BURUNDI – AFRICA / INTERNATIONAL : 21 JANVIER 2010 [Rwanda: 'Butcher of Tumba' Arrested, Released On Bail]

{jcomments on}OMAR, AGNEWS, BXL, le 21 janvier 2010 – James Karuhanga,The New Times – January 21, 2010–Kigali — Sosthène Munyemana, a Genocide fugitive living in France, was arrested Wednesday morning by French authorities but later released on bail, The New Times has learnt.


Rwanda: ‘Butcher of Tumba’ Arrested, Released On Bail
James Karuhanga /allafrica.com/The New Times/21 January 2010

Kigali — Sosthène Munyemana, a Genocide fugitive living in France, was arrested Wednesday morning by French authorities but later released on bail, The New Times has learnt.

In April 1994, Munyemana, then a prominent gynecologist at the University Hospital in Butare, allegedly participated in various heinous killing sprees that earned him the name “The Butcher of Tumba”.

Alain Gauthier, president of Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), a Paris-based, anti-Genocide organization that is pushing the French justice system to prosecute Genocide suspects living in France, said that Munyemana, a doctor in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, was arrested in the morning but later released on bail.

Gauthier said that the fugitive was informed that an extradition request is in place and that he will be brought before court again.

“The French justice will decide on this new extradition request to Rwanda. Note that on four occasions, similar requests for Bivugabagabo, Kamali, Simbikangwa Kamana were rejected,” a seemingly said a concerned Gauthier, He was referring to several Genocide suspects living in France and whose extradition requests by Rwanda were turned down by French courts..

“Will the new political will permit a positive decision? Nothing is certain,” Gauthier noted.

Rwanda: Commonwealth to Support Vision 2020
Gashegu Muramira /allafrica.com/The New Times/21 January 2010

Kigali — The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma yesterday arrived in the country, and from the onset, said that the organization would like to partner with Rwanda in achieving its Vision 2020.

“I see a very large area in the Vision 2020 where we can work together in the years to come,” he told reporters shortly after his arrival at Kigali International Airport.

Sharma, who thereafter left for Kigali Genocide Memorial Site, said that the Vision 2020’s six pillars, among them, governance, the rule of law and democracy, correspond well with Commonwealth’s focus.

“These are the strengths of the Commonwealths and these are very clear areas where we can be partners. There are also other areas like resource and skills development, education, as well as institutional building,” he said.

Asked what the Commonwealth would do compel its member states to comply in apprehending several Genocide fugitives still at large, Sharma was non committal.

“I will have to discuss this with the leadership here and see what it is that they would wish the Commonwealth to be engaged in, depending upon the strength of the Commonwealth, we shall take it from there,” he said.

His two-day visit comes barely three months after Rwanda was welcomed into the 54-member organisation.

Sharma is scheduled to meet and consult with top government officials as well as address the press before his departure.















Buy the world a Coke: Gates links poor farmers to soft drink giant
Posted by Kristi Heim/seattletimes.nwsource.com/January 21, 2010

Coca-Cola is easily one of the most recognized brands in the world. Could linking some of the most impoverished people in Africa to the corporate giant’s supply chain be a win-win for both?

The Gates Foundation is funding a project to help farmers in Kenya and Uganda produce fruit for Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola says the farmers can help it meet a critical need to increase production as global and local demand for fruit juice grows.

The $7.5 million Gates grant will go to TechnoServe, a U.S.-based nonprofit, to train mango and passion-fruit farmers to improve their quality and increase production, and to provide the farmers with credit.

TechnoServe works with large corporations like Coca-Cola, using a private sector approach to align corporate interests with those of small enterprises in developing countries, and increase profits for both.

The project aims to bring 50,000 farmers into Coca-Cola’s supply chain for the first time and to double their incomes by 2014.

For some perspective on this new partnership, I asked Chris MacDonald, a business ethics expert who teaches at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada and is a Senior Fellow at Duke University. He has written about Coca-Cola’s work in developing countries, including this report on an African water project.

“This clearly seems like a positive thing, over all,” he said in an email about the new Gates-funded partnership. But the way it’s set up makes all the difference. “It would be best if these farmers are being brought into Coca Cola’s supply chain in a way that doesn’t leave them dependent on it,” he said. “Being dependent on the purchasing whims of any particular company seems dangerous, maybe a mixed blessing.”

I also checked the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, which keeps track of the record of many companies, including Coca-Cola. The company has come under fire for its water use in India. Yet it has also taken steps to build or repair water infrastructure in African countries.

Coca-Cola said the partnership will also serve as a model for the way it approaches other developing country markets where it does business.The four-year, $11.5 million partnership includes a $3 million contribution by Coca-Cola and $1 million from its bottling partner Coca-Cola Sabco.

Including loans to farmers as part of the project also raises some questions. “Anything that requires farmers to go into debt is at least a little worrisome,” MacDonald said. While debt can be useful for people expecting incomes to rise, “I hope those farmers are getting some good, impartial advice about their financial planning.”

The Gates Foundation’s longer term goals for African agricultural development are eradicating poverty and improving food security. With a company whose main product isn’t healthy, “there’s reason to be worried about the company extending its reach, and hence its market, into more and poorer countries,” MacDonald said.

Southridge High students to rally in Beaverton against Uganda’s proposed anti-gay legislation
By Melissa Navas, The Oregonian /January 21, 2010

BEAVERTON — Uganda is not just another dot on the map to Southridge High School students. Because of a long-standing sister-school relationship, they know of the African country’s language, food, people and struggles.

So when they heard in December about proposed legislation that would impose harsh punishments, including the death penalty and imprisonment, on homosexuals or people with HIV, students jumped at the chance to plan a schoolwide rally.

“The student body thinks this is a good cause because it’s something we can all gather around,” said senior Robbie Ohanesian.

What started as a small event has mushroomed into a march Saturday through Beaverton followed by a rally featuring student speakers and local political leaders, as well as representatives of gay rights organizations and human rights groups. Students from other Beaverton schools and other districts as well as people from area churches have said they will attend.

Student organizers say people have joined their movement because this is a human rights issue, not just a gay issue.

“Here in the states, we’re more worried about bigger legal rights like gay marriage and discrimination laws in work and housing,” said senior Rina Sundahl, co-president of Southridge’s Gay-Straight Alliance. “But that’s nothing compared to the right to be alive because you’re gay.”

The bill, introduced in September, would make homosexuality a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Sexually active gays who have HIV could be sentenced to death. The law includes Ugandans living abroad, who could be extradited and punished. Final action on the legislation is pending.

Southridge follows Ugandan cultural and political news more closely than most schools because of its sister-school relationship with St. Andrew’s Matale Senior Secondary School in Kalisizo. Teachers spend a unit focusing on Uganda in freshmen world history classes.

“They’ve only been exposed to reading about Africa through textbooks,” said Sean Mailey, a history teacher. “This gives them a chance to study about Africa in a real way.”

Students got more exposure last year when four Ugandan students spent nearly three weeks at Southridge. In 2008, a group of Southridge students and staff visited St. Andrew’s to help build a science lab for the private school, where about half the students are orphans of a parent who died of HIV or AIDS.

Senior Evy Lopez, who grew up in Lesotho, South Africa, said she is worried about all of the children who would be affected by the bill, including her Ugandan friends who have parents living with AIDS.

“It feels like another Holocaust to me,” said Lopez, who is helping plan the rally. “It feels like we are cleansing out the people who are different from us.”

The rally’s theme is “Respect Humanity,” a concept that learning specialist Rich Matkins emphasized when he coordinated a schoolwide survey in 2007 polling students on safety and tolerance of everything from race to gender. One of his findings: 83 percent of students never stood up for their peers who were being bullied.

“We all need to step up to the plate and develop sensitivity and compassion for people who are different than us,” said Matkins, Gay-Straight Alliance adviser
Students in the alliance, Uganda Club and leadership class are planning the event. Momentum has grown as students sent invitations, submitted permits to the city and began fielding media requests. A Facebook event page shows 350 people saying they will attend.

“We want the students to stand up for what is right,” senior Morgan Woods said. Woods and another leadership class student, Seta Kavianian, first came up with the idea for a rally after their teacher, Mailey, brought the issue to their attention.

Ohanesian, student body president, said he’s been impressed with the way students have rallied around “this humongous idea.”

He hopes adults pay attention to the youth.

“I have never seen something like this before — people my age able to organize and get together,” Ohanesian said. “As youth, we’ve always been told that we have voices and can step out, and now we’re able to see that. This sets a precedent for our community.”



















A New Study Finds Death Toll in Congo War too High
Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University in Canada says the IRC surveys that came up with 4.5 million deaths were not done using appropriate scientific methodologies
www1.voanews.com/James Butty /21 January 2010

| Washington, DC
It has been said that the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed an estimated 5.4 million people, making it the most lethal since World War II.

The figure of 5.4 million deaths since 1988 was the finding of surveys done by the New York-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), a private relief agency.

Now a new review released Wednesday said the death toll in the Congo war could be reduced significantly if proper research methodology had been used.

Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Report Project, a research institute at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said his group found two major problems with the IRC’s figure of 5.4 million deaths from the DRC war.

“The first one is we believe that the first two surveys that were carried out to cover the period from 1998 to 2001, those surveys weren’t carried out in appropriate scientific manner…the second problem is that in their final survey which were done much more appropriately is that they used a pre-war mortality rate which was much too low. And the lower you assume the pre-war mortality, the higher you’re going to find the excess overall war death toll,” he said

Mack said compounding the problem was that the pre-war mortality used was the average for Sub-Saharan Africa.

He said the DRC which languishes at the bottom of just every development indicator that exists cannot be used as an average for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mack said his research group believes far less people must have died in the DRC war than the 5.4 million put forth by the IRC.

He said his group was reluctant to put any specific figure on the total number of deaths because it is so difficult to make an appropriate scientific measurement.

“When we used an alternative measure of the pre-war mortality rate, we found that the IRC estimates of their final three surveys, the figure dropped from 2.83 million to under 900,000. We did that simply to show that if you take another equally plausible but unprovable figure than you can finish up with a number that is way, way low,” Mack said.

The United Nations Security Council used the IRC’s death toll of 5.4 million to put together its 20,000 troops-strong peacekeeping mission for DRC, the largest such operation in the world.

Mack praised the IRC for helping to focus international attention on the war in the DRC, but he said his research group was concerned about the methodology used.

“We are far from being critical of the International Rescue Committee at all. Our sole point is that we do not believe that using these survey methods you can come up with reliable best estimates. And we think that there are alternative ways of showing the depth of a humanitarian crisis without resulting to these methodologies which are extremely controversial,” Mack said.

