Wednesday, November 30, 2005

$100 million American propaganda project--faking news inside Iraq

"The Los Angeles Times is reporting the US military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish American-written articles favorable to the U.S. presence in Iraq. The Times reports articles written by U.S. military “information operations” are translated into Arabic and then placed in Iraqi newspapers with the help of Washington-based defense contractor the Lincoln Group. The articles are presented to an Iraqi audience as unbiased news accounts written by independent journalists.

"The Lincoln Group’s contract is worth up to $100 million dollars over five years. A senior Pentagon official commented : “Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we’re breaking all the first principles of democracy when we’re doing it.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Afrikan extermination day?

On the 18th World AIDS Day, 65 percent of global victims are Afrikans. Is there any hope?

In the 14th century, the bubonic plague wiped out 40 million people in Asia and Europe, reducing Europe’s population by a third. At the end of World War I, 25 million people around the world died of influenza. In each case, kings, popes, citizens and soldiers sobbed, screamed and prayed for cures while bodies fell like trees ravaged by a forest inferno.

(For the audio version, click the live CJSR link (Wed. 6 pm Mountain time) and THE TERRORDOME link (archive) on the left.)

Yet it was in the power of nobody alive to stop or even slow the onslaught of the epoch-shattering pandemics. But imagine, for instance, that Afrikan scientists at the University of Sankore in Mali had held cures to these plagues, but refused to share them because Europe was unable to provide sufficient gold in payment? How would history have judged Afrika for demanding such a ransom?

Today, 40.3 million people around the world have contracted HIV/AIDS—2.3 million of them children. 26 million of these “living dead”—almost 65 percent—are Afrikans. While donor governments make extravagant election promises of aid to block AIDS, pharmaceutical megacorporations demand monetary tribute beyond the reach of most victims at this hour of planetary crisis. December 1, the 18th World AIDS Day, might just as easily be renamed “Afrikan Extermination Day.”

Unless sufferers get a cure or treatment for the disease which has already killed 25 million people—3 million in this year alone—AIDS will eventually take more lives than did the bubonic plague. So says Peter Lamptey, president of the US-based Family Health International Aids Institute, in the British Medical Journal. It’s not difficult to deduce the colour of the majority who will die because of HIV—nor the colour of the reason: green. During the market devastation of 2001 while Forbes 500 companies were nose-diving, Big Drugs actually increased their profits 32 percent from $28 billion to $37 billion. Although HIV/AIDS should be regarded as a global emergency, for others, it’s a capitalistic pornographic fantasy—millions of customers literally dying to get their product.

Fortunately for Afrika and the world, not everyone researching HIV/AIDS is a humanoid vulture during what may become the hottest walk through the desert in history. Edmontonian Deanne Langois spent much of last year conducting research in the East Afrikan country of Uganda, which, despite poverty, homophobia, and taboos against discussing sex, is one of the few countries on humanity’s motherland to have taken effective action against the pandemic. “Uganda still has had incredible impacts from HIV,” says Langois, “but it certainly would have been worse had [the government of President Yoweri Museveni] not been so active [against] it.”

In addition to government-sponsored public awareness campaigns which plowed through taboos in the face mass death, citizens organised themselves, including into one group called the West Post-Test Club. “This was a group of post-test, most HIV-positive, some negative, members of the community,” says Langois, “who came together to do dramas and singing and went to markets and schools. I went to their inaugural opening, and it was incredible to see the work and the bravery that these people had to go out there, still fighting discrimination and stigma, but sticking out their necks to do it because they know it’s not going to get better if they don’t.”
While recognising that HIV/AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, Langois points out a deeper fact of injustice: “To me, it’s more a disease of poverty, because in developing countries, something as simple as a [non-HIV STD] that doesn’t get treated that causes lesions creates the absolute perfect site for HIV transmission [during sex]. Because of all this, and lack of nutrition, and lack education--you can’t understand or have access to the prevention messaging, and the lack of technology such as radio and TV means you can’t even hear the messages that come out--it’s no wonder that the epidemic took off like it did there.”

That massive suffering is immediately evident in the numbers. In Uganda’s population of 27.3 million people, infant mortality is 67,800 per million, compared to Canada’s 4800 per million for 32.8 million people. Ugandan life expectancy is 51.6 years compared to a Canadian’s 80.1 years. In 2003 in Uganda, 4.1% of the population or 530,000 people were infected, but in Canada, it was “only” 0.3% or 56,000 people.

