Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to look at the swine flu epidemic

27 April 2009. A World to Win News Service. It is impossible to predict the spread, severity and consequences of the swine flu epidemic that broke out in Mexico. But influenza epidemics have occurred regularly – with three pandemics (global epidemics) in the 20th century – and scientists and public health authorities have known for a long time that new pandemics were inevitable. Some possible parameters and paths of development of such a situation can scientifically understood, in both the biological and social spheres.

There are two separate and mainly independent factors at work. One is the nature and evolution of the disease itself, which is not caused by human activity. Although social factors – for instance industrial pig farming – may conceivably have played a contributing role in the appearance of this particular disease, human beings didn’t invent viruses or human and animal vulnerability to them.

The other factor is just the opposite: What kind of society people live in, what drives the economic organisation of those societies and their social and political relations. In short, if the first factor concerns natural phenomena, itself, the second is the capitalist and imperialist world in which they occur.

Regarding the first factor, some crucial information is known: It is not unusual for farm people to catch flu from pigs, but what’s being called swine flu is something new and has never been detected in pigs before. Viruses mutate constantly, and different kinds are able to swap genetic material. The current swine flu has genetic elements that seem to have come from swine, birds and people. What makes it different than classical swine flu is that it can be readily transmitted between people. Its epicentre (where the original outbreak was centred) was not rural, but in Mexico City, a huge and dense concentration of people.

Other life-and-death biological issues remain unknown:

• How easily is the disease spread between human beings, how many of those exposed to the virus become ill, and what percentage of those who become ill die of it?

• Why have there been so many severe and mortal cases in Mexico while all the cases in other countries have been mild so far? Is this because of other factors in Mexico, such as the presence of other infections that work in tandem with swine flu? Is the virus undergoing a mutation that makes it less severe? Will there be further waves of this crisis?

• So far, most of those killed by the disease have been young adults, and none very old or very young. What does this say about how the disease affects the human body – does it force the body’s natural defences, the immune system, to act in such a way that instead of fighting off the disease it kills the patient? What does this mean for how it can be treated once people do get sick?

The following article is excerpted from part one of "Bird flu in an imperialist world", from AWTWNS 15 January 2007. The current swine flu epidemic and possible pandemic is not the same as the possible bird flu epidemic that article discussed. But insofar as this article focused on historical experience and general scientific knowledge about viral epidemics in humans, it remains relevant. The article puts emphasis on a worst-case scenario, not as a prediction but because the world’s authorities and the social system they represent can be judged by how seriously and effectively they work to prevent and prepare for such a catastrophe. The same standards apply today, no matter how this particular crisis unfolds


Flu viruses are now known to have caused many pandemics in the last few hundred years, including three globalized flu pandemics in the 20th century. The one in 1968-70, commonly called "Hong Kong" flu, was the mildest, killing about a million people worldwide. In 1957-58, the so-called "Asian flu" felled about twice that many. The deadliest, in 1918-20, labelled "Spanish flu" (although there is evidence that it first arose in the U.S.), killed between 20 and 100 million people – no one is sure. No other disease in history has cut down so many people so quickly.

A great many experts believe that such a mutation is bound to occur again sooner or later. David Nabarro, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official and the UN’s coordinator for influenza, said, "I am certain that there will be another influenza pandemic sometime. In the natural history of these things, I am almost certain that there will be another pandemic soon."

Since by definition few people would be immune to a new strain of flu, the number of people who would get sick could be extremely high – in the hundreds of millions or even billions. How sick – how many people would die of it – is another factor that cannot be predicted. At one end of the scale of virulent infectious diseases, some are not dangerous on a world level because they are too lethal – people who get sick die too quickly to spread them effectively. An example of this is the Ebola virus. At the other end of the scale, ordinary seasonal varieties of flu affect millions and billions of people every year, but unless they are frail for other reasons, relatively few people die of them.

The 1918 flu circled the world in several waves. The first took nine months to infect almost every country. The flu virus was at its most lethal at the beginning. As it continued to mutate, it became weaker. So death tolls from place to place varied according to when the disease struck – and it struck many places two and three times. In Turkey and Iran, death tolls were very high. In parts of central India, where the death rate was the world’s highest, British colonial records indicate that almost eight percent of the population died, and the real numbers might have been higher. Japan was able to escape the worst by limiting travel, as were a few islands, but other islands and isolated populations were devastated. Europe and the US were hit hard. About 400,000 people died in France. Some American cities were all but spared. In others, like Philadelphia, nearly every family had someone sick. Horse-drawn carts were sent through every street as criers called "Bring out your dead! "; steam shovels were used to dig mass graves. The city's manufacturing and economic life ground almost to a halt. As described in The Great Influenza by John Barry, the city’s political and social structure had reached the edge of collapse when suddenly the disease ran its course.

Within two years, when nearly everyone in the world had been exposed to the disease, enough people had developed a resistance and it completely disappeared. A recent study involving the examination of tissue from a long-frozen corpse revealed that the 1918 flu originated in birds. Current prevalent scientific opinion is that all human influenza viruses probably originated in birds. [Pigs can serve as a way station in a chain of viral mutations.]

A study in the international medical journal The Lancet (21 December 2006) estimates the number of deaths a hypothetical new outbreak of a similar influenza would cause today, based on a statistical analysis of recorded deaths in 1918-20. The figure it came up with is 62 million dead. This, the study concluded, is probably the "upper limit" – the worst-case scenario.

