Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slavery Carries On

In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. It didn't make slavery a crime until 2007. Only one slave owner has been successfully prosecuted. Mauritania's government has done little to combat slavery and in interviews with CNN denied that the practice exists. "All people are free in Mauritania and this phenomenon (of slavery) no longer exists," one official said. Yet an estimated 10% to 20% of the population still lives in slavery - in “real slavery”. Slave masters in Mauritania exercise full ownership over their slaves. They can send them away at will, and it’s common for a master to give away a young slave as a wedding present. Local Islamic imams, historically have spoken in favor of slavery. Activists say the practice continues in some mosques, particularly in rural areas. "They make people believe that going to paradise depends on their submission,"

Slavery in Mauritania is not entirely based on race, but lighter-skinned people historically have owned people with darker skin, and racism in the country is rampant. Mauritanians live by a rigid caste system, with the slave class at the bottom.

White Moors are lighter-skinned Berber people who speak Arabic and have traditionally owned slaves. Most men wear light blue shirts called boubous, which have ornate designs on the chest. White Moors are the power class in Mauritania and control more wealth than any other group. Some, however, live in poverty. It's not uncommon to find a White Moor living in a tent only slightly larger than that of his or her slaves. Black Moors are darker-skinned people who historically have been enslaved by the White Moors. Originally from sub-Saharan Africa, the Black Moors have taken on many aspects of the Arab culture of their masters. They speak Hassaniya, an Arabic dialect. Slaves of noble families attain a certain level of status by association.

The Haratine - word literally means "freed slaves," but it can be used to describe people who are in slavery or who belong to the former slave class of Black Moors. Many Haratine people exist somewhere on the spectrum between slavery and freedom and are the target of class- and race-based discrimination.

Mauritania‘s other darker-skinned people come from several ethnic groups, including the Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof. These groups also are found in Senegal, which shares Mauritania‘s southern border. They look similar to Black Moors, but never were enslaved and are quite different in terms of culture and language.

Most slave families in Mauritania consist of dark-skinned people whose ancestors were captured by lighter-skinned Arab Berbers centuries ago. Slaves typically are not bought and sold — only given as gifts, and bound for life. Their offspring automatically become slaves, too.

Forty-four percent of Mauritanians live on less than $2 per day. Slave owners and their slaves are often extremely poor, uneducated and illiterate. This makes seeking a life outside slavery extremely difficult or impossible. On the other hand, poverty has also led to some slave masters setting their slaves free, because they can no longer afford to keep them.

“On this land, everybody is exploited,” said one slave

“We don’t pay them,” a slave-owner said “They are part of the land.”

Food shortages are dire and are a reason some Mauritanian slaves actually prefer to stay in the homes of their masters: If they leave, it’s difficult to survive.

“Chains are for the slave who has just become a slave..." Boubacar, an ex-slave said. “But the multigeneration slave, the slave descending from many generations, he is a slave even in his own head. And he is totally submissive. He is ready to sacrifice himself, even, for his master. And, unfortunately, it’s this type of slavery that we have today” — the slavery that American plantation owners dreamed of.

For a slaves to be free, they first must break the shackles in their minds. That applies not just for chattel slaves but also to wage-slaves

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not profitting from farming

If growing up in an agricultural community were the key to health, the children of Kiamwangi would be thriving. While the farms grow fresh fruits and vegetables for export, health centers continue to treat diseases related to nutritional deficiency. Malnourishment causes stunting, a reduced growth rate. Data from the 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey indicate that nationally, 35 percent of children under five are stunted, while 14 percent are severely stunted.

Jane Hunyu, who farms a quarter-acre plot here, says the children in her region are nearly as frail as their grandparents. "Children are malnourished," says Hunyu. "Recently, we are also seeing increasing cases of diabetes." She concludes that the children's families cannot afford the produce they harvest with their own hands. It's a dilemma facing millions of agricultural workers in Africa, and few know any other way of life. Hunyu also noticed that many small-scale farmers had started growing crop varieties like those produced by big commercial farms. "This required us to buy fertilizers, pesticides and other farm inputs to ensure a good harvest," says Hunyu, a mother of two. "But the crops started failing due to erratic rainfall and many farmers were left desperate."

Globally, a recent report from the Save the Children charity estimated that half a billion children could grow up physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years because of poor diet. Most of these children live in developing countries where key food groups such as meat, milk and vegetables are becoming increasingly unaffordable for the poor.

"Kenyans should start reaching out to traditional staple foods such as finger millet, because our studies show that they are richer in nutrients for both mothers and children," says Clement Kamau, a researcher with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. Researchers are rallying behind this shift for an important reason. They say that historically these varieties have been considered the 'poor man's crops' such as sorghum.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Electing Democracy

A coup d'etat by the army took place in the West African nation of Mali on Thursday, March 22 even though elections were scheduled to be held in little over a month (on April 29) where legitimate differences could have been debated, with voters (rather than guns) deciding the future of the country. A group of military officers , ironically calling themselves the "National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State", ended 20-years of democracy in the West African country. This group did not topple a dictator who had ordered soldiers to fire on his own people, as had been the case 21 years ago, but a democratically elected president in the last month of his term.

Liberal freedoms matter. One should never underestimate the value of liberal-democratic freedoms, even if they can be said to be often primarily symbolic. It is important, not to understate the significance of holding back authoritarianism. The dictator has in many peoples' minds the symbol of the law, all-capable, all-powerful, ready to manage affairs in a rational manner, not in the manner dictated by bourgeois law or by propertied interests. The most damaging thing to the cause of real democracy is the repeated assurances that what we have nowadays is democracy, and so all the sleaze, all the secret negotiations and dirty deals get lumped together to suggest in people's minds that democracy is not all that great. The dictator or the Junta become a symbol for orderliness and rationality in an insane and disorganised world. They represent stability. Most people do not look to democracy to bring about this stability. The bourgeois propagandists have done their work, and have effectively destroyed any belief in democracy as the idea that folks can run their own lives and own communities. Years of battering and enforced passivity has come to mean that for most of the working class the idea of them being in charge of affairs is inconceivable. They have been part of a manipulative system for too long and have become resigned and compliant.

