British prime minister says he was being polite when Helle Thorning-Schmidt asked him to take part in picture.
David Cameron and the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, have brushed off criticism of their decision to pose for a "selfie" photograph at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela alongside the US president, Barack Obama. The British prime minister said he was being polite when Thorning-Schmidt, the daughter-in-law of the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, asked him to take part in the picture. He told parliament on Wednesday: "In my defence I'd say that Nelson Mandela played an extraordinary role in his life and in his death in bringing people together." The photo went viral on Tuesday, prompting accusations from some of poor taste. Many noted that Michelle Obama looked on stony-faced during the rainy event in Soweto. Thorning-Schmidt described her impromptu snap as "not inappropriate". Speaking to the Danish media she said: "There were plenty of pictures that day. We've taken very many pictures of Obama, and I just think that it was kind of funny. It shows perhaps that when we meet from state and government, we too are just people who have fun together."
British prime minister says he was being polite when Helle Thorning-Schmidt asked him to take part in picture.
Bill Van Auken: Obama and Mandela ■ The US president was the first of six foreign heads of state to address the crowd assembled in Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium. Filled with demagogic phrases about “struggle,” “liberation,” “freedom” and “revolution,” the speech’s attempt to cloak Obama in the legacy of Mandela’s years of sacrifice, imprisonment and persecution was an obscene exercise in hypocrisy. One would never guess from Obama’s remarks that he is the head of a government that for decades counted the South African apartheid regime as a critical ally on the African continent, and that the CIA, which he now utilizes as a refurbished Murder, Inc., assassinating perceived opponents of US policy with Predator drones, played an instrumental role in Mandela’s 1962 arrest, which led to 27 years of imprisonment. It was not until 2008—nine years after Mandela had stepped down as South Africa’s president—that Washington removed him from its list of foreign terrorists.
Amid the lies and hypocrisy that dominated the platform at Tuesday’s memorial, an element of political reality intruded from the stadium bleachers. The crowd repeatedly booed South African President Jacob Zuma—the subject of endless corruption scandals—upon his arrival, when his face appeared on the giant screens, and upon his introduction as keynote speaker. Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s deputy and former mine workers’ union head-turned multimillionaire capitalist, was forced to intervene repeatedly. According to the South African Daily Maverick, he appealed at one point to the crowd in Zulu: “Don’t embarrass us, we have overseas visitors here. We can deal with present day stuff once the visitors have gone.”
Nelson Mandela was memorialized in a boisterous stadium ceremony here Tuesday as a teacher and a healer, an iconic figure who changed history and touched hearts in his native country and around the world. Scores of thousands of South Africans braved a pouring rain to join dozens of world leaders, including President Obama and many other heads of state, for a tribute filled with emotional tributes and joyous song. People from all walks of life, from businessmen to nurses to the unemployed, danced and clapped and sang in the hours leading up to the memorial service, their voices echoing across the stadium as if they were cheering at a soccer match. The rich mingled with the poor, children with the elderly, all there to remember Mandela, the former South African president who died Thursday at the age of 95.
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Patrick O’Connor: Former South African President Nelson Mandela dies
Washington Post: Obama’s speech at Mandela memorial
PressTV: Mourners gather for Mandela memorial in Johannesburg - Video
Stephen Lendman: John Pilger's work exposed South African apartheid harshness. Doing so got him banned. Thirty years later he returned. He wanted to see firsthand what changed. He interviewed Mandela in retirement. His "Apartheid Did Not Die" documentary followed. "Behind the modern face of democracy, the scourges of inequality, unemployment and homelessness persist," he said. White supremacy remained unchanged. It's no different today. A few blacks share wealth, power and privilege. The vast majority of black society is worse off than under apartheid. Mandela embraced the worst of neoliberal harshness. His successors follow the same model. Pilger posed tough questions. He asked Mandela how ANC freedom fighting ended up embracing Thatcherism. Mandela responded saying: "You can put any label on it you like. You can call it Thatcherite but, for this country, privatization is the fundamental policy." Pilger discovered that 80% of South African children suffered poor health. One-fourth under age six were ill nourished. During Mandela's tenure, more South Africans died from malnutrition and preventable diseases than under apartheid. Concentrated wealth is more extreme than ever. White farmers control over 80% of agricultural land. They dominate choicest areas. Pilger said about one-fourth of South Africa's budget goes for interest on odious debt. He explained how five major corporations control over three-fourths of business interests. They dominate South African life. Concentrated wealth and power are extreme. Whites control about 90% of national wealth. A select few black businessmen, politicians and trade union leaders benefit with them. The dominant Anglo-American Corporation is hugely exploitive. Gold mining exacts an enormous human cost. Pilger said one death and 12 serious injuries accompany each ton of gold mined. One-third of workers contract deadly lung disease. They're left on their own to suffer and die. Post-apartheid democracy reflects the worst of free market capitalism. It's bereft of freedom. Reform denies it. Mandela's "unbreakable promise" was forgotten.