But although this terrifying number is what made headlines, the study went much deeper. The scientists studied the relationship between those deaths and poverty. The relationship was not direct for many reasons, some of them chance and others non-class social factors (for instance, local population density – American troop ships headed for Europe became floating coffins). There was no cure or effective treatment for the "Spanish" flu then, when even the cause was a mystery, so medical care was not a factor. In fact, the study says that the reasons for the relationship between people’s income and why they died are still not thoroughly understood. The authors believe that the victims' general health, diet and other diseases ("co-infections") played a major role – although not the only one – in determining who survived and who did not.

Why is the experience of the 1918 flu relevant in looking at what might happen today? Hasn’t medical science taken enormous leaps since then?

First of all, it's not entirely clear how much medicine could do if a new lethal flu pandemic were to break out. The Lancet report says that even with advance preparation, six months could easily pass between the emergence of a disease and the development and manufacture of an effective vaccine. It is certainly true that contemporary medicine does have some potentially powerful tools, especially anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu that cannot cure influenza but have proven effective in helping people sick with existing kinds of flu. There are also anti-bacterial drugs that could prevent or treat pneumonia in the wake of a viral infection, which may have been a major cause of death in 1918-20. Anti-inflammatory medications could also help prevent sick people from dying because their own immune systems overreact. But the WHO has warned that most of even the world's best medical systems might be overwhelmed and perhaps collapse.

Further, the study's grave concern is based on more social realities rather than the possible inadequacies of contemporary science in the face of such a challenge. Their statistical studies of deaths in 1918-20 lead them to conclude, "The burden of the next influenza pandemic will be overwhelmingly focused on the developing world." Some "96 percent of those deaths will be in the developing world, " they say.

The study’s comparison between 1918 and today is valid: "Health inequity [inequality] is scarcely less now than in 1918, and the medical advances of the last 96 years are unlikely to benefit much of the developing world in any future pandemic... Large stocks of antibiotics or anti-virals are unlikely to be available in most resource-poor countries during a pandemic. Therefore, perhaps the best estimate of mortality in a possible 2007 pandemic is that from 1918 – a rather damning indictment of global inequity in health care. "

In countries where other diseases are already widespread, the report's examination of the experience of the 1918 flu makes it horribly clear that many millions are at serious risk. It is known that malaria, for instance, left people especially vulnerable to dying of the flu. In today's world, as many as half a billion people have malaria. Another factor in our time is the unprecedented existence of up to 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS – and little or no immune system. These are the starting points for scenarios almost too grim to contemplate.

Malaria and AIDS are primarily (though far from exclusively, especially in the case of the latter) diseases of poor countries. This is one factor that led the study’s authors to conclude that Africa and Asia could be where the most deaths occur.

The decisive question, however, contrary to the study's terms, is not poverty but social system. The authors believe that differences in per capita (per person) income account for about half of the differences in death rates between different countries. Yet when China was still a socialist country, under the leadership of Mao, even though per capita income was less than today, the health situation of the people was far better than it is now. In a few decades of revolution, China wiped out many of the diseases that had preyed upon the people. When Chinese society was guided by the principal "Serve the people", the allocation of resources and the conscious participation and mobilization of the masses of people in many different ways more than doubled the average life expectancy. Since the restoration of capitalism (in fact, if not in words) when the right took power after Mao's death, the rural health care system has been largely dismantled, leaving two-thirds of the population – 800 million people – with little access to health care. Guided by the new principal "to get rich is glorious", when an epidemic of the SARS virus struck China’s countryside in 2003, instead of doing everything to stop it, the authorities covered it up so as to protect commerce and their own rule.

Also in regard to the question of social system, although the study rightly makes a crucial distinction between what it calls "developing" and "developed countries" and concludes that the peril is very different in these two cases, the difference between them is not just their degree of development. A major characteristic of the contemporary global economic, social and political system is the domination of most of the countries and peoples of the world by the monopoly capitalist rulers of a handful of imperialist countries. The crucial difference is not one of national incomes, but that in the dominated countries the economy – and ultimately almost everything else – responds to the needs of foreign finance capital.

It is inevitable that new and potentially dangerous diseases will arise under any social system, long into the future. The point is not that capitalism created this flu. But the way human beings are organized in today's imperialist world is an enormous obstacle to being able to deal with the problem.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prison for Freedom of Movement in Thueringen Germany

Felix Otto, a Camerunian protest against his imprisonment in Suhl

The VOICE Refugee Forum protests the arrestment of our friend Felix Otto. Felix Otto, a member of The VOICE Refugee Forum for many years was arrested on […] as the result of a police control as a consequence of a police control on the highway A4 where he was travelling together with a friend. Later, he was taken to the prison in Suhl-Goldlauter.

The arrestment was connected with a sentence against him suspended on probation for having violated the German residential restriction law for asylum seekers. Felix Otto had been accused of having violated the conditions of the foreigner’s authority. Because of that the suspension was cancelled. Now he has to serve a prison sentence of eight month.

He is now imprisoned for making use of his natural right to live as a free human being, a right that is denied asylum seekers in Germany.

He had refused to accept the Asylum lager as his permanent stay, a lager which is situated some few kilometers from the next bigger village in a forest near Juchhöh in the county of Schleiz at the Southern border of Thüringen. He had eluded the foreigner’s office totalitarian control of his person, wanted to evade the forcefully imposed social isolation.

Felix Otto simply took what according to basic human rights every human being is entitled to – except an asylum seeker in Germany: freedom of movement and a live with a minimum of dignity.

But the German asylum proceeding laws make it a crime to simply cross the borders of the landkreis without permission of the foreigner’s authority. Whoever does not accept this prison of landkreis to which every asylum seeker is sentenced to for years without any crime, will be put into prison of bars and walls. This is a scandal.

