Thursday, May 31, 2012

'China To Fulfil United Nations Security Council Presidency Fairly'

‘China to fulfil UNSC presidency fairly’

Friday, 01 June 2012 00:00

UNITED NATIONS — China will fulfil its duty as the rotating president of the UN Security Council in June in a fair, neutral way so as to effectively maintain international peace and security, the Chinese UN envoy said on Wednesday. Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, made the statement in an interview with the UN-based Chinese media at the
country’s mission to the United Nations.

“As the rotating president and a permanent member of the Security Council, we will adhere to the principle of being fair, neutral, efficient and pragmatic to ensure success of the work of the Security Council, so as to maintain international peace and security in an effective manner,” Li said.

According to the current provisional work program in June, the Security Council is expected to review nearly 30 issues, including major international hot-spots such as Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and the Middle East, he said.

The UN Security Council is also scheduled to hold an open debate in June on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, the envoy added.

The Council presidency rotates among the members of the Security Council in the English alphabetical order of their names.
Each president holds office for one calendar month. China previously assumed the presidency in March 2011.

The Security Council has 15 members: five permanent members — China, Britain, France, Russia and the United States — and 10 non-permanent members elected by the UN General Assembly for two-year terms.
Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security in the world at large. — Xinhua.

Justice Department Tells Florida to Stop Looking for Noncitizen Voters

Justice Department tells Florida to stop looking for noncitizen voters

By Marc Caputo, Times Staff Writer
Marc CaputoTampa Bay Times In Print: Friday, June 1, 2012

The Justice Department ordered Florida's elections division to halt a systematic effort to find and purge the state's voter rolls of noncitizen voters.

Florida's effort appears to violate both the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities, and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which governs voter purges, T. Christian Herren Jr., the Justice Department's lead civil rights lawyer, wrote in a letter sent late Thursday night.

State officials said they were reviewing the letter. But they indicated they might fight DOJ over its interpretation of federal law and expressed frustration that President Barack Obama's administration has stonewalled the state's noncitizen voter hunt for nine months.

"We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot," said Chris Cate, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott to conduct the search for potentially ineligible voters.

So far, Florida has flagged 2,700 potential noncitizen voters and sent the list to county elections supervisors, who have found the data and methodology to be flawed and problematic. The list of potential noncitizen voters — many of whom have turned out to be lawful citizens and voters — disproportionately hits minorities.

About 58 percent of those flagged as potential noncitizens are Hispanics, Florida's largest ethnic immigrant population, a Herald analysis found. Hispanics make up 13 percent of the 11.3 million active registered voters.

Independent voters and Democrats are the most likely to face being purged from the rolls. Republicans and non-Hispanic whites are the least likely.

Under the Voting Rights Act, Florida needs federal approval before it makes changes to voting because five Florida counties — Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry — had minority-voting troubles decades ago.

"Our records do not reflect that these changes affecting voting have been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for judicial review or to the Attorney General for administrative review as required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act," Herren wrote.

"Accordingly, it is necessary that they either be brought before that court or submitted to the Attorney General for a determination that they neither have the purpose nor will have the effect of discriminating on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under Section 5."

He gave the state until Wednesday to inform the Justice Department of its plans.

Herren also said that the National Voter Registration Act bans Florida's effort because it says "a State shall complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of a primary or general election for Federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters."

Florida elections officials have repeatedly said that their efforts comply with all federal laws, which aren't clearly written. They also say there's nothing discriminatory or partisan about the effort. It's simply trying to remove ineligible voters: felons, dead people and noncitizens.

To spot noncitizens, though, the state began comparing voter rolls with a Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle database that contains some citizenship information that the agency collects when people get a state ID such as a driver's license.

But the citizenship data in many cases is out of date. That is, many people become citizens after they get their ID and then register to vote. But the highway safety database isn't updated.

As a result, the state has performed its own checking and double-checking and winnowed down a pool of 180,000 potential noncitizens to a list of about 2,700. It is asking the counties to contact the voters by mail. Those who don't respond within about two months of being contacted could be stricken from the rolls.

A coalition of liberal-leaning civil rights groups complained to the Justice Department and the state about the process, pointing out that it burdens citizens instead of the government.

Cate, the state elections spokesman, said the state will have a full response soon. The agency also seemed to express frustration with the lack of help from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which maintains citizenship data but won't share its database with Florida.

Detzner asked again for DHS help on Thursday.

"We provided information to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security today in hopes that the federal government would help us identify ineligible voters," Cate said. "While this isn't a response from DHS as to why they haven't provided us access to their data, at least we know the federal government knows we take ineligible voters on the voter rolls seriously. We hope the federal government will recognize the importance of accurate voter rolls and support our efforts."

[Last modified: May 31, 2012 11:15 PM]

Florida Copyright 2012 Tampa Bay Time

U.S. Jobs Data Points to "Recovery" Losing Momentum

U.S. jobs data points to recovery losing momentum

7:11pm EDT

* Private payrolls rise 133,000 in May -ADP

* Jobless claims increase 10,000 last week

* Midwest business activity slows in May

* GDP revised down to 1.9 pct growth rate in Q1

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, May 31 (Reuters) - Private payroll growth picked up only slightly in May and claims for jobless benefits rose last week, suggesting the U.S. labor market recovery was losing steam after a strong performance early in the year.

Other data on Thursday showed factory activity in the Midwest slowed considerably in May and economic growth in the first quarter was a bit softer than initially estimated.

Economists said the reports reflected business anxiety amid an uncertain global economic outlook as the euro zone's debt crisis escalates and China's economy slows.

"The economy is growing at an anemic pace and the job market is showing some signs of hesitation in the pace of hiring. There is a lot to worry about," said Paul Edelstein, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Private employers created 133,000 jobs in May, payrolls processor ADP said. That was only a slight step up from April's tepid increase of 113,000 and below economists' expectations for a gain of 148,000.

The report comes ahead of the government's closely watched employment report for May on Friday, which is expected to show nonfarm payrolls increased 150,000, up from a paltry 115,000 in April.

The recent cooling in the labor market has been largely viewed as payback for strong gains during the winter, when unusually warm weather spurred economic activity. But economists are starting to worry that the troubles in Europe and an uncertain fiscal outlook at home are now dampening the U.S. recovery.

Initial claims for state jobless benefits rose 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 383,000, a Labor Department report showed. Claims have now risen in seven of the last eight weeks.

Another report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. showed the number of planned layoffs at U.S. companies hit an eight-month high in May as computer maker Hewlett-Packard said it would cut about 8 percent of its workforce.

Joel Prakken, chairman of forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers, which helps produce the ADP report, said the soft private-sector payroll gains of the past two months at least partially reflected the unusual weather patterns, but he said they also raised a red flag about fundamental weakness.

"Today's number both confirms and reinforces the deceleration of employment that we saw last month," he said. "While the deceleration is disappointing, it's hardly surprising, given the tepid macroeconomic data we have seen reported over the last several months."

The sluggish data and growing concerns over Europe's increasing credit problems weighed on U.S. stocks. In Thursday's session, all three major U.S. stock indexes ended the day with modest declines. The Standard & Poor's 500 index ended the month down 6.3 percent, its worst performance since September. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 6.2 percent in May and the Nasdaq Composite Index slid 7.2 percent - marking their biggest monthly declines in two years.

Prices of U.S. Treasury debt jumped on flight-to-safety bids, with the yield on the 10-year note dropping to a record low of 1.53 percent. The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies.


A report from the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago found factory activity in the Midwest lost steam this month. The group said its business barometer fell to 52.7, the lowest since September 2009, from 56.2 in April. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the regional economy.

Other regional surveys of factory activity also have found activity slowing, suggesting the manufacturing sector was losing a step nationally. The Institute for Supply Management will release a report on national factory activity for May on Friday.

Cary Leahey, a senior economist at Decision Economics in New York, said that based on historical relationships, the Midwest factory index suggested the national ISM reading could dip below the 50 mark within the next couple of months.

Separately, the Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product increased at a 1.9 percent annual rate in the first quarter, down from the 2.2 percent it had estimated last month.

The economy grew at a 3.0 percent rate in the fourth quarter.

Businesses restocked shelves more slowly than previously thought and government spending declined more sharply. There was also a modest downward revision to consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, and stronger import growth.

