Saturday, 8 June 2013

Nelson Mandela admitted to hospital in 'serious condition'


Nelson Mandela in June 2010 Nelson Mandela's health has been a cause of concern for some time
Former President Nelson Mandela has been admitted to hospital in South Africa with a lung infection.
A presidential spokesman said he is in a "serious but stable condition", although he was able to breathe on his own - a "positive sign".
Mr Mandela, 94, has been ill for some days but deteriorated overnight and was transferred to a hospital in Pretoria.
He led the fight against apartheid and is regarded as the father of democratic South Africa.

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As long as he is still alive... we still have hope. South Africa is nothing without him”
Mamoshomo Tswai Trader, Pretoria
He has recently suffered a series of health problems and this is his fifth visit to hospital in two years.
In April he was released from hospital after a 10-day stay caused by pneumonia.
His illness was described on Saturday as a recurrence of a lung infection, which has troubled him repeatedly.
The South African presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj gave an update on Mr Mandela's condition
Mr Mandela was taken to hospital, from his home in a suburb of Johannesburg, at about 01:30 local time (23:30 GMT Friday).
Mac Maharaj, South Africa's presidential spokesman, told the BBC he was receiving expert medical care.
Doctors were doing everything possible to make him comfortable and better, he added.
"What I am told by doctors is that he is breathing on his own and I think that is a positive sign," he said.
Mr Mandela's wife Graca Machel had been at his bedside since the early hours of the morning, Sapa news agency quoted the presidential spokesman as saying.
She cancelled a scheduled appearance at a meeting in London.
"Naturally the immediate members of the family have access to him and it's always good for the patient that he has been accompanied by one or other of them, and that has happened," Mr Maharaj told the BBC.
'Symbol of hope' "President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of government and the nation, wishes Madiba a speedy recovery and requests the media and the public to respect the privacy of Madiba and his family," Mr Maharaj said in a statement, using the clan name by which Mr Mandela is often known.

Nelson Mandela: Key dates

  • 1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
  • 1943 Joins African National Congress
  • 1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped
  • 1962 Arrested, convicted of sabotage, sentenced to five years in prison
  • 1964 Charged again, sentenced to life
  • 1990 Freed from prison
  • 1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1994 Elected first black president
  • 1999 Steps down as leader
  • 2004 Retires from public life
On the streets of Pretoria, people expressed their affection for their former president and their concern.
Mamoshomo Tswai, a trader, said: "As long as Tata [father] is still alive then poor people like me, people who are down down, single mothers like me, we still have hope. South Africa is nothing without him."
But another informal trader in Pretoria, who did not want give their name, said: "We must just accept that he is old. We love him, we all do, but we must start to accept that he is a very old man."
Keith Khoza, a spokesman for the governing ANC, said Mr Mandela continued to be "a symbol of hope, to be a symbol of reconciliation" for South Africa.
"We are certainly concerned about his health and we called on South Africans to pray for him and his family.
"Even if you have an elderly person in the family who is sick and you expect something - once it happens the shock is still there."
Damaged lungs Mr Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999.
South Africans offer best wishes to Nelson Mandela
He was previously imprisoned for 27 years, and is believed to have suffered damaged lungs while working in a prison quarry.
He contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while being held in jail on the windswept Robben Island.
He retired from public life in 2004 and has been rarely seen in public since.
There was a row in April when South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) - Mr Mandela's party - filmed a visit to see him and broadcast the pictures of him with President Zuma and other party figures.
Critics called it an invasion of his privacy.
Mr Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 jointly with former President FW de Klerk for ending apartheid and bringing democracy to South Africa.

Using your 'inner bat' to help navigate


A flying fox Humans may have something in common with bats
Bats are famous for using sound to navigate successfully, and new research suggests we could all use our "inner bat" to get around.
Blind people are aware of this technique. Some click their tongue or tap their cane on the floor and use the resulting echoes to help them move around safely.
Researchers in Southampton have found that we could all make use of the soundscapes that surround us, whether we can see or not.
The new study, which involved both sighted people wearing blindfolds and blind people, looked at the types of sound that were best to locate an object.
Lead researcher Dr Daniel Rowan, a lecturer in audiology at the University of Southampton, said in one test the longer sounds, lasting around half a second, made things easier.
A month after losing my sight at 13, I had my first mobility lesson using a white cane.
While tapping down a school corridor I felt a strange pressure in my head and ears. Slightly confused, I told my instructor: "I think I can hear the walls."
"Let's try something," she said, grabbing my arm and pushing me forward. "We're walking towards the end of the corridor now… you tell me when to stop before we bang into it." As we got closer, the pressure built until it felt we couldn't go any further. When I said 'Stop', we were just an inch from the end wall.
Though we seem to call it echolocation now, my instructor told me I had good "obstacle sense". And it does feel like a sixth sense rather than just interpreting echoes.
For lots of blind people, echolocation is the most important "sense" they use when walking round their own house and in other environments. Many of us have been using it for years but rarely mention it because it's so everyday.
"What the experiment showed is that as the duration of the sound got shorter and shorter, people's ability to tell whether an object was to the left or right got worse. Having a longer duration signal appears better than a short one."
But if you want to know something different about an object - like how close it is - it may be that a shorter duration, of just 10 milliseconds, could be better.
"Some bats that use echolocation. If they're hunting prey, they change their call as they get closer to the prey to reveal different sorts of information."
Never crash Claire Randall, who has been virtually blind from birth, uses echolocation.
"I think the first time I was aware of it was when I was about five. I used to ride a bike and I developed the ability to swerve past a lamp post and miss it by millimetres, too regularly for it to be a coincidence."

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One day my mum asked me how I always managed to miss the lamp post”
Claire Randall
Her mother marvelled at her ability to miss obstacles.
"One day my mum asked me how I always managed to miss the lamp post, and the only way I could explain it was, 'It goes dark past my ears.' "
The history of echolocation is fascinating. Back in the 1940s and 50s there was an idea that we had a separate sense on the face specially for detecting echoes.
Now we know it's the hearing system that does it and, although blind people seem to have honed their skills, we are all capable of navigating using sound.
One reason sighted people may not exploit this ability so much is that their world is dominated by vision.
This is seen in the "ventriloquism effect", where sounds are attributed to a dummy because its mouth is moving, overriding where the sound is really coming from, the poker-faced ventriloquist.
Previous research has involved real-life locations. But this study used "virtual obstacles", represented by sounds mimicking echoes from those imaginary objects in headphones worn by the study participants.
Extraordinary feats Dr Rowan said: "In using virtual objects there were no other clues that someone might use: for instance, the creaking as you move an object around or the wafting of air across their face as you move something around."
He has heard the reports of extraordinary feats.
"There are some expert echolocators who are able to do some fairly amazing things, such as ride a bike or play basketball, and World Access for the Blind trains people to do this.
"But we know less about how blind people in general use echoes."
The findings have just been published in the journal Hearing Research. Dr Rowan hopes that they will help to improve echolocation skills.
He said: "One of the things we wanted to try to contribute to with our research is to provide some underpinning science that may help the development of training programmes, to help blind people use echoes that arrive at their ears more effectively.

Are US surveillance measures justified?


Amid revelations that the government is collecting mobile phone records, we examine the scope of wiretapping.

