The Bolivian congress on 9 June decided to accept the resignation of Carlos Mesa, and to appoint the president of the supreme court, as an interim president, pending fresh presidential and congressional elections. The move will help defuse a growing and potentially violent confrontation that Mesa had described as pushing Bolivia towards "civil war".
Until the very last minute, it seemed as though Mesa would be succeeded by the president of the senate, Hormando Vaca Díez, backed by the country's discredited political parties and right-wing business elite in Santa Cruz, its main economic hub. However, bringing forward the date of elections will not remove the sources of antagonism which had brought hundreds of thousands of protesters in to the streets in the preceding weeks in support of constitutional reform and re-nationalisation of the hydrocarbons industry. The protesters feel empowered by recent developments.
Bolivia is a country with a strong and assertive civil society but one with a historically weak state. In the past, the country's miners orchestrated popular social organisation. They provided the core of the union movement, which the Central Obrera Boliviana (Cob) used to wield strong influence over national politics. Unlike most other Latin American countries, Bolivia retained a unified labour movement.
The power of the miners and the Cob went into sudden decline in 1985, when faced with a drop in tin prices, the state company faced bankruptcy. Some 25,000 miners lost their jobs in the following few years. Many of the miners left the mining areas for work in other parts of the country.
It was only in 1999 that public protest once again became a potent force. Faced with the privatisation of its water supply, the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city, took to the streets to force the government to back down. Their success provided a strong boost to the self-confidence of "people power".
The above is from John Crabtree's "Bolivia's retreat from civil war" (OpenDemocracy) and, as Francisco notes in his e-mail, "this is the type of the reporting you won't get in the Times from the littlest Judy Miller" (Juan Forero).
OpenDemocracy has many items worth checking out (and we'll be noting one in another entry tonight) but Godfrey Hodgson's "American media in the firing line" would probably be of interest to the community. From the article:
The revelation, more than thirty years after the Watergate scandal brought down President Richard M Nixon in 1974, that “Deep Throat” - the conduit of secret information to journalists pursuing the story - was none other than Nixon’s acting director of the FBI, W Mark Felt, ought to have been a moment to celebrate the finest traditions of the American press.
Instead, it is yet another reminder that the American model of amicable interaction between responsible media and transparent government is going badly wrong, in two ways: the media have been failing to do their job, and the Bush administration and its attendant heralds have refused fully to accept the legitimacy of media scrutiny.
It was the Felt family, through the inevitable lawyer, that had taken the initiative to break the Deep Throat story. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and their beloved boss, Ben Bradlee, had kept the faith. They had lived up to the journalist’s creed and kept Felt’s secret.
It ought to have been a celebration, but somehow it wasn’t quite. Some simply mocked that the Washington Post, legendary champion of investigative journalism, had been beaten to its own greatest story, and by Vanity Fair. Some wondered how it came about that the 91-year-old Felt and his family were in penury, not a word that could be used to describe the Post or its reporters. Others again asked whether today’s mainstream journalists would take on government as Bradlee’s and Katharine Graham’s Post did in 1972-3.
The truth is that America’s “mainstream media” — meaning primarily metropolitan daily newspapers and network television news — are today in all kinds of trouble.
For a start, conservative critics relentlessly deride and accuse them of the one fault they have always tried to avoid: bias, in this case systematic liberal bias. Indignantly as they deny the charge, and hard as they genuinely strive to avoid it, there is no getting away from the fact that the tone of the most influential pieces of the news media industry – the New York Times and the Washington Post, Newsweek and Time, CBS and NBC and even CNN – has been set for decades by people, the great majority of whom see themselves as progressive, who vote Democrat and belong unmistakably to what conservatives see as the liberal elite.
It is also true that, far more even than in the 1950s, and certainly more than in the 1960s and 1970s, any such liberal bias is now aggressively challenged by institutions and journalists that do not bother to deny that they too have a bias. The most successful television news provider, Fox News, is unashamedly conservative. Talk radio is dominated by coarse, often abusive rightwing voices.