The term democracy is bandied about and gets widely differing explanations of what it is or what it should be. It is a word that is ill-defined, misused, over-used too ambiguously and has been hijacked by governments and elites to deliberately misinterpret their actions and so deceive a captive and poorly represented electorate. Electorates worldwide haven't had the true experience of involvement, of having had their voices heard, at any significant level to have resulted in a culture of expectation of inclusion in the various processes of so-called democracy. Rather than an expectation of involvement there is apathy, cynicism or the repeated mantra heard far and wide that governments don't listen to the people. Many so-called democracies tend to breed apathy for a variety of reasons. Decisions have long been made for people not by people, electorates distanced from their representatives, decisions made with no consultation process and "leaders" believing they have been selected to take the reins and make all decisions on behalf of the voters. It's taken for granted that once elected the politician decides on behalf of the electors. There is scant reference to the masses in times of major decisions, public spending or whether to go to war. Even mass demonstrations can leave the elected unmoved and intransigent. As a result there has long been a culture of complaint, a collective feeling of impotence with no expectation of being heard, even if seemingly listened to.

We have all heard at some time or other such statements as "democracy is inefficient"; "the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship"; or "the country should be run by experts, well trained managers, not just any Tom Dick or Harry". These points are easily countered: democracy is only inefficient if your only criterion is speed, but if you include wide consultation and a plurality of opinions and ideas within the decision-making process, then democracy is actually far more efficient in the long run. The benevolent dictator idea neglects the fact that dictators must have a class to back them up so as to ensure the primary aim of all dictators—of staying in power. Likewise, with the group of managers, the question becomes, how do we select such managers? And how are they supposed to manage the country? In whose interest?

It is a basic tenet of the World Socialist Movement that the establishment of socialism involves the capture of political power via the ballot-box. For this to happen presupposes the existence of a "bourgeois democracy". We regard universal suffrage, the vote and political democracy within capitalism as a potential class weapon, a potential “instrument of emancipation” as Marx put it. Marx and Engels always held that the bourgeois democratic republic was the best political framework for the development and triumph of the socialist movement. But while such an arrangement is undeniably preferable to political dictatorship we don't entertain any illusions about the nature of this "bourgeois democracy". It is a very limited kind of democracy indeed. Capitalist democracy is not a participatory democracy, which a genuine democracy has to be.

“Democracy” has become an ideology used to give capitalist rule a spurious legitimacy. Looking at the vast sums of money involved in our allegedly democratic elections we can hardly claim that they are "free". In fact in most of the so-called democratic countries it could be said that the astronomical costs of challenging for political power have been deliberately manipulated in order to ensure that those who cannot attract rich backers will be denied meaningful access to the democratic process. There also the other aspect of bourgeois democracy, such as free speech, which is similarly compromised by the nature of the system. In this case by the disproportionate power it bestows on those who own and control the media. Effectively this means that in the same way as people in dictatorships are denied the right to make real political changes, in allegedly democratic societies prohibitive financial restrictions are placed in the way of the working class organising politically to effect real economic change. The idea of fair and free elections would give the ruling class political apoplexy. This does not mean that socialists equate dictatorship and bourgeois democracy. Within the latter we are free to organise politically and to develop our support to the extent where we can eventually overcome the embargoes and impediments that capitalism’s restricted democratic forms impose on us, whereas in the former any socialist work is necessarily clandestine and can invoke severe penalties. What we can equate is the hypocrisy of bourgeois politicians, who rightly condemn those dictatorships where political freedom is denied and yet are willing participants and vociferous defenders of a form of capitalism wherein financial impediments exist that make a mockery of real democracy. Democracy is not a set of rules or a parliament; it is a process, a process that must be fought for. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for socialism. It is not a struggle for reforms, for this or that political system, for this or that leader, for some rule change or other—it is the struggle for an idea, for a belief, a belief that we can run our own lives, that we have a right to a say in how society is run, for a belief that the responsibility for democracy lies not upon the politicians, but upon ourselves.

Socialists are offering the establishment of an open and genuine system of participative democracy in a world where the massively destructive and ubiquitously corruptive power of money would no longer exist. Socialism will of course be a democratic society with elections and referendums. Democracy means the rule or power of the people, i.e. popular participation in decision-making. It allows various ways of reaching a decision but, in the end, if consensus cannot be obtained, it has to come to a vote; in which case the majority view prevails. Democracy does not mean that all decisions have to made at general assemblies of all concerned or by referendum; it is compatible with certain decisions being delegated to committees and councils as long as the members of these bodies are responsible to those who (s)elected them. If there wasn’t such democratic control there wouldn’t be common ownership, so there wouldn’t be socialism. Democratic control is not an optional extra of socialism. It is its very essence. This being so, socialism cannot be imposed against the will or without the consent and participation of the majority. The socialist revolution can only be democratic, in the sense of both being what the majority of people want and of being carried out by democratic methods of organisation and action.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Rich Elite

While millions live in crushing poverty a tiny elite that make up the super-rich across Africa.

About 200 Nigerians own the luxury cars, each costing up to $180,000, Porsche brand manager Michael Wagner said. Porsche is already planning a showroom in the Angolan capital, Luanda, similarly awash with petrodollars and ranked the world's most expensive city 10 years Over in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, once nicknamed the "Paris of Africa", billboards advertise French perfumes and Rolex watches. The city is home to a glass-front luxury brand-only boutique, Zino's. "Ninety per cent of our customers can walk in and spend $35,000 in one visit without thinking about it," store director Jean Miguel Darde said.

Shortly after officials revved the latest Carrera model for reporters and thrilled onlookers, posing for photographs in front of the gleaming black car. In the sticky heat outside, an employee said owning one of the personalised Porsches he was washing would be "a dream. But I only earn $120 a month," he shrugged.

Most of Nigeria's Porsche sales will come from Abuja, the makers believe. In the moneyed capital city, where wedding-cake mansions overlook smooth cloverleaf highways, wealth is a more conspicuous status symbol.
"There's a big market here. For example, I have a Bentley, a Porsche and a Ferrari, so I can easily buy another brand-new one," said one businessman from Abuja who sponsors golf tournaments as a hobby. But he added: "People don't travel by road anymore, they go by air. So the Ferrari in the garage hasn't done 500 miles in three years."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

shitty Ghana

About 13,900 Ghanaian adults and 5,100 children under five years die each year from diarrhea.

Statistics also revealed that 4.63 million people in Ghana had no toilets and relieved themselves in the open while 16.34 million another used unsanitary or shared latrines. Ghana has a population of 24.3 million. With current sanitation coverage of 14 per cent, experts say it would be difficult for the country to meet the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation, which has a target of 54 per cent.

Crippled Congo

The outlook for people living with disabilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains bleak

"There are roughly 9.1 million people with disabilities in Congo, 11 percent of the total population of 60 million," said Patrick Pindu, coordinator of the National Federation of Associations of People Living with a Disability in Congo. "Amongst people with disabilities, 90 percent are illiterate, 93 percent are jobless and 96 percent live in an unhealthy and inhumane environment."

Jolie Apelo is a member of the Kikwit Association of Disabled Persons. "As you see me here, I don't eat properly due to a lack of financial resources. I'm unable to buy clothes so I can present myself like a human being worthy of the name, even if I am a member of an association."

Godefroid Kiyaka gets around the capital, Kinshasa, on his hands and knees because of the extreme deformity of his legs. "I don't have a wheelchair to go longer distances," he told IPS. "Many people turn away from me when I ask them for donations."

22-year-old Alphonse Mumbaka relies on crutches for limited mobility. His father died when he was young, and left to his own devices, Mumbaka never went to school or learned to read. "No one educated me."

"It's not acceptable that the government still doesn't get involved in resolving the problems facing the disabled. These people must enjoy their full rights like everyone," said Cyrile Mupasa, from the League for the Defence of the Rights of Children and Students in the Central Africa zone.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Land Grab Again

Socialist Banner seems to encounter never-ending press stories of land-grab abuses. Population growth and rising consumption around the world are fuelling global land acquisitions and Africa is a “prime target”. Africa accounts for 134 million hectares of reported land deals. Worldwide, between 2000 and 2010, deals under consideration or negotiation amounted to 203 million hectares. Critics feel that land acquisitions could imperil the food security of millions of people.

“The best land is often being targeted for acquisition. It is often irrigable, with proximity to infrastructure, making conflict with existing land users more likely,” says the International Land Coalition. “Urgent action is needed to bring harmful land transfers to a halt.." the Coalition says.

Overall, most of the land deals, critics say, would be put under biofuel production and agricultural food exports. With many local small-scale farmers off the land there could be national food shortages. Weak economies cannot afford food imports, and might in fact be forced to receive food aid from countries whose multinationals, ironically, produced that very same food in Africa in the first place. Although governments might make the case for such land deals, critics of such contracts in Africa say local elites are most likely the only national beneficiaries.

Ousman Badiane, the International Food Policy Research Institute's Africa director, says: “Foreign investors interact with, and act through, national intermediaries or interlocutors who may operate independently or as government agents. One should, therefore, expect the emergence of secondary markets and derived demand in the form of influential national actors who will seek to gain access to land at the expense of local communities. Anticipation of future demand by foreign investors; this is where real damage can be done.” If local communities are to be protected in these land deals, he says, foreign investors should improve the capacities for local governance; contract negotiating skills; and foster business partnerships between local communities.

The latest disclosures comes from Sierra Leone. Foreign land investment is on the rise in Sierra Leone and, as with many of its neighbours, the government wants more companies to come in to boost the economy. According to Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Lands, around 70 percent of arable land is available for investment, outside of protected forest reserves. “Foreign land investments are a good thing,” says William Farmer, director of surveys and lands in the Ministry of Lands. “Civil society makes a lot of noise about land-grabbing. But if the investment is well-planned then it can create employment and improve lives.”

But as more and more companies flock to the country to lease large tracts of land, murmurs of protest and unrest are cropping up among local populations who are unhappy with the way the deals are done; and civil society groups are growing increasingly concerned that foreign land deals are not producing the win-win scenarios they had hoped for. The problems arising are the same as in many other developing countries: the power imbalance between negotiating parties and the lack of regulation means local communities can lose a lot through land deals, says Joseph Rahall, director of Green Scenery, an NGO working on environment and human security issues in Sierra Leone. There are currently no laws regulating large land deals in Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Agriculture has produced guidelines suggesting a land lease payment of $5 per acre per year ($12.36 per hectare per year) to landowners who agree to give up their land for a lease period of up to 50 years, with an option to renew for another 21 years. But Rahall says the amount is far too small.
“Even where companies pay the full amount, the government is taxing the people 50 percent,” he says. “Half of the company’s payment goes to the District Council, the traditional leader and to the central government.There are so many ways companies are coming into the country… When communities are so weak [compared to big companies] that they don’t have lawyers, they cannot afford lawyers and government is not providing them, this is problematic.”

Sahid Abu-Dingie, who works on land reform at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) agrees: “It is not possible for [former landowners] to survive on the amount of money they are given per acre,” he says. “Even the nuclear family will find it hard, let alone the whole extended family who have rights to the land.”

In March 2011, the agro-industrial company Socfin Agriculture Company Ltd., a subsidiary of the Belgian company Bolloré, signed a 50-year land lease with the government of Sierra Leone to produce palm oil on 6,500 hectares of land in Pujehun’s Malen chiefdom. In October 2011 residents of Malen blocked Socfin’s operations in protest over low labour costs ($2.30 per day) and the amount paid for compensation and surface rent. 15 Malen residents were charged with “riotous conduct” for their protests over wages await their court hearings.

Tommy Silman, landowner and resident of Kortumahun, says he wishes he had not given up his land: One month ago he leased all 3.04 hectares (ha) of his land for the next 50 years to the government. He used to cultivate oil palm trees for direct sale to process into the cooking oil used by most Sierra Leoneans. “It was not a fair deal,” Silman says, explaining that he received no receipt for the land sold and now has no idea of where he stands. Several landowners in Pujehun told IRIN that before these deals they had been managing to support their families through the revenues they earned by cultivating palm oil. Tommy Silman, for instance, calculated he earned on average $861 annually from the three harvests produced on his 3.04 ha. It is the landless farmers who get the worst end of the deal as they lose the land they farm and do not get any compensation.

Kortumahun village chief Bockarie Juana says he was not involved in negotiations on the land lease with the company. He told IRIN he received money for his land, but was given no documentation such as a copy of the land lease or a receipt for the amount paid. “One of the difficulties is that the Paramount Chief [district chief] came to us and asked us for our land on lease. But they have now uprooted everything [all the trees] and this is what we were using to look after our responsibilities [live off],” he told IRIN.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gay rights come second to economics

The Nobel peace prize winner and president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has defended a law that criminalises homosexual acts, saying: "We like ourselves just the way we are..We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve..."

Liberian legislation classes "voluntary sodomy" as punishable by up to one year in prison, but two new bills have been proposed that would target homosexuality with much tougher sentences. One would amend the penal code to make a person guilty of a second-degree felony if he or she "seduces, encourages or promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities" or "purposefully engages in acts that arouse or tend to arouse another person of the same gender to have sexual intercourse", carrying a prison sentence of up to five years. The second bill would make gay marriage a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

The second bill was drafted by Jewel Howard Taylor, the ex-wife of the former president Charles Taylor, and she said "[Homosexuality] is a criminal offence. It is un-African...We consider deviant sexual behaviour criminal behaviour."

Homosexuality is already illegal in 37 African countries. In Uganda, a bill proposing custodial sentences for homosexuality is still being considered, although it no longer contains the provision for the death penalty. Ten women were recently arrested in Cameroon accused of being lesbians, while in Nigeria, homosexual activities are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Sirleaf desperately needs the support of other MPs to tackle other issues such as corruption, exploitation of the country's natural resources and mass youth unemployment. "If she tried to decriminalise the [current anti-gay] law it would be political suicide," said Tiawan S Gongloe, the country's former solicitor general. So Sirleaf is prepared to sacrifice the human rights of one group of workers for the sake of the economy. And to think Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel peace prize for her work in campaigning for women's rights!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Migration - the other side of the story

For centuries, Angola was as ruthlessly exploited by its Portuguese masters. Today the Portugal's economy floundering but for most of the past decade, Angola's diamond-mining and oil-rich economy has grown by 10 per cent a year. With 7,000 Portuguese businesses established there and linguistic links when Angola started looking for a skilled workers from abroad to help build the country they turned to its old coloniser. The Angolan consulate is currently processing Portuguese immigration papers at an average of more than 20,000 a year. between 2008 and 2011 the number of Portuguese in Angola increased from 20,000 to 130,000.

Last December, the Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, suggested to teachers who were "supplementary to our requirements" that they "try Angola or Brazil, where there's a huge demand for primary and secondary school educators. We have a drop in population, and either they can retrain in other areas, or if they want to stay as teachers, look through the entire Portuguese-speaking market."

Spain: The economic crisis is forcing 1,200 young Spaniards to emigrate to Argentina each month, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy claimed last year. Around 30,000 Spaniards moved to Argentina between June 2009 and November 2010. Some 6,400 went to Chile and 6,800 headed for Uruguay.

Italy: The Italian economy has been at a virtual standstill since 2000 and around 600,000, often highly educated young Italians, have gone abroad in the past decade. Most have emigrated to North and South America.

India: India's rapidly growing economy has triggered a reverse migration. About 300,000 Indians employed overseas are expected to return to the country by 2015.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

egypt's food future

Nearly all 82 million Egyptians, along with almost all agricultural lands, are squeezed into just five per cent of the nation's total land area: A strip running eight to 15 kilometres wide along the Nile River and fanning out through the Delta. It's as if the entire population of the United States and all of our agriculture were clustered within 60 kilometres of the Mississippi. That leaves only one twenty-fifth of a hectare of agricultural land per Egyptian, or a 20-by-20-metre postage stamp of ground sown to wheat, rice, maize, lentils, beans, vegetables, cotton, animal forage, and date palms. As a result, Egypt has become the world's number-one importer of wheat, and imports a large share of many other food requirements.

The country's crops - all irrigated - are generally very productive, but with every grain harvest, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients are removed from the soil and must be replaced. Berseem clover, a legume that pulls its nitrogen from the air, is a ubiquitous fodder crop, and the nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich manure from livestock can be returned to the soil. And food crops are often interplanted with date palms, whose long-lived roots help hold the soil. But neither practice can replace the nutrients that are sucked from the land year-round by most food crops. Therefore, Egypt's farmers have little choice but to apply very large quantities of synthetic fertilisers in order to maintain their crop yields, making grains like wheat even more costly to produce. And those farmers, the large majority of whom cultivate plots of less than a hectare and a half, are not cash-rich, meaning that the government must step in to pay them a subsidised price for grain in order to keep the farm economy going. Egyptian families - 42 per cent of whom live below the international $2.50-per-person-per-day poverty line - struggle to meet their monthly requirement for conventionally produced, no-frills fava beans, lentils and vegetables at prices they can afford.

Prime lands of the Nile Valley and Delta are being lost at an alarming rate to urban sprawl. Upriver from Cairo, for example, huge private homes with walled-in compounds are sprouting across the landscape in less time than it takes to grow and harvest a crop of wheat. Although the total quantity of farmland in Egypt has increased over the years thanks to the "reclamation" of desert through sprinkler and drip irrigation, those new lands are much less productive than the river-valley soils that have supported Egyptian society since before the time of the Pharaohs. There have long been laws against building on agricultural land in Egypt, but enforcement has always been lax. During the past year, with the government otherwise occupied, there was virtually no enforcement at all. Powerful economic interests have jumped into that vacuum, and land-grabbing and construction on cropland have accelerated. Economically stressed farmers have a hard time resisting offers of big money from aggressive developers.

If Egyptians manage to wrest economic and political power from the oligarchs who have held it for so long, they will have a chance to protect their agricultural landscape and ensure a good food supply for everyone. But until that transformation happens, achieving food security along the Nile will remain a day-to-day struggle.

Extracts from
Stan Cox, research coordinator at The Land Institute, Kansas, USA.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kenya's nurses strike

Kenya's public hospitals face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government fired 25,000 striking nurses.

Luke K'Odambo, chairman of the National Nurses Association of Kenya, said that the sacking did "not make sense in any way", and that it was not possible to dismiss such a large part of the workforce.

"We are ignoring the sacking threat."
Alex Orina, spokesman of the 40,000-strong Kenya Health Professionals Society, said. "These are cat-and-mouse games, you cannot sack an entire workforce. It is a ploy to get us to rush back to work, but our strike continues until our demands are met," .

The nurses went on strike on March 1 to protest the government's failure to implement a salary increase agreed last year, when they also stopped work to press for improved services in Kenya's mostly ill-equipped public hospitals. On average, a health worker earns about 25,000 shillings ($300) a month in salary and allowances, and this amount was likely to double if their demand for higher allowances were met. Private hospitals and clinics, where richer families send their sick, have opened as usual because their nurses are not members of the strikers' union. In public hospitals patients pay as little as one and a half dollars for most outpatient services. This is incomparable to established private health facilities where patients pay up to over 120 dollars for outpatient services.

The industrial action comes barely two months after government doctors in Kenya went on strike for a rise in salary

"Nyongo, we want our rights, like you had medical treatment abroad," the protesters chanted in Swahili, in reference to a stay in the United States last year when the minister was treated for prostate cancer.


What started as a new political revolution in Zambia has proved to be a mere political hullabaloo. There can be nothing new under capitalism – except half meal political and economic reforms that in all respects only help to undermine working-class political and class solidarity. In every part of the world the workers have the class franchise to elect a political party into power. It is the inability by the workers to use their class franchise to utilise their political consciousness as a weapon for socialism.

The election of Michael Sata of the Peoples Front (PF) as President is what is dubbed a new dawn in Zambian politics. Reading through the newspaper headlines one may easily notice the absence of political criticism today. The PF has been a pro-poor people’s budget – in the sense that the government has reduced pay as you earn income tax below those earning K2 million.

The reduction of income tax comes at a time when the government is contemplating enacting a minimum wage for those earning below K2 million.

The political strength of the PF government will be judged by the workers and unemployed youth, who massively voted for it during the 2011 general election.

President Michael Sata, like his predecessors Chiluba and Dr. Banda, is a charismatic politician. Because Sata won the election on a massive landslide he may remain blind to the limits of political power and, given his flamboyant political nature, this is going to prove difficult to those close to him to work with him he has the audacity to reverse set policies of ministerial agenda – removing and appointing members of parliament to cabinet portfolios without proper explanations. But what is worrisome is the complete absence of UNPD political members of parliament in the new PF government.

The directive to let alone street vendors issued by Sata and the sending of Dr. Banda as special presidential ambassador to China caught many people unprepared. Sata couldn’t allow his opponents to champion the plight of the urban unemployed youth by allowing them to trade freely on the streets of Lusaka and the Copperbelt mining towns. The fight against corruption is aimed at hoodwinking overseas aid donors. Indeed, it remains to be seen whether the arrest of form MMD ministers will help to correct the dented political image the Zambian political profile abroad.

President Sata recently revoked the labour ministry from Chishimba Kambwili – because of his anti-Chinese political sentiments. Indeed, Kambwili was seen as a new political guru by many urban workers through his relentless attacks on Chinese investors who misread indigenous Zambian workers. What many workers expected was that the PF was going to increase jobs and salaries overnight – within the stipulated 90 days.

Apart from enacting commissions of enquiry into the privatisation of Zamtech and Zamco, the PF government has not achieved any noticeable economic reform. Indeed, the practice of appointing and reshuffling ministers is negatively perceived by many Zambians. It remains to be seen whether President Sata will forge his political popularity through increasing jobs and salaries across the board.

But the question remains, will the political immunity of former MMD president Banda be removed?

Our appeal to the Zambian workers and unemployed youth remains the same – socialism is the only political alternative to capitalism. We advocate a classless, moneyless and stateless society.


Donchi Kubeba song authored by Dandy Krazy is a household name across Zambia and contributed in boosting the morale of the Chipolopolo boys at the Africa Cup of Nations. Dandy says it is the song that propelled the PF to victory against MMD when the opposition party adopted it. “I wrote this song three years ago, it’s a song about change. Politicians have been making promises which they do not fulfil,” Dandy said.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Africans and Low I.Q.s

"Wealth and the IQ of Nations" by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen insists that the average Sub-Saharan African’s IQ is 30-40 points lower than an East Asian’s IQ? How can that book give Hong Kong an IQ of 106 and Equatorial Guinea a mere 59? A rival study, led by Jelte M. Wicherts of The Netherlands, claimed a considerably higher average IQ for the Sub-Saharan region: 82. But even this lags far behind East Asia and the Western world. Why?

Obviously, Africans have been oppressed by colonialist imperialism, capitalist exploitation, and authoritarian regimes. One way oppression oppresses its victims is by stunting their cognitive abilities, diminishing their ability to be productive and politically engaged. Development economists and the public health community recognize this as an intrinsic part of the gloomy cycle of underdevelopment. Does oppression impact IQ scores? Yes. The Sub-Saharan human brain is severely maimed in gestation and early childhood, due to six post-conception horrors: disease, violence, malnutrition, pollution, poverty and illiteracy. In the Sub-Saharan, a mind-boggling 58% of the population is illiterate. Benin is the worst with 82.4% illiteracy; only 11.9% of its women can read and write. In Nigeria, nine nine million kids don’t go to school, instead they just roam the streets. Barely literate children are at an extreme disadvantage

Decent humans want to believe everyone remains equal in mental ability, no matter how disparate the environments. But it is anti-scientific and counter-productive to view our brains as impervious to outside harm.


The per capita income in Nigeria, for example, is a mere $191 annually. Numerous studies have indicated that growing up poor causes severe damages to one’s ability to achieve full cognitive potential. For example, wealthier parents can provide “better educational resources and spend more time with their children” notes Elliot Tucker Drob, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Another study, by Cornell University child-development researchers Gary Evans and Michelle Schamberg, determined that “chronically elevated physiological stress is a plausible model for how poverty could get into the brain and eventually interfere with achievement.” It noted that poor children tended to go to “ill-equipped and ill-taught schools, have fewer resources at home, eat low-nutrition food, and have less access to health care.” The result of the subpar environment was that “hormones produced in response to stress literally wear down the brains…” A specific test carried out with teenagers revealed that those in poverty had a weaker working memory than teens that were well-off. (Working memory is a reliable indicator reading. Language and problem-solving ability)


Numerous elements and molecular compounds are severely debilitating to human brain development. I’ve listed two dangers below; additional chemicals that cause harm in the Sub-Saharan are cadmium, manganese, petroleum hydrocarbons, mercury, and others. Water pollution and soil contamination are merit attention.

Lead Poisoning is pervasive throughout the Sub-Sahara. Leaded gasoline wasn’t phased out until 2005 with settling fumes caking the soil, and subsequently, the agricultural produce. Illegal mining operations in northern Nigeria recently used lead to refine gold ore, horrendously contaminating both the ground and the water. The NGO “Doctors Without Borders” discovered in 2010 that 90% of the children under 5 in the state of Zamfara, Nigeria (population 3.6 million) had lead poisoning. In Kabwe, Zambia, lead concentrates in children arealso 5-19 times the permissible USA EPA level. Researchers also recently discovered that “96% of the consumer paints available in Nigeria contained higher than the recommended levels of lead.” The effect of lead on IQ varies in research reports, but a 2001 study, from School of Public Health University at Albany Rensselaer (New York) estimated that lead exposure in children caused a “permanent loss of IQ of approximately 5 to 7 IQ points.”

Lagos - with its 12 million residents - has severe air pollution, largely caused by auto fumes and burning garbage. The Nigerian city does not have the worst air in the Sub-Saharan, however, that unfortunate honor goes to Gaberone, Botswana, which was voted 7th Worst in the World in a recent Time magazine survey. Research in Krakow, Poland and New York City claims that air pollution exposure before birth lowers IQ by 4 points, because smog harms the developing brain.


Two recent studies - a 2010 report from the University of New Mexico and 2011 research from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada - have strongly correlated low national IQs with high rates of infectious disease. Their findings mirror what Jared Diamond claimed in his 1997 bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - i.e., endemic diseases thwart human advancement. The study’s lead author Christopher Eppig said that, “Based on our own research… a social policy aimed at elevating IQ would want to focus on reducing the infection rates and durations of the infections that are most costly to the brain, which we predict include malaria, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis, and intestinal worms.”

Every year there are 225 million cases of malaria worldwide, with 90% occurring in the Sub-Saharan region, where 3,000 die everyday of the disease. Nigeria alone accounts for 25% of the planet’s malaria cases, with 30 million of it’s citizens annually contracting the scourge, leaving 300,000 dead. The “brain insult” of malaria is horrendous. One international study defines cerebral malaria “as the presence of coma” leaving victims with neuro-physiological impairment to brain regions associated with planning, decision-making, self-awareness, and social sensitivity. Young Sub-Saharans are alarmingly vulnerable to drastic IQ reduction due to the malarial threat because, as University of New Mexico researchers state, “From an energetic standpoint, a developing human will have difficulty building a brain and fighting off infectious diseases at the same time, as both are very metabolically costly tasks.” It’s crucial to realize here that developing nations, like the entire Sub-Saharan, have a far higher rate of mental retardation. A 2008 Rush University Medical College (Chicago) report observed, “Surveys in high-income countries show 3 to 5 per 1,000 with severe intellectual disability… Estimates from developing countries, however, have found prevalence rates from 5 to as much as 22 per 1,000.” Malaria is listed by the researchers as one of the “major contributing causes” in Third World mental retardation.

The diarrhea rate in Nigeria is 18.8%, with 150,000 children dying annually of the disease. Diarrhea weakens the immune system and can quickly lead the sufferer to malnutrition, pneumonia, and a host of additional plagues. University of New Mexico researchers note that, “if exposed to diarrhoeal diseases during their first five years, individuals may experience lifelong detrimental effects to their brain development, and thus intelligence. Parasites may [also] negatively affect cognitive function in other ways, such as infecting the brain directly…”

Nigeria has the 4th highest TB rate in the world, with more than 400,000 cases per year. Tuberculosis - commonly associated with the lungs - has the potential to attack the brain, causing Tuberculosis Meningitis (TBM). Although this occurs in only 1% of TB cases in developed nations, reports indicate that TB leads to TBM in Nigeria between 7.8-14% of the time. The result? At least 20% of survivors are left with severe brain damage. Tuberculosis also creates a severe toll on the immune system, retarding the cognitive development of young children.

Nigerian schoolchildren are widely at risk of three intestinal parasites: roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm. One study revealed a 54.9% infection rate in urban public schools, 63.5% infection in rural public schools, and 28.4% in private schools. Intestinal worms have been associated with reduced IQ in many studies; one estimate is that “the average IQ loss for children left untreated is 3.75 points per worm infection.”

Prior to the recent focus on infectious disease hampering IQ levels, the prevalent opinion in scholastic circles was that malnutrition was the brain’s primarily oppressor. On the website nextbigfuture, author Brian Wang asserts that “if everyone had optimal levels of micronutrients the IQ of over half the world would be increased by up to 20 IQ points.” The Sub-Saharan would be a primary beneficiary of improved nutrition, especially infants, children, and pregnant women. Below I’ve listed only two dietary ingredients needed for optimal brain development; additional nutrients that also need to be considered are zinc, calcium, folic acid, Vitamin A, and magnesium.

If a pregnant mother’s diet is low in element #53, her child’s IQ can be severely hampered. Cretinism is the worst result of iodine deficiency, with its shocking retardation of physical and mental development. A recent report indicates that every year 900,000 Nigerian children will suffer an IQ loss because their mothers didn’t ingest enough iodine during their pregnancy. How large of an IQ loss? The website suggests “the loss of intellectual capacity by as much as 10 to 15 percentage points.”

An alarming 75.6% of Nigerian children are anemic, claims This lack punishes developing brains. “Various tests of cognitive skills associate lack of iron during infancy and early childhood with significant levels of disadvantage, affecting IQ scores by as much as 5 to 7 points,”

Recent research by Oxford University and Essex University asserts that infants breastfed for just four weeks are granted a 3-point IQ boost. Many specialists advice breastfeeding for at least six months, because the fatty acids in the mother’s milk aids infant brain development. Unfortunately, breastfeeding rates in the Sub-Saharan are among the lowest in the world. UNICEF calculates that only 31% of the region’s mothers breastfeed, a low figure compared to East and South Asia’s 43-44%. Breastfeeding is also more hygienic; bottle-feeding can infect newborns with diseases like diarrhea, especially in areas with contaminated water.

The Sub-Saharan has the highest prevalence in the world in sickle-cell disease, with up to 2% of all children born with the genetic blood disorder. A 2011 Emma Children’s Hospital study at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam discovered that children with sickle-cell disease were at-risk for lower intelligence and executive dysfunction, with possible deficits in visual-spatial working memory, attention, and planning. The impact was significant: “More than one in three children with SDC had a full-scale IQ below 75.”


Being subjected to violence, or witnessing violent activity, puts a traumatic burden on children that leads to cognitive decline. How steep is the subtraction? A 2002 study from the Children’s Hospital of Michigan concludes that “a child experiencing both violence exposure and trauma-related distress… would be expected to have a 7.5-point decrement in IQ and a 9.8 decrement in reading achievement.” The Sub-Saharan region is catastrophically violent in numerous categories.

Myriad bloodbaths have soaked the Sub-Saharan in the last thirty years, including recent and current conflicts in The Congo, Ivory Coast, and religious terrorism in Nigeria, plus past nightmares in Rwanda, Burundi, Biafra, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Liberia, Uganda, Central African Republic, and others. Is it accurate to define the entire region as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Perhaps. A recent survey of Liberians revealed that 71% of those questioned had witnessed a beating, 47% witnessed a killing, and 33% witnessed the killing of a family member. How does a pervasive atmosphere of violence affect children’s cognition? A Stanford Hospital study suggests that, “children’s risk for learning and behavior problems… rises in correlation to their level of trauma exposure…. children experiencing four types of trauma were 30 times more likely to have behavior and learning problems than those not exposed to trauma.”

A 2011 Harvard Medical report notes that “Witnessing domestic violence is a traumatic childhood experience associated with reduced IQ scores.” Unfortunately, wife beating is all-too-common in Sub-Saharan Africa. A recent Nigerian news report claims that, “More than 50 percent [of wives] say they have experienced domestic violence at the hands of their husbands.” Counter-intuitively,“more educated women (65%) are in this terrible situation as compared to their low income counterparts (55%).” Are the children watching? Another study says that 46% of Nigerian women reported being abused in the presence of their children.

Multiple studies assert that children subjected to sexual abuse suffer parallel damage to their brain development. For example, a Yale University study has linked childhood sexual abuse to “long-term deficits in verbal short-term memory” - a result that resembles the damage observed in “patients with combat-related PTSD.” Is child sexual abuse common in the Sub-Saharan? The Lancet reports reports that 33% of girls and women in Swaziland claimed they were victimized by sexual violence before reaching the age of 18. In Nigeria, rape is reportedly on the increase, particularly child rape. A 2008 news article from Kano, the commercial hub of northern Nigeria, claimed that, “The suspects are usually males between the ages of 45 and 70 while their victims are mostly girls of between three and 11 years.” The article notes that many rapes are never reported because “parents want to save the honor of their daughters and protect their families from embarrassment.”

Although Female Genital Mutilation is a “traditional ritual,” it needs to also be regarded as a violent, traumatic episode that can likely damage the cognitive development of the victims, generally girls aged 4-12. The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees, asserting that FGM has posed a “mental health risk” to 92 million African women. In the Sub-Saharan region, the following rates of FGM prevalence exist in the 15-49 age category, representing tens of millions of women and girls: Ivory Coast (36.4%), Gambia (78.3%), Guinea (95.6%), Liberia (58.2%), Nigeria (29.6%), Sierra Leone (94.0%), Guinea-Bissau (44.5%), and Senegal (28.2%).

Cousin marriage, known as “consanguinity,” is prevalent in many Sub-Saharan groups. In Nigeria it is practiced by the 18 million members of the Hausa tribe, preferentially in marrying patrilateral parallel cousins. The custom is also common among the Yoruba. Cousin marriage increases the risk of birth defects, due to sharing of the genes. The chance of birth defects in a first-time cousin marriage is about 1.7-2.0 times greater than average; if a culture repeats cousin marriage for generation, the odds of genetic mishap increase enormously. In 1993, an Aligarh Muslim University report from India study showed an IQ drop of 11.2 points (from 99.6 to 88.4) in the offspring of cousin marriages.

It isn't about "race" but environmental factors that damage the cognition of all human beings. The staggering loss of brain-power in the world is detrimental to all of us - how many "geniuses" that could contribute enormously to improving the planet are mentally-ruined at by age 5? It is appalling that children's minds are ruined by factors that can be prevented with improved social policies which regardless of all the well meaning intentions capitalism cannot or will not apply.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sudan's Ethnic Cleansing

Hundreds of thousands of Southern Sudanese who have spent most of their lives in the north now find themselves their lives upended when the country split in half. In July South Sudan broke off from Sudan and formed its own nation. But for southerners living north of the border the south’s independence compounded their misery. There will not be any dual citizenship for southerners living in the north. And it is not clear what the status will be for northerners living in the south. The Sudanese government says it is going to strip all southerners of their citizenship starting in April. If they want to remain in Sudan, they must apply for a visa, work permit, residency papers and the like, all of which will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get for impoverished, illiterate people who often have no documents showing when or where they were born. Even if someone was born in the north the restrictions are the same. If the person belongs to an ethnic group that is from the south then that person is considered a southerner.

More than 350,000 southerners have recently relocated, by bus and by barge, from the north to the south.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Africa for Sale

A story is told that when the first European missionaries arrived to Africa, they had a Bible in their hand, and that the African had land in his. The ‘good’ missionaries said to the African to crose his eyes and hold on to the Bible so that they could pray together for the ‘uncivilised’ African’s salvation. When the ‘obedient’ African opened his eyes, in his hand was the Bible, and in the missionary’s hands, was the land.

In the last few decades, millions of hectares have been reported as being under negotiation for lease or sale by developing countries to the rich countries. The land in question refers to 227 million hectares (561 million acres) of land – an area the size of northwest Europe –having been reportedly sold, leased or licensed, largely in Africa and mostly to international investors. The World Bank estimates that in 2009 alone nearly 60 million hectares of land were purchased or leased in developing countries all over the world – an area the size of France. Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of humanitarian food and development assistance, and in 2011, received more than 700,000 tonnes of food and £1.8bn in aid; at the same time, it has offered three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of virgin land to foreign corporations, such as Karuturi. Karuturi Global terms the deal it has with Ethiopia, “the deal of the century: £150 a week to lease more than 2,500 sq. km (1,000 sq. miles) of virgin, fertile land – for 50 years”. The lowest prices are in Africa. “It’s very good land. It’s quite cheap. In fact it is very cheap. We have no land like this in India,” says Karmjeet Sekhon, Karuturi Global Project Manager of what is expected to be one of Africa’s largest farms. “There you are lucky to get 1% of organic matter in the soil. Here, it is more than 5%. We don’t need fertiliser or herbicides. There is absolutely nothing that will not grow on it. To start with, there will be 20,000 hectares of oil palm, 15,000 hectares of sugar cane and 40,000 hectares of rice, edible oils, and maize and cotton. We are building reservoirs, dykes, roads, towns of 15,000 people. This is phase one. In three years’ time, we will have 300,000 hectares cultivated and maybe 60,000 workers. We could feed a nation here.” While the prospects that they can feed a nation is undoubtedly real, the harsh reality is that Ethiopia will not be that nation.

Despite foreseeable terrible consequences, the appetite among the rich countries to own a piece of this developing-country fertile land continues to grow: it’s like witnessing bandits arguing over whom has the right to rob which bank.

Land grab advocates argue it is a “win-win” situation, whereby investors profit and “host” nations benefit from economic development, improved agricultural infrastructure, and employment opportunities.

Yet Professor Reg Noble of Ryerson University in Toronto reminds us that there is enough food in the world to feed the 7 billion-plus people at current food production rates, if the commoditisation of food was not the driving force of this phenomenon. Anuradha Mittal, founder of the Oakland Institute argues that, according to his organization’s ground-breaking report on African land grabs, "The land grab phenomenon is being done in the name of modernizing agriculture and expanding African economies, but it cuts out the core natural resources that support African livelihoods for the majority – land and water. This huge transfer of natural wealth to outside investors is eroding food security, water security and cultural integrity for local people.” Professor Noble, a research associate in food security and community development, blames the land rush on the increasing demand to acquire fertile land by a corporate global minority seeking bio-fuel crops and the new frontier; the need for carbon credits has now turned into a lucrative business.

Beneath the arguments and justifications advocated by land grab speculators and institutions like the African Development Bank, World Bank, Western University pension funds and global agri-business corporations, is the need to produce more food for the commodity market and raw materials for the biofuels industries. Oxfam states that most of the land deals made in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania have been to grow crops for export commodities, including cut flowers and biofuels. In Mozambique, where approximately 35% of households are chronically food insecure, only 32,000 hectares out of the 433,000 approved for land deals between 2007 and 2009 were for food crops.

Affected communities are being pushed far away from their fertile land, and are being boxed into corners next to each other, heightening the probability of resource conflict, a common feature in many African countries. Beyond that is the loss of land ownership while at same time remaining physically present, because there are large-scale agricultural activities next to displaced populations who have neither access to nor the ability to benefit from the leased or sold land. Nearly 10,000 people were displaced from the Namwasa and Luwunga reserve lands in Uganda, with no resettlement assistance and no compensation. In fact, compensation for the leased or sold land is poor or non-existent; likely jobs from land grabs do not materialize; the most vulnerable of the population, namely the women and children, suffer more; and there is irreversible damage done to ecosystems, such as draining of marshland and clearing of forest.

Since colonisation, from in the post-independence era to the age of economic liberalisation thanks to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund African leaders at both the community and national level have always shown a high degree of propensity towards any investors who knock at their door selling ideas of how to turn around the fortunes of their nations. Africa is a very lucrative area due to failed or dysfunctional political systems and a despicable crop of leaders who are easy prey for manipulation, if not exploitation, by any would-be investors. The political elites in African countries have a demeaning attitude towards a majority of their population, and will stop at nothing when it comes to expropriating their people’s resources in an effort to make a ‘killing’ out of anything that previous regimes did not act on during their time in power. South Sudan has also seen a surge of investor interest since the country’s independence in July last year. The South Sudanese government, along with foreign aid agencies, has held a series of events to promote foreign investment in the country, including an international conference in Washington in December. But David Deng, Research Director of the South Sudan Law Society, says that a large number of potential investors have visited the country since the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement, which ended a 22-year civil war between the north and south. Last year, researchers estimated that around 9% of South Sudan’s land had already been leased or bought by investors before independence. Deng said, “Here we have a country that is probably at the most unpredictable time in its entire history, faced with a very real possibility of a return to war, with a government that is just getting on its feet, and it still manages to attract considerable amounts of interest from foreign investors”.

When one hears Western media preaching that Africa is "open for business", it simply means that Africans havn’t learned any of the lessons they should have after many years of exploitation, bringing misery to the continent’s vulnerable populations. Political leaders from countries leasing land argue that it is prudent to lease land in the name of business and economic liberalization. But the ‘voiceless’ and ‘powerless’ local farmers who bear the brunt of the consequences that come with land grabs have a different take. In short, their patience will run out as they quickly approach the edge with no options; they will either have to accept ‘falling off the cliff’ or step forward and say enough is enough, and seek to reclaim the land. African land experts will tell you that this would be like opening a Pandora’s Box that has been steaming for several decades. Across Africa, the box is full of unresolved historical land grievances, so much so that no African government will withstand its ‘explosion’, as time and again, its ugly face has destabilized populations in Kenya, South Sudan and Zimbabwe. But as Kenya and South Sudan walk down the road of the land leasing business, one needs not be a rocket scientist to expect the unexpected.

Adapted from here