 
A top secret court order has revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the phone records of millions of cell phone users in the US.
The court order obtained by The Guardian newspaper, requires Verizon, one of the largest telecommunication providers in the US, to hand over phone numbers, locations, the timings of the calls and their duration. It does not include the actual content of the calls.
... two things haven’t been mentioned, that are essential to understanding what’s going on right now, number one, almost 300 people were injured, maimed, and several killed in Boston days before … this ... request was approved, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence ... [so] I am not sure this is targeting all Americans … but maybe people who were on that service, and who were killing Americans as members of a jihadi organisation.
Sebastian Gorka, Foundation for Defense of Democracies ,
In response to The Guardian piece, the White House and members of the US Congress said that such information has been is 'a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats'. The statement went on to say:
"There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That regime has been briefed to and approved by the court, and activities authorised under the Act are subject to strict controls and procedures ... under oversight of the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FISA Court, to ensure that they comply with the constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”
However, a constitutional rights group called this surveillance programme, "beyond Orwellian".
The Department of Justice (DOJ) published what it calls myths and facts about domestic surveillance. But the latest revelations show that some of the myths are in fact true.
The DOJ says that it is a myth that "The Protect America Act gives the federal government new powers to target people in the United States for warrantless surveillance."
It cites as a fact "The Protect America Act does not authorise 'domestic wiretapping', and our intelligence professionals are not using the new law either to acquire domestic-to-domestic communications or to target the communications of persons in the United States."
Another myth is that "The Protect America Act allows the government to target Americans in the United States under the guise of surveilling a person located overseas - a practice known as 'reverse targeting'."
The Department of Justice maintains: 'reverse targeting' was, and remains, prohibited by law.
And finally that it is a myth that "The Protect America Act would allow the government to obtain, without a warrant or any court approval, the business records of Americans in the United States."

They cite as facts that "The Protect America Act does not authorise the collection of most business records, such as medical or library records," and emphasise, "The Executive Branch will not use the Act to acquire any business records of Americans in the United States."
So how widespread is the US government's surveillance? And are it surveillance measures justified?
Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses the issue with guests: James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America; Sebastian Gorka, the military affairs fellow and director for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Jesselyn Radack, director of the Government Accountability Project.
" ... people always kind of assumed that NSA was picking up information to and from other countries … what this document does is that it shows that in addition to that, there's focus not only on communications wholly within the United States, but even local communications, if you are calling next door, those records are part of this document ... "
- James Bamford, an author
Source:
Al Jazeera
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Nigeria Owes $6.67 Billion External Debt, Says Okonjo-Iweala


The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday, put the nation’s external debt at $6.67 billion, (about N1.035 trillion). Nigeria spent $8.0429 billion to service debt in 2006 and $10. 1072 billion in 2005 before the debt relief of 2006.
However, the Minister said that the clarification became necessary in view of the various figures being quoted in the debate over the nation’s indebtedness.
Her words, “as at now, our external indebtedness is as low as $6.67 billion or about 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product, GDP.”
According to her, “the external debt is typically owed to foreign creditors such as multilateral agencies [like the Africa Development Bank, World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank], as well as other bilateral sources [including the China Exim Bank, the French Development Bank or the Japanese Aid Agency], or to private creditors such as investors in our Eurobonds.”
The Minister said that most external loans were contracted on concessional terms.
“Many of the multilateral loans are at zero interests, 40 years maturity, and 10 years grace. Others are at less than three percent rate of interest.”
Okonjo-Iweala assured that the Federal Government would continue to closely monitor the nation’s debt stock to keep it low.
Her words, “we shall never be complacent about our national debt. We need to be constantly vigilant to limit the amount of debt and create room for the private sector instead to borrow. As such, we need to stay focused on three main priorities.
‘’We should continue to monitor our external borrowing and ensure that we do not slip back to our high indebtedness prior to the debt relief programme. As I mentioned earlier, the External Borrowing Plan, helps to address this concern by ensuring that we always have a comprehensive, transparent view of our foreign borrowing.
‘’We should closely continue to monitor and limit our domestic debt, and ensure that it stays within a prudent and conservative range. We should pay off debt that is due to the extent of our ability. We should also continue to closely monitor borrowing by states to ensure that the debt burdens of our state governments remain within manageable levels and that borrowings are applied to specific projects that yield results for citizens of the state.
In that regard, we enjoin banks and other lenders to be careful and prudent when lending to ensure that this is done within the existing rules, regulations and guidelines.”

Nigeria Governors’ Forum Will Not Disintegrate , Bayelsa Governor, Dickson, Says



Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa has expressed optimism that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) will not disintegrate in spite of the election fallout.
Mr. Dickson made the remark at a state banquet in honour of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Yenagoa on Friday.
He said the forum would be repositioned to stabilise the polity and deepen democracy in the country. According to him, efforts are underway to resolve the present crisis and that a new forum will collaborate with the Federal Government in moving the country forward.
Mr. Dickson disagreed with those calling for the dissolution of the body and added that the forum’s continued existence was relevant as it provided a platform for peer review mechanism.
“We copied the tradition of the American Governors’ Association. “Some say because of this crisis the NGF is not necessary but I disagree. We need the NGF as a peer review mechanism. The NGF will come up strong and united after all of this. “But it will be a different NGF; it will no longer go on as a trade union and platform for personal political aggrandisement or a platform for opposing the Federal Government.
“The NGF is not an alternative Federal Government. As governors, we are elected to govern our states and to collaborate with other levels of authority on critical issues, especially development and national security,” he said. Mr. Dickson called on his colleagues to promote the independence of the judiciary in their respective states for better performance, stressing the importance of financial autonomy of the judiciary.
“Protecting the autonomy of the judiciary is the right thing to do. “I want to use this opportunity to call on my colleagues to do that because if you support a pillar of democracy like the judiciary you are not doing so because you want to do them any favour. “That is the right thing to do because society can only be as free as its judiciary is,” Mr. Dickson said. Also, the President of NBA, Okey Wali (SAN), expressed appreciation to Mr. Dickson for providing a conducive atmosphere for the association’s meeting.
He noted that fundamental issues were discussed, including the welfare of its members, a befitting national secretariat and the need to amend the 1999 Constitution.. In his remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Serena Dokubo-Spiff, commended the governor for giving the people of Bayelsa a purposeful leadership.

