The Kagame-power lobby’s dishonest attack on the BBC 2′s documentary on Rwanda

November 27th, 2014


Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks at Tufts University near Boston. PHOTO/Steven Senne/AP/The Guardian

On October 1, 2014, a remarkable event occurred in Britain. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC 2′s This World telecast Rwanda’s Untold Story, a documentary produced by Jane Corbin and John Conroy that offered a critical view of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and of his and the British and U.S. roles in the 1994 mass killings in Rwanda and beyond.1 Although the documentary adheres to some key longstanding falsehoods of the Anglo-American propaganda system’s treatment of the “Rwandan genocide,” above all the claim that in 1994 leaders of the country’s Hutu majority conspired to commit genocide against its Tutsi minority,2 nevertheless, we believe that the telecast of Rwanda’s Untold Story constituted a first of its kind in the reinterpretation of what really happened in Rwanda in 1994. And this is true not only for the BBC, but also for the rest of the establishment English-language television news media in Britain, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.

The BBC 2′s reinterpretation works largely by providing airtime to well-informed figures conventionally marginalized within the establishment media. Accordingly, Rwanda’s Untold Story is the story that they tell and that they would have been telling for many years had they and their views not been systematically suppressed and even ridiculed and smeared by the establishment media, historians, and assorted political hacks from within the Kagame-Power Lobby.

Hence, the following crucial exchange between Corbin and Stam (30:31):

Allan Stam: If a million people died in Rwanda in 1994 — and that’s certainly possible — there is no way that the majority of them could be Tutsi.

Jane Corbin: How do you know that?

Allan Stam: Because there weren’t enough Tutsi in the country.

Jane Corbin: The academics calculated there had been 500,000 Tutsis before the conflict in Rwanda; 300,000 survived.  This led them to their final controversial conclusion.

Allan Stam: If a million Rwandans died, and 200,000 of them were Tutsi, that means 800,000 of them were Hutu.

Jane Corbin: That’s completely the opposite of what the world believes happened in the Rwandan genocide.

Allan Stam: What the world believes, and what actually happened, are quite different.

Monthly Review Zine for more

“Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence” (book review)

November 27th, 2014

Richard Dawkins is wrong: Religion is not inherently violent


Richard Dawkins IMAGE/Reuters/Chris Keane/Photo montage by Salon

The closest Armstrong comes to naming an advocate of the “all wars are about religion” line is when she quotes biologist, author and stridently public atheist Richard Dawkins in her chapter on terrorism. “Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people,” Dawkins wrote in “The God Delusion.” But, again, as Armstrong briskly notes, the suicide bombing was invented by the Tamil Tigers, a secularist group, and for many years they held the record for committing such acts. Furthermore (although Armstrong doesn’t bring this up herself), it wasn’t religion that led Rwanda’s Hutus to hack to death nearly 1 million of their fellow citizens, including neighbors of decades, in perhaps the most insane and indecent homicidal eruption of the past half-century.

Salon for more

Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong, book review: Neo-cons, prepare to get angry


It’s hard to reach the end of a news bulletin these days and not hear about a fresh atrocity perpetuated by men who claim that God is not only on their side but egging them on to kill.

If it isn’t Sunni militants, decapitating Shia, Yazidis and Christians in Iraq, then the Shia are killing the Sunni, or Boko Haram are slashing away at Nigeria’s Christians.

One chicken-and-egg question thrown up by this mayhem is whether religion is a cover for other motives (in which case the “messages” of the various holy books are virtually irrelevant) or whether the gorier passages in the Bible and the Koran have given people who might have behaved differently a real inventive to turn on their neighbours. If the latter is true, religion is not just an excuse for violence; it’s a key ingredient. Those familiar with Karen Armstrong’s earlier books will not be surprised to learn that she looks coldly on the simplistic but fashionable view that belief in God is the principal factor in a host of wars, past and present. For a start, she doubts the usefulness in this debate of terms like “religion” or “belief”, because the meaning of these words over time has mutated almost beyond recognition.

The Independent for more

Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong


Islamic State is like a bad dream. Its horror flashes up on our screens, so out of place in the waking world of cities and shopping and work. Its adherents wave what looks like a pirate flag. They are crazy, incomprehensible, intoxicated.

