Archive for the ‘in the news’ Category

In Haiti the 2010s opened with utter tragedy: last week on Tuesday January 12th 2010 at 21:53 GMT the strongest Caribbean earthquake in over 60 years struck Haiti. In the first six days 70,000 bodies were found and, unnamed, have been put into mass graves.

Up to 200,000 are feared dead.  That would make it the deadliest natural disaster the world has seen since the tsunami in 2004, which killed 230,000.

The earthquake, measuring 7.0, struck not far from the capital, Port-au-Prince. That is a bad quake, but in a richer, better built city only a few dozen would have died. Even so, the quake killed few outright: instead people have been dying of their injuries because the damage has kept help from reaching them in time.

It destroyed 80% of the buildings in the capital, among them the president’s palace, government buildings, the cathedral, the United Nations mission, the main prison, most of the hospitals, even the main one. The archbishop was killed, so was the head of the UN mission, but not the president and his wife. Surprisingly, those living in shanty towns were less affected: a tin roof falling on you is not as deadly as concrete.

It knocked out the seaport and blocked all the roads, though main roads in the capital are now clear.

The airport is still open but, with only one runway and a damaged air traffic control tower, it is slow going.

People are living in tents and cars: the buildings are no longer safe.

To give you an idea of the scale, at 70,000 dead it is already 15 times worse than 9/11 and Katrina put together.

It is so bad that it is beyond the power of even television to overstate. The smell of dead bodies is everywhere.

America is sending 10,000 troops and air dropping food and water. Many other countries are sending help too, but the damage means getting that help to people will be slow.

The Americans will probably find themselves keeping law and order as well: the government is not in control of the country and it is too much for the police. People are desperate for food and water. On top of all that, 3,000 have escaped from prison, among them infamous gang leaders.

Both France and America will stop sending Haitians back to Haiti for a time. Senegal has offered free land for Haitians who move there!

Haiti has had few earthquakes over the past 40 years. Too few: the fault line that it lies on was locked, the strain on it building to dangerous levels. It was ovedue for a big one of just this size.

Pat Robertson, an American television preacher, saw it differently:

Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and the people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. And they (Haitians) got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you get us free from the French.” True story. And so the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal!”

Postscript: The earthquake killed 159,000, making it the second deadliest natural disaster of the past 30 years and the worst earthquake on record in the Americas.

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Goldstone report

The Goldstone Report (2009) is the United Nations war crimes report on the war in Gaza last winter. Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge (pictured above) led the UN’s fact-finding mission to Gaza.  The report finds both sides guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, but Israel much more so.

The report does not “prove” that war crimes took place, merely that it seems so based on facts found. The report calls on both Israelis and Palestinians over the next six months to carry out their own independent investigations that meet international standards.

If they fail to do so, then the UN Security Council should hand the matter over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the The Hague. But most likely America will block that: it has veto power in the Security Council and turns a blind eye to Israel’s misdeeds.


  • Palestinians:
    • Fired rockets into southern Israel with little hope of ever hitting a military target, thereby spreading terror among civilians.
    • Hamas, the ruling party, used the war as cover to kill some  from the opposing party, Fatah.
  • Israelis:
    • Israel struck mosques, hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, water treatment plants and factories that had no military value. One mosque was struck while hundreds were there praying. If Israel’s true concern were weapons that may have been hidden there it would have struck the mosque in the middle of the night.
    • It struck a house after the Israeli army told Palestinians to stay there to be safe.
    • It used white phosphorus, which burns and kills people, in the middle of Gaza City.
    • Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians as human shields.

In war you are supposed to fight the enemy’s military and destroy things of military value, like bridges, roads, armies and weapons factories. Some civilians will get killed, but you are supposed to take reasonable measures against that.

Israel did not. It was not just carelessness either: it went after things like water treatment plants that were a threat to no one.

The Israelis called the report “one-sided” and unacceptable – months before it even came out! They would not help the UN one bit, which had to cross into Gaza from Egypt.

