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4 Oct 2013

ICC Africa Trials: Kenya and Ivory Coast

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on ICC Africa Trials: Kenya and Ivory Coast

Readers, if you’re interested in the ICC trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, and Kenyan journalist Joshua Sang, I suggest you follow RNW’s “The Hague Trials Kenya” blog.

RNW (Radio Netherlands Worldwide) also has a similar blog — “Regards sur Gbagbo” (it’s in French) — with news and info about the ICC trial of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo.

The ICC has a web page with info and links to all the current cases and situations it’s involved with, too.

31 Aug 2013

More on Al Jazeera America

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on More on Al Jazeera America

A couple of helpful commenters on my previous post pointed out that we in America can still access Al Jazeera English on the Web, just not via the main URL. I bookmarked http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/ to take me straight to the Africa News page, and it works fine. I can navigate around the website from there and read whatever I want. I still can’t watch video content, but that’s OK.

Since I don’t have cable TV, I can’t really judge how well Al Jazeera America is working out. It hasn’t become one of my go-to news sources on the Web, but I will keep an eye on it, as I do think it could be a very valuable resource, a good alternative voice on the US media landscape.

I know a lot of Americans think Al Jazeera is hopelessly biased; some think it’s extremely left-wing, some think it’s a mouthpiece for radical Islam, and some think both of those things simultaneously (the human brain is pretty amazing). But our alternatives here in the States are either Beltway-consensus bullshit heavily admixed with celebrity gossip and other vapid brain-candy (CNN, NBC News, CBS News, etc, etc), or openly biased tendentious partisan garbage (Fox News, MSNBC, talk radio, the political Web), and I wish Al Jazeera America success.

20 Aug 2013

Al Jazeera America

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on Al Jazeera America

Today, 20 August 2013, marked the debut of a new cable news channel: Al Jazeera America, a brand-new offering from Al Jazeera.

This is a good thing, in a way, but a very bad thing as well. Here’s why:

Al Jazeera English is now basically unavailable in the USA. If you try to visit the Al Jazeera English website (www.aljazeera.com) from an American IP address, you’ll be redirected to Al Jazeera America (america.aljazeera.com). If you visit the Al Jazeera English YouTube channel from an American IP address, you’ll find that there are now almost no videos there.

As I write this, I can still access Al Jazeera English news stories via the iPad app, and I can watch videos that are associated with news stories, but the live feed is dead now: you just get a message stating “The video you are trying to watch cannot be viewed from your current location.” I strongly suspect they’re going to lock down the mobile apps much more tightly real soon, too.

Why is this? Because cable-TV providers don’t want Al Jazeera giving away its content for free on the Internet when they’re carrying Al Jazeera programming on their cable-TV systems.

So, those of us who live in America but do not subscribe to cable TV have basically lost access to Al Jazeera English content. All we get is whatever limited content Al Jazeera America chooses to offer on the Web.

In America, our news media can mostly be classified under two broad rubrics:

  1. The Beltway-consensus media
  2. The partisan political media

This is why those of us who pay attention to what’s happening in the world often turn to foreign news sources: BBC World News, France 24, Al Jazeera English. CNN and the networks are vapid, extremely dumb, and completely useless; Fox News and the right-wing media are garbage; and now, with the advent of MSNBC’s Blue-Team programming, we’ve got partisan Democrat garbage as well.

Al Jazeera English has always been a very useful source of information; they pay attention to many stories ignored by American media, and have been refreshingly free of Beltway-consensus bullshit and brain-dead Red-Team/Blue-Team pabulum.

I think it’s great that they’re launching a news channel that will bring their perspective to America, but it really sucks that it has to be at such a cost: to me, the loss of Al Jazeera English wouldn’t be worth having the new Al Jazeera America, even if I had cable TV and could actually watch the damn thing.

As it is, I’ve lost access to Al Jazeera English and gotten nothing at all in return for it.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I’d like to see Al Jazeera America be successful, but I can’t help but feel angry and embittered that one of my most important go-to sources of news has basically disappeared for me.

