After Coup, Even Mugabe’s Own Party Is Dumping Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

President Robert Mugabe, center, appeared on Friday, under tight security, at a graduation ceremony at a university in Harare. Credit Ben Curtis/Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s governing party moved on Friday to expel President Robert Mugabe from its ranks, taking the first step in legally ousting the 93-year-old leader following a military intervention two days earlier.

A majority of the leaders of the party, ZANU-PF, recommended Mr. Mugabe’s expulsion from the very organization that he had controlled with an iron grip since independence in 1980, according to ZBC, the state broadcaster.

Military officers have insisted that their takeover was not a coup, but the party’s leaders appeared on Friday to be providing political cover for the intervention. The party’s central committee, Parliament, and Mr. Mugabe’s cabinet could now take steps to officially end his presidency if he does not resign.

The military arrested Mr. Mugabe early Wednesday, effectively ending his 37-year rule, although it allowed him to appear in public on Friday to address a university graduation.

Later on Friday, party members endorsed the military’s efforts to stabilize the economy and defuse political instability. They echoed military commanders in arguing that the intervention was aimed at rooting out a cabal of corrupt interlopers who had clouded Mr. Mugabe’s judgment and his ability to govern.

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“Many of us had watched with pain as the party and government were being reduced to the personal property of a few infiltrators with traitorous histories and questionable commitment to the people of Zimbabwe,” the party leaders said in a resolution. “Clearly, the country was going down the wrong path.”

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An armored personnel carrier in Harare on Friday. credit agency France-Presse — Getty Images

The resolution recommended that Mr. Mugabe be removed for taking the advice of “counterrevolutionaries and agents of neo-imperialism”; for mistreating his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mr. Mugabe abruptly dismissed last week; and for encouraging “factionalism.” It urged the “immediate and unconditional reinstatement” of Mr. Mnangagwa, who appears poised to succeed Mr. Mugabe, at least until national elections scheduled for next year.

Party members also moved to schedule a march for Saturday in support of the military.

Over the past few days, the military has been in negotiations to find a peaceful and face-saving way for Mr. Mugabe to exit the scene, in talks mediated by South Africa and other countries in the region, and by the Roman Catholic Church.

The military has insisted that its intervention was not a coup. The Herald, the state-run newspaper, said the military “had taken action to pacify the degenerating political, social and economic situation in the country,” which “if left unchecked would have resulted in violent conflict,” and said the action was intended “to flush out reactionary and criminal elements around the president.”

On Friday, Mr. Mugabe was freed — if only temporarily — to address a university graduation ceremony. It was his first public appearance since the military placed him under house arrest — an illustration, perhaps, that this was no ordinary attempt to oust a despot.

Mr. Mugabe, 93, has dominated his country since independence from Britain 37 years ago, surviving through a blend of political skill, brutality, manipulation and patronage dispensed among a corrupt elite.

Those days “are numbered,” though, said Chris Mutsvangwa, the leader of Zimbabwe’s influential war veterans’ movement, which was founded to represent those who fought in the seven-year liberation war in the 1970s but has emerged as a powerful political force.

At a news conference, Mr. Mutsvangwa cranked up pressure on Mr. Mugabe, saying the longtime leader would face huge calls for his ouster at a rally on Saturday. 

 

In Zimbabwe Crisis, Is Mugabe’s Reign Over?

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president who has ruled for almost four decades, has been put under house arrest by the military.

By CAMILLA SCHICK and CHRIS CIRILLO on Publish DateNovember 15, 2017. Photo by Aaron Ufumeli/European Pressphoto Agency. Watch in Times Video »

At his news conference, Mr. Mutsvangwa said several key regions in Zimbabwe’s Shona-speaking heartlands — the base of ZANU-PF’s support — had approved calls for the president’s expulsion. Mr. Mugabe himself has in the past used orchestrated maneuvering in the provinces to undermine national figures in Harare.

The talks involving the Catholic Church and South African mediators are intended to devise some form of transition that would have the appearance of constitutional legitimacy while providing a decorous departure for a leader whose role in the pre-independence liberation struggle is central to the national narrative.

The military’s ultimate intention has apparently been to effect a transfer of power without the appearance of illegality that might draw further opprobrium from outside Zimbabwe or frighten off potential investors.

“The army is trying to keep people guessing” while talks continue, said Frank Chikowore, a Zimbabwean journalist.

The ZANU-PF resolution on Friday singled out the G-40, a faction of politicians aligned with Mr. Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe. It denounced four of them as “criminals and counterrevolutionaries”: Jonathan N. Moyo, the minister of higher education; Ignatius M. Chombo, the finance minister; Saviour Kasukuwere, minister for local government; and Patrick Zhuwao, the minister for public services, labor and social welfare.

The party did not, however, explicitly condemn Mrs. Mugabe, whose recent aspirations to succeed her husband appear to have been a trigger for his downfall.

Outside the main cities on Friday, the military set up roadblocks on main highways, apparently to thwart any attempt at organized resistance. Buses traveling from Bulawayo, the second city, to Harare, the capital, were pulled over and boarded by soldiers who checked documents and asked passengers about their business. Sometimes, travelers reported, the soldiers ordered passengers off the buses for inspection. Some were asked if they were carrying weapons.

 

Video

Grace Mugabe’s Fierce Battle for Power in Zimbabwe

Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s first lady, is in the middle of the fight for the country’s presidency. Her rising power may have prompted the military to take over.