After the report came out Israel said it was “one-sided” (again), “inaccurate and flawed” and that it would derail the peace process (a lie: the Israeli government is hardly serious about peace). Sadly American Congressmen and even The Economist repeat the same words and excuses as the Israelis.

Hamas does not agree with everything in the report but accepts it. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a Fatah man, says he will not hold a vote on the report till March 2010. He is seen as giving in to the Americans. That has led to protests (pictured below). In Gaza there are posters of Abbas with a black X across his face at which people throw their shoes.


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darfur_aerialThe eighth and last stage of genocide is denying it ever took place. This allows the genocide to continue, either now or sometime in the future.

Here are the common ways to deny a genocide:

  1. “Don’t rock the boat” – Or the peace talks might break down. Or contracts for oil or arms might be cancelled. Or you will look weak if you call it genocide and do nothing. Just go with the flow.
  2. “We are helping these people!” – and show outsiders model camps. Like how the Nazis showed the Red Cross Theresienstadt but not Auschwitz or Dachau. See how nice we are!
  3. Make it about the numbers – if they say 50,000 were killed, you say it was 5,000. Get into that dispute.
  4. Make it about words – Oh, it is just “ethnic cleansing”. Oh, it is not about race but land rights and that is not genocide. And so on. Overlooking the fact that if people only of a particular race are dying then it is about race no matter what anyone says or wants to believe. Because that kind of thing is not an “accident”.
  5. Make it about the accusers – question their motives. Overlooking the fact that they are telling the truth.
  6. Blame history – say this kind of stuff goes on all the time. Overlooking the fact that genocide is rare, despite what racists like to believe.
  7. Blame bad luck – blame it on disease, lack of food, lack of Western aid, etc. Overlooking the fact, say, that these people were driven off their land or moved to a place that cannot support their numbers. A trick favoured by Sudan and America.
  8. Blame out-of-control forces – after all genocides are often started  by paramilitary forces that seem to be acting on their own. Overlooking the fact that many of these same forces are secretly supported by the government. If the government is not seriously fighting the force in question, it is receiving its blessing.
  9. Blame the victim – say the victims started a civil war. Overlooking the fact that there is no military reason  for the mass killing of women and children.
  10. Dehumanize the victim – “They’re Africans. They do these sorts of things to each other.” They are not like us. Their lives do not matter. Why do you care? Overlooking the fact that everyone’s life matters, not just those who are like us or live nearby.
  11. Peace matters more than justice – Let us forget the past and just move on to give peace a chance. Overlooking the fact that a lasting peace can only be built on justice, otherwise there could be another round of genocide.

Genocide is rare. It is not “natural” – except to a racist. Tens of thousands of women and children of a particular race, religion or ethnicity do not just up and die by “accident”, not even in war. It is done on purpose, thought out in advance by sick minds. Who tell themselves these lies.

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Mitrice Richardson (c. 1985- ),  a 24-year-old secretary from South Los Angeles, has been missing for two weeks.

  • Height; 5 foot 5 (1.65 m)
  • Weight: 135 lbs (59 kg)
  • Tattoos: on the back of her neck and lower abdomen
  • Wearing: a black top and blue jeans
  • Last seen: at 1:25 am on Thursday September 17th 2009 leaving the Malibu/Lost Hills police station in Calabasas, California.
  • Reward: $10,000.

If you see her call the Los Angeles police. But please call her mother or father too because the police have been bad at following up on this:

  • Her mother, Latice Sutton, at (909) 282-9134
  • Her father, Michael Richardson, at (310) 283-4717

mitrice-richardson450Unlike most missing black women, Richardson has made the news nationwide: both NBC and CNN have carried the story. But apart from her race she is like most of their missing persons: young, female, middle-class and pretty.

