Lungu narrowly wins Zambia special election

zambia-flagDefense Minister Edgar Lungu has very narrowly won Zambia’s Special Presidential Election after a heavily contested three-month campaign. The final margin was reportedly 48.3% to 46.7%.

He will take over the office from interim President Guy Scott, who was (briefly) the continent’s first White head of state in two decades. (Off the continent, Paul Bérenger was elected Prime Minister of Mauritus, the African islands nation in the Indian Ocean, back in 2003.)

Mr. Lungu, who often clashed publicly with the former Vice President (the latter was ineligible to run) had served as Designated Acting President off and on for the year preceding President Sata’s death in office, any time Mr. Sata was out of the country seeking treatment for his prolonged illness. The Constitution automatically elevated Mr. Scott, however, to the caretaker spot upon the president’s death for a 90-day period until a Special Election could be held to elect someone to finish the remainder of the current term.

zambia-vice-president-Guy-Scott-us-government-photoThe interim Scott administration was not without action — he signed into law a number of key business and economic bills from the National Assembly — or without controversy — including some questionable Christmas pardons, a meeting with Robert Mugabe as “good personal friends,” and open feuding with his own party and Mr. Lungu. But despite their differences, President Scott did at least eventually loyally campaign for Minister Lungu as their party’s nominee in the race.

Ukraine rebel offensive targets corridor to Crimea

Last week, as the “ceasefire” (or mild de-escalation) in eastern Ukraine crumbled into dust, so too did the Ukrainian military’s grasp of the highly contested Donetsk Airport, which had become an intense battlefield during the war and a symbol of national resistance against armed Russian interference in the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and affairs.

Today the conflict shifted southward to the Donetsk oblast’s second-largest city, Mariupol, the government’s temporary oblast capital, while the city of Donetsk itself remains in rebel hands. Donetsk rebel commander Alexander Zakharchenko reportedly told Russia’s Interfax news agency “We have started an offensive on Mariupol.”

Mariupol falling to “separatist” forces now could potentially change the balance of the war, which had slowly been tipping toward the Ukrainian nationalist side until the recent setback at the Donetsk airport. Ukrainian military control of Mariupol until now has been a major obstacle to unification of separatist zones and Russian-occupied Crimea, although the agricultural/industrial-centered Zaporizhia Oblast (and a corner of the Kherson Oblast) would also need to be crossed before achieving unification.

Such a development would (by cutting Ukraine off from the Sea of Azov) link Russia by land all the way to Russian-occupied Crimea in a “corridor” or “land bridge,” using the European route E58 highway (see second map below) and covering much of the coastal edge of the territory known in the Imperial Russian period as Novorossiya or “New Russia.”

Novorossiya/New Russia in the Russian Empire in 1897. (Credit: Dim Grits - Wikimedia)

Novorossiya/New Russia in the Russian Empire in 1897. (Credit: Dim Grits – Wikimedia)

That label, in fact, has been widely adopted by Russian-speaking separatists to refer collectively to the rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine. The historic term resurfaced in an April 17, 2014 televised townhall-style forum held in Russia by President Vladimir Putin.

A land bridge between Crimea (annexed last year by Russia) and the Russian mainland would, by many estimates, dramatically reduce the cost to Russia of holding Crimea while providing services (including electricity, currently purchased from Ukraine!), food, and other vital goods. Currently those only reach Crimea by ferry from a relatively remote corner of Russia, and an actual bridge — which is going to be very expensive — is not expected to open for several more years (if it ever starts being built).

Donetsk Oblast: Novoazovsk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov near the Russian border. Click to navigate.

Donetsk Oblast: Novoazovsk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov near the Russian border. Click to navigate.

Previously, back in May, Ukrainian ultra-billionaire Rinat Akhmetov — now slipped to 117 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people — ejected local separatists from the government buildings they were “occupying” in Mariupol, and sent his own private workers to start cleaning up so local public functions could resume. He took a firm, public stance against independence or annexation to Russia. As a result, that port city on the Sea of Azov coast, was relatively removed from the center of the clashes between separatists and Ukrainian troops sent by Kiev, until late summer.

