Workers’ or Labour Day (May 1st) affected the issues of this week’s article as people’s fights today, even if they fail to bear the determination and self-sacrifice of older (equally difficult) times, are extremely important. The whole world though, seems smoldering but doesn’t explode to give birth to radical changes.
So, read this week about limited and restricted or wider and universal people’s fights which have taken place. Also find at the end of the piece about May Day, a bonus:
Listen to a magnificent Greek song dedicated to tragic historic events which took place in May 1st. It is composed by legendary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, lyrics of the late great Greek poet Giannis Ritsos and sung beautifully by the late Grigoris Bithikotsis.
Workers’ Day May 1st – Labour Day
Honored and celebrated all around the world, May 1st marches have not all ended peacefully. In Turkey, the day has been stained by police violence against labor unions’ groups. According to Today’s Zaman, “Istanbul went into a security lockdown on May 1st as thousands of police manned barricades and closed streets to stop May Day rallies at Taksim Square, a symbolic point for protests.” When groups of protesters tried to pass, the police intervened with tear gases and attacked with water cannons. Today’s Zaman also reports: “Labor and Solidarity Day was marked with tension over a government-imposed ban on May 1 demonstrations in Taksim Square in central Istanbul and the detentions of hundreds of demonstrations in the city, while May 1 celebrations passed relatively peacefully in other provinces across Turkey.” And adds that: “A deputy police chief swore at a journalist and then punched him during a demonstration held by members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to mark May 1 Labor and Solidarity Day in Aksaray province”.
On April 30th, after riots in Baltimore, which followed Freddie Gray’s death a week after he had been arrest by the police and peaked after his funeral on April 27, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that several officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray will face homicide charges.
Freddie Gray has been the last of a series of victims of lethal force used by police officers. His death followed these of Michael Brown in Ferguson, of Eric Garner in New York and of Walter Scott in South Carolina.
According to a study of The Bureau of Justice Statictics (BJS) of the Justice Department released in November, at least 4,813 people had died either during their arrest or while in custody of police between 2003 and 2009.
“Of these, 61 percent were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel, in other words, directly attributed to the actions of police officers.
Moreover, despite comprising just over 30 percent of the total population, 52 percent of the victims of arrest-related deaths were identified as either black or ‘Hispanic’” , reveals teleSUR.
Gray’s death reignited protests in Ferguson as well as in other American cities and fueled the movements, the protests and a huge amount of press releases all around the world against race and class discriminations which have become more and more obvious and widespread while race and class inequalities increase.
It has been more than three years now that killings of black citizens have (or should have) raised warning.
In the first three months of 2012, in the same period when Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by citizen George Zimmermann, 29 black people had been killed, according to a research and record published in Hip-Hop and Politics in April 2012.
Inequalities of income and opportunities combined with the omni present and ever lasting racism, in US and elsewhere, form an explosive combination of criminality, rage, extreme and unnecessary police violence/brutality, which plague societies.
The new victim of another row of killings has been the Pakistani human rights activist Sabeen Mehmud, who was shot dead in Karatchi on April 24, as she drove home with her mother, who was also attacked. According to BBC, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has led condemnation of the killing of leading human rights activist Sabeen Mehmud and ordered an immediate investigation.
No group has yet said it carried out the killing; the campaigner been subject to death threats before. Her killing came hours after she hosted a talk on the Pakistani army’s alleged involvement in the torture and killing of political activists in restive Balochistan province.
“It’s an incident of targeted killing,” said Dr Jamil Ahmed, the Karachi-South Deputy Inspector General of Police, who said it was too early to establish a motive, Dawn newspaper reported.
On April 30, “a complete shutter-down strike was observed in the Baloch dominated areas of Balochistan against Mehmud’s killing.
The call for strike was given by the Baloch Warna Movement condemning the killing of Sabeen Mehmud. All shops, markets and business establishments remained closed while traffic plying on roads was also thin as compared to normal days.
The strike was observed in Kech, Dhadar, Gwadar, Kharan, Kalat, Panjgur, Awaran, Khuzdar and many others districts of the province. In order to avert any untoward incident local administration had taken strict security measures; however no unpleasant incident was reported from any part of the Baloch areas during the strike.
It is pertinent to mention here that unknown persons gunned down Sabeen Mehmud in Karachi a few days ago”, reported Daily Times of Pakistan.
Women’s rights and position in society seem to have improved only slightly and only in a limited number of countries.