18 May 2013

My current Dream Trip

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on My current Dream Trip

Today being one of Somaliland’s two Independence Days (Somaliland became an independent nation on 26 June 1960, having previously been a British protectorate; less than a week later, Somaliland merged with the newly-independent Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic; Somaliland later declared itself independent of the Somali Republic on 18 May 1991), I can’t quit thinking about how badly I want to go there.

As long as I’m dreaming, here is my current ultimate Dream Trip:

Start in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Take a bus from Addis to Dire Dawa.
Take a minibus from Dire Dawa to Harar.
Take a minibus from Harar to Jijiga.
Take a bus (or minibus?) from Jijiga to Hargeisa, Somaliland.
Round-trip by bus from Hargeisa to Berbera (on the Somaliland coast) and back.
Take a bus (or minibus?) from Hargeisa to Djibouti.
Fly from Djibouti to Sanaa, Yemen.
Fly from Sanaa to Asmara, Eritrea.
Fly from Asmara to Khartoum, Sudan.
Finally, fly from Khartoum to Cairo, Egypt.

I intend to follow this itinerary someday, but who knows when. (Right now is not a real good time to go to Yemen or Eritrea…)

13 May 2013

Kenya ICC developments: an update

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on Kenya ICC developments: an update

Here’s another update, for those of you who are following the ICC’s cases against Kenya’s new President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Deputy President, William Ruto:

Another Witness Drops Out of Ruto Case

The ICC’s case against Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto took a blow as another witness has recanted his statement and will not testify:

So far, the prosecution has lost 13 key witnesses in the twin cases involving President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Sang. Mr Kenyatta’s co-accused, former head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, has been discharged.

Through his lawyer Paul Gicheru, the witness who had told the prosecutor that he attended meetings to plan violence at Mr Ruto’s home now says he lied. He says he has never visited any of Mr Ruto’s homes.

Judges to Rule on Ruto Trial Date

A status conference is scheduled to take place in the Hague tomorrow (Tuesday, 14 May 2013). At this conference, a trial date should be set for Ruto. Kenya’s Daily Nation reports that Ruto flew to the Netherlands on Sunday evening and will be appearing at this conference.

The status conference is expected to discuss Mr Ruto’s request to have his trial moved to November as well as ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to add five witnesses to their list and modalities of the accused’s participation in the trial.

Ms Bensouda has accused the government of undermining the court’s investigations thereby limiting the evidence available to the trial judges.

Ms Bensouda, in her response to the government’s submission on the status of cooperation with the ICC filed by Attorney-General Githu Muigai, said the State had failed to provide the “most critical documents and records”.

No Other News

I have not seen any news since Friday about the letter that was sent to the UN Security Council requesting that all charges be dismissed. I’m not aware of any official statement President Kenyatta may have made about it, either taking responsibility for it (although it’s ultimately his responsibility as head of state, of course) or denying that he authorized it. I don’t expect to hear any more news about it, since the Security Council could not make the ICC drop the charges even if they wanted to.

I take the letter to be a sign that Uhuru and Ruto don’t intend to actually attend their trials, if it even comes to that; I expect the ICC’s cases will almost surely fall apart before they come to trial anyway, as witnesses continue to recant their statements and decline to give testimony.

10 May 2013

Recent developments in the Kenya ICC case: a summary

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on Recent developments in the Kenya ICC case: a summary

There’s been a lot going on recently with the ICC case against Kenya’s newly-elected President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto. Here is a summary:

ICC Amends Case Against Uhuru

On 8 May, the ICC amended its case against Uhuru to include charges that people were killed in Naivasha and Nakuru by gunshot wounds (in addition to other weapons — the charge that guns were involved is the new amendment). Uhuru stands charged by the ICC of having planned and funded violence (by Kikuyu people, against Kalenjin and Luo people) in Naivasha and Nakuru during the post-electoral crisis of 2007/08.

