27 May 2019


Photograph Source: Justin Macintosh – CC BY 2.0

My friend Andrew Rubin is an amputee. He’s lost his right hand, lower arm, right foot, and lower leg.

He used to be an avid runner and cyclist. He can’t do much of that anymore, although his walking is getting much better. Soon he might be able to run with his artificial leg.

Andrew is incredibly lucky.

The medical catastrophe that left his hand and foot so terribly damaged didn’t kill him. But when his limbs never healed even after a decade, he decided to undergo the amputations. It was his choice, and it was made much easier because he knew what lay ahead: the most advanced artificial limbs ever imagined. The kids call him Bionic Man now.

Andrew is lucky for another reason: He doesn’t live in Gaza.

According to the United Nations, 1,700 young Gazans are facing amputation, mainly of their legs, in the next two years. They’re among the 7,000 unarmed Palestinians in Gaza shot by Israeli snipers over the last year.

Since last spring, thousands of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Gaza have poured out of their teeming refugee camps and houses every Friday to join nonviolent protests, demanding an end to the siege that’s destroying their lives, and the right to return to the homes Israel displaced them from.

Even though they were nonviolent, they were met by Israeli snipers from the beginning. Children, journalists, and medics were targeted too.

International law prohibits using live fire against unarmed civilians unless the police or soldiers are in imminent danger of death. That’s not the case in Gaza. A UN investigation of 189 killings during the first nine months of the protests found that Israeli forces may have committed war crimes.

More than 220 Palestinians have been killed so far. Stunningly, more than 29,000 have been wounded —  including those 7,000 by live fire. So far, 120 have had to endure amputations — including 20 children.

Anyplace else, their limbs might’ve been saved.

But Gaza has been under Israeli military siege for more than 10 years. Hospitals are massively under-equipped, many of them seriously damaged by Israeli bombing. The delicate surgery needed to save shattered bones is virtually impossible there, and the surgeons have no access to the most up-to-date methods.

Andrew had a choice about his amputations. Gazans don’t.

The UN needs $20 million to fill the immediate health funding gap in Gaza.

Otherwise, those 1,700 young Gazans face the catastrophic loss of arms and legs, or risk dying of infection. They’ll have virtually no access to the advanced artificial hands, legs, and feet that my friend Andrew uses.

Unfortunately, U.S. taxpayers are funding this madness.

Every year, we send $3.8 billion directly to the Israeli military — no strings attached — and American companies make the tear gas and other weapons that Israel deploys against demonstrators. Washingto
n makes sure that no Israeli officials, political or military, are ever held accountable at the United Nations for potential war crimes.

Crueler still, the Trump administration has cut off funding for the very UN refugee agency that staffs health clinics in Gaza, even as it funds the Israeli military that’s filling them with gunshot victims.

The protests, overwhelmingly nonviolent, continue — and the killing has continued too, week after week. Meanwhile, there are so many disabled kids in Gaza now that the beleaguered territory is setting up special sports leagues for them.

Israel needs to call off its snipers, lift the siege of Gaza, and stop violating the human and political rights of Palestinians. And until they do, American taxpayers need to close their checkbook.

More articles by:
Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Her most recent book is Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer. 

24 May 2019


It is disingenuous for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies to single out a leader of the ANC, as if the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, was not implementing and promoting ANC policy.

A story is told of how two ladies, one day, spotted Nelson Mandela and Joe Slovo. One wondered who the white man was with Madiba, the other responded: “That’s not a white man, that’s Joe Slovo.”

May 23 this year marks the 93rd birth of Yossel Mashel Slovo better known to us as Joe Slovo or JS. As his name suggests, he was born in Obeliai, Lithuania, to a Jewish family and came with his family, aged eight, to South Africa in 1934. While his father was a truck driver and fruit vendor in Johannesburg, Slovo left school at the age of 15 to start working as a dispatch clerk later becoming a shop steward for the National Union of Distributive Workers. 

A year after leaving school, he would join the Communist Party of South Africa, which would later become the SACP, and volunteered to fight against the Nazis during the World War ll. Eventually, as we all know, JS would become the General Secretary of the SACP while having been the first white person to be elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC at Kabwe in 1985. He would be a sworn enemy of the apartheid regime.

