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Burundi arrests ‘coup plotters’
Thirteen soldiers in Burundi have been arrested for plotting a coup to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza, the army chief of staff has said.
Major Gen Godefroid Niyombare said the 12 soldiers and one officer had been caught in a meeting near Lake Tanganyika earlier on Friday.
Correspondents say there are fears this may affect elections due in June.
They will be the second polls to be held in country since the end of the deadly 12-year, ethnic-based civil war.
Major Gen Niyombare said those arrested were from both the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
Investigations were ongoing and more arrests should be expected, he added.
In 2007, former President Domitien Ndayizeye was acquitted of charges of plotting a coup.
A former rebel leader himself, President Nkurunziza was elected five years ago under a deal to end the years of conflict between the Tutsi army and Hutu rebels.
Some 300,000 people are believed to have died during the war.
Understanding Rwanda in the Context of Haiti
30 January 2010/By Michael Madill/theurbancoaster.com
Suffering plays really well on TV, so when you watch the misery broadcast from Haiti you might think, ‘How could anywhere be worse off?’ You wouldn’t know it by looking, and it’s true that the devastation caused by the earthquake will trim Haiti’s fortunes considerably. Now, rewind a few weeks, to before the catastrophe.
Rwanda is the same size as Haiti, over twenty-seven thousand square kilometers, which is about the same size as Massachusetts. Rwanda’s population is roughly ten million people, same as Haiti’s, same as Michigan’s. Haiti grows and exports sugar, coffee and mangoes to keep its economy going. Rwanda grows and exports coffee and tea and a few mangoes.
Haiti’s history is one of slavery, colonialism, corporate predation, foreign aid, authoritarianism and corruption. Rwanda’s past is colonialism, corporate predation, foreign aid, genocide, civil war and authoritarianism. The point is that on paper the two places are very similar. Paper, though, never tells the whole story.
Haiti’s proximity to avenues of exploration, colonial sources of commodity wealth and later the United States meant that after 1492 it was never left alone. There was always an outside interest bigger, richer and stronger than any Haiti government looking to make a fast buck, and there was always a person or group inside Haiti greedy enough or scared enough to sell whatever they could grab to those outside interests in order to line their own pockets.
Rwanda, by contrast, was hard to reach before it had an airport. The first Europeans to see the central African kingdoms around Lake Kivu, and who lived to tell the tale, were the explorers of the 1850’s. Colonialism arrived there only around 1900. Still, plantation agriculture and repressive government quickly made beggars and hustlers out of a few Rwandans, who used their money and power to keep the rest under a boot.
We think Rwanda is special because twice in fifty years corruption, ethnic hatred and the prodding of Belgium and France caused the dominant ‘tribe’ to attempt genocide on its rivals. The scale and brutality of the violence in Rwanda in 1994 and 1959 might be exceptional, but the phenomenon wasn’t. Societies everywhere, but especially poor ones are vulnerable to competition for money – survival. Remember that $1,300 per year GDP per capita? That’s $3.56 per day to live on, for people lucky enough to have jobs. Wouldn’t you try to augment your share by any means possible?
Haiti’s government was never really interested in Haiti’s people until about 2006. Between 1957 and 1986 the country had only two President-dictators, Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc.’ Between them they stole almost a billion dollars of public money and supported domestic terror groups like the Tonton Macoutes to shore up their rule. The Duvaliers were followed by the corrupt US puppet Jean Bertrande Aristide, whose administration was so bad that he had to flee the country and could only be re-installed backed by US troops and a UN stabilization force.
The current President, Rene Preval was making headway in recreating an actual government and resuscitating the economy before the January earthquake. Now, though, Haiti’s government is a bit player alongside relief efforts bankrolled by the US, EU and UN and secured by US troops. Though they need the help, Haiti won’t stand on it’s own feet, and thus won’t really improve the lot of its people, until everyone else leaves and it gets the investment, free trade, respect for human rights and justice that make development possible.
In the past fifty years Rwanda’s government seemed to care a little bit too much about its people. It was so sensitive to who belonged to which ethnic group and which political faction Hutus or Tutsis supported that it twice tried to wipe out whole populations with machetes, necklaces of burning tires and whatever guns it could muster. The genocide of 1994 followed the death of the President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, in a plane crash widely thought to be an assassination.
Evidence unearthed this year points to Hutu extremists who brought down the plane as an excuse for implementing their plans to exterminate Tutsis. A civil war that began in the late 1980’s when Paul Kagame and the Rwanda Patriotic Front attempted to overthrow the Hutu regime intensified after the genocide, and Kagame finally succeeded in driving out the interim Hutu-led government at the end of 1994 and set himself up as President of Rwanda.
He has ruled since then with a combination of repression and skillful economic policy, which prevents overt challenges to his authority while making instability in general less likely through broad economic development. Today, Rwanda is a clean, well-run and growing enclave with an overbearing government which is very interested in hi-tech – a lot like Singapore.
The thing that separates Haiti from Rwanda is that nobody really cares about Rwanda. Think about how many news stories you read after the genocide there was forgotten – and it was forgotten, quickly. Television coverage from Rwanda decreased sharply only two weeks after the genocide ended. Newspaper coverage in North America and Europe declined four weeks after the killing stopped. Rwanda isn’t on our doorstep. Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital, is a two hour flight from Miami. Haiti needs and deserves all the help we can send it right now, but then what?
All that attention from the outside world over the last five hundred years didn’t do Haiti many favors, disaster relief aside. Rwanda by contrast is humming along nicely if somewhat oppressed in a forgotten corner of a forgotten continent. You might characterize Haiti’s history as purchasing freedom at the expense of security, and you might say that Rwanda bought security at the expense of freedom. Where would you rather live?
War on AIDS Hangs in Balance as U.S. Curbs Help for Africa
By MICHAEL ALLEN /online.wsj.com/JANUARY 30, 2010.
But the staff at the Joint Clinical Research Centre had to tell her the bad news. Even though her husband, a clothes merchant with a girlfriend on the side, was already receiving the so-called AIDS cocktail of drugs elsewhere, there would be none for her. The clinic had enrolled its full quota of patients under its contract with the U.S. government. Ms. Agatha, sprawled on a hospital bed with a toddler and an infant, could barely move. “I feel desperate,” she said.
Seven years after the U.S. launched its widely hailed program to fight AIDS in the developing world, the battle is reaching a critical turning point. The growth in U.S. funding, which underwrites nearly half the world’s AIDS relief, has slowed dramatically. At the same time, the number of people requiring treatment has skyrocketed.
And lately, the global campaign to prevent new infections has suffered some reversals. In Uganda, a lush East-African country that once stood out as a shining star in the fight against AIDS, the rate of HIV in the population has begun to tick up again after a long decline. That’s putting an even greater strain on a health system that’s struggling to cope with the hundreds of thousands who already have the disease and could be a harbinger of what’s to come in the rest of Africa.
“I personally worry that Uganda showed the way on how best to fight the disease and now is in danger of showing how to lose the fight,” says Dr. David Serwadda, a professor at Makerere University School of Public Health in Kampala and a pioneer in researching the origins of the AIDS epidemic.
The most immediate concern is getting enough lifesaving drugs to all those who need them. Under the Bush administration, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, set aggressive goals for getting people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, into drug therapy, eventually enrolling some 2.4 million by the end of last year. The Obama administration, which plans to expand international AIDS treatment to at least 4 million by 2013, nevertheless has signaled nearly flat budgets through fiscal 2011. Critics are questioning whether the reduced spending pace means the administration doesn’t plan to use the full $48 billion authorized by Congress by 2013.
“Unless the promised funding is forthcoming soon we will see an absolute disaster in the next year or so,” says Shepherd Smith, a longtime Christian activist for HIV issues in Africa. “The human tragedy that is nearly upon us is significant and I believe will be a huge disservice to the people of the United States because we will be unable to keep humanitarian commitments we have made.”
Eric Goosby, President Obama’s AIDS czar, said the president is committed to the AIDS fight despite the global economic decline, adding that the U.S. doesn’t intend to turn away anybody who needs treatment: “Our commitment to universal coverage hasn’t wavered.”
The challenge is enormous. Some 33. 4 million people worldwide have HIV, and under new guidelines by the World Health Organization, the number eligible for treatment has grown to 14 million, dwarfing the 4 million in treatment currently. Another 2.7 million people become infected each year. Those who don’t die first will eventually need to take antiretroviral drugs, a mixture of medications that helps the body suppress the disease and must be taken every day for life. The therapy, which doesn’t cure AIDS but allows people with HIV to live normal lives, means the number of people who need drugs will continue to grow.
