Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zvimba Mourns Heroine Sabina

Zvimba mourns heroine Sabina

By Takunda Maodza and Tendai Mugabe
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mugabe has thanked Zanu-PF’s Politburo and Government for according Cde Sabina Mugabe national heroine status, saying though she did not take up arms against the racist Rhodesian regime, his sister played a crucial role in Zimbabwe’s liberation.

Addressing mourners at the First Family’s homestead in Kutama Village, Zvimba yesterday, President Mugabe narrated his sister’s role before and after independence.

He said her death was not only a loss to the family and Zanu-PF, but to the country as a whole.

"Rukudzo rwatapiwa rukudzo rwemberi. Tino-fanira kutenda musangano neHurumende norukudzo rwakadai.

"Vemusangano nezuro (Thursday) vakagara pasi vakati mwanasikana akaita mushando mukuru.

"Hapana chatinovona chingatadzisa kuti apihwe rukudzo rwemberi — national heroine — agovigwa kunovigwa magamba makuru.

"Ava mumwe wevakadzi vashoma variku-Heroes Acre," he said.

Cde Sabina Mugabe becomes the sixth woman to be interred at the national shrine.

Visibly subdued by the loss of his sister, the President added: "Hongu tirikuchema asi tinofarawo kuti apembedzwa uyu; apembedzwa nenyika yose.

"Haana kuiita sevamwe vakadududza."

Cde Sabina Mugabe’s body was yesterday flown from Harare to her rural home in Zvimba by an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter as is the norm for national heroes and heroines.

The First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, Senate President Cde Edna Madzongwe and other senior Government and Zanu-PF officials accompanied the body.

Cde Sabina Mugabe’s two sons — Leo Mugabe and Patrick Zhuwawo — were part of the entourage that accompanied the heroine’s body.

At 1 Commando, uniformed military officers held a parade in her honour before placing the casket in the helicopter that flew the body to Kutama Village.

Her body lay in state at the First Family’s homestead last night and will be flown back to Harare today where a similar military ceremony will be held.

President Mugabe applauded the people of Zvimba for coming in their numbers to pay their last respects to the former Zvimba South legislator.

"Tinoda kukutendai norukudzo rwamatipa, muri kutirerutsira mutoro watinawo nekuremerwa kwatinako pamoyo yedu zvinoita kuti tisvimhe tichiziva kuti murikuchema nesu," he said.

President Mugabe narrated Cde Sabina Mugabe’s role during the Second Chimurenga, saying she acted as a link between jailed nationalists and the outside world.

"Uyu watirikuviga kuswera mangwana (Sunday) akaitawo mushando wake wekubatsira nezviito zvake.

"Tirimujeri paayiuya ndiye wandaipa magwaro ekuenda kunze kwenyika. Ndanga ndamuudza kuti tsamba unodziwana pakadai, rega kudziposta muno nekuti dzinovhurwa; enda kuKadoma."

Some of the letters, the President said, were to fellow nationalists in Zambia like the late chairman of the party, Cde Herbert Chitepo.

He said after independence, the late heroine initiated several projects in the various constituencies she represented as a legislator and as a party cadre.

The President said even on her deathbed, Cde Sabina Mugabe, who empowered a lot of women through businesses like animal husbandry and sewing, still spoke of her unfinished projects.

He spoke of how the family had battled to save the late heroine’s life after she suffered strokes in 1985 and 2005.

"Munoruzivo rwokuti vanga vava murwere kwemakore akati kuti nokuti chirwere chakamubata chakazomupa stroke chikakanganisa hupenyu hwake.

"Paakamborwara paye tikati dzimwe nguva akazokwanisa kufamba asi vanachiremba vanoti brain yake yanga yapazika.

"Nenguva zvakaramba zvichikura ukavamutoro mukuru," President Mugabe said.

He said the family was still not sure of what really caused Cde Sabina Mugabe’s death on Thurs-day morning at the Avenues Clinic.

Post-mortem results were yet to be released to the family.

President Mugabe challenged Zimbabweans to jealously safeguard Zimbabwe’s independence because many sons and daughters of the soil — like Cde Sabina Mugabe — had sacrificed immensely for this very cause.

Vice President Mujuru, her husband Retired General Solomon Mujuru, Zanu-PF’s Mashona-land West provincial political leadership and senior Government officials joined hundreds of mourners that gathered at the First Family’s Zvimba homestead to pay their last respects to the late heroine and champion of empowerment.

Meanwhile, condolence messages continued to pour in yesterday following Cde Sabina Mugabe’s death.

In a message to President Mugabe, First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe and the First Family yesterday, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, said Government was saddened by the death of Cde Sabina Mugabe.

"On behalf of the Vice Presidents, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and all the other members of Cabinet, I wish to convey to you Sir and your whole family our heartfelt condolences following the passing on of your beloved sister, Tete Sabina Mugabe, on 29 July, 2010 after a long illness.

"We have indeed been deeply saddened by this loss of an industrious mother, family pillar of strength and a true daughter of the soil, whose contribution to the national cause before and after the independence of our country shall remain indelibly etched in our minds," he said.

He said the First Family should take solace from the fact that Government and the entire nation was supporting them during their time of bereavement.

The Zimbabwe National Liberation Supporters’ Association also expressed its deep sadness.

Zinalisa president Cde Gabriel Chipare said: "Zinalisa has learnt with deep shock of the death of Cde Sabina Mugabe.

"We pay our condolences to the Mugabe family, the Zvimba community and Mashonaland West Province for the sad loss of a true visionary and liberator of the oppressed of Zimbabwe."

She will be buried at the National Heroes Acre tomorrow after the decision to honour her was unanimously reached on Thursday.

De Beers Hit by National Union of Mineworkers Strike Threat

De Beers hit by NUM strike threat

JOHANNESBURG: Workers may down tools at De Beers operations, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said in a statement yesterday.

This followed the union's allegations that De Beers' Finsch mine had overlooked retrenchment processes and was rushing to serve workers with section 189 notices.

The union said it had been engaged with the diamond giant in a section 189 process through which De Beers intended to retrench 350 workers.

The process has now been riddled with inconsistencies as the company wants to retrench without adhering to an agreement between itself and the union, NUM regional secretary in Kimberley, Tshimane Montoedi, said.

In terms of processes agreed upon at Nedlac (the National Economic Development and Labour Council) between business, labour and government, the company should have had a training layoff scheme in place before it voiced its intentions to retrench, Montoedi said.

The agreement sets out clear mechanisms and processes to be followed, but De Beers has now reneged on an earlier agreement.

Montoedi said De Beers had initially agreed to enlist the services of Productivity SA “a Section 21 company that reports to the labour minister “ to find a solution to the waste it argued was problematic to the ore at Finsch.

However, De Beers refused to implement the recommendations made by Productivity SA, Montoedi said.

Productivity SA had recommended that De Beers tap into the R6.2 billion set aside in the coffers of the Industrial Development Corporation for companies in distress, he said.

As a union, we will now have to find a way to apply the injury to one is an injury to all principle by downing tools in all of De Beers operations.

De Beers said its spokesman, Sibiya Sibusisiwe, would comment shortly.“ Sapa

Published on the web by Cape Argus on July 31, 2010.
Cape Argus 2010. All rights reserved.

A Witness to History: The Making of the Freedom Party

A witness to history:

The making of the Freedom Party

Published Jul 30, 2010 9:15 AM
By Paul Washington
Brooklyn, N.Y.

The evening gathering on June 11 at the historic Siloam Presbyterian Church, located in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, N.Y., will go down in the annals of New York state’s Black political history as a significant revolutionary development.

Our ancestors — Ella Baker, a founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Fannie Lou Hamer, a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, who also ran for Congress in Mississippi, though because of institutional racism her name was not allowed on the ballot; and Rev. Milton Galamison, who pastored Siloam from 1949 to 1988 — are smiling down from the Heavens as the Freedom Party gathers momentum and steam to become a viable third party in New York state. (While Rev. Galamison led civil rights boycotts and demonstrations against poverty and issues centered around social justice, it was his renowned leadership in school decentralization that put both his church and his name on the map.)

The co-chairs of this newly formed party are two highly respected and prominent leaders in the Black Liberation Movement: none other than Jitu Weusi, one of the founding members and Chief of Operations of the National Black United Front; along with one of the Queens of our movement, Viola Plummer, leader of the December 12th Movement and a founder of Sista’s Place. Weusi is also the founder of the historic East Cultural Center and the Uhuru Sasa Shule (school) from which this writer was one of its first graduates. Both of these individuals are veteran activists and fierce fighters for the political and economic empowerment of African people.

Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker used to set the tone and the atmosphere for numerous meetings through song as they registered record numbers of people to vote. In similar fashion and tradition, Viola began the meeting with her fiery and uplifting sloganeering, shouting, “When I say Freedom, you say Party!” When she shouted, “Freedom!” all the people shouted, “Party!”

But more importantly, at this second major public event, the community got a chance to meet and hear from the three candidates running at the top of the Freedom Party ticket — Charles Barron for governor, Eva M. Doyle for lieutenant governor and Ramon Jimenez for attorney general. The slate of the Freedom Party is clearly composed of dedicated individuals who have a deep, abiding commitment to social justice and self-determination for people of color. Through their pronouncements, you sensed an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist worldview that is pro-working-class.

Challenging the racist status quo

The audience consisted of various sectors of New York City’s diverse communities. People were riveted as council member Barron articulated the vision and ideological themes of the Freedom Party, such as “not balancing the state and city budgets on the backs of people of color nor the working class.” Brother Barron waxed in the Black oratorical tradition, using his favorite mantra, “White men have too much power.” This truism raises its ugly head when we look at the all-white slate of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who recently selected Mayor Robert Duffy of Rochester to be his running mate.

Brother Barron’s inspiring cadence makes one realize that there could not be a better intellectual, gifted rhetorician serving as the standard barrier of the Freedom Party than Charles Barron. As I sat in the audience with my four-year-old grandson, Tyrik Jr. (TJ), I overheard an elderly Black woman say to her husband, “[Charles] makes us proud.”

The diversity of the ticket is surely its strength, with the selection of Sister Doyle as lieutenant governor. This brilliant, dynamic activist/intellectual in the tradition of Ida B. Wells illuminates her scholarship as a writer of more than 10 books and her enduring influence as a public school teacher and radio commentator.

Sister Doyle, hailing from Buffalo, N.Y., introduced herself for the first time to a number of Bed-Stuy residents. Her downhome, yet razor sharp analysis put forward the critical need for providing an Afrocentric curriculum in the New York state educational system. Tracing her political, intellectual and spiritual evolution and hearing about her husband — a member of the Nation of Islam who recently joined the ancestors — were truly a touch of grace and charm.

Finally, her vast knowledge of the historic and contemporary contributions of Black people was captivating and inspiring. As you witnessed both the young and old sit on the edge of their seats listening to her, you recognized she is truly a woman of moral and physical courage.

Brother Ramon Jimenez, a Harvard-trained lawyer and organic intellectual whose roots follow in the footsteps of the great Puerto Rican nationalist and freedom fighter, Pedro Albizu Campos, is a New York City community activist. He spoke on the imperative for Blacks and Latinos/as to build coalitions and unity, and stressed that this unity has always been based on principle and develops “from the bottom up, not from the top down.”

In speaking before this attentive audience, he stated, “We have always worked together on a range of issues, from tenant organizing to the fight for the inclusion of Black and Puerto Rican studies throughout the CUNY system.”

Brother Ramon, a former judge on the Workers Compensation Board during the 1980s, stated that there were once a number of Black and Latino judges who sat on the bench during that timeframe. Now, however, “There is only one.” This clearly speaks to the need for fighting against systemic racism in the criminal justice system. Brother Jimenez reminded us that elected officials, through their role as instruments of government, must meet the material needs of oppressed communities. Those urgent needs relate to universal education, affordable public housing, accessible health care and other essential goods and services.

The final speaker for the evening was our “Attorney at War,” Alton Maddox, chairman of the United African Movement, a brilliant legal mind and political strategist. In many ways Brother Maddox’s legal skills follow in the tradition of the great Charles Hamilton Houston, “The man who killed Jim Crow.” Houston played a role in nearly every civil rights case before the Supreme Court during the 1930s. Similarly, Alton Maddox led and participated in almost every civil rights case in the 1980s — Howard Beach, Tawana Brawley, the Day of Outrage, etc. It was Alton’s genius and zeal during the 1990s that led the charge in the first serious attempt to create a Black-led third party, ironically called “The Freedom Party.”

In essence, Maddox’s overview of “Which Way Forward for the Freedom Party” was educative, enlightening and informative. He highlighted the nexus of the two organizing meetings taking place weekly on Tuesday evenings — one at Sista’s Place in Brooklyn, the other in Buffalo. It is clear there is a grassroots movement that is building energy and inspiring people across racial, ethnic and political lines.

In terms of political direction, numerous volunteers have come forward, hitting the streets around the state to collect the 15,000 signatures needed to gain ballot access for the formation of the Freedom Party in the November election. The Freedom Party will provide the people of this state with a choice and an opportunity to change the political paradigm in New York state and the entire United States of America.

Paul Washington is co-chair of Operation P.O.W.E.R. and the coordinator of the Black Male Initiative of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. He is also the author of the forthcoming book entitled “Black Radical Politics: A Vision for America!”
Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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With Recovery Slowing, the Jobs Outlook Dims

July 30, 2010

With Recovery Slowing, the Jobs Outlook Dims


There is no more disputing it: the economic recovery in the United States has indeed slowed.

The nation’s economy has been growing for a year, with few new jobs to show for it. Now, with the government reporting a growth rate of just 2.4 percent in the second quarter and federal stimulus measures fading, the jobs outlook appears even more discouraging.

“Given how weak the labor market is, how long we’ve been without real growth, the rest of this year is probably still going to feel like a recession,” said Prajakta Bhide, a research analyst for the United States economy at Roubini Global Economics. “It’s still positive growth — rather than contraction — but it’s going to be very, very protracted.”

A Commerce Department report on Friday showed that economic growth slipped sharply in the latest quarter from a much brisker pace earlier, an annual rate of 5 percent at the end of 2009 and 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Consumer spending, however, was weaker than initially indicated earlier in the recovery.

Many economists are forecasting a further slowdown in the second half of the year, perhaps to an annual rate as low as 1.5 percent. That is largely because businesses have refilled the stockroom shelves that were whittled down during the financial crisis, and there will not be much need for additional orders.

Additionally, the fiscal stimulus measures that have propped up growth are expiring. Proposals for individual programs like another expansion of unemployment benefits have been beaten back each time they have come up in Congress.

“We need 2.5 percent growth just to keep the unemployment rate where it is,” said Christina Romer, chairwoman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. “If you want to get it down quickly, you need substantially stronger growth than that. That’s what I’ve been saying for the last several quarters, and that’s why I’ve been hoping that we’ll please pass the jobs measures just sitting on the floor of Congress.”

The approaching midterm elections, however, may harden the political standoff after Congress returns from its August recess. As a result, pressure will probably increase on the Federal Reserve to use its available tools to prevent a double-dip recession. Recent reports from Fed policy makers suggest the central bank has become increasingly worried about where the economy is headed.

American businesses, if not American households, seem to be hanging on.

The crucial driver of growth in the second quarter was business investment in such things as office buildings and equipment and software. Such activity rocketed up at an annual rate of 17 percent in the second quarter, compared with a 7.8 percent increase in the first. The equipment and software category alone grew at an annual rate of 21.9 percent, the fastest pace in 12 years.

“We’re seeing a sort of handover from consumer spending to capital spending,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. “The consumer also looks to have saved more than we thought before, which means they’re perhaps further on the road to financial adjustment than we thought they were previously.”

Consumer spending, which is usually a leading indicator of a recovery and which accounts for most economic activity in the United States, has been leveling off. It grew at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the second quarter after a 1.9 percent rate in the previous quarter.

Personal savings was estimated at 6.2 percent of disposable income last quarter, significantly higher than the 4 percent that had been estimated earlier.

A separate report released on Friday by the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters showed that consumer confidence tumbled in July.

The fact that businesses seem to be investing more in equipment than in hiring may be a reason consumers have been reluctant, or perhaps unable, to pick up the pace of their spending.

“There are limits on the degree to which you can substitute capital for labor,” Mr. Ryding said. “But you can understand that businesses don’t have to pay health care on equipment and software, and these get better tax treatment than you get for hiring people. If you can get away with upgrading capital spending and deferring hiring for a while, that makes economic sense, especially in this uncertain policy environment.”

The government painted a portrait of a deeper recession when it also released revised data for the last three years on Friday. Over all, 2009 and 2008 were slightly worse than previously reported, but the first quarter of 2010 was better.

As the global economy recovers, America’s trade has picked up. But imports once again grew faster than exports. Imports grew at an annual rate of 28.8 percent, the biggest jump in a quarter-century, compared with a 10.3 percent gain in exports.

