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Obamatime Hits Tanzania, Nadine Gordimer Reviews Book on ANC Heroes, BBC: Snowden Applies For Asylum in Russia, Coup Threatens in Egypt

July 2nd, 2013 - by:

•Mail&Guardian: Snowden has applied for asylum in 21 countries, including Russia

•BBC: US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has applied to Russia for political asylum, a Russian official says.

Foreign ministry consul Kim Shevchenko said the request was made on Sunday night. The Kremlin has made no comment.

The 30-year-old former CIA analyst is believed to be holed up in a Moscow airport hotel. He is wanted by the US.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “never hands over anybody anywhere and has no intention of doing so”.

“If [Snowden] wants to go somewhere and there are those who would take him, he is welcome to do so,” he told a news conference.

“If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips.”

The US has not yet made any comment on the latest developments.

NYT: Snowden Says US Attempting Intimidation

“The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon,” the statement attributed to Mr. Snowden said. “Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”

•••NEWS DISSECTION: Karibu (Welcome) To Tanzania, President Obama:

While the Visit Shut The City Down, A Dynamic Film Festival Showcases The Country’s Cultural Energy And Opens Minds

By Danny Schechter

Zanzibar, Tanzania: The Big Show had arrived with the Secret Service bringing all traffic in Dar es Salaam to a halt as President Obama set down in Tanzania, the third stop on his three country African “tour.” The cheering crowds were out on cue, as a military band played the US National Anthem twice less anyone miss the gesture.

Obama is here to promote more capitalist enterprise—foregoing aid for trade with !50 US and African business leaders on hand to see how they could capitalize on Washington’s sudden interest in Africa’s growth.

The US is playing a poor catch-up game with China whose trade with Tanzania totaled $2.47 BILLION last year as opposed to a skimpy $360.2 million with the US.

Fresh from a symbolic stop at Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on South Africa’s Robben Island, you would think that the President might have a word of thanks to offer Tanzania for its long years of support for Mandela’s ANC in exile where his law partner, Oliver Tambo, escaped capture as he organized resistance to apartheid in a country then known for African Socialism and the self reliance doctrine of founding president Julius Nyerere, also known as Mwalimu, (The teacher.)

Mandela would never had been freed from his cell if the ANC in exile, based here and on other “frontline states,” hadn’t had support to help it build its armed struggle and solidarity networks that would soon get the world organized against apartheid.

But the President left his uplifting symbolism behind in South Africa, and got down to business in Tanzania.

Now he is focusing on cutting deals for power companies— that’s the ‘power to the people’ he champions—while another form of power—cultural power– is on display two hours out in Indian Ocean on Zanzibar, a scenic Island nation with its own government that is also part of the United Republic of Tanzania.

I am on Zanzibar for the 16h annual edition of one of the most impressive festivals in the world, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) that brings regional and international filmmakers to show their work, and join a multi-cultural event that also showcases musicians, artists and storytellers from all genres, and even a fabulous fashion show representing local designers.

Ironically, while the presidential party waved the American flag in Dar, the festival has been showing films made worldwide, including in Iran and Palestine, two countries out of favor in official Washington.

Festival Director, Martin Mhando, a Tanzanian scholar who teaches at Australia’s Murdoch University. projected quite different values than the ones the politicians like the US and Tanzanian President use in their official capacities.

Here’s how he described ZIFF’s intent to unite the region, known as the Dhow Countries, named after the sailing ships that created a web of regional identity through trade back into the middle ages.

“The spirit of the Dhow countries has always been that of sharing—sharing the values of justice, freedom, love and harmony in our history of maritime relations.” he writes the Festival program. “We have tried to include as many perspectives as positive from the 48 countries represented in the films shown that reveal diverse viewpoints on events and issues.”

His is very appropriate for Zanzibar where diversity lives in the interplay of the cultures of Arabs, Indians and African tribes. It is a a majority Muslim culture known for religious tolerance.

