Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Superintendent Speaks at African-American Leadership Conference in Jackson, Tenn.: Education Requires 'Committed Community'

Verna Ruffin is the superintendent of the Jackson-Madison Schools in Southwest
Tennessee. She spoke at a leadership conference in Jackson on April 22, 2014.
Apr. 23, 2014 4:55 AM

Jackson-Madison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the African-American Leadership Conference, where she spoke about the need for community involvement in education.

“Money is not the only thing that matters to be able to get things better on behalf of children,” Ruffin said. “It takes a committed community, it takes all of you playing a significant role, not only in the jobs you do, but by participating in various committees and various groups that can help propel the system forward on behalf of children.”

Ruffin also spoke about taking the position of superintendent in Jackson-Madison County and the questions people asked her about the decision.

“I’ve been asked a number of times, ‘Why, why would you go there? Why did you choose Jackson?’” Ruffin said. “Even in the interview process a number of times, being challenged like, ‘Why do you want this job?’ and I’m thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t I want this job?’”

Ruffin continued to encourage WestStar Leadership Program members to push forward and to look at their past as preparation for their future.

“For a very long time, I feel that I was prepared for this job as you are prepared to go out and lead within your communities,” Ruffin said. “Your experiences that you have before you land where you are help you become better where you are.”

The conference continued with speakers presenting topics ranging from financial strategies to the future of historically African-American colleges and universities.

Other speakers at the conference included Glenn Vaulx, interim president at Lane College; Terry Moore, a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management; Robert Nunley, coordinator for the Martin Housing Authority’s Learning Enrichment Center; Gloria Sweet-Love, NAACP state president; and Circuit Court Judge Nathan Pride.

There was also a panel discussion about the state of the Affordable Care Act, with panelists Robert Davis, from the Hardeman County Community Health Center; Ruby Kirby, administrator of the Bolivar Community Hospital; and Dr. Teresa Woodard, from Internal Medicine in Brownsville.

The conference was held at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center at 605 Airways Blvd.

Nick McFerron, 425-9643
U.S. New Home Sales Hint at Prolonged Housing Weakness
Moratorium NOW! Coalition contingent at the March on Wall Street South
in Charlotte, North Carolina during the Democratic National Convention
in September 2012.
1:55pm EDT
By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sales of new U.S. single-family homes tumbled to their lowest level in eight months in March, dashing hopes for a quick turnaround for a sector that fell into a soft patch last summer.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday sales dropped 14.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000 units. It was the second consecutive monthly decline and the biggest since July, which was also the last time sales were so slow.

Sales were down 13.3 percent from a year ago, marking the largest year-on-year decline since April 2011.

Economists, who had expected sales to increase, said the drop suggested some fundamental weakness in the market, although unusually cold weather had also dampened activity.

"The weak tone of this report is a bitter pill for those, including ourselves, who have been looking for signs of a spring thaw in the housing recovery," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

U.S. housing stocks took a beating on the dour report, with the S&P 500 Homebuilding Index dropping more than 1.5 percent. An index of smaller builders tumbled more than 4.5 percent.

Luxury home builder Toll Brothers fell 1.8 percent and DR Horton, the largest U.S. homebuilder, dropped 2.5 percent.

Broad stock indexes, in contrast, were little changed.

The housing market was slammed by the unusually cold and snowy winter, but higher mortgage rates, a run-up in prices and a shortage of properties that limited options for buyers have also cut into activity.

New home sales last month dived in the Midwest and the South, where unusually cold weather lingered early in the month. They also fell in the West. While sales in the Northeast rose, they failed to recoup even half of the prior month's 33.3-percent plunge.

"The rise in interest rates and prices of new homes is leaving some potential buyers with sticker shock," said Bill Banfield, vice president at mortgage lender Quicken in Detroit.


Data on Tuesday showing a mild decline in home resales in March had offered hope the housing market was stabilizing.

But the new home sales data and another report on Wednesday showing a drop in mortgage applications both suggested it would probably be a while before housing found its footing.

The sector's weakness could help convince the Federal Reserve to keep benchmark interest rates near zero long after it ends a bond-buying stimulus program later this year.

Even so, it is unlikely to derail the economy given that other sectors, such as manufacturing, are regaining momentum.

Financial data firm Markit said its preliminary manufacturing purchasing managers index was little changed in April. The survey's measure of output, however, hit its highest level since March 2011, with new orders increasing.

"This improvement is broadly consistent with our view that manufacturing production is going to pick up in the second quarter following a soft first quarter," said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

Though new home sales are volatile month-on-month and account for less than 10 percent of the overall market, the drop in March confirmed that housing would again be a drag on gross domestic product in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, it subtracted from GDP for the first time in three years.

Last month, the inventory of new houses on the market increased 3.2 percent to the highest level since November 2010.

While the stock is up from a record low hit in July 2012, it is not even halfway back to its pre-recession level.

March's weak sales pace pushed the months' supply of houses on the market to 6.0, the highest level since October 2011, from 5.0 months in February.

Nevertheless, the median price of a new home last month rose 12.6 percent from March last year to a record $290,000, a reflection of the still-lean inventories.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Paul Simao and Tim Ahmann)
Palestinians Agree on Unity Government as Israel Protests
Palestine solidarity demonstration through downtown Detroit on Jan. 8, 2009.
By Calev Ben-David and Saud Abu Ramadan - Apr 23, 2014

Rival Palestinian factions agreed to form a unity government and hold new general elections, developments that if carried through will complicate efforts to revive U.S.-mediated peace talks with Israel.

Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and based in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, will form a joint government within five weeks and hold elections within six months, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said today in the Gaza Strip, where reconciliation talks were held.

A Fatah-Hamas unity administration formed in 2006 collapsed a year later after a violent clash between their forces in Gaza. Several other reunification pacts since have failed because of disputes over the details and implementation.

“Today’s agreement includes a full commitment from the parties to everything that was agreed upon in the two previous reconciliation agreements that were reached in Cairo and Doha,” Haniyeh said at a press briefing. Under the 2012 Doha agreement, Abbas would continue to head a provisional government until elections were held.

As the agreement was announced, an Israeli air strike wounded at least two Palestinians in Gaza, according to emergency medical services spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra. The Israeli army said it carried out “a counter-terrorism operation in the northern Gaza Strip,” without giving more details.

Later, Palestinians fired at least three rockets into Israel from Gaza without causing injuries, the army said.

Terrorist Label

A new Palestinian government that includes Hamas may complicate U.S. efforts to resurrect stalled peace talks because the group is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement after the agreement was announced, saying Abbas “chose Hamas” and “whoever chooses Hamas doesn’t want peace.” He canceled a meeting scheduled between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, according to a separate e-mail.

Abbas said the agreement with Hamas “will enhance the ability of Palestinian negotiators to achieve the two-state solution,” according to a statement posted on the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

If Hamas does join a Palestinian unity government, “they would probably allow Abbas to continue talking to Israel while insisting as they have in the past that any agreements require approval from the Palestinian public in a referendum,” said Mark Heller, research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

“In any case, there are no signs we’re close to a peace agreement, and adding Hamas to the mix just puts it a few more steps away,” Heller said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at; Saud Abu Ramadan in Jerusalem at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at Mark Williams, Caroline Alexander
Obama Takes Imperialist Warmongering to Asia
US President Barack Obama with his warmongers Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel,
left, and CIA chief John Brennan.   2014-04-23 21:57:46  

TOKYO, April 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday arrived in Japan, the first leg of his four-nation Asia trip.

Obama will stay here through Friday and will hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a focus on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks.

The two nations are at odds over Japan's reluctance to remove its tariffs imposed on U.S. agricultural products. The United States has called on Japan to lift all tariffs on rice, wheat, pork and beef, sugar and dairy, which Japan sees as its key items, so as to conclude the free talks at an early date.