Some kind of spell must have been cast over them to rob them of reason and compassion. But what exactly? There are those who feel confident of the answer. “A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Qur’an,” writes Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith. “The reality of martyrdom and the sanctity of armed jihad are about as controversial under Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is under Christianity.” He goes on: “horrific footage of infidels and apostates being decapitated has become a popular form of pornography throughout the Muslim world. But there is now a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims from having to grapple with these truths.”

The Guardian for more

Wonder and the ends of inquiry

November 27th, 2014


Science and wonder have a long and ambivalent relationship. Wonder is a spur to scientific inquiry but also a reproach and even an inhibition to inquiry. As philosophers never tire of repeating, only those ignorant of the causes of things wonder: the solar eclipse that terrifies illiterate peasants is no wonder to the learned astronomer who can explain and predict it. Romantic poets accused science of not just neutralizing wonder but of actually killing it. Modern popularizations of science make much of wonder—but expressions of that passion are notably absent in professional publications. This love-hate relationship between wonder and science started with science itself.

Wonder always comes at the beginning of inquiry. “For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize,” explains Aristotle; Descartes made wonder “the first of the passions,” and the only one without a contrary, opposing passion. In these and many other accounts of wonder, both soul and senses are ambushed by a puzzle or a surprise, something that catches us unawares and unprepared. Wonder widens the eyes, opens the mouth, stops the heart, freezes thought. Above all, at least in classical accounts like those of Aristotle and Descartes, wonder both diagnoses and cures ignorance. It reveals that there are more things in heaven and earth than have been dreamt of in our philosophy; ideally, it also spurs us on to find an explanation for the marvel.

The Point for more

The Anti-Empire Report #134

November 26th, 2014


Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla addressing the United Nations General Assembly. “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the [United States] blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” “[It] has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration.” PHOTO//Jennifer S Altman

Russia invades Ukraine. Again. And again. And yet again … using Saddam’s WMD

“Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday [August 27], sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory. The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week.”

None of the photos accompanying this New York Times story online showed any of these Russian troops or armored vehicles.

“The Obama administration,” the story continued, “has asserted over the past week that the Russians had moved artillery, air-defense systems and armor to help the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. ‘These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway’, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said. At the department’s daily briefing in Washington, Ms. Psaki also criticized what she called the Russian government’s ‘unwillingness to tell the truth’ that its military had sent soldiers as deep as 30 miles inside Ukraine territory.”

Thirty miles inside Ukraine territory and not a single satellite photo, not a camera anywhere around, not even a one-minute video to show for it. “Ms. Psaki apparently [sic] was referring to videos of captured Russian soldiers, distributed by the Ukrainian government.” The Times apparently forgot to inform its readers where they could see these videos.

“The Russian aim, one Western official said, may possibly be to seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.”

This of course hasn’t taken place. So what happened to all these Russian soldiers 30 miles inside Ukraine? What happened to all the armored vehicles, weapons, and equipment?

“The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.”

Where are these photographs? And how will we know that these are Russian soldiers? And how will we know that the photos were taken in Ukraine? But most importantly, where are the fucking photographs?

Why am I so cynical? Because the Ukrainian and US governments have been feeding us these scare stories for eight months now, without clear visual or other evidence, often without even common sense. Here are a few of the many other examples, before and after the one above:

Read the rest of this entry »

Why is the language of human rights still ignoring women?

November 26th, 2014


A displaced refugee woman in South Darfur sits on the only bed she can find after running from devastating conflict in her home village. IMAGE/Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID

It was when I began to have images of women from around the world who are suffering flash before my mind, that the reality of the state of the world started ‘sinking in’ after my trip to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2013.

It was a kind of spiritual epiphany, but not the good kind. To consider a girl child suffering from FGM being called a boy when referring to her rights. The ridiculousness of women basket weavers being called “men” who sell their wares for their living. Or in images where women and girls in their own cultural environments, one after the other, are being missed and denied by being called “HIM.”

In my mind these women had words used against them in humanitarian language; words that would leave them ‘out-of-the-picture’. Words like ‘mankind’ and ‘brotherhood’ seemed to be stamped across women who were not only misunderstood, but mislabeled.

“Language that uses the generic masculine – excludes women and renders them invisible,” says CEDAW – Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the agency that works today within the UN to bring women across the world together to discuss and report marginalization and discrimination.

I began to wonder how could a girl-child feel welcome in a global world where she is being referred to as ‘him’? Especially in regards to her rights and by the very organization, the United Nations, which has pledged to fight for her justice.