Political and cultural elite set to attend funeral where Mandela's spirit of reconciliation may offer backdrop to unusual meetings | World leaders are preparing to converge in unprecedented numbers on South Africa for Nelson Mandela's funeral, likely to be one of the biggest global gatherings of powerful people in modern history. As South Africa embarked on nine days of mourning, comparisons were being drawn with earlier mammoth funeral ceremonies, of Pope John Paul II, Princess Diana, President John F Kennedy and Winston Churchill. But Mandela's appeal was even broader, cutting across religious divides and the usual geopolitical barriers between north and south, east and west. Barack Obama will fly in, with his wife Michelle, as well as former US presidents. Britain is expected to send senior royals, presumably Prince Charles, and possibly Prince William as well as the prime minister, David Cameron. They are likely to mix in the funeral cortege with leaders from across the globe, including from China, Iran, Cuba, Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is not clear how Syria will be represented, or whether Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir, charged with genocide by the international criminal court, will attend.
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Patrick O’Connor: Former South African President Nelson Mandela dies
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and an enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression, died on Thursday, the government announced, leaving the nation without its moral center at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the country’s leaders. “Our nation has lost its greatest son,” President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address on Thursday night, adding that Mr. Mandela had died at 8:50 p.m. local time. “His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love.” Mr Zuma said that South Africa’s thoughts were with Mr. Mandela’s family. “They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free,” he said. Mr. Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He led the African National Congress, long a banned liberation movement, to a resounding electoral victory in 1994, the first fully democratic election in the country’s history.
Mail & Guardian: Nelson Mandela dies
NYT: Mandela as Dissident, Liberator and Statesman - Photos
John Pilger: Mandela's greatness may be assured, but not his legacy [11 July 2013]
South Africa's former president claims that his country was asked to help Britain topple Robert Mugabe.
● Tony Blair’s Government asked South Africa to help Britain invadeZimbabwe and topple Robert Mugabe by force, Thabo Mbeki, the former president, has disclosed. When Zimbabwe began sinking into economic collapse and political repression in 2000, South Africa and Britain held starkly different views over how to respond to the crisis. Mr Mbeki favoured a negotiated settlement; Mr Blair wanted Mr Mugabe to go, by force if necessary. “The problem was, we were speaking from different positions,” said Mr Mbeki, who served as South Africa’s president from 1999 until 2008. “There were other people saying ‘yes indeed there are political problems, economic problems, the best way to solve them is regime change. So Mugabe must go’. This was the difference. So they said ‘Mugabe must go’. But we said ‘Mugabe is part of the solution to this problem’.” Mr Mbeki recalled an interview given by Lord Guthrie, who was Chief of the Defence Staff and Britain’s most senior soldier throughout Mr Blair’s first government. In 2007, Lord Guthrie disclosed that “people were always trying to get me to look at” toppling Mr Mugabe by force.