Once more The VOICE Refugee Forum protest this German special law of residential restriction that subjects the people concerned to a racist system of controls, discrimination, exclusion and deportation and deprived them of their human liberty, dignity, hope and perspectives for the future.

We demand the immediate release of Felix Otto from detention because the arrest is based on a racist special law.

We demand the immediate abolition of the residention restriction law!

German Text: *Gefängnisfür Bewegungsfreiheit - Protest gegen die Inhaftierung von Felix Otto

» voice's blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thousands of civilians under SLA custody in Vanni

Major part of civilians seek refuge with LTTE, while US, India deliberate
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 22 April 2009, 16:40 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army (SLA) is said to be holding civilians from Vanni in Iyakkachchi without permitting them to enter Jaffna, since Monday, according to reliable sources in Jaffna. So far, only 4,325 civilians who were brought to Point Pedro in fishing boats by Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) have been placed in the SLA 'detention centres' in Thenmaraadchi, according to Divisional Secretariat sources there. Several thousands of civilians were caught by the SLA on Tuesday when it advanced its troops into the 'safety zone'. Exact number of civilians in SLA custody is not known. The SLA has been accused for separating females, males and elderly and for subjecting the separated for 'filtering' before placing them in separate internment camps.

Two bus loads of the civilians have been sent Wednesday evening to Chaavakachcheari SLA detention camps, Thenmaraadchi Divisional Secretariat sources said.

Additional information about the civilians held in Iyakkachchi is not known to Jaffna Secretariat officials.

SLN continues to bring civilians from Vanni to Vettilaikkea'ni area in their vessels and from there the civilians are brought in small boats to Point Pedro Munai area.

Meanwhile, altogether 23 seriously injured civilians from Vanni brought to Point Pedro have been admitted to Manthikai Government Hospital since Monday, hospital sources said.

Six of the above patients have been sent to Jaffna Teaching Hospital (JTH) for additional treatment, the sources added.

JTH sources said that six seriously injured civilians from Vanni have been sent to their hospital from Kodikaamam detention camp in Thenmaraadchi.

Meanwhile, Jaffna Government Agent has taken charge of ten schools to place civilians from Vanni.

Point Pedro Munai Roman Catholic School, Kattkoava’lam Methodist Mission Tamil Mixed School, Vadamaraadchi Hindu Ladies College, Nelliayadi Maha Viththiyalayam, Uduppiddi Ladies College, Valikaamam Neerveali Aththiyaar Hindu College, Jaffna Koapaay Christian College, Meesaalai Veerasingham Maha Viththiyalayam, Chaavakachcheari Hindu Ladies College, Kodikaamam Thirunaavukkarasu Maha Viththiyalayam are the ten schools taken over by the GA.

The Divisional Secretariat officials where these schools are located have prepared the schools to place the civilians from Vanni, Jaffna Secretariat sources said.

Civilians from Vanni have already been placed in Chaavakachcheari Hindu Ladies College and Kodikaamam Thirunaavukkarasu Maha Viththiyaalam in the first stage.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Orissa, India: Hindu fundamentalists foment violence among the people

20 April 2008. A World to Win News Service. Over many years a large number of Dalits ("untouchables") in the eastern Indian state of Orissa converted to Christianity to escape the Hindu caste system in which they are considered subhuman. In the last decade, and especially the last year and a half, life has become hell for them. In December 2007, Hindu supremacist forces lead a riot in which many of the Dalit Christians were killed and their homes and churches were burned by tribal people at least as poor as the Dalits. The Hindu monk Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a leader of the Vishnu Hindu Parisad (VHP) party, was said to have been behind the attacks. The VHP is part of a broader movement of organisations identified with the word "Hindutva" ("Hindu-ness"), that fights, in parliament and often in the streets and villages, in the name of opposition to communism, Islam and Christianity.

After Saraswati was killed in August of last year, in an attack attributed to guerrillas under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Hindutva parties launched even more ferocious attacks on the Dalit Christians. In the district of Kandhamal, deep in the forested interior of Orissa, many of them are now living in makeshift camps after their homes were destroyed. Hindus have been forbidden to hire them as day labourers anymore, or even to talk to them, and their children cannot go to school. This level of violence against Christians has not been seen since India's independence, and it has been encouraged and organised.

A local leader of the allegedly more mainstream Hindu party, the BJP, recently bragged to a reporter: "A maximum number of Christians were killed, yes, it is a matter of fact, but why? The Hindu sense of dignity has come to the surface in a spontaneous manner and they want to protect that sense of dignity." (BBC, 13 April 2009) Note that the affront to "Hindu dignity" justifying the massacre is turning one's back on the Hindu religion. The BJP is one of India's two main parties. The other, the rival and currently ruling Congress party, has done little to oppose these attacks and the reactionary ideology they are driven by, and little or nothing to help the Kandhamal refugees living in tents and shacks.

The following article, titled "Beat Back the Fascist Onslaught in Orissa", by Ujjwala, has been slightly edited. It originally appeared in the January-March 2009 issue of the Indian publication People' s Truth.

The recent and ongoing violence on Dalit Christians in Kandhamal once again highlights the need to fight the fascist Hindutva forces and thoroughly expose the governments, both central and state. The state and central governments' refusal to restrain fanatic Hindu militias evidences their linkage with the Hindutva BJP and the soft Hindutva Congress party, and the capitulation of a section of civil society to Hindu majoritarianism. The current violence started immediately after the killing of the notorious goon in saffron, Swami Laxmanananda, a VHP leader who was working in this area for more than 30 years solely for the consolidation of the Hindutva forces. He along with his four associates was shot dead by the people's guerrillas on 23 August 2008.

