UAE have been at odds for months over the broader dispute in the Gulf region.

That Middle Eastern feud is driving the desire to control the Horn of Africa and its waters, diplomats, businessmen, scholars and Somali officials have told Reuters.

In May, Ethiopian state media reported that Ethiopia had taken an unspecified stake in the port of Djibouti, its main gateway for trade.

South Africa Proposes 5% Black Ownership in Mining Firms
Africa News

South Africa plans to raise black ownership at permit-holding mining companies to 30 percent from 26 percent within five years, the latest draft of a hotly-contested new industry charter showed on Friday.

The government and miners had been at loggerheads over a previous version of the charter, which the Chamber of Mines industry body slammed as confusing and a threat to South Africa’s image with investors.

The new draft charter extends to five years from one year the time that existing mining permit holders will have to meet the new black ownership requirement.

It also addresses a dispute over companies that were not recognised as having complied with black empowerment rules under the previous version of the charter, even when that was the result of a black investor selling shares.

“Publishing of the Charter moves us a step forward in terms of ensuring regulatory and policy certainty for the industry,” mines minister Gwede Mantashe said in a statement.

Agreeing a new version of the charter is seen as instrumental to securing further investment in the mining sector, which new President Cyril Ramaphosa has made a priority.

The charter, published for public comment before being refined into law, is part of South African affirmative action rules that aim to reverse decades of exclusion under apartheid.

A new addition to the latest charter is that at least 50 percent of the seats on mining company boards will have to be allocated to black South Africans, and that at least 20 percent of those must go to black women.

For new mining right applicants, they must have a minimum of 30 percent black shareholding before securing the permit, according to the draft.

But the requirement that 10 percent of that ownership target be granted for free to communities and qualifying employees, dubbed ‘free carry’, might cause controversy among mining companies.

The Minerals Council South Africa, an industry lobby group, said it was against the free carry stipulation.

“The industry does not favour a requirement of 10 percent ‘free carry’ on new mining rights as part of the proposed 30 percent BEE equity ownership target, as it would render uneconomic a significant proportion of potential new projects, and would undermine and constrain any prospects for growth in the sector and indeed the economy as a whole.” MCSA said in a statement.

Other proposals in the charter include: new mining rights holders must pay 1 percent of core profit, or EBITDA, to employees and communities and that 70 percent the mining goods procurement budget must spent on South African made goods.

Wage Protests Threaten South Africa Power Supply
Eric Oteng 
15/06 - 09:45

About 1,000 union members picketed Eskom’s headquarters on Thursday in a wage dispute that threatens the cash-strapped South African utility’s ability to deliver power.

There have been no reports of outages in Africa’s most industrialised economy, but Eskom said that some plants had cut output, with shortages more likely now during peak winter demand.

Threats of total shutdown

Labour unions have threatened a “total shutdown” of Eskom’s operations if it does not meet their demands for a 15 percent increase in salaries.

Zero percent is nonsense, we won’t stand for it. Petrol is going up, VAT is going up, so our pay is decreasing.

The pickets come a day after protests at about 10 Eskom power plants forced the utility to switch off some generating units because trucks carrying coal and buses ferrying staff were blocked from entering.

Eskom, which produces more than 90 percent of South Africa’s power, narrowly avoided a liquidity crunch early this year and was embroiled in corruption scandals.

The picketing workers demanded to be addressed by Eskom Chief Executive Phakamani Hadebe, and about 12 police cars were stationed outside the company’s Megawatt Park headquarters to protect Eskom staff and equipment.

More picketing promised

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), who say they represent more than 20,000 of Eskom’s 47,000 employees, warned that thousands of their members would picket at Megawatt Park.

Thabiso Masha, an Eskom employee who works in the research department in Germiston, said: “Zero percent is nonsense, we won’t stand for it. Petrol is going up, VAT is going up, so our pay is decreasing”.

Another employee, who works in Eskom’s distribution operation in Johannesburg but asked not to be named, said: “It’s not the workers’ fault that the company is suffering because of corruption. We are not the root cause … They are preparing for job cuts.”