Furthermore, the wave of backwardness, even in western societies, and the spreading fanaticism’s first victims are women. When Pope Francis feels like calling for equal pay for women, saying that it is “pure scandal” that many of them earn less than men for doing the same jobs, two possible messages could be extracted.
Apart from implying that a feature which differentiates Christianity from other religions is its pro-equality views […], the papal call shows that states should take measures against perpetuating inequalities and the increasing tough position of women in societies.
On another “front” of women’s rights, “Nigerian authorities said on April 28, army forces managed to rescue 200 girls and 93 women from a Boko Haram stronghold”, reported teleSUR.
The rescue came a year after their abduction, as TWTP recorded in Week in Brief #1 and met the demands and pressure from all around the world.
Worth mentioning that the April 29 was the (only) 70th anniversary after the French women gained their right to vote. (women’s suffrage).
Thousands of Yemenis protested on April 27 against Saudi Arabia’s ongoing bombing campaign against the war-torn country.
“As the Saudi-led coalition continues its offensive in Yemen, thousands in Sanaa took to the streets in protest against indiscriminate shelling that has claimed civilian lives. Meanwhile the Russia-called UNSC session failed to produce any results. Frustration, fury and raw anger prompted thousands of Yemenis to flood the streets of the Yemeni capital following another wave of Friday morning Saudi-led airstrikes. People were protesting against Saudi intervention in Yemen and the Saudi-led air campaign that has seen hundreds killed and thousands injured since the offensive began in late March”, reports RT, which also publishes video of the protesting crowds.
On the same issue, teleSUR notes: “The United Nations’ humanitarian organization OCHA warned the number of Yemenis displaced by fighting has doubled in the past three weeks. Close to 300,000 Yemenis have now been forced to flee their homes – up from the OCHA’s previous estimate of 150,000 on April 17.
The U.N. recently reported the civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes had risen to 551, including hundreds of children.
The Saudi-led airstrikes themselves have killed around 1000 people, according to Yemen’s health ministry. Marie Claire Feghali, International Committee of the Red Cross described the humanitarian situation as a “catastrophe” and cites one protester’s statement to Australia’s SBS Radio: “We’re here to show the Saudis and the aggressors that we are still alive, and we’ll continue to stay alive.”
The volume of publications about this week’s issues turned the article to not-so-brief but instead, and hopefully, comprehensive.
(On the last minute’s (bad) news about Nepal, new updates will be posted as soon as they come. You will also find ways to help people of Nepal**.)
– Updated April 27 – 11:39 GMT
Earthquake in Nepal
On April 25 (Saturday before noon), an earthquake with magnitutde of 7.9 hit Nepal, near its capital, Katmandu.
New York Times report that: “A spokesperson for Nepal’s home ministry, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, said the preliminary death toll stood at 356, and that thousands of people had been injured. Trekkers reported a major avalanche on Mount Everest, with some teams reported missing. In addition, 13 deaths had been reported in India by midafternoon”.
Later reporting of The Wall Street Journal, citing a spokesman of the police, raises the number of dead to 449* and specifies magnitude to 7.8.
WSJ also mentions that there are fears that people are trapped inside debris of buildings and also that accorging to witnessess, a large avalanche has destryed camps of trekkers and adventurer’s.
“I have been in earthquakes before, but this was the mother of all earthquakes,” said Prithivi Pande, a 60-year-old banker in Katmandu. “It went on and on and on. Everything was falling off the walls.”
The same reporting informs: “In neighboring India, at least 18 people died in the northern state of Bihar, which borders Nepal, and 62 others were injured, according to Alok Raj, a senior police officer in the state” and also, “ In Katmandu, Suraj Vaidya, a Nepalese businessman, said he saw the historic nine-story Dharahara tower in the center of Katmandu collapse to the ground”.
Unfortunately, nature hit Nepal; a poor country which has faced a recent wave of political turmoil amid debate over a new constitution and is struggling to restore political and economic stability.
Mediterranean Sea has become the grave of more that 1,700 men, women and children refugees since the beginning to 2015 according to Amnesty International. The desperate victims of the western-ignited wars risk and many of them lose their lives.
After Libya was destroyed by USA, not only the infrastructures and the refuge camps of the country cannot hospitalize asylum seekers fleeing wars in Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan as it was the norm during Gaddafi administration, but also Libyan people too, try to pass to Europe in boats.
