Saturday, October 23, 2004

 

My nom de plume

I have chosen a nom de plume that seems to me to accurately reflect my inner elderly bitch ;) For those of you who watch British comedies, the reference will be immediately apparent in my choice of Diana Trent as said nom de plume. For everyone else, she's an unmarried elderly woman, fiercely independent, fiercely loyal to family and friends, and gives a new definition to the term "outspoken." I am not near as old as dear Diana, but I feel a deep kinship with her. Oh, the comedy she's on is called "Waiting For God."

 

Speaking of South Africa and racism...

Here's this article dealing with a new upwelling of racism in South Africa (however, it's the South African President who's bringing charges of racism that those he targets are denying vigorously):

S.Africa's Mbeki, opposition in racism row

22 Oct 2004 14:54:28 GMTSource: ReutersBy Gordon Bell

CAPE TOWN, Oct 22 (Reuters) - South Africa grappled with a new row over racism on Friday after a sharp exchange between President Thabo Mbeki and the largely white opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) drew shouts and catcalls in parliament.

The DA, which draws most of its support from white voters and has taken a confrontational stance against the ruling African National Congress (ANC), sparked Mbeki's ire on Thursday by suggesting that he had underplayed the significance of rape in South Africa's AIDS crisis.

Mbeki, who often charges South Africa's whites with failing to adapt to post-apartheid realities, fired a fresh shot on Friday by publishing a transcript of the dispute in his on-line newsletter.

"I will not be kept quiet while others whose minds have been corrupted by the disease of racism, accuse us, the black people of South Africa, Africa and the world, as being, by virtue of our Africanness and skin colour, lazy, liars, foul-smelling, diseased, corrupt, violent, amoral, sexually depraved, animalistic, savage and rapist," Mbeki said.

The controversy in parliament marks the latest harsh words over race in South Africa, which saw white rule end in 1994 but continues to see a huge economic divide between the 10 percent white minority and the black majority.

Mbeki has increasingly pushed racism to the forefront of discourse in South Africa, unlike his predecessor Nelson Mandela who built his five years in power around reconciliation between white and black citizens.

South Africa has the highest caseload of HIV in the world, with an estimated 5.6 million of its 45 million population infected. It also suffers one of the highest incidences of rape in the world.

DA legislator Ryan Coetzee also pointedly asked Mbeki if he intended to lead the country's fight against AIDS -- repeating by implication the charge often lodged by critics that Mbeki has failed to come to grips with a disease which infects one out of nine South Africans.

Mbeki replied by saying he did not intend to discuss AIDS but would instead focus on what he saw as the subtext of the question -- racism.

"The millions of Africans did not fight against apartheid racism and white domination to create space for them to continue to be subjected to dehumanising, demeaning and insulting racism," Mbeki said in comments which were also published on Friday by the ANC's official online newsletter.

The DA described Mbeki's response as "disgraceful", saying he had preferred to "rant on about the stereotypes of black people that he believes whites harbour" than address issues regarding the pandemic.

"Instead the president said he would talk about racism. And he did so, reciting a litany of racist caricatures that bordered on the pornographic, and implying that the DA believed them," DA
leader Tony Leon wrote in his weekly letter on Friday.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L22233386.htm

 

Aristide pleads for end to Haiti violence

Aristide, from his exile in South Africa--a name which resonates with those of us who were part of the massive movement in the 1980s to bring down apartheid--has pleaded for an end to the violence in Haiti. He believes that conversation can bring an end to this painful period.

Aristide says only dialogue will end Haiti mayhem

20 Oct 2004 18:26:32 GMTSource: ReutersBy John Chiahemen

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Exiled former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Wednesday angrily denied accusations he was fomenting violence in his homeland and accused Haiti's interim leader of brutally suppressing dissent.

Gang and political violence has killed more than 50 Haitians in the past two weeks.
"Latortue, stop the lying, stop the killings," Aristide said in a statement from South Africa directed at Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.

