Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Detroit Demonstration to Protest Honduran Coup; Also to Demand the Release of Cynthia McKinney and Other Human Rights Workers Held by Israel

Demonstration to Protest the military coup d'état in Honduras

Protest Israeli piracy and kidnapping human rights workers

Wednesday, July 1, 4:30 PM
Hart Plaza, Woodward & Jefferson, Detroit

Demand the restoration of the Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras
Demand that the U.S. cut off all economic and military aid to the military junta

Demand that Israel let the Humanitarian Aid through to Gaza
Demand that Israel free Cynthia McKinney and all kidnapped human rights workers
Demand that Israel stop the blockade of Gaza

In addition to protesting the illegal military coup d'état and removal of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, we must add additional demands protesting the siezure of the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY and the abduction of 21 human rights workers, including former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, in international waters by the Israeli "Defense" Forces last night.

Join us Wednesday in solidarity with the people of Honduras and Palestine.

See details below:

Last night, Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

The seizure of humanitarian supplies and abduction of human rights workers is an act of piracy, a crime under international law. When the boat was attacked, it was not in Israeli waters and was on a human rights mission to Gaza. Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on an unarmed boat in international waters is a clear violation of international law.

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies.

From an earlier email:

On Sunday, June 28, the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was overthrown by the U.S. trained, and equipped Honduran military. Honduran soldiers invaded the residence of President Zelaya as he slept, and forcibly exiled the president to Costa Rica, just hours before a nationwide referendum was scheduled to take place.

It has been reported that the ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua in Honduras have been kidnapped along with Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, and have being beaten by Honduran military forces.

While President Obama has expressed that he is "deeply concerned" and that the coup is illegal, Secretary of State Clinton has stated the the U.S. government has not formally designated the military coup as a military coup. And why? Such a move would require, according to U.S. law, that the U.S. cut off almost all U.S. aid to Honduras. In addition to aid to the Honduran government and military, aid is provided to various rightist groups and political parties from such entities as USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

While the U.S. denies any involvement in the coup, at least two of the coup leaders have received training from the Pentagon's School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, and known by many as the School of the Assassins. Just about every military coup in Latin America since the 1960s (and there have been quite a few) has been led by graduates of the School of the Assassins and supported by the U.S. government.

Furthermore, the U.S. maintains about 550 military and 650 civilian personnel at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, which is also the home of the Honduran Air Force and Naval Academy.

And let us not forget, the U.S. has dispatched military forces to Honduras on several occasions to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita) and the Standard Fruit Company (now Dole).

The Honduran people are in the streets protesting and resisting the military. As of Monday evening, there are reports of several Honduran military battalions refusing to support the coup.

Initiated by MECAWI, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, and Latinos Unidos de Michigan

EMERGENCY: Israelis Attack Humanitarian Aid to Gaza

Take Action Now - Sign the Online Petition

Demand the Release of Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, all aid workers and supplies NOW!

Last night, Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

The seizure of humanitarian supplies and abduction of human rights workers is an act of piracy, a crime under international law. When the boat was attacked, it was not in Israeli waters and was on a human rights mission to Gaza. Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on an unarmed boat in international waters is a clear violation of international law.

The U.S. government and corporate media has largely ignored or buried this story due to racism against Cynthia McKinney and the people of Palestine. It is up to us to get the word out.

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies.

This act of terrorism by the Israeli Occupation Forces against an unarmed vessel is a clear attempt to scare people away from showing solidarity with the people of Gaza. We must take action now! Here's how you can help:

1) Sign the Online Petition - http://www.iacenter.org/palestine/gazashippetition

2) Get the word out - forward this message to your email lists, post in on Facebook & Myspace, etc.

3) Take to the streets! Organize local emergency protests in solidarity with the people of Gaza and demanding the release of all those who were kidnapped by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

In New York City, join us tomorrow, Wednesday July 1, from 4 - 6 pm at the Israeli Mission (43rd St. & 2nd Ave.)

3) Support Aid Caravans to Gaza! In addition to the current project of Free Gaza, another aid caravan, Viva Palestina, will be leaving the U.S. on July 4th headed by British MP George Galloway and Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic and including hundreds of people from the United States.

4) Call the media. The U.S. corporate media has largely ignored or buried this story due to racism against Cynthia McKinney and the people of Palestine. Please call the media - demand that they cover this criminal act by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Start with these numbers:

The New York Times 212-556-5272; Los Angeles Times 800-252-9141; Boston Herald 617-426-3000; Chicago Tribune 800-874-2863; and please call your local newspaper, radio station, or television news program.


Sign it online at http://www.iacenter.org/palestine/gazashippetition

To: President President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Congressional leaders, U.N. General Assembly President d'Escoto-Brockmann, U.N. Secretary General Ban, members of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. member states, and the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet and Opposition leader of Israel

cc: Major media representatives, International Red Cross


I am outraged at the actions of the Israeli military in attacking and boarding the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congreswoman Cynthia McKinney, dragging passengers and crew forcibly toward Israel. I am further outraged that Israel has confiscated tons of medicine from the ship as well as toys and olive trees.

I demand that the boat, passengers and crew be released immediately and allowed to proceed with its mission of bring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

As former U.S. Congressperson and 2008 Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney said, "This is an outrageous violation of international law. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip. President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey."

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released on June 29, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies.

"The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead". Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: "No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children's toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters."

Arraf continued, "Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release."

I demand that the Obama Administration take immediate action to protest the violation of international law and obtain the release of the ship and those abducted, listed below, assure the access to Gaza of humanitarian aid and missions like that of the Spirit of Humanity and the upcoming humanitarian aid mission Viva Palestina headed by British MP George Galloway and Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic and including hundreds of people from the United States. The Viva Palestina mission is scheduled to leave New York City on July 4, bound for Gaza.

I further demand the Obama Adminsitration take action to end immediately the brutal siege, blockade and occupation of Gaza.

Release the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY and all of the following human rights workers and crew NOW:

Khalad Abdelkader, Bahrain
Khalad is an engineer representing the Islamic Charitable Association of Bahrain.

Othman Abufalah, Jordan
Othman is a world-renowned journalist with al-Jazeera TV.

Khaled Al-Shenoo, Bahrain
Khaled is a lecturer with the University of Bahrain.

Mansour Al-Abi, Yemen
Mansour is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera TV.

Fatima Al-Attawi, Bahrain
Fatima is a relief worker and community activist from Bahrain.

Juhaina Alqaed, Bahrain
Juhaina is a journalist & human rights activist.

Huwaida Arraf, US
Huwaida is the Chair of the Free Gaza Movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Ishmahil Blagrove, UK
Ishmahil is a Jamaican-born journalist, documentary film maker and founder of the Rice & Peas film production company. His documentaries focus on international struggles for social justice.

Kaltham Ghloom, Bahrain
Kaltham is a community activist.

Derek Graham, Ireland
Derek Graham is an electrician, Free Gaza organizer, and first mate aboard the Spirit of Humanity.

Alex Harrison, UK
Alex is a solidarity worker from Britain. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Denis Healey, UK
Denis is Captain of the Spirit of Humanity. This will be his fifth voyage to Gaza.

Fathi Jaouadi, UK
Fathi is a British journalist, Free Gaza organizer, and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Mairead Maguire, Ireland
Mairead is a Nobel laureate and renowned peace activist.

Lubna Masarwa, Palestine/Israel
Lubna is a Palestinian human rights activist and Free Gaza organizer.

Theresa McDermott, Scotland
Theresa is a solidarity worker from Scotland. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Cynthia McKinney, US
Cynthia McKinney is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice issues, as well as a former U.S. congressperson and presidential candidate.

Adnan Mormesh, UK
Adnan is a solidarity worker from Britain. He is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Adam Qvist, Denmark
Adam is a solidarity worker from Denmark. He is traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Adam Shapiro, US
Adam is an American documentary film maker and human rights activist.