By BARBARA MARCOLINI and CAMILLA SCHICK on Publish DateNovember 15, 2017. Photo by Joao Silva/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

Such was the official concern to maintain an appearance of normalcy that the state broadcaster devoted the first 10 minutes of its news bulletin on Thursday to interviews with people across the land — traders in Bulawayo, tourists at Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River — and, as if scripted, all repeated the same refrain: “It’s business as usual.” Mr. Mugabe’s appearance at the graduation ceremony — however surreal — seemed to be part of the same stratagem.

Some Zimbabweans suggested that the officers’ calculation might offer Mr. Mugabe a chance to play hardball in closed-door talks.

In the annals of Africa’s many uprisings and coups, the script often involves the strongman fleeing into exile or being imprisoned or even shot.

Instead, Zimbabwe’s military allowed Mr. Mugabe to return to State House, his official residence, and on Friday, he appeared in a bright blue cap and gown, under tight security, to oversee the graduation ceremony in Harare. At one point, he appeared to doze, his head lolling.

By appearing at the ceremony, Mr. Mugabe wanted to give “the impression that he is still in charge,” Mr. Mutsvangwa said. “He is finished.”

“He is defying the population, trying to give a semblance of normality when things are not normal,” Mr. Mutsvangwa said. “That’s why we are saying: Don’t lie to yourself; it’s a delusion. You know he has been deluding himself — he is deluded.”

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Mr. Mugabe — in official portrayals at least — has maintained power as an enduring emblem of the fight to expunge colonial influence in Africa.

But he has presided over a precipitous economic decline that began with the seizing of white-owned farms starting in 2000. Joblessness has soared, and a shortage of foreign currency has driven up the price of imports. At the same time, a loyal elite around him has amassed villas, farms and high-end automobiles.

Don Jr. And Eric Trump Are Trophy Hunters: Now You Know Why: Play Dates

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘CARE2 PETITIONS’)

 

Save Elephants and Lions – Stop Trump’s Trophy Hunting Plan

  • by: Care2 Team
  • target: US Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
57,544 SUPPORTERS
60,000 GOAL

President Donald J. Trump just opened the door to expanded sport hunting of some of the world’s most beloved — and imperiled — animals: Africa’s elephants and lions. We need your signature today to help stop him.

Near the turn of the 20th century, Africa was home to between three and five million elephants. Now less than half a million remain. Africa’s lions have seen similar declines, with lion numbers declining by 42 percent in just the last 20 years.

To save these iconic animals from extinction, the Obama administration banned the importation of elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe and made importing lion pelts and other trophies more difficult.

Now President Trump — whose sons have boasted publicly of killing rare animals in Africa — has reversed this animal-saving ban.

This reversal will almost inevitably increase poaching of these rare animals. According to Jeffrey Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare:

“When a species’ greatest value is as a dead trophy, its days will inevitably be numbered, just as they are when the value of their parts — like ivory tusks, tiger skins, or rhino horn — make protection from poachers nearly impossible.”

The move is also squarely at odds with public opinion in the US. 82% of Americans surveyed support banning lion trophies, and 83% support banning elephant trophies.

That’s why Care2 is calling on Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, one of the most stalwart animal defenders in Congress, to introduce legislation to reverse the Trump administration’s trophy import decision as soon as possible.

By adding your name today you’ll show Congressman Grijalva that conservation-minded people around the world reject sport hunting of our imperiled species. And you’ll provide the public support we’ll need to restore vital protections for whales and lions.

Speak out for our imperiled elephants and lions. Please sign the petition now to stop new imports of elephant and lion trophies.

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Trump Opens Up U.S. Market To Elephant Poachers/Hunters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

African elephant and calf walking, Masai Mara N.R, Kenya
African elephant and calf walking, Masai Mara N.R, Kenya
Anup Shah—Getty Images

By Justin Worland

11:58 AM EST

The Trump administration on Thursday said it had reversed a ban on hunters importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

The FWS said the move, which reverses a prohibition enacted by the Obama administration in 2014, follows a revaluation based on new information about the elephant populations and their management in those countries. New estimates show there are 80,000 elephants in Zimbabwe, according to the FWS. The agency does not say what the estimate was in 2014. The government of Zimbabwe issues permits to hunt 500 elephants annually, collecting fees that hunting backers say supports conservation.

“Sport hunting, as part of a sound wildlife management program, can provide benefits to conservation,” the FWS said in a bulletin announcing the decision. “When the Service announced an interim suspension on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe on April 4, 2014, we based our decision on the limited information available to us… the facts on the ground have changed and improved.”

The agency will immediately begin issuing permits to carry elephant trophies — typically the elephant’s severed head — back to the U.S. as a symbol of the hunt. The practice received public outcry in 2015 after reports that an American dentist had killed a lion in Zimbabwe illegally. Still, trophy hunting remains popular among a small group of hunters, including the president’s children, Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric.

Trophy hunting remains controversial in the U.S. with animal protection groups arguing that it contributes to unsustainable population decline in a slew of threatened species. Elephants, in particular, remain an endangered species with a rapid decline continuing as a result of poaching and the ivory trade.

“The global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade,” said Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle in a blog post. “And now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them.”

The FWS service said it was still evaluating whether to allow hunters to import elephant remains from Tanzania.