Business inventories added only 0.21 percentage point to GDP growth compared with a previously estimated 0.59 percentage point.

While the small inventory build-up held back growth in the January-March quarter, restocking of shelves, retreating gasoline prices and an improving housing market should provide a boost to output in the second quarter. Growth in the second quarter is currently estimated at a pace of about 2.5 percent.

U.S. retailers on Thursday reported stronger-than-expected sales for May as bargains helped shoppers overcome anxiety about the economy and job market, an encouraging sign for second-quarter GDP growth.

The GDP report also showed that after-tax corporate profits dropped for the first time in three years last quarter. The decline reflected the end of a special tax bonus that allowed U.S. companies to accelerate the depreciation of assets.

US-backed Libyan Rebels Say They Are Ready To Show-try Loyalists

Libya says it is ready to try Gaddafi loyalists

2:05pm EDT

TRIPOLI, May 31 (Reuters) - The civilian trials of senior officials in Muammar Gaddafi's former government will begin in early June with his former spy chief, Libya's prosecutor general said on Thursday.

The trials are being seen as a test of the new government's ability to try higher-profile Gaddafi loyalists and family members, including his son, Saif al-Islam - who could yet be tranferred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

"The trial of Buzeid Dorda and the other symbols of the former regime will begin on June 5 in a courthouse in Tripoli," Prosecutor-General Abdul Azizi al-Hassadi told Reuters.

Dorda, who was arrested last September in Tripoli, would be the first senior Gaddafi official put on trial in Libya since a popular revolution ousted the former government last year.

A transitional government appointed in November to lead Libya to elections is struggling to impose order on the myriad armed groups that toppled Gaddafi last year.

The government has been keen to try Gaddafi's family members and loyalists at home, but human rights activists worry that a weak central government and a lack of rule of law could rob them of the right to a fair trial.

If the International Criminal Court rules Libya is unwilling or unable to try Saif al-Islam, who is accused of crimes against humanity over the killing of civilian protesters, it says it will take jurisdiction of the case.

Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's most prominent son, was captured by militia fighters in November.

Dorda had been with Gaddafi since he first seized power in a 1969 coup. He was known as a technocrat, and not an intelligence officer by training. Libyans do not associate him with some of the earlier and bloodiest periods in Gaddafi's autocracy such as the 1980s. He is believed to have taken on his job in 2009.

(Writing By Hadeel Al-Shalchi; Reporting By Ali Shuaib; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

Protest Erupt Against Presidential Elections Results In Egypt


Posted on May 30, 2012
By Johannes Stern
Reprinted From Libya 360

Protests broke out in various Egyptian cities after the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) announced the official results of the initial round of the presidential elections. According to SPEC, Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, and Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), will face each other in the run-off election scheduled for June 16-17.

The final results put Mursi in first place with 24.78 percent of the vote, followed by Shafiq, with 23.66 percent. In third place was the Nasserite candidate Hamdeen Sabahi who received 20.72 percent. The moderate Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh came in fourth place with 17.47 percent, and Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League and a minister under Mubarak, came in fifth, with 11.13 percent. The official voter turnout was low, with only 46.42 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.

The protests were directed alike against Shafiq, considered to be the preferred candidate of the military, and the Islamist Mursi. In Cairo, thousands of protesters blocked traffic on Tahrir Square, the iconic epicentre of the Egyptian revolution, shouting: “Down With Military Rule! Down With the Supreme Guide [of the Brotherhood] Rule!”

In the early evening, some 400 protesters, chanting against feloul (remnants of the former regime) stormed Shafiq’s campaign office and burnt it down. Security forces intervened, arresting protesters, and fire trucks arrived to bring the blaze under control.

Throughout the night demonstrators continued marching in downtown Cairo, shouting, “Smash Shafiq on His Head,” and holding his campaign posters upside down. Others chanted, “Down With the Dogs of the Military Regime.”

Ali, a 24-year-old pharmacist who worked in makeshift field hospitals on Tahrir Square during clashes with the military and security forces, stated: “We are sending a message to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that we will never accept Ahmed Shafiq as our next president. He is the second Mubarak and was even in the Air Force, like the ousted leader.”

In the coastal city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters marched and tore down posters of Shafiq and Mursi. Protests also were staged in the Delta city of Daqahlia, where demonstrators chanted: “Against Mubarak, Father and Son! Against the Shoe and the Spare!” (“Spare” is a reference to Mursi, who was dubbed the “spare tire” after the junta disqualified the first candidate of the Brotherhood, Kheirat al-Shater, and Mursi was inserted as al-Shater’s replacement). Protesters also questioned the validity of the results, chanting: “Oh Bagato [the secretary general of SPEC], Tell the Truth! Was the Election Fraudulent or Not?”

Numerous violations were reported during the election process and there is a widespread feeling amongst Egyptian workers and youth that the whole framework of the elections is illegitimate. “The elections were clearly controlled by the state,” Alaa Shafani, a ceramic worker from Mansoura, told the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram Online. His son lost his leg during clashes with the police last year. “I boycotted the elections in the first place because they are illegal,” he added. “How can you have presidential elections without a constitution?”

The elections were held under the dictatorial auspices of the US-backed SCAF, with emergency laws but no constitution in place. The army was deployed all across the country and armed soldiers controlled the polling stations. Various cases of voters who tried to document electoral violations being arrested have been reported.

All the candidates were handpicked by the military junta and are strong defenders of the Egyptian bourgeois state and the predominance of capitalist and imperialist rule in Egypt and throughout the region.

The renewed protests immediately after the first round of the elections are a blow to the US-backed “transition to democracy” organized by the Egyptian ruling elite and supported by all official political forces in Egypt—be they Islamist, liberal, or petty-bourgeois pseudo-left. All of these forces fear another eruption of the militant strikes and protests that brought down Mubarak in February of 2011. They are anxious to devise new political mechanisms to control the working class and intensify the counterrevolution.

On Monday, various liberal and “left” political parties—including the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Tagammu Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance, El-Adl, the Arab Nasserite Party and the Democratic Front—met to discuss the formation of a so-called “united front.” The meeting was attended by presidential candidate Amr Moussa. Sabahi had also been invited. The participants claimed their aim was to “protect the revolution and the civil state” and not to support either of the candidates in the second round.

In fact, the meeting made perfectly clear that the aim of the proposed front is the precise opposite. It drafted a document to be presented to both Shafiq and Mursi and a representative announced that the group could support one of the candidates if he endorsed the document. The main demand is the formation of a constituent assembly consisting of “all forces of society” and tasked with drafting a new constitution.

The Revolutionary Socialists (RS) issued a statement openly embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and calling for a vote for Mursi. As with the parties of the “united front,” the RS called on the Brotherhood to pledge to form a government of national unity including Sabahi and Fotouh.

Mursi has already sent signals that he is willing to cooperate with liberal and petty-bourgeois “left” forces. In a statement Tuesday he pledged to form a “coalition government” if elected. “This government would consist of politicians from a variety of groups, not just Islamists or Brotherhood members… and the prime minister will not be from the Brotherhood or the Freedom and Justice Party,” he said.

In the same statement, Mursi made clear that such a government would intensify the counterrevolutionary offensive against the working class in collaboration with the military and the police. He praised the police and the army for securing the presidential elections, adding that “the status of policemen and officers will remain the same.”

Cuba In 1912: Armed Uprising And Racist Massacres

May 24, 2012

Cuba in 1912: Armed uprising and racist massacres

Fernando Martínez Herera
Granma International

ONE century after the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Cuban republic. The date of May 20, 1912 reflects the supreme aspirations of the community gradually created in Cuba and the epic of armed struggles and uncountable sacrifices which created the Cuban nation, culminating in the mass insurrection of 1895-1898, barely 15 years earlier. The Liberation Army defeated the colonial army, in spite of the huge Spanish military effort and the genocide which decimated the population. The Revolution established the Republic in Arms, trained hundreds of thousands of citizens, converted into Cubans all the sons and daughters of the land and made inevitable the establishment of a republican state.

For the Cuban people, May 20th was a symbol of their triumph, but at the same time it represented a profound frustration which postponed the major task of national liberation. The United States had militarily occupied Cuba, forcing the suspension of the Revolution’s institutions and reducing their achievements, and only left after establishing ties which converted the country into a neocolony subject to yankee arbitration with an economic system of liberal capitalist exploitation and a political system within which the accomplices of imperialism and the Cuban bourgeoisie predominated.

