Sunday, June 29, 2008

Keeping it Real – Reality Mining


April 2008 issue of Technology Review lists the top ten emerging technologies, and the list includes something called ‘Reality Mining’.

The founder of the, Sandy Pentland from MIT, describes reality mining in layman terms as: “is all about paying attention to patterns in life and using that information to help [with] things like setting privacy patterns, sharing things with people, notifying people – basically to help you live your life.”

The idea is to keep a database of profiles of people and track the locations of these peoples. This combination could allow for inference of patterns in social behavior. The cell phone has been the device used to gather the data. For example, in creating an accurate model of an individual’s social network, the MIT team monitored a person’s phone call logs and the nearness of this cell phone device to other peoples’ devices that has Bluetooth sensors (laptops, phones.) A statistical technique used in social sciences called, factor analysis, was used to identify patterns in the data and thus the team is able to create a social relationships map.

How useful is this? Back in April, the example given was to develop privacy settings by categorizing the person’s address book between friends, family members, acquaintances, or coworkers. The idea is to auto-create the privacy settings to allow certain individuals to view your personal schedule. An extension would be to add the location dimension. The phone would be able to predict if the person is within the vicinity of someone in their address book.

June 2008 and the Sunday issue of the New York Times features a company that has found an application that is based on Reality Mining. In the “Bright Ideas” section, an article titled “Predicting Where You’ll Go and What You’ll Like” shows a picture of the founding owners of Sense Networks, and below their image is a Blackberry with the map of downtown San Francisco. (Sandy Pentland was initially one of the founding co-founders of Sense Networks, and now gives advise on privacy issues.)

Meanwhile, the product Gregory Skibiski and Tony Jebara (both science majors) are providing a service to businesses and consumers that make recommendations based on the users’ locations. Rather using telephone devices, their models gathered data from taxicabs that were installed with GPSs. (By the way, the new model of Blackberry that will be released in July will be installed with GPS chips.) In developing models for Sense Network product, Macrosence, it required gathering very large sets of data that go back many years.

There are other companies now engaging in Reality Mining, including Microsoft. A spin-off company called Inrix uses traffic data to predict traffic patterns. Something similar to this is Path Intelligence which monitors traffic flow in shopping centers by tracking the cell phones in the area. That would be a useful application for those who hate to be stuck in holiday traffic jams.

Macrosense and Citysense are services that users of iPhones or Blackberrys can sign up for. The software is designed to help the user in decision making for places to go, or show them where people of like interests are going.

“What Will They Think of Next?”

- Analyn Revilla
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Friday, June 20, 2008

Questioning the Motivation Behind the Call to Open Up The Arctic for Oil & Gas Exploration


It is not surprising to find one of the main headlines on BBC's page (June 18, 2008) that George Bush Jr. has asked Congress to open up drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. He describes the 27 year old policy as "out dated and counter-productive". This call by the Bush Administration upon congress might be one prompted by one of two things:

1)It is his government's response to the plea by the Americans to alleviate the prices people are paying at the pump

OR

2)It is one of the planned agenda items that his administration meant to implement before leaving the Oval office.



Dating back to the State of the Union Addresses by George Bush in the past 2 years, he had impressed back in December 2006 that Americans are "addicted to oil".

The analysis of Ms. Kay, "Oil and the Bush Cabinet" suggested the Bush Administration would try to clear a path towards the drilling of oil in Arctic. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1138009.stm (posted on January 29, 2001)

A poignant point in the analysis describes that the Bush administration differs from previous wealthy cabinets in that many of the officials have links to the same industry which is oil. "The president, vice-president, commerce secretary and national security adviser all have strong ties to the oil industry."

1) National Security Advisor – Condoleeza Rice was a director of Chevron

2) Vice President – Dick Cheney was CEO of Haliburton Oil Company

3) Commerce Secretary – Donald Evans owned stocks worth between $5m – $25m in Tom Brown Inc (another oil and gas exploration company.)


In that article Ms. Kay states that the administration had already made it clear that "it would be interested in opening up oil exploration in Alaska."

What the public needs to keep in perspective are the events of the past eight years since the election of the Bush Administration into office. In reviewing the State of the Union Address since 2006, Bush has impressed that Americans are "addicted to oil", and that the country needed to break that dependency through the development of alternative energy sources and providing consumers with other options such as fuel efficient hybrid cars.

Back in Oct 2006, the price of oil was at $2.26 per gallon, which had gone down from $3.04 in August. During a renewable-energy conference he addressed the audience:

"Let me just put it bluntly: We're too dependent on oil," Mr Bush told the conference in St Louis.
"Low gasoline prices may mask that concern.
"I believe so strongly that this country has got to use its talent and its wealth to get us off oil.
"Probably the fastest way we can begin to change the consumer habits is to promote hybrid vehicles."


In another analysis of US dependence on foreign oil (Dec 2006) the article lists that Bush wants to reduce oil imports from the Middle East by 75% by 2025. Crude imports are used in fueling homes, cars, and factories. It is necessary to keep the engine of the economy running.

Where does the US get its foreign oil from? The Middle Eastern countries supply the US with most of its crude oil supply, however the Persian Gulf producers only "make up less the 1/5th of all imports and just 11% of total US consumption, according to the US Energy Department" (source: BBC Article)

The neighboring countries of Mexico and Canada are biggest individual exporters of oil to the US. In 2004, Canada exported 782.5 million barrels to the US; and Mexico exported 609 million barrels (according to Energy Information Administration.)

The following year in 2007 the energy policy was among the top priorities in Bush's State of the Union address, because this priority is linked to national security. He bemoans that the US had been "too long dependent on foreign oil", and was "vulnerable to hostile regimes and terrorists." He called for a 20% reduction in petroleum use by 2017 by promoting research and funding of up to 3.6 billion. He promoted ethanol as the alternative fuel source which comes primarily from corn.

In that year's address he also stated that he wanted to double the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) by 2027. The intent is to double this emergency petroleum store from its current capacity of 727 million barrels of crude oil to 1,494 million barrels. I would question why this necessary if the goal is to be less dependent on petroleum oil to run the economy.

Despite these intended energy policy changes, Bush's critics have identified that the government has not made any headway on any of the goals. Although Congress passed the bill that authorized large increases into funding energy research, Bush requested less money for the research than Congress had allowed him to.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 called for $632m (£320m) into renewable energy research, for example.