The people's guerrillas had left a note on the spot explaining the reasons behind the elimination of Laxmanananda Saraswati and stated, "We have decided to punish anti-people, fanatical leaders like Saraswati because of endless persecution of religious minorities in the country. There will be more such punishments if violence is continued against religious minorities in the country." In spite of this clear statement, Hindutva forces used this incident to carry out massacres on Dalit Christians, holding them responsible. Whenever the anti-displacement [a movement to resist land grabs by India's biggest corporations] leaders and activists are branded as Maoists, the Sangh Parivar people [a grouping of Hindu nationalist organisations, including the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP parties] are the first ones to join the chorus. They also demand firm action against such leaders and activists. But in this case even after the Maoists took the responsibility, these cowardly gangsters were afraid to confront the Naxalites [Maoists], and preferred to hit soft targets, like Christian priests, women and children.

The violence started immediately after that incident. Attacks on innocent Adivasis [tribals], Dalits, women and children belonging to minority community were planned, led and carried out by the Sangh Parivar without any limit. They began by raping nuns, lynching innocent women and men, disabled persons and others. Hooligans under the direct command of the BJP and RSS leaders went on to burn Christian houses, shops, schools, orphanages and churches [many of them for a second time, after the December 2007 attacks] and some NGO offices. They lynched a girl student of a Kany ashram and a priest at Baragarh, and killed three persons in Kandhamal in the presence of police forces. As of today more than 20 persons have been killed for no fault of their own. Thousands and thousands of people who are no way connected to the killing of Saraswati, including pregnant women, toddlers and old ones, were forced to leave their homes and are languishing inside the forests amidst rains without food, water or clothes.

There is enough ground to believe that there was a deliberate move by a section within the government that crippled the administration and police, leading to the complete breakdown of governance systems. The violence is not confined to Kandhamal district alone and started spreading to other districts. In several districts of Orissa there is tension and fear of further violence. Already the situation in Koraput district, particularly in Jeypore, is very serious. Many people have fled from their homes and villages and have been in the jungles for many days without any food, medical care and shelter.

Profile of Kandhamal District

Kandhamal was constituted as a district recently, in 1994. It has 2,515 villages spread over 7,649 square kilometres. The terrain is inaccessible, full of hills and narrow lanes crisscrossing the villages. There isn't a single industrial unit here. There are no railway lines, and so no trains come here. Close to eight hundred thousand people live in this doleful land. In terms of castes and tribes, the Kandha tribe constitute more than half the population of Kandhamal. The Panas, who are the Dalits, form the next big chunk. It is on this Kandha tribe the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is concentrating for bringing them into the Hindutva fold. The Panas are where the Christian community gets its numbers. The percentage of Christians in Kandhamal – 25 percent – is astonishingly high compared to the 2.44 percent for the whole of Orissa. In percentage terms, Orissa has the third largest concentration of Hindus in India (nearly 95 percent in the 2001 census). Muslims are barely two percent. Kandhamal remains socio-economically backward, a large percentage of its population living in poverty. Approximately 90 percent of Dalits are landless. A majority of Christians are landless or marginal landholders.

Hindutva ideologues say Dalits have acquired economic benefits, augmented by Christianisation. This is not borne out in reality. The demographic profile of Kandhamal suggests that in the last 40 years, the population of outsiders having migrated into the district has increased by 140 percent. They are all non-tribals and non-Dalits, and mostly belong to the upper castes – Brahmins, Karans, Telis, Sundhis, Kumudis, etc. They do trade and business with tribals and Dalits. The stories of oppression involving them can be narrated separately. Most of the fertile lands in the district are under the control of these trading communities. They are the people who provide a good base to all the Sangh Parivar outfits that operate in the district and play an active role in every outbreak of communal violence.

The RSS activist Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was heading the VHP movement in Kandhamal, was not a sadhu [holy man] as is being projected. He was a member of the VHP's Kendriya Margadarshak Mandal, a powerful decision-making panel. He operated largely from two ashrams 150 kilometres from each other. To his followers, Saraswati was the incarnation of Parashurama, the first warrior saint in Hindu mythology. Saraswati saw himself as the saint who would vanquish the Christians. Saraswati was a member of what are now called the Most Backward Castes [in India's official classification whose claimed purpose is to overcome the effects of the supposedly illegal caste system]. He had to quit his job because of some irregularities and a police case for murder and criminal conspiracy was pending against him. He managed to escape many previous attempts on his life.

The rise of Hindutva forces in Orissa

What has happened in Kandhamal is not an isolated event. It's an outcome of a sustained effort of the Sangh Parivar to spread the poison of communal hatred in Orissa. A series of anti-Christian crusades, such as the gruesome murder of Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999 [burned alive in that missionary's car], marked the onset of aggressive Hindutva in Orissa.

The Sangh's history in post-colonial Orissa is long and violent. Virulent Hindutva campaigns against minority groups reverberated in Rourkela in 1964, Cuttack in 1968 and 1992, Bhadrak in 1986 and 1991, Soro in 1991. The Hindutva forces had witnessed a phenomenal rise after the Bharatiya Janata Party's coalition government with the Biju Janata Dal came to power in 2000.