Govs’ Suspension: PDP May Sack Anti-Tukur State Chairmen



The Peoples Democratic Party has begun moves to sack state chairmen believed to be working against the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
This follows the party’s suspension of the governors of Rivers and Sokoto states, Rotimi Amaechi and Aliyu Wamakko respectively, by the National Working Committee over alleged anti-party activities.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Thursday that the planned sacking of the state chairmen followed the declaration of support for Wamakko by the Sokoto State chapter of the party.
The state chapter had at a press conference addressed by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mohammed Arzuka Tureta, on Thursday in Sokoto said it did not recognise the suspension of the governor.
Sources at the national headquarteers said the sacking of the state chairmen and executives would deny governors believed to be working against Tukur and President Goodluck Jonathan’s reported re-election bid from having any grounds to operate.
By denying them of any party machinery, the national leadership hopes to effectively weaken the governors and whip them into line, Saturday PUNCH learnt.
Apart from Amaechi and Wamakko, other governors being targeted by the PDP are the Adamawa State Governor, Muritala Nyako; Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Aliyu Babangida (Niger); and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara).
It was gathered that the suspension of the governors and the sacking of the state chairmen would enable the Presidency and party leadership to seize control of the Narional Executive Committee from the governors.
Currently, the 23 PDP governors and state chairmen are in majority in the party’s NEC.
The party’s NEC meeting, based on its constitution, should be held every quarter. But it was held last in July 2012.
The PDP’s NEC consists of the national chairman, the President and the vice-president, chairman and secretary of the Board of Trustees and all other members of BoT.
Members of NEC from the Senate are the President of the Senate, his deputy, Senate Leader and Deputy Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip, two senators from each of the geo-political zones.
From the House of Representatives are the Speaker, his deputy, Leader and Deputy Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip, three members of the House from each geo-political zones of the country, who are members of the party.
All governors, who are members of the party and all the national vice-chairmen and national officers of the party and their deputies, state chairman. six ex-officio members from each of the six geo-political zones and all former national chairmen, deputy national chairmen, national secretaries, chairmen and secretaries of the Board of Trustees, who are still members of the party, are also NEC members.
Majority of these members are loyal to the governors from their states.
Part of the powers of NEC include carrying out the decisions and instructions of the National Convention, making rules for party discipline which shall be binding on all organs and members of the party.
The NEC also makes standing orders, deals with any other matters referred to it by the BoT, establish departments and set up ad hoc or standing committees of the party.
It is also empowered to supervise and direct the work of the party and all its organs including the national zonal, state and local government’s organs.
Other members of BoT, apart from chairman and secretary, have no voting rights.
It was learnt that the party would convene the NEC meeting after ‘recalcitrant’ governors had been dealt with.
It was gathered that the fear that the governors might sack the party’s NWC forced Tukur to delay the NEC meeting.
The decision to “cut the governors to size,” according to Saturday PUNCH investigation, was taken after the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election, which was won by Amaechi.
The PDP leadership and the Presidency were not support of Amaechi’s aspiration and indeed, campaigned for his rival, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State.
A member of the NWC, who spoke with our correspondent, said the party was monitoring the activities of the ‘recalcitrant’ governors and the state chairmen as well as their comments in the media.
“We are monitoring their activities and their actions. We are going to deal with them one after the other before we have our NEC meeting. Anyone that we understand is capable of causing trouble at the meeting will be suspended before the meeting,” the NWC member added.
Already, the national leadership have penciled down the Chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Prof. Oba AbdulRahman, as the arrowhead of the onslaught against the Kwara State governor and his political godfather, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Ahmed is being accused of working for the emergence of Amaechi.
Though AbdulRahman, who is a former vice-chancellor of University of Ilorin, was said to have been nominated for the position he is occupying now during his first tenure, he was, however, reportedly dumped by Saraki when he attempted to run for governor.
When the present occupier of the office won the PDP nomination, Saraki allegedly declined to nominate the ex-VC for the FCC again.
It was learnt that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, brought the former VC back and discarded Saraki’s nominee.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh said that the suspension of the governors had no link with the proposed NEC meeting.
He said, “We are not happy about these problems or these challenges we are having with one or two governors. The party is not happy and we are not rejoicing about it.
“But the truth of the matter is you can’t make an omelette without breaking an egg. We are doing this because we want to build a stable, disciplined party. As people who are in party administration, this is what we believe is best for the party at this moment.”

Customers Worry As First Bank Shuts Down Operations



There have been mixed reactions from First Bank customers over the temporary nationwide closure of its operations for an upgrading exercise.
Some branches in Lagos State witnessed calmness as customers were able to withdraw money via the Automated Teller Machines.
However, in virtually all the branches, customers had long queues to contend with.
At Ojodu/Berger Road, Lagos, Saturday PUNCH observed that customers were making withdrawals via the ATM points.
Some customers in Lagos commended the bank for adequate publicity ahead of the exercise, but many customers outside Lagos complained of inadequate publicity to enable them to prepare for the consequences of the bank’s action.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Friday, customers described the recent hitch being experienced in the bank’s operation as disappointing.
They said it was a common sight to find customers crowding the banking halls with long queues at the ATM points for transactions.
A financial expert, Tunde Alalade, said, “This development is affecting in many ways. It reduces customers’ trust, frustrates business transactions and creates hiccups in commercial activities. The experience is nationwide and one wonders how long this would last.”
A Business Administration student of the Polytechnic, Ibadan, Damilola Afolabi, said students’ registration was affected as a result of the hiccups being experienced in the bank’s services.
In Jos and Bukuru environs, all the First Bank branches were locked in line with the bank’s scheduled upgrading exercise.
At the branches at the City Centre, Market, Ferin Gada and Bukuru, customers, who had no inkling of the exercise, were seen around the bank premises.
They complained that they were not given adequate information to enable them to withdraw some money to feed their families pending the conclusion of the exercise.
A customer, who identified himself simply as Haruna, said that he had an important transaction to make and was surprised when he went to his bank and saw it closed for business.
In Ilorin, Kwara State, there were diverse reactions from customers over the temporary closure of First Bank.
Saturday PUNCH found that about 2.30 pm, many of the customers that went to the Geri Alimi branch and a few other branches to collect cash via the ATMs were disappointed as the machines were reportedly not dispensing cash.
But the experience was different at the Unity Road branch, the bank’s head office in Ilorin and some other branches in the metropolis.
At these points, many customers were seen queuing up to make use of the ATM, which was functioning well.
In Awka, the Anambra State capital, the closure of First Bank banking halls is taking its toll on its customers.
Many of those affected were traders at the Eke Awka market, the biggest market in the city.
Some customers seen withdrawing money at the ATM points said they had little to do with banking hall transactions.
Sunny Okeke told Saturday PUNCH that he went to the bank on Friday morning to pay in the proceeds from his transactions but he was turned back on the grounds that the bank did not open.
Okeke wondered how he was going to keep the proceeds safe until Monday that the bank would open again.
Mrs. Uju Okoye, who was turned back at the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway branch of the bank, said she was desperately in need of cash to pay her rent.
“My landlady says she is travelling on Sunday and wants the money now. The most you can get from an ATM is N100,000. I don’t know what to do now?” she lamented.
In Ondo State, some First Bank customers lamented its temporary closure.
In separate interviews with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, they said they could not access their money through any of its branches or cash points.
Mostly affected are some of the Batch ‘B’ corps members, who said they were unable to travel back to their destinations after completing their service year.
They alleged that the time of the notice sent by the bank to customers on the issue was too short and that it did not allow them to make adequate preparations.
Despite the prior notice given by First Bank of Nigeria Plc that it would shut down operations to upgrade its banking application system, a large percentage of customers were still caught napping.
In Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, many First Bank customers said the closure notice was off the mark.
A customer, Emem Moses, said people could use the ATMs to access their accounts, but added that they had to endure long queues for between two and three hours, as they could withdraw money via other banks’ ATMs.
He noted that on Thursday, only three out of six ATM points in Uyo FBN main branch worked. He added that on Friday, none of the ATM points worked.
A customer, Miss Iniabisi Eyo, said she had to suspend her business trip to Dubai as she could not get the money for her flight.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital on Friday, customers bemoaned the closure of the bank.
Many of the banks’ customers, who besieged the branches in Sapon and Pansheke areas of Abeokuta, kicked against the action of the bank’s management.
At Sapon, a customer, Mr. Emmanuel Madu, told Saturday PUNCH that the action of the management had clearly demonstrated a lack of feeling and insensitivity.
Another customer, Mrs. Bisi Daniel argued that the bank did not need to completely shut down its operations because it wanted to carry out some duties.
At Pansheke branch of the bank, scores of customers, many of whom were students of the nearby Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, were seen loitering around the premises.
In Abuja, many of the customers, who besieged various ATM points, were jolted when they could not access their accounts for withdrawal or money transfer.
Some of them complained that the notice was so short even as it was not properly communicated.
A customer, who identified herself as Comfort, said, “As you can see, the queue here is too long, majority of the people have been complaining about the closure of the bank. Many of us were not even aware of the closure because if we had gotten the information earlier, we would have prepared for it.”