In 1909, General José Miró Argenter, chief of staff of Major General Antonio Maceo, leader of the Liberation Army, dedicated a chapter of his narration of Maceo’s campaigns to his brother, General José Maceo. Its end paints a horrific picture of the evil which ensued and the abandonment of the ideals of the Revolution. The last sentence is the cry of pain of one of the radical revolutionaries of 1895, "There are no more troops to acclaim the leaders, nor leaders to hoist the flag of the Revolution!"

The history of an era always contains more than one history. Taking into account the diverse composition of the Cuban population, the history of the social construction of races, and racism immediately arises. The new economic formation introduced at the end of the 18th century utilized more than one million African slaves or their descendants as a workforce in a little less than a century. The colossal sugar exporting business made Cuba one of the richest colonies in the world and brought with it revolutions in technology and the organization of labor, efficient business owners, modern forms of urban life and a sophisticated, Western and capitalist elite culture. But, simultaneously, it mercilessly exploited labor, destroyed lives and spurned the culture of a large part of the Cuban population, created an ironclad caste system and increased racism against the African-Cuban population, which developed into one of the traits within the national culture that was being formed.

It was not until 1886 that slavery was finally abolished. This was demanded by the development of a fully capitalist state and the advance of the country’s subordinated integration into a world system beginning its imperialist phase. But for the nascent Cuban nation abolition was, above all, the daughter of a political event: the pro-independence and abolitionist Revolution of 1868-1878. This has enormous historic importance, because colonialism and racism needed their victims to perceive themselves as inferior human beings and thus not aspire to achievements or creativity on their own part. But now, Cuban representation was closely linked to insurrectional patriotism, to winning independence and abolition.

In addition to the end of slavery, the 1880-1895 period saw processes and events of significance in relation to issues of race and racism. I will simply note that the majority of Black and mixed-race Cubans had to attempt to move from the bottom of society which was their place, through work, their own advancement and that of their children; also renouncing their own cultural practices considered barbaric – or backward – and the assumption of conduct and ends subjected to "white" cannons. Given the enormous economic, social and cultural disadvantages of the starting point, this was impossible or extremely difficult, but formally, at least, was a possibility open to all individuals. A certain number of Blacks and mixed race persons formed associations, identified themselves as such and tried to win individual or collective improvements. Faced with that, racism turned to "science" and Cuban academics debated whether Africans were inferior beings biologically or for social reasons.

But José Martí’s politics and ideas propitiated a different path and history. The new revolution had an incomparably greater reach and some extremely ambitious proposals. Many Blacks and mixed race Cubans participated in the organization of the revolution with Cuba’s national hero and his white colleagues, and they launched together the war, which soon became a huge popular wave which extended all over the country. In this battle, Cuba’s Blacks became Cubans who were also African. Their participation was massive and their conduct an example of sacrifice, heroism and discipline. The Mambí army was the first genuinely plurinational one in the Americas, in both its commands and troops. Those who had not been included among Cubans by the dominant 19th century thinking, those who were born and lived with the stigma of being permanent children, the possessors of dubious morals and traits of inferiority and dangerousness, won a new reason for pride: as protagonists in the glorious events of the creation of an independent homeland and the new republic.

The neocolonial bourgeois republic also failed to fulfill the revolutionary commitment in relation to the majority of African Cubans, and to end racism. Their material situation was almost the same as that of 1894, but the changes had been very profound. From 1899, demands for equal rights and opportunities were strong and expressed. The founding of the Independent Group of Color in Havana, on August 7, 1908, which shortly afterward became a political party, seemed to be another action of this kind. But that turned out to be the first act in a bloody drama.

The Independent Party of Color (PIC) was another result of the Revolution of 1895, which had dramatically increased political actors, transformed the content of politics and universalized the country’s citizens. But racism, deeply ruptured by the revolution, had regained ground within the framework of a social conservatism which completed the system of domination. Neither integrationist legality nor political demagogy changed that reality in essence. However, the PIC proposed to organize the struggle for effective equality and specific rights, utilizing the legal routes of the political system and freedom of expression. Its principal leaders were the veteran Evaristo Estenoz, Colonel Pedro Ivonnet —a Mambí hero of the invasion from the east of the island and the Pinar del Río campaign—Gregorio Surín and Eugenio Lacoste. The PIC had followers of a few thousand throughout the country, drew up social demands to benefit the entire poor and working population and maintained a patriotic and nationalist position.

The members of the PIC were acting under the new conditions of post-revolutionary retrogression, but many of them were as veteran as the presidents of the republic. It is important to note how sure of their legitimacy these fighters felt; it came naturally to them to promote confrontations, enter into negotiations, pressure, argue, organize; in other words, to act in social movements and politics. But the nationalist patriotism they shared was turned against them, manipulated by those very people who subjugated themselves to imperialism. For the people of all races, national identity came first and was decisive above any other; the issue of identity tended to be blind to racial and labor issues, and these issues were rejected when they appeared to weaken national unity. The PIC did not enjoy the support of the majority of Black and mixed race Cubans.

The bourgeois power attacked them relentlessly, because they threatened it on the terrain of its two-party, liberal-conservative hegemony by utilizing the rules of the system. Cynically accused of being racist, in 1910 the PIC was declared illegal through the Moruá Amendment to the Electoral Law, and leaders and activists were imprisoned for six months. Harassed and prevented from using the electoral route, they finally opted for an armed uprising on the symbolic date of the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the republic, in search of winning the Party’s re-legalization. This means of pressure was not unusual in the political ambit of the period, and was utilized by many politicians during the first 30 years of the republic.

But the José Miguel Gómez government mobilized thousands of soldiers and paramilitaries against them, while a fierce press campaign demonized them. The massacre took place during the months of June and July: more than 3,000 defenseless non-whites were murdered, the majority in Oriente province, the principal theater of the uprising. There was no solidarity with them, they were abandoned in the fields of their homeland, victims of a terrible lesson which clearly fixed the limits that could not be passed by those from below in the Cuban republic. The official republic celebrated the great crime and immediately banished it to an oblivion, as did the majority of Cuban victims of discrimination and domination in that society, given the harsh reality of having to survive and aspire to some kind of social ascent.

To give a synthesis of the outcome of that horrific event. One, the massacre signed in blood the principle that the republic would not allow social diversity to be politically organized. The untouchable nature of the existing order was guaranteed in the name of national unity. Two, the armed uprising was an erroneous and disastrous PIC tactic, because it was unable to create the correlation of forces to oblige the government to negotiate, and thus remained at the mercy of its strategy. Three: the politicking of President Gómez and others, in an electoral year, was left aside, and the slogan, "The homeland is in danger," was used to justify the radical repression.

Four, the pressure of the United States and the reality of its impositions. Five, the PIC’s military organization was totally alien to that of the Liberation Army, although many commands and officers came from it. Six, it presented an opportunity for the comprehensive repression of a wide sector of campesinos in Oriente, in the face of the danger of their reaction to the plunder and impoverishment resulting from the capitalist expansion underway. Seven, the notable weight of racism in Cuban society during in that era facilitated the crime and its impunity.

The socialist Revolution of national liberation which triumphed in 1959 has achieved colossal advances in the lives of the Cuban people, their social relations, social organization, sentiments and political consciousness. The process has allowed us to discover the immense wealth which lies in our diversity and also how much remains to be done in order to advance on a number of terrains. One of these is the persistence of racism in our country, and the fact that many disadvantages confronted by groups of men and women are more marked in the case of African and mixed race Cubans. Thus, in addition to it constituting a restoration of the memory of our Cuban struggles, the commemoration of the Independents of Color movement and the massacre of 1912 is an incentive to struggle to win justice in the fullest of contexts.

Racism can only be defeated if it is fought as part of struggles that move beyond and are more ambitious than anti-racism. Socialist struggles in Cuba are obliged to be anti-racist. But at the same time it is essential to rigorously and effectively denounce and condemn racism and not to make concessions to it in the name of a belief that certain general changes will automatically lead to its bankruptcy and end. We must not be weak in the face of racism – and thus to a certain extent, accomplices – in the name of sectorial strategies or prejudices, in the perverse concealment of ills in the alleged defense of our society, or fall in line with accepting that the existing culture is the one and only possible.