However, we can't put the entire blame on the BJP alone for the consolidation of communal forces. The role of all mainstream political parties is equally condemnable. The local leaders of the main opposition [in Orissa] Congress party are mostly with the Sangh Parivar, which is the reason why violence against minorities could not be prevented even in pockets where the Congress party has good influence. The local leaders of the Congress always extended good help to Swami Laxmanananda whenever the Swami organized yajnas or other communal rituals. If one recalls the kind of role that the Congress played during the Gujarat riots [a huge Hindutva massacre of Moslems in 2002], and in the days following [when the Congress-led central government did nothing to help the refugees], one would find a similar role played by the Congress in Orissa in the Kandhamal situation.

At present the VHP has claimed 125,000 primary [the current nation-wide parliamentary elections] workers in Orissa. The RSS is said to operate 6,000 shakhas with a 150,000 plus cadre. The Bajrang Dal [youth wing of the VHP] has 50,000 members working in 200 akharas. BJP workers number above 450,000. The BJP Mohila Morcha, Durga Vahini (7,000 outfits in 117 sites) and Rashtriya Sevika Samiti (80 centres) are three major Sangh women's organisations. BJP Yuva Morcha, Youth Wing, Adivasi Morcha and Mohila Morcha have a prominent base. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh manages 171 trade unions with a membership of 1,82,000. The 30,000-strong Bharatiya Kisan Sangh functions in 100 blocks. The Sangh also operates various trusts and branches of national and international institutions to aid fundraising, including Friends of Tribal Society, Samarpan Charitable Trust, Sookruti, Yasodha Sadan, and Odisha International Centre. Sectarian development and education are carried out by Ekal Vidyalayas, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashrams/Parishads (VKAs), Vivekananda Kendras, Shiksha Vikas Samitis and Sewa Bharatis – cementing the brickwork for hate and civil polarisation.

The real reasons behind the "communal violence"

The present violence in Orissa is not exclusively religious. It must be seen as part of the evolving social, economic and political conditions in the country in general and in Orissa in particular. Orissa has a share of 6.6 percent of total value of the mineral resources but constitutes only 1.6 percent of the national industrial production. These huge mineral resources obviously make Orissa a lucrative destination for the world's biggest multinational companies and private capital. The Orissa government has ruthlessly pursued land acquisition for mining companies and for exploitation of other natural resources through brute force, as witnessed in Kashipur, Kalinganagar, Jagatsinghpur and Hirakud, to honour the commitments that it has made to various corporate houses both native and foreign.

On the other hand we can also see the rising people's resistance to these globalization policies and economic plunder by imperialists. The ruling classes, aware of this reality, are finding ways to contain the mass opposition. The Sangh Parivar is working precisely for the imperialists through its divisive politics of creating communal tensions and pitting the most marginalised groups against each other, in this case the Adivasis against Dalits, the majority of whom happen to be Christians. The Sangh Parivar makes false claims that Christian missionaries and Muslim traders are responsible for the illegal acquisition and grabbing of lands of Adivasis. The notion that Dalit Christians are responsible for the landlessness of the Adivasis is untrue. The fact is that there is a real decline in the actual number of available employment and income-generating opportunities in the area, despite the ruthless mining and industrialization in some areas.

The Sangh Parivar is also trying to emulate the example of Gujarat in Orissa by Hinduizing the huge tribal population. Orissa has about 22 percent tribal population and in some districts like Koraput, Keonjhar, Phulbani, Sundargarh and Kandhamal, they are a majority. The tribal people are also an important base for the Maoists who are spearheading the fight against the mining mafia.

The present violence in Orissa must be seen as part of overall strategy of ruling classes to divide the people and contain the rising people's movements. The acute worldwide economic crisis will have serious repercussions in India, particularly in an already impoverished state like Orissa. The resulting impoverishment will lead to more virulent revolts of the people against their oppressors. The Sangh Parivar's job is to divert this into internecine battles in order to save the rulers and the moneybags. It's not surprising that their coffers are filled with funds from these sources they work for. The Sangh Parivar, with the help of government, is already making plans to set up reactionary militias in Orissa with tribal people along the lines of the "Salwa Judum" [in Chhattisgarh, where the authorities force tribal people to live in repressive camps and join militias to fight other rural insurgents] for suppressing the people's movements. No doubt, as in Chhattisgarh, they will be given a fitting reply by the masses led by the Maoists.

Sri Lankan Army advances behind human shield

Media Release
21st April 2009

Urgent: Rescue Tamil civilians from the war crimes of the Sri Lankan armed forces

The LTTE is calling the attention of the UN and international community to the situation unfolding at Vanni /Mullitivu region. Since last 48hours, the Sri Lankan armed forces are using Tamil civilians as human shields to move into this territory through two fronts, Puthumathalan and Valiynarmadam. The Sri Lankan armed forces are trying to weaken the resistance of the LTTE by using the Tamil civilians as human shields. And also using these trapped civilians to clear landmines at the frontal areas. The initial reports suggesting hundreds of civilians are killed in these operations, including the people who tried to resist were shot dead by the Sri Lankan soldiers.

Yesterday, 20.04.2009, over 1000 civilians were killed and near 2300 civilians were injured. And today, a situation of bloodbath is prevailing.

LTTE request the ICRC to provide medical supplies and evacuate by ship the 2000 people injured and facing imminent danger. Immediate food is required as several are faced with starvation. The LTTE has provided coordinates for the ICRC ships to land at a new port as Puthumathalan is now under Sri Lankan military occupation.

These are serious war crimes and the Sri Lankan government and the head of the armed forces are direct responsible for this carnage.

The LTTE urges the International community including UN to act faster to rescue those trapped Tamil civilians. The LTTE consider these war crimes are very serious and need urgent international actions to stop it.