Simon Jenkins: The bloody disaster of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan is laid bare: Bombs and militia violence make clear the folly of Britain's wars – the removal of law and order from a nation is devastating ■ In each case – Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan – it was easy to see evil in the prevailing regime. These are bad guys that we need to go after, said the Americans. Yet the removal of law and order from a nation is devastating, however cruel that order may have been. Iraqis today repeat that, whatever the ills of Saddam Hussein, under his rule most ordinary citizens and their families could walk the streets at night without fear of murder or kidnap. Religious differences were tolerated. Iraq should have been an oil-rich modern state. Even the Kurds, scourged by Saddam in the past, enjoyed autonomy and relative peace. In each of these cases Britain and its allies, chiefly America, intervened to overthrow the army, disband government, dismantle the judiciary and leave militias to run riot. Little or no attempt was made to replace anarchy with a new order. "Nation building" was a fiasco. The British bombs that flattened government buildings in Kabul, Baghdad and Tripoli did not replace them, or those who worked in them. Those who dropped them congratulated themselves on their work and went home.
UN Urges More Transparency in Killings ● The UN conference on drone strikes opened today in New York with calls from UN experts to see more transparency around the use of drones for extraterritorial executions by nations, and condemnations by several nations of the unlawful use of the attacks en masse by the United States. The Obama Administration was quick to dismiss any complaints, insisting the killings of several thousand people worldwide without any legal oversight by CIA drones was “legal and just.”
The first case of a child being trafficked to Britain in order to have their organs harvested has been uncovered. ● The unnamed girl was brought to the UK from Somalia with the intention of removing her organs and selling them on to those desperate for a transplant. ● Child protection charities warned that the case was unlikely to be an isolated incident as traffickers were likely to have smuggled a group of children into the country. The case emerged in a government report which showed that the number of human trafficking victims in the UK has risen by more than 50 per cent last year and reached record levels. A total of 371 children were exploited, with the majority of them being used as slaves or sexually abused. They included 95 children from Vietnam, 67 from Nigeria and 25 from China. Others hailed from Romania and Bangladesh. The figures also detail how 20 British girls have been victims of human trafficking. It comes after a series of court cases in which British girls were raped and exploited by gangs of Asian men.
Rights group Amnesty International says nearly 1,000 people have died in Nigerian detention facilities. ● In a statement published on Tuesday, Amnesty said it had “credible information” that more than 950 suspected members of the Boko Haram militant group died in custody of the Nigerian military's Joint Task Force (JTF) in the first six months of 2013. “A large proportion of these people are believed to have died in Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state and Sector Alpha, commonly referred to as ‘Guantanamo’ and Presidential Lodge (known as ‘Guardroom’) in Damaturu, Yobe state,” the statement read.
● In a stealthy seaside assault in Somalia and in a raid in Libya's capital, U.S. special forces on Saturday struck out against Islamic extremists who have carried out terrorist attacks in East Africa, snatching a Libyan al-Qaida leader allegedly involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies 15 years ago but aborting a mission to capture a terrorist suspect linked to last month's Nairobi shopping mall attack after a fierce firefight.
● A U.S. Navy SEAL team swam ashore near a town in southern Somalia before militants of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab rose for dawn prayers, U.S. and Somali officials told The Associated Press. The raid on a house in the town of Barawe targeted a specific al-Qaida suspect related to the mall attack, but the operation did not get its target, one current and one former U.S. military official told AP.
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Senior al-Qaida commander accused of orchestrating 1998 US embassy bombings is captured in Tripoli. ● US special forces have carried out raids in Libya and Somalia targeting Islamist militants. The US captured a senior al-Qaida member in Tripoli and launched a dawn raid on the southern Somali hideout of one of the heads of al-Shabaab, the group behind the Kenyan mall attack, but its forces were forced to withdraw, the Pentagon said. US officials confirmed that forces operating in Libya had managed to capture Abu Anas al-Liby, accused of orchestrating the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. His apprehension ended a 15-year manhunt.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that it evacuated its embassy in Libya after armed men stormed the complex the day before, apparently seeking revenge for the killing of a Libyan Air Force officer. The Russian statement and news reports described a pitched battle between security officers and the gunmen after they broke into the embassy in Tripoli. The ambassador and other staff members hid in safe rooms. And though it was clear how the attack ended — Russian security personnel expelled the attackers, killing two of them, and then the entire embassy staff left the country — why it started remained murky.
