Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

West Papuans: An indigenous people that the world forgot

Thursday, March 4th, 2021
West Paua map MAP/Wikimedia Commons

In December 2018, Survival International began receiving disturbing reports from the Nduga region of West Papua. Church leaders were saying that congregations from 34 churches in the Papuan highlands were missing. A violent military operation by the Indonesian army had forced scores of innocent men, women and children to flee their villages in fear of their lives and seek shelter deep in the forest.

Just before Christmas, things took an unexpected and alarming turn. Survival started to receive disturbing photographs of disfigured bodies, horrific wounds and burns, and of strange canisters that the people say had been dropped on their villages. An Australian newspaper reported that the mysterious canisters appeared to contain white phosphorous, an incendiary and chemical weapon, which “burns through skin and flesh, down to the bone.”

The use of air-dropped incendiary weapons against civilian populations is banned under Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The Indonesian government has categorically denied the use of white phosphorous, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating on Twitter that the allegation is “totally baseless, non-factual, and gravely misleading.”

Military operations are frequent in West Papua where soldiers and police kill and torture with impunity. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, colonised and governed by Indonesia, and distinct from the independent country of Papua New Guinea. The indigenous Papuan peoples under Indonesian occupation have endured extraordinary suffering and oppression since Indonesia took control in 1963. Papua’s tribal people are Melanesians: ethnically, culturally and linguistically distinct from the Malay Indonesians who rule them from Jakarta. The government represses political dissent and attempts to “Indonesianize” Papuans, destroying not only lives but also the astonishing cultural and linguistic diversity of more than 300 different tribes.

The highland tribes live by shifting cultivation and hunting; they also keep pigs. During military raids they are too frightened to go to their vegetable gardens or to hunt. According to an independent investigation by Papua’s churches, during a similar military operation in 1998, at least 111 people died from hunger and disease in three villages alone and women and girls as young as three years old were systematically raped and gang-raped.

In the December 2018 attacks, soldiers were searching for militants from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), an armed group fighting for West Papua’s independence from Indonesia. The militants had killed an estimated 19 road construction workers in December, believing them to be Indonesian soldiers. In such cases, Indonesian military operations to track down perpetrators disproportionately victimise innocent civilians, who are terrorised, abused, and killed. Even those who escape the army are not safe. Vulnerable villagers, especially the very old or very young, die from exposure and hunger while hiding in the forest.

Despite horrific evidence from the tribes themselves and the appalling history of Indonesian violence and human rights abuses, it has not yet been possible for the alleged use of chemical weapons to be independently verified. International journalists, humanitarian organisations and human rights observers are denied free and open access to West Papua. Survival and other organisations are calling for a halt to the violent and indiscriminate military operation in the Nduga region and for independent investigators, including international weapons inspectors, to be allowed into the area to investigate the alleged use of white phosphorus and other abuses of the civilian population.

Survival International for more

The world’s oldest animal paintings are on this Ccave wall

Thursday, March 4th, 2021


Dated pig painting at Leang Tedongnge site in Indonesia. PHOTO/Maxime Aubert

Depictions of pigs found in Indonesia date back at least 45,500 years

In the Western imagination, ancient cave paintings tend to conjure images of Lascaux, the cave complex in southwestern France that is famous for its exceptionally detailed depictions of humans and animals. The Lascaux paintings, however, are a mere 17,000 years old. The oldest known examples of figurative art, or imagery that shows more than just abstractions, occur in Southeast Asia. Now a painting of pigs discovered in a cave in Indonesia sets a new record for the earliest figurative art—at least 45,500 years old—according to research published on Wednesday in Science Advances.

“We stress that this is only a minimum age,” says co-author Maxime Aubert, a professor of archeological science at Griffith University in Australia. “The rock art in this region could very well be 60,000 to 65,000 years old. We just need more samples.”