Akira Amari, Japan's minister in charge of TPP issues, said Tuesday that Japan and the United States would not announce a broad bilateral trade pact during the Abe-Obama summit, saying " there is still a considerable distance" to reach an agreement.

The visit by Obama came after Abe and his cabinet members, as well as about 150 Japanese lawmakers, made offering or paid visits to the controversial war-linked Yasukuni Shrine earlier this week during the notorious shrine's spring festival.

On the first anniversary of the launch of Abe's cabinet on Dec. 26, 2013, the prime minister visited the shrine, which honors 14 convicted Class-A WWII war criminals and is seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, and the move triggered criticism from the U.S. side as Japan's key ally asked the country to mend ties with neighboring countries.

Abe said many times that he wanted to show the world a robust Japan-U.S. alliance during Obama's visit, but the bilateral defense ties were scratched due to the issue of relocating the Futenma airbase in Japan's southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa.

The central government, despite local residents' opposition, has agreed to move the airbase within the prefecture to Nago city, but Nago mayor, an opponent of the relocation plan, said he will use mayor power to block the plan.

On the controversial issue of Japan's exercising rights of collective defense, Abe also hoped to gain more supports from the United States, which already showed its welcome to the move which, however, goes contrary to Japan's war-renouncing constitution.

Late Wednesday, a group of Japanese rallied in front of Abe's official residence to protest against Obama's visit to Japan, saying the Japan-U.S. military alliance has threatened regional peace and stability as the two sides are beefing up their military muscles.

The trip will also bring Obama to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Jihadists Now Control Secretive U.S. Base in Libya
Martyred Libyan Pan-Africanist leader Muammar Gaddafi with bodyguard.
A camp on the Libyan coastline meant to train terror-hunters has instead become a safe haven for terrorists and al Qaeda.

A key jihadist leader and longtime member of al Qaeda has taken control of a secretive training facility set up by U.S. special operations forces on the Libyan coastline to help hunt down Islamic militants, according to local media reports, Jihadist web forums, and U.S. officials.

In the summer of 2012, American Green Berets began refurbishing a Libyan military base 27 kilometers west of Tripoli in order to hone the skills of Libya’s first Western-trained special operations counter-terrorism fighters. Less than two years later, that training camp is now being used by groups with direct links to al Qaeda to foment chaos in post-Qaddafi Libya.

Last week, the Libyan press reported that the camp (named “27” for the kilometer marker on the road between Tripoli and Tunis) was now under the command of Ibrahim Ali Abu Bakr Tantoush, a veteran associate of Osama bin Laden who was first designated as part of al Qaeda’s support network in 2002 by the United States and the United Nations. The report said he was heading a group of Salifist fighters from the former Libyan base.

In other words, Tantoush is now the chief of a training camp the U.S. and Libyan governments had hoped would train Libyan special operations forces to catch militants like Tantoush.

One U.S. defense official told The Daily Beast that the media report matched U.S. intelligence reporting from Libya. Another U.S. official in Washington said intelligence analysts were aware of the reports but had yet to corroborate them, however. A spokesman for Africa Command declined to comment for the story.

According to one U.S. official who is read into the training program, the camp today is considered a “denied area,” or a place where U.S. forces would have to fight their way in to gain access. Until now, the Western press has not reported that the base used to train Libyan special operations forces was seized by the militants those troops were supposed to find, fix and finish.

The fact that the one-time training base for Libyan counter-terrorism teams is now the domain of terrorists is a poignant reminder the United States has yet to win its war with al Qaeda, despite the successful 2011 raid that killed its founder and leader.

This is particularly true for Libya. Since the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, jihadist groups and al Qaeda’s regional affiliates have been gaining territory throughout Libya. News that a veteran like Tantoush is now in charge of a military base only 27 kilometers from Libya’s capital shows just how much the security in Libya has deteriorated.

“One U.S. defense official read into the training program says the camp today is considered a ’denied area,’ or a place where U.S. forces would have to fight their way in to gain access.”
Seth Jones, an al Qaeda expert at the Rand Corporation, said Libya is now a haven for many of al Qaeda’s North African affiliates. “There are a number of training camps for a wide range of al Qaeda and jihadist groups that have surfaced in southwest Libya, northwest Libya in and around Tripoli and northeast Libya in and around Benghazi,” he said.

Daveed Gartenstein Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, added that “We’ve known for some time that Jihadist groups have established training camps throughout Libya. But this is significant because of the camp’s proximity to Tripoli and because rather than creating camps in remote locations they took over a base used by the Libyan government.”

“I suspect they will not keep this camp for very long. It’s close to Tripoli and its location is known by the Libyan government,” he said.

One U.S. official who worked on the program said the U.S. Special Forces began to refurbish the base in the summer of 2012 before the 9/11 anniversary attack in Benghazi. The actual training, however, did not begin until the fall of 2012. One U.S. defense official noted the initial program at Camp 27 endeavored to train 100 Libyan special operations soldiers. But even this modest goal was never really in reach.

 “The program has not achieved the outcomes that we hoped that it would and the Libyans hoped it would,” said Carter Ham, the now-retired four-star general who led U.S. Africa Command when the initial training program was established. While Ham said he was not aware of the latest reports that the base was now in the hands of an al Qaeda figure, he nonetheless acknowledged that myriad challenges—from the uncertainty in the leadership of the Libyan military to security on the ground—made it difficult to sustain the special operation forces training.

“The selection process for what Libyan unit and what Libyan soldiers would participate was probably not as rigorous as we would have liked it to have been,” Ham continued. “But this was a Libyan decision and they had to decide what unit and what individuals to enroll in the program.”

Ham said he remembered meeting with a small group singled out by the trainers as the emerging leaders. “That was promising,” he said. “It was not as widespread as we would have liked. The militia these guys came from, they did not have significant military experience and certainly not in a hierarchical organization.”

Things went downhill for Camp 27 in June of 2013 when two rival militias stormed the training facility and seized the equipment therein. At the time, no U.S. personnel were on the base, according to two U.S. officials who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity. The only soldiers protecting the base were local Libyans.

Nonetheless, the base itself had a number of American weapons that wound up in the hands of the raiding militias. Those raids were first reported by Fox News. The U.S. defense official confirmed these reports and said the militias were able to seize night vision equipment, M-4 rifles, pistols, military vehicles, and ammunition.

The raids also helped re-establish Tantoush, the veteran al Qaeda leader. And that is a particularly troubling to American officials. He is considered one of the original members of al Qaeda’s network. In 2000, he was indicted for his role in helping plan the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. According to his designation by the United Nations, Tantoush was the head of an al Qaeda support group based in Peshawar known as the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society.

Jones said, “Tantoush has a long history from the Peshawar days of associating with senior al Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden. He has been involved in financing and facilitating al Qaeda activities and he has had a long-standing relationship with Libyan jihadist groups.” Tantoush was also a senior member of al Qaeda’s one-time franchise in Libya known as the Libya Islamic Fighting Group. In the 2000s, former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddhafi largely decimated that organization, leading some of its leaders to turn on al Qaeda itself. (Tantoush was not one of those turncoats.) Nonetheless, the group was able to assist al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq by using the port city of Dernaa to funnel volunteer fighters to al Qaeda’s jihad in Iraq in the last decade. Today, Dernaa is a key transit point for volunteers to join al Qaeda’s holy war in Syria.

Things were not supposed to turn out this way. The training program for Libya’s special operations fighters was authorized under section 1208 of the National Defense Authorization Act. 1208 programs differ from other special operations training missions because the funding is specifically for reimbursing foreign governments for assisting with counter-terrorism missions. Other special operations training missions—sometimes known as “white” programs—are meant only to build up another country’s military. These programs are designed to produce combat-ready special operators to join U.S. SEALs and Delta Force teams on missions.

“This means in practice that these guys were expected to conduct missions with our guys,” the U.S. defense official said. “But of course that never happened.”

