October 25, 2012
By ABDI GULED and JASON STRAZIUSO | Associated Press
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The list of murdered Somali journalists keeps growing longer, and no one seems able to stop it.
The death of Ahmed Saakin Farah brought the number to 16 Somali journalists killed this year, most in targeted attacks by gunmen who know there is little chance they will be caught or jailed.
Assailants shot Farah, a 25-year- old reporter for the London-based Universal TV, three times in the head around 9 p.m. Tuesday in the northern region of Somaliland.
"It's a shocking murder, and part of the anti-media campaign," Abdullahi Ahmed Nor, a fellow journalist, said Wednesday. "It was a big loss for us, his friends and family."
Somalia has been one of the most dangerous places to operate as a journalist this year. The irony for journalists is that Mogadishu, on the whole, is far safer than it was when the Islamist extremists, al-Shabab, controlled most of the city from 2007-2011. African Union troops forced al-Shabab out in August 2011, leading to less violence and a general revival of business, the arts and sports.
But a campaign targeting journalists has accelerated this year, and one sad fact seems likely to be fueling the murders: No suspects have been arrested for any of the crimes. Most of the killings have taken place in Mogadishu, but the latest murder, in the northern, semi-independent territory of Somaliland, could be a sign that the scourge of media deaths is spreading.
Killings of journalists during the Mogadishu conflict years was most certainly carried out by al-Shabab in retaliation for stories the group saw as negative, said Tom Rhodes, of the Committee to Protect Journalists. But since 2012, the list of potential killers has come to include business leaders and politicians, he said.
"Everyone knows in Somalia that you can kill a journalist and there will be no repercussions," he said, adding: "The other problem is that some of the perpetrators of these murders may very well be those in authority so they can hide behind their positions."
Though Mogadishu is safer than in years past, and though the government is slowly gaining some strength, the time that a skilled police force and competent judicial system are in operation is far off. The media landscape is blooming, but the killings make clear that some sectors of Somali society do not want a free media. The international community has increased its calls for government officials to stop the attacks and to punish those responsible for previous killings, but no progress has been made.
Mohamed Ibrahim, the secretary of a journalists union in Somalia, believes that most killings are carried out by al-Shabab militants. "And the rest are either politically motivated assassinations or by independent criminals whose aim are all about disrupting the increasing media landscape in Somalia," he said.
The British Ambassador to Somalia, Matt Baugh, and the U.N. representative to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, were among the voices Wednesday pleading with the government to halt the killings.
"Trying to silence the media will have a devastating effect on the nation's vibrant media community. These attacks must stop and the crimes must be fully investigated by the Somali and Somaliland authorities," Mahiga said. "I call on the authorities to bolster their criminal investigation capacity and bring the perpetrators to justice."
Rhodes said the Somali government is too weak to carry out adequate investigations. Members of the government, he said, have admitted as much to him. "Furthermore it's a war situation where many sources are afraid to speak," Rhodes said.
In addition to the 16 deaths, Mahiga said reports indicate that 20 other journalists have been injured in attacks, including Mohamud Tuuryare, a journalist for the Shabelle media network who was shot Sunday and left in critical condition.
Somalia is the No. 2 country in the world, behind only Iraq, for unsolved journalist killings in recent years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The following is a list of Somali deaths in 2012:
— Jan. 28: Gunmen kill Hassan Osman Abdi, the director of Shabelle radio in Mogadishu.
— Feb. 28: Gunmen kill Abukar Hassan Mohamoud, the director of Somaliweyn Radio in Mogadishu.
— March 4: Ali Ahmed Abdi, a reporter for Radio Galkayo, was killed in Galkayo in central Somalia
— April 5: Mahad Salad Aden, a reporter with Shabelle radio, was killed in Beledweyne, central Somalia.
— May 2: Farhan Jeemis Abdulle, a reporter with Radio Daljir, was killed in Galkayo.
— May 23: Ahmed Addow Anshur, a producer with Shabelle radio, was killed in Mogadishu.
— July 31: Abdi Jeylani Malaq, a Somali comedian and TV producer, was killed in Mogadishu.
— Aug. 12: Yusuf Ali Osman, a veteran reporter who had been serving as the director of Somalia's Information Ministry. Journalist Mohamud Ali Yare, killed in crossfire after government troops open fire on each other at a sports stadium.
— Sept. 20: Liban Ali Nur, an editor at Somali National TV; Abdisatar Daher Sabriye, a reporter with Radio Mogadishu; and Abdirahman Yasin Ali, the director of Radio Hamar. All three were killed when suicide bombers blew themselves up inside a popular café in Mogadishu.
— Sept. 21: Hassan Yusuf Absuge, Radio Maanta was killed in Mogadishu.
— Sept. 27: The decapitated body of Abdirahman Mohamed Ali, a sportswriter was found north of Mogadishu.
— Sept. 28: Ahmed Abdullahi Fanah, a reporter with the Yemeni news agency SABA, was killed in Mogadishu.
— Oct. 23: Ahmed Saakin Farah killed by gunmen in Somaliland.
October 25, 2012
By BEN FELLER | Associated Press
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama said at the start of a 48-hour campaign trip that “trust matters” in a presidential campaign and he has kept the same values throughout his political career.
