fbpx 234Radio | ...exporting Africa to the world

Can Australia give up its addiction to coal?

“This is coal! Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared.”

When a prime minister takes a lump of coal into his own parliament as a peculiar form of show-and-tell, you can be sure of a couple of things.

One: that coal means a lot to the country’s fortunes, and two: there is going to be some controversy about it.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been a vocal supporter of the coal industry which has been partly responsible for helping Australia‘s economy avoid a recession for the last 30 years.

But then he also went on holiday while his nation burned, in some of the worst bushfires ever seen.

Now scientists are saying climate change has helped create conditions for the rapid spread of Australia’s wildfires. And environmental activists are warning that Australia must curtail its carbon-producing industries such as coal.

In 2018, the value of Australian coal exports was $46bn, equivalent to 3.5 percent of nominal gross domestic product or GDP, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.

The coal industry directly employs a quarter of a million people and many more through support services and related businesses.

But Morrison says Australia is only responsible for 1.3 percent of global emissions.

However, when you take into account its export of petroleum and coal and its population of approximately 24 million people that means we have a country with 0.3 percent of the world’s population, responsible for 5 percent of global carbon emissions, according to Bloomberg.

And then there is the cost: More than 500 Australians die each year from heat stress alone, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The institute also says that the financial cost of climate change is expected to rise to $26.7bn every year by 2050 – which is as much as it spends on defence currently.

With a debt-to-gross GDP ratio of just 40 percent, Australia has the power to transform its economy away from fossil fuels, if it wants to.

Tom Swann, a senior researcher at The Australia Institute, tells Al Jazeera that there has been a big shift in the rhetoric and some of the political positions taken by Australia’s commonwealth government over the last month but there has not been any change in policy.

“In fact, rather than taking stronger action to reduce emissions and calling for global leadership this government has, in fact, shifted towards saying things like climate action includes hazard-reduction burning, reducing the amount of fuel loads to try and make bushfires less common, less severe.”

Swanson points out: “Unfortunately it’s actually climate change that is making this hazard-reduction burning more hazardous and more dangerous in Australia. That has really become a bit of a distraction from what has to be the main game: reducing emissions.”

Julien Vincent, Executive Director of Market Forces says most people are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change, especially after the latest season of the bushfires outbreak.

But he points out that many people are perhaps “less aware” of how their personal investments may be helping to fuel the problem.

“What we do is help shift the behaviour of financial institutions by giving that sense of power to the people they are ultimately accountable to.”

Is Lebanon ready for an IMF bailout?

Protests in Lebanon have been going on for months. At times, they have been violent, driven by the failing economy and general disdain for the government.

Now Lebanon may be forced to seek help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the political and economic crisis escalates. It may also need to reconsider its 23-year-old currency peg to the dollar as its debt becomes unmanageable.

Lebanon’s debt to GDP ratio is 150 percent  –  the third-highest in the world.

Now it has to repay $1.2bn in debt due in March. There was a plan to swap those, giving it more time to repay the debt, but it has been pulled after the credit rating agencies said Lebanon would be in “selective default”.

In total, it needs to repay or issue more debt to cover a $2.5bn Eurobond this year.

Jad Chaaban, associate professor of economics at the American University of Beirut, said the devaluation of Lebanon’s local currency has driven up the prices of many goods.

“It is very difficult for us to enter into any international loan or international bailout because of the very harsh conditions that are usually imposed with such loans such as raising indirect taxes, cutting pensions, and laying off people from the public sector. This, unfortunately, cannot be done now.”

Chaaban adds: “The Lebanese population cannot bear any increase in the prices, in the taxes. People are on the brink of massive poverty so we cannot come now and cut their pensions and apply austerity measures that are usually dictated by such programmes.”

Source: Aljazeera

Prominent Pakistani rights activist Manzoor Pashteen arrested

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, founded by Pashteen, has faced increasing restrictions in recent months [Al Jazeera]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani police say they have arrested prominent rights activist Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which is known for its strident criticism of the country’s powerful military for alleged enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Pashteen was arrested late on Sunday from the Shaheen Town area of the northwestern city of Peshawar, police official Nabibul Khan told Al Jazeera.

More:

“He was required in a case by the police from Dera Ismail Khan city police station, so we [arrested him],” said Khan.

According to the police report, he was arrested on sedition charges.