Kenya Requests ICC Charges Be Dropped

Apparently, Kenya sent a letter to the UN Security Council last Thursday, 2 May, requesting that the ICC drop all charges against Uhuru and Ruto. Yesterday, 9 May, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Macharia Kamau, asked the security council to take action on the letter with ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda:

“What this delegation is asking for is not deferral. What this delegation is asking for is the immediate termination of the case at the Hague without much further ado,” the petition says in part.

The statement warned that violence could break out in Kenya that would affect stability in the entire region if President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were forced to attend trial at The Hague after having secured endorsement of the people in an election despite the charges facing them.

The petition questioned the jurisdiction, partiality and competence of the ICC, expressing the government’s reservations over the manner in which the cases facing the three have been handled.

… On Tuesday, Mr Kamau said the election of President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto sent a clear message to the world that the two persons were not only innocent but also deserving of the highest office of the land.

Mr Kamau said the incoming administration should be given a chance to start off without the ‘yoke and burden of the past fettering their action.’

The envoy said the country’s top leadership cannot be expected to effectively perform their duties in an orderly manner ‘in the face of an offshore trail that has no popular resonance and that serves no national or international purpose.’

“Neither can the state be expected to be orderly under such circumstances,” he said.

“The UNSC must therefore play its role and bring this matter to a halt… we ask it to take the much needed political stance that Kenya must be given the time and opportunity to apply the principal of pre- eminence of National Courts,” added Mr Kamau.

Ruto Distances Himself from Request to Drop Charges

Then, Deputy President Ruto distanced himself from this request:

Mr Khan [Ruto’s lawyer] said Mr Ruto had cooperated with ICC since his case started and he would continue doing so.

“I have spoken to my client, His Excellency the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, Mr William Ruto, and I can confirm and he has made clear that he was not consulted on anything to do with New York. A letter being circulated is not government policy,” Mr Khan said in a telephone interview.

He said it was important to underline that Mr Ruto has cooperated with the ICC before the summons against him were issued, after they were issued, and he is currently cooperating and will respect all orders and directives of the ICC.

“His Excellency the Deputy President believes in the rule of law and he believes in Kenya observing its international obligations,” he added.

Bensouda Dismisses the Appeal

Today, 10 May, come reports that ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda dismissed the request that the cases be dropped:

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that Kenya had made “unfounded and incorrect” claims in urging it to end the cases facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

Fatou Bensouda described Kenya’s appeal to the UN Security Council last week as “a backdoor attempt to politicise the judicial processes” of the ICC.

Noting that she has not received a copy of the May 2 letter sent to the council by Kenyan UN Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Ms Bensouda said she was speaking in response to earlier comments made to the council by Rwanda’s ambassador.

Who Authorized That Letter, Anyway?

Now, it seems that there are even questions about who authorized the letter to be sent to the UN Security Council in the first place, and whether the fact that Ruto distanced himself from it, while Uhuru did not, betokens some kind of a split:

Multiple sources told Saturday Nation the letter by Kenya’s ambassador to UN Macharia Kamau on May 2 was traced to senior civil servants in the Kibaki administration.

Last evening, questions were still lingering on who authorised Mr Kamau to write the letter and whether Mr Ruto’s denouncement signified a split between the two men over the strategy of handling the cases facing them at the International Criminal Court.

While Mr Ruto has unequivocally denounced the petition through lawyer Karim Khan, President Kenyatta had not commented on the matter as we went to press.

More To Read

For analysis, I recommend these two pieces:

  1. “Kenyatta, Ruto and the ICC: major diplomatic earthquake in the offing” by Richard Dowden
  2. “Diplomatic Diversions” by Africa Confidential

I agree with Dowden’s take: Uhuru and Ruto are simply not going to go to the Hague. Their trials are not going to happen. Either the ICC cases will fall apart and charges will be dropped, or Uhuru and Ruto will just refuse to go, if it comes to that, and that’s going to mean the end of whatever credibility the ICC once had. I don’t see Western nations imposing serious sanctions on Kenya if it comes to ignoring the ICC: Kenya is far too important, strategically and economically, for the West to lose Kenya as a key ally in East Africa.

