Sunday, August 21, 2005

Reporting from outside the US mainstream media

Two officials of the US embassy in Kabul have been hurt by a roadside bomb that hit their convoy near the Afghan capital.
"I can confirm that two American personnel of the US embassy were slightly hurt while on a routine embassy mission near Kabul," Michael Macy, a US embassy public affairs officer, said.
He declined to identify the pair and also refused to say if the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, was in the convoy during the blast.
Earlier on Sunday, a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan has killed four US soldiers and wounded three others, the US military said.
A blast occurred as the troops were patrolling in Zabul province's Daychopan district, the military said in a statement on Sunday.

The above is from "Kabul blast hits US embassy convoy" (Aljazeera) and was e-mailed by Lynda. We're focusing on reporting from outside the United States mainstream media and this entry focuses on a variety of areas and topics.

Staying with Afghanistan, we'll note Dirk Kurbjuweit's "Peace in Afghanistan Is a Boon for Drug Lords" (Germany's der Spiegel, e-mailed in by Ellen):

While the drug squads and social workers continue their desperate battle against heroin on the home front, German troops stationed in Afghanistan can do little more than stand by and watch as poppy cultivation expands dramatically. Almost 90 percent of the world's opium comes from the fields of the Hindu Kush region where the Bundeswehr is stationed.
The men who represent Germany's interests in Afghanistan are at a loss. They're standing at the end of the road -- a lieutenant colonel, a lieutenant, and a commander. Their faces are yellow with dust, their spiky hair juts out from their modern flak jacket armor. They just spent ten tortuous hours driving -- a journey through clouds of yellow dust that grates on the teeth and tastes metallic on roads with potholes the size of craters and abyss-like drops on either side, with inclines so steep that their vehicles almost tipped over. Now, just 15 miles from Faizabad, their destination, the road plays its worst trick of all. It disappears altogether. The three men look on as brown torrents of water gush down from the mountain, obliterating the road beneath. The heavy rains have finally come, from ominous clouds that had hung over the snowcaps of the Hindu Kush all day. What was a road is now a mudslide.The three soldiers discuss their next move. As night draws in through the milky dusk, the words "drug baron" come up in the conversation, sounding more sinister than ever. The men are in Halga Jar, in northern Afghanistan, a region that thrives from the opium trade. Soldiers are considered bad for business here.They discuss how to avoid having to stop for the night. The lieutenant colonel suggests they drive back to Kunduz, but one of their trucks has run out of brake fluid. A 10-hour nighttime drive without brakes would be madness. The lieutenant and commander suggest continuing onward. Their vehicles should be able to handle the rough terrain and floods. But the road is also fraught with perils.Not long ago, four American soldiers were killed here, the lieutenant commander says, when a landslide flushed a tank mine onto the road. The soldiers know they have no choice but to stay put. After turning around their vehicles -- four all-terrain "Wolf" trucks and one armored "Dingo" patrol vehicle -- they set off in search of a spot to stay overnight. The soldiers in the "Dingo" peer out from the windows in silence as they bounce up and down over potholes, their vehicle wobbling like a drunken elephant. On the green hills, colorful flags flutter over graves. The convoy comes to a halt when a herd of goats blocks their path."People around here don't look so friendly anymore," comments the driver. "This is drug zone number one," adds the passenger alongside him. "We need protection," says the driver. They wave at the shepherds.

Brent notes that "catching that Pittsburg spirit," apparently, "Police break up Nepal student protests" (Aljazeera):

Police have beaten college students with batons and fired tear gas in a bid to stop them from protesting in Nepal's capital over higher government-set oil prices.
At least 21 students and several police were injured on Sunday, police and witnesses said.
Students were stopped as they attempted to hold rallies outside at least five colleges in Katmandu, police officials said on condition of anonymity in accordance with official policy.
Police said they fired tear gas and charged the students with batons outside two of the colleges, adding that 21 students were injured in the clashes.
They also used batons to halt the protests at the remaining three colleges.
Police officials said 18 students were detained. It was not clear whether they would be charged.

