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Archive for April 10th, 2012

The Invisible Children NGO, most famous for its Kony 2012 online video, helped the Ugandan government arrest a former child soldier and backed an operation that killed more civilians than militants, cables published by Wikileaks reveal.

­A memo written by a public affairs officer at the US embassy in Uganda documents Invisible Children’s collaboration with Ugandan intelligence services. It notes that the US-based NGO tipped the Ugandan government on the whereabouts of Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was wanted by security officials for extorting money from the government officials, NGO’s and local tribal leaders. Ugandan security organizations jumped the tip and immediately arrested Komakech.

As a result of the tip, the Ugandan military claimed it obtained the names of other suspects from Komakech. The military then conducted a sweep and arrested a number of people, many of whom declared their innocence, the Ugandan media reported. Human rights groups say torture of arrested suspects by Ugandan security forces is routine.

Invisible Children also actively supported Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT), a joint attack by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the then-autonomous South Sudan against the LRA. The operation, which was also received US intelligence and logistical backing, killed more civilians than LRA militants.

In a confidential memo dating back to 2009, US ambassador to Uganda Steven Browning noted that the US-based NGO planned pro-OLT events under the theme “Kony Must Be Stopped. Rescue Our Children”.

Browning says local Invisible Children activists led the events. These events included visiting Washington to meet with lawmakers and conducting awareness campaigns in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

But Norbert Mao, a Ugandan opposition politician who, Browning claimed, “honchoed” the 2009 events, disputes the veracity of the ambassador’s assessment.

I did not support OLT,” Mao told The Black Star News “It was an operation to rain bombs in the areas where Kony was believed to be participating and would lead to indiscriminate killing of those the operation was intended to rescue. But even so, I believe there is no purely military solution to the LRA issue. Even after the release of Kony 2012 I stated clearly that the doors to peaceful solutions must never be closed”.

Kony 2012 has been viewed over 100 million times and Invisible Children is now planning to release a sequel to the video. It has been criticized for oversimplified the issue, in which religious fundamentalism and century-long intertribal conflicts intertwine. It has also been accused of providing financial aid for the Ugandan government and Sudan People’s Liberation Army, both of which have regularly been charged with human rights violations. Invisible Children denied this claim, however. It has also been blamed for being heavy on advocacy and weak on aid, with most of the money spent for staff salaries, travel and transport and film production.

The release of the video followed a decision by US President Barack Obama to deploy 100 US soldiers to the region to help “remove” Joseph Kony from the picture.

The conflict between the Ugandan government, led by Yoweri Musevini, and the Lord Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, has lasted for over two decades.

source.

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“The fact remains: the earth’s finite resources will not support an indefinite expansion of industrial civilization. The right proposes, in effect, to maintain our riotous standard of living, as it has been maintained in the past, at the expense of the rest of the world. . . . This program is self-defeating, not only because it will produce environmental effects from which even the rich cannot escape, but because it will widen the gap between rich and poor nations, generate more violent movements of insurrection and terrorism against the West, and bring about a deterioration of the world’s political climate as threatening as the deterioration of its physical climate.

—Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven

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Mohawk Warrior flag carried alongside a poster of Hasran Nazrullah, leader of Hezbollah, at an anti-Israel rally.

RICHMOND HILL, Ont.–On Good Friday in a mosque on the outskirts of Toronto, former Ojibway chief Terry Nelson sat on a chair holding eagle feathers while around him hundreds of Muslim faithful knelt on prayer rugs listening to an imam preach about the “genocide” committed against Indigenous peoples in North America […]

The three were there at the request of one of the mosque’s imams, Zafar Bangash, who invited Nelson following media reports the former chief of Roseau River First Nation was hoping to travel to Tehran. Nelson, Brown and Smoke met with officials in Ottawa’s Iranian embassy in early March to begin preparations for a possible trip to speak to the Iranian parliament […]

Bangash said the same “people” that committed “genocide” against Indigenous peoples were now “occupying” Muslim lands […] “And even now, when these European colonialists and American imperialists have gone to Muslim lands, what have they done in Iraq, Afghanistan, in Palestine and other places? They have killed millions of people in those lands.” […]

“(First Nations people) have no allies. They are marginalized and people…have no idea…whom this land really belongs to and at what costs this land was taken from them,” said Syed Hyder, 55, editor of a monthly Urdu-language magazine. “The Canadian economy is built on natural resources, which they did not bring from Europe, England, Ireland…That means they are still looting it, still taking it. At least they should share. Even today they are not giving any share to the people who belong to this land.”

Some of the youth in the crowd said they saw a parallel between what First Nations people face and the Palestinian situation in the Middle East.

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The president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Comandante Hugo Chávez, communicated this Good Friday, 6 April 2012, with the president of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar al-Assad, with whom he had a telephone conversation in the afternoon.