One irony is that lifesaving medicine makes the prevention message harder to deliver. That much is clear in Uganda, once a leader in preventing the spread of HIV.
In the 1980s, long before foreign aid groups arrived on the scene, President Yoweri Museveni grasped the seriousness of the disease, known as “slim” for its debilitating effects. He made it his personal mission to mobilize the country. At the time, there was no known treatment for AIDS, which at its peak infected around one in five Ugandan adults.
The government’s message was simple, delivered relentlessly on radio to the sound of beating drums: AIDS kills. In 1988, Ugandan music sensation Philly Lutaaya announced he had AIDS and spent his final days, gaunt and ridden with sores, touring the country to raise awareness.
The solution was a homegrown remedy that came to be known by its shorthand, ABC. The only escape, went the government message, was to practice abstinence until marriage and to be faithful afterwards—and if all else failed, to use condoms. The prevalence of AIDS eventually fell to around 6% of the adult population, and ABC was soon in use in much of Africa.
But over time, Ugandans agree, they let down their guard. Some here say it was only natural for President Museveni to declare mission accomplished and move on to other pressing needs. Others say ideological battles in Washington played a role. U.S. congressmen quarreled over how much of the growing AIDS budget should be allocated to preaching abstinence and fidelity and how much to condom use. Nongovernmental organizations here that were accustomed to advocating a range of prevention options say they sometimes felt paralyzed.
But the biggest distraction from prevention was likely the sudden flood of lifesaving drugs beginning in 2005. Fear of HIV dissipated as memories faded about the disease’s ravages. People gradually increased their number of sexual partners again. “Women are now more scared of getting pregnant than getting AIDS,” says researcher Phoebe Kajubi, who conducted a survey in a poor area of Kampala funded by the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University.
“People think that when they get [anti-retrovirals] they get cured of HIV,” says Joseph Lubega, a 30-year-old electrical engineer-turned AIDS activist. His cubbyhole office is crammed with tens of thousands of free condoms that go unclaimed. “People aren’t using condoms like they used to.”
The result: New infections have begun to jump again, to around 135,000 per year, and prevalence is believed to be approaching 7%.
.”Really we took our eyes off of prevention and focused on treatment and care,” says Dr. David Kihumuro Apuuli, director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission.
The increased infection rate is putting a heavy burden on health-care providers such as JCRC, one of the preeminent research and care facilities in the country. As one of the early recipients of Pepfar money, JCRC aggressively enrolled people, swelling to 32,000, and hitting the limits of its contract even during the Bush administration. The campus has tents set up to handle the overflow of patients, and now sees over 300 people every day. It routinely turns away new enrollees now.
“The dilemma here is that we made a promise to patients—if they came here for HIV care, we said if you qualify for treatment, you’ll get treatment,” says Dr. Fiona Kalinda, clinical manager. “Now we have to tell them to go elsewhere.”
In the case of Ninsiima Agatha, turned away last month by JCRC, no other clinic would take her on. And the news soon got worse.
Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, JCRC’s founder, says he just learned that Ms. Agatha’s older child, an 18-month-old girl named Natero Mariam, died on Jan. 7 of AIDS, despite receiving drug treatment funded by the Clinton Foundation. Defying instructions from the U
“The cheapest way to save the child is to treat the mother. In the process the mother’s life will be saved too,” he says. “Without doing this my conscience would be haunted.”
Meanwhile, he’s still trying “desperately” to find spots at other facilities for 82 women he can’t accept into treatment. What’s more, clinic doctors have detected disturbing cases of patients who are already on medication who are sharing their supplies with partners who can’t enroll, In those cases, each patient gets too little medicine, raising fears that the practice could spawn HIV strains that are resistant to ARVs. “What’s going on is terrible,” he says.
At Catholic Relief Services, another big treatment provider, officials say they stopped taking all but a few new patients a year ago in Uganda. Jack Norman, country representative, says blocking new patients from drugs encourages the disease to spread. For one thing, people on ARVS are less contagious. “No drugs means no hope; people don’t get tested and they run around and infect other people,” he says. “It’s a very dangerous cycle.”
In theory, the Ugandan government will eventually take greater control over treatment, as more doctors and nurses get trained under U.S.-led programs. But that day is clearly far off. Last year, the U.S. provided $285 million toward Uganda’s HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts, or about 70% of the country’s budget.
In many parts of the country, poverty is the biggest enemy. In the dirt-poor northeast, Amuria district health officer Dr. Eumu Silver makes the two-hour trek himself to tend to the people in one village because he can’t find anybody else to take the job. The region has been beset by war, cattle rustlers and now an entrenched drought. Herded into refugee camps, people spread the AIDS virus like wildfire. About 350 are currently on treatment, but Dr. Eumu figures as many as 600 are sick enough to qualify—if the single testing machine in the nearest big town weren’t constantly on the fritz.
At a recent gathering in a village, people with HIV made known their needs. For one man, it was simple: He wanted a bit of porridge to take with his medicine, because it’s hard to absorb on an empty stomach.
Back in Kampala, another drama was unfolding. Eve Nakitto, a 23-year-old woman with a 5-year-old daughter, had been diagnosed with HIV a month earlier and had sought treatment at Family Hope Centres, a facility run by the U.S.-based Children’s AIDS Fund. The clinic didn’t have any slots available and sent her to find treatment at one of a number of government facilities that theoretically had openings. But after seeking help for a month—including lining up for four straight days at one facility to no avail—she was back.
After a pleading phone call, the clinic medical director managed to scrounge a slot. Ms. Nakitto’s eyes welled up, and she spoke of people in her neighborhood who didn’t even bother to get tested now. “They don’t want to know their status,” she said. “Some don’t want to be depressed.”
Write to Michael Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Harold Ford Mum On Uganda’s Kill The Gays Bill
Of late he has been telling the LGBT community what a great pal he is to us… and is of course an avid and lifetime supporter of both gay marriage AND civil unions, whatever that means… But… When the rubber hit the road… Harold Ford voted for a constitutional ban on marriage equality while representing Tennessee in the House and that says volumes on his true stand on LGBT rights.
In addition to maybe running for the Senate, Ford is a vice chairman with the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a job he has held since February 2007.
This week Bank of America Merrill Lynch, along with the Royal Bank of Scotland helped to set up the shares for the initial public offering acquisition of Ugandan oil interests by Irish oil company, Tullow Oil that will infuse 1.35 billion USD into the Ugandan economy. Tullow, along with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and RBS are set to reap huge sums at in this investment – as much as a 35% return on their capital investment. That’s three times what’s internationally recognized as a fair profit. Unfortunately,coupled with this great investment news from Bank of America Merrill Lynch comes the story of the Ugandan military running villagers out of the oil regions and reports have nearly 30,000 people being displaced from their homes by this project so far and that number would be on top of an already existing 1.4 million internally displaced Ugandans.
One can only assume that that with this many angry displaced people it was becoming very clear to the Ugandan Government that they may have a lot of angry citizens on their hands how just might have something of a bone to pick with at Government. Then add in attacks on political freedom in the country that included the arrest and beating of opposition Members of Parliament, the jailing of Ugandan President Museveni’s main political opponent and that in 2006 he was accused of rigging elections in his favor…well, you probably know the rest of the story…
Culturally and traditionally in Uganda, we gays have never been a very poplar minority. Ugandans also have no real love for the “White Colonial Devils” either.
So after a well funded junket led by evangelist Scott Lively that held packed seminars, and told churches and rallies, that Ugandan homosexuals had lots of money, and backing from America and Europe and were a danger to the nations youth, on October 13, 2009, The government of Uganda proposed an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would, if enacted, broaden the criminalization of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, are HIV-positive, or engage in same sex acts with people under 18 years of age. The bill also includes provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited for punishment back to Uganda, and includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organizations, or non-governmental organizations that support LGBT rights.
Uganda ranks 9th in world AIDS deaths so the “Kill the Gays Bill” has been a fairly easy sell in Uganda and has done wonders to direct internal attention to away any possible wrong doings by the government in Kampala and on to that country’s gay population. However, learning lessons from the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Dafur and so many other human rights disasters, many religious and world leaders have made it pretty clear that if this bill should become law, that they will hold Uganda and it leaders responsible for the resulting human rights violations.
Three openly gay members of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with 91 of their colleagues, have sent a letter to President Obama urging him to do everything he can to stop the bill and to hold the government of Uganda accountable for the resulting human rights abuses should it be instituted. Additionally, 12 US Senators- including Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y), sent a letter to President Musseveni, saying, “by creating harsh penalties for homosexuality, this bill not only codifies prejudice, but could also foster an increase in violence towards people simply based on sexual orientation and they urged that he block enactment of the “anti-homosexua
l” bill pending in the Ugandan Parliament.