Sulawesi, an Indonesian island east of Borneo where the latest painting was found, is a treasure trove for rock art. Since researchers began working there 70 years ago, they have confirmed around 300 caves containing imagery. In late 2019 Aubert and his colleagues dated a Sulawesi cave painting depicting a hunting scene to at least 43,900 years ago—the oldest known painting in the region at the time.

It is usually challenging to determine when ancient art was made. But the limestone composition of Sulawesi’s caves makes it easier to date paintings that occur there. Porous limestone promotes the formation of speleothems, or mineral deposits formed by water precipitating through rock. Stalactites and stalagmites are examples of speleothems, but microscale deposits can also build up on cave walls, including sections that contain artwork.

Scientific American for more

Do you remember Cuba’s dedication to Angola?

Thursday, March 4th, 2021


January 26, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Cuban blood left its stamp on the conscience of the world after the Angolan Wars of 1975-1988. Corporate politicians are united in their desire for us to ignore this reality.

Fed up with foreign wars, Portuguese officers overthrew Prime Minister Marcello Caetano on April 25, 1974. Many former colonies had the opportunity to define their own future.

Angola had been the richest of Portuguese colonies, with major production in coffee, diamonds, iron ore and oil. Of the former colonies, it had the largest white population, which numbered 320,000 of about 6.4 million. When 90% of its white population fled in 1974, Angola lost most of its skilled labor.

Three groups juggled for power. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), headed by Agostinho Neto was the only progressive alternative. The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (NFLA), led by Holden Roberto, gained support from Zaire’s right-wing Joseph Mobutu, a conspirator in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Jonas Savimbi, who ran the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), worked hand-in-hand with South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Portugal told South Africa to remove its troops from Angola, which it did by October, 1974. Recently defeated in Viet Nam, the US felt unable to send troops. Encouraged by the Ford administration South Africa returned to Angola within a year.

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro’s representatives met with Neto along with the head of MPLA’s recently organized militia, the Popular Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA). Not eager to intervene, Cuba declined to give financial support.

The South African invasion began October 14 when many of its white troops pretended to be UNITA forces by darkening their faces with “Black Is Beautiful” camouflage cream. By November, Fidel knew that without help the Angolan capital would fall to apartheid forces and he approved military assistance. The small number of Cubans who arrived were critical in stopping the South African drive to Angola’s capital, Luanda.

LINKS for more

The revolutionary humanism of Frantz Fanon

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021


Frantz Fanon is a Martinican philosopher, psychiatrist, and revolutionary who wrote on race and racism. PHOTO/Frantz Fanon Archives

The philosopher, psychiatrist, and revolutionary militant Frantz Fanon was a key figure in the struggle against European colonialism. Fanon’s innovative thinking on racism and its relationship to class oppression still speaks vividly to the present.

The renewed protests against racism and police brutality over the last year have supplied a fresh impetus for thinking about the nature of capitalism, its relationship to racism, and the construction of alternatives to both. Few thinkers speak more directly to such issues than Frantz Fanon, the Martinican philosopher, psychiatrist, and revolutionary who is widely considered one of the twentieth century’s foremost thinkers on race and racism.

Fanon had direct experience of French colonial rule, from the Caribbean to North Africa, and brought that experience to bear on his intellectual work. He played an active role in the Algerian revolutionary movement that struggled for independence in the 1950s, but he warned that independent African states would simply replace the colonial system with a national bourgeoisie unless they followed the path of social revolution.

Some of Fanon’s key works have been available in English translation for many years. However, the recent publication of over six hundred pages of Fanon’s previously unavailable writings on literature, psychiatry, and politics makes this a fitting moment to reexamine his thought anew.

Denaturalizing Racism

Born in 1925, Fanon grew up in French-ruled Martinique in the Lesser Antilles. He originally thought of himself — as was true of many others at the time — as French and not “Black.” That began to change when he enlisted as a soldier in the Free French Forces during World War II. The experience brought the racism of French “civilization” painfully home to him.