The two presidents, who are united by long-standing personal brotherhood, said they continued to closely follow the news of each other’s countries, pleased to be able to exchange, once again, firsthand impressions at the highest level.

President Bashar al-Assad inquired about the health of President Hugo Chávez, who informed his brother Syrian president that he had been successfully following the prescribed treatment, thus completing on time all the stages of the strict medical program.  President Assad added his prayers to those of so many others today who are following President Hugo Chávez’s process of healing and full recovery.

The heads of state shared information about the political and security situation in Syria and in the Middle East region, especially the Syrian government’s success in containing the bands of armed terrorists threatening the peace and tranquility of the Syrian people, seeking in vain to obstruct the progress of political reforms pushed forward by the government of Bashar al-Assad.

President Hugo Chávez expressed his full support for the stability of the great Syrian Arab Republic, which has always been the heart of the Arab peoples’ struggle for sovereignty and against imperialism.  In this regard, the two leaders agreed that the positive role played by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China in the Middle East at this conjuncture should be highlighted.

Before fraternally ending the conversation in solidarity, President Bashar al-Assad assured his Venezuelan counterpart that the next few days would see new advances in the internal situation of Syria.  The two leaders agreed to maintain frequent communication and coordinate their actions in defense of the dignity of their peoples.

Caracas, 6 April 2012

The original communiqué “Gobierno Bolivariano expresa pleno respaldo al pueblo sirio” was published on the Web site of the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information (www.minci.gob.ve) on 7 April 2012.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

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Mérida, 9th April 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s national minimum wage is to increase 32.25% in 2012, announced Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday.

In a televised address from Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Chavez explained that the wage rise would take place in two phases. On 1 May the minimum monthly salary will increase by 15%, from 1,548 bolivars (US $360) to 1,780 bolivars (US $414). Then on 1 September the wage will increase a further 15% to 2,048 bolivars (US $476), a net rise of 32.25%.

The wage increase means that in dollar terms Venezuela will have the highest minimum wage in Latin America. Including legally guaranteed monthly food tickets, currently valued at 977 bolivars (US $223), the wage rise will represent a gross minimum income of almost US $700 for formally employed workers in Venezuela.

The measure also looks set to rise above inflation, at 27.6% in 2011 according to the Venezuelan Central Bank. With net inflation of 3.5% in the first three months of this year, the government is currently on track to meets its target of 20 – 23% annual inflation for 2012.

Chavez stated that the wage increase will cost the Venezuela state 20,055,678 bolivars (US $4,664,000), which will be paid for with oil income and taxes. “This leap forward in favour of the workers forms part of the project of redistribution of national income to achieve substantive equality,” he said.

The increase will benefit 3,903,408 public sector workers, as well as private sector workers and Venezuela’s 2,500,000 pensioners through the social security system and new “Greater Love” social program.

The Venezuelan president also cited figures which demonstrated that the number of workers receiving the minimum wage in the country’s formal economy had fallen from 65% in 1999, when his administration entered office, to 21% in 2010.

According to Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics, unemployment was 9.2% for February. Of those employed, 41% work in informal employment, down from 55% when Chavez entered office.

In 2011 the minimum wage increased by 26.5%.

“Every year without fail the [Bolivarian] Revolution has decreed an increase in the minimum salary, as a way of solidly constructing social justice. It is one of the reasons why Venezuela is the country with the lowest indicator of inequality in this continent,” emphasised Chavez in his address.

The Venezuelan head of state also outlined advances in drafting the new Labour Law, which is expected to be passed by presidential decree on 1 May.

Chavez said the law will contain provisions for a new Social Benefits Fund, which will guarantee that money destined for benefits payments to workers is not diverted to other ends. The Fund will be supported by Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, through a new body PDVSA Social, which will receive 4% of PDVSA dividends.

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Venezuela’s pro-government umbrella union the National Union of Workers (UNT) indicated that the 32.25% wage increase is close to their own suggested rise of at least 33.59%.

UNT coordinator Marcela Maspero stated that the rise does not solve all issues regarding salaries in Venezuela.

“It is necessary to do more to give workers a salary that allows them to live with dignity and cover basic material, social and intellectual necessities,” she said.

Alternative news website Aporrea drew attention to the issue of salaries above minimum wage, as it was not announced whether they would also see similar increases as part of the rise.

Venezuela’s business federation Fedecamaras criticised the salary increase as “an isolated measure” that would not raise citizen’s buying power in the context of an “adverse climate against private investment”.

The wage increase comes among various government policies to guarantee living standards and combat inflation in Venezuela, including the introduction of regulated prices for 19 basic household and bathroom items on 1 April this year.

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The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ridiculed the Aquino regime for shamelessly playing its role as a US government stooge in making such a big fuss over the planned launch of another satellite by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on April 12-15.

“Goaded by the US government, Aquino and his foreign affairs officials have denounced the planned satellite launch by North Korea as ‘totally unacceptable,’ echoing the US position drawn from baseless allegations that it is a cover for testing ballistic missiles,” said the CPP.

“The CPP and the Filipino people extend their felicitations and well wishes to the government and people of the DPRK for its plans to launch another satellite into space. Such an undertaking manifests the DPRK’s continuing advances in science and technology achieved in the course of the its effort to uphold national sovereignty and build socialism in spite of constant US imperialist economic pressures and politico-diplomatic subversion of the DPRK.”

The DPRK successfully launched its first communications satellite in April 2009.

“The CPP denounces US imperialism and its puppet Aquino regime for subverting the DPRK’s efforts to build for itself an independent technological and communication infrastructure. The US imperialists wish to prevent the DPRK from further building itself up as a formidable scientific power, in the same way that it is blocking efforts by other self-respecting anti-imperialist sovereign nations from building their independence.”

“For the past several months, Aquino and his foreign affairs team have been shamelessly echoing every foreign policy declaration issued by the US to justify its wars of aggression and intervention, military buildup and power projection against China and Iran”

“To justify its position and generate support among the Filipino people, the Aquino regime has even resorted to making such wild speculations that falling debris from the DPRK satellite launch may hit Philippine territory. It has even absurdly imposed a no-fly zone policy on the days of the launch,” said the CPP. “This is completely ludicrous considering its recent declaration of an open skies policy for US military spy drones.”

“The US is using the Philippines as its proxy to create the illusion of widespread support for the US position against the DPRK. As the US proxy, the Aquino regime even brought up the matter at the recent Association of Southeast Nations meeting in Cambodia,” said the CPP. “However, the Aquino regime failed to convince the other ASEAN nations to adopt its aggressive position against the DPRK and succeeded only in making it issue a statement of ‘real concern’.”

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After the SOPA and PIPA uproar the Internet has become increasingly aware of the US Government’s attempts at meddling with the web. In recent days the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has moved to the forefront. Critics of the bill point out that it would allow companies to spy on Internet users, and as it’s written CISPA would further allow ISPs to block allegedly infringing transfers and report pirating users to a variety of organizations.

When it comes to legislation involving the Internet, the masses have become quite paranoid. Perhaps rightly so.

The latest bill to gain attention online is CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. As the title suggests the main goal of the bill is to deal with “cybersecurity,” but with a lack of definition as to what that actually entails, it’s also one of the major weaknesses.

In short CISPA would allow companies to spy on Internet users and collect and share this data with third-party companies or Government agencies. As long as the company states that these privacy violations are needed to protect against “cybersecurity” threats, they are immune from civil and criminal liabilities.

Some have described the bill as a new SOPA, but it’s nothing like it. Where SOPA was focused on the shutting down of copyright infringing websites, CISPA is directly targeted at individual Internet subscribers, including copyright infringers.

While the definition of a cybersecurity threat is rather vague, intellectual property is specifically mentioned in the bill. For example, among many other descriptions CISPA defines a cybersecurity purpose as follows.

“A system designed or employed to […] protect a system or network from […] theft or misappropriation of […] intellectual property.”

In other words, the bill would make it possible for ISPs to actively monitor the private communications of subscribers to detect and censor the transfers of copyrighted content. In addition, the personal details of these users could then be freely shared with third parties.

It’s hard to not interpret the above as a huge problem for people’s right to private communications.

While there is little known about how companies and authorities plan to use the bill, it is the vagueness and broad definitions that get people worried. Copyright holders should have tools to protect their rights, but as it stands CISPA completely destroys people’s right to privacy under certain circumstances.

This has caused great concern among the public, and a few days ago digital rights group EFF also sent out an alarming message warning people about the looming threat posed by CISPA.

“There are almost no restrictions on what can be collected and how it can be used, provided a company can claim it was motivated by ‘cybersecurity purposes’,” EFF writes.

“That means a company like Google, Facebook, Twitter, or AT&T could intercept your emails and text messages, send copies to one another and to the government, and modify those communications or prevent them from reaching their destination if it fits into their plan to stop cybersecurity threats.”

In recent weeks CISPA has gained support from over 100 lawmakers in Congress, anti-piracy lobby groups such as the BSA and US Chamber of Commerce, but also tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft and Verizon.

These supporters are likely to argue that the bill wont be used as a massive spying machine, but if that’s the case the text should be amended to reflect that. To a certain degree CISPA faces the same problem as SOPA, in that the vagueness of the definitions give rise to speculations, in this case horrific 1984-like spying systems.

In its current form CISPA serves only to fuel the paranoid concerns of the public in which ironically the bill itself exists as the security threat.

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