But Mr. Bush asked for only $342m ($173m) - about the same amount that the Ben Stiller film Night at the Museum earned worldwide in its first three weeks.

The president also requested less than he could have done for research into hydrogen power, energy efficiency, and other areas, Senator Bingaman said in a February 2006 statement.

(Source: BBC News January 23rd, 2007)

It is important to understand and put into perspective the culmination of words, actions, and the events of the past 8 years when considering the latest call by Bush to open up the drilling in Alaska. Although the proposed size of the land is small ("the size of a postage stamp in the city of San Francisco", as described by a co-worker when I opened up the topic yesterday), there are other larger implications, and it isn't simply to save habitat of the endangered species of the Polar Bear.

It is a good balance to get a Middle Eastern point of view on the US' quest to reduce dependency on the Middle East for oil. In March 2003, the Saudi Arabian Petroleum Minister, Sheikh Zaki Yamani told in a revealing BBC interview about the dynamics of oil production and its effect on the US politics and economy:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/2851723.stm

Seven years or so ago, he saw a letter addressed to ex-President Clinton by a group of politicians advising him to attack Iraq, occupy the country and operate the oilfields.

Those who signed the letter are now in power - including Vice-President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Also refer to this other source from BBC NEWS that needs to be considered regarding the drilling in the Arctic

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/4357240.stm

In closing, I ask the question, 'for what purpose will the opening up of the oil and gas exploration in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge serve if the current government is truly intent on changing the energy policies

"We are in this situation because of our dependence on traditional petroleum-based oil," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

He advocated "new technologies and new fuel choices for consumers" instead.


-Analyn Revilla
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Headed for a Regional Crime Plan


Crime may well be an issue that anyone with an interest in the Caribbean may not want to face, but unfortunately we have to. Jamaica was once seen as the crime capital of the Caribbean when compared to the level of crime in her sister islands. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case as crime is becoming a big problem all across the region.

As leaders look towards getting a grip on the crime wave, talk of hanging is once again on the agenda and frustrated citizens demand a return of capital punishment. In Jamaica, Prime Minister Bruce Golding recently announced that the issue of capital will be dealt with once and for all.

Mr. Golding has indicated that the administration is speeding up plans to make a decision once and for all on the resumption of hanging in Jamaica. According to PM Golding, the ‘issue will be put to a conscience vote’, and “If the results of that vote that will be driven by conscience say we abolish hanging then we will abolish it and if the results say we must retain hanging, then we are going to oil up the gallows.”

What is now needed is a regional crime plan. As Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning said in March when interviewed, “The region is not losing the war on crime, nor can the region afford to lose the war on crime…” Manning is just reiterating something all Caribbean leaders know. The region is too heavily reliant on tourism to allow crime to continue to rise at current levels. If crime is allowed to disrupt the tourism product, the economic impact would be devastating. The World Bank report (2007) stated that “The tourism-dependent Caribbean may now have the world’s highest murder rate as a region, severely affecting potential economic growth…”

Another negative of the rising crime levels as explained by Guyanese businessman, Ramesh Singh is a worsening of the brain drain being experienced in the region. As Singh said in an interview published by IPS News, “People want to live in comfort, not having to look over their shoulders, not having to carry a gun to defend themselves. The middle and professional class are going to bail out if the situation is not corrected ….”

According to a 2007 United Nations-World Bank report, there were 30 murders per 100,000 residents over the period of the study. The murder rate in the Caribbean is 15 times the rate in West and Central Europe, and reportedly 4 times the rate in North America. The previously mentioned UN-World Bank report said that ‘The murder rate in the Caribbean was even higher than that in troubled southern and western Africa.’

So, with reports of cross-border crime on the rise, it will definitely take a joint effort to begin to tackle the spiraling crime problem before it totally ruins the region’s tourism and trade.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lost in Translation


What is liberal in America may not be liberal in France, Russia, or Burundi. Although most of the world's leading nations rule under democratic principals, the translation and practice of those principals are sometimes, well, lost. The above newspaper, Die Tageszeitung, is published by the German left, and is known for their criticism of conservative foreign policy, xenophobia, and racism. Unfortunately, someone on the editorial staff didn't get the memo about the racial implications of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel. Onkel Baracks Hutte, translates to Uncle Barack's Cabin, and was the front page story of the newspaper a couple of weeks ago.

"The White House in Washington: Will Barack Obama be the first black president to move in there?" read the caption under the picture of the white house. According to Speigel Online International, David Gordon Smith writes that the story was "intended to be satirical", and show that Obama, if elected, will lead a racist nation.

An "Uncle Tom", historically refers to an African-American who is "subservient" to whites, and is therefore offensive to Barack Obama and what his campaign stands for.

For the full story, visit here.

-Wayetu Moore

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Nubia Chic: Sika Designs & Cote Minou



Among the world's growing population is a sub-culture of Africans who were raised outside of their countries, allowing them to familiarize with both their native (or parent's) country, as well as their host country. Of that sub-culture is a new and blossoming style of dress that is spreading like wildfire in America and abroad. Phyllis Taylor's Sika Designs of London, and Maryanne Mokoko's Cote Minou of DC represent this mixture of cultures; meshing contemporary West African prints and fabrics with contemporary Western styles to introduce, Nubia Chic.

Though Sika and Cote Minou are only two of hundreds of growing African lines, their styles are avant-garde, yet elegant approaches to defining young West-African esteem and flair. Sika Designs is based in London, but its factories are in Ghana. Phyllis Taylor, a Ghanaian-European, and her line have been featured in a number of magazines such as Pride, Dare, Grazia and London Lite. "Life in London and Ghana inspire me," Taylor said in a previous interview with The Coup Magazine, "I also use trend forecasts while working on a particular collection. I am lucky enough to have my own factory in Ghana, where I produce all my pieces."

Cote Minou was begun by two students at Howard University, home to a campus yard that people refer to as a "runway". Maryanne Mokoko and Stephanie Mouapi are Cameroonian friends that came to America for college. "Fashion to me is a matter of personal taste as we say in Cameroon "ya style". It requires confidence to make others believe it is worth it," Mokoko said in a blog. The two have visited more than 17 fashion shows in the past year, spreading the word of their art to colleges all over the northeast, and shedding light on a new and different kind of "chic".

Visit their sites online at www.sikadesigns.co.uk, and www.coteminou.blogspot.com

-Wayetu Moore

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

One Regional Airline for the Islands?