27 Apr 2013

Togo Opposition Muzzled Ahead of Elections

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on Togo Opposition Muzzled Ahead of Elections

Note: This is my translation of the L’Express news item Togo : l’opposition muselée avant les élections, which appeared on the L’Express website on Saturday, 27 April 2013.

Togo Opposition Muzzled Ahead of Elections

Two markets are set on fire, and that’s enough to “burn up” the leaders of the Togolese opposition, who have been indicted without a warrant or a trial. Meanwhile, the party of the head of state, Faure Gnassingbé, is mounting a campaign for upcoming legislative elections, but the election date is not yet known…

On the Togolese public television station, last Saturday, 20 April, President Faure Gnassingbé distributed toolkits to 300 craftsmen in Niamtougou, in northern Kara, the fief of the family clan that has ruled over the country for more than half a century; the elections — legislative and local — are on their way, and for the Union for the Republic (UNIR), the ruling party, the campaign has already started.

Suzanne Kafui Nukafu Dogbevi examines the conquering smile of the head of state, then changes the channel. This militant of the National Alliance for Change (ANC), the main opposition group, was just locked up for two and a half months by the dreaded Intelligence and Investigation Service (SRI) of the Togolese police force. Her interrogation started the day after the fires that took place at the markets in Kara and Lomé, on 9 and 11 January: “They wanted to make me say that I had paid some young guys to burn down the Lomé market,” she explains, “before they offered me money to officially denounce the leaders of the ‘Let’s Save Togo’ Collective [CST].”


In total, thirty-five members of CST, which for a year has unified human-rights organizations and the principal opposition movements, have been charged with “gathering of wrongdoers” in the investigation of these fires. Indictments without arrest warrants, or trials in the end, arriving along with the local and legislative elections, postponed several times, which are now announced for this spring. An unfortunate confluence of circumstances, or the hazards of a “mockery of democracy,” the formula adopted by the French Socialist Party in a communiqué?

“There are definitely some troubling coincidences,” admits Gilbert Barawa. But the Minister of Regional Administration has something else in mind: “The fires took place right at the start of the ‘Last Towers of Jericho,’ a three-day demonstration orchestrated by the CST, with the stated objective of toppling the regime. So then,” he pretends to ask himself, “was it a simple coincidence or an operation planned out by the opposition?”

Torture and Settling of Scores

Still, on 26 March, Mohamed Loum, the main prosecution witness, went back on the accusations leveled against the leaders of the CST. In a letter addressed to Jean-Pierre Fabre, the ANC leader, he says he was tortured before he made his confession. The vice-president of the ANC, Isabelle Ameganvi, says she’s shocked “to hear talk of torture, while Togo is already accused of such wrongdoing in the Kpatcha case, which is being debated right now before the ECOWAS Court of Justice.” This alludes to the fate of Faure’s half-brother and rival, suspected of having planned a coup d’état, who has been held in detention since April 2009. According to a report by the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH), 33 people who’ve been arrested were then tortured by the Togolese intelligence service. The report was published three years later by the government, in a falsified version. The president of the CNDH revealed the original version of the report elsewhere, in exile, which triggered the anger of the UN Committee Against Torture.

“At the moment, we’re dealing more with cases of mistreatment than torture,” qualifies Louis Rodolphe Efoé Attiogbe, a member of the Collective of Associations Against Impunity in Togo (CACIT), which has visited most of the people being held under indictments in the market-fire cases. Still, in these conditions, Gery Taama, president of the New Togolese Engagement, a party “neither part of the ruling party nor of the CST,” doesn’t see how there could be free and democratic elections: “In the middle of an electoral pre-campaign, they forbid Fabre, the main person of the opposition, to leave the capital city, and they indict his whole political team… It really seems like this is a sort of settling of scores.”

Emmanuel Haddad, à Lomé, publié le 27/04/2013 à 10:12

23 Mar 2013

What’s up with Flash?

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on What’s up with Flash?

Last October, I got so frustrated with constant Shockwave Flash crashes that I had to quit using Google Chrome and go back to Firefox.