And here, anti-racism and socialism come together again, because socialism is, above all, an unending succession of cultural changes, in the contexts of human betterment and transformations in social organization, which constantly secure more social justice, well-being for all, more effective, autonomous national sovereignty and people’s power.

Brazil Seeking the Truth

Havana. May 24, 2012

Brazil seeking the truth

Laura Bécquer Paseiro
Granma International

FULFILLING one of her electoral promises, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has established a Truth Commission, which is to investigate human rights violations in the country, including those committed during the military dictatorship (1964-1985). The Commission is headed by former Justice Minister José Carlos Dias and former Attorney General Cláudio Fonteles. It was officially constituted on May 16.

Thousands of Brazilians were killed
during the military regime.

While the Truth Commission does not have the authority to punish those responsible for crimes – as it cannot supercede the 1979 Amnesty Law, which prevents legal proceedings against those responsible for murder, disappearances and acts of torture committed by the dictatorship – it can call witnesses under oath and have access to government documents. Moreover, it has two years to hear the testimonies of victims and witnesses, and analyze all the information it considers necessary to clarify the facts.

Its starting point is investigations undertaken prior to the Amnesty Commission, which studied formal requests for state apologies to victims of the military regime, and those of the Political Deaths and Disappearances Commission, responsible for acknowledging them.

With this initiative, the government hopes that an account of what happened during the years of 1964 through 1985 will act as a guarantee that Brazil will never relive a similar situation.

The measure was accompanied by the Access to Information Law, which obliges all spheres of public power to divulge information required by citizens in simple and direct language, with facilities for finding the information on Internet.

The legislation also establishes a 25-year confidentiality period for ultra-secret documents, 15 years for those which are secret, and five for reserved ones. These periods can only be renewed once.

Brazil has thus joined countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru and Guatemala, where similar commissions have been created to reveal those horrific moments of their histories.

"This is a historic date for Brazilians. Two laws have been approved which deal with different, but connected, issues; they represent a decisive step in the consolidation of Brazilian democracy," affirmed Rousseff, who clarified that the objective is not to promote revenge against those who committed crimes, but to seek the truth.

This issue is one which directly touches the President, who personally experienced dictatorial repression. Rousseff was a member of the Palmares Revolutionary Armed Vanguard and the National Liberation Commando guerrilla groups. During this period she was known as the Joan of Arc of the guerrilla movement.

She was arrested in 1970 and subjected to sessions of torture for 22 days. Her imprisonment lasted for three years. "Nobody comes out of that unscathed," she confined herself to saying to the Brazilian Piauí magazine, a few months before she won the 2010 election.

Various political leaders suffered similar persecution during the dictatorship, including former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), who was imprisoned for standing up to the regime as a labor leader.

His predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), was exiled in Chile, and singer-songwriters Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso took refuge in London.

The Truth Commission created in Brazil is fundamental to the new generations knowing their recent past, when thousands of people were incarcerated, tortured and murdered.

The Kennedy Assassination: Someone Knew In Advance

Havana. May 24, 2012


A coup d’état

Gabriel Molina Franchossi

ATTEMPTS to implicate Cuba in the Kennedy assassination continue, but in fact it was the consummation of a coup d’état plotted by CIA military chiefs and other U.S. ultra-conservatives.

The assassination not only affected the United States, but to a surprising extent Cuba and the rest of the world. Close to 50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the dramatic event is still present in the contemporary world, and the CIA is attempting to postpone for another 25 years the declassification of certain documents concerning the crime committed November 22, 1963. Part of this strategy of concealment is the book Castro’s Secrets, by Brian Latell, CIA officer for Latin America from 1990-94. After participating in CIA operations against Cuba since the 1960s, he is trying to mask the most scandalous conspiracy of the 20th century.

President Fidel Castro was possibly the first statesman to denounce the assassination as a conspiracy, speaking on Cuban television the following day. "We can state that there are elements within the United States who are defending ultra-reactionary politics in all fields, as much in terms of international politics as in national politics. And these are the elements which stand to benefit from the events that took place yesterday in the United States."

The Cuban leader read one of the first agency cables: "Dallas, November 22 (UPI).—Police agents today arrested Lee H. Oswald, identified as president of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, as the main suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy." Four days later, on November 27, Fidel analyzed the Oswald as lone gunman theory and his alleged pro-Castro sympathies, which nobody was questioning at that point. He quoted Hubert Hammerer, Olympic shooting champion, who stated that it was highly unlikely that anyone firing with a repeater carbine fitted with a telescopic sight could hit a target three times in the space of five seconds, when firing at a moving target at a distance of 180 meters, traveling at 15mph." On the basis of his own experiences in the Sierra Maestra, with weapons fitted with a telescopic sight like the one Oswald was said to have used, Fidel added, "Once you fire at the target it is lost – due to the effect of the shot – and you have to find it again quickly (…) with this kind of weapon it is really very difficult to fire three consecutive shots. But, above all, difficult to hit the target like that. Almost impossible." (1)

The Cuban President analyzed how the most reactionary circles were pushing Kennedy toward war by with heavy campaigns, bills and resolutions in Congress pushing the government, because of what they themselves described in 1961 as the Bay of Pigs debacle, to the point of taking the world to the verge of a nuclear war in the October Missile Crisis. Fidel, then Cuban Prime Minister, also spoke about Kennedy’s stand on civil rights, such as ending segregation and racial discrimination, and the policy of peaceful coexistence he was promoting with Khrushchev. These actions had unleashed unforeseen forces against President Kennedy and made Fidel think that his assassination was the work of certain elements in disagreement with the U.S. leader’s politics, particularly in relation to Cuba, which they considered not sufficiently aggressive, given that Kennedy was resisting direct military intervention.

Fidel observed that it was obvious, "If Oswald was the real killer, clearly those behind the assassination were carefully preparing their alibis. They sent this individual off to Mexico to ask for a visa to Cuba. Just imagine… that the President of the United States was assassinated by this individual after just returning from the Soviet Union via Cuba. It was the ideal alibi (…) to plant the suspicion in the heads of the U.S. public that it was a communist or an agent of Cuba and the Soviet Union, as they would say." (2)

In 1978 it was demonstrated that Fidel was correct. The U.S. Congress Select Committee investigating the assassination concluded, "The committee considered the possibility that an imposter visited the Soviet Embassy or Cuban consulate during one or more of the contacts in which Oswald was identified by the CIA in October of 1963." (3) The Committee report came to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with Oswald, while Oswald was small and slight, "The subject of the photograph was described as approximately 35 years old, 6 feet tall, with an athletic build, a balding top, and receding hairline." (4)

Suspicions were aroused in part when the FBI showed Oswald’s mother the alleged photo of her son. She said that it wasn’t a photo of Lee, but of Jack Ruby, the man who killed him. In fact there was no resemblance, the Committee report added, the man in the photo was neither Oswald nor Ruby. The FBI agreed. In a memo to the Secret Service it recorded, "These special (FBI) agents are of the opinion that the individual of reference in the photo is not Lee Harvey Oswald."

Fidel had every reason to be alarmed by the insinuations and accusations, a typical CIA strategy. Even now, Latell is trying to banish suspicions about those really responsible for the crime, attempting to revive CIA lies implicating Cuba. He denies that there was any conspiracy on the part of those defending ultra-reactionary politics. The lone gunman theory is not only wielded in the case of Oswald in 1963, but also in relation to Sirhan H. Sirhan, the alleged killer of Robert Kennedy in 1968, at the very moment when the latter was elected to run against Richard Nixon, already a suspect in the Kennedy assassination. The truth has been slowly disclosed since then. The most recent details came to light in 2005, through the book by journalist David Talbot, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, with its sensational revelation that Robert was probably assassinated after he stated that, if he were elected President, which he was close to achieving, he would reopen the case.