The raid in June was enough to effectively kill the training effort. The U.S. ambassador canceled the program until the security of U.S. personnel and equipment could be guaranteed. Those guarantees have not yet been provided. A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Tripoli did not respond to queries.

But for now, Libya looks like it could use as much help as it can get. Since a mix of local and foreign terrorists over-ran a U.S. diplomatic post and CIA base in Benghazi in 2012, jihadist groups have won key gains throughout Libya—and used this territory to help funnel fighters across the region. “Libya in general is a major thoroughfare, the I-95 for foreign fighters into Syria from Africa,” the U.S. defense official said.

In March, Gen. David Rodriguez—Ham’s successor as head of U.S. Africa Command—estimated in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that a couple thousand foreign fighters had transited through northwest Africa to Syria. Rodriguez also said al Qaeda continued to coordinate activities by sharing expertise and resources throughout that region.

And now these militants have a base close to Tripoli, and an array of advanced tactical gear. “The biggest challenge we have is all the arms ammunition and explosives from Libya that continue to move throughout the region to northwest Africa,” he told the committee. When asked if those arms have aided al Qaeda in Africa, Rodriguez answered, “It continues to support them throughout northwest Africa.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Somaliland Supports Al-Shabaab to Undermine Progress in Somalia and Puntland
Al-Shabaab guerrillas in the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia.
April 22, 2014
SPC | Somali Policy Centre

Secessionist elements of Somaliland government and influential business leaders have allegedly been supporting a proxy war to undermine security in south-central Somalia, and Puntland, according to credible sources and regional security experts who spoke with the Somali Policy Centre (SPC) on the condition that we keep their identity confidential. Hargeisa-based business leaders with close ties to senior government officials have financed al-Shabaab and other extremist groups in south-central Somalia and Puntland in an effort to stop the political and security progress made in Somalia, and/or keep the status quo in order buy more time for Somaliland recognition.

Western governments are investigating links between extremist groups and members of Somaliland executive and business leaders who may have violated international laws that ban material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations. The elements under investigation include key business leaders who allegedly provided safe haven, facilitation, financial, military and logistical assistance to al-Shabaab, with the blessing of the Somaliland government in a reckless effort to destabilize Mogadishu, south-central Somalia, and Puntland”.

The Puntland government recently accused Somaliland of supporting al-Shabaab and facilitating the infiltration of these to Puntland, according to media reports. Western and regional governments have long suspected Somaliland and al-Shabaab nexus, but were surprised at the level of coordination and support between business leaders, government officials and al-Shabaab’s.

A senior Western official remarked that “his government was disappointed with Somaliland efforts to undermine Puntland and sees the recent provocation in Las Khorey and Taleh as part of ongoing effort to by Somaliland to undermine stability and limit the international community security and development efforts in Puntland”. Somaliland government is desperate for recognition and is facing mounting dissatisfaction, corruption, and rivalry between religious groups and Isaaq sub-clans over who will succeed President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud “Silanyo”. Silanyo in his eighties is suffering from poor health and plays a minor role in day-to-day operations of the government.

The rivalry between Hirsi Ali Haji Hassan, the Minister of Presidential Affairs, the de facto ruler and Ali Mohamed Waran-ade, the Minister of Interior and their chief antagonist Faysal Ali Warabe, the leader of secessionist camp is fueling internal political struggle between several political factions and religious groups. The trio represents the interests of the three main Isaaq sub-clans (Habar Awal, Habar Jeclo and Habar Yonis), who are all competing to dominate power in Hargeisa post Silanyo terms. The Habar Awal and Habar Yonis who were marginalized since Silanyo’s election object to Habar Jeclo power grab and attempt to establish Minister Hassan as a successor to Silanyo.

Western governments are concerned that extremist groups remain unchecked in Somaliland and leaders of the group are active in Hargeisa, Burco, Erigabo and Las Anod despite government assurances that they will crackdown on the group supporters. Somaliland business leaders and religious figures continue to openly support and advocate for extremist groups return to Somaliland, where they are protected by their Isaaq sub-clans. Somalia experts assess that internal clan rivalry between main Habar Jeclo and Habar Awal and between Habar Jeclo and Habar Yonis has allowed al-Shabaab to leverage and exploit the situation in order to move operations from south-central Somalia to Togdheer, Sool and Sanaag.

According to reports, government officials in Burco, Erigabo and Las Anod are either complicit or are too weak to challenge the growing presence of al-Shabaab in the area. These groups have built a cross-border presence and support networks in Somaliland to exploit Sool and Sanaag porous borders, mountains and unguarded coast to smuggle weapons, possibly from Eritrea and Yemen destined for south-central Somalia, and Puntland.

Somaliland’s proxy war in Somalia and Puntland and growing ties to al-Shabaab and Puntland-based militants if it’s substantiated, marks a significant and dangerous turn for Hargeisa, potentially undermining Somaliland stand with the international community. Hargeisa officials need to be careful about supporting al-Shabaab and realize that the international community will never endorse terrorism or clan-based secession movement in Somaliland and the policy of all governments active in Somalia is focused on rebuilding a strong federal Somalia that includes Somaliland.

This report is produced by the Somali Policy Centre (SPC), a private institution focusing on Somalia public policy issues. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this report should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

SPC | Somali Policy Centre
Limuru Rd, Gigiri, Nairobi, Republic of Kenya
© 2014 by Somali Policy Centre. All Rights Reserved.
SOMALIA: Another Member of Parliament Shot Dead in Mogadishu
Somalian MP was shot dead in Mogadishu on April 22, 2014
Posted on April 22, 2014

Mogadishu (RBC) Another Member of Somalia Federal Parliament shot dead near his home in Mogadishu’s Dharkenley neighborhood on Tuesday, eyewitnesses and officials told RBC Radio.

PM Abdiasis Isaq Mursal was shot and killed by unidentified assailants as he was heading to attend at the today’s parliamentary session.

Security forces reached the scene and condoned off the whole area. But nobody was arrested for the murdering the lawmaker.

According to a police officer in the district, the assailants escaped with a waiting vehicle and the police were investigating to identify the killers and the vehicle.

This is the second lawmaker assassinated in the capital for the second day. on Monday a car bomb killed MP Isaq Mohamed Riino shortly after he left his home in Hamarweyne district. Fellow Lawmaker Mohamud Ali was injured in the blast.

The assassinations against the parliamentarians came as a national level conference on the security is ongoing in Mogadishu where hundreds of delegates and security experts from the regions of Somalia are focusing on the mechanisms to tackle the insecurity in the nationwide.

RBC Radio
#myNYPD Twitter Campaign Backfires, Promotes Photos of Police Brutality Instead of Positive Encounters With Public 
Brooklyn residents rebelled in the aftermath of the police killing of Kimani Gray,
16, during March 2013.
On Tuesday the NYPD's Twitter page, @NYPDnews, asked users to tweet pictures of positive interactions between the public and city cops, and to use the hashtag #myNYPD. Instead, people posted pictures of police brutality that took place during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 4:44 PM

The NYPD learned the hard way that #myNYPD is not necessarily #everyonesNYPD.

A seemingly innocuous request by NYPD officials to have Twitter users post happy pictures of themselves with city cops blew up in the department’s face on Tuesday when people instead began tweeting photos of police brutality.

“Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD?” the department asked on its @NYPDnews Twitter page at 2 p.m. “Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook.”
Cops are now regretting that decision.

The hashtag quickly started trending on the Twitter-verse, quickly generating over 10,000 responses in the hour after 4pm., an overwhelming amount of which were negative. Many of the posts were photographic examples of the department’s heavy-handed treatment of Occupy Wall Street protesters in lower Manhattan in 2011. Some of the posted pictures show cops with billy clubs attacking rallying protestors.

Other pics show heavily armed police officers holding back protestors.

“These are the top pictures when you search the #myNYPD tag,” wrote Twitter user Chelsea D.