Some time ago, the World Bank suggested that Caribbean leaders consider having one regional airline. In the wake of the failure and profit loss of some airlines, the idea is once again being revisited, this time by Sir Ronald Sanders. Sanders, a former Caribbean diplomat, who served as Antigua & Barbuda’s high commissioner to the UK (1995-2004) is once again putting the subject back on the table. In fact in 2005, Sanders had lamented the fact that the possibility of a CARICOM or regional airline may never be. With the dismal financial status of the popular Air Jamaica airline no one can blame him.


In 2006, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also suggested that the government of Jamaica shut down Air Jamaica since it was draining the already strained budget. In 2006, Air Jamaica reportedly lost US$136 million and a record US$171 million in 2007. As a matter of fact, Air Jamaica has never made a profit in its 40-plus years of existence.

Many Jamaicans are unwilling to see the ‘national airline’s’ demise, but with the continuing inability to fund its operations it may be the only solution. The government is turning to the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank for assistance to divest the struggling entity in a bid to secure the jobs of its employees.

Unfortunately, Air Jamaica is not the only Caribbean airline to have financial woes. In 2006, another airline that was a standard in the Caribbean folded. BWIA, Trinidad which had operated in the Caribbean for over 60 years flew its last flight on December 31 and was replaced by Caribbean Airlines. LIAT, another Caribbean flyer is experiencing financial troubles and was actually bailed out in 2006 to the tune of US$16 million.

So, the big question at the moment is, ‘Should the Caribbean have one regional airline?’ Although one of those persons who flies Air Jamaica when I travel (I’ve been fortunate in not having a bad experience), a regional airline may be in everyone’s best interest. Such a merger, as Sanders stated in an article on Huntingtonnews.net, would possibly “be the silver lining in the cloud of oil at US$130 per barrel that now hangs darkly over the region’s tourism and transportation industries, and the livelihood of its people…”

In 2005, one of the region’s major tourism organizations, the Caribbean Hotel Association said that a ‘regional airline was the only way forward for air travel in the region.’

One of the biggest obstacles to such a merger happening is the nationalistic pride of Caribbean people who want to hold on to a little piece of what is theirs.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big Business - War Profiteering


Today's BBC article in the Business section headlined: "BBC Uncovers Lost Iraq Billions" Reportedly, "A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq. "

Throughout history our species' atrocious acts of war have been documented in various genres from fiction, memoirs, biographies, song writing, epic poems, documentaries, movies and new articles. There are, sadly, people who profit from the ravages and death of war.

The BBC article quotes the chairman, Henry Waxman, of the investigation committee "Oversight and Government Reform". His words describe the gross indecency and greediness by the war profiteers:


""It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."

And


"The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious. "

A movie came out in 2003 called "The Corporation", a Canadian documentary movie that was based on a book written by Joel Balkan. The book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power shows historically how some "top" US companies have profiteered from war.


"The movie showed close-ups of several documents including IBM code sheets for concentration camps taken from the files of the National Archives. Prisoner Code 8 was Jew, Code 11 was Gypsy. Camp Code 001 was Auschwitz, Code 002 was Buchenwald. Status Code 5 was executed by order, code 6 was gas chamber." (source: Wikepedia)


Edwin Black, a New York journalist, authored a book published in 2001 called "IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful corporation". The book "tells the story of IBM's conscious involvement-directly and through its subsidiaries-in the Holocaust, as well as its involvement in the Nazi war machine that murdered millions of others throughout Europe". The CEO, Thomas J. Watson, used IBM's overseas subsidiaries in Germany and Geneva to provide the Nazis with the punch card machines to record the European Jewry. "The book also includes IBM's internal reports that admit that these machines made the Nazis much more efficient in their efforts." (source: Wikipedia.)


What exactly does "top" mean? I could easily assume that it is a list of the highly recognized corporations that most Americans have grown to know and accept as part of their day-to-day life. Or, does "top" mean top income grossing organizations that have won government defense contracts? Perhaps it is both.

In July 2005, a subsidiary of L-3 called, Government Services Inc. (GSI), won a contract to provide intelligence specialists in Iraq. The contract was worth $426.5 million. In addition, L-3, also worked on other military contracts that had their advisors give information technology, management, and intelligent support services to the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.


In the article "Outsourcing Intelligence in Iraq" (http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15017),

the CorpWatch report describes in detail about the history and methods used by L-3 in the interrogations for intelligence gathering. According to the report, L-3 was a spin-off of Lockheed Martin and Loral manufacturing that specialized in advanced electronics. L-3 was born as an independent middle company "that would supply advanced electronics to anyone" (source: Gopal Ratnam "Interview: Frank Lanza" Defense News, January 16, 2006)


The deal was designed by Wall Street investment bankers working for Lehman Brothers in 1997 and aided by two former Loral executives: Frank Lanza and Robert LaPenta. ("L-3 stands for Lanza, LaPenta and Lehman".)


A year ago, an analyst for Money Magazine, wrote about the recent hardships of "socially responsible mutual funds, which usually seek out companies with progressive labor practices and product lines that don't pollute or kill." It asks the question why many of the socially responsible funds were not performing for the investors? One reason is that these funds were designed to avoid oil companies for environmental reasons (source: http://money.cnn.com/2007/03/21/pf/funds/dogoodfunds.moneymag/index.htm )


A website called "The War Profiteers" maintained by CorpWatch (www.corpwatch.org) mission statement is to counter corporate-led globalization through "education, network-building and activism." The website is built by a group of activists (educators, journalists, designers, organizers, and techies who are disturbed by the "obscene concentration of power in the hand of an elite few who control the world's wealth and manipulate democracy through governments and corporations.


The website lists other stories that exposes on the topic of how some corporations have divided the resources in Iraq.


http://www.corpwatch.org/section.php?id=4


The journalism articles ranges from the BBC, The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press. A couple are listed below.


IRAQ: Army to End Expansive, Exclusive Halliburton Deal
Logistics Contract to Be Open for Bidding

by Griff Witte, Washington Post
July 12th, 2006

The Army is discontinuing a controversial multibillion-dollar deal with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, a decision that could cut deeply into the firm's dominance of government contracting in Iraq.



IRAQ: Controversial Contractor's Iraq Work Is Split Up
by JAMES RISEN, The New York Times
May 24th, 2008


WASHINGTON — Sometime soon, a group of American corporate executives and military leaders will quietly sit down and divide Iraq into three parts.