Mandela in 'serious but stable condition'


Former South African president and anti-apartheid icon back in hospital after suffering recurrence of lung infection.

 

Former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is in a "serious but stable" conditon in hospital with a lung infection, a statement from the presidency has said.
Saturday's statement said Mandela, 94, who was discharged from hospital in April after receiving treatment for a lung infection, had suffered the same illness in the past few days.
"This morning at about 1.30am his condition deteriorated and he was transferred to a Pretoria hospital. He remains in a serious but stable condition," the statement said.
It added that the Nobel laureate, who is said to be breathing on his own, was receiving expert medical care and doctors were doing "everything possible to make him better and comfortable".
President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of the government and the nation, wished Madiba, Mandela's clan name, a speedy recovery and requested the media and the public respect the privacy of the former president and his family.
Mac Maharaj, Zuma's spokesperson, told Al Jazeera Mandela has suffered a lung infection from as far back as he was in prison.
"Because he has grown older ... it [infection] needs more careful attention. This time round he was receiving treatment at home but doctors decided the deterioration was serious [enough] to warrant immediate hospitalisation,” he said.
"So when I describe his condition as serious, I am saying what the doctors have said to me. But they have also added this morning that he is in a stable condition. He is frail and nobody would be prepared to predict how speedily or effectively he would recover."
Keith Khoza, the spokesperson of the governing African National Congress, said Mandela was "in capable hands as he has always been and will pull through".
Media kept away
Al Jazeera's Tania Page, reporting from Johannesburg, said the hospital where Mandela was receiving treatment had not been disclosed as happened with previous admissions because the authorities were trying to keep the media away.
"They don't want a large contingent of media outside the hospital," she said.

"But that in many ways is inevitable because this information does eventually leak out and because there is also such an extraordinary level of attention and care among members of the public as to how he is doing.
"People are aware that he is frail; that he is an elderly man [and] many people are desperate for any news really of his condition."
Mandela, revered at home and abroad for leading the struggle against white minority rule, has been in and out of hospital for lung infection and other health problems.
Last year, he was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection.
In March and April, global figures such as US President Barack Obama sent him get-well messages and South Africans included Mandela in their Easter prayers.
Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and served only one term in office, was jailed on Robben Island for 27 years for resisiting white minority rule.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

Singapore struggles to control cyberspace


A new policy aimed at regulating websites in Singapore has drawn criticism and revived censorship debates.


More than 1,000 people rallied against the government's new internet rules on Saturday [Reuters]
Singapore, RoS - One of the most wired countries in the world looks set to implement new media regulations seen by some as a bid to stifle independent news and information.
According to the law, websites that frequently report on Singapore news will have to apply for a license under the Media Development Authority. They will be required to pay a deposit of 50,000 Singapore dollars ($39,500) and will be subjected to government content regulations that demand objectionable content be removed within 24 hours.
So far, ten websites have fallen under the new licence requirements, including Yahoo! Singapore. While nine are state-owned, the authorities have hinted that the new ruling may possibly extend to foreign news websites from next year.
Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim defended the move, saying that the new rules were only "light touch regulations" and were "not as onerous as what has been made up by some people online".
"It is important for us to put a regulatory framework which is as light as possible to ensure that the sites coming on board that report on Singapore news have to conform to certain minimum standards as far as we are concerned," he said, adding that the rules were not intended to "clamp down" on internet freedom.
However, he had previously told told news reporters that Singapore's mainstream media was already "subjected to rules", and the new framework was meant to regularise what was already happening on the internet.
'Draconian' policy 
The Southeast Asian city-state has not been known for press freedom. Domestic media is strictly controlled and has been accused of adopting mainly pro-government views.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Friday that Singapore's government should withdraw its new licensing requirement as it would "cast a chill" over online communities which would, in turn, limit access to independent media.
"Websites will be forced into the role of private censors on behalf of the government," said Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Singapore is placing its status as a world-class financial centre at clear risk by extending its record of draconian media censorship to the digital world."
Singapore is placing its status as a world-class financial centre at clear risk by extending its record of draconian media censorship to the digital world.
Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher at Human Rights Watch
Lobby group Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 149th globally in terms of press freedom below the likes of Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, while US-based organisation Freedom House placed Singapore 150th and classified its level of press freedom as "Not Free".
The controversial policy that took effect this month sparked heated criticism and revived debate about the Southeast Asian city-state's strict censorship laws.
Close to 2,000 Singaporeans participated in a rally on Saturday to protest the government's new rules.
Organiser Howard Lee said the regulation "violates individual rights" and affects all Singaporeans, not just online. "Any regulation that could potentially affect all citizens and is passed without consultation particularly with those who could be directly affected, is sloppy public policy and cannot possibly be mistaken as the work of a consultative government keen to engage," he said.
Blogger Ravi Philemon addressed the rally: "The Media Development Authority should take its hands off the online world because it is the most open public space Singaporeans have right now," he said. "The regulation will only give the government unlimited power to act arbitrarily against the interests of Singaporeans."
Another protester, 36-year old housewife Clare Yeo, said: "I don't buy anything that the local media says. It is appalling for the government to think that they can take it upon themselves to control the internet. Is it any wonder why we are described as a nanny state?"
To 24-year old law undergraduate Kyle Sim, the worrisome issue was the lack of consultation. "It was heavy handed and done completely out of the blue because all signs before this pointed to a free internet," he said. "What one chooses to read online is ultimately their prerogative. A government cannot control the internet."
More than 150 websites and bloggers also staged a 24-hour blackout demonstration online on Thursday to protest against the new regulations. Most of the sites replaced their homepages with a black page containing information about a protest called #FreeMyInternet.
An online petition which swiftly gathered more than 4,000 signatures was also started, calling for the immediate withdrawal of the policy.
Political impact
Perhaps the biggest implication the policy could have would be on opposition political parties in the lead-up to the country's general elections in 2016.
Opposition leader and secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party Chee Soon Juan expressed concerns that the government was trying to stifle political opponents online and said that there was a danger that the government could be seen as "trying to regulate the opposition's means of communicating with voters before the next elections".
"The next round of elections promises even more Singaporeans visiting our website to learn more about alternative policies," Chee said, noting that his party relied heavily on online means to reach out to voters and disseminate information about events and rallies. "Is this latest move targeted at restricting our ability to campaign freely online? It is unfortunate that the government has taken upon itself to determine what are the 'right things' that Singaporeans can read. It is regrettable that instead of abiding by the people's wishes, the government has instituted measures that will further stymie the progress of democracy in Singapore."
Law professor and nominated member of parliament Eugene Tan told Al Jazeera that, while he saw the new licensing regime as "an ambitious attempt" to harmonise both online and traditional news platforms, there was still "palpable concern" that the government was seeking to censor the internet.
"I don't think this new regulatory regime was conveyed well and subsequent attempts to clarify seemed to have made matters worse," Tan said. "What is the 'right thing' cannot be regulated; instead, people should be equipped to have the power of discernment and discretion to deal with the information and misinformation in both traditional and online news platforms."
He also noted the government's dilemma in winning over public opinion due to its implementation of recent policies. "Each setback will only add on to earlier setbacks and may contribute to declining trust in the government.
"The government must urgently stem this decline in trust and confidence or it will go into the next general election with a distinct disadvantage. It needs to show that its policies are not only effective but have deep legitimacy."