The supposedly liberal mainstream, moreover, increasingly offers a guaranteed outlet to professional conservatives. The New York Times, presumably in an effort to offset the charge of liberal bias, employs avowedly conservative columnists such as William Safire and now David Brooks, while the Washington Post has Robert Novak and Charles Krauthammer, predictable champions of the right.
Note, Safire has retired and been replaced with John Tierney who is to Safire what Cheryl Ladd was to Farrah Fawcett (which is what the paper was looking for), but the point stands and no one from the Times needs quibble over it in private e-mails to this site.
Pru e-mails Charlie Kimber's "Blair crumbles as Bush rejects aid for the poor" (UK's Socialist
Tony Blair has completely caved in to George Bush over the key issues of debt, aid and climate change -- even before the G8 leaders fly in to Scotland for their summit.
In a frank interview published in the Financial Times on Tuesday, Blair made it clear that he would not be so presumptuous even to raise the basic demands of the Make Poverty History movement.
He would not even put forward the pallid versions of these demands put forward by his chancellor Gordon Brown.
"There are certain things we know the Americans are not going to do, that we are not asking them to do," he said.
"We are not asking them to sign up to the International Finance Facility, or 0.7 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) in aid.
"They are not going to do that and they’ve made that clear right from the beginning.
"Neither are we asking them to reverse the position on Kyoto. There's no way the Americans are going to do that."
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From The Australian Herald, Skip e-mails "NATO, EU, intervention in Darfur welcome, says Annan:"
Assistance from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union to airlift additional African Union peacekeepers into Sudan's troubled Darfur region will help expand the African-led peacekeeping mission there in a timely fashion, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday.Welcoming the news of the development – which he has been strongly advocating for the past six months or more – Annan said in a statement the pledges of assistance from NATO and the EU would help to ensure the timely expansion of the African Union Mission in Sudan.
He looked forward to the provision of additional practical support and he urged donor countries to make good on the pledges they gave at the conference which he co-chaired with African Union Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, late last month, the statement said.
From The Irish Examiner, "House arrest for opposition leader:"
ETHIOPIAN opposition leader Hailu Shawel claimed the government had put him and his family under house arrest a day after it threatened to detain opposition leaders if violence over recent elections persisted.
Also from The Irish Examiner, James Lyons' "Tutu urges action as Blair to visit G8 leaders:"
The veteran campaigner welcomed the debt cancellation deal brokered by British Chancellor Gordon Brown. But the South African churchman called on G8 leaders to go further when they gather in Scotland next month.
[. . .]
Archbishop Tutu called the London debt deal “a splendid start”. Looking forward to the G8 summit, he said: “I hope that the heads of these different countries will be sensitive and say we are on the same side, we want to eradicate poverty, we want to ensure that trade conditions are equitable and we want to increase aid.” The archbishop acknowledged the continent had seen many corrupt leaders who had squandered aid. However, he told the BBC: “Remember the West had a hand in promoting some of those leaders because it suited them at the time.” New review systems would ensure the money saved from debt cancellation will go to those who most need it, he continued.
Lyon's article contains an overview as well as offering some questions and answers on the topic at the end.
Lynda e-mails to note "Vic scientists develop bird flu test" (Australia's ABC):
Victorian scientists have developed a 24-hour test to detect various strains of avian flu in birds.
Staff from the Department of Primary Industries say the test is a world first and will slash diagnosis times from three weeks to one day.
Scientists will be able to conduct same-day tests for the 15 different types of flu, including the strains that are transferable to humans.
Victorian Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron says the test provides an early warning system.
From The New Zealand Herald, Cody e-mails to note Rupert Cornwell's "Guantanamo guards tortured prisoner with music:"
A top al Qaeda suspect in Guantanamo Bay was stripped, forced to bark like a dog, and subjected to the music of Christina Aguilera, it emerged as debate intensified in the US capital over the future of the detention camp in Cuba.
The latest disclosures come in a prison log of the treatment of Mohammad al-Kahtani, a Saudi citizen who many US investigators believe was the missing "20th hijacker" of September 11, 2001.
The document, extracts of which appear in the new issue of Time magazine, covers a 50 day spell in 2002-03 - a period when additional interrogation techniques were approved by Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary.