Their meeting will not have anything to do with Iraq's national sovereignty, but instead will involve slicing up billions of dollars in work for the defense contractors that support the American military's presence in the country.

For the first time since the war began, the largest single Pentagon contract in Iraq is being divided among three companies, ending the monopoly held by KBR, the Houston-based corporation that has been accused of wasteful spending and mismanagement and of exploiting its political ties to Vice President Dick Cheney.



It is not easy to give this serious topic the proper in-depth coverage it deserves in a blog. In my weekly blogs, I strive to present topics in the realms of 'Business and Technology' that are relevant, and backing views and opinions with facts found from different sources. Of course, facts can also be manipulated, and the public (you, me, everyone ) have put automatic faith in believing published material is truth. The truth also needs to be continuously examined and questioned even if it comes from establishments, especially corporations and governments.

My original submission to the editor had some cynical comedy injected in the end, because I felt this topic has perhaps become desensitized to the public for reasons of information overload, its gravity, and also its idea of senseless inhumanity.

There was a fictionalized movie drama called "Lord of War", released in 2005, that depicted war profiteering by way of arms dealing (partially based on Victor Bout, the Russian arms dealer.) " Recent reports suggests he is also operating in Iraq using front companies and Cargo Airlifts: Airline Transport, Air West, Aerocom, and TransAvia Export" (source: Wikepedia.)

Another drama that depicted war in a tragic comedy was the TV series (and movie) M*A*S*H. Each episode featured the victims of war as both the casualties and the regular characters of the 4077th hospital crew trying to survive another day with trivial practical jokes. Do you recall the character Coloner Flagg? He was the US Military Intelligence agent with the CIA who behaved irrationally and paranoid. And this literary character allusion is, to me, the irony of the business of war: invoking fear, putting up walls, lobbing bombs, and above all these obtuse actions is the idea that there are people making profit from war.

In closing this blog, I can't resist to quote Col. Flagg in one of the M*A*S*H episodes, because it summarizes the rhetoric of war pigs:

"Nobody can get the truth out of me because even I don't know what it is. I keep myself in a constant state of utter confusion." - Colonel Flagg

-Analyn Revilla


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Burning the Welcome Mat: Xenophobia in South Africa



A surge of violent xenophobic attacks has swept through the South African province of
Gauteng, particularly the greater Johannesburg area, in the past week, leaving at least 32 people dead, scores more injured, and thousands homeless Since Sunday 11 May, daily outbreaks of violence against foreigners have ravaged the city - including multiple incidents of sexual assault, beating, shooting, looting and burning of homes and businesses. The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) and its partners across the SADC region strongly condemn this despicable violence, and are disturbed by the utterly inadequate response of the South African government to the volatile situation - one that independent media observers have likened to a war zone.


The humanitarian impact of the xenophobic attacks in Gauteng is
devastating. It is estimated that up to 10,000 foreigners
throughout the province are now destitute, either due to
destruction of their homes or because they had to flee for safety,
leaving all of their belongings behind. Hundreds of foreigners have
sought shelter in police stations and many have been turned back to
the streets to face brutal mobs. Centres for refugees run by
non-governmental organizations are filled past capacity, with many
experiencing shortages of essential medical supplies, food,
clothing, blankets and sanitary services. Some paramedics sent to
provide emergency care at the scenes of violence have been forced
to retreat under attack.

Beyond the obvious humanitarian crisis, the situation also reveals
a crisis of leadership in South Africa. High-level condemnation of
these attacks is not being matched by the urgent action that is
necessary to contain them. Actions taken to date by the South
African government have proven woefully insufficient to stem the
fierce wave of xenophobia and its devastating aftermath. Police,
health and social service systems are ill-equipped to respond
adequately to this emergency. A government panel mandated to 'look
into' these attacks and a provincial task team were only
established one week after the violence broke out; and so far have not articulated any emergency plan to improve the government's response to this crisis - including, most importantly, a plan to provide secure shelter for survivors of violence and potential victims. Without the guarantee of secure shelter for refugees remaining in South Africa, the current undertaking not to deport anyone in Gauteng is meaningless.

Meanwhile, civil society organizations are receiving information on
planned attacks in other cities. On the night of Sunday 18 May,
residents in Mitchell's Plain, a township in Cape Town, mobilized
and began chanting slogans calling for an attack on foreigners,
which was avoided by quick police intervention. However, no
standing plan has been established to pre-empt outbreaks of
xenophobic violence in other parts of the country.

The current events have been driven by the broader human rights
crisis that has built up in South Africa around migrant issues. The
very police and social services that are now mandated to deal with
this outbreak of violence have themselves been implicated in
xenophobic incidents several times in recent months. The failure of
the South African government to respond strongly to widespread
episodes of discrimination and violence against migrants and to
confront the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe - from
which the majority of migrants in South Africa originate - has
turned what should have been a haven for refugees fleeing the
brutality of Mugabe's regime, into a nightmare.

ARASA and its partners call upon the South African government to
urgently develop and implement an emergency national response to
violence against foreigners. This must include:

* Ensuring that civil authorities, particularly the police, have
the capacity to respond immediately to all incidents of violence
against migrants;

* A guarantee that all survivors of violence, in fact, all
migrants, receive basic services - including health care, food,
sanitation services, clothing and secure shelter, regardless of
their immigration status, as is due to them under the South African
Constitution;

* Fast-tracked prosecution of the perpetrators of xenophobic
violence;

* A mass education campaign designed to tackle xenophobia in
communities and to ensure that non-citizens are aware of their
rights and protections; and

* The formation of task forces in each province that will
coordinate swift action to pre-empt and if necessary to respond to
outbreaks of xenophobic violence elsewhere in the country.

Furthermore, we call on the government to ensure that the panel
responsible for investigating these attacks acts swiftly and
transparently and that its mandate be expanded to include a more
general investigation into the treatment of migrants in South
Africa.

Moreover, we call on the African Union, SADC Secretariat,
governments in the region, President Mbeki, and ANC President Zuma
to respond responsibly to the crisis in Zimbabwe by doing
everything in their power to ensure free and fair elections at the
end of June and an end to political violence in the lead-up to and
aftermath of the elections.

Finally, we expect all of our leaders to ensure that those seeking
refuge in South Africa and other countries in the region are
treated with the dignity and compassion that is their inalienable
human right, regardless of citizenship or ethnicity.

