Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Feb. 5 protesting a "smear campaign" against Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet, who has been accused of "treason" in numerous pro-government media outlets since he ran a piece in the Spanish daily El Mundo on his visit to bases of the Polisario Front guerilla organization, and an interview with Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz in the UK-based Arabic newspaper al-Moustakillah.
The UN's IRIN news agency reports that Nigerian troops shot and killed four villagers who were protesting at the main export terminal run by ChevronTexaco in the Niger Delta Feb. 4. Over 200 protesters from the village of Ugborodo near Warri occupied the Escravos plant just before dawn to demand a fairer share of revenues from the 300,000 barrels of crude oil that are pumped out every day. "Soldiers shot at them, killing four and injuring three others," said Helen Joe, one of the protest leaders.
The largely invisible suffering of Afghanistan's internal refugees made a rare appearance in the US media Feb. 4 with a NY Times story and front-page (below-the-fold) photo. The article noted that eighteen people have died in the refugee camps outside Kabul since severe cold descended on the country two weeks ago. The most recent death was that of a new-brn boy at the Chaman-e-Babrak tent camp. Temperatures fall as low as 5 degrees F. at night. There are some 4,000 living in the two main camps outside Kabul, described by the Times as "homeless rural people who cannot be relocated to the countryside" and "landless poor from rural areas who have no homes to go back to." The Times did not emphasize that most of these rural areas continue to be controlled by local warlords who persecute and even force out their perceived ethnic enemies.
The Irish Republican Army announced Feb. 2 it is withdrawing from the Northern Ireland peace talks and rescinding its disarmament proposal, accusing both London and Dublin of bad faith by blaming the IRA for a $50 million Belfast bank heist in December. "We do not intend to remain quiescent within this unacceptable situation," said a press release signed P. O'Neill, the psuedonym siginifying official IRA positions. "It has tried our patience to the limit." Unionist leader Ian Paisely predictably responded by claiming the IRA never intended to disarm in the first place. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams declined to comment, saying he would let the IRA speak for themselves, but Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the raid blame "scuttles disarmament." The US State Department called the IRA's move "un-welcome." This could be the final crisis for the 1998 Good Friday accord, which established a local legislature to share power between Catholics and Protestants. The legislature has been suspended since 2002 because of allegations of IRA activity. (NYT, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 4; UK Guardian, Feb. 5)
Indian Country Today, the national weekly run by the Oneida Nation in upstate New York, ran a story Feb. 3 casting doubt on Ward Churchill's claims to be a Native American. The account by Indian Country Today staff writer Jim Adams again aired accusations by national Indian leaders that Churchill has no real Indian ancestry. The report found:
Passions are rapidly escalating in the Ward Churchill controversy, with the professor reporting vandals spray-painting swastikas on his truck as it was parked in his driveway overnight. The Colorado House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution Feb. 2 condemning him, calling his remarks an "evil and infalmmatory blow to the healing process." The state senate voted up the statement the following day. The U. of Colorado regents met later that day to issue a formal apology to "all Americans", but the session was disrupted by several student activists with signs reading "WITCH HUNT" and "Protect Freedom of Expression." (The usual public commentary period at the session was barred.) (Rocky Mountain News, Newsday, Feb. 3)
The conservative Freedom House think-tank has released a new study (with an introduction by ex-CIA chief James Woolsey) finding that Saudi-produced Wahhabi literature promoting "hate ideology" is flooding American mosques. The following account is from the Alt.Muslim web site:
Chicago anti-war activists are waging a First Amendment battle in two courtrooms, the Chicago Tribune reported Feb. 3. In federal District Court, activists are seeking class-action status for a suit brought after police shut down a protest on Lake Shore Drive on March 20, 2003, the day the war on Iraq was launched. The case contends protesters were herded into an area cordoned off by riot police, and that hundreds were arrested without justification, sometimes with excessive force. Meanwhile, in a city courtroom yesterday, the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism appealed the denial of a permit to march again on this coming March 19 to mark the anniversary of the invasion. Coalition spokesman Andy Thayer said it is "essentially unconstitutional" to prohibit the right to protest on "hot-button issues." The city Transportation Department, in turn, denies that content is at issue, and says that the proposed march route would snarl traffic.