Government spending shot up more than many anticipated, at an annual growth rate of 4.4 percent after a decline of 1.6 percent in the first quarter. Public spending was broad-based, with even state and local expenditures increasing for the first time in a year. Local governments may have taken advantage of warmer weather to use more of their federal stimulus money.

“You could see this in the monthly number for state and local construction spending,” said Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight. “Construction slows down during winter months, so stimulus may not have been doing as much earlier this year.”

Other policy initiatives, like the homebuyer’s tax credit, also appear to have lifted demand. Consumers rushing to take advantage of the credit as it was nearing its expiration pushed up spending on housing and related property investments by an annual pace of 27.9 percent in the second quarter. Such spending had fallen 12.3 percent the previous period.

“This will almost certainly reverse hard next quarter,” Jay Feldman, director of economics at Credit Suisse Securities, wrote in a note to clients.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire, Leads Class on U.S. Militarism in Africa, Sat., 5:00-7:00pm

For Immediate Release

Detroit Public Class & Discussion

Topic: "Pentagon Expands U.S. Role in Africa"
Date: Saturday, July 31, 2010, 5:00-7:00pm
Facilitator: Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire
Location: 5920 Second Ave. at Antoinette, North of WSU Campus
Sponsors: Workers World Party & The Harriet Tubman School
Contact: 313.671.3715

Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire, to Lead Class on Expanding U.S. Military Intervention in Africa

The Pentagon is increasing its military involvement on the African continent. With the founding of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008, the imperialists have poured more money and military personnel into Uganda, Somalia, Mali, Egypt, the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea.

There have been war games by the U.S. military in West Africa and threats to engage in more aggressive actions against Somalia in order to prop-up the puppet Transitional Federal Government. In addition there are ongoing U.S. efforts to destabilize Zimbabwe, Sudan and Nigeria.

This intervention is taking place at the same time that increasing amounts of oil are being imported into the U.S. from Africa, which has outstripped the Middle-East in the supply of petroleum to North America. This emphasis on military and profit-making ventures is redirecting resources away from much needed development assistance in the areas of healthcare, public service, education, women's affairs, agricultural development and mounting food deficits in the Sahel and in East Africa.

Come out and join this important discussion which has serious implications for the anti-war movement in the United States and Western Europe.

There will also be a report back from the MECAWI delegation that attended the United National Anti-War Conference held in Albany, N.Y. between July 23-25.

Admission to the class in free. Light refreshments will be served.

Celebrating the Life of a Warrior Queen: Mama Njeri Alghanee

Celebrating the life of a Warrior Queen

By Dianne Mathiowetz
Published Jul 30, 2010 7:52 AM

The rhythmic sound of African drums filled the air and brought hundreds of mourners into harmony in tribute to Sister Njere Alghanee, first on July 2 at the Tupac Shakur Center for the Arts and then at many home-going celebrations on July 3.

A respected leader of the reparations movement in the U.S., Alghanee had served in several capacities for NCOBRA, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, and was a national co-chair at the time of her death.

Alghanee died in a tragic car accident in Atlanta on June 24, when the car she was riding in lost power on the interstate and was hit by an 18-wheeler. It was her 58th birthday. Her son, Biko, suffered broken bones.

She had left the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit on that day to return home to Atlanta so she could prepare to leave for the NCOBRA conference in New Orleans the next morning.

Alghanee’s life was dedicated to the liberation of African peoples. As a teenager in Indianapolis she joined the Black Panther Party and continued her activism as a student at Wayne State University in Detroit.

She became a citizen of The Republic of New Africa and was a vocal supporter of African liberation struggles in Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Detroit was a center of revolutionary Black political activism, and she established relationships with many who are today leaders of such organizations as the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and The Republic of New Africa, as well as elected officials in Detroit and Mississippi.

Among Alghanee’s many areas of work was her unceasing concern for the many political prisoners who have now spent decades in prisons as a result of their stands against racism and police terror.

With degrees in mass communications and early childhood education, Alghanee held executive positions at the Georgia Citizen’s Coalition on Hunger and the Georgia Advocates for Battered Women and Children. She also devoted considerable energy to Disabled in Action, consistently including the struggle of this marginalized community in the overall liberation agenda. Several schools, community arts centers, youth programs and women’s organizations credit Alghanee’s vision and skills for their creation and continued success.

Known as Sister Courage on her weekly radio show on WRFG 89.3 FM, Atlanta’s progressive community station, Alghanee created a space for the issues of reparations, racism, political prisoners and grassroots organizing to be analyzed and discussed.

Mama Njere, as she was affectionately called, had six children and was the proud grandmother of three.

Dozens of laudatory tributes brought applause, tears and laughter to the many hundreds of family members, fellow activists and community supporters who traveled from across the U.S. to honor the contributions of this warrior for the people.

When speakers recalled her radiant smile and steady personality, unfailing love for justice for all those oppressed and exploited, dedication to the liberation of African people, and optimistic and hopeful spirit, all present knew just what they were talking about.

From the national and local leadership of NCOBRA to the co-hosts of her radio program, “What Good Is a Song,” all declared that the life’s work of Sister Njere would go forward.

Njere Alghanee, ¡presente!
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President Jacob Zuma to Abolish Six South African "Monarchies"

Jacob Zuma to abolish six South African monarchies

South Africa moves to bury apartheid era legacy, saying kings were appointed as part of divide-and-rule strategy

David Smith in Johannesburg,
Friday 30 July 2010 15.45 BST

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini will not be affected by Jacob Zuma's ruling.

Nearly half of South Africa's traditional monarchies are to be abolished in a government move to bury another legacy of the apartheid era.

Some of the kings were originally appointed by the white minority government with few legitimate claims to their thrones, a report found. They were part of a divide and rule strategy to undermine opposition to the apartheid regime, said Jacob Zuma, the South African president.

Zuma announced that six out of 13 monarchies would be derecognised to correct "the wrongs of the past" and defuse tensions among rival leaders. He stressed that no one would be accused of being an apartheid collaborator.

South Africa is a constitutional democracy and its traditional monarchs are symbolic figureheads with little political power, although they still preside over hearings to resolve tribal disputes. The National House of Traditional Leaders advises parliament on issues of customary law.

Seven of South Africa's 13 kingships were approved after a six-year study by the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims. The other six will end when the incumbent ruler dies, with their successors becoming lower-ranking leaders.

"The apartheid regime created its own traditional leadership at the expense of authentic leadership in some communities," Zuma said. "It was how those in charge divided and disunited people.

"We urge all communities to accept the findings in the spirit of correcting the wrongs of the past, and as part of the country's nation-building efforts."

The move will also mean savings for the South African taxpayer because each monarchy is subsidised by the government.

Zuma added: "The finding must help all affected communities to begin the path of acceptance, healing and reconciliation.

"We have always been able to find ways of resolving issues, and of accepting even the most difficult of solutions for the good of the country. We must face the truth, even if it is uncomfortable, and move forward."

But leaders of the six kingships affected by the move have said they will challenge their demotion in court. One political analyst, who did not wish to be named, said: "Whatever the circumstances of their appointment, some of the leaders have come to think of themselves as royalty and won't go quietly.

In some contexts, there is a risk of violence between rival groups."

But Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, described the threat of violence as "implausible". He added: "There will be quibbles over which monarchies were legitimate and which weren't, but there was a great deal of manipulation under apartheid of traditional institutions. The decisions look pretty expected and sensible."

The leaders of South Africa's two biggest tribal groups, the Zulus and Xhosas, will not be affected. Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, who has six wives, demonstrated his influence recently by launching a campaign to the revive the custom of male circumcision as a means of combating HIV/ Aids.

Another king to survive the cull is Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo of the AbaThembu clan, who has urged about half the nation, including Johannesburg, to secede from South Africa. This was after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year for charges including culpable homicide, arson and assault.

Khosi Fhumulani Kutama, chairman of the National House of Traditional Leaders, said he would attempt to persuade the affected monarchs of the merits of the decision.

"We have been waiting for this decision for a long time," he told South Africa's Mercury newspaper. "It will help us build our democracy. It is important that people accept it not only for the institution of traditional leadership but for the whole country."

Afghanistan Rebellion Ignites After United States Embassy Vehicles Kill Civilians in Kabul

Friday, July 30, 2010
18:05 Mecca time, 15:05 GMT

Afghans riot after deadly accident

Security forces fear the Kabul incident may trigger more violence

Rioters in the Afghan capital have set fire to two US embassy vehicles shouting "death to America" after one of the SUVs collided with a civilian car killing a number of passengers, officials and witnesses have said.