“You really didn’t think this through did you?”

Other Twitter users wrote funny captions for the violence-revealing pictures.

“The NYPD taking a quick break to enjoy the music and crowd surf,” user Yung DeGrassi wrote under a picture of a cop reaching over a barricade to grab an Occupy Wall Street protestor.
Read more:
Economic Growth, Development and Class Struggle in Africa
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, on Al Jazeera during
Feb. 2014.

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Are the majority of people benefiting from investments and profits?

Despite claims that Africa is experiencing one of the highest growth rates in the world, growing class divisions and higher consumer prices are having disproportionate impacts on working people and the poor. Countries that are the focus of these reports of phenomenal growth such as Nigeria and Ghana are undergoing internal crises related to the rising cost of living and the need to expand government spending on infrastructural development.

Nigeria has recently been designated as the largest economy in Africa outstripping the Republic of South Africa, yet some analysts warn that these interpretations of economic data may be misleading. Meanwhile workers, farmers, women and youth are escalating their demands for access to wealth and resources.

Nonetheless, several alarming reports surfaced during April that would indicate that the changing economic landscape in various regions of Africa is more complex than periodic news stories would suggest. What lies behind these problems and how will they be addressed by African governments in the coming period?

The Duality of the African Media Image

There are two seemingly contradictory portrayals of developments in contemporary Africa. Civil wars in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Republic of South Sudan over the last several months reinforce the perception within the western media that Africa is incapable of resolving its own internal affairs.

The fighting in the CAR and the Republic of South Sudan has its roots within the legacy of colonialism under France and Britain. With the United States becoming the dominant imperialist power since the conclusion of World War II its interests must always be evaluated in analyzing both foreign and domestic policies of independent African states.

Nonetheless, both of these states have substantial natural and mineral resources that are of profound interest to the U.S., the European Union states as well as Canada, a major investor in mining in Africa. However, when the internal political and military conflicts within the CAR and South Sudan are discussed by the corporate media, the interests of the western imperialist states are never taken into consideration.

Internal military conflicts and political crises in the CAR and South Sudan provide a rationale for the intervention of the U.S. and other imperialist states. In the CAR, France is attempting to continue its long-held policy of dominating the economic and social character of its former colonies. The U.S. as the leading neo-colonial world power cannot allow other rival imperialists to gain the initiatives in Africa as well as other regions of the world.

Meanwhile a counter-narrative has surfaced in relationship to phenomenal economic growth on the continent.  The states which have been designated as having the most rapid expansion are largely producers of oil and natural gas.

In fact there have been huge findings of oil and natural gas throughout Africa and off its shores for several years. In Ghana, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Algeria, Tanzania, Somalia, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and other states there has been a major push to exploit the energy sector.

The investment by western transnational corporations along with the People’s Republic of China and the EU has made a significant difference in the living standards within various African states. Revenues generated from foreign investment and trade has brought about a rise in income and household wealth and at the same time the emergence of a new national bourgeoisie which deals in financial speculation, technology transfers and the importation and distribution of consumer goods.

Nevertheless, there are problems within these societies which stem directly from the broader economic crisis within the capitalist world. The volatility of the stock market, the instability of national currencies and the problems of rising poverty and structural unemployment are also plaguing Africa during the second decade of the 21st century.

For example in Ghana, a recent report on the declining value of the cedi, the national currency, indicates that there are continuing unresolved issues that must be addressed in the so-called “emerging economies.” A public forum on the issue demonstrated the degree to which there is concern about these developments.

The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation reported that “The forum was on the theme: ‘The Bank of Ghana’s Response to the Cedi Crisis: An interim Review and Way Forward’. Dr. Nii Noi Ashong, the Deputy Rector of Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), said high economic growth rates in Ghana since 2009 had brought in its wake an increase in economic activity and a corresponding higher demand for imports.” (GBC, April 21)

This same analyst went on to say that “Ghana’s investment requirements far exceeded the levels of domestic savings needed to finance them and in such an environment, current account deficits are natural occurrences which put pressure on the domestic currency to depreciate…. Dr.  Ashong therefore urged the Bank of Ghana to aim at reasonably high holdings of international reserves to cushion the nation against any potential pressures that might arise from operating liberalized open capital accounts.”

However, such a policy would place an even higher burden on the public sector of the economy. Money held to shore-up the national currency could very well hamper much needed investments into education, healthcare, the acquisition of technology and other essential needs to transform the country into a self-reliant state.

In response to these debates about the character of the burgeoning economic difficulties in Ghana, Mr. Samuel Kweku Doughan, the Central Regional Secretary of the Council of Labor, emphasizes that the government needs a cohesive and consistent national development policy.

Doughan point out that “the trend where every government worked according to its own manifesto thereby neglecting the previous government’s efforts irrespective of their importance was doing the country a disservice, hence the need for the plan. The official was speaking at a meeting of the Cape Coast Metropolitan Council of Labor in Cape Coast to address issues ahead of May Day which will be celebrated under the theme “Ghana’s Economy: A Concern For All.” (GBC, April 21)

This same report went on to note that “Mr. Doughan said the fall in the value of the cedi, 14 percent inflation and removal of subsidy on fuel had made living conditions unbearable and that the average Ghanaian was going through hardship. He said unemployment had resulted in the formation of the Unemployed Graduate Association and urged the government to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth.”

If economic growth does not necessarily translate into tangible gains for workers, farmers and youth, then the criteria for determining what actually constitutes growth must be examined. The situation in Ghana is not unique and is being replicated in various states across the continent.

In Nigeria, which is said now to have outperformed South Africa in regard to growth and the overall volume of the national economy, there are serious unresolved problems associated with the distribution of wealth and the improvement of the living conditions of the masses. An internal conflict in the north of the oil-rich country has created a security situation that does bode well for economic development.

During the same week that the announcement was made that Nigeria had become Africa’s largest economy, the political capital of Abuja was hit by a bomb attacks at a bus stop that killed dozens of innocent civilians. The following day, over 125 school girls were kidnapped allegedly by the Boko Haram sect that claimed responsibility for the attack in Abuja as well as hundreds of other similar operations which have killed and maimed thousands since 2009.

Ejike Okupa wrote in the African Executive with respect to the Nigerian national economy that “Here are three basic aspects of economic development: job creation, stabilized interest rate and stable currency. A major fluctuation in any of the three factors makes an economy stand on a faulty foundation — quicksand. That is why Nigeria’s Naira is weak currency — it has lost tremendous value and Nigeria’s banks cannot afford to make loans on amortizing schedule.” (April 16)

This same writer went on to say “Nigeria does not have economic development; but mainly a transaction economy that is fuelled by consumption of imported goods and reliance on foreign goodwill to achieve its basic needs. If more than 75 percent of what Nigeria needs to survive as a nation is imported, can such a country be considered as growing and developing?”

The Financial Times reported that “Millions of people in emerging markets have over the past 30 years moved from poverty into the consuming middle classes. But with growth slowing, their fates are now one of the biggest challenges confronting governments.” (April 16)

Also according to the Financial Times, “The African Development Bank estimates that Africa’s middle class, that numbered 115 million in 1980, has grown to 326 million in the past three and a half decades. But less than 14 per cent – about 44 million – have firmly achieved that status, earning $10-$20 a day.”

Which Way Forward for African Political Economy?

These questions will be intensely debated over the next period with the looming potential of another major downturn in the world capitalist economy. This uncertainty is a direct by-product of a class system where the interests of the rich dominate the priorities of the state.

Under socialism, the wealth generated by African resources and trade would be primarily re-invested in the society through the funding of agricultural production, housing construction, healthcare programs, public education, environmental improvements and infrastructural projects to develop roads, utility services and public transport. Without these fundamental building blocks real economic development cannot be achieved.