The LTTE urges diplomatic community in Colombo to act at this time of serious humanitarian crisis where tens of thousands of people are facing serious war crimes.

"Pulikalin Thaham Tamileela Thayaham"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Casualties cross 1000 in Sri Lankan Armie's attempt to capture civilians

[TamilNet, Monday, 20 April 2009, 13:18 GMT]Hundreds of dead bodies and wounded civilians were still lying in Maaththa'lan and Pokka'nai, and more than 600 seriously wounded have been brought to a makeshift hospital functioning at a school in Mu'l'li-vaaykkaal in LTTE held area throughout Monday, TamilNet correspondent reports from Vanni. The correspondent personally witnessed nearly 300 dead bodies while fleeing from the area. Cluster shells and smoke or white-dust-emitting shells that made people to faint were widely deployed on civilians by the Sri Lanka Army in its effort to capture them. However, a large majority of the civilians fled towards LTTE held areas while around 8,000 were trapped and captured by the SLA.

SLA enters 'safe zone'

Only 60 wounded went to the hospital at Puthumaaththa'lan, which is almost not functioning at the moment. The hospital at Mu'l'li-vaaykkaal comes under Mullaiththeevu Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS).

By Monday afternoon, the SLA was pushed back from parts of the civilian areas it had boxed earlier in the day.

However, civilians fear waves of attacks similar to the one on Monday to follow in the forthcoming days.

The exact condition of the civilians captured by the SLA is not known.

Meanwhile, schools in Northern Province scheduled to start after term holidays on Tuesday were ordered by Colombo not to be re-opened until further orders. It is speculated that the SL government plans to accommodate captured civilians in the schools.

SLA enters 'safe zone'
SLA enters 'safe zone'
SLA enters 'safe zone'
SLA enters 'safe zone'
SLA enters 'safe zone'
SLA enters 'safe zone'
SLA enters 'safe zone'
SLA enters 'safe zone'


Demonstrator killed in Bil’in by Israeli forces

Friday, 17 April 2009, Bil’in Village: The resident Basem Abu Rahme has been killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration. Basem Abu Rahme, 29 years of age, was shot in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas projectile. He was evacuated to Ramallah hospital in critical condition, where he died of his injury. According to eyewitnesses, Basem was on a hill with several journalists to the side of other demonstrators. Soldiers opened fire from 40 meters, aiming directly with the tear-gas projectiles.

The tear-gas projectile, labeled “40 mm bullet, special/long range” in Hebrew has also critically injured American national, Tristan Anderson at a demonstration in Ni’lin on 13 March 2009 when he was shot in the head from 60 meters.

According Michael Sfard, the lawyer representing the village of Bil’in, “The Israeli supreme court has ruled 3 times that the route of the Wall is illegal and needs to be moved. However, to date not a meter of the Wall has been rerouted.”

Basem Abu Rahme is the 18th individual to be killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Wall.

December 28th, 2008:
Mohammad Khawaja, age 20
Shot in the head with live ammunition during a demonstration in Ni’lin against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Mohammad died in the hospital on December 31st 2009.

December 28th, 2008:
Arafat Khawaja, age 22
Shot in the back with live ammunition in Ni’lin during a demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza.

July 30th, 2008:
Youssef Ahmed Younes Amirah, age 17
Shot in the head with rubber coated bullets during a demonstration against the wall in Ni’lin. Youssef died of his wounds on August 4th 2008.

July 29th, 2008:
Ahmed Husan Youssef Mousa, age 10
Killed while he and several friends tried to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village.

March 2nd, 2008:
Mahmoud Muhammad Ahmad Masalmeh, age 15
Shot when trying to cut the razor wire portion of the wall in Beit Awwa.

March 28th, 2007:
Muhammad Elias Mahmoud ‘Aweideh, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Um a-Sharayet - Samiramis.

February 2nd, 2007:
Taha Muhammad Subhi al-Quljawi, age 16
Shot dead when he and two friends tried to cut the razor wire portion of the wall in the Qalandiya Refugee Camp. He was wounded in the thigh and died from loss of blood after remaining a long time in the field without being treated.

May 4th, 2005:
Jamal Jaber Ibrahim ‘Asi, age 15 and U’dai Mufid Mahmoud ‘Asi, age 14
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Beit Liqya.

February 15th, 2005:
‘Alaa’ Muhammad ‘Abd a-Rahman Khalil, age 14
Shot dead while throwing stones at an Israeli vehicle driven by private security guards near the wall in Betunya.

April 18th, 2004:
Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14
Shot during a demonstration against the wall in Deir Abu Mash’al. Islam died of his wounds April 28th.

April 18th, 2004:
Diaa’ A-Din ‘Abd al-Karim Ibrahim Abu ‘Eid, age 23
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu.

April 16th, 2004:
Hussein Mahmoud ‘Awad ‘Alian, age 17
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Betunya.

February 26th, 2004:
Muhammad Da’ud Saleh Badwan, age 21
Shot during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu. Muhammad died of his wounds on March 3rd 2004.

February 26th, 2004:
Abdal Rahman Abu ‘Eid, age 17
Died of a heart attack after teargas projectiles were shot into his home during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu.

February 26th, 2004:
Muhammad Fadel Hashem Rian, age 25 and Zakaria Mahmoud ‘Eid Salem, age 28
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tamil protest still going strong / 8th April 3pm

Up to 1500 Tamil people died 6th of April 2009 in Sri Lanka during a gas attack, that's what triggered the London protest.