They included a "sissy slap" with an inflated latex glove, ordering Mr Kahtani to "bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog," and rejecting a request that he be allowed to pray.
On other occasions, water was poured on his head and Aguilera music was played to keep him awake in midnight sessions. Mr Kahtani was questioned in a room decorated with pictures of September 11 victims. He was made to urinate in his underpants, and at other times to wear pictures of scantily clad women around his neck. At one point, according to the log, he asked to commit suicide.
Also from The New Zealand Herald, we'll note "Greenpeace claims evidence of bottom trawling destruction:"
Greenpeace has produced photographic evidence today which it says disproves claims that deep-sea bottom trawling does not damage the environment. Greenpeace and Amaltal Fishing have been locked in a battle on and off the ocean after a confrontation between the Rainbow Warrior and Amaltal's trawler Ocean Reward in the Tasman Sea last week.
[. . .]
However, Greenpeace fired back at Mr Talley today, posting photographs on its website which it claimed showed Tasman Pacific Company trawler Waipori hauling up a bycatch of endangered red and black corals near Norfolk Island.
"Again and again, we have caught the bottom trawling industry red-handed with the evidence of deep sea destruction in their nets," Greenpeace oceans campaigner Carmen Gravatt said today.
From Ireland's BreakingNews.ie, we'll note "Bomb derails train in Russia:"
The derailment of a train travelling from the Chechen capital Grozny to Moscow today was apparently caused by an explosion on the tracks, the Federal Security Service said.
Twelve people were injured.
An FSB spokeswoman said the train’s driver reported that an explosion occurred on the tracks in front of the train.The spokeswoman also said a crater and wires were found at the site, 90 miles south of Moscow.
FSB spokeswoman Diana Shemyakina said that four cars of the train went off the tracks and 12 people were injured, including a one-year-old girl.
Also from Ireland's BreakingNews.ie, we'll note "Bono echoes call for Edinburgh rally:"
Rock star Bono today called for a mass movement to Edinburgh to force world leaders to meet commitments made to wipe out the debt of the poorest nations on the planet.
The U2 frontman, who has campaigned for debt relief for the last seven years, said the agreement by the world’s most powerful countries was a great moment.
"Politicians love to sign cheques but they hate cashing them and there will be a lot of rhetoric around this G8," Bono said.
"The reason why we have to turn up en masse at this golf course – the eight most powerful men in the world are meeting on a golf course in Scotland – if we don't the debt piece that happened, that will stay, but all the other pieces which are as important or more important, they will fudge.
"We have to give our politicians permission to spend our money and that is why Live 8 is so important."
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced the deal which will eventually assist 38 countries as leaders prepared for the G8 full summit at Gleneagles in Scotland next month.
Annual repayments of 1-2 billion US dollars from up to 38 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, will be wiped out under the agreement struck by G8 finance ministers who met in London.
From The Moscow Times, we'll note "Defense Ministry Will Draft More University Graduates:"
The number of universities and institutes certified to provide military training will be drastically slashed in the next few years, allowing the armed forces to draft tens of thousands of graduates every year, a senior Defense Ministry official said Thursday.
The number of universities that train reserve officers will be cut from 229 to 30 by 2010, Army General Nikolai Pankov, head of the Defense Ministry's personnel service, told reporters.
Currently, there are 170,000 students undergoing such training, which allows them to avoid otherwise-compulsory two-year service. A few reservists, mostly graduates of technical universities, are conscripted to serve as officers for two years.
Starting from 2008, however, conscripts will serve for only one year, and the Defense Ministry's leadership has repeatedly said the conscription pool must be widened as a result.
Pankov also said the Defense Ministry would also reduce the number of its academies from 78 to 61 by 2010.
Peter e-mails to alert us to a two-part series from Der Spiegel. From Georg Mascolo and Erich Follath's "Osama's Road to Riches and Terror:"
The Bin Laden family disowned black sheep Osama in 1994. But have they really broken with the mega-terrorist? Recently revealed classified documents seem to suggest otherwise. Osama's violent career has been made possible in part by the generosity of his family -- and by his contacts with the Saudi royals.