Along with that of other researchers, Langois’s task was to evaluate how the use of traditional medicines affected the success of industrial medicine, specifically antiretroviral drugs. Langois, who holds an M.Sc. in Medical Sciences, has a B.Sc. in Physical Therapy and had worked in that field for 11 years. Through her Ugandan research, she wanted to draw links between suffering and the larger circumstances that produced that suffering. “The new wave that is coming is the number of HIV/AIDS orphans that have been left by this disease,” she says. “Right now we have about 12 millions such orphans in Afrika alone. We’re losing the adults in those communities—so it’s not just the loss of the parents, it’s the loss of the extended families, teachers, of care-givers. The question has to be asked, what happens to this up and coming generation? What will happen, not only in terms of HIV/AIDS but in terms of overall development as well?”

During her research, Langois was surprised to discover that, unlike what medical literature was emphasising, only about eight percent of people in Western Uganda were accessing traditional healers. Many of the remainder, however, were gathering their own herbs without the training or expertise that traditional healers—whatever their merits—would have. But her study demonstrated that almost 90 percent of Ugandans would prefer to be able to access industrial medicine and doctors trained in Western medicine. “They simply don’t have access to it,” says Langois. She’s not exaggerating. Compared to Canada’s rate of 2100 doctors per million people, Uganda has only 47 (less than half the pre-Structural Adjustment Policies rate during the 1970s). In a city the size of Edmonton, that would be about 48 doctors—and Edmonton doesn’t have the AIDS crisis of Uganda. “In our area,” says Langois, “we were in a municipality with a lot of drug shops. So it’s not accessibility in terms of, ‘Oh, I can’t physically reach the store,’ but ‘I just don’t have the money to buy the modern drugs. And when I have so many herbs growing in my back yard, I’m going to use them.

“The purpose of our study wasn’t to say that herbal medicine was bad or good,” continues Langois. “I think that there are probably a lot of good things and in some herbs they’re actually finding a lot of antiretroviral properties in them. The problem is that in some herbs is that you get toxins along with beneficial substances and you can’t break them out when you use them on your own. That said, some herbs may stand a chance at least of enhancing the effects of antiretrovirals or help work on some of their negative side effects.” Refusing to rule out the potential benefit of herbs in the war on AIDS, Langois was more concerned with finding out about herbal interactions, positive or negatives, with industrial medicines. The field is largely unstudied, so as yet, no one has any answers. Given the prevalence of herbal use across the continent and the World Health Organisation plan to put three million people on antiretrovirals by the end of this year—a target which will not be met, says Langois—the need for answers is great. Some substances such as concentrated garlic and St. John’s Wort, for instance, pose a threat, decreased the blood plasma concentration of two antiretroviral drugs, promoting resistance to the drug itself. Worse still, anyone who “achieves” resistance to a medicine, if he passes HIV to anyone else, will pass a resistant version of the lethal virus. Doctors in poor countries, lacking variety in antiretroviral drugs, will be unable to prescribe alternates for their resistant patients.

Despite the obstacles, Langois found herself profoundly moved by her experience in Uganda. “I think the biggest thing that I came home with,” she says, “[having] only seeing Afrikan culture portrayed on commercials or in donor drives, the message that came home with me was, ‘They’re no different than us.’ They love their kids, they love their families, they want to have a healthy and prosperous life to the same extent that we do. Death is not something unusual for them. They attend more funerals than any of us will ever attend in our lives. That said, life has to go on. They mourn the loss of those that they love and those that they know, but they have to move on quicker [than we do] because life is harsh, and if you don’t move on, you’re going to suffer even more. That said, the amount of community spirit, the amount of laughter, was absolutely incredible. We have a lot to learn from people in developing countries in the midst of this epidemic that are handling it with such incredible grace, I think, considering everything that’s going on—I don’t think that we could do that as well as they have. And I think it’s because they have dealt with so much disparity that unfortunately it is part of life and they have managed to move on with that.”

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Dragon in the Land of the Sickly Lion

I'm not under any illusion that the government of China--a government which abandoned any legitimate claim to socialism, which inherited a monstrous Maoist legacy of repression and mass murder, which currently oversees literally tens of millions of sweatshop workers, denies basic civil and human rights, employs the death penalty, occupies Tibet, represses religion, shot Tiananmien protestors, and helped via Zimbabwe to finance the Congo War--I'm not under any illusion that such a government can truly mean us any good now that it's setting its greedy eyes on our Motherland.