Up to the talks about talks at Groote Schuur, Joe Slovo was an item on the agenda for the Nationalist Party. FW de Klerk and his colleagues hated Slovo so much that they demanded that he not be included in the ANC’s delegation. Madiba would hear none of it. Yet one wonders why they hated him so much. 
Was it because he was a Communist or Chief of Staff of umKhonto weSizwe? Was it because he was a white man and therefore seen as a betrayer of white people in South Africa? Or was it because he was a Jew? Even though JS was an atheist, he would remain faithful to Jewish culture. He would later marry another prominent Jewish anti-apartheid activist, Ruth First.  Yet the story of JS and Madiba sums up the view that the ANC has had not only of white people but also Jews. On the one hand, the story illustrates that non-racialism which has been the foundation of the ANC, more specifically from the days of the Freedom Charter. On the other hand, it tells of an ANC that is simply not anti-Semitic.
In fact, the expulsion of the Gang of Eight, after the Morogoro Conference in 1969, a conference JS played an instrumental role in, exemplifies the intolerance that the ANC, whose membership was opened to all races by this time, had of those Africanist members within its number that criticised the organisation for being “hijacked by minorities”. Like those who left the ANC in the late Fifties to form the Pan Africanist Congress, the Gang of Eight were dissatisfied with the role and prominence played by people such as Joe Slovo in the ANC’s leadership.
Fundamental to the understanding of the ANC, based on the universal principles of the Freedom Charter, was that despite the fact that oppression under apartheid was being led by and favoured white people, it could by no means condemn or in fact judge all White people. Similar to the notion of “an injury to one is an injury to all”, the ANC believed that, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu would put it, freedom would free not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well. White people themselves needed liberation from the chains of apartheid.  The condemnation of the human rights atrocities perpetrated by the apartheid Israeli regime is therefore not a condemnation of all Jewish people. Far from it. In fact, the ANC believes that just as white people needed liberation from the chains of apartheid, so too Israelis need liberation from the atrocities perpetrated by the apartheid state of Israel. The ANC will never hold all Jews responsible nor even condemn them for the atrocities of Israel just as it never held white people, as a group, responsible for the atrocities of the apartheid regime in South Africa. 
The ANC has a long history of the involvement of Jews in its membership and its fight for freedom. It would be anathema for it and its members, and especially its leaders, to be anti-Semitic and in fact one could be disciplined for “sowing racism, sexism, tribal chauvinism, religious and political intolerance, regionalism or any other form of discrimination”. (Rule 25.17.6 of the Constitution of the ANC.)

It is therefore disingenuous and somewhat dangerous for the national vice-president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies firstly to single out a leader of the ANC, as if Lindiwe Sisulu was not simply implementing and promoting ANC policy and, secondly to thereby suggest that the ANC is anti-Semitic because it condemns the atrocious abuses of human rights in the Occupied Territories and the crimes perpetrated against Palestinians globally.

Even more so, it is questionable for the SJBD to speak on behalf of South Africa’s Jewry, as if there are not Jews who do not currently support the State of Israel and even worst to suggest that they are lesser Jews because they do not support Israel.

If Israel wishes to recall its ambassador to Pretoria, as a sovereign state it has all the right to do so. The ANC and, in particular South Africa as a sovereign state, should beg no country to keep its ambassador in place where it does not wish to be represented. In fact, the remarks made by the vice-president of the SAJBD are sectarian and radical in themselves because it serves to cause anxiety and apprehension about the ANC administration under President Cyril Ramaphosa by suggesting that South Africa’s Jewry has an enemy.

As in the last 25 years of democracy, South Africa’s Jewry have nothing to fear and have no enemies. What is well within the government of South Africa, they would find, are enemies of discrimination, enemies of human rights atrocities and enemies of violence.
The words of Nelson Mandela, who was seen with Comrade Joe Slovo by those two ladies in that story, continue to reverberate across our country and the ANC continues to listen to them. “As long as the Palestinian people are not free, South Africa will not be free.” As long as Palestinian people are not free even South Africa’s Jewry will not be free. DM
Jessie Duarte is Deputy Secretary General of ANC