In early spring 2002, American intelligence agents tipped off authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina that something wasn't quite right with the "Benevolence International Foundation." Their reaction was swift; special forces stormed eight offices of the Islamic foundation in Sarajevo and in Zenica. They found weapons and explosives, videos and flyers calling for holy war. More importantly, however, they discovered a computer with a mysterious file entitled "Tarich Osama" -- Arabic for "Osama's Story."
After printing out the file -- close to 10,000 pages worth -- the intelligence experts quickly realized they had stumbled upon a true goldmine. They were looking at nothing less than the carefully documented story of al-Qaida, complete with scanned letters, minutes of secret meetings, photos and notes -- some even written in Osama Bin Laden's handwriting. CIA experts secured the highly sensitive material, dubbed "Golden Chain," and took everything back to the United States. To this day, only fragments of the material have been published. Now, however, SPIEGEL magazine has been given complete access to the entire series of explosive documents dating from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.
[. . .]
Finances are the focal point in these early al-Qaida documents. OBL, as one of the heirs of a large construction company, had a substantial fortune at his disposal, but it was still not enough to finance global jihad. The Saudi elite -- and his own family -- came to his assistance.
From Erich Follath and Georg Mascolo's " MEET THE BIN LADENS, PART II: Tracking Osama's Kin Around the World:"
Osama also stayed in touch with his friends from the Saudi intelligence agency, even after Libya issued a warrant for his arrest, charging bin Laden with alleged involvement in the murder of two Germans -- an official working for Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and his wife. Prince Turki sent Osama's mother, Hamida, and his brother Bakr to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, several times to convince Osama to abandon his terrorist activities. The visits were so frequent that Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, believed at the time that Osama was a Saudi spy. Washington increasingly came under pressure to do something about OBL, especially after his involvement in attacks in Somalia and Yemen. The US government met with Saudi officials behind the scenes, confronting them with satellite images of al-Qaida training camps in northern Sudan. In April 1994, King Fahd finally revoked Osama bin Laden's Saudi Arabian citizenship. The bin Laden family followed suit, issuing a sparse, two-sentence statement, signed by Bakr, disowning Osama.
Despite these actions, OBL was still far from being a "black sheep" with no ties to his native country. Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki visited bin Laden several times after he had moved from Sudan to Afghanistan to join forces with the radical Taliban. Turki allegedly brought along expensive gifts to Kandahar, in the form of dozens of pickup trucks. According to a former member of the Taliban intelligence service, Prince Turki and OBL made a deal: The Saudis would support al-Qaida financially, but only under the condition that there would be no attacks on Saudi soil. (Prince Turki, now Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Great Britain, has denied these claims, telling SPIEGEL that they are "nothing but fantasy.")
On Jan. 9, 2001, OBL attended his son Mohammed's wedding in Kandahar, accompanied, according to CIA sources, by his mother and two of his brothers. The CIA also claims that "two of Osama's sisters traveled to Abu Dhabi" a month later, where they met with an al-Qaida agent at the Gulf emirate's airport to deliver large sums of cash.
In mid-January 2005, New York federal judge Richard Casey wrote, in his grounds for allowing the civil suit against SBG filed by the families of 9/11 victims, that "the Saudi Binladin Group maintained close relationships with Osama bin Laden at certain times," and that it remains "unclear" whether these ties continued when OBL became involved in terrorism.
Can this global company, with its close ties to the Saudi royal family, truly be brought to trial, or will the US government, officially allied with Riyadh in its "war on terror," work behind the scenes to have the case dismissed? SBG has already demonstrated its willingness to work with the West by entering into joint ventures with Motorola and a deal with Disney, and has also been Porsche's official agent in the kingdom. Moreover, SBG is developing new airport security equipment in Saudi Arabia, as well as building housing for US managers working in the oil industry.
In Kazakhstan, the Saudi Binladin Group is helping build the country's new capital, Astana. In Syria, SBG and a Spanish company jointly operate the country's biggest olive oil processing plant. And in Dubai, the family company has just submitted a bid for a portion of the construction of what will be the world's tallest building. Next to aircraft, it seems, the bin Ladens see towers as a special challenge.
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