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In Zimbabwe, an anxious wait to see if Mugabe will return after military takeover  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

In Zimbabwe, an anxious wait to see if Mugabe will return after military takeover

 Play Video 2:48
What to know about the military takeover in Zimbabwe
On Nov. 15, Zimbabwe’s military took control of the country, detaining President Robert Mugabe. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)
 November 15 at 7:41 PM
 After ruling Zimbabwe for nearly four decades, leading the country from the triumph of its independence struggle to economic collapse, the world’s oldest head of state became a prisoner of the military he once commanded.Robert Mugabe, 93, was detained along with his wife, according to a military announcement Wednesday. The move appears to end one of Africa’s most controversial political dynasties while raising questions about what might come next — military rule, a transitional government or a settlement that would allow Mugabe to return to power.

No matter what happens, this appears to be a watershed moment for Zimbabwe and southern Africa, which have suffered from the tumult of Mugabe’s reign, even as his hold on power sometimes seemed unshakable.

Zimbabweans awoke early Wednesday to a televised announcement from an army general promising that there was “not a military takeover,” although Mugabe had been detained and armored vehicles were rolling into Harare, the capital.

Despite the assurances, the events bore all the signs of a coup. Troops were stationed around the city. The army took over the television station. The army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo, said in his televised statement that “criminals” in Mugabe’s regime were being targeted. Although there was little indication of violence by Wednesday night, many residents of the capital remained paralyzed — unsure whether they should celebrate Mugabe’s ouster or prepare themselves for a new era of undemocratic rule.

The commander of Zimbab­we’s military forces, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, made the move as a struggle over who will succeed the country’s elderly leader came to a head.

Mugabe led the country to independence from Britain in 1980, fighting in a guerrilla war that put an end to white minority rule. Upon becoming president, he galvanized the population with fiery speeches promising that “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.”

But that mantra lost much of its power in recent years, as Mugabe’s presidency was marred by allegations of corruption, nepotism and repression. Zimbabwe went from being one of Africa’s wealthiest nations to a country reeling under one of the highest inflation rates in modern history, its currency so devalued that it had to print a $100 billion note.

Mugabe recently purged some key officials from the ruling party, ZANU-PF, paving the way for his 52-year-old spouse, Grace, to succeed him. Many see that move as a major miscalculation, alienating Mugabe from the civilians and military leaders on whom he had long depended.

As of Wednesday night, the fate of Mugabe and his wife was unclear. Neither had released a statement.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who announced that he was sending high-level envoys to Harare, said that he had spoken to Mugabe and that he is “fine” — albeit confined to his home.

“Mugabe and his family are safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed,” Moyo, the Zimbab­wean general, said in the televised statement. An armored vehicle blocked the road in front of Mugabe’s offices as soldiers milled around.

“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering,” Moyo continued.

The statement was played over and over on state television and radio, but no more details were provided. Rumors spread that a number of cabinet ministers had been arrested. At least one, Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, was taken from his home by soldiers, according to an aide.

But the military remained tight-lipped about Mugabe, his wife and other members of Mugabe’s inner circle.

“We are not saying these names now,” said Overson Mugwisi, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Defense Forces.

World leaders were monitoring the situation. The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said that “nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to a next.”

The U.S. State Department refrained from calling the action a coup but said Washington was “concerned by recent actions taken by Zimbabwe’s military forces” and called on authorities to exercise restraint.

For decades, Mugabe had a reputation as an unwavering critic of many Western policies and international institutions. His supporters hailed him for actions such as the seizure of white-owned farms. Although the farms were meant to be given to black families, many ended up in the hands of Mugabe’s close associates, and within years a large number had fallen fallow because their new owners had no background or interest in farming.

On the streets of Harare, the news of the military takeover was greeted with cautious optimism by many.

“We are happy that we are going to have another leader,” said a man in Harare’s Chitungwiza neighborhood who called himself Yemurai. “Even if it’s going to be another dictator, we accept a new one. Look, we are jobless, hungry and poverty-stricken. All we want is something different.” Like most people interviewed, he spoke on the condition that his full name not be used.

But some people worried that the military intervention could lead to violence.

“This is a disaster,” said Baxon, a man from the Glen View area. “Solving one problem by creating another. We don’t want another war, but it seems we are headed that way. We have heard there are people in the army not in agreement with what Chiwenga did.”

But there were mounting signs that Mugabe’s former allies were quickly turning against him.

Victor Matemadanda, secretary general of the powerful War Veterans Association, thanked Chiwenga for intervening and said Mugabe should be dismissed.

“We will be recalling President Robert Mugabe as the first secretary of the party and the head of state for the crimes he has committed,” Matemadanda said in a news conference.

In Harare’s central business district, residents said all seemed normal.

Across the country, Zimbabweans exchanged frantic text messages asking for updates, debating whether Mugabe had finally been toppled.

Political analyst Mike Mavura said it was important for the ­military to say this was not a coup for reasons of international legitimacy.

“We are not in the 1960s and 1970s anymore, when coups in Africa were left, right and center — I think they are trying very hard to appear progressive,” he said. “However, of interest to democracy, the elections scheduled for next year, will they take place?”

Zimbabwe’s political crisis reached a boiling point last week with Mugabe’s dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, clearing the way for Mugabe’s wife to succeed the leader.

Mugabe told supporters he had dismissed Mnangagwa for disloyalty and disrespect, as well as using witchcraft to take power. Mnangagwa later fled to South Africa.

The move exacerbated divisions in the ZANU-PF party, where the youth faction is firmly on Grace Mugabe’s side, while many older veterans of the struggle against white rule look to Mnangagwa. As a former defense minister, Mnangagwa has strong support in the military.

Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme said by phone that the military will probably try to pressure Mugabe to step down in favor of Mnangagwa as acting president.

“But this plan may not pan out, as Mugabe might resist this. So the whole thing may be messy,” he warned.

Didymus Mutasa, a former presidential affairs minister who was fired by Mugabe in 2014, said he hoped that the military takeover would “help us start on a democratic process.”

Zimbabwe was once a breadbasket for the region, but its economy and especially the agricultural sector have suffered in recent years.

Meanwhile, Mugabe was seen as being increasingly under the influence of his wife, who is also known as “Gucci Grace” for the rumored extravagance of her foreign shopping trips. The country’s per-capita gross domestic product is $1,008, according to the World Bank.

In recent weeks, there have been signs of an increased sensitivity to criticism of the government. Four people were detained for booing Grace Mugabe at a rally, and an American woman was arrested for allegedly tweeting insulting comments about Mugabe.

Schemm reported from Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia. Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.

US Air Force official: Missile targeting Saudis was Iranian

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

US Air Force official: Missile targeting Saudis was Iranian

  • Iran manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital, says the top U.S. Air Force official in the Mideast.
  • Saudi Arabia long has accused Iran of giving weapons to the Shiite rebels and their allies, though Tehran has just as long denied supplying them.
  • “There have been Iranian markings on those missiles,” Harrigian told journalists. “To me, that connects the dots to Iran.”

A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen's pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh's King Khaled Airport on Saturday.

Houthi Military Media Unit | Reuters
A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh’s King Khaled Airport on Saturday.

Iran manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital and remnants of it bore “Iranian markings,” the top U.S. Air Force official in the Mideast said Friday, backing the kingdom’s earlier allegations.

The comments by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees the Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, further internationalizes the yearslong conflict in Yemen — the Arab world’s poorest country.

Saudi Arabia long has accused Iran of giving weapons to the Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies, though Tehran has just as long denied supplying them.

“There have been Iranian markings on those missiles,” Harrigian told journalists at a news conference in Dubai ahead of the Dubai Air Show. “To me, that connects the dots to Iran.”

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.

Saudi Arabia says it shot down the missile Nov. 4 near Riyadh’s international airport, the deepest yet to reach into the kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry later said investigators examining the remains of the rocket found evidence proving “the role of Iranian regime in manufacturing them.” It did not elaborate, though it also mentioned it found similar evidence after a July 22 missile launch. French President Emmanuel Macron similarly this week described the missile as “obviously” Iranian.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement Tuesday that the July launch involved an Iranian Qiam-1, a liquid-fueled, short-range Scud missile variant. Iran used a Qiam-1 in combat for the first time in June when it targeted Islamic State group militants in Syria over twin militant attacks in Tehran.

Harrigian declined to offer any specifics on what type of missile U.S. officials believed it was, nor did he show any images of the debris. He also didn’t explain how Iran evaded the blockade by the Saudi-led coalition, which intensified after the missile targeting Riyadh.

“How they got it there is probably something that will continue to be investigated over time,” the lieutenant general said. “What has been demonstrated and shown based on the findings of that missile is that it had Iranian markings on it. That in itself provides evidence of where it came from.”

The Houthis have described using Burkan-2 or “Volcano” Scud variants in their recent attacks, including the one Nov. 4. Those finless missiles are reminiscent of the Qiam, wrote Jeremy Binnie of Jane’s Defense Weekly in a February analysis.

“The Burkan-2 is likely to heighten suspicions that Iran is helping Yemen’s rebel forces to develop their ballistic missile capabilities,” Binnie wrote.

Adding to that suspicion is the fact that Yemen’s missile forces previously never had experience in disassembling and rebuilding the weapons, said Michael Knights, a fellow at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy who previously worked in Yemen.

It is “not a stretch to believe that Tehran is supporting the Houthi missile program with technical advice and specialized components,” Knights wrote in an analysis Thursday. “After all, the Houthis have rapidly fielded three major new missile systems in less than two years while under wartime conditions and international blockade.”

The U.S. already is involved in the war in Yemen and has launched drone strikes targeting the local branch of al-Qaida, though it stopped offering targeting information under the Obama administration over concerns about civilian casualties. That prohibition continues today, though the Air Force continues to refuel warplanes in the Yemen theater and offers support in managing airspace over the country, Harrigian said. The Saudi-led coalition also uses American-made bombs and ordinance in its attacks.

Yemen long has had ballistic missiles, dating back to the 1970s when Yemen was split between the socialist South Yemen and North Yemen. After unification in 1990 and a later civil war, Yemen largely moved its ballistic missile stockpile to a mountain base in Sanaa, the capital. It also purchased more from North Korea.

When the Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014, their allied fighters also held control of the ballistic missiles. The Yemeni military was widely believed to possess around 300 Scud missiles at the time, though exact figures remain unknown.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 on the side of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. It then attacked the ballistic missile base in April 2015, touching off massive explosions that killed several dozen people. Saudi Arabia implied at the time that the Scud arsenal in Yemen had been seriously degraded, if not entirely destroyed, as a result of the airstrikes.

It soon would become clear that wasn’t the case. In June 2015, the rebels fired their first ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia near the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait. In the time since, Yemen’s rebels have fired over 70 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ missile defense project.

For its part, Iran long has denied offering any arms to Yemen, though it has backed the Houthis and highlighted the high civilian casualties from the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign of airstrikes.