He said his group’s report was not about the war in the DRC. Instead Mack said the main focus of the review was to show that the death toll from wars has been declining.

“I should say that our report was not about the Congo. Our report was actually a good news story about how the human cost of war throughout the world, and especially in Africa has been going down. Fewer and fewer people are being killed in wars in Africa today than any time previously,” Mack said.

Richard Brennan, one of the co-authors of the IRC surveys that are under scrutiny, said while there were limitations to doing the study in war-ravaged Eastern Congo, he does not believe those limitations invalidate the findings.

“Certainly there were limitations in what we did because of insecurity in eastern Congo. So we had to make these assumptions and extrapolations which we believe were conservative. We acknowledge that there were some limitations but we do not believe and many other experts do not believe that they invalidate our findings,” Brennan said.









One Year Later, the World Judges Obama
GlobalPost: Around the Globe, People are Expressing Disappointment in President Obama a Year After his Election
www.cbsnews.com/Jan. 21. 2010

When President Barack Obama was sworn in one year ago, the world embraced him as one of their own.

The first African-American president could claim heritage from Kenya to Kansas and from Indonesia to Ireland. He was elected on the hope of a nation, and inaugurated amid the pride of a global family.

And guess what? Now they’re all treating him like, well, family.

They expect more from him. They wonder why he never calls. He doesn’t write…

In Indonesia, their feelings are hurt that he hasn’t come to visit the place where he came of age. In Kenya, they wonder if he has forgotten the place from which his ancestors hailed. In Afghanistan, they are profoundly disappointed in his behavior. In Iraq, like all in-laws, they can’t wait to say goodbye after too long a visit. Europe, like an older brother, feels protective, and maybe a bit jealous.

And right here in the liberal bastion of Boston, the home of his closest political relatives, Obama is in a full-blown family feud. Tuesday, Obama and his policies were stunningly rebuked when Massachusetts voters elected a hard-right Republican to fill the Senate seat of the “liberal lion,” Ted Kennedy.

On that cold day on Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama put his right hand on the same bible used by Abraham Lincoln, GlobalPost featured a series of essays, reports, videos and photo slideshows in a special report titled “… For Which It Stands: America and the World.” In the series, we explored how the world views America and how America views the world.

After eight years of President George W. Bush, it was a time when one poll after the next showed America’s image in the world had never been lower. And here was a new president reaching out to and engaging with the world. It seemed the beginning of a new era, a time of unbridled hope and optimism that this president would indeed bring about change.

We invite you to take a look back at last year’s stories as a metric for whether Obama has succeeded and where we are today. One year on, we asked many of those same correspondents and columnists to revisit how Obama and America are viewed today.

Now 365 days later, the world seems largely impatient with the idea that the president’s soaring rhetoric has not been matched with deeds. His public diplomacy is strong, but our correspondents are hearing from every corner of the world that to carry out the hard work of affecting change he still has a long way to go.

In Kenya, Tristan McConnell writes that Obama’s speech last July during a visit to sub-Saharan Africa resonated with Africans.

“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” Obama declared to loud applause.

But as McConnell reports from Nairobi, the administration policy on Africa still has not taken shape.

In Indonesia, Peter Gelling writes of a nation that was honored to have had a personal connection with the life of Obama, who lived in Jakarta as a boy. The word on the street was that Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, might be the first place he visited. It never happened. He went to Canada and then London and then Egypt and Africa and China and he made it to Oslo to collect his Nobel Peace Prize and then to Copenhagen for the conference on climate change.

The Indonesians even built a statue of 10-year-old Obama in shorts and a T-shirt with the Nobel Peace Prize hanging around his neck and a butterfly on his hand. A plaque reads, “The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”

Now a Facebook page is gaining more and more members – more than 60,000 and climbing – calling for the statue to be taken down.

In Afghanistan, correspondent Jean MacKenzie writes that the thing Afghans might remember most is that the day of Obama’s inauguration was the day full electrical power came to Kabul and the lights came on – and stayed on through the night. It was a first since the fall of the Taliban.

“Now, a year later, much of the glow has dimmed, at least from the perspective of this sad and war-ravaged nation,” writes MacKenzie.

“It was inevitable, of course – no one could have lived up to the inflated expectations that Obamamania had generated. But in Afghanistan the disappointments have been especially bitter.”

In almost every corner of the world, it seems Obama has fallen short of the extraordinary faith so many were willing to put in his ability to affect change. Our columnist HDS Greenway observes that there are few foreign policy successes to highlight. And Greenway quotes former U.S. national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said Obama “has not yet made the transition from an inspiring orator to compelling statesman. Advocating that something happen is not the same as making it happen.”

GlobalPost columnist Mohamad Bazzi agrees. Bazzi introduces an Arabic term used in the Middle East for bloated rhetoric. It is called, “haki fadi,” or “empty talk.”

As Bazzi writes, “In his appeal to the Arab world, President Barack Obama is dangerously close to being full of haki fadi.”

But not all corners of the world are expressing discontent in Obama.

In London, columnist Tom Fenton write that Obama is more popular in Europe than in his own country.

In fact, a German Marshall Fund poll released in the fall showed that support for the American president has jumped 88 points since the days of President Bush.

“You can bask in the glow of being an American in Paris these days, like you could in the good old days after World War II,” writes Fenton.

So perhaps at the end of the day, Obama is now truly part of the family, no longer an honored guest or a favorite son. And, as the saying goes, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”




Ghanaian fans in Angola request for protection
Thursday, 21 January 2010 /www.ghanasoccernet.com

Ghanaians fans in Angola have called on officials of the Ghana FA to request for security protection for fans will be at the Estadio Luanda for Sunday’s first quarter-finals match.

The fans, some of whom are residents in the Southern African country, fear they could be attacked should the Black Stars beat the host Nation and progress.

Pundits believe Angola’s exit will affect match attendance at the tournament which has reached its halfway stage.

“Ghana will be playing against the whole country of Angola and you can imagine what will happen in the country if we win. We need protection to avoid any unforseen circumstances,” an anonymous fan who has lived in Angola for 27 years said.

“Angola has spent over 1 billion dollars in hosting this tournament and it will be heartbreak for them if we win and their reaction is what we fear.

“We have confidence in our team that is why we are asking for this. Angolans are nice people but in football you can never predict the aftermath.”

Angola are hosting Africa’s biggest football event for the first time.








Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa: Sub-Sahara Bond, Currency Preview
By Franz Wild/Jan. 21

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) — The following events and economy reports may influence trading in sub-Saharan African bonds and currencies today.

Democratic Republic of Congo: The central African country will announce the amount of Treasury bills it sold at its last auction.

The Congolese franc rose 1 percent against the dollar to 904.4868 at 12:04 p.m. in Kinshasa, the capital, from the previous day’s close.

The rate on the 28-day Treasury bill was 66 percent at an auction held on Jan. 14.

Kenya: East Africa’s largest economy will sell 12 billion Kenyan shillings ($157.7 million) worth of two- and five-year bonds. The bond maturing September 2014 has a coupon of 9.50 percent and the January 2012 note pays an interest rate of 8 percent, according to the Central Bank of Kenya.

The shilling strengthened 0.4 percent to 75.54 to the dollar at 4:36 p.m. in the capital, Nairobi, from the previous day’s close.

The average yield on the 91-day Treasury bill due April 19 was 6.502 percent at an auction on Jan. 14.

Nigeria: A court will rule on whether President Umaru Yar’Adua, who has been receiving medical treatment for a heart condition in Saudi Arabia since Nov. 23, is capable of ruling.

The naira weakened 0.3 percent to 150.25 versus the dollar as of 3:08 p.m. in the commercial capital, Lagos.

South Africa: The continent’s biggest economy holds public hearings to assess state power utility Eskom Holdings Ltd.’s application to raise tariffs by 35 percent a year for three years. Also, the World Bank will release revised growth forecasts for sub-Saharan African countries.

The rand fell for a second straight day, losing 1.4 percent to 7.5019 per dollar by 3:44 p.m. in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital.

The yield on the benchmark 13.5 percent government bond due September 2015 rose two basis points at 8.57 percent.

Gillingham: Semenya affair rumbles on
Thursday, January 21, 2010/www.thisisnottingham.co.uk

I HAVE further evidence that lawyers are keen on academic argument yet, from time to time, hopelessly out of touch with the real world.

It comes from Johannesburg where world athletics champion Caster Semenya’s legal representative is fighting to protect his client’s right to compete as a woman.

You will recall that in August last year at the world championships in Berlin, the previously unknown Semenya cantered home way ahead of a world-class field to win the women’s 800m without apparently breaking sweat. Her appearance added to the controversy. Heavily-muscled she cut a masculine shape. She also has a deep voice.

Thankfully, no sooner had the initial hullabaloo died down in Berlin than Ms Semenya was afforded the sympathy she deserved.

It was revealed her own South African management had gone into the championships concerned about her status while Athletics South Africa’s president confessed that he had orchestrated a cover-up of results of preliminary medical tests that would have gone a long way to determining Semenya’s gender long before she had to leave for Berlin.

We are led to believe that it was an experience that left Semenya (pictured below) broken and in emotional turmoil. Yet, five months on, Semenya is apparently desperate to compete again and willing to put herself through what will inevitably be even closer scrutiny and perhaps more humiliation by competing in three women’s races when the South African domestic athletics season gets underway next week.

Thankfully, the republic’s leading sports official has spoken up. He reckons it is not a good idea.

And though cynics will suggest his motives are political, Gideon Sam claims that she should not run again until the matter of her gender is resolved.

That will only be done once the world governing body, the IAAF, has concluded its investigation.

Semenya’s lawyer, Gregory Nott, disagrees.

He claims that by preventing his client from competing her human rights are being infringed. And Semenya’s coach has ramped up the pressure by announcing that his charge’s domestic appearances are just the first steps in a campaign that will take her on to the lucrative European indoor circuit next month.

“Caster is a world champion,” Nott says. “She has committed no wrongdoing. On the contrary she has competed with the best and won. Her medal is confirmed, as is her prize money, and her record stands.”

Semenya’s legal team and the IAAF are reported to be in discussions to resolve the impasse. “Naturally, her continued athletic career is one which needs to be safeguarded,” Nott says. “We believe that this can be done if a settlement is achieved.”

He adds: “We continue to have faith in the negotiation process.”

I wish him well in his endeavours. But since when has gender been an issue of “negotiation”?