Women News Network for more

The road to Briggflatts

November 26th, 2014


Anglophone literary modernism, famously, has often had very little to do with English writers. [1] The brahmins in the traditional account—Ezra Pound, James Joyce and T. S. Eliot—were all non-English in origin, for all the strenuous Anglophilia of Eliot’s later years. More recently, the Anglo-American academy has tended to journey to the postcolonial margins in its quest for liberal pluralism—or, if you prefer, neo-Gladstonian munificence. Caught in the gap between these two tendencies, the English modernist poet Basil Bunting (1900–85) has not received as much attention as might have been expected for a writer with his avant-garde credentials. An adherent of Pound and Eliot who began as a politically radical, experimentalist poet of the twenties and thirties, and ended as an unlikely counter-cultural hero of the sixties and seventies, Bunting has been mentioned less and less in recent critical debates in the field. This in spite of his former centrality to the international poetry scene—among his many devotees in later life were Robert Creeley, Hugh Kenner, Thom Gunn and Allen Ginsberg—and the fact that his masterpiece of 1966, the verse autobiography Briggflatts, is surely the most substantial English-language poem of the late-modernist period.

As with the creative paralysis that stretched, more or less, from the mid thirties to the mid sixties, this ideological volte-face may have been another consequence of Bunting’s scepticism. A self-proclaimed acolyte of ‘Hume, the doubter’, and a subscriber to Wittgenstein’s dictum ‘whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’, he was continually putting prohibitive barriers in the way of his intellectual and political impulses. A list of formative influences made late in life began: ‘jails and the sea, Quaker mysticism and socialist politics, the slums of Lambeth and Hoxton’. Outside the Persian interlude, Bunting identified as a socialist, eulogized the northern mining unions, and drew on a bedrock of puritan idealism as he sought to demolish traditionalist false idols. But his naysaying urge was such that it regularly threatened to subvert his own raison d’être. In his extraordinary mid thirties correspondence with Pound—letters that remain substantially unpublished, though Burton quotes a handful of key passages—Bunting can appear admirable as he opposes Pound’s increasingly vicious Mussolinian fascism. A famous exchange of 1938, in which Bunting passionately berated Pound for anti-Semitic remarks directed at Louis Zukofsky, marked the temporary end of their friendship:

Every anti-semitism, anti-niggerism, anti-moorism, that I can recall in history was base, had its foundations in the meanest kind of envy and in greed. It makes me sick to see you covering yourself in that kind of filth. It is not an arguable question, has not been arguable for at least nineteen centuries. It is hard to see how you are going to stop the rot of your mind and heart without a pretty thoroughgoing repudiation of what you have spent a lot of work on. You ought to have the courage for that: but I confess I don’t expect to see it.

New Left Review for more

War-ravaged South Sudan struggles to contain AIDS

November 25th, 2014


Displaced women flee fighting by boat to Mingkaman, Awerial County, Lakes State, South Sudan.. Only one out of 10 HIV positive mothers can get the drugs needed to avoid infecting her baby. PHOTO/ Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IPS

Dressed in a flowered African print kitenge and a blue head scarf, Sabur Samson, 27, sits pensively at the HIV centre at Maridi Civil Hospital in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state.

Today she paid 20 South Sudanese pounds (about six dollars) for a bodaboda (motorbike taxi) ride to the centre and will have to skimp on food in the next days.

She will be hungry and few will help her in the village, although she is blind and a single mother of two children.

“Many people fear to come close because they fear they will contract HIV,” she told IPS.

Seated next to her, Khamis Mongo, 32, has lived with HIV for five years now and has suffered similar rejection. “Some people don’t want to eat from the same plate with me,” he says.

Mongo and Samson are among nearly 1,000 HIV positive people receiving care at the centre, of whom 250 are in antiretroviral therapy (ART). They are lucky: in South Sudan, just one out of 10 people needing ART gets it.

The clinic sees patients coming from as far as 100 kilometres.

“So many patients are dying because they can’t afford transport to collect their medicine here,” clinical officer Suzie Luka told IPS.

A one-way, 80 km bodaboda trip from Ibba to Maridi costs 150 South Sudanese pounds (47 dollars).

The challenges in Maridi are a microcosm of those that the world’s newest country, South Sudan, faces in containing the HIV epidemic.

Inter Press Service for more

Five new laws passed to provide stronger social support and undermine corruption in Venezuela

November 25th, 2014


President Nicolas Maduro announced five new laws that were passed via the Enabling Law PHOTO/AVN).