Police fired into the air to disperse the crowd of angry Afghans who threw stones and chanted "death to Karzai" in reference to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan James Bays said the exact details of the incident are still unclear, but security officials are concerned.

"Some in the crowds said people got out of a [passenger] vehicle and embassy guards started firing," our correspondent said on Friday.

Nato's International security assistance force (Isaf) said it had dispatched a quick reaction force to the area outside the American embassy and near Afghan and US army bases in the centre of Kabul.

Saleh Ahmed, a local resident in Kabul, said the accident happend when the civilian vehicle attempted to drive onto the main road from a side street and was hit by one of the two SUVs.

"The civilian vehicle was trying to get into the main road when the two foreign vehicles hit it and killed all four occupants," Ahmed said.

"People gathered around the crash site to see what happened, got angry and started attacking the foreigners."

Security concerns

Security forces were concerned that the deadly traffic accident could lead to widespread rioting, our correspondent said.

A similar accident in May 2006 led to massive riots in Kabul that left at least 14 people dead.

The area "seems to have calmed down for now, but authorities are very concerned", our correspondent said.

Outside of the capital, six US soldiers were killed in a series of attacks in Afghanistan, bringing this month's death toll to at least 66, making July the deadliest month for American forces in nearly nine years of war.

In southern Afghanistan, one US soldier died following an insurgent attack and two others were killed in a roadside bombing on Friday, the US military said.

Earlier on Friday, Nato said that three service members died in southern Afghanistan on Thursday.

The statement did not provide the nationalities of the dead, but US officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said all three were Americans.

June had previously been the deadliest month for US troops as well as the overall Nato led force.

A total of 104 international troops died in June, including 60 Americans, according to a tally compiled by Associated Press.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Block Out: Dealing With a Deepening Foreclosure Crisis

Block out : Dealing with a deepening foreclosure crisis

By Curt Guyette

A small group of people gathered on Detroit's west side last week to celebrate what appeared to be a victory. It looked as if Marvin and Louise Morris, both in their late 70s, would be staying in the modest house they've lived in for 32 years.

The problem, says attorney Jerome Goldberg of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, is that such victories are far too rare. And one of the reasons for that is the government programs intended to keep people in their homes are largely failing to stem a massive wave of foreclosures that has yet to crest.

The federal programs intended to keep people in their homes are largely ineffective, serving as a "silent bailout of the banks," says Goldberg. What's really needed, he says, is what his organization has long been advocating: a moratorium on foreclosures.

Goldberg and the attorney he shares a Detroit office with, Vanessa Fluker, are like foot soldiers on the frontlines of the foreclosure battle, seeing firsthand the devastating effects of America's mortgage crisis.

But you don't have to be at Ground Zero to know that the fight to help keep people in their homes is largely being lost. Last week, a day before Marvin Morris was passing around pizza as a way of thanking supporters, the New York Times was reporting this news regarding the Obama administration's program to help prevent foreclosures:

"Only 390,000 homeowners have seen their mortgage terms permanently modified since the $50 billion program was announced in March 2009. That is a small fraction of the three to four million borrowers who were supposed to receive assistance under the program, which is financed by money from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout authorized in late 2008."

That information comes from a report to Congress from the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee last week, Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the bailout, pulled no punches: "Fifteen months into this program, for every one family that appears to have made it to a permanent modification that's likely to stabilize that family in that home, 10 more have been moved out through foreclosure."

Although the program provides incentive fees to lenders who renegotiate mortgage terms, Warren made this criticism of what's known as the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP: "In many cases, the servicers can continue to make more money if the family goes through foreclosure. It's just not a program that's working for homeowners. It's not a program in some cases that's working for investors. And most importantly, it's not a program that's working for the economy overall."

That view is shared by the special inspector general serving as a watchdog of bailout funds. In a July report to Congress, he noted that the number of permanent loan modifications resulting from HAMP remains "anemic," and that the program has "not put an appreciable dent in foreclosure filings."

In fact, instead of decreasing, the number of foreclosures could hit a dubious record this year. The Associated Press reported earlier this month that "nearly 528,000 homes were taken over by lenders in the first six months of the year, a rate that is on track to eclipse the more than 900,000 homes repossessed in 2009."

More than 1 million homes will be lost to foreclosure this year if the current trend continues. One expert has called that number "unprecedented."

The news for Michigan is equally bleak. The California-based firm RealtyTrac, according to published reports, has said that during the first six months of this year Michigan's foreclosure rate jumped 29 percent when compared to the same time frame in 2009. For metro Detroit, foreclosures shot up 35 percent, with 47,000 homes being foreclosed on from June through January. Michigan Public Radio reported that's the highest level of foreclosures since the housing crisis erupted in 2007.

Goldberg, from his street-level vantage point, is seeing a couple of disturbing trends. One is the changing nature of homeowners facing foreclosure. At the outset, he says, it was primarily people who had fallen victim to predatory lending schemes that were losing their homes once the initial low rates that lured them in began to escalate.

What he's seeing now, though, are large numbers of people who are falling behind because they have lost their jobs. Beginning in the 1990s, as housing prices escalated and interest rates fell, many homeowners relied on refinancing mortgages to keep afloat financially. But now that the housing bubble has burst and lending has constricted, that's no longer an option for most. Making matters worse is the foreclosure crisis, which experts say is further depressing home prices because of the low prices foreclosed homes sell for.

So, as foreclosures continue to drive down the values of neighboring homes, more and more people are finding themselves "under water," meaning that they owe more than the property is worth. Which means that, if jobs are lost, they can neither afford to sell their home nor stay in it.

"I tend to look on the rosy side of almost everything," former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich told National Public Radio in April, "but when you look at the job situation, look closely at the number of jobs that have been lost so far in this Great Recession, acknowledge that consumers, who make up 70 percent of the economy, just are not going to have the ability to use their homes as cash machines any longer, because housing prices have fallen so much — unlike the so-called recovery between 2001 and 2007."

Looking to the future, Reich predicted that the road to recovery "is going to be a long slog."

What's not widely understood, says Goldberg, is the government's role in perpetuating the crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac use taxpayer money to guarantee more than 50 percent of the mortgages in the nation, and lenders are able to recover the full cost when those loans fail. The same is true of loans backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Administration.

When those foreclosed homes are re-sold — usually for a fraction of the amount that is owed on them — taxpayers are essentially covering the loss, says Goldberg.

The cruel irony, he says, is that the homeowners could often afford to stay in the homes at the bargain prices investors are scooping them up for. Instead, these former homeowners are being forced to become renters.

The solution, argues Goldberg and other activists, is a moratorium on foreclosures. It was a topic of much discussion among those attending the recent U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. But with powerful lenders opposed to that approach, and with politicians succumbing to the clout those lenders still wield, the idea of instituting a moratorium has yet to gain traction in the halls of power. Here in Michigan, state Sen. Hansen Clarke introduced moratorium legislation in 2008. His bill never made it out of committee.

Absent that, Goldberg and other members are relying on public pressure to help shame lenders into backing off of foreclosures in some of the most egregious cases, such as that of Marvin and Louise Morris.

The retired couple, who now live on about $1,000 a month, bought their home on Plainview in 1978 for $18,000 cash, took out a "predatory" loan for refinancing several years ago, and have been fighting to keep their place ever since. With the mortgage company attempting to collect less than $8,000, which the couple and their lawyer say isn't owed, the couple faced eviction. With the help of attorney Fluker, who took their case to the state Supreme Court, their lender appeared to be backing off last week as Moratorium NOW! members rallied to the support of the Morrises.

"The minute we start to mobilize, and [lenders] start feeling the heat, we get a response," Goldberg shouted into a bullhorn.

Change isn't going to come from the top down. To win this fight, Goldberg says, "people are going to have to mobilize, block by block."

Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-804 or

Somali Resistance Forces Warn U.S.-backed AMISOM Troops

Friday, July 30, 2010
08:05 Mecca time, 05:05 GMT

Al-Shabab threatens AU peacekeepers

Thousands of new African Union troops will be sent to Somalia to tackle al-Shabab fighters

The armed group leading the fight against Somalia's beleagured transitional government has warned that it will turn Mogadishu into a "graveyard" for extra African Union troops sent to the country.

Al-Shabab, which has been accused of links to al-Qaeda, warned that a decision earlier this week to send extra troops to the Horn of Africa nation would only strengthen their resolve to overthrow the government.

"The extra troops they said are planning to send here will not be different from those they deployed before. By the will of Allah, Mogadishu will be their graveyard, while their families will cry back home," Ali Mahamud Rage, the group's spokesman, said on Thursday.