Gregg Gonsalves
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
http://www.arasa.info/
Cape Town, South Africa
Email: gregg.gonsalves@gmail.com

SOURCE: Africafocus


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Monday, June 9, 2008

If Obama Became President, Would it Change Caribbean Policy?


Many black people worldwide, the Caribbean included, are in a state of disbelief. Barack Obama has claimed his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States. “I didn’t expect to see this in my life time,” many have said. While this is indeed an historic moment not only in the history of the USA, but the world, it doesn’t mean that Obama will become the savior of the Caribbean as some seem to think.


It was interesting to read in The Jamaica Observer on June 5, a commentary warning Caribbean leaders not to expect special favors if Obama ends up in the White House. University of the West Indies (Mona campus) lecturer, Professor Rupert Lewis said that “Obama is not going to be playing any black role; he’s going to be pursuing America’s agenda, which will need to be strengthened by black Americans, but I don’t see an advantage for the Caribbean – the Caribbean will have to define what it wants from the States.”

It was interesting because I don’t want to believe that any black person or country would expect special treatment simply because an African American is in the White House.

The Jamaica Gleaner of Thursday, June 5 interviewed a number of the country’s leaders on Obama landing his Party’s nomination. The overwhelming response was that it was a great motivation. According to Robert Russell, Chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company, “It has given new meaning to racial equality, it has certainly given a number of people, who thought they did not have a chance to achieve, the realisation that nothing is impossible.”

Other people in the Caribbean are happy for lots of other reasons as well. Some do not want to see the Republicans or a Clinton back in the White House – they too want a change and see Barack Obama as the key to that change.

Obama has pledged to remove some major sanctions against Cuba if he lands in the White House – now this would be a momentous happening if ever there was one. In declaring his hand, Obama clarified his stance on U.S sanctions against the communist state: “John McCain’s been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I’m looking for a social gathering. That’s never what I’ve said, and John McCain knows it….” What Obama proposes to do is to “immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island…to make their families (of Cuban Americans) less dependent on the Castro regime…” he however, plans to keep the trade embargo in place to use as a bargaining tool to request reforms in Cuba.

The Race Issue

While I am amazed that I have lived to see the unbelievable, every time someone refers to Obama as an African-American a little voice in my head says, but he’s equally white. Yes, his skin is a little darker than some persons of mixed race, but he is fifty percent white as well.

Why does this seem to bother me? Simply, Obama is as much his mother’s child as he is his father’s. To assign the label of black or African-American simply because one parent is black is obviously racist – an individual of mixed race, is 50 percent of each and not 49 percent of one and 51 percent of the other. This is something to think about, isn’t it?

Finally, as I have said before in a previous post and will repeat here, despite what everyone is saying about Obama’s poor showing among blue-collar white Americans, his biggest battle will be to win over Hispanics and Asians. It is believed in many quarters that the Latino vote is based more on the immigration stance of the ‘would be presidents’ than on race, but I’m not totally convinced – yet.

Whatever the outcome of the November election, America has sent a powerful message to the world – “Despite our problems, our racial issues, we are a great nation”.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks
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Friday, June 6, 2008

The Green Elite


While watching television the other day, I stumbled onto a reality TV show that immediately caught my attention. The star, which will remain unnamed, was in search of an electric car that she described as being "the new it-thing in Hollywood". I was aware that the "go green" movement turned into a somewhat exclusive phenomenon since pricy stores like Whole Foods positioned themselves into expensive neighborhoods, but I never imagined that environmental awareness would become one more element of the Joneses syndrome, demoted to a trend similar to when tiny, neglected pooches poked their heads out of Prada purses. Is that all this is becoming?



The electric car isn't all the talk in vehicular transition to "green" living. Greencarcongress reported that US sales of hybrid cars had climbed 10% in March 2008 year-on-year to 38,214 units. Hybrids are vehicles that use two or more alternate power sources to run, popularly ranging from either air, stored energy, or ethanol fuel. The cars are less burdensome to the wallet at the gas pump, and do not cause harm to the air. The catch is that with the popularization of all that is green, auto companies are asking up to $4,000 above the asking price to match demands that fill waiting lists for months. According to hybridcars.com, Toyota Prius (the most popular hybrid) customers are to expect "long waiting lists for the Prius, and in some cases, big dealer premiums, for the rest of 2008." Sadly, if that's truly the case, then customers won't realize gas savings for years. The increasing prices also marginalize an already exclusive clientele of tiny pooch, I mean "green" buyers, leaving a mass majority (if aware), to wallow in what harm they are supposedly causing to the environment by not being able to afford air-friendly cars.

Whole Foods, is also benefiting (largely)from the demands of the green elite. The trendy health food store's stock was up 28% in March, catering to a young, (assumingly) aware, mostly vegan clientele of upper-middle-class young professionals. Unfortunately, the lines only open in busy areas of big cities and wealthy suburbs.

I also contemplate countries like China and India, who continue to build new coal-powered stations in their increasingly growing industries. South Africa and Nigeria are also to be considered in booming economies that are not likely to slow down or open wind farms for the sake of a better environment, especially since these economies are contributing heavily to foreign investment in Africa, investments that are both needed and long overdue. I'm not saying that America's green movement is pointless, only that perhaps more focus should be placed on international environmental awareness than national "green" trends.

I don't believe that everyone that makes attempts to eat nutritionally and improve the quality of our air is following trends.I, however, don't encourage perpetrating greenness, or whatever you wish to call it, without making yourself aware of why you are doing it. Otherwise, the movement is likely to go out of style when celebrities stop talking about it. What will happen then?

When I think of "green", I think of my Aunty Ree, who for as long as I can remember, washed styrofoam and plastic cups to re-use after family events, disregarding jokes and teasing from my uncles and family.

I also think of my 8th grade science teacher Mr. Rutledge, who rode his bike to and from school every day. He wore old clothes and drank fresh lemonade out of recycled water bottles. Mr. Rutledge, likely a hippy during the wonder years, was my first introduction to ecological awareness, and a person I felt sincerely cared for the improvement of humanity and the world. I hope that their kind of consciousness never goes out of style.

Here's some advice to contribute to the wellness of the environment (on a budget). SOURCE

1. Save energy to save money.


* Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs.
*Unplug appliances when you're not using them. Or, use a "smart" power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts "phantom" or "vampire" energy use.
*Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
*Use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy otherwise used during machine drying. If you must use a dryer, consider adding dryer balls to cut drying time.