It has been under threat since the August 27, 2014 invasion of Novoazovsk by at least a thousand unmarked Russian Federation troops and heavy armor vehicles. The highway between the two nearby cities became a contested area until the de-escalation during the “ceasefire” period.

Today, however, the Washington Post reports the Mariupol itself was hit by shelling shortly before the Donetsk rebel commander Zakharchenko’s announcement of the Mariupol offensive:

Zakharchenko later added that the rebels’ intention was to suppress Ukrainian troops to the east of the city, but not to storm Mariupol.

Ukrainian officials had earlier accused pro-Russian rebels of launching a deadly shelling Saturday against Mariupol. The shelling killed 27 civilians and wounded 99, Andrey Fedai of the Mariupol City Council posted on his Facebook page.

Pro-Kiev forces in Mariupol said Saturday on its VKontake page that the shelling had come from rebel-held territory, while Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said that “at least three Grad systems” — referring to rocket-launchers — were used in the shelling.

As usual, the separatist forces blamed the Ukrainian military for the shelling as a self-inflicted act to provoke public opposition to the separatist cause — and denied all claims that it was attacking the city at all.

The US and Ukrainian governments predicted a wider operational objective, implying a Crimea corridor though not stating it explicitly:

“Today’s indiscriminate shelling of Mariupol [is] part of an apparently Russian-backed general offensive in complete violation of Minsk agreements,” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted Saturday morning.

The recent fighting would appear to signal the end of the de-escalation achieved by the Minsk agreements as fighting ramped up to a level of violence not seen since the period before the agreements:

The United Nations estimated Friday that almost 5,100 people have died in Ukraine since the fighting began last April — 262 in the past nine days before the updated figure was published, making it the deadliest period since this summer, before the Minsk cease-fire agreement was signed.

Dispatches from the end of the empire

Apparently our ancestors crossed the harsh Great American Desert in search of a better life so their descendents a century and a half later could go to a children’s amusement park in Orange County and still contract the same damn diseases because somebody’s parents in the year Two Thousand Fifteen of Our Lord have the same understanding of infection transmission as any given covered wagon driver.

“People Not Vaccinated for Measles Urged to Avoid Disneyland”

People who haven’t been vaccinated against measles, including children too young to be immunized, should avoid Disneyland after new infections were linked to the theme park, California public health officials said Wednesday.

So far, 70 people in five U.S. states and Mexico have contracted measles in an outbreak that was traced to Disney parks in December and has since spread into the community. The vast majority of infections — 62 — occurred in California, and the tally is expected to rise.

Health officials uncovered new measles cases linked to visits to Disney parks in January after the incubation period of the original outbreak.

Since measles is highly contagious, people who have not received the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine are susceptible and should avoid visiting Disney “for the time being,” said state epidemiologist Gil Chavez.

We’re now reaching a particularly decadent phase of our decline where people are reintroducing eradicated disease outbreaks to America solely by voluntarily refusing to make use of widely available, decades-old, very basic medical science solutions.

It’s one thing if your civilization is wiped out by a disease you had no way to resist. It’s another if you’re too arrogant to vaccinate your children against easily preventable 19th century diseases and thus endangered everyone else.

America, F@#$ Yeah. We’re number one.


#ReclaimMLK: Why We Need A Bigger Picture of the Civil Rights Movement

The narrative around the Civil Rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s is very narrow. We’re taught in school that — because of racial inequality — Black people in the South staged peaceful protests to change the world for the better. The specific leaders of the civil rights movement are also treated with the same sterility. This is especially true of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday has just been honored again.