Dominick e-mails to note Seán McCárthaigh's "Woman to sue State after aborting twin foetuses" (The Irish Examiner):

AN IRISH woman who travelled to Britain for an abortion because tests showed her twins would not survive beyond birth is to sue the State over its failure to provide abortion services in the Republic. The hearing before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg next month appears certain to reignite public debate about the State’s controversial abortion ban. It comes just weeks after the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) confirmed that three other Irish women are taking a separate case against the Government over Ireland’s failure to legislate for abortion. The woman, known only as D for confidentiality, became pregnant in late 2001 with twins. In early 2002, tests showed that one foetus had stopped developing at eight weeks and the second foetus had a fatal chromosomal abnormality.
The woman decided she could not carry the pregnancy to term and travelled to Britain for an abortion.She told her family doctor and local hospital that she had a miscarriage when, as a result of the abortion, she required further medical treatment. The woman secretly brought the foetus back to Ireland in a small coffin for burial. D is claiming that Ireland is in breach of six articles of the European Convention on Human Rights over its failure to provide abortion services for women who experience a fatal foetal abnormality.

Olive e-mails to note "China holds US citizen accused of spying" (Australia's ABC):

China has detained a US citizen on suspicion of spying for Taiwan and has kept him under house arrest without charge for nearly three months, the US embassy in Beijing has confirmed.
Chinese-born Xie Chunren, 56, was arrested in the south-western province of Sichuan on May 31 after he travelled there from the US.
"He is currently under residential surveillance under suspicion of espionage for Taiwan," a US embassy spokeswoman said.
China claims the self-ruled island of Taiwan as its own and both sides have been spying on each other since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
The charges have come to light just weeks before Chinese President Hu Jintao makes his first trip to Washington as leader, adding new friction to ties already strained over issues from China's military build-up to textile trade.
Mr Xie's son says his father is not a spy.

Also focused on China, Lori e-mails "China sets up riot police units" (BBC):

China is setting up special police units in 36 cities to put down riots and counter what the authorities call the threat of terrorism.
Chinese state media said one of the first such forces, comprising 500 officers, had just been set up in Zhengzhou in central Henan province.
Correspondents say unrest has become more frequent in China, often due to land disputes or economic inequality.
There has also been increased coverage of such events in the Chinese press.
The Zhengzhou detachment will mainly deal with terrorism, violent crimes, riots and threats to public security, and will also be responsible for safety during major public occasions, the state news agency Xinhua said.

Tara e-mails to note D. Rajeev's "ENVIRONMENT-INDIA: Everything Gets Worse With Coca-Cola" (IPS):

In the end it was the ''generosity'' of Coca-Cola in distributing cadmium-laden waste sludge as ''free fertilizer'' to the tribal aborigines who live near the beverage giant's bottling plant in this remote Kerala village that proved to be its undoing.
On Friday, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) ordered the plant shut down to the jubilation of tribal leaders and green activists who had focused more on the 'water mining' activities of the plant rather than its production of toxic cadmium sludge.
''One way or another, this plant should be shut down and the management made to pay compensation for destroying our paddy fields, fooling us with fake fertilizer and drying out our wells,'' Paru Amma, an aboriginal woman who lives in this once lush, water-abundant area, told IPS.
Chairman of the KSPCB, G. Rajmohan, said the closure was ordered because the plant ''does not have adequate waste treatment systems and toxic products from the plant were affecting drinking water in nearby villages'' and that the plant ''has also not provided drinking water in a satisfying manner to local residents''.
Apparently, the generosity of the Coca-Cola plant was limited to distributing sludge and waste water free and did not extend to providing drinking water to people seriously affected by its operations.
In a statement Saturday, Coca-Cola said it was ''reviewing the order passed by the chairman of the Pollution Control Board, Kerala state,'' and that ''going forward, we are in the process of evaluating future steps, including a judicial review''.
The KSPCB closure order is only the latest episode in a see-saw battle between Coca-Cola and the impoverished but plucky local residents ever since the Atlanta-based company began operating its 25 million-dollar bottling plant in this village, located in the state's fertile Palakkad district, in 2001.
Along the way, pollution control authorities, political parties, the judiciary and global environmental groups, starting with Greenpeace International, became involved in the dispute and Plachimada grew into a global symbol of resistance by local people to powerful trans-national corporations trying to snatch away their water rights.
Although the local people had begun protesting against their wells running dry months after the plant began operations, serious trouble for the company began a little more than two years ago when a local doctor declared the water still available in the wells unfit for consumption.

