05 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Delegates from around the world will meet in Marrakech as protesters vow to step up unrest triggered by a fisherman’s death

A Moroccan labourer drives a scooter at the site of the COP 22 in Marrakech

A Moroccan labourer drives a scooter at the site of the COP 22 international climate conference in Marrakech. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Moroccan activists are planning to extend countrywide protests through the weekend so as to bring issues of marginalisation and inequality to international attention at a major global climate summit taking place in Marrakech next week.

Moroccan cities have witnessed the most serious protests since the Arab spring in recent days following an incident in which a fisherman died in an altercation with police. Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death in a rubbish truck trying to retrieve 500kg of fish allegedly caught out of season which had been confiscated.

“It could have happened to any one of us in Morocco”, said 29-year-old Iman, a young mother and student from Marrakech.

“We are not treated as humans by the police or anyone who has any sort of power,” added Yugerten, a 28-year-old student activist, who has been coordinating protests in the city that were attended by thousands last week.

Demonstrators want to maintain their actions to catch the eye of visiting delegations to the UN climate change talks that start on Monday. Yugerten said Facebook was the principal means of getting people together.

“We cannot ask someone on the street to come along, or talk freely to foreign journalists, but on Facebook we are open, even though we know the authorities are watching us there too,” he said. “But we have to keep going because what we have right now isn’t living.”

Iman said one of the principal complaints was how much control the authorities have over ordinary people’s lives. “They can stop us getting a job, or scare our families but … even if you have a job, there is no law to protect you anyway. Look at what happened to Mouhcine.”

When Fikri died, parallels were quickly drawn with Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit seller who set himself on fire after the police confiscated his goods, triggering the Arab spring.

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Ushahidi intends to track cases of voter intimidation or misdirection and any violence that may occur

A man demonstrates in Kibera, Kenya, in 2008 during weeks of post-election unrest

A man demonstrates in Kibera, Kenya, in 2008 during weeks of post-election unrest. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

A Kenyan crowdsourcing platform used to monitor violence during the country’s 2007 election will be deployed on voting day in the US to allow citizens to report cases of “voter intimidation, misdirection, or any other attempts to keep someone from voting”.

Voters witnessing any such problems will be invited to report the violations via text message, Twitter or email to Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony”), which will create a database of incidents.

“This is an exciting development because we are more used to seeing tech ideas flowing from the west to Africa,” said Bitange Ndemo, an associate professor at the University of Nairobi Business School.

“Africa has the youngest population in the world and most disruptive developments or apps that can be scaled up come from young people, so it is good to see African developers taking their place on the global scene.”

During the election campaign the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has called the American electoral system “rigged” and refused to say whether he would accept the outcome if he loses. Some Trump supporters have threatened to take up arms if Trump is deemed to have lost unfairly, and Ushahidi will map any incidents of violence that occur.

Ushahidi gained prominence in December 2007 when a disputed presidential election in Kenya was followed by weeks of unrest in which more than 1,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

Ushahidi collected and recorded eyewitness reports of violence using text messages and Google Maps, and the technology has since been used to monitor elections in other countries.

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In a state still reeling from the Flint crisis the Swiss company would pay next to nothing for the right to pump 210m gallons a year for its bottled water business

Nestlé headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland

Nestlé HQ in Vevey, Switzerland. ‘Why on earth would the state of Michigan … even consider giving MORE water for little or no cost to a foreign corporation with annual profits in the billions?’ Photograph: Laurent Gillieron/AP

Michigan regulators were deluged with angry comments this week, after reports that the state had drafted a permit approval for Nestlé to double the amount of groundwater it pumps from a plant in Evart, Michigan to 210m gallons a year.

The pumping increase is only expected to cost the Swiss food giant $200 a year, and possibly the price of a permit fee, because its bottling plant in Evart is considered a private well under state law, regulators said.

In a statement, Nestlé touted the move as a boon to the state because it is created “some 20 new jobs”. The company is valued at $219bn.

Some local residents were not so enthusiastic.

“Why on earth would the state of Michigan, given our lack of money to address water matters of our own, like Flint, even consider giving MORE water for little or no cost to a foreign corporation with annual profits in the billions?” a man from Ada, Michigan wrote to regulators, who provided the message and others to the Guardian.

“Please do not attempt to justify giving away our resources for the ‘benefit’ of Nestlé adding 20 more jobs.”

The Nestlé plant at Evart is just 120 miles from Flint, where a recent move by public officials to save money by switching water sources caused lead to contaminate the city’s water.