When African states pattern their economic policies on those being carried out by the imperialist countries, genuine growth which leads to sustainable development, will remain elusive. Most states within Western Europe and North America have instituted austerity measures in the face of a declining labor participation rate and the failure to address class divisions which are becoming more pronounced.

At a time when there should be an increase in social spending within these capitalist states, their governments are pursuing a strategy that increases poverty and exploitation. Africa must reject this response to the ravages of modern-day capitalism and break with the policies of neo-colonialism and move rapidly towards unity and continental socialism. 
AFRICOM Expands Operations and Strengthens Cooperation With Europe
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, chairing Detroit MLK Day
2013 at Central United Methodist Church.
Pentagon’s Obangame Express 2014 brings in more navies while military build-up continues

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Reports indicate that the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is expanding its operations on the continent.  A series of naval maneuvers and exercises are currently taking place in West Africa.

AFRICOM was formed in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration and has been expanded and enhanced under Barack Obama. A series of navy operations known as Obangame Express is now in its fourth year with additional European, African and at least one South American state, Brazil, involved.

These operations are ostensibly designed to strengthen the security capacity of Africa states in West Africa. Over the last several years there have been numerous reports of “piracy” off the coast of West Africa where greater oil exports into the U.S. are endangered.

The official German news agency reported that “More than 30 warships from 20 countries are engaged in major maneuvers along the West African cost. In addition to 11 West African nations, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands as well as Denmark, Turkey, Brazil and the United States have dispatched ships, making the training maneuver one of Africa's largest.” (DW, April 18)

This same article continued noting that “Of the non-African participants, Germany has dispatched the most vessels: one frigate, one corvette and two supply vessels with more than 400 military personnel. The ships and their crews are located outside the Nigerian port of Lagos where they are waiting for the sea phase of the military maneuver to begin on Saturday.” (DW, April 18)

Nigeria is the largest exporter of oil in Africa to the U.S. Intelligence and military ties between Washington and Abuja are growing while France and other European states work in partnership with the Pentagon.

Nigerian Oil and Internal Security

The government of Nigeria is currently battling an underground military and religious group known as Boko Haram which has carried out a series of brutal attacks in the north of the country, Africa’s most populous. Over the last five years since the military and police assault on Boko Haram which killed its then leader, the group has claimed responsibility and been blamed for the kidnapping of civilians, the bombing of government buildings and churches.

During the week of April 14, two high-profile attacks were carried out. A bus stop in the political capital of Abuju was bombed resulted in the deaths of over 70 people. Later in the week, 129 school girls were kidnapped from a boarding school near the Sambisa forest in the north.

Although some of the girls have reportedly escaped from their abductors, many remain unaccounted for at the time of this writing. The parents of the children along with opposition politicians are blaming the government for not developing an adequate security apparatus to protect Nigerians from such attacks.

Immediately the regime of President Goodluck Jonathan blamed the Boko Haram group for the bomb attack and kidnappings. The U.S. has pledged to Nigeria to assist the country in its counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram.

Even the German news agency reports that “It's also no coincidence that the Gulf of Guinea is the site of the exercise and that Nigeria, one of Africa's largest oil exporters, is heavily involved. The country, which is hosting this year's maneuver, is providing many military facilities and warships.” (DW, April 18)

Ground Troops Build-up in Horn of Africa

In Djibouti, which houses the only known permanent base of AFRICOM on the continent, is undergoing a $750 million upgrade. There are currently thousands of Pentagon troops stationed at Camp Lemonnier in the Horn of Africa nation.

In neighboring Somalia, and off its coast, U.S. imperialism supported by the EU is maintaining a 22,000 African Union Mission (AMISOM) inland. Offshore both U.S. and EU Naval Forces (EUFOR) have flotillas of warships in the Gulf of Aden under the guise of fighting “piracy” like in the Gulf of Guinea on the other side of the continent.

On the ground in Somalia, the Al-Shabaab Islamic resistance movement has been battling the U.S. and EU-backed forces of AMISOM for five years. Despite claims that the group has been forced out of the capital of Mogadishu, it is still capable of carrying out large-scale operations in the city where on April 21 a cabinet official was assassinated in a bomb attack.

According to Army Times, “Those threats in the region have helped transform the U.S. military’s Camp Lemonnier along the East African coast of Djibouti from a ramshackle outpost of a few hundred troops a decade ago into a hub of operations for AFRICOM and home to several thousand U.S. troops. And beyond the gates of Lemonnier, ‘throughout the rest of the area, there are small pockets of temporarily placed organizations and people,’ says AFRICOM Commander Army General David Rodriguez said.”  (April 16)

The presence of these Pentagon troops along with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives, are also utilized to pressurize other states in the region even those who are considered allies of Washington. In South Sudan, which has undergone internal conflict within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) party since Dec. 15, the White House has attempted to dictate the terms of the negotiations aimed at reaching a lasting peace accord.

Uganda, another close ally of Washington, has several thousand troops deployed in South Sudan assisting the Juba government in repressing and eradicating the oppositional threat from the followers of the ousted Vice President Reik Machar. President Salva Kiir has criticized both the U.S. and the United Nations mission in South Sudan for what he describes as the unwarranted interference in the country’s internal affairs.

It was successive U.S. administrations which supported and encouraged the partitioning of the Republic of Sudan, formerly Africa’s largest geographic nation-state. Nonetheless, the current fighting has brought the world’s newest nation to the brink of collapse.

If South Sudan completely implodes politically, it will constitute a monumental failure in U.S. foreign policy towards Africa. Consequently, the Obama administration is quite concerned about developments inside the country.

South Sudan is also major producer of oil and U.S. petroleum interests want to further exploit the natural resources of the country.

With these interests involved from the Gulf of Guinea to the Gulf of Aden there will of course be additional deployments and aggressive military operations conducted on the continent.

Opposing the Shifting Focus of Washington’s Militarist Policies in Africa

There are no consistent efforts on the part of the anti-war and anti-imperialist movements based in the West in regard to the Pentagon and CIA build-up in Africa. Although AFRICOM is running rampant throughout the region in the aftermath of the support for surrogate forces in the Horn of Africa and the destabilization, blanket bombing and overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011, most people are not aware of the long term dangers posed by the imperialist military forces.

This presence in Africa has not brought about stability but only more internal strife and economic exploitation.  In Mali, where the U.S. had extensive influence in the military apparatus of the state, those same elements which were trained by the Pentagon staged a coup against the government in March 2012, resulting in the worsening of a northern insurgency and the intervention of French troops that remain in the country.

The United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) has issued statements in opposition to the war against Libya and the French intervention in Mali. At the Left Forum held at Pace University in June 2013, UNAC hosted a panel on “The War Against Africa” which enjoyed a standing-room-only audience.

Again this year at the Left Forum being held at John Jay University, UNAC will host another panel on the U.S. war drive looking at various geo-political regions including Ukraine as well as Africa. These efforts must be multiplied throughout the U.S. in order to provide the necessary political education needed to mount a struggle against imperialism in Africa and throughout the world.  
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on Press TV's US Desk: 'Mesh System Seeks to Spy on Dissidents Abroad'
Abayomi Azikiwe in Press TV graphic from April 21, 2014.
Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:16PM GMT

To listen to this statement featuring Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the
Pan-African News Wire, just click on the website below:

A political commentator says that the United States’ efforts to create
communication networks for dissidents abroad are meant to perform
electronic spying on them.

The United States Agency for International Development has “on behalf
of the US government been heavily involved in doing electronic
surveillance against people both outside the US as well people inside
the United States,” Abayomi Azikiwe, a Detroit-based editor of
Pan-African News Wire told Press TV on Monday.

“They [US spy agencies] have not only violated protocol and legal
restraints on doing surveillance among people both domestically and
internationally, but it’s important to know that even allies of the
United States have fallen victim to this type of spying,” he said.

The US State Department has provided millions of dollars to a team of
hackers and software experts to develop a digital network, called a
mesh network, for dissidents abroad to communicate more securely and
freely than they can on the Internet, according to a new report.

The New York Times reports that one of the target areas is Cuba. The
USAID has allocated $4.3 million to create the system in Cuba.

“Cuba has been a focus of US destabilization efforts over the last 55
years,” said Azikiwe. “In regard to their efforts to start an
alternative social media network in Cuba, this too represents a gross
violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic
of Cuba.”

The USAID “awarded a three-year grant to the New America Foundation to
make this platform available for adoption in Cuba,” said Matt Herrick,
a spokesman for the agency.

The mesh system allows users in a neighborhood or a city to create a
network that is physically distinct from the Internet, according to
the report. Inexpensive wireless routers are attached to rooftops,
lashed to balconies and screwed to the ledges of apartment buildings
to create the network.
Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sun. April 20, 2014—Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African Journal, speaking in Clark Park on
October 12, 2007 in Detroit.
For Immediate Release
Media Advisory
Tues. April 22, 2014

Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sun. April 20, 2014

To listen to this broadcast featuring Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, just click on the website below:

Africa has been the focus of reports indicating that economic growth within the continent is unprecedented since the beginning of the post-colonial period. Nonetheless, in this broadcast we cover two reports that give cause for pause in making claims about growth when actual development remains stifled through capitalist relations of production.

Nigeria is now the largest economy on the continent says bourgeois commentators. However, class divisions are increasing and the cost of living is threatening to eat away at the income gains made by working people and farmers over the last few years. What is required is an analysis of African growth through the prism of the central role of workers and farmers within development strategies.

Internal conflict and the continuing dependency on the imperialist states for trade and loans will continue hamper genuine development and sovereignty. Imperialist troops are deployed all over Africa with many more to come if the people do not organize to force them to leave.

The last half of our program for Sun. April 20, 2014 is a tribute paid to the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister and president of the Republic of Ghana. Nkrumah passed away 42 years ago this month and remains an iconic figure in modern African history.

Featured in the segment is Nkrumah delivering the famous Independence Day speech on March 6, 1957 where he emphasizes that the independence of Ghana is meaningless if it is not linked up with the liberation of the whole African continent. We later hear a section of Nkrumah’s address at the United Nations General Assembly in September 1960. Nkrumah spoke on the role of Africa in world affairs and the neo-colonial designs by imperialism to thwart African independence. 
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. April 19, 2014—Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, in Richmond, VA during
April 2010.
For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
Tues. April 22, 2014

Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. April 19, 2014

To listen to this broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, just click on the website below:

April 18 represented the 34th anniversary of the national independence of the Republic of Zimbabwe. In 1980 after decades of struggle, the settler-colonial British regime in Rhodesia was forced to concede political control of the country.

In 1965, a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) was declared by the descendants of the British settlers. Prime Minister Ian Smith would later say that there would not be one person, one vote in Rhodesia for a thousand years. His predictions were proved false in less than a decade while President Robert Mugabe, a leader in the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), has served as both prime minister and president for 34 years.

This program features reports from the Pan-African News Wire, an electronic press agency dedicated to the spreading of factual information on developments on the continent and throughout the world. The Pan-African News Wire, founded in 1998, is edited by Abayomi Azikiwe, the host of the Pan-African Journal.

In the last hour of our program we feature several interviews and speeches by President Mugabe, who was re-elected by a broad margin during the national poll held in the Southern African state in July 2013. We hear a rare interview with Mugabe conducted in 1976 when the military wing of ZANU, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), was carrying out an armed struggle aimed at the national liberation of the country.

Another segment of the second half of the program features a speech delivered by President Mugabe in September 2000 in Harlem where he outlined the Zimbabwe land reform program to a supportive audience. Mugabe was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly for that year.

This program is available at the Pan-African Radio Network by logging on to: and can be shared through e-mail, blogs, websites as well as social media mechanism such as facebook and twitter.
South Sudan on Brink of Collapse As War Rages
South Sudan opposition leader Reik Machar has taken up arms against Juba.
AFP, Sunday 20 Apr 2014

When not plotting military strategy to seize South Sudan's crucial oil fields, sacked vice-president turned rebel chief Riek Machar spends time reading the economic and political history "Why Nations Fail".

Cynics might argue he would do better to simply look around his basic bush camp, where mutinous soldiers and an allied ethnic militia crammed with child soldiers ready themselves to attack government forces, as a brutal four-month-long civil war in which thousands of people have already been killed intensifies.

"I didn't want to fight any more war again," Machar told AFP in a recent interview at his rebel hideout, saying people had had enough of fighting during Sudan's long civil war, in which he was a guerrilla commander.

It was that war, which lasted more two decades, that paved the way for South Sudan's independence from the north.

But although less than three years old, the world's youngest nation is spiralling towards collapse. With a ceasefire deal in tatters, the United Nations fear more than one million people are at risk of famine, and analysts warn the war is dragging in regional nations.

Over one million people have fled their homes, with violence worsening amid a renewed offensive by the rebel forces, as well as revenge attacks by multiple militia forces.

Peace talks in luxury hotels in Ethiopia have made little if any progress, while analysts warn that any solution will require major changes, not simply more promises inked only on paper.

"Propping up the government in Juba and polishing its legitimacy with a dose of political dialogue and a dash of power sharing will not end the conflict," the International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in a recent report.

On Thursday hundreds of gunmen stormed a UN peacekeeping base in the flashpoint town of Bor, killing at least 48 men, women and children sheltering there from a rival ethnic group before peacekeepers fought them off.

The UN Security Council called the attack an "outrage" that may constitute a war crime.

"Badly outgunned peacekeepers are no match for the thousands of heavily armed forces and militias," the ICG added.

When fighting broke out on December 15, it was sparked by "primarily political" arguments between Machar and President Salva Kiir, the ICG said, but the battles have since escalated, spreading to other states in the oil-rich but grossly impoverished nation.

"Ethnic targeting, communal mobilisation and spiralling violence quickly led to appalling levels of brutality against civilians," according to the ICG.

Atrocities were also carried out further north in the oil-hub of Bentiu, which the army admitted on Wednesday it had lost to rebel forces.

The UN aid agency said it had reports of "targeted killings based on ethnicity", with "several dozen" corpses rotting on the streets.

The violence is rooted in decades-old grievances between former rebels turned political leaders, combined with unhealed wounds left over from the long civil war that preceded South Sudan's independence from Khartoum in 2011.

The fighting is between soldiers loyal to Kiir against mutinous troops who sided with Machar, but has also taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting Kiir's Dinka tribe against militia forces from Machar's Nuer people.

Many of the fragile gains made by the billions of dollars of international development aid that poured in after independence have been lost.

"The war risks tearing the country further apart and is pulling in regional states," the ICG said, pointing to a plan by regional nations to send in military forces in addition to UN peacekeepers.

Neighbouring Uganda has sent in troops and fighter jets to back the government, while Information Minister Michael Makuei has accused "forces from Sudan" of backing Machar, although he stopped short of actively accusing the government in Khartoum of interfering.

Back at the camp Machar predicts, gloomily, that "this will be a regional conflict".

He says he is "looking for funding" but rejects accusations that he is seeking support from neighbouring Sudan, old friends who backed him during the 1983-2005 war.

Rival gunmen from Sudan's war-torn Darfur are accused of fighting on both sides in South Sudan.

"Worse is yet to come," Jonathan Veitch, the UNICEF chief in South Sudan said last week, warning if the war is not stopped, there will be "child malnutrition on a scale never before experienced here."

The United States, the key backer of South Sudan's move to independence, has threatened targeted sanctions.

Experts say sanctions would be symbolic, but they fear they would have little positive impact.

"Many ordinary people seem to think that it is about time world powers spoke up against the absurdity of this war," said Jok Madut Jok, a former top government official who is now head of the Sudd Institute think tank.

But he also said he fears sanctions would mean little to rebels stationed in the remote bush, while the government could be pushed "into further rogue behaviour, having nothing more to lose."
Where is the US Ambassador to Cairo?
Unrest continues at Cairo University in the aftermath of the July 3, 2013 military
Mohamed Elmenshawy, Monday 21 Apr 2014

The US has not sent an ambassador to Egypt since August 2013. For some, this is a sign of drift in US policy. For others, it's about turning down the heat

This absence of a US ambassador in Cairo for the last eight months could be for several reasons. First, it could be strong evidence of tension between the two countries and hesitation by the US administration on what it should do about developments in Egypt. Second, it could confirm the reliance on defence relations as the basis of bilateral relations; there have been more than 30 phone calls between US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his former counterpart Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, or one call every six days.

This is a natural development of the army dominating the political scene in Egypt and explains why traditional diplomatic channels are being ignored in favour of direct military channels. Third, it could be Washington’s desire not to be directly present inside Egypt, especially after the bad experience of Ambassador Anne Patterson that ended with her returning home in August to become US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

In general, an ambassador's job entails representing their country, presenting their country’s viewpoint on pertinent issues in the host country, participation in decision making back home by giving opinions or sending reports or making suggestions. A nomination to serve in the Cairo embassy was once a prize post for diplomats focused on Middle East affairs, and the same is true for the post of ambassador, which is considered one of the top posts in the US State Department. There was always fierce competition between senior US diplomats to win this appointment.

At the same time, the post of “US ambassador in Cairo” had a downside in terms of the inflated role and special importance given the embassy when dealing with Egyptian elite that greatly exaggerates the size, power and influence of the US role, irrespective of this elite’s ideological and cultural background.

“Not having a US ambassador in Cairo for the past seven months, and having the main voice on Egypt policy come instead from Washington, has lowered the US profile inside Egypt somewhat, which has probably helped to calm the waters a bit after the vitriolic media campaign over the summer against Ambassador Patterson,” according to Amy Hawthorne, an American expert on Egyptian affairs at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

After the tenure of former Ambassador to Cairo Margaret Scobey ended in June 2011, Patterson was appointed ambassador less than one month after Scobey’s departure. Although during that period Egypt witnessed great instability, consecutive and transitional governments under the interim leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Obama administration did not hesitate in naming the new ambassador. Washington understood the importance of occupying this post during this difficult period in Egypt’s history.

Patterson was heavily criticised last summer before and after protests following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. Some Egyptian newspapers printed headlines describing her as “Ambassador from Hell” and “The US High Commissioner to Egypt” along with “Shameless Patterson” and “White Beetle Patterson” and dozens of other inappropriate headlines. Thus, some people believe that senior US diplomats are hesitant to serve in Cairo right now.

Once Patterson left Cairo, Washington picked Ambassador David Satterfield to serve temporarily as charge d’affaires for some months. Satterfield, who is on good terms with the Egyptian army, took a leave of absence from his position as director general of the Multinational Forces and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai Peninsula. After his term ended in January, Marc Sievers has served as charge d’affaires in Cairo.

There is a widespread rumour in Washington that interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy informed US Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting in Cairo on 3 November that the interim government in Egypt would not officially object to Washington’s nomination of Robert Ford as US ambassador to Cairo. However, Fahmy cautioned him about such a choice because Ford would feel isolated in Cairo because no one would deal with him.

Cairo’s advice is an indirect objection to Ford’s appointment. But it is no clear why Egypt objects to Ford except that some Egyptian circles accuse him of contributing to inciting violence in Syria by supporting the opposition against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Ford is also agreeable to the Islamists, which is why the incumbent government is worried.

Hawthorne believes the Obama administration’s decision not to nominate Ford for the post, after the Egyptian leadership rejected the idea, should also be seen in the context of the US wanting to avoid stirring up another anti-US backlash in Egypt. “But not having high-level US representation in Egypt also compounds the sense of drift, uncertainty, and indeed passivity in US policy towards Egypt,” she said. “This is becoming a serious problem not just with regard to Egypt, whose stability and security continue to be in question, but also for broader US strategy in the Middle East.”

US positions since 3 July have angered both sides of the dispute in Egypt. It neither officially described what happened that day as a military coup, nor as a popular revolution. Continued muddling by the US administration continues to raise many questions about the reasons why the Obama administration wishes to remain neutral between the two sides, which has angered both camps.

It is likely the Obama administration does not believe the presence or absence of an ambassador would impact Washington’s strategic interests, and thus the issue of an ambassador is a tactical rather than strategic move by Washington — as long as there are open communication channels between the military in both countries. We will never completely understand the absence of a US ambassador until after elections in Egypt and a clearer political picture, as well as assessments of the US’s response to developments in Egypt, emerges.
Egypt Court Jails 30 Morsi Supporters for Rioting
Anti-coup protesters in Egypt after the military takeover on July 3, 3013.
Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:23AM GMT

An Egyptian court has sentenced 30 supporters of ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, to more than three years in prison as military-installed government continues cracking down on dissidents.

Judicial sources said on Sunday the defendants were found guilty of violent acts during a protest against Morsi’s trial in February. Officials also accused them of membership in a “terrorist group,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The ruling is the latest in a relentless government crackdown targeting Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters.

On April 16, a court sentenced around 120 Brotherhood supporters to three years in jail. The defendants were accused of violating a controversial law against street protests.

Last month, another court sentenced more than five hundred of Morsi supporters to death. That verdict drew harsh criticisms from rights groups and the international community.

Figures show Egypt’s military-backed government has jailed nearly 16,000 people over the past few months.

Despite Cairo's crackdown, the Brotherhood says the group remains committed to peaceful resistance against the military-installed interim government.

Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since Morsi was ousted on July 3, 2013.

Several international bodies and the UN Human Rights Council have expressed concern over the Egyptian security forces’ heavy-handed crackdown and the killing of peaceful anti-government protesters.

According to the UK-based rights group, Amnesty International, 1,400 people have been killed in the political violence since Morsi’s ouster, "most of them due to excessive force used by security forces.",0,7396407.story

Tunisian Diplomat Kidnapped in Libya Pleads in Video for His Release
Mohammed Bel Sheik, a Tunisian diplomat, is being held by rebels in Libya.
By Sherif Tarek
7:59 PM PDT, April 21, 2014

A Tunisian diplomat kidnapped in neighboring Libya pleaded tearfully with his country’s president in an online video to negotiate with a militant group for his release.

Mohammed Bel Sheik, who was reportedly kidnapped a month ago in Tripoli, did not appear to be injured.

Another Tunisian diplomat was abducted in Tripoli last week, shortly after Jordan's ambassador to Libya, Fawaz Itan, was seized. The fate of those two men is unknown.

Kidnappings have surged in Libya since the counter-revolutionary war of regime-change that ousted Moammar Kadafi in October 2011. Kidnappers usually demand the release of captured militants.

“I have three young children," Bel Sheik says in the five-minute video, in which he is wearing a black shirt and shown against a white wall. “They could kill me any time.”

“This is a legitimate request,” he adds, addressing Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. “I’d love to return to Tunisia.”

The group left a message at the end of the video, dated April 19, that said: “As you imprison ours, we will imprison yours. As you kills ours, we will kill yours."

However, it did not make a clear demand in return for the release of Bel Sheik. Officials from Libya and Tunisia did not immediately comment on the video.

Reuters news agency quoted Essam Baitelmel, a member of the team investigating the abduction of the Jordanian ambassador, as saying the kidnappers wanted the release of Libyan militant Mohamed Dersi, convicted of plotting to bomb Jordan’s main airport.

In January, gunmen briefly held five Egyptian diplomats after the arrest of Libyan militia leader Shabaan Hadia in Egypt. They were released after Egypt freed Hadia.

Commenting on the increasing abductions in Libya, Wayne White, a former official of the State Department's Middle East/South Asia Intelligence Office, said abductions increase when kidnappers manage to free prisoners or get cash. But he noted that extremist groups sometimes kill hostages if they cannot negotiate a deal for them.

Diplomats are an inviting target because government officials, diplomats or not, can be traded, he said.

“In the continued absence of improved security, the only alternative is to follow the example of many other countries and remove diplomats from the country,” he said of Libya.
Occupied Libyan Surrogate Regime to Draft a Neo-Colonial Constitution
Libyan political prisoners held in a cage during a kangaroo court session in
April 2014.
Mon, Apr 21 2014

BAYDA, Libya-- A special body to draft a new constitution for Libya convened in the volatile east on Sunday, a milestone in the bumpy transformation of the North African country since the 2011 imperialist war of regime-change against the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

The 47 elected committee members gathered in the city of Bayda east of Benghazi, in the building that housed parliament when the country gained independence in 1951.

The body, drawn equally from all regions, will have 120 days to draft a constitution though analysts expect the process to take much longer given growing chaos as well as tribal and political divisions.

"The constitution should be finished in eight months," Mohamed Al-Tumi, a member from the capital Tripoli, told Reuters after a brief ceremony attended by tribal and community leaders during which the national anthem was played.

Libya desperately needs a viable government and system of rule so that it can focus on reconstruction and on healing the divisions fostered by the NATO-backed campaign against Gaddafi.

The body was meant to have 60 members but violence in Derna, an Islamist hotspot in the east, and several southern areas made it impossible to hold elections there.

The Amazigh or Berber minority also boycotted the committee to demand more rights, reflecting the turmoil gripping the major oil producer.


"The elections have not been completed so anyone can challenge the work of the committee by filing a petition to the constitutional court," said Tawfiq al-Shahaibi, a former lawmaker.

Libya used a similar model for the committee that drafted the constitution that was implemented when the country, then a monarchy, gained independence in 1951.

The new document's authors will need to take into account deepening political and tribal rivalries, as well as demands for more autonomy for the east, when deciding what political system Libya will adopt. Their draft will be put to a referendum.

Libya's parliament passed a resolution late last year that declared Libya is a Muslim country and the Islamic legal and moral code of sharia is the binding source of its legislation.

In the east, the weak interim government managed to negotiate with rebels an end to their seizure of major oil ports but their demands for a federalist system guaranteeing regional autonomy remain popular.

In the west, tribesmen and striking state security guards have blocked pipelines and oilfields to make financial and political demands.

Gaddafi ostensibly ruled Libya under a set of laws prescribed in his Green Book. In practice under the Jamahiriya system of governance Libya became the most prosperous state on the African continent.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Zimbabwe VP Mujuru Urges Church to Help Restore Moral Fabric
Republic of Zimbabwe Vice President Joice Mujuru.
April 21, 2014
George Maponga in Masvingo
Zimbabwe Herald

Vice President Joice Mujuru yesterday exhorted churches to help Government prevent rampant cases of child abuse, murder and corruption, saying the vices were eroding Zimbabwe’s moral fabric.

Government wants churches and traditional leaders to join hands to curb the social ills which are taking their toll on the nation.

Addressing thousands of Mutendi Zion Christian Church congregants gathered at Mbungo Estates in Bikita for the annual Easter pilgrimage, VP Mujuru hailed the role of churches in moulding morally-upright citizens, saying Zimbabwe’s national leadership led by President Mugabe, was disturbed by a spike in rape cases targeting minors.

“Every Monday when we meet with President Mugabe and other top Government officials we always receive reports of children who are being abused, cases of rape against young people are on the increase,” she said.

“We hear reports of people killing each other over trivial issues in every province. What kind of spirit has gotten into our people? Churches and traditional leaders should arbitrate whenever our people engage in disputes to curb violence.’’

VP Mujuru took a swipe at public officials who engaged in corrupt activities.

“We have people in positions of authority and entrusted with serving the general public who are engaging in corruption,” she said. “They are enriching themselves instead of serving the common men and women, that corruption is now very pervasive in this country and we need churches to help Government to eliminate that rotten vice.’’

VP Mujuru said it was shocking that cases of child rape, murder and corruption were on the rise despite 80 percent of Zimbabweans being Christians.

She said churches should continue praying for the nation so that peace prevailed in Zimbabwe which was now the pride of the entire Sadc region after holding peaceful and credible elections on July 31 last year.

VP Mujuru challenged Zimbabweans who got land under the land redistribution programme to optimally use it, saying the successful implementation of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) hinged on increasing productivity on farms.

Local churches were also supposed to embrace Zim-Asset and explain it to the general membership even in remote parts of the country, she said.

“Zim-Asset is not for people in Masvingo city or in Harare, it is for everyone, the programme entails that everyone starts thinking and planning on how best to economically uplift oneself,” she said.

“Zim-Asset demands that our people stop thinking about what can be done for them, we have to prioritise beneficiation of our products,’’ said VP Mujuru.

She said Government allocated ZCC a farm near Chegutu to engage in farming activities to benefit the underprivileged.

The church was also going to get State assistance in expanding Mbungo Dam so that congregants at Mbungo estates had access to clean water.

The church’s leader His Grace Bishop Dr Nehemiah Mutendi said they supported Government’s clampdown on corruption and was fully behind Zim-Asset which sought to end poverty.

Masvingo provincial affairs minister Cde Kudakwashe Bhasikiti paid tribute to indigenous churches such as ZCC for rallying their people to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and independence by resoundingly voting for Zanu-PF in last year’s harmonised elections.

Among those who attended ZCC Mutendi’s 101 anniversary Easter celebrations was Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi, Energy and Power Development Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, Health and Child Care deputy minister Dr Paul Chimedza and Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for Cropping Davis Marapira.
From Maaloula, President al-Assad Asserts That Syria's Human Landmarks Will Remain Steadfast
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad examines historic artifacts.
Apr 21, 2014

Damascus, (SANA) On the occasion of Easter, and from the heart of Maaloula town in Damascus countryside, President Bashar al-Assad wished a blessed Easter for all Syrians.

During his visit to Maaloula town, President al-Assad visited the Monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus and inspected the damage and destruction caused to the monastery by terrorists.

President al-Assad said that the acts of the terrorist groups indicate their identity and the identity of those who support them, giving a clear image of their barbarism as they target people and stone alike.

In Safir Maaloula Hotel, which terrorists had once seized and used as headquarters and base to commit their crimes against locals, President al-Assad met members of the Syrian Arab Army and national defense forces, saluting them and those who rose to defend the homeland from terrorists.

He asserted that Syria’s steadfastness and the armed forces’ success in restoring security and stability to towns in which terrorists had been running amok could not have been possible if it wasn’t for the state of solidarity between the country’s people, both civilians and military personnel, not could it have been achieved without the people’s support for the army.

After passing the Eastern mountain pass, President al-Assad visited St. Thecla Monastery which was also vandalized deliberately by terrorists, with the President asserting that no one, no matter the scale of the terrorism they employ, can erase Syria’s human and cultural history.

"Maaloula will remain, along with other human landmarks, steadfast in the face of the barbarianism and obscurantism of all those who are targeting the homeland, and they will remain a monument to the civilization of Syrians, while history will mark that what this town and other historic locations in Syria went through is proof the takfiri and obscurantist mentality of the aggressors" he said.

Passing through Ein al-Tineh village on his way back from Maaloula, a number of locals gathered around President al-Assad, asserting that they stand alongside the homeland in the face of all that targets it.

The President lauded the national defense forces in the village who stood alongside the armed forces in defense of their village and neighboring area, asserting that the honorable position of the people of Ein al-Tineh is an example of  the Syrian society which rallies together if a section of it is threatened.

President al-Assad  said that terrorists failed to incite dissent in the Syrian society no matter how many times they try, adding “the village of Ein al-Tineh is one of many examples of this, as it rose to defend Maaloula.”