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Staggering Sums of Oil Money Missing in Angola, Rights Group Reports

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – Some $34 billion in oil revenues linked to Angola’s state oil company Sonangol have disappeared, according to the watchdog Human Rights Watch which is demanding an investigation from the president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

The latest revelation comes the same week that Angola announced yet another huge offshore oil find and after deals were signed Tuesday with seven major oil companies to drill there.

The New York-based rights group said the missing money was identified in a new December report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which found that the government funds were spent or transferred from 2007 through 2010 without being properly documented in the budget.

It must be assumed, that the missing oil billions have been transferred into foreign investments, mainly in those of the family of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and his daughter Isabel dos Santos, asserted HRW.

Sonangal has been singled out since at least 2002 for losing track of billions of dollars when it “stopped channeling foreign currency receipts through the central bank as mandated by the law,” the IMF found.

"While ordinary Angolans suffered through a profound humanitarian crisis, their government oversaw the suspicious disappearance of a truly colossal sum of money," declared Arvind Ganesan, director of the New York-based group's business and human rights program.

Angola's government must account for a staggering $32 billion missing from state coffers in a country where most suffer immense poverty despite the nation's massive oil wealth, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Sonangol has over 30 subsidiaries in banking, gas, real estate, telecoms, air transport and just won rights to develop Iraq’s Najmah oilfield.

Two 'Presidents' Vie for Control of the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

As tanks circled the capital city of Kinshasa, Joseph Kabila was sworn in as president for a second term in office.

His victory in the November poll was upheld by the nation’s Supreme Court, but widely condemned as “flawed” by western countries including the U.S. Zimbabwe’s Pres. Robert Mugabe was the only foreign leader to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

Kabila’s rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, dismissed the vote results and in a flashback to a similar crisis in the Ivory Coast, he claimed to be the real winner and announced an inauguration ceremony for himself later this week.

For Tshisekedi, age 78, this might be the last bite at the apple for political office in a long career that included a decade of service as justice minister under reviled leader Mobutu Sese Seko, and then as a critic of Mobutu and leader of a new opposition party. According to the book “The Assassination of Lumumba,” Mr Tshisekedi opposed the popular first prime minister and pioneer of African Unity, Patrice Lumumba, and took part in the negotiations about his fate.

“Every day of my life I've dreamt of becoming president of the republic," he said in a July interview. "Now the moment has come for that dream to become a reality."

Cotton Picked by Children Found in 'Fair Trade' Garments, Reporter Finds

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Sexy garments made for Victoria’s Secret claim to include “fair trade” fibers from cotton farms in Burkina Faso.

“Good for women,” reads a booklet accompanying a Victoria’s Secret ‘fair trade’ thong covered with blue and lavender daisies. “Good for the children who depend on them.”

But an investigative reporter for Bloomberg News found children, age 13 and under, doing backbreaking work including a 12 year old girl digging rows for cotton by hand. The farm was the length of four football fields.

In most developing countries, this work would be done by an animal and a plow, but in Burkina Faso, farmers are so poor it's easier and cheaper to use orphans.

"It's really extraordinary. The work goes on for six or seven months, all the way through the harvest," Bloomberg reporter Cam Simpson said.

Organic farms make greater demands on young workers. Children must weed the fields by hand, haul manure compost to each of the plants and pluck worms out of the cotton, and then smash them with their foot. With over 7000 fair trade farmers in 2008, investigators found children who were abused or malnourished, illegally kept out of school, and overworked.

Cotton is produced with child or forced labor in more countries than any other commodity except gold in the global supply chain, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The West African nation of Burkina Faso has been repeatedly cited for the worst forms of child labor.

Victoria's Secret's parent company has pledged an investigation.

Lock My Body, Can't Trap My Mind: Q&A with Mumia Abu Jamal

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By Dream Hampton, Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Citizen –

Angela Davis, in her introduction to Mumia Abu-Jamal‘s 2009 book “Jailhouse Lawyers,” called him one of the most important public intellectuals of our time. “As a transformative thinker,” she writes of Abu-Jamal, “he has always taken care to emphasize the connections between incarcerated lives and lives that unfold in the putative arenas of freedom.”

In his newest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America” with Marc Lamont Hill, Abu-Jamal thinks deeply and publicly about a broad range of issues, from Black feminism, to Obama‘s election and presidency, to hip hop, mass incarceration, public education and the Black church. He quotes Thomas Paine as easily as he references bell hooks. As a man who spent 30 years on Death Row insisting he’s innocent of murdering Officer Daniel Faulkner, he’s remarkably free of bitterness. He self-describes as a “free Black man living in captivity.”

