Friday, January 04, 2008

Genocide Studies Media File
December 28, 2007 - January 4, 2008

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to adamj_jones@hotmail.com.

Consider inviting colleagues and friends to subscribe to Genocide_Studies and the G_S Media File. All it takes is an email to genocide_studies-subscribe@topica.com.

CHILE

"Ex-Pinochet Agents Sentenced in Revenge Killings"
Associated Press dispatch on CNN.com, 28 December 2007
"Fifteen agents of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's regime were sentenced Friday to prison terms ranging from five to 18 years for the revenge killings of three dissidents. The deaths came after a bloody but unsuccessful 1986 attempt on the life of the former dictator, who died in December 2006 at age 91. The highest sentence, 18 years, was levied on Alvaro Corbalan, a former operative chief of the National Information Central, known as CNI for its acronym in Spanish, Pinochet's security service. Corbalan, a retired army major, and most of the others sentenced already are in prison serving sentences in other rights violations cases during Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship. One, retired police captain Ivan Quiroz, has been at large since fleeing after being sentenced in another human rights case this year."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

CHINA/JAPAN/NANJING MASSACRE

"The Nanking Nightmare" (movie review)
By Richard Schickel
Time.com, 4 January 2008
"[...] The Japanese would have been pleased if there had been no neutral eyewitnesses to this atrocity. They would have been even more pleased if no camera had been present. But the foreigners were educated and articulate people. They kept diaries, they wrote letters, they were determined to set down, on a daily basis, what they saw and experienced. Moreover, there were photographers, amateur and professional, of all nationalities using still and movie equipment to make a visual record of life in the tortured city. I have rarely, if ever, seen a documentary reconstruction of a historical event that is so rich in firsthand (and well-preserved) photographic material. All the directors did was assemble a cast of actors (some of them as well-known as Woody Harrelson and Mariel Hemingway, some of them unknown) and set them to reading the written record, cutting away to the moving footage, still pictures and a few interviews, as often as possible. Besides bearing insistent witness, the foreigners also created a 'Safety Zone,' some two miles wide, into which perhaps two or three hundred [thousand] refugees were crammed, with just enough food and medical supplies to survive -- if the foreigners, among them, ironically, a German business man who was a Nazi party member -- could protect its boundaries. This they -- imperfectly -- did until the worst was over in March 1938. They even managed to smuggle out some of their pictures to alert the world to this atrocity. Later, they made direct appeals to their governments, seeking some sort of (inadequate) redress, which arrived far too late, in the form of war crimes trials after hostilities ended. The film ['Nanking'] makes no attempt to explain these events, and that is, I think, a defect. It merely summons us to witness, asks us to do what we can to prevent similar atrocities. [...]"

CONGO/VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

"The Hidden Wounds of Congo's Wars"
By Anna Husarska
Slate.com, 4 January 2008
"[...] The invisible side of the war in northeast Congo is the most painful one: a virtual epidemic of rape, and -- if it is possible -- worse forms of sexual assault, such as the brutal destruction of girls' and women's organs. Hospitals here in Goma and in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, mend the victims as best they can. These are often complicated surgical operations that may not be successful the first time around. But there is a whole other trauma: the stigma, the rejection by family, the fear -- often, alas, justified -- of contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. With the painfully common use of rape and sexual mutilation as a weapon of war, those of us who work in humanitarian aid have to adapt our programs. Here in North and South Kivu, we have a separate program aimed at preventing and attending to this scourge -- known as 'gender-based violence.' So, when we finally arrived to Karambi, we immediately met the midwife to assess the situation. The place had a bad history -- in November, the local doctor reported 80 cases of rape (though only 10 percent of them came to see him). Another IRC medical center of comparable size, which serves many war-displaced people, saw a daily average of three cases of women seeking medical attention after rape. In December, there were 'only' 20 known cases of rape in Karambi. But when the midwife concluded that cows grazing on corn are an expression of ethnic oppression, I realized how urgent it is to attend to the other invisible wound: the deep-seated divisions and prejudices that persist and that fuel these sexual assaults and mutilations. [...]"