2)Save water to save money.

*Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and heating bills too.
*Install a low-flow showerhead. They don't cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment.
*Make sure you have a faucet aerator on each faucet. These inexpensive appliances conserve heat and water, while keeping water pressure high.


3)Less gas = more money (and better health!).

*Walk or bike to work. This saves on gas and parking costs while improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of obesity.
*Consider telecommuting if you live far from your work. Or move closer. Even if this means paying more rent, it could save you money in the long term.
*Lobby your local government to increase spending on sidewalks and bike lanes. With little cost, these improvements can pay huge dividends in bettering your health and reducing traffic.


4)Eat smart.

*If you eat meat, add one meatless meal a week. Meat costs a lot at the store-and it's even more expensive when you consider the related environmental and health costs.
*Buy locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can.
*Whatever your diet, eat low on the food chain. This is especially true for seafood.


4)Skip the bottled water.

*Use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste.
*Bring a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminum rather than plastic, with you when traveling or at work.


5)Think before you buy.

*Go online to find new or gently used secondhand products. Whether you've just moved or are looking to redecorate, consider a service like craigslist or FreeSharing to track down furniture, appliances, and other items cheaply or for free.
*Check out garage sales, thrift stores, and consignment shops for clothing and other everyday items.


6)Borrow instead of buying.

*Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books.
*Share power tools and other appliances. Get to know your neighbors while cutting down on the number of things cluttering your closet or garage.



-Wayetu Moore








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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What is wrong with this picture?






Has anyone noticed that the Black celebrities that we praise for being dark-skinned and beautiful in a European favoring society, don't stay dark-skinned for long?

We've all had the conversations. I can hardly think of when I was with educated Black people in discussions about racial politics, that colorism didn't come up. The light-skin/dark-skin debate-debacle-controversy-history-hierarchy-whatever could go on for days, and I won't bother (or care to) go into any elaborate detail or polemic. I just think that it's unfortunate that when dark-skinned Black women in media are celebrated, we see trends of lightening.

For instance, look at this recent picture of Jill Marie Jones. She started off as the sexy and successful real-estate agent on Girlfriends, who happened to be the darkest of her other sister-friends. Jones' beauty was praised. An episode of the sit-com was even dedicated to her issues with colorism when she refused to date a wealthy man that she described as "too black". If you'll recall, however, as the seasons rolled on, so did the transformation of her skin tone.

There are of course exceptions. I'm not ignoring celebrities that seem to have stayed the same and chosen not to conform to Hollywood's apparent standard. We should notice, however, that as much scrutiny as Michael Jackson and other transformers receive for conforming to European standards, there is a CURRENT trend among black female celebrities that we should talk a little more about.






-Wayetu Moore

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Really, Hillary?


In St.Paul last night, Senator Barack Obama announced that he would be the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. Only 31 delegates were at stake in yesterday's final primaries, and Obama entered the race merely 4 nods shy of the official nomination. His victory makes him the first Black man to represent a major political party in a U.S. election, a fight that took beating one of the most powerful political families in the country. Meanwhile his opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton (of said powerful family), was announced by her campaign manager before speaking in front of a crowd at Baruch College as: "the next president of the United States of America!" What's wrong with the above scenario?


While jokes of her delusion and frustration with her defiance surface on a confused morning after, Clinton has still refused to concede and place her support behind her former opponent. Her argument, other than the fact that she is more qualified, (dodging sniper fire looks outstanding on a resume), is that she won the popular vote. If that is ignored, she claims, then democracy is being ignored. Clinton has gotten more popular votes than anyone in primary history, and while it is commendable for a woman to claim that title, there is a major flaw in her argument. The flaw, as most of you know, is Michigan. She is only leading in the popular vote, because of Michigan's inclusion, an unfair advantage since Obama was not even on the ballot. Hillary knows that, and still pushes forward, dilluting and disarraying one of the most important moments in Black history in America to date, because of a hauty stubbornness that has nothing to do with the "democracy" that she claims to defend.

She asked him to denounce Louis Farakkhan and he did. She asked that he be more clear about his proposed policies, and he was. She asked that he denounce Reverend Wright and he did, and recently even left the church. She asked that Michigan and Florida be included, and they were. Although only half of the delegates will be seated, he would've still come out victorious if all delegates were seated. In consideration of these things, one can't help but to think that her refusal to concede (and in hindsight, the entire campaign) have all been in wide-eyed lust of power.

Because the republican primary ended in February, the GOP already have a herculean advantage over democrats. They know who's voting for who, they know candidate campaign strategies, they know candidate weaknesses, they know which regional clusters to approach for deflecting votes, and still she hangs on with sharp and unappeasable fingernails, digging the flesh out of everything that unity and humility stand for; risking eight more years of a decreasing dollar, an unstable economy, a desultory war, and much of the unfortunate same.

-Wayetu Moore


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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

World Wrestling Entertainment Presents: Slutbucks vs. The Resistance


There has been a strong reaction from a San Diego based Christian group towards the re-introduction of the original Starbucks' logo. The group, "The Resistance" has called for a national boycott of Starbucks, and claims that the logo is "naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute", and called the company "Slutbucks."

I researched the details about Starbucks and the logo in Wikipedia. I'm noting some discrepancies quoted between the two sources:

Wikipedia describes the first version of the logo as based upon an authentic 15th century European woodcut of a topless siren with a fully visible double fish tail. The BBC article is quoted that it's based on a 16th century Norse design.

The other notable discrepancy is that BBC states that Starbucks has just opened its first outlet in Argentina. I was in Argentina in March 2005 and Starbucks was already established there. Back in 2005, Starbucks may not have been thriving as well as it has now, because of the strong café culture in the European-influenced city of Buenos Aires. These are minor details to point out. The crux of this week's blog is the diverse reactions on the new logo.

A friend of mine felt so strongly about the Resistance view towards the new logo, and shared a letter he wrote to the group. It's worthwhile sharing it, because it provides a healthy rebuttal to what others may deem as an ignorant or close minded opinion of the Resistance.

KS wrote:

I was in New York last December. I went to the Museum of Modern Art and took a picture of the original statue. I would like to send it to you. I didn't think it was slutty at all. I don't necessarily like large corporations like Starbucks but it just sounds ignorant to call the label "slutty" when it is based on art. Do you think Michelangelo's "David" is slutty?