Her mother says she is manic-depressive (bipolar) and that on the night she disappeared she was in the manic stage, meaning she was not quite in her right mind. Signs of that:

  1. That afternoon she sent “erratic” text messages to her friends;
  2. She went to a very nice restaurant (Geoffrey’s Malibu) looking like the second picture (the police photo from that night), having her 1990 Honda Civic parked by a valet;
  3. According to workers at the restaurant she said she was from Mars and was there to avenge the death of Michael Jackson. She started talking in a made-up language (but that was after she was caught short on money and could not pay the $89.21 bill);
  4. She walked out into the night from the police station (after being arrested for failing to pay her bill) with no money, no car, no mobile phone and not even her ID. No buses run there in the middle of the night and the nearest shops were 20 minutes away on foot. (They kept her car because they found some marijuana in it.)

Her mother called the police station and said she would pick her up. She was led to believe they would hold her overnight till the morning. They did not (they later lied and said they did not have room). They did not even tell Richardson that her mother was coming.

Her father on seeing the police photo:

She looked like a demon had come inside her. That was not my daughter. It ran chills up my spine. I’ve never seen my daughter look like that.

And in that state they let her walk out into the night with nothing.

Five hours after she left a man called and said a woman was sleeping on his porch. She fit the description. The police took three hours to show up. By then the woman was gone.

The police have searched for her, but they have not followed up on all leads: at least one woman who reported seeing her was not called back.

Some of the roads nearby are very dangerous for walking as they go through canyon country – the kind that twist and turn and have a huge drop on one side.

Postscript: Her skeletal remains were found in Malibu Canyon on August 9th 2010, nearly a year after she disappeared. More at CNN.

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Lou Jing (娄婧)


Lou Jing (1988- ), or 娄婧, is a Chinese student from Shanghai who took part in the television talent show, “Let’s Go! Oriental Angel”, in 2009. Even though she lost she became famous in China because of the Internet firestorm she caused, bringing to light how racist China still is (old news to Tibetans and Uighurs). As Hung Huang put it:

In the same year that Americans welcome Obama to the White House, we can’t even accept this girl with a different skin colour.

One night during the show they brought out the families of the contestants. There on live television her mother told China that she had an affair with a black man who returned to America not knowing she was going to have his baby. Then her Chinese husband left her after he saw that the baby was black! She had to bring up Lou Jing on her own.

Pretty strong stuff for Chinese television. Most of the comments that I have seen are directed at the mother, calling her shameless for speaking openly about her affair. The father is stereotyped as a black buck.

Women who have children with foreigners are seen as race traitors. And yet Eurasians, those who are half Chinese and half white, are stereotyped as having more beauty and brains than most. Eurasians are common in fashion, entertainment and advertising.

For those who are half black it is not quite like that. It will be hard, for instance, for Lou Jing to get married. It is unclear whether her skin colour will stand in the way of achieving her dream of becoming a television host. Dark skin is looked down on. Chinese women buy skin creams to lighten their skin.

When Lou Jing was little her skin colour was not a big deal. But as she got older and went out in public more, people would ask her about it, mostly just curious. Others, though, were less kind, calling her names.

But then she went on the show and it got way worse.

The hosts of the show called her “Our Chocolate Girl” and “Black Pearl”, which might be innocent. But people on the Internet left no doubt what they thought, calling her things like “Black Chimpanzee”.

They were saying she was not truly Chinese – even though she was born in China, has lived in China all her life, speaks perfect Shanghai Chinese (to the surprise of many) and can sing Shanghai opera better than most.

Because she looks black American or black African to the Chinese, many believe she is not truly Chinese.

Time magazine would have you believe that is because China is backwards, unlike America. As if Asian Americans do not face the very same perpetual foreigner stereotype in America. Even blacks are not seen as truly American, not like how white people are – just think about Katrina and the Birthers.

Lou Jing:

After participating in this competition, I finally found out, the world is not like what I thought it was.