Kathy Sheetz, US
Kathy is a nurse and film maker, traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.


Sign the petition online at http://www.iacenter.org/palestine/gazashippetition

Cynthia McKinney Update: "Spirit of Humanity" Ship Seized by Israelis With Crew



All activists around the country are urged to organize emergency protests on Wednesday, July 1st to demand the release of the Free Gaza Movement's "Spirit of Humanity" ship seized by Israeli commandos. Those who have been kidnapped and could be facing indefinite detention include Former U.S. Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney and Noble laureate Mairead Maguire.

Below is an announcement sent out by the IAC for an emergency demo tomorrow called by N.Y. City Councilperson, Charles Barron at a press conference earlier this afternoon. The IAC is sending out a major notice about this crisis later on today including the contact information of U.S. officials to demand that the ship, that is carrying vital supplies to besieged Gaza, and its passengers be released immediately. Please let the IAC, by replying directly to this email, know if you can call an emergency demo tomorrow so that your city can be listed in a national press release. It is critical that these demonstrations, no matter how modest, happen asap in light of the Viva Palestina convoy that is scheduled to leave for Cairo starting this weekend.

Media Contact: Dustin Langley 646-354-8056

Against Israeli Piracy & Kidnapping
Free Cynthia McKinney and all kidnapped human rights workers!


at the

800 Second Avenue
(Second Avenue @ 43rd St.)

Last night, Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

The seizure of humanitarian supplies and abduction of human rights workers is an act of piracy, a crime under international law. When the boat was attacked, it was not in Israeli waters and was on a human rights mission to Gaza. Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on an unarmed boat in international waters is a clear violation of international law. Join us tomorrow from 4 to 6 pm at the Israeli Mission to demand an immediate and unconditional release of the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, all 21 human rights workers, and the humanitarian supplies.

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies.

4 US Soldiers Killed in Iraq

4 US soldiers killed during Iraq cities pullout

By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – Four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat shortly before the American military completed a withdrawal from Iraq's cities, and the prime minister assured Iraqis that government forces taking control of urban areas on Tuesday were more than capable of protecting the country.

Nouri al-Maliki said in a nationally televised address that "those who think that Iraqis are not able to protect their country and that the withdrawal of foreign forces will create a security vacuum are committing a big mistake."

The withdrawal that was completed on Monday was part of a U.S.-Iraqi security pact and marks the first major step toward withdrawing all American forces from the country by Dec. 31, 2011. President Barack Obama has said all combat troops will be gone by the end of August 2010.

In the attack Monday against U.S. forces, the military said the four soldiers who were killed served with the Multi-National Division-Baghdad but did not provide further details pending notification of their families. It said they died as a "result of combat related injuries."

It was the deadliest attack against U.S. forces since May 21, when three soldiers were killed and nine others wounded in a roadside bombing in southern Baghdad.

There was a significant spike in violence before the June 30 withdrawal. More than 250 people were killed in a series of bombings, including one on June 20 that left 81 dead outside a mosque in northern Iraq and another in a Baghdad market on June 24 that killed 78. Al-Maliki has blamed the attacks on al-Qaida in Iraq and the remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

"I congratulate the Iraqi people on this day, June 30, when the U.S. forces have withdrawn from Iraq cities in accordance to the forces withdrawal agreement," al-Maliki said. "We consider this day as a national holiday and it is a joint achievement by all Iraqis."

The Iraqi government has named June 30 National Sovereignty Day and declared a public holiday.

President Jalal Talabani said the day could not have happened without the help of the United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003 and ousted Saddam — who was later convicted by an Iraqi court and executed in December 2006.

"While we celebrate this day, we express our thanks and gratitude to our friends in the coalition forces who faced risks and responsibilities and sustained casualties and damage while helping Iraq to get rid from the ugliest dictatorship and during the joint effort to impose security and stability," Talabani said.

Describing June 30 as a "glorious page" in Iraq's history he warned that "security will not be achieved completely without the proper political environment and without a real national unity and reconciliation."

Iraq marked the day with an overnight display of fireworks, while thousands attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs.

The midnight handover to Iraqi forces filled many citizens with pride but also trepidation that government forces are not ready and that violence will rise. Shiites fear more bombings by Sunni militants; Sunnis fear that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces will give them little protection.

If the Iraqis can hold down violence in the coming months, it will show the country is finally on the road to stability. If they fail, it will pose a challenge to Obama's pledge to end an unpopular war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,300 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Some U.S. troops will remain in the cities to train and advise Iraqi forces. U.S. combat troops will return to the cities only if asked. The U.S. military will continue combat operations in rural areas and near the border, but only with the Iraqi government's permission.

The U.S. has not said how many troops will be in the cities in advisory roles, but the vast majority of the more than 130,000 U.S. forces remaining in the country will be in large bases scattered outside cities.

There have been some worries that the 650,000-member Iraqi military is not ready to maintain stability and deal with a stubborn insurgency.

Associated Press Writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report from Baghdad.

NYC Councilmember Barron Demands US Call Off Israeli Warships Threatening Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney

The Council of
The City of New York


DATE & TIME: Tuesday June 30, 2009 12PM

PLACE: Front of 250 Broadway Avenue (across from City Hall)

Councilmember Barron Calls on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton to Call off Israeli Warships which are threatening the life of Fmr Rep Cynthia McKinney and those aboard the Spirit of Humanity

New York, NY, June 29, 2009—Councilmember Barron will hold an emergency press conference to call on President Obama and Secretary Clinton to demand the Israeli navy stand down its military activities against the Spirit of Humanity, a humanitarian aid ship carrying Cynthia McKinney and aid workers from Cyprus to Gaza. The Spirit, which is caring medical and other aid to the Gaza Strip, was in international waters heading to Gaza when the warships s urrounded the unarmed ship and is threatening to open fire.

Councilmember Barron denounces the Israeli Blockade of Gaza and is calling on our elected leaders to stand up against the inhumane treatment of the peoples of Gaza. “I am asking President Obama to back up his speech in Egypt with some action! Tell Prime Minister Netanyahu to allow the ship to pass and to assure the safe return home of Cythina McKinney and all aboard. It is in international waters and is on a mission of peace.”

The Free Gaza boat the "Spirit of Humanity" departed Cyprus July 29th with Twenty-one human rights and solidarity workers representing eleven different countries aboard. The passengers include Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The ship also carries three tons of medical aid, children's toys, and rehabilitation and reconstruction kits for twenty family homes.

"I am extremely angry. We demand that the Israeli government call off their attack dogs. We are unarmed civilians aboard an unarmed boat delivering medical and reconstruction aid to other human beings in Gaza. Why in God's name would Israel want to attack us and threaten our safety and welfare. I call on President Obama and the international community to intervene now to prevent this situation from escalating with potentially drastic results to the civilians on board."
-Cynthia McKinney, aboard the spirit of humanity

As a show of suppor t to the peoples of Gaza, Councilmember Barron will accompany MP George Galloway, Fmr Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Ron Kovic, and many others on this humanitarian mission to Gaza. The mission will included hundreds of volunteers who will deliver millions of dollars worth of medical aid to the Gaza Strip. The trip will began to leave on July 4th.

Fresh from the success of the Viva Palestina: Lifeline from Britain to Gaza aid convoy - which took over 100 vehicles to Gaza from the UK, Member of Parliament, George Galloway has linked up on his US tour with the Vietnam veteran and peace campaigner, Ron Kovic, to launch a similar venture from the States. “There’s a new atmosphere in the US over Palestine,” says Galloway, “the phenomenal response to this tour demonstrates that.”

Viva Palestina USA is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, but individuals and groups from across the nation have organized locally to generate support for the convoy, which has raised millions of dollars for humanitarian aid and will use several hundred volunteers and vehicles to deliver the aid into Gaza.

Cynthia Ann McKinney is a former United States Representative and was the 2008 Green Party nominee for President of the United States. She is the first African-American woman to have represented Georgia in the House.

