Friday, April 18, 2008

Genocide Studies Media File
April 1-18, 2008

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to

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"Maria Barragan Succeeds in Getting Adoptive Parents Jailed"
By Mike Elkin
The Times, 5 April 2008
"In a landmark decision, a court in Buenos Aires sentenced a former military officer and the adoptive parents of one of the country's many babies 'stolen' during the dictatorship to prison for concealing the child's identity and falsifying adoption documents. Maria Eugenia Sampallo Barragán, 30, had brought charges against the three after discovering her true identity seven years ago. Ms. Sampallo is one of hundreds of people who were snatched from their parents or born in captivity during the country’s dictatorship of 1976-83, but she was the first to face her adoptive parents in court. Osvaldo Rivas, 65, and MarÍa Cristina Gómez Pinto, 60, her adoptive parents, were sentenced to eight and seven years in prison respectively. Enrique Berthier, a former army captain who handed Ms Sampallo over to the couple when she was a baby, received ten years. 'These are not my parents,' Ms. Sampallo said at a press conference on Monday. 'They are my kidnappers ... there is no emotional bond that binds me to them. These are my parents,' she said, picking up photos of her biological parents. Argentina's military regime arrested Leonardo Sampallo and Mirta Barragán, suspected leftist dissidents, in December 1977. Soon after Ms. Sampallo was born, her parents died in prison and the infant was given to Captain Berthier to pass on to another family, which hid her real identity. Ms. Sampallo learnt about her past from the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They have found 88 people like Ms. Sampallo, children of their own sons and daughters who 'disappeared.' The Argentine military imprisoned tens of thousands of people suspected of being subversives and killed as many as 30,000. The junta also decided to 'rehabilitate' its enemies' children by placing them with families that supported the dictatorship. Many of the children were given to the families of men who may have participated in the torture and deaths of their parents. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this source to my attention.]


"The Battle for Aboriginal Rights"
By Jaimie Kaffash
New Statesman, 15 April 2008
"Britain was furthered by Rudd’s apology to the Aboriginal people for the 'profound grief, suffering and loss' that his predecessors inflicted upon them, leading to an outpouring of emotion that could at least be compared to, if not rival, the death of Diana. It is not often that the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, weeps while watching CNN, though this is what he claimed happened while watching Rudd’s historic moment. But are words enough? As John Pilger quite rightly pointed out on these pages, the answer is 'no'. By focusing on past injustices -- including the 'Stolen Generations,' which saw indigenous children taken from their families up until, unbelievably, the 1960s -- there is a danger that present inequalities could be quietly swept under the carpet. And these inequalities are all too real: an infant mortality rate that is almost three times higher than the non-indigenous population, rates of death from treatable and preventable conditions ranging from three times to eight times higher than for non-indigenous Australians and, for some, a lack of access to adequate health care, housing, food or water, according to Human Rights Watch. All this in one of the world's wealthiest nations. Critics correctly point to the lack of a move to allow the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act with regards to the Northern Territory National Emergency Response -- which deals with alleged child abuse in the region -- thereby continuing the legalisation of discrimination of the indigenous population. As well as this, there have been calls to alleviate the lack of funding for the Aboriginal Legal Aid services, which is to blame for the indigenous legal service's inability to deal with the civil and family law issues, according to a recent article in Criminal Law Journal. Words, however, are undoubtedly a start, especially when they are backed up by Rudd’s latest promise, announced in London this week, to use the first day of parliament every year to provide an update on progress to close the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2030 -- which incredibly stands at 17 years at the moment. [...]"