Local miners left out by Tanzania gold rush


Competition between multinational mines and local gold prospectors has resulted in tension spilling into violence.

 
Locals say they are losing their livelihood as large mines are being granted huge concessions [Al Jazeera]
Geita, Tanzania - In northwest Tanzania, less than a kilometre away from a sprawling open pit gold mine, hundreds of people are engaged in a complex and arduous task. While young men emerge from deep pits equipped with hammers, picks and torches, women pound large chunks of grey rock into smaller pieces for further processing into the mineral which brings in Tanzania's largest source of foreign investment: gold.
Magema, within the village of Nyamalembo, is one of the last remaining strongholds of artisanal and small-scale miners in the Geita area. But they are not officially allowed to be here. The land that stretches for more than 196 square kilometres around the Geita Gold Mine is occupied by AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world's largest gold mining companies. The miners say they were given an eviction notice to vacate the area in early May.
"When Geita Gold Mine arrived 13 years ago, we small-scale miners were carrying on our work as usual at another mining site," said Raban Masunga as he turns off the torch strapped around his head. "But now, the hills have been sold. The land has been sold. Everything has been sold to the company. This is the only place left for us and we can be evicted any day."

Before multinational mining companies arrived in Tanzania, the mining of minerals was largely conducted by small-scale miners. A report from February 2013 by the International Institute for Environment and Development states that globally, small-scale mining employs 10 times more people than large-scale mining.

In Tanzania, it is estimated that large-scale mining may have made upward of 400,000 people unemployed, contributing to further impoverishing the rural poor in a country that already ranks among the 10 poorest in the world.

Scavenging for gold

N’gombe Lukala Kadaso said after the mine was built, residents of Nyakabale realised that proceeds from mining were not going back to the community. Many like him took to scavenging waste rock.
"The way I work is I pound the rock, then I look back to see if the company's cruiser is coming," he said. "If it's there, I have to run. People have been beaten, had their legs broken, some were disabled. Others lost their lives near the mining site. There is no justice, but we must make a living somehow."

One year ago, 17-year old Mhoja Leonard was reportedly searching for waste material at AngloGold Ashanti's mine when he was shot and killed by a security guard. His father, Leonard Salala, said he has received nothing in compensation from the company for the "cold blood murder" of his son, save for 10 kilos of rice, a bag of meat, and some water.

"The company agreed to cover the burial costs, but said we would discuss further compensation. Since then I have heard nothing," he said. "They are not supposed to kill people. There is a court of law."
 Leonard Salala said his son was shot and killed by a mine guard [Al Jazeera]
In a letter to Salala, AngloGold Ashanti said it was not liable for the death of his son. In a statement to reporters, the company said the company said its security, is "outsourced to a company named Group 4 Securicor ("G4S") and the security officials involved in the incident were working for G4S and not for Geita Gold Mine (GGM)." It added that Mhoja Leonard was nowhere near the waste dump area, but rather "had made an unauthorised entry intrusion" into the "GGM Heavy Mining Equipment workshop".
“AngloGold Ashanti expresses deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr Hoja Leonard. The death of anyone on our concession is something we take very seriously," the company said.
"GGM conducted two thorough internal investigations into the death of Mr Hoja Leonard and we understand a G4S employee remains in police custody pending a hearing about the matter..." the statement added. "We can confirm that engagement with G4S has taken place regarding Mr Leonard’s death... GGM [Geita Gold Mine] has further enhanced its control mechanisms relating to a reduction in the use of firearms and the use of rubber bullets."
Some miners claim that numerous people were recently killed, and their bodies thrown into into Nyankanga dam, a dam located on the mine’s lease area. According to AngloGold Ashanti, there were 24 third party fatalities in 2012, "many of which were the result of unsafe illegal mining methods, including void collapses ... further fatalities were the result of drowning in the Nyankanga Dam".
As for those in the mine dumps, the company said such people are "intruders and trespassers" that "enter the waste rock area and other areas, often with a criminal intent and despite knowing the dangers, and this poses a significant risk to their own safety".

As a result, the company said it would undertake a number of measures to develop an Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Strategy. However, no land within the concession's 196 square km could be considered for small-scale miners, according to AngloGold Ashanti’s executive vice president for the African region, Richard Duffy.
"We cannot afford to have artisanal and illegal mining in the existing areas, so we are looking for areas adjacent to or close by the lease area," Duffy said in a telephone interview.

While AngloGold Ashanti claims its inability to grant land within the concession to small-scale miners has to do with security risks, corporate finance consultant and co-chairman of African Eagle Resources, Euan Worthington, said profit gains are also a factor.
"A company is there to make money. If they gave a piece of land to the locals and it turned out to be a bonanza, they would look very stupid in the eyes of their shareholders," Worthington said. "And you don't want to be in the news for having an accident or pictures of people clambering all over your property."
Although small-scale miners are not allowed to remain within the concession area, Duffy said the company’s presence in the area has benefited communities in other ways.
“We are committed to using local employees and local supplies. We are currently completing our portion of a $10m water project in partnership with the Tanzanian government,” he said. “We run a school at Geita and support an orphanage …We certainly try and make a positive contribution. We understand that our being there has had an impact, and we try to minimise the negative impacts of that.”
Broader pattern

The David and Goliath-like battle between large multinational mining companies and small-scale artisanal miners and scavengers is not unique to Geita. At least 14 people were killed in the past three years in Tanzania’s North Mara mine, which is run by African Barrick Gold and 74 percent owned by Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation.

Increasing reports of human rights violations by mining companies the world over have elicited outrage among campaigners, particularly in the United Kingdom, where a number of mining companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
"This investor, I would ask him to think about us here near the gold mine. This is our home, not his."
- N’gombe Lukala Kadaso
In response to queries about AngloGold Ashanti's human rights record, Duffy said the company acts accordingly.
"We investigate any and all allegations of human rights violations. We take those very seriously and operate in accordance with the UN voluntary principles of human rights. One of our core values is that the communities should benefit from our being there, and human rights is a core part of that."
The company suggested that “any member of the community with credible evidence or information relating to fatalities or security and human rights violations on site to formally contact the Tanzania Police Service for further investigation."
The Tanzanian Commissioner of Minerals did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
AngloGold Ashanti, like many companies, subscribes to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR), a set of voluntary principles established in the year 2000 that assist companies in providing security for their operations while also promoting human rights. The VPSHR have been criticised by organizations like Global Witness for being vague and hard to enforce.
Campaigners from the London Mining Network want the UK government to enforce stricter oversight upon companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, and to bring forward legislation that is internationally binding.

Until then, the struggle between companies such as AngloGold Ashanti and Tanzania’s small-scale miners and waste-rock collectors continues. The people of Nyakabale remain outraged at what they perceive as ongoing injustices by both the company and the Tanzanian government, which they accuse of corruption and complicity.
Kadaso, the waste-rock collector from Nyakabale, said he believes the kinds of abuses he has witnessed would never occur in the West.
"This investor, I would ask him to think about us here near the gold mine," he said. “This is our home, not his. If I took my property and invested in his home, as a white man he would never tolerate the same kind of treatment he gives me as a citizen of Tanzania.”
Source:
Al Jazeera

Violence against women rises in El Salvador


Sexual attacks have risen 17 percent in the past year amid allegations of police corruption and entrenched "machismo".

 
San Salvador, El Salvador - Endemic levels of sexual abuse and gender based violence have made El Salvador one of the most dangerous countries in the world for girls and women, amid entrenched "machismo" attitudes and a criminal justice system that too often fails victims.
More than seven sexual attacks were reported every day in the first three months of 2013 - a 17 percent rise in 12 months, according to official police figures. Two thirds of the reported 636 rapes and sexual offences were committed against children under the age of 18. El Salvador has a population of 6.2 million.
While much of the country's escalating violence over the past decade can be blamed on street gangs and drug traffickers, the most risky place for girls and women is still at home.
In January alone this year, police received 243 complaints of domestic violence - a 23 percent year-on-year rise.
Information gathered by the feminist organisation Ormusa (the Organisation of Salvadoran Women for Peace) reveals that most sexual assaults involve girls aged between 12 and 17 and take place at home. Sexual crimes are usually committed by a close relative or family acquaintance while the mother is out working.
One in three pregnancies in El Salvador involves a teenaged girl, often the result of abuse, according to NGO Plan International.
Too many girls end up in relationships with much older men in order to escape poverty or violence at home, Roxana Ramos, a primary care nurse working with pregnant teens in Chalatenango, told Al Jazeera.
'Tip of the iceberg'
Women and girls also bear the brunt of kidnappings - another violent crime which blights the country and causes huge anxiety among the population. In the first four months of 2013, almost 500 kidnappings were reported - 60 percent involved girls and women, according to the National Civilian Police (PNC).
It is widely believed that PNC figures represent only the "tip of the iceberg" of actual crimes committed, as fear, mistrust of authorities, social stigma and a lack of awareness among many women about their rights keeps many from speaking out. Conviction rate figures are not publicly available.
A prevailing machismo attitude among the police, prosecutors and judiciary in particular continues to be a huge obstacle to justice for women.
In 2012, six women were murdered by partners who were serving police officers, according to the Observatory of Gender Violence against Women.
Rodrigo Bustos, director of Plan El Salvador, said: "Violence against girls and women is one of the biggest challenges facing the country, and we know for a fact that it is not getting better. Adolescent girls are at huge risk of sexual abuse from older men within the family… in some cases the mothers know but are too powerless or scared to do anything."
Bustos added: "The roles assigned to women are very fixed: take care of the home and family, and be submissive to all men in all relationships. Violence occurs when women won't submit to this. Our only hope is working with young people, boys and girls, to change these beliefs."
Girls and gangs
Gang violence peaked in El Salvador in 2011 when it was ranked as the world's second most dangerous country by the United National Office on Drugs and Crime - with a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people. That year 628 women were killed - a 225 per cent increase since 2000.
Few girls are fully initiated gang members in El Salvador but tit-for-tat killings of girlfriends, sisters and other girls working within the gang structure had escalated until the two main gangs, Mara Salvatrucha 13 and Calle 18, called an unexpected truce in March 2012.
The murder rate in El Salvador has fallen after two street gangs declared a truce in March [EPA]
The murder rate has fallen by 50 per cent since then, but one woman and four men are still murdered on average every day. Most rapes, assaults and even disappearances within the gangs remain hidden from official figures as they are rarely reported.
Sara Romero, a 20-year-old from San Salvador, became involved with Calle 18 when she was 13. She was raped by five gang members when her boyfriend, a neighbourhood gang leader, was in prison.
"I never even considered going to the police. I didn't want to cause trouble for my gang by getting the police involved," Romero told Al Jazeera.
The perpetrators were beaten-up badly as a punishment, one died as a result, but not for the rape per se, rather for the disrespect they had shown Romero's boyfriend.
"As Sara's case demonstrates, the level of violence inflicted on women by the gangs is extreme. But, it is also easier for society to point to the gangs as the violent ones," said Jeanne Rikkers, a youth violence expert at the human rights organisation Fespad.
"It's much harder to accept that girls in their own homes are being raped by their fathers and brothers, and that's something this culture needs to come to terms with if we're going to address the issue of violence against women."
New legislation
A radical new law designed to improve access to justice by identifying specific crimes and sentences for violence against women was introduced by President Mauricio Funes' left-wing FLMN government on January 1, 2012. It came after years of campaigning by feminist and human rights organisations.
"The law recognises for the first time that gender based violence exists and that it violates the human rights of women," Silvia Barrios, a lawyer at Ormusa, told Al Jazeera. "It also obliges every state institution to tackle violence against women."
The legislation was followed by a zero tolerance campaign launched by President Funes and the country's first lady, which has been lauded as an important step towards reducing the stigma that victims face.
A handful of recent cases suggest some signs of progress.
In a widely reported incident in May, a 29-year-old man was refused bail after being arrested for throwing boiling oil over his girlfriend in a drunken rage.
"For him to be denied bail and the newspaper to publish his picture in the newspaper rather than hers, the victim, is a huge step forward," Barrios told Al Jazeera.
In another high profile case, Luis Villatoro, a former parliamentary adviser, was jailed last month for six years for a series of physical and verbal assaults on his ex-girlfriend.
Omar Flores, a lawyer from Fespad, said the sentence set a precedent for El Salvadoran women who he hoped would now feel more confident in reporting similar abuses.
But, despite these noteworthy examples, implementation of the legislation has so far been slow.
Here, boys are bought up to think they own girls and women - that they have the right to use their bodies however they want.
Bessy Martinez, rape victim
Several senior judges have denounced the Special Integrated Law for a Life Free of Violence against Women as "unconstitutional", insisting they would not implement it in their courts, Barrios said.
Amnesty International said the law would only protect women if attitudes within law enforcement changed.
"We are still hearing about women left in dangerous situations due to the failure of police and justice officials to ensure protection orders are delivered and complied with. There are cases of the judiciary failing to apply the new law, resulting in lesser penalties for perpetrators," Esther Major, Amnesty's El Salvador expert, told Al Jazeera.
"Officials must be properly trained and, crucially, held to account, when they fail to ensure women are protected from acts of violence."
Bessy Martinez, a 20-year-old from rural Chalatenango, was raped in her own home at the age of seven by her step-father's nephew. Martinez is a child born out of sexual violence - the result of her mother being raped at the age of 16. Neither mother nor daughter has seen justice.
"The boy who raped me was only 16 or 17, but he was always trying to touch us young girls as we bathed in the lake," Martinez told Al Jazeera. "He told me that he would kill my family if I told anyone, so I kept quiet for many years. I blamed my mum for leaving us alone with him, but when I eventually told her what had happened, she was angry at me."
Martinez is now part of a youth group sponsored by Plan International, supporting other young victims, but also trying to shift the attitudes of her peers.
"Here, boys are bought up to think they own girls and women - that they have the right to use their bodies however they want," she said. "That machismo culture is our biggest problem and that's what we are trying to change."
*Names of victims have been changed to protect identities.

Anger at US drone war continues in Yemen


Psychological impact mounts in Khashamir where drones killed a family last year and residents still feel "terrorised".