Latell takes refuge in the discredited lone gunman theory of the Warren Commission, set up by Lyndon Johnson to investigate the assassination, when he succeeded Kennedy as President. One of the most recent and convincing refutations of this theory is a note sent by Oswald to Howard Hunt, also suspected of taking part in the assassination and the famous organizer of the Watergate break-in. Sent November 8, 1963, 14 days before the Kennedy assassination, it reads, "Dear Mr. Hunt: I would like information concerning my position. I am asking only for information. I am suggesting that we discuss the matter fully before any steps are taken by me or anyone else. Thank you. Lee

Harvey Oswald". (5)

Researcher Paul Kangas explains that Oswald’s note was obtained by writer and journalist Jack Anderson in New Orleans, where the "lone gunman" was living with Clay Shaw and Cubans Félix Rodríguez, Bernard Barker and Frank Sturgis, also investigated by the House Select Committee and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Anderson affirms on video that Hunt and Shaw asked Oswald to meet with them to plan the position he would take up in Dallas for the attack. When he received no answer from Hunt, Oswald told James Hosty, his FBI agent, that Hunt and a bunch of Cubans from the Miami CIA office were plotting to kill Kennedy in Dallas, on November 22, 1963. According to Kangas, Hosty sent a telex to FBI Director Hoover informing him about the assassination attempt and he passed it on to all Special Agents in Charge.

Judge Garrison states that Waggoner Carr, Attorney General of Texas, presented evidence in a secret session of the Warren Commission on January 22, 1964, revealing that Oswald was FBI secret informant No. 179 and had received a salary of $200 a month from the Bureau starting 1962. The evidence was given to Carr by Allan Sweat, head of the criminal division of the Dallas sheriff’s office and published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Houston Post, and The Nation, but the Warren Commission did not call Sweat or the journalists who wrote the articles. Garrison admits that if Oswald was an FBI informant in Dallas and New Orleans, one could believe that his work consisted of penetrating organizations like Fair Play for Cuba and Guy Bannister’s group involved in the conspiracy to kill the President. "The question which tormented me and maybe tormented Oswald was: if the Dallas police, the sheriff’s office, the Secret Service, the FBI and the CIA were potentially implicated in the conspiracy, who were the authorities behind it all?" (6)

When Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the House Select Committee, discovered to his rage in 1990 that the recently deceased George Joannides (a CIA officer assigned by the agency to inform him about the Kennedy assassination) had concealed from him that he (Joannides) had worked closely with Oswald and the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil terrorist group in New Orleans, he called it an obstruction of justice. Now, he no longer believes anything the CIA told the Committee.

It is no surprise that the Warren Commission evaded discovering the truth; it was no coincidence that that it was headed by Congressman Ed Ford, one of Nixon’s men, Nixon also being a suspect. Allen Dulles, the omnipotent CIA director, manipulated the members appointed by Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded to the presidency after Kennedy’s death, thanks to the effective coup d’état which was the assassination of the Kennedy brothers.

(1) Revolución newspaper, November 28, 1963.
(2) Ibidem.
(3) The Final Report of the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Bantam Books, New York. 1979, P.320
(4) Ibidem.
(5) Granma, April 13, 2012, P. 9.
(6) Jim Garrison. JFK: Tras la pista de los asesinos, Ediciones B. Barcelona, 1988, Pp. 296-301.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Somalian Al-Shabaab Grows In Their Appeal Throughout Africa

Terror group al-Shabaab's appeal grows in Africa

By William Maclean, Noor Khamis and Mohamed Ahmed

GARISSA, Kenya — When Abdullahi slipped across the Kenya-Somali border to join the fighters of Islamist militant group al-Shabaab in 2009, the livestock herder from northern Kenya found himself among recruits from around the globe.

There were ethnic Somalis who had grown up in Australia, Britain, France and the United States. But there was also a large number of fellow Kenyans in the group's ranks. They included, unexpectedly, dozens of young men who did not share his Somali ancestry or language but came instead from the green, tropical heartland of Kenya where Christianity is the dominant religion.

Abdullahi, then aged about 20, initially dismissed those men as opportunists who had pretended to convert to Islam to win work as guns for hire.

Then he saw them in battle.

"They were good fighters. I saw the way they would advise us to fight, to defend ourselves," Abdullahi said of his two years in al-Shabaab, during which time he fought Somalia's weak United Nations-backed government. "I fought one battle outside Mogadishu. Half of us died... (The Kenyans) were very brave, the way they ran towards gunfire."

That's exactly what worries Kenyan and Western security agencies. Al-Shabaab has been waging an insurgency against Somalia's fragile interim government since 2007 and formally became part of al-Qaida earlier this year. Abdullahi's account is part of a mounting body of evidence — including intelligence picked up by security agencies, research by the United Nations and accounts by Muslim Kenyans interviewed for this story - that suggests al-Shabaab is mentoring a new and increasingly multi-ethnic generation of militants in the region.

Ahmed was unharmed.

That could have major ramifications not just for Somalia, which has been without a working government for two decades, but also for countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, relatively stable democracies whose economies are among the steadiest in Africa. This week, Kenyan politicians blamed a bombing in central Nairobi on al-Shabaab, which means "Youth" or "Boys" in Arabic.

Al-Shabaab seeks to impose a strict version of Sharia or Islamic law. The group emerged as a force in 2006 as part of a movement that pushed U.S.-backed warlords out of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. It remains Somalia's most powerful non-government armed group and, in its propaganda, promotes the idea that many Muslims are flocking to its cause around Africa.

Washington and London have long worried the Somali group aimed to expand its influence in Africa. That suspicion was confirmed last July when a United Nations investigation found al-Shabaab had created extensive funding, recruiting and training networks in Kenya.

Much remains unclear about the strength of the group's following outside Somalia. Some academics, including Kenya-based independent researcher Paul Goldsmith and University of California scholar Jeremy Prestholdt, urge caution because Kenya's Western allies may play up the significance of the group to justify budgets and expanded surveillance powers.

Born in the USA, but now among Somalia's Islamist terrorists

Abdullahi's story about his time in al-Shabaab couldn't be independently verified. His account is consistent with those of other young Kenyan men involved in Islamist radicalism, including another former al -habaab fighter interviewed for this story, 22-year-old Mohamud, and by clerics, police officials, diplomats, security officials, lawyers, academics and social workers.

The flow of recruits continues, they say.

A skinny, bearded figure in sandals, dusty black trousers and a sports shirt, Abdullahi lives in Mandera, a few hours drive from Garissa, the town in Kenya's dusty north where he spoke with Reuters. He quit al-Shabaab last year, he said, because he grew disillusioned with the violence and with promises of payments that never came. Back home, he is unemployed and hopes to study at university. His militant days are behind him, though he asked that his full name not be used because he worried about official reprisals.

'Going over'

Pinning down the number of non-Somalis who have joined al-Shabaab is difficult. Boniface Mwaniki, head of Kenya's Anti-Terrorist Police Unit, said it was impossible to compile accurate figures because the Kenyan-Somali border is porous and long.

In separate interviews, a Western private security consultant, a European diplomat, a lawyer familiar with the militant Islamist community in Kenya, a community organizer and an independent researcher with an international non-governmental organization all said that up to 600 non-Somali Kenyans are currently fighting with al-Shabaab, around 10 percent of the group's total troops.

The militant group is also using its connections and social media to inspire the creation of loose networks of sympathizers in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Kenya's Security Minister George Saitoti worries that this support could allow al-Shabaab to threaten East Africa, and especially Kenya, the region's economic hub.

Non-Somali East Africans have taken part in al-Qaida attacks before, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the suicide bomb attack on an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa in 2002. A few have risen high in al-Qaida: Indian Ocean islander Fazul Harun Mohamed once worked as Osama bin Laden's private secretary in Afghanistan.

Concern has risen since a coordinated bomb attack on Uganda's capital Kampala in July 2010, which killed 79 people watching the soccer World Cup final. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, saying the attacks were retribution for Uganda's troop deployments in Mogadishu as African Union peacekeepers.

In September last year Kampala's High Court jailed two Ugandans on charges connected to the attack.

"We've seen a very different dynamic now. The young converts are the ones who are being lured into terrorism," said Al-Amin Kimathi, a Kenyan human rights activist who was released last year after being held on suspicion of involvement in the Kampala bombings.

Concern over al-Shabaab's growing East African contingent was one of the motives for Kenya's decision to send troops into Somalia last October.

Elders lose control

The pull of militancy is placing new strains on the region's Muslim communities, say elders, clerics and younger Muslims.

"The older generation has lost control of the youngsters. They've lost it completely," said Kimathi, who was born a Christian in Nyeri in Kenya's central highlands and converted to Islam in his mid-30s.