"(Somalia transitional) government initially failed to convince its infidel masters to boost their military presence in Somalia, and now that they are claiming to be sending more troops to Mogadishu, it will only intensify the holy war against them," he said.

The African Union held a three-day summit in Kampala earlier this week where it agreed to boost its peacekeeping force by sending another 4,000 troops, saying it was important to improve security in Somalia and in surrounding countries.

Broadening reach

The decision came after al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a double bombing in Kampala that left 76 people dead on July 11, which it said was punishment for Uganda's lead role in the peacekeeping force.

The attack, the first launched by al-Shabab outside of Somalia, demonstrated the group's increasing influence and broadening reach ahead of the AU summit.

The current 6000-strong AU force in Somalia has been engaged in fierce fighting with al-Shabab, but has been restricted to retaliatory fire by the mandate it has been operating under.

Human rights groups warn that if the troops are allowed to expand their operations, civilians in Somalia will be further exposed to violence. Thousands have been killed in crossfire this year alone as battles between government troops and al-Shabab fighters have raged in the streets of Mogadishu.

Somalia has been wracked by conflict for decades, with the latest bout of fighting erupting after Ethiopean troops, operating with US approval, invaded and overthrew the Union of Islamic Courts, whose rule had brought a period of relative stability to the troubled country.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fifth Man Charged in Shooting of Former Rwandan General in South Africa

Fifth man charged in S.Africa in Rwandan general's shooting

(AFP) – JOHANNESBURG — A fifth person has been charged in a South African court for attempting to murder an exiled army general from Rwanda, the prosecutor's office said Thursday.

Pascal Kanyanbekwe was charged with attempted murder, along with Juma Huseni, Ahmed Ali, George Francis and Shafiri Bakari, who had been earlier charged in the case that has caused diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

The five were accused in the June 19 shooting of exiled General Faustin Nyamwasa outside his Johannesburg home, four months after he came to South Africa to seek asylum.

"Investigations are still being conducted," National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told AFP. He added that authorities are also checking "whether they are legally in the country or not."

South African officials have yet to reveal the nationalities of the suspects.

The five return to court on August 12.

Nyamwasa has been in exile in South Africa since February after being accused of trying to destabilize Rwanda, where he has been linked to three grenade attacks in Kigali.

South Africa is still considering a Rwandan extradition request for Nyamwasa.

Pretoria has accused "foreign agents" in the shooting, while carefully avoiding any accusation against Rwanda, which has denied any links to the shooting.

Rwanda has accused Nyamwasa and former army colonel Patrick Karegeya of masterminding grenade attacks earlier this year in the run-up to presidential elections in August.

Arab League Wants U.S. Guarantees on Palestine Talks

Thursday, July 29, 2010
21:51 Mecca time, 18:51 GMT

Arab League wants US guarantees

Arab League has declined to endorse an immediate resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying it needs further guarantees from the United States before approving talks.

Arab foreign ministers said at a meeting in Cairo on Thursday that they agreed in principle to the direct talks, but only subject to certain "measures and conditions".

"There is agreement, but [it is] agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the Qatari foreign minister.

Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, said that direct negotiations should be preceded by "written guarantees" from the United States, particularly on the subject of Israeli settlements.

"We are not against negotiations," Moussa said. "But... we cannot accept talks with no preconditions."

'Decisions to be made'

Moussa said on Thursday that Barack Obama, the US president, sent a letter to Abbas including "some guarantees".

He did not reveal the contents of the letter, however, and said the Arab League had further questions for Obama, which were included in a letter sent to the US embassy in Cairo.

The Palestinian Authority said any final decision about re-entering negotiations would depend on the US response.

"There is a green light from the Arabs to go to direct negotiations if we receive terms of reference... in line with the letter," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, an aide to Abbas.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, travelled to the Egyptian capital on Thursday to discuss the issue with the Arab foreign ministers.

Abbas wants a guarantee that the Israeli government will completely halt settlement construction in occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Settlement freeze

Israel is currently nearing the end of a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank, which is set to expire in September.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, warned on Wednesday that his government will collapse if he extends the freeze.

Settlement construction in east Jerusalem continues unabated.

"When I receive written assurances [about] accepting the 1967 borders and halting settlement [building], I will go immediately to the direct talks," Abbas said before the Arab League meeting.

The US state department said Obama would "carefully study" the requests in the Arab League's letter.

"We feel the time is right [for direct talks]," said PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman. "We hope to have these negotiations begin quite soon, but obviously there are still decisions to be made."

Direct talks have been suspended since Israel's three-week war in Gaza began in December 2008.

The Arab League meeting comes the day after Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah met in Sharm al-Shaikh to discuss the Arab-Israeli "peace process".

Source: Al Jazeera

Shirley Sherrod Plans to Sue Right-wing Blogger

Ousted USDA employee Sherrod plans to sue blogger

AP - Thursday, July 29, 2010 4:10:28 PM
Ousted Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday she will sue a conservative blogger who posted a video edited in a way that made her appear racist.

Sherrod was forced to resign last week as director of rural development in Georgia after Andrew Breitbart posted the edited video online. In the full video, Sherrod, who is black, spoke to a local NAACP group about racial reconciliation and overcoming her initial reluctance to help a white farmer.

Speaking Thursday at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, Sherrod said she would definitely sue over the video that took her remarks out of context. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has since offered Sherrod a new job in the department. She has not decided whether to accept.

Sherrod said she had not received an apology from Breitbart and no longer wanted one. "He had to know that he was targeting me," she said.

Breitbart did not immediately respond to a call or e-mails seeking comment. He has said he posted the portion of the speech where she expresses reservations about helping the white farmer to prove that racism exists in the NAACP, which had just demanded that the tea party movement renounce any bigoted elements. Some members of the NAACP audience appeared to approve when Sherrod described her reluctance to help the farmer.

The farmer came forward after Sherrod resigned, saying she ended up helping save his farm.

Vilsack and President Barack Obama later called Sherrod to apologize for her hasty ouster. Obama said Thursday that Sherrod "deserves better than what happened last week."

Addressing the National Urban League, he said the full story Sherrod was trying to tell "is exactly the kind of story we need to hear in America."

Obama has acknowledged that people in his administration overreacted without having full information, and says part of the blame lies with a media culture that seeks conflict but not all the facts.

At the journalists convention, Sherrod was asked what could be done to ensure accurate coverage as conservatives like Breitbart attack the NAACP and other liberal groups.

Sherrod, 62, responded that members of her generation who were in the civil rights movement "tried too much to shield that hurt and pain from younger people. We have to do a better job of helping those individuals who get these positions, in the media, in educational institutions, in the presidency, we have to make sure they understand the history so they can do a better job."

She said Obama is one of those who need a history lesson.

"That's why I invited him to southwest Georgia. I need to take him around and show him some of that history," Sherrod said.

Sherrod said the description of the new job she has been offered in the office of advocacy and outreach was a "draft," and she questioned whether any money had been budgeted for its programs.

"I have many, many questions before I can make a decision," she said.

Despite her experience, Sherrod said she believes the country can heal its racial divisions -- if people are willing to confront the issue.

"Young African-Americans, young whites, too, we've done such a job of trying to be mainstream that we push things under the rug that we need to talk about. And then we get to situations like this," she said.

"I truly believe that we can come together in this country. But you don't (come together) by not talking to each other. You don't get there by pushing things under the rug."

Sherrod said her faulty firing should not be blamed on all media.

Before the full video was released, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said Sherrod should be fired, and others called her speech racist. O'Reilly later apologized.

"They had a chance to get the facts out, and they weren't interested," Sherrod said.

She said she declined to give Fox an interview because she believed they were not interested in pursuing the truth. "They would have twisted it," she said.

A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He is reachable at jwashington(at)

Detroit Demonstration Today Demanding the Full Repeal of Arizona's Racial Profiling Law

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
Thursday, July 29, 2010

Event: Demonstrate to Repeal Arizona Apartheid Law in Full
Date: Today, 4:30-5:30pm
Location: McNamara Federal Bldg., Michigan at Cass, Downtown
Sponsors: Centro Obrero, Latinos Unidos, MECAWI, MWRO, DCAPB, Moratorium NOW!
Contact: 313.671.3715, 580.5474

Despite Injunction People Must Fight to Overturn Arizona's SB 1070
Racial Profiling Law in Full; Gather Today in Downtown Detroit at the Federal Bldg., Michigan at Cass, 4:30pm

Even though a federal court issued a temporary injunction suspending aspects of the racial profiling law targeting immigrants in Arizona, civil rights and human rights organizations across the country will hold demonstrations today demanding the overturning of such an unjust bill in full.

On April 23, 2010, the governor of Arizona signed into law SB 1070, a
law that legalizes racial profiling and criminalizes undocumented
persons as "trespassers" and makes it a crime to be without your
passport, green card, visa or state identification.

In Michigan a copycat law has been introduced in the State Legislature that would also subject people of color to racial profiling. Numerous groups in Arizona have called for a National Day of Action against SB 1070 on July 29.

Join us in demanding a repeal of the racist, anti-immigrant Arizona SB 1070 bill and in opposing the introduction of similar repressive
legislation in Michigan.

Please bring anti-racist signs demanding the repeal of this unjust law targeting our immigrant brothers and sisters as well as all people of color.

AMISOM Troops to Launch More Aggressive Attacks in Somalia

AU troops to carry out attacks


KAMPALA. African Union troops in Somalia can now carry out pre-emptive attacks against Islamist insurgents, following a change in the rules of engagement for the force, the Ugandan military said yesterday.

"Now the forces are free to attack in a pre-emptive manner,’ said Felix Kulayigye, a spokesman for the Ugandan military, which makes up the bulk of the AU mission in war-torn Mogadishu.

"If there is a realisation that you are about to be attacked you are mandated to attack first."

The change in the rules comes after Somalia’s hardline Shebab militia, which is fighting to topple the Western-backed government, claimed July 11 bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala that killed 76 people.

African Union peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said on Monday that the regional body had set up new rules of engagement for the AU mission in Somalia, which so far could only respond when first attacked.

More than 30 African heads of state winding up a three-day summit in the Ugandan capital Tuesday also agreed to boost the troop level by 2 000.

However, the leaders were yet to agree on whether to completely change the force’s madate under chapter seven of the UN charter.

"The decision about the mandate is still being taken, but I think there is a realisation that chapter seven is difficult," Ugandan foreign ministry permanent secretary James Mugume told AFP.

"What we are hoping for is chapter six and a half. It involves an adjustment in the rules of engagement that allows us to act more robustly.

"A change to six and a half would still require consultations with the UN Security Council," he explained.

The AU force currently comprises some 6 000 Ugandan and Burundian troops and the additional soldiers are to increase its level to the intended full strength. — AFP.

The Role of WikiLeaks: Blowing the Whistle on United States War Crimes Against Iraq and Afghanistan

Blowing the whistle

By Andrew Fowler
Reprinted From Al Jazeera

Check out

The leak of more than 90,000 US military files by whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks is one of the biggest in US military history.

The London press conference by Julian Assange was also a rare public appearance for the WikiLeaks founder who has been dubbed "one of the most dangerous men in the world" by critics. To supporters he is a hero, the godfather of whistleblowers.

But what of Assange and his organisation? The US authorities have made it plain they would like to talk to him about the leaks. But as Australian reporter Andrew Fowler explains so far he has proved elusive.

It used to be nondescript parcels on the doorstep, cryptic phone calls at midnight or shadowy meetings in underground car parks. Now explosive information is more likely to arrive - to the tune of a novelty sound effect - in an email.

But profound and important questions surround the transaction of secret, highly sensitive, classified material. Governments and big business are fiercely protective of their internal dynamics and are increasingly coming down hard on leakers and whistleblowers.

The public though demand and defend their right to know when governments they have installed are making decisions on their behalf, or the actions of big business impact their lives. And so a group of one-time hackers and activists are trying to build a global truth machine: WikiLeaks.

Is the founder of WikiLeaks now one of the most dangerous men in the world?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a hesitant, quietly spoken Australian, has become the global face of a nebulous operation with secret computer servers in a number of countries and aspirations to build an information freedom zone - the leaker's equivalent of a tax haven - in Iceland.

WikiLeaks exploded into prominence earlier this year when it released hitherto top secret video of a helicopter gunship strafing and killing more than a dozen people in Baghdad including media covering the war. The footage caused outrage around the world.

The Wiki-team spent some time stripping the video of any electronic fingerprints that would expose the insiders who leaked it and then launched it online under the banner Collateral Murder replete with damning Orwellian quotes.

Critics call this reckless, potentially dangerous activism not journalism.

The WikiLeaks exclusive illuminated the failures of the mainstream media and made Assange an enemy of the US government.

"Leaking is inherently an anti-authoritarian act. It is inherently an anarchist act," Assange says.

Cracking down

Assange's hero, Daniel Ellsberg, famous for outing US government lies about the Vietnam War, was once called the most dangerous man in the US.

"I believe that Barack Obama was lying when he implied to the public in his State of the Union Message, just like Lyndon Johnson in '65 that there was a limit, a low limit to what he's going to put into Afghanistan," Ellsberg says.

"I'm sure it's a high priority for them to try to neutralise him one way or another and I wouldn't exclude physical danger, but in particular, trying to find ways that discredit him or to keep him from communicating with possible sources, is a very high priority for them."

Ellsberg should know. In 1971 he leaked the Pentagon papers. Until recently, he was one of the few US government employees ever to be prosecuted for leaking. But the Obama administration is cracking down on whistle-blowers. In 17 months it has outdone all previous administrations in pursuing leakers.

"The Obama administration is as secretive as the Bush administration in matters of so-called national security, in matters of war and peace and aggression and in many cases have gone beyond Bush, so I hope that in the future WikiLeaks will induce a great deal more leaking," Ellsberg says.

For the past three years WikiLeaks has challenged governments everywhere - outing human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay, exposing political murders in Africa and banks laundering money through off shore tax havens.

WikiLeaks has hit the political left and right and won media awards from Amnesty International and the Economist magazine.

Naturally enough WikiLeaks is very guarded and difficult to track down. Arranging meetings involves a lot of cloak and dagger - conversations in lifts so no one can be bugged, locations and times of meetings shift at the last minute.

"It may seem elaborate to you but it just seems every day to me. The issue is not my safety. Rather the issue is the safety of our sources, so there's some simple precautions but it's enough to make it costly and inconvenient to spy on us and try and find out who our sources are," Assange says.

WikiLeaks built an information system it thinks is foolproof. Instead of secret documents physically changing hands, they are anonymously sent to digital drop boxes and stored on servers around the world. Finally they are posted on the WikiLeaks site.

"What we want to create is a system where there is guaranteed free press across the world, the entire world, that every individual in the world has the ability to publish materials that are meaningful," Assange says.

"We are kept honest by the fact that we release primary source material and journalists who base their articles on us, on our materials are also kept honest because readers can check ... [what] the primary source[s] say."

Teenage hackers club

In 1989, the teenage hackers club around Assange targeted the US space mission

It has been a meteoric ride to the top for Assange. His WikiLeaks idea grew out of a Melbourne teenage computer hackers club in the 1980s known as the International Subversives.

In October 1989 the hackers targeted the US space mission.

"This kind of an attack was really something that nobody thought was going to happen and later we would describe things as an electronic Pearl Harbour," Ron Tencati, a former manager of NASA Cyber security, says.

Tencati was on duty at NASA control when the computers went haywire. As control staff prepared for the launch of the nuclear powered Galileo probe aboard the Atlantis Space Shuttle, the word 'WANK' stared back at them from their screens.

"When you see this banner that says 'Worms Against Nuclear Killers' and, you know, we at the time at NASA we had a shuttle on the launch pad about to launch that had plutonium energy canisters for its power source. If this blew up like the Challenger did, all of this plutonium is going to kill everybody in Florida," Tencati says.

One clue to where the attack came from appeared at the bottom of the screen, the lyrics of Australian rock band Midnight Oil: "You talk of times of peace for all and then prepare for war."

Assange was part of the hacker club, but specifically denies being involved in the NASA attack. Nevertheless, police attention focused on his activities. Ken Day was part of the investigating team.

"He was monitoring what we were up to and knew that we would be coming some time, but we were monitoring him monitoring us so we were one step ahead of him. For Julian Assange and all the hackers it was ego. They were there in a very new field and they had to prove they were the best," Day says.

Police tracked Assange's hacking to Melbourne's main telephone exchange. He was piggy-backing on its computer power to launch his overseas adventures.

He was charged with computer offences, but the court let him off with a fine and a suspended sentence.

By then Assange had felt the power and the scope of a developing network.

"To be exploring the world and being involved in international politics from your bedroom, it was certainly a feeling that you were on the right path, that this was an extremely educational experience and you were able to do a little bit about the things that were pissing you off," Assange says.

Iceland is WikiLeak's spiritual home

Fast-track 20 years, WikiLeaks is a powerful global force, but if there is an HQ you will not find it in Melbourne, New York or London. Its spiritual home is Iceland.

