Archive | August 11th, 2016

ISIL Destruction ‘Strategic Mistake’

NOVANEWS

Image result for ISIS FLAG

Nazi think-tank said that the West should seek the further weakening of the Takfiri ISIL group, but not its destruction.

Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies considered as a “strategic mistake” the destruction of ISIL, stressing that a weak but functioning ISIL can have many advantages.

“A weak but functioning IS can undermine the appeal of the caliphate among radical Muslims; keep bad actors focused on one another rather than on Western targets; and hamper Iran’s quest for regional hegemony,” Efraim Inbar said in his study published on August 2.

“A weak IS(ISIL) is, counter intuitively, preferable to a destroyed IS. IS is a magnet for radicalized Muslims in countries throughout the world. These volunteers are easier targets to identify, saving intelligence work. They acquire destructive skills in the fields of Syria and Iraq that are of undoubted concern if they return home, but some of them acquire shaheed status while still away – a blessing for their home countries. If IS is fully defeated, more of these people are likely to come home and cause trouble.”

Meanwhile, the study said that the destruction of ISIL could strengthen Russia’s grip on Syria, bolster its influence in the Middle East and enhance Iranian control of Iraq contrary to American objectives in that country, and the two effects are not in the West’s interests.

On the other hand, the study added that the destruction of ISIL could also benefit Hezbollah.

“Furthermore, Hizballah (Hezbollah)… is being seriously taxed by the fight against IS, a state of affairs that suits Western interests. A Hizballah no longer involved in the Syrian civil war might engage once again in the taking of western hostages and other terrorist acts in Europe.”

The Western distaste for ISIL brutality and immorality should not obfuscate strategic clarity, Began-Sadat Center added, noting that ISIL “are truly bad guys, but few of their opponents are much better.”

“Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys.”

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Ben Gurion’s Scandals ‘VIDEO’

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Naeim Giladi (born 1929, Iraq, as Naeim Khalaschi) is an Anti-Zionist, and author of an autobiographical article and historical analysis entitled The Jews of Iraq. The article later formed the basis for his originally self-published book Ben Gurion’s Scandals: How the Haganah and the Mossad Eliminated Jews.

Giladi was born in 1929 to an Iraqi Jewish family and later lived in Israel and the United States. Giladi describes his family as, “a large and important” family named “Haroon” who had settled in Iraq after the Babylonian exile. According to Giladi his family had owned, 50,000 acres (200 km²) devoted to rice, dates and Arab horses. They were later involved in gold purchase and purification, and were therefore given the name, ‘Khalaschi’, meaning ‘Makers of Pure’ by the Turks who occupied Iraq at the time.

He states that he joined the underground Zionist movement at age 14 without his parent’s knowledge and was involved in underground activities. He was arrested and jailed by the Iraqi government at the age of 17 in 1947. During his two years in the prison of Abu Ghraib, he was expecting to be sentenced to death for smuggling Iraqi Jews out of the country to Iran, where they were then taken to Israel. He managed to escape from prison and travel to Israel, arriving in May 1950.

While living in Israel, his views of Zionism changed. He writes that, he “was disillusioned personally, disillusioned at the institutionalized racism, disillusioned at what I was beginning to learn about Zionism’s cruelties. The principal interest Israel had in Jews from Islamic countries was as a supply of cheap labor, especially for the farm work that was beneath the urbanized Eastern European Jews. Ben Gurion needed the “Oriental” Jews to farm the thousands of acres of land left by Palestinians who were driven out by Israeli forces in 1948″.

I organized a demonstration in Ashkelon against Ben Gurion’s racist policies and 10,000 people turned out.”

After serving in the Israeli Army between 1967-1970, Giladi was active in the Israeli Black Panthers movement.

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Nazi police find no wrongdoing in death of Palestinian minister beaten during protest

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Nazi police have closed their investigation into the death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein — who died in 2014 after being beaten by Nazi Gestapo concluding that he had died of natural causes, Zionist news outlet Arutz Sheva reported on Wednesday.

According to Arutz Sheva, an autopsy by the Nazi police department of internal investigations concluded that Abu Ein, 55, died of a heart attack on Dec. 10, 2014, after an Nazi border police officer beat him in the chest with his helmet and the butt of his rifle during a march to plant olive trees in the village of Turmusayya in the Ramallah district of the Nazi illegally occupied West Bank.

Human rights organization Yesh Din, which represents Abu Ein’s family in the case, expressed its outrage at the Nazi police’s decision to close the case without ever interrogating the Nazi border policeman suspected of killing Abu Ein or asking him to testify.

“Most cases of Israeli violence against Palestinians are closed. But we expected that at least a proper investigation would take place,” Yesh Din spokesman Gilad Grossman told Ma’an on Wednesday. “This shows Israeli armed forces’ impunity when committing violence against Palestinian civilians.”

“They closed the case without talking to the border police officer,” Grossman added, despite the fact that “a number of soldiers who were there during the incident said that the border police officer was acting violently even before the altercation” with Abu Ein.

The internal investigations department reportedly justified the decision not to interrogate the policeman.

“Since policemen are authorized to use force and it is expected of them in many cases to use it, Internal Investigations will not summon a policeman for investigation if there is not a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed,” Arutz Sheva quoted the department as saying.

Grossman said that Abu Ein’s family had already filed an appeal to the Nazi Ministry of ‘Justice’.

“Our opinion is that internal affairs must investigate the acts of the border policeman during the altercation, even if his actions were not the direct cause of Abu Ein’s death,” he said. “At least, they need to investigate whether his actions were within the proper limits of police action.”

Abu Ein had worked with the Palestinian Authority monitoring Nazi Jewish settlements and the separation wall, and was a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Abu Ein had also previously served as Palestinian deputy minister of prisoners’ affairs.

The Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs said a day after Abu Ein’s death that an autopsy carried out by a Palestinian forensics team revealed he had died after a powerful blow to the diaphragm and heavy use of tear gas, adding that he had also suffered from bruising on his neck, and several of his front teeth had been knocked out by a blow to his face.