"Bulgaria's Ruse Recognizes Ottoman Genocide over Bulgarians and Armenians" (Sofia), 17 April 2008
"The Municipal Council of the northern Bulgarian city of Ruse approved Thursday a declaration denouncing the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire and later its Young Turks' government against its Armenian and Bulgarian population. 'With the adoption of this declaration, the city counselors proved their responsibility and their compassion to the universal human values, and demonstrated their civic consciousness and morals,' announced the representatives of the nationalist Ataka party, which initiated the voting of the declaration. Ataka expressed its hope that similar declarations would be adopted by the city and town councils around the country. These declarations should be treated as a kind of referendum, with whose decisions the Bulgarian government and parliament would have to comply. The city of Burgas already approved a declaration recognizing the Armenian genocide at the end of February. This lead to a harsh reaction on part of the Turkish city of Edirne, which terminated all common projects, and severed all connections between the two cities."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"War Reporter Jon Swain Pays Tribute to Dith Pran"
By Jon Swain
The Sunday Times, 6 April 2008
"[...] I first met Pran in 1972. Although his loyalty was always to Schanberg, he was ready to give help and advice to me and all the other journalists. Never more so than on April 17, 1975 -- the day of the fall of Phnom Penh. On that same day Schanberg, Al Rockoff, an American photographer, and I were captured by the Khmer Rouge. A squad of teenage soldiers with hate-filled eyes forced us into a captured armoured personnel carrier (APC). Pran, realising we were going to be executed, selflessly argued to be allowed to join us inside, knowing full well that without his communication skills we were doomed. It is this story that is told in The Killing Fields. And it was Dith Pran himself, by the way, who coined the phrase 'killing fields' after seeing the grim piles of corpses and skeletal remains on his desperate trek to freedom. That was in the future. Back when Pran volunteered himself as a prisoner, there seemed little hope of escape for any of us. First we were taken to the banks of the Mekong river; then the rear door of the APC opened and a pair of Khmer Rouge soldiers, pointing rifles, beckoned us out. We knew they were going to shoot us. Pran got out first and began to talk softly and firmly, as he always did. He told the Khmer Rouge that we were neutral journalists who had come to report on their historic 'liberation'; and, after a while, our would-be killers began to calm down. The tension suddenly evaporated and we were freed. A few days later we tried to doctor one of my two British passports for Pran so that he could be evacuated with us to Thailand as a foreigner -- but we failed. The Khmer Rouge forced him to go into the countryside -- by now becoming a giant labour camp -- where he somehow survived torture, starvation and a life of unremitting hard toil. When he emerged four years later, 50 members of his family had perished. Mercifully, Schanberg had evacuated Pran’s wife, Ser Moeun, and his four beloved children before Phnom Penh fell and they were safely in America. [...]"


"Canada: Maybe Feds Can't Handle the Truth?"
By Andrew Hanon
The Edmonton Sun (on, 16 April 2008
"'What's the point?' the woman asked. 'What's the point of having a truth and reconciliation commission if the perpetrators of the abuses are not there to face the people they've victimized?' It wasn't the first time I'd heard skepticism about the commission, that is expected this spring to begin work on building a comprehensive public record of the abuses that took place at native residential schools. The commission is one part of a settlement agreement between native people, the federal government and the churches that ran the schools for the feds. It will spend five years poring over church documents and gathering testimony from ex-students about what went on at the schools, that operated from the late 1800s to the 1970s. Alberta had 19 residential schools, where native children were taken from their parents and sent to in an effort to eradicate native language, culture and spirituality. The plan, according to the twisted, racist bastards who developed the program, was to elevate native children from their 'condition of savagery' and assimilate them into mainstream society. Instead, thousands of innocent kids were subjected to emotional, physical and even sexual abuse by the people entrusted to raise them better than their parents could. The end result has been generations of dysfunction and anguish, ruined families and devastated communities, from which Canada's First Nations are still struggling to recover. ... Many former residential school students say one critical component for justice to be served is for them to have the opportunity to face the individuals who violated them. Now they fear it'll never happen. Other critics, notably the Vancouver-based Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, simply don't trust anything that the federal government or the churches had a hand in organizing. The group announced last week it's put together its own inquiry to look into the charge that thousands of children were buried in unmarked graves around dozens of the schools, including four in northern Alberta. The inquiry will be run by several hereditary chiefs from across the country and organizers are trying to get the United Nations involved. They've announced that they'll begin work this week. Meanwhile, the $60-million truth and reconciliation commission can't even nail down an exact start date for its work, other than to say it'll begin in early 2008. [...]"


"UN Chief Joins the Olympic Boycott Relay"
By David Usborne and Jerome Taylor
The Independent, 12 April 2008
"Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, has indicated he will skip the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics this summer, capping an extraordinary week of public relations disasters for the Chinese government as it struggles to contain international anger over its policies towards Tibet and Sudan. Officials fudged the reasons for Mr Ban's decision citing scheduling conflicts. But he is only the latest world leader in recent days suddenly to have found reasons to duck the opening events, after a similar move by Gordon Brown. Mr Ban's absence will be especially symbolic as the UN and the Olympics are meant to share global ideals. Making matters still worse for the hosts -- and also for an increasingly jittery International Olympics Committee (IOC) which has been meeting this week in Beijing -- has been the near pandemonium that has attended nearly every stage so far of China's much-heralded torch relay around the world. Yesterday, protests in Buenos Aires included the unfurling of a giant 'Free Tibet' banner on the torch route and a rival march organised by members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China. Although the protesters were in smaller numbers than were seen during the relays earlier in the week in London, Paris and San Francisco, more than 6,000 Argentinians had signed up to a petition calling on China to talk to the Dalai Lama before the torch had even arrived on Thursday. China is becoming increasingly aggrieved at the demonstrations and the gathering pressure for it to distance itself from the government of Sudan because of the continuing violence in Darfur -- and the crackdown in Tibet. [...]"