Because everything concerning civil rights is taught in terms of History, we are given the impression that the struggle for racial equality is over. By extension, those fighting today must therefore be merely causing a disturbance and not fighting for their personhood to be recognized, like the noble civil rights organizers of the past. Many using Dr. King’s legacy to shame those protesting today are doing so because of that narrow education around the civil rights movement. They do not understand that protests then — as now — were disruptive, and they do not understand that the protest leaders then — as now — were not automatically well-received, even by “moderates.”

Demonstrations are not effective if they happen at the corner of one’s eye. But in order for people to understand exactly how disruptive the Civil Rights movement was, they have to look beyond the few classroom quotes of MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech they learned in elementary school. They also need to understand that the non-violent protests of the past were deliberate acts of disruption.

From late 2014 to present, people have been taking to the streets protesting police brutality and the otherwise unjust murders of Black people across the country. Protesters have shut down freeways and train stations, disrupted brunches, and even managed to close down malls. It’s hard not to look at pictures and videos of these protests and see the similarity between them and the old black and white videos of protests in the past.

If you look specifically at the Montgomery Bus Boycott, for example, that was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the status quo fundamentally. It was about far more than just seeking justice for the initial arrests that led up to the boycott, much in the way that today’s protests have become about more than any one victim. The privately-operated transit system lost money from of the refusal of Black people to use the buses for over a year, over its mandated segregation requirements, because Black people made up 75% of the transit system’s business.

Pictured: The Montgomery bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested at the start of the boycott. Now in the Henry Ford Museum. (via Wikimedia)

Pictured: The Montgomery bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested at the start of the boycott. Now in the Henry Ford Museum. (via Wikimedia)

Although the act didn’t involve violence, they also weren’t passive. They were purposefully breaking a law by organizing a boycott of a business, which at the time was illegal under state law. Dr. King was actually brought to court for the boycott and was eventually made to pay $1000 in fines and court fees as well as spend 2 weeks in jail.

Similarly, in 2014 during the Ferguson demonstrations we saw an attempt by law enforcement to silence protests. Protesters were told they weren’t allowed to stay in place and would have to continue marching or leave the protest area. This was an obvious attempt to dispel the protests by tiring out the people involved. The protesters chose to march daily for more than three months. It was later ruled by a District Court Judge that forcing the protesters to continue moving was a rights violation and could not be enforced.

On Monday, January 19th, 2015 in honor of the MLK holiday, protesters decided to #ReclaimMLK. They held marches in several cities, including Ferguson, urging people to continue to speak out. On their website, they made clear demands for what they wanted to accomplish in their protest — and encouraged people to connect and take action in their own cities. Most important of all they were declaring that their demonstrations are just as valid as Civil Rights demonstrations of the past.

The Civil Right movement is far from over. As King himself suggested in his own lifetime, it’s a continual process, and despite the progress that has been made, we still have a long way to go.

“Now you will notice that the extreme optimist and the extreme pessimist have at least one thing in common: they both agree that we must sit down and do nothing in the area of race relations. The extreme optimist says do nothing because integration is inevitable. The extreme pessimist says do nothing because integration is impossible. But there is a third position, there is another attitude that can be taken, and it is what I would like to call the realistic position. The realist in the area of race relations seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites while avoiding the extremes of both. So the realist would agree with the optimist that we have come a long, long way. But, he would go on to balance that by agreeing with the pessimist that we have a long, long way to go. And it is this basic theme that I would like to set forth this evening. We have come a long, long way but we have a long, long way to go.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

The Questions Posed by the World’s 2015 Elections

15 national elections I’m watching on 2015 and the questions I’m asking about them, organized in chronological order.