20 May 2019


Electric vehicle charging startup takes on world first, Australia second

Labor's ambitions to ramp up electric vehicles may be in tatters but some small Australian startups are amongst world leaders in the sector.
Brisbane-based Tritium manufactures the fastest electrical vehicle charging stations in the world with 95 per cent of its production exported.
Dr Michael Hajesch, chief executive of IONITY and Dr David Finn, chief executive and co-founder of Tritium with a charging station in Germany.
Dr Michael Hajesch, chief executive of IONITY and Dr David Finn, chief executive and co-founder of Tritium with a charging station in Germany.
"This is a critical piece of infrastructure that allows electric vehicles to make sense," co-founder and chief executive David Finn says.
Mr Finn started Tritium in 2001 with his former university class mates Paul Sernia and James Kennedy after they met as part of a university solar car racing team.
"Back in '99 we were driving across Australia on the power of a toaster and it made you think 'there must be a better way of doing this'," Finn says.
Production of electric bowsers at Tritium.
Production of electric bowsers at Tritium. Credit:Robert Shakespeare

Focus on charging

The trio turned their attention to electric cars but decided to focus on charging stations after identifying it as the key component enabling easy uptake of electric vehicles.
"It is high power to make it convenient," Finn says. "We really focused on what we thought the driver wanted and brought that to the market place."
For the first 10 years Tritium was in business the co-founders funded the startup themselves and once they pivoted to focus on charging stations a Commercialisation Australia grant took Tritium "from a bench top project to something commercially viable".
"From there it has been the story of a growth company, we have had multiple funding rounds," Finn says.
"We launched in European and the North American market and have been riding a wave ever since."
We were driving across Australia on the power of a toaster and it made you think 'there must be a better way of doing this'.
David Finn
Its biggest single customer to date is Ionity, a startup funded by Volkswagan, BMW, Ford and Daimler which operates a charging network across Europe.
"The car companies have spent billions developing vehicle technology and don't want to run the risk of people making a buying decision to stay with a petrol car because they can't charge," Finn says.
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Australian-made electric car leads way
Australian-made electric car leads way
Trade-war feeds volatility; while market sees rate cuts coming
Australian-made electric car leads way
The company involved hopes to build one hundred more by the end of the year but says Australia could miss an important window to the potentially lucrative industry.

Heading for unicorn status

Over the past three years the startup's revenue has doubled every year and it employs 250 people.
Tritium turned over $13.4 million in 2017, $34 million in 2018 and is on track for turnover of $65 million this financial year.
"Even if you just extrapolate that through for six years that is a billion dollar company," says Finn. "We think it is going to accelerate because the market place is changing. More vehicles to the marketplace will accelerate adoption," he says.
Tritium is a Brisbane company that produces electric vehicle chargers
Tritium is a Brisbane company that produces electric vehicle chargersCredit:Ruth McCosker
Australia is among the top 20 nations for new car purchases but electric vehicles represent only 1.2 per cent of sales.
That is set to change with only 11 models of electric car available in Australia at the moment and 60 different models set to be available in the next few years.
"Another factor is the price of batteries dropping, they will reach parity with internal combustion energy in the next few years," Finn says. "For us our focus is on making sure that the petrol station equivalent is there."

Australian 'laggards'

While Tritium's chargers are being snapped up overseas, its products have not got the same traction in the Australian market.
Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon Brookes questioned why there was not more support for Tritium on Twitter last month.
"Fastest chargers in the world," he tweeted. "Made in Australia. Manufacturer. Exporter. Absolutely massive growth industry. And 20 per cent of the jobs of Adani construction phase (not running the mine). From one Aussie tech startup. Imagine if we leaned in?"
Tritium's technology is being used in Australia on a small scale through startup ChargeFox's network.
ChargeFox won $6 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to roll out an ultra-rapid charging network along the major driving routes from Brisbane to Adelaide, including around Sydney and Melbourne, and separately in Western Australia.
Marty Andrews is the co-founder of ChargeFox.
Marty Andrews is the co-founder of ChargeFox.
ChargeFox co-founder Marty Andrews says the startup has raised $17 million and is building 22 sites across the country.
"We use a couple of different charging station manufacturers including Tritium," Mr Andrews says. "It's an Australian-based company and they create chargers as good as any in the world, there are only a handful of companies that make these products. It's ironic to have them in our backyard in a country which, frankly, has been a global laggard in the industry."
Mr Andrews says it is hard for car manufacturers to bring cars to Australia if there is nowhere to charge them.
"We are helping to break the chicken egg cycle and to give manufacturers confidence to bring cars to Australia," he says. "We have the tech and ability to do it here in Australia."


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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm