Saturday, November 13, 2004

 

They just don't get it, do they?

Hey, there's an up-side to global warming! Now, thanks to warmer temps and melting glacial ice, we can be free to destroy formerly-inaccessible parts of our planet! And while doing that, we may just find more fuel, more oil! Barf.

Mon Nov 8, 2:41 PM ET
By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rising global temperatures will melt areas of the Arctic this century, making them more accessible for oil and natural gas drilling, a report prepared by the United States and seven other nations said on Monday.

It predicts that over the next 100 years, global warming could increase Arctic annual average temperatures 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit over land and by up to 13 degrees over water. Warmer temperatures could raise global sea levels by as much as 3 feet.

Such a change would threaten coastal cities, change growing patterns for vegetation and destroy habitats for some wildlife, but an energy-starved world would have new areas for oil and gas exploration, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report.

The Arctic region, particularly offshore, has huge oil and gas reserves, mostly in Russia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Norway.

Warmer temperatures would make it easier to drill and ship oil from the Arctic, the report said. It did not attempt to quantify the costs of drilling and shipping Arctic oil and gas, or estimate how high energy prices would have to be to justify drilling in the region.

"Offshore oil exploration and production are likely to benefit from less extensive and thinner sea ice, although equipment will have to be designed to withstand increased wave forces and ice movement," the report said.

However, land access to energy reserves would likely be restricted due to a shorter season during which the ground is frozen hard enough to support heavy drilling equipment.

"The thawing of permafrost, on which buildings, pipelines, airfields and coastal installations supporting oil and gas development are located, is very likely to adversely affect these structures and increase the cost of maintaining them," the report said.

Energy companies would find it easier to transport oil and gas because the warmer temperatures would open sea routes.

"By the end of this century, the length of the navigation season...along the Northern Sea route is projected to increase to about 120 days from the current 20-30 days," the report said.

However, a longer shipping season will increase the risk of oil spills, the report warned.

The report was commissioned by the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland. It concluded that global warming is heating the Arctic almost twice as quickly as the rest of the planet in a thaw that threatens millions of livelihoods.

 

Almost half of Europe's birds at risk

Okay, with nowhere else to put my environmental-wacko posts (I don't really want to try to control 3 blogs, so I need somewhere to transfer some stuff I was already putting on a new blog), I suppose they'll fit in on this blog. After all, sanity includes the environment, no? From Reuters via Yahoo News comes this disturbing article:

Nearly Half European Birds Species at Risk
ReportSun Nov 7, 7:07 PM ET
By Anna Mudeva

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Over 40 percent of all bird species in Europe face an uncertain future and some are so threatened that they may disappear soon due to intensive agriculture and climate change, scientists said on Monday.

Many bird species, including the house sparrow, starling, wood warbler and corn bunting, have been declining alarmingly, BirdLife International said in a report.

"The number of bird species in trouble across Europe is rising," said BirdLife, a British-based conservation group.

The report identifies 226 species, or 43 percent of all European bird types, as being threatened. Many of them are declining, while other populations have failed to recover from large declines seen in the 1970s and 1980s.

A number of bird species could disappear in the very near future if immediate action is not taken, warned the report "Birds in Europe," due to be presented at a European conference on biodiversity in the Netherlands later on Monday.

The birds which face extinction include the sociable lapwing, a wader which breeds only in south-west Russia and Kazakhstan, the Mediterranean shearwater, a seabird from the Balearic Islands, and the Azores Bullfinch that lives only on one small island in the Atlantic, BirdLife says.

"The fact that more birds in Europe face an uncertain future compared with a decade ago in deeply worrying," said Clairie Papazoglou, head of BirdLife's European Community Office.

"Birds are excellent environmental indicators and the continued decline of many species sends a clear signal about the health of Europe's wildlife and the poor state of our environment," Papazoglou said.

More intensive agriculture, construction projects and climate warming pose the biggest threats to birds, according to the report which assesses population sizes and trends for all of Europe's wild birds from 52 countries or territories.

However, it is not all bad news.

Some of the most endangered European species, such as the Audouin's gull, the Eurasian griffon and the white-tailed eagle, have shown a marked recovery as a result of better protection.

The report attributed the improvement partly to European Union conservation initiatives under the Bird Directive, whose 25th anniversary is to be marked at Monday's conference in the southern Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom.

The EU has pledged to stop the decline of wildlife in Europe by 2010, but BirdLife said a huge amount of work has still to be done to achieve that.

 

Japan's dolphin-hunting--traditional?

From the BBC, this quirky and nightmare-inducing (for me, literally) article:

Dining with the dolphin hunters
By Paul Kenyon
Director/producer/reporter, "Dolphin Hunters"

Most people deplore the mere thought of hunting and killing dolphins, but in Japan it is legal and arguably, traditional. So, is the process known as drive hunting symbolic of a cultural gulf, or does it simply amount to mindless slaughter?

The thin, dark slivers of meat were prepared in a fan shape, and had started bleeding in the high humidity.

This was the only bar in Taiji, a small town in southern Japan with a strong suspicion of outsiders.

The meal that faced me was raw dolphin.

The locals jab at it, and slurp it down with the local beer. It is one of their favourite foods, cheaper than whale, and more flavoursome.

It looks like tuna, but black. After some prodding, I swallowed a single piece... and won a little trust.

We had come here after an American marine mammal specialist with One Voice, Ric O'Barry, told us about the annual mass slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

It has been going on for 400 years and the process is called "drive hunting".

The fishermen surround a pod of dolphins at sea. They lower metal poles into the water and bang them with hammers.

The clattering noise carries through the water, and confuses the dolphins' sonar. In their panic, the dolphins are driven into shallow water.

Then the killing begins.

There is little finesse about it. The water runs red, as the fishermen use knives and ropes to capture them and hoist their thrashing bodies onto the quayside.

From there, they are dragged, many still alive, to the slaughter house, chunks of flesh ripping from them onto the tarmac.

Hunters' logic

Two days after arriving in Japan, I was in the dolphin hunters' co-operative in Taiji. All they know of Westerners are the handful of protesters who turn up each year, trying to stop their hunt.

In a town of 500 fishermen, only 27 are allowed to catch dolphins. It is an elite club, membership of which is chosen by Masonic-style ritual.

"Even if you were the prime minister's son, you wouldn't necessarily get in," said one former mackerel fisherman, guzzling a plate of dolphin in The Whale Bar.

But, the dolphin hunters surprised me. They were not the callous animal rights abusers I had been led to expect.

They were dignified and philosophical about their trade.

They were also confused. Dolphins to them are just big fish to be treated like any other.

"You'd think nothing of slicing off a tuna's head while it was alive, so why the outcry over dolphins ?" one of them said.

That night, in the dolphin bar, I showed them a BBC film about the latest research on dolphin intelligence.

I wanted to understand the cultural gulf dividing Japan and the rest of the world.

They sat in silence, watching bottle-nose dolphins master up to 60 words of sign language and demonstrate some pretty mind-blowing problem-solving skills. They were not impressed.

"They're just like dogs", said one. "You could teach dogs the same tricks, it doesn't mean they're clever."

International outrage

The dolphin hunting season began at the start of October.

As the fishermen prepared their boats, marine mammal specialist Ric O'Barry prepared his plans to stop them.

Each year he flies from his home in Miami, and takes up residence in Taiji for six months.

He and his colleagues wake early in the morning, and shadow the fishermen, trying to film their activities.

The confrontations between the two sides can descend into scuffles. Mr O'Barry says he has been threatened with a knife.

The fishermen deny it.

They wonder how we would feel if a group of Japanese turned up each year in the English countryside to picket a fox hunt.

Greater impact

Further up the coast, we discover the real cost of dolphin hunting, something that goes beyond the cultural arguments batted backwards and forwards by protesters and fishermen.

In the town of Futo, we meet a man who used to hunt dolphins, but stopped.

His reason? He says his colleagues were breaking the government-imposed quota; they were killing too many dolphins.

The quota is there to prevent damage to the species, but he said his colleagues cared little about that.

He now takes tourists out to observe dolphins in the wild. On our day-long trip, we did not see a single one.

Not only that, his colleagues have not carried out a drive hunt here for four years. They have not been able to find dolphins either.

It seems the fishermen have simply fished themselves out of a job.

But, back in Taiji, the hunt is going ahead this year as it has done for the last four centuries.

The fishermen say they need it to survive. It is the only business they know.

The activists trying to stop them are likely to be exclusively outsiders.

That is not necessarily because the Japanese support the trade. During the three weeks we were there, we found no one outside the dolphin hunting towns who even knew that dolphins were eaten.

So, perhaps the challenge is not to change minds, but to inform them.

"Dolphin Hunters" will be broadcast in the UK on BBC Two at 1930 GMT.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/programmes/this_world/3956355.stm
Published: 2004/11/08 00:54:11 GMT© BBC MMIV

 

France's continuing troubles in Africa

France can't catch a break, at least not when it comes to their former--and current--dealings in Africa. From Expatica — Living in, moving to, or working in France, plus French news in English comes this article on continuing blame of France for the Rwandan genicide a decade ago. This fits rather neatly with the article I just posted on the new film coming out.

Rwanda slams France for 'downplaying' genocide

KIGALI, Nov 11 (AFP) - Rwandan lawmakers are studying a bill that accuses France of "misunderstanding and downplaying" the 1994 genocide in which, according to Kigali, about one million people, mostly minority Tutsis, were killed.

The draft law paves the way for the creation of a commission to examine France's role in the 100-day killing spree that was masterminded and carried out by a Hutu government that enjoyed strong support from Paris.

The text of the bill explains that the commission will in particular look at "the role France had and continues to have in ... misunderstanding and downplaying the 1994 genocide ... by fighting the government set up after the genocide."

The bill was approved by cabinet in July but its text has only just been made public.

Rwanda's Tutsi-led government, in power since July 1994, has frequently accused Paris of having trained and armed those who carried out the genocide, who were mostly from the Hutu community that makes up 84 percent of Rwanda's population.

France has always denied any involvement in the Rwanda massacres, and a French parliamentary commission in 1998 cleared France of responsibility for the genocide while admitting to "strategic errors".

The draft law, prepared by Rwanda's justice ministry, is currently being debated in parliament's National Unity and Human Rights Committee.

France's ambassador to Rwanda, Dominique Decherf, told AFP "the time has come to look at this period dispassionately."

"Franco-Rwandan relations will not be blocked because of what happened 10 years ago. We have to move forward, and both sides agree on this," he added.

"This commission of enquiry was presented to me not as a polemical thing, but as a scientific one," said the ambassador, adding that he was ready to collaborate with the commission.

But another diplomat posted to Kigali described the commission as "very aggressive."

"In the outline of its objectives, we see very clearly in what direction the inquiry will be led. The aim is to bring France to justice. This goes against the easing of relations between the two countries over the last four months," he added.

Of all the countries accused of having played a role in the genocide, France is alone in not having apologised or asked forgiveness from the Rwandan people.

 

New film focuses on Rwandan genocide

From Newswise this little tidbit about a new film that deals with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda:

Newswise — The new film “Hotel Rwanda” tells of the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. UAB anthropologist Christopher Taylor, Ph.D., author of “Sacrifice as Terror: The Rwandan Genocide of 1994,” made a harrowing escape from Rwanda when the killings began in April 1994. “The Hutu extremist militias in Rwanda didn’t possess ‘technicals,’ [automatic weapons] nor did most of them have firearms of any sort. Most were un- or under-employed adolescent males armed with clubs and machetes and imbued with the assurance that they were acting out the will of their country’s leaders with the support of the majority of their compatriots. They could have been neutralized without an enormous loss of life on the part of an intervening force.”

Friday, November 12, 2004

 

Christian Science Monitor editorial on Ivory Coast

This is an interesting editorial from the Christian Science Monitor, short and to the point. We tend to think, in today's intensely technological world, that we are far-removed from events and attitudes of the distant and not-so-distant past. That we are above colonialism. And this goes for the entire planet, as evidenced by the fact that France, advanced as they are, are seemingly having an exceedingly difficult time coming to grips with the fact that they are no longer a major colonial power in Africa.

The Monitor's View from the November 10, 2004 edition

France's Burden in Africa

Letting Africans save Africa has become an operating objective for world diplomats. But that's been difficult for one former colonial power, France.

Last Saturday, its fighter jets destroyed the tiny Air Force of Ivory Coast, one of its former colonies. France was retaliating for a government air strike that had just killed nine French soldiers. Those troops were part of a larger UN peacekeeping force trying to keep Ivory Coast from slipping back into a civil war between northern Muslim rebels and a Christian-dominated government.

The French airstrike only stirred up old anticolonial passions, leading to riots that have threatened French citizens and businesses in Ivory Coast's capital, Abidjan.

Like the US in Iraq, France has both good intentions in Ivory Coast and a messy situation.
On Tuesday, however, the continent's most respected leader, South African President Thabo Mbeki, flew into Abidjan to try to calm the situation.

Mr. Mbeki has long tried to rid Africa of any lingering colonial patterns. Most of all, he may have been trying to prevent France from ousting Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, as many suspect France feels it may need to do. That would have been a serious setback for Africa's new desire to solve its own political crises.

The South African leader intervened in a problem that's growing all along Africa's north: clashes between Christians and radical Muslims. Sudan has been the main hotbed of violence in that religious split.

France must tread more carefully in its old turf, even if it has UN approval. Backward steps won't help Africa make necessary forward steps.

 

Scott Peterson found guilty

And the only problem is, I don't think he did it. I can't wait to see what evidence he's been convicted on, truly. It may of course change my mind, but...

 

Women in black

Who are Women in Black

Women in Black (WiB) is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.

We are not an organisation, but a means of mobilisation and a formula for action. Women in Black actions are generally women only, and often take the form of women wearing black, standing in a public place in silent, non-violent vigils at regular times and intervals, carrying placards and handing out leaflets.

Non-violent actions…
We use non-violent and non-aggressive forms of action. In addition to vigils Women in Black groups use many other forms of non-violent direct action such as sitting down to block a road, entering military bases and other forbidden zones, refusing to comply with orders, and "bearing witness". Wearing black in some cultures signifies mourning, and feminist actions dressed in black convert women's traditional passive mourning for the dead in war into a powerful refusal of the logic of war.

A worldwide movement…
It is impossible to know exactly how many Women in Black groups exist, how many women they include and how many actions have been held. When Women in Black in Israel/Palestine, as part of a coalition of Women for a Just Peace, called for vigils in June 2001 against the Occupation of Palestinian lands, at least 150 WiB groups across the world responded. Countries reporting vigils included: Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Maldive Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the USA. The organisers estimate that altogether 10,000 women were involved.

International Women in Black conferences and encounters have been held in Jerusalem, Beijing, former Yugoslavia, and Brussels. Another is planned for Italy in 2003. In 2001 Women in Black was awarded the Millennium Peace Prize for Women by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and International Alert. Women in Black in Israel/Palestine and former Yugoslavia were also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Right Livelihood Award.

International networking...
Women in Black has an international e-mail list and website. Go to the International section for more information. Click here.

A feminist perspective…
Women in Black groups do not have an agreed constitution - our perspective is clear from our actions and words. We have a feminist understanding that male violence against women in domestic life and in war are related. Women experience a continuum of gendered violence, generated and sustained in masculine cultures.

Women in Black attempt to resist all forms of violence. WiB includes women of many ethnic and national backgrounds, co-operating across these (and other) differences in the interests of justice and peace. We also recognise that when people are oppressed as an ethnic or national group they may need to organize resistance in that name. We work for a world where difference does not mean inequality, oppression or exclusion.

Women in Black is about building bridges across differences and borders, based on a shared perspective that we and other women create.



 

Voices in the wilderness

Visit this website!
http://www.voicesuk.org/

SPEAK OUT AGAINST OCCUPATION

Voices in the Wilderness has been campaigning - both here and in the US - against US/UK policy towards Iraq since the mid-nineties. First, against the economic sanctions and US/UK military strikes on Iraq and, more recently, against the invasion of Iraq.Today, as the US/UK occupation of Iraq continues with no end in sight, solidarity with the Iraqi people is needed more than ever.

As our small part in this Voices UK will continue to provide information and to organise protests on Iraq-related issues and to collaborate with others on more general peace initiatives.

See more about Voices and our campaigning demands.

 

Catholics for peace

From Pax Christi USA , the Catholic movement that is trying their darnedest to help the planet. Please visit their site!

American voters say urgent moral issues are peace, poverty and greed
Catholic voters ultimately turned-off by single issue messaging of conservative Catholic leaders

Washington, D.C. - A new poll released today by Zogby International on the results of last Tuesday’s election shows that American voters think the urgent moral issues facing our country are peace, poverty and greed – and that Catholic voters overwhelmingly think that issues of economic justice are the greatest moral crisis in the United States today.

Dave Robinson, executive director of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic human rights organization, said that these numbers show that voters, particularly Catholic voters, choose their candidates on a wide range of values, and resist attempts to characterize their political identity in one or two issues.

“Though it’s clear that a portion of the electorate voted solely on issues like abortion and gay marriage, this poll shows that the vast majority of voters, especially Catholic voters, are influenced by a wide range of issues,” said Robinson. “Despite attempts to characterize Catholic political identity in one or two issues, Catholics recognized that there are a broad range of issues that their faith calls them to vote on; issues like economic justice, the war in Iraq, health care and more.”

The Zogby poll shows that when voters were asked to list the moral issue that most affected their vote, the Iraq war topped the list (42%) – more than tripling the number that chose abortion (13%) or gay marriage (9%). Also, when asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis facing the U.S., voters chose ‘greed and materialism’ (33%) and ‘poverty and economic justice’ (31%) twice as often as abortion (16%) and gay marriage (12%).

Catholics also followed this trend. Asked the question of the greatest moral crisis facing our country, 31% of Catholics chose poverty and 31% chose greed, compared to only 20% who chose abortion, and 11% that chose same-sex marriage. Further, more Catholic voters were turned off by messages from conservative leaders trumpeting ‘non-negotiable’ issues, as opposed to Catholic groups who held up a broad range of moral issues. According to Zogby, 25% of voters said that conservative Catholic messages touting ‘non-negotiable’ issues made them more likely to vote for Sen. John Kerry, whereas only 20% said these messages made them more likely to vote for President George W. Bush. Fifty-six percent said these messages had no effect on them at all.

“These numbers show that Catholics do not want to be told who to vote for,” said Bishop Gabino Zavala, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Bishop President of Pax Christi USA. “Rather, our job as church is to help Catholics formulate their political conscience on the broad range of issues that are at the heart of promoting and protecting the common good.”

Zogby’s poll also showed that progressive faith-based groups have started to close the “God Gap” with voters, despite the outcome of the election. Progressive faith-based groups reached 38% of the voters this election, which, although this is about half as many as the religious right reached (71%), it is a major increase over recent years.

“What these numbers mean is that people of faith want candidates who understand that morality is bigger than just one or two isolated issues,” Robinson said. “Voters are hungry for a voice that articulates poverty, health care, war and foreign policy as moral values. Our task now is to continue to bring these issues to the forefront of our church, so that the interest of the common good does not get lost or ignored over the next four years.”

For more information or media interviews, please contact Michael Jones at 814-453-4955, ext. 228, or email mike@paxchristiusa.org.

Pax Christi USA is the national Catholic peace movement, reaching more than half a million Catholics in the United States. Our membership includes more than 130 U.S. bishops, 800 parish sponsors, 650 religious communities and 300 local groups. Pax Christi USA is a section of Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace movement with consultative status at the United Nations.

 

The world in which we live

We've all had the nightmare--we're being chased by someone in a very public place, and no-one even bothers to glance in our direction. We scream, but to our horror no sound escapes our lips. Finally, we manage a weak cry for help, but we're ignored...

And this article shows how very real that nightmare can become. Pray for the woman, please. This may be a set-up, of course, or it may be that she indeed knows her kidnappers and is in reality safe. I hope that's the case...

Updated: 11:35 AM EST
Apparent Kidnapping Caught on Mall Camera


Watch Video

CORONA, Calif. (Nov. 12) - Two men were caught on a mall's security camera as they chased a woman through a parking structure, then grabbed and stuffed her into the trunk of a car.

Nearby shoppers seemed to notice the apparent abduction, but none attemped to stop it.

Police on Thursday were still trying to determine the identities of the woman, believed to be in her 20s, and two men involved in the Sunday evening incident at the Corona Discount Mall.

The woman's videotaped reaction upon seeing the men suggested she knew them.

Detective Frank Zellers said the incident was being investigated as a kidnapping.

"It's very discouraging right now and it's really difficult for us, because we don't know who the victim is," he told KCAL-TV. "And it's obvious that some kind of crime occurred. We don't know who the suspects are and who the victim is."

The department had received several calls from witnesses and others in recent days, but had no solid leads, Officer Jesse Jurado said. He said investigators had not yet ruled out the possibility that the incident was a hoax.

A security camera with a view outside the front of the mall recorded the scene as the woman walked from a parking lot to the sidewalk outside the entrance.

When a black Toyota Solara raced up and braked, the woman looked over her shoulder at the car and took off running into a parking structure with the vehicle in pursuit.

Despite a fuzzy videotape image, the woman can be seen running down a parking aisle as two men jump out of the Solara and chase her. One man threw the woman over his shoulder, carried her back to the car and put her in the trunk, which the other man had opened.

A security guard at the mall heard the woman yelling for someone to call the police as she was being stuffed in the trunk, Jurado said.

A handful of shoppers visible in the foreground of the scene appeared to turn their heads and watch the incident. In addition, several motorists drove through the scene.

The car's right front tire was a smaller, spare donut-type tire, police said.

Corona is a Riverside County city of 138,000 about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

11/12/04 09:23 EST AOL News - Apparent Kidnapping Caught on Mall Camera

 

Holland and violence

This is from Slate:

Holland in Flames
Religious violence and terror arrests stun the Netherlands in the aftermath of filmmaker Theo van Gogh's murder.
By Scott MacMillan
Posted Thursday, Nov. 11, 2004, at 1:25 PM PT

European papers are expressing alarm at a spiral of religious violence in the Netherlands, a normally placid country at the heart of Europe's self-image of tolerance. The wave of attacks and counterattacks began with the gruesome slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh as he rode his bicycle through Amsterdam on Nov. 2. Van Gogh was shot several times, stabbed, and his throat slit. A note was pinned to his body with a knife, threatening other public figures with death in the name of Islam. The director—the great-grandnephew of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh—had made a controversial 11-minute film (in English, viewable here) in which a veiled Muslim woman, her body inscribed with Quranic verses beneath a semitransparent full-body veil, addresses Allah with a mixture of anger, devotion, and defiance while telling painful stories of domestic abuse condoned within Muslim culture.

A wave of retributive attacks against mosques, schools, and churches swept the country following van Gogh's murder. A bomb exploded at a Muslim school in Eindhoven in apparent retaliation; arsonists torched another Muslim school in Uden, an image that dominated the front page of Dutch daily Volkskrant; and vandals tossed Molotov cocktails at churches in Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Amersfoort. Volksrant listed 10 Muslim and five Christian sites that had been attacked since Friday.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Dutch police conducted a 14-hour siege on a house in a residential neighborhood in The Hague where alleged terror suspects were holed up, part of a nationwide antiterror sweep that yielded seven arrests. Police have declined to say whether the operation is related to the van Gogh murder or whether it would have occurred anyway—indeed, Agence France-Press quotes police saying it is not related—yet nearly every news account links the two cases.

For a day, it seemed, all eyes were focused on the standoff in The Hague: Police cleared five city streets and stopped air traffic over the city, home to several international judicial bodies, which some have taken to calling "the International City of Peace." Defiant militants tossed a grenade during the standoff, wounding several police officers, and neighbors reportedly heard at least one of them threatening to behead a police negotiator. The United Kingdom's Guardian wrote that The Hague siege may well turn out to be "one more link in the ugly chain of events that began" with van Gogh's murder.

The prime suspect in van Gogh's murder is a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan man named Mohammed Bouyeri, named by the local press only at Mohammed B., as is customary in criminal cases. Bouyeri is a second-generation Moroccan immigrant, born in Holland, who reportedly turned to radical Islam only two years ago, following the attacks of Sept. 11. Reuters cited Dutch authorities on Thursday saying Bouyeri was at the center of an Amsterdam-based terror gang with links to the group that carried out the May 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca in which 45 people were killed. Six other people are also being held in connection with the murder.

"After the terrorist attacks of the 11th of September 2001, [Bouyeri] reportedly began his radical Islam life," wrote Algemeen Dagblad. The newspaper quotes a friend saying he was wrongfully detained after the attacks on New York and Washington at a time when his mother was dying of cancer. The daily Trouw supports this timeline, saying Bouyeri was a prime target for recruitment by Islamic radicals: "People recruiting for Islamic Jihad know exactly who to be on the lookout for in the Netherlands: second-generation Moroccan youths suffering from an identity crisis with few prospects and plagued by the thought that the Islamic world is being suppressed. ... Mohammed B. was a dream candidate." (Dutch translations via Radio Netherlands.)

Papers across Europe are keeping a close eye on the situation, with multiple references to Europe in the 1930s—wherein the Muslim side either represents the Nazis or the Jews, depending on whom you ask. A comment in the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph likened the murder of van Gogh to the Nazi and Communist liquidation of intelligentsia, saying the unfolding events have laid waste to a Dutch tradition of liberal tolerance dating back to Spinoza: "If neo-conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, the Dutch are fast becoming a nation of neo-conservatives." Meanwhile, on the 66th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Denmark's Politiken lamented an apparent hardening of mainstream Dutch attitudes toward Muslims, drawing a comparison with the 1938 anti-Jewish riots in Nazi Germany. (Dutch translation via Expatica.)

In a land that has long prided itself on openness and tolerance, a newspaper poll taken Tuesday, the day of van Gogh's funeral, revealed that a staggering 40 percent of Dutch people say they hope Dutch Muslims "no longer feel at home" in Holland. Muslims make up 6 percent of the country's more than 16 million residents.

Scott MacMillan is a freelance journalist based in Prague. He is a contributor to the group blog Fistful of Euros.

 
My brother, who died 11 months ago today...This was his kindergarten picture. God, I do miss him... Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 11, 2004

 

In Flanders Fields... Posted by Hello

 

Veteran killed at parade

And on this Veterans' Day, we must pause and remember those who gave their all for us, for our freedom. This article is heartbreaking in the extreme...

Elderly Veteran Killed in Mass. Parade
U.S. National - AP

WHITMAN, Mass. - An 80-year-old veteran of World War II was killed Thursday morning when a van backed over him as he prepared to march in a Veterans Day parade.

Witnesses said William Hammond, captain of the parade's color guard, was lining up with fellow veterans at the start of the parade route when the van struck him.

The van, owned by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, was driven by a close friend of Hammond. He was taken to a hospital to be treated for emotional distress.

"It's devastating," said Richard Slowey, adjutant of VFW Post 697. "Bill is a very warm and very kind person."

The Army veteran, who served in the infantry, had fought in the Battle of the Bulge, according to Robert Wessa, the post's junior vice commander. He was a past commander of the post and stayed active, traveling to a school with Wessa last week to talk about Veterans Day.

Wessa said he was in a different part of the parade and no idea anything had happened until he noticed that a group of marchers hadn't started.

A man who answered the phone at Hammond's house declined to comment. Post members said Hammond owned a contracting business and he and his wife, Irene, had several children.

Wessa remembered Hammond as a strong leader and good friend. He was still an avid motorcyclist and completed a road trip around Canada and the United States when he was in his late 70s.

"He was quite a guy," Wessa said. "It's a sad day."


 

China and Sudan

From The New Republic online, this article--long, yes, I know, but I wanted to post the entire article--raises a new issue in the ever-worsening Sudan/Darfur situation.

CHINA'S AFRICA STRATEGY.Out of Beijing
by Stéphanie Giry
Post date 11.10.04 Issue date 11.15.04

All summer, the U.N. Security Council debated whether to condemn the Sudanese government for supporting the murderous Janjaweed militias in Darfur. In July, it passed a weak resolution threatening sanctions against Khartoum. Then, in September, after the Bush administration labeled the massacres genocide, the United Nations passed another, similar, resolution threatening sanctions if the killing continued. Yet the United Nations did nothing more, even as the death toll rose in Darfur. On the campaign trail, John Kerry blasted the Bush administration for failing to push the United Nations to take a stronger stand. Editorials in nearly every major U.S. newspaper echoed Kerry's criticisms, denouncing the White House for watching Sudan burn.

Yet the Bush administration is getting more blame for Darfur than it deserves--and Beijing is not getting enough. Quietly but steadfastly, China's ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, has helped defang U.S.-sponsored drafts against Sudan, transforming language threatening to "take further action" against Khartoum into the more benign "consider taking additional measures." China then abstained from voting on even this weakened resolution, along with longtime ally Pakistan.

Beijing's goal? Probably to protect its investments in the Sudanese oil industry, including a 40 percent stake in a refinery pumping more than 300,000 barrels a day and a 1,500-kilometer pipeline from Sudan to the Red Sea. China's projects in Sudan are the pride of Beijing's new policy of prospecting for oil abroad--especially in Africa, where vast untapped fields could help fuel China, which recently became the world's second-largest oil consumer. In fact, by massively investing not only in African oil but also in African public works, telecoms, agriculture, and other sectors, China is trying to buy the hearts and minds of African leaders as part of a broader push to win allies in the developing world and boost its soft power abroad.

But China's efforts don't bode well for African democracy--or for Washington. As the diplomatic wrangling over Sudan shows, China's march into Africa will, at best, complicate African and U.S. efforts to bring good governance and human rights to the continent. At worst, it will hurt the fight against terrorism and weapons proliferation.

In 1993, after decades of self-sufficiency, Chinese domestic oil production could no longer satisfy demand, which had shot up because of the country's extraordinary economic growth. Since then, China has had to import more oil every year, from 6.4 percent of its total consumption in 1993, to 31 percent in 2002, to a projected 60 percent by 2020. As a result, Beijing has started to look for more oil abroad. In theory, China should be content to buy its oil from the world market. But, like the United States and other big consumers that don't trust the system to work perfectly, China has started courting producers directly. In 1996, Beijing set out to meet a third of its oil needs by sending state-controlled companies to prospect throughout the world.
So far, Beijing hasn't had much success in Asia. Deals for two pipelines, one from Russia and another from Kazakhstan, have stalled, leaving China with no direct conduit to any of its neighbors. Meanwhile, China's state-controlled oil companies haven't been able to displace well-established U.S. and European competitors in the Middle East. Despite fervent negotiations, the most Beijing has obtained from Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer, is the right to prospect natural gas to sell to the domestic Saudi market.

Little wonder, then, that Chinese officials see Africa as El Dorado. A recent report by Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that proven oil reserves in West Africa have doubled in the past decade to over 60 billion barrels. And, thanks to foreign investment, production in the region is about to take off. A decade ago, West African states (other than Nigeria) produced little. But Cambridge Energy Research Associates predicts that the region will turn out one in every five barrels of crude produced in the world between now and 2010, as well as vast quantities of natural gas. Except for Chad's inland fields, most of these resources lie offshore in the Gulf of Guinea, in an arc running from Nigeria to Angola. West African oil is of high quality--light, waxy, and low in sulfur--and is especially appealing to Chinese companies, which use refineries designed for domestic oil of a similar grade. Another bonus: Aside from Nigeria, West African producers do not belong to opec and are not subject to the cartel's production or export caps.

Chinese officials understand what is at stake. China already buys 25 percent of its foreign oil from Africa, and a recent report commissioned by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao urges Beijing to increase that share to 30 percent. (African oil accounts for 14 percent of total oil imports to the United States.) Beijing now hopes to get 50 million tons of oil from the Gulf of Guinea every year. In 2003, it bought ten million tons from Khartoum and more than $1 billion of petroleum products from Angola and South Africa each. Chinese oil firms cnpc and Sinopec recently struck deals with Algeria, Gabon, and Nigeria, and they are in talks with the governments of Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), Congo, and Angola.

These projects are the handsome result of Beijing's aggressive new African diplomacy. In February, President Hu Jintao embarked on a highly publicized tour of Algeria, Egypt, and Gabon, with oil executives in tow. At roughly the same time, Sinopec inked its first agreement with Gabon, a nation also wooed by the Bush administration and U.S. oil majors. Gabonese Foreign Minister Jean Ping, whom Hu met earlier this year, is known in West Africa as a Sinophile. Ping could prove a good intermediary between Beijing and the tiny island-state of São Tomé and Principe, an official ally of Taiwan that sits on major untapped oil reserves and was saved from an attempted coup last year by Ping's intervention. São Tomé and Principe has also been aggressively courted by U.S. oil companies.

Beijing's oil-slicked diplomacy builds on goodwill generated by its past actions in Africa. In the 1960s and 1970s, China supported revolutionary movements in Africa, vowing to help protect it against U.S. and Soviet imperialism. Many of those former rebels have now come to power and are willing to repay favors to Beijing. What's more, unlike the United States or other Western nations, Beijing does business without setting conditions on human rights, transparency, or good governance. It requires only that trading partners not recognize Taiwan, and all but a handful of African states have obliged.

Predictably, this amorality has been a boon to business. Beijing's state-controlled cnpc held onto its share in the Sudanese project, even after stockholders pressured the Canadian company Talisman to pull out because of Khartoum's human rights violations. (A 1997 sanctions package prohibits U.S. companies from investing in Sudan at all.) For African nations, doing business with U.S. companies "is complicated," says International Crisis Group special adviser John Prendergast, an Africa expert. "[The United States has] a lot of different compartments to [its] foreign policy. And many of them are really irritating to countries like Nigeria and Angola." Authoritarian African leaders understand the difference. Unlike America's "tied aid," China's cooperation comes only "with mutual respect and regard for diversity," said Gabonese President Omar Bongo, who has been in power for three decades and is routinely condemned in State Department human rights reports.

Unencumbered by principles, Chinese companies are free to go where many Western firms cannot. Beijing moved closer to Nigeria in the mid-'90s, when, after the execution of writer-activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the U.S. Congress considered blocking new investments by U.S. oil companies. Chinese companies positioned themselves in Libya well before the U.N. sanctions against Tripoli were lifted last year. Consider also Beijing's tactics in the CAR. When the European Union and international lenders refused last year to bail out the new authoritarian government until it restored constitutional order, Beijing stepped in, bankrolling the entire civil service. The move was savvy: Being in the CAR government's good graces won't hurt when, as energy experts predict, access to Chad's oil fields opens up on the CAR side of the Chad border.
Beijing's methods apply to more sectors than just energy. In 2000, the Chinese government launched the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, "a framework for collective dialogue" designed "to seek peace and development." Beijing could have said commerce, too. By the forum's second meeting, three years later, Beijing had signed 40 trade agreements and 34 investment treaties with African states and wiped clean a collective debt worth some $1.3 billion. Meanwhile, China has helped build roads in Equatorial Guinea, dams in Morocco, an airport and a nuclear reactor in Algeria, and government offices in Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, and Uganda. Beijing is even pushing the Chinese to travel to Africa and to buy African products at home.

In return, Beijing has won access to critical resources like natural gas, in addition to oil and vast new markets for its goods. Chinese trade with Africa has almost doubled since 2000; and, although it is still a fraction of China's worldwide exchanges, it's already about half of U.S.-Africa trade.

Beijing's tactics should worry Washington--not to mention average Africans. Increasing demand and shrinking domestic supplies are making the United States overly dependent on oil imports, and Washington's search for new suppliers in West Africa--which the Bush administration has called "the fastest-growing source of oil and gas for the American market"--seems to pit the United States against China. Yet, because Washington already has solid ties with the Gulf of Guinea's largest exporters and U.S. companies are better equipped than cnpc or Sinopec to perform the type of deep offshore drilling that will unlock the region's resources, China's hunt for African resources is not a direct threat to U.S. energy security.

It is, however, a threat to other U.S. interests on the continent. While Beijing courts African capitals for access to oil and gas, Washington is trying to convince African leaders to host U.S. military bases, battle terrorism, and emphasize human rights. After all, with growing concerns that unstable regions could become terrorist havens, Washington's commitment to democracy in Africa is becoming a security imperative. The Bush administration has committed $100 million to help eastern African states train their forces to better patrol borders, block terrorist financing, and reinforce aviation security. And, at an international counterterrorism conference in Algiers last month, U.S. ambassador for counterterrorism Cofer Black renewed a pitch for Africa's cooperation, arguing that "the struggle against terrorism is also in part the struggle for a better society." Meanwhile, through the Millennium Challenge Account, the Bush administration has offered aid to African nations that promote good government.

But China's march could scuttle Washington's efforts. In a searing 581-page report, Human Rights Watch recently argued that Chinese companies are complicit in Khartoum's efforts to displace populations in southern Sudan to clear the way for oil rigs. It also charges that China's oil purchases have enabled the Sudanese government to buy arms--sometimes from Beijing itself--fueling the violence in Darfur that Washington says it is now trying to stem. And who knows how much of the $1 billion in arms that Beijing sold to Ethiopia and Eritrea during their 1998-2000 war has migrated over the border into Sudan? Of course, it would be unfair to hold Beijing solely responsible for Sudan's abuses, or to absolve Washington simply for condemning the violence in Darfur. But, by bypassing sanctions, trading arms, and leveraging its influence with international organizations, Beijing has indeed helped prop up Sudan's oil industry and the government in Khartoum.

Likewise, Beijing could undermine U.S. efforts to stabilize President Olesegun Obasanjo's beleaguered and reform-minded government in Nigeria, a key ally in Washington's fight against terrorism. "It would really help the Nigerian [government] to have a business partner that didn't care about human rights," Prendergast says, citing Obasanjo's continued struggle with rebels who regularly disrupt oil production. "Sudan is providing a really good example of how China can help you," Prendergast says. "If I were Obasanjo, I'd be looking at that."

Some already are. Last month, the governor of Nigeria's Kaduna Province, the site of sectarian killings and an enforcer of sharia law, invited Chinese investors to set up businesses there. And the government of Angola, which has been pushed by the United States and the World Bank to improve transparency in the distribution of its oil money, has increasingly sought out Chinese investors. As a result, Beijing's unconditional investments across Africa could feed violence or prop up authoritarian leaders, much as they have in Burma, Laos, and other Asian nations where China has become the main external power. Just ask Darfurians where that can lead.

Stéphanie Giry is an associate editor at Foreign Affairs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 

BREAKING--ARAFAT HAS DIED...

...again.

 

Ivory Coast exodus

Foreigners are fleeing Ivory Coast in droves according to this story found at Yahoo! News - Exodus from Ivory Coast as foreigners, citizens flee violence, which only raises my personal fear that nothing good can possibly come of this situation...

ABIDJAN (AFP) - An exodus from Ivory Coast began as France sent planes to evacuate nationals while thousands of Ivorians fled across the borders to escape violence that has claimed a reported 145 lives.

"It is time for the Ivorian government to take responsibility for restoring public order," French President Jacques Chirac told a cabinet meeting Wednesday. "We are doing what we can to help our compatriots leave Ivory Coast."

French military spokesman Colonel Henry Aussavy told AFP that a first of three flights would leave around midday, carrying 270 of the 14,000 French nationals in France's former star colony in west Africa, which is the world's top cocoa producer.

The foreign ministry in Paris raised the number of planes to four.

"Four aircraft should take off from Abidjan during the day, representing a passenger capacity of about 1,000 available places," French foreign ministrey deputy spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo said.

Some 1,300 Europeans are sheltering at a French military base near the airport, fleeing a torrent of mob violence in the economic hub Abidjan that has destroyed hundreds of homes and vehicles and left at least 600 people injured, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Belgium, Canada, Italy and Spain will also evacuate nationals, while Russia and the United States have yet to announce plans to do the same.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said "at least" 5,000 Ivorians have arrived in Liberia's northeastern Nimba County since Thursday, when government forces started bombarding key rebel positions in the north.

"Everyone is very frightened. We are preparing ourselves for even more people coming," UNHCR spokeswoman Francesca Fontanini told AFP from Monrovia.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has called the air strikes on Korhogo and Bouake an operation "to liberate and reunify the country" divided between rebel north and government south since a failed September 2002 coup sparked a civil war.

The air strikes have been widely condemned as a violation of an 18-month-old ceasefire reached under a January 2003 peace pact to address root causes of the uprising such as nationality, land ownership and eligibility for president.

Rebel leader Guillaume Soro told AFP that at least 85 civilians were killed in three days of raids that were followed by cuts in power, water and telephone services across the north, but those figures have not been confirmed.

A final raid Saturday by Gbagbo's forces hit a French military camp in Bouake, killing nine French soldiers and a US civilian in what French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier has called a "deliberate" attack.

France riposted by wiping out most of the small Ivorian air force, seizing the airport and sending tanks onto the bridges spanning Abidjan's lagoon.

The aggressive response sent anti-French sentiment soaring. Gbagbo partisans commandeered national radio and television with "hate" messages urging protesters into the streets to loot, injure and, according to humanitarian sources in Abidjan, rape.

Violence has produced numerous standoffs between the so-called "patriots" and French soldiers. On Tuesday night the parking lot of the luxury Hotel Ivoire, a kilometer (half a mile) from Gbagbo's residence, became a bloodbath after a confrontation killed at least seven, according to hospital sources.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie denied Wednesday that troops fired on civilians, discounting accusations by senior Gbagbo adviser Alain Toussaint that 50 civilians have died in "massacres" by French troops.

"Abidjan is a place where there are a lot of rumors, used to incite the crowd against the international community," she said.

The violence is likely to dim an upbeat assessment Tuesday by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who emerged "pleased" from a two-hour meeting with Gbagbo about his Ivorian counterpart's commitment to peace.

Mbeki on Wednesday invited Ivorian opposition leaders to South Africa as part of an African Union bid to restore calm. The AU mediation effort will in coming weeks include talks with key regional leaders such as Omar Bongo of Gabon and Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore.
Cocoa exports have been suspended due to the unrest, whipping prices on global markets to record highs.

The UN Security Council was expected to vote Wednesday on a French resolution imposing sanctions on Ivory Coast, including an arms embargo.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

Random thoughts on death

These thoughts came to me, in no particular order, while I was pondering El Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. There is a profound difference between personal experience of death--as in my case, burying in the course of 3 years my 90-year-old Great-aunt; my 34-year-old cousin Paula Jo who died of a massive heart attack while mowing the lawn, with only her 3 small children home to phone 9-1-1; my mother's cousin and best friend, who was also my godmother, of a cancer detected in August 2003 that killed her on September 8, 2003; and my own 34-year-old brother David, who had a heart attack on December 4, 2003, and whom I found dead of a final massive heart attack on December 12, 2003--and the kind of death we are seeing daily on the news.

The link I posted yesterday, The Memory Hole > This Is War , shows images of unbelievable brutality and inhumanity, and it sickens us and saddens us when we see these images. But we do not experience the deaths, I think, at a visceral level. We do not experience them the same way we do the deaths in our own families.

This is, obviously, stating the obvious, and I realize that. The deaths we encounter, from which we struggle daily to heal (and I still am having an extremely hard time coping), are far more meaningful to us than the distant deaths we view on CNN.

And why, exactly, should this be so? That's the question that I've been tossing around my brain for the past several hours, after posting a reply on my The Zero Room blog to Chandira's comment about seeing a parade of dancing people dressed as skeletons. I've been fascinated since my brother's death with cultures that mock death, which Hispanics do in a very real way every November. By consuming candy skulls imprinted with their name in icing, they are, in a symbolic way, consuming Death with a capital D. They become the death-eaters, they gain control over this monster that is Death. That kind of thing brings me comfort, or at least relieves my own mourning briefly.

So, back to Iraq, and Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and...and...and... The people who died had families who mourn them. The dead are mere numbers to those of us who view the siege of, for instance, Fallujah, from afar. Mere numbers. They did not break bread with us, they did not carpool with us, we did not take their children to the park with our children. We did not share any of the same relatives.

And yet they are all our family, and the fact that distance makes them less so, makes them abstract and surreal, something to argue about over the water cooler on Monday morning, should in and of itself be setting off clanging claxons of danger in our minds. We should care, we should be trying to heal from these deaths even as we do from the deaths in our families. Because when we cease to weep for the dead of places we may never see, we sell our own humanity to the lowest bidder.

And there is no obvious way around this, of course. The distant dead will always be the distant dead. We will not attend their funerals. We will not hold their grieving widow as she sobs on our shoulder. We will not take their kids to Dairy Queen to restore some semblance of normality. When a beloved relative dies, we cannot understand how the world goes on. W.H. Auden's poem becomes new and sharp and all-too-real. "Stop the clocks..."

We do not alter our normal lives when the death toll in Iraq rises. We do not call for a universal stoppage of clocks. We do not share in the pain another, distant family feels. We are so caught up in our own pains and stresses that we fail utterly to see the pain in the eyes of someone else.

No, there's no real end to this post, it's just a random babble, but as a human being, it all gives me pause.

Monday, November 08, 2004

 

What the hell are we playing at?

This site The Memory Hole > This Is War MUST be seen to be believed! It's filled with actual photos of actual victims of war. PLEASE, if you do nothing else today that feels worthwhile, take a long look at this webiste! And then get out your word processor/pen/bloody crayon if you must, and write letters, start a campaign, get involved! YES we lost this election, and NO we are not going to take it sitting down. To be meek and mild and sweet and merely play at politics will only mean that the above website will have more than enough photos to publish in the coming 4 years. I found the link on my good friend Chandira's blog here: Diary of a Hope Fiend

Sunday, November 07, 2004

 

Machete-wielding Ivorians loot city

From the A.P. via Yahoo (and hey, wouldn't it be super-cool if just once in the history of humanity we could have a peaceful mob? An event where the word "mob" is not automatically followed by the word "violence," making the phrase almost a sickening cliche...):

Machete-Waving Mobs Loot Ivory Coast City
By PARFAIT KOUASSI, Associated Press Writer

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - Machete-waving mobs thousands-strong looted and burned in Ivory Coast's largest city Sunday, laying siege to a French military base and searching house to house for French families.

About 250 French troop reinforcements landed at Abidjan's international airport, which was taken by France late Saturday after it destroyed what it said was the entire Ivory Coast air force — two Sukhoi warplanes and five helicopter gunships.

The reinforcements, bolstering a 4,000-man French peacekeeping force, flew from the West African nation of Gabon, where France was holding three Mirage fighter jets on standby.

Saturday's destruction came in retaliation for the Ivory Coast air force's surprise bombing of a French peacekeeping position in the north, held by Ivory Coast rebels since civil war broke out in the world's top cocoa producer in September 2002.

The airstrike killed nine French troops and one American civilian, a consultant working with an aid group, according to the U.S. Embassy.

Mob violence, sparked by loyalist anger at France's retaliatory attack, raged into a second day in Abidjan and the country's political capital, Yamoussoukro.

Loyalist throngs of thousands ruled the streets of Abidjan, setting up roadblocks of burning tires across the city. An Associated Press reporter watched as a crowd armed with machetes and iron bars entered a neighborhood near the city's main French military base, demanding to know if there were any French citizens living in the district.

"We are all terrified, and try to reassure each other," one French resident said by telephone from his home elsewhere in the city, speaking on condition his name be withheld. "We have been told by the embassy to stay at home. ... It is a difficult situation to live through."

France battled to hold back the mobs, dropping percussion grenades throughout the night on mobs massing at bridges, the international airport and the military base in the commercial capital, Abidjan, French military spokesman Col. Henry Aussavy said.

An Associated Press photographer in Yamoussoukro saw mobs of at least hundreds outside the French military base there.

France and the U.N. Security Council, meeting in emergency session Saturday, demanded President Laurent Gbagbo restore order.

Ivory Coast leaders sounded defiance instead.

National Assembly president Mamadou Coulibaly, No. 2 under Gbagbo, accused French President Jacques Chirac of arming Ivory Coast's rebels, telling France's Inter radio: "We have the feeling and we have the proof" of it.

Accusing France of "connivance with the rebels," Coulibaly demanded French troops "liberate the territory and then go."

Hard-liners inside and outside the government urged loyalists to rise up.

"I appeal to young patriots, wherever you are found, to take to the streets and liberate Ivory Coast," said the chairman of Ivory Coast's governing party, Pascal Affy Nguessan.

Nguessan accused the French of firing on the mansion of the president, Gbagbo. Fearing attempts to overthrow Gbagbo, loyalist leaders urged followers to form a "human shield" around his mansion.

Numerous French families contacted French authorities in Ivory Coast overnight, saying their homes were being attacked, Aussavy said.

Also overnight, electricity and phone lines at the French Embassy were cut, spokesman Francois Guenon said.

There was no word on casualties from mob attacks.

However, loyalists claimed at least six of their followers had been killed by the French, and state TV overnight briefly showed the bodies of what it said was five loyalists, journalists said.

Ivory Coast's fall into violence started Thursday, when Gbagbo's military reopened attacks on towns in the rebel-held north after a more than year-old cease-fire.

France and the United Nations jointly have more than 10,000 troops in the West African nation, manning a buffer zone between the rebel north and loyalist south.

 

Ivory Coast primer #2

The BBC, a.k.a. "The Beeb," is one of the world's foremost sources for news. They regularly put out, in a question-and-answer format, basic primers regarding major stories. The one below is on the conflict in Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast, previously West Africa's richest country, has been divided between north and south - between rebels and the national army - since September 2002.

Government air strikes on rebel-held territory in the north this week, and clashes on the ground between the two sides, marks the first major unrest since a peace deal brokered by France in January 2003.

BBC News looks at the reasons behind the conflict and whether peace and prosperity can return.

What happened to the peace accord?

The power-sharing "government of unity" outlined in the peace pact has never lived up to its name and the January 2003 peace agreement was never fully implemented.

The former ruling party - the Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) - pulled out at the beginning of March 2004, accusing President Laurent Gbagbo of "destabilising the peace process".

In protest at the suppression of an opposition march in Abidjan which left scores dead, the ex-rebels, now called the New Forces (FN), and the main opposition party, the Rally of the Republicans, also withdrew from the government.

A UN report said the security forces had singled out suspected opposition supporters to be killed.

The disarmament programme - supposed to begin on 8 March - failed to kick off in any meaningful way.

The FN refuse to disarm until free and fair elections, scheduled for 2005, have taken place.

When did civil war break out in the first place?

The uprising began on 19 September 2002 with a mutiny by troops unhappy at being demobilised.

But it quickly turned into a full-scale rebellion, voicing the unhappiness of northern Muslims at what they saw as discrimination by the government of President Laurent Gbagbo.

Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, a northern Muslim, was barred from standing in presidential elections because of a new law which said that presidential candidates must be born in Ivory Coast and both parents must be Ivorian.

He was accused of being from Burkina Faso, even though he had previously been prime minister of Ivory Coast. He has represented Burkina Faso at the World Bank.

For some Muslims, this symbolised their marginalisation - many northerners have family ties in Burkina Faso or Mali.

The FN and the opposition insist that the law must be changed if there is to be any
breakthrough.

A related law, making it easier for those born to foreign parents to become Ivory Coast citizens, was discussed in parliament but then withdrawn after Mr Gbagbo's supporters blocked it.

Why was the law on presidential candidates changed?

Southern politicians expressed fears of being "swamped" by immigrants.

Ivory Coast used to be West Africa's richest country.

It is the world's largest producer of cocoa, the raw ingredient of chocolate.

During the time of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, immigrants from its poorer neighbours were encouraged to do menial work in Ivory Coast.

Foreigners, mainly from Burkina Faso and Mali, are estimated to count for a third of the population.

In the 1990s, the economy started to go downhill and Ivorians began to resent such a large foreign presence.

It was then that former President Henri Konan Bedie introduced the concept of "Ivoirite", or Ivorianness.

Why does Ivory Coast matter?

Neighbours Burkina Faso and Liberia have been accused of backing the rebellion.

They have denied this but it raises the nightmare scenario of other countries being dragged into the conflict.

There have been several xenophobic attacks on Muslims and foreigners in government-controlled areas.

Since the conflict began, many thousands of these African expatriate workers have returned to their home countries.

This has already hurt the whole region as poor countries lose valuable remittance earnings.

Most French-speaking West African countries share the same currency, the CFA franc, and instability in Ivory Coast has hit investment and confidence across the region.

What is the French interest?

France is the former colonial power and has had a military base in Abidjan since the 1960s.

France guarantees the CFA franc and its businesses still dominate the economy.

Until anti-French protests led Paris to urge "non-essential" citizens to leave, there were 16,000 French nationals in Ivory Coast.

Some 4,000 French troops have also been monitoring a ceasefire line across the middle of the country.

This is why France was so determined to push all the sides together and get them to agree to end the fighting and form a national unity government.

Why the anti-French feeling?

Because of the peace deal brokered by the French.

Rebels say they were promised the key defence and interior ministries under a power-sharing agreement, although this does not appear in the official text.

Supporters of Mr Gbagbo in the commercial capital, Abidjan, accuse the French of forcing him to sign this deal.

Since the conflict broke out, Mr Gbagbo has said the French army should have intervened to protect him, as a democratically elected leader.

So what happens next?

The situation is not looking good.

With the power-sharing government on the rocks, and new clashes between government troops and rebels, any prospect of differences being resolved at the negotiating table is receding.

The presence of international peacekeepers is being seen as increasingly important to prevent a return to full scale civil war and to help with any disarmament if it can happen.

The UN now has some 6,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast to support around 4,000 French troops monitoring a buffer zone between the two sides.

The New Forces and pro-Gbagbo militias were supposed to have started disarming on 15 October but the former rebels refused because laws making it easier for those of foreign origin to gain citizenship and contest presidential elections had not been changed, as agreed at a meeting of West African leaders in July.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3567349.stm

 

Ivory Coast primer #1

Again, from the BBC:

Ivory Coast's cultural divide
By James Copnall BBC correspondent in Abidjan

A singing rebel soldier playing the kora, an African harp, in the north of Ivory Coast highlights the deep divisions in what was once West Africa's richest country.

Split for nearly two years between the rebel-held north and government-controlled south, Ivory Coast is not only divided along political lines but cultural lines too.

A series of laws intended to heal these divisions are being debated throughout July in the national assembly, in particular northern concerns about the right to own land and the issue of nationality.

But the serenading rebel guard I saw at a checkpoint near the Mali border seems to drive home the point that the north of Ivory Coast arguably has closer ethnic and cultural links with the countries to its north than it does with southern Ivory Coast.

Xenophobia

The solider sang in the fashion of a griot - the oral historian and praise singer found throughout West Africa - whose social role is never more important than in Mali and neighbouring Guinea.

He sang softly in Dioula, the main language of the north of Ivory Coast.

Dioula hails from the same linguistic family as Bambara, the principal language in Mali, and Malinke, which is widely spoken in north-eastern Guinea.

The rebel New Forces movement that took control of the north in September 2002 goal has political objectives, but its composition is also undeniably ethnic. They are largely made up of Dioulas and Senoufos, representatives of the two major ethnic groups in the north, who rallied to the rebel cause because they feel northerners have been discriminated against in Ivorian politics.

In the mid 1990s the Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI), which held power from independence in 1960 to 1999, popularised the concept of Ivoirite or Ivorianness.

It was an ideology seen by many as xenophobic and those with northern names or origins were frequently accused of not being Ivorian.

Infuriated

In 2000, the leader of the Rally of Republicans (RDR) party, Alassane Ouattara, a Dioula, was stopped from standing in presidential elections, after doubts were raised about his nationality.

It was claimed that both his parents were not Ivorian, ruling him out of being a presidential candidate.

RDR supporters were infuriated by that decision, and northerners say they have had many other grounds for complaint in the last 10 years. There have been numerous cases of northerners in Abidjan suffering serious human rights abuses.

The latest case in point was the banned opposition demonstration scheduled for 25 March of this year.

A United Nations report claimed at least 120 people were killed in an operation "meticulously planned" by "the highest authorities of state".

People were killed over a three-day period, the report said, and often on grounds of ethnic or national origin.

Most of those killed were northerners.

Sticking point

It is just those sorts of abuses that the New Forces say they are fighting against.

Two months ago it seemed as if the former rebels might declare the north independent.

But New Forces leader Guillaume Soro vetoed the suggestion and insisted Ivory Coast was one and indivisible, a strange statement from a man who had annexed more than half of the country's land.

And now many of the New Forces' complaints are being discussed in the National Assembly. All sides of the crisis have agreed to vote in the laws by 28 July at the latest, or there will be an extraordinary session of parliament to finish the job.

However, who can stand for president - the famous article 35 of the constitution - appears to be a real sticking point.

It is this point of law that stopped Mr Ouattara from running for office in the 2000 presidential elections.

President Laurent Gbagbo and his Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party say they will only countenance debate and a referendum on article 35 once the country is reunited.

That implies the former rebels disarming, and the state regaining control of the north.

The New Forces say they will only disarm once article 35 has been amended. Until this stalemate has been resolved, it is impossible to see Ivory Coast dragging itself out of its current crisis.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/africa/3901939.stm
Published: 2004/07/17 14:56:45 GMT© BBC MMIV

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