Most converts, he said, are "overzealous" and easy targets for al-Shabaab's recruitment campaigns, especially if they are poor. Because the young men, often converts, do not fit the conventional profile of an Arab or Somali militant, they are harder to track, one European diplomat said.

But Kenya's police have made life harder for the group's recruiters. Back in April 2009, when Abdullahi joined al Shabaab, it was possible for recruiters to carry out indoctrination sessions in a mosque. Abdullahi said he met al-Shabaab clerics from Somalia when they came to preach in his home town of Mandera.

"It was after afternoon prayers. We went to a corner of the mosque where we could talk quietly," he said. "They said that jihad was going on in Somalia and that we were all brothers and should join the jihad. They promised us money and food.

"They said Islam was under attack, and they mentioned Ethiopia. They told us the Ethiopians and other Christians were attacking Islam and they wanted to wash Islam out of the country. That made me feel so angry."

Fuelled by that anger and the fact he could not make enough to feed his family, he headed across the border. Abdullahi had been a herder and then worked for an aid organization, distributing rice and water.

"I joined for the jihad, I wanted to defend Islam. But of course we needed money to support the family," he said.

The Somali clerics who had visited his mosque paid him $1,000 and said more money would follow. It did not.

"Of course I believed in jihad," Abdullahi said, shaking his head. "But what I found them fighting was not jihad."

'You want to attack'

Al-Shabaab may have lost Abdullahi, but there are others ready to take his place, many of them not ethnic Somalis. In the port city of Mombasa on Kenya's Indian Ocean Coast, sermons by fiery clerics stoke anti-Western sentiment.

Suleiman Adam, a 25-year-old mobile-phone card salesman, says his radicalization began in 2002, when he enrolled in an Islamic boarding school north of the city. Adam, whose forefathers came from Sudan, is the son of a truck driver who could not afford to send his son to a regular high school.

Looking back, Adam said, it was obvious that some of his teachers at the school sympathized with al-Shabaab.

There were moments when he agreed. "If you see some American tourist, like a kaffir (unbeliever), you just feel like you want to attack him. You are of that mind that ‘These people are bad. These people want to finish this religion of Islam.' That was what was in my mind ... You feel like going and exploding yourself."

But even in his radical days Adam was not as extreme as some of his classmates, who included non-Somali Kenyans like him. "There are some... who are 50-50. We felt it's not a jihad, going to explode yourself, that's not a jihad. It wasn't making sense. But there were those who were 100 percent. They believed in that."

That faith is exploited by unscrupulous radical preachers, say community leaders like Imam Mustafa Bakari. Sitting in a cafe opposite his Masjid Fathi mosque in Mombasa, he said he worried that the recruitment would continue "because preachers in Mombasa are continuing with these wrong teachings.

"We have Muslims here who want to go to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, but I've told them they should not go to Somalia because the war there is not jihad. In Somalia it's Muslims fighting Muslims and that is not jihad."

A sense of piety is often fuelled by more practical considerations. Mwalimu Rama, 38, a former youth leader who now works for a non-governmental organization that counsels young Mombasa radicals, has friends with al-Shabaab in Somalia. Some occasionally call him to chat about their exploits, he said.

But when he tries to persuade them to come home, they scoff. "What, you have a job for me? You want to employ me? Is there actually anything good there, if I come back?" he said they ask.

The Salafi influence

Financial considerations also play in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. It's not hard to find al Shabaab sympathizers in the Eastleigh district, which teems with ethnic Somalis. But over the past few years the group's influence has extended to other areas, including Majengo, a huddle of streets beside the downtown area.

One of the most vocal of its support bases is a group called the Muslim Youth Centre, once headed by radical preacher Ahmed Iman Ali, who now lives in Somalia. Iman Ali used to preach at the Masjid Sunna, a small Majengo mosque, where he would openly praise al-Shabaab, residents say.

The mosque's current imam, Alzadin Muriuki Omar, 27, a thin, sprightly figure in shirt and trousers, denied that Masjid Sunna had any ongoing connection to al-Shabaab. He said he has told his congregation not to fight in Somalia, arguing that God commands his followers to solve disputes through discussion.

Kenyan media reports that the mosque is the centre of terrorism in East Africa are wrong, Omar said, as a hen clucked about his feet in the mosque's yard.

Omar and many of his congregation are Salafis, followers of an ultra-conservative brand of Islam that has its roots in Saudi Arabia.

Salafis are in the minority among Kenya's 4.3 million Muslims, but are beginning to flex their muscles. Older, non-Salafi Muslims in Majengo view Omar's congregation with suspicion, in part because Omar's followers have recently asserted control over the district's main mosque, the Pumwani Riyadh, one of Nairobi's oldest.

Imam Yahya Hussein, deputy imam of Pumwani, insists his followers will retake control of the mosque once current renovations are finished.

Sitting in a white plastic chair in a temporary mosque made of wooden poles and sheets of blue plastic and green canvas, Hussein suggested the spread of Salafi Islam in Majengo was a result of the increasing influence of Somalis with longer exposure to Salafist thinking. While many Salafis are no less revolted by al Qaida-style violence than other Muslims, their puritanical branch of the religion is espoused by many of the militants behind al-Shabaab.

"We have been against the Somali influence in this area for as long as I can remember," Hussein said. "As the population of the Somalis started growing in Nairobi ... the Somalis came here day time and night time," he said. "They have money. So it's the influence of money. So the youth here will tell the old men, ‘What are you giving me? You are not giving me anything,'" he said. "Where there is money, people will go."

Police problems

It doesn't help that the police response to radicalism is often heavy-handed and corrupt, community activists say. Diplomats say that poor Muslim coastal areas of East Africa such as Mombasa or Tanzania's Zanzibar islands are particularly vulnerable.

It's "not far-fetched at all" to suggest that political stability on the East Africa coast could be threatened, a Western official said.

Stig Jarle Hansen, associate professor at the Department of International Environment and Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, reckons that in terms of the quality of their response, "The Kenyans are where countries like Norway and Britain were about 20 years ago. They are using hard power, not soft power. They are not going into the communities to talk. They are going in to arrest. Engagement is not happening and that's not just because of a policy weakness but also because of the poverty of the state. They have less resources."

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the force was not heavy-handed and such an allegation was "mischievous."

Kimathi, the Kenyan human-rights activist, also blames counterterrorist activities by Western and African forces. He spent almost a year in detention, much of it in solitary confinement, on suspicion of involvement in the Kampala bombings. He had visited Uganda to advise several Kenyans transferred there by Kenyan authorities after they had been picked up for the attacks. The prosecutor dropped murder and terrorism charges against him in September 2011 and released him.

The Ugandan prosecutor declined comment on his decision.

Despite his experience, Kimathi says there is a problem with the expansion of al Shabaab into non-Somali ethnic groups in East Africa.

"That is what is worrying now," he said. "They are still finding their ways around ... They think the whole world is their theater."

(William Maclean reported from Nairobi and Mombasa, Noor Khamis from Nairobi, Mohamed Ahmed from Garissa; Additional reporting by David Clarke, Richard Lough, James Macharia, Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Simon Robinson and Sara Ledwith.)

Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years By Netherlands Court

Charles Taylor sentenced to 50 years in prison for war crimes

Judge at court in The Hague says ex-Liberia president's crimes were of the 'utmost gravity in scale and brutality'

Liberia's former president, Charles Taylor, has been sentenced to 50 years in jail for being "in a class of his own" when committing war crimes during the long-running civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Judges at a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague said his leadership role and exploitation of the conflict to extract so-called "blood diamonds" meant he deserved one of the longest prison sentences handed down so far by the court.

Taylor, 64, was found guilty last month of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, when supporting rebels between 1996 and 2002 in return for conflict gems.

The offences included murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruiting child soldiers, enforced amputations and pillage.

Delivering the decision at the special court for Sierra Leone, Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor's crimes were of the "utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality".

He added: "The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions."

Taylor was "in a class of his own" compared with others convicted by the court. "The special status of Mr Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing."

Prosecutors had asked the judges to impose an 80-year prison term. Lussick said such a long term would have been excessive as Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting which "as a mode of liability generally warrants a lesser sentence than that imposed for more direct forms of participation".

Issa Sesay, a leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) which carried out many of the atrocities, has been sentenced to 52 years in jail.