At the time, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said that the case was “a clear example of how the culture of impunity granted to Israel by the international community permits it to continue committing crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Nazi police’s decision to close its investigation in the case comes days after Zionist newspaper Haaretz published a report revealing that nearly all investigations opened over the killings of Palestinians at the hands of Nazi police in the past ten months were closed without the unit investigating and questioning the officers.”

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Nazi Settler Harassment and Water Shortages in Beit Ummar

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Settler Harassment

Ealier today we visited Abdullah Braigheith, a 54 year old farmer, who with his family are facing the risk of getting their agricultural water tank demolished, any day from now. This is their livelihood, without the water for crops they will lose their income. Abdullah and his brother already had to cut down on their production this year; they went from planting 30 dunums* last year to only 5 dunums this year.

This leaves the family facing severe economic problems, and the father can’t pay for his kids’ education in university. They are now fearing losing around 3000 dunums of their land, because the Nazi Jewish settlers want to connect the Jewish Nazi illegal settlements Gush Etzion and Beit Al­Barakeh to make one settlement. Even though they are surrounded by settlements from all sides, they will not leave their land. This is not only due to the fact that they will lose their income, but the land is also their pride and identity.

Thirty five of the family’s apricot trees were cut down by the Nazi Jewish settlers. The family filed a complaint to the Nazi police, who did nothing to help. Afterwards, the Nazi Jewish settlers took revenge by setting three of their tractors on fire.

The family went to the Nazi military, who told them to file a complaint. Abdullah asked the military for a video of what happened, since there are military cameras all over the area. Nazi soldiers refused to let them even see the video, because of ”security reasons”. The purpose of the cameras is not to protect people like Abdullah and his family, but instead the settlers who attack them and their property.

The family were not able a file a complaint since the Nazi soldiers did not allow them to see evidence that would make such an action possible. According to Abdullah Braigheith, using Nazi military courts to get justice is futile because the courts are set up to protect the victimizers, not the people who are wronged.

“It’s their own court, we can do nothing about it,” Abdullah said.

Water Shortage

About one year ago, four water tanks were built in Beit Ummar, a project to develop Palestinian water resources and agricultural lands in the West Bank. It was built with funding from the European Union, USAID, UAWC and other NGOs without permission from the Nazi authorities, because they knew that they most likely would not get a permit to built them if they did. Usually they would not receive demolition orders, but they all did, and the farmers, including Abdullah Braigheith, have all been going in and out of court since. This meaning that they are now not only dealing with a huge water shortage and harassment from settlers, but are now also using huge amounts of money in court.

The fact that even projects like this, funded by the European Union and other NGOs, are under demolition orders, shows how impossible it is for the people living in Beit Ummar and the rest of the West Bank to receive help.

Since the Oslo Accords in 1995, Beit Ummar was put in the category which covers 60 % of the West Bank, called Area C, which is completely under Nazi civil military control. In these areas, Nazi Jewish settlers have higher privileges which are at the expense of the Palestinian population here. This is clear when you look at the fields in Beit Ummar, where Palestinian farmers are either not able to actually use most of their land, or their plants are dying because of the shortage of water.

Close by, you see the Nazi Jewish settlers’ fields which are green. The difference is very clear.

Palestinian domestic consumption is on average 70 litres per person per day, with Nazi domestic consumption being on average 300 litres per capita per day. A gross inequality exists, however, between Palestinian communities and illegal Nazi Jewish settlements*.

*B’tselem, The Gap in Water Consumption Between Palestinians and Israelis, (2007). Available from: http://www.btselem.org/english/Water/Consumption_Gap.asp.

The difficult situation of Beit Ummar, from Abdullah's point of view.

The difficult situation of Beit Ummar, from Abdullah’s point of view

Abdullah standing at the water tank which is in the risk of getting demolished

Abdullah standing at the water tank which is in the risk of getting demolished

Abdullah looking at one of the many dry fields

Abdullah looking at one of the many dr

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Obama versus Trump, Putin and Erdogan: Can Coups Defeat Elected Governments?

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Image result for Obama versus Trump CARTOON
By James Petras 

Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested.

James Clapper, US Director of Intelligence on Turkish Coup, Financial Times, 8/3/16, p. 4

Washington has organized a systematic, global, no holds barred campaign to oust Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump from the electoral process. The virulent anti-Trump animus, the methods, goals and mass media resemble authoritarian regimes preparing to overthrow political adversaries.

Comparable propaganda efforts led to political coups in Chile in 1973, Brazil 1964, and Venezuela in 2002. The anti-Trump forces include both political parties, a Supreme Court judge, Wall Street bankers, journalists and editorialists of all the major media outlets and the leading military and intelligence spokespeople.

Washington’s forcible and illegal ouster of Trump is part and parcel of a world-wide campaign to overthrow leaders and regimes which raise questions about aspects of the imperial policies of the US and EU.

We will proceed to analyze the politics of the anti-Trump elite, the points of confrontation and propaganda, as a prelude to the drive to oust opposition in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The Anti-Trump Coup

Never in the history of the United States, has a President and Supreme Court Judge openly advocated the overthrow of a Presidential candidate. Never has the entire mass media engaged in a round-the-clock one-sided, propaganda war to discredit a Presidential candidate by systematically ignoring or distorting the central socio-economic issues of their opposition.

The call for the ouster of a freely elected candidate is nothing more or less than a coup d’état.

Leading television networks and columnists demand that the elections be annulled, following the lead of the President and prominent Republican and Democratic Congressional and Party leaders.

In other words, the political elite openly rejects democratic electoral processes in favor of authoritarian manipulation and deception. The authoritarian elite relies on magnifying tertiary, questionable personal judgement calls to mobilize coup backers.

They systematically avoid the core economic and political issues which candidate Trump has raised – and attracted mass support – which challenge fundamental policies backed by the two Party elites.

The Roots of the Anti-Trump Coup

Trump has raised several key issues which challenge the Democratic and Republican elite.

Trump has drawn mass support and won elections and public opinion polls by:

(1) rejecting the free trade agreements which has led major multinationals to relocate abroad and disinvest in well-paying industrial jobs in the US.