"IOC Chief Speaks Out over Tibet As Protests Continue"
By Tania Branigan
The Guardian, 7 April 2008
"The president of the International Olympic Committee has told colleagues at a meeting in the Chinese capital that he is 'very concerned' about unrest in Tibet, as protests continue to flare in other parts of the country. Jacques Rogge's statement -- his strongest to date -- comes in the wake of repeated attempts to disrupt the Olympic torch relay. Police in London arrested 37 people for public order offences as the flame passed through the city yesterday and protesters have already gathered along the route through Paris today. But Rogge said there was 'no momentum' for a boycott of the August event as he addressed the IOC and national Olympic committees in Beijing. 'I'm very concerned with the international situation and what's happening in Tibet,' he told today's meeting. 'The torch relay has been targeted. The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and calls for a rapid peaceful resolution in Tibet,' he said. He said that violence 'for whatever reason' was 'not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic games.' 'We need the unity of the Olympic movement to help us overcome the difficulties. Our major responsibility is for offering good games to the athletes who deserve them,' he said. Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organising committee, accused protestors in London of a 'disgusting' form of sabotage. The government has accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting trouble in an attempt to damage the games and foster the cause of Tibetan separatism. But the Tibetans' spiritual leader in exile has said supporters should not disrupt the Olympics and insists he seeks only autonomy. [...]"


"Holocaust Train Rolls into Berlin Engulfed by Row"
By Dave Graham
Reuters dispatch, 13 April 2008
"A vintage engine steamed into Berlin on Sunday, hauling carriages filled with photos of smiling children and poignant last letters to loved ones -- the images and words of the youngest victims of the Nazi Holocaust. About 160,000 have visited the train, a memorial to the millions of Jews and others carried off to their deaths by Adolf Hitler's railways in World War Two. The train set off across Germany in November on an often tearful journey due to end, like so many of the Nazis' victims, at the notorious Auschwitz death camp in Poland With just days to go before the 'train of commemoration' terminates its journey on May 8 -- the day the war ended in Europe -- it has become embroiled in a major row. Germany's current rail operator, state-owned Deutsche Bahn, refused to allow the train to halt in the capital's central station, offering instead the eastern Ostbahnhof. Some critics have compared the heads of Deutsche Bahn with those of the Nazi-era Reichsbahn, which deported many of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Left Party parliamentarian Petra Pau said the 'blockade' by the firm, and the travel charges it had imposed on the train were a reminder of the difficulties still faced when trying to shed light on Germany's past crimes. 'The horror of the Nazi regime cannot be forgotten. It would be a betrayal of the victims and the future,' said Pau, a deputy speaker of the Bundestag lower house. [...]"


"Carter Calls Gaza Blockade a Crime and Atrocity"
By Jonathan Wright
Reuters dispatch on Yahoo! News, 18 April 2008
"Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called the blockade of Gaza a crime and an atrocity on Thursday and said U.S. attempts to undermine the Islamist movement Hamas had been counterproductive. Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders from Gaza, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being 'starved to death,' receiving fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. 'It's an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It's a crime ... I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on,' Carter said. Israel has been blockading Gaza mort of the time since Hamas took control of the impoverished coastal strip in June last year, allowing only basic supplies to enter. Israel has not accepted Hamas proposals for a truce including an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and to Israeli attacks on Hamas personnel in Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli officials say a truce would enable Hamas to rearm. Carter said Israel and its ally the United States were trying to make the quality of life in Gaza markedly worse than in the West Bank, where the rival Fatah group is in control. 'I think politically speaking this has worked even to strengthen the popularity of Hamas and to the detriment of the popularity of Fatah,' he added. The United States has been trying to achieve the opposite outcome. [...]"
[n.b. "Atrocity," "abomination," "starved to death" ... can we say "genocide" yet? See further below.]