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The opposition against President Obama is not like what we saw against Clinton and Bush. It comes from a darker, more dangerous place. It expresses itself in a more troubling form.

People disagreed with Bush and Clinton. They questioned their character and intelligence. The Republicans even tried to bring down Clinton by impeaching him. But through it all they continued to respect the office of the presidency – even if they did not like the man holding that office. That is how Americans have been. Not so with Obama. A line is being crossed.


That line was crossed when Congressman Joe Wilson said “You lie!” in the middle of speech by the president to the country, openly disrespecting him.


That line was crossed when Sean Delonas of the New York Post drew a cartoon showing the president being shot dead (as a chimp).

Before Obama no one has doubted the president’s right to be the president, not in living memory.

Bush in 2000 lost the popular vote, winning only through a questionable vote count in a state where his brother was governor.  Yet there was no movement that continued to question his right to hold his office.

Reagan in 1980 won by less than Obama, destroyed the power of the labour unions and pushed through much more extreme policies than Obama’s. Yet you did not hear about people “taking their country back”.

Further, none of these men had their Americanness questioned. None were required to show their hospital birth record because suddenly the one from their state of birth would not do.

The only thing that makes sense of all this is that some have a hard time accepting a black man as president. So they question his right to be president or act towards him like he is not the president.

If so then it is coming from a dark and dangerous place in the American soul, a place of whips and chains and hangings. Dangerous because no one knows how it will end. It could do more than simply take down a president, it could divide the country to a dangerous degree. Already it seems like racism is becoming much more open and naked than it was even six months ago.

Unlike a president’s sex life or bad English, race is one of the few things that can tear the country apart.

lewinskydressThe Republicans hammered Clinton. Even in 1996, two years before Monica Lewinsky and her blue dress, it seemed like Clinton might not make it through another four years. It seemed like sooner or later the Republicans would find something that would stick.

Yet the worse it was ever going to do was to bring down Clinton. It was not going to shape the nature of the country. Its damage would be limited.

If Republican opposition to Obama was based mainly on stuff like ACORN and Tony Rezko, then it would be like what they did to Clinton. But it is not. This is something different.


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Jimmy Carter, a good man who was a bad American president, said this the other day:

Carter: I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African American. … racism still exists and I think it’s bubbled up to the surface, because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South, but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.

Obama disagrees. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said this:

Gibbs on behalf of Obama: The president does not believe that that criticism comes based on the color of his skin. We understand that people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we’ve made and some of the extraordinary actions that had to be undertaken by both this administration and previous administrations to stabilize our financial system, to ensure viability of our domestic auto industry.

Carter is right, though his timing might not be the best. Carter tends to do what he thinks is right, the consequences be damned. So, for example, he pushed for human rights in Iran under the Shah even though it led to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini. Carter acts morally without thinking ahead.

Obama, on the other hand, goes along to get along. To a sickening degree: He agrees with right-wing talking heads that racism has nothing to do with it. Nothing. It was his policies for saving the banks and the car companies.

He cannot possibly believe that.

Yet, I wonder: Is Carter doing Obama’s bidding? Obama, after all, could never say what Carter said. It needed to be said and said by a white man, one whose opinions would be reported and not be dismissed out of hand.

Obama cannot “cry racism” himself. It would put him in an extremely weak position. And it would not even work: white people have built-in defences against that stuff. It is how they live with themselves.

Yet the racist right is not going to go away. Yesterday it was about his hospital birth record, today it is about health care reform and a sudden, overdone concern for state socialism, tomorrow it will be something else. None of it has the ring of mere policy disagreements. It is too angry and too unreasoned. Because the true issue is not his policy but his race.

The country is at that point in its history where it is liberal enough to elect a black man as president but still too racist for many to accept him as their true president. The nearest comparison I can think of is King James II, a Catholic king of a Protestant England. He was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Like Reagan and the labour unions, Obama needs to force a showdown with the racist right. That is how Martin Luther King dealt with them. We call it Selma.

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