Police are carrying out small raids to snatch the flags, and beating and ill treating people in the process, including the kids and the elderly. A man had a heart attack, allegedly because of the police tactics.
Lots of students and school children are in the protest.
I copy as it stands the leaflet distributed by the British Tamil Students :

-Between 250 and 300 thousand Tamil civilians are currently encircled by five full divisions of Sri Lankan armed forces within 12 square kilometers, moving in for a mass execution as we speak.

-The international community has been hoodwinked by the Sri Lankan propaganda that has concealed the genocide of Tamils under the cloak of 'War On Terror'

-Empty statements and expressions of concern from the politicians have so far not delivered any results towards addressing this human catastrophe in Sri Lanka. Continuos engagement with the UK political wstablishment has not yield any meaningful results to save the Tamils from the genocidal agenda of Sri Lankan state.

-International community's failure to act promptly in Rwanda and Darfur resulted in genocide that could have been prevented. Act now before it becomes too late for the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

-Britain has the moral responsibility of rectifying the historical injustice committed to the Tamilo nation.

-UK should refer Sri Lanka to the UN Security Council for Genocide of Tamils and War Crimes.

-Immediate UK Govenrment response required:
Intervene in Sri Lankda to agree for a Immediate and Permanent CEASEFIRE on humanitarian grounds
International Media Access to the War Zone
Immediate access to Humanitarian Aid and Aid workers
Rosalba Dean

The numbers have swelled over the past 4 - 5 hrs to about 2000+ people by 14:00 hrs.
A vast majority are teenagers, children (on school holidays) and even a lot of toddlers (with prams)
After two bouts of trying to unsuccessfully snatch flags hoisted by the children in the middle of the square the police are looking on in amazement on the edges of the square.
Even the police seem to recognise the energy projected by the young protesters who are leading the chants 'we want ceasefire; Sri Lankan president -- War Criminal' etc.
But the protestors on the square are serious about their clear demands that Gordon Brown himself attend to the ceasefire call.
Everyone is sitting down patiently and there are few trains of people are snaking through the crowd with the chants.
Following the two minute silence observed last night there was another five minute silence observed as we write this at 14:15. It is not clear what it is for as the 'criminalisation' of the whole event on unclear basis seems to prevent clear communication from those who were organising this silent solidarity of some sort (must have been for those who have been subject to the accelerating Genocide of Tamils).

The Tamil protesters and the few activists present urge others to come join this event as the innocent Tamil civilians are being slaughtered (including the 1500 killed in a gas attack by the Sri Lankan government forces) so indiscriminately -- they do deserve our support

Tamils solidarity

Tamils protest to end genozide by Sri Lankan army

'It is not the way for post-conflict ambitions,' say London protestors

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 07 April 2009, 16:33 GMT]
“The spontaneous demonstrations that are taking place in world capitals are a result of the failure of deliberations between community elders and the ruling circles of the International Community," said 17-year-old M. Kavitha who got injured in police charging during the protest in London on Tuesday. "The younger generation of the diaspora, disillusioned over the elder’s faith in the IC governments, has taken to the streets now,” she said commenting on the continued agitation taking place outside the Houses of Parliament in London since Monday by angry Eezham Tamil protestors demanding Britain to act immediately to bring in ceasefire in Sri Lanka. The protestors defied normal British procedures of getting prior permission in staging their demonstration.

London protest
A young Tamil protestor in the hands of the British Police [Photo: Reuters]

Protest in UK
M. Kavitha injured in her arm in the police charge
London protest
S. Ranjan from London talking to TamilNet
London protest
Police carry away a demonstrotor wounded in the protest [Photo: Reuters]
The British Police arrested at least four Tamils as clashes erupted between the police and the angry demonstrators who blocked the Westminster Bridge. Similar spontaneous demonstrations are being staged in Paris and in Oslo. Norwegian Tamils Tuesday besieged the Norwegian Prime Minister's office.

"We invite our North American Tamil brethren, showing enthusiasm in legal procedures, also to take to streets demanding the US government, which is the sole power that can act with real independence in bringing the war to an end," said 45-year-old S. Ranjan, another participant of the protest.

"The parliaments of Britain, Canada, EU and the US (Congress), were vocal enough and have said enough on the question. But the world’s ruling coterie is adamant about seeing Tamil subjugation. The diaspora is now uncontrollable. The way the demonstrations are taking place, it seems the time has come for the ruling circles to face the people directly," Mr. Ranjan said.

"Having set such a situation, how all those who harbour ‘post-conflict ambitions’ in the Island are going to get the necessary cooperation from the people is the question that puzzles many. Perhaps the new global order doesn’t need people’s participation, but only subjugation. If so, they are inviting long and protracted trouble. Tamils have nothing to lose now," he continued.

Excerpts of the interview given by Mr. Ranjan to TamilNet follows:

"What the Indian Establishment and the ruling circles of IC don’t understand or don’t want to acknowledge is the fact that the Eezham struggle is a unique combination of people’s will and an armed movement to safeguard the will of the people.

"Given the nature of Sinhala chauvinism in the Island, the armed movement was an inevitable necessity to protect the will of the Tamil people. Meeting Tamil aspirations with brutal violence is a historically attested, unrectifiable attribute of the Sinhala state. Thus, the need to combine armed struggle with the will of people is an irrefutable reality in the context of the Island.

"A long oppressed people, identifying themselves a nation, seeking self-determination is one of the noblest causes of human civilization.

"Struggle for self-determination is a time-tested political phenomenon unlike the numerous ephemeral and discredited rhetoric the world power blocs were inventing from time to time culminating in the ‘war on terror’, in the prism of which a lopsided war is allowed in Sri Lanka.