"UN Expert Stands By Nazi Comments"
By Tim Franks
BBC Online, 8 April 2008
"The next UN investigator into Israeli conduct in the occupied territories has stood by comments comparing Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis. Speaking to the BBC, Professor Richard Falk said he believed that up to now Israel had been successful in avoiding the criticism that it was due. Professor Falk is scheduled to take up his post for the UN Human Rights Council later in the year. But Israel wants his mandate changed to probe Palestinian actions as well. Professor Falk said he drew the comparison between the treatment of Palestinians with the Nazi record of collective atrocity, because of what he described as the massive Israeli punishment directed at the entire population of Gaza. He said he understood that it was a provocative thing to say, but at the time, last summer, he had wanted to shake the American public from its torpor. 'If this kind of situation had existed for instance in the manner in which China was dealing with Tibet or the Sudanese government was dealing with Darfur, I think there would be no reluctance to make that comparison,' he said. That reluctance was, he argued, based on the particular historical sensitivity of the Jewish people, and Israel's ability to avoid having their policies held up to international law and morality. These and other comments from Professor Falk comments are, if anything, even harsher than the current UN investigator, John Dugard, who himself has been withering about Israel's actions. A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that Israel wanted the UN investigator's mandate changed, so that he could look into human rights violations by the Palestinians as well as Israel. If that were not to happen, the Israeli government may consider barring entry to the new UN investigator."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. I had not previously read Falk's article, "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust," published last June. It is by far the most searching exploration of the Nazi analogy I have seen. Falk writes: "Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy."]


"Unrest in Kenya as Peace Plan Falters"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 9 April 2008 [Registration Required]
"Riots erupted in Kenya on Tuesday as opposition leaders announced that they were suspending talks with the government over a stalled power sharing agreement. According to witnesses, dozens of young men stormed into the streets of Kibera, a sprawling slum in the capital, Nairobi, lighting bonfires, ripping up railroad tracks and throwing rocks at police officers in a scene reminiscent of the violence that convulsed Kenya in the wake of the Dec. 27 election. 'No cabinet, no peace!' the protesters yelled, referring to the cabinet that has yet to be formed because of bitter divisions between the government and the opposition. The eruption was the first major riot since Feb. 28, when rival politicians signed a power sharing agreement that was billed as the only way to end weeks of bloodshed after the disputed presidential election. The post-election violence killed more than 1,000 people, and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes; most of them are still displaced. Much of the violence flared along ethnic lines and threatened to ruin Kenya’s cherished image as a bastion of stability in a chaotic region. Now, it seems, some of that instability has returned. Riots also broke out in Kisumu, in western Kenya, where witnesses said hundreds of angry opposition supporters blocked the road to the airport and stoned cars. Unruly protests were reported in several other towns. Police officials could not be reached for comment. By the close of business on Tuesday, the Kenyan currency had dropped against the dollar, reflecting the serious damage a few protests can do to an already jittery economy. The problem that set off the disturbances seemed to be the same issue that has bedeviled the reconciliation efforts from the beginning: the division of power. Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, whom opposition leaders and some Western election observers have accused of stealing the vote in December, seems reluctant to grant opposition leaders substantial power. [...]"


"Kosovo War Crimes Suspect Acquitted"
By Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times, 3 April 2008 [Registration Required]
"The most senior Kosovo Albanian suspect to be prosecuted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal was cleared today of all counts involving the murder, rape and torture of Serb civilians. The acquittal of Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander and prime minister of the breakaway province, is expected to inflame tensions in the Balkans, where Kosovo's ethnic Albanians have declared independence and Serbs adamantly oppose the move. Haradinaj and two codefendants were accused of mounting a 'criminal enterprise' to abuse, kill and expel Serbs and other minorities in 1998 during the Kosovo Albanians' fight to be rid of Serbian rule. The armed conflict between ethnic Albanians and Serbian forces was ended the following year by a NATO bombing campaign that drove the Serbian military out of the province. The trial at the international tribunal at The Hague drew special attention because United Nations officials were accused of giving preferential treatment to Haradinaj. Former lead prosecutor Carla Del Ponte accused U.N. officials who have administered Kosovo since the NATO campaign of deliberately obstructing the investigation into Haradinaj's alleged crimes. Presiding judge Alphons Orie prefaced his reading of the verdict today with a lament that around 20% of the witnesses who were subpoenaed refused to testify out of fear. Several witnesses also disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances. Many of the alleged victims were fellow ethnic Albanians who did not support Haradinaj's faction. As Orie read out the not guilty verdicts, Haradinaj's supporters in the courtroom erupted in applause and cheers. In Kosovo, where television stations were broadcasting the verdicts live, celebrations were also on tap. Haradinaj and two codefendants, like him fighters in the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army, were acquitted of crimes against humanity. Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj were cleared of all additional charges, while the third defendant, Lahi Brahimaj, was found guilty on two counts of torture and cruel treatment of a prisoner. He was sentenced to six years in prison."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"In Mexico, War on Drug Cartels Takes Wider Toll"
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
The Washington Post, 14 April 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] According to government figures, major army operations in nine states have led to more than 22,000 arrests and the seizure of 50 tons of cocaine and 40,000 weapons. The operations, government officials say, have shaved $9 billion a year from the cartel's roughly $23 billion drug trade. But in nearly every state where the army has deployed, residents have accused soldiers of grave human rights violations that now number in the hundreds. Here in the western state of Michoacan, Calderón's home state, more than 100 such violations have been alleged, including the fatal shooting Jan. 12 of a 17-year-old boy at a checkpoint. In an anti-narcotics plan now before Congress, President Bush has proposed sending the Mexican military $205.5 million in equipment in 2008, more than 40 percent of the proposed outlay for the year. The Merida Initiative, as the program is known, designates a portion of Mexico's proposed $950 million package for 2008 and 2009 for human rights training for police, prosecutors and prison officials, though none for the army. 'The military is committing excesses, and that is a reminder of the Dirty War,' said Sergio Aguayo, founder of the nonprofit Mexican Human Rights Academy, referring to the period in the 1960s and '70s in which government troops are accused of having killed hundreds of student protesters and civil rights activists. A few government officials were briefly jailed, but there have been no major convictions. A report issued in September by Mexico's government-sponsored National Human Rights Commission gave details of three cases that occurred during Calderón's military campaign, including in Nocupetaro. The commission concluded that 59 people here were subjected to 'cruel and degrading' treatment at the hands of soldiers, including 'arbitrary and illegal detentions,' torture and looting. [...]"