"It is a safe haven more for journalism in general, for in particular investigative journalism and also for people that, for example, risk their lives from China or Sri Lanka to publish information about the situation, might risk being tortured or killed and their story also vanishing," Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of Iceland's parliament, says.

Urged on by the likes of Assange and others, Jónsdóttir was at the forefront of a push to change the country's media laws, transforming it into an information freedom zone.

"It's the same sort of idea as they use with great success in the tax havens around the world," she says.

And so Iceland would be the launch pad for Wiki's defining leak. Journalists, politicians and others were ushered into a preview screening of a video that would soon rock the rest of the world.

"I was shown it at a café here and was completely shocked and I was sitting there crying like many people do when they see it for the first time," Jónsdóttir says.

A top secret US video shot from a military helicopter showed people gunned down in a hail of cannon shells in East Baghdad.

WikiLeaks formed an impromptu alliance with old media - a local TV channel and one of its journalists, Kristinn Hrafnsson.

"Julian Assange showed me the Iraqi video a few weeks prior to its release. That's the first time I saw that video of the killing in Baghdad. I thought it was essential to find the identity of the people who were killed, to get their story basically, what they were doing there in the square that day," Hrafnsson says.

Hrafnsson and his TV crew tracked down the family of the mini-van driver, Saleh Matasher Tomals for their side of the story.

"This was a guy who was basically dropping his kids to a special tutoring and picked up a neighbour on the way and gave him a lift and he just stopped to help somebody who was bleeding to death on the kerb," Hrafnsson says.

"He was killed that day. He got 30mm explosive rounds straight in the chest and his two children were wounded heavily, they were in the front of the car with him. I met all the children and the widow."

The WikiLeaks video made headlines around the world, but it had not been seen where it would have its most devastating impact - in this small Iraqi home.

When the Iceland TV crew showed the family the video, they were grief stricken but they were at last able to piece together a little more of the puzzle.

Old vs. new media

But for some the Iraq video was not new. Washington Post journalist, David Finkel was embedded with US troops in Baghdad that day.

"What happened that day was part of a large operation where soldiers I was writing about for my book, The Good Soldiers, were trying to clear out an area that over the previous weeks had been especially vicious, several soldiers had been killed by roadside bombs, and there had been a number of catastrophic injuries," Finkel says

He is critical of WikiLeaks not providing what he says is the correct context. He is among those who accuse WikiLeaks of putting its own ideological spin on the video.

"They provided artificial agenda driven context. It comes up on a site called Collateral Murder, which gives it a certain feel to a viewer coming into it and before you see the video there's this great George Orwell quote providing the context.

"The context of that day was not what George Orwell had to say so many years before, the context was that there was an operation under way in reaction to an ongoing war, not that Apache helicopters were circling looking for a bunch of guys to just shoot up and kill."

Ellsberg disagrees: "It would be interesting to have someone speculate or tell us exactly what context would lead to justifying the killing that we see on the screen. As the killing goes on, you're obviously seeing the killing of men who are lying on the ground in an operation where ground troops are approaching and are perfectly capable of taking those people captive, but meanwhile you're murdering them before the troops arrive. That's a violation of the laws of war, and of course what the mainstream media have omitted from their stories is this context."

For WikiLeaks and its supporters, the video defined the difference between the old guard and the new. After all, the Washington Post's David Finkel in his book, The Good Soldiers, gives a word accurate recount of the cockpit conversation you hear in the video. Had he seen it, and if he had why didn't his paper, famous for Watergate, the biggest political expose in US history, investigate the killings?

"Finkel had seen it but we know that at least one member, I won't mention their name, had that video at the Washington Post. Retained ... for at least the past year," Assange says.

The Washington Post denies having a copy of the video.

"Unfortunately, typical of newspapers, they don't follow up these atrocities. Things that are extremely critical of the administration only get you in trouble with the White House if you seem to be obsessed by them and pursue them," Ellsberg says.

"I haven't seen anyone raise the question now of why, on what basis, that video was denied to Reuters, who were after all interested in the circumstances under which two of their journalists had been killed. Now, have you seen anyone raise the question, all right now we have the video, what was the basis for denying this? How does it hurt national security?"

WikiLeaks subscribes to traditional journalistic principles when it comes to protecting its sources.

"All that we can guarantee is that we won't be the source of the problem. I mean, coming in through us, we're going to protect them and that if they are exposed, then we'll fight like hell to bring attention to their plight and we'll send lawyers, and cash if necessary, to try and get them out of that bad situation," Assange says.

Targeting the sources

Two years ago a secret US intelligence report recommended targeting WikiLeaks' sources. Washington administration officials do not see the public interest in the Iraq video or anything else WikiLeaks might be about to unleash.

"We take the reports of the deliberate, unauthorised disclosure of classified state department cables and materials very seriously. And the security of these materials is our highest priority," Philip Crowley, a US state department spokesperson, says.

The video release triggered a major investigation but strangely the biggest breakthrough did not come from crack police work but from a former hacker named Adrian Lamo who we tracked down on Skype.

If Adrian Lamo is to be believed, he casually found himself chatting online to a man claiming to be a military insider. The insider was bragging about leaking the video and a truckload of other national security documents to WikiLeaks.

"He proceeded to identify himself as an intelligence analyst and posed the question, well what would you do if you had unprecedented access to classified data 14 hours a day, seven days a week," Lamo says.

Instead of celebrating the insider's cyber heroics as a fellow traveller might, Lamo blew the whistle and 22-year-old Bradley Manning, an intelligence officer based in Baghdad, was arrested.

"He was firing bullets into the air without thought to consequence of where they might land or who they might hit," Lamo says.

World's most dangerous man?

The bigger concern for authorities is 'what else?' Did Manning leak a library of other classified material to WikiLeaks and what is its next shot in the locker?

Julian Assange is cryptic, he is not giving anything away yet.

"I'm not commenting, but its not any one operation," Assange says.

"Well, it's something involving, you know, it's not this [a mass bombing that took place or a financial expose] but I can give an analogy. If there had been mass spying that had affected many, many people in organisations and the details of that mass spying were released, then that is something that would reveal that the interests of many people had been abused."

Is Assange a wanted man? There is no official word on that, but strangely one man who hunted him, Ken Day, now wishes him the best.

"I think one of the strengths of democracy is having a strong media, an independent voice to actually challenge what government and corporate worlds are doing. I think we've lost a lot of that in recent years. And so I, at a very high level, I would support what he is doing to support transparency, but I will caution there are always inherent dangers in how it is done, but I think it is great," Day says.

And Ellsberg, the one time world title-holder in the expose business appears happy to pass the mantle on to a new generation.

"He is not only a danger to governments, to withholding wrongfully information ... so yes I think he is a good candidate for being the most dangerous man in the world in the eyes of people like the one who gave me that award."

Ellsberg says: "I'm sure that Assange is now regarded as one of the very most dangerous men and he should be quite proud of that."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Real Story on the DPRK, Its Healthcare

The real story on DPRK, its healthcare

By Stephen Gowans
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

THE United States has announced that it is adding a new tranche to the Himalaya of sanctions it has built up since 1950 against North Korea, sanctions I outlined in my last article ‘‘Amnesty International botches blame for North Korea’s crumbling healthcare’’.

Calling the new sanctions "measures" — perhaps to escape the disfavour the word has fallen into after sanctions wiped out the lives of half a million Iraqi children in the 1990s — US secretary of state Hillary Clinton purred reassuringly that the new "measures are not directed at the people of North Korea."

She didn’t predict, however, whether they would add to the misery the previous umpteenth round of sanctions has already visited upon the lives of North Koreans, even if she says they aren’t directed at them, but we can be pretty sure they will.

At the same time preparations were underway to launch Operation Invincible Spirit, a four day joint US-South Korea military exercise to take place in the Sea of Japan, involving 8000 troops, 200 warplanes and an armada of warships led by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The point of the exercise, according to the US commander in the Pacific, Robert Willard, is to "send a strong signal to Pyongyang and Kim Jong-il regarding the provocation that Cheonan represented" (the Cheonan being the South Korean warship that sunk in disputed waters in May.)

Inasmuch as the Cheonan’s sinking appears to be a replay of the Gulf of Tonkin incident — the alleged attack on a US Navy destroyer by North Vietnamese patrol boats used by US president Lyndon Johnson as a pretext to step up war on Vietnam — the military exercises represent the second stage of what looks like a plan to increase pressure on Pyongyang, with a view to producing what US policy has been trying to produce north of the 38th parallel for the last 60 years: the collapse of the anti-imperialist governments led by Kim Il-sung and now Kim Jong-il.

