- Created on 29 November 2013
For many Americans, China, officially the People’s Republic of China, represents an enigmatic country that is viewed in a multiplicity of ways. On one hand, some Americans equate China with the deadly 1989 pro-democratic protests involving thousands of students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square which ultimately resulted in the death of hundreds of innocent Chinese civilians
But other Americans recognize China’s quantum leap in human rights, as well as its political and economic evolution over the past few decades that has transformed the country into the world’s most populous nation (more than 1.35 billion people), the world’s fastest growing major economy, the globe’s largest exporter and importer of goods, and host of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
For Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Detroit-based Real Times Media, China represented a country of mystique that offered more complex questions than answers about its government, people, culture, education system and religious beliefs. Further intrigued by the growing world status of China, Jackson embarked on a media, business and cultural fact-finding trip to the East Asia country several months ago to experience the People’s Republic of China up close and personal.
“I have always been interested in learning more about China’s long history, people and culture,” said Jackson, whose company publishes the Michigan Chronicle, Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier and Atlanta Daily World, as well as annual Who’s Who publications that salute African-American achievements in 25 U.S. markets. “Therefore, I was excited by the opportunity to travel to China on a business and cultural mission.”
Jackson was one of several Black media professionals to make the trip. He was chosen because of his executive acumen in overseeing the massive reach of his company’s print and electronic media platforms to African-Americans throughout the United States.
Other members of the delegation traveling with Jackson, under the banner of the African-American Media Leadership Visit to China, included Cloves C. Campbell, Jr., delegation leader and chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); Warren Ballentine III, former host of “The Warren Ballentine Show,” a nationally syndicated radio program; George E. Curry, editor-in-chief, National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service; Kierna Mayo, editorial director, Ebony Magazine (digital); and Elizabeth Ragland, chief photographer, George Curry Media, LLC.
The China trip was organized and coordinated by Julia A. Wilson through her Washington, DC-based company, Wilson Global Communications. Wilson, an international social entrepreneur who also made the trip, served as the liaison between the China travelers and sponsor and host, China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a China-based organization dedicated to strengthening and improving relationships between China and the United States. Tung Chee Hwa is CUSEF’s founding chairman.
The other sponsor and host was the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA), a Chinese organization founded 64 years ago by the late Premier Zhou Enlai. The organization was created to study world issues and facilitate exchanges with statesmen, scholars and other noted individuals representing various countries in order to better understand each other and form friendships. Yang Wenchang serves as the organization’s president.
After several months of planning, the media delegation visited three cities in China: Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai.
Beijing (four days)
Following a long flight from Chicago, Jackson and the delegation landed in Beijing, which is located in the northeast sector of China.
The city is home to approximately 19 million people. To put the 3,000-year-old city in perspective, its population is twice that of New York, America’s most populated city.
“Beijing was everything that I thought it was and nothing like I thought it would be,” said Jackson with a laugh. “You see a lot of Eestern images as soon as you land in Beijing. You see billboards for General Motors, the largest importer of cars to China. You also see fast-food establishments that are recognizable, such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and KFC.”
The group’s first stop in Beijing was to the office of China Daily, the nation’s premier newspaper that is printed in English. The publication reaches more than 400,000 readers worldwide. The group was welcomed by the publication’s Mr. Qu, deputy chief editor, as well as Mr. Zhu, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief.
Over the ensuing days in Beijing, the delegation was immersed with tours and visits in their quest to learn more about the city and China. The group visited the China International Cooperation Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They also visited the Translation and Compilation Bureau, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, where they had lunch and was welcomed by Director He and Director Wang.
No trip to Beijing would be complete without seeing and walking the Great Wall of China.
“The wall is incredible,” said Jackson. “It’s very difficult to describe just how massive the wall really is. It is thousands of miles long. It was built to keep China’s enemies out.”
The delegation’s stay in Beijing was highlighted during a luncheon hosted by Tung Chee Hwa, founding chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation and former chief executive of Hong Kong. He currently serves as vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
“I admire his wisdom to start the China-United States Exchange Foundation,” said Jackson. “He saw a tremendous need for the people of China and the people of the United States to build and maintain better relationships by having a better understanding of each other.”
The group later attended a dinner hosted by Alex Tzang, special advisor to the China-United States Exchange Foundation.
Xi’an (one day)
After a two-hour flight from Beijing, the delegation landed in Xi’an, a city of about nine million people. Located in central-northwest China, Xi’an is one of the original birthplaces of ancient Chinese civilization. The city is more than 3,000 years old.