George Galloway is an outspoken British politician, author, and broadcaster, who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1987.

Ron Kovic, whose story was immortalized in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July, will be one of the co-leaders of the convoy.

If you'd like more information about this event please call Lamont Carolina at (201)835-3095 or e-mail at lcarolina@council.nyc.gov

Monday, June 29, 2009

President Ahmadinejad of Iran Calls For Neda Probe

Ahmadinejad calls for Neda probe

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for an investigation into the death of a young woman who has become an icon of opposition protests.

He urged Iran's judicial authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan.

Mr Ahmadinejad said there were many fabricated reports in the foreign media about the shooting of the 26-year-old during a protest earlier this month.

Eyewitnesses reportedly said a member of a government militia had shot her.

Video footage of the music student's dying moments was seen around the world after being posted on the internet.

'Suspicious' death

She was shot on 20 June, when supporters of defeated election candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi clashed with riot police and Basij militiamen in the capital Tehran.

Some 17 people are thought to have died during the post-election street protests.

In a letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, Mr Ahmadinejad described Neda's death as "suspicious," reported the official Irna news agency on Monday.

His letter added: "I request you to order the judicial system to seriously follow up the murder case... and identify elements behind the case and inform the people of the result," reported Irna.

Mr Ahmadinejad's letter also suggested that the opposition and Iran's enemies overseas had sought to exploit her death "for their own political aims and also to distort the pure and clean image of the Islamic Republic in the world".

President Ahmadinejad was declared the poll winner by a landslide, but his opponents said the victory was achieved by massive fraud.

The authorities reject the charge but Iran's top legislative body, the Guardians Council, has begun a partial recount of the poll - a move rejected by the defeated opposition candidate.

Diplomatic row

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has demanded the release of British embassy staff detained by the Iranian authorities in Tehran.

Iranian officials say they have freed five of the nine staff and the rest are being interrogated.

Iran repeatedly accused foreign powers - especially Britain and the US - of meddling after the 12 June election.

In the fallout from the crisis, Tehran has expelled two British diplomats and the UK has responded with a similar measure.

At least 1,000 opposition supporters are reported to have staged a noisy rally outside a mosque in Tehran on Sunday evening before it was broken up by police and militia.

The report could not be independently verified because of reporting restrictions on foreign media.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/06/29 16:37:35 GMT

Mandela Day Gains Momentum in South Africa

Mandela Day gains momentum

Support is growing for turning Nelson Mandela's birthday into an annual "Mandela Day" of community service, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said on Monday.

"The call... to celebrate Mr Mandela's birthday on 18 July as Mandela Day, is gaining momentum," Foundation CEO Achmat Dangor said in a statement.

Mandela Day is not meant to be a public holiday but an annual event where people around the world are asked to spend 67 minutes of their time to do something which makes a difference to the world around them.

A series of events will be staged across South Africa, in New York and in other cities across the world to celebrate the day.

"Mandela Day is a global call to action on all people to follow in Mr Mandela's footsteps by doing good in their own communities.

"This is in recognition of his decades of sacrifice for humanity," Dangor said.

Some of the programmes planned to take place on Mandela's 91st birthday in South Africa include a community discussion in Khayelitsha about xenophobia.

Foundation staff members would be giving of their time to various causes on the day.

The Nelson Mandela Institute for Rural Development and Education with the University of Fort Hare would be working with volunteers to clean up the town of Alice and the Jabavu High School located there.

"Afterwards they will celebrate Mr Mandela's life with poetry and song at a jamboree on campus."

In Cape Town the Mandela Rhodes Foundation will participate in workshops promoting ubuntu in the workplace.

Earlier this month, the ANC said its parliamentary caucus and youth league would work together to make Mandela Day a reality.

"We committed ourselves... that on the 18th of July we should commemorate Mandela Day through community work programmes organised and executed through our constituency offices," ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said at the time.

Ahead of the launch of his day, Mandela met with a group of South African and American students at the beginning of this month.

The students developed a charter applying Mandela's ideals to their day-to-day lives which would be passed on to their communities and peers.

"Mandela has said: "It is time for new hands to lift the burdens" of the world.

He has also said that he wished that "South Africans never give up on the belief in goodness".

"If each one of us becomes involved together we could help create an international global movement for good," Dangor said.

More information can be found at http://www.MandelaDay.com. - Sapa
Published on the Web by IOL on 2009-06-29 17:14:46

ANC Celebrates Freedom Charter

JOHANNESBURG 26 June 2009 Sapa


Luthuli House, the home of the African National Congress in
central Johannesburg, was upbeat with festivities on Friday as the
party celebrated the 54th anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

However, these festivities excluded President Jacob Zuma, who
quietly, accompanied by his daughter, Duduzile, exited the building
shortly before people gathered in the 11th floor boardroom of
Luthuli House.

People at the reception of the ANC offices, who had come to
attend the party were suddenly ordered aside by security shortly
after entering the building.

They were unaware of what was happening until Zuma and his
entourage alighted from a lift and the President greeted them with
a friendly grin as he walked past them headed for the exit on Sauer

It was only after Zuma had walked out of the building that most
of the people broke into excited whispering among themselves that
they had seen the President.

The event was to have been attended by ANC chairman Baleka
Mbete, who was also billed to cut the four piece cake decorated in
the party's colours, but she too did not attend.

Instead the 13 guests of honour, political veterans who
witnessed the launch of the Freedom Charter, were accompanied by
ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise.

The only other surprise guest was former National Intelligence
Agency boss Billy Masetlha, who along with Modise openly admitted
that they were not there when the Freedom Charter was launched.

On opening proceedings earlier, programme director Mdumiseni
Ntuli instructed journalists not to ask questions and keep them to
themselves because it was not an event to do so.

It was not long after Ntuli's utterances that disgruntled
Johannesburg emergency workers arrived with sounds of vuvuzelas

The sounds of vuvuzelas and struggle songs went on throughout
Modise's address as she told guests that the occasion was to
commemorate struggle icons who fought for the Freedom Charter.

The workers, who were in a small group, briefly protested
outside Luthuli House holding placards that read "Zuma recall [City
mayor] Masondo", under the watchful eye of metro police offices.

The workers' placards also threatened that if their boss, Dr
Audrey Gule, did not resign, they would remove her themselves.

Meanwhile, inside Luthuli House, one of the veterans, Muzi
Moola, told guests that the Freedom Charter was launched 54 years
ago after a 32-year-old campaign to get all races in South Africa
to speak in one voice.

"It was a campaign many took part in and the Freedom Charter was
a culmination of those 32 years of campaigning.

"It was on June 26 that the Freedom Charter declared that South
Africa belonged to all, and the people shall govern," he said.

Modise sealed the festivities by partnering with Moola to cut
one of the four pieces of the cake and the guests of honour put
their elderly frailties aside to enjoy slices of cake and

Supreme Court Rules for White Firefighters in New Haven, Reversing Sotomayor Decision

Court Rules for White and Hispanic Firefighters, Reversing Sotomayor Decision

High Court Rules White and Hispanic Firefighters in Conn. Were Unfairly Denied Promotions


June 29, 2009 —In a decision that could have sweeping impact on employers across the nation, the Supreme Court ruled today that white and Hispanic firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

Splitting down ideological lines, the court ruled 5-4 that New Haven violated a landmark civil rights law when the city threw out the results of a promotions exam after it was determined that none of the black firefighters who took the test scored well enough to be promoted.

The court's decision will make it harder for employees to sue if they believe employers have made decisions that have a discriminatory impact on them, but are in other respects race-neutral and fair on their face -- as the Court said these promotions exams were.

The case took on an extra layer of significance when President Obama nominated Sotomayor to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor, currently a federal appeals judge, sat on a panel that dismissed the white firefighters' claims -- and 2,000 pages of court papers in filings -- in a one-paragraph ruling.

But Sotomayor's defenders quickly pointed out that the court's four liberals did not agree. They argued that the court is reshaping civil rights law with today's ruling, something Sotomayor could not have done as an appeals court judge. However, those arguments were somewhat diminished, since it appears even the liberal justices would have sent the case back to the lower court and ordered a rethinking of its summary decision.

Congress could now step in and change the civil rights laws and overrule this decision, but it would be a politically difficult endeavor because the white firefighters gained a bit of sympathy for their reverse discrimination claims.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said New Haven had violated the landmark Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1991. The city had no good reason to throw out the test results, he said, even if it was threatened by lawsuits by the black firefighters. It's decision to do so, he wrote, amounted to a "de facto quota system," where it was making decisions based on "raw racial statistics."

"We conclude that race-based action like the City's in this case is impermissible under Title VII unless the employer can demonstrate a strong basis in evidence that, had it not take the action, it would have been liable under the disparate-impact statute," Kennedy wrote. "In light of our ruling under the statutes, we need not reach the question whether respondents' actions may have violated the Equal Protection Clause."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read an impassioned dissent from the bench, in which she chastised the Court for a decision that she said will do "untold" damage to civil rights laws.

"This case presents an unfortunate situation, one New Haven might well have avoided had it used a better selection process in the first place," she wrote. "But what this case does not present is race-based discrimination in violation of Title VII. Congress endeavored to promote equal opportunity in fact, and not simply in form. The damage today's decision does to that objective is untold."

'The Fired Isn't Going to Discriminate'

When firefighters battle a raging blaze, they can be sure that at least one thing will treat them all equally.

As Connecticut firefighter Ben Vargas said before the ruling, "The fire isn't going to discriminate against a person whether he's black, white or Hispanic... It's going to treat that person the same way."

Connecticut firefighter Ben Vargas said, "The fire isn't going to discriminate against a person whether he's black, white or Hispanic" Connecticut firefighter Ben Vargas, 40, said. "It's going to treat that person the same way."

But in New Haven, Vargas, who is Hispanic, and 19 white firefighters said that is where the equal treatment ends, and discrimination begins. They had alleged that they were denied promotions because the city gave preferential treatment to blacks.

Matt Marcarelli, who is white, got the top score on a promotion exam in 2003 and was first in line for captain. But when the city reviewed all the test results, it found that the pass rate for black candidates was about half the corresponding rate for white candidates. None of the black firefighters scored well enough for an immediate promotion. As a result, the city threw out the test results.

"Every day I go to work I've got to pin this lieutenant's badge on me, it reminds me I got screwed out of a captain's badge because of the color of my skin," Marcarelli, 38, said. "That gets to you."

In New Haven, city officials knew they were headed for a catch 22 when the test results came back. If the city certified the test results, it was confident it could expect a lawsuit from the black firefighters. But when it threw out the test results, it instead got a lawsuit from mostly white firefighters.

Blacks make up about a third of New Haven's 221 firefighters, 15 percent are officers -- eight of 42 lieutenants and one of 18 captains.

The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in April. The decision could affect the hiring and promotion practices for millions of civil servants.

The New Haven case is Chief Justice John G. Roberts' first look at the use of race in civil servant hiring and promotion. Roberts has made no secret of his opposition to public universities' considering race in admissions decisions, although

Victor Bolden, the city's lawyer, supported the decision to scrap the tests. "It looked like the exam might have been discriminatory against some of the minority test takers," he said. "And that was certainly a red flag for the city under the law."

For decades, people of color across the country have filed scores of discrimination lawsuits to challenge testing in fire departments, police departments and public schools.

Civil Rights, Reverse Discrimination and Test Scores

New Haven officials and some of the city's black firefighters argued that and less discriminatory alternatives -- such as oral exams -- should be used rather than written tests.

"Written tests aren't the best to judge a person on how they will perform their jobs," said Gary Tinney, a black firefighter in New Haven.

But whites and Hispanics like Vargas fought back. Opponents have used civil rights laws to argue reverse discrimination. And they have found some success: The city of Chicago recently settled a major case with white firefighters for $7.5 million.

Vargas said civil rights laws should be used to protect his potential promotion. "The civil rights laws, they have nothing in there which state preferential treatment. The civil rights laws are there for everybody; all American citizens have the same exact rights."

Court Term Wraps Up

On the court's final day before summer recess, it did not rule in the case involving the critical movie of Hillary Clinton. In a highly unusual move, the Court will return to the bench three weeks early, on Sept. 9, to hear arguments on whether the campaign finance laws are unconstitutional. This announcement tees up a major first amendment dispute over campaign finance and means Sotomayor will need to be on the bench by then if she will hear it. In other words, expect those hearings to start in July, as scheduled.

Finally, Chief Justice Roberts read a brief letter to Souter from the bench on his last day, and Souter responded with a moving farewell, saying he how he'd enjoyed the privilege of serving 19 terms with his colleagues, and would miss them-- but will carry with him their friendship to New Hampshire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ousted Mauritania President Resigns to Pave Way for Elections

Sunday, June 28, 2009
02:35 Mecca time, 23:35 GMT

Ousted Mauritania president resigns

Mauritania's first freely elected president has formally resigned from office, paving the way for new elections more than 10 months after he was overthrown in a military coup.

Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi handed over power to a transitional government on Saturday under a power-sharing deal with the soldiers who toppled him in August.

He announced his resignation just after midnight after a new round of talks with the country's military rulers brokered by Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal's president, in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.

"I declare that I voluntarily renounce my position as president," Abdallahi said.

He said he is "happy to be the first elected president [in Mauritania] to have consented to give up power to preserve the greater interest".

Mauritania has been ruled by the military since the coup, but Abdallahi had maintained that he is the legal president.

Power-sharing deal

As part of the new deal, an interim government will take over from the country's military rulers to organise the vote.

Elections are scheduled to take place on July 18.

Ministerial positions in the transitional government are to be shared between Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's military government and the National Front for the Defence of Democracy, the opposition coalition.

Abdel Aziz's decision to give up power as president in April constitutionally allowed him to run in elections.

'Step forward'

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, hailed the establishment of a transitional government of national unity as a major step toward consolidating democracy.

A UN statement said on Saturday: "The secretary general welcomes the signing late yesterday of the decree establishing a transitional government of national unity in Mauritania.

"He considers this an important step towards the consolidation of democracy in the country."

Ban expressed hope that the new transitional government "will lead the country towards a free, fair and transparent presidential election, held in a safe environment."

Jean Ping, the head of the African Union (AU), praised Abdallahi's decision to formally step down as the first step to holding peaceful elections, the AFP news agency reported.

Ping "expresses his high appreciation to President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi for his high sense of responsibility and the general interest," an AU statement said.

"This act opens the way for the organisation on 18 July 2009 of the first round of early presidential elections to enable the Mauritanian people to express their will in full sovereignty," it said.

The AU had imposed sanctions on Mauritania's military rulers earlier this year in response to the coup.

Source: Agencies

African Union Should Investigate 'Peacekeepers' Actions in Somalia

JOHANNESBURG 26 June 2009 Sapa-dpa


Human Rights Watch called Friday on the African Union to set up
a commission to investigate allegations of indiscriminate use of
force by peacekeepers in conflict-ridden Somalia.

An AU peacekeeping force of 4,300 troops from Uganda and Burundi
is propping up the Somali government, which is wobbling under a
fierce onslaught by Islamist insurgents.

The peacekeepers have faced repeated accusations of responding
to roadside bombs and other attacks by randomly opening fire on

"The Somalia peacekeeping mission is the AU's toughest and most
dangerous undertaking in Africa today," Georgette Gagnon, Africa
director at HRW, said in a statement. "The AU should ensure that
its troops are not drawn into the abuse that surrounds them."

HRW alleged that peacekeepers in February killed at least 13
Somalis, most of them civilians, when they opened fire wildly
following an attack.

The body, which sent its request to AU leaders in advance of a
the upcoming AU summit in Libya on July 1-3, said that all such
incidents should be investigated and those responsible held to

Civilians have borne the brunt of Somalia's bloody insurgency,
which broke out in early 2007 after Ethiopia invaded to kick out an
Islamist regime.

An estimated 18,000 civilians have died, while over a million
have fled. Millions more are dependent on food aid.

Insurgent groups al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam launched a major
offensive in early May aimed at toppling President Sheikh Sharif
Sheikh Ahmed, who was appointed this year as part of a
United-Nations backed peace process.

The Somali government has unsuccessfully appealed for foreign
military intervention as it clings to power.

However, the United States on Thursday confirmed it had sent an
unspecified amount of weapons and ammunition to the Somali

The US is concerned about the consequences for regional security
if al-Shabaab, which has links to al-Qaeda, takes over Somalia.

Somalia has been embroiled in chaos since the 1991 ouster of
dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Nigerian Militants Attack Shell Despite Amnesty

Nigerian militants attack Shell despite amnesty

Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:28pm BST

MEND says attacked Shell facility despite amnesty offer
Oil production in western delta virtually shut down-source
Militant factions divided over amnesty

By Nick Tattersall

LAGOS, June 29 (Reuters) - Nigeria's main militant group said its fighters had attacked an oil facility belonging to Royal Dutch Shell in the Niger Delta on Monday, days after President Umaru Yar'Adua proposed an amnesty.

Shell said it had shut in some production as a precautionary measure while it investigated reports of attacks on two well clusters in its Estuary Field in the western Niger Delta, which feeds into its Forcados oil export terminal.

A senior industry source said the latest attack, following similar strikes against U.S. energy firm Chevron and Italy's Agip over the past month, meant virtually all oil output in the western half of the delta was shut in.

"Basically in the western Niger Delta there is no production," the source said, asking not to be named.

The western Niger Delta accounts for roughly half of output from the world's eighth biggest oil exporter, which has an installed capacity of around 3 million barrels per day (bpd).

The OPEC member was currently producing around 1.74 million bpd, state oil firm NNPC said, buoyed by higher output from its Bonny Light stream in the eastern delta.

Oil rose near $72 a barrel on the attack.

"The Nigerian situation is the main factor in the market," said Mike Wittner, global head of oil research at Societe Generale. "The attacks appear to be removing some oil production capacity from the market."

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it had struck at Shell's Forcados operations at about 3:30 a.m. and that parts of the facility were on fire.

Forcados is one of Nigeria's benchmark crude oil grades but output has been interrupted by militant attacks before. Shell already had a force majeure on its Forcados shipments for the rest of June and July, freeing it from contract obligations.

Chevron said last month it had shut 100,000 bpd from the western delta while Agip declared force majeure last week on Brass River exports, also in the western delta.

Yar'Adua on Thursday offered a 60-day amnesty to gunmen to try to end unrest which has prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two-thirds of its installed capacity, costing it billions of dollars a year in lost revenue.


Some militant leaders have said they want talks with Yar'Adua to work out the details of a deal, but MEND has publicly dismissed the amnesty offer, seeing it instead as an opportunity to distinguish itself from criminals.

"It will separate the wheat from the chaff and allow the government to focus on the root issues instead of tying militancy with criminality as an excuse for not addressing the grievances of the Niger Delta people," it said.

"MEND will negotiate as a group when the right time comes ... Only those who are willing to sell their birthright for a bowl of porridge will accept while the rest of us will continue the struggle until justice is achieved."

Representatives of Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Boyloaf -- key leaders of armed gangs behind some of the most spectacular attacks -- issued a statement on Friday saying they wanted to meet Yar'Adua.

MEND -- a loose coalition of various armed gangs in the delta -- denied Dagogo and Boyloaf would take part.

One of MEND's key demands has been the release of its suspected leader, Henry Okah, who is on gun-running and treason charges and could face the death penalty if convicted.

A presidential spokesman said Okah, who was arrested in Angola in September 2007 and extradited to Nigeria five months later, would be freed if he took the amnesty offer.

MEND says it is fighting for a fairer share of the oil wealth in the Niger Delta, one of the world's largest wetlands where villages remain mired in poverty despite five decades of oil extraction by foreign energy firms.

But the unrest has as much to do with criminal profit from the industrial-scale theft of oil and kidnapping for ransom as it does with political struggle, and many Niger Delta residents say militancy has done little to improve their situation.

Jill Scott: Marriage Plans Scrapped; Moving on as Single Mother

Jill Scott: Marriage Plans Scrapped; Moving on as Single Mother

By Brennan Williams
Jun 25th 2009 2:12PM

Jill Scott seemed so open about her hopes for marriage after divorcing ex-husband Lyzel Williams Jill scottin 2007. A year later, she went public about her relationship with her drummer-turned-fiancé, Lil John Roberts, who is also the father of her son, Jett, born in April.

The Grammy Award-winning neo-soul diva seemed to be living her life like it's 'Golden,' but it appears that the old adage "everything that glitters ain't gold" has rung true.

In a candid interview with http://www.Essence.com , Scott shares her experience of being in labor for 36 hours and reveals that she and Roberts are no longer together. Scott says that during her pregnancy, she and Roberts were "dealing with a lot of emotions."

"He was there and for a couple of days afterward while I stayed in hospital, but John and I are no longer together," she disclosed. "When you have a baby, you're dealing with a lot of emotions and I don't know how much of it had to do with us breaking up, but it happens."

"We definitely love our son, and we are co-parenting and working on being friends. It is what it is," she continued.

"I have a lot of support, so I want for nothing as far as that's concerned," she added. "I know some might criticize me for the fact that my son is being raised in a single-parent home, but I wasn't raised in a two-parent home, and I had a good relationship with my dad. I have hopes for him, and I'm sure his father will do his part as well."

On Nov. 25, 2008, our very own celebrity blogger Jawn Murray exclusively reported that the engaged couple were expecting their first child. 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' actress asked fans via her personal Web site what they thought about the reported news.

Scott officially announced her pregnancy in January while promoting the acclaimed HBO series during the Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles.

"At one point, I was trying to gain weight for the role, and I noticed I had put on 7 pounds in seven days," she told reporters of finding out about the maternity news before filming the series. "I thought something was wrong with me, and I found out I was pregnant the day I was supposed to leave for Africa."

"The first trimester I spent in Botswana," she said. "That was one of the biggest challenges of my life. First trimester. You're sick every morning. It was seven hours time difference, the heat, the bugs, the 14-hour days. My doctors gave me a clean bill of health and said 'you can do this,' so I did it."

Although the Philadelphia-bred vocalist is raising a newborn all by her lonesome, she depends on her closest friends for support.

"I can afford to have this child at 37 because I have a support system, and I can talk to my girls, Mo'Nique and Erykah [Badu], but I don't understand how any mother does it alone," she told Essence. "I don't believe I suffered from postpartum because I didn't feel depressed, but it was jarring, and I can understand now how some mothers lose it."

"What he's taught me is that I thought I was grown and patient, but I was neither until now," she added. "Even when I hold him and dance with him to his favorite song, Marvin Gaye's 'Come Live With Me,' and he holds me tighter and then relaxes, I realize that I never knew unconditional love like this before, and I'm looking forward to watching and helping him grow."

Honduran News Update: Leftist Leader and Candidate Killed in Military Coup; President Zelaya Kidnapped

Leftist Leader and Candidate Killed in Honduran Military Coup

Despite being from a different party, Ham was a close ally of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Ham's party, the Democratic Unification of Honduras, is Honduras' only registered leftist party. Zelaya is from the conservative Liberal Party; he became a populist leftist after being elected.

Ham, at the time of his assassination, was a member of Congress. He wholeheartedly supported President Zelaya's initiative to form a constitutional convention to write a new Constitution, and he was one of the main organizers of today's thwarted opinion poll that would have gauged public opinion on forming a constitutional convention.

Ham has come under fire this year from fellow members of Congress, with help from Honduras' right-wing media. Gregorio Baca, a dissident member of Ham's party who opposed an alliance with Zelaya, accused Ham of receiving "millions of dollars" from President Zelaya in exchange for his support of a referendum on a new constitutional convention. Right-wing newspaper El Heraldo accused Ham and his deputy Misael Castro of embezzling government money to pay for luxury cars. Neither of the accusations were ever verified by a court of law.

This past March the Democratic Unification party chose him as its presidential candidate by a vote of 104-4. The coup plotters had previously announced that the November 2009 elections would go on as planned. Ham's assassination means that the only leftist candidate in the upcoming elections is now dead.

From: Jane Franklin
Sent: Sunday, June 28, 2009 3:48 PM
Subject: Two articles: Golinger and SOA

As I said during an interview with WBAI News today, I would be very surprised if the Honduran military, with its close ties to the Pentagon, would carry out this kind of coup without approval from some high officials in the Pentagon. See Eva Golinger's update at the end of her article and also the coverage by School of the Americas (below).

Jane Franklin

Obama's First Coup d'Etat: Honduran President has been Kidnapped: Updates 1, 2, 3

June 28th 2009, by Eva Golinger

Caracas, Venezuela - The text message that beeped on my cell phone this morning read "Alert, Zelaya has been kidnapped, coup d'etat underway in Honduras, spread the word." It's a rude awakening for a Sunday morning, especially for the millions of Hondurans that were preparing to exercise their sacred right to vote today for the first time on a consultative referend um concerning the future convening of a constitutional assembly to reform the constitution. Supposedly at the center of the controversary is today's scheduled referendum, which is not a binding vote but merely an opinion poll to determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans desire to eventually enter into a process to modify their constitution.

Such an initiative has never taken place in the Central American nation, which has a very limited constitution that allows minimal participation by the people of Honduras in their political processes. The current constitution, written in 1982 during the height of the Reagan Administration's dirty war in Central America, was designed to ensure those in power, both economic and political, would retain it with little interference from the people. Zelaya, elected in November 2005 on the platform of Honduras' Liberal Party, had proposed the opinion poll be conducted to determine if a majority of citizens agreed that constitutional reform was necessary. He was backed by a majority of labor unions and social movements in the country. If the poll had occured, depending on the results, a referendum would have been conducted during the upcoming elections in November to vote on convening a constitutional assembly. Nevertheless, today's scheduled poll was not binding by law.

In fact, several days before the poll was to occur, Honduras' Supreme Court ruled it illegal, upon request by the Congress, both of which are led by anti-Zelaya majorities and members of the ultra-conservative party, National Party of Honduras (PNH). This move led to massive protests in the streets in favor of President Zelaya. On June 24, the president fired the head of the high military command, General Romeo Vásquez, after he refused to allow the military to distribute the electoral material for Sunday's elections. General Romeo Vásquez held the material under tight military control, refusing to release it even to the president's followers, stating that the scheduled referendum had been determined illegal by the Supreme Court and therefore he could not comply with the president's order. As in the Unted States, the president of Honduras is Commander in Chief and has the final say on the military's actions, and so he ordered the General's removal. The Minister of Defense, Angel Edmundo Orellana, also resigned in response to this increasingly tense situation.

But the following day, Honduras' Supreme Court reinstated General Romeo Vásquez to the high military command, ruling his firing as "unconstitutional'. Thousands poured into the streets of Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa, showing support for President Zelaya and evidencing their determination to ensure Sunday's non-binding referendum would take place. On Friday, the president and a group of hundreds of supporters, marched to the nearby air base to collect the electoral material that had been previously held by the military. That evening, Zelaya gave a national press conference along with a group of politicians from different political parties and social movements, callin g for unity and peace in the country.

As of Saturday, the situation in Honduras was reported as calm. But early Sunday morning, a group of approximately 60 armed soldiers entered the presidential residence and took Zelaya hostage. After several hours of confusion, reports surfaced claiming the president had been taken to a nearby air force base and flown to neighboring Costa Rica. No images have been seen of the president so far and it is unknown whether or not his life is still endangered.

President Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, speaking live on Telesur at approximately 10:00am Caracas time, denounced that in early hours of Sunday morning, the soldiers stormed their residence, firing shots throughout the house, beating and then taking the president. "It was an act of cowardice", said the first lady, referring to the illegal kidnapping occuring during a time when no one would know or react until it was all over. Casto de Zelaya also called for the "preservation" of her husband's life, indicating that she herself is unaware of his whereabouts. She claimed their lives are all still in "serious danger" and made a call for the international community to denounce this illegal coup d'etat and to act rapidly to reinstate constitutional order in the country, which includes the rescue and return of the democratically elected Zelaya.

Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have both made public statements on Sunday morning condeming the coup d'etat in Honduras and calling on the international community to react to ensure democracy is restored and the constitutional president is reinstated. Last Wednesday, June 24, an extraordinary meeting of the member nations of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), of which Honduras is a member, was convened in Venezuela to welcome Ecuador, Antigua & Barbados and St. Vincent to its ranks. During the meeting, which was attended by Honduras' Foreign Minister, Patricia Rodas, a statement was read supporting President Zelaya and condenming any attempts to undermine his mandate and Honduras' democratic processes.

Reports coming out of Honduras have informed that the public television channel, Canal 8, has been shut down by the coup forces. Just minutes ago, Telesur announced that the military in Honduras is shutting down all electricity throughout the country. Those television and radio stations still transmitting are not reporting the coup d'etat or the kidnapping of President Zelaya, according to Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. "Telephones and electricity are being cut off", confirmed Rodas just minutes ago via Telesur. "The media are showing cartoons and soap operas and are not informing the people of Honduras about what is happening". The situation is eerily reminiscent of the April 2002 coup d'etat against President Chávez in Venezuela, when the media played a key role by first manipulating information to support the coup and then later blacking out all information when the people began protesting and eventually overcame and defeated the coup forces, rescuing Chávez (who had also been kidnapped by the military) and restoring constitutional order.

Honduras is a nation that has been the victim of dictatorships and massive U.S. intervention during the past century, including several military invasions. The last major U.S. government intervention in Honduras occured during the 1980s, when the Reagain Administration funded death squads and paramilitaries to eliminate any potential "communist threats" in Central America. At the time, John Negroponte, was the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras and was responsible for directly funding and training Honduran death squads that were responsable for thousands of disappeared and assassinated throughout the region.

On Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS), convened a special meeting to discuss the crisis in Honduras, later issuing a statement condeming the threats to democracy and authorizing a convoy of representatives to travel to OAS to investigate further. Nevertheless, on Friday, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, Phillip J. Crowley, refused to clarify the U.S. government's position in reference to the potential coup against President Zelaya, and instead issued a more ambiguous statement that implied Washington's support for the opposition to the Honduran president. While most other Latin American governments had clearly indicated their adamant condemnation of the coup plans underway in Honduras and their solid support for Honduras' constitutionally elected president, Manual Zelaya, the U.S. spokesman stated the following, "We are concerned about the breakdown in the political dialogue among Honduran politicians over the proposed June 28 poll on constitutional reform. We urge all sides to seek a consensual democratic resolution in the current political impasse that adheres to the Honduran constitution and to Honduran laws consistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter."

As of 10:30am, Sunday morning, no further statements have been issued by the Washington concerning the military coup in Honduras. The Central American nation is highly dependent on the U.S. economy, which ensures one of its top sources of income, the monies sent from Hondurans working in the U.S. under the "temporary protected status" program that was implemented during Washington's dirty war in the 1980s as a result of massive immigration to U.S. territory to escape the war zone. Another major source of funding in Honduras is USAID, providing over US$ 50 millon annually for "democracy promotion" programs, which generally supports NGOs and political parties favorable to U.S. interests, as has been the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the region. The Pentagon also maintains a military base in Honduras in Soto Cano, equipped with approximately 500 troops and numerous air force combat planes and helicopters.

Foreign Minister Rodas has stated that she has repeatedly tried to make contact with the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, who has not responded to any of her calls thus far. The modus operandi of the coup makes clear that Washington is involved. Neither the Honduran military, which is majority trained by U.S. forces, nor the political and economic elite, would act to oust a democratically elected president without the backing and support of the U.S. government. President Zelaya has increasingly come under attack by the conservative forces in Honduras for his growing relationship with the ALBA countries, and particularly Venezuela and President Chávez. Many believe the coup has been executed as a method of ensuring Honduras does not continue to unify with the more leftist and socialist countries in Latin America.

UPDATE 1: As of 11:15am, Caracas time, President Zelaya is speaking live on Telesur from San Jose, Costa Rica. He has verified the soldiers entered his residence in the early morning hours, firing guns and threatening to kill him and his family if he resisted the coup. He was forced to go with the soldiers who took him to the air base and flew him to Costa Rica. He has requested the U.S. Government make a public statement condemning the coup, otherwise, it will indicate their compliance.

UPDATE 2: 12pm noon - The Organization of American States is meeting in an emergency session in Washington concerning the situation in Honduras and the kidnapping of Honduras' president. Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, just announced that the ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua in Honduras have just been kidnapped along with Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, and are being beaten by20Honduran military forces.

President Obama has made a statement regarding his "concern" for the situation in Honduras and a call to all political leaders and parties to "respect democratic norms". However, this statement is NOT a clear condemnation of the coup d'etat that has taken place during the early morning hours on Sunday. Nor did Obama indicate, as other countries have done, that Washington would not recognize any other government in Honduras other than the elected government of Manual Zelaya.

Opposition forces in Honduras, led by a US-funded NGO Grupo Paz y Democracia, have stated via CNN that a coup has not ocurred, but rather a "transition" to democracy. Martha Diaz, coordinator of the NGO, which receives USAID funding, has just declared minutes ago on CNN that "civil society" does not support President Zelaya nor his "illegal quest" to hold a non-binding referendum on a potential future constitutional reform. She justified his kidnapping, beating and removal from power as a "democratic transition". Again, this is eerily reminiscent of the coup d'etat in Venezuela in April 2002, when so-called "civil society" along with dissident military forces kidnapped President Chávez and installed a "transition government". The goups involved also received funding from the U.S. government, primarily via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and later from USAID as well.

CNN en Español, Telesur, and other international television stations reporting on the situation in Honduras have been removed from the20airways in the Central American nation. The whereabouts of the Foreign Minister and the ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua are still unknown. OAS General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulze has announced he will travel immediately to Honduras to investigate the situation. President Chávez of Venezuela has also announced an emergency meeting of ALBA nations in Managua, Nicaragua, as soon as this evening.

More to come as the situation develops over the next few hours. Catch live blogging at http://www.chavezcode.com

UPDATE 3: 12:18pm - Dan Restrepo, Presidential Advisor to President Obama for Latin American Affairs, is currently on CNN en Español. He has just stated that Obama's government is communicating with the coup forces in Honduras, trying to "feel out" the situation. He also responded to the reporter's question regarding whether Washington would recognize a government in Honduras other than President Zelaya's elected government, by saying that the Obama Administration "is waiting to see how things play out" and so long as democratic norms are respected, will work with all sectors. This is a confirmation practically of support for the coup leaders. Restrepo also inferred that other countries are interfering in Honduras' international affairs, obviously referring to Venezuela and other ALBA nations who have condemned the coup with firm statements earlier this morning.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Iran Detains British Embassy Staff

Iran detains British embassy staff

Iran has accused Western powers of stoking unrest and inciting post-election riots

Iranian authorities have detained eight employees of the British embassy in Tehran, accusing them of involvement in post-election unrest in the Islamic Republic, the semi-official Fars news agency has reported.

"Eight local employees at the British embassy who had a considerable role in recent unrest were taken into custody," Fars said on Sunday, without giving a source.

"This group played an active role in provoking recent unrest."

Iran has accused Western powers - mainly Britain and the US - of inciting street protests and violence that rocked the country after its disputed June 12 presidential election.

Britain has denied the accusations.

Strained ties

David Miliband, the British foreign minister, condemned the arrests.

"This is harassment and intimidation of a kind that is quite unacceptable. We want to see [them] released unharmed."

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull in London, quoting British embassy officials in Tehran, said the arrests had taken place over the course of the last two weeks.

"This is a sort of running total - if you like - of a number of arrests and detentions of British embassy employees believed to be local Iranians rather than British citizens," he said.

"All of this comes off the back of two weeks of quite strident accusations against Britain with the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] calling Britain 'the most evil of all western powers' in terms of its involvement and interference in Iranian affairs."

A relative of one of those detained said: "He went out yesterday morning and I have been unable to reach him since his mobile phone is switched off. Since then I have had no news of his whereabouts."

Disputed poll

Two reformist candidates - Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi - disputed the result that gave Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, a landslide re-election victory.

The outcome sparked anti-government protests that have left at least 20 people dead, though Khamenei endorsed the result.

Britain and Iran have expelled diplomats from each other's embassies [File: AFP]
Khamenei in a televised address last week insisted the protests must stop and vowed not to give in to the protesters.

But both Mousavi and Karroubi still insist the election was marred by fraud, calling the new government "illegitimate".

They have also rejected a proposal for a recount of some ballots by the country's highest legislative body, the Guardian council.

Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi in Tehran said "almost all Iranian officials among the conservative camp are criticising Western powers for interfering in Iran's affairs".

He said there were still problems with the partial counting of the votes proposed by the council.

"That's one of the problems that's outstanding ... Mir Hossein Mousavi has rejected the committee that was formed by the Guardian council saying he will only accept a committee that is independent and made up of high-ranking clerics."

The arrests of the embassy staff are likely to put further strain on relations between London and Tehran.

Last Tuesday, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, said the UK was expelling two Iranian diplomats after Iran forced two British diplomats to leave.

Iran's foreign minister has said Tehran is considering to downgrade ties with Britain, following intelligence reports that some people with British passports were involved in post-election violence.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Troops Seize Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in Apparent Coup

Troops seize Honduran president

Zelaya says that the referendum is aimed at making constiutitional changes to help the poor

Manuel Zelaya, the president of Honduras, has been arrested by soldiers after he vowed to go ahead with a controversial referendum on constitutional changes, his allies and local media say.

Zelaya was reportedly arrested at his home on Sunday morning and taken to a military base on the outskirts of the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Tegucigalpa, said: "An eyewitness told us that between five and six in the morning local time about 100 to 200 soldiers surrounded his home in the centre of the capital and three vans drove up to his home and took him."

"A neighbour said that [the president] came out and the army shot at him, about five shots."

The non-binding referendum, which was due to take place on Sunday, would have asked Hondurans whether they approved of holding a poll on constitutional change alongside general elections in November.

The president fired the armed forces chief of staff last week after he refused to help him organise the vote.

Coup d'etat

The streets of Tegucigalpa were almost empty of traffic on Sunday after reports on local radio urged the city's residents to stay inside.

Second largest country in Central America
Population of 7.2 million
Second poorest country in the region
Economy forecast to grow less than two per cent this year
Relies on money from Hondurans in the US for more than 25 per cent of its gross domestic product
Former Spanish colony gained independence in 1821

"We're talking about a coup d'etat," Rafael Alegria, a union leader and ally of Zelaya, told Honduras' radio Cadena de Noticias. "This is regrettable."

The HRN radio station reported that Zelaya had been sent into exile, citing unidentified "trustworthy sources". Other reports suggested that he may have headed to Venezuela.

The supreme court and the attorney-general have said that the vote was is illegal because the constitution bars changes to some of its clauses, such as the ban on a president serving more than one term.

Their decision has been backed by the military and congress.

Colin Harding, an expert in Latin American politics, told Al Jazeera that Zelaya had apparently overestimated his own power in pushing for the referendum.