"Namibia: Germany Likely to Reject Genocide Motion"
By Brigitte Weidlich
The Namibian (Windhoek) on, 18 April 2008
"A Motion to acknowledge atrocities committed to Herero, Nama, Damara and San communities a century ago as genocide, which was tabled and debated in the German Bundestag last year, will be rejected by the MPs, the Bundestag Speaker said in Windhoek yesterday. Dr. Norbert Lammert, whose post is the second highest in the German government after the federal president, told reporters that the German MPs still had to vote on the motion of the Left Party, which had been referred to a parliamentary standing committee in the meantime. 'I got a recommendation from that committee that this motion will not find a majority in the Bundestag -- it will be rejected,' he said. Asked whether this would mean that the approximately 600 German MPs would not declare what happened under colonial rule 100 years ago as 'genocide', Lammert replied that Germany was aware of its special responsibility towards Namibia, but concrete support to Namibians, in the form of development assistance, was far more helpful. Doreen Sioka, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, who received Lammert's courtesy call, said that 'Namibia and Germany can maybe clear the past because of the history of our ancestors and the Germans, we cannot avoid it.' Sioka reminded Lammert that the Namibian Parliament adopted a motion of Herero Chief Kuaima Riruako at the end of 2006, which asked to debate on the 'genocide against Namibian people' by the German colonial government. The Namibian Government last year officially conveyed the adoption of this motion to the German government in Berlin."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Last Uprising Leader Recalls Warsaw Battle"
By Monika Scislowska
Associated Press dispatch in the Rocky Mountain News, 16 April 2008
"Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the 1943 uprising in the Warsaw ghetto by a handful of scrappy, poorly armed Jews against the Nazi army, becomes emotional when he speaks of the fighters he led. 'I remember them all -- boys and girls -- 220 altogether, not too many to remember their faces, their names,' says the 89-year-old doctor, who still works in a Lodz hospital. Edelman will lay a wreath in their honor at the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto on Saturday, the 65th anniversary of the uprising. The Nazis walled off the ghetto in November 1940, cramming 400,000 Jews from across Poland into a 760-acre section of the capital in inhuman conditions. On April 19, 1943, German troops started to liquidate the ghetto by sending tens of thousands of its residents to death camps. Several hundred young Jews took up arms in defense of the civilians -- the first act of large-scale armed civilian resistance against the Germans in occupied Poland during World War II. ... Edelman views the annual observances as 'part of educating people and fighting genocide.'"

"Poland Marks Ghetto Uprising Anniversary"
By Alik Keplicz
Associated Press dispatch on, 15 April 2008
"The Jewish prayer for the dead echoed Tuesday across what was once the heart of the Warsaw ghetto as Polish and Israeli leaders marked the 65th anniversary of a doomed battle waged by young Jews against Nazi troops. Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Polish counterpart, Lech Kaczynski, led a crowd of 1,000 gathered beneath the stark granite Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto in ceremonies honoring the Jews who rose up on April 19, 1943, in the face of imminent death and held off German troops for three weeks. Survivor Hela Rufeisen, who was part of the fight as an 18-year-old, remembered the goal of the insurgency was simple. 'They are killing us, so we have to fight and hurt them, too,' recalled Rufeisen, one of a few ghetto fighters who attended the ceremony. Israeli and Polish flags fluttered in the afternoon breeze as Poland's chief orthodox rabbi, Michael Schudrich, read out the Kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead. Then, to the beat of a military drum, Peres, Kaczynski and survivors of the ghetto uprising placed wreaths at the foot of the monument, which was flanked by two large iron menorahs. Peres praised the young fighters, who he said displayed 'a heroism that our children will proudly carry with them in their hearts.' 'The majority of the uprising fighters died, murdered in cold blood. They lost the fight, but from the point of view of history, there has never been such a victory,' Peres said. 'A victory of men over human bestiality, of pure souls over fallen ones.' [...]"


