They came in their hundreds of thousands. Jews, Muslims (although fewer than hoped for), Christians and atheists: Students, workers, the unemployed and the bourgeoisie. They said “I am Charlie.” “I am Ahmed.” (the policeman executed at Charlie Hebdo). “I am a Jew.” Or, they just said nothing.

They were anarchists, communists and ultra nationalists, social democrats and conservatives. There were also islamophobes and anti-Semites. The one thing that united them all was their refusal to yield to fear and their desire to keep the freedom to think what they want and to be able to say it in public without facing obscurantist violence. This coming together of those who want the right to disagree with each is extraordinary. France, which gave us the enlightenment, 1789 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still Une Grande Nation.

The tourist guide got off the bus and greeted the group of chubby British women with “Shopping in Playa Blanca ? Shopping in Playa Blanca?” He could have said “doggy wanna bone?” and it would have been the same. I knew I had to see this.

Playa Blanca, a sprawling resort on the southern coast of Lanzarote, is everything native born artist César Manrique did not want for his waterless, volcanic island. Thanks to Manrique, the farthest east and the most arid of the Canary Islands escaped the mega hotels which defaced La Palma, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

Banjul, May 5, 2012 – When Europeans went to Berlin with their scissors in 1884 to cut up the map of Africa, they played a sick joke which is still felt today. The British wanted the Palm oil from the Gambia River so they took that out of French West Africa and today the place is called a country: 60 kilometers wide at the Atlantic it snakes 338 kilometers up river where it is just a dozen kilometers wide. French diplomats like to refer to it as the finger in the ass of Senegal. The metaphor is à propos this year as the country obsesses over all things anal.

Nouakchott, Mauritania: On August fourth Mauritanian anti-slavery activists staged a sit-in before a Nouakchott   police station to prevent them from releasing a woman the public prosecutor had just indicted for slavery.  The police intervened.  Thirteen abolitionists were hospitalized and nine arrested with one sentenced to prison for “unauthorized gathering and rebellion”.  The suspected slave owner has disappeared as has the young girl allegedly enslaved.

Nouakchott, Mauritania: The reddish sand from the Sahara still blows across the streets of this sprawling capital of perhaps 800 thousand people where the palaces of wealthy White Moors grow like mushrooms next to the countless Blacks and Touregs sleeping in the streets or in makeshift dwellings without water and electricity.

But the authorities, and their western backers, would have us believe that when five private press groups get a license to broadcast radio and TV for the first time this October, it will represent a major change.  This opening of the airwaves is Sahara sand in our eyes to hide the real racial nature of a regime which has become an important actor in “the war on terrorism”.