You can be sure that the TV crews that are accompanying President Obama don’t have a clue about the country except that it has lots of wildlife, tourist attractions and national parks. You would be hard put to accuse them of knowing what diverse perspectives are, much less displaying them in their programming.

Watching the cable in my hotel room, there are low-brow action adventure movies (aka violent flicks) and wrestling matches along with CSPAN like shows in Shawhili from the Parliament as well as sermons by Muslim clergymen.

Very few of the films shown at ZIFF get on the air although a festival sponsor ZUKU (slogan “AMAZING”) may buy some of the films for its pay TV channel.

Popular cultural institutions like ZIFF that struggle every year to serve the masses culturally (as opposed to ”the classes” that most western film festivals target) have to line up many sponsors—I counted 43 logos in their catalogue—without help from the government or the US. You would think that the US inits commitment to economic growth could engage some of the huge American cultural and media enterprises to help their counterparts in Africa, but they don’t think that way.

They promote electricity—as in lights –rather than the cultural electricity that inspires the public to want to change their lives.

To its credit, the ZIFF Festival also offers workshops like one that I will be teaching in critical journalism, a conference for academics on cultural studies, skills sessions for wannabe filmmakers and even an out-reach program for sex workers and anti-AIDS activism. They are also working with other cultural institutions to create a regional film commission to lure more film production to the region and support local filmmakers.

To its credit also, there are film showings in villages and the outer island of Pemba. They bring culture to the people as well as hold large outdoor screenings at an amazing stone amphitheater in a colorful and historic old fort. The Fort is one of many attractions in an area known as Stone Town, a UNESCO world heritage site.

What’s impressive is the care that’s given to the highest standards of projection.

ZIFF also showcases an array of sensational Bongo Films, home-made Swahili language moves that are building audiences throughout East Africa.

The festival also draws well known and award-winning big-time filmmakers like Mira Nair, who has been making widely shown movies for over twenty years. Her film “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” opened the Festival and just won the German Peace Prize.

This timely and brave movie explores the contradictions of the war on terror as well as the parallels between religious fundamentalism in Pakistan and pro-market capitalism fundamentalism on display in the Obama visit.

Barack Obama will no doubt not have the “time” to pop over tio Zanzibar for the festival, but if he did, he would see how culture leads politics in the hearts and minds of people here as elsewhere.

News Dissector Danny Schechter showed one of his documentaries on Nelson Mandela at the Festival. He edits Mediachannel.org and blogs at NewsDissector.net.

•RELATED: Nadine Gordimer Guernica: The Barrel of the Apartheid Gun

A Book Review by the Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordimer, on Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid, a new biography of South Africa’s revolutionary couple. (I was interviewed for this book which I have yet to see.)

Comment on Obama’s Power Plan for Africa –by Lori Price of CLG

“Once again, US taxpayers are spending BILLIONS on another bl*job for US corpora-terrorists to PRETEND to build/upgrade power grids in another country/countries. US taxpayers have spent BILLIONS to ‘build’ power grids in IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN — seemingly, EVERY COUNTRY ON EARTH — EXCEPT the US! US infrastructure is CRUMBLING, but Congress won’t appropriate a nickel to fix any of the THOUSANDS of unsafe bridges across America or, God forbid, give a air traffic controller overtime. The reason why the hypocritical Republicans in Congress (except for Rand Paul and a few others) have no objection to pouring billions into ‘upgrading’ infrastructure in other nations is that they know such projects will NEVER be completed (Iraq, Afghanistan) and the only BENEFACTORS to these pseudo-humanitarian (or ‘security’) projects are US CORPORA-TERRORISTS, immune from oversight. That’s why the GOP wants to spend *50 billion to ‘secure the border’ while simultaneously voting to cut food stamps and slash aid to the poor.”

•NYT: Egypt’s Army Issues Ultimatum to Mori. He appeals for a mobilization of Muslim Brotherhood.