Afgri, African Rainbow, Foord: South Africa Equity Preview
By Janice Kew and Franz Wild/Bloomberg/Jan. 21

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) — The following is a list of companies whose shares may have unusual price changes in South Africa. Stock symbols are in parentheses after company names and prices are from the last close.

South Africa’s FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index fell for a second day, losing 184.92, or 0.7 percent, to 27,901.74.

Anglo American Plc (AGL SJ): South Korea, Asia’s third- biggest buyer of base metals, forecast that average prices may gain by more than 15 percent this year. Anglo slipped 3.6 percent to 326.21 rand. BHP Billiton Plc (BIL SJ) dropped 2.4 percent to 245.75 rand. Merorex Ltd. (MTX SJ) fell 2.3 percent to 4.67 rand.

ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd. (ACL SJ): Crude steel production rose to a record in 2009 in China, the largest maker. ArcelorMittal dropped 1.1 percent to 112.80 rand.

Afgri Ltd. (AFR SJ): The government’s Crop Estimates Committee issues its latest estimate. Afgri, which handles about a quarter of South Africa’s grain, was unchanged at 6 rand.

African Rainbow Minerals Ltd. (ARI SJ): The mining company that owns a majority stake in the Two Rivers platinum mine in eastern South Africa said about 55 workers are striking illegally there. African Rainbow slid 1 rand, or 0.5 percent, to 183.25 rand.

Foord Compass Ltd. (FCPD SJ): The investment company said its net attributable asset value per debenture rose to 757.1 cents in the year through Dec. 31, from 742.9 cents a year earlier. Foord shares dropped 2 cents, or 0.3 percent to 6.63 rand.

Vukile Property Fund Ltd. (VKE SJ): The property holding and investment company today warned unitholders to exercise “caution” until the financial effects and profit forecast for its 775 million rand ($103 million) acquisition of three Sanlam Ltd. units are published, according to a statement distributed by the Johannesburg stock exchange’s news service today. Vukile closed yesterday at 10.70 rand.

Shares or American depositary receipts of the following South African companies closed
as follows yesterday:

Anglo American Plc (AAUKY US) fell 6 percent to $21.68. AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (AU US) shed 3.6 percent to $39.30. BHP Billiton Plc (BBL US) slipped 4 percent to $65.99. DRDGold Ltd. (DROOY US) dropped 6.5 percent to $6.96. Gold Fields Ltd. (GFI US) fell 3.2 percent to $12.90. Harmony Gold Mining Co. (HMY US) lost 3.5 percent to $10.06. Impala Platinum Holdings Co. (IMPUY US) dove 3.2 percent to $28.39. Sappi Ltd. (SPP US) was down 2.2 percent at $4.49. Sasol Ltd. (SSL US) dropped 3.3 percent to $39.78.













F.B.I. Charges Arms Sellers With Foreign Bribes
www.nytimes.com/By DIANA B. HENRIQUES/ January 21, 2010

Sometimes the proposition was delivered in a quiet corner of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. Sometimes the setting was the elegant Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a few blocks from the White House.

The topic might be grenade launchers, rifles, handguns, ammunition or bulletproof vests — components of the basic Warlord Starter Kit.

But the question put to a succession of arms industry executives last May was always the same: Would you pay bribes to get a piece of a $15 million contract to equip the presidential guard of an African country?

According to the Justice Department, almost two dozen executives said yes, put it in writing and wrote checks — without realizing that the African officials getting the bribes were actually undercover F.B.I. agents.

The play-acting ended on Tuesday, when 22 top-level executives, including a senior sales executive at Smith & Wesson, were arrested in what Justice Department officials called the first undercover sting ever aimed at violations of the federal ban on corporate bribes paid to get foreign business.

Even in its relatively quiet disclosure of the cases on Tuesday, the Justice Department was careful to withhold any details that might identify or endanger the undercover team, saying that the investigation was continuing.

The case is the biggest prosecution of individuals for foreign corporate bribery ever pursued by the Justice Department. The 16 indictments in the case are also the early fruits of a new initiative for the Justice Department, Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general for the criminal division, said in an interview on Wednesday.

“This is the first time we’ve used the technique of an undercover operation in a case involving foreign corporate bribery,” Mr. Breuer said. “The message is that we are going to bring all the innovations of our organized crime and drug war cases to the fight against white-collar criminals.”

All of the defendants work at, or run, small companies that supply the staples of military and law enforcement life everywhere — small arms, uniforms, bullets — and that jockey for deals at a level well below military industry giants like Lockheed or Boeing.

The arrests seemed orchestrated to deliver the Justice Department’s message directly to others in the business. All but one of the defendants were arrested on Tuesday in Las Vegas, where they were attending the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show and Conference, known as the SHOT Show, which is billed as “the world’s premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, archery, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, camping and related products and services.”

The drama began to unfold last spring in the sleek beachfront glamour of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. There, on May 13, the curtain went up on a two-city sting worthy of a George Clooney caper.

After a closely guarded investigation that had taken more than two years, the cast was in place.

There was a mystery figure identified in the indictments as “Individual 1,” a former executive in the law enforcement and military equipment industry who clearly lent credibility to the business deal offered to the defendants, all described as business associates of his.

There was “Undercover Agent 1,” an F.B.I. agent posing as a representative of the defense minister of an unidentified African nation, Country A. And there was “Undercover Agent 2,” another agent posing as a procurement officer who reported directly to the defense minister.

Over two days in Miami, a number of executives sat down in separate meetings with the undercover team to discuss a sales opportunity. A week later, the undercover team moved to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, where more executives sat down to talk.

The script varied only in the products on the shopping list.

In each case, the former sales executive said that a friend of his, a self-employed sales agent, was “tasked by Country A’s minister of defense with obtaining various defense articles for outfitting Country A’s presidential guard.”

The two people with the shopping list were actually the undercover agents. The goods would be shipped, not to Africa, but to a warehouse in Virginia. The “bribes” would be paid into a government bank account.

According to the Justice Department, all the defendants agreed to pay a 20 percent “commission” to the sales agent, even after being clearly told that half would go into the defense minister’s pocket, and they sent e-mail messages that confirmed their decisions.

In each case, the indictments said, the defendants completed a small “test” deal to reassure the fictional defense minister that he would personally get half of the 20 percent commission — as a bribe.

According to one indictment, a Florida executive later showed the deal to his company’s outside law firm and sent the undercover team an e-mail message rejecting the corrupt proposal. The same day, he called and negotiated a way to do the deal anyway, the indictment said.

Another of the defendants is Amaro Goncalves, who is vice president for sales at Smith & Wesson in Springfield, Mass. The company confirmed on Wednesday that Mr. Goncalves was an employee and said it was “prepared to cooperate fully” with the investigation. Mr. Goncalves, free on bail, could not be reached for comment.

The individuals are being prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That law, which dates to 1977, prohibits American citizens and companies — and, since 1998, foreign citizens and companies acting in the United States — from bribing foreign government officials to get or keep business.

For many years, some Foreign Corrupt Practices Act experts say, the United States waged a lonely battle against such transactions. But Mr. Breuer of the Justice Department said on Wednesday that “international cooperation is growing every day and getting better and better.” He particularly cited the help of British law enforcement agents, who served related search warrants in London on Tuesday.

The work of the F.B.I. was the core of the case. Besides the undercover team, more than 150 agents were involved in serving arrest and search warrants on Tuesday, according to Kevin Perkins, the assistant director of the bureau’s Criminal Investigative Division.

The investigation was led by an F.B.I. squad in Washington that specializes in foreign bribery investigations. New investigations are under way in other parts of the country, as well — one law enforcement source said that prosecutors in Brooklyn now have nearly a half-dozen in the works, compared with none three years ago.

The latest defendants, none of whom have yet been formally arraigned, are all accused of conspiring to violate the act; conspiring to engage in money laundering; and violating the act. The maximum term for the conspiracy and act violations is five years, while the money laundering conspiracy charge carries a prison term of 20 years.

The defendants are scheduled to make their first appearances in United States District Court in Washington on Feb. 3, a Justice Department spokeswoman said. However, the department said in its announcement that all were presumed innocent unless they had confessed or had been convicted.

Mr. Breuer said the real success of the sting would come in the months and years ahead. “From now on,” he said, “would-be F.C.P.A. violators should stop and ponder whether the person they are trying to bribe might really be a federal agent.”

Jenny Anderson contributed reporting.

Salazar Seeks Import Ban on Invasive Snakes
By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF/greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/ January 21, 2010

Reptile retailers, brace yourselves: the federal government wants to ban the import of some large and seemingly popular snakes.

Responding to growing concern over the spread of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Wednesday to ban both the import and interstate transport of the python and eight other snake species, all large constrictors.

Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, announced the move in a news conference in the cargo area at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the nation’s biggest entry point for wildlife imports.

The proposal would add four species of python, four species of anaconda and the boa constrictor to a list of “injurious species” regulated by federal law, making their import and their transportation across state lines a misdemeanor. Violators would face fines and up to six months’ imprisonment.

The Burmese python poses an enormous threat to native wildlife in the Everglades, and the first ones to enter the area are believed to have been former pets that were released into the wild, Mr. Salazar said. “The Burmese python and these other alien snakes are destroying some of our nation’s most treasured — and fragile — ecosystems,” he said.

Today an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 Burmese pythons live in the Everglades, according to George Horne, deputy executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees restoration work on the Everglades.

The proposed ban would do little to halt the spread of the Burmese python breeding population in Florida. But it would help prevent even more destructive species, like the green anaconda and the northern African rock python — both of which can grow even larger than the Burmese python – from becoming established in the state, Mr. Horne said.

The proposal will be published in the Federal Register in February along with an economic and environmental analysis of its impact, and the public will then have 60 days to comment.

If adopted, the new regulations will supplant proposed federal legislation that also sought a ban on the trade in pythons and other large snakes.

In recent months, the staff of the South Florida Water Management District has captured some northern African rock pythons, which can pose a threat to humans, near populated areas. “The north African rock python –- they’ve been known to attack children in Africa,” Mr. Horne said. “One was found right next to a subdivision in Miami.”

Andrew Wyatt, president of the Association of Reptile Keepers, said it preferred the Fish and Wildlife proposal to the proposed federal legislation because it would be subject to scientific review. He argues that many of the species listed under the proposed ban would probably not meet the scientific criteria for “injurious species.”

If enacted, Mr. Wyatt said, the proposed ban would cause devastating losses to breeders of the snakes and threaten to criminalize thousands of previously law-abiding citizens. He estimated that there are about two million boa constrictors now in captivity in the United States.