The first part of the plan was to blame North Korea for the Cheonan’s sinking.

The second part is to launch military exercises using the pretext of the first.

China calls the exercises, scheduled to begin this Sunday, provocative.

And University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings points out that the North Koreans become agitated whenever the United States and South Korea carry out joint military exercises, because they "see them as a prelude to a possible attack."

Indeed, since it is impossible to distinguish troops, warships and warplanes massing on one’s borders for the purposes of conducting war games from troops, warships and warplanes massing on one’s borders for the purposes of an invasion, it is hardly surprising that the North Koreans are agitated. And that’s the point: keep the DPRK on a continual war-footing, so that it diverts its sanctions-starved economy into military preparedness and away from productive investments and provision of healthcare, education, housing and so on. Joint US-South Korea military exercises aren’t just a sometimes thing.

They happen every year, and Operation Invincible Spirit adds another provocation to the annual cycle.

Forcing its ideological opponents to spend heavily on defence — when they always start off poorer and weaker than the United States and can therefore ill-afford to do so if they’re ever going to progress — is a tactic Washington has been using for decades to contain, cripple and ultimately defeat countries that offer a humane and progressive alternative to integration into a worldwide capitalist system of imperial relations.

On top of the advantages of this tactic abroad, at home the defence spending needed to threaten target countries transfers wealth upwards, from working Americans through their taxes to the investors and businesspeople in the armaments industry who benefit in two ways: first, from the profits they reap from arms contracts and second from interest on the bonds they buy to finance US defence spending.

The tab is picked up by US taxpayers with their labour and, if a war is waged against their country, by foreigners with their lives, or with crippled standards of living, if their governments are forced to skimp on civilian spending to build a credible defensive force to deter the threat of US military intervention.

As the dues-payers for the US warfare economy along with its foreign victims, US citizens have more in common with the citizens of official enemy countries than they think.

Who’s the real enemy?

The tactic of spending ideological opponents into bankruptcy has two dimensions: a physical one, of suffocating an alternative economy until it either breaks down or is left staggering under the weight of economic warfare and the costs of preparing to repel the unrelenting ominous threat of military intervention, and an ideological one, of attributing the break-down to the inherent characteristics of the alternative system itself.

In this way a warning is sent on two levels: a surface one aimed at ordinary people, which says, while this alternative may seem like a good idea, it doesn’t work and only leads to disaster. To work, this necessitates the cover up of the real causes of the break down.

At the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas on July 20, both Clinton and US secretary of war Robert Gates, played up the message that North Korea’s dire straits are endogenous, and not the product of a systematic campaign of breaking the country’s back. Gates said:

"It is stunning to see how little has changed up there (in the North) and yet how much South Korea continues to grow and prosper. The North by contrast, stagnates in isolation and deprivation."

Clinton said much the same. Of course, neither mentioned that sanctions, and the continual harassment of North Korea by US forces, might have something to do with North Korea’s isolation and stagnation.

On a deeper level, a warning is sent to would-be leaders of oppressed classes and peoples: try to break free from the US imperial orbit, and this will happen to you, too.

Forty years ago, Felix Greene outlined how Washington had used this tactic against China and Cuba, but his description also fits North Korea today.

"The United States imposed a 100 percent embargo on trade with these countries; she employs great pressure to prevent her allies from trading with them; she arms and finances their enemies; she harasses their shipping; she threatens them with atomic missiles which she announces are pre-targeted and pre-programmed to destroy their major cities; her spy ships prowl just beyond these countries’ legal territorial waters; her reconnaissance planes fly constantly over their territory. And having done all in their power to disrupt these countries’ efforts to rebuild their societies by means of blockades to prevent essential goods from reaching them, any temporary difficulties and setbacks these countries may encounter are magnified and exaggerated and presented as proof that a socialist revolutionary government is ‘unworkable’."

Author William Blum, who writes an Anti-Empire Report monthly, elaborates on Greene’s point:

" . . . every socialist experiment of any significance in the twentieth century — without exception — was either overthrown, invaded, corrupted, perverted, subverted, destabilised, or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States and its allies.

"Not one socialist government or movement — from the Russian Revolution to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, from Communist China to the FMLN in El Salvador — not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home.

"It’s as if the Wright brothers’ first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon these catastrophes, nodded their heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Humankind shall never fly."

Cumings offered insight into the context surrounding the Cheonan affair in a May 27, Democracy Now interview.

The incident, Cummings observed: "happened very close to the North Korean border, we’ve had incidents like this, somewhat different ones, but with large loss of life, going back more than 10 years.

"In 1999, a North Korean ship went down with 30 sailors lost and maybe 70 wounded.

"That’s a larger total of casualties than this one. And last November, a North Korean ship went down in flames. We don’t know how many people died in that.

"This is a no man’s land, or waters, off the west coast of Korea that both North and South claim. And the Cheonan ship was sailing in those waters . . . "

The hypocrisy need not be pointed out.

When North Korean ships are sunk, there’s no provocation, except to North Koreans, who, in the view of Western governments and the propaganda apparatus of private-sector mass media, don’t matter (in the same way Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas, matters to Western governments and Western mass media while the countless Palestinians who have been kidnapped by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza and have since disappeared into the bowels of Israeli prisons are invisible.)

But when a South Korean ship is sunk in the same disputed waters, North Korea is immediately blamed (by the politicians of South Korea’s ruling Grand National Party, though not by the South Korean military, which for weeks, said it had no evidence of North Korean involvement.)

And the sinking is used to justify more sanctions and more military exercises to ratchet up the pressure.

Cumings went on to explain that the waters in which the South Korean warship went down in May "is a no man’s land, where the US and South Korea demarcated a so-called Northern limit line unilaterally. The North has never accepted it.

"The North says that this area is under the joint jurisdiction of the North and South Korean militaries. So you have an incident waiting to happen."

Into this cauldron of roiling waters waiting for an incident to happen will soon be tossed Operation Invincible Spirit.

While the Western media lighted on Amnesty International’s portrayal of North Korea’s healthcare system as a horror show with the eagerness of flies on road-kill, the World Health Organisation had a more sober assessment of the rights organisation’s Cold War-era hatchet job.

WHO spokesman Paul Garwood faulted the report for being "mainly anecdotal, with stories dating back to 2001, and not up to the UN agency’s scientific approach to evaluating healthcare."

"All the facts are from people who aren’t in the country," Garwood said. "There’s no science in the research."

In contrast, WHO Chief Margaret Chan visited North Korea in April and returned with an assessment that makes Amnesty’s report look like it was written to cater to US foreign policy propaganda requirements.

Chan noted that: "The health system requires further strengthening in order to sustain the government policy of universal coverage and, of course, to improve the quality of services. More investments are required to upgrade infrastructure and equipment and to ensure adequate supplies of medicines and other commodities, and to address the correct skill mix of the health workforce."

All of this is consistent, in a way, with what Amnesty says.

Of course, the ability of the government to invest in infrastructure, upgrade equipment, and secure adequate supplies of medicines, is severely hampered by the US-led campaign of economic warfare and by Pyongyang’s need to raid its civilian budget to secure its borders against incessant US military harassment.

Lifting sanctions and removing the military sword of Damocles that dangles menacingly above North Koreans’ collective heads (I wonder whether the US nuclear missiles targeted on Pyongyang are, as Clinton claims with sanctions, not directed at the North Korean people) would go far to improving the provision of healthcare in North Korea.

Which is one big reason it will never happen.

The point of sanctions and unremitting military threat is to destroy what the US government calls North Korea’s Marxist-Leninist system (inaccurately) and its non-market economy, not to make life better, healthier and happier for North Koreans.

Despite these challenges, DPR Korea appears to have secured what Chan describes as "advantages over other developing countries," including:

--No shortage of doctors and nurses.

--No brain drain of healthcare professionals (a particularly acute problem in Africa.)

--An elaborate health infrastructure and a developed network of primary health care physicians. [14]

Chan also noted that "the government has done a good job in areas such as immunisation coverage, effective implementation of maternal, newborn and child interventions, in providing effective tuberculosis treatment and in successfully reducing malaria cases."

Perhaps, the real story about North Korean healthcare isn’t the challenges it faces, or the systematic efforts of the United States to make it collapse, but the fact that it hasn’t collapsed despite these challenges, and has managed to earn the praise of the WHO as the envy of many developing nations.

Stephen Gowans is a Canadian writer and political activist resident in Ottawa. This article is reproduced from