The incredible news, delivered Dec. 7 that Abu-Jamal will no longer face the death penalty, came just two days before the day that marks his 30th year in prison. At the press conference announcing his office’s vacating the death sentence, District Attorney Seth Williams promised Abu-Jamal would spend the rest of his life in prison. Still, it was a victory for Abu-Jamal and for the Free Mumia campaign.

This interview was conducted via letters. Abu-Jamal’s answers arrived a week before the announcement that his three decades on death row have finally ended.

DH: You’re one of the busiest men I know, constantly creating podcasts; you’ve recently completed your seventh book and you find time to create hand-painted greeting cards. Is this a jail thing or have you always been so productive?

Mumia Abu-Jamal: I’d like to say it’s a prison thing, but it isn’t. The truth is, my mom used to bug me when I was a boy about being lazy (I was), so I overcompensated by working incessantly. If I didn’t have at least two jobs, I felt guilty (the power of a mom’s suggestion). There were times when I worked three jobs. I carried that energy with me when I entered the joint. For me, it’s second nature.

DH: What do you think of this uprising of the progressive left, Occupy Wall Street? There’s been talk of the absence of people of color.

MAJ: I’m frankly quite impressed with Occupy Wall Street, for it did in three months more than the movement of the ’60s did in seven years. The growth and sheer span of their work can only be termed impressive. Over 100 cities? Damn. I think it’s too white and too college-centric, but at least they’re doing something. For that, if nothing else, they are to be lauded. As for Afros and Latinos and Afro Latinos, I think it’s our job to enter those movements, and give ‘em input, issues and support. I think if all goes according to plan, this could very well be a turning point for this country and by extension, the world (for what happens here radiates around the world, because it’s the center of empire). We should remember that every great rebellion in U.S. history led to change, whether negative or positive. The great Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, led to changes in the structure of the government, from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. The (Jacob) Coxey “Army” of the 1890s, while initially unsuccessful, was a direct cause of social security years later, for example.

DH: There’s so much talk about the lack of Black leadership. Your generation broke from traditional church leadership. But it’s re-emerged — or, perhaps, remained — a central organizing community space.

MAJ: Most of us have early, perhaps childhood memories of church. In many ways, it’s formative of not only our personalities, but also our sense of community, of some sense of self-worth, and even, Blackness. It therefore set the limits of what was communally acceptable, for they are inherently conservative (at least socially), and they have that stamp on communal consciousness. But, what I learned during the ’60s is that radical actions in the streets moves right through the walls of the sanctuary, and we remember the emergence of radical Black preachers (and imams, etc.), who, in turn, gave radical spiritual blessings to struggles outside of the church. For example, Malcolm X, Nat Turner, James Cone, Jesse Jackson, Ishakamuse Barashango, etc. In fact, in his later years, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was deepening in his radicalism, as shown by his Riverside Church speech, which decried racism, militarism and capitalism. His life and example, in turn radicalized many, many other religious people.

DH: Tell me about writing “The Classroom and the Cell,” about its conception and the process.

MAJ: When professor Marc Lamont Hill suggested the project, I was intrigued. Technically, it was the easiest I’ve ever done, but substantively, it wasn’t. For it was constructed from our series of phone calls, perhaps three, or four, per chapter. Marc would tape, send out texts after two or three weeks (whenever a chapter’s worth was done), and we would clean up, expand, and/or augment pieces. We mailed each other constantly. I must say, it was intellectually invigorating; but it also was challenging, for we talked about things that Black men rarely discuss, like love, Black love, pain and such. Most Black men avoid such subjects like the plague, but I think we both addressed it openly and honestly.

DH: The chapter on love was powerful, radical even. In the book you call Black love “revolutionary.”

MAJ: Black love itself, in a profoundly Negrophobic nation such as ours, is a radical thing, for it opposes the mainstream trajectory of U.S. life, policy and culture. We need to deepen and expand that ethos, so that it becomes a social force that has the power to attract and, with it, build. As in the discussion on church, social movements — especially radical and revolutionary movements — changes social reality in other spheres of life. It changes consciousness. Deep, caring, holistic love among our people can therefore make us more whole in all our relationships in our community. That’s because love is inclusive; while hatred is exclusive. There is power in love, which knows no limitations. That, I’m convinced, is our greatest treasure.

Osama bin Laden's Death Voted Top Story of 2011

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Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American –

The killing of Osama bin Laden during a raid by Navy SEALs on his hideout in Pakistan was the top news story of 2011, followed by Japan's earthquake/tsunami/meltdown disaster, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The death of bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who masterminded the Sept. 11 terror attacks, received 128 first-place votes out of 247 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. The Japan disaster was next, with 60 first-place votes. Placing third were the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked North Africa and the Middle East, while the European Union's financial turmoil was No. 4.

The international flavor of these top stories contrasted with last year's voting - when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the top story, President Barack Obama's health care overhaul was No. 2, and the U.S. midterm elections were No. 3.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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