Loren Leigh, president of a reptile supply company in San Diego that sells the snake varieties covered under the ban, called the proposed ban a “knee-jerk reaction.” “A lot of these animals aren’t as harmful as they’ve been made out to be — they’re pets,” he said. “They’re being billed as these vicious monsters.”

VIDEO: SA team in miracle rescue
January 21 2010/www.iol.co.za/By Graeme Hosken and Agencies

Port-au-Prince – South African rescuers have pulled out alive a 60-year-old woman from the rubble of a hospital – and helped in the rescue of another 69-year-old woman – seven days after the catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti.

The Gift of the Givers team, comprising advanced life support paramedics and urban search and rescue experts, along with a group of Mexican rescuers, were frantically trying to reach another four patients last night, trapped beneath tons of concrete and steel of the Port-au-Prince hospital.

Gift of the Givers chairman Imtiaz Sooliman, speaking from South Africa hours after the rescue of the 60-year-old women, who is still to be named, said the extrication took nearly three hours.

Sooliman said the rescue came after the team was given the gruesome task of removing 600 bodies from a hospital, to start preparing the premises to be used as a hospital.

The hospital is believed to be one of several in Port-au-Prince that were completely destroyed in the earthquake which has killed an estimated 200 000 people.

Sooliman said last night that rescuers from South Africa and Mexico were now desperately trying to reach the four patients, who were still trapped in the rubble.

The South African rescuers also helped a Mexican team to pull Ena Zizi, 69, from a collapsed church outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, yesterday.

Zizi had survived a week buried in the ruins of the residence of Haiti’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, whose body was found yesterday sitting in a chair.

Doctors said Zizi was dehydrated and had dislocated a hip and broken a leg.

“I’m all right, sort of,” she said, lying on a foil thermal blanket outside the Cuban hospital, her grey hair covered in white dust.

An ardent Catholic, Zizi sang a hymn of praise and thanks to God in a strong but strained voice that resonated across the hospital garden filled with ailing quake victims on stretchers.

“This is a miracle,” said one of her sons, bank clerk Joseph Josner.

It is believed that two more women, thought to be nuns, could still be trapped alive inside the rubble of the church.

Durban rescue specialist, Charlie McClung, who last night flew into the Dominican Republic with another 10-man search and rescue team and aid from Gift of the Givers, said the discovery of the survivors at the hospital site was an “extremely” good sign.

He said the rescuers had to fly into the neighbouring Dominican Republic because the Port-au-Prince airport was unable to handle more air traffic.

It is believed that more than 10 000 foreign aid workers, earthquake rescue experts and urban search specialists have flown into Haiti in the past week.

McClung said the discovery of the survivors showed that despite the destruction there were still people out there who were alive.

“What this means is that it could be very likely that there are still a lot more survivors who have yet to be found and are still desperately clinging to life waiting for help,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a study of 34 earthquakes going back to the early 1980s that was published in 2006, researchers at George Washington University found no credible reports of people who survived 14 days after the event. There were five live rescues at least 10 days after collapse, and 42 between five and 10 days after.

Fatalities in the individual earthquakes ranged from fewer than 100 in six events to five with more than 15 000. The largest in the study occurred on June 20, 1990, in Iran and killed between 40 000 and 50 000 people.









U.N. Official Says Climate Deal Is at Risk
www.nytimes.com /By JOHN M. BRODER and ELISABETH ROSENTHAL/January 21, 2010

WASHINGTON — Just a month after world leaders fashioned a tentative and nonbinding agreement at the climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen, the deal already appears at risk of coming undone, the top United Nations climate official warned on Wednesday.

Facing a Jan. 31 deadline, major countries have yet to submit their plans for reducing emissions of climate-altering gases, one of the major provisions of the agreement, according to Yvo de Boer, the Dutch official who is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which organized the climate meeting.

Fewer than two dozen countries have even submitted letters saying they agree to the terms of the three-page accord. And there has been virtually no progress on spelling out the terms of nearly $30 billion in short-term financial assistance promised to those countries expected to be hardest hit by climate change. Still unresolved are such basic questions as who will donate how much, where the money will go and who will oversee the spending.

After a contentious two-week conference in the Danish capital last month, representatives of more than 190 nations issued a skeletal document, known as the Copenhagen Accord, that sets climate-related goals for developed and developing countries, but without enforceable targets or timetables. The participants failed to agree to even the minimum expectation of the meeting: setting a firm deadline for negotiating a binding international climate change treaty.

In his first news conference and interview since the conference, Mr. de Boer said he remained hopeful that the near-failure at Copenhagen would produce meaningful results as the year progressed and the parties resumed negotiations.

After a month during which many participants expressed disappointment at the outcome and ascribed blame to various actors, Mr. de Boer described the next several weeks as a “cooling-off period that gives countries useful time to work with each other.”

Next week, for example, the major developing countries that helped fashion the agreement — China, India, Brazil and South Africa — will meet in New Delhi to review the Copenhagen agreement and plan for the next phase of talks. None of them have yet inscribed their plans for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the Copenhagen document, Mr. de Boer said. Without a commitment to such plans, a major accomplishment at Copenhagen — pledges by large polluters in the developing world to cut emissions — will have been thwarted.

Mr. de Boer said several officials from those countries had told him that they negotiated the accord with the understanding that it would be formally adopted by all the nations at the conference. But in a raucous conclusion to the meeting in the early hours of Dec. 19, the conference agreed only to “take note” of the accord, not to endorse it. And five nations dissented even from that.

Mr. de Boer said he expected a number of countries to miss the Jan. 31 deadline, and he would not predict that they would ultimately submit their plans.

“Whether those countries do in fact decide to associate with it remains to be seen,” he said.

Connie Hedegaard, the former Danish environment minister who is soon to become the European Union’s commissioner for climate action, said it was critical for the United States and the large emerging economies to formally inscribe their pollution-reduction targets in the accord.

“I think much will depend on how countries treat that deadline,” she said. “If only Europe and Japan come up with plans, then you have a very different situation than if the U.S. and major emerging economies all step up.”

Todd Stern, the chief American climate negotiator, said the United States fully intended to enshrine in the accord its declared target of a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. He, too, said it was “incredibly important” for all the other major emitters to submit their public pledges for inclusion.

But he also said that success of the accord hinged on the creation of a rigorous and enforceable system of monitoring and verifying emissions-reduction programs. The accord calls for such a system, but does not provide details.

The nations of the world, Mr. de Boer said, are counting on President Obama to follow through on the emissions-reduction pledge he made at Copenhagen, despite Congress’s reluctance to pass an ambitious climate bill. “Any self-respecting person,” he said, “would well like to deliver on what we promise.”

John M. Broder reported from Washington, and Elisabeth Rosenthal from New York.

US diverts 4,000 troops to aid Haiti relief
21 January 2010/By Channel 4 News

An extra 4,000 US sailors and marines are diverted from operations in the Gulf and Africa to help the Haiti earthquake relief effort.

The move to increase the number of US troops to around 16,000 would “significantly” increase the ability to distribute aid, the Navy said.

The search for survivors of Haiti’s earthquake has started to wind down as international rescue teams begin pulling back and aid, though more plentiful, is still not enough for the tens of thousands left homeless and injured.

Yesterday a strong aftershock sent panic throughout the country as many feared that more building would collapse. No further casualties or damage were reported from the 6.1 magnitude aftershock and it failed to slow the international effort.

Rescue teams still continued to pull survivors from the rubble yesterday, including a 22-day-old baby.

Authorities have estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 people were killed in the earthquake that struck eight days ago. More than 75,000 people have been buried in mass graves so far.

The epicentre of the 7.0 magnitude quake hit the capital city Port-au-Prince destroying homes, governmental buildings and the UN headquaters.

A Danish UN worker who spent five days stuck in the rubble has spoken about his ordeal. Jens Tranum Kristensen how has vowed to stay in Haiti told a Danish broadcaster that he “feel surprisingly well” and was “overwhelmed to be alive.”

The UN is adding 2,000 troops and 1,500 police to the 9,000-member peacekeeping mission already in Haiti.

Relief effort gathers pace
Violence and looting has subsided in the country as US troops provided security for water and food distribution for the thousands left displaced.

Jon Andrus, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, said that although progress was being made there was still a long way to go.

“Are we satisfied with the job we are doing? Definitely not,” he said.

“But progress is being made. Think of what we started with when the world came crashing down on Haiti. No roads, only rubble and dead bodies. No communication, only death and despair.”

Doctors Without Borders said there were 10-to-12-day backlogs of patients at some of its surgical sites and they are seeing infections of untreated wounds.

“Some victims are already dying of sepsis,” the group said.

The city’s water system was only partially functional but tanker trucks began to deliver water to the larger makeshift camps, where vendors did brisk business selling charcoal to families who were using small tin barbecues to cook.

Overcrowding in parks and other areas where people set up temporary shelters stressed sanitation and hygiene beyond the breaking point. Residents of the city have been sleeping outdoors because the
ir homes were destroyed or out of fear that aftershocks would bring down more buildings.

The World Food Programme had provided 200,000 people with rations for seven days. The International Organization for Migration estimated that 200,000 families – or 1 million people – were in need of immediate shelter.

Many people were surviving on high-protein biscuits or dry emergency rations. The Food for the Poor charity managed to reopen its kitchens in Port-au-Prince and served up vats of rice, beans and chicken, giving thousands of people their first hot meal in more than a week.







Obama and Africa: A One-Year Assessment
J.Peter Pham, PhD/www.familysecuritymatters.org /January 21, 2010

Exactly one year ago, Barack Obama’s inauguration as the forty-fourth President of the United States of America was celebrated by millions of men, women, and children who, quite literally, danced in the streets, even though they had never met him, much less had no formal part in the historic election that brought him to office. As I noted the very morrow of Obama’s victory over Senator John McCain, the former’s “unique personal history means that he is the first son of Africa in the diaspora to be entrusted with the leadership of any major power, much less the chief magistry of what is still the world’s political, military, economic, and cultural superpower,” and, consequently, those millions of Africans not only have an incredible emotional investment in his personal political fortunes, but also cherish the hope that they believe it represents for the relationship between America and Africa. And, as I went on to argue, this set of circumstances would give the new president“a rare opportunity to translate effusive sentiments of good will into a windfall of diplomatic capital which, if he husbands it prudently, can significantly advance America’s values and interests on the continent while helping to achieve Africans’ aspirations for peace, stability, and development.” So, how do things look one year later?