"True dialogue is the only solution (in Haiti). With the lives of millions at stake, public officials must act responsibly," he said in the statement, faxed to Reuters in Johannesburg.

Aristide has been in Pretoria since May after he was forced into exile in February in what he says was a U.S.-engineered coup.

The statement was his first public reaction to Latortue's blistering attack last Sunday in which he accused South African President Thabo Mbeki of allowing Aristide to direct a violent campaign by his supporters in the Caribbean country.

Latortue repeated the charges on Monday, telling Reuters: "President Thabo Mbeki has not made enough effort to prevent Aristide from using the South African hospitality to destabilize Haiti."

Aristide did not address the allegations against him directly, but fired his own salvo against the prime minister.

He said Latortue had admitted in an Oct. 1 broadcast that security forces had fired on demonstrators. "De facto prime minister Gerard Latortue acknowledged that he is a killer," Aristide said.

"We fired on them. Some died, others were wounded, and others fled," he quoted Latortue as saying in the broadcast.

COUNTER CHARGES

Aristide also accused Latortue of fomenting unrest "in allowing soldiers of the disbanded brutal army to take charge and remain in charge of entire areas of the country and his sanctioning of their use of violence."

"During these past eight months thousands of Haitians have been killed in defence of democratic principles," he said.

The South African government, which continues to recognise Aristide as Haiti's rightful president, on Monday dismissed Latortue's accusations against Mbeki.

"South Africa and indeed President Mbeki cannot be used as a scapegoat for failure by the Interim Haitian Authorities to bring about peace and stability," Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said in a prepared statement read on national television.

South Africa gave Aristide refuge after he was deposed, a move Pahad said was agreed with Caribbean bloc Caricom in consultation with the United Nations, United States and Haiti's former colonial ruler France.

Latortue's comments reignited domestic opposition to Aristide's stay in South Africa, and two opposition parties called for an investigation into whether he was indeed inciting violence in Haiti from the safety of South Africa.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L20301045.htm

 

20,000 Ugandan children abducted

This horrifying article is from www.cnn.com. The "Lord's Resistance Army" was founded and is headed by an excommunicated Catholic priest. More on this in future posts.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Northern Uganda is the world's biggest neglected humanitarian crisis, with 20,000 kidnapped children, many of them forced to serve as combatants, the head of U.N. humanitarian affairs says.

Jan Egeland, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, said he asked the Security Council, rhetorically, where else in the world 80 percent of the fighters in a rebel movement were children and 90 percent of the population had been displaced from their homes.

"Northern Uganda to me remains the biggest neglected humanitarian emergency in the world," Egeland told journalists after briefing the 15-member council on Uganda and Sudan in a closed session late Thursday.

"For me, the situation is a moral outrage, but I'm heartened that the Security Council devoted so much time to northern Uganda."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said after the meeting that the council considers such briefings crucial.

"It is because humanitarian crises, the risk of conflict, the way that security is disturbed, the way it affects neighbors is directly the interest of the council," he said, adding that northern Uganda is "one of the great crises out there which is not recognized enough."

Jones Parry called on the international community to support the African Union's peace efforts and respond to U.N. appeals for donations. He said the council planned to meet in Nairobi, Kenya, November 18-19 where it would discuss the conflicts in southern and western Sudan and peace efforts in the region.

Egeland said there are positive signals from Uganda's government, including government forces that help protect humanitarian efforts, a new law for internally displaced people and recognition of the scope of the problem.

"We hope on the humanitarian side that we are now seeing a beginning of an end to this 18-year endless litany of horrors where children are the fighters and the victims in northern Uganda," he said, adding that his hopes rest on increased international attention and on efforts to resolve the two decades of conflict in southern Sudan that have spilled into northern Uganda.

The Lord's Resistance Army has waged a brutal insurgency in northern Uganda, targeting mostly civilians and abducting children for use as fighters, laborers or sex slaves, since 1986. The rebels are believed to have bases in southern Sudan and in recent months have launched attacks on Sudanese civilians, reportedly killing scores.

Sudan 'progress'

Meanwhile, the Sudanese government and southern rebel movements have been making progress toward peace in their two-decade-old conflict.

Regarding western Sudan's Darfur region, Egeland said that relief efforts were bringing food, water and sanitation to well over 1 million people.

"We're exceeding many of the goals we set ourselves two months ago. However, the goal post has been put miles ahead of us because so many more people have been affected. We thought we would need to feed a million people by now; we have to feed 2 million people ... There are hundreds of thousands in desperate need," he said.

At the same time, insecurity has become the biggest constraint on humanitarian efforts, he said, adding that aid workers have been harassed, kidnapped and even killed.

Egeland said donations to the relief efforts in Darfur are short by about $190 million and that the international community needs to provide more logistical support to the African Union to deploy military forces in the conflict area.

At least 70,000 people have died and more than 1.5 million have been forced from their homes in the Darfur crisis, which began in February 2003 when two rebel groups took up arms over what they regarded as unjust treatment by the government and ethnic Arab countrymen.

Major bloodshed ensued when pro-government militias called Janjaweed reacted by unleashing attacks on Darfur villages.

Peace talks between the Sudanese government and representatives of the rebels reopened briefly in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday after a month's suspension but were suspended again until Monday.

Friday, October 22, 2004

 

U.N. sending more troops to Haiti

This is from www.bloomberg.com (Yes, I know, Bloomberg, sorry...)

UN Sending 3,000 Troops to Haiti to Stop Violence, Avert Exodus
Oct. 21 (Bloomberg)

The United Nations will send 3,000 troops to Haiti by the end of November to quell violence by armed gangs and ease the threat of a "boat people'' exodus from the poorest Caribbean nation after the destruction of Tropical Storm Jeanne, UN officials said.

Juan Gabriel Valdes, the UN's special representative to Haiti, said in a telephone interview that troops from Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jordan, Nepal, Peru, Spain and Sri Lanka are being rushed to the Caribbean nation following attacks by gangs loyal to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They will bring the Brazil-led UN force to 6,200.

Valdes said that while the security situation has improved in recent days, gunfire can be heard nightly in the capital Port- au-Prince, and dockworkers threatened by the gangs are afraid to unload humanitarian aid. Jan Egeland, the UN's humanitarian coordinator, told reporters in New York the gangs have "taken over large parts of Haiti, where women are systematically abused.''

Jeanne hit Haiti Sept. 17 and 18, flooding 80 percent of Gonaives, a northern coastal town with 200,000 residents, and killing at least 2,000 people. More than 100,000 Haitians remain dependent on food aid.

Egeland warned today that the U.S. could see a "lot of boat people the next few months'' unless Haiti is stabilized.

Gangs loyal to Aristide, who was forced from office in February and is now in South Africa, killed 30 people this month and organized a strike that brought the country to a standstill on Oct. 15. The U.S. authorized its embassy employees to leave the country, citing the escalation in violence.

South Africa this week rejected accusations from Haiti's interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, that it was allowing Aristide to stir up trouble from exile.

IMF Postpones

Thomas Dawson, director of external relations for the International Monetary Fund, announced in Washington yesterday that the violence forced postponement of a planned mission to Haiti and that the lender's resident representative to the nation had been recalled to Washington.

"The situation has improved since Oct. 14, but that is not to say violence has disappeared,'' Valdes, a former Chilean diplomat, said from Port-au-Prince. "You hear shots in the night and people attack the police. Most of the violence is in the name of Aristide.''

UN truck convoys are moving safely from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives four times a week, and food aid isn't a problem, Egeland and Valdes said. Reconstruction of the city and the northern region remains a major concern, they said.

"It is incomprehensible how Haiti, so close to some of the richest countries in the world, has so little social investment,'' Egeland said. "Gonaives is a city of 200,000 drowned in mud and no one is digging it out. The food situation is promising, but all other elements of our programs are severely under funded.''

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, must cope with the flood devastation on top of obstacles such as illiteracy and AIDS that have crimped economic growth. Haiti had per capita income of about $1 a day last year, and the jobless rate runs as high as 60 percent, according to the World Bank.

To contact the reporter of this story:Bill Varner at the United Nations at wvarner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:Edward DeMarco in Washington at edemarco1@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: October 21, 2004 16:36 EDT

 

World Wildlife Fund's dire warning

From this morning's CNN website comes this dire warning (why aren't we learning anything? The last few decades of intense social, political and environmental activism have been meaningless unless we start applying what we've learned...)

Group warns on resource consumption
Friday, October 22, 2004 Posted: 11:17 AM EDT (1517 GMT)

Humans currently consume 20 percent more natural resources than the Earth can produce, according to the WWF report.

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) -- Humanity's reliance on fossil fuels, the spread of cities, the destruction of natural habitats for farmland and over-exploitation of the oceans are destroying Earth's ability to sustain life, the environmental group WWF warned in a new report Thursday.

The biggest consumers of nonrenewable natural resources are the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Kuwait, Australia and Sweden, who leave the biggest "ecological footprint," the World Wildlife Fund said in its regular Living Planet Report.

Humans currently consume 20 percent more natural resources than the Earth can produce, the report said.

"We are spending nature's capital faster than it can regenerate," said WWF chief Claude Martin, releasing the 40-page study. "We are running up an ecological debt which we won't be able to pay off unless governments restore the balance between our consumption of natural resources and the Earth's ability to renew them."

But Fred Smith, president of the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute and a former official of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Nixon and Ford administrations, said he was skeptical. In a telephone interview, Smith said the WWF view is "static" and fails to take into account the benefits many people get from resource use.

Use of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil increased by almost 700 percent between 1961 and 2001, the study said.

Burning fossil fuels -- in power plants and automobiles, for example -- releases carbon dioxide, which experts say contributes to global warming. The planet is unable to keep pace and absorb the emissions, WWF said.

Populations of land, freshwater and marine species fell on average by 40 percent between 1970 and 2000. The report cited urbanization, forest clearance, pollution, overfishing and the introduction by humans of nonnative animals, such as cats and rats, which often drive out indigenous species.

"The question is how the world's entire population can live with the resources of one planet," said Jonathan Loh, one of the report's authors.

Limited capacity

The study, WWF's fifth since 1998, examined the "ecological footprint" of the planet's entire population.

Most of a person's footprint is caused by the space needed to absorb the waste from energy consumption, including carbon dioxide. WWF also measured the total area of cities, roads and other infrastructure and the space required to produce food and fiber -- for clothing, for example.

"We don't just live on local resources," so the footprint is not confined to the country where consumers live, said Mathis Wackernagel, head of the Global Footprint Network, which includes WWF.

For example, Western demand for Asia's palm oil and South America's soybeans has wrecked natural habitats in those regions, so the destruction is considered part of the footprint of importing nations. The same applies to Arab oil consumed in the United States.

The findings are similar to those in WWF's 2002 report, which covered the period up to 1999. But the latest study contains more detailed data stretching to 2001. It shows the situation has changed little in most countries and is now more worrying in fast-growing China and India.

The world's 6.1 billion people leave a collective footprint of 33.36 billion acres, 5.44 acres per person. To allow the Earth to regenerate, the average should be no more than 4.45 acres, said WWF.

The impact of an average North American is double that of a European, but seven times that of the average Asian or African.

Residents of the United Arab Emirates, who use air conditioning extensively, leave a 24.46-acre footprint, two-thirds caused by fossil fuel use. The average U.S. resident leaves a 23.47-acre footprint, also largely from fuel.

Swedes leave a 17.3-acre footprint, but most is caused by land use and the impact on other countries of its imports of food and clothing. Like its Nordic neighbors, the country has won praise from campaigners for cutting fossil fuel use.

The study also warned of increasing pressure on the planet's resources amid spiraling consumption in Asia.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has been a frequent critic of what it calls "environmental alarmism" from organizations like WWF. Smith said the footprint idea is wrongheaded.

"It's sort of like saying, 'General Motors must be much more wasteful than the local laundromat because General Motors spends more resources.' Yes, but they are producing more product, too," he told the AP.

"The real question is not whether the United States is a wealthy place but rather whether it's producing more wealth than it's consuming. Obviously, we are. We're using a lot of the world's resources but we're producing far more of the world's resources."

Loh said governments, businesses and consumers should switch to energy-efficient technology, such as solar power.

"We can consume energy in a way that's harmful or in a way that's sustainable," he said. "The technologies are available to enable the world's population to live within the capacity of one planet."

High oil prices may help focus their minds.

"But it's not a question of how much oil is left," he said. "The question we should be asking is how much fossil fuel consumption the Earth can sustain. The Earth has a limited capacity."

 

Haiti Primer #1

This is just about current events in Haiti, whose history is a snarled and tangled web of conflicts.

The current troubles of Haiti arose shortly after the devastating Hurricane Jeanne that destroyed a large chunk of the island's buildings (Haiti shares the island with the Dominican Republic). The storm left flooding in its wake, accompanied by rampant disease and starvation.

The slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, have been the center of the military struggle that has recently exploded into virtual warfare. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was exiled to South Africa on February 29th, and has recently come under scrutiny as the possible instigator, albeit a long-distance one, of the uprisings in Haiti. He has denied all allegations that he is behind said uprisings. He was removed from power in Haiti by a military coup on September 30, 2003.

The New York Times says that Haiti "has effectively been in international receivership" since Aristide's exile. The United Nations has backed the transitional government, led by Gerard Latortue who was picked to be Haiti's interim prime minister by--what else?--"an American-backed council of prominent Haitians..." Latortue recently pleaded with Colin Powell not to withdraw Marine forces en masse, but he was ignored. Apparently, the Marines were needed elsewhere--can we guess where?

Pro-Aristide militants have been making their voices heard since summer, but the violence escalated on September 30th, the anniversary of the coup that toppled Aristide from power. There are more than 90 political parties in Haiti, and the group known as the Lavalas--which means "cleansing flood"--is a populist movement amid this candy-store of political choices. The Lavalas are slum-based supporters of Aristide who wish to see him restored to power. The military, despite being disbanded in 1995, have taken up arms against the Lavalas and others who still support Aristide. Lavalas, it would appear, wants mainly for Aristide to be restored to his former office long enough for democratic elections to be held next year.

Gerard Latortue moved back to Haiti from Boca Raton in order to take up the reins of the American-built interim government until elections can be held in 2005. The New York Times reports that "the government has come to be seen by many here, including some international officials, as partial toward the former military and anti-Lavalas. Mr. Latortue himself saluted a former rebel leader [military--my brackets] as a 'freedom fighter,' and, in a hasty, overnight trial, his government exonerated another rebel leader of his notoriously violent past. Mr. Latortue's government has allowed former military officers and rebels to take charge or remain in charge of several towns...." The former military have pledged to give up their weapons in exchange for power, but have yet to make good on this promise.



 

IMF cancels Haiti trip (Haiti--Intro)

This is the first post in what will become a multi-post primer on some of the current situations in the world today, such as Haiti, Darfur, and the environment in general. I will note in the subject line which topic and what number in my little primer the post is (wow, how's that for grammar...) The post here is really just a snippet from today's news, and the actual primer part will begin with my next Haiti post, when I have more time to sit down and type my own thoughts.

As I try to make some sense out of it all, I will be posting what I find. It won't, probably, be in any order that makes actual sense, but I will try to get as much info posted on each topic as possible. If anyone out there has something they'd like me to post more info on, please e-mail me! The article below reflects some of the latest available news on Haiti.

Associated Press
IMF Cancels Trip to Violence-Torn Haiti
10.21.2004, 11:43 AM

The International Monetary Fund has called off a mission meeting with Haitian leaders next week, citing security concerns in the violence-torn Caribbean nation, IMF officials said on Thursday.

Haiti has been trying to rebuild since a three-week rebellion pushed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in February and September floods killed more than 1,900 people.

The IMF extends emergency aid at low interest rates to countries in which major destruction has occurred. The mission was to discuss, among other things, the renewal of an economic monitoring program, the current budget and emergency post-conflict assistance.

"All that now is on hold," said IMF senior press officer for Latin America Francisco Baker, in a telephone interview Thursday.

On Sept. 30, the anniversary of the army coup that had ousted Aristide for the first time in 1991, violence resurged when Aristide partisans clashed with police.

Since then, at least 55 people have been shot and killed and scores wounded.

The IMF representative was called back to Washington, D.C. "because of the recent deterioration in the security situation in and around Port-au-Prince," said Tom Dawson, Director of IMF External Relations, at a press briefing Wednesday.

Because of the violence, the government has lost millions of dollars in customs receipts, and the weak Haitian economy is staggering.

At a meeting in July, international donors pledged about $1 billion in aid to Haiti, the hemisphere's poorest country, racked by almost two decades of political turmoil.

But the disbursement of hundreds of millions of dollars in low-interest loan dollars depends on whether the IMF approves of the interim government's adherence to specific economic measures, such as controlling inflation rates and curbing government waste.

Dawson said the postponed meeting would be held "as soon as security conditions permit."

 

Rebuilding reaches milestone

The rebuilding at the WTC site has begun in earnest, and the first building to be replaced has been completed, according to this morning's CNN online.

Skyscraper reaches milestone at WTC site
Adorned with U.S. flag, final beam installed on 52-story building
From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau Thursday, October 21, 2004 Posted: 7:47 PM EDT (2347 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The steel frame of the first skyscraper to replace one of the seven Lower Manhattan buildings destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was completed Thursday.

The last steel beam of the 52-story building to replace what was known as 7 World Trade Center was placed at the top of the 750-foot tower in an afternoon ceremony attended by New York Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and several hundred construction workers.

The beam was adorned with an American flag.

"Three years after terrorists brought down 7 World Trade Center, our strength and resolve is putting it back up," Bloomberg said.

Construction has been under way for two years, and the building is slated to be ready for occupancy at the end of next year.

It rises across the street from the northern end of the 16-acre WTC site where the Twin Towers stood.

No. 7 WTC was the last of the complex's buildings to be built in the 1980s, and was the last to collapse on September 11 after burning for seven hours.

The former 47-story office building was developed by Larry Silverstein. He is building the replacement 7 WTC and has been chosen to develop the iconic Freedom Tower, the planned 1,776-foot structure planned as the centerpiece of the rebuilt Ground Zero.

The architect of both buildings is David Childs, who is collaborating with WTC master site planner Daniel Libeskind on the Freedom Tower, which is expected to be completed in 2008.

The narrower, new 7 WTC, which could yet be renamed, will include 1.6 million square feet of office space with a 45-foot high lobby with a glassy facade to let in light. It is estimated to cost $700 million.

The first 10 floors will be occupied by a Con Edison power substation replacing one that was there before.

The building, which is still looking for tenants, will include enhanced safety features such as thicker fireproofing, wider emergency exit stairwells and an internal antenna system for first-responder communications.

"This building will set new standards in safety, efficiency and environmental sensitivity," Pataki said. "This building, like all of our efforts in Lower Manhattan, show that New York has the courage to rebuild and the commitment to honor the heroes we lost."

Construction on a memorial to the 2,749 people killed in New York in the September 11 attacks is to begin in 2006.

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