•Breaking and Shaking: Portside/The Nation, Bob Dreyfuss: Coup Threatens Morsi Government in Egyptn

The threat of a military coup d’état hangs over Cairo, but in this case the majority of the protesters—who’ve already declared an alliance with the police—seem to favor at least a temporary seizure of power by the armed forces. The problem with that scenario, however, is that it could inflame Egypt and lead directly to a civil war, pitting the army and police against the Islamists.

UPDATE 2:40 pm: According to the Guardian, President Morsi plans to defy the military ultimatum. His office has declared that he will face down what they call a “military coup.” Morsi, leader of the secretive Muslim Brotherhood, reportedly believes that President Obama will now allow the Egyptian military to seize power if the Brotherhood defies the generals. Reports the Guardian:

“Obviously we feel this is a military coup,” a presidential aide said. “But the conviction within the presidency is that [the coup] won’t be able to move forward without American approval.”

That’s a huge problem for Obama. Already, the protesters believe that the United States is backing the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo. The truth is, the United States has leverage over the military, since it supplies aid to the armed forces, but Washington hardly controls either the military or the Muslim Brotherhood. During the fall of the Mubarak government in 2011, the United States was virtually on the sidelines, unable either to prop up Mubarak, control the generals, or connect with the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition.

So, if Morsi believe that Obama can rescue him (or wants to), he may have a big surprise coming.

UPDATE 2:25 pm: Egypt’s military has started a coup d’etat of sorts, delivering an ultimatum to President Morsi to make a deal with protesters – or else. [See below for my earlier post, which discusses how the police and the military are backing the street rebellion.] As Reuters reports:

Egypt’s armed forces handed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi a virtual ultimatum to share power on Monday, giving feuding politicians 48 hours to compromise or have the army impose its own roadmap for the country.

A dramatic military statement broadcast on state television declared the nation was in danger after millions of Egyptians took to the streets on Sunday to demand that Morsi quit and the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood were ransacked.

This is an ongoing story.

•Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Why the Protests in Egyp:

One year ago, many Egyptians had hoped the inauguration of the country’s first-ever democratically elected president would mark a turning point following decades of autocratic rule and a turbulent transition. Yet since Morsi took office, the political quagmire has only deepened, the economy has been in decline and daily life has become harder for most Egyptians.

The country is plagued by frequent fuel and diesel shortages that create long lines outside gas stations and cause incapacitating traffic jams. Electricity blackouts have become a daily routine during the hot summer months. Prices for food, medicine and other staple goods have sharply risen as the Egyptian pound has lost 10 percent of its value leaving already impoverished families less to live on. Unemployment is growing, tourism and investment are down sharply, the stock market hit an eleven-month low last week, while insecurity, crime and vigilante violence are on the rise.

“The economy is in the garbage, everything is more expensive,” says Ahmed El-Noubi, a 58-year-old shop owner in the working-class district of Sayeda Zainab. “After a year of the Muslim Brotherhood, people cannot tolerate them. The street opposition is reawakening.”

The frustration is palpable. During Morsi’s first year in office, Egypt witnessed over 9,400 demonstrations, according to a report published by the Cairo-based International Development Centre, more than anywhere in the world. The anti-government sentiment will culminate in mass protests on June 30, anticipation for which has built exponentially through a grassroots initiative that has collected millions of signatures on a petition whose slogan is a call for revolt: Tamarod, Arabic for “rebel.”

The campaign was started by a group of young organizers affiliated with the Kefaya opposition movement, founded in 2005 to call for political reform under Mubarak. Its goal was simple: to draft a petition declaring a vote of no confidence in the president and to call for early presidential elections. Written in the everyday colloquial Arabic of the street, the document addresses the president directly. “Because security still isn’t back,” it reads, “we don’t want you.… Because the poor still have no place, we don’t want you. Because the economy has collapsed and is based on begging [from abroad], we don’t want you…More at Nation.com

•RIP: Former U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III,

Comments and input to: Dissector@mediachannel.org