To be fair to the President, he has had an entire world to worry about, not just one continent. Among other things, he has had to decide on a strategy for the war against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, coax along a reluctant counterterrorism partner in Pakistan, confront the nuclear ambitions of the mullahs in Iran, manage relations with Europe, China, Russia, and other aspirants to America’s preeminent position in the global order, and cope with the worst economic downturn in several generations—and these were just some of the problems that were sitting on his Oval Office desk alongside the traditional valedictory letter from his predecessor. Then there were the challenges—like the now flailing effort to change the U.S. healthcare system—which Obama piled on his own plate even before he tackled the various crises bequeathed to him.

However, as I noted in this column two days after the inauguration, in Africa, the Obama administration had the advantage of building on the firm foundations laid by its predecessors. President Bill Clinton’s emphasis on democratic politics, economic growth, and general good governance gave new impetus to U.S. Africa policy in the aftermath of the Cold War and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which he signed into law during his last year in office has substantially increased between African countries and the United States. President George W. Bush made engagement with Africa one of the lasting legacies of his two terms in the White House, launching a whole raft of new development and humanitarian initiatives—including the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI)—which have positively demonstrated American commitment to Africa and strengthened the “soft power” links between the United States and the nations of the African continent. And, of course, Bush’s tenure saw the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) with its mission, “in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners,” to conduct “sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment” representing America’s recognition of the strategic importance of Africa, such that its security not only concerns Africans, but also impacts the interests of the United States and the international community as a whole.

President Obama certainly set the right tone for U.S. policy toward Africa when he addressed the Ghanaian parliament during a visit to Accra last July. In a speech that, quite frankly, few others could have delivered, the President affirmed, “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” However, he went on to tell his audience—and audiences throughout the continent in the overwhelming majority of African countries where, unlike Ghana, there has yet to be peaceful transfers of power following elections, much less closely fought ones—that this meant they had to take responsibility:

Now, it’s easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many…

Development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That’s the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.

The President went on to list four critical areas—building and sustaining democratic governments, supporting development that provides opportunity to more people, strengthening public health, and resolving conflicts peacefully—pledging America’s support:

As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I’ve pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa’s interests and America’s interests. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by—it’s whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change.

To its credit, the Obama administration has followed through on a number of these promises. For example, the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget request for the MCC, arguably the Bush administration’s most innovative contribution with regard to foreign assistance, called for an additional $550 million in funding, an increase of some 63 percent over FY2009 levels. Ultimately, when it got around to passing the FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations Bill in mid-December, Congress opted for a more modest 26 percent increase of MCC’s budget, which nonetheless raised the amount available to reduce poverty by spurring economic growth in countries—half of them African—that have demonstrated sound political, economic, and social policies, to $1.105 billion.

Regrettably, the sole African compact for MCC assistance that has been signed during the Obama presidency (a compact was also signed with Moldova) seriously undermines the credibility of the President’s commitment to the idea that development depends on good governance. I noted last fall in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that “Senegal’s enthusiasm for economic freedom, poverty reduction, and sustainable growth seems to have flagged” under President Abdoulaye Wade, if the octogenarian’s creation of a “super-ministry” for his son Karim and his government’s predatory treatment of foreign investors were any indications. That record did not stop the administration from signing a compact with the West African country in September that entails paying $540 million of American taxpayers’ money to the regime over the next five years. Nor have subsequent revelations that Wade père, who is trying to extend his presidency, gave a departing International Monetary Fund office a $200,000 “traditional farewell gift” and is currently spending some $27 million to hire the North Koreans to erect a statue of “African Renais
sance” in his capital been deemed sufficient cause to call a “time-out” on the Senegal compact. As Congressman Ed Royce of California noted in his foreign policy blog, when he raised concerns with the State Department, all he could get was an acknowledgment that indeed there was “slippage in governance in Senegal.” Hopefully the new chief executive officer of the MCC, Ethiopian immigrant-turned-banking entrepreneur Daniel W. Yohannes, will deal with this aberration.

Of course, the President is well aware that U.S. foreign assistance is, to put it charitably, uncoordinated. In an interview with allAfrica.com on the eve of his trip to Ghana, President Obama acknowledged that “even just within the U.S. government, our aid policies have been splintered among a variety of agencies, different theories embraced by different people depending on which administration, which party, is in power at any given time,” and admitted that just “staying steady and focused…basing our policies on what works and not on some ideological previous position” is a challenge. Unfortunately, the fact that the administration left the Millennium Challenge CEO’s position and that of administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) vacant until well into the fall did not matters much.

Except among denizens of the anti-military fever swamps, there is broad consensus that security is a necessary precondition for sustainable development in Africa—and anywhere else for that matter—and that a stable and secure African environment not only benefits Africans, but is also good for the United States and the international community at large. AFRICOM got modest increases to its funding under President Obama, with $278 million budgeted in FY2010 for the general operational and maintenance costs of the command (capital costs to improve its airlift and communications capabilities as well as to run the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa are accounted for separately). An important part of America’s security engagement abroad is not what U.S. personnel, uniformed and civilian, do directly, but what they are able to empower partners to be able to do for themselves. As I argued here last year, programs like Foreign Military Financing (FMF), International Military Education and Training (IMET), the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), the African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance (ACOTA) program, the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) program, and others can be a “win-win” by “simultaneously help[ing] America’s African friends begin achieving their own security objectives, enhance the U.S. military’s professional relationships and potential interoperability with these new partner states, and frustrate the efforts by other powers…to reduce our influence through the indiscriminate sale of their arms cross the continent—all the while strengthening the domestic security industrial sector, reducing the cost of future defense acquisitions, and securing business for U.S. firms and creating jobs for American workers.” Thus, given that the attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day underscored America’s need for all the security cooperation it can get in Africa, it is most reassuring to see in the Obama administration’s first full budget modest increases in funds available for all these programs, with important regional partners like Ethiopia, Morocco, and Uganda, among others, benefiting.

Disappointingly, Somalia’s lackluster “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) has likewise benefited from Washington’s largesse. This is one policy held over from the Bush administration that one would have wished that the Obama team had have revisited. If it did not have the chance to do so before it sent forty tons of weapons in June, it certainly should have found the time in the months since. As I pointed out last week: “The TFG has had its chance. If, after more than five years since its inception and hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid and military support, it has proven unable to rally to its banner the very populace it purports to represents there is nothing that any outsider can or should do to impose its writ upon southern and central Somalia.” This week’s report from the BBC that Kenyan Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang was cracking down on the more than one hundred TFG parliamentarian wondering about his country and giving them an ultimatum to either register as refugees and go into camps or otherwise go home says all that needs to be said about the Somali regime’s real status. And TFG “prime minister” Omar Sharmacke’s op-ed in this past Tuesday’s New York Times is hardly very reassuring. The poor thing has obviously been in his bunker in Mogadishu for so long that he does not seem to realize that the three Somali regions which he cites as evidence of stability in Somalia—Somaliland, Puntland, and Galmudug—are all areas where his phantom government has no real influence! In fact, Somaliland formally seceded from Somalia nearly two decades ago and isn’t in the least bit interested in going back into the madhouse that Sharmacke and his fellow inmates pretend to run. (As Graeme Wood puts its succinctly in a travel essay for the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine, “A reconstituted Somalia would require reconnecting Somaliland with what may be the world’s most spectacularly failed state. Where Somaliland has a fledgling coast guard, Somalia has flourishing pirates, and where Hargeisa has a form of democracy, Mogadishu has howling anarchy punctuated by fits of sharia law.”)

With perhaps the glaring exception of his naïve—if not altogether delusional—special envoy for Sudan and the “strategy” the man in supposedly implementing (see my comments two weeks ago), one has to give President Obama credit for putting together a foreign policy team on Africa which, from Secretary of State Clinton down, is largely made up of experienced and respected professionals, some with considerable experience on the continent. The Secretary of State herself undertook an eleven-day, seven-country tour of Africa in August that was more extensive than any of the safaris which her predecessors may have had during their first year in office. Particularly important was the long-overdue stop by a senior American official in Luanda, during which an agreement was reached to create a new mechanism for bilateral cooperation between the United States and Angola. As a result of the accord, meetings under the aegis of the new Strategic Partnership Dialogue (SPD) took place in Washington in mid-November. Two working groups were launched, a Security Cooperation group, co-chaired by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Donald Yamamoto from the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs and Angolan Ambassador to the United States Josefina Pitra Diakité, and an Energy Cooperation group, led by Coordinator for International Energy Affairs David Goldwyn and Angolan Vice-Minister of Energy João Baptista Borges. As someone who argued here more than a year ago that “America needs to intensify its engagement with this geopolitically significant country,” I cannot but applaud the subsequent announcement by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, that the United States and Angola have also agreed on “terms of reference” for posting a Treasury Department adviser in Luanda to work closely with the Angolan Ministry of Finance and the Angolan Central Bank to support the country’s efforts to improve its debt issuance and management system as well as the prospect that Washington will be looking at providing a resident adviser on tax and monetary policy and establishing a Peace Corps program in Angola to provide English teachers at the secondary and tertiary levels and teachers to help the country develop computer skills and technology.

Secretary Clinton’s meeting last November wi
th Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin of Ethiopia—“a country,” she noted, “with which we have very long ties, and have, in recent years, developed a very close working relationship on a number of important issues”—will likewise lead to a welcome strengthening of another important strategic partnership, although major initiatives may have to wait until after national elections in Ethiopia, scheduled for May. However, given the senior officials in the administration with significant experience in Addis Ababa—among others, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Yamamoto was most recently U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Deputy Assistant of Defense for Africa Vicki Huddleston is a former chargé d’affaires of the U.S. embassy there—expect that the Obama administration will not only continue its predecessor’s close military and security relationship with the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, but also, given both its own agenda and Ethiopia’s overall economic progress, shift American help to the Horn of Africa country away from short-term food aid to longer-term development cooperation, especially in the agricultural sector.

Overall, by wisely maintaining the continuity that has long characterized U.S. policy on the continent and even modestly expanding some of the more successful programs initiated by the Bush administration, the Obama administration has done right by Africa. Going forward, however, it will need to address several concerns, including:

First, the administration has yet to deal adequately with the exaggerated expectations which many Africans have for a government headed by the son of a man from a small village in western Kenya. So far, the President remains very popular in many parts of Africa, even if the euphoria has died down a bit. However, the administration needs to continually work to manage expectations lest they inadvertently turn into a backlash of resentment. That, even without a financial crisis, there is a limit to what American can and will do in and for Africa is a message that has yet to penetrate the political elites of certain African countries, much less the masses. America’s public (and not-so-public) diplomacy need to better communicate this reality.