 
Protests have continued in the village of Khashamir against the US attacks [Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber/Al Jazeera]
Sanaa, Yemen - In his counterterrorism speech on May 27, US President Barack Obama stopped short of an apology when he acknowledged civilian casualties by American drones, saying: "Those deaths will haunt us as long as we live."
For Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, 54, and his rural village of Khashamir in Yemen’s eastern Hadhramaut province, one deadly accident continues to exact a heavy toll.
Last year the community was hit by a lethal drone strike, killing family members. Today the villagers still suffer their loss, and from mental trauma sustained by a continual buzzing of drones overhead.
The circumstances behind the strike are tragic. Faisal said his brother-in-law, a respected, 49-year old cleric called Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, delivered a forceful sermon denouncing al-Qaeda’s extremism at the local mosque.
Salem’s worried father feared retribution from pro-al-Qaeda fighters. He asked Faisal to advise his son to tone down his rhetoric. But when confronted, the imam bravely said he would rather die knowing he was preaching the right message.
Salem’s fate was sealed a few days later, on August 29. Three strangers - in retrospect, suspected fighters - drove into the village, searching for the outspoken cleric.
They found Salem at the mosque that night, surrounded by worshippers. They convinced him to talk with them outside by a palm grove. Faisal’s nephew, Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber, a 20-year old with the traffic police, accompanied him for protection.
'Scattered bodies'
"It was after the evening prayer and I was sitting on my balcony," Faisal said, recalling that moment. "There was a light and then a big noise - I thought the mountains would fall."
Four drone strikes in total, a few minutes apart, violently tore Salem, Walid and the three visitors to shreds. Amidst the pandemonium, villagers cowering inside the mosque ran out for safety between strikes, believing they would die inside.
Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber is a drone strike survivor who had two relatives killed [Rebecca Murray/Al Jazeera]
"You cannot imagine what we found," said Faisal, drawing a slow, deep breath as he described the nighttime chaos that followed. "We found body parts scattered everywhere. We tried to collect them all, and brought them to the mosque to wrap in white cloth."
The repercussions were devastating. The villagers marched the next day, chanting: "Obama, why do you spill our blood?" But President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi met their pleas for answers with silence.
Salem’s mother died two weeks later apparently from shock. Faisal’s sister Hayat, the mother of Walid, refuses to leave her home, and said she is "waiting to join my son". Faisal’s daughter Heba was so stricken with fear she didn’t leave her home for twenty days. She still needs psychiatric care.
"The people in the village are so afraid now," Faisal sighed. "Everything has changed. They think they can be killed anywhere."
'Terrorist actions'
Rights groups say the damage is serious. "All that local communities see is the damage and destruction," said Letta Taylor, a counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Nothing that suggests that the US and Yemeni authorities care about the consequences."
"Obama said in his speech that he was ‘haunted’ by the civilian deaths, but he never apologised," she said. "This falls far from the official apology and redress that the US and Yemeni government should be offering to the families of civilians killed in these strikes."
President Obama declared that the US will continue to "act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people" and that before any strike "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured".
Analysts point to the key terms "imminent threat" and "near-certainty" as some of those that need to be more clearly defined.
On June 1, just days after Obama’s counterterrorism talk, a possible drone strike killed up to eight suspects linked to al- Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been up to 154 strikes by US drones in Yemen since 2002, with up to 97 civilians included in the almost 800 total killed in the attacks.
Both the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conduct drone strikes in Yemen. The CIA operates from a secret base in neighboring Saudi Arabia, and was responsible for the September 2011 hit on US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. The US Pentagon bases its drone fleet at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
US Attorney General Eric Holder recently admitted that four US citizens have been killed by drone attacks. While al-Awlaki was directly targeted, he said that the other three, including al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son Abdulrahman, were not.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have filed a joint lawsuit on behalf of the families of US citizens killed in drone strikes.
Pardiss Kebriaei, a CCR attorney on the case, said that since the government has now acknowledged its actions, "it should be prepared to defend them, not only in a letter to Congress, but in court."
'How can we stop it?'
One person who grew up under drones is Entsar al-Qadhi, a representative with the National Dialogue’s counterterrorism subcommittee. Her central province of Marib was first hit in 2002, and has been a common target for surveillance and strikes in recent years.
Al-Qadhi smiled grimly. "Before, there was a general interest in listening to Osama Bin Laden’s speech and finding out what he will do next, and how he will terrorise people more," she said. "Now, we listen to Obama’s speech to find out how he will next terrorise us."
Villagers have protested against the deadly drone strikes    [Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber/Al Jazeera]
Al-Qadhi believes the Yemeni government needs to transform its counterterrorism strategy to a grassroots approach involving communities.
"There have been discussions with tribal members about the presence of AQAP among them," she said. "There was a tribal agreement to kick people out if they are affiliated with AQAP. This is a more successful method than targeting with drones, where everyone is affected."
Meanwhile, the psychological scars for drone strike survivors fester.
Peter Schaapveld, a psychologist sent by British Charity REPRIVE to south Yemen to investigate the symptoms, uncovered some dire statistics.
Out of his pool of survivors, he found 70 percent to be suffering from formal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and virtually all were suffering from some symptoms of PTSD.
Schaapveld warns that as long as they continue living under a drone threat, their symptoms will only worsen.
"There is basically a breakdown of society as a result of this," he said. "Children were not going to school, or if they were the school teachers did not understand PTSD and sent them home. They were not benefiting from an education, and this is storing up problems for later."
"Where there was a strike on the market area, daily commerce was starting to break down," Schaapveld added. "People were not going to the markets, because to meet in those areas meant they might be subject to another strike."
Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber from Khashamir village believes there are three ways to combat extremism: to raise awareness, provide jobs, and as a final resort, people can fight the militants themselves.
"We can stop the extremists," he said somberly. "But the question is - how can we stop the drones falling on our heads?"
Source:
Al Jazeera

S Africa migrants battle rising persecution


Brutal murder of Somali in South Africa draws ire of foreign African nationals over rising xenophobic violence.

 
Violence against migrants has flared in recent weeks, especially in some of South Africa's poor areas
Johannesburg, South Africa - In a country with a history of violence like South Africa, there are few scenes of brutality that can still shock the nation.
The video that emerged on YouTube last weekend of a Somali man lying flat in a Port Elizabeth street has shocked many South Africans out of a general complacence over the rising incidence of violence against foreigners in the country.
The man, who was stripped naked, his genitals pelted with rocks, stones smashed over his head all the while receiving kicks to the face, became the latest victim of xenophobic violence in the country.
The 25-year-old man, Abdi Nasir Mahmoud Good, died of his injuries. Good is just one of the victims of the xenophobic violence that flared through northern Port Elizabeth and up to four other towns and cities across the country last week.
Five other Somalis were injured in the violence and almost every Somali-owned business in Port Elizabeth’s Booysen Park was burned or looted.
Good's family said he had been trying to salvage his goods in the small store he owned in Booysens Park when he met the ire of a mob.
National problem
Before the wave of violence hit Port Elizabeth, the sprawling township of Diepsloot in Johannesburg was a scene of chaos after a Somali shopkeeper killed two Zimbabweans he suspected to be thieves on the evening of Sunday, May 26.
Angered by the shootings, Diepsloot residents turned their attention on the Somalis, Pakistanis and other foreign nationals doing business in the township. Nineteen foreign-owned stores were attacked in a frenzy of xenophobic violence and looting over the next two days.
Though calm has been restored to Diepsloot, the Somali store at the centre of the issue remains closed. A co-owner of the store, Amina Hassan Abdi, a Somali woman who fled the conflict in the Horn of Africa in 2007, said the violence essentially destroyed her livelihood.
Timeline: Migrant violence
2008: Over 60 people killed and thousands displaced in violence across the country.
2009: 2500 immigrants (mostly Zimbabweans) were displaced in the farming town of De Doorns in the Western Cape after riots against them.
2010: The South African government formed the inter-ministerial committee on xenophobia.