French newspaper says quartet were allegedly involved in inciting political unrest in the African republic ahead of elections last Saturday. ● our Israeli mercenaries were arrested in Guinea last Wednesday on charges of planning a coup to overthrow Guinean President Alpha Condé, the French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné reported. The four are being held at the island of Casa north of the capital Conakry, which serves as a prison for political activists, according to the report. Guinean’s parliamentary elections, which took place Saturday and marked the country’s transition to democracy following a 2008 military coup, were fraught with tensions and uprisings, with dozens reported killed, which Le Canard Enchaîné attributed to foreign involvement. The newspaper based its findings on intelligence documents from the CIA and DSGE (the French General Directorate for External Security) showing that Israeli, French and South African mercenaries had been involved in planning a coup to overthrow Condé.
● Two years after the end of the US-NATO war in Libya, thousands in the North African country remain imprisoned without charges and are being subjected to systematic torture, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations. ● The report, entitled “Torture and deaths in detention in Libya” recorded 27 cases in which the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has gathered evidence substantiating that detainees have been tortured to death. The agency knows of many other cases that it has not been able to investigate. At least 11 of the documented torture deaths took place during the first half of this year.
Torture and brutality are rife in Libyan prisons two years after the overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in a revolution launched under the banner of freedom and justice, a U.N. report said on Tuesday. ● Around 8,000 prisoners are held without trial in government jails on suspicion of having fought for Gaddafi, while countless others are detained by freelance militias out of sight and in primitive conditions, it added. No one was immediately available for comment from the Libyan government. "Torture and ill-treatment in Libya is an on-going and widespread concern in many detention centres," said the report from the U.N.'s top human rights office (UNHCHR) and the world body's Support Mission (UNSMIL) in the country. UNSMIL had recorded 27 cases of death in detention, almost certainly caused by torture, since Gaddafi was captured and killed, it said. Eleven of these were this year and all in prisons controlled by militias, it added.
Al Jazeera: UN finds widespread torture in Libya jails
“The nation formerly known as Libya has split itself into three: the emirates of Fezzan, Cyrenaica, and Tripolitania”
Musa al-Gharbi : Libya – two years, three states, two civil wars? ■ The NATO intervention in Libya was an unmitigated disaster. At the outset, Washington policymakers believed that the people would rise up en masse against Gaddhafi, and embrace the new “democratic” government which was installed in the aftermath of his execution. This didn’t happen. Instead, NATO was pulled ever deeper into the theater because there were few military or government defections, Gaddhafi didn't buckle in the fact of direct Western intervention, and the people did not rise up against him in substantial numbers; they would not even support the rebels with food, water, or supplies. Despite the no-fly zone, his forces continued to close in on Benghazi, forcing NATO to expand its military involvement, to include arming and training the rebels. Ultimately, the tide was turned by the participation of AQIM; an al-Qaeda detainee released from Guantanamo Bay became one of the most prolific leaders of the rebellion. The organization offered their support to the rebels early on in the protests—and why shouldn’t they have? The government was moving in on their territory. According to the CTC, Libya provided the highest number of foreign insurgents in Iraq, per capita; most of these hailed from east, a la Benghazi. But even the influx of al-Qaeda fighters was insufficient to “close the deal.”
F. William Engdahl: Libya in anarchy two years after NATO Humanitarian Liberation
The murder of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi was an organized hit to cover up direct arm deals. ● A former CIA gun runner revealed that the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in order to cover up the U.S. State Department’s direct arm shipments to al-Qaeda. William Robert “Tosh” Plumlee started his career as a CIA contract pilot in the late 1950s, delivering guns and ammunition on behalf of the agency to Fidel Castro. Plumlee confirmed that such arm deals are still common today, with the State Dept. shipping arms to al-Qaeda via the CIA.
The U.S. military has been forced to relocate a large fleet of drones from a key counterterrorism base on the Horn of Africa after a string of crashes fanned local fears that the unmanned aircraft were at risk of colliding with passenger planes, according to documents and interviews. Air Force drones ceased flying this month from Camp Lemonnier, a U.S. installation in Djibouti, after local officials expressed alarm about several drone accidents and mishaps in recent years. The Pentagon has temporarily moved the unmanned aircraft from the U.S. base in Djibouti’s capital to a makeshift airstrip in a more remote part of the country.
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