Second, Africa has historically been a nonpartisan concern in Washington and, overall, the formulation and conduct of policy towards Africa have been spared the bitter partisanship that has characterized so much of recent inside-the-Beltway politics. That being said, however, given how sensitive the very notion of free trade is with some parts of the Democratic coalition, the administration needs to make a more determined effort to reach across the aisle and engage with Africa’s advocates in the Republican Party if it is to make any progress at all in efforts to help integrate the nations of the continent into the global economy by opening up additional opportunities the continent’s abundant natural resources and nascent market economies under a strengthened AGOA framework as well as mobilizing more private sector investment in Africa. GOP support—on Capitol Hill as well as in policy circles and media outlets—will be critical if the administration is to rally public support for the commitments it will be making in Africa in the coming year. Furthermore, such an outreach makes good political sense for the administration: if the upset victory this week by Republican Scott Brown in the race for the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat says anything, it is that the general public is tired of one-party rule.

Third, the administration needs to acknowledge that government, whether in North America or Africa, cannot do everything, or even most things—and those things it can do, it does not always do in the most efficient manner. In addition to government contracts, other creative vehicles need to be employed to encourage the U.S. businesses to be more engaged with efforts to develop and modernize Africa’s infrastructure, leveraging financing facilities such as the relatively modest amounts currently available through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the United States and tax incentives, which are particularly attractive insofar as they do not require direct public expenditures. Moreover, private sector investment in Africa ought to be encouraged and facilitated, especially if it can get capital to the small-to-medium-sized enterprises that best empower job growth in any economies.

By and large, when one considers the challenges which the Obama administration faced and the new President’s own inclination towards domestic—rather than foreign (much less African-specific)—policy, one would have to aver that its first year performance with respect to Africa has been creditable enough. While there are areas where it clearly could have done better, there are a great many others where it could have done far worse.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor J. Peter Pham is Senior Fellow and Director of the Africa Project at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York City. He also hold academic appointments as Associate Professor of Justice Studies, Political Science, and African Studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and non-resident Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington,, D.C. He currently serves as Vice President of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA).

US pursues ban on constrictor snake imports
Bloomberg News / www.boston.com/ January 21, 2010

WASHINGTON – The importation of Burmese pythons, boa constrictors, and four types of anacondas into the United States would be banned under regulations sought by the Interior Department.

Nine constrictor snakes in total will be classified as “injurious wildlife’’ that threaten the Florida Everglades and other sensitive ecosystems, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement yesterday.

The designation would give the department the power to block imports of the snakes and ban sales of the reptiles across state lines, according to Salazar.

The rules, which will be formally proposed in February and could take effect after a 60-day comment period, are similar to legislation a Senate committee approved in December.

Burmese pythons, which have escaped from pet shops or private owners, are reproducing by the thousands in southern Florida, threatening to destabilize ecosystems, the US Geological Survey said Oct. 13.

The snakes that would be banned: Burmese python, northern and southern African pythons, reticulated python, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, Beni or Bolivian anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, and boa constrictor.

A million of these nine species have been imported into the United States in the past 30 years, the department said

U.S. says Yemen group one of many al Qaeda branches
Susan Cornwell/Reuters/Thu Jan 21, 2010


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Yemen has made progress in its U.S.-backed fight against al Qaeda, but the extremist group continues to spread elsewhere and has some two dozen affiliates across a swath of the globe, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.


At congressional hearings, U.S. officials painted a picture of an al Qaeda that has expanded from Afghanistan to Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, Africa and Southeast Asia.

“Al Qaeda is now difficult to define,” Admiral Eric Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, told a House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee.

“More than two dozen associated … groups have established themselves in Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, the Horn of Africa, the trans-Saharan region, the Maghreb of North Africa, West Africa and Southeast Asia, and there are several different groups now operating within and from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Olson said.

He said al Qaeda’s forces have been regenerated in part by extremists who had been detained, were released and then joined militant groups. Olson said officials estimate about one fifth of former detainees are “somehow re-engaging in activity … against our interests.”

Critics of President Barack Obama’s call to close the prison at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have cited the movement of former detainees to militant groups as a reason to keep the facility.

Earlier on Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller indicated the terrorist threat had grown to include some Americans.

“We … face threats from individuals who travel abroad to terrorist training camps in order to commit acts of terrorism overseas or to return home to attack America,” Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee.


That followed a report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that some Americans suspected of training in al Qaeda camps in Yemen, including dozens who converted to Islam in U.S. prisons, may pose a threat to the United States.

The report focused on a group of up to 36 former U.S. criminals who converted to Islam in prison and arrived in Yemen in the past year, ostensibly to study Arabic.

Yemen has not yet received any information about those Americans mentioned in the Senate report, Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told the Washington Post.

U.S. officials told lawmakers there has been some success against al Qaeda in Yemen, which has become a focus of concern since the December attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner for which the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility.

While the United States has promised millions of dollars more in the coming year to Yemen to take on al Qaeda, it was not “naive” about the Yemeni government, Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

Yemen has an inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy, its willingness to take on al Qaeda in the past had been “inconsistent,” and it was distracted by a tribal revolt in the North and unrest in the South, he said.

“But I would note that over the past month or six weeks there has been a much greater focus by the government of Yemen on the threat posed by al Qaeda. This is an encouraging sign,” he said.

Yemen is changing its visa procedures and will require entry permits to be issued at its embassies abroad rather than on arrival in Yemen, Qirbi told the Washington Post.

The Yemeni government has also asked all Arabic-language institutes to provide information on foreign students, he said.

General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, has recommended doubling military aid for Yemen next year to about $150 million. The military aid is in addition to development aid, which also includes some aid to Yemeni security forces and is about $63 million in the current year.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Zabarenko and Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by David Alexander and Mohammad Zargham)

Britons arrested in FBI bribery sting
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington and Michael Peel,in London /www.ft.com/January 21 2010

Three British executives were among 22 arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation that prosecutors say exposed attempts to bribe an African minister of defence.

The arrests of the executives, all but one of whom were attending a conference for sellers of military and law enforcement products in Las Vegas on Monday, follow the single largest investigation and prosecution by the US Department of Justice of charges involving foreign bribery.

They also mark an important step-up in transatlantic co-operation in such prosecutions, with US officials working with City of London police officers who searched seven British properties in their own investigation.

According to prosecutors, the 22 executives who were arrested had each sought to engage in a scheme to bribe a defence minister of an unnamed African nation in order to win a portion of a $15m (£9m) deal to equip the country’s presidential guard.

What the defendants did not know was that the “sales agent” whom they allegedly believed represented the minister was an undercover FBI agent.

The DoJ said the real minister of defence of the African country was uninvolved in the sting.

The defendants allegedly agreed to pay the agent a 20 per cent “commission” in exchange for business, half of which they believed was going directly to the minister.

Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney-general, said the arrests would be an important turning point: “From now on, would-be [violators] should stop and ponder whether the person they are trying to bribe might really be a federal agent.”

Executives named in the indictments worked mostly for US companies, as well as two British and one Israeli business, although those were not named. They sold products ranging from body armour to firearms and ammunition.

Though guns and ammunition were the focus of yesterday’s announcement, DoJ officials said the pharmaceutical industry was an ongoing area of interest for bribery investigations.

British law enforcement agents have said they want to develop their use of the US-style “campaign-based approach” in which investigators identify an industry they think is highly corrupt and try to bring simultaneous prosecutions against several people within it.
.Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Clinton ends US visa ban on Tariq Ramadan
Jan 21, 2010/swissinfo.ch and agencies

The United States has lifted a ban on Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan entering the country.
Ramadan has had his US visa revoked several times since 2004 when he was due to take up a university teaching post. He was banned from the US over alleged ties to terrorism.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed orders enabling the re-entry of Ramadan and Adam Habib, a professor at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, once they obtained required admittance documents, department spokesman Darby Holladay said on Wednesday.

He said Clinton “has chosen to exercise her exemption authority” for the pair’s benefit. “Both the president and the secretary of state have made it clear that the US government is pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” Holladay said.

Both professors, who are frequently invited to the US to lecture, were critics of the war in Iraq.

Government lawyers have said Ramadan was barred because he gave money to a Swiss-based charity, the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP), between 1998 and 2002. Washington listed ASP as a banned group in 2003, saying it supported terrorism and had contributed funds to the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.

“The decision brings to an end a dark period in American politics that saw security considerations invoked to block critical debate through a policy of exclusion and baseless allegation,” Ramadan said in a statement.
























NOTEBOOK: Serena could run into brow-beaten lineswoman in Melbourne
Jan 21, 2010/www.monstersandcritics.com

Melbourne – Fate could bring Serena Williams into contact at the Australian Open with the Japanese lineswoman she infamously abused on court in September in New York.

The well-hidden identity of the petite official, Shino Tsurubuchi, whom Williams threatened during a US Open semi-final, has finally emerged a month after the number one copped a record fine of nearly 100,000 dollars for her outburst.

A somewhat contrite Williams has tried to get in the last word, saying her sanction was more than any ever applied to a male player.

‘I talk about that a lot – 92,000 dollars is a lot of money to fine someone.

‘I always said what I did wasn’t right. But I turned that around, and I’m actually raising 92,000 dollars to educate ladies, women, also for my school in Africa. Also I’m giving some money to Haiti as well.’

She noted: ‘I don’t know whoever got fined like that. People said worse, done worse. I just thought it was a bit much.’

The lineswoman was on site last week when Williams played in Sydney but did not work in any of the American’s matches.


NOTEBOOK: Anti-Israel
protests fizzle amid security for Peer

Melbourne (dpa) – The anti-Israeli protests in New Zealand which trailed the Jewish state’s only major women’s tennis player, Shahar Peer, failed to materialize despite threats of more of the same from activists at the Australian Open.

The number 28 reached the second round in non-controversial fashion, with nobody outside the gates of Melbourne Park to protest her presence.

Australians for Palestine and Women for Palestine had been prepared to protest but apparently changed their minds.

Posters around Melbourne show the 22-year-old in her Israeli army uniform with a picture of a Gaza refugee child superimposed on the strings of her racket.

Officials were on guard at Peer’s first match, with men in dark suits watching the contest.

‘I know that there is security going on around me, and I don’t know exactly how much, but I really feel safe,’ said Peer. ‘I’m just focusing on playing tennis. I’m not here to focus on my security or whatever’s going on outside the court.