Returning to France in the late 1940s, Fanon immersed himself in the literature of Négritude, a French-speaking black pride movement. At the same time, he absorbed the latest European intellectual developments such as phenomenology, existentialism, psychoanalysis, and Marxism. This led to his first book, published in 1952 when Fanon was only twenty-six: Black Skin, White Masks.

Fanon’s great breakthrough in Black Skin, White Masks was to analyze racism in sociogenic terms, denying it any natural basis. Skin color may be biologically determined, but the way that we see and interpret it is conditioned by social forces which are outside of our control.

This phenomenon is so pervasive that race and racism come to appear as “natural,” transhistorical phenomena. For Fanon, such mystification cannot be stripped away by mere enlightened critique since it is deeply rooted in objective social realities and must be challenged at that level.

In recent decades, the “social construction of race” has become such a cliché that the radical implications of Fanon’s theoretical breakthrough are easy to miss. If race is socially constructed, it follows that specific social relations are responsible for its birth and perpetuation. What might those relations be? Fanon insists that they are economic:

The true disalienation of the black man implies a brutal awareness of the social and economic realities … the Black problem is not just about Blacks living among whites, but about Blacks exploited, enslaved, and despised by colonialist and capitalist society that happens to be white.

However, this did not mean that race is secondary to class, or that the struggle against racism was subordinate to the fight against capitalism. A phenomenon is not exclusively defined by its origin. Racism takes on a life of its own and defines the mental horizons of individuals long after some of its economic imperatives have faded from the scene. Fanon therefore insisted that “the black man must wage the struggle on two levels,” objective and subjective. Any “unilateral liberation is flawed, and the worst mistake would be to believe their mutual dependence automatic.”

Jacobin for more

Who is the Trotskyist fraction?

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021


Left Voice is part of an international network of revolutionary online newspapers. That network is published by the Trotskyist Fraction.

In the last few months a number of important revolutionary socialist organizations around the world have suffered crises and splits, including the Partido Obrero (PO, Workers Party) in Argentina, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the United States, and the Committee for a Workers International (CWI). These events raise an important question: What kind of international organization do socialists need today?

Left Voice is part of the La Izquierda Diario network. With twelve digital newspapers in eight languages, it is the largest network of revolutionary publications in the world today. La Izquierda Diario in Argentina receives three million visits each month, while Esquérda Diario in Brazil gets two million (with peaks of up to 6.5 million hits in a single month). Révolution Permanente in France received two million visits a month while reporting on the yellow vest movement. Left Voice is much smaller than its sibling publications, but it is growing fast.

But the Left Voice/La Izquierda Diario network is not just a publication. It is the organ of the Trotskyist Fraction—Fourth International (Fracción Trotskista–Cuarta Internacional, FT-CI).The FT-CI is composed of a dozen organizations in Latin America and Europe. It has sections in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, the Spanish State, France, Germany, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Bolivia, as well as sympathizing organizations in Costa Rica, Peru, and Italy.

A Very Brief History

The Trotskyist Fraction emerged in 1988 when the Movement for Socialism (MAS) in Argentina, the organization that had been built up by Nahuel Moreno, expelled a large part of its youth organization. These young members had been carrying out an internal struggle in defense of Trotsky’s theory-program of permanent revolution, and against the MAS’s adaptations to Stalinism. They founded the Party of Socialist Workers (PTS). Together with a group of comrades who had been expelled from the MAS’s sister organization in Mexico, who had formed the League of Socialist Workers (LTS), they set up an international tendency.

Left Voice for more

Kamala Harris and India’s laws against “love jihad”

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021


A civil right activist holds placards during a demonstration condemning the passing of laws against ‘Love Jihad’ by various state governments, Bangalore, India, December 1, 2020. PHOTO/Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Al Jazeera

The unpredictable impact of Trump’s post-defeat temper on Georgia’s January 6 Senate runoffs intrigues me as I wait and watch in Illinois. Also fascinating, and of course noticed by many, is the similarity in the political disputes that India and the U.S. witness.