"Dilemmas of the Horn"
By Scott Johnson
Newsweek, 21 April 2008
"[...] In late 2006 the United States backed Ethiopia's incursion into Somalia, designed to oust the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist coalition that had taken over much of the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country. (Al-Shabaab was the Courts' military wing.) Washington accused the Islamists of harboring Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But the Courts had also brought more stability than Somalia had enjoyed in years. Somalis could walk the streets and do business again, and many welcomed the Islamists just as war-weary Afghans hailed the Taliban in the 1990s. Now, by trying to prevent another terrorist haven like Afghanistan from developing, America may have helped create another Iraq, this one in the volatile Horn of Africa. 'Every year this fighting continues, the situation worsens,' says Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Abdul Salaam of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. The Islamists' eviction in 2006 left a power vacuum that the U.N.-backed government still hasn't managed to fill. Ethiopian troops are loathed as occupiers and rarely leave their heavily fortified bases. And al-Shabaab has broken off from the Courts to wage a brutal and effective insurgency. The guerrillas have overrun at least eight Somali towns this year and control parts of the capital. Where once they brought order to Somalia, they now gleefully spread chaos. Mogadishu looks like Baghdad during its darker days. Thousands of Ethiopian soldiers are hunkered down behind sandbags, concrete barriers and heavy artillery. Whenever they go out on patrol, their heavily armored convoys are blasted by roadside bombs, rockets and small arms fire. In recent weeks, al-Shabaab has stepped up a suicide-bombing campaign; an attack last week targeted a compound housing African Union peacekeepers, wounding nine and killing one. Leaflets warning of death to government collaborators likewise recall Iraq. [...]"
[n.b. The Bush administration will no doubt be glad that it is "only" Africans dying in this fiasco so far.]


"Spielberg, U.N. Chief Seek Ways to Keep Focus on Darfur"
The Los Angeles Times, 17 April 2008
"Film director Steven Spielberg has met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to brainstorm ways to keep the spotlight on the troubled Darfur region as world concern shifts to places such as Tibet and Zimbabwe. The director pitched a few ideas at the Tuesday session, but any new project is still in development, U.N. officials and Spielberg's spokesman said. 'We went there to offer help in any way that we could,' said spokesman Andy Spahn. 'We will continue to try to focus public attention on the issue and to try to arrange meetings with those who have influence in Sudan.' Ban and Spielberg discussed the possibility of a conference on Sudan around a summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations this summer. New York Times columnist Nick Kristof proposed this week that such a meeting take place in Rwanda, against the resonant backdrop of a recent genocide. Spielberg stepped down in February from his post advising on the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Summer Olympics to protest China's continuing support of the Sudanese government and its role in violence in Darfur. When he stepped down, he said that he had spent a year talking with Chinese officials about the issue, but was not satisfied with the results. Spielberg's friend, Chinese director Zhang Yimou, brought him onto the Olympics committee. One idea that has been floated is to bring Chinese film luminaries onto the Darfur campaign, though those present at Tuesday's meeting would not confirm that idea was in the script."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Modern India Still Prays for Boys"
By Tim Sullivan
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 13 April 2008
"Standing in front of his small brick home, in a courtyard where the dirt has been packed down by generations of barefoot children, the middle-aged mustard farmer doesn't bother to hide his exhaustion. 'Only someone who has been through something like this can understand the size of my catastrophe,' said Sukhpal Singh Tomar. For years, he has struggled to find some reason for his suffering, but has come up with little. He shrugged: 'It must be my karma.' The catastrophe? His daughters -- all eight -- so many he sometimes stumbles over their names. But his wife, Shanti, never forgets, and the words spill from her like a breathless prayer: 'Anu-Jyoti-Poonam-Roshni-Sheetal-Bindu-Chandni-Shezal.' They have been born in a country leaping headfirst into the globalized world but still holding tight to a preference for boys, enlarging an ever-widening gender imbalance in the second most populous nation on earth. Tomar, 50, said his wife had also had three abortions. Asked if the intent had been to abort female fetuses, he looked silently at the ground. 'It would have been easier to have a son. Even just one,' said Shanti, 38, whose stringy hair and worn skin make her look 20 years older. She's holding their youngest girl, 3-month-old Shezal. ... It has long been clear that India has a deep-seated preference for boys. By 2001, researchers estimated the country had anywhere from 20 million to 40 million 'missing' girls from sex-selective abortions made available through the spread of ultrasound technology. But as India modernizes -- as places like Singhpura become small towns, as towns become cities and as India's once-overwhelming poverty is slowly supplanted by an increasingly educated middle class that wants fewer children -- researchers say the problem is only getting worse. [...]"


