links for 2008-06-08

cross posted @ kameelahwrites.

The 21-st century pencil test

As attacks on foreigners intensified and spread across Johannesburg, mobs began pulling people out of shopping queues and forcing them to take “tests” to establish their nationality.

In a practice that recalls the humiliating “tests” used by apartheid officials to classify coloureds as white or black, reports came in that South African mobs were using similar techniques to identify foreigners.

African fears about SA are being confirmed

Betrayal describes the general reaction to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Betrayal and disgust. Like Caesar, we turn in shock and slowly reach for the knife in our back, not quite feeling the pain yet. Slowly we look down to our bloodied fingers, then look up to our brother. “Et tu Brute?” And thus, the word “brutal” enters the English language, with fratricidal betrayal.

Long-held fears, justified or otherwise, about South African ignorance and disdain towards other Africans are being confirmed. “I flew from Jo’burg sitting next to an elderly South African to Dakar. On arrival,” the Gambian lawyer continues, “he turned to me and asked, ‘Is Dakar in Africa?’ I was too embarrassed to reply.” Then he notes matter-of-factly: “This is a man who started working as a professional in 1972!”

Mbeki says govt wasn’t warned about attacks

President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday denied reports that the South African government had been warned of the prospect of xenophobic attacks by the National Intelligence Agency.

Briefing reporters following his meeting with Nigerian President Umaru Yar-Adua, Mbeki said suggestions that the government was warned a year ago about the recent xenophobic violence were false.

“There was no such intelligence reports — they certainly did not come to me,” he said.

The power of positive people

While South Africa reeled in shock this week and the cumbersome machinery of international organisations creaked to life, the most effective responses to the xenophobic attacks came from municipalities, ordinary citizens and faith groups.

Albinos, Long Shunned, Face Deadly Threat in Tanzania

Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts.

Many people in Tanzania – and across Africa, for that matter – believe albinos have magical powers. They stand out, often the lone white face in a black crowd, a result of a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and strikes about 1 in 3,000 people here. Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.

Obama’s Victory in Democratic Party Poll Has Continent in a Spin

Until he started making news as a possible contender for the US presidency, Barack Obama, who this week won the Democratic ticket in the White House race, was almost unknown in Ethiopia. Now, he has a huge fan club in the country, with one of his greatest fans being Ms Birtukan Mideksa, former deputy chair of Ethiopia’s opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party.

UN overstated Aids risk, says specialist

The United Nations has systematically exaggerated the scale of the Aids pandemic and the risk of the HIV virus affecting heterosexuals, claims a leading expert on the syndrome. The numbers of people worldwide with HIV have been inflated and the UN Aids agency has wasted billions of dollars on education aimed at people who are unlikely to become infected, says Professor James Chin, a former senior Aids official with the World Health Organisation. […]Chin will detail his claims this week in London in a meeting hosted by the International Policy Network, a free-market think tank, where he will launch a new report, called The Myth of a General Aids Pandemic.