"The Sri Lankan state, which has no moral standing at all to win the civilization-tested question of the Tamil struggle, is abetted by a few individuals who have hijacked the Indian Establishment and by a coterie of the ruling circles of the IC.

"For reasons known to them, India and the IC didn’t give a fair chance to Tamils even in waging a struggle. They put their entire wait to tilt the balance in favour of injustice.

"The net result is a multifaceted genocide of Tamils in the Island: physical, structural, cultural and above all emotional.

"It is committed with shameless information sabotage. The spineless international media will go on record in the annals of civilization for its knowing-failure.

"In their greed and haste to declare a ‘post-conflict’ arena for their manoeuvres and for petty electoral agenda, the abettors are setting an obnoxious precedence to human civilization.

"Colombo and abettors have now reached a stage that war any more amounts to direct subjugation of people."

London protest
Protestors blocking road [Photo: AP]
Protest in UK
Protestors block the roads around British Parliament [Photo: Getty Images]
Protest in UK
Protesters calling for an end to the civil war in Sri Lanka caused major rush-hour disruption to central London as they besieged Westminster. [Photo: Getty Images]


Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Last Chance for Justice

By J. Patrick O’Connor

Since his conviction in 1982 for the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, through his numerous books, essays and radio commentaries, has become the face of the anti-death penalty movement in the United States and an international cause célèbre. Paris, for example, made him an honorary citizen in 2003, bestowing the honor for the first time since Pablo Picasso received it in 1971.

Abu-Jamal’s case has been politically charged from the beginning. As Amnesty International established in its 2000 pamphlet entitled “The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Life in the Balance,” his tortuous appeal process has been fraught with “judicial machinations.” Claims that won the day in other cases were repeatedly denied him, first by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1989 and subsequently by a Federal District Court in 2001 where the judge overturned his death sentence but left in place in his conviction – and Abu-Jamal on death row – pending further appeals.

The latest example of what has become known as “the Mumia exception” occurred in March of 2008 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in a sharply divided 2-1 decision, turned down Abu-Jamal’s appeal for a new trial based on the claim that the prosecutor – through his use of peremptory challenges – purged otherwise qualified blacks from his jury. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark Batson decision, ruling that racial discrimination in jury selection is unconstitutional and merits the harmed defendant a new trial.

In a nutshell, the Third Circuit majority denied Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim on a technicality of its own invention, not on its merits, ruling that his claim failed because he was not able to establish the racial composition of the entire jury pool at his 1982 trial. In issuing its ruling, the court, incredibly, ignored its own previous opposite rulings in the Holloway v. Horn in 2004 and Brinson v. Vaughn in 2005 where it specifically ruled it was not required for the defendants in those cases to establish such data.

Abu-Jamal’s final opportunity for judicial relief is now before the U.S. Supreme Court in the form of a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari. On February 4, the high court docketed and accepted that filing. According to Abu-Jamal’s lead attorney, Robert Bryan of San Francisco, “The central issue in this case is racism in jury selection. The prosecution systematically removed people from sitting on the trial jury purely because of the color of their skin, that is, being black.”

Joseph McGill, the prosecutor at Abu-Jamal’s trial, has stipulated in previous appeal proceedings that he used 10 of the 15 peremptory challenges he exercised to exclude blacks from the jury – a strike rate of 66.67 percent against potential black jurors. Such a high strike rate is in itself an extremely strong inference of discrimination. The result was that – in a city with a black population of over 40 percent in 1982 – only three of the 12 jurors impaneled were black. As Third Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro pointedly stated in his dissent, “It is my belief that the 66.67 percent strike rate, without reference to the total venire [jury pool], can stand on its own for the purpose of raising an inference of discrimination.”

During last year’s term, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded its 1986 Batson ruling to warrant a new trial if a minority defendant could show the inference of racial bias in the prosecutor’s peremptory exclusion of one juror. Under Batson, the defense needed to show an inference – i.e., a pattern – of racial bias in the overall jury selection process. Ironically, the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision strengthening and expanding Batson’s reach was written by Justice Samuel Alito, most recently of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

As a result, there is something more than a remote possibility that the Supreme Court will agree to grant Abu-Jamal’s writ. In denying Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim, the Third Circuit’s ruling created new law by placing new restrictions on a defendant’s ability to file a Batson claim. The Third Circuit, in effect, tampered with and undermined a long-established Supreme Court ruling.

A Writ of Certiorari is a decision by the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from a lower court. Supreme Court justices rarely give a reason why they accept or deny Cert. Although all nine justices are involved in considering Cert Petitions, it takes only four justices to grant a Writ of Certiorari, even if five justices are against it. This is known as “the rule of four.”

If the Supreme Court were to grant Cert on Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim, one clean, simple option for it would be to remand the case to federal district court for the Batson hearing both the Federal District Court in 2001 and the Third Circuit in 2008 should have ordered. Such a hearing would, in all probability except for “the Mumia exception,” lead to a new trial for Abu-Jamal. A new trial, considering the utter travesty of justice his original trial represented, would set him free. If Certiorari is denied, Abu-Jamal – now 54 – will, barring the most unlikely intervention by a future governor of Pennsylvania, spend the rest of his life in prison.

--J. Patrick O’Connor is the editor of Crime Magazine ( and the author of The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, published by Lawrence Hill Books in 2008.


**New articles on O'Connor's book by Carolina Saldaña, Linn Washington Jr., Hans Bennett, and radio shows Law and Disorder, Jazz and Justice, and KOWA**