Polly e-mails to note Stephen Gibbs' "Cuba and Panama restore relations" (BBC):

Cuba and Panama have restored diplomatic ties a year after they were broken off when Panama's former president pardoned four Cuban exiles.
The men had been accused of attempting to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro five years ago.
They included Luis Posada Carriles, branded by Cuba as the hemisphere's worst terrorist.
The states restored ties at a ceremony in the Cuban capital attended by Mr Castro and Panama's current president.

Official diplomatic relations were re-established in Havana with the signing of a document by the countries' foreign ministers.

Dominick e-mails to note "PSNI to quiz drivers in loyalist murder probe" (Ireland's

Detectives investigating the loyalist paramilitary murder of a father-of-three will tomorrow set up vehicle checkpoints in the area where he was gunned down a week ago.
Delivery driver Michael Green, 42, was ambushed as he arrived to open up the furniture store where he worked.
He was shot at least five times by two Ulster Volunteer Force gunmen and is the fourth man to be killed since the organisation’s festering feud with the Loyalist Volunteer Force erupted last month.
Mr Green, from the Ballysillan district of north Belfast, was gunned down outside Gilpins Furniture Store on the loyalist Sandy Row in the south of the city.
He had just opened a side gate and got back on his motorcycle when the killers opened fire.

Note, this is loyalist violence; therefore, you'll never read about it in the New York Times. Nor are they interested in debating whether or not the Loyalist Volunteer Force should disarm.

Gareth e-mails to note Maxine Frith's "Exposed: how drugs giant pushed Vioxx painkiller" (the UK's The Independent):

At least 300 British patients who claim to have suffered heart attacks and strokes as a result of Vioxx, as well as the relatives of others who died, are to sue the makers, Merck, for millions of pounds in the US courts. More than 4,000 sufferers from around the world have also lodged negligence claims against Merck, with experts warning that the company faces a "potentially unlimited" flood of cases that could cost it more than $50bn (£28bn).
Merck is accused of deliberately withholding information about the potentially fatal side-effects of Vioxx from regulators on both sides of the Atlantic and misleading doctors about the risks of the drug in its desire to rush its product on to the market. Evidence given to congressional hearings in the US has also revealed how sales representatives employed by Merck were told to dodge questions about the side-effects.
The case highlights the way pharmaceutical companies can distort scientific data on a product to exaggerate its benefits.
More than 20 million people, including 400,000 in the UK, took Vioxx before Merck withdrew it last September following a study suggesting that taking the drug for more than 18 months could double the risk of heart attacks in some people. Merck claims that the drug was thoroughly tested and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

Same topic, Dominick e-mails to note Kristen Hays' "Vioxx jury asks to hear doctor’s testimony again" (The Irish Examiner):

JURORS in America’s first Vioxx-related civil trial asked to hear again what could be crucial testimony from a pathologist who autopsied a man who took Vioxx and later died of heart problems.
The trial that began July 14 was the first of more than 4,200 lawsuits in America to go before a jury. The case has drawn national attention as the first test of Merck’s legal fate, and speculation is Merck’s liability could reach 15 billion.
A little more than two hours into their second day of deliberations, lawyers said jurors asked for a replay of testimony from Dr Maria Araneta, who attributed the 2001 death of Robert Ernst to an irregular heartbeat secondary to clogged arteries.
The panel had yet to specify which part it wanted to hear, and any replaying of testimony must take place in open court.
Vioxx-maker Merck & Co. used that autopsy to support the company’s contention that the painkiller had nothing to do with Robert Ernst’s death.