“I was amazed by Xi’an’s historic heritage,” said Jackson. “I really enjoyed touring a community in Xia Yang County where we visited the homes of several Chinese people. We were well received by everyone.”
While Jackson saw many fascinating sites in this ancient city, he was most impressed by his visit to the Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum where he saw the original underground sites of more than 7,000 life-sized pottery figures of the Terracotta army warriors and horses.
The figures were buried more than 2,100 years ago, but were unearthed in 1974 by peasants digging a well.
“I was told that the clay pottery figures of soldiers, archers and horses were made and buried to protect the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who at the age of only 13 ruled ancient China more than 2,100 years ago,” said Jackson.
“Each soldier is holding a weapon, ready to protect the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. It’s amazing how detailed the figures are after being made and buried more than 2,100 years ago.”
Shanghai (two days)
Flying from Xi’an to Shanghai, a two-hour flight, Jackson and the group continued their cultural excursion. Jackson was spellbound by Shanghai and learned that it is China’s largest city and has a strong economic, commercial and financial core.
“Shanghai is like New York City on steroids,” said Jackson. “It is very futuristic, very contemporary and very metropolitan, yet it has a great blend of cultures and features of modern and traditional China, with some Western influences. The city has some of the most breathtaking skyscrapers that I have ever seen.”
While in Shanghai the delegation visited the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, an elite education center for top Chinese leaders to gain needed skills to compete in the 21st Century.
The group also visited Huawei Showroom, a company that provides next-generation telecommunications network solutions. The day concluded with a cruise on the Huang Pu River, which gave the delegation an incredible view of Shanghai’s stunning downtown skyline.
Jackson has gained a new perspective of the People’s Republic of China. He was appreciative of Julia A. Wilson and her company, Wilson Global Communications, for the outstanding planning and coordination of the seven-day trip.
“We would have never accessed China on the high level that we did without Julia,” said Jackson. “She made sure that even before we traveled to China that we were educated in Chinese culture, protocol and etiquette.
“She is an incredible, intelligent and internationally astute African-American woman who has been doing these types of international tours and cultural exchange trips with China and other countries around the world for almost 20 years.
“The main reason for the trip to China was to help remove the stereotypes that many Americans have about the country,” said Wilson, who has led several other African-American groups on cultural, business, and educational trips to the People’s Republic of China.
“I believe the best way to remove the stereotypes of China is to go there and see it for yourself.”
For Jackson, Wilson’s advice paid off.
“My impression of China before the trip was that it was a closed, almost monolithic society with limited political freedom,” Jackson said.
“Although much of that does exist, I saw that China was developing and had more freedom than I thought. There’s music, there’s fashion, there’s nightlife in China!
“Before going to China, I wasn’t sure what the Chinese people thought about African-Americans,” he said. “However, I found that Chinese people have a great curiosity about the African-American community.
“While there is a great hunger for China to do business in the United States, the country views African-Americans as possible allies in doing future business in the People’s Republic of China.
- Created on 27 November 2013
Photo by Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
On Tuesday night, Egyptian security forces arrested, beat and sexually assaulted about a dozen female protesters before leaving them in the desert outside of Cairo, the protesters said. The women, many of whom are high-profile activists, were part of a larger protest against military trials for civilians that was violently dispersed in accordance with a new anti-protest law.
Mona Seif, one of the protesters arrested, said in a video on social media that she and other demonstrators were left in a secluded part of the desert after being "dragged and beaten up," the Associated Press reports.
Rasha Abdulla, a member of the group "No to Military Trials for Civilians," said she drove to pick up the female protesters in the desert Tuesday night. The detained women told her they were beaten and touched in a sexual way, she said.
To read the rest of the story, click here.
- Created on 26 November 2013
AP Photo/Francois Mori
PARIS (AP) -- France will send 1,000 troops to Central African Republic under an expected U.N.-backed mission to keep growing chaos at bay, the defense minister said Tuesday - boosting the French military presence in Africa for the second time this year.
Jean-Yves Le Drian made the announcement a day after a top U.N. official warned of mass atrocities and possible civil war in CAR, one of the world's poorest countries, which has been in turmoil since rebel groups joined forces in March and overthrew the president. The rebels have been accused by rights groups of committing scores of atrocities including killings, rapes and conscription of child soldiers. France's top diplomat said last week the country was "on the verge of genocide."
"It's in collapse and we cannot have a country fall apart like that. There is the violence, massacres and humanitarian chaos that follow a collapse," Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. "It will be a short mission to allow calm and stability to return."