Moreover, there is at least partial similarity, also marked by many, in the styles of Modi and Trump, both of whom seem to enjoy the mic, the camera, and theatrics.

Not all the likenesses between India and America are concurrent, however. Thus it was a long time ago that the U.S. witnessed parallels to India’s current “love jihad” fever. In at least 16 American states, persons of different races could not legally marry until 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the so-called anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. Connoting a “risky” mixing of genes and races, the term miscegenation had been coined during the Civil War (1861-65) by slavery defenders who warned that freeing slaves would result in interracial marriages. If California had been one of those 16 states, Tamil Nadu’s Shyamala Gopalan, who as a 19-year-old had immigrated there in 1958, could not have married Donald Harris, an immigrant from Jamaica in 1963. But that was not the case. Shyamala and Donald could and did marry, and Kamala Harris, born to the couple in 1964, is today on the cusp of being sworn in as America’s Vice-President.

In earlier decades, America had witnessed wide dissemination of the bogey of African American males desiring White women. That spectre upended actual history, where male slaveholders forced Black female slaves to bear their children, thereby creating the great bulk of America’s lighter-skinned Blacks. Today’s desi tale of Muslim males supposedly seducing Hindu females in a widespread “love jihad” conspiracy resembles the bogey to which White America had been receptive before the 1960s. However, I haven’t yet found an American parallel, current or historical, for the sick story being circulated in India of a large conspiracy among Muslim males for trapping Hindu females so as to (a) increase the Muslim percentage in India’s population and (b) bring terrorists to birth.

Human beings falling in love with, and wanting to marry, a pardesi or a bahri, somebody outside one’s traditional circle, is something that everyone understands. Males duping females of any circle for sex, property or money is also, unfortunately, something known to all eras and every society. But would anyone believe that young Indian men who desperately need work (to feed parents, grandparents, siblings, perhaps other relatives, and themselves) would spend time and energy plotting to seduce an “outsider” female merely in order to increase the percentage in the population of their community? And to patiently and carefully raise terrorists at home?

Some would indeed believe such a tale. Such as those who’ve been brainwashed to think of another caste or community as people who are unnecessary when they’re not a menace. They are dangerous, or expendable, or both.

It is not at all unthinkable that people would organize a racket for ensnaring women. But it is unthinkable that a giant scale “love jihad” racket has been running in India for years, eluding not merely the families involved but also the country’s huge, talented and suspicious police forces. It is also hard to accept that such a racket has persuaded a large number of poor Muslim males to capture and convert unsuspecting Hindu women for the sake of census figures, and for producing terrorists.

NDTV for more

Once upon a time on a Chinese New Year

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021


Have an auspicious Year of the Ox, everybody. And to celebrate it in style, fleetingly alleviating our burden in these times of trouble, let’s plunge into a dream within a dream, going back to the future for a game-changing moment in Chinese history.   

Chinese New Year’s Day, 1272.  At the time, that fell on January 18.  Kublai Khan, after issuing an imperial edict, establishes the official beginning of the Yuan dynasty in China.   

That may have been a Chinese-style dynasty in all its accouterments, set up according to millenary rituals and following a classic structure. But the people who were running the show were definitely the sons of the steppe: the Mongols.  

Kublai Khan was on a roll.

In 1256 he had started building a summer capital north of the Great Wall of China, Kaiping – renamed Shangdu in 1263. That was the Xanadu of Coleridge’s sublime poem – later decoded by the genius of Jorge Luis Borges, that Buddha in a gray suit, as containing an “unrevealed archetype,” an “eternal object” whose “first manifestation was the palace; the second, the poem.”  

In 1258, after overcoming a court conspiracy, Kublai’s brother Mongke – then the Great Khan – gave him strategic command of one of the four divisions of the Mongol army in a new offensive against the Song dynasty in China.