(2) calling for large scale public investment projects to rebuild the US industrial economy, challenging the primacy of financial capital.

(3) opposing the revival of a Cold War with Russia and China and promoting greater economic co-operation and negotiations.

(4) rejecting US support for NATO’s military build-up in Europe and intervention in Syria, North Africa and Afghanistan.

(5) questioning the importation of immigrant labor which lowers job opportunities and wages for local citizens.

The anti-Trump elite systematically avoid debating these issues; instead they distort the substance of the policies.

Instead of discussing the job benefits which will result from ending sanctions with Russia, the coupsters screech that ‘Trump supports Putin, the terrorist’.

Instead of discussing the need to redirect investment inward to create US jobs, the anti-Trump junta mouth clichés that claim his critique of globalization would ‘undermine’ the US economy.

To denigrate Trump, the Clinton/Obama junta resorts to political scandals to cover-up mass political crimes. To distract public attention, Clinton-Obama falsely claim that Trump is a ‘racist’, backed by David Duke, a racist advocate of “Islamophobia”. The anti-Trump junta promoted the US-Pakistani parents of a military war casualty as victims of Trump’s slanders even as they rooted for Hillary Clinton, promotor of wars against Muslim countries and author of military policies that sent thousands of US soldiers to their grave.

Obama and Clinton are the imperial racists who bombed Libya and Somalia and killed, wounded, and displaced over 2 million sub-Saharan Black-Africans.

Obama and Clinton are the Islamaphobes who bombed and killed and evicted five million Muslims in Syria and one million Muslims in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

In other words, Trump’s mistaken policy to restrict Muslim immigration is a reaction to the hatred and hostility engendered by the Obama-Clinton million-person Muslim genocide.

Trump’s “America First” policy is a rejection of overseas imperial wars – seven wars under Obama-Clinton. Their militarist policies have inflated budget deficits and degraded US living standards.

Trump’s criticism of capital and job flight has threatened Wall Street’s billion-dollar profiteering – the most important reason behind the bi-partisan junta’s effort to oust Trump and the working class’s support for Trump.

By not following the bi-partisan Wall Street, war agenda, Trump has outlined another business agenda which is incompatible with the current structure of capitalism. In other words, the US authoritarian elite does not tolerate the democratic rules of the game even when the opposition accepts the capitalist system.

Likewise, Washington’s quest for ‘mono-power’ extends across the globe. Capitalist governments which decide to pursue independent foreign policies are targeted for coups.

Obama-Clinton’s Junta Runs Amok

Washington’s proposed coup against Trump follows similar policies directed against political leaders in Russia, Turkey, China, Venezuela, Brazil, and Syria.

Russian President Putin has been demonized by the US propaganda media on an hourly basis for the better part of a decade. The US has backed oligarchs and promoted economic sanctions; financed a coup in the Ukraine; established nuclear missiles on Russia’s frontier; and launched an arms race to undermine President Putin’s economic policies in order to provoke a coup.

The US backed its proxy Gulenist ‘invisible government’ in its failed coup to oust President Erdogan, for failing to totally embrace the US Middle East agenda.

Likewise, Obama-Clinton have backed successful coups in Latin America. Coups were orchestrated in Honduras, Paraguay, and more recently in Brazil to undermine independent Presidents and to secure satellite neo-liberal regimes. Washington presses forward to forcibly oust the national-populist government of President Maduro in Venezuela.

Washington has escalated efforts to erode, undermine and overthrow the government of China’s President Xi-Jinping through several combined strategies. A military build-up of an air and sea armada in the South China Sea and military bases in Japan, Australia, and the Philippines; separatist agitation in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and among the Uyghurs; a US-Latin American-Asia free trade agreement which excludes China.

Conclusion

Washington’s strategy of illegal, violent coups to retain the delusion of empire stretches across the globe, ranging from Trump in the US to Putin in Russia, from Erdogan in Turkey to Maduro in Venezuela to Xi Jinping in China.

The conflict is between US-EU imperialism backed by their local clients against endogenous regimes rooted in nationalist alliances.

The struggle is ongoing and sustained and threatens to undermine the political and social fabric of the US and the European Union.

The top priority for the US Empire is to undermine and destroy Trump by any means necessary. Trump already has raised the question of ‘rigged elections’. But each elite media attack of Trump seems to add to and strengthen his mass support and polarize the electorate.

As the elections approach, will the elite confine themselves to verbal hysteria or will they turn from verbal assassinations to the ‘other kind’?

Obama’s global coup strategy shows mixed results: they succeeded in Brazil but were defeated in Turkey; they seized power in the Ukraine but were defeated in Russia; they gained propaganda allies in Hong Kong and Taiwan but suffered severe strategic economic defeats in the region as China’s Asian trade policies advanced.

As the US elections approach, and Obama’s pursuit of his imperial legacy collapses, we can expect greater deception and manipulation and perhaps even frequent resort to elite-designed ‘terrorist’ assassinations.

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Declassified Documents Detail US Role in Argentine Dirty War Horrors

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In a much-awaited step toward uncovering the historical truth of the U.S.-backed Dirty War in Argentina in the 1970’s and 80’s, the United States has delivered over 1,000 pages of classified documents to the South American country. But critics argue that there are major gaps in the files, including the exclusion of CIA documents, that keep in the dark important details of the extent of human rights violations and the U.S. role in such abuses.

The Argentine government delivered the newly-declassified documents to journalists and human rights organizations on Monday after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the files to President Mauricio Macri during a state visit last week.

The 1,078 pages from 14 U.S. government agencies and departments are the first in a series of public releases over the next 18 months of declassified documents related to Argentina’s last military dictatorship, including Argentine Country Files, White House staff files, correspondence cables, and other archives, according to a statement from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The files include grisly descriptions of torture, rape, assassinations, and forced disappearances carried out by the military regime under General Jorge Rafael Videla, installed after the 1976 coup against left-wing President Isabel Peron.

The documents also detail Henry Kissinger’s applause of the Argentine dictatorship and its counterinsurgency strategy, including during a visit to General Videla during the 1978 World Cup. National Security staffer Robert Pastor wrote in 1978 that Kissinger’s “praise for the Argentine government in its campaign against terrorism was the music the Argentine government was longing to hear.”