[n.b. This is a theme I have been harping on since early in the life of the "Media File." It now seems to be exploding into political debate and public consciousness, for reasons conveyed by the title of the first article in this selection. We will be seeing a great deal more of this rioting and protest in coming months and years. To the extent that the crisis is policy-driven by western governments, ideologues, and corporations, it is the practical equivalent of locking much of the population of the Global South into Warsaw-style ghettos, and standing by idly (or congratulating ourselves on our enlightened neoliberal policies) as tens or hundreds of millions of people slowly starve. Maybe not so slowly ...]

"Riots, Instability Spread as Food Prices Skyrocket", 14 April 2008
"Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday. 'This is the world's big story,' said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute. 'The finance ministers were in shock, almost in panic this weekend,' he said on CNN's 'American Morning,' in a reference to top economic officials who gathered in Washington. 'There are riots all over the world in the poor countries ... and, of course, our own poor are feeling it in the United States.' World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean 'seven lost years' in the fight against worldwide poverty. 'While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day,' Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers. 'The international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap identified by the U.N.'s World Food Programme to meet emergency needs,' he said. 'Governments should be able to come up with this assistance and come up with it now.' ... 'In just two months,' Zoellick said in his speech, 'rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family.' The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food. 'This is not just about meals forgone today or about increasing social unrest. This is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth,' Zoellick said. [...]"

"Soaring Food Prices Now Top Threat, IMF Says"
By Kevin Carmichael
The Globe and Mail, 14 April 2008
"The global food crisis has pushed aside fears of a recession and mounting banking woes as top priority for the world's economic leaders. Ministers representing 185 countries agreed on the weekend that soaring food prices threaten global calamity and pledged to co-operate on a solution to save the world's poorest people from starvation. But that solution remains elusive. The finance ministers and central bank governors who oversee the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank left Washington yesterday without a definitive response to agricultural prices that have surged 48 per cent since the end of 2006, sparking a wave of hoarding and riots throughout the developing world. 'If food prices go on as they are today, then the consequences on the population in a large set of countries, including Africa, but not only Africa, will be horrific,' IMF managing director Dominque Struass-Kahn said at a press conference. 'Hundreds of thousands of people will be starving. Children will suffer from malnutrition, with consequences on all of their lives.' That level of concern didn't translate into pledges for more food aid or concrete ideas about how food inflation might be reversed. The IMF failed to agree on a response, beyond a pledge to work with its sister organization, the World Bank, and others in an "integrated response through policy advice and financial support." The committee of ministers that directs the work of the World Bank, led by Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens, said the bank and the fund should stand ready to provide 'timely policy and financial support' to the most vulnerable countries. It also endorsed a plan by World Bank President Robert Zoellick to boost agricultural productivity in poorer countries, and urged donors to respond to the United Nations' call for an immediate $500-billion (U.S.) in extra food aid. Mr. Zoellick said only about half of that money has been committed. No new pledges came amid the alarm and worry expressed by finance ministers from some of the world's wealthiest countries. [...]"

"India's Struggle to Feed a Billion People"
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent, 12 April 2008
"Vijender Vardhman knows a thing or two about rice. From his small family-run store in south Delhi he sells a remarkable 63 varieties, not to mention a multitude of pulses, grains and packaged goods squeezed tightly on to his shelves. Over the past six months the price of India's most common staple, basmati rice, has increased by up to 70 per cent and ordinary rice by about 10 per cent. 'The basmati rice is now between 80 to 100 rupees [£1-1.25] a kilo,' he says. If Mr. Vardhman seemed relaxed as he sat behind his counter yesterday evening, the Indian government is certainly not. With a billion of the three billion or so people who rely on rice every day living within its borders, India was one of the first countries to take measures to protect its domestic supplies by halting exports of all but basmati, which sells at a premium. India has been a major exporter of rice and its decision has forced other governments in the region to seek alternative supplies as the rice crisis continues. Indeed, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute has said the cost of rice, already at around $1,000 a tonne, will continue to rise as demand outstrips supply. 'We have been consuming more than we have been producing and research to increase rice productivity is needed to address this imbalance,' it stated. Of all the countries in Asia where rice is a staple, it is the Philippines that is struggling most to deal with the crisis. As a big importer of rice, the country's government has been desperately trying to secure supplies in a bid to safeguard its stocks. Last week President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was forced to do a deal with Vietnam to buy 1.5 milion tonnes of rice at $708 (£360) a tonne, almost 50 per cent higher than the price in January. She is not the only one resorting to desperate measures in a region where for most people a meal consists of a bowl of rice and where the grain has considerable cultural significance. Cambodia, where food prices have jumped by around 40 per cent in the last year, has also imposed a ban on rice exports while Sri Lanka has been trying to negotiate a deal with the Burmese military authorities to solve a shortfall. [...]