Greece, Italy and Malta are the countries which accept the highest proportion of the people trying to enter Europe searching to live a safe life.
This year, 36,000 survivors reached the three countries and none of them has the means and cannot afford to keep all these people.
“Only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe are to be offered to refugees under the emergency summit crisis package to be agreed by EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday [April 23rd]”, according to The Guardian’s information and a leaked confidential draft statement. The majority of them will be sent back (where?) as irregular migrants.
The UN Refugee Agency “joined other organizations in a call on European leaders to put human life, rights and dignity first today when agreeing upon a common response to the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean”.
UNHCR praise the European Union (EU) which “was founded on fundamental principles of humanity, solidarity and respect for human rights”.
The statement says: “We urge EU Member States to demonstrate moral and political leadership in adopting a holistic and forward-looking action plan centred upon these values.”
EU has an-anything-but honorary involvement in the destruction of Syria and Libya but also in Afghanistan and Iraq. The “literary” separation of people into migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and the try to waive responsibility are the opposite of European humanism of (very) older times.
“The reputation of Europe is at stake,” said Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “I have been saying for weeks and months that Europe has to do more, now unfortunately the reality has hit us in the face”, reports Reuters
The diplomatic conflict between Spain and Venezuela hardens with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, recalling Spanish ambassador in Venezuela on April 22nd.
The series of events started when the conservative leader of Popular Party, Rajoy, taking the role of US spokesman last October intervened in Venezuela’s internal affairs concerning detainment and trial of extreme right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and for a second time last March, when he condemned the arrest of Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma.
After Rajoy’s first comments, Venezuela recalled its ambassador to Spain and called him to respect Venezuela in the same way Venezuela respects Spanish people.
Lopez was arrested after his involvement in a wave of violence in Venezuela that sought to destabilise the government of President Nicolas Maduro, and that left 43 dead and over 1000 injured, reported teleSUR. Ledezma was arrested on February for having a role in Blue Coup, a plot of the US to overthrow Venezuelan government.
Mr Rajoy, who is aware and concerned of the rise of Podemos inside his country, seems to choose blind conservatism.
His right government has opposed “Podemos friendly” Syriza government and maintains a very tough stance against Greece during negotiations with EU.
Would he let go unpunished any attempt to violently or by coup overturn his government?
However, according to teleSUR, tension seemed to normalize after both sides made conciliatory statements. In a televised speech Nicolas Maduro said: “Yesterday (Friday), the Spanish government issued a statement expressing its willingness to maintain positive relations with our government; and I welcome positive relations but they must be based on mutual respect”. Maduro added that his government is willing to cooperate in any efforts to improve diplomatic relations but emphasized that Venezuelan sovereignty must be respected. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia on Sunday, expressed his country’s “happiness” and added that “with all probability, the ambassador to Venezuela will return to Caracas in the following hours.”
Wikileaks-Sony and the Postponed War
The story of the uncovering of Sony Hack by Wikileaks is a topic that came to light on April 16th (see Press Release here).
The aftermath though is a new reality which clearly shows that propaganda is the strong card of American intelligence and administration, Media and even Hollywood.
The released documents uncover the connection between two scandals, these of the University of North Carolina (UNC) and of Sony hacking.
“The University of North Carolina academic scandal involving athletes in “paper classes” consumed sports media and prompted action by university administrators nationwide.
The Sony Pictures email hacking scandal shook the entertainment industry and prompted large corporations to reassess their network securities. Not surprisingly, WikiLeaks has uncovered the intersection of the two. A quick search of “UNC” on the site where WikiLeaks has published some of those hacked emails reveals that reporters and high-level Sony execs were very interested in the goings on in Chapel Hill”, reports wralsportsfun.com.
And The Wrap notes: “The data, which has been indexed as a fully searchable archive on WikiLeaks, was sourced from the devastating cyber attack on the studio in November 2014.
The site’s founder Julian Assange qualified the publication of the material as showing “the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the center of a geo-political conflict… It belongs in the public domain.”
Someone should warn Mr Kim Jong Un: The next casus belli won’t take long to be invented.
The pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline ordered a recall of its 4 in 1 vaccine against certain types of flu named Flulaval.
GSK stated that “the vaccine might cause more harm than good because it is not good enough to protect someone from the current flu strains present in the US”. Because Flulaval is ineffective, the remaining 1.7 million doses are being recalled while GSK conducts testing on the product to prove efficiency.