BHP and ArcelorMittal discuss Africa venture
By Matthew Kennard in London/www.ft.com/January 21 2010

BHP Billiton and ArcelorMittal have entered into preliminary negotiations about combining their iron ore assets in Liberia and Guinea.

BHP, which releases its quarterly production update on Wednesday, pointed to the “execution capabilities and financial strength” of both companies as the reason for a joint venture.

ArcelorMittal said the interests of the companies in Liberia and Guinea were “proximate and could be more competitive if brought together in a combined operation”.

The assets of the two companies in Liberia and Guinea include the licences from the local governments for exploration. None of the assets is at production stage.

BHP has four Liberian leases and a 43 per cent stake in Euronimba, which owns 95 per cent of the Nimba project in Guinea.

Arcelor’s assets in Liberia comprise its interest in the iron ore mining leases in Nimba county, the railway from Yekepa to the port at Buchanan and the Buchanan iron ore port.

Analysts say a joint venture could limit the downside in a turbulent region.

“Guinea has already seen regime change not so long ago,” said John Meyer, analyst at Fairfax. “It seems likely it will see another regime change before the completion of the projects.”

But, he continued: “BHP are expert in moving millions of tonnes of iron while Arcelor are well experienced in working in challenging jurisdictions. The combination could form a strong allegiance between a producer and consumer.”

In December, BHP signed an agreement with Rio Tinto to establish another iron ore joint venture, which combined both companies’ Western Australian assets in a deal estimated to be worth more than $10bn.

Tim Williams, analyst at Ernst & Young, said: “The logic is the same as the Australia agreement. The big thing with iron ore is logistics: it’s getting the stuff out of the country. There’s lots of it around but it’s got to be good quality and you have to … get it on a ship, which usually means building a railway or pipeline. So the synergies of developing iron ore projects can be huge.”

The companies say they will continue to discuss the potential benefits of a combination and negotiate with local governments. They expect this process to take several months.













Weekly European ETF Trading Report
Written by IU.eu Staff / www.indexuniverse.com/January 21, 2010

European ETF trading commentary for the week ending 15 January 2009, provided by LaBranche Structured Products Europe (LSPE).

Although the equity market lost around 2% last week, LSPE was only involved in creations with ETF providers. Our creations were large and over half were in emerging markets ETFs.

Our secondary market flows were also strong, thanks to decent two-way trading in liquid ETFs such as the iShares S&P 500 Index Fund (LSE: IUSA) and the Lyxor ETF CAC 40 (NYSE Euronext: CAC). There were also strong flows in various DJ Euro Stoxx 50 ETFs such as the Lyxor ETF DJ Euro Stoxx 50 (NYSE Euronext: MSE), the iShares DJ Euro Stoxx 50 ETF (Deutsche Borse: EUN2) and the iShares DJ Euro Stoxx 50 DE (Deutsche Borse: SX5EEX), which saw US$139 million in creations. Surprisingly, the overall ETF market was biased towards buyers.

Demand for dividend funds cooled but our traders still sold large amounts of the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Select Dividend DE ETF (Deutsche Borse: DJDVPEX) – again supported by large orders made by LSPE (iShares reported US$44 million) – and the iShares FTSE UK Dividend Plus (LSE: IUKD), which also accounted for large creation orders.

LSPE sold large blocks of funds tracking Russia and Turkey – such as the Lyxor ETF Russia (NYSE Euronext: RUS) and Lyxor ETF Turkey EURO (NYSE Euronext: TUR) – as well as the Lyxor ETF Eastern Europe CECE (NYSE Euronext: CEC). We had large creation orders for the Lyxor ETF South Africa FTSE JS (NYSE Euronext: AFS), and despite slightly less momentum, iShares reported creations of up to US$46 million in funds tracking Korea.

Property ETFs were sold off on short-term profit taking, with iShares reporting redemptions of US$33 million. Meanwhile, although ETFS Corn (LSE: CORN) lost 13.5% in 10 days, demand for the ETF remains strong and creation orders are still being made on a daily basis.

We saw profit taking in the telecom sector (SXKP), which fell 1.6%, followed by decent redemptions in funds tracking the index. However, there was renewed interest in the Lyxor ETF DJ Stoxx 600 Oil and Gas (NYSE Euronext: OIL) and in funds tracking the banking sector (SX7P), such as the iShares DJ Stoxx 600 Banks DE ETF (Deutsche Borse: SX7PEX) and the Lyxor ETF DJ Stoxx 600 Banks (NYSE Euronext: BNK). Meanwhile, new energy trackers such as the Lyxor New Energy ETF (NYSE Euronext: NRJ) were again in demand and LSPE sold good amounts to investors.

Finally, please note that the Australian stock exchange will be closed on Tuesday 26 January, which will affect Australian ETFs such as the db x-trackers S&P/ASX 200 (LSE: XAUS).

This report is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of any investment products or other financial product or service, an official confirmation of any transaction, or an official statement of LSPE.

Weekly briefing
21 January 2010/www.newstatesman.com

Critical Mass
The first anniversary of Barack Obama’s election was a dark day for US Democrats. A day earlier, the Senate seat for Massachusetts, held by Ted Kennedy for 47 years, passed into Republican hands. Breaking the Democrats’ 60-seat Senate majority, the loss is a serious blow: health-care reform, as well as efforts to tackle global warming and deal with the budget deficit, may suffer.

In “the bluest state”, three times as many Democrats are registered as Republicans and Scott Brown’s victory seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago. But anxiety over federal spending and opposition to the health-care bill, which Brown has pledged to vote against, seem to have swung the vote against Martha Coakley (who has been criticised for her line on health care and failure to use the Kennedy campaign “machine”).

All may not be lost: health-care reform can still happen if the Democrats pass the bill as it stands, then a later “reconciliation bill” to iron out the details. Yet Coakley’s failure does not augur well for the Democrats, who have 18 more seats to defend before Obama’s next anniversary.

Climate cramp
By the end of January, more than 190 countries must decide whether to accept the Copenhagen climate change accord and detail their emissions pledges. The grand total to have made a decision so far is ten, one of whom, Cuba, rejected the deal.

The non-binding accord has been pilloried for its weakness, but nations are not rushing to sign up. Australia, France and the Maldives are among the few to commit so far. With any luck, there will shortly be a flurry of world leaders rushing to hand in their homework to the UN. But EU nations are divided among themselves and a recent report suggests that Australia, the biggest polluter to have signed up, has little hope of making even
5 per cent reductions. Before there is any hope of a legally binding agreement at the next round of talks in November, this accord’s problems must be addressed.

Le Cong Dinh is a Vietnamese lawyer who represents some of the country’s leading human rights and democracy activists. Now, he is accused of trying to overthrow the state. He may face the death penalty if found guilty of links to the banned Democratic Party of Vietnam and drafting a new constitution.

Vietnam claims to support free speech. Days before Dinh’s arrest last June, President Nguyen Minh Triet spoke of Vietnam’s support for progressive lawyers, criticising those who “trample democracy and human rights”. The scores of dissidents imprisoned in 2009, however, suggest otherwise.

Changing Ukraine
Five years after the Orange Revolution, the front-runner in Ukraine’s presidential race is the man whose fraudulent victory in 2004 triggered the unrest in the first place, Viktor Yanukovich. Facing a run-off in February, he is 10 points ahead of the prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ideologically, the candidates are close: both call for closer ties with Russia as well as the EU. But the disastrous state of the country politically and economically has tainted Tymoshenko. Without a finance minister since February 2009, Ukraine’s economy contracted by 15 per cent last year. It remains the most corrupt state in the region and Transparency International say only 10 per cent of Ukrainians feel enough is being done about the problem.

Now, less than a third of the population see democracy as a positive change. But in one way at least, they seem less disillusioned than British voters: turnout for the first round was 67 per cent.

Team players
Ghana’s much-loved football team, the Black Stars, played their first game at the Africa Cup of Nations on 15 January. But the country’s civil servants won’t have been watching, or so the law decrees. In a productivity drive, President John Atta Mills has forbidden government staff from watching TV in working hours – which affects times when Ghana is playing. “An unfortunate coincidence,” says the deputy information minister, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who points out: “Within working hours, we are supposed to be working.” He insists the large TV in his office is never on during working hours

















Sub-Saharan Africa to Expand 3.8% in 2010; Exports May Wane
By Nasreen Seria/Bloomberg/Jan. 21

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) — Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy will probably expand 3.8 percent this year as the global recession eases, though export demand may wane in the second half of the year, the World Bank said.

Growth in the world’s poorest region will probably accelerate from about 0.9 percent in 2009 and reach 4.6 percent next year, the Washington-based lender said in its Global Economic Prospects report on its Web site today. South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, will probably expand 2 percent in 2010 and 2.7 percent in 2011.

The global economic recovery may slow later this year as governments around the world begin to rein in stimulus measures, the World Bank said. That may limit growth prospects in sub- Saharan Africa as export demand eases, while consumer spending in the region remains weak, the lender said.

“The overall strength of the recovery will depend on the growth performance in key export markets and investment partners, particularly the United Sates, the European Union, and China,” the report said. The recovery in sub-Saharan Africa “is projected to be modest and fragile.”

Per-capita income in sub-Saharan Africa dropped for the first time in a decade in 2009, with 7 million more people falling into poverty in the region, the World Bank said.

The bank’s forecast for sub-Saharan growth this year compares with the 4.1 percent estimated by the International Monetary Fund on Oct. 1. The IMF said at the time that South Africa’s economy will expand 1.7 percent, compared with a 2.2 percent contraction in 2009.

Middle Income

“Middle-income countries, such as Botswana, Seychelles, South Africa, and oil-exporting countries like Angola are likely to register the most dramatic turnaround,” the World Bank said.

The economy of Botswana, the world’s biggest diamond producer, will probably expand 4.8 percent this year, rebounding from an estimated 8.3 percent contraction in 2009, the bank said. Angola’s economy is expected to grow 6.5 percent, compared with a 0.9 percent contraction last year, as energy demand improves.

Growth is also at risk if countries in the region aren’t able to secure external funding of about 14 percent of gross domestic product to finance debt, rising imports and wider fiscal deficits, the World Bank said.

“There is a risk in many sub-Saharan economies, and in particular in low-income countries, that concessional lending will fall short of the need to finance a swift return to growth,” the bank said.

Shares take fright as driver of recovery slams brakes on lending
Christine Seib in New York /business.timesonline.co.uk/The Times /January 21, 2010

World stock markets plunged yesterday amid fears that China, nervous about inflation, has put a plug in the liquidity that has been fuelling the economic recovery.