2011: Around 120 foreign nationals killed, of which five were burnt alive.

2012: 140 foreign nationals killed and 250 others injured in violent attacks across the country
2013 March: More than 25 Somali-owned shops were looted in Mamelodi outside of Pretoria; Five Pakistani nationals were murdered in Mitchells Plain.
May: Somali man stoned and hacked to death in Port Elizabeth, five other Somalis injured but scores of shops looted in up to 4 towns and cities.
“You need money to open the shop again and I now have none,” she said. Abdi also previously worked as a street vendor in Diepsloot. She said the discrimination she faced every day forced her to give up her stall.
"I don’t look like a South African and I wear this,” she said, pointing to her hijab.

“Every day I was getting too much trouble, people were swearing me, they were shouting me, stealing my stuff ... they don't like us,” she said.
Just days before the looting of Somali-owned stores in Diepsloot, some 60 km south of Johannesburg, in the township of Sebokeng, foreign-owned stores were also systematically looted after a protest against poor governance in the area catalysed into a campaign to root out foreigners and foreign-owned businesses from the township.
By the time the police stepped in, all foreign-owned stores had been looted, the belongings of foreign nationals were burned and foreigners were driven out of the township.
Despite the targeting, the South African government has been quick to caution against labelling this surge in violence as xenophobia because "preliminary evidence indicates that these acts may be driven primarily by criminality".
Al Jazeera requested comment repeatedly from the office of South Africa's president of the department of home affairs and the South African police services, but recieved no response.

Labelling the violence as just crime creates a false debate, said Biniam Misgun, lecturer in the School of Sociology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in Durban.
"When you see a group intentionally attacked and their shops looted because they are foreign, then you cannot just say it's criminality driving this," Misgun told Al Jazeera.

Misgun's assertions that these are hate crimes are corroborated by statistics. In 2011, around 120 foreign nationals were killed, of whom five were burnt alive. In 2012, 140 foreigners were killed and 250 others injured in violent attacks across the country, reported the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) in Johannesburg.
In 2013, the Centre estimates that at least three attacks on foreigners take place weekly.
Complex issue
Understanding the context of xenophobic sentiment in the grand intersection of race and class in a South Africa mired by a complex social and economic history is difficult.
As the largest economy on the continent, South Africa has attracted foreign Africans from as far afield as Nigeria, Ethiopia, the DR Congo and as close as neighbouring Botswana. They come as political refugees or economic migrants, with one goal: a better life. Following the end of apartheid in 1994, thousands of Chinese and South Asian foreign nationals have been living and conducting business across the country.
Instead of South Africans thriving on its much-vaunted multicultural identity, foreigners have been painted in the popular imagination as criminals, job snatchers, and parasites arriving in throngs to eat at an economy battling to feed its own people.
New research released last month from the Southern African Migration Programme (SAMP) found that more than 50 percent of South Africans believed foreigners constituted a majority of the country's population. In reality, foreign nationals amount to less than five percent, or 2.2 million people out of a population of around 50 million.

The SAMP study, investigating the incidence of xenophobia in South Africa after the horrific attacks of 2008 which killed more than 60 people, also debunks the popular notion that xenophobia was a disease of the poor.
That these attacks are taking place in already rough neighborhoods is worth remembering, Loren Landau, director of the African Centre of Migration and Society (ACMS) in Johannesburg, said.
The study found that xenophobia is firmly embedded across all economic and social strata of South African society but with incidents of violence are more likely in impoverished areas where a riot can sometimes be the only way to the draw government attention.
Government attitude
Researchers suggest that the root of the problem lies with the government’s attitude to foreigners, especially foreign African nationals.

Foreign nationals entering the country and trying to integrate into society narrate tales of daily strife with authorities. They report harassment at police stations, neglect at hospitals and abuse at immigration offices.
Abuse is widespread, migrants said. Last Monday, in the midst of this upsurge in violence against foreign nationals, security staff at an office of the Department of Home Affairs turned a fire hose on hundreds of refugees queuing to renew their documents.
Businesses owned by foreigners have been attacked  [Al Jazeera]
The cold sting meted out to the hundreds of refugees, many of whom are forced to queue for weeks in order to renew their temporary asylum seeker’s documents, is just part of a daily digest of humiliation endured by foreign nationals.

Abdi, the Somali businesswoman in Diepsloot, said that her son’s asylum seeker certificate was stolen when her store was looted. Police, however, refused to allow her to open a case of theft or compile an affidavit attesting to the theft of the documents in order for the Department of Home Affairs to issue her son new set of documents.

“When I went to Diepsloot police on Friday they said it is too late [to open] the case,” she said. “Then I said, okay, I want to make affidavit but they said, ‘No, go to Home Affairs’". Home Affairs, she said will want to see proof from the South African Police Services that the documents were indeed stolen.
This is how the trouble starts, researchers said. "The way the state treats foreign nationals essentially represents the way ordinary people treat foreign nationals," Misgun adds.
Despite attracting the biggest number of asylum seekers in the world, The Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) found that South Africans receive foreigners with a jaundiced eye.
It is a tenuous contradiction, activists said. "On one hand, South Africa wants to promote solidarity and unity on the African continent and yet there is move towards a more restrictive asylum regime," Sicel'mpilo Shange-Buthane, executive director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants (CoRMSA), in Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera.
Shange-Buthane said the government's move to shift reception centres for refugees from the city centre to the border regions sends a clear message: "We don't want refugees in the cities." This gives credence to the findings of the SAMP survey that 63 percent of South Africans wanted electrified fences on the country’s borders.
With just one perpetuator brought to justice for the 2008 violence, the South African judiciary is allowing for a culture of impunity to settle, as the foreigner is institutionalised as a soft target, unlikely to enjoy state protection on any level, said Landau of the ACMS.
Social integration
On Sunday the Somali president urged South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma to investigate the killing of Abdi Nasir Mahmoud Good, the Somali trader. Experts and activists said little is likely to change, unless and until African leaders threaten economic consequences to South Africa's expanding operations across the continent; by their own admission a shot in the dark.
As of now, there remains little incentive for local politicians to demand their communities to respect foreigners when they are unable to provide services or at least better reasons for their inability to deliver. Little wonder, then, that more than 60 percent surveyed in the SAMP report believe that violence against foreigners usually occurs because of the latter's penchant for crime or taking away jobs from South Africans.
With national elections due in 2014, addressing the concerns of foreigners is unlikely to feature prominently on the electorate's wish list. The solution, Landau said, involves focusing on building "a more equitable society where economic rights are applied equally".
Misgun, the lecturer in Sociology agrees that focusing on shifting attitudes without improving peoples' lives is counterproductive.
He expressed the view of many researchers when he said: "If people were not fighting over a bag of corn or sugar, it [the situation] might be a little different." 
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