The recall, although for the benefit of public health, will possibly contribute to the increase of widespread skepticism and opposition to vaccination, worldwide.
According to reporting of Guardian on April 21st: “A major study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the world’s leading medical journals has concluded that there is no link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination and autism in children”.
The study disproves the research of 1998 of Andrew Wakefield that there is a link between MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease, but “the belief that autism and vaccinations are linked continues to cause many parents to decide against having their children immunised”, according to Guardian.
Though it is rather common for citizens of other countries in Africa or Asia to oppose vaccination -with good reasons-, there is also a strong anti-vaccination movement (AVM) which attributes to vaccination diseases (as above) in Western countries, mostly among conservatives or because of religious beliefs.
“Some American families who fear vaccines may cause autism, and others who don’t trust the federal government are choosing not to vaccinate. In some places diseases once thought to be conquered are making a comeback”, comments USA Today which also reports: “Recent measles outbreaks in New York, California and Texas are examples of what could happen on a larger scale if vaccination rates dropped, says Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s director of immunizations and respiratory diseases.”
In Australia, where the vaccine-deniers risked to be exempted of health services, “on 19th April, Social services minister Scott Morrison announced the exemption the religious group that calls itself Christian Scientists ‘is no longer current or necessary and will therefore be removed’. Children of members of the religious organisation enjoyed exemptions from being vaccinated from 1998. ‘Having resolved this outstanding matter, the government will not be receiving nor authorising any further vaccination exemption applications from religious organisations,’ Morrison added”, reports the australian edition of International Business Times.
The distrust to big pharmaceuticals is based on facts and of many past “accidents” either from vaccines or from other drugs. The phantom of thalidomide and the near 60 year-old drama of its victims won’t stop to haunt big-pharma.
On April 22nd, Chilean volcano Calbuco erupted. Calbuco woke up after more than 40 years and Chile declared state of emergency.
“The Calbuco volcano is located 900 kilometers south of Chile’s capital Santiago, and is also 600 kilometers away from Argentine Nequen province.
Authorities expect the ashes from the eruption to reach Argentina.
Another volcano in Chile is also in eruptive phase, the Villarica volcano, which is located close to Cabulco”, informs teleSUR.
“The first eruption on Wednesday sent a thick plume of ash and smoke several kilometres into the sky and more than 5,000 people were evacuated from the sparsely populated area about 1,000km south of the capital Santiago and near the tourist town of Puerto Varas. Wednesday’s eruptions also triggered flight cancellations in Chile and Argentina while in Chile, flights are not taking off to as far north as Concepcion, 630km from the volcano, as northeasterly winds blow ash in the direction of the capital, forcing thousands of people to remain stuck in the airports”, reports Al Jazeera.
“While the Calbuco eruption was the largest in recent memory, scientists suspect it will not have a detectable impact on climate”, according to The Washington Post, unlike when “200 years ago this month, a much larger volcanic eruption rocked the globe, and left the Earth with a Year Without a Summer”.
Chile is one of the volcanic countries of South and Central America, together with Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Colombia and Argentina.
In June 2011 a chain of volcanoes of the country, Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle, erupted causing earthquakes and rising smoke and volcanic ashes, which reached neighboring Argentina. Back then, the officials had issued red alert and about 3,500 people had been displaced.
One year earlier, in May 2010, “two explosive eruptions shook two huge volcanoes, Guatemala’s Pacaya and Ecuador’s Tungurahua, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over major cities”, reported CBSNews.
Calbuco last erupted in 1972 and is considered one of the top three most potentially dangerous among Chile’s 90 active volcanoes, according to the AP news agency.
Chile, on the Pacific “Rim of Fire”, has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia, including around 500 that are potentially active.
In March, volcano Villarrica, also in southern Chile, erupted in spectacular fashion, sending a plume of ash and lava high into the sky, but quickly subsided.
Though on TV or in photos, a volcanic eruption looks spectacular, it is certainly a frightening and dangerous natural phenomenon.
“It sounded like a big tractor trailer passing by the road, rattling and shaking, guttural rumbling … we left everything there, grabbed my kid, my dog, got in the car with my wife,” said Moffat, who was driving to nearby Puerto Varas at the time, to Reuters.
An “unrepresentative” for the country’s history phenomenon has emerged in South Africa.
A wave of xenophobic attacks in the country of historic fighter against apartheid and leader Nelson Mandela has spread fear among migrant workers and foreigners who keep business.