Now it looks like it’s happening again… The Flash plugin for Firefox is getting crashtastic, and since the latest update (yesterday), I can’t watch most embedded videos. They crap out after trying to load for one second or so, displaying an error: VE_FMS_CONNECT_FAILED.

What’s up with this?

UPDATE 2013/03/23, 14:12 EDT

Well, never mind, readers. Further investigation revealed that the problem had nothing to do with Firefox or Flash. The culprit was Symantec Norton 360, which had apparently gotten itself badly befuddled, several days ago, while trying to run a background task, and it had crashed (silently, of course, so that I had no clue anything was wrong with it). The problem persisted through at least one system reboot, so that Norton 360 was unable to start itself back up properly. I was also having problems with Google Drive for the past couple of days (I could access it through my web browser, but not from the Drive application on my computer), which should have been a clue to me that the problem was deeper than I thought, but I didn’t wise up until today. What a pain.

17 Mar 2013

“SWATting” is going to get somebody killed

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on “SWATting” is going to get somebody killed

Brian Krebs, a tech/security journalist who lives in the DC metro area, was the victim of a “SWATting” on Thursday, 14 March. The Washington Post reports:

About 10 bike and patrol officers arrived at Krebs’s house about 5:40 p.m., Fairfax police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said. Krebs said he opened the front door for unrelated reasons and saw several officers around his house, guns drawn.

“Don’t move! Put your hands in the air!” Krebs said he was told. Then he was told to walk backward into a nearby parking lot. He did and was handcuffed.

But Krebs quickly detected that a hoax had been perpetrated. In fact he had filed a report with Fairfax police in August saying that such a SWATing call might happen, because of threats he was receiving from online groups that were the subject of his reporting.

Krebs tells the story on his own blog:

One of the officers asked if it was okay to enter my house, and I said sure. Then an officer who was dressed more like a supervisor approached me and asked if I was the guy who had filed a police report about this eventuality about six months earlier. When I responded in the affirmative, he spoke into his handheld radio, and the police began stowing their rifles and the cuffs were removed from my wrists. He explained that they’d tried to call me on the phone number that had called them (my mobile), but that there was no answer. He apologized for the inconvenience, and said they were only doing their jobs. I told him no hard feelings. He told me that the problem of SWATting started on the West Coast and has been slowly making its way east.

The cop that took the report from me after the incident said someone had called 911 using a Caller ID number that matched my mobile phone number; the caller claimed to be me, reporting that Russians had broken into the home and shot my wife. Obviously, this was not the case, and nobody was harmed during the SWATing.

The Washington Post article says that “[t]he FBI has been advising people of the dangers of SWATing for years, but it doesn’t speak much about it for fear of spreading the idea.

Mark my words, readers: somebody is going to get killed this way. Causing a heavily-armed squad of paramilitary police officers to believe that they’re heading into a potentially deadly situation is light-years beyond a stupid prank such as causing pizza to be delivered to somebody’s house, or subscribing them to gay-porn websites, etc.

It’s bad enough that “SWATting” somebody is going to terrify them and their family, not to mention wasting their time and the time of all the law-enforcement officers involved, and wasting taxpayer dollars, but this absolutely stupid kind of “prank” is going to get somebody shot and killed.

How funny is that going to be, readers, when some over-adrenalized police officer who thinks he’s going into a life-threatening situation makes a mistake and shoots the victim of a “SWATting”? How funny would it be if somebody’s child were to get shot and killed?

This is going to happen. Just wait. I guarantee you, this is going to happen. Somebody’s going to get killed by one of these “pranks.”

Whoever pulls this “prank” and causes a SWAT team to be sent to somebody’s house should be convicted of a felony and spend a good ten years in prison, I think. This is putting people’s lives, and the lives of their families, in jeopardy.

11 Nov 2012

The most random question ever

Posted by dumpendebat. Comments Off on The most random question ever

Help me out here, readers:

Why on earth do so many native speakers of English apparently believe that the word “yeah” is spelled “ya”?

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