Last month U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also denounced the Ugandan legislation during an appearance at Georgetown University, as did the UN’s top human rights official.
Several Nation’s have also told Uganda’s government and politician that they with be held responsible for any human rights abuses resulting from “the kill the gays bill” and that they could face sanctions if they continue down this path.
But companies, like nations and individuals, should also be held accountable for their decisions. However, to date, Mr. Ford has not publicly expressed any concern over this investment by Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Ugandan Oil… or called for Uganda to roll back it’s “Kill the Gays Bill.”
It’s disappointing that any business would choose to put so much money into a country that has such disregard for basic human rights and dignity simply because it helps the bottom line of that company.
Uganda: Only Moi, Mugabe Could Have Come for ‘NRM Day’
On Tuesday, Museveni celebrated 24 years in power at the NRM celebration that was held in the eastern town of Mbale. The celebration came at a time when campaigns for the next general election slated for the first quarter of 2011 have prematurely kicked off. Officially, campaigns should begin in October this year. Uganda’s eastern region promises to be the real battleground in the next elections. The NRM hope to reclaim Teso, Budama and key constituencies in Bugisu and Busoga from the opposition.
Traditionally UPC, it remains uncertain whether “The Congress”, as it is fondly called by its supporters, can reclaim their former territory too until a new party president is chosen shortly.
But beyond the party politics of the times, another symbolism came to the fore. Only former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, could attend the celebrations that ushered in Museveni’s 25th year in power. No other East African leader could come to associate themselves with the misfortune of celebrating stagnation and clinging onto power at any cost. In fact, the only other guest who would have looked in place for the event would have been Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Moi ruled over Kenya in a characteristic backward fashion.
He was only forced to retire by an opposition which united to make life difficult for a selfish leader who didn’t know how and when to quit. In attempting to rule forever, he established an extensive patronage network and fostered wanton corruption. He encouraged the creation of militias to do his dirty work.
On one occasion, Richard Leakey, a famed environmentalist who had just turned political by forming the now ailing Safina Party was severely lashed red on his back, by ‘security forces’ which he courageously displayed before international TV. He had actually been beaten by the equivalent of NRM’s Kiboko squad. A few years later he became a minister in Moi’s government.
The morally conscious politicians in KANU decided to quit. They joined opposition forces and forged a new political order in Kenya. In order to collect as much money as possible before losing power, Moi allowed his cronies to grab and loot the nation left right and centre. The Goldenberg scandal is perhaps one of the most striking financial impropriety cases ever recorded in African history. He destroyed his party, KANU. NRM is walking the same steps that KANU did.
Uganda’s opposition is not as organised as Kenya’s was in 2002. It is struggling to get the funds to compete with a ruling political party that is fused with the state. A ruling party that holds party meetings at the State House, which is a national facility. But the coming months are going to see a more focused opposition that is likely to cause sufficient problems for the ruling party.
The opposition has already successfully created an international front that has caused even the United States of America, one of Museveni’s most ardent supporters to consider the necessity for the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission on, a free media and a level playing field, and the eradication of intimidation of the electorate by security forces.
With a small but effective group familiar with the international terrain, the opposition should be able to work deeper into world capitals and international agencies. Focus here will be on the regime’s appalling human rights record. Coupled with an emerging more sophisticated women and youth movements, the opposition in 2010 has the chance to change the way things are done in Kampala.
“Leadership comes and goes but the country will stay,” Moi said in Mbale. He added: “We should put common good above interest of the individual.” This could be the real message Moi came to deliver after completing the flattering niceties expected of an African guest. Did his host understand its meaning?
Mr Kalinge-Nyago is an independent researcher and e-learning specialist
Saturday, 30 January 2010/news.bbc.co.uk
The lung infection is the most common cause of death among HIV patients in the continent.
Journal Aids reports that Dartmouth Medical School research involving 2,000 people found significantly fewer TB cases in vaccinated patients.
An expert said the jab could be a cheaper option for countries struggling to find money for extra anti-HIV drugs.
HIV patients are particularly vulnerable to TB because their immune systems are compromised.
The vaccine works by boosting the immune responses of patients who have already been given the BCG vaccine earlier in life.
In itself, the BCG jab may offer some protection against TB, but this is far from certain, and protection may only last a few years after immunisation.
The researchers from Dartmouth Medical School in the US tested it among 2,000 HIV positive patients in Tanzania over a seven-year period.
The number of confirmed TB cases was 39% lower in the vaccinated group.
Professor Ford von Reyn, who led the study, said it was a “significant milestone”.
One theory now suggests that patients could be given the booster jab as soon as they are diagnosed with HIV, before antiretroviral drugs are needed.
Alvaro Bermejo, executive director at the International HIV/Aids Alliance, said that the other way of fighting TB in HIV patients might be to give them antiretrovirals earlier, an expensive option compared with a vaccination programme.
He said: “This is a very important finding – it is the first time we are going to have a vaccine which is influential in preventing opportunistic infections in HIV patients.
“TB is a massive problem – a third of people living with HIV in Africa are infected with it.
“The reduction of 39% seen in Tanzania, although not fabulous, is a good result.”
CONGO RDC :
Honda Recalls +100K U.S. Cars that Could Catch Fire
COLORADO SPRINGS – Honda is recalling the 2007 & 2008 model year Fit. It’s because of the master power switch in the driver’s door.
Honda representatives say that when the switch is flooded with rain or snow, in rare instances, it could overheat and catch fire.
In fact two fires have been sparked in the U.S. because of this issue. No injuries were reported, but there was one death in South Africa due to a fire.
Honda is recalling 646,000 cars worldwide, 140,000 of those were sold in the U.S. If you have one of the cars in question, Honda will notify you by mail. They’ll let you know how and when you can have your car looked at and repaired at an authorized Honda dealership.
We spoke with a local Honda dealer, Tim Baldridge, who says the company has always handled recalls responsibly.
“Honda has been very aggressive and proactive in handling this recall,” said Baldridge. “As a consumer, I would never tell them not to be concerned, but I think we have to look at the history of the product and the reliability, and those things don’t go away even though you have a recall.”
2009 & 2010 Honda Fit models are NOT affected by this recall.
Rotavirus vaccines could reduce deaths in Third World
Vaccines that protect against severe disease and death from rotavirus infections in the United States and other developed countries work nearly as well in developing countries and should be widely employed there, researchers report today in two papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Health authorities now have “another powerful weapon” to combat the disease, Dr. Mathuram Santosham of Johns Hopkins University wrote in an editorial accompanying the studies. Widespread use of the vaccines could save more than 2 million lives over the next decade, he said.
A third report, however, warns that giving the vaccine to infants who are severely immunocompromised can cause the disease, although the symptoms appear to be mild.
Dehydration caused by severe diarrhea kills more than 500,000 children younger than 5 every year, and rotavirus is the leading cause, accounting for about 40% of all cases. Deaths are relatively few in the United States and other developed countries because of ready access to hospitalization and rehydration therapies, but that is not the case in most of the Third World. A vaccine to prevent the disease could thus make a valuable contribution.
The first vaccine against rotavirus, called RotaShield, was introduced in the United States in 1998 after preliminary studies showed that it was safe and effective. But post-marketing surveillance showed that it caused intussusception — a severe obstruction of the bowel that can be fatal if not treated — in about one in every 12,000 children vaccinated and RotaShield was withdrawn the following year.
Two other vaccines against rotavirus have subsequently been approved in the United States, Rotateq by Merck & Co. in 2006 and Rotarix by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in 2008. Both are attenuated live virus vaccines and neither appears to produce intussusception when used in young children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all young children in this country receive one of the vaccines.
A 2008 study showed that early use had delayed onset of the rotavirus season in the United States by three months and reduced severity by half — even though fewer than half of all children had apparently received even one dose of the three-dose regimen.
But previous studies had shown that live virus vaccines that work in the developed world don’t always work as well in low-income countries. The polio and cholera vaccines, for example, were not as effective, perhaps because of poorer nutrition or higher rates of disease.
Before the World Health Organization would give its approval for donor organizations to start distributing a rotavirus vaccine in the Third World, the agency wanted some proof that it would be effective.
To obtain such proof, a team led by Dr. Nigel A. Cunliffe of the University of Liverpool and Dr. Shabir A. Madhi of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, organized a clinical trial in South Africa and Malawi. They enrolled more than 4,900 infants and divided into three groups: one group received a dose of placebo at age 6 weeks and doses of Rotarix at ages 10 weeks and 14 weeks, the second received three doses of vaccine and the third received three doses of placebo.