The violent attacks are attributed to Zulu nationalists but “South Africa’s Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, insisted he was not behind a wave of violence against migrant workers he had compared a month before to head lice”, notes Reuters and continues: “His words had been twisted by the media, he said. If he had really given the order for his legions of followers to attack, ‘this country would be ashes’. [!]
Remarks like those, with the direct threat of violence, have alarmed politicians and activists in South Africa, who say they amount to an open challenge to the post-apartheid order and its elected leadership, from the traditional head of its biggest ethnic group, the 10 million strong Zulu nation”.
Ironically, President Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, last week also came out in full support of King Zwelithini’s controversial statement.
President Jacob Zuma, whose party ANC won by 62,2% of votes in May 2014 elections, said addressing to the parliament that the police are working round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens and to arrest looters and those committing acts of violence.
Since the provocative remarks of Zwelithini on March 20, the results of the attacks are at least seven killed people, destructions of shops, open attacks to foreigners and the international community’s outcry.
“The Philippines on Wednesday, April 22, denounced the wave of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa as the Southeast Asian country advised its estimated 3,000 nationals there to keep themselves safe”, reports Rappler.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement: “The Philippines condemns the wave of violence aimed at foreign workers, and joins the South African government and the international community in denouncing the aggression directed against foreigners during these 3 weeks of unrest”. NSNBC reports that neighbouring’s Mozambique Deputy Health Minister Mouzinho Saide, “informed the press on April 21st, that the recent violence against migrant workers and other foreigners in South Africa caused some 1,500 Mozambican migrant workers to flee. Saide added that 107 of the Mozambicans returned from Durban in buses which had been made available to them by the government”.
Nsnbc also notes: “Most South African, Mozambican and international media as well as politicians would tout the violence as ‘xenophobic’” and adds that: “The underlying causes are, however, by some analysts considered to be closely related to the South African ANC government’s failure to negotiate appropriate wages for both South African and for migrant workers with South African trade unions”.
The same website concludes: “Arguably, decent wages rather than neo-liberalism, lethal violence against striking workers and a race to the bottom under BRICS cover would be a better remedy for the situation than Jacob Zuma’s call for a day of prayers against the violence”.
Violence against foreigners and xenophobia are against the mentality of Rainbow Nation’s hardly acquired liberties.
And as Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said in parliament according to spyghana.com: “In 1994, (late) President Mandela made a commitment that never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience oppression of one by another”.
By this article, we introduce a new category, which will present in brief, seven interesting events of the week, though not necessarily the most debated.
Pope Francisangered Turkey for a second time after June 2013, when he publicly called the mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians, 100 years ago a genocide. Turkey, which does not recognize the Armenian massacre, summoned Vatican’s ambassador. A few days later, on April 15th, European Parliament voted for the official recognition of the genocide. The European decision prompted a furious response from Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Such decisions are nothing but expressions of enmity against Turkey by abusing Armenians,” he said while on a visit to Kazakhstan. “Come on, let’s leave history to historians.” Earlier he had made an implicit threat to deport Armenian citizens, many of whom work in Turkey, writes The Telegraph.
On April 12th,Hillary Clinton formally announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in the 2016 election on April 12, 2015. Though this is not a surprise, she remains a controversial politician who during her term as Secretary of State and afterwards, has kept balancing on the edge of conservatism. Many of her views and practices match to these of a republican rather that a democrat.
Eduardo Galleano the Uruguayan author and journalist, died on April 13th of lung cancer at age 74 in Montevideo, Uruguay. He is the writer of 35 books and is considered to be one of the most notable authors of Latin American literature. His death is a severe loss of the global intellectual world.
One year before, on April 14th 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram abducted 276 teenage girls from their school hostel in Chibok, Borno State, in Nigeria. The majority remain captive, their whereabouts unknown. The global public opinion and the movement #BringBackOurGirls demands action. The families still mourn their children.
Mario Draghi, the President of European Central Bank, was “attacked” with confetti by Josephine Witt, the 21-year-old protester and activist, during a press conference which turned interesting thanks to Josephine. Photos of frightened/surprised Draghi and “super-Josephine”, have made rounds all over the web after the event on April 15th. A rather awkward moment for mighty president.
One more video was released by ISIS on April 12th showing the attack and the destroy of the monuments at Nimrud an archeological site of Iraq by ISIS terrorists. Islamic State militants used bulldozers and explosives. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on April 14th that the action constitutes a war crime.