I think they (Starbucks) are trying to drum up controversy to raise their sales that's one thing and it is shameless. It doesn't take a Christian to realize that it's disgraceful tactic if that's what they are truly doing. On the flip side, if you are opposing it to gain publicity for your group, you are no better than they are. Sadly, I feel it is true for both of you. Only YOU know that for certain.

I would agree with KS' analysis that Starbucks is re-introducing a modified version of the original logo to boost the company's sales which is reported to be slowing down.

(The modified version, introduced in April 2008, is part of the "Back to Basics" campaign. It features hair covering the nipples of the siren.)


One of the problem that one analyst (Will Smale of the BBC) describes the downturn in the sales is due to an image problem (no pun intended.) The article was published in February 1st , 2008

(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7219458.stm )

Starbucks has fully saturated the North American market that many consumers have thought of the product on the same level as McDonald's and Burger King.

"It may not sell burgers and fries, but the perception is that the bigger and more corporate Starbucks has become, the worse customer service and quality have become. "

Mr. Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has expressed that he wants to win back the consumer by returning the "romance and the theatre" of the product. They have introduced a website where consumers can log on to mystarbuckidea website (http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/home/home.jsp ) where the headline reads: "Help shape the future of Starbucks—with your ideas"

In a nutshell, I'll put my neck out there and say that The Resistance and Starbucks are deserving of each other. They should duke it out on the ring of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment.) The bout features Mr. Schultz versus one of the 3000-member of The Resistance. It would be a circus fight, where the players are pretending at being serious contenders for the media's attention.

-Analyn Revilla

Other Sources: BBC News

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Abyei Aflame: Update From the Field

Five weeks after ENOUGH issued its report "Sounding the Alarm on Abyei" the town of Abyei has ceased to exist. Brigade 31 of the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, has displaced the entire civilian population and burned Abyei's market and housing to the ground. These events were predicted, and absent effective word and action, they became inevitable. Somehow, the government of the United States of America missed all the signals - again. As this report goes to the press, the United States has not even made a public statement regarding the violence Khartoum instigated in Abyei, the
resulting humanitarian emergency, the damage done to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, or prospects for peace and democratic transformation in Sudan.



This paper is based on my travel to Abyei from May 16-17. For background on Abyei, please see ENOUGH strategy papers "Abyei: Sudan's Kashmir" and "Sounding the Alarm on Abyei".

Background

Comprehensive peace in Sudan hinges upon successful, peaceful resolution of the issue of Abyei, the volatile and oil rich area astride the boundary between North and South Sudan. Khartoum's three-year failure to implement the CPA's Abyei Protocol has resulted in skyrocketing political tensions, large-scale recent killings, and a rapid military build-up by all sides that caused experts to foresee the resumption of conflict in the region.

During my visits in February and March of 2008, I documented the illegal presence of Sudanese Armed Forces in the Abyei area. During this period, the Sudan Armed Forces's 31st Brigade used terror tactics to systematically clear the population from the villages outside of Abyei town. The village of Todaj, for example, was rendered devoid of population due to nightly shooting by the Brigade. A nearby International Organization for Migration reception center, set up to assist returning people who had been displaced by Khartoum-inspired violence years earlier, was shut down.

The tension in the Abyei area was palpable. On May 13, an incident between the Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA[1], police and SAF[2] occurred in Dokora village, about four miles north of Abyei. Violence exploded, quickly spreading across the area. On the afternoon of May 14, local officials reported heavy bombardment of Abyei's civilian areas, as well as looting and burning of markets and homes by SAF forces. This precipitated the mass flight of thousands of civilians to safety in the South.

Abyei Emptied: May 16-17

Our first stop in Abyei town was to meet with U.N. civilian staff and the military peacekeepers from the U.N. Mission in Sudan, or UNMIS, mandated to monitor the situation on the ground. Despite their armored personnel carriers, the UNMIS contingent from Zambia was reluctant to move outside its headquarters and civilian U.N. staff did not have the access around town to be in a position to understand its condition. SAF's 31st Brigade was visibly present in the town and remains so, as of the publication of this report. With assistance from the Joint Integrated Unit,[3] or JIU, and an SPLA detachment, we were able to access much of the town. It was empty.

You could look the full length of streets and see no one. I counted only 10-12 civilians, several of whom appeared to be mentally unstable. The others, sneaking back to where their homes once stood, were evidently attempting to salvage any remaining blankets or belongings. The market had been looted and burned to the ground. Many structures were still smoldering. Block after block of traditional homes were reduced to ashes. Approximately 25 percent of the town's structures were totally destroyed. Shortly after our visit, we received reliable reports that most of the rest was aflame.

Abyei, as it had existed several days earlier, had ceased to exist.

Although there were a number of civilian casualties, most of the
people of the Abyei area were able to flee. Local SPLM officials
estimated 106,500 displaced people dispersed southward to nearly 20
sites, such as the town of Agok, a three day walk south of Abyei,
where we spent the night of May 16. The vast majority arrived
without belongings, and many families had been separated during
their flight. Women wailed for their lost children. Although
momentarily safe in GOSS-controlled areas, Khartoum's terror
tactics continued. The sound of overflights by the government's
notorious Antonov aircraft, a precursor to bombardment during the
decades of the North/South war, further terrorized the population
in the Abyei region.

The rainy season has begun in Abyei and surrounding areas, with
desperate consequences for the displaced. That night in Agok it
rained mercilessly and became quite cold. Without shelter, the
coughs of infants and old folk began. Our communication with
appropriate people in Khartoum, Juba, and Washington appeared to
help jump-start an international humanitarian response, already
begun by on-site local officials and NGOs such as Mercy Corps and
Catholic Relief Services. With international sources now estimating
90,000 people displaced from their homes for at least the second
time, Abyei's former residents will likely require substantial
assistance for the foreseeable future.

How Did We Get Here: A Policy Failure Foretold

Accounts following our visit detail extensive hostilities between
SAF and the SPLA during May, with reportedly substantial casualties
on both sides.[4] Although death is commonplace in Sudan,
fatalities due to direct fighting between SAF and the SPLA, the
military arms of the National Congress Party and the Sudan Peoples
Liberation Movement respectively, has been rare since these parties
signed the CPA in January 2005.

How could this have happened? Many complex factors boil down to two
interconnected issues:

1. The ultimate cause of this most recent violence is the failure
of President Omar Bashir and the NCP to implement the Abyei
Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Bashir signed the
CPA, including the Abyei Protocol, more than three years ago, and
it is now clear that he will not implement it. An array of ghastly
consequences could follow from this decision, but the evidence
shows he and the NCP could care less. They will have their way.
Period.

2. Why is Khartoum getting away with this strategy? The United
States has empowered Bashir to take his "devil may care" approach.
When it comes to Sudan, the United States is in meltdown mode and
Khartoum knows it. The very administration that energetically
created the environment that enabled the CPA turned impotent on
Darfur and now stands by watching the CPA stagger and twitch.
Although the United States literally wrote the Abyei Protocol, the
Bush administration has since shown little interest or
understanding of the issues, and has actively engaged in a policy
of appeasement.

Khartoum all the while has pursued a decidedly two-faced approach.
Only a couple of days before the Gotterdammerung began in Abyei,
the NCP asked that the SPLA be tasked with helping to defend
Khartoum from JEM, a Darfur rebel group that recently launched an
attack on a suburb city of the capital. The SPLM decided not to
fulfill the request, but Salva Kiir did rush to Khartoum while
Presidnt Bashir remained safe in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, while
Abyei was burning, Vice President Ali Osman Taha gave a speech at
the SPLM political convention, assuring the South Sudan officials
that the CPA would be fully implemented.

The "Normalization" Initiative: Appeasement in Action?

The U.S. government is currently engaged in a process that has
become known as "normalization" talks with Sudan, the first of
which were held in Rome in mid-April. Special Envoy Richard
Williamson heads the U.S. team. The Khartoum team is headed by
Presidential Assistant Nafie al Nafie, Sudan's former security
chief who decided to host Osama bin Laden during the mid-90s.
Although this process has occurred off-camera and outside the
limelight, documents associated with the normalization talks
surfaced in the New York Times on April 17.[5] The initial U.S.
document, supplied to me by the New York Times for my comments,
included a strong statement concerning Abyei: "This process of
improving the bilateral relationship will end if new violence is
initiated in or by Sudan. For example, the bilateral relationship
will not improve if violence escalates in Abyei or Chad." The
government of Sudan's response characterized the overall initial
U.S. statement as "disappointing" but expressed a wish to proceed
with the normalization talks because, it said, "The Special Envoy
characterized the [U.S.] proposals as a living document, and as
such we prefer to see how this document would look after our
response is incorporated in it."

On May 27, the day after the SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum
asserted that because of the Abyei attack, the two parties were "on
the verge of civil war," the SPLM announced that it would not
participate in the normalization talks with the U.S. Special Envoy,
suggesting that the talks held so far may have emboldened Khartoum
to attack Abyei.

Normalization talks are scheduled to resume in Khartoum on May 30.
Given the absence of a public U.S. government response to the
violence and displacement in Abyei, the failure to make any effort
to prevent these events, and the clearly stated position that
violence in Abyei would bring an end "normalization" talks, the
meeting scheduled for the end of May to continue this discussion is
deeply worrisome. U.S. government failure to follow through on
Abyei has major implications for the prospects of CPA fulfillment
and a possible return to war.

What Next? Urgent Steps for the Short Run

The administration should:

Postpone any further "normalization" talks until Khartoum:

a. Removes the 31st Brigade and any other illegal
Khartoum-affiliated military from the entire Abyei region. First
Vice President of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern
Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardiit spoke with President Bashir about
removal of the 31st Brigade from the Abyei area some weeks ago and
received a positive commitment, never fulfilled. Perhaps a joint
demand by the United States and its "troika" partners (the UK and
Norway), along with the First Vice President, will obtain a more
practical positive response.

b. Accedes, at minimum, to interim boundaries and an interim
administration of the Abyei area in accordance with the Abyei
Protocol, without prejudice to a final settlement on these issues,
along with a disbursement of the oil revenues due to the Abyei
administration under the Protocol, in order to provide services to
the area.

c. Agrees to fully fund the return of Abyei's displaced to their
now-destroyed homes, properties and businesses, with an appropriate
initial deposit to the Government of South Sudan or the United
Nations to show good faith within 30 days.

The U.S. Congress should:

Specifically increase its oversight of the executive branch's
actions with regard to Sudan in this period leading up to a
transition in administrations. Pursuit of constraining actions by
the Congress may be in order.

The U.N. Security Council should:

Ensure that the UNMIS presence in Abyei town is reinforced with a
permanent U.N. military and civilian presence to effectively
monitor the situation, accurately report conditions on the ground,
and promote local reconciliation.

Those that care about Sudan must be especially alert to the full
spectrum of U.S. government activities regarding the entire
country. We cannot be parochial. Abyei should matter to all who
care about peace and democratic transformation in Sudan. For there
to be a solution in Darfur, there must be full implementation of
the CPA. For the CPA to bring peace to Sudan, the crisis in Darfur
must be addressed.

What has just happened in Abyei may turn out to be Sudan's defining
moment. Abyei is recognized by most Sudan experts as a uniquely
important bellwether of war or peace between Khartoum and Sudan's
South. Combat directly between the NCP's military and that of the
SPLM has just occurred in this volatile area. Interested parties
should have done everything within their power to prevent this.
That did not happen. There is still time to prevent a return to
full-scale war throughout the entire country. The Bush
administration must step up and make sure the international
community is doing all it can to bring peace to all of Sudan.


Roger Winter

Enough Project
http://www.enoughproject.org/reports/abyei_update_may08

05/30/2008

Endnotes

[1] The Sudan People's Liberation Army and its political wing, the
Sudan People's Liberation Movement, fought against the Sudanese
government since 1983. A peace deal was signed in 2005. The SPLA is
the military arm of the SPLM.

[2] The Sudan Armed Forces is the national army of Sudan, but since
1989 it has effectively become the military arm of the ruling
National Congress Party in Khartoum.

[3] The Joint Integrated Units were stipulated in the 2005 peace
deal signed between the North and the South. These units consist of
equal numbers of SAF forces from the North and SPLA forces from the
South and are supposed to help stabilize and secure the country
until the 2011 referendum is held.

[4] "New Civil War Feared in Sudan As Town Empties," Washington
Post, May 26, 2008.

[5] "Incentive in Sudan Talks: Normalized Ties with U.S.," New York
Times, April 17, 2008.

SOURCE: Africafocus

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