But then Mongke died of fever outside Chungking (today’s Chongqing), in 1259. The succession was epic. The Khan’s younger brother, Ariq – who had stayed in the Mongol capital Karakorum to protect the homeland – was about to go medieval to capture the throne.   

Hulagu, another of Kublai’s brothers, was the conqueror (and destroyer) of Baghdad – actually the conqueror of nearly all of West Asia. Hulagu stopped his military campaign in Syria and run back home to support Kublai.

Kublai finally got back to Kaiping. A khuriltai – the imposing, ceremonial Mongol council of tribal chieftains held for very special occasions – finally was held. And Kublai was proclaimed Great Khan in June 1260.

Telegraf for more

Old grudges and empty coffers: South Sudan’s precarious peace process

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021


South Sudan’s president (centre with hat) and opposition leader (right) formed a unity government last year. But entrenched distrust between the two men is still hindering the path to peace. PHOTO/Jok Solomun/REUTERS

‘The risk is rising that some opposition forces could return to conflict.’

On the streets of South Sudan’s capital city, billboards honour the country’s politicians for ending five years of conflict that cost almost 400,000 lives and displaced millions. “Peacemakers” and “Children of God” declares one poster, quoting the Bible alongside a photo of the president.

But nearly a year after President Salva Kiir formed a unity government with opposition leader Riek Machar – now the vice-president – key parts of the agreement have not been implemented amid entrenched distrust between the two men, funding shortages, and renewed fighting that cost thousands of lives in 2020.

Nyadid Racho from western Pibor – where famine is thought to be occurring – says she has seen little benefit from the deal. The 40-year-old told The New Humanitarian ongoing clashes between community militias cost the lives of two of her children last year – both starved to death within days of each other.

“If we hadn’t been attacked, and if our cattle were not taken, my children would still be alive,” Racho said.

Many South Sudanese who spoke to TNH on a visit to the country in December questioned the political will for peace, while analysts fear disenchantment within Machar’s camp over the slow progress could soon fuel new outbreaks of violence.

“As various parts of the peace deal stall, the risk is rising that some opposition forces could return to conflict or try to sue for peace on their own terms,” said Alan Boswell, a South Sudan analyst with the International Crisis Group. 

The current agreement is the second between Kiir and Machar since civil war broke out in 2013 – two years after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. The collapse of the last deal, in 2016, resulted in widespread violence in the capital, Juba, as Machar fled South Sudan on foot. 

While fighting between forces loyal to the two men has largely subsided over the past 12 months, inter-communal violence – stirred by political elites in Juba – has displaced thousands in places like Pibor.

Deadly clashes have also broken out between government troops and dissident rebel groups who have refused to join the power-sharing deal, which was signed in September 2018.

Insufficient funding for the agreement is further complicating efforts. Dozens of mostly opposition troops have starved to death in cantonment and training sites as they wait to join a new national army, while peace deal officials in Juba have been chased from hotels because the government isn’t paying their bills – $10 million is owed to nine hotels.

The New Humanitarian for more

China, Russia steal a vaccine diplomacy march

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021


A Serbian health worker shows vials of Russian Sputnik V (left) and Chinese Sinopharm vaccines in the Belgrade Fair premises, which have been turned into a vaccination center. PHOTO/AFP / Oliver Bunic

China-Russia collaboration is helping to get cheap and effective Covid-19 vaccines to the developing world

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an unprecedented mobilization of advanced biotechnology on a worldwide scale. By any measure, progress in developing, testing and deploying vaccines has proceeded with breathtaking speed.

Hardly more than a year after the pandemic started its lethal spread, scores of millions of people are being immunized using a variety of newly-developed vaccines with proven effectiveness against the Covid-19 virus. A technological and logistical basis now being laid will permit rapid responses to mutants as well as to future pandemic threats that may arise.

All is not well, however.

At present vaccination rates, it could take as long as seven years to reach levels of immunity sufficient to completely eliminate Covid-19’s spread. Production capacities are wholly inadequate to meet the demand, with the lion’s share of vaccines going to wealthy countries while developing countries face less certain fates.