Argentina’s so-called anti-terrorism policy was in reality a brutal crackdown on political dissidents, human rights defenders, academics, church leaders, students, and other opponents of the right-wing regime. It was also part of the regional U.S.-backed Operation Condor, a state terror operation that carried out assassinations and disappearances in support of South America’s right-wing dictatorships. In Argentina, up to 30,000 people were forcibly disappeared during the Dirty War.

The documents also detail how then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter raised concern over the human rights situation in Argentina, including in a letter to General Videla rather gently urging him to make progress with respect to human rights. At the time, Kissinger reportedly demonstrates a “desire to speak out against the Carter Administration’s human rights policy to Latin America,” according to a memo by National Security’s Pastor.

The further confirmation of Kissinger’s atrocious legacy in Latin America comes as U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton courts an endorsement from Kissinger, widely condemned as a war criminal by human rights groups.

However, despite the revealing details, the batch of documents is also lacking in key archives, the Argentine publication El Destapepointed out. The package does not include files from the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency, which specializes in military intelligence.

What’s more, although the documents were expected to cover the period of 1977 to 1982, the latest documents are dated 1981, which means that cables related to the 1982 Malvinas War between Argentina and Britain and the U.S. role in the conflict are not included.

The Macri administration hailed the release of the documents as the result of a “new foreign policy” that has steered the country to rekindle ties with the United States after former Presidents Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez championed anti-imperialist politics for 12 years. But the self-congratulatory government narrative ignores the fact that Argentine human rights organizations have demanded for years that the archives be released in a fight for historical truth that first bore fruit in 2002 with the release of over 4,500 U.S. documents.

Furthermore, Macri has come under fire for undermining investigations into dictatorship-era crimes after his sweeping austerity campaign scrapped departments charged with gathering historical evidence in certain public institutions. The Argentine president has also been criticized over his indirect ties to the military regime, which proved to hugely benefit his family business, the Macri Society, also known as Socma.

U.S. President Obama described the move as a response to the U.S. “responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.” Obama announced plans to release documents related to the Dirty War during a visit with Macri in Argentina in March, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the 1976 military coup.

Obama’s visit was widely criticized by human rights activists over the insensitivity of the timing. Although he announced plans for the United States to “do its part” with respect to uncovering historical truth about the dictatorship period, he did not apologize for the United States’ involvement in human rights abuses and widespread forced disappearance.

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SUICIDE SQUAD: Is It Really That Terrible…?

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suicide-squad1

You may have heard that Suicide Squad is terrible.

You may have also heard that’s it’s actually pretty good. Ultimately, as with everything, you should make up your own mind: and judging by how well the movie seems to be doing at the box office, the harsh criticisms don’t seem to be hurting it commercially.

I actually wasn’t one of those people who was all that hyped about the Suicide Squad movie coming out. Having dipped in and out of the comics and being particularly a fan of Harley Quinn in general, I was looking forward to seeing it; but I was actually very surprised that Warner Bros even decided to make it at all, given that it wouldn’t logically feature so close to the top of a hypothetical pecking order for DC Universe big-screen adaptations.

In that sense, I commended the studio months ago for going with this particular film, because there would’ve been a more obvious logic (at the executive level) in putting this lower down the list and focusing more on bigger brands like Justice League or the Flash.

But Suicide Squad was a much cooler move: particularly as it meant we would see one of DC’s finest cult favorites, Harley Quinn, brought to cinema much sooner than I would’ve expected.

And then, like mostly everyone else, I saw the trailer and the promo images and I thought ‘shit, this is going to be bad-ass’. But that was the extent of my expectation: I expected a fun film, something very different for the DC cinematic world, and not much more.

So I wasn’t really in a position to be all that disappointed.

And I also have no reason to particularly treat critics or immediate online ‘consensus’ too seriously (I always like to remind people that most critics wouldn’t give Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi any praise when they were released).

But after months of general hype and enthusiasm, when SUCH negative reactions and low ratings began to trickle onto the web days before the release, it felt like Batman V Superman deja vu.

Some of the reviews have been pretty brutal; worse probably than the early reviews for BVS. Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal, was unremitting; ‘In a word, “Suicide Squad” is trash. In two words, it’s ugly trash. Maybe no more words should be wasted on a movie that is, after all, only a movie, not a natural disaster or a terrorist attack…’

Bit harsh. It’s only a movie, after all; and meant to be a fun, end-of-summer diversion, not some epic masterwork.

Is Suicide Squad really so terrible? Not really so terrible. I mean it’s a movie I was okay with having paid to see – mostly for one main reason. Is it great? No, certainly not. In fact, even ‘good’ might be a little too generous.

The critics aren’t so wrong in this instance. It is tonally a mess. It is badly edited. It doesn’t feel like it goes anywhere. It often feels like it’s trying too hard to be offbeat and edgy in a manufactured sort of way instead of finding an organic tone. The story is poorly told and riddled with problems. It juggles a whole bunch of meaningless characters that aren’t developed at all. It’s too loud and abrasive most of the time. And the underlying fetishism gets boring quickly.

It is not a grown-up movie at all; but it isn’t a kid-friendly movie either. It’s more like something cooked up by a confused adolescent trying to vaguely rebel against something.
suicide-squad-movie-images-harley-quinn

For the type of film it could’ve aspired to be, Suicide Squad  is also unnecessarily constrained by its PG-13 rating and could’ve done better had it gone more decisively adult.

The one thing I mentioned above that rescues this enterprise from being a complete waste is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (pictured above). It leads to an inescapable thought that this would’ve been better as just a Harley Quinn moviewith the rest of the ensemble simply there as minor guest roles (or maybe with Will Smith’s Deadshot as the main supporting role).

I’m thinking along the lines of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie – also a very bad film (much worse than Suicide Squad), but I’m not talking about quality-level, just the way it was a Wolverine movie that happened to have a bunch of other characters in it too.

Jared Leto is a complete waste of time as the Joker.