As the PTM rose to prominence through nationwide rallies, police routinely filed cases alleging Pashteen and other PTM leaders committed sedition in their speeches.

However, it is the first time Pashteen has been arrested in such a case.

Mohsin Dawar, a PTM leader and member of parliament, confirmed the arrest to Al Jazeera.

“This is our punishment for demanding our rights in a peaceful [and] democratic manner,” Dawar said in a Twitter post on Monday. “But Manzoor’s arrest will only strengthen our resolve.”

Pashteen, in his 20s, and a small group of other young activists who had been displaced by the Pakistani military’s war against the Taliban in their native South Waziristan, founded the PTM in Dera Ismail Khan, located about 250km south of Peshawar.

They shot to national prominence in 2017 when the group championed the cause of Naqeebullah Mehsud, the victim of an extrajudicial killing by a notorious Pakistani counterterrorism police officer.

Since then, Pashteen has led rallies of thousands across the country, demanding justice for other victims of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and alleged torture while in security forces’ custody.

His group has also demanded that the Pakistani military clear the country’s northwestern tribal districts – the site of the war against the Pakistan Taliban since 2007 – of all land mines and other unexploded ordnance.

‘Funded by foreign intelligence services’

The group has long been in the crosshairs of Pakistan’s military, which has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 73-year history and still holds control over security and foreign policy.

Coverage of PTM rallies and Pashteen’s statements is regularly censored across Pakistani news media.

In April, the military warned the PTM that its “time is up”, accusing the group of being funded by foreign intelligence services. PTM denies the charges and has invited the military to make its evidence of any such funding public.

A month later, a PTM rally clashed with security forces at a checkpoint in the northwestern district of North Waziristan. Soldiers fired into the crowd, killing at least three people, rights activists say.

Police registered a terrorism case against Dawar, the member of parliament, who was leading the rally and spent days in hiding following the violence.

He was eventually arrested, alongside fellow PTM leader and Member of Parliament Ali Wazir, and held for three months before being released on bail for lack of evidence against them.

Source: Aljazeera

More than 100 children in Greece's Moria camp need urgent care

Mohammed was born with hydrocephalus, which causes increased pressure in the skull that could lead to brain damage [Anna Pantelia/MSF]

Lesbos, Greece – Mohammed, two years and eight months old, has been living in the Moria refugee camp in Greece, for four months with a life-threatening condition and limited access to healthcare.

He was born prematurely with hydrocephalus, a blockage of the circulation of fluid around the brain resulting in increased pressure in the skull, which can cause brain damage.

In the arms of his mother, 26-year-old Fawzia Ahmadi, he wriggles as she attempts to soothe him.

More: 

The family of four, including a one-year-old girl, live in a small tent at the top of an olive grove, which is acting as an overspill for the refugee camp, now close to a population of 20,000 people as of January.

It was designed to hold no more than 3,000.

They came here via Turkey, fleeing the continued unrest in their home in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“It’s very difficult in the night,” Ahmadi said. “He complains of headaches a lot and so we take it in shifts to sleep and check that he is OK. I worry about him so much.

“I’ve been told that I need to keep him clean but I don’t know how I can do that here? We cannot wash him every day, the weather is very cold and so is the water.”

Ahmadi said she understands that the local hospital cannot cope with her son’s needs.

“I think it’s not their problem because there are too many sick people there. My son is sick but there are already too many kids who are sick, they don’t have the time to take care of them all. I just want him to be somewhere warm where I can wash him and take care of him.” 

Mohammed is just one of at least 140 children in the camp who have chronic, complex and life-threatening diseases who MSF (Doctors Without Borders) are deeply concerned about.

The organisation says they are being denied access to adequate medical care.

In July 2019, the Greek government rescinded access to healthcare for asylum seekers and undocumented people living in Greece, leaving around 55,000 people without medical care, according to MSF.

George Makris, the assistant medical coordinator in Greece and the north Balkans for MSF, told Al Jazeera regarding Mohammed’s case: “We don’t have the resources to investigate this kind of medical condition and we don’t have the specialised doctors who are paediatric neurologists either.

“At the same time, not even the hospital on the island of Lesbos has a paediatric neurologist and they do not have the diagnostic tools necessary to investigate this kind of condition.”

Makris said that MSF doctors believe a device put in to help alleviate pressure could be malfunctioning, which is why Mohammed is having severe headaches.

“We are extremely worried about the complications that this malfunction could have, which could be life-threatening to this child,” he said.