Two workers held up a placard emblazoned with “0% equals 0 Megawatt”. Another read: “To hell austerity measures. Workers cannot pay for sins of management.”


Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said that some power stations were not generating at full capacity because of “acts of sabotage and intimidation”.

“There have been several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure. As a result, all road coal deliveries have been stopped for security reasons,” Eskom said in a statement.

Stabilising Eskom’s finances is a priority for President Cyril Ramaphosa as he looks to rekindle growth after nine years of stagnation under his predecessor, Zuma.

Ramaphosa oversaw the appointment of a new board and chief executive at Eskom in an attempt to clean up governance and set the company on a firmer financial footing.

Separately, South Africa’s energy regulator NERSA gave Eskom the go-ahead to recover 32.69 billion rand ($2.5 billion) of costs incurred over the past three years through higher tariffs, about half what the utility had requested.

Eskom said it would study the decision before commenting.

‘America is Better Than This’: What a Doctor Saw in a Texas Shelter for Migrant Children
By Kristine Phillips
Washington Post
June 16 at 5:23 PM

A 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Tex. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The small shelter along the Texas border to Mexico held 60 beds and a little playground for children. Rooms were equipped with toys, books and crayons. To Colleen Kraft, this shelter looked, in many ways, like a friendly environment for children, a place where they could be happy.

But the first child who caught the prominent pediatrician’s attention during a recent visit was anything but happy. Inside a room dedicated to toddlers was a little girl no older than 2, screaming and pounding her fists on a mat. One woman tried to give her toys and books to calm her down, but even that shelter worker seemed frustrated, Kraft told The Washington Post, because as much as she wanted to console the little girl, she couldn’t touch, hold or pick her up to let her know everything would be all right. That was the rule, Kraft said she was told: They’re not allowed to touch the children.

“The really devastating thing was that we all knew what was going on with this child. We all knew what the problem was,” Kraft said. “She didn’t have her mother, and none of us can fix that.”

The girl had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to this shelter that had been redecorated for children under age 12, Kraft said staffers told her.

President Trump told reporters June 15 that he hates "to see separation of parents and children," but that "Democrats forced that law upon our nation." (AP)

The little girl is among the multitude of immigrant children who have been separated from their family as part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, meaning any adult who crosses the border illegally will face criminal prosecution. That also means parents were taken to federal jails while their children were sent to shelters.

Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents during six weeks in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said colleagues who were alarmed by what was going on at the border invited her to see for herself, so she visited a shelter run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“We needed to see what was happening and tell the country and the world about it,” she said.

One thing immediately became clear to Kraft: Those who work at this shelter, whom she declined to name for privacy reasons, were doing what they could to make sure the children’s needs are met. The children were fed; they had beds, toys, a playground and people who change their diapers. But there are limits to what workers could do. Not only could they not pick up or touch the children; they could not get their parents for them.

“The really basic, foundational needs of having trust in adults as a young child was not being met. That contradicts everything we know that the kids need to build their health,” Kraft said.

[‘Where’s Mommy?’: A family fled death threats, only to face separation at the border.]

Such a situation could have long-term, devastating effects on young children, who are likely to develop what is called toxic stress in their brain once separated from caregivers or parents they trusted. It disrupts a child’s brain development and increases the levels of fight-or-flight hormones in their bodies, Kraft said. This kind of emotional trauma could eventually lead to health problems, such as heart disease and substance abuse disorders.

Kraft and her organization are not alone in this opinion.

“While not all of the children we are ripping from their parents will suffer the full consequences of toxic stress, many may,” child psychologist Megan Gunnar of the University of Minnesota told BuzzFeed News.

“The age of the child matters,” Gunnar said. Children under age 10 are of deep concern, she said. “Those under 5 should get us all running around with our hair on fire to get this practice stopped.”