Greece: Can modern Greek democracy survive the combined effects of years of extraordinary fiscal mismanagement, a devastating recession, and a sudden day of reckoning (austerity) stage-managed from Berlin? That’s the bigger question the world is asking when Greece heads to the polls this coming weekend, behind narrow questions of what might happen in the next six months. Newcomer “Syriza” – a party with moderate rhetoric, yet still an unknown quantity – has led the polling average since November 2013, more than a year before snap elections were called. Syriza could shake things up — for good or ill — in the country whose ancestors founded much of Western democracy. On the other hand, the ancient Greeks also formalized the concepts of “oligarchy,” “aristocracy,” and “tyranny,” so that’s not a huge comfort. Modern Greek democracy is just 40 years old, and Plato might forecast a turn to a less participatory form of The Kyklos (the cycle of governance between such forms) is about due. The rise of the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” as a potent force in Greek politics offers that grim path.

Nigeria: Should a young democracy re-elect a civilian president from the same party that has won every election since 1998? Should it do so despite his record of extreme incompetence in handling an insurgency that has now seized more territory than ISIS controls in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy? What if the alternative choice is a former military dictator and perennial also-ran? These are the basic questions facing Nigerians in February’s election that will see once-accidental President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party face off against Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at the head of an increasingly powerful opposition coalition and amid plunging oil prices. The legislative chambers are also up for election. Even if Jonathan is re-elected, he may face a hostile majority.

Israel: Can the Israeli left make a serious comeback in the country’s politics after Israel voters increasingly veered to the right and after significant party changes shattered the Labor Party for almost a decade? Would it make any difference to Israel’s relations with its neighbors and the world at large? Would it change the economic fortunes of average Israelis?

United Kingdom: Is the Westminster System — as it has traditionally existed in its tripartite form since the arrival of universal male suffrage — finished in Westminster itself? UKIP, the Scottish National Party, and other parties outside the Big Three make another coalition government of some kind almost a certainty – likely with huge effects for the British populace and their place within the European Union.

Mexico: Will the insulated Federal District finally be shaken out of its slumber by a growing protest movement and other reactions to the total capture of Mexican state and local government by the cartels? The Congress is up for election, but without a sea change in the foreign-focused Peña Nieto administration, few expect serious policy shifts at home, whatever the outcome of the midterms. Still, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition any more than they expect a spontaneous mass uprising that forces just such a sea change. Could be too early to tell.
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Nicolas “Racaille” Sarkozy is suddenly the word police

What a surprise: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who once called a socially and economically isolated segment of his citizenry racaille (“scum” / “riff-raff”) when he was Interior Minister, finds it “appalling” and disruptive to “national unity” that Prime Minister Valls would suggest there is an “ethnic and social apartheid” in France.

It’s almost like politicians who employ apartheid-style rhetoric to marginalize and disenfranchise members of their own populace do not appreciate comparisons to (now politically toxic) stratified socio-political systems like apartheid.

Pictured: President Barack Obama is greeted by French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni at the G8 Summit dinner in Deauville, France, May 26, 2011. (White House Photo)

Pictured: President Barack Obama is greeted by French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni in May 2011. (White House Photo)

January 21, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 114


Topics: Republican State Attorneys General, the NYPD mutiny, US-Russian relations. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: January 19th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– How are Republican Attorneys General helping corporations fight common sense regulation?
– Is the NYPD beyond the control of the people of New York City and Mayor De Blasio?
– The end of nuclear partnership: When should the US view Russian actions as threatening versus posturing?

Part 1 – Republican Attorneys General:
Part 1 – Attorneys General – AFD 114
Part 2 – NYPD:
Part 2 – NYPD – AFD 114
Part 2 – US-Russia:
Part 3 – Russia – AFD 114

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links
Segment 1

AFD, by Sasha: State Attorneys General are ruining the Earth. Literally.
NYT: Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General

Segment 2

AFD: NYC: Overwhelming opposition to the NYPD mutiny
The Globalist, by Bill: New York: De Blasio Vs. a Renegade Police Department
AFD: The NYPD: America’s Secret Police
AFD, by De Ana: #BlackLivesMatter means just that, not that police lives don’t
Reuters: Off duty, black cops in New York feel threat from fellow police

Segment 3

Boston Globe: Russia ends US nuclear security alliance
The Globalist: Kaliningrad: Achilles’ Heel for the West


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