President Maduro passed five new laws yesterday in an attempt to create a stronger social safety net in the face of ongoing economic difficulty within Venezuela. The five laws, encouraging employment, creating greater guarantees in existing social programs, strengthening the power of communal councils and community financing, and increasing the rate of food subsidies, were all passed via the Enabling Law, which allows the President limited lawmaking for a temporary period.

In a national address on radio and television President Maduro stated that “Today we started the enabling offensive with five laws to favor the people, the missions, popular power and to complete the perfect strategy of giving power to the people as a means of breaking with the oligarchy and their methods of economic warfare”.

The Law of Productive Employment will deploy 30,000 people to communities across the country, with the goal of decreasing youth unemployment and creating “protected, stable and dignified employment.” The program will be executed through the Youth of the Homeland Mission, which carries the name of slain chavista legislator and youth leader Robert Serra, along with the Knowledge and Work Mission

While Venezuela’s unemployment rates were a low 7% in September, 2014, the youth unemployment rate is higher, hovering at over 10%.

President Maduro emphasized the need to create work opportunities for young people that do not obstruct them from continuing their education. He criticized attempts toward “flexibilization” of labor and noted that business owners are “super-exploiting” young workers who end up working unpredictable hours and ultimately earning less money.

Venezuelan Analysis for more

The urgent need to talk about mental illness

November 25th, 2014



In Switzerland, as elsewhere, mental illness remains a taboo – despite the country having one of the highest number of psychiatrists per capita in the world. Campaigners argue that it is time to break down this culture of silence.

Would you hire someone who was mentally ill? Would you let them babysit for you? Only 38% would do the former, with just 14.2%, doing the latter, according to a survey of attitudes to mental illness which was presented at the launch in Zurich, in early October, of Switzerland’s first national campaign targeting the taboos around mental illness. (See infobox)

“European societies have opened their minds towards mental illness but mostly on a certain level: you may be in favour of taking certain measures generally, but if it comes to actually employing someone who is mentally ill, then that makes things different,” said Wulf Rössler, the former director, now retired, of the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, who presented the overview.

“With a babysitter, that’s really sensitive, people want to defend their children. Then it becomes really obvious what people think about the mentally ill.”

Which was, the survey found, that some people thought that they were “dangerous”, “unpredictable” and their illness was “their own fault”. Even professionals in the field can sometimes have certain prejudices, added Rössler. This is why an anti-taboo campaign is so important, he said.

Swiss Info for more

Making poverty history

November 24th, 2014



To end global poverty, we have to end global capitalism.

In December, the United Nations sounded the alarm. Releasing its report on the World Social Situation of 2013, entitled “Inequality Matters,” the UN warned that inequality was deepening, and that no country was immune from the contagion. In the Global South, the hemorrhaging of incomes among working people has been about as dramatic as in the Global North. If there is one social process that the planet shares, it is global inequality.

How does the UN explain this rise in inequality? What the data suggests, the UN reports, is that “inequality has increased mainly because the wealthiest individuals have become wealthier, both in developed and developing countries.” The top 1% has siphoned off the social wealth for its private gain, and the bottom 99% — which produced the social wealth – has to live off its crumbs. What’s clear is that capitalism is incapable of ending poverty or substantially reducing inequality.

Word comes from China and India that they have dramatically reduced poverty. Take the case of India. Based on official data on poverty, things appear better now than before. But the data is based on a reassessment of the indicators.

The government created a new measure – one is poor if one consumes less than twenty-four pounds of grain per month. The UN World Food Program asked quite simply if it was reasonable to assume that the person who had twenty-five pounds of grain per month was not poor.

Let us remain at the level of calorie consumption. In 2009, almost three quarters of the Indian population consumed less than 2,100 calories per day. This percentage is up from 64 percent in 2005 and 58 per cent in 1984. So caloric intake in India has declined for very many more people during its relatively high growth rates.

A study released earlier this year indicates that 680 million Indians live in absolute deprivation. There are thus more people living in extreme poverty in India than in sub-Saharan Africa. This is all despite the comparatively high growth rates and the rhetoric of India Shining. So high growth rates are not necessarily going to end inequality.

A standard way to measure poverty is to calculate what percentage of a country’s population lives on less than $2 per day, factoring in purchasing power parity. In three African countries – Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia – more than 90 percent of the population gets by on under $2 per day.

Jacobin for more


(via 3 Quarks Daily)