Flint’s water is still not safe to drink without a filter and health have officials said bacterial illnesses are on the rise because residents fear bathing. Flint’s mayor is still lobbying Congress for cash to fix the city’s pipes.

“Please, please, please reconsider allowing Nestlé to pump additional gallons of water from their facility near Evart,” wrote a woman who identified herself as being from Newaygo, Michigan. “The rape of our Michigan inland fresh water sources is a cause for concern, especially when it is done by a private company for profit.”

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North Dakota regulators accuse company of failing to disclose the discovery of Native American symbolic stones on a site where construction was planned

Native American protesters say the pipeline is threatening indigenous cultural heritage.

Native American protesters say the oil pipeline is threatening indigenous cultural heritage. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Reuters

North Dakota regulators are filing a complaint against the oil company building the Dakota Access pipeline for failing to disclose the discovery of Native American artifacts in the path of construction.

The Dakota Access pipeline construction site. Local tribes fear it will contaminate drinking water.

The Dakota Access pipeline construction site. Local tribes fear it will contaminate drinking water. Photograph: Josh Morgan/Reuters

The allegations mark the state’s first formal action against the corporation and add fuel to the claims of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has long argued that the $3.7bn pipeline threatens sacred lands and indigenous cultural heritage.

Julie Fedorchak, chair of the North Dakota public service commission, told the Guardian that on 17 October, pipeline officials found a group of stone cairns –symbolic rock piles that sometimes mark burial grounds – on a site where construction was planned.

The firm, however, failed to notify the commission, in violation of its permit, and only disclosed the findings ten days later when government workers inquired about it, she said.

“I was very disappointed,” said Fedorchak. “We found out from our inspectors. Who knows when we would’ve found out?”

The rebuke is significant given that public officials in North Dakota have repeatedly criticized Native American leaders protesting the pipeline and have gone to great lengths to protect the construction sites from demonstrations. The commission will file a complaint this week and the company could face a maximum fine of $10,000 per day for the ten days without a disclosure, according to Fedorchak.

Native American protesters, who call themselves “water protectors”, said a reprimand from regulators was too little too late and lamented that the state had consistently failed to work with the tribe to prevent the destruction of sacred burial grounds and historic artifacts.

“They are digging up our sites. They are not following the law,” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux tribe member and founder of the Sacred Stone camp, which activists formed in the spring to fight the pipeline.

Over the last week, construction of the 1,1720-mile pipeline – which would carry 470,000 barrels a day from North Dakota to Illinois – has gotten very close to the Missouri river where the tribe fears it would contaminate the regional drinking water.

Indigenous activists, who have faced Mace, rubber bullets, mass arrests and questionable jail conditions, say the project has already bulldozed sacred grounds.

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Dakota Access: women on frontlines tell of violent arrests and police abuse – video

The Native American women leading the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline say they have faced police abuse and mistreatment in jail. North Dakota’s militarized law enforcement has left many of them traumatized. ‘They came with their guns, their weapons and violence and put it on a peaceful people,’ says Lauren Howland, a member of the San Carlos and Jicarilla Apache tribes and Navajo Nation

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Matthew Luckhurst dismissed for ‘vile and disgusting act’, said San Antonio police chief, after other officers reported him for bragging about alleged incident

cop poop sandwich why

Matthew Luckhurst was fired from the San Antonio police department after being reported for putting a sandwich filled with feces next to a homeless man. Photograph: San Antonio police department

A Texas police officer has been fired for allegedly giving a sandwich filled with feces to a homeless man.

Matthew Luckhurst lost his job for what the San Antonio police chief, William McManus, described as a “vile and disgusting act”.

The incident is said to have taken place in May. According to a police statement, Luckhurst “bragged to a fellow officer that he had picked up some feces, placed it in a slice of bread, and put it in a Styrofoam container next to the unknown homeless male”.

The other officer said he told Luckhurst to go back and throw the container away and assumed that he did. Luckhurst is a five-year veteran of the department who had been working downtown on bike patrol for a year.

Police said that an internal affairs investigation was launched in July after an officer reported Luckhurst to his supervisor, and the case was presented to police and civilian review boards in October. Both recommended an indefinite suspension that was upheld after McManus met with Luckhurst last week. Police said they have been unable to locate the homeless man.

McManus said in a statement: “This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of ‘treating all with integrity, compassion, fairness and respect’. The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated. The action of this one former officer in no way reflects the actions of all the other good men and women who respectfully serve this community.”

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