The team reported that the vaccine reduced severe rotavirus disease by 61.2% in the two countries combined. Severe diarrhea occurred in 4.9% of those receiving placebo and 1.9% of those receiving either course of vaccine. The vaccine was less effective in Malawi, a much poorer country than South Africa. Nonetheless, it reduced severe disease there by 49.4%, compared to a 76.9% reduction in South Africa.
Based on preliminary results from the trial, the WHO recommended last June that the vaccines be adopted as part of the childhood vaccination programs in all developing countries.
The second study involved deaths from diarrhea in Mexico, where the Rotarix vaccine was introduced in 2006. The country had already adopted a large program that included improved sanitation, increased use of oral rehydration, breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation, so it is difficult to completely disentangle cause and effect. Those efforts had not led to a major reduction in disease, however.
A team headed by Dr. Stuart L. Abramson of the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston found that the average number of diarrheal deaths in the country dropped by more than 40% among children younger than 11 months in 2008, the first year the vaccine was widely used. During the 2009 rotavirus diarrheal season, deaths dropped by more than 65% among children younger than 2.
Dr. Manish Patel of the CDC, a co-author of the study, said: “The reduction in mortality following vaccine introduction points to the importance of immunization against rotavirus as a primary prevention tool in controlling diarrhea not just in Mexico, but around the world.”
A full course of the vaccines can cost from $105 to $160 in the United States, but will be available for less than a dollar in developing countries under international programs. The vaccines do require refrigeration, however, which complicates the process of distribution.
The trials were sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline and the Rotavirus Vaccine Trials Partnership, a collaboration among various public health authorities and funding agencies.
A note of caution was injected by a separate report, also from a team led by Abramson. They identified three infants who developed dehydration and diarrhea after receiving the first or second dose of Rotateq.
All three children were subsequently shown to have severe combined immunodeficiency disease, or SCID, that had not been diagnosed at the time of vaccination. That immune deficiency allowed the attenuated virus to produce disease.
SCID is typically not diagnosed very early in infancy, but Abramson cautioned that physicians should restrain from using the vaccine in infants with a history of persistent infections until their cause is determined.
Rotateq’s label was changed last month to warn against using it in children with SCID.
All three infants recovered without lasting effects from the vaccine.
Wife of SA minister arrested on drugs charges
The Irish Times/Saturday, January 30, 2010
BILL CORCORAN in Cape TownTHE WIFE of South Africa’s state security minister was arrested and charged yesterday with conspiring with a Nigerian man to smuggle cocaine into the country from Brazil using young white women as drug mules.
Sheryl Cwele (50), wife of state security minister Siyabinga Cwele, was allegedly involved in recruiting the women to travel to Brazil on the pretext of arranging short-term work, then returning with the illegal drug in their luggage.
Ms Cwele was arrested at her home in Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast yesterday morning and brought before Pietermaritzburg high court, where she was charged. She has applied for bail but it has yet to be decided if she will be freed or remanded in custody.
Two others linked to the case, South African Tessa Beetge and Nigerian Frank Nabolis, have already been arrested. Another woman, Charmaine Moss, who was recruited to pick up drugs in Turkey, is allegedly the state’s main witness in the case.
Beetge was arrested in São Paulo, Brazil, by federal police in June 2008 as she attempted to leave the country. She was found to have 9.2kg of cocaine hidden in her luggage. She has since been convicted on drug-related charges and is serving an eight-year prison sentence in Brazil.
Mr Nabolis was arrested in December in Gauteng province after entering South Africa using a false name. Ms Cwele and Mr Nabolis were allegedly in contact with each other shortly after Beetge’s arrest, with the latter leaving the country shortly afterwards.
State counsel advocate Ian Cook told the presiding judge that Ms Cwele and Mr Nabolis would appear before the high court again on February 12th.
In an interview in Durban’s Mercury newspaper yesterday, Ms Cwele said she was innocent and she wanted to tell her side of the story, but was waiting for permission from her lawyer to do so.
“The only person who will solve the problem is God,” the paper quotes her as saying.
Since rumours of Ms Cwele’s alleged involvement in drug smuggling first arose in 2008 following the arrest of Beetge, her husband has denied any knowledge of his wife’s alleged links with the woman or Mr Nabolis.
The opposition Democratic Alliance has called on Mr Cwele to prove he has no involvement in the matter or to tender his resignation.
A party official said: “This is disturbing news and raises a number of serious questions regarding the minister. We believe that he must demonstrate to the South African public that he is in no way compromised by this matter; if he fails to do so, he ought to stand down from his position right away.”
Crime takes toll on ticket sales
Saturday, January 30, 2010 /english.aljazeera.net
But few tickets have yet been sold to foreign fans.
It is believed many potential visitors are being discouraged by South Africa’s high crime rates.
Fifa officials say especially German and British fans are hesitant to come, and they want Jacob Zuma, the South African president, to intervene.
Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa reports from Johannesburg, where residents have differing views on the security situation.
BA’s South African partner investigated for price-fixing in run up to World Cup in Johannesburg
A British Airways franchise partner in South Africa is under investigation for alleged price-fixing in the run up to this year’s World Cup.
Comair, which holds a franchise from BA to run connecting flights on planes with BA livery, flight codes and staff wearing BA uniforms, is used when passengers transfer from BA international services to internal connecting flights within South Africa.
The investigation has been launched by the South African Competition Commission in the run up to the World Cup which is expected to attract thousands of football fans from the UK.
The Competition Commission said on Thursday it had decided to launch an investigation after South African Airways (SAA) put through a leniency application in December in which it said it would cooperate with the Commission in its investigation, provided it was excluded from prosecution.
It said the airlines being investigated are British Airways/Comair, South African Airways, 1Time, SA Airlink, Mango and SA Express.
‘The soccer World Cup tournament provides South African business with a good opportunity to showcase our international competitiveness,’ Commissioner Shan Ramburuth said in a statement.
‘But it is also possible that some firms might want to exploit the situation by engaging in anti-competitive conduct. The Commission is obliged to investigate all legitimate complaints in such instances.’
The Commission said the Office of the President had also asked it in November to examine concerns that airlines planned to hike their air fares during the tournament.
It said SAA had provided it with e-mail correspondence between the airlines which indicated they may adjust airfares ahead of the World Cup.
The relationship between BA and Comair is similar to that between a car manufacturer and a branded car dealership trading under that car-makers’ name.
British Airways said last night: ‘Comair, not British Airways plc is under investigation by the South African Competition Commission. Comair is a BA franchise carrier. Comair is an independent, South African based airline.
‘It offers certain services in BA livery under a franchise agreement. ‘
British Airways were fined around £270million in 2007 by UK and US competition authorities after being found guilty of a price-fixing racket with rivals Virgin Atlantic.
In addition, BA has paid out £73million in compensation to passengers.
Under competition rules dubbed a ‘snitcher’s charter’ aimed at smashing cartels, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic and its staff were given complete immunity from prosecution because they reported the price-fixing first.
The system is designed to de-stabilise illegal cartels by giving a reward of immunity to whichever party turns in the other.
The OFT says this has proved effective in breaking existing cartels and deterring others being formed.
Four British Airways executives have denied individual allegations of price-fixing over passenger fuel surcharges with arch rivals Virgin Atlantic.
AFRICA / AU :
Qaddafi, Mutharika to fight over AU leadership
African heads of state and government are arriving in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to attend the 14th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) to be opened 31 Jan. 2010.
Accordingly, Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Zambian President Rupiah Banda, Djiboutian President Ismael Omar Guelleh, and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika have already arrived in Addis Ababa on 29 Jan. 2010.
“The chairmanship of the African Union is rotational,” Mutharika told journalists before departing for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend the summit at which he has been earmarked to take over the chairmanship of the continental grouping from the Libyan leader, Muammar Kadhafi.
He said: “The Southern African region, through SADC (the Southern African Development Community), has elected Malawi and therefore we are looking forward to be nominated.”
Mutharika’s statement came amid a brewing diplomatic row over the chairmanship, with reported attempts to extend Kadhafi’s chairmanship of the organisation.
The Libyan leader’s backers, including their northern allies Tunisia, argue that the AU chairmanship – faced by a US$ 1.3bn deficit for its programmes – needs someone with demonstrable financial muscle like Kadhafi.
Kadhafi reportedly bank-roles some of AU programmes.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has joined other countries backing the candidacy of Mutharika to head the AU at the summit of the Heads of State of the continent body beginning Saturday in Addis-Ababa.
Nigeria had decided to throw its weight behind the Malawian leader, reported Saturday Vanguard newspaper of Nigeria.
AU chief concerned about possible separatist tendencies in Sudan
Ping made these remarks ahead of a crucial year ahead for the largest country in African where elections are scheduled for April and a referendum for the South in 2011.
“Is the war between north and south at risk of resuming despite what has been said?” Ping told Radio France International in an interview.
“Will the independence of Southern Sudan not lead other players in Darfur and in other places, which are currently not asking for independence, to seek independence as Southern Sudan will have done?” he added.
“We have a feeling that we are sitting on a powder keg,” Ping said.
The grim view is in line with worries of the regional powers with minorities in their own countries that may seek to replicate the Southern Sudanese experience and work for self determination.
Last month Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) led by Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur has reportedly called for the right of self determination for Darfuris though it was later denied by the SLM leader himself.
There was growing concern that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) wants to block the right to referendum or place impediments for Southerners to get their independence but president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir said this month that he will be the first to recognize the new state if they were to favor secession.
The US this week suggested that the NCP is stepping up weapon flow to the south which fueled the intertribal conflict which killed 2,000 people last year – more than in Darfur’s low-level conflict. The Sudanese government vehemently denied the allegations.
Many post–referendum arrangements are still outstanding including border demarcation, asset and national debt split, water agreements among other things.
This month the Sudanese presidential adviser Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani said that the delay in addressing these issues is a ‘recipe for war’.
Jammeh Leaves For AU Summit In Ethiopia
By Staff Reporter Assan Mboob, Banjul /www.freedomnewspaper.com/ January 30, 2010
The Summit is expected to discuss issues relating sub-regional security, and democracy. Libyan President Muhhamad Gadaffi, who is the current Chairman of the Union is expected to be replaced if everything goes well. But there are reports that he is not willing to allow the President of Malawi to succeed him despite repeated calls for his removal.
Reports are circulating in town that the President is afraid to travel since the military’s recent attempt to disloge him from power. Many are here are keenly awaiting to see him leave Saturday morning for the Summit. Mr. Jammeh seized power through a coup in July of 1994. He has since cling onto power. His administration has been widely criticized for lack of respect for human rights.
UN /ONU :
Scientists a step closer to human vaccine for chikungunya virus
U.S. researchers have developed a prototype vaccine that protects monkeys and mice against the emerging chikungunya virus, a major step toward the production of a vaccine for humans. Human trials could begin later this year.
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus whose newest strain first appeared on Reunion Island off eastern Africa in 2005 and has since spread to more than 18 countries, infecting millions. It is characterized by rash, a high fever and its most distinctive trait, a severe arthritis that can persist for years. There are currently no effective treatments and no preventive measures for the virus.
Public health authorities fear that the virus could cause a pandemic because it has adapted to the Asian tiger mosquito, which survives in temperate climates and is widespread.
Increases in global travel and climate change may also encourage its spread, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
To attack the problem, virologist Gary J. Nabel of NIAID and his colleagues adapted technology that is used in vaccines against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus.
They produced a virus-like particle that contains the outer protein shell of the virus — which allows it to be recognized by the immune system — but not the viral genetic information, preventing it from replicating.
The team reported Thursday in the online version of the journal Nature Medicine that immunization of rhesus macaque monkeys with the particles provided full immunity when the animals were subsequently exposed to the live virus.
Antibodies against the virus were then isolated from the monkeys and injected into immunodeficient mice. The antibodies protected the mice from a subsequent exposure to a normally lethal dose of the virus.
In addition to human trials of the new vaccine, Nabel and his team plan to study whether a similar approach could be used to protect against the related Western and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses found in the United States and the o’nyong-nyong virus found in Africa.
The End of Black History Month?
By Raina Kelley /Newsweek Web Exclusive/Jan 30, 2010
When did everybody start hating on Black History Month? I have yet to find a person, black or white or anything else, looking forward to the February festivities. At one point, when speaking to a well-known black intellectual about participating in a video NEWSWEEK is putting together, I was stunned by the vehemence of his refusal. It’s not as if I was asking him to march to Birmingham. But I get it. It seems ghettoizing and patronizing to spend one month of every year proving that black history is a holistic part of American history. As Morgan Freeman once famously told Mike Wallace, “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? … Which month is White History Month? … I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Because today the divisions between black and white are not as cavernous or ugly as they once were. The contributions of famous black Americans, from Frederick Douglass to Oprah Winfrey, are widely known. Martin Luther King Jr. has his own federal holiday. The president of the United States is black. If tens of millions of white people voted for Barack Hussein Obama, the lesson has been learned, right? As if. Despite the election of Obama, African-Americans still live in a culture that is overreliant on stereotype and slow to explore the complexity of racialized issues such as the ghetto or Haiti. So you can complain about Black History Month all you want. But there’s still work to be done.
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Instead of using Black History Month to demand that the promise of freedom inherent in the Constitution be given to all its citizens, our culture has given in to the impulse to see the month as the commemoration of “a civic fairy tale,” as NEWSWEEK editor Jon Meacham wrote in his book Voices in Our Blood. “Everything came together in August 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and conjured his Promised Land … A moment later, it seems now, the ‘White Only’ signs came down, the polling booths opened up, and the Dream was more or less fulfilled.” For Black History Month to once again seem culturally relevant, part of its time must be spent asking why there are still so many negative portrayals of black people in our culture—we can’t just spend all 28 days talking about the nice ones. And rather than wasting time bemoaning the existence of Black History Month, why don’t we use it to proselytize for the issues that need to be more fully covered and understood the other 337 days of the year—such as failing inner-city public schools, institutionalized poverty, health-care disparities, and job discrimination?
Black history is American history, no doubt. But Black History Month is a measure of how fully or accurately our story is being told and a reminder of the work yet to be done. Thus, it works in exactly the same way as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October or Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June. I understand the desire of Freeman and others to do away with what seems at times like a catalog of complaints. Trust me, I’m not always thrilled to be the radical—constantly reminding people that half-full is still half-empty. But despite the burden, consider that without me, without Morgan Freeman, without all of us, “absent, too, would be the need for that tragic knowledge which we try ceaselessly to evade: that the true subject of democracy is not simply material well-being but the extension of the democratic process in the direction of perfecting itself,” as Ralph Ellison wrote in What America Would Be Like Without Blacks, “and that the most obvious test and clue to that perfection is the inclusion—not assimilation—of the black man.” When Black History Month returns to that work and moves away from the limp B-roll it has become, then it will be working not only toward a noble and patriotic goal but also as Carter Woodson intended—toward its own irrelevance.
Vaccine plant cancellation a real blunder
It defies understanding. Folks in London woke up this week to the news that the city’s bid for a world-leading HIV vaccine plant had been turned down.
Up against three other communities in Canada (Laval, Peterborough and Winnipeg), the competition was stiff but exciting at the same time.
Our city entered the fray with a world-class bid, supported by the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a key champion in the struggle against AIDS. The bid was centred around the research component of the University of Western Ontario, which already housed key researchers at the frontline of the fight against AIDS.
Support arrived from all over the community when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and billionaire Bill Gates opened up the competition among the four locations three years ago with much fanfare.
The entire project would cost $88 million. The Gates Foundation would supply $28 million of that total, and the province and federal government would come up with the remainder.
This was exciting stuff. A hi-tech manufacturing opportunity with the potential to not only assist those suffering from a terrible affliction around the world, but would bring millions of dollars of investment into our community – just the kind of innovative jobs that everyone says Canada requires for its future.
But there was another key component to that bid from London. The city is unique in that its three main ridings are held by MPs from the Conservatives, Liberals and the NDP. Sensing the importance of the bid to our community, Ed Holder (Conservative), Irene Matthyssen (NDP) and I (Liberal) put aside our partisan interests and threw ourselves into the project, both in London and in Ottawa. It was a unique moment of non- partisanship that caused other communities to sit up and take notice.
Then we discovered this week we lost. I went to the Internet to discover which of the other three locations triumphed, only to discover that they, too, had been turned down. The competition had been cancelled following two years of relentless effort by four outstanding communities in Canada.
How do you describe this? A competition announced by the top office-holder in the land working hand in hand with one of the world’s richest philanthropists was . . . gone. All the efforts put in by Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best, London city council, MPPs, MPs, companies and UWO ended up being for nothing. The other three communities would tell a similar tale.
It was the Gates Foundation that had identified the lack of such a facility in Canada as a roadblock for developing an effective vaccine for AIDS. And so Bill Gates himself wooed the prime minister to work together to produce a pilot research plant that would find a vaccine for AIDS. Accordingly, the big announcement was made and the competition began. And now this.
This isn’t so much a politically partisan issue as it is the responsibility of a federal government to follow through on a commitment that resulted in a robust response – not to mention the partnership of Bill Gates.
Other levels of government and four respective communities did their cities proud with four outstanding proposals. When a spokesperson for the Gates Foundation learned of the news, he could only reply, “Canada is the real loser.”
Unfortunately, so is London. Local citizens would have every right to demand a reason for the cancellation. A large group of citizens, researchers, politicians and groups put plenty of skin in the game and they deserved better than this. All four communities deserve better.
It’s hard to get people to believe in politics when, even with members from various political parties working hard together for the benefit of their home city, they are shunted aside in such a fashion. All of us have a right to be angry over this. Lots of people are raising their voices about political insensitivity these days. This will only add to their disenchantment.
Glen Pearson is the member of Parliament for London North Centre.
Canada’s black history needs chronicling
They are rich and wonderful stories, painstakingly documented and true. We preserve them partly because of their importance to Canadian history and our family trees, but also because they portray Canada in a favourable light. At a time of social upheaval and racial discrimination in the United States, the Dominion to the north seemed much more hospitable, even enlightened.
But that perception would be only a sliver of the truth.
According to the most recent census (2006), the number of Canadians who identify themselves as black has eclipsed 783,000. Of those, more than half (52%) are of Caribbean origin (Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, etc.). Another 42% trace their ancestry directed to African countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Sudan. The rest – the remaining 6% or so – find their roots in Europe, South America and North America. And those who trace their family histories directly to the Underground Railroad account for just a small percentage of them.
Within the country’s robust ethnocultural mosaic, Canada’s black community now ranks third behind south Asians (1.26 million) and Chinese (1.21 million). In Quebec, the two largest visible minorities are blacks and Arabs.
If one of the purposes of Black History Month is to help Canadians better grasp the history and diversity of the black community in Canada, from the suburbs of Vancouver to the neighbourhoods of Toronto and Montreal and the shores of Nova Scotia, why then do so many tracts, books and websites focus on the Underground Railroad?
It’s a distortion not lost on Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society, who wishes more Canadians had a clearer picture of the origins of the black community in Canada, which date back to 1603. She also acknowledges chronicling of black history in Canada is a work in progress. It is, at best, incomplete.
The Underground Railroad, she says, “became its own mythology.” As a result, some Canadians have come to believe “the Underground Railroad was the beginning and the end” of black history in Canada. Along with that perception, she says, arose two myths: there were no blacks in Canada before the Underground Railroad and those who arrived here by that means eventually all went back.
Sadlier believes it’s imperative Canadians develop a better sense of the black history of Canada – a history that has yet to be recorded or told by many of those arriving on our shores and at our airports. History, she says, is neither “sexy” nor foremost among the concerns of newer black Canadians who, for years and perhaps even a generation or two, are preoccupied with “more pressing issues” – where to live and find work, how to put food on the table and adapt to Canadian cultural mores. Nonetheless, it’s important the story of Canada’s black community be collected and preserved, preferably sooner than later, says Andrew Cohen, president of the Historica-Dominion Institute. “The story of newer Canadians has yet to be written, largely because it’s a shorter story,” Cohen says. It is nonetheless important, he says, that the history of recent black immigrants to Canada be told as part of “our national narrative and the grand story” of a maturing and complex country.
This week, Haitian orphans began arriving in Canada from their devastated homeland. One day, they’ll be curious about their arrival here and the odyssey of other Caribbean Canadians. They’ll want – they’ll need – those stories told to them. Let’s hope by then websites, museums and school libraries are replete with a more robust, accurate collection, chronicling Canada’s rich and diverse black heritage.
Joint Statement on Nigeria By the US and EU
For the Record
We express our deep regret at the recent violence and tragic loss of lives in Jos, and extend our sympathies to the bereaved and injured.
We urge all parties to exercise restraint and seek peaceful means to resolve differences between religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria.
We call on the federal government to ensure that the perpetrators of acts of violence are brought to justice and to support interethnic and interfaith dialogue.
Nigeria is one of the most important countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a member of the UN Security Council, a global oil producer, a leader in ECOWAS, a major peacekeeping contributing country, and a stabilizing force in West Africa. Nigeria’s stability and democracy carry great significance beyond its immediate borders.
We therefore extend our support to the people of Nigeria during the current period of uncertainty, caused by President Yar’Adua’s illness. We extend our best wishes to the president and his family, and join the Nigerian people in wishing him a full recovery.
Nigeria has expressed its resolve to adhere to constitutional processes during this difficult time. We commend that determination to address the current situation through appropriate democratic institutions. Nigeria’s continued commitment and adherence to its democratic norms and values are key to addressing the many challenges it faces, including electoral reform, post-amnesty programs in the Niger Delta, economic development, inter-faith discord and transparency. The gubernatorial elections in Anambra on 6 February will be a milestone in the journey towards electoral reform and a signal of Nigeria’s commitment to the principles of democracy.
We are committed to continue working with Nigeria on the internal issues it faces while working together as partners on the global stage.
Human Rights Watch Urges Europe to Keep Sanctions on Zimbabwe’s Mugabe
Patience Rusere/ www1.voanews.com/ 30 January 2010
Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has continued to abuse human rights and to violate the power-sharing pact that Mr. Mugabe signed in 2008. It said the EU would risk reinforcing the behavior of the former ruling party if it were to relax sanctions at this point.
The advocacy group said members of Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change continue to be abducted and killed, farm invasions continue and there has been little progress restoring the rule of law.
It added that government-owned companies subject to EU sanctions such as the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation are involved in mining diamonds in eastern Zimbabwe where there have been “rampant human rights abuses by soldiers” including killings, rape, beatings, smuggling and corruption.
Human Rights Watch Africa Advocacy director Jon Elliot told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere it is important that sanctions remain in place to show Mr. Mugabe that he must halt human rights abuses.
But Ozias Tungwarara, director of the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said Europe should consider gradually easing sanctions to encourage ZANU-PF to reform, particularly as human rights abuses have markedly declined over the past year.
Kibaki to attend Addis AU Summit
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 30 – President Mwai Kibaki is scheduled to leave the country on Saturday for a four day trip to Ethiopia to attend the 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
The presidential entourage is expected to depart for Addis Ababa from Jomo Kenyatta international airport shortly before 2PM.
The theme of this year’s summit is “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for development,” in recognition of the role of ICT in development. African Union is spearheading a continental programme to interconnect capitals and major African cities with ICT broadband infrastructure and to strengthen connectivity to the rest of the world by 2012.
The African Development Bank, the International Telecommunication Union, World Bank and the EU are amongst several organisations that have partnered with the AU and availed funds towards various ICT programmes in the continent.
Alongside the official theme of the summit, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union will also launch the Year for Peace and Security in Africa.
In August 2009, in Tripoli, Libya, the Heads of State declared the year 2010 to be the Year of Peace and Security on the continent. The declaration invited the African civil society to continue playing its role in promoting peace, security and stability as partners of governments and the AU. The launch is likely to lead to discussions on security situation in Somalia.
With regard to Climate Change the Heads of State and Governments are expected to review the report of the Commission on climate change negotiations held in Copenhagen last December.
China Insists That Its Steps on Climate Be Voluntary
www.nytimes.com/By EDWARD WONG and JONATHAN ANSFIELD/January 30, 2010
So while China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, might put down in writing its targets for slowing the growth of emissions, it will make clear that those efforts are voluntary steps it plans to take domestically that should not imply a binding international commitment.
The distinction reflects China’s strong desire to cast climate change policy as a sovereignty issue in the aftermath of rancorous negotiations last month at the environmental summit meeting in Copenhagen. It says developed nations, which emitted carbon dioxide without restriction over many decades of industrialization, cannot force developing countries to submit to international policies or regulations.
China is standing by targets it announced before Copenhagen, but previous climate change treaties say targets of developing countries are not internationally binding, said Pan Jiahua, an economics professor who advises the Chinese negotiating team. “On this China will stand firm.”
This position could draw further criticisms from Western politicians who already blame China for weakening the final accord at Copenhagen. In the United States Congress, the chances that lawmakers will pass climate legislation this year are slim, in part because some lawmakers say China and India, where carbon emissions are rising the fastest, are giving much higher priority to maintaining economic growth than to fighting climate change.
But even as China sticks to tough diplomatic language, environmental advocates say it is forging ahead with its own plans to become more carbon-efficient.
This week, China unveiled a new agency, the National Energy Commission, headed by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, to coordinate energy policy. In December, China, now considered a leader in developing renewable energy technology, put more pressure on companies connected to the electric grid to hook up to renewable energy sources like wind- and solar-power generators.
The United Nations said that by Jan. 31, countries should approve the Copenhagen Accord and append their own goals for cutting carbon emissions or slowing emissions growth by 2020.
American officials have said that they will inscribe a provisional pledge announced by President Obama last November that the United States will cut carbon emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, pending action by Congress. Other nations demand bolder American cuts.
China, India, Brazil and South Africa said in New Delhi this week that they would present the United Nations with their “voluntary” plans on climate change. Voluntary is the operative word; the countries want to stress that only developed nations should have binding responsibilities to fight climate change.
“A very big deal is the extent to which you’re doing this voluntarily,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a China scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “You’ve got to make clear this isn’t an international obligation, and that you’re doing this because you’re a good guy.”
To make the divide even clearer, the four countries called for an “early flow” of an annual $10 billion promised at Copenhagen to help developing nations combat climate change. Wealthy nations should begin handing over the money, first to small island nations and African countries, as “proof of their commitment,” the four major developing nations said in a statement.
China appears to be emphasizing rich nations’ obligations on that now partly because Chinese officials felt ambushed at Copenhagen, especially over Western demands that China submit to an international system for monitoring and verifying emissions cuts.
China is also worried about losing the support of smaller developing nations because some of them rejected China’s positions at Copenhagen. This month when Yang Jiechi, the Chinese foreign minister, visited Africa, he made China-Africa cooperation on climate change a priority in talks.
“I think that the Chinese definitely feel quite beaten up in Copenhagen,” said Yang Ailun, the climate and energy campaign manager at Greenpeace China, “and what’s quite worrying is that there was a sense among the Chinese officials that, ‘Well, maybe we should just come to focus on our own domestic energy and domestic issues.’ ”
The government’s lead negotiator, Su Wei, said at a Chinese academic forum in December that the United States and European countries had played “tricks” in Copenhagen to heap pressure on China, according to a government-run Web site.
At the climate talks, frustration by the Chinese burst into the open when Xie Zhenhua, the top Chinese climate official, yelled and wagged his finger at Mr. Obama, say conference attendees. Mr. Wen, the prime minister, told the interpreter to ignore Mr. Xie’s remarks — a sign of the discord that attendees said plagued the Chinese ranks.
Chinese officials were ill prepared to offer any concessions. They had gone to Copenhagen thinking that other nations would be satisfied with the announcement that China planned to cut carbon emissions per unit of economic growth, so-called carbon intensity, by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
China and India have long rejected pledging to cut absolute emissions. Instead, they promise they can slow the growth of emissions while sustaining booming economies. Cutting carbon intensity will not reduce China’s emissions; some analysts predict emissions could grow by up to 90 percent from 2005 to 2020.
Chinese officials insist the carbon intensity cut will require ambitious measures. But Michael A. Levi, a climate change expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said China’s carbon intensity goal did not deviate greatly from what he called “business as usual,” reductions likely to occur under policies already put in place by 2009. The effort is important, he said, but “does not indicate any new decision to fundamentally change course in the future.”
Some environmentalists have praised China’s goal and say China will have to make great efforts to achieve it. Barbara Finamore, who heads the China program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, based in Washington, said the fact that China put in place relatively progressive policies before Copenhagen did not mean those policies should be considered “business as usual.”
At Copenhagen, China also conceded at the final session to language that would require countries to report their carbon reduction numbers for international analysis. Earlier in December in Beijing, President Hu Jintao trumpeted China’s opposition to stringent international monitoring, calling it a “vital interest” on which China would not compromise, said an editor at a Communist Party newspaper.
John M. Broder contributed reporting from Washington.
Battling the Information Barbarians
online.wsj.com/By IAN BURUMA /JANUARY 30, 2010
So, is it true after all, what they say about clashing civilizations? It is tempting to see the official Chinese response to Hillary Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom in that light. Spurred by Google’s announcement that it might pull out of the Chinese market in protest over censorship, Mrs. Clinton talked about Internet freedom in terms of universal human rights. Her speech was promptly denounced in a Communist Party newspaper as “information imperialism.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu claimed that China’s regulation of the Internet (banning references to Tiananmen, Tibet, Taiwanese independence and so on) was in keeping with “national conditions and cultural traditions.”
The claim of universality is indeed an important facet of American culture, rooted in the American Revolution and Protestant ethics. It is considered proper for a U.S. secretary of state to give voice to the ideal of universal human rights. Just so, a Chinese official sees it as his duty to assert the uniqueness, or even superiority, of Chinese culture. This was true of Confucian scholar-officials in the imperial past. It is still true today.
Thought control, in terms of imposing an official orthodoxy, is a very old tradition. The official glue that has long been applied to hold Chinese society together is a kind of state dogma, loosely known as Confucianism, which is moral as well as political, stressing obedience to authority. This is what officials like to call Chinese culture.
One can take a more cynical view, of course, and see culture as a mere fig leaf meant to hide the machinations of political power. The latest Chinese salvo against the U.S., blaming the Americans for instigating rebellion in Iran through the Internet, reveals that the current spat has a hard (and opportunistic) political core. And the assumption that Google, as a Chinese editorial put it, is a “political pawn” of the U.S. government, is a clear case of projection.
In any case, instilling the belief that obedience to authority is not just a way to keep order, but an essential part of being Chinese, is highly convenient for those who wield authority, whether they be fathers of a family or rulers of the state. That is why in their efforts to promote democracy after World War I, Chinese intellectuals denounced Confucianism, with its rigid social hierarchy, as an outmoded orthodoxy which had to be eradicated.
It was, as we know, not so much eradicated as replaced by a Communist orthodoxy after 1949. And when this orthodoxy began to lose its grip on the Chinese public after the death of Chairman Mao in 1976, Chinese officials struggled to find a new set of beliefs to justify their monopoly on power. The ideological hybrid that followed Maoism was “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” a mixture of state capitalism with political authoritarianism. Later, Confucianism actually made a comeback of sorts. But the most common ideology since the early 1990s is a defensive nationalism, disseminated through museums, entertainment and school textbooks. All Chinese schoolchildren are indoctrinated with the idea that China was humiliated for centuries by foreign powers, and that support of the Communist state is the only way for China to regain its greatness and never be humiliated again.
This is why foreign criticism of Chinese politics, or Chinese infringements of human rights, is denounced by government officials as an attack on Chinese culture, as an attempt to “denigrate China.” And Chinese who agree with these foreign criticisms are treated not just as dissidents but as traitors. The term “information imperialism” is clearly designed to evoke memories of the Opium Wars and other historical humiliations. Chinese are meant to feel that foreigners who talk about human rights are doing so only to bash China.
This is not always entirely irrational. If Chinese chauvinism is defensive, American chauvinism can be offensive. The notion that the U.S. has the God-given right to impose its views about liberty and rights on other countries, sometimes backed by armed force, has provoked precisely the same reaction in many places as Napoleon’s wars for Liberty, Fraternity and Equality once did. No matter how fine the ideals, people resent it when they are pushed down their throats. Besides, the Chinese are not alone in mixing politics with morality. The history of Christian missions in Asia, or indeed Africa, cannot be neatly separated from imperialism; they were indeed often part of the same enterprise. Even scientific ideas, such as astronomy or medicine, which might be considered to be neutral, came with values that were anything but. The earliest missionaries in China, such as the great Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), introduced science as part of their aim to spread the Christian faith.
In fact, there is an interesting parallel between those early Christian missions and our contemporary efforts to spread universal human rights, especially in regard to China. Ricci and his colleagues, as Jesuits, believed that the best way to influence the Chinese elite was to adapt to Chinese culture, to wear Chinese clothes, to speak in Confucian terminology, to “go native,” as it were. They were criticized by other Catholic orders, who saw this as a shameless betrayal of Christian principles. Only the true faith should be preached, with no compromises to heathen views.
A very similar debate is going on today between those who believe that applying Western notions of human rights and democracy to China is counterproductive. Many a politician, businessman or media tycoon has argued that adapting to special Chinese conditions is surely more effective if one wishes to have any influence in China. The fact that this argument is usually self-serving does not make it necessarily wrong, but so far it has certainly not been proven right. Chinese human rights have not been noticeably advanced because of foreign compromises with Chinese illiberalism.
The dilemma for the Chinese elites, ever since the early Christian missions, is the question of how to adopt useful Western ideas while keeping out the subversive ones. Intelligent Chinese knew perfectly well that much of Western knowledge (how to construct effective guns, say) was not only useful but essential as a way to make China strong enough to resist foreign aggression. But the tricky part for scholar-officials was how to use that knowledge without weakening their own position as guardians of Chinese culture.
To mention just one example, greater knowledge of geography and other civilizations made it harder to maintain that China was the center of the world which should naturally be paid tribute to by barbarian states. In ancient times, foreign barbarians were ranked with the beasts. By the time Matteo Ricci, in 1602, showed the Chinese a world map (now on view at the Library of Congress), some foreigners were treated with more respect, but the old Sino-centric defensiveness had far from vanished. If the Middle Kingdom was no longer the perfect model of civilization, its traditional political arrangements became vulnerable to domestic challenge.
One way of dealing with this problem was to separate “practical knowledge” from “essential” cu
Once China opened up to the world for business again in the late 1970s, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the old problem of information control emerged once again. Deng and his technocrats wanted to have the benefit of modern economic and technological ideas, but, like the 19th century mandarins, they wished to ban thoughts which Deng called “spiritual pollution.” The kind of pollution he had in mind was partly cultural (sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll), but mainly political (human rights and democracy).
Deng’s attempt, which was only partly successful, was made far more difficult by the invention of the Internet, the problems and possibilities of which were left for his successors to deal with. The Internet, which has boomed over the last few years, cannot be totally policed; there are simply too many ways to dodge the censors. But China, with its army of cyberspace policemen, has been remarkably effective at Internet control, by mixing intimidation with propaganda. The intimidation encourages self-censorship, and nationalist propaganda creates suspicion of foreign criticism. It is not hard to find well-educated Chinese who buy the line about “information imperialism.”
On the other hand, there are also plenty of Chinese who have applauded Google’s defiance of the authorities. When hackers, operating from China, targeted the Gmail addresses of Chinese human rights activists, Google decided that it would no longer help to police online information. As the Google CEO Eric Schmidt put it this week at Davos, where he repeated his criticism of Chinese censorship of the Internet: “We hope that will change and we can apply some pressure to make things better for the Chinese people.” Even as government spokesmen criticized the US for interfering in Chinese affairs, hundreds of Chinese Internet users laid flowers at Google offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. This is why it is too simplistic, and even noxious, to see the conflict over Internet freedom simply as a cultural clash. Those who would like to enjoy the same freedoms that people in democracies take for granted are Chinese too.
The question, then, for Western companies, as much as for Western governments, is to decide whose side they are on: the Chinese officials who like to define their culture in a paternalistic, authoritarian way, or the large number of Chinese who have their own ideas about freedom. Google has made its choice. It strikes me as the right choice, for not only will it encourage a healthy debate on freedom of information inside China, but it could serve as a model of behavior for companies operating in authoritarian countries. Even for enterprises aimed at maximizing profits, it might sometimes pay to burnish their image by being on the side of the angels.
Interview: China works hard to implement eight new measures on China-Africa cooperation
January 30, 2010/ english.people.com.cn
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Zhai Jun said to implement the measures, China will coordinate and consult with African countries regularly and listen to the appeals of African countries to make sure that the African people benefit from the measures.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, on behalf of the Chinese government, announced eight measures to boost the pragmatic cooperation between China and Africa and support the development of African countries at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China- Africa Cooperation in November 2006.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, on behalf of the Chinese government, proposed eight new measures while attending the fourth ministerial meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Sharm El- Sheikh, Egypt in November 2009, which were also aimed at pushing forward the pragmatic cooperation with Africa.
Zhai Jun said the eight new measures touched on many areas including meeting the challenges posed by climate change, helping Africa build financial capability, expanding cultural and people to people exchanges, strengthening scientific cooperation, deepening cooperation in agriculture, health, education and exploring human resources between China and Africa.
The Chinese envoy said the eight new measure were designed to help African countries to solve their current difficulties and to promote the sustainable development of the African continent.
The eight new measures will contribute significantly to Africa’s social and economic development, the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and are conducive to deepening mutual cooperation between China and Africa and pushing the new strategic partnership between the two sides to a new high, he said.
The Chinese envoy said China has attached great importance to the implementation of the eight new measures and the implementation of the measures is already underway and goes smoothly.
Both China and African countries are shouldering the tasks of country building and social and economic development, and to further strengthen mutual cooperation will facilitate the two sides to learn from each other and attain the aim of common development, he said.
Zhai Jun said China will continue to work hard so as to promote the cultural and people to people exchanges between the two sides, to strengthen cooperation with African countries in the sectors of education, science and technology, health and culture and to promote the understanding and friendship between the Chinese and African peoples.
The Chinese envoy said the year 2010 is an important year in developing the ties between China and Africa.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited five African countries, namely Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Algeria and Morocco, at the beginning of this year, which was a very successful visit, and it has become a tradition for many years for the Chinese foreign minister to choose African countries for first formal visit in a new year, reflecting that China attaches great importance in strengthening the development of friendly cooperation with African countries, Zhai Jun noted.
With the efforts from both sides, the China-Africa ties will develop deeper and deeper and the prospect for the cooperation between the two sides is surely brighter and more promising, he added.
Zhai Jun arrived in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia on Wednesday. He will attend the forthcoming 14th summit of the African Union from Sunday to Tuesday as an observer.
The 14th AU summit will be held under the theme “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa: Challenges and prospects for Development”.
African heads of state and government will assess the progress the continent has made in ICTs development in the past years and map out strategies for the future development so as to bridge the digital gap with the other regions in the world.
Honda To Recall Over 8,500 City Sedans In India – Executive
online.wsj.com/JANUARY 30, 2010
NEW DELHI (Dow Jones)–The Indian unit of Honda Motor Co. (HMC) will recall 8,532 units of its City sedans made in 2007 due to defective power-window switches that can cause fire, a top executive said Saturday.
“We are recalling the vehicles to replace the faulty part and are working out the details on by when can we start the process,” Jnaneswar Sen, vice president of marketing at Honda Siel Cars India Ltd., told Dow Jones Newswires.
“We haven’t heard about these problems” of defective switches causing fire in India, he said. “But we are checking with our dealers about such cases.”
The company’s step in India is part of a vehicle recall by Honda in North America, Europe, Asia and other regions after three cases of fire were reports in the U.S. and South Africa.
The company is recalling 646,000 units of its Fit compact car–also known as Jazz in some parts of the world, including in India–and the City.
He said the Jazz sold in India isn’t affected. The company had launched the model in the country last year.
“Honda currently sells third-generation City and Jazz models in India, which aren’t impacted by the recall,” Sen added.
“Under some severe operating conditions, water, rain, or other liquid may enter the driver’s window and reach the master power window switch, resulting in impaired function of the switch,” Honda said in a statement from Japan Friday.
Honda’s recall comes three days after Toyota Motor Corp. announced the recall its popular Camry and Corolla models, among others, in the U.S., Europe and China.
-By Nikhil Gulati, Dow Jones Newswires; +91-11-4356-3306; email@example.com
Gandhi ashes scattered off South Africa
January 30, 2010/AFP /news.smh.com.au
Ashes of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, kept for decades by a family friend after his assassination, were scattered on Saturday off South Africa’s coast, his family said.
“About 200 people attended. Everything went well, it was a beautiful ceremony,” said Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of the apostle of non-violence.
An AFP photographer said the pre-dawn ceremony was “dignified”.
“Before the immersion took place, the Hindu priest recited hymns. Gandhi’s great grandson poured the ashes into the sea and afterwards people threw flowers as a sign of their final goodbyes,” he said.
A radical nationalist shot Gandhi on January 30, 1948 in India, just months after he led the country to independence from Britain.
He was cremated according to Hindu custom.
Normally, ashes are immersed in rivers or the sea within days, but Gandhi’s ashes were divided and put in several urns and sent around India and across the globe so his followers could hold memorials.
One urn came to South Africa, where Gandhi had come to practise law in 1893, living in the country on and off for 21 years.
A family friend, Vilas Mehta, helped with the arrangements for the prayers, and the ashes were immersed after 10 days, according to the Gandhi Development Trust in Durban.
Unknown to the family, Mehta kept a few remnants of the ashes, and guarded them in secret for the rest of her life, the Trust said.
She “decided to take a little bit of the ashes and keep it in safekeeping as a memento of that occasion, not realising that it is our custom to immerse them,” said Gandhi.
When Mehta passed on, her daughter-in-law decided to return them to the Gandhi family.
EN BREF, CE 30 janvier 2010 … AGNEWS / OMAR, BXL,30/01/2010