Taylor, in a suit and yellow tie, gave no response as Lussick handed down what will effectively be a life sentence. His lawyers have 14 days to lodge an appeal against verdict and sentence.

Adama Dempster of the Liberian Human Rights Protection Forum was in the courtroom. "I was watching Mr Taylor," he said. "He was quiet. He was moving his head from one position to another. He had a little bit of red in his eyes.

"Fifty years is a lot but it's about bringing redress for the victims. It's also about reinforcing the principle that no man is above the law. It serves as a precedent to dictators and those who encourage war. From our standpoint we saw justice being done. There was no sense of jubilation in court."

Aid agencies and organisations in Sierra Leone welcomed the sentence. Korto Williams, director of ActionAid Liberia, said: "Not only is this verdict an opportunity for Sierra Leone and Liberia to move forward, it also signals the international community's clear intent that any leader who misuses their power and carries out state-sanctioned violence will be held responsible for their crimes and will be punished."

Adama Coulibaly of the children's rights organisation Plan International, which works in Sierra Leone to help former child soldiers and civil war survivors, said: "Many young people in Sierra Leone witnessed their parents being killed. Some were pulled into the fighting forces as soldiers or bush wives. Those who experienced this war as children continue to be haunted by its atrocities.

"Taylor's trials in The Hague seem very far away from the reality of people's actual lives. For a region where peace and political stability are extremely fragile, this trial is of important symbolic value, rather than bringing actual redemption to those who suffered during the war."

Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch said: "It is really significant that Taylor's status as a former head of state was taken as an aggravating factor as far as his sentence was concerned.

"That is a very important precedent and I hope that Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir take note."

Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler's successor, was jailed at Nuremberg.

The civil war left more than 50,000 dead in the west African state. Thousands had their arms or hands forcibly amputated. During the conflict, the country's average life expectancy dipped to 37 years.

Taylor's sentence is likely to be served in the UK, which has offered to take him once his trial and appeal are completed. Taylor's defence told the court that exiling him to Britain – where a Serbian war crimes convict was attacked in his cell two years ago – would leave him "culturally isolated" and constitute a "punishment within a punishment".

In his last address to the tribunal, Taylor denied encouraging human rights abuses during the prolonged civil war in Sierra Leone, insisting he had in fact been trying to stabilise the region.

"What I did to bring peace to Sierra Leone was done with honour. I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward.

"I pushed the peace process hard, contrary to how I have been portrayed in this court."

The court's prosecutor, Brenda Hollis, said that she may appeal the sentence on the grounds that it is too lenient.

"We will carefully review the sentencing judgment keeping in mind the critical role Mr Taylor played in the commission of the crimes of which he has been convicted, the horrible suffering of the victims, and the devastating impact of the crimes," she said.

"It is important that those responsible for criminal misconduct on a massive scale are not given a volume discount.

"The sentence imposed today does not replace amputated limbs, does not bring back to life those who were murdered, does not heal the wounds of those who were victims of sexual violence and does not remove the permanent emotional, psychological and physical scars of those enslaved or recruited as child soldiers.".

US Stocks Plunge As Outlook In Europe Dims

Associated Press
May 30, 2012, 3:59PM

Stocks plunge as outlook in Europe dims


Fearing a financial rupture in Europe, investors around the world fled from risk Wednesday. They punished stocks and the euro, and the yield on a benchmark U.S. bond hit its lowest point since World War II.

In the United States, where concerns about Europe have already wiped out most of this year's gains for stocks, major averages fell more than 1 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average was down as much as 184 points.

European stocks lost even more, and the euro dropped below $1.24, its lowest point since the summer of 2010.

"Everyone's just afraid that if Europe doesn't get its act together, there will be a big spillover in the U.S.," said Peter Tchir, manager of the hedge fund TF Market Advisors.

He said the uncertainty over Europe's future was reminiscent of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, when it was briefly unclear whether banks would be bailed out and "we had these giant swings up and down."

The trigger Wednesday was Spain, where the banking system is under strain a week after its fourth-largest lender required $23.8 billion in government aid to cover souring real estate loans.

Wall Street, which woke up to increased anxiety over higher Spanish borrowing rates, was down from the opening bell.

In the final half-hour of trading, the Dow was down 163 points at 12,416. The Dow has had a miserable May, losing more than 6 percent, and is on track for its first losing month since September.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 20 points to 1,312. The Nasdaq composite index fell 36 to 2,834.

Investors are increasingly worried that problems at the bank, Bankia, might recur at other Spanish banks. Many lent heavily during the nation's real estate bubble. Losses from the real estate crash might be too big for Spain's government to shoulder.

Spain has enacted harsh government spending cuts to bring its budget deficit within strict new European guidelines. But the country is in a recession and has 25 percent unemployment, and might need a bailout, like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

On Wednesday, borrowing rates rose sharply for Spain and Italy, both seen as the next problem cases in a debt crisis that has rocked Europe for more than two years. Traders dumped bonds issued by those governments.

The yield on Spain's 10-year bonds, a key indicator of market confidence in a country's ability to pay down its debt, shot as high as 6.69 percent, the highest since the euro currency was launched in 2002.

Intense demand for low-risk, easily tradable securities led investors to buy U.S. government debt. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 1.62 percent, a big decline from 1.74 percent late Tuesday.

That appeared to be the lowest since 1945, said Bill O'Donnell, head of U.S. Treasury strategy at the Royal Bank of Scotland, citing data from the European Central Bank and other sources.

Federal Reserve daily records only go back to 1962, and those reflect a previous record of 1.70 percent, set May 17.

"There's just a massive flight to safe-haven assets today," O'Donnell said.

He characterized the rush into U.S. bonds by citing a well-known, unsavory analogy made by Richard Fisher, the head of the Federal Reserve's Dallas bank: "The U.S. is the prettiest horse in the glue factory."

Yields on German government bonds, also seen as safe, turned lower.

Concern about Europe lurked around every corner: The European Commission said consumer confidence fell sharply across the region last month. Spaniards withdrew money from their banks, spreading fear about that nation's ability to go on without bailouts. Spain's main stock index closed down 2.6 percent.

An opinion poll in Greece showed that the far-left Syriza party is gaining support ahead of key elections June 17. Syriza opposes the system of bailouts and sharp budget cuts that have kept Greece afloat but also gutted its economy.

If the party wins, Greece may be forced to exit the euro currency. The shock waves could reach nations that have received bailouts, like Portugal, and those that might need them, like Italy.

Until the Greek elections next month, things will be too uncertain for the market to sustain a meaningful rally, said David Kelly, chief market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds.

If the bailouts continue and European governments start spending to spur growth, Kelly expects the market eventually to rise. If Syriza wins and Greece is expelled from the euro, he sees stormy waters for months to come.

Amid the tumult, Europe's executive branch called on the 17 countries that use the currency to create a "banking union" that can centrally oversee and, if needed, bail out national banks.

If Europe's financial crisis plunges it into a deep recession, global economic growth will likely falter, reducing demand for commodities and machines that power growth.

Fearing that outcome, traders pushed the stocks of heavy equipment maker Caterpillar and aluminum company Alcoa to among the biggest declines among the 30 companies that make up the Dow.

The euro fell as low as $1.2360, the lowest since the summer of 2010. Benchmark stock indexes closed down 2.2 percent in France, 1.8 percent in Italy and Germany.

When banks and big investors get frightened, they sell stocks or bonds and park the money in the safest government debt markets. They buy Japanese yen, German bonds and especially U.S. Treasurys.

It's no longer about turning a profit, said O'Donnell of RBS. That's why German government two-year notes are paying zero percent: People are simply handing their money over for safekeeping.

The U.S. Treasury market is still considered one of the safest places in the world to stash a billions in a hurry. At $11 trillion, no other market is as large, so there's always somebody ready to buy or sell them.

"When people just want to get their money back, there's not a lot of competition," O'Donnell said.

Food and energy commodities fell sharply. Crude oil lost more than $3 to below $88 a barrel. Crude has been falling steadily since the beginning of May, when it traded as high as $106 a barrel.

Kelly, of J. P. Morgan Funds, said investors should remember that the U.S. is on firmer economic footing than Europe, and make sure their portfolios could withstand either possible outcome.

"Things could be much better, or much worse, than the markets have priced in," Kelly said. "The only logical investment strategy is to be balanced -- to get to the middle of the boat."