Obama is seeking to contrast himself with what he considers Republican Mitt Romney’s shifting views.
Obama told voters in Iowa’s Quad Cities on Wednesday that they can take videotape of things he said 10 years ago or 12 years ago and say, quote, “man, this is the same guy.”
Obama says he hasn't finished all the work he and his supporters set out to do in 2008, but says he has fought for people every day.
Iowa is the first stop on a 48-hour trip to key states. The president said: “We’re going to pull an all-nighter. No sleep.”
October 25, 2012
Five suburban Chicago men who were wrongfully convicted of murder as teenagers said on Wednesday October 17 that they are suing local and state police, claiming police officers framed them.
The men were sent to prison for the 1991 rape and murder of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews. They claim Dixmoor police and Illinois State Police coerced false confessions, withheld evidence and fabricated witness testimony.
The two lawsuits claim that DNA evidence has identified a convicted sex offender for the murder who has no connection to the five men originally convicted _ Robert Taylor, Jonathan Barr, James Harden, Shainne Sharp and Robert Veal. The convicted sex offender has not been charged with the murder, according to the lawsuits.
Taylor, Harden and Barr were freed in 2011 after 19 years in prison. Sharp and Veal were released after 10 years of imprisonment.
“We went through a lot,” an emotional Taylor said. “This one incident destroyed so many lives.”
According to the lawsuits, at least one of the three who confessed was beaten by officers and all those who confessed were coerced and illegally taken advantage of by the officers who were under pressure to solve the case. The officers also falsified witness evidence to secure convictions, the lawsuits claim.
The men’s attorney, Flint Taylor, who isn’t related to Robert Taylor, said important questions need to be asked.
“Why do these cases happen? Why do young African-American men go to prison for crimes they did not commit?” he said.
Telephone calls to Dixmoor police and Illinois State Police officials for comment weren't immediately returned. One lawsuit was filed against Dixmoor police, while the other is against the state police. All five men are plaintiffs on both lawsuits.
October 18, 2012
By JASON STRAZIUSO and KIRUBEL TADESSE
Bedlu Mamo stood in middle of his field in Ethiopia and cast a wary eye at the new variety of wheat he planted for the first time.
“The price is good, better than what we get for other crops. But the companies that buy the wheat may not come to buy,” Bedlu said.
But despite the farmer’s misgivings, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center says demand for wheat is growing faster than for any other food crop in sub-Saharan Africa, where corn has long been considered the most important cereal crop. As the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization marked World Food Day on Tuesday, experts are reexamining what crops are best produced in Africa, for Africans.
Ethiopia recently hosted a conference to look at ways to increase the amount of wheat African farmers grow. Only 44 percent of the wheat consumed in Africa is produced locally.
“The first task is to convince policy makers that there is a potential to produce wheat in Africa,” said Asfaw Negassa, a consultant with the center. “With the right policy, right seed and marketing system, there can be enough wheat production in Africa to substitute the significant portion of imports that costs the continent scarce hard currency.”
The corn and wheat center says African countries in 2012 will spend $12 billion to import 40 million tons of wheat — money that could be used for other pressing needs.
Wheat production in sub-Saharan Africa dropped sharply in the 1980s after an influx of food aid made the crop unprofitable, said the maize and wheat improvement center, which is known by the initials CIMMYT. At the same time, the focus of international development shifted to corn and cassava. A growing demand for wheat has led agricultural experts to rethink the crop in Africa, the group said.
But sometimes the farmer must confront market forces that can be a disincentive to plant.
For Bedlu, the Ethiopian farmer, this season marks the first time he has planted the Mangudo variety of durum wheat. He has high hopes for it, but worries he may not find a buyer. Showing how complicated global agricultural can be, Bedlu and Asnake Fikre, the director of the Debre Zeit Agriculture Research Center, say imported wheat can often be bought for less.
Ethiopia’s government in recent months has struggled to stabilize rampant food inflation — a big burden for a country that solicits food aid. Some 3.5 million Ethiopians required humanitarian assistance this year alone. The U.S. government contributed $427 million to agricultural development, food security and emergency aid to Ethiopia in fiscal 2011, said Diane Brandt, an embassy spokeswoman.
World Food Day is dedicated to remembering the importance of global food security. The theme for 2012 is “Agricultural cooperatives — key to feeding the world.”
Hunger is declining in Asia and Latin America but is rising in Africa, according to the FAO. The World Bank says agricultural productivity must increase in Africa because African farm yields are among the lowest in the world.
One in eight people around the world goes to bed hungry every night, the FAO says. But things are turning in the right direction: The total number of hungry people in the world is 870 million, down from 1 billion 20 years ago.
Some of the efforts have been at the grassroots level. In East Africa, an American aid group called One Acre Fund is working with 130,000 farming households to increase food production through improved seeds and fertilizer. Nick Handler, the group's country director in Kenya, said the households his organization works with are becoming more aware of the benefits that improved seeds and fertilizers can have.
“On average we’re seeing a tripling of yields and a doubling of profit once you net out the additional costs for farmers who sign up for the program,” he said.