Nearly 4,600 mental-health professionals and 90 organizations have joined a petition urging Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several elected officials to stop the policy of separating children from their parents. The petition says:

These children are thrust into detention centers often without an advocate or an attorney and possibly even without the presence of any adult who can speak their language. We want you to imagine for a moment what this might be like for a child: to flee the place you have called your home because it is not safe to say and then embark on a dangerous journey to an unknown destination, only to be ripped apart from your sole sense of security with no understanding of what just happened to you or if you will ever see your family again. And that the only thing you have done to deserve this, is to do what children do: stay close to the adults in their lives for security.

[‘They just took them?’ Frantic parents separated from their kids fill courts on the border]

It further says: “To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma.”

As of Thursday, 11,432 migrant children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, up from 9,000 at the beginning of May. These numbers include minors who arrived at the border without a relative and children separated from their parents.

The policy so far has pushed shelters to their capacity. Administration officials had started making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases. On Thursday, the Trump administration said it will house children in tents in the desert outside El Paso

Though the policy has been enacted and touted by his own administration, Trump has avoided publicly owning it and, instead, blamed Democrats on Twitter for “forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.”

Health and Human Services blames Congress, saying its inability to pass legislation on border security “created perverse and dangerous incentives for illegal border crossings and child smuggling.”

For Kraft, lost in the partisan wrangling and finger-pointing was the long-term impact on children.

“As partisan and as divisive as the whole topic of immigration is, we need to start with what’s right,” she said. “Can we start with just keeping parents and children together while we figure out some of the other details?”

“The kids need to come first,” she added. “America is better than this.”

Candid conversations about identity in 21st-century America. Join the discussion, every Friday morning.

Kristine Phillips is a member of The Washington Post's general assignment team. She previously covered criminal justice, courts and legal affairs at the Indianapolis Star.  Follow @kristinegWP
The family separation policy isn’t being used just as a deterrent, but also as a bargaining chip.

Vanity Fair
JUNE 16, 2018 4:29 PM

Over the last two months, the Trump administration has forcibly taken about 2,000 children away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and placing them in detention centers as a deterrent against illegal immigration. The new border policy has inspired outrage, nationwide protests, and a number of ACLU lawsuits, and even Donald Trump has said that this “horrible and cruel” practice must end.

“I hate the children being taken away,” Trump told reporters on Friday morning. “The Democrats have to change their law—that’s their law.”

But it’s not their law. In fact, it’s not a law at all.

Trump has been continuously citing an immigration and border protection policy implemented by the Obama administration that placed hundreds of families in immigration detention centers at the height of the 2014 migrant crisis, when there was a surge in unaccompanied minors and women fleeing violence in Central America. In other cases, children would be separated from parents facing criminal prosecution, as they would not be able to accompany them into federal detention centers. But previous administrations made allowances for immigrants traveling with children—many of them seeking asylum in the U.S.—allowing the families to stay together while being processed. The Trump administration, however, has decided that all adults crossing the border must be criminally prosecuted, with no exceptions. The new “zero tolerance” policy put in place by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April requires that children are taken away from their parents and are treated as unaccompanied minors, as if they tried to cross the border alone.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, when asked about the policy last month, referred to it as a “deterrent.” Critics say it is more akin to child abuse. There’s ample evidence that taking children from their parents at such young ages (many of them are younger than 4) causes lasting developmental and emotional damage. “What we find from a neurobiological sense is that the circuitry in the brain that is a fear response can be actually harmed,” Dr. Lisa Fortuna, medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center told Business Insider. Putting children in a situation as traumatic as taking them away from their parents can make them more susceptible to behavioral problems like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has called the policy “barbaric.” Sessions has described it as justice: “If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border.”

The family separation policy isn’t being used merely as a deterrent, however, but also as a bargaining chip, with imprisoned children as political hostages. Instead of ending the cruel policy, which he could do immediately, Donald Trump has maintained family separation as leverage to force Democrats to accede to sweeping limits on immigration. As he tweeted Saturday morning, “Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!”

Trump doesn’t seem to be backing down, even after other Republicans have started to voice their doubts. Speaker Paul Ryan said that he’s not comfortable with the policy, and Senator John Kasich tweeted on Friday, “Quit separating families. It’s that simple.”

“Before, their cases would have been dealt with as a family,” Megan McKenna, senior director of communications at the nonprofit Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), told Business Insider. “It’s a problem of the government’s own making.”
Nearly 2,000 Children Have Been Separated From Their Families During Trump Border Crackdown
June 16, 2018

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families during a six-week period in April and May, as the Trump Administration cracked down on illegal immigration with a “zero-tolerance” policy of separating families at the border.

From April 19 through May 31, there were 1,995 children separated from 1,940 adults by U.S. Border Patrol, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed on Saturday.

The figures represent families who were separated because of illegal entry, immigration violations, possible criminal conduct by the parent, and cases where officials could not verify the family relationship, the DHS spokesperson said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in early May that officials would separate parents and children who are caught illegally crossing the border while prosecuting the parents for a federal misdemeanor. While the parents are incarcerated, children — who are not charged with a crime — are separated and kept in juvenile facilities with no clear process for reunification. In the past, families in this situation have typically been subject to civil deportation proceedings instead of criminal prosecution.

The Trump Administration’s controversial new policy sparked outrage this week, as more stories emerged about families who had been unexpectedly separated and as visits by reporters to juvenile immigration shelters shed light on the facilities where many of those children now find themselves.

Sessions defended the separation policy this week by citing the bible, after religious leaders, including a cardinal in the Catholic Church, called the separation of families “immoral.”
Just the Fear of a Trade War Is Straining the Global Economy
The ThyssenKrupp steel mill in Duisburg, Germany. At factories from Germany to Mexico, orders are being cut and investments delayed. CreditLukas Schulze/Getty Images

By Peter S. Goodman, Ian Austen and Elisabeth Malkin
New York Times
June 16, 2018

LONDON — Only a few months ago, the global economy appeared to be humming, with all major nations growing in unison. Now, the world’s fortunes are imperiled by an unfolding trade war.

As the Trump administration imposes tariffs on allies and rivals alike, provoking broad retaliation, global commerce is suffering disruption, flashing signs of strains that could hamper economic growth. The latest escalation came on Friday, when President Trump announced fresh tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, prompting swift retribution from Beijing.

As the conflict broadens, shipments are slowing at ports and airfreight terminals around the world. Prices for crucial raw materials are rising. At factories from Germany to Mexico, orders are being cut and investments delayed. American farmers are losing sales as trading partners hit back with duties of their own.

Workers in a Canadian steel mill scrambled to recall rail cars headed to the United States border after Mr. Trump this month slapped tariffs on imported metals. A Seattle customer soon canceled an order.

“The impact was felt immediately,” said Jon Hobbs president of AltaSteel in Edmonton. “The penny is really dropping now as to what this means to people’s businesses.”

The Trump administration portrays its confrontational stance as a means of forcing multinational companies to bring factory production back to American shores. Mr. Trump has described trade wars as “easy to win” while vowing to rebalance the United States’ trade deficits with major economies like China and Germany.

Mr. Trump’s offensive may yet prove to be a negotiating tactic that threatens economic pain to force deals, rather than a move to a full-blown trade war. Americans appear to be better insulated than most from the consequences of trade hostilities. As a large economy in relatively strong shape, the United States can find domestic buyers for its goods and services when export opportunities shrink.

Even so, history has proved that trade wars are costly while escalating risks of broader hostilities. Fears are deepening that the current outbreak of antagonism could drag down the rest of the world.

Before most trade measures fully take effect, businesses are already grappling with the consequences — threats to their supplies, uncertainty over the terms of trade and gnawing fear about what comes next.

“Just talking about protectionism is causing trouble,” said Marie Owens Thomsen, global chief economist at Indosuez Wealth Management in Geneva. “It’s an existential risk to the world economy.”

After two years of expansion, airfreight traffic was flat over the first three months of the year, according to the International Air Transport Association. Dips have been especially pronounced in Europe and Asia.

Container ships, the workhorses of global commerce, have seen no growth in freight since last fall in seasonally adjusted terms, according to a key index.

A gauge of world trade tracked by Oxford Economics, a research firm in London, recently registered its weakest showing since early 2017.

“Let us not understate the macroeconomic impact,” the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, warned this past week about trade conflicts. “It would be serious, not only if the United States took action, but especially if other countries were to retaliate, notably those who would be most affected, such as Canada, Europe and Germany.”

Threats to trade are emerging just as the global economy contends with other substantial challenges.

The Trump administration’s decision to reinstate sanctions on Iran has lifted oil prices, adding pressure to importers worldwide. Europe’s economy is weakening, with Germany — the continent’s largest economy — especially vulnerable. Central banks in the United States and Europe are withdrawing the cheap money they sent coursing through the global financial system after the crisis of 2008, lifting borrowing costs.

The Trump administration has embroiled the United States in increasingly acrimonious conflicts with huge trading partners.

The United States last year imported more than $600 billion in goods and services from Canada and Mexico, the two other nations in the North American Free Trade Agreement — a deal Mr. Trump has threatened to blow up. Americans bought more than $500 billion in wares from China, and another $450 billion from the European Union. Collectively, that amounts to nearly two-thirds of all American imports.

“If you seriously disrupt any of these three, you’re going to feel the effects,” said Adam Slater, lead economist at Oxford Economics. “If you disrupt all three at once, you’re going to feel it quite severely.”

In Houston, still recovering from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Harvey, the steel tariffs loom like another storm on the horizon.

The Greater Port of Houston, a network of nearly 200 terminals lining 25 miles of channel, is one of the busiest seaborne cargo hubs on the planet. It is also a major local employer, and the largest importer of steel in North America. Steel imports have been surging, especially pipes used by the energy industry.

Sixteen years ago, when President George W. Bush put tariffs on steel, imports fell substantially. Such memories now stoke modern-day fears.

“We’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode,” said Roger Guenther, executive director for the Port of Houston Authority.

For companies that make steel and aluminum, the American tariffs have presented a direct and menacing challenge to their businesses.

At Alta, the steel mill in Edmonton, the metals tariffs delivered an immediate crisis. Roughly one-fifth of the company’s business involves shipping steel to American customers.

Suddenly, the border separating Canada from the United States was effectively enshrouded in fog. The company redirected rail cars destined for customers in the United States, incurring extra freight charges reaching 100,000 Canadian dollars (about $76,000).

The U.S. and China have both demonstrated a willingness to offer concessions — and escalate tensions — to get what they want.

Lawyers for some of Alta’s customers have suggested that certain products might be classified to avoid tripping the American tariffs, which apply only to specific types of steel. Yet for now, the company is waiting for rulings from overwhelmed American customs officials.

“We do not know when we will get an answer out of the U.S. government,” Mr. Hobbs said. “Nobody, including the U.S. border protection agency, knows what to do.”

Across Europe, steel makers fret about an indirect consequence of Mr. Trump’s tariffs — cheap Chinese steel previously destined for the United States, now redirected to their continent.

“We have seen increases,” said Mathias Ternell, international affairs director at Jernkontoret, a Swedish steel industry association in Stockholm. “This is what Swedish companies and European companies worry about the most.”

Mr. Trump portrays trade hostilities as a necessary corrective to the United States’ trade deficits with other nations. But economists and business leaders note that many imports are components that are used to manufacture goods at American factories.

For buyers of steel and aluminum inside the United States, the tariffs have increased prices, discouraging investment.

Electrolux, the Swedish manufacturer of household appliances, recently postponed plans to upgrade a stove factory in Tennessee, citing uncertainties created by the tariffs.

In the suburbs of Austin, Tex., Matt Bush, vice president of a small company that makes structures used in office buildings and retail spaces, said steel tariffs would force his company to pay as much as $50,000 a month extra for metal.

“You have to imagine all the people who are purchasing raw steel and aluminum for input into their business are in the same predicament,” he said. “And it’s probably staggering how far that reaches.”

Spain has emerged from a depression to become one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Trade conflict is directly challenging that trajectory.

In the Spanish city of Toledo, Extol, a company that makes parts for the automobile and railroad industries, has recently seen customers demand supply contracts lasting no more than three months, rather than the usual one-year duration. With the price of aluminum rising, buyers are reluctant to commit, said the company’s chief executive, Fernando Busto.

“We are watching events with enormous worry,” Mr. Busto said. “The political decisions of Donald Trump are resulting in turbulence and volatility.”

Far beyond the realm of metal, the impact of trade skirmishes are rippling out, hitting small businesses and consumers.

In Mexico, anxiety about trade has persisted ever since Mr. Trump took office, given his threats to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, and his designs on constructing a wall along the border. Ordinary Mexicans have absorbed the hit as the peso has plunged in value, raising the cost of everyday goods from the United States.

“That president is driving us to bankruptcy,” said Gustavo Ferreyra Olivares, a fruit seller who has operated a stall at a covered market in Mexico City for 35 years. “Trump is the one who has raised the prices.”

Most of the fresh fruit at his stall was grown in Mexico. But Granny Smith apples nestled in molded cardboard bore the USA label. So did a pile of glistening Gala apples, and neat lines of Red Delicious.

Under Nafta, Mexico has grown into the world’s largest importer of American apples. But sales are down because the price has gone up by nearly one-fifth in the past week alone.

The Mexican government recently imposed 20 percent tariffs on American apples in response to Mr. Trump’s duties on steel. That will make it harder for Mr. Ferreyra to sell his American produce. He envisions farmers hurting on the other side of the border, too.

“Mexico is a big importer of apples,” he said. “If we decide to boycott them, they will all have to stay up there.”

Global commodities markets are wrestling with the impacts of trade conflict, especially as China seeks alternatives to American suppliers.

In recent years, as the ranks of China’s middle class have grown, so has the national appetite for pork. Raising growing numbers of pigs has forced China to import increasing volumes of American soybeans.

But China has taken direct aim at American farms in retaliation for Mr. Trump’s metals tariffs, threatening duties on soybeans from the United States. Chinese pork producers have turned their sights to Brazil and Argentina, the only countries that now produce enough soybeans to offer a potential alternative to the American supply.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Jesper Pagh sat in his office in Copenhagen and watched the result — rising prices for soybeans on world markets.

Mr. Pagh oversees the livestock feed business at the DLG Group, an agribusiness conglomerate that supplies customers in Sweden, Germany and Denmark. His company has traditionally tapped South America for soybeans. Now, Chinese competition was increasing the cost.

American soybeans were suddenly available, but they presented a mismatch. Europe imports soybean meal, not the beans. In the United States, the crushing plants that make meal were already tied up by domestic customers.

A veteran of the commodity world, Mr. Pagh is accustomed to prices that fluctuate. His company relies on long-term supply contracts, limiting its vulnerability to price shifts.

Still, here was a new variable.

“It’s another factor that’s affecting the volatility and the level of nervousness in the market,” Mr. Pagh said. “It’s not something that really keeps me awake at night, but, of course, it can escalate.”

Ian Austen reported from Ottawa and Elizabeth Malkin from Mexico City. Reporting was contributed by David Montgomery in Austin, Tex.; Rachel Chaundler in Zaragoza, Spain; Christina Anderson in Stockholm; Gaia Pianigiani in Rome; and Cao Li in Hong Kong.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Freedom Now! ...Western Sahara Pushes for Independence
Southern Times
June 11, 2018
By Ranga Mataire in Harare and Colleta Dewa in Johannesburg

President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) Brahim Ghali recently embarked on a charm-offensive tour of Southern African nations ahead of the 31st Ordinary Session of the African Union summit scheduled at the end of this month in Nouakchott, Mauritania.

 His tour coincided with Zimbabwe’s support for a joint United States, Mexico and Canada’s bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, snubbing Morocco which has been occupying Sahrawi for 43 years since its independence in 1975. ZIFA president Phillip Chiyangwa on Wednesday announced that Zimbabwe supports the bid by the Confederation of North, Central and Caribbean Association Football countries (CONCACAF).

A few weeks ago, Morocco dispatched its World Cup bidding team to the Southern African region, but it appears this will come to naught due to political differences with a number of countries in the region over its occupation of Sahrawi.

President Ghali was this week in Zimbabwe for a two-day official visit where he held talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and discussed several issues, including strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.

Prior to his visit to Zimbabwe, President Ghali had been to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa where he put across his country’s plight of still being under colonial occupation by Morocco.

 In an interview after meeting President Ghali, President Mnangagwa said; “There has been a long-standing revolutionary relationship between the Zimbabwean revolution and theirs during our armed struggle until we became independent.”

President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe recognised the independence of SADR and was among a horde of countries that pushed for the country’s membership in the AU.

In South Africa, President Ghali met President Cyril Ramaphosa who reiterated his country’s commitment to supporting the people of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic until they gain independence.

“We would like to assure you of South Africa’s continued support for, and solidarity with, the Sahrawi people. We do so not only because of our shared history of struggle but because of our shared commitment to a better Africa and a better world and our shared hope for a just and prosperous future,” Ramaphosa said.

On his part, President Ghali expressed gratitude for South Africa’s support, saying the two countries share a common history of the struggle for freedom and justice.

“In 1994, South Africa achieved a democratic breakthrough, the people’s victory over the heinous system of apartheid,” said Ghali.

On September 15, 2004, South Africa formally recognised the SADR and continues to support the inalienable right of the people of that country to self-determination and independence.

Morocco occupies the SADR and does not recognise its independence while the international community is divided over recognition of what has been described as Africa’s last colonised state.

South Africa has extended material and technical support to the cause of the people of the SADR over the years.

The two countries have thus far concluded agreements in the fields of diplomacy, sports development, technical cooperation, and humanitarian assistance.

Zimbabwe and other like-minded countries like Namibia were vigorously opposed to Morocco’s admission into the African Union last year because of its continued colonial occupation of the SADR.

Morocco colonised the SADR - which it calls Western Sahara - in 1975 soon after that country gained independence from Spain.

Since then, Morocco has claimed ownership of the territory, suppressing the Polisario Front and marginalising the general citizenry of the SADR.

The then OAU recognised the SADR as a sovereign territory in 1982, prompting Morocco to pull out of the bloc two years later. At the AU’s mid-term summit in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2016 Morocco’s King Mohammed VI formally asked for readmission.

However, the kingdom maintains it has a right to occupy the SADR and will not allow decolonisation even if was readmitted into the continental fold.

Senior diplomats from Zimbabwe, Algeria, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia and other countries were adamant that nothing had changed since 1982 when the bloc accepted the SADR and in 1984 when Morocco left the OAU in a huff, and today.

The SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on 27 February in 1976, in Bir Lehlu. SADR claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. However, at present, the SADR government only controls 20-25 percent of the territory it claims.

As of 2017, the SADR had been recognised by 84 United Nations member states. Of these, 39 have since “frozen” or “withdrawn” recognition. SADR has, at some point been recognised by 43.5% of UN member states, 38 out of 54 (70%) of the AU member states, 18 out of 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and five out of 22 of the Arab League member states.

Other states that do not recognize the SADR nonetheless recognise the Polisario Front as the legitimate representative of the population of the territory but not as the government-in-exile of a sovereign state.

The SADR has been a member of the AU, formerly the OAU since 1984, which led Morocco to withdraw in protest until re-joining in 2017.

SADR participates as a guest at Non-Aligned Movement meetings or the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership, despite Moroccan objections to SADR participation.

The Arab League simply supports “Moroccan territorial integrity”, without specification. No other country has ever recognized Morocco’s unilateral annexation of SADR. The majority of countries have expressed their support for a future status of the country as an autonomous part of Morocco.

Major countries that have recognised SADR include Mexico, Algeria, Iran, Venezuela, Vietnam, Nigeria, South Africa and India. India was to later withdraw its recognition in 2000.