MSF is calling for the immediate transfer of children like Mohammed from the camp to hospitals in the mainland.

Access even to urgent healthcare in the Moria refugee camp is challenging. The local hospital is around 10km away, ambulances are not always readily available and most families cannot afford the taxi fare there.

Makris told Al Jazeera that the local hospital is overwhelmed.

Source: Aljazeera

Trump impeachment trial week 2: What to watch for

This still image taken from a US Senate webcast shows a counsel to the president, Jay Sekulow, speaking in the Senate Chamber at the US Capitol during the impeachment trial [US Senate TV/AFP]

US President Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial enters a pivotal week as his defence team resumes its case and senators face a critical vote on whether to hear witnesses or proceed directly to a vote that is widely expected to end in his acquittal. The articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Those decisions on witnesses may be complicated by reports that Trump said he wanted to maintain a freeze on military assistance to Ukraine until it aided political investigations into his Democratic rivals. That is from former NSA John Bolton in a draft of his forthcoming book. The report by The New York Times was later confirmed by The Associated Press news agency. The revelation challenges the defence offered up by Trump and his lawyers in his impeachment trial.

More:

The Capitol Hill manoeuvring will be complemented by high-stakes efforts on both sides of the aisle to claim political advantage from the proceedings as the presidential nominating season kicks off in Iowa on February 3.

Here is what to watch for as the Senate impeachment trial resumes on Monday at 1pm local time (18:00 GMT):

Defence resumes arguments

After a two-hour opening argument on Saturday, Trump’s defence team will lay out its case in depth beginning Monday. White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Trump’s lawyers do not expect to take the full 24 hours allotted to them, but there will be arguments from some familiar faces.

Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, former independent counsel Ken Starr and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will speak on specific topics.

Dershowitz said on Sunday he would argue that the charges against Trump are too minor to warrant the Republican president’s removal from office under the constitution. “Even if true, they did not allege impeachable offences,” Dershowitz told Fox News on Sunday.

The Trump team has also teased the notion that it would draw attention to Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukraine gas company Burisma, while the elder Biden was vice president. An extended focus on Joe Biden, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders, could mean blowback from even some of the GOP members of the Senate.

Question time

Once Trump’s team concludes, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of the House impeachment prosecutors and the president’s legal team. Their questions must be in writing.

Chief Justice John Roberts will read the questions aloud. He is expected to alternate between both sides of the aisle. Many senators have been taking copious notes throughout the trial in preparation for the question-and-answer time.

Senator John Barrasso told reporters on Saturday that Republicans expected to get together on Monday to start formulating a list of questions. “We will meet as a conference and decide what questions we want to pose, what the order may be of those of those questions,” he said.

Witnesses

Under the Senate rules passed last week, senators will get another chance to vote whether to consider new witnesses and evidence after the question and answer time is elapsed. Four Republicans would have to break ranks to join Democrats in the GOP-controlled Senate to extend the trial for an undetermined amount of time.

If that happens, expect a bitter fight over which witnesses might be called and which documents might be subpoenaed. Democrats have called for testimony from Bolton, and Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. An attempt to call either probably would lead to a showdown with the White House, which claims both men have “absolute immunity” from being called to testify before the Senate, even in an impeachment trial. Still, Bolton has said he would appear if issued a subpoena by the Senate.

President Donald J. Trump (L) speaks as National security advisor John Bolton (R) listens during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington

While Republicans have hoped for a speedy trial, Trump has called for the testimony of the Bidens and the intelligence community whistle-blower whose complaint about Trump’s July telephone call with Ukraine’s leader instigated the impeachment inquiry.

But some Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham, have expressed resistance to calling those witnesses.

If the vote fails, the Senate could move swiftly to its vote on whether to remove or acquit Trump, giving the president the result he has been looking for as soon as the end of the week.

Senate rules also call for four hours of deliberations before voting. Since senators are required to sit silently during the trial, expect a closed session where they can deliberate in private.

A new tape

Trump’s lawyers argued on Saturday that no one knows what his motives were on holding up military assistance to Ukraine. A recording obtained by the AP hours later suggests the president well understood that assistance was a point of leverage over Ukraine.

The recording is of 2018 meeting at the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC, that Trump had with donors, including two now-indicted associates of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. The audio portion includes Trump inquiring about Ukraine, “How long would they last in a fight with Russia?” He later calls for the firing of the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

The recording contradicts the president’s statements that he did not know the Giuliani associations, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They are key figures in the investigation who were indicted last year on campaign finance charges.