But others in Iran have been coy about the ballistic missiles in Yemen. Mehdi Taeb, an influential hard-line cleric who is a brother to the intelligence chief of the hard-line Revolutionary Guard, said in April that Iran tried three times to send missiles to Yemen. The Guard, answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, oversees Iran’s missile program.

“We did it one time via an airplane, one time via a Navy boat and one time with a ship,” Taeb said in an online video.

The cleric said ultimately the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the transfers stopped over negotiations on the nuclear deal with world powers, without offering a specific time for the attempted shipments.

“They said come back because the Americans said, ‘If you send missiles to Yemen, we will end the negotiations,'” Taeb said.

Zimbabwe News: Country on the brink of collapse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ZIMBABWE NEWS AGENCY ‘NEWS.COM.AU)

 

Country on the brink of collapse

The currency is failing, the government’s digging its heels in, and tourists are staying away as this nation faces collapse.

news.com.auNOVEMBER 7, 20178:04AM

Mugabe removed as WHO goodwill ambassador

UNEMPLOYMENT is at a staggering 90 percent, the currency — or lack thereof — is a global laughing stock and any money that could be raised through tourism isn’t coming through.

Welcome to Zimbabwe: the country that’s about to collapse.

Zimbabwe’s financial ruin is a foregone conclusion for many of the world’s economists. A new currency experiment by the government, spearheaded by president Robert Mugabe, 93, is backfiring. The country can’t pay for its borrowed electricity, a cash shortage has forced people to barter to survive, and it’s managed to drive away any foreign tourists otherwise willing to spend their money there.

And while a general election will be held next year, there seems little sign of change: Mr. Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, revealed on the weekend her plan to succeed her aging husband as the country’s first woman president.

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

But as Mr. Mugabe focuses on his party’s election victory, a cash shortage has sparked panic-buying as people struggle to find patrol and basic needs, and it echoes the economic crisis of 2009 that’s still a fresh nightmare to millions of people in the debt-ridden nation.

IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE

Zimbabwe’s currency dysfunction has long been the stuff of infamy.

The government scrapped the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009 after hyperinflation peaked at an eye-watering 500,000,000,000 percent — wiping out people’s savings and destroying businesses. At that time, a loaf of bread was more than 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars or 40 US cents.

Zimbabwe then switched to a whole host of foreign currencies and largely settled on the US dollar. But amid a shortage of the greenback, the Mugabe government came up with a new plan — “bond notes”, equivalent to US dollars, which it introduced a year ago to boost economic growth.

It was hoped the bond notes, which are not valid outside Zimbabwe, would stop US dollars flowing overseas. But they divided ordinary Zimbabweans, many of whom feared the alternative currency would trigger a similar economic crisis as with the old Zimbabwean dollar.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange Auntony

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange AuntonySource: AFP

In the past few weeks, a lack of confidence in the bond notes has set further in and stockpiling and panic-buying have seen prices rocket. The fear is things are returning to how they were in 2008, at the height of hyperinflation.

“We are already witnessing shortages of basic commodities,” Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, told AFP.

“The situation has been triggered by lack of confidence in the bond notes. We are being driven to barter for goods as there is no hard currency in the banks.”

Meanwhile, the government is back to its notorious habit of printing more money to cover its rising costs and hyperinflation is creeping back. This year, it’s at 348 percent, according to Forbes.

Zimbabwe’s export opportunities are limited — especially in the agriculture sector, in light of farm raids. Fuel shortages have struck the capital, Harare.

The country is powered by electricity from South Africa’s state-run power company Eskom but doesn’t pay for it: Eskom threatened to cut power to Zimbabwe earlier this year. Whether the cash-strapped government finally pays its electricity bill, or it doesn’t, there’s bound to be trouble.

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

Meanwhile, protests held in the capital Harare to oppose Mr. Mugabe and his economic policies turned to violence last month, with police using tear gas on protesters.

Zimbabwe economist Prosper Chitambara said things were likely to get worse ahead of next year’s election.

“There is a lot of uncertainty due to the political situation,” he told AFP.

“That is why we have seen the re-emergence of the parallel market and a multi-tier pricing structure. As we approach the elections, the uncertainty will increase.”

WHY TOURISM ISN’T HELPING

There have been many countries in economic crisis that have at least been able to rely on tourism to inject some funds into depleted coffers. Greece, for instance, recently described its tourism revenue as its “lifejacket” during its debt crisis.

Not so in Zimbabwe.

The naturally beautiful country is famous for its safaris and the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls — the largest waterfall in the world and an Instagram sensation — and locals are famously warm and welcoming. Outside of Africa, tourists from the US, the UK, Ireland, and Germany have been among its top 10 foreign arrivals.

But Zimbabwe a notoriously expensive place to visit and that’s been a huge turn-off for travelers.

“I went to some country recently where I booked in a five-star hotel and paid a bill of $53 all inclusive. I was shocked and thought they had made a mistake in their calculations,” Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke said last year.

“This was when I realized that as a country, we need to do something to review our prices if we are not to earn a bad name as the world’s most expensive tourist destination.”

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.Source: Supplied

Zimbabwe recently started charging foreign tourists a value-added tax of 15 percent, but that was another plan that backfired — if anything, it’s kept tourists away.

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president has called the tourist tax “exceptionally unhelpful, if not destructive” and last month George Manyumwa, president of Zimbabwe’s hospitality association, called for the tax to be scrapped.