Russia and China are rising to the rich versus poor challenge by supplying much-needed vaccines to nations that would otherwise be far down on the global list. While the US and EU remain preoccupied with their own Covid-19 problems, Russian and Chinese companies are forming partnerships with each other and countries around the world.

That “vaccine diplomacy” success, however, is already starting to raise concerns in the West.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, originally poo-pooed in the West as a mere publicity stunt by President Vladimir Putin, has not only proved to be one of the most effective vaccines – providing over 90% protection – but also is inexpensive and easy to use.

Unlike many of other Covid-19 vaccines, Sputnik V can be stored in ordinary refrigerators at between two and eight degrees centigrade. Together, a first and second (booster) dose cost a mere US$20.

Sputnik V is currently approved in 18 countries, with vaccinations underway in Bolivia, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Palestine, the UAE, Paraguay, Hungary, Armenia, Serbia, Venezuela and Iran.

Mexico plans to administer 7.4 million doses of Sputnik V by March, with at least 16 million doses to follow.

Asia Times for more

Roaming Charges: Welcome to the malarky factory

Monday, March 1st, 2021


Farm, Clatskanie, Oregon. PHOTO/Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Joe Biden is by no means a smooth politician, but over the course of five decades in office he has mastered the art of the political bait-and-switch, a sleight of hand which has come to define the operating profile of so many Democratic bosses in the age of neoliberalism.

+ This week Biden proclaimed that, as a president who wants to “avoid inflaming a closely divided Congress,” he plans to “tread lightly when it comes to using his executive power.” Biden seems very confident that his passivity won’t “inflame” any of the remaining progressives in a “closely divided Congress.” Biden’s been on or around Capitol Hill for 45 years and he hasn’t witnessed any uprising from the Congressional left yet. He must feel he’s on pretty safe ground.

+ Starting on his first day, Trump tried to implement as many of his campaign pledges as possible, starting with the craziest stuff (like the Muslim ban) first. He lies constantly, but was true to his politics, aberrant as it is. It’s why his base believes “he tells it like it is.” Biden also remains true to his politics but lies to his base about what his real politics is. It’s why he is already retreating from almost every campaign pledge, except having a racially & sexually diverse cabinet, which he hides behind as he defaults to his core neoliberalism.

+ One of the biggest failures of the #MeToo Movement is that the misogynistic Larry Summers, the Biden Whisperer, still has a national platform to spread his austerity propaganda with a smug grin, even as millions face having their heat shut off or being evicted from their homes…

“$2,000 checks would be a pretty serious mistake.”

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says larger stimulus checks to Americans could risk overheating the economy

— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) December 24, 2020

+ It appears Biden, following Summers’ advice, played a key backroom role in convincing the Democrats to settle for the $600 stimulus checks.

+ Can there be any question that the implementation of his brutish economic Summers has damaged the lives of many thousands more women than Epstein, Weinstein and the rest of the A-list sexual predators made to walk a perp line in the last four years?

+ $70 billion: the estimated amount of overdue rent in the USA.

+ Conrad’s Nostromo is one of those encyclopedic novels where you can pluck a quote for nearly every political situation. Here’s today’s: “They are paying you with words.”

+ Speaking of AOC, I’ve never been one of her most ardent admirers, but I’m somewhat mystified by the rabidity of the attacks on her from the Jimmy Dore (née Sputnik) Left, which seem nearly as hysterical (not to mention sexist) as those launched from the Alex Jones Right. AOC is what she is, a reformer trapped in a party impervious to reform. The only real power AOC and her cohorts have is to primary old-guard Democrats and they’ve notched an impressive number of wins. Evicting Elliot Engel from Congress was the most satisfying moment of the campaign year from my seat in the leftfield bleachers.  Dore never subjected his heroine Tulsi Gabbard’s record to this kind of excoriating critique, even as she fronted for Biden’s heinous foreign policy record.

Counterpunch for more