Pru e-mails to note "An activist in Niger analyses the crisis" (the UK's The Socialist Worker):

Millions of people are suffering under the famine in the West African country of Niger. Activist Moussa Tchangari spoke to Socialist Worker
Famine has gripped all regions of Niger. There are nearly four million people on the edge of starvation across the country.
To add to our misery the rains have finally arrived, but too late for this season’s crops, and many peasants are too weak to begin planting next year's crops.
Peasant farmers have also lost their livestock because there is no fodder.
Some international aid has begun to arrive but unfortunately the government is not doing enough to relieve the suffering. President Mamadou Tandja is denying there is a famine, claiming it is "false propaganda" spread by the opposition.
But everybody knows the situation is very grave and that not enough aid is arriving.
Hunger is now beginning to touch the capital Niamey, with more and more people finding it difficult to feed themselves. The price of food in the market is rising.
It is too expensive for ordinary people to buy a bag of rice.
This is a tragedy as many in the country already lived in extreme poverty -- more than half the population lives on less than $1 a day.
Hunger is spreading among women and children, and over 800,000 children are seriously undernourished.
Apart from a few centres distributing food aid -- centres set up by organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and others -- the majority of the population is in grave danger.
There are natural causes for this famine. A severe drought last year and a plague of locust last August wiped out the crops of over 4,000 vilages.
We live in a country that is over 80 percent arid or semi-arid. We have always been plagued by drought and locusts.
But we have to be clear, there is a direct link between neo-liberal policies and the present crisis we find ourselves in.
Since the 1980s the state has implemented a series of harsh measures dictated by the financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
These are polices designed for us to qualify for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative. The World Bank demanded the privatisation and deregulation of institutions that set prices for food.
It insisted that agriculture had to be subject to the free market and subsidies to poor farmers be slashed.
The international institutions and the government decreed that farmers could only get credit if they grew crops for export.
They said that we need foreign currency to tackle debt repayments, even though we do not have enough food to eat.
These policies have left us badly exposed and at the mercy of natural phenomena like drought.
Despite all the difficulties we find ourselves in, our government still insists that farmers plant crops for export.
We used to have a body that supervised the price of agricultural goods and ensured that producers could get decent prices for their products.
This organisation was privatised, breaking the link between prices and what people could afford. Now we have merchants who buy up grain at a low price and hoard them until the price rises so that they can make a profit--at present they make between 200-500 percent profit on maize alone.
However the government still intervenes in the market, but not to set prices.
It intervenes to ensure that the merchants continue to make profits out of hunger.
The government also ensures that the major food warehouses and distributors get a good price to distribute food around the country.
Of course Niger is a very big country so this guarantees the transport and storage companies a healthy profit.
We blame the policies of neo-liberalism for this famine. We blame the World Bank and we blame our government.
They are the authors of this misery. The capitalists in Niger are doing very well out of the famine.
There is a solution to this famine, in the short and long term. We are demanding the government provide food to ease the hunger, especially for the children. This is the immediate, urgent priority.
We want the government to stop paying the external debt and use the money for an emergency food programme.
Why should we carry on servicing this debt when so many people are facing death and hunger?
In the long term, we want our agricultural policies to focus on producing food to fill our bellies and not on producing crops to service our debts.
We want policies that develop agriculture, produce diversity of crops and support our peasant farmers.
We want the government to set the price of goods and guarantee a minimum wage so as not to put profits above the needs of the people.
This of course means we face a battle against our government and a battle against neo-liberalism. This is natural. This is a battle that will mobilise millions of people in Niger.
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the high cost of living in March and April. We hope these protests, and this crisis, will change the direction of our country.
Despite all the misery we are optimistic for the future and confident that our movement, and the movement around the world, will create an alternative to neo-liberalism. We are confident that another Niger is possible.
Moussa Tchangari is a journalist and leading member of the Democratic Coalition of the Civil Society of Niger. He was arrested on 29 March for organising demonstrations against the high cost of living. He was recently released from the notorious Daikaina penal camp in Niger.
© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

Note: Pittsburgh Indymedia has footage of the police using a tasers, dogs, et al on the peace activists in Pittsburgh, "Counter-Recruitment demonstrators shot with Tasers, bitten by dogs:"

Today in Oakland in front of the Army Recruiting Center on Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh Police and University of Pittsburgh Police fought with protestors on the sidewalk. At least six people were arrested; police fired tasers and other weapons at the crowd, including restrained arrestees and bystanders.

The e-mail address for this site is