If new evidence and witnesses are allowed, the recording could take centre stage in the Senate proceedings.

Election

The trial is resuming with one week to go until the Iowa caucuses, and is again keeping four Democratic contenders – Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet and Amy Klobuchar – in Washington, DC, instead of campaigning at a critical point in the race.

While they are trapped in Washington, DC, Trump will venture outside the capital as he seeks both to exert political retribution on Democrats who impeached him and reward a party-switching legislator who backed him in the House.

Trump

Trump will hold a rally on Tuesday in New Jersey to repay the favour to Representative Jeff Van Drew, who became a Republican last month after voting against the articles of impeachment as a Democrat. He is also set to appear in Iowa on Thursday, days before the caucuses.

Meanwhile, Trump is already looking ahead to his likely acquittal, whenever it may come, promising that Democrats will face consequences for trying to remove him from office. “Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

Source: Aljazeera

Thousands protest in US cities against India citizenship law

Protesters have accused the Modi government of waging a war against Muslims, students, Dalits and marginalised sections of society [Mohammad Ali/Al Jazeera]

New York, United States – Thousands of Indian Americans, joined by several civil rights organisations, have staged protests across dozens of US cities against policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that critics say undermine the country’s secular constitution.

On Sunday, which marked India’s Republic Day, Mohammad Mustaqeem and his eight-year-old son, along with thousands of others, gathered outside the Indian embassy in New York to protest against the recently passed citizenship law that makes faith a basis for attaining Indian citizenship.

More:

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) coupled with a plan to implement a nationwide counting of citizenship (National Register of Citizens or NRC) by India’s Hindu nationalist government has triggered widespread protests in the South Asian nation.

In the northeast Indian state of Assam, nearly two million people were dropped from the citizenship list in 2019 and many fear a nationwide NRC will possibly render millions of Indians stateless.

Mustaqeem from the eastern Indian state of Bihar says his nephew Mohammad Irfan was among those injured last month when police stormed the library inside Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi.

‘Modi has started war against Muslims’

Mustaqeem says his nephew’s left leg and right hand were fractured in the police action, which caused a public outcry. The students were protesting against the CAA and the NRC that activists say discriminates against India’s Muslims.

“I can’t go back to India right now. But I have come here to protest against the war Modi has started against India’s Muslims,” Mustaqeem told Al Jazeera.

He accused the Modi government of waging a war against Muslims, students, Dalits and marginalised sections of society.

“Instead of studying, my nephew is under treatment in Araria [Bihar state]. Is this the India we want to hand over to our next generation?” Mustaqeem asked.

Waving hundreds of Indian flags, protesters raised banners against Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The New York protest was part of nationwide protests and marches organised by the recently formed Coalition to Stop Genocide – a broad coalition of Indian Americans and US-based civil rights organisations such as the Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, Equity Labs, Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha of New York, Black Lives Matter and the Jewish Voice for Peace.

The protesters demanded the repeal of the CAA in India, and called for action by the US government, including possible sanctions on India’s Home Minister Shah, as recommended by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“What is happening in India, is happening in the name of Hinduism. But the Hinduism that we practise is inclusive and has love at its centre. Whereas the Hindu nationalism is exclusive by definition and seems to have hatred at its centre,” said Sunita Viswanath from Hindus for Human Rights.

The protesting men, women and children of all ages held banners and shouted slogans against the Indian government’s right-wing policies. They unfurled the Indian flag and recited the national anthem to mark their Republic Day.

A poster said “Hindu + Muslim = India’s greatest love stories. You can’t change that,” while another said, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” Many posters referred to “Martin Luther King’s dream vs India’s Nazi vision”.

‘We, the people of India’

With a banner flaunting Dalit icons like Saint Ravidas along with Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar – the architect of India’s constitution – Sitaram joined the protest along with his friends from Connecticut.

“It is wrong to assume that the CAA is only against Muslim community. Laws like CAA and provisions like NRC and NPR represent the destruction of the constitution brick by brick by Narendra Modi,” the 52-year-old said.

“If we don’t speak now, there will be nothing and no one left to speak for,” said Sitaram, who is associated with the International Bahujan Organization – a Dalit group.

He and other protesters read the preamble of the Indian Constitution reminding Modi that India belonged to “We, the people of India”, as Modi has been accused of pushing a Hindu supremacist agenda.