I am saying that a unipolar world controlled by the Empire gives us very few options, and that, in such dire circumstances, we have no choice but to play mah jong.

Monday, November 14, 2005

“Where’s the love for my Niger?”

Omayra Issa is like plenty of other average Canadians: when she was a child, her mother drove her to school; now that she’s 20, she’s studying Business at Faculté St. Jean; she loves her country and is fiercely proud of its people. But Omayra Issa isn’t your average Canadian, and she’s not from Canada at all.

She hails from what is literally the poorest country on planet Earth.

The West African state of Niger is in crisis. Last year in this country where desert possesses two-thirds of the land, severe drought and hordes of locusts afflicted 3.6 million people; food aid has arrived, but only after months of stomach-bloating, agonising hunger. While the UN warned the world a year ago, the world refused to listen. It took a BBC video report of skeletal children with anime eyes to drill wealth from our pockets, more in ten days following the report than in the previous eight months combined. Right now, the UN wants to end large-scale food aid, and Niger’s Prime Minister Hama Amadou agrees, describing the donations as “an affront to the country’s dignity.” He went further, saying, "We've seen how people exploit images to pledge aid that never arrives to those who really need it." Omayra Issa agrees.

“Prime Minister Amadou’s reaction was absolutely legitimate,” she says in an elegant French accent via telephone. “Every human being that witnesses another human being suffering feels bad; the [sufferer’s] dignity is affected. This is a country where you have a population that works extremely hard every day to better their destiny. Of course, it’s not flattering to see that those efforts are in vain.”

Issa won’t stand by allowing her homeland to suffer either hunger or indignity; instead, she volunteers with Students for International Development in hopes of improving life for the 2.4 million people of Niger (including 800,000 children) who desperately need relief from hunger. This Friday, SID is hosting a benefit concert featuring Isokan Afrika drummers and guitarist Kenya Condo with proceeds going to the Red Cross to provide relief in West African countries such as Niger, Mali and Senegal, and southern states such as Zimbabwe and Malawi.

If blame for Niger’s misery must be parceled out, some of those parcels must be airmailed overseas, while others must be sent to the capital city Niamey. Like many impoverished countries under the pressure of the International Monetary Fund, Niger has privatised its own health care system. That means that in the poorest country on the planet with one of the world's highest maternal death rates, a mother must scrape together $14US to get doctor to look at her baby. Result? Almost no children get seen by doctors. UNICEF has stepped up with food, but its “success” underscores the national defeat: 200,000 children have been “treated” in so-called nutritional recovery centres. Despite UNICEF’s intervention, according to the BBC’s Hilary Andersson, large numbers of young children are dying at such centres, and Medecins san frontières says that upwards of forty people a day are dying in just one area they analysed. Undeterred by Prime Minister Amadou’s concern that his country will become reliant on aid, MSF warns that the UN must not stop food delivery when almost one million people have not yet been fed.

How will these problems be overcome in the long-run, when the last the bags of grain have been delivered and the final vials of serum have been injected? “It is important,” says Issa, “that we have a political and economical elite that can be socially conscious. The fact that the international community had not responded at all to the human alarm that was pronounced from Niger and many other African countries [until the BBC report] is devastating in the 21st Century. Maybe that would be understandable five centuries ago, because we would say, ‘Oh, well, communication was not that good and the information will take two years to get to the people.’ But it is very disturbing that people do not respond to or will ignore what happens in other parts of the world.”

Issa and her family feel the pain of being so far from their homeland during a crisis of this magnitude. “It hurts a lot to witness this very dramatic situation at a long distance,” she says. “We left our country three years ago.... We just hope that the situation will get better.”

There is hope for Niger. While still high, cereal prices have been lowering into the range of affordability; fewer people are selling off their livestock and other possessions, suggesting greater stability and hope on the local level. And the UN Population Fund has provided about $50,000 for a reproductive services initiative with an additional $25,000 coming from Rotary International, all of which are bringing food, anti-malarial supplies and safe child-delivery services to people who need them desperately.

Issa hopes that the Friday fundraiser will also contribute to the solution. “We’re hoping that people will come to the concert and enjoy the music and the food,” she says, “but they will [also be able to say], ‘Hey! We do care about countries in Africa who are not living in the same conditions we are, and we want to make a difference in the world we live in.”