"Hungry Haitians Riot over Food Prices"
By Jonathan M. Katz
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 8 April 2008
"Hungry Haitians stormed the presidential palace Tuesday, throwing rocks and demanding the resignation of President Rene Preval over soaring food prices. Overwhelmed guards struggled to hold back the crowd until U.N. peacekeepers came to their rescue, firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Food prices, which have risen 40 percent on average since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world. But nowhere do they pose a greater threat to democracy than in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries where in the best of times most people struggle to fill their bellies. 'I compare this situation to having a bucket full of gasoline and having some people around with a box of matches,' said Preval adviser Patrick Elie. 'As long as the two have a possibility to meet, you're going to have trouble.' For months, Haitians have compared their hunger pains to 'eating Clorox' -- both because of the burning feeling in their stomachs and the skin-bleaching effects of chronic malnutrition. The most desperate have come to depend on a traditional hunger palliative of cookies made of dirt, vegetable oil and salt. Riots broke out in the normally placid southern port of Les Cayes last week, quickly escalating as protesters tried to burn down a U.N. compound. At least five people have been killed there. The protests spread to other cities, and on Monday tens of thousands took to the streets of Port-au-Prince. On Tuesday, demonstrators in the capital barricaded streets and pelted a marketplace with rocks, and a crowd tried to break down the gates of the presidential palace, demanding Preval's resignation. 'We are hungry!' the crowd shouted. 'He must go!' Preval, who aides said was at work in the palace during the protests, has made no public statements since the riots began. [...]"
[n.b. "A traditional hunger palliative of cookies made of dirt, vegetable oil and salt" ... Jesus. I don't know what is more frightening: that this is a "traditional palliative," or that it is now returning to prominence.]

"Grains Gone Wild"
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times, 7 April 2008
"These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way -- and it's hurting a lot more people. I'm talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans -- but they're truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family's spending. There have already been food riots around the world. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have been limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers -- and making things even worse in countries that need to import food. How did this happen? The answer is a combination of long-term trends, bad luck -- and bad policy. ... Where the effects of bad policy are clearest ... is in the rise of demon ethanol and other biofuels. The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a 'scam.' This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly 'good' biofuel policies, like Brazil's use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation. And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states. Oh, and in case you're wondering: all the remaining presidential contenders are terrible on this issue. [...]"

"A 'Perfect Storm' of Hunger"
By Edmund Sanders and Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times, 1 April 2008
"For 15 years, he's been a 'grocer' for Africa's destitute. But he's never seen anything like this. Pascal Joannes' job is to find grains, beans and oils to fill a food basket for Sudan's neediest people, from Darfur refugees to schoolchildren in the barren south. Lately Joannes has spent less time shopping and more time poring over commodity price lists, usually in disbelief. ... Joannes is head of procurement in Sudan for the World Food Program, the United Nations agency in charge of alleviating world hunger. Meteoric food and fuel prices, a slumping dollar, the demand for biofuels and a string of poor harvests have combined to abruptly multiply WFP's operating costs, even as needs increase. In other words, if the number of needy people stayed constant, it would take much more money to feed them. But the number of people needing help is surging dramatically. It is what WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran calls 'a perfect storm' hitting the world's hungry. The agency last month issued an emergency appeal for money to cover a shortfall tallied at more than half a billion dollars and growing. It said it might have to reduce food rations or cut people off altogether. The most vulnerable are people like those in Sudan, whom Joannes is struggling to feed and who rely heavily, perhaps exclusively, on the aid. But at least as alarming, WFP officials say, is the emerging community of newly needy. These are the people who once ate three meals a day and could afford nominal healthcare or to send their children to school. They are more likely to live in urban areas and buy most of their food in a market. They are the urban poor in Afghanistan, where the government has asked for urgent help. They are families in Central America, who have been getting by on remittances from relatives abroad, but who can no longer make ends meet as the price of corn and beans nearly doubles. [...]"

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