Among U.S. stocks making moves:

-- Monsanto, the agricultural company, was one of the few big gainers in a sea of red. It jumped more than 3 percent after its CEO said this year's earnings will likely surge 25 percent, far more than Wall Street had been expecting. Sales were strong in its seed and chemicals business, including Roundup herbicides.

-- Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, plunged 7 percent after the company said late Tuesday it had hired a team of bankers to help it weigh its options -- Wall Street jargon for a possible sale or reorganization. RIM's business has been crumbling as smartphone users move to iPhone and Android devices.

-- Whirlpool rose, reversing an earlier loss, after the Department of Commerce ruled that the South Korean government provided illegal subsidies to producers of clothes washers that sold their products in the U.S. The stock gained 1.5 percent to $63.73.
Daniel Wagner can be reached at

AP Business writer Matthew Craft in New York contributed to this report.

Assange Considers Next Move After Losing Appeal

Assange considers next move after losing appeal

By London correspondent Lisa Millar and wires

May 31, 2012 08:00:03

Julian Assange's lawyers have been given two weeks to consider their next move after the Australian Wikileaks founder's appeal against extradition to Sweden was rejected by the UK's Supreme Court.

Last night the seven-judge panel ruled five to two that Mr Assange's extradition appeal be dismissed and he be extradited to be questioned over sexual assault allegations.

The panel decided Sweden's prosecutor was a judicial authority and therefore the European arrest warrant issued for Mr Assange was valid.

Mr Assange's lawyer Dinah Rose asked for 14 days to consider whether to apply to reopen the case on the grounds that the judgment referred to material that was not mentioned during the last hearing in February.

The judge granted the request, which is highly unusual in the three-year history of the Supreme Court.

"With the agreement of the respondent, the required period for extradition shall not commence until June 13, 2012," the Supreme Court said in a statement.

Mr Assange, a 40-year-old Australian national, was not in the central London court for the judgment.

One of his supporters, journalist John Pilger, said Mr Assange was "stuck in traffic" with his mother, who flew in from Australia for the verdict.

'A very draconian thing'

Geoffrey Robertson QC, an adviser to Mr Assange's legal team, told 7.30 that the UK Supreme Court decision was inevitable and lawyers would now focus on taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

"The main issue is the European Court of Human Rights because that is the final court in Europe," he said.

"Certainly he has a reasonable prospect there, but it is unlikely that they would halt the extradition.

"There is a civil liberties issue, because the European warrant is a very draconian thing, and it's probably right in civil liberties terms that it should be issued by a judge rather than a prosecutor."

Mr Assange does not deny that he had sex with two women in Sweden while attending a WikiLeaks seminar in August 2010.

But he insists the sex was consensual and argues there are political motives behind the attempts to extradite him.

The women accuse him of rape and sexual assault.

Mr Assange shot to global fame after WikiLeaks enraged Washington by leaking thousands of secret US documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and later leaked thousands of US diplomatic cables.

He believes his extradition to Sweden could pave the way for extradition to the US on possible espionage or conspiracy charges relating to the leaked documents.

'We're not involved'

Mr Robertson said an American grand jury had been sitting on Mr Assange for 18 months and could indict him at any point.

"He's far more vulnerable to an attempt to extradite him to America, where of course he will face very serious charges under the Espionage Act," he said.

But US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich has rejected those concerns, saying any suggestion of a secret US warrant against Mr Assange is an invention.

"There's absolutely no basis for the US to be interested in this," he said. "We're not involved."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government would continue to offer Mr Assange consular assistance.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the Government had been weak on the issue of assisting Mr Assange, and could be doing more to help him.

"They need to decide whether their allegiances are with Washington or the Australian public, which is, as someone has already said, actually very strongly in support of Julian and his colleagues."

US-NATO Setting Up Pretext For Attacking Syria

Are U.S.-NATO setting up pretext for attack on Syria?

Workers World statement -

Spokespeople from the NATO countries and their loyal media outlets have seized upon a massacre at Houla, Syria, to mobilize for open imperialist military intervention against the Syrian government and -- and no one should doubt this -- against the people of Syria. NATO governments have already begun expelling Syrian diplomats.

There seems to be no doubt at this time -- May 29 -- that a massacre took place. There is, however, much confusion about who exactly carried out the massacre. The corporate media is blaming the killings on the Syrian government and calling for foreign intervention. The Syrians, however, deny that their armed forces or police have taken part, blame the killings on the armed opposition and have themselves condemned the killings and are organizing an investigation.

While we have no special knowledge about what did or didn't happen, we do have a treasury of knowledge of how the imperialists have manipulated such events in order to justify a war or intervention on a "humanitarian" basis. It is this type of manipulation that anti-war and anti-imperialist forces should be most on the alert for.

The most recent such manipulation was in Libya last year, when the imperialist powers claimed there would be a "massacre" of civilians in the city of Benghazi, a center of monarchist opposition to Moammar Gadhafi, if there were no NATO intervention. This supposed threat became the pretext to win U.N. backing for a "no-fly zone" in Libya. France and Britain, with enormous U.S. logistical support, turned this "no-fly zone" into a military assault on the pro-Gadhafi regime and overthrew it, leaving Libya prey to the Western oil and energy monopolies.

In January 1999, the imperialists used the "Racak massacre." A group of reactionary commandos were killed in a gunfight with Serb military and police forces in the town of Racak, in the Kosovo province of Serbia. The reactionaries dressed the dead fighters up as civilians and claimed they were executed at close range. A few news media -- Le Figaro (Jan. 20, 1999) and a year later the Berliner Zeitung (March 24, 2000) -- exposed the more obvious inconsistencies in the “massacre” myth. A Finnish team led by Helena Ranta also discovered that all 23 dead were killed by gunfire at a distance. (See “Hidden Agenda: The U.S./NATO takeover of Yugoslavia,” International Action Center, 2002)

Nevertheless, NATO spokespeople and the corporate media spread the lie that there had been a massacre of civilians. U.S. and NATO forces used this pretext to justify 78 days of bombing of Serbia and the dismemberment of what remained of Yugoslavia.

There is no possible justification for imperialist intervention in Syria, whatever happened in Houla. NATO’s own bombing campaign in Afghanistan regularly kills civilians (See Miami Herald, May 29), but no one dare raises these crimes before the United Nations. NATO’s hypocrisy is all too familiar. The media campaign around Houla should put the anti-war movement on alert that the imperialists are preparing right now for another intervention.

We reprint here the Syrian government's side of the Houla story, slightly edited from a statement released by Damascus:

Makdessi: Syria will establish Investigative Committee on Houla Massacre


“Syria will establish an investigative committee on the Houla massacre, to issue results within three days,” said Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdissi in a press conference on May 27.

Makdissi has categorically denied responsibility of the Syrian forces for the massacre that took place in al-Houla area in Homs Province.

Makdissi also condemned in strongest terms this terrorist massacre against the Syrian civilians as he condemned the accusation that Syrian forces had done that.

"The Syrian state is responsible for protecting civilians according to the constitution and Syria preserves its right to defend its citizens," he said.

Makdissi stressed that no tanks or artillery entered al-Houla town and the law enforcement members never left their positions, rather they were in a state of self-defense.

"A military judicial committee was formed to conduct an investigation and the results will be announced in three days," Makdissi added.

The suspicious coincidence between the attacks in parallel with the visit of U.N. Special Envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, is a slap in the face of the political process, said Makdissi, adding that the brutal killing is alien to the ethics of the Syrian army.

He said that those who committed the killing are not the army but the armed terrorist groups.

The spokesperson added that what happened doesn't serve the interests of the Syrian state, stressing that "We don't trade with the Syrian blood." Makdissi stressed that there is no justification for carrying weapons against the dignity of the state whatever the political excuse, indicating that the terrorism and crimes increased since Syria's approval of Annan's plan because they don't want to make the plan a success.

The spokesperson for the Syrian Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry said that the armed terrorist groups committed more than 3,500 violations of Annan's plan, adding that "non-stability is a good environment for terrorists. … There are al-Qaeda and Takfiris [sectarian extremists] but we won't allow them to make use of this environment no matter how long the confrontation takes." Makdissi stressed that the solution to the crisis in Syria lies in lending a helping hand to the Syrian government.

Makdissi indicated that Syria wants a truce and his government is committed to Annan’s plan.

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