"East Congo Violence Fuels Rape Spree by Fighters"
By Kari Barber
Reuters dispatch, 3 January 2008
"Intense fighting between government and militia forces in eastern Congo has led to a surge in rape by fighters from all sides, women and doctors say. Renewed hostilities between the army and troops loyal to renegade Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda have stoked a volatile crucible of violence in Congo's North Kivu province, where traditional Mai Mai fighters and Rwandan Hutu militia also roam. 'I was leaving the market and I ran into FDLR on the road. They robbed me of everything and then four men raped me,' Francoise Mwamasirika, a 45-year-old mother said of Rwandan Hutu rebels who include leaders of Rwanda's 1994 genocide against Tutsis. Mwamasirika was stunned and barely able to speak when she arrived at a hospital in the South Kivu town of Minova. 'I won't go back,' she said. Sexual violence has escalated as hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee the safety of their homes -- around 400,000 people since August, when Nkunda quit a peace deal, bringing North Kivu's displaced population to 800,000. Congo's government has called a peace summit for Sunday, but there is little optimism the chronic fighting will end soon. Christophe Kimona, a surgeon at Goma's Heal Africa hospital, repairs the torn and damaged genitals of rape victims. Many can no longer control urination without surgery. 'The number of women we are seeing who have been raped is going up. We see an average of three or four rapes each day,' Kimona said. 'Those are just the ones who arrive at the hospital, we don't know how many are too ashamed to come.' Most rape victims say their attackers were armed groups of rebels or government soldiers. But Kimona said as rape becomes so common with the conflict, more civilians are committing rapes too, and the victims are often children. [...]"

KENYA

"Ethnic Violence: Why Kenya is Not Another Rwanda"
By Scott Baldauf
The Christian Science Monitor, 3 January 2008
"[...] The overtones of Rwanda's 1994 genocide are ominous, but Kenya's ethnic strife differs from that of Rwanda in crucial ways. The Rwandan genocide had been planned well in advance. State radio had demonized the economically powerful Tutsi minority for years, and after the apparent assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimina, that same state radio urged Rwandan Hutus to kill Tutsis in large numbers. Hutus were supplied with machetes to do the job, urged on by local officials -- and even parish priests -- to not rest until 'the work was done.' Kenya's ethnic strife, by contrast, is being carried out on a much smaller scale by many different actors. Much of the violence is focused on the economically and politically dominant Kikuyu group, but the attacks lack the Rwandan genocide's organization and preparation, and there is no evidence that Kenyan officials are organizing it. To the contary, all TV and radio stations have been temporarily forbidden to broadcast live and all news is heavily censored for the time being. The danger in Kenya, however, lies in the intransigence of the two main leaders, both of whom claim to be president after last week's vote. [...]"

"A Chilling Tour of the Kenyan Church That Became the Scene of Mass Murder"
By Steve Bloomfield
The Independent, 3 January 2008
"Tears streamed down the cheeks of 18-year-old Sheila Kai as she described the moment before the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal church in Kiambaa was burnt to the ground. 'They told us to get inside the church or they would kill us,' she whispered, describing a gang of more than 200 men. 'Then they closed the door.' All possible escape routes were then locked shut with metal chains. Mattresses were placed around the outside of the building, then doused with paraffin and set alight. 'People were praying, calling for God, screaming,' Ms. Kai said. She was one of the lucky ones, dragged to safety through a window as the church collapsed. But dozens were killed; the youngest just three days old. ... Red Cross volunteers, who had originally believed that up to 100 people may have died, had recovered 17 bodies, all charred beyond all recognition, by yesterday morning. The remains of several small children had still not been found, their bodies reduced to ash by the force of the flames. The final death toll was likely to be between 30 and 40, officials said. Survivors of the Kiambaa massacre had walked the five long miles through the now barren sugar-cane fields to the nearest town, seeking refuge and treatment for their wounds. Last night Eldoret was under siege. Marauding gangs of 50 or more men burnt and looted houses in Kikuyu areas, attacking men, women and children. 'No Kikuyus!' they shouted, 'Go home!' -- referring to Kenya's Central province, the Kikuyu heartland. But no one could leave. Roadblocks ringed the town, manned by young men armed with machetes, sticks and bows and arrows. They hauled people from their cars, barking at them to show their identity cards. Those with Kikuyu names were dragged away and killed, witnesses said. [...]"

"Kenya Govt Denounces 'Genocide' as Toll Hits 300"
By C. Bryson Hull and Andrew Cawthorne
Reuters dispatch, 2 January 2008
"President Mwai Kibaki's government accused rival Raila Odinga's party of unleashing 'genocide' in Kenya on Wednesday as the death toll from tribal violence over a disputed election passed 300. 'It is becoming clear that these well-organised acts of genocide and ethnic-cleansing were well-planned, financed and rehearsed by Orange Democratic Movement leaders prior to the general elections,' the statement read by Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana on behalf of his colleagues said. ODM had no immediate reaction to the accusation. Odinga's supporters, drawn mainly from his Luo tribe, have blamed the violence on Kibaki for 'stealing' the Dec. 27 presidential vote. Many clashes have pitted the Luo against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe. ... The use of the word genocide will horrify Kenyans, used to being viewed by the world as a stable democracy, investment and tourist destination and oasis of peace in an otherwise volatile region scarred by like the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Kenya is an important ally of the West in its counter-terrorism efforts, takes growing money-flows from China, and is used to being the peacemaker -- rather than the conflict focus -- in African hot-spots like Somalia and Sudan. [...]

"Mob Sets Kenya Church on Fire, Killing Dozens"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 2 January 2008
"[...] As for the people burned alive in the church, Mr. Bujra echoed what many Kenyans were thinking: 'It reminds me of Rwanda.' While the bloodshed of the past few days in Kenya has fallen far short of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, many Kenyans are worried that it is spiraling out of control. The violence has been a mix of hooliganism, political protest and ethnic bloodletting. Most of the victims have been Kikuyus, the tribe of the president and Kenya's traditional ruling class. Kikuyus have dominated business and politics since independence in 1963. They run shops, restaurants, banks and factories across Kenya, from the Indian Ocean coast to the scenic savannah to the muggy shores of Lake Victoria in the west. They make up only 22 percent of the population and are part of Kenya's mosaic of roughly 40 ethnic groups, which have intermarried and coexisted for decades. But the election controversy has created a new dynamic in which many of Kenya's other tribes, furious about the ballot rigging that may have kept Mr. Kibaki in power, have vented their frustrations against them. 'We are easy targets,' said Stephen Kahianyu, a Kikuyu, staring at the embers of his home in Nairobi that was burned to the ground on Saturday. Over the past few days, Kikuyus have fled to police stations and churches for protection. On Monday night, several hundred Kikuyus barricaded themselves inside the Kenya Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, a small village near the town of Eldoret. The next morning, a rowdy mob showed up. According to witnesses, the mob was mostly Kalenjins, Luhyas and Luos, Mr. Odinga's tribe, which makes up about 13 percent of the population. They overran Kikuyu guards in front of the church and then pulled out cans of gasoline. There were no police officers around, witnesses said, and no water to put the fire out. Most people escaped. But in addition to those killed, dozens were hospitalized with severe burns. Witnesses said most of the people hiding inside had been women and children. [...]"

"135 Dead in Election Bloodbath"
By Nick Wadhams
The Times, 1 January 2008
"Kenya was plunged into further turmoil yesterday, as continued violence over Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election involved angry supporters of the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga. Confrontations with police left at least 135 people dead. Fears grew that the bloodshed, which marks the worst crisis the East African country has known for decades, would spread into a larger ethnic conflict between Luo, who generally support Mr Odinga, and the Kikuyu tribe of Mr Kibaki. The 76-year-old President was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, despite claims of corruption and vote-rigging. In the west, where Mr Odinga’s support is highest, looters torched petrol stations and a police post, while about 300 Kenyans -- fearing for their lives -- fled across the border to Uganda. At least six Kikuyu were hacked to death in the eastern port city of Mombasa, popular with British tourists. ... Terrified Luo living in areas dominated by Mr Kibaki’s supporters hid behind locked doors, while residents in Nairobi's burning slums said that they feared for their lives. 'They took my phone, they took my money, they took what I had in my pockets,' said Peter Mwau, a resident of the Kibera slum who comes from the smaller Kamba tribe. 'I did not talk to them, I just went, they were holding machetes and iron bars. We did not even sleep.' A curfew was imposed in Kisumu, the main town of western Kenya and opposition stronghold, where police have been given orders to shoot on sight. Witnesses there reported 21 bodies with gunshot wounds lying in a hospital mortuary. [...]"

NAZI HOLOCAUST

"Nazi Victims' Fund Pays Out £21m"
By Angus Crawford
BBC News, 28 December 2007
"A British scheme to return money belonging to victims of the Nazis has paid out more than £21m, or 10 times its budget, BBC News has learned. The Enemy Property Claims Assessment panel (Epcap) was set up to help people who lived in enemy countries and whose British bank accounts were frozen. It was meant to end three years ago, but is still receiving applications. The monies include a 'six-figure sum' paid to a woman whose Jewish grandfather had his savings seized. 'When my mother died, we cleaned the house [and] I found some papers [that] looked very funny,' said Yvonne, who does not want her real name used. The mysterious looking documents, found by chance, could only be read when held up against a mirror. 'They were photographed in a mirror, black paper and white letters,' Yvonne said of the papers. They dated back to the 1940s and had details of money held in British bank accounts belonging to her grandfather. Yvonne said they explained stories she heard as a child growing up in Israel. 'My parents didn't get any money when they were getting married. It was all abroad,' she said of talk of missing family monies. Yvonne's grandfather was a successful Jewish businessman living in Eastern Europe and before war broke out, he had stowed much of his money in British banks. While he survived the war and later emigrated, he, like many Holocaust survivors, never recovered his savings. Wartime trading-with-the-enemy laws meant the property belonging to anyone living in an enemy country was confiscated and would not be given back. [...]"

SERBIA/KOSOVO

"Messy Kosovo Breakaway Stokes Fear of Partition"
By Matt Robinson
Reuters dispatch, 28 December 2007
"Serbia is telling Serbs in Kosovo to ignore an Albanian declaration of independence early next year, raising the prospect of an ethnic partition of the breakaway province that the West has long ruled out. Serbs dominate a thin slice of northern Kosovo, frustrating efforts by leaders of Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority and their U.N. overseers to extend control over the entire territory of Serbia's southern province. Kosovo's 2 million Albanians are expected to declare independence in the first months of 2008, almost nine years since NATO drove out Serb forces to halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in a Serb counter-insurgency war. The Albanians have Western backing after almost two years of failed Serb-Albanian negotiations. But the flag-raising is unlikely to extend beyond the Ibar river that slices through the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, forming a natural boundary between Serbs in the north and Albanians in the south. Beyond formally rejecting Kosovo's secession, Serbia promises to 'intensify' a network of parallel structures that service the 120,000 remaining Serbs. It has opened a government office in north Mitrovica, to U.N. accusations of 'provocation.' Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, promoting a resolution implicitly rejecting EU and NATO membership if the two recognize Kosovo, told parliament this week Serbs in Kosovo 'should ignore any unilateral declaration as an illegal act.' [...]"

SRI LANKA

"Sri Lanka War Seen Escalating"
By Ranga Sirilal
Reuters dispatch, 3 January 2008
"Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels will likely escalate into the bloodiest period of fighting the island has seen after the government scrapped a tattered truce, experts said on Thursday. Sri Lanka plunged back into war after four years of relative peace almost as soon as President Mahinda Rajapaksa took power in late 2005. But both he and the Tigers had held off scrapping a Norwegian-brokered truce to avoid appearing the villain. With the pact now formally ended, hopes of resurrecting collapsed peace talks any time soon are dead and investment in the $26 billion economy could suffer. Sri Lanka's stock market fell 1.2 percent on Thursday as investors braced for escalation. 'This means all-out war. The government has dropped the peace option and has opted for a fuller military onslaught on the rebels,' said Iqbal Athas, an analyst with Jane's Defense Weekly in Colombo. Wednesday's announcement came hours after suspected Tiger rebels bombed a military bus in central Colombo, killing four people and wounding 24. It was the latest in a litany of attacks that have killed hundreds in recent months. Violence continued on Thursday. The military said it destroyed six rebel bunkers in the northwestern district of Mannar, killing six Tigers, while the pro-rebel Web site, www.tamilnet.com, said the insurgents had thwarted a major army offensive and killed 10 soldiers in apparently the same incident. [...]"

SUDAN/DARFUR

"New Darfur Peacekeeping Force Takes Over"
By Mohamed Osman
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 31 December 2007
"The African Union transferred authority Monday to a new joint peacekeeping force with the United Nations in Darfur that the international community hopes will stem the violence in Sudan's war-torn western region. But the new mission is staffed far below its authorized level -- at only 9,000 of a planned 26,000 -- and many fear it will be as incapable of protecting civilians as the AU force it replaced. The ceremony at the new mission's headquarters outside the North Darfur capital of El Fasher capped months of international pressure on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to admit the force. The Sudanese president has thrown up bureaucratic obstructions to the force's full deployment, including blocking Swedish and Thai troops, and it is unclear when further deployments will come. Western countries have also been slow to provide military helicopters, considered vital to making the force effective. As a result, many experts inside and outside the U.N. believe the mission will have little immediate effect on security in Darfur, where 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been driven from their homes in 4 1/2 years of violence. Ethnic African rebels have been battling the Arab-dominated government's troops and the Arab militias known as janjaweed, which are accused of committing widespread atrocities against civilians. U.N. officials have said the force at full strength with 20,000 troops and 6,000 policemen -- backed, it is hoped, by attack helicopters -- would be robust and effective enough to stop attacks on refugees, civilians and aid workers. That would be a sharp contrast to the African Union force, which at 7,000 troops has been unable to stop violence in the region. [...]"

UNITED STATES

"Looking at America"
The New York Times (editorial) on Truthout.org, 31 December 2007
"[...] In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant. We have read accounts of how the government's top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions -- and both American and international law -- to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review. ... Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, were thrown into a prison in Guant√°namo Bay, Cuba, so that the White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws. Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers. ... The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect for life or law, sending prisoners -- some of them innocents kidnapped on street corners and in airports -- to be tortured into making false confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were let go without any apology or hope of redress. These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bush's two terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much more -- so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them. [...]"
[n.b. A powerful editorial, though I'm unsure how the Times could publish it without also calling for the immediate arrest and/or impeachment of Bush and his henchmen.]

"LA Gang F13 Accused of Targeting Blacks"
By Thomas Watkins
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 30 December 2007
"In a murderous quest aimed at 'cleansing' their turf of snitches and rival gangsters, members of one of Los Angeles County's most vicious Latino gangs sometimes killed people just because of their race, an investigation found. There were even instances in which Florencia 13 leaders ordered killings of black gangsters and then, when the intended victim couldn't be located, said 'Well, shoot any black you see,' Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said. 'In certain cases some murders were just purely motivated on killing a black person,' Baca said. Authorities say there were 20 murders among more than 80 shootings documented during the gang's rampage in the hardscrabble Florence-Firestone neighborhood, exceptional even in an area where gang violence has been commonplace for decades. They don't specify the time frame or how many of the killings were racial. ... The violence goes both ways, said Adam Torres, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department gang detective whose beat includes Florence-Firestone. During a recent patrol on the east side of the neighborhood, he pointed to a cinderblock wall peppered with bullet holes. Torres said the Crips still control that area and any Hispanic there is at risk of being shot. Despite the wave of violence, George Tita, a criminologist with the University of California, Irvine, said racially motivated gang killings are an exception. Latinos and blacks are far more likely to be murdered by one of their own. [...]"

"Vermont Town Seeks Bush, Cheney Arrests"
By Dave Gram
Associated Press dispatch on RawStory.com, 28 December 2007
"President Bush may soon have a new reason to avoid left-leaning Vermont: In one town, activists want him subject to arrest for war crimes. A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community. 'This petition is as radical as the Declaration of Independence, and it draws on that tradition in claiming a universal jurisdiction when governments fail to do what they're supposed to do,' said Kurt Daims, 54, a retired machinist leading the drive. As president, Bush has visited every state except Vermont. The town meeting, an annual exercise in which residents gather to vote on everything from fire department budgets to municipal policy, requires about 1,000 signatures to place a binding item on the agenda. The measure asks: 'Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities?' The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. The press office did not immediately respond to an e-mail. ... Daims has been circulating documents that claim the community acquires a 'universal jurisdiction' to take such steps 'when governments breach their highest duties.' 'We have the full power to issue indictments, conduct trials, incarcerate offenders and do all other acts which Independent jurisdictions may of right do,' the statement says. [...]"




ISSUE: FOOD SECURITY AND WATER RIGHTS

"Water Not War"
By Peter Tatchell
The Guardian, 3 January 2008
"More than 1 billion people on our planet are forced to drink foul, infected water, which has killed at least 22 million people in the last decade. They could all have safe, clean water within 10 years, for just a tiny fraction of the cost of global military spending. Why isn't it happening? ... This morning I woke up and walked 12 feet to my kitchen tap. I drank a large refreshing glass of pure water. Alas, the easily accessible, clean, safe water that we take for granted in the west is only a distant dream for one-sixth of the world's population, especially in Asia and Africa. Hundreds of millions of poor people have to trek for many miles and hours every day to fetch often foul-smelling, diseased drinking water that can cause deadly dysentery, cholera, typhoid and intestinal worms and parasites. The lack of safe water supplies frequently impacts worst on marginal social groups, such as lower castes and ethnic minorities, who may be denied access to the best water sources and be forced to pay premium prices to private suppliers. Some tourist developments in developing countries, such as big hotels and golf courses, involve the private owners sinking their own bore holes to extract water from below ground. This often results in the depression of the water table, drying up wells and causing water crises in the surrounding villages. Water shortages and a lack of affordability in developing countries have, in some cases, been exacerbated by privatisation, which has usually benefited urban dwellers to the neglect of their rural counterparts, and has usually resulted in private monopolies and price hikes, to the detriment of low income families. With global warming and rising populations, the prospect looms of future disputes -- even wars -- over shortages of fresh water supplies. [...]"

"Why the Era of Cheap Food is Over"
By Peter Ford
The Christian Science Monitor, 31 December 2007
"[...] Two major trends have been pushing prices up faster than they have risen for more than 30 years. One is that increasingly prosperous consumers in India and China are not only eating more food but eating more meat. Animals have to be fed (grains, usually) before they are butchered. The other is that more and more crops -- from corn to palm nuts -- are being used to make biofuels instead of feeding people. At the same time, the world is drawing down its stockpiles of cereal and dairy products, which makes markets nervous and prices volatile. The result, says Joachim von Braun, who heads the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, is that 'the world food system is in trouble. The situation has not been this much of a concern for 15 years.' ... Some analysts estimate that as much as 30 percent of the US grain crop will go toward producing ethanol this year, a doubling from 2006. IFPRI forecasts that if the world sticks to current biofuel expansion plans, the price of corn will go up 26 percent by 2020, and the price of oilseeds (such as soybean, sunflower, rapeseed) by 18 percent. If governments double efforts to produce this alternative fuel source, corn prices are expected to go up 72 percent and oilseeds by 44 percent in 12 years' time. ... As usual, it is the poorest people in the world who suffer most, because food takes up a bigger share of their daily shopping bill than it does for richer people. A family in Bangladesh, for example, living on $5 a day, typically spends $3 of that on food. The 50 percent rise in food prices the world has seen in recent years takes a $1.50 chunk -- nearly 30 percent -- out of the family budget. Even farmers are not immune. On the whole, small-scale farmers in developing countries buy more food than they sell, so they, too, are net losers. Relatively few peasants have holdings large enough to benefit from price increases. Big farmers in the rich countries, however, are doing well: US corn farmers have seen the price their crop fetches jump by 50 percent since 2000. Other net food exporters, such as India, Australia, and South Africa, will also do well out of rising prices. [...]"

ISSUE: HUMAN EVIL

"Will Smith, Hitler and the Holocaust's Unanswerable Question"
By Gabriel Rotello
HuffingtonPost.com, 27 December 2007
"Will Smith found himself in hot water last week after making a statement to a Scottish newspaper that Adolph Hitler 'didn't wake up going, "let me do the most evil thing I can do today." I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was good.' Smith's quote was preceded by the interviewer's gratuitous observation, 'Remarkably, Will believes everyone is basically good.' ... The Jewish Defense League said Smith's words 'spit on the memory of every person murdered by the Nazis' and called on theaters to boycott Smith's new movie. It looked like another Mel Gibson moment in the making. But what was lost in the controversy is that Smith's actual statement -- not that Hitler was a good person, but that Hitler thought he was a good person -- lies at the heart of one of the most baffling questions about Hitler that historians and philosophers have grappled with since the Holocaust. The most cogent discussion of that question is laid out in Ron Rosenbaum's brilliant book Explaining Hitler, which ought to be required reading for anyone interested in deciphering the worst villainy in modern history. Rosenbaum examines various attempts by historians and philosophers to explain 'what made Hitler Hitler.' And one of Rosenbaum's most interesting discussions centers on the very issue Will Smith addressed: Did Hitler, Rosenbaun asks, "believe in some deeply deluded way that he was doing good?" In other words, was he 'convinced of his own rectitude,' as Hitler biographer Hugh Trevor-Roper and many other scholars have argued? Or was Hitler 'deeply aware of his own criminality,' as philosophers such as Berel Lang and others maintain? To frame this discussion, Rosenbaum points to a tradition in Western philosophy going back to Plato that draws a distinction between two concepts: 'evil' and 'wicked.' In this tradition, 'evil' can describe people who do terrible things but who think, in their own deluded way, that they are actually doing good. 'Wickedness,' on the other hand, is reserved for people who do terrible things "knowing they are doing wrong.' In the case of Hitler, the question of whether he knew he was doing wrong and just did it anyway, or whether he actually thought he was doing good despite his horrific acts, bedevil all attempts to understand the worst crime of the twentieth century. And interestingly, lots of scholars come down on the side of Will Smith, arguing that Hitler was 'convinced of his own rectitude.' [...]"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be constructive in your comments. - AJ