In Mali, France has about 2,800 troops taking part in an operation that began after rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants moved to take over the capital last winter.
Le Drian dismissed any comparisons between the Mali and CAR missions.
"In Mali there was an attack of jihadists, terrorists who wanted to transform Mali into a terrorist state. This is a collapse of a country with a potential for religious clashes," he said. "France has international responsibilities, is a permanent member of the Security Council, has history with Central African Republic, and the United Nations is asking us to do it."
France already has some 420 soldiers in Central African Republic - mostly to protect the airport in the capital Bangui. The country has asked France to increase that force and French diplomats have announced plans to circulate a draft Security Council resolution that will call for additional support for the 3,000-strong force led by the African Union now in the country.
A French defense official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the mission, said the U.N. mandate would authorize French troops to end the massacres and restore order throughout the country.
France hopes that a resolution will be passed before the start of a summit in Paris next week focusing on security issues in Africa, French diplomats have said.
The expanded French deployment would happen after that. France would accompany an African force of troops from neighboring countries, and the French mission would be expected to last about six months, Le Drian said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius last week said Central African Republic is "on the verge of genocide."
"It's total disorder. You have seven surgeons for a population of 5 million, an infant mortality rate of 25 percent in some areas and 1.5 million people who have nothing, not even food, and armed gangs, bandits, etc," he told France 2 television Thursday.
At the United Nations on Monday, French ambassador Gerard Araud said an increased French deployment would be "a bridging force" until an African force is fully operational - when France would take a back-up role.
France, a former colonial powerhouse in West Africa, has a greater military presence in the region than any other Western country - with thousands of troops in places including Senegal, Chad, Ivory Coast and Gabon.
In a briefing Monday to the Security Council, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the situation in CAR was deteriorating so fast that a U.N. peacekeeping force may soon be the only option.
He said the country is becoming "a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups" and never-before-seen sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.
- Created on 25 November 2013
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- A persistent knock came from inside the heavy, locked cell door.
A young U.S. Army guard strode over and leaned in to hear the detainee through a shatterproof window.
"What do you want?" the guard asked, not unkindly, in one of the many daily moments in which suspected terrorists demand to be dealt with as their lives hang in legal limbo.
During nearly 12 years of legal disputes and political battles, the United States has put off deciding the fate of al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks but denied quick or full access to the American justice system.
Now, as Congress considers whether to grant trials and transfers to most detainees, time may be running out on the law that allows the U.S. to hold them.
The 2001 law is known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF. It allowed the U.S. military to invade Afghanistan to pursue, detain and punish extremists linked to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The law has been used to justify attacks on militants in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.
Will it remain valid if U.S. combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 - whether thousands stay as trainers or if the U.S. pulls out entirely? That's an open legal question that, officials and experts say, must be resolved over the next year.
"The jury is still out on when the AUMF might expire," said Army Lt. Col Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman. "Many argue that's not set."
If U.S. troops withdraw, "it certainly increases the pressure, as some administration officials have argued, to decide whether the AUMF should remain in effect as is, or if a new version is necessary," Breasseale said in a statement.
In 2009, on the second day of his presidency, Obama ordered the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be closed within one year. Obama long has derided the facility, where critics say detainees have been abused, interrogated and held illegally, as a blow to American values and credibility worldwide.
Opponents in Congress refuse to let the detainees come to the U.S. for trial, citing security risks to Americans. Lawmakers have blocked the transfer and resettlement of most of the remaining detainees to other nations, fearing they will return to terrorist havens upon their release. Nearly 30 percent of Guantanamo detainees who have been released have since resumed the fight.
Today, 164 detainees are held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of about 660 a decade ago. Most were tried, transferred or cleared for release under President George W. Bush. Seventy-eight have left since Obama took office.
The sprawling camp of barbed wire and hardened cell blocks costs U.S. taxpayers about $454 million each year; that comes to about $2.7 million per detainee.
The facility shows no signs of shutting down beyond a temporary budget freeze on the detainees' library, where well-worn copies of the Quran, the "Hunger Games" series and Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," are among the 6,000 titles available for reading.
New housing is being built for some of the estimated 5,500 U.S. troops and contractors at the Navy base. More than one-third of them work for the detention camp. Medical staff openly discuss how they will care for aging detainees in coming years.
The Republican-led U.S. House has written legislation that requires the Pentagon to give Congress an annual plan for Guantanamo until the youngest detainee, now in his late 20s, turns 66, meaning the detention camp could remain open for nearly 40 more years.
Early this year, as many as 100 detainees began a hunger strike to protest their uncertain fate. Guantanamo medical officials said last week that 13 detainees were so underweight that they must be force-fed if they refuse to eat, although some voluntarily accept food and nutrition drinks on any given day.
At least some detainees - Guantanamo officials won't say how many - are treated regularly for mental health issues. Others lash out at camp personnel on a near-daily basis, biting and hitting medical staff and throwing feces and other bodily fluids at military guards. Many of those guards are in their 20s and suffering from post-traumatic stress from working 12-hour shifts with openly aggressive inmates.
During a brief observation this past week, several detainees appeared listless as they shuffled under dim lights to prepare for morning Islamic prayers. They looked of normal weight and in regular health, and wore beards and prayer caps. One approached a mirrored one-way window and stood wordlessly for several moments as if he knew people were watching him on the other side of the unbreakable glass. All the detainees are men.
The decision to close Guantanamo's detention camp largely hinges on when the U.S. declares that the global fight against terrorism has come to an end.
Legal experts say the military cannot continue holding detainees if the fighting in a conflict during which they were captured is over. A 2004 Supreme Court ruling in a Guantanamo case warned of an "unraveling" understanding of long-standing laws of war if authorities creep beyond that widely accepted legal boundary.
The AUMF was designed to retaliate against those responsible for the 2001 attacks. But it has been stretched to permit lethal U.S. strikes against al-Qaida's many allied affiliates, including extremists and guerrilla groups that have shown little or no interest in attacking American targets.
The Obama administration has appeared reluctant to scale back those authorities, which lets it conduct drone strikes on suspected terrorists in North Africa and the Mideast.
"Make no mistake, our nation is still threatened by terrorists," Obama said last May in a speech in which he also repeated his demand that Congress allow trials and transfers for most Guantanamo detainees.
As it stands, the legal authority to hold detainees at Guantanamo will continue until either the president or Congress declares the fight over. Federal courts are gearing up to consider cases from Guantanamo detainees who, eyeing the looming end of the war in Afghanistan, will argue the law is no longer valid.
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services, Sen. Carl Levin, said it's unlikely that either Congress or the White House will let the 2001 law expire. "As long as there is an al-Qaida that is threatening the U.S., no one is probably going to try that," Levin, D-Mich., told The Associated Press.
Levin wants to allow some detainees to be transferred to other nations or trial in the U.S., and has included that in the 2014 Defense Department legislation that the Senate is considering after failing to approve it last week.
If any troops remain in Afghanistan even as trainers, as expected, then technically the U.S. still would be involved in active hostilities in Afghanistan, and "then at least arguably, the AUMF could still be in effect," Levin said.
For the first time in years, senior administration officials held a closed hearing of a periodic review board this past week to start reconsidering the cases of 46 detainees who earlier were deemed too dangerous to release.
Most are from Yemen, where lawmakers say al-Qaida is too strong to risk releasing a detainee who might be easily re-recruited to jihad. But many never will be tried in a U.S. court because the government is unwilling to reveal its evidence in their cases, probably because it was obtained during harsh interrogations or though other classified methods.
Obama acknowledged in his May speech that it was unclear what will happen to those detainees if he were to close Guantanamo. But he expressed confidence "that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law."
Six months later, administration officials say there's been little progress so far, and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to the AP that those detainees are "among some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. They belong at Guantanamo."
He called Obama's plan to close the detention facility "irresponsible."
Pentagon lawyers have decided that an estimated 15 to 20 detainees can be tried in a military court. The cases of more than a dozen, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are already being prosecuted.
An additional 84 detainees have been cleared for transfer, but are waiting for the U.S. to release them to nations that either will take them or are deemed secure enough by Congress to accept them. More than 50 of them are Yemeni.
William Lietzau, who retired from the Pentagon in August after more than three years as the deputy assistant defense secretary overseeing detainee policy, said the continued detentions puts the U.S. at risk of slipping into a perpetual state of quasi-war that has a dubious legal basis. He said the government needs to decide when it is no longer at war to keep it from relying on legal authorities that should be used only in cases of last resort.
"Guantanamo serves a useful purpose because it reminds us, 'Hey, we're still at war,'" Lietzau said in an interview. "We should not feel comfortable at war. We should seek to end that war as quickly as we possibly can. And criticism over drones and criticism over Guantanamo is what reminds us that war is hell."