Thursday, August 31, 2006

Egypt, World Pays Tribute to Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006)

President pays tribute to Mahfouz

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has paid tribute to writer Naguib Mahfouz, who has died in Cairo at the age of 94.

"Mahfouz was a cultural light... who brought Arab literature to the world," he said of the first Arab to win the Nobel prize for literature.

He said the author expressed "values of enlightenment and tolerance".

The Egyptian writer had spent the last months of his life in hospital after falling during a midnight stroll and injuring his head in July.

His vibrant portrayal of the Egyptian capital in his Cairo Trilogy won the 1988 Nobel Prize for literature.

US President George Bush has also expressed condolences, calling Mahfouz "an extraordinary artist who conveyed the richness of Egyptian history and society to the world".

A White House spokesman said the author's work would "introduce his beloved Egypt to Americans and to readers around the world for generations to come".

International recognition

The writer had suffered health problems since being stabbed in the neck in 1994 by an Islamist extremist, angry at his portrayal of God in one of his novels.

After that incident he was in hospital for seven weeks and suffered nerve damage in his neck, which limited his ability to write and caused his eyesight and hearing to deteriorate.

Mahfouz's Nobel Prize brought international recognition to a man already regarded in the Middle East as one of its best writers and premier intellectuals.

Egyptian writer Ahdaf Souief, who knew Mahfouz well, said the writer was a "massively important influence" on Arabic literature.

"He was our greatest living novelist for a very long time," he said. "Mahfouz was an innovator in the use of the Arabic language.

1911: Born in Cairo
1934: Graduated in philosophy from Cairo University
1959: Al-Azhar, one of the most important Islamic institutions in the world, bans novel because it includes characters representing God and the prophets
1988: First and only Arab to win Nobel Prize for literature
1994: Mahfouz stabbed in the neck by Islamist militant angered by his work

"He also embodied the whole development of the Arabic novel, starting with historical novels in the late 1940s through realism, through experimentalism and so on.

"He single-handedly went through the whole development of the Arabic novel and made innovation possible for generations of writers after him."

The Cairo Trilogy - Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street, all of which appeared in the 1950s - detailed the adventures and misadventures of a Muslim merchant family.

The books introduced a character who became an icon in Egyptian culture: Si-Sayed, the domineering father who holds his family together.

Controversy came in 1959 with the publication of the novel Children of Gebelawi.

First serialised in Egyptian newspapers, it caused an uproar and was banned by Egyptian religious authorities on the grounds it violated Islamic rules by including characters who clearly represented God and the prophets.

Nonetheless, it was published in Lebanon and later translated into English.

Final work

In a career that spanned decades Mahfouz published more than 30 novels, short stories, plays, newspaper columns, essays, travelogues, memoirs and political analyses.

His final published major work - a collection of stories about the afterlife titled The Seventh Heaven - came in 2005.

"I wrote The Seventh Heaven because I want to believe something good will happen to me after death," he told the Associated Press in December 2005.

"Spirituality for me is of high importance and continuously provides inspiration for me."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/30 14:20:11 GMT

Mahfouz and his literary 'diwans'

By Penny Spiller
BBC News

Up until a fall in July that put him in hospital, Egyptian laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who has died aged 94, could be found on almost any given night with friends at one his many literary haunts around Cairo.

It was a tradition that began decades ago, when he and his fellow writers and poets would gather in the city's many coffee shops, restaurants and hotels to mull over the issues of the day.

In later years, these gatherings or "diwans" would attract a new crowd - thinkers from a broad spectrum of professions who kept the ageing writer in touch with the changing world.

They would also become an opportunity for fans to spend some time in the company of the only Arabic writer to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, which he won in 1988.

Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, who knew Mahfouz well, said the meetings allowed people to pay "a kind of homage" to "the grand old man of Egyptian literature".

"People held him in great affection. He was a very big deal. People could be in his presence for a bit," she said.

She said he had lived long enough to see his legacy come into effect. "There is nobody writing in Arabic today that has not been influenced by him," she said.


But old age and deteriorating hearing and eyesight limited his ability to contribute to the gatherings in later years.

He often had a friend sitting next to him who would shout loudly in his ear about what was going on, which made the meetings surreal at times.

Khalid Kishtainy, an Iraqi journalist and writer based in London who has attended several such gatherings, was asked at one to read out his latest published work.

"I sat next to him and tried to read, but he couldn't hear me - I think he found my Iraqi accent difficult, but also I didn't shout loud enough," he explained.

"In the end, one of his prompters said he would read it out. But Mahfouz showed great appreciation of my work, and laughed at all the funny bits."

Raymond Stock, Mahfouz's American biographer and friend of 14 years, said the writer would often go into what he called his "screen-saver mode".

"He would seem to be asleep, but he was very much aware of what was going on," he said.

"On one occasion, a mosquito landed on his forehead and a friend raised his hand to swat it away. Naguib looked up and said: 'What do you want to hit me for?'"

Naim Sabry, an Egyptian poet and novelist and another long-time friend, says it was his nature to say little. "He was a very good listener. He concentrated," Mr Sabry said.

Progressive thinker

The "diwans" were the brainchild of renowned Egyptian psychologist and long-time friend of Mahfouz, Dr Yehia el-Rakkhawi.

It followed Mahfouz's stabbing by an Islamist extremist in 1994 who had been inspired by a fatwa issued over the writer's portrayal of God in one of his novels decades earlier.

Mahfouz spent several weeks in hospital and suffered damaged nerves that limited his ability to write.

The gatherings "were a way of keeping his spirits up after the stabbing. And it worked. It did have the effect of keeping him in touch with the world," Mr Stock said.

Informal affairs, the "diwans" were attended by a small group of regulars as well as journalists, doctors and engineers among others.

They were held at a different location each night - most often at one of the hotels in downtown Cairo - and each one had a slightly different political emphasis.

"The more pro-Western liberals tended to come on Sundays, while those with more opposing views would attend on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays were more mixed," Mr Stock said.

Thursdays were invitation-only, for his closest group of friends known as the Harafish ("riff-raff"), while on Saturdays he would receive people at home.

Mr Sabry says there is talk of keeping the gatherings going in memory of their friend. But he thinks it is unlikely they will carry on for very long.

"Naguib was the core of the gatherings and it will be strange without him there," he said.

Mahfouz continued to write, by dictation, up until he fell ill, adding to an output that included more than 30 novels and more than 100 short stories, as well as numerous articles and film scripts.

He became famous for his vivid portrayals of life in his beloved city and Egypt's experience of colonialism and authoritarianism.

He was considered a progressive thinker who was a strong advocate for moderation and religious tolerance, which often pitted him against conservatives in Egypt.

Mr Stock said he detected a shift in the writer's political views in the last few years over US foreign policy, particularly over the "war on terror".

"He was very much against it. He had a simple view that if you remove the injustice, there will be no more trouble," he said.

"But he was wise. On one occasion, someone was attacking the idea of the US proposing democracy in the Middle East, and it was pointed out that Egypt had once had democracy, and people wanted it again.

"'We agree about democracy,' Mahfouz said. 'Sometimes our interests are the same,'" Mr Stock recalled.

Mr Soueif says it will be his literary, rather than political, legacy that will remain.

"He was always a novelist before anything else."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/30 19:22:38 GMT

Obituary: Naguib Mahfouz

By Bob Trevelyan
BBC World Service

The Egyptian novelist, Naguib Mahfouz, wrote more than 30 novels, and in 1988 became the first Arab to win the Nobel prize for literature. He died in hospital on 30 August after injuring himself in a fall in July.

Naguib Mahfouz was arguably the greatest Arab novelist of the 20th Century.

He had something of the status of a national treasure in Egypt, where many of his characters became household names.

He was well known too throughout the Arab world, partly because so many of his works were turned into films or television dramas.

International acclaim

Internationally, Mahfouz was best known for winning the Nobel Prize, after which many of his novels were translated into English and other languages.

He remains the only Arab to have won the prize, and although it brought him great acclaim he never moved out of his modest flat beside the Nile in Cairo, or stopped his regular trips to cafes for literary discussions.

"To tell you the truth, I've never lost touch with the new generation of young writers," Mahfouz said.

"So, for example, in my most recent favourite haunt - the Qasr al-Nil cafe - among the artists, writers and thinkers that used to come to talk to me there, there wasn't a single person who was my age or from my generation, even. They're young but they're all bright."

Most of Mahfouz's novels focused on the lives of ordinary Egyptians in Cairo - his realistic style reaching a peak with the publication in the late 1950s of an immense family saga.

Islamist anger

After that Mahfouz experimented with a more mystical style, sometimes arousing the anger of religious conservatives.

His novel known in English as Children of Gebelawi was banned in Egypt, and he was accused of blasphemy.

In 1994, Mahfouz was attacked outside his home by Muslim extremists said to have been incensed by his treatment of religious themes in the book.

He was stabbed in the neck but survived.

The Nobel foundation described Mahfouz as indefatigable, and, beside his literary achievements, that is how many Egyptians will remember him.


I first heard of Mr. Naguib Mahfouz in 1988 in the news announcing the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature. Subsequently I searched for his books and purchased every book I ever came across and read with great interest as I was addicted to his books. I cried after reading many of his books as he so vividly portrayed human sufferings. He became my best friend in university years and continued to keep me enlightened. I found an ocean of wisdom in him.
Nahid Khan, New York, USA

I read Mr. Mahfouz's works which are translated into English. They are simply tremendous. Africa lost one of its greatest leaders in the field of literature. But the undying flames of his works will continue to brighten the path of both African and Arabian literature.
Hizbawi Menghisteab, Asmara, Eritrea

I am very saddened by Naguib Mahfouz's death. It feels like I've lost a family elder whom I took it for granted to always be there. I met him a couple of times and have been doing a postgraduate degree on translation and culture issues using his works as an illustration. I have read his novels and short stories several times. He will always remain Egypt's most magnificent novelist towering over all others. May he rest in peace.
Youssef Taha, London, UK (originally Alexandria, Egypt)

For the attentive reader, or even the half-attentive reader, his work illustrates what is common, what is shared, among the peoples of the world, and the essential falsity of the Islam-versus-everyone notion currently in vogue. He was briefly noticed in the West when he won the Nobel Prize in 1988, but then our literary media returned to its usual focus on in-crowd Booker prize tripe. But before we forget Naguib Mahfouz, it should be said that he was a brave, honest and diamond-clear writer, worthy to be ranked with Solzhenitsyn, Garcia Marquez, Mishima, Gunther Grass -- make your own list -- anyway, the greatest literary names of our age. He opened the door to a world I didn't know and was thrilled to discover, and he greatly enriched my life. I won't forget him.
angus waycott, Tokyo, Japan

It is a tragic and great loss not only to Egypt but to literature in general. Through him a whole generation came to love literature. My condolences go to all his lovers and readers all over the world.
Nagui Abdalla, Cairo - Egypt

Mahfuz was probaly one of the last people believing in liberal humanism even after comprehending its disillusionment in the past century.
Aninda Rahman, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh

I have only known about the work of Naguib Mahfouz for 2 years. When I began to study Arabic I read Palace Walk. Earlier this year whilst staying in Cairo I saw a very distinguished elderly frail gentleman in a cafe. I knew he was someone special & later on returning home after viewing photograhs realised it was indeed Naguib Mahfouz. I wish I had spoken with him but feel very honoured to have seen him. What wonderful treasures he has given to us.
Christina Farrlley, Manchester UK

Naguib Mahfouz was an incredible character and a beautiful writer. His books could transport you effortlessly to another time and place. A real loss, but I for one will always enjoy reading and re-reading his books!
Julie, Reading, Uk

I have never met the man in my life, but I read some of his great works, and they stuck with me and in a way that defined how my generation looks at older generations in Egypt. He portrayed everything in Egypt from the 1930s till the 1960S from a common mans' perspective. He stood firm in an era of much turmoil and change, and his talent was unmatched in Egypt for 70 years. In a way I feel that his death is a personal loss.
Antoine Atef , Alexandria, Egypt

I am and deeply saddened by the passing of a great African writer, who happens to be an Arab. He was a truely wise man, who reflected on the human condition in his novels. Like his characters he will live for ever, I am grateful,to have read with relish, The Cairo Trilogy, The Harafish, The Journey of Ibn Fattouma, Midaq Alley and many more. These books tell us that we have lost a great man of wisdom. Rest in peace Naguib, who fought a great fight
Daniel Osei-Kissi, London-(UK, Ghana)

Not always did every one of his compatriots agree with his politics, but Mahfouz, who in a sense is a father and grandfather of a nation, summed up, in his own life, the struggles of a wider region, and the complex and heart-rending interplay of aspirations and traditions. Undoubtedly, as anyone can attest who has ever read him, he was a master of the written word, or the transcribed voice. It is difficult to imagine a peer in any language. It is a sad, sad loss, but is also a moment of renewal for the Arab world. The paths he opened in his books were wide. Let others now follow and fire the arrow even further.
Ian Douglas, Cairo, Egypt

A great loss - unique in his world, Mahfouz' writings opened up for us the completely unknown world of Egyptian family and political life in the early 20th century. Of course I never met him, but if I had! how many things I would have liked to discuss with him!
Catherine Hackney, Islandmagee, Northern Ireland

To respond to Alan's question, I think that no Arabic writers have won the prize after Naguib because most writers have been subconsciously silenced by their fears of violence that may be ignited against their work..
Omar Houssainy , Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Almost alone, he humanised modern Egypt. After reading "Sugar Street", the stereotypes go straight out the window and humanity flies in. My sympathy goes to the readers of Egypt.
Nic Smith, Windsor, UK

I first read translations of Mahfouz's books while I was travelling through Egypt as a student in the spring of 1998. Besides appreciating his tremendous humanism and compassion for the plight of all creatures on this earth, his words were also a great inspiration to me as a young writer - in another language and culture - proving once more that great art transcends not just time and space, but boundaries of the soul too. May the universe bless Mr Naguib in his new life.
Zaheer Nooruddin, Bombay, India

Indeed, Mahfouz was one of the greatest writers of Africa. It is very saddening he is being denoted as an Arab novelist for the mere reason that he was writing in Arabic. I consider him an African and became an internationally acclaimed writer for his novels and other works written about Africans. I received the news of his death with great sorrow and sadness.
Y. Eteffa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A calm, wise, secluded, original and creative talent who has lived in his own world, untouched by the chaos Egypt has - and still is - going through. He will be much missed by a nation that is being brainwashed by centuries of invasions, colonialism, and thievery. Mahfouz will live forever, just like a 21st century pyramid of Egypt.
Tamim Abaza, Dubai, UAE

A great man has left us. It got me wondering - how come more Arabic writers have not won the Nobel Prize for Literature?
Alan Houston, Belfast, Northern Ireland

I had the great pleasure of meeting Naguib Mahfouz a few years ago, a man of great humility and a talent that should not be underestimated. He will be sadly missed
John Wreford, Damascus

Very saddened by the news of his passing. He was and will remain a giant of enlightenment and free thinking. God bless.
Lubna Hadid, London, UK

I met Mr. Neguib Mahfouz in Cairo during 1984 and was immensely impressed by his meticulous behaviour. Though he was a little hard of hearing he listened to my question with patience and replied in a very firm and authoritative voice. He told me that he has not travelled abroad because when he wanted to go, circumstances prevented him and now when he can go, his health could not permit him. He was a marvellous writer but equally great human being.
Ahmed M Ibrahim, Bangalore 560046/India

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/30 07:31:01 GMT

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Chad Update: Idriss Deby Wants Economic Resources From Oil Output

Chad demands stake in oil output

By Stephanie Hancock
BBC News, N'Djamena

Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno has said in a public speech the country must have a stake in oil production.

Speaking outside his presidential palace in N'Djamena, Mr Deby told crowds a revolution had started.

This comes three days after he ordered two foreign oil companies, Petronas and Chevron-Texaco, out of Chad.

The two oil firms control 60% of the consortium which runs Chad's pipeline, the same as the share Mr Deby says the government wants.

They were ordered to leave the country as Mr Deby accused them of not paying taxes.

If Petronas and Chevron-Texaco had been hoping President Deby might have mellowed since the weekend, they were wrong.

He declared Chad must enter into oil production at what he called a reasonable rate of 60%. Crucially, 60% would give the government of Chad a majority share and therefore control over the consortium which runs the country's pipeline.

Mr Deby did not repeat his earlier demand for the two oil companies to leave Chad, but he did insist they must pay the Public Treasury $1bn.

This is double the amount he asked for from the firms at the weekend, and an official later said the president had made a mistake and the amount of tax to be paid is actually $500m.

But it was clear from Mr Deby's emphatic language that he believed Chad had a sovereign right to take more control of its own oil.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/29 16:28:22 GMT

Oil wealth fails Chadian villagers

By Stephanie Hancock
Ngalaba, southern Chad

Giant electricity pylons and the glow of gas flares dominate the landscape in southern Chad, but people living admidst the oil fields do not receive any of the power in their villages.

It makes for an unusual sight: the very best of modern industrial technology alongside a village people whose lifestyle has barely changed in centuries.

Although cattle still roam freely and the fields remain lush and green, villages like Ngalaba have become known as a "village enclave" - a community totally surrounded by oil wells.

Village chief Tamro Mbaidjehuernan says his community has been changed by Chad's oil project - but only for the worse.

"They took a lot of our fields to make room for the oil installation," explains Mr Mbaidjehuernan.

"We received compensation, but it wasn't very much. We used to cultivate peanuts, sorghum, maize and millet. But now we can hardly grow anything - there's just not the room."


Esso, the US company which operates the 1,000 mile (1,609 km) pipeline that runs from Chad through Cameroon to the coast, says it paid villagers market rates for their land, built a school in the village as compensation, and also donated a well.

But as a row over Chad's oil revenues intensifies in the capital, people in Doba Basin remain disillusioned with the project that began pumping oil three years ago.

A few minutes walk from Ngalaba lies the village of Maikeri, another "village enclave", where Chief Djinodji August says the project has proved a false dawn.

"They said this project would bring us happiness. But from where I'm sitting, it's going from bad to worse. There have been a lot of false promises."

The chief's son, Bendoh, also complains about a night-time curfew in their region, put in place by the local government after a spate of thefts at nearby oil facilities.

"This curfew has installed a climate of fear," says Bendoh. "If people go to their fields or want to visit a friend, they are scared of seeing a gendarme as he will make trouble for them.

"Even if you are transporting a sick person to a clinic - as there is none in our area - they will search you, ask you questions and sometimes take your money."


When the World Bank supported Chad's bid to start pumping oil, it insisted on setting up a group called the 5% Committee - which allocates extra oil revenues to the oil-producing region.

But despite being set up 18 months ago, the committee has yet to finish a single project.

Urbain Moyombaye, a local development worker who himself lives just kilometres from an oil field, says villagers' lives have not improved with the oil project.

"We have not seen any concrete positive impact for the local population," says Mr Moyombaye.

"There is nothing. Go to any village - I say any village - in the Doba Basin and there is nothing. Not a single thing has been built with oil revenue money."

However, some oil money is being spent in the region.

In nearby Doba town, the capital of this oil-producing region, work is starting on a brand new $5m football stadium.

But the stadium was not approved by the 5% Committee - instead, it is being built on the direct orders of Chad's president, Idriss Deby.

Waiting game

It is exactly the type of unilateral decision the World Bank was hoping this project could avoid.

"All these projects are being decided by 'derogation'," says Mr Moyombaye.

"Normally, before starting projects, the committee should ask local people what they want.

"How can we build a stadium when there are people who don't even have clean drinking water?"

Pierre Djasro is one of the nine members of the 5% Committee, and is also village chief of Miandoum village.

The roof of his village school was recently ripped off in a heavy storm, but even he admits this is unlikely to be fixed any time soon.

"I've formally asked the 5% Committee to come and have a look," said Mr Djasro, who adds that the school is so overcrowded many pupils study outdoors.

"They said they'd come a week ago but they haven't come. Even today they promised me a visit, but they've not arrived."


While it is clear there is little respect for proper procedure, many people believe there is another reason why the oil cash is not getting through.

"The real problem in Chad is not lack of resources - it's corruption," says Arnaud Ngarmian, member of a civil society which monitors Chad's oil project.

"The World Bank agreed to finance this project to help reduce poverty, but the way oil revenues are being managed, this will never happen," he says.

"Projects are being built without due process, and the World Bank says nothing. The World Bank has a big responsibility to the Chadian people."

Chad's oil project was designed to try and lift the country out of poverty.

It was supposed to be the World Bank's flagship project, a way of making poverty - and corruption - a thing of the past.

But three years into this project, ordinary Chadians say they are still waiting for their share of the country's oil riches.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/30 00:13:43 GMT

Chad oil company deadline expires

A 24-hour deadline by Chad's government for two major foreign oil companies to leave the country has expired.

President Idriss Deby ordered US firm ChevronTexaco and Malaysia's Petronas, together responsible for 60% of Chad's production, to quit the country.

Three government ministers have been sacked and may be prosecuted over the alleged non-payment of taxes by the oil companies, a charge the firms deny.

It is not clear how the authorities might enforce the expulsion order.

"The problem was that Petronas and Chevron had to pay tax, then they arranged with a certain individual, a minister, in order to get a tax exemption," Mahamat Bechir Okormi, the country's minister for state control and ethics, told Reuters news agency in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

"In Chad, only the national assembly can exempt companies, not a minister."

On Sunday, the government announced the dismissal of Oil Minister Mahamat Nasser Hassane, as well as the ministers for livestock and planning.

"ChevronTexaco and Petronas must leave Chad because they have refused to pay their taxes," Mr Deby said on Saturday.

Chevron says it has fully complied with tax demands and not had "official notification" to leave.

Petronas has not commented.

Taking control

The expulsion of Chevron and Petronas would leave only Exxon Mobil remaining in the consortium which handles the country's oil production.

However, since Exxon Mobil runs the pipeline and the other two firms have few staff in the country, production is unlikely to be seriously affected, the BBC's Stephanie Hancock reports from N'djamena.

President Deby said his government would take control of the remaining reserves.

The surprise decision has sent shock waves around the oil industry, our correspondent says.

The government has recently been hinting it wants to join the consortium.

Privately, many observers feel the firms may have been kicked out to make room for Chinese oil companies. Just three weeks ago, Chad resumed diplomatic relations with Beijing.

If this proves to be true, it will mark a turning point for relations in this region, our correspondent says.

History of rows

Rows surrounding Chad's oil revenues have been simmering for months.

Earlier this year, Chad threatened to stop oil production if it did not immediately receive several months' worth of oil revenues from the US-led consortium.

Last December the government fell out with the World Bank, after it changed a law which controlled how oil revenues were spent.

The bank, which financially backs the oil project, repeatedly asked Chad not to change the law but it went ahead anyway.

In response, the bank froze all payments of oil revenues to the government.

That row was settled with a deal in July, under which Chad agreed to spend 70% of its oil revenues on development schemes, with 30% going into its overall budget.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/28 08:29:33 GMT

New Orleans Reflects on Anniversary of Katrina Disaster

Wednesday August 30, 4:08 PM

New Orleans remembers Katrina with anger and tears


The somber dirges of traditional jazz funerals filled the streets of New Orleans as the city marked the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Tears were mixed with anger at officials who abandoned tens of thousands to the chaos and whose bureaucratic bungling continue to complicate reconstruction efforts.

President George W. Bush took "full responsibility" in a speech here for Washington's botched response to the disaster.

"This anniversary is not an end. And so I've come back to say that we will stand with the people of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi until the job is done," he said at a school still under repair but ready for students.

He also pleaded with those who have yet to return to New Orleans, saying: "The people of this city have a responsibility as well. I know you love New Orleans. And New Orleans needs you. She needs people coming home."

Bush also painted a bleak picture of the aftermath of Katrina, which left about 1,500 dead and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes, and of the challenges still facing the US Gulf Coast and New Orleans in particular.

Katrina "brought terrible scenes that we never thought we would see in America: Citizens drowned in their attics; desperate mothers crying out on national TV for food and water; the breakdown of law and order; and a government, at all levels, that fell short of its responsibilities."

Before attending a somber memorial service at Saint Louis Cathedral, Bush took his motorcade down Canal Street, still blighted by boarded-up storefronts and shattered windows, to Betsy's House of Pancakes.

As he squeezed past tables, waitress Joyce Labruzzo jokingly asked him: "Mister President, are you going to turn your back on me?"

"No, ma'am," Bush said, with a laugh and a pause. "Not again."

After breakfast with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Lieutenant General Russel Honore, the head of military operations in response to Katrina, Bush headed to the cathedral to remember the victims of the devastating storm.

Huge swaths of the city remain abandoned to rot and ruin. More than 200,000 people are still scattered across the country, and those who have returned are still waiting for government funds to help repair their homes.

"The little bit they're giving us is like giving scraps to a dog," said Germaine Bush, who joined a march demanding the "right to return" for the thousands of people made homeless when 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded.

Many tried to push their frustrations aside for the day and focus on remembering those who died and bringing back the spirit of the birthplace of jazz.

"We're here on a very solemn occasion," Mayor Ray Nagin said at a ceremony in front of city hall, which still bears the scars of Katrina's wrath.

"We're here to commemorate what happened and to think about that particular moment when the suffering started," he said before ringing a bell to mark the moment when the first levee was breached at 9:38 am.

"There are lots of New Orleanians who are suffering today," Nagin said. "I am personally having a difficult time with it. But trust me that we will get through it."

Tuba player Mark Smith, 47, who had to be rescued by boat from his flooded home and spent five days without food or water at the city's Convention Center waiting for help to arrive, said it was time for New Orleans to move on.

"I'd like to bring the spirit back to New Orleans and see my city get back," Smith said as he prepared to march in a jazz funeral from the Superdome to the Tomb of the Unknown Slave. "I'm glad to be playing my horn again."

The city known as the Big Easy sidestepped the worst of Katrina's winds when it ravaged the Gulf Coast a year ago. But a violent storm surge burst levees that that were long acknowledged to be inadequate to protect the low-lying city.

"It wasn't Katrina who beat us -- it was human neglect," said pastor Jerome LeDoux.

That neglect extended to the rescue and recovery effort.

Bureaucratic missteps delayed the arrival of rescue teams and food, water and medical treatment for the tens of thousands who were stranded by the floodwaters. The city's police force proved unable to control widespread looting and lawlessness, and reinforcements were slow to arrive.

Scores of elderly and ill people died in sweltering hospitals that were not evacuated until days after the power and water went out. Scores more died in their homes and on the streets waiting for help that was too slow to arrive.

The mismanaged response to the hurricane exposed the failure of the US government to prepare for a major disaster four years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, despite multi-billion-dollar investments in homeland security.

It also exposed the deep racial divide, poverty and racism that persist in this country.

Many here believe help would have arrived faster if the people trapped for days on their roofs and at the Convention Center and Superdome had not been predominantly poor and black.

The city's isn't that way anymore. Skyrocketing rents and the government's failure to help those who can't afford to rebuild on their own come home to New Orleans has turned the once predominantly black city into a majority white city.

"I really feel the government is not doing what it's supposed to by black people," said Alfred Doucette, a Mardi Gras Indian chief and community leader. "Where's my people that lived in my neighborhood?"

The slow and uneven pace of the recovery has deepened the feeling of abandonment and frustration for many in New Orleans.

Life has returned to normal in areas that escaped the flooding - the French Quarter, Uptown, the Garden District and some suburbs - but those are mostly wealthier, white neighborhoods.

Progress elsewhere has been a patchwork of projects undertaken mostly at the individual level after political infighting stalled the release of the city's reconstruction plan until the end of the year.

Of the roughly 110 billion dollars the US Congress allocated in the wake of the storm, just 44 billion has been spent amid bitter disputes and finger-pointing among state and local governments and Washington.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

American Writer Charged With Spying in Sudan

US journalist on Sudan spy charge

An American journalist, arrested earlier this month in the Darfur region of Sudan, has been charged with spying by the Sudanese authorities.

Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize winner from the Chicago Tribune, was detained along with his driver and interpreter.

At the time he was on an assignment for the National Geographic Magazine on the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa.

The magazine's editor, Chris Johns, has appealed for his release, saying Mr Salopek was simply there to report.

A court in the town of El Fasher in Darfur charged Mr Salopek with criminal espionage, reporting false information and entering Sudan without a visa.

'Deeply worried'

But Mr Johns insisted that Mr Salopek "had no agenda other than to fairly and accurately report on the region".

"He is a world-recognised journalist of the highest standing, with a deep knowledge and respect for the continent of Africa and its people."

An earlier statement from the magazine, for whom Mr Salopek is working during a leave of absence from the Chicago Tribune, said:

"National Geographic magazine vigorously protests this accusation and appeals to Sudan for his immediate release and the release of two Chadians assisting him."

Ann Marie Lipinski, the editor of the Chicago Tribune, described Mr Salopek as "one of the most accomplished and admired journalists of our time," adding that "he is not a spy".

"We are deeply worried about Paul and his well-being, and appeal to the government of Sudan to return him safely home," Me Lipinski added.

A judge in El Fasher said Mr Salopek would face another hearing in September on the charges of entering Sudan without a visa.

Earlier in August, a Sudanese court sentenced the Slovenian president's envoy to two years in jail for spying and entering the country illegally.

Tomo Kriznar was involved in the peace process between Sudan's government and rebels in the troubled Darfur region.

The envoy, a well known human rights activist in Slovenia, was also jailed for publishing false information.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/27 17:07:24 GMT

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Chadian President Idriss Deby Orders Foreign Oil Firms Out

Chad orders oil giants to leave

Saturday 26 August 2006 5:48 PM GMT

PANW Dispatch on Chad, Sudan, Ivory Coast & Somalia

Chad's president plans to nationalise oil companies

Chad has given the oil companies Chevron Corp. and Petronas a 24-hour deadline to leave the country for not paying taxes.

Talking on state-run radio on Saturday, Idriss Derby, the president of Chad, asked both the companies to leave the country for refusing to pay taxes:

"Chad has decided that as of tomorrow (Sunday) Chevron and Petronas must leave Chad because they have refused to pay their taxes."

The president gave the oil production consortium that is led by Exxon Mobil, a deadline of just 24 hours to start making plans to leave.

Neither Kuala Lumpur-based Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) nor the California-based Chevron immediately commented on Derby's declaration.


The decision came a day after Derby ordered his government to take a greater role in the production of oil, which is viewed as a way to improve the country's ailing economy.

On Friday, Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor, a Chad government spokesman, told reporters that Derby wanted greater profits from oil production.

Derby has stressed that the country "should fully enjoy its oil, mining and other resources," Doumgor said.

Chad is in the midst of setting up a national oil company and Derby has said that Chad would take responsibility for the oil fields that the American and Malaysian companies have overseen, which accounts for some 60 per cent of the country's oil production.


From October 2003 to December 2005, the consortium exported some 133 million barrels of oil from Chad, according to information compiled by the World Bank.

Chad itself earned $307 million, or about 12.5 per cent on each barrel exported.

Not a member of OPEC, Chad is one of Africa's newest oil producers.

You can find this article at:

Chad orders foreign oil firms out

Chad has ordered two major foreign oil firms to leave the country on Sunday in a row over taxes.

President Idriss Deby gave the order to US firm ChevronTexaco and Malaysia's Petronas after deciding on Saturday.

"Chad has decided that as of tomorrow ChevronTexaco and Petronas must leave Chad because they have refused to pay their taxes," Mr Deby said.

There was no immediate comment from the two firms, which are responsible for handling 60% of Chad's production.

The decision leaves only Exxon Mobil remaining in the consortium which handles the country's oil production.

President Deby said his government would take control of the remaining reserves.

The BBC's Stephanie Hancock in the capital, N'Djamena, says the surprise decision has sent shock waves around the oil industry.

The government has recently been hinting it wants to join the consortium, she says.

Privately, many observers feel the firms may have been kicked out to make room for Chinese oil companies, she adds - just three weeks ago, Chad resumed diplomatic relations with Beijing.

If this proves to be true, it will mark a turning point for geo-political relations in this region, our correspondent says.

History of rows

Rows surrounding Chad's oil revenues have been simmering for months.

Earlier this year, Chad threatened to stop oil production if it did not immediately receive several months' worth of oil revenues from the US-led consortium.

And last December the government fell out with the World Bank, after it changed a law which controlled how oil revenues were spent.

The bank, which financially backs the oil project, repeatedly asked Chad not to change the law but it went ahead anyway.

In response, the bank froze all payments of oil revenues to the government.

That row was settled with a deal in July, under which Chad agreed to spend 70% of its oil revenues on development schemes, with 30% going into its overall budget.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/26 19:28:57 GMT

Six UN soldiers die in Ivory Coast

Saturday 26 August 2006 12:37 PM GMT

3,000 Bangladeshi soldiers are in Ivory Coast on UN mission

Six Bangladeshi peace-keepers have been killed and 11 injured in a road accident in Ivory Coast, hours after arriving for duty in the war-divided West African state, the United Nations said on Saturday.

The soldiers had just arrived in the former French colony to join a UN peace-keeping mission and were travelling south from the capital Yamoussoukro to the main city Abidjan when their canvas-covered lorry overturned on Friday evening.

"They had just arrived the same day and they were travelling to where they had been posted in Abidjan," Colonel Omar El Khadir, the UN military spokesman, told Reuters.

"(The lorry) rolled over ... We don't know what the cause of the accident was. An inquiry is underway," he said.

Four were killed instantly and two more died in hospital, he added.

The French peace-keeping force which backs up the UN troops transported the injured from the scene by helicopter. One soldier remained in a critical state, El Khadir said.

Army sources in Bangladesh earlier said that 12 people had been injured, but El Khadir said the number of injured was 11.

Bangladesh has nearly 3,000 soldiers with the UN peace-keeping mission in Ivory Coast, split in two since rebels seized its northern half following a failed attempt to oust Laurent Gbagbo, the president, in September 2002.

Overall, around 10,000 Bangladeshis have been working in 12 UN missions worldwide, the Bangladeshi army said.

Ivory Coast's road network has deteriorated considerably due to lack of maintenance since hostilities broke out. Main routes are peppered with huge potholes and local vehicles are often poorly maintained, meaning accidents are frequent.

You can find this article at:

US warns of 'build-up' in Darfur

A senior US envoy has said Washington is "very concerned" about a "build-up of military forces" in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer has gone to Khartoum to try to persuade the ruling party to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Washington has said urgent action must be taken to stop a "genocide".

The African Union has agreed to the UN taking over from its own peacekeepers, but Khartoum rejects having a UN force.


Ms Frazer said before leaving Washington that she would deliver a letter to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on her visit this weekend.

She said AU troops were stretched to "breaking point" and could not keep the peace in an area the size of France.

"Darfur is on the verge of a dangerous downward spiral," Ms Frazer said.

She stressed the US was not about to "fight its way in" and that any international peacekeeping force would need the backing of Sudan's government.

But she insisted that "foot-dragging at the UN" must not be allowed.

She also rejected a Sudanese proposal to send more government troops to Darfur.

"Those forces are not considered neutral and so we don't feel that the people of Darfur will get any comfort," said Ms Frazer.


The US and the UK had circulated the draft, calling for 17,000 well-equipped peacekeepers, at the Security Council.

However, Sudanese National Congress Party chairman Ghazi Salah Eldin Atabani said the plan would "impose complete tutelage" on Sudan.

"Any state that sponsors this draft resolution will be regarded as assuming a hostile attitude against the Sudan," he said.

On Sunday, two AU peacekeepers were shot and killed in Darfur, the AU says.

On Wednesday, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said that incidents of rape near camps for those displaced by the fighting were becoming more common.

It is yet further evidence, relief workers say, that security is worsening in one of the most troubled regions of the world.

There has also been an escalation of attacks against humanitarian aid workers, some of whom have had to cease operations.

A peace deal was signed last May between the government of Sudan and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army rebels, yet the bloodshed continues to force tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in camps.

Some two million people have fled their homes in the conflict, which began in February 2003 when Darfur rebels took up arms, accusing the government of ignoring the region.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/26 18:39:08 GMT

First ship arrives in Mogadishu

A ship has docked at the main port in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, for the first time in more than 10 years.

Hundreds of people went to the port to see the ship, which arrived from Kenya carrying goods such as TVs and coffee.

A BBC correspondent in Mogadishu says people expect the newly reopened port to lead to cheaper and more widely available goods in the city.

The port was officially reopened on Thursday by the Islamists who control Mogadishu after 15 years of civil war.

Workers have spent weeks clearing away debris blocking access to the port.

Mogadishu businessmen say five more ships are expected to arrive in the coming days.


For the past decade, ships have been using natural harbours, where goods have to be unloaded by porters wading out to sea and carrying everything on their backs.

Mogadishu's port used to be one of the busiest in East Africa, before the conflict led to its closure.

The port and international airport have been closed since United Nations and US troops ended their operations in the city as it descended into chaos in the mid-1990s following the collapse of central government.

In the past two years, piracy has become a major problem in Somalia's waters - even ships delivering food aid have been targeted.

Sailors are now advised to keep well clear of the coast when sailing in the region.

The Union of Islamic Courts reunified the city for the first time since 1991 earlier this year and say they are committed to getting the shattered country working again.

They also control much of southern Somalia.

Regular commercial flights, to the United Arab Emirates, resumed last month for the first time since the closure of the airport.

The Islamic courts are opposed by the transitional government of Somalia, which is based in the town of Baidoa.

East African diplomats have been trying to bring the Islamists and the government together for talks.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/25 09:45:57 GMT

Oakland Origins of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense



The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed right here in Oakland, California in October, 1966. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale were the original founders. Later the name of the party was changed to Black Panther Party (BPP).

The party was formed when there was blatant racism prevailing in the United States and most African Americans could not make much progress. The Vietnam war created anti-war sentiments. Many young black men and women went to war against their wishes. All protesters were marked by the local police and Federal Agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The BPP was not spared in these times of hostility. People of color, African Americans in general but especially the members of the BPP were targets and their movements closely watched by Law Enforcement (LE).

In the summer of 1968 the David Brothers established the BBP branch in Brooklyn, New York. A few months later a branch was established in Harlem by Lumumba Shaker. Subsequently, many more branches of the BPP were formed all over the country, mostly in poor African American neighborhoods. The BPP movement began on the West Coast, in Oakland. It moved to the East coast and found fertile ground in Chicago, New York, Harlem, in those locations where there was a concentration of poor African Americans but also African Americans who were waiting to fight for their rights as first class citizens.

BPP members chose to take a stand against those authorities that kept them down. They all were very well versed with self-defense tactics and many of them were fully armed. Law Enforcement (LE) agencies were quick to put down any resistance and many shoot outs took place in those neighborhoods where the BPP had offices and large membership. This was a difficult time for the leaders of the BPP and many of them fled the United States. They took their revolution and the philosophy of the BPP to many a African country, to the Caribbean, and elsewhere.


The main purpose of the BPP was to empower African Americans during a period of time when most African Americans could not make much progress. In many poor neighborhoods many young African Americans were looking for leadership and the BPP filled this void.

Self defense was taught to discipline its members so that some sense of organization could be put in place. Membership was restricted to African Americans and most of the ideology was based on Socialist principles. Armed with the 10 step program the BPP had a clear vision, goals and objectives that endeared many young men and women who became staunch members of the BPP. There was no lack of leadership and even today most everyone agrees that the BPP attained most its goals and objectives with great distinction.


The 10 step program was the Bible of the BPP. It stated that all African Americans should be free and determine their destiny. That there should be full employment and an end to Capitalism that preys on the African American community. It called for decent housing and sound education. It stated that its members be exempt from military service and that all police brutality should stop. It called for the release of all African Americans held in jails and demanded justice by having juries who were African Americans. The BPP demanded land, housing, education, food, clothing, peace and justice. The BPP demanded that they have their own jurisdiction within the U.S. so that they could empower themselves and determine their destiny.

Never before, in recent history had African Americans organized so well , with a determination to attain goals and objectives laid down in the 10 step program.


The BPP based most of its organization and training using standard practices used in the Army. Geronimo ji -Jaga (Pratt) for example was highly trained in the U.S. Army and assumed the role of Minister of Defense for the BPP. Other leaders like Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Lumumba, had the ability to address the members and hold them spell bound. The BPP realized very early on that in order to keep the organization growing they had to organize the people among whom they lived and worked. Hence huge rallies gathered the masses, mostly in poor neighborhoods and explained to them certain projects linked to education, tenant rights, business operations, self determination, and so on.

Hundreds of BPP leaders were trained, they in turn began teaching and training those who lived in the poor neighborhoods self defense tactics. Free school lunches were provided for needy and poor students. Free clinics where children and adults could get free medical care. Those that needed tutoring were provided with teachers and peers who spent hundreds of man hours helping one another.

It was recognized early on that land rights, home ownership, tenant organization, and taking control of ones destiny were important. The BPP leaders and members clearly understood that their neighborhoods had to project self pride. Towards this end African American neighborhoods were well maintained, kept clean, and the streets well organized. People all over the U.S. watched the BPP and many admired the quick change in those neighborhoods that were once an eye sore to the public. The BPP demanded freedom for all African Americans. The demanded that they rule their destiny and wanted to see progress in all African American communities.

Other minorities followed the progress of the BPP and looked forward to enjoying the rights fought by the BPP leaders and members all over the U.S. The 10 step program stated that the racist government had robbed African Americans bringing them to this country as slaves and treating them as second class citizens. Decades ago the U.S. government had promised all African Americans linked to slavery forty acres of land and two mules. This was made the cry of the day. It was stated that over 50 million African Americans had died from the early days of slavery to the times of the hey day of the BPP. The modest claim of 40 acres and two mules was deemed right. Many statements and comparisons were made linking the issue of the Jews and Hitler during World War II to the U.S. government and the treatment of African Americans.

The BPP demanded full employment and guaranteed income. It held the Federal government responsible to attain this goal and improve the standard of living in all African American communities, most of which were very poor.

The BPP demanded standard housing for all African Americans. It believed that Whites denied decent housing to African Americans. It therefore sought the help of the Federal government and what is more held them accountable to right the wrong.

Education was always a top priority among the BPP leadership and organization. For decades the true history of African Americans and the role they played in the making of the U.S. was not taught in schools and colleges. The BPP demanded that true history and standard education be made available to all African Americans to enable them to participate as equals in society. The BPP was fully aware that education and the position of any African American in society was inter related. The BPP in its various educational program stressed the need to attain educational standards and towards this end trained its leadership to be good educationists.

The BPP left a legacy of good leaders, teachers, business people, and other professional people within the African American population all over the U.S. The Vietnam war played an important role in the philosophy of the BPP. Many young African women and men were called to serve the Armed Forces and did not want to go to war. The prevailing thought of the day was that the African men and women were contributing to the racist White community by fighting and killing people of color. The BPP did not want any of its members and the general African American population to participate in any war that encouraged racism.

On the other hand the BPP made it very clear to the local police and other law enforcement agencies that they would defend the mutual interests of all African Americans and the BPP by any means necessary. This meant if worse came to worse they would defend themselves by using force. This element of force to defend themselves was displayed again and again all over the country. For example on December 8, 1969 the Los Angles Police Department¹s newly initiated Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT) led an assault on the Los Angeles Panther Office Central Avenue. The BPP, some 15 persons held their ground for more than 4 hours surrounded by over 300 police force. The BP Panthers suffered minor wounds and all charges were dropped against the BPP. Similar raids by the LE in Chicago and other parts of the country, rallied all members of the African American community.

Again and again the self defense training provided by the leaders of the BPP proved to hold their ground against the best LE all over the country. The second amendment guarantees all Americans to bear arms. The BPP pointed out to the Constitution as their right to bear arms, so that they could defend themselves. The BPP called upon the police to end police brutality in all black communities. As we have discussed before the BPP always maintained good standard training in self defense and as such members of the BPP could and did always hold their ground.

Thousands of black men and women were held in jails all over the country. Most of these men and women came before juries that were all White and were sent to long jail terms. The BPP demanded that juries be composed of African Americans and that those imprisoned be released because they did not receive a fair and impartial trial.


The BPP demanded that all African Americans have enough land, housing, food, clothing, justice and peace. The BPP demanded that the United Nation hold a plebiscite that should be held throughout the African American colony in which only African American colonial subjects will be allowed to participate. That this plebiscite be held to determine the will of the African American people linked to the National destiny of all African Americans.

The BPP was instrumental in affecting many changes in government and the prevailing political circles of the time. Even today many an African American politicians owe their status in many a political circle because they were influenced by the BPP. Here, in the Bay Area Congressman Ron Delums being one of them. Hundreds of young men and women attended schools and colleges all over the country and today contribute their talents as professional African Americans to the United States and the world.

The BPP was very instrumental is giving women equal rights and permitted them to play an important role at all levels. Many women today owe their success to the efforts of the BPP initiated many years ago. Angela Davis is a well known Black Panther Leader who taught at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1969 she joined the Communist Party and the following year joined the Black Panther Party. She and other Black Panther Party leaders took a stand for human rights and fought for rights for all people of color. Today, thousands owe thanks for what they stood for and the fruits brought to so many through Affirmative Action.

The Black Panther Party means many things to many people. To most African Americans it was an organization that brought about progress, united the community, and taught African Americans to fight for their rights as United States citizens. Prior to the BPP most African Americans were treated as second class citizens.

Today, the BPP does not function. Most of its leaders were arrested and spent long years in jail. Others, fled the country never to return. Angela Davis spent many years in hiding, came out to face the authorities, and spent years fighting the court system. She won but at great expense. Geronimo Pratt spent 27 years in jail, before being acquitted. Other BPP leaders who fled the country continue to work in other African countries and all around the world.

The Black Panther Party was instrumental in paving the way for many Black Liberation Movements. The BPP helped many people of color, minority groups to unite and stand united in their fight for progress and justice. The BPP brought about a link between African Americans and the African continent. It was during this period that many African Nations were emerging as Independent Nations, casting the shackles of colonialism.

Today, in our quest for freedom and equality, even in the face of such propositions as 209 we remember the Black Panther Party and the 10 step program. The Bay Area has always taken a stand to help people of color, fight injustice and bring about equality. Many of our African American elders witnessed the rise and demise of the BPP, many of our elders and others continue to practice and imbibe the practical lessons leading to progress and self determination.

The BPP took great pride in Self Defense and many minority groups today are following that same path to stabilize their organizations and bring about discipline.

Tens of Thousands Gather For Ramses Transfer

Ramses Being Moved in Cairo
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.

Ramses gets huge Cairo send-off

Alain Navarro
Fri, 25 Aug 2006

Tens of thousands of people gathered along the streets of Cairo on Friday to bid farewell to one of Cairo's landmarks as the colossal statue of Ramses II began its journey from the polluted city to a spot near the Pyramids and closer to its original site.

After years of controversy and logistical headaches, the high-risk operation to move the 100-tonne, 11-metre high pink granite statue in one piece finally got underway at its scheduled time of 1:00 am (2200 GMT on Thursday).

Cairo residents of all ages and backgrounds took to the streets in the middle of the night to follow the statue of the greatest warrior king in ancient Egypt as it moved slowly through the city centre in its sarcophagus of scaffolding and protective plastic.

"We're going to miss you," shouted 12-year-old Issam Abu Zaid, as the floodlit convoy cranked into motion, starting Ramses' return journey from the square outside Cairo's main station to the Giza plateau.

The heart of one of the world's most populous cities turned into a huge carnival, as people put out flags on their balconies and climbed on lamp posts, buses, mosques and everything they could find to watch the statue go by.

Thousands of policemen were deployed in a desperate bid to form a cordon allowing for the safe passage of the convoy.

The statue — mounted on a huge mobile base and towed by a massive truck — was expected to take at least seven hours to complete the 35 kilometre journey.

Defeated by pollution in Africa's largest metropolis, the ancient warrior king will make his new home at the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza Pyramids.

One of the city's most recognisable landmarks

The statue was brought to Cairo in 1954, where it soon became one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city, the first sight to greet passengers coming out of the train station.

Two years earlier, a group of young officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser had overthrown British-backed King Farouk and abolished a monarchy which had become too closely associated with foreign powers.

Nasser wanted to use Ramses II — whose giant statue was discovered in 1882 in the ancient capital of Memphis — to symbolise the authentically Egyptian roots of the new republic.

"It was chopped up in eight pieces and reassembled. Not a single archeologist was present. It was the decision of a military dictatorship," said Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's antiquities.

"Ramses will be happy now," Hawass told AFP. "He would have been unhappy in his tomb knowing that the statue was staying in such a mess where nobody can see him anymore."

The transfer was practised last month with a fake statue, because Hawass said he "would not allow mistakes" and would take "all responsibility on himself."

Some opposed the transfer

Some Egyptian archeologists, politicians and intellectuals have opposed the transfer, alleging it was decided under US pressure because Ramses II — believed to be the pharaoh who oppressed the Jews and forced Moses to take his people out of Egypt — was perceived as an anti-Israeli symbol.

Hawass dismissed that view — relayed by one of his predecessors in the Egyptian press — as "totally stupid, cheap demagoguery".

In its early days, the statue and the fountain at its feet were visible from afar, but they were gradually hemmed in by a mass of overpasses and pedestrian bridges that were meant to ease the flow of people and motor traffic around and across the square but which in fact aggravated it.

The square, which lies outside the city's main train station, is reputed to be the most polluted spot in Egypt.

Blindfolded by a cast of plaster designed to protect it along the perilous transfer, the statue moved through the urban web of congested streets, flyovers and overpopulated buildings that make Cairo the largest metropolis in Africa.

Ramses II, from the 19th dynasty of pharaohs, reigned over Egypt for 68 years, from 1304 to 1237 BC, and is believed to have lived to the age of 90.

He covered the country with monuments to his exploits and his mummy, on display in the National Museum in Cairo, is one of the country's biggest tourist attractions.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Truth About the "Terror Plot" & The New "Pseudo-Terrorism

The Truth about the "Terror Plot".... and the new "pseudo-terrorism"

by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
(Tuesday August 22 2006)
Courtesy of Antifa Info-Bulletin
"If British security officials knew that an attack was not imminent, the decision to raise the alert level to critical, indicating an imminent threat, was unjustified by the available intelligence -- this was, in other words, a political decision."

I am disappointed to say that so far there has been very little serious critical discussion, grounded in factual analysis, of the alleged
“Terror Plot” foiled on the morning of Wednesday, 10th August 2006. Except for a few noteworthy comment pieces, such as Craig Murray’s critical speculations published by the Guardian last Friday, the mainstream media has largely subserviently parroted the official claims of the British and American governments. This is a shame, because inspection of the facts raises serious problems for the 10/8 official narrative.

No Imminent Plot

On the basis of the “Terror Plot”, Prime Minister Tony Blair is planning “to push through 90-day detention without charge for terror suspects.” Home Secretary Dr. John Reid has ordered the draft of new anti-terror legislation that would suspend key parts of the Human Rights 1998, to facilitate the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects in the UK without charge or trial. The law is planned to apply also to British citizens. And since 10th August, Britain was on its highest “critical” state of alert, which indicates the threat of an imminent terrorist attack on UK interests. Only in the last few days was it lowered back down to “severe”.

The stark truth is that the “Terror Plot” narrative has been thoroughly, hopelessly, politicized. There was never any evidence of an imminent plot. A senior British official involved in the investigation told NBC News on 14th August that:

“In contrast to previous reports… an attack was not imminent, [and] the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.”

If British security officials knew that an attack was not imminent, the decision to raise the alert level to critical, indicating an imminent threat, was unjustified by the available intelligence -- this was, in other words, a political decision.

Other British officials told NBC News that many of the suspects had been under surveillance for more than a year, since before the 7th July 2005 terrorist attacks. “British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence” -- as it was clearly lacking. But: “American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner.” An American official also confirmed the disagreement over timing.

Brits Opposed Arrest and Torture of Key Informant

The NBC News report further reveals, citing British security sources, that British police did not want to yet arrest Rashid Rauf, the alleged mastermind, al-Qaeda facilitator and key informant on the details of the plot: “British security was concerned that Rauf be taken into custody ‘in circumstances where there was due process,’ according to the official, so that he could be tried in British courts. Ultimately, this official says, Rauf was arrested over the objections of the British.”

However, the arrest of Rashid Rauf is at the crux of the case, as it purportedly triggered the ensuing wave of arrests, with Rauf providing in-depth details of the plot to his interrogators in Pakistan. Among the details attributed to Rauf is the idea that the plotters intended to mix a “sports drink” with a gel-like “peroxide-based paste” to create a chemical explosive that “could be ignited with an MP3 player or cell phone.”

The problem is that several Pakistani newspapers reported on 13th August that “Rauf had ‘broken’ under interrogation.” The reports were described by a Pakistani human rights group “as confirmation that he had been tortured.” According to the Guardian, “Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that it was obvious how the information had been obtained. ‘I don’t deduce, I know -- torture,’ she said. ‘There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all.’”

That most of the details about the plot came from Rauf, who has been tortured and “broken” while under interrogation in Pakistan, raises serious questions about the credibility of the story being promoted by the British and American governments.

Torture Precedents: the “Ricin Plot”

The revelation bears hallmarks of a familiar pattern. It is now well-known that the interrogation of terror suspects using torture was responsible for the production of the false “Ricin Plot” narrative. In much the same way as Pakistan has done now, Algerian security services alerted the British in January 2003 to the alleged plot after interrogating and torturing a former British resident Mohammed Meguerba. We now know there was no plot. Police officials repeatedly claimed they had found plastic tubs of ricin -- but these claims were false. Four of the defendants were acquitted of terrorism and four others had the cases against them abandoned. Only Kamal Bourgass was convicted, but not in connection with the “Ricin Plot”, rather for murdering Special Branch Detective Constable Stephen Oake during a raid. Indeed, the “rendition” of terror suspects orchestrated by Britain, the United States, and other western states, attempts to institutionalize and legitimize torture as a means for the production of fundamentally compromised information used by western states to manipulate domestic public opinion.

It is perhaps not all that surprising then to learn that, according to a Daily Mail headline, the Pakistanis have found “no evidence against ‘terror mastermind’”, despite two weeks of interrogation under torture and forensic combing of Rauf’s home and computer. The plot “may not have been as serious, or as far advanced, as the authorities initially claimed”, observes the Mail somewhat sheepishly, and belatedly. “Analysts suspect Pakistani authorities exaggerated Rauf’s role to appear ‘tough on terrorism’ and impress Britain and America.” I wonder if the paucity of evidence has something to do with why, as the Independent on Sunday reported: “Both Britain and Pakistan say the question of Mr Rauf’s possible extradition [to the UK] is some way off.” Indeed. A spokesman for Pakistani’s Interior Ministry gave some helpful elaboration, telling the Mail that extradition “is not under consideration.”

The extradition to Britain of the alleged chief mastermind of a plot to kill thousands of Americans and British citizens by simultaneously blowing up multiple civilian airliners has, in other words, been ruled out indefinitely.

Er, Still No Evidence…

All the evidence now suggests that the Americans wanted immediate arrests without proper evidence. It seems, there was no imminent necessity of such immediate action, nor was there sufficient evidence of an imminent plot, other than the claims of an informant under torture. There are only two further possibilities. Either there was no real evidence of any plot at all; or these premature arrests could have seriously compromised a long-term surveillance operation against suspects who may have been involved in a wider network involved in terrorist-related activity, an operation that has now been scuppered -- meaning that we may never know for sure what they were actually planning.

Meanwhile, reports of material evidence in the UK have been unnervingly threadbare. Only eleven out of the 24 suspects arrested over the alleged airliner bomb plot have been charged, largely it seems on the basis of police findings of “bomb-making equipment and martyrdom videos”. Out of the other thirteen, two have been released without charge. But the “bomb-making equipment” discovery of “chemicals” and “electrical components” is ambiguous at best, especially given that police descriptions of the alleged bomb construction plan is to mix a sports drink with a peroxide-based household gel (the chemicals), and detonate the mixture with an MP3 player or mobile phone (electrical components). If possession of such items makes you a terror suspect in possession of potential bomb-making equipment, then we are all terror suspects. As Craig Murray observes:

“Let me fess up here. I have just checked, and our flat contains nail polish remover, sports drinks, and a variety of household cleaning products. Also MP3 players and mobile phones. So the authorities could announce -- as they have whispered to the media in this case -- that potential ingredients of a liquid bomb, and potential timing devices, have been discovered. It rather lowers the bar doesn’t it?”

Yes -- clearly, it lowers the bar to potentially include millions of perfectly normal British citizens. The police story is also, simply, scientifically absurd, as Murray further notes: “The idea that high explosive can be made quickly in a plane toilet by mixing at room temperature some nail polish remover, bleach, and Red Bull and giving it a quick stir, is nonsense.” Citing US chemistry experts, Washington-based information security journalist Thomas C. Greene similarly concludes that "... the fabled binary liquid explosive -- that is, the sudden mixing of hydrogen peroxide and acetone with sulfuric acid to create a plane-killing explosion, is out of the question... But the Hollywood myth of binary liquid explosives now moves governments and drives public policy. We have reacted to a movie plot."

CIA, MI6 and ISI

A report by Asia Times Pakistan Bureau Chief Syed Shahzad citing Pakistani intelligence sources confirms that the British-born Pakistanis arrested in Lahore and Karachi were active members of al-Muhajiroun, the banned UK-based extremist Islamist group currently directed by Omar Bakri Mohammed from Lebanon. Moreover, they had been penetrated by Pakistani intelligence services. “I can tell you with surety”, said one Pakistani source, “that the boys [recently] arrested in Pakistan have long been identified by the Pakistani establishment.” They had come to Pakistan and “interacted with a few officials of the Pakistani army” with a view to stage a coup against the Musharraf regime. Omar Bakri has repeatedly issued fatawas calling for the assassination of Musharraf. In fact:

“Pakistani intelligence -- coming from a strong military background -- penetrated deep into them… The closeness of the Pakistani intelligence with some boys with a Muhajiroun background was a known fact, but at what stage it turned out to be their ‘London terror plot’, we are completely in the dark. However, I safely make a conjecture that those highly motivated boys were exploited by agents provocateurs. A religious Muslim youth in his early 20s is undoubtedly full of hatred against the US, and if somebody would guide them to carry out any attack on US interests, there would be a strong chance that they would go for that. And I think this is exactly what happened… they were basically [en]trapped.”

I have no doubt that these individuals could have been associated with extremist groups. But while it may be possible they were involved in terrorist-related activity, it is now indisputable that there was no evidence of an imminent plot, and the specific claims about the details were obtained from an informant under torture. We should therefore be very cautious in accepting the “Terror Plot” official narrative, as there is clearly a continuing danger of political interference compromising ongoing intelligence investigations for political expedience.

But the deep involvement of the Pakistani ISI in penetrating the very group that was subsequently arrested and tortured, raises serious questions about what was going on. Moreover, the Asia Times also notes that the Pakistani intelligence operation against these groups was coordinated on the initiative of the CIA and MI6. Indeed, MI6 had also ensured that a deep undercover British intelligence operative had “infiltrated the group, giving the authorities intelligence on the alleged plan”, according to several US government sources.

The revelation that the arrestees were associated with al-Muhajiroun also raises serious intelligence issues. Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of the group, which recently operated under the names of the Saved Sect and al-Ghuraaba, was recruited by MI6 in the mid-1990s to recruit British Muslims to fight in Kosovo. Despite being implicated in the 7/7 London bombings, the British government exiled him to Lebanon where he resides safely outside of British jurisdiction, and thus effectively immune from investigation and prosecution. One inevitably wonders about the nature of Bakri’s corrupt relationship with British intelligence services today.

P2OG: Stimulating Reactions

So what were the CIA, MI6 and ISI doing? Given the disturbing context here, in which the entire “Terror Plot” narrative has obviously been deeply politicized and to some extent even fabricated, a balanced analysis needs to account precisely for the stated new “counter-terror” strategies of western intelligence services. In August 2002, a report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board revealed the latest strategic thinking about creating a new US secret counterintelligence organization -- the Proactive Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG) -- which would, among other things, conduct highly clandestine operations to “stimulate reactions” among terrorist groups, by infiltrating them or provoking them into action in order to facilitate targeting them. In January 2005, Seymour Hersh revealed in the New Yorker that the P2OG strategy had been activated:

“Under Rumsfeld’s new approach, I was told, US military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons systems. In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities.”

Hersh refers to a series of articles by John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, California, and a RAND terrorism consultant, where he elaborates on this strategy of “countering terror” with Pseudo-Terror. “When conventional military operations and bombing failed to defeat the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya in the 1950s,” muses professor Arquilla, “the British formed teams of friendly Kikuyu tribesmen who went about pretending to be terrorists.

These ‘pseudo gangs’, as they were called, swiftly threw the Mau Mau on the defensive, either by befriending and then ambushing bands of fighters or by guiding bombers to the terrorists’ camps.” He goes on to advocate that western intelligence services should use the British case as a model for creating new “pseudo gang” terrorist groups, purportedly to undermine “real” terror networks. “What worked in Kenya a half-century ago has a wonderful chance of undermining trust and recruitment among today’s terror networks. Forming new pseudo gangs should not be difficult.” He then confidently observes about John Walker Lindh, the young American lad who joined the Taliban before 9/11: “If a confused young man from Marin County can join up with Al Qaeda, think what professional operatives might do.”


I’m thinking about it, and I’m looking at the deep intelligence penetration of al-Qaeda affiliated networks like al-Muhajiroun by the CIA, MI6 and ISI, and unfortunately I’m not experiencing the same sense of elation as Arquilla. Is the 10/8 “Terror Plot” connected to the post-9/11 P2OG strategy?

Whatever happened on 10/8, it is not the majestic “success story” that it has been painted by the British and American governments. It is symptomatic of something far worse, the mechanics of which will never be truly understood in the absence of a full-scale independent public inquiry focusing on the 7th July bombings, but including associated British and western “security” policies which see Pseudo-Terrorism as a legitimate tool of statecraft.

by courtesy & © 2006 Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

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Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, London, United Kingdom. He teaches courses in political theory, international relations and contemporary history at the School of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom. He is the author of "The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry,""The War on Freedom: How and Why America was Attacked, September 11, 2001" and "Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq". His latest book is "The War On Truth: 9/11, Disinformation And The Anatomy Of Terrorism". He is a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN) and his articles are archived at
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Monday, August 21, 2006

Walter Rodney Tribute to George Jackson: Black Revolutionary

George Jackson: Black Revolutionary

By Walter Rodney, November 1971

To most readers in this continent, starved of authentic information by the imperialist news agencies, the name of George Jackson is either unfamiliar or just a name. The powers that be in the United States put forward the official version that George Jackson was a dangerous criminal kept in maximum security in Americas toughest jails and still capable of killing a guard at Soledad Prison. They say that he himself was killed attempting escape this year in August.

Official versions given by the United States of everything from the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam have the common characteristic of standing truth on its head. George Jackson was jailed ostensibly for stealing 70 dollars. He was given a sentence of one year to life because he was black, and he was kept incarcerated for years under the most dehumanizing conditions because he discovered that blackness need not be a badge of servility but rather could be a banner for uncompromising revolutionary struggle. He was murdered because he was doing too much to pass this attitude on to fellow prisoners. George Jackson was political prisoner and a black freedom fighter. He died at the hands of the enemy.

Once it is made known that George Jackson was a black revolutionary in the white mans jails, at least one point is established, since we are familiar with the fact that a significant proportion of African nationalist leaders graduated from colonialist prisons, and right now the jails of South Africa hold captive some of the best of our brothers in that part of the continent. Furthermore, there is some considerable awareness that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned. Within this prison, black life is cheap, so it should be no surprise that George Jackson was murdered by the San Quentin prison authorities who are responsible to Americas chief prison warder, Richard Nixon. What remains is to go beyond the generalities and to understand the most significant elements attaching to George Jacksons life and death.

When he was killed in August this year, George Jackson was twenty nine years of age and had spent the last fifteen [correction: 11 years] behind bars—seven of these in special isolation. As he himself put it, he was from the lumpen. He was not part of the regular producer force of workers and peasants. Being cut off from the system of production, lumpen elements in the past rarely understood the society which victimized them and were not to be counted upon to take organized revolutionary steps within capitalist society. Indeed, the very term lumpen proletariat was originally intended to convey the inferiority of this sector as compared with the authentic working class.

Yet George Jackson, like Malcolm X before him, educated himself painfully behind prison bars to the point where his clear vision of historical and contemporary reality and his ability to communicate his perspective frightened the U.S. power structure into physically liquidating him. Jacksons survival for so many years in vicious jails, his self-education, and his publication of Soledad Brother were tremendous personal achievements, and in addition they offer on interesting insight into the revolutionary potential of the black mass in the U.S.A., so many of whom have been reduced to the status of lumpen.

Under capitalism, the worker is exploited through the alienation of part of the product of his labour. For the African peasant, the exploitation is effected through manipulation of the price of the crops which he laboured to produce. Yet, work has always been rated higher than unemployment, for the obvious reason that survival depends upon the ability to obtain work. Thus, early in the history of industrialization, workers coined the slogan the right to work. Masses of black people in the U.S.A. are deprived of this basic right. At best they live in a limbo of uncertainty as casual workers, last to be hired and first to be fired.

The line between the unemployed or criminals cannot be dismissed as white lumpen in capitalist Europe were usually dismissed. The latter were considered as misfits and regular toilers served as the vanguard. The thirty-odd million black people in the U.S.A. are not misfits. They are the most oppressed and the most threatened as far as survival is concerned. The greatness of George Jackson is that he served as a dynamic spokesman for the most wretched among the oppressed, and he was in the vanguard of the most dangerous front of struggle.

Jail is hardly an arena in which one would imagine that guerrilla warfare would take place. Yet, it is on this most disadvantaged of terrains that blacks have displayed the guts to wage a war for dignity and freedom. In Soledad Brother, George Jackson movingly reveals the nature of this struggle as it has evolved over the last few years. Some of the more recent episodes in the struggle at San Quentin prison are worth recording.

On February 27th this year, black and brown (Mexican) prisoners announced the formation of a Third World Coalition. This came in the wake of such organizations as a Black Panther Branch at San Quentin and the establishment of SATE (Self-Advancement Through Education). This level of mobilisation of the nonwhite prisoners was resented and feared by white guards and some racist white prisoners. The latter formed themselves into a self-declared Nazi group, and months of violent incidents followed. Needless to say, with white authority on the side of the Nazis, Afro and Mexican brothers had a very hard time. George Jackson is not the only casualty on the side of the blacks. But their unity was maintained, and a majority of white prisoners either refused to support the Nazis or denounced them. So, even within prison walls the first principle to be observed was unity in struggle. Once the most oppressed had taken the initiative, then they could win allies.

The struggle within the jails is having wider and wider repercussions every day. Firstly, it is creating true revolutionary cadres out of more and more lumpen. This is particularly true in the jails of California, but the movement is making its impact felt everywhere from Baltimore to Texas. Brothers inside are writing poetry, essays and letters which strip white capitalist America naked. Like the Soledad Brothers, they have come to learn that sociology books call us antisocial and brand us criminals, when actually the criminals are in the social register. The names of those who rule America are all in the social register.

Secondly, it is solidifying the black community in a remarkable way. Petty bourgeois blacks also feel threatened by the manic police, judges and prison officers. Black intellectuals who used to be completely alienated from any form of struggle except their personal hustle now recognize the need to ally with and take their bearings from the street forces of the black unemployed, ghetto dwellers and prison inmates.

Thirdly, the courage of black prisoners has elicited a response from white America. The small band of white revolutionaries has taken a positive stand. The Weathermen decried Jacksons murder by placing a few bombs in given places and the Communist Party supported the demand by the black prisoners and the Black Panther Party that the murder was to be investigated. On a more general note, white liberal America has been disturbed. The white liberals never like to be told that white capitalist society is too rotten to be reformed. Even the established capitalist press has come out with esposes of prison conditions, and the fascist massacres of black prisoners at Attica prison recently brought Senator Muskie out with a cry of enough.

Fourthly (and for our purposes most significantly) the efforts of black prisoners and blacks in America as a whole have had international repercussions. The framed charges brought against Black Panther leaders and against Angela Davis have been denounced in many parts of the world. Committees of defense and solidarity have been formed in places as far as Havana and Leipzig. OPAAL declared August 18th as the day of international solidarity with Afro-Americans; and significantly most of their propaganda for this purpose ended with a call to Free All Political Prisoners.

For more than a decade now, peoples liberation movements in Vietnam, Cuba, Southern Africa, etc., have held conversations with militants and progressives in the U.S.A. pointing to the duality and respective responsibilities of struggle within the imperialist camp. The revolution in the exploited colonies and neo-colonies has as its objective the expulsion of the imperialists: the revolution in the metropolis is to transform the capitalist relations of production in the countries of their origin. Since the U.S.A. is the overlord of world imperialism, it has been common to portray any progressive movement there as operating within the belly of the beast. Inside an isolation block in Soledad or San Quentin prisons, this was not merely a figurative expression. George Jackson knew well what it meant to seek for heightened socialist and humanist consciousness inside the belly of the white imperialist beast.

International solidarity grows out of struggle in different localities. This is the truth so profoundly and simply expressed by Che Guevara when he called for the creation of one, two, three - many Vietnams. It has long been recognized that the white working class in the U.S.A is historically incapable of participating (as a class) in anti-imperialist struggle. White racism and Americas leading role in world imperialism transformed organized labour in the U.S. into a reactionary force. Conversely, the black struggle is internationally significant because it unmasks the barbarous social relations of capitalism and places the enemy on the defensive on his own home ground. This is amply illustrated in the political process which involved the three Soledad Brothers—George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette—as well as Angela Davis and a host of other blacks now behind prison bars in the U.S.A.

Go Buy Books by Comrade George Jackson:
Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970) ISBN 1556522304
Blood In My Eye (1971) ISBN 0933121237
"Now is the time for us to come together with one another, to organize, to speak out and speak up on behalf of each other. There is no time to waste, while we debate, define, and discuss; the enemy continues his genocidal plan. We need to bear in mind the Ashanti proverb: 'Two men in a burning house must not stop to argue.' " - Dr. Mutulu Shakur


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