Shaik Ubaid, one of the organisers, said that protests were happening not only in India but around the world and it represented a global consensus against the “draconian” policies of the Modi government.

“They are also a clear indication that the world will not stand idly by while Hindutva’s supremacist worldview takes India down the path of fascism,” said Ubaid who was part of an initiative which led to a ban on Modi’s entry into the US after the 2002 Gujarat religious riots.

Reverend Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of New York, said that Martin Luther King Junior, who was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, “called to speak for the voiceless”.

“The CAA makes an enemy of India’s own precious people, damaging the pluralistic democracy that has existed since 1947 and has been such an inspiration to the world,” Breyer told Al Jazeera.

Hope

Students of Harvard University and representatives from the Indian diaspora also staged a 24-hour protest at Harvard Square in Boston to coincide with India’s Republic Day.

“A lot of times I get tokenised because of my Dalit identity. It becomes almost a vulgarised presentation of Dalit body on a stage. But this protest I feel like I have agency and I am part of a larger dialogue,” said Suraj Yengde, a researcher at Harvard University.

“But I would also hope that now that Dalits are coming for Muslims, there will be reciprocity in future,” Yengde, author of a recent book, Caste Matters, told Al Jazeera by phone.

The protesters in Washington DC marched to the Indian Embassy.

“The brutal crackdown by government in India on the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests has created a situation in which women in large numbers have come out on the streets to challenge the divisive-communal-fascist agenda of the government,” said rights activist and Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey, who travelled to Washington, DC from India.

“It gives a hope that democracy and constitution can ultimately be saved by the common people from a government which is bent upon destroying them,” he added.

A protest was also organised outside the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Source: Aljazeera

Portuguese hacker identified as source of Luanda Leaks

Rui Pinto (C) gave a hard drive containing the documents to the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) at the end of 2018, his lawyers said [Ferenc Isza/AFP]

A Portuguese hacker has taken responsibility for disclosing hundreds of thousands of files revealing how billionaire Isabel dos Santos, daughter of Angola’s former president built a vast business empire, his lawyers said.

The hacker, Rui Pinto, handed over a hard drive “containing all data related to the recent revelations concerning Ms Isabel Dos Santos’s fortune” to a whistle-blowing organisation in 2018, his lawyers said on Monday.

More:

Pinto, 31, is awaiting trial in a Lisbon jail for extortion and other crimes, having claimed to be behind “Football Leaks” – a high-profile trove of 70 million documents that exposed the dealings of European football clubs. His defence team said he was acting in the public interest.

Lawyers William Bourdon and Francisco Teixeira da Mota said their client was also behind the “Luanda Leaks” – more than 700,000 documents “containing all data related to the recent revelations concerning Isabel dos Santos’ fortune, her family’s and all the actors that might be involved”.

“Without the immense Luanda Leaks revelations, made possible thanks to our client, the regulatory, police and judicial authorities would have done nothing,” the lawyers said.

Pinto gave the hard drive with the documents to the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) at the end of 2018, the lawyers said. PPLAAF passed it to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which, along with 37 media partners, released findings last week.

Dos Santos, whose father Jose Eduardo dos Santos left power in 2017 after ruling Angola for 38 years, has denied wrongdoing and says the leaks are part of a politically motivated campaign by the government of her father’s successor.

Since the Luanda Leaks investigations emerged, Angola has announced that she and several associates are the targets of a criminal investigation.

Banks, consultancy and accountancy firms have distanced themselves from dos Santos and her associates, announcing internal investigations into business dealings with her.

Teixeira da Mota said he hoped Pinto’s role in the Luanda disclosures would influence the criminal case against him.

“I’d like international authorities to look at him differently now,” Teixeira da Mota told Reuters news agency on Monday. “To treat him as a whistle-blower, and move away from the punitive approach they’ve taken thus far.”

Portuguese prosecutors could not be reached immediately for comment. Dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman, could also not be reached for comment on Pinto’s role in the leaks.

Teixeira da Mota said Pinto had single-handedly compiled and handed the data to the PPLAAF. However, he could not confirm whether Pinto collected all the data himself.

ICIJ and PPLAAF confirmed Pinto as the person behind the leaks in statements on Monday. Pinto’s lawyer Bourdon is also a co-founder and chair of the PPLAAF.

Source: Aljazeera