In fairness, he doesn’t have much screen time – and how does anyone follow Heath Ledger’s singular interpretation of the character? But even so, given Ledger’s extraordinary performance in 2008, DC/Warner Bros might’ve sought to brink the Joker back to the big screen too soon.

For all the talk of Leto’s method approaches and his deep prep for the iconic role – which I now suspect was actually either the actor or the studio simply trying to create a mythology around the performance to match the existing mythology around Heath Ledger’s performance – there is nothing on display here that couldn’t have been done (better) by a dozen other actors.

It’s a total waste of the Joker.

On the other hand, Will Smith is perfectly fine as Deadshot. But again the real standout thing in this movie, almost universally agreed on, is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. While Robbie’s interpretation of the iconic character isn’t necessarily a by-the-book adaptation of the varying source material, it is close enough – and at the same time different enough (at least to my mind) – that it works a treat.

Which is also probably why I don’t feel like this movie is as worthless some people think it is: given that Harley is the main reason I was interested in this film, the fact that she’s the best thing about it helps. This doesn’t plaster over all the problems with the rest of the film, but the fact that we get here an iconic, memorable on-screen realisation of an iconic character almost on a par (I said almost) with Michelle Pfeiffer’s 1992 Catwoman in Burton’s Batman Returnsisn’t a small accomplishment.

If they’d fucked up Harley Quinn, then this movie would’ve had virtually no redeeming feature.
harley_quinn_suicide_squad-t2

Paul Dini, who originally created the character, has said he thinks Margot Robbie’s take is spot-on.

However, virtually every other character is instantly forgettable; which is again reminiscent of the aforementionedWolverine film, which was also overpopulated with cinematic non-entities. The movie starts reasonably promisingly, but generally fails – as entertaining as it is in places – to capture any of its potential.

But there may be very specific reasons for all of that.

Indications have now been surfacing that Warner Bros experienced major anxiety in the wake of the negative reaction to Batman V Superman and that this prompted excessive – and very late – interference from the studio.

The indications now are that the studio had people come in and make a different edit of the movie that was significantly at odds with what Ayer had initially been doing. The end result, allegedly, was a ‘compromise movie’ that combined Ayer’s original vision with the studio execs’ late re-edit. This would explain why, as numerous critics have said, the end product is an unwieldy, disjointed picture.

More extraordinary, after audiences responded very favorably to the teaser trailer, the studio decided to hire the company behind the teaser to re-edit the entire film.

In effect, it appears Ayer was initially trying to make a smaller, more edgy, quirky kind of movie, but that the studio intervened to steer it more into blockbuster territory. According to an article in Hollywood Reporter,  ‘A source with knowledge of events says Warners executives, nervous from the start, grew more anxious after they were blindsided and deeply rattled by the tepid response to BvS… So while Ayer pursued his original vision, Warners set about working on a different cut, with an assist from Trailer Park, the company that had made the teaser. Other sources describe a fraught process — one cites “a lot of panic and ego instead of calmly addressing the tonal issue”…’

If true, this would be a perfect example of why it is often best to let one creative mind follow a vision and see it through to conclusion (take Nolan and the Dark Knight trilogy as a prime example) rather than to have art decided by committee. Too many cooks and all that.

It seems rather ridiculous for the studio to have given the job to a directer/writer they were obviously confident in and then to barge in late in the day and make an executive film instead of the one he had been trying to make. And worse, not for creative reasons, but purely out of panic after a completely separate movie was badly received.

The fact that they hired the company who’d made the trailer to assist with the film’s final cut is also extraordinary and somewhat suggests a lack of creative integrity.

And it actually feels like a movie that’s been cut together by people who make trailers: it’s all action, close-up shots, brooding camera poses and excessive pop-music montaging, with major deficiencies in depth, story or emotion.Maybe it’s the kind of edit that an audience utterly obsessed with movie trailers deserves. I mean, there are people now who spend more time obsessing over trailers or teasers months in advance than they do talking about an actual movie after it is released.

A film edited by trailer/teaser merchants seems like the natural outgrowth of that.

Many have noted that the studio’s decision to do the Suicide Squad movie may have been inspired by how successfulMarvel was with the Guardians of the Galaxy movie in 2014. In both cases, we’re talking about comic-book properties that were very popular with their loyal readerships but didn’t necessarily have the big, mainstream stature that would guarantee success with broader, non-comic-reading audiences.

And like GOTG, Warner Bros looked to go the more quirky, indie style route. The difference, it may be, is that whereas Marvel/Disney allowed James Gunn to pretty much do what he wanted with GOTG, Warner Bros/DC apparently couldn’t resist exercising excessive executive control on whatever Ayer’s vision for Suicide Squad was.

Not that David Ayer should be entirely let off the hook: he did write the story and script, after all, and neither are anything to flaunt with pride.

I don’t, for that matter, think GOTG was perfect either. But it was far more fun, more endearing and more coherent than what Ayer and co have produced here: and the irony is that Suicide Squad, on paper, should’ve been a much easier, more straightforward movie than GOTG was to make.

________________

All of that being said, I don’t think Suicide Squad is quite as terrible a movie as is being suggested though.

It’s not any kind of masterpiece: but I don’t know why anyone would’ve had such high expectations that they would be so disappointed. Ayer always seemed to feel that he was making a quirkier kind of ‘side-show’ movie in the DC universe and not anything in the big blockbuster mold.

For what it is (rather than what we think it should be), Suicide Squad is reasonably entertaining at times, funny in places, has at least one bad-ass character, and is distinctly different to anything else the DC/Warner Bros machine has produced. It is probably a better ride than Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice or the Green Lantern movie (and I’m sorry, but I’m still struggling to believe Wonder Woman is going to be anything particularly worthwhile).

It is also deeply flawed, quite jarring, tonally awkward, genuinely annoying in places, and could’ve been a lot better – but a lot of that may be down to the aforementioned studio interference and last-minute panic attack. Which is something the studio is going to have to learn from.

What it doesn’t do is help the DC Cinematic Universe get onto surer footing. But that isn’t really this film’s job – that was Batman V Superman’s job; and if the former movie failed to accomplish that, that’s a separate issue.

In this fast-paced, comic-book-movie obsessed, blockbuster-centered, mass media climate we live in, people tend to be losing their ability to take in a movie on its own merit and instead attach a whole load of extended-universe baggage to it and view it in the context of other ‘branded’ movies or of movies yet to come. I’m a little guilty of that too; but that is, in fairness, how the studios themselves are conditioning us to be.

I also think that if this same film had been released ten years ago (or twenty), it would probably be a fan favorite or cult classic, even with all of its failings. But we’re in an era of over-saturation and maximum competition. There may also be a degree of superhero movie fatigue colouring a lot of critics’ immediate responses.

But again, it’s Margot Robbie and Harley Quinn that save this movie from being a total waste.

We know that there’s a Suicide Squad sequel due to go into production; but I would happily take a Harley Quinn solo movie. I would certainly take it over the Wonder Woman movie. And actually one of the things that occurs to me watching Suicide Squad is that some of the edgier, quirkier, darker characters may be a better route for the DC Cinematic Universe to go down instead of potentially floundering in Superman or Wonder Woman, Aqua Man and other staple fixtures that may be more difficult to translate to cinema without being cheesy.

If they were to look to characters like Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, the Joker (not Jared Leto), Catwoman (not Halle Berry), etc, they could craft out a very different cinematic world to what Marvel is doing instead of competeing with Marvel/Disney on the current terms. Having said that, I’m aware of course that this is kind of what they were trying to do here with Suicide Squad: so it may be that this DC Cinematic Universe is just never going to get things right no matter what route they go down.

Which is a sad thought.

In summary, Suicide Squad isn’t great and probably isn’t even good. But it’s also not quite as miserably terrible as you might’ve been led to believe. Cinema’s first taste of Harley Quinn makes it just about worth the effort.

I will say, however, that the 2014 animated Suicide Squad movie, Batman: Assault On Arkham, is overall a much better one to catch, if you’re so inclined.

 

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Israeli authorities forced to release woman protester from unlawful incarceration in psychiatric facility

Freed Joelle Ben Simon

Marianne Azizi writes:

Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked got rid of a women who had been protesting for four days in front of her office by arranging for her to be locked in a psychiatric facility.

The woman, Joelle Ben Simon, says the rabbi who sat in her divorce case robbed her by appointing receivers to take her assets. She spent four days at the ministry compound in Jerusalem trying to reach Ms Shaked.

On the fourth day Ms Shaked, surrounded by her assistants, saw her for a few minutes. Joelle was then told to return home, take a shower and prepare to see Ms Shaked in Tel Aviv at 6pm.

But by the time she reached her caravan, a social worker, Hadass Weiss, and an ambulance had turned up to take her to a mental facility. After a 10-minute interview with one Dr Elizabeth Yuven, she was “diagnosed” as psychotic and immediately injected with 3mg of risperdal.1

The next day Joelle was allowed visitors who took a video mocking the minister of justice and “thanking her for her promise to help her”.

The video went viral with 26,000 views within a very short time. Viewers were outraged that Ms Shaked, who seems so pretty and gives the appearance of being civil, actually gets rid of people she deems pests by arranging for them a bed in a psychiatric hospital and a dose of medication.

[The psychiatric] reports alluded that a citizen who thinks she deserves a personal appointment with the minister by holding a vigil until she is seen must be in a psychotic state of mind.

On the day of Joelle’s committal, Friday 5 August, it was not possible to obtain any medical record or paperwork pertaining to her committal which could be used to petition the court for her release, because in Israel when a district psychiatrist signs a decree of committal the patient must wait for whenever a psychiatric committee can consider the case, which in this case was Monday 8 August.

The outrage on Facebook was so intense that reporter Lory Shemtov managed to assemble a team of three lawyers to volunteer for the defence.

On Sunday 7 August one of the lawyers, Zvi Zer, managed to obtain reports from social worker Weiss and Dr Yuven, both of whom clearly stated that the request to hospitalise Joelle had been initiated by the Ministry of Justice, in the person of Yael Kutik, the personal assistant of Ms Shaked. The reports said that Joelle was filled with false thoughts about corruption in the family and rabbinical courts, and that she had put herself in danger by choosing an Arab district for her abode.

Both reports alluded that a citizen who thinks she deserves a personal appointment with the minister by holding a vigil until she is seen must be in a psychotic state of mind.

Meanwhile, attorney Zer managed to obtain an admission from Dr Yuven that no diagnosis specifically for a psychiatric disorder had been determined and that Joelle was receiving 3mg of risperdal as treatment “to eliminate the false thoughts from her mind and stabilise her back to a state of ordinary and normal conduct”.

At the committee meeting Joelle was represented by three lawyers: Zvi Zer, Iris Brand and Inbal bar On. Usually these committee hearings take no more than 10 minutes for an instant evaluation of the patient and to hear factual or legal arguments for why the subject should be released or detained.

As one would expect, 10 minutes are hardly sufficient for a genuine and serious defence. Consequently, such hearings tend to be a façade that results in a quick rubber-stamp decision, usually against the patient.

However, Joelle’s case took 90 minutes and was attended by the chief district psychiatrist of Jerusalem, which was unusual. The hearing began with a mental examination by way of a question-and-answer session posed by the panel to Joelle, who answered that she had no idea why she had been committed; had never seen a psychiatrist before; was not known to the system in any way; had never been diagnosed, seen or treated by any psychiatrist; and had never been give treatment or needed medication.

She said the social worker and doctor had put words in her mouth and she had indeed been mistreated by the divorce and rabbinical courts. Therefore, her thoughts were not false.

Attorney Brand spoke about the right to protest and approach ministers in person, and the right to express criticism of the courts, adding that Joelle’s rights had been violated in this case.

She said that she herself had once approached the Ministry of Justice with a complaint about an official and that it had never occurred to her that such an act might result in her committal to a psychiatric institution.

Next, attorney Zer conducted a cross examination of Dr Yuven, and obtained an admission that there is no need for a committal because the drugs could actually be taken outside the hospital. The only reason she wants Joelle inside a mental facility was to ensure that she actually takes the drug.

Asked how a psychiatrist can determine in 10 minutes whether something that is said to have happened in a divorce to rabbinical court actually happened or was an instance of false memory, Dr Yuven replied that a combination of the patient’s appearance, the stubbornness of requesting to speak to Ms Shaked and the self-imposed risk of sleeping in an Arab district had led her to believe that Joelle was in a psychotic state.

Attorney Zer summarised the cross examination by stating that Joelle’s conduct at the hearing was 100 per cent coherent and that her allegations of being wronged by the family courts were not baseless. He presented several newspaper clips relating to the persons involved with the litigation and stated that there appears to have been behind-the-scenes meddling by powerful people whom the psychiatric personnel were trying to appease. He said it was time to acknowledge that a gave mistake had been made.

Summarising the legal arguments for the release of Joelle, Inbal bar On stated that many necessary documents were missing from the record and that certain procedural steps had been bypassed, and that the entire situation was a fiasco.

After 45 minutes of deliberations, the panel said that Joelle is to be released immediately, and that the respirdal had already worked its miracle. It also ruled that the initial order for the committal had been justified because it was abnormal to approach a minister instead of just sending a letter.

This story will be in the mainstream news in Israel before the weekend.

In Israel, it takes only a word to turn a person’s world upside down. In this case, the word was that of someone in a high position in the Ministry of Justice and it resulted in one of the quickest psychiatric committals of a harmless person.

How many other unfortunate people in Israel do not have the benefit of connections to activists and journalists, and suffer in silence?

It used to be common practice in the Soviet Union to commit dissidents to mental hospitals. It seems the practice continues to be used in Israel.

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Biafrans and Onumah’s ‘prophecies’

Chido Onumah

This book is a useful contribution that will enlighten those people who want to understand why Nigeria is not working and what needs to be done. Persons in positions of leadership in the country may find it a useful guide in tackling some of the problems troubling the nation.

Title: We Are All Biafrans

Author: Chido Onumah

Publisher: Origami

Year: 2016

Pages: 214

Along the line of my quest for knowledge, I have always come across this cliché that Nigeria is a land of milk and honey: Arable land, mineral resources, and a large and enterprising population; variables that make a nation great. Regrettably and in spite of all of these, we have been in a pitiable situation. Whenever I ruminate over these conundrums, a whole lot of rhetorical questions keep agitating my mind.

Setting my eyes on this book, its title, We Are All Biafrans, only heightened a sense of curiosity in me towards finding out why we are described by one of the age-long canker worms we have been battling to do away with as a country. However, from the outset, as someone who has always shared patriotic feeling with each and every individual that believes in the Nigeria project, I did not see this book as only a work of art, which must be appreciated by its enthusiasts.

Rather, I saw it as a national question that must be answered, and by way of a review. I set out with a clearly spelt mission of finding out why we (Nigerians that abhor the word Biafra) would be described as such.

My curiosity was, however, appeased by the first sentence in the prologue of the book, which reads: “The young Nigerians now threatening to actualize Biafra should forget or shelve the plan. They should, through research and study, reconstruct the Biafra story…and answer the unanswered questions and supply the missing links in the story.”

With this, the author has offered these disgruntled youth agitating for a sovereign state of their own an olive branch.

Going further through the book, it appears however that the agitation Onumah describes has more to it than meets the eyes, because he metaphorically describes all of us as Biafrans, as long as we are seeking to confront the crisis which is a product of the feeling of alienation and marginalisation due to our deeply flawed federalism. He believes that such feeling is arguably widespread from the south to the northern parts of the country.

Hence, the basis for the author’s prophesies that Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb that could go up anytime. He argues that Nigeria as a country has paid dearly for allowing politics to trump patriotism and wasted much time and resources doing nothing and going nowhere.

Now, before undertaking an analysis of the book, it is important to know that this great book is a compendium of the author’s published articles in both traditional and online news outlets within the last three years (2013 to 2016), grouped into chapters one to five.

Chapter one, ‘The politics of 2015’, deals with the high-wire politics of the 2015 elections and its crucial stake in the survival of Nigeria as a country. The author, through the star article of this chapter titled, ‘2015: Why Buhari Matters’, issued a warning that, “the impoverished millions of our country men and women, the wanton abuse of rights, the unmitigated corruption, alienation, internal colonization and exacerbation of the fault lines of the country were not issues that the current political order could tackle.”

The second chapter, ‘Dancing on the Brink’, focuses on the issue of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). In this, the author thunders that Nigeria is a big scam, a collapsed edifice that is in need of an urgent overhaul through a recognized form of representation that would carry everybody along. He says: “More than fifty years after independence, we have managed to alienate one another so much so that people still see themselves as northerners, southerners, and everything in between.”

However, the author jubilates over a glimmer of hope that resurfaced through the convention of a National Conference. In the next chapter, ‘Unmaking Nigeria’, his jubilation is cut short as he argues that “many, if not all, of the problems that assail us as a nation are rooted in the structure of the country which has been left unattended to”. He argues:

“My take is that majority of Nigerians do not really give a damn about the disintegration debate because to them the country started disintegrating the very moment it became a sovereign nation, when rulers had the opportunity to build a united and prosperous nation but they were so mired in their clannish and thieving ways to worry about that.” (Pp.65)

Reinforcing the above statement, the fourth chapter, ‘Of scoundrels and statesmen’, focuses on some individuals and groups in and out of government whose actions have either enriched our polity or reinforced it as the giant of Africa only in name. In the chapter, the author clearly spells out how most of our leaders have always failed to walk their talk and how this inability has torpedoed our growth and unity.

In Chapter five, ‘Last Missionary’, the author reminds us that we are living in a deeply fractured nation and we could only ignore that reality at our own peril. He adds that unless we sit at a table to negotiate the terms of our co-existence as a people, our country would continue to ‘go round and round’.

“There are millions of our compatriots across Nigeria for whom this country provides no succor, there are millions who feel they have no stake in Nigeria, millions who feel they been left out of the gains that independence ought to bring.” (pp.164.)

However, according to the author, all hope is not lost because we could still retrace our steps. He notes: “What the current situation calls for is a bold attempt to confront Nigeria’s seemingly intractable problem: The structure of our federalism.”

As much I appreciate Onumah’s intellectual contributions towards actualising the Nigeria Project, I think this project is bigger than him and all that have written about it. That notwithstanding, this work of art would go a long way in evoking a positive thinking in the readers and Nigerians as a whole. Essentially, the book is intended to sustain the reader’s interest, remain true to the empirical evidence and deliver a message, all at the same time. It is a wonderful keepsake for all those who want to understand why Nigeria is not working and what needs to be done.

In addition, this book is written in a simple, straightforward language to enable the understanding of anyone with a smattering of the English language. The font size and typeface too are reader-friendly.

One thing readers of the book may find as its shortcoming, however, is the fact that some of the articles are not presented in a chronological order which makes it difficult for the reader to come to terms with the chain and sequentiality of the unfolding of events. Such shortcomings slightly impede one’s understanding of the sequence of events presented in this epistolary tome.

It is hoped that future editions of the book will correct these and a few typographical errors noticed. All in all, readers will find it very informative and those saddled with the responsibility of leadership in the country may find in it a useful guide in tackling some of the problems troubling the nation.

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Ali Mazrui: Triple tropes and triads

Monitor.co.ug

Prof Ali Mazrui was known for making penetrating comparisons of seemingly unrelated individuals, things and groups. It is fair to say that he was also a great classifier in general; nothing was unclassifiable for Mazrui whether it was racism, sexism, Africanity or slavery.

[Opening remarks prepared for Ali Mazrui International Symposium, organized by Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University, New York, USA, and Twaweza Communications, Nairobi, Kenya. The Symposium took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15 to 17 July 2016.]

Let me begin by acknowledging the presence here of the late Professor Ali A. Mazrui’s relatives and family members and thank them for being with us. This is apart from Mazrui’s distinguished friends, his colleagues or his former students, groups that include both his critics and his admirers.  Of course, an individual could be both a critic and an admirer of Mazrui at the same time or on different occasions.  Thank you all for coming.

So, for some reasons, Mazrui used to associate different events and processes with numbers in general, and number three in particular.  Sometimes even the topics of his lectures came in “triads.”  Mazrui’s flagship concept was, of course, the Triple Heritage.

In keeping with Mazrui’s tradition of using the number three to tell stories, please indulge me also to make a brief comparative reference to three professors and three universities to tell a story briefly about the relationship between Professor Mazrui and myself. It is an intellectual relationship. Of the three professors, two are Kenyans, Peter Anyang Nyong’o and Ali A. Mazrui himself, and the other is, Ethiopian, Negussay Ayele.  The three universities in question are Makerere, Addis Ababa and Binghamton.  Nyong’o was Mazrui’s student at Makerere University; I was Nyong’o’s student at Addis Ababa University.  Nyong’o and I met in my country, Ethiopia.  Mazrui and I met neither in my country nor in his. We met in Binghamton, New York, in the United States.

Ayele was Mazrui’s colleague at Binghamton University in the 1990s and Nyong’o’s colleague at Addis Ababa University in the 1980s. I also happened to be Ayele’s and Nyong’o’s student at Addis Ababa University in the 1980s.  That Nyong’o, a Kenyan, was teaching an Ethiopian student in Addis Ababa would be, in Mazrui’s phraseology,horizontal inter-penetration. Ayele’s teaching activities in Binghamton represented what Mazrui would call vertical counter-penetration.

In Binghamton, New York, Ayele was a scholar turned diplomat turned scholar.  He was Ethiopia’s ambassador to the Scandinavian countries between his stints at Addis Ababa and Binghamton universities.  Is Nyong’o a scholar turned activist turned scholar or, shall we simply say, he combined scholarship with activism?

I am not biologically related to Mazrui, as you know.  But could I claim an intellectual lineage to Mazrui not just by virtue of my being the longest-serving associate director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies which he created at Binghamton University but, and even more importantly, because I was taught by Ayele, Mazrui’s former colleague, and by Nyong’o, Mazrui’s former student?

On Ayele’s side of my family line, I would be Mazrui’s intellectual nephew; on the Nyong’o’s part of my relationship, I would be Mazrui’s intellectual grandson. Apart from the mystical relationship between Mazrui and I, which I just outlined, I had also worked with Mazrui like Ayele and studied under him like Nyong’o.  Moreover, I coordinated the logistics when, in April 2012, Mazrui invited Nyong’o to give a public lecture in Binghamton. What an amazing and happy convergence of coincidences!

It was in keeping with the Mazrui tradition that I was using the number three in my remarks today, as I already indicated.  And also if, in the process, I said more about myself than was probably necessary, please note, that, too is consistent with the semi-autobiographical style of Mazrui’s discourse.

In addition to his triple tropes of triads, Mazrui was known for making penetrating comparisons of seemingly unrelated individuals, things, and groups.  In this vein, he compared, for instance, Soldier Idi Amin and Boxer Mohammed Ali; the African state and a political refugee; and the Bolsheviks and the Bantu.  My own comparison of Professors Negussay Ayele, Peter Anyang Nyong’o and Ali Mazrui is less penetrating for sure, but the comparative exercise itself is in the tradition of Ali Mazrui.

Although Mazrui loved number three in a special way, it is fair to say that he was also a great classifier in general; nothing was unclassifiable for Mazrui whether it was racism, sexism, Africanity or slavery.  It is true, too, that his typologies had occasionally brought him into collision course with some of his colleagues who were less impressed by his colorful typologies.

I trust our deliberations in this symposium will critically reflect on Mazrui’s numerologies, comparisons, typologies, among other things, also in the spirit of intellectual pluralism and openness.

That said, I wish to welcome everyone, again, to the Ali Mazrui International Symposium in Nairobi, Kenya, and I do so on behalf of Binghamton University and on my own behalf.

Never before have I seen so many experts about Ali Mazrui gathered in the same place at the same time.

Let me close by expressing my appreciation to Dr. Kimani Njogu, for his hard work, and others, for their material and moral support.  I know it has been quite painstaking and time-consuming to put this together.

Asante sana!

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