The FTSE 100 closed down 1.6 per cent at 5,420.80 points as mining companies bore the brunt of concerns that global growth would slacken again without Chinese support. The CAC 40 in Paris and the Zurich and Italian bourses lost between 0.7 and 2.2 per cent, while markets in South Africa and Tokyo fell slightly. China’s Shanghai Composite index lost 2.9 per cent.

Anthony Grech, market strategist at IG Index in London, blamed the fall in shares on news that China had told its banks to stop lending, in the wake of poor housing figures and bank losses in the United States. “Attempts by Chinese authorities to temper lending levels and prevent overheating in the economy are being regarded with dismay by companies with a stake in the nation’s recovery,” he said.

Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, scared investors yesterday with comments about the need to stop asset bubbles being created out of too much easy credit. He said that Chinese banks were expected to cut lending in 2010 to 7.5 trillion yuan (£675 billion), down from 9.5 trillion yuan last year, with total loans outstanding up 18 per cent year-on-year, down from 32 per cent in 2009.

He added that all banks had been ordered to increase their reserves and cut back on risky loans.

Reportedly, the People’s Bank of China and the Bank of China have already put into place the restrictions demanded by the regulator.

However, other countries have been relying on China to continue spending to aid their own economic recoveries, as banks in the US and Europe remain reluctant to lend to consumers or businesses.

Meanwhile, economists have warned that a halt in Chinese lending would rob the global economy of its only large source of liquidity.

The news from China combined with disappointing numbers on housing starts and mediocre bank results to send American markets down from a 15-month high to what looked like their worst day so far this year. By mid-afternoon the Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.5 per cent at 10,565.14 points, the broader S&P 500 was down 1.44 per cent and the Nasdaq was lagging by 1.69 per cent.

Morgan Stanley and Bank of America both reported full-year losses yesterday, adding to disappointment news from IBM, which said on Tuesday evening that sales were up by only 1 per cent in the fourth quarter.

The US Commerce Department said that construction of new homes had fallen unexpectedly in December, suggesting that homebuilders did not have the confidence or capital to ramp up developments. Construction started on 557,000 new homes in December, a 4 per cent decline from November’s revised figure of 580,000.











MLK today would have reason to smile and frown
David Squires/www.dailypress.com/ January 21, 2010

Urban Affairs

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream … that one day there would be a new South, a better America, a more friendly world.

And in the week that we celebrated King’s 81st birthday, he would have many reasons to look upon us and smile — and some reasons to frown.

King, the civil rights pioneer and nonviolent crusader who earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his work toward global human rights, would be proud that the world is reaching out to earthquake-torn Haiti, a country to which the world has not always been kind.

But he would be upset that America has maintained a stricter policy on Haitians fleeing to South Florida than on Cubans also seeking a better life.

The man who dreamed of a day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers” would be proud that we have international sisters and brothers with whom we communicate via the Internet on Facebook and Twitter.

He would be proud that the United States elected its first African-American president, ostensibly judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

But King would not be proud that Barack Obama did not attend a World Conference Against Racism, yet collected a Nobel Peace Prize. King would be proud that apartheid has ended in South Africa and even prouder of the “South African MLK,” Nelson Mandela, whose legend has spread to a new generation with the current movie “Invictus,” which stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

A long list of achievements and civil rights gains have been made since an assassin’s bullet struck down King in 1968 as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

But King, who organized the Poor People’s Campaign and called for an economic bill of rights, might glare angrily at corporate America. For instance, he would not be proud that American automakers, for the most part, still do not believe in making a decent motor vehicle. (And don’t think for a minute that ability or knowledge is an issue. The problem is economics and effort.)

King also would not be proud of the world’s continued overreliance on crude oil for motor vehicle fuel — as alternative sources continue to be underutilized.

He would not be proud that Wall Street crooks lured America’s working class to the stock market and then robbed them blind, and that America’s big banks finished the job with shaky mortgage deals and ridiculously high interest rates and service fees.

King would not be proud that too many American jobs have been exported overseas and that when we call customer service for something as basic as computer technical support, we have to speak to someone in India.

I don’t think Dr. King would be proud that young black men are the No. 1 killer of young black men, or that African-Americans are not the No. 1 employers of African-American people — when that is in fact the case with such groups as Jewish-Americans and Asian-Americans, according to networking guru George C. Fraser.

King would not be proud that African-Americans have abandoned the “it takes a village” approach to raising all the kids in the neighborhood and that now we are more fixated on keeping up with the Joneses and buying houses too big and cars too gaudy, making us easy marks for the big banks.

And he would not be proud that many of our women and men spend as much as $3,000 to have other people’s hair — and sometimes fake hair — affixed to their heads.

King would not be too proud that Democrats and Republicans continue to bicker over superficial issues, such as whether Obama has a “Negro dialect,” but not work jointly to solve real problems, such as medical care, child care and a decent job for all Americans.

King would not be proud of those who call themselves ministers but are nothing more than pimps in the pulpit, and he would be ashamed that so-called men of the cloth such as Pat Robertson would pass judgment on a grief-stricken nation such as Haiti in its greatest hour of need.

I think King would be dumbfounded that humans don’t daily look in the mirror and accept the closing reminder in the short poem “Invictus”:

“I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

So what happens to a dream deferred?









Haitians Still in Hell: Evil, Voodoo and Spirituality (Part Two)
January 21, 2010/www.psychologytoday.com

Haitians are still in Hell. How would you or I handle the aftermath?

Haitians are still in Hell. Understandably frustrated with the slowness of relief efforts to bring desperately needed food, water and medical care, some are turning to violence to vent their rage. Looting, so far minimal, is on the rise. Roving bands of young men with machetes are taking what they want: not money, TV’s or jewelry, but basic survival supplies, candles, rum, and toothpaste they smear under their noses to cloak the omnipresent stench of death. The government is in complete shambles and silent. The still infernal situation is perilously approaching every man for himself. “It is increasingly dangerous,” said one observer. “The police do not exist. People are doing what they want.” Today a severe aftershock rattled nerves and had many already profoundly traumatized people on their knees praying.

If all that weren’t enough, we now have fundamentalist preacher Pat Robertson telling his flock that the quake was God’s punishment of the Haitian population for their blasphemous belief in and practice of Voodoo, which he views as a “pact with the Devil.” Sadly, this is how Robertson and other religious fundamentalists attempt to make sense of cosmic evil. Voodoo isn’t Satanism. Most Haitians are Christian, but also traditionally practice Voodoo, a religion still popular in West Africa, the West Indies, Brazil and Haiti, as well as some sections of the United States. Voodoo is based on the belief in the presence of powerful yet invisible forces (les invisibles) that directly affect our lives and behavior. In times of crisis, a believer may invoke the aid of these spirits, also referred to as loa, for support and assistance. (Christians can invoke the so-called Holy Spirit for similar support.) This conception of metaphysical forces that can be both harmful and helpful is found in all religions. The ancient Greeks called them daimones. Other religions refer to them as angels and demons. (Actually, the word demon derives from daimon, but carries only the negative aspect of the daimonic.) In shamanism, they are known as spiritus familiares, “winged ones,” supernatural beings not unlike angels but different: If the shaman accepts and cooperates with these spirits, they become helpful. But if he or she rejects or resists them, they turn demonic and destructive.

Cataclysmic occurrences like this–whether natural or man-made in origin–starkly reveal the human capacity in each of us for both evil and good, depending on the existential choices we make in response to such dire circumstances. Much as we might try to deny it, perhaps the scariest thing about what’s happened to Haiti is that it could happen anywhere. At some level, often subconscious, we know and dread this. Los Angeles. London. New York. San Francisco. Miami. New Orleans. Mexico City. Be it caused by some cosmic evil like earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, massive volcanic eruption or apocalyptic meteor strike. Or by human evil in the form of mass conventional warfare or a nuclear terrorist attack on a major city. How well would you or I handle the chaotic aftermath?

Human evil is one possible response to such cosmic evil. Violent behavior, rage, resentment and anger can often accompany Acute Stress Disorder. (See my prior posts on Posttraumatic Embitterment Disorder.) According to news reports, some disillusioned Haitians themselves conclude that God has intentionally caused their awful national suffering. They retain their belief in God, but believe that they are being punished for some collective transgression. Self-blame is another common way of attributing some meaning to cosmic evil. Others have lost their sense of meaning and faith, feeling that God does not exist or has abandoned them. One reporter conveyed the vivid image of a disheartened Haitian woman seen tossing her Bible into a bonfire of burning bodies. Unfortunately, a frightening wave of evil deeds could proliferate in the devastating wake of this classic example of epic cosmic evil. (See Part One.) In Haiti we are witnessing what happens when social structure abruptly breaks down and people’s basic psychological , spiritual and physical needs–which in the latter case, were extremely modest to begin with–are no longer being met.

At the same time, we see encouraging signs of human goodness: patience, kindness, compassion, caring, generosity, tenderness, dignity and heroic courage in both the Haitian people and those selflessly trying to assist them. Disasters like this can serve to strengthen spiritual faith, as, for example, in the biblical case of Job. They force us to acknowledge the fact that there are indeed unseen aspects of life beyond our control, powers far beyond our own that undeniably determine or influence our destiny. This is always a deflating blow to our egos, our narcissism, and our naive beliefs in a benevolent, parent-like god who will always protect us from harm. But it can also be the beginning of true spiritual wisdom.

Psychotherapy patients sometimes have similar reactions to the realization that there are uncontrollable external and unknown (i.e., unconscious) internal powers at work, both personally and collectively, which can shake up, undermine and influence how we think, feel and behave, as well as subtly affect each other. (See my previous post.) That we, like everyone else, given the right or wrong set of circumstances, are each capable of evil deeds. And that every one of us is personally responsible for how we respond to these invisible life forces. Learning to accept the existential realities of both cosmic and human evil, and of our personal and collective destiny (see my prior post on fate and destiny) while embracing life nonetheless, is one way of defining genuine spirituality.

In this sense, all religions carry within them a vital existential truth: We are not masters in our own house. We are subject to mysterious powers beyond our ken and control. There are numerous spiritual and scientific names for those powers. But whatever we call them and despite their potentially negative influences, we remain morally and ethically responsible for how we deal with these archetypal energies. The people of Haiti may still be in Hell. But how they choose to comport themselves and the attitude taken toward their disastrous situation will ultimately determine their personal and collective salvation. The same may be said of ourselves when faced with our own existential crises.

EN BREF, CE 21 janvier 2010 … AGNEWS / OMAR, BXL,21/01/2010



Facebook Comments