“The introduction of the tax, unfortunately, resulted in an increase in the service rates in the tourism sector and reduced profitability due to a decline in demand,” Mr. Manyumwa told the Zimbabwe Independent. “The occupancy rates have remained stagnant at an average of 50 per cent.”

Mr Manyumwa said tourists were also staying away because they feared Zimbabwe’s notorious police roadblocks. The money-making initiative, which is widely considered corrupt, has targeted tourists driving around the scenic country.

“The reality of the roadblocks is that tourists felt unwelcome into the country when they were penalized for offenses unfamiliar to them,” Mr. Manyumwa said.

“The most affected market that has since declined is that of self-drive tourists, whose form of tourism benefited various parts of the country … Some indicated that they thought there were safety concerns resulting in the need for heavy police presence, implying that Zimbabwe might not be a safe destination.”

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her ageing husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her aging husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi MukwazhiSource: AP

Tourists from South Africa can usually be relied on to comprise a third of the foreign visitors in Zimbabwe, but the South African rand’s depreciation against the US dollar has seen those figures fall below 10 percent.

But tourism isn’t the focus in Zimbabwe right now. Neither is, it seems, the economy.

The ruling party, Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, needs to win next year’s election. As of now, Mr. Mugabe remains the party’s candidate, despite his failing health and his wife’s recent promise to succeed him.

Meanwhile, the party is spending money as fast as it can, sociology professor Roger Southall said in a recent piece for The Conversation.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who had been warning of the country’s economic stability, has just been dumped by Mr. Mugabe. His replacement, according to Prof Southall, is a “party loyalist, who will brook no talk of any need for structural reform”.

“Zimbabwe is living on borrowed time and borrowed money,” Prof Southall, of Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, said.

“It will again end in financial ruin, as it did in 2008.

“But all ZANU-PF cares about is ensuring that it wins the next election and allowing its political elite to ‘eat’.”

The Unneeded Poor WILL BE Exterminated

The Unneeded Poor WILL BE Exterminated

 

In this article today I am going to write it as a proverbial ‘Devils Advocate’. What I mean by this is that this is not something that I want to happen yet I am making the argument to you that it is very much a possible reality as the human race continues to degenerate.

 

When it comes to politics I am an ‘Independent’, neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I believe that both of those major parties are about as crooked at the top levels as they can find a way to be. When you are a person like Hillary or Bill Clinton or a Trump or a Bush I believe that they have proven themselves to be the type of people who will do anything to win or to enrich themselves. In the past day or so thousands of documents dubbed the ‘Paradise Papers’ have surfaced showing how the super wealthy cheat their country and their people out of tax revenues. Last year the same type thing happened with the ‘Panama Papers.’ These documents show that not only are many of the ‘super wealthy’ cheating on their taxes, they also show how intertwined they are with world leaders, government officials, and the super huge global companies as they all seek to scratch each other’s backs in their efforts to get even richer.

 

Back in the mid-1970’s you used to hear people talking on the radio and TV how with the ‘new technologies’ how people were only going to be only having to work 4 day weeks because the machines will allow us to get as much done in 4 days as was currently being done in the 5 day work week. How foolish these ‘talking heads’ were. If you are the employer why would you give up the chance to make an extra 20% each week by giving your employees an extra day off? Especially if your company is on the Stock Exchange, your stockholders would quickly replace you. The business world, especially those on the Stock Exchange are only concerned about one thing, higher profits. If you have ever paid any attention at all to the stock market, you should have noticed how little these people think of the people who are actually making the products. When two companies merge the value of the stock goes up. Why, because the next thing that will happen is the new Board of Directors will be getting rid of many ‘unneeded’ employees. Doing this means that the company will take those wages as pure profit, increasing the value of its stock. When a company decides to get rid of employees, the stock value goes up. When a company breaks a Union, the stock value goes up. During these events, you should also have seen that the Board of Directors salaries and bonuses go up. When a company moves their production factories to a ‘third world’ country where they can fire all of their American workers and get child slave labor to do all the production, stock values, and executive compensation goes up.

 

The world as you know has a population growth that is unsustainable yet at this same time machines and robots (AI) are taking more and more jobs away from workers. From a business standpoint, having machines replace human workers is a very wise thing to do, and it increases your stock value and the bosses salaries and compensation. If they invest in machines they can get rid of the overhead cost of having human employees. Think about it, no more salaries to pay, no benefit packages to pay like Workers Comp, vacation pay, health insurance, retirement benefits, paid sick days, you can’t be sued by a computer, no OSHA regulations to adhere to. Folks, the list goes on and on.

 

Our planet has about seven billion people on it right now, look at the slave labor around the world right now, from Africa to Asia to the Middle-East and yes, here in the U.S. also. Is slave labor legal in a lot of these countries? No, but it still goes on. You may say why, why does it still go on but the answer is simple, pay as little for the labor as possible to increase the profits at the top and to the stockholders. You may say now wait a moment, slaves don’t cost anything but this is not totally true. Slaves still have to get some food and some water or they will die or become too weak to do the work. The more slaves you have in the ‘waiting room’ the less you have to supply to each one each day. Why, because it is in your financial best interest if all of the ‘extras’ die. If the ‘extras’ aren’t dying fast enough on their own, you assist them.

 

If the Earth has seven billion people but can only sustain six billion people because there is no way to produce enough food, what happens to the extra billion people? Who do you think are going to be the ones that are starved to death? Hint, it is not going to be the super rich who basically own everything, it will be the poorest of the poor who will be eliminated. During the early Republican Primaries last year a former ‘Speaker of the House’ Newt Gingrich spelled out the perfect Republican ‘wish list.’ As you probably know the majority of the Republicans in the Congress and the Senate, and this President wants to cut the national deficit by cutting programs like food stamps to the poor and cutting way back on Medicare, Medicaid, meals on wheels, school lunch programs and Social Security. Folks, who need these programs the most? Mr. Gingrich in a TV program last year went even further. Mr. Gingrich consider all of these programs to be ‘welfare’, yet he went further, he called military retirement pay, VA disability compensation and the VA itself ‘welfare’ programs and he said that all of these ‘Welfare’ programs need to be eliminated. There was one thing that he did not include in his list of welfare programs, that was Congressional, Senate, and Presidential retirement pay and benefits, go figure. He has been receiving taxpayer-paid benefits for decades, but I guess that doesn’t count.

 

Back in the 1950’s the top end national tax rate was 90%, during that time the U.S. was able to build city infrastructures, a National Highway program unequaled in the whole world as well as thousands of new bridges and dams. Now, our roads, bridges, dams, and cities are falling apart, why is this? Now the top end tax rate has been 35% and the President is pushing a top end tax rate of 20%. This is at the same time that corporations are swimming in cash and as they say, with nowhere to spend it. About six months ago, I think it was on CNN, that they reported that U.S. companies have about 13 Trillion Dollars sitting in offshore accounts. So, what do these Republican lawmakers want to do, take even more money out of the economy and give it to these same folks who are destroying our country from the inside? It is also these same benefactors who are filling the pockets of these same evil politicians.

 

Back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s in China Chairman Mao put a starvation policy in place against the citizens of China. The reason was simple, 500 million people are easier to control than one billion people. Folks, these are just things that I have seen, heard, and read throughout my 60+ years. You don’t have to agree with anything that I have written in this article today, but I hope that I have been able to at least get you to think about these issues.

 

 

 

 

 

1 UK hostage killed, 3 freed in Nigeria, foreign office says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

1 UK hostage killed, 3 freed in Nigeria, foreign office says

London (CNN)A British national who was taken hostage in Nigeria has been killed while three others have returned home safely.

Ian Squire was killed after being kidnapped on October 13. Abducted at the same time were Alanna Carson, David Donovan, and Shirley Donovan, according to a statement Monday by the hostages’ families and the UK foreign office.
The families said that Nigerian authorities had helped negotiate their release and they thanked British authorities for their “support.”
“We are delighted and relieved that Alanna, David, and Shirley have returned home safely. Our thoughts are now with the family and friends of Ian as we come to terms with his sad death,” they said.
“This has been a traumatic time for our loved ones who were kidnapped and for their families and friends here in the UK.”
The statement did not make clear who was behind the abductions. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
The four were kidnapped in the country’s oil-rich southern Delta region, Nigerian police there told CNN.
In its travel advice, the UK foreign office warns there is “a high threat of criminal kidnap” in the Delta area and advises against all but essential travel there.

Netizen Report: Voices of Yemen’s ‘Forgotten War’ Speak Out, Despite Legal Barriers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Netizen Report: Voices of Yemen’s ‘Forgotten War’ Speak Out, Despite Legal Barriers

An airstrike in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in May 2015. Photo by Ibrahem Qasim via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser was awarded this year’s International Free Press Award for her work covering the conflict in Yemen despite the many obstacles faced by journalists in the country. But Nasser, who also holds Swedish citizenship, was nearly unable to attend the awards ceremony in New York in person, because of the US travel ban on Yemeni nationals.

After three applications and many letters in support of her application, Nasser finally obtained her visa from the US Embassy in Stockholm, where she resides.

On Twitter, she remarked:

I never really had faith in the power of media & public opinion as I have today. Makes me think of people who don’t enjoy my high media profile. This is why, we need to get the tragedy in Yemen as well-known as hell so we can all help pushing an end for it!

While Nasser has done much of reporting from her home in Sweden, Yemeni journalists working on the ground face much graver obstacles.

Among them is political commentator and writer Hisham Al-Omeisy, who was detained by Houthi rebels without explanation in August 2017. This week, it was reported that Al-Omeisy was arrested on charges related to his correspondence with US-based organizations.

Al-Omeisy has been actively tweeting about the humanitarian crisis and violations committed by both warring parties in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. He also has analyzed and spoken about the conflict to international media including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and NPR.

For more than two years, a coalition of Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh (who was removed from power following street protests in 2011) have been fighting to seize power from the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi’s government is also supported by a Saudi-led airstrike campaign.

Journalists and media covering the conflict face risks from all warring parties, making it difficult for Yemenis and the outside world to get information on what’s already been described as a “forgotten war”. Placing restrictions on key voices like those of Nasser and Al-Omeisy only exacerbates the situation.

#Istanbul10 human rights defenders released pending trial

The Turkish court in Istanbul conditionally released eight of the ten human rights defenders on trial who were arrested in July 2017 on accusations of “membership in a terrorist organization” while attending an information management workshop. Among the defendants was Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey chapter. In their court testimony, multiple defendants explained that they had never even heard of the terror organizations that Turkish public prosecutors accused them of supporting.

In the days leading up to the trial, netizens tweeted in support of the #istanbul10 using the hashtag #FreeRightsDefenders. The group is expected to reappear before the court on November 22.

Pakistani political workers arrested under Electronic Crimes Act

Two political party workers were arrested by the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency, for allegedly writing posts critical of government and state institutions. The workers, who are affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) party, have been charged under the penal code along with multiple sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), which carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Ironically, the PML-N party was responsible for pushing through the controversial PECA law, despite opposition from digital rights advocates. The PML-N has been engaged in a rift with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment since August 2017, when the Supreme Court disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following a corruption inquiry into his family’s offshore wealth, sparked by the 2016 release of the Panama Papers. The Ministry of Information Technology, which was instrumental in pushing the electronic crimes law through, now admits that it has no oversight mechanism in place and the law is being misused.

Other political workers and journalists have previously been interrogated and arrested under different sections of the law as well, an indication that authorities may be using the law as a silencing tool.

Palestinian man arrested due to poor translation on Facebook

A Palestinian construction worker was arrested by Israeli police after posting a picture of himself with a bulldozer and inserting the caption, in Arabic, “good morning.” The post was erroneously translated (into Hebrew) by Facebook as “attack them.” The man has since been released, and Facebook said it is investigating the issue.

Kuwait’s Constitutional Court rejects DNA law on privacy grounds

Kuwait’s DNA law was struck down by the Constitutional Court in a decision that is being lauded as a positive step for the protection of citizens’ privacy. The law — which required all Kuwaiti citizens, residents and visitors to provide DNA samples to authorities for storage in a database operated by the Interior Ministry — was passed following a 2015 suicide bombing that killed 27 people. Anyone who refused to comply with the law faced one year in prison, a fine, and sanctions that could include canceling their passports. The emir requested the law be revised to “safeguard people’s privacy.” It is likely that Parliament will amend it so that only suspected criminals are asked to give their DNA.

Need to prove your loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party? There’s an app for that.

Apps designed by the Chinese Communist Party hit China’s Apple and Android app stores surrounding the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party. Estimates of the number of CCP apps range from dozens to up to 400, with many app developers building party apps for local party branches and party organizations. Among the apps is Smart Red Cloud, which “aims to use artificial intelligence to educate and evaluate party members” through ideology tutorials, chat functions and party-related activity notifications.

The apps disseminate information and enable the CCP to monitor and evaluate party members’ political orientation. At least one state-owned company, the China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group, ranks party members on a monthly and weekly basis in response to scores on tests of party knowledge, penalizing users who perform poorly and rewarding those who perform well.

Chelsea Manning turned away at Canadian border

Chelsea Manning was turned away at the Canadian border while trying to vacation in Montreal and Vancouver. The former US military officer and leaker of documents demonstrating human rights violations committed by the US government in the Iraq war was detained overnight and told she was inadmissible “on grounds of serious criminality.” A Canadian lawyer representing Manning has submitted a formal request asking the government to reconsider its decision. More than 40 human rights organizations and academics sent letters to the Canadian government in support ofthe human rights activist.

New Research

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has been re-elected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has been re-elected for a second term after securing more than 98% of the vote in a highly-contentious rerun election that was boycotted by his main opposition rival.

The announcement caps months of drama and sporadic bouts of deadly violence following a landmark decision by the country’s Supreme Court to nullify the previous election in September, which Kenyatta also won, citing irregularities.
On Monday, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced 56-year-old Kenyatta had received 98.25% of votes cast in the last week’s rerun. His main rival, 72-year-old veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga who refused to participate in the poll, garnered just 0.96% of the vote.
Turnout for the election — in which voting had been indefinitely suspended in several protest-hit constituencies — was low, with just 38% of the country’s 19.6 million registered voters casting a ballot, according to the IEBC’s final tally.
The IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, however, said that he was satisfied the voting body had delivered “a free, fair and credible election.”
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Poll reveals a deeply polarized Kenya

The opposition parties, including Odinga’s National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition, now have seven days in which to contest the result by launching a legal challenge, Kenya’s Ministry of Information told CNN. The courts then have 14 days in which to rule on such petitions.
Kenya’s Supreme Court previously overturned the original August 8 results that handed victory to Kenyatta after Odinga claimed the results had been hacked.
When the IEBC failed to provide Kenya’s highest court with access to its computer servers, the court ruled the results were fraudulent and ordered a rerun within 60 days.
The vote was held on October 26, but Odinga had earlier announced he was quitting the rerun because the IEBC had not adequately implemented reforms.
Odinga urged his supporters to boycott the election, and activists tried to stop the vote.
Odinga told CNN on Friday that the low turnout amounted to a “vote of no confidence” for Kenyatta and his administration, adding that the opposition would pursue all legal avenues available to put the government under pressure going forward.
This view was disputed by Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto, who on Sunday repeated a claim that low voter turnout was due to “orchestrated” violence, “sponsored” by the opposition party. Odinga, Ruto said, “organized militia” to prevent election officials and materials from their polling stations.

Ethnic tensions

Violent clashes have broken out over the election, with 24 people killed in the immediate wake of the initial vote, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. At least six have died in connection to the runoff, officials said.
The politically motivated violence has renewed tensions between Kenya’s ethnic groups, whose bonds are often stronger than the national identity. Kenya has at least 40 ethnic groups.
Kenyatta is a member of the country’s largest community, the Kikuyu, originating in the country’s central highlands. The Kikuyu have long been accused of wielding strong economic and political power in the country.
Odinga is part of the Luo community, which some say has become increasingly marginalized in recent years.
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