"He has no support in within his own party, he is opposed by congress, he is opposed by the judiciary and the military, who are not the power they used to be but have lined up against Zelaya ostensibily in defence of legality," he said.

However, many union and farm groups support the referendum, which Zelaya says is aimed at improving the lives for the nearly three-quarters of Hondurans who live in poverty.

Zelaya was elected for a non-renewable four-year term in 2006.

Congress on Thursday approved plans to investigate the president and possibly declare him unfit to govern.

"We have tried to avoid breaching a constitutional order and sidestep a coup," Roberto Micheletti, the congressional president and a member of Zelaya's own Liberal Party, said.

Late on Friday, the president assured the country that the situation "had returned to normality", but he accused members of congress of "conspiracy" and insisted that the armed forces owed him "obedience".

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Somalia Pirates Release Belgian Ship's Crew

Somali pirates release Belgian ship's crew

By AOIFE WHITE, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, June 28, 2009

(06-28) 04:58 PDT BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) --Somali pirates have released the entire crew of a Belgian ship seized 10 weeks ago after a ransom was paid, the Belgian government said Sunday.

The 10-member crew of the Pompei dredger was in good health and sailing the ship to an unidentified harbor where it will arrive in a few days, the government said. The crew members will then fly home to their families.

Defense Minister Pieter De Crem told a news conference that the ship's owners paid a ransom to release the ship and crew. He declined to say how much, but said pirates had demanded $8 million.

A plane dropped the money into the sea near the Belgian vessel Saturday, De Crem said. About 10 pirates on board abandoned the ship early Sunday.

The ship, its Dutch captain and crew of two Belgians, three Filipinos and four Croatians were seized April 18 a few hundred miles north of the Seychelles islands as they were sailing from Dubai to South Africa.

The pirates took the ship to the Somali coast where they and the crew stayed on board.

Belgian officials said the ship's owners negotiated the release with a middleman who sometimes passed on messages from the captain.

The pirates even contacted the crew's family members once to prove that they were still alive.

De Crem said the government had considered military intervention to seize the ship, but decided that it was "not desirable" because it could endanger the crew.

Despite international navy patrols, piracy has exploded in the Gulf of Aden and around Somalia's 1,900-mile (3,060-kilometer) coastline. Pirates are able to operate freely because Somalia has had no effective central government in nearly 20 years.

Seasonal monsoons have hampered pirate activity recently and the relative lull is expected to continue until at least the end of August, when the rough weather subsides, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau.

Belgian prosecutors said an attack on a Belgian ship in international waters was a crime that they would investigate. Belgian police will interview the crew and check the ship for forensic and DNA evidence when it reaches harbor, they said.

"We think there is a chance" that some of the pirates might be caught and brought to justice, federal prosecutor Johan Delmulle told reporters. They could face up to 30 years in jail.


Guinea-Bissau in Disarray Holds Few Hopes For Vote

Nation in Disarray Holds Few Hopes for Vote

New York Times

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau — First the general was blown up. Then the president was shot dead, the former prime minister was arrested and tortured, a presidential candidate was killed in his villa, and the former defense minister was ambushed and shot on the bridge outside town.

Despite those chilling messages — reportedly carried out by men in military uniform — Sunday’s election to replace the assassinated president, João Bernardo Vieira, will go on.

There is jolly music and dancing in the decaying streets; earnest international observers crisscross Bissau, the capital; the remaining candidates hold buoyant rallies in preparation for the vote; and trucks packed with chanting supporters bounce up and down over the little city’s deep potholes.

Underneath, though, there is anxiety and doubt here in Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony that is pitch-black at night because of a lack of electricity and that is so fragile it is being abandoned even by the drug traffickers, according to a United Nations expert.

No specific suspects or motives have been found for the political killings of the past four months. And few here are betting that the election will check a military that never stood down after winning this West African country’s liberation struggle nearly four decades ago.

“The election won’t end the problems,” said Cheik Malaine, a 26-year-old who works at a downtown stationery store, as rocking goumbé music blared from the ruling party’s building next door. “The problem is the army,” he said, looking down.

Antonio Armando, a teacher, said angrily: “It’s not possible, to live in a state where there are killings all the time. We practically have no state.”

A leading political scientist, Flavien Fafali Koudawo, said, “The day after the election will be the same as the day before.” Then he began laughing, explaining it as “the humor of desperation.”

The state “is in a phase of deliquescence,” said a former justice minister, Carlos Vamain. “The state has been dismantled.”

Signs of the government’s disarray are everywhere. The roof is still caved in at the army building where the military chief of staff, Gen. Batista Tagme Na Waie, was killed in an explosion in March. He was the third officer to be killed in that post since 2000.

The windows are still blown out at the roofless presidential palace, abandoned since its destruction in the civil war of 10 years ago. Papaya trees grow from the ruins of buildings downtown destroyed during the war.

The grim indicators pile up, one after another. Potholes two feet deep pockmark central streets. A civil servant in a white shirt, approaching a newcomer, said he had not been paid for two months and begged for money to buy rice. Small, ragged boys scale mounds of garbage at the edge of town, searching for bits of copper and iron.

The life expectancy here, 46 years, is at the low end of the scale in Africa; per capita income is $180, and the mortality rate for children under 5 is one out of five.

“Life is too difficult here,” said João Mendes, 30, an accounting student who has family members in the civil service. “You work for two months, the government pays you for one.”

At the heart of it all is this fact: No president elected since multiparty rule was restored in 1994 has completed his five-year term, because of military interventions. One global research organization, the International Crisis Group, said that if the military here did not get its way through lobbying, “it proceeds to direct intimidation and violence, including beatings and even murder.”

By some measures the military consumes 25 percent of the budget in Guinea-Bissau, a country that ranks ninth from the bottom in the United Nations Human Development Index.

In this uncertain atmosphere, even the one economic domain where Guinea-Bissau seemed to have a future, albeit a shady one — as a leading way station for Latin American drugs bound for Europe — is threatened.

“Already in September the drug traffickers had started moving out of Guinea-Bissau,” said Antonio L. Mazzitelli of the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime in Dakar, Senegal, noting that there had been no important drug seizures since October. The drug traffickers, he said, “need a certain stability.

“They don’t need a failed state,” Mr. Mazzitelli added. “They need a weak state.”

The threat of violence from the army haunts everyday life. Dingama Aiamate, a worker at the port, said, “People are afraid to speak, because if you speak, maybe they’ll come get you at night, and you never know what is going to happen.”

That fear has led political candidates and other prominent figures here to tiptoe around the question of holding the military accountable in the recent killings. The Interior Ministry said the army was merely putting down a coup plot in the case of the two most recent killings. Soldiers shot President Vieira in March.

Inside and outside the country, analysts insist that the only hope is to get rid of the army, find pensions for the soldiers and send them home.

But the leading candidate in Sunday’s election, Malam Bacai Sanhá, a veteran of the governing party, said all of the country’s public administration needed to be reformed, not just the military.

In an interview at his home here, in a break from crisscrossing the verdant countryside, Mr. Sanhá refused to single out the army. After all, he said, soldiers make up only a quarter or so of the 25,000 federal employees.

Similarly, the prime minister, Carlos Gomes Jr. also of the governing party, known by its abbreviation, P.A.I.G.C., sidestepped questions about how and why some of the leading political figures had recently been killed.

Mr. Sanhá’s chief rival, former President Kumba Yala, wears a red tasseled cap that emphasizes his ties to the Balanta ethnic group, and he is accused of exploiting divisions for electoral advantage. The Balanta are particularly strong in the military, and his supporters blame the P.A.I.G.C. for the recent killings, talking darkly of settling scores.

But whatever the outcome of the vote here, it is nearly certain not to settle this small country’s crushing problems, in spite of the frenzy in the streets and the jaunty, blaring music everywhere.

“We have the genius of make-believe here, and of not seeing things,” Dr. Koudawo said, laughing again. “There is a culture of repression here.”