SADR's decades-old dispute with Morocco remains atop the agenda at the AU, after reinstating Morocco as a member nation, and has upheld a resolution supporting the United Nations peace process between the two. A report on the resolution is expected to be tabled in Nouakchott.
South African High Commission to Namibia Hails Women in Leadership Conference
Southern Times
June 13,2018
By Sharon Kavhu

Windoek-South African High Commissioner to Namibia, Mr William Whitehead has hailed The Southern Times (TST) newspaper’s Women in leadership Annual Conference, which is scheduled for 17 August this year.

Whitehead expressed his warm welcome for the project when the TST management led by General Manager, Gwen Synders visited him at the embassy on Tuesday.

 “The initiative is very good especially the fact that you have scheduled it at the same time with the SADC 38th  Summit where South Africa will be handing over the chairmanship to Namibia,” said Whitehead.

He committed his support  to the event, meant to empower women in the region.
This year’s Women in Leadership Conference is being held under the theme: ‘African women taking control’ and it is being held simultaneously with the SADC Heads of States 38th Summit. It is aimed at bringing together SADC First

Ladies to share their experiences, motivate and encourage other women in the region.
During the conference, there will be a dialogue for discourse on the inclusion of women in leadership roles, challenges and instil positive reinforcement in women from all spheres of life in economic activities.
MSF Appeals for Financial Assistance to Fight Ebola in DRC
Southern Times
June 15, 2018
Colleta Dewa

Johannesburg - Doctors Without Borders in Southern Africa has appealed for financial assistance to help the Ebola-hit Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a statement sent to The Southern Times, MSF said the move is aimed at assisting in providing needed health care facilities to the affected communities.

“Since the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was declared on 8 May 2018, 54 people who presented symptoms of haemorrhagic fever, including 35 confirmed Ebola cases and 25 deaths (of whom 12 were confirmed as Ebola), have been notified by the national health authorities in the Equateur region, where the outbreak started.

“To this effect, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa has launched an appeal to raise funds to fight the Ebola outbreak in DRC. Every second counts, every patient matters, every donation is vital,” said MSF.

MSF says the funds will assist their team in the DRC in executing the intervention, which is based on six pillars.

The pillars include care of diagnosed patients and isolation; outreach activities to find patients; trace and follow-up with patient contacts; health promotion activities to inform people about the risks and how to avoid them; support of regular health care as well as safe burials to avoid infections.

The outbreak is currently affecting the city of Mbandaka and the health zones of Bikoro (Bikoro and Iboko villages), and Iboko (Itipo and Iboko villages).

Bikoro is a small city where some Ebola cases have been detected that is approximately four hours’ drive from Mbandaka. Connections with Bikoro are also possible via Lake Tumba, which the local community uses to reach the Congo River.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in DRC in the last 40 years.

“So far, most of the previous outbreaks have occurred in relatively remote and isolated areas, with little spread of the disease. The last Ebola outbreaks in DRC occurred in Likati district in May 2017, with eight people infected, of whom four died, and in Boende (Thsuapa region) in 2014, with 66 people, of whom 49 died.

MSF’s first priority has been to provide isolation units to content patients and bring the infection under control. Because Ebola is so contagious, patients must remain in these units and be cared for inside. Even family members are normally not allowed to visit the patients,” added the organisation.

MSF says patients are being given intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, maintaining blood pressure, providing nutritional supplements and pain relief, all of which help the patient’s own system to fight the disease.

To tackle the Ebola epidemic and limit the spread of the virus, MSF) is stepping up its response in the affected areas.  MSF emergency teams are present in four locations where suspected and confirmed patients have been identified, and are working in collaboration with the DRC’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and the WHO.

“The organisation currently operates two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETC), with a total of 32 beds in isolation, and one transit centre in Itipo. As of 29 May, we are currently caring for 19 patients.  Around 60 tonnes of supplies have been shipped to Kinshasa and dispatched to the affected areas since the beginning of the epidemic.” 

According to MSF, when the Ebola epidemic was officially declared on 8 May, experts from their organisation emergency pools arrived in the field to deploy a rapid response in the hotspots.

In addition to the treatment and isolation of suspected and confirmed Ebola cases, focus is also vital in the surveillance, investigation of new cases and contacts, infection control and prevention, health promotion and training activities.