Tragedy in Niger: a Famine Foretold
"Imagine if your local fire department had to petition the mayor for money every time it needed water to douse a raging fire.... That's the predicament faced by humanitarian aid workers."

Food Supplies in Hunger-Stricken Niger Improve But Remain Insecure, UN Says
While the food supply in Niger is improving, with favourable rains portending good harvests next season, recent surveys by the United Nations spell continuing danger of a renewed hunger crisis in rural areas.

Niger women 'banned from grain stores'
Journalists who have visited Niger are reporting finding a strange phenomenon: villages in which women and children are going hungry, while there is still food in their households.

Niger's children continue dying
Were you to take a left or a right off the main road - the only tarred road in the region - and travel into the villages, you'd find one of the ugliest and saddest human plights on this continent. Few can afford the little food there is, and although the next harvest looks promising people are still starving to death. The terrible truth is that this is the world we in the West accept in this day and age, and we assuage our consciences by dipping into our pockets when it gets so bad we can no longer bear it.

UN Population Fund Sets Up Programme for Mothers in Drought-Stricken Niger
A new programme will help pregnant and nursing women in Niger, a drought-stricken, locust-ravaged West African country with one of the world's highest maternal death rates, with food and anti-malarial supplies, as well as safe child delivery services.

UN Population Fund Sets Up Programme for Mothers in Drought-Stricken Niger
A new programme will help pregnant and nursing women in Niger, a drought-stricken, locust-ravaged West African country with one of the world's highest maternal death rates, with food and anti-malarial supplies, as well as safe child delivery services....


Presented by Students for International Development for the Canadian Red Cross
Friday, November 18, 7 pm
Edmonoton, University of Alberta’s Convocation Hall, 11316-89 Ave
$7 students, $10 non-students

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tonight on THE TERRORDOME: Chuck D.

Tonight on the programme is the final episode of my Edmonton exclusive Millions More Movement coverage, and excerpts of my interview with Grandmaster Chuck D. of Public Enemy.

If you're in E-Town, tune in at on FM 88.5, and around the Afrikan planet you can listen to the show live by clicking to CJSR's streaming audio connection, and then select LISTEN LIVE. The show starts at 6 PM Mountain Time.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Is it just me...

...or has anyone else noticed just how damned good the announcer's voice on Edmonton's LRT is all of a sudden? Kot-tam.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nigeria... bloody Nigeria

Check out my interview with author J. Timothy Hunt (The Politics of Bones) about the Ogoni leader and brother to martyr Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dr. Owens Wiwa, in this week's issue of Vue Weekly.

And for further information on repression in Nigeria, see Oil Delta Still Subject to Brutal Repression From Security Forces.

Minister is back up, and The Terrordome Archive is bigger than ever!

Minister is back up, and The Terrordome Archive is bigger than ever! Yes, okay... my homepage, AKA Obsidian City, has been down a while due to numerous battles with supervillains and fragments of the Blue Comet which our team, the League of Angry Blackmen, had to track down in Uganda and Antarctica. But now it's back up, and sometime in the new year it will be updated with bucketsful of new content. And that means the email address should be working again.

But I'm far more excited because has recently updated The Terrordome Archive by placing something like 24 shows online for streaming and downloadable audio. So get listening! You can click on the permanent link to the left, also.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

COYOTE KINGS on Hard Knock Radio and The Dragon Page

Check out the Hard Knock Radio audio interview here. It was an enjoyable discussion. Thanks to Dalit sister Thenmozhi Soundararajan for the chance to drop science on the conscious tip (yes, I'm showing my age).

And also check out my conversation with the fun, terrific hosts of The Dragon Page here.

Wednesday night on THE TERRORDOME

For the last two weeks on The Terrordome, we’ve been listening to my Edmonton exclusive coverage of the Millions More Movement march in Washington DC on October 15, held in honour of the 10 year anniversary of the Million Man March and in order to press an new activist agenda.

I attended the 1995 march, the follow-up Million Family March in 2000 and the event of three Saturdays ago. Wednesday night at 6 pm we’ll hear from:

Susan Taylor, the Editorial Director of Essence Magazine
My brief interview with hip hop artist Wyclef Jean,
And part one of the keynote address by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Listen in